Monday, March 30, 2009

Radha Madan Mohan ki JAI!!!

March 27, 2009 marked a very special day. It was the day that Radha Madan Mohan were installed in a new temple in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai. At the moment only the temple and a few other structures have been built but the vision is to have a cultural and education centre.

It was packed, noisy, exciting and full of anticipation. It's not everyday that deities are installed. It's the day that Krsna is officially asked to please enter his arca vigraha form and after that he is fully present. What made the day even more special was that the Safari devotees got to witness the abhishek and the gurukulis led a rockin' kirtan!

After the abhishek was an appreciation ceremony in a huge pandal, followed by the first aarti offered to their Lordships. It was crazy! Devotees were so excited to get a better glimpse of the Lord that it became complete mayhem. Although it got a bit too much for some, it was amazing to see that despite the craziness the majority of devotees didn't take any offense or get upset but just accepted the fact that everyone was so eager to see the Lord. The aarti was then followed by a yummy prasadam feast served out to hundreds!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Radha Rasabihari, Lions, Swimming, Radha Giridhari and Cultural Programs!!!

My second day on the safari turned out to be a free day! First thing was getting to take darshan of Gaura Nitai, Radha Rasabihari and Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman. So beautiful! Then, a bunch of us got onto the bus and took off to Sanjay Ghandi National Park. There we had a small breakfast and hung around chanting and taking in some sights which included two lions and two Bengal tigers...I know! Quite the zoo...LOL. Afterward, we were in for a special treat-we got to go swimming in the Arabian Sea! It was so much fun, just riding the waves and swimming in the warm waters. After a few hours on the beach, we then headed to the Mira Road temple where we got to take in the beautiful darshan of Radha Giridhari and Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra. After some wonderful prasadam and a quick nap it was time for the cultural program. Over 2000 people came! Such a wonderful preaching opportunity. All glories to this year's 2009 Safari!

Friday, March 27, 2009

A night of magic, love and kirtan!

I'm back in Belapur after spending 2 1/2 unforgettable days on this year's 2009 safari! I had SUCH an amazing time. The first night I arrived at Juhu, there was a cultural program that took place in the auditorium. This is what the safari does. At every place they stop, they hold a cultural program and in this way preach as well as see holy tirthas. The night was filled with magic, acrobatics, the Shyam dance, dramas, a fire show, kirtans and the highlight-HH Jayapataka Swami.

By some great fortune, this is the third or fourth time I have been in Maharaja's association this year and I can't express the emotion I feel every time I see him. He is simply incredible. His magnanimity, his service attitude, his care for all the devotees and his love for Srila Prabhupada is immeasurable. Despite still being in recovery, his schedule is as hectic as ever. That first evening, Maharaja gave a short talk and then afterward expressed his gratitude to the devotees who took care of him so nicely and arranged for everything when he first had the stroke. With so much love, Maharaja presented gifts and certificates to many devotees including his beloved god-brother HH Gopal Krsna Goswami. It was such a beautiful night filled with so much love and reciprocation.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Boat Festival in Vrndavana

I often have a tendency to look for the perfect picture. When I see a beautiful scene or a rare moment, the first thing I do is grab for my camera. But I actively chose to separate myself from my camera this time in Vrndavana.

It's said that all of the holy dhams are becoming more and more covered as Kali yuga progresses. I find this to be so true in Vrndavana. On the surface, Vrndavana is bustling, dusty and dirty. It's so hard to actually photograph the REAL Vrndavana. In fact the only way one can "see" Vrndavana is through the ears. Only by hearing about Vrndavana from the self realized souls can we actually see Vrndavana as it is.

That's why this time around I have very few pictures of Vrndavana. There were only two times that I took my camera with me when I went out. One, as you can see below, is when the boat festival took place in Krsna Balarama mandir and the second time was one time during the bhajans that took place at BBGS's home.

The boat festival was an INCREDIBLE experience. For one afternoon, there was no courtyard in Krsna Balarama mandir. Instead there was a carpet of beautiful flower petals arranged in different designs. Below this beautiful carpet was a mini-lake for chota Radha Shyamasundara. In a beautiful swan boat, they gracefully took a tour around this lake to the melodic chanting of the maha-mantra led by HH BBGS, HH SRS and HG Aindra Prabhu.

