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Diaries by Sacinandana Swami

Kartik in Jagannatha Puri (October 2009)


Day 1

It’s 10:00 in the evening. There, in the distance, is the impressive dome of Sri Mandir, the temple of the Lord of the Universe.
I remember: "Dhama refers to a place where one can immediately contact the Supreme Lord.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.9.42 purport)
"How will it come to me?" I wonder.
The next thing I know, I am sitting before a full plate of Jagannath’s maha-prasadam.
In Vrindavan dhama, the special mercy of the Lord is contacted through the dust that is touched by His naked lotus feet. And in Jagannatha Puri dhama, by Lord Jagannatha’s tasty maha-prasadam.
It works—my foolish heart relaxes....


Day 2

Today, kartik begins. In the afternoon Madhavanada and Satyadeva bring me to address a group of Japanese devotees and celebrate the beginning of the Damodara vrata. Oh, singing this kirtan is so good!
On the way we hear that one of them took black kajal and painted her body. When asked by the guards, who carried clubs, where she was from, she replied "Assam me" (I am from Assam).
Lord Jagannatha covered their intelligence and fulfilled her wish to have His darshan.





Day 3

I am sitting before the bhajana kutira of Tinkari Baba, a saint who chanted here 192 rounds of the maha-mantra every day, fifty years ago. My tree is the same tree, and it seems to have "recorded" the transcendental sound vibration of this siddha purusa (perfected being). I feel empowered in my chanting, and I have a vision of Vrindavan and a memory of his lilas. By the blessings of a sadhu, even a blind man can see the stars in the night sky. I am surely a black ant, on a black stone in the moonless night, but Srila Prabhupada found me, and with a ray of His mercy He revived me and allowed me to walk the brilliant path of Krishna consciousness.
What else will happen to this fortunate ant?

Day 4

Oh, it is so humid, so sweaty....
The first half of the night is so hot that I wake up and feel like I am lying in a bathtub of sweat. Even the cushion is dripping wet. Time to learn tolerance... tolerance like that of a tree.
Today, one devotee from Assam told me how he was awakened by a wailing cat in the middle of the night, when he had just arrived in Puri. Upset about being disturbed from his rest, he got up to chase it away but unfortunately hit the cat so awkwardly that it died.
Since that time he feels he should never chastise or punish any subordinate. He is now the leader of a big ashram in Puri and feels Lord Jagannath had arranged this lesson for him. He always remembers: "Tolerate the mistakes of others; don’t fight them.”
The strength to tolerate mistakes of others and all kinds of other problems comes from bhajan.

Day 5

Speak to me, my Lord!
In following entries I will introduce to you a terrible doubt that has been in my mind from time to time while on my yearly japa retreats. Let’s see how I can deal with it this time! I will try to resolve this painful doubt for all time. I hope. At least I have to chase it away. Welcome to my fight.
The day before yesterday he came with full strength—life threatening, calling everything I had been doing into question—my old doubt, which has been with me for many lifetimes. Here he is:
What if you are making this all up?
Could it be that your Krishna is just product of your imagination?
Are you not like the man in the desert who keeps on shouting for help but in the end dies for want of water?
Has Krishna ever answered you? If He is there, why doesn’t He speak to you?


Day 6

I sit in the garden of Tota Gopinatha all alone. Somewhere behind the trees, however, I feel the presence of "my" doubt. The difficult, dry noon stretch of japa lies before me. Hare Krishna. Even the dogs and mosquitoes are digesting and sleeping at this time! "Is the Lord hearing my call?" That’s the question.
Suddenly, like a refreshing breeze, the realization dawns on me: The Lord hears a devotee who prays and surrenders to Him at the same time. Simply surrender to the chanting. Do it as a service!
Like Gadadhara Pandita, who, when He was bent over by old age, still wanted to serve His Gopinatha. Gopinatha heard His desire and simply sat down so that He could continue to receive garlands from Gadadhara.
Chanting plus surrender is required. Love is the basis for a communication with the divine.
When chanting, don’t aspire to your own "spiritual pleasures." Surrender to Him alone. Surrender even the reasons you initially joined.
This thought gives me new strength while my doubt looks at me in disbelief.

