Archive for February, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay I

February 18th, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay

I saw an interesting article in the newspaper. A muftir?a muslim priest?blames the earthquake in Gujarat to the degradation of the youth caused by television, which has angered Allah. The article reports that after hearing the muftir’s judgment, Muslim youth from all over Gujarat have been pouring out into the streets by the hundreds smashing their families? television sets.

His analysis is a bit simplistic, but there is also truth to it. The ultimate cause of suffering is turning the turning the consciousness from God and there is no medium more powerful in absorbing and diverting the consciousness to the external energy than TV. A devotee home is usually much better with out it.

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Bhaktivedanata Hospital – Bombay The

February 17th, 2001

Bhaktivedanata Hospital – Bombay

The body is naturally traumatized and doesn’t work normally. Sometimes pain, but just general discomfort. I can live with it, but I’m not at all productive.

Srila Prabhupada?s soothing voice plays day and night in my room. My condition forces me to be dependent. It creates the proper mood to hear. My body pains, but my heart is soothed and soothed by the shelter of Srila Prabhupada’s deep, melodic, and tonic voice.

An unexpected fruit of my hospital stay: increased attachment to the refuge of Srila Prabhupada?s lotus feet.

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Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay I?ve

February 16th, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay

I?ve never been in an operation theatre before. At least the doctor wears tilak and Srila Prabhupada’s soothing voice is in the background. The anaesthesiologist gives me a spinal tap. From the waste down I am complete numb to the extent that I have no awareness of where my legs are. I try to move them, but there’s absolutely no trace of a connection between my will and my kinesis. It is humbling. I am not even the controller of my basic functions.

I am conscious during the whole operation, but feel nothing. I didn’t know what to expect but I’m reasonably relaxed and able to chant. Toward the end, I hear the doctor singing along with Srila Prabhupada’s tape?a sure sign that things went well.

Post operation room: Sensation returns to my legs and so does the pain. It’s barely tolerable, but the thought of living like this for a day seems tortuous. No choice but to take shelter of the holy name.

The nurses wheel me to my room, then intravenous injections are administered and I am pumped with drugs. Pain is gone, but I must lie with my legs up without drinking or eating for the rest of the day. I don’t know what they gave me, but it must be quite powerful, because I lie on my back reading Bhakti-sandarbha for several hours, and don’t even sleep for the rest of the day.

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Bhaktivedanata Hospital – Bombay When

February 15th, 2001

Bhaktivedanata Hospital – Bombay

When I met Malati Mataji in Vrindaban and told her that I was going to Bombay for a minor surgery she remarked casually that the Bhaktivedanta Hospital has become a favorite pit stop for many devotees. I like the analogy: a few wheels changed, a screw turned, a part removed and fixed, some gas in the tank, and back out to race as normal.

I am trying to remain detached, being happy with Krishna’s will. I don’t like when my world moves so antithetical to my plans, but I’ve had plenty of practice in the last five years, so I’m fairly resigned to my fate.

Krishna Prema, my surgeon, meets me at 10 in the morning and informs me that he will operate tomorrow at 7am. He also arranges for a few pre-operative procedures today.

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Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay I

February 14th, 2001

Bhaktivedanta Hospital – Bombay

I rise early on the train and chant with a determination to carry the spirit of the dhama with me. For each round, I systematically recall a place of pilgrimage we visited and the sentiments of devotion that inspired me there. It makes for good train chanting and I am able to chant most of the time until our destination. But can I maintain my zeal without the facility of the dhama to nourish my enthusiasm for chanting?

I stop at the Radha-Gopinatha Mandir for prasadam, and then it?s on to the hospital for check in.

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Vrindaban /Govardhana /Bombay I leave

February 13th, 2001

Vrindaban /Govardhana /Bombay

I leave the japa-kutir early this morning to spend my last day in the dhama at Govardhana. I have the taxi stop in front of the Sri Krishna-Balarams Mandir for a quick darshan of Sri Sri Radha-Shyamasundara.

At the temple I beg every devotee I meet to pray that I may return. I then follow my ritual of leaving the dhama: I hug saintly Vibhu Caitanya, then take caranamrita from his hand, point to Sri Sri Radha-Shyamasundara and, in broken Hindi, beg him to request Radhe-Shyam for my quick return. He smiles and nods.

