Tuesday we took my mother to my sister’s house. Oddly enough, my sister lives a block away from the Baltimore temple. After dropping my mom off, we headed over to the temple for some Hare Krishna fun.
My husband and kids picked cherries and mulberries for the Deities while I attended the noon aroti. The attendence, of course, was small. Me, another mataji, a visiting brahmacari and the pujari. But the brahmacari, Tirthapada, who I remember from Vrindavan, led a very sweet kirtan. Tirthapada was very melodious and focused while chanting. His voice was a natural fit with the Lord’s Holy Name.
I knew he looked familiar to me and suspected that he was from Vrindavan. My hunch was confirmed when, at the close of the kirtan, he chanted “Jaya Radha Syamasundara.” This chanting was like a small majic gem you could hold close to your heart without anyone else noticing. It was quiet and simple. Not at all boisterous and showy. It was a Vraja Kirtan.
After delicious Jagannatha prasadam prepared by Tirthapada and Adbhut Krishna Prabhus, we got ready to go to the Baltimore Aquarium. Since we were going to buy a family pass, we invited the brahmacaris along with us.
My husband and I both have special affection for devotees like Adbhut and Tirthapada, who so naturally imbibe the culture and mood and heart of a devotee. We thought it would be a fun way for us all to spend the day together. Venumadhava was tremendously excited to have the boys come with us. Tirthapada was especially playful with Venumadhava.
I never spent such a Krishna Conscious day at the aquarium before. The boys came in their saffron dhotis, not thinking once that they should change into pants. They kept their hands in their japa bags the entire time. Immediately I was reminded of Vrindavan, where japa is like breathing. Walking to the temple? Chant. Rikshaw to Loi Bazaar? Chant. Leaving your room? Chant.
With two kids in tow, I often find it difficult to always have my hand on my beads. I do try to bring my japa everywhere I go, “just in case.” As in, just in case I get stranded somewhere, just in case I have time to chant, just in case I run into Prabhupada and he asks me where are my beads.
We thought the devotees would be a little more interested in the aquarium, but Adbhut had been there before and Tirthapada grew up in a village with lots of aquatic life around (stingrays, crabs, maybe even sharks?). I realized how lame the American suburban experience is. There actually isn’t much experience. You have to experience it at an aquarium or some other artificial environment that you pay too much for.
After the aquarium, while walking over to the paddle boats, somehow we got on the topic of raising kids. Adbhut commented that it is very difficult to raise children, especially in America, and that children born to devotees grow up to be “worse than karmis.” Of course, he admitted exceptions such as Vrindarani and Gauravani. Sadly, I had to agree with him.
gurur na sa syat sva-jano na sa syat
pita na sa syaj janani na sa syat
daivam na tat syat na patis ca sa syan
na mocayed yah samupeta-mrtyum (SB 5.5.18)
“One who cannot deliver his dependent from the path of birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a relative, a father or mother, or a worshipable demigod, nor should such a person become a husband.”
How strong is my desire to save my children from repeated birth and death? How strong is my faith in sastra that I give my children, at whatever cost to my own enjoyment, the opportunity to understand their position as dasa dasa anu dasa? What am I doing making jam when I should be reading Prabhupada’s books? How much time will I waste this lifetime doing nothing useful but everything ordinary?
They can produce hundreds of children, it doesn’t matter, but must be responsible that “The children should be saved. This is the last birth, no more birth. I’ll train the child in such a way that next life he’s going to Krsna, back to home, back to Godhead.” That is parent’s duty. Otherwise they should not become parent. That is contraceptive: “I am not fit to train my children in that way, so I shall not produce cats and dogs.” This is life. Why shall I produce cats and dogs? And Bhaktivinoda Thäkura was grhastha, he produced Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. That is one… So in this way, if there is ideal institution, ideal mode of living, it is happy; everything is all right. That is grhastha. Produce Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. My Guru Maharaja used to say that “If I can produce Krsna-bhakta as children, then I’m prepared to marry and produce hundreds of children.” And if we cannot, then we shall not produce even one children. (Jan. 3 1977, SP Room Conversation, Bombay)
So every parent desires welfare of his children, of their children. So this is the greatest welfare, that “This child has come in my womb, he has become my son. This is the last time. No more birth and death. He will be educated in that way.” That is father’s responsibility. Not that eat him, get him meat-eating, and get him fat. However fat he may be, he’ll die. (laughter) You cannot stop his death simply by making him fat like elephant. Therefore it is said, dharmaviruddha. Don’t beget children if you have no responsibility. (SP, BG 7-11-12, Bombay Feb. 25, 1974)
Yesterday I asked Venumadhava if he likes being a devotee. First he said “no” then he quickly said, “Yeah, yeah, I do. I do like being a devotee. I just don’t want to be a pure devotee.”
Children learn by example.