HH Prahladananda Swami and HH Krsna Kshetra Swami were also visiting Radhadesh, and we had nice morning classes, taking turns in speaking. Naturally I felt a little out of place giving class in their presence, but Manohara Prabhu who is serving as Temple President insisted, so I accepted it for my own purification.
Also here I was scheduled to give the seminar on "Giving and Accepting Shelter" - a relevant topic for any community in order to move forward and develop. Unfortunately not so many devotees were able to participate, being busy with services. However, I felt greatly inspired by the fact that Manohara Prabhu attended every single session, with wrapped attention and eagerness. If the leaders take some interest in this topic and develop visions for their yatra accordingly, then there is great hope.
One may wonder what precisely the characteristics are of a sheltering relationship? What is the deeper meaning of being sheltered?
It means there is a senior, confidential friend and well-wisher in our life, who we can fully trust and confide in. This person is a role model for us and is able to give inspiration and guidance. We can see qualities in him which we are striving to also develop. We can share our innermost struggles, fears and shortcomings with this experienced friend, knowing very well that he has no other interest except helping us in our spiritual growth and development. No financial interest, no emotional interest - even no managerial interest.
Sometimes managerial interests and needs of a project can clash with our personal interest as struggling sadhaka. This is not meant to be a criticism of our managers. Being a manager is a tough service - no doubt. And one's vision is easily clouded by managerial goals and needs. This is exactly why in former times the kings always had an aloof brahminical advisor - a Chanakya Pandit, who would give directions. Prabhupada expresses this in the purport to SB.2.7.9: "The brahmanas, by their learned labor of love, would instruct the administrator-king's how to rule the country in complete righteousness, and thus the process would go on as a perfect welfare state." This principle is also there on the level of our yatras. It is a very important part of brahminical culture - the need for an aloof brahminical adviser, which is the main function a brahmana is meant to play. A true brahmana is not interested in title, position, power, control or money. He simply keeps aloof and gives learned advise, so everything goes on for everyone's ultimate welfare as spirit soul, progressing towards Krsna.
Not only administrator-king's need such aloof brahminical advisor, but we all do. As long as we have some material desires and attachments, we cannot objectively assess ourselves. Our vision of ourselves is clouded, and too easily we cut corners and disregard aspects of spiritual practice which might infringe on our sense gratification or material attachments.
It has taken me many years to understand why sometimes devotees experience the feeling of "being used" or even "exploited". Initially my reaction to such complaints was that this is nonsense, or simply maya, as we are serving Krsna, and He always accepts our service and we get so much spiritual benefit.
However, only recently it dawned upon me that there are more subtle aspects to it. We can indeed easily feel used or exploited, if we don't have such sheltering relationship in our life - a person who has absolutely no other interest except helping us in our spiritual development. Sometimes this vision of seeing a person's spiritual need might get lost, and devotees can merely be viewed in terms of manpower to cover services, or as a source of donations and money. And this vision and attitude can make us feel used. We don't feel cared and valued as individual souls with spiritual needs, ongoingly endeavoring on our path home, back to Godhead.
However, we can not blame our managers. We ourselves have to recognise the need for sheltering relationships, and we have to eagerly desire them. Then Krsna will witness this desire and will send along the perfect person at the right time, who can give us shelter.
If we are able to attract the interest of a senior Vaisnava in our spiritual development we receive true mercy. This is what it means to get the mercy of a Vaisnava - to receive this merciful glance and interest in our spiritual progress. And our advancement is indeed dependent on such relationships.
There is one more important characteristic in regards to a sheltering relationship. In such relationship we will want to be disciplined and corrected. We will allow this person to touch the most sensitive points deep within our heart - points which we would not so easily allow anybody else to touch upon. But from this person we will accept it, because we are sure of his motives: he simply wants our very best. Even if there is some little pain coming from our false ego, we will gladly accept it. It will almost have a sweet-spicy flavor - like a hot chutney! Thus correcting and being corrected becomes part of a loving exchange.
Unless we are eager to accept discipline and correction from this person, we are not taking shelter. We should cultivate the mood of living to be corrected.
We concluded my visit in Radhadesh with a private discussion with Manohara Prabhu and his good wife. I was happy to hear that this seminar convinced them of the great need to try and move towards implementing the principles of giving and accepting shelter in their yatra.
On the 14th of April I moved on to Germany to visit my mother for three days. She celebrated her 85th birthday, and I was happily assisting her to receive guests on that day. The tradition in the village is that special birthdays such as this one are announced in the Community Newsletter, and neighbors and friends simply drop in throughout the entire day. So people were coming and going all day.
I had gone to the forest and fields to pick the first wild-flowers and blossoming twigs, and I decorated the long table with cute little vases. The entire arrangement looked very festive - all in blue, white and yellow, with matching candles, paper serviettes and porcelain. People were commenting on the decorative arrangements, especially the flowers.
My mother had arranged for all kinds of snacks and cakes, and I had brought a box of ladhus from Radhadesh, and we made some salty little pastries which were very popular. So people received some little prasadam. The priest of the village also came to congratulate and offer a gift, and he even showed some interest in Krsna consciousness. I happily responded to people's questions and distributed a few colorful brochures with introductory informations on Lord Caitanya's Sankirtan Movement.
It had been a nice day - to everybody's satisfaction and upliftment....
On the 18th I moved on to Slovenia....
Your servant, Devaki dd