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Tuesday, June 3rd, 2003

Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

Back To My Roots

Back to the motherland

My bags are packed. Goswami Maharaj and I leave in a couple of hours for South Africa. It is almost nineteen years to the day since I left South Africa, at the invitation of Goswami Maharaj, to live in the temple in San Jose and to help with the layout of Srila Sridhar Maharaj's Golden Volcano of Divine Love and other books that were published by the Guardian of Devotion Press. Now we are both going to South Africa on the order of Srila Gurudeva.

As I write this last blog on my PowerBook G4 before we leave for the airport, I reflect that the year of my departure, 1984, was the same year that the Macintosh computer was introduced.

We have come a long way since then. Nelson Mandela — who was still in prison for "anti-apartheid activities" at that time — has since been released, become the first Black President of South Africa, won the Nobel Peace Prize, and retired.

I'm "going back to the motherland," as African-Americans are wont to say. But where is the motherland? Where is my native land, the land of my ancestors? How do I get "back to my roots"? How does that old song from the sixties go?

Packin' up my boots—
Goin' back to my roots.

Where are my roots? "Motherland", "native land", "land of my ancestors", "roots" — none of these designations have any relationship to the real me. To think that they do is described in the Srimad Bhagavatam as having the consciousness of an animal:

yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma ijya-dhih
yat-tirtha-buddhih salile na karhicij
janesv abhijnesu sa eva go-kharah

You are no better than a cow or an ass if you identify yourself with your body, think that your spouse and family are your own, that a graven image of earth or the land of your birth is worshipable, or that a river or lake is a place of pilgrimage, but do not identify yourself with, feel attachment to, worship, or get the darshan of a real devotee of the Lord.

My roots, your roots — our roots — are not here in the contaminated soil of this world; our roots are above (urdhva-mulam). They are higher than the present world of our experience (bhu-loka), higher than the mental world of our previous karma (bhuvar-loka), and even higher than the world of our reason or intelligence (sva-loka). Indeed, we have to leave our intellect behind (jnane prayasam udapasya) if we want to enter into that service world (dhiyo yo nah pracodayat).

As I fly over the Indian Ocean, trying to fulfill the order of Srila Gurudeva, I shall meditate on how to get out of this world of illusion, on how to get back to my roots, to the motherland — Vaikuntha — by meditating on the sloka that Srila Gurudeva sang on the day he agreed to take me to that world, by accepting me as his sannyas disciple:

etam sa asthaya paratma-nistam
adhyasitam purvatamair maharsibhih
aham tarisyami duranta-param
tamo mukundanghri-nisevayaiva

"I shall cross over the unconquerable ocean of ignorance by being firmly fixed in the service of the lotus feet of Krishna. This was approved by the previous acharyas, who were fixed in firm devotion to the Lord."

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