Calcutta, India — Tuesday, June 15th

Geography lesson

Well, it looks like I will not be going to Russia anytime soon. The Russian visa regime wins again! Of course, I'm terribly disappointed, but also a little relieved that after five months my life is no longer hostage to this intractable, cat-and-mouse bureaucratic game.

I call my daughter Lucille, in San Jose, to tell her that I will probably be returning to California in a week or two. She tells me that my six-year-old twin granddaughters, Maya and Michaela, received their school reports from Saint Patrick's Catholic School last week, and both passed: they are now officially in Grade Two.

Since they have done so well in school, she has promised to take them on vacation if they finish their summer reading (ten books!) before July.

Lucille: "So where do you guys want to go?"

Maya: "Australia, to see granny!" (their great-grandmother).

Michaela: "Africa, to see grandma!" (their other great-grandmother).

Lucille, a little concerned about the (expensive!) geographic direction of this conversation: "Can you choose somewhere else, please?"

Maya: "How about going to Asia, to see papa?" (me).

Lucille, becoming alarmed: "I told you to choose somewhere else!"

Maya: "But mom, there are only seven continents..."

Lucille: "Well how about choosing somewhere on this continent — you know, like Marine World Africa/USA?" (on the other side of the San Francisco bay).

But the twins demonstrate that they really do know their geography.

Michaela: "No, we can go there on any weekend..."

And they haven't entered the second grade yet, folks :)

Calcutta, India — Thursday, June 17th

Two surrendered souls

Today, on amavasya (the dark-moon night, or the night of the new moon) we celebrate the anniversary of the disappearance of Srila Gadadhara Pandit and Srila Sachidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakur.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj explains: "Mahaprabhu took his birth during the full moon, and Gadadhara Pandit during the new moon, or no moon. New moon means no moon. The full moon was taken by Mahaprabhu, and new moon, or no moon, was taken by Gadadhara Pandit.

"Gadadhara Pandit appeared and disappeared in summer season, during the new moon. So, empty. Mahaprabhu took the fullest advantage of Gadadhara Pandit — sent him to the almost negative position — and Gadadhara Pandit gave it to Him voluntarily. His very heart was drawn in by Mahaprabhu, the whole of his wealth had been snatched by Mahaprabhu, and Gadadhara Pandit was like a shadow, running after Him, as if his heart had been stolen."

In Heart and Halo, Srila Sridhar Maharaj says: "Gadadhara Pandit represents Radharani's mood, Her nature, Her heart. It is as if Mahaprabhu has taken away Gadadhara Pandit's soul, and the body is still standing! That is the position of Gadadhara Pandit; he is quite empty, and following Mahaprabhu. He is not full in himself. Something, the most important thing, his heart, has been taken by Mahaprabhu, so he has no other alternative but to follow Him. He is wholly given up to Mahaprabhu."

And at the conclusion of Heart and Halo, Srila Sridhar Maharaj says that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur identified Gadadhara Pandit with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. "That was the vision of our Gurudeva. He could see in them the same identity...."

"These two personalities, Sri Gadadhara Pandit and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, are our great gurus, our guides, and by offering our worship to them we can sow the seed of our highest benefit. By the grace of that great Guru Maharaj Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada, we have been able to understand this."

Calcutta, India — Saturday, June 19th

Festival of the Chariots

Today is the grand ratha-yatra or Festival of the Chariots of Lord Jagannath. It is also the disappearance day of Srila Swarup Damodar Goswami Prabhu.

Every year at about this time, on the Indian east coast in Orissa, at the seaside town of Puri on the Bay of Bengal, Lord Krishna (as Lord Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe), His brother Baladeva, and His sister Subhadra, come out of the Jagannath temple, and are drawn on gigantic chariots (rathas) along the enormously wide main street to the Gundicha temple.

The fifteen meter (forty-five foot) high chariots and the tens of thousands of pilgrims who pull them down the street are such an indescribable sight that the astonished early British colonialists had to add a new word to their vocabulary: "juggernaut" — an overwhelming advancing force that seems to crush everything in its path!

Srila Gurudeva says that this a happy day and a sad day for us. It is a happy day because Lord Jagannath comes out of His temple to give his darshan to everybody — especially the western devotees, and others who are not normally allowed into His temple by His servitors — and it is a sad day because Mahaprabhu's dearest servitor, Srila Swarup Damodar Prabhu, disappeared on this day.

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