Monday, July 21, 2008
Before going on forever about how fantastic this years festival was, I just thought of sharing my top 15 moments of the past festival week and here they go, in no particular order...
1) Watching the deities being carried into the cars and taken to the raths. Seeing Jagannath after 2 weeks felt good!!
2) Assembling the altar for the deities the night before the festival with the girls at Centre Island and giving Maduha Prabhu a very pleasant surprise..and also taking down the altar in crazy rainfall.
3) Seeing Jayapataka Swami after months and getting chastised by Maharaj for running around too much during the parade.
4) The Tunnel - 'Nuff Said
5) Bus Tour singing at Yonge and Dundas square - Toronto's equivalent of Times Square on Wednesday before the festival and random by standers dancing to the kirtan!
6) Anapayini getting a standing ovation from the 700+ people seated in the huge entertainment tent on Saturday after her Jagannathashtakam performance
7) Watching Devadatta Prabhu lead yoga classes amidst the pouring rain and people doing Yoga literally on the mud!!!
8) Pyari Mohan Prabhu's magic shows - made me want to become 7 again!!
9) Mahatma Prabhu's kirtan in the Bhajan Kutir..unbelievably soothing
10) Watching devotees from the Ganesh Mandir come at 10 am amidst the rain and storm to stand in front of Jagannath and read Visnu Sahasranaam, proving that rain or shine, devotees will come to sing the glories of Lord Jagannath.
11) Loading the pickup truck before the festival and being a part of Jaya Radhe's famous Monkey chain
12) Bus Tour kids leading the Saturday finale kirtan at the Festival site and having people dance in ecstasy!
13) The ENTIRE Ratha-Yatra committee and more trying to lift the kids jumping castle onto the U-Haul
14) Kirtan on the ferry back to the temple after the festival.
15) A huge smile on the face of every single person who attended the festival -devotees, vendors, performers and the general public.
Jagannath, Baladev and Subhadra Devi ki Jai!!
Sunday, June 29, 2008
But who cares?!?! Come for the mind-blowing sound in the Toronto Tunnel.... 'nuff said!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
His Holiness Devamrita Swami was the guest speaker for this festival and it was organized by the Bhakti Yoga Club and the Urban Edge Yoga, two outreach projects undertaken by the Toronto temple devotees.
Needle less to say, I am yet to come down for the whirlwind of the past ten days. It was an amazing experience, watching how powerful the Holy name and the teachings from Srila Prabhupad's books and see it being understood and experienced by a completely different audience.
To me, that is where InSpirit inspired. Every evening Maharaj gave interesting classes which were food for thought on different areas ranging from understanding "real" relationships, to spiritual economics to understanding environmental issues from an ecological stand point to understanding power of sound and Mantra meditation. Each of these talks were interspersed with unbelievable kirtan, led for the first few days by HG Bada Hari Prabhu and after he left for the Japa Retreat, Vinodini led the kirtans.
During these times of kirtan, I would look around the room, and often along with the foot tapping and clapping sounds coming from people who have never heard the maha mantra, I would see people totally moving into ecstasy at hearing the holy names.
At one particular program during InSpirit held at a popular Yoga studio in Toronto, the JivaMukta studio, I realized that this new generation of Yoga enthusiasts are not interested in Yoga because of Lulu Lemon, but because they are looking for something more. And this was evident during the kirtan session. As Bada Hari Prabhu started off with mellow chanting of Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya, the holy name echoed in the main meditation hall and it seemed like one very powerful voice was chanting these names in harmony. And as Bada Hari Prabhu picked up pace as Keshav and Vinodini gave the beat and rhythm with the Mrdanga and Kartal respectively, one by one people stood up and joined us in dancing! By the end of Prabhu's kirtan, close to 30 of the attending 70 people stood up with arms high in the air, dancing and singing with us.
Speaking to a few of them during Prasad, they all expressed their joy and happiness and excitement saying that they have never experienced Yoga like this. They wanted to come back and do kirtan with us! After the program got over, while we were clearing up, so many of them stayed back to ask us questions and see how the instruments are played. And they were all so good at playing our traditional instruments!
As we were done cleaning up, I had rounds to finish, so I walked around the room and as I did my rounds, I could still feel the energy that had been created in that space due to the chanting of the holy name.
