Archive for November, 2000

Vrindaban “An intelligent person, expert

November 30th, 2000

Vrindaban

“An intelligent person, expert in perceiving the world around him and in applying sound logic, can achieve real benefit through his own intelligence. Thus sometimes one acts as his own instructing spiritual master.” (Bhag. 11.7.20)

I found this interesting verse in the Eleventh Canto in Lord Krishna’s instructions to Uddhava. It is from the prelude to Krishna?s description of the avadhuta brahmana?s account of his 28 gurus in nature, based on the brahmana?s discriminating observation of the world. In other words, from individually observing natural phenomena like the sun, wind, and fire, and also from different species of life, he learned important lessons in life. For example, because the python maintains himself with whatever comes of it’s own accord, the brahmana learned?from the python’s example?dependence on God.

Surprisingly, one of the most important instructions he learned was from Pingala, the prostitute. With great care she had dressed herself very attractively and waited in immense anticipation for the arrival of a customer, but although she waited all day and night, no one came. Her experience was so distressful that she finally gave up her desire for the arrival of a proper suitor and renounced the world to exclusively meditate on the Supreme Lord. She became peaceful and eventually attained perfection. From Pingala, the prostitute, the astute avadhuta brhamana learned that hopes for sense gratification are the root of all anxiety.

Jiva Goswami also makes an interesting statement in the purport to this verse: gurv-anusarane pravartaka ity arthah. “The knowledge acquired by one’s own perception and intelligence leads one to appreciate the value of the representative of the world.”

In other words, a detached and objective study of the world will reveal the same teachings as the spiritual master, the saintly people, and the scriptures. It will thus increase one’s sraddha (faith) in sabda brahman (deductive knowledge descending froms a transcendental source). Studying the 28 gurus of the avadhuta brahmana also confirmed my own realization in writing this journal, that an objective view of the world bolster’s one’s faith.

Today I learned a very important lesson from Bhakta Herman:

As I was leaving the temple this morning, following my regular late morning darshan of Sri Radha-Shyamasundar, an older brahmacari came up to me to present a garland from some of the South African lady disciples of Partha-Sarathi Prabhu who were standing nearby. I was intrigued by this brahmacari, who introduced himself as Bhakta Herman.

Bhakta Herman was in his late fifties, not much taller than five-feet tall, and somewhat crippled in both feet. Although he could walk without a cane, he struggled terribly?like a devotee blistered on both feet after parikram. His disability, however, was obviously permanent, either congenital, or due to serious accident or disease. His jaws were also constantly gnawing, either from pain or a nervous disorder. He had a strong South Brooklyn accent, and a fairly serious speech disorder, so that his already strong accent was further slurred by an almost childish and squeaky tone. As by habit I study people, I began a conversation with this very humble and likeable devotee.

“Where are you from, Prabhu?”

“I stay six munts of da year in Burkly, and six munts in Vrindavan.”

“What do you do?”

“I mop flawz and wash pots.”

His service was so menial that I almost felt embarrassed to have asked him, but from the tone of his response I could sense his absence of false prestige. He wasn’t bothered at all by my question, or by his answer. “Where were you born?” I continued.

“Coney Island in Brooklyn. Ya know where dhat iz?”

“Coney Island! Hey, I?m from Cropsey Avenue! Coney Island’s less then fifteen minutes away.” A rapport was developing.

“Yeah. Dats just ovah da bridge.”

I continued our pleasant conversation and could see that he was from the most humble background. I began to recall fond memories, even before I was six years old, of my grandmother taking me occasionally to Coney Island, the most prominent amusement park in New York City fifty years ago. It was a big treat for me at the time, but I recalled that even as young child I could sense that Coney Island, like all old amusement parks, were meant for visiting, not for living?at least not for living at any level of decency. “How do you like Krishna consciousness, Herman?”

His face lit up, with the humble happiness of a recipient of mercy. “I don’t know why, but I git such necktuh. Such necktuh comes. All of a suddin,necktuh!” With each “necktuh” his heart became lighter and his face became brighter. It wasn’t a show. Bhakta Herman was very sincere. He definitely was experiencing something wonderful in Krishna consciousness.