Day 7

The battlefield on which I struggled with my doubt this afternoon has shifted to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur’s bhajan kutira on the Chataka parvata sand dunes. Nine years ago I did my kartika vrata here, among the monkeys. On a tree to my left, a falcon suddenly lands with a huge mouse hanging dead in his talons.

I remember an often quoted verse of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati: “O, my Lord, You are so merciful to your devotees that You manifest Yourself in the particular eternal form of transcendence in which they always think of You.” (Srimad Bhagavatam, 3.9.11)

Ok, that’s a good point: Know whom you are calling! Be concentrated on Him always. No man falls in love with an abstract concept of woman. No, he always becomes absorbed in one particular person.

God is extensive subject matter, defined in thousands of ways. In order to make contact, you have to focus yourself on the one form of the Lord to which you feel most attracted. Otherwise, He remains silent, since He does not recognize whom you called, as in the case of Saint Atri [1].

Day 8

Today I am sitting at the ocean of Puri chanting with the waves pounding the beach. They certainly speak: kra-wumms, shhhooo (sound of big, brown waves).

All of a sudden, when least expected, I feel very soft hearted and loving toward Krishna. He has spoken in the language of feelings: bhakti, direct experience and detachment from matter, are gifts that Krishna places into the heart of a chanter. One gift often says more than a thousand words.

These gifts of grace can also be seen as the responses of the Lord - sure signs that He has heard His devotee. Much like the waves, these three realizations are proof that the ocean, like the heart of Krishna, is moving toward us in waves of mercy.

Day 9

Once Srila Prabhupada was asked if the Lord would speak at all to devotees in this world. He answered in the affirmative but added: “He will speak only to the sincere devotees. He will not speak to nonsense.” To give weight to this point, he quoted: tesam satata yuktanam from the Gita (10.10): “To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.”

But when I presented this point to my doubt, he became more aggressive. (Maybe he was running out of ammunition and needed to resort to a false show of aggression.)

"Has Krishna spoken already to you? No false hopes, please," he demanded.

Good that I am already well into my japa retreat here in Puri. After my initial struggles, I could talk from my little experiences these last few days and review also the experiences of unmemorable devotees. So I answered with confidence.

"If you talk to the Lord—that is, if you address Him through your japa—He will reply. But you need to listen carefully with your heart. He will talk to you while you chant the Holy Names. These are the things that might happen as you chant, things we can consider divine realization.

1. Your mind will suddenly become attracted to Krishna and develop an irresistible taste.
2. You will suddenly relish the sweetness of Krishna or things and persons related to Him.
3. Very concrete visions of services and form of worship will manifest in your mind as a result of your prayers while chanting.
4. You will develop steadiness in your spiritual practices and your Krishna consciousness.
5. You will remember Radha and Krishna and their fascinating pastimes throughout the day.
6. You will see how you have become more qualified both in your character as well as in your spiritual life.
7. You will wake up to your eternal relationship with Radha and Krishna and get a clear idea about your service in Their world.

These are not empty promises but experienced facts by many devotees who took their chanting of the Holy Names seriously and who prepared to invest time and energy in this foremost of spiritual practice."

And yes, Krishna also speaks directly.

As I was talking to my doubtful mind, I noticed a surprising phenomenon: the mind became satisfied, the doubt dissolved.

It was so nice to see was that my mind actually wanted to believe. It was not happy to be plagued by doubts.

Maybe the doubt will return once when I am in less favorable circumstances in the West. Therefore, let me now chant better, gladly making the sacrifices that seem to be required to break through the material layer. Next time, I will speak immediately from realization—I hope. Or I will not be "at home" so that the doubt will not find me.

Day 10

"This can’t be true," I hear Kisori call out. It’s just before breakfast time and we all run into the kitchen.

Kisori shows us the carefully sealed plastic box. "The ants have found Lord Jagannath’s maha-prasad!

They can get into everything!" She shakes her head in disbelief.

These ants of Puri are world famous for their ability to spot and eat food. They even appear in the Caitanya Caritamrta. The only safe place for food is in a situation where it is surrounded by water (take a tali, fill it with water, and then place a small cup with food in the middle or take a table and put all four of its legs in bowls of water and then put the food on the top).

