The Fruit of Vanity

In the fall of 2001 the Padayatra came to Vrindavan to conduct the Vraja Mandala Parikrama and during their stay we often visited their camp to admire the bulls. The most impressive of the lot was Krsna, the black and regal Kankraj veteran who had circumambulated India twice during his ten years on the road. His massive horns were almost perfectly symmetrical and when he held his head up, their tips rose to a height of seven feet. Though gentle, when he wanted to be left alone, he would cock his great horns threateningly to distance all admirers who irritated him.

H.H. Lokanath Swami decided to retire Krsna and gracefully bestowed upon Care for Cows the honor of hosting him in Vrindavan . The day the Padayatra pulled out, Krsna was disturbed to be left behind and since I was holding his lead rope, he blamed me for his misfortune. He was attached to being with the other bulls and especially to pulling the cart of Sri-Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar.

Since he was the only Kankraj bull in Vrindavan, he quickly became known by the locals as the Bara Singh Walla (The Great-Horned One). More than once elderly men driving by on tractors would stop to bow their heads respecting his majestic presence. His ten years of divine toil earned him reverence underscoring the scriptural statement, 'Unto one who has transcendental qualities due to friendly behavior with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, all living entities offer honor, just as water automatically flows down by nature" (S.B. 4.9.47). Krsna knew he was special and became affronted when treated as ordinary.

It took him a few months to settle in and he was often more than unruly. In the attempt to pacify him, we proposed to build a cart so he could do some light work as he was used to walking about twenty kilometers a day. Everyone liked the idea so we began immediately and on the day we finished I asked Jaya Vijaya, who had worked with Krsna on Padayatra for several years, to help us hitch him up and take him on a ride through Raman Reti.

Like in a dream, a picture arose in my mind of this noble bull, luxuriously garlanded with flowers and brass bells, strutting in royal gait down Vrindavan’s main street with hundreds of admiring eyes first falling on him and then on me perched proudly on the cart holding his reigns in my left hand while showering blessings upon all with my right, as flower petals showered from the heavens.

As we led him to the harness, Krsna firmly resisted but after a twenty minute struggle, four of us managed to secure him. While Arjuna sat on the cart, Rama Babu walked beside him holding the lead rope, while Jaya Vijaya and I followed behind.

Since Krsna was accustomed to pulling the Supreme Personality of Godhead on a teak-wood intricately hand-carved cart he did not find it becoming to pull an ordinary mortal on a puny mango wood cart fit for a horse. To demonstrate his dissatisfaction, he took off at full speed eliciting a chorus of shouts from the four of us. I ran after the cart while a distressed Jaya Vijaya fell behind holding his hand on his hernia. When Krsna reached the main road he tried to scrape the cart off on two of the biggest neem trees lining the road but Ram Babu tugged the lead rope just in time to divert him. Snorting in irritation, Krsna broke into a full gallop and waved his horns wildly threatening the opposing traffic of cars, bicycles, three-wheelers and rickshaws sending them into a flurry. On that day Providence arranged for all reckless drivers to reap their just desserts!

Shouts at desperate volume warned all on the road that the Bara Singh Walla was running amok. Children taking a dump on the side of the road quickly gathered their pants around their knees and hid their dirty bums behind trees fearing for their lives. A fruit vendor’s metal scale with three mangoes clanged on the street as he frantically shoved his cart to safety. Under a tree, a man with his face fully lathered toppled out of the barber’s chair and bolted with the barbers cloth trailing behind.

Rama Babu was well into his sixties but managed to keep up the heated pace knowing that if he lost the lead rope Krsna would unleash his full fury. Arjuna desperately tugged on the tail on the Great-Horned One in the vein attempt to slow him down but only to emblazed his anger.

As Krsna approached the Parikrama path, pilgrims, vegetable venders, horse-carts and five-year-old girls carrying their infant siblings scattered in all directions. Village women dropped the loads on their head and shrieked in various high pitches filling the ether with fear and panic.

