Naughty Krishna holding a piece of candy (photo: Jishnu Das)
Been thinking a lot about parrots lately. Why? Don’t know.
But wait. I’m supposed to meditate on Krishna. Surely, nothing spiritual comes from thinking about parrots, right?
Maybe I like their bright eyes and their raspy voices and the funny ways they combine words. But the material world has many amusing things. I’ve got to clear my mind and get serious about my meditation.
What if I die thinking of a parrot? Krishna warns us:
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail. (8.6)
Maharaja Bharat was looking for his pet deer when he fell to his death. He was a great yogi, but his dying thought—Where is my deer?—led him to become a deer in his next life.
Curled Up inside a Parrot’s Egg
Yes, death can come without warning. What if it happens to me? So I like parrots. OK. But do I want to be one? I can see it now: While my corpse burns in the crematorium I lie curled up in an egg in some parrot’s nest.
No thanks. Go away, parrots. Let me chant Hare Krishna.
Alas! Thoughts are like boomerangs. Hurl them away as far as you can… And they come right back.
In the midst of this raging battle in my mind, I came across a book I had never seen before: Na Paraye ‘Ham (I Cannot Repay You). I opened it at random and found a discussion between two parrots, two cuckoos, a snake, and a squirrel, all sitting on a branch.
One of the parrots, named Suka, repeats a conversation he has heard between Krishna and some devotees.
Yes, even in the spiritual world parrots repeat what they hear. They are the spiritual internet. Got a message for someone? Tell it to a parrot. And the parrot flies to the receiver and repeats your words. No monthly fees. No hackers. No malware.
Intelligence beyond Anything I Can Imagine
But Suka does not repeat like any parrot I have ever seen. He understands Krishna’s words with a realization and and intelligence beyond anything I can imagine. The same for the other animals. To become a parrot like Suka would be better than any birth I could hope for in the material world.
The tree the animals sit on also joins the discussion He is known as a desire tree. He can give you whatever you wish for.
All the trees in Vrindaban are desire trees. But what about the trees in the other Vrindaban, the town in India? Are they desire trees too?
Be Careful What You Wish For
Yes, say the people who live here. Krishna played here 5,000 years ago, they say, so the two Vrindabans are both Krishna’s one-and-the-same home though they may appear different. A spiritually realized person sees this.
And if you visit Vrindaban today, they warn us, be careful what you wish for. The trees may look ordinary, but they are the same wish-fulfilling trees.
I checked it out one day when I ran out of cash. I sat under some trees and wished to see a certain shady character I knew. Maybe I could sell him something. And lo and behold: After a few minutes he came by and gave me some cash for my watch.
Coincidence? Maybe. Superstition? Maybe. But after that I was careful about what I wished for under the trees.
If You Kill a Cobra…
Superstition becomes fact in India: Maybe you narrowly saved your life when you killed that cobra. All right, say the locals, but be sure to burn the body, or at least the head. Because the eyes take a photo of the killer. Later the cobra’s mate comes, looks at the eye-photo, and takes revenge. It has happened.
Superstition? Science? Who can say? But better safe than sorry. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever happened upon a cobra.
Not only the cobras but all the animals are special in India’s Vrindaban. They seem more intelligent. In the early evening you often see cows walking down a road. They have been out grazing all day and now they amble home without need of a human guide.
And watch out where you put your cell phone. Some sharp-eyed monkey may steal it for barter at the nearest fruit stand.
One day as I strolled with a godbrother in Vrindaban, a monkey jumped from a tree onto my godbrother’s shoulder, snatched his glasses, then jumped onto a nearby building, and scampered up to the third-floor balcony. Then he sat down to chew on his new booty.
A young Indian man saved the day. He held up a pastry from a nearby shop to offer as ransom for the glasses. It worked.
No surprise. What man or monkey could resist the aroma of a samosa pastry stuffed with grilled-vegetable bits and deep fried in clarified butter? Just the thought makes my tongue feel wet.
My godbrother laughed at the teeth marks on his glasses. It’s a souvenir of Vrindaban, he said.
After that, I always stashed my glasses in my shoulder bag when I strolled in Vrindaban. Except once. And then a monkey tried to grab them from my hand, but I held them tight.
The monkey’s fingernails scraped against the skin of my hand. “His nails are too long,” I thought. Till I remembered that monkeys barter for bananas, not for nail clippers.
I don’t know any special stories about the parrots. They mostly keep to themselves as they flap their wings and babble softly to each other. But they’re on my mind these days for another reason. Now I finally understand what I have learned from them.
I already knew that I came into this world from Vrindaban. By “Vrindaban” I mean the spiritual one, not that I was born in India.
Ancient Times and Forgotten Lives
And I know that I have an eternal relationship with Krishna. We all do. But the memory has faded into the realm of ancient times and forgotten lives. And the same for you. By chanting Hare Krishna, I aim to bring back that relationship and live again my eternal life in the spiritual world.
But what is my relationship with Krishna like? Some people imagine themselves to be one of the village girls who dance with Krishna in the forest. Their idea is to combine kisses with spiritual life and bypass all the austerities.
A Different Sweetness
But this thought wreaks havoc with one’s spiritual life. First, no one should try to use Krishna to satisfy their sex desire. The village girls may appear lusty in the eyes of most people, but the sweetness they taste is not the boy-girl pleasure of the material world.
It is the nectar of Vedic knowledge. Thus the girls excel in the Vedic arts like painting and music and tailoring.
And the devotees in this world taste the same nectar in their philosophical discussions about Krishna Consciousness. The girls taste the nectar more fully, though, because they desire nothing else.
If even the littlest devotee on earth can taste the same nectar that the girls taste, what can be said of the parrots and cuckoos and squirrels in the spiritual Vrindaban and the trees they sit on? Even the snakes.
So why should I worry about what what I will become in the spiritual world? Even the tiniest creatures there share in the nectar. Uddhava, a close friend of Krishna’s in the city of Dvaraka yearned to become a blade of grass in Vrindaban. Why? To let the devotees walk on him and leave the dust of their feet on his head.
Thank you, parrots, for leading me to this understanding.
Eternally touching my head to the lotus feet of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada,
⁓Umapati Swami, January 7, 2022
© 2022 Umapati Swami
Scriptural passages © Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International
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.
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.