English: Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

English: Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is one of my favourite classes by the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

manusyanam sahasresu/kascid yatati siddhaye/yatatam api siddhanam/ kascin mam vetti tatvattah

‘Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows me in truth’ [Bg. 7.3]

‘To understand Krsna is not very easy.  Krsna says manusyanam sahasresu: ‘Out of many millions and millions of persons,’ one tries to become perfect.  Who is going to become perfect, especially in this age?  Everyone is working like cats and dogs.  The whole day is spent working for eating, sleeping, sex and defense, that’s all.  People are not living as manusyas, as human beings.

ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca/samanyam etat pasubhir naranam/dharmo hi tesam adhiko viseso/dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah

‘Both animals and humans share the activities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending.  But the special property of the humans is that they are able to engage in spiritual life.  Therefore without spiritual life, humans are on the level of animals [Hitopadesa]

What is the difference between my eating and the dog’s?  He is eating according to his taste, and I am eating according to my taste.  The eating business is there in the dog also.  Don’t think that your eating is different because you are eating nice preparations on a table, with a chair and plates.  It is still eating.

People say, ‘Because I am eating nice preparations on a table, I am civilized’.  The sastra, scripture, says that although your food may be different, your eating and the dog’s eating are the same.   You are not civilized just by eating at a table.  Similarly, the dog can sleep on the street without caring for anything, and we cannot sleep without a nice apartment, but both we and the dog are sleeping.   And for sexual intercourse, the dog has no shame.  It can enjoy sex on the street.  We have some restrictions, but the sex is there nonetheless.  And bhaya means defense, to take care of our fears.  That is there in the dog and in you also.  It does not make any difference.  Because you have discovered the atomic bomb for defense, that does not mean that you are better than a dog.  He defends himself according to his intelligence, and you defend yourself according to your intelligence.

Human beings and animals have these four businesses in common: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.  Then what is the special advantage of human life?  That advantage is athato brahma jijnasa: You should be inquisitive to know the value of life, the Absolute Truth.  The dog cannot do that.  That is the distinction between a dog and a human being.  In the human form of life there should be inquiry about Brahman and Parabrahman, spirit and the Supreme Spirit.  When you attain brahma-jnana, knowledge of the Absolute Truth, that is your perfection, not competing with the dog in eating, sleeping, mating and defending.  That is not civilization.  That is not perfection of life.  Foolish persons who are animalistic, like dogs and cats, do not know the aim of life.

na te viduh svartha-gathim hi visnum/durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah/andha yathandhair upaniyamanas/te pisa tantryam uru-damni baddhah

‘Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to the external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Visnu.  As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries’ [SB 7.5.31]

The aim of life is to understand Visnu, the Supreme Lord.  People are trying to become happy in the bahir-artha, in the external energy of God, the material energy.  And the so-called leaders, politicians, philosophers, and scientists are all blind.  They do not know the aim of life.  Still, they are leading the whole society.

Uru-damni baddhah.  Uru means very strong, and damni means rope.  If I tie you with a very strong rope, it is very difficult to untie it, and you are put into difficulty.  Similarly, we in this material world are tied very tightly by the laws of material nature.  And still we declare, ‘I am free.  I am independent.  I can do whatever I like’.  That is called imperfection.  As long as we are in the bodily concept of life and think ourselves free to do whatever we like, we are in ignorance, darkness, tama.  Tama means darkness.

A Vedic injuction is tamasi ma jyotir gama: ‘Don’t remain in darkness; go to the light.’  Darkness means thinking, ‘I am this body, and fulfilling the necessities of the body is the highest perfection of my life.’  Everyone is trying to have a skyscraper and three Rolls Royces, and so on.  They think this is the perfection of life.   They do not think to ask, ‘How many years shall I have this skyscraper?  And what is my main business? My main business is how to become perfect.’

There are many animals within the skyscraper.  There are human beings, dogs, cats, worms, rats – so many things.  So the right to live in a skyscraper is there even for worms, cats, and rats.  Then what is the difference between these animals and me?  The difference is that I can become perfect.  I can ask, ‘What am I?  Am I this body?’  This should be the question.

