Navadwip, West Bengal, India — Friday, March 25th

Golden Moon

This is the day that thousands of pilgrims have come to Navadwip for: the day of the Golden Full Moon (Gaura Purnima). Thousands of Bengali villagers and hundreds of Westerners have made the pilgrimage here to the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math to celebrate the 520th anniversary of the divine appearance of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

After the mangala aratis, almost all the sannyasis and brahmacharis, and many of the pilgrims have their heads shaved by three local barbers under a tree in the courtyard of the Math.

The lines are long and the barbers are quick: splash! snip! slash! ouch! "Next please!"

Shorn of our locks (and our false pride!), pale heads glistening in the early morning sunlight, we scamper off to take a shower.

It is quite a sight, all these beautifully shaved heads, although we do look, um... different. As I overheard one woman say to another: "I hardly recognize any of the men today!"

As often happens when I shave my head (and especially my scruffy beard!), many devotees come up to me and express amazement at how young I look.

"You look twenty years younger," is the common refrain. Yes, I think, and just imagine how astonished we would be if we could see the real me — the soul — shorn of this body (ascarya-vat pasyati kascid enam)!

At five o' clock in the afternoon, half an hour before moonrise, Srila Gurudeva comes down to the nat mandir to lead the traditional chanting of the thirty-six verses of the Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita (Adi Lila, 13:89–124) extolling the glories of the Lord's appearance.

Srila Gurudeva, who initiated over one hundred devotees earlier this morning, is in a surprisingly lively mood, and again sings all thirty-six verses in a clear, strong voice.

And as Srila Gurudeva chants these verses celebrating the advent of our Beautiful Golden Lord, Gauranga Sundar, the golden full moon rises majestically over the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math on the banks of the Ganges River...

Navadwip, West Bengal, India — Saturday, March 26th

Second anniversary

Today is the Anandotsava of Sri Jagannath Misra: the feast day after Gaura Purnima celebrating Mahaprabhu's appearance. It is also the second anniversary of the day that I received the sannyas mantra from His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda-dev Goswami Maharaj, here at the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in Navadwip Dham.

Two years is not a long time compared to, say, a day of Lord Brahma (8,600,000,000 years), but in the life of one who is aspiring to live the life of a sannyasi — Oh!

The road is so long — and I'm not talking about my journeys from the USA to India, Russia, the Ukraine and Siberia, England, Turkey, South Africa, Venezuela, and Mexico. That part is easy: it's the "die to live" part that is killing me!

I know that as long as I am "awake" to the sense enjoyment of this material plane (yasyam jagrati bhutani) I shall be "asleep" to the ecstasy of the transcendental plane (ya nisa sarva-bhutanam); I know that I have to "die," or withdraw my consciousness from this mundane plane of misconception (sa nisa pasyato muneh) in order to "live" in the transcendental plane of reality (tasyam jagarti samyami).

But, as Srila Guru Maharaj says: "Surrender is not a lip transaction." Theoretical knowledge is not enough; if I want to make progress then I have to practically apply this Krishna conscious philosophy to my life. Yes, it is difficult, but why did I accept the renounced order of life if I am not prepared to constantly strive to "die to live"? Isn't that what the sannyas ashram is all about?

Today, especially, I pray that all the Vaishnavas who have come here to Navadwip to attend the Gaura Purnima festival please bless me that I may have the strength to continue on my chosen path — because who knows how long this mood of service will last?

Srila Gurudeva knows how capricious we Westerners can be. Just the other day His Divine Grace said: "They will ask me for sannyas in the morning, and in the afternoon they will ask me for a wife!"

Fortunately, no matter how whimsical and erratic our service (ye yatha mam prapadyante), Srila Gurudeva accepts that meager effort and reciprocates accordingly (tams tathaiva bhajamy aham). Unfortunately, that reciprocation is commensurate with our degree of dedication.

So every day, following the order of Srila Gurudeva, I struggle to elevate my consciousness from this material plane of exploitation (bhur bhuvar svah) to the spiritual plane of dedication (tat savitur varenyam).

And every day I pray for the grace of Sri Guru and Vaishnava: "Please help me, by your holy association, to remain true to my vow — just one more day."

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Layout by iMonk — March 26th, 2005.