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.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reflections on the Soul


January 3rd, 2013

Today I went to Tim Carter's ash immersion ceremony.

Our small party took a boat to the other side of the sacred river Ganga. When the actual ceremony began, Tim's family members gathered around and the ashes were brought out. I had been asked to lead everyone in singing, so I began to sing the Hare Krishna melody that Lilananda Prabhu had composed in honor of Tim. Seeing those ashes of Tim felt strange. The pile of ashes was gray and formless.

Those ashes couldn't be Tim. They couldn't.

Tim was in the melody I was singing.

Nevertheless, there was something so complete and powerful about the ceremony, recognizing this deep need for closure, to release a soul to Krishna. When Jananivas Prabhu packed mud around the ashes and poured and sprinkled different substances on the ashes, I felt as though Tim was getting cooled from a high fever. Like, "Ahhh... at last, you're letting me go."

There was a timeless moment when I stood on the banks of the river, the wind blew my sari, and the sun glinted off the water and shone on my face. I watched the sacred ceremony unfold to put Tim to rest. I had a moment of realizing that we will all die, our bodies will all become ash one day. Memories of us will also fade.

There must be a soul. There must be a soul, an eternal soul that is bright and beautiful and eternal.





Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Love

For the past 8 months or so, I have been in a relationship with a wonderful man by the name of Ghanashyam. He has met my parents and sister, and I've met his parents, siblings, and extended family in the US. The other day, he told me that his grandparents wanted to meet me.

So we hopped on a train to go meet them in New Jersey.

Ghanashyam's grandparents have been married for 69 years.

Sixty-nine years.

I don't think I have ever met anyone who has been married for 69 years. 

Sometimes when people say that "we'll be married forever" it almost seems like too long. I can't wrap my brain around forever.

But I can wrap my brain around 69 years because I witnessed it the other day. I witnessed two people at the age of 91 who have love, respect, and affection for each other.

I asked Ghanashyam's grandma the secret for such a long, healthy marriage. She replied, "Patience. Lots of patience." I wonder what this means because it can mean so many things. I'll stay in this question. 

I asked Ghanashyam's grandpa the secret for such a long, healthy marriage. He replied, "We like each other."

I found that profound. These two people simply like each other. They like each other's company, each other's sense of humor, each other's rhythms. Loving someone can be a little fickle, but liking someone seems to be a steady truth. 

I walked away from our lovely afternoon quite pensive. One day the grandfather or grandmother will pass away. It's hard to imagine being married for 69 years, but it's harder to imagine being married for 69 years and then one day that person is gone. So many journeys, so many lessons of love - so much so that the souls seemed to have intertwined. 

Then bam, gone. 

I feel a cavernous hole in my chest just to think about it. 

I resolve that along with cultivating my relationship with my partner in life I want to cultivate my relationship with God, with Krishna. Allow the three of us to intertwine. We'll be patient with each other. We'll like each other. We'll love each other. 

Then whether my partner and I are married for 69 years or 69 hours before death comes for one or both of us, there is no cavernous hole of sorrow but an overflowing cup of joy. I pray that we may be carried beyond these material bodies by the Lord to a place where love never ends. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Repacking Suitcases


I've been living out of a suitcase for the past 5 months. Actually, other than a couple months at my parent's house, I've been living out of suitcase for the past 2 years.

When I was at my parent's house in Hawaii, I finally had all my stuff under one roof, in one room! Unbelievable. Eventually though, life called me back to New York and I needed to pack everything up into boxes again. I packed my two suitcases expertly to accommodate all kinds of situations and seasons - from winter job interviews to summer festivals. All of it - two suitcases.

I got sick of my clothes within two months.

It has now been five months and I literally daydream about my clothes packed away in boxes at my parent's. I dream about buying new clothes. I admit that I have even written out Wish Lists. All I can think about lately is what I want to buy, buy, buy.

I am finally moving into my own room for the next year. So this morning I upturned all my clothes onto my bed to repack everything to move. I began to feel this growing sense of awe - so many clothes. So many shirts, pants, skirts... I look at my Wish List and realize that everything I want to buy is what I already have in my suitcase.

And yet I have this insatiable need for something new, something different, something fresh.

And if I have that "something," then I will be happy and content.

I have only to look at my beautiful and variegated selection of clothing all folded neatly back into my suitcase for me to realize that it's me that is not seeing the gifts that have been given to me. It is me that sees a lack. I have everything I need. I have actually everything I want. I have been blessed a thousand times over, a thousand.

