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preparing for life

Preparing for Life

He was in some ways an original in an honored chain. A religious movement is the shadow of a great teacher. Be aware of the soil from which it comes.... He was ensconced in an old religious tradition that seemed to be gathered and focused around him. Most people would be resting on their laurels. Many have become comfortable and complacent, unwilling to engage in hardship. Others pay a heavy price to leave comfort and security behind them for the uttermost parts of the earth. He showed the devastation wreaked by destructive residues remaining in the mental habits of colonized people, giving us a portrait of an age of the apex and the nadir of the passing epoch, soon after the outsider had been thrown off wherever the long arm of dominance had once reached, which was now underway. 

It had been predicted in scriptures and by great saints. He had no money. He felt obliged to help humanity by bearing a bright torch. He had come into the world to execute a mission. From a planet emanated yellow rays within an oval at the bottom of the exhaling material universe, moving forward almost silently at a slow rhythm. All alone in the middle of difficulties, he had yet to convince others. He worked earnestly but results were meager. 

At the dawn of the present, as brilliant as the sun, vital spiritual centers, checked from their evil propensities, continued as far as the eye could see, but over the centuries had become lost. A transcendental vocabulary had to survive the cataclysms of revolution. His life seemed further and further behind him. A cement block illuminated by a kerosene lamp, a solitary boat passing on calm waters. These were foretellings. There was no question of a quarrel in their handling of issues. Like a single mustard seed in a big bag, printing the news from an unlimited spiritual sky, the material creation was only a fraction of all worlds combined. 

A group of widows clapped their hands unevenly. He would turn on the lamp while others slept. When he opened the shutters, the room filled with light. It was kind of a setback. He aroused heartfelt concern. These were the most difficult times he had ever gone through. They wished him success in his noble intent. “He liked to hear,” they said. Under the expanse of blue sky and blazing sun, the story of her beauty was stored up in the reservoirs, emanating an unbearable bad smell of stool and vomit, at a time when the people needed it badly. His face was shriveled, his body emaciated with age. Large fountains sprayed water in the air. He did not give these things much importance. He thought an electric man or ghost was in the box singing, absorbed in the struggle for existence. His suggestion was don’t make hasty decisions without consulting with a dignified organization in the background. Time was going. He would come, but it would take another mother to have a child that was a member of the royal family. He would stop by and tell him many things. They were very hard days. 

They maintained the mode of simple mendicants. He noted the activity on the road. He sat and heard with rapt attention. Nothing appeared absurd. When he looked to the right he was able to see the red flag and the signboard. It was a real adjustment of Western material science. False leaders intrigued and scattered like leaves in a storm. They had settled into satisfied, insular, impotent units, without purpose and with little hope of being delivered. He felt small and very much alone. He walked through the tight, crowded lanes that led into the noisy, heavily trafficked bazaar. They appreciated him more as a member of a genre than as an individual. He was the father of all living beings and had jurisdiction over all programs. He always anticipated finding a sympathizer. 

His business diminishing, he now moved back. He wanted the leaders to work cooperatively and could not sympathize with warring factions. They were like apathetic monks, growing old, devoid of life. He gave each purport with exacting care and concentration, not in a spirit of trying to surpass but with the greatest respect, beneath a small adjustable light which dangled from the ceiling. 

He gave up rotten politics immediately and fell down from his exalted position and invented so many things in the course of experimenting with relative truth. Unfortunately he had a car crash and could not ask Death to wait because he had no time at the moment. It was a startling reminder of his past connections. 

In order to bring about happiness we have created the atomic bomb, another enigma of illusory potency. The concept was no longer merely a depiction of a mythological deity: they had come to life in the modern day. Although they have made material advancement, they are squirming in the burning poison of sensualism. Their leaders abandoned their spiritual heritage. 

He went home as soon as he got money. Everything was on his head. Two paths seemed to be at war, threatening each other’s existence. He had fallen behind in his rent. He could see as yet no alternatives. He weighed the choices carefully. Above the courtyard, the sky was filled with visible stars, a complete sanctified stillness. A clanging bell or gong would suddenly reverberate. The doors remained open as visitors filed into the temple and hurried on. 

