Writings

The completion of the report of my visit to Durban in November

Day 5, Thursday, 15/11/07

 

Guru Maharaja’s plane was scheduled to land at 13h20 and Asha was meant to fetch me from the temple then pick Him up from the airport. However, things didn’t work out as planned… Asha was also preparing Guru Maharaja’s lunch, so she was delayed in picking me up. I waited as long as I could, then borrowed another vehicle and went to fetch Guru Maharaja myself. (Vibhu Caitanya Prabhu, the vice-president was kind enough to let me use his car.) I got to the airport 5 minutes after Guru Maharaja’s plane was due to land. “I am sure they will take time to disembark and retrieve their luggage.”, I thought nervously. The airport was amazingly busy, with not a single parking available. I ended up parking illegally, at the side of the road some distance away from the terminal. Then I ran to meet Guru Maharaja. Guru Maharaja’s flight had arrived, but the security personnel refused to let me go beyond the sliding doors to meet Guru Maharaja and help with His bags. A few minutes later, I got a call from Guru Maharaja. He was wondering where I was. I told Him that I was just outside the sliding doors, and I couldn’t get in because the security guard was being unco-operative. Guru Maharaja was satisfied to meet me outside, once He’d collected His luggage. As He entered the terminal, I offered my obeisances.

In my rush to get to Him on time, I had forgotten the garland in the car. I told Guru Maharaja that I was alone and that the car was illegally parked some distance away. When I told Guru Maharaja to wait in the terminal so that I may bring the car closer, He said He’d just walk. As we walked the +300m distance, I turned to Guru Maharaja and begged for His forgiveness for having inconvenienced Him in any way. He said, “Its ok. Walking is good exercise.”

As we approached the car, we noticed a traffic cop walking nearby. Guru Maharaja said, “Lets hope that he hasn’t seen your car yet, and we can get to it before he does.” Unfortunately, he had beaten us to it. I noticed with a heavy heart that he had placed a small note under the windscreen-wiper. As I walked up to the car, my worst fears were realized: It was a fine.

Guru Maharaja said, “This is what you get for breaking the law.” I acknowledged my error and let Guru Maharaja into the car. When He was comfortably seated, I placed the garland I had brought around His neck. He was appreciative of my good intent.

As we drove to Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath, Guru Maharaja asked if we were confirmed for a program at Bhakta Theo’s mum’s place. I said that we were, but I would phone to verify. Guru Maharaja asked about His lunch and I said that Asha had made it and was at the temple with the prasadam.

When we arrived and I had let Guru Maharaja into His room, I contacted Asha to check up on prasadam. She re-heated what needed to be made hot and helped me carry the prasadam to Guru Maharaja’s room. The cuisine was Chinese, and Asha had went all out. There was “sushi” made with rice and veggies in a sort of roll, springrolls, a variety of sauces and dips, Chinese stir fry noodles, a tofu soup, home-made ice-cream with fresh litchis and, to top it all off, green tea. There was also a most amazing dip called Wasami. Guru Maharaja was warned that it was very hot but He sampled a substantial serving. He felt that it was very strong, not pungent like chillie but more like mustard. Being the connoisseur that He is, He relished another 2 servings, much to the astonishment of Asha. When Guru Maharaja had taken to His full satisfaction, He declared it to be “truly amazing.” Asha and I carried the dishes up, and I returned to unpack Guru Maharaja’s bag a few minutes later.

Guru Maharaja remained in His room working on His computer until it was time to leave to the evening’s program at Bhakta Theo’s mum’s home. I drove Guru Maharaja to the program, and Bhakta Itumeleng also came along. The program was fairly simple. First Guru Maharaja lead a kirtan, then verses were read and discussion was held about BG. 8.5 It was a very humourous class by Guru Maharaja. Guru Maharaja spoke about the impact that good association can have on us. He illustrated the point by quoting an example from His own life. Once, when He was in the UK, He had to drive a French Godbrother of His (from either the Manor or Bury Place) to Dover. Guru Maharaja said that this was quite a distance, and the Godbrother was preaching to Him the whole way. He spoke about Srila Prabhupada constantly, and when a certain topic would come up, he would always quote what Srila Prabhupada would say or had said about it.
Guru Maharaja was impressed with this Godbrother and treasured this memory.

