Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Night

I went from the concrete world of New York City to the emerald world of New Gokula. I'm breathing in jasmine, cow dung, the river, and now the rain. I can feel it all on my skin, in my lungs. The day was hot and sweet, and now the night and rain is falling and it's cool and sweet.

Here in my room, I can hear sashes of kirtan from the temple wind down the hill and tickle my ear. My life has boiled down to one directive: chant the holy name. For someone who has been religiously tending to her agenda, juggling a dozen duties every day, I find myself unarmed.

My only agenda is to chant. Eat, sleep, then chant more. And dance.

When I'm in kirtan, I just want to stay, stay, stay. I am discovering an addictive peace. I have to tear myself away to eat. Life literally melts way and I am right here, right now.

A couple hours remain in 2014. Dear reader, I'm glad we got to spend the year together. I pray that wherever life takes you, life takes you to love.

The ticklings in my ear are getting so insistent!! Oh my God. I must run up the hill and dash into the templeroom because I know some crazy dancing is going down.

Gotta go party with God.

Happy New Year ;)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

That´s a Wrap!

2014, what a year! Only one day left. What's gone down in the past 364 days? 

Flew into Hawaii to spend time with my parents


my parent's deities, Sri Radha Raman



 Honolulu Rathayatra!


Ghanashyam came to Hawaii in February to seek blessings from my parents

I moved to upstate New York with the wonderful Mother Kaulini while I did my Yoga Teacher Training with Raghunath and Sondra


from beaches to snow!


Yoga Teacher Training

I got to live next door to Satsvarupa Maharaj for several months

dressing Satsvarupa Maharaj´s Gaura Nitai deities

visits to New York City and Sri Radha Murlidhara

spring is in the air 


moved to Brooklyn New York

Got accepted into the Master´s in Education program at Brooklyn College


a bridesmaid at the wedding of my dear friend Syama (photo by Sharon)



Kartik in New York (photo by Francesca)

taught an 8-week course in kirtan with 14 sincere students

Christmas spirit in New York

One year of being together


 I write this now in Sao Paulo Brazil, as I am here for Kirtan Fest. I am realizing that this year has been challenging and blessed in a thousand ways. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, in every way.

May the holy name ring in a rockin´ 2015!   

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Your Shore

Below is a poem I wrote several years ago. These words came to me very strongly this evening, and I have been deeply absorbed in what it truly means to return once more, once more, once more to my spiritual teacher and my spiritual path. 



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Lovely Evening



In the hot summer evening, I stepped onto the cool marble. The cavernous, circular hall echoed with the soft tones of Bengali. Pillars ringed the hall, and the ceiling vaulted high, high up. I lifted my gaze up to the domed ceiling, which was decorated with mosaics depicting scenes of the life of the great saint and missionary, Srila Prabhupad. Below, in the center of this domed, cathedral-like space, stood the altar, which held a golden murti [sacred statue] of Srila Prabhupad.

I settled to a marble step and pulled out my long bamboo flute. I had been taking lessons, and I was such a novice. But here in this grand space, my simple flute playing echoed and echoed and filled the air and filled my body. The flute became my voice to sing a lullaby to Srila Prabhupad.

I had been living in the holy village of Mayapur in India for about 6 months, and recently I had begun to come every evening to the samadhi to play flute. Often, I would fall quiet and gaze up at the mosaics, lost in thought and lost in the glory of everything Srila Prabhupad had done for the world.

I prayed that somehow I would assist him in some way, even if small. But I was open to big, too!

I played my flute until the pujari swished closed the red velvet curtains. I took the flute from my lips, and in the sudden quiet I fell to my knees to the cool marble and offered my respects. The sound of the flute feathered away to silence.



Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Long-Awaited Bath

June 20th, 2013

I lived in the holy village of Mayapur, India for 8 months and I had never taken a sacred bath in the waters of the River Ganga. My very last day in Mayapur, I was on a mission to submerge my chanting beads in the Ganga. I had thought that maybe I would also bathe, but now that time was ticking closer and closer to my departure, I started to chicken out. It was impractical; I would have wet clothes, I'd need to take a shower and pack up...

Finally, at 1 in the afternoon with the sun high in the sky, I made my way to Prabhupad Ghat between the tall waving grasses. I approached Mother Ganga reverently and offered my obeisance, the silky mud pressing against my knees, palms, and forehead. 

I stood up, folded my palms and offered prayers. Then I crouched down and submerged my beads in the river, chanting the holy name. I swished the beads in the golden brown water, the sun glinting off of the surface. Reverent pilgrims were offering beautiful Sanskrit prayers before bathing.

I prayed to Mother Ganga to please support me in my vows on the path to the Lord.

I waded my way out of the shallow water and stood on the bank, gazing at the beautiful, sacred river. My heart began to pound. I should just leave, it's too late now, too much of a hassle...

Then I thought, "I would never forgive myself if I had come all this way across the world, lived in Mayapur for 8 months, came to her waters the day I left... and never took bath."

With that, I set my beads aside on the bank, took off my shawl... and wearing my full salwar top and pants I waded into the waters. The water was cool and sweet. The mud squished between my toes.  I was grinning, giggling. 

When I reached a spot about hip-deep, I slid back and dunked all the way down! Woo-hoo!! Cool water washed over me. I dunked again. I was immersed in cool golden sunlight. I dunked a third time and came up, palms folded, grinning, laughing. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for giving me the courage, thank you.

May I go out into the world now and share Your love. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Journey of Service

Last year when I was living in the holy village of Mayapur, I would visit Srila Prabhupad's samadhi and pray, pray to be of service. I passed many evenings of prayer in that great marble hall surrounded by the glory of Srila Prabhupad's life. The whisperings of my heart crystallized: go to New York.

When I moved to New York City last summer, I was on fire with so many services! One service offered to me was to teach Kirtan Connection, which I formulated into an 8-week course on how to lead kirtan. 5 students enrolled.

Teaching Kirtan Connection was profound. After every class I taught last year, I kept sensing that "this is why I came. This is why I came." Whether the class was a trial or a triumph, that sense of unconditional service persisted. Four students graduated by leading a full Hare Krishna kirtan in the templeroom, in front of Sri Radha Murlidhara and Srila Prabhupad.

This year, I taught Kirtan Connection once again. The class size tripled. So did the triumphs, so did the trials. Every single day when I chanted my morning japa meditation, I would be flooded with insecurities. As a teacher am I being too controlling? Unclear? Inconsistent? I kept returning to the thought: I have no qualification to teach kirtan, what am I doing?? There are others way more qualified. 

I wrote about it, talked about it, I appealed to mentors for counsel. Solace came in trickles, soothing the burning in my heart.

When graduation came, students lead their individual kirtans, bhajans, and group kirtans. Each kirtan was a gem. Chills raced up my spine with every person who lead. When kirtans had concluded, completeness settled into my heart. Everything I felt that I had been missing through teaching, all my insecurities, everything just filled or vanished and all was quiet and joyful.

In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, there is no other way, no other way, no other way for deliverance than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name.  

I pray that I may continue to be of service with humility and love.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Snapshots and Huge Pictures

Have you ever noticed that I tend to write on my blog about "snapshot" experiences that somehow impact my heart?

Have you ever noticed that I rarely write about the "huge picture" experiences that impact my heart?

Maybe it's because the "snapshot" experiences can be shared simply enough as a full, complete picture.

Invariably, every time I want to write about a "huge picture" experience, I feel like I'm gushing: "Oh my god, it was unbelievable, amazing, I'm speechless, so profound and beautiful and amaaaaaaazing. Life transformative. Wow."

