I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. It was indeed my hero. I had been collecting his photographs and articles, splashed in all the dailies, for over a decade now. His cricketing and writing exploits were well known, and my room was dedicated to his glorious life. As I saw him look somewhat lost across the street, I grabbed my chance to extol my love for him. My mind raced through a thousand things I could tell him. After all, I wasn’t just any nineteen-year-old I was his greatest fan! I ran across the street, panting and huffing, and introduced myself bashfully.
Without giving me even half a smile, and only pretending to acknowledge me, he hurriedly looked in all directions.
“Can I help you?” I volunteered.
“I need a taxi. Can you call me one?”
I dashed away and quickly returned with a cab, only to see him speeding off in another one. And before the two of us could muse over those nail-biting cricket climaxes, the hard hitting articles, and all the wonderful, heart-wrenching moments, he was gone.
As I strained my eyes to keep the taxi in sight, the deluge of Mumbai traffic soon consumed it. I sank on a bench nearby, overwhelmed by this once-in-a-lifetime meeting with the cricket legend, my venerable hero. Soon, however, the painful reality dawned on me: I meant nothing to him, and he couldn’t care less for my euphoria. I was insignificant, and the reciprocation I desired so badly from him wouldn’t be coming.
Desperate To Be Special
Years later, as I was shopping in the Indian supermarket of spirituality, I chanced upon a flyer that announced, “Discover the most special person: you.” I couldn’t help contrasting this and similar other propaganda with my earlier painful experience, where I was dismissed as of no consequence.
Ads, billboards, movies, product coversthey make us feel we’re the center of the universe, with the world at our fingertips. But reality throws up unpleasant surprises, and our letdowns belie the tall claims of the ad companies. These letdowns occur quite too often to be dismissed as pessimists’ excuses. Mean while we march on, hoping the next encounter with the “real” world will turn things our way and make us feel special; and the “reel” world’s there to keep us optimistic and positive. As we feed our consciousness with deceptive self-centered media images, we search for special moments and look for relationships that will massage our ego. Unfortunately people care more for their own ego than ours. The result is a far cry from the desperate reciprocation we crave. Relationships often turn sour and end in separation or divorce. The natural fallout of ego clashes is distrust and conflict, leading to spiraling domestic and social violence.
The desperate search for self-worth leads many to seek a spiritual path, as evidenced by the booming “spiritual” business in India. But too many sects only bolster our self-obsession by encouraging us to believe we are God. They conjure up attractive phrases and synonyms for God such as “love,” “fun and joy,” and “peace and beauty.” They comfort us with clever words and promise us peace through silent meditation or breath control. Riding on a newfound mental plane, we announce that life’s incomplete without “spirituality.” A few of us manage to see through this sham and are haunted by a deep sense of betrayal at the hands of myriad socalled gurus.
A few years after the disappointing encounter with my hero, I became a Hare Krishna devotee and learned that God, Krishna, is the most special person and we are indeed insignificant in relation to Him and the cosmos. Besides, all the heroes of the material world are also, like us, simply names, soon to be washed away by the waves of time. Recalling my teenage encounter with one such hero, I felt how true was the philosophy of Krishna consciousness.
Many people, however, are appalled at this bold declaration of God’s greatness and our insignificance because this reality is precisely what they try to forget. When confronted and exposed, a thief or a fugitive is only sorry and angry. The scriptures’ portrayal of the harsh reality of this world unsettles the die-hard hell-bent on enjoying here.
Krishna’s Love Makes Us Special
A closer look at Krishna’s teachings reveals the position of every living entity as not simply inconsequential but also simultaneously special. We are all part of God, Krishna, and our constitutional position is to serve Him, the Supreme, allloving Lord. This service not only fills our heart with a level of happiness that transcends ordinary bodily pleasures, but it also reinstates us in our special position. Each soul has a unique relationship with Krishna in the spiritual world, our original home. Although tiny and insignificant compared to the Lord, we can conquer Him through the process of loving devotional service.
A finger is insignificant when separated from the body but has a special place when connected to the hand. A screw is useless when separated from the machine but when reconnected performs a unique function. It is our relationship with Krishna that makes us special. Separated from Him, no hero worship can make our lives significant.
Prayerful contemplation of our insignificance compared to the all-great Lord and His numerous servants makes us humble. This humility softens our heart and captures Krishna’s heart. In stark contrast to superstar adulation, where even the most passionate enthusiasts are left high and dry, a spiritual approach based on humility and service transforms unknown servants into glorious recipients of the Lord’s mercy and love.
Krishna Reciprocates With His Fans
Unlike modern heroes who may never care to know how much their fans love them, Krishna, present in the heart as the Supersoul, knows our smallest desire and is ever ready to reciprocate with our longing to love Him. In fact, Krishna is more eager to receive us in His loving embrace than we are to feel the warmth of His presence in our lives.
Examples of the Lord’s reciprocation with His “fans,” or devotees, fill the scriptures. While a hero of this world may be selective about the company he keeps, Krishna responds to a devotee’s call irrespective of sex, status, influence, or even species. Mrgari, a barbaric hunter who half killed animals, enjoyed watching them die in excruciating pain. The Lord’s confidential devotee Narada Muni transformed Mrgari, who was soon calling the Lord by chanting His names. Krishna heard Mrgari’s call and filled his heart with love and compassion. Mrgari went on to become a great saint who showed unparalleled kindness to all living beings.
Krishna heard the call of Dhruva, although the boy was merely five years old.
Krishna doesn’t care for one’s material intellect and sophistication. This is confirmed by His loving dealings with the monkeys of Vrndavana and His timely reciprocation with the elephant Gajendra, who in danger called out for the Lord. The hunchback Kubja and the impoverished Sudama were definitely not among the rich and famous. Vidura, son of a maidservant, was excluded from the elites of Hastinapura. Krishna went out of His way to answer the pleas of all these devotees.
The Fate of Fleeting Heroes
What about the heroes I left behind for Krishna? If I am insignificant, so is the cricket champion, who a few years down the line is now bereft of media glare and if fortunate may avoid a disgraceful omission from the squad for a bout of poor performance. The plight of beauty queens, macho men, and political messiahs is no different. The most sensational heartthrobs of the ’80s are unsung today, replaced by a new batch of pretty faces, only to be soon followed by another fresh set.
Daily, new heroes fill the billboards, television screens, and covers of leading magazines, and the country goes gaga over them. Young men and women madly follow these stars and etch their names in the flying pages of history. And how significant are they, really, even in terms of this one planet? Our neighbor China, the most populous nation in the world, has no clue about cricket or Bollywood, and its one billion plus citizens are busy with their own heroes. Precious human energy is thus wasted in vigorously pursuing ephemeral goals.
Making Way for the Real Hero
As for devotees of Krishna, it’s goodbye to a tragic life in a hypocritical and pretentious all’s-well world. Rather than seek to be great, it’s time to live in a world centered on service to the great. It’s this attitude that conquers Him. As a response to our service and to our sincere calling through chanting of the holy names, Krishna floods our heart with spiritual joy. We don’t need to calm down the passion for hero worship; just change the object. With Krishna as the center, there are no more letdowns. And despite all the charges of painting a gloomy picture of the world, the bright-faced Hare Krishnas continue to happily chant and dance to Krishna’s tunes.
Vraja Vihari Dasa, MBA, serves fulltime at ISKCON Chowpatty (Mumbai) and teaches Krishna consciousness to students at various colleges.