The eagerness of the ants for food, especially sweets, helps them to overcome all obstacles. They climb walls to get into shelves. They even climb to ceilings, from which ropes with food bags hang, and somehow climb down the ropes. They break into safes, climb mountains, and jump from trees—one day they will surely learn different swimming styles or how to build ships! Eagerness is the best teacher.

What a good example for spiritual life, an example of eagerness. If an ordinary ant is so eager to get a few grains of sugar, how eager should we be to get Krishna? This eagerness can be obtained by studying the behavior of great devotees or staying in the holy dhama, which is full of the vibrations of Sri Caitanya and His associates. It’s in the air of Puri. Listen carefully during the night and you will still hear Sri Caitanya’s calling for Krishna: “Where are You, Krishna? Where are You, player of the flute?”

Only this eagerness will cross the gap between us and God. It is this eagerness alone that will eventually move the Lord to speak to us.



Day 11

Miracles of Love (Part 1)

"This is so merciful, do you smell it?"

Bhurijana Prabhu and I stop on the street. To our left is a huge garbage field, on our right a cow is urinating and passing stool and just now an Indian man walks by, smoking. We breathe in the air around us like men dying from cholera drink Ganges water.

We laugh and smile and embrace (the man probably thinks we are suffering from mental instability). But there it is again, very distinct and absolutely overwhelming: a very sweet and thick fragrance almost like the scent of the most delightful honey. In it we smell the subtle smell of many flowers. Could it be that a divine being has just visited Puri to have darshan of Lord Jagannath, carrying articles of worship with him, including heavenly flowers? Spellbound we stand there and forget that we are on the street. Later, on the way to Tota Gopinatha, we smell another supernatural smell but more like Jasmin flowers. Like drunken butterflies, both of us float in the smell but quickly become sober. This is meant to give Krishna enjoyment, let’s not spoil the offering!
Until now I have only smelled these heavenly fragrances around Giriraja; but the principles of the dhama are the same in the all dhamas.
Many exalted visitors come here, and Krishna reveals Himself to these devotees—here more than anywhere else, according to their surrender.
Srila Prabhupada commented: “The dhama is a place where it is easy to make a contact with Krishna.”
In the Caitanya Caritamrita we hear how Sri Caitanya had a vision of Krishna. After the Lord disappeared, his fragrance lingered in the air and Lord Caitanya chased after it. The devotees say that Krishna has one problem: He can’t disappear completely. His fragrance stays on....
For sure in Puri we can smell it in the maha-prasad and sometimes perhaps in the air.

Day 12

Miracles of Love, Part 2

As I was chanting my rounds on the sand dune just before Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati bhajan kutira, nature after sometime, felt confident enough not to hide her children from me any longer. We soon felt at ease with one another, something that often happens in the holy dhama when animals hear and see a chanter. They seem to recognize and appreciate spiritual activities. There was a mongoose on patrol to keep snakes away. Frogs were jumping from time to time next to my knees. The small monkeys were noisy and busy with 1001 small things of their family lives. Falcons, cookoos, eagles, and crows were landing and starting their journeys, singing, cooing, chanting, and cawing. All were in peace, looking at me with encouragement: “Good that you chant.” And the butterflies danced in the sunrays. All of a sudden I saw a black face studying me with unblinking eyes and then silver-white fur moving behind the bush. What a surprise when he stepped up to me, taller than a human: a Hanuman monkey! Then he turned back and ordered about seven or eight other large monkeys with super long tails to move on. But I saw him again.
After another hour of concentrated chanting, I opened my eyes and saw the majestic monkey leader directly next to me, leaning against the bhajan kutira and listening to my chanting. This time I stopped and looked directly into his eyes. He was calm and undisturbed and looked back. Spontaneously I thought: "You are not a monkey." And almost telepathically he seemed to respond: “And you are not a human. We are all servants of Lord Jagannatha, whether in animal or human form." Then he got up and jumped about six meters toward a big tree and disappeared.

When I stayed at Radhakunda I saw cows attending the morning arati: a tortoise that regularly crawled into the temple for breakfast and a dog that sang (or howled) the evening arati. They are all servants of the divine couple, connected in harmony through their service.

