Writings

A Report from Caitanya Carana das about my activities while in Durban, South Africa recently

 

Day 1, Monday, 17/09/07

We arrived at the airport early because of a miscommunication about Guru Maharaja’s arrival time. Bhaktin Narushni had brought Hemalata, and Bhakta Rakesh had brought Bhakta Bongani, so we formed a substantial welcoming committee. We waited for Guru Maharaja for about 45minutes but it seemed like an eternity, since I hadn’t seen Him in more than two months. The doors to the luggage claim area opened and closed, as people arrived and triggered off the sensor. This allowed me a few brief seconds to scour the area from my vantage point to see if Guru Maharaja had arrived yet.

Then, at long last, I caught sight of Guru Maharaja. I made my way through the sliding doors and the “No entry” sign to assist Guru Maharaja with His luggage. He was a breath of fresh air, looking effulgent in His bright saffron robes in the otherwise ordinary terminal. The security personnel however had other ideas. I tried my best to reason with the man, speaking to him in Zulu (the local African dialect) and practically begging him to let me help my “father”. Whilst speaking to him, I paused to offer my obeisances to Guru Maharaja. Finally, I looked at the man straight in the eyes and said, “I’m going to help Him. Thanks for understanding.”, and walked off, leaving the man open-mouthed, exasperated and protesting. I practically ran to Guru Maharaja, garlanded Him with a maha-garland and offered my obeisances. As we
waited for Guru Maharaja’s big bag, I studied His face. He looked a little tired, but I didn’t pursue this idea by asking about it. Guru Maharaja asked what would be expected of Him at today’s vyasapuja celebration of Bhakti Caru Swami, which He would be attending. I was unsure, so Guru Maharaja asked me to phone someone.

Everybody I tried seemed too busy to answer their phone. Eventually, I managed to get a hold of somebody, but I must have sounded like I was rambling on unnecessarily because Guru Maharaja asked for the phone and spoke to Krsna Caran Prabhu Himself.

As Guru Maharaja walked to the car, He spoke to Ramananda Raya Prabhu in Russian. During the drive to Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath Mandir, I plied Guru Maharaja with questions and gave Him a run-down of the goings-on in Durban
Yatra. At one point, I turned to Guru Maharaja and said, “We’re very happy that You’re back with us Guru Maharaja.” He smiled gently and said, “Thank you.”

Then, I noticed that my continuous talking was distracting Guru Maharaja from chanting His japa, so I remained quiet for the remainder of the trip. It was very wonderful to hear Guru Maharaja chanting softly, and the intermittent rattle of tulasi wooden beads as He shook His bead-bag. It was a very reassuring and comforting sound.

As we drove up to the gates, the security guard recognized Guru Maharaja and greeted Him very enthusiastically. Guru Maharaja raised both His arms in reciprocation. Ramananda Raya Prabhu brought Guru Maharaja’s big bag, whilst I raced ahead with the smaller cabin luggage to open Guru Maharaja’s door and let Him in. I arranged with Bhakta Rakesh to come back later to take Guru Maharaja to New Jaganath Puri Mandir for the vyasapuja. This left us with an hour to unpack, and hopefully would allow Guru Maharaja some time to relax. I was with Guru Maharaja that entire time, and can assure you that Guru Maharaja did everything but relax! He worked on His e-mail, checked His letters that I had been dutifully placing on His table as they had been arriving for the last two months and now and again would have to answer my queries as to “what went where”.

I asked Guru Maharaja if He would like to take the cup of herbal tea I had offered to make for Him earlier. He replied that there was only a few minutes remaining and that I shouldn’t bother. I felt a twinge in heart, feeling regretful that I had missed a precious opportunity to serve my spiritual master.

Bhakta Rakesh had already moved his car into position and was ready for action. As I knocked on Guru Maharaja’s door to inform Him that Rakesh had arrived, it opened and there was Guru Maharaja, danda in hand. I locked up the room as Rakesh ushered Guru Maharaja to the car. Guru Maharaja was happy to see Rakesh and inquired about the well-being of his family. Earlier on I had told Guru Maharaja that Rakesh’s car had been broken into the previous night and Guru Maharaja inquired about this with concern. His affection for Rakesh was clear.

We arrived at New Jaganath Puri Mandir at 11h30, where the disciples of Bhakti Caru Swami were waiting to receive Guru Maharaja with lively kirtan, which continued for some time as Guru Maharaja was ushered up to the temple-room. Guru Maharaja offered His obeisances to Srila Prabhupada, then at Maharaj’s vyasasana, then at the altar of Sri Sri Jaganath, Baladev, Subhadra and Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundar. The master of ceremonies then welcomed Guru Maharaja and glorified Him before requesting that Guru Maharaja take His seat on the asana. Guru Maharaja gave His address in
appreciation of Maharaj.

I have always known Guru Maharaja to have a tremendous regard for Bhakti Caru Swami, and this was evident as He spoke. Guru Maharaja spoke about the Guruvastakam prayer, particularly the first verse, which refers to the mercy
of the spiritual master as being like rainfall, that is able to douse the otherwise unconquerable, blazing forest fire of material existence. Guru Maharaja spoke about the temple in Ujjain, which was established by Maharaj, and which has become a shelter for so many conditioned souls. The program then continued with puspa-puja, Guru puja and and kirtan.

Guru Maharaja was then escorted down to the dining area, where He was served the sumptuous feast. The disciples of Bhakti Caru Maharaj served with so much of enthusiasm that I just stood in the background and watched, waiting for some inattentiveness so that I may grab a spoon and serve Guru Maharaja. No such chance ever manifested. Then they asked us Godbrothers viz Rakesh and I, to sit at an adjoining table, which I did after much protesting. I was only convinced when they said that we would all be leaving together and there wouldn’t be time.

After Guru Maharaja had taken Prasad to His full satisfaction, He remained in His chair. The devotees arranged a jug and basin for Guru Maharaja to wash His mouth and hands. He stayed at the table for another 45 minutes, talking to the many devotees who were gathered around Him. Rakesh and I sat a little distance behind Guru Maharaja and watched Him. I commented, “Look how freely He gives His time to anybody and everybody. There are so many devotees sitting around Him, but not one of them is His disciple.” Guru Maharaja was talking in a very leisurely, relaxed mood, often tossing back
His head and laughing heartily. I was proud to be His disciple.

We left to Sri Sri Radha- Radhanath soon afterwards. I had some laundry to wash so I attended to this. During this time, my mother Prana Priya phoned requesting a darshan with Guru Maharaja. This was granted soon afterwards and I gave Guru Maharaja company. Firstly, Prana Priya offered Guru Maharaja some daksina which was in keeping with her status as a widowed pensioner. Guru Maharaja knew this and was very appreciative. She had also brought a garland, which I put onto Guru Maharaja. She welcomed Guru Maharaja back to South Africa, and then glorified Him sincerely. Guru Maharaja listened, appreciating her sincere and humble mood very much. She explained her plan to go to India later this year and asked for Guru Maharaja’s blessings. Guru Maharaja said: “Hare Krsna! Whatever blessings I have, you may have.” Prana
Priya reacted as if she had obtained the goal of her life, beaming from ear to ear. As she got down to offer her obeisances to Guru Maharaja, with great difficulty, I looked at Guru Maharaja face. His eyes were moist with tears of love for His disciple. As she rose, in obvious pain and turned to leave, Guru Maharaja said, “Give a garland.” gesturing to a pile of flower garlands on His AV cabinet. Prana Priya left Guru Maharaja’s room in obvious bliss, having received the darshans and blessings of her beloved spiritual master.

