Bridge of Sighs
By Jagabandhu dasa
When I work in hospitals I am always very moved by the great suffering and despair of the souls who by circumstance happen to be there, whether patient or hospital worker. Because of this, as I traverse the various stairwells, elevators, corridors and rooms I whisper Hari! Hari! over and over again, pleading for His Divine Presence to Descend and benefit the suffering jivas.
Often I am left in a room working alone, pondering how many people have died in that particular room and I begin to gently sing namo maha vadanyaya krishna prema predaya te… In one room I saw a small frightened lizard hiding behind a scrap piece of sheetrock. Thinking how terrible it would be to be trapped in a hospital room on the cancer ward I rescued him into an empty soft drink cup and carried him down the stairs softly chanting Hari! Hari! before releasing him outside into the dirt. Hari! Hari! Good luck little brother! Better life next time!
When I returned, I could hear the inconsolable sobbing of a grief-stricken woman in the next room of the cancer ward in which I was doing re-model work. I do not know if she had just “lost” a loved one or been told of her own irrevocably terminal condition. Knee deep in the hazardous dust and debris of decades of death in the crawl space between two bathrooms I softly began to sing chintamani… hoping the Vibration may somehow, someway reach down from beyond Vaikuntha through me and into the heart of a suffering jiva.
I do not consider how a jiva may have originally became conditioned to their existence of perpetual transmigration and subsequent misery. I know only of their present direness and feel compelled to extend Relief. A Relief that can be achieved only by Divine Grace and the Transcendental Influence of the Holy Name of Sri Hari upon the suffering jiva. Upon the enactment of such Transcendental Influence the consequential internal development of a jiva is between soul and Supersoul with sincerity as the primary functional component (as is the case in all honest relationships).
In some future life, the combination of Divine Grace and a jiva’s individual accrued genuine religious merit may cause him to be at last seated at the feet of a Great Master Who may then confer initiation upon the fortunate recipient. May we always remember Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur’s incontrovertible conviction that whether or not a Vaishnava is “properly” initiated or not is not a subject for consideration. One may be initiated by a Great Vaishnava and yet contaminated by false egotistical misunderstandings. But an uninitiated person who is able to chant Purely and without offense will not be afflicted in the same manner. A properly initiated person may have conceptual flaws, but someone who is able to chant the Holy Name without offense is flawless even if apparently an uninitiated beginner by external standards. By dint of the Purity of their chanting , such a soul who is able to chant offenselessly must be respected as a Suddha Bhakta, regardless of exterior considerations.
Because of my own crippled subjectivity, when I first joined the temple I somehow immediately learned to fear and discriminate against the meat-eating demon “karmis,” people of divergent philosophical persuasions and women who were known as “stree” and therefore denigrated and looked down upon in a most derogatory way. It took years for me to de-program myself from such cultish xenophobia which is unfortunately not unique to any society or tradition. It was extremely helpful to consider Sri Krishna’s advice in Srimad Bhagavad-gita about the equal vision of the humble sage viewing all creatures in diverse bodies as the souls they really are inside the material shell. And how important it is to be a kindly friend to all.
Now wherever I may be, whomever I may be with I strive for this equal vision wherein I do not discriminate based on various bodily or institutional designational coverings and “see” only souls, some more miserable, some more inwardly evolved, but all souls, nonetheless. Whereas previously I had misconceived that there was an ever-changing amorphous struggle between “us and them,” by the Grace of God and my Teachers, my present perception is that there is only “us” and we’re all souls, comrades in arms against the strife, turmoil and despair of individual and collective lives combining to make what we know of as World. And we’re all in it together.
A couple of years ago my younger teenaged daughter had just discovered cosmetics. After some appearance enhancements she asked me, “How do I look, Dad?” “With your eyes.” I said. And your soul.