Deep in the Woods

By Bhavisyat dasa (from June 1981 Issue of the Brijabasi Spirit) 

    We learn from Bhagavad-gita that the material world is a combination of the three modes of material nature. A liquor shop is in the mode of ignorance, a city is in the mode of passion, and the forest is in the mode of goodness. The fact is that one who associates with these qualities adopts the attributes and characteristics of each mode. Thus, a person who spends his time in the woods should be developing peacefulness, tolerance, gentility, etc.
     Since devotional service to Krishna is transcendental to the three modes of nature, it doesn’t appear to work the same way at times. Usually, the mode of goodness implies an occupation where you work the same every day, become regulated, and maintain steadiness. Naturally, if firewood is to be supplied each day all winter to keep the community warm, the work must be steady, with a constant flow of firewood.
     You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Well, let me tell you about our operation last winter so you can have some idea of what it’s like to supply a grow¬ing community with six hundred and forty cubic feet of wood per day. (That’s five cords for those who understand these terms.) I shall tell you first of all about the way the operation is meant to work; then I’ll describe what actually happens.
         We start with a section of land to be clear-cut. There are still some areas that need to be cleared of trees entirely for use as agricultural fields; so we get both firewood and land as a result of such endeavor. The saw operator and helper cut the trees, stack the logs, and put the brush in piles. Then the tractor operator and helper (who are, more often than not, the same two as the sawer and helper) come and take the logs to the bucksaw operator to cut into small pieces for the furnaces.
       The truck is loaded and dumped at the furnaces. This process is repeated as long as the cold weather is here. Sounds simple, right? Let me tell you about just a few incidents which occurred during our operation last winter. First of all, I should note that the operation can’t stop because of weather. Rain, sleet, snow, or mud, the furnaces still beg for more feeding. Cutting and stacking isn’t particularly difficult under almost any condition, but getting the wood out is sometimes (usually?) tricky—almost as tricky as getting out of all these desires which never stop begging to be fulfilled. Instead of wanting material things, we use our desires as much as possible for serving Krishna.
    In West Virginia, there is no such thing as flat land. If you think you see an acre or two of something appearing to be flat, you can assume that 1) You’re in maya (illusion, 2) You’ve just left the state, or 3) That’s a lake you’re looking at. When King Prithu leveled the earth, he must have missed West Virginia. In the winter the ground is usually 1) frozen, 2) mud, or 3) a combination of 1 and 2. All of this makes getting wood from point A to point B something of a difficulty.
     Example: Kasyapa made us a road with his bulldozer going up into the woods near Birch Run Lake. Straight up! You can look right into the radiator as you drive up this hill. Daruka Prabhu was hauling out loads from the Wilson farm side of the hill where we were cutting. This was a frozen day after the rain. I asked what the entrance road was like, and our master of understatement reported that it was slick. I didn’t think much about it because he kept coming back for more wood. When it was time to move the last load out, I hopped on the log load for a ride, not suspecting a thing, fully trusting his report.
      However, I forgot that the conditioned soul has four defects; he must be illusioned, he must commit mistakes, he has a tendency to cheat, and all his senses are imperfect. These four defects cloud the judgment of everyone in this world. The only person we can truly trust is the liberated soul, the pure devotee who is free from all of these defects.
       The hill was about fifty yards out and forty five degrees down. When we got there, Daruka started down in low gear. About ten feet into it, the whole show started sliding down, just like a small child whizzes to the bottom of the slide af¬ter climbing up. There was no controlling the tractor with a big load of wood behind it, and the apparatus simply shot down the hill until the road leveled out and the tractor slowed.
       I was watching from the top of the hill because I’d jumped off two seconds into the slide. Daruka sat at the bottom of the hill, and he called to me with his small smile, inquiring, “I guess you think it’s too slippery, eh?”
As I carefully picked my way down so I didn’t fall square on my posterior, I informed Daruka that, “Yes, I think it’s too slippery!”
      There were more incidents. In fact, all winter long, we were kept busy trying to keep up with the mishaps fast enough so that we could keep getting the wood in. During a winter’s season in the woods:
We had to back the flatbed truck down a long muddy road to get at the bucksaw where the cut wood is located. The truck couldn’t make it up loaded and slid downhill off the roadway. We got a tractor to pull the truck, but the tractor itself slid down toward the cliff overlooking a creek. Then we got another tractor to pull that one out, but we decided to wait for the morning freeze to pull the truck and disabled tractor out.
      The next morning, the tractor wouldn’t start. We finally got the truck out, and the next day, it slid off the icy road into a gully. While we were arranging to get it out, someone stole the battery and chains. There are so many difficulties encountered while struggling to do anything in the material world. Krishna has designed this place so that it is inherently miserable, causing the conditioned soul to inquire after struggling through so many hardships: “Why must I suffer?” and, “How do I end this suffering?”
       At this point, Krishna sends the spiritual master to answer these questions. Then at last, the hardships can be terminated. All of these so-called difficulties we have in our service can be overcome without necessity of frustration. One must keep the consciousness that Krishna is controlling everything, and if He wants things to constantly break down and go awry, then that’s what’s going to happen. What good does it do to get upset? One simply accepts it as part of his service to get things straight again and keep going. This is what we tried to remember during these occurrences.
       While pulling wood way up in the woods, a piece of wood like a big pencil went right into one of the tractor tires, resulting in a flat. We had to use another tractor to get the tire out to be fixed. Then of course, there was the time the flatbed truck got stuck in the mud two inches from the cliff that goes one hundred yards straight down to Wheeling Creek. To pull it out, we had to drag it along the very edge while realizing there was no place to jump if it went over.
     I suppose I could go on (Crawling up an icy road on a tractor pulling a huge load, you suddenly realize that if you don’t keep going forward, you’ll soon be going backwards, but FAST! This is the kind of example that Srila Bhaktipada uses while discussing spiritual life. One has to constantly make progress in his devotion. If there is slackening or slowing, then sliding back into sense gratification happens FAST!) and on; (Sometimes the logging trailer gets stuck in the mud so bad that you can step from level ground down [!] to the tops of the tires.)
      I think you get the picture. It’s not really practical to try to haul wood in the middle of winter unless you’ve got the stamina to face increasingly difficult hurdles. Ask Daruka!
    Therefore, this year we shall try to get most of the winter’s wood out during the summer. We’ll still get wood out of New Vrindaban forests on particularly good winter days, but hopefully the era of fifteen thousand dollar machines sliding downhill on the ice toward a drop off is over. If it is not, we’ll just have to chant Hare Krishna and be happy. Haribol.
Your servant in the woods, Bhavisyat Dasa 



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Reader Comments

Hare Bol! great story, I hope you get all the wood out before winter, it is a certainly difficult task and I admire all of you working so hard.

I like the way you explained that if we slack off in our devotional service we can slide back very quickly, whenever I find myself weakening just a bit and thinking of anything I’ve given up to be in Krishna consciousness I start chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare…I usually look at a picture of Krishna I keep at work and at home or look up into the sky wherever I am and remember Krishna and I instantly forget everything else including any frustrations, sadness etc that wants to come up from my former life…I have found the nectar of devotion to be all I need!!

Many blessings to you and all that labor with you at New Vrindavan, hope to meet you all soon! Hare Bol!