Archive for August, 2005

Broadcast on BBC Radio 2, ‘Pause for Thought’, 2004

My dentist is a nice chap. He is originally from Denmark and has a jolly, Scandinavian way about him, except for one thing; he is very talkative. Until I met him I had no idea that Scandinavian’s could talk so much. I thought they were all very quiet. But my dentist talks me through every aspect of the dental process, reassuring me every few seconds and adding anecdotes to sooth me through the mouth numbing procedures.

I told him once that I was a Hare Krishna priest, he told me that his father-in-law was a Christian Minister who used to preach in India and we had a little chat about that. A few weeks ago I had occasion to go back to him, unfortunately bad karma for having a sweet tooth. I needed to have three fillings that day. The drilling started and so did his conversation.

I was pinned to the chair, as he rambled on and on about Buddhism. He talked about meditation techniques, Buddhist philosophy and all he understood about their understanding of suffering, desire, life, love and the universe. He completely forgot that I was a Hare Krishna and I couldn’t respond at all. I had to lie there, my mouth wide open with foreign fingers tugging and poking. I was being forced to listen to this fellow who completely misunderstood everything about me. At the end of it all he thought for a moment and said, “Did you say you were a Hindu?” Finally, I was able to say ‘MMM’.

I reflected on this interesting experience later and thought how many times I have misunderstood someone else’s intentions and motives and thus let them down; insisting, even to them, that I have understood them or not given them the opportunity to respond appropriately.

In fact, if we are prejudice, if we have made up our mind about someone, we ensure that we cannot have a proper relationship with them. People change and we all need the facility to change; not that If we make a mistake we will be lumped into the category of “habitual mistake makers”, never again to emerge. That’s cruel and egotistical, when I admit the reality to myself, and has no hint of love. I want to be loved for who I am, warts and all and should consider that others are no different. My personal challenge is to love beyond designation, religious affiliation, caste and capacity. Krishna has given us all the facility to be as wise or as foolish as we like and I have no right to take that facility away from others.

Unless we give each other the facility to fail, to grow, to learn, and to change it is like strapping people down on a dentist’s chair, covering their mouths and telling them who they are. It was strange when it was done to me and I have decided to try and avoid doing to others.

Hare Krishna

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Krishna in Vrindavan

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Broadcast on BBC Radio 2, Pause for Thought, 2003

We all love our independence and many have fought to win our freedom. These days we place great stock in being ourselves and being able to do what we want when we want. But our independence has its limits. We may sometimes have to admit that as great a political concept as it may be it may not count for much when we find ourselves dangling over the edge of a cliff.

One night, last November, Tony Maloney was walking on a cliff. It was a bit blowy that night and Tony was walking a bit too close to the cliff’s edge. Suddenly a gust pushed him right over. Tony tumbled through the air, but managed somehow to catch onto a root that stuck out from the cliff face. He got his hands around it, and clung desperately 20 feet from the top, 100 feet from the bottom. What was in a right mess.

His mind raced, and looking heavenward, he cried out, ‘Is there anybody up there? If there is anybody there, I really need your help now. I’ve led a decent life. I’ve tried to be good, and if there’s up anybody there, please save me.’ Then the clouds darkened over and began to move through the sky at tremendous speed. Lightening flashed and thunder crashed. A booming voice resounded. ‘I am here and I will save you. I will put my hand underneath you and you will drop into the palm of my hand and you will be saved.’

Tony clung silently and thoughtfully and asked, ‘Is there anybody else up there?’

I identify with Tony. I often feel like that in my relationship with God. We often seem to be given choices in life that aren’t really choices at all. Life just seems to throw situations at us that we have no recollection of asking for. And frankly, I would prefer it if life threw them at somebody else. But they are a very definite part of our lives that none of us have ever been able to avoid. I don’t even think any amount of technology, genetic modification or physical comfort can save us from every inconvienience, from suffering, from loss, or from death.

So when life serves us a Tony Maloney–one of those unwanted situations with no escape hatch, it is often best to find our humility. As cool as we are, when we get home, close our bedroom door and are alone with ourselves we know the limits of our independence. At these times it’s more real and more important for us to admit our frailty and declare our dependence on God.

Hare Krishna

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Balaram in Vrindavan

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