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Sunday, May 11th, 2003

Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

Mother's Day

A lot to be grateful for

Today is Mother's day; it is also my 50th birthday. It seems like an appropriate day, and time — especially since I have recently taken sannyas — to reflect on, and be grateful for, the solid God conscious foundation that my mother provided for me to build my devotional life on.

Looking back, I can see how her devotion, her teachings, and her example played such an essential role in my formative years, in helping to impress God consciousness on the tabula rasa of my mind.

I can see, and appreciate, how much her early efforts to make me God conscious, to make me aware of God in the background of every phase of my life, ultimately led me to so easily embrace the full-fledged theistic conception of that God consciousness — Krishna consciousness.

My mother is a pious woman, a devout Catholic who instilled an awareness of God in all four of her children at a very early age. Some of my earliest memories are of her kneeling next to us at the side of our beds for evening prayer, which consisted of one decade of the rosary. (My dad was much more lackadaisical towards religion; many were the novenas we said for him :-)

It was mom who dragged us off to church every Sunday morning — even when we lived in Isipingo, just outside of Durban, and had to walk almost two miles to the local parish church. I remember us having to leave home shortly after six on a Sunday morning in order to get to the church in time for the seven o'clock mass.

When we lived closer to the church, like the convent in Park Rynie, we used go to all the weekday services, including the Benediction. I loved it: I became an altar boy at the age of six, and made my first holy confession at the age of seven.

I wanted to become a priest when I grew up. When we returned from Sunday mass, I used to inveigle my siblings into playing "church." Of course, I would be the priest, and they would have to sit through "mass" all over again while I fussed over the chalice (a tiny trophy cup won in a five-a-side football [soccer] tournament), wine (orange juice) and host (literally bread) and gave them "communion." I was confirmed at the age of ten.

I tried hard to love God: I attended catechism classes twice a week, I read the bible many, many times, I asked our parish priest, Father Carey, so many questions, but it seemed that nobody had any real information about God, other than that He was some benevolent old guy who lived in the sky...

As I grew older, I became less and less satisfied with this type of explanation. I had to know more. How could I love somebody that I did not know? Since the answers were not forthcoming from the church, I was determined to find them elsewhere, so when I was sixteen, I left the Catholic Church, disappointed.

My mother was disappointed too, but what could she do? She had no better answers...

Years later, when I first came in touch with Krishna consciousness, I was elated. Here was so much information about God: who He was, His name, His form, His relatives, His friends, His pastimes. I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to Krishna.

Two months after reading Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is, I gave up my job and my apartment, took my seven-year-old daughter out of school, and drove four hundred miles to join the temple in Johannesburg.

Naturally, my mom was very concerned at this radical new direction in my life, but how could I explain it to her? I hardly knew what Krishna consciousness was myself! She put on a brave face, smiled and nodded encouragingly, but I knew that she was disappointed, that she felt that she had failed, somehow, in her Christian duty as a mother, to teach me about God — for all she knew, I was joining some Hindu cult...

But some six months later, when Yudhamanyu Prabhu and his wife Jivana Devi Dasi kindly agreed to visit her for Sunday afternoon tea, her fears were alleviated and her concerns were assuaged upon seeing the humility and sincerity of these exemplary devotees. She still corresponds regularly with Jivana Devi Dasi.

In August of 1998, my mother had the good fortune to meet, talk to, and take prasadam with His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj and other senior Vaishnava devotees when His Divine Grace visited the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Seva Ashram in Soquel during his 12th world tour.

Now that she knows that I am in good company, that I am doing something that I really believe in — that Krishna is God — she is happy for me. And I am grateful to her for the strong God conscious foundation that she provided for me, and for the initial impetus she gave me to pursue spiritual life.

Thanks, mom!

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