The Second Chance

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Dr. Vrinda Baxi (Vrndavanlila dd): About fifteen years ago as I wrestled with the shafting pains of my advanced Tuberculosis, I tried to read Autobiography of a Yogi by Swami Yogananda. I was settled with the idea of fast approaching death and was trying to make the most of the limited moments that I had in my hand.

The spiritual hankerings of my soul had been driving me from one literature to another. Though this was not able to answer all the questions that I had, but it definitely poured fuel to the already dormant desire of getting a guru for myself. It ignited the insatiable fire in me. His quest to find a guru and then his wonderful relationship with his guru made the lacunae in my spiritual life very conspicuous to me. It firmly established the inevitablility of a guru’s presence in one’s spiritual progress. Being an aspirant on this path, I wanted a guru in my life too. The doctor had not predicted a life longer than a fortnight, I suddenly developed a desire to live till I found and served my guru.

Every rising pain pushed me towards the impending death but along with that came my prayer. I had no concept of God, but still I prayed to Him, whom I did not know but I did with utmost submission and sincerity I was capable of. I prayed for a second chance and a guru to guide my life towards Him, whom I wanted to know. I lived…

Very soon, away from my parents, destiny brought me at the doorsteps of Hare Krishna temple in a sleepy town in Karnataka. I had never seen anybody doing dandavat pranam in front of the Lordships before. There was a picture of an elderly person clad in saffron and a chanting beads round his neck neatly kept on a big throne. Everybody called him as their guru and showed utmost respect to him. They called him “Srila Prabhupada”. He had a dignified appearance, and he immediately attracted me. I also tried to see him as my guru, but he appeared very aloof. I did not give up. I began attending all the temple programs on a regular basis. I had begun chanting the mahamantra as instructed, reading the small books by Srila Prabhupada. While they answered many of my queries, they also exacerbated my desperation to seek a guru. Many times I would sit alone, praying and thinking how my guru would be and how I would meet him. Every new day kindled a new hope in me. May be today would be the day I have been waiting for…but again it wrapped itself up to wake me to a new hope.

The days went by I got a job offer from Chennai. The place changed but the old dreams lived on. This temple seemed to be different where I used to go earlier. Here they had a tradition of inviting senior devotees and sannyasis to give lecture and share their wonderful realizations with others. The atmosphere was surcharged. Spiritually it was a very fulfilling center, but the dream of finding a guru was still eluding me. It lay hidden, confined within the walls of my heart.

A few devotees whom I knew told me they had been already initiated and had a guru. I looked at them with utmost reverence. How lucky they were to have a guru! They used to be so excited when their gurus were expected to arrive. They would prepare so many things and engage in so many kinds of services to please their guru – making garlands, some delicious preparations, decorating the hall… even the most insignificant of the services like cleaning the temple floor also used to become so filled with excitement when their gurus were expected…Disciples of different visiting sannyasis suggested me to take shelter of their guru. They all looked so exalted, all of them were so compassionate beyond measure yet something within me said ‘no’. I could not establish the instantaneous bond the way it had happened in the book. The scenes from Autobiography of a Yogi flashed on my mental plane and none of them was in consonance with the reality surrounding me.

Every passing day raised my anxiety. Many times I questioned myself if I was doing the right thing in simply waiting for a guru to appear miraculously in front of me? I waited perseverantly.

I had to abruptly leave Chennai for Bidar. Before leaving I prayed to Srila Prabhupada. Soon I was married and moved to Secunderabad. I asked my husband about his aspirations. He answered with unflinching faith – His Holiness Bhakti Raghava Swami. Then his holiness could not come to India and it was not sure when again he would be able to come to India again. Still my husband was sure about his guru. I envied his clarity and conviction, while waiting for my turn to achieve the same.

Three years went by, I had a daughter Radhika and we moved to Delhi pursuing a new job. One day we got a good news. Maharaj was coming to India and then even to our small house.

