Bhakta X and the Mudha

By Srila Jiva Goswami dasa

I think when there is a choice, the True Path may be known by its simplicity. You might know if you have strayed by how complicated things seem to be getting.

It was the start of one of those most beautiful days at Old New Vrindabana. The Morning Program had ended. The fog and dew in the fields was just burning off. If you cared to record the sounds all around in the hills and trees, you could easily have sold that recording. Birds sang like canaries, and peacocks called to each other in their discordant way. From down at Maru Deva Prabhu’s shop floated the iron ringing tok tok tok of hammer on anvil.

Doors banged, feet pattered, engines started, it was time to go, go go. Time to “Get to work!”

“Whoa, what do they feed you boys in the morning?” A bunch of Devotees in the old New York Temple asked me and Pipalada one day at breakfast Prasada. We’d come to their city on an extended Town Run. An extended run could mean anything from Alabama to Buffalo. This one had been to New York.

Pipalada, Bimbhadura, gentle Sudhanau and foot-in-the-mouth specialist, yours truly, Jivajiva, were about the tallest members of the New Vrindabana Community. What did they feed us? Pipalada rumbled out the grave response: “Oat Water.” He could rattle windows with that voice. This answer was met with respectful silence.

It was True. Oat Water, prepared by Sankirtan Prabhu, the greatest writer I’ve had the privilege of meeting, bar none. Scholarly looking yet tougher than a barrel of nails, it was Sankirtan who stood rowing with the wooden oar at the outdoor fires, winter and summer, making with the Oat Water.

Uh huh in the morning, that’s what we was in all and all as much as any good thing: Oat Water. Be respected for it.

Back on this wonderful New Vrindabana morning, up in the Bhakta Ashram, I was changing out of my Pujari regalia and pulling on a pair of dungarees. A Bhakta whose name I don’t remember was asking me questions about Krsna Consciousness. I welcomed his inquiries, because I had been so generously embraced when I had, in turn been in the Bhakta Ashram. I remembered how good I felt that the Devotees were so kind and patient with me. I loved the fact that there seemed to be no secrets in the Hare Krsna movement. I had never come across the admonition to “just have faith.” The Bhagavada Gita As It Is had stunned me with its clear nuts and bolts explanation of everything that is going on around us.

Yes, Krsna Consciousness is for me, I realized, and in large measure, that was due to the hearty and open embrace I experienced at the hands of the Advanced Devotees. It was for this reason then, that I sought to emulate that generous treatment. I certainly did not think of myself as “advanced,” but I was twice initiated, a Pujari, and capable of very effectively and respectfully responding to questions from this young Bhakta who faced me. I’ll call him, “Bhakta X.”

When I had completed changing, and my materials were stowed in the little AWOL bag I carried around back then, Bhakta X said, “What is your name?”

My name is Srila Jiva Goswami dasa. But I didn’t want to draw myself up and pronounce such a marvelous name. I strayed from speaking the Truth, in other words. I chose instead to emulate the humility I’d seen all the time around me. “My name is Mudha,” I lied. Mudha, of course, means, ass. I didn’t feel humble, I was just pretending.

Bhakta X and I shook hands, and I went on to render my Service. I forgot all about the lie I’d told. I’d done what I thought might lead to humility, even if it wasn’t truly humble on my part. I had a vague notion of externally acting in a manner I hoped to become. That would have been alright, but my name is Jiva, not “Mudha.” “Concoction,” would be a term which fit my mudha like action.

A couple of days later, I’d come in from the town run early enough to be at the Prasadama Hall doors just at the end of lunch. Dodge Rama dasa was parked on the upper apron, outside the Administrative Office. I was not supposed to be there, as there was a potential for blocking traffic, but having literally a truck load of goods to deliver for the Devotees, I took advantage of an implicit dispensation.

I pulled out the hand brake, grabbed the stainless steel pan which Ambarish had given me and climbed down from the truck. I have that shiny dish today; back then it still had Ambarish’s name, like a small sign on the inch high rim, in thick red paint.

Madhava Ghosh acted as my liaison when I’d go into the field on the town run. We coordinated with lists; add ons, routes and more. It was natural to stop and interact with Madhava Ghosh when we crossed paths between Dodge Rama Dasa and the Prasadama Hall.

‘Ghosh would want to know if I’d picked up the material at Imperial Display, for example, or if I’d dropped off the PVC pipe at Jai Maurari’s on my way in. In this way, Madhava Ghosh and I were chatting on the terrace between the office and the Prasadama Hall, just in the rippling shadow and cool shade of that big tree there by the benches. The regular washing sound of the wind in the leaves coming and going overhead reminded me of the shushing ocean.

Once again, at Old New Vrindabana, at that moment, I was witnessing, if not part of, a big solid sample of heaven.

If it seemed that Divine way to me, certainly it seemed that way to lots of souls all around. There were so many of us. At no time was there an absence of the lilting hum of the Maha Mantra: Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

I shaded my eyes and opened my heart to as much of the wonderful spiritual atmosphere as I could perceive. A peacock hollered, “Schmuck! Schmuck!”

