On a walk this morning I breathed the winter air and looked out at the fields and trees. I felt a moment of personal freedom, alone on a mild and frosty morning. Occasional passersby walked their dogs, as unknown to me as I to them, the anonymity so pleasing.
As a young boy I lived and craved for this free world. Beyond home, school and responsibility, a place of play and landscapes of open canvas far from an expectant community. Ask my mother, she'll say 'George was always out, playing with his friends'. In my walk today, I felt again the delight of that freedom, a freedom beyond the trappings of who I have become, the narrative of my identity, those who have chosen to like or despise me, and of all that I presume to represent.
I remember reading a passage where the late George Harrison was saying words to the effect that in seven years he became internationally famous, then for the rest of his life he toiled to become anonymous. There is a great wealth in anonymity. Fame is something for God. The tiny soul becomes quickly distraught by fame, what to speak of that distasteful privilege of the famous--infamy.
Srila Prabhupada warns us of the desire for name, fame, distinction and adoration; a desire that Raghunath Das Goswami of the medieval period likened to bathing in the urine of a donkey. Chaitanya Dev shunned fame and insisted his followers do the same. Even when his senior Brahmananda Bharati came to see him dressed up in the classical deerskin of a renunciant, Chaitanya pretended not to see him. After all, his senior would never put on such a display of alleged renunciation. Was it not Sudama who was blessed with riches to deliver him from his personal pride of renunciation and poverty. Fame either way is unwanted.
The aspiration for fame lurks in us all and we must shun it.
After giving a series of talks at a temple in Africa, my host was expressing how much everyone was in appreciation. In such a moment comes the opportunity for the fool to think themselves 'special' and with that downfall is inevitable. The teachings are special, we treat all things and persons related to Krishna as special, but for ourselves it is no less than a poison. Tempted as we may be this chalice that must never touch our lips.
Look out for the devotee who stands at peace in the crowd, neither pushing to the front nor anxious that they may not be noticed. Serving, inspiring, offering appreciations with no expectation for themselves...at ease and at home in their environments, they are advanced and we must seek them out and follow in their footsteps.
The fact that so far from the crowd I again felt such freedom only goes to show the long distance that remains for me to travel.