The web of life is always there, ready to teach us a “special” lesson of some sort or another, if only we would notice.
One of my very first days visiting Katmandu Nepal, a shopkeeper and myself sat drinking tea on the steps of his shop, and a beggar soon appeared. He looked to be anywhere from thirty to one hundred years old, he had long scraggly grey-brown hair, and he was barefoot and wearing a filthy garment that looked like a bed sheet that had not been washed for an awfully long time. On top of this garment he was wearing a suit jacket! He had beautiful piercing dark brown eyes, and he smiled in an inviting manner as he asked us for alms. The shopkeeper gave him the equivalent of about one cent. The man smiled and bowed, made one last gesture towards me, just to make sure that I did not want to add to his riches, and then he was on his way.
“Do you know about “karma” the shopkeeper asked?
“In the West, perhaps you call it destiny. We are all connected to each other in some way and the life we are living now is the result of how we have lived in other past lives.” I nodded and said I was familiar with the concept.
“If you give alms of any significant amount to beggars, you intertwine your karma with theirs, and their fate will be dependent on your fate. If you do give, only give a cent or two so that your karma and their karma remain separate. If you give more than that, please know that you are not performing a random act.” I nodded and thanked him for his sage advice.
A week later, walking with a Nepali friend, we came across a woman squatting alongside a very busy road, as she prayed and begged. Her face showed obvious scarring to her eyes and ears. Such scarring usually takes place for various religious reasons, and is not totally uncommon. I was attracted to the energy of this woman and we stopped to converse with her. It turned out that she was totally blind and partially deaf, and my friend had to scream in order for her to hear him. Without her asking I gave her about one dollar and we were quickly on our way.
After that I saw this woman almost every morning and I started giving her two or three dollars each time we met. When I left Nepal for the first time I sought her out with my friend, and had him scream to her and tell her I was leaving, but that I would be back some time in the future. I gave her about twenty dollars that day to help tide her over.
On the last day of my second stay in Katmandu I brought my friend with me again, to tell my beggar friend I would be leaving the next day. There she was crouched down on the noisy, crowded street as she prayed. We approached her, walking amongst boisterous children, busy adults, and livestock with clanking bells around their necks. When we were still about ten feet away she turned towards us, smiled with her scarred eyes and as we reached her she said “Namaste.” Before we could crouch down and scream a reply, the woman asked my friend to thank me for my kindness. “How did you know it was us?” he asked.
“I can always feel the warmth of a kind hearted person.” she said.
I think of her now, and hope in some small way, I might have eased her suffering, if only for a moment, as much as she has eased mine.