and then it was really like vrindavan...
this past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the second annual 24 hour kirtan at new vrindavan in west virginia. I had never been to nv before, and I have to admit (in a rather ashamed way) that I had a very (what's the word?) skewed vision in my head of what nv was going to be like. I know, I know - it's even weird to imagine that after being a "hare krishna" for more than ten years, I had never been to the most famous hk temple in north america. but let's face it - for the most part, nv isn't famous for many good reasons - those beyond the palace of gold. anyway - so I really had no idea what I was stepping into - I only had the vision I had conjured up based on scary and tweaked stories I had heard...monkey on a stick and holy cow swami not withstanding. I had also been talking to a friend a week before my trip and she mentioned how the lodge, where I was staying, wasn't really all that nice...and for someone like me - one who absolutely craves...no needs certain comforts for survival, I wasn't really looking forward to my accommodations either.
well, look who was a fool. yes, that would be me. now I really know why new vrindavan dham is so famous. it's so... so... well, just beautiful. both in appearance and spirit. it turns out that the lodge isn't so bad afterall. yes, I will admit, co-ed dormatory style - not having a private bathroom for your room - can be a little uncomfortable (I don't know if I will ever be able to erase the picture I now have seared into my head of a tall german brahmacari I know looking for a shower at 6am in a mini-skirt gumpsha (sp?)). but really, who was there to sleep? this was a 24 hour kirtan after all!
so we arrived on friday evening and had dinner at govinda's snack bar - yummy. and how cool is it that they have their own health food store? and this isn't just some skimpy little place.... they had cookie bars (oh double yum!) and the ever-coveted vegan marshmallows. oh, and the dosa hut! how cool! so anywho, we pretty much hung out for a bit... walked up to the palace, visited the goshal, and just relaxed.
at around 8:45 the next morning the festivities began. they started off the kirtan with a little auspicious mantra chanting and some coconut breaking. and then it started...wow, I can't even remember right now who started - or maybe I never knew, because there were so many people there that I couldn't really see.
and so it went on literally all day - chanting hare krishna. fast. slow. loud. and louder. devotees from alachua, acuyta gopi, ananta govinda, madhava, radhanatha swami, niranjana swami, sivarama swami.... the holy name just pouring out, so delicious.
and then it was really like vrindavan... I was taking a bit of a break... having a little bit of govinda's snack bar very veggie pizza when it happened. the lights flickered. once, twice... and then they were gone. just like in vrindavan, in an instant, it was gone. rain poured, wind blew, and it was a teeny tiny bit dark. I say teeny tiny because at that time it was still late evening...oh, maybe 7, 8pm. the only difference was that in new vrindavan, unlike the real vrindavan, there are no generators. nope, it was dark. and getting darker.
I kind of expected it to just kick right back on any minute... after a few hours it seemed evident that it wasn't going to. kisori and gopa headed out to wal-mart to get some flash lights, because really, it was pitch black in the lodge. unfortunately, the deities were supposed to go out on a swan boat ride and the kirtan was going to move from the temple room to the palace, but that never happened because of the rain. that was kind of sad. but kisori made a good point - maybe radha-vrindavancandra and company wanted the kirtan to stay. and it was sooo sweet in the dark. so sweet.
the next morning I got up around 7ish. no electricity still. which also meant no hot water. but it was ok...a small austerity I could handle - because I woke up to the beautiful singing of acuyta gopi practically right outside my window... and then it was karnamrita - so absolutely spectacular I could cry just thinking about it. and when I made it outside, wrapped in my cadar, it was so much like vraj. the mist hung in the air with that slight chill and if I closed my eyes, I was so there. from karnamrita it went to madhava prabhu... and then to the grand finale - radhanath swami, who proceeded to sing the vrindavan morning tune (you know, the one they sing for vibhavari sesa).
my only regret is that I didn't spend more time in the kirtan. I'm not so advanced that I can sit for 24 hours in bhajans. I was in and out, but still think I got something. when I first got there I told gopal (the amazing guy who runs the whole show) that I had come by myself (sans husband and daughter) because I wanted to try to absorb myself - to get a little taste. after everything was over I ran into gopal coming out of the temple and he said to me, "so, did you get anything?" and we both laughed a little and I said, "yes, a little something" and pinched my fingers, as if to measure, but they were still touching. I wouldn't say I really absorbed myself, but I tried to be there, in the moment of hearing the holy name as much as I could get myself to. this is a struggle for me... but I am still praying to krishna to not give up on me...