Written by Sesa Das
I arrived in South Africa on Monday, 26 September, taking a break from the Bhaktivedanta Manor where I am a resident, and will travel with Kadamba Kanana Swami until the end of October. Here is an account of our travels…
On Tuesday evening (27th September), Maharaj had another session with the Caitanya Caritamrta Book Club in Durban. Maharaj began a mellow kirtan in Srila Prabhupada’s room as the devotees began to come in. As the clock struck 7pm, we saw Maharaj was serious about being on time and having no interruptions as we pulled a key out and signalled for the door not to be just closed but locked! Phew, I just made it on time! And I would have really regretted not being there as it was enlivening class with Maharaj speaking about the levels of intimacy in Mahaprabhu’s pastimes between individuals.
Maharaj told us that we see Garuda offers his pranams to Lord Narayana from a distance, which we still see in many temples having the Garuda stambha. However, in Mahaprabhu’s movement it’s not like that and rather it is a movement which includes and uplifts all to an equal platform. The mercy of Mahaprabhu can empower even a dog (not the best of swimmer) to easily cross over an ocean! We see the disciples of Madhavendra Puri extremely fixed and focused on how to serve their spiritual master’s lotus feet and this is a very important lesson for all of us. Towards the end, Maharaj began speaking on the importance of preaching and for this to be effective we have to develop real compassion, otherwise it’s not possible. Vasudeva-datta being the embodiment of compassion, desired Lord Caitanya to liberate every soul in the universe being overwhelmed thinking of their state of suffering. And so preaching is like becoming a doctor who to deal with someone’s suffering and one must get personally involved to truly make great things happen; we need great compassion. We must preach and never give up – continuously rising to the challenge, never lowering the ideal and always striving to aim for it! In this way more and more we realize and feel the whole sampradaya is behind us in force and then we begin seeing the small steps others take in spiritual life and develop faith and appreciation in them.
A few days later, disciples gathered at a house program. Maharaj began with a rocking kirtan and then began reading from chapter 17 of Madhya Kandhara, Caitanya Bhagavata.
Maharaj elaborated on our inability to really understand the relationships between high individual like Lord Caitanya & Advaita Acharya, for example. So we don’t always see the spiritual links. The spiritual reality is that material enjoyment doesn’t satisfy the soul and is therefore temporary. But eternal life also includes this life, not that only after life is the eternal life, but we look at how to make this one auspicious too by serving Krsna. So we often think how can be enjoy now? We see Advaita Acharya felt a little like that whilst absorbed in love of Lord Caitanya and so Mahaprabhu punished him by disappearing so then Advaita Acharya became depressed and saw he was proud and now realized his dependency on Mahaprabhu.
So we see the depth needed for real surrender in our Krsna Consciousness. Then the whole sangha took a turn as we felt an extra boost coming out of Maharaj as he began speaking about and glorifying the Mahajanas and went onto to explain…
When we depend on Krsna, we depend on purity. Otherwise we can look pure but much else in actually going on inside. We see that yes Bali Maharaja gave everything to Krsna but maybe due to a moment of sentiment, out of ksatriya dharma and so we see that the Lord tested to see if he is really sincere & therefore the snake was wrapped around Bali and he didn’t care and was still cent percent surrendered and that is why he became a Mahajana & we likewise have many different snakes in our lives to deal with, things which squeeze us but how to we react? We know Bhisma had been shot so many but he didn’t care he was always thinking of Krsna. Vaiyasaki, the son of Vyasa is Sukadeva Goswami was always just concerned with being absorbed in Krsna Consciousness. So these Mahajanas remind us that Krsna can do anything and how to properly react. So yes we think we are impure, but must continue trying for purity & constantly striving for improvements. What an ecstatic class it was. Everyone going away deeply inspired and contemplating the glories of the Mahajanas & their faith.
Friday, 30 September was the last day that Maharaj would be in Durban for a while. On Friday evening, Maharaj addressed the youth of Durban at their monthly kirtan gathering at the Sri Sri Radha Radhanath temple.
Maharaj began with a few simple words about how the youth have automatically inherited the world with all its perks and the mess up from previous generations. So now it is really up to the youth to make something of it and deliver a brighter tomorrow.
Then Maharaj began leading an intoxicating kirtan and the Holy name was vibrating through the whole temple room and within no time everyone forgot where they were and many jumped up to begin dancing whilst others played instruments and sang with all their enthusiasm. After around an hour of leading kirtans there was a Q&A session, everyone was handed slips of paper and were able to ask any questions they wanted anonymously. The stack of questions looked small to start off with, however within a short period of time the whole harmonium in front of Maharaj was packed out and overflowing with slips containing multiple questions at a time! The Q&A went on for another hour with Maharaj giving tips on how to practically apply or relate to the principles of Krsna Consciousness whilst being realistic as students and young professionals. A very practical Q&A for all.
One person asked Maharaj, “What is your secret to getting everyone so entranced in kirtan?” and Maharaj replied, “Well, I don’t know, it’s Krsna’s mercy, but one thing I can say is that, I’m not playing the harmonium, I’m not singing for the sake of singing, for the echo of my voice. What I’m trying to do is playing the people. I’m looking at people and I’m trying to drive them mad!”
The next morning, we set off for Cape Town…