Practically everyday, I look out of my window and I see my neighbor working on his yard. Of course, in winter he is not doing yard work but plows the snow if it snows etc. At least major part of the year, I see him waving at me and enthusiastically doing his work. Clearly, I saw how he was connected and was taking pleasure in maintaining his garden. His persona was one of energy and movement. I guess as a proud homeowner, Americans in general tend to take pride in their upkeep of yard and gardening.
Then one day I saw he was missing in his regular activities. After few months, I chanced to meet him in his yard and I was told by my neighbor that he has cancer. As a result, he reduced his movements and stayed indoors most of the time. I prayed to the Lord for His well-being.
As time passed, the yard seemed eerily silent and void. I started to have a gut feeling that something was not right. What once was a yard of energy looked desolate like an abandoned brownfield. It did not sit well with me. I was constantly meditating on his missing figure. Has the inevitable taken place? Not able to withstand my apparent internal conflict, I googled the obituary only to find my good neighbor passed two months ago. He was 61, by modern standards that is young indeed.
I went over to my neighbor's house with a single rose stem and expressed my support and sadness to his wife. Life goes on...isn't it (as my brother would say in his english accent). Everything seems normal and now i see a hired landscaper doing the yard work every week.
Once upon a time my neighbor was real, he existed and his passion for keeping the yard was real. His energy could be felt and he was constantly up and about. Now that same energy is there but it can be felt in the emptiness by him not being here. So which is true? The fact that he existed or the fact now that he doesn't? The Bhagavad Gita says that the soul is eternal and that there is no birth or death for the ever lasting soul. So I am pleased to know that my neighbor truly is somewhere in the cosmos. While the soul may be eternal, the reality as "my neighbor" and "his yard work" is not. It is this apparent reality I am questioning - is it even real? Both his presence and non-presence seems very real but also very opposite! Which is true, bewildering indeed, Maya is!
I am reminded of this deep statement by His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami which jump started my own quest for the truth. It comes right in the beginning pages of the introduction of Bhagavad Gita - "Our very existence is in the atmosphere of nonexistence. Actually we are not meant to be threatened by nonexistence". These words cannot be anymore truer for me especially now as I can feel the presence of existence and non-existence and my struggle to grasp the truth?