Soquel, California — Thursday, October 14th

Auspicious environment

It is a wonderfully warm autumn afternoon here at the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Seva Ashram in Soquel; some bees buzz back and forth and an occasional chlorophyll-less leaf gyrates gently to the ground, but other than that, the ambient air is almost stiflingly soporific.

I walk over to the little red barn and down the grassy path into the quaint little bower a short distance from the creek that runs through the ashram, drink deeply from the cool, clear, potable water gushing from the artesian well, and sit silently for a while in the pleasant shade, enjoying the smell of the damp moss and the soft, sibilant sound of the water splashing over the stones as it stumbles and tumbles into the brook below.

Refreshed, I get my japa mala and walk slowly up the hill and along the dirt road above the orchard, past the apple, apricot, peach, plum, pear, orange, lemon, lime and cherry trees, and then circle down and around onto the lower road, above the terraces of sunflowers, marigolds, and daisies, and the begonias, chrysanthemums, petunias, rhododendrons, and rose bushes in the front of the temple and around Srila Gurudeva's cottage, and as I saunter past the beehives in the apiary near the grove of eucalyptus trees behind the cottage, I am reminded of this passage from Golden Reflections, perhaps my favorite book by Srila Gurudeva:

Duryodhan wanted to find the Pandavas; if he could find them during their final year of exile, they would be banished for a further twelve years. Duryodhan and his men therefore earnestly searched the forests, mountains, caves, etc., for the Pandavas, but without success. After almost a whole year, Duryodhan became almost hopeless and he called a meeting of his top men.

In that meeting Bhismadeva said: "There are five Pandavas but you cannot find even one because you are foolish. You do not know the proper way to search for them. Searching in the caves, the mountains, the jungles, and so forth, is not the process. Wherever the Pandavas live you will be able to see the symptoms of their presence. Wherever they are present the cows will give much milk, the trees will bear much fruit, the crops will grow in abundance, the rains will fall timely, the rivers will flow very happily, the breeze will be fresh and clean, and in every way the whole environment will be prosperous."

Bhismadeva smiled and said to all those in that grand assembly: "If you search in such a place, you will certainly find the Pandavas. If you search in the district where these auspicious symptoms are present, you will surely find them." Duryodhan had almost no time left, so he immediately sent his scouts to search in such places.

Remembering this, when I see here in Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math that the trees are bearing much fruit, the cows are giving much milk, the birds are singing, the residents are happily trying hard to serve Srila Guru Maharaj's Mission, and the many other auspicious symptoms present here, I feel these to be all very happy indications. They all show that we are proceeding to our life's goal.

Strolling through this Arcadian setting here at the Seva Ashram, I see how — especially now that Srila Gurudeva is living here and walking on the land — the whole environment has become so auspicious: the flowers try to outdo each other in beauty and fragrance (who will be offered to Srila Gurudeva as a garland?), the bees are busy producing lots of delectable honey, the fruit in the orchard (particularly the pears and apples which are now in season) are more succulent than any I have ever tasted, and the fertile earth gushes pure, refreshingly cool water and garbs herself in bright red, orange, and yellow colors, creating an almost impossibly idyllic scene, like a Thomas Kinkade painting...

Ah, but all too quickly, the glorious afternoon draws to a close: the sun goes to sleep early here at the Seva Ashram, tucked into bed by the hill on the other side of the main road that runs next to the creek at the bottom of our sprawling twenty-eight acre property.

As the sun takes his leave, the long shadows of the redwood and eucalyptus trees on the other side of the valley slowly stretch out to offer their full dandavat pranams in the direction of Sri Govinda Seva Kunja, Srila Gurudeva's cottage, before they too, retire for the night.

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Layout by iMonk — October 14th, 2004.