April 5–30, 2002
By Indradyumna Swami
We are coming to the end of our two-month preaching tour in America, a program that has had Sri Prahlada and I crisscross the country six times. Time has passed quickly; when you do something you like, time passes quickly. The experience has been intense, and I barely have the physical strength to complete this last week. But the spiritual rewards have been bountiful. Most significantly, we have had the good fortune to touch many people’s hearts with Krishna consciousness.
One of the rigors of traveling in America are the numerous security checks at each airport before each flight. Since the terrorist attacks in New York City, most airports throughout the country have tightened security. We travel on inexpensive, one way tickets, purchased a few days before a flight, so the computer systems automatically notify security personnel to put us through extensive searches.
While passing through security at Jacksonville Airport in Florida last week, the woman examining my carryon luggage excused herself and went to speak to her superior. I overheard her say, “I’m asking for just two minutes to speak to this man.”
Her superior replied, “But you simply can’t do that! You’re on duty.” “Please, I beg of you! It’s very important to me.”
Surrendering, her superior said, “All right, but only two minutes.” Returning to the table where the contents of my bags were strewn, she said with respect, “Sir, my name is Amy. May I ask you a question that is not related to this search? It’s personal. Please?”
Surprised, I replied, “Yes, of course.”
As we sat down near the security table, her superior looked around nervously and motioned to her watch, reminding Amy that she had two minutes.
Amy said, “Many people come through this airport every day, but I have never seen anyone so content, peaceful, and happy as you and your friend. My life is miserable. I have so many problems. Please help me. I’m a Christian. Can you share your secret with me?”
I felt immediate compassion for her. I wondered how in two short minutes I could summarize the entire Krishna conscious process, which Srila Prabhupada had once described as a panacea for all problems. I inched my chair closer to hers and said, “This material world is not our real home. We belong in the spiritual world with God, with Krsna. All problems are solved when we return to that transcendental abode.”
“What do you call that place?” she asked.
As time was short, I decided to be direct. “It’s called Vrindavana. It’s a place free from anxiety. But while here in the material world, we can be aloof from misery by always remembering God. Jesus once said that we must be in this world but not of it.”
“But how can I always remember God? I have to work.”
“If you love someone, you remember them all the time, even when you’re at work, don’t you?”
She smiled as she caught my point.
Anxious that her two minutes were passing, she pressed forward and said, “Can you tell me in a few words how I can learn to love God?”
“By chanting His names. It’s as simple as that.”
Looking over at her superior, who now showed her one finger, indicating that she had only a minute left, Amy said, “Can you show me how to do that?”
“Yes,” I said.
And there in the midst of the hustle and bustle of airport security, with machines flashing and beeping and a long line of impatient passengers awaiting security clearance, I taught her word by word the Hare Krishna mantra. Time stood still for those few moments as she closed her eyes and listened carefully.
Then we saw Amy’s superior indicate that it was time for her to return to work, and Amy turned her attention to the next passenger in line. As she started to go through his belongings, I heard her chanting softly to herself. When I picked up my baggage and turned to leave, she looked up and smiled, the holy names still on her lips. It was the only reward I had hoped for in our brief exchange. Amy had been greatly blessed by hearing the glories of the holy name; I had been greatly blessed by sharing them with her.
papadya bhavadiyataµ kalitanirmala premabhir mahadbhir api kamyate kim api yatra tarnaµ janu˙
krtatra kujaner api vrajavane sthitir me yaya
krpaµ krpanagaminiµ sadasi naumi tam eva vam
“In public places I glorify Your mercy, which is granted to even low creatures and which enables me, even though I am lowborn, to live in this forest of Vraja, the place where Your great devotees, filled with pure love, aspire to take birth even as blades of grass.”
(Sri Stavamala, Rüpa Gosvami, “Utkalikavallari,” text 65)