Friday, October 29, 2010

And she writes

Entering India this time was different than any time before. The airport has been remodeled and it was hardly recognizable as the same place. It seems the update also drastically changed the ability to get a taxi without an onslaught of hungry drivers at your feet. Everything went smoothly and we made it to Pankaj's parents house in the early morning of the 15th. As our cab was strolling up we saw two figures waiting for us in the street, one clearly Pankaj and then who else? Madhuvrata prabhu! Madhuvrata prabhu is a very kind devotee from England who came and stayed in Louisville for a couple weeks not long before we came to India. He shared kirtan and Vedic philosophy with Louisville for some time and having him was such a joy for all of us.

We stayed in Delhi for about five days mostly singing for our Gurudeva outside his room in the temple. Delhi is such a chaotic place that finally by the end of our time there we were eager to get to Vrndavan, the small holy village of Radha and Krsna devotees. No matter where your eyes fall they are likely to fall upon a temple for the Divine Couple. There is nowhere like Vrndavan. On the streets you hear "Radhe Radhe" (name of the Divine Goddess, the embodiment of Pure Love) and "Hari Bol" (speak the name of God, He who steals your heart) as often as you take a step. Mix that with a variety of horns coming from motorcycles, rickshaws, cars, and bicycles. Add another layer of random groups doing kirtan down the small allies and the battery powered gadgets that sing "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna..."
I can't even conceive of how many images there are of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna in all of Vrndavan. As for wild life, we have the usual plethora of naughty monkeys, hungry pigs, scraggly dogs, and the occasional camel.

To be in Vrndavan is to be transformed to another time, another planet, another plane of consciousness. We've been here for about two weeks, with the pilgrimage starting on Oct. 22. The first week I was completely bed ridden except for bumpy rides to the local hospital. I had a viral infection, this year's initiation into the holy dhama, as every holy place always welcomes me with a taste of my own impurities. They say getting sick in the holy place is purification. Now that the fever induced delirium has sufficiently kicked my butt, I am finally able to parikrama! Go on pilgrimage that is!

I thought I had a few stories tucked away to share but I didn't write them down and now a new day has erased them from the archives. Let's see...

The usual has consisted of: dirty aching feet, but happy feet no less, walking around the holy land of Vraja, having darshan(being seen and seeing the deities), and listening to Hari-katha (the transcendental talk of God.) Many times when on parikrama we enter a temple much too small for the one thousand or so devotees, and in India there's no such thing as a "line". This always entails severe close contact and pushing. One can either push through it or surrender and let the wave take you to have darshan. The trick in pushing is that if you see empty space, that is, a spot for air to flow, a spot without a limb, eye, or head, you put your limb, eye, or head in such mentioned space before the next person can. This allows for successful chaos and good ol' devotional fun. Or if your exhausted from 6 hours of being in the sun, with thorn pricked heels, and you've been holding your pee for an hour, you might find this annoying. I fluctuate between the two but mostly ride the waves.

In India we eat with our hands and on plates made of leaves. When we're finished we have to go to the designated hand and mouth washing faucets. This also involves masses of people, smelly substances, spitting, snotting, and the game "who can get the faucet next" I appreciate the nature of this pastime because it clearly reveals the truth of these bodies. When I see, and smell, and feel, all those pools of bodily fluids, remnants of prasada (food offered to Krsna) sticking to my toes, sweating bodies with their accompanied fragrances after a day of walking in the blazing sun, I am reminded that all these divine circumstances collide at such an auspicious time in order to affirm to the doubting soul, yes indeed, these bodies are made of pus, blood, urine, stool, and other such unclean substances. Do not be alarmed, the west likes to cover it up and hide it, but here in India, the land of Truth, it all hangs out.

Okay maybe that's too harsh for those of you back in the west, eating on fancy plates and having garbage disposals, and expensive body products, private bathrooms, private everything that keeps the secret indoors and out of sight.
You're also not facing your own garbage in a pile across the street as you step out your front door in the morning on your way to work in your air conditioned car, keeping you from the thick layer of dirt and pollution that amasses on your face and neck from a rickshaw drive to the market here in India.

ahaha... How we cherish India, really and truly. If you're not afraid of the truth India will embrace you in her sweet arms and take you on a journey. If you are, I caution you, stay home. I always say, India is the land where all contradictions collide. The land of God would of course do nothing else but exhibit all dualities so that we may rightly embrace him.