Krsna says here, ‘The ultimate goal is to understand me.’  Vetti mam tattvatah – to understand Krsna in fact, in truth, not superficially.  That is required.  Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah [Bg. 15.15].  If you are a great scholar studying all kinds of Vedic literature, then you must know Krsna.  If you do not understand Krsna and simply study the Vedas, it is a useless waste of time.

dharmah svanusthitah pumsam/visvakena-kathasu yah/notpadayed yadi ratim/srama eva hi kevalam

‘The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead’ [SB 1.2.8]

You are executing your occupational duties very nicely, honestly.  That is all right.  But if after executing your duties very honestly and nicely you do not awaken your dormant Krsna consciousness, then srama eva hi kevalam: You are simply wasting your time.  Useless.  When you understand Krsna, that is the highest perfection.  But nobody is interested.  Therefore Krsna says in today’s verse, manusyanam sahasresu…: ‘Out of many millions of persons’, one may be interested.  Otherwise, all are in darkness.

What is siddhi, as mentioned here?  Siddhi means to understand my constitutional position, what I am.  I am trying to lord it over material nature in so many ways.  Is that my position?  But I am a failure.  I am trying to lord it over material nature as a big man – as a minister or a zamindar or a big business magnate.  And when I am a failure, then I want to become God.  That is another ambition.

This is not self-realization.  Self-realization means to understand, ‘I am trying to lord it over material nature in so many ways, but my attempt is becoming baffled.  Why?  With great endeavor I become a head of state, and I do not wish to die, but death comes and takes away everything – my political position, my wealth, my family, everything.’  Mrtyuh sarva-haras caham [Bg 10.34].  Who is taking?  That is Krsna.

When you realize, ‘I am trying to accumulate so many things but Krsna is taking everything away,’ then why don’t you surrender to Krsna so that He may not take away your position?  That is siddhi.  ‘I am not independent.  I am trying to be independent, but it is not possible.  I am dependent.  I am an eternal servant of Krsna.’

That is self-realization.  That has been taught by Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  Jivera ‘svarupa  haya – krsnera ‘nitya-dasa: ‘It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krsna.’ [Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.108-109].  Brahman realization – aham brahmasmi – is liberation from the material conception of life.  ‘I am not matter.  I am not the body, but I am spirit soul.’  Aham brahmasmi.  That is the first step of self-realization.  But that is not final.  The final realization is ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna.’  As long as you do not come to that position – the final, consitutional position that ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna’ – then knowledge is lacking; there is no perfection of knowledge.

Therefore, Krsna says in Bhagavad-git [7.19], bahunam janmanam ante…vasudevah sarvam iti: ‘After many, many births, when one is actually self-realize – in awareness, fully in knowledge – then he understands that Vasudeva [Krsna] is everything.’  ‘Vasudeva is the supreme everything.  I am simply part and parcel of Vasudeva, an eternal servant of Vasudeva.’  Sa mahatma sudurlabhah.  One who thinks in that way, that kind of perfect person – a mahatma – is very, very rare.  A mahatma understands, ‘I am an eternal servant of Krsna.  My only business is to serve Krsna.  That is my constitutional position.  I am part and parcel of Krsna.’

This finger is part and parcel of my body.  Its business is to serve the whole body.  I ask the finger, ‘Come here,’ and immediately it comes.  That is the normal, healthy condition of the part and parcel.  My leg is part and parcel of my body.  As soon as I ask the leg, ‘Please take me there,’ it does so.  That is normal.  And if the leg cannot take me there – if I have to take help from a stick – that is not normal.  It is a diseased condition has to be treated.  Similarly, as soon as we find that we do not abide by the orders of Krsna, we must know that we are in ignorance and in an abnormal condition, madness.

To serve Krsna is my duty.  Krsna does not require my help, and still he asks me to surrender to his order.  That is for my good.  If I surrender to Krsna, then that is my benefit.  Krsna does not require my service.  He is omnipotent.  But we are such rascals that we think, ‘Why shall I surrender to Krsna?’  That is perfection.

When you come to the point that you abide by the order of Krsna and surrender to Him, that is perfection.  But people do not do that. 

na mam duskrtino mudhah/prapadyante naradhamah/mayayapahrta-jnana/asuram bhavam asritah

‘Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons do not surrender unto me’ [Bg. 7.15]  

Why do they not surrender?  Because they are duskritinah, always performing sinful activities, and they are mudhah, rascals.  They do not known their own interest.  And naradhama means the lowest of mankind.  Krsna says, ‘This human body was given to him by material nature to understand me, to surrender to me, but he will not do this.  Therefore: lowest of mankind.’

