“By the slow process of devotional service, under the guidance of the bonafide spiritual master, one can attain the highest stage, being freed from all material attachment, from the fearfulness… from the frustrations… Then one can ultimately attain to the abode of the Supreme Lord.”
– Srila Prabhupada (Purport, Bhagavad Gita 4.10)
The sword of death hung over my head, and I saw him as an emissary of Mr Time.
The biker’s one hand scrolled on his smart phone while his other held the motorbike which rushed at over 80 km/hr. The narrow asphalt road passed through a gushing stream and I faced him feeling vulnerable. The monsoon showers abated, and I was on my morning walk. In a split second I had to decide whether to turn to my left, so that he could speed away without worrying about me. But what if he saw me, and instinctively turned to his right to avoid a collision? I’d then meet sure death! In that case it would be safe to jump at the watercourse below. But that would break my bones.
I had little time to choose. In an instant I turned to my left, hoping he’d miss me. Just then he too swerved to his right, and I heard a loud siren behind me. I stood frozen as a car sped up from behind, breezing through my shirt. The bike also missed me by a millimetre. The blaring horns deafened me and in half a second they crossed each other; I was mercifully spared of sure death.
The eerie stillness of the countryside scared me. Cuckoo birds and squirrels sang a beautiful song while the lush mango and coconut orchard on either side of the road gave a heavenly ambience. The fragrance of night blooming shrubs like Parijata and Jasmines assured me this was a divine abode. I was however, gripped with fear. My heart paced rapidly and my mind refused to slow down.
I had learnt the practise of slow breathing – inhale and exhale to the count of four, and listen to the soft sound of incoming and outgoing breath. I forced myself to sit on a bench over the stream. After a few minutes of silent meditation with eyes closed, I was peaceful again; the adrenaline rush had eased and my parasympathetic nervous system awakened.
I then offered a sincere prayer to Lord Krishna, thanking Him for the close shave. Gently, I opened my eyes and saw the rivulet below carry brown sand in its speed. Chappals, plastic bottles, paper, leaf plates and an occasional torn shirt passed in the stream. My attention fell on what lay below the surface. The reflection of the giant peepal tree stayed unmoved, and so was the thick foliage. While gushing water threw away smaller objects with disdain, some things remained unmoved.
That’s when peace engulfed my heart. I knew – in a sense of knowing beyond knowing – at a space beyond the head – that although I had a near squeak moments ago, I now seemed to live for ever. I was not this body, and death didn’t end everything.
“For the self there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Bhagavad Gita 2.20)
To be continued….