Saturday, January 12, 2008

My India Diary-Part 10

Day 23-24 Mayapur-Calcutta-Puri 12/29-30

We left Mayapur with the fortunate association of HG Ananda Tirtha Prabhu and his wife, HG Radha-Sundari Mataji, joining us for the ride to Calcutta. We all guzzled coconut water, debated what to do when a street dog is dying on the beach next to the Ganges, and celebrated Mauricio's first passing of water in natural, outdoor conditions. Ki Jai!

We had a quick stop-over at the ISKCON Guest House in Calcutta, stuffing ourselves with thalis, and then I watched, utterly fascinated, as some of the local boys played a pick-up game of cricket. On the ride to the train station it was decided that one of my new services at New Vrindaban would be to impersonate Indian cinema legend Amitab Bachchan for guests on the weekend. The checkbooks will open and the donations will roll in like tidal waves.

The train ride was pretty damn hellish. The possibly communist train conductor wouldn't let me one measly extra blanket, deciding I had an advantage over the working class. He also not-so-gently woke me up at 530 am as we arrived in Puri. At this point, I'm pretty damn grumpy and burnt-out with moving like a tourist sardine in a tin-rickshaw. I'd rather be back at New Vrindaban hauling something heavy through the snow and chilling with Ghosh and Soma over lunch prasad. However, there is one cure to this grumpiness, and that is to hit the ocean. Nothing like getting tossed around by 15-foot waves to get humble again.

We take a short tour of beautiful, mystical Puri in the evening, stopping first at Toto Gopinath Temple, meditating heavy on the sankirtan mission of Mahaprabhu and how fortunate we are to be directly following in His footsteps. We then travel to the Bhajan Kutir and birthplace of Srils Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, the home of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, and the Bhajan Kutir of Haridas Thakur, praying deeply for the spiritual strength that is essential for the true preacher of harinama-sankirtana. Each and everyone of us must work internally and externally to be able to give the Holy Name freely and powerfully. As I meditated on the fact that Mahaprabhu was just here, I could sense that what had unfolded already, wand what is to unfold by our own hands and the mercy of the Lord is the only solution for this chaotic, in-need-of-love world. We have chosen the highest profession and we must, indeed we can't go back on that choice.

Day 25 Puri 12/31

Last night was pretty hellish, with swarms of mosquitoes attacking my cactus-hide. I turn on the fan and curl up under a makeshift mosquito net, and then proceed to re-catch the cold I had in Vrndavana. I know, I know....this is rather exciting. Sick and grumpy. Sick and grumpy.

I stumble over to join Mauricio for a few rounds in the Samadhi of Haridas Thakur, meditating on the very beads he chanted on, saturated with pure love of the Holy Name. Pretty far-out. If we even unplug the salt-water from our ears, we can hear his vibrations cooling the fires of lust and passion in our own hearts.

We hit the beach again for a little therapy. Justin and I want to get some tubes to enhacne our wave-riding experience, but no luck, so getting dumped on my head by 15-foot waves doesn't really make me feel better. I try to sleep in the sand and sub, and Justin makes some locals' day by sharing pictures and addresses. He gets thoroughly weirded out by their intense need for friendship with an American person. There is no more peculiar excitement for some Indian people than hanging out with a white man. They must think we are all movie stars.

Up on the roof to watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean. The sun just kinds dissolves into the haze, with no fireworks. Kirtan in the evening in the temple room, inspired by Mauricio's always-grooving dancing, gets me off the bodily platform for at least a moment. Now my only goal is to finish my big 7-Up. For some reason my body has gone completely haywire and the only thing I crave is 7-Up.

Puri is wonderful, so I am praying to return in a mood of service, not so affected by my externals, sometime in the future.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My India Diary-Part 9

Day 21 Mayapur 12/27

Pretty homesick for New Vrindaban today. Not sure exactly why, but I feel a great need for some down-hoe love, some service hauling something heavy in the deep snow, and I miss all the devotees there who are my dear friends. One reason may be is that there are just too many people here for me to focus and go deep. One thing that I'm learning about myself on this trip is that I really don't like big crowds of pushy people.