Seriously. That's pretty much how I want to describe Bus Tours, Satvatove seminars, festivals in Alachua, visiting Mayapur, Vrindavan, Mumbai, or South India, an encounter with Radhanath Swami, studying in India, the Mayapur Academy, attending a kirtan festival in Brazil, 24 Hour Kirtans...

All of these experiences are unbelievable, profound, life transformative, amaaaaaazing. They feel so vast though, I wonder where to begin, how I could possibly encompass such a powerful experience in a little blog post. It's as if I'm trying to fit all of those sky-wide emotions into a 300-word post with maybe a couple grainy cell phone pictures.

I'm sure you've had this experience, too - you'll have gone on a vacation and when you return people ask you, "So, how was it?"

What do you say? "It was great." And maybe, if you're like me, you'll say, "It was amaaaaaaazing. Beyond words."

I am having this dilemma in trying to describe the experience of teaching these two Kirtan Connection courses that just concluded. There were 15 people total in 2 levels, and we just had our epic graduation on Sunday. It wasn't a neat experience that I could describe in a couple hundred words.

But I will try. My next blog post I will dedicate to the experience in teaching Kirtan Connection, to honor those who saw me through - Ghanashyam, Dhira Govinda Prabhu, and Badahari Prabhu; those who graduated, and Srila Prabhupad.

Yes, it was a profound experience. Beyond words. At the same time, the service of the writer is to put the un-wordable experiences into words so that others may share in the beauty. That is what Srila Prabhupad did.

I'll do my humble best to share the "huge picture." 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bhakti lata At A Glance

This was my homework assignment today for one of my English classes:

Draft your own autobiographical poem and follow this structure:

The first line is your first name, followed by a line of three words that describe you to yourself. The next line is something you love, then something you hate, something you fear, and something you wish for. The last line is your last name.

Bhakti lata
Searching, committed, deep
I love to listen to the murmurs and sing like a tiger
        the Lord's holy name
I hate my own crippling weaknesses
I fear that I am unlovable
I wish to love unconditionally
Dasi


P.S. So, dear reader, what's YOUR poem?


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Every Day Just Write

On August 1st, 2014, I began a 30 day x-ray (30dayxray.blogspot.com). This is a challenge to write every single day for one month. 

I took it to 60 days.

Then 90 days.

This Friday, I concluded the 90 day x-ray.

90 days, a blog post every single day. I believe that the single most powerful experience for me in publishing a post every day was to surrender. Let go. Share. A picture, some words, a full-on story, poetry, little things, big things, realizations about money, love, time, the holy name. Random thoughts, cohesive thoughts. Whatever. Just post. 

I posted.

I surrendered to the powerful current of this commitment to post something every day. Often I found myself at a loss and just lost. But because of my commitment, being lost was no excuse. So what if I'm lost?

Get found.

Post. 

"Whenever you find time, you write. Never mind, two lines, four lines, but you write your realization."

- Srila Prabhupada
Los Angeles, August 14th, 1972


Friday, October 3, 2014

The Awesomest

Tonight I went to Bhagavad Gita class at the Bhakti Center, and we are in the midst of the 10th chapter, which describes the opulence of God.

This is God:

I am adventure. 

I am the beginning, the middle, the end. 

Of bodies of water, I am the ocean. 

I am all-devouring death. 

I am the generating force of all that is yet to be. 

I am the taste of water. 

Of secrets, I am silence. 

Of immovable things, I am the Himalayas. 

Of all sacrifices, I am the chanting of the holy name. 

Know that all beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.

God is so great. I can choose to see Him in every moment, every breath, every step I take in this world. He is everywhere. He is so amazing, so beautiful, so perfect.

Although He is so vast and great, I also know that Krishna is a simple, lovely boy who takes care of cows and steals butter. 

Combine these two aspects - the awe-inspiring universal form and the heart-melting lovable cowboy - and I just want to love Krishna every day of my life, take shelter of his awesomeness.

