2003 San Francisco Ratha-yatra; Sublime Sweetness
Posted September 25, 2003
All glories and respects to the assembled devotees and Vaisnavas! This year we were privileged to attend the August 10, 2003 Ratha-yatra in San Francisco and had such a fabulous time that we just wanted to share our wonderful experience with Ratha-yatra lovers worldwide. For humility and comfort reasons, some of our story is written in the third person.
Our story begins as we approach the staging area in great anticipation of the days events. There is such beauty for all to see and is assuredly due to the glorious spectacle about to begin. It is a rare sunny day for the area and it only makes the day feel extra special. Greeting old friends and happily exchanging well-wishes, it was apparent how starved for association we had become in the last year since seeing our god-sisters and brothers. We note there are many visiting devotees attending the festival this year, some traveling far distances indeed. We saw devotees from the North; Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Canada; from the South; Santa Cruz, Southern and Central California, Mexico and South America; from the East; North East; New York, South East; and Florida. We feel how lucky we are to participate in this Ratha-yatra today and only by Srila Prabupadas kindness have we been accepted and can we participate with these wonderful devotees at Ratha-yatra. We remember our dear friends who are no longer with us with fondness and see their smiling faces in our minds eye missing their presence; knowing we will meet again in time.
Suddenly a gleaming white limousine arrives and Their Lordships and Srila Prabhupada are graciously greeted and then beautifully seated upon Their thrones, shinning effulgently in the morning light. Their new dusty rose outfits adorned Their eternal forms with matching garlands encircling Their ever-enchanting faces. Fabulous necklaces and jewels were seen everywhere as well as exotic flowers placed on Their turbans and crowns. The Ratha carts had been carefully decorated by tireless devotees with ferns, palms and gorgeous garlands. One could see various devotees giving in devotional service to Their Lordships all sorts of gifts. The pujaris seem pleased to accept these gifts and the serving devotees were most grateful for their acceptance. We notice a group of gurukulis approach and all at once they pay their respects to the Deities, filling our hearts with pleasure and pride. We cant help but think our movementsfuture will be in their hands soon and pray they be blessed even more than we. As the starting time approaches a sweet anticipation of the event fills the hearts of the devotees present and is palpable. Soon the Ratha-Yatra begins and one can hear the conch shells and drums start the prayerful musical chants we all love so much. The thunderous echoes of the chants can be heard against the towering Monterey pine trees breaking the silence of ignorance and transforming the atmosphere into sacred space. We notice some devotees in the distance running to catch up and see their pained faces, hoping not to miss the processions beginning. Fortunate by-standers look on with amazement and one can see a small child accidentallyfall on the grass in the position of obeisances paid to Lord Jaganatha and we think, what a lucky opportunity for the child. Singing and dancing devotees are everywhere in sight and the Deitys smile bless all who attend and pull the magnificent carts. The sweet tingling of the cartels can be heard and one devotee has a long instrument with small tambourine cymbals attached making a wonderful sound. How engaged are all of our senses now; our ears can truly hear as the Maha Mantra breaks through to our conditioned souls and we try to dive deeply into the Rama rasa. Our eyes gaze upon the captivating faces of our beloved Lord Jaganatha, Lady Subadra and Lord Baladeva and we feel fulfilled. We drink in Their beauty as much as possible as if it were a cleansing salve upon our tired material eyes. Our bodies move to the music and our hearts seems to keep beat with the sweet mrdanga drums. It seems they are forcing our legs to dance in rhythm and we feel the route is especially energized just for us. So many emotions arise from within and it is pondered by some how can I serve more?As minds become fixed on this beautiful Ratha-yatra we want to chant more and dance better or, chant better and dance more. Some ask, Oh, how did I stumble upon this most sublime sweetness and ask why is this soul so lucky to be here and others not as much as I? How did this causeless mercy fall upon this stubborn soul? I just know that today I am called upon to take up my Sanatana dharma, my constitutional position as.... oh, yes--a servant, a small jiva servant, an eternal servant. In my joyous, joyfulness I chant--O, Lord how shall I serve thee? Chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Hare, Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare& I fall to the ground and humbly I ask, Lord, I dont know how I got here and it doesnt really matter; now I just want to come home, please. Soon, too soon, the parade begins to end and some wonder if the course has been shortened this year and cant believe its almost the end of this glorious procession.
Oh, if only every day were Ratha-yatra for us all taking us far beyond our hard struggle for existence and variegated miseries of the day. This is such a special time for devotees of the Lord to come together whatever may be and it becomes self-evident who is God and who is servant. Happily chanting and dancing just the way we want to be at heart and pushing Lord Chaitanyas sankirtana movement along in whatever way we can. We humbly pray; Bhaja Sri Krsna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityanada, Sri Adwaita, Gadadhara, Sri Vas, adi Gaura bhakta vrnda&and dream that we may somehow be allowed to always follow the Ratha carts, following them all the way up to the gates of heaven-Goloka Vrndavana! Jai Jaganath, Jai Subadra and Jai Baladeva!
Trying to remember Krsna always, we pray for your blessings dear Vaisnavas.
Atmavana and Kalanka
Santa Cruz, CA