Culture, Sadhana and Inner Transformation
23rd of November, 2006 - 3:25
A friend recently inquired about religion and cultural taints, the universality of Gauranga's path and related topics. The following are some thoughts I jotted together to gloss the themes involved:

• Religion and sadhana
• Culture and identity transformation
• Preaching and conversion
11th of November, 2006 - 17:50
Why Learn Bengali
7th of November, 2006 - 10:55
Tests of Tolerance
1st of November, 2006 - 13:27

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Tests of Tolerance
Posted: 1st of November, 2006 - 13:27
My friend Advaitadas features some of the obstacles one comes to face while visiting Vraja in his today's blog, especially at this time of the year when it's very crowded – and especially now with the local election campaigns in progress. Quoting:

I suppose that going to Radhakund is all about passing the test of tolerance – blasting loud music (Ram-nam, mayoral elections, Bollywood), pert kids, monkeys tearing your clean clothes off the line, no water due to a broken pump ...

This isn't dhyana-bhumi (a land of meditation) either - how can you meditate when you are caught between two gangs of big monkeys, ready to tear each other apart? This country is just about tolerating the intolerable.

While last year's Niyama-seva was a dance on roses for the most part, this year I share much of Advaita Da's experiences. While last year was all about increasing bhakti-sadhana, this year seems to have been primarily about burning clutter off the heart's walls in a great many ways, tests of tolerance, fortitude and determination have featured quite prominently. Sanatana Baba tells me that prarabdha catches up with a sadhaka who is about to make his exit from worldly existence – one switches to fast digestion to do away with anything jarring the progress. There's a dramatic story about a certain mahatma whom the personality of prarabdha followed for three lifetimes to get its due, and finally got its chance after the mahatma gave his consent – but I'll save that for a later time.

Noise pollution. One of the greatest triers of patience, especially for a person coming from an environment and culture where sound, and noise in particular, are looked at with a very different attitude. This month of Niyama-seva is full of sounds, a cacophony of loudspeakers blasting from all directions. Even at Gaura Dham Colony where we live at, we sometimes hear up to four simultaneous loudcasts blasting their holy message across the village. And yes, the mundane has gained foothold as well – Bollywood is there, certainly, and now the local elections.

There is now a certain bulky lady wanting to be elected for the Govardhan-Radhakund Panchayat chairman. Her symbol for elections is "Tala-Chabi", "lock and key" – everyone has one, "pleT-kap" (plate and cup), bus, train and so forth. The symbols had me puzzled for a moment, I find the convention rather amusing. This good lady's election campaign features loudspeakers blasting out na-na-na-naaa, taa-laa-chaa-bii day and night. I'm glad I had the good sense to bring with me a pair of heavy duty ear protectors. When I shut the windows and put them on, I can hear hardly anything. Who said you can't have a heaven on earth? Momentary silence has had me floating on waves of ambrosia. Dadu Maharaja asked me whether elections go on like this in our country as well. "People who make noise like this would be put behind the bars, rather than elected as chairmen and ladies," I told. "Very good," he shared the sentiment.

As much as Niyama-seva is fulfilling with the tapasya and some added aspects of sadhana, I am eager to get back to a normal, peaceful routine where practice of smarana is more of a feasible reality. Those who have practiced and formed strong habits can take just about anything, but unfortunately just yet I'm a far cry from that. Sound practice of lila-smarana calls for a quiet and solitary environment with extended stretches of time to be spent with the holy name, sitting still, praying, full of focus and heart-felt longings. Even those of us, who are presently unable to mold their lives to facilitate such on a permanent basis, ought to take retreats off the routine to form impressions in the heart and to create habits that carry us through the rough terrain. But on we all walk, facing our due tests. Tests that make us grow.
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