I had just crossed the lights on Queen Street when I saw him from the corner of my eye. Having seen him umpteen times before, I instinctively knew what he was going to do. Shivers ran up my spine. Although I have seen him do the same thing numerous times, I still experience the same intense revulsion every time.
Let me introduce you to this man. For the sake of context, I am going to call him Mr. Trasher. If you are a Queen Street regular, then you know Mr. Trasher. Beginning at the bottom of the street, he walks from one rubbish bin to another. He does at least four rounds a day, each time doing the same thing. He stops at a bin, peers in, puts his hand in and digs around. He shuffles the contents, removes some, and inspects his findings, sometimes by taking a bite of whatever he has found. If the morsel is not to his taste, he spits it back in the rubbish and throws the rotting remnant back. If his scavenging has been successful, then, grunting, he devours the delectable scrap.
The first time I ever saw this man, I thought to myself, what a life to live, going from one rubbish bin to another. Then, I dug into myself and realised that in some ways my life is not much different to his. In fact, I realised that I might be even worse. I might just be like that piece of garbage he has picked up from the bin and perhaps spat back in. Come to think of it, I think I switch roles between these two—either doing the trashing or being trashed.
In my late teens, out of an impelling desire for acceptance, love, and security, I would enter one relationship after the other, and each time I’d play the same game. If I didn’t stand up to his expectations, I would be discarded, or if he didn’t stand up to my expectations, he would be discarded. And both parties then continued the scavenging, just as Mr. Trasher on Queen Street takes a bite of some refuse from the rubbish bin and if it’s not to his taste, spits it out and moves on to another bin.
If I am in a rubbish bin, I definitely want to be rescued. But what type of a rescue operation will really help me? A fancy-job rescue operation? Honestly, how secure is the job market? A holiday? Holidays must come to an end too. A perfect-partner rescue operation? Really, just to be chewed on and thrown out again?
I came across a book entitled Prabhupada: He Built a House in Which the Whole World Can Live. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a Vedic scholar and a revered monk, is not only respected as the world’s most prominent contemporary authority on bhakti-yoga but is also very well known for bringing it to the West. The more I read about his worldwide distribution of a spiritual lifestyle in Krishna consciousness, the more I become convinced of his authenticity. He did not make any distinction—he saw everyone with equal vision. He acted to help everyone despite their qualification. He didn’t spit anyone out; he welcomed everyone with open arms, giving real love and care. Such qualities are characteristic of a genuine spiritual authority, as elucidated below:
“Gentle, tolerant, peaceful, magnanimous, grave, sweet in words and very sober in endeavour, respectful to everyone, and works for the benefit of all, diplomacy, envy and jealousy are unknown to his heart.” (Caitanaya-caritamrta, Adi 8.55-8.56)
When I see the Trasher on Queen Street, I quiver. Immediately one of Srila Prabhupada’s commentaries from the quintessential encyclopaedia of yoga wisdom, Srimad- Bhagvatam, crosses my mind:
“It is called chewing the chewed. If somebody chewed the sugarcane, took out the juice, and if the remnants were thrown away, what will you get by chewing again those remnants? We may discover many ways to squeeze the juice out of the sugarcane, but the result is the same.” (Srimad-Bhagvatam 7.5.30)
I am amazed at how this verse encapsulates what Mr. Trasher and I have been doing for a long time. The Trasher, going from one bin to another, is chewing what has already been chewed by others. In going from one relationship to another, I am playing the same game over and over again, trying to find the love and security that I have failed to find in previous ones. Fearing, but hoping nonetheless, that next time I will be lovingly accepted without reservations. But as Srila Prabhupada further comments on this subject:
“Those who try to adjust material conditions are said to be chewing the chewed. No one has been able to adjust material conditions, but life after life, generation after generation, people try and repeatedly fail.”
I am glad I’m finding my way out of this lose-lose, chewing/being chewed game. Rather than digging for love and satisfaction in the rubbish bin of external, temporary, and disappointing relationships, I am building my eternal and perfectly reciprocal relationship with Krishna, the supreme source of loving relationships—under the expert guidance of my spiritual teacher. As the above quote continues:
“Unless one is properly trained by a mahat—a mahatma, or great soul— there is no possibility of one’s understanding Krishna and his devotional service.”
I’m grateful to Srila Prabhupada for his rescue operation, for bringing me bhakti-yoga, the science of real love. Having been rescued, and practising a Krishna conscious lifestyle in a society of truly nurturing relationships, I am gradually able to let go of my insecurities and my fear of being exploited.