Begin the Journey
HEY, IS THAT some calypso band around the corner?
No. It's a group of fifteen or twenty people in strange outfits, dancing around with drums and hand cymbals … Oh yeah, the Hare Krsnas.
You cross the street quickly and watch the spectacle from a safe distance. What are they doing? What are these people all about? They do look kind of happy … Maybe they have something interesting to say. You dabble with the idea of speaking to one of them. Maybe, maybe … nah. You keep walking.
In my last article I explained that this attitude shows a tiny bit of sraddha faith. And I explained that "faith" really means "respect."
If you ask Joe and Jane Average to tell you what faith means, I doubt they'd say "respect." They'd probably say "belief" or "trust" or "surrender." But if you take a close look you'll find that all these are just symptoms of respect. The more we respect something, the more we can trust in it, believe in it, surrender our hearts to it. So the real core of faith is respect.
When you respect something, you want to hear about it, and that desire to hear brings you into the company of those who know about it. Like this:
The first time you see the Krsnas chanting on the street, you think they're outlandish but interesting. You begin to wonder what they're all about.
Sometime later you unexpectedly spot a young American woman dressed in Indian clothes another Hare Krsna. Again the questions bounce up: What are they a bunch of lunoids? Or is there something solid behind all this weird stuff?
Timidly, you walk gradually faster, catching up to her. You jog.
She stops. You talk.
Guess what? You've just started to reach the second landmark on the road from ignorance to bliss: sadhu-sanga association with devotees. Your faith brought you in touch with a devotee.
You ask a few questions about the clothes and the shaved heads and the paint on the nose.
The conversation ends, and you go back to your daily existence. Assuming the person you met was a genuine devotee, the answers she gave made a surprising amount of good sense. You walked away thinking, "Yeah, they really do have something interesting to say."
Your tiny bit of faith grew a little stronger.
Now you respect the devotees more. Other questions pop up quickly and nag to be answered. You start to glance around corners, vaguely hoping to find a devotee somewhere.
Finally, another devotee, more questions asked, more answers given clear, sensible answers again. And the devotees are nice people. The more you talk with them, the more your respect increases. The more your respect increases, the more you want to talk to them to find out more about them.
One day you spot a flier tacked to a lamppost: "Hare Krishna Temple … Sunday Feast."
Like this, the faith and association strengthen and push each other. You start coming to the temple regularly, becoming fairly good friends with some of the devotees.
Then, late one Sunday night, as you relish the last few crumbs of carob-cashew halava, you hear a voice.
"Excuse me, Prabhuji … "
You look up cautiously from your plate.
"Would you be interested in doing some devotional service?"
"Uh, I guess so. I don't see why not …"
"Great, come with me into the kitchen."
On the way to the kitchen you cross the border into a new realm. There's a sign on the road: "City Limits: Bhajana-kriya Execution of Devotional Practice."
The next article will describe the precincts in the city of Devotional Practice (bhajana-kriya), as we move from unsteady service to steady service. Stay tuned.
Vraja Kishor Dasa joined the Hare Kasna movement four years ago. He and his band, 108, are based at ISKCON's temple in Towaco, New Jersey.