I swear, there must be a verse in the Bhagavad Gita, it MUST be in there: Of all awesome people, I am the awesomest.




Friday, September 26, 2014

Chant the Holy Name

*name has been changed in this post for privacy

"May I help you in some way?" I asked the customer who had just walked into La Maison du Chocolat.

"Sure," she replied, "I'm looking for a gift for a friend,"

"Okay, sure, what would you be looking for? Your budget?"

"Well, she is very sick,"

I was taken aback for a moment, then I laughed, "I see, and chocolate is the medication,"

"I mean, she is very... very sick,"

I grew sober, "Ah, I see." I continued to guide the customer to a collection of chocolates that was beautiful and was in her budget. I wrapped the gift and asked, "Would you like a blank message card?"

"Oh no, I have a big card here," and she pointed to a giant card in its envelope. "You see, my friend, she's sick... yes, the "C" word,"

I continued to listen with my eyes while I packed up the gift. She handed me a collection of bills of different amounts.

"She's only in her 30s, and last year she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she has been in treatment. Last month, though, they found some cancer in her brain. Stage 4."

"Oh wow,"

"Yes, so everyone at work has all pitched in to pay for a personal chef for the next month for her and her husband, and also to get these chocolates. Everyone signed this card. We just want her to take care of herself,"

"I see. I shall pray for your friend, may I ask her name?"

"Diana*,"

"I will pray for Diana, that she moves through this with grace,"

"Thank you so much Carmen [my legal name]," the woman responded. I handed her the beautiful gift bag of chocolates and we exchanged smiles. Then she left.

I was shaken.

Here was a woman on a crash course with death. There were so many people who loved her, but they had no idea what to do for someone about to die. They just wanted to comfort her, make her path a little smoother, a little more enjoyable.

But who cares about a personal chef and gourmet chocolate when you're about to die? From what I've heard and experienced for myself, when faced with death food tastes like cardboard.

When faced with death, I want solace. I want meaning to this life that seems so meaningless. I want truth. I want to know who I am and where the hell I'm going (hopefully not hell!).

Diana's coworkers meant well. They love her, they want to express that love. Nevertheless, all I can think is that if I was faced with Stage 4 brain cancer, I would just want people to chant the holy name for me, chant the holy name for me, chant the holy name for me. Pray that I take shelter's in Krishna's holy name.

If you are reading this, please chant the holy name for Diana, pray that the Lord protects her heart from all fear and carries her beyond this world of pain and death. May she go with God. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Room Without A Roof

Images from yesterday's wedding play through my mind in snippets of magic.

The mysticism of the ceremony,
the tears of those present,
Jai's sober expression as he vowed to protect Syama,
the grins of pure joy of everyone (yes, everyone) dancing in kirtan,
Syama's effulgent smile and flaring skirt as she twirled,
the rooftop bedecked with white tents
and white globes
and golden lights,
the undulating skyscape of New York City glittering below us,
toasts,
laughing so hard I can't breathe,
the couple's first dance,
everyone dancing slow,
then fast, to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough,"
the delicious lemon poppyseed and chocolate cakes,
helping clean up,
dancing to "Happy."

Although it's popular, I heard the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams for the first time last night. The lyrics sent chills down my spine.

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

It was a reminder that the soul's nature is to be happy. There's no hard work to it. It's just about being alive, feeling like a "room without a roof." All day, I felt as though that day was about being happy. Let the couple be happy, let the guests be happy, let God be happy.

Let go.

Let happiness in.

It's so easy.

Just BE.

That's the truth.

When I danced to the song "Happy" at the end of the night, the part of the song that kept coming, "Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof," was so perfect, as I and everyone else was on the rooftop of the Bhakti Center and only a thin tent separated us from a limitless sky.
(to view the video below on YouTube, click or copy and paste this link: http://youtu.be/2MJj2A1Kx20 )

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Live on Purpose


I read the above sign on the train when I sat down. The message registered as barely a blip, like all other advertising in New York City. Then I opened my book and began to read; the train picked up speed, heading to the next stop.