As I saw the smiling faces of the guests who had come for the Mantra meditation workshop, a smile crossed my face, as i clutched my japa bead harder, realizing how lucky I was to be given the chance to chant the holy names of the Lord.
InSpirit was named such that we are able to tap into that very being of our existence and try to understand our relationship with the supreme. It was truly an InSpirational ten days and I am really looking forward to more inspiration to come in the following days!
Thursday, March 27, 2008
"Where are those barricades ?? People are piling up and walking in different directions"
"Aaahhhh.... where is XYZ Prabhu and WHY isn't he picking up his phone? Doesn't he know that he has to help us out with lifting these chairs"
If any devotees have ever been involved in planning any festival at the temple, be it in-temple festivals like Gaur Purnima or the large outdoor festivals like Rath Yatra, I am sure they can totally relate to the mayhem that happens before the festival, after the festival and most importantly during the backstage of the festival.
Lets picture a festival, Gaur Purnima. Picture that on a Friday. Now throw in the fact that the friday is Good Friday, a holiday. Perfect situation? Maybe also throw in the fact that after what can ONLY be defined as the longest winter in History, its a day with sun and good weather. Now that is what I call the ideal festival weather - good news for all the devotees who are coming for the festival to the temple! Great news for us organizers :-)!
Running around with Drama Rehersals, Organizing logistics, Preparing the wonderful Exhibit in the dining hall was all what I did pretty much of the week leading to Gaur Purnima. Balancing that with work and other things going in, it was more often I would feel tired and exhausted. On one such day of absolute exhaustion, as I opened my inbox, I read this wonderful quote by His Holiness Tamal Krsna Maharaj.
"As I stated in my short talk before leaving Dallas, Krsna is now blessing our zone with many nice new souls who are offering their lives in His devotional service. I am therefore counting on you, my senior disciples, to train these new devotees properly. One of the best ways to get the mercy of Krsna is to take the responsibility for helping His devotees. So whatever service you can do for these new souls who have come to surrender to Krsna will be very much appreciated."
That quote made me appreciate whatever little running around I am doing! It made me appreciate the fact that how awesome and cool it is to be a devotee. Its something I probably never would want to trade :-)!!
Today, nearly a week after the Gaur Purnima festivities ended, I still get a smile on my face as I fondly remember tears in devotees eyes as they saw the 8 ft tall Caitanaya Mahaprabhu in the forest with the animals, the huge Hari Bols that greeted the extremely beautifully decorated Dieties, the thunderous applause as Pancha Tattva took stage in the shadows during the drama, the smiles on appreciating the fantastic prasad and the bliss on their faces as the kirtan faded into wee hours of night.
Who would ever want to give up such high?
Monday, February 25, 2008
The more I meditate on this line, I realise how true that line is. ISKCON or the Hare Krishna Movement was literally a spiritual revolution and it made such an important impact into the world we see today.
One sitting through the entire 45 minutes of the Darshan DVD is clear for one to know about the magnitude of Srila Prabhupad's ISKCON. From the southern most tip of New Zealand to the beautiful Saranagti Farm Community in the hills of British Columbia in Canada, its possible to find an ISKCON center in every major city around the world. And that is a very powerful feeling.
Srila Prabhupad has built this house, and has opened the doors for every one around the world. Its so big and bountiless, like his mercy that it can accomodate every body. The beauty of this is that we always find ourselves at home wherever we go! Its almost like going from one home to another.
Where else can you find the warmth of delicious khicari in almost every corner of the world? Where else can we feel the peace and inner calm as the first sounds of the shankh (conch shell) echo through the morning calm of Mangala Arati?
Where else do we find people whom we never met to treat us with so much love, affection, care that makes us truly believe that we are one family?
As the age of Kali keeps moving on, I see the prophecy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu slowly heading to reality. Over the past 3 years, the number of temples that have opened in smaller villages in India is truly a marvel and goes to show how powerful the message of Srila Prabhupad was.
For me, being raised in this movement and trying to practice it for a considerable long time, ISKCON is my family. Its is in this movement where I've formed friends, strengthened relationships and discovered a new meaning to life. It is impossible for me to imagine my life without this wonderful movement as this is my life itself.
