Calcutta, India — Friday, July 2nd

Rare sight

Today is the disappearance day of Srila Sanatan Goswami Prabhu. It is also the purnima (full moon) day that marks the beginning of the chaturmasya, the four lunar months of the rainy season here in India.

At the morning darshan (audience) Srila Gurudeva talks about some of the austerities Srila Sanatan Goswami performed in Vrindavan, and some of his pastimes with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

After lunch I shave my head along with most of the other sannyasis and brahmacharis living here in the Math (monastery). Early in the evening, I go up onto the roof of our living quarters here at the Sree Chaitanya Saraswata Krishnanushilana Sangha in Dum Dum Park to chant on my japa mala, and see a rare sight: cumulus clouds.

Cumulus clouds are easy to recognize. I still vividly remember my standard four (sixth grade) geography lesson, and Miss Smith intoning: "Cumulus clouds: these are big, white, fluffy clouds..." We don't see many of these clouds here during the rainy season.

But I am waiting to see an even rarer sight: tonight's special moonrise. This is something you see only once in a blue moon: the first of two full moons to occur in a single calendar month. Because the next full moon occurs less than six hours (GMT) before the end of July 31st, Australia, New Zealand, and the Far East will experience the blue moon during August instead of July.

I have been having some difficulty getting a flight back to the United States, but I should be in California for the second full (blue) moon.

Calcutta, India — Sunday, July 4th


The purnima (full moon) on Friday marked the beginning of the chaturmasya, or the four lunar months of the rainy season in India when, typically, sannyasis (mendicant monks) do not travel from place to place, and therefore observe special vows of austerity.

One who is following the chaturmasya vrata (vow) does not shave during these four months from July to October, does not eat more than once a day, refrains from eating spinach, yogurt, milk, and urad dahl during each of the respective months, etc.

Once when a devotee asked Srila Sridhar Maharaj if he should follow the chaturmasya vrata, Srila Guru Maharaj replied:

"That is of lesser importance. The real importance should be given to atma-samarpana, the giving of yourself. There are so many methods to promote that self-surrender, or atma-nivedanam. That is the real thing, the real capital, and all these [vows] are devised only to help atma-nivedanam. [In the Srimad Bhagavatam] Prahlad Maharaj says, 'So many advices are given in so many places by so many scriptures, but the gist of them all is atma-samarpana, self-giving. Only to effect that, have all these advices have been given.'

"Just as the ghee is poured into the fire so you must put yourself into the fire of Krishna and gradually give yourself into the hands of the sadhu, Mahaprabhu, Gauranga. Just to do some penance, or this or that, that is not so important. The main thing is that you must bring out your capital, your whole capital, your self. Krishna is not satisfied with any partial contribution; He wants your whole self.

"Krishna wants your heart. Penances, a little bodily pain or some mental pain — that is nothing. Only samarpana. That is what is necessary to get Krishna, the grace of Krishna: the wholesale transaction of the heart. If you give your heart, you will get His heart in exchange."

Calcutta, India — Tuesday, July 6th

Prasadam: mercy remnants

Srila Gurudeva is very pleased with Praphula Krishna Prabhu's recent slide presentation, which provides such a good visual introduction to the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, our guardians, and our mission's worldwide activities.

While watching the presentation on his PowerBook again the other day, Srila Gurudeva pauses at the slide for prasadam (sanctified food), reads the heading — "Prasad-sevaya: The solution is in prasadam" — and turns to me and says:

"How nice this is, Maharaj: prasad-sevaya."

Turning back to the display, he reads the verse from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Prasad-sevaya: "My friends! Our Lord Krishna is full of grace; to conquer this most greedy sense, the tongue, He has given us this prasad: the grace of God, the mercy-remnants of His holy food..."

He stares at the slide, and repeats, "The mercy-remnants... the grace of God."

Then he shakes his head, and turning to me once more, says: "The solution is there, how to conquer the greedy tongue, but we are taking from the fridge, for our own taste, for our own sense enjoyment..."

At lunchtime, Sripad Mangal Maharaj, who cooks all the bhoga to be offered to the deities, also serves out the offering — now prasadam or sanctified food — to all the devotees for lunch.

One of the new Bengali devotees at first declines to take one of the preparations, but Mangal Maharaj insists that he takes it. Later, since I am the only non-Bengali speaker at lunch, Mangal Maharaj explains:

"He did not want to take the eggplant subji, because he says that he is allergic to eggplant. But I told him — and this is correct — that this is not eggplant: this is prasadam."

And the "allergic" devotee interjects: "And I am happily taking..."

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