Are we asking the right questions or wasting our time on the wrong ones?
4 p.m. The shift was over. Winding up my desk, I picked up my shoulder bag and walked out of the office. Instinctively I slipped my hand inside my bead bag and softly began chanting Hare Krsna on my beads.
This was my first week of working in the morning shift at a Reliance call center. I had arrived at the office at 7.00 am in the morning and now that the shift was over, I began walking towards the bus stop to catch a bus home. On the way, a colleague joined me and a casual conversation started.
"How do you find your present working experience compared to the earlier ones?" I asked after exchanging pleasantries.
"This place is amazing," he replied. "Imagine working with 15000 other people, having four food cafeterias, recreation rooms in every block, gymnasium, library, hospital, beautiful gardens, lake, and a temple right inside the campus …. "
He stopped abruptly as his gaze fell on my bead bag and his smile suddenly shrunk to a frown.
"Hey! 'What is this?" he asked pointing to my bead bag. "Are you a brahmana, or a Hare Rama Hare Krsna devotee?"
Without waiting for my reply, he blurted out his verdict, "Ok. You may be a devotee and doing this devotion but I think you should do this at your home. Two minutes in the morning are enough for this. " He stopped to breathe but only to add up. "Anyway, why do you chant? What are you going to get out of this?"
"Ah .. ," I parted my lips to explain the unlimited benefits of chanting the holy names of the Lord, but he cut me short with another volley of questions.
"Why do you chant so much? Isn't it enough to offer a sincere prayer once a day? Since it's a matter of your own faith, why not practice it in the privacy of your home Why show it off in public?"
This and similar questions came pouring out from him like torrents of rain. His tone was proud and condescending.
I paused for a few moments. A cigarette dangled from the corners of his dark lips and smoke clouded his face.
I asked, "Why you are smoking? Isn't it a private affair? So, why do it in a public place? You are so proud of displaying a cigarette which is harmful not only to you but also to others, and you think that I am crazy because I carry this bead bag in public? Why should I be ashamed of doing something good?"
He had no answers. Perhaps he didn't expect me to defend myself so aggressively.
Traffic sounds pierced the silence as we walked to the bus stop. There we parted ways.
I returned home thinking about the entire incident. In today's world, people are completely ignorant about their real welfare. My friend considered my chanting a weird thing while totally agreeing to something that is obviously so harmful to him. This attitude of ignorance is beautifully described in the Srimad Bhagavatam (7.5.31)
na te viduh svartha-gatim hi Visnum durasaya ye bahir-artha-manina~ andha yathandhair upanfyamanas te 'pisa-tantryam uru-damni baddhah
Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Visnu.
As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries.
People don't know the purpose of human life. They don't realize that they are leading their lives just like animals simply living for eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. They don't ask, "Who am I! What is my real identity! What is my duty in this world! Where do I come from and where will I go after death! Why am I suffering! Who is God! How can I know Him?"
But, they foolishly ask, "WHY!" for spiritual life, which is the essence of human life.
Gadadhara Pandita Dasa, BSc., is a disciple of His Holiness Lokanatha Swami Maharaja.