THE SHOW IS FINISHED, the equipment loaded. The van sits before the front door, and I sit inside the van. It is cold and windy on a German shore.
Three guys approach young, clean-cut, and straight-edged. They want to do an interview.
"I don't need Krsna," says the spokesman, with an unforgettable German accent. "I have my own way."
"That's cool." I say. "What way is that?"
Lots of hestitation. Lots of stuttering. Lots of eyes darting back and forth between the three of them.
Finally the spokesman speaks up. "I believe in my own self. I rely on my own self. I follow only my own self."
"Great. But who is that self?"
More darting eyes and stuttering. Sentences begin, but confusion consumes them and silence dominates. They can't answer.
I ask them, "How can you believe in it, rely on it, and follow it if you don't even know what it is?"
Silence is spoken in German.
"See, that's why you do need Krsna consciousness."
"The first point is that the self is not the body."
He sits up straighter in the van chair. "Yes," he says, "I am not the body. I am the collection of all the ideals that my brothers and I share in common."
"These ideals are not the self," I say. "They're all impressed upon you from outside your self."
They eventually agree: The self is beyond the body and the ideals of the mind.
Then I ask, "We know what the self isn't. But what is it?"
"Yeah. The self is a particle of spirit, a part of the complete spirit, just as a guitar string is a part of the complete guitar. If you rip off that guitar string and throw it on the sidewalk out here what value does it have?"
"Yeah, not a whole lot," I say. "It's useless. But when you connect that string to the complete guitar tune it up and all that it has so much value, right? It can make music. It can make songs. The string is valuable when it works for the complete guitar."
"So, the real nature of the self," I continue, "is to serve the complete self."
"What do you mean, 'complete self'?" one of them asks.
"Krsna. The highest expression of the self is to serve Krsna."
"That's what it really means to 'follow yourself.' That's Krsna consciousness."
They were thoughtful. I was thankful.
Vraja Kishor Dasa (formerly Bhakta Vic of 108) joined the Hare Krsna movement about three years ago. He recently received spiritual initiation from Dhanurdhara Swami in Vrndavana, India. He and his band (called 108) are based at ISKCON's temple in Dallas, Texas.