Monthly Archives: August 2007

Sunday at Potomac

Sunday we visited Potomac temple. The kids and I were staying at my in-laws while my husband flew to San Diego for hospice training. Cooped up in the house all morning, I took the kids to the temple early. We got there at 3. They were done by 4. The program didn’t begin until 5:30. We left at 5:25.

The place has changed a lot since I lived there in 2000 and 2001. The temple room floor is now beautifully tiled in marble. The half of the grhasta asrama where I lived with Samvit, Jambavan and Hanuman is now a one family apartment complete with kitchen and back deck. Children’s toys are everywhere on the property.

But Lilananda Prabhu is still there, always thinking about Gita Nagari and how to serve in two places at one time.

Caitanya Nitai Prabhu is still cooking in the kitchen, cracking jokes and just being an all around wonderful example. I was so happy to see him. Without a doubt his heart is devoted to Krishna. Easily he could have left the temple years ago and gotten some kind of job at someone’s shop. Anyone who knows him would attest to the fact that he is extremely affable and would make a fantastic saleseman.

But he chose to stay in the temple. Married to Radha Bhavani and the father of two very cute boys, Mohan and Arjun, he truly is living an enviable life.

Venumadhava and I hung out with Mohan. The boy is very cute, talkative and funny. Loaded with personality, Mohan reminded me every bit of his father. I am sure he will be very succesful in his life.

Quite a few small kids live on the temple property and their parents are all engaged in service. These devotees are living the life I wanted to live. And yet, as a mother of two small children, I honestly can say I don’t know how they manage temple service and their family commitments. The situation is austere and I wouldn’t be surprised if it may be frustrating at times. But the benefit is unimaginable.

My mind flickers “if only I was more renounced.” But what is renunciaton?

O Arjuna, when one performs his prescribed duty only because it ought to be done, and renounces all material association and all attachment to the fruit, his renunciation is said to be in the mode of goodness. Bg 18.9


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Bee Mine

This morning I asked Venumadhava to pick some flowers and offer them to Gaura Nitai.

After doing so, he rushed in the kitchen and with excitement invited me to come see.

“I picked the flowers and put them on the altar. I got one with a bee on it!”

A flower with a bee on it. On Gaura Nitai’s altar. My son’s special offering to Sri Nityananda Balarama was odd but somehow appropriate, reminding me of Balarama’s sweet tooth for honey.

Festival days are special as the mercy inspires service. In turn, the service inspires meditation. With a bee buzzing about Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, my mind began to wander that forest of Vraja…

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Balarama’s Appearance

To propagate this fundamental principle, we are establishing a Krsna-Balarama temple to broadcast to the world that worship of Gaura-Nitai is the same as worship of Krsna-Balarama. SP Purport, Madhya 16.281

Adi-lila text 1.84

vande sri-krsna-caitanya-
nityanandau sahoditau
gaudodaye puspavantau
citrau san-dau tamo-nudau

“I offer my respectful obeisances unto Sri Krsna Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, who are like the sun and moon. They have arisen simultaneously on the horizon of Gauda to dissipate the darkness of ignorance and thus wonderfully bestow benediction upon all.”

SB 7.15, Purport
Significant in this verse are the words jnanasim acyuta-balah. Jnanasim, the sword of knowledge, is given by Krsna, and when one serves the guru and Krsna in order to hold the sword of Krsna’s instructions, Balarama gives one strength. Balarama is Nityananda. Vrajendra-nandana yei, saci-suta haila sei, balarama ha-ila nitai. This bala—Balarama—comes with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and both of Them are so merciful that in this age of Kali one may very easily take shelter of Their lotus feet. They come especially to deliver the fallen souls of this age. papi tapi yata chila, hari-name uddharila. Their weapon is sankirtana, hari-nama. Thus one should accept the sword of knowledge from Krsna and be strong with the mercy of Balarama. We are therefore worshiping Krsna-Balarama in Vrndavana. In the Mundaka Upanisad (3.2.4) it is said:

nayam atma bala-hinena labhyo
na ca pramadat tapaso vapy alingat
etair upayair yatate yas tu vidvams
tasyaisa atma visate brahma-dhama

One cannot attain the goal of life without the mercy of Balarama. Sri Narottama dasa
Thakura therefore says, nitaiyera karuna habe, vraje radha-krsna pabe: when one receives the mercy of Balaräma, Nityänanda, one can attain the lotus feet of Radha and Krsna very easily.

