I say friends not because we have ever met, but because of the close friendship I had with your intimate relative and friend, a kind soul I knew as “Taru”: devotee, writer, public speaker, humorist, ascetic and a true lover of the Supreme Lord. I dare say that my knowledge and appreciation of Taru differs considerably from yours simply because of our varied perspectives. You, of course, knew him as a close relative, someone you grew up with and loved, or nurtured into adulthood by your good guidance and love. Others of you were his contemporaries in companionship and again, dare I say, love. But as Taru matured into manhood his interests and attentions were diverted. He (seemed to) began to distance himself from your love, and he sought his love elsewhere. And this, I know, must have broken your hearts. Where was your dear Tom? Why had he gone off to some commune in the back hills of West Virginia? Did we do something wrong?
Well, let me set your mind and fond memories as ease. All of your nurturing loves combined to develop the most magnificent, benevolent, and spiritually advanced Taru, who was my dear friend. Today’s society places little value on those traits of character which are truly admirable for those seeking spiritual advancement in this human form of life. Too often we throw aside truthfulness, austerity, cleanliness, and mercy for greed, hypocrisy, deceitfulness and other lustful ambitions which we will not discuss on this auspicious occasion. But Taru held the truly admirable characteristics of saintly behavior like a torch as he sough to find the essence of all existence.
Although we are not here today to discuss religious philosophy, I could not in good conscience offer any homage to Taru without glorifying what he held most dear to his heart. So please give a moment of your time to contemplate the essential life teachings that Tom held so dear and to which he dedicated his life. To this end please allow me to crack open the timeless transcendental teachings of Vedic culture, in order to shed some light on Taru’s truly saintly character. Unknown to our culture, but commonly accepted throughout time and the varied universes, concrete spiritual direction is available to all humanity in the eternal spiritual instruction coming from the Lord Himself. To that end Taru humbly submitted to a bonafide spiritual teacher, one who actually knew God personally, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, loving referred to as Srila Prabhupada by his disciples.
Srila Prabhupada, a pure devotee of God of the topmost stature, accepted Taru as his disciple. And Taru accepted Srila Prabhupada as his guru, his spiritual instructor, and he took the instructions of Srila Prabhupada as his very life and soul. This was not done as some passing fancy. He did not fall sway to some charlatan swami. He was not conned into some mindless cult, for you know his determined character would never fall prey to any cheap tricks when it came to that thing he held most dear, true knowledge – the absolute truth. Rather Srila Prabhupada offered the topmost knowledge of the soul and a simple spiritual solution to the dilemma of material existence, pure love of God through complete immersion in God consciousness by chanting the Lords holy names. And of all Gods hundreds and millions of names the name Krishna, meaning “all attractive”, Rama meaning “all powerful” and Hare “the one who takes away all obstacles” are most significant. Thus this practice of spiritual realization is commonly referred to as the Hare Krishna Movement, for the followers chant
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
to attain spiritual perfection.
I know that if I were personally with you today, many of you would approach and ask, tell me about the time you spent with Tom. What did you do? how did you live? where did you live? what kept him in a farm commune in West Virginia instead of studying at the university or working in a profession? So let me provide a small glimpse into those days on the farm back in the ’70s.
Our lives were very austere and simple. I would imagine your conception of a monks lifestyle in a monastery would not be too far off, except I truly doubt that monks enjoy their spiritual practice a fraction of the extent that we enjoyed our experience as young men in Krishna Consciousness. We were truly thrilled daily, as we seriously worked to purify our minds and existence by the simple process of devotional service to God. Now don’t get me wrong, giving up the carnal pleasure of material life is no walk in the park, but when the going got rough we took shelter of the good guidance and saintly association of those who were more spiritually advanced and steady. And that’s where Taru shined. He was fully convinced of the significance of spiritual advancement and determined to take full advantage of its benefits. His spiritual guidance was much sought after. It was as if he had been doing this for lifetimes, which from his shared realizations I have no doubt that he had. Oh, did I mention, one of the fundamental understandings of Krishna consciousness is that we are eternal souls and are subject to reincarnation until we become fully spiritually realized.
