Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nectar Soaked!

I don't even know where to begin....The past few days have been chaotically intoxicating! Days that have been drenched in the abhisheks of the holy name and Sri Sri Panca Tattva!

On Tuesday the 24th, the 72 hr kirtan officially kicked off! Kirtaneers like HG Aindra prabhu, HH Sivarama Swami, HH BBGS, HH Lokanath Swami and so many more were drowning devotees in oceans of ecstasy as the Panca Tattva temple room began overflowing with the honey soaked voices of devotees chanting the holy names. As the kirtans continued throughout the night and into the next morning it was time for the piece de resistence- THE MAHA ABHISHEK!!!

Words really cannot describe how it feels to physically be present and watch the bathing of Sri Sri Panca Tattva. It is something that can only be felt. It's a feeling of complete connection, utter gratitude and so many other emotions that just overwhelm a devotee. It was even more special for me because I got to see some of my classmates actually participate in bathing their Lordships and I got a glimpse of how wonderful it is to feel complete happiness in seeing others get special mercy.

And the kirtans during the abhishek! I will never forget the feeling of complete happiness when HH Sivarama Swami started singing towards the end of the abhishek.....

The festivities are continuing on marks the final day of the 72 hour kirtan and there are unlimited activities to take part in such as the sat-sanga seminars that are continuing on here, a memorial service for HH Tamal Krsna Goswami in honor of his disappearance day, the graduation ceremony for the students of Mayapur Academy and so much more....

Will post pictures as things start to settle down here. Sri Sri Panca Tattva ki JAI!

Monday, February 23, 2009

If Only...

...I could be in three places at once! The last time I was in Mayapur it was so Guru Maharaja was here and so I would just attend all his programs. But this time around my Guru Maharaja is unfortunately not here but all my siksa gurus and favorite devotees are and it's just so hard to choose which programs to attend when they are all going on at the same time.

Yesterday was a perfect example. At 6:30pm HH Jayaptaka Swami was giving a question and answer class in a pandal by the Conch building. At the same time the Bhakti-sastri graduation ceremony was about to start with a drama that the ladies were going to perform and if that wasn't enough, to add to the sweet confusion, HH Sivarama Swami was leading bhajans under the stars on the top floor of Vaisnava Academy! What to do??? So many places to go and only one useless body to try to absorb all the nectar!

Well this is what I did...I stayed for a few minutes of HH JPS class and then went to see the drama the girls put on at the Bhakti-sastri graduation ceremony which was fantastic! After that I speed walked to Vaisnava Academy and just rode the magic carpet of HH Sivarama Swami's bhakti-soaked was just incredible. Imagine being on the rooftop, starring at the star-kissed night sky and being surrounded by the holy name. It was awesome...definitely one of my highlights thus far in this year's Gaura Purnima festival.

As I walked back to my room, the holy name was still ringing in my ears. What a wonderful state of being to be in before calling it a night.

But now I'm stuck with almost the same situation! In a few hours HH Jayapataka Swami will be giving class once again at 6:00pm and then at 7:00pm HG Aindra Prabhu is going to be leading kirtans in the temple room and HH Sivarama Swami (and possibly Madhava prabhu and HH BBGS) will be leading moonlight bhajans at Vaisnava Academy! It's just not fair that we have to choose! :D Oh well...let's see what happens....I think I'll most likely go to class and then head over to Vaisnava Academy for an hour and then join in the kirtans at the temple...but it's just never enough!

What can I say....this year's Gaura Purnima festivities look like they are going to be beyond memorable. Thank you Srila Prabhupada, for making this all possible and allowing us to swim in the tears of your love for Krsna.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Return of the General

March 20, 2009: The anticipation's past 5:30pm and the harinama is reaching a crescendo. Joy and love paint each devotees' face. Suddenly a conch is blown and the sound of haribols fill the the air. A car has come to the main gate of the Mayapur compound and rose petals fall from the sky as devotees eagerly try to catch a glimpse....HH Jayaptaka Swami has returned to Sri Mayapur Dham.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Medley of Friends

Medley (definition according to
1. a mixture, esp. of heterogeneous elements; hodgepodge; jumble.
2. a piece of music combining tunes or passages from various sources

Krsna has been so merciful to grant me the association of so many wonderful devotees here in Mayapur dham. But as it is with life, somehow certain individuals just gravitate and get along well with each other. Those devotees who have become especially near and dear to my heart are three of my classmates: Apurva Nilacala dd, Amrta Sakhi dd and Malini Priya dd.

