Maggoty and Ecstasy

By Srila Jiva Goswami dasa

When I was a kid, growing up in New York City, I frankly aspired to someday become a real garbage man. I envisioned the rattling and slamming cans, tricks with teetering, the glamorous grab rail and the swinging toe pivot. I’d be a star. Yo!

More than a few years later “on the farm,” there was a goat, down at Bahulabhana. I wondered about that goat, clambering around as it did over by the snowy rows of pungent cauliflower.

Why is that goat here anyway? I wondered like a child. “I mean, what is it doing here?” I had the temerity to ask Radhanatha Maharaja.

“What is he doing here, Jiva Goswami?” Radhanatha returned.

I nodded.

“The same thing as you,” Radhanatha gave me the ultimate reply. It was true: The same as me.


At the festival of the first Palace Opening, yours truly was still in the “Visiting Bhakta” class. I promised myself on the way in from the Columbus Temple, that this time I was going to give it my all. I was going to virtually embrace what ever it was the Devotees gave me a chance to do.

Along with a small group of fellow Bhaktas, I was assigned to Tapa Punja Prabhu on the Garbage Detail. I accepted the big industrial gloves and climbed up on a trailer populated with empty fifty five gallon drums which swayed back and forth like a giant steel Slinky.

“All set?” Tapa Punja Prabhu called to us in his smooth radio announcer’s voice. We lurched off then, with the empty cans leaning tipping and bumping each other, and us. We moved among them, keeping them up right.

I laughed. I had become a garbage man for real. We puttered all the way up to the Palace and did a circuit, picking up the full cans and dropping off the empties. The burgeoning population at Old New Vrindabana then was huge, and this was a very big festival. Just one circuit at the Palace and we were done with the empties and loaded with the fulls.

It hadn’t been too bad so far. It seemed riding around as part of the garbage crew came with a particular kind of license. We could stride freely forth and among, and there was a kind of invisibility granted to us, not in my opinion by virtue of the smell and the flies, but by the aspect of the very highly fundamental nature of our Service.

On the way back down to Bahulabhana, we Bhaktas endeavored to swap Krsna Conscious Stories. Upon my turn, I tried to relate the one about Lord Brahma trying to hide the Cows and Krsna’s Friends. The 55 gallon drums were much more stable when loaded. At the first turn in, by the Art Studio, the tractor showed its power as it pulled our flatbed and its murky load up past Maru Deva’s Iron Works. Maru Deva Prabhu looked exactly like a young only pure version of Marlon Brando to me. I was ever and ever disarmed by the even and fair treatment by Devotees such as Maru Deva Prabhu. Fair treatment is one of the Outstanding Trademarks of the Honorable Devotees.

Maru Deva was always ready to step away from his forge for a moment and talk about Krsna. He wore a thick heavy duty full length apron and one of those welder’s helmets was tilted back on his head. “Hello, boys!” he sang out to us as we trundled past. His tone reminded me a little of Lawrence Welk. He waved happily, and we all waved back. The loaded cans bobbed and waved right along with us. See? It was one of the tricks with tilting. I found that I was very happy. I was glad as a child to be where I was. I knew I was fortunate to be doing what I was doing.

“Hey! Hare Krsna!” we yelled back. There was more and more joy to it.

“Don’t forget me, now, Boys!” Maru Deva sang. He indicated an overflowing big can by the door of his shop.

On the driver’s seat, Tapa Punja waved acknowledgment. We continued on up the hill. We did not take the road which led on through Bahulabhana, (…comin’ up the back way) but continued on our swaying winding way up the higher more narrow path. Top O’ the World, Ma!! We were headed for the dump.

The stench was unbelievable. Flies moved about in thick cooperative ribbon clouds. The garbage field itself was absolutely teaming with maggots. Tapa Punja pulled up close and killed the engine. He climbed down and stood by the side of the flatbed as he pulled on his gloves. In the ocean of mire, I saw everything from soiled pampers to melon rinds. I got down from my perch and prepared to lift a can. Punja coughed gently. “You ah, ahem, know how this is done don’t you?” Tapa Punja smiled at me gently. His eyes were very warm and brown.

“Done?” I responded. What was this, high tech?

“Yes,” Punja said. He had the top and bottom of the can gripped on his side like I did on mine. It took two to lift the literally stinking, heavy drum. “We have to go in it,” he explained.

I looked at the slimy stinking mess, at the can we were about to hoist, then back into the waiting, loving, face of Tapa Punja Prabhu, and heard myself say, “Oh, Yes!”

Punja gave me that one eyebrow up quizzical glance. We took the big drum up and waded on in. “Now you see why I wear boots for this job,” Tapa Punja commented between pursed lips.

It was very squishy, and the smell nudged at my gag reflex. It was horrendous as could be, I thought, but you know what, truth be told, it wasn’t THAT bad. All this about me then was just life.

Later, when Radhanatha would tell me, verily, these creatures were but doing “…the same thing as (me,)” I’d prove regularly receptive.

I thought the Garbage Detail at the First Festival of the Palace Opening was indeed not just instructive in the highest sense, but in a Transcendental Way, was among the very highest and most nectarine of the Various Services Available in that historic period.

There was need to chant “Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare,” as we clambered up and down in the mire with our huge sodden loads. We told each other Krsna Stories as we rattled back and forth along the Palace Road. We were pretty happy throughout!

In the Agony of the Maggoty, I found I was so very happy so very happy way back then at last.

Information and Links

Join the fray by commenting, tracking what others have to say, or linking to it from your blog.

Reader Comments

Sorry, comments are closed.