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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami > Obstacles on the Path of Devotional Service > Physical Illness > Silver Linings

Silver   Linings


I found some "silver linings" in the clouds of my illness. Although I had become a semi-invalid with chronic headaches, I was fortunate to be able to stay in a cabin in the woods at Gita-nagari. My main activity" day and night was to lie in bed. But I was able to go out at least briefly each day to take a walk on a forest path. Through the spring and summer I gradually allowed myself to become attracted to nature. I noticed wild flowers and wild plants, the trees and the birds. At first I was hesitant to fall in love with nature, thinking it might be maya. Can a devotee be a nature-lover? But I began to hear Prabhupada speaking of nature on tapes. He assured me that a devotee sees Krsna in nature. I remained hesitant and wrote about it in my diary:


Early this morning from within my room I heard the songs of several different birds. One I knew was a robin. Baladeva said that there was also a nuthatch. Their songs lifted my spirits, and when I opened the curtains, 1 saw a pair of ducks sailing swiftly downstream in the rain-filled creek.I should be careful that I do not become a worshiper of the Universal Form (seeing flowers as Krsna's smile, birds as His song etc.). Beyond the Visvarupa conception is the topmost spiritual engagement of chanting the holy name, as given by Lord Caitanya. So in an ultimate sense, en­deavoring to see Cod in Nature is supplementary to these other spiritual activities. Yet, even now, in this very body, at my very door, 1 am seeing little bits of Krsna, and that should not be discounted.


I felt fortunate to be able to write about nature and share it with the devotees. I knew they could not make nature appreciation their full-time engagement, but if I could share what had inspired me, it could be a way to serve the devotees. As weeks and months went by, I became more attuned to nature and more confident. It was one of the few areas of expression that Krsna allowed me in my physical illness.


Today the wind blows strongly, and a large flotilla of mustard garlic leaves, yellowed and dead, moves downstream. I watched a delicate rabbit devour the leaves of a wild cabbage. The morning sky was overcast, but now the sun breaks through the clouds, creating dramatic lighting— bright sparkles on the rapids, shadows from the trees. Boughs are swaying, leaves dancing, and a ruffling fills the air.In the cabin, about a dozen vases, each with a single rose flower, are sitting in a row before Jagannatha, Subhadra, and Baladeva, for Their pleasure. Going out for five minutes to pick flowers is one of the few things the doctor has allowed me to do this week.


Another silver lining that came to me while I was ill was that I was forced to spend more time alone. Before my breakdown, I was very active in meeting people all day long and traveling all over the world. My attention was filled up with the challenges of life in ISKCON. If I thought of solitude at all, I regarded it as a kind of sense gratification. There was so much to be done to help other people by spreading Krsna consciousness, so there was no reason to be alone. But when I had to be alone because of illness, I gradually began to appreciate it. There is, of course, a danger in that you may indulge in solitude and withdraw from the world. I do not say that I escaped completely from that indulgence. And yet I considered it a great benefit to learn more of the introspective and thoughtful aspects of a human life.There is more to spiritual life than meeting people and giving people books. There is also a time for thinking about Krsna. Krsna says that the best of all yogis is one who is "always absorbed in Me and thinks of Me within himself." Krsna also says that we should experience life within; do not, think that happiness comes only by contact of the senses with the world. When you are an invalid, you learn to face yourself.


I took up diary writing at this time, and it became a form of preaching or klrtana for me. Even if one is not inclined to write, he will naturally start to think more when he lives alone. You review your whole life, consider how you have been superficial and how you have hurt people. You think of your mistakes, and you try to turn more to Krsna. You do this because there is nothing else you can do. If this happens during your confined state, then you have found a valuable silver lining to your illness. A healthy person does not want to remain sick and inactive. We have important work to do. The Krsna consciousness movement could not con­tinue if everyone was in a sickbed. And yet one at a time, each of us becomes sick. So instead of being completely miserable and distressed in mind, or "spacing out"—instead of thinking of yourself as a lump of mucus, or a big ball of pain, you have to find yourself within that situation, and find the silver lining.