Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Value of My Question

The morning after LA Rathayatra, I slept terribly. I awoke to a dark and silent bus at around 5am, and I was buzzing with raw nerves. I thought of how impossible it would be to get back to sleep, so I decided I would take a shower and go chant in the front of the bus.

As I went in to use the bathroom, Manu passed me (of all people, I swear, HE was up) and said, "Change of plans. Radhanath Swami is going to be on THIS bus, instead of the boy's, in about a half an hour. We're driving to the LA temple right now to pick him up. The bathrooms need to get cleaned."

That's all he said before he whisked in to clean a bathroom. I blinked in response. What?

Without thinking too much, I cleaned the other bathroom. I took a shower - which soothed my nerves - and dressed in fresh clothes. Outside a blue light began to filter through the world. Everyone was still sleeping.

With some hesitation, I slowly opened the door to the front of the bus. My heart skipped a beat. Manu and Radhanath Swami both turned around. I just sat down to write in my journal.

There I was in this cool, blue morning, driving along some California highway, sitting about two feet away from the very person who gives my life meaning. I stayed quiet, though. I wanted to ask Maharaj a question, but I wanted it to be thought out and real.

So maybe a half an hour went by while I gazed out the window to the eucalyptus trees and the golden light illuminating the rolling terra-cotta hills. I was meditating on a question the whole time. I couldn't decide. So guess what? I asked the question that I have been asking for years, to almost any bloke who crossed my path.


Radhanath Swami turned around. "Yes?" he replied.

"May I ask you a hypothetical question?"

The corners of his mouth twitched. He pronounced, "Yes, you may ask me a hypothetical question."

I took a breath. "Would you rather be blind or deaf?"

He paused and became serious. "Either way, as long as Krishna allows me to serve Him. I pray that being blind or deaf would only draw me closer to Krishna."

I laughed and dared, "Yes, but Maharaj, you've got to answer the question; you've got to choose one." I really wanted to hear Maharaj's choice. I'd been asking this question for so many years and had received so many different answers and reasons. His would surely settle the case.

But his reply shall remain with me for the rest of my life, precisely because I was not expecting it.

He spoke in return, "Yes, but I believe the value of your question lies in appreciating being able to see and appreciating being able to hear, and not so much that I must choose. Your question allows one to consider how important each sense is to live our lives."

I sat there, astounded to silence. I replied quietly, "You know, I've never thought of it like that,"

Maharaj then turned around and we all resumed our chanting of japa. I pondered his reply, realizing all these years that I've never felt fully satisfied with anyone's response, ever. There were always holes or counterarguments or debates that sprung up.

And yet there I was, void of all reprisal.

After awhile, Maharaj then turned around again. He said slowly, "Bhakti lata, your question is like having two daughters and asking me which one I would rather have die. Each one is so precious and unique." He paused. "Because of your question, I am now listening to the maha-mantra as we chant as I have never heard in my life, and gazing at these Deities - " he gestured to the framed photo of Radha-Madhava propped up on the dashboard of the bus - "with appreciation for Their smiles like I have never seen in my life."

He smiled. "Thank you."


Mandakini said...

What a sweet exchange between yourself and Maharaj. Thank you for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the most beautiful conversation.

while i was reading your question to maharaj... I was trying to answer myself, but as i read maharaj's reply - it really changed my thought process.

To write is to dare the soul. So write.