Monthly Archives: September 2007

Vyasa Puja

Namo om visnu-padayakrsna-presthaya bhutale
srimate dhanurdhara swamin iti namine

Dearest Guru Maharaja,

It is exactly 7 o’clock at night on July 2nd. Tomorrow you will visit our home. On the 4th will be a program which seems to be growing by the minute. I’ve spent the day bhoga shopping with a 3 year old and a 2 year old. I’m so tired, the inside of my face aches. I will probably be up all night preparing for your stay. But I have been thinking about you all day and I know that this is my Vyasa Puja offering. This feeling. This moment. This meditation and service. This love and connection. I have to stop right here and write down my thoughts on the back of this crumbled bhoga list. I have to reach out and grab tight and hold on to this anticipation of your arrival and what it is stirring inside me.

When I came to Krishna consciousness, all of a sudden my material achievements no longer mattered. All I had left were my disqualifications. It was a rather long list. At times it even seemed like the other devotees were reading this list out loud to me with everyone else within earshot.

My services as a new devotee in the Towaco temple included pot washer, floor mopper and toilet scrubber, none of which I did with any prior experience. Morning announcements would often include the head pujari inviting everyone to look around at the temple floor which always, despite my efforts, was abundantly fuzzy with dust bunnies. If the temple room was not cleaned better, I was publicly warned, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai would walk off the altar. Of course, we all knew who would be to blame.

My desire to become humble coupled with my mounting low self esteem quickly morphed into something very unhealthy for my spiritual life: pride in being a fool. From where I was standing, everyone thought I was the greatest idiot. I was determined, toilet brush in hand, to fulfill this prophecy. As the saying goes, anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

One day, not too long ago, through your inspiration, I began writing from inside my heart. I wrote about my days at home with my kids. My evenings at the barn with Mother Kaulini. Radha Damodara and cows. Or in other words, my life as it is. I began this exercise knowing very well how miniscule and uninteresting I am but how extraordinary and inspirational Gita Nagari is to the devotees. My desire was to share my experiences of the glories of Gita Nagari and the Dhama’s dearmost servant, Mother Kaulini.

And then, as only Krishna arranges, things began to change.

Relationships with devotees developed and deepened. Appreciation for the devotees swelled in my heart. As reciprocation, my pride in being a fool withered in the face of actively attempting to approach humility. By developing love for the devotees, my love for myself (in relation to Krishna) increased. Simply, I began to feel good about myself for the first time in a decade. Krishna consciousness became a transformative experience of open hearted self expression.

I felt inspiration coming from you as some kind of direction through supersoul manifesting externally as my own impulse to write. And then we spoke about writing. Just a little. But from this short conversation I realized what had occurred to affect such a change in my consciousness and in my heart.

What happened was someone had shown some faith in me. I have no special abilities. I am, essentially, the same person I was 10 years ago when I joined, unable to properly mop a floor or clean a toilet. What I lacked was the empowerment achieved by getting the mercy of an empowered devotee.

After years of wilting in the too strong sun of rules and regulations, finger pointing and fault finding and judgemental Manichean conceptions of good devotee/bad devotee, my self esteem, dessicated and cracked, has been rejuvinated by the wellspring of your association. I cannot even begin to tell you what this means to me.

With true realization of the word “gratitude,”
your servant,
Devadeva dasi

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Heaven’s Gate: Doppelganger







*Note: These pictures have nothing liminal to do with this posting

This morning I had the following email in my inbox:

Hey, we’ve been enjoying keeping up reading your blog, but I’ve been
wondering about the name Heaven’s Gate. You know it’s the same name as a
famous suicide cult?

I meant to paste this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven’s_Gate_(cult)

I hope I’m ok asking, but I must admit to being a little perplexed. Did you
know about this already? I hope my asking isn’t offensive — I never can
tell for sure on my own, and often make that dreadful mistake with my pesky
curiousity!

When I began this blog, I wanted to give it a name which would focus my postings to my life in Krishna consciousness and my life at Gita Nagari. After bandying about different names, none of which were memorable enough for me to recall now, I settled on Heaven’s Gate. Purposely naming my blog after castrated, white Nike wearing interplanetary suiciders was not a whimsical decision.

Ten years ago I ran away from home to join the temple, leaving a note on my parent’s kitchen countertop. As some sort of wonderfully bizarre coincidence, the Heaven’s Gate cult made it into the news the same week as a result of their mass suicide, thus thoroughly freaking my mother out to a previously unpredicted realm of hysteria.

In the little nook of Iskcon which I fell into at the time, cult mentality was all the rage. At the Towaco temple, which was mostly occupied by under 25 year old brahmacaris, this cult mentality played itself out in juvenille, harmless ways like young men arguing whether or not their dhoti should be tied or rolled or having an ice cream party amongst themselves and sending the empty Breyer’s container over to the brahmacarini’s. You know, so everyone gets their fare share.

