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October 18, 2013

It’s 70 degrees in New York City today, hardly what I would expect for mid-October, although I suppose these patterns of unseasonable weather should no longer surprise me much. Nevertheless, it is the beginning of the Kartik, which always solidifies the autumn season for me, regardless of the climate. Now, it really feels like Fall.

Today is the full moon officiating the lunar month of Damodara Masa, or Kartik, in the Vedic calendar. Damodara is a name of Krishna when he is a baby who gets into trouble doing all sort of mischievious things, such as stealing butter and running away from his mother, Yasoda. Krishna is the Divine manifested as a person in a way that He can be “Himself” and engage in loving exchanges with His devotees. During this month, practitioners within the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition celebrate of the pastime of Mother Yasoda unsuccessfully trying to tie up young Damodara to a grinding mortar with a piece of rope after he broke a pot and stole butter out of it. This is believed to be the most auspicious time of the entire year.

Due to the significance of this time of this year, any austerities undertaken for the sake of spiritual advancement or guiding others in this way will become powerfully charged. Many devotees often make special vows to maintain throughout the month, such as  increasing their hearing and chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, worship, or restricting their intake of food. Personally, in addition to increasing my japa meditation and to sing the Damodarastakam prayer daily, I also feel called to do some sharing through writing. I am not entirely how it will unfold or manifest over the next few weeks, but I do sincerely hope that someone is able to benefit in some small way from my endeavors. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Hear the Damodarastakam prayer here: Sri Damodarastakam

Sri Damodarastakam

(1)

namāmīśvaram sac-cid-ānanda-rūpam
lasat-kuṇḍalam gokule bhrājamanam
yaśodā-bhiyolūkhalād dhāvamānam
parāmṛṣṭam atyantato drutya gopyā

To the supreme controller, who possesses an eternal form of blissful knowledge, whose glistening earrings swing to and fro, who manifested Himself in Gokula, who stole the butter that the gopis kept hanging from the rafters of their storerooms and who then quickly jumped up and ran in retreat in fear of Mother Yasoda but was ultimately caught – to that Supreme Lord, Sri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.

(2)

rudantam muhur netra-yugmam mṛjantam
karāmbhoja-yugmena sātańka-netram
muhuḥ śvāsa-kampa-trirekhāńka-kaṇṭha-
sthita-graivam dāmodaram bhakti-baddham

Upon seeing His mother’s whipping stick, He cried and rubbed His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes were fearful and His breathing quick, and as Mother Yasoda bound His belly with ropes, He shivered in fright and His pearl necklace shook. To this Supreme Lord, Sri Damodara, I offer my humble obeisances.

(3)

itīdṛk sva-līlābhir ānanda-kuṇḍe
sva-ghoṣam nimajjantam ākhyāpayantam
tadīyeṣita-jñeṣu bhaktair jitatvam
punaḥ prematas tam śatāvṛtti vande

Those superexcellent pastimes of Lord Krishna’s babyhood drowned the inhabitants of Gokula in pools of ecstasy. To the devotees who are attracted only to His majestic aspect of Narayana in Vaikuntha, the Lord herein reveals: “I am conquered and overwhelmed by pure loving devotion.” To the Supreme Lord, Damodara, my obeisances hundreds and hundreds of times.

(4)

varam deva mokṣam na mokṣāvadhim vā
na canyam vṛṇe ‘ham vareṣād apīha
idam te vapur nātha gopāla-bālam
sadā me manasy āvirāstām kim anyaiḥ

O Lord, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for liberation, nor eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor any other boon. My only prayer is that Your childhood pastimes may constantly appear in my mind. O Lord, I do not even want to know your feature of Paramatma. I simply wish that Your childhood pastimes may ever be enacted in my heart.

(5)

idam te mukhāmbhojam atyanta-nīlair
vṛtam kuntalaiḥ snigdha-raktaiś ca gopyā
muhuś cumbitam bimba-raktādharam me
manasy āvirāstām alam lakṣa-lābhaiḥ

O Lord, the cheeks of Your blackish lotus face, which is encircled by locks of curling hair, have become reddened like bimba fruits due to Mother Yasoda’s kisses. What more can I describe than this? Millions of opulences are of no use to me, but may this vision constantly remain in my mind.

(6)

namo deva dāmodarānanta viṣṇo
prasīda prabho duḥkha-jālābdhi-magnam
kṛpā-dṛṣṭi-vṛṣṭyāti-dīnam batānu
gṛhāṇeṣa mām ajñam edhy akṣi-dṛśyaḥ

O unlimited Vishnu! O master! O Lord! Be pleased upon me! I am drowning in an ocean of sorrow and am almost like a dead man. Please shower the rain of mercy on me; uplift me and protect me with Your nectarean vision.

