“The value of a moment’s association with a devotee of the Lord cannot even be compared to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which is for those who are meant for death.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.13)
न स्वर्गं नापुनर्-भवम्
मर्त्यानां किम् उताशिषः
na svargaṁ nāpunar-bhavam
martyānāṁ kim utāśiṣaḥ
“In my childhood, it was customary for the adults to give gifts to the children at the time of departure. It was kind of nice, thinking about it now. There was an obligation on our part, too. We had to show respect. This was instilled in us by the parents and reinforced through explicit instruction, sometimes to our embarrassment.
“Upon meeting the elder, whether they were an aunt, uncle, or even a grandparent, we had to touch their feet. The same had to be done when leaving. Things got complicated when you weren’t sure as to the status of the person. They could be a cousin of my mom, but actually younger than me in age. We still had to touch their feet! Weird, I know.
“If you think you can outsmart the system by just touching everyone’s feet, you are sorely mistaken. You might end up showing respect to a gardener, a cook, or a maid. Then everyone will make fun of you, as if you have committed the biggest blunder.
“Remembering the generosity shown to us kids, I was wondering what kind of gift is the best to give. If a younger person should visit me, offering me the same respect, what can I provide to them that will have the most lasting benefit?”
This is simple and straightforward. Hand over some cash. The children will almost always appreciate it, unless they are completely spoiled and the amount of money means nothing to them. They can spend the money as they wish. The world is open to them, especially since at that age a small sum of money might seem like a lot.
2. A new shirt
This type of gift becomes more standard during birthdays and other holidays. Someone might not be as excited, but if it is a nice shirt they will most likely wear it. It will be of some value to them, and they maybe weren’t anticipating along those lines. They might not go shopping for clothes that often, so they appreciate the gesture.
3. A new car
This gift might be more appropriate to transfer between a parent and their child. Insurance rates are high for first-time drivers, and for good reason. Many a parent has regretted this decision, when seeing the child crash the new car soon after receiving it. Nevertheless, it is a way to make someone happy.
4. A new computer
This provides some practical use. Almost every professional field involves the use of a computer these days. It is the mechanism by which employees can continue their work, from home, if the government has shut down their business in the name of safety.
There is a wide variety in terms of the type of computer to give. Different manufacturers, but also great potential in customization. More RAM, a bigger hard drive, a larger screen, etc. This means that the gift has value even if the recipient already owns a computer. Upgrading with the times every few years is almost required.
5. Vedic wisdom
This is something a saintly person can offer. It is the reason Shrimad Bhagavatam declares a moment’s association with a saintly person to be more valuable than anything. It is paradoxical, in a sense. The travelling sadhu likely has not a penny to their name. They are homeless and begging by profession. It is a personal choice; a way to increase their spiritual activities and remain focused.
The verse from Shrimad Bhagavatam is not hyperbole. Literally, a moment of association can change everything. The saintly person can provide wisdom to change my life. Perhaps I have not been seeing clearly. Maybe I am mired in pursuits of the temporary nature, which have a beginning and an end.
ये हि संस्पर्श-जा भोगा
दुःख-योनय एव ते
न तेषु रमते बुधः
ye hi saṁsparśa-jā bhogā
duḥkha-yonaya eva te
na teṣu ramate budhaḥ
“An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kunti, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.22)
Maybe I have fallen into sinful life and think that is the only way to make a living. Perhaps I have always wanted to worship God, but never had a clear idea as to His nature. It could be that I desperately want to practice devotion, but everyone around me shuns it. Due to peer pressure, I pretend to be like everyone else, to fit in with the crowd.
The sadhu can give me enough confidence to proceed. They can tell me who I really am, what I am doing here, and what I am meant to do. Through passing on the timeless wisdom of works like Bhagavad-gita and the Puranas, they essentially open the entire universe to me. Through consciousness I can travel anywhere, including the spiritual world, which is my true and original home.
Remembering the gifts to see,
From grandparents to me.
So kind and thoughtful way,
But how the same to repay?
Spiritual wisdom the best,
Throughout time to be blessed.
A moment in association where,
The sadhu changing everything there.