Archive for June, 2001

I was a receiver on

June 23rd, 2001

I was a receiver on the following message sent by Mahatma Prabhu.

?Mother Kirtida left her body Tuesday morning. It was her desire to leave during the brahma-muhurta hour, hearing kirtan, with a Govardhana sila on her head, and be peaceful and in full consciousness. All these desires were fulfilled.

?For two weeks before she left her body, there were continual kirtans and readings in her room. For the last week there was only 24-hour kirtan. She was in ecstasy in those last days and she was never happier in her life.

?She expressed no fear of death. She boldly fasted until death, taking either only a little coconut water or water for 60 days. For the last five days of her life, she didn’t take anything. Her mind was fixed only on Vrndavana and Srimati Radharani and her assistants. Thus everyone who came into her presence felt that they had come to Vrndavana.

?Her dying brought the Dallas community together in a way that no other devotee could. Even the doctors and nurses that attended her were astounded with her level of spirituality and were deeply moved and impressed.

?I feel fortunate to have witnessed this event. Her example of fearlessly dying in ecstasy cannot be forgotten by anyone who witnessed her passing. We all agree it was one of the most purifying events in our lives, perhaps the most purifying.

?There is so much more to say about this wonderful event. A small biography is being written and it will include the details of her passing. But at least I wanted to give you a few details. Mother Padma was present, so you may want to contact her to get the full story.”

I have been following the passing away of Srimati Kirtida-devi dasi at the Sri Sri Radha Kalachandji dhama in Dallas mostly through messages from Jahnava and a telephone call from Seva-Priya. Jaya Subhadra and Govardhan Lal also gave me a report upon returning from Dallas. Kaustubha and I talked extensively about it over the phone as well. They all said the same thing. Kirtida gave herself selflessly to others her whole life?and especially to Srila Prabhupada’s mission and devotees?and whatever love she gave was being returned in her last days, all at once, in a floodgate of affection from those whose hearts she has touched. Her consciousness was fixed to the end in the humble service of the devotees; there were incredibly intense 24-hour kirtans surrounding her bed; she was conscious, fearless, and blissful. Not a scent of illusion or despair entered her consciousness for a minute at anytime.

Srila Tamal Krishna Maharaja, her spiritual master, was at her bedside practically the whole time. Toward the end, seeing her unwavering devotion and the overwhelmingly vibrant and loving devotional mood expressed through the continuous and intense kirtan surrounding her, he lovingly commented to her, “There is not a chance that maya can seep into here!” How fortunate! Actually, for those who knew Kirtida, maya never had a chance to seep into her life.

I knew Mother Kirtida quite well from Vrindaban, where she came to leave her body almost eight years ago. She was always very frail and sickly, but somehow she continued her life by devotional energy. I was amazed by the gusto in which she regularly did Govardhana parikrama. A few years ago I asked her to lead some of the younger ladies on my tour on Govardhana parikrama and they reported that they were unable to keep up with her, despite her ailing and aging body. The only explanation? She was not on the bodily platform. I would sometimes take her friends from South Africa on pilgrimage, and she would reciprocate so nicely, always ordering three new sets of sannyasa attire for me, in appreciation, with the local cloth merchant, Ganga Prasad.

Looking back I can say I only saw the deepest kindness and humility in her demeanor and I wished I served her more. If we think carefully, there are pure devotees in the Hare Krishna movement, sincerely humble Vaishnavas, rare souls, fully dedicated to the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We should seek them out and try to serve them and not mistakenly wait until they leave to recognize them. A word of advice: They may be in any country, in any position, in any ashram, and in any gender. They are recognizable by their qualities and generally loved by everyone. I now suspect at least a few such unalloyed devotees?actually, quite a few?and I am inspired to serve them, not just remember them at death.

A few years ago I wrote a Vyasa-puja offering to Srila Prabhupada where I tried to document the phenomena of the remarkable success at death by those who served or even touched his mission. Mother Kirtida is another magnificent example. Srila Prabhupada is an ocean of mercy. We are fortunate, and should just remain forever obliged.

New Ekachakra Dham The devotees

June 5th, 2001

New Ekachakra Dham

The devotees left last night, but my mind is still very much thinking about the program.

The best part of the festival: One gets to actually live what one hears about. We hear about how one attains the mercy of Lord Nityananda by humbly serving the Vaishnavas with sumptuous prasadam, and we actually experienced the mercy of Lord Nityananda by humbly serving the Vaishnavas a feast of many varieties of chira soaked in yogurt and condensed milk.

