Serving Others

Swami Atmapremananda Saraswati

Once upon a time, the father of all the lokas, Lord Brahma, invited the devas and the demons for lunch. Both groups went happily to his palace in Brahma loka. They sat in their respective lines for lunch, and were served with fifty-six varieties of delicious food on golden plates. Just as they were about to start eating, Brahma stopped them. He ordered the servants to straighten the arms of each person present and to tie bamboo sticks from their shoulders to their wrists. Then Brahma ordered both parties to start eating.

Both the devas and the demons offered a prayer to their ishta and started to eat. But as they took the food from their plates, they found they could not bend their arms and so could not get the food into their mouths. All they could do was try to throw the food into their mouths, but the food fell on their bodies and their clothes became dirty.

The devas are expert in adapting according to place, time and circumstance. They came to the conclusion that, although they could not put the food placed in front of them into their own mouths, they could put food into each other’s mouths. Thinking thus, they fed each other until their stomachs were full. One meaning of ‘devata’ is one who eats after feeding others first. So, the devas enjoyed the food very much.

However, a demon only knows how to feed himself and when he is not satisfied with his own food, he snatches the food of others as well. So, due to their nature, the demons did not feed each other, even when they saw the devas doing so. They could only throw the food up into the air and try to catch it in their own mouths, but nothing went in and so they got up still hungry.

The lesson we learn from this story is that one who feeds others is never hungry and one who does not feed others is always hungry.