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For the Young at Heart

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For the Young at Heart

Spring will vanish with the rose,
but the song of the soul in love with God lasts forever.

by Suresvara dasa

A May sun warms our country school-house. Inside, Haridasa is wrapping up the morning’s history lesson for his sixth-graders.

“And so, while Ponce de Leon was sailing the Florida Straits looking for the Fountain of Youth, while Copernicus was in East Prussia speculating about the solar system, and while Michelangelo was in Rome trying to paint heaven and earth inside the Sistine Chapel, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Sri Krsna was moving about south India as Lord Caitanya, creating a transcendental renaissance of pure love for God. And how did He do that, Prema?”

“By dancing and singing Hare Krsna with His followers through all the villages and towns.”

“And what’s that called, Siddha?”

” Sankirtana!”

Siddha’s enthusiasm and the streaming sunbeams give Haridasa an idea. He leans forward and whispers a challenge: “Sankirtana! The full mile to nature class by the bridge. Who’s ready?” A Me! explosion kayos the goddess of grammar, and Haridasa leads his charges (armed with cymbals and drums) out into the bright sunshine of sankirtana—the dynamic praise of the holy names of God.

Haridasa (second from right) leads the boys on one of their regular sankirtana outings to the covered bridge

Haridasa (second from right) leads the boys on one of their regular sankirtana outings to the covered bridge

The drums resound and the cymbals play in time as Haridasa leads the tumultuous chanting: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The birds go wild as the devotees leap high in the air, recalling Lord Caitanya, who would chant like thunder and shake the earth with His ecstatic dancing. “O Krsna!” Lord Caitanya exclaimed. “In Your name You have invested all Your transcendental energies!” A spring breeze carries the scent of pine and cedar, but it is sankirtana that sends the devotees running and jumping. Krsna in sound is dancing on their tongues.

“Haribol!” the gardeners cheer. Spring will vanish with the rose, but sankirtana—the song of the soul in love with God—lasts forever. Even now, the devotees’ chanting pierces the sky, their souls leaping in pursuit.

On they go, over the carpets of yellow and green, past the cows milking and oxen plowing, around the fields of planted grain; up to the orchard where songbirds sing and blossoms blow and the beehives hum with the season’s first flow of nectar.

“Of seasons,” says Krsna in Bhagavad-gita, “I am flower-bearing spring.” And what better way to see spring than through the divine sound of Krsna’s names.

On and on, cymbals sizzling, drums afire, hands in the air, defying fatigue, feeling fresher, hearing Krsna, the Eternal Youth. Paint this, Michelangelos, before the world goes blazing mad, like the damning Old Man on Sistine’s wall. Paint a flute-playing Genius of Flowers, whose bodily hue resembles a fresh rain cloud, who Himself comes as the Golden Dancer, Lord Caitanya—followed by devotees like these, who chant from the heart, sweeping and zooming and spinning and booming Krsna! Krsna! And who stop for class now by a covered bridge.

The bridge, which connects our farm to the neighbors’, was once the main link between Beale and Spruce Hill townships. It spans a river that our youngsters call Viraja.* [*after the watery nirvana Vedic cosmographers chart between the material and spiritual worlds.] April’s rains have raised the waterline a few feet up the span’s stone trusses. The neighbors care little for the names posted by children and politicians. What matters, on both sides of the river, is that “spring has sprung.”

And so have the weeds. (And what is farming but a war on weeds?) Yet there’s magic in those spring greens, as Krsna Himself indicates: “It is I who am the healing herb.”

“Stellaria media,” pronounces Haridasa, “is the Latin label for chickweed, a favorite of what bird, Nirmala?”

“The chicken.”

“Brilliant! And you’ll be smarter still when you learn how to use this plant to make an ointment. Chickweed smoothes and heals and has remarkable drawing properties. It takes the poisons right out of the skin.”

Haridasa picks up a plantain, a long, weedy plant with broad leaves and a spike of small, greenish flowers.

“Many people spend a lot of money trying to destroy this plant, because it takes up so much space in their lawns. But they’d be amazed at the uses of plantain. It supplies lots of minerals the body needs. Its leaves are tender and go well in a spring salad. And fresh plantain leaf fluid can cure infectious skin diseases, and—watch it, Siddha! That’s poison ivy.”

Siddha pulls back and inspects the whitish berries and smooth leaflets he almost grabbed.

