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Saturday, March 22nd, 2003

Stumbling around in Govardhan

I awake at 4:00 a.m., and attend the Sri Sri Giriraj-Govardhan mangala-arati at five. There are just three other Bengali devotees there, and Janaki-Vallabha Prabhu.

They all treat me like a sannyasi!: they push me to the front of the temple, close to the altar, they expect me to lead the kirtan, and the "Ki Jaya!" chants after the arati, etc. Moi?!

They do prevail upon me to lead the circumambulation of the temple. I should be able to do this, right? I stop after three rounds instead of five (or is it four?); I can't even get that right...

I decline to lead the kirtans before the class, but I cannot escape giving the class. The class usually consists of reading the Chaitanya Bhagavat, they tell me. Before I begin reading, however, I feel the necessity to say:

"I feel really stupid, sitting here in this saffron cloth, daring to try to tell you exalted Vaishnavas, living in this Srila Sridhar Swami Seva Ashram in Govardhan, anything about Krishna consciousness. I see now, how much power this external dress has. Everyone says, 'Maharaj this,' and 'Maharaj that,' and treats me like I am some kind of advanced devotee, but, as is painfully obvious from this morning's debacle, I'm just a know-nothing masquerading as a sannyasi.

"Being a sannyasi is a state of consciousness, not a state of dress. Srila Govinda Maharaj says that 'Sannyas means exclusive service to Radha-Krishna.' You are the real sannyasis, no matter the color of your cloth, because you have dedicated most of your lives to Guru and Krishna, while just a week ago, I, a mleccha, was enjoying like anything...

"I beg you to please excuse my ignorance and my offenses. I am stumbling around this holy dham on my own, like a drunken elephant, committing offenses left and right. Please excuse me, for these offenses are caused not by any malice, but by my own ignorance. Please bless me that I may someday be as dedicated as you are in your service to Guru and Krishna."

Then I begin to read from Chapter Ten of the Madhya Lila of Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat, which tells how Srila Haridas Thakur, although born in a Muslim family, was the greatest devotee of the Lord...
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