“Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the tulasi tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases. Simply by offering obeisances to and pouring water on the tulasi tree, one can become freed from the fear of being sent to the court of Yamaraj [the King of death, who punishes the sinful]. If someone sows a tulasi tree somewhere, certainly he becomes devoted to Lord Krishna. And when the tulasi leaves are offered in devotion at the lotus feet of Krishna, there is the full development of love of Godhead.” (The Nectar Of Devotion quoting the Skanda Purana)
Friend1: Let’s talk about cruises.
Friend2: Why? What about them?
Friend1: Have you ever gone on one?
Friend2: No, but I did watch one recently.
Friend1: How can you watch a cruise?
Friend2: It was a Bhagavata-katha, a discourse on the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Shri Krishna. I guess people paid to go on this Alaskan cruise where the speaker dedicated a number of days to these discourses.
Friend1: That is interesting. Were there a lot of people?
Friend2: Enough to fill a conference room on the ship. I know you probably think it’s silly. Mixing sense gratification with religious life. At the same time, wherever there is such discussion, the place automatically becomes a tirtha.
Friend1: Sort of how it says in the Padma Purana that any house with a tulasi plant is a place of pilgrimage.
Friend2: There you go. Not every cruise-goer is interested only in eating and drinking to the limit.
Friend1: Don’t forget the sleeping afterwards. There is no office to go to. The daily commute is nonexistent. Plenty of time to recover from the previous day of fun.
Friend1: What always seemed odd to me is the necessity to pay so much money to do things that you could normally do.
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: Like eating and drinking. Why would I need a cruise for that? One of the appeals in the modern day is to be able to break free of the attachment to the smartphone. No constant checking of information. No worries about passing the time.
Friend2: It’s difficult to get cellular connectivity on the cruises. They make it expensive for a reason.
Friend1: Enjoy the surroundings. Anyway, do you see my point? I could ditch the cell phone any day of the week. I could take a walk outside instead of needing to board the deck of a ship. I could visit a nice restaurant to relax and eat. Why would I want to force myself to leave land to accomplish the same?
Friend2: There has to be a reason that people do this.
Friend1: What is it?
Friend2: Because it’s a forced vacation. You have no choice but to enjoy nature. You can’t go to work, even if you wanted to.
Friend1: But we shouldn’t need that, no?
Friend2: There would be no reason for houses of worship, otherwise. You could just connect with Bhagavan at home. Watch the cruise katha, like I did [smiling].
Friend1: You sure saved a bunch of money.
Friend2: It’s the same concept, though. Sort of how the alarm clock forces me to wake up in the morning. The office environment compels me to leave the house and work during the day. Schedules. Deadlines. Take that concept and transition to venue. Different places. A change of setting. A place where you are not comfortable enough to be distracted.
Friend1: Where discourses are taking place.
Friend2: At least the people are conscious of the Supreme Lord. They may not be fully realized. They may still live in duality. They may be thinking about household responsibilities, but at least they are making the effort. They are at a different location. For a few hours they get to focus on something more important.
Friend1: If you could only make that time last longer.
Friend2: Credit to the acharyas for helping us. They publish books so that we can maintain the same connection at home. They pass on the japa process, whereby sound delivers the mind from distress: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.