India


I havent written in this blog in over a year. Its a shame really because I really like writing and storytelling. My problem is simply that Im lazy and I guess I assume that if anyone wanted to know what was going on with me, they would just add me on Facebook. But in this year I was so surprised at the amount of devotees that approached me and wanted to know what happened to my blog, maybe they’re waiting on tutorials or for me to tell more stories. People I would never expect! So maybe I’ll give it a go again.

In this year I would say that I’ve been pretty busy. I spent five months in Sri Mayapur Dham studying in their Pujari Training Course at Mayapur Academy. And since coming back at the end of March I moved to Miami, Florida and jumped right into being a full-time pujari taking care of the large-and-in-charge Lord Jagannath, Baladev and Lady Subhadra.

So I have a whole bunch of pics from Mayapur. I cant stop thinking about Mayapur. Its all I ever talk about and think about. You know what’s horrible? When I was in Mayapur, I couldn’t wait to come back to the US. Now Im here and I remember all the wonderful memories I had there and I’m dying to go back. The things that used to annoy me so much makes me laugh now. Darshans I used to shrug my shoulders at I now reverently observe though my computer screen. The peace and quite I begged for in the crowds of people, now replaced by an empty loneliness. I remember walking around and laughing with my friends. I miss being able to eat anything anywhere and never wonder about meat, eggs, fish, onion, garlic. I would chant in Panchatattva’s temple room in the evenings- pacing back and forth, begging to be Their instrument. I used to get knocked over by egar Bengali women trying to take Darshan of Radha-Madhava. I seriously miss mahaprasadam french fries. Something that good should be illegal. I used to ride my bicycle on the Main Road and nearly kill myself, but I would just jump back on again and speed toward Deity greeting. I miss rikshaw rides. I miss the boat between Mayapur and Navadwip Ghat. I miss Navawip, even though its a little ghetto and scary. I miss the house my husband and I are building together. I miss the headache. The heartache. And, yes, even the occasional stomach-ache. I miss sleeping in through mangal-arati with my husband and we both wake up in time to listen to the morning announcements on the radio. I miss the familiar faces. I miss that Krishna is part of a regular routine.

I left since the end of March. But I still, really really miss Mayapur.

Hare Krishna Dear Devotees,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

I made my first visit to Sri Mayapur Dham in 2009 during Radhastami. Mayapur is the headquarters for our ISKCON Society and is home to the most beautiful Deities in the world- Sri-Sri Radha-Madhava and the Astasakhi’s, Sri Panchatattva, and Sri Narasimhadeva. Among my many adventures and life changing experiences in the Dham, a resident devotee gave me the wonderful opportunity of giving me a tour of the pujari rooms before I left Mayapur to continue my pilgrimage in India. While I ooh’ed and ahh’ed over the up close and personal view of the Deities outfits and the Deity jewelry- totally amazed by the love and patience it takes to make and organize all of Krishna’s things, the devotee told me that its hard to find good beads for jewelry-making in India and because beads are so heavy, many people wont bring much from their country. I asked her what happens with the old jewelry and she replied that its either sold as mahaprasad or just broken down and reused in another set of jewelry. Over the years, the Deities in Mayapur has become very close to me, I felt sad that they struggled to have nice beads for making jewelry.

Feeling a little bold, I asked if there was any service I could do from abroad. She immediately replied, “please, bring back some beads, anything that you can bring would be so helpful. Whenever devotees bring jewelry to Jananivas Prabhu, our head pujari, he is so appreciative and moved when devotees offer this personal service.” I agreed that I would do my best and with that I left the Dham to catch my train to the next holy place in India.

Since then, I have been meditating on how to best execute that service. Here is where your assistance is needed. I want to bring lots of beads to Mayapur Dham, my dream is to bring several luggage’s packed full of beads- I’ll take care of the extra baggage costs. I need devotees to make donations so that we can achieve this goal. I know many of you have Mayapur Dham and Sri-Sri Radha-Madhava close to your hearts. For example, if you donate just $30 you can buy about 1,000 beads- which brings us closer to the thousands of beads needed for Their Lordships- but any amount, no matter how much or how little will be accepted. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to present Jananivas Prabhu with so much jewelry-making beads and then show him the long list of donors that made it all possible?!

