Dear reader, I have already told you about the terrible cactus monsters in my book ‘A Heart Full of Gratitude’ (Chapter one.) I added the Cholla-Cactus story at the end for you—in case you haven´t read it yet.

Here comes the ‘Kadamba flowers’ story, which is linked to the ‘Cholla cactus’ story. Please relish these astounding insights!

Kadamba flowers / Cholla-cactus

When I asked Fredy to recall the ‘cactus story’ which he had recorded in his diary of our adventures, I found out that he was also writing a book about his life, which will contain more details on our travels. He writes in German and the novel is called Biografie eines Unbekannten, Biography of a Nobody and the book has been published.

Interestingly, at the time when I asked him, the kadamba trees were in full bloom in the courtyard of my residence here in Mayapur, India. I could see hundreds of beautiful kadamba flowers from my window, and their sweet scent would enter my home. I could even touch the flowers from my rooftop-terrace. They are so soft; and the pollen comes off easily and freely distributes its pleasing fragrance. This flower is very dear to Krishna, so I would decorate my altar with them.

I suddenly remembered that the cholla-cactus had a similar shape and size as the kadamba flowers. It struck me deeply. To me, the cholla cactus represents this unpredictable material world where there is danger at every step. On the other hand, the kadamba flowers, so gentle and sweet, represent a more pleasing world, the spiritual world, where every step is a dance and every word is a song.

But watch out! We are still in the material world. The bees are very enthusiastically buzzing around from one kadamba flower to the next. So you must be careful. Do not pluck the flowers together with the bees—you will get stung!

Although the kadamba flower and the cactus have a certain external resemblance, one can cause a great amount of distress whereas the other provides a sense of well-being with its unique scent and helps us to progress spiritually.

Such is the material world: danger lurks at every step. It is deception. The spiritual world, on the other hand, not only gives off fragrant scents but also the inner happiness that every human being longs for.

I plucked a bagfull of kadamba flowers and headed to my daughter’s family’s home. I told them to please come on the balcony. “I got a surprise, close your eyes!” I started throwing the first kadamba flower at my granddaughter. She immediately ran to me enthusiastically and grabbed a few kadamba flowers out of my bag. With immense joy, she threw one at me and then one at her mother. Then we all started throwing them at one another with laughter, calling out, “Krishna! Krishna! Gauranga! Radhe! Radhe!” In this way we experienced a lot of happiness together. The statement of the merciful Lord—that just by seeing or smelling a kadamba flower one develops love of Godhead—is very inspiring.

Always remember Krishna and never forget Him is the basic spiritual principle on the path back home to Godhead.

When the flowers of the kadamba trees lose their pollen, some of the pollen falls on healthy strong green leaves. These leaves look like palms that hold the beautiful little shaped blossoms tightly as if they would like to offer something to Krishna with love and devotion. The rest of the blossoms fall down onto the pathway beneath, which looks like a beautiful golden carpet spread out to welcome Radha and Krishna to walk on.

Speaking of offering flowers to Krishna reminds me of a verse from the Bhagavad-gita (9,26), wherein Krishna says:

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it.”

In his purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada states that in order to achieve permanent, eternal happiness, it is essential to be engaged in the transcendental loving service of Sri Krishna and that no one is barred from engaging in it, “even by the poorest of the poor.” You don’t have to be a brahmana, a learned scholar, a very rich man or a great philosopher. The only qualification required is devotion to the Lord, and the process is very easy. A single leaf, a piece of fruit, or a little water are enough to please the Supreme Lord provided the offering is made in genuine love. And therefore, who but a complete fool wouldn’t want to avail himself (or herself) of such an opportunity to attain the highest perfectional life of eternity, bliss and knowledge? All Krishna wants is loving service. Nothing more. Because He is self-sufficient, He doesn’t require anything from anyone. Consequently, He doesn’t accept even the most opulent offering from a non-devotee. All He wants is an exchange of love and affection.

