When I was little we used to play a game called ‘Go Go Govinda’. It was basically a Hare Krishna version of a regular game, where one person stands with their back to a line of the other players who are trying to reach him by moving slowly. He chants ‘Go-go-go-go,’ and when he says ‘vinda!’, he turns around and everyone has to freeze. I don’t know what the regular purport to this game is, but I always imagined that Krishna is sneaking up behind the person, and he can hear him, just over his shoulder, but if he turns, Krishna freezes.
It reminds me of the story where the deity of Sakshi Gopal Krishna agrees to follow the brahmin to testify to his promise, providing he doesn’t turn back and look. As the brahmin walks, he can hear Krishna’s ankle bells tinkling behind him, but he has to keep his eyes on the road ahead, though he knows Sri Krishna, the most beautiful is right behind.
This summer I’ve felt a little like I’m being followed by Sri Gopal – or maybe I’m pursuing him. He has bookended my journey, and appeared along the way too – sometimes behind me, and sometimes in front, so charmingly smiling as he glances downward. We don’t worship this form of Krishna so much in ISKCON temples, I suppose because we emphasise the worship of Radha and Krishna together on the altar.
The first day that I arrived at Avatar Studios, where Gauravani recorded the As Kindred Spirits album, he took me up to see the resident deity of Gopal. He was astonishingly beautiful, and I prayed to him I would be able to do something useful by taking part in the Mantralogy tour.
His form remained in my mind, and I was so happy to see him again when we went to Chowpatty temple, in Mumbai. There the intensity of our tour reached a new high, as we drove back and forth to rehearsals and press engagements in the monsoon heat, almost always returning home at midnight. Every morning I would sleepily go and see the deities, and the serene smile of Gopalji felt like a soothing balm. I prayed to him in my tired state, feeling as if I was just going through the motions.
I call your name
Watching wet leaves tremble on the branches
Voices echo across the courtyard,
cool breeze before the heat descends.
Distant horns, distant thunder,
water fills the crowded street.
I pause to see your lotus feet.
Unchanging, ever fresh,
as this new rain on the kadamba trees.
I wonder why it is still so difficult to just
call your name, as if I really mean it,
with arms upstretched, or an extended trunk.
Why does my prayer sound hollow still?
Dear Gopalji, you hold the key.
Your eyes glance downward,
Please help me.
Please see my droplet of sincerity.
I wish it would multiply,
like this relentless downpour, and wash the grimy pavements of my heart.
my only treasure,
I wish to be your servant.
Before we left, I drew a picture of him, and gave it to Radhanath Swami.
When we went to visit Giriraj Maharaj in Santa Barbara, I was so inspired to see the many images of Gopal around the property, and lost myself in the most beautiful illustrated book about the daily worship of Gopal (Sri Nathji) in Nathdwara, Rajasthan.
Together with my friends Mandali (Gopalji’s pujari in New Vrindavan!) and Sachi, I made a sand Gopal that evening on the beach, and we meditated on how the ocean would rise to wash his feet, as we gave him shells for eyes, and ornamented him with seaweed garlands.
Now I’m back in DC, and the rain is falling again. I am blessed to be here, and I feel Gopalji is standing right behind me. My prayers are far from sincere, but with his mercy I continue to chant ‘Go-go Gopal!’ Tomorrow we leave at 5am for Block Island, where we will be performing kirtan for the first date of the ‘Roots and Wings’ tour, with drummer/poet John de Kadt.