Two days of constant chanting, hearing, and serving had such a visibly uplifting effect on the devotees that my mind has been reeling since the festival with ideas how to expand and continue such programs. Devotees need a presentation of Krishna consciousness that is engaging for their minds and hearts, which represent their ideals, which offers them an opportunity for encouraging devotional service, and finally, which inspires them with a sense of devotional community. I pray that our attempt was successful.

I want to help develop such a facility at New Ekachakra dhama. Urugaya and Giri-Govardhana are also enthusiastic. This morning, we discussed practical ways to eventually expand the facilities to accommodate the festivals such as a retractable awning for the porch, a speaker system for the house, and the development of the patio downstairs. He also suggested the land across the stream over the stone path as a possible place to construct a hermitage for my studies and to base my preaching, if the resources become available.

I remember watching Srila Prabhupada pacing outside his room in Dallas in 1975. The GBC man at the time was respectfully seeing that Srila Prabhupada was not disturbed. He told me that Srila Prabhupada would often simply be meditating on how to spread Krishna consciousness. I remember telling one fairly respected sadhu in Vrindaban, who chanted at least one lak (64 rounds) a day, about Srila Prabhupada’s daily activities?how he would sometimes give three or four preaching programs a day, how he would wake up early to translate, how he would answer so many letters, and how he was constantly traveling around the world. The sadhu, a bhajananandi, looked puzzled and wondered out loud how Srila Prabhupada made time for his own personal bhajan, since to him, bhajan meant chanting and meditating at least eight hours a day. He then said to me respectfully, “His preaching was his bhajan.”

From the time I arose this morning my mind has been absorbed in plans to develop the preaching and community of devotees in the Northeast. Today, beyond my basic practices, my preaching was my bhajan.

New Ekachakra Dham We begin

June 4th, 2001

New Ekachakra Dham

We begin the program again this morning at 7:30 AM. I am focusing my talks on the life of Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswami. We sit until almost until 2 PM with a short break for breakfast and Kana Porcelly’s grain ceremony. It feels like Mayapur or Ekachakra, where the dhama’s mercy mystically makes spiritual life easy.

Srila Prabhupada was once asked, “What is the result of chanting?” He answered with conviction, “More chanting!” Chanting purifies the heart and gives
attraction for chanting. Often we don’t experience that because we don’t give much effort to chanting. We surrender to the initial inertia of the modes and become inattentive, or don’t chant at all. Thankfully, that wasn’t at all the case today. Our chanting led to more chanting.

The story of Raghunatha dasa Goswami describes the power of Lord Nityananda’s mercy. It also promotes a very renounced life. Srila Krishna dasa Kaviraja comments on the stringent renunciation of Raghunatha dasa Goswami and the followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu:

“Renunciation is the basic principle sustaining the lives of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s devotees. Seeing this renunciation, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the
Supreme Personality of Godhead, is extremely satisfied.” (Cc., Antya-lila 6.220)

Raghunatha dasa Goswami’s renunciation attained such limits that eventually he was eating only the inner portion of outwardly rancid rice, but still not a drop of pride crossed his mind:

“If one’s heart has been cleansed by perfect knowledge and one has understood Krishna, the Supreme Brahman, he then gains everything. Why should such a person act like a debauchee by trying to maintain his material body very carefully?” (Cc., Antya-lila 6.314)

Renouncing the taste of Krishna prasadam? How is that devotional service? On the path of bhakti-marg the process of advancing is sadhu-sanga, not vairagya (renunciation). Vairagya is the path of jnanis, the seekers of moksa (liberation). What then exactly was it about the stringent and seemingly punishing renunciation of Raghunatha dasa Goswami that was so pleasing to Sri Caitanya Mahprabhu and how is this pastime relevant to us?

The point here is subtle. Raghunatha dasa Goswami was not focused on vairagya like the jnanis who count or analyze the material elements to distinguish it from spirit for the purpose of salvation. He was focused on his service exclusively for the pleasure of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and as a result rejected anything of inconsequence to that service. In fact, his absorption in the pleasure of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was so consummate that he simply had no concern or time for anything else. And what was his service as directly ordered by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu?

