The gigantic Bhakti Sangam Festival in Ukraine is truly the most amazing event within the three worlds. It is so unique and unparalleled - simply out of this world! Nothing can compare to it.....!
After Janmastami I spent another two and half weeks in Kharkov/Ukraine in order to associate with the devotees and give my body a little more time to recover after the Chemo.
On the following Sunday I used the Sunday feast lecture to introduce the upcoming seminar "From Grhamedhi Life to the Grhastha Ashram", which we were conducting over two weeks, as extended evening program. Our devotees are always eager to attend systematic courses, and thus we had a nice group of devotees who participated in the entire seminar. Recently the realization had occured to me, that we have not yet managed to establish the grhastha ashram firmly, but are still with one foot in grhamedhi life. We are still tending more towards material patterns of behaviors, expectations and attitudes found in mundane family life. And it is very natural: we are coming from grhamedhi families, and we are surrounded by grhamedhi culture and propaganda - we are carrying a good portion of grhamedhi conditioning and "luggage" with us. It will take time to establish family life as an ashram - a place for cultivating pure devotional service. It requires systematic training and education, and ultimately an internal transformation of our desires, expectations, attitudes, visions and approach to family life.
Janmastami in Kharkov/Ukraine is always the most blissful event of my entire year. In preparation for the festival I have the opportunity to get absorbed in another mood - not giving lectures, but endeavoring to create a Vrindavan panorama on the altar. I usually go to nature and collect all kinds of flowers, decorative grasses, greenery and other interesting things for the altar decoration. We compose things in such a way that it looks like naturally grown, rather than floristic arrangements. And we don't place things symmetrically on the altar, which once again gives the impression of a window into Vrindavan forest. Some of the boys go to the forest and collect moss and interesting pieces of wood and tree bark, and also stones of all sizes. This year we also had a fountain on the floor in front of the altar - a little Radha Kund. And of course our festival Deities of Radha Syamasundara were the center of attention.
When boarding the plane in Bangalore on the evening of the 10th of August I had a long journey ahead of me: from Bangalore to Mumbai, further to Sharjah/Middle East, and then to Kiev and on to Kharkov. Almost 30 hours. I had only been discharged from the Ayurvedic Clinic one day before, and I was still a little weak after the Panchakarma treatment. But I was determined to reach Kharkov for Janmastami in order to be amongst all those wonderful devotees - as it had been a long standing tradition. For me it is not easy to experience a deep and sweet mood at festivals when being in a part of the world, where thousands of visiters come to the temple. Therefore I prefer to be outside of India or Bangladesh for the main Vaishnava festivals. I had invited Deena Bandhu Prabhu from Vrindavan to spend Janmastami with us, and he was scheduled to arrive on the same day. So I was anxious to reach there.
After the main eight days of detoxifying Panchakarma treatment I received further procedures in order to gradually build up the digestion and strength of my body: five days of Abhyanga - full body massage with medicated oil, and Pichu-Shiro - cotton wool soaked in Brahmi oil being tied on my head. I also had daily Yoga sessions with Dr Aayush, a pleasant Yoga therapist and Naturopath.
I had heard of treatments where oil is poured on one's forehead - apparently it is very relaxing, and I was intrigued to try it out. When I asked Dr Vivekanand whether I could have this treatment, he responded: "We don't have enough time - it would be a waste of medicine to do it." I was taken aback, and my immediate response was "Well, I am paying for it!" But he further elaborated with a smile: "A lot of medicated oil is required for this treatment, and usually we use the same oil over many days. Medicine should never be wasted - doesn't matter who pays for it!"
Already after the first Chemo in May I had played with the idea to spend some time in an Ayurvedic Center before returning to Europe after the Chemo would be over. Devotees had told me about the I-AIM Ayurvedic Healthcare Center, and I had spoken to HH Bhakti Rasamrta Maharaja on the phone who had been there twice, and he highly recommended me this clinic. One morning I went to have a look at it, since it is only 30 minutes' drive from Anadi Jagannath Prabhu's home, where I was staying at the time. I immediately liked the mood, atmosphere and set-up - simple and clean, not commercially orientated, and connected to a University. I also met with Dr Vivekanand, the senior doctor of the clinic. He seemed a very experienced, trustworthy and thoughtful person, and I immediately connected well with him. So I settled for the idea to come out here for a two-week Panchakarma treatment, one week after my last Chemo. We fixed the dates and I booked the best room - on the top floor at the end of the corridor, with two large windows giving a beautiful view onto the gardens behind the house and the neigboring forests and nature reserves.
On the next day after our wonderful preaching program at Apollo Hospital I took my last Chemo treatment on the Oncology Day Care Ward. Many of the nurses had attended the program on the previous day, and they were happily congratulating me. The nurse in charge said: "You are a good speaker - you know how to capture the interest of your audience....!" She was a Christian. And she continued: "We were afraid, thinking: 'Oh, she is standing for such a long time - more than one hour! How can she have the energy and strength to do this?!' We were afraid you would get tired and weak....!" Yes, I had also been a little worried, but remained assured that I would simply ask for a chair if I would get tired. And once the program started, I did not even think about it any longer, and managed perfectly.
Already at my very first meeting with Dr Vishwanath the idea of conducting a preaching program at the Hospital had entered my mind. I had given him an outlook on a devotee's attitude to death, describing how the soul simply moves on to another existence, and it had been Dr Vishwanath who had asked in amazement whether I would be willing to speak to some doctors on this topic. And I had immediately taken up his suggestion and discussed the idea with Uttam Damodara Prabhu, who serves as one of the top managerial heads of all the Apollo Hospitals in Bangalore. And he was very happy to facilitate the program and make the necessary arrangements.
On the 2nd of July I had moved to a new home - to Apara Giridhari Mataji, her husband Aravindan with 15-year old son Aniruddha. They live in a spacious house in one of the upper class residential areas of Bangalore. Since they have such nice facilities, they often have the opportunity to host visiting preachers - HH Jaya Pataka Maharaja usually stays here with his whole entourage.
As a traveling preacher time passes much slower for me when traveling. The days are more eventful, visiting a different yatra every weekend. Staying at one place for such a long period of time - it's been two months now that I have been in Bangalore, and the days not being so terribly eventful, the time seems to fly. This is what it must be like when working at a regular job, and being situated in steady family duties. Before one even realizes, life has gone by. One of the main indicators for time passing by must be to see how the kids grow up, and all of a sudden are adults.
I am starting to look forward to the end of my exile here.....
Devaki Devi Dasi's Traveling Diary
Devaki Devi Dasi is sharing her realizations and adventures in her Traveling Diary. Welcome to relish this nectar!