Morning Mercy

Last week, the morning that Sadaputa Prabhu’s death was announced, I realized to myself that I needed to get some service at the temple. I wanted to develop some connection with Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara, to attract  Their merciful glance, so I approached Mother Nitai and asked if there was any small service I could do while my kids were at school.

Everytime I come to the temple I see Mother Nitai. She is small and lean, a mere wisp of a woman in physical stature but a powerhouse of service.  As the head of the Deity Department, she is always engaged with an air of contentment about her.  At the same time, she is a busy woman and very serious about her service. I admit, I was slightly intimidated to approach her.  After all, who am I to think I have any service to offer to Sri Sri Radhe Syam.  But when I knocked on the door to the pujari room and told her my desire, her face immediately broke out into a huge grin.  I knew I had nothing to be nervous about.
Today I helped her roll wicks for Kartik.  We sat in Mother Akuti’s class and worked, she twice as fast and with better results than me.  After class I stayed in the temple room to continue my rolling. When I was out of cotton I returned the tray to the pujari room and apologized for my imperfect wicks. 
I understand the nature of pujaris.  Everything pakka.  OCD for Krishna. In that instance I prayed that my service would be accepted.  That the wicks would pass inspection and that Mother Nitai would not lose confidence in my ability to handle some menial task.
In that instance I had flashbacks to my early days in the ashram, when cleaning and mopping the temple room floor was my seva, and the head pujari would make morning announcements about how badly it was done. How Sri Sri Gaura Nitai were going to walk off the altar.  And everyone would know it was my fault. I was, after all, the bhaktin left holding the broom.
But Mother Nitai just picked up some wicks, quickly rolled them between her finger and thumb, made a small comment (with a smile on her face) about the wicks burning too fast and burning the devotees (I apologize ahead of time ) and then said, “At least you’re doing some service. Krishna sees that.”
Thank you, mataji, thank you.  In addition to attracting the attention of the Lord, I know I need to attract the attention of His devotee.  Mercy is all I am made of.
With a vow to improve my wick rolling, I left and headed towards the dirt road which leads to the Tulasi house.  Mother  Nitai had asked that I keep the pujari room stocked with Tulasi leaves for the bhoga offering, something I am more than happy to do.  Tomorrow I will begin picking, but I thought I should check out where the Tulasi house is today–just to be on the safe side.  
Autumn has crept up on us, and the cool wind blowing over grass and through the huge oaks was reminding me of Gita Nagari.  I was feeling separation from Mother Kaulini, the cows, the dust (in a few months it will be mud), the devotees and–since it is fall–the apples.  Anyway, that was what I was thinking as I approached Tulasi’s house.  Once inside, however, my mind became focused on Vrindavan. 
For the past five years, I have desired to return to the Holy Dhama of Vrindavan.  Instead, I have driven my husband to the airport twice to drop him for pilgrimage to India while I stayed home and wondered just what a terrible demon I really was that I was denied entrance year after year.  For the longest time I would burst into tears at random times of the day, wondering when I would ever again get the opportunity to feel the same dust under my feet which the Goswamis walked through.  When I would hear the rapturous kirtan of the Vrindavanvasis, when I would set my eyes upon the magical forms of Krishna Balarama.  
And I thought, if I keep trying, keep increasing, then yes, that time will come.
But I am impatient.  I couldn’t wait any longer.  Lifetime after lifetime I have committed sinful activity, engaged in fulfilling my every lusty desire, and what…with a little sentimental Krishna smaranam, I thought something so wonderful would come to me so easily?  Well, yeah!  Everyone else I knew was buying their ticket.
And then all of a sudden, not even gradually, just within one month, my desire for Krishna vanished. I became content with being a spiritual loser.  According to me, Krishna wasn’t reciprocating and if that’s the way He wanted it, then fine.  I would un-reciprocate accordingly.
So with no desire to actually go to Vrindavan, I entered Tulasi house.  Outside the wind was crisp and breezy, but inside Tulasi house, the warm air and scent of her manjaris made me feel as though I entered a spiritual spa. And right away, I felt a strong sense of gratitude for being allowed to enter the forest of Vrindavan. I decided to sit and chant.

Feeling like Vrindavan…

…but not looking like Vrindavan. Thankfully the hair will grow back.

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