A drama enacted in the natural world inspires higher thoughts.
Recently a devotee said to me, "Just try to see through the Vedic lens." At the time I remember thinking how nice it would be to see the world in that way, but I knew I couldn't force such a vision. I thought that if I wanted to understand what he meant by "Vedic lens," I had better keep chanting.
A few days later, I was seated typing at my computer. It was dusk, and the soft evening light fell gently into the room. I turned toward the window as the last rays of daylight faded, and the tiny silhouette of a moth caught my eye. He was trapped between the window and the screen.
About a week ago, some children were playing with a ball outside my first-floor apartment. Their ball struck my window, knocking the screen to the ground. When I tried to replace it, I ran into some difficulty. The old clip that holds the screen in place no longer allowed the screen to fit snugly against the window. As best as I could manage, I secured the screen so that three of its corners fit within the grooves, allowing only a tiny opening at the bottom where the screen was not properly fastened.
It seemed that this moth had flown in through the small opening and was now trapped. In the upper left-hand corner, also between the window and the screen, was a thick, sticky web and a fearsome-looking spider. Silhouetted in the darkness were the discarded remains of the unfortunate creatures that had floundered into the web.
Not more than an inch separated the window and the screen, and in this tiny space the moth buzzed around, searching for a way out. He made his way to each side of the sealed screen, his antennae probing here and there for an exit. Oblivious, the moth wandered treacherously close to the web, arousing the spider, who bounded gracefully across his silken fortress. The moth, suddenly aware of the danger, buzzed frantically, just beyond the spider's reach.
I felt the slight twinge of disappointment, deprived of the firsthand experience of nature's wrath, but it was soon replaced by a piercing shame, and an even greater embarrassment.
The moth continued his burning search for liberation. He made three laps around the top half of the screen, groping for some escape. Each time he wandered, he came precariously close to the spider's web, and each time he avoided death by a hair's breadth.
Finally, in a frantic attempt to force his way to freedom, the moth began to beat his wings and hurl himself into the screen. He was so desperate. All he had to do was search near the bottom. There, the screen was not fastened snugly to the window . . . but this never occurred to him.
Then, unbelievably, as I watched the moth throw himself madly at the screen, I saw through the Vedic lens. A tiny sliver of Prabhupada's transcendental vision refined my sight, acting like a lens put in front of a patient's eyes during an eye examination. No longer was I merely looking at a moth struggling behind a window; I was seeing the helpless plight of the living entity in the material world.
Allured by some promise, the soul has flown into this world, and now he is trapped. Frenzied, he searches in all directions, recklessly trying to be happy, but it is all in vain because he is caught within the stringent laws of material nature. All around him, his endeavors meet with frustration, and above him, death personified waits patiently. If only he would turn toward Krsna. But, bewildered by illusion, he never considers the possibility.
Now it was only a matter of time until the helpless moth stumbled into the spider's web, to be entangled, in this life, for the final time. Still, the moth thrashed about, wildly launching himself into the wire screen, again and again. Finally, an even more profound and fundamental realization arose in the forefront of my consciousness: the moth could not free himself.
Determined, I hurried outside. At the window, I found the moth still buzzing furiously and the spider silently striding his web. Slowly, I lifted the screen several inches from the window, and like a child released from school, the moth burst from his cage. He danced jubilantly around me for a moment, and then soared away into the night.
As I stood there trying to replace the screen, my thoughts drifted to Prabhupada. Previously I could not begin to appreciate the position of the spiritual master, or the precious gift he gives to the helpless conditioned soul. But now I understood. We are all moths caught in a screen, and despite our feverish endeavors, we can never free ourselves. This rare experience allowed me to see, if only for a few moments, how merciful Krsna is. He sends saints like Srila Prabhupada to deliver the entire world from the clutches of cruel illusion.
Ben Saikin is a film student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He met Hare Krsna devotees on campus two years ago.