Friday, October 12, 2012

No Apologies

I just had the most beautiful dream about forgiveness, Vaishnava humility, jealousy and false pride. It involved many devotees from the temple here in Dallas so I won't name everyone. Simply said, they were persons who I felt were responsible for making me feel unwelcome or excluded from temple festivals and the exclusive clique within the social hierarchy.
It all started when a sannyasi came to Dallas and we all traveled to a place near the ocean for a special festival. Many of us were playing water sports on sandbars and small islands where the water was shallow and placid. Most of the girls kept on their saris in the water so a devotee (in charge of the festival) let them borrow her skirts, saris and petticoats during the games. She approached me last to retrieve her clothing but I declined to return anything as she hadn't let me borrow anything in the first place. She insisted that I took her petticoat and a garment and I became increasingly frustrated with her.
I had invited my close friend, Ramon, to the colorful and vibrant celebration but did't expect him to attend. It was late in the festival hours and in his typical and usual fashion, he arrived unexpectedly and stole the ball. The devotee guests didn't expect to see a non-devotee within their midst and they were taken in by his cultured charm. He played games with everyone and chess with the sannyasi guest-of-honor and spoke at length with many doe-eyed gopi youth. At some point, the girls fought each other off for an opportunity to converse with Ramon. I wondered if they knew he was already taken, and gay. All the while, I stood nonchalantly and watched the big fuss from a distance. Though he was my invited guest and closest friend, I hardly had a chance to speak with him because all our movements were highly coordinated and controlled by the director of the festival. My assignment was to look beautifully poised in an incredibly gaudy and tacky sari, outside and far away from the real party.  
Breaking with accepted decorum, I took my friend by the hand away and excused ourselves from his company. "Listen, Ramon, I'm not going to beat around the bush with you because we're close friends. I'll be straight forward with you in hopes you'll be understanding." I asked him to no longer speak to any of those girls and spend the entire evening with me. If he could not agree to abstain from socializing at the party, I requested him to leave. The other devotee guests became disturbed after overhearing my proposition. Though Ramon and I had left the room, a few of them were eavesdropping on our conversation at the doorway. I was painfully aware of that situation, however, I was not aware that our sannyasi guest was resting quietly in his private room, assigned solely to him by our ever-competent festival director. 
Maharaj, hearing my selfish plea and perplexed by my actions, asked, "What's going on? You invited him to the festival and now you're asking him to leave?" I said to the sannyasi, "Please understand my reasons and do not judge me without hearing my side of the situation. I will humbly submit my case before you and after hearing carefully, you can judge me with a fair and balanced mind." Maharaj made a grand gesture and beckoned inside to hear 'Madri's side of the story'. I calmly retreated into my mind and quickly made my case.
"I know my friend is talented, charming, and social-able  I was so myself in my youth. That is why I admired him and we became instant friends. Though I'm  young, I feel old and worn out now. Nobody seeks out my company at parties anymore; no, in fact, no one even invites me to their parties. The fact that I'm standing here is testament to this: I was assigned to mingle outside near the ocean and add to the spectacular view." I looked down at my hideous sari and posed mockingly. Maharaj laughed hysterically and some guests snickered under their breath.
 "Maybe there was a hint of jealousy in my actions, I admit, but honestly who wouldn't feel the same? My friend suddenly shows up after years of not seeing him and they snatch him away from me. Then, I have to fight everyone off just to spend a moment alone with him! Wouldn't you be upset? The same people that treat me like I don't even exist! Everyone here has been mean and hurtful to me in the past and when I offer my sincere apologies and try to mend relationships with them, they turn up their noses at me.."  as I began to open up my heart, I  felt tears begin to form and I was becoming more emotional. "Excuse me, Maharaj."  I stopped in the middle of my speech, sat down in padmasana and performed a pranayam to calm the breath as Maharaj watched. 
I slowed down my heart and breath before I continued, "While apologizing, I usually become extremely upset to tears.  Seeing my vulnerability, or weakness, they harvest upon that opportunity to become more aggressive and accusational toward me instead of offering their forgiveness. So, if you expect me to apologize to these people, you'll be sadly disappointed because I believe in apologies." Maharaj there shocked and dismayed at my statements. Every one in the room remained silent and no one dared move an inch. The room was frozen in time and some individuals were touched by my words.
 "Rather than apologize to someone, Vaishnava or otherwise, I humbly submit myself before the Lord and beg His forgiveness as He knows the whole situation." I knelt down and prayed with folded hands, 'Kshama koro, Prabhu. Amar khama koro! I know I am full of fault but I rather stake my head with You. Please forgive me for being obstinate ' tears flowed freely from my eyes as I felt uninhibited even within a crowd. 
"While we call ourselves Vaishnavas, our behaviour is far from it. If you think I'm being too harsh, you have to only know my mistreatment in the past to understand why. An intelligent person doesn't repeat his mistakes after reaping the consequences. With that realization in mind, I respectfully decline to apologize and submit that my position is correct."
After hearing those words, many devotees appeared somberly aware of their wrongdoings to each other and apologized sincerely to one another. Many had tears in their eyes as they embraced and others just stood quietly, unable to render their thoughts to one another. After breaking up the gathering, Maharaj spoke with me and Ramon in private. We had a good laugh and discussed our many talents and interests: music, theatre, crafts, chess, culture and foreign language. Toward the evening, I received many thanks and apologies from devotees including--gasp-- our dictator, the festival director herself. She wanted to personally select and buy me a nice sari as a token of her appreciation.
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