Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fill the Hole

Yesterday I was walking to Whole Foods Market to drink a kombucha and write in my journal. I felt tired, aimless. My chest felt cold and empty, like a hearth where the fire has gone out.

"Bhakti, hey, nice to see you!"

I looked up and saw Hema, a beautiful young lady I got to be acquainted with at the Bhakti Center.

I smiled. "Oh, Hema! Nice to see you, too," I replied.

"Hey, are you tired? Sad?"

I laughed sardonically. "Not tired. More... aimless."

"Yes, that's it, that's what I see on your face. Well, I'm headed over to Atma's evening program over at 26 2nd Avenue, you want to come with me?"

I hesitated. "What's the program?"

"I wasn't even going to go, but a friend of mine asked if I was coming. She said there was a special speaker tonight. There'll be kirtan,"

"And prasadam?"

"Yes, and prasadam,"

I grinned, "Okay, let's go,"

We set off to the small storefront that was the place where the International Society for Krishna Consciousness all began. I felt like a newbie off the street, coming to this whole Krishna world for the first time.

We walked into the packed room and wove our way to the front. Romapada Swami was the special guest, but sigh, just our luck he had just finished speaking. Kirtan soon began. I felt skeptical, a little dry. Amazing how I felt like a newcomer.

Different singers came forward to sing, and with each kirtan I paid more and more attention. Then, the last kirtan was lead by a spunky lady and yoga teacher here in the city. Somehow her raw kirtan just pierced right to the emptiness in my heart. I sang in response and the words kept passing like signs through my mind, "Fill the hole, fill the hole,"

I felt the hole get filled. Actually. For those couple minutes with closed eyes singing the holy name, I felt the hole get filled.

After the kirtan, I helped serve prasadam and I interacted so lovingly with other seekers of God.

Within another hour or so, though, my heart emptied out again.

This is my life lately. Emptiness. Then the hole fills with the next kirtan. Or conscious bite of prasadam. Or the moment I tuck the deity form of the Lord into bed. Or a soul-moving conversation with a devotee. Each time this happens, I just pause in wonder and awe. Then, soon after, my heart empties.

Crazy how in New York City I feel this raw, raw need for God as a person in my life.

[I just saw this picture and it seems to capture the essence of the title of this post.]

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Searching, Searching

When I was in India and I got homesick for America, I would have a very specific daydream:

The library.

Wander into a beautiful library with vast ceilings, shelves filled with books and books, immerse myself in the mystical mood of knowledge and inquiry. And of course, AC. Then, I would settle into a nook and read lovely children's picture books. 

So yesterday I caught the F train to the New York Library on Fifth Avenue, one of the most famous and magnificent libraries in the world.

(photo by flickr.com)

I wandered vast marble halls and passed giant oak doors with gilt metal handles. I made my way to the children's section and read lovely children's picture books. And there was AC!

I stayed for awhile.

Nice. Yeah. I wandered back out onto Fifth Avenue, the buildings stretching to the sky, rivers of people moving along the sidewalks. I walked into Zara to admire clothes. Within minutes, I walked out. I picked a direction and eventually came to a bookstore, but even there I felt the fever of everyone around me to buy, buy, buy.

I felt the energy pulsate in the air of everyone searching for something, searching, searching

Including me. 

At last, a little dizzy, I took the F train back to the Bhakti Center.

Recently, I received brahmin initiation, which allows me the responsibility and privilege to worship the Lord in His deity form on the altar. That evening, I was scheduled to receive training to put Radha Murlidhar to rest.

When I came back from my city sojourns, I showered and put on a sari. I entered the templeroom and a whoosh of quiet fell over me. Soon, my teacher greeted me with a smile and training began. We prepared a tray of cookies, fruit, and milk in shining silver bowls, and I offered a short arati of incense and flowers. Several people came to sing evening lullabies for the Lord.

The cold and hard edges of the entire day seemed to soften.

We closed the curtains. I moved to place the small brass deities of Radha Murlidhar into Their wooden bed. I moved Them with such tenderness, like a mother tucking her children into bed. I stepped back to look at Them sleeping and I sighed.

How many times must I lose Krishna to realize that He is to be found within my own heart?

(photo by Alex Vaishnava)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

An Official Mystery

"You want to walk with Radhanath Swami and me to the Union Square Park harinam?" Dhanurdhara Swami asked me. We were conversing in a hallway of the Bhakti Center in New York City.

"Why, sure!" I replied.

"Let me just go ask him, and I'll get back to you. We'll leave soon, so just stick around,"

I nodded.

I had just flown in from India that very morning after being gone from America for almost an entire year. I kid you not when I say that tears stung my eyes when I walked through the corridors of Newark Airport. I was on American "soil"! I felt unabashedly patriotic.

Today was also the day that I had officially moved into the Bhakti Center - to give this Center and this city a whirl in service for awhile, see how things go.

A half an hour later, Dhanurdhara Swami ushered me to join him and Radhanath Swami, but the time was running late so we hailed a cab. As usual, I felt nervous to be around my spiritual master, who is such a huge guiding force in my life. The two swamis got into the back and I got into the front. How surreal, I thought. I'm riding in a cab with such eminent personalities. 

When we got out of the cab at Union Square Park, I could hear the distant thrum of the mridanga drum and the soft 'ting' of the karatalas. We were getting closer to the harinam.

I circled around to join the two dignified Swamis in their flowing orange robes. Radhanath Swami caught my eye. A mysterious smile lit up his face and he intoned, "Bhakti lata, today I officially give to you New York City."

My eyes widened. "Really?" That sounded pretty important, but I was puzzled. "What does that mean?"

"In time, everything will be revealed," he replied enigmatically.

I knit my eyebrows. I turned to Dhanurdhara Swami, "Maharaj, what does that mean, that Radhanath Swami has officially given to me New York City?"

"Ah, this is called Prabhudatta Desha,"

"Prabhupada Desha?" I said, trying to clarify.

"No, Prabhudatta, with a 't.' Prabhudatta Desha,"

"Prabhudatta Desha," I said carefully. The three of us were now walking abreast, weaving through crowds, approaching the harinam.

"Yes," Dhanurdhara Swami said, "This means 'the place of residence that the guru gives to you as your main place of service,'"

I was stunned. I looked over to Radhanath Swami. He grinned. "I told you that everything would soon be revealed."

A week later and I am realizing that his words will take a lifetime to be revealed.

Manhattan skyline the morning I arrived

Union Square Park harinam


To write is to dare the soul. So write.