You might have been left wondering at the lack of cookery/travel postings on my blog-site recently. You may be thinking; has Kurma retired from his teaching life into a life of mediocrity?
Well, no. Existence is epitomised by ebb and flow. Things are quiet at present, but there are exciting times ahead. I had reserved an 8-week block to attend to ongoing health issues, and I am half-way through treatment. I have more teaching engagements fast approaching.
My perspective on these times is this: the vast swirling ocean of life offers troughs and peaks. Sometimes we are awash with thrilling, cutting edge drama and adventure, and then we find ourselves paddling in the shallows.
My survival plan can best be summed up in a wonderful verse that I learned as a young brahmachari monk many decades ago while living in the Hare Krishna Temple in Albert Park in Melbourne. It’s from Bhagavad-gita, and I remember memorising it in the kitchen while stirring giant pots of condensed milk and creamy sweet rice to be offered in the temple.
The main kitchen had burned down. There had been a mysterious fire in the middle of the night which gutted the entire kitchen complex. We had transferred operations to what was then a temporary kitchen and which is today a huge foodstuff storeroom.
I wrote up the verse an a card, Sanskrit and English translation, with word-for-word meanings, and taped it to the wall behind the stove. I would repeatedly recite the scientifically poetic eleven-phrases-per line mantra again and again until the Sanskrit buried itself mellifluously into my memory, where it still remains today. Allow me to share it with you:
samudram apah pravishanti yadvat
tadvat kama yam pravishanti sarve
sa shantim apnoti na kama-kami
Here are the word-for-word meanings:
apuryamanam—always being filled; acala-pratishtam—steadily situated; samudram—the ocean; apah—waters; pravishanti—enter; yadvat—as; tadvat—so; kamah—desires; yam—unto whom; pravishanti—enter; sarve—all; sah—that person; shantim—peace; apnoti—achieves; na—not; kama-kami—one who desires to fulfill desires.
And here is the translation:
‘A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires — that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still — can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.’
The analogy is graphic and clear. Putting the wisdom into action is a lifelong challenge-in-progress. Somehow, though, amidst all the comings and goings of life I still keenly feel the need to strive for level-headed steadiness, neither becoming distracted by elation which may come with success or depressed at failure. I still aim for going deep in life – not floating on it’s ever-changing, choppy surface – but to enter the cool calm pacific depths.
As explained by my Spiritual Preceptor and Guru, Srila Prabhupada, the verse may be understood like this:
Although the vast ocean is always filled with water, it is always, especially during the rainy season, being filled with much more water, that rush in from swollen rivers. But the ocean remains the same — steady. The huge excess of water does not increase its level even an inch. Where does all that water go? And due to it’s vast depth and awesome equilibrium, it is not agitated, nor does it cross beyond the limit of its brink.
This is also true of a person fixed in spiritual consciousness. As long as one has a material body, the demands of the senses for gratification will continue. The spiritual adherent, the devotee of God, however, is not disturbed by such desires, because of his fullness. And it’s this fullness that yields peace. When we are full, we desire nothing more because we are satisfied.
I aspire this spiritual fullness.
Posted by Kurma on 2/7/07; 7:46:09 AM