September 1992: The Wrong Prayer

Gobind Sadan USA was developed by Maharaj in a beautiful 250-acre former dairy farm north of Syracuse, New York. Down the road, Gurbachan Singh (“Editor Sahib”) and his wife Manjeet were living simply in a mobile home. By Maharaj’s grace, lovely vegetables were being grown in the field near that trailer. As part of Gobind Sadan’s USA’s community outreach, based on Maharaj’s model, Ralph and others set up a project to grow food for those in need. Ralph also set up a vegetable stand outside his suburban office to help support the efforts and defray some of Gobind Sadan’s costs.

When I was in the US with Maharaj that summer, I tried to help in this project, but my “help” turned out to be disastrous. The duty given to me was to drive to the farm, collect the vegetables from Editor Sahib, and then drive to the vegetable stand to meet Ralph at noon. He was to collect bread from another charitable organization to sell along with the vegetables. It seemed simple enough, but I wasn’t fully aware of the distances between Ralph’s house, the farm, and the vegetable stand. They were actually very far from each other. Once I had collected the vegetables from Editor Sahib and got back on the highway, I could see that I would be at least half an hour late. Driving as fast as I dared, I saw that it would be at least 12:30 before I could reach the stand. Office workers would probably return to their jobs at 1:00.

What to do? Foolishly, I began praying to Maharaj: “Maharaj, please hold those people back a bit.” If the people didn’t arrive until 12:30, I reasoned, there would be both vegetables and bread for them to purchase.

At last I reached the stand. Ralph had been there half an hour already with the bread, and mercifully no one had arrived. We laid out the lovely vegetables for sale. But no one came. We waited and waited, but no one came. At last, we took the vegetables and bread to a nearby soup kitchen to donate them to the poor. 

Ralph was puzzled, because there had been plenty of customers in the past. Then I began to recognize my mistake. I went to Maharaj to apologize for my improper prayer. Teaching me a lasting lesson, he said, “You should not have prayed like that. Maharaj had to go to so much trouble to change the plans of all those people who had planned to buy vegetables there.” He was not talking about himself. When he said “Maharaj,” he was referring to his great teacher, Guru Gobind Singh. It was doubly shameful to pray wrongly and thus spoil the sales, and also to put such a great being to so much trouble over a trivial matter. Ever since, I have been very careful about prayers, for Maharaj is surely listening.