Sunday, March 23, 2014

The One With The Forced Vacation

[Krishna's lotus feet]“One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who controls his mind and senses, is dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him. Though always working, such a man is never entangled.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.7)

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Bhagavad-gita, 5.7Tommy was running late for work. He overslept this particular morning, and so everything was rushed. He hurried out of bed, somehow managed to take a shower, and grabbed a banana as he headed out the door. As he was leaving he was surprised when he saw his good friend Albert in the hallway of the apartment building.

[Banana breakfast]“Going to work?” asked Albert.

“Yeah, I’m kind of in a rush. What’s up?” asked Tommy in an unusually impolite manner.

“Oh, lucky you. The company is forcing me to take my vacation days. I wish I could go to work, but I can’t,” said a despondent Albert.

Tommy didn’t have time to talk then, so he promised they would delve into the matter more later on. Tommy was still puzzled. “Why is he bummed about not having to go to work?” he thought to himself. “I’d kill for a few days off. I’d probably sit around and do nothing. Maybe I would go somewhere, too. You know, I have a few days off saved up. Maybe I can use them so that Albert and I can go somewhere. That will break him out of his funk, hopefully.”

Tommy later proposed the idea to Albert, who then reluctantly agreed. “I’m not big on vacations. I like my routine. I go to the office, get my work done quickly, and do other things that I am interested in. At home, I feel more tempted to sleep. So I don’t get as much work done.”

“You should just try to relax,” Tommy replied. “Tomorrow we’ll have a good time. You’ll get a good escape. I know this park that has beautiful scenery. It takes a while to walk through, and I know how much you like going outside and taking walks. We’ll pack some food and make a day of it.”

The next morning the two friends got ready at around the time they would normally go to work. They got into Tommy’s car, with one person eager and the other very apathetic towards the whole thing.

“I can’t believe your company has to force you to take vacations. You realize that you’re not normal, right?” asked Tommy.

“But you know how I am. I like my routine. I am generally happy with the way things are. Why should I force myself to break out of the routine just because it’s what everyone else does? I find life to be rather boring when I’m not able to do the things that I typically do.”

When they reached their destination, they parked the car in the designated area and then followed one of the walking trails. This park was quite expansive. It featured several forests, many large trees, and open fields full of beautiful flowers and tall grass. There were ponds as well. It was a very popular place in the area and also a desired stop for tourists. But since this was a weekday, it wasn’t as populated. This allowed Tommy and Albert to walk for a long time and really experience the park.

[State park]“So, are you bored yet?” asked Tommy.

“Not really,” said Albert to Tommy’s surprise.

“Wow, that’s nice to hear. You don’t miss your office and your precious routine?”

“I do a little, but some of the objects in this park remind me of so many wonderful things.”

“Yeah? Like what?”

Then Albert proceeded to review some of the objects they had walked past in the course of the day and how they had reminded him of various historical events and personalities tied to the tradition of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.

“Well, remember that small tree we walked past shortly after we parked the car?” asked Albert.

“Yeah, that’s a favorite spot for people to sit under and take picnics or read books.”

“That’s funny that you mention that. Well, as soon as I saw that tree I thought of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. You’ve heard of him, right?”

[Prabhupada chanting in park]“Is he the guy who wrote those books you’re always trying to get me to read?”

“Yeah. So he started the Hare Krishna movement as it is known today throughout the world. He came to New York with barely any money, not knowing anyone. He was having trouble at first, but then one day everything changed. The transformation took place underneath a tree in Tompkins Square Park.”

“What happened there?” asked Tommy, whose interest was suddenly sparked.

“The swami very innocently was chanting the maha-mantra and playing some classical Indian instruments. Suddenly a host of people joined him. It was a gathering of peace and hope, and it was so noteworthy that the local newspaper wrote a story about it. Today I believe the mayor has placed a plaque underneath there declaring it the ‘Hare Krishna’ tree. From that famous day onwards the swami’s movement really took off.”

[Prabhupada tree plaque]“Wow, that’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah, and there was another tree we saw today that got me thinking of Goswami Tulsidas. Have you heard of him?” asked Albert.

“I don’t think so.”

“He wrote a very famous work in Hindi describing the Supreme Lord in His avatara of Lord Rama. Anyway, during his days on this earth several hundred years ago, Tulsidas used to throw water at the roots of this tree every day as part of his morning routine of prayer. The legend is that one day the tree spoke back to him, being pleased with his service. The tree then gave him guidance on how to get the divine vision of Shri Rama, which then later occurred.”

“Man, that sounds very interesting.”

[Goswami Tulsidas]As they continued to walk the rest of the day, Albert found more sources of inspiration. A lotus flower reminded him of the garlands that are offered daily to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He explained to Tommy how that is an integral part of archanam, or worship of the deity. He described how archanam is one of the nine processes of devotional service, which is considered the pinnacle of all yoga. “You see, all the different kinds of yoga are meant to culminate in bhakti, or divine love. The spirit soul is meant to have union with the Supreme Spirit, who is God.”

On the drive home, Tommy couldn’t help but reflect on how good the experience was. He had been to that park many times, but never came away with such blissful feelings.

“Can you thank your company for me?” he asked Albert jokingly.

“Why is that?”

“For forcing you to take your vacation days. I had a great time today. Maybe we can go again sometime and we can see what further inspires you.”

“Sounds good to me. I wasn’t expecting all that to happen today; it just came out of me. I guess I could talk about Krishna and bhakti-yoga endlessly.”

In Closing:

In park to walk past a tree,

Then vision of the past to see.

 

Swami Prabhupada names chanting,

Shower of nectar to others granting.

 

Flowers in park also, blue and red,

To thoughts of archanam this led.

 

Endless ways for yogi to find,

To happily keep Krishna in mind.

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