Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Old Age is for Real

Tonight is my last nite in Chicago. I spent two weeks here, focused on a visit with my father who is now 94. I guess Krishna wanted me to see first hand the desolation of old age. So many times, Srila Prabhupada told us about the anomolies of material life, referring specifically to birth, death, disease and old age. Sometimes i thought, "why is Prabhupada repeating this theme so often?" And we also read in Bhagavad-gita: "Time I am, destroyer of all worlds." When i first read those words in Bhagavad-gita many years ago, i wondered why Krishna chose to speak of himself as a destroyer rather than as a creator. Isn't time a creative force more than a destructive one? It was my sentimental rose-colored vision of reality that wanted this material world to be a perfect place so i could continue to see myself as an enjoyer here. But that vision is gradually maturing, and as it does, i'm seeing reality more clearly. Those rose-colored glasses don't work anymore.

On a cosmic scale, time is a great mystery. It destroys planets and universes in due course, and in our time frame, it destroys a person's energy, his self conceptions and his life span. With my father i have seen first hand how time can unravel a man. Just a few years ago he was driving, playing a violin, trying to enjoy his life like everyone else. Now he sits all day in one chair, speaking to himself, clearly bewildered and lost, although physically he is healthy for his age, and mentally as sharp as a tack. So what is gone? it's the hope, the vitality, the sense of purpose. Old age brings helplessness, weakness and discouragement. It is a rude awakening that nature does not suffer fools easily. It is a complete disillusionment in all noble and worthy pursuits of this world. In short, it is shock.

Old age is the approach of death, the fear of annihilation and the loss of control. It is a punishment for a life without introspection or deep faith in anything sublime. Time is the destroyer. I have seen it firsthand in the person of my father. I pray to Krishna that he is kind to my father and gives him a smooth transition to his next life, hopefully the life of a devotee. This is my sincere prayer for him. And i pray for myself that i can learn something from this life lesson, and from all the efforts Srila Prabhupada made to educate and enlighten me about material life, so i don't repeat the same mistakes, again and again and again.

Monday, July 16, 2007


My trip to Chicago is now winding down; tomorrow is my last day here. This morning i visited the Sri Sri Kishore Kishori ISKCON Temple which is located on the North Side of Chicago. I first joined Iskcon 37 years ago in the Chicago winter, when the devotees there were renting a tiny unheated, frozen storefront. I stayed for only one weekend; the conditions were so austere, i was invited to move to the temple in Detroit were things were more organized and there was some heating. I returned to the Chicago temple in 1973 (which by then had moved to a former YMCA in Evanston). At that time the beautiful white marble deities, Kishore and Kishori, had just been shipped from the murti walla in Jaipur to Chicago, but had not yet been installed.

Every time i visit Chicago, i try to go at least once to the temple for darshan. By the grace of the Lord, this morning i had the chance. Krishna (Kishore) looked especially beautiful to me, with an enchanting smile and graceful figure. How mystical he is: the transcendental Lord appears before us in a material form so that we whose senses are now material, can see him, be seen by him, and benefit from that exchange. It is reality, not idolotry, and anyone whose heart is open can appreciate this.

The Deities also remind us of another dimension beyond the three dimensional mental/intellectual/emotional world we live in. It is the
fourth dimension of service, acceptance and love, devoid of dualities.
Although they don't seem to move, they possess the ability to move us thru their presence. This is another remarkable feature of the supreme truth
who resolves all contradictions and solves all problems without any
apparent effort. Sri Sr Kishore Kishori ki jaya!!!