Monthly Archives: May 2007

Wish Fulfilling Deities


During Romapada Swami’s initiation talk, he said that Radha Damodara are wish fulfilling Deities. He said if we didn’t believe him, we could see for ourselves by making a prayer to Radha Damodara.

This reminded me of Prabhupada’s instructions to sell Gaura Nitai Deities on the street as “wish dolls.” Radha Damodara are definitely in the mood of Gaura Nitai, famously traveling in a bus to spread Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan mission.

My experience has always been that Gaura Nitai give me whatever I asked for. Why not start asking Radha Damodara to fulfill my desires? With Maharaja’s prompting, I offered my prayer.

Dear Sri Sri Radha Damodara, please send devotees to Gita Nagari. There are so many wonderful devotees sitting in Your temple room. They all have so much affection for You. Please affect the heart of at least one sincere soul in a way that they will move here and add to the success of Gita Nagari.

There it was, put out into the ether. Who knew what prayers were offered by the other devotees sitting in the temple room at that moment. It wasn’t the first time I prayed like this (I offered a similar prayer when Radha Damodara went to NV–Please, bring back devotees!!!) In reality, I was not expecting a response.

I am accustomed to the struggle of Gita Nagari, one of ISKCON’s many underdogs. There are not many devotees here, nor have there been for years. However, just when I think it cannot get any quieter, someone else leaves (Advaita!). To actually have devotees mover here, families, en masse, would be a revolution.

But if we cannot have a revolution at Gita Nagari, maybe we could at least have a rejuvination.

Wednesday morning I went to Greeting and noticed that one family from Alachua was still here. I took notice of the family throughout the retreat because they have 4 children, ages 7 thru 12, three of them boys. All the boys were nicely shaved up, one played mrdanga. The children were bright and active. By the grace of Subal Prabhu, all were engaged in service, albeit for points, throughout the weekend.

Since this family was still here, I thought it would be nice to invite them over for prasadam. However, since my husband was away and I had some planned obligations for the day, I decided to invite just the children, including Vraja Krishna, for a pancake breakfast.

After the program, I spoke with their mother, Sri Vrindavan Mataji. I politely asked why they were still here and she responded that they love Gita Nagari so much, they are seriously thinking of moving here. Immediately tears welled up in my eyes and I told Mataji that her family moving to Gita Nagari would be a great boon for the community.

Then I invited the children to breakfast. Venumadhava, Madhumati and I headed home to start making pancakes. An hour later the crew showed up. I had seen Jagannatha with Vraja Krishna at the barn when we were on our way home and I asked him if he ate a lot, which his reply was an enthusiastic “yes,” especially when it came to pancakes.

Well, we made a lot of pancakes and I recieved a lesson in relativity. As in, everything is relative in the material world. What I considered to be a lot of pancakes is not the same as what these kids considered to be a lot of pancakes. Our cat will be eating, ahem, honoring prasadam pancakes for at least a week.

Venumadhava had a wonderful time playing with the boys. Damodara, the oldest, is quite mature and after a while was tired of playing and helped me bake cookies. He watched over his siblings while they were here and even chastised his brother lightly when he asked for a fourth helping of strawberries.

The strawberries at the temple garden are abundantly ripening. The boys, including Vraja, picked about 15 gallons. We bought 5 gallons from the temple and I spent last nite canning jam.

Everything is here at Gita Nagari. The fields are producing sun ripened fruit, the cows’ udders are dripping milk. Wildflowers, fragrant like honey, line the side of the road. The call of peacocks creates an audible fence around the Dhama. All by the mercy of our Wish Fulfilling Deities.

Jaya Sri Sri Radha Damodara

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Retreat Photos




Here are some photos from the retreat, courtesy of Bhaktin Alysia.

Another festival, another run in with the wall. Yes, that is a bandage Venumadhava is wearing in the photo at the barn, not a turban (nor is it a totally 80’s headband). Thankfully M. Prematarangini, the absolutely sweetest Vaisnava pediatrician was on call. If only we had a picture of her…next year.

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Romapada Swami Retreat


The Romapada Swami retreat ended today. It was a great weekend, even though I did not get to attend any of the lectures. Happily, I was able to attend this morning’s class which was actually an initiation.

Maharaja gave a thoughtful talk which was, surprisingly, not about the importance of initiation. Rather, keeping with the theme of the retreat, he spoke about different layers of Vaisnava compassion. Maharaja was saying that when the devotees are at work, even though they cannot wear dhoti (but he did say they can wear tilak!), they should exhibit the 26 qualities of a Vaisnava. Whether or not people know one to be a devotee is irrelevant, Maharaja said. Eventually they will find out. Therefore, it is rather important that a devotee, through Krishna’s mercy, aquire these ornaments. In this way, people will be impressed by the quality of the devotees and associate these qualities with Krishna. By introducing others to Krishna, we express the greatest compassion.

