“The value of a moment’s association with a devotee of the Lord cannot even be compared to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which is for those who are meant for death.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.13)
न स्वर्गं नापुनर्-भवम्
मर्त्यानां किम् उताशिषः
na svargaṁ nāpunar-bhavam
martyānāṁ kim utāśiṣaḥ
“There was a period of time during my childhood where I was completely into them. Bottle rockets. Firecrackers. A whole bunch of others that I forget the names to. The use was prominent around the fourth of July, the celebration of independence in America.
“Looking back, the interest was entirely due to others. The people around me were excited to light the fireworks, so I naturally followed suit. Since then, the practice has been made illegal in our state, and I lost attention rather quickly. I probably never had that much interest to begin with, but it is interesting to look back.”
2. Collecting cards
“For a few years there in childhood, this was everything! You have to remember that the internet was not prominent in those times. I think there were a few services available, but that was only if you had a personal computer. Even that market wasn’t booming yet. One of the televisions in our home was black and white; to give you an idea.
“We learned of professional athletes through these trading cards. You would purchase a pack or two at the supermarket, and inevitably you would come upon duplicates. That’s where the trading came in. Find a friend and make a deal. Try to complete a set or load up on the players that you liked.
“These cards had some value at the time, especially if you had the player’s very first card produced. That related to their first year playing, i.e. rookie season. Today, I don’t think there is much interest. I still have the cards somewhere in a vault, but I haven’t looked at them in years.”
3. Watching television
“We watched some crazy stuff as children. It was considered a special treat to view something that was generally prohibited. I tended to stay away from those, but then meeting other children at parties and family get-togethers, you pick up tendencies. We were almost excited to be able to watch certain programs, even though looking back there wasn’t much interest in the content. It was more about doing something that went against the rules imposed by the parents.”
4. Apparel brands
“This is generally related to attendance at school. Shirts and pants for boys. Dresses for girls. Pretty simple. In private institutions, they have a specific uniform to wear. Eliminates a lot of the guesswork. But there was that age when peers started wearing specific brands.
“A collared shirt with a small imprint of a person playing polo. Another shirt with large letters to boldly proclaim the company of origin. Pants that were intentionally torn in places. Shoes that looked a certain way. After a while, I couldn’t help it. I wanted to be like everyone else. Take an interest in something you didn’t care about previously. Collect to the point of exhaustion; later moving on to something else.”
5. Devotional service
The recommendation from shastra is sadhu-sanga. Associate with people who are on the path of liberation, mukti, not caring about the ups and downs of the temporary and miserable world, which gets created at a point in time and is then destined for destruction.
Sadhu-sanga is ideal because there is the same potential to influence. I see someone who has chosen a different way of life. They appear to be quite happy and content always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. When they speak, their words are so full of wisdom that I wish I could hit a pause button on the presentation and take notes.
When such persons influence me to follow a similar path, the interest I develop is for life. There is living proof of this principle. People take up devotional service and they never give it up. Utsaha, the enthusiasm in the endeavor only increases with time. There is no such thing as exhaustion.
Continuing sadhu-sanga is vital, as it reinforces a choice that is otherwise anathema to the rest of the world. Shrimad Bhagavatam confirms that even a moment’s association with a pure devotee has a value beyond measure. The devotee shows me the way, and the only way I can repay them is to continue in the path and try to be an example of inspiration for others, for bringing real and lasting happiness to the world.
For real happiness bringing,
Holy names singing.
From sadhu-sanga learned,
Greatest benefit earned.
Because never to relinquish,
None this inspiration can extinguish.
Where always something new in store,
Learning of Shri Hari more and more.
Categories: the five