Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Birthday of a Great Soul

Dear Indradyumna Swami,

Please accept my respects. All glories to our beloved Srila Prabhupad.

This morning I tuned in to the Alachua radio and got to hear you speak so beautifully on Srimad Bhagavatam. When I meditate upon your mood of service and love to your spiritual master, Srila Prabhupad, I am amazed that I have gotten to associate with you. I experience you as having such a magnanimous personality, so willing to give your time and heart and life to Krishna and the devotees. You're willing to fly across the world to keep a promise to attend a young lady's wedding, and you'll respond to a Facebook message that requests your blessings for young writers to write for Krishna. When you speak, those who listen are moved to tears and laughter and to the deepest parts of their souls.

I am blessed to consider you my shiksha guru, and I place your love and instructions upon my head. Thank you for being a part of my life. I pray that I may follow in your footsteps and serve my spiritual master with the faith, dedication, and enthusiasm that you live by.

Happy Birthday :)

Sincerely and with love and respect,

Bhakti lata dasi

Friday, May 15, 2015

Whats in a Name?

Flashback Friday: September 23rd, 2001 (age 14)

I haven't realized it before, but I'm actually named after it: Bhakti - transcendental service to Krishna... this is perfect happiness. To give and give and give and receive nothing in return. At least materially. Just to give is a magnanimous gift to my own being. To have clothes on my back, to honor prasadam... and to constantly serve Krishna is ultimate.

Anyway, I have recently stopped chanting my japa and performing a mini-morning program. I know this is all temporary, the way I have been acting, but it's not good. I must pray to Chaitanya for mercy and continue my routine of preparing and honoring prasad, chanting two rounds of japa (more, if time allows), play the mridanga with some morning prayers, and then read on spirituality, the scriptures, Krishna's pastimes... anything! I MUST keep going if I don't want to get swallowed up by maya. So, with this contract to myself, this vow to my soul, I will continue these trascendental habits. Haribol! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Waking Up to My Will

Serenity Series: March

"I've wanted to be a high school English teacher since I was 12."

I've been reciting this line for the past decade or so. This aspiration has driven my endeavors in university, travel, and then ultimately to graduate school. I've recited this line in application essays, interviews, blog posts, and Facebook statuses.

Last fall, I dove into a month-long interview process to work as a teacher assistant at a reputable charter school network. I did my best and surrendered the result to Krishna. Bam - I got my dream position. The principal and I agreed to try it out, see how things went. I was amazed and excited, thrilled to be so directly working and on the path of my lifelong aspiration.

My first days at the school were fascinating, and I was invigorated, inspired. Yes, yes!! This is what I want!

A couple weeks in, I began to feel conflicted. Many times I would come home and cry. Dread. My experienced was summed up in that word. I dreaded checking my work e-mail, I dreaded getting out of bed on days that I worked, I dreaded being at work.

True, I was very rarely engaged in work that related directly to teaching English and to working with students in meaningful ways. I often felt awkward, out of place.

During one particular meeting with the principal of my school, I was suddenly hit with the words: "I'm not meant to be a teacher. Not in this capacity."

That night I got down on my knees and sobbed and prayed to Krishna. Where do I go from here? What does this all mean?

Strangely enough, in the following days I felt lighter. I felt free. I felt as though I had finally broken free of a lifelong expectation that I had had of myself. Free of my history, free of that line that I had been reciting for over a decade in essays and interviews.

I shared with my supervisor my intention to leave the school, and she was understanding. I gave my notice of resignation to the principal, and she was kind and gave her blessings for me to continue on my way. So did all of the other teachers and staff in the building. My last day of work I experienced love and good will from everyone, including students.

I have felt deeply free the past couple weeks. I feel as though the world is open now, wide open. If I decide to work in a circus as a flame thrower, lovely! If I decide to pursue architecture, awesome!

If I decide to be a high school English teacher, wonderful!

Now I know that whatever I do pursue it is because I am using the God given free will of my heart and I would choose to say, "I've wanted to be a high school English teacher since this very moment." 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Glorious Moment

I have sat in front of the deities of Radha and Krishna many, many times with only the walls as witness. I would sit in front of the harmonium and sing the holy name or a bhajan in a random way, just let the notes flow like a river and take me on a journey. Sometimes the notes start to flow and move in a pattern, and a melody forms.

One such melody seems to flow in and out of my life. I often forget it exists and can't remember it, like a distance place I've visited but can't place on a map. I've never sung it in a group kirtan; it always seems to rise to the surface in the quiet times.

The final day of class for Kirtan Connection, I sat at the harmonium while students arrived and took their seats. I had an agenda for the day, and yet there was something unplanned that needed to unfold. So I sang. This melody emerged, the one of the quiet times, the one of spending time with Krishna.

Students boarded the vessel of the holy name and we all journeyed together down this river. All voices intertwined and separated in undulating waves. Each person was wordlessly invited to lead us all in singing one mantra. Each person who sang seemed to express the inner jewel of his or her heart. I felt honored, moved with emotion. 

Being immersed in the holy name, I was surrounded by this sense that, "This is the perfection of life." I could leave this world in this very moment and be at peace. The holy name is my shelter, those who are singing the holy name are my refuge. I am safe. 

