Srila Giri Maharaja – “Forgetfulness—and Remembrance.”

Recently I heard this supposed poem, that contains no noticeable elements of a poem (or, if present, escaped my attention) such as meter, rhythm or rhyme:

Forgetfulness
        by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of, 

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

 Long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets, 

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen. 

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall 

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle. 

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

—Billy Collins, “Forgetfulness” from Questions About Angels. Copyright © 1999 by Billy Collins. 

As has become the hallmark of so-called science, the author’s diagnosis is correct on many points that tell us nothing about the cause or the cure. It gives the appearance of enlightenment, but drifts away into nothingness; never delivering the punch line.

The author would have done better to have presented his readers with something like this:

Bg 15.15

sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham

Synonyms:
sarvasya — of all living beings; ca — and; aham — I; hṛdi — in the heart; sanniviṣṭaḥ — situated; mattaḥ — from Me; smṛtiḥ — remembrance; jñānam — knowledge; apohanam — forgetfulness; ca — and; vedaiḥ — by the Vedas; ca — also; sarvaiḥ — all; aham — I am; eva — certainly; vedyaḥ — knowable; vedānta-kṛt — the compiler of the Vedānta; veda-vit — the knower of the Vedas; eva — certainly; ca — and; aham — I.

Translation:
I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.

Here we find not only the diagnosis of forgetfulness by the living entities, but also its cause. And the punch line is clear: “By all the Vedas, I am to be known.” What then should one remember? One should remember Krishna:

Bg 9.34

man-manā bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi yuktvaivam
ātmānaṁ mat-parāyaṇaḥ

Synonyms:
matmanāḥ — always thinking of Me; bhava — become; mat — My; bhaktaḥ — devotee; mat — My; yājī — worshiper; mām — unto Me; namaskuru — offer obeisances; mām — unto Me; eva — completely; eṣyasi — you will come; yuktvā — being absorbed; evam — thus; ātmānam — your soul; matparāyaṇaḥ — devoted to Me.

Translation:
Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.

We cannot remember everything but we can remember Krishna eternally and, remembering Him is sufficient remembrance for all purposes. And, for those wondering, “How can I remember Krishna eternally?” the answer is given: become His devotee, offer Him obeisances and worship Him.

There is a cure for those who suffer forgetfulness of Krishna. The cure is to become His devotee. The cure comes about as follows:

CC Madhya 19.151

brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja

The living entities are wandering throughout the mundane universe in a bewildered, confused and forgetful state of consciousness. By the grace of Krishna one gets a bonafide spiritual master. Then, by the grace of the guru, one gets the seed of devotion to the Supreme Lord.

All the elements are then in place for the eternal remembrance of Krishna. But, for the remembrance of Krishna to be eternal, the jiva must preserve and nourish what he has been given:

CC Madhya 19.152

mālī hañā kare sei bīja āropaṇa
śravaṇa-kīrtana-jale karaye secana

Synonyms:
mālī hañā — becoming a gardener; kare — does; sei — that; bīja — seed of devotional service; āropaṇa — sowing; śravaṇa — of hearing; kīrtana — of chanting; jale — with the water; karaye — does; secana — sprinkling.

Translation:
“When a person receives the seed of devotional service, he should take care of it by becoming a gardener and sowing the seed in his heart. If he waters the seed, gradually, by the process of śravaṇa and kīrtana [hearing and chanting], the seed will begin to sprout.

We will forget so many things, as Mr. Collins has accurately analyzed. But devotional service is never forgotten. We will forget, but Krishna will never forget.

Therefore, being remembered is more important than to remember. Use this life to remember Krishna by serving Krishna. By serving Krishna, one will automatically remember Krishna. Krishna will then remember us, and His memory is everlasting. As long as Krishna remembers us He will always help us remember him:

Bg 2.40

nehābhikrama-nāśo ’sti
pratyavāyo na vidyate
sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya
trāyate mahato bhayāt

Synonyms:
na — there is not; iha — in this yoga; abhikrama — in endeavoring; nāśaḥ — loss; asti — there is; pratyavāyaḥ — diminution; na — never; vidyate — there is; su-alpam — a little; api — although; asya — of this; dharmasya — occupation; trāyate — releases; mahataḥ — from very great; bhayāt — danger.

Translation:
In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.

The most fearful thing is forgetfulness of Krishna, for it is that forgetfulness that is the cause of all types of fear.

One who sincerely takes to the path of Krishna consciousness will be guided along that path, birth after birth, until he achieves his goal:

“By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles – even without seeking them. Such an inquisitive transcendentalist stands always above the ritualistic principles of the scriptures.

“And when the yogī engages himself with sincere endeavor in making further progress, being washed of all contaminations, then ultimately, achieving perfection after many, many births of practice, he attains the supreme goal.”

—Bg 6.44-45

Swami B.K. Giri