Written by Nandan
Class at the Manor, Srimad Bhagavatam 10.2.19
After a short and sweet recital of the Jaya Radha Madhava prayers, Maharaj gave a nice class about how to get more engaged in devotional service and withstand the debilitating effects of the material energy. Maharaj usually has a very commanding presence and this time, despite being understated and in his demeanour; he still had that powerful presence about him. It was like the power and potency was all there inside him, but he wasn’t unleashing it like he normally would. It was coiled up and controlled. When the devotees at the Manor were seeing him, it was evident he was having an impact on them through his words and behaviour. But those who know him well reckoned he was more nuanced, not his usual bold self.
Maharaj came out with various points but the essence was that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a super-duper pandit, whether you’re in saffron, whether you wear a huge kavacha or a huge Tulasi leaf. It doesn’t matter that you’re a big, big Maharaj or an ultra-fixed up Brahmin with a 6 string thread or even a 12 string thread. NONE of these things matter. None of that will make you immune to the material energy. There is only one thing, only one thing that works and that is absorption, getting absorbed in Krishna’s service. That will help us to rise above the material level…
Later on that evening…
Maharaj was back at Krishna Kirtan Prabhu’s house and getting ready to go to a house program at Suan Mataji’s house (Maharaj’s enterprising Chinese disciple). Whilst getting ready, Maharaj got to meet one of the new brahmacharis from the Manor who was coming along to the program. His name was Ryan, an English chap who also happened to be a PhD scientist specialising in biology. The conversation they had was amazing. Initially, it was all about the Ayurvedic doshas, and Maharaj showed another side by demonstrating an astonishingly in-depth understanding of how the doshas work and their symptoms. He even went as far as identifying the combination of different doshas within various devotees, including himself (mainly pitta but with a solid dose of vata as well, in case you’re wondering!).
It then went onto the topic of varnashrama, but Maharaj also asserted that varnashrama is not an end in itself. It’s a secondary thing; we also have to go beyond our duties at some point. Varnashrama is like the goldsmith gently tinkering away whilst sankirtan is the sledgehammer. He then extolled on the glories of Michael Cremo and Richard Thomson who did amazing work in the field of scientific preaching.
Maharaj and Ryan spoke on the famous Stonehenge site in England and how the formation of columns there corresponds to the location of planets. And in Mexico, you’ll get Vedic observatory sites like the ‘Jantar Mantar’ observatory in Rajasthan. Maharaj explained how modern history is sadly mistaken about so many things. Why think there’s only a world culture now and to think it supposedly advanced? The ancient Egyptians had papyrus boats to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Modern day experts have tried to replicate that and continuously failed. What the West has done now is make its own history and stopped at Egypt and Greece with Greece being the focal point and the “East remaining the East”. And this was all compounded with the West coming under the influence of a very Christian dominated paradigm.
In the car, Maharaj was speaking about the poems of Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti Thakur and Narottamma Das Thakur and made the point that even when you put up so many measures to be above lust, Kamadeva will keep coming back, never doubt that! Amongst other things, Maharaj also extracted a beautiful realisation from one of the contributors (most likely Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya) in the Padyavali where the person states, “I’m not a poet, nor scholar, nor debater, nor philosopher but just a rascal servant of Krishna.”
Finally, we arrived at Suan Mataji’s house. It was a nice and cosy place near the edge of a forest just outside of London. Being a Chinese devotee, her home had an interesting mix of very devotional paraphernalia like Vaishnava paintings, books and sculptures juxtaposed with classic Chinese paraphernalia like those traditional lanterns with red and gold motifs. Curiously enough, on the wall of her living room was a humongous map of the world. Maybe it’s to keep Suan Mataji motivated in her mission to take over the world and flood it with the Holy name!!
And of course in the centre of her room were gorgeous deities of Gaura Nitai. The crowd was mostly Chinese students, bankers and doctors but there were also a few European and Nepali students as well. Maharaj started explaining how he’s originally from Holland on the other side of the world (from China that is). He recalled how his mother told him that if you dig deep enough, you will land on the other side, in China! Of course, he has been traveling for the last 45 years and spending a lot of his life in India. It has that ancient classical culture which is still being practiced even though it is vanishing in many other places like Europe and China. Now most of the world’s cultures are being replaced with the modern culture of economic development. Even China had its ancient culture based on Confucius which was a lot more thoughtful than the modern way.
Maharaj explained what mantra meditation was and particularly the kirtan aspect of it, with music etc. Naturally some kirtan followed. In line with Maharaj’s mood this trip, it was mellow but beautiful; conjuring up images of going down a beautiful country path in Vrindavana. Lilting and haunting, Maharaj alternated seamlessly between classic melodies. What is more, the kirtan was perfectly in sync with the cosy surroundings. It was reminiscent of a traditional Vaishnava gathering from the days of yore. But in the middle of a warm grotto, in splendid contrast to the cold weather outside.
Maharaj spoke some more on various topics such as his own life story, and how he got into spirituality. He was born in Holland just after the war. The main ethos then was to build and build, money and economics. But when his generation came of age, they became disillusioned with all the materialism. At that time, the Beatles came out with the song ‘money can’t but you love‘ and they sang it to their parents. He sang it to his parents. And that’s when his journey started. Of course, his situation was also rather unique, he revealed how his parents left the planet when they were relatively young so the family kind of disintegrated and his siblings weren’t exactly fans of his new found spirituality… and they still aren’t.
Maharaj also elaborated on the subject of consciousness and how it shapes our perspective on life. One minute you’re in love and everything seems like paradise, the next minute your girlfriend shafts you and you’re in hell, just like that! Some brief conception of the three modes was also given, culminating in the understanding that we’re not actually these bodies. They are simply vehicles and we’re the souls. To devotees these concepts are so established that often they can lose their novelty but to outsiders these are real paradigm shifters. When looking around the room, as Maharaj was giving these eternal truths, the audience was absolutely riveted. It actually made one reminisce when one began in Krishna consciousness and the philosophy was so fresh and revolutionary. Before Krishna holds back the nectar tap a little, so that we go a little deeper of our own accord!
It was mentioned how so many teachers were coming from India in the sixties but Srila Prabhupada was the one that stood out. And he touched Maharaj so deeply that he’s been with this path for over 40 years. So after all these years what is there left? Maharaj declared,
“Of course, I can retire at this point. But I won’t because I’m having too much fun!”
In the end, Maharaj glorified the wonderful Suan who bought everyone together and rustled up an amazing feast made of Indian and Far Eastern items such as Vietnamese spring rolls; dumplings; fried karela sabji; paneer curry with aubergine, courgettes and potato; rice and plum crumble with double cream. And of course, no Chinese sanga feast would be complete without fortune cookies!
HH Kadamba Kanana Maharaj ki Jai!