This happened to me when I was touring Europe with a hardcore punk band named Shelter.
The show is finished, and the equipment is loaded. The van sits before the front door, and I sit inside the van. It is cold and windy on the German shore.
Three guys approach—young, clean cut & straight-edged. They want to do an interview… “I don’t need Krishna,” says the spokesman, with an unforgettable German accent. “I have my own way.”
“That’s cool…” I say. “What ‘way’ is that”?
Lots of hesitation. Lots of stuttering. Lots of eyes darting back and forth between the three of them. Finally the spokesman speaks up: “I believe in my own self. I rely on my own self. I follow only my own self.”
“You believe in your self, rely on your self, and follow yourself. Great… Who is that self”?
More darting eyes and stuttering. Sentences begin, but are consumed by confusion, and silence dominates. They cannot answer.
I ask them, “How can you believe in it, rely on it, and follow it if you don’t even know what it is”?
Silence is spoken in German.
“See, that’s why you do need Krishna consciousness.”
No comment returned.
“The first point is that the self is not the body”.
He sits up straight in the van chair and says, “Yes. I am not the body. I am the collection of the ideals that my brothers and I share in common.”
“These ideals are not the self,” I say. “They’re all impressed upon you from out-side yourself.”
They eventually agree: The self is beyond the body and ideals of the mind. Then I ask, “We know what the self isn’t. But, what is it?”
“Yeah. The self is a particle of spirit, a part of the complete spirit. Just like a guitar string is a part of the complete guitar. If you rip off that guitar string and throw it on the sidewalk out here—what value does it have?”
“Yeah, not a whole lot,” I say. “It’s useless. But when you connect that string to the complete guitar, tune it up and that—it has so much value, right? It can make music. It can make songs… The string is valuable when it works for the complete guitar; but on its own, sitting on the sidewalk, it’s worthless. The part becomes useless when it’s not connected to the complete unit.”
“The self, the individual spirit,” I continued, “is a part of the complete spirit. When the self tries to live separately from the complete self, he or she is like the guitar string rusting on the sidewalk. And that’s what we’ve done—disconnected ourselves from the Complete. Just like the guitar string, our value is forgotten, our meaning is forgotten. Most of our time is spent trying to fill in the gaps of a hollow life as we loiter on the sidewalk.”
“The real nature of the self,” I enthusiastically continue, “is to serve the complete self, just like the string serves the complete guitar and reaches its highest expression and fulfillment in the process.”
“What do you mean, ‘complete self’?” they ask.
“You know: Krishna. The highest expression of the self is to serve Krishna.”
“That’s what it really means to ‘follow yourself’..That’s Krishna consciousness”.
They were thoughtful. I was thankful.