As a wholetimer I make a point of wearing my uniform wherever I go. I think it’s important. All too often we make the excuse of not being able to do so, citing local cultural, religious or legal restrictions. We can talk our way into justifying anything if we really want to.

When I was an LFT in Sydney back in the early 90s a dada told me, “Whenever you wear your uniform you do pracar.” I liked that and took it to heart. And I have worn my uniform whenever possible ever since. That translates into pretty much always. Even on international flights. Even in Muslim countries. I once had a heartwarming experience when a young Muslim boy spontaneously embraced me in the middle of the street. Obviously because of my uniform and turban. But it was a genuine connection of brotherhood nonetheless. And even in India. Especially in India. I cannot for the life of me figure out why some workers insist on traveling within India — not just through immigration — in civil dress. I guess it goes back to the days we were blacklisted, but that was an entirely different world back then.

In any case, I’ve found that on the whole what that dada told me is right. It opens up possibilities and has helped rather than hindered me even when dealing with bureaucracy, including immigration and customs in numerous countries around the world, especially Asian countries where monks and nuns are respected.

But strangely enough, I’ve found that one of the very few instances where wearing uniform is not practical is the otherwise trifling occasion of riding a pushbike. For obvious reasons it’s much more practical to wear pants. I’m not fabricating an excuse here. At least I don’t think I am!

The other day I was minding someone’s house while they were away. They happened to have a bike and lived close to a river which runs from the Adelaide hills down to the sea. A corridor of parkland with a bike lane runs alongside it for almost its entire length. So off I went, wearing pants and a t-shirt. Apart from having a really pleasant ride up to the hills and back alongside a beautiful river, I was once again reminded of the importance of wearing uniform.

What I found was that without the saffron people were generally more open and friendly.

It was a subtle but quite perceptible difference. But whereas they were friendlier, it was on a more superficial level. “Hello, how are you, beautiful weather isn’t it?” That kind of thing. The kind of repartee that people weave around themselves as a security blanket to reaffirm the status quo of their lives and circumstance; we’re all sheep of the same flock, cogs in the wheel, and no one’s rocking the boat around here.

I do also get this while wearing my uniform, but not as much.

What I believe happens when you wear saffron is you convey the message that you represent something significant; an ideology; a practice; a mission deeper than the mundane mission of everyday life.

A purpose which alludes — even if only subconsciously — to our greater purpose. And that polarises the response you’re going to get, very much in the same way that Baba polarised society on the much wider macrocosmic level. Many people will not be open to connecting with you —hence less small talk and niceties —but the ones that are are open to it on a much deeper level. They recognise that you stand for something significant and acknowledge you for it.

I often get numerous little meaningful connections of real and genuine affirmation in this way, even if it is only through a smile or a nod of acknowledgement. And very often it’s through much more than that: a sincere and heartfelt enquiry into what I do, what I stand for, and what I represent. By cosmic grace, of course, this can lead a sincere seeker to the path of spirituality and a devotional relationship with Baba. And that’s the significance of pracar. To be a medium for His instruction; an instrument for the divine musician to play the music of His sublime liila.

If you’re a wholetimer that process is facilitated by the very simple yet powerful act of putting on saffron. As soon as you go out in uniform your job is half done. You need only go out the door and Baba will take it from there and do the rest. It’s (almost) as simple as that.


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