By Nayaswami Dharmadevi
May 7, 2019

A family member recently was complaining to me that no one in the family wanted her silverware. She had spent so much money over the years acquiring it and now she couldn’t give it away. Thinking she would like someone to appreciate it, I said, “I’ve actually been thinking of buying a set of real silverware! (which was the truth) I’d love to give yours a good home.”

To my surprise her response was that she needed to ask someone else if they wanted it first. Not much time passed and I got a call saying that the other family member wanted me to have it, but I could tell there was a hitch.

“I’d like for you to USE the silverware and then after 20-30 years when you’re done using it I want you to give it to my grandchildren.” I was speechless. “Did you hear me?” she said, “Can you promise me you’ll pass it along like I want you to and not give it to a stranger?” I still didn’t respond. I was dumbfounded. Suddenly, what had seemed like a lovely gift that I would have made good use of felt like a binding contract!

I realized that in the past I’d given in the same way, and how it not only wouldn’t feel good to receive such a gift, it wouldn’t be a good feeling for the giver either. These words entered my mind, “A gift given freely is truly a gift. A gift given with conditions is a burden.” I decided that I wanted to be able to give anything in my possession to anyone at any time, so I politely declined the gift.

As I continued to reflect on this lesson, I realized a deeper significance – the giving of conditional versus unconditional love. When Paramhansa Yogananda met Swami Sri Yukteswar, his guru asked if he would give him his unconditional love. Yoganandaji’s response was, “Sir, what if I should ever find you less than a Christlike Master?” To which Sri Yukteswar said sternly, “I don’t want your love. It stinks!”

How often do we offer our love to God and Guru without asking for anything in return? “When will you come to me?” “I want to feel Your presence.” “Free me in this lifetime.” etc.

Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Don’t ask ‘When will God come to me?’ Don’t think, ‘I’ve meditated all these years and still He hasn’t come to me.’ But when you love God only for the sake of loving God, then He will come to you.”

As we say in our vow of discipleship, “Ah, too long, Mother, have I sought Thee for myself, not for Thy love.” Let us give freely of our greatest gift of all – our love. And to the Giver behind all gifts, let us give with only the thought, “I love You, my Infinite Beloved.”

P.S. So, what happened to the set of silverware? You’ll have to check back for a future blog for the answer to that question!



  1. Lovely sharing and thank you! I understand Swami Sri Yukteswar’s comment to Yogananda — because real love is unconditional, and not bound to actions, circumstances or conditions.
    I will say as a mother of three children, I usually give those things that I find precious to one daughter, not only because she takes care of things, she appreciates tradition, and she would always offer them back to me if she no longer wanted them before even considering giving to someone else. The other two, leave things behind, which for me feels as though they have no regard for the energy and thoughtful effort that went into its acquisition. Many of those things I had asked for back when they were done, which never happened. But left for whoever happened to claim them.
    The solution. I don’t give what I find sacred to those that don’t care enough to care for them or offer them back. And yes, there are times I do say, “feel free to give to someone else if you would like.”

    Now, I must say, a gift is different than something that was collected by another, and they wanted to share.

    Those presents, they can do whatever they want with.

  2. silverware lol giving unconditionally is great but I think that if one don’t know how to give unconditionally at least give conditionally until you learn the meaning of unconditionally freely

  3. Thank you for this BEAUTIFUL message. I have a lovely friend who tends to give many gifts “with conditions.” I had to have a heart to heart with her one day and explain what you so beautifully and eloquently explained in your article about the unconditional love that goes with gift giving.

    However, I think perhaps with some folks — like my friend — it’s more of an issue with control. My father used to always tell me that people who grow up in volatile and unstable environments often try to exert control in areas where they feel they may be losing it. So more recently I’ve taken a more compassionate approach: If she gives me something and starts to tack on a condition, my response is, “I don’t know that I can follow through with your request, but if you really want me to keep it, then rest assured I will put it to good use.” And I see that it usually pacifies her anxiety. She’s making progress.

    I always enjoy reading the beautifully written articles in your newsletter. Keep up the wonderful work.
    Much peach and love to all at Ananda.

    Connie H.
    Lawndale, CA

    1. Thank you so much for sharing Connie! I will try your approach and see how it goes. It certainly seems to be filled with compassion and understanding. Blessings, dharmadevi

  4. Thanks for these insights, Dharmadevi! Good reminder. Joy!

  5. Ha! What a great story, Darmadevi!
    Just the spark of inspiration and something to contemplate as I begin this day! Much love to you,dear sister.

    1. Great to hear from you Roberta! How are you? We miss you down in SoCal. Send an email when you have a chance. 🙂 Love, dharmadevi

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