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I dread the moment when I have to leave, and stay close to Srila Gurudeva throughout the morning.

Thursday, March 11th, 2004

Hapaniya, West Bengal, India

I Go To Hapaniya

And return to Kolkata

Today is the anniversary of the installation of the holy deities, Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Radha Gopinathjiu, at the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Ashram in Hapaniya (Sweet Water) — the village where Srila Guru Maharaj was born.

Early in the morning, before breakfast, Srila Gurudeva and three busloads of pilgrims set out on the one-hour journey from Nabadwip to Hapaniya. Because I return to California early tomorrow morning, it is imperative that I be in Kolkata tonight, so I hire a taxi to take me to Hapaniya so that I may leave a little earlier than the buses and go directly to the ashram in Kolkata.

I have been to Hapaniya twice before: the first time, on my first visit to India in 1983, and twelve years later, during Srila Guru Maharaj's centenary celebrations in 1995. The last time I was here, the temple was still being constructed, and was surrounded by bamboo scaffolding.

I dread the moment when I shall have to leave, and stay close to Srila Gurudeva throughout the morning. I accompany Srila Gurudeva on a short walk around the vicinity of the temple. I remain with Srila Gurudeva in his tiny room when everybody goes to the prasadam hall to partake of the big feast prepared especially for this anniversary celebration. I don't feel hungry.

Srila Gurudeva's servant, Ranajith Prabhu, brings me a plate of Srila Gurudeva's remnants, which I gratefully accept. After I wash up, I go into Srila Gurudeva's room to take my leave.

I ask Srila Gurudeva for his blessing that I may return safely to his side. California, I feel, is dangerous, because so many familiar faces and familial attractions await to entice my consciousness by subverting my intelligence, dragging it down to mental plane and forcing it to identify with the physical, "Just one more time!"

Srila Gurudeva blesses me, and I leave Hapaniya and the association of the devotees — O how valuable their association is! — and make the four-hour, 100-mile (160-kilometer) journey to Kolkata and the other side of the world...

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