Read or Relish?

I try to visit Vrindavana in an off-peak time, with no ‘business,’ no meetings, no responsibilities and no particular project in mind. I mainly come to read. The time, the headspace, and the devotional atmosphere helps to cultivate transcendental thoughts. No excuses and no place better. It sounds wonderful, and it is, but admittedly it’s not always easy. I’ve ejected myself out of the urban mayhem, just after the busiest time of year, constantly interacting with people, and with a never-ending list of tasks… and overnight I suddenly land in a quiet holy village, distanced from HQ, with minimal technology, all the time in the world, and not a distraction in sight. It can be existentially unnerving. Talk about going from one extreme to another!

Today I opened my books. I paused for thought. Often times I read so I can capture something exciting and inspirational to share with others. Other times I read to gain clarity and conviction, to displace doubts and deeply understand the path I walk. Sometimes I read with the hope of developing deep spiritual attraction, praying that the beautiful descriptions will flood my mind and capture my heart. Many times I read and rest assured that it will cleanse my consciousness, even when I don’t understand and I can’t fully concentrate. All valid reasons, and all beneficial, but all still falling short of the heart connection we seek. The reading could go deeper…

I once asked a saintly devotee how we should read. He looked somewhat surprised – “I don’t read these books” he said, “I relish these books!” I loved it. It was another dimension, another relationship, another level of realisation. When he read, he was associating with God in the form of a book. There was no agenda. Transcending the mind and intellect and entering a world of unlimited spiritual possibility. I recalled how one saint’s manuscript of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the anthology of pure devotion, was blotted, smudged, and rendered practically unreadable due to the tears of love which were shed during his reading. We can only pray that we receive that special connection one day. Indeed, our cherished aspiration is to gain a glimpse of Sanatana Goswami’s vision, who saw the Bhagavatam as his only friend, his constant companion, his source of happiness and his greatest wealth. When oh when?

Truth be told, such realisations are way beyond me. Nevertheless, I’m here in Vrindavana to discover some jewels; searching, begging, praying for some invaluable insights that will drive me forward. A disciple once approached his Sufi teacher with a request: “master, I heard you’ve gathered many jewels from the scriptures – can I acquire some of them?” The master paused, reflected and finally replied: “if I sell you those jewels you won’t be able to afford them, and if I give you them for free you won’t appreciate them.” The disciple was disheartened. “There is no alternative” the master suddenly said, “you’ll have to dive into these oceanic scriptures, navigate yourself to the depths, and find those priceless jewels for yourself.” The disciple understood. No shortcuts, cheap bargains or quick gains. If you want jewels, you have to put in the effort.