glories to Sri Sri Guru-Gauranga
The Land of Service is in the Heart
Rainbow Gathering Prasadam Seva 2004
Dispatch by Mathuranath Prabhu, 9 July 2004. Also see accompanying picture series.
jaya jaya gurudever arati ujjvala
By the generous mercy of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj and the enthusiasm of the assembled devotees under the leadership of Nitya Hari Prabhu, a very dynamic manifestation of service distribution has taken place these past two weeks at the annual Rainbow Gathering held in the Modoc National Forest of North-eastern California, U.S.A.
When I arrived with my family on Wednesday afternoon there was an immense thunder storm that thoroughly soaked us as we packed our gear down the two mile trail from the parking area. It was a blessing in disguise as it kept us cool and refreshed in the high altitude. There were already thousands of pilgrims of every size, age, color and description, greeting us and each other with smiles, hugs, and the familiar "Welcome home!" They had come seeking community, unity and spirituality.
Seeing my son Sundar Syam struggle with his overloaded pack, a kindly stranger carried it the remaining portion of the way, and from the very beginning of our experience there, one could detect a mood of service and friendliness conspicuously omnipresent at the event. It heralded the coming days of intense service and devotional association that would distribute Srila Gurudeva's mercy to literally thousands and thousands of fortunate souls, manifesting the inner "Home Comfort" perceivable through Guru-seva, regardless of physical consideration, location or comfort. Service austerity brings about heart purification that manifests unending spiritual happiness tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam, suddhyed yasmad brahma-saukhyam tvanantam.
The trail snaked around and down through the beautiful pine forested hillsides to a breathtakingly beautiful valley across whose great expanse could be seen our huge sky tent at the foot of an immense rock formation sacred to the Native Americans. The immense circular tent was shining bright among the pines like a beautiful white moonlit lotus nourishing the bud-like hearts of the devotees. Sreyah-kairava-chandrika-vitaranam.
The whole valley was covered in sage whose sweet aromatic sent lent a further sanctity to the pristine beauty of the area. A lovely stream surrounded by tender grass and wildflowers flowed from the hillside down to our 'Simply Wonderful' seva village, supplying us with an unlimited supply of sweet and fresh water. Constant and varied bird songs filled the air surrounding our camp, further enhancing the natural scenic beauty.
In the association of the service minded devotees one could not help but be reminded of Sri Giriraja and Vraja Dham, and come to feel that wherever the sincere service of Srila Gurudeva is taking place for the benefit of others, there one will find the conception of the Magnanimous Distribution of Sweetness, and the open doorway to the Divine Life of Service. A passage free from apprehension, as this is the surest and safest approach towards Truth matala harijana kirttana range, pujala ragapatha gaurava bhange.
The devotees camped upon the hillside near the main kitchen, which looked like an immense yajna arena, roped off around its huge perimeter and alive with devotional service. Sacrificial altars fuelled by propane, heated the massive cast iron woks filled with hundreds of pounds of rice, dahl, potatoes and cabbage. These were cooked and turned, stirred and shovelled throughout the day for distribution to the masses at noon and dusk. As many as forty buckets at a time filled with Prasadam would be sent out to the main circle where every evening the thousands of Rainbow pilgrims would assemble to honour Prasadam as the devotees of our camp sang sweet Hari-kirtan yajna sistasinah santo, muchyante sarva-kilbisaih.
What was achieved in Satya-yuga by silent meditation, krite yad dhyayato visnum; in Treta-yuga by great sacrifices, and in Dvapara-yuga by serving the feet of the Lord all of that is now possible and achievable by the grace of Srila Govinda Maharaj, by distributing Prasadam in his Service Line and chanting the Holy Names congregationally under his direction kalau tad dhari-kirtanat.
This yuga-dharma gives life and energy to the devotees and a high and hopeful prospect to the newly arrived. Even the little brown mouse by our tent happily and fearlessly nibbled the extra puri he found there.
A large crew of volunteers eagerly washed, cut and chopped the thousands of pounds of bhoga that were donated. Many bright faces, young and old, lined the long cutting boards on the north of the kitchen where the constant clatter of chopping knives competed with the devotees chanting of Hare Krishna as led by Hari Ballabha Prabhu.
Many newcomers gained the valuable service association of the dear long-time devotees of our Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. Many experienced devotees were present including Sripad Siddhanti Maharaj, Sripad Parvat Maharaj, Sarvabhavana Prabhu, Madhavananda Prabhu, Anandanidhi Prabhu, Syama Gopa Prabhu, Iswara Prabhu, Murali Mohan Prabhu, Divya Shakti Didi, Phulamala Didi, Jagamohini Didi, Maladhari Didi, Sita Didi, Deva Priya Didi, Syama Didi, Sachi Didi, Krishnangini Didi, Brajamohini Didi, Krishna Madhuri Didi, Madhura Krishna Didi, Shraddha Mayi Didi, Brother Cecil, Eve, Brandi and many others....
Devananda Prabhu from Australia and Nitya Hari Prabhu co-ordinated the large-scale cooking with huge woks, and they were assisted by Dinarthiharo Prabhu, Jagadananda Prabhu, Suddha Krishna Prabhu, Rama Priya Prabhu and others. In further sacrifice for the cause, Nitya Hari Prabhu's brother Tim and Anandanidhi Prabhu left the Gathering to travel hundreds of miles to pick up more bhoga when the supply was rapidly used up.
The evening programmes of Hari-nama were especially sweet and would begin in the temple tepee after Prasadam was sent out. Murtis of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai glanced mercifully over the devotees as they happily took turns leading the kirtan in the company of Sripad Parvat Maharaj and Sripad Siddhanti Maharaj. The setting was serene and lovely as the sun slowly set over the valley. The kirtan powerfully carried on into the night highlighted by the short but sweet insights of the assembled devotees until Sarvabhavana Prabhu would expertly tell a story to the delight of all the devotees and guests. The first night he arrived he told the story of the deliverance of Jagai and Madhai, followed by stories of the Kaliya-lila, Govardhan-lila and a condensed version of the Ramayan.
"In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the heroic and wonderful deeds and Pastimes of the Lord are very pleasing and satisfying to the heart and ear. By that cultivation one quickly advances towards the liberated state, and faith, attraction and devotion progressively follow."
Though our devotional village was small, it sent forth streams of mercy in the form of Prasadam, books, and the goodwill of Srila Gurudeva. All this was manifest through the affectionate hearts and earnest efforts of all the devotees present. So many friends and devotees contributed their time and energy to this project, I pray that they may forgive my inability to properly give honour to them or mention them all by name.
Srila Gurudeva's blessings are the source and energy of this seva and certainly its very substance tasmat sarva-gatam brahma, nityam yajne pratisthitam. Self-dissipation for divine distribution is a healthy, living conception of devotional life. We have this prospect only by the divine shelter, generosity and grace of Srila Govinda Maharaj.
Nitaiyer charana satya, tahara sevaka nitya, Nitai-pada sada koro asa. "The lotus feet of Nitai are truth, His servitors are eternal ever aspire for the shelter of His feet."
Jaya Jagat Guru Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj, ki jaya!!
Dispatch by Mathuranath Prabhu, USA
'Simply Wonderful' Rainbow Gathering Prasadam Seva picture series.