43 years ago, at 1:11 pm I took birth in this world. Yes, it's my birthday today. A reason to celebrate? Well, it depends. I would say `yes` if I am able to keep my promise! What promise? The promise I gave to the Lord while suffering in the womb of my mother. It must have been some time in the beginning of December 1976:
„My dear Lord, in this lifetime I will worship You! In this lifetime I will render service unto You, I’ll even become a temple president in ISKCON, if this is really required! In fact, I am ready for anything. Just let me become an instrument in Your hands and I will do whatever You want from me …!
Of course, I do not really remember the content of my prayer, or whether I actually prayed at all. However, the Bhagavatam gives us a description of how a jiva, a living entity, comes to consciousness in the womb of their mother in the seventh month and offers prayers to the Lord.
I thought this is a nice mediation for me today and maybe for the readers of this blog as well. What follows is a summary of the prayer of a jiva and its conversation with the Paramatma within the womb:
The jiva prays: „I take shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord, who appears in His various eternal forms, who walk on the earth and who awards fearlessness. Being sinful, I got this situation from Him. I am lying in the womb due to Maya, but the Lord is also here with me as Paramatma. But He is unaffected and changeless. Although unlimited, He is perceived in a repentant heart. I am in this material body made of five elements, although I am essentially spiritual. How can a person, deeply afflicted by samsara, again engage in the Ioving service of the Lord, unless that person has received the causeless mercy of the Lord or His devotees? Who else but the Paramatma, residing in all beings through all phases of time, can give this knowledge to a person like me? Therefore, we should surrender unto Him only to destroy our miseries!“
The foolish jiva, tortured inside the womb of his mother, and desiring to get out, counts the months and calls out: 'Oh Lord! When will I get out of this confinement?'
The Lord remarks: “Am I merciless since I do not get you out right now?"
With shame, fear, biting his tongue, putting himself in a humble position the jiva speaks: „By Your causeless mercy I am awakened to consciousness..(..) I cannot repay this mercy, but can only pray with folded hands. The jiva in another type of body sees only by instinct. But I have a human body in which I can control my senses and can understand my destination. By the Supreme Lord's grace, I can see Him within and without.“
The Lord tells: "You choose Me by bhakti, but you are agitated by suffering. Because you requested to get out, I will now take you out of the womb."
The iiva replies: „Though I am suffering here inside the womb, I do not desire to get out of this place, because the place outside is under the control of deva-maya who bewilders the jiva and perpetuates his samsara!“
The Lord asks: "So what have you decided?"
The jiva answers: „I will stay here and destroy my sufferings with the help of my friend, clear consciousness, to surrender unto You. By keeping Your Lotus feet in my mind, I will not take birth again.“
With the help of my friend - clear consciousness I will focus my mind on the Lotus feet of Vishnu, Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and will surrender unto Him. In essence that's the prayer or the promise that we have given to the Lord within the womb, but what happened once we took birth? Again we became covered by ignorance and forgot about the goal of life, which is to develop pure love of God and to dedicate our life to Him. Therefore, to the extent that we are able to live up to this promise, to that extent is our birthday a reason to celebrate.
Will I have a birthday party today? I guess after writing this blog, I need to surrender more before doing so!
Summary of the Prayers based on Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 3, Chapter 31 entitled `Lord Kapila’s Instructions on the Movements of the Living Entities`, Verses 12-21, taken from the Book `Bhagavad Subhodini`, slightly edited.