So Kartik is coming up. I wanted to write about that but alas, I have no pictures from my Kartik in Mayapur last year. It’s not that I didnt take pictures. Its that I took pictures, felt that they were too dark, erased the pictures and decided to try again later which never happened. So I’m pictureless. :/

But we can use our imaginations. All the lights are off in the temple, and the altar is dimly lit by candles.

Ooohhh! I found a video from last year!
God, I miss those days. It was nice going to the temple in the evenings, getting my little ghee lamp and making my rounds to offer my little lamp to all the Deities amongst the hundreds of other devotees. And every night there is an amazing singer leading Damodarastakam and everyone dances and dances when he sings the mahamantra. Its like this for about a month and when its over, you feel like something is missing in the evenings. Dressing up and seeing all your friends. I used to sit near the stairs in Panchatattva’s hall, the stairs that lead up the extension hall, this is before they made that wooden cover thingy so that they have a place to put stuff for class, and then people started using it to keep their purses or backpacks.

Anyway, I used to sit there, and just people watch. I like doing that sometimes. Actually, I did that every night. I really liked that area in Panchatattva’s temple room. Probably because its the least crowded and I could meditate on Panchatattva while I chant and watch people come in and out. Lots of different kinds of people, from every part of India and many parts of the world. New devotees, old devotees, walk through those doors in Panchatattva’s temple room. Fabulous devotees, simple devotees, everyone comes to offer their little ghee lamp hearts to Damodara.

I dont know how I’ll adapt to Damodara Masa here in the states. Regardless, this is one of my favorite times of the year. Maybe I should observe some kind of vrata.

I should give up sweets. Or maybe not.


Today was the Vyasa Puja of my Guru Maharaj, His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami. Since my husband and I are his only disciples here in Miami we celebrated at home, watching the festivities on mayapur.tv, cooking and dressing our Deities in Guru Maharaj’s favorite color (royal blue), and finally feasting! Today was also Srila Prabhupada’s Arrival Day- when he came to America and saved all our wretched selves. Guru Maharaj loves Srila Prabhupada so much that he wants to spend his birthdays glorifying him. And we love Guru Maharaj so much, we cant help but celebrate his appearance day 🙂

I want to take this opportunity to glorify my Guru Maharaj, who is an ocean of mercy. I know this because he took mercy on me. I saw so many times, when I had been shut out by so many devotees, he still saw some good in me and took a chance on me. He still had confidence in me in times when I lost all confidence in myself. He was the only person willing to pick me up when my whole life came crashing down. How do I repay someone as kind as him? He is the perfect example of Vaisnava etiquette. He is so intelligent. So caring and loving. I thank Krishna for bringing him to me. I thank Guru Maharaj for looking past all the dust and dirt and grime and seeing me for what I am. For seeing my potential. For giving me the bravery to be more me than I’ve ever been. How do I thank someone like that?

Except with my life.

Once, when I was sitting in class, Guru Maharaj was speaking and suddenly someone came in. I saw Guru Maharaj’s reaction, he looked up, and seeing who it was, he beamed a bright smile, welcomed the devotee and then continued with giving class. But in that moment, I thought, if Guru Maharaj could beam like that when I walked into a room, just once, and think to himself “there is Prema-Rupa, she is a good girl.” my life would be complete. I have literally sacrificed my entire life, my entire future, just to gain even a moments favor from Guru Maharaj. Because he took a chance on me. He believed in me. And I dont want to disappoint him. Once in class he said, “if anything needs to be done then you should be the one to do it yourself.” I have taken that instruction to heart and that is why I am here, in service to my Guru Maharaj. And hoping just one time he will smile at me, remember my name, and say that I am a good girl.

Mayapur 8/27/2009-8/31/2009

Sri-Sri Radha-Madhava on Radhastami 8/27/09- photo courtesy of mayapur.com

By the end of the trip, I was tired of all the traveling we had done. I was hopeful that Mayapur would be a sweet relief, everything that it has been hyped up to be. From the first day I was pessimistic. Probably because the trip to Mayapur had gotten off to a bad start. Our train in Varanasi was seven hours late due to a terrorist attack or something. The train station in Varanasi was absolutely filthy- filled with giant rats the size of cats- I wish I were exaggerating. I had a fever of 104 degrees at the time and I was so sick and tired that I just lay a gamcha on the floor and tried to sleep. By the time our train arrived we were cutting it close to being able to celebrate Radhastami in Mayapur. When we boarded the train it had German roaches- what German roaches are doing in India Im not sure but by then I was so tired and irritated all I could think of was reaching the magical paradise that was Sri Mayapur Dham and hopefully in time for Radhastami.

