As the captain of a commercial jet, Eric gets a unique view of the material world. In the Flying Jiva, he’ll relate the stories of his preaching experiences and the realizations of a devotee on sankirtana in the jet stream.
The night was filled with bright moonlight. We were flying high above the Northern California coastline on our way to a small airport in southern Oregon. My First Officer and I sat relaxed and silent, admiring the beauty of the night sky. The seat belt sign was off and there was just an occasional bump in the air as we progressed northward. Everything was running smoothly, but normality was about end, quickly and quietly. Time for a moment would stand still. One of us knew Krsna. One of us did not.
Without warning, mid-horizon on the Northern night sky there appeared three magnificent, extremely bright, almost blinding lights shining from the heavens. They sat there peacefully and bold, white circles resembling a constellation like the belt of Orion -- only ten thousand times brighter and ten thousand times larger. A mere flash of time seemed like an eternity. It was as if the Lord were providing a mere glimpse of his beauty, and eternal time itself lasted forever in that instant.
As this spectacular light show came to a close, I lay back in my chair filled with peace and admiration for all the beautiful wonders Lord Krsna provides his devotees universally. My friend the First Officer, however, wasn’t so comfortable. As I turned my head to look at him, he looked as though he’d seen a ghost! His face was dark and full of fear. This miraculous moment had not only raised fear in my friend’s heart, it caused him to quickly become irrational
“Uh Uh Eric, Did you see that?!”, he said. “Oh My Gosh, Oh my God, did you see that?”, he said repeatedly. Perhaps he was right saying “Oh my God”. The Lord was exactly who he needed to be praying to. It was clear how frightened he’d become. My peaceful moment of ecstasy in admiration and chanting the Lord’s Name was rudely interrupted, and I spent the rest of my evening listening to my friend tell me how shocked and amazed he was at seeing this ‘lights in the sky’ event.
Who knows exactly what he saw in his mind, or what he experienced when his senses got so jangled? I suppose we all see different things when an event like this manifests. I saw the peace, love, and beauty the Lord provides for his devotees to look at in the sky. For me, it was a night of beauty and joy. But one of us knew Krsna. One of us did not.
In his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 9:9:47, Srila Prabhupada said:
“When passing through a mountainous region in an airplane, one may sometimes see a city in the sky with towers and palaces, or one may see similar things in a big forest. This is called a gandharva-pura, a phantasmagoria. This entire world resembles such a phantasmagoria, and every materially situated person has attachment for it:”
Because he does not know the Supreme Lord, the non-devotee has no information to help him make sense of such phantasmagoria. He is left to speculate as to the cause, and is likely to attribute the phenomenon to some nebulous, impersonal force. Recognizing the phenomenon as a thing he cannot control, and remaining attached to his desire to be God rather than surrender to God, he is left with a mental conception that leads to fear and bewilderment.
The devotee is so fortunate to be able to take shelter of the absolute truth, as instructed by the Spiritual Master and the revealed scriptures. In Srila Prabhupada’s purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 2:5:39 we read:
”This material world is only a shadow phantasmagoria of the spiritual kingdom of the Lord, and because it is a shadow it is never eternal; the variegatedness in the material world of duality (spirit and matter) cannot be compared to that of the spiritual world. Because of a poor fund of knowledge, less intelligent persons sometimes mistake the conditions of the shadow world to be equivalent to those of the spiritual world, and thus they mistake the Lord and His pastimes in the material world to be one with the conditioned souls and their activities.”
By the mercy of the Spiritual Master, we can understand that phantasmagoria like the lights in the sky are simply a perverted reflection of the spiritual world. Knowing the truth, we're relieved of all the fear and distraction that causes suffering for the non-devotees.
[The day after the lights appeared in the sky, a video clip was posted on the NASA website, illustrating the event. Click here to view.]