Dearest Srila Guru Maharaj,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to you!
As I write this, it has been less than a week since I was fortunate to spend the weekend in your association at the annual Bhakti Immersion retreat. As I’ve settled back (unfortunately) into material life and the spiritual haze has (unfortunately) lifted, I keep coming back to one moment during the weekend…
It is late Sunday morning – the last maha-kirtan of the weekend. I am standing in the back, not dancing in ecstasy like everyone else. Though I am chanting and clapping, I am mostly just watching. Towards the end you come over to me and tell me how happy you are that I am here. At first I think you are probably just saying this to be polite – not that I am doubting your sincerity, but it is more that my insecurity tells me there’s no reason for you to actually be happy about me being around. But then you say something that is so simple, but goes right to my heart: “You’re really a part of this now. I’m so glad because this is what I’m about,” you say as you point to the kirtan, “this is who I am!” I choke back tears. I’ve done nothing to deserve such kindness. This is truly your mercy.
When one first gets to Vrndavan sometimes the actual arrival is mundane – perhaps just pulling up in a Tata Sumo and finding a room at the MVT. But you always say that a person has to actually enter the dhama – through kirtan and sincere prayer. And that moment, when it actually happens – entering into the dhama – is an amazing feeling. That’s what this moment from the retreat felt like – as if I had entered, somehow, some deep part of our spiritual relationship.
I have struggled a lot recently with the idea of bhakti as love, and what that means in a practical way and also spiritually. I heard several times over the days of the retreat how this bhakti-love is not a feeling that washes over you like in an illusory romantic kind of way, but that it is cultivated and develops over time. I often doubt whether I am capable of giving or receiving such a deep kind of love. It seems so complicated and unreachable. And just see how easily you gave it to me.
I feel like I say this every year, but it is truly the thing I am most grateful for: Thank you, Guru Maharaj, for never giving up on me and keeping me around, despite my attempted escapes. I can only pray to continue to receive your mercy and love.
Always your servant,
Kadamba Mala devi dasi
|photo by kisori radha devi dasi. the look on maharaja's face cracks me up!|