I learned from Herman the relationship between bhakti and an absence of false prestige. All Herman seemed to have was Krishna, but that made him very dependent on Him. We all are dependent on Krishna, but unfortunately due to so-called material assets like wealth, beauty, intelligence, or birth we gain a false sense that we are controlling the world independent of God. We lose the sense of surrender and shelter needed to approach the Lord feelingly, a sense that is the foundational emotion of bhakti. Factually, dependence is actually our taste of bhakti, just like a child’s love for his mother is that sense that she is his protector and maintainer. I pray to become free from the false sense that I am independently controlling my destiny, so that I can depend on Krishna and experience the nectar of Krishna consciousness.

While writing this I was thinking of Jiva Goswami’s commentary: gurv-anusarane pravartaka ity arthah. “The knowledge acquired by one’s own perception and intelligence leads one to appreciate the value of the representative of the world.” The same lesson reinforced by meeting Bhakta Herman is also one of the key messages throughout the teachings our beloved master, Srila Prabhupada. Here are a few examples:

From Queen Kunti:
“My Lord, Your Lordship can easily be approached but only by those who are materially exhausted. One who is on the path of [material progress], trying to improve himself with respectable parentage, great opulence, high education and bodily beauty, cannot approach You with sincere feeling.” (Bhag. 1.8.27)

From Narada Muni:
“As they were leaving, those bhakti-vedantas, who are very kind to poor-hearted souls, instructed me in that most confidential subject which was instructed by the Personality of Godhead Himself.”

A little explanation is needed here. Narada Muni got the mercy of bhakti-vedantas because they were dina-vatsalah, kind to the poor. Narada Muni was just the son of a maidservant and he was so destitute that he didn’t even know who his father was. It made him, however, naturally humble, and because of this, he was able to serve the bhakti-vedantas with gratitude and respect. Although he was self-controlled, disciplined, and had many good qualities, some of the commentators reveal that the quality of Narada that ultimately attracted the mercy of the bhakti-vedantas was his realization of his humble position.

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Vrindaban I received a note

November 29th, 2000

Vrindaban

I received a note appreciating my journal explaining that it “gives people a chance to hear philosophy when they don’t have time to read or make time to read.” It’s more likely that people don’t make time to read and this disturbs me, although I am sympathetic to the plight of the devotees. I also find it sometimes hard to read when my schedule is upset and my day becomes passionate. Not making time to read has more to do with our lifestyle and the modes we attract than our lack of time, although I understand how exhausting working and family life is in today’s world.

Another problem is that, in many places, the Hare Krishna movement has failed to provide an attractive and nourishing spiritual environment to inspire devotees in Krishna consciousness. Nonetheless, we have to sincerely analyze our style of life and see what changes can be made so that are lives are more impacted by goodness and devotion. Ultimately, everything rests on our sincerity, our desire to become Krishna consciousness.

Sometimes I think that many, or even most people, are not capable of really studying philosophical books on their own; otherwise why do so few devotees seem to read Srila Prabhupada’s books regularly? In Vrindaban and other holy places we still see that most people learn philosophy by hearing others speak. The Hare Krishna movement needs to concentrate more on developing learned and engaging speakers who can attract people to hearing. Hopefully, then the devotees will also become inspired to read.

I read some relevant points in Bhakti-Sandarbha in this regard:

bhaktya tat-katha rucer?bhakti means the taste in hearing about Krishna; the eagerness, relish, and willingness to hear about Krishna.

eva paravastha-rupaya prema laksanaya?this taste is hearing itself which will transform into prema; the extreme taste for hearing is prema.

I see the disciple of Narayan Maharaja who sent the note from him. I asked her exactly what Maharaja had told her. I was surprised that she said that it was her idea to request me to visit and that, due to miscommunication, it came out as if Maharaja was making the request. I probably wouldn’t have visited at this time if it wasn’t for her letter, but I am not unhappy that I did. Krishna works in strange ways.

Vrindaban/ Mathura I arrived at

November 28th, 2000

Vrindaban/ Mathura

I arrived at the Kesavaji Gaudiya Math at 10AM, as planned. The Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Math is an important tirtha since, among other things, Srila Prabhupada took sannyasa there, stayed there for sometime, and also donated their Mahaprabhu deity. Being there again brought up a lot of pleasant memories from a time I used to regularly visit there and especially from the very warm relationships we had with many of the devotees there.

