Through the train window I watched as the plains of Andhra Pradesh Sate, India, spread out before me. Hot air wafted in from there, worsening the sweltering heat inside the compartment. Austerities of the pilgrimage have already begun. I sighed.
It was the summer of 1988, when I was a budding spiritualist. Though uncertain if spirituality (especially its austere side) was really my cup of tea, I had plucked up enough courage to be on this pilgrimage. My elder brother Dhaval, a practitioner of bhakti yoga since 1984, was my inspiration. Now on this train heading to the holy town of Jagannath Puri he sat next to me, while Radhnath Swami and the president of ISKCON Chowpatty sat on the seat opposite, facing us.
I kept my attention outside the window; Dhaval read a book; Radhanath Swami and the president conversed.
“When brothers take to spirituality, who makes swifter advancement, the elder or the younger? What do statistics say?” the President asked Radhanath Swami amidst their conversation, that had now sucked my full attention. I peeked from the corner of my eyes and found Dhaval also distracted into it. We awaited Radhanath Swami’s response.
“I don’t know about statistics.” Casting a glance at the brothers sitting in front, Radhanath Swami continued, “But in this case it is the younger.” Struggling to be modest, I restrained my gleeful smile. My mind that reeled with thoughts of austerities moments ago, now resolved to nudge higher in bhakti yoga. I didn’t look at my brother to avoid embarrassing him. Yet,I felt sorry for him. He had been slogging for over four years, yet I had …. 😉 !!! Then on, the pilgrimage was an ecstatic experience, and so was practice of bhakti yoga.
After years of practice one begins to understand the nuances of spirituality. So now when I look back, I can imagine Radhanath Swami winking at my brother after making that comparative statement. Certainly, my brother was, and still is, far more spiritually advanced than I. That statement was only a transcendental ploy to encourage me. And my brother perhaps, was also a part of the crime.
Snehal Narendra Dalal