Happy Gaura Purnima to you and yours!
[Taken in the house of Rati + Dwija on Gaura Purnima, 2008]
And in honor of such a festive event, here’s quite a great class given by Varsana Swami sometime in the 80′s. You’ll dig it lots.
Wow! What an incredibly weekend! I’ll tell you about some of it.
I pulled into Rati and Dwija’s lovely little house around 8:30. From then till 2am, we sat and talked. There was a break for the Damodarastikam, of course (it being the month of Damodar and all). Their deities are beautiful! Jaya Nitai-Gauracandra!
It’s sometimes strange to stay at a devotees house because of the weird “standards” issue. Every devotee has slightly different standards. Sure, we know of all the standards, these tiny rules and regulations we should be keeping, but usually those are anywhere from impossible to impractical. So, at the last minute, some devotees will try to implicate standards they don’t normally keep and it becomes this awkward and rather schizophrenic situation. That and it’s just lying.
Thankfully staying with them was nothing of the sort. I was comfortable and having a blast.
Often when talking with devotees, it’s hard to be honest. It’s hard to be yourself. But with them, I could just be me. I think it’s hard to relate what I’m exactly talking about here. I felt at home and at ease. Hey, thanks!
Like I said, we were up till 2am. It’s been since Seattle that I’ve been up that late just talking.
Saturday was Govardhana-puja. We woke up and continued discussions – it was like a summit! Discussing world problems, devotee problems, community problems. No real solutions, but addressing (and ranting) about the problems is a great first step, no?
Today was also the day I was to hang out some with Gokula and Kunji. I’ve known Gokula for eleven or twelve years now, though we’ve only recently been back in touch. Kunji is her ridiculously awesome four year old. I drove over to their apartment and passed a lovely afternoon. Kunji is into transformers, darth vader and vampires, which sounds oddly like a four year old version of me – throw in 80′s synthpop and you’ve got a match!
The evening was spent at the temple for the festival. I saw a few folks I recognized. Was thrilled to see Lila-suka Seva and Lotus – I wish I could have hung out more with all of them. Madhava Ghosh found me and that made for even more great conversation. I kind of live for that.
Ghosh doesn’t know this, but he was the first devotee I met on my first visit to New Vrndavana. He looked like this wildish West Virginian, and talked about Nrsmhadeva and the sphinx. It was wild and totally sold me on the place, I’ve been in love with it since then.
Saturday night, again up till 2am. Same deal.
Sunday, my all too sad last day, was again spent talking. More about solutions this time. You know, digging around for what Srila Prabhupada really wanted. I compared the ideal of Prabhupada’s vision for a community to an anarchist community. There is little, if any, difference.
It was from Sunday’s conversations that a lot of ideas formed. It was a pretty big day for lots of reasons. More on that later. Some of it anyway.
There was a lot that I didn’t get to do and I really wish I could have stuck around for longer. Heck, I didn’t even buy gamshas! Hardly what I’d call a wasted weekend, of course. But much too short.
New Vrndavana dhama ki jaya!
Sometimes, in Krishna consciousness, we do things a certain way because “that’s how they do it in India.” Our culture originates there and sometimes certain things carry over that don’t really seem to make sense to outsiders (or even to us if we really think about it).
Things that don’t really have a spiritual benefit. Like only eating off of stainless steel.
It’s cleaner, right? Sure is – just as clean as anything what now with the invention of soap! Even so, I will pretty much only eat off of stainless steel.
And don’t forget Bollywood movies, brass trinkets and anything with a “Made in India” sticker on it!
And what about Gamshas? Ah, yes, the towel of the demigods! Are they really all that great? Honestly, I’ve used a gamsha since becoming a devotee and have rarely used anything else. Maybe at the occasional motel…
But really nothing more. Even when I stay at a friend’s house, I’ll bring a gamsha. I like it! It packs really neatly and it’s small. It also dries really quickly. And no lint! I hate lint.
Oh sure, some of my friends giggle, “why you using that Krishna towel!?” And if they ever try it out, ohh they generally hate it. I’m pretty sure you have to be a practicing devotee to really get the gamsha.
Nikki started using gamshas for a bit and hated them. She switched back to regular towels – a big fluffy gray one. Oh but when she was backpacking for the summer, what did she request? That’s right.. THREE of my gamshas! She even paid me for them!
Yeah, once you go gamsha, you never go back.
I need new gamshas. I’m down to one (never replaced the ones I sold to Nikki). And look at it…
It’s pathetic. But it’s lasted me at least five or six years. Can hardly beat that, huh.
