Water with Tears

By Srila Jiva Goswami dasa

At Old New Vrindabana, posing the classic and needful inquiries “Who am I? What is my purpose? Why am I here?” and “Where am I going?” brought fast and accurate answers.

I’ll always remember and tell the way I wondered about the goat which clambered all over in the general area behind the cauliflower garden. How had that goat come to be among us and what was its place in the association of Brijabasis who would worship Krsna? This really puzzled me.

On the shuttle bus one morning then, I boldly asked, “What is the goat doing here?” and Radhanatha immediately chimed, “The same thing as you, Jiva Goswami.” The accuracy of his rejoinder was piercing and educational.

Sometimes the answer to such questions came without conscious appeal. The spiritual student might ask by his or her actions, for example.

Bhagavata Ananda, our resident sculptor, was one of those very advanced devotees, as far as I could see. Slender as a whippet and ostensibly very quiet, Bhagavata Ananda seemed to always bear a slight and wistful smile. He spoke in very quiet tones. I enjoyed going to visit him in the Studio where he lived and rendered his special service: turning out everything from Deity to Diorama. I marveled at the fact that like the other advanced Vaisnavas, Bhagavata Ananda was extremely open to Krsna Kata, and talking about aspects of his unique service.

Bhagavata Ananda usually wore a tattered green hooded sweat shirt. He had huge outsized dark sparkling eyes, like a deer, I thought. To me, Bhagavata Ananda was virtually silent, self controlled, dedicated and talented in the extreme.

We were ambling down the fabulous big black Z shaped wooden steps of the office /ashram building at Bahulabhana. As usual, I was feeling a certain wonder at the fact that Bhagavata Ananda Prabhu would spare the time to walk and chat with me. At the bottom of the steps, one of the dogs you’d see around came bounding over to greet us. Before I could say or do anything, Bhagavata Ananda lashed out with his foot, kicking the dog so hard in its ribs that all four of that hapless creature’s feet came up in the air for a moment.

Of course the dog gave up the idea of greeting us. It cried out in pain and confusion and wobbled away unsteadily. Remembering Radhanatha’s rejoinder, “….the same as you …” I asked Bhagavata Ananda for an explanation. The creature had approached us with an attitude of open greeting and affection.

Bhagavata Ananda licked his lips and turned to me. “‘Have to keep him in his place,” he replied.

“Place?” I said.

“He’s a dog,” Bhagavata Ananda said. “We’re doing it a favor.”

I did not reply. I understood Bhagavata Ananda’s stated motivation, but I did not share his point of view. “…the same as you, Jiva …” Radhanatha had given me that understanding: My position, the goat’s position, and Bhagavata Ananda’s position, all of us in fact, but students at some degree or other. From the aspect of Krsna’s vantage, it is said that the trees all appear to be of the same height.

And from the daily way we spoke among ourselves, I had come to understand that when we meet someone who is not as advanced, (a dog perhaps, a goat, maybe) then we should help that living entity.

When we meet someone more advanced, we should sit at that person’s feet and learn.

Bhagavata Ananda’s action with the dog was on the surface, to me, in contradiction with those principles. As the Senior Advanced Devotee I took him to be, this was confusing.

To this perplexing powdered mix, let us now add the water of a slice of life in Old New Vrindabana.

I wanted to become like one of the advanced devotees I saw all around me. To that end, I followed the principles and took second initiation. As a Brahmin, I was allowed to learn to dress Lord Caitanya, under the tutelage of Jai Maurari Prabhu.

As a pujari, whose Service (The Town Run) started right after the morning program, it was important to me to get all sixteen rounds done before it was time to dress the Deities. That was the time I took up the practice of coming to the Temple very early. I was one of the first to arrive, every day.

On the day of the incident I have set up to convey to you, Dear Reader, I was the first to appear in the Temple. A new Bhakta came in shortly after. I sat on the black and white marble floor with my back against the elevated section of the Temple which was set aside for the Mothers. The new Bhakta actually chanted back up in the Mother’s section, which was sort of like a balcony. I knew he would come down once the Mothers began to filter in.