I was apprehensive about how I would be greeted because some of his disciples were upset with us when we stopped visiting, but I was determined to just maintain my poise as a humble Vaishnava visiting a senior devotee. I noticed that the Math (monastery) was not bustling, as it usually it is, with the visiting international devotees and local brajabasi pilgrims. It was just the local brahmacaris there, and the atmosphere was more subdued and peaceful, like it
was in the early ?90s before Narayan Maharaja became so popular.

As I entered the temple room on the second floor of the Math, Sriman Premananda Prabhu, the temple president, pays obeisances to me and then affectionately holds my hand. He has been honored by their society as seva-ratna?the jewel of servants. To this day he is still their main cook. I still remember how he would immediately prepare delicious prasadam for any guest who visited and then serve them with great happiness.

When I entered Maharaja’s room there are about fifteen people sitting there. It appeared that he was initiating a young brajabasi lady who has come with her mother. He is instructing her and she is crying. Maharaja has not realized that I have come in and I sit on the floor in a corner quietly. He soon, however, recognizes me, and motions with his hand that he needs five minutes before he can meet me. I reply that I am in no rush at all and that he should take his time.

I am not sure why he called me. Perhaps he was concerned that I may have not been welcomed properly at their Govardhana-annukut last month and I had not returned to visit him during his stay. I was not really so concerned with why he called, only happy to meet a person who is a longstanding friend and a well-wisher.

After five minutes he offers me a chair and slowly clears out the room so we are basically alone. He even has his assistant latch the door. He inquires about my welfare and we exchange pleasantries. He looked quite healthy and vibrant today?not much different from when I first met him. He certainly didn’t look 80 years old and, in jest, I asked him about his secret to remaining youthful. He replied, “You also look youthful,” clenching his fists at his side which seems to indicate that I got stronger and gained weight. I was somewhat surprised at this because I thought I had actually lost weight since the last time I saw him.

I told him that he must be so tired as he is busy from day to night. He said, “I am helping others and that is also helping me. My body, mind, and words are fully engaged in Krishna’s service, so it is not tiring.” He asked if I was fearful of visiting him. I told him that I wasn?t, that I was just waiting for the crowds around him to die down, but it is evident that there will always been many people around him. “That is the main thing”, he said, referring to the fact that I should not be hesitant to visit him. He asks me to visit him from time to time when I come to India.

I read him the part of the introduction in Waves of Devotion where he is acknowledged. He just nodded, but I could see he wasn’t very interested. I quickly put the book away thinking that perhaps it wasn’t proper to present oneself as an author of philosophy before one who is so senior.

Maharaja is leaving tomorrow and the crowds outside his door are building. He lets in another Indian couple that had been eagerly waiting to see him. His attention turns toward them.

I ask him if I can ask just one question: “If the qualification for spontaneous devotional service is the greed to serve the residents of Vrindaban, then how does that qualification come when most devotees need to practice vaidhi-bhakti?” He quickly replied that “if one properly enters the Caitanya Caritamrita, then everything can come.”

In the process of vaidhi-bhakti that we follow there is ample opportunity to hear about spontaneous devotional service. If one executes that process sincerely, immersing oneself in gaura/govinda-lila, then certainly the greed to follow the residents of Vrindaban should eventually manifest.

Time is up. I excuse myself, thank him, and walk out through the back door with his long time assistant Naveen Krishna, now Madhava Maharaja.

I rush back to Vrindaban as His Holiness B.B. Govinda Swami is hosting lunch for his friends, and many other devotees have been invited after that for kirtan at his house.

For those who have lived in Vrindaban, the program of kirtan and prasadam is a regular part of the culture. I remember fifteen years ago, when along with my good friend Rupa Vilas Prabhu, we used to host regular feast and bhajan programs for the senior devotees at his home. The cook was one of my assistants, Vishwanatha das, a Bengali Vaishnava, who was certainly one of the best cooks I’ve ever seen. One feast in particular was so extraordinary that?in the middle of the feast?H.H. Tamal Krishna Maharaja looked up and in a sober but enthusiastic voice declared: “I knew that one day in this movement we would be experiencing the ecstasy of Caitanya Caritamrita, but I never expected it this soon!” Maharaja was not only commenting on the feast, but the type of affection that flows through the heart, and to the heart, in an august assembly of devotees that one has affection for.

