Today's Bhagavatam class (9.9.33) given by Nityo Dita Prabhu, focused on the discussion of destiny and austerity. He told the story about a devotee who once gave a reasonable donation to the Temple and later found out that some devotees had taken the money and used it for non-devotional pourposes. He became very angry and approached Prabhupada and told him what happened. Prabhupada's response was: "Don't be angry at the instrument of your own Karma" Prabhupada made a point that we shouldn't be angry at the sinner but at the sin (of course this is harder said than done). In perspective, Nytio emphasizes, Prabhupada was also saving this person from becoming angry at these devotees and commiting offenses towards them or possibly abandoning all faith in the Krishna Conscious path.
From this discussion we found ourselves talking about devotional service and desire to serve. In the early days, we all agreed, there was a strong driving desire to serve. There were no cars, no computers, no internet, no nice houses, no money, etc, dragging us away from unmotivatedly and uninterrumptedly being fully absorbed in devotional service. Sooo, as time passes by we wonder, what is the austerity in today's day? "To develop, mantain, and nourish loving relationships with each other" Wow! I thought he was going to go into how we should attend the programs, wake up early, do lots of service, etc , etc. All this forms of austerities are there, but his point made me realize that if we don't 'go out of our way' to develop good realtionships with each other, making our SERVICE TO OTHERS the real focus of our lives, then we could find ourselves acting on a selfish platform.
In the modern world, Nytio further explains, people are driven towards isolation by all the technological advances and 'progress'. He made a point that if you give love SO much will come to you, but if you wait to be loved, you'll become a very lonely person...
We ended class with a quote from a great personality, H.H. Bhakti Thirta Swami, who was asked by a devotee: "Maharaja, how is it that you are able to give so much of yourself to everyone in the midst of so much suffering due to your illness?" His response was: "If you give yourself fully to serve others, Krsna himself will personally take all your problems away"
Let our mind, body and soul be fully absorbed in the service of Sri Krsna, the Supreme.
My good friend Theresa-ji came to visit on the same day of the power outage. She is such a wonderful and inspiring person. At mid afternoon, we both grabbed our beads and headed off on a japa walk around the Temple grounds. The power outage lasted until next day morning... aahhh... I relaxed.... and then I went into the Temple later that night, after Sundar arati, and played lullabies for the deities and the two devotees on the Temple floor. They were trying to stay warm since everywhere else was freezing cold.
Last week the power went out in New Vrindaban and the greater Moundville and Wheeling area due to a strong wind storm. What an interesting experience, especially since it got to be 20 degrees outside by the time night settled in. It was a taste of austerity.
Cold cold rooms and Temple, it was even more interesting to see that since I've been here the kirtan this day was one of the sweetest I've heard. Many members of the community came down to take part in the feast. The fact that there was no electricity, no phone line working, no internet, brought many of us out of our offices and our houses into the Temple for the Kirtan.
Made me wish there were more days like this... simple living - candle light kirtan, no sound pollution - just peaceful.
Since time immemorial we’ve been stuck here, suffering in an attempt to enjoy that which is temporary and unfulfilling. It’s like walking in endless circles in a seemingly beautiful field, with no path and lots of unpleasant surprises hiding behind every alluring tree, under every pleasantly scented flower bush, and within every sparkling spring of water. So we try to enjoy the fruits of this world, and although we do succeed at times, we’re never fully satisfied. Why aren’t we satisfied? In due course of time the trees die, the flowers wilt, the fruits rot, and the springs become polluted. Yet we keep trying, because of our gross attraction to all these temporary things which give us temporary pleasures, and ultimately leave us wanting more.
At some point, if we are lucky, we are directed to “stumble” upon a mountain amidst this flat land. A mountain so tall you can’t possibly come close to seeing the top, yet somehow there’s this hankering to climb the mountain, and find out what’s up there. One day a miraculously refreshing rain shower awakened something in my heart and began to clean off some of the dirt I had accumulated after uncountable years of rolling in the mud. Someone who had already advanced a great distance up the mountain called down to me and explained what was at the top, how I was once there, and that they would like to guide and assist me in getting back up. It is described that at the top of the mountain there are no temporary pleasures, that there is no birth, old age, disease, or death; only eternal blissful knowledge of the Supreme Absolute Truth, and the ability to serve the Cause of All Causes. A place were one can actually live “happily ever after”. It’s explained that we were once all there blissfully playing and dancing, but because of our free will, we decided we wanted to enjoy separately from the Supreme owner of all pleasures, and we fell down the mountain. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!........... BOOM!........... Ouch!!! You can’t expect to fall down a mountain and not get hurt.
