Day 7, Thursday, 10/07/08
Gurudev attended the full morning program, and sat at a class given by Raghava Pundit Prabhu. Raghava Pundit apologized for speaking in the presence of Gurudev, and even asked Gurudev to speak in his place. Gurudev wouldn’t hear of it, saying, “I have come to hear.” In so many ways He reminded me of Srila Prabhupada, who would often ask his disciples to read to him from his books, or would even get them to give class.
Deva Deva Prabhu, Karuna Mayi and Gopeswari had prepared breakfast and were ready on time to serve Gurudev. I really appreciated the fact that they had stuck to Gurudev’s preference of fruit for breakfast, and had thrown in some yoghurt as the “extra”. Whilst serving Gurudev, I recalled how when we were staying in Tongaat for the tent campaign recently, He had told us what His favourite fruit were. I took the opportunity to get Gurudev to repeat this to us for future reference…
Gurudev said, “Litchis are My favourite. Good litchis. Good mangoes. Nice oranges. Or those…(clementines?) Yes, clementines, they’re very good. A little banana is good. Oh, Cape gooseberries. Kiwis. Plums. Peaches – only if they’re good. Granadilla. Avocados. I don’t really like papaya.”
Gurudev then started speaking to Deva Deva about the new s.m.s. and e-mail service he had helped to set up to keep Gurudev’s disciples more in touch. Gurudev said, “Thank you. I have been waiting a long time for somebody to get that together.”
Deva Deva also explained how the aspiring disciples were situated in terms of a forthcoming initiation. Gurudev was appreciating his efficiency very much. I couldn’t help but be impressed at how well Deva Deva was serving Gurudev in these various ways. Surely he has obtained the mercy of Gurudev…
That afternoon Gurudev was due to take prasadam and then do a program at Bhakta Rajen and Bhaktin Sharon’s home. Rakesh kindly agreed to drive Gurudev to the program. The family had a desire to wash Gurudev’s lotus feet. This they did with great awe and reverence, whilst I sang Guru Vandana. Gurudev was then taken to the dining area, and we served Him lunch. The prasadam was of a very high standard, and we noticed that Krsna Prema was in the kitchen and had been directing the cooking process. After taking prasadam, Gurudev went to chant japa in the prayer-room. The servers then took some prasadam. I then joined Gurudev to chant japa, whilst a third group of devotees sat down to take prasadam. Gurudev mentioned to me that we may have come to the house a little too early, and that we were just sitting around because there was so much more time before the commencement of the program. He said I should make a note of this and we should plan future programs more carefully. I noted the point well.
The class was from Srimad Bhagavatam 5.8.27, about Maharaj Bharat. Gurudev spoke about the danger of “deer consciousness.” It was a humourous. In fact, at one point Gurudev said, “Oh my deer.” We were in stitches of laughter. After class, there was a kirtan, whilst Gurudev performed an arati. Gurudev then sat down with some family members and offered His darshan.
Bhakta Rakesh drove us back to the temple. Gurudev retired by 21h00.
Day 8, Friday, 11/07/08
Gurudev chanted japa as usual in the temple-room, and went down to His room after Srila Prabhupada’s Gurupuja. He then left with Laxminath Prabhu to a prison preaching program at around 7am. Gurudev only returned later that afternoon, and I spent the day doing some much-appreciated japa and some work on the diary.
Narushni had come to chant with Gurudev, and we chanted for some time together.
Whilst we were chanting, the doctor’s reception had contacted us to say that Gurudev had to come in for an appointment that afternoon. We were having a doubt whether to ask Asha yet again, and were wondering who else we could get on such short notice, when Narushni volunteered to drive Gurudev. It was appreciated by Gurudev. We also received a call from Nityananda Prana Prabhu, informing Gurudev that his ailing father-in-law had left his body. He had died of multiple organ failure, brought about by septicemia.
I was inquisitive to know what this word meant, and Narushni kindly told me. I asked if there was a cure, and Gurudev said that it is curable. Then Gurudev said that He had once had septicemia but He had been treated for it and had recovered completely. At the appointed time we met at the car. Looking at the smallish size of the vehicle, Gurudev decided that He would sit in the back seat, and I would have to sit upfront with the driver, Bhaktin Narushni. I found this most instructive, in terms of the etiquette that should be followed by a sannyasi.
Dr Dylan was very busy when we got there, but still offered Gurudev a warm and friendly welcome. It was well past the closing time of the surgery, but still Dylan agreed to treat Gurudev. I must add that all the treatment rendered to Gurudev, which would probably cost tens of thousands of rands, were done completely free of charge.
