Writings

Visit to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, by Gauranga Das

Sunday 11 April

Both Gurudeva and I arrived at the Durban international airport 10 minutes earlier than our scheduled rendezvous of 06h45. Gurudev had some blisters, from his skin cancer treatment, on his head, face and neck, and one on his hand that had just burst. So we got plasters and covered it. There was one devotee there who worked for the airline and decided to help Gurudev check in via a shorter queue. In the waiting lounge Gurudeva, who never wastes a minute, while setting up his email told me “its much better to travel with devotees, its much better” Gurudeva was explaining some details about travelling to Russia with him, about the different type of visa’s and cheaper flights.

The plane wheels landed in Port Elizabeth (PE), a south east coast city at exactly 09h17 am. There are not many  devotees here in PE, and this whole ISKCON centre is being managed and run by some very nice devotees. Sveta Dvip Prabhu, a long time Bramachari from Mauritius, who also spent many years in padayatra in India, is the resident spiritual leader of ISKCON here. Gaurasundara Prabhu and his wife Vrnda devi are the other back bones of this Yatra. Today is Sunday, and scheduled for this Sunday program is an initiation ceremony for 3 prabhus’ who have been aspiring for initiation from Gurudeva. One of them was Jason, a white bodied devotee, who is loosing his physical vision, but is so eager to help with service. The other is Temba, and black African bodied devotee, who saw a picture of Gurudeva in the newspaper, and was interested in getting to know Gurudeva, and began inquiring. And the 3rd was Vasudev, the Indian bodied devotee, who is regularly doing service here in our PE center. Jason’s name is now Jayananda, Themba’s name is now Thakur Haridas, and Vasudev’s name is now Venu Gopal. Proof that we are the real United Nations as Srila Prabhupad said.

During the lecture Gurudeva spoke about how the Krsna conscious process means that there is actual tangible visible progress in devotees lives. Gurudev spoke about a Catholic priest, who was tired of listening to confessions, and giving advice to the people, yet the advice was not working. This priest was working that town for abut 25 years, so even though he could not see the people confessing, he began to recognise them by their voices. So this priest became a devotee, and is still a devotee. Gurudeva said Krsna consciousness was different, as it had an effect on people, devotees became free from bad habits, everybody had bad habits, some people more than others, but progress is always there in this process.

Gurudeva spoke about how our bodies are vehicles. Some may have child, adult, female, male, white, black bodies but all are the same in that all these are just temporary vehicles. Also Gurudeva then said we all got to the temples with different kinds of cars, but we are not the car – we are the passenger – even if the car is unable to move, we are still fine, as spiritually we are eternal. Religion means to reawaken our eternal nature – unfortunately we accept that we are our bodies – we are so attached that we cannot see that we are eternal – that we have a relationship with Krsna – God.

Gurudeva said initiation is good as shows an increase in committed devotees, and this is what Prabhupad wants. Gurudeva said, after taking up Krsna consciousness, a person sees the benefits and gets committed in/to themselves to follow, and then initiation happens, as a result of the internal commitment. Then there is commitment ot the spiritual master. Not only is this a lifelong commitment, but everyone here in the temple may have an eternal relationship. Gurudeva also mentioned twice how the Spiritual master is also committing to the new disciples. However the main part of this commitment is the chanting of the Maha Mantra, as no change or anything of value can happen with this chanting.

Then Gurudeva went on to speak on the ten offences that we must avoid. On the first offence of not to blaspheme devotees, Gurudeva told a pastime of how Krsna does not like it when the devotees are blasphemed. Another pastime
about the glories of the holy name, Gurudeva mentioned how a sanskit student of Lord Caitanya, saw that our Lord loves to talk about Krsna. Of course Lord Caitanya was teaching by giving Krsna conscious grammar etc. So this student, he thought he will get some good points with the teacher, he said to our Lord one day that to chant the Holy name is like doing some great sacrifice. But Lord Caitanya picked up a stick and decided to beat him up, because the Holy name is so nice and transcendental, it cannot be compared to any material sacrifice.

About the offence of committing sins on the strength of chanting the Holy name, Gurudeva said that some times we may think we can do whatever sins we want, then at night say Hare Krsna and everything will be fine. However the
Holyname is a Person – He wont allow us to abuse him like this. Then Gurudev said at initiation we should look forward, don’t look back, otherwise we may turn into pillars of salt like the bible pastime of Sodom and Gomora. Gurudeva said progress in Krsna consciousness means that we will feel our consciousness improving.