The interesting thing is that we are such different and unique individuals and the combination of the four of us is truly a medley. Not only could you say that we comprise a mixture of sorts, due to coming from different backgrounds and experiences, but just as a musical medley combines different tunes that accent and supplement each other, in many ways so do we! :D

Apurva Nilacala is probably one of the sweetest devotees you'll ever meet. Hailing from England, she is not only a beautiful person but has a beautiful heart. She is so caring, genuine and has so much love for Lord Jagannath. Although she is fondly referred to as the "small one" in our group because of her height, she is a vast reservoir of good qualities and kind-heartedness.

Amrta Sakhi is from Bangalore, India and is the person you need to be around if you need help developing a service attitude. Whether it be day or night, tired or well-rested, Amrta is always serving the devotees. She always thinks of everybody elses' welfare first. Amrta also is a such a shining example of a dedicated disciple who will do anything for her guru, HH Jayapataka Swami. She is smart, sincere and extremely quick and always keeps me on my toes!

Malini Priya is another Brit and a sassy one at that. Of the three, Malini and I are probably the most similar in terms of character. Upon getting to know Malini, I realize how much realization and how much sincerity she actually has in her Krsna consciousness. Innately very astute and very subtle, she has so much insight into human psychology. One of the things I love most about Malini is that she is not afraid to be herself and one can't help but admire her bold and confident nature.

This is the group of devotees I am allowed to be around everyday! Such great mercy. Even though we may have to go our separate ways in the coming weeks, I know that we will always keep in touch and find some way to do some service together.

This is the greatest mercy Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada have given us-the wonderful association of devotees. vaisnavi sanga ki JAI!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bridging the Gap....

This morning HG Pragosh prabhu gave such a wonderful Bhagavatam class. I really like Prabhuji's style in giving classes as he blends his unique brand of humor with very solid philosophical points.

Today at one point in time Prabhu asked a question to the class. "Who here believes that Krsna is God?" Everyone in the class raised their hand. Prabhuji went on to explain that Srila Prabhupada said that if one has firm belief in that fact then they can render pure unalloyed devotional service. This brought him to the second question he posed to the class. "Who here engages in pure unalloyed devotional service 24/7?" Nobody raised their hand.

Prabhu went on to explain that as devotees we have to bridge this gap between "believing Krsna is god" and actually "BELIEVING that Krsna is god." We can understand that gap is being bridged when we can start to render more and more service as "ahaituki apratihata." But practically, how can we do this?

The best way is to hear real life stories as to how Krsna's mercy is so present and abundant now, here, in 2009. Prabhuji ended the class by telling an incredible story about book distribution and how Krsna can do anything. It made me realize the importance of sharing the nectar we hear and directly receive from the Lord. We can all be instruments of the Lord in a very easy way-just pass on the nectar. Who knows, you might be the next instrument Krsna uses in helping to bridge that gap for someone!

Krsna please grant me the serenity...

It's really amazing that even in a place like Sri Mayapur dham that someone (i.e. me) sometimes feels like there is something missing. It really goes to show how the mind is so fickle and restless. I'm surrounded by the most wonderful devotees, the most beautiful Panca Tattva, getting opportunities to serve the devotees and the deities and still my mind can sometimes find excuses to feel unsatisfied. How unfortunate am I?

But I'm a big believer in looking at the positive and the positive in this case is that at least I recognize that I am an ungrateful rascal! :D That's at least a step in the right direction. That helps me to realize that I am in dire need of mercy. Recognizing one's utter disqualification, helplessness and dependence on Krsna is the vessel that is required to collect the mercy when it comes.

Also it goes to show how as devotees we need to realize that we are CONSTANTLY at war with maya. Maya is not just an object or situation, it is more often a frame of mind. I'm realizing my greatest maya is to not recognize and value the situations and lessons I'm learning now. Instead my mind is hankering and comparing and lamenting....a sure sign that I am not chanting with the attention and focus that I should have.

So that being said, I think I'm going to go take a walk in the beautiful cintamani laden land of Sri Mayapur dham and chant, chant, chant...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Humility in Action

Two of my biggest role models here in Sri Mayapur dham are HG Pankajanghri prabhu and HG Jananivas Prabhu. I'd like to talk about HG Jananivas prabhu today. I've been meaning to write about this for a long time now because there is something that I witness Prabhuji do every morning that really touches my heart. As you may or may not know, HG Jananivas Prabhu is the head pujari for Mayapur Chandradoya Mandir. He has been doing this service steadily for over 30 years. That being said, Prabhuji is probably one of the most humble people I have ever had the good fortune of meeting in my life. See, being humble implies action. It's not static state of being. But oftentimes, at least for me, to understand how one can show humility in action is very difficult. I feel so grateful that there are devotees like HG Jananivas Prabhu who demonstrate so naturally through their actions what it means to be humble.

