Day 1, Sunday, 29/03/09
Hare Krsna. Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Srila Gurudev.
Indradyumna Swami was speaking about the mood of Vrndavana during the Sunday program at Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath Mandir, Durban, South Africa, when he suddenly looked up at the doorway of the temple-room.
With his face beaming with his characteristic bright smile he announced, “A great personality has just entered our midst. We are just talking about the glories of Vrndavana and one of the the acaryas of Vrndavana Parikramas, Srila Bhakti Caitanya Maharaj, has just entered!” We all wheeled around, and offered our obeisances whilst cheering and applauding very loudly as Gurudev walked majestically in. After offering His obeisances to the Deities, Gurudev took His seat on a vyasasana next to Maharaj. I noticed that He looked tired. Indradyumna Swami continued with his class for a while longer then handed over to Gurudev.
The main point in Gurudev’s short address was about taking the association of the advanced devotee and the importance of visiting the Dham under the guidance of the advanced devotee, “Otherwise you may do Govardhan Parikrama and just see some rocks.” The program ended with Gurudev’s talk. As Gurudev walked out of the temple-room, surrounded by an entourage, I approached Him and spoke a few words of welcome. I could see that He was very busy, so I arranged to meet with Him the next day. Later on I found out that Gurudev had got straight onto the vyasasana after a 4-hour drive from Ladysmith. I marveled at His surrender to preaching!
Day 2, Monday, 30/03/09
Svarupa Damodara Prabhu, my temple president, and Nitai Prabhu, who had been assisting Gurudev recently, had given some intimations that I would be assisting Gurudev for His forthcoming trip to Pietermaritzburg. Still, it was only after a darshan with Gurudev that this was verified. At the end of this darshan, Gurudev gave me my first service: I was to check on His cloth and see what needed dyeing. He also asked me to get more details of the Pietermaritzburg trip from Nitai Prabhu. I noticed that there was an aerial shot (like those taken from a satellite) on Gurudev’s screen. When I questioned Him about this, He said that it was for the forthcoming DVD of Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama. Looks like its going to be yet another masterpiece!
Later, I received a message from Sukumari Mataji that Gurudev was trying to contact me. He wanted some maha-prasadam from the midday offering. “Get Me a katchori and some chutney.” Whilst honouring the prasadam, Gurudev told me about His itinerary. He specifically asked me to confirm times and transport
arrangements for His program at Ishkaar’s new surgery. He would stopping over at Krsna Prema Mataji’s home for lunch. Another point He made very clearly is that the two Lithuanian devotees who were arriving soon should be properly received and taken care of.
Avi and his wife were stuck in a traffic-jam, so Gurudev had to wait for a short while before we left for the program. Whilst waiting, Gurudev asked me to see if I could arrange for accomodation for two students from Cape Town during the forthcoming RathaYatra. I made some calls. Avi’s children, who usually accompany him when he drives Gurudev, were both sick, and Gurudev sympathized with their plight. Gurudev then inquired about the spiritual lives of Avi and his wife. They very excitedly described how they had increased their rounds of japa and Avi said that he had begun to systematically read Bhagavad-gita. Gurudev commented, “That’s good. Have you read Srimad Bhagavatam? It is full with all sorts of lovely stories. It’s
much easier to read than Bhagavad-gita.” When we arrived at Krsna Prema’s Gurudev was ushered in and presented with a rose-garland, which I swear had over a hundred roses on it! After taking darshan of Sri Sri Nitai-Gauranga, Gurudev was seated in the lounge and offered prasadam. He ate very sparingly, and this concerned Krsna Prema.
After He had taken prasadam, Krsna Prema inquired from Gurudev what He would like her to make for His lunch the next day. She brought over a few recipe books and Gurudev made His selection. He was back to His strict diet, so it was not easy to simultaneously prepare something novel yet simple. Krsna
Prema so desperately wanted to serve Gurudev, that she offered her home for Him to stay in over the Ratha Yatra weekend. I asked Gurudev what book He would like to speak from for the program, and He said He wanted me to find the chapter entitled “The Advent of Lord Caitanya”. (CC, Adi, Ch 13) At the program, Gurudev lead the kirtan during the arati. The area was small but these were the Newlands boys, so dancing is not an option, it’s a prerequisite!
Gurudev reciprocated with their enthusiasm, chanting faster and fasteri The class included some description of the life of Murari Gupta. It was very fitting, seeing as Gurudev was doing a program at a general practitioner’s new surgery!
