Thursday, January 29, 2009

Needles and sequins and pins....

As I had mentioned earlier, 2 weeks ago we had finished making outfits for Gauranga/'s all of us hard at work!

This is the outfit I was able to make with help from the devotees who sew for Radha Madhava

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cooking at the Gurukul

Cooking classes are continuing here for the girls at Mayapur Academy and we had the great pleasure of learning and witnessing how to cook over cow dung fires at the Gurukul! It was such an amazing experience and the feast was just sumptuous.

It makes me realize how fortunate we are to have been given this gift of Vedic culture. The sad thing is sometimes we forget how practical it actually is and instead we feel that, "That was something people could do in other ages, not in Kali yuga." Seeing how the boys at the Gurukul are cooking and living so simply like this is such an eye opener.

It really is our choice. We can choose to live simply and be happy, or else we can choose to live with distractions. It should be noted that living simply doesn't mean one has to live in the forest, one can be very materially situated and still choose to live simply.

This is something I have direct experience of as in the span of not even three days, Krsna is presenting me with experiences of two extremes of living simply in two vastly different situations and being happy in Krsna consciousness. The Pune Yatra takes place due to the efforts of so many devotees. One of these devotees is HG Krsna Chandra Prabhu & family, at whose bungalow the Yatra takes place. HG Krsna Chandra prabhu and his family give everything that that they have for Krsna. Krsna has given them so much materially and the amazing thing is that they give it ALL in the service of Krsna and the vaisnavas. Because of that complete surrender to Guru and Krsna, they are blissfully advancing in Krsna consciousness.

That being said, now I got the wonderful opportunity to see how by living so simply one can be so happy. Ultimately we have to choose the situation that best helps us advance in our spiritual life. For most of us, it will probably be somewhere in the middle of these two extremes I've mentioned here, but the most important thing is to remember Krsna. May we always remember Krsna and never forget him!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pune Yatra!

Back from Pune Yatra! All I can say is WOW! I don't know what I have done to be the recipient of such extraordinary mercy. It was just such an incredible experience to be in the association of so many wonderful devotees including HH Radhanath Swami, HH Candramauli Swami, HH Bhakti Caru Swami, HH Bhakti Visvambhara Madhava Swami, HG Sukavaha dd, HG Cintamani dd AND HH Jayapataka Swami! :D

This year was the 22nd year that Pune Yatra took place and it was estimated that over 4500 plus devotees were there! How amazing. HH Radhanath Swami was mentioning in the inaugural address that the entire purpose of Pune Yatra is to hear and chant in the association of devotees. And the lengths these wonderful devotees who organize the festival go to to make one feel so welcome and looked after is unparalleled. The prasadam was nectar, the accommodations were super comfortable and the association was mind-blowing.

On top of all that, it was historic because this was the first preaching program HH JPS attended. And what love there was. When it was announced that Maharaja would be joining us, the applause and "Haribols" that resonated was simply deafening.

My memories of this trip are too countless but some highlights that I hope to etch in my heart (and in no particular order):

1. Feeling how much love the devotees have for HH JPS and how much he in turn loves them.

2. Developing even more faith in Krsna after seeing how amazing HH JPS is. Maharaja is so clear, lucid and humorous. One can see how much Krsna loves Maharaja and the result is that Maharaja bestows that love to everyone.

3. Running into devotee friends that I didn't expect to see and getting to spend quality time with them.

4. Making new friends with the wonderful devotees in Mumbai/Pune etc.

5. Hearing HH Radhanath Swami speak about the importance of devotee association and vaisnava seva

6. Seeing the wonderful Nrsimha deva drama and Bharata Maharaja pantomime.

7. Becoming totally inspired to spend more time serving and worshiping Tulasi devi after hearing HH BV Madhava Swami speak about her.

8. Seeing and experiencing the love and affection all the devotees have for one another.

9. Meeting so many of my godbrothers and godsisters from Ukraine/Russia!

10. Being astounded by the fact that devotees had arranged for 3 FM radio channels that were broadcasting translations of everything going on in Hindi, Russian, Marathi (and perhaps even more!).

I am simply overwhelmed at having had the opportunity to attend Pune Yatra. If you are every in India (or not!) please try to attend. It's an experience that will nourish and inspire you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Airport Katha and Krsna's Plan

I'm sitting in a small internet cafe in Kolkota airport where 4 of us have spent the last 9 1/2 hours. CRAZY! Why spend so much time here? Well, last night at about 8pm we received a call from our driver who was supposed to drive us to Kolkota airport that there is a strike on all rail/bus/car transportation affecting the region between Mayapur and Kolkota. This strike was supposed to start at 6am and end at 6pm. Considering the fact that our flight is supposed to leave at 6pm today, we had to think fast and so we ended up leaving at 2am in the morning for the airport!