12 April 2010
SB class in the morning 1st Canto, Chapter 4 verse 1. “Appearance of Sri Narada”

The first striking thing to me about this verse and purport was that to congratulate somebody, the congratulator should have some seniority or qualification to do this. Usually I just congratulate people, now I should be careful. Gurudev said as aspiring devotees and followers of Srila Prabhupad, sooner or later we need to preach, this is our  inevitable position. We have to very faithfully repeat scripture, and not cook something up in our minds. We must present the message as it is. Even if we are less intelligent, still when presenting as it is, it will be beneficial for the audience. Hearing with attention and presenting exactly as heard is the process. An intelligent person, presenting concoctions, is worse than person with no intelligence but is presenting scripture. For a puffed up Brahmana, his intelligence is a liability – whereas a simple sudra will be better situated. The first point is to follow the authorised system.

Gurudeva told this pastime of when he had just joined ISKCON, for a few weeks only, in London – one highlight of their life was the Sunday program, which was the highlight because of the Sunday feast. It was a highlight because of the feast, which Gurudeva said was cooked by really talented devotees, most of whom were personally trained by Srila Prabhupad. So one Sunday Gurudeva was about to relish his feast, when one new person came to him, and literally intensely begged Gurudeva to tell him what is Krsna Consciousness.  Gurudeva said his first thought was “oh no” but then he started talking, and all throught the Prasad time, they were talking, and it felt like it was Krsna’s plan to show that preaching is the highest, but not speculation.  Also Gurudeva said that we also have to preach according to our realisation – but this sounds contradictory to preaching from scripture. Gurudeva said if we chant nicely, listen, study, then the philosophy will come alive in our hearts. Intuitively we will know what is right.

For example, we will be able to see when we are in the different modes of nature at different times, and it wont be speculation. Vyasadev, who instructed Sukadev Goswami on SB, and was in the audience listening to him recite SB. He was happy to hear Sukadev Goswami’s realisations. This is the Suka /Parrot Principle, the mangoe tastes sweeter if bitten by a parrot, similarly the SB became sweeter recited by Sukadev Goswami. Srila Prabhupad wanted us to read and explain in our own words, Saunaka Rsi congratulated Sukadev Goswami, but Sukadev was surprise as he did not really start reciting the SB yet. There was a question – does chanting help realisation – Yes – chanting is food for
consciousness and intelligence. To chant attentively is the most essential part of our lives – it’s the key element for taste, understanding and inspiration, and we can better affect other people, like Prabhupada. Gurudeva then said a khanista devotee will keep himself Krsna Consciousness, a madhyam devotee will help many others, but an utamma devotee, will change the world, this is who Srila Prabhupad is.

We went see the optometrist devotee Madhuri Radha, at around noon. She examined Gurudeva and the outcome was that Gurudeva’s vision is not the same and He needed new prescription spectacles, and an eye test every year. Also
Mataji said that Gurudeva’s cataracts are increasing in size, but they are good for Gurudeva’s age, and don’t need any attention yet, She said that generally every body should get cataracts as we age. Gurudeva chose the spectacle  frame that I suggested and I still feel very thankful to our Lord for allowing me to serve Gurudeva.

JAPA Workshop One.
Gurudeva used the word mediation to make some relatively new people comfortable, and it seem to work – Audible chanting is the main activity of this age. Japa on beads engages the mind ( to focus) , touch(fingers on beads) tongue (vibrate the Holy Name) elements of the senses. Sixteen rounds is the same as having the minimum amount of fuel in your car, to take you to a predetermined destination – chanting sixteen rounds of japa is the minimum of mind fuel necessary for one day of reasonable Krsna Consciousness. If chanting is nice, we will feel better the whole day- To chant coca cola, the sound and substance is not the same – But Krsna’s name is so transcendental that He is present in the Name.

Gurudeva said that before coming to Krsna Consciousness, he tried Transcendental Meditation. And the mantra they were given to chant, but was not allowed to tell it to anybody, was the word “aim”. This is a seed mantra, like the “om” from “om namo bhagavate Vasudevaya”. Gurudeva said chanting is a relationship with Krsna, and like any relationship, it needs time, Quality Time. Gurudeva said if we chant properly we wont want to stop, as good chanting results in more chanting. Gurudeva told the pastime of Lord Caitanya and Gopal Guru, and some people here heard this pastime for the first time. When quality come, we will want to chant more and more. Gurudeva said if we chanting properly, we should take a minimum of 2 hours.

13th April 2010
SB Verse 2

Just before SB class, In Gurudeva’s presence,  Svetadvip prabhu asked me to teach one man how to chant Japa, so I did as best I could, and he started doing it, then I was not satisfied, so some how I told him in a joking manner, that dogs and pigs can mate, but they cannot chant Japa. I thought I really convinced this guy about something, but it seemed like this thing I said had a more serious impact on me and my consciousness. Never did I tell anybody something like this before, and accept this as Gurudeva’s mercy.

