Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Hello KDP Review Team!

 Hello Kindle Direct Publishing Review Team! I don't know how much more I can prove to you I am who I say I am! My name is Jayadeva (Jason G.). I've been writing you emails trying to get my book "In the Heart: Reflections and Memories of my Gurudeva" printed through the Three Leaf Farmden Synergy Initiative, Inc KDP account (that's run by Yasoda M.). I just deleted the two posts on this blog that had material which appears in the book. So now you cannot find the content of the book online anywhere else! I shouldn't have to jump through this many hoops! Why would I have bothered stealing content off of this blog and making a book out of it and claiming it was my own?! That would just be stupid. I appreciate you're trying to follow security protocols, but come on. If anything you're just making me not want to publish with KDP since you're making it so unnecessarily difficult. Can you please approve my book now so I can start promoting it? Thanks! 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Remembering My Guru Maharaja

The past few days have been rather heavy for me. I’ve been meditating on my Guru Maharaja more intensely than usual. Perhaps it’s because we just celebrated his Appearance Day (Vyasa-puja) yesterday. I wanted to write him a formal offering, but couldn’t do so yesterday because I was too much of an emotional wreck. I think the part that really did me in was attempting to transcribe one of his final lectures from June 22nd, 2005. It was heart wrenching. The day before that I had compiled all of his old emails to me into one PDF file. It was 87-pages of more heart wrenching! So it was just all of these meditations and reflections going on, what to speak of how much I miss him. And I know that Sri Guru is eternal and always present. I’m not missing that aspect or presence of the Spiritual Master. I’m missing that specific individual jiva that was in the body of Srila Bhakti Tirtha Swami. He has entered into the unmanifest pastimes of Sri Krishna in Sri Vrindavan Dhama. It’s that specific jiva that I am feeling separation from. The apparent physical form of Srila Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja that we could perceive with our eyes was just a spiritualized vessel for him. My longing is not to see that form again. My longing and pain is in not being able to connect with that living being (jiva) again. I miss him so dearly. Here is my attempt at a written offering from the heart:

Dear Srila Gurudeva,
Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to you and to His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

On the occasion of your holy Appearance Day I have been reflecting a lot about our relationship. In many ways I look back at it with regret. I see all of the mistakes I made, all of the vows I broke, all of the disappointments I felt, all of the times I let you down, all of the times I ran away from your mercy (one time even literally), all of the times I complained, all of the times I had a selfish mentality in your personal service and all of the times I couldn’t appreciate you or be grateful for your association and service.

I know it’s not healthy to only focus on the negative. I know it’s another trick of maya to make us feel so despondent and hopeless that we give up the process of devotional service. I also know focusing on and wallowing in my misery is simply another form of selfishness.

So on this day I want to focus on the positive things instead. I want to remember the sweetness of our relationship. I want to remember all of the personal association I had with you and all of the sweet exchanges we shared. I want to remember your emails to me not as disappointments or chastisements, but rather as your loving guidance and encouragement. The last time I physically saw you before you left this planet you had apologized to me for being so hard on me and for pushing me too much when I had been your personal servant. I apologized to you and was sorry for my inability to be surrendered and for my selfishness and not being grateful. The fact is you did push me, but it wasn’t out of cruelty or a mean-spirit. It was your genuine love and enthusiasm for the process and you just wanted me to be happy and in that same blissful place that you were residing. You wanted me to stop being so selfish and self-centered and to let go of my mental anxiety and to just surrender to the process. You wanted me to be truly happy and fixed up.

Sometimes I look back and I wonder what would have been if I had just stopped listening to my mind. On several occasions you noted how crazy and powerful my mind was/is. But I can’t sit here wondering about all of the “what ifs”. I can only be here in the present with the choices I made. And even now I can choose to still be with you, to still allow you to guide me. I can choose from this day forward to do the right thing, to stay true to my initiation vows, to try and help others, to be a positive example and force in the world.

Gurudeva, on this Vyasa-puja day of yours I am offering you the gift of my self surrender again. I am re-committing myself to your lotus feet. I am making you the priority again. I am allowing you to sit on the throne of my heart again. Please guide me and direct me. Please give me the strength and determination to stay true to your teachings and to be a glorious example as your disciple and representative. Without your blessings Gurudeva I will surely fail and continue giving in to the dictates of my mind and senses.

