Remembering Madhuvana Part 2

Another time, Sankirtana, newly arrived to New Vrindavana, was very thoroughly and devotedly washing the Deity plates after the noon offering and dumping the water down what he thought was a regular sink drain….and washing his own feet in astonishment. You could frequently hear his distinctive voice calling from the kitchen for Ruci to bring him a tissue (something almost unheard of in New Vrindavana at the time) as his eyes and nose streamed in the smoke choked kitchen.

It was a standing joke that there was no such thing as a true drain, or a genuinely straight doorway anywhere in New Vrindavana. On many occasions in the summer, Hladini and I couldn’t hardly see each other standing across and cutting table in the kitchen due to the smoke and flies being so dense.

One wonderful devotee lady who had two young sons was assigned to cook the 4pm offering for Lord Jagannatha (primarily because her husband needed some more opulent prasadam in order to function than was ordinarily available to devotees at the temple). She was a highly educated, refined, and dedicated wife.

After her first day cooking in the smokey kitchen she started doing her service with a pair of wrap around goggles to protect her eyes. This wasn’t just overkill. Two of the main cooks at Bahulavana developed painful styes in their eyes from the constant intense smoke irritation—and Madhuvana kitchen was more smoke filled and less ventilated than the Bahulavana kitchen.

One day, an enterprising, enthusiastic young local college student knocked at the side kitchen door of the temple. He was going house to house around the ridge selling encyclopedias to make money to go to school.

He was a little chagrined to say the least when the supposed lady of the house answered the door with goggles on and smoke pouring out around her through the doorway while two little kids played in what looked like an old burned out farmhouse. But he had seen the mailbox and trying to compose himself and be polite to someone he felt less and less was likely to be a prospective subscriber, he timidly said, “Mrs. Temple?”

Manipuspaka bless her, got him some prasadam and settled him down in the ‘prasadam room’ (the old living room) of the farmhouse. Of course it had no furniture in it and all those pictures of Krishna around plus all the ‘strange’ smells from the temple room and kitchen. He was polite enough to take prasadam, but for some reason he never came back.

Madhuvana had no drains at all: just buckets underneath the sinks that had to been hauled out behind the temple building and dumped down the embankment out back. The big dump buckets’ contents started to look like swirling gallons of primordial soup by the time they were full enough to make it worth the struggling endeavor to get it out to the back of the temple. You really tried to not disturb the surface of the contents any more than you had to ‘cause the noisome smell generated from the ‘soup’ could almost knock you over faster than trying to lift and carry the bucket in the first place.

Then you had to be extra careful not to step on the edge of the cistern cover right smack in the exact middle of the pot room floor and about 3ft across.

If you hit the cistern cover wrong, it tipped up and you dropped suddenly straight down into the black abyss below. Not to worry though, no one ever went clear to the bottom or anything. You would get wedged solid by your elbows meeting the two opposite edges of the rim of the hole and the edge of the raised cover. You would occasionally hear this blood curdling scream out of the pot room, and knew you had to run to help pull someone up that had just ‘gotten eaten by the hole’.

Many devotees became so expert at both dodging the lid despite it’s central location and wide diameter; or leaping in mid air to miss the bone jarring fright of free fall and its abrupt stop, Hladini listed it as one of the ’64 arts of New Vrindavana’ after reading about the 64 arts of the gopis in the Brahma Samhita.

Madhuvana went through about a gunzillion managers. It seems just about every senior man of the old days was at one time or another appointed to be the manager at Madhuvana.

Some were obsessive/compulsively picky. Some were control freaks. Some were derogatory about how Hladini did her service. Some were more or less inert. Some were more concerned with what they saw as politics at Bahulavana. There was only one I could remember who actually felt it was his job to try to help facilitate the service mood of Lord Jagannatha in a real and sustained way with his own attention and offer of assistance. And all of them seemed to feel that if they painted at least what served as the prasadam room they’d made a significant upgrade in the place, ‘proved themselves’ and were ready to move on to more ‘essential’ and ‘bigger’ services.

It may sound like Mahhuvana was a regular train wreck of a place, dilapidated, something right out of the mode of Ignorance. But Madhuvana had a secret. A Big wonderful secret-actually four of Them.

They were Big Lord Balaram, Big Lady Subadhra, and Big Lord Jagannatha. And the fourth secret was the unmotivated, uninterrupted loving devotion Hladini had for Them. If you saw that: if you let yourself be caught up in that, you were indeed in the spiritual world, and the circumstances and facilities that were being dovetailed in that expression became cherishable additions to the aura of Gokula manifested there.

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