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Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

Leaping Lizards!

Rushing blindly into the jaws of death

There is a fluorescent light right above the portal of the nat mandir that faces the temple with the deities. It is the favorite haunt of two gecko lizards.

For these lizards, mangala arati is... breakfast time! They hide under the fluorescent tube, licking their lips in anticipation, their pale albino-like skin perfectly camouflaged by the white light, waiting, like lions at a watering hole, for their prey to be inexorably drawn, by natural necessity, to their jaws.

For the tiny moths, flies, mosquitoes, and other insects blinded by the light, those jaws must seem as big as a dinosaur's in that one fleeting moment of cognition between the time that the light and their life is blotted out.

Sometimes there are so many insects flying about that the gluttonous geckos cannot contain themselves at the sight of so much to eat, and rush up and down, tails swishing in a frenzy of excitement, jaws snapping this way and that, and eyes rolling around their heads as they flit from target to fleeting target.

And sometimes, when a particularly plump victim flutters up, they both dash out prematurely in their eagerness to get to their prey first. Then, as though realizing their mistake, they settle down under the tube again and wait for the next poor, unsuspecting winged creature to wander into their ambush.

A quick leap — snap, crackle, pop! Aah... The breakfast of champions!

Watching this rather gruesome spectacle enacted right before the deities, I am reminded of the Bhagavad Gita slokas [9:18,19]: we should try to see Krishna as our most dear friend (su-hrt) because if we ignore Him, we will inevitably see Him as death personified (mrtyuh).

When Yama, the Lord of Death asked, "What is the most wonderful thing in this world?" Yudhisthira Maharaj answered:

ahany ahani bhutani / gacchantiha yamalayam
sesah sthavaram icchanti / kim ascaryam atah param

"Day after day, at every moment, we see that all kinds of living entities are rushing blindly into the jaws of death, yet even though we see this, we think that we shall not die. What could be more amazing, or more wonderful than this?"

Of course, these creatures are at the lowest stages of consciousness, living out their lives according to their karma. Living just to eat (jivo jivasya jivanam), they cannot be expected to learn from this experience. But what about us?

There, but for the grace of Guru and Vaishnava, go I. Dazzled by the bright light (of maya), fascinated by the neon glow, excited by the prospect of some new sensation, rushing willingly, headlong, into the jaws of death...

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