Calcutta, India — Sunday, July 8th

In safe hands

As I lay on the floor, my forehead pressed to the ground, I hear Srila Gurudeva call for Srila Guru Maharaj's garland, and then say, "Come, Maharaj."

I stand awkwardly before Srila Gurudeva, with my palms clasped before my chest, and I bow my head as His Divine Grace slips the garland around my neck.

I feel so uncomfortable and embarrassed — the disciple should garland the spiritual master! — but I humbly accept the garland because I understand that Srila Gurudeva has reversed roles to teach me, by practical example, how to always give honor and respect to others.

Srila Gurudeva holds out his arms to embrace me. As I step forward, my mind flashes back to another time, here on this very veranda...

...I had just returned to Calcutta from Russia. I immediately went to see Srila Gurudeva but he was taking his customary bath before lunch, so I decided to have a quick shower too. While I was in the middle of my shower, word came that His Divine Grace would see me now!

Hastily drying myself and dragging a finger of tilak up the middle of my forehead, I rushed over to the veranda and offered my dandavat pranam to Srila Gurudeva. When Srila Gurudeva embraced me, I lay my left cheek on his left shoulder. I was so happy to be safe in Srila Gurudeva's arms again!

But when I stepped back, Srila Gurudeva lifted his hand to stroke his left cheek with the tips of his fingers. Seeing his nonplussed expression, I realized what I had done. My sikha, which was still damp, had pressed against Srila Gurudeva's cheek...

...I don't make the same mistake again. As I step forward, I keep my head straight, looking directly over Srila Gurudeva's shoulder. Because I am so tentative and self-conscious, the embrace is a little awkward, but it does not matter: I am in safe hands again!

Srila Gurudeva smiles, motions me towards the sofa, and asks, "Did you come from Soquel?"

"No, Gurudeva," I reply. "I came from San Jose."

"Ah yes, San Jose..." Srila Gurudeva says, nodding his head...

Tags: Personal

Calcutta, India — Saturday, July 14th

What to do?

Srila Gurudeva is not feeling well, so the morning darshan is cut short.

After everyone leaves, as is his custom, Srila Gurudeva has a simple breakfast: a bowl of muri, eaten at his desk by the door to the veranda. He is looking intently at some pictures of the Ratha Yatra festival on his laptop, when I take my leave. I pay my obeisances silently, so as not to disturb him. (I almost never shout out, "Dandavat, Gurudeva!" when I pay my obeisances.)

I step out onto the landing and start to close the door gently, so that it doesn't bang back on its spring-loaded hinges. The door is almost closed — it's just open a crack — when Srila Gurudeva looks up from his computer, sees that I am leaving, quickly swivels his body, clasps his hands to his forehead, and says, "Dandavat, Maharaj."

I am so flustered that I don't know what to do. Should I go back in? Pay my obeisance again? Srila Gurudeva is smiling... waiting... I have to do something! I hold the door open a fraction wider, smile, bow my head, and say, "Dandavat, Gurudeva" — then I close the door and slowly slink (or should I say sink?) down the stairs... I'm so dumb sometimes...

Tags: Personal

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