By Karuna Dharini dasi
How the Farmer Left the Field
Five workhorses stood in the field, in contrast with the yellow hills behind them. They took their languid stance; the farmer had no more to do with them. If the farmer went near the fence at any time, they became alert. He knew he would surrender his attention to them, so he kept a distance. Horses have keen sight, sense of smell and hearing, and are sometimes horribly startled, so they were not always to his liking. When they were young he had begun their training, and as his own self-discipline was severe, so horses, like farmer, all were adept in the duties of the field.
The individual is the passenger in the car of the material boy, and intelligence is the driver. Mind is the driving instrument, and the senses are the horses. The self is thus the enjoyer or sufferer in the association of the mind and senses. So it is understood by great thinkers.
One of the horses was named Chakshus, the sharp eyed-one. She was a black horse and on either side of her broad head was a thick socket holding a sphere of flesh with a little power to defy darkness. At the break of dawn, Chakshus was full of glances, at the flit of a bird, a fellow horse or the sunrise; it was all about the look of a thing.
Among all eight million, four hundred thousand species of life, nearly every creature has the gift of sight. Whether the tiny vision of an insect or the telescopic scan of a raptor, we all see through two holes in our heads which unite our brains to the light from the sky. The eyes are vestibules for the mind. The outer world is captured in data that exceeds the storage of trillions of pixels. For what?
As recommended by the Brhadharanyaka
Upanisad: asato ma sad gama, tamaso ma, jyotir gama: Do not remain in darkness, go to the light.
While Chaksus was all eyes for the field, one of his fellow horses meandered with his head down, tongue extended. He was Jihva. During their work days, he was strapped with a bit connected to reins; a horse is best controlled by the mouth. However nowadays Jihva’s mouth held no bit. Profuse saliva dropped to the ground on parched land. He felt no purpose than to eat, yet the farmer provided little, so Jihva was starved.
Jihva had been charmed by his master’s voice. It had been years since the farmer had sung! Every morning before dawn, he rose from bed and joined a choir of random singing from farmers in distant fields. They sang songs of harvest, songs of surrender to their work, songs announcing the season, heartfelt songs of the benediction of the rains.
Still Jihva was a fickle friend. The body, as a material energy processing machine, repeatedly fills the gut and empties it. To do so it employs a voracious snake to reside at the entrance. In exchange for his employment the tongue demands to vibrate course sounds, for defense or mating. At times the tongue insists on toxic substances such as nicotine or alcohol. The farmer’s life work was in the attempt to control Jihva. He knew his wellbeing and that of his family depended on it.
There was one fine horse, cream color from head to hoof, fading into a deep brown on the limbs with a splash of black mane. In the Sanskrit, sparsha translates, “contact with sense objects”. Sparsa nudged her way between each horse on the field, vying for the attention of all of them. Jihva and Gandha, due to their lack of direction, made no objection. Sparsha took good advantage to get whatever sensual experience was available to her in that situation.
All three of them were simply unable to act positively for their own self-interest.
There are one’s senses, eyes, ears, touch, etc., and they each have various “objects”which are perceived by them. A yogi observes that the contact of senses with their various objects of stimulus creates an interruption in the flow of self-awareness. Thus he renounces the proclivity to combine his senses with their objects. Simply self-control is not ultimate, however. When the sensual opportunity is not forgone, but instead offered in the spirit of loving service to the Divine, the Personality of Godhead, full perfection in yoga is achieved.
One who has observed horses will know this; with every new scent that passes by there is the raising and lowering of prominent nostrils. So it was true of the horse called Gandha. Scent is a subtle trigger for a thought, a thought a trigger for action, each breeze the opportunity of new sensation for the mind. Gandha did not refrain from smell, even while asleep. While the eye has an eyelid and the tongue has a sturdy cover of lips, the nose remains open.
Yet even more vulnerable, most sophisticated and powerful of all are a horse’s two ears!