Someone may object, ‘No, he is so educated.’  No, this is nonsense.  If he does not understand Krsna, what is the meaning of education?  There is no education.  Mayayapahrta-jnanah: his knowledge is stolen by illusion.  Why?  Asuram bhavam asritah: he’s defying Krsna, defying God.  

‘What is God?  I am God.’  This is the position of everyone in the material world, and especially in this age, Kali-yuga.  In Kali-yuga, people are all first-class fools.  That is described in the Bhagavatam [1.1.1o]:

prayenalpayusah sabhya/kalav asmin yuge janah/mandah sumanda-matayo/manda-bhagya upadrutah

‘O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives.  They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and above all, always disturbed’

Kali-yuga is a very difficult age.  In ignorance people fight, quarrel.  Kali means ‘fight’.  Therefore it is called Kali-yuga.  In this age especially, the inhabitants are manda.  Manda means all bad.  Nobody is good.  And sumanda-matayah: Everyone has his own conception of perfection – all bogus.  Why this is?  Manda-bhagyah: because they are unfortunate.  No one knows what he shall eat the next morning or in the evening.  Everyone is in need.  There is scarcity all over the world.

And people are disturbed.  With the progression of Kali-yuga, people will be disturbed by two things especially: taxation and scarcity of food.  That is stated in Bhagavatam [12.2.9]: durbhiksa-kara-piditah.  Kara means taxation.  People will be embarrassed for want of food, and at the same time, every year there will be an increase of taxation.  They will be so disturbed that they will give up their money, wife, children – everything.  They will be disgusted: ‘Now it is impossible to maintain.  Let me go away.’

This is our position in Kali-yuga.  So five thousand years ago, when Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita, at that time the position was manusyanam sahasresu – ‘one among thousands will try for perfection.  Now, on account of Kali-yuga, it is ‘one among millions.’  The percentage has increased to one in millions and millions.  

Therefore nobody is interested in this Krsna consciousness movement.  We are trying to give the highest perfection of life, but people are not interested.  They want to remain like cats and dogs and suffer the consequences.  That is going on.

This Krsna consciousness movement is very difficult to understand, but by the grace of Krsna it has been made very easy.  That is stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam [12.2.51]: kaler dosa-nidher rajann asi hy eko mahan gunah.  Sukadeva Goswami described the faults of Kali-yuga to Parikisit Maharaja, but he encouraged him with one verse.  ‘My dear king, Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, but there is one very nice gain.’  What is that?  Kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet: ‘Simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra one can become free from all the troubles of Kali-yuga, become liberated, and go back home, back to Godhead.’  So take Krsna consciousness very seriously and make your life perfect’

Thank you very much.’ [Back To Godhead Magazine, March/April 2006]

A Ukrainian devotee, Lokesvara prabhu, accompanied me from Grant Road Station to Victoria Station.  We blissfully spoke about Krishna consciousness on the local train and as we arrived at Victoria Station, I wondered if I would make it in time for the 8:15pm train to Howrah?  We stumbled through the crowds looking for the Howrah train.  I scanned the list at the side of the coach, looking for my name and seat number.  I gave Lokesvara a rushed hug and stepped onto my coach.  I browsed the section marked ‘1-72’, looking for number 50.

I was pleasantly surprised to find an Indian brahmacari and an elderly South American couple in my compartment.    The Indian monk, Padmanabha, offered me capatis and a piece of cake – maha-prasada from Radha-Rasabihari. I told my devotee travelling companions that I was most grateful to be travelling in their association.  Padmanabha said, ‘No! No, prabhu! We are happy to be travelling with you!  It is a blessing to travel with devotees’.  I humbly requested they pray I might have the association of devotees at the time of death.