By your life’s example you showed us the path and the way to success. You conquered the mind and ultimately conquered death itself. You stayed true to Srila Prabhupada and to the path of Bhakti all the way until the end. I hope in some small way I can repay you and share with others the gifts you gave us. Without your mercy none of this will be possible. Thank you for never giving up on me and more importantly thank you for bringing me back to you.

Your worthless servant,

jayadeva das

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Decompression Chamber

Re-compression, decompression, whatever you want to call it. It just popped into my head. Was thinking about the weekend and the combined 28-hours (waking hours) of non-stop being with my 3.5-year old daughter. Now, many people may not be able to appreciate what that means. 28-HOURS of straight association with a toddler. A little kid. A little, irrational, demanding kid. A little person there in your face: constantly needing, constantly demanding...for 28-hours.

This is the first bit of silence I've had since the weekend began. The first chance to just sit down in a silent room and to just be. I can hear my breath. Feel the moment. Feel the calm. Decompressing.

On my commutes home last week I would sometimes listen to the comedy of Louis C.K. He's often foul and offensive and lewd and perverse, but many times he's spot on in his observations of life. He talks about the realities of having children. He says things that many people think, but wouldn't actually say. There's a kind of honest courage in that; in just being able to say what you really think even if others will then see you in a bad light or think negatively of you.

There are many things to having children that truly suck. You no longer live for your self. You become secondary. It's just the way it has to be. It's a necessity of raising a dependent little being. These little people come into our worlds and demand. They strain marriages, they strain your patience, they strain your sanity. And yet we still love them. Of course we love them. We love them, but why can't we just say, "Man...sometimes having kids really, really sucks."

I sometimes guilty think about all of the other things I could be doing if I didn't have to tend to this little person under my care. I could be pursuing my Masters in Fine Art. I might not have to work so far away, because there would be less necessity. I could go out on dates with my wife and spend more quality time with her. I could draw more, paint more, read more. But alas, these are all things that will have to wait until she's older and more independent.

There's this really depressing commercial on TV where this guy sits down in his office to start writing a novel. But then he has a baby. A time-lapse thing kicks in and now the guy's office becomes the baby's room. Then the baby is a little girl in a ballet outfit, then it's all these milestone moments: prom, graduation, going off to college. Then at the end, all gray-haired and weathered, the guy gets his office back and once again sits down to finish that novel he never got to start. How freaking depressing is that?

Anyway, what is the point of me saying all this? Nothing. I just need to decompress. Isn't it healthy to say, "Hey, I need a break from this demanding, irrational little person"? I think it is. We all need silence. We all need quiet time. We all need to reflect and ponder and question. And those are all things that don't happen when you're wiping butts and getting snacks and playing princesses.

It's so horribly easy to get caught up in the maintenance of life. The daily ins and outs of just taking care of business, whether it's work/career-related or family-related or whatever. We become these mindless automatons, just going through the motions and running in the proverbial hamster wheel. At some point we have to step back and say, "What is the point of all this?" Sure, it's a noble thing to just be a decent human and to take care of your family and their material needs, but beyond that, what really is the point of it all?

I'm all to aware that my days here are numbered. My success in life cannot and will not be measured in material gains. I will never attain all of my material goals. That's just a fact. The reality is this place, this world, is a place of misery and suffering. There's no escaping it. The goal is not to try and stop the suffering, it's figuring out how to transcend it, to ignore it, to not let it consume us. That requires full absorption in something higher than us, something outside of us. I've only had glimpses of it, but I am far from living in it.

The tracks here could quickly switch to my self-pity about what a crappy devotee I am and about how Krishna Consciousness often times doesn't seem real. But it's late and that conversation is a circular road that goes nowhere.

I don't know what's real anymore. All I know is this moment. And in this moment there is a wonderful silence; a wonderful decompression.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Where Has my Krishna Consciousness Gone?

