Friday, December 16, 2016

Tree of Trust

The leaves were a brilliant green in the park when I made my way to St. Brigid's School for an internship interview. I was early, so I wound my way over to the majestic Prabhupad Tree, whose proud trunk and towering plume of branches and leaves extended far into the sky. 

In my heart I wrestled uneasily with the prospect that this would be an unpaid internship. New York City is such a tough city to live. So I struck a silent bargain with the Lord in my heart. I pleaded with Him to please allow me to work at St. Brigid School and get paid for it. If He arranged for this, then I would come see Radha Murlidhara and the Prabhupad Tree every day.  

Fair and square. Right? 

I was interviewed. The principal and vice principal were impressed with my experience and my character. Then the principal dropped the bomb. "Yes, we'd love to have you. And just for clarification, this would be volunteer,"

My heart dropped but I kept my cool demeanor. "Yes, I understand. I'm still interested," Where were those words coming from?? I had known all along I would probably not get paid. But I had had a thread of hope. 

I walked out of St. Brigid with my head spinning, feeling sick. Tears unexpectedly poured down my face. Through blurred vision I made my way to the Prabhupad Tree. Fear overwhelmed my heart. 

I approached the great tree and sunk onto a park bench and wept. Working at St. Brigid felt so right, this was my dream school and opportunity. Yet without getting paid how would it be possible in this crazy expensive city? 

I looked up at the tree and calm settled over my heart. 

Everything will be taken care of. Just trust. 

I rose from the bench and walked over to the tree and gave him a long hug. His bark pressed against my hands and my forehead, his roots spreading out below me. 

On the walk back to the subway, I realized just how much I wanted this opportunity. I would talk about it with my now-husband Ghanashyam, but I resolved in my heart that no matter what the financial circumstances, I would come see the Lord and His devotee every day. 

Ghanashyam encouraged me, and we found a way to make it work. 

Over the past four months, I woke up glad to go to work at St. Brigid. Every day I would come say hello to Radha Murlidhara and the Prabhupad Tree, taking moments to reflect on grace.  

Now my internship is drawing to a close. Today I approached the tree in the park, his plumage long gone, his bare majestic branches reaching  up into the pearly sky. I gave him a long hug. For  four months I've been giving him a hug, and today I felt this affection well in my heart. 

My friend. 

Thank you. 

Although I do not know my next destination, my friend has taught me that everything will be taken care of. Just trust. 

My friend seems only to speak the words of the great soul who once stood beneath his branches by the name of Srila Prabhupad. That great soul was an unknown, penniless man who deeply believed that all would be taken care of. Srila Prabhupad just trusted, and he changed the world.

My dear Srila Prabhupad, may I trust the way you trust, and may my life's work bring me ever closer to your feet and the embrace of the devotees.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Goose Fable

A Goose Fable
A Story In Honor of Radhanath Swami for his Vyasa Puja, 2016

Once upon a time there was a young gosling. She would waddle around on the ground with her fellow geese, and there were even elder geese who waddled everywhere they needed to go, from pond, to forest, to field. But every so often, this little gosling would gaze up into the clear blue sky and see high, high above beautiful V’s of birds, stretching out into the sky like fluttering ribbons.

“What kind of birds are those?” she asked one day to an elder goose.

 “Geese,” he replied gruffly. 

“Geese?!” she exclaimed. “Like me? Like us?”

“Do not worry,” he said. “You have everything you need here on the ground. There’s no need to gallivant off into the sky like that. Those geese are eccentric.”

But the more the little gosling watched those birds fly by, the desire blossomed in her heart that she also wanted to fly. She felt that there was more to life than waddling around on the ground. After all, she had wings.

She began to feel the determination that surely the goose at the very tip of the V formation in the sky could teach her how to fly. So one day she stepped out into the wilderness to search for this V-leader.

At last, she came upon a great enclave of geese and was lead to a little clearing by the river, with some rushes laid out on the ground. When the little gosling saw the great V-leader goose, her heart trembled but she spoke out bravely, “May I be your student? Would you teach me how to fly? I know that my destiny must be beyond the ground, but I’ve only ever been told that everything I need is on the ground. I want to fly free, experience something beyond my little pond and forest.”

The V-leader goose observed her carefully. His golden-brown eyes seemed to twinkle and see straight through to her heart. “You were meant to fly, little one. I will teach you,” he intoned.


“Yes!” He unfurled his great white and dark brown wings. “Let us begin!” Even though the great V-leader goose was responsible for an entire gaggle of geese, he would still take time out of his busy day to teach her the principles of flight and language of sacred honking. “Honk when you are in distress so that other geese may hear you and come for you. Also, We honk when we fly together, to keep our spirits up and unite our hearts,”

Finally, the day came when, with the goose leader and the entire gaggle of geese there as witness, the little gosling leaped off of a cliff. She fumbled and tumbled through the air. She honked and suddenly her wing caught on a warm updraft of air. She honked again and her wings righted and she rose high, high, high, up past where the great V-leader goose and the entire gaggle watched upon the cliff’s edge. Everyone began to honk wildly. She rose even higher and the little gosling felt as though she was being held in the arms of someone much, much greater than herself, that the longing she had felt all her life to be more than a goose in a gaggle was fulfilled.

