Friday, October 31, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fountains of Mercy

As I continue my travels, I am now writing from Rockville, Maryland. Tomorrow, along with Gaura Vani and some other wonderful musicians we will be holding a Diwali kirtan at the Washington National Cathedral. Krishna never ceases to amaze me with the incredible opportunities that he arranges for me! WOW! But more on that later...

Right now I wanted to express my gratitude for the association Krishna has given me, throughout this lifetime, surely past lifetimes, and especially for the past couple of weeks. Ever since I finished my Masters thesis, I have had the opportunity to associate with the most amazing devotees: Pyari Mohan prabhu, my beloved spiritual master, devotees (in Ottawa, Toronto and Hartford), my parents etc etc... But, specifically I am grateful to have the association of senior, elevated vaishnavis.

Oftentimes when we speak of "amazing association" there is a tendency to think of saffron! And more specifically that "saffron" refers to one's spiritual master and/or the other elevated sannyasis within our movement.

But a lot of us have taken birth in a female body this time around and who better to help us understand and help us in our spiritual life but those incredible vaishnavis who have dedicated their lives to serving Guru, Gauranga and the devotees. In the past two weeks I have had the association of three remarkable vaishnavis: my mother, Jivanaushadi prabhu, and Rukmini prabhu.

From my mother I am constantly learning the lessons of patience and tolerance. She has to deal with me! That means she has these two qualities in abundance! :D

From Jiva prabhu I began to get a glimpse of what it means to be single pointed in one's devotional service. She is so strong and so steadfast in her services as a pujari, cook and a mentor.

From Rukmini prabhu, who I have the great fortune of staying with currently, I am learning what it means to love and give oneself without any pretense or agenda. She is so caring and warm.

Of course all of these amazing vaishnavis have numerous qualities, but these were some that really struck out for me. I pray that Krishna will continue to bless me with the association of these wonderful vaishnavis and others and that I may follow in their footsteps in my journey of becoming a devotee.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Back from their trip...

Radha Damodara are dressed in purple and yellow. :D

Losing my heart in Hartford...

Sri Sri Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra as well as Gaura Nitai-The presiding deities of ISKCON Hartford

Radha Damodara also got to be on the altar!

For the past three days I had the most amazing opportunity to visit ISKCON Hartford. Nestled in the small city of East Hartford, this temple (which is located in a house) is one of the most amazing places where I have seen Krishna consciousness being practiced.

The temple president, HG Pyari Mohan prabhu, and his incredible wife, HG Jivanaushadi prabhu, are living examples and role models of how one can practice Krishna consciousness in the society we live in today. Although a relatively smaller temple in terms of physical structure, what this temple has in abundance is the amount of love and heart-heart relationships amongst the devotees.

Both Pyari and Jiva prabhus have an incredible capacity to make everyone feel so cherished, welcome and loved. And the laughter! I have never laughed so much as I did in the three days I spent there. There was always the sound of laughter and giggles, jokes and witty comments ringing through the rooms and hallways of ISKCON Hartford. This was in conjunction with the service that was always being performed.

Both Pyari and Jiva prabhus are always engaged in service. Whether it be fixing the temple, cooking, cleaning, washing, chanting or taking care of the devotees....It was amazing! And Jiva prabhu is the most AMAZING cook. Not only does she make a great variety of different foodstuffs to offer to Krishna, but the amount of love and devotion she puts into the preparations can be tasted!

One of the most amazing service that they both provide is to take care of devotees. No matter how busy they both are, they take the time to listen, share, counsel and joke. It is such a wonderful example. Oftentimes in our lives we put service as the top priority and taking care of devotees gets put away to the side. But here, I witnessed first hand the example of how no matter how much service there was (and there's lots!) the devotees and visitors always came first.

In speaking to some of the congregation who attend the temple regularly, one thing was repeated over and over: How Jiva and Pyari prabhus always take care of them so nicely and through their example they inspire others to do service.

