Nice conversation

Jason - March 9, 2007 10:28 pm

I just wanted to post this quick note in glorification of guru maharaja.


Unemployment has afforded me some extra time to read, chant and do some extra MP3/summarizing seva for GM and Nanda Tanuja. So, I went to the Berkeley temple this morning to chant for a while, see the Deities and take prasadam. On my way out, an older Prabhupada disciple who is living there, started to talk with me. Suprisingly, given the average people I meet there, he seemed pretty alright. The usual chit chat..."How'd you come to KC?", "What kind of service have you done?", and then the inevitable, "Who's your spiritual master?" I explained that Tripurari Swami is my GM. He got silent. There was a long pause and I was pretty sure that I should probably plan my exit strategy before something offensive was said, but instead I replied, "Do you know Maharaja?"


"Oh, very much so. Yes, I do know him." Again, another somewhat uncomfortable pause; like he was scrolling through the pages of his early days and about to recall something. He then went on to say that he (the devotee) is a "Prabhupada man" (God I hate that phrase), and although he feels that GM's "group" has some different ideas and presentations concerning the philosophy, over the years, he had some time to reflect on his feelings. I smiled and said nothing, instead, I let him continue. I wasn't about to argue with him. GM does present the philosophy in a manner different than most. Still grounded in siddhanta, that's a nice characteristic, not a fault. His hesitancy about a different presentation, is exactly what I find inspiring about Swami.


He told me a story about being on Satsvarupa Maharaja's traveling book/sankirtan party many years ago. He said that they had arrived in Chicago at the same time that GM and his party (book distribution party?) arrived. He said that at that time there was some degree of friendly, devotee competition in regards to selling books and engaging in various programs. I got the impression it was like "this party" did way more than "so-and-so's party", etc. He said that he respected GM very much and had looked up to him for his being the "incarnation of book distribution" (he used the term and smiled). He also said that at that time, there was talk of GM being rather "renegade-like" and some in ISKCON were concerned. He went on to say that he felt like some devotees from GM's party were very persistent in their attempts to "recruit" him to join their party instead. At the time, given some opinions that he had heard from others, he thought it was offensive to recruit like that.


I interjected, "Are you sure that you weren't misconstruing the situation? Maybe Maharaja and his party were just sincerely wanting you to help them distribute books? Perhaps Maharaja saw some spark in you and wanted you to assist them?"


He smiled again and chuckled, "Yeah, well, I didnt' think like that back then. It took me a while to realize that. Given where I've been since those days and all I've been through, Maharaja's association would have done me some good. Maybe I should have taken him up on the offer?"


He said some nice things about GM and said that he often wondered how things may have unfolded differently had he "switched parties" back in Chicago all those years ago.


Normally I don't have these kinds of exchanges with people at the temple here, but I thought this one was pretty alright.


Interestingly, he did sort of digress (a little bit), and seemed to imply that there was no reason for me to leave ISKCON because "everything is in Prabhupada's books", etc. I said that he need not worry; the contents of Prabhupada's books are the same at Audarya, and I reminded him that the mercy of Srila Prabhupada is accessible outside of ISKCON. To that he said, "Just look, see, things are still somehow continuing here. We're still here....there's still a feast on Sunday. It manages to go on."


I guess my nature is to be critical. I had to fight off thoughts like, "Well, there was no class this morning, nobody is chanting in the temple room, the altar opened almost an hour late and there are a half dozen bums sitting in the foyer talking to themselves."


Then I thought to myself how really sad his statement sounded. His tone was almost a sigh; like he had said it a million times and was trying to convince himself it was true. He sounded like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. It was a drawn out.....sentence.....like....a....slow...moving....turtle....."It's....still....going....on". I thought about the importance of dynamic leadership and how, at least in Berkeley, that's lacking. Here is a Prabhupada disciple who has temple hopped for decades, been in the presence of some dynamic leaders, seen the movement in it's prime, and now he's CONTENT with the Berkeley temple scene???? He said he didn't have any real definitive service and even said, "they don't call it Berzerkeley for nothing!"


I realized how fortunate I am to have found Maharaja and the devotees here. Forward thinking, progressive, firmly grounded in siddhanta with such characteristics and ability to keep things fresh and moving. ISKCON has virtually unlimited facility and means and so many temples, yet, devotees are bored and complacent, unchallenged and under inspired. Guru Maharaja has fewer resources, still, with unflinching dedication to his gurus and Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, he writes amazing books that underscores the essence of what Prabhupada taught, he's created Audarya, cultivated disciples who are presenting the philosophy in a contemporary way, and now will be building a place in Vrindavana.