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Srimad Blogavatam

SP’s Purport 5.11 Jada Bharata Instructs King Rahugana

On the basis of mental concoction, social behavior has been formulated. If one’s mind is absorbed in these activities, he certainly remains conditioned within the material world. According to different opinions, there are eleven or twelve mental activities, which can be transformed into hundreds and thousands. A person who is not Krsna conscious is subjected to all these mental concoctions and is thus governed by the material energy. The living entity who is free from mental concoctions attains the platform of pure spirit soul, devoid of material contamination. There are two types of living entities-jévätmä and Paramätmä, the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. That Supreme Soul in His ultimate realization is Lord Vasudeva, Krsna. He enters into everyone’s heart and controls the living entity in his different activities. He is therefore the supreme shelter of all living entities. One can understand the Supreme Soul and one’s position in relationship with Him when one is completely freed from the unwanted association of ordinary men. In this way one can become fit to cross the ocean of nescience. The cause of conditional Life is attachment to the external energy. One has to conquer these mental concoctions: unless one does so, he will never be freed from material anxieties. Although mental concoctions have no value, their influence is still very formidable. No one should neglect to control the mind. If one does, the mind becomes so powerful that one immediately forgets his real position. Forgetting that he is an eternal servant of Krsna and that service to Krsna is his only business, one is doomed by material nature to serve the objects of the senses. One should kill mental concoctions by the sword of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His devotee (guru-krsna-prasade paya bhakti-lata-bija [Cc. Madhya 19.151])

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Barefoot and Amish

Today is Ekadasi and we needed to buy potatos. A quick car ride towards town and the kids and I were at the Amish farm (near the cemetary). Their produce is fresh, inexpensive and as the cardboard sign they hung on their greenhouse reads, “vegetables grown without chemicals.”

Unlike the famed Amish of Lancaster who live on picturesque farm estates, with manicured fields, freshly painted barns and outdoor oil lamps lighting walking paths, this family lives especially simply. The entire family of 10,save for the one year old baby, does farmwork. Four year old Ephram, who’s birthday is Dec. 5th, will be the one driving the clydesdales for picking once he turns five. Now he just practices.

Ramshackled, their house is old and sits on the road. The family stays mostly at home, hiring someone to go to the store for them for essentials. Church and school are their main diversions from home life and they appear content.

Today Franny, the quiet but friendly 13 year old who does a barefoot run/walk out of the house when anyone pulls into the gravel lot, went back inside to get Ephram when she saw it was us. We bought our potatos, chilis and yellow watermelon and then all hung out looking at the chickens and ducks. I was even given a tour of the laundry room (hand wringer, Cheer powder).

Venumadhava asked to see the horses and Franny was happy to escort us, barefoot, into the barn which was filled with evidence that their horses, ducks and chickens are well fed. Poop and sweet corn was everywhere.

Mostly we talked about their animals and fed the horses corn. Venumadhava stroked the horses, noting the diffent texture of their fur vs. their noses. Ephram wandered into the barn with a bag of Sarah Lee bread to feed his favorite horse.

Franny politely answered some questions I had about her schooling (geography, arithmetic, phonics, English, spelling, etc., but no bible) and marriage (16-24 is marriable age).

Our time with Franny was sweet and pleasant. I respect her simplicity in lifestyle and mind. Unlike the Mennonites, the Amish are not an evangelical group. Mennonites travel throughout the world doing mission work. The Amish are satisfied staying close to home, disinterested in making converts. Hanging out with Franny was sort of like hanging out with an Indian village girl, except she spoke English and didn’t ask me for bobby pins.

Like a ding dong, I asked what they did with their bull. Maybe Franny thought this was a stupid question, but she didn’t betray it. “We eat it in the winter. Every year we raise a bull and then we eat it in winter.”


There was a pause. Venumadhava just looked at me.

I wasn’t surprised that they are meat eaters or that they kill what they raise. They do have over 30 chickens. But for some reason, be it my own hopefullness or lack of contact with the outside world, I wasn’t expecting that answer.

Without a doubt, Amish children are effulgent despite the guha lifestyle. Always cute with pink clean scrubbed cheeks, blond hair and blue eyes, they look healthy and bright.

I wanted to say something. At the same time out of respect for their isolationism and maintanence of culture I wanted to choose my words carefully.

“Have you ever heard the word ‘vegetarian?”

She hadn’t.

“Well, that’s what we are. We’re vegetarians. It means we don’t eat any animals. We only eat…”

And before I could finish my sentence, both of my kids shouted with an upward lilt in their voice, “Pasadam!”

“Grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and milk products,” I finished. Giggling followed. Obviously our diet seemed a bit odd to a farm girl who’s land and animals are the familiy’s livelihood and sustenance.

All in all it was a really pleasant visit. I appreciate the young girl’s genuine sweetness. She was loving towards Venumadhava, helping him feed corn to the five horses, picking him up to pet them. She showed no uneasiness towards us three, who admittedly are a little odd in appearance for the area.

My interest in Franny is genuine not as some sort of curiosity or tourist attraction but because I appreciate her simple, God centered life as well as her open heart. But still, I see I have that tendency to exoticize.

Living out here in the country, the heart of Americana, where I come into contact with quaint exteriors and bucolic settings, it is not difficult to simplify things down to their country charm quotient. Or for a past-life Jewish suburban Jersey girl to locate the exotic,the other, in everything and everyone around me. But what I see about raising my kids here is that the appeal of quilts and jam and Amish and cows and country stores and turtles in the middle of the road and berries and wildflowers and old houses and barnwood isn’t the least bit charming to them.

