A friend quipped, “You Hare Krishna’s are amazing; you guys are always happy, and I guess that’s because you are a hedgehog!” I recalled Isaiah Berlin’s popular essay ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’, and soon realized how intelligent devotees learn from the hedgehog, and face reversals thrown by the material energy with poise and dignity. Hedgehog is more like a porcupine or a wild rat that has sharp, shooting spines that point outwards. When a fox attacks, the Hedgehog rolls up into a tight ball and the sharp ‘spears’ forces the fox to retreat. The fox however is determined; he goes back, calls for a meeting, makes better plans, learns more techniques and becomes an expert in ‘many things’ and again attacks.
Seeing the advancing predator, the Hedgehog smiles wryly, “When will he ever learn?” Soon he rolls up into a ball. The fox is exasperated at yet another failure, and withdraws dejected; he knows ‘many things’ but the Hedgehog knows ‘one big thing’. Hare Krishna’s are like the Hedgehog; they know the ‘one big thing’ and that is ‘Chant Hare Krishna’. In all situations, whether acute distress or extreme happiness, they lovingly remember the Lord and are sober and feel peaceful. The world throws up strange surprises, some pleasant and many nasty ones. One look at the daily news, you know what I am saying- murder, rape, terrorism and the list is endless. Besides, things go topsy- turvy on the personal front too; relationships strain, people betray, and basically life could get bizarre! At such times, a dire need is felt by many to remain grounded; we are desperate to feel at peace, despite the intense passion all around.
The Hedgehog teaches us how. Put your hand on the bead bag, let your index finger pop out of the bag like the sharp spine of the rat, and close your eyes, and meditate on the divine syllables of Hare Krishna. Soon, the nasty predator of the mind quells, he retreats and waits for another day. That’s why Srila Prabhupada said, “chant Hare Krishna and be happy” This is not to say that one ignores pressing issues on the career or domestic front. While doing the needful on the external front, the devotee internally ‘rolls up’ and chants Hare Krishna. It’s pertinent to remind ourselves that unlike a Hedgheog that escapes the fox, we wouldn’t escape the pain by merely picking up our bead bag and mechanically vibrating the Holy Names of Krishna.
One needs to be attentive to the chanting; a prayerful and mindful chanting is what helps the spears shoot out to the problems. Only when we invest our consciousness into our chanting does the avalanche of problems subside, and withdraw, for another day. But when that day comes, you know your ‘one big thing’; just ‘roll up’ and chant Hare Krishna!
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