Questions at Palisades Park
By Giriraj Swami
The celebrations of Sri Krishna Janmastami and Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja in Los Angeles were wonderful, and after two days of festivities, I took a japa walk at Pacific Palisades. There I passed a woman who, observing a small animal, exclaimed, “Oh, what is that? Is he a squirrel?” A moment later, I passed a women who, seeing some blossoms, inquired, “What kind of flowers are they?” And I thought of Sri Suta Gosvami’s statement in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.5): “Your questions are worthy because they relate to Lord Krishna and so are of relevance to the world’s welfare. Only questions of this sort are capable of completely satisfying the self.” And I reflected further that human life is especially meant for inquiring into the Absolute Truth—Krishna—and for realizing one’s eternal, blissful life with Him. But so few people make that inquiry. They inquire, but about different subjects. When someone does ask about the Absolute Truth, a devotee is very happy, because the inquirer is on the way to reviving his or her relationship with Krishna, and because the question gives rise to discussion of Krishna. And “topics of Lord Krishna are so auspicious that they purify the speaker, the hearer, and the inquirer. They are compared to the Ganges waters, which flow from the toe of Lord Krishna. Wherever the Ganges waters go, they purify the land and the person who bathes in them. Similarly, krsna-katha, or the topics of Krishna, are so pure that wherever they are spoken, the place, the hearer, the inquirer, the speaker, and all concerned become purified.” (SB 2.1.1 purport)
When will someone earnestly inquire about the Absolute Truth, the Source of all that is? And when will I become serious about the subject—about realizing my eternal relationship with Krishna as His pure loving servant?
The next day, at the end of my japa walk at the Palisades, I sat on a bench to say my Gayatri mantra, and a lady sat next to me and asked, “Are you a Hare Krishna?” When I nodded, she told me that she had attended the Ratha-yatra at Santa Monica some decades earlier and had enjoyed the festival and the prasada. Then she told me that a week ago she had loaded up a grocery cart with two big bags of groceries but that as she was pushing it to her car some distance away, the cart got stuck on a rubber ridge and no matter what she did she could not get it over the hump. Then two large men came up to her and asked if she needed help. When she said yes, they said, “Why don’t you just carry the bags to your car, one at time, and we’ll watch the cart.” Considering how big the bags were, how small she was, and how far the car was, she replied, “I don’t think so.” Then the men physically lifted the cart over the ridge, pushed it to her car, and unloaded the bags for her. She told them, “That was awfully kind of you—to help me like that.” And they replied, “We are Hare Krishna devotees. Our work is to help people, and we try to do it well.”
Then she asked me many questions about the Hare Krishnas. Eventually she said, “I do not want to interrupt your chanting, so please continue. But I am an artist and I came here to sketch the bluffs and the ocean. Would you mind if I included you in the sketch?” I agreed, and when I finally got up to leave, I saw the Hare Krishna devotee with his hand in his bead bag on the left side of her picture.
What will happen next?