Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stumbling Upon the Sun

"If you think that this Krishna name is not very suitable, you can accept any name. That doesn't matter. Our proposition is you chant God's name. That is our proposal. Therefore it is universal. If you like, you can chant Jehovah or you can chant Allah, but we request you that you chant God's name." - Srila Prabhupada, 1968


Last week, my friend Shalagram and I decided to explore and admire the campus of the University of Florida under the stars in the lamplight. Then Shalagram pointed to the magnificent building that I pass every day.

"Have you ever been inside?" she asked.

"Actually, I have not," I said, taken aback. "That's the music building."

"You want to explore?"

"Why not?" I said.

So we crossed the street and entered through tall glass doors. Other people were also coming in, walking upstairs with a purpose. I felt a little intimidated. "What if someone demands to know why we're in here?" I muttered to my friend. "We're total sneaks!"

"Just act like we own the place," Shalagram replied. We grinned to each other and straightened our backs. We followed the stream of people up the stairs. We could hear the tuning of a guitar and the rustle of a huge crowd.

Timidly, Shalagram and I walked up to the door that had to lead to an auditorium. A young man walked past us on his way in and I flagged him down. "Excuse me, um, what's going on here?"

"Oh, one of our bands is playing tonight," he replied.

"Our bands?"

"Yeah, one of our bands here at UF... this is Crusade for Christ,"

"Aha, I see... so this is a... Christian thing?"

"Yes," he smiled and went on inside.

Shalagram and I looked to each other. I knew it flashed across both of our minds at the same time: destiny must have brought us here. "Let's do it!" we agreed, and we plunged into the dark auditorium. Everyone was standing up in the pews to face a band on stage. We walked up as far as we could and slipped in near the stage.

Wide-eyed, Shalagram and I looked around at the vaulted ceilings, the majestic architecture, and the hundreds of college students standing in the pews and in the balconies. Most had their arms raised, their eyes closed, and were singing along with the band.

We joined in on the tumultuous song, for the words were projected on a screen near the stage. Looking around, I was astounded to see such enraptured faces. Those were the same faces that I see in a heart-touching kirtan.

Then the song ended, and everyone took their seat. "Should we stay?" I whispered to my friend.

"Why not?" she whispered back. So we sat.

A young man got up on stage to give a sermon. And what an eloquent, incredible sermon it was. He was practical yet poetic - he wove in the scriptural analogy of running a race to our lives as dedicated disciples in the race to the Lord. I kept glancing over at Shalagram and we kept nodding to each other; nearly every point that he touched upon there was an equivalent in Vaishnava philosophy. Through his words, I felt inspired in a way that I have never felt before to chant intense and dedicated japa the very next morning.

The young man drew his sermon to a close, and then the band sang a closing song. Everyone rose to their feet and raised their arms. I raised my arms, too. And when everyone sang out "Whoah oh oh oh...." I murmured softly to myself, "Hare Krishna..."

My spiritual master often says that the sun goes by many names in all the different languages of the world, but it is still the same sun.

It's the same way with God - He goes by many names, but He is still God. And in that dark auditorium last week, I felt that I had stumbled upon the sun.

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