Dhanurdhara Swami October 25th, 2001
It’s been seven months since I’ve visited Vrindaban, my longest self-imposed exile from Vrindaban in twenty-two years. My entrance to the holy dhama, however, always invokes the same emotions?and in the same order. A sense of relief, a feeling of worthlessness and humility, and a charge of exhilaration and excitement followed by a glimmer of devotion. And the same persons always usher me in: Gopal, the blissful brijbasi driver, Dadu,the saintly mailman, and the ominous black snake at Kesi-ghata. I’ve described my pattern of entering the dhama many times. Patterns repeat, so there’s not much need to say more, except for my encounter with that ominous black snake. Our meeting took on a new twist, and it merits a few words more.
Another set piece to my fixed pattern of entering Vrindaban is to bathe in the Yamuna before doing anything else. I wouldn’t feel fit to be here without the powerful purifying effect of Her merciful waves. Thus on my request Gopal, my friendly and lovable brijbasi driver, drove me directly from Delhi Airport to the bank of the Yamuna at Kesi-ghata.
As I strolled on the path above the stone stairs of the intricately carved red sandstone ghata looking for a suitable place to enter his holiest of rivers, I spotted a large black snake on the bottom step of the first of the five separate bathing sections comprising Kesi-ghata. I was twenty feet away and looked carefully to see if it was just a piece of tire or a rope, but it was moving. It was a large dangerous black snake! I continued my walk, but with apprehension, somewhat fearful to bathe in the river that my big black friend seemed to be protecting. With trepidation, I quickly entered the Yamuna a few sections down, rapidly submerged myself three times, and with relief, immediately vaulted myself to shore. Proceeding back along the same path I again passed the first section of the ghata where I first spotted the snake. There he was, still there, and in the exact same position. From the top of the steps I looked at him again. Yep, he was still moving?but why was it in the same exact place? I squinted and focused again. No! It was only a piece of a black bicycle tire. Before bathing, I took off my glasses and any object twenty feet away naturally appeared blurry, unfocused, and slightly vibrating. The cause of my fear was not real, but in my mind!
A realization came akin to what I have been thinking and preaching about for weeks since the World Trade Tower disaster-?that the fearful world we live in is a product of our mind and not the actual nature of reality. Here was a classic example: the rope and the snake. For five minutes I lived in a world threatened by a dangerous snake, which in fact, existed solely in my mind. I realized that just as the presence of this snake was enough to alter my view of the world and determine my actions and feelings?in spite of the fact that it was a creation of the mind?similarly, we always live a world of self-created fears that determine our actions and feelings, but are, in truth, creations of the mind. For example, we live in constant fear of death. Non-existence, or death, however, is just as much an illusion for the eternal, undying self as the big black snake that haunted my entrance to the dhama.