Whilst waiting for Dylan, Gurudev and Narushni chanted japa whilst I worked on the diary on my laptop. Gurudev was pleased to see me taking the service seriously and asked me to include a description of the prison program.
Gurudev then began to describe the scenario: “It was a maximum security facility. There were about 35 – 40 high maximum security inmates. Some were in there serving
life-sentences for murder. Some were devotees, and carried bead bags and their own Bhagavad Gita. Most of them have studied the Science of Self-Realization, and some have even written an exam on it.”
One question an inmate asked, really impressed Gurudev, “Is a prisoner, because he is sinful, have less chance to go back to Godhead?”
Gurudev answered, “Everyone is sinful, one way or the other. Most are meat-eaters. Your sinful activity, the government is opposed to. There are many sinful activities the government is not opposed to. So, there is no real obstacle for you all to go back to Godhead.”
Another question was asked by a black-bodied inmate, “How do we offer our food?”
Gurudev replied, “In Bhagavad Gita 9.26-28, it is described how we should work for Krsna, dedicate everything to Krsna, and this way we may be liberated.”
Then Gurudev related that recently there had been a most amazing incident at the prison:
“Recently, a religious worker had parked his car inside the gate at the exit and was about to leave the compound, when he was hijacked by a group of prisoners, who then used his vehicle to escape!”
That’s absolutely mind-boggling!
Gurudev was then called into the procedure room by Dr Dylan, who came personally to escort Gurudev. He said, in his usual exuberant way, “Time to rock, soldier.”
Gurudev said, “Let’s go!”
Dr Dylan said, “You’re ready to rock?!”
After a long time, Gurudev emerged from the procedure room, and joined us in the waiting room. Dr Dylan came and sat down next to one of his patients, who gave him a pack of incense. After a while, he walked over to Gurudev and gave Him the incense as a gift. After some time we left with Bhaktin Narushni.
On the way, we had to make a decision: Do we go back to the temple, or head straight for the evening program? Gurudev said that since He was already running late and He didn’t want to keep the devotees waiting, He would head straight for the program at Nityananda Prabhu’s , who is a disciple of Srila Giriraj Swami. I was moved by His self-sacrifice and selflessness. Although Gurudev was under anesthesia, Narushni assured Him that it would soon wear off and then the pain would be very severe. Also, since it was mid-winter, the evenings were quite cool, and Gurudev usually wears a woolen hat. Still, He put all thoughts of His own comfort aside, and sallied forth like the true soldier that He is…
When we arrived at Nityananda Prabhu’s home, Gurudev was warmly welcomed by the devotees and ushered into the house. After Gurudev had been seated comfortably, Nityananda Prabhu requested that he wash Gurudev’s lotus feet. I very eagerly offered my assistance…a little too eagerly. As I set up the paraphernalia, I knocked over a jug of water meant to bathe Gurudev’s feet. Gurudev shrugged His shoulders and looked at Nityananda, who smiled politely. The room was quite crowded, and I felt very embarrassed. Svarupa Damodara Prabhu came to my rescue, removing the wet carpet and arranging for more water.
Gurudev was then escorted to the dining table, where we served Him prasadam. The devotees had gone out of their way to follow Gurudev’s preferred diet as far as possible, and He ate well. There wasn’t enough time to take prasadam myself so I set up for class. Fortunately I had carried my recorder, so I managed to capture this nectarean class.
This entire program was a kind of thanksgiving for Gurudev’s expert guidance given to the disciples of Giriraj Swami when they had been in Vrndavana last year to be with their Guru Maharaj. Gurudev thus chose a suitable part of the Caitanya Caritamrta to read from, dealing with the Lord’s pilgrimage to Vrndavana, particularly about the chanting in Jarakhanda Forest. He emphasized the importance of preaching, being the only means to soften a hard heart. Gurudev said, “It is described in Nectar of Devotion that there are three types of soft hearts. There is a heart like lac, there is a heart like butter and then there is a heart like nectar. And this is in terms of the capacity of the heart to be influenced by some Krsna Consciousness stimulation. So, the heart that is like lac, normally it’s hard, but when there’s some real heat, the lac melts. That’s one level. Higher level than that is hard like butter. Butter is also hard. It’s not hard like lac, but it’s kind of firm basically, and when you apply some heat, it melts quite quickly. It starts melting. Not like the lac, (where) there has to be quite intense heat, or in terms of the heart, some Krsna Conscious influence…has to be strong Krsna Consciousness influence…then the heart, which is a bit hard like lac, it melts. But then the heart which is like butter… softer, more pliable…when there is just some Krsna Cosnciousness influence, the heart starts to melt like butter. You just apply some heat, it starts to melt. But then there’s the heart which is like nectar. Nectar is always liquid. (It) doesn’t need any heat. In any condition, that nectar is always liquid. And so, it’s described there…different Krsna Conscious influences are there. Maybe one, maybe two, maybe three at the same time, and that nectar is just being tossed, but then, also from the other side, and then also from another side. It’s just becoming all mixed up. So, that’s the really soft heart of a…softer than soft, pure liquid nectar heart of the very great devotees.”