Celebrating Holi in Chowpatty!!!

I have never celebrated Holi in India before. I've heard of it, seen pictures of people covered in all sorts of colour and always dreamed of participating in it, but never have I actually been part of a Holi celebration. But as always, Krsna fulfills all the desires of a devotee and he is so expert that he does it in such a way that he brings that aspiring devotee closer to him.

So I can officially say that not only have I been part of A Holi celebration, I've been part of chota Radha Krsna's holi pastimes in Chowpatty!

Gaura Purnima in Mumbai!

I've taken a lot of pictures throughout my travels in the past couple of weeks, but for some strange reason my SD card reader on my computer is acting up. Anyways, I finally found another way to transfer all the pictures, so here I go with posting pics!

First up is Gaura Purnima celebrations in Chowpatty, Mumbai. It was special to me in so many ways. One, it was Gaura Purnima in Chowpatty! Two, it was a chance to celebrate one of the most auspicious appearance days in the association of two of my beloved siksa gurus, HH Radhanatha Swami and HH Candramauli Swami and three, because I got to witness the sannyasa initiation of HH Bhakti Caksur Sundara Goswami.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Selfless Love

This year Radharani was so merciful that she allowed me to stay in her dham for almost 10 days. All trips to Vrndavana are supremely special, but this one was more than special. It was heart enriching experience. Not only was I granted permission to come to the holy dham, but my Guru Maharaja was in Vrndavana.

Being around Guru Maharaja is always a purifying and deep experience and this time was no exception. Niranjana Swami’s health is quite bad at the moment, but despite being in so much pain, his meditation is on how to help and care for devotees. He has no consideration to his own needs and comforts but is always trying to find a way to extend himself to anyone, whether they be a direct disciple or not.

Oftentimes we hear and read about the selfless service attitude of Srimati Radharani. But that’s just it, we hear and read. It is because of the causeless mercy of Srila Prabhupada that we have such amazing devotees, such as HH Niranjana Swami, who are showing us in action what it actually means to genuinely possess and practice these qualities of devotional service.

It is actually a very sobering experience to witness such selfless love and dedication. For me, it was also a heart operation because it was an eye-opener to how selfish and self-absorbed I actually am. Imagine being in intense pain and focusing only on the problems and spiritual welfare of others. It is mind-boggling.

But this is also the mood of Srimati Radharani. At whatever cost, despite whatever pain she herself undergoes, all she cares about is the happiness of her beloved Shyam. In fact, it is said that she considers that very pain to be her greatest happiness as long as Krsna is happy. Such an exalted state of being! To want nothing but the happiness of someone else.

It is my hope that one day I can imbibe even one insignificant sliver of this selfless love that my Guru Maharaja possesses. I pray that my greatest happiness will always be seeing the spiritual happiness of others and that I can be of some service to my Guru Maharaja.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Only in Vrndavana

The last time I came to Vrndavana I was running around like crazy. I was attending the Varsana and Govardhan retreats and so spent very little time in Vrndavana itself. The few days I spent in Vrndavana were spent in the chaotic madness of Loi Bazaar. This time, I am not travelling so much but instead spending time chanting and taking in the sights and sounds of the dham itself.

Yesterday I saw the funniest thing ever. I was sitting and chanting when I happened to look up to the balcony of a house across the street. There were some clothes hanging on the line, drying in the mid-afternoon sun. At that very moment, a mischevious monkey happen to come by and start pulling on the clothes. Slowly but surely, this monkey started pulling down each of the items on the line and throwing it on the ground. As if that wasn't enough, it took one of the cadars and started wrapping it around its head and over its shoulders. I was laughing like anything. Only in Vrndavana would you see something like this.

