Take a deep breath. Wash your glasses, and rub the sleep out of your eyes. Here are some impressions from the other side of the world, as myself, Caitanya Das, and Justin hit the Holy Dham.
Day 1 12/7
By the Lord's grace, we are here.
There is nothing like a cab ride to the airport, Delhi highways, early morning rush, to really make you hear the Holy Name.
14-hour plane ride to Delhi. Spent it eating airplane paneer and ginger ale, sleeping with my neck cocked sideways, dreaming about Sicilian gangsters, and reading "Taking Care of Krishna's Devotees" by HH Niranjana Swami, to learn about the mood at Radha-Gopinath Mandir.
Simplicity. Care. Sacrifice. Struggling together.
"If you are preaching, then management will follow like a shadow."
Not so simple to do. Addicted to the complicated...
In the Delhi temple overnight. Scenery is grey, wild dogs and remains of car accidents flashing by. This trip certainly isn't about the external.
Morning program is sweet, so many devotees, brahmacaris, one voice. Touched to see Justin so touched. Here we go...
Day 2 12/8 Radha-Gopinath Mandir Chowpatty Mumbai
I think the crabby body is adjusted sleep-wise, and I digested the first big prasad all right. Like I say, I'm an American boy with a South Indian stomach.
Traffic jams in Mumbai, these cities are so ugly. Where is India?
The first little piece is here at Radha-Gopinath Mandir. Shyamsundar from New Vrindaban greets us with promises of home-cooking in the days ahead, which thrills Justin to to no end.
Lucky souls that we are, always flying by the seat of our dhotis, we arrive just in the nick of time for the intimate brahmacari Vyasa-Puja of HH Radhanath Swami Maharaja.
After I get over my initial intimidation of being in a room with such fixed-up brahmacari superstars. I begin to hear and taste some sweetness. Maharaja is our spiritual father, loving, caring, even a little stern. He speaks that if we cooperate, Krsna will reciprocate. The better something is, the harder maya will try to attack, and usually in more hidden, subtle ways, leaving a broken pot that is very hard to fix. The true austerity is to not let maya in for one moment. (In like a needle, out like a plow).
Just hoping now to hear the Holy Name, that I don't embarrass myself too much, and that I, in some small way, can serve these exalted Vaisnavas.
Day 3 12/9
Today is quite the event. HH Radhanath Swami's BIG Vyasa-Puja at Cross Maidan, where Maharaja met Prabhupada for the first time.
Watching Maharaja offer puja to Prabhupada, while thousands sing along, is gigantic, cosmic, one of those moments where I can pull myself out of my problems, my hang-ups, my cold lonely hopelessness, and realize just how merciful the perfect Vaisnava sadhu is, just how correct this whole process is, and how sadhana and preaching and resounding Krsna Krsna is the real revolution.
Caitanya Das speaks in his offering of an impression I've had of Maharaja: He is like the warm. live-giving sun, and we are all just creepers, stretching out as best as we can towards his light.
Maharaja then speaks and it's another one of those "wow" moments considering the context of the present-moment, the history, and the whole transcendental exactitude of the cosmic alignment.
He speaks of the mode of goodness, transmuting its assets with Krsna at the center into real weapons of the soul. Simplicity and humility turns one into a soldier-child in the war against maya.
I also like Ghanashyam Prabhu's (from NYC) offering, his honesty and how we can't put on an outward appearance of humility forwards if that doesn't reflect what is going on in our mind, if we are criticizing other devotees. I pray to be shamed by that honesty, and I pray to to be able to surrender to Maharaja for at least a few seconds in this lifetime.
Day 4 12/10
Drinking coconut water like there is no tomorrow. Also, in India your car is not towed if you park illegal. They just deflate your tires.
Maharaj gives an epic Bhagavatam class in the morning. He says that the more we see faults in others, the more faults we carry with us. We should read the words of Ravana, of Hiranayakasipu, and understand they accurately describe many of our own negative character traits.
All is not lost, if we feed the good dog in our hearts, even though the bad dog, spoiled after lifetimes of surplus sense gratification, barks louder and louder. We can tolerate his barking if we cling to the Holy Name and to the association of the Vaisnavas.
Maharaja also speaks of the loving details of bhakti. The small gifts, soaked in love and devotion, that is better than any opulent diamond. Prabhupada was just as concerned with the smallest detail as with the big picture. As Balarama Chandra Das says, true bhakti is essential service done precisely.