Monday Morning Greetings #7 – Bhakti in Essence

February 15th, 2016

“I blew it!” The email heading was somewhat jarring. I immediately opened it.  It was from Bhurijan Prabhu. He was apologetic. He just found out the previous night that the person he asked to deliver an invitation to me for the groundbreaking ceremony of his proposed retreat center at Govardhan forgot to send me one. I read on. The function was starting in one hour! I left immediately.

I had actually never have seen the land before. It’s stunning: four choice acres facing the western side of Govardhan Hill with an incredible panoramic view of the sacred mount.

I was quite happy to be there to support a good friend. Bhurijan founded the Vrindavan Institute for Higher Education over twenty years ago to spearhead sastric education in ISKCON. Before that practically none formally existed. And for the last ten years, they have been working through the endless bureaucracy to transfer the government deed of the land they purchased, originally suited for agriculture, to a suitable designation to build a residential facility. It was finally approved. The best tithi (time) to inaugurate it had arrived.

I sat next to Bhurijan for the auspicious agni hotra (fire sacrifice) to install Ananta Sesa, the serpent form of Godhead that bears the universes on its hoods. It is an absolute must to place Him securely in the foundation of any substantial building to protect it and ensure its successful completion.

We needed to finish the yajna quickly as the auspicious time to place the Deity in the foundation would end by 11:35 AM. After an expertly done, but abbreviated yajna, we rushed by procession to center of the land where a deep pit was dug to place Ananta Sesa in a small brick enclosure built at the bottom.  We descended carefully into the pit to ceremonially assist the mason by smearing some cement and placing a few bricks on top of the cement to complete the structure.

We returned to the pandal for short taks by Dina Bandhu Prabhu, Krishna Ksetra Maharaja, myself, and then Bhurijan Prabhu. A wonderful feast was served.

A great beginning to a glorious project!

Bhurijan came up to me just after the function, thanked me for coming and said how much he appreciated what I said about how we need retreats, times of the year only for Krishna. He then offered a casual comment on the last thing I said that struck me deeply. Despite all the pomp and auspiciousness of the ceremony this was by far the highlight of my day  – for what he said was a rare jewel of a deep personal realization.

The last thing I had expressed was that I was feeling happy and sad at the same time. Happy because after so many years Bhurijan Prabhu was embarking on this wonderful offering, but sad that he was nearly approaching seventy, obviously feeling the effects of old age, and by the time the project was finished, he probably wouldn’t be around that long to enjoy it. With sincerity he humbly shared his thoughts:

“You mentioned that it is sad that I won’t be around to enjoy this project. I don’t care at all to be around to enjoy this project. It is an offering. As he said “It’s an offering” he beamed and gently moved his open hands palms up and gestured towards Govardhan as if literally offering the project to Girirja Govardhan, the sacred mount majestically standing before us.

Bhurijana has intensely studied Bhagavatam for nearly fifty years and I realized that this realization was the fruit of his studies. He was completely sincere. He really has no desire to enjoy the project. His pleasure was devotion, and devotion is for others.

I don’t know why it struck me. Isn’t that our philosophy – that real happiness is devotion, not enjoying the results of our activities? I guess it struck me because it wasn’t just theoretical, just an understanding of truth, but it was the realization of truth, where someone actually sees that truth. And I could actually see how joyful he was when he gestured with his hands to offer what he did to Krishna, a joy so different from the cheap accolades of personal accomplishment that we all hanker for. And how rare even for a devotee!

I am very happy that I got to go this morning and witness the glorious beginning of a great project inspired by a good friend, but more important I am leaving with the most precious thing, the jewel of a personal realization, a deeper understanding about the essence of bhakti.

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