THE FOLLOWING LETTERS WERE WRITTEN BY BRAHMATIRTHA DAS, NANDA-NANDANA DEVI DASI, AND DHVANI DEVI DASI AFTER A RECENT VISIT WITH ACHARYADEVA.
Last week I had the privilege of spending two days with Acharyadeva. It has been awhile since I was personally with him and most refreshing for me indeed. He lives in a small town not far from Los Angeles yet it seems to be on a different planet than LA. The valley is peaceful, agricultural, located at the base of small mountains next to the Pacific Ocean with perfect climate. His apartment is on a small and modern college campus, with intelligent and decent neighbors.
When I approached Acharyadeva’s apartment he was playing the piano with the window open, a most enchanting sound. The next day we hiked up a nearby mountain trail to see the Pacific Ocean from looking down. We mostly chanted while walking the several miles up the trail and then sat facing the ocean in complete peace and harmony. In the afternoon Acharyadeva asked me what I wanted to do with rest of my life.
I explained that I vacillate between doing something or just watching, contemplating and assisting devotees as requested. We then discussed an idea we have been attempting to implement since 1979 – a research think tank for ISKCON meant for intelligently studying relevant issues and publishing thoughtful articles. Acharyadeva’s conclusion was: “go for it” – do something.
All in all, I have missed his direct company and appreciated a few days in the peaceful valley.
Yours in service,
March 4, 2012
In late February 2012 we had the lucky opportunity to visit Srila Acharyadeva at his residence in Camarillo, California. Brahma Tirtha Prabhu was also visiting during that time. We arrived at the Los Angeles airport in the early afternoon, and drove roughly 60 miles north to his apartment, which is part of the housing on the California State University Channel Islands campus.
Immediately upon arriving, we were taken aback by the beautiful, serene atmosphere. The sun was shining brightly and a cool, gentle breeze was always blowing. Acharyadeva welcomed us and shared some fresh fruit and vegetables with us. The college campus is nestled into the stunning Santa Monica mountain range. Immediately visible in the distance was Boney Mountain, the highest and most jagged peak in the Santa Monica Mountains. Shortly after our arrival, Acharyadeva took us for a japa walk on a path he has named the “parikrama marg,” and showed us around the idyllic college campus.
That evening we discussed the temporary nature of the material world and the mood of a devotee engaged in Krishna’s service. Acharyadeva commented on a verse from the Srimad Bhagavatam.
Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, never fear any condition of life. For them the heavenly planets, liberation and the hellish planets are all the same, for such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord.
Acharydeva first gave a literal translation: “All of those who are dedicated to Narayana, do not fear anything. Either in material heaven, or liberation or in hell, they see all these things as having equal value.” He pointed out that if you actually are devoted to Krishna, the real question is not “where will I end up?” but “will I get to keep serving Krishna?” The spiritual platform is beyond material time and space. He expressed how the wonderful thing about Krishna consciousness is that in every situation, every problem, every uncertainty or difficulty—there’s just one solution—you just take shelter of Krishna.
He also discussed the topic of bringing people to Krishna through our own purity:
“If you are sincere enough and devoted enough to cultivate pure Krishna consciousness, then to glorify you, Krishna will create situations where by your association, people will receive marvelous rewards. Of course, Krishna is sending certain people to you. He is simultaneously doing what He says that He does in the Gita (4.11 – ye yatha mam prapadyante)—and at the same time, He is glorifying you as a pure devotee. So He’s doing both.”
On the second day, Acharyadeva took us on a japa walk through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. We were surrounded by rolling hills, round peaks, and the pointy summit of Boney Mountain in the distance. It was reminiscent of the beautiful English countryside.
That evening we went to a home program where Acharyadeva was invited to speak on the topic of mercy. The audience enjoyed his insightful philosophical points and wonderful sense of humor. The hosts, Syamananda Das and Radha Priya Dasi, were very accommodating and stuffed us all with unlimited amounts of delicious homemade pizza. I believe the lecture was recorded and will probably be available for us in the near future.
On the third day, Acharyadeva took us on an adventure through the coastal side of the Santa Monica Mountains. This japa hike lasted nearly four hours as we followed dirt trails that snaked through the mountaintops. At one scenic overlook point, we could see the Pacific Ocean stretch out for miles to the west. The crystalline water sparkled with shades of green, blue, and bright flecks of white reflecting off the sun.
During our drive back to his apartment, Acharyadeva and Brahma Tirtha discussed different ways to bring people to Krishna consciousness through academia. We have to have our fingers on the pulse and attract people by appealing to their latest interests.
That evening we read from chapter 7 of the Bhagavad-Gita:
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Now hear, O son of Prtha, how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.
“That’s the knowledge we want. We want to know Krishna without doubt; we don’t want to be plagued by doubts. Samagram means completely. Agra means a tip or point, and so samagram means all points, or in other words, completely. We want to know Krishna completely and without doubts. You can have, so to speak, complete knowledge but not be confident of your knowledge. You could be doubtful. Or, you could have faith but just not know. So we want these two things: to not have doubts and to have complete knowledge of Krishna.”
I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and numinous. This being known, nothing further shall remain for you to know.
“Savijnanam means with realization. Prabhupada chose this word savijnanam, this term with realization, for the Bhaktivedanta Institute Science Journal, because he said the essence of science is that you can experience the point.”
In addition to showing us magnificent natural vistas and holding evening discussions, we also had a daily morning and evening program in which Acharyadeva led kirtan while playing beautiful tunes on his digital piano.
Over the weekend we visited the home of an Indian devotee couple Nandini Radha and Saci Dulal – both Radhanath Swami disciples. They live just a few units down from Acharyadeva’s apartment and invited all of us to see their beautiful Radha Krsna deities. We took darshan and then Acharyadeva spoke with all of us for a little while about the nature of life in modern society, and how everything is operating on such a fast pace with all of our new technologies. We mentioned how technological advancements such as smart phones are affecting young children. These days, children communicate via text messaging, so they feel isolated without having full access to such gadgets. Acharyadeva talked about how much simpler life was when he was a young child in school.
He also reminisced about his walks with Srila Prabhupada through parks and fields where he grew up in LA, and how he never would have imagined he would be walking with a pure devotee in the very same place where he was playing sports in his youth. Acharyadeva described how during one walk on the beach, Prabhupada would go up to the water, and when the waves came rushing onto the shore, he would run away from them while laughing.
As always, it was a very spiritually enlivening time with Acharyadeva. His writing is going well; he has the perfect peaceful environment in which to work.
Dhvani and Nandanandana dd
March 8, 2012