The impersonalist philosophers, who maintain that the Absolute Truth is formless—and therefore without senses—cannot understand this verse of Bhagavad-gita. To them, it is either a metaphor or the proof of Krishna’s mundane character. But actually, He does have, and it is stated that His senses are interchangeable; in other words, one sense can perform the function of any other. This is what it means to say that Krishna is absolute. If He didn’t have senses, how could He be considered full in all opulences? In the seventh chapter, Krishna has explained that He impregnates the living entities into material nature simply by glancing at material nature. In this case, Krishna’s hearing the devotee’s words of love in offering foodstuffs is wholly identical with His eating and tasting. It is important to realize that because of His absolute position, His hearing is wholly identical with His eating and tasting. Only the devotee, who accepts Krishna as He describes Himself, without interpretation, can understand that the Supreme Absolute Truth can eat food and enjoy it.

Cholla-Cactus story

On the 30th of March 1982, we visited the zoo in San Diego. Close to the entrance a very effulgent lady approached us and enthusiastically handed us a little book with the title Search for Liberation. The front cover of the book displayed a portrait of the famous late John Lennon together with a mystic-looking man from the East. He looked as if he knew something we did not know—that is what inspired us to give the lady a little donation and take the book.

Later we visited the Arizona desert. After a stormy night, we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and decided to go for a walk. The pathway was filled with flower petals and on the side of the pathway, there were many cactus plants. Suddenly a cactus caught hold of Fredy’s sandal. Some of its spines went through his sandal and slightly touched his toe. I giggled as I watched him try to remove the cactus with two stones. I could never have imagined what happened next. As he finally removed the cactus from his sandal the monster flew directly in my face. Without thinking, my instant reaction was to grab the cactus with my hands to get it off my face. The cactus spines went through my fingers. The severe pain made me cry and I almost lost consciousness. The thought of dying crossed my mind. We were both in deep despair but at the same time we tried to remain as calm as possible. 

All nervous, Fredy again grabbed two stones to remove the cactus from my face. After an intense struggle, he got off the cactus from my bleeding lips—but still, I had the cactus hanging from my fingers. One thorn went in through the fingertip and came through at the fingernail. The pain was unbearable.

We rushed back to our camper van and I immediately grabbed the nearest book Search for liberation and bit into it with all my strength. I was definitely in search for liberation from this stressful situation. With a great deal of patience Fredy carefully cut off the cactus from my fingers with scissors and removed each spine with tweezers. While hot tears rolled down my cheeks like a stream, two thoughts crossed my mind. First of all, I should not have laughed while Fredy was in trouble trying to remove the cactus from his sandal, and secondly—if I were to die, what would I think at the time of my death? For a moment my mind went blank, and the next moment scattered in bewilderment with hundreds of thoughts.

A few days later, sadly a bit too late for us, we read the following in a botanical brochure:

“Cholla cacti give the appearance of attacking aggressively. They drop off offshoots full of extremely sharp spines with tiny barbs. Even at the slightest touch of skin or clothing, the segment comes off the plant and the spines bore into the flesh and can only be pulled out with great effort and pain. Any wrong move makes them penetrate even deeper.”

Now we understood that we were victims of the jumping cholla cactus monster.

I was a bit lucky in my unlucky situation. I had no infection —thanks to my expert surgeon Fredy.

The book titled Search for liberation—now with my dental impressions—had been our travel partner since San Diego, meanwhile, I also saw it as my benefactor. I believe it helped me to feel less pain while Fredy removed the cactus. As we continued with our travel, Fredy placed the book up in front of the van so that we could see it while driving.

I studied the title more closely and wondered what this book had to say. It became clear to me that I was also searching for liberation, especially when facing difficulties—like a few days earlier, with a cactus in my face. Yet, I was still more interested in the search for freedom. But aren’t liberation and freedom non-different? Too bad the book was written in English and I was not fluent in it. 

And again, I looked out of the window and let myself be distracted by various things….

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5 months ago

I found Guruseva’s story and life reflections refreshingly honest and a timely reminder that our journey on this earth, with all its ups and downs, is ultimately guided by a loving spiritual force – constantly beckoning us home. Thank you for bringing us along your spiritual journey Guruseva and sharing the life experiences that have shaped you over time with a heart full of gratitude…

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