Every morning after darshan aarti guru puja is performed. Everyday, the guru puja is performed by a senior devotee to the accompaniment of a very ecstatic kirtan. And everyday, I see Jananivas prabhu acting as a helper to the devotee who is doing the guru puja. Prabhuji will pour the acamana water into the hand of the devotee offering the worship (this is done between offering each article of worship), he will hand all the articles of worship to the devotee and after each article is offered, he will receive it. He does this with such attention and love and one can see he truly enjoys this service.

I find this so instructive. As the head pujari, HG Jananivas prabhu could easily be offering guru puja, offering aarti to Radha Madhava or Panca Tattva, but instead he actually likes taking the position of a humble servant.

I beg and pray that this impression remains forever carved in my heart and that I may also follow in his glorious footsteps of showing humility in all my actions.

Blissful Anxiety

This is something that I have a lot of experience with. As someone who is fortunate to make garlands every morning, I get to experience blissful anxiety almost everyday.

However, it's certainly a different kind of blissful anxiety when you only have 1 1/2 hours to dress Radha and Krsna! Whew! It's like a marathon. It is only by the blessings of the devotees, in particular HG Pankajanghri prabhu, that I somehow managed to finish in time! I took the advice of my dear godsister, and experienced pujari, HG Krtamala prabhu who told me "Don't panic and keep your eye on the time." So, I decided to allot time to do different things: 20 minutes to dress Krsna, 20 minutes to dress Radharani, 20 minutes to add all the flower ornaments and pin up the fabric and garlands, 30 minutes to make Krsna's garland and then 20 minutes to wrap things up, fix whatever had to be fixed and clean up.

Here's the result:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Exam Tomorrow!

There's anticipation in the air! Tomorrow is my dressing exam for dressing Radha and Krsna. There are four Radha and Krsna deities that the students get to practice on and have been doing for the past couple of weeks. Every student has 1 1/2 hours to dress Radha and Krsna and so there were eight devotees (four in the morning and four in the afternoon) who completed their assessments. Everyone did really well. Tomorrow morning is me! Eep! Please give me your blessings that I maybe able to dress them nicely!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nityananda's Appearance Day

Last Saturday was the most glorious appearance day of Lord Nityananda. Lord Nityananda is the personification of mercy and as such his appearance day rained mercy upon one and all! That rain visibly appeared during the abhishek when various substances were poured upon Nitai. Buckets upon buckets of various ingredients were poured upon Nitai as he smilingly accepted everything. From yogurt to colored water, coconut water to freshly squeezed grape juice, Nitai looked resplendent no matter what was covering him.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Beautiful Radha Damodara

Radha Damodara got a new outfit for Lord Nityananda's appearance day! Here are their lordships in the beautiful home they arranged for themselves here in Mayapur.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Complaints and Requests...

It's said that if you want to truly understand someone that you should "walk a mile in their shoes." This is especially helpful if you want to improve relationships. So, I decided to apply this saying to figure out how I could improve my relationship with Krsna.

The first thing I noticed is that I am either doing one of two things: I either spend most of my time complaining or lamenting to Krsna about things I don't have or things that happened in the past, or else I spend my time informing him about my "desire list." Then something powerful really struck me. Would I always want to be around someone who was constantly complaining or requesting things from me? The answer is a RESOUNDING NO! That person would be such a drag and then I realized, "Oh oh! That person that I wouldn't want to be around is the exact person that Krsna has to deal with constantly (me)!" :( Poor Krsna!

This ties back into a point that I had briefly mentioned yesterday about living either in the past or in the future. When I analyze my tendencies, I notice that I tend to lament about the past and hanker about the future. This type of meditation results in me forgetting about the present and actually results in a very dis-empowering pattern. See the thing is, I have no power to change the past and although I can plan and desire for things in the future, the future is still yet to come. Instead if I can find a way to focus on the present, that is the place where I can be the most empowered. Actually BEING in the present allows me to see what is in front of me and thus work with those circumstances instead of dreaming of what is "the most ideal."

Unfortunately this is the conditioned state of the soul. The living entity is constantly flickering between lamentation and desiring and because of that is never satisfied. In fact, when it comes to material desires, those very things we desire later on become the objects of our lamentation and then what do we do? Why desire to get rid of those very things that we wanted in the first place! It's such a vicious cycle!