The rest of the program was basically questions and answers, and some prasadam distribution. At this point, I suggested to Guru Maharaja that we return to Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath Mandir to offer our lamps to Lord Damodara. Guru Maharaja agreed with this proposal. In the car, I began to reflect on my suggestion, and realized that I had made a mistake since I was sure that Theo would have liked to have spent more time talking to Guru Maharaja. I apologized to Him for this lack of consideration, and He said that it was Ok, I felt really bad.. Still, what’s done is done. When we got back, I went up to offer my lamp. Guru Maharaja, however,did not come up.

I returned immediately after offering my lamp, made Guru Maharaja’s bed and retired for the night.

Day 6, Friday, 16/11/07

During japa, I informed Guru Maharaja that Vibhu Caitanya Prabhu had asked if Guru Maharaja would give class for the rest of His stay. ie, today and tomorrow. Guru Maharaja graciously accepted this preaching opportunity. I was in a more mixed mood though. The reason being that I had lost/ misplaced my digital recorder, which I record all of Guru Maharaja’s classes on. This proved to be a very costly error.

Guru Maharaja’s class was absolutely nectarean, and I drank in every drop of nectar that flowed forth from His lotus lips. What a tragedy that I had lost that recorder! The theme was Banasura’s demented, belligerent mentality and his overwhelming desire to enjoy sense pleasure. Guru Maharaja made several strong points, which I wrote down . One very, very salient and pertinent point made by Guru Maharaja which struck me deeply was what He said about “material pleasures”. He was sitting on a vyasasana, with a table in front of Him. His example was based on this table.

He said, “Krsna is the sum-total of all nectarean experiences. Material enjoyment is a thin veneer of nectar, and beneath its all junk. Like this table. It looks pretty fancy, with an oak finish. But go beneath the surface a little. Junk. Some scrap wood. Like chipboard or something.” He went on to say that advertising presented just this veneer. In terms of our so-called enjoyment of material pleasure, Guru Maharaja said, “After enjoying for a while, we go through the veneer. Then we realize exactly what the substance of the thing is. Junk.” “But when we serve Krsna, we find we get great pleasure. Since we are part and parcel of Krsna, when He feels pleasure, so do we.”

Guru Maharaja went on to speak about our outlook or view of life, “We must accept the interests of the Lord as our own. This is mentioned by Srila Rupa Goswami as one of the principles of surrendering to the Lord. Not just, ‘its my job’ or ‘I am obliged’. But we should do our service whole-heartedly. The devotee thus becomes objective in his outlook and sees reality. Seeing how I can enjoy, it is subjective. This was the mentality of Banasura.”

After class, Guru Maharaja performed His puja to Giriraj. I served Guru Maharaja His prasadam of fruit for breakfast. Sheena was kind enough to do the service, but it meant that she missed Guru Maharaja’s class, unfortunately. Guru Maharaja had an extremely busy morning, with several darshans and much work done on the Radha Kunda DVD. I was meant to do a banking for Guru Maharaja today, but when I told Him that I had many, many rounds to chant, He said, in an extremely serious voice, “Chant your rounds.” By following that instruction, unhesitatingly and unquestioningly, I was empowered to serve Him better, I feel.

There was to be a program for Sheena’s late grandfather that evening and Guru Maharaja would take prasadam at Nityananda Pran’s home en route. Rakesh Prabhu drove Guru Maharaja, and Ramananda Raya and I traveled along also. The welcome Guru Maharaja received at Nityananda Pran’s home was very warm. There was first Gurupuja to Guru Maharaja, then foot-bathing and then Guru Maharaja took prasadam. The cuisine was Mexican, and Nityananda Pran had “gone all the way”. Guru Maharaja took an adequate amount of prasadam, which Nityananda Pran and I served Him together. Then Guru Maharaja adjourned to another room, where Nityananda Pran massaged His lotus feet. Whilst this was happening, we took prasadam.

