The One With The Starter Motor

[Lord Vishnu's disc]“An atheist may argue that God is no more expert than a watchmaker, but of course God is greater because He can create machines in duplicate male and female forms. The male and female forms of different types of machineries go on producing innumerable similar machines without God’s further attention. If a man could manufacture such a set of machines that could produce other machines without his attention, then he could approach the intelligence of God. But that is not possible, for each machine has to be handled individually. Therefore, no one can create as well as God.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.1.1 Purport)

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“How did she do this? There’s no way this can be right. Can it?” These were the questions Patrick asked of himself as he looked over the homework assignment completed by his twin sister Anna. The two were enrolled in a basic automobile repair class at the time. In the recent months, they had run into much car trouble. The tires weren’t maintained very well on the family car. Their parents themselves weren’t very much up to speed on how to take care of a car. Therefore the twins decided to take matters into their own hands.

[Auto repair]Though they both enrolled in the class, Patrick assumed that he would excel. “Women aren’t so great with this stuff,” he thought to himself, as he noticed that Anna was only one of two females in the class. “I’m sure Anna will need my help.” But as the course went along, it was Patrick who had trouble. Anna seemed to already be familiar with the different parts of the car. She picked up on new things very quickly. Patrick’s progress was slower. He didn’t pay much attention to the lessons of the teacher, thinking that he would be able to figure things out for himself.

Then came the big project. Each student had to construct a starter motor, which would then be tested in the classroom. Anna finished hers very quickly, while Patrick couldn’t figure out how to do it. In looking at Anna’s completed motor at home, Patrick thought that maybe if he took it apart he would be able to construct his own by himself. Just as he was about to take it apart late at night, the light went on in the kitchen.

“What do you think you’re doing?” asked Anna.

“Umm nothing. I was just checking out your motor. I wanted to make sure it was done right. I didn’t want you to get embarrassed in the class tomorrow,” responded Patrick.

“Uh huh. Sure. If you need help with yours, you can just ask.”

[Starter motor]“I don’t need help. Someone probably helped you. I think this is impossible to construct. The teacher didn’t give us all the necessary parts. He probably built yours for you.”

Anna smiled as she heard these sour grapes from her brother. “Well, I’m going to keep this in my room tonight, if you don’t mind.” As she left the room with her finished motor, Patrick was now out of luck. He couldn’t figure out how to construct his own motor. Resigned to the inevitable failure, he went to sleep. Early the next morning Anna woke up and secretly constructed Patrick’s motor for him in the kitchen. Later on, Patrick was surprised when his motor worked in the classroom. Anna eventually told him what she did, and Patrick was sincerely touched by the kind gesture.

A few months later the entire episode was brought up again when Patrick went to his grandfather’s house one afternoon for lunch. His grandfather was known to be very pious, keeping religious paraphernalia around the house. He was always chanting on these beads, repeating, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” After the meal Patrick decided to give voice to some of his curiosity.

“Grandpa, do you really think there is a God?”

“Sure I do.”

“But what about all the bad things that happen to people? We see tragedies on the news all the time. If there is a God, how could He allow that to happen?”

“Well, things aren’t so simple. You have to know karma and the difference between matter and spirit to understand how everything fits into the larger scheme.”

“Grandpa, I will admit to you that I don’t really believe in God. I’ve had too much trouble in my life. I think man just invented God as a way to deal with the horrors of life. I don’t think there is a God, otherwise we would be able to see Him.”

His grandfather then took the opportunity to bring up the incident with the car motor, which took Patrick by surprise. “Well, dear son, do you remember that automobile class you took with your sister, and how she was able to construct that motor and you weren’t?”

“Oh no. Who told you? I bet it was Mom.”

The grandfather laughed. “Yes, but don’t worry. That stuff happens to all of us. Your sister is very intelligent, and so you should be proud of her for that. Anyway, in that incident I heard that you were so frustrated that you accused your sister of cheating. You said something to the effect that it was impossible for any person to build that motor, that she must have received help. Am I right?”

“Yes. I was angry. I’m not proud of what I said.”

“That’s okay, but the atheist attitude is very similar. They are frustrated with what they see in life. They don’t always get what they want. More importantly, however, they don’t follow protocol. If you follow the divine path, you’re actually able to see God. If you don’t, then you’ll think that it’s impossible to see Him and that He doesn’t exist.”

His grandfather then went into an explanation of the difference between matter and spirit. He explained how the individual is Brahman, or pure spirit, and how everything else is maya, or illusion.

“When the atheist is driven by illusion, how can they expect to see clearly? They drink, they kill innocent animals, they cheat, and they don’t control their senses. Actually, we all have these tendencies. When someone follows the regulative principles of devotional service, thereby developing austerity, cleanliness, truthfulness and austerity, they can actually see God. They follow the right path and thus witness what they previously thought to not exist.”

“Oh, I see,” said Patrick. “I never thought of it like that before. That makes sense, though. I kind of coasted in that class, and so that’s why I didn’t know how to make that motor properly. Anna, on the other hand, listened to everything the teacher said. She was a good student.”

“So while creating a motor is a kind of art form that requires some discipline and instruction, understanding and seeing God is infinitely more complex and difficult. It is a genuine science and not so much an art form. You have to follow the principles as they are handed down through a chain of teachers. In this age especially it’s very difficult, so the umbrella principle, the one that covers everything, is the chanting of the holy names, which you’ve probably heard me do.”

[Japa bead bags]Patrick pointed to his grandfather’s bead bag that was around his shoulder. “So is that what you’re always chanting on those beads? You’re following the method to see God?”

“Yes, the sound of the holy name creates His presence. Don’t ask me how that works. I was skeptical at first also, but through enough practice I can definitely feel Him here. And once you do, you never want Him to go away. You understand how everything else works, also. The big puzzle becomes easier to understand.”

After talking a little more, Patrick prepared to leave. “I have a lot of homework to do, Grandpa, but I want to talk more about this the next time I am here. Is that okay?”

His grandfather happily told him to come by any time.

In Closing:

Though to make machine simple,

For reference require example.


In wrong way becoming impossible,

Through proper path easily possible.


When in life’s journey frustrated,

Fools to think God man created.


Regulative principles, taking way that is right,

See God always, be blessed with divine sight.

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