Gurudeva mentioned how professional SB reciters distort the truth about SB, and they actually create chaos. Even in Vrndavana so many innocent people are being deceived; there are big bill boards advertising these recitations, and many people attend them. Gurudeva said the ignorant and innocent get convinved. These people in the name of Glorifying the lord, they are killing the Lord, in the name of helping people they are finishing people. They insult the Lord instead of Glorifying Him. They do this just collect money. Guruedeva said a joke somewhat relative to these people – There were 3 priests sort of people, they were discussing how they split the money, between the Lord and them selves. The 1st one said, he splits it very fairly, 50/50. The 2nd one said he is better, he split is 75% for the Lord,
25% for him. The 3rd one said, he is best, He throws all the money in the air, and tell he Lord you take what you want, and he takes whatever falls on the floor. Gurudeva said that Shankaracharya, the Lord Shiva impersonalist incarnation, He knew He should not comment on SB and did not. These impersonalists, they propagated “all is one” “we are all God” nonsense philosophy. Then there was Madvacharya, who propagated the philosophy that there is Two, the Jiva and Lord. And then came Lord Caitanya, who revealed that everything is “simultaneously one and different”.

Gurudeva said Lord Shiva said that he started the Impersonalist movement, as an instruction from the Lord, and to speed up Kali yuga, by increasing unwanted population. Just as Narada Muni, helped agitate Kamsa to speed up the Lords lila of  His appearance.

Japa 2

Gurudeva told so many pastimes of Srila Prabhupads faith in the Holy name. One pastime was somebody asked Srila Prabhupad, you are a chemist, so what is the formular for Love of Krsna, and he was sort of joking when he asked the question. BUT Srila Prabhupad took it seriously and responded – verse 3 of Sikstaka, Tnad Api Sunicenai. So here Prabhupad did not just say chant Hare Krsna, but Prabhupad emphasised quality in this answer with this verse.

We performed different little plays of how not to chant –
”       Radar Chanting – looking at things while chanting
”       Cell phone Japa
”       Jibber Japa, talking in between chanting
”       Newspaper / magazine Japa
”       Dive bomb Japa – falling asleep while chanting
”       Machine Gun Japa – too fast

14th April 2010
SB verse 3

Saunaka Rsi was really interested in hearing SB, so he was asking questions. He asked the questions when, where, why, how SB came about. Gurudeva said materialist are asking the same questions and are wasting their time really. Even the animals according to SB, are asking the same questions – e.g. a chirping bird will chirp – where is food. Also businessmen are always discussing where what questions, with the hope of getting money, but they are wasting their time as they will only make as much money as their Karma. Gurudeva made the point that materialists who are proud and gloat about their material success, are really gloating about how much deeper they are in hell, than the other person who is not so successful. Material consciousness is really that we think the more sick we are, the better we are. Even with lots of money, there is not much really a materialist can do.  As Gurudeva said this I remember watching a documentary once, that the actor Tom Cruise, bought a piece of land on the Moon – what is he going to do with
this in his life time? And this insanity. Also what perturbs me about this is, who did he pay for that land on the moon – Who is the owner of the moon – I did not get my share of the price he paid :

Gurudeva went on to say that the same questions of what when why how, if related to Krsna or Sastra, is very nice and beneficial. In answering one question, Gurudeva became very serious in saying that money belongs to Krsna, and we have to be very serious and careful about what we do with it. We can get so much transcendental benefit if used properly.

Gurudeva’s new spectacles arrived in the evening.

Japa workshop Night 3

Gurudeva began by talking about there are some people who belive that service to man is service to God, Gurudeva said that Srila Prabhupad said its much easier to serve Krsna “just offer me one leaf” , however we struggle to serve our selves, or even one other person. So why not just serve Krsna, and everybody else automatically gets served, as Krsna is the root. Our first duty is to chant a minimum of 16 rounds, every things else should come second. Gurudeva mentioned that envy and pride are obstacles to our progress. We should not criticise devotees, and not think we are great. Just as we may be tolerating somebody’s behaviour, that we don’t like, somebody else is tolerating us, as they don’t like our behaviour.  Gurudeva told a pastime of Srila Bhaktisidhanta Saraswati Maharaj, where the moral was that if somebody is criticizing us then they are our friend, and those who are flattering us are our enemy’s. Another related point Gurudeva made was, if we  want to see our enemy then we  should look in the mirror. And that we all should have friends with whom we can reveal our minds in confidence.

Gurdeva then did an exercise called apurvatam, where we all had close our eyes, and chant Hare a few times, while meditating on Radharani, internally and then externally. Then similarly we chanted Krsna then Rama. This was
quite an impactful exercise for the devotees here.

In conclusion, the Devotees here in PE, only gets this much of Gurudeva’s association once a year, and because of this they really relish His association. And I was thinking how much I don’t appreciate so much, as I am a bit familiar with Gurudeva, because miraculously The Lords gives me His association more than the people in PE.  In conclusion, when I came here with Gurudeva last year, one senior Godsister and other devotees asked me to write about the experience, but I did not, so I hope this attempt serves that request. Tonight we feel not so nice, in anticipation of the separation
from Gurudeva, as tomorrow morning he leaves for Mauritius, for a week.

Your servant
Gauranga Das

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