The deadline for this rare service opportunity ends October 1st so please take advantage of this opportunity. I am ONLY bringing beads and items for the Deities in Mayapur, meaning that I will not carry items for godsiblings, family, BFF’s etc.

One way you can donate is by going to this site and type in my email address pjamunar@hotmail.com :
http://www.firemountaingems.com/listlookup.asp

all the beads they need are listed there, you can pick out what you want to donate to and it gets sent to me to take to Mayapur.

If you are interested or have any questions please email me and I will do my best to serve you.

I look forward to hearing from you and thank you very much for your time.
Always your servant,
*prema-rupa devi dasi
pjamunar@hotmail.com

I never knew Aindra. I dont have personal stories and the only time I saw him in person was when I was in Vrindavan last year for Janamastmi and I was so far away, I could barely see him. So why does hearing about his disappearance hurt so badly?

I remember the first time I heard his kirtans. I only listened to the first minute, decided it was too slow, and didnt bother to listen to the rest.

The second time I heard his kirtan I was on a road trip with my husband, at first I thought he was messing up my favorite tune and I was annoyed. But since in those days we only had CD’s we listened to it over and over and the more I listened to it, well, the more it stuck to me and I decided that I liked him.

My husband likes slow, bhajan type kirtan while I pretend that Im a kirtan rock-star. I knew he liked Aindra because of his slow moving kirtan so I found a recording on the net and we listened to it when my husband got home from work. He started to cry, saying that the kirtan reminded him of Mayapur and he felt so much separation at that time. It didnt affect me as much. Until the kirtan started to pick up, mridangas and kartals playing faster, his voice crying our for Krishna- hey! He’s a kirtan rock-star too! And then I got the taste for his music.

I downloaded more, a friend of mine gave me Vraja-Vilas and I was hooked. I relished the slowness. His voice was crying for Krishna, yearning from the soul, it awakens these wild feelings in your heart for something deep and meaningful in your life. To abandon everything and just do kirtan. Who could do this to me except Aindra? His kirtan tunes made me cry, they made me laugh, they made me dance.

A devotee that used to travel with Aindra Prabhu back in the day told me that when he was in the US- his kirtans were ok. Nothing special. But something changed in him when he went to Vrindavan. Suddenly, like day and night, they became so beautiful and melodious.

His Grace Aindra Prabhu passed away on Friday night but it has taken me until Monday morning to write about him without crying. His kirtans changed my life forever. It changed my kirtan style, it changed my heart! I couldnt understand why Krishna took him away in such a violent manner. He wasnt sick. He deserved to pass away peacefully in the company of devotees when he became super old. Not alone in his flat. I didnt want to accept it.

A few people have died in my life, some of them close to me, some not so close. But it didnt affect me like his passing did. My friend, Vani-Seva talked with me about his passing and it was so helpful and it made me realize so many things.

I wondered, why did so many of our devotees pass away so suddenly? We went down the list- Tamal Krishna Maharaj- car accident, Svarup Damodar Maharaj- heart attack, Gour Govinda Swami- heart attack, Suhotra Swami- heart attack, even Bhakti Tirtha Swami and Sridhar Swami- even though they were sick, it was very unexpected and they passed away shortly, the list went on and on. I realized it is because death can come at any moment- and us devotees need to realize how precious our time is and we should take up Krishna Consciousness so seriously. Dont you see? We say, “yeah yeah Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I got it.” But do you really get it?! We only have so much time, we have to dedicate ourselves 100%, dont waste time!