It's been an interesting day so far....I got a chance to get to know my godsister Kisori Rani dd who is travelling with us who is just super sweet :D. I also managed to catch a couple of zzz's sleeping in a sitting position in a super uncomfortable chair and had a really sweet discussion about initiation, the need for a spiritual master and how to choose one with my friend Mithali.

The topic eventually turned to the fact that we were stuck for so long in the airport, especially after we found out that apparently the strike didn't apply to small cars (which we were travelling in)! :S But we were all reflecting on the fact that there must be a reason why Krsna arranged that we arrive here early. So we were coming up with various reasons like the fact that perhaps we leaving at 1pm (as our original plan was) to catch our 6pm flight might have resulted in us missing our flight because of heavy traffic. Or the fact that our ride to Kolkota was one of the smoothest that any of us had ever experienced due to the fact that our driver had not been reckless.

It's so much easier to deal with what life throws at you if you can just find the good in the situation. It's often very difficult in today's society because we always look at things from the "I am in control" perspective, which inevitably leads to frustration and anxiety. Instead, by seeing everything as Krsna's plan it allows one to just "go with the flow." It's true that its been uncomfortable and a bit taxing on the body to be here for so long, but on the other hand we've all had the chance to chant extra rounds, read and Kisori Rani was even preaching to some people for over an hour! Krsna doesn't do things without a reason behind it. Perhaps this whole scenario was orchestrated so that Kisori could speak to these people and inspire them. How selfish is it for us to always think that everything happens for "me". It's the greatest gift to be used as an instrument of Krsna to help others.

So, in 3 hours we board our flight to go to Pune where the next four days are going to be spent in Krsna Katha and Krsna kirtana. I've never been there before and I'm really excited! Please pray that we will have a safe flight. More in four days! Hari Hari!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Who Do I Go To?

Whenever I'm feeling anxious, worried, or a little just "blah" I normally turn to my friends, to the internet or anything else except my beads. But lately, it's funny, but I really feel nothing else BUT my beads or the Bhagavatam can help me. Of course, talking to devotees always helps, but there's something about turning to my beads. My beads to me represent the incredible mercy of my spiritual master who has given me the holy names of Krsna. Although I still struggle to feel anything when I chant, I've stopped counting how many rounds left until I hit 16. Instead, I try to focus on praying and listening.

I had a nice realization a little while ago. My chanting is my time spent in conversation with the Lord. What do I mean by that? Well, when I actually hear the holy name of Krsna (and I actually mean HEAR), that's actually Krsna talking to me. I can just imagine what you're thinking...."She thinks Krsna is talking to her?" LOL! Let me explain. I notice that if I sincerely listen with an open heart and try not to impose my own conditions and limitations, I can feel some connection with Krsna. That's really what a conversation is when you think about it. It's not necessarily about getting answers or advice, but it's more about feeling and connecting with the other individual. Words allow us to make a connection and when emotion is injected with those words, that connection can be really be "heart-deep."

So nowadays, that connection with Krsna is the only thing that helps when I'm feeling blue. Now it could just be some incredible mercy I'm receiving here in Mayapur, but I sincerely pray that I will always feel this way. I hope I will always feel that the only way I can get rid of my anxieties, worries and doubts will be to turn to my beads which are my life-line and connection to Guru and Krsna.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Appreciation and Gratitude

This past week I have had the opportunity to learn so much in the way of gratitude and appreciation. I haven't been posting and writing a lot because we just finished our module on dress making. For those who know me well, things that require a lot of patience just really aren't up my alley! But despite that, for some reason I ended up deciding to make a simple but complicated pattern for my outfit for Gauranga. It took a lot of embroidery work. Why did I choose that? I really don't know. On one hand I don't like to shy away from a challenge but on the other I knew that it would really test my determination. I am happy to say that I was able to complete it and in the process learned a little more patience! :D

But that being said, all of us had a lot of help from the wonderful devotees who make Radha Madhava's outfits here in Sridham Mayapur. For example, I had finished all the embroidery late on Sunday evening and I was taking it over to the sewers so that could stitch it up with velcro. You know the first thing they did? Two boys took a look at it and saw that I had not had a chance to put some sequins on the cadar and immediately started to work on it. In a matter of 15 minutes they were finished and I was just in awe. These devotees didn't have to do anything. They were under no obligation to help us since there was nothing in it for them, but just out of the kindness of their hearts they wanted to help us. And it wasn't just for me. For every single devotee who went to get help stitching up their outfits, they would help out in any way possible that they could.