Bhagavata Ananda tapped the bell and entered. The Bhakta and I made Dundavats. Bhagavata Ananda began to walk about in the temple, chanting in a low voice. He had that half smile, as always. The hood of the green shirt was up, but of course his identity was no mystery. The three of us went on chanting. Mother Krsna Bhava came in through the back door, and the Bhakta, as predicted, came down and chanted with Bhagavata Ananda and me.

I was well into my rounds, thinking as I chanted “Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare,” that I wanted to not mumble, that I wanted the sound to be clear. I am slow chanter. I try to make each syllable concise. Working on keeping the sound right is a device for me to harness and saddle my wandering mind. I keep trying, and praying to get it right.

In this mood then, I was startled to realize that someone had been breaking wind. I would not have had to read in the Nectar of Devotion that this is a no-no. There was no question in my mind as to who it was that was doing this … for the onslaught though silent was far from imperceptible or temporary.

I was not angry at all. I felt that the Bhakta was innocently on the wrong path. Bhagavata Ananda did not seem to notice.

Immediately after the morning program, I had dressed Lord Caitanya, and I was up in the Bhakta Asram, where many Pujaris came to change out of their altar apparel. Bhagavata Ananda and I were joking and talking when the new Bhakta came in. “Watch this,” I said to Bhagavata Ananda.

I went to the new Bhakta and confronted him. “You may not know this, but you are not supposed to pass gas in the Temple,” I announced.

The boy looked at me with surprise. “I do know that,” he replied. “I would never do that.”

I thought for less than half a second. I knew it hadn’t been me. I assumed it was not one of the Mothers, for the tainted atmosphere was clearly generated right in our area. Bhagavata Ananda, the Sculptor would certainly not embark on such an errant way. The Bhakta was simply trying to save face, I concluded. And I meant to chastise and embarrass him, so that he would not do that again. In effect, I’d be doing him a favor.

“I know better,” I stated. “You were farting in the temple. You should not deny this. It only makes it worse.” I waited for his response. Bhagavata Ananda came up and stood next to me. The shirt he had been changing hung over his arm. He was not smiling.

“Look,” the Bhakta persisted. “I did not pass gas in the Temple.” He hesitated and took a breath, and added, “I swear it.”

I was wondering, having jumped, how best to proceed, when Bhagavata Ananda intervened. Instead of lending support, however, Bhagavata Ananda abruptly turned on me. His sudden anger and vehemence were apparent in the way his bony finger shook as he poked it in my direction for emphasis while he said, “I know what you are doing, Jiva. You aren’t fooling anyone. I know what you are doing, and I don’t like it.” Looking into his dark eyes then it was hard to recall that I’d ever seen him glad or smiling.

I was startled and I rocked back a little. Bhagavata Ananda Prabhu stormed out of the Bhakta Ashram with his shirt still over his arm. I was embarrassed to feel tears start in my eyes. The Bhakta was all immediate and sincere compassion. He came to me and spoke softly, “I know it is hard,” he said. “I know it is very hard. We try. We all try.”

Who was the child? Who was the advanced person? Who was helping whom? Was it the dog, the goat, the Bhakta, the Sculptor, me, or even you? Dear Reader to the dry mix of confusion and Maya just add the Golden Catalyst: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Yes, who are we and where are we and what is our purpose…

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Reader Comments

Having worked with Bhagavat i must say that, without a doubt, that he was the one who broke wind. He was an artist and fartist.

“Fartist” was the term he himself coined to describe himself.

It is credible that he kicked a dog, as he also had an abusive side to himself.

That was probably Muchi who lived by the temple for years. As he lacked some characteristics of normal dogs, it was generally accepted that although in a dog body, he was a sadhu working through one last birth.

The goat’s name was Kubja.

” ‘If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.’ ”
——Sirius Black, from
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (p.525),
by J.K. Rowling