March 1997

Waiting at the Fishoek Station with a copy of Sri Isopanisad in my bag.  The platform is sunbleached and scratchy.  Someone else is here: blonde, unshaven.  I pace up and down, chanting, wedged between the platform and fence.  Everything’s silent and grey.

The platform is the only area where I can pace.  I am some distance from the guy.  I try not to attract attention to myself.  The chanting washes over me.  Even here.  Especially here.  I get the feeling, without seeing, that he is observing me.  I look over to where he is sitting.  He looks down.  The train pulls into the station.

We are alone in the compartment.  We stare from each side.  After some time I ask his name.  ‘My name is Nick’.  I introduce myself, ‘Michael’.  The chanting beads are in my hand.  He asks, in a cagey kind of way, ‘Why were you walking in circles on the platform?’  He asks in the same way a ringmaster might approach a lion in a circus, as if I am mad or something. I explain, to the best of my ability, what I was doing.  I also take the liberty to present several salient points on the philosophy of Krishna consciousness.  He is interested.  The sans serif letters RONDEBOSCH come into view against a backdrop of yellow.  ‘That’s my station’, I say.  I pass him the Isopanisad.  He smiles.

I spend the night at the Temple and attend mangala-arati for the first time.  I walk outside just before sunrise.  Staying awake from four in the morning enhances the intensity of the sunrise.  Yaso tells me that this is the most auspicious time of the day, ‘Lord Caitanya would dance in ecstasy at sunrise’.  A picture of Lord Caitanya, dancing at sunrise, appears in my mind.

I speak to the guest speaker, Kadamba prabhu, after breakfast.  I mention to him that, in spite of my university education, I consider even the simplest of the devotees are more learned than me.  ‘Yes’, he says, ‘devotees have greater knowledge than these professors.  Prabhupada compares this kind of academic knowledge to a serpent with a large jewel on its forehead’.  His voice is deep, but warm.  Kadamba tells me a story from the Mahabharata, the ancient history of India.  Two princes set out to find a good and a bad person.  The one prince could only see faults in those he met, whereas his cousin could only see the good.  The moral of the story was that no-one is entirely good and no-one is entirely bad.  It is like a glass.  It is half empty and half full when it contains liquid.  I carry this thought with me.

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