I was curious as to when Guru Maharaja would want to take rest so I could return and make His bed, so I asked Him if there were any other programs He would be attending. Guru Maharaja looked at me with raised eyebrows, “I hope not!” I
appreciated Guru Maharaja’s sense of humour as we shared this intimate and precious moment together. Later, when I went to set Guru Maharaja’s bed, I noticed that He had left. I concluded that He had gone upstairs to take darshans of Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Giriraj Govardhan. Sure enough, when I had finished my service and went up to the temple-room to chant, there was Guru Maharaja, sitting and chanting japa as Gaura Arati was going on. After offering my obeisances and taking darshans, I placed a cushion nearby Guru Maharaja and joined Him in chanting japa. These were the best rounds I had chanted in months, I must admit, as I relished Guru Maharaja’s sanga. As the different prasadam items from the Arati came around to Guru Maharaja, I meditated on the words of Partha Sarathi das Goswami Maharaj at yesterday’s Sunday Love Feast lecture, and specifically the answer he gave to the question I had submitted. I had asked about what was the best way to get the maximum benefit from the association of the spiritual master.

Maharaj answered that there were two ways. One was to honour the maha-maha Prasad of the Guru ie. Remnants of the maha-prasad which He has honoured. Secondly, we should follow His instructions. A devotee approached Guru Maharaja with the maha-prasad flowers from the Arati at this moment, breaking my meditation. I looked at the flowers longingly as Guru Maharaja smelled them and placed them beside Him. I was desperately praying that I get some maha-maha Prasad in the form of those flowers, but Guru Maharaja didn’t oblige. Then Guru Maharaja was visited by the daughter of Hari
Vallabha and her husband. He was a Muslim, but very favourable to Krsna Consciousness. They told Him that they were planning to announce to his parents that she was going to take more seriously to Krsna Consciousness and practice on a full-time basis instead of following Islam. They wanted Guru Maharaja’s advice on what to do. Guru Maharaja listened intently to their story, then advised them accordingly, with much love and affection. This was so apparent that the Muslim husband was thoroughly impressed, and thanked Guru Maharaja profusely as they left.

Whilst they had been speaking, our Godbrother Nityananda Pran came and sat next to me waiting to hand over to Guru Maharaja daksina he had collected during Guru Maharaja’s vyasapuja. He was doing the Arati and offering in a few minutes, so he handed me the envelope with the daksina and left, seeing that Guru Maharaja was still busy. Guru Maharaja then got up and walked up to the altar to get a closer darshans of the Deities. Nityananda Pran then appeared on the altar, preparing to close the curtains for the 8pm bhoga offering. Before he did so, he walked to the back of the Deities and gently removed two flowers from Krsna’s lotus feet. He then leaned forward and dropped these two flowers into Guru Maharaja’s hands. As Guru Maharaja smelled these flowers with great satisfaction, Nityananda Pran put his palms together in pranams and closed the curtains.

After offering His obeisances, Guru Maharaja walked straight up to me and placed those two flowers in my hand. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, affection and disbelief that Krsna had reciprocated so tangibly with my desire. As Guru Maharaja offered His obeisances to Srila Prabhupada, I also bowed down. Then I offered my obeisances again, tearfully, as Guru Maharaja left the temple-room to retire for the night.

Since it was World Holy Name Day and I had been infused with Guru Maharaja’s mercy of the maha maha Prasad, I was inspired to chant for another hour in the temple-room. Grateful and feeling very blessed, I retired for the night. My most worshipful spiritual master had bestowed His mercy upon me.

Day 2, Tuesday, 18/09/07

Guru Maharaja walked into the temple-room at around 5am, and all the assembled devotees offered their respectful obeisances. Before Guru Maharaja started chanting His japa, I approached Him to find out what was to be done for the day. Guru Maharaja would be giving the SB class that morning and thereafter would like a fruit breakfast.

Later, I assisted Guru Maharaja perform arati to SP during Guru puja. After he kirtan, set up for SB class. Once I had set up the recorder, I excused myself to o and prepare Guru Maharaja’s breakfast. I returned towards the end of the, feeling regretful that I had missed the class.

As Guru Maharaja discussed some finer aspects with the devotees after class had finished, I gathered His things. We then made our way down to Guru Maharaja’s room, where I set up for breakfast. Guru Maharaja worked on His computer for a while before sitting down for Prasad. I marveled at the fact that He used every second available to serve Srila Prabhupada. After Guru Maharaja had taken Prasad, I had my breakfast. I returned to Guru Maharaja’s room a short while later to do some banking for Him. There was some difficulty at the bank, with two foreign cheques so I had to call Guru Maharaja from the mall to get His advice. I returned with the cheques to Guru Maharaja, who suggested that I check with our finance department as to what should be done. Their advice wasn’t sufficient and I phoned the bank. Armed with the correct information, I returned to the bank and deposited the cheques. Unfortunately, there was some lack of co-operation from the teller, and she perceived my attitude as arrogant. She even went to the extent of phoning the temple to complain!
Obviously, she had some vendetta.

When I got back to the temple, Guru Maharaja requested for a katchori and some chutney from the raj-bhoga offering, which I quickly arranged. Guru Maharaja told me that He wanted His head shaved, which He said could be done at three that afternoon.

When I returned, five minutes after the specified time, Guru Maharaja had already shaved the majority of His head Himself. He said that I should wait for five minutes then I could assist by shaving the area around His sikha. I gently held Guru Maharaja’s blonde-brunette hair in my left hand and shaved His head with my right hand, using smooth, even strokes. The razor shaved very well and I felt blessed to serve Guru Maharaja in such an intimate way. As I performed my service, I told Guru Maharaja what had happened at the bank. He wasn’t pleased. Then I repeated the suggestion made by Sukumari, our receptionist, that I take the teller some mangal sweets as a token of my sincere apology. Guru Maharaja was happy and said that this was a good idea.

I then had a very short time to wash the clothes I was wearing, take a shower and get ready for the evening program at Bhakta Yauvan’s house. Yauvan’s father, Mukesh Hansraj, came to fetch Guru Maharaja. I must say that of all the people who have driven Guru Maharaja, this devotee was the best. He drove very cautiously and conscientiously, fully aware of the caliber of his passenger. I could not help but be impressed. When we arrived, Bhakta John was singing a nice kirtan for Guru Maharaja. Guru Maharaja was ushered up the three flights of stairs to the Hansraj’s spacious lounge. Guru Maharaja commented that it was a very suitable venue for a nama hatta. There was a gorgeously decorated altar, over-laden with strawberries and draped with fine cloth. After offering Guru Maharaja a warm welcome, the family requested to bath Guru Maharaja’s lotus feet. He replied, as always, “If you want to.” ,which reveals His mood of detachment from such things. After the footbathing, there was Guru puja.

