Calcutta, West Bengal, India — Saturday, April 29th
Srila Gurudeva receives many unusual gifts from all over the world from his disciples. Some of the more exotic snacks and beverages that his disciples bring are displayed in a tall cabinet mounted on the wall near the entrance to Srila Gurudeva's veranda here in Calcutta.
The name on one of the packages in the cabinet catches my attention: ProVita. I know that name! Could it be...? Nah. But it must be... There can't be two names like that in the world, surely?
I pull out the package:
"The natural choice"
Turning the package over reveals another clue: Pyotts — The savory snack company. Well, they could be an international company, I suppose. One more clue to clinch it. I turn the package over on its side to see — the Proudly South African logo.
I knew it!
My compatriot, Shyamali Devi Dasi, must have brought these. Gosh! It must be almost forty years since I've seen these biscuits!
Pyotts. I remember them. I used to like their biscuits, but not ProVita. It's a diet biscuit: no kid likes those! What I did like were the Pyotts advertisements. They used to have little black-and-white comic strip ads in the magazines that my mom used to read (Personality, Femina), and they all had the punch line: "Did you say 'Pyotts?'"
One of the ads: two ladies are about to have tea on the patio, while in the background, a groundskeeper mows the lawn of the estate with a large tractor-mower. Second panel: one lady says to the other, "Care for a Pyotts, dear?" Last panel: the groundskeeper cuts a swath of destruction across the lawn, through the hedge and over the meticulous flowerbeds with his tractor-mower, and says to the startled ladies, "Did you say 'Pyotts?'"
Another ad — my favorite: tourists in Egypt, a young couple, spread out a picnic blanket with the Sphinx in the background. Second panel: the young lady says to her partner, "Care for a Pyotts, dear?" Last panel: the Sphinx, with its tongue hanging out like a little puppy dog, runs over to the flabbergasted couple and says, "Did you say 'Pyotts?'"
What? You don't get it? Well, it's visual, you see... Huh? Oh. What exactly does this have to do with Krishna consciousness? Um, well, uh... does everything I write have to be about Krishna consciousness?! You guys! Give me a few seconds: I'll think of something...
It's funny what inconsequential, irrelevant things we remember, isn't it? Here is something — a packet of ProVita biscuits! — that I haven't thought about in over forty years, yet just the name on the package triggers so many subliminal memories: the biscuit itself, the cardboard taste, the brand's memorable advertising message, the magazines my mom used to read...
It is this "stream of consciousness," this flow of thoughts and feelings, this continuous series of images and ideas running through the mind that binds us inextricably to this mortal world.
Archaeologists painstakingly sift through the detritus from the middens of ancient civilizations to get important clues and insights that help them to determine the 'warp and woof' (foundation) of that culture. If we could dig through the mental accretions of material garbage that cover our pure consciousness, if we could excavate the successive layers of artifacts that lie just below the surface of our minds and the relics of our previous lives entombed much deeper in our subconsciousness, we would throw up our hands in despair when we saw just how hopelessly buried our souls are.
It is the detritus from the midden of our minds that pollutes our consciousness, that is the warp and woof (the underlying structure on which something is built) of the ahankara — the false ego that forces the soul to misidentify itself with the material body.
In the Bhagavad Gita (8:6) Krishna says to Arjuna:
yam yam vapi smaran bhavam / tyajaty ante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya / sada tad-bhava-bhavitah
"O son of Kunti (kaunteya), whatever state of being one remembers (yam yam vapi smaran bhavam) at the time of leaving their body (tyajaty ante kalevaram), that state they will attain without a doubt (tam tam evaiti) because their mind is constantly absorbed in such thoughts (sada tad-bhava-bhavitah)."
It is our mentality (yam yam vapi smaran bhavam) at the time of death (tyajaty ante kalevaram) that determines our destination. Our next body (tam tam evaiti) is based on our conception of who we want to be and what we want to accomplish (sada tad-bhava-bhavitah)."
In other words, the physical body is really just a biological expression (tam tam evaiti) of the soul's delusion (yam yam vapi smaran bhavam) — the persona of the soul's mentality (sada tad-bhava-bhavitah) at the time of death (tyajaty ante kalevaram).
Oh Lord! There is really no hope for me, is there? You have seen the pathetic state of my consciousness. How will I keep all these mundane thoughts and impressions — these countless images and ideas! — from racing into my mind, clamoring for my exclusive attention, subverting, and ultimately overwhelming my consciousness at the time of death?
Sometimes I think that I shall be able to think of Krishna at the time of death. No biggie, right? After all, I've been chanting Hare Krishna for a quarter of a century now...
I can see myself now, tumbling to the floor with a heart attack... As my consciousness streams from my body, the cognitive dissonance of associating myself for so long with the body, mind and intelligence rather than with the self or consciousness is bound to take my stream of consciousness in some really bizarre direction:
Must... think of... Krishna...
"Oh! The pain!"
What... What's this...?
"Don't get distracted now!"
"No, no, no!"
Did you say... Pyotts...?
"Concentrate, damn it!"
Ha ha... fun-ny... dog-gie....
Where am I?
Can't see anything...
This feels like fur!
"Hel— woof, woof!"
Layout by iMonk — April 29th, 2006.