Padmanabha squeezed onto his bunk – to accomodate a steel vanity-case containing mataji’s Gaura-Nitai Deities.  He very kindly offered the elderly mataji his bunk.  Even though he looked very uncomfortable, he never complained.  That night I dreamt of Maharaja.  I was at the Ayurvedic Chemist by the Jain Temple in Mira Road.  Maharaja was there with his personal servants, Stoka Krishna and Siksastakam prabhus.  I hid because I did not want Maharaja to be bothered by seeing me again. Maharaja did, however, notice me. I said, ‘I am sorry for any offences I might have made’.  Maharaja replied, ‘That’s good’.  In my second I was walking through some dark streets with a group of friends.  The night was filled with a sense of expectation.  We walked past a school hall lit by a scattering of electric lamps.  In my last dream, I was on an Indian train which had bunks going up six or seven levels.  I was on one of the top bunks.  The South American devotees, Advaita Charan prabhu and his wife, were there.  I had a conversation with a sulky twelve-year old American gurukuli.  I said to him, ‘You were in Maya during the school holidays, weren’t you?’  The boy just sat there, pouting.  I think he was unhappy his holidays were over.  Then Savya Saci, my friend from the Bhaktivedanta Hospital, entered the compartment.  Savya Saci was grinning in his characteristic way.  I was happy.  At least we could say goodbye to each other properly.

The next day I woke up and reflected on my good fortune – I am so happy to have such a kind and beautiful spiritual master.  Krishna has been most kind to me.  

It wouldn’t be long before the train arrived at Howrah Station.

March 15 2001, Mumbai, India

Maharaja had accepted me as his aspiring disciple.  He asked what my plans were.  I told him that I was planning to go to Mayapur.  I left the Bhaktivedanta Hospital and took the train to Grant Road Station.  Looking out the train window at the dirty tracks and buildings, I realized that it is only by the mercy of the Vaishnavas that we can make any spiritual progress.

Gaura-Nitai looked very life-like during the next morning’s darsana.  I couldn’t stay for Bhagavatam class, however, because I had to buy my train ticket to Howrah.  The morning sunlight dazzled like liquid gold.  I saw a calf sucking on it’s mother’s udders from the bus window and remembered reading in Krsna Book that this was auspicious. This good omen must, in some way or other, be connected to my being accepted by my Spiritual Master.

I jumped off the bus at Churchgate Station, bought my ticket and danced through the crowd singing Hare Krishna.  Moving in this carefree spirit, I walked – or, rather, danced – into a young German couple leaning on their luggage at the foot of a large column.  The girl, Trinity, was about 25; and her companion, Kai, 35.  They were what you could call ‘techno-hippies’.  It was their first visit to India.  They asked me if I knew of any good guesthouses in Mumbai.  I made some suggestions.  I somehow ended up talking about ISKCON Chowpatty.  Trinity and Kai were so intrigued by my descriptions of this special place that they asked me to take them there.

The three of us bundled into a cab.  The cabe wove its way through the Mumbai traffic to Radha-Gopinath Mandir.  I took them to the Gift Shop and  Kai bought an Introduction To Bhagavad-gita As It Is.   Kai was mesmerized by the Temple.  He took me aside and whispered:  ‘I have definitely been to India before’.  Gopijanavallabha prabhu, from the guest department, showed the couple the Temple Room.  Trinity gazed at Radha-Gopinath while Kai walked around the Temple Room looking at pictures of Krishna’s pastimes.  Trinity covered her head with her scarf.  Gopijanavallabha looked at me and at her and said, ‘She respects the Temple etiquette’.  When I looked again, I noticed that tears were streaming down her cheeks.  Gopijanavallabha offered them some prasada.  I chatted some more with them before they left.

I washed my cloth, shaved and showered.  It was difficult saying goodbye to my friends.  I met Sankirtan prabhu in the passage and said, ‘Yes, absence makes the heart grow fonder.  I am going to miss you’.  He gently smiled and moved his head from side to side.  Dauji prabhu packed some prashadam for me.  I was now in a state.  I took darsana of Radha-Gopinatha, and packed my bags.  I felt hollow inside.  Had I really accomplished, as my Gurumaharaja had asked, what I had set out to achieve here in India?  I suddenly felt detached from everything.  Was this how a rich person feels towards the objects of wealth?  I suddenly felt very removed, in spirit, from Chowpatty.  I was leaving.  Being transported.  And feelings of separation were beginning to take hold.