They broke the Hindus’ idols. There was no distinction. There were heaps of dead bodies. They are attached by their karmic behavior, which is made of very strong ropes. They continue again and again and suffer misery. They had been right in warning against religious fraud. They were a cause of headache. If he could find a few or even one who was serious, he would have a beginning. He was a man with family concerns who wanted peace and unity. They say they are busy earning money for maintaining the body and soul together. 

He was a humble creature and was just trying to do his bit in this connection. He crossed them in something and argued. “I must do what I think, what I feel — that is important,” he said. He was prepared to live on boiled potatoes and dry cereal. “You should forget your desire. You should change your habit,” he said. All that was left of his family was a list of names. He would be leaving on a cargo ship in a few days. They presented the case from several angles which listed the objectives of the society. He had no taste for a legal fight. 

Without adequate language, the victims of fire express themselves throughout the whole polluted atmosphere of the world situation. He folded his palms in a humble gesture. He was doing everything. He remained one-pointed. He remained confident, but he soon found his past confining. He was eager to arrange for what God intended him to do. It was a big opportunity. 

In the center of the water, cranes stood on stilt-like legs. He submitted to his father. He had been going on slowly and peacefully. He was a non-entity in comparison. Soot and dust blew in the open windows as the train sped along. He thought his application of the anti-material principal was a grand one. For more than ten years he had been free to travel. It was all due to improper handling without proper guidance. He sat back silently. He had to put the dream aside. Whatever was there was all right. You do whatever you like. 

He wanted them to purify him with the dust of their feet. When one goes there, one never comes back. Beyond the bazaar the road curved right and approached a three-way junction. The driver struck the horse with his whip and the forests abounded with desire trees, yielding all desires in abodes built with gems. 

He walked among them, carrying a stick, living in simple ease. Taking little rest and food, he once again entered the world of men. In all likelihood, he would never reach them. He still lacked a good deal and was unable to express his views. They shouted him down and he was unable to continue the meeting. He led a struggle for independence where large military forces throughout the city discouraged rioting. He was at this time “the saddest man one could picture.” He feared he was becoming an anachronism, now at odds with them in many ways. He was physically ill and melancholy. 

The letter arrived in a flood of mail. They believed in God and were living peacefully. His words were as much a reality as the stars in the sky, solidified by someone capable of guiding all the fallen souls of the world. These things were necessary and good. 

But surely with all its faults the seriousness of its subject matter would be taken into consideration as being an honest attempt so much now badly needed? In every village and town throughout the world there were candidates waiting for a message. Nobody could challenge it. 

Boys teased, insulted and affronted women on the street. He wore a cotton hat that covered his ears and tied beneath his chin. He was apparently impervious to any reconciliations in the overwhelming atmosphere of the recriminations. He opposed the idea of taking up arms. He made what seemed to be an attractive offer to the poor. These people were very weak. He could see they were very skinny. In this way he avoided them. 

Although the obvious meaning obscured the direct meaning with word jugglery, one felt the desperation keenly. He fell in love with a beautiful girl who resisted his advances. They were still rising and preparing to sit, gathering their wits and trying to comprehend the impression he made on them, hardly believing what they’d just heard. He wished they would not behave this way. They were baffled by his allegiance when hundreds were being cheated, rejecting the culture as backwards and irrelevant. He felt a pang of separation. 

They found several secluded acres nestled within a grove. He made mental plans for each room as he and his companions walked through the compound. He was very much influenced by him. Catastrophe was now in vogue in the war of supremacy, guided by a false sense of proprietorship, and therefore there was need of making propaganda amongst all human beings in order to bring them back to their senses. 

In those times there had not been any scarcity. He requested that at least let there be a ventilation of the atmosphere. They gave it serious consideration. As long as contaminated self-interest in the sense gratification continued, there would be fighting between brother and brother, father and father, mother and child. He was sorry to hear that the talks about unity had failed. He was far above an ordinary human being. If the dual sides of the frenzy called love and hate within the soul within the body continued, a humane world would not be possible. No great personality has ever been able to solve the problem of death. The leaders have opened many factories for manufacturing weapons for the art of killing, although everyone’s wishful desire is not to die. 