“I worship Vrindavan’s grass, creepers, insects, worms, cows, bulls, peacocks, and all others. Not even Brahma and Uddhava are as fortunate—and therefore always aspire for their positions. They are very dear to Mukunda, because they assists Him in His pastimes.” (Vraja Vilasa Stava)

As I write this, one beautiful multicolored bug is moving with my pen over the page, as if he also wants to say a message: Paradise on earth is possible in the service of the Lord.



Day 13

Miracles of Love, Part 3: The Lord’s Response to Prayer

Today I was chanting in the Tota Gopinatha temple; before me was a tulsi plant and then, in about ten meters or several lifetimes came the beautiful deity of Gopinatha. Yet in such a divine atmosphere, my chanting seemed mechanical, without feelings. Suddenly I heard a voice behind me:

"Chanting the divine names cannot be done from the mind or the body. It must be done from the platform of bhakti, which resides in the heart—if it is given to you. Do not look for bhakti in your head - look in your heart."

I turned around and saw a sannyasi from Bengal who gives lectures to the Bengali pilgrims. He is old skinny, humble, and learned. He smiled and said: "I thought you needed to hear that. Why don’t you pray to Gopinatha for the gift of the Holy Name with love?"

Good idea... Here is my prayer for some life in my heart:

"Whatever birth I may attain due to faults of my previous worldly activities, I pray that I may sing and chant your holy names, birth after birth. This is my only real desire, O Lord, and I submit it at Your lotus feet, that my unmotivated devotion to You may constantly awaken in my heart as much attachment as I now have for worldly activities; I pray that a similar degree of attachment may develop for Your holy feet. I pray that my love for You may remain undisturbed both in misfortune and in prosperity and that day after day it may increase through the power and influence of the Holy Name."

The answer to this prayer come faster than I thought and from a totally unexpected direction. Ane pujari from Lord Jagannatha came this evening to the guesthouse and offered me a rare silken cloth, with a precious verses of the Gita Govinda woven into it. The Lord wears these amazing verses each evening on His body. These verses express the highest love between the Lord and His closest devotees. He cannot go to sleep without them. Now I can use it as a shawl around my neck to help me come from the head into the heart.



Day 14

Miracles of Love, Part 4

"Oh how much I want to chant with devotional feelings for You!"

"Do My nama-kirtana then!"

When you walk toward Gopinatha’s temple in the early morning you can see and hear him: Vasudeva, the mad man, as he is known and adored. He is short, has disheveled hair, old worn clothes, and a long stick with a bell on top that he uses to keep the rhythm for the songs he knows: “He Madhava, Ohe Nila Madhava, He Govinda, He Gopala!”
He looks like a sufi fakir—who knows?
As he walks down the street, everyone, even the bulls, move respectfully to the side. His eyes are blind to the world, though he sees: “He Madhava, Ohe Nila Madhava...”
I love his song. It inspires me to find my own: chanting His name with love.

Day 15

Moments After the Theft

The first beginning of love for Krishna comes like a storm in autumn. First it presses the tree to the ground with great force and then it takes all their leaves - dry and fresh.
Singing the Holy Names similarly comes over the chanter and instills a feeling of deep humility. The door to the heart is blown open and makes the chanter bow down low.
Where is he and where is the Divine Couple?
All desires are then brought to Krishna.
And then the devotional feelings accumulate force and finally abduct the heart. The door of the heart is left wide open, sometimes moving with a sobbing sound.
I look at my altar
There are the thieves
Sri Sri Radha Rasabihari
And there is Lord Caitanya, crying.
His tears are so profuse that they
seem to flow out of the picture
and over the Hari nama cloth
down to the floor of the room.
Sweet tears - sometimes a stream of them.

A moment after the theft
The door of the house was wide open,
the most important property missing - the heart
Now the owner cries - he is the most fortunate person.



Day 16

Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Day

What to say? What to think? What to do?
Now where you have gone?
In 1977 I was devastated and I am still devastated - thirty-two years ago - the only difference is that I learned to live with the pain.
Then I thought that everything is lost, now I am thinking how to make contact with You.
I better stop writing here - conflicting emotions don’t make sense to those outside one’s own little world.
Here is a photo of Pisima - Srila Prabhupada’s sister before the vyasasana of her beloved brother, with Srila Prabhupadas body placed ceremonially on the seat.
(Vrindavana, Krsna Balarama temple 15th November 1977)
What depth of emotions!?