I kept playing the harmonium and shared with students to envision those inevitable moments of leaving this world. As Srila Prabhupada said, death should be glorious. So sing as if these are your final moments in this world. 

Our voices joined in a final wave. Tears streamed down my face and others' faces.

Gratitude to Srila Prabhupada suddenly filled my heart. He was the one who sacrificed everything to give the holy name to each of us. Fifty years later, we continue on his legacy. And when that inevitable day comes, may the holy name and Srila Prabupada fill the soul of each and every one of us. May that moment be glorious. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Clicking In

Ghanashyam's mother lives in a small town in New Jersey, and we decided to visit her for a couple days. This morning we took a stroll. Every so often we would pause to gaze in wonder at a dried leaf that shone golden in the sun, or the bright purple, blue, and yellow flowers that were just peeking out of the grass.

We cradled these leaves and flowers in our hands to bring home. We descended to Ghanashyam's old room in the basement and he placed our treasures in a little bowl. We dusted off two Krishna books and found a picture of Prabhupad and Radha Krishna on the covers. We leaned the books against the wall and placed the bowl of flowers in front of the pictures.

I picked up a tiny metal teapot and took off the lid. I began to play the lid against the bottom of the teapot in rhythm, "1, 2, 3... 1, 2, 3..."

In unison, we sang the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, the holy name. We began to sway, and then dance in sync. In the middle of our little kirtan, Ghanashyam would remember other great teachers and find books that had their pictures on the cover. He placed these books upon the makeshift altar and our lineage kept growing.

I meditated upon each beautiful, powerful face. I sang the holy name and suddenly I felt my soul click into place. This is the essence of my life: to offer something simple to the Lord, to sing the holy name with others, and follow in the footsteps of the great souls.

Ghanashyam raised his palms and his arms as he danced, and I continued to cling-cling-cling my tiny teapot. Every so often we'd glance at each other and smile broadly. When our little kirtan concluded, we embraced each other in gratitude.

I tried to put the lid back on the tiny teapot but it seemed a bit bent out of a shape. By my soul clicking into place it seems as though the teapot had clicked out ;)

Sunday, March 15, 2015


One morning when I was 21, I was in Mumbai, India, listening to Radhanath Swami give a spiritual discourse to several hundred people all packed tightly into a temple. At the end of the discourse, he asked if there were any questions. Being me, I shot my hand up, and when Radhanath Swami called upon me, I stumbled through a rather complicated question.

Radhanath Swami then asked, "Do you all know Bhakti devi?" Several hundred pairs of eyes swiveled to look at me. Heads shook. He proceeded to glorify me in a rather sweet and embarrassing way, and one thing he said kind of shot to my heart. He pronounced that I was the most enthusiastic second generation devotee he had ever known. 

Finally he said, "Could you repeat the question? I was too busy glorifying you." 

This morning I was reflecting on how my enthusiasm has waned. Over the past seven years or so I feel that I have put my heart out, put my heart out, put my heart out. I've allowed myself to get excited, to make plans, to venture forth, venture forth! Time and again, because I've opened up my heart so wide, I have experienced pain that has gone straight into the heart. 

Today at 28, I find myself sore and somewhat jaded. I find myself disconnected from that enthusiasm for spiritual life and for life, especially in relationships. I am blessed and grateful for a significant other in my life, Ghanashyam, who is a deep, compassionate, loving man who keeps me connected to Krishna. At the same time, I am realizing how the hurt I have felt in so many relationships in life has lead to a point of deadness and sadness. An apathy. A continual asking of, "What's the point?"

Maybe that's the next question to ask Radhanath Swami. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Weathering the Weather

Serenity Series: February

Ice falls from the sky. The road and the sidewalks are smothered in ice, puddles, and blackish snow. All is dark, and headlights from oncoming cars rush towards me in big SWISH SWISHes.

I'm on my way to work at 6:30am. I tightly grip my umbrella. If I don't hurry, I'll be late. Walking through the sidewalks is near impossible, as they are nearly impassable with ice and water. So I walk on the road, but it's frightening to be sharing space with cars in the near-dark.

When I reach the subway station at last, I hurry down the steps, holding to the rails. But there it is - just as I'm descending I hear the giant rumbling of my train speed away.

I wait and wait in the subway station cave, checking my phone every several minutes. Come on, come on...

Finally, a train arrives in a roar, screeching to a stop. When I get out at my stop, the nightmare of walking through the streets replays all over again. I step into a sheet of ice that disguises a pool of icy water beneath.

When I get to work, I feel harrowed. Exhausted.

This is my reality. What can I do about it?

Well, nothing. I can't control the weather. I can't. I never will.

The thought and realization runs through my head: "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." The weather is definitely one of those things. I immediately feel reconciled with the strange ways of the universe. There's no need to even talk about the crazy journey to work. It is what it is.

Maybe I can't change the weather but I can get get rain boots. A better coat. That's my responsibility. Otherwise, if I'm caught out in the dark and the rain again, who am I to complain? I might as well start singing and stomping in the puddles. 

To write is to dare the soul. So write.