We lived on the third floor. The steps were steep and staircase was without ventilation. We wondered how he would climb with just one leg and supporting crutches. But when he came, he did not climb, he seemed to glide. He did not have a private room for himself, no cooler in Delhi summer but he seemed transcendental to all these material discomforts. He was at ease with everything and appeared to be a storehouse of energy though he was observing Nirjala fasting (the day being ekadasi). My husband did the padapuja for him. Suddenly I realized why Srila Prabhupada appeared so aloof to me. Spiritual knowledge is something which cannot be read and understood like any material science. It reveals itself with the blessings of a guru, when we surrender to his lotus feet and humbly put ourselves in his service. He appeared to be the one I had been seeking all these years. How foolish I was (in fact I am), I did not even know how to serve him for whom I had been waiting and praying for so many years. Totally untrained I tried to serve him holding my little daughter in my arms. He shared so many details with us, just like a father. He had been instrumental in getting us married at Sri Sri Radha-Gopinath temple in Secunderabad even when he had been oceans apart and had never seen me.

He had gifted me pati-guru already. So wonderful! My husband had been serving him ever since he was a child of eight years, even before maharaj had taken sannyasa. I was reminded of the descriptions given by my father-in-law and my husband about him. They all revered him. The village still fondly remembered him by his brahmachary name- Raghava Pandit. I felt my search for a guru had come to an end. Maharaj was saying something but all the words were just falling flat on me. I was lost - Will he be kind enough to accept me as his disciple? - hä hä prabhu koro doyä, deho more pada-chäyä

His stay was short; he left the very next day predicting humourously that we would soon be back to Secunderabad within 6 months. He was purity and humility personified. Just two days later, my husband got a call directly from maharaj who was then at Vrindavan. He said softly – “There is an initiation ceremony on Radhashtami, two of you can come and take initiation.” Our hearts leapt with joy but to fall on the hard ground of reality. Both my husband and my daughter had been down with dengue. It was crippling and we were not sure how we would take up the 3-hours journey. Though ecstatic, my husband explained to him our inability to attend the ceremony. I was so near to getting a guru, and yet so far off – many a slips between the cup and the lips – cakhu-dän dilo jei, janme janme prabhu sei.

I got another job offer. We moved back to Secunderabad. The six months stay predicted by maharaj had come true, the last day of the period ended in the flight! Straight after landing at Begumpet airport, we set off for Sri Sri Radha-Gopinath temple. As we entered, maharaj was sitting erect on the vyasa-asana giving Bhagavatam class. His face beamed in the sunlight. His darshan flushed our faces. Interrupting his class, he warmly welcomed us back…what a personal touch. It reminded me of how the Supreme Lord Himself took care of each and every calf in the herd. So much so that He scratched them individually when and where they felt itchy, concerned about their well being and to know if they wanted to be taken to their mothers. He was so personal that each one of them thought that he was personally dear to the Lord. What a wonderful representative of the Lord I had! Srila Prabhupada had answered my parting prayer. We took darshan of Sri Sri Radha-Gopinath to our heart’s content. Our eyes were moist. He defined personal relationship which we have to develop with the Lord. Guru makes this process so easy, which otherwise appears so abstract. What reading of reams and reams of scriptures cannot give the guru gives in a simple blessing – divya jïäna håde poräkçito.

In a couple of months we were fortunate enough to be formally initiated by him. I was too happy. I had my two younger sisters come all the way from north to attend the ceremony. My 4-year old daughter and so many devotee friends were present as a witness of the ceremony. Finally, I was initiated, connected to the transcendental guru parampara because of his mercy. Overwhelmed I sat on the steps, forgetting I had to go for bhikshatan. I was a beggar who had been gifted with an elephant, though a wondrous gift but beyond his capacity to maintain.

In the evening I had personal darshan of Guru Maharaj along with my husband and little daughter. Now even I had a guru. As he spoke I woke up to realization that getting a guru is not end in itself. It is just a beginning – an initiation into the spiritual process.

