Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ma Chetana Jyoti

While I was posting the rest of Nikunja-rahasya-stava, a concert was going on in the meditation hall in honor of Swami Ma Chetan Jyoti. She passed away last Sunday in her ashram here in Rishikesh. She had been suffering from cancer for some time.

I believe I may have mentioned her name before. She was a great kirtan afficionado and had dedicated her latter life to serving Indian classical music. In particular, she was a lover of dhrupada music and regularly attended the annual Dhrupada festival at Jai Singh Ghera. Her ashram is called Sri Krishna Kripa Ashram and its outside wall is decorated with a huge picture of Krishna and Arjuna.

I told Shrivatsa Goswami about her passing on and he wrote me: "Grateful for informing about the passage Ma CJ. Hope it was peaceful and she is the service of the Divine Couple. I do remember her from Dhrupada melas. My prayers are with her."

Well, kirtan is Radha Krishna. The concert tonight was full of Mira Bhai--ankhiyan shyam milan ke pyaasi. You cannot get away from it, because the truth is, that without Radha and Shyamasundar, there just is no madhura rasa. And madhura rasa is the taste for which we have been hankering since time immemorial. On Christmas, Ma Chetana Jyoti did some kirtan here, chanting Hare Krishna despite being already very ill. So I certainly thank her for having brought, more than once, a ray of Radha Krishna into this ashram.

So I echo Shrivatsa's words and I chanted the Nikunja-rahasya-stava during the intermission in her honor.

Jai Sri Radhe!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Swami Veda Leaves for the Summer

Swamiji left this morning. His departure coincided with the usual meditation time. There was no organized rousting of the ashram members to come and see him off. The contrast between the celebratory greetings of Srila Prabhupada we used to experience was stark.

The first time I saw Srila Prabhupada was in 1972 at the Detroit airport, and it was at that moment that I became directly aware of transcendence in the world of matter. The effulgent brilliance of the Detroit airport in the midst of the tear-soaked kirtan when Prabhupada appeared in our midst--and every time after that--is deeply imprinted on my memory. Iskcon knew the importance of greeting and saying goodbye to the Guru.

My relationship with Swamiji is not the same as that, of course. It has morphed into something rather sweet and affectionate, and he even said to me as he left, while holding my hand, that as I would be the only staff member here for much of the summer, would I please take care of his Gurukula students.

For beginners I found myself quite angry that so many of my own students were absent, even though most were in the meditation hall. I was fulminating, "Don't they know that their meditation depends on Guru kripa? That the blessings they get from the guru on a special occasion like this one is worth thousands of hours of meditation?"

That is the samskara you get from a bhakti tradition. The people who were present were mostly Westerners, who have a spontaneous feeling of affection for Swamiji. One Korean woman, a longtime disciple, was crying in a way that reminded me of the feelings that manifest at such times when Prabhupada would come or leave. No doubt everyone there was motivated by love for him. But what is intolerable, really, is that so many do not recognize the maryada of such moments. At the very least, you do it because it is common courtesy!

Anyway, you can bet I will give these fellows a piece of my mind during Sanskrit class today. I think I will make them write 50 times--

आयान्तमग्रतो गच्छेद् गच्छन्तं तमनुव्रजेत् ।
शिष्यस्तदनुकम्पेच्छुः प्रीत्या मर्यादया तु वा ॥

Whether one does it out love or out of good manners, the disciple who desires the guru's merciful glance should greet him when he arrives and say goodbye to him when he leaves.

That's a loose translation of an embellished verse (see HBV 1.97).