Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wisdom of a Stranger

I sit on the porch of the Krishna House in Gainesville, reading. I look up from my book to the quiet street and see a man walk by. Something about his face speaks of such sadness, such... sorrow. I feel this urge in me to somehow walk out to him and hand him a plate of sanctified food, prasadam. Or ask him a question.


But he keeps walking by, and I feel very shy. How silly! Who am I to run out and start bombarding some stranger with food and questions?

He starts to disappear around a corner.

But a voice murmurs to me in my heart: When will this moment come again?

I put aside my book and dash off the porch, running towards the man. I call out, "Excuse me! Excuse me!"

The man turns, surprised to see a girl running towards him. "Yes?" he says gruffly.

When I reach him I say, "May I ask you a question?"

"Is this about parking?"

I take in his uniform, which I realize is a polo shirt which has embroidered on its front Parking Attendant. "Oh, no, this isn't about parking," I say.

"Then what? What's your question?"

I take in a deep breath. I look him in the eyes and say, "May I ask you what you feel is the purpose of your life?"

He furrows his eyebrows. "I need to work,"


"Yes, I need to go to work, I don't have time for this,"

"So you feel the purpose of your life is to work," I clarify for him.

"No," he says sardonically, "The purpose of my life is to be happy and make others happy,"

My eyes light up in wonder.

The man finishes, "Now if you'll excuse me I need to pay my rent,"

I fold my palms to him, smiling. "Thank you for your answer," And we part ways. I head back to the porch, reveling in the moment.

This parking attendant, who is a complete stranger to me, knows the purpose of his life. Just like that. The answer is clean and clear. His soul knows. I realize that we all know. The purpose of our lives is at the tip of each of our tongues. No need to force or debate or convince.

As the parking attendant put it so eloquently, "Be happy and make others happy."

Be happy and serve.

Something is amiss in this equation, though. I return to my spot on the porch to ponder. In my experience of this man, he was miserable. He knew and could speak the purpose of his life, and yet I did not experience him as aligned with his words.

I realize that to the degree that we're not aligned with our purpose, we cover it over with work. To the degree that we are not connected with the source of true happiness - God, Krishna - then we cover it over with work, work, work. Pleasure. Distractions.

I offer my respects to the man I met in the street today. He has taught me the simplicity of knowing the purpose of my life, and the lifelong adventure and challenge to align my knowing with my being.

And if I see this man again, the parking attendant, I think I shall go out and offer him a plate of prasadam.

(I feel moved to mention that this post is very much inspired by the Satvatove 3 course that I participated in this past weekend, which is facilitated by Dhira Govinda dasa (David Wolf) and Malini dasi (Marie Glasheen). I thank them for their guidance and compassion.)


Vinod said...
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Damodar Prasad said...

A similar experience:
I met a man named Raul. I saw him walking towards me with a rough appearance and a cast on his arm. Despite a feeling of apprehension, I couldn’t pretend not to see him because Krishna drew my attention to him. He also came out of his
way to me. As he walked by I asked him about the cast on his arm. Instead of responding he walked closer and sat down. I felt nervous because he looked like a beatup drunk I could smell the alocohol on him. But I remembered that hes part and parcel of Krishna and decided that Krishna had arranged this situation. So I decided to look him in the eyes and listen to him tell me of his troubles.

I told him that I could help him stop drinking. He asked me how and I requested him to chant the names of God. Immeditely he jokingly said,”Hare Hare!”, to which I responded asking,"do you know how to say the mantra properly?". "No" he said.

I asked him reapeat,"Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare." three times. Then he said he felt like crying. So with love in my heart I embraced him and chanted as he cried. I felt a peace come to him.

The whole experience was very real to me in the sense that I got to see how this person is a soul with feelings and a relationship with Krishna.

To write is to dare the soul. So write.