Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Song of the Gopis

"Tomorrow I will be visiting the holy land of Sri Vrindavan for the very first time," I told Radhanath Swami. We were sitting in his room on a bright morning in Mumbai. 

"The first time?" he inquired. I had grown up as a devotee of Krishna, and I imagine he found it surprising that I was 21 before I had finally come to make this pilgrimage.  

"Yes, Maharaj," I replied. "Would you please offer me some guidance on how I should approach the holy land?"

Radhanath Swami pondered for several long moments. Then his eyes held mine and he said in a deep tone, "Seek out those who live pure lives. You can socialize anywhere in the world, but the holy land is special. So seek the essence in your association." 

The very next day, the romantic vision of the holy land that I had grown up with came crashing all around me in a cold shock. One person who saved me was my friend Manjari. I lived with her for a month and a half, and on that fateful night of arrival, she welcomed me into the heart of Vrindavan.

Manjari is a beautiful young woman who long ago committed to the path of celibacy and has dedicated her entire being to the service of her spiritual master and to God. She is also an artist and a singer.

Many mornings, in the silky quiet, I would wake up to the soft, deep voice of Manjari in the room next to mine. She would be singing Gopi Gita, or "The Song of the Gopis". She would light two or three candles and sing to several sacred pictures. Then when she finished singing the Gopi Gita, she would fall into the resonant tones of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.

During the day she would pour her soul onto canvas. For hours upon hours on end, she would immerse herself in the scene where Krishna comes to beg forgiveness from the gopis after they offer such heartfelt prayers.

I offer my deep gratitude to Manjari. She showed me a glimpse of Vrindavan that I never saw with my material eyes.


Below is a simple video I created that I have been meaning to publish for many months now in her honor.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


"I am drowning in this ocean of misery, my dear Lord. Please rescue me."

This is a line from one of my favorite songs, Dukher Sagore. I have sought solace in this song for many, many years, even when I was just listening to an old tape recording and didn't even know what the words meant. You could say that this sounds like such a dire prayer, but as time goes on I experience more and more peace and surrender in this bhajan whenever I sing it. Curious, huh?

Last night when I stepped inside of the temple, the muscles in my face went soft. In the winter quiet and stillness, I let my fingers flow over the keys of the harmonium. The curtains swung open and I offered obeisance to my Lords, Sri Radha Shyamasundar. I sang Dukher Sagore as an offering, a lullaby, and quiet and stillness surrounded me like a deep lake that mirrors the sky.

Maybe I find such solace in this bhajan because when I come before the Lord with soft eyes and a soft voice in prayer, I allow the Lord to rescue me. 

I was given the opportunity to sing for the 24 Hour Kirtan in New Vrindavan this past summer. I decided to sing Hare Krishna in the melody of this song, and below is a portion of that video.

I poured every moment and memory of lullaby into the kirtan.

or click here

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Three devotees left this world last night in a car accident. I knew all three - Tim, Yadupati, and Nitai.

I have had a hard time catching my breath all day. I feel dizzy. I've walked through my day here but not here, like my head is floating above my body. I've paced the house, my mind scattered into shards of glass thoughts. I have felt and heard my heart pumping all day. I want to be around people and I want to be alone. Prayers don't come to mind. Only memories and images.

This evening I left for the kirtan memorial at the temple, unable to bear being alone in my grief any more. I entered into the softly lit templeroom, the room resounding from wall to wall with the beat of the mridanga drum and hundreds of voices.

I settled in close. I closed my eyes and felt my tornado of confusion and sadness and anger all twisting and whirling about inside of me. The kirtan kept building. At last, at last, my body responded in a way my mind never could -

I raised my arms.

The only relief from the tornado was to raise my arms. Surrender. I don't know, Krishna, I don't know. I don't even know if You exist, but I surrender anyway.

When the curtains opened for all of us to receive the darshan of Gaura Nitai, Radhe Shyam, and Krishna Balaram, I felt the urge to cover my head and go right up to the altar. I leaned up against the wall in front of Gaura Nitai. I felt so fragile. I realized that my whole body was trembling.

Images of Tim, Yadupati, and Nitai kept flashing through my mind. All loved kirtan. All loved to serve. The three of them were probably off on some service venture when the Lord took them.

I remember Tim in kirtan - he seemed to be a man who lived and breathed off of kirtan, whether the crowd was in the hundreds or just the two of us singing on campus at Krishna Lunch. Yadupati was an older gurukuli who was also addicted to kirtan - I rarely saw him without a drum. I saw him always within the whorl of the holy name.

Nitai was a dear friend whom my family and I have known for many years, and he was also a godbrother, his face so effulgent. I remember him always - always - talking about Radhanath Swami and his next scheme to somehow or other serve his beloved guru. His smile and enthusiasm was contagious.

And now they're gone.


I have just returned from the temple to write this. I do not know where to go from here. I just feel this need to write, to express grief.

Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu asked, "Of all kinds of distress, what is the most painful?" Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya replied, "Apart from separation from the devotee of Kṛṣṇa, I know of no unbearable unhappiness." 
- CC Madhya 8.248




To write is to dare the soul. So write.