I remember Maharaja said something once about there being "fewer people at the top" in genuine spiritual life, and I can see that this sangha, while small, is far more dynamic. I really think that the launch of the new website will be much more than just a new layout and graphics. I think it will open a lot more doors.


Okay....I'll stop rambling.


Hope everyone is well,



Madangopal - March 10, 2007 1:22 am

Thanks for the anecdote Jason. I love to hear a little rambling like this from my sanga every once in a while. Personal realizations make it all so real.

Gaurangi-priya Devi - March 10, 2007 2:14 am

Thanks for that story and realizations. We should have a "Daily Ramblings on the Path" section. :Big Grin:

And yes, the "Prabhupada Man" statement is such stickler, as if he can say that he is with Prabhupada and GM is not. It leaves no room for discussion and is kind of a suffocation of logical dialogue. And they always say it with that smug smile and the simple shrug of the shoulders. It instantly creates such a divide and us/them mentality. Anyway, we ARE lucky, and there are so many nice devotees out there needing and waiting for someone like GM.

Margaret Dale - March 11, 2007 3:37 am

Wow, great story. I used to live in Berkeley and that temple was all I had available in terms of darshan and association. I got so frustrated because I was begging to learn how to be a devotee and there was no real guidance and I felt the environment was not very conducive. It did provide me with a great contrast to what I found at Audarya!

Please excuse my ignorance - what new website are you referring to?

Babhru Das - March 11, 2007 4:25 am

Yes--thanks, Jason for sharing this with us. This is just the kind of association parts of this site are meant for, I think. We can see that when these folks' defenses are down a little, and they feel a little free to think for themselves, they appreciate Swami's lifetime of dedicated service, his approach, and those who identify with him. At our Nectar of Devotion meeting here on the Big Island today, a couple of the devotees asked me quite a few questions about my visit to Audarya in December. One of them is a lady who has been practicing Krishna consciousness since the late '80s and is using Swami's Gita for classes she gives at her home. Now she's started coming to our NoD meetings, and she really likes what she experienced today.


Sri Chaitanya Sangha ki jaya!

Babhru Das - March 11, 2007 4:30 am

Margaret, the Web site Jason mentioned is one that has been discussed since last year. I'm not sure where we are with it right now, considering everything that's going on in our sanga. It's discussed in this thread.

Jason - March 11, 2007 7:29 am

Hey Margaret,


I was referring to the revamped "swami.org" site that several devotees have been working on. An updated look, MP3's for purchase and sound clips to check out, pictures and information. Prema and I are going to be working to arrange for GM to connect with the yoga center scene here in the bay area, arrange lectures, kirtan/bhajan nights, etc. and this new site will be a way for newcomers to get a feel for what Maharaja and Audarya are all about. A site for visitors to read more, keep informed on events maybe, etc. An updated site will be a springboard for things to come.


I've seen a few pages and it looks really nice....really first class!



Babhru Das - March 12, 2007 7:47 pm

Ah--I stand corrected. The future is so bright!

Jason - March 13, 2007 3:28 pm

Babhru (and other who may have some inside scoop), what is up with that VNN site?

Babhru Das - March 14, 2007 11:01 pm

Not much, last I heard. I'm not aware that it has been discussed very much lately. Our plan was to use the VNN brand to get noticed, then make it clearly The Harmonist after a little while. We're not clear on what VNN's owner wants to do. Since there's so much else going on in our group, this may just be on a back burner for now, at least until some of us can free ourselves for more service. Too bad, too, since the pickings for decent Vaishnava news-and-opinion sites are so slim. Chakra sometimes weird; Rocana's site is, well, his; Dandavats is too ISKCON-ey, and not even up a lot of the time. There's only VINA, which doesn't seem active enough for some.

Madangopal - March 14, 2007 11:57 pm

I am patiently looking forward to the manifestation of this site. Just want to keep the idea alive... I know there is so much going on, and I wish I had the know-how to build such a site so that I could walk the talk. But certainly there is a need for another voice in the Gaudiya journalism world. I would really like to be part of this project when time allows. The revival of the Harmonist on the web... Man that is cool!

Swami - March 15, 2007 12:04 am

VNN is over. They agreed to give it to us but did not follow through.