Monday, October 24, 2011

Tears of Love

"When will my eyes be decorated with tears of love when I chant Your holy name?" - Sri Shikshastakam, 6th verse

I never quite know what to expect when I come to the temple of Radhe Shyam. Each visit is a gift, each visit is an adventure. I never know who I'll meet, what conversations I'll have, what experience shall wash upon the shore of my life.

This afternoon, one wave came that washed my soul in stillness.

In the velvet quiet of the temple room, I settled to the marble floor to chant japa. The only other person there besides me was an old Bengali woman. I have seen her around the temple many times with her daughter and grandchildren. She doesn't speak a word of English, but we have always exchanged smiles.

My japa felt especially deep this afternoon - so much that I felt inspired to set my beads aside for a little while to pick up the harmonium and sing "Krishna Deva Bhavantam Vande." This bhajan contains a line that especially resonates with me, and I paraphrase the translation in my heart when I sing it: "Oh Krishna, I possess only a sesame seed of bhakti. But You make the impossible possible, so please grant me the grace to devote my soul to You."

The old Bengali woman wandered over to where I sat. She didn't know the words, but she swayed and clapped off-beat, absorbed in the bhajan. We exchanged a smile. Then I pumped the harmonium one last time and picked up my beads again to chant.

Time meandered by and the old woman settled close to the altar to gaze at the forms of the Lord, Radhe Shyam. And then, with simple grace, she offered her obeisance with her whole body, as if she had collapsed to the floor.

For a moment I was stunned - the thought crossed my mind that maybe she had come to the temple to leave her body, so different was this obeisance, so profound in surrender did it strike me.

The woman slowly got to her feet. When she turned I saw that her face shone with tears. To my surprise, she walked right over to me, knelt, and we embraced. She was weeping and weeping - I could feel her chest gently heaving. We came away from each other to look into each others' eyes - her eyes were shining. We embraced again.

Her bhakti surrounded me like a warm woolen shawl.

When the woman pulled away with her arm still around my shoulders, she gestured to Radhe Shyam and murmured, "Oh Krishna! Oh Krishna!" She brushed the floor and touched her hand to her head in rapture. She rose to her feet and faced the Lord with her arms upraised, still weeping.

I folded my palms and bowed my head to this woman. I wept simple tears, deeply humbled.

This woman doesn't speak a word of English and we shall probably never engage in a full conversation, ever. But the connection of our hearts said more than words ever could; the tears in our eyes united us beyond barriers of age, language, race, culture...

Oh Krishna, thank You. Today You made the impossible possible - through Your beloved devotee, You gave me a glimpse into the mystery of bhakti

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