In Mayapur with HH Srila Jayapataka Swami
While at the Bombay temple, we heard that HH Srila Jayapataka Swami, like he does every year, would spend Srimati Radharaniís appearance day in Mayapur. The festival would have occurred exactly during the week that my wife and I had decided to stay in the holy dhama, so you can imagine our joy at thisnews.
Once we arrived in Mayapur we were instantly struck by the atmosphere that permeates the dhama. The first person who touches your heart is Srila Prabhupada, his love for us is manifested in these buildings, in these gardens, and in the air you breathe. Then the devotees who have dedicated their very lives to this immense project come to mind. The Deities, the Vrajavasi, the devotees, the prasadam, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the whole organization, the hospitality and all --- everything is so intense that your heart is immediately stolen.
As disciples of HH Srila Jayapataka Swami, then, it is also inevitable that you are stunned by the amount of godbrothers living in the dhama. And of course, you think, "With all these godbrothers around, how will I ever see him, get near to him?" In Italy, there are so few of us and itís that much easier to get close to him, to serve him personally and speak to him.
The day of his arrival draws near, and this thought comes more frequently to mind. On the 29th, HH Srila Jayapataka Swami was to arrive in Mayapur at 1 pm. At as early as 12 pm, the first few devotees started hanging around the main gate. As time went by, others came along carrying instruments, and the welcoming kirtana started up. More time went by, the group of devotees grew, but HH Srila Jayapataka Swami was still nowhere to be seen. It was then about 2 pm when suddenly an unheard voice triggered a mass exodus towards somewhere, who knows where, but obviously we followed, trusting in the others. Where was HH Srila Jayapataka Swami?
All the devotees head off down a side path to the left leading towards a ghat on the Ganga, and there was HH Srila Jayapataka Swami: offering his obeisances to Srimati Gangadevi. The devotees crowd onto the steps of the ghat. HH Srila Jayapataka Swami was there, completely engulfed by the river, he seemed lost in his thoughts, then he turned towards us, opened up his great, big arms and called out a "Haribol!" to all.
After bathing in the Ganga, he started off towards ISKCON Mayapur, surrounded by a crowd of devotees. All the passersby, the shopkeepers and customers in the roadside diners and shops came out to greet him warmly as he passed by, offering their obeisances. Upon entering the property of ISKCONís spiritual city, HH Srila Jayapataka Swami went directly to Srila Prabhupadaís Samadhi where, in the auditorium downstairs, Nama Hatta devotees and disciples eagerly awaited him with a rousing kirtana. As always, HH Srila Jayapataka Swami began to chant the holy names and dance with the devotees. At the end of the kirtana, HH Srila Jayapataka Swami sat down and gave a brief Bengali speech to the Nama Hatta devotees.
Afterwards, HH Srila Jayapataka Swami and the devotee crowd went outside and someone proposed a group photo with the Nama Hatta devotees and everyone else. Since the group was so large, almost too large to fit in the picture, HH Srila Jayapataka Swami started organizing the devotees on the stairs, moving everyone around with sweeping gestures in order to squeeze them in. This is when I decided to try for a close-up of him, and when he realizes he yells for me to back up and try to take a photo of the whole group; if your guru raises his voice, the reaction is automatic. I shrunk down several sizes and backed up, only to discover I had finished the roll.
After the photo HH Srila Jayapataka Swami, followed by all the devotees went off to his quarters. At the foot of the stairs, everyone was encouraged not to go up and the crowd faded away. Everything I dreaded echoed in my head, would I be able to see HH Srila Jayapataka Swami as I was used to doing? Since Iím such an eternal neophyte, I have the unconquerable need to be close to him in some way. So I decided to go up those stairs that I had seen in so many videos, the same ones that lead to Srila Prabhupadaís quarters.
What I had noticed in my visits to Srila Prabhupadaís quarters in America and in India is his presence in all of them, the intense sensation of peace found there. They are places illuminated by a transcendental purity, you feel protected there, at home.
When I reached the top of the stairwell, all was quiet; there were few devotees. One of my godbrothers came up to me as I wandered about the terrace with a, "Yes, prabhu?" I thought inside, "Here we go, itís all over", while saying, "Can I stay here?" He answered that HH Srila Jayapataka Swami was taking rest and that I could see him tomorrow at 8:30 am with all the others. I took in the low blow, and turned towards the stairs, as I descended an infinity of thoughts flew through my mind. "Itís not fair, why canít I see him? Maybe heís right, who am I to always be so stuck to my guru? Itís not right for me to disturb him, why should I have privileges others donít have? We are all disciples and he loves us all in the same way, Iíll see him tomorrow with everyone else, itís only fair". Then I thought again, it was too hard for me to swallow, unfortunately I was so used to hanging around in his quarters, helping out in any way I could and this for me gave me a great sense of sadness and anguish that darkened my whole day.
I tried to distract myself, but these feelings just wouldnít go away. In the afternoon later on, I passed near those stairs many times. I wanted to go up to HH Srila Jayapataka Swami so badly, but I didnít want to come up against the brick wall; so I tried to convince myself that it was for the best. In Mayapur, HH Srila Jayapataka Swami is very busy with administrative duties connected to the whole Mayapur project, he also has to meet with his staff and there are many people who want to see him, so it was natural for there to be times in which he shouldnít be disturbed.
