Chakra Discussions

Memoirs of a Modern-Day Ksatriya - Part Six

by Jaya Govinda das

Posted August 15, 2004

Devil's Corner

Once again, we found ourselves on a convoy. This time it was to Camp Victory, one of Sadaam's palaces in the middle of Baghdad. We were to pass through a stretch of land commonly referred to as Devil's Corner, which was notorious for deadly ambushes, and which had yielded several attacks daily during the previous weeks.

Traveling in unison along the banks of the Euphrates, our six-vehicle caravan made it's journey toward Devil's Corner, which brought with it an almost certain fate.

As we neared the beginning of that stretch, the obvious signs of recent hostility served as a harsh reminder of the imminent danger we faced. Charred humvees and spent explosive shells lined the narrow road, and miscellaneous military equipment sprayed with bullet holes and RPG impacts gave an indication what we might be in store for something.

No one was out on the roads, which is uncommon in the over-populated city of Baghdad and not a good sign for a convoy passing though. People generally rush the convoys in need of food, first aid, or entertainment. Noticing that not one person was in sight, we knew there was danger ahead.

Pulling around the corner of a run-down textile building, we were suddenly, but not unexpectedly, ambushed. Without much thought or time, which is something you don't really have when you're being attacked, we stopped the convoy, dismounted our vehicles and took cover. The gunfire was still coming strong, but it was hard to determine from where. Panic and haste mixed with reality and vulnerability put everything in a state in which it was difficult to tell if things were moving in slow-motion or rapid-speed. Every second seemed like a minute and every minute was over in seconds.

Finally assessing where the shots were coming from, we returned fire. After a couple minutes, the fighting stopped and the Quick Response Force arrived. They were sent into the building to check for casualties, of which they found none. The aggressors had escaped out the rear of the building, which was somewhat frustrating, for they would be able to attack another convoy tomorrow, and somewhat relieving, knowing that I hadn't been the cause of anyone's death.

Eventually, we continued on our way, avoiding any more attacks.

When we arrived at Camp Victory, most of the other soldiers smoked their customary celebratory cigars and shared laughs and stories with others. Some were a bit shaken up and stuck to themselves, but for the most part, it was back to business, as usual.

I sat by the river and chanted japa for a while, but my chanting kept getting disturbed by a thought in my head that wouldn't go away:

Why do people consider themselves to be safe until they're thrown into a dangerous scenario? Don't they realize that life, itself, is one big dangerous scenario? Everyone can, and will, die, from one second to the next. When bullets fly, they run around frantically, looking for shelter and protection. If only they appreciated the severity of their position as living entities, they would never stop looking for shelter and protection. It's sad that it takes the illusion of danger to convince people that they're not safe. These people need Krsna. They need Prabupada!

The Chaplain and the Skeptic

I had known the skeptic for the past year. A self-proclaimed Marxist/spiritualist, the skeptic, who we'll refer to as Karl, was an open-minded but slightly naive, mode of goodness type of guy. He had a strong Christian upbringing, which played part to his rebellion of conventional western thought and the standard god-fearing mentality, and added to his frustration with religion altogether. He often fancied books by or about Alister Crowley (a new age psuedo-spiritual wannabe) and spoke of a women he knew in Seattle who communicated with whales.

Yes, you can most definitely say he was searching for something.

He stopped me many times to inquire about Krsna consciousness, but generally didn't pay much heed to the answers except to challenge them against something that Marx once said.. During one conversation we had, he mentioned that our new chaplain, who we'll call Chaplain L, was very open-minded and enjoyed delving into various spiritual traditions. On my request, he introduced me to the Chaplain L.

We spoke for a while and I suggested that we start a weekly discussion group, to which he agreed. We decided to meet every Tuesday and discuss a different topic every time, the first one being Krsna.

At the first meeting, Chaplain L. immediately took a liking to the logic and presentation of Krsna consciousness but, as a protestant, felt that he had an obligation to the church, which I didn't discourage. Over the next few weeks, I encouraged him to add a Krsna-conscious dynamic to his already existing protestant practice, and showed him various statements that Srila Prabhupada had made about Lord Jesus.

As the chaplain read further into the Bhagavad-Gita I had given him, he gradually began taking up vegetarianism, which is very hard to do in Iraq unless you've already been vegetarian for a while.

At the same time, Karl, the skeptic, started taking a keen interest in Krsna consciousness when I put Alister Crowley's philosophy in check, pointing out the inconsistencies and illogical explanations and offering a Vedic alternative.

I told Karl "you shouldn't argue philosophy unless you're positive you'll win. If you want to win every time, just read this Bhagavad-Gita and no one can check you."

From then on, Karl was a student rather than a contender. He inquired without a challenge, and accepted my answers as truth. Both he and the chaplain now had their own copies of Bhagavad-Gita and Sri Isopanisad, and they would soon be propounding them to others. They weren't hadn't taken up chanting any fixed number of rounds or anything, nor did either follow the four regulative principles, but they had both become vegetarian, were both reading Prabhupada's books, and there was still seven months to go.