It’s just life. Their life.


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"Spreading the Rays of the Benediction Moon"

After school today we dropped off our cinnamon buns at the temple kitchen and headed upstairs to bring Giriraja his sweet. Mother Kaulini was happy to see us and invited us in.

I perused her tattoo magazine, I mean Back to Godhead, while my kids scrounged for Giriraja maha. Venumadhava asked if he could see a Prabhupada movie on M. Kaulini’s iPod. After a few hopeless moments trying to cue up a movie, we were in the association of Prabhupada.

“Look, there’s Prabhupada walking on the beach with the devotees,” Venumadadhava pointed, intently studying a walking moving flesh and blood plasma non-resin Prabhupada, surrounded by youth and love and sacrifice.

Kuruksetra. Dr. Misra’s in upstate NY. Visakha Mataji explaining a BTG spread to Prabhupada in his room in Los Angeles.

Most of the footage was without dialogue. A guitar and folksy lyrics accompanied the shots. We think the singing was Mangalananda Prabhu.

Mother Kaulini, the eternally young farm girl became all rosy cheeked, grinning and singing along with the music. “There’s Hrdayananda Maharaja. Bali-mardan. There’s TKG.” She said the last one with such a roll in her voice, slapping her hands together at the end, that for a minute I thought she was introducing Johny Carson.

One song with the lyrics “Spreading the Rays of the Benediction Moon” had Mother Kaulini in a blushing flutter. “That’s my song!”

“What do you mean?”

“Didn’t I ever tell you? That’s my song! No? Oh, I’ll tell you…”

“Ok. So tell me!”

But she wouldn’t tell me then. She made me wait. The moment was too special, moving forward with the iPod screen, viewing times never to be duplicated in real life.

As my son began to feel milk withdrawl and my time in the Goloka room was obviously drawing to a close, I demanded she tell me just what she meant about that song.

The story is as follows:

When Mother Kaulini and Kesava Bharati (Maharaja) joined in L.A., they had a VW bus. Mother Kaulini was pregnant with Rama.

As I know from other stories, Kesava Bharathi joined first and Mother Kaulini, who was about 6 months pregnant, was along for the ride, thinking that as soon as the baby was born she would figure a way out of there.

So, from January through April, before Rama was born, they would drive to the temple every day. There was a family that they would always see walking to the temple. Naturally, they began driving the family. It was Visvaretah Prabhu (NV) and his wife and son.

The son was very small, about two. His name was Bhakta Visvaretah and he had a golden, shiny Vaikuntha head. If anyone knows Mother Kaulini, you know she is a sucker for a freshly shaved up little boy.

The child was very attractive and would sit with his mother and father in the back of the van riding to the temple. And he would always sing this song, “Spreading the Rays of the Benediction Moon” dragging “moon” out real long, closing his eyes, mouth puckered, head nodding back and forth.

Mother Kaulini said that child made such an impression on her, pregnant, unsure about Krishna Consciousness. The potency of this two year old’s absorption. And cute melon head.

Dhanurdhara Swami has quoted Yamuna Devi saying that we should not lament for the good old days but rather focus on making these days good.

I see it is easier to make these days good in the association of someone who has associated with pure goodness.

Thank you Srila Prabhupada. We are all eternally grateful to you.

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"But does she cook?"

Another sunless day sent us into the kitchen, making more chili pickle.

Gathered around the mixing bowl, my son asked me to sing “The Jewish Song.” About a week ago, for some inexplicable reason, I started singing “Shabbat Shalom” at the prasadam table. Unable to refuse my first born sweetheart, I belted out my liveliest rendition of “Shabbat shalom, HEY! Shabbat shalom, HEY!”

Venumadhava sincerely asked questions about the Jewish people, like when we were going to go to their temple again (the one and only time we went was for my nieces’ naming ceremonies) and “what Deities do they have in the Jewish temple?”.

Jokingly, I told him he should get a Jewish mata. When he laughed and said that yeah, he should, I told him he was stuck with me. But if he wanted, he could marry a Jewish girl.

And what he said next not only surprised but pleased me.

“But does she cook?”

After my laughter subsided, I explained to my son that Jewish girls don’t cook, they eat in restaraunts.

“Oh,” he answered, careful not to touch the trays full of cut chilis in front of him, “that’s not good.”

I didn’t tell him that most girls today don’t learn to cook. I didn’t tell him that if he learns to cook, he can teach his wife. I’ll save that for when he falls in love with a devotee girl.

Homeschooling continues. Today’s highlights: we made dye from our elderberries and did potato block printing with the elderberry dye and acrylic paints on cloth and paper. We made a pictographic list of what we see when it rains–umbrellas, mud and slugs were Venumadhava’s favorites. I now have four beanbags made so we did some beanbag math (if I have 4 beanbags and throw you 3, how many beanbags do I have left?). So far, so fun, at least for me.

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