The time spent with all the devotees was priceless. The reciprocation endless. Krishna cannot be purchased, but the heart of His devotee can be bartered for with love.
To my utter amazement, the samadhi was completed for the festival. Not that it is totally finished, there is still more to do. But what the devotees accomplished in three days is nothing short of miraculous. They managed to transform a pile of cinder blocks into a floor to ceiling marble monument. Three days before the festival it did not look good. Only one exterior section of the samadhi was tiled in marble. And then the morning of the festival, there was Sanatana Prabhu, completely exhausted, wiping down the newly grouted marble floor. Many of us could not believe it. Indeed, Krishna can expand time.
The theme of the Samadhi innaguration appeared to be “loving exchanges.” For many of the speakers featured throughout the festival, this was the focus. Although I did not attend the festival in its start to finish entirety, I definitely felt enveloped by the mood of “loving exchanges.”
Our ten room home was packed as devotees began arriving Tuesday for the July 4th program with HH Dhanurdhara Swami. Wednesday even more devotees parked in front of our house, unloading pillows and blankets and a minivan load full of diaper bags to tend to the triplets. As soon as Maharaja and the devotees arrived, our house was instantly transformed into a place of pilgrimage. Giriraja was placed on Gaura Nitai’s altar. Gaura Nitai were relocated to Radharani’s kitchen next to a picture of Radha Damodara. It is such a simple and somewhat unsuitable spot for them but, for my own sense gratification, I wish they could remain there. I see so much more of them when they are with me in the kitchen.
The loving exchanges were many fold. Maharaja gave his charitable association not just in the form of classes but also in the form of friendly encourgement, like a father offering kind words to his child whom he wants to see suceed in life. Devotees arrived with fun gifts for the kids, silver water cups for Gaura Nitai as well as juice, flour, oil, karela, chili, dhanya, yellow squash and watermelons for the kitchen. And, as per my request, sindhur for that leaded red powdery line on top of my head. And then, there was the prasadam.
Bhunkte bhojayate caiva. Krishna has given me a first class kitchen. To fulfill my desires, He also provided me with an opportunity to innaugurate it with a cooking marathon. I cooked, the bhoga was offered to Sri Sri Gaura Nitai and the sweet devotees enthusiastically ate. Serving the devotees, who so lovingly accepted whatever was offered to them, reminded me of the better times I had while living in the temple.
I never wanted to leave the temple, but due to my association with matter, life proceeded on an unforseen course. That I could be only 1.1 miles from the temple that shaped me the most, living in a house the size of an asrama, visited by sadhus and the Gaura bhaktas of the NY/NJ/PA area (NC, too) convinced me that Krishna hears my prayers. It gives me hope for my future, that I may one day enter into the full-time service of Srila Prabhupada by serving his surrendered devotees.
Daily I entertain fantasies of living in Vrindavan, being the fulltime servant of my beloved mata, Mother Kaulini. The fantasy is dimly lit; I am unable to see clearly what kind of service I could offer Mother Kaulini since she prefers to do everything herself. But the sentiment exists strongly in my heart.
This service is shelter. Any service, any time we endeavor to serve the devotees, we are taking shelter of the process presented by Srila Prahbupada and the acaryas like Rupa Goswami. We are taking shelter of the mercy of the devotees, who’s open hearts allow us to succeed.
Maharaja spoke powerfully during his Wednesday nite phone sanga. Although the noise level upstairs (too many children, excited from a day of play and fire works, jumped from room to room, bed to bed, book to book and baby to baby to baby) rivaled that of Aindra Prahbu’s kirtans, minus the transcendental element, Maharaja quickly found his focus. He made many inspiring points, such as the importance of chanting krisnot-kirtana, chanting kirtana loudly, with feeling and enthusiasm. This can, of course, be applied to other aspects of our service, a meditation which carried me through the week into the weekend, as cooking opportunites kept presenting themselves. He spoke about sadhu ninda and how Srila Jiva Goswami’s definition of a Vaisnava is so broad, that we must carefully gaurd against this disasterous offence. And he spoke about shelter.
To get shelter, one has to take shelter. And to take shelter, one has to need shelter. So to experience shelter, humility is required. This point was not lost on me as Thursday evening, struggling to complete the cooking for the Candramauli Swami program, I had to humble myself in the kitchen and take shelter of the mercy of the devotees.
Normally I do not accept help in the kitchen. I often find working with others more difficult than just doing it myself(not much hope for me to go back to the spiritual world this lifetime, I know.) But the devotees were in our home, asking for service. They lovingly were looking for a way to assist me. Little did I know at the time that Krishna was sending this drowning body a lifejacket. I thought I was doing them a favor by allowing them an opportunity to engage in Krishna’s seva. It wasn’t until hours later, when there was no room on the stove for the wok for frying pakoras, the kichari was too wet and the bottom of the pot was burning and the corn was still sitting uncooked on the counter, that I realized how badly I needed the shelter of the devotees.
The feast consisted of some dal (with all the nutriative value of kichari), salad (made by His Grace Gopa Kisora Prabhu) and the main attraction, Kadamba’s now famous zucchini bread. Everyone honored with great delight. Their response surely amazed me. Simply by needing the mercy, even though completely unaware, I was given the opportunity to take that mercy. And by embracing that opportunity, everyone was satiated.
What turned out to be a simple yet wonderful meal could have easily turned out to be simply a snack and a lot of compost.
I feel indebted to all the devotees who graced our home this past week or who somehow enabled us to serve them through prasadam distribution. The opportunity for service instantly strengthened the bond between my husband and I, since the adhesive force in our relationship is Krishna seva. Whatever small effort we put into trying to serve the devotees, we felt the reciprocation in exponential form.
Personally, I am especially grateful to HH Dhanurdhara Swami, who has given me full shelter, making no distinction between siksa and diksa disciple. This visit to our home encouraged a few of his disciples to venture out here as well, giving me the opportunity to serve them and serve with them. The relationship between Guru and disciple isn’t always so exclusive. Just as I feel my relationship with HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami continues through my relationship with his disciples, I see my connection with Dhanurdhara Swami fortified by associtating with his devoted followers.