But how can one live in the present? By developing gratitude, consciously developing a positive attitude and learning to change what are oftentimes a very narrow minded perspective. If we become thankful for whatever circumstances and situations we are placed in, that allows us to look for the good. There are positives in any situation, they just might be really well hidden! By unearthing those positives, this sheds new light and helps us to change our perspective. Instead we can see how we can use the situation to turn to Krsna more and also practically come up with ways to use the situation to our advantage.

So, despite all the complaints and requests, I need to start adding a lot more thanks when I pray to Krsna. No time like the present to begin. I'd like to end by saying, "Thank you Krsna for giving me the realization that you are always arranging whatever is best for me."

Moments Etched Into my Soul...

Ever have those moments which you know you'll never forget for the rest of your life? These moments are very rare (at least for me!) and I cherish them greatly. I had such a moment a few days back on the most auspicious appearance day of Advaita Acarya.

I was just hearing a class recently where the speaker was saying that these moments that become "etched into our soul" occur when we are focusing on the present. The nature of the conditioned living entity is that we are always dwelling on what may come or lamenting about the past. Due to that limitation, we are not consciously aware of what's going on "right now" and as a result are blind to the amazing realizations and gifts Krsna is presenting us with. At least for myself, I find this SOOOO difficult! It's so much easier to desire and lament then to just be in the present! But sometimes Krsna just makes himself so visible and attractive that even someone like myself can't help but be in the present.

Of course this precious moment had to be one of the few times that I didn't have my camera with me, but I'll try my best to paint a picture of it nonetheless. After the abhishek, kirtan and mass chaos of maha prasadam distribution, the temple room was almost empty. It was close to 1:30pm and I had to quickly run an errand. When I came back to the temple room, I saw my friends Amrta and Malini and they said, "Come here quick, you HAVE to see this."

What I just HAD to see was one of the most incredible darshans I've witnessed in my entire life. There was barely 20 people in the temple room and on the Panca Tattva altar, all their Lordships had their dhotis hiked up to their waist, revealing their beautiful legs and lotus feet. See, the most amazing thing about this darshan was that on this particular day, Panca Tattva were dressed in beautiful white silk and their dhotis were so long that they covered their lotus feet! So this was the most incredible mercy to get such a clear and unobstructed view of their beautiful feet. As we all continued to watch, a team of pujaris hosed down the altar to clean the remnants from the abhishek. For over 30 minutes we all just stood there drinking in the beauty of Panca Tattva and trying to absorb as much mercy as possible.

Moments like this are rare and precious. They serve to create such a wonderful impression in our hearts because at times like this Krsna feels so tangible and present. We should hungrily and greedily nourish ourselves and pray to Krsna to give us as many of these moments as possible, as it helps us to realize more and more that Krsna IS A PERSON. Often times we worship the deities as IF they are God but the transition has to be made to actually realizing that the deity IS God.

Although I didn't have the opportunity to capture this rare darshan digitally, I'd like to leave you with some beautiful pictures that were taken of Advaita Acarya's abhishek and maha prasadam distribution taken by another devotee. Hoping you all have moments that become etched into your soul....Advaita Acarya's appearance day Ki JAI!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Small but Special

Yesterday I had a really nice realization during SB class. This was the verse:

After showing his wife the globe of the universe and its different arrangements, full of many wonders, the great yogī Kardama Muni returned to his own hermitage.
(SB. 3.23.43)

The Bhagavatam speaker elaborated on how it is so foolish for us to think that we are the only living entities present on this planet earth as this verse and purport indicate that there are so many wonders within the universe which contains so many planets. In fact, Srimad Bhagavatam depicts how there are innumerable universes and how each of these universes are emanating from the pores of Maha-Visnu.

As I was hearing this I was struck by how insignificant I actually am! I am just one tiny jiva within one universe out of the innumerable universes within this creation! Of course, as devotees, we are constantly reminded about this fact and how by actually feeling insignificant, we can develop the qualities of pridelessness and humility. But you know how sometimes you may hear things a million times, but sometimes it still doesn't actually register? You need to get that "AHHH!" moment. Well, for me that was yesterday. I actually got this visual image of millions upon billions of universes and actually realizing that all those universes contain billions upon trillions of living entities! WOAH!

As I was contemplating this, another really significant realization came to. Even though I am so insignificant, Krsna is so great and so personal that he has a special plan just for me. Not only for me but for each and every living entity on this planet, in this universe and in all the universes in creation. How lucky are we?

This is such a nice way to develop humility. Sometimes people get confused and just focus on the "I'm so insignificant and worthless" part and think that to be humility, but actually that can lead to low self-esteem. The true self is actually sat-cid-ananda, full of eternality, happiness and bliss. Those feelings of self-deprecation are only in relationship to the body (not the true self) and can actually hinder one in their progress on the path of devotional service.

