The art of associating with advanced devotees
Mother Srimati: Once upon a time a very vivacious teenage girl idolized her father. Not only was he a very loving, sensitive and protective father, guide and friend; he was also an authentic Prabhupada disciple who had imbibed many of the most endearing and special qualities of his Guru Maharaja. The girl absolutely adored her father and wanted to be just like him. He was her hero.
The girl’s father was an Ayurvedic doctor by profession and very expert in his field. His chamber was always crowded with patients. Many of them would travel long distances for his consultation and medicines. The girl also wanted to become an Ayurvedic doctor. She studied abroad but kept in daily contact with her father through ‘Skype’. Soon it was time to come home and do her internship with her father. She was very much looking forward to that and was very excited.
The very first day she sat in her father’s chamber with him she noticed what she felt to be a major anomaly. Her father was extremely well qualified and could diagnose a patient’s illness simply by attentively feeling his pulse. But every patient — whether young, old, black, white, man or woman — would inevitably insist on explaining his problem. Sometimes this would take twenty to thirty minutes.
Although the girl appreciated her father’s tolerance and kindness, she could see that it meant he spent very long hours in his chamber. He was aging and so this was badly disturbing his health and his devotional and family commitments. “Papa, why are you allowing your patients to unnecessarily take your time? What benefit is there for you or them in this? Isn’t it more beneficial that they hear from you rather that you hear from them? After all, you’re an expert doctor and they are diseased and untrained in the medical field.”Her father replied, “Yes, it isn’t appropriate and I’ve often thought about it. But I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or give him the impression that I’m only interested in his money and not him. Prabhupada was always accommodating and very kind. I’ve decided to do things his way.”
The girl thought for a moment and said,” Papa, if I can think of a sensitive but effective solution, would you use it?” “Of course, my dear. I’d be very grateful”. For the next few days the girl prayed, meditated and thought about the challenge.
Five days later she came to her father’s chamber with two identical quite large ready-made signs. One was intended for the waiting room and one for her father’s chamber. They were colorful, very aesthetically pleasing and very reader-friendly. They said: “My dear patients, I love and care for you very much. Please make the most of your time with me by (1) Hearing, not talking (of course, relevant questions are always a good idea.) (2) Carefully following the prescription and diet I recommend for your condition. this will help me to help you so much more. “Why not give it a try?!”
The father very much appreciated his daughter’s concern and hard work, but he was hesitant. “These are great”, he said, “but you’re introducing a very different paradigm. I feel it could be more of a disturbance than a help.” “Papa, I have already thought about that. What I suggest is that I sit in the waiting room, talk to the patients and help them to ease into the new system. I also feel it would be great to distribute little packs of prasada and maybe BTG magazines. A soft kirtana would also help build a wonderful atmosphere. I think Prabhupada would be very happy with such adjustments.” “Very well, let’s give it a try.”
At the end of the day the girl very carefully placed the signs. The next morning she sat in the waiting room, keen to spend some time with her father’s patients. They were all a little surprised by the sign and other changes but she very expertly and kindly put them at ease. Most followed the recommended format and slowly, slowly it became the norm. The whole mood in the chamber and waiting room changed very much for the better. Soon the heavy, negative vibrations, which so often dominate hospitals and nursing homes, was gone. The atmosphere became positive, light and dynamic. The father heartily thanked his wonderful daughter by giving her a big hug and an extra big box of her favorite mahaprasada sweets.
We know the value of associating with advanced devotees and are keen for their darsana, guidance and blessings. Unfortunately, we quite often deprive ourselves of the full benefit of spending time with them. We tend to speak rather than hear and we try to bring them into our world rather than proactively and sensitively gain entrance into theirs. What an unfortunate misuse of a chance of mercy! Why not give the girl’s suggestions a try?!