On my way to Govardhana, I stop at Radha-kunda for one last bath. I pray to be able to assimilate my experiences in Vrindaban so that I may incorporate them in my life even outside the dhama.

A realization comes: although Vrindaban is glorious and an unparalleled inspiration for spiritual life, more important is to take full shelter of the holy name and remain in good consciousness regardless of one’s place of residence.

After Radha-kunda, lunch, and rest at the Bhaktivedanta Ashram, I leave for Mathura to catch the evening train to Bombay.

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Srila Bhaktisiddhanta?s Appearance Day Srila

February 12th, 2001

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta?s Appearance Day
Srila Goura Govinda Swami?s Disappearance Day

“You shine forth as the natural leading monarch among the highest class of devotees, and you are the exclusive, ultimate aim of the highest class of devotees, and you are the exclusive, ultimate aim of the truly fallen due to your far-reaching merciful embrace. Your inconceivable lotus feet bestow full shelter for the cheater and the cheated. I eternally offer my respects unto that charming effulgence that shines forth from the radiant lotus toe-tips of Srila Bhaaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada.” (Sri Prabhupada-Padma-Stavah by Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhar Maharaja)

It’s an auspicious day and I want to take advantage of it, but I?m inclined to honor Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur in a more secluded way. I have a quiet celebration at the japa-kutir. I do an arati to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, sing the Sri Prabhupada-Padma-Stavah, and then leave for Radha-Damodara to offer a garland at the puspa-samadhi of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta.

Srila Prabhupada said that the grandfather is more merciful than the father, so I remember Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s glories and pray for his mercy.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s father, Srila Bhaktivinoda, prayed for a ray of Vishnu?a great soul to revitalize the tradition and teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When a spiritual tradition needs to be revitalized, deep realization is required to make the teachings relevant to the times. If one lacks such realization, one might either fanatically maintain all the customary forms of the tradition?even if that makes the message of Krishna consciousness seem incommunicable or irrelevant?or liberally change the established forms of the tradition in the name of preaching, losing the essence of those teachings in the process.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, however, was a qualified Krishna conscious revolutionary. For the sake of spreading Krishna consciousness, he was able to radically alter some aspects of the tradition without compromising the essence of the teachings. Time has come to take me from Vrindaban. Although I have not left yet, I am already beginning to miss staying here. As it was my home for half my life, it is hard for me to analyze the depth of the spirituality of my attachment and separation for Vrindaban. Regardless, these feelings of separation and the tirobhava-tithi-mahotsava (the disappearance day) of Srila Gaura Govinda Swami inspired me to read his remarkable analysis of the intricacies of union and separation in his recorded lecture “The Fainting of Ramananda Raya.”

“There are three types of separation and they are all discussed in Rupa Goswami’s Ujjvala-Nilamani. Similarly, as there are three types of separation, there are also three types of union, milana. The three types of separation are bhavi, bhuta, and bhavan. First we will explain what is bhavi-viraha, what is bhuta-viraha, and what is bhavan-viraha. With concentrated attention one should hear about such topics and try to understand them. If Mahaprabhu will shower His mercy upon us it will be possible.

?Akrura has come to Vrindaban to take away Krishna. He has not yet taken Krishna away, though it must take place. When the gopis think of this, they feel some pangs of separation. This is bhavi-viraha It has not taken place, but Akrura has arrived and must take Krishna away. At that time they felt pangs of separation. This is known as bhavi-viraha.

?Then bhuta-viraha is explained in this way. After Akrura had taken Krishna away, day after day passed by. The more the days passed, the pangs of separation became more and more acute. This is known as bhuta-viraha.

?Then what is bhavan-viraha. The gopis are looking on, seeing Akrura taking away their prana-kanta, the most beloved of their eyes. Akrura is taken away their life. All the gopis came and through themselves before the wheels of the chariot. ?Our life is getting out. How can we survive? Let the wheels of the chariot roll on our bodies. Let our bodies be crushed. Let us leave these bodies.? They are rolling on the ground now. This is known as bhavan-viraha. The pangs of separation during this bhavan-viraha are most acute. So bhavi, bhuta, and bhavan?acute, more acute, and most acute.? (The Embankment of Separation, His Divine Grace Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja, p. 29)

The lady who came to my room two days ago returned to ask questions about Krishna. She asks many intelligent questions. An opportunity to preach like this in Vrindaban is a natural way to honor the spirit of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta on his appearance day. Gokula Taruni has also come and I have asked her to arrange a basic class for her while she is here.

