There To Learn (Part 2)

By Srila Jiva Goswami dasa

(continued from Part 1)

To me, I was the cutting and slashing very greatest of the greatest when it came to driving. I just loved it. Towing another Sankirtan Van back from the Buffalo area late one evening, I’d been obliged to carry a few Devotees with me. Maru Deva, our Blacksmith, exemplary, and square jawed, sat quietly next to me on the bench seat of Dodge Rama dasa as we hurtled along on the night time highway. We were passing a line of cars and trucks in the slow lane.

Typically, I enjoyed sealing the right lane vehicles off as we came up and passed.

Maru Deva coughed politely, almost as if we were at tea. “Ah, Jiva,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed riding up here with you, and I can see now where you are at as a Driver.” He hesitated. I felt him regarding me. “Do you mind if I offer a little ah, constructive criticism?”

“Go ahead,” I said. Despite my antics, I was not in a good mood. I actually considered the carrying of Devotee Passengers to be invasive. I knew that was wrong, but that was how my heart worked then. I wanted Spiritual only on my own concocted terms and in my own wacky perception of ways. “What?” I was terse.

“Ah, that truck you passed, he was signaling like he wanted to get out in the fast lane.”

I waited.

“If you’d let him out, he’d have loved you the rest of the way,” Maru Deva declared.

“I don’t care if he loves me,” I snarled. I liked the space craft look of our green fluorescent dash board gauges in the night.

Maru Deva coughed gently again. “Er, but, as you held him in, he had to slow up and down shift and everything.”

This wasn’t a movie, where the driver looks at his or her passenger as if the road ahead is out the side window. I took a quick glance at Maru Deva though. His chiseled profile was fixed in an earnest expression.

“So I held him in. I don’t care,” I said. “And I don’t care how he feels about me either.” This was as fundamental to who I was as it was wrong.

Maru Deva let it go. “Oh,” was all he said. Without an argument to joust with, I was left to consider the possibility that my position was that of an idiot.

But, despite the occasional question, I still fancied myself as one of the best drivers ever. The break down and reforming went on at a subtle but powerful, implacable pace and it was directed by Krsna through His Agents, the Brijabasis at Old New Vrindabana.

The young boy known as Kaliya, and later Maitreya, who drove the huge Mack Dump Truck, accosted me in the Temple just after the Morning Program. “Jiva, I saw you driving downtown the other day,” he said.

“Did you like that? I really know what I’m doing,” I announced blindly.

Maitreya hesitated. “No, not really,” he said.

I was astounded. “What do you mean?”

After getting me to promise I would not be offended, Maitreya went outside with me by the benches where Jaya and Vijaya stand guard. He held up one finger. He was going to tick off a few complaints. “You’re sure you don’t mind?” he asked.

“No, go ahead,” I said.

“First of all,” he began, “I was embarrassed.”

That surprised me. “Embarrassed?” My eyes must have been wide.

“You won’t get offended?” Maitreya Prabhu was proceeding very cautiously. I assured him I wanted to know what he had to say.

“You were pushing everyone out of the way,” he said. “I was up the hill on Main Street, next to the Capitol City Music Hall, and I saw you down below, pushing everybody out of the way. The fact is, I was afraid people would think I had something to do with you.”

“Wow, that’s right,” I said. Suddenly I was seeing as others might have perceived. Dodge Rama Dasa was not a New York City Taxi, and I was representing the Community out there … what had been the matter with me? I vowed then and there to never drive like that again. I did have skills, but those God given talents were meant to be used in the consideration and Service of others, not exclusively for my personal fun at the expense of others.

This Service was actually yet another chance to act just like the Devotees, and to Serve Them. I smacked my forehead with the palm of my hand.

“OK,” Maitreya Prabhu immediately accepted that I understood. What he had told me made me immediately a better driver. He had more.

“There’s another thing,” Maitreya said. “Since I’m on a roll and all …” he looked at me and shook his bead bag.

I shook my bead bag back at him. We were talking Krsna Conscious Things. We could hear Devotees chanting in the Temple and Srila Prabhupada was singing over the speakers, “Gopinath …”

“One more thing, Jiva Goswami Prabhu,” Maitreya gently persisted. “You are sure you can take this now?”

