A Hunger for God
By Sri Harold Klemp
An old saying has it that "whose bread I eat, his song I sing."
This proverb, in use before the twelfth century, described a common situation in the Middle Ages. Namely, that an itinerant musician who stopped a few days at a noble's castle would be asked to sing and play for the noble's guests. In exchange, the troubadour received gifts of coin and lodging.
So it was understood he'd perform music to suit the noble's taste.
The saying was a colorful way to explain the loyalty and service due a benefactor. It encompassed both traveling musicians and also the serfs of a kind and generous lord.
In spiritual terms, the proverb boils down to loyalty from gratitude.
A hunger for God is but the germ of a passion at the outset of an individual's excursion into the land of karma and reincarnation. It develops over the ages. Hardship, pain, toil, misery, loneliness, and disappointment are its culture. So this hunger for God grows and grows.
Lifetime upon lifetime of misadventure later, this battered wanderer comes upon good fortune. He happens upon the teachings of ECK.
Now the real tests begin.
A pure spiritual enlightenment outshines the simple mental admonition of gnothi seauton, an ancient Greek philosopher's appeal: "know thyself." A spiritual one gives more than the dim flickering of a candle to examine the workings of one's whole being. It is a white-hot fire. This divine flame sears the heart, mind, and being—leaving behind a pure heart and consciousness. It scorches away the most base properties within a seeker, making of him a fit and pure utensil or vessel to handle or contain the meat and drink at the table of the Most High.
In due season this wanderer finds the teachings of ECK.
He's come home, to the land of impossible dreams. A place of love, shelter, freedom and, yes, freely given service.
How does the final chapter in a wanderer's sojourn play out in real time? How will he know truth? Will he stumble upon it? Or, does it require the final scaling of a mighty cliff to reach it?
Who can say?
All come to Eckankar by unique paths. Some wade through marshes, some thread an uncertain path out of a dark and foreboding forest, others brave an unforgiving desert, while a fortunate few find an easy passage through birth into an ECK family.
But all have one thing in common: a hunger for God.
So let's look a minute at the case of Chris. One day he called the Eckankar Spiritual Center to start his membership. Over the years, he said, he'd come across the ECK teachings from time to time. But the hunger wasn't urgent yet.
Then, a few days earlier, he went on, he saw an ECK ad in a local Oregon paper.
A strong nudge said, "Call the ECK center." There is one in his town, but his calls didn't go through. So he turned to the Internet. The Eckankar site suggested he call Membership Services in Minneapolis to help with his situation. Yet the office was closed. In desperation from the spiritual hunger that ravaged his heart, he begged the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master for help that night.
The very next day his computer went on the blink. He called a technician to fix it.
Chris and the technician alike saw a familiarity in each other's face. Years ago, it turned out, both had belonged to the same support group. A small world.
Then, out of the blue, the tech rep asked Chris if he'd ever heard of Eckankar.
"Heard of it?" Chris said. "I've been trying to get in touch with it."
Their chance meeting turned into a discussion about the teachings of ECK. Right after that, Chris called the ECK Spiritual Center in Minneapolis to request a membership. His excitement was such that he couldn't get off the phone. He wondered why he'd waited so long. Everything he'd heard and read on the Internet about ECK fell in line with already held beliefs.
Gratitude and joy filled Chris. In a real sense, he was a wandering Soul who'd come home.
Of course, the tests go on. Layer upon layer of delusion are peeled away like onion skin until only Soul, the True Self, remains. Facing oneself does take courage. The webs, dust, and clutter of an impure state of consciousness can be troubling. But divine grace, love, and gratitude accomplish a full housecleaning, top to bottom.
What does this purification offer?
There's another saying: "If you like who, what, and where you are, you will be happy." The ECK (Holy Spirit) goes beyond gnothi seauton, for It reaches into one's innermost being, far beyond the play of the mind. It brings you into accord with God's love.
There are lots of stories about the ways members of Eckankar have found ECK and of the many occasions the Mahanta, the Inner Master, has helped them with healing, protection, or an outpouring of divine love. I write not to bend anyone's arm. I make no attempt to convert any heart. The Masters of ECK know and teach that when an individual has a real hunger for God, he will seek out the Lord's table on his own. Only then will they aid his quest.
And so it truly is.
It is for that very reason that I try to tell it like it is. One is either ready or he is not. In the end, persuasion used in some religions to get converts leads to grief all around. A hunger for God will eventually turn an individual to searching again until he finds ECK.
So with love and goodwill, I welcome you to the family of ECK. Dine now at the high table. Here, your driving hunger may find peace and satisfaction.
Excerpted from the 2004 Eckankar Journal, copyright © 2003 ECKANKAR. All rights reserved.