“Do not talk like people in general or hear what they have to say. You should not eat very palatable food, nor should you dress very nicely…. Do not expect honor, but offer all respect to others. Always chant the holy name of Krsna, and within you mind render service to Radha and Krishna in Vrindaban.” (Cc., Antya lila 6.236-37)

Srila Prabhupada comments on Dasa Raghunatha’s service:

“The principle of very rigidly carrying out the order of the spiritual master must be observed. The spiritual master gives different orders to different people. For example, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu ordered Jiva Goswami, Rupa Goswami, and Sanatana Goswami to preach and he ordered Raghuntha dasa Goswami to strictly follow the rules and regulations of the renounced order. All of the six Goswamis strictly followed the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This is the principle for progress in devotional service. After receiving an order from the spiritual master one must strictly try to execute that order. That is the way of success.” (Cc., Antya-lila 6.312, purport)

Now, how does Dasa Raghuntha’s example apply to us? Such severe renunciation would certainly be phalgu-vairagya (false renunciation), as it would force us to reject basic things needed for our service to Krishna?including many simple needs of life. Although it is not our service to imitate the extreme renunciation of Raghunatha dasa Goswami, we should follow his example. We can do this by giving up those things that have nothing to do with either our own devotional service, or our basic social and occupational responsibilities.

This pastime gives us nice meditation at whatever level we practice devotional service: What in my life is superfluous to my basic needs that can be renounced
to help me attain love of Godhead?

Brajajana is a wizard in the kitchen. I also like his manner of cooking. It’s a deep meditation, like that of a scientist. Gaura-Priya and he organized and cooked a superb feast that brought happiness to the assembled Vaishnavas. I counted 19 exotic offerings. My favorites: Navaratna-chira (fancy Bengali chira with panir, cashews, and a slightly sweet base), Meditteranean chira (with kalamata olives, feta, roasted peppers, and olive oil), and mango chira (chira soaked in kheer with perfectly ripened mangos).

The purpose of a festival is to gather devotees together to offer love to Krishna and share affection among themselves. A nice way to express love is the little details, the extras that express one’s special effort to please others. The clay pots for honoring the Cira-Dahi added an authenticity to the festival, but it was also a wonderful expression of affection for Lord Nityananda and his devotees, a desire to offer them the best, down to the details.

New Ekachakra Dham It is

June 3rd, 2001

New Ekachakra Dham

It is raining so I have doubts about the feasibility of today’s Vrindaban parikrama at Innis Free Gardens. If necessary, we will all squeeze inside the Sri Sri Nitai-Gaura Nataraja temple for the weekend and, by the holy name, try to transcend any inconvenience.

Nitai clears the rain for the parikrama. I promised the devotees that Innis Free Gardens with its lotus flowers, waterfalls, Japanese gardens, and natural beauty could invoke a sweet remembrance of Vrindaban. They were not disappointed. My favorite part: the water mist from the large rocks below the garden which we easily visualized and worshiped as Govardhana. Still, it’s hard to beat the exquisitely sculptured and contoured Chinese and Japanese gardens that we approached in the mood of Varsana.

Upon leaving Vrindaban one summer, a sadhu consoled me by saying that if I see a river in America and think of the Yamuna, the Yamuna in Vrindaban will accept my prayers. I felt comforted. His suggestion was somewhat consistent with the instructions of Krishna delivered by Uddhava to the gopis to mitigate their separation from Him: “I [Krishna] am always in Vrindaban in my bhava expansion.” Krishna’s instructions to the gopis suggests that He is ultimately manifest within His internal potency and thus certainly manifest in the hearts of one infused with the internal potency by dint of intense devotion. Vrindavan denotes the internal potency. That Krishna never leaves Vrindaban thus also means that He is never outside of His internal potency.

Many traveled long distances to get to New Ekachakra dhama. The travel, the small feast upon arrival, and the long walk in the damp forest of Innis Free appears to have utterly exhausted the devotees. I am seriously concerned whether or not they can make the rest of the program for the evening. I am amazed, however, that by the time the devotees return to New Ekachakra dhama and become absorbed in a few favorite Krishna bhajans, the overwhelming fatigue has disappeared. Why I am so surprised? Do I doubt the power of the holy name?

New Ekachakra Dham Someone asked

June 2nd, 2001

New Ekachakra Dham

Someone asked me if they are getting the complete journals since there are dates missing. They probably are. I am writing other things and have not been keeping the journal everyday like I did in India. It is also more difficult for me to write when I am traveling. In India I basically stayed either in Govardhana or Vrindaban.

I am looking forward to the festival tomorrow, but a little disturbed by the nasty weather forecast?showers and thunderstorms throughout the weekend.