Gurudev concluded the talk with a blessing, “We hope that Ishkaar can also dispense both spiritual and medicinal treatment like Murari Gupta.” There was then Gurupuja to Srila Prabhupada, and Gurudev performed the arati. Some sumptuous prasadam was then distributed to all the devotees, whilst Gurudev spoke to various guests. As I poured Gurudev some sparkling drink, He pointed through the glass doors at a women on the second level of the neighbouring high-rise, “She video-taped the whole thing, especially the
kirtan.” I replied, “Just see, Ishkaar is already preaching.” We laughed together. Krsna Prema came before Gurudev and expressed her desire to worship Giriraj. Gurudev gave her His approval and blessings. She was very eager to serve Gurudev and please Him, and broke into tears as she expressed this. Such is the love of a disciplei One of the children, Yudhisthira, got some special mercy from Gurudevi He was pointing at Srila Prabhupada, and smiling. He then took up some karatals and tried to sing for Srila Prabhupada. When Gurudev beckoned for him to come closer, he became very shy, but later succumbed and went right
up to the Deity of Srila Prabhupada and tried to touch his feet, smiling very charmingly. All this when he is no older than two years! Gurudev was most impressed, and presented the boy with one of His garlands.
Ishkaar then drove Gurudev and I back to the temple. It was after 22h00 when I made Gurudev’s bed and He retired for the night.
Day 3, Tuesday, 31/03/09
During the morning japa period, Gurudev entered the temple-room. Gurudev asked me confirm the time of departure for His appointment with Dylan, and reminded me about the maha-sweets I had to carry along. The pujari who packed the sweets had used a new box, but it was not closing properly and I felt it would not be presentable enough for the doctor. I placed the sweets into a smaller tiffin I had. This was to prove very significanti Later, when Asha arrived, I went to call Gurudev. He informed me that Indradyumna Swami would also be coming along. We were then off to Dr. Dylan’s. Indradyumna Maharaj and Gurudev spoke for a
while about doctor Dylan’s unique personality. He was a very likeable person indeed! As we drove, Gurudev pointed out that our Ratha Yatra posters were already up, including some big banners alongside the main highway. Then the two Godbrothers spoke about Their puja. Indradyumna Swami asked, “Have you
finished your puja?” Gurudev said that He would do the puja when He got back. The conversation went onto some “Giriraj katha”. They spoke about the various ways of worshipping Giriraj. Maharaj told Gurudev, “Your Deity is famous.” Gurudev explained how happy He was with the fact that Giriraj’s window-box allowed people to have darshan of Him anytime. He said, “He’s more accessible.” The talk then went onto another level. They spoke of how Giriraj was happy and not restricted from access to His devotees in this “informal” way. The fact that They kept on referring to Giriraj in such a personal way convinced me that the rasa They share with Giriraj is very deep; The two exalted souls then chanted japa. It was a very powerful experience
to be in Their presence! Indrayumna Swami pronounced each and every syllable with great care, and Gurudev chanted in His characteristic rhythmic way. Indrayumna Swami received an SMS from BB Govinda Swami, telling him that a dear friend, named Dadu, who was living in Vrndavana had just left his body. Maharaj explained that Govinda Maharaj’s travel plans had somehow or the other worked out in such a way that he had to stop in Delhi. Govinda Maharaj opted to use the opportunity to visit Vraja. Whilst he was there, he
received the news that his near and dear friend had just left his body. He was then requested to lead the kirtan as the body of Dadu was taken down to the Yamuna. Indradyumna Swami commented: “Just see how Krsna works.” When we arrived at the surgery, the Godbrothers got into a lengthy discussion about Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. I was sitting at a respectful distance, and some orchestral music was playing in the waiting room, so I could only hear a little of what was said. One notable point is that Indradyumna Swami suggested that Gurudev consider putting together a DVD on the pastimes that took place at Kheturi, and then spoke of the place’s deep significance.
After a short wait, Dr. Dylan made his grand appearance. Beaming from ear to ear, he welcomed the devotees very warmly with heartfelt words. He then lead them into his suites. Gurudev turned around and indicated that I should follow.