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Vrindaban An old friend visited

February 11th, 2001

Vrindaban

An old friend visited me in the morning. He’s a serious spiritual practitioner and quite learned, but not so well known to others. I haven’t seen or talked to him in several years so I asked him how his spiritual practices have developed. To advance in spiritual life we need bhajan-siksa, instructions on how to develop and deepen our spiritual practices. In the absence of Srila Prabhupada, or a regular access to a proper siksa-guru, I take shelter of the sadhus?especially my Godbrothers. In discussions with them, I mold my personal spiritual practices considering my own practical assessment of my spiritual life. My friend has had his fair share of “trials by fire” and he shared his personal realizations on chanting.

He explained to me that in his in-depth of study of Srila Prabhupada’s books, again and again Srila Prabhupada talks about taking shelter of and meditating on the lotus feet of the Lord, so during his japa he often just meditates on the lotus feet of Lord. He described how such meditation gives him a sense of deep peace and happiness, despite any external difficulties. I recognized within him the voice of conviction based on realization, so I immediately made a mental note to see how this realization could be incorporated into my own practices.

He said he also sometimes mediates on the forms of Radha and Krishna when chanting. I confronted him, not necessarily because I disagreed with him, but because I wanted to see his response. “But we are just suppose to hear the name,? I challenged.

He responded strongly. “But within the name is the Lord’s form. After so many years of chanting we should be thinking of Krishna. It’s the essence of sadhana-bhakti, the focus of all Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, and the goal of life. My happiness comes from thinking of Krishna and that happens spontaneously when one chants His name.”

“What about thinking of the Lord’s lila?? I asked. He replied, “When I read the Bhagavatam, or Krishna?s pastimes, then sometimes the next day the pastimes will also appear in His name. Should I artificially not think of Krishna?”

We should focus primarily on hearing the holy name. We should, however, live our lives in such a way that devotion awakens in our heart and the holy name automatically invokes the Lord’s form and activities.

Vrindaban I leave in a

February 10th, 2001

Vrindaban

I leave in a few days so I have stopped my evening class, but evidently not everyone knows. Just as I was leaving the japa-kutir to tie up some final business in town, Mother Thakurani, an older lady gurukula teacher, arrived at my door for class. She is with another lady, an actress from Venezuala, who became disillusioned with material life and dropped everything to search for God. In a chance visit to Vrindaban, she discovered Krishna consciousness. I agree to meet them in two days.

There’s a great scope for preaching in Vrindaban, especially at this time of the year. It’s just another reason that makes me sad to leave. It seems that the Krishna-Balarama Mandir, with hundreds of residents, and hundreds of visiting pilgrims from all over the world, could do more outside of the regular program to engage the devotees in chanting and hearing. After all, chanting and hearing is the purpose of coming to Vrindaban. I wonder what chance this lady will get to understand Srila Prabhupada’s teachings.

Vrindban My stay in Vrindaban

February 9th, 2001

Vrindban

My stay in Vrindaban has been purifying. My attraction for chanting and hearing has increased. It has also enthused me to preach. I recall a verse that relates the internal development of Krishna consciousness with preaching. I was also able to find it:

“By sincere effort to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam, one realizes his constitutional relationship with the Lord in the transcendental humor of servitude, friendship, paternal affection, or conjugal love, and by such self-realization one becomes situated at once in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Not only were all the pure devotees like Narada self-realized souls, but they were engaged in preaching work automatically by spiritual impetus, and thus they delivered many poor souls entangled in the material modes.? (Bhag. 2.8.5)

Although I am very much enthused to further the mission of Srila Prabhupada, the voice in my heart is directing me strongly to do in the West exactly what I do here?chant, study, and write with an open door to those who want to visit or hear me speak. It is quite a different outlook from last year where I was inspired to plan and preach vigorously in an outreach manner. Someone once told me that Bhaktisiddhanta once said that the best preacher is a bhajanandi who preaches. I never confirmed that statement, but I personally feel comfortable with the idea. The more I purify myself, the more effective I become in enthusing others in Krishna consciousness. Ultimately, I am open to Krishna’s direction, and always open for opportunities to preach, but unless I am clearly directed or asked otherwise, my heart tells me to not make plans, just chant, hear, and write wherever I am invited to stay.

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