Ramananda Raya lead kirtan and I was blessed enough to offer the arati. I looked intently and adoringly at Guru Maharaja as I performed the Guru puja. I noticed that He was also singing the words to the Guru Vandana prayers, to
His beloved Srila Prabhupada, with His palms folded in reverence. After this we asked Guru Maharaja if He was ready to take Prasad. He said, “Yes, of course! Is everything ready to be served?” I checked and confirmed that they were. Guru Maharaja took His seat at the table, and invited Laksminath Prabhu to join Him. Guru Maharaja ate very well and was impressed with the quality of the Prasad. The cooks, Hemalata and Mrs. Hansraj, could hear Guru Maharaja from the kitchen and smiled appreciatively. After He had finished Guru Maharaja got up and thanked the cooks personally. There were a few minutes before the program began so I took a little Prasad myself.

A crowd was building steadily, and by the time Guru Maharaja started the Gaura arati kirtan, there were at least forty people assembled in the lounge. As the kirtan grew in intensity, the devotees became more and more ecstatic, and were practically airborne at one stage! I really missed these kirtans, and wish I could have them every day. After the high-energy kirtan, Guru Maharaja settled into His chair and lead us in the singing of Nrsingadev prayers. He then spoke from Bhagavad Gita 14.27. It was a phenomenal class, explaining aspects of devotional service in relation Srimati Radharani in a very scientific way. Guru Maharaja also included one extremely hilarious pastime of Madhumangal that has the devotees practically rolling on the ground with laughter. After class, there was Guru puja to Srila Prabhupada and a fabulous feast for the devotees. As the devotees relished the feast to their full satisfaction, Guru Maharaja sat on His
chair, giving darshans to many a well-wisher. We prepared to leave by about 21h45, and Mukesh Prabhu drove Guru Maharaja to the temple. The Hansraj family was so attached to Guru Maharaja that they couldn’t bear to see Him leave. They even followed Him down the driveway and practically stood on the roadside to see Him off.

As we drove off, Laksminath Prabhu commented, “Nice program, Maharaj.” Guru Maharaja said, “Yes, very nice.” I couldn’t have agreed more.

 

We arrived at the temple after 22h00, and I made Guru Maharaja’s bed. I offered my obeisances to Guru Maharaja and greeted Him for the night. What a great privilege it was to have Guru Maharaja with us again.

Day 3, Wednesday,19/09/07

Guru Maharaja had not come up to the temple-room by 06h30 so I went down to His room. To my disappointment, I found Guru Maharaja’s door and sliding gate locked. I decided to chant japa ouside Guru Maharaja’s room until He emerged. By the time it was Deity greetings time though, Guru Maharaja had not come out of His room. I decided to go up for greetings and to leave Guru Maharaja to “rest”. To my joy and horror I found Guru Maharaja’s shoes outside the temple room doors. (Joy because at last I could catch the first glimpse of my spiritual master for the day, and horror because I not cleaned His room because of my erroneous judgement.)

As Guru Maharaja prepared to perform Guru puja, several of the boys stepped forward to assist Him. During the kirtan, our temple president Svarupa Damodara Prabhu came to speak to me. He said that I should make sure that all the boys were down in Srila Prabhupada’s room before Guru Maharaja got there. I complied, and told a mataji to pass the message to the ladies. I was also instructed to make sure that there was kirtan going on when Guru Maharaja arrived. After greetings and kirtan, I noticed that Svarupa had engaged Guru Maharaja in a lengthy conversation. This somehow or the other seemed to be fitting into a “bigger plan”. Let me take this chance to explain.

A day earlier, my vice president, Vibhu Caitanya Prabhu had told me that they were planning to have a “surprise Vyasapuja” for Guru Maharaja, since He was in Siberia on the 14 August and did not share that day with us personally. So,
when Guru Maharaja entered SP’s room very innocently to “give SB class”, He was greeted with a roaring kirtan instead! By this time any doubt that something was out of the ordinary was layed to rest.

Guru Maharaja took His seat after bowing down SP. Svarupa acted as the master of ceremonies, requesting various devotees to speak some glorification of Guru aharaja. Many of these speakers were overwhelmed with emotion and shed tears of love for Guru Maharaja. The atmosphere of the room was permeated with a unique sweetness and love. The devotees were united in expressing their heart-felt appreciation of one of Srila Prabhupada’s favourite sons. Guru
Maharaja was Himself touched by the feelings expressed by the devotees and from time to time would wipe a tear that would fall from His lotus eyes. It was sublime.

After the various devotees had spoken, Guru Maharaja was requested to deliver an address. Guru Maharaja thanked each of the devotees that had spoken, glorifying them in a wonderful show of appreciation and affection. The devotees then performed Guru puja to Guru Maharaja and offered Him a big “birthday cake”. Guru Maharaja cut the cake and ate a piece. He then handed it to my eagerly-waiting hands. I relished some of Guru Maharaja’s maha before passing it around to others.

After this the devotees departed very slowly for their various services, lingering on to catch a last few drops of mercy of Guru Maharaja’s association. I then walked with Guru Maharaja to His room. Upon entering, I apologized profusely for not having cleaned up, explaining the mistake I had made. I hastened to tidy up and then served the strawberries that He had
been given at the program. Guru Maharaja took just these strawberries and nothing else. We were then off to a lunch program at Haridev Prabhu’s house in Scottburgh, which Guru Maharaja would be going to with Jagat Guru Prabhu, Vibhu Caitanya Prabhu and His Godbrother Ramanujacarya Prabhu.I must take time to explain about Haridev. He is not a disciple of Guru Maharaja but of Giriraj Swami. Anyone who observes his behaviour, sees how he constantly tries
to serve Guru Maharaja and always glorifies Him, would say that he actually was a disciple. He loves Guru Maharaja very much and Guru Maharaja loves him also.

When we arrived at Haridev’s asram, the family welcomed Guru Maharaja with humble obeisances, showers of flower petals and a beautiful flower garland. We were then ushered into the house, and into the presence of Haridev’s very own
life-size SP. After taking darshans of SP, Guru Maharaja was shown Haridev’s newly-fitted and extremely modern-looking kitchen. There we found his wife, Kalavati, putting the final touches to the Prasad feast. We all returned to Srila Prabhupada’s room where we had Guru puja. Guru Maharaja performed the arati, whilst Ramanujacarya sang Guru Vandana. Then Haridev arranged for a foot-bathing ceremony for both Guru Maharaja and Ramanujacarya Prabhu.
Everybody then gathered in the lounge, where Guru Maharaja spoke in a very relaxed mood. Guru Maharaja was then served His lunch. The senior devotees took their respective seats and I prepared to serve. To my disappointment, Haridev insisted that I also sit at the table. This made me very uncomfortable, since I would rather serve than sit at the same table as my spiritual master. Knowing Haridev to be the incarnation of determination, I eventually relented.

The cuisine was Mexican, opulent and extremely delicious. Preparation after preparation flowed out of that kitchen unceasingly, and was served by the eager hands of Haridev. Guru Maharaja took Prasad to His full satisfaction, relishing Krsna’s mercy and appreciating the good cooking of Kalavati. Ramanujacarya Prabhu is an exceptionally jovial and bubbly person and made many jokes during the meal. He is also very knowledgeable. He said that SP had four favourite sets of
Deities. viz. Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara, Sri Sri Radha- Gokulananda, Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari and Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadisa. One thing which registered very clearly in my mind is Ramanujacarya Prabhu’s recollection of
his sankirtana adventures with Guru Maharaja. They had been sankirtana partners in doing fundraising to build the Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath Mandir in Durban in the 1980’s. They used to sell paintings all over South Africa for this purpose.