I was sad, I know he is with Krishna- I would never even doubt it. But we’ll never get his association again. I wanted to see him for Gaura Purnima during the festival in 2011. I wanted to fulfill my dream of dancing like a psycho during his kirtan. What will happen now? Where do those dreams go? But I know wanting to keep him here is an expansion of my own selfishness. How can I ask him to stay in this miserable material existence when he could be having mad crazy kirtan in Goloka Navadwip or running and playing with Krishna in Goloka Vrindavan? I was being selfish, he did his service, did the time, and now he had to go.

My friend also helped me realize that when Krishna feels like you cannot progress any further in your spiritual life, he just takes you away so that you dont have to deal with pointless accumulation of karma. Aindra Prabhu was already there. He was already 100%. So Krishna just took him, he didnt need to go further because he was already there so what is the use of remaining in the material world if you are already 100%?

I realized there are no small services, only small devotees. His service was simple. Kirtan before Gaura-arati and Deity dressing. He wasnt a great cook or a pakka pujari, he never became temple president and never served on the GBC. When I read about people who encounter him, they always say, “he and I were standing in the back when…” it amazes me how someone so simple can have such a profound effect on the whole world! It just proved that if we have firm conviction in Srila Prabhupada’s movement and dedication to our service, we can go so far and inspire so many people.

There is a tune that I try to sing sometimes. It sounds like crying. Somehow it doesnt sound the same like when Aindra Prabhu sings it.

You have taught me Aindra Prabhu. To dedicate my heart in kirtan. And to dedicate my life to Krishna. I want to give my everything. I want to be 100% too. Please pray for me Prabhu. I am fallen and foolish with no good qualities but by your mercy I can do something for the pleasure of Krishna and devotees. Thank you Aindra Prabhu. Thank you.

All glories to the life and passing of His Grace Sriman Namacharya Aindra Das Prabhu!

Janamastmi in Vrindavan 2009

It sucked.

The End.

Ok ok, I suppose I should write something but Im not posting any pics because we all know what the Taj looks like. While we were in Vrindavan my family was all into going to the Taj Mahal, which isn’t that far away. I find the Taj to be so super lame and cliché. Ok, seriously, ticket prices are ridiculous, for Indians its super cheap, like 7 Rs. but for non-Indians its 700 Rs. So my husband thought that as long as my family and I don’t say anything they wont realize that we aren’t native Indians. I can pass for native Indian, my sister and Dad can pass for Indian. My Mom on the other hand, with her light complexion and freckled face coupled with her short brown hair, didn’t fool the guards. My husband instructed us that if anyone asks, tell them we’re from Bangalore. We stood in line and the guard checked our tickets, he took one good look at my Mom and told my husband that there was no way she was Indian. My husband quickly changed the story, saying that we were all from Bengal and my mother had no clue, so when the guard turned to her and asked “where are you from?” She grinned and said “Bangalore”. Yep, my husband had to go back and buy the expensive tickets before we were let through. During the ordeal my sister had managed to go through, and while she waited for us a female guard asked her a question, she couldn’t respond and she rejoined us.

So the Taj was built by some king with three wives and he liked the third one best (they always do, sheesh) and built this thing for her when she died. I guess some people find it romantic and a wonderful expression of your love for someone. Its lame. You stand in a ridiculously long line that goes around the building a couple times and when you go inside it’s a dark room with two tombs, one of Shah Jahan and the other of Mumtaz Mahal and then you leave. Exciting, I know. I think if I were into historical architecture this would have interested me more because Wikipedia talks about a bunch of stuff that I didn’t really take notice of. Or I just looked at it and thought, “well that’s Muslim-y” and that was it. The thought of people getting their hands cut-off after it being built wasn’t so appealing to me either. Meh.

The Yamuna has been getting smaller and smaller due to her separation from Krishna. The Yamuna runs right behind the Taj Mahal. My husband told a story that there is a balcony that Mumtaz used to look out of from her palace and the Yamuna was so close she would look at her reflection. Its kinda romantic I guess.

