It was late in the night when a tired old man knocked at the door of a rich landlord. He asked for food and shelter for the night. As a principle, Vishnu never turned away a hungry man from his doorstep. So, the old man was offered a seat at the table and steaming hot food was served to him. Vishnu sat across the table to oversee that his guest was well looked after by the servants.
As soon as the food was served, the man pounced upon it like a hungry animal. As he started gobbling up the rice, Vishnu admonished him sternly. “You did not fold your hands to thank God for the food, my friend. You did not offer it to the Lord before partaking of it!”
The old man looked at him squarely in the face and said simply, “I never do that and I do not think there is any need for me to do it.”
“Then you may not eat at my hearth. There is no place for you in my house, you may leave this instant, if you refuse to pray,” said Vishnu. The old man cast the plate away, got up and walked out into the dark stormy night. Not once did he look back.
That night, Vishnu had a dream. The Lord appeared before him and asked, “Where is the old man, Vishnu?” Vishnu replied, “He refused to thank you Lord, so I turned him out. I could not have an atheist under my roof.” The Lord said, “For eighty one years I have borne him. He came to you for one night, could you not bear him for only one night for my-sake? I gave you surplus, so that you could in turn give to others. I expect you to do your duty; not teach every passer-by what his duty is. What about the food that you snatched away from a hungry man? Did any of your people consume it? No, it was thrown away. It was wasted. More disrespect was shown to that food because it was wasted.”
Love for God can never be forced, it has to blossom from within. A tiny seed has to be sown for a tree to grow. A fully grown tree can never be planted; it has to be grown from a sapling; nurtured and cared for till its roots are firmly fixed into the ground. Thereafter, it starts giving fruit to others! Similarly love for God can not be forced; it has to be evoked from within and that too slowly! So, strive to live in the conscious presence of God and do good deeds by way of service to society, chanting the name of God all the while. For hands that help are holier than lips that pray!