I guess every once in awhile we need to repack the suitcases of our hearts to realize just how much is in there.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Graffiti


    (photo by thingsnobodycaresabout.com)

I walk past the gutters
littered with trash
and the walls scrawled
with shapeless letters.
Music with no melody,
only beats and mutters,
blares from speakers.
Lined, unsmiling faces
and crossed arms
greet me on the platform.
The train arrives with
a blast and the rhythmic
ga-gumph,
ga-guuumph,
ga-guuuuuuumph...
The doors open with a hiss.
The floor rumbles beneath me,
we pass building
after building
scarified with
more
and more graffiti
that all looks the
same same same.
Graffiti scratches surround me
on the window and seat,
on the walls.
A man across the aisle
misses his stop, curses loudly.

I arrive at the Bhakti Center for a festival
drained
by the City.
Drained by the way
We
and I
graffiti our lives
with chitter and chatter
and curses.

I'm on the schedule to
sing kirtan in 15 minutes.
I heave a sigh and
head to the templeroom.
I am washed with the scent
of incense and
the holy name.
I thought that I had needed
to sleep
but after a half an hour
of singing
I just want to stay here
right here
in front of God
for the next seven days
and graffiti my heart
with the holy name.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pleading My Case

Last year in Mayapur...

The cold seeped into my fingers. I stitched away at the delicate needlework on the piece of cloth I was embroidering with beads. Other Mayapur Academy students were bent over looms, huddled in their sweaters.

Keshavi Mataji came around to clusters of students. She gathered several of us and said, "So, you are now going to write. You are having a conversation with Lord Chaitanya. You want to go back to the spiritual world, but He is skeptical. So have a conversation where you convince Him that you want to go back." Keshavi Mataji handed us lined pieces of paper, then moved on to the next cluster of students.

I stared at the blank sheet of paper, then went back to my needlework. How would I ever convince someone that I wanted to go back to the spiritual world when really I didn't care about going back? What was the big deal, anyway? Why can't we just live and love here? The spiritual world doesn't only have to exist when I die.

Time was ticking. Finally, I set aside my needlework and picked up a pen. I wrote the following conversation:

Me: You came for me, Mahaprabhu!
Lord Chaitanya: Yes. I only want to know how and why you want to come with me.
Me: This world... this place is not my home.
Chaitanya: You often forget that.
Me: I am realizing that the only place I can give love with no fear, with all my heart, is with You.
Chaitanya: Nice words. How about showing them?
Me: I have been on this path to You my whole life, Mahaprabhu. Lifetimes, actually.
Chaitanya: This qualifies you to come back to the spiritual world?
Me: No. I have no qualification.
Chaitanya: Then tell me how you can come with Me.
Me: Because You love me unconditionally, especially because I have no qualification.
Chaitanya: You're tugging at my mercy, Bhakti lata.
Me: Exactly. I am an impudent beggar. I have no right to beg, to be hanging onto the hem of Your dhoti.
Chaitanya: Indeed.
Me: I am demanding the highest gift, even though I have no right to demand. But I am lost without You. I beg You take me home.
Chaitanya: You don't need to beg, my dear Bhakti lata dasi.
Me: Really?
Chaitanya: I have wanted you to come home with Me for thousands of lifetimes. I just wanted to hear from YOU.
      Come [holds out hand], let's go home.

***

When I recited this conversation out at the end of class to my fellow students, my voice broke at the end. A hush had fallen over everyone during these readings, and a hush fell over my own heart.

Take me home. Please. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Morning in Mayapur

From a journal entry awhile ago...

Wow. I am so in love with Mayapur. The deities here emanate love. They emanate sweetness and magnanimity. Every single person that I meet is a true Vaishnava - an example of kindness, sweetness, patience, tolerance, and of paka principles.

I chanted japa in the temple this morning, I was a little out of it. But slowly, slowly, I warmed up. Some men sat down to sing the most heartachingly beautiful bhajans, and I let my mind absorb in that poetry of music. The music soothed my mind - so much that I didn't want to leave, just stay in the templeroom with the curtains closed. I felt such shelter from the world in the templeroom. No plans, no drama, no one to meet, no one to talk to... just chanting and receiving darshan of the Lord. 

To write is to dare the soul. So write.