I wake up this morning to... rain. A little unusual for this time of the year, I think. But what do I know? The only other time that I have been in West Bengal at this time of the year was for six days in March last year...
I watch from the balcony outside my room on the second floor (first floor for you non Americans) of the Seva Kunja ashram opposite the Govinda kunda (pond) as the rain drizzles down, stippling the surface of the water.
Then I remember: yesterday, while taking his late afternoon constitutional around the kunda, Srila Gurudeva looked up at the clear sky and said, "It will rain tomorrow." A prescience born of long experience, no doubt. In everything, we look to Srila Gurudeva for the answers.
Uh oh. Spiritual tourists shake their heads and suppress a smirk: "How quaint! Such cult-like veneration and abrogation of independence!" But how much can you glean from a culture when you visit only briefly, at your leisure, as a tourist?
We require a passport to travel abroad, but to cross the border of illusion (maya) and be given entrance into the spiritual world (mayam etam taranti) requires a special kind of visa: the visa of surrender (mam eva ye prapadyante). A passport is not enough to enter that foreign soil. We cannot cross the border or force our way into that world (mama maya duratyaya) without the appropriate visa.
A tourist is satisfied with a superficial acquaintance (and maybe a few photographs and souvenirs!) of an exotic culture; an archeologist digs a little deeper for an empirical understanding of the warp and woof of a culture or religion; but to get a true understanding, you have to put aside your preconceptions and prejudices and immerse yourself completely in the culture, under the guidance and in the association of the natives who are thoroughly familiar with all the nuances and customs of that country.
Come live here for a while, and experience for yourself the joy of saranagati (surrender).