Maharaja also said that ISKCON, as an organization, is great at exposing people to Krishna Consciousness. However, the organization has not been very effective at nurturing and guiding devotees in their Krishna Consciousness.

I was impressed by this point,along with his hope/expectation that his devotees wear tilak to work. In this cultural time of watered down Krishna Consciousness, Maharaja sets the bar pretty high for his disciples. Mother Saibya told me that sometimes Maharaja adds to the 4 regs, “and you’ll eat only Krishna prasadam.” He didn’t say this today.

Of course, implementing high standards does not automatically accelerate the bhakti in the heart. However, these disciplines are pleasing to Krishna and Krishna always reciprocates with His devotees.

I have been feeling this reciprocation lately. Initially I began trying to help out in the pujari department because I needed more engagement. But now I see my mind is becoming more focused on Radha Damodara and, in return for this sentiment that is just beginning to manifest, They are providing me with even more engagement. Thank you, Radha Damodara.

Actually, Maharaja talked about how special Radha Damodara are. He mentioned that many of the devotees visiting the retreat had pictures of Radha Damodara on their altars at home. Maharaja spoke about Radha Damodara’s extremely merciful and reciprocating nature.

One of the devotees staying with us was one of the initiates this morning. Terry Lee is now Nandarani Dasi. I am very happy her family stayed with us (as is Venumadhava who had a great time playing with Dhananjaya…and Manu). Mother Nandarani told me after the yajna that when she came to Gita Nagari for the first time she really decided then that she wanted to be a devotee. I found that statement interesting because right before she received her name, I thought “She is never going to forget Radha Damodara.”

Although I didn’t get the opportunity to attend the lectures, I feel my Krishna Consciousness benefitted greatly from this weekend. Getting to know M. Saibya and M. Nandarani’s families a little better is a great help along this path. Relationships with the devotees, no matter how long distance, are essential to this process.
We are all trying to get to the same place. Hopefully we can inspire one another along the way.

26 Qualities of a Devotee

Devotees are always merciful, humble, truthful, equal to all, faultless, magnanimous, mild and clean. They are without material possessions, and they perform welfare work for everyone. They are peaceful, surrendered to Krsna and desireless. They are indifferent to material acquisitions and are fixed in devotional service. They completely control the six bad qualities — lust, anger, greed and so forth. They eat only as much as required, and they are not inebriated. They are respectful, grave, compassionate and without false prestige. They are friendly, poetic, expert and silent. (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, 22.78–80)

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Heaven

Another day of strawberries and cows. Some realizations about children and patience.

I am so happy that we moved to this deserted cloud I call Heaven. Sure, NC had more devotees and more flowers and more feasts, etc. But Gita Nagari has more for us to do and, in this way, Krishna Consciousness is more alive here for us.

Thank you, Srila Prabhupada.

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Srila Prabhupada on Gurukula

72-02-16 Letter: Satsvarupa
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of January 20, 1972, along with pictures, floor-plan, and tape, and I am very very pleased that you have been able to secure that place for our Gurukula school and temple. I am enclosing one letter to Chaya dasi in this respect, to clear up a few points, namely, that we should concentrate on training these children up in Krishna Consciousness, not so much by formal, academic education–a little reading, writing, mathematics, that’s all–but more by giving them facility to follow the examples of the older devotees in the regular KC program, namely, rising early, arati, chanting, reading, street Sankirtana, preaching, distributing literature–like that. These children can be trained in that way, by participating in all of these activities throughout the day, and always the focus of attention will be on Krishna. So you kindly see that these programs are carried on nicely, that is, in the matter of our routine KC program, and let the children learn in that way. Not much time should be wasted giving so much academic knowledge, a little reading and writing, that’s all. Let them be able to read our books very nicely, and that will be their higher education. Keep them always happy in Krishna Consciousness, and do not try to force or punish or they will get the wrong idea. By and by, if they are satisfied in this way, they will all grow up to be first-class preachers and devotees.

