The Boy Who Cried, I, Me, Mine

By Srila Jiva Goswami dasa

So in the late ‘70s, your correspondent was a Bhakta at the Columbus Temple. Several weekends a month it was, “We’re going to New Vrindabana.” I wanted to stay in Columbus. It seemed to me that the glory at New Vrindabana cited by the Devotees, was a lot like the glory of cleaning the Temple Floor.

I understood that I could come to like it very much, but it also seemed to me that this was getting deeper and deeper in that Fire, that Purifying Fire. I sought to cling to past attachment.

Sometimes then, Devotees would have a problem finding me when it was time to leave. I had an arsenal of excuses, which any Devotee most easily batted away.

On one occasion, all the initiating Gurus in ISKCON were coming for a Transcendental Conference. I was not attracted to any such event. To me, as an ex-military person, the chain of command precluded interaction with initiating gurus. They would be stronger than Admirals and Generals.

Even everyday Devotees who corresponded to my conception of enlisted troops, were not to be trifled with either. You had to be careful what you brought to the table. It wasn’t in me to want to mess around even at the feet of The Initiating Gurus.

On this weekend, the weekend of the visiting Gurus, I had a dental appointment for the coming Monday. When I approached the Temple President, Narada Muni Prabhu, and told him that I could not go because of the pending appointment, and my lack of funds to take the Greyhound back, Narada told me that he would see that I’d get the money and a lift to the bus station, but that one such as well, not just me … anyone, should jump at the chance of associating with initiating Gurus.
I persisted though. The fact is, I did not want to go.

“I promise,” Narada said. “You’ll get funds to return and a ride to the bus station.”

He didn’t have to PROMISE. He was talking to me as a Devotee. I took the Devotees and their utterings directly to heart. The concept of being glad to be around initiating Gurus was alien to me. What would I have to say to such?

At the time, it was said that such people were PURE DEVOTEES … totally unalloyed and free of mundane contamination. I did not see that, but after my experience cleaning the Temple Floor, which I now liked very much, I understood that there were lots of things I did not understand but which would come to me if I only availed myself.

That was just it: I did not want to avail myself all THAT much.

So, but, and, I came along on the trip to New Vrindabana, and did see the initiating Gurus at Darsan at the morning programs.
I had nothing to say to them. They looked nice to me, but I considered my vision to be lower … Not that I couldn’t have interacted if I so chose, more like I had nothing to say.

To me, the “ordinary” Devotees all around me seemed more logically approachable. Certainly that was because I was looking at the Devotees around me, while the Gurus? They were of some loftier stuff. Stuff I need not even try to perceive. I won’t say I yawned when the Gurus spoke, but a shovel, a steering wheel — those things I was attracted to.

Alright, there is another “Thing:” Lord Chaitanya. Sri Sri Gaur Nitai. I promise, next installment here will be about Their Migration from Buffalo to Columbus to New Vrindabana, and how They stopped off and took “my” heart right along with Them forever.
And there is/was another Transcendental Binding but for Bhakta Jesse, that had not yet taken place.

So here, then, Dear Reader, at the dawn of Monday, if I thought someone was going to come up to me with funds for the bus and a ride to the station, I was mistaken.

I discussed my status with a few of the Devotees around, and the advice was the same as my instinct: bring it to the Temple President at New Vrindabana — Kuladri Prabhu.

Now I understand, with all the extra attention and Time Devoted to the Proper Execution of the Hosting of these Initiating Gurus from around the planet, to approach the Temple President with a request for a way outta there could appear as an annoying jolt from below, as it were, if I may, with your permission, Dear Reader.

Oh let us chant Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

Back then Kuladri Prabhu dashed about along Limestone Ridge in one of those Golden Jeeps, the kind with an eagle on the hood. You could see that eagle when looking down from the third floor railing of the Prasadam building, there at Bahulabhana.

Devotees would say, “Ask Kuladri,” check with “Kuladri …” just as a practical matter with regards to logistics and coordination. You didn’t want to “waste Krsna’s Energy.” So when Kuladri would appear on the crest of the rise between the Temple Building and the Prasadam building, in a swirl of dust and chirp of tires, Devotees came forward with clipboarded items to sign, things to bring to some other place, things to take and install right there; messages, requests, reports …

It was at about that time that I came forward with my own peculiar flavor. I was on the office side of his vehicle, looking up.
Behind him Assorted Devotees raced around and up and down the Z shaped like stairs of the Prasadam buildings. To the new indoor kitchen. To the Temple. The Barn. The Cabin. The parking lot. Free Store. Garden. Up to the Palace. Down from the Palace. Mothers. Children. Angels. Earnest … they seemed to my tarnished vision to bear themselves on the trays they carried … many many many of the very extremely highest dreams and aspirations, and, consequently, actions.

