Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #10 – Going… Going… Gone!

March 11th, 2019

Mel Allen, “the voice of the Yankees”, would announce a home run by following the ball’s trajectory with a long drawn out “going, going” and punctuating it when it would finally go over the wall for a home run with a dramatic “gone!” It was his signature call. My older brother, Barry, and I were often glued to the television in the early 60s as Mel Allen announced the Yankee games. We were charmed whenever he would call a home run. Strangely enough this impression from way back recently sprouted in my consciousness as I was finishing a one-month lecture series on Krishna leaving Vṛndāvana. While describing the three types of separation the gopis felt at that time, namely when they heard He was going, when they actually watched His chariot leave, and when He had finally gone, a voice suddenly arose in my mind, “Going, going, gone!“ To my surprise, it was a perfect summary of what I had just described.


While meditating on the gopis’ plight I began to reflect on my own situation. It is my last day in Vṛndāvana and l am already feeling separation. Soon I will leave and then be gone. My thoughts on “going”:


Knowing that I will soon leave here intensifies my understanding and feelings of the significance of where I am. There are so many things to tie up before I leave. I don’t have a second to waste, especially the precious time I have left here to honor and realize Vṛndāvana by chanting and hearing about Krishna. I am surprised by how much I am accomplishing in my last days by cherishing each second that passes. A thought comes: I could do so much more in service and chanting if only I could maintain this intensity of purpose and focus throughout the year. It is not a matter of becoming more renounced. It’s the need to become more dedicated.


I am feeling separation from Vṛndāvana, which is a painful feeling of loss. The mood of separation, however, is also an expression of devotion. l am thus also feeling the joy of devotion. I gain a slight glimpse of how the spiritual world is beyond duality, how the intense and painful feelings of the gopis’ separation is counter-intuitively the greatest joy. I am therefore both sadly and blissfully leaving the holy dhama.


It’s Sunday. I enter the temple for sandhya-ārati, a kind of good-bye to Radhe Shyam. The temple’s packed. I have never seen anywhere else such a crowd of such unbounded bliss, cheering the deities as Their doors open, jostling for darśana, and dancing without attachment or inhibition. There are sādhus of joy, families of joy, children of joy — everywhere I turn, super joyful people, down to every last friendly person that makes a point to smile at me as I stand in the courtyard observing the scene. There is just something about Vṛndāvana, where Krishna is fully Krishna, all attractive, that draws out the spontaneous devotion of the visitors like no other place in the world. Isn’t that our philosophy? It’s infectious. I will miss it.


I head for a quick late morning ārati at Tatiasthan. Bless the sādhus there who keep the holy land as it was five hundred years ago — a large forested, no electricity zone ashram. The ashram caller walks the parameter of the compound to announce the ārati. His loud, guttural “Radhe! Shyama!” not only wakes up the surrounding old Vṛndāvana town to devotion, but also calls the sādhus from their morning prayers. Hearing the call, the mostly elderly sādhus leave their bhajan kuṭirs and proceed to the temple. I watch them emerge from different directions, ritualistically covered from head to foot in Vṛndāvana dust tilak, walking soberly with no-bend arthritic knees, a kind of spiritual “Night of The Living Dead” scene. I enter the temple. The ceiling of this deeply impressive temple is the Vṛndāvana sky. Its floor, the daily sifted fragrant one-foot thick Vṛndāvana sand, sparkling like crushed diamonds. The pious Vṛndāvana town folk and the eerie looking sādhus begin to chant acapella, classic drupad kīrtana,[1] like the best of Gregorian chants, but in local Brajabhasa. Glory to God! To Krishna! To Radha! Powerful! Powerful! Powerful! I don’t understand the language, but I hear and feel their bhāva and take their devotion reformed into sound into my heart. I will miss the real Vṛndāvana!


A respected older god-brother once told me that the perfection of life is to shed tears on the disappearance day of the spiritual master because separation is the sign of real devotion. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s most declarative statement on chanting the holy name is that we should cry like a child separated from his mother. I am so glad that I am on a path of attachment. Become attached to Krishna’s holy name, His holy land, His beautiful form, His stories and songs, and, most importantly, His devotees. Feel separation in their absence, shed a tear, and perfect one’s life. What a process!


Now in Moscow. Going! Going! Gone!


[1] Dhrupad is the strictest vocal style of Hindustan music in classical Indian music. Swami Haridas the founder-ācārya of Tatiyasthan is considered to be one the originators of this style of devotional singing.


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