San Jose, California — Saturday, February 14th

Kirtan raiser

Today is the anniversary of the appearance day of my param-guru (guru's guru), His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad.

Fifteen years ago I was asked to publish and edit a monthly newsletter for the fledgling Vaishnava community at the newly acquired Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Seva Ashram in Soquel. The first Vaishnava Seva newsletter was published on the anniversary of this day (on March 1st, according to the lunar calendar for 1994), with this editorial:

The beat goes on!

Today, on the auspicious appearance day of our grandfather guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur — that grand and accomplished player of the brihad mridanga — we have assembled this tiny, makeshift drum and we pray that you, the Vaishnava, may bless us by beating upon our heads so that the sound emanating from our little mridanga may become sweeter with each issue.

We are aware that ours is not a very attractive instrument, being crooked and thick-skinned, still, we pray that you beat us into shape according to your desire. If you will kindly show us your mercy by utilizing this instrument in your band, the sounds proceeding from it will become sweeter, louder, and more sure with each successive issue, and we will be able to serve you better. Without the support of the Vaishnavas whom we attempt to serve, we have no hope, for our nature is such that we cannot but echo the beat played upon us by the drummer — and there are so many other drummers out there drumming up support for the glorification of material existence!

We therefore beg for the opportunity to be utilized in your kirtan, for the drumming on our heads will surely muffle our ears to all the other seductive sounds that constantly lure us in the other direction.

By serving you, at first just by tentatively echoing the sounds that you force us to make, we may someday develop some real attraction and appreciation for your joyful kirtan, and be helplessly swept up along with others as you lead us all on the long march back to home, back to Godhead.

The first page of the newsletter emphasized the inclusive, communal nature of this new spiritual outreach project:

You are not alone

Vaishnava Seva will try to keep you in touch with your fellow devotees in the San Francisco Bay Area, and create a sense of "community."

Sometimes we feel all alone in the world, helpless in the struggle against maya, but, as Srila Guru Maharaj says in his book, Sri Guru and His Grace: "There are others who are also working, and their ideal will inspire us, although we may not physically see them or have their association. The inspiration of these unseen devotees will be our fare. They will inspire us to go on with the journey."

This newsletter will try to give visibility to all those otherwise "unseen" devotees, and give you an opportunity to assist them in their service.

A year later, the virtual devotional community that the Vaishnava Seva sought to foster inform devotees in the California Bay Area of opportunities for service to the Vaishnavas in general and the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Seva Ashram in particular, and to provide a forum where the devotees can express their views and realizations...

grew exponentially when the newsletter transitioned from the brihad mridanga (printing press) to the maha brihad mridanga (internet), with the publication of the first web pages for the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Seva Ashram and the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in 1995, on what was then the wonder of the World Wide Web.

May Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad continue to inspire us to humbly try to play the mridanga in his worldwide kirtan...

Tags: Gurus & Guardians

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Layout by iMonk — February 14th, 2009.