My resentment was still there. At the end of the day, it was dark and, after sharing my unhappiness with my wife, resigned we decided to go off to bed. While going towards our room, as we climbed the stairs, I gave a last look towards that terrace and I saw all the lights were on. There was a certain movement up there. I looked at my wife saying, "What tomorrow? All the lights are on up there, letís go!" I decided to try again.
We climbed those stairs again together, but when we reached the top, my wife, Jaya Dayini dd, remained behind while I went around the other side of the terrace looking for my Guru Maharaja. As I came round the bend, incredible but true, I saw HH Srila Jayapataka Swami standing on the veranda getting dressed; there were other devotees with him. I offered my obeisances and then he turned to me and said, "Come stai?" to me in Italian as usual. Then he asked me, "What are your plans? Have you sold your house?" We had a short conversation, I asked him, "How are you, Guru Maharaja?" He answered, "A little tired, but fine." Then he continued getting ready for the interviews for Radhastami initiations; he would have been up until late.
I spent the day of Radhastami in bed with my usual kidney-stone colic, it had already happened to me while at New Panihati (Atlanta) the day after meeting HH Srila Jayapataka Swami for me always has this great purifying effect. That evening thanks to the aid of my wife and my dear godbrother Ganga das I was again on my feet and in good shape. The first thing I said to my wife was, "Letís go see HH Srila Jayapataka Swami."
When we reached the top of the Lotus Building, my wife waited while I went off looking. I found myself in front of HH Srila Jayapataka Swami, and offered my obeisances. When he saw me, he turned to all the devotees gathered there and announced, "Since Amala Caitanya is here, tomorrow weíll have an Italian lunch!" I could feel a huge "Jaya!" go off inside me. I went to call my wife, gave here the good news and we returned to HH Srila Jayapataka Swami who asked us, "How are my spiritual children?"
Here every word becomes superfluous. Every time, due to my immaturity, I have doubted my spiritual masterís ocean of mercy I have always had to come to my senses. The inexplicable thing about HH Srila Jayapataka Swami that many godbrothers agree on is actually this, his total availability towards his disciples. Despite his incalculable duties, he always finds time to speak to and to concern himself with all his spiritual children. His incredible ability to memorize each and every discipleís personal situation, even after time, helps us understand how he always keeps us in his heart. I offer my respectful obeisances to my spiritual master, the ocean of mercy.
The evening was not yet over. Suddenly we found ourselves seated on the floor in front of HH Srila Jayapataka Swami with plates before us, devotees bringing in different preparations. It was a light meal of mahaprasadam from Radhastami. Guru Maharaja took prasadam and spoke to everyone present. I was unfortunately not able to honor prasadam as I had been sick, but I was happy that my wife was there with the other devotees in front of HH Srila Jayapataka Swami, who took care to see that everyone had equal portions of each preparation.
It was then time to leave, everyone retired and we too returned to our room. All of my resentment and worries no longer existed, I was happy.
The following day, after the program, HH Srila Jayapataka Swami gave a beautiful lesson on how devotees should behave when faced with those who offend oneís guru and what to do when the authorities deviate from their prescribed duties. He quoted examples related to pastimes of both Lord Nityananda prabhu and Srila Prabhupada. His classes are always so interesting, filled with invaluable information for our spiritual lives.
After Bhagavatam class, HH Srila Jayapataka Swami chanted rounds in the temple room with some devotees. We went off to begin preparing for lunch. As indicated by HH Srila Jayapataka Swami, we had already spoken to our irreplaceable godsister Rasesvari dd, Ganga prabhuís wife, who is an expert cook also of Italian cuisine. Without her help, HH Srila Jayapataka Swamiís Italian lunch would not have been much of anything. The three of us prepared a total of ten preparations: two kinds of pizza, homemade fusilli with tomato sauce seasoned with fresh basil, steamed string beans with a drop of olive oil, semolina gnocchi (a Roman dish), bread, cookies, eggplant parmigiana, mozzarella and tomato salad, etc. HH Srila Jayapataka Swami wanted to share his lunch with his Mayapur office staff, a team of devotees engaged in year-round service there. All seemed content with the prasadam. HH Srila Jayapataka Swami personally stopped by the kitchen to make sure that all the cooks; servants and the other devotees there took prasadam.
HH Srila Jayapataka Swamiís brief stay in Mayapur was packed with meetings, interviews, gurupuja, and the like. He offered himself to all with his usual tolerance, warm smiles, understanding and infinite availability. We all as much as possible should try to aid our spiritual master, always stay close to him, pray to Krsna and contribute in whatever way we can to help him keep healthy. His efforts to serve Srila Prabhupadaís mission are continuous and unstoppable.
The following day we left to begin our return trip back to Italy. Before leaving Sri Mayapur Dhama, we went up to bid HH Srila Jayapataka Swami farewell quickly. He was very busy. He told us he would soon visit Italy. Letís start getting ready to welcome him.
When one first approaches Krsna consciousness, a strong bond of love links one to Srila Prabhupada and stays with us for all our lives. His person, as known through his books, videos and tales told by those who met him, is alive and present for us. This strengthens the desire to serve him and to feel what those devotees who personally knew him felt. I want to thank Srila Prabhupada over and over for having given me this most precious gift: the possibility to meet my dearmost spiritual master in this life, who bridges the gap left by Srila Prabhupadaís absence.
My sincerest obeisances to all my dear godbrothers and godsisters.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada! All glories to HH Srila Jayapataka Swami! Hare Krsna.
Amala Caitanya das