Calcutta, India — Friday, July 23rd
Srila Gurudeva's newest book, Affectionate Guidance — a treasury of His Divine Grace's discourses, articles, and letters, compiled and edited by Mahananda Prabhu Bhakti Ranjan and Premavatar Prabhu — is now available from the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math.
It is an excellent paperback anthology, divided into four sections, with twenty-eight chapters of articles and letters taken from publications like Sri Gaudiya Darshan, Counterpoint, and Divine Message, etc.
In Chapter 21, "The Eternal Service of Sri-Gaura-Saraswati" (originally published in the Sri Gaudiya Darshan newsletter) Srila Gurudeva explains why Srila Guru Maharaj composed the Sri Saraswat-Arati song, and why he originally instructed that it is only sung on Friday evenings.
I'm reading somewhat cursorily until I come to the part where one of the devotees asks: "Why did Srila Guru Maharaj ask [that Sri Saraswat-Arati] be sung specifically on Friday evenings?"
"Pshew! Everybody knows that, right?" I think, "It's the end of the workday week (payday for most people!), everyone is happy and relaxed, looking forward to the weekend..."
Srila Gurudeva's answer cranks my consciousness up a few degrees:
"Friday is considered to be a good day. Both brhaspativar and sukravar (Thursday and Friday) are astrologically pure, auspicious days. However, on brhaspativar barbela (Thursday afternoon) some environmental or general disturbance may come around the time of arati. This is the external cause."
Aha! And because of barbela, Friday is the obvious choice...
But in the next paragraph, Srila Gurudeva whooshes my consciousness to the nth degree:
"The internal cause is that Sukra is known as a teacher in raga-marga and Brihaspati as a teacher of viddhi-marga. We are followers of raga-marga, so [Srila Guru Maharaj] chose sukravar, or Friday."
I have to stop reading. Srila Gurudeva's angle of vision is so steep that I am in danger of blacking out from the "Gee!" force...
Calcutta, India — Monday, July 26th
"You will be my doctor"
Here is a nugget from Srila Gurudeva's recently published Affectionate Guidance treasury, excerpted and abridged, from Chapter 11, "Emotion or Devotion?" — originally published in Counterpoint, the London newsletter edited and printed by Devashis Prabhu:
...In 1973 Srila Guru Maharaj was so ill that all the doctors said that it was beyond their capacity to treat him, and were sure that within a few days, or a week at the most, he would leave his body.
One day I was crying while taking my bath and I cried out to Lord Shiva: "O Lord Shiva, you are the Master of Medicine, so please, my Lord, give me some medicine for my Guru Maharaj."
After my desperate prayer, I heard the name of a medicine, as if from the air. At first I thought I had mistaken the sound of the name of the medicine for the sound of the water coming from the shower, so I again prayed: "Please let me hear that name once more so that I may be sure." And again the sound of the name of that medicine came.
After hearing the name of the medicine from Lord Shiva, I felt very free in my mind, and I knew that Guru Maharaj would not leave us now. In the meantime, Hari Charan Prabhu called me urgently on the telephone: "Srila Guru Maharaj is sinking fast! He has no pulse, only a slight heartbeat, and no blood pressure."
I assured him: "Prabhu, don't worry. Lord Shiva has just now given me a medicine; give this to Guru Maharaj and he will be cured. I am coming right away."
I took the last train to Calcutta, and I arrived at the Math late, at about midnight. When I arrived, I saw Guru Maharaj sitting in his chair, taking prasadam with his own hand.
I asked Guru Maharaj, "What happened? Hari Charan Prabhu told me you were sinking!"
Srila Guru Maharaj replied: "Yes, I was, but Hari Charan gave me the medicine that you told him to, and now you see the result."
Soon Guru Maharaj's pulse returned and his blood pressure became normal, and he said: "From this day on, you will be my doctor!" And all Guru Maharaj's doctors consented...
Calcutta, India — Saturday, July 31st
Once in a blue moon
Today is a very rare day; a day so rare that it comes along only "once in a blue moon." The popular definition of a "blue moon" is the second of two full moons to occur in a single calendar month.
Tonight most of the world will see the second of two full moons to occur in July (the first was on July 2nd). Because the full moon occurs less than six hours (GMT) before midnight tonight, the rest of the world (Eastern China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) will experience the blue moon in August — the first full moon after midnight tonight, and the blue moon on August 31st.
Just how rare is a blue moon? A blue moon occurs, on average, about once every three years or so. Rare indeed, but it pales in comparison to this:
In the Chaitanya Charitamrita (Madhya-Lila 19:151), we find that much more rare than "once in a blue moon," is the opportunity to meet and associate with a genuine Vaishnava Guru:
brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva
guru-krsna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija
"According to their karma, billions of living entities are transmigrating throughout the hundreds of thousands of species of life within the material universes. Only the rare few who are extremely fortunate, who have accumulated enough spiritual merit (sukriti), get the opportunity, by the grace of Krishna, to have the association of a bona fide spiritual master. By the mercy of both Guru and Krishna, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service, and that seed is good faith (sraddha)."
So here I am in India — unable to get a visa to go to Russia and unable to get a seat on a flight back to California with the airline ticket that I have — forced by circumstances to stay for three months under the shelter and guidance of a paramahamsa Vaishnava.
I am trying to make the most of this happy combination of fortuitous circumstances while I am here. I am trying — with what little sincerity I have at my disposal — to get the grace of Srila Gurudeva: to get the humility, tolerance, and respect for others that is so necessary to create a favorable environment for the bhakti-lata-bija (the seed of good faith) to take root and flourish in my heart.
So when I see the blue moon tonight, I will "thank my lucky stars" for this rare opportunity: the opportunity to get the most valuable association of Sri Guru and his grace.
Layout by iMonk — July 31st, 2004.