Dhanurdhara Swami August 26th, 2005
Dear Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept my humble obeisance’s. All glories to your divine grace.
My offering this year is a story from my visit to Buenos Aires, an incident that not only moved me, but reminded me of the glory of your mission, how living for others helps oneself:
It’s Sunday. At least three hundred people are packed into the moderately sized temple room. My topic: The Philosophy of Karma.
My main point is that the world moves around us with the intention to give us realizations. If one understands destiny in this way and responds appropriately to it, then life becomes an opportunity for education in transcendence. I argue my point very forcefully for over an hour; every event we face is offering us “jewels of realization.” The silence pervading the audience indicates attentiveness and agreement. There is even loud and sustained applause when I finish. Naturally, I was satisfied with the presentation, but it went on just a bit too long. The feast was waiting. A time was set later for questions.
Making sense out of suffering is a hot topic. It touches people so personally. After the feast many people approached me with questions. It’s a difficult subject, but I was prepared for tough questions. I was thus able to satisfy all inquiries, except one:
Just before finishing the last questions a simple man humbly approached. I acknowledged his query. His eyes were filled with tears, his face with sadness. He shyly spoke while sobbing:
“My 18 year old daughter recently died in an accident. She was my only child. We miss her so deeply. My wife and I have not been able to sleep even one night. We’re devastated! You spoke that destiny gives ‘jewels of realization’. What possible jewel can I take from this?”
I offer an explanation, but he is not satisfied, although he sincerely wants to be. How to explain karma to one so pained by fate? In fact, I’m so pained by his story that for a moment I even begin to question the workings of destiny.
“Am I speaking just words without realization?” I ponder. “He’s right. Is fate not cruel?”
The temple during the crowded noisy aftermath of the Sunday feast is hardly the place to answer deep and personal inquiries. I admit to this humble man that it is difficult to answer his question is this setting; that to help him I need to see him privately. I request him to return tomorrow before my talk. He assures me that he will.
Roberto (the gentleman’s name) was already waiting for me when I arrived the next day. Kaveri, my translator, is already chatting with him. I try again. “It is not a time for philosophy. Your pain is an expression of attachment for your daughter. I don’t have the heart to try to convince you not to feel that pain right now, nor would it be possible. Some explanation, however, may help you cope with that pain and eventually manage your loss.”
This is a very serious trauma. Taking notes of my limits-I am not a trained grief counselor-I slowly begin by explaining something of the nature of the eternality of the soul while attentively observing Roberto’s reaction. I don’t remember all the details of my explanation, but his receptivity and obvious piety inspired me to go deeper. When our conversation touched the point that perhaps his daughter’s death was bringing him closer to God, he did not object. He also seemed to understand that if in fact he did become closer to God, then his daughter’s death not only had meaning, but she would certainly be blessed by God.
Although Roberto was open to my thoughts, after some time I could sense that there was only so much I could say. The conversation was thus brief and ended by my assurance that if he took shelter of God, in time he would understand His mercy. I then asked the very nice brahmacari who first brought Roberto to me to spend time with Roberto before our guest left for home. I then left for my lecture in the adjacent room.
As I am leaving the class I am surprised to see Roberto waiting at the door. I had no idea he again stayed for the class and kirtan. I was stunned by his transformation. His once sad face was glowing. He humbly shared his thoughts with the simple words:
“I have found that jewel!”
He wasn’t kidding. Although last week was the first time he has ever visited a temple (he got a book a few years ago on the street), Roberto has been coming to the temple ever day since. Many times he expressed to me and others his sincere realizations about the relief and shelter he has found in Krishna-consciousness, although, of course, he still misses his daughter.
Srila Prabhupada, I also found that jewel, many jewels, in just this one brief event in your service:
Jewel One: The whole encounter with Roberto, from hearing and feeling his pain to sharing his relief, really softened my heart. There was naturally also transference of that emotion to my spiritual practices. The incident with Roberto, and other events related to my preaching here, definitely added a special flavor to my bhajan.
Chanting has to be focused on one’s heart. It certainly helps when you start with an open one. If we don’t feel for others and try to help them, our hearts will naturally close to others as well as to God. There is no doubt that this is why you so much stressed compassion for others as a cornerstone of your mission. Intelligent people will thus thoughtfully dedicate themselves to your sankirtan mission, especially as for the most part we, the residents of kali-yuga, come to your lotus feet under-nurtured and thus closed hearted.
Jewel Two: When Roberto said, “I have found that jewel,” I also immediately felt humbled to be a conduit for your mercy and honored to be your servant. Spontaneously, I transferred Roberto’s expression of gratitude to you thinking, “How many people like Roberto have been given life by your teachings? I certainly have.” Such thoughts and sentiments were certainly reaffirming for my guru-nistha. And again there was a natural conversion of these emotions born of gratitude to my spiritual practices. Gratefulness thus also began to flavor my chanting helping it to become even more heart deep.
Chanting must be done with deep thankfulness to the spiritual master. If we don’t feel gratitude, we can’t feel humble and without humility there is no taste. There is no doubt that this why you stressed guru-nistha so much as the foundation of bhakti.
I aspire for the heart of the eternal brijabasi’s, a soft heart melted with compassion and filled with gratitude. You have understood us perfectly and have given us exactly the right path to evoke this transformation. Bless me that I may walk that jeweled studded path and continue to share its wealth with others.
Your eternal servant,