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In Search of Kartals

In search of sweet sounding kartals (small hand cymbals used in kirtan) I was led to the recommended store through the winding streets of the small and sacred town of Navadvipa. When we arrived we took off our shoes and entered a small space filled with brass items of all shapes and sizes.

The shopkeeper, sitting with straight back and cross-legged behind a small desk, held a stoic and serious disposition. As we tested the kartals and asked our questions of quality, weight, and price he barely interacted with us. It seemed he couldn’t care less whether we bought anything or not, whether we were taken care of or not. He was totally disinterested.

I turned to my friend and whispered, “Boy, what a shopkeeper. He is doing his best to ignore us.” She laughed and said, “Sometimes that’s better than the ones who follow you around and insist you buy something.”

On the boat ride back to Mayapur, I reflected on the experience. For my spiritual growth I can learn from both kinds of shopkeepers. In my daily japa meditation I need to be detached and disinterested in all that is going on around me. I need to switch off the world and switch on the focus and presence and absorption in sound. And I need to intentionally create the time and physical spaces in my life to do that.

At other times for my spiritual growth I need to be interactive, and interested, and involved with others. How can I serve them, hear them, support them, work with them with joy and presence and energy. For as much as 1 am responsible for my own personal spiritual journey, that only I can do, I am also totally dependent on the company of others and their lives and journeys.

In the end I did find some sweet sounding kartals and a good lesson as well. All in all, a good day of shopping.

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