Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Meditations on the Holy Name: Poetry (2 of 3)

A Prayer to the Holy Name

Sometimes you rest
upon my chest
like a burden, like a load
like chains.
Sometimes I wonder why
you follow me, hollow me
and why I give you reign
to invade my ways.
Like a guest
forever living in my head
I wonder why
I invited you in.

But sometimes you dance
upon my tongue
like water, like rain
like sustenance
for my soul.
I listen to a shimmer
of hope, of grace
Your dance is my heartbeat
my breath,
my faith.
Sometimes I wonder why
you have chosen
to embrace me
and erase me
of all of my poison.

Like gold in the fire
you purify me, beautify me
I desire for the desire
to remain in your fire.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I sit here in the "Business Lounge" of a very classy, expensive hotel in Tampa for an Honors conference and it's quite late. Yet yesterday I experienced something that I immediately wanted to share on this blog.

So we were driving down here in a fancy SUV (four of us) and as the other girls engaged in conversation, I realized I wanted to be quiet and have my own space. So I put in my earphones and flipped to a lecture by Radhanath Swami in England. Now, I find this amazing that a class that he had given six or seven years ago, in another country across the ocean, was suddenly present, right there, in the car, driving along I-75. Feeling exhausted from the week, I leaned back in my seat and closed my eyes.

And I was there. The lecture seemed to take place right when the curtains opened for Sayana Arati (the late evening darshan). A muted conch blew and a softened bell rang in the background. I imagined that all was dark outside and only the light from the altar illuminated Maharaj on the vyasasan and sincere, listening faces of the devotees. Maharaj was so relaxed, the devotees present so receptive. I envisioned myself sitting amongst them, watching Maharaj's expression as he told a joke or related a crucial element of Krishna consciousness - chanting. I laughed when everyone else laughed, and I got serious when I felt the mood shift in the silence.

After awhile, I opened my eyes to see clouds sliding by.

Since being here at this conference, I feel so like... well, how sometimes in our philosophy that the material world is like the reflection in a lake: distorted, unreal, and upside-down. The reality are the trees on the banks - the spiritual world. I feel like I'm in a bit of a fake, distorted world, and relating with this conference, all the students here want to make an impact on it... maybe by causing a couple ripples in the lake. But how long - ultimately - do those ripples last? What is true, lasting knowledge?

Although I wasn't physically present when Maharaj spoke his class in London, in every sense of the word... I was there. Forget the SUV... I was in the presence of Radha Gokulananda, Radhanath Swami, and the sincere devotees present.

What was the real experience - the car, or the class?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Meditations on the Holy Name: Biology (1 of 3)

My Biology professor stated in class the other day that the American Heart Association has declared - after a massive study of thousands of people - that drinking two alcoholic drinks a day reduces the risk of heart attack and the AHA has recommended to the general populace to drink like the French do.

Why? she asked. Well, alcohol is a depressant, and when you're relaxed, your blood vessels expand and go "Aaaaaaahhhhh... that feels good. Now blood can travel through me with ease," So voila, lowered blood pressure. Scientists have found almost zero cases of hypertension in the Mediterranean area, where the people drink wine like water.

I laughed to think that she was speaking about this to fifty college students. And I also felt quite disturbed by her suggestion. My Lord, did she actually think that I would ever get drunk on a daily basis just to lower my blood pressure?

And then she added, "Oh, yes, and you can also get the same relaxation effects by meditation,"

Now I really wanted to laugh. Hm, big decision: intoxication or meditation?

And then she continued, "Yeah, just breathe in and breathe out. Take those damned iPod thingys OUT of your ears - neurons are still firing in your brain if you're listening to music. Clear your mind of all the million things going on and try this: listen to your heart beat. Just listen. And breathe."

I sat there, dumbfounded. I claim to meditate for over two hours every day, and yet it has never occurred to me to just listen to the heartbeat of the holy name as I chant. Just breathe. And yet I resist. I keep thinking that I have to THINK of something, to push and push. But something that Giri Govardhan taught us on the Winter Bus Tour japa retreat echoes in my thoughts: quiet determination. When the mind wanders away, gently bring it back. Back to my heartbeat.

Even the American Heart Association swears by it; my Biology professor, too. I do believe I agree with her on this one.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My Anchor

The following poem transported me to peace and to thoughts of how our souls are constantly reaching out to anchor onto something. I pray for Lila - a young girl who has recently passed away - and how her soul may anchor to God.

A Noiseless Patient Spider

Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider,
I marked where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Marked how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launched forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be formed, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

My Lighthouse

I encourage you to read a previous blog entry titled "The Vrindavan Virus" for a fuller picture of Mother Tulasi.

I made my way through the trees to the softly glowing templeroom. The thought crossed my mind that tonight was Mother Tulasi's last night to dress Radhe Shyam before she would fly off to India.

I must bid her goodbye, I thought to myself.

When the curtains swished open, I sang to the Deities a lullaby. On the altar, Mother Tulasi performed the puja like a lullaby too, with her soft gestures and liquid eyes. 

When the curtains closed, I remembered that I needed to leave sooner than expected. But I had to bid Mother Tulasi goodbye.

I paced on the verandah and checked the clock every time I switched directions. Come ON Tulasi... what's taking so long? I need to go...!  

I considered popping my head in the templeroom to murmur to her through the curtains that I was waiting. I considered writing a short note. I considered just leaving.

And then I smiled. I realized the reason for her unusual delay: the care and devotion she was instilling in her puja tonight - her final night with Radhe Shyam - made her lose track of time.

Finally, I did peep my head in the templeroom and murmur, "Goodbye, Tulasi," But then she came off of the altar. 

When I greeted her, tears were in her eyes. She smiled and we embraced. I said, "I've been waiting for you to say goodbye. I know it's your last night here," 

"I was giving Shyam a hug," she laughed softly, wiping a tear from her eye. She breathed deep, "But I'll be going to His hometown soon, right?"

"Yes, you will, and you shall see Him everywhere there," I reassured her.

"You're right, I will," she paused. "But I won't be able to give Him a hug," and then she laughed. With one last embrace, I then hurried to my car.

As I drove away, I reflected that I want to serve and love Krishna as Mother Tulasi loves Krishna. She is my example, my lighthouse. In this dark ocean where I can barely tell left from light, her devotion shines. She guides me to the shore of Radhe Shyam.

To write is to dare the soul. So write.