Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Lovely Evening

In the hot summer evening, I stepped onto the cool marble. The cavernous, circular hall echoed with the soft tones of Bengali. Pillars ringed the hall, and the ceiling vaulted high, high up. I lifted my gaze up to the domed ceiling, which was decorated with mosaics depicting scenes of the life of the great saint and missionary, Srila Prabhupad. Below, in the center of this domed, cathedral-like space, stood the altar, which held a golden murti [sacred statue] of Srila Prabhupad.

I settled to a marble step and pulled out my long bamboo flute. I had been taking lessons, and I was such a novice. But here in this grand space, my simple flute playing echoed and echoed and filled the air and filled my body. The flute became my voice to sing a lullaby to Srila Prabhupad.

I had been living in the holy village of Mayapur in India for about 6 months, and recently I had begun to come every evening to the samadhi to play flute. Often, I would fall quiet and gaze up at the mosaics, lost in thought and lost in the glory of everything Srila Prabhupad had done for the world.

I prayed that somehow I would assist him in some way, even if small. But I was open to big, too!

I played my flute until the pujari swished closed the red velvet curtains. I took the flute from my lips, and in the sudden quiet I fell to my knees to the cool marble and offered my respects. The sound of the flute feathered away to silence.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Long-Awaited Bath

June 20th, 2013

I lived in the holy village of Mayapur, India for 8 months and I had never taken a sacred bath in the waters of the River Ganga. My very last day in Mayapur, I was on a mission to submerge my chanting beads in the Ganga. I had thought that maybe I would also bathe, but now that time was ticking closer and closer to my departure, I started to chicken out. It was impractical; I would have wet clothes, I'd need to take a shower and pack up...

Finally, at 1 in the afternoon with the sun high in the sky, I made my way to Prabhupad Ghat between the tall waving grasses. I approached Mother Ganga reverently and offered my obeisance, the silky mud pressing against my knees, palms, and forehead. 

I stood up, folded my palms and offered prayers. Then I crouched down and submerged my beads in the river, chanting the holy name. I swished the beads in the golden brown water, the sun glinting off of the surface. Reverent pilgrims were offering beautiful Sanskrit prayers before bathing.

I prayed to Mother Ganga to please support me in my vows on the path to the Lord.

I waded my way out of the shallow water and stood on the bank, gazing at the beautiful, sacred river. My heart began to pound. I should just leave, it's too late now, too much of a hassle...

Then I thought, "I would never forgive myself if I had come all this way across the world, lived in Mayapur for 8 months, came to her waters the day I left... and never took bath."

With that, I set my beads aside on the bank, took off my shawl... and wearing my full salwar top and pants I waded into the waters. The water was cool and sweet. The mud squished between my toes.  I was grinning, giggling. 

When I reached a spot about hip-deep, I slid back and dunked all the way down! Woo-hoo!! Cool water washed over me. I dunked again. I was immersed in cool golden sunlight. I dunked a third time and came up, palms folded, grinning, laughing. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for giving me the courage, thank you.

May I go out into the world now and share Your love. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Journey of Service

Last year when I was living in the holy village of Mayapur, I would visit Srila Prabhupad's samadhi and pray, pray to be of service. I passed many evenings of prayer in that great marble hall surrounded by the glory of Srila Prabhupad's life. The whisperings of my heart crystallized: go to New York.

When I moved to New York City last summer, I was on fire with so many services! One service offered to me was to teach Kirtan Connection, which I formulated into an 8-week course on how to lead kirtan. 5 students enrolled.

Teaching Kirtan Connection was profound. After every class I taught last year, I kept sensing that "this is why I came. This is why I came." Whether the class was a trial or a triumph, that sense of unconditional service persisted. Four students graduated by leading a full Hare Krishna kirtan in the templeroom, in front of Sri Radha Murlidhara and Srila Prabhupad.

This year, I taught Kirtan Connection once again. The class size tripled. So did the triumphs, so did the trials. Every single day when I chanted my morning japa meditation, I would be flooded with insecurities. As a teacher am I being too controlling? Unclear? Inconsistent? I kept returning to the thought: I have no qualification to teach kirtan, what am I doing?? There are others way more qualified. 