Days 16 and 17

Tribute to Srila Prabhupada


I have a disease called in German Kann alleine (“I can do it alone”). It began when I was five years old. My grandfather once told me:

“Whenever we went for a walk, you would pull your little hand out of mine the minute the garden door would close behind us. Even if I tried to hold you, you would struggle and shout Kann alleine until you were free and would run all over the place. Only when a dog turned up would you run back and put your hand back in mine. You always ran into trouble with dogs.”

Although this attitude may have its advantages in material life, it can be dangerous in spiritual life. In the following contribution I tried to reflect my own realization about the need for keeping close to Srila Prabhupada.
In fact, I have developed a small technique based on it: Sitting close to the spiritual master in my mind while chanting.
In my meditation, we both sit at the lotus feet of the Panca Tattva and Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha, with their loving associates.
Oh, this meditation has become the "wind in my sails," it has even given me "wings to fly" or infused me with taste.

Tribute to Srila Prabhupada

When chanting the holy name all day, I soon find my relationship with Krishna scrutinized, tested, and finally revealed. No more imagination—the naked truth is before my eyes!
Yes, I would like to be a God-intoxicated lover of Krishna and Yes I would like to be more pure, but especially in times when I am either tired or in pain or hungry and needy, I am forced to see the facts: I am severely limited and insignificant, a poor conditioned soul. Helpless but not hopeless!

Yes, there is hope. Hope is the mercy of my exalted spiritual master by whose strength the impossible becomes possible! Even I can have, now, a fulfilling relationship with the Holy Name—with Radha and Krishna. Srila Prabhupada sits close to Radharani and Gopinatha, and if I am close to Him, I am also near the divine couple.
The Lord explains this closeness in His own words:

"I am completely under the control of My devotees. Indeed, I am not at all independent.... I sit only within the core of their hearts. What to speak of My devotees, even those who are devotees of My devotees are very dear to Me." (Srimad Bhagavatam, 9.4.63)

That’s how Krishna sees the spiritual master and the disciple. Nectar!

By being dear to Srila Prabhupada, who is situated in Krishna consciousness and thus lives in Krishna, even I, an insignificant ant, can have access to Lord Krishna-candra. But if I avoid satisfying the pure devotee, am I not like an ant that tries to jump to the moon?
In the scriptures we find a very thought-provoking analogy in which the Lord is compared to the sun, guru to a pond, and the disciple to a lotus flower.
If the pond withdraws, the very sun that otherwise nourishes the lotus to full growth, will scorch and dry up the flower so that it will eventually die, without any color and fragrance.
The same thing happens to a disciple who tries to avoid the guru and independently approaches Krishna and the Holy Name. As the guru withdraws, the very sun of the Holy Name dries up his attempts to chant and eventually his whole life.
If I displease Srila Prabhupada, the Lord cannot become pleased. Yasya prasadad....
I bow down to the lotus feet of my spiritual master. By His grace we achieve the grace of Krishna; without His grace we are lost.
Therefore, three times a day—at daybreak, noon, and evening—we meditate and sing the glories of our exalted spiritual master and bow down to Him.

A practical realization:
Every day I start my chanting with a little arati ceremony to you, Srila Prabhupada. As I sing anti-samsara prayers and wave the incense, I wish to offer my japa in service.
Whenever it happens that I miss doing this simple gesture of discipleship, the result is almost always there—I experience a dry japa day. The sun may be up, but the water of the pond of mercy is not there because I have withdrawn from it.
Thank you, Srila Prabhupada, for remaining present, even when absent.