But the beauty, and that's the heart, isn't it? The beauty is insurmountable. The beauty of the soul that is, what we hear of our true nature, what we aspire to uncover in ourselves through devotion. It says in scripture our souls are as brilliant as millions of suns. This is the gem, and it's covered by a thick layer of all the above mentioned substances created by the truly dirty substances like lust, anger, greed, envy, pride, and so on. Yes, these subtle qualities create these gross bodies, like an idea of a house exists before it's built. (Ok we won't go into that philosophy right now)
These wicked impediments (lust, anger, etc.) help our ego stay far from the beauty we inherently and eternally possess. We are here, hearing about these beautiful things, so that we may develop some greed to rid ourselves of that which keeps us away from bliss and true love and discover the love of God which is our intrinsic nature and our topmost desire.
All other desires are but a shadow of our highest desire, to serve that most beautiful person, the cause of all causes, Sri Krsna. When I love something here, it reflects the love I have for Him, and when I when I reject something, this too is from my improper understanding. So, we are not here hating our bodies. No, no, we are here trying to learn to Love. To pour our love in that place which is lasting, which is real, which is ever increasing and eternal. Or rather, it is said, to create a bowl by which we can catch this nectar in our hearts and have it overflow at the feet of the Divine Couple.

We do this by *hearing* transcendental topics of the soul and by *serving* those saintly givers of prema (the topmost love of God). By serving them and begging for their mercy, we pray to be eligible for their realization. We pray that the dust and the water from the holy places will bless us to truly see. We pray to see with the eyes of unadulterated love, in the mood of giving everything we have to the one we can't seem to remember. The one who fulfills all of our desires and is our very heart.

Sri Guru, our beloved teacher, is our captain on this journey. He has been very ill recently, though devotees know that he is beyond illness, by the hand of God everything is purposefully arranged for our benefit... if we can catch it. We have all gathered here, not only for our annual parikrama but also to beg at the feet of our teacher, to please stay with us for some more time. He is giving so much mercy in the form of his instructions and without him we do not know our fates. When you have someone dear to you, someone who gives you everything you've been looking for, in a very real way, of course all you can do is but pray that every moment they will continue to bless you with their presence.

I know for those of you that don't have a Guru, or haven't happened upon such mercy yet, you may not understand where I am coming from in this regard. My only offering is my testimony to the change in my life that has been given through Sri Guru, the change in my mind, in my heart, in my family, in my consciousness. It is more suitable for conversation not blogging, and ultimately beyond words, but in order to share the reality of our time here, I must attempt to share something of the topic.

With this, I will end this update as I need to head over to the temple for our nightly bhajans (songs of the saints) where we all sit together, hundreds of people from every country you can name, and we sing, sing, and sing. And then the sanyasis (monks)share from the scriptures and what they have heard from the realized saints like our Gurudeva.

I am sharing a room with ladies from the U.S., China, Italy, Germany, and Chile. It's amazing for all of us to come together like this. It was said the other day in a communication class we attended, that we are all compatible on the basis of our spiritual life, and I really loved hearing that. I pray to always have the association and compatibility with the devotees of the Lord.

Hari bol!
(photo of us when we first arrived in Delhi singing to Gurudeva, more to come)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book distribution marathon!