I rushed downstairs to fetch my prasada.  I placed my luggage near the front of the Temple and began to say goodbye to my friends from the asrama.  It suddenly dawned on me that I had forgotten to offer my obeisances to Maharaja. I wanted to run upstairs but the devotees said, ‘There he is!’  Maharaja was walking by the Laxmi-Narayana Temple.  I offered my obeisances to him.  Maharaja asked, in a somewhat tentative manner, ‘So, are you going now?’  ‘Yes.  I am taking the train to Howrah’.  Maharaja looked at Krishna-Balarama and the small group and said, ‘This is not the first time we are saying goodbye’. ‘Maharaja, please pray that I can always be steady’, I entreated.  Maharaja said, ‘Yes.  Always’.  Maharaja looked at Krishna Balarama and said, ‘Give him your blessings’.  He began to ascend the metal staircase.

Krishna Balarama faced me and said, ‘Blessings!  Blessings!  Blessings’.  I retorted light-heartedly, ‘You are an empowered devotee.  Maharaja has empowered you to give me your blessings’.  We both laughed.  I watched Maharaja, for what seemed an eternity, walk up the staircase.  I was leaving Chowpatty once again.

Sri Sri Radha-Gopinath Mandir, Mumbai

It was on a warm October morning ten years ago that I first visited Sri Sri Radha-Gopinath Temple in Chowpatty. ISKCON Chowpatty is now famous throughout the world for its warm Vaisnava hospitality and rich spiritual culture.

A disciple of His Holiness Giriraja Swami, Krishna-kirtan prabhu, had told me about this really simple temple about 45 minutes from the centre of Mumbai. He had also given me some audio tapes of classes by His Holiness Radhanath Maharaja’s (the project’s leader).

Yasomatinandan prabhu and I made our way by bus from St. Joseph’s College, around the corner from ISKCON Juhu, to Andrew Wilson College. That was our landmark. Somehow or other, we alighted near Babulnath Mandir, and took a right down a road unknown to us. That was my first taste of Indian street-life. Next thing we were in front of a run-down metal gate and a building that looked more like a school than a temple. Just as well I had learnt devanagari and could read the fading sign – ‘Sri Sri Radha-Gopinath Mandir.’ This was it! This was Chowpatty Temple!

As we climbed the stairs, we could hear the strains of the guru-puja prayers: sri guru carane rati, ei sei uttama gati (‘attachment to the lotus feet of the spiritual master is the perfection that fulfills all desires’). We offered obeisances and joined the kirtan. I can still see His Holiness Radhanath Maharaja standing on the edge of the kirtan with outstretched hands. There were about fifteen brahmacaris in the kirtan (nowadays there are about 100!). We also had the good fortune of hearing Bhagavatam from Radhanath Maharaja. After class, we chanted japa in the temple room (quiet meditation on the maha-mantra on prayer-beads), then took breakfast.

Navakishore prabhu (from Mauritius) was our host. He took us to a little guest room next to the brahmacari classroom. I remember the straw mats on the floor. The room was also spacious. Govinda prabhu gave Bhagavad-gita class. After Govinda spoke, Yaso spoke for about ten minutes. We took prasadam (a sanctified vegetarian meal meaning ‘mercy of God’) and rested. Most of the devotees I met that day are still around – Sankirtan prabhu, Sanat-Kumar prabhu, Govinda prabhu, Saci-Kumar prabhu and Govinda prabhu. The devotees were so friendly and blissful I thought to myself, ‘I want to be like them.’

Ten years have passed. There have been a lot of changes. The building, for one, is now exclusively owned by the Temple – no schools, no internet cafes, no offices. There is more room now – then, again, there are more devotees! The Temple room has been beautifully decorated and transformed under the personal supervision of Radhanath Maharaja. You can really feel the presence of Radha-Gopinath. Srila Prabhupada looks like he is beaming.

I remember inviting a hip young German couple to the Temple in 2001. The girl covered her head with a light cloth, sat on her knees, gazed out at the Deities and just cried for about ten minutes! Despite all the opulence, the devotees have maintained their culture of simplicity and humility. I am always very touched whenever I visit Chowpatty…it is a wonderful Temple.

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’.

We launched HARI HARI’S VEGETARIAN OASIS at THE CODFATHER VILLAGE 1 1st Avenue, Morningside, Sandton, on Monday the 7th of December with a spiritually inspiring concert by devotional singing sensation KARNAMRITA DASI.