I tried my best to serve him but sometimes I got chastised also, with my limited intelligence I could not understand the bigger picture. I found him “unjust”. I prayed to him and I felt guided to Tamal Krishna maharaj’s Servant of the Servants – the incident where he mentions the reason why one of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples (his secretary) left the movement – He never shared the doubts that he had with his guru Srila Prabhupada. Reading it I immediately set to write my doubts to my gurudev. His reply was saturated with compassion and simplistically explained the profoundest of the truths:

“A Guru never abandons a disciple.”

“A Guru loves all the disciples equally.”

“Though you may feel that you are not at fault and blame others, yet understand the deeper truth that whatever happens we are somewhere the cause of that.”

“Chastisement from a guru is a part of the purificatory process.”

“Even the Lord does not interfere with the individual’s freewill.”

His every sentence was like a nugget of knowledge – guru mukha padma väkya, cittete koribo aikya/ ära nä kariho mane äçä.

Once I told him how my husband and my father in law were so lucky. They still had a pile of handwritten letters from him, but I did not have even one. Like a doting father, his next letter was a handwritten one! In fact after that he sent so many handwritten letters.

My father in law had shared with me how maharaj’s cooking of simple rice-dal prasadam had made him quit all the bad habits and take to devotion in just one go. Greedy of spiritual progress, I shared my desire to take something prepared and offered by him, be it simple water. With the simple smile of a child, maharaj answered, “Yes, I will make an elaborate feast.” Such an indulging spiritual father I have! No wonder Guru is the direct representative of the Supreme Lord, who is so loving – çré guru karuëä sindhu, adhama janära bandhu.

Behind his simplicity lay a very determined persona who had sacrificed his leg in the process of trying to save the deities of Sridham Mayapur from the dacoits. Even on one leg he used to cycle long distances with a heavy bag of books behind on the bumpy village roads spreading the holy name and starting new namahatta centers in the interiors of north eastern India. His physical disability, barrier of language, austerity of village life and the cultural divide of east and the west…nothing could stop him from preaching. He started more than 1200 namahatta centers with just one leg! Everything is possible with the blessings of Sri Guru – mukam karoti vacalam/ pangum langhiyate girim. What an amazing journey with just one leg – evam parampara praptam.

Once he expressed his desire to see us serving a live cow instead of keeping decorative cow statues on our altar. We did not know how gomata will come to us and how two jobless people would be able to serve her. His desire was so intense that within two months, gomata came. He lovingly named her Surabhi. We are thence engaged in her service, who is so dear to the Lord – surabhir abhipalayantam. He gave us a simple means of serving and pleasing the Lord. The Lord was so close to us. Who else can do this, but one who himself is close to Him. He can give Krsna, because he has Krsna- Krsna dite paro, tomara sakti ache/ ami to kangala, Krsna Krsna boli/ dhai tava pache pache.

His dedication to his Guru Srila Prabhupada is exemplary. His determination to fulfil Srila Prabhupada’s mission is inspiring. Beautifully adding spiritual dimension to everything, he absorbed us in the service of the Lord and Guru by giving us various engagements according to our natural propensities.

It is my biggest foolishness that many times I forget the difficulty after which I got a guru and how careful I should be in serving him – bando muïi sävadhäna mate – kaliyuga memory. When I look back, I feel so fortunate in getting such a guru. Nothing can qualify me for what I got- causeless mercy.

There were occasions in my life when I used to think how lucky Arjuna was in getting instructions from the Lord Himself. Now with his mercy I have access to the Lord’s direct representative. Gurudev, I am still conditioned, please give me the strength to follow your instructions and be kind enough to engage us in your service, pleasing Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga. You have mercifully connected me to the guru parampara that begins from the Lord Himself -

krsna hoite catur-mukha, hoy krsna-sevonmukha,

brahma hoite naradera mati

narada hoite vyasa, madhva kohe vyasa-dasa,

purnaprajna padmanabha gati

Gurudev, please purify me enough to be atleast grateful to you for this. Pray I make the most of the second chance given to me. Hare Krsna!

{The article originally appeared in the e-newsletter, THE EIGHT PETALS, in support of daiva varnasrama dharma. The author can be reached at:: vrindavanlila.brs@gmail.com]

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Post Date: Tuesday, November 6th, 2012
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