by Swami BV Suddhadvaiti
After an intense and blissful month in Vrindavana, at the wonderful Matha of Bv Madhusudana Maharaja, at a couple of hundred meters from the Rupa-Sanatana Matha of Sevakunja, came the not less intense and blissful Kartika month. After performing our yearly parikrama so dear to Srila Gurudeva, I flew to New Zealand, which I had not visited since 7 years. Lord! How time flies! Ramananda raya dasa, or Nandou, whom I had not seen for years, is now a father of three boys, and another one coming around the 10th, Gurudeva’s Vyasapuja day! “Grand-pa Maharaja” was something new and intriguing in their young lives. I had brought a mrdanga from Vrindavana as a present for the 7th birthday of his eldest boy, Syamasundara, but the Customs officer frowned upon seeing the raw (un-tanned) skin. I pleaded but in vain. He offered to fumigate the drum, for an extravagant 125 dollars; I declined, knowing that it would ruin the drum and that the first beat on its heads would pierce them…
My visit to the South Island was sweet, meeting old friends like the sober Sanatana, father of Sita dd, Nandou’s wife; the devoted and mellow Madhupandita prabhu in Christchurch, who has always deep questions…The cooking of his good wife, Harsarani didi, who is exceptionally dedicated to the seva of their charming Deities, is out of this world, and all my vows of austerities of the tongue vanished before her cheese-cakes and halavah. All the Christian churches of Christchurch were heavily damaged by the recent earthquake and razed down. The Catholic Basilica also suffered tremendously …Vanamali prabhu and his good wife, Haripriya didi, whose paintings are beautiful windows into sweet lilas of Vraja, welcomed me in their home, a little South of Christchurch, and we enjoyed sweet bhajans, with Nandou expertly playing the drum and informal hari-katha. Their temple room is unique, and their devotion exudes from their beautiful altar. I enjoyed long japa walks on the beach in the early morning hours. Too soon I flew to the North Island.
Narayana prabhu drove me straight to Kadikadi. Dhruva, who started by selling door to door samosas, sweet and salty, prepared by his mother, Bhadra didi, according to a recipe now about 20 years old and well tested, is now heading One Love Kitchen, a catering prasadam enterprise very appreciated, especially by the youth, in all the fairs and music festivals in New Zealand. When I came, he was working on a new trailer he had designed in which to cook as well as to sell prasadam during these events. With the help of two second-generation devotees from Australia, he was welding expertly together piece by piece his new work tool. Amazing! It even has a big advertising sign on the roof which can be held up or propped down when travelling. The new truck also has a display for small books for the youth avid of spiritual knowledge, and they play bhajans constantly from loud speakers. Here you go! The original time-tested formula of Srila Prabhupada: Prasadam, Chanting and Books! Bela dd, Dhruva’s German wife, is expertly organizing all the logistics to support the venture. She always has everything planned and well organized, especially delicious prasadam! I remember that we used to say back in the old days in Iskcon France that you need one German devotee as a temple commander to have everything going smoothly and perfectly One, not two, as for us French, who are quite an independent and undisciplined bunch, it becomes too much army-like…
Jayadeva and Vrnda dd, whose marriage I performed the last time I came, on Bhadra’s request live next door. We had long kirtans and hari-katha every evening in their house as well as in Bhadra’s.
I then took a bus for Auckland, where I stayed for a week at Balarama prabhu’s temple, in Mangere. He, Bv Avadhoot Maharaja, who was visiting, and I had a great time together, starting from mangala-arati offered to the beautiful Radha Govinda Deities that a devotee brought once for a big festival and left since that. Although we had long bhajans and classes twice a day, not many devotees from the Indian community visited, due to our BV Tirtha Maharaja issue over which they were upset and destabilized. Understandably so, as Damodara prabhu has started a big temple project, with the idea of our Tirtha Maharaja being like the acharya
This was my first visit “down under”. Nimai Pandita prabhu picked me up at the airport. He is an old friend and god-brother through Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja, whose secretary he was for over three and a half years He and his wife Manjumedha devi dasi are heading the Tattva-vicara Publications and are steadily producing book after book on the life and teachings of our beloved Acharya Thakura. We evoked sweet memories of Bhubaneswara.