We made it just in time for the last five minutes of mangal-arati. It was completely packed with people and I felt overwhelmed with all of them pushing and shoving- I felt invisible. I had been separated from my husband during the program to our respective sides and I hadn’t seen him since- there were so many people.

After mangal-arati I left the temple and sat on a bench, waiting to hopefully see my husband leave the temple. I chanted quietly and looked around. Through association with my husband I had learned a lot about Mayapur. I prayed and dreamt about being here, and now my dream had been fulfilled. Behind me was the beautiful lotus fountain and in front of me was the infamous Long Building. Everything was so big. I didn’t know anyone here. Suddenly, I felt like the smallest person in the world. My husband has daydreamt about living here but I wasn’t sure that I could. Its just too big. There are too many people here, there’s probably no service for me to do. I remembered all the villagers, pushing and shoving for the last bit of mangal-arati darshan of Radha-Madhava. Its too much.

“Prema-Rupa! Why are you just sitting there?”
“Oh!…I couldn’t remember how to get back to our room. This place is so…big…” I said sheepishly.
“You are so so silly. How long have you been sitting there?”
“Oh, umm, since after mangal-arati.”
“Dear! That was almost an hour ago!”
“I couldn’t find you.” I muttered, sad and embarrassed. Somehow Mayapur wasn’t what I expected.

The Deity Darshan in the morning was nice, but again it was packed and people were still coming in. I tried to take Darshan, tried to absorb the mood of devotion and ignore the pushing and chattering of the visitors around me but its practically impossible. I had never experienced such a packed room in my life, and everyone was just pushing and shoving, one lady hit me in the back of the head and I was so crabby I probably could have knocked her out.

When I was able to attain some peace at one side of the room, a female security guard approached me, “go there!” she instructed. I shrugged and complied, figuring that I was somehow in the way of the festivities and made my way a few feet ahead and to the left. After a few minutes I was approached by a male security guard, “move there!” he said, pointing to the spot I was originally standing in. Why can’t I just stand somewhere and take darshan on Radhastami in peace? I moved back to my original spot. This was not going well for me. I thought I would fall in love with Mayapur but so far all I’ve seen is a big place, with big buildings, and big Deities, and big noisy crowds.

“I told you to stand there!” I turned and saw the female security guard, angry that I had returned to my original spot. Unable to catch a break, I squished myself through the crowd and I left the temple room frustrated.

The security guards were driving me crazy. No cell-phones, no cameras, they kept giving my father a hard time for wearing short pants in the temple. I know they’re just doing their job, I saw the lack of temple etiquette guests have, but cant they tell the difference between a regular polite person and a person who is unaware of temple behavior? It was miserable.

While I was being miserable, my husband was having a blast. He was visiting with old friends and family, chit-chatting with bramhachari’s, and working on securing our property in Gaur-Nagar. He would often promise to be back in a moment but wouldn’t return for hours and I would be left alone in our room. It bothered me at first but its not like I wanted to go anywhere so why should I stop him from his good time? I was so startled by the amount and behavior of the visitors here that I wouldn’t go anywhere, no matter how much my husband tried to encourage me, I wouldn’t even attend any of the daily temple programs. I was perfectly content hanging around our room in the Gada Building all day being discontented and miserable.

I did try a couple times to leave my room and go for a walk, hopefully get caught up in some kind of adventure or rekindle my love for the Dham. But I would just walk around the campus and come back to my room after about 20 minutes. One day I decided to chant my rounds in the temple room. I sat in Sri Panca-tattva’s side of the temple room, in the back, near a pillar. I crossed my legs, closed my eyes and tried to focus on the Holy Name. After a few moments, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I opened my eyes to see a female security guard,

“No ghum!”
“Ghum? Sleep? No ghum. Japa.” I replied, pointing to my beadbag. She walked away and I resumed my japa. After a few minutes I got a tap on my shoulder again, I once again opened my eyes to see the same security guard, “No ghum!” she instructed sternly. I pulled together the best Bengali that I could, “Amar ghum na! Ami jap korchi!” Do I have to be one of those newbie devotees having a japa seizure for people to think Im having a focused, meditative japa? Frustrated again, I left the temple.

As I walked back to my room I could hear the Nagar Sankirtan team in the distance. It was made-up of mostly international devotees and when I heard them singing, the tunes and styles, hearing the accordion and watching devotees of all colors and backgrounds dance and glorify Krishna together, it reminded me of America. It made me homesick. I had been in India almost two months, and this was the first time I wanted to go back.

My Deities, Sri-Sri Radha Madanmohan

I remember when I asked my boyfriend if he would buy Radha-Krishna Deities for me while he was in Mayapur for the installation of Sri Pancha-tattva. I made it clear that I didn’t want anything more than four inches because I was concerned that I wont be able to care for Them very well and I thought having some small Deities would be easier to take care of and seem less formal. At the time I was studying at North Dakota State University and one night he called me, “Did you buy my Deities?” I asked excitedly.
“Well I had to choose between these beautiful ten inch ones and some okay looking four inch ones. So I picked the ten inch ones.”
“You did WHAT?! How will I take care of ten inch Deities?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll love Them, I know you will take good care of Them.”

