By Bhakta-Chris
Reporting on June 7, 2007
Live from New Vrindaban

New Vrindaban is a pretty quiet place. One can step outside and hear peacocks rather than the freeway.

We try to lead a simple life, we try to think highly, and we sure have our fair share of excitement.

However, unlike most temples, outside of the Festival of Inspiration, we don’t get a lot of traveling sannyasis and happy swamis coming into the Dham.

Unless they pretty much come all at once, which is what is happening right now in the first week of June, 2007, as the Governing Board Council of the International Society of Krsna Consciousness, in other words, a who’s who of mind-body-soul dedicated preachers to Srila Prabhupada’s mission descends on our precious Dham for a very serious Meeting.

For this little bhakta, it’s the Big Time in many ways. One could spend all day dropping in dandavats.

In any case, let me share with you the fruits of one of my fulfilled-by-Krsna desires, which was the chance to have some personal association with the saints and scholars of our blissful society.

After returning from quite a vacation of harinama and sanga with HH Radhanath Swami in NYC, all of us brahmacaris were welcomed back with open arms and slaps on the back. It was time to “get back to the grindstone!”

For myself, this included taking down and putting up tents, cleaning out and setting up the Lodge space for the Meeting, and cleaning up the land around our guest cabins.

Real devotional service. Getting that taste of getting a list of menial yet important tasks to do, doing them quickly and efficiently (true Bhakti), with no spacing out, and lessons learned.

Then began my Marathon of Airport Pickups. My material body moving constantly at 80 MPH, with kirtans and Prabhupada and the occasional bloop into classic rock radio vibrating the eardrums.

The drive to Pittsburgh International Airport got shorter and shorter each time, as I learned, in the style of former race-car champion HG Caitanya Prabhu, to really hit those dirt-road curves with full abandon (unless I had a VIP in the passenger’s seat).

First up was HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami, who had to suffer through the delay of my being stuck in a gawker-delay traffic-jam on the freeway mere minutes from the airport.

I pulled up to the curb of the terminal, put the hazards on, rushed into the terminal to find him, rushed out, got chastised by a police officer, pulled the car further up the curb, and found Maharaj standing there with his bags.

His expression was grave. I was nervous and apologetic, but everything was transcendental.

On the drive back, Maharaj told me he hadn’t been to New Vrindaban in nearly thirty years. He would tell me later in the week that he was astounded how much the Dham had changed in appearance since he was there last.

Next up was the crew of scholars from Bhaktivedanta College at Radhadesh-HG Yadunandana Prabhu and HG Lila-Sukai Prabhu. These super-wonderful devotees are striving to stay on the cutting-edge of modern Vaisnava education, and we were blessed to have their input, wisdom, and humble natures with us throughout the week.

Passing a series of graveyards on Route 88, I tried to explain why Americans want to bury their deceased, and I tried to console my car-mates by saying that cremations are becoming more popular.

Next was HH Lokanath Swami, who shared Prasad and garlands with me, and with whom I tried to humbly explain the practice of Western kirtaniyahs spreading the Holy Name around via the medium of modern yoga studios.

As we pulled in to New V and to Maharaj’s cabin, I promised him it was spacious and luxurious. He smiled sweetly and said it was better to live simply, like a yogi in a cave. I’ll try to remember and imbibe that.

Last and certainly not least, was HH Devamrita Swami, whom I had wanted to meet for a while, being a big fan of his lectures. At the behest of all my all-star college-preaching ashram-mates, I inquired into the best and most innovative ways to meet the spiritual needs of all the lovely, intelligent students we meet and serve.

Maharaj didn’t reply with any fancy computer tricks, ultra-modern strategies, or jumping jacks. He simply said “Make sure the Prasad is first-class.” Thank the Lord we already got that covered.

Maharaj also regaled me with his experiences of living in Detroit for a short while, which he described as being somewhat hellish and primitive for someone of his upbringing, in avant-garde jazz ultra-hip Manhattan.

We agreed that in comparing John Lee Hooker with John Coltrane, the real winner is Krsna.

The surprise of this entire hullabaloo was that I was asked to be a secretary for one of the GBC Meeting Committees. I certainly didn’t expect to be allowed, by Krsna or by anyone, to enter into the hull of the great ship that is Lodge during this most important of times, but there I was, with some of ISKCON’s finest, carefully taking notes and expertly spacing out only at the least important times.

This was quite a privilege, to be able to see how this GBC functions and to hear the mixing and matching of the vital issues of the Society’s present and future.

The best was the intimate association, as part of the New Vrindaban Players, that we received from HH Bhakti-Marg Swami, as he molded us into sublime thespians for his production of the “Tenth Canto.”

Maharaj is highly unique, and wonderfully personal. He is intensely driven to put on a great show, and it has certainly rubbed off on this rag-tag bunch of devotees.

With only a few hours to show time, in front of Brijabasis and sannyasis alike, this actor has a lot of confidence that we will wow them to the rafters. (Stay tuned to Brijabasi Spirit for a full post on the experience of working with HH Bhakti-Marg Swami)

It was a week of thick, syrupy doses of honest-to-goodness mercy. May New Vrindaban always be blessed with such footprints marking the dust of each and every surface.

For this bhakta, it was an experience I didn’t feel worthy of having, but which nevertheless I relished to the fullest. I hope to do whatever I can for the future of ISKCON and Prabhupada’s mission, guided by the inspiration and guidance of these great souls. I could ask for little more.

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