My dear friend Rupa-Raghunatha prabhu said something very pertinent to me on the day of the concert. He said that a lot of people think spiritual life is about themselves; spiritual life is, in actual fact, about everybody. And Karnamrita proved that with her open heart and her all-inclusive wisdom. Karnamrita was most gracious. She encouraged me by saying that, for a brahmacari, I had great sensitivity to detail. Karnamrita liked the venue: ‘It was sattvic, romantic, peaceful and private’.

Rocky informed me that his guest, a young muslim girl who is interested in Krishna consciousness, postponed her flight to hear the concert. Another gentleman, Kishan, saw Karnamrita’s picture on the flyer and could tell from her face and hand gestures that this was a very accomplished artist in the Indian Classical tradition. Our original intention was to host a small concert and restaurant launch, but there was so much interest in the concert that I had to, unfortunately, turn people away. It was a sell-out.

I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude, first and foremost, to Karnamrita Dasi. I honestly think you are the next major force in contemporary music. In saying this, I wish you well in your career. May you carry the wealth of Bhakti to whomever you may meet.

I would like to thank Robyn Higgins, from the Organic Markets, for always being there for us and for having faith in our ablilities. I would like to thank George and Mary-Anne Sinovich of “The Codfather” for providing the facility for “Hari Hari’s” and for providing the wonderful facility for the concert. I would to thank Mortaza Morton for encouraging us to arrange concerts for Karnamrita in Johannesburg. I would also like to thank Gaura Sakti Das, Jacques, Mukesh and Jerry for supporting Karnamrita musically. Rupa, you did a wonderful job as MC. And, thank you for fetching Karnamrita from Lenasia. Jacques, I would also thank you for providing the sound on a day’s notice (I’d also like to extend that thanks to Matthew Fink of The Black Hotels).

I would like to thank all the cooks and kitchen crew for providing wonderful snacks: Gaura Sakti, Madhumangal, Nicole, Vinodhani, Arne, Hansa, Estelle and Karabo. Thank you, Pralambari, for moral support and helping with everything. I would also like to thank Mary-Anne and her staff for assisting us on the night. I would like to thank Anil, Raj and Mala for sponsoring the greenpeppers for the kebabs and butternut for the pakoras. Thank you Urvashi and her husband for sponsoring the wonderful watermelons! Thank you, Charlie, for the wonderful sign-board. I am so stoked with the sign! It made my year! Thanks, Karabo, for the customized aprons. Thanks to the Zoo Lake club for loaning us their cushions; to Mynhart for pick-up, delivery and dry-clean (at discount); and to Paul for helping transport them from the venue (and for transporting the sign to the restaurant). Thank you, Rocky, for your constant support and encouragement. Thank you Prem-Kishore for your consistent friendship, emotional support and encouragement. The same applies to my dear friends and mentors, Govardhana and Tribhanga prabhus. Thanks to all our friends and well-wishers for being there (including you, Teresa). It is your journey too! Thank you all for a stratospheric launch!

All I can say is that Karnamrita’s concert was very touching and very soulful. She has actually re-infused my spiritual life with faith and spiritual longing and, for that, I am most grateful.

My facebook status summed up the concert for me: ‘Beaming faces/Nice to see/Karnamrita/Ecstacy’. Everyone was smiling. And everyone was happy with the concert and the snacks. Here is some of the feedback we received on facebook and via e-mail:

Yashoda Dulal – ‘Awesome Programme! Thank you for inviting us! Inspirational!’

Estelle Crowngold – ‘Thank you for a stunning night’

Reshma Mistry (to Karnamrita) – ‘What an Honour to have you here in SA! Thanks for such a beautiful, soulful concert on Monday Evening 🙂 I Loved it to bits!’

Jacques Fourie – ‘The Ritz would have been happy with a launch like that!’

Michelle Clifford – ‘Thanks for the lovely evening on Monday. Pete and I so enjoyed it!’

