Calcutta, India — Sunday, September 2nd
Return to Africa
I fly to Johannesburg, South Africa, tonight. The last time I visited the land of my birth was a little over four years ago, about three months after becoming an itinerant monk...
My old friend, Premasindhu Prabhu, has invited me to stay for a while in the beautiful Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Ashram that he built for Srila Gurudeva, just outside Johannesburg, in the suburb of Lenasia.
Earlier, in a letter to Premasindhu Prabhu, Srila Gurudeva wrote that he would "be very happy if you can bring Sripad Akinchan Maharaj to South Africa as my representative, specifically to your Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Ashram in Lenasia... to stay there for some time, and even base himself there, to give continued guidance to the local devotees."
Tags: On the way
Dubai, UAE / Johannesburg, SA — Monday, September 3rd
Dubai to Johannesburg
Dubai looks much larger at night. As we descend into the Persian Gulf port just before midnight, the lights sprawl out as far as I can see. (Maybe it is as glitzy as Las Vegas.)
My flight to Johannesburg is delayed one hour, so I have a six-hour layover in this United Arab Emirates city. The flight down the east coast of Africa is uneventful and I arrive in Johannesburg at 11:30 a.m.
Premasindhu Prabhu, Dilip, and Sarisha meet me at the Oliver Tambo (formerly Jan Smuts) airport in Johannesburg. Apparently many more devotees came to the airport early this morning because they thought my flight that was scheduled to leave Dubai at 4:30 a.m. arrived in South Africa at that time...
Tags: On the way
Johannesburg, South Africa — Tuesday, September 4th
Sri Krishna Janmastami
About sixty devotees and guests attend the Sri Krishna Janmastami program — the celebration of Lord Krishna's advent — here at the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Ashram in Lenasia.
It's nice to see so many familiar, friendly faces: Premasindhu Prabhu and his family, Mathuravasani Devi Dasi, Lokanath Prabhu, Mukunda Prabhu, Yogendra Prabhu and Kanchana Devi Dasi, our always enthusiastic temple-program coordinator, Krishna Kinkar Prabhu and his wife Krishna Nandini Devi Dasi, Krishnadas Prabhu and Sundaribala Devi Dasi, Mirdal Krishna Prabhu and his three sons, Kamala Krishna Prabhu, Charu Krishna Prabhu, and Prahlad Krishna Prabhu, as well as Krishna Kali Devi Dasi, Nilanayani Devi Dasi, and Shyamali Devi Dasi, who arrived by bus from Durban last night.
We begin the evening program with the arati at seven o'clock, and after several kirtans the temple president, Premasindhu Prabhu, introduces me to the guests. I quote a couple of verses from the Bhagavad Gita explaining the reasons for Krishna's appearance in this world, and then I give the revolutionary explanation of this one verse that I heard from Sripad Goswami Maharaj:
janma karma ca me divyam / evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma / naiti mam eti so 'rjuna
In the Bhagavad Gita (4:9), Krishna says that if we truly understand (evam yo vetti tattvatah) the transcendental nature of His birth and pastimes (janma karma ca me divyam), the false ego that shackles us to these bodies will be dissolved (tyaktva deham) as our consciousness is freed from this plane of misconception (punar janma naiti) and drawn into the transcendental world of reality that He inhabits (mam eti so).
The revolutionary implication of this verse is that we do not have to wait until we physically die (tyaktva deham) before we become free from this world of illusion (punar janma naiti), but our consciousness can be liberated even while living in this body!
What does it mean, really, "to again take birth in this material world"? Essentially, it means to live in a world of illusion: to misconceive the body (deham) to be the self. When we truly understand the divine nature of Krishna's birth and pastimes, we no longer identify ourselves with these bodies (tyaktva deham), because we no longer move and act (punar janma naiti) under the deluding potency of maya, but under Krishna's personal direction (mam eti so).
Srila Rupa Goswami substantiates this in The Nectar of Devotion:
iha yasya harer dasye / karmana manasa gira
nikhilasv apy avasthasu / jivan-muktah sa ucyate
Even while we are confined to the physical body within this material world (nikhilasv apy avasthasu), if we always utilize our body, mind, and words (karmana manasa gira) in the exclusive service of the Lord (iha yasya harer dasye), we are said to be liberated from this material environment (jivan-muktah sa ucyate), because our consciousness is no longer influenced by maya or illusion.
When the false ego, or the predisposition to misidentify ourselves with our bodies is completely dissolved (tyaktva deham), we never again labor under such a misconception (punar janma naiti) because we now see everything from a transcendental, Krishna conscious perspective (mam eti so).
This is what Srila Guru Maharaj means by "die to live." We have to die as we are (tyaktva deham), or completely withdraw our consciousness from this temporary, illusory world (punar janma naiti), before we can live forever with Krishna in the transcendental world (mam eti so).
Layout by iMonk — September 4th, 2007.