Why the crap am I posting about this? Well, I just wanted to let the readers know that I use a gamsha and I’m not ashamed! And now, faced with this breath-takingly important crossroads, I choose to take a stand and buy a few more gamshas when I’m at New Vrndavana. Yeah, I could go back to big fluffy karmi towels chalked full of mode of badness and MAYA!!
But I know better.
And remember, kids… karmi towels are Satan’s fluffy fingers!!
ME! That’s who!
This weekend! I’m pretty jazzed about it.
Anyone else going? Radhanama? Chris? Would be fun. I promise!
I’ll be staying with Rati and Dwija and will be at the festival on Saturday and hopefully at the feast on Sunday.
Today is the Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It’s a day when (mostly) Mexicans celebrate the lives of the departed. However, though they may have left their bodies, some may have not exactly departed…
We [Vedic culture], like most indigenous cultures, hold a belief in ghosts. We believe that every living thing is spirit, the soul. This soul has a body. The soul also has a “subtle body.” The subtle body is basically your mind, emotions, stuff like that.
Ghosts, we believe, are the soul and the subtle body, the soul and the mind together, without a body. In fact, we often call ghosts DLE’s, Disembodied Living Entities.
These DLE’s are just like us. We are all spirit souls. The only difference is that they don’t have bodies. However, this is where the problem lies. They have a mind and thus every bodily desire that we have, but no way to fulfill those desires.
It’s because of this, I feel, that most ghosts are a bit crazy. They’re pretty much alone with just themselves, have every desire you can think of and not a single way to deal with these desires. Their only entertainment seems to be messing with the living. I’m sure that gets boring. And eventually, after years and years of this, they go insane.
We also have some knowledge about what attracts ghosts. They are attracted by the night, unclean places (like dirty, etc), and people talking about them (they’re bored). I’ve also heard that they’re attracted by whistling at twilight, but honestly, I’ve never tried it.
Some personal experiences at New Vrndavana.
I’ve have some personal experiences with ghosts in the apartments at New Vrndavana. It was pretty amazingly freaky. My neighbors did as well. I’m not “sensitive” to ghosts – I can’t see them or hear them, but a few of my neighbors could. So could my poor cats.
The “ghosts” (or whatever they were) would mess with the cats. I could always tell when there was going to be an “attack” because the cats would start to freak out. And then it would begin. I’d hear the neighbors stirring, blowing a conch shell or chanting “Hare Krishna.”
The ghosts that we had in the apartments were pretty resilient to the typical Hare Krishna ghostbusting. They could be very temporarily dispensed of by blowing a conch shell. But mostly that would just move them to the next door apartment (thanks!).
According to one of my neighbors, she was confronted with a ghost and chanted “Hare Krishna!” to it. It laughed and said “Hare Krishna!” back at her. Freaky.
Also, this same neighbor’s four year old girl asked her mother, “Mata, why does a man come into my room at night?” Her mother told her “that’s just your father.”
“No… it’s not Pita.”
These attacks started happening more and more frequently to the point where they were a nightly occurrence. That’s when we pulled out the “big guns.” The Nrsmha-kavaca mantra. I recited this three times before sleeping, quickly and loudly, and it seemed to keep the ghosts away for the whole night. I don’t remember an incident after that.
How about you, fellow vaisnavas, do you have any ghosts stories? Feel free to share them here.
A few days ago, Hrishikesh prabhu posted “An English Version” of the Damodar Prayers as penned by True Peace. As I read it, two really weird things popped into my bald little head.
1) “Oh my GOD! I remember singing the Damodarastakam in English!!” [Totally didn't remember that!]
2) “This isn’t it!”
Way back in the fall of 1994, I was in Columbus, Ohio. It was the “month of Damodar” so we would sing the Damodarastakam. However, Malati prabhu would have us sing it in English.
Now, keep in mind, it was maybe only a year since they took off the monks robes and went to the ISKCON style program. However, some things hung on. The English Damodar Prayers was one of them.
I emailed a friend of mine who was around well before this and asked her if I was crazy. Turns out, I wasn’t (at least not for this reason).
From her memory, this is what she wrote…
Oh Damodar Krsna, Your mother in silk
while You were a napping was churning the milk
Oh Damodara Krsna, on You the world rests
yet You rest on Yashoda and suckle her breast
Oh Damodar Krsna Your childhood play
is sweeter than nectar, I’ll drink it each day
Oh Damodar Krsna, cheeks bimba fruit red
That was all she could remember.
Now… could some kind soul PLEASE post the rest of this? She remembered that it was in the Damodar coloring book. I remember those and I’m betting they were New Vrndavana produced. Anyone still have it?