It makes me realize how easy it is to actually help other people. It doesn't take a lot of wealth, knowledge or power. All it takes is an open heart. The sad thing is that, I can see for myself, I'm so busy trying to get others to help me that I never try to help anyone else. As HH Candramauli Swami was saying yesterday, "Whatever we give out, we attract." So if we willingly and lovingly give ourselves to others, just imagine how Krsna will reciprocate!

I had another instance of feeling completely overwhelmed with gratitude today. I was reading an offering a friend had written for Srila Prabhupada where the devotee was praying to Srila Prabhupada to help them find their spiritual master. It made me recall that not even four years ago I was in the same position and I got to experience something HH Sacinandana Swami once said to me, "Auspiciousness is all around you, all you need to do is look for it." I was actually able to feel the auspiciousness. How can someone like me deserve to have a spiritual master who is so loving, magnanimous and so compassionate when I am the complete opposite of that! That is mercy. I was also in so much appreciation for this friend to actually pray to Srila Prabhupada with such a wonderful request.

So I leave you with these wonderful words...."Auspiciousness is all around you, all you have to do is look for it."

Ananta koti vaisnava vrnda ki JAI!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thought for the Day

When we are in line with, or have the same desire that Krsna has for us, then we feel a sense of satisfaction and alignment.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Moulding the Mind

Yesterday I heard something really cool about the mind. The mind is just like clay and it can be molded in any shape or form. One of the biggest factors that influences it is the environment, something I'm sure everyone has experienced. If you're in the association of sadhus you naturally feel enlivened, and if you're in a messy room often times you feel sleepy or lethargic!

Along with the environment, our samskaras (or impressions that have been left by events that happen to us) play a huge role in how we respond to various circumstances. Those impressions can be visualized as creating little holes in our mind. These in turn influence the thoughts that go through our mind. When we associate a favorable mentality with that impression (i.e. I eat strawberries and I like it) then the next time I come in contact with strawberries then I'll want to eat them. Eating more and enjoying it will "double the hole" or double the impression in my mind that "eating strawberries is nice."

The problem comes when we start associating favorable impressions with unfavorable stimuli and habits. Then we fall into a vicious pattern that we can't break out of. So it's really important to cultivate the proper samskaras. These will help us to stay determined and focused on our goals and aspirations.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Abhishek

The pushya abhishek is mainly done for Chota Radha Madhava here in Mayapur although quite a few bucket fulls of petals were later showered upon Radha Madhava and the Astha Sakhis. After the abhishek it was flower pandemonium in the temple room as intoxicated devotees were showering flowers on each other!

Pushya Abhishek-The Darshan

Preparing for Pushya Abhishek!

Yesterday there were flowers everywhere! :D Radha Madhava (in what I think) was their most beautiful darshan yet were bedecked in beautiful flower outfits and then showered with flower petals.

A team of over 50 vaisnavis worked early into the wee hours of Sunday morning helping to make the outfits.

Skirt in progress

The girls working on Radharani's skirt

Sacidevi holding up the beautiful flower and pearl belt she made for Madhava

Flower armbands for the gopis!

Friday, January 9, 2009


Tomorow will be the pushya abhishek here in Sridham Mayapur for Radha Madhava! :D I can't wait! I've never been here for it so I'm really excited. Even more exciting is that all the devotees, including yours truly, will get the opportunity to help make the flower outfits! YAY! So tonight promises to be a loooooong all-nighter with lots of laughter, panic and flowers! Will post pictures of their lordships tomorrow.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How Much Do You Want It?

This seems to be a recurring theme in my life. Krsna is constantly asking me "how much do you really want this?" "This" can refer to anything, to an intense desire, to a prayer or a just a fleeting "that would be nice..."

I feel very fortunate that Krsna is testing how much "I want" in Sridham Mayapur. It's true what they say...Mahaprabhu is very, very, very, very, very merciful with purifying you in Mayapur. It's actually very sweet and almost imperceptible at times. It's not the tough love that Srimati Radharani can sometimes give you in Vrndavana, which of course is wonderful in it's own unique and beautiful way as is Srimati Radharani. :D But here, Mahaprabhu, in the mood of Radharani, just melts away any stone-hearted blocks you may have.