Day 18

Jewels of Wisdom

"Are you chanting the Name or is the Name chanting you"?
Confused, I look up from my fixation on Tota Gopinatha and see my unusual Bengali sannyasi friend, who lives in a little bhajan-kutir (hut) in the garden of the Tota Gopinatha temple.
Since many hours I have not moved- only turning the japa-mala.
It takes me some time before I find my thoughts and voice to respond:
"Well, I try to concentrate and stay with the mantra, and then chant...."
With a twinkle in the eye he interrupts.
"No one can chant the Holy Name on his own. He either descends and moves our voice, or we are left with the shadow, the abhasa. No Name...
Just like Krishna, the Name is also adhoksaja - beyond the reach of mind and senses. Aprakrta - not from this world.
Only in the heart of the fully surrendered soul, does Krishna appear.
Depend on Krishna fully and then He descends.
The brain can never capture the Name, only the surrendered heart can.
You chant too much from your brain, chant from the heart. Let the brain decrease and the heart increase".
He smiles, looks at me and then says:
"What do I know - I have no experience, but Rupa Goswami says:

O Holy Name, when you appear on my tongue, You dance there and move into the heart. As You keep on dancing, my mind and all my senses become inert.
Oh what nectar is there in the two syllables krish-na."

My friend turns away, lamenting his own misfortune and then concludes:
"From that one suddha name Krishna, the Lord expands and then we see His divine form, divine qualities and divine pastimes. Everything...
Don’t try to chant- beg for the Name and let the Name chant you..."
My friend is gone. I look to Tota Gopinatha and He smiles back as if to say: "What do you think?"
I am moved, beg Him to appear in my heart, and then start to chant again...



Day 19

All Glories to the Street Sweepers of Puri

Chanting under some tree in Puri. It’s noontime. Suddenly, a simple street sweeper approaches, a broom in his hand. His eyes are questioning me in nonverbal communication: ‘Would it be all right if I sweep around you, or would I disturb?’
I signal back: ‘Tik!’ (OK)
I close my eyes to better concentrate, but there is something about him which forces my eyes to open again.
As I watch him, fascinated, I am impressed by his almost aristocratic movements. When he is finished, he totally surprised me. In best aristocratic English with British accent he addresses me:
“There are layers of dust on our heart. So many that we can’t remove them on our own. Only the Holly Name can, and service to the pure spiritual master (suddha guru).”
He smiles, looks at his broom and before I know, he is gone.

Day 20

The Speaking Shoes

I like to chant in the morning in the Tota Gopinatha temple. But today there are rows of shoes before the entrance, indicating that a program is going on inside.
Let me go in the garden then.
Just before the gate to the garden I turn around to look one more time at the shoes. It can’t be true. They all stand there in perfect order, one pair next to the other in nearly arranged lines. These pilgrims can’t be Indians, who have an almost caste conscious relationship to their shoes. Shoes in India are considered untouchables and thrown with a flick of the foot into a shady corner.
Who is inside, then? ISKCON devotees?
The Chowpatty devotees?
For sure none of these. For other reason they also make chaotic heaps of shoes - not lines.

As I go into the garden, I remember an old Zen story:
The student leaves his cave and comes to his master: “I finally have attained enlightenment!”
The master takes the student before the door of his room and shows him his shoes. One is lying across the other, as if they just collided. In a corner are the master’s shoes in perfect standing order.
“Go back into your cave and meditate more”.

Srila Prabhupada used to say about this: “First become conscious, than Krishna conscious!”

So who is this group of pilgrims whose shoes have such an unusual message of order? They must be doing something right!

PS: Later I found out that my Godbrother Matsyavatara Prabhu from Italy has brought a group of fifty devotees from his university programs to the temple.
They are very nicely trained in spiritual psychology through his Bhaktivedanta School, and a group of talented, interpretated, highly spiritual people.




Day 21

Gopinatha’s Old Pujari

You can’t miss Mahaprabhu das.
Whenever you enter the temple of Gopinatha, you pass him.
Either he lies on a stone bench, or he sits with eyes fixed on the floor before him…
He is old, so old - and he seems to be waiting for someone: his death.
Sometimes though, like yesterday he slowly moves through the temple. With great efforts he moves his feet, which are heavily swollen, from elephantitis. He carries an eating bowl, which is filled up at the altar of Madan-mohan, and then returns to his waiting place on the stone bench.
I usually greet him, when I enter or exit, and sometimes bow down: He is Gopinatha’s Pujari, who served Him for fifty years. When I look into his eyes I see fear- fear of the visitor who will take him without bringing him back. His gaze has grown so tired and weary, that it does not seem to grasp anything anymore. It seems to me that he only sees up to his eating bowl - behind it there is no world for him.