The great sufferers were the people. Everything was in darkness. There were also other signs. He remained favorably disposed to him but he couldn’t go on giving him money. He sat down on the front steps of the office building, determined to get her attention. He certainly caused some attention as he sat patiently waiting! He began steadily and carefully to consider his responsibility. He told his wife about his plans to invite people into their home. She didn’t share his enthusiasm. He came out on the veranda, saw the snake, and immediately killed it. Nothing agitated him. People working cooperatively under one leader ceased to exist. They lacked their former united potency. They would not separate even for a moment without him. 

He crossed the ocean and became a great exponent of religion. For him, the over-populated city was a hell of ruffians and fools nourished by sex-songs on the radio and lurid billboards advertising sexual fantasies. He could well understand that they wanted to kill him. They used to meet alone to discuss so many things. He was called a “living encyclopedia,” he was so learned. He was outwardly mortified but inwardly satisfied. Often he was taken in by businessmen but their receptions were artificial. He would sit quietly, feeling morose. Some of his neighbors wondered, “Do you have any good contacts?” But he had no place to stay and no money. He mostly worked alone. He wanted to be free of recurring diseases like rheumatism and gout, but now the obstacles were compounded. He had to wait helplessly for the outcome of the struggle. 

In the houses they had, the rooms were airy and well lit. No inconveniences were caused. Some had rigid schedules and assured him he was right, but the question was full of philosophical implications and the time did not permit him to answer fully. He accepted his good advice and concluded it was a highly developed work that should be supported. No, it wasn’t an ordinary newspaper, but they found it interesting. Busy men should want to know where they are going. It cost a very insignificant sum. He felt sensations that an ordinary man wouldn’t. 

Moving forward, almost silently, with vultures flying overhead, the tall stacks spewed out sooty black clouds of smoke. He found little scope. What was the use? He resented that he had to give it so much energy. Everyone was planning in different ways as hundreds of passengers sipped their morning tea. He went out, his bead bag around his neck, wearing a fresh garland of flowers, trying all possibilities at once. He vowed to supply his guests with whatever they required. The altar was well-illuminated, the color of cream, decorated with black dots and a mask of yellow sandalwood. The cement floor and walls were completely bare. They were dressed in black with veiled faces beneath the narrowest patch of sky, so crowded with people in narrow streets, planted with iron posts, so densely packed, moving along, only inches apart on opposite sides of the street, practically forming a roof, almost indistinguishable in the public thoroughfares. He was disturbed in his mind and wondering what he should do as he moved from room to room. The hope and expectation were undoubtedly great and the gist idea was to support opportunities for the general welfare of humanity. 

They couldn’t stock his books because they didn’t have much demand for religion. In spite of an artificial famine they did not steal rice or riot but only worked to save the lives essential for the flight. He saw starving children rummaging in the dustbins for a morsel of food, fighting with dogs for a share of the garbage. He was so hungry, he first finished eating. It made little difference who was attacking. He had to see how his disciples were doing. They saw high above them two stone lions, their right paws extended. There was a potted tulasi plant and a beautifully ornate entrance. Uncultivated land stretched as far as the eyes could see. He explained his movement’s objectives. In his conference with the governor of the province he met with a warm welcome, but he also met with competition. Soon he felt ready to go back. She began sending her car for him each evening. Proceedings went slowly and there was even the threat of one last obstacle. She found him adamantly opposed. The purpose was to nourish spiritual culture. Then the disturbed minds of today could be trained for higher duties. Then the worst happened. He felt he had worked months for nothing. Anybody might have done it — even his son. He was immediately impressed but he couldn’t drop his intelligent skepticism. He didn’t care about anything, and that’s what made him great. 

He was happy to see the opening day was not just a private affair. There was no meaning in a fight where the parties fight over the colors of their uniforms. It’s an external barrier to understanding human relations. There is a great and urgent impulse felt by leaders in all countries. He knew it was needed on a larger scale than he could achieve on his own. He had followed any path that had opened as far as it led, but he had remained one-pointed. “What is wrong with the world?” he said. During the next ten days, he took a strong purgative and laxatives. The intimate dictation was like an absolute direction for forgetful parts of the world as transcendental pleasure and frustration mingled. He continued alone. 