After class, there was Gurupuja to Gurudev, and all the devotees expressed their love by singing for Him and offering flower petals at His lotus feet.
Gurudev then granted darshan to many devotees. Karun Prabhu drove Gurudev and I back to the temple. Gurudev took rest by 22h00.
Day 9,Saturday, 12/07/08
Gurudev came into the temple-room during mangal arati. When He was asked to lead the chanting of the Nrsingadev Prayers, He declined and I had to sing. I was very happy to do this, especially since today would be the last time we would get darshan of Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath in Their old altar and I wanted to sing for Their pleasure. The plan was to do a complete overhaul of the altar, and They would only be placed back in about a month. After tulsi puja, Gurudev personally oversaw and assisted in the transfer of the Lordships to Their new (temporary) home in Srila Prabhupada’s room. It was a monumental event and it was the closest I have ever been to Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath…
Gurudev then returned to His chanting. Gurudev gave a Caitanya Caritamrita about the glories of the Holy Name. Here, at Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath, we had started a program of setting aside the first Saturday of every month as Holy Name Day, during which we would maximize our chanting as our main focus. This was the second Saturday though, since the previous week had been the Phoenix Ratha Yatra. Gurudev kept the class reasonably short because of the busy nature of the day.
Cheron and her two daughters had prepared a glorious breakfast feast for Gurudev, and helped me serve. I was used to serving Gurudev more than one preparation at a time, but He curtailed my enthusiasm by saying, “Let’s do this step by step.”
The spread was quite elaborate and Gurudev commented, “Each one of these is a complete meal by itself.”
There were several sweets and savouries which I served at the end. As Gurudev spoke to Cheron and the girls about their spiritual life, I started to clear up. Gurudev paused momentarily and quipped, “Oh, I haven’t finished My pink bun (bagle) and somebody has stolen it.”
Everybody, except me burst out laughing. I told Gurudev that I thought that He was done. He laughed, “Its ok, just trying lighten the mood.”
Cheron then told Gurudev that it was going to be Sarisha’s birthday in a few days, but unfortunately Gurudev wouldn’t be in the country. Gurudev was disappointed that He couldn’t fulfill her desire that He be there to celebrate with her. Gurudev, however, had a plan. He got up from His chair and picked up a piece of braided kusa grass.
Gurudev said, “This was used to bind Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda together during the installation ceremony in Sridham Mayapur. May you be bound by the mercy of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda.” Saying this, He handed over the blessed maha-prasadam to an overwhelmed Sarisha! Cheron offered to get some more cheesy biscuits made before Gurudev left to Russia. Remembering that we had some of the tiffins still with us, Gurudev asked me to collect them and return these to Cheron. I had kept two mangal-sweets from Giriraj’s offering in one of the tiffins and showed this to Gurudev before handing it to Cheron.
Gurudev said, “See? You put cheesy biscuits in and see what you get out?!”
Cheron and family left, feeling very blessed and very grateful.
There was to be a program at Mother Suniti’s home in Pietermaritzburg at around midday and Damodara Caran came to fetch Gurudev. Bhakti Nilaya and I also joined Gurudev.
During the drive, Gurudev inquired about the welfare of the family. We arrived at around 13h30, since there was major traffic congestion during the entire trip, even though we took an alternative route. When we arrived, Gurudev was warmly welcomed by Suniti’s family and the various guests that had already arrived. Rantidev Prabhu then washed Gurudev’s lotus feet, whilst Mayapur Candra Prabhu lead kirtan. Then Gurudev was served lunch prasadam. As usual an elaborate feast had been prepared. Initially, the idea was that Gurudev would eat alone, but then He summoned for some devotees to join Him. These included the temple management and some senior devotees. Whilst taking prasadam, Gurudev kept the conversation light and joyful. He also made it a point that I served all the devotees with equal attention. He then asked Gaura das about his diabetes, and how he managed his affliction, in terms of prasadam intake and how he was able to give so much of energy to his kirtans. Gaura das very humbly and politely answered that he tried to eat at regulated times and follow a strict diet. After Gurudev had taken prasadam, He settled down in the packed lounge where He would give a class.