Ramanujacarya Prabhu recalled the “feasts” they used to have. Deep-fried cauliflower in sour cream. Boiled-down carob milk which then became condensed, to which they would add fresh cream and walnuts. They would then “pass out”! It was fantastic to hear about these transcendental adventures.

Guru Maharaja was then served two kinds of ice-cream. At this point, Ramanujacarya Prabhu declared, “Now I am ready for a fast.” He was referring to the next day’s noon-fast to honour Radhastami. Guru Maharaja was then asked if He wanted anything else, to which He replied, “I think we’ve reached the end of the road.” With that, we adjourned to the lounge for more humourous stories with Ramanujacarya Prabhu. After ten minutes, Guru Maharaja requested that we
make a move to return to the temple. During the drive back, I received a call from Saksi Gopal, our Godbrother who is so instrumental in the production of Guru Maharaja’ DVD’s. The call, which Guru Maharaja later handled, was about some final adjustments to Guru Maharaja’s latest DVD on Durban Ratha Yatra 2007.

When we arrived at the temple, Guru Maharaja settled down to some work at His computer, and I took my leave.

I spent the rest of the evening chanting, only returnng to Guru Maharaja’s room much later to make His bed. I asked Guru Maharaja if there was any other service I could render, then I retired for the night. It had been an eventful day, full of
fun and an enlivening glimpse into Guru Maharaja sankirtana lila.

Day 4, Thursday, 20/09/07

Guru Maharaja came up to the temple room before Mangal arati. He also lead the kirtan, glorifying Their Lordships in Their first new outfit. It was the most perfect start we could have wished for for this glorious day. The temple room was packed for almost the entire morning program and increased numbers made the whole experience more intense and ecstatic. As usual I approached Guru Maharaja to check if He needed anything before He could start His japa. He said that there wasn’t anything He needed, but later asked me to bring Him the Caitanya Caritamrta Adi ch 3-5. He specifically asked me to bring it later on viz. 06h30. So, when I went out at 06h30, I located the book first before going back down to clean His room. I managed to return to the temple room by 07h00, and attended SP’s Guru puja.

Guru Maharaja then gave class on the transcendental nature and qualities of Srimati Radharani. Although it was a working day, several members of our congregation were present. I’d say that the temple room was about 60% full. After class,
at about 08h30, we got darshans of Their Lordships in Their second new outfit. We also caught our first glimpse for the day of Srimati Radharani’s divine lotus feet! After Deity greetings, Guru Maharaja went down to His room and I followed with rapt attention. I asked Guru Maharaja if there was anything I could do and He said that there was some printing that needed to be done. He gave me His removable disk and instructions as to what to do. (I remember SP’s instruction that “to remember something means to write it down”, and I made a note of exactly what Guru Maharaja wanted done.)

When I had done this service I chanted some rounds and set up for Guru Maharaja’s next class, which would be at 11h00. Then I returned to Guru Maharaja’s room and asked if there was anything I could help Him carry. He indicated with a nod of His head in the direction of some books and printouts.

As I carried these items and followed Guru Maharaja up to the temple room, we passed some devotees sitting on a bench chanting. I felt a tangible amount of pride welling in my heart that I was doing this service and they weren’t. Just as we were perhaps 10 meters from the temple room, a devotee brought a cake from Mother Suniti for Guru Maharaja. Guru Maharaja said that it should be refrigerated. When I asked if He wanted it in His fridge, He said it didn’t matter. Then
He asked me to hand the books and printouts to our Godbrother Gaura Nitai and take care of the cake. I felt my false ego go “pop”. As I walked down to Guru Maharaja’s room, I tried to rationalize the whole event, ultimately accepting it as Krsna’s mercy.

When I arrived for Guru Maharaja’s class a few moments later, He had already begun reading about the transcendental qualities of Radhe. I had no more space on my digital recorder, and had to download the previous recordings onto my
laptop whilst sitting in class. As a result, I missed recording about five minutes of the class. Guru Maharaja began by reading a glorification of the qualities of Srimati Radharani by the previous acaryas. The talk went on for an hour, but nobody budged, being completely absorbed in the sweet Radha-katha.

Guru Maharaja made a special appeal to all of us at this time, saying that if we listened with complete attention then these qualities of Srimati Radharani will become realized as we hear them, if not then it will go over our heads. Then there was Rajbhoga arati, with kirtan by Ramanujacarya Prabhu.

Afterwards Haridev made some announcements, including a promotion of Guru Maharaja’s new DVD, Durban Ratha Yatra 2007. Many devotees came forward to purchase their copy and get it personally autographed by Guru Maharaja. Several people also wanted to speak to Guru Maharaja and He gave His darshans liberally. Eventually, Guru Maharaja got up off His vyasasana at 13h30 and went to His room. The devotee who was cooking Guru Maharaja’s lunch on this grand occasion of Radhastami was late, so I served Him some maha-prasad from the Rajbhoga offering. As Guru Maharaja settled down to take Prasad, Bhakta John appeared with the Prasad, which the mataji had just delivered. (I must say that I am extremely impressed with this boy. He always seeks out any opportunity to serve Guru Maharaja and does his very best to please Him. He also has a very submissive demeanour and is not afraid to ask for advice, either from Guru Maharaja or myself.) John and I served Guru Maharaja, who ate remarkably little.

After Guru Maharaja had taken Prasad, I asked if He was satisfied. He said, “More than satisfied.” John, Yauvan and I then had the remaining Prasad and shared it amongst ourselves. There was still time before Guru Maharaja’s next presentation, at 20h00, so I decided to take some rest.

There was a sandhya arati at 16h15, during which the Deities wore a third new outfit.

When I went to see Guru Maharaja around 16h30, He had stepped out of the shower and was just getting dressed into fresh cloth. He told me that there were more pages to print and that I should take the removable drive and print them out. He said, “When you’re done, come up to the temple room. I’ll be going there now.” I hastened to do this service. In a flash, I had printed the documents and returned to Guru Maharaja’s room. To my pleasant surprise, Guru Maharaja was still there. I offered my obeisances then passed the pages to Him. He handed the pages back to me and said that I should bring them together with others to the temple room. (This was a very instructive action from Guru Maharaja, impressing upon me the reality of my position. I am the servant, not Him.)

By the time I arrived in the temple room, the Jhulan Yatra Festival was winding down, and I managed to seize the opportunity to swing Their Lordships The Deities were then taken off the swing and prepared to receive abhishek. Guru Maharaja removed His kurta and turned His top-piece in readiness. Guru Maharaja headed up the abhishek process itself, and poured different auspicious items over the Deities with great care and attention. All the while sweet bhajans were going on and the devotees were relishing the holy name. During the abhishek, Guru Maharaja threw various items of
maha Prasad, such as garlands and flowers from the Deities into the crowd. I had been desiring a garland from Srimati Radharani’s neck, and when Guru Maharaja threw it into the crowd, I staked my claim. I leapt up from practically a sitting position and snatched the garland from the waiting hands of any and all contenders. Having claimed my prize, I put into a
plastic packet to give to Mother Suniti, who had earlier requested it.

