“On the other hand, if a sincere person tries to control the active senses by the mind and begins karma-yoga [in Krishna consciousness] without attachment, he is by far superior” (Bhagavad Gita 3.7)
He could barely walk; at seventy eight, he was truly extending himself as he slowly but determinedly served water to the thirsty pilgrims outside the temple. I recognized him, and offered to help, but he was insistent, expressing this is the only service he could now render at this age. Later after the crowd dispersed, I expressed my admiration for his spirit of service. He humbly bowed his head down and revealed his heart, “Prabhu, I am doing nothing to reciprocate with the mercy and love of Srila Prabhupada. At my age Srila Prabhupada was travelling all over the world and helping millions become Krishna conscious. Let me do my little to thank him for what he has done for all of us” I had known him to be a successful hotelier during his heydays, but now when one would expect him to spend his sunset years quietly doing bhajan in Vrindavan, he is here serving devotees happily.
Another elderly devotee I met today was a seventy two year old friend, who once upon a time was the CEO of one of the largest companies in India. Today, he is retired and having given most of his savings away in charity, he along with his seventy year old wife stays in Vrindavan and selflessly serves the locals at the eye hospital and hospice. The couple’s sincerity is heart rendering, and it’s also tremendously faith giving to see how Srila Prabhupada has touched the lives of so many people. Another local elderly Vrajwasi I met at Vrinda kunda endeared to all of us. He has been serving there all alone for the last thirty five years. He lovingly shared his Braja rotis and ladoos with us, and happily shared Krishna’s Vrindavan pastimes.
I also realized the greatness of these devotees when I recalled how it’s not easy to stay in Vrindavan. It’s a wonderful experience to come and visit the holy places here, get surcharged with spiritual enthusiasm, and then go back to our home towns. But to brave the extreme summer and winter of Vrindavan, and especially during old age, one has to be a true lover of Krishna. These devotees I met are not famous gurus or well known leaders of the society. They are ordinary and unassuming, yet I am sure they are dearer to Krishna than those who only make a show of devotion.
I returned to my room, soberly reflecting on Srila Prabhupada’s words of wisdom from the third chapter of Bhagavad Gita.
“A sincere person who follows this method is far better situated than the false pretender who adopts show—bottle spiritualism to cheat the innocent public. A sincere sweeper in the street is far better than the charlatan meditator who meditates only for the sake of making a living.” (Srila Prabhupada purport to Bhagavad Gita 3.7)