Caracas, Venezuela — Sunday, January 8th
This morning Purujit Prabhu and Antyarjami Prabhu call Srila Gurudeva in Navadwip. I am a little reluctant to speak to Srila Gurudeva on the phone because I never know what to say, but the phone is thrust into my hands so I blurt:
"Dandavat Gurudeva. Please accept my dandavat pranam at your holy lotus feet."
Srila Gurudeva laughs that infectious laugh of his, and says, "Dandavat, Maharaj!"
"Dandavat Gurudeva," I repeat, stupidly.
Srila Gurudeva laughs again and says, "Long time, Maharaj!"
"When you will come?"
"For Gaura Purnima?" Srila Gurudeva prompts.
I'm always so tongue-tied when I speak to His Divine Grace!
But it is wonderful to hear the warmth and affection in his voice. I am nobody, really, but Srila Gurudeva always treats me so affectionately...
It is not so easy to get Srila Gurudeva's darshan. We must be satisfied with only the opportunity to serve from afar, through the medium of his devotees (dasa-dasanudasah). And by serving them, by channeling our service through them, we may sometimes, unexpectedly, get Srila Gurudeva's darshan — as I did today by the grace of his devotees like Purujit Prabhu and Antyarjami Prabhu here in Venezuela.
Caracas, Venezuela — Tuesday, January 10th
Three days ago, on Saturday morning, I committed a great offense: such a great offense that I could not bring myself to write about it until now...
On Saturday morning I used the Deity's spoon.
God makes Himself known to us in mysterious ways, but we never want Him to make us conscious of His presence like this!
How I came to use the spoon, what the spoon was doing upstairs in our room, or who gave the spoon to me, really does not matter. I understand — more clearly than at any other time in my life — that the environment is not to blame, that nobody is to blame but myself.
I was devastated when I discovered what I had done. How could I have been so stupid? How could I have been so unconscious? I saw that it was an unusual spoon — I even remarked on the fancy silverware here in Caracas — but I never for a moment made the connection to the Deities, to Parama Karuna Sri Sri Nitai Gaurachandra.
We must always be conscious of our actions and our environment. To become Krishna conscious means to become conscious of the friendly hand of Krishna in the background of everything. We must be conscious of our environment so that we can recognize when God chooses to briefly reveal Himself to us, and we must be conscious of our actions so that we do not cause any offenses to the devotees, or blunder about inattentively, trampling the sacred objects of our worship.
As Srila Sridhar Maharaj warns us in Sri Guru and His Grace: "We must not make progress in a slumber, but we must go forward with our eyes always opened."
In the early stages of Krishna consciousness most of our offenses are overlooked because of our inexperience, but as we make advancement we have to accept greater responsibility for our actions. A baby may kick its mother, but such behavior from an older child is unacceptable.
So there is no excuse for me. I am a grown man. I have been trying to become Krishna conscious since 1981 — almost a quarter of a century! I should have known better.
How could I atone for this offense?
It seemed to me that an appropriate penance — since I used the spoon to gratify the urge of my tongue (jihva-vegam), to satisfy the craving of my stomach (udara-vega) — was to fast.
For three days I fasted, prayed, and read Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita. I was determined to fast for the duration of my stay, to try to expiate my offense. When not reading or praying, I chanted on my japa mala.
But I should have realized that this sort of penance would disturb my hosts, Purujit Prabhu and Antyarjami Prabhu, who were understandably concerned when they discovered that I had stopped eating, so I have had to compromise, and limit my fast to just these three days.
I continue to read Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita and chant as much as I can because I don't have a sense of closure yet. I am going through an intense period of self-analysis, diving deep into myself to try to find the root of my carelessness, so that it can be extirpated.
"God gives us truth... when we earnestly seek for it," Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur says. "The soul receives a revelation when it is anxious for it."
If there is a positive side to this unhappy incident, it is that I am more conscious of Krishna now. It is horrible that He has had to force me to be more aware of Him, to impress Himself on my consciousness in such a negative way, but perhaps that was the only way to get my attention...
Caracas, Venezuela — Friday, January 13th
Earlier this week I went with the local devotees (lead by Amita Shakti Devi Dasi and Vrinda Devi Dasi, the inaugurators of this program to distribute prasadam to the sick and elderly) to visit an old folks home.
The devotees perform this service not just to give comfort to these poor old folk during the last days of their lives, but to give the invaluable gift of ajnata sukriti (unconsciously accumulated spiritual merit) which will be so beneficial in the future lives of those who hear and participate in the kirtan (chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra) and partake of the prasadam (sanctified food).
Now, days later, vivid images of some of the inhabitants of that dreary institution continue to haunt me: it's hard to believe that anybody can get that old! Gnarled, wizened caricatures — like skeletons draped in flesh two sizes too large — clinging stubbornly to life...
This is how it ends.
Waiting to die.
Clinging to memories of your childhood...
...which condemn you to repeat the cycle of birth and death.
dehino 'smin yatha dehe / kaumaram yauvanam jara
tatha dehantara-praptir / dhiras tatra na muhyati
"Just as the soul, in this body, gradually passes from childhood to youth to old age, that same soul passes from this body into another at the time of death. The wise are not fooled by such a transformation."
Layout by iMonk — January 13th, 2006.