Monthly Archives: November 2007

Sweet Rice in the Moonlight

Last Saturday was Krsna Rasayatra and the last day of Kartik. I was remembering the first day of Kartik, and the amazing experience I had that first night in Vrindavan.

Many of us had heard that there was to be a special ‘moonlit’ darshan of Sri Radha Raman that evening, so piling into an auto rickshaw, we bumped and bounced all the way there, barreling down the dark alleyways, finally pulling up outside the temple gate.

The temple room was an amazing sight. I had been to the Radha Raman temple two days previously, but now it was completely transformed.The altar, walls and ceiling were covered in white silk; incense filled the air and lamps burned all around.

On the altar, the beautiful deity of Sri Krsna stood, surrounded by a giant white moon and gopis on either side, offering flowers and other items of worship.

At his feet sat silver cows, elephants and peacocks.

Bright garlands of marigolds hung from above and were entwined around pillars.

The temple room was practically empty and from the back of the temple room, one of the goswamis sang sweetly, his voice infusing the room with devotion.

Even standing far away, you could see the lotus eyes of Lord Krsna – in that moment he was there, surrounded by the gopis in the moonlight, his crown tilted to one side, jewelled necklaces hanging to his waist.

The entire effect was totally overwhelming. As soon as I got back that night I wrote in my diary:

‘Even as I try to remember the feeling from only an hour ago, I find it impossible to describe. I felt so blessed to be there and have such an intimate darshan – it was amazing. We sat in front of the altar chanting our rounds and after a while I went right up to the front and stood there for a long time. I could hardly formulate a prayer, just gaze into the beautiful eyes of Sri Krsna and pray to be blessed with this vision forever. I don’t want Lord Krsna to ever leave my sight. I began to understand tonight what it means to see the deity and understand it to really be Krsna standing there for real! I feel at a loss to describe it. My heart fluttered with happiness. Krsna is so merciful. I feel like I saw the spiritual world tonight! I pray to never forget this. Oh Krsna! I am so fortunate to be here. Please let me come back! Please let me never leave the safety of your merciful glance and please guide me always.’


Maha!

That night was also Krsna Saradiya Rasayatra, the night of the autumnal rasa dance. When we got home from the temple, we cooked sweet rice for Krsna and the gopis to eat later on, stirring for and hour as the milk lowered and thickened.

We wrote prayers on a pot and put it outside (with a monkey proof brick on top). This Saturday, now far from Vraja, I returned home late from a wedding and again made sweet rice, remembering that wonderful night and thanking Krsna for the amazing experiences I had this Kartik, as it now drew to a close.

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Belated Blogging Birthday

Yesterday I realised it’s been just over a year that I’ve been writing this blog. Probably less if you take out the time I’ve spent travelling – but I’m not fussed 🙂

I just wanted to say thankyou to everyone that reads what I’ve been writing. I appreciate your comments and support so much and I hope that you will forgive me for being a self centred writer most of the time.

I have been worrying about writing this blog lately. I sometimes wonder who I’m actually writing for and whether my writing is serving any purpose. As an exercise in working my literary muscles, it has been effective, and a great outlet, but the more I post, the more I feel that I do cater to what I know people will want to read. Nice pictures, sweet words, poetry and other sugary confections. But I don’t want flowery words to decorate an empty heart. I read a review of a book by Jayadwaita Swami in which he said the author had thankfully, not written in ‘Gaudiya purple’. I thought that was a great expression; it reminded me how easy it is to become sentimental though. I’m trying not to be just a nectar seeker. You can eat the sweets as much as you want, but without the proper grains and vegetables of service and sadhana, you won’t be healthy.

So please bear with me as I improve my writing.

Thankyou to all my fellow bloggers who inspire me with their wonderful writing: Vyenkatta Bhatta, Gauranga Kishore, Bhakti, Manu, Madhava Ghosh, Bhakta Eric, Vishaka, Rishi, my Dad and many more….

“Every one of you. What is your realization? You write your realization – what you have realized about Krishna. That is required. It is not passive. Always you should be active. Whenever you find time, write. Never mind – two lines, four lines, but you write your realizations. Sravanam, kirtanam.

Writing or offering prayers, glories – this is one of the functions of a Vaisnava. You are hearing, but you have to write also. Then, writing means smaranam – remembering what you have heard from your spiritual master.”

– Srila Prabhupada Los Angeles 1970


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Dear Departed Souls

marigold_wreath_puja_on_ganga_at_varanasi.jpg

Today was the funeral of Sanjaya prabhu, who passed away nine days ago. It was a very sad event, but also wonderful to see so many devotees in our community come together to pay their respects and honour such a dedicated devotee. Flower offerings in the shape of swans, lotuses and Bhagavatams were placed on the coffin, and everyone chanted the Govindam prayers as his body was taken away for cremation.

I felt extremely moved by the whole event for so many reasons. I think death is such a complex thing – it draws out such a range of emotions and thoughts that go far beyond the present moment. I feel so sad for Sanjaya’s family, who have lost a wonderful husband and father but who are displaying such strength and courage in his absence. Simultaneously, I feel so grateful that my own father recovered from his illness so recently – it was just on my birthday last year that he was going into the operating theatre. I also feel such love and gratitude for all that the senior devotees of ISKCON have done to create the thriving society that we inhabit today. I feel sorry that I don’t seek their advice and instruction very often. Sanjaya prabhu was a renowned book distributor amongst other things – how much knowledge could he have passed on if I’d asked him?