When he returned to the US he encouraged me to name Them even though I hadn’t seen Them. I wrote down a list of names and tried them out singing for example “Jaya Radha-Govinda, Radha-Govinda, Raaaaadhe!” Eventually I picked the name Radha-Madanmohan, it had the best ring to it and if They truly are as beautiful as my boyfriend said Then “He who attracts even Cupid” will suit Them. My boyfriend thought it was a great name since anyone who had ever seen Them thought They were so beautiful. He sent me an outline of Their bodies so that I could make a new outfit for Them that somehow miraculously fit perfectly. He was right, They were so beautiful, that when he gave Them to me that summer of 2004, I never let Them go.

Once a good friend and godsister of mine and I had a chance to spend some time together. She told me about Guru Maharaj’s project in Ujjain. He was building a big beautiful temple there and she was missing his association. She gave me a picture of the Deities there and when I asked the name of the Deities she replied “Sri-Sri Radha Madanmohan”. She felt very happy staying with me since my Deities were also Radha Madanmohan. It was quite a wonderful coincidence, at the time I wasn’t aspiring for HH BhaktiCharu Swami but I could see that Madanmohan certainly had a plan.

Deity Dressing 3/14/10

Eventually my boyfriend and I got married and I moved to Orlando, Florida. We began to worship Sri-Sri Radha Madanmohan regularly. I noticed in his bookcase was the only volume he owned of Sri Caitanya Cariamrta. It was about the pastime of Srila Sanatana Goswami. What is wonderful about being married to my husband is that through him I began to have a deeper appreciation for Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and an understanding of the acaryas in our parampara. I read that volume with great interest.

The pastime of Srila Sanatana Goswami is pretty amazing. He was put in jail because he no longer wanted to serve the government. He got a letter from his brother Rupa saying “Hey! Lord Caitanya is coming to Benares! Anupama and I are going! Wish you were here!” Sanatan Goswami bribed the guard to let him out. He fled to see Lord Caitanya in Benares and despite his wealthy background, he gave it all up and wore a simple torn quilt and a woolen blanket- he eventually gave up the blanket. So he’s sitting outside the home of where Lord Caitanya was staying and Lord Caitanya was like “Candrasekhara, there’s a devotee at your door, bring him in.” And Candrasekhara  looks outside and says, “Theres no one there except a poor Muslim guy.” And Lord Caitanya was like “Yep, let him in.” And then they were so happy to see each other they hugged super tight but Sanatan Goswami felt super embarrassed but Lord Caitanya didn’t mind. So then Sanatan Goswami got all shaved up and accepted some torn clothes from Tapan Misra which made Lord Caitanya happy, and he gave up the fancy blanket that I mentioned earlier which made Lord Caitanya even more happy. And then he decided to become a beggar and that made Lord Caitanya super happy. So then Lord Caitanya revealed a lot of very deep philosophy to Sanatan Goswami and Sanatan Goswami tried to get Lord Caitanya to admit that He is Krishna but Lord Caitanya didn’t fall for it. Lord Caitanya instructed Sanatan Goswami to find all the places in Vrindavan that Krishna performed His pastimes, because when Krishna left, they all became hidden. And he was also instructed to write books about bhakti yoga, establish temples of Krishna in Vrindavan and to write a book about proper Vaisnava behavior. More devotees need to read that book. Seriously.

So the Sri-Sri Radha-Madanmohan Mandir is actually the first temple erected in Vrindavan, which was erected by Sanatana Goswami. And it is said that for anyone who is sincere in devotional service, they must first approach Krishna in His Madanmohan form, who is very merciful. Im a knucklehead, so this is good news for me. Its wonderful when Krishna creates coincidences in life, isn’t it? Its His sense of humor, I think that’s how I know when He’s got His hand in it.

Imagine how wonderful it was to see this beautiful temple twice during my weeklong stay in Vrindavan! The first time I went was with my husband and his father and brother while we went on Vrindavan Parikrama (advice: wear comfy shoes…seriously…don’t get humble about this) and the second time I went was with my family and husband and my father-in-law on Janamastmi. My Dad got yelled at by the pujari because he was holding a video camera and that is a no-no in all temples in India. But the way the temple is built, you don’t go inside the temple. You just climb a long set of stairs and the Deities are there in all Their shining mercy so he didn’t realize that we’d get to the Deities so soon and that They would be all out in the open like that. Not exactly out in the open, but you know, not inside the building.

