Thursday, October 24, 2013

Worry Surgery

I lean in and place a bracelet around the wrist of Murlidhar, the deity of the Lord here in Manhattan. Trays filled with mirrored cloth and glittering jewelry surround me. The morning is quiet. Even the sounds from the street below are muted.

I reach for Radharani's garland and place it around Her neck. Too long. I take it off, tie it to make it a little shorter. Still too long. I take it off and tie it again.

Now I can barely fit it over Her head. When it finally goes over, the garland is so small that it looks like some strange flower necklace. Radharani looks a little miffed.

"Oh no," I mutter. My face flushes. I shimmy the garland back over Radharani's head, murmuring my apologies.

I rush back to the pujari room and get out a pair of scissors. Maybe I can cut the string, retie it at a longer length... but the flowers are delicate and keep slipping off, the garland is getting shorter and shorter. The thread is slippery and the knots are not staying.

I'm starting to sweat. I feel like I'm in the midst of a surgery gone awry.

My friend Ghanashyam, who is offering worship to the smaller deities this morning, comes into the altar room loaded down with several trays.

"Ghanashyam," I say with a note of panic. "Radharani's garland... I tied it too short, and now I don't know what to do,"

Ever equipoised, Ghanashyam puts down his trays and says, "Oh really?"

"Yes," I say. We both peer down at the garland and discuss a plan of action. "This is garland surgery," I say.

Ghanashyam is working on the garland and then says quietly, "Scissors,"

I get the scissors and hand them to him, grinning, "Scalpel,"

We both laugh.

But even with Ghanashyam's attempts, the garland still seems to not be working right.

"Go do what you need to do," Ghanashyam says. "I'll handle this,"

"Okay," I say, relieved. Radha Murlidhar still need so much more in Their dressing today.

I rush back to the altar. Only fifteen minutes left to make Murlidhar's turban and finish dressing. The clock is ticking. At this point, I realize that Radha Murlidhar are dressing Themselves. There is no way that I could be doing this.

I head back to the altar room, where Ghanashyam holds up the garland, "It's okay now,"

"Really?" my eyes widen. The garland is perfect. "How?"

"I called in the reinforcements - Murali Gopal. He fixed it. Don't know how, but here it is,"

Relief rushes through me. "Thank you," I say reverentially. We both head to the altar, and Ghanashyam hands the garland to me to place around Radharani's neck.

"I'm nervous, why don't you do it," I say.

"Go ahead, it'll be fine."

I gingerly take the garland and gently place it around Radharani.

"Great," Ghanshyam says.

"Thank you," I say again. I continue with dressing. My hands seem to move on their own accord, tying Krishna's turban, placing Radharani's crown, tying up sashes and veils. Ghanashyam and I clean up everything and when I look at the clock to blow the conch shell, it's 8:30 - smack on time. I am in shock.

I blow the conch. Open the curtains.

When I offer the small arati to Radha Murlidhar, I observe how They're dressed from an artistic stance. Although I see so many areas that could be improved, for some reason They simply look perfect. I surrender to how the imperfection is Their perfection.

Back in the pujari room, Ghanashyam remarks to me, "That was a close call with that garland,"

"My God, I know," I reply.

"You were totally in anxiety," He laughs. "Even I began to get in anxiety."

"Amazing." I say. "You know, I've been experiencing so much worry lately about my life, it's almost ghostly. Just constantly plagued with anxiety about where I'm going to live, what I'm going to do. But this... this was worry for Krishna. Strangely enough, I found it almost almost liberating. Like, whew, I can breathe now. I feel clean. Does that make sense?"

"Yes," Ghanashyam replies. "Actually, a pujari is in the parental mood, to take care of Krishna and to worry for Him. Our worry for Him can actually be purifying,"

Ever since that morning of dressing Radha Murlidhar and worrying about God, the worry about my own life seems to have dissolved away. Trust remains.

Seems like Krishna did surgery on my worry.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


I had a chronic illness when I was 13 that lasted for five years. I went to many doctors but none could figure it out. I faced many possibilities - invasive surgery, death, but nothing was certain.

So for five years I saw through the vision of death. Not every day, but many days. Even when my illness went away, this vision persisted. I often had this sense that my life would be over in mere seconds, everyone and everything around me would be devoured by time. It was a terrible vision; a gift and a burden.

I remember many years ago how I left my house in Alachua carrying my suitcase at night. I was on my way to join the Winter Bus Tour to Mexico, which would last for 3 adventurous weeks.

I walked down the faded blue front steps and the vision fell over me - all too soon I would be returning to these blue front steps with my bags in hand, the Winter Bus Tour but a memory. Gone. Like sand through my fingers. Just gone.

This happened countless times - carrying my suitcase down those blue front steps, off to my next destination, and then returning. From being gone a couple days to being gone an entire year - it didn't matter.

Time passed.

During that time, I would see my friends and parents through the lens of death - soon they would all be gone. And who knows - tomorrow God may take me. God takes thousands of people every day - every moment - without any warning.

When I was about 14, I read a verse in the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna says, "I am Time, the great destroyer of the worlds." Krishna gave divine eyes to Arjuna so that His friend could witness Krishna's universal form. Arjuna witnessed armies and worlds being devoured, the cosmos spinning, everything whirling and whirling and whirling... at last Arjuna cried out, "Stop, please, stop."

He continued, "Please... show me Your form as Krishna, my friend, the one who plays the flute. The one whom I can offer my love to."

So Krishna showed His form as Krishna. Just Krishna.

Timeless Krishna.

That is the vision I want. I just want Krishna. I want Krishna when He plays His flute, someone I can cook for, put to bed and read to Him at night, someone I can bathe and dress and murmur to, "How are you today?"

I hope one day that I can feel Krishna put His arms around me and hold me. That is all I want.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Within and Without

(me at 14)

January 28th, 2002

Sometimes I feel like 14, other times I feel like 3 1/2, other times I feel like 75. So many things to make me feel young and child-like... so many things to make me feel old and withered. Some things I wish I had never seen or never been exposed to. There other things that I want to be experiencing. 

No matter how much I swing around in feelings, I'm still me. I want to try and accept that. It's hard, but I'll try.

My life is going to be a huge adventure, a path that is uncertain. At the same time it is very certain because Krishna is in my life, and there IS a path. At least I'm on a path, not stumbling through the forest.


I was a pretty existential kid, huh?

I guess I'm still an existential kid.

When I read the above journal entry, I realize that my life has been a huge adventure. In the past 12 years, I have tirelessly ventured outward to explore the world with its languages and cultures and foods and expressions of love. I have rafted raging rivers and climbed glaciers; I have prayed in cathedrals and temples and mosques and literally circled the world.  

Yet I have experienced boredom in my life, sometimes while doing those very same adventurous activities. So painful. Why? Why?

So even more powerfully, year after year I have relentlessly ventured inward. Questions drive me to seek the essence, seek the experience of the soul. In this sense, the journal entry above when I was 14 is my adventure.

I experience boredom to the extent that I am disconnected from my journey towards my self and God.

Every day is a new day to stay in the fire. To wake up each morning to an adventure within and without.

This blog post included. 

"Adventure is not outside man; it is within." - George Eliot 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

God is Here

Looking at the photos below, I'm sitting in my chair in front of my computer and I can hear my heart pound. My mind is wiped of all thoughts and my world has become a quiet lake. 

Everything's going to be all right. God is here. 

I pray that one day Their Lordships Gaura Nitai, Radha Shyamasundar, and Krishna Balaram will allow me to come before Them and be Their servant. 

(photo credits Damodar Rati Dasa)

To write is to dare the soul. So write.