A Rama student was riding a New York subway late one Saturday afternoon, heading home after teaching a free meditation class near NYU. The subway was jammed with weekend shoppers, tourists and the like, standing room only. As the student hung onto a pole, voices began a conversation just behind the student's backpack. It was so jammed, the student could not turn around to look at the people talking, simply listen to the conversation.
"So, you got thrown out of the American history class for talking about 'The Bhagavad-Gita?'" said one male voice which sounded Asian-American.
The Rama student thought inside, "Now how often do you overhear a conversation about 'The Bhagavad-Gita' on the afternoon subway? Perhaps I should pay attention!"
"Yeah", said a second male voice which sounded African-American, "they said I was going too far afield, but man, that is just like them to not get the connections."
"But, you're always pushing it," said the first voice.
"But, they always need it. It's good for them to a get a little challenged," responded the second voice firmly.
"But, it's good to get a passing grade on your student teaching module, too. You have got to chill. You need to graduate this term!" said the first voice.
And they continued back and forth while the Rama student thought, "If they get off at the same stop I do, that will be the omen."
So at Grand Central Station, the Rama student got off the train and listened to see if the conversation behind the backpack was also getting off the train. It was. The Rama student immediately whirled around on the platform and said very directly to the young African-American, "So why DID you get thrown out of the American history class for talking about 'The Bhagavad-Gita?'"
And the young African-American didn't miss a beat, but just clocked it right away what the question was referring to and began his story.
A sentence into the story, the Rama student quickly interjected into the explanation a short-hand understanding, "Transcendentalists. Thoreau."
"EXACTLY," said the young African-American, and it was a real fast riff right there on the platform.
"I bet they don't even realize Thoreau was reading 'The Bhagavad-Gita' while he was doing his experiment out at Walden Pond," smiled the Rama student.
"And then Thoreau inspired Gandhi," responded the young African-American.
"And then Gandhi inspired Martin Luther King, Jr.," continued the Rama student.
"EXACTLY," laughed the young African-American, "so how much American civil rights action would we have had without 'The Bhagavad-Gita?' It's totally appropriate for American history class!"
"So, I just came from teaching a little meditation class", said the Rama student, quickly slipping off the backpack and unzipping it to pull out a couple of Rama's novels. "These are written by the guy that turned me onto 'The Bhagavad-Gita', and he read Thoreau's 'Walden' once a year just to get re-inspired."
"That sounds like something I'd be interested in," said the young African-American.
"One of my students is using the 'Surfing the Himalayas' book in one of the alternative high schools in the city as a Silent Reading assignment, after his principal read it and approved it. He's going to try to get it listed on the curriculum for next year."
"This REALLY sounds like something I'd be interested in!"
"Sure. You can have these. Just take 'em with you. I give them away at class all the time," said the Rama student.
"Are you sure, man? Wow. Thank you. I mean really", said the young African-American.
"It's ok, man, I got it," said the Rama student as the young man kept struggling to say thanks.
They looked at each other for a moment, no words for a quick crossroads rendezvous between souls sharing a moment of what Master Fwap calls "boundless inner energy" that comes from creating a "connection to the world of enlightenment." (p.106).
"And you say nothing good ever happens to you!" teased the Asian-American friend who had been listening in to the rapid fire conversation. The young African-American grinned as he pocketed the books into his own pack.
And then everyone went their separate ways into the passageways of Grand Central Station.
Note 1. 'The Bhagavad-Gita' is a section of an ancient Hindu epic from India, containing a conversation between an enlightened being, Krishna, and a great warrior, Arjuna. The setting is a battlefield at Kurukshetra, where the opposing armies are lined up, and Arjuna's heart is heavy because it is a civil war, and he knows many of the warriors on the opposite side of the battlefield. Krishna is serving as Arjuna's charioteer and when Arjuna assesses the horror of fighting his relatives and says he cannot fight, Krishna explains to him, "There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor any of these kings" and thus begins a long yogic conversation.
The translation of 'The Bhagavad-Gita' that Rama liked is 'The Song of God: Bhagavad-Gita' by Swami Prabhavananda (Translator) and Christopher Isherwood (Translator). As a young man, Rama so much wanted to burn the message of this book right into his being that he hand-copied the entire book into a separate notebook. He felt that the visceral act of putting these powerful words into his own hand-writing would cause his being to 'log on' at a deeper level to the message in them. As Rama pointed out, "You have to really care about it, to take that kind of time to copy it out and read it over in your own handwriting."
he would recommend as a yogic practice in mindfulness taking a single
sentence from 'The Bhagavad-Gita' and pondering it during the background
moments throughout the day as even a single sentence has very deep meanings.
Note 2. Henry David Thoreau's book Walden was one that Rama himself read once a year as he felt reading that book helped you take inventory of where your life was at the moment. Thoreau was an American who lived for a few years at Walden Pond in the 1840's in a very simple way as an experiment in deliberate living and recorded his experiences and reflections in this book.
drew students' attention to the passages about the loon Thoreau encountered
once as he paddled on the pond who "laughed long and loud." Rama visited
Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts many times and meditated there
and traveled the trail that goes around the Pond. He recommended his
students visit the spot (which has been preserved for the ages as a
public park) if they were in the area. He said the power of the area
was actually in the Pond, so if you got a chance to swim in it, to get
in the water and actually feel how purifying the energy is.
3. Rama assigned the video Gandhi
to his students, a movie version about Gandhi's life, a twentieth century
Indian who successfully fought an empire using non-violent means. He
said that although Gandhi was not enlightened, his life showed the power
one person who meditates and lives a life of integrity can have as Gandhi's
influence was at the core of the British leaving India. Rama encouraged
his students to ponder Gandhi's example in terms of asking themselves
"What is the right thing?" and following it. Rama liked very much Gandhi's
advice to the man who confessed having killed someone of a different
religion, to adopt a young child and raise him in the religion of the
man he had killed as very good seeing for a karmic correction.
Martin Luther King, Jr., was a twentieth-century
African-American Christian minister who held that the principles of
non-violence could be successfully used to further the civil rights
movement in America. Rama predicted years before America created the
Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday that there would come a time when Dr.
King's "I Have a Dream" speech, given at a large civil rights gathering
in Washington, D.C. during the 1960's, would be taught in schools and
that Dr. King's influence would far out last his opposition. Rama's
"seeing" was impeccable about such things. He felt Dr. King had a lot
light coming through him, and this was the reason he was so galvanizing
as the light and truth of his words cut through the darkness of prejudice
and hatred and could not be ignored.