Sunday, October 21, 2007

To dance is to... live?

I know it's silly. It's real for me, though.

My foot/leg misalignment persists, and I wake up with a stiff foot now most mornings (oh yes, thank you, garba, for your help in that area). Feeling like the energy in my life just took a major downward spike in the past several months, I visited Mother Madhumati for guidance.

I echoed Bali's thought, "Man, this is cause for my spiritual life going down the tubes," I grieved. "I feel as though the flavor has gone out of my spiritual life, and the flavor of my spiritual life IS my life."

Madhumati replied, "Yes, it's almost as if dance is one thing you can enjoy in Krishna consciousness, where you can express yourself, without rules and regulations... and inspire others, too!"

I sighed deeply. "Exactly! Krishna consciousness can be so austere. Roping in the mind for two hours every day to chant a mantra, service at the temple, watching out ALL the time for all the offenses I make to devotees, the Deities, the holy name... and so on... and so on...

"But dance! To just dance for the Deities, with other devotees, bharatanatyam... Oh Mother Madhumati, what do I do?"

I know, it's silly for my spiritual life to depend on dance.

Maybe it's not, because just writing about this has me somber and wanting to finish this post.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sigh... politics.

Here I am at the Model United Nations conference, representing India. Right now a caucus is going on and my brain is fading on me. I’m losing my grasp on words and my sense of composure. I’m just tired and want to go chant my rounds in the templeroom and the winding sandy road on temple property.

All these politics are starting to seep into my skin. In a way it’s so superficial. Countries of the world can have nice intentions to help others in a restricted sense, but really, it’s all meaningless. “Philosophy has no meaning without good character” Srila Prabhupad said once. My guru maharaj, Radhanath Swami, says in his book Welcome Home that as long as the hearts of men are dirty, there will be wars and pollution and corruption.

I know everyone in this Committee by country. I know no one’s name, including Cambodia - who I've been working with hand-in-hand for the past two days!

I wrote the above during a recess at the Model United Nations conference I attended this weekend. I was starting to get fried. When you attend an MUN conference, you ARE your country. Your personal beliefs do not exist. This means you refer to yourself as your country and you refer to others as their country.

I think what tipped me into not caring a SHOELACE happened right after I wrote the above italicized comments, a guy walked up to my table and approached one of my partners with a grin on his face, "The Republic of the Sudan would like to ask the Republic of Cambodia if this is her gum," he asked. I laughed hysterically... and decided I was going to laser everyone with my OWN beliefs the next time The Republic of India gave a speech.

Fast forward one hour with formal debate back in session. "Thank you, Islamic Republic of Pakistan for your speech. Republic of India?"

I walked to the podium slowly, quietly. "Thank you honorable Chair." I turned to the thirty countries represented in front of me. "Good afternoon, delegates. A great saint from India, Srila Prabhupad, once said, 'Philosophy without good character has no meaning'. This means we may work as hard as we can to implement programs or funding, but when other countries take advantage of the poverty-stricken, we only exacerbate poverty. This... corruption fuels poverty. Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest proprietors of non-violence, believed that fighting a war with violence only yielded more and more violence. We must begin with ourselves.

"The Republic of India urges all countries to participate and contribute to the World Summit to take place in Mumbai, India, 2009. We must stop poverty at its root, and not feed the problem by exploiting those less fortunate.

"Thank you."

Countries (people?) were taken aback, I could tell (ha, especially United States). But I was disappointed with myself somewhat. I would have rather said, "cut through this crap, people, we need to set an example as OURSELVES! Stop trying to solve all the world's problems when we're feeding the problem, right now, me, you, John and Mandy!" But this diplomatic stuff was seeping into my skin. I did it without second thought, but I connected it with the Resolution we had been drafting for two days for a World Summit on Fair Trade.

But hey, at the nerve wracking voting session, our Resolution passed with the most outstanding voting record.

And I won an award for "Distinguished Delegation: India".

Sigh... politics. My name is Bhakti, by the way.

Monday, October 1, 2007

In Memoriam

Out of several colorful options of yoga, homework, or bhajans, I choose to drive to the temple to chant. When I pull in, I see the parking lot filled with cars. What's going on? I wonder curiously. As I circle around the temple, I see the room filled with people... in memoriam of Mother Srestha.

Stunned, I sit down in the very back. When Mother Sukhada comes around, I request if I could get up and speak after everybody else.

Over an hour and a half passes of people in her life speaking their memories and realizations. I keep flashing forward to an image of people gathered at my own memorial. I feel my emotions getting tighter and tighter. Finally, Sukhada calls me up.

In the silence I make my way to the microphone and gaze out at all of Srestha's Christian friends seated in chairs, the elder devotees present, and the serene Muslim man sitting in front - her husband.

I take a deep breath. "I didn't know Mother Srestha. Actually, I've never spoken with her in my life. Last year, my mother - who plays the orchestra harp - decided to play for Srestha's benefit concert to assist in her chemotherapy expenses. When my mother returned to Hawaii, I heard random snippets here and there of Srestha, but I never dwelt on it long.

"And then, it was Radhastami morning - " I breathe in deep, shaking, " - and I was taking a japa walk on this sandy road on the temple property. I've been pondering life and death very deeply for the past couple weeks and suddenly, completely unbidden... I thought of Srestha. I thought of her condition, and how she was coming along, and her realizations while having a terminal illness.

"And then, I saw Mother Rangavati approaching me in the distance, chanting. And I thought, 'If anyone knows how Srestha is doing, I'm sure she knows' and so I asked Rangavati, 'How is Srestha?'

"'Oh, she passed away this morning.' she replied.

"Completely stunned, I stood there in silence. Then I exclaimed quietly, 'What??'

"'Yes, I just found out about forty minutes ago.'

"'But, but... I have not thought about her this entire year. I've never even spoken with her. I do not even know her. And all of a sudden I feel concerned for her.' I pondered in disbelief.

"Mother Rangavati smiled. 'You must be tuned in, Bhakti,' and she twisted an imaginary radio dial. 'Amazing how precious and fleeting life can be, no?' she asked me. We conversed on realizations of life and death, and then began to walk back towards the temple for the noon arati for Srimati Radharani.

"We had discussed how a great saint in our tradition, Maharaj Yudhistir, was asked the question, 'What is the most amazing thing in this world?' and he replied, 'We see our family, our friends, everyone around us all dying, and yet we believe as though we shall live forever,'

"Yet Srestha still lives through her example and the way that I feel as though I shall remember and reflect on her for the rest of my life.

"I look around to see that her love of God has impacted all of us, no matter which path we may have chosen - Christian, Vaishnava, or Muslim - her own husband. She has united us all here today. This is her legacy. And what could I aspire to more than when I pass away I leave a legacy of love, appreciation, and cooperation.

"I apologize if I have taken up time speaking in lieu of someone who has known her more deeply. I wanted to share with you, though, how she has somehow threaded into my life, even by me being here tonight. Thank you."

As I sit down, my mind keeps returning to the thought that one day, people shall gather for my own small memorial service - laugh and cry... and then disperse for the night to return home and to life.

To write is to dare the soul. So write.