What’s Love Got to Do with it

By Srila Jiva Goswami dasa

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare! Dear Reader, a few names are not given in order to protect the innocent.

In the mid nineties, I had been coming in to the Temple for the Morning Program every day for about six months. I was following the regulative principles and chanting 16 rounds a day. As always, and as anyone can honestly also say, I had nothing better to do.

I had not missed one single day. I or Nityo Dita Prabhu was the first one in the Temple every morning. If Nityo was there when I came in, I’d come in earlier the next morning. In the Pujari room, I was cleaning the Deities’ Plates, preparing the Maha to offer to the Devotees, and preparing the various paraphernalia trays for the Pujaris, who went on the Alter to Dress the Deities.

Sometimes, the scheduled Pujari for Lord Caitanya did not show up. As a Brahmin initiated Devotee who was following the regulative principles and chanting his rounds, I was qualified to take up the slack in the matter of covering for those Pujaris who had failed to appear on any given day.

Each morning then, I brought the Choda with me, just in case I’d be called upon. But I was not allowed. I asked. It seemed kind of bewildering to me. I was qualified, Lord Caitanya was standing there and needed to be dressed, and the Outfits He wore had all been placed upon His Golden Form many times by me, as trained by Jai Maurari Prabhu.

I was not one for creating a disturbance. I often purchased and donated goods and for assisting the Pujari process: Nice Dish Detergent, Coleman Fuel for the emergency lamps in the Deities Kitchen, and fine Silver Polish for the Trays. Much of the furniture used by the Pujaris and the Deities had been donated by my father, picked up and delivered by Pipalada and me, years before.

I missed not a day, and every time I appeared, I had the Choda and Paraphernalia with me so that if I were called I could don that regalia and go Serve as I was trained to do.

I was confident this would happen soon. I had great relationships with all the new Pujaris. I got in no arguments; I did a fine job on the Dishes and the preparations for the Pujaris. It did irk me that I was not allowed to dress Lord Caitanya though. Even when there was no one to dress Him, I was not allowed on the Altar.

One day I was washing the Deities’ Beautiful Silver Trays, many of which had been delivered by me via the Town Run, years earlier, and Mother Premaka came in. “I want to dress Lord Caitanya,” Mother Premaka announced in her gravely voice. I had not seen Mother Premaka in many years. My ears perked up. Mother Premaka had not been coming to the Morning Program. Who knew what she had been doing. She certainly looked as beautiful as ever.

The new assistant head Pujari did not hesitate or miss a beat. He instructed me to set up the equipment for Mother Premaka. This I did. Mother Premaka then went on the altar and dressed Lord Caitanya.

Next morning, once again, there was no one to dress Lord Caitanaya. I pulled my hands from the soapy water and addressed the new assistant head pujari. “I want to dress Lord Caitanaya,” I announced. This was not the first time I had spoken of this desire. The Pujaris all knew I was actually qualified, I’d been chanting Guyatri again for more than half a year. I’d never been allowed to dress Lord Caitanya to that point, but this time, this time I made my request imitating the gravelly voice of Mother Premaka.

The new assistant head Pujari got it. “What?” he said.

I did it again. I’m a pretty good mimic, but Krsna empowered me. It was as if Mother Premaka’s voice was coming from my throat. I was saying, in effect, if she can, I can, and that is a fact.

“Go go on,” the new assistant head pujari told me.

He did not have to say it twice. This is what I’d been waiting for. Instantly I was in the Pujari ready room, whipping on the Choda, and then I was by the altar door, purifying my hands and feet. I could not believe it, yet I had known all along it had to come true, if I only persisted, with Love and Devotion. Yes then I was up on the altar, and I carefully carried the Bathing Tray and Utensils over through to the Dressing Room.

Then at last, it was on. I came back for Lord Caitanya and worshipfully picked Them up by Their Wonderful Waists. I carried Them to the Dressing Room and set Them on the Table there. Other Pujaris in action seemed not the slightest bit surprised to see me there among them.

I turned to select an appropriate Outfit. The color that day was blue. I can not begin to approach a description of the joy I felt in the perceived validation of all that we have learned from Srila Prabhupada.

Yes, one can take up where one left off. Yes there is no loss or diminution. Yes, if one has only a spark of desire, The Supreme Lord meets one far more than half way. Above all though, I felt far beyond myself that this was one morning in which Lord Caitanya would be tended to. The curtains would not open and the day would not pass while Lord Caitanya abided in His Pajamas.

A heavy hand suddenly fell on my shoulder. “What are you doing in here?” I was asked. The new head pujari had appeared.

There was no clear way to respond other than with the simple Truth. “Dressing Lord Caitanya,” I said.

“Get out!” the new head pujari ordered. “You are not allowed here.”

I looked at Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, now standing in Their Kaupins. I would not argue. I stepped into the hall. The new head pujari rushed to follow and berate me. There in the hall he gave me sauce the way a DI chews out a recruit. He told me that I was not allowed to touch the Deities and that I would never be allowed to touch the Deities until I renounced my Guru.

I took the power position in response. That is, I folded my hands prayerfully and listened submissively. To me, it seemed that of course I’d be allowed to “Dress,” as the Pujaris call that Service. Just not yet.

I went back into the Pujari Room and resumed washing the dishes. Later, I was back in the Temple when the curtains opened. Lord Caitanya’s Crowns were not straight and Lord Nityananda’s top was not snapped. They (Lord Caitanaya) did not seem the slightest bit perturbed, for that is how He is in such circumstance … or of course in any circumstance.

As for me, I was next to Damodar Prabhu, who was acting as Temple President at the time. As for me, that feeling of betrayal was high in my heart. It seemed not me that was betrayed, but the principles we love and are following Srila Prabhupada for. How could this be? Lord Caitanya so improperly served, and His Brave Self, standing as always, Arms aloft in Ecstasy. Crown askew, Garments hanging open and disheveled, and me, there, at His Feet, qualified and ready, pulled away at the last moment … it wasn’t about me … but the callous abuse in the name of an expression of “authority.”

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.

And how the tears came then … like a lawn sprinkler, ejected from the ducts with the force of grief to the point where they hardly ran down the cheek but spurted and squirted in a way which was painful and well, moochy.

I started crying like that then, in the Temple so many years later, and I was compelled to run because of the moochy nature of tears, as far as I could see. That was the only time I ever left the Temple Room without making obeisances. In the adjacent Prasadam Hall, I pulled myself together, dried my face and eyes and came back in, properly making obeisances. I stood next to Damodar again, who looked at me and declared, “Jiva, those tears represent the perfection of our lives.”

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