He spoke from Caitanya Caritamrita, Antya ch.1. 171. It was about the wonderful exchanges between Srila Rupa Goswami and Lord Caitanya. Gurudev also quoted two instructive pastimes. The first was about Kesava Kasmiri and the next was about Vallabha Bhatta. After class, there was more kirtan. Gurudev was then inundated by devotees requesting His precious darshan. He had to practically drag Himself away so we could leave for His next program. It was the opening of, or rather the blessing of, Rohininandan’s and Krsna Prema’s new restaurant, the Anniyor Take Away.
I had arranged for Damodara Caran to drive as I thought he wouldn’t mind, but in fact I had not really thought things through… Gurudev however was more sensitive and told Damodara Caran and Radhika Sundari that they could leave back to Pietermaritzburg, without having to wait for the end of the program to drive Him to Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath Mandir. The program began with kirtan by Gurudev, then a class about the anniyor pastime in the Govardhan-lila. It was a very humourous class indeed. At one point, Gurudev was speaking about how the Lord was shouting out “Anniyor! Anniyor! Give Me more food!” He then asked us, “What did He shout out?” At that exact moment, the lights went out! I shouted out loudly, “Anniyor! Anniyor! Give me more light!” Everybody laughed. I was trying to be smart, but Gurudev didn’t miss a beat, and cut me down to size in an instant, “There’s only one here who’s hungry. Everyone else is just muttering.” The devotees laughed out, even louder, and felt myself shrinking to the size of an atom!
Gurudev gave them another chance, “So, what did He do? What did He call out?”
This time there was more of a response, particularly by Madhumangal Prabhu. Gurudev said, “We have two… two hungry men. Everybody else has already had their supper.”
Gurudev offered His full blessings to the restaurant and urged the devotees to patronize the establishment often.
Krsna Prema had prepared a snack for Gurudev, which Rohininandan and I served Him. We then took prasadam to our full satisfaction. Bhakta Yoshan drove Gurudev back to the temple. Once there, I made Gurudev’s bed and He retired for the night. It was well past 22h00.
Day 10, Sunday, 13/07/08
Gurudev chanted His japa in the temple-room. During this time, I brought Gurudev the Caitanya Caritamrta to show Him which verse He would be giving classes on later in the morning. The class was very sweet and the devotees sat spellbound. The topic addressed the real intention of the Mayavadis, in wanting to become God. i.e. that they want the name and fame, honour and glory of being God.
Gurudev performed His worship of Giriraj Govardhana immediately after class. We then packed His bags for His travel to Russia. We had to pack two bags because of the quantity of things that Gurudev was carrying. This included a box of His latest DVD’s , the Radhakunda project. It took about an hour to do, but I relished every second. Gurudev was to go to Bhakta Rakesh’s home for lunch, and Rakesh himself came to fetch Him.
When Gurudev arrived, He was very happy to see Rakesh’s father again, and especially pleased that he was chanting regularly and attending Bhagavad Gita classes.
We then served Gurudev His lunch. Nellsiha had made all efforts to prepare things according to Gurudev’s wishes and He voiced His approval, “It’s a hit (the pesto). This is excellent prasadam, better than the first time I came here.”
Nellisha and Rakesh smiled, so pleased that they had made Gurudev happy. After He had taken prasadam, Gurudev adjourned to the new, larger temple-room, where He sat and chanted. Whilst the others took their prasadam, I relished His association. Gurudev took a look at the altar, and gave Rakesh advice on what to do since he planned to have bigger Deities in the future. There was one picture of Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath that caught Gurudev’s eye. It was of exceptional quality. He asked Rakesh about it, and when he said that it was a photocopy, Gurudev couldn’t believe it, “That’s amazing! It’s almost unbelievable!”
We then left to Naren Maharaj’s house in Umhlanga Rocks, since Gurudev wanted to visit this friend of ISKCON who was ailing. Naren had just returned from hospital after heart surgery and appreciated Gurudev’s visit very much. After a few minutes, Svarupa Damodara Prabhu and Sukumari joined us. Gurudev chanted a short kirtan, and then spent a long time talking to the family. Gurudev was served some fruit, and a simple sweet, which He honoured. The topic of health and particularly diet came up. When asked about His diet, Gurudev replied, “I have these different cooks, you know. They try to outdo each other!”