They found him “calm and quiet,” “noble,” “polite,” “scholarly,” “with a specific glow in him.” He deeply experienced the successes and failures of the venture. He was patient and forbearing like a tree and humble like a straw. He had no desire whatever. He knew there was no reason to lament. The buildings were decorated with leaves, flowers and earthen water pots. They had a temple that resembled a palace. He could see the venerable tower and, beyond, the flat river, the green banks, and the sky. 

He was very appealing. He could see that in poverty there was no opulence. He was looking for whatever opportunities might arise. They thought he was too old to go and expect to accomplish anything. 

There was a gangway leading from the dock to the ship’s deck. It was a black cargo ship, small and weathered. Due to shared love, he had very much respect for him. 

Anyone who wanted to remain could remain. He sat with his back erect, a shawl around his shoulders, not speaking. He listened with rapt attention. The people were friendly and in good spirits. He met the saintly person he had always thought of within himself. This purpose filled his mind. 

Then there was a gathering which took place every twelve years. Affluent families lived in a modern, well-lit section of town. At noon he would come home. During the day he would talk with friends. He was interested in a business partnership. Often they discussed their aspiration for increasing profits. Still, they were no more than puppets. He could see that no alternatives as yet existed. He was above planning and the laws of astrology. 

They lived together the first years of their marriage. He had many friends with eligible young daughters. He could look forward to a fine career. They followed their traditional religion and culture. There was no dearth of money but there was a dearth of peace. They were engaged in making important plans. He pondered a deeper reply as he moved through the city. One night he had a striking dream. Repeatedly he called and motioned. They acted immorally to accumulate funds for their self-gratification and simply to enhance his own prestige. They were much more oppressed than ever before. They had a hankering for these books. The disease of the mind had to be cured by proper medicine advocating principles. 

The people clamored for peace in the world. It was a small fire kindled to dissipate the invincible darkness of empirical knowledge. They were eating peanuts and talking together and the others felt ashamed. Everyone was his relative. He was not certain how it would come about. It was a mandate he required, an irrevocable commitment. This constituted a financial strain. At last he was inclined to help and gave him some lectures expressing his eagerness to undertake such large works. Intrigues and losses were part of the game. He lost a good chance to get wealthy. His father gave him solace. Experience had shown him that people were shallow, distracted and uninterested. They were misguiding the present demoralized civilization. Both had been wrong and disintegrated. He sent all his servants on a path to enable them to end the cycle of repeated birth and death. He was able to see by his aging body that death was approaching and that he should have the good sense to prepare. 

He made acquaintances among industrialists and educators trying to generate interest. He loudly spoke for several nights. The conviction was growing within him. He had not formally defined his status, what family man generally considers his prime objects of responsibility and happiness. Man and wife both agreed to abstain from further sexual contact. They were increasing their happiness by possession of land, threatening to conquer all alive in the grip of the darkness. “Sugar candy is sweet,” he said with a smile. There was no doubt it had not been a chance remark or a chance meeting. He had been unable to purchase the building on his own. There was still life and hope. He awoke in a state of wonder. Together they turned from the main road and walked down a sloping footpath that led through the gates. 

He steadied a glaring infant in his lap. Her small hand gripped the edge of the chair. He was defying nature and medical science by continuing to live. It was bitter cold weather. What was the point of holding him back with an excuse? He wanted to be compensated for the money before he left the building. He tried to go out to other places. He used to take a little rest in their house but he did not eat meals prepared by others. They had nothing like this, nothing to fill their spiritual vacuum. He wanted to become a perfectly equipped instrument. 

For years a vast audience had concerned him and he wanted to reach them. He was calculating how to capture the restless popular imagination. Yet peace is not within our control. This basic neglect remains undetected. He was crying alone in the wilderness of the present moment. Seizing on the current interest in space travel, his soul traveled past the farthest reaches of space. He thought of using their scientific terms to capture the interest of scientific-minded people. He was surrounded by sometimes noisy families with their non-devotional domestic habits. 