Suddenly, two uniformed police officers strode through the train, guided by an older man. I looked up from my book. The man pointed at a backpack that was on the ground right across from me.

"Is this anyone's bag?" The officer's voice rang out in the train.

Everyone fell quiet, shaking their heads. The women who were sitting on the seat nearby the abandoned backpack scooted away.

The officers looked around, confirming that no one owned the bag. I watched the scene unfold, my heart pounding a bit. It's true, the bag had just been sitting there. It was some cutesy backpack, a leopard print I believe. But the two officers surrounded it now, their energy taut like wires. Definitely not cutesy now.

I resisted the urge to scramble away, walk away, run away. But what could I do? I was on this moving train. In those few moments when the officers examined the bag, I had this realization that maybe there was a bomb in there, about to explode at any moment.

There was nothing I could do about it. Although I experienced fear, I also experienced this eerie calm, that somehow if this is my fate, it is what it is.

When the train slowed to a stop, one officer stepped out of the train and the other cautiously unzipped the bag, as if touching a wild tiger. I could feel all the passengers watching, holding their breaths.

The officer unzipped the bag with one final tug.

Sneakers.

Everyone let out a collective breath. The officer carried the bag out of the train, joining her comrade. Then the train boarded more passengers and we moved on.

It was not a laughing matter about this leopard-print backpack - after all, there have been numerous incidents of such episodes that involved an abandoned bag which were deadly.

There is a verse in the scripture Srimad Bhagavatam that describes how in this material world there is danger at every step. I had no idea that when I got onto the train that day that maybe that day was my last. I am sure that anyone who has ever been involved in a lethal terrorist attack, or a plane accident, or even a car accident had no idea that that day was the last day of their lives.

Sometimes it takes danger or an accident to stop living on accident and start living on purpose. Every day, may I and may we live on purpose.

And may the owner of that bag and those sneakers get her stuff back. It was a cute bag. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Krishna-shaped Hole

For as long as I can remember, ever since I was a little girl, I have always had this longing for something or someone. Something or someone is missing from my life. It's either new clothes, a temple, a community, adventurous travels, friends, a husband, an education, a house, a car, money, spiritual initiation, a guru.

Something.

Someone. 

And when I finally get what I want, I long for something else, I long for someone else. This longing has been a curse and a blessing. A curse when I long for material things, because I get consumed with a fire that burns me up. A blessing when I long for spiritual things, because I get consumed with a fire that lights my soul. 

Lately I have been consumed with a longing for furniture. Sounds silly, but it's true. I have this intense desire to really just get settled into where I live - I've been wandering the world for so very long and now I just want to live in. one. place. One. Place. Getting the perfect bed and curtains is a product of this longing for home. But it's a feverish search, my ideas keep shifting and changing, I feel consumed and burnt out. 

Lately I have also been missing Radha Shyamasundar from New Raman Reti. There's an ache in my chest of longing. I miss singing for Them, putting away Their clothes, dancing for Them, and just being within Their glowing glance. It's this ache that gets more painful and also sweeter. I want to forget the ache, distract myself, but at the same time I know that it's sweet. I feel that it's sweet.

My spiritual master Radhanath Swami once told me, "There's a Krishna-shaped hole in your heart and no one will be able to fill that hole - not your parents, not a husband, not me. Only Krishna."  

For the past several months, whenever I have found it hard to get to sleep, I call into my mind's eye the faces of Radhe Shyam. I meditate upon Their forms and soon enough my heart and mind are at ease and I find myself drifting off to sleep. Radhe Shyam fill that custom-made hole in my heart. And for that window of time, my longing for someone or something is quieted and my soul rests.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Month in the Life

The month of August, 2014, has been a crazy one indeed. Amazing and crazy. I thought instead of telling you I'd simply show you. 