As I step back and look at Srila Prabhupad's ISKCON, it reminds me of something I read in my history textbook in middle school. While learning about the era of Imperialism and Colonialism, I read a line which set that at the peak of the British Empire's Imperialism, it was said that "The Sun never set on the British Empire".
I see the same parallel for this wonderful family called the International Society of Krishna Consciousness. My family.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Read the article below or by clicking here.
The news event brings into light the ill effects of drinking alcohol and what it can do to your mental stability. Its high time people, media and governments around the world realize what drinking can do to you.
More about this later.
TRAGEDY AT YELLOW QUILL
Infant sisters freeze to death during father's midnight stupor
Bodies of girls clad in T-shirts and diapers found on Saskatchewan reserve after dad got lost
January 31, 2008
It was just after midnight on the Yellow Quill reserve when Christopher Pauchay hoisted his two small children in his arms and staggered into a howling white winter storm.
The winds sent temperatures careening toward -50 degrees that night, but Mr. Pauchay didn't even put on a jacket. His 15-month-old daughter, Santana, and his three-year-old daughter, Kaydence, wore only diapers and T-shirts, so he swaddled one in his own winter coat and wrapped the other in a thin blanket. They were heading for his sister's house, 400 metres away across barren dunes of drifting snow.
But Mr. Pauchay, 24, had been drinking heavily Monday night, his elder sister, Bernita Pauchay, said yesterday. His wife Tracey, 21, had stormed out after a fight earlier that evening, and Mr. Pauchay was left home alone with the children. The day before, he had taken a ride to the local liquor store, where he bought a case of beer and two bottles of whisky.
"My brother was so intoxicated," Bernita, 35, said. "I don't know how big the bottles were, but when he drank whisky he would get real loaded."
Late that night, something happened with Santana that frightened Mr. Pauchay. She may have been sick, Bernita said, or something else may have gone wrong.
"I'm not sure what happened with the baby but he said something was wrong with her," she said.
It prompted Mr. Pauchay to try to run headlong through the snow to his sister's house, possibly because he wanted to get a ride down to the nearby hospital in Kelvington, and he had no phone in his house to call for help.
What's clear is that he never reached his destination.
The tracks he left in the snow cut a twisting, haphazard path that fits with the alcoholic haze he later described from his hospital bed, his sister said.
"You could tell he couldn't see where he was running because he was running right through high snowbanks. You could see the times that he fell," she said.
"He remembers carrying both of the babies, but he was so intoxicated he doesn't really remember anything else," she said.
"He remembers holding both of the babies in his arms and falling all over in the snow. At some point he must have fallen so hard that he dropped one of them and he kept running with the other one, and he was just so scared that he just kept going. He didn't realize that he had dropped one of the girls."
Eventually, he dropped the other girl as well. Four hours later, just before 5 a.m. Tuesday, Mr. Pauchay crawled through the snow to a neighbour's front step. His hand frozen in a claw, he banged on the door, waking someone inside. He was incoherent, the neighbours told his family, suffering from hypothermia and frostbite and still under the influence of alcohol. They called an ambulance, whose crew in turn called the RCMP, and Mr. Pauchay was brought to Kelvington's hospital by 5:30 a.m.
It wasn't until eight hours later that anyone noticed his daughters were missing. At 1:30 p.m., Mr. Pauchay asked hospital staff if his children were all right, which finally set alarm bells ringing.
Later that afternoon, a tuft of dark, curly hair was spotted in a snowbank on the reserve. The RCMP recovered the body of little Santana that day. With the cold and blowing snow it took another 24 hours to recover Kaydence's body, which lay about 50 metres from the spot where her sister was found.
The entire reserve was in mourning yesterday, Yellow Quill Chief Robert Whitehead said.
The officers of the RCMP search-and-rescue team have now been replaced by investigators from the force's major-crimes units. No charges have been laid, and an official cause of death has still to be determined at autopsy, but at this point it appears the two girls froze to death.
"They were cute, pretty girls. They were always happy all the time, when they weren't fighting with each other," their aunt Bernita said. "Everybody is going to miss their curly-headed little smiles."
They belonged to a large family on the reserve, which is located about three hours east of Saskatoon. Christopher is one of nine siblings in the Pauchay family, and his daughters were two of 26 grandchildren.