After the completion of the abhishek, Guru Maharaja was requested to carry the Utsav Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath back onto the altar. The bhajans continued until Gaura Arati. At this time, I excused myself and went to the temple room foyer to chant some rounds. Guru Maharaja came out also a while later, and read His notes. I kept my gaze fixed on Him to see if there was any need that I could cater for. At 18h45, I returned to the bhajans, which had built into quite a climax by
now. I had been requested to lead the Gaura Arati kirtan and was feeling a little uncertain, until I looked up at the altar and saw that Guru Maharaja was performing the Arati! I meditated on how to please Srimati Radharani, and offered that kirtan for Her pleasure. Somehow or the other it turned out well, and the devotees were pleased. At one point, the kirtan was reaching epic proportions and the devotees were calling out the names of Srimati Radharani in ecstacy. Then Guru Maharaja arrived.

The devotees let out a great roar as He was handed the microphone and began dishing out the nectar. The devotees encircled Guru Maharaja and danced around Him. As the kirtan gained momentum, I swear nobody’s feet touched the
ground for any length of time! The kirtan concluded thereafter, although nobody really wanted it to end. Then Guru Maharaja sang the Nrsingadev prayers, and assumed His seat on the vyasasana to give the final class for the evening. Guru Maharaja then sang a wonderful bhajan, Jaya Radhe Jaya Radhe Radhe and the devotees enjoyed it very much. He then spoke some amazing Radha-katha. This particular class was exclusively lila, and was exactly what all the assembled devotees had come to hear Guru Maharaja speak on. They knew, as do we all, that Guru Maharaja is the authority when it
comes to these sort of narrations. As Guru Maharaja churned the nectar, the devotees relished it. Their enthusiasm to hear was matched only by Guru Maharaja’s enthusiasm to speak it! He seemed to be in His element.It was a joy to behold.
Pastime after pastime were related, as we drank the nectar with our ears. Anybody who has ever experienced a katha by Guru Maharaja knows how enlivening and unique these talks are. He used different hand gestures, facial expressions and
changes of voice to bring the pastimes to life. Indeed, we were no longer in Chatsworth, but had been mystically transported to Vraja. Guru Maharaja was requested to delay the conclusion of class again and again since the pujaris
were still dressing the Lord. He thus also had to delay His narration of the lila which would be depicted in the Lord’s next darshan. This He did with consummate ease and great satisfaction, and which also brought no protest form the katha-relishers, who were all spellbound by Guru Maharaja’s talks. Eventually, we got a signal from the pujaris that we were ready, but Guru Maharaja said that they should wait until He was finished His narration before opening the curtains.

Then, to our joy, Guru Maharaja related the pastime of Krsna taking sannyasa. Our expectations raised and our spirits high, we rose for the last darshans of the Deities, wearing Their fourth new outfit. Krsna was wearing saffron cloth, tiger skin shawl and carrying a water-pot. His head wasn’t shaved though! Instead He wore a saffron cloth, tucked behind His ears. As the devotees took their last darshans of Radhe’s lotus feet, Guru Maharaja lead a sweet kirtan. The pujari then closed the curtains, symbolically drawing the day’s amazing events to a close. Guru Maharaja then sat back on the vyasasana, as several people came forward to express their gratitude and get His darshan. During this time Ishkar Prabhu handed me bag with a new hooded jacket for Guru Maharaja.

We left the temple room at about 22h30, and by that time it had started to become chilly. I suggested to Guru Maharaja that He put on His new jacket, which He thought was a good idea.

As we walked out of the temple room, I said to Guru Maharaja, “I feel so happy. I wish I could always feel like this. Is it possible Guru Maharaja?” “Sure.”, He said with a knowing nod of His head. I am convinced that Guru Maharaja tastes this bliss constantly. If I stick to His lotus feet constantly, surely I will feel it too.

Guru Maharaja then went down to have a look at what was being served for Prasad. He requested that I bring Him a drink. It was a very nice banana shake, and Guru Maharaja had two servings. Guru Maharaja then retired to His room. When we got there, I made His bed. Then I knelt down next to Him and asked if I could speak to Him for a while. He unhesitatingly agreed. I said, “Guru Maharaja, I want to thank You. You said in a recent class that Srimati Radharani is the abode of happiness. I desperately need to feel that happiness and I prayed to Her today. She is very merciful and She showed me that happiness tonight. Its all by Your causeless mercy, Guru Maharaja.” I then left the room head down, crying silent tears of love for my spiritual master.

 

Day 5, Friday, 21/09/07

Guru Maharaja did not come up to the temple room by 06h30, because of the phenomenal day we had the day before, and I went down to see Him. He was on His chair, chanting His Gayatri. I felt like an idiot for disturbing Him and waited silently for Him to finish. Humbly, I asked Him how He was feeling. “Fine, thanks.”, came His reply. I cleaned His room, then asked Guru Maharaja what He’d like for breakfast. He said that He would take fruit, and I left to get that done. First, I had to arrange an MP3 lecture of SP for the morning class, then I was off to the kitchen. I served Guru Maharaja His breakfast at 09h00. I had also cut up some granadillas that somebody gave to Guru Maharaja the night before. As I watched Guru Maharaja eat granadilla after granadilla, I served Him more. I asked Him if He liked this variety of fruit and He said, “Oh, yes.” I served all twelve halves, and Guru Maharaja relished every single one. I felt great bliss serving my spiritual master something that He had an affinity for. After He had completed His meal, I tidied up and took a little Prasad myself.

The afternoon was spent dying 4 sets of Guru Maharaja’s cloth. Anyone who has done this knows that it requires much endeavour, and I did it feeling great bliss, knowing that Guru Maharaja really wanted that cloth dyed. Later, in the evening, Guru Maharaja went to Syamacandra Prabhu’s asram in Phoenix for Prasad.

Bhakta Rakesh drove Him, and Ramananda Raya, Bhakta John and I also traveled with Guru Maharaja. Rakesh had actually come to my rescue and agreed to drive Guru Maharaja on very short notice, because the initial arrangement let me down. This meant that he came straight from work to do the service. I marveled at how my Godbrother was willing to sacrifice his personal comfort to serve our beloved spiritual master.

Guru Maharaja was happy to see Rakesh, and inquired from him about the wellbeing of his family, especially about their spiritual practice. In fact, Guru Maharaja spoke to him for the most part of the trip. When we arrived, Syamacandra and his dad were waiting to receive Guru Maharaja. (I must take some time to explain about this exalted Godbrother of ours. He has perfected the art of Hare Krsna cuisine, has featured several times on radio interviews, has had extensive coverage in the press and is the author of a popular recipe book.) After a darshans of Their Lordships Jaganath, Baladev and Subhadra, Guru Maharaja spoke for some time to Syamacandra’s dad. Then we ushered Guru Maharaja to His seat, where
He would be taking Prasad.

Bhakta John and I served Guru Maharaja, and I was happy to see that He ate well. Syamacandra had outdid himself and Guru Maharaja was pleased. After Guru Maharaja had taken enough, we washed His hands. Guru Maharaja then adjourned to the temple room to chant whilst we took Prasad. As I took Prasad, I got a call from Ananda Vrndavan, our senior Godsister. She wanted confirmation of the program Guru Maharaja would be doing at New Jaganath Puri later that
evening. Guru Maharaja was within earshot and asked what the conversation was about. When I told Him, He said that there was no such program. Guru Maharaja asked me who I had told, and I said that I had only told two people. He requested that I contact them and inform them of the latest developments, which I did immediately. It appears that the temple president of New Jaganath Puri had been in consultation with Guru Maharaja earlier and they had decided against a program at the temple. Unfortunately, nobody told me so there was an unintentional blunder. Still, Guru Maharaja in His wisdom saw what was going on and averted any possible dilemmas by acting promptly. This was very instructive for me.

