Just Another Planet

A Renunciant’s Vision

By Srila Jiva Goswami dasa

Hello, again, Dear Reader! Please accept my worthless obeisances at your lotus feet. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

Let’s play “Guess the Vaisnava.” I’ll give you clues, along with a few recollections of interaction I’ve had with this great personality. You guess who this is.

I’ve known this wonderful person for thirty years and in all that time, I have never seen or even heard of him being angry.

Never that is, but once. I was right next to him that one time he showed what might be construed as anger. In retrospect, I have to say he was actually only being firm, but the potency which had built under years of self control rendered even just that decided assertion more daunting than the showiest splash of red hot anger I ever saw. If the clues I’ll be giving here do not tell you to whom I refer, the “anger incident” in the end will be your give away.

Are you ready? Hare Krsna!

Clue #1: He is genuinely humble.

Clue #2: He loves Lord Caitanya and His Pastimes.

After giving a special Lord Caitanaya class at Bahulabhana, when it was time for questions, I asked what we might tell Christians who insist that their way is the only way, and that one may only approach the Lord through Jesus Christ. Our “Mystery” Vaisnava, sitting straight in the Lotus position, seemed happy with my question. Without hesitation, he crooned, “Tell them ‘We have the real thing.’”

There was a gasp from the assembled devotees then. It wasn’t just the sort of daring nature of this instruction / pronouncement / response, but the clear ecstasy with which it was delivered. The breathing was sharp, sweetness was emanating. If I could tell anyone anything with the same level of sweet and serene conviction, well, I wouldn’t have cause to ask that question. That response, “Tell them we have the real thing,” was so levelly and truthfully imparted that the potency was palpably shared in that moment. In other words, we were all lit and glowing in the power of that instant rejoinder. “We have the real thing.”

Clue #3: Association with this Silent Vaisnava can (and should, in my opinion) take your breath away.

Clue #4: When he joined at the Brooklyn Temple, he was a licensed pilot.

Clue #5 He always brings out the best in anyone he is with

I had a chance to drive him a few places on more than one occasion, and our interchange was always educational for me. For example, on a rainy day one spring, we drove west for an hour or so, headed for a company in Ohio which had heavy equipment. On the way, going out Route 40, we talked about Lord Caitanya.

The place had a large lot and a small rustic shed for an office. I pulled Dodge Ram dasa in at an angle and halted by what looked like an Old West style hitching post. I was ready to swing down, but our Mystery companion held up a long fingered hand in admonition. “Is that it?” he asked.

I nodded rambunctiously. I wanted to get on in the store and look around. But the upraised palm stood fast. I hesitated. “You mean … park?” I asked.

The hand came down. I got a shrug of the shoulders. He did mean park. I started Dodge Rama dasa up again, found reverse, eased out, pulled in square and true, killed the engine and leapt to the ground.

I was looking forward to going in. We were considering a huge purchase. I liked that. We’d pay cash. I was proud. “We Hare Krsnas are first class primo citizens,” I was thinking.

My hand was on the store door when I got called back. Again the upraised palm, the gentle admonition; “Don’t forget to take off your boots,” he said softly.

“Are you serious?” I returned. The stunning thing here is that I asked if he was serious. Of course he was serious. He’d taken off his, gracefully and quietly. I removed mine and was proud to stand them next to his … to the right. Under his influence, even I was ostensibly a Devotee.

Again, we’d been riding. I’d read somewhere in Prabhupada’s Books how Earth sometimes looks exactly like a woman. You can see the curves of the hills; the many trees are compared to hairs on the body of a woman. I saw the truth in that vision, but to me, when the hills are dusted with powdery snow, I am reminded of confectioner’s sugar on a nice Parata.

But once again, when riding with our Mystery Vaisnava, I came out with another of my enthusiastic but ill timed contributions, “I read how the Earth looks exactly like the body of a woman,” I blurted. I failed to consider that I was talking to a celibate Brahmacari.

“What?” he turned and regarded me, I thought pretty much the way I would look at a turtle.

“I read it in Prabhupada’s Books,” I trumpeted. The trees are compared to hairs …”

“It’s just another planet,” he said, cutting me off.

Flustered, I beat about for some purchase. “It’s a nice planet,” I offered.

“It’s just another planet,” he said with finality.

“Jiva Jiva, back in box,” I thought. Of course he was right. Further, we don’t want to bring such topics and concepts to Brahmacaris. What was I thinking?

On another occasion, we were in Moundsville, and I asked if it would be OK to stop at the Post Office there to pick up my mail. In my box, I had only a few magazines. I subscribed to Road & Track, Motor Trend and other similar publications. I was crazy for the highway and all things driving related. When I climbed back in the truck, our Mystery Vaisnava did not even glance at what I carried.

I knew he liked the highway too. “Want to see?” I asked.

He turned away, and looked out the side window. “No,” I heard him say softly.

I understood. The magazines could be anything. “I want to show you,” I said. “Trust me.”

Cautiously, he turned and looked. I fanned the titles for him. I saw simultaneous relief and disapproval in his expression.

“Could have been worse,” I offered.

“Could have been worse,” he agreed.

Suddenly I felt like half a Vaudeville comedy team. “Could have been a LOT worse,” I gaily proffered the straight line.

“That’s enough,” he responded, nipping my sideways jaunt in the bud. I put my hand on the key and waited a couple of beats. “Just take us home,” he said.

We wound our way up 250, the hilly twisting road back to Limestone Ridge. I was very happy to be with him. Just like rain will make you wet, and sunlight will purify, regardless of the recipient’s understanding, he brought me to experience, if not understand Saving Grace.

Do you know the Mystery Vaisnava already? For those who haven’t guessed, here is the give away:

One time, the leader of our community had us over to his place for lunch. During the meal, he suggested that our Mystery Vaisnava take Sanyasa. “Maybe (blank blank) should take Sanyasa,” he said.

This was an excellent idea as far as I was concerned. “Of course,” I thought. A lot of others were certainly thinking the same thing. Who was more qualified? In fact, it didn’t even look like a big leap by my lights. Already renounced, practical, silent, inspiring, steady, on and on and on … humble to a T, a gentleman’s gentleman. He already seemed perfect. Yes, I could see him with The Staff, among us children.

We were all in the process of digesting this sudden righteous proposal, and we were turning to see his reaction when we heard him loudly decline the nomination.

“NO!” was all he said. It was a quiet shout, but it left no doubt. It reverberated. There was no equivocating. His skin took on a reddish hue. Someone tried to begin to offer some persuasion, and our Mystery Vaisnava responded by gathering his tray and sweeping from the room in a determined rush.

He would NOT take Sanyasa.

And finally of course, today, there at New Vrindabana, he IS Sanyasa. Can you name him?

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