So back to life on the farm. We got up every morning very, very, very early. And after rising at such a Godly hour (another belief of Krishna consciousness here, early morning is the absolute best time to make spiritual advancement) we proceeded to wash off the foggy mind and dirty body with a nice cold (in winter bitterly cold) shower. Now that got the blood flowing, and we proceeded to the community’s temple to sit in meditation. Our meditation was not a silent staring at the tip of he nose, nor contemplation of the third eye or even looking at our navel. We chanted Hare Krishna on beads, absorbing our minds in the Lords Holy names
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
This we did for a couple of hours, and then we proceeded to worship at Radha and Krishna’s altar by singing and dancing together, this time we added musical instruments as we chanted.
And then you would look around and Tom was gone. Yes, he would just vanish from the temple and become an entirely different personality, a young cowherd boy. If you were to follow him you would soon find him at the utters of cows, filling bucket after bucket with fresh warm milk. Later that kind offering from mother cow would be skimmed of its creamy butter, cultured for fresh yogurt, the butter clarified for ghee that was used to fry breads and vegetables. You can’t imagine all the wonderful and fully nourishing foods from the milk the cows so graciously provided through Tom’s loving service. I feel another belief coming on, yes, yes there it is – we observed a diet of strict vegetarian fare of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and milk products. These were all prepared with love and devotion and offered to God for His pleasure and later relished at meals as Krishna prasadam (mercy). We will return to this a little later.
As the day progressed, Taru spent much of his time reading scripture and writing wonderful articles for the local community journal The Brijabasi Spirit. He and I would also do graphic layout and camera work together to prepare this monthly publication. Taru was involved in so many varied services at New Vrindaban Community that I can’t even recount them all. But there was not a moment of his valuable time that he did not use fully in spiritual service. As I said, he was a true saint.
During the summer months I had the pleasure of sporting with Taru in the late afternoon at the local bathing pond. This spiritual reservoir was named Radha Kunda and provided not only relief from the summer heat and ones daily fatigue, but also washed us of any offenses in our spiritual practice. The significance of this bathing ghat (pond) is beyond the scope of this presentation, however, let me just say it was a transcendental experience millions of times more enlivening than just a swim in the lake. And Tom very much enjoyed this.
You are certainly aware that in most spiritual disciplines a celibate life is accepted by the highest order. For Taru this was certainly the case. For a very short time he was married to one of the most celebrated, beautiful, and spiritually advanced young ladies in the community. But his fixed determination to exclusively dedicate everything to spiritual advancement made it difficult for him to see the significance of a spiritual union in marriage. This union was unfortunately very short lived.
Before I conclude there is one other very amazing characteristic of Taru which I must mention – his HUGE appetite, actually it was voracious. Now I touched upon earlier the fact that as devotees we only eat food that has first been lovingly prepared for the Lord’s enjoyment. By this humble approach of only eating what God has first tasted, one’s eating transforms into the taking of a holy sacrament. Once this holy food becomes available to the devotees, it is called prasadam, meaning “the Lord’s mercy”. And it not only nourishes the body, but it also purifies one’s existence due to the spiritual touch of the Supreme Lord. Taru absolutely LOVED this manifestation of the Lord’s mercy. He, like a lovesick teenager, was so smitten with prasadam that he would embark upon countless adventures in his pursuit of his heart’s desire. I will not even try to recount these adventures myself, as Taru himself has personally written a series of articles entitled “Confessions of a Prasadam Addict.” I beg you to please take a few minutes out of your busy lives and personally associate with Tom through these writings of his. This will truly bring great joy to your heart and a hugh smile to your face, maybe even an uncontrollable laugh to your being, and you will certainly enter into his intimate association through these wonderful articles.
Although Taru accepted and embraced a lifestyle of spiritual discipline quite contrary to our western ways, and although he threw aside all that we often value and cherish, and even more personal to you, although he may have seemed to have push aside YOUR love for him, this was certainly not the case. Rather, by enveloping himself in determined (and let me tell you Taru was the most determined) devotional service to the Supreme, he was truly offering the very essence of his eternal love to both you and all of humanity. Such a truly saintly character is hardly ever seen in today’s world. Well, as I said, Taru was truly as saint among men. He was that rare pearl that only every hundreds of years washes upon the shore with the trillions of grains of sand. More I cannot say least he take offense at my praise out of his profound humility.
So among all these varied words, I hope you have gained some insight that has only increased your profound love for your beloved Tom, and my dear friend Taru. I was most fortunate to have had his divine association and presence in my life. His saintly character and determined example of what it means to truly be a man of God I hope will some day become that torch by which I too may find a way to our beloved Lord.
Thank you so very much.
Dulal Chandra dasa