We left Syamacandra’s asram at around 18h30, with Guru Maharaja smiling broadly and giving the family a friendly wave. Once at the temple, I set Guru Maharaja’s bed and bade Him “Good night.”

I chanted for a while before I retired myself.

Day 6, Saturday, 22/09/07

It was about 05h30 when Guru Maharaja came up to the temple room. During japa, He asked me to find out exactly what time Giriraj Swami’s vyasapuja program would be held since we had to pack, both for Moscow and Pietermaritzburg. I left the temple room at 06h30 to clean Guru Maharaja’s room. I met with Svarupa Damodara Prabhu, our temple president and a disciple of Giriraj Swami, and asked about the program. He said that the program would begin at 07h30 and terminate by 09h30. Using this information, Guru Maharaja calculated that the best time for us to pack His bags would be immediately after the vyasapuja at around 10h00. We meant to leave the temple at 11h45, stop at the bank and then head off to Pietermaritzburg.

After a long, ecstatic SP Gurupuja kirtan by Jagat Guru Prabhu, which actually went on until the next arati, everybody settled down. Lokabandhu Prabhu read out Giriraj Swami’s offering to Srila Prabhupada for 2007. It was a very long offering, and one point that stood out very prominently for me was the story of “Crazy Peter”. This seemingly eccentric devotee later became known as Kusakrata Prabhu, the Sanskrit genius. This pastime clearly shows how merciful the spiritual master is, to even the most seemingly unqualified candidate.

Guru Maharaja then spoke. He gave a powerful, heartfelt and instructive discourse about the mercy of the spiritual master. He may have to exhibit this mercy by “pulling the ear” of the disciple from time to time, but its all mercy. Then
Guru Maharaja’s Godbrothers, Shyamlal Prabhu and Ramanujacarya Prabhu spoke, appreciating Giriraj Swami’s many wonderful Vaisnava qualities. It was clear to see that Giriraj Swami is such an empowered and bona-fide representative
of Srila Prabhupada. Then various disciples ad well-wishers were requested to speak some glorification of Maharaj. During this time, I was starting to get a little anxious about the delay being caused to Guru Maharaja’s plans. When I saw Guru Maharaja glance at His watch a few times, this angst multiplied a dozen times over.

Then Krsna within my heart gave me a good idea: Why don’t I ask Guru Maharaja to write down what He wants packed so that I could get started right away? When I pitched this idea to Guru Maharaja, He said, “Could do. Yeah.” I brought Him a pen and page and He made a detailed, easy-to-understand list of things I had to pack. I offered my obeisances and left to do my service. Everything was within my capability except the freshly-dyed devotee cloth that were not ironed. Barely fifteen minutes had passed when Guru Maharaja came down and began advising me on my packing.

When I asked about what to do about the devotee cloth, He said that they should be ironed. I gulped, knowing that to do them now would be very risky since we had a very short time before we left. I packed whatever I could, including Guru Maharaja’s overnight bag for Pietermaritzburg, then left. I packed my own bag in about three minutes. It was about 11h25, leaving me with about fifteen minutes to iron 4 sets of cloth! To my great relief, Bhakta John came to my rescue, and between us we managed to accomplish the impossible. In the meanwhile, Bhakta Bongani, who was meant to come with us, breezed into the room. I had spoken to him some time before, and when I saw that he wasn’t showing any urgency, I became upset. In a moment of passion, I chastised him harshly. He was upset and walked off. Our driver, Nitai, was nowhere to be found and time was ticking by. Then when I phoned him, he told me that he was “parked in”. Oh Krsna!

My pressure level was rising. As I bustled around trying to arrange things, I bumped into Bhakta Bongani. I took a few moments to try and pacify him. I asked for his forgiveness, requesting that he come with Guru Maharaja to get His association. I said that he could still make it if he packed very quickly. He declined. I felt terrible because I was directly responsible for him missing out on the association of his spiritual master. My heart was heavy. I glanced at my watch.

There was five minutes before our departure time, and I know how strict Guru Maharaja is about punctuality, following in SP’s footsteps. I tried to get a hold of Nitai, and got a message that he was unable to bring the car around because the
gates were locked. What next?! Guru Maharaja had left His room and was waiting outside by this time. In a few minutes, Nitai came driving up with Guru Maharaja’s car. As I helped Guru Maharaja get into the car, I dropped His cell phone. Guru Maharaja let out a sigh and shook His head, “Is it ok?”. I said that it was. We were on our way at long last.

Guru Maharaja wanted to go to the bank first, so we had to leave a bit earlier. As we got off the car, I dropped Guru Maharaja’s phone that was on my lap. Guru Maharaja looked at me and said, “Not again! That’s unbelievable!” I apologized profusely but the disgusted look on Guru Maharaja’s face made it clear that He was beyond being pacified. We were in the bank for a very brief time, then were ready to hit the road again. In the car, Guru Maharaja asked if I had His phone, then said that I shouldn’t drop it. In fact, He said this about thrice. I didn’t complain, knowing that He was “pulling my ear”.

Nitai Prabhu is a very good driver, and he shares a close relationship with Guru Maharaja. Also, his fianci is Narushni, a Godsister of ours who Guru Maharaja is fond of. We arrived at Bhaktin Romy’s asram at around14h00. Guru Maharaja was very warmly received by the family amidst much conch-blowing and showers of flower petals. Once seated inside, the family requested to bath Guru Maharaja’s lotus feet. Then there was Guru puja to Guru Maharaja. Guru Maharaja was offered a softdrink called Woolworths Ginger Beer, which He thoroughly enjoyed and later He asked for a second.

I recall that even during Guru Maharaja’s last visit to Pietermaritzburg, He had enjoyed this drink very much. Guru Maharaja received a call from the travel agent, and He spent some time discussing His travel arrangements. He
explained His itinerary during His forthcoming trip to India. Almost all the family members would be going to India this Kartik, since most of them were disciples of Giriraj Swami. Maharaj would be doing an Indian tour this year, and many South African disciples were going there to get His association. The family loved Guru Maharaja and thoroughly enjoyed His parikramas, so they were seeinh how they could connect with Him whilst in Vrndavan. It was just passing 15h00 and I was in anxiety that Guru Maharaja hadn’t eaten yet. I mentioned this to Romy. She said that they were ready, and Guru Maharaja also said that He was ready, so we started serving. Lokabandhu Prabhu joined Guru Maharaja for Prasad. Guru Maharaja was later also joined by Madhu Kantha, a nama hatta leader in the area. The menu was Italian. Guru Maharaja
took a substantial amount of Prasad, but very slowly and respectfully. Then we took prasada, as Guru Maharaja spoke to the family.