So while we were outside the building I could faintly hear Srila Prabhupada singing the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. I pretty much thought I was going crazy. That maybe the line was so long I started hearing things. But even after I had gone through the Taj and we were just hanging out outside the building, I could hear it. I mean, I didn’t want to be at the Taj but would I literally become schizophrenic from not being in Vrindavan? As we were leaving I could still hear this music faintly, it was driving me crazy, did no one else hear it? Why is no one saying anything?! Finally I turned to my Dad, “Do you hear that? Its way off in the distance?! That music?!” My Dad shrugged, “Yeah, its Prabhupada chanting Hare Krishna.” And that was it.

At that point I realized something. Love was not found in that man who made a marble house dedicated to a decayed corpse. It was that personality who gave us a house the whole world could live in. Love is not seen in monuments and buildings, but is depicted through our hearts. Srila Prabhupada loves Krishna so so much that he cant contain himself, he has to share it with everyone. That is love. We look for love in all the wrong places and for all the wrong reasons, but Srila Prabhupada is so kind, an embodiment of true love, that he distributes love of Krishna freely, he is so eager for us to taste what he tastes, to give us a glimpse of his love for Krishna so that we too can rekindle our lost love. Srila Prabhupada loves us so much that even here, even in the most odd and random place you can hear Srila Prabhupada:

“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare….”

Sri-Sri Radha Shyamasundar on Janamastmi Day

“O Queen of Vrndavana, O Radharani, Your complexion is like molten gold, Your doe-like eyes are captivatingly restless, a million full and brilliant moons wane before Your lustrous countenance, and a blue sari, having stolen the hue of a fresh rain-laden cloud, has enwrapped Your exquisite form. O Radha, You are the crest-jewel of all the dallying damsels of Vrndavana, fragrant and pristine like a budding jasmine flower. Your sublime form is adorned with priceless jewelry, and you are the best of all the charming and intelligent gopis. You are decorated with all wonderful excellences and surrounded by eight dedicated and beloved cowherd girls known as the asta-sakhis.

“The ambrosia of Your beautiful lips, red as the bimba fruit, is life-giving syrup to Krsna. O Radha, I am rolling on the banks of the Yamuna, my poor heart filled with anticipation, praying to You with all humility. I am guilty of being an offender, a rascal, a useless wretch–yet I beg You to kindly engage me in even the smallest service to Your lotus feet. O most merciful Lady, it will not become You to ignore this most distressed soul, for Your heart is always overflowing with compassion and love.”
-Srila Rupa Goswami Sri Prarthana-Paddhati

I don’t know what I was thinking. We went to Vrindavan during Janamastmi but didn’t book a hotel room. Its not that I didn’t try, I sent emails to book a room in the guesthouse or at least have someone suggest a hotel for us to try contacting but I never got a response. I thought that maybe I had lucked out like I did in Kolkata. I had emailed them, they didn’t email back but had a room booked for us anyway. No such luck. I remembered that a common belief among devotees is that if you get the mercy of Radharani, the Queen of Vrindavan, then you will have the privilege of staying in Vrindavan for more than three days. We weren’t even there one day, barely an hour and it seemed hopeless.

After some time my family, composed of my husband, father-in-law, Mom, Dad and my younger sister, lugged our bags to a hotel that said that they could only take us for one night as someone had the two rooms for the next day. Not even one day. Radharani wouldn’t let us stay for one day. My husband, sister an I walked around Vrindavan for an hour going from hotel to hotel asking if they could possibly give us two rooms for a week, or even one room for a couple days but we got turned down everywhere we went. People from all over India booked months in advance and it was painful seeing them just walk right past us, ask about their room and then disappear into the hotel. I felt bad for my sister. It was her third day in India and she was wandering around the dirty streets of Vrindavan in the heat and no sign of relief.