I felt the exact same way today in the company of such wonderful devotees as H.H. B.B. Govinda Swami, H.H. Sacinandana Swami, H.H. Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami, H.H. Niranajana Swami, H.G Kesava Bhararti Prabhu, Nandanandana Prabhu, and Dadu.

I sat next to Sacinandana Swami. He’s deep. I was soaking up his humble personal realizations of his own spiritual journey. I sense his single-minded determination to surrender and deeply experience Krishna consciousness. We have tentatively scheduled another meeting between us if I go to Bombay next month. If I want to proceed further in spiritual life, it is essential for me to spend time discussing personal spiritual practices with senior and like-minded Godbrothers now?especially in the absence of regular access to a senior siksa-guru. Of course, Paramatma is also siksa-guru.

The kirtan goes on for four hours. Niranjana Swami leads the most wonderful bhajans. B.B Govinda Swami also provides life with his powerful and rhythmic mrdanga playing, his incredibly sweet voice and his sheer power. One can’t help but appreciate the devotion that Govinda Swami puts into his kirtan, but I also can’t discount what he has brought from his birth: Maharaja is from Nashville, and his father is in the Country music hall of fame.

Vrindaban My plan now is

November 27th, 2000

Vrindaban

My plan now is to continue writing my book on the Bhagavatam, but I am often distracted, as it seems that everyday there is someone new that comes to meet me.

Today I got the following surprise note from one disciple of H.H. Narayan Maharaja at the Krishna-Balaram Mandir:

?Narayan Maharaja requests you to visit him before he leaves. Visits would be possible on the 27th or 28th. Please phone his assistant Madhava Maharaja (formerly Naveen Krishna).?

Some of my Godbrothers seem upset with Maharaja in terms of his dealings with ISKCON, especially that he is reinitiating the disciples of other gurus. There is certainly credibility to some of their concerns. Others tend to remember the friendship and relationship we had with him, and the kindness he shared with us. I have thought about this carefully over the years and decided that I should visit him occasionally, especially if it might help quell the controversy if some of the devotees who had close relationships with him, but stopped coming, occasionally visited him.

I called Madhava Maharaja, Maharaja’s secretary. He told me that it is Maharaja?s last day in Mathura and there will be many people coming so he wasn?t sure if he could see me privately. I told him I would just come to offer my respects and see what happened.

Vrindaban Went to visit Bhaktividya

November 26th, 2000

Vrindaban

Went to visit Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja to consult him about my personal puja for Giriraja. Maharaja has been staying in Vrindaban for the last several months. It was a very informative and pleasant visit and I very much enjoyed Maharaja’s association.

From Jaiva Dharma, on the position of the arca-vigraha (installed deities):

“The Lord’s transcendental form of eternity, knowledge, and bliss is first revealed in the pure consciousness of the jiva and then reflected in the mind. The external form of the Deity is fashioned according to this transcendental form revealed in the mind, and by the power of bhakti-yoga, the sac-cid-ananda form of the Lord then manifests in the Deity. When the devotee takes darsana of the Deity, that Deity unites with the transcendental form of the Lord which the devotee sees in his heart.”

I wonder if my journals give the misimpression that my world is just pure excitement without struggle. I fear that, especially since my general psychology is on the optimistic side and the journal is the world through my eyes. To some extent, I do tend to look for the positive in life. But I think the tone of the journals also reflect the fact that they have been started at a particular time in my life?a time of rest and introspection after a very tough stretch of five years where so many struggles were thrown my way.

I think the journals also reflect the fact that Vrindaban is a very dynamic place and Vrindaban in Kartik is even more intense?externally as well as internally. I have taken many people to Vrindaban for the first time for pilgrimage and most will tell you that their two weeks in dhama seemed like a lifetime of experiences.

Another factor in the tone of the journal is that many senior Vaishnavas from all over India, and the world, congregate in Vrindaban in Kartik, and I do have the fortune of the acquaintance of many of them. That certainly makes life dynamic. There is also a connection between one’s internal world and one’s external world. If one focuses for some time on his internal purification then certainly the world around him transforms in a unique way to nurture that purification and to teach certain lessons.

One’s vision is not only what happens around him, but also how one sees it. When one enters a period of deep study and then reflects carefully on what he reads, his vision radically changes. That vision naturally has some relevance to other sincere seekers.

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Vrindaban Definition of Isvara (the

November 25th, 2000

Vrindaban

Definition of Isvara (the supreme controller):

Kartum akartha anyatha kartum

He can do, undo, or change anything.

