2022! We made it through 2021 and can look toward a new and (let’s hope) better year. Now is a good time to review our goals and priorities for the year ahead.

Swami Kriyananda often told us this story: A very sincere devotee of God made a vow. “If ever You call me, Lord, I will drop everything and come to You.” As the years passed, he married and took on modest worldly responsibilities. Then tragedy struck: His wife died in childbirth, and he was left alone with a newborn babe. It was at this most delicate hour that he heard God call, “Come to Me, My child.”

He pleaded with God, “I will honor my vow and come to You, but I have a human heart, too. Please help me also fulfill my responsibility to my helpless child.” And then he heard God respond: “Place your infant in a basket on the side of the road and hide behind a tree.” Confused, but trusting, he did so.

Soon he heard the sound of horses and the murmurs of travelers. As he silently watched, the queen of the land and her entourage approached. Upon seeing the helpless baby in the basket, she stepped down from her carriage and took the babe in her arms. “What a lovely child,” she said. “I will raise it as my own.” Thus the devotee was able to fulfill both his vow to God and his worldly responsibilities.

This story is, of course, symbolic. And, as a symbol, it applies to each of us. What are the priorities, responsibilities, and habits that prevent us from answering God’s call? What are we willing to offer, and what do we hold back? Few of us are ready to pass a challenge as severe as the devotee’s  in this story, but we each must face tests at our own level.

Most of us still have areas where our karma is not yet finished: Perhaps the ties that keep our souls from rising into the heavens are attachments to job, health, family, and relationships. They may even be the repeating entanglements of our “I’m right and they’re wrong” conflicts.

gods boatman yogananda painting by jyotish art

“God’s Boatman,” by Nayaswami Jyotish.

But we must begin our journey somewhere. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says, “Whenever anyone, with pure intention, offers Me even a leaf, a flower, a piece of fruit, or water, I accept his offering.” These two extremes—offering anything whatsoever, and giving absolutely everything—represent the length and breadth of the spiritual path.

If we are not able to renounce everything, there is a gentler approach, which was exemplified by Swami Kriyananda’s mother. She asked God to help her in her motherly responsibilities and thus made them sacred. Swamiji writes in The New Path, “My mother told me that throughout her pregnancy she was filled with joy. ‘Lord,’ she prayed repeatedly, ‘this first child I give to Thee.’”

God is always waiting for us to make an offering. Each time we sit to meditate, the Christ consciousness at the spiritual eye calls to us, asking us to transmute the ego into light. If we find that our mind is plagued by distractions, then let us lay our preoccupations beside the road and move away from the boisterous lanes of this world.

January 5 is Paramhansa Yogananda’s birthday. He, like all great souls, had to make the journey of many lifetimes from giving nothing to giving everything. Having succeeded, he chose to incarnate in order to help set our feet on the path to our own destiny. In his poem, “God’s Boatman,” he said with love and compassion all but inconceivable to us:

I want to ply my boat, many times,
Across the gulf after death,
And return to earth’s shores
From my home in space.
I want to load my boat
With all those waiting, thirsty ones
Who have been left behind,
That I may carry them to the opalescent pool
Of iridescent joy,
There where my Father distributes
His all-desire-quenching, liquid peace.
Oh! I will come back again and again!
Crossing a million crags of suffering,
With bleeding feet, I will come,
If need be, a trillion times,
As long as I know that
One stray brother is left behind.

In divine friendship,

Nayaswami Jyotish

You can watch a video recording here of Jyotish and Devi sharing at the celebration held in honor of Paramhansa Yogananda’s birthday.

You also might enjoy a downloadable poster of the poem, “Gods Boatman.”