The talk somehow or other went to the vyasapuja offering by Giriraj Swami. Guru Maharaja was saying how He’d heard the story of Kusakrata from Giriraj Maharaj a long time ago. Guru Maharaja said that Kusakrata was such an amazing Sanskrit scholar and that He had 50 to a 100 books by him, which He referred to from time to time. Guru Maharaja said that Kusakrata’s translations were done in very poetic way. There were many spelling errors though, but he managed to capture the essence of the writings. This conversation went on whilst we took Prasad. As soon as Guru Maharaja saw
that we were done, He requested that we make a move to our program.

There was going to be a harinam and Guru Maharaja inquired if there was a sound system available. Madukantha assured Guru Maharaja that there was. Then, amidst the family’s feelings of imminent separation, Guru Maharaja departed for His program. Guru Maharaja’s parting words were, “Thanks for the nice Prasad, hospitality and ginger beer.”

We arrived at the asram of Abhimanyu at around 16h25. The house was situated on a hilltop and the driveway leading up to it was at an incline of at least 40 degrees! Our car, with or without passengers, would not have made that climb. Furthermore, there was a marquee and chairs set up at the top of the driveway that would make turning the car, or even disembarking practically impossible. Considering all of this, Guru Maharaja decided to get off the car and walk up the steep driveway. There was much protesting, and one devotee who had arrived in his Range Rover suggested that he ferry Guru
Maharaja up the driveway, but had already started His ascent by then. I tell you what, that is the steepest driveway I have ever climbed in my entire life! My calves were actually straining by the time we got to the top.

When we reached the top, Guru Maharaja was welcomed very warmly by Abhimanyu and family. Bhakta Rajesh scattered flowers on Guru Maharaja’s path amidst lively kirtan by Vaisnava Prana Prabhu. He was ushered onto a raised platform with a double-seater asana. There were also two mic stands so I concluded that Partha Sarathi das Goswami would be joining Guru Maharaja later on. After a short wait to allow more people to arrive, we left for harinam. Anybody who has ever gone on harinam with Guru Maharaja knows what an ecstatic experience it is! Guru Maharaja began with a steady pace, which grew exponentially until I could hardly keep up with the mrdanga.

Fortunately, Savia Saci Prabhu came to my rescue. He is a much better mrdanga player, and Guru Maharaja appreciated his playing. There were many curious onlookers, but no matter hard I tried to beg them to join us they declined. Anyway, I am sure they could see that we were obviously enjoying ourselves very much. As we wound up the harinam, we had to again climb that driveway. Guru Maharaja continued singing as He lead us into the marquee. He was then handed a mic and sang with the aid of the PA system. This took the kirtan to a whole new level. At this point, we welcomed the Deities of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurahari. Then, we settled down for bhajans lead by Vaisnava Prana Prabhu.

After we had sang the Nrsingadev prayers, Guru Maharaja was introduced by Lokabandhu Prabhu. Upon aking Guru Maharaja what He’d like to speak on, He said the Caitanya Caritamrta. He asked me to choose and I selected Madhya lila, chapter 23, Life’s Ultimate Goal – Love of Godhead. I thought since we had just installed Gaura-Nitai, we should hear about Mahaprabhu’s mission, to give love of God to everyone. Guru Maharaja seemed content with my choice. Guru Maharaja’s class was very basic and extremely riveting. He established clearly the supremacy of Krsna Consciousness. He spoke about Lord Caitanya’s instructions to Sanatan Goswami.

During this time, I served Guru Maharaja some ginger beer as per His choice. As Guru Maharaja spoke, Partha Sarathi das Goswami made his appearance. Guru Maharaja was elated to see him, and beckoned for Maharaj to sit next to Him on the double-seater. Guru Maharaja said, “Oh! Look! We’ve just become very fortunate.” Guru Maharaja wound up His presentation and requested that Lokabandhu Prabhu introduce Maharaj. Maharaj said that he would answer the questions that had been written on a question-board that had been sent around.

One question in particular was the source of great pleasure for everybody.The devotee asked: “Maharaj, I want to ask, how can I become Your servant and belong to You, and reach the Supreme Lord by Your mercy. I have this only desire. Thank You.” The thing that made this more sweet was that Partha Sarathi das Goswami Maharaj was dealing with the questions, and specifically handed this question to Guru Maharaja out of His deep-felt humility. Guru Maharaja in turn read the question and asked Maharaj to answer it. Then Maharaj suggested that the person surrender to Guru Maharaja. Guru Maharaja in turn suggested that the person wait until after the program, approach Maharaj and ask him for shelter. The rasa between them was very sweet and we were privileged to witness it!

After the talks, there was an hilarious skit by Krsna Candra Prabhu and his group. Everyone, including the Swamis, was in stitches. This was followed by Guru puja and kirtan. Guru Maharaja lead the kirtan, which seemed to increase in pace and energy the longer it ent on. Then, as Guru Maharaja recited the Prema dvaani prayers, He sang into the mic: “Nitai Gaura, Hari Bol Hari Bol Hari Bol Hari Bol!” We all leapt to our feet in great ecstacy, grateful for the added opportunity for more nectar. I love it when Guru Maharaja does this! In fact, I’ve been in kirtans where He has done this about three times! There comes a point when I just don’t bow down, anticipating another kirtan explosion. It all serves to just multiply the sweetness many times over!

When the kirtan eventually ended, the devotees were served a huge feast. Guru Maharaja and Maharaj remained on their vyasasanas, and received well-wishers and guests who wanted darshan. Guru Maharaja’s DVD sold out in no time, with Bhakta John and Bhakta Yauvan doing their best to distribute them to the eager devotees. During this time, I was notified that Narushni had been in a serious accident on the way to the program. Nitai had left to see to her and take her back to Durban, and I had to drive Guru Maharaja back to the house. Fortunately she wasn’t hurt, just very traumatized, but the car was seriously damaged. As soon as I got an opening, I told Guru Maharaja the news. He was visibly shaken by this report, and inquired with great concern about the devotees’ wellbeing. We only left Abhimanyu’s asram after 22h30.

Our car pulled into the driveway of Lokabandhu’s asram at aound 22h45. I set Guru Maharaja’s bed and He retired at about 23h00. Bhakta John and I slept in an adjoining room. We were still buzzing from ecstatic program, and kept speaking for another thirty minutes before he expired. I was just falling asleep, by about 24h00, when Nitai phoned. He was at the front door, having just returned form Durban, where he had been to offer moral support to Narushni after her accident. The way the rooms were designed meant that I had to walk through the room Guru Maharaja was in to get out of the house. I very cautiously and quietly crept out, and opened the door for Nitai. He waved a goodbye to his lift as I locked up.

Nitai was sleeping in another room so there was no difficulty for him, but I faced the challenge of returning to my room without disturbing Guru Maharaja. As I slowly crept past Him, He said, “Please don’t walk in and out of the room again.” I
apologized, saying that I had to let in Nitai. Guru Maharaja said, “Oh, Nitai is back?” I said, “Yes, Guru Maharaja.” And apologizing again for disturbing Him, I retired to my room.

Day 7, Sunday, 23/09/07

Guru Maharaja joined the morning program as we were concluding tulasi-puja. He was present as we recited the ten offences and then offered our obeisances to the Vaisnavas. Guru Maharaja then took His position in His chair and began chanting in full earnest. I chanted for a while, collected flowers for puja and then made Guru Maharaja’s bed. I approached Guru Maharaja to ask Him what He would like to speak on for SB class.