Lately I’ve been wrapped up in the non-essentials of spiritual life: work, family, money, car problems, entertainment, sense gratification, etc. The only glimmer of devotional activity in my life right now is listening to Srila Prabhupada lectures on my commute to work. Even that has become sketchy lately, as I’m usually only half paying attention or zoning out.

I feel no enthusiasm for the devotional process right now. I don’t feel eager or excited to chant. I don’t have much desire to make the effort to attend the Sunday programs. Sure, circumstances play a huge part in those choices, because when I think about taking our difficult 3-year old daughter out late at night to the temple, I don’t feel that enthused about the prospect. Or even getting up early on Sunday and trekking into New York City. It’s a serious endeavor; one that I simply can’t justify or see the reason for.

But that’s totally the wrong consciousness, isn’t it? Isn’t that the point of tapasya? Voluntarily doing something inconvenient and difficult or troublesome for some higher benefit and purpose? Well right there is where I get hung up. What is the “higher benefit and purpose?” How will my life improve if I go crazy trying to daily rise at 4am, worship my Deities, chant 16-rounds a day, attend all the devotee programs, eat only prasadam, stop watching TV and listening to mundane music, etc? The answer I say to myself is, “Well, you’d be preparing yourself for your next body. You’d be breaking the identification with this current physical body and subtle mind.” Sounds good, but it seems so…extreme, maybe?

I recently heard a quote from Srila Prabhupada that we can’t “dance with God and dog at the same time”. The point being that you can’t dabble with maya and sense gratification and be any kind of serious devotee or Vaishnava. Being a Vaishnava means being devoid of desire for personal sense gratification. That just seems impossible to attain. This is why true Vaishnavas are so rare, special and worshipable in this world.

I just don’t know what to think anymore. I’m certain there’s a deeper, more profound experience of bhakti, but I don’t seem to be willing or have the desire to do what’s necessary to experience it first hand.

I know one day I will have to face my death. It may come unexpectedly. It may come with warning and preparation. Either way it’s a reality that I can’t shake from my mind. The uncertainties that go along with death drive most people towards religion and spirituality. They drive us to find peace and comfort within those constructs. So much of that world beyond this physical body and subtle mind are foreign to us. We think of it as fantasy, yet ironically it’s more real than this present world we’re experiencing with our material senses.

I want that inner world to become completely manifest, yet I’m not willing to do anything to attain it. I want it to be effortless, painless and easy. “But really, in kali yuga, why would Krishna make it so hard?” is what my mind says. Then I hear, “Is it? Is it really that difficult to just chant the Holy Name?” Hmm. I suppose not, but to chant it with FAITH sure is.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Where Did the Reflections Go?

My ambitious project to record a daily meditation/reflection on a photo of my Guru Maharaja ultimately crashed and burned. I realized after the Day 9 through 14 post that writing about six photos in one day was defeating the purpose of a "daily" meditation. And then it happened again where I was so backed up with work and life that I didn't have time to write anything for like six or seven days. I thought, "Well, I could do another 'round up' type of post and just do a big chunk of writing", but then I started to feel it becoming a chore and that's precisely what I didn't want it to become. I wanted it to be spontaneous and heartfelt. Instead it was becoming tedious, mechanical and just another task to complete. This isn't the right way to enter a meditation on transcendence.

So I gave in (or perhaps gave up) the notion of reflecting on a photo every single day. Sometimes I get so frustrated living a life that is so distracting towards my real welfare and benefit. My mind is so often absorbed in things that ultimately are meaningless; fickle little romps with sense gratification and maya. The material energy keeps pulling my mind and senses outward, pulling my face and my vision towards the illusory and temporary. It keep me distracted from looking inward and from pursuing the ultimate goal of life. "Over here! Over here! Look at me! Look at this! You need this! You want this! Here is happiness! Try this! Do this!" Maya is like a little kid who is starved for attention. She doesn't want us to look away from her. Doesn't want us to forget about her.

Sometimes, by the grace of Sri Guru, I look away from her face and stop listening to her cries for attention. When I do I see my death. I see the temporary nature of this current life I'm living and of this body I'm in. It's this sort of "holy shit" moment where you stop and realize, "I'm going to die and none of this superfluous stuff matters." In that state of mind an eagerness to travel inward and to connect with Sri Krishna in the heart manifests. We begin to crave the true, lasting reality, the Absolute Truth. We want to swim and live in that inner world, going deeper and deeper to our true nature and our relationship with the beings in that world.

