Over the last 18 months, the pandemic had taken away all the wonderful opportunities for bigger Vaishnava gatherings and festive events which we had taken for granted for many years. I could have never even imagined a time and circumstances when I would not be able to visit India or take part in the gigantic Ukrainian Bhakti Sangam Festival! Unimaginable! And here it was....
Now we have become more humble and grateful for whatever little sadhu sanga we can be part of. Krishna has made us more appreciative and eager. He has taken away many joyful and somewhat more external aspects of our devotional life, thus forcing us to become more internal and go back to the very basics of Krishna consciousness: the holy name, Srila Prabhupada's books, and whatever association we can catch.
At the Baltic festival I was invited to offer two sessions on "Srila Prabhupada, our Founder Acarya" and three sessions on "The False Ego, our Constant Companion and Troublemaker". I also gave a morning class and conducted two sessions with the youth. I spent a blissful time at my book table, distributing lots of copies of the books I have published and connecting with devotees. Making myself available at the book table is always a great opportunity for me to reach out to devotees, reconnect with people I have known for the past 30 years and establish new relationships.
Through old age, Krishna very mercifully assists us in chiseling away our false ego. We slowly but surely lose control over our bodily functions – a very humbling if not humiliating experience that we will all eventually have to witness. Very often we can observe how difficult it is for ageing people to accept the fact that they have to reduce their activities. The false ego pushes us to prove to ourselves – and everyone around us – that we can still do so many things.
People are often in denial that their body and its level of energy is
dwindling, and the materialistic conditioning is strongly ingrained in people’s consciousness to fight against the phenomenon of old age. We like to prove we are eternally youthful, which stimulates our false ego to pretend to be something that we no longer are. It may be too humbling for us to accept help, and we would rather still do things on our own. It is then that the danger arises of falling over and breaking our bones – a common fate that ageing people have to face.
As a rule, old age also brings along a loss of memory, and we may not remember the most basic facts or names and figures. Another humbling experience that smashes our false ego is the pride we may have taken in our great intelligence. We may be facing embarrassing situations where we confuse details of events or information on matters. Krishna once again arranges that we lose our so-called glory.
We may even have to face a neurological malady such as Parkinson’s Disease or some other illness that humbles us further. Our limbs may be trembling, with our youthful strength and prowess fading away. It certainly crushes our false ego when we are no longer able to keep control of our shaking limbs. It puts us in a weak and helpless condition.
We may lose our ability to walk, something we have taken for granted for so many years of our life! We may have never considered it to be a great mercy to be able to walk, until Krishna takes it away from us. And we may have to agree to accept help from others or be moved around in a wheelchair. Perhaps we may come to a point where we can’t even feed ourselves – someone may have to feed us. We took it for granted, putting prasadam into our mouths with great pleasure for so many years; and now we may have to accept the fact that we are dependent on others even to be fed – another humbling experience, finding ourselves very reliant on the assistance of others.
Another true challenge for our false ego is when we reach a point where we become incontinent. This is a very common occurrence in old age. We may have to wear nappies and frequently go to the bathroom. The situation becomes even more embarrassing when we lose control over passing stool. Then leaving our home can become very troublesome.
The situation culminates when we come to the stage where we may not be able to manage to take care of the most basic bodily needs, such as going to the bathroom, washing and dressing ourselves, and so forth. It is a real blow to our false ego having to admit our helplessness and having to accept assistance.
Krishna has arranged a perfect journey for us, cutting away our false ego to prepare us to meet death in a humble state of mind...
Your servant, Devaki dd