Where to begin?!
On January 11 I left the asrama and headed to the Indian state of Sikkim with 4 other female devotees for book distribution. It is such an amazing experience to give back what I've been given. It's not always easy, in fact, it can be really scary and difficult but always in the end the spark of love in my heart pushes me forward and urges me to serve. For the first week in Sikkim we had a book stall in the annual mela (fair) of Jorethang. It was such a success. We had so many people being drawn into the stall buying transcendental books and asking deep questions. Every person you meet is a pure soul on a journey and it's always a joy to experience the difference in each of us, where we're coming from and how we come together. Everyone was definitely aware of our presence in the town and we felt happy to be there. We had classes in the mornings and in the evenings house programs with interested families.
After the mela we headed to Darjeeling because we had met a young man who invited us to come have a program with his family. We had the opportunity to set up another book stand for a day. Darjeeling turned out to be such a merciful experience. In the two days we were there we happened to meet two people who took initiation (of hari-nama, the maha mantra) from Gurudeva by phone. The way we are guided to people always inspires me. In the short time I've been distributing books I have been fortunate enough to experience the mysticism of meeting the right people at the right time, all by Guru's arrangement. When a meeting like this occurs I feel as though this person was just waiting for devotees to appear. In the case of one man who took initiation he told us he had met devotees, had read much literature, and already had the transformation of Krsna consciousness but he didn't have a guru. He had been praying to Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada for a pure Guru. Srila Swami Prabhupada is the God-brother of our Gurudeva.

In the 1960's it was Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhubpada who came to the west and introduced the Maha-mantra.It was by his Guru's order that he went to deliver the western countries and by his grace that now God Consciousness is all over the world. When I sit in class here in India, I am surrounded by representatives from every corner of the world. Srila Prabhupada brought Krsna consciousness and now because of the transcendental holy name being sung and spoken throughout the world, souls everywhere are being benefited. At the same time, the Guru and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are so merciful they want everyone to have the holy names without any qualification. Can you imagine, Srila Swami Prabhupada took a boat and came completely alone to NYC. He sat in the park singing the holy names, having no money, and he was already in his 70's. Imagine being one of the first to see such a sadhu (saint)in such a context for the first time. Jaya Prabhupada!

Another young man took initiation in Darjeeling. It was as if he had really been waiting for us to arrive, everything happened so quickly and smoothly. He was asking the most amazing questions and very eager to begin chanting. Instantly he has taken to chanting 16 rounds a day. I can't explain to others how mystical this process of preaching and book distributing is. It is also very personally enriching of my own faith.
It really puts karma and reincarnation into perspective. To meet this young man who has known Radha-Krsna his entire life, and whose father is a priest at the small Radha-Krsna temple, everything is so natural for him and I feel so blessed to witness it. A shift in consciousness is necessary, from where I'm seeing things now, I can see how he has worked for his position. Where I am awkward in my prayer and practice, he has such a natural and inherent sense of devotion. By his previous past pious deeds his soul has entered a family in which instantly he was conditioned closer to the truth rather than so far away, in my own case. This is not to say we should make such external assumptions about the soul's journey. Only I am inspired by his life.

When we left Sikkim and came back to Vrndavan we only had a couple days before we left with another group on another distribution adventure to Haridwar for the Kumbha mela, the great pot festival. In which devotees come to collect Ganga water and take her to another place of pilgrimage. This is the biggest religious gathering in the world. Technically the one which happens every 144 years is the biggest, and I believe the one we attended is every 4 years. Pilgrims from everywhere are coming to bathe in Ganga's holy waters at the most auspicious time. Even I had the chance! It was beyond description.

The puja (worship) of Ganga-devi here in Haridwar is the most beautiful I've ever seen. I will get photos on here when I have them. We managed to distribute 17 boxes of books in less than a week. Our last two days were full and left us in utter bliss. By the end of the last day we wouldn't let anyone walk past us without approaching them.

A few of us also spent half of our time in the nearby town of Rishikesh. It's such a beautiful nice place that we had the chance to relax from all the travel and stroll along Ganga. We also managed to meet very interested and interesting people in Rishikesh. There were so many divine synchronicities in our meetings. In such a short time of being there we met so many interested westerners, which in my experience usually isn't the case. We even had the chance to do a program which turned out to be a great success. While book distributing it's so exciting to get to meet so many people, I love meeting people, and I love always having on top of my head the goal of sharing Krsna with others.

All I can say is I feel blessed day by day to be here. We're heading out tomorrow for Navadvipa parikrama. Thousands upon thousands of devotees will be there and I hear it's the most ecstatic kirtan experience I'll ever have. I'll be letting you know.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

birthday celebration

After we sung Happy Birthday we learned an addition to the song... "may you never take birth again..." ha!

