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Touch It to Your Head

In Vedic culture, one shows respect to an object by touching it to one’s head. When Srila Prabhupada was a child, his mother taught him to pick up and touch to his head any grains of rice that might have fallen from his plate. I teach this same practice to my children. The lesson I’m trying to teach them goes deeper than the concept of “waste not, want not” my own father taught me. And it goes deeper than the idea of saving the earth’s resources. I’m teaching my children that the grain of rice should be respected because it was given by God. In fact, it is a part of God.

The grain of rice is, of course, produced from the earth. In Sanskrit, the earth is known as Bhumi, derived from bhu, which means “becoming,” “being,” “existing,” or “produced.” Bhumi is therefore known as Mother Earth because she enables us to exist materially by providing our bodies and the food that nourishes them.

Our father is Lord Krishna—spiritually because our existence as spiritual beings depends upon Him, and materially because He injects us as seeds into the womb of Mother Earth, who produces the life forms we souls inhabit. A grain of rice, the product of one life form (the rice plant), is a result of the energies of Father Krishna and Mother Earth and so represents them.

The Vedanta-sutra states, shakti shaktimatayor abhedah: “The energy and the energetic are nondifferent.” In other words, the cause of a thing is present in that thing. So a rice grain is nondifferent from Krishna because it is one of His energies.

How special one grain of rice is! By touching it to our heads in the right consciousness, we’re touching Krishna.

We can honor Krishna through His energy in many ways. For example, we can respect Krishna by turning off an electrical appliance as we leave a room. We can resolve, “Krishna has kindly provided so much. Let me accept my quota only—what I need to live—and let me not misuse one particle of His energy.”

Srila Prabhupada taught by example how to conserve Krishna’s energy. On a morning walk, he once went into a neighbor’s garden to turn off a dripping tap. Another time, although ill he got up from his bed to turn off a fan running unnecessarily in an adjoining room.

Srila Prabhupada criticized the wastefulness of his Western disciples.

“This is your custom,” he once said. “Simply wasting. If you have some extra cloth, you cannot fold it. You cut it off and throw it away. Whatever goes wrong, you solve it with money, and it appears good. You make some accident, and you cover it quickly with money. It is not that you are very capable, but with money you cover your deficiencies.”

While cautiously using Krishna’s energy in His service, we must especially be concerned with our use of the energy of time. Krishna says, “Time I am.” The greatest deficiency is to waste time. Once a moment has passed, all the money in the world cannot buy it back. When we try to dedicate every moment to Krisna’s service, we’ll get a sense of the eternal world, where time is never wasted.

As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna consciousness, or yoga, is “the art of living” (yoga karmasu kaushalam). By remembering Krishna when we turn off a light or a tap, when we recycle paper or glass or reuse an envelope, or when we work to reduce our necessities, we’ll not only act more harmoniously with the earth, but we’ll also make spiritual advancement and prepare ourselves to go back home, back to Godhead.