I filed a leave and traveled to Mandaluyong City to spend a whole day with the Hare Krishna devotees. Since I feel fucked up and fed up at work, a one day leave doesn’t hurt at all! No guilty feelings!
I have been coordinating the whole trip with Vraja, the devotee I met in Divisoria. I was supposed to go on a Saturday but Vraja encouraged me to go on a Thursday because some devotees from Singapore and New Zealand will be coming. Also, they will be celebrating the appearance of Sri Krsna Caitanya (similar to that of our Christmas).
Since the temple is located at the 6th floor, Vraja instucted me to use the intercom. He told me that a devotee will pick me up downstairs. So I pressed “6” and after a couple of minutes, a tall white guy opened the gate and greeted me with a smile and a “Hare Krishna!” He introduced himself, told me that he was from New Zealand and traveling with his twin brother.
At the 4th floor, 3 Filipino devotees welcomed me. “You must be Bhakta Darby”, said the Filipina devotee in Sari. Bhakta means student.
“Yes I am. Good morning and Hare Krishna”
“Hare Krishna. Welcome to the temple. Go upstairs and enjoy the morning program”, she said.
“Aren’t you coming with us?”, I asked.
“Oh no. I will be leaving in a while. I need to buy some food for our feast later.”
“Oh Ok. See you soon. Hare Krishna”
I can already smell the incense in the 5th floor. I am becoming more excited because in a couple of seconds, I will be entering a temple without any ideas on what’s going to happen.
I missed such moments. Those moments when you don’t have a clue on what’s going to happen. What does the temple look like? Are the devotees going to be friendly? What is the festival all about? What am I going to learn? How would I move? It’s all mystery. Life should be like this. Excitement. Full of surprises. Not routinary. Not ordinary.
Then finally I arrived at the 6th. There I saw Vraja in the altar waving a broom-like object in front of the pictures of their spiritual masters and Krsna Himself. Aside from Vraja, I saw the twin brothers from New Zealand with small cymbals in their hands, a guy from Australia carrying a drum, the older brother of Vraja, another Filipino devotee and an elder from Singapore. We were 8 that morning.
The older brother of Vraja approached me and handed me a book where I can find the lyrics of the song they were singing.He was explaining to me why they are singing it and to whom they are singing it for. I’m a bit overwhelmed because the room was really loud because of the chanting, the drums and the cymbals. Also, the song was written in Sanskrit making it difficult for me to chant it. I tried to sing it anyway. I felt peace not because I am chanting a foreign scripture but because these strangers I just met opened their temple for me and accepted me wholeheartedly.
After the chanting, Vraja took a golden object with 4-5 small candles in it. He approached every devotee. The devotee touched the flame of the candles about half of a second and placed their hand on top of their heads. I did it as well. After the candle ceremony, Vraja took a flower and asked each devotee to smell it. I did the same thing. I’m not really sure about the symbolism of the flower but I said to myself, “Hey, we should not forget to smell flowers every once in a while.”
After the candle and the flower ceremony, we did a lot of dancing while chanting the Mahamantra:
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The devotees and I formed a circle and each devotee will go in the middle, do some praise dance and turn around until you are dizzy. I did it too and it was blissful but a bit awkward. I was just there for 10 minutes and the next thing I know is that I am dancing in the middle of the devotees. After that, Vraja took my hands and we turned around together until we were both dizzy. It’s a different dizziness. It’s not the “I need to puke” dizziness but its more of a “Am I in heaven?” kind of thing.
After the chanting, the devotees and I formed a semi circle, sat down, while the elder (We will call him Prabhu, meaning Master. Everyone in the temple call each other Prabhu as a sign of humility. For this post, I will be referring to the elder as Prabhu) sat in front of us with his small table. Vraja’s brother sat on the right, opened a laptop and the lcd projector. I was in the middle of Vraja and the Filipino devotee.
Prabhu is a bit techy. He is bringing his iPad. His lessons are there and probably his copy of the Bhagavad Gita. Anyway, I’m a bit proud because I also have a copy of the Bhagavad Gita although Prabhu instructed me not to put it on the ground after seeing mine on the tiled-floor. Well this is true even for the Bible. I remember the time when I was also reprimanded by our youth pastor when he saw my Bible on the floor. How could I be so insensitive?
Anyway, Prabhu emphasized the need to be pure especially in the time of Maya (illusion). He told us that lust can turn into anger and so on and so forth. He also told us that we should turn away from illicit sex as stated in the Bhagavad Gita, one of the world’s oldest religious scriptures. This is the same thing with the Bible. The message of Prabhu became an answer to my questions after having some confusions about the topic of sex and purity. I’m surrounded with people saying “Everybody is doing it” and “If you love someone, you can have sex even before marriage”.
I was reminded of Shane Claiborne, one of my favorite Christian leaders. He said “You can live without sex, but you can’t live without love.”
The Hare Krishna devotees take that seriously. Some of them took a celibate life and yet they have peace in their faces . They are having the most pleasurable time of their lives but in the service of Krsna.
I am starting to love the Bhagavad Gita. According to Prabhu, the Bhagavad Gita doesn’t contradicts the Bible. In fact, it complements it. That’s what I want to hear, to be honest. I dream that one day, all the religions will come into an agreement with each other. I want them to come up with a common ground. And that common ground is where I want to stay and serve God/Krsna/Allah in all his splendor.
To be continued….