Instead by focusing on Krsna's magnanimity and care for each and every one of us, we can develop humility in a more positive light. Yes, we are small and insignificant but we are also special. We are special because Krsna cares so much for us. This helps puts things into perspective. We are special because we are connected to the supreme who is most special. When pride rears its ugly head, we need to realize that we are focusing on our small selves, which by itself, cannot do anything.

So we should embrace our position. It's the best position to be in. We're small but special because Krsna loves us so much.

Pictures From the Raj Bhoga Exam

Here are some pictures from our Raj Bhoga exam of devotees cooking, our esteemed judges HG Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhus, of devotees showing them their offerings and then serving prasadam to the guests. Between all the vaisnavis who cooked, we prepared over 83 offerings! The feast was then served to over 50 invited guests and the cooks had the honor of serving each of them personally.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Raj Bhoga Exam

For the past two weeks we've been learning cooking at Mayapur Academy. It's been such a wonderful experience especially because we got to learn from so many wonderful cooks. We learned to make kachoris, all kinds of sabjis, dahls, different rice dishes, koftas, and one of the highlights was getting Radha Madhava's personal "sweet cook" come in and show us how to make sandesh, rasmali, rasagullas and rasa kadambas! That was definitely a very sweet day and a very sweet lunch! :D

So, the culmination of these two weeks was that students had to cook a raj bhoga offering. A typical raj bhoga offering consists of 3 sabjis, rice, dahl, chapatis/paratas, raita/chutney, and a drink. Of course it is nice to have a savory and sweet but it wasn't required for us. Working in groups of two, students had an allotted 3 hours to complete this meal and were encouraged to make extra preps if they so desired. Of course, we were also encouraged to come in earlier to prep if we wanted to.

My dear partner, Yasomati, was feeling a bit under the weather and so a few days before, I was told that I could do it on my own if I wanted to. Never shy to back away from a challenge, I thought, "Hey, why not?!"

So yesterday, by Radharani's mercy, I was able to make 12 items: a cauliflower and potato sabji, a deep fried panir, eggplant and potato sabji, a steamed broccoli sabji, fried bitter melon, lemon rice, spiced yogurt rice, plain rice, mung dahl, paratas, cucumber raita, lemonade and a ladhu made out of nuts, orange rind and icing sugar.

All the dishes turned out pretty well, but in true Vrndavana Vinodini fashion, I under-salted the dahl and cauliflower/potato sabji. LOL...but like they say, better to under-salt than over salt. And...unfortunately we ALL didn't realize, but the yogurt that was brought turned out to be misthi dhai (sweetened yogurt), so my yogurt rice turned into a bit of a sweet rice and the raita was also a bit sweet! Actually everyone's raita or "salt lassi" ended up being sweet! Oh well...what to do... :D

The highlight was that we all got to serve our dishes to HG Pankajanghri and Jananivas prabhus and that was so sweet. They were so encouraging and giving us such personal feedback.

All glories to cooking! Prasadam ki JAI!


As I'm sitting at the computer a million thoughts are going through my head...this is what happens when you don't get a chance to write for a couple of days! Too many ideas. So...I guess I'll just write two posts today. :D

Lately I've been thinking a lot about compassion. As aspiring spiritual seekers we all strive to have compassion for one another. This is exemplified by Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada had so much compassion for all of us. But how can I, as a beginner on this path of bhakti yoga, develop even 1/1000000000 of that compassion?

One of the easiest ways is to do something that HH Sacinandana Swami often emphasizes and suggests that we practice. Every morning when you get up, thank Krsna for 5 different things. See the funny thing about gratitude is that it is something one has to practice for it to remain foremost in one's consciousness. Yes, we all feel gratitude for things but if you analyze it carefully, it normally doesn't last long. But if one actually practices feeling gratitude, by thanking Krsna everyday consciously for various things he is providing us with, then one starts to feel grateful for: 1. a much longer period of time and 2. one also starts to feel gratitude for small things.

So what does this have to do with compassion? It is only when we see and experience how fortunate we actually are and how Krsna is so nicely arranging things for us, that we begin to value these gifts. Then compassion can start to develop. For example, if you are blessed to have good friends and actually recognize and appreciate that, then it's easier to feel compassion for someone new joining your school/work/temple. On the highest level, when we value Krsna consciousness as the greatest treasure in our lives, then we naturally will feel compassion to those who may be suffering because they haven't been awakened to it.

I pray that I can keep my eyes open to the numerous gifts Krsna is providing me with and be his instrument to share it with others.