Monday, January 4, 2010

How am I not myself?

I've been thinking lately about association. I hear often how important association is, it is by the company I keep that I progress on my path, stagnate, or digress.

The other day I had an interview for a film we're making for the asrama. Once we were finished I got to see a bit of myself speaking on film. As many others, my immediate response was "Is that me?"

On one level the feeling of not recognizing myself can be explained. For example, I never see myself speak, I'm never the observer of myself in conversation and so of course it's a strange thing to witness. When I think deeper, I have more questions. Why do I move my mouth in that way? Where did the expressions on my face, which say more than my words, come from? How did I aquire such things?

A sister of mine said nicely that because we care so much for these temporary bodies and false egos we want so much to be perfect. When we do not meet some ideal of perfection we feel disgusted by what we perceive to be our "self"

The reality of who I am has two coverings. The first is entirely surface, the inert matter of my physical body which I falsely think is "me" and the second, subtle covering, the subtle body which comprises my mind, false ego, and intelligence.

Once my soul leaves this material body composed of the five elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth, it becomes useless and decays.

The subtle body which many people aren't even aware of, is covering my soul. This subtle body contains my mind, intelligence, and false ego.

We often hear ourselves saying "This is just who I am." Usually it’s in some defense of not wanting to be anything else. But, even on this material level, who is this person I'm defending? Which influences are present in my character? Is there anything on the surface that is my own? Why do I have these opinions and preferences?

The deepest reality is that I am a spirit soul completely covered by illusion (maya - that which is not). This spark of my true spiritual form rests in my heart and is the animating force of my existence. My atma (soul), is perfect, and my desire to be perfect surely reflects the reality of who I am, but do not realize.

Bhagavad Gita 2.20:

na jayate mriyate va kadacin
nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah sasvato yam purano
na hanyate hanyamane sarire

"The soul neither takes birth nor dies, nor does he experience repeated creation or growth. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing. Though primeval, he remains ever-youthful. When the body is destroyed, the soul is not destroyed."

I can't help but be reminded of the I <3 Huckabees question: How am I not myself?
Some friends and I used to endlessly quote this from the aboved mentioned film.

How am I not myself?
How am I not myself?
How am I not myself?

Unfortunately, we'll never come to the real answer on our own.

This brings me back to association. In this one life, I've chosen certain books to read, certain friends, jobs, entertainment, etc. All of these involve association with particular personalities. I am an ever-changing work of creation. That is, materially, my mind, intelligence, and false ego are always undergoing transformations.
It follows that by my choice, my God given free will, I can choose my assocation, I can choose which habits I want to adpot and which I want to reject.

The more I choose assocation that encourages my greatest good, my spiritual development, the more I will come to develop spiritual qualities. Eventually, under the guidance of a self-realized soul, by this process, like churning milk into butter, I will come to know my true eternal nature.

Here comes the Sun...

There's monkey business in Vrndavan, no really, I mean it. I had been warned not to wear my glasses outside. Considering I mostly wear contacts it wasn't a great effort to make.

One day I took a walk while wearing glasses, forgetting the good advice I'd received. I made it not even a quarter of a mile from the temple and suddenly I felt something very heavy on my chest. It was all too quick to really interpret. In the next moment the monkey jumped off and I didn't have my glasses. Can you imagine? It must have been such a wild sight! Immediately, some young Indian boys came running from the opposite direction, with an apple in hand, the trade good of the hour. The apple was thrown up, and glasses came down.

Most people carry around a wooden stick when they go out, for monkey protection. The funny thing is, when I first saw one of these sticks I thought they were bamboo flutes and I asked myself "Why is everyone carrying a flute, does it have something to do with Krsna, will I carry one too?" haha
On more than one occasion monkeys have taken our food while leaving the market. The other day when a rascal took our yogurt, an older indian lady went running after him down the alley. I went running behind her thinking "Yeah! Let’s get him!" It ended in him squeezing the bag even tighter, as to say "It's mine!"

I still haven't managed to get one of those sticks but I did get a bamboo flute!

