I just heard that my former father-in-law, John Griffin, passed away in Honolulu a few days ago. John was a gentle and generous man. He had been a journalist and editorial page editor of the largest newspaper in Hawaii. Materially successful but soft spoken, he was liked by many.
He had no particular interest in Krishna consciousness, but no aversion either. When his daughter (Manjari) joined a group of devotees when she was only 16 (in 1969), he told Manjari's mother, Helen, that he admired her for following her convictions. That was more than liberal in those days when "Hare Krishna" was a complete unknown. He also made sure she got vitamins and proper medical care when she was living austerely in the temple as a teenager. Later, he traveled thousands of miles out of his way on a trip to Asia, to see his daughter in Tehran, to make sure she was OK.
I got to know him as a son-in-law, typically not a very comfortable relationship. But he was always relaxed, never making me feel judged or pressured. He seemed to accept my choice of lifestyle, whether it was as an ashramite or entrepreneur. He never imposed his own values or opinions on me, to the point where i was never sure what his own ideas were. We never had any conflicts.
In later years after i left Hawaii, i saw him infrequently. He lived comfortably with his second wife, Susan, in a middle class neighborhood not far from the famous Diamond Head Crater. After he retired he wrote and published a novel. I heard he had an interest in certain new age authors such as Deepak Chopra. Try as she did, Manjari, who has been a resident of Vrindavan for the past 11 years, was never able to convince him to visit the dham. But she would bring Vrindavan with her when she visited Hawaii-- including a Kesava saligram sila named Braj Kishore, 3 Govardhan silas and brass Nitai Gauranga deities. They were all there, along with Tulasi devi, in John's home, at the time of his passing last Sunday evening at the age of 80.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur mentions that when one becomes a kanista vaisnava (neophyte devotee), 3 generations of his or her relatives are elevated by the mercy of Krishna. When one reaches madhyam vaisnava, 14 generations of ancestors are elevated, and for uttama vaisnavas, so rare in this world, 100 generations receive special mercy.
In the end, all of our conceptions about life, our identity and our place in this world are either buried or burned with our bodies. Only our consciousness and our luck (good and bad karmas) go with us. If we are really lucky, by our practice or by some special grace, we will attract the mercy of the Lord. That mercy, however unseen it is to us, is our real capital. It gives us a visa that allows us to take a birth to associate with a real sadhu, one of the liberated associates of the Lord. That is perfection. Everything-- until that point-- is merely a rehearsal of unlimited scenes of temporary happiness and suffering. It is an endless loop in the theatre of maya.
I hope that Krishna was especially merciful to John. I hope he got his visa and is now somewhere on his way to joining the eternal play, the pastimes of the loving vaisnavas with Krishna, reality, the beautiful.