I’ve been wanting to write to you about my last trip to India for quite some time. But life and her many streams of busy-ness seems to always intervene. What’s been going on this year? Whew…. My “Down On My Knees” video project; recording and releasing Bhakti Bazaar with Ben Leinbach; recording Queen Of Hearts, my reggae-Kirtan album (to be released on July 26th); working on Kirtan Kids, my upcoming kids Kirtan CD (to be released in the fall); preparing for BhaktiCast (coming out on May 3rd); traveling all over the globe singing; studying Brazilian guitar with Jose Neto; trying my best to be a good husband and daddy; and most of all, getting ready for Ezra Gopal’s sixth birthday!!!!!!! Gosh, I’m out of breath just thinking about all of this. When it’s one day at a time it’s all good. But when I see it all at once, well, my schedule seems truly insane!
Anyway, where was I?
Oh yeah. Last June, Nubia, Ezra and I went to the Himalayan foothills in India to our Guru’s ashram to spend a little time with our Indian mother. it was an amazing trip on many levels, but there’s one aspect that I’d like to write about now. Every afternoon, as the sun began to slip behind the mountains, I was asked to sing, mostly ‘Hanuman Chaleesa’, with a few short Kirtans as well. This was blasted out of loud speakers for the whole valley to hear, and I have to confess I felt quite self-conscious the whole time. Afterwards Ma would always praise me highly, saying how beautiful my singing was. I sat there feeling like a fraud. I was so filled with ego, nervousness, effort….. So finally I said “Ma, so often I’m singing and I don’t feel any love or devotion. It just feels like hard work. What’s wrong with me?”
She smiled her cute, mysterious ‘Goddess’ smile and said: “Jai Gopal. It doesn’t matter at all what you feel! This is your service to Maharajji! You Americans seem to think that service is just eating a ladoo (yummy Indian sweet) and blissing out. For us here in the temple, service is often exhausting and filled with anxiety. But we do it because it absolutely needs to be done.” She continued VERY forcefully: “In this day and age, singing God’s name is urgent! Without God’s name our very limbs won’t stay attached to our bodies!”….. A chill ran through me. What an image! We chant for so many ‘spiritual’ reasons, but then and there, Ma gave me a new bottom line……
The rest of our time there I saw ashram life and ‘Bhakti life’ quite differently. Everyone was super busy, either doing work around the temple or singing and chanting prayers. Such an incredible wave of devotional activities and it really seemed that no one was doing it for their own selves, no one was doing it to get high or to feel ecstasy. It was all for the ‘other’, be it God, Guru, or, more often than not, for all of the people around them, the visitors, the ashram residents, the villagers, the whole world…. This really really really woke me up and began to transform my whole concept of Bhakti. Who and what is it for? A good party? An amazing euphoric feeling? A more beautiful sense of one’s self? No, I don’t think so, although none of those reasons are inherently bad or wrong. But I’m beginning to feel that in these rather desperate times my Bhakti practice is to somehow or another help the world keep it’s limbs attached to it’s body, and, in doing so, help to bring healing and happiness to all of us, including myself. (What would I do without my limbs? I couldn’t even play with my boy!) And, as if that weren’t enough, to attempt to serve my Guru. And as if THAT weren’t enough, to try and simply be a good and kind person…. Kind of pretentious? Well, maybe…. But it’s the best I can do right now. And I honestly feel that I’m just barely touching my little toe in the great ocean of divine love that we call Bhakti.
What do you guys think? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this……
Lots of love and blessings to you all,