He Was Bold
I would say he was bold doing what he did.
I had completed about 30 correspondences feeling some cabin fever and the need to get out, so I ventured south on Yonge Street to King, and then turned back. At College Street, there he was zipping by, one of our members, having just returned from an enthusiastic drum lesson at our temple, he was enthusiastically chanting the melody to the maha mantra. He had no musical accompaniment, it was just himself and his voice. He was oblivious.
He was also very loud and if happiness was to have its last chance before doomsday, he had it, all over his face. I turned to catch his attention shouting, “Haribol!” and then, “Haribol!” once again (a phrase we use quite commonly), but he just kept going and turned a corner at a fast pace. People were moving about at that corner, it was cold. The drizzled snow, the kind that annoyingly itches the nose, was coming down, causing pedestrians to go at a faster than normal speed. People obviously heard him, they looked at him at least twice, and me, who was anxious for his attention.
If anything I felt ashamed that I wasn’t applying gusto to the mantra like he was. I was like a mouse. It was hopeless trying to catch this one person singing on the street for two reasons: he’s in his 20’s, I’m 60, he was going fast. Secondly, he just wasn’t able to hear anything except for his own chanting. And besides, his toque was blocking his ears from any external sounds.
I thought, “This boy is in ecstasy, let me not disrupt him.” It’s not often that people sing on the streets, and less so if they haven’t had a few drinks or even one. Knowing this devotee, he’s as clean as a whistle when he comes to honouring our Krishna Conscious taboos. I was happy for him.
His courageousness reminded me of the time that I was about to become a monk. It was around New Years in ’73. I was hitchhiking northbound towards my art college. I had sported long hair and beard, which was typical in those days, and I had unabashedly sported stark white tilak (earth based sacred substance), on my forehead, looking like some wild warrior. I had no apprehension about it, and in fact, nor did motorists. It was a cinch getting rides. I felt proud being a rep of Vishnu, with such loud markings on the face for all to see.
I was happy to have been at Yonge and College this evening, having heard the devotee chant the maha mantra. It made my day seeing and hearing the street chanter. I was struck by insomnia, however, afterwards. It’s rather usual.