But this morning I was shown wrong.
When no one else was in the temple, he brought himself to lean against the door to the altar and stood for a long time. An intimate communication with Gopinatha was going on. And then he turned around and looked right into my eyes. I was shocked.

There was Gopinatha in both of his eyes! And then I could see him as an energetic priest kneeling down before the Lord and painting His face with sandalwood.
I saw him running on the altar with exquisite cloth to dress the Lord, bringing food, waving arati lights… In another scene I saw him chasing the monkeys away who were eating from Gopinatha’s plate, shouting and laughing at the same time.
The images of his life of serving were dancing wildly in his eyes.

(Oh, I don’t know if I can write this…who will believe me)
As he held my gaze, his eyes started to fill with tears, which made him look so tender. His face and features changed. Gone was the old man, with his fearful eyes. In his stead I perceived a young person, maybe an indication of his future life in the spiritual world. The life of service always continues. Once a river has been started it flows until it reaches the sea.
A strong realization overwhelmed me when I saw the change in old pujari’s eyes. Gopinatha takes care of His servants always: past, present and future. No one of His servants should worry.

Realizing the grateful care that Krishna extends to His devotees, Akrura prayed:

"How can any intelligent person take shelter in anything else but You? It is well known that You give Your unique affection to Your devotees. You keep Your word that You will always protect even the least of Your servants. And You are ever grateful for any service rendered to You—even insignificant ones. You fulfill all desires of the sincere souls who serve You—even up to the extent of giving Your very Self to them. Nevertheless, despite all these qualities, Your sweetness and opulence never increase or decrease."

Take courage from these words—do not hesitate to give yourself fully to such a merciful Lord.

PS: As I was writing this, Balarama Dasa, the present head priest of Gopinath, came by on his bicycle to bring prasadam from Gopinata’s own plate to this insignificant servant. When asked who drove him to do this, his answer was simply: ”Gopinatha!”



Visit to the King of Puri

Only yesterday I was seen as a beggar, going up and down the same road to and from Tota Gopinatha, a beggar who had to jump to the side to avoid being driven over by the three wheeler-motor rickshas and that one raging bull protecting his slot on the leaf plate garbage heap.
Now, I am riding in the king’s limousine on the grand road, where only the kings car and the car of high positioned politicians are allowed. How symbolic to our changing situations in this world. Today king - tomorrow beggar - the message: Don’t become attached to any situation.

The meeting was wonderful. Gajapati Maharaja—a descendant from the ancient line of the powerful and extremely devoted kings of Kalinga (Orissa) and his wonderful and highly cultured wife, plus their young princess daughter, were the most gracious hosts I can imagine.

We talked till late in the night, when the moon stood high and sat down to a scrumptious feast of Jagannath prasadam - everyone on the bar floor to properly respect the Lord’s mercy. We talked about our common search, obstacles on the path, the possible danger of the Jagannath temple breaking down due to the force of time, wind, and modern influences. We talked about having Ratha Yatra all over the world on the same date... saw newly completed Nila Madhava Dioramas, the newly built devotee settlement near the palace, and so on.
We also exchanged wonderful gifts, wrapped in the cloth, and our mutual affection for each other. And we talked about our passion for spiritual education. The king, who had helped to found two spiritual universities, was delighted when I told him my concept for Vedic Way. He told me three principles for a spiritual university, which he holds in high regard, and I found them very profound and appealing.

1. Spiritual education should not be given only to monks who separate from the rest of the world. It should be presented in such a way that people who live in the world will not be afraid and be able to benefit.

2. Spiritual education should stress universal principles - not specific religious teaching - so that everyone can feel included and uplifted.

3. Spiritual education should be aimed and in fact be measured in the transformation of the heart. Transformation, upliftement, inner purification-not just another dead information downloading.

When the king’s car took us finally home, we were in high spirits and grateful for the night. Madhva Muni and Kisori commented: "What wonderful spiritual and aristocratic people, who take responsibility for helping others. Truly a king as we read in the scriptures: a representative of Lord Jagannath."
We intend to stay in contact.

[1] The story about Atri Muni is narrated in Srimad Bhagavatam 4.1.15-33.

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