Calcutta, India — Tuesday, August 21st

Along came a spider...

There is a little side door in the south wall of nat mandir, tucked away beneath the stairs. It is not used very often because it is not an easy door to get through: the double door is secured with two bolts (that are difficult to open) and a wooden bar (that must be lifted up and swung to the side).

Also, there is no light in this alcove, so it is always a little dark, and since you can't stand fully upright, it's easy to bump your head on the low underside of the concrete stairs as you try to gingerly pick your way through the shoes and other sundry objects cluttering the floor while, at the same time, trying not to get too dirty touching any of the cobwebs and the dust that has accumulated on everything...

But for those of us living in the rooms above the nat mandir, this little door is convenient because when we need to go outside the Math, it allows us to get in and out without having to remove our sandals and carry them though the kirtan hall.

One morning, shortly after I started walking down to the Sevak Bhavan to check my email, I was just about to lift the bar to open the door when this enormous hairy spider scuttled out from underneath it. It gave me quite a start, I can tell you! It must have had a leg span of almost three inches. (Jivana would have had a fit!)

When I returned to the Math after checking my email, I was a little, shall we say, cautious reentering this door. Granted, this spider wasn't quite as big as the goliath bird-eating spider of South America, but I still didn't want it dropping onto my neck!

There was no sign of the little monster when I entered, however. I bolted the door, lifted the wooden bar on its pivot, and was about to drop the bar into the u-shaped metal band that holds it in place, when I noticed the spider lurking in there.

"Come on, get out of there," I said, tapping the bar gently against the door. "I almost crushed you..." It scurried off.

A few days later, I had a similar encounter, only this time as I started to lift the wooden bar (which hangs on its pivot, perpendicular to the floor, when it is not in use) to its horizontal position to bar the door, the spider scrambled out from its hiding place between the bar and the wall, giving me such a fright that I dropped the bar, which swung back to smack against the door frame. "Stupid spider!"

I started to be a lot more circumspect whenever I used this little door, always keeping an eye out for the spider, not so much because I was afraid of it, but because I never seemed to see it on the walls of the alcove, but always lurking somewhere on the door or the doorjamb itself, and I did not want to inadvertently frighten or harm it. But one fateful morning... (You knew this was coming, right?)

I had gone to check my email, but the internet connection at the Sevak Bhavan was not working (a common enough occurrence here in India), so when I returned through this door I was a little distracted with the thought of having to go back to check my mail later that morning.

As I lifted the wooden bar to fasten the double door, the spider darted out from underneath it. Taken by surprise, I yanked my hand back instinctively, dropping the bar, and it swung sideways to smack the spider with a sickening "snick!" sound.

"Oh, you stupid spider!" I cried in exasperation. "What did you have to dash out like that for? You startled me..."

It ran out of the corner and into the middle of the door after the blow, and remained there, motionless. "Look what you made me go and do now," I muttered, peering at it in the dim light, trying to ascertain the extent of its injuries. It looked like it might be okay — it's probably just a little shaken up and scared now, I thought, hopefully — but when I came down the stairs a couple of hours later, it was laying lifelessly on the floor and tiny black ants were already crawling all over its body...

The poor thing! It had found a nice niche in this dark nook beneath the stairs, with lots of unwary little bugs and insects to prey on... until a few days ago when this big galoot came blundering into its life to disrupt, and then destroy its world...

By now you are probably thinking, "Why is he making such a big fuss over the demise of such a little spider?" In his purport to verse 5:26:17 in the Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupad writes:

By the arrangement of the Supreme Lord, inferior living entities like bugs and mosquitoes suck the blood of human beings and other animals. Such insignificant creatures are unaware that their bites are painful to the human being. However, human beings are developed in consciousness, and therefore they know how painful it is to be killed. A human being endowed with knowledge certainly commits sin if he kills or torments insignificant creatures, which have no discrimination.

Sure, I did not kill the spider intentionally, but that does not absolve me from responsibility. I am still a culprit under the law: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." As much we push into the environment or impose ourselves upon nature, the environment must push back, with an equal force, to counteract the karmic disturbance, to restore the balance of nature.

Seeing the spider that I struck with the bar, it suddenly struck me: this is why devotional service is so important! It is impossible to live in this world without killing (jivo jivasya jivanam). Only if we engage ourselves exclusively in devotional service, under the expert guidance of the pure Vaishnava, will we be spared from the reactions of our daily activities. As Srila Rupa Goswami says in The Nectar of Devotion:

iha yasya harer dasye / karmana manasa gira
nikhilasv apy avasthasu / jivan-muktah sa ucyate

Whoever engages their body, mind, and words (karmana manasa gira) in the exclusive service of the Lord (iha yasya harer dasye), although they may appear to be engaged in so many different material activities (nikhilasv apy avasthasu), they suffer no karmic consequences for their actions because they are acting selflessly (jivan-muktah sa ucyate).

When I went to the Sevak Bhavan to connect to the internet, was I doing this as a selfless service to Srila Gurudeva or for selfish reasons of my own? To the degree that it was one or the other, I will have to suffer the same ratio of karma for my actions... even the reaction for killing such an "insignificant creature" as this spider.

I see this as a wake-up call, as another warning to get serious about Krishna consciousness. Who knows how much time I have left?

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

"We see so many living entities dying before our very eyes, but still we go about our business, trying to create a permanent home for ourselves in this temporary world, never thinking that our turn to die might be next. Is there anything more astonishing than this?"

Who knows when some clumsy clot will come crashing into my life to destroy my cozy, comfortable existence? The future is now!

Tags: Service | Anecdotes | Slokas

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Layout by iMonk — August 21st, 2007.