When we got to the venue, it was relatively empty, but Sheena’s father gave Guru Maharaja a very warm, respectful welcome. Her grandmother, although not a practicing devotee, offered her obeisances to Guru Maharaja. Time was ticking along and I was getting agitated that Guru Maharaja was being made to wait. Guru Maharaja however remained as calm as always, chanting softly on His japa beads as He paced up and down the hall, very calmly. His mood was infectious, and prompted me to stick my hand into my beadbag also! Not for very long though, as I was instructed to sing bhajans while we waited. Sheena, who was single-handedly co-ordinating the entire program, arrived soon afterwards.

After setting up and making some final adjustments, we were ready for action.
Guru Maharaja lead a short kirtan, and then gave a BG class on BG 4.9, wherein He clearly made a distinction between man and Krsna. “Can you remember what I said in the last half an hour? Even I can’t remember!” Of course, I’m sure Guru Maharaja could, but was just being humble. Afterwards, there was Gurupuja to Srila Prabhupada.

Guru Maharaja then sang the Damodarastakam whilst we offered our lamps. Prasadam was then served to everybody. Sheena was very determined to serve Guru Maharaja some of the pizza she had made for the program, and between darshans she snatched her opportunity.

Many people came forward to speak to Guru Maharaja and He gave His time liberally.

We left for the mandir shortly thereafter. Guru Maharaja thanked Rakesh for driving Him, and bade him goodnight. I made Guru Maharaja’s bed and retired for the night. It had been a very eventful day, but then every day with Guru Maharaja is such.

Day 7, Saturday, 17/11/07

Guru Maharaja came in slightly after Tulasi arati. Guru Maharaja asked about the report and if I had managed to dye any of His cloth. My response to both was not very positive.

The report was taking a lot of my time, and a serious interruption to the progress was the work I had done on the transcript. It was coming along, but too slowly. As for dying His cloth, I explained that the weather was dismal, and I never got the chance. As I heard myself say all this, I realized it sounded like what it was – a pathetic excuse. Real service means you serve how the person wants to be served. I would have to pull up my socks.

Guru Maharaja gave the SB class. One excellent point He made was about Lord Brahma and Lord Siva being addressed as “Bhagavan”. Guru Maharaja analyzed both these great personalities. After glorifying them substantially, He said that they both die. Krsna, therefore, is the only personality who can be addressed as Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

On the way to His room, Guru Maharaja stopped to speak to Sheena. He was very pleased with program the previous night, and encouraged her to become a professional program-organiser.

Guru Maharaja took maha-prasadam for breakfast, then I had a meeting with Him. I was going through the lowest period in my spiritual life, and Guru Maharaja was full of encouragement, “Pull yourself together.” That I was able to do that is only by the causeless mercy of Srila Gurudev.

Guru Maharaja met with Dashen, our aspiring Godbrother from Pietermaritzburg. It was a long meeting, over two hours. Later I found out that Dashen was thinking of emigrating because of the high crime rate in South Africa – a sad but true situation.

Dashen was kind enough to sponsor a new digital recorder for recording Guru Maharaja’s classes. He also bought Guru Maharaja a new drinking cup and saucer.

That afternoon, Guru Maharaja was due to go to Phoenix for a program at our Godsister, Tulasi-priya’s home. There was meant to be a harinam first, then the program, but rain put a dampener on those plans. On the way to the program, our driver, Aneer, got dismally lost. We eventually got directions over the phone and also gave our location. Whilst Aneer was describing our surroundings to the person on the other side of the line, Guru Maharaja said, “Near the man with mealies.” He was referring to a person selling mealies on the roadside. When He said that, we all burst out laughing!

When we eventually arrived at Tulasi’s Guru Maharaja was warmly welcomed and His lotus feet were bathed. As Guru Maharaja was taking His lunch, Bhakta Jakes sang a lively bhajan to keep the guests in the marquee happy. Guru Maharaja could hear the melodic chanting, and was pleased. There was no time for us to take prasadam, so we all followed Guru Maharaja into the marquee which was more or less filled to capacity.

Firstly, there was a “fired up” kirtan by Guru Maharaja. Guru Maharaja then took His seat and gave a sweet BG class. Unfortunately, the sound system was absolutely atrocious and kept crackling and spurting at regular intervals. A less tolerant person would have probably lost his temper. Not Guru Maharaja. He was calm as always. He was unhappy about the poor sound system though, and made it known. Guru Maharaja spoke from BG 8.16.