I was then shortly hosted in Brisbane by two Fiji Indian twin disciples of Srila Gurudeva and had some nice well-attended programs at their local temple. We then drove to Murwillumbah for Srila Gurudeva’s Tirobhava festival. Murwillumbah can pride itself to be the most devotee-populated small town of Australia. A few miles outside, in one valley there is the famous Iskcon New Govardhana farm, which Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja first visited in 1990, then, in the next one, the land of Braja-Vallabha prabhu, where Srila Gurudeva stayed a few times, then Govinda-dhama, the nice temple of the followers of Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja and his successor Sri Bhaktisundara Govinda Maharaja, then the Garden Asrama of Mathuranath and Candrakala didi, who hosted many programs over the years. And in the village itself, where many devotees live, stands the newly purchased Masonic Center, which the devotees have converted into their Bhakti-yoga center. The location is ideal, in a peaceful area, at the end of a quiet street, next to a park, with no immediate neighbors which could be disturbed by the kirtans, a little aside and at the same time at 5minutes walk from the center of town. This is not a wooden house like most local houses but a solid, large two-bricks thick big building, built by the Free-masons themselves according to state-of-the art sacred architecture and in which they have met for the last 50 years. Srila Gurudeva, who visited Murwillumbah not less than 11 times, had many programs at the Fair Grounds just adjacent, and I went there every morning to chant my rounds. He was asking the devotees every time, “Where is my center?” He wrote, “Please give this message to all there that I want a very nice center in Murwillumbah.” There had been many small centers in the past at various locations but there had not been one for many years. The Masonic Hall came on the real-estate market last January. The devotees had previously rented it for some festivals, like Srila Gurudeva’s 2012 Vyasapuja On that occasion, inspired by the contagious dedication of two illustrious preachers who visited at that time, Srimati Uma didi and Srimati Syamarani didi, the whole sanga saw their enthusiasm replenished and their desire to fulfill Gurudeva’s request intensified. They unanimously decided to purchase the building, which meets all the requirements of the devotees, as well as all the Town Council’s It has a fully air-conditioned large meeting hall and foyer, with offices, store rooms and toilets on each floor, a kitchen, and a garden at the back Some devotees had second thoughts and backed out, but a core of determined devotees went ahead anyway. A piece of land which had been purchased long ago I order to build a temple, but which had finally not been used and was for sale suddenly found a buyer. This greatly helped for the purchase of the Masonic Hall, which is now half-paid for and which has the monthly mortgage any family pays for a regular house. As one visiting devotee commented, “I don’t know what is most amazing: that you could get such a great building for such a good price or that some devotees could be against buying it!”
The 2-days festival of Gurudeva’s Tirobhava was attended by around 75 devotees. It was very blissful, well, bitter-sweet, as our beloved Guruji Maharaja is not there physically anymore with us. We cannot expect him to plant his blue eyes into ours and scan us down to the soul, nor hear the amazing flow of the sweetest hari-katha coming from his lotus mouth, but he certainly lives in the hearts of his devoted disciples. That festival was a definite proof of that. The offering of each devotee revealed how he had captured their heart. I especially recall the offering of Damodara priya dd who said something like, “Srila Gurudeva has stolen the heart or part of the heart of everyone here. So we can think that our hearts are all together in the pocket of Gurudeva. Or you can see them as being all in the handbag of a manjari of Srimati Radhika. Imagine! “She went on to say,” Once I told Gurudeva, ‘Oh! I am simply a foolish donkey!’ and Gurudeva answered lovingly,’ Yes, but I am so happy to have a donkey like you!’ and she concluded by saying, “Well, welcome in my donkey pack, all of you!”
All the visiting preachers approved of the purchase; our Bv Tirtha Maharaja was especially encouraging. Srimati Uma didi and BV Madhava Maharaja are due to visit soon, and as Gurudeva’s Vyasapuja is drawing near, we can imagine how Gurudeva will be pleased to observe this happy event in his new center You know, I think I’ll come back to “down under”…