I was thinking about this incident a lot while I continued to chant and was thinking, "I'm just like this monkey. I'm always trying to disturb and steal Krsna's things in the form of his energy." While the monkey causes a disturbance to the owner of the clothes by ripping and throwing them on the ground, I cause a disturbance to Krsna by trying to pass off and manipulate his energies like my own. Instead of being a mischevious burden, instead if I could only, and at all times, remember who the REAL owner is, then I could always find a way to use everything in Krsna's service.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


By the mercy of the devotees and Srimati Radharani I'm in Sri Vrndavana dham! It never ceases to amaze me how Srimati Radharani prepares me for coming to Vrndavana.

This time I was flying in to Delhi from Mumbai with a friend who had arranged for a taxi to pick us up. Both of us were in anticipation to get to Vrndavana. So we arrived at the airport and typical, there was no taxi. That's pretty common in India, and so after calling we were informed that the taxi was caught in Delhi traffic. Already in separation, we resigned ourselves to the fact that Radharani wanted us to be even more eager to come and so we sat and chanted for about 1 hour. The taxi finally arrived and to our surprise we found that there was another devotee sitting with the driver. Thinking nothing of it, we got in and were asking how long it would take to reach Vrndavana.

Imagine our surprise when we were told that we weren't going to Vrndavana straight but instead the taxi was going to Radha Partha-Sarathi temple. We couldn't believe it. What was going on!? We wanted to see Krsna Balarama!!! After sitting impatiently in Delhi traffic for over 1 1/2 hours we finally reached Delhi temple and immediately arranged for another taxi to take us to Vrndavana.

Finally after another 3 hours we saw the initial signs indicating Varsana, Govardhan and Vrndavana! There's no other way to describe my feeling of arriving in the dham short of saying I was euphoric. Finally, Vrndavana! Vrndavana dham ki JAI! Srimati Radharani ki JAI!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Small Things...

I can't believe I've had access to internet for a couple of hours now, so I thought, "Why not write something else since I might not have so much time in the next coming days."

I'm feeling nostalgic and very grateful right now here in Chowpatty. Grateful for the endless mercy that I have received and am continuing to receive (I'm to go to Vrndavana dham tomorrow!!!!).

But I'm also feeling nostalgic. After having lived in Mayapur for four months I'm missing everything that reminds me of Mayapur. I miss Pankajanghri and Jananivas prabhus, my siksa gurus, role models and just the most amazing people in the universe. Of course it goes without saying that I miss all the deities. It's just not the same not waking up to see Radha Madhava, Panca Tattva and Nrsimhadeva. I also miss just walking around the holy dham, running into devotees and having unplanned conversations.

Speaking of devotees, I really miss my friends. I miss my Apurva Nilacala and her singing my name, "Vrndavana, Vrndavana Vrndavana!" I can't tell you how much I miss her. She's one of my closest friends and being with her was one of the highlights of my stay. I also miss my dear Malini who is probably on her way back home. I miss hanging out with her at Vaisnava Academy, complaining about how there is nothing new to eat at Bhakta Tomato and having Sacinandana Swami katha. I also miss her calling me Vrin.

It's so funny how it's the small things that I actually miss the most. Yes, I miss the deities but there's very specific things I miss. For example, standing in front of Radha Madhava and praying to them right after the Govindam prayers and sometimes, seeing a flower fall from Radharani's hand. I also miss seeing Mahaprabhu's amazing turbans, not to mention when Nrsimahadeva wears his tight gold or silver pants.

Sigh....but you know it's true what they say. I'm more absorbed about these things now that I'm away from Mayapur than when I was there. Of course, I'm sure I'll feel the same way when I leave Chowpatty and go to Vrndavana and then when I take leave of Vrndavana....

Krsna always finds a way to make me remember him, whether through his deity form, his dham or his devotees and for this I'll always be grateful.

The 500th Anniversary

This Gaura Purnima marked the 500th anniversary of Lord Caitanya's taking sannyasa. On this most auspicious occasion, all the devotees who were fortunate to be in Gopinatha dham (aka: Chowpatty) were able to witness the sannyasa initation of HG Jagat Caksur prabhu. In the presence of Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha, HH Kavicandra Swami, HH Candramauli Swami and all the assembled vaisnavas, prabhuji received sannyasa initiation from HH Radhanatha Swami and was given the name Bhakti Caksur Sundara Goswami.

