Dhanurdhara Swami May 7th, 2001
New York City – Nrsimha Caturdasi
I spoke for two hours this morning. I stressed how the story of Lord Nrsimhadeva stresses forth the subject matter of the Bhagavatam?posanam, or protection. Posanam means one is protected by God when recognizing His supremacy and one takes shelter of Him.
In the small audience was one young Indian devotee from NYU who was becoming a devotee. When I met him only weeks before, he was eating mushrooms and LSD, going to techno clubs, and becoming a Buddhist. He has now seriously taken to Krishna consciousness. He is by nature intelligent and bold, and his personality is attractive. He reminds me of many older devotees who, in the late ?60s, were sincere seekers before coming to Krishna consciousness, but in their search got waylaid by drugs and New Age philosophy. He has arranged for his parents to meet me this evening. I have convinced him to give up all his bad habits and have also encouraged him to stay in school. Still, his parents are worried that he is becoming too spiritual. He feels that his parents have no understanding of life beyond family and business. For them education means only material education. They are pressuring him to be a technologist, but he also wants some deeper purpose in life. As I was reading Prahlad’s instructions to Hiranyakasipu, I looked up at this young man. He was sitting in rapt attention. I could sense that he was connecting deeply with the lecture and we both intuitively understood the irony: Prahlad’s instructions to his father had an uncanny parallel to what he has been trying to explain to his father. By coincidence, on this holiest of days, he is also being cast in the role of Prahlad.
“My dear father, as far as I have learned from my teachers, any person one who has accepted this temporary body and temporary household life as one?s eternal identity is certainly embarrassed by anxiety because of having fallen in a dark well were there is no water but only suffering.” (Prahlad’s instructions to his father when asked what he thought is the best of all subjects he had studied from his teachers.)
His parents came. I was surprised that the boy introduced me to them as his mentor. We exchanged pleasantries, and in the course of the conversation, I asked his father to explain his understanding of the purpose of life. The father explained that the purpose of life was to work hard for your family so that your family can work hard for their family, and that this cycle is called dharma, or Hinduism. As he was explaining this, his son became disturbed and interrupted, ?Dad, but what’s the meaning of that cycle? You haven’t explained anything!? I was careful not get in-between the family or to disrespect the parents in front of the son. In fact, I told the student not to raise his voice to his father, and he listened, which seemed to give me some credence with his parents. The discussion ensued and I finally tactfully managed to explain to his parents that they have taken to the American vaisya (business) oriented culture based on the Protestant work ethic where the business class rules, and have inadvertantly forgotten the tradition of their own culture where deference is first given to the brahmanas. While it is understandable that they want secuirty for their son, I explained that they should also encourage their son in his healthy intellectual and spiritual pursuits.
How much did they understand? I’m not sure, but their impression of the devotees was favorable, and at least I got to celebrate Nrsimha Caturdasi in a bit of a real-life drama.