72-01-10 Letter: Aniruddha
The children should be trained in early rising, attending mangal arati, some elementary education: arithmetic, alphabet, some of our books, like that. They should go to bed by 8 p.m. and rise by 4 a.m. for mangal arati, getting 8 hours sleep. If they take 8 hours sleep, they will not fall asleep during arati. When they get up they should wash with a little warm water, at least three times wash face. They may sleep one hour in the afternoon and there is no harm. Encourage them to chant as much japa as possible, but there is no question of force or punishment. If there is need you may shake your finger at them but never physical punishment is allowed. Try as far as possible to discipline them with love and affection, so that they develop a taste for austerity of life and think it great fun to serve Krishna in many ways. Rising early and mangal arati, this is enough austerity. Besides that, let them learn something, chant, dance, eat as much prasadam as they like, and do not mind if they have playful nature–let them also play and run, that is natural. It is nice if they eat often–if children overeat it doesn’t matter, that is no mistake. Boys and girls should be educated separately

75-03-14 Letter: Tirthanga
Regarding sending children to Gurukula, that is also optional, not compulsory. The most important things are that you follow very carefully all of the rules and regulations such as rising early, and having mangala arati and classes, etc. and that you chant at least 16 rounds daily without fail. These things are most essential for your spiritual advancement and then everything will be alright.

74-12-28 Letter: Jagadisa
Regarding Gurukula I am very happy to hear that the financial crisis has passed. That is very good. This is real management. As far as the children are concerned, people are accusing us sometimes that our children are undernourished, underfed and not cared for properly. So it is good that you are seeing that they are happy and healthy. They should be given milk at least 8 ounces a day if possible 16 ounces a day. Dahl, capati, rice, vegetable this will keep them fit. If possible a little bit of fruit also. As for fixing up the Deity house in Dallas with marble altars, this is not necessary for now. We shall see later on. For the time being organize the health, education and care of the children and continue the Deity worship as it is going nicely now. Deities are satisfied with bhakti not marble. Therefore try to increase the bhakti.

770429rc.bom Conversations
Prabhupada: So far gurukula is concerned, that also, I have given program. They have given the name of “girls.” We are not going to do that.
Prabhupada: Girls. Boys and girls. That is dangerous.
Prabhupada: Girls should be completely separated from the very beginning. They are very dangerous.
Prabhupada: No, no, no. No girls.
Prabhupada: Yes. They should be taught how to sweep, how to stitch…
Prabhupada: …clean, cook, to be faithful to the husband.
Tamala Krsna: They don’t require a big school.
Prabhupada: No, no. That is mistake. They should be taught how to become obedient to the husband.
Prabhupada: Little education, they can…
Tamala Krsna: Yeah. That they can get at home also.
Prabhupada: They should be stopped, this practice of prostitution. This is a very bad system in Europe and America. The boys and girls, they are educated–coeducation. From the very beginning of their life they become prostitutes. And they encourage.
Prabhupada: They distribute pills. I have seen the boys and girls dancing together, embracing, in the school film. That ruins the career. Both of them are ruined. That is very regrettable. Then you shall require this sterilization, pills, another big program. They are creating animal civilization, and when the animals are disturbing, they are trying to find out some other means. This is their program. First of all create animals. Then, when the animals behave like animals, then another program. Why do you create animal? Woman brahmacarini, this is artificial.

770430rc.bom Conversations
Prabhupada: So our gurukula should be ideal. Not all these boys… You should take care of these things from the very beginning–if you want actually spiritual life. If you want to progress like animals, that is different thing, as the whole world is doing. We want to maintain an ideal institution. People may see. In Christian idea also, the nuns were separate.

Srila Prabhupada’s instructions are my solace as I struggle to raise my children. While some may see his words as irrelevant to today’s world or in light of the failure of the ISKCON gurukula system, I don’t.

Does anyone who claims to be a devotee of Krishna, a Prabhupadanuga, actually beleive that Srila Prabhupada did not know that Kali Yuga was going to progress?

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Gopi


Today the kids and I were out in the yard when we saw that an orange poppy had bloomed. The first of many to come. We then checked our pitiful strawberry patch, violated by some unknown animal with a voracious appetite for tiny white flowers. Surprisingly, there was an actual ripe strawberry. Venumadhava offered it and quickly ate it up while Madhumati slept in the back pack.

This lone red strawberry inspired me to go over to the farm and check the temple strawberry patch. At the maha garden clean-up, we discovered the patch and did a spring weeding. Isvari must have planted it as a cash crop because there were just so many plants.

Around 4 o’clock we waded into the patch, overgrown with neglect. Despite the abundance of weeds, Radha Damodara’s strawberry patch was thriving. So many white flowers, the stalks heavy with green fruit. Venumadhava spotted ripe strawberries first and despite my talk before we went over to the farm, he began eating them while I set off to get a container for collection. According to him though, he did offer them.

