Friday, October 3, 2014

The Awesomest

Tonight I went to Bhagavad Gita class at the Bhakti Center, and we are in the midst of the 10th chapter, which describes the opulence of God.

This is God:

I am adventure. 

I am the beginning, the middle, the end. 

Of bodies of water, I am the ocean. 

I am all-devouring death. 

I am the generating force of all that is yet to be. 

I am the taste of water. 

Of secrets, I am silence. 

Of immovable things, I am the Himalayas. 

Of all sacrifices, I am the chanting of the holy name. 

Know that all beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.

God is so great. I can choose to see Him in every moment, every breath, every step I take in this world. He is everywhere. He is so amazing, so beautiful, so perfect.

Although He is so vast and great, I also know that Krishna is a simple, lovely boy who takes care of cows and steals butter. 

Combine these two aspects - the awe-inspiring universal form and the heart-melting lovable cowboy - and I just want to love Krishna every day of my life, take shelter of his awesomeness.

I swear, there must be a verse in the Bhagavad Gita, it MUST be in there: Of all awesome people, I am the awesomest.




Friday, September 26, 2014

Chant the Holy Name

*name has been changed in this post for privacy

"May I help you in some way?" I asked the customer who had just walked into La Maison du Chocolat.

"Sure," she replied, "I'm looking for a gift for a friend,"

"Okay, sure, what would you be looking for? Your budget?"

"Well, she is very sick,"

I was taken aback for a moment, then I laughed, "I see, and chocolate is the medication,"

"I mean, she is very... very sick,"

I grew sober, "Ah, I see." I continued to guide the customer to a collection of chocolates that was beautiful and was in her budget. I wrapped the gift and asked, "Would you like a blank message card?"

"Oh no, I have a big card here," and she pointed to a giant card in its envelope. "You see, my friend, she's sick... yes, the "C" word,"

I continued to listen with my eyes while I packed up the gift. She handed me a collection of bills of different amounts.

"She's only in her 30s, and last year she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she has been in treatment. Last month, though, they found some cancer in her brain. Stage 4."

"Oh wow,"

"Yes, so everyone at work has all pitched in to pay for a personal chef for the next month for her and her husband, and also to get these chocolates. Everyone signed this card. We just want her to take care of herself,"

"I see. I shall pray for your friend, may I ask her name?"

"Diana*,"

"I will pray for Diana, that she moves through this with grace,"

"Thank you so much Carmen [my legal name]," the woman responded. I handed her the beautiful gift bag of chocolates and we exchanged smiles. Then she left.

I was shaken.

Here was a woman on a crash course with death. There were so many people who loved her, but they had no idea what to do for someone about to die. They just wanted to comfort her, make her path a little smoother, a little more enjoyable.

But who cares about a personal chef and gourmet chocolate when you're about to die? From what I've heard and experienced for myself, when faced with death food tastes like cardboard.

When faced with death, I want solace. I want meaning to this life that seems so meaningless. I want truth. I want to know who I am and where the hell I'm going (hopefully not hell!).

Diana's coworkers meant well. They love her, they want to express that love. Nevertheless, all I can think is that if I was faced with Stage 4 brain cancer, I would just want people to chant the holy name for me, chant the holy name for me, chant the holy name for me. Pray that I take shelter's in Krishna's holy name.

If you are reading this, please chant the holy name for Diana, pray that the Lord protects her heart from all fear and carries her beyond this world of pain and death. May she go with God. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Room Without A Roof

Images from yesterday's wedding play through my mind in snippets of magic.

The mysticism of the ceremony,
the tears of those present,
Jai's sober expression as he vowed to protect Syama,
the grins of pure joy of everyone (yes, everyone) dancing in kirtan,
Syama's effulgent smile and flaring skirt as she twirled,
the rooftop bedecked with white tents
and white globes
and golden lights,
the undulating skyscape of New York City glittering below us,
toasts,
laughing so hard I can't breathe,
the couple's first dance,
everyone dancing slow,
then fast, to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough,"
the delicious lemon poppyseed and chocolate cakes,
helping clean up,
dancing to "Happy."

Although it's popular, I heard the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams for the first time last night. The lyrics sent chills down my spine.

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

It was a reminder that the soul's nature is to be happy. There's no hard work to it. It's just about being alive, feeling like a "room without a roof." All day, I felt as though that day was about being happy. Let the couple be happy, let the guests be happy, let God be happy.

Let go.

Let happiness in.

It's so easy.

Just BE.

That's the truth.

When I danced to the song "Happy" at the end of the night, the part of the song that kept coming, "Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof," was so perfect, as I and everyone else was on the rooftop of the Bhakti Center and only a thin tent separated us from a limitless sky.
(to view the video below on YouTube, click or copy and paste this link: http://youtu.be/2MJj2A1Kx20 )

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Live on Purpose


I read the above sign on the train when I sat down. The message registered as barely a blip, like all other advertising in New York City. Then I opened my book and began to read; the train picked up speed, heading to the next stop.

Suddenly, two uniformed police officers strode through the train, guided by an older man. I looked up from my book. The man pointed at a backpack that was on the ground right across from me.

"Is this anyone's bag?" The officer's voice rang out in the train.

Everyone fell quiet, shaking their heads. The women who were sitting on the seat nearby the abandoned backpack scooted away.

The officers looked around, confirming that no one owned the bag. I watched the scene unfold, my heart pounding a bit. It's true, the bag had just been sitting there. It was some cutesy backpack, a leopard print I believe. But the two officers surrounded it now, their energy taut like wires. Definitely not cutesy now.

I resisted the urge to scramble away, walk away, run away. But what could I do? I was on this moving train. In those few moments when the officers examined the bag, I had this realization that maybe there was a bomb in there, about to explode at any moment.