He and Tracey, his childhood sweetheart, had been together for about eight years, but their fighting had escalated recently, Bernita said.
"Alcohol is a problem," she said. "It's the only time they really fought was when they were drunk."
The couple moved back to the reserve last fall after spending three years in Regina, where Christopher worked at a tire shop. They were hoping for a quieter life, surrounded by the comfort of family.
"You could say [there were] personal problems between them. Tracey would get up and leave and go out and be gone for days, leaving Chris with the girls. That's why I say he was the primary caregiver," Bernita said. "Yesterday we were looking for [Tracey] all over the place and we couldn't find her. We figured she was hiding some place, but my mom found her at my brother Gary's place. She was drinking there the night before."
Tracey had no idea anything was amiss until it was far too late. She's devastated by the news, Bernita said.
"She's taking it real hard. We're all taking it real hard."
Tracey went to visit her husband in hospital yesterday, and spent much of the day being comforted by her mother and aunts.
Christopher will have to remain in hospital for at least a few days, and it's not known whether he'll lose any fingers or toes. His hands are heavily bandaged, and he suffered frostbite on his torso.
"Physically he's getting better but emotionally he's taking it very hard," Bernita said.
Choking back tears, she remembered the happiness the family shared this Christmas as everyone gathered at her house to open gifts. Santana and Kaydence ran around creating havoc, opening their presents when they weren't supposed to, and then opening other people's presents once theirs were done.
"It's sad," she said. "I just want to know what led up to him leaving the house with his kids not dressed properly. What led up to him running with them across the road, especially when it's so cold out? That's what I want to know, and I know he wasn't in his right mind, because he would never put his kids through that."
Monday, January 21, 2008
Irrespective of how the outcome of the week is, its always nice to get a fresh start. So after a wonderful ecstatic weekend of kirtans, birthday bashes, mind blowing prasad, some unforgettable conversations, hanging out with the coolest devotee friends (or peeps as I call them) and ofcourse Radha Kscirachora Gopinath, I decided to get to work a bit earlier today just so that I can leave early to catch Mother Laxmimoni's program here in Toronto.
However, being the person I am, i went through my morning duties at a regular pace but when I went to the subway station and swiped in my card, I heard the train. Usually I run to catch the train and it always seems silly because by the time I am in the train, I am so tired and considering that the train comes ever 3 minutes, I am not really saving anything. So I just walked normally and when I got to the platform, the train JUST left.
I had no reaction to this as it happens always. But then, 2 minutes became 4 minutes.. 4 minutes became 8 minutes and so on. The crowd grew on the platform and was slowing becoming restless. I was doing my rounds and in a different world with my iPod. But in a while, I realised that I was waiting for 20 minutes and NO train! Then we heard the annoucement that due to some technical delays, it would take another 10 minutes. Eventually after waiting for a total of 35 minutes instead of the regular 3 minutes, the train arrived.
Sitting in the train, I felt like slapping myself for not taking the train that I just missed. Its not the train that I missed, but my laziness costed me a good 35 minutes.
Now as I write this blog, I can't help but realise that so many people out there are missing the train, the train of oppurtunity, the train that leads to us the final destination of understanding the Love towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
We are missing the train simply because of our laziness to understand that this is a once in a lifetime oppurtunity. Who knows? You might have to wait 3500 years to be able to catch that train again.
Srila Prabhupad and the various acharyas, our Guru Parampara is driving this train and is slowing down waiting for us to catch it. Our devotee friends are like those passengers who hold the doors of maya and help us enter the train but giving us their hand.
Let us try to grab that hand and never let go, else we will be forever left on the platform of this material world!
Monday, January 14, 2008
Diety of Andal in the temple in my Mom's village in Andhra Pradesh, India
I was inspired to write about Andal and my relationship with her after reading a blog entry by Balaram Chandra on a similar topic. Andal is revered in the Sri Sampradaya (one of the 4 Vaishnava Sampradaya's which was led by Sri Ramanuja Acharya) as an incarnation of Bhumi Devi, the consort of Lord Narayana. Andal Devi took birth on this earth to exhibit loving exchanges with Lord Rangannath in the form of his pure devotee.