Practically every strawberry plant had one of the stickly prickly weeds growing in the middle of it. I had to keep reminding the kids not to walk on the strawberry plants only to look down at my own feet atop shiny, dark strawberry leaves. There were just so many plants that wherever we placed our foot, there was sure to be a casualty.

We managed to pick about a quart of berries (and some daisys and purple mystery flowers for Prabhupada). We headed to the temple with me thinking that these berries would make Mother Kaulini happy. Not just ordinary upturned corners of the mouth happy but I was under the illusion that these berries, the first harvest from Radha Damodara’s garden, would solve all of M. Kaulini’s problems.

Yesterday when we visited M. Kaulini she seemed stressed out from all the responsibility she shoulders. In 30+ years at the farm, she has not slowed down a bit. In fact, due to the shortage of manpower around here, she is probably busier than ever. Yesterday, due to a transportation mix up, she had to fill in at the last minute to cook the evening offering. This is after dressing Jagannatha, milking, cooking raja bhoga, chanting and the usual cleaning up after Bhakta Nobody that she does daily. She still had to do the evening milking of two cows, plus who knows what else.

When we got to the temple, I instructed Venumadhava to take Madhumati to M.Kaulini’s room with the berries, making sure not to let anyone eat any along the way. I went to the kitchen to make the vase and then went to M. Kaulini’s room.

She was definitely happy about the strawberries and then surprised that they came from the temple garden. She asked if she could use some for Giriraja. She always asks if she can use something for Giriraja, she never assumes that the answer is a standing “yes.” This made her even more excited. I was beginning to think that my strawberry plan worked.

Then she told me about Salauni. The calf isn’t drinking much milk and is only nursing from the front teats. A mand from the Agway came out and looked at her today. She is really at risk of infection if we don’t get the milk out. Her udder is very hard and the dripping milk is attracting flies. He advised M. Kaulini to milk her three times a day. Oh no.

It then became obvious that strawberries were not the solution.

We went to the barn with M. Kaulini, along with Sitala, a visiting devotee from S. Africa. Venumadhava’s enthusiasm was infectious. He combed Kisori with Sitala, then asked M. Kaulini if he could milk with her. He was having so much fun milking that I joined in with Madhumati on my lap. The three of us milked Kisori and I realized that Madhumati is getting old enough that I could actually start milking with M. Kaulini on a regular basis.

After milking Kisori, M. Kaulini then held Venumadhava while they herded the cow out of the barn. The two of them then brought in Salauni and Premanjana, the playful and submissive calf. I massaged Salauni’s milk bag while M. Kaulini milked her. Venumadhava stayed with Premanjana and stroked her satiny coat.

Everyone was having such a wonderful time caring for Krishna’s darlings. While Venumadhava was leading Premanjana out by her leash M. Kaulini tapped Salauni’s backside with her cowherd stick. Our joy reverberated off the concrete slab barn floor as Sitala, Madhumati, Venumadhava, M. Kaulini and myself headed outside to watch Premanjana run through the tall fresh grass, kicking her hind legs like a donkey.

The mood was relaxed and farm. The solution was not strawberries. The solution was cows. Despite the added service the calf brings (more milk, worrying about the calf, looking after Salauni’s health, etc), Mother Kaulini’s greatest happiness is these cows. She does not begrudge the service. The stress she experiences is not of the ordianary self centered “when do I get time for me” variety. Rather, she is truly worried about the welfare of Krishna’s darling ladies, Salauni and Kishori.

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Blog on blog, Serving Prabhupada, Japa Diet


Today when I spoke with Kiriti Mataji on the phone she shared with me her appreciation for my blogging effort. Kiriti was actively looking for a house in the Gita Nagari area when a great opportunity came on the market in Emmaus. So, it is Emmaus for her and her family (for now). A few other devotees have expressed a positive response to this blog and that really encourages me. Advaita Prabhu said he appreciated it because it is more up to date than the Gita Nagari Website.

I appreciate the blog because it helps me locate Krishna within my day to day life. It helps me actually take a passing thought and make it my meditation for the day or even the week. The blog slows me down. The blog allows me to edit my life while it is going on, “Okay, this really isn’t that important of an event in my day. Okay, this seems kind of big and anxiety producing but it is really just insignificant, mundane and, if I let this take over my mind, will only bind me more to this material existence. Okay, this is it, this is where Krishna is in my day.”

Often I think of something Advaita Prabhu would say. “You will find what you are looking for.” The blog helps me look for Krishna.

