Padayatra America Ki Jaya!
Posted November 6, 2003
Sunday, October 12, 2003
Today I drove all over hell's half acre looking for the Padayatris. I drove from Elizabethtown (North Carolina) to Clinton and then, after talking to Ramcandra prabhu in New Jersey, I decided to go back through their itinerary. So I ended up in Snow Hill. Finally I figured I wasn't going to find them today, and came home. Nobody I asked had seen them, not even the police I spoke to had heard about or seen them, so my question now is.. where ARE the Padayatris?
Sunday, October 13, 2003
So there I was making prasadam cookies to bring to work tomorrow (nothing like someone who shows up on the first day of work with a GIANT BASKET full of cookies, right?) and the phone rings and who is it but Ramcandra prabhu. So he tells me, the Padayatris are on route 701 right near Elizabethtown. Well, I just about fell out. I was so near them yesterday!
After finishing up the cookies I jumped in the Jeep and off I go. Well, you want to talk about hell's half acre. It's nice out there, but boy, is it a lot of nothing. Cotton and peanuts, that's about all I saw. Some cows, a few ducks, a pig, some goats, a couple of horses. Onward I go.
Finally I make my way through Bolton to 211 and then from 211 onto 701. There they were, parked at a little church. JAYA! I nearly flipped my Jeep spinning it round to park it.
I was so amazed to find that I knew the Padayatris. They don't exactly know me, but I remembered them, and to see familiar faces was really unbelievable. Their mood is so sweet and surrendered, totally devoted, and very austere. Like Avadhuta Prabhu says, it is a complete lifestyle.
Even the horses have absorbed this mood. They are eager to pull the wagon, and despite being intimidatingly enormous, they have the same sweet Padayatri mood. The horses, Kana and Balaji, are big Belgian horses. Enormous. Bigger than your average horse. They are draft horses, and like to pull. I helped to feed Balaji, who is indeed very strong. They are surprisingly gentle for such big horses, but once they were hooked to the cart, they were ready to keep going. We can all learn a very good lesson from these faithful souls who very steadily perform their service for the Lord everyday, with no complaints, and requiring only the basic necessities of life. Kana and Balaji ki jai!
Their Lordships are stunning. Their lotus eyes are incredibly beautiful. You can actually feel the mercy coming from them. They are so attractive that even out amidst the cotton fields, where people have never heard the name of Krishna, spontaneous visitors arrive. They ask respectful questions, accept prasadam gratefully, and gaze up at the Deities with awe in their eyes. They don't even realize how fortunate they are. Maybe it will take lifetimes for this seed to bear fruit, or maybe just years, or hours or days. What's important is that the seed has been planted. Like Johnny Appleseed, the Padayatris wander on, dropping seeds of prema wherever they go.
A little boy came to visit. He wanted to go on with the Padayatris. He didn't seem to understand that they had only stopped for a couple of hours, and were on a one-way trip that wouldn't bring them back. What kind of life does he have? I don't know. He told me he lived with his grandfather and his grandfather's wife. When I asked where the rest of his family was, he just shrugged. Nitai-Gaurachandra looked down on him with Their beautiful eyes, and in his heart he had a spark of desire to go along. His life may not appear to be so wonderful, on the surface-but he is fortunate. Avadhuta prabhu advised him very gravely to stay in school until he was eighteen and then to come and join the Padayatra. I think maybe he will.
People are so mesmerized by Their Lordships that they don't even notice other things that normally would bring stares. Dhoti, sari, tilak and bindis. Offering obesiances in a grassy field. The beauty of Nityananda and Gauranga is so overwhelming that people see nothing else. Everyone leaves with a little something, some bit of mercy from the Lord. I leave with bitter sweetness - I too feel that desire, to just leave my Jeep on the side of the road, and go on in the service of the Lord. The happiness and sweetness of association is replaced nearly instantly with separation and depression. I wish I could go. That desire, I think, is the mercy of the Lord. At least I feel. At the very least, I have the desire to serve. But the Lord has His service for me, too. So reluctantly I watch, taking a few pictures, as the horses are hitched to the wagon and everything made right.
I stayed for a couple of hours and brought a small offering of turmeric, basmati, mustard seeds, toor dal, urad dal, hing and some laxmi, whatever I could afford. In return the Padayatris gave me a maha apple from Their Lordships and also some candied fennel from Sri Sri Radha Damodara. This is especially important to me, being that now is the time we particularly remember Lord Damodara's pastimes.
Who would ever have thought I'd be offering obesiances to Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundar in a grassy field beside an AME Zion church? Truly miracles happen every day. All glories to Lord Caitanya's sankirtan movement.
Slowly they begin down the road. I drive home thinking of Mataji's words, that hundreds and thousands of Padayatras could take place across the country, bringing the holy Name where it's never been. I wonder if I could build a cart and somehow go from here to Hillsborough. Is it silly? Is it offensive? Is it imitation? I don't know. All I feel is the memory of that atmosphere, that sweet, surrendered mood, the devotion to Their Lordships and the special relationship They share with Their devotees. I feel dirty and fallen, and wish I could be with them and learn to be more like them. It's getting dark as I drive through the cotton fields and over the bridge. Back into town I go, with a sigh.