There was nothing I could do about it. Although I experienced fear, I also experienced this eerie calm, that somehow if this is my fate, it is what it is.

When the train slowed to a stop, one officer stepped out of the train and the other cautiously unzipped the bag, as if touching a wild tiger. I could feel all the passengers watching, holding their breaths.

The officer unzipped the bag with one final tug.

Sneakers.

Everyone let out a collective breath. The officer carried the bag out of the train, joining her comrade. Then the train boarded more passengers and we moved on.

It was not a laughing matter about this leopard-print backpack - after all, there have been numerous incidents of such episodes that involved an abandoned bag which were deadly.

There is a verse in the scripture Srimad Bhagavatam that describes how in this material world there is danger at every step. I had no idea that when I got onto the train that day that maybe that day was my last. I am sure that anyone who has ever been involved in a lethal terrorist attack, or a plane accident, or even a car accident had no idea that that day was the last day of their lives.

Sometimes it takes danger or an accident to stop living on accident and start living on purpose. Every day, may I and may we live on purpose.

And may the owner of that bag and those sneakers get her stuff back. It was a cute bag. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Krishna-shaped Hole

For as long as I can remember, ever since I was a little girl, I have always had this longing for something or someone. Something or someone is missing from my life. It's either new clothes, a temple, a community, adventurous travels, friends, a husband, an education, a house, a car, money, spiritual initiation, a guru.

Something.

Someone. 

And when I finally get what I want, I long for something else, I long for someone else. This longing has been a curse and a blessing. A curse when I long for material things, because I get consumed with a fire that burns me up. A blessing when I long for spiritual things, because I get consumed with a fire that lights my soul. 

Lately I have been consumed with a longing for furniture. Sounds silly, but it's true. I have this intense desire to really just get settled into where I live - I've been wandering the world for so very long and now I just want to live in. one. place. One. Place. Getting the perfect bed and curtains is a product of this longing for home. But it's a feverish search, my ideas keep shifting and changing, I feel consumed and burnt out. 

Lately I have also been missing Radha Shyamasundar from New Raman Reti. There's an ache in my chest of longing. I miss singing for Them, putting away Their clothes, dancing for Them, and just being within Their glowing glance. It's this ache that gets more painful and also sweeter. I want to forget the ache, distract myself, but at the same time I know that it's sweet. I feel that it's sweet.

My spiritual master Radhanath Swami once told me, "There's a Krishna-shaped hole in your heart and no one will be able to fill that hole - not your parents, not a husband, not me. Only Krishna."  

For the past several months, whenever I have found it hard to get to sleep, I call into my mind's eye the faces of Radhe Shyam. I meditate upon Their forms and soon enough my heart and mind are at ease and I find myself drifting off to sleep. Radhe Shyam fill that custom-made hole in my heart. And for that window of time, my longing for someone or something is quieted and my soul rests.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Month in the Life

The month of August, 2014, has been a crazy one indeed. Amazing and crazy. I thought instead of telling you I'd simply show you. 

I got to dress Sri Radha Govinda, the worshipful Lords of Mother Kaulini. 

I moved into my new place in Brooklyn, New York. Ghanashyam and I painted my room... and gave it a caramel-colored accent wall. 

A church spire peeping over the aboveground subway line. 

The view every time I head over on the train to Manhattan

Brooklyn College's historical campus 

Getting my ID! 

 Ghanashyam's grandparents on their wedding day in 1945 - sixty-nine years ago

 I got hired at an upscale chocolate shop on Wall Street (my professional development is to taste these)

 The sight I see when I head home from work in the evenings

 Prayers on the street

Spending some evenings with Ghanashyam

 A dash of green amidst gray

 The public indoor space where I have lunch while at work

Washington Memorial


 A gift from Ghanashyam. Purple means "enchantment"

I walked out of my door one day and lo and behold who was walking in my neighborhood park but the beautiful Jayadwaita Swami

***

If you'd like to read about my month, a play-by-play as I write every day, feel free to check out my sister site: 30dayxray.blogspot.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

God's Temple

Several years ago, in the evening a whole busload of devotees all went swimming in the ocean, and I was in bliss! Ah, the ocean! It had been almost a year since I'd frolicked in the waves. I then went on a very long, dancing and frolicking walk along the shore.

For the first time in a long time, to the crashing waves I sang "Mama Mana Mandire." I used to sing this song so often - it would invoke a very special mood for me.

When I used to live in Hawaii, there was no temple on my island. As a teenager and the years went by, I began to despair that I would ever be around a temple and devotee association again. One day I listened to Rasa's "Mama Mana Mandire" track, and I was stunned. What did this song mean? I did a Google search: the temple of my heart.

I used to bikeride in the evenings out to this crest on the mountain that overlooked the city of Kailua-Kona. I would take in the undulating valleys, glistening blue bays, and the ocean would wrap around the island. I would watch the magnificent, glorious sunset every evening, and I began to sing this song. "This is my temple."

A tradition grew. Whenever I felt awed and humbled by the beauty of nature, I would sing this song. I began to be absolutely immersed in the everyday experience of being in the majesty of God's temple.

When I moved to live within the devotional community of Alachua, I lost touch with the song, that longing.

But when I sang and danced amidst the ocean waves at sunset on the Atlantic Ocean, I traveled back in time. I meditated on that deep feeling that God is everywhere. I can feel Him, I can experience Him. I don't need a building to worship Him. He is here in my heart and He is also all around me.

That longing to be around the devotees when I was in Hawaii was so very, very special. Every single day, my desire became only more and more intense, my longing more and more powerful. I pray that this longing may always reside within my heart. Always.




To write is to dare the soul. So write.