And then in an instant Maya pulls us back out into the external world and floods our minds with material thoughts, "Oh, I need to pay this bill, wash the dishes, get stuff ready for work in the morning, get my car checked, go here, go there, do this, do that." And just that quickly the inner world fades and seems like a dream or a figment of our imaginations. Then we go back to putting all of our energy (mental, emotional and physical) into the temporary concerns of this world and of pursuing sense gratification. It's a crazy game and it's scary how easily we fall into it. Maya is so powerful. There's no way we can overcome it by our own endeavors. This is why in kali-yuga everything is based on mercy.

Oh Gurudeva, by your mercy alone do I even momentarily look away from the face of Maya. Thank you for this little drop of mercy to remind me of my true necessity.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Daily Meditation on my Gurudeva - Days 9-14

Day 9
 This one is hard to look at. It brings up so many emotions: loss, sadness, regret, resentment, confusion. I’ll never forget where I was when he left his body. My wife, Kadamba mala, and I were in the car heading to Gita-nagari from New Jersey. We were about half way there when my cell phone rang. It was an automated voice announcing that he had departed. And that was it. He was gone. By the time we made it to Gita-nagari and the Institute House the devotees were milling around. There was a heavy atmosphere of sadness and loss. It was quiet and sober. There was a small group of devotees in his quarters, preparing his body for the last rites. I didn’t see his body until it was brought out on a palanquin and marched in a procession of kirtan down to the temple room.
When I finally had the opportunity to approach his body and offer flower petals, I looked down at his lifeless face and closed eyes. Mother Vraja-lila was standing next to me. I think she put her hand on my back. I can’t remember. She handed me a stick of maha-incense. I didn’t know what to feel. I felt empty. I felt speechless. I felt like I failed him by not staying true to my vows. I held back my tears and quickly scurried away into the crowd of assembled devotees.
Part of me felt resentment for a while. I always wondered why he didn’t pursue more traditional cancer treatment therapies. I would wonder if he would still be with us physically if he had gone through chemotherapy instead of heading down to a jungle in South America to visit a healer. I know, it sounds terrible to even write that, but I don’t say it out of spite. I say it with love and attachment to him. Maybe it’s just selfish on my part anyway, because I’m thinking how I would have liked for him to meet my daughter and to be able to dance in kirtan with him and to be able to talk to him. It could just be my selfishness resenting the choices he made when he discovered the cancer.
I can’t talk too much more about this image. I don’t feel like crying right now, as I’m at work before the day begins. I’ll just say to wrap this up, part of me is glad I didn’t see him like this in person. I would have been devastated. I wasn’t there to see the gradual progression to this state, so it would have been a terrible shock to see him lying there like this, unresponsive and so close to death. I probably would have lost it. Maybe knowing this Krishna saved me from the pain of witnessing him in this condition, because the last time I had seen him in person he was still bright and fresh and smiling.
I also wanted to say that this image really makes me confront my own mortality. It’s a stark reminder of the fate that awaits us all; a fate that many of us don’t want to think about. My Gurudeva was a shining example of how to embrace and accept this fate. He stayed true and strong until the end. I hope that my departure from this material world can be even just a tiny bit as glorious and auspicious as his was.
Day 10
Soaked in sweat and effulgent. A familiar sight considering the way in which my Gurudeva would lead kirtans. I wasn’t here and I’m not sure where this is, but it appears that he is sitting on the Vyasasana and singing Jaya Radha-Madhava before giving class. Is that Sri Hanuman in the background? Or is it Sri Varahadeva? I can’t tell. It’s an interesting photo composition though. My Gurudeva’s profile paralleled with the profile behind him. It looks as if the Deity is controlling my Guru Maharaja, like a puppet, with His arms inside my Gurudeva’s back, making him move and speak. How fitting, as everything my Gurudeva did and said was not from the platform of his own desires and wants. He was truly the “transparent via medium” for Sri Guru to manifest and act on this material plane. My Gurudeva knew my heart so intimately and when he would speak to me, it wasn’t John Favors or Bhakti Tirtha Swami talking to me, it was Sri Guru/Paramatma. This Bhakti Tirtha Swami was just the outward, external form in which Sri Guru was appearing and speaking to me.
Day 11
What an incredibly sweet photo and moment captured in time. It embodies the compassion and love that my Gurudeva carried within his heart for all living entities. When I see this photo I feel jealous and sad, because I wish that my daughter had had the opportunity to meet my Guru Maharaja and to receive his direct blessings and mercy, not only as a baby, but as she grows up over the years.
Of course, it’s all karma isn’t it? The people that we meet, the blessings we receive, the experiences we have, the sadhus that we encounter. I could say the baby in this photo is fortunate, but aren’t we all fortunate having come in contact with the process and path of bhakti? In one way or another that mercy is coming down through the parampara and touching us all in some capacity. The real question is: what do we do with that mercy and those blessings that we receive? A baby can meet a sadhu yet end up becoming a completely mundane materialist with no devotional inclination. On the other hand, one can grow up in a meat-eating, materialistic family and later take up the process of devotional service to go on and become quite spiritually advanced.
I pray to my Gurudeva to not waste the blessings and mercy that I have received. I pray to always appreciate them and to be aware of my great fortune. I pray to never see Krishna Consciousness as just another religion. It’s all about the consciousness and the soul. It’s all about loving and serving God and His devotees.
