Written by Nandan
Kadamba Kanana Swami and his considerably tanned servant Nimai arrived at Luton airport, travelling from Italy, on a pleasant English Summer’s day! Present to receive them were Gurudas, Saurab and yours truly.
After a smooth 30 minute ride, we arrived at Krsna Kirtan Prabhu’s house in North West London. The lounge was spotless and minimalistic which only served to highlight the dazzling beauty of the Gaura Nitai deities positioned in the latter part of the through-lounge towards the garden. Everyone was in a chilled out mood and Maharaj made it clear that he needed to relax, so he can be fresh and ready for the Ratha Yatra celebrations tomorrow. In other words, no going out today!
As Maharaj was relaxing on his favourite chair in the lounge, all the devotees as usual sat on the carpet around Maharaj and everyone was catching up with each other. Gurudas then brought out his bead bag, unzipped it and started to show his brilliant portable sankirtan altar that he had been creating over the last 9 months. He enthusiastically described to Maharaj what the different components of the altar were and where he got them from. There was Krsna, a rose, a mace, a cow, silver Tulasi bead, a tub of maha from India which included dust from Govardhan and other such paraphernalia including a piece of sponge from Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur’s chair etc. There was also a flat round base of compressed crystal, a photo of Srila Prabhupada and a case lid with a picture of Mother Yasoda and Krsna. Each time Gurudas was describing the different things, Maharaj would instantly relate it to an aspect of Krsna. Once Gurudas brought out everything, he nicely arranged it into an artistic composition, so it looked like a mini altar. The overall effect was wonderful.
Gurudas revealed that he constructs this altar every morning before japa and chants before it. It helps him to stay fixed in one place and chant nicely. Now some may deem this whole enterprise to be rather eccentric but Maharaj was very encouraging about it and really appreciated it. He remarked how each aspect of the altar was relating to a certain aspect of Vrindavan and stated that this was part of Gurudas’ own personal bhajan.
Devotees were holding back from asking the next question (knowing how Maharaj feels about it) but eventually Saurab inquired about Maharaj’s health. Maharaj said that if he ever needed time to get away from it all, then he could always go and hide in Uddhava’s flat in Amsterdam and recharge for a few days. Of course, Amsterdam was a city that Maharaj knew very well.
Devotees then broached the prospect of astrology and special gemstones that could help with health issues. Maharaj was open to it but not overtly, his reasoning was; why not try it? And if it works… great; and if not, then leave it. He even acknowledged that he has a health ring made of hesanita ruby. Apparently it strengthens the good side of Rahu’s (a planet in Vedic astrology) influence and tempers the bad side. Maharaj again asserted that whilst astrology may have its merits. It shouldn’t be too deterministic in our lives. Sometimes we have to do the needful, regardless of whether it’s good for our karma or not. After all, devotional service takes precedence over karmic activities.
By this time of the afternoon, the sun was beaming and the devotees put up the parasol. By this time Maharaj was also ready for his lunch prasad so everyone shifted to sit under the parasol. In this regard Maharaj stated that the vegetables in England and other such northern countries have no flavour whatsoever. Whereas you go to Italy and everything is bursting with flavour. In fact Italy has certain celestial quality about it.
In the kitchen Nimai and Reena (who had recently arrived at the house) were setting up Maharaj’s lunch. The lunch was fantastic and the ingredients were grown organically in Reena’s back garden. Inspired by cooking for Maharaj this time, Reena then made a resolve to make a vegan ice cream for Maharaj using fresh coconut cream. Knowing full well how much Maharaj loves ice cream!!
Later on that day…
As the day went on, more devotees started trickling in to see Maharaj and it was time for some nectar from the scriptures…
Maharaj just opened up the Caitanya Caritamrita and started reading verses from it, commenting a bit on each one. He mentioned how different people can and should be engaged in whatever kind of service suits them best. People also have their various strengths and weaknesses. The point was made that it’s not that the class of men who can follow all kinds of rules and regulations is better, rather it is the service we render to Krsna, that determines whether we are better. There was the story where the devotees presented a person who had memorized all the Bhagavad-gita verses to Srila Prabhupada and he wasn’t very impressed. If you know only one verse, live by it; that is what really matters. So-called lip service is given little attention by the Caitanya Caritamrita or by Srila Prabhupada for that matter. It is enthusiasm that changes everything. Then we get a real taste for spiritual life!
Maharaj then expanded a very nice point. We need to read and learn about Krsna to get to know him. If we know someone and say that person’s name, naturally memories will come. If we have a connection to that person we will remember things about them. Similarly, the more we know Krsna, the more we can change. But, if we don’t know Krsna, how will we ever change?
HH Kadamba Kanana Maharaj ki Jai!