Karna-patha was the farmer’s favorite horse. He stood still in one place, poised against the hilly backdrop at a distance from the fold. Though a “Marwari” draught horse, he was snow white. He was easily trained for riding. Now a shadow of a steed, he used to trot or dance in shows. He simply awaited the sound vibration of the farmer. Back in their good days, by a sound from the farmer he could carefully trot, step sideways, gallop, or dash and bolt. By another sound they concluded a long journey.
Now he stood on four legs, a cut-out, one-dimensional painting of himself. There was only the act of listening now, every rustle of branches, a bird’s song, a plane in the distance.
Karna-patha’s good name literally means “the Path of the Ears”.
The science of bhakti-yoga makes the very best use of the “Path to the Ears”. Srila Rupa Goswami has divulged all the secrets of this science, revealing the location of the karna-patha, the area between the tongue, the ears and the heart. This path should not be accessed with mundane sound vibration. The overall effect of materialistic messages takes a toll on the hearer, subtle karmic reactions ensue. However, as Rupa Goswami describes, when the holy names of God, which are all-auspicious, are permitted entrance into the ears, when there is submissive aural reception of the many various sacred names, a transformation takes place in the mind and heart of the person who receives them. All of the senses, though as powerful as horses, become inert. If Karna-patha, the farmer’s favorite horse, could be accessed with pure spiritual sound, then the immense and powerful horses of sight, touch, taste and smell would follow.
I do not know how much nectar the two syllables ‘Krs-na” have produced. When the holy name of Krishna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. And when the holy name dances within the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert. –Caitanya-Caritamrta, Antya-lila 1.1.120, quote from Sria Rupa Goswami
Yoking the Horses
Working with Chaksus, Jihva, Sparsa, Gandha and Karna-patha was untenable for a now dried up old man, but leaving them to dwindle seemed wrong. By and by, the farmer wanted to sell them. “What is their use?” he wondered. “They distract me.” He had been gifted the pulling horses by his wife’s father, a tobacco farmer with many fields. To oblige her father he used them well, but his family was not on the farm anymore. His wife left the fields to help their son’s family in the city. They came back to visit him, and his son installed one flat screen fixed opposite to him, showing games, crime, weather, news, song, and dance. He could not remember where it was parked, but they had also brought him a nice tractor.
If he remembered anything, the old man best remembered skills. He knew the seasons and how to gamble against the weather’s tirades. He strategized when to plant, how to best collect rain, how to come out safe on the gentle side of a rogue storm or smothering heat, then organize men for collection. Chaksus and Sparsha had best pulled the harvest cart.
He and other local farmers spent day after day in the slow pace, repeating the plantings and harvests for decades. There were many long hard days of work, and sometimes the animals would not work well without singing. Several men walked a slow gait at plow time, one to help guide the animals, one to inspect the rows for depth and length, while the old famer sang in a tense high tenor, hundreds of melodies with thousands of nuances, sometimes calls to the earth, to the new season, in supplication of God’s grace.
In his youth he had taken initiation from a guru who practiced the sankirtan (great chanting) of the holy names of Krishna. He had learned from him about the Supreme Personality of Godhead called Krishna, the all attractive one, and Krishna-Govinda, a name which means the deliverer of a man’s senses. While the horses were young and hard to break, he especially chanted to them the names of Krishna and Govinda, remembering his spiritual master’s discipline and affection for him. “What a strong life I lived. There was never any easy cash as they get with the tobacco crop…” thought the farmer. “but all day with the plow, nothing pleasing as much as the moist overturned soil, animals as quick as our own passions… nothing to guide us but a plow and a song! Bold and loud I was, to fight the wanderings of those five, Chashus, Jihva, Sparsha, Gandha, and Karna-patha. And success… sweet green and orange of the vegetables, the darkening color, the rich festivals and feasts at harvest. In the early morning fog, with full voice, Hey Madhava! Govinda, Krishna-Govinda!”
