Cheese Cake and a Local Sudarsana Chakra

by Srila Jiva Goswami dasa

Let me try to describe The Prasadama Hall down at Bahulabhana, in Old New Vrindabana. It was a big rectangular room, with a marble floor. I remember three doors. One door, on the back wall, led to a shop where projects were carried out. Another door, in the front, led to a little room with sinks, transfer containers and utensils. This room was used as a staging area for Servers.

The third door was the way in; the entrance. Devotees would come in this door, by the big deep sink n front of the hall where everyone could wash up after eating. We were expected to take a rag and go back and clean the area where we’d taken Prasada.

When Prasadama was ready to serve, Devotees would enter in response to the tolling of the big bell which hung by the kitchen. Devotees took seats on the floor. Those against the walls sat with their backs to the walls. Those in the center formed back to back rows.

The Devotee in charge would call for servers, and as many volunteers as needed would come forward to perform the act of Serving out Prasadam. The servers generally received very nice special plates which would be set aside for them in the process of serving. These special server plates were laced with the most wonderful Maha

One day I brought with me one of those high quality water guns. It was the kind of gun which would shoot pretty accurately for a distance of 20 to 30 feet. I sat with my daughter, about half way down the hall, with our backs against the wall.

Then, to everyone’s amusement, when a Devotee came in, I’d squirt, from so far away and for the new arrival, so unexpectedly and surreptitiously, that my target would have no way of knowing the source of the assault.

Skleek, skleek! I got Soma when he came in. Soma at first ignored the droplets. I gave him another blip. He looked around then. Everyone laughed at his round eyed innocence. He knew then he was the focal point of a practical joke and he laughed too. It was great fun. The mission then was to find the hidden clever squirter: me.

I’d shoot, then hide the gun and try to look innocent. Of course it did not take long to discover who was doing the shooting, and upon discovery, I’d move on to the next target.

On that afternoon, the Prasadama Hall was roaring with laughter and delight.

Bimbadhara Prabhu came in next, and all eyes turned expectantly to me. I gave him a shot. Everyone laughed. Next to me, my daughter, whose name then was Vimala, squealed with delight. Bimbadhara, one of the tallest and strongest of the Old New Vrindabana Devotees, held out his hand as if he was sampling rain.

The sweet nature of these powerful souls struck me then and moves me now in recollection. There was a time when Karmis drove up and down the main road, shooting at Devotees. It was Bimbadhara who found a piece of high ground, and like Atlas, lofted a cinder block up high over his head and then pitched it, like a planet, at the careening vehicle. The cinder block caught the car at the windshield, the car crashed and the drive by shooters and their driver were apprehended. The exploits of Bimbadhara are legendary. He was not to be trifled with.

Now Bimbadhara held out his hand so sweetly as if he was sampling soft spring rain. I gave him another shot. He spotted me quickly, and gave me a smile and a nod. It was all in good fun.

Next to me, Vimala took her drink and tossed it on my krta. “Sorry,” she said. Later she explained that she was trying to see how close she could come to splashing me without actually splashing me. Because of my squirting with the water pistol joke, I really couldn’t complain.

But then Madhava Ghosh came in. Ghosh was physically small, and somehow linear with his focus, it seemed to me. He wore very thick glasses. He was grounded and unpretentious. When I was a Bhakta, I’d found myself assigned to work with Madhava Ghosh in the glass trailer, where we sorted bits of glass for the Tiffany style lamps the Community was making at the time. I’d asked Madhava Ghosh if he’d been twice initiated.

“Yah,” Gosh replied. I liked the sound of his voice. It had an almost sandy alto quality to it. “Why?” He looked at me and pushed his glasses up on his nose with his thumb.

I looked at the piece of blue glass I was about to put in the cardboard box with other pieces of blue glass. The view from the trailer window was the door to the Men’s Bath House. “Because you’re not wearing your Brahmin Thread,” I said. “You are supposed to wear your thread if you are twice initiated.”

Madhava Ghosh did not miss a beat. “Tell me that after you’ve been around for eight years,” he said without malice.

I went on with the sorting. He was right. Time does tell.

Now, a few years later, it was Ghosh who came in at the front of the Prasadama Hall. I felt hundreds of pairs of eyes swing in my direction. Everyone was smiling. I took out the gun, gave allowance for gravity’s deflection, and … Skleek! Skleek! It was on.

When the water hit him, Ghosh did not react like everyone else. He immediately flexed his knees and glared out at everyone. His response was so blatantly different, I let him have one full on, as much as possible at that distance. The Devotees roared with laughter and appreciation.