He found this gentleman very inspired. He might not be able to come back. He lifted his hand as if to reassure a doubting daughter. He made a face as if to dismiss a foolish rumor. He made a list of wealthy business and professional men. He needed that confidence. He told him it was this, and not this. He hung a large signboard out front. They were like persons trying to taste the honey in a bottle by licking the outside of the bottle. It had stretched to transcendental autocrats who were trying to understand through their senses. To be a sweeper in the streets was more honorable than to be a stone for cracking nuts. He had come in a somewhat critical mood, hoping to be seduced by the cheating women. He had not quoted any authority for his statement, which left it all a bit problematic. He was glad to see he was taking the route to communitarianism. He seized upon this editorial reflection as they tried to escape their punishments, unable to surmount nature’s law. He ended up making a monkey of them all. He suggested that immoral practices were common and becoming rampant and required a thorough treatment under a different label. He took a look at the terrible situation that had arisen. He thought they should be doing more than their own bodily maintenance. 

He said the time is still not right. And he would sit there quietly. He admitted there was much work to be done. He came upon something that startled him. He took up fish eating. They tried to serve him onions and garlic and mushrooms and even eggs, but all of these he carefully avoided. He heard a farmer talking after his return from Russia where millions suffered from a winter of terrible scarcity and subjugation. He was filled with lamentation and indignation. They were feeling the same scarcity, the same want, the same disgust. He was already growing older. He had no means and was now destitute. There were also other signs. They both agreed on the best way to settle the matter. He needed someone he could trust like his own son. They began selling monopolized cloth at a high price. Although she even touched his genitals he was not disturbed. He could not afford to have a cart made. He insisted it must look authentic. He tried making fireworks from a book. 

He keenly felt the separation. His memory was soon dead, as had been the lot of others. He installed deities for the ordinary man to worship. A fire broke out almost immediately. The instruction was abandoned. A suggestion that there be one leader took hold. They even threw stones at passing pilgrims. He met a pneumonia patient who was defying nature and medical science by continuing to live. They would fail until they recognized the true, spiritual unity and equality of all living beings in terms of their intimate relationships. They accepted almost any path as long as it showed some edifying piety or tended towards the public welfare. He invited him to live with him. He was a utensils shopkeeper who wrote poetry. Most now left the two contending factions in disgust. 

He would visit places and in the evening arrive in camp. Married couples did not stay together. His clothes were getting torn. He became old and most of the time had to depend on them. He had been the pet child of his father. He would come and observe the workers. A row of men sat in a small room. Occasionally a man would squat by the roadside, smashing coal into small pieces to sell. Shops drew small gatherings of customers. He settled in detachment from his family. 

In his boyhood he had remained celibate. This was the purpose of human life: Other things were temporary. “The wealthy call me mad, my brothers call me a fool, my friends say I’m misled, but still my mind does not budge,” he said. Other, lesser responsibilities suffered, but there was no loss. They could not simply ignore his transformation. He would sleep for a few hours and then look out the window to only night and the reflected light. They set about to arrange good employment for him, regardless of what else might happen. He was unable to restrain his shock. The project immediately began to expand. He typed till after tea. He appealed to sane, impartial, educated people without abandoning his gravity and absolute conclusion. He began to make propaganda against the atheist view. There was plenty of potency pushing very vigorously from village to village. He was absorbed in spreading the news. But times had changed. He had purposely begun on a large scale to make a larger profit. The groups broke further into pieces. He was the oldest of all but in new dress. Of course, it did not come as a surprise. 

A letter came. He was amazed, wondering why anyone would put himself through such afflictions. He took the train and, having nowhere to stay, returned. That didn’t give him much time and it was expensive. He awoke, turned on an electric light and, with a long pole, cleared the bats from the rafters. A dog barked in the distance. A passerby could not easily see the room. They offered their respect nowhere else. He had very little time to read letters much less magazines. He acted in such a way that God would see him. He had been an astrologer and able to predict the future. He was known to be a proponent of impersonalism. All other forms of religion were impure and should be thrown away. They no longer believed that they could remove all anomalies. He was ignorant of the soul yet claimed to be a leader. He thought it would be better if he didn’t marry. They deviated in various drastic ways. As the morning progressed, barefoot children began to play. Monkeys sitting on a high concrete wall chattered and gestured. Faces passed, carts clattered by, men joked and laughed and stray cows made their way home. 

