Calcutta, India — Tuesday, June 1st

Can't wait to get to Russia

I am getting quite impatient waiting for my invitation letter to arrive so that I can get my visa for Russia. This is such an exciting time to be in Russia: I can't wait to get there.

There is so much going on in that country right now. Take a look at the stunning pictures of the recent festivals held in Red Square. The three-day event featured theatre, drama, dance, and cultural shows on three different stages, face painting, Indian handicrafts and boutiques, a herbal tea festival, and all-vegetarian catering by the famous Jagannath Express Restaurant — and all this in the shadow of the Kremlin wall, in Red Square!

The Russian devotees have really outdone themselves this time! Look at some of the other pictures and see how much care and attention has gone into all the sets and decorations. And the crowds of people in attendance: even the Indian ambassador and the director of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Center in Moscow were there.

Srila Gurudeva was so pleased to see these photographs and receive the reports of this wonderful festival and the service contributions of all the devotees there.

Sripad Avadhut Maharaj is such a dynamo, inspiring so many to give so much, because he gives so much of himself. And in the background, unnoticed but vital to the success of all these projects, devotees like Yadhu Krishna Prabhu, Sundar Ananda Prabhu, Nava Krishna Prabhu, and so many others...

I want to be a part of that!

Calcutta, India — Thursday, June 3rd

Rainy season begins

We had another storm tonight. They are quite something to see, these storms: thunder and lightening, blustery winds, hard pelting rain...

This one begins just after seven, with electrical activity high in the upper atmosphere; all we see are subdued flashes of light behind the dark clouds. Soon a low, ominous rumbling accompanies the flashes, then with a sudden thunderclap! the clouds release their rain.

The streets, so busy just moments ago, instantly empty of pedestrians; fifteen seconds in this rain is enough to get you thoroughly soaked. Now the taxis and rickshaws are in big demand. The rickshaw wallahs pedal furiously by on their trundling tricycle rickshaws, bumping in and out of the potholes, swishing through the puddles — soaked to the skin — but grimly determined to make the most of this heaven-sent opportunity.

The storm, still somewhat truculent, soon swaggers off, grumbling all the while as it seeks new venues on which to vent its venom. But the rain remains, though much more moderate, until well after midnight.

We had a similar storm on Monday night too. Srila Gurudeva said that it marked the beginning of the rainy season.

Calcutta, India — Saturday, June 5th

I see the moon...

It's a quarter to three; I don't have to get up for mangala arati for at least another hour, but I can't sleep. The moon is right outside my window (waning, but still full), shining its bright light in my face, patterning the top half of my bed with the wrought-iron ornamental bars and the insect gauze of the double-shuttered window immediately above it...

At this time of the morning, it is completely quiet. Soon our oldest occupant, the octogenarian Nipendra Krishna Prabhu Brahmachari, will awaken on the floor above and bang and scrape the jug and bucket as he performs his morning ablutions; then he will make his way down the stairs to the nat mandir on the floor below and begin to chant his rounds in a low monotone; and at four o' clock he will enthusiastically bang the gong in front of the temple to awaken us all for the morning service — but for now, the silence is broken only by the occasional distant barking of a street dog asserting its territorial rights...

It is absolutely still, but thanks to the recent rains, still quite cool. There is not even the barest hint of a breeze to rustle the leaves or stir the branches of the trees growing up past Srila Gurudeva's veranda just a few meters away, over by the next building.

I stare at the moon; it stares right back at me. A childhood ditty runs through my head:

I see the moon and the moon sees me;
God bless the moon and God bless me.

That's silly! I begin to think, but then I remember some verses from the Bhagavad Gita where Lord Krishna says, "I am the light of the sun and the moon" (prabhasmi sasi-suryayoh) and, "Of stars I am the moon" (naksatranam aham sasi).

And as I continue to stare, more encouragement and reinforcement from verse 6-30:

yo mam pasyati sarvatra / sarvam ca mayi pasyati
tasyaham na pranasyami / sa ca me na pranasyati

"For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me."

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