As a licensed Social Worker (LCSW) my wife, Archana-Siddhi, has to take classes in her counseling field and accumulate 40 CEUs of credit every 2 years. If possible she tries to get them all at once. To achieve that purpose we are staying on the Island of Hilton Head South Carolina.
While Archana attends the conference, I cook lunch, and write blogs, and read. (a real win/win!) It is about 375 miles from our home. We are renting a condo since this time of year the price is less than a hotel. Actually it is soooooooo much better than a hotel, with separate bedrooms, living room and kitchen etc, and we can see the ocean. Along to keep us company and for engaging us in service are my Shilas and Tulasidevi. I have also borrowed a friends laptop.
It has even been warm enough to walk on the beach in shorts!! I wish I had brought my camera to demonstrate physical subjective reality. When we were sitting to chant on the beach a few days ago, I was in a tee shirt and shorts, while Archana had on long pants, a sweatshirt, and a scarf!!! Was it hot or cold? Depends on your body.
As we first stepped on the beach we were greeted with a large sign with a large bold NO which announced all the things which could not be done on the beach, like littering, drinking alcohol, disturbing the living beings in the fenced in grassland area and about 24 other things. While I appreciated the importance of trying to protect the area and regulating the behavior of visitors, I didn’t feel it was very welcoming.
I imagined that there should be another sign with a large YES, which gave a list of things to do and appreciate on this beautiful feature of God’s creation. For instance:
do commune with nature, relieve your stress, breathe deeply and appreciate the value of clean air and water, do swim and feel the wonder of salt water, feel the presence of God, and the importance of preserving the natural environment, etc.
Not only should the government maintain order but it should also remind people of the wonder and value of life, and different ways to get the most from such areas like oceans and parks etc. Surely the yes sign would surely bring a smile to everyone’s face, while I think the NO sign makes most people roll their eyes, if they even read it. It wasn’t very inviting.
Of course the problem with most governments is that they usually only pass laws to solve or prevent problems. Just like bad news sells newspapers and gets peoples’ attention, so governments respond mainly to crisis. Although prevention is better and cheaper than cure, it doesn’t seem to excite people.
Too bad governments can’t understand that being in nature, being peaceful, and appreciating the presence and power of God is essential for making happy, prosperous, productive, and peaceful citizens. They are at least as important, but I think more so than are laws and greeting people with what they can’t do.
Recommending people be happy and smile would be great. Can you imagine going to a park or beach with a sign that said, “Please be happy, and practice the art of smiling and appreciating the beauty of Nature. In order to help preserve the beauty of this park for others and for future generations, please observe the following rules. We appreciate your cooperation.”
I reflected on this topic in relationship to the principles of Bhakti-yoga. Stressing the “YES” aspect of Krishna consciousness was part of Prabhupada’s formula for success. He was following the recommendations of Shrila Rupa Gosvami when he first tried to awaken peoples’ attraction to Krishna through kirtana, prasadum, and talks about Krishna, and then introducing the “prohibitions” and other principles. This is still the best idea for speaking to new people, yet I am surprised that sometimes devotees stress the rules in beginning talks. To me, this is just like being greeting on the Beach with the huge NO sign, with the lists of restrictions. I felt put off, not thankful to the government.
If people can appreciate the value and necessity of Krishna consciousness, and experience some taste in its’ practice, then they will be more likely to consider taking it up. Also, we should frame the rules and “don’ts” as ways of attracting Krishna, not as things to give up or austerities to perform. We are not restrictive moralists for morality sake, but we want to do what is favorable for loving and serving Krishna. This is not compromising but packaging.
One thing we have learning living in America is that packaging sells! And this is not a hype, Krishna consciousness is really the most precious and valuable thing. “Preaching” or sharing our faith, means putting our philosophy in language that is understandable and attractive. Krishna is the source of our intelligence, and after all Krishna means “all-attractive”, or as Jiva Goswamis says, “irresistible”, so making KC attractive isn’t difficult provided we embody what we say and are striving to become pure devotees.