Radha-Gopinath Mandir, Chowpatty, Mumbai, 21st February 2001

‘Maharaja got in the night before yesterday’, Radha-Gopinath prabhu intimated to me.  We were both waiting outside his living-quarters.  ‘Do you think it would be possible for me to meet with Maharaja?’ I asked.  Radha Gopinath prabhu was doubtful, ‘Maharaja has hardly had time to speak to me about the Gaura Purnima Festival and other important Temple matters.  And I’m the Temple President.  I’m not sure if he’ll meet you, prabhu.’

Maharaja’s servant came out.  Radha Gopinath went in.   I was still waiting outside Maharaja’s room when Radha Gopinath re-emerged three hours later.  Had he put in a  good word for me?  Would I be able to meet with Maharaja? Yes, he had spoken to Maharaja.  Maharaja had no problem with me going to Mayapur.  I explained to Radha Gopinath that I was in India was to request diksha initiation from Maharaja.  I had a letter of recommendation from my Temple President.  I might not see Maharaja for another three years.  Radha Gopinath was concerned:  ‘Let me speak to Krsnanand prabhu.  He is going to the Station with Maharaja tonight.  They might have space for you in Maharaja’s vehicle.’

Radha Gopinath presented my case to Krsnanand prabhu.  Krsnanand paused then said, ‘Yes, prabhuji.  You can join us.  Just be on time.’  It seemed like there was a glimmer of hope.  I went back to the ashram to take a shower, feeling a little bit better.  I went downstairs at the appointed time, and squeezed into the back of the Temple Sumo with Krsnanand prabhu, Maharaja’s servant, an American disciple and another Temple brahmacari. Maharaja sat in the passenger seat.  He exchanged some words with Gaurakishore, the American boy, asking him if he was alright.  Maharaja turned around, and greeted me. I was surprised he remembered my name.  Maharaja asked me if I was going to the Belgaum Ratha Yatra.  No.  I was just joining them for the ride.  But there was more.  The vehicle threaded its way through the night traffic past the old Siva Temple, Babulnath Mandir.  ‘Maharaja, I wanted to talk about our previous discussion…about my proposition’, I said, trying to find the right words.  It was frustrating.  You cannot demand initiation.  It is an act of mercy on behalf of the guru. I wanted to scream out, ‘Please, initiate me now!’  But I had to be patient.

Maharaja asked if I was going to Mayapur.  ‘Yes’, I replied.  ‘That is not a problem’, he said.  ‘When are you leaving India?’  I answered, ‘The 29th of March.  From Delhi.’  As the Sumo veered along Marine Drive, Maharaja humbly said, ‘I am your servant.’  I counteracted, ‘No.  I am your servant!’  Maharaja said, ‘You should go to Vrindavan after Mayapur, then back to South Africa.  You can do two things.  Meet me here, in Mumbai.  Or – if  you are leaving from Vrindavan to South Africa – write a long letter with your realizations, ideas and convictions about your stay in India and the places you go.’  He paused: ‘What are you going to do?  Go to Mayapur, Vrindavan and South Africa?  Or, Mayapur, Mumbai and Vrindavan?  You have two choices.’

The vehicle arrived at the bridge that crosses the highway.  Maharaja returned to the subject of initiation, ‘I take these things very seriously.  When you go back you must think very seriously about what you want to do.  You must be sure that you won’t go away.  You must be convinced about what you want in terms of your connection.’  I wasn’t sure what Maharaja meant, ‘Do you mean my connection in relation to the bhakti process?’   Maharaja responded, ‘More specifically, with your connection to that process.’  I realized that he was talking about the disciple’s relationship with the guru;  and  the disciple’s relationship with the chain of disciplic succession or parampara.  Initiation meant a lot to me.  ‘I could return to Mumbai, Maharaja.  If you are here’,  I said.  Maharaja described his schedule, mentioning that he was going to Kurukshetra Ratha Yatra on the 17th of March.

The vehicle neared Victoria Station.  I could see the trains and train-lines below.  People swarming in the floodlights.  Maharaja encouraged me, ‘You have served nicely in the Temple.  You are sincere.  And you have a nice disposition.’  The car stopped.  Maharaja spoke reassuringly, ‘Do not feel dejected.’  He stroked my sikha (the unshaved part of the devotee’s crown).  Maharaja sat back in his seat and said, ‘I am nice to people until they want initiation from me.  Then I harass them!’  He laughed heartily.  I felt bad.  ‘Sorry for asking’, I said.  My response elicited more laughter from Maharaja and the devotees.  I was embarassed.

The brahmacaris scrambled out of the Sumo.  Radhanath Maharaja’s personal servant grabbed his suitcases.  We all offered dandavats to Maharaja as he climbed out of the passenger seat.  I stood up.  Maharaja was facing me.  He placed his garland around me neck.  Maharaja looked so clean and fresh.  One of the boys was holding Maharaja’s danda.  The party disappeared into the crowds, leaving me to reflect on the day’s events.