A true story:
Sam thought it was a queer sight; he felt a strange sensation through his spines. Drawn like a piece of iron towards a magnet, he approached the elderly gentleman reading an ancient looking book. The man uttered exotic chants, in a rhythmic meter. It was pleasing to the ears. Meanwhile a middle aged man sat at the entrance of the grocery store, waiting for customers. A young boy of four played at the courtyard.
“Excuse me sir, what are you doing?” asked Sam.
The old man’s reflexes were slow; he looked at Sam, lowered his chin, and adjusted his glasses. The harsh North-Indian winter seemed to make no difference to him.
“I am reading Ramayana”, said the man; his toothless smile enchanted Sam.
“And who is this man at the counter?” Sam said.
“That’s my son; he now manages the shop, while I chant the whole day. You see I am retired”, the man said.
“And that child?” Sam was curious.
“Oh, he’s my grandson”
Sam asked the old man what Ramayana was, to which the man replied in his broken English. He chanted a few verses in a melody and meter that Sam was now fond of.
Sam basked in the presence of these mysterious chants, as the rustic setting soothed his heart. This was far out, he thought; nothing like what he ever felt at Manhattan, the most densely populated borough of New York City. His India trip bore fruit today. He had long desired to find out what exactly happened in the Indian villages. The culture and traditions keep families bound, and here he had a first-hand experience of that.
Decades passed… Sam grew older. He desired to once again visit India.
January 2015: Sam was again in India. He recalled his memorable moment thirty years ago, and decided to visit Manikpur- a remote village in Uttar Pradesh- again. Sam was now fifty five years old.
Sam rubbed his eyes in disbelief. What was this? ‘Have I travelled back in time?’ Sam panicked for a moment. He saw an old man read from the Ramayana, while a middle aged man sat at the shop, and a small child played on the porch. ‘What year is it anyway?’, ‘No, it can’t be’, various emotions swelled in his heart. It was nostalgic; ‘But how could it be?’
He came near. “Excuse me Sir, what are you reading?” Sam now replayed the same conversation.
The old man- he didn’t seem to have aged all these thirty years- lowered his glasses, smiled at Sam, and replied in his broken English, “I am reading Ramayana; you see I am retired, and my son now manages the shop. And that’s my grandson playing. He is lovely isn’t he?”
Sam felt a chill; ‘no it isn’t the cold, these are goose bumps’.
“Er..but how old are you anyways? And I mean, who are you?”
The man spoke slowly. Soon Sam realized this village had also faced the onslaught of time. The old man Sam met thirty years ago was dead and gone. He learnt the elderly man reading Ramayana now was the son who took care of the shop then. The man at the counter now was none other than the child who played freely at the veranda then. Here, he was a grown up man, handling the shop’s customers.
Sam realized a lot had changed, but on a deeper level, he felt nothing had changed really.
Sam saw an eternal basis of the Indian culture, something that missed his vision during his earlier visit. He could see the scary contrast; everything in modern times is changing at a frenzied pace.
The steady culture of hearing, and absorption in the Ramayana remained in the Indian villages while the passion of change gives a titillating pleasure. On the surface, reading the same scriptures, chanting the same Holy Names may seem boring, but now Sam could see that peace and stability comes from consistently performing the same spiritual practises, day in day out.
A sudden realization dawned on Sam; there’s so much clarity when we are connected to an eternal space of transcendence- a place where nothing changes. The more the world outside of us changes, the more we need to embrace that which doesn’t change.
The heart is craving for more, and people are running, chasing a chimera. The reward of this chase is melancholy- an undefined sadness drowns people seeking temporary goals and fleeting pleasures.
Those who anchor themselves on hearing spiritual narrations, transcend the influence of time. They prepare for an eternal life, after this brief one passes away.
Repetition of Lord’s Holy Names and stories gives us the gift of an eternal life of knowledge and bliss (sat cit ananda).
Let’s absorb ourselves in Ramayana and Krishna katha, and enter into the Lord’s loving abode.
Many in the Krishna consciousness movement are serving over five decades now, chanting the same mantra, hearing the same pastimes. Yet they are relishing ever new sweetness in their spiritual lives.
That’s the power of spiritual sound vibrations- it helps us transcend time!