Since it was Lord Vamanadev’s appearance day, He chose to speak on this pastime. I scoured the house, and eventually found, the eight canto. I placed the book and Guru Maharaja’s glasses on a table beside Him. At 07h00, there was Deity greetings, after which Guru Maharaja lead a sweet kirtan. Some of the children then enacted a dramatic narration of parts of Krsna Book. These kids were amazing! They had learned the text from Krsna Book verbatim and were adding bodily gestures and facial expressions according to their understanding. Guru Maharaja was thoroughly impressed, and gave them His full support and encouragement. Then there was Srimad Bhagavatam class, which was informative and humourous also.

After class, Guru Maharaja chanted japa in the lounge, whilst we dispersed to various parts of the house either to do laundry or chant. At about 11h30, we left Lokabandhu Prabhu’s asram for Durban. The family’s attachment for Guru Maharaja was very clear as they hesitatingly let Him go. They even took the trouble to pack some Guru Maharaja’s favoured ginger beer! (I must explain about the ginger beer. Woolworths ginger beer is a drink that Guru Maharaja appreciates. Its not that He lives for it. I am reminded of the pastime of Srila Prabhupada and the “7-up frenzy” as told by Sruta Kirti Prabhu in his book “What is the Difficulty?” I wouldn’t want my Godfamily to go out and buy this drink by the crateful!)

On our way out of Pietermartzburg, Guru Maharaja visited a family who very recently had a death in the family. Guru Maharaja spoke words of sympathy and support that were very sobering. Most of the family members were aged, so His talk was tailored to accommodate this fact.

We then left for central Durban, where Guru Maharaja had a lunch engagement at Bhakta Neran and Jhanavi’s asram. We made our way up to the flat where Guru Maharaja took is seat after being warmly welcomed by one and all. The devotees bathed Guru Maharaja’s lotus feet as I sang Guru Vandana prayers. After chatting to the family for a while, Guru Maharaja gave a short class from Bhagavad Gita 4.9. Guru Maharaja was then served Prasad. It was Ekadasi Prasad, but these devotees had gone all out! I allowed Bhakta John, Aneer and Neran to serve, not wanting to smother Guru Maharaja. I chanted japa whilst gazing out the window at the serene ocean vista.

When Guru Maharaja had taken Prasad, the servers honoured some. After we had finished, Guru Maharaja was ready to leave for New Jaganath Puri, where He was due to give the Sunday Love Feast lecture. As Guru Maharaja sat down on the asana, and prepared to speak, Kadamba Kanana Swami made his appearance.

I licked my lips in anticipation of the great ocean of nectar we all were about to be immersed in. It was a “double-header”, which means that everything would be magnified in sweetness and intensity. Guru Maharaja spoke from BG 4.11, speaking
solely on the message of the verse initially, then branching off into some Radha-katha. All the assembled devotees enjoyed it thoroughly and were reminded of the ecstatic Radhastami progam with Guru Maharaja on Thursday night with Guru Maharaja at Sri Sri Radha Radhanath Mandir. Guru Maharaja repeated the glorious pastime of Krsna as a sannyasi, much to my delight. Kadamba Kanana Swami appreciated this Radha-katha very much, and took it to another level by explaining that the “golden-bodied was actually none other of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Then came a question and answer session, which was most relishable. Kadamba Kanana Maharaj then lead a sweet kirtan to wind up proceedings. The devotees then dispersed for Prasad.

The Maharajas remained seated on their asanas as many devotees requested their darshan. They gave their time very liberally and the devotees left feeling satisfied and enlivened.

Guru Maharaja was then requested by Deva Deva Prabhu to honour some Prasad, so He adjourned for the temple president’s office, where the various items had been set up. Deva Deva Prabhu and his fianci, Karuna Mayi were very eager to serve Guru Maharaja, but still Guru Maharaja honoured very little. We then departed for Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath Mandir. When we arrived, I set Guru Maharaja’s bed, unpacked His overnight bag and packed what I could into His bag for Moscow. As John and I unpacked, Guru Maharaja called for a bottle of ginger beer, calling it “a good brew.” John and I then offered our obeisances and left the room. About five minutes later, I had to return to Guru Maharaja’s room to return His phone which I realized I still had in my pocket. He was ready to turn so I didn’t hang around too long. As we continued to empty the car of our bags, we saw Guru Maharaja’s sunglasses. I told John that I wasn’t prepared to disturb Guru Maharaja again, and would give it to Him the next day. I retired for the night shortly thereafter.

Day 8, Monday, 24/09/07

Guru Maharaja joined the morning program at around 05h30, and I met Him as He was walking in. I was on my way to pick flowers for puja. He asked me if I had His dark glasses, and I tapped my pocket in acknowledGuru Maharajaent, “Yes, Guru Maharaja.” Guru Maharaja asked me to put them in His big bag. I said that I would, and placed them there when I went down to clean the room.

Guru Maharaja came down at 06h45, to change into His non-devotee (I hesitate to use the word “karmi”) clothes and do some final packing. Asha, who was meant to drive Guru Maharaja to the airport, brought the car around and Ramananda Raya Prabhu helped me load Guru Maharaja’s bags into the boot. As Guru Maharaja stepped into the car, He was met by out vice-president, Vibhu Caitanya Prabhu, who spoke to Him at length. As we drove off, Guru Maharaja inquired about Asha’s family with great concern. After we parked the car, we followed Guru Maharaja as He walked through the terminal in His characteristic fast gait. Anybody who’s been on parikrama with Guru Maharaja, will know that He can really move! As we neared the boarding gates, an overwhelming feeling of regret began eating at my heart.

“Eight days. I had the chance to serve You for eight days, and what did I do? Mess it all up, yet again. So faulty. So much lacking in my service.”

Being my eternal spiritual master, Guru Maharaja could perceive my angst, and glanced over His shoulder to look at me, even as I was thinking like this. Guru Maharaja stopped turned to each of us, and said “Thank you.” He said it with so much of sincerity and love, that my heart melted. “Who am I to be thanked by You, Guru Maharaja?” My Godfamily stood at that spot, but I walked on further up to a point where Guru Maharaja had to pass by as He walked through towards the security checkpoint.

As He walked by, He noticed me standing there and stopped. He looked into my eyes, which were welling with tears and I looked into His oceanic, bluish-grey eyes. They seemed to be looking straight at my soul. “Guru Maharaja, I have so much to tell You, but there wasn’t time.”

“Well, you can tell me now”, He said.

I looked at the ground, dumbfounded by His compassion.

“Is it about Ranga devi (my fianci)?”

“That’s part of it. I also offended so many devotees, like Bhakta Bongani whilst in Your service. Most of all, I didn’t serve You properly, Guru Maharaja.”

“You did pretty well. Of course there’s always room for improvement. But you did ok.”

“Yes, Guru Maharaja.”

“If there’s a need you can write to Me. Or, if you can hold on, I’ll be back in three weeks. Anyway, pray to Krsna for help, and work on your chanting. Chant nicely, without offences, ok?”

I nodded tearfully and managed a smile for His pleasure.

Guru Maharaja then continued through the security check, and then turned to face us. Raising both His arms in the air, He gave us the broadest, brightest smile. As He disappeared from our view, we offered our respectful obeisances to Him, our glorious spiritual master.

Your insignificant servant,
Caitanya Carana dasa

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