Kasturika Dasi served as a brahmacarini in Melbourne. For a long time, she was our Receptionist, so you may remember her love of people and the pleasure she took in introducing visitors to Krishna consciousness. Kasturika joined Hare Krishna Melbourne as a student, but - like many international students today – she was forced to return to India. She writes about the COVID-19 emergency from her current home in Sri Vrindavana Dhama.
It was sometime in 2008 when I first entered 197 Danks St. I think it was around 7 pm because people were singing and dancing in the Temple. Although I didn’t understand anything, I felt the joy they radiated. I started to learn about bhakti-yoga the next year when I met the devotees again through a student retreat. More than a decade has passed now, and I am trying to practice bhakti in Krsna’s beautiful city of Vrindavana.
Vrindavana was always a lively place, day and night the streets burst with pilgrims. Street vendors and rickshaws were everywhere. People called out ‘Radhe,’ ‘Krsna.’ With the appearance of COVID-19, there has been a pause. In the past four years, I never witnessed such quiet. From my fifth-floor apartment, I am beginning to notice things that were often hidden.
Every day a beautiful koel welcomes the morning by its cooing, ‘koo, koo.’ Parrots, sparrows and many little birds chirp all morning, flying hither and thither. Squirrels run around and monkeys fight. Mister peacock - whom I hear every day - makes his entrance, walking graciously. Trees are blooming with fragrant champa flowers. There are beautiful sunsets. On full moon nights, I sleep in abundant moonshine, with only a glass door separating me from the cool air.
COVID-19 has made the whole world stop. I feel uneasy because I can’t go to the Temple to see the beautiful deity forms of Krishna and Balarama. My daily services have been stopped. I have to wait to catch up with my friends, and must socially distance from everyone around me.
Even in the midst of inconveniences, ups and downs, the little joys of life remain. My inconveniences are nothing compared with those of people who are fighting with COVID-19. The pandemic brought deep pain and suffering and shattered many lives. Economic recession is hitting globally.
What made all this happen? As we dig into history, we find that the world has witnessed many such calamities. Srimad Bhagavatam records a similar event. During the reign of King Prthu Mother Earth reacted in a similar fashion, causing a severe drought that brought great distress to the people.
Seeing the plight of his citizens, King Prthu reproached Mother Earth. She admitted that she deliberately hid all her seeds because she wanted to teach everyone the consequences of being selfish. Being requested by the pious King, Mother Earth agreed to return the seeds and offered a bountiful harvest.
My friend shared a cartoon with me. COVID asks Earth, ‘Have you recovered sufficiently? If not, I can go a second round!’ So here is our little hope. It’s not Mother Earth who is hard-hearted. It’s human greed that’s devouring our world. But who can purify our consciousness in the way King Prthu did for his citizens? What - or who - is our rescue-remedy?
Sri Krsna is all-attractive and most benevolent. He has engineered a rescue-remedy by introducing the chanting of the holy names. He comes Himself as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and teaches us this new advanced technology to remedy stress, anxiety and human greed.
Devamrita Maharaja describes that ‘As Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and his crew sang and danced in the streets of Nadia, people gave up envy and greed. This enthused Them to chant and dance more, and this time people gave up selfishness. The more They chanted and danced, the more the people became joyful and selfless.’
So the Hare Krsna maha-mantra can bring everyone a tangible change of heart. Wow! We want to have such first-hand experience, don’t we? It’s so simple, all you need do is raise your voice and tap your feet. Chant Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Your life will never be the same.