Bhakta X appeared on the steps outside the office window. He too seemed caught up in the fun and the magic of that virtually all spiritual place and time. He waved to me gaily. We’d already made obeisances to each other in the morning. I waved back. Everything from the blue sky to the roots in the garden, seemed to be humming, Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

“Hello, Bhakta X!” I called happily. Of course at that time I remembered his actual name.

On the other hand, for Bhakta X, not knowing my name was because he had been misled. “Hey Mudha!” he yelled back joyously. He waved broadly, as if we were at the beach.

And in mid wave, for half a moment, a cloud came darkening. For a second, it seemed so still and cold all around. Bhakta X looked stricken. He had the sensation that he’d done something wrong, but he did not know what.

“That’s not correct,” Madhava Ghosh beside me uttered the patent observation. He sometimes reminded me of RFK. He did not shout, but the voice carries clearly and well which is cast by Truth.

He brandished an index finger at the boy. Bhakta X was abashed. He did not know what to say. ‘Ghosh flicked his head in my direction. “His name is Jiva,” Ghosh said. “Jiva Goswami.” I noticed that Madhava Ghosh left off the “dasa” part. “Mudha means Ass,” Ghosh announced.

The busy glory all around was suspended.

Bhakta X was so Devotee like that he did not speak in his own defense. He hung his head and apologized. “I did not know,” he said.

To me, the worst aspect of the case was the fact that the Bhakta was injured.

“I told him my name is Mudha,” I said to Ghosh. Little Madhava Ghosh tilted his chin up at me. “Then you were wrong. That is not your name,” he said.

Unlike the sterling Bhakta, I scrounged around and tried to make an excuse. “I was trying to be humble,” I said.

“That’s no excuse. That’s not your name and you shouldn’t say that.” Ghosh walked away briskly.

From that day, back then, under the sunny skies at Old New Vrindabana, to this, here in May of 2007, neither I, nor to my knowledge has any one else from that Community ever again had the privilege of seeing or interacting with Young Bhakta X.

When Devotees approach Krsna Consciousness with an open heart, the importance of being well and respectfully treated by the standing community can not be over emphasized. The flip side of that “heaven coin” is hell. Chances come to pull up stakes, and if we are inclined to go, we take them.

I was told to leave once, for bounding a check to my Guru. Instead of leaving, I hid for a few days. On another occasion, I was told to leave when I really wanted to go, and I skedaddled before the eviction order was even fully out.

“You didn’t have to go,” Kuladri Prabhu told me, on one of my attempts at returning. “You were told to leave before and you did not go.”

“I know,” I said. “I wanted to go.”

“Why do these people along the ridge all move?” I asked Sudhanu Prabhu once. “We don’t bother them.” I was referring to the many people along Limestone Ridge who fled when Devotees began moving in and buying property. It was reminiscent to me of the racially motivated block busting episodes I’d seen back in New York. Why run? Sudhanu is the kind of person I could ask such impossible questions. “Why do they leave?” I’d asked.

Sudhanu did not miss a beat. They leave because their conscience bothers them, Sudhanu stated. “We’re doing one thing; they really want to do another.”

Bhakta X did not have to leave. His position in that escapade was actually impeccable. Had I not passed the Mudha Name offense, another vehicle or agency would have soon come along. In my opinion since Krsna fulfills our desires, we should be careful what we wish for. Finally, as Spiritual Life is a virtual laser on a razor, all too often, practitioners and denizens find themselves inadvertently in the position of facilitating that “exit stage right.”

Information and Links

Join the fray by commenting, tracking what others have to say, or linking to it from your blog.

Reader Comments

Hare Bol! what a wonderful story, I’m so happy to have read it, it teaches us all a good lesson.

I am a new devotee (I’ve been going to the temple in Miami for 2 years) I sometimes observe how the initiated devotees stay away and ignore new people and only because of the mercy of Krishna we, the new devotees that don’t know how to do things right keep tagging along, Krishna keeps working from the inside and little by little some true advanced devotees have mercy on us and start taking us in and giving us things to do for the Lord! that is the most encouraging thing that can happen to a new devotee.

Certainly, anyone with a true desire to please Krishna and practice Bhakti yoga continues to go to the temple and classes even when nobody is paying any attention or even when there are critisism. For example the only one time that I was addressed by a lady devotee after I was going to the temple for about 1 year was to tell me that I should be wearing a sari…I was not ready but in my own good time I bought some saris and started wearing them some time later.

Now I’m asked by some advanced devotees to talk to people that come in new and explain some things to them!! I am so contented doing that and anything else they ask me to do that I have in a very short time given up everything that I thought was dear to me and I’m ready to give up much more!! All I want since I read the Bhagavad Gita as it is and started practicing Bhakti yoga is to please the Lord at every moment of my life.

I hope to visit New Vrindavan very soon!! Keep up the good work we all need it very much!! Hare Bol!!!