High Fences Make Good Neighbours
23rd April 2015 • Active Meditations
Once upon a time a very simple hearted brahmana lived in his little two bedroom house with his Gopalji, and daily gave either a Mahabharata or Ramayana discourse in his front garden. The next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who was very pious and supportive of the brahmana‘s activities.
Unfortunately, the old man died and his house was sold by his relative to a woman who seemed very wealthy and very sophisticated. She was obviously also very fashion conscious. This alarmed the simple hearted brahmana. This sense of alarm quickly grew into great distress when he came to understand that the woman was a prostitute who was very open about her profession and actively canvassed from her front garden.
Attendance at the brahmana’s daily discourses dwindled as news rapidly spread about the prostitute’s entrance into the neighborhood. Soon the brahmana found himself with only Gopalji for company. He tried his best to spend his time reading sastra for his Lord, but his mind would often wander to thoughts of the prostitute’s low class activity. Before long he found himself preoccupied with his neighbor’s activities. He’d peek through his curtains to see who the next customer was, assess his social standing, wonder how much money the woman was earning daily — and all of this was permeated with a very critical and negative mentality. He really didn’t like the woman and certainly didn’t wish her well. Two months passed in this way. One night the brahmana woke from sleep with severe chest pains. He suffered a heart attack and struggled for his very life. Suddenly, he saw Yamaraja and his assistants and became very fearful. “Why have you come?!” he screamed. “I am a pious brahmana, I’ve committed no sin in this lifetime!” Yamaraja smiled and said, “Yes, this is true. But you have meditated on the sins of others and been very critical of such sinners. Attachment and aversion are two sides of the same coin. Your mind has been absorbed in sinful activity for the last two months; you will have to suffer for that.” The brahmana was horrified by Yamaraja’s words and with all his strength prayed to his beloved Gopalji. Suddenly Gopalji came running into the room and said to Yamaraja, “This brahmana is My very simple hearted devotee, he is a victim of circumstance. Please leave immediately with your assistants, I want to give him another chance. Yamaraja and his men paid their obeisances and quickly left. Then Gopalji turned to His dear devotee and said, “I am giving you another chance. But you must study Bhagavad-gita As It Is and give discourses on this scripture daily. In this way you will quickly learn how to protect yourself from such predicaments. Also build a high, thick, brick boundary wall to help protect yourself from absorption in the prostitute’s daily affairs. I know you are poor. Don’t worry. I will ensure that the necessary funds will come within the next few days.” Gopalji then ran out of the room, climbed back into His bed, pulled up the quilt covers and fell asleep.
The brahmana was wonderstruck and very weak, but his heart was transformed. Meditating on his new service for Gopalji pleasure, he fell asleep. When he awoke next morning everything seemed very normal and Gopalji stood in His fixed threefold bending form as usual. The brahmana began his puja with a very happy and thankful heart. Just as he had completed feeding Gopalji there was a knock at the door. It was the relatives of the pious old man who had previously been his neighbor. They said, “Our grandfather has bequeathed to you his Bhagavad-gita As It Is as well as quite a large sum of money. We have come to deliver to you what is rightfully yours. Kindly accept this offering and pray for our grandfather.” The simple hearted brahmana accepted both the scripture and the money and warmly thanked them. With tears in his eyes and a very grateful heart, he placed the money at Gopalji’s feet, rang a friend to organize a contractor to begin building the high, thick, brick boundary wall and that very day began his very serious study of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
A very big challenge we all have to face in Kali-yuga is our living or study/employment/business environment. We may be living in a high-rise apartment surrounded by meat eaters who are very fond of Saturday night drinking and partying. We may be living in a student hostel where most are hooked on drugs or sex. It’s not so easy to stay on track in such circumstances, and it’s even more difficult to avoid thinking critically about the madness we are forced to tolerate. We don’t even have the option of the simple brahmana. Building a high, thick, brick wall in most cases just isn’t possible! So what to do? The best option is to move into a situation more favorable for your Krishna consciousness. If this isn’t possible, the following thoughts may prove helpful:
1) Keep Kali out of your living environment by having soft but constant vibration of your favorite bhajans and kirtans.
2) Create a devotee–friendly atmosphere by hanging lots of attractive Krishna conscious art. Keep the place clean and orderly. Ensure that no unpleasant, disturbing sights are seen from your windows. (This can be most simply done by having double divider curtains. Then you can close the lower section at will, and the upper section can still be open to give good light and air.)
3) Don’t disrespect, but also don’t associate with, those who are a serious challenge to your Krishna consciousness.
4) As often as possible invite devotee friends home. Devotee association is a real source of strength. Especially association through nama-sankirtana.
5) Keep your mind busy in a good way.
6) Pray sincerely and regularly for protection and good association.