Day 12
This is an iconic, famous photo of my Gurudeva with Nelson Mandela. I don’t know what this event was, nor do I know the details of what my Gurudeva would talk about with Mandela. It does go to show however that his interest was in trying to preach to the upper echelons of society. He wanted to reach the leaders and the people with influence and power. This is why he was so interested in meeting with or getting on the Oprah Winfrey show (it unfortunately never materialized before he departed).
The thing that interests me most about this photo is his Nrsimhadeva cane in the foreground. I had once heard the story that it was carved for him by a man named “Uncle Nanda” and that this man came to my Guru Maharaja when a lot of leaders were falling down and leaving ISKCON. He came to my Gurudeva and told him that Srila Prabhupada didn’t want him to leave ISKCON and that he should stay within the society to try and help heal it. There was also a story about how this Uncle Nanda and my Gurudeva stayed in a room for three days without eating or sleeping and that he taught my Gurudeva about subtle, psychic things, like astral projection and the like. Then I heard this Uncle Nanda had revealed his form on the astral plane as a unicorn or Pegasus. Uhh…yeah.
I can’t remember the name of the devotee that told me these stories. It was while I was at the Potomac temple. My Guru Maharaja was in some meetings and I was chanting japa outside when this devotee started talking to me. Come to think of it, I don’t even know where that devotee is now or what happened to him. Were his stories some crazy flights of the imagination? Or did those things really happen in some capacity? I don’t know for certain. Surely my Guru Maharaja would have never talked about those things with me even if I inquired. (On a side note, one time I asked him if he remembered his past lives and his previous relationship(s) with Srila Prabhupada. I remember it vividly. We were driving back from the Lewistown Walmart, just he and I in the car. He was quiet and grave and responded with an emotionless, “Uh, yes. To some degree” (or something like that. His exact words are vague now). Then he was silent and his energy indicated that I shouldn’t be asking him those kinds of questions. So anyway, if I asked him about Uncle Nanda I’m sure it would be a similar response.
Like I said, I don’t know if those stories are true, but I do know that I can’t look at that old cane of his and not think about all these things.
Day 13
This is a tiny, low-resolution picture, but the moment is so sweet. I remember when my Guru Maharaja used to do this in kirtans. He was such a transcendental MC (master of ceremonies). He would guide the devotees how to dance and have us following his moves. It was never in an egotistical way. It was in a spirit of community and getting everyone involved and absorbed in the kirtan and Holy Name.
Recently a god brother of mine posted a video on my Facebook wall of some intense kirtan. There were three or four devotees in the kirtan that started doing crazy break dancing moves, like doing the worm across the temple room floor and doing back spins. At one point a devotee was sitting on the ground with his leg behind his neck then he jumped up and did a head stand, flashing his kaupins for everyone to see. I couldn’t believe how self-centered and egotistical they were being. They turned it into a mundane dance contest with no focus on the Holy Name, the Deities or the other devotees present. It was just like, “Hey! Look at me!” Maybe I shouldn’t judge like that. Maybe they were experiencing some deep bhava and it was being expressed in that way. But still, even if it were some kind of genuine bhava they shouldn’t let it out like that or display it in such a way as to make people question their motives. Srila Prabhupada never did head spins and splits, nor did my Guru Maharaja. When my Gurudeva did “let himself go” the temple room would light up with ecstasy and joy, but it was never all about him. It was like his enthusiasm and spiritual emotions would spill out to everyone around him and make everyone else feel enlivened in devotional service. It would be an encouraging thing, not an excluding thing. You would feel inspired as he would dance wildly, not thinking, “This Swami is just showing off.”
In this photo he’s parting the devotees into two sides to create a sort of aisle. Then he would push devotees into the aisle to dance along to the end or sometimes they would dance down to one end and then come back to where they began. It was sweet and loving. If put the spotlight on everyone and gave everyone a chance to express themselves in the kirtan. So beautiful, so wonderful. That was my Gurudeva’s mood and it flowed from his kirtans.
Day 14
More kirtan. My Guru Maharaja was known for his kirtans. Everyone knew when he was leading the kirtan there was going to be a lot of dancing. In this particular photo he’s walking down the streets of New York City at the Ratha Yatra festival. I don’t think it was this year that I was with him, but seeing this photo reminds me of a memory.
Gurudeva had to go to the bathroom. So he asked Agnideva to find a restroom for him. The problem was that we were walking down a street with no public restrooms. There were just various businesses. We ended up heading into some sort of shopping mall or large chain store, like a Macy’s or something. I was following behind Agnideva and my Guru Maharaja, weaving around customers in the store. We passed by the clothing section, then the perfume and make up section then through the shoes. We were trying to find the elevator. I remember we were all soaked with sweat. What a sight it must have been for the people in that store: a black Hare Krishna with two white Hare Krishnas, all sweaty and speedily darting through the aisles.
We finally made it to the elevator, which we had to share with the shoppers. The silence was more awkward than usual in an elevator. After we found the restroom and my Gurudeva went we did the same sprint back through the store. We then had to weave through the crowds of people on the sidewalk to get back to the kirtan procession.
Such a simple and insignificant memory, but it’s a memory I cherish, just as everyone moment I had with my Guru Maharaja.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Daily Meditation on my Gurudeva - Day 8: "Blissful Life"