The story of Andal goes that she appeared as a baby girl under a tulsi plant, in the garden of the Vatapatrasayi temple in Srivilliputtur, southwest of Madurai. A great devotee of Krishna named Vishnuchittar (Periyazhwar/Peri Alwar) found her, named her Kodhai/Goda and raised her as his daughter.She sang 30 sweet songs during this month of Dhanurmaas or Maargazhi which contain the principles and ideals of the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya. Though born in Southern India, she assumes the guise of the Gopis and reflects their feeling of seperation from Krishna. She years for everlasting happiness and eternal service of the Lord.
Finally, at her request to marry Lord Ranganatha, and as suggested by Lord Ranganatha himself in the dream of Vishnuchittar, her father took her to the Sri Ranganatha temple in Sri Rangam where she climbed into the sanctum and married Lord Ranganath.
Since time and memorial, Sri Vaishnavites all around the world sing these songs knows as the Thirrupavai every day to glorify the Lord and it gets a special flavour during the month of Maargazhi. Its interesting to note that each day of the month gets its name from each of the songs known as Pasurams.
In her songs, Andal invites all her friends to join her by waking up early in the month before the Bramha Muhurta and singing the glories of the Lord and then preparing delicious Pongal (a preparation made with Rice and Dahl, ). Andal prays to be granted the service of the Lord for all eternity and symbolizes the soul's inner craving to serve the Lord.
Andal Devi's story is very personal to me as my middle name is Goda! My Grandparents are ardent devotees of Andal and I grew up to love her. She is so approachable and its like having the best girl friend whom you can talk to about anything. She is so merciful and is always smiling and holding her hands out to comfort you and forgive you.
Her message is so beautiful and powerful that Sri Parasara Bhattar said that "Just as the mother cow gives milk even in the presence of its dead and stuffed calf, so also the Lord will bless us even though we are absolutely devoid of the supreme devotion of Andal, merely because we are repeating her words."
All Glories to Sri Sri Andal Devi !!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
I love the Jamming sessions just because they are a great place for us to talk, relax, unwind with some fantastic kirtans and then have a great conversation over prasad and hot tea. But this Jamming was so special.
It started off with Vinodhini giving us the presentation on "Power of Sound Vibration", which was very powerful. Her opening ice breaker of taking us to the middle of Spadina Crescent and make us not talk but listen was so introspective as it made me realize how much of noise is there in silence, that it was jarring. Wonderful day to realize the power of Sounds and mostly the sound of the Holy Name. Beautiful.
This is from the last Jamming. I didn't take pictures this time but the crowd was the same..well almost!
After the presentation, we had such a delicious feast of Pasta by Bobby and Salad by Madhava which was just a perfect way. As we were munching on the cookies experimented by Vraja and myself, and with Jettu, Vinodhini and Keshav fighting over the harmonium, Keshav won and he started playing a new tune he learned on the Harmonium recently. Just as we all joined in with our instruments and hands, it slowly picked up pace to become a rocking Kirtan.
Now here comes the cool part. There was a Hatha Yoga program happening in the hall in front of ours. They were a group of mostly middle aged adults and it so happened that our impromptu Kirtan happened right in between their break. So they were outside strolling around and we didn't realise but our Kirtan drew them into our hall and as the Maha mantra made the atmosphere blissful, around 45 people were outside clapping, tapping their feet and in some cases even singing with us!! As their break got over, we just picked up pace and people didn't want to go back to their session !!! We didn't waste any time in giving them Prasad, Sunday Feast Cards and told them what we were doing. People were so impressed and more than a dozen people asked us to keep doing this ! That was so cool :-) !
After doing Kirtan, we cleared up and went into this Medidation Room on Campus. After doing a round of some potent Japa, I went out for a stroll and bumped into those people again. They asked me more information, brought books and even promised to come out for our Sunday feast. And they came today !
Before we wound up, Ateet Prabhu called Shotgun at the Harmonium and sang Sri Guru Carana Padma. I felt it was befitting to finish with prayers to Srila Prabhupad. It is nothing other than his mercy that facilitated so many people to come and join us. It made me realise the power of the Holy Name and how much responsibility we have to keep spreading it.
I am still high on that kirtan.. and don't want to come down and even if I do end up coming down, I want to experience that high...always....