Listen to the weekly commentary for this blog, with special behind-the-inspiration stories and answers to common spiritual questions. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (2:52):

Download the audio recording of this week’s blog by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (6:23):

14 Comments

  1. Nayaswami Jyotish’s article today touched my heart deeply. My husband died three months ago, and two nights later, I had a vision of Master Yogananda paddling a canoe to the shores of a beautiful river where I stood, watching. He smilingly stepped ashore, and behind him in the boat was my husband!!! Joe was surrounded by a radiant glow and was smiling at me! I ran down the shore to him, but Master said to me, “No, no, do not touch him just yet.” When I read the poem “God’s Boatman” I couldn’t believe it. Yes, indeed, Master is God’s Boatman!!!

    1. Chris, I knew that was a little obscure when I wrote it but didn’t have room to explain. Of course, we must take care of these bodies. After all, the body is the vehicle that carries our soul for this incarnation. But some people become so focused, one might even say obsessed, about health matters that it derails their search for God. The main point is that we should examine our priorities, especially with anything we make more important than our search for God.

  2. What is meant by many of us still have attachment to health? Please clarify
    Thank you

  3. So much gratitude to Dearest Jyotishji for this blog….reflecting my heart’s aspiration and soul longing. Yet also offering a “gentler” way to fulfill our dharma, while also working to transcend the treads of karma, by offering all to God and Guru… i.e. the successes & the challenges, knowing that if I sincerely call and live the teachings as best as I can, He will answer. I can only say “thank-you” a hundred times… for these teachers, these teachings and this line of Masters who patiently wait for us to come home…. AUM GURU🙏

  4. Dear Jyotish💙 very moving poem by Master, and the story of devotee leaving his baby in the basket and trusting God.
    I long to be like that and not the one left behind that Master would have to return and hurt his feet to rescue.
    I hope to learn to give everything I still hold on to to Divine Mother. Thank you for your love and your wisdom and teaching me little by little that I am worthy of God’s love💙😇bhajana 🎸🎶💛

  5. I saw Kriyananda on tv in the 90’s. I said to my father, “I could be like that.” and he said, “don’t do that. Have a family.”. Years, decades, passed before I ran into someone from Kriyananda’s path again and again, I had the same thought. Who knows, perhaps one day I will really get to Ananda village and it will be open! But for now, I won’t do that, there’s Covid.

  6. As so often happens this blog answers questions/dilemmas of the heart and soul’s calls.
    Such inspiration to keep moving ever closer to our goal never asking ‘why’ but ‘how’ and always turning, again and again toward the Light.
    Thank you Jyotish and Devi.
    Love and Wisdom pour through both of you.

  7. Respected Swamiji,

    At the outset I must say that your magnificent writing in this blog again touched my heart. Many a times I can find many more good writings either from you or respected Mataji. Even I wait for Friday when to see your messages.

    What I feel Swamiji, quest for God is a total journey of our life. He is waiting for us to hear our offerings for Him and yes, what we offer to Him from the core of our heart, he accepts immediately.

    I, think it should be my priority – what should I offer and to think of it constantly is a type of meditation and by doing this continuously, will help me to be more nearer to Him and then i will be in a position to take His call.

    Thank you very much respected Swamiji,
    Truly yours,

    Indranath Sinha
    Kolkata, West Bengal
    India

  8. Blessed happy New Year to you & Maa ..!
    Incredible story of complete faith. I loved reading it and sharing with my friends and son Lyle 💓🪔🌹😊

  9. Dear Jyotish ji,

    Happy New Year. As usual your blog is wonderful, full of wisdom. Everyday I affirm to God that I am ready to come whenever he calls.

    Om Guru,
    Priya

  10. Once again, a deeply nuanced perspective shared.

    The phrase that stood out for me is “These two extremes—offering anything whatsoever, and giving absolutely everything—represent the length and breadth of the spiritual path“.

    I know it will resonate in me for a long time, and I resolve to look afresh at the way I prioritise things.

    “Giving absolutely everything”…. hmmmmm. No cop outs. I have my work cut out for me.

    Infinite Pranaams!

  11. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish Ji,

    Happy New year!

    Thank you for this inspiring blog and the wonderful story.
    Reading Master’s God’s boatman poem is always endearing.

    Joy,
    Prem

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