How a Clack-Clack and a Thud Brought My World into Focus

Sri Krishna

Have things ever gotten so bad that you wished you could really tear your hair out?

Or bang-bang your head against the wall until the wall collapses?

O.K. But what about finding the cloud with the silver lining? What about hearing the lark sing after the storm?

Yeah. Sure. Ain’t that a laugh!

But it happened to me last week, and at the last minute, believe it or not, the lark sang out.

First,  my chronic gout flared up. My left ankle hurt so bad I had to use a cane, but I was used to that, or so I thought. Well, as I hobbled my way to the bathroom at midnight, the cane fell out of my grip hitting the floor with a clack-clack, and I fell flat on my face with a thud.

“O silver lining, O lark,” I muttered, “where are you now?”

And more clouds were heading my way.

The next day, my roommate handed me a pill.”This will stop the pain,” he said. Yes, the medicine cured the gout, all right, but it gave me an upset stomach and intestinal distress so bad that. . . uh, you probably don’t want to hear the details.

Something I Had Never Felt Before

“Well, I guess it’s the material world,” I kept telling myself as I writhed and squirmed in my chair. Then it struck me.

I sat up with a start.

“Wait!” I thought, “I really do mosey around in the material world. I have heard it and read it and said it, but I never felt it until this moment. This is where I am.”

Suddenly—like the view in a telescope when you turn the lens—the world came into focus.

I could almost feel the walls that surrounded me. The sky outside had never looked so blue. The whoosh of the wind across the open window had never sounded so fresh. The jasmine incense had never smelled so much like a  flower.

You Idiot!

I almost forgot I was in the wrong world. I almost forgot the grumble in my stomach. But something in me remembered.

“You idiot!” my mind shouted. “Blame yourself! Remember? Who turned his back on the spiritual world? Huh? Who ran and leaped into this world of disease and death. Huh? You know who.”

When the storm is over: a meadowlark (Photo: Pixabay)

But me, ever the romantic, I fancied myself biblical, like Adam and Eve. They too were forced out of paradise, sort of like me. And an angel stood guard at the door brandishing a flaming sword to keep them out.

But I knew the way back in.

If only I had taken it.

You Did It Too

No one kicked me out of the spiritual world. I ran away. But I could’ve gone back. Yep.

Time and time again, as Mother Nature dragged me through billions and trillions of births and deaths—on this planet or that star, in this  spinning galaxy or that   whirling nebula—Krishna found me and and beckoned to me: “Come on home.”

But each time I said no and took another step in the wrong direction. (Don’t laugh. You did it too.)

“The wrong direction”: I can’t get this thought out of my mind. And I don’t want to, because my mind and I like to move in the here and now. I know that some devotees step back from the here and now.

They cover their senses when they chant the holy name on their beads. But I open my eyes and ears to the moment.

And now all I have to do is remember where I am. “Let me use this hour of chanting to take another step on the path back home.”

Touching to Feel the Life

Early the next morning, I walked into my kitchen and touched the sink, where Krishna gives me water. I patted the stove, where he gives me fire for cooking. I touched the purple eggplants and the red tomatoes and the green bell peppers to feel the life in them.

I ambled into my bedroom and rubbed my hand across the bed Krishna gave me to refresh my body and brain. Yes, Krishna gives me everything I need.

Adam and Eve expelled from Eden (stockfreeimages)

Who Feeds the Tiny  Ant in My Bathroom?

But then, Krishna offers these things in every apartment in the city. And not only in the city, Krishna provides a complete world for every living being on earth. And more…

Not only on earth, but on every planet in the universe. And not only this one universe but for every living being on every planet in every one of the billions and trillions and quadrillions of universes.

Down to that teeny speck of an ant crawling on my bathroom floor.

Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself.” (Sri Isopanishad, Invocation)

It’s too big to grasp. It’s inconceivable. It’s downright impossible. But then, who am I to grasp it? If I want to understand Krishna’s greatness, I would have to become as great as Krishna himself.

He is the Complete Whole. Even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.” (Sri Isopanishad, Invocation)

I Didn’t Need a Snake

That’s the mistake Adam and Eve made. They tried to eat their way to greatness. “Just take a bite,” the snake told Eve, “and you’ll rake in all there is to know. You’ll be just like God.

I made the that mistake too, but I didn’t need the snake. In the spiritual world, I couldn’t become as great as God, so I jumped into this material world to try. In fact, all of us here did the same thing.

Is God Selfish?

But why does God want all the greatness for himself?

He doesn’t. He wants something else. Lean closer, and I’ll whisper the secret.

First, God is Krishna.

Second, the greatest of all pleasures, for the devotee and for Krishna also, is the give-and-take of love between the two of them, between Krishna and each one of his infinite millions of devotees.

That’s the secret. That’s why Krishna comes into this world. That’s why he plays like one of us. Maybe it’s hard to love the all-powerful, all-ruling, all-knowing Lord, but it’s easy to open your heart to a naughty little butter-thief named Krishna.

Yasoda Devi (left) ties up naughty Krishna to punish him for stealing butter. Mother Yasoda sees Krishna not as God but as her little boy, and Krishna relishes her natural motherly love. (Photo: Rasacharya Das)

How to Make God Smile?

And would you like to know why Krishna comes into this world as Sri Chaitanya, why he sings and dances and philosophizes? It’s because he wants to feel the joy his devotees feel.

So why should we want to become God? God wants to be a devotee, and that’s open to us all.

I picked up my cane and shuffled into the living room and stood in front of the altar, scratching my head. I took a deep breath to inhale the fragrance of  sandalwood incense. I looked at Krishna. I understood.

Of course we should marvel at Krishna’s greatness, but Krishna smiles the widest when we love him for being a naughty boy.

Eternally touching my head to the floor at the lotus feet of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, for showing me all this.

~Umapati Swami

Photo top: Naughty Krishna holding a piece of candy (Jishnu Das)

(Note: The opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organization or any other person.)

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© Umapati Swami 2021
Scriptural passages © Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

Srila Prabhupada

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the teacher who brought Krishna Consciousness from India to the West and then to the rest of the world. He is the founder of  the worldwide Hare Krishna Movement as well as the author and compiler of many works of Vedic knowledge. He left this world in 1977.

Umapati Swami

One of the first American devotees of the Hare Krishna Movement, he became Srila Prabhupada’s disciple in 1966. Since then, he has preached Krishna Consciousness in many countries and is the author of “My Days with Prabhupada,” available from Amazon. Now 84 years old, he has started this blog to share what he has learned.

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