Rossana Pancaldi – ‘Thank you again for organising such a wonderful concert and lovely food last night. Please pass on to Karnamrita Dasi that the evening was truly inspiring and beautiful, and we will be sure to look out for her albums if they are available here in future…I also have a yoga teacher who is about to go to India for a short stay to study singing in the Carnatic tradition, and thought she might like to hear Karnamrita Dasi too. Thanks. Kind Regards. Rossana Pancaldi’


Thank you everybody.
We are here to serve you.
Mukunda Charan Das, Gaura Sakti Das and Bhakta Arne

While Bhakta Arne is saturating himself in bliss in Sri Vrindavan Dhama, MCD and G-Man (Gaura Sakti Das) are holding the fort here in Rosebank. We are still cooking up a storm with ‘Krishna’s Vedic Emporium’ foodstalls at the Killarney Mall Organic Market on Thursdays and The Wholefood Market at Blu Bird (Atholl Oaklands) on Sundays. Actually, we held a stall at Blu Bird today and Yelena, the wife of Branco, who sometimes fetches me from the airport, bought a Bhagavad-gita and took a whole lot of pamphlets on Krishna Consciousness. Another lady, Corinne, bought a Spiritual Warrior IV by Bhakti Tirtha Swami and another took a Higher Taste.

Prema Kishore prabhu led us on our third regular Harinam though the streets of Melville last Friday (see for details). I rounded off our very successful Cooking Course on Saturday with Pizza, Khichari, salad and salad dressing. We sponsored the chef, Joseph, from St James (a vegetarian school) and the headmaster wrote a letter praising Joseph’s new cooking skills. I realized that what we take for granted, in this case our training as chefs, is of great value to others. That evening we cut vegetables for Sunday’s market. On Sunday we sold Prashadam at Blu Bird again and held our weekly Sunday programme. It was very encouraging for me to have Gaura Das and some of his friends at the programme. Another friend, Marcelle, arrived just as the guests were leaving. Gaura Shakti showed her some basic mridanga beats, then she sat and chanted a round of the maha-mantra with us. Oh…and we also gave her some chickpea fudge (which she’d had before).

Monday. We teamed up with Nandarani – who was in the Temple with me in Cape Town – at the University of Johannesburg Bhakti Yoga Society (BYS) from 12-2:30pm. We taught the students how to chant on beads last time. This time we held a basic cooking demo: Simply Wonderfuls and Nimbu Pani. The demo went well. Prema Sarovara Mataji’s friend, Grace, bought a Bhagavad-gita. Seven students bought chanting beads at the previous session. That they took beads was a very positive sign from the point-of-view of chanting. They told me at this session that the chanting was really helping them find peace and happiness. I returned to the flat, took a brief nap, then Gaura Shakti and I went to Dwarakadish prabhu’s place for the Marlboro Namahatta. It was humbling to be with such hospitable and respectful devotees.

Tuesday. Market and shopping for the stalls in Fordsburg. We dropped in at “Cater Commercial” to pick up some kitchen utensils kindly sponsored by Bhakta Rakesh and his family. We got in at around 4pm. Gaura Das came in the evening for a Mantra Meditation Session. He brought some of his friends and people he’d met on book distribution – Lebohang, Matthew, Claudia and Mortaza. I delivered 30 pieces of Laddhu (Chickpea Fudge) to a juice-bar in Woodmead on Wednesday morning, rushed back to the flat, then gave a talk on ‘Jyotish And Its Relevance To Spirituality’ (Jyotish is Indian Astrology) at the Wits BYS at from 1-3pm. I bought some slop-chips at “Kara Nicha’s” before trundling back home, back to Pancha Tattva. That night Gaura Das invited us over to his mom’s place for supper (in honour of his wife Jamuna’s birthday). I still had to cut veg for Thursday’s stall when we got back to the flat. Thursday means Killarney Mall Organic Food Market. Self-explanatory. Mother Prema Shakti came to the stall and informed me that there was a GAD (Gauteng Administration and Development) Sub-Committee meeting about Education at her flat with Keshava Krishna prabhu and some other devotees. The meeting touched on various important areas of education – for children, youth and adults. Another late night. Friday, I went on Sankirtan at the airport and Eastgate. Saturday, Sankirtan at Menlyn. Sunday, Blu Bird and Sunday programme.

Tonight we read from Bhagavad-gita and then chanted Damodarastakam Prayers. This week has been quite a busy one, compounded by Arne’s absence. (All the guests left with Chickpea Fudge). We are offering lamps every night to Lord Damodara and chanting the Damodarastakam. Kartik is a month of mercy. May the Lord be kind upon us.

Your servants at the Vedic City Project.

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