As we settled down, I handed Gurudev the tiffin of maha-sweets. Gurudev opened the container and placed it before Dylan. Dylan’s eyes widened. Firstly, he appreciated the prasadam. He then explained that he had actually been looking for such a tiffin for a long time: “See how Krsna works?” There were a few more friendly exchanges before Dr. Dylan asked Gurudev to accompany him into the examination area. Thankfully, the results were very encouraging. Indradyumna Swami was next. Dr. Dylan referred to him as “soldier”, not realizing Maharaj’s military background! Dylan then bade the devotees well, and explained that he would not be able to attend the forthcoming Ratha Yatra, although Gurudev tried His best to convince him. There was some information required, which a black-bodied nurse helped with. Whilst we sat together getting the information recorded, Gurudev invited her to the Ratha Yatra. The girl was very favourable and promised she would attend. Such is the preaching spirit of this great soul! Asha drove us all back to the temple soon afterwards. She was also kind enough to buy some bhoga for Giriraj. As soon as we arrived, Gurudev did His puja. I hastened to prepare Giriraj’s plates. Afterwards, I served Gurudev His breakfast. Gurudev spent most of the day working on His new DVD. I returned to serve Gurudev His lunch at 1 pm. Gurudev ate well.
The rest of the afternoon and the evening was spent on the DVD. I set Gurudev’s bed at about 8 pm. Amazingly, He was still working on the DVD!
Day 4, Wednesday, 01/04/09
I approached Gurudev during the japa session to find out what Gurudev’s itinerary was for the day, and to hand Him the Srimad Bhagavatam. Gurudev gave the morning’s class, and it was a classic! Indradyumna Swami also sat in, listening most attentively. He has stated on several occasions how he appreciates Gurudev’s classes, and always asks me for recordings whenever he comes to Durban.
The theme of the class was about the different levels of devotees. It especially dealt with the uttama adhikari and how one should associate with him. There was also mention made of the caste brahmanas and how they changed things so that they could be the sole controllers of a particular sampradaya. He spoke about changes and fads in spiritual organizations. There were several questions afterwards, including a beautiful contribution by Indradyumna Swami: “Progress means making the necessary adjustments on the way to the goal.” This was a quote from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and Maharaj emphasized what a great responsibility lay on the shoulders of future generations of ISKCON to maintain the pristine nature of
what Srila Prabhupada gave us “as it is”. Gurudev then went down to His room, where He worshiped Giriraj, and was served breakfast.
Two of Gurudev’s Lithuanian congregation, Krsna Kripa Prabhu and Malati Manjari Mataji, arrived today. Malati is Gurudev’s youngest disciple, aged just 17! Gurudev took time to make sure they were well-received and taken care of. He especially asked me to arrange or accommodation for them at Pietermaritzburg, where He would be spending the night. At around 4 pm, Gurudev was driven to Pietermaritzburg by Damodara Caran Prabhu. Gurudev had invited the Lithuanian devotees, and although they must have been tired from traveling, they agreed. We were also joined by Bhakti Nrsimha Swami. On the way, Gurudev asked about the wellbeing of Damodara Caran’s family. He could see that Malati was very tired, and out of His mercy told her that it was okay if she slept during the trip. She gratefully accepted! There was a grand reception for Gurudev at Mother Suniti’s home, including foot-bathing for both sannyasis, followed by Gurupuja. The devotees were then served a sumptuous feast! We were then driven to the Pietermaritzburg Nama Hatta, where Gurudev would be doing a program to honour Devaki Jivani’s birthday. In addition, there were not less than ten other birthdays celebrated on this evening! As our car pulled into the car-park, I noticed that Indradyumna Swami’s car was also there, and pointed this out to Gurudev. (Maharaj would join us
later in the program.) Indradyumna Swami loves children, and made the trip to Pietermaritzburg to help Devaki (and the many others!) celebrate. Firstly, Gurudev lead everybody on a short but energetic harinam. This developed into a kirtan back at the hall. The devotees were then welcomed to the program. Gurudev then lead kirtan, as Indradyumna Swami performed an arati. The devotees then settled down for the children’s dramatic presentations, which was great fun. The various devotees then spoke about the importance of birth in a Vaisnava family, and how great these kids actually were. Then we had a maha cake-cutting ceremony. It was a grand affair as you can imagine, with eleven birthday cakes!
After the senior devotees honoured a portion of the cake, they mercifully distributed their remnants to the birthday boys and girls. Whilst the devotees honoured prasadam, Gurudev granted many darshans to
eager seekers. We were then driven to Lokabandu Prabhu’s home, where Gurudev would be resting. Gurudev was served some drink so that He could take His medication. He retired by 22h00.