Today I found Krishna in my garden.

We have wonderful gardens planted around our property. Around 30 sq. ft. of peonies all about to come into a bloom of rani red (if you’ve never gone sari shopping, that translates into hot pink), hundreds of daffodils big and small, lillies, camelias, columbine, periwinkle, lilacs, wild flowers, concord grapes, apple and pear trees, two kinds of quince and maple trees a couple of hundred years old. Even our weeds are beautiful, with violets speckling our lawn.

As flowers come into bloom, I feel guilty leaving them on their stem selfishly enjoying their color, curvature and fragrance. Unfortunately, there is a part of me which resists cutting them for Krishna. For some reason, despite the bounty of our yard, I don’t want to cut “too many” at one time. This is my miserly nature.

We picked the flowers today while I was on the phone. Normally I do not like to do Krishna’s service while talking on the phone, but I have no excuse except to say that I did it.

Dhanurdhara Swami tells a wonderful story of attending M. Yamuna’s cooking class in Vrindavan a few years ago. She said that talking on the phone or just plain prajalpa while cooking is an offense comparable to innatentive chanting. And Prabhupada never did that. There is a real potency in this story. Not only the content but hearing the standard of Srila Prabhupada transmitted through M. Yamuna and then again by Dhanurdhara Swami. Well, to not follow this…one doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

The real meditation came when the kids and I took the flowers to the kitchen to arrange the vase. I am an awful vase maker. In Vrindavan, on Radhastami, I was once asked by Krishna Balama’s pujari to make a set of vases. When I told him I was finished he looked at the vases as if I had put the flowers in upside down. Then he set about dismantling my arrangements. So, I definitely don’t have an artistic flair for floral arrangement. Yet, being at Gita Nagari, I am not too worried that the vases will be met with any creative disapproval.

The flowers we picked were very colorful and fragrant, some flowering branches and the first peonies of the year. There were wild flowers from the brush area and lilies my husband transplanted from our house in North Carolina. Venumadhava helped put some of the smaller cuttings into the vase.

While arranging the flowers I was thinking how wonderful this service to Srila Prabhupada is. Prabhupada is so merciful, he lets a muci mother and her two muci children do some seva. I’ve never felt so much appreciation and reciprocation from someone I never actually met in person.

saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair
uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih
kintu prabhur yah priya eva tasya
vande guroh sri caranaravindam

“The spiritual master is to be honored as much as the Supreme Lord, because he is the most confidential servitor of the Lord. This is acknowledged in all revealed scriptures and followed by all authorities. Therefore I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of such a spiritual master, who is a bona fide representative of Sri Hari(Krsna).”

There are so many rules in Deity worship (which we are all about to learn more of when Nrsringha Kavaca Prabhu comes Thursday) but these same rules are not there to approach the Spiritua Master. In this way, the Guru is more merciful than Krishna.

I remember when my Guru took away my name. After some time of being in spiritual limbo, I humbled myself and apologized to him for all my offenses. His reply to me was that I should go before Srila Prabhupada and beg forgiveness, since the grandfather is more merciful than the father. Despite my lack of faith, I did this. I went into the temple room and begged Prabhupada’s Murti.

Dhanurdhara Swami has encouraged us to look at our pasts and contemplate whether or not, given the opportunity to do it all over again, we would do things the same way. Of course, most of us have experienced difficulties and regrets. But can we understand how our life events have led us to where we are now spiritually? I think of this often. My past is so horrible yet today is settled, content and spiritually conducive. Sure, in some ways if I could change 1997 thru 2001, I would. But would I be here, at Gita Nagari, married to a very kind and sincere soul?

Without my offenses, without the unending mercy and kindness of my Guru, would I have ever developed any faith and attachment to Srila Prabhupada’s Murti? Would I ever have kneeled before him with folded hands begging him to help me right my wrongs? Of course I always wish things went differently for myself. I am probably more in tama guna than in raja guna (although my body is always moving things forward my mind is constantly backpedaling). At the same time, without all the setbacks I’ve experienced, I don’t think I would have very much to measure my spiritual life against.

Which naturally leads my mind to the topic of japa. Another late nite spent chanting japa means another missed morning spent chanting japa. I am thinking about my japa as one thinks about going on a diet. Every day I say that tomorrow I will begin rising early to chant my japa and every nite I go to bed grateful that I got my rounds completed, albeit at an hour that compromises any chance of early rising the next day. Right now my japa diet is very malnourished. Lots of empty calories, japa snacking throughout the day, but I am not really thinking about what is coming out of my mouth.

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