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Vrindaban Met in the evening

November 24th, 2000

Vrindaban

Met in the evening with Sacinandana Swami. We discussed our personal spiritual practices. Our conclusion was that although there are certain common factors in everyone’s attempt to perfect his sadhana?selfless service to spiritual master, inoffensive chanting, and the mood of separation, for example?each individual also has an individual practice that will unfold and develop as a response to ones personal sincerity to advance. A good example of a balance between the standard practices of spiritual development and one’s individuality is H.H. Satsvarupa Maharaja who, in addition to his regular preaching services, spends increasing time in seclusion writing, immersed in self-introspection and the cultivation of personal integrity. Another example is H.H. Radhanatha Swami who tries to remain absorbed in the congregational chanting of the holy name, interspersed with intense pilgrimages to holy places in India. H.G. Bhurijan Prabhu has adopted, in addition to his regular sadhana, a comprehensive focus on the Bhagavatam that began from the first verse and is now steadily approaching the Tenth Canto, following in the footsteps of Maharaja Pariksit. Another good example of a serious sadhaka is Sacinandana Swami himself, who has gravitated in his personal practices to prolonged japa meditation, which includes concentrated personal retreats to deepen his attraction for the holy name.

Sacinandana Swami also stressed that we should chant in the mood of separation because it is the mood that is most consistent with our present position?separation from Krishna. It is also therefore the mood of bhajan that we can adopt most sincerely.

We both appreciated the contribution of Gaura Govinda Swami to our line of personal worship, the emphasis and deep understanding of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Partha-Sarathi also stressed this to me in my
discussions with him.

I went to visit B.B. Govinda Swami, who has just arrived. When I entered the courtyard of his house, Maharaja, a large heavy set American-born sannyasi, was sitting next to and dwarfing Nitai Baba, a very sweet, old, and humble diminutively-built local babaji, affectionately stroking his back. Govinda Swami has a heart of gold. He has adopted the 82 year-old poverty stricken babaji and helps with his meager rent and his medical needs. Last year he even arranged a fan for Nitai Baba’s simple room to help him survive another scorching Vrindaban summer.

Vrindaban Vraja Sevika, a disciple

November 22nd, 2000

Vrindaban

Vraja Sevika, a disciple of mine from Bulgaria, asked me if I could please visit the ashram where she is staying. She especially wanted me to meet the nice baba, or sadhu, in charge.

In a previous journal about my stay in Vrindaban in August 1999, I wrote something about Vraja Sevika and at least two persons who read it politely questioned me whether writing about her was a breach of confidentiality. I am very careful about maintaining confidentiality in my journals. I explained to them that, at that time, I showed her what I wrote, and that she didn’t mind because she felt that the sphere of my journal is in another world?a world she never crosses.

Vraja Sevika left her pujari service at the Sri Sri Krishna-Balaram Mandir after I left India for some time in 1995, as she found her living situation with another particular lady in the temple ashram intolerable. She wandered around Vraja for a year, learning fluent brajabasa, but became attracted to the mood of worship in other Vrindaban-based Vaishnava lines that encouraged esoteric mediation on Radha-Krishna pastimes. When I returned to India almost a year later, I questioned her as to the validity of what she had been doing. I was not particularly happy with her response and told her so. Even though I didn’t approve of what she was doing, she would still occasionally visit me to offer respects and to seek advice on practical matters.

She had vowed never to leave Vraja, although she did not have a secure visa or a viable means of support or protection. She thus suffered humiliation, malnutrition, physical debilitation, and mental depression. I cannot even describe the trauma of a single, young, and independent Western-born lady living alone in a small Indian town, but she still would not leave. Her plight finally culminated in a very bad marriage resulting in a child who died just 3 months after he was born.

I would repeatedly try to explain to her that Vrindaban was not just a physical place, but more important also a matter of consciousness and that there was little value in residing in Vrindaban without cultivating humility and purifying oneself. She remained fixed, however, on only one principle?she would live and die in Vraja.

Just before I left last summer I got a note from her, shortly after her child died, that she had a radical change in attitude; that she was returning to Bulgaria and was focusing on getting her health back and developing her character. That’s the last I heard from her until she returned recently and ran into Gokula Taruni. She gave Gokula Taruni the phone number of her ashram and asked her to please ask me to call her.