I wrote about it, talked about it, I appealed to mentors for counsel. Solace came in trickles, soothing the burning in my heart.

When graduation came, students lead their individual kirtans, bhajans, and group kirtans. Each kirtan was a gem. Chills raced up my spine with every person who lead. When kirtans had concluded, completeness settled into my heart. Everything I felt that I had been missing through teaching, all my insecurities, everything just filled or vanished and all was quiet and joyful.

In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, there is no other way, no other way, no other way for deliverance than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name.  

I pray that I may continue to be of service with humility and love.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Snapshots and Huge Pictures

Have you ever noticed that I tend to write on my blog about "snapshot" experiences that somehow impact my heart?

Have you ever noticed that I rarely write about the "huge picture" experiences that impact my heart?

Maybe it's because the "snapshot" experiences can be shared simply enough as a full, complete picture.

Invariably, every time I want to write about a "huge picture" experience, I feel like I'm gushing: "Oh my god, it was unbelievable, amazing, I'm speechless, so profound and beautiful and amaaaaaaazing. Life transformative. Wow."

Seriously. That's pretty much how I want to describe Bus Tours, Satvatove seminars, festivals in Alachua, visiting Mayapur, Vrindavan, Mumbai, or South India, an encounter with Radhanath Swami, studying in India, the Mayapur Academy, attending a kirtan festival in Brazil, 24 Hour Kirtans...

All of these experiences are unbelievable, profound, life transformative, amaaaaaazing. They feel so vast though, I wonder where to begin, how I could possibly encompass such a powerful experience in a little blog post. It's as if I'm trying to fit all of those sky-wide emotions into a 300-word post with maybe a couple grainy cell phone pictures.

I'm sure you've had this experience, too - you'll have gone on a vacation and when you return people ask you, "So, how was it?"

What do you say? "It was great." And maybe, if you're like me, you'll say, "It was amaaaaaaazing. Beyond words."

I am having this dilemma in trying to describe the experience of teaching these two Kirtan Connection courses that just concluded. There were 15 people total in 2 levels, and we just had our epic graduation on Sunday. It wasn't a neat experience that I could describe in a couple hundred words.

But I will try. My next blog post I will dedicate to the experience in teaching Kirtan Connection, to honor those who saw me through - Ghanashyam, Dhira Govinda Prabhu, and Badahari Prabhu; those who graduated, and Srila Prabhupad.

Yes, it was a profound experience. Beyond words. At the same time, the service of the writer is to put the un-wordable experiences into words so that others may share in the beauty. That is what Srila Prabhupad did.

I'll do my humble best to share the "huge picture." 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bhakti lata At A Glance

This was my homework assignment today for one of my English classes:

Draft your own autobiographical poem and follow this structure:

The first line is your first name, followed by a line of three words that describe you to yourself. The next line is something you love, then something you hate, something you fear, and something you wish for. The last line is your last name.

Bhakti lata
Searching, committed, deep
I love to listen to the murmurs and sing like a tiger
        the Lord's holy name
I hate my own crippling weaknesses
I fear that I am unlovable
I wish to love unconditionally

P.S. So, dear reader, what's YOUR poem?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Every Day Just Write

On August 1st, 2014, I began a 30 day x-ray (30dayxray.blogspot.com). This is a challenge to write every single day for one month. 

I took it to 60 days.

Then 90 days.

This Friday, I concluded the 90 day x-ray.

90 days, a blog post every single day. I believe that the single most powerful experience for me in publishing a post every day was to surrender. Let go. Share. A picture, some words, a full-on story, poetry, little things, big things, realizations about money, love, time, the holy name. Random thoughts, cohesive thoughts. Whatever. Just post. 

I posted.

I surrendered to the powerful current of this commitment to post something every day. Often I found myself at a loss and just lost. But because of my commitment, being lost was no excuse. So what if I'm lost?

Get found.


"Whenever you find time, you write. Never mind, two lines, four lines, but you write your realization."

- Srila Prabhupada
Los Angeles, August 14th, 1972

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.

To write is to dare the soul. So write.