Naren is faced with a very challenging situation, being so committed to his business that he is finding it hard to extricate himself. Gurudev cautioned him to take things more easy, Gurudev urged him to travel to India, where He would be conducting an extensive Vrindavana Parikrama during Karttik this year.
Then, Gurudev gave him some advice about exercise, in a joking yet loving way, He said that Naren could walk around. “Whilst walking you could keep your hand in a beadbag and chant Hare Krsna!” The idea of a “clicker” came up, and Gurudev said that in the past they referred to it as the “metal mala”.
We were running late for Gurudev’s class at New Jaganath Puri, so I phoned to inform the devotees there where we were.
When we arrived, the kirtan had ended and the devotees were singing the Nrsimhadev prayers. Gurudev waited patiently, and then ascended the large vyasasana. He gave a class from Bhagavad Gita 4.11. It was one of the most instructive classes I have ever heard. He said that Krsna is our only true friend, under all circumstances.
After class, Gurudev lead an energetic kirtan, and we all danced and danced and danced.
Then several devotees approached Gurudev for darshan. Rakesh drove Gurudev back to Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath. After unpacking Gurudev’s gifts and tidying up, I left the room since Gurudev could grant a darshan to Mother Namacintamani. She was accompanied by Rukmini. Later I returned to the room, made the bed and then retired for the day. It just was past 20h30.
Day 11, Monday, 14/07/08
Gurudev was in His room when I went to clean it. He performed puja, whilst I cleaned. I asked if He was going to use the bathroom again, to know if I should put in another towel. He said that He wouldn’t. Nonetheless, I cleaned the bathroom as a matter of principle. Later, in His room, He told me that we were almost done with the packing. After putting in His small Sony camera, projector and chargers into His trolley bag, I attempted to close His hard bag. It closed, but it didn’t lock. I tried every possible trick I could think of…nothing doing. Gurudev then got down on His hands and knees and tried Himself. No luck! Then with great exertion, He managed to force it shut. Then, the bag couldn’t be opened! Try as we may the lock wouldn’t respond to the combination we used. In the end, I had to force it open with a screwdriver to retrieve Gurudev’s belongings. We had no option, but to use an alternate bag. I pulled out a large bag from the pantry. It was dusty and rather smelly. Part of it was even damp, so I had to line it with plastic packets to prevent Gurudev’s things from getting damp. Eventually, we were ready for action. During this time I had asked Gurudev if He wanted me to do some banking, and He had agreed. There was a substantial amount to be counted, and I was working as fast as I could. Gurudev said after some time, “I’m afraid you’re going to have to leave now, because I need to use the bathroom.” My mind raced to think of a safe place to count the rest of the luxmi. The only place I could think of was my room. Handing Gurudev a fresh towel, I left the room to continue counting, all the while thanking the Supersoul for giving me the wisdom to clean the bathroom.
When I walked past the car-park, I noted that Mayapur Candra Prabhu had started a kirtan outside Gurudev’s room, as a loving gesture to send Gurudev off in style.
Counting that luxmi seemed to take forever, and when I got to Gurudev’s room, I saw that He had left! Mayapur Candra had carried His luggage to Asha’s car, so I locked up Gurudev’s room and raced out. The kirtan group practically followed us onto the road, and Gurudev raised His arms in a loving response as Asha drove us off.
On the way to the airport, I told Asha that she could take the bag for repairs, without really thinking about her availability or if she had any other commitments. Gurudev, however, was more tactful than me, saying, “Sorry to just drop this on you. I hope you don’t mind.” Asha, of course, didn’t mind, but I was intrigued by how carefully Gurudev dealt with people.
The airport was relatively quiet, and Gurudev was early for His flight. Still, He checked in and went into the waiting area as per His usual custom. When it was time to bid Hm farewell, I said, “See You later.” This is a line that Gurudev is famous for saying, instead of the traditional “Goodbye.” He appreciated this and smiled warmly. He thanked us both for our service, and I made it a point to thank Him also.
It had been a relatively short visit, but the impact Gurudev has had on our hearts in that short time is indelible…
Srila Bhakti Caitanya Swami Maharaj ki jaya!
I beg to remain:
Your insignificant servant,
Caitanya Carana dasa