Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #34 – Submissive Aural Deception

August 20th, 2018

“Everyone knew,” Baladeva chuckled. That was my neighbor’s response here in Vasant Falls when I told him that I just got back from the audiologist and I was diagnosed with severe high frequency hearing loss. Of course, it seemed most people noticed. I can’t count how many times people speaking to me heard me respond, “What? What?” and either chuckled or were annoyed.


While in his office the doctor told me that once I get a hearing aid and walk outside, I will hear the singing of birds like I never heard before. I would be amazed, he said. What a good example of classic illusion, not seeing what is actually there! I thus naturally thought about my aural deception through the eyes of śāstra.


The conditioned soul is in illusion


Illusion has two aspects: to see what is not there and not to see what is there. The classic example of illusion is walking in a dark forest and mistakenly seeing a rope as a snake. We are seeing what is not there, a snake, and we are not seeing what is there, a rope.


This is analogous to mistaking the body to be the self. We see the body as our core identity, and we do not recognize that our core identity is the deep self. These two aspects of illusion comprise our ignorance as to who we really are.


Seeing and not seeing Vṛndāvana


When people first come to Vṛndāvana, they may get caught in a traffic jam in front of our temple, hear blaring loud speakers, and see trash strewn and feel disappointed. The first thing I tell such pilgrims is that Vṛndāvana is actually the most beautiful place in the world, but they are not able to see what is actually there at present. To explain the phenomena of imperceptible reality, I give the example of certain high frequency sounds that only a dog can hear. I explain that just as a dog can hear sounds not perceptible to the common man, in the same way a sincere person by the practice of bhakti can perceive the real Vṛndāvana, a realm not visible by our limited senses. I have thus observed that one who comes to Vṛndāvana under the guidance of a senior devotee and stays absorbed in devotion, especially chanting the holy name, rises above illusion and leaves with the impression of having visited one of the most beautiful places in the world.


Of course, I am also happy that there are so many sounds produced in a modern civilization that I can’t hear so well today. Think sound pollution, which comes to my next audiologist realization.


Modern civilization is neither sustainable nor advancing 


I asked the doctor the price of a hearing aid. He said there is a range of price just like with cars, but entry level is $2,000, and it is not covered by health insurance. Did I hear right? What?! I was aghast. How will the truly poor survive in today’s world? I fondly remember the house calls of Dr. Ralph Burke, our family doctor, at $10 a visit. When I was 3 years old I was hospitalized for over a week to remove a benign tumor which my family could afford even on their middle class salary without health insurance. Those were the days.


I had a friend that spent three years studying over 500 books on sustainable economics. I considered him quite a genius in these matters. At the time he shared with me one of his findings that he found in, of all places, a fiscal report by the USA Congressional Budget Office. It described that at the present cost rate the demand for caring for the aged and those who will become aged, including the exorbitant cost of medicine and end of life medical care, may very well bankrupt the US economy in the not too far future unless something is done.


Meditating on what appears to be an oppressive medical/pharmaceutical cartel that seems to be at the root of this $2,000 entry level hearing aid, I remembered one of my favorite Bhaktivedanta purports on a verse in the First Canto of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that describes the pastoral beauty of the city of Dvārakā, the capital of Lord Krishna’s kingdom. There Śrīla Prabhupāda describes in contrast how the oppressed modern city dweller lives today. As soon as I got home from the doctor, I looked at that purport again. It was powerful.


“The leaders of modern civilization select their own residential quarters in a place where there are such naturally beautiful gardens and reservoir of water, but they leave the common men to reside in congested areas without parks and gardens. […] Development of factories and mills is called ugra-karma, or pungent activities, and such activities destroy the finer sentiments of the human beings and society to form a dungeon of demons. […] The vested interest flourish at the cost of the working class, and consequently there are severe clashes between them in so many ways […]” (Bhāg. 1.11.12, Purport)


I am looking forward to my hearing aid, but as I leave the office my focus is on conquering a more substantial illusion. I somehow find myself humming Lalasamayi Prarthana:


viṣaya chāriyā kabe śuddha ha ‘be mana
kabe hāma herabo śrī-bṛndābana


“When the mind is completely purified, being freed from all anxieties and desires, only then will I finally see Vṛndāvana.” (V. 3)


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