As the years pass, every new brush with death gives me new realisations. I have been so blind in the past, but with the passing of every wonderful devotee, my eyes are being opened to the fact that I have to take advantage of the association of the incredible Vaisnavas around me. Sridhar Maharaj, Tamal Krishna Maharaj, Bhakti Svarupa Damodar Maharaj, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, Tribhuvannatha prabhu, Sanjaya prabhu – the list grows longer every year. I have read about the passing of Nirguna prabhu in Mayapur, and I can only put my head at his feet, and pray to follow his example one day. It is a sobering thought to think that my generation will witness the passing of every single Prabhupada disciple. Maybe it’s a symptom of my youth that this seems so daunting – as adults, do we become more used to the idea of death? Yes or no, it will happen, and today I truly realised that it is a serious matter. On the youth bus tours, Manu prabhu always tells us that we are ‘the future of ISKCON’ – and we know it’s true – albeit in some hazy, distant future. But that future is becoming clearer and closer than ever and I feel that I have to reflect this in my life in a very significant way.

Dear departed souls,

I pray to you today, that I may have one speck of your devotion to Lord Krsna and Srila Prabhupada. Please help me to understand the seriousness of this mission and give me the strength to really do something. The safest place to be in all the three worlds is at the feet of a Vaisnava – please hold me at your feet and give me the humility and surrender to sincerely fall at the feet of all that surround me. Please bless me with the wisdom to see opportunities for serving Krsna everywhere, and to be interested in nothing else.

Last week, the day after we heard about Sanjaya prabhu, my creative writing tutor asked us to re-write a well known poem. In class we had been reading the famous W.H. Auden poem about death -‘Stop All The Clocks’. Reading this, I was reflecting on how negative the experience of death was being presented and thinking about our view of death as devotees. I wrote this poem – it’s not really finished but I wanted to share it anyway. The original Auden poem is below.

Vaisnava Farewell

after W.H. Auden

The sun will rise soon, throw off your sleep,

Today we will celebrate, we shall not weep,

Leave your houses as bells resound,

Let the drums and cymbals be heard all around.

 

Let unseen aeroplanes circle above,

Let them gather to hear our offerings of love

Hang fragrant garlands around each door

Give rice in hand to the young and poor

 

The shore bears witness as we honour you today,

May our prayers be your ferry as the ocean gives way

You have nothing to fear as you leave this place,

Run now, run to his waiting embrace!

‘Stop all the clocks’ by W.H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

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Good Advice

The evening I left Vrindavan, I rushed to see the deities and offer my final Kartik lamp, then went to Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi for the last time. I stood in front of his giant golden murti, looking at his sober expression and saying a silent prayer for something undefined, when some words appeared in my head. ‘Take Krsna consciousness seriously. Every day is Krsna.’ I don’t know who said it. Maybe I was remembering the time many years ago when my Dad showed me his favourite picture of Srila Prabhupada. I couldn’t understand why that was his favourite – Prabhupada wasn’t even smiling. But he told me his serious expression reminded him that we have to be determined to follow his instructions if we are to become real devotees of Krsna.

I took it as good advice. Krsna conciousness is serious. In our natural state, everyday is Krsna. Our only thoughts, words and actions are of how best to serve him.

I feel a bit lost for words.

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Vrindavan

At university this week I have been sitting through my lectures, trying to pay attention, but mostly failing. I’m beginning to realise that maybe coming back to England is not the end of the experience, but the second part of the blessing. Feeling separation from Vrindavan draws me closer to Krsna in my mind and helps me to understand that being in Vrindavan physically is not always the most important thing. To be there mentally, to be thinking of serving Krsna and his devotees always – I think that’s what it means to really be in Vrindavan.

I wish I could show you
hoofprints in the roadside sand
that sacred name on every wall and tree
and in the air
and marigolds
falling from a rooftop
the round red sun
lowering by four
hear
three conchshells blowing
the creak and rumble of the altar doors
and honks and horns
and slips of songs that seep through open windows
cool marble kirtan
and bells every half an hour
soft cows
coats shaded with a 6B pencil
darker in the folds
and creases
flames in clay cups that find their way
into corners
and onto ledges and
inside steel drums
I wish I could show you
steaming milk
and jalebis
and a lady’s smile
blue houses in Varsana
and a pile of leaf plates
wiped clean
watch out for the
yellow hornets
that hide behind dark doors
the city of ants
that swarm the courtyard cobbles
the bumpy road
and the sulphur smell
on the way home
sacred dust in the cracks
of toes
and seams of clothes
and
collecting in bottoms of bags with lonely petals
can I show you
the round leaves everywhere
morning mist
outstretched hands
and the sky for a ceiling
strings of
lights and
flags and
beads and
leaves and different flowers
boys in yellow uniforms
can you hear them shout
haribol!
I wish I could show you the water lilies
that open and close
like clockwork
red stone and
red stains and
huddles of waiting monkeys
but I wish
I wish
I wish I could show you
the nine forms of his divine grace
as he chants
and prays
and gives prasad
and gives us strength to
carry on
and I wish I could show you every morning
the gentle smile on krsna’s face

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