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)

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