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Who’s Paying the Rent?

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The story of a beleaguered homeowner.

by Srila Harikesa Swami

1979-09-06

For months now, my mail has been building up in the mailbox at the front of the house. The letters have begun to overflow and make a small pile on the ground. I walk by them every day, but somehow I can’t take the time to bend down and pick them up. I find it much easier to forget about themit’s probably not important anyway. Better to eat something, sit back on the sofa, and watch the football game on TV. “Don’t worry, ” my mind assures me. “Everything’s perfectly under your control. You’ve got everything you’ve always wanted. Nobody can bother you now. Relax, and enjoy yourself. ” So life goes on, despite a nagging fear that perhaps there just might be something important in the mail, after all.

Then the doorbell ringsit’s the landlord. “Excuse me, “he says a bit tensely. “You haven’t paid the rent.”

Is that all? Why is he so upset? I mean, isn’t this house here for me to enjoy? When you get right down to it, what’s the difference if 1 pay rent or not?

Now the bill collector arrives. “Sir, you’d better pay up for the electricity, water, and other utilities. Otherwise, we’11 have no choice but to cut them off.”

Why is he so pushy? What’s the hurry? “Later. I’ll pay you later. Can’t you see I’ve got to take care of the house, the car, the stereo, the dog, and myself and the kids? These are pressing needswhy are you insisting on payment now? I’ll pay you later, when I have time.”

“Sorry,” they say in near unison. ‘No tax payments, no rent payments … then no electricity, no water, no house. You’ve got to go. “

Unbelievable! Five minutes later it’s stereo, dog, furniture, and family out on the street and the door boarded up, with the pile of unpaid bills still on the ground.

On a much grander scale, the human family might ask, “Are we actually making our rent payments for all that is being supplied to us, or are we facing eviction?” Perhaps each one of us ought to examine our situation, while we still have time….

This material body is a home that I’m living in. Like an ordinary home, it needs various facilities for its maintenance—light, air, water, and so forth. As long as I’m living here in this world in a material body, I will automatically have to use many varieties of God’s energies. These energies are supplied to every one of us, for no living body could subsist without them. Yet from time to time we get bills and reminders from the Supreme Lord and His representatives—instructions about repaying Him for services rendered.

If I try to enjoy all these facilities independently, without paying for them, I’ll receive the same treatment as if I had neglected to pay my rent. The landlord will force me out of my comfortable position and put me out in the street. If I fail to satisfy the Supreme Lord, then I’ll undergo various disturbances and frustrations within this lifetime, leading inevitably to death. This is the ultimate lesson to be learned by all intelligent people.

Already the bill collector is knocking on our door. And yet we’re choosing to neglect him. Were we to answer the door and do the needful, we might be spared from any further trouble, but our insistence on avoiding the issue is making our eviction inevitable. Already we’re seeing ominous signs. If we could just learn how to read the signs, we could avert disaster. The clearest of all signs, the loudest knocking on our door, is the all-pervading destroyer of all things—time.

Time is such a powerful representative of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that it touches all of us and all things within the creation. All of us are forced to experience the miseries of becoming old, undergoing diseases, and ultimately dying. The hand of time mercilessly takes away all health, beauty, wealth, and strength, and ultimately the life force itself. No one can avoid time, the stringent killer of all.

Not only is the time factor visible in the transformations of the material body, but it is clearly visible all over the surface of the globe as social, political, and economic disturbances, as well as periodic calamities and disasters. Atomic energy, once considered so safe, is proving more dangerous than we could ever have imagined. Our bodily and psychological health is deteriorating on account of radioactive and industrial pollution, and moral pollution makes it hard to live without fear of thieves and rogues, even among our business associates. While it lasts, oil is fast becoming more valuable than gold. And revolution and civil war greet us daily in the newspapers, as governments rise and fall with increasing frequency. Above all looms the dark specter of global war. In recent months we have begun to ask not whether there will be a war, but when.

Every day the knocking at the door gets louder. Can we ignore it much longer? We all know that at one point that knocking may get so strong that it will knock our door down. Then what will we do?

How can we repay the Supreme Lord for all the “utilities” that He has so kindly supplied us? We cannot repay Krsna with anything material, like money or jewels. That would be like offering a candy manufacturer a box of sweets. Krsna is the source of all the opulences within this world, so we cannot repay the Lord with material presentations alone. Rather, we have to offer to Krsna that which is the most valuable treasure, that which He presently is not in possession of: our love and devotion. If we engage ourselves in the transcendental devotional service of the Lord, then we will actually be able to satisfy the Lord.

Anyone who has taken his birth as a human being is endowed with sufficient brain substance to engage himself in a spiritual process designed to purify his consciousness and elevate him to this platform of devotional service. When we chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra (Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare), then we awaken the natural love dormant within our hearts and offer it to the Supreme Lord to repay Him for all that He has done for us, and to offer our deepest regrets that we have tried to forget Him and neglect His position as the owner and controller of the entire creation.

Such a loving devotee, who is absorbed in the daily chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra and who regularly engages himself in devotional service, no longer has to experience fear or anxiety from the ominous sounds of the “knocking on the door.” For he is no longer bound by the ignorance which had covered his real knowledge since time immemorial and which had caused him to perform so many sinful activities in the first place. He cannot be disturbed by any material conditions, not even by the most disturbing of all—death. A devotee views death much differently from the way a nondevotee views it, just as a kitten views the mother cat’s mouth differently from the way a rat views it. When the mother cat grabs the rat by the scruff of its neck, the rat feels the horror of sure destruction. But when the cat grabs the kitten, the kitten feels the happiness of being carried gently back home.

His Divine Grace Harikesa Swami is one of the spiritual masters that ISKCON’s founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada selected to initiate new disciples. He is ISKCON’s director in Germany, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria, eastern Europe, and the Middle east.

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