Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Story

This particular story began when I was thirteen - I began to develop a chronic, mysterious illness that only became progressively more painful. One day at school when I was fourteen, Google was just emerging as a tool to find information, so I searched for the symptoms of my illness.

A form of cancer.

6 months to 1 year to live.

I remember that my mind numbed, my vision became sharp and blurred at the same time. I remember that I stood up from the computer and walked out into the hot sun. Students and teachers busily moved about me in a whirl, and one question echoed in my mind:


How do I describe how it feels to hear one's own death sentence? At fourteen, I was planning all the things I would do - the world to travel, schools to establish, people to meet - and in one moment it had all been taken away from me. It seemed so unjust, so unfair.

With my deep nature and immature age, the weight of the mystery of life and death began to crush down upon me that day and for many years to come. I did not tell anyone what I had found. Instead, I searched for the meaning of life in scripture, in my faith.

The next several years brought in a merry-go-round of doctors. One doctor in particular looked at my condition and nearly declared that I had cancer and would need a very invasive surgery if I had any hope to live. Her diagnosis was incorrect, but the mystery persisted.

For my fifteenth summer, I flew to my childhood home of New Vrindavan. A spiritual teacher was visiting then, by the name of Radhanath Swami. One morning he was giving a lecture and I decided to stay. His lecture spoke about life and death - the immediacy that at any moment we may die and the immediacy of taking to spiritual life right now. Tears streamed down my face because I knew he spoke from realization - he must have heard his own death sentence in his life once, because his words resonated so deeply within me.

An elder woman who had known me for many years as a child saw me crying and came over to comfort me. She asked me what was wrong. All I could say was, "This is true."

I struggled for many years with my illness, but I found shelter in Krishna Consciousness, and I found shelter in the guidance of Radhanath Swami.

Radhanath Swami once told me that in metalworking, gold is put into a fire to purify it. The hotter the fire, the purer the metal becomes. Our soul is like that - sometimes if the Lord is especially loving and kind, He will put us into the fire of an experience to purify our soul.

More than a decade has passed since that fateful day at school. Several years ago, my illness left me just as mysteriously as it came. To this day, I still do not know its name or cause.

Or maybe I do: its name was "fire" and its cause was to purify my soul, to learn to live every day of my life, every moment of my life, every breath of my life for the Lord. Some days I weep tears of gratitude for that fire. I am grateful to my spiritual master, Radhanath Swami, for teaching me that that fire was one of the most beautiful blessings I could ever receive from the Lord. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Whirlpool of Words

My brain swirls in whirlpools of words.

I write this in those suspended midnight hours. For hours now - hours - I have labored over three speeches that I am writing for my Speech Writing class.

The other evening I attended a live theater performance, and one of my professors stepped in to say the lines: "Writers aren't sacred, words are."

When for the Lord, sacred indeed.


To pray is to serve; to serve is to love; to love is to live. I pray to serve my spiritual master with love for as long as I live.  

The Lord is my North Star when I am lost and I have lost everything; the Lord is my sun when I am found and I have found everything. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mystic Moment

I sit upon the stone ledge in the temple of Radha Raman. The sun slants through the courtyard and holds my face. Incense fills the cool air, sweet and smoky. An old sadhu sings to his lord, Radha Raman. His voice spirals through the air like...

... like birds that loop through the sunset over the Yamuna River.

Amazing. I had just closed my eyes to find the words to describe the sadhu's singing. Suddenly, I felt something fall over my head. I jerked open my eyes.

A pujari had placed a garland from Radha Raman around my neck. The fragrance of roses encircled me in an embrace.

Every moment in Vrindavan is edged with the ethereal.

The Most Beautiful Poem

I flip through the pages of a thick book by my favorite poet, seeking inspiration to write a speech for a college class. I skim for eye-catching words, but then land upon a poem that draws me all the way in.

"Wow," I breathe.

I softly knock on Shalagram's door. "Come in," she says.

She's eating dinner in front of her window, and I settle upon her mattress. "May I read you a poem?" I ask.

"Sure," she says. "Who is it by?"

"The ancient Sufi poet, Hafiz," I reply.

When I finish my declamation, we sit in silence for several moments. Then, "Wow," Shalagram breathes.

"Stunning, no?"

"Amazing. Bhakti, do you think it's possible to have that kind of love?"

I ponder for a moment. "It's not possible with material love," I say. "Only spiritual love. I realize that... Srila Prabhupad has shown this love to us. How profound that he has shown this love to thousands and millions of us."

We sit in silence for a couple moments more, pondering this poem.


"Some Fill With Each Good Rain"

There are different wells within your heart
Some fill with each good rain,
Others are far too deep for that.

In one well
You have just a few precious cups of water,

That "love" is literally something of yourself,
It can grow as slow as a diamond
If it is lost.

Your love
Should never be offered to the mouth of a

Only to someone
Who has the valor and daring
To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife

Then weave them into a blanket
To protect you.

There are different wells within us.
Some fill with each good rain,

Others are far, far too deep
For that.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Welcome to the South India Yatra

Once again I have forgotten to eat and sleep for days and I am glued to my computer - specifically my video editing program. I stayed up until 3am last night working on this video on the South India Yatra. Sometimes when a project consumes me, it consumes me. I am now utterly absorbed in the world of South India, the stunning beauty of the devotees on the Yatra, and the magic of listening to my beloved spiritual master.

I am such a novice, but I now offer this humble video to you with a grateful heart.

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To write is to dare the soul. So write.