Monday, September 08, 2008
So I went to the Vrindavan Ashram down the street to give the Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi reading I thought they had agreed I should do. But lo and behold, when I got there, the mahanta told me they had already done their RRSN bit in the morning. Oh well, I talked a little Radha katha with him and the other devotees there, and then came back to the ashram.
On Mondays there is usually sat-sanga here, from 8-9. I may have mentioned that there are many people here with a devotional samskara. Adhikari, an Orissan who used to speak on the Bhagavata before coming here, had a Rasik Pagal CD playing as people came into the hall--really good Radha bhajans by this Nimbarki kirtaniya sadhu.
Then his wife Geeta (a Nepali born and raised in Manipur) sang a Radha kirtan. This was followed by another student, Sandeep, who was chomping at the bit to give a talk. A couple of weeks ago I lent him my copy of Radha-Madhava Chintan, a book by Hanuman Prasad Poddar consisting of his Janmashtami and Radhashtami lectures over the years--pretty good stuff. Sandeep had started reading it and gotten all excited. He's has been walking around everywhere with this book under his arm and seems to have accumulated pages and pages of notes. I wish he would work as hard on his English lessons. (Do I really?)
Sandeep is from Gurgaon. He spent most of his high school years at Parmarth Niketan, where he is supposed to have learned Sanskrit. He is one incredibly flexible hatha yogi; they tell me he has won many prizes. (Yes, they have hatha yoga competitions here.) But he surprised me with this sudden enthusiasm for Radharani. I think if I had let him he could have gone on for hours, but he graciously stopped to let Ram Charit do a bhajan.
Ram Charit is a another pretty special student here in this Gurukula. Like many others, he has a pretty interesting background. He has been a sadhu in the Ramanandi Sampradaya since childhood, spending most of that time in an ashram in Ayodhya. He actually took sannyas, so his full name is Ram Charit Swami. As his name nicely indicates, he is an expert in Ram Charit Manasa performances. On Ram Naumi he did a very professional performance of Ramachandra's birth, mixing song and recital. But today he sang a Radha-Krishna bhajan.
I was surrendered to Radha's will--if she wanted me to speak I would. But I guess the devotees recognized my desire and, at about 8.45, I finally got my turn. I spoke in English, as I really wanted to talk about Radha to the English speakers. Unfortunately, only half of them had shown up. I can't tell you how different the non-Indians are from the Indians. This would help you understand why I want to speak in Hindi and Bengali--you go direct to the rasa.
Anyway, I said, "You may have noticed when you came in how joyful the atmosphere was. The bhajan that was playing had all the students/devotees dancing in pure joy. Some of you were here two weeks ago for Krishna Janmashtami. In comparison, that was a staid affair. The reason for that is that there are so many Krishnas--there is Krishna in Kurukshetra, speaking the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna in Dvaraka, Mathura and Vrindavan. There is Krishna as Vishnu, Narayana and all these other avatars. And even in Vrindavan, there are all these different kinds of relationships. But Radha is pure love, nothing but pure love and joy, pure madhurya."
Ah, how much can you say in twenty minutes to people who don't even think that God is a person? But the students.... What can I say, there is a lot of bhakti samskar there. Western devotees often suspect Indians of being closet Mayavadis. Here, in the yoga ashram, it seems that they are all closet bhaktas. They all had these sloppy grins on their faces through everything I said. When I chanted vande nanda-vraja-strinam, and asam aho charana-renu-jusham aham syam, there was joy abounding.
Afterwards, one devotee came to me and said, "When I was in Vrindavan, we had bhakti. That was life. Sometimes I feel that all this silent meditation is turning us into machines."
Yes, I think today was a kind of special day.
By the way, I suggested to the Vrindavan Ashram people that I would like to do a nitya path on Radha-sudha-nidhi. So the mahanta agreed. Starting Purnima I will go there daily at 5.30. That will allow me to continue with the Madhuban classes on weekends.