Archive for January, 2005

January 27, 2005 Mayapur The

January 27th, 2005

January 27, 2005

The devotees arrived for my yatra yesterday. The majority of them are not very experienced devotees, but that doesn’t matter here. They are quickly spiritually uplifted and devotionally overwhelmed. They can’t believe its happening to them. Even the most skeptical can’t fathom any other conclusion then the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His dhama.

January 18, 2005 Mayapur Arrived

January 18th, 2005

January 18, 2005

Arrived yesterday. I have heard so much about the Panca Tattva Deities. I was a little skeptical. Could they be as powerful as people report? After-all, Krishna is present in all His Deities forms. How I would react?

I was not disappointed. It was quite overwhelming. Strong devotional sentiments were immediately drawn from my heart, especially a sense of mission, Their mission. What is ecstasy, but an intense and selfless desire to serve?

January 16, 2005 Bombay This

January 16th, 2005

January 16, 2005

This is my last day in Bombay. I have been here for almost a week. Although most have heard so much about the success of Chowpatty, when you come it is always so much better than what you’ve heard. I won’t go into the details. Better to visit yourself.

It did give me an insight into the success of a preaching institution. Here they very much stress humble service to the devotees. It makes sense as a foundational principle of a preaching movement. Obviously the primary success of any spiritual mission is the spiritual transformation of its members. That means to become gradually free from false ego by the mission’s practices. Almost by definition that’s a problem.

To attract new members and then to facilitate them, a successful mission also entails a substantial increase to its resources. Unfortunately, it is natural for the conditioned soul to use what they acquire for sense gratification. With the “success” of any mission comes an allurement to the material platform, especially for its leaders. Thus success, expansion, often leads to failure, material consciousness. As the Supreme Lord is compassion to His devotees, He may not give a spiritual movement the success of sustained expansion, unless its members cultivate true humility.

Of course, there is not an absolute correlation. There are pure devotees who lead simple missions and less pure ones who lead big ones. The way Krishna deals with His sincere devotees and the lessons He chooses to teach through them is inconceivable. It is a fact, though, that before Krishna gives ISKCON “the world”, or even a small part of it, our devotees will have to be more and more in the mood of humble servants. A short story came to mind in this regard:

I remember in 1971 visiting the Brooklyn temple on Henry Street for lunch. It was an impressive scene. The devotees were observably dedicated and disciplined. I especially remember so many young, bright and dynamic brahmacari’s.

And the devotees had the highest standard in taking prasadam. It was very well cooked and equally well served. They were listening in silence and with attention to a taped lecture from a morning class.

I still vividly remember a single statement from that lecture attributed to Srila Prabhupada. I don’t know why it struck me so powerfully:

“If all my devotees became Krishna consciousness, then like Arjuna, we could take over the world in eighteen days [the duration of the battle
of Kuruksetra].”

Lesson from Chowpatty: To fill Srila Prabhupada’s legacy we have to become humbler than a blade of grass so that we can be trusted with a success that will sustain.

Kiddie Parikrama

January 5th, 2005

January 5, 2005

Kiddie Parikrama

The beginning of winter in Vrindavana has always been my best time for serious writing and studying. It’s usually exceedingly foggy and cold. One naturally feels like staying indoors. It’s also the holiday season. Few foreign devotees visit as the international fares rise substantially making travel to India quite costly. I thus have few responsibilities during this time. Often I don’t even see a soul until late afternoon. This year, however, was different.

Many families close to me, mostly from New York, but other places also, came to Vrindavana for the holidays. Six families are here with eleven children ranging in age from two to nine. All but three of those children were under five.

The families did not come as a group, nor had I planned a program for them. When they asked for help, I agreed.

One of my main services is serving the foreign pilgrims. I thus wanted to enliven these hard working parents who, in separation from the dhama, couldn’t wait any longer for pilgrimage, although burdened (out of love) with small children. I thus organized “the braja mandal kiddie parikrama.”

Kiddie parikrama doesn’t mean that I geared the programs just for the children. It indicates that I organized programs so that parents with children would not be overly distracted and could also participate. That means shorter outings, more stories, less philosophy, plenty of kirtan and places with safe open spaces where children can roam.

Would I recommend it? I’m not sure. I can’t imagine the austerity of taking care of small children when living in a foreign place. As I said it wasn’t something I planned. I just happened to be here and they asked my help. In other words, it worked out much better than expected. For one thing, we were blessed with an exceptionally, once in a decade, mild and sunny winter.

What parikrama was the most enlivening for the children? Why, Nandagram, of course! It was magic. As soon as we entered Nanda Bhavan, they all spontaneously joined in the kirtan, remembering Krishna, the cowherd boys, His parents and the cows.

I began my speech there, “This is the place of Krishna childhood pastimes”. I hear a disturbed voice by side emphatically speak up as if slighted, “AND BALARAM!” It’s seven year old Rasa-parayana an ardent fan of the Lord’s older brother. I realize my oversight. “This is the place of Krishna and Balaram’s childhood pastime”, I continue.

I refused to take the whole group to Radha Kunda. It’s just too sacred for a kiddie parikrama. I became inspired to go anyway, but went twice in two smaller manageable groups. My plan: Close my eyes, chant loudly, take shelter of the holy name, and hope for the best. It somehow worked out.

Other highlights: A flatbed bicycle rksaw parikrama of Govardhana and a ceremonial bathing (abhishek) of Giri-govardhana at Govinda Kunda.

Perhaps this was the first Gaudiya Vaisnava kiddie parikrama in history. A friend, after hearing about it from the enlivened parents told me he liked the idea. He then conjectured that it was an especially good idea as they were Americans. He gave an interesting explanation why:

He had heard that a famous European social philosopher (the name escapes me) visited America over fifty years ago to study American culture and came back with a startling realization:

“In all places of the world the children mostly perform austerities to serve their elders, but in America it is mostly the parents who perform austerities to serve the children!”

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