Suddenly, the warm wind dropped away, and the little gosling found herself tumbling through the air. Terrified, she somehow kept her wits about her and remembered the teachings how to land. She shakily maneuvered back to where the great V-leader and all the other geese were waiting.

“How was it?” the V-leader asked gently.

“Amazing,” she said, wide-eyed.

“And?” he prodded.

“Very scary,”

“Hm. Now is the time to know that there is an even greater destiny than learning how to fly. You see, we geese are big birds. And we fly very, very far. Actually, to fly as far as we fly is impossible according to the laws of physics. “That is why we fly together in V’s. When a goose beats his wings, he sends an updraft of air behind him, which can then be ridden upon by the goose behind. Then the draft behind the wing of that goose helps the person behind him, and on and on until the end of the V. We can increase our range by many, many times over when we stay together.”

The little gosling was quiet, her mind awakening. “But,” she said quietly, “What about the goose in the front? There’s no wind for him to ride?”

“All will be revealed in time,” he replied mysteriously.

The little gosling began to learn from the other geese in the gaggle how to fly in V-formation. It was hard work, to figure out how to cooperate with others’ rhythms, and to work together. Soon, though, her wings became strong and she gained many flying friends.

One day she noticed that the great V-leader would often retire after long training journeys to his little clearing by the river. “Is our great V-leader okay?” she asked a fellow goosemate.

“He is very tired. To be at the tip of the V is so hard. He needs to create an updraft for all of us geese in formation to fly upon. He is trying to train more and more geese to fly at the tip of the V, but we can be slow learners. Many of us want to fly as far back in the V as possible. Being the leader may look glorious but it is the hardest work of all. And for our V-leader, he truly does his best to show us and train us and encourage us. So he continues on, year after year.”

A tear slid down the gosling’s beak and dripped off of the tip. “This sounds so terrible. Why would he do such a thing if it is so hard on him? Why?”

“Why don’t you ask him?”

So the gosling waddled over to the edge of the V-leader’s little clearing. He was resting in his spot, honking melodiously. The lines around his beak were pronounced, but his golden brown eyes were bright.

“Great goose leader,” the gosling said timidly. “I have a question for you,”

“Anything for you, little one,” he said and beckoned her closer with a great sweep of his wings. 

“How come you do it? How come you work so hard - and you are advancing in age – to lead the V when it is such hard work?”

The V-leader smiled. “I will share with you a secret. There is a greater fulfillment than flying, greater fulfillment than the fun and companionship of riding with other geese, greater fulfillment even than reaching our distant destination. The greatest fulfillment is to strain every muscle in your wings to create an updraft for the goose behind you until you do not know how you will beat your wing one more time. The greatest fulfillment is to honk the sacred song so that the others behind you are encouraged to keep flying, to honk until your voice is gone and you cannot honk anymore.”

“But why, great leader? Why?”

“Love. That’s all there is to it. I love each and every one of you. And, I am also glad that you are no longer stuck waddling around on the ground.” He laughed then, his wings rising and falling with mirth. Then his voice became soft, “In truth, I am not a leader at all. I am only your servant.” The V-leader fell quiet and turned to gaze off into the sky towards the setting sun.

“In truth,” he continued, “a V-leader cannot lead on his or her own. It’s impossible. The V-leader rides upon the wind of grace of our great Lord, who speaks to the hearts of all and gives us the strength to continue on.”

The V-leader became grave and he beckoned the little gosling a little closer. “Do you want to know an even greater secret?” She nodded, eyes wide. “We are all riding the wind of grace of our great Lord but most of us do not know it or feel it. But He is there, holding all of us in His arms.”

The little gosling remembered her first flight, and the feeling she had had of being held by someone so much greater than herself.

“The most beautiful secret of all is that you are learning to fly so that one day, when the time is right, the spirits of great geese will come for you, and then you may join their formation and fly up into the sky to never return to the ground. You shall be supported by the great souls and held in the arms of our great Lord forever.”

 The little gosling’s beak dropped open a bit in wonder.

“For now, though,” the V-leader said kindly, “Just try to beat your wings a little more nicely for the goose behind you.”

Radhanath Swami, thank you for showing me a destiny beyond waddling around on the ground of this material world forever, never using my God-given wings to fly. Thank you for teaching me that my greatest destiny is not only to fly, but to call upon the strength of our great Lord to encourage and support those near to me with love and compassion. I pray that one day I may serve in the way you serve.

To write is to dare the soul. So write.