His wife sang in response and in her own way was an excellent melodist. He had a gentle and humble demeanor. They showed themselves to be still low-class men, contaminated by a little wealth and the desire for prestige. It would have been better to have taken the marble off the walls to pay the debt. Was he asking for help or warning him to avert a disaster? He touched him and was immediately transported by yogic power. They were hankering for them. It was an honest attempt that was badly needed. His left hand held a flower. The world’s crying need was staring straight at his face. They had supposedly come to reject one thing: sex. 

He was bent on preaching. Yet despite a high overhead he established a good market. He had not been deterred. His idea was that someone should be there who would be able to go near people who were lost in life and tell them what the correct thing is. He spoke good English and was garrulous. Vendors bartered and measured while customers milled about. An alarming example came to his attention. He carefully kept a ledger. This was misery but it gave him a laugh. Why should people cling to the planet of their birth, where death is inevitable? He found the doors closed. They stayed up all night, patrolling the area. He was tied up hand and foot and put into a bag. He was an avid cyclist. They could be absolutely certain that the real peace formula would one day reach his ears. They could see they were now being punished and that their happiness was also temporary and destructible, as they repeatedly experienced. They were together again, just as in the old days. It expanded above and below, without any restriction. He felt he had done the best thing by going there. It seemed simple and rural. 

Soon he was back in his own place. “Shall I ever see you again?” he asked. Prior to this, they had never been subjugated. They were very pleased that he did not neglect his duty as a leader of the organization. He intimated that he might be willing to help. He approached the governor, expressing appreciation of his speech. 

He would take his bath early in the morning with cold water. Occasionally a tree would be filled with madly chirping sparrows. He could feel a relief of mind in the simple countryside. He cherished with anticipation the culmination of his voyage. A person revealed something by opening a door or pushing aside a curtain. He listened with fastened attention. He was one of millions affected by the violent dawn. All his attempts at unity were followed by disunity. He was writing to save a friend. His sincere efforts raised him to a higher platform. Their trouble was far from being at an end. 

It was the usual routine. He was a nice person and she liked him. He could have fought. It had just sprung up there. His desire was strong and his health good. He continued his preaching undaunted. The problem was the condition of the world. They were victimized by propaganda. They were a part of a new way of life. He had to deliver the medicine for their ills. It was only a drop of water in the desert. This life was just a spot in his long sojourn. The real person puts on a dress. 

Urchins sprayed all passersby with colored dye. He expressed disgust at the prevailing conditions. The weather warmed. He wanted to capture the restless popular imagination. It wasn’t pleasing to the superficial pleasure seekers describing men and women in indecent literature in the national news. It was one of the means to the way. They were up-to-date gentlemen devoid of a sense of God. Most of the citizens didn’t know how to meet the two ends together. A huge sum of money was thrown into the sea. He ignored the ordinary limitations of the body. He thought of how small he was and how much work had to be done. Material eyes saw it as an ordinary place. He was naturally inclined to love them. The thin horse trotted along. Dark women filled brass waterpots from a well. Another rose to meet him. He openly criticized revered politicians. The hopeless ones were sometimes neglected. The atomic bomb hovered over the head of human society. He enjoyed deep peace. He saw his present circumstances as a preparation for a greater task. It was a fruitless glory. He keenly felt the separation. Both had been wrong, all wrong. They had little hope of recovering from the batterings of maya. He saw only dejection. Everyone was immersed in the flood of love. In his absence, everything was darkness. A spear of great misery cut through his heart. They were dying in an ocean of anxiety. 

Many branches spread all over but his message didn’t touch their ears. Who could save the world? His will strengthened and he continued alone. He saw they were moving in the cities. He would have to go soon. “How long do I have to sit?” He now had nowhere to stay. He was making a momentous break with his previous life. He didn’t know it was such an important thing. 

— from A Lifetime in Preparation by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, 
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1988