I used to wonder why people aren’t allowed to take pictures or videotape inside the temples. I thought that maybe it was superstition. But standing in front of Sri-Sri Radha-Madanmohan in Vrindavan. I realized that this is an experience that shouldn’t be captured in a picture but in your heart. Visiting these temples are supposed to give you a deep spiritual experience, if you’re so focused on taking pictures you miss the whole thing. Or maybe cameras steal your soul, I dunno.

To learn more about Sanatan Goswami click here

Did you ever have a realization that truly freaked you out? Like you hear it all the time, over and over again and intellectually you accept it, but then one day it just hits you like a ten-pound bag of potatoes to the face.

That happened to me the other day. We all know the “frog in the well” example. Srila Prabhupada uses it as an example many times. In case you need a refresher, here is a quotation from Science of Self Realization:

Then they are suffering from what we call “Doctor Frog’s philosophy.” There was once a frog who had lived all his life in a well. One day a friend visited him and informed him of the existence of the Atlantic Ocean.
“Oh, what is this Atlantic Ocean?” asked the frog in the well.
“It is a vast body of water,” his friend replied.
“How vast? ls it double the size of this well?”
“Oh, no, much larger,” his friend replied.
“How much larger? Ten times the size?”
In this way the frog went on calculating. But what was the possibility of his ever understanding the depths and far reaches of the great ocean? Our faculties, experience, and powers of speculation are always limited. The frog was always thinking in terms relative to his well. He had no power to think otherwise. Similarly, the scientists are estimating the Absolute Truth, the cause of all causes, with their imperfect senses and minds, and thus they are bound to be bewildered. The essential fault of the so-called scientists is that they have adopted the inductive process to arrive at their conclusions.

Pretty understandable, right? Modern science cannot evaluate what is beyond their limited material senses.

But then I started to think, we are all sitting in this well and evaluating our lives, the importance of our stuff with our limitted senses not realizing that there is a huge ocean out there. But we keep doing the same stuff over and over because we dont really get that there is something more than this. Someone comes along and says, “hey there is a whole spiritual world, in fact, of the entire creation, the material world is tiny and ridiculous.” and even though we keep hearing this, we keep trudging along in our weary routine lives, not really letting it sink in. Because if we did, what would we do? Everything we’ve ever known, everything we’ve ever strived for, would lose meaning. And that would really suck.

Well things matter to an extent. But not as much as we think. Like everything we’re doing is so temporary and replaceable. We try to fix it but the nature of material existence is that everything is temporary so nothing really lasts forever. You fix it, then it breaks.

So what can be done? We need to refocus our mentality. If everyone could refocus their understanding of the creation, that there is a vast ocean, more free and wonderful than you can possibly imagine, then everything we once considered mundane would suddenly have meaning.

Maybe Im wrong, I dont know. I kinda blew my own mind and Im confused and I want to talk to my Guru Maharaj. I feel like, everything I’ve ever done didnt really mean anything to me. I’ve always felt that way. But things happen and I just snapped right out of my zombie stupor and said “what am I doing with my life?!”

But I felt really sad when I heard Micheal Jackson died. Not like, “Oh no! The King of Pop died! How can I carry on with my life?!” No, I just felt really sorry. It just shows you how you can have everything in the world- influence, money even being charitable, but none of it matters if you have no peace of mind. People always talk about “Oh if only I had a million dollars…” but this man had millions of dollars, and it meant nothing for his peace of mind.

You can see that he tried giving the money away, building this and that, but it landed him in more trouble. Even with all his money and his sweet dance moves, his life was just…pathetic. He was just not happy. I wish everyone can learn from his life that money doesnt bring happiness, neither does fame, charitableness, or the moonwalk. Peace of mind, whether you are living in a billion dollar mansion or under the I-4 bridge, is the most valuable object a person can posses.

Sad. Very very sad.

The Panihati Festival in Atlanta is coming up this weekend and Im so excited to go! I love going to New Panihati Dham, there is always so much service, I love it. The last time I went to the Panihati Festival, I was so engaged- washing pots in the kitchen, cutting vegetables for the auction pots. It was fun watching Jayapataka Maharaj walk around and chat with all of us, it was a very intimate service, I felt very fortunate to do it. I think it will be just as fun this year and I think more people would come this year than in previous ones.

Ooh, I just read that Malati Prabhu, Bhakti Sundar Maharaj and Radhanath Maharaj are going to be there in addition to Jayapataka Maharaj and Pankajanghari Prabhu. This festival is going to be awesome!!! There are going to be so many devotees, Im going with my best friends, and the Atlanta temple is so close to Srila Prabhuapda, this festival is definitely going to be a blast.

I might try to update while Im at the festival, it depends on whether or not the motel we are staying at has internet.

So who is going?!

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