Then, in 1998 I moved to Gita Nagari and the cult flavor, which I care not to get into here, definitely was of a varitey I had never experienced before. I stayed at Gita Nagari only a little under 2 years, leaving before the Y2K disaster that never happened. However, the impact that time had on my life, my self esteem, my intelligence and just my overal disfuntion in the world is something I am slowly ridding myself of. Over the years, living away from Gita Nagari and getting the association of other devotees, I have been able to positively decompress from that time.

Shockingly to myself, just a little over a year ago, I moved here, back to this place I once vowed never to even visit. So, when I named my blog I wanted to pay homage to the cultiness of my life, a cultiness which in a really strange way I am, in the end, able to express some gratitude for. After all, it was a factor which is still shaping me into the person I am becoming now, a person who, with a lot of effort, isn’t that bad.

There are other, less culty reasons for the blog name. In a literal context, Gita Nagari is the Holy Dhama and I am living just 1.1 miles down the road from the farm. And once I get onto the farm, it is often difficult to shake the Talking Heads from my internal radio as I ramble down the farm road, past the places “where nothing ever happens!”

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Kala-sarpa

Tomorrow begins the milk yajna in my kitchen. Within two days I will transform 25 gallons of milk into paneer. To prepare, I spent the morning doing a maha-cleanup of my kitchen. I’ve never made palak paneer in quantity (I still have no idea how much spinach I need…will 6 cases be too much or too little?!!?), I have faith that if my kitchen is in a proper state of cleanliness, Krishna will carry what I lack.

The days just seem to get busier. Just even a few months ago I firmly believed that Krishna can expand time and He would do so on a regular basis on my behalf. Now, I am not so sure. It seems like there is never enough time. Maybe it is because I am getting older and my body doesn’t bounce back as well from sleepless nites of fruitive work or maybe it is because my kids are getting older and don’t nap or stand still for more than a few seconds in the day.

Yesterday we unexpectedly stopped by the home of some great devotees. These devotees are enthusiastic and service minded. And yet they were spacing out in front of the tv, watching some really lame show on TNT with pentagrams and CSI lighting and smooching. My kids saw the smooching. I wasn’t very happy about this but was at least able to use the moment as an example of illicit sex. Not for devotees.

After that, we drove to the farm to see the Deities. Mother Kaulini’s milk van was at the barn, even though it was only 6 o’clock. I told Mother Kaulini about the lame-o tv show and how I just couldn’t understand how these devotees managed to find time to even watch tv.

My husband and I have had this conversation before. We don’t even know when we would be able to watch tv if we had tv because the kids keep us so busy. But I guess that is the whole idea, transform your living room into an opium den with tv as the opiate. Sedate the kids so that you have free time to…what? Watch tv!

Mother Kaulini’s response was simple and straightforward. What else could it be? With a pained look on her face, tired from three decades of service, she let go of Kisori’s utter and said with a sigh, “Time is so valuable.”

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Fruit Epiphany

Yesterday, about fifteen minutes before my husband left for Baltimore, we heard a rumble in our driveway–a sort of gravel Gita Nagari doorbell. It was Acarya Prabhu and Mother Sudevi. They came offering gifts of fruit.

Paw paw, or wild custard apple, is a fruit unlike any other which I have tasted. Abudantly growing from the forest trees, paw paw manages to be both domestic and exotic at the same time. Shaped like a small sweet potato, its peel resembles that of a green, smooth apple. And its taste? Just like perfume.

Last week while driving to Radharadhya Prabhu’s birthday party Mother Kaulini was telling us about the Indian variety of custard apple, which is also known as Sita-phala because it is Sita Devi’s favorite fruit. I remember Mother Kaulini commenting that this fruit tastes just like perfume.

Oddly addictive at first, the exotic taste reeled me in. Then, after about the third one, the perfumey taste simply sent my stomach reeling. Definitely not a fruit for overindulging.

Last nite I made a plum spread which is simply delicious. Rich and velvety, the texture gave me a lot of realization about the jam making process. Although this year’s canning season is almost over, I am eagerly looking forward to next summer when I can implement some new techniques in my jam kitchen.

Now I just have to wait and see what comes of the endeavor. Normally when people think of a business venture, they think material in terms of success and failure. Success means profit and failure means financial loss. But to a devotee, success or failure means Krishna or Maya. I am leaving everything in His hands.

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"She should be treated like a sannyasi"

Yesterday I spoke with Mother Kiriti on the phone. Emaphatically she spoke about Mother Kaulini.

“She should be treated like a sannyasi.”

Upset about the excessive services undertaken by Mother Kaulini, especially considering her age, Mother Kiriti’s voice, normally quite mellow and even, edged forward in an upward arc of emotion.

“You mean to tell me that out of all the grhastas there, no one can help her with the milking?”

Now she had me. In the past my husband and son would go at least once a day to milk alongside the Gopi. When my husband was working, me and the kids would show up at the barn just to keep her company, pet Salauni and Kisori and relax in the cooling rays of Mother Kaulini’s association. But, without offering excuses, I admit we’ve slackened.