I had to smile at his sensitivity. Just like a Devotee. “Take it?” I asked. “I want to improve. Sock it to me.”

“Yah, yah, ‘Sock it to me,’” Maitreya laughed and puffed air in his cheeks. “I like that.”

I waited.

“OK, here goes,” Maitreya said. His gentle concern was moving. “I see this from you every time we pass out on 250.” He waited a moment. I did not interrupt. I respected Maitreya as a Devotee of course, but also as a fine Transcendental Driver. “Every time we pass, going in opposite directions, you practically run me off the road.”

“I guide on the center line,” I replied.

“That’s what I’m saying,” Maitreya admonished with a smile. “You’re supposed to stay to the right. It feels like you’re going to run me into the ditch.”

Here in a nutshell was my problem: I’m guiding on the center line. I’m a great driver. You get out of my way. Not a hint or a puff of a breath in the actual operation with regard to Krsna.

Madhava Ghosh had told me about this once before. We’d been coming down Route 7, in Ohio, and I complained about the fact that he was too far to the right in driving the Chevy I had at the time. Why wasn’t he operating closer to the center, I’d wanted to know. Ghosh had advised me ironically, with that pancake flavor voice of his, that in this country, we drive on the right side of the road. I’d disregarded that input. What could Madhava Ghosh possibly know about driving? That diminutive angel could barely see over the steering wheel.

This additional presentation, by Maitreya, with regard to considering the rights and feelings, if not at least the simple fact of the presence of others, did finally actually begin to open my eyes even if only just a little. You’d have thought the younger to be the more impulsive and head strong … this young boy, operating a powerful huge Mack Truck all a glitter with steel and aluminum which looked to me large enough to hold in its bay three or four iterations of my Dodge Rama Dasa. Yet here he was saying that I regularly practically ran him off the road when we passed. He could have run over me and my truck, crushing us and leaving me the better for it. But such thoughts never occurred to him.

This could only come about, I saw, by virtue of Maitreya’s Humility and the fact that he really was engaged in Devotional Service, as opposed to enjoying the action when trumping another car at a light, or slipping into a parking space someone else was about to take. I’d been doing that kind of stuff regularly, but just then I was getting a much needed application of The Transcendental Brakes.

I’d come to The Farm, snapping my fingers in people’s faces and talking about my driving prowess. I sang about how much I loved to drive. I did not quite get it.

There then, at Old New Vrindabana, Pipalhada allowed as how he had no objection if I wanted to operate the Payloader. I did not know it but this was to be my final driving lesson. When I climbed in the Payloader, I was happy. Sarva was there and he and Pip resumed their Service with the dirt and the big machines, doing some sort of mechanical ballet. I drove the Payloader around, just to get the feel of the machine. I had no notion with regard to performing any particular task, but gee, this was fun.

Sarva climbed down from the bulldozer he’d been operating and went away for awhile. When he returned, he glared at me the way Sarva always glares at me. I continued with what ever meandering I was doing on the Payloader. The fact is, as I’ve said, I did not know what I was doing.

I was having fun. I knew that. I had the desire to operate this stuff. The Payloader was the property of The Farm. The project I was actually impeding now was a Krsna Conscious Project, (whatever it was) but I was there for enjoyment. It was an example of the opposite of dovetailing.

Suddenly my Guru appeared, driving the blue Toyota SUV I’d purchased for Him. He pulled up next to the Payloader and addressed me.

“What are you doing?”

“Driving the Payloader,” I yelled back with joy.

“Who said you could do that?”

I had no answer.

After a beat, He said, “Get down from there. You have no business in the Heavy Equipment Department.”

I climbed down immediately. I was embarrassed, but I felt the truth of His assessment to the core. I am no Heavy Equipment Operator. Even as a regular highway driver, I had a long way to go and a lot to learn.

I made obeisances. As I dusted off my hands, my Guru said, “You belong in the office.”

I nodded and walked away. Just wanting to do a thing does not qualify someone, I realized anew.

“You are not here to feel,” my Guru told me once when I’d been trying to regale Him with my latest Hippie flavored Liberal observations. “You are here to learn.”

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