ISKCON Juhu, Andheri, Mumbai, March 2007

Radhanath Maharaja greeted me after Radha-Rasabihari’s Morning Darshan.  I was talking to his godbrother, Narottama prabhu, whom I had met a couple of days before.  While talking to Narottama, Maharaja looked at me and said, ‘He’s a very nice devotee from South Africa’.

Later that morning, I was sitting in the foyer of the Juhu Temple browsing through photos of the previous night’s Rama Navami Festival on my digital camera.  Radhanath Maharaja was making his way towards the elevator to the guest-house.  Damodar Dulall prabhu, Maharaja’s personal servant, was a few meters ahead of Maharaja, danda in hand.  I got up, offered my gurumaharaja dandavats on the cool, marble floor and went back to my chair.

Damodar Dulall exclaimed, ‘Maharaja wants to see you!’  Maharaja beckoned me from the lift with his hand.  Startled, I put my camera away and went to the lift.  I couldn’t believe my luck!  Maharaja was calling for me!  Amiya Vilas Swami was also in the lift.  He informed Maharaja that he had a hernia.  Maharaja said, ‘I had the same five years ago.  It is very painful’.  Maharaja instructed Damodar Dulall prabhu to find him another room since the newly painted walls were aggravating his asthma.  Damodar Dulall prabhu scurried off, and Maharaja ushered me into his room.

I said, ‘Shall I close the door?’  Maharaja replied, ‘Yes’.  Then Maharaja said, ‘Come, sit on the bed’.  ‘Do you mind if I lie down?’ He said, ‘My health hasn’t been so good lately’.  Maharaja then spoke to me about second initiation.  (Second or brahminical initiation is awarded to Hare Krishna devotees when they demonstrate steadiness in Krishna consciousness or brahminical/priestly qualities).  Maharaja said he would give me second initiation before he left for Europe in May.

‘How long do you plan to stay in India?’ he asked.  I said that I had a return-ticket to South Africa in November.  I told him that I was having a sabbatical.  Maharaja asked, ‘And your authorities don’t mind?’  I said, ‘No’.  I told him that my uncle had given me an advance inheritance and it was my intention to travel.  He ascertained that it was my great uncle, Vernon, who had given me the money.  I said that I wanted to pay my last respects to him.  He said, ‘You should see your uncle’.  I mentioned to him that I would also like to visit the United States.  I wanted to see the places of Prabhupada’s pastimes in New York City.  Maharaja said I should have some service, that I should join up with Yajna Purusha prabhu when I was there.  I mentioned to Maharaja that I would like to join the Festival Of India programme (which goes all over the USA).  He replied, ‘I am a little familiar with things  in America.  Rather stay with Yajna Purusha’.  I added that I was not so much into physical activity.  Maharaja said, ‘Yes. Yajna Purusha’s programme is more suited to you’.

Maharaja also said that there were some nice brahmacaris (celibate monks) in New Vrindavan.  I said, ‘Of course I would like to go there.  And Los Angeles too.  Maharaja, I come from Cape Town.  They have their own interpretation of brahmacharya there’.  We then discussed Gopiparanhadana prabhu’s Brihad-Bhagavatamrita, my involvement in a production on Mayapur which had been screened on SA National TV and my role in the management of the Cape Town Temple.  I mentioned to Maharaja that I had just completed the Bhakti Sastri Degree (which covers some of the key scriptures of the Hare Krishna Movement).  Maharaja laughed as he said, ‘I never got it in thirty-seven years!’  I replied, ‘But, Maharaja, you are super-learned!  I had to do the course in order to study the books!’

Maharaja then asked me if I had developed any friendships with the boys at Radha-Gopinath Temple.  I replied, ‘Yes’.

I then mentioned to Maharaja some of the problems I had been having with some of the devotees in Cape Town.  He told me that I should submit to the Temple President, and support him; or carry on with something else…with the blessings of Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja and Partha Sarathi Goswami Maharaja.  I appreciated his openness.  I apologised to him, ‘I am sorry if I have disappointed you’.  He said that change is part of developing in Krishna Consciousness and that he was not disappointed.  It was natural.

I mentioned that on my return to South Africa I would like to take up the challenge of starting something new.  He said, ‘That is very difficult’.  I said that I felt as though I was ready for it.  It was not so much my problem with my President.  That had dissipated.  I was frustrated by the ethos in Cape Town.  I was struggling with brahmacharya there because the couple who were managing the Temple had no previous understanding of ashrama (monastic) life.

Maharaja said he was tired and that he was going to take rest.  ‘Maharaja, will you tell me when you are going to give me second’.  He replied, ‘Of course’.

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