Tonite we made it to the barn, thanks to Mother Kiriti’s long distance chastisement. Fourty pounds of milking went quickly. After the cows were herded into the side pasture and their water filled, Mothe Kaulini, Madhumati and I sat upon the makeshift cinder block steps of the barn looking out on the sunset, honey and coral.

Moments like these, relaxed and natural, are the best time to get Mother Kaulni’s association. I asked her about the buildings on the property and I found out that Mother Kartamisa’s apartment was the original temple kitchen (when the BA was the temple) and Satsvarupa Maharaja’s office. The store used to be Lilananda’s Yogi Bar factory, complete with food packaging machines and loading dock. Apparently the business got too big and they couldn’t keep up.

After some time talking and some time chanting, my husband shut the water off, Mother Kaulini checked under our cars for kitties, and we drove off, leaving Mother Kaulini and the barn cats behind. When we left she was worrying about Vamana, an orange and white kitty with an extra toe on each foot. He didn’t come in the barn for milk tonite and was not at all active. Seeing Krishna residing within the heart of this little dhama bhasi, Mother Kaulini stroked him, held him and couldn’t stop worrying about him. Not in an overly sentimental, mundane way, but in the mood of Krishna’s servant, a mother.

She should be treated like a sannyasi. But she would never allow that. She wants to be treated like a Mother, always serving.

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Gopi-lila

This morning I recieved an email from Manjari Lila with the link to Hari Bhakta’s blog. Going back a few pages, the blog is about life in India, writings about poopy smells on the road and the quaintness of small town life. I learned from his blog that he was engaged learning panca karma treatment at an ayurvedic hospital. And then his postings abruptly changed when Gopi-lila was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Her life is now a life of pain, vomitting and diarhea. I remember when we lived next door to one another above the Deities at New Vrindavan. Her husband was always away working, so it was just her and Gopal, her mo-mo addicted son. All I can say about Gopi is that I really liked her. She has a golden heart, not at all sticky sweet. More like real and experienced, but not hardened.

As I read Hari-Bhakta’s blog, I prayed for Gopi and her family. Gopal must be about 8 now and I have no idea how old her daughter is (small). Of course I identify with her situation–she is not much older than I am and she has little kids. Her cancer is very advanced. Is this the end? Only Krishna knows. But the stress they all must be experiencing as a family, what to speak of Gopi’s personal sojourn, has me pausing throughout my day, examining my mind, my actions and my existence. What am I doing? Death can come at any minute.

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Post-Jewish Guilt


This week has been hi-jacked by small projects: canning, getting ready for India, my husband researching changing jobs. Constants such as cooking, laundry and sweeping remain just that. Venumadhava and Madhumati also fall into that category since they are always home and don’t seem to be making any plans on their own yet.

Next week is Vyasa Puja which means more cooking and lots of mental speculation. Exactly how many cases of spinach will I need for palak paneer? What time do I have to wake up to ready myself and two kids and 10 gallons of palak paneer to get into the car and arrive in NJ at 9 am? Will my children occupy themselves while I prep and bake tray after tray of stuffed karela at Kisori’s house?

All this activity, physical and mental, is not only time consuming but tiring. Is it spiritual life or is it taking time away from spiritual life? To what extent do I see Krishna in my activities? To what extent do these activities make me feel closer to Krishna?

Gita Nagari is a sleepy temple. A farm with no farming going on, if it were not for the beautiful milkers nuzzling their calves when you drive onto the property, one would surely expect to see tumbleweeds blowing across the dirt road. Although things are going on, many of which by the sheer industriousness of Mother Kaulini, more could be happening. Grhastas such as myself could be contributing more time, money and labor to the project.

Yesterday my husband and I were discussing our own personal productivity, which has increased greatly since moving here. It is not that we are just more involved with the temple but our Gita Nagari life (complete with our 1834 house) has somehow fostered hobbies and chores at home by which we are also engaged.

But the more resources consumed by our activities at home, naturally, the less there is to contribute to the temple. Is this selfishness?

I think the aswer is “no.” And “yes.” Fixing up our house and using it to host devotees, being happy grhastas with a healthy Krishna conscious family life, hosting programs, etc., all this positively contributes to the community. But the temple is lacking manpower. Even by just going to the temple for darsan we leave some dust, some mess which someone has to clean up.

Mother Kaulini is there, thirty-one years now, working for Radha Damodara and Prabhupada, pushing on in the face of an aging, deteriorating body and little to no association. Repetition has no negative connotation to her. Boredome is not an issue. No heat in the winter no cool air in the summer. Hot water? What do you think this is, Vrindavan? Austerities of the mind and body abound yet Mother Kaulini faces each day with the enthusiasm of a new bhaktin.

When I see Mother Kaulini, one thought naturally arises in my heart:

What have I done for Srila Prabhupada today?

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