Kartik Begins

November 2nd, 2004

Kartik Journal
October 26 – November 2, 2004

NY to Amman (Jordan): I shuffled down the aisle looking for 11B, my preferred aisle seat. My neighbor for the flight, now known to me only as 11B window seat, gently points with his right palm to my open seat in a surprisingly welcoming motion. He then greets me with a few friendly words. It?s nearly midnight. My new friend promptly curls himself up towards the window and sleeps before any further conversation could ensue. ?What a nice guy,? I thought. I soon follow into slumber. (October 26th)

NY to Amman (Jordan): I rose early, much earlier than my other passengers. After washing, I worship Giriraja (manasa puja), then chant plane rounds. After several hours the cabin lights welcome the day. My friend rises, smiles and coolly (a warm type cool) announces himself, ?Good morning my friend?. We chat.

My fellow passenger was born in Jordan, but a New Yorker for thirty years. He has a thin neatly trimmed beard and a swarthy complexion. I like his funky black cabby cap matching his dark long sleeve shirt and simple pants. As the conversation ensues, I became curious about his work. I hesitate to ask. Surely he?s just a cabbie and who?s proud of that? I ask anyway?can?t help myself. His answer surprises me.

Ray is from an established and popular Jordanian family. His ancestors migrated from Greece thousands of years ago. They are thus one of the oldest and established families in the country. Although Jordan is ninety-five per cent Muslim, his family is Catholic, but respected and charitable land holders. In fact, for generations they have known the royal family and thus are ?frequently in and out of the palace?. Ray, in fact, is personally close to Queen Nori, the wife of the late King Hussein.

My friend is also a member of an influential US committee connected with the US embassy that renovates ancient churches, mosques, and temples. They are currently overseeing an old church renovation in Amman, the capital of Jordan. Ray is here, however, to visit his beloved parents, who now live in a small palace quaintly perched on a small mountain over-looking Jerusalem. He purchased it recently for his own retirement in a few years.

Ray was educated in the USA as an engineer and now lives and works near Millbrook, NY. He?s now a landscape architect and heads his own company, Stone Unlimited. I ask him if he knows my disciple Madan Mohan, as Madan is also a landscape designer in the same area. He does and even mentions where he lives, but his remembrance is vague.

My friend also talks a lot about religious tolerance and very much appreciates that I?m a Hindu monk. He begs me to visit him in Jordan and NY and gives me his calling card. I find him very genuine so I will certainly take up his invitation.

It was a simple plane ride, but enriched with the flavor of the hand of Krishna personally selecting my seat and my neighbors too. I?m intrigued by that. The real story is still hopefully to be told if this ?chance? meeting brings me to Jordan in the future to preach.

A doubt arose, ?If Ray was so prominent why was he in economy class?? A military escort awaits him. Doubt dispelled. He waves good-bye. (October 27th)

Entering the dhama: Eric, who is accompanying me to Vrindavana this year, asks this morning just before we land, ?Are you afraid??, referring to going to such an exalted place as Vrindavana. I replied, ?Not at all. I?m looking forward to it?. Later I thought, ?Maybe I should be afraid.? Vrindavana is the spiritual world. Shouldn?t that humble me and make me wary of my lack of qualification and the purification required to stay there? (October 28th)

Entering the dhama: As usual Gopal, our well-known brijabasi driver, meets me at the airport. Seeing his smile and manner, I already feel Braja – the happy Braja. As we leave the airport, however, the apprehension that Eric inquired about starts to overcome me. What?s going on? Yes, I am unqualified and will certainly have to be purified to stay in Braja! Will my false ego be laid bare? My attachments routed? As I ride through the back streets of Delhi on the way to the Mathura road, I distinctly feel the rays of Braja. It?s still 93 miles southeast, but I swear it?s touching me. How is that possible? Like the sun?we feel it directly even 93 millions of miles away. I?m apprehensive, but excited, a healthy mood for approaching the dhama. (October 28th)

