Friday, January 22, 2010

The Mystery of Mercy

Not so long ago, I had a dream that I was lying on the side of the road, immobile, hidden from view.

I was dying.

My mind was scattered and fear seeped through my veins. A call for help was lodged in my chest, unable to move because of my numbered breaths.

Then, from down the road I could hear the faint ting of kartals and a distant thrum of mrdanga. The party approached; a dozen people danced by, only yards away. But they didn't see me and I couldn't get their attention. The holy name rung through the air.

I wept and wept; I felt peace filter into my heart. Then the kirtan party moved on down the road, and I breathed my last breath.

I awoke.

The dream haunted me for weeks, for I realized that at the time of my death my mind was not on Krishna. I had been abandoned by everyone and everything, and the dying process had submerged me in fear.

And yet, although I had forgotten Krishna, He had remembered me. The holy name had come for me.  


On the first day of the Winter Bus Tour, we pulled into the city of Houston. Our stay was short, so that morning some temple devotees invited several of us on the Tour to sing at a hospice.

When we arrived to the hospice in the cold afternoon, we filled the quiet halls with our laughter. Our arms were loaded down with a mridanga, portable harmonium, and karatalas, and our faces shone with tilak.

Moshumi, our host, addressed us in welcome. “Thank you for coming. This first floor is for those who are to leave this world soon. We have two women especially that we would like you to sing for.” We all quieted and followed Moshumi down the hall. “We were thinking that first you can sing in the hall, and when the time is right we’ll usher you into each room.

“Please keep the music soft,” she continued. “We just had a death on the second floor,”

The gravity of this experience settled on our shoulders. Akinchana began a soft, lilting kirtan and passed the lead on to each of us. Several minutes later, Moshumi ushered us all into the first room.

Singing, we fanned out in a ring around a woman in a hospital bed, her body laced in tubes. When we entered, she sat up in bed, and her eyes lit up. She smiled, as if the sun had entered her room.

Then Akinchana gestured for me to sing; I closed my eyes and sang, and here in this room with a woman whose days were numbered, my own moment of death felt so close, as if I could reach out and touch it.

Suddenly, I remembered my dream, and how I had been so helpless and undeserving at the time of my death. But by the mystery of mercy, Krishna had come for me. The devotees of Krishna had come for me.

It was as if I had become one of those devotees on the road passing by a dying woman. I could sing and I could dance, whereas in my dream I had been paralyzed. This time, I could be an instrument of peace for the holy name.

I sang and tears fell from my eyes.

When I opened my eyes, the woman had raised her arms in the air, her face beaming. Everyone in the room was dancing. I wept.

I write this now over a month later, and I believe that the woman at the hospice has left this world. I don’t even know her name.

But before she left, she knew the holy name. Somehow, on that cold afternoon in Houston, we had all been instruments of the holy name, and that is a mystery of mercy I shall never unravel.

1 comment:

Jaya Vijaya said...

The Lord works in mysterious ways, and yet, in very wonderful ways too!

To write is to dare the soul. So write.