We've been taking music classes every week and I love it.
We always use mrdanga and kartalas in our bhajans, so there's a deep purpose for learning. This is something I feel I always need in order to motivate my practice.
We learn with mantras which makes more sense to me than sheet music. For example, on the mrdanga, we are given a mantra so that while we are playing we are simultaneously saying the mantra.

Let me tell you about our Christmas. All of us girls in the asrama and several others living in Vrndavan decided to take a boat ride on our Yamuna River. As if it could get any better than that, we had kirtan and the setting sun along with us.
(kirtan is congregational singing and chanting of the Lord's holy names)

Asrama life is busy as usual. It seems every day gets filled to the brim with activities. Whether its classes, study, service, or adventure. We have lovely Sunday meetings where we sit around and have sweets and herbal tea and talk about the upcoming week.
On New Year’s Eve there was a full moon and an eclipse, and a pizza party! We stayed up throughout the night singing bhajans in the temple room.

In this New Year, I'd like to recognize the sun as a divine reminder of my spiritual position. Recently, while doing some corrections for a new book, I came upon such a beautiful analogy.

Gurudeva was asked: Does Sri Guru and Krsna have unconditional love for us?

Gurudeva replies: The sun is shining in the sky. Does he make any condition before giving his nourishing light and heat? However, if anyone does not come in front of the sun and instead remains in the shade, how can the sun give that person its heat and light? You may think that this is conditional, but really this is not. Krsna, Guru, and Vaisnavas give their mercy in this way.

and further, in another conversation he says,

"Suppose a man is in a room but he wants to see the sun; he wants the sun-rays to come to him. How will the sun come to him if he doesn't leave his room?"

It seems the sun is an ever-fresh example for *illuminating* deep meaning. We must open our doors and windows and step outside if we want to be graced by the daylight.

In this world so often we stay in the darkness. While every day, like it or not, the sun is rising, making no condition for us.
We're so absorbed in material concerns sometimes we do not even have the time to sit in awe of the sun's wonder.
What is this sun? Why is it always giving us the light we need to survive?

I used to read books on indigenous tribes of the world, thinking they knew something we didn't know (we, being my perspective as a western American devoid of any true culture or sense of place in the world). I remember reading about a people who acknowledged the sun shinning through the window as a living entity. As the sun-rays entered the window, dust particles dancing in its light, a reverent glance was given to the presence.
I was struck by it then, and still now.

Children seem to be asking the most crucial questions and expecting us "grown-ups" to know. My question is this: Why are we spending so much time solving the problems of our bank account, our new car, our next vacation, even so-called conscious people are still materially inquiring how to save the world, which shoes are more environmentally friendly, ad infinitum... and we don't even know how to answer our children's questions?

Where do babies come from? Why am I here? Where will I go when I die?

Somehow we've managed to convince ourselves that these questions don't matter. Or maybe we've assumed they cannot be answered and so we give up, or maybe we take for granted the answers we think we have, but still we're suffering and unsatisfied.

I do remember a significant lesson my father illustrated to me when I was 11 yrs old. He pointed to our fish tank at the time and said, "The way I see this fish tank is different from the way you see it, we're seeing two different tanks, from our individual perspectives."

In the same way, some of us never notice when sun-rays decide to peep into a corner of our room, while some others may bow in reverence.

Why all of these differences? Does it have anything to do with consciousness?

If I only have one life, then why with such inconceivable precision am I this one person? Why in one country over another was I born?
Come on, this is too important not to ask.

But whom should I ask?

With this question I'll end with a verse I recently learned:

Bhagavad Gita 4.34:

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattvah-darsinah

Approach the spiritual master, offer him obeisances, submissvely inquire by asking relevant questions, and render service unto him. He can enlighten you with this jnana (transcendental knowledge) because he has realized the Absolute Reality.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Did I mention...

in the photo below, we're climbing that mountain without shoes? I'll never forget that day because every few steps I would get a thorn in my foot!
It was so beautiful though and well worth a little pain. That same mountain took us to Krsna's slide, which is the photograph where you see us with raised arms sliding down the rock. When I sat down I put my hands on the rock, and someone was yelling "hands up, hands up, surrender!" and everyone was laughing.