Ghosh looked directly at me, nodded and picked up a bowl from the sink in front of the hall. He turned on the tap and began to fill the bowl with water. It was a big bowl and it was taking a little while. I was thinking, “Now wait a minute, that is a little over the top in terms of pay-back.”

As if he had read my mind, Madhava Ghosh looked over his shoulder at me. The bowl he held under the gushing tap was nearly full. Madhava Ghosh gave me a grin the likes of which I’d never seen. I was already wet from the splashing given by Vimala. I did not want this.

Madhava Ghosh came towards me very quickly, considering the fact that he was holding a brimming big sloshing bowl of water. The Devotees were all making sounds which seemed to me like “Oh oh.”

I got up and ran. I was able to navigate around the rows of seated, shrieking and laughing Devotees and out the door. Ghosh was definitely impeded by his cargo, the bowl of water.

Safely outside by the kitchen, I stopped and thought about how I might get back in without getting splashed. Something made me look up. Madhava Ghosh was on the stairs almost directly overhead, that same hard frozen smile on his face, his eyes looking particularly beady behind the very thick lenses of his glasses. He was getting ready to pour and I felt like the focal point of a Norden Bomb Sight.

Immediately I ran off. Ghosh came right along after. Again his weapon, the bowl of water, slowed him down, and I was able to escape for the moment.

For some time thereafter, that scene was repeated. I’d find refuge, pause to gather my thoughts, and form a plan if I could. I’d look up, and here came Madhava Ghosh. He was determined. He was relentless. Sometimes he bore a freshly re-filled bowl. The shop, where Krpacarya coaxed fine furniture from raw materials, the path up the hill behind the cabin, the steps by the office, the patio behind the temple in the farmhouse, no matter where I ran and paused, when I looked up, here came Madhava Ghosh, grim, and sloshing.

It seemed useless to run anymore. Over by the men’s bath house, I turned to face the watery music. It didn’t seem fair to me, a couple of squirts to yield this total dousing? What could I do?

Then I remembered a night in the office at Bahulabhana. The watchman, Janalada, and several advanced Devotees had been in the office with me. I was doing the late shift on the phones. Chedi Raja came in with a huge plate of Maha to share with everyone. As the least senior of the Devotees there, I had held back as they all dived and enjoyed. I’d been anticipating the very gracious nature of the Devotees, and the way I’d be given a chance. But that had not happened. They’d taken every single crumb and morsel, Madhava Ghosh in particular, relishing in my face as he made big portions of sumptuous cheese cake disappear. I was not attracted to the Maha as I was to the exquisite transcendental courtly nature of the Devotees, but on that evening, I got handled roughly by His Embrace.

I’d been simultaneously fascinated by the demonstration of all out spiritual gusto and wounded by the aggressive flavor with which I was disregarded.

One takeaway from that incident had been a realization that Madhava Ghosh was not only crazy for Maha, but cheesecake in particular was very attractive to him. Suddenly I was inspired.

Ghosh had the bowl back, ready to swish forward and douse.

“Why won’t you stop?” I asked.

“You wet me, I’m going to wet you.” Ghosh returned. The boy was fair, but driving on a narrow path. I can close my eyes now and see him, roller blading uphill, arms wind-milling like those of an Olympic Speed Skater, and that look Ghosh gets, that peculiar intense focus on the distant, fine target, a target so particular it is seen by perhaps no one but Krsna Himself.

“Stop!” I held up the palm of my hand.

Madhava Ghosh pivoted his body so the big bowl of water moved through its arc without spilling too much. “Why?” Ghosh asked. He was smiling, but he was grim.

“I’ll buy you off.”

“You mean you want to bribe me?” Madhava Ghosh seemed at least temporarily fascinated. “With what?”

“Half a Maha Cheese Cake,” I said. By that time I was a Pujari. I could do that. We were talking Pastime. I was delving in Ghosh’s “weakness:” Maha. Cheesecake Maha.

“Let me get this straight,” Madhava Ghosh shifted from side to side. Sometimes he reminded me of Jimmy Cagney. “You’re promising,” (he emphasized the word “promise”) to give me one half of a Maha Cheese Cake if I agree to stop?”:

“Yuh,” I asserted.

“Done!” Ghosh stuck out his hand to shake, as if I might change my mind. If anything, Madhava Ghosh was true to his straight ahead attractions.

Me? I was and am so very attracted to and want to serve the Devotees. Everything the Devotees do seems to me to be just another way to chant Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

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