For me, the underlying message behind this year's Gaura Purnima was the unceasing and compassionate mercy of Caitanaya Mahaprabhu. Yes, as devotees we may theoretically know and even accept this fact, but do we really feel it? It's a question that I'm now asking myself as I reflect upon the hours of katha I heard yesterday. Caitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa at the tender age of 24. He gave up a loving mother, an incredible wife and all facilities just so he could spread the holy name around to everyone. He did this for us. How much more compassionate can someone be? But am I truly grateful? The sad truth is a resounding NO. I'm not grateful.

Why do I actually feel this now? Because being in the association of HH Radhanatha Swami is always sweet torture for me. It's sweet because it's HH Radhanatha Swami who is one of my beloved siksa gurus and the epitome of humility, but on the other hand it's torture because Maharaja has the incredible ability to show me exactly who I am. I am normally under the blissful illusion that I'm a good devotee, but with Maharaja, there's no room for that pretense. I instead realize how ungrateful, undetermined, and proud I actually am.

Yesterday was definitely no exception. Hours upon hours upon hours of listening and hearing to Gauranga's pastimes has such an impact on the heart. By hearing the attitude, behavior and genuine love the associates of Mahaprabhu had for him and the holy name it gives a good reality check as to what I am. That reality check is that I am a mercy case.

I am a mercy case who desperately needs the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And instead of feeling completely wretched and fallen, I feel so happy because this is the only pre-requisite I need for the mercy of Mahaprabhu! I actually qualify! :D How much more fortunate can I be?

So on this 500th anniversary of Lord Caitanya's taking sannyasa, the ultimate act of compassion, I beg at his lotus feet that I may be utilized as an instrument to spread his glories and that I may truly become trnad api sunicena...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Travel, Travel, Travel!

Whew! I think it's the first time in days now that I have gotten internet access and have finally gotten a chance to catch my breath. My last few days in Sri Mayapur dham were well....not really spent in Sri Mayapur dham!

On the 7th, my friend Malini Priya and I were fortunate enough to go to Ekachakra, the birthplace of my most favorite Nityananda Rama! After enduring a bumpy 4 hours in the Tata Sumo we finally reached Ekachakra. ISKCON is in the midst of building a big centre there and although it's pretty small now, the devotees were so personal. They even arranged that a guide go around with us to show us all the holy places. Ekachakra is still a very small village and so we walked everywhere on foot. The best part is that all the holy dhams reside in Ekachakra! Nitai's mercy can be felt everywhere and as Malini said it best, "There's magic in the air."

The next day was the famous Shantipur festival which takes place on the disappearance day of Madhavendra Puri. It is said that anyone who eats prasadam in Shantipur on this day is guaranteed to get Krsna prema! Never one to pass up on anything that comes really easy, I made sure to go. :D Shantipur is an important tirtha, being the home of Advaita Acarya. The deity of Advaita Acarya there is incredible and most importantly it is the place where Srila Prabhupada came to pray for strength before coming to the West. Srila Prabhupada would go and pray at the small kutir (which still exists) where Nityananda, Caitanya and Advaita Prabhu used to sit and discuss how to spread the sankirtana movement. Everyone should definitely go there at least once in their life as you can feel Srila Prabhupada's presence there and gain so much inspiration.

Then finally, yesterday was the most lamentable day (at least for me) as it was the day that I was physically leaving Mayapur. Taking leave of Panca Tattva, Nrsimha and Sri Sri Radha Madhava and the asta sakhis was impossible. I pray that I can be back there as soon as possible. They are my family now and all the devotees there are like gems. I will miss them all so much but I take them all in my heart always...

However, despite the sadness, there was still some joy as I wasn't just leaving Mayapur to just go anywhere....I was on my way to Chowpatty!!! And that's where I am now after having listened to an amazing class on humility by HH Radhanath Swami. Chowpatty is such an indescribable oasis in the madness and choas of Mumbai. I feel so fortunate to be here....where I go next, well let's see....:D

Friday, March 6, 2009

Finally....Maha Abhishek Pictures!!!

