The Face in the Darkness
I shall never forget it; that shining face in the midst of darkness which moved me like no other face and which now stays with me because of its silent message.
Let me share that unforgettable experience with you:
When I was staying at the side of Govardhana Hill (a sacred hill in Vrindavan, India), I sometimes walked around it, circumambulating it in an act of worship. Once I stopped at Radhakunda (one of several sacred lakes surrounding Govardhana Hill) for a sacred bath. Time passed by so quickly that everything became late. Only when the night had settled in did I continue walking. The path was totally dark. A waning moon, no visible stars and because of a power cut not a lamp was lit.
As I was walking I would switch my torch on and off from time to time in order to conserve the old battery, which had to last for another 2 hours before I reached where I was living. Occasionally I came very close to some sleeping cows and once I even almost bumped into a bull who was resting on the path. “Never awake a raging bull”, I thought.
But then I made a mistake. While I was not paying attention, I tripped over some sleeping monkeys. They screamed in shock and fright. And then one of them – perhaps the leader of the troop – attacked. I still bear the scar on my leg where his claws struck.
When I reached Kusum Sarovara (The Lake of Flowers) a light went on in the distance so I switched off my torch, confident that I would just need to follow the light and make my way forward. All of a sudden I felt something was there lying on the path in front of me. The next thing I knew was I had almost collided with a person. It was only by instinct that I felt him – by the instinct of a night-roamer. The lamps in the distance were not bright enough to illuminate the objects and people nearby. So as not to step on whoever or whatever it was, I quickly side-stepped to the left and then skipped forward. When I had caught my balance, I turned around to see who or what it was that I had avoided, switching on my dying torchlight.
I was not prepared for what I saw in that dim light. It was a sadhu (holy man) dressed in reddish cloth with a turban, sitting cross-legged on a checkered blanket in the darkness. There was something about his face: It was aglow. Yes, it was surrounded by a warm yellowish light. Only the face – nothing else! He was sitting there meditating but because of a divine presence within his heart, he exhibited a distinct radiance. As I looked closer I felt totally attracted to his face and person. Oblivious to the world around him – the increasing dark night, the stray animals such as cows, monkeys and dogs, the occasional late pilgrims – he was in his own world celebrating a happy meeting with the Lord in his heart.
He had no concern for what was around him – he did not need the world any longer, and nothing from it, because he found the Lord in his own heart. There is a saying: In comparison with what lies within us – what lies without us is of little significance. This sadhu had definitely realized this.
To a real devotee Krishna is always visible within the heart. Srila Prabhupada (my spiritual master) wrote in his final days: “If one has been raised to the platform of pure devotional service, Krishna is always visible within the core of one´s heart. One who has attained such perfection is all-beautiful in transcendental bliss. The present Krishna Consciousness Movement is an attempt to keep Krishna in the center, for if this is done all activities will automatically become beautiful and blissful.” SB 10.13.8
I hope the sadhu’s face will remain with me for a long time to come and that I will remember his wordless instruction – to be absorbed in thoughts of Krishna, even in the midst of distraction, be they complicated relationships, disturbing thoughts or monkeys in the dead of night.
May the following prayer to the moonlike Lord destroy that inner darkness:
“Oh, When will I attain the treasure of Krishna and place Him in the core of my heart, thus relieving my burning soul?
I will nicely decorate the walls of my heart place my beloved Lord there, and gaze upon His beautiful moonlike face.”
(Srila Narottama dasa Thakura)
As I stood in awe, watching the sadhu’s blissful face, I remembered that the whole point of our spiritual practice is to always remember Krishna and never forget Him. That brings light to our hearts. Without that light we shall keep on roaming in the darkness of ignorance and forgetfulness. What is the point of such a life?