(Aboard Dominican Airlines, en route to Santo Domingo)
On this plane almost all talk is in Spanish. Reading matter reflects a Spanish bias: the newspaper report on the war in the South Atlantic calls the islands “Las Malvinas” rather than “the Falklands.” I realize how language alone counts for a lot. For example, Spanish-speaking Venezuela is threatening to annex a large part of English-speaking Guyana, and the Guyanese associate the Spanish language itself with the threat. I see a cartoon in a Guyanese newspaper that shows some boys talking among themselves. “What’s the Spanish word for welcome?” one of them asks. Then Pat the Patriot comes upon the boys and says, “You shouldn’t be interested in the word for welcome. If you want to learn Spanish, you should learn how to say, ‘Invasores, Mantenganse Afuera’ (‘Invaders Keep Out’). “
I reflect that if people were Krsna conscious, they would find a basis for agreement despite differences of race, nationality, or language. Life in the temples of the Hare Krsna movement demonstrates this power of Krsna consciousness for reconciliation. There devotees learn pure God consciousness, love of God beyond all bodily designations. Even from a cultural or humanistic perspective, the Krsna conscious devotees in temples throughout the world show a remarkable ability to mix together different races and languages and still live in peace.
* * *
(At the Hare Krsna temple in Santo Domingo)
The buildings in this quarter are squeezed tightly together, and I hear rock guitars playing now, the music drifting through the jalousied windows of my room above the temple. The buzz of a motorcycle passing on the road soon mingles with auto horns and the sound of the pujari (priest) rintrig his bell in the temple downstairs.
Sesa dasa, my traveling companion, says that in this pleasant tropical clime people don’t watch the problems of world politics so closely. They tend to drift mildly in this climate, where you can pick ripe mangoes from the trees.
Is it wrong to live this way? From our point of view, the only thing wrong is that human beings are ignoring the ultimate problem of life—namely, the cycle of repeated birth, old age, disease, and death.
Anything that keeps one from pursuing self?realization is wrong, whether it be the passionate money?making of the northerners or the more ease?loving way of the tropics people. Unless a person comes to understand his eternal, spiritual nature, he wastes his rare human life.
* * *
Some friends tell me that if I want to communicate seriously with those who are not devotees of Krsna, I must immerse myself more in topical events and world politics. They say the “average man” is always thinking of politics, war, and the economy. But is that actually his main concern? Or is he more like the devotee of Krsna: tired of the tragic spectacle of world events?
The experts tell us we are products of our cultural conditioning. And it’s a fact: We are taxed, abused, flattered, brainwashed, wooed, titillated, corrupted, misled, and ignored by those who control the government, the media, and educational institutions. The public is also to blame for the current state of things, which finds us with no goal but gratification of the bodily senses, cynical toward higher truth as we work daily in tedious jobs, addicted to harmful substances and activities, morally irresponsible, and not really thinking much about life except for how to survive from one day to the next.
From what I’ve seen, most people are rather hopeless: they don’t think they can solve their problems themselves, and they don’t expect anything from the government. Then where is hope? In Krsna consciousness. The real difference between the devotee of Krsna and the nondevotee is that the nondevotee doesn’t think that the prospect of self-realization offers him any hope but the devotee does. So from our viewpoint the people of Kali-yuga, the present Age of Quarrel, have boxed themselves in. Although they know they’re not happy in the materialistic rat race, they’re not interested in the way out: Krsna consciousness.
* * *
(Evening arrival on El Gurabo Mountain, Puerto Rico)
Birds’ singing like chimes, whistles; three-note melodies, crickets making sounds like delicate hammers chipping a fine stone; also hoots, twitters, coos, a faraway rooster crowing—a chorus of evening creatures rises to the top of this mountain.
Early next morning I am also about to vibrate, by chanting on my beads Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This countryside mountain is a delightful place, but we don’t conclude, as do the pantheists, that the birds’ songs are equal to the singing of the name of God. Yes, in one sense everything is God: He is present in all of nature through the expansion of His energies. But He is personally present in full in His holy name, and one must be able to hear the holy name of God and the science of God to understand Him fully.
I know that more wars are coming. Death is taking its toll at every moment, for both the devotees of Krsna and the nondevotees. Each person’s death is coming before long. But chanting the Lord’s names will save us, whether we’re in a cabin atop El Gurabo Mountain amid birds’ choruses and predawn-dark trees, or in any other part of the world.
* * *
In Guyana there are shortages of basic commodities, like food. Government signs along the highways urge people to grow their own: “Heed the need, plant a seed.”
My disciple Abhay dasa (his name means “one who takes shelter at the feet of Krsna, the fearless one”) comes into my room carrying a kerosene lantern. A minute ago the lights went out. Abhay smiles and says, “They give us one week with electricity and one week without.”
“Why?” I ask.
“There is no money,” he replies, smiling.
His smile reassures me and we laugh. I can see he is transcendental to the deprivation.
And despite the shortages, our temple in Guyana holds a wonderful festival while I am there. Ten new devotees are initiated, a young couple is married, and the Deities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda are installed on the altar. Two hundred guests attend the festivities and enjoy a sumptuous feast, just as in other ISKCON centers around the world.
I return to America confident that Krsna is flourishing in the Caribbean.—SDG