Calcutta, India — Wednesday, September 1st
Everybody is leaving the Math in Calcutta this week: Yudhamanyu Prabhu flies to China very early tomorrow morning; Srila Gurudeva and his entourage leave for London and California on Friday morning; and I finally return to California, just two hours after Srila Gurudeva leaves.
The last four months in the association of Srila Gurudeva have been incredible. I came to India in May because I wanted to hear from Srila Gurudeva before going to the Vaishnava Festival in Russia to try to represent his conception of Krishna consciousness in Moscow and Saint Petersburg (sravan before kirtan).
I felt that if I was to faithfully represent Srila Gurudeva's beautiful Krishna conception of divinity to sincere seekers in Russia, then I had to come to India first, to the source of that unique conception: Srila Gurudeva.
But as Thomas à Kempis opined a long time ago in Imitation of Christ, "Man proposes, but God disposes." All my plans to go to Russia came to naught: first there was a delay getting my invitation letter from Russia, then my visa application fell through.
And when I tried to return to California — because an earlier invitation letter was sent to the Russian embassy in San Francisco and I might have better luck there — I was inexplicably unable to get a confirmed return flight, and none of my wait-listed dates cleared.
Not that I'm complaining, you understand. Complaining about being unable to go to Russia or return to California when the result is more time spent with Srila Gurudeva would be like complaining about the taxes after winning the lottery: it's not going to win me any sympathy!
When I gave up my job and my apartment in America last year and came to India to begin my life as an itinerant monk, I arrived at the Math on Gaura Purnima eve, received sannyas initiation the day after Gaura Purnima, and left for Russia the following day — so I did not get to spend a lot of time with Srila Gurudeva.
Yes, I know: lava matra sadhu sangha and all that, but I am not Maharaj Khatvanga!
I realize that "physical proximity is not association," but I shall treasure these halcyon days spent with Srila Gurudeva in the intimate closeness of his veranda, and although we fly in different directions on Friday, I look forward to again having Srila Gurudeva's darshan, after a brief intermission, when he arrives at the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Seva Ashram in Soquel, California, in less than two weeks.
North Pacific Ocean — Friday, September 3rd
21st World Tour begins
Today Srila Gurudeva begins his 21st World Tour. Srila Gurudeva will spend nine days in London, and then travel to California, to the Seva Ashram in Soquel for a prolonged stay.
We leave the Math at 4:45 a.m. (mangala-arati was at 3:45 a.m.!) to drive to the Calcutta airport. Srila Gurudeva, Ranajit Prabhu, and Jamuna Devi Dasi's flight to London at leaves at 7:30; my flight to California leaves at 9:15.
Srila Gurudeva looks good — radiant! He looks so good that I overcome my natural hesitancy to tell him so; he beams at me. Srila Gurudeva has been in a cheerful mood all week. I know that he is looking forward to this tour, perhaps because it will not be as strenuous as his previous "preaching tours."
Almost all the Calcutta Math devotees come to the airport to see Srila Gurudeva off. After he is wheelchaired through security, he has the attendant turn the wheelchair around, and with a big smile, waves goodbye to all the devotees...
I arrive in Bangkok in the early afternoon. As my flight continues east from Thailand to Taiwan, the late afternoon sun sets behind us in the west. The last leg of my flight to California, from Taipei to San Francisco, begins at 12:45 on Saturday morning, and after a few hours we fly across the International Date Line, back in time, into Friday evening.
And now our flight becomes surreal as we fly through the darkness over the vast Pacific Ocean thirty-nine thousand feet below and the horizon begins to get light — not with the dawn of the sun rising in the east, but with the dusk of the sun setting in the west!
This apparent retrograde action of the sun reminds me of Lewis Carroll's wayward sun in The Walrus and the Carpenter:
The sun was shining on the sea / Shining with all his might...
And this was odd, because it was / The middle of the night.
I seem to have flown into a world where everything I have learned so far is now illogical, back-to-front, and in reverse: first I fly east to the West, then tomorrow becomes yesterday, and now the setting sun rises again in the west...
What strange world is this where my knowledge-gathering faculties — my senses, my mind, and my intelligence — can no longer be trusted to accurately report and represent the environment?
For the past four months I have been living in a guru-centric world, where my life revolved around Srila Gurudeva. In that world, everything is automatically properly adjusted. But now, leaving the orbit of that protected environment, so many alluring fantasies vie for my attention as I get pulled this way and that by the vagaries of my mind in the ego-centric world of misconception.
As I fly backwards in time, I am dismayed to realize that my own life is now also in regression. No longer are my carnal karmic impulses nullified by the protective shield of Srila Gurudeva's holy association.
A few hours later, just before we reach the coast of California, the sun sets for the second time today — another reminder that I have returned to the jurisdiction of a world where nothing is quite as it seems (maya).
Unless we always engage ourselves in the service of the supreme hypnotist (mam eva ye prapadyante) we shall always be forced to see the world in this perverted, upside down, inside out, back-to-front way (mama maya duratyaya).
Fortunately, Srila Gurudeva will arrive in California in nine days just to give us the opportunity to engage in that service, to give us a proper estimation (yas tam veda sa veda-vit) of this upside down world (urdhva-mulam adhah-sakham)...
Layout by iMonk — September 3rd, 2004.