My younger sister is very pretty and what some might consider high maintenance, unlike me- a walking mess- she makes sure to be well-dressed and made-up before leaving the house. In our family she was always the one that stayed out of trouble, and I remember her always being very thoughtful of others. After all, she could have stayed with my parents instead of wander through the streets with us. Eventually she went back to the hotel and my husband and I search for an hour more. I considered taking my family to Agra and putting them up in a hotel there and I would stay in Vrindavan, even if I had to sleep in the streets. Even if I would have to sleep in the mucky gutters that line the roadside, I wouldn’t skip out on this adventure. We stopped at the Krishna-Balaram temple,
“Prema-Rupa, I need you to stay here while I continue looking.”
“No! I want to stay with you, why are you leaving me here?”
“Im going with my friend to keep looking and I need you to stay here and pray to Radharani.”
I sighed, “Are you sure?”
“Positive, I’ll be right back.”

I sat amongst a group of devotees in front of Sri-Sri Radha-Syamasundars altar, lively kirtan was being sung while we waited for the altar doors to open. I prayed to Radharani while chanting on my japa beads. Certainly She must know Im here, She wouldn’t neglet me, would She? Since my husband gave me Sri-Sri Radha Madanmohan in 2004, She has always been the one I turn to, the one I felt understood me best, the one I could depend on. I came all the way here just for Her. The altar doors open, the chanting exploded and people pushed their way to the front with their offerings of money, garlands and vegetables, eager to receive a little mercy. I slowly made my way to the front, my eyes focused on Her, oblivious to my surrounding. “Give me a sign,” I prayed, “a flower to fall, anything at all. I want to know you are listening.” I pleaded to Her my case. How I loved Her and wanted to serve Her. I told Her that having a hotel is not important to me, for Her, I could sleep in the streets but its my family’s first time here.

Nothing.

I told Her that I was willing to give up fancy saris for simple cotton ones if we could stay. That’s a big deal, I love sari’s. Im attached to every single one of them, even the rattiest dirtiest sari I hang on to until its completely shredded to pieces.

Nothing.

I begged and pleaded and bargained with no reply, “even if the pujari gave me a maha-flower, I’ll take that to mean something.” I held my hand out with the other devotees while the pujari handed out the flowers and tossed them into the crowd. My hand turned up empty. Slowly, people started to meander away. I pleaded with Visakha-Sakhi to convince Radharani to give me a little mercy, just a little. Radharani would listen to Visakha, right? They’re BFF’s She’s got to listen.

Nothing.

Then I got angry, “Okay Radharani, that’s how You want to be? Fine. I give you my attention, my love. I always make sure You get everything first. You get the fanciest dressing, my husband fusses at me about how long You take to get dressed and I always take up for You. I spent hundreds of dollars on You year after year, trying to give You the nicest, the best and I come to Your home and this is my treatment? Maybe I wont come back, is that what you want? Fine, be like that.”

Nothing.

Brokenhearted. I continued to silently pray, fingering my beads, still hoping for that sign. It had been four hours from when my husband left until he came back. He shook his head solemnly and we walked back to our hotel room without saying a word. We knew what this meant for us.

We got back to the hotel, my family was in their room, and my father-in-law was asleep on his bed. “This devotee is very well-known here in Vrindavan, he thought that if he came with me he could pull a few strings and get us a room, we walked by foot everywhere for four hours but everyone turned us down.” We lay in bed, my head on my husbands shoulder. I imagined my good-hearted husband walking around in the hot hot sun, “I know you prayed very hard for us, but maybe this is Krishna’s desire. My friend said that if he hears anything he will call me. But he doubts he’ll hear anything” We stared at the phone expectantly, the only sound was the whirring of the fan above us. We waited and waited but no one ever called. Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough, maybe I wasn’t sincere enough. Maybe God doesn’t care about what we want, about our desires, even if it is to serve Him. “Here is what I think we should do,” I whispered, “I think you should take our family to Agra and find a hotel for them there. They can stay there for the rest of the week….and I’ll stay here.”
“And what will you do here?”
“I just have to stay. Even if I have nowhere to stay, I just need to be here. I am determined to be here.” I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. The thought of my family and I not getting the mercy of Radharani was unbearable. I prayed one more time, I begged Her to not neglect me. I wanted the mercy so badly. Hot tears poured down my face as my husband tried to console me.

And then the phone rang.