Home at last: It?s purnima, the full moon day, when practically all of North India comes to Govardhana for a family 24 kilometer stroll. We?re stuck dead in an impossible huge traffic jam just before the famous ?Giriraja Misthan Bandar? (sweet shop). The turn-off to Aniyor and our ashram is just a few hundred feet away, but we?re not moving. I?m not anxious, however. I?ve come for this, to be among the devotees in Govardhana. (October 28th)

Sadhus of Vrindavana: Why am I here? To chant and chant more. I will leave the ashram after breakfast every day for someplace in Govardhana to finish the bulk of my chanting before lunch. Today it?s Govinda Kunda. Before I can find a quiet place to chant, an old friend greets me. It?s Ranga Caitanya, ?lal baba?.

Ranga Caitanya was our ISKCON pujari in Govardhana several years ago. Even then his nature was to be a tyagi, a severe renunciate. He lives now in a small bhajan kutir across from Govinda Kunda. He still, however, remains faithful in his own way to Srila Prabhupada. Unlike the other babajis who all wear white, he keeps his saffron or red cloth. The babajis thus affectionately call him ?lal (red) baba?.

Ranga Caitanya is also very gentle and humble. He goes around Govardhana twice every day and eats only what he can beg (madhukari). He begs me to stay for lunch and ushers me into to his very small, five by eight, windowless room. Fortunately his door faces east to greet the rising sun. He has an altar, his books, a few possessions and a place where he both sleeps and chants and that?s all. I find his simple and quiet life very attractive, but could I trade my comforts and convenience for his austerity?

I just ate breakfast. I thus take only one sumptuous brijabasi roti (flat bread), half of a sweet, and a glass of buttermilk. For me it?s a feast. (October 29th)

Sadhus of ISKCON: Sivaram Swami visits today. When I?m not chanting, I spend my time with him. Maharaja is affectionate, deep, devotional, and empowered?great association. ISKCON needs spiritual exemplars. I?m sorry when he leaves. (October 30th)

Japa thought: Chanting means three things: Krishna, His devotee, and their relationship. That relationship is love, but why I am not feeling it when chanting the holy name? At least I chant with the cognizance that Krishna is there in His name and that I am His aspiring servant. I thus pray for that love, which is also that love, at least the beginning of that love. (October 31st)

Japa thought: Attentive chanting means that only Krishna in the form of His holy name pervades our consciousness. It is also the symptom of prema. How? Real love means that the object of ones love exclusively permeates one?s thoughts and perceptions. Why am I not feeling prema when chanting? I am not attentive. I share Krishna in my consciousness with my selfishness, desires, and ego. I humbly pray that by Krishna?s mercy my mind is conquered by Him. It all begins, however, with attentive chanting, putting Krishna exclusively in our consciousness. (November 1st)

Vrindavana thought: Eric went to Vrindavana today and returned with his own Vrindavana adventure story. When he told me a monkey grabbed his glasses at Kesi Ghat I joked, ?Good, you needed that.? He laughed.

To enter the dhama, the false ego needs to be removed and we have to be off the mental plane. In other words, we have to deeply want to be in Vrindavana, the place that is just not about ?us?. There is nothing that drives home that message than the monkey coolly sitting above us on the wall telling us, ?If you want to stay here, then this is what its like. It?s not about you, the fool standing there in bewilderment as I chew up your glasses. Ha! Ha! Ha! Sure you want to stay?? Eric makes his choice. He decides to stay, but without his new glasses. (November 1st)

Japa thought: Chanting is begging for Krishna to the point where our entreaty brings us to tears. Can?t do that without humility Therefore trnad api. (November 1st)

Japa thought: As I am chanting, suddenly thousands of beautiful bird?s wiz by my window. I?m awestruck by the beauty and potency of God. What a farce, to pretend I am significant! I bow down and chant before Sri Krishna begging forgiveness to never again forget my tiny position. (November 2nd)

Japa thought: Real chanting begins when you want what you don?t have, Krishna. Without that want ?Krishna! Krishna! Krishna! I want Krishna!? our mantra has no meaning. (November 2nd).

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