Two men on a motor scooter rudely dismissed lesser pedestrians and bicycles with shrill beeps and fearlessly entered the road unaware that their superiority would too soon be foiled. Their eyes widened and their pan-stained teeth chattered as Krsna lowered his massive horns like the prongs of a fork lift preparing to scoop them into the air. They skidded abruptly and desperately dragged the scooter to safety, the cart whisked by missing them by inches… the driver embarrassedly discovered he had wet his pants.

As the cart sped under the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gate, the veins in Arjuna’s neck bulged as he alerted everyone of the danger, "Bara Singh Walla pagal ho gai!" (The Great Horned One has run amok!). Rama Babu, at great personal risk, bravely ran along side the angry bull pulling the lead rope to break his speed.

Oblivious to everything but their ears and genitals, three young men in a motor rickshaw meandered in the middle of the wide road, their arms extending out of the vehicle gyrating to the rhythm of the cinema song blasting unnervingly from their cassette player. On the back of the three-wheeler was written, “King of the Road” and as the driver leaned out to proudly decorate the pavement with red slime, the corner of his eye caught the raging bull in full gallop about to overtake them. The party was over.

Providence arranged to dispel their illusions of grandeur by having their royal conveyance side-swiped by a speeding ox cart. The initial crash silenced their song and sent the vehicle spinning. Cries and screeching tires predominated briefly before the smashed heap toppled over on its side, smoking. Sunglasses, a greasy comb, broken mirrors, a plastic Ganesh murti, an imitation Seiko watch, a bundle of 555-brand beedies, cassette tapes, a photo of a busty Bombay cinema actress showing her cleavage, a puddle of black oil and the shattered hopes of three tangled Bollywood wanna-be's lay in disarray on the black top.

Krsna was disappointed that the impact did not free him from his bondage and in greater anger swung into a wide U-turn and headed back toward the Bhaktivedanta Swami arch in search of a stationary object to side-swipe. By some stroke of luck he lost his footing and fell to his knees and upon attempting to get up got twisted and bound in the harness and lay on his side snorting furiously. The cart and his massive heaving body formed a road-block and cars traveling in both directions began to pile up and honk uproariously. Hundreds of gawkers instantly gathered to scream in Hindi which easily lends itself to shrill exclamations.

Krsna’s rear leg was caught in the harness and as I tried to release it so he could stand, a merchant woman shook her fist at me while retrieving cans of sugar-fizz rolling on the sidewalk. Truck drivers and their seedy assistants descended their screeching, smoking beasts to goad me in chorus to clear the passage; their cavernous mouths yawned while caustic obscenities drenched in red slime shot out between their swollen gums and red and rotten teeth.

The dethroned princes screamed frantically. One held his long red pinky fingernail skyward as he flashed his bleeding elbow, the other showed a skinned knee protruding from his torn imitation Levis, the third displayed his torn kurta all demanding I drop everything and attend to them. Pandemonium.

Despite the chaos we managed to get Krsna up and with four hands clinching his nose harness, we slowly walked him to the goshalla while maybe fifteen opportunists followed behind formulating strategies on how to capitalize on their scratches, rips and dents.

When we arrived the cowherd men were filling the feeders with fresh grass and after unhitching Krsna, he calmly walked over to his new shed and began devouring his share as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. As I approached to chastise him, he dismissed my intimidating posture by closing his eyes and pointing his muzzle at me while nonchalantly munching the fresh clover. After swallowing, his penetrating gaze firmly expressed, “Don’t EVER AGAIN try to use me to enhance your false prestige.”

***

rajasas tu phalam duhkham

Action performed in the mode of passion results in misery.

Bhagavad-Gita 14.16

(End Note: Know for certain that elitism, oneupmanship, self-indulgence and self-promotion are all products of raja guna and those who indulge in them will be attended by misery. No exceptions.)






Would you kill your pet dog or cat to eat it? How about an animal you're not emotionally attached to? Is the thought of slaughtering a cow or chicken or pig with your own hands too much to handle? Instead, would hiring a hit-man to do the job give you enough distance from the emotional discomfort? What animal did you put a contract out on for your supper last night? Did you at least make sure that none went to waste and to take a moment to be grateful for its sacrifice?

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