In 1972, when I enrolled in the University of Allahabad, I met a great saint, Swami Sadananda, who taught me some of the esoteric aspects of yoga and helped guide me in the direction of my life. One Sunday morning, at his small ashram, I found him sitting on his wooden cot under a big pipal tree. In front of him sat a gentleman who suffered from epileptic fits so violent and frequent that someone always accompanied him to make sure he didn’t hurt himself.
When I arrived, Swamiji was in the middle of explaining to the patient that the medicine he was about to give him was quite potent. Then, handing him a substance that, to me, looked like ash, he said, “Take this medicine every morning, but only after you have fed grains to wild birds. After your morning ablutions, get some barley, cracked wheat, and other grains. Invite the birds to come to you and feed them. Once they have eaten, take this medicine. Only then may you take your meal.”
When the patient and his attendant left, I said, “Swamiji, I understand the value of taking medicine, but why does he have to feed the birds?”
“You should watch,” Swamiji replied. “When he is cured, I’ll explain.”
For three days, the poor fellow starved because the birds would not eat the grain he scattered for them. Then on the fourth day, they accepted his offerings, and he started taking the medicine. It became his routine to feed the birds before starting his day. In a month, his fits came less frequently; within six months, he was cured.
When I asked Swami Sadananda to explain, he said, “Birds are part of nature. Their relationship with humans is not contaminated with selfishness and expectations. They are happy when you serve them, but they do not mind if you don’t. They operate on instinct alone—they make no personal choices and have no agendas. Serving them is serving nature. Nature is the repository of all of our karmas, the impressions of our past deeds.
We can pay off our karmic debts by serving nature, of which we are a part.
“In our unconscious mind,” he continued, “we have the seeds of disease as well as its cure. This unconscious mind always works in conformity with nature. By nature, I don’t mean only plants, rivers, and the rest of the natural environment. What we call nature, in fact, encompasses an entire primordial energy field that is the source of, and locus for, this material world. Everything and everyone evolves from this primordial energy field, including our natural world.
“By sacrificing your comforts, and giving away that which you believe to be yours, you pay off your karmic debts in the subtle realm. And it is these karmic debts that are the cause of our present misery. Although we do not have access to our own unconscious mind, we can still pay off our karmic debts by serving nature, of which we are a part.”
Source: Touched by Fire by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait