„This Keychain reminds me of a story!“ While I put the key, which is attached to Starfish fob in my pocket, I ask my roommate: „Have you heard of the Starfish story? It's quite famous and a very instructive narration. It goes something like this:
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. 1
The moral of the story: Sometimes we might think that our endeavors will not make much of a difference, but for those who have come in touch with us, for those we were able to help, for them it made a difference!
This story also very much reflects the mood of our acaryas, especially Srila Prabhupada. He wanted us to `throw as many starfish as possible back to the sea`! In other words, he wanted us to help others become Krishna Conscious too.
There are two kinds of devotees, the bhajanananda and the goṣṭhyānandī. The first is more interested in his own spiritual development, whereas the second wants to help others.
„Bhajananandi is doing for himself, and goṣṭhyānandī is doing for all living being. If you prepare some rasagullā for you, and if you prepare rasagullā for the mass of people, then who is better? Rasagullā is good, but if you prepare for yourself only, then that is also good. But one who is preparing for so many hundreds and thousands is better.“ 2
Srila Prabhupada always emphasized preaching as the quickest way to attract Krishna’s mercy. At the same time, we understand that the true preacher is actually one who has a deep bhajan, a deep spiritual practice. Therefore Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur said: „The responsibility of preaching is better entrusted to those who are engaged in performing bhajan. Simply being an expert speaker does not qualify one to preach the teachings of Gauranga.“
A true goṣṭhyānandī is actually bhajanananda simultaneously. Sharing Krishna Consciousness is the heart of the Hare Krishna Movement, at the same time we need to be able to deeply relish that Krishna Consciousness ourselves in order to give it to others.
And that was another topic I discussed with my roommate, who happens to also be a Temple President: In order to serve others, we also have to learn how to care for ourselves. In order to inspire others to perform devotional service, we also need to get inspiration to continue our service.
While leaving the room key with its blue Starfish fob at the door of our guest room, I again reflected on the story. Although my way of serving Krishna might be much less significant, much less important than the service of these GBC members and big leaders here at the Euro RGB Meeting in Poland, still I hope that my humble attempt to serve the devotees makes a difference for some.
1 - Adapted from 'The Star Thrower' by Loren C. Eiseley
2 - Srila Prabhupada on a Morning Walk, January 20, 1976, in Mayapura, India
3 - Sajjna-tosani 10/11, fom Kathamrita Bindu 56