Returning home to freedom
“Oh! These ropes of desires are strange indeed. One tightly bound by them runs all around seeking happiness. One freed from these ropes stays calm in one place…”- Niti shastra- the ancient book of Indian wisdom
“How’s it like to go back home to Krishna?” wondered ten year old Kiran at the weekly gathering for children from ourcongregation. We discussed the abode of Goloka Vrindavan- our real Home we are aspiring to go after our tenure in this world. The spiritual world of Goloka is free from all home assignments and exams. It’s all fun- day and night; no interruption in play!
“Wow!” Kiran probed, “but since we’ve been away for long, will Krishna recognize us when we get back?”
“Of course; He’s our loving father- eagerly awaiting His lost child to return Home”.
“But we are so many. If we do not go back, will it really make a difference to Him?”
“Yes, because each soul is dear to Krishna. He will embrace you and shed tears of joy when you return Home”.
The discussion lasted an hour…
Later that evening the nation celebrated Mr Karamjit Singh’s historic reunion with his family. Cameras flashed on the beaming family members, as other relatives rushed in to the emotionally charged gathering at Singh’s. The neighborhood joined in the festivities while sons, daughters, and grandparents hugged and wiped each others’ tears of joy. Who is Mr Singh and what is his story?
Resemblance to the Singh story
One evening in the winter of 1973, Karamjit Singh, a young Indian citizen, sneaked into the other side of the border for a few extra bucks. The Pakistani Rangers was quick to pounce on the unsuspecting Singh, and soon convicted him on charges of espionage. For the next 35 years, he languished in Pakistan’s jails- getting transferred from one city to another-undergoing unimaginable torture at the hands of his captors. He even tried adopting Islam, to appease the Pakistan authorities, in hopes of getting a quick, favorable judgement. It eventually took three and a half decades for Mr. Singh to see the light of the day, thanks to a diplomatic intervention by the government of India.
As we share the pains and joys of Mr. Singh, we can also draw a parallel between his case and our own plight in this prison of material world. Every living entity is an integral member of God’s family in the spiritual world. There we experience unlimited freedom, and ceaseless happiness, being situated in our constitutional position of giving pleasure to the Supreme Lord.
When we sneak into the material world, for that extra spice- wanting to be an enjoyer- the Lord’s illusory energy, Maya instantly pounces on us.
Wandering through various prisons
Mr. Singh, a resident of Punjab missed his home and village. Moreover he was transferred from Lahore to Karachi, and then to Islamabad- from one city to another. In each of these jails, his plight was the same- physical and mental agony, being forced by the Military to yield some information of the enemy camp. His repeated pleas of being innocent fell on deaf ears.
We too are residents of the spiritual world. Just like, salt is by definition salty; sugar-sweet; water-liquid. Similarly the living entity is naturally a servant of God, and experiences the bliss of complete freedom in rendering service to God, Krishna in the spiritual world. Instead when we exercise our free will to attempt to be a master in this temporary material world, and enjoy independently of Krishna, we are imprisoned in these material bodies. We then wander through 8.4 million species, which includes cats, dogs, plants, fish, and humans. However in the human body, the entrapped soul is blessed with the ability to break free from the shackles of repeated birth and death.
Yet most humans use their advanced mental faculties to only further the bodily comforts, and thereby ensure prolonged imprisonment in this world. Despite all attempts to squeeze out happiness from these perishable bodies, ironically, the soul- the prisoner in this material body, only experiences constant frustrations, and a deep sense of voidness
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind”. (Bhagavad Gita; 15.7)
Srila Prabhupada, in his commentary on this verse reveals the reason for the living entity’s struggle in this world,
“…Every living entity, as an individual soul, has his personal individuality and a minute form of independence. By misuse of that independence one becomes a conditioned soul, and by proper use of independence he is always liberated… In hisconditioned life he is dominated by the material modes of nature, and he forgets the transcendental loving service of the Lord. As a result, he has to struggle very hard to maintain his existence in the material world…”
Adjustments in the jail
The jail authorities inflicted on Mr. Singh, a combination of miseries- ranging from breaking stones and cleaning public toilets, to mental torture to make confessions that suited their interests. In this jail of material world, we too face Birth, Death, Old age, Disease, miseries caused by – our own body and mind; other living entities and natural disturbances. We make desperate adjustments in this prison house of material world to forget the unfailing harassment by the material energy. Karamjit Singh’s conversion to Islam was his desperate attempt to please his captors. That saved his life but didn’t give him freedom. Similarly the living entity takes on different designations and possessions to be happy in this world. We identify ourselves with our external designations of being an Indian, American, wealthy, beautiful, etc. Despite the external change of his religious faith, Mr Singh wasn’t happy. Similarly the living entity feels incomplete despite many adjustments on the bodily platform.
A fish out of water wouldn’t be enticed with the best I-pod, succulent cakes or designer outfits. He’s desperate to be back in water. Likewise, a living entity trapped in the human body maybe lured by exciting relationships, attractive cinemas, and promising career growths. However the heart always hankers for more than all that the body can offer. The living entity’s water is the spiritual world where he renders uninterrupted service to his beloved, Lord Krishna. This loving service of Krishna and His devotees is the most natural position of freedom for the soul.
“…when a living entity gives up this material embodiment and enters into the spiritual world, he revives his spiritual body, and in his spiritual body he can see the Supreme Personality of Godhead face to face. He can hear and speak to Him face to face, and he can understand the Supreme Personality as He is...” (Srila Prabhupada, Bhagavad Gita; 15.7- purport)
Freedom within the prison
Karamjit Singh was also enticed with false hopes of freedom. He was persuaded, and often threatened. He cried alone, remembering his loving family and friends- hoping against hope for freedom. He experienced relief and happiness only on returning home. A devotee practicing Krishna Consciousness however needn’t wait to go back to the spiritual world to experience freedom and relief from suffering. Remembering Krishna through daily, regulated chanting of His Holy Names gives us the experience of the spiritual world, and the freedom that comes with it, even within this world. This joy of a spiritualpath transcends bodily miseries and happiness.
Looking back at the traumatic phase of his life, Karamjit Singh is glad it’s over, “I wish to forget the whole episode as a bad dream”. Our night mare in this world also ends when we connect to Krishna and His devotees. A devotee looks back at his decision to leave Krishna as a mist
ake and regrets it. Yet he’s also happy to be reconnected, and gratefully grabs the process of Krishna consciousness, and associates with Krishna’s loving devotees. The chanting of Krishna’s names, dancing in joy, hearing Krishna’s pastimes, and feasting on Krishna’s prasadam- the sanctified food that is offered to Krishna first- creates Goloka Vrindavan even within the fortress of this material world.
The following Sunday I narrated the Singh story to the kids. Kiran was quick to catch the resemblance, “Prabhu, it’s not 35 years. We’ve been away for ages. It’s time we get back home. Krishna is waiting isn’t it?”
Yes indeed… Krishna’s waiting for us.
Contributed by : Harish Jadhav (follower of Iskcon)