Aim just a bit higher. . .


Over the last weekend I attended two festivals in honor of Siva-ratri. One was held outdoors and included a small fire yajna as part of the ceremonies for installing* the head of Lord Siva, just like the one worshiped in Vrindavana, India as Gopisvara Mahadeva, whose main function there is understood to be to guard the arena of Lord Krishna’s rasa-lila to ensure that no unqualified people can enter there. Only those whose love for the Lord is untainted by selfish desires can take part in the Lord’s spiritual circle dance.
So this ceremonial fire-sacrifice involved, at intervals, all the participants tossing rice grains into the fire. It was a breezy day, and I noticed the grains I was tossing were often not quite reaching the flames. I began to try harder, aiming at the pineapple that sat on the far side of the small sacrificial arena from me. That worked better. Then the wind shifted, and I found I had to aim at an apple that sat more on the western side of the pit. (I was thinking of something I’d read years ago about golfers having to take the prevailing winds into account as they took aim, in major tournaments.) Eventually all the prayers were chanted, the ceremony ended, and we all happily joined in, as we do to mark every occasion, with the singing of the Hare Krishna mantra.
When I got to work on Monday, I tore off the weekend page of my ‘daily’ calendar, and found this marvelous quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it.”
Of course, he meant it in more than physical terms, and I should too. If we want to attain, say, peace of mind, we should aspire to bring peace to everyone in the world; if we want to learn to love our neighbor, we should try to love God; if we want to go back to Godhead eventually, we should try to go in this lifetime. Aim a little above the mark.

*installing a deity means to offer prayers and mantras for invoking the presence of the personality represented in the murti form.