A lot of our classes recently have been centered around these two essential points. The first is mercy, krpa. When seemingly ill events enter my life, or unwanted circumstances, I have the opportunity for a great choice. I can either choose to lament, to ask "O why me?" which can lead to so much anger and resentment which in turn leads to more suffering.
Another choice, the highest choice, is accepting that which comes to us as mercy from Krsna. It is both karma, and mercy. On one hand, what I sow I reap, we see this in nature, and I am not exempt. I can be sure that I completely contributed to the suffering I feel is being inflicted upon me. This is tough. I don't want to be responsible, do I? I'm so deluded that somehow I think blaming and criticizing others will solve my problems, this is my misfortune. This is just the sort of reaction that got me into the predicament to begin with. What to do?

When I realize that I'm getting the medicine which cleans this wound of cause and reaction, my suffering begins to turn sweet. It's not that I want to suffer, no absolutely not, on the contrary I want to enjoy ever so much, which is what I do, and it's this very attitude which causes others to suffer. So when I realize my suffering is sweet, I realize my real position, I realize that if taken with the right consciousness I deserve everything I'm getting. It's so hard to accept, I'll fail miserably time and again, but slowly, slowly this is what brings humility.

How hard these instructions can be, can you imagine willingly saying "Bring it on, give me mercy, even if it means I lose everything I think is mine"
It is exactly my problem that I think anything is mine to begin with, it is Krsna's. I am in this fallen position because I'm rejecting the service of Radha and Krsna for the endless cycle of self-serving material existence. How much have I served myself today? How much have I served the only One who gave me the ability to enjoy? How's that bank account looking? How much do I owe?

And what to speak of surrender, will I ever have one drop of that kind of humility? That kind of humility is only seen in a Sadhu (saint) that takes everything he's given, and doesn't ask for any more or less, just takes everything as mercy and says "O Radha how can I serve you?" This is what my Gurudeva is always doing. Meanwhile, I raise my hands on Krsna's slide in pretense of surrender and complain whenever something doesn't go my way. Ha!

My notebooks are filled with instructions I admire deeply but cannot fulfill. We have been blessed to have so many amazing classes. In the morning we have been studying a book verse by verse together, and another book in the evening. Once a week we have another study group on the Bhagavad-Gita, and it's really amazing. We're learning Sanskrit verses and having fun trying to say the words correctly. Mantra is actually a purification of the mind, the word actually means, to free the mind. I can really feel the affect when I'm repeating a verse over and over all day, it takes away all mundane thoughts.

In our morning class yesterday we were given a beautiful metaphor concerning our inability to taste the sweetness and nectar of the holy name. Gurudeva says if our hearts were pure we couldn't say one holy name without being in complete bliss. This defect was compared to having jaundice. When you have jaundice you can't taste anything sweet, and in fact sweetness tastes bad. In order to cure yourself you must take some sweet candy daily. In the same way, we have no taste for chanting, we do not relish it but slowly, slowly, as we're purified that sweetness may come.

We are still at the stage of being fancy animals. It's funny that even animals enjoy better than we do. They have more babies, they can eat more without a care, bees are more socially organized than we are, often their senses are even sharper, such as a dog's ability to smell. We're doing all the same activities but we just put on a fancy coat. We eat in nice restaurants and with silver spoons, we toilet in nice bathrooms, a man takes a woman to a beautiful hotel, all of this but what makes us different? Aren't we here for something more? Who am I? How did I ever take this ineffable creation for granted? Why are we suffering? Who is the creator?

