Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My First Class

Early Memories of My Guru
One: My First Class

All my life I’ve grown up listening to class. But actually, I never listened – I was just bored or zoned out the whole time. In the gurukula day school, class was a requirement, and day after day I would arrange my skirt around me in a perfect circle out of sheer boredom.

But one memory stands out in my childhood.

About 14 years ago in New Vrindavan, when I was 8 years old, I attended a sleepover birthday party. We had so much fun and stayed up so late that upon the mischief and inspiration of my elder sister, who was 13, we decided to set out on an adventure: Mangala Arati, the early morning service.

So at around 3 in the morning, about five of us girls grabbed our blankets and flashlights and walked up the arduous mountain road to the temple of Radha Vrindavan Chandra. When we arrived, the temple was empty and quiet. No one was even up yet.

We tiptoed into the templeroom, but we had an hour to go until the service began. So with our blankets, we all slid under the giant, hand-carved wooden rathayatra cart for a nap.

Of course, we slept through Mangala Arati, and we groggily woke up during darshan arati, the 7am service. Upon the admonishment of my mother, we moved to the side lobby to sleep on the couches.

This side lobby is situated just on the other side of the templeroom wall, and actually a portion of the wall is cut out to accommodate a giant window which looks out into the templeroom. A speaker installed in a corner transmits audio from the templeroom.

Most of the girls in our ragtag party went back home, but my friend Joyful and I stayed. We were sleeping in this lobby when class began. I expected to be lulled back to sleep, but I found my ear drawn into the story. Joyful and I glanced at each other at times – we were both listening.

I remember feeling amazed. I never liked class. But somehow, here I was, and I was captivated. “Who’s giving class?” I asked Joyful.

She got up and peered through the glass window into the templeroom. “Radhanath Swami,”

“Hm,” I said. She returned to the couch and we sat up, still wrapped in our blankets, and listened. At times we laughed, or commented to each other.

I still remember the gist of his class. He was speaking about compassion; he told a recent story about a man who was tending to Tulasi devi. Somehow, there were bugs that were eating her leaves, or ants were invading the garden, but the man had felt such a respect for life that he had dealt with the insects with compassion – he hadn’t killed them – yet he still saved Tulasi devi.

When Radhanath Swami finished speaking, I wanted to hear more! I had never felt like that about class. Over the years I would sometimes recall that memory of how it felt to listen to a class given by Radhanath Swami.

I was 8 years old at the time – I didn’t know the function of a guru, or that the study of scripture is important, or that to take shelter of a spiritual master is essential to spiritual life. I simply remember that someone touched my heart.

14 years later, I have found that Radhanath Swami is the guru of my heart – because I chose him – and the guru of my soul – because he has been my spiritual master all along.

I realize that the guru-disciple relationship is within the heart in the form of a seed, and it blossoms over time with the water and sunlight of sincerity, the sincerity to seek the truth.

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