She was staying in a very old ashram that belonged to some saints from the followers of Hit Hari Vamsa, a renowned Vaishnava in many parts of Vrindadan who started the Radha-Vallabha Sampradaya. He became a very controversial figure, however, among the Gaudiyas as he was an errant disciple of Gopal Bhatta Goswami. The ashram was now a two-acre nursery on the parikrama marg off Mathura Rd., dedicated to the preservation of the environment of Vraja

The street was a bit noisy, but going into the ashram was like entering another world. It is preserved as old Vraja jungle with a large variety of beautiful indigenous trees and plants. Vraja Sevika respectfully greeted me and then offered me a seat on a large stone slab propped up on each side by bricks and situated under some old shade trees in front of the ashram building. There was a similar seat parallel about ten feet away and then another seat perpendicular to both of them so that the seats form three sides of a ten foot square?a perfect rustic informal meeting area. Vraja Sevika then excused herself to get the baba that she said was anxious to meet me.

The baba was a fair-skinned sadhu with a slight and dignified bodily frame indicating, at least from his appearance, a person of goodness, a sadhu. He had a long gray beard and was wearing a one-piece rough brownish khadi kurta (shirt) that could almost be mistaken for burlap and hung to his ankles to form a complete dress, with the exception of a thick winter shawl over his shoulder. I stood to greet him and he sat next to me on the bench facing me with folded legs.

The sadhu began to explain his thoughts and we had a very respectful conversation. I would also speak but I generally deferred to him, as I was his guest, he was older than me, nearing seventy, and the fact that he was obviously locally revered, since during our conversation several people came from the outside to touch his feet. He was very fluent in English and illustrated his points mostly with stories. Since he was a Vaishnava there was general agreement in our talk, but he seemed to have some of his own ideas?especially about guru?that I doubted were based on the principles of sastra, especially as he was not in the habit of referencing his statements. He did not say anything, however, that necessitated a strong response and I respected him as a gentleman and a sadhu, and he also offered deference to me.

I often quoted from the Bhagavatam in my discussion with the sadhu and he seemed to appreciate the references that I contributed to our discussion. In the course of our talk he asked where I live and when he discovered that it was near him and that I was giving class every day, he enthusiastically said that he would like to come. I responded to him that he was senior to me, and that if he came he would have to give the class. He insisted on our equality and told the following interesting story about an eagle and a sparrow to illustrate it.

An eagle and a sparrow were somehow friends and, in a spirited competition, decided to fly to the sun to see Surya Narayan, the sun god. Soon, however,the sparrow began to fatigue and his wings fluttered. Finally, in exhaustion, he fell from the sky. As he was falling he watched as the eagle soared and disappeared from sight.

When the sparrow came to earth he gathered all the other animals and told of the glorious vulture, the great bird that soared off to meet Surya Narayan. All the animals became excited and prepared a grand reception for the divinely inspired vulture. Thousands assembled and brought numerous flowers and fruits.

The eagle, although far ahead of the sparrow, enough to be out of sight, was still nowhere near the Sun. He also began to totter and flap his wings desperately to keep equilibrium. It was too late, however, and he began to fall rapidly until?crash!?he landed right in the middle the assembled forest animals. The animals cheered wildly?”Jaya Vulture! Jaya Vulture! Vulture Vulture! Jaya Jaya!”?and garlanded the hapless creature thinking that he had attained saksad-dasrhan, direct vision of the glorious sun-god, Sri Surya Narayan.

The vulture looked around in surprise and disgust. “What’s going on? Why are you glorifying me? I have done nothing of merit,” he said. But the animals replied, “That’s not true, you are the glorious bird who visited the sun god!”

“I did not!”

The sparrow spoke up, “But you soared so far that you were out of sight!”
“I may have been ahead of you,” he quickly retorted, “but I was also far, far away from reaching sun. Therefore I think I am really still no better than you or anyone else!”

Moral: You may be ahead others, but rather than seeing them in relation to yourself it is better to see yourself and others in relation to the final goal, which most likely will be of little variance. Better to judge things from an absolute, rather than relative perspective.

In common parlance, it really makes little difference that you get the ghee lamp first.

I appreciated his point in a certain context. However, a Vaishnava is encouraged to make certain practical distinction among for the purpose of relating properly, avoiding offense, and giving and accepting instruction.

