Berries of Affection

Radhanath Swami on Berries of affectionThere is a story in Ramayana. When Lord Ram and Lakshman were searching for Sita, they travelled hundreds and hundreds of miles – all the way from Panchvati, Nasik, to South India. And they came to a place called Kishkindha Kshetra. There is a pond of water called Pampasarovar, and there they found this very old lady; she was an ascetic. Her name was Shabari. She was a disciple of a great rishi and her guru went back to the spiritual world with all disciples, but told Shabari, “You are not ready to come yet, but in the future the Supreme Absolute Truth, the cause of all causes, Parabrahman Sri Ram, is going to come here. And when you satisfy him by your devotion, then you will be ready for the highest liberation.” So she was simply waiting. She lived in a cave. She was waiting and waiting for Ram to come, and Ram came.

Ye yatha maam prapadyante
Taams tathaiva bhajamyaham

Krishna tells in the Gita, as we surrender the Lord reciprocates. Because she was yearning to serve the Lord, the Lord had to come. And she was just sitting on a little straw mat, and when Ram came, she brought straw mats for Ram and Lakshman to sit on. And she wanted to give them something; she was just wearing tree bark as a dress; she had matted hair because she had not combed her hair in years and years. She had nothing materially, but Ram was her guest. She wanted to serve him. So she went and collected some little berries. I think it was Kapita. Kapita are berries that monkeys like to eat. But the thing about these berries is whether they are bitter or sweet they look exactly the same. The only way to tell the difference is you have to taste them. So she wanted to give Ram sweet berries; that’s all she had. So what she did is, she took each berry and tasted a little part of it with her own mouth, and if it was bitter she saved it for herself for later and if sweet she took it out from her mouth and gave it to Sri Ram. Now for those of you who know the science of puja, you are not supposed to eat before you give to God. You are supposed to take the Prasad of God. So from a formal perspective, she was breaking all the rules; but she did it with love. She wanted nothing in return. She just wanted to please her beloved and Ram was eating those berries that came out of her mouth and he was enjoying immensely.
Shabari was giving these simple little fruits to the Supreme Lord Ram and he was totally ecstatic because it was offered with affection. And at that moment he blessed her, and gave her the supreme perfection of liberation – beyond birth, beyond death. Nitya sidda nitya prema. He gave her the ultimate eternal perfection of divine love, in his own abode. He gave himself in full to her, in reciprocation to those little berries that were offered with devotion. In giving we receive.

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