By Malati Devi Dasi
Today, the eleventh of February, all GBC Members and Deputies along with all Prabhupada disciples present honored breakfast Prasad together in Srila Prabhupadaâ€™s Samadhi Mandir. After breakfast, the GBC body went upstairs to the Samedhi itself for kirtan, japa, and a prayerful ceremony individually dedicating ourselves as GBC to the purpose of Srila Prabhupada and his mission before all other considerations.
Then, we each came forward and received a specially made pavitra from either Jananivas or Pankanjanghri that had just been offered to Srila Prabhupada. Following this, the GBC members (minus the deputies) got into Tato Sumaâ€™s (big dangerous SUVâ€™s) and one fancy bus to head to an undisclosed destination for the day. Since I am the only GBC member in a saree, I was allowed to invite a lady friend, to which I invited Dina Sarana (formerly from NV and now a Deputy from the German Yatra) as well as Aisvarya Sadhini, the wife of Narshima Kavacha, GBC Minister of Deity Worship, to accompany us.
The secret destination turned out to be Jagannathâ€™s Mandir and I personally could not have been more pleased since I had not been able to visit Them last year. These Deities of Jagannath, Subhadra and Baladev are very powerful and are known for Their benevolence in granting boons. There are many authentic experiences supporting this claim, many of them recent. We performed a bhajan and kirtan lead by H H Lokanath accompanied by Madhava das (world reknown mrdanga player).
We sang the beautiful glorification of Lord Jagannath by Vasudev Gosh, Jaya Jaya Jagannatha (sachira nandana). Then we did a little exercise in communications. We divided into three groups and sat in different corners of the Mandir. We were given a piece of paper and asked by the group leader to close our eyes and keep them closed until told we could open them. Then, we were told to follow instructions, keeping our eyes closed. The instructions involved folding the paper and tearing different corners. Then, we were told to open our eyes and open our pieces of paper and observe any differences in the results.
There were a lot! Because we didnâ€™t ask questions but just did as we individually understood the instruction to mean, different results insured. The point was to show how valuable good communication, which involves both hearing and speaking, etc, are to forming an effective team (which could then rely upon cohesive results). After that little exercise, we observed Raja Bhog arati and then we went into the best part: unexpected, unrehearsed dramaâ€™s, each involving a narrator and a team of associate players (chosen on the spot). The first was Radhanath Swami, narrating the story of Nimai Pandit and Kolevech Sridar and then the sankirtan party meets Chand Kazi. Players included B.Marg Swami, Sesa Prabhu, and it was a really dynamic narration and performance. Next came Jayapataka Swami with the narration of Jagai & Madhai.
The Lord was played by Kavicandra Swami, Nityananda was played by Param Gati Swami, Hari das was played by Hridayananda das Goswami, the Kazi was played by Sivarama Swami (with an instant turban) and the debauched brothers were played by Ravindra Svarupa dasa and Praghosa dasa prabhuâ€™s (who were really really good at their roles). Myself and the other ladies had a surprise bit part in this one when Madhai was ordered to made the bathing ghat. We were the ladies who came to bath and wash cloths. Next came the robust narration of Dravida gorilla, expertly done by Prahladanada Swami, practically verbatim from the Krishna Book. Dravida was played by BB Govinda Swami and he really took that part to heart.
Anuttama dasa played Balaram and again, we three ladies were the gopiâ€™s who were with Balaram during the encounter. If you remember the details, youâ€™ll know there were some good surprises in this drama! When they got into the fight and were throwing trees, they picked up the bolsters that had been set out for us and threw them around like tree trunks. It was wild. The audience was very involved in all three dramaâ€™s which made it even more exciting. The local Bengali devotees, not knowing English, had no clue what was going on and looked upon the entire scene with amazement.
After the dramaâ€™s, we had a debate session. The topic of the debate was this: Is it better to serve Prasad Vedic style (sitting in rows on the floor, eating with ones fingers and while being served) or buffet western style with tables and chairs, knives and forks, etc. The two debate teams consisted of a variety of personalities and in this instance, some of the persons were put into the side opposite of their real life position. For instance, H H Bhakti Caru Swami was on the Western team and Hridayananda das Goswami was on the â€śVedicâ€ť team.
Both sides tried to defend their positions, but the Vedic team won hands down (should say, Hands up!) with statements like, â€śPizzaâ€™a are nothing but self realized chapatis and it would be a gross offence to eat a pizza with a knife and fork! It would be most painful to the mozzarella to be pierced by a knife and fork!â€ť And the coupe dâ€™tat was when Bhakti Vijanan Swami said all arguments should include guru, sadhu, shastra and he quoted Srila Prabhupada. This Swami who came to the west and adopted western gear told SP that he must learn to use a knife fork and spoon when he goes to the West, whereupon on Srila Prabhupada responded, â€śI will teach them to eat with their fingers!â€ť
And with that, we concluded to honor Prasad, sitting on the floor, eating on banana leaves with our fingers â€śVedic styleâ€ť. All thanks goes to Praghosa Prabhu for organizing the first time GBC Retreat Day.
Hari bol. Jaya Gaura! Jaya Krishna! Jaya Jagannatha!