Monday, March 12, 2007

In memoriam

A bright light has left our world. My sister, Hilda Weisberg, passed away this morning at the age of 56. She had been dealing with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) for about a year and a half. She left early in the morning, before sunrise, at home with her husband Len. This picture was taken at a celebration of her life held at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California last November.

Throughout her life, Hilda was one of the gentlest, kindest, most generous, most gracious people anyone could know. She exemplified generosity and grace. For several years, she has been intensely involved in the practice of Theravada Buddhism and Vipassana meditation. She was quickly recognized as a special person in her sanga even before her illness.

When she was diagnosed with ALS in December of 2005, she went after the disease very vigorously, intensifying her spiritual practice and simplifying her diet even more than she had already. It seemed for a while as if her zest for life would prevail. However, in the last few months it became apparent that her body would succumb to the attack on her nervous system.

All the while, she touched the hearts of members of her family, her spiritual community, and anyone else who came in contact with her, by her expressions of gratitude and joy. She always asked after others' health and always looked for ways she could extend herself to others. The manner in which she faced death is exemplary and inspiring. It's hard to count the number of us who will miss her terribly.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sri Gaura Purnima

This past Saturday, March 3, was Gaura Purnima, when Gaudiya Vaishnavas celebrate the appearance of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in this world. Lord Chaitanya's appearance is a mystery and a manifestation of the greatest grace. His most widely available gift is the congregational chanting of the holy names of God, which is the most efficacious means for spiritual realization in the current age.

I always especially like Gaura Purnima because it was just before that festival in 1970 that I formally joined my spiritual master's mission in Honolulu. So it's a little like a birthday for me in a way.

We see Lord Chaitanya on the right in this picture. On His right is Lord Nityananda (His right-hand man), whose mercy is compared to the soothing effect of the light of millions of moons. Together these two brothers inaugurated the chanting of Hare Krishna about 500 years ago in India.

Devotees everywhere mark this festival with grand celebrations marked by congregational chanting of the holy names of Krishna and of Lord Chaitanya. Here's a picture of one such celebration in San Diego, California in 2002. The young women in the front are our two daughters. Krishnamayi, in the green sari, was recovering from a near-fatal bicycle accident. Lalasamayi, in the blue sari, lovingly nursed her sister back to health. This was Krishnamayi's first public outing after the accident.

Friday, March 2, 2007


Today is a festival called Vyasa-puja for disciples of Swami B. V. Tripurari, my friend and mentor. Vyasa-puja celebrates the appearance in this world of the spiritual master, who is considered a representative of Srila Vyasadeva, an empowered incarnation of Godhead who compiled the Vedic scriptures.

Swami Tripurari is a disciple of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, and has been living in the renounced order of spiritual life for over thirty years. He was renowned for his bold outreach when we were young and has become well known for his commitment to Krishna consciousness and the depth of his understanding over the last 35 years. He is the author of many articles published in print and on the Internet, as well as of several wonderful books exploring the science of bhakti yoga as taught by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada. I met Swami when I spent some time at the Los Angeles center for Krishna consciousness in 1973, and I have had the pleasure of his company and advice for the last eight years or so. During that time I have found myself charmed by his wisdom, humor, devotion, and compassion. I have also had the privilege of helping with the editing of some of his books and hope to serve more closely with him in the coming years. I find myself inspired to seek and accept deeper engagement in more responsible service to the mission of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by his kindness, his broad, deep vision of Krishna consciousness and its benefits for all society, and his example of selfless surrender. I hope to be able to progressively act on that inspiration throughout the rest of my life.

A couple of years ago, I adapted a Sanskrit verse as a prayer to Swami Tripurari:

prasida suhrid artanam prasidaudarya-dharine
raga-soka-bhujangena dastam mam uddhara guro

Please be kind to me, dear friend to the distressed. Be kind, my guide, O reservoir of munificence, and deliver me, for I have been bitten by the snake of attachment and lamentation.