Calcutta, India — Monday, May 16th

One more week

Sripad Goswami Maharaj returned from a successful preaching tour of the Ukraine and Russia last week. Sripad Bhagavat Maharaj returns from the Ukraine this week. I'm up next: I leave for Kiev next Monday.

Even though I have a six-month visa, my flight is booked on Aerosvit (the Ukrainian national airline) and I have the tickets in my hand, after all the trouble I had getting to Russia last year, I still find it hard to believe that I will finally return to that part of the world.

The last time I was in the Ukraine was sixteen months ago, in January 2003. I was supposed to return to Russia and the Ukraine at this time last year, but since I did not get a Russian visa, I ended up staying with Srila Gurudeva in India and then returning to California with Srila Gurudeva on his 21st World Tour.

Now that my ticket is confirmed, I'm already beginning to miss Srila Gurudeva's association — and I still have a week to go before I leave! It has been really good for me, this last year and a half, being so close to Srila Gurudeva, especially this last month, in "the intimate closeness of his veranda."

Srila Gurudeva has been so good to me, allowing me to travel with him and to stay with him in India, the U.S.A., Venezuela and Mexico... If I had known that I would spend so much time with Srila Gurudeva after taking sannyas initiation, I would have made that leap a lot sooner!

But now the time has come to share the wealth, and to try to purify myself by distributing Srila Gurudeva's beautiful conception of Krishna consciousness (as best I can understand it) to others...

Calcutta, India — Saturday, May 21st

Miserly behavior

You would think, with all the mangoes that the neighbor has on her trees, she would be happy to donate some to the temple. Not so! It seems that the mango trees I wrote about last week are far more generous than their so-called owner.

I mean, really! The mangoes are falling off the tree; it is not as though we are picking them. But whenever the brahmacharis scuttle onto the roof to retrieve the fallen fruit, if the old shrew next door is in sight, she scolds them.

It's not as though the cantankerous crone has a legal leg to stand on, is it? What is she going to do? Trespass on our property when she comes to pick them up? Why does she begrudge the temple a few fruit from the overladen, overhanging branches of her mango trees? Why must she be so selfish, even over the things she cannot control?

I smile to myself: I can see clearly how her own actions are going against her, but what about my own behavior? The appropriateness of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's example of the tree (taror api sahisnuna) again comes to my mind.

Consciously, we are superior to trees, but the conscious misuse of our freedom puts us in a more dangerous, contemptible situation. While trees patiently endure the results of their previous actions, we struggle against the consequences of our own, and exacerbate our predicament by constantly misusing our mobility to assert and enforce our egocentric demands on the environment.

We are advised to be more tolerant than a tree because while a tree is firmly fixed in its position, we have freedom... freedom to do wrong. A tree is stationary, but we have the ability to move... to move in the wrong direction. A tree is passive, patiently accepting the result of its past actions, but our present actions may go against our own best interests... so we have to be more cautious, more tolerant, than a tree.

Anyway, the fishwife next-door can't do much more than fulminate, can she? Of course, this just makes the mangoes taste so much more sweeter: it's always that way with forbidden fruit, isn't it?

And Srila Gurudeva has been exhorting me to eat more mangoes every day this week: "Maharaj, please take more mango. You are leaving on Monday, and you not will get mangoes in the Ukraine."

Hey, now this is one order I can follow — pass the mangoes, please!

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