A few days ago, some of us went to distribute books in a nearby city, it was so strange to leave the bubble of ashram life and I didn't realize how much I was being supported and nurtured until I left. We went to five-star hotels trying to distribute books about the nature of the soul, how strange it was!
The hotel managers were actually extremely kind and polite, they were glad to take some books to hand out and a couple even gave us their emails to possibly come visit Vrndavan. I was amazed to see how receptive they were, in the U.S. I can't imagine the manager of a hotel being so easily available and interested. Perhaps, that's just my lack of faith. On the other hand, when we approached westerners it was a little more difficult. It was such a bizarre experience to see myself on the other side of who I am now. Generally, I have always been interested in books and spirituality but in the past if there was someone with Christian books, I would have waved them off so thoughtlessly. It's not the same, but it's not terribly different.(Actually, a few Christian writers really helped me get to where I am, Thomas Merton, St.Teresa, The Cloud of Unknowing jumped right out at me and told me I wanted to live a life of devotion and, by the way, have you ever heard that Jesus was in India? Or notice how similar Christ is the Sanskrit Krsta/Krsna?)

At the end of the day it was a very inspiring experience, of course I want to share books with others that are daily inspiring me. My entire life has been taking me here, and if I can help even one person feel the joy I have felt upon discovering this beautiful Truth, then my life will be successful.

I'll end with a verse I recently learned:

Bhagavad-Gita 7.7
Mattah parataram nanyat
kincid asti dhananjaya
mayi sarvam idam protam
sutre main-gana iva

O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon me, as pearls are strung on a thread.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

hari bol

Finally out of the masses (near 2000 on the parikrama) and into the ashram. We are still getting settled in and learning the flow of our daily lives. As far as our standard schedule:
4am - Wake
5am - Arati (this is the auspiscious invocation as we and Radha-Krsna rise. We offer prayers in the form of song, Bhajans)
5:30- 6:30 free time, best used for chanting on our japa/beads.
6:30 - 7:30 Bhajans (We sit together before our deities and sing beautiful prayers written by realized souls, with drum and cymbals, or better known here as mrdanga and kartalas)
7:30 - 8:30 hour class, Hari-Katha (talk of God), on various books/topics
8:30 Guru puja, (puja means worship) paying our respects to Gurudeva and our spiritual lineage
9 - 12 This time includes breakfast Prasadam (Krsna's mercy) and also our morning services, which can include helping in the kitchen, cleaning, publishing work, study.
12 - Noon Arati (in the same way monasteries gather throughout the day for prayer, we do five times a day, and two classes, which makes 7 times)
12:30 - Lunch Prasadam
1-4:30 - same as morning time, time for our services
4:30 - Bhajans
5:30 - 6:30 - Hari-Katha class
7:00 - Evening Arati
7:30 - Dinner Prasadam
Already I've been able to engage in so many services. I've even been able to transcribe some of Gurudeva's morning walks. I am so excited about this and feel so much gratitiude to be able to help in any way. The days can be long and it can be hard to find time for everything I may want to do, but what I need, I'm getting. Which is a strong spiritual routine that doesn't allow me to forget why my heart has brought me here.
Today I was cleaning the outside of Thakurgi's (Radha-Krsna) alter door as it was closed. It was such a sweet feeling to be on the outside of the closed doors, polishing the door of that which I cannot truly see.
I felt it was very representive of the position we're actually in. The door of our hearts is closed, the door to God is closed, and it's no one's fault but our own. Here in the ahsram we are trying to be of some service what rests beyond the door, however poor our work may be, we are trying to do it with love.
This love, when it becomes clean and pure, can open the door of our hearts which is also the door to Radha-Krsna. Living in an ashram gives us the opportunity to cleasne our hearts in this way. It's like rubbing rough rocks together. It can be so difficult but we know that eventually we will be smooth and truly soft of heart. Only then will we have any right to know our true spiritual constitution.
Our spiritual pain is our most honest pain, and the only pain we're ever really experiencing.
Somehow, this separation, is supposed be sweet. We're always hearing about the sweetness of separation, and how it is actually superior to the meeting because in serparation we can be completely absorbed in the subject of our longing. This is Radha's position, in separation she thinks of Krsna always, she sees him everywhere, in the trees and sky and experiences the unimaginable prema (love) of her separation. Sometimes when Krsna is right before her, she is in such a high state of love that she can completely forget he is right before her. These emotions cannot be understood by our material minds. And although I know I cannot grasp it, I did feel some kind of sweetness on the other side of that door today and that's enough for the moment to keep me smiling.