Monday, July 26, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
As compiled by Rashi Singh
One year ago, HG Vaisesika Prabhu graced ISKCON Toronto with his presence for the first time, and our temple has not since been the same. Not only had he empowered and inspired a group of devotees to form the Toronto Sankirtana Team, but by his mercy, many people are feeling the buzz of book distribution, and so many more are reaping its benefits. One such person is now a regular, valued member of the ISKCON Toronto family. At a regular Sunday feast, I have the privilege of honouring prasadam with this devotee, who explains her story to me.
About a year ago, Haleh Ashkevari was driving with her daughter in the Bloor-Spadina neighbourhood. Haleh was unassumingly parking her car, while her daughter walked into a nearby store in the trendy area. As Haleh stepped out of her car, a devotee approached her and asked if she was interested in yoga. She said yes. The devotee began showing her the pages and some pictures of the Bhagavad Gita, using the tips that HG Vaisesika Prabhu provided, that Haleh herself is now very familiar with. Intrigued, she gave the devotee $20 in exchange for the book, after which he introduced her to Vaisesika Prabhu. “Do you believe in the power of prayer?” Vaisesika Prabhu asked.“Sure,” she said.“I’m going to teach you one – repeat after me.” And then Haleh uttered the Hare Krishna mahamantra for the first time in this life. “I’ll never forget that feeling,” she remembers. “I really felt like something had taken over me. The mantra was so powerful.” Snapping her out of her somewhat bewildered and happy state, Haleh’s daughter then approached her to leave for the next store. And she did, but not before Vaisesika Prabhu invited her to the temple. She came the very next day, and gave Vaisesika Prabhu her contact information, upon his request.
For two months, she didn’t come to the temple due to a busy travel schedule, but Vaisesika Prabhu stayed in touch with her. “He was so kind, and very personal,” says Haleh. “I don’t think I knew how lucky I was!” With the encouragement of HG Vaisesika Prabhu, Haleh began coming to the temple more regularly. Although she felt it was a little scary at first, the devotees made her feel very welcome. Also at the insistence of Vaisesika Prabhu, Haleh began going out on books. “It’s been a wonderful experience. I feel that going out on books is a self-cleansing process for me. Every time I recognize things in people that are preventing them from surrendering to Krishna , I feel like I’m looking in a mirror.” At this point in Haleh’s story, I’m in awe. Was it just one year ago that Haleh came into our lives? She is such an integral part of our community, and such a warm and loving personality. And as she says something so simple, and so humble, I begin to appreciate the power of Srila Prabhupada’s books, and of Vaisesika Prabhu’s care. “I feel like going out on books allows me to meet people who remind me of what the things are that I need to work on to progress in my Krishna Consciousness,” she continues. “I’m reaching a point in my spiritual life where I’m realizing many of my faults, and my personal obstacles. I hope that going out on books will continue to purify me, and I really hope that I have the blessings and association of all the Toronto devotees to help me!” Again, I’m deeply inspired by Haleh’s humility, and the depth of her realizations. There are so many people in our city who are in desperate need of Srila Prabhupada’s books. With a little bit of courage, and a lot of mercy, we should all try to assist the Toronto Sankirtana Team as much as possible, and play a small role in pushing on Srila Prabhupada’s glorious mission here in Toronto .
Speaking to Haleh makes me realize that we really are just instruments, and Krishna will send us people who are ripe for Krishna Consciousness if we endeavor with sincerity. I also realize that book distribution is as much for our own purification than anything else. “Here I am a year later, praying for the mercy and blessings of all the vaisnavas,” Haleh says. “I am eternally grateful and indebted to HG Vaisesika Prabhu.”