I was sitting in my classroom in north Florida, reviewing the day's lesson plans before class. Bees were humming outside my window, and huge white cumulus clouds drifted in the blue sky over the level countryside.

Ideal Place

I had moved from Philadelphia only a few months before. I needed the warmth and fresh air for my health, and my sons needed some room to let off their boyish energy.

"Ah, the ideal place." I was thinking.

Suddenly I smelled something acrid. What was it? I tried to ignore it, but the smell persisted, and after a few minutes I was getting shaky and my mouth was dry. The print seemed to be lifting off the page of my lesson-plan book. My students arrived, and though I was disconcerted. I tried to leave my problems outside the classroom, as I had learned in teacher training. But something was wrong, and the beautiful scenery now appeared eerie and dismal. And as I tried to start class. I could see that the children were similarly affected.

"Go to the temple building quick!" I told the children. "And close all the doors!" I went to the phone to dial 911.

Several weeks have now passed since that morning, when I had to deal with six emergency vehicles and eighteen or so medics and emergency volunteers. The problem had been caused by a pesticide that had drifted from a neighbor's farm during bean harvest and settled in a cloud over my classroom and home. I am since quite sobered about the seemingly perfect qualities of a beautiful countryside, and I get nervous any time there is a strange smell in the air.

After the pesticide incident I took a few hatha-yoga lessons from a local instructor, still intent on improving my health. As we practiced in the morning sun, he scrutinized my awkward efforts and said strongly. "Breathe deeply; oxygen is free!"

I lost my concentration. Oxygen may be free now. I thought but it wouldn't have been had I needed to go to the hospital with a mask over my face that beautiful morning the pesticide drifted in. In fact land used to be free and unspoiled, too. We don't see that now. And water isn't always free either. Like in Philadelphia. There are city water fees, and if you want some water you can drink, you have to buy it at the grocery store. So oxygen may be free for the most part but that may not last long either. We may soon have to put it on our weekly shopping lists along with the tissues and flour and drinking water.

"What is free that will stay free?" I wondered. I couldn't think of anything except the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Because the Hare Krsna mantra is not of this material realm, it can never be contaminated or used up. By chanting Hare Krsna and associating with Krsna's devotees, we can rise above bodily designations and sufferings and know our real selves as the servants of the Lord. This is more valuable than any material commodity, and yet there is no charge for it.

The chanting of Hare Krsna is satisfying and cleansing to the individual souL And it is so satisfying to Lord Krsna that if enough of us do it He will arrange that our material necessities, such as air and water, remain free and plentiful. Thus we can have peaceful lives for spiritual realization.