A few years had passed, but the farmer gradually could only contemplate those days. He could no longer invest his mind in the television shows they had showed him. He could not follow them. In a frail body he wandered outside to the field. Chaksus stared at him coming to them, Gandha raised his big nostrils, Jihva pulled his head up and his tongue slid inside his mouth. The farmer noted, “It is a long time since they were yoked to do some task, they have languished and all together forgotten a horse’s gait when a yoke is on its back.” Karna-patha remained aloof. Still the farmer had arrived, and there was excitement. Though fragile, he lifted the harness and reins to show them. He let Gandha smell it. Chaksus and Jihva cautiouslylowered their heads to receive it. The farmer moved to loosely yoke the two. He went to his place behind the cart. He stood ready behind it and held the reins in his two hands. Ah, the team!
But Chaksus, at the sight of the cracked dried earth under hoof, suddenly raised her hooves high. This yanked Jihva upward along with her and the foam from his mouth splashed over them. Fickle Jihva knew only hankerings. In less than half a minute the plow was on its side. The farmer fell, too. He gasped for breath, his heart pounded while he tried to stand up. He blamed himself. He had enough experience to know what horses can and cannot do. Too much leisure and they are lost, too much restraint and they will let you know.
That night he lay awake, “To what purpose?” he wondered. “I used those horses for years, sometimes mercilessly, to reap results for my needs. Family gone; now what direction my toil takes me?” A hot tear welled in each eye. “It is my guru’s mercy that I was chanting the holy names of the Lord.”
The renunciation of work and work in devotion are both good for liberation but of the two work in devotional service is better than the renunciation of work.
What the farmer did not seem to realize is that work in devotion to Krishna, even if incomplete, is non-reactive, so he had not failed or lost a thing. The devotion he had practiced throughout his life would pay off.
Merely renouncing all activities yet not engaging in the service of the Lord cannot make one happy. But a thoughtful person engaged in devotional service can achieve the supreme without delay.
– Bhagavad-Gita 5.6
The Farmer’s Departure
Days passed, the farmer lay still in his bed. He badly ached from the fall and he slept for days without food. He dreamed of a fragrant earth after a rain and he dreamed of verdant and potent meadows in spring. He saw the arbor full of fruits again and a harvest festival. There stood his father’s favorite pair of oxen with their hooves and horns brightly painted, walking in a parade. There was a village with women dressed in bright colors. Boys ran laughing and throwing straw in battles of brave imagination. Then he dreamed that a lion appeared and went into the old cowshed. The old man went to peer at the lion inside. There was only a tractor, broken in pieces with black oil on the hay. Days and dreams passed in a fine maze. He rose to the sound of a hard rain falling.
“Did I try to plow before the rains?” he laughed aloud and it gave rise to singing:
The spiritual master is receiving a benediction from the ocean of mercy. Just as a cloud pours water on a forest fire to extinguish it, so the spiritual master is extinguishing the blazing fire of material existence. I offer my respectful obeisance unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master, who is an ocean of auspicious qualities.
Then the farmer sang as high and bold as he had sung during every spring plowing, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Just as the morning light followed the storm he shuffled out to the muddy field. Through the softening rain he shouted, “Do you remember when I used to sing to you as we rode, Karna-patha? I know you do, I know you do. Remember: Govinda, Govinda! Krishna is the deliverer of our mind and senses.” Karna-patha raised his ears and tossed his head. “Ah, listen to me, Karna-patha! You would not move an inch until I sang to you!”
The horses still eager, the mind of the farmer keen with the memory of his life-long skills, and with all the strength left in his body he called to the Lord of the senses, Govinda, Govinda, Govinda! The sound continued from the farmer’s mouth, Govinda, Govinda, Govinda and it traveled as a messenger of good fortune throughout the fold of the five retired work horses. With the pathway to his ears well established, the path of the farmer’s tears crossed his cheeks, Govinda, Govinda, Govinda! He chanted and chanted. The sound of the holy names filled the field until it reached its brim in the heart of the farmer. His voice cracked, he clasped his now heaving chest. Falling on a patch of spring grass, his vision blurred, the old farmer left the field.