I couldn’t imagine winter in India would be colder than London. I was wrong. The misty chill of a Vrindavana morning penetrates your bones to the core. The stone floors and absence of heating systems mean there is no respite – inside is usually colder than outside! Nevertheless, the devotional fervour and busyness of Vrindavana never diminishes.
Pilgrims stream in every day, each with a spiritual goal in mind: most visit for personal inspiration, others come to engage in some austerity and rigorous vow, while the elderly usually come to live out their final days in preparation for death. We’ve come for the first, we’re involuntarily doing the second, and he third… well, that’s not in the plan for the time being at least…
Every day I do my early morning chanting in the courtyard of our temple. It was a 3.00am start today. Although it’s early for my standards, every day I’m blessed with the company of the same elderly faces, who, tightly wrapped up in multiple shawls and scarfs, wholeheartedly prostrate themselves, circumambulate the temple, offer prayers and settle into rapt meditation. This is their life. Their dedication is unwavering, steady as a rock, seemingly oblivious to all obstacles which come their way. Despite their ailing health, the severe lack of material conveniences, and the seasonal climatic attacks, they are determined to end their days in complete spiritual absorption, diligently preparing for their imminent journey to the next world.
After a lifetime of jobs, family, responsibilities and social interaction, they live as lone mendicants in this holy land, probably with a vow to never leave. They have realised this is the business end of life – this is where it’s make or break. After all, the Bhagavad-gita confirms that the consciousness with which we leave this world determines our next destination.
It prompted me to reflect on how our spirituality should intensify with each passing year. We have to build momentum, increase the urgency, and eagerly look for more and more opportunities to genuinely go deeper. Gradually, all the empty promises of the world that steal our attention should pale into insignificance, allowing us to focus on the essence of life. An elderly lady told me yesterday – “the good old days are not of the past, I’m experiencing them now, and I’m sure there are more to come!” A nice play on words, with a great meaning behind them. Though so many material limitations invariably arrive with age, the spiritually enthused soul is free to move in the skies of devotion. The later years of ones spirituality can open unlimited doors of experience and opportunity. I’m witnessing the living proof, and its giving me great hope.[ dham ] [ holy-place ] [ vrindavana ]