Luckily, not only did I find the mountain again after my long excursion away from it, but the path up the mountain has been mercifully revealed by the same person I so selfishly abandoned at the top of the mountain. Undeservingly, he even sent an extremely experienced guide to encourage me on the path, to expose the shortcuts, and to teach the tricks of how to get past all those roadblocks. In the beginning it was really exciting; I was filled with a sense of adventure and enthusiasm. But on the other hand I didn’t want to blindly follow the wrong path or the wrong guide. Then after another sprinkling of rain, it was revealed to me that not only had I found the right mountain and the right path, but I had also found the right guide.
I started to climb. I began with much enthusiasm, although I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I was wide-eyed and got easily distracted by the scenery, but I soon realized that the path wasn’t just “a walk in the woods”. What are all these road blocks? I wasn’t expecting all these roots tripping me, fallen trees to have to crawl under, mosquitoes to avoid and tolerate, or creeks to cross over. Such a naïve little girl, I was getting lost looking up at the swaying tree tops while trying to climb a mountain. Idiot! Why did I think it would be easy to climb a freakin’mountain?! One after another the challenges kept coming. I now understand that I’ve got to watch my step. I should expect to confront boulders to climb over, caves to squeeze through, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!), and rushing rivers to swim through. Not only should I prepare my self for these obstacles, but I should be grateful for them, because they are there to teach me valuable lessons, and help me grow stronger. My instructor explains that “One’s greatness must be measured by their ability to tolerate provoking situations”.
Since taking to the path, although I am still at the foot of the mountain I’ve have some realizations about how to climb it. I’ve learned that I have to be cautious and use my intellectual instincts. I can’t just try to rush up the mountain, because then I’ll run into unseen obstacles and fall down; and the higher you climb, the harder you fall. I have to go at a steady pace or else I’m sure to get overwhelmed and frustrated. It will help one’s advancement to take a rest when needed, but not to break for take too long, because every moment is precious, and it’s too easy to get distracted from the path. I should remember to genuinely appreciate the nectar of the flowers along the way (and offer them). Every once in a while I may have to “stop and smell the roses”… but to be careful with those roses; they will try to distract you and you may try to enjoy them. If I forget about the source that created those roses and try to enjoy them for myself, I will only get pricked. If I am lucky you will remember the inevitable pains of temporary selfish enjoyment, learn from my mistakes, and try not to get caught in the invasive rose bushes anymore.
Sometimes I find other people walking on the same path. Some pass me and some lag behind, but I know I can’t let myself become discouraged or proud, or it will hinder my progress; instead I should be grateful that there are others taking the same path who can associate with. Sometimes they will want to help me climb; sometimes they will let me assist them. Sometimes they will disappoint me when I have expectations and sometimes I will disappoint them. If someone’s drowning in a river, but I don’t know how to swim in such a rushing river, I can’t save them. If someone falls in a ditch, I can try to pull them out, but if by trying to pull them out I realize I’m not strong enough and find them pulling me down, I have to let go. Maybe one day I’ll find someone going the same pace as me, someone who will support me equally as much as I support them, who will not hinder my progress or visa versa. Maybe one day I’ll find that balanced reciprocation… or maybe I won’t. Regardless, the best companion is already there in one’s heart, loves you unconditionally, guides you perfectly, and never gives up on you! I should never forget, ignore, or neglect my instructor. I should remember to always offer my respects, praise, and services to him; he encourages me to take advantage of his shelter and advice, but I should never take it for granted.
This path may be a struggle to climb, it may test my endurance, and I know it won’t be easy. I haven’t gotten very far up the mountain, and could easily skip down it, but there’s absolutely no turning back! “In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Bhagavad Gita 2.40) Every step I take, although seemingly insignificant, brings me closer to the top; closer to understanding how to please the Source of all love. If I ever actually make it to the top of the mountain, it’s not the end of a journey…it’s just the beginning. by: Bhaktin Tess (Athens, Ohio)