Navadwip, India — Thursday, October 23rd
Guru Maharaj's prasadam
Today we celebrate the Vyasa Puja (holy appearance day) of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj at his Union in Separation samadhi mandir at the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math that he founded here on the banks of the sacred Ganges River in Sri Navadwip Dham.
I have only been fortunate enough to participate in this festival here in Navadwip twice before: twenty-five years ago, in 1983, when I received initiation (diksha) from Srila Guru Maharaj, and thirteen years ago, when I came for Srila Guru Maharaj's Centenary celebration in 1995.
Since I have been unable to celebrate this auspicious event in Navadwip as often as I would like, I get up very early, shower, dress, put on tilak, and come down to the samadhi mandir in the dark, before anybody else is awake. After offering my dandavat pranam to Srila Guru Maharaj and apologizing for disturbing his bhajan, I begin to pray.
Perhaps because I have been meditating and writing quite a bit about prasadam recently, I ask Srila Guru Maharaj to please be merciful to me, to give me his grace: just one morsel of prasadam.
Srila Guru Maharaj gave me so much prasadam in 1983, and although it was so hard to swallow at the time, I now realize that it was the best prasadam that I have ever had. But that was a quarter of a century ago, and my soul is hungry for more...
After about twenty minutes of fervent prayer, this thought suddenly intrudes into my mind: Srila Guru Maharaj has already given me his prasadam. "What prasadam?" I demand brusquely, a little peeved at the disruption of my concentration.
The reply is immediate: "Govinda Maharaj."
Astonished, I drop to the floor, offer my dandavat pranam to Srila Guru Maharaj, and thank him for this insight. Srila Guru Maharaj is so kind and generous! Even though he entered into samadhi two decades ago, he still nourishes us with his prasadam — every single day.
Hapaniya, India — Friday, October 24th
After an early breakfast, three busloads of devotees make the short pilgrimage to Srila Guru Maharaj's birthplace, Sripat Hapaniya, for the traditional festival held there on the day after Srila Guru Maharaj's holy appearance.
Upon our arrival, we circumambulate the deity room (the actual birthplace of Srila Guru Maharaj). Caught up in the enthusiastic, jostling crowd, I clip the heel of an elderly brahmachari walking in front of me. Mortified, I apologize, but he bows elaborately, and with two hands, motions me to walk in front of him. I start to demur, but then, realizing that he is probably Brahmin-born and just doesn't want to be kicked by a mleccha again, I comply.
Acharya Maharaj then leads us on a parikrama of the dham and, swept up by the pushing, shoving crowd again, I tramp, barefoot, in a huge pile of cow poop on one of the narrow paths. (At least, I hope it is cow — and not some other animal — poop!)
When we return to the temple, the crowd enters the nat mandir to continue the boisterous kirtan, but I veer off to the water pump outside the deity room, to wash my foot. I pump the water over both feet, washing one foot with the other, and after I wash my hands, I turn to see... the brahmachari that I kicked.
He is standing on the veranda outside the little door to the deity room, watching me, and he is holding a ready-to-drink dob — a green coconut with the top cut off to expose the sweet coconut water within — in both hands.
He beckons to me and, thinking that he must be communicating with somebody else, I turn around — but there is nobody behind me, or indeed anywhere in the vicinity. Everybody is inside the nat mandir.
I walk over to him, cautiously, and, with a faint smile, he proffers the dob. I'm nonplussed. Why is he being so nice to me, after I kicked him? Seeing my hesitation, he again proffers the dob with a little bob of the head that says, "Take it."
I mumble a "thank you," look down at the open dob, and see that there is a single tulasi leaf floating in it. Only now do I realize that this brahmachari is the pujari. I look up to thank him properly, but he has gone.
It's quite a big dob, so I look around for somebody to share it with, but there is nobody. There are hundreds of devotees here today, but this side of the temple, between the deity room and the pump, is deserted. I drink the cool, refreshing dob. Hapaniya means "sweet water," and this Hapaniya dob is sweet, sweet, sweet...
We return to Navadwip in the afternoon and later that night, while pacing my room trying to complete my rounds on my japa mala (it's been a long, busy day), this thought stops me in mid-stride: did Srila Guru Maharaj answer my prayer, literally, today?
Yesterday, when I asked Srila Guru Maharaj for his prasadam at his samadhi mandir, I was more than satisfied with the (surprise) answer. I was not looking for anything more. And yet (and I know that this must sound pretentious), it seems that Srila Guru Maharaj did, quite unexpectedly here at his birthplace today, give me his maha-prasadam — a cool, sweet dob — from the hand of his pujari...
It is too much to even think about. I finish my rounds and go to bed.
Layout by iMonk — October 24th, 2008.