We took a short trip around Mayapur, going to Yoga Pitha, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, where we performed a rousing kirtan with Caitanya's freshly purchased mrdanga. We also visited Srivas Angan, the ISKCON Jagannath temple, and the Caitanya Math, where a group of devotees were holding a wonderful program at the samadhi of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur for his disappearance day.

Taking Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur's advice to seek the shelter of sadhus when visiting the Dham. we spent a lot of time at the magnificent gurukula built in Bengal-Zen style by HH Bhakti Vidya Purna Maharaja. We were there for his daily Bhagavatam class, and some key splashes of nectar were that we can only experience Krsna fully in the present moment. Not in the past or in the future, in which pur perceptions are governed by time and the modes. For Krsna, there is no time as we know it, and every moment is an ever-fresh experience. If we can immerse ourselves in the experience of the present moment, rather than analyzing it in any certain way, we can begin to realize what going beyond mundane time, and we can understand better the way Krsna is arranging things for us.

Another drop of nectar was that the Holy Name, even by offering it in nama-bhasa, takes away all sins, but that we cannot fully realize the effect until we accept and surrender to His love and plan. Then, we will have full shelter and purity, even as the material nature still acts. We met Maharaja privately later on in the day, speaking some brahmacari katha. Maharaja encouraged a strong program, with the emphasis on making sure strong, proper training is being offered, and care. So that even if a brahmacari wants to get married, because he has been properly trained he will be able to embrace the challenges and difficulties of switching asramas in the proper mood. It's not just a matter of needing a woman, or not needing a woman. Only a properly trained brahmacari can handle caring for a wife and children, helping them back to Godhead.

We were deeply inspired by the internal and external aesthetics of Maharaja's project, and we all deeply pray to take birth again soon so that we may be properly trained up in Navadvip Dham.

Day 22 Mayapura 12/28
Woke up and took a japa stroll to the super-sattvic atmosphere of HH Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami's gurukula, where there I was greeted by HG Ananda Tirtha Prabhu, fellow New Vrindaban Brajbasi, who gave me a guided tour of the facilties, including the wondrous temple room with its collection of various Nrshinga deities and silas. In Maharaja's class he spoke a point that neither Maya herself, nor the material nature, is actually the illusion. It is when we see and acit in such a way that we separate the material nature from its rightful owner, Krsna, that we fall into illusion. When we try to lord it over, falling into the traps and dwelling on the past and future, that we become responsible for creating the illusion.

Justin and I then took advantage of the local barber-shop walla, and we both find ourselves so fresh and so clean hair-wise for the first time in a couple of weeks. A freshly-shaved head actually cuts through my various head-games and firmly reminds me that I should act as a devotee. We followed that with another transcendental dip in the Ganges. Caitanya and Mauricio engaged in some Ganga-clay therapy by smearing a whole bunch over their bodies and letting it dry, turning them into ghostly nag-babas. Justin got to witness a local dog take its last breaths and twitches right next to the Ganga before passing on to something better. He hopes to be as fortunate to die on the banks of the Ganges.

We followed that excitement with a down-home pizza party with Ananda Tirtha and his wife, Radha Sundari, and we then had the association of HG Prahlada Nrshinga Prabhu, a wonderful devotee from Argentina, very warm with no pretensions and some astrological sakti. He regaled us with a few wild stories from his days in Miami and New Vrindaban and gave us all encouragement to continue on the path of bhakti.

In the evening we took a short boat-ride over to Bhaktivinode Thakur's house, stopping to take darshan of the huge banyan tree outside the front gate. Only the California redwoods are as impressive a sight in the tree department. The Thakur's house was filled with realizations, and it was very easy to imagine him rising early in the morning to inspire all future generations of Vaisnavas with his writings and visions. I pray to live long enough to see that "exceedingly beautiful temple" rising along the horizon from the very balcony where the Thakur has his vision. We owe our lives to hi, for he truly paved the way back to Godhead for us.