I was fortunate to be visiting Hartford at the same time as my very dear godsister Evelyne. We both were busy from the time we got up to the time we fell asleep (or at least attempted to!). Every night we had the the same conversation. How especially with Jiva prabhu (who we attempted to help in her services), we never felt any pressure to do service but just by watching her we felt so motivated and inspired to help!

I cannot glorify Pyari and Jiva prabhus enough. They are my role models and my most beloved mentors. If anyone is ever in the New England area, please go and experience the bliss of ISKCON H(e)artford.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beautiful in white...

"When one worships a deity of Radha Damodara for the purpose of Radhika's happiness, then Damodara Hari becomes very satisfied. One worships Damodara by daily chanting Damodarastakam which attracts the Supreme Lord Damodara Himself." Hari Bhakti Vilasa 16.95-96

Monday, October 13, 2008

Kartik Vrata Time!

The auspicious month of Kartik is quickly approaching as is the time for singing the beautiful Damodarastakam and offering lamps to the Lord. But, let's not forget it's also time for Kartik vratas! From chanting extra rounds to doing extra service, these are some of the normal Kartik vratas one will encounter.

However, let's remember...we're not ONLY fortunate to be living in the golden age after Lord Caitanya's advent but also in this age of technology (well, I guess some people would debate that!). So don't be surprised to come across Kartik vratas that also include no Facebook, less e-mail, no TV (or less TV), no MSN etc etc...

Although it may seem amusing, I think this is a great idea. It shows that devotees are identifying various distractions that eat away at their time. Not only are devotees striving to become more Krsna conscious but they are actually practically trying to do something about it.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Damodara masa and all success on their Kartik vratas! Damodara ki JAI!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Radha Damodara: Part 2

HH Sacinandana Swami meeting Radha Damodara for the first time

Radha Damodara at Govardhan dressed in outfits handmade by some wonderful devotees

...Continuing from Part 1

And so I had received these incredible deities. The first thing I did was receive permission from my spiritual master to start worshiping Radha and Krishna. It's one thing to be completely unqualified and have blessings from the spiritual master but quite another thing to be unqualified and have no blessings!

Upon receiving blessings, the next thing of priority was to get them painted. I have a wonderful friend in Radhadesh who is very expert in painting deities but the problem was I didn't have any immediate plans to go to Radhadesh. Knowing my ineptitude, Radha Damodara made the most perfect of arrangements.

At the end of November 2007, a dream of mine came true....I was to go spend two and a half weeks in Vrndavana! And inspiration struck...perhaps someone in Vrndavana could paint Them! In speaking to a very dear god sister of mine, Yugala Piriti, she told me about her friend Shatadhama who resides in Vrndavana and whose main service is to paint deities!

After that everything really happened on its own. Since I'd only be in Vrndavana for a short time, one of the first things I did upon arrival was to find this incredible devotee- Shatadhama dd. Seeking the help of some resident Vrajavasis I have the honor of knowing, my best friend Sudevi and I went in search of Shatadhama in the holy dhama of Vraja. I was told that she might be away on parikrama or doing other services but Radha Damodara arranged everything so perfectly that when we arrived at her place she was there. Not only was she there, but even before I could properly introduce myself she asked, "You have deities for me to paint?" WOW! How amazing. Really Vraja dhama is cintamani...

So the next day I introduced Radha Damodara to Shatadhama and left Them in her loving home. A few days later she called me back to see Radharani and it was at first sight! Her beautiful big blue eyes just captivated anyone who looked at Her. However Damodara was another story. Even after thoroughly bathing Him, Shatadhama told me of how there were all these marks on his body and suggested that He be painted black!

So having gotten my first glimpse of Them, I left to go on both the Varsana and Govardhana retreats. Shatadhama told me she would bring Them to me in Govardhan and so on the last day of the retreat she came looking effulgent and brought my beautiful Lords back to me....WOW! I couldn't imagine a more fitting place to receive Them. At the most merciful place in the universe- at the feet of Giriraj. I was totally stunned and felt so tiny and unqualified. How lucky am I to be the servant of these beautiful deities.

