Yesterday, after the Bhagavtam class, Abhishek prabhu was approached by an elderly Indian gentleman.
He was well-dressed, had a smiling face, respectful and later declared to us that he was from Bengal, a diplomat during his working years and was now retired. Visiting his son in Sydney, he was out and about when he happened to see the temple complex. Curious, he had stepped in and eventually stayed for the Bhagavatam class. He could speak fluent Chinese too!
Anyway, it was nice to see his interest but as an elderly person, he obviously had a slight inclination towards correcting the youngsters. So, he began to quiz & debate with Abhishek prabhu (and myself too). Abhishek prabhu, for his young age, happens to be well-versed in spiritual literatures. His answers to the gentleman was cut and right – no diplomacy from him. His sharp answers actually subdued the man who now respected him more.
As we shared the breakfast table, munching on our elaborate feast (cabbage subji, carrot halva, kofta balls, coconut chutney, crispy jalebi, salad, upma and a pea curry), his attention turned to an incoming tray of hot samosas! “Is that samosa?“, he asked like a little child. Before we could answer, he picked his plate and hurried towards the server. Grabbing a piece topped by a generous amount of tamarind chutney, he sat back on his seat again. As his eyes twinkled over his conquest, I quickly ran over and got me a piece too. Abhishek was avoiding anything deeply fried although he was munching away on that crispy jalebi pieces! Hypocrisy, i say!
As the man relished his samosa, he asked, “Are you both living at the temple?“. We replied that we weren’t but the Brahmacaris (renunciant students) were. He looked at us with concern and asked, “You mean they have no house of their own, no job also?“. Abhishek prabhu explained that as brahmacaris, they had no outside work or financial assets, were devoted to the temple full-time and were under the care of the temple management. The man’s fatherly instincts were raised, “But how is that possible? How can someone live without any work and no money – how will they get food and clothes? What if he wants to buy a tooth-brush?! Who will give?“, he asked with great concern.
I thought that was funny and chuckled. Who will get their tooth-brush? I told him that just like there are people for whom material assets are important for their security, there were those who were completely attached to devotional service of the Lord. In that service, they are completely dependant on Him for all their needs, sustenance and protection. I told him that it’s hard for people like us to understand or live such a lifestyle but those who had made the jump were happy. I told him that temple took care of their food, clothing and shelter besides engaging them in a wide variety of devotional work. He seemed surprised but content that they were being looked after. He eventually finished his meals, bid us farewell, promising to return again next weekend too.
Many things passed by mind after the incident:
- Life of brahmacaris: how sacrifice, austerity, simplicity and unselfish devotional service is so pure, healthy and powerful.
- Goal in life during old age: Instead of spending time visiting children here and there, attached to one’s past work life & achievements, it’s important that one takes up full-time devotional life also after retirement.
- My fortune of being a part of a devotee network early on in life: The earlier one takes the risk and associates with a spiritual group, the better.
- Importance of regular study: Watching Abhishek prabhu answer the questions from a shastric angle was so wonderful to watch. It inspired me to study regularly, contemplate more and apply the learnings in one’s life.
So, that was a great Saturday morning well spent, i thought.