Shri Mataji especially liked to shop in New York City. We set out from the ashram and it was quite a long drive into town, so first we went to a Chinese restaurant and had lunch and had a huge table.
Most of Shri Mataji’s shopping had so much purpose – a training for us, and it was also for the resources of the world and the shopkeepers. Once She found a particular shop She liked in Chinatown. It was so small that the whole group of yogis accompanying Her couldn’t fit inside. We took turns watching Her selections and hearing Her comments about the art and craftsmanship of the items — small to massive cloisonné urns, ceramic horses and other figurines, jade flowers, horses, rings, etc. She would look at them, and after about ten of these, the shop keepers closed the shop to other customers. They got Shri Mataji a chair, brought Her some tea and got us some Coca Colas.
The husband and wife, the Chinese shop owners, were delighted to have such a generous patron and felt they indeed had an honoured guest. She would have them explain how the items were made, what part of China they came from. They were deeply knowledgeable and involved in the fine art, culture and literature of China and were proud to tell us about the craftsmanship that went into these items. They also had a bookstore that imported Chinese literature. So now we could see how the divine diplomat was working to improve our relations with China.
The same process kept happening with each group of items until the entire lot was removed. Finally, the shopkeepers ran out of items and had to bring in more from the small storage space in the back and She bought those too. With each group of selections, I was more and more awestruck at Her generosity. These were gifts Shri Mataji was selecting for Her family and the yogis.
The vibrations inside the tiny shop became stronger and stronger until it felt like a puja. In this magical environment, the bargaining began. The shopkeepers were extraordinarily respectful and also very generous so Shri Mataji received an excellent discount. She would not bargain, but the shopkeepers loved Her so much that the discounts were amazing. We also made some really good friends, and every shopping trip I went on with Shri Mataji was like a training ground on the Laxshmi tattwa. She would be lecturing a little and pointing things out and hoping we would get the point of what She was saying. After the purchase was made and the prices all agreed on – by the time they got to that stage they all loved Shri Mataji so much that bargaining wasn’t even necessary.
Before we could leave the shop, some logistic issues had to be worked out. Being still a new yogi, I thought it would be impossible to get this huge inventory to India without the normal gross amount of red tape. How to get these very large and plentiful items overseas to India? All the yogis began looking at one another with furrowed brows, but Shri Mahalakshmi smoothly took over and organized everything in such a simple way that She removed our headaches before we even got them.
Any time She was shopping, She was constantly teaching us — about generosity, about appreciation for handcrafted items, about another country’s culture, about how shopping for things that we can give others shows our love, how it helps to change the economy, about discretion, about handling money.