“Good thing the woods are full of yellow dock,” says Haridasa. “When you take dock leaves and pulp them, they’ll cool the most terrible poison-ivy rash.”

Unnoticed, headmaster Mahejya, down to the river for a swim, slips onto the bridge’s lookout and listens.

Haridasa goes on to describe a syrup of yellow-dock root, splendid for someone recuperating from surgery or a long illness; then a way of using violet leaves to control cancer; and after that, enough natural remedies to put the drugstore out of business.

“But there’s no herb or group of herbs on earth,” he stresses, “that can keep your body from getting sick. And no herb or group of herbs that can keep your body free from growing old and dying.”

“Ah, but love can heal anything!”

What? All eyes rise to the lookout, where Mahejya sits cross-legged in his swimsuit posing as a mystic.

“Hello,” smiles Haridasa, guessing the headmaster’s game. “What’s your name?”

“Dr. Love,” Mahejya intones, “naturopath in residence. I’d like to show you an endless flow of life, continuously expanding in love, power, and joy. Love charges the body with light and increases its vibratory rate. Then the light within every electron glows brighter. You actually become self-luminous. Once you get dominion over the atomic substance of the physical body, you can conquer death.”

“Preposterous!” Haridasa chuckles. “But you’re good at juggling words. Have you ever thought about a career with the circus? There’s a sucker, you know, born every minute.”

“No, my friend. There’s a sucker dying every minute. Time can’t kill you—only you can kill you. By your own thoughts. The immunological system picks up those death urges and stops protecting you. But there’s a way to make those coded messages bring you life instead of death. For ages people have known the secret of re-programming cells. You reprogram them with love, so that they can go on living forever.”

Mahejya’s speech mystifies the children. Haridasa sees it’s time to preach.

“Eternal youth—people can dream about it all they like,” he begins. “But saner people . . . people who know a little about nature’s laws . . . they know we can’t live forever. Not here. Not in this world of matter. You can see it. We can all see it.

“Just look. Just look, say, at a piece of fruit. From a flower you get a tiny fruit. Very tiny. Then it grows. It stays on a branch for some time. It gets to be full-grown. It ripens. Then it starts dwindling day by day—until finally it falls back to the earth and decomposes. Of course, it leaves behind new seed—which grows into new trees and produces new fruits, which all meet the same old fate. And so on and on. So there you have it. The law of nature. That’s the way God made it.”

“Oh, but the seed of God is in us,” Mahejya replies, still the devil’s advocate. “Pear seeds grow into pear trees. Nut seeds grow into nut trees. And God seeds grow into God.”

Suddenly, Haridasa thunders Krsna’s name, and Mahejya, as if struck by lightning, leaps into the river. Hare Krsna! Laughter and wonder splash hearts as the headmaster swims to shore.

“I believe!” he emotes, emerging from the water.

“You may believe or not believe,” laughs Haridasa. “But there’s an herb that cures death. A spiritual herb that keeps you from ever getting another material body. That way you’ll never have to go through death again.”

Mahejya smiles and the children listen.

“All over the universe, from planet to planet,” Haridasa explains, “countless souls are searching for eternal youth, eternal happiness. But only a few are fortunate enough to meet a pure devotee of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Only a few get the chance to understand pure devotional service to Krsna.

“Now, this devotional service is just like a seed. The pure devotee sows that seed in your heart. And if you go on watering the seed by hearing and chanting Krsna’s names, then that seed is going to sprout. Just like the seed of a tree is going to sprout if it gets regular watering.

“And with this regular watering, this hearing and chanting, your plant of devotional service just grows and grows . . . until it breaks out of the material universe and into the spiritual sky. Before long it reaches the highest planet, Goloka Vrndavana, the supreme planet of Krsna. Soon your plant bears the fruits and flowers of pure love of God. It takes shelter at the lotus feet of Krsna.

“Lord Caitanya wanted everyone to get free from old age and death. He wanted everyone to taste these spiritual fruits. So He left us their seeds in the chanting of Hare Krsna, the sound of the Lord’s holy names.”

“Haribol!” the children cheer.

Mahejya and Haridasa beam, grateful to give what, as children, they themselves never had—Krsna consciousness. Dried and dressed, Mahejya strikes up the chanting of Hare Krsna, and Haridasa leads the sankirtana party back through the fields toward the schoolhouse. Of all the countless lives thriving under that springtime sun, who could be more fortunate than these? Deep in their hearts, the seed of love of God has started to sprout.

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