Navadwip, West Bengal, India — Saturday, April 16th

Welcome interruption

There are just the three of us on the veranda here in Navadwip. It is dark outside; dawn is at least an hour away. Srila Gurudeva has just come out of his room, and is being attended by Gopal Prabhu (his personal servant while Ranajit Prabhu is in Vrindavan).

After Srila Gurudeva is comfortably seated and given something to drink, Gopal lights two sticks of incense and starts to offer them in a circular motion to Srila Gurudeva's lotus feet. Srila Gurudeva picks up a book and, realizing that the ambient light in the room is too dim for reading, interrupts Gopal, saying, "Please switch on the light."

Gopal walks over to the light switch, turns on the overhead fluorescent light, and returns to offer the incense to Srila Gurudeva and to the pictures of the other acharyas and Krishna that are on the walls. He finishes his simple puja by offering his dandavats to Srila Gurudeva.

I remember the paragraph from Sri Guru and His Grace:

To a disciple, his guru's position is Supreme, even more than God. This is said in the scriptures. The guru is more near and dear to us than God Himself. God has many things to deal with, but guru is concerned only with my welfare. The guru's position is more helpful to the disciple than God.

And I am a witness.

God is an abstraction to us, but Srila Gurudeva is real. Therefore Krishna says, "I am the guru (acaryam mam vijaniyan)." If we have eyes to see — if we do not protest: "Don't interrupt me now gurudeva, I am performing my puja!" — we will not think that this is blasphemy.

The Lord graciously appears in this physical plane of our perception as the Deity. In His form as the Deity, we can touch Him, we can see Him, and we can serve Him. But our perception is limited. The Deity's form is not mundane, but we cannot see that.

If I offer some incense to the Deity— wait! What's wrong with beginning a sentence like this? Yes, I think that I am the subject and that God (the Deity) is the object. Yet just the opposite must be true — whatever my conception of God may be.

God is the subject, and I am the object. He is the enjoyer, and I am the enjoyed. Knowing this in theory, however, does not make me see it in practice, so I offer Him incense... and He remains an object to me...

But Srila Gurudeva is not an object to me: he is my Lord, my Master, my Deity. Although he appears in this mundane world, like the Deity, he is less of an abstraction because he is a living agent. It is easy to understand that he is the guru and I am the disciple, he is the master and I am the servant, he is the subject and I am the object.

Srila Gurudeva lives on the plane of reality (jnaninas tattva-darsinah) and at any moment he can briefly snatch us up from this mundane world (upadeksyanti te jnanam) by interrupting the ritualistic performance of our sadhana, and engaging us directly (sevaya) in that service world: "Switch on the light."

How fortunate we are to have such a relationship with Srila Gurudeva!

Calcutta, India — Sunday, April 17th

The road to Calcutta

We are on our way from Navadwip to Calcutta, in Srila Gurudeva's car. We have been in Navadwip for exactly four weeks. Earlier I asked Srila Gurudeva if he felt well enough for the long car journey. "Mentally, I am prepared," he replied, with an equivocal smile.

It is a pleasant morning, and the road is filled with all sorts of animal-drawn carts (buffalos, oxen, horses) as well as people-powered vehicles (rickshaws, bicycles, handcarts), and just plain people (men women and children), all loaded with produce, on their way to the market. Is Sunday a market day?

The roadside markets are bustling with activity: vendors display their green leafy vegetables, multi-hued fruit, or brightly colored flowers on newspapers spread out on the ground where the sidewalk should be (if there was a sidewalk), weigh produce with old-fashioned scales (the balance and twin pan variety), and boisterously engage in the lost art of haggling (who shouts, wins).

The road to Calcutta is now really quite good — "Like the road to San Jose," Srila Gurudeva says. He is in a good humor, and points out the many mango trees, laden with big green mangoes, the rice fields, etc. "In fifteen days they will begin to harvest the crops," he says. "That's why I want to return to Calcutta now."

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Layout by iMonk — April 17th, 2005.