By the mercy of Dashen Prabhu, I was able to use my brand-new digital recorder to record this class. Guru Maharaja made a very strong point about upholding religiosity: “dharma raksati raksatah” .This means that if somebody protects dharma, then that very same dharma protects him. During the class, many people garlanded Guru Maharaja, including Deva Deva Prabhu. He likes to do things in style, so his garland was no exception. It was over a meter long and over 20 centimeters thick! One mataji sitting behind me said when she saw it, “Oh, my God!” Guru Maharaja commented: “Wow! I am not sure I will be able to get off this seat with this on Me.”

After class there was more kirtan by Guru Maharaja and we really “got into it”. The tent was tightly packed with people so we could hardly dance, but dance we did!

The Damodarastakam was sung by Guru Maharaja, and then He granted darshan to several families and well-wishers. As He left the house, Guru Maharaja placed the HUGE garland from Deva Deva onto Tulasi Priya’s neck. We reached the mandir after 22h30.

I made Guru Maharaja’s bed and retired by 22h45. Another day in paradise.

Day 8, Sunday, 18/11/07

Guru Maharaja walked into the temple-room after tulasi puja. I waited for Guru Maharaja to finish His Gayatri, then asked Him what books He would require for this morning’s special Gopastami class.

Guru Maharaja said that He’d need the tenth Canto, parts one and two. I hastened to get these for Him, then cleaned His room.

During class, Guru Maharaja told us to “chant more, read more and do more service” as our way to honour Gopastami. This day marks the day that Krsna first took out the calves by Himself. It was a day of great happiness for one and all, but a great source of anxiety for Mother Yasoda. Guru Maharaja quoted Srila Visvanath Cakravathi as saying, “Mother Yasoda was so concerned about Krsna that she would even give her life a thousand times even if there was a speck of dust on His forhead.”

Guru Maharaja repeated the Vedic quote “dharma raksati raksatah“. He then brought it closer to home by saying, “Follow your sadhana, chant your rounds and follow the four regulative principles. Uphold your standards in Krsna Consciousness, they will uphold you.”

Guru Maharaja spent the majority of His morning on His computer, including downloading the lecture from my recorder onto His computer. This took a lot of time.

Whilst He worked, I packed His bag. Asha had already arrived and time was ticking by. At last we were on our way. Looking at His watch and then at Asha, Guru Maharaja said that we had fifteen minutes to make it to the airport. Asha “stepped on it”. We arrived at the airport five minutes after check-in closed. Guru Maharaja could sense that something was wrong. When He asked the flight attendant, she said that He’d come in too late and that the flight was already fully booked. Guru Maharaja immediately corrected her, “You mean you over-booked the flight?” She admitted that she had 50 places, but had booked 52 people. She then began to make inquires about other airlines that could fly Guru Maharaja to Port Elizabeth. Eventually , she suggested that the only way she could help is to put Guru Maharaja on flight via Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth.

Guru Maharaja explained that He had a program to attend in Port Elizabeth at 3pm, but that was all the help she could give Him. So, it turned out that He would have to wait at the airport until 16h45. Another 4 hours! Guru Maharaja accepted this option, but insisted that His luggage be checked in all the way through to Port Elizabeth. I was feeling miserable by this time. I blamed myself because I had delayed Guru Maharaja by getting the lecture transferred to His computer, but He pointed out that the airline had messed up by over-booking. I was very sad that my spiritual master would be so much inconvenienced, but I resolved to accept it as Krsna’s arrangement as humbly as He had. Asha and I offered our obeisances and left for the mandir.

The saga doesn’t end there. Early next morning, I got a call from Guru Maharaja, “These rascals! These rascals have lost My bag!” It was quite an adventure getting another bag completely packed and then cargo-freighted by plane to Port Elizabeth on the earliest flight. I was in complete bliss doing it, though, because it was for Guru Maharaja. Moreover, it made me feel more connected to Him. This lead me to an important realization: “I will always remain connected to Guru Maharaja by devotional service.” Thank You Guru Maharaja, for allowing this fallen soul a chance to serve You, and thus always remember Your divine lotus feet.

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