“Desire is a subtle form of conditioning of the living entity. The Lord fulfills his desire as he deserves: Man proposes and God disposes. The individual is not, therefore, omnipotent in fulfilling his desires. The Lord, however, can fulfill all desires, and the Lord, being neutral to everyone, does not interfere with the desires of the minute independent living entities. However, when one desires Krishna, the Lord takes special care and encourages one to desire in such a way that one can attain to Him and be eternally happy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 5.15 Purport)
The school day was drawing to a close. Shambhu’s fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Drew, was wrapping up her instruction. She had an announcement to make before dismissing the class.
“Class, listen up,” as she tried to get the attention of the children who were packing up for home. “Starting this Friday, I’m going to give out a new award.” It got quieter. “I’m calling it ‘The Student of the Week’. I will name one student each week to get that award. So everyone has the chance to win it. Whoever I think is doing a really good job, who is always following my instructions, will get it. Good luck to you all, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Shambhu didn’t have time to speak with any of his fellow classmates about the announcement, but it was all he could think about when his mom picked him up from school. He didn’t mention anything to her, however. This was because he had something special planned.
This was a new school for Shambhu, as his family had moved during the previous summer. The move was so delayed that he started at this new school a week late. A shy child, Shambhu was nervous when he was first introduced to his new class. He was relieved when his mom let him stay home from school on the first day he was to attend. He made up the excuse that he wanted to stay home to get adjusted to the move, but in fact he really wanted to watch the men’s final of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which was delayed by a day due to rain.
Though it was a new school, with all new classmates, Shambhu felt he was doing a good job in the opening few weeks. He always did his homework on time. He scored very well in the class. The teacher also seemed to have a liking for him, as he was well behaved. “I’m a good kid, I think,” he thought to himself on the ride home that day of Mrs. Drew’s announcement. “I should be a shoe-in for the award this Friday.”
More important than just receiving the award was the day it was to be handed out. That Friday was Shambhu’s mother’s birthday. As he was a young child with little money, Shambhu couldn’t think of any gift to give his mother. He was excited by the teacher’s announcement because he figured he could show his mother the award on the day of her birthday. “I’ll tell her, ‘This is for you, Mom’,” he dreamed to himself. “That will make her so happy. I can’t wait. I just know that I’m going to win the award.”
That Friday in school seemed to drag for Shambhu. He tried to pay attention, but his mind was elsewhere. As the day rolled on, there was still no announcement from the teacher. “Maybe she forgot about the award,” he thought to himself. “Or maybe she doesn’t think anyone in the class deserves it. This is messing with my plan.”
With about ten minutes to go in the school day, Mrs. Drew made an announcement. “Okay class, as you know, I gave you that writing assignment to do last night. If you’ll all just pass your homework forward to the person in front of you.” Then Shambhu saw everyone reaching into their book bags to submit the homework assignment. There was only one problem. Shambhu hadn’t done it.
“Oh no! How could I have forgotten to do this? Did she really assign this?” he asked himself. Shambhu had simply overlooked this one homework item. He had done the rest of his homework from the previous night. In fact, he always completed his homework as soon as he got home from school. This was simply an honest mistake. It would cost him dearly, though.
When Mrs. Drew reached the row of students with Shambhu in it, she noticed that the number of papers collected didn’t add up. “There’s one missing,” she said. Shambhu then looked up very sadly and said, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t do it.” Mrs. Drew then said, “You? That’s very surprising. I would expect this from someone else, but not you.”
Now the entire class was focused on Shambhu. They were all looking at him. He was seated in the very rear of his row, and all the students had now turned around to see his face, which was filled with embarrassment. Mrs. Drew continued:
“Well, you know I had planned on giving you this award this week. But I can’t give the student of the week award to someone who doesn’t do their homework.” She then scribbled out his name on the certificate and wrote in someone else from the class, who then went up to the teacher’s desk to collect the award. Again, the eyes of the class were focused on Shambhu, who sat there quietly, completely devastated.
When he went home that day, a defeated Shambhu rested on the couch, still in disbelief over the whole incident. His mother asked him how his day was. “Fine,” he said, not wanting to reveal to her his embarrassment or how he had failed her. He had nothing to offer her for her birthday, though the mother didn’t seem to mind that there was no gift forthcoming.
Many years later, the entire episode came back to Shambhu as he was reading the Bhagavad-gita As It is. In one of the sections He read how the desires of the living entity are not always met. He learned that the results to action are determined by karma, that man inherently gets what he deserves. More importantly, he took note of how when the desires turn towards transcendence, and more specifically towards association with the Supreme Lord Krishna, the ultimate guiding hand takes a special interest.
Shambhu reflected, “It’s like that time when I was in the fourth grade and I thought I was going to win that award for my mother. It was in the bag. I knew I was going to win it. And then suddenly I forgot to do one of the homework assignments. It was completely by accident. I thought I had control over everything, but I didn’t. My karma must have gotten in the way. That’s how life goes, I guess. Sometimes I prepare so much beforehand, only to forget something simple like filling up on gas. My personal experiences confirm the teachings of the Gita. Only if I turn my attention towards Krishna will I be assured of success, and then only if my desire remains genuine. So from this day forward I will try my best to chant the holy names on a regular basis: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
Idea for success man to propose,
But not in control, only God to dispose.
Future plans for success to think,
Only to suddenly in despair sink.
To devotional service efforts direct,
And success from Supreme Lord expect.
To guide with most careful hand,
To lift even when difficult to stand.