Tomorrow, off to Puri. Not enough time her, in ISKCON's most realized project. I pray to only to return to offer service to the Vaisnavas here, as they continue to build the spiritual capital of the universe.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

My India Diary-Part 8

Day 18-19 Govardhan-Train-Mayapur 12/24-25

Woke up Sinday feeing pretty painful-like to move, my body without proper rest nor warm air or liquids. Mauricio thankfully channeled the smooth healing powers of Reiki, and aftr a few more hours of feeling like an old, old man, my step and outlook on lif e certainly picked up. But then, the real suffering began.

After a 3-hour ride into smelly helly Delhi, we made our train with minutes to spare, only to find ourselves surrounded by horded of babies, who have learned, like a good portion of the native populaion, to communicate only be screaming in Hindi so some such local dialect. We also had to deal with gigling matajis, cold-cheese sandwiches, mand rock-hard samsosas for dinner. Somehow I sleep well, and in desperate need of a shower, survive the 3-hour ride into Mayapur.

On the first full day in Mayapur, the first big impression is the lotus eyes of the Panca-Tattva. How can anyone who understands this philosophy in the least not feel the inclination to give as much of themselves as they can, in return purely for the love emanating from those eyes? Or for the steel-like courage flowing forth like fire from the fangs of Lord Nrsimhadeva? The Mayapur project is so inspiring on a grand scale, the center of the lotus flower of which the mercy of Prabhupada's lotus feet unfolds over the universe. The first impression I had upon entering Bengal is confirmed more and more. This is home. Home for all devotees. Always.

In the afternoon we brave the hordes of guests somehow celebrating Christmas to take bath in the Ganges. We all throw clay on each other and watch our sinful reactions dissolve in the mercy. The lazy, hazy sun hanging, the maha-mantra pulsating, boats of pilgrims sailing on the edge of the horizon. A picture-perfect scene. In the evening, I try to make up for days worth of sub-standard rounds by really bearing down in front of HH Bhakti-Tirtha Swami's samadhi, concentrating on a sense of gratitude to have been invited into this most holiest of Dhams. I am then graced with the presence of HG Atreya Rishi Prabhu, a disciple of BT Swami who is taking care of his Guru Maharaja's samadhi. He gives me the garland from the samadhi, and we share an enlivening conversation about preaching, growing in Krsna Cons., life in New Vrindaban, and appreciating the Dham. I am always greedily seeking somehow the association of anyone who has been close to BT Swami, so that I may be close to him, so tonight's exchange with Atreya Rishi Prabhu was very special, and I pray to have his association again and again.

Day 20 Mayapur 12/26
Finally re-embraced my long-lost friend early this morning-sadhana! Got up at 5 am, braved the mild air, paid obesiances at the samadhis, gazed into Gauranga's face, and even danced a little in Guru-Puja. Feels good to be alive again in Mayapur.

We took a short but ardous jaunt through Navadvip. I was expecting a pleasant rural journey, but instead we found ourselves in rickshaw-loka. The Yogamaya Temple unbelivable exquisite in its embrace by a huge banyan tree,was underneath too hectic. I couldn't even personally see the Deity, but I prayed as hard as I could to see beyond any externals. We wandered and got lost but finally made it to the temple of the Mahaprabhu Deity belonging to His wife Vishnupriya, wonderful in its form of offering and embrace. Somehow I managed to wiggle a little extra mercy by getting Mahaprabhu's shoes placed on the top of my head by the local pandit.

We had a nice experience at the samadhi/bhajan kutir of HH Jagannath Das Babaji Maharaja. We offered to perform kirtan, and the local care-takers were kind enough to give a darshan of Maharaja's Deities, a full two hours after noon closing. They then pulled out a heaping plate of maha-prasad, which I personally got to mix together for everyone's pleasure.

Other than that, I was pretty moded out. My feet remain in a very confused state, and it gets very tough to get into an internal consciousness of deeper appreciation beyond the heaps of externals. The Mayapur project is so nice in and of itself, so we'll hopefully get a chance to slow-down and get more absorbed here.