I got to dress Sri Radha Govinda, the worshipful Lords of Mother Kaulini. 

I moved into my new place in Brooklyn, New York. Ghanashyam and I painted my room... and gave it a caramel-colored accent wall. 

A church spire peeping over the aboveground subway line. 

The view every time I head over on the train to Manhattan

Brooklyn College's historical campus 

Getting my ID! 

 Ghanashyam's grandparents on their wedding day in 1945 - sixty-nine years ago

 I got hired at an upscale chocolate shop on Wall Street (my professional development is to taste these)

 The sight I see when I head home from work in the evenings

 Prayers on the street

Spending some evenings with Ghanashyam

 A dash of green amidst gray

 The public indoor space where I have lunch while at work

Washington Memorial


 A gift from Ghanashyam. Purple means "enchantment"

I walked out of my door one day and lo and behold who was walking in my neighborhood park but the beautiful Jayadwaita Swami

***

If you'd like to read about my month, a play-by-play as I write every day, feel free to check out my sister site: 30dayxray.blogspot.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

God's Temple

Several years ago, in the evening a whole busload of devotees all went swimming in the ocean, and I was in bliss! Ah, the ocean! It had been almost a year since I'd frolicked in the waves. I then went on a very long, dancing and frolicking walk along the shore.

For the first time in a long time, to the crashing waves I sang "Mama Mana Mandire." I used to sing this song so often - it would invoke a very special mood for me.

When I used to live in Hawaii, there was no temple on my island. As a teenager and the years went by, I began to despair that I would ever be around a temple and devotee association again. One day I listened to Rasa's "Mama Mana Mandire" track, and I was stunned. What did this song mean? I did a Google search: the temple of my heart.

I used to bikeride in the evenings out to this crest on the mountain that overlooked the city of Kailua-Kona. I would take in the undulating valleys, glistening blue bays, and the ocean would wrap around the island. I would watch the magnificent, glorious sunset every evening, and I began to sing this song. "This is my temple."

A tradition grew. Whenever I felt awed and humbled by the beauty of nature, I would sing this song. I began to be absolutely immersed in the everyday experience of being in the majesty of God's temple.

When I moved to live within the devotional community of Alachua, I lost touch with the song, that longing.

But when I sang and danced amidst the ocean waves at sunset on the Atlantic Ocean, I traveled back in time. I meditated on that deep feeling that God is everywhere. I can feel Him, I can experience Him. I don't need a building to worship Him. He is here in my heart and He is also all around me.

That longing to be around the devotees when I was in Hawaii was so very, very special. Every single day, my desire became only more and more intense, my longing more and more powerful. I pray that this longing may always reside within my heart. Always.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reflections on the Soul


January 3rd, 2013

Today I went to Tim Carter's ash immersion ceremony.

Our small party took a boat to the other side of the sacred river Ganga. When the actual ceremony began, Tim's family members gathered around and the ashes were brought out. I had been asked to lead everyone in singing, so I began to sing the Hare Krishna melody that Lilananda Prabhu had composed in honor of Tim. Seeing those ashes of Tim felt strange. The pile of ashes was gray and formless.

Those ashes couldn't be Tim. They couldn't.

Tim was in the melody I was singing.

Nevertheless, there was something so complete and powerful about the ceremony, recognizing this deep need for closure, to release a soul to Krishna. When Jananivas Prabhu packed mud around the ashes and poured and sprinkled different substances on the ashes, I felt as though Tim was getting cooled from a high fever. Like, "Ahhh... at last, you're letting me go."

There was a timeless moment when I stood on the banks of the river, the wind blew my sari, and the sun glinted off the water and shone on my face. I watched the sacred ceremony unfold to put Tim to rest. I had a moment of realizing that we will all die, our bodies will all become ash one day. Memories of us will also fade.

There must be a soul. There must be a soul, an eternal soul that is bright and beautiful and eternal.






To write is to dare the soul. So write.