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)