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Letters from India


Inside ISKON Ashram

May 24-26, 1985

Vrindaban, U.P.

Dear Family,

(24 May) The energy is so much different here than at the ISKON in Bombay. It’s spiritual here, there’s no question of any other energy. In Bombay, maybe it was mixed because of all the vibrations of the city; whereas here, it’s just a small town (but a major pilgrimage site) filled with ashrams and devotees of Krishna.

And it is full of ashrams – they’re practically lining the streets. But of the ones I saw, this one is definitely the best-kept and nicest looking.

Inside the ashram is the house of their (late) spiritual guru, the Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada Swami guy. I’ve read a bit of his writings and, to tell the truth, he’s pretty much on the mark. But isn’t my guru.

Their “Guest House” that I'm staying in is waay too expensive, Rs 30 a night. So I asked and they’re seeing if they can get me accommodation in the ashram. Every now and then someone asks, “So you want to become a disciple?” Don’t know how I manage that one, staying – even in the ashram – but not being a part of their guru-thing. Swami! What to do!

And I ask, “Why do you keep me at another ashram? Is this fair, is it just?”

Yesterday I was asking at the desk about seva - I had this feeling to do seva while here. But as the guy was answering, saying I should talk to the president to see if there was anything I could do, another guy came out looking for someone who could type! I ended up doing this typing job – a sentence needed to be inserted in a form. I had to type it in on the five separate copies as there was no carbon paper. Amazingly enough, the form was to the Government requesting that a foreigner’s visa be renewed another 3 moths, saying that ISKON would sponsor this student and be responsible for him. This was a leela though and through! Asking about seva, seva appears immediately, and the seva is to copy a form requesting a visa extension. Ha, ha! :-)

I wonder what Sai is doing to me, keeping me away. What am I doing in a Hare Krishna ashram in North India! It seems crazy. It makes this world seen even more like a dream, trapped in the middle of North India and unable to “legally” return to the Nilayam.

The whole thing is making me nauseas. Sai sure doesn’t let you be comfortable for long, eh? But, He did allow me to be supremely comfortable and content, basking in His Presence for 5½ solid months. That’s real blessings. He’s given soo much; but now, clothed in mystery and (as usual) with no instruction, He’s left me in North India…moan…

Today some big Swami arrived. Something about him being the guru (“leader” of the ISKON organization) for half of India and many foreign countries. This one lady took me to meet this big Swami (“big’ as in important), introducing me as “a new bhakta”! What to do! Then saying I'm staying for three months – and I’ve only said a month. The guy was busy but said he’d see me the next day. Said some comment about service and don’t let my mind wonder away. Yes we’ll see by his comments how intuitive, in-tune and realized he is. I suspect, not 100% perfected yet. So I’ll take what he says to me with respect, but half-baked listening, not as if God’s saying it Himself, in all His Purity and Knowledge.

(25th May) Spending time chanting in temple, doing errands for the secretary (my “seva” for now) (she is an American, white, and from New York!). Talked to her – very nice & understanding, can tell she’s advanced – saying this Prabhupada guy isn’t my guru, but could I still stay? Explained about Sai throwing out foreigners, but I’d go back for His Birthday, leave in October. She was very casual, saying of course it’s OK if I stay, free in the ashram and do seva here. Me relieved!

Well, I saw that Swami guy. Report: he’s definitely not realized. He seemed a bit nervous, spewing out pretending I’m-the-guru-and-I-know-all-and-you’re-my-disciple-who-has-complete-faith-that-I-know-all act. He’s definitely not realized, yep. How different from the special Ram Surat Kumar! Well what to do.

He asked where I was from, when I went to Bombay temple, and spewed out dry-sounding “advice” and “teachings”. Gave example that Krishna consciousness is at the top of the ladder, saying all paths – then mentioning SRF and Sai Baba by name (I had mentioned both to the secretary, she must’ve told him) – lead to their path. I started to stand up for our beloved Sai and he very rudely interrupted saying, “Do you know what the use of MAGIC is?” Well! Of course I had to calmly explain Sai’s miracles but what can you do with a closed-minded un-realized fellow (there were only us two in the room, in the next room was the two of his associates and my friend secretary).

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