By Paramhansa Yogananda
From The Man Who Refused Heaven
Tulsidas, a pious saint, used to worship God in the form of Rama, the great prophet of India. Wealthy devotees of Tulsidas, inspired by his intense devotion, gave him many golden utensils to be used in his sacred temple ceremonies. Tulsidas, while he meditated deeply on Rama, noticed an underlying fear that these gold utensils would be stolen.
His fear was not unfounded, for a thief had learned about the temple’s gold utensils. Saint Tulsidas left the temple open, and at night he used to meditate under a bower of fragrant flowers, about one hundred yards from the temple. The thief planned to go there at night and steal the utensils, but for seven nights as he approached the temple, he beheld the living image of Rama guarding the temple entrance.
Bewildered, the thief dressed himself up as a gentleman and went to Tulsidas one morning, saying, “Honored Sir, I have heard that you do not lock the temple door even at night, for you always invite true devotees to meditate there. Yet for seven nights I have wanted to enter your temple to meditate and receive the holy vibrations, but I dared not enter because your sentry, dressed as Prophet Rama and equipped with bow and arrows, was menacingly guarding the temple door.”
Tulsidas, with tears in his eyes, asked the gentleman, “Is it true that you saw Rama guarding the temple door? Well, sir, I’m sorry. I will ask my sentry not to guard the temple door anymore, so that you can visit the temple at any time.”
Tulsidas realized that this “gentleman” was really a thief. But he also realized that his fear of losing the gold utensils had attracted the prophet Rama to materialize and lovingly guard the temple treasures for him.
The saint retired to the temple and meditated all day long, praying to Rama, “Lord, please take away my gold utensils. I’m ashamed to have bothered you with my fears and caused you to be awake through the night guarding the temple utensils. Please desist from assuming the part of my sentry.” Rama appeared in a vision and smilingly agreed to the prayer of his devotee.
That night the thief, making sure that Tulsidas was deeply meditating under his favorite tree, once again crept silently into the garden. As Tulsidas had promised, there was no divine guard at the temple entrance. On tiptoe the thief stole into the temple, hurriedly gathered most of the golden utensils in his gunnysack, and then quickly left the temple. At that point, a stray dog began to howl and chase him. The thief, with the golden utensils tinkling in the gunnysack, now chased by the barking dog, broke into a run.
Tulsidas, having finished his meditation, was resting under the tree and expecting the return of the thief. When he heard the howling dog, the racing feet, and the tinkling sound of the gold utensils, he went into the temple and discovered the loss of almost all of the utensils.
Hurriedly gathering up the few remaining gold pieces, Tulsidas tied them in a napkin, and raced in the direction of the barking dog. He quickly overtook the thief, who, in remorse and almost beside himself with fear, fell at the feet of the saint and cried, “Gracious Saint, please take back your gold utensils. I beg you not to turn me over to the police.”
The saint laughed merrily and, patting the thief on the back, handed him the rest of the gold utensils, saying, “Son, I did not overtake you to arrest you, but only to give you the rest of the utensils, which in your hurry you missed. I am glad to be relieved of them, for they distracted me from my meditation on my beloved Rama. Son, you need them more than I do. Take them all with my blessing. However, the next time you want anything from the temple, please don’t steal it and poison your spiritual life. Just ask me and I will willingly give it to you.”
The thief was dumbfounded at the astonishing non-attachment, devotion, forgiveness, and generosity of Tulsidas, and, bowing deeply before him, held the saint’s feet tightly to his bosom, saying amidst sobs, “Honored Saint, I am a thief by profession, but I have never met a greater thief than you. Today you have stolen everything from me — my body, mind, desires, aspirations, heart, and my very soul, as well as the golden utensils you gave me. I don’t want to be a thief of perishable articles any longer, but I want to be a thief of souls like you.”
Saying this, the thief, now a disciple, followed the master to the temple, and ever after they walked, dreamed, and loved God together.
The above story illustrates that the love of God must be supreme. You must discard desires for perishable things. This will not make you negative and joyless, but instead will bring the imperishable, ever-new, ever-increasing joy of God.