A homeless woman comes seeking the Absolute Truth

There was a woman, looking quite rough, and my initial impression was that she is homeless.

I thought, “She is probably like the many homeless people I’ve met who just want a free book and have no donation, unfortunately. But I can’t be giving out free books too much.”

So when she came to look at the books, I told her about them, and I thought that the best I could give her was at least a maha-mantra card. I explained it.

She said, “Thank you.”

I was surprised to see her return to the table after some time with £5 in her hand, eager to get a book.

I resisted giving her a Science of Self-realisation. This resistance came to me as I was thinking how unclean she is. But that’s not the right mood. Lord Caitanya embraced even a devotee with leprosy and sores.

The Lord wants to connect with this unique soul, I thought. She stayed around, so we spoke, sharing wisdom. I was answering her questions.

She was homeless, smelly. Her shopping bag was compacted with so many junk items. Because she had reached the rock bottom in her life and was frustrated with life, I thought, “Let me not censor the philosophy, but explain the reality of our material life.”

So I talked to her about the soul — that we have been here for millions of lifetimes, that we are suffering from our karma; how Indra can fall to the position of an ant and rise, suffering and enjoying. What assurance of happiness is there in this world?

Then she saw the pack and wanted our whole pack. She looked in her bag, which looked like it was filled with random bits and bobs, and she was counting a wad of notes. She asked how much for the pack of books. This took me and the other devotees all by surprise. In total she took ten books for £65. She wanted more, but I forgot to tell her about the Bhagavatam set.

Don’t judge a book by its cover or a person by her external dress.

Bhakti Bishal
Bhaktivedanta Manor

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