So yesterday was ekadasi and I had a super intense desire to go to the Jagannath Mandir. So after our meeting with Rama devi with respect to the pushya abhishek that's happening here this weekend (YAY!), my friend Apurva and I ran to the gate to hail a rikshaw. It was just starting to drizzle a little bit but we thought nothing of it as for almost 2 months now there has been no rain here in Mayapur. As we continued along our bumpy path it started to rain harder and harder until it was so heavy that the rikshaw driver stopped off to the side to wait it out. So we waited and waited for at least ten minutes and every second we could feel, "Jagannath we want to come see you!!!! Please let us come. Please let us come. Please let us get your darshan." But the rain just kept coming down even harder!

So Apurva tried to arrange for a taxi to come pick us up from Mayapur but due to English-Bengali language barriers he never came! LOL! But Jagannath is so merciful and even though the rain didn't completely stop the rikshaw driver got back on and pedaled us to Jagannath. Next came the huge mud puddle in front of the Jagannath Mandir gate. Some thoughtful devotee had put some bricks to step on, but unfortunately it didn't help and both of us stepped almost knee deep into the muddy water! LOL! So we finally got through and there was Jagannath with a huge smile on his face and to me it seemed like he was laughing at us saying, "So? You came. :D I'm here for you." It's probably one of the sweetest darshans I have ever experienced in my life.

There's nothing that makes you value something like endeavoring and praying like anything to get it. To some small degree I can somewhat glimpse why Krsna keeps testing us over and over asking, "Do you really want me? Are you sure you don't want this last bit of maya?" So determination and prayer are the two ingredients to success. And how sweet is that goal? Well in this case it was the extremely sweet, beautiful, smiling face of Jagannath.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gems From Srimad Bhagavatam

Just recently HH Candramauli Swami was saying that we keep hearing that we shouldn't associate with non-devotees. Normally we start to label and categorize this is a non-devotee and that is a non-devotee but we forget that most of us live with one 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Who? The mind! Maharaja was saying that the mind is a non-devotee if it hasn't been trained properly.

I had a nice realization with regards to what is a good measure of knowing if our mind has been trained properly in KC. Our chanting. If we can focus the mind and just hear the maha mantra when we chant, we can at least be assured that we're making some progress in training the mind.

Anyways, back to the mind in general. I was reading Srimad Bhgavatam a few days back and the purports I was reading just so happened to be speaking about the mind. Go figure! LOL! Here's what Srila Prabhupada so expertly explains:

Similarly, the material world is a creation of our mental concoctions. We have come to this material world to enjoy material resources, and by mental concoction we discover many, many objects of enjoyment because our minds are absorbed in material things. This is why we receive various bodies. According to our mental concoctions we work in various ways, desiring various achievements, and by nature and the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (karmaṇā-daiva-netreṇa) we get the advantages we desire. Thus we become more and more involved with material concoctions. This is the reason for our suffering in the material world. By one kind of activity we create another, and they are all products of our mental concoctions. (SB. 6.15.24 purport)

Further Srila Prabhupada writes:

The mind is the center because the mind creates all these things. As soon as the material object is struck, however, the mind is affected, and we suffer. For example, with the material elements, the working senses and the knowledge-gathering senses we create a very nice car, and when the car is accidentally smashed in a collision, the mind suffers, and through the mind the living entity suffers.

The fact is that the living entity, while concocting with the mind, creates the material condition. Because matter is destructible, through the material condition the living entity suffers. Otherwise, the living entity is detached from all material conditions. When one comes to the Brahman platform, the platform of spiritual life, fully understanding that he is a spiritual soul (ahaḿ brahmāsmi), he is no longer affected by lamentation or hankering. (SB. 6.15.25 purport)

Just see how we set the stage for our own suffering if we don't train the mind properly. We certainly are the cause of our own suffering because we listen to the stupid mind's dictates. There is no other way but to chant and chant with the determination that "I want to listen to Krsna's holy names. Only Krsna can control this mind that I have been given with this body. Please Krsna allow my mind to be drawn to your nectarean names."

Wishing all of you much success in your personal mind-training programs!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mayapur Procession!

This is one of the many things I love about Mayapur...LOL...I know I write that a lot...but I really mean it! What is it? Why the elephant procession with Radha Madhava every Saturday night! I've been wanting to take pictures for months and FINALLY stopped being lazy and took my camera along. Enjoy!

Beautiful elephant-Lakshmipriya

Two of the world's most beautiful people. HG Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhus.

The procession stops about 5/6 times and each time foodstuffs and aarti are offered.

HG Pankajanghri Prabhu offering aarti

Gaura Nitai leading the way!

The crowds!

Chota Radha Madhava!

Beautiful rangoli designs

Jaya Radha Madhava!

Back to the altar!

Gurukula boys chanting mantras after Radha Madhava are escorted back to the altar

HG Pankajanghri Prabhu with Srila Prabhupada