And when Kuladri managed to turn down to me, I requested funds for the ‘hound, and a ride to the bus station.

This brought both brows down straight. “What?” Kuladri said. “What was that?” This was the first time we ever spoke. His voice was surprisingly higher than I’d expected. I liked that. I was unperturbed.

Someone came to the driver side of the jeep and extended a clipboard. Kuladri looked at the papers there and signed. He used his own pen, though the profferor offered her own.

I liked New Vrindabana so much. The Acting on The Concept. The way to approach anything with the Devotees was to cloak that approach with the Spiritual.

When Devotees talked about “Dovetailing” They weren’t referring to cabinet making.

You’d be told, “Fist learn to separate the Material from the Spiritual.” (Just like in the Bhagavada Gita.) And then you could ask, and get answers. And the Truth had a ring, or if not, then apply the equation/ filter: Guru, Sadhu, Sastra.

Though as a Bhakta, I was as yet without initiating Guru … and look, here were these Initiating Gurus, from around the world. ISKCON’s finest.

“What was this again?” Asked Kuladri Prabhu. Executive Officer.

I mildly restated my case. Devotees were too busy to stop and listen. Everyone bustled back and forth, occasionally running, as preps were brought from the kitchen, immaculate Pujaris appeared and disappeared. It was all so much real” Bright and Shiny People.”

There it was. Even I could see it was heaven.

“You want to go back to Columbus?” Kuladri could see that I was serious. I nodded back. I’d been promised money for the ticket and a ride to the bus station.

“Who promised this?” Kuladri asked. This was an administrative question. Kuladri was an administrator. No doubt. “Narada Muni,” I returned.

Hey, it wasn’t like I was approaching with a concocted story, and it wasn’t taken that way. It was more like Kuladri Prabhu wanted to know who was dispensing such promises: Administrative.

But then Kuladri threw a switch. “You must be crazy,” he said. His voice rose and carried in that bird like way it sometimes did. You’d hear him, even though he wasn’t shouting.

I thought to myself, “Crazy?” and I figured what the Devotees called Sauce, was coming. I’d been chewed out by the “best” of ‘em, yes, back in the military, and had even done some first class dressing down myself … I could take it. But, give me your promise true, I thought.

Kuladri cut the engine, put the jeep in gear and took his foot off the clutch. He turned to me. “Initiating Gurus are here from around the world, and you want to go back to Columbus?” he demanded … as if I wouldn’t continue


Kuladri Prabhu did give it a thought or two. Then he said. “No.”

“No?” I couldn’t believe my ears. I’d been promised. By a Devotee. By Narada Muni Prabhu, the President of the Columbus Temple.
By my body language, Kuladri Prabhu apparently perceived that I needed more.

Still Devotees rushed all about. There was that fluttering array of colors; the Saris. Green Decorated Ones. And Red Ones … Everyone wore their finest. The flowing flags of the pure white dhotis emphasized the rich saffron colors worn by the Brahmacaris.
The New Vrindabana Community was enlivened and honored to be hosting such an event as this. All silhouetted against the Z shaped black and beautiful staircase. And up beyond that, the blue blue cotton dotted sky. You could say Devotees were Ecstatic and in Ecstasy.

Still, I mildly waited. Kuladri stirred himself. His hand drifted to the ignition. Some advanced Devotee positioned himself in the back of the open Jeep. “Advanced,” I say because that person clearly had business there.

Kuladri looked at me. “Bhakta what?” he said.

“Jesse,” I replied.

“Bhakta Jesse.” He seemed to making a note. “No,” Kuladri declared again.

I stood as if I did not comprehend. In fact, I did NOT comprehend.
“You’re standing there crying about a TOOTHACHE,” Kuladri’s voice cracked a little in the higher range. “A toothache? When the initiating Gurus are here from all over the world?”

I took exception. I was most definitely not crying, and I declared as much. “I’m not crying,” I said.

“Yes you are,” Kuladri said. He put his foot on the clutch and snapped the engine to life. He was moving on. He was gone.
That was OK. I thought of myself as a grown-ass-man. I’d been a few places in the world myself. I was of course, free to go. There was no brain washing, or holding against the will. I could go.

I’d go. It was simple. I found a double piece of cardboard and began to look around for a marker. I’d write “COLUMBUS” in big letters, and hit it. I traveled light. No problem.

But then, moving to the steps, by the recently installed indoor kitchen, it struck me. Yes, I was free to go … but why … how could it be like this? The shelter I’d been taking, the Holy Nature of the Devotees? And what about the value of a promise in that place I was headed? Sacred of course, I’d thought.