HH Sacinandana Swami had just finished his class when I had received Them and so I brought Them to him to get his blessings and introduce Them to him. He said that They reminded him of his own incredibly beautiful Radha Kanayalal and that Radha Damodara were deities "you could grow old with".

As if this wasn't amazing enough...some devotees were making beautiful outfits for Radha Kanayalal and upon seeing Radha Damodara they so lovingly made outfits for Them too.

I beg the blessings of the vaisnavas that my service and love for Radha Damodara will ever increase.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Appearance of Radha Damodara: Part 1

Many people have been asking me how Sri Sri Radha Damodara manifested in my life. I personally love hearing how the Lord has appeared in the lives of others and so I thought this might be a nice way to glorify my beloved Lordships.

The story of their appearance to when I began to start worshiping them is a LOOOOONG one! So I thought that I would write a piece of that story everyday. This way no one will have to spend 20 min reading a novel!

It all began in New Vrndavana....I was attending the Festival of Inspiration in 2006 and was speaking to a dear friend of mine, Mandali, who I had the opportunity to see after a long time. We were speaking about a beautiful Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra arca vigraha she had obtained from India when another devotee, Harinama, came and joined our conversation. We were speaking about deities and deity worship when I just happened to mention that I really wanted Radha Krishna deities. Harinama, who has known me my entire life, asked me why i didn't get Them myself. I quoted what many senior devotees had told me that "Radha Krishna should come to you." Without batting an eye, Harinama immediately asked Mandali to take me to the Palace of Gold. I was in shock....I didn't know what to think...did I dare...was Harinama going to give me Radha Krishna?

The walk to the Palace was sweet torture...I still couldn't believe it. Once we were there Mandali picked out a set of beautiful Radha Krishna deities and as we were walking back down to the temple I was in complete shock. I was carrying Radha Krishna in my arms!

As we walked to towards the temple an incredible sight greeted our eyes: Sri Sri Radha Damodara from Gita Nagari about to leave New Vrndavana. Mandali smiled and turned to me saying, "I think your deities just named themselves!" I didn't know what to say. In my heart I had wanted to ask my spiritual master to name them, but I felt what she was saying was right. It couldn't be coincidence that Sri Sri Radha Damodara were leaving as I came with my new deities in my arms. Radha Krishna had finally come to me in the form of Radha Damodara!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Home is where...

I "officially" moved from Toronto back to Ottawa yesterday.

On the train ride to Ottawa I was either lost in sleep (lol!) or lost in reflections. One thought kept cropping up and that was the idea of "home." If the definition of "home" means a physical location where you reside for an extended period of time, then in my lifetime I have had four homes: Montreal (where I was born and grew up for ten years), Ottawa (where I attended high school/university and really started to become interested in spiritual life), Radhadesh (where I learned about Krsna Consciousness and the importance of devotee association) and Toronto (where I continued my lifetime learning of KC and had the opportunity to share what little I have learned with others).

I consider all four places home. They have all given me something that no other place could give me....but even then I feel this definition of "home" is very restricting. What about all those other places where I felt "at home" which are way too numerous to name....don't they count?

With all these thoughts churning inside my head, it reminded me of an exercise that we did at the last japa retreat that I attended. We were asked, "What is your safe place?" and immediately the word home came to mind. However, I become confused and was wondering where to choose and it was at that moment it hit me. Borrowing the words of a friend who is constantly badgering me to "think outside the box" i realized home doesn't HAVE to mean a physical location....what if it means a situation or scenario instead? Immediately an image came to mind....sitting in a rocking kirtan lead by my beloved Guru Maharaja....that is HOME.

Why? Because I am surrounded by devotees and the holy name. That is why Montreal, Ottawa, Radhadesh, Toronto and all the other wonderful places that have felt like home, truly are home....because the devotees and the holy name are present there. It is the common link and it is why we can have some small glimpse of the spiritual world right here...because that's what is going on in the spiritual world: the chanting of the holy name in the association of the devotees.

So to answer the question of "Home is where?" Home for me will always be where the devotees are chanting the holy names of Hari.