This was the first time that I got to be in Mayapur for the Maha Abhishek and it was incredible...

Monday, March 2, 2009

On Surrender and Choices

The first time I went away from home was when I went to Radhadesh in 2004. At that time I had set myself a goal before leaving: I wanted that trip to be a life transforming experience for me. Due to the unlimited mercy of Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha (who will always have such a special place in my heart) and the Radhadeshvasis, that trip indeed transformed my life in a very significant way.

See, I have been lucky enough to grow up in a Krsna Consciousness family ever since I was born. But like any person who has things handed to them, I never really valued or appreciated the true gem of KC. So that trip in 2004 allowed me the greatest opportunity: to make a personal choice. Getting the opportunity to take the Bhakti sastri course, associate with devotees 24 hours a day and clarify all my doubts allowed me to "choose Krsna consciousness" for myself.

Krsna consciousness was not just a way of life anymore, it was MY way of life and the biggest priority in my life.

Similarly, before I came to Mayapur I had a goal. I wanted to take these few precious months where Krsna was allowing me to reside in his holy dham to surrender. I wanted to simply surrender to Krsna's plan. I didn't want to make my own plans, become attached to my plans or fight whatever Krsna's plan was (which is normally what I do). Instead I wanted to tell Krsna, "Krsna whatever you think is best for my spiritual life, please let it be."

As my time in Mayapur is coming to an end, I am so grateful. Krsna gave me ample opportunities to surrender. Most of the time I didn't take the opportunities but I am happy to say that I did a few times. The result of those small attempts of surrender have a left a deep impression in my heart. Krsna is there, he's listening and he's arranging things for me so expertly that I don't need to worry about anything. It is clear to me now that I don't know what is best for me. Krsna knows what is best for me.

Something a very wise devotee once said in a lecture comes to mind. "We should not be attached to the form in which things come, but the substance that is behind that form." What does this mean? We should be attached to whatever is best for our advancement in Krsna consciousness, irregardless of the form it comes in.

Years back I made the choice to make KC my way of life. But as I've come to realize, it is not a choice that you make once; it's a conscious choice that I continue to make EVERYDAY. I have only begun my attempts to surrender to Krsna's plan, but the beautiful thing about this process is that as we make the right choices and try to surrender, the process becomes sweeter and more personal.

I beg that blessings of the Vaisnavas that I can ever surrender to Krsna's plan for me.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Reflections in the Heat

The past few days have just and pretty chaotic! Sri Mayapur dham is steaming as I write and unfortunately I haven't been coping so well with the heat. Most of the time I'm trying to get things done and instead I end up in my room under my fan taking naps! Definitely not the way I'd like to spend my last few weeks in the holy dham! :(

But a very dear friend of mine, Radha Sundari, shared a realization that she had which I very much appreciate. "Sometimes in the heat you just have to surrender to the fact that you might not get anything done!"

Being a person who is normally pretty active (I say normally because I can be very absorbed in my worship of Nidra devi at times!) I feel pretty useless especially now that the deity worship course has come to an end. Having been running on maximum potential for the past couple of weeks with barely any sleep, lots of excitement and lots of mercy, I feel like a blob at times.

However, I've been trying to utilize this time to become more reflective. Although the heat is slowing me down and is definitely taking a toll on my energy levels, at the same time its allowing me to spend more time with Radha Madhava/Panca Tattva/Nrsimhadeva and my own deities. I'm also getting more time to read and just reflect about what I want to do with my newfound knowledge, realizations and enthusiasm. I'm also getting to spend a lot of time with wonderful devotees that I've gotten the opportunity to meet.

Mayapur is home and the deities and the devotees are my family. I feel that more and more everyday. The mercy of Gauranga is so tangible and even when I feel like a useless incompetent blob, I've never felt happier in my life. So if it's hot and it needs to get hotter, let it be! I just pray that this Mayapur sun can melt my heart into a rich and tasty butter that my spiritual master can offer to Sri Sri Radha Madhava.