(7)
kuverātmajau baddha-mūrtyaiva yadvat
tvayā mocitau bhakti-bhājau kṛtau ca
tathā prema-bhaktim svakām me prayaccha
na mokṣe graho me ‘sti dāmodareha

O Lord Damodara, in Your form as a baby Mother Yasoda bound You to a grinding stone with a rope for tying cows. You then freed the sons of Kuvera, Manigriva and Nalakuvara, who were cursed to stand as trees and You gave them the chance to become Your devotees. Please bless me in this same way. I have no desire for liberation into Your effulgence.

(8)

namas te ‘stu dāmne sphurad-dīpti-dhāmne
tvadīyodarāyātha viśvasya dhāmne
namo rādhikāyai tvadīya-priyāyai
namo ‘nanta-līlāya devāya tubhyam

O Lord, the entire universe was created by Lord Brahma, who was born from Your abdomen, which was bound with a rope by Mother Yasoda. To this rope I offer my humble obeisances. I offer my obeisances to Your most beloved Srimati Radharani and to Your unlimited pastimes.

My first month in India

It’s hard for me to believe that 2012 has come to an end already. It seems like just a few months ago that I was in NYC for the annual NYE event at the Jivamukti School, getting geared up for week of Master Classes with my beloved teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life, and, of course, for the Advanced Certification Board Exam. What an amazing start to the year that was! The year has gone by so quickly and so much has happened that I hardly feel like I’ve had time to process, but New Years’ is a good excuse to pause a moment and reflect and consciously set my bearings for the year ahead.

After much delay, I just wanted to share with you what I’ve been up to these past several weeks here in Sri Dhama Mayapur, India. I was off to rough start when I first arrived. I was really sick for a few days and also I had difficulty accessing the internet, but I’ve since settled comfortably and deeply immersed in my studies and simply surrendered to ecstatic embrace of the Holy Dhama. I told my roommate that I’m pretty sure this is the closest thing to heaven on Earth.

ISKCON Mayapur has an amazing community, with devotees coming from around the world to study, serve, deepen their sadhana, or even live. The grounds are enclosed to separate it from the rest of the village, though every day hundreds of villagers visit. The complex is centered around the temple which is really big with HUGE beautiful deities. Outward from there are shops, eateries, guest houses, gardens, classroom buildings, founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi temple, a community hall, a school and a goshala (cow sanctuary)!

An average day, in summary: Wake up at 3:15 am, attend the morning program at the temple from 4:30-9:00 am (4.5 hours of darshan, puja, singing bhajans and kirtan, dancing, japa, and a lecture), breakfast prasadam, class from 10:30-1:30, rooftop lunch in a pandal (bamboo tent), in the afternoon I study, read and run errands, in the evening I practice mrdanga (yes, I’m taking lessons), practice asana, have a snack, connect with friends and family back home, and hang out with my roommates, bedtime at 8:00 pm.

So it’s pretty busy schedule, but I am loving it. My course, Bhakti Sastri (the scriptures of Bhakti Yoga), is fairly intensive and is my primary focus here. My teachers thus far (Anuradha devi dasi, Su-gita Vani dasi, Urmila devi dasi and Shyamala Sakhi dasi) have all been outstanding. We finished three books in three weeks (Nectar of Instruction, Sri Isopanisad and Nectar of Devotion) and now we are diving into the big one that we will be studying for the next 2 months: Bhagavad Gita.

We do not generally have classes on the weekends, but there’s always studying and homework to do, but sometimes I manage to squeeze in an outing. This area is called “Navadwip”, which means “nine islands”, so if you want to get to another island, you have to take a ferry boat across the Ganges or Jalangi Rivers. I’ve been to the city/island called Navadwip for shopping, and also on a parikrama (pilgrimmage) to Godrumdwip to the home of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, an important guru in the Gaudiya Vaisnava lineage and his family’s home at Surabhi Kunja. Though I rarely leave the campus here since I am already so busy, which is for the best since my primary focus is on study.

It is absolutely wonderful to be immersed in ashram life this way. It is certainly a purifying experience and I am having many personal and spiritual realizations. I still have much to process, but shifts are in the works and I am looking forward to being able to share with all of you.

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a podcast I did earlier this month

Sitaram and I recorded our satsang for his podcast series earlier this month. He could pretty much talk about anything. It should be entertaining, and heck, you might even learn something.

Sitaram Das and Jordanna talk about how Krishna is a cowboy, The Gita, Spiritual Tattoos, and The six realms of existence.

 

While you’re at it, check out what else he’s up to.

Here is a link to the podcast

Sitaram Das’s Website 

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Things are beginning to take shape

I just officially registered for the Bhakti Sastri program in Mayapur for the Fall!! I’m also in the process of getting rid of most of my earthly possessions and moving out of my house this week. It’s gettin’ serious…

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