Filling the Heart

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By Lila Shukha Dasi

We begin life with large, empty hearts and along our journeys it is those people who sincerely help us, who fill us—little by little.

I used to be a lot of things: naive, overworked, underpaid, afraid, restless, and an attorney in Durban’s cutthroat legal world. My husband, Venu Gopal, and I then moved to Japan where I entered the arena of teaching English as a second language to the Japanese. Now I’m a housewife and for the first time, everything on my schedule is something I’ve put there myself. This has made me a more relaxed and happy person, and it’s allowed some time for contemplation. Of late, I’ve been reflecting upon how exactly I arrived at this point in my life since the years seem to have flown by, without my noticing it.

The answer came one sunny afternoon at the appropriately named café, Essence. I was “swami stepping” with a circle of ten or so hippie-come-spiritualists, who were into the kirtan Venu Gopal was singing. It may sound cheesy but I swear the scene was set just for my light bulb moment. Picture this: tropical island, gorgeous little building on a hilltop overlooking the East China Sea, greenery hanging from the ceiling, winter sun filtering through, soothing kirtan, and surrounded by sincere people who were chanting and being happy.

The whispers came flooding into my mind. I could hear Vamsi-Gita’s voice, “Step in, step out, and turn at just the right moment.” She taught me how to “swami step” in kirtan. I looked over at one of our friends who wanted to wear a sari that day. I draped it on her. Rasa-sthali taught me how to do that at a university student retreat in Durban in the winter of 2008. In broken Japanese, I handed out a flyer to some curious on-lookers, and I could hear Rukmini say, “Create a Vaikuntha bubble when you’re handing out pamphlets.” She basically meant that I should be brave even when I was as a nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I sang the maha-mantra loudly when my mike died. Yadurani taught me to sing. I never knew that I could, until the day she told me, “Sing every day, whenever you get the chance, sing.”

Later I was busy with preparations for an upcoming festival, and the whispers became louder. The flower arranging learned from Rupanuga and the garland making from Vasudha. Cooking and prepping vegetables was a skill I acquired by helping out at Sunday Love Feasts. When guests arrived, I tried my best to make them feel loved and welcomed, a skill carefully learned from Krishna-chandra. Of course, this is a short list. These people made time for me because they loved me and they loved God. For when you love God, you love every living being.

“Sharing knowledge is not about giving people something, or getting something from them. That is only valid for information sharing. Sharing knowledge occurs when people are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action; it is about creating learning processes.” Peter Senge, director of the Centre for Organizational Learning at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

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