And my former life … not so nice, and even worse in retrospect, from the perspective brightened with the exposure to Srila Prabhupada’s “Back to Godhead As It Is” there was no where else then to go. I’d so much hope so much a glimmer of Glory on the Horizon … not for me … you know … Glory. It was all around me.

And I was dropping like a turd with a cardboard sign. Something very blue cold and lonely was in my heart … I dropped to the steps with my piece of cardboard. Devotees flowed around me like jeweled water. What was this all of a sudden? Me … in the midst of this Glory … with a piece of cardboard and a thirst for a magic marker.

Where was I going? What was I doing?

How simple to leave. Leave me alone! In the first place … in the first place … I think my lip trembled. I was NOT crying. Kuladri was wrong about that!

But then, of course, I was crying. Really starkly, deeply crying. The lawn sprinkler variety. This did bring Devotees over with compassion; “What’s that matter?” sincere and real concern for me. So I was creating a disturbance too. And the ignominy was where I dwelt.

“You should see …” Devotees advised, citing the Leader of the Community. Damn it, I was crying. “Go see ….” the Devotees said again and again. I did not want to. I would not go with such a matter to that person my military background equated with at the very least, the Base Commander.

You just wouldn’t go past the Executive Officer who just told you “No.” There was some procedure involved, announcing your intention to “take it higher,” which invariably came back with support of the Exec, or if not, then your own ensuing forever further difficulty.

I was going to have to hitch.

Someone fetched Radhanatha Prabhu.

Radhanatha Prabhu was to Everyone as the ultimate Devotee. Krsna let me interact with him as a sort of Transcendental Escape Valve. Radhanatha Prabhu had the quality of rippling garments, I called it. I mean, there was a breeze with him always. Like Superman’s Cape. Radhanatha’s Garments seemed to always move and ripple … even indoors. It was to me like a manifestation of someone who was impervious to walls.

But that’s another story, the real magic one sees about Devotees.

Then Radhanatha Prabhu listened to my story, with compassion. We sat together on the steps which led up to The Cabin. I was sobbing, still. Like a baby. I didn’t want counseling. I was leaving. The Devotees could keep their Promise or not. I just wanted a marker. For the cardboard. To write “Columbus.”

I was in my thirties at the time. Yes, a Grown-Ass-Man.

“I’ll get you the money,” Radhanatha assured me. Though he did not touch me, it felt like he was patting me upon the knee.
He leaned close to my ear. “But you should know something,” he said.

“What?” I schnorfled. “Schrurf.” Ah, the embarrassment of being exposed as a transparent idiot. “What?” And I knew what he would say.

“I’ll get you the money, and the ride to the bus stop, just like Narada Muni promised,” (I was mortified to be treated so much like a child) “but you should know this is all simply Krsna’s Mercy, and really a chance for your Spiritual Advancement.” He moved his hand about in a sweeping motion.

To this I declared that I did not see what I was being told. It was all just a mess to me. I could go. I was going.

Radhanatha persisted. “You may not see this now, but someday, you will see. This is all a means for your spiritual advancement. You’ll look back. You’ll remember. You’ll understand. This is all simply Krsna’s Mercy.”

“What? To promise someone something and then not come through?” My words sounded slurpy, yes, like a baby, trying to talk, this Grown-Ass-Man.

“Yes,” Radhanatha declared. “Someday you will understand.”

Radhanatha went away for a short while, and came back. He gave me the money for a bus ticket, and the shuttle bus driver was instructed to take me to the bus station.

The only further word which went down about this incident was when Narada Muni apologized to me, saying it was his fault. I viewed it as it had come out OK.

Do you think this was Krsna’s Mercy? There is no doubt in “my” heart now that this was Krsna’s Mercy, direct. It was another rendition of the “I don’t want to clean the floor lesson.” Some things are obvious to most people. Sometimes some things, some circumstances, need to be gone over and over again, until the student gets an inkling. A clue.

I went on back to Columbus as promised, indeed, right on the Greyhound Bus. And I visited the Dentist as scheduled. Then I resumed trying to hide from the Devotees. Trying to hide from Krsna? Trying to hide from myself.

But I did like cleaning the Temple Floor, and Lord Chaitanya? Oh my.

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

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Thank you Jiva Goswami Prabhu for writing these entries, filled with special realizations, images of New Vrindaban, which we love, and HH Radhantha Swami.

[…] I recalled that time long ago, on the steps at Bahulabhana when Devotees’ Promises had been casually and imperiously broken over my head and heart, and the way Radhanatha Maharaja had sat with me then, and assured me, with pats and nose wrinkling nods that this would all be clear to me some day as Krsna’s Mercy. […]

[…] recalled that time long ago, on the steps at Bahulabhana when Devotees’ Promises had been casually and imperiously broken over my head and heart, and […]