This is bliss. No worries, no anxieties. Just dancing, chanting, feasting. Sure, being a Swami isn’t all fun and games. It’s physically and mentally draining to travel around the world and to deal with the effects of different time zones. And then to have to be fully available and present for the devotees by talking to them, hearing their problems, taking on their anxieties, etc. Of course I’d rather have these “problems” of life than the mundane problems of “babies, bills and business” (as I once heard Hridayananda Maharaja say in an old lecture).

Sometimes I think about this disconnect between sannyasi-life and the life of the average grihasta living out in the world and having to deal with so much mundane stuff. That’s not to say there’s no such thing as an ideal house holder life or like you can’t be Krishna Conscious while being married and working out in the world. It’s just sometimes a million times harder than being a temple devotee or living with nothing else to do but chant, read and eat prasadam.

My Guru Maharaja laughed at me in an email once and said it was funny that I was thinking life would be easier living out of the temple. It said it could be easier if one becomes “somewhat of a cheater”. But yeah, to genuinely practice sadhana-bhakti and to be married with kids and dealing with a job and bills and money, it just becomes a real distraction. It’s much harder to chant 16, quality rounds when you don’t live in the temple. It’s also much harder to eat only prasadam.

Anyway, I didn’t mean for this to become a ramble of excuses about why it’s harder being a devotee living outside than being a sannyasi or a temple devotee. I guess seeing my Guru Maharaja and these sannyasis laughing and dancing and having a blissful time made me a little jealous. Is that wrong to feel jealous? Or does it foster some desire within my heart to head towards that ideal life?