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Trip to the US
Trivikrama Maharaja came in the afternoon to report that he will be flying to Hong Kong to begin his China preaching right after Srila Prabhupada leaves Los Angeles. He also brought what he said was the very first newsclipping of Prabhupada in America, printed in the Butler Eagle in 1965 just a few days after Srila Prabhupada had first landed in America. It had a wonderful photo of him looking innocent and humble, a saintly, scholarly person holding his Srimad-Bhagavatam. It was accompanied by a brief description of his activities and intentions, describing him as an "ambassador of bhakti-yoga."
Prabhupada was surprised and happy to see it and fondly recalled how he was first sponsored to come here through a chance meeting. He was full of smiles as he recalled the events. "So I did not say anything seriously, but perhaps he took it very seriously, Gopala's father. So he might have written to Gopala that 'Swami Bhaktivedanta wants to go to America. If you sponsor, then he can go.' So whatever the correspondence was there between the father and son, I did not know. I simply asked him, 'Why don't you ask your son Gopala to sponsor so that I can go there? I want to preach there.' So after some months, three, four months, the No-Objection Certificate from the Indian embassy in New York, Gopala sent to me, yes, that he had already sponsored my arrival there for one month. So all of a sudden I got the paper, No-Objection Certificate by the Indian embassy. After so much inquiry, I learned that so much inquiry was done and so on, so on. Then I tried to take a passport and paper process. So I got the passport. Then I approached that Sumati Morarji. She once gave me five hundred rupees in exchange of my Bhagavata book, so I approached her, that 'Give me one ticket.' They have got their shipping company, Scindia Navigation. So she said, 'Svamiji, you are so old, you are taking this so responsibility. Do you think it is right?' 'No, it is all right.' At that time, I was seventy years old. So all the secretary, they thought that 'Svamiji is going to die there.' Anyway, they gave me the ticket, one return free ticket by their ship. Then arrangement was going on. So there is another process to get a P-form sanctioned by the state government. So it was applied for. No sanction was coming. Then I went to the State Bank of India, the officer Mr. Bhattacari. So he told me: 'Svamiji, you are sponsored by private man. So we cannot accept it. If you are invited by some institution, then we could consider, but you are invited by a private man for one month, and, after one month, if you are in difficulty, and there will be so much obstacles and so on.' 'Well, I have already prepared everything to go.' So I said that 'You, what you have done?' 'No, I have decided not to sanction your P-form.' 'No, no, don't do this. You better send to your superior. It should not be done like that.' So he took my request and he sent the file to Chief Officer of Foreign Exchange, something like that. Anyway, he is the supreme man in the State Bank of India. So I went to see him. So I asked his secretary that 'You have got such file? You kindly put to Mr. Rao, 'I want to see him.' So the secretary agreed, and he put the file and put my slip that I wanted to see him. I was waiting. So Mr. Rao came personally. He said, 'Svamiji, I have passed your case. Don't worry.' In this way."
"So it is a great history. There was two days I was attacked in heart on the ship. So hardship."
Not wanting to miss any drop of the nectar of Srila Prabhupada's recollections of the momentous events, Trivikrama Maharaja prompted him to go on. "Then you had a dream?"
"Hmm," Prabhupada said thoughtfully, but a little reluctant to reveal anything further. I hadn't heard this kind of detail so I also wanted him to continue. "What was that, Srila Prabhupada?"
Prabhupada smiled bashfully. "That is... The dream was I must come here."
"It was some instruction that you got?" I asked, eager to delve but trying not to demand.
"The dream was that Krsna in His many forms was, bowing the row-what is called?"
"Rowing the boat?" I offered.
"Yes. And when I arrived in Boston I wrote that poetry." He continued for a few minutes describing his first year in brief, how he kept extending his visa and how another heart attack forced him to return to India because he thought he was going to die. When he boarded the plane he said that Brahmananda and the others were all crying, thinking he would not return. But six months later he did come back. And shortly after that this Los Angeles center was started in earnest.
It was wonderful to sit and hear him recall his efforts to spread Krsna consciousness, and again it drove home the great personal sacrifice he made, ultimately just for our benefit.
- From the "A Transcendental Diary Vol 2" by HG Hari Sauri dasa