The sadhu had never been introduced to me so I asked his name. He introduced himself as Sevak Saran, who I recognized as a famous Vraja conservationist. I had to rush back to my class, so I excused myself, but we made friends and he begged me to return.

I never even had a chance to inquire from Vraja Sevika about her welfare. Upon leaving I asked her one question in passing. “Did your parents appreciate what you have achieved after seeing you after seven years?”

“No,” she replied, almost rhetorically. “How could they appreciate one in such poor health, destitute and depressed?” I told her she could visit me later if she had any questions, as there was no time to discuss her new realizations now.

I wondered if her radical change in attitude had anything to do with a diminishing faith in spiritual life, since her spiritual life was apparently such a disaster. I hope not. I wondered if she realized that the perhaps her problem was not spirituality, but the way in which she practiced spirituality according to her own whim.

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Govardhana I talked with Partha-Sarathi

November 21st, 2000

Govardhana

I talked with Partha-Sarathi Prabhu this morning about chanting. His recommendation was pray, pray more, and deepen our prayers. Without humility and a consequent yearning for perfection bhakti, true devotion, cannot come to the heart.

Met an old Godbrother friend who confided in me about a unique process of purification that he had just undergone. When I asked if it could be mentioned in my journal, he replied that I could repeat the story as long as his name was not used and his identity was not evident. He explained that it was important that it be kept confidential because if one accrues any prestige for his austerities, the honor one receives becomes the fruit of one’s austerities, and not the desired spiritual attainment.

My friend had just returned from Tibet where he completed the grueling 14-day circumambulation of Mt. Kalaish, the abode of Lord Siva. When he told me this I was surprised and jokingly asked, “Are you aspiring for santa-rasa?” (One of the impetuses for developing ecstatic love in the mood of santa-rasa is to stay in lonely places like the Himalayas.) He seriously replied that Lord Siva is in charge of the false ego. To remove the false ego and to develop the pure ego of the humble servant of the Vaishnavas, one could take the help of Lord Siva. He quoted two or three places in the Bhagavatam where pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash is described. I could not immediately confirm the validity of his pilgrimage in terms of Gaudiya teachings, but I listened respectfully because my friend is a good Vaishnava. I believe he chants a minimum of 64 rounds per day, and I know he still preaches very rigorously, and successfully, for 8 months of the year.

He described to me the traditional circumambulation of Mt. Kailash, how each day one adopts in a progressive manner a different meditation to help one give up bodily identification. He also described how one of the five people in his party almost got lost and if that person didn’t by chance relocate their camp, he could have died of exposure.

He joked to me that he had to undergo this process because he was not fortunate like me, referring to the humbling circumstances I had to tolerate in the last fives years for the sake of Srila Prabhupada’s service. I told him that he was just being kind, since deserved retribution is different from voluntary austerities.

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Govardhana My trip to Vrindaban

November 20th, 2000

Govardhana

My trip to Vrindaban was delayed. Nekram, my driver, called and said that because of the elections in Govardhana today, no cars would be allowed in. I listened outside to the road and there was an unusual silence?no cars, no speakers, complete silence. I told him to come tomorrow. I am not disappointed to be stuck at Govardhana.

Nanuram, our simple hearted brijabasi friend, spontaneously starts a conversation with me in the hall. He was very animated. Usually he just talks, not caring if you understand or not, but this time he called over a translator. Unfortunately, the translator practically only spoke Oriyan, but my curiosity was aroused as to why Nanuram so excited and I thus somehow managed to get the two of them to communicate in broken Hindi. Finally, to my complete surprise, in broken English, the Oriyan devotee informs me, “He said Clinton’s man was losing the election!”

Bhajan, mostly nitai-bhajan, again at 6 PM in Niranjana Swami’s room. Mahamantra and Kesava Bharati also join. Again we are effortlessly drawn into the mood of the last few nights. My thoughts:

I wish my friends and well wishers were here. Devotees need to see their teachers and spiritual authorities relate in Krishna consciousness, with open hearts, on the basis of Caitanya Caritamrita, to solidify their faith that they are following real Vaishnavas.

In a preaching mission, the leaders must also at times manage the mission and relate to others, even their godbrothers, in a corporate way, but real faith will be nourished by seeing sadhu-sanga based on nama-kirtan and krishna-katha.

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