Glimpses of Mangala-arati at ISKCON Sri Radha Krishna Temple, Bangalore
'Meditation' at 4.15
Mangala-arati is one of the most important elements of sadhana. Srila Prabhupada stresses upon it very strongly. For a normal devotee, ‘mangala-arati’ means excitement, adventure, rush-hour, fear, bliss, and at the top of it all, pleasing Prabhupada. But still there is something more about it. If God were to give a benediction to his devotees, probably most of them would ask, “I should go back to godhead in this life itself, without having to attend mangala-arati even a single day.” It’s definitely a serious issue but sometimes our anarthas make it quite bashful. This write-up is dedicated to all of us who are fired up to attend mangala-arati but paradoxically after reaching the temple hall…the whole story changes.
Getting up at 3.30 in the morning, relinquishing the cozy bed and warm blanket, running to finish daily chores, getting ready for the arati of the Lord....‘My tilaka is straight, my dhoti drapes neatly, here is my chanting bag. Devotee means tip-top. Let’s go to the main temple and have darshan of the Lord’ ...and arriving at the temple hall right on time.
Conch shell blows, altar opens, and hands rise in full surrender, ‘Jaya – Hari Bol!’ resounds all over. The Lord appears beautiful and devotees pay dandavats. Samsara dava.. song starts and with that meditation upon the Lord starts.
With the third line of the song we enter into a different world altogether… “Am I looking more attractive than the Lord? Is everybody watching me? I have to dance nicely. There is a group of some ‘young’ visitors, so let me dance more enthusiastically. Are my hands raised at a proper angle, are my steps falling evenly, I forgot to iron my kurta…Oh! Lord, let it not be noticed by the people. If I jump too much, my hairdo will get spoiled. But the person next to me is jumping higher…I will lose score. Is my ecstasy visible to the people? This is not the right place to display it, visibility is very poor….."
Wait! Wait! Take a breath. A simple contemplation… ”I came here to see the beauty of the supremely attractive Lord Krishna. Standing in His own temple, I am trying to hijack people’s attention from Him to myself. I am trying to become more attractive than the Supreme Attractive. I came here to take the blessings of my beloved Lord. How have I started competing with Him? My God! What kind of devotee I am?
The ‘meditation’ doesn’t stop there. It continues still.. “What will I do in my office today…yesterday that veg-puff was very nice, but Prabhu gave me only half…friendship day is coming - that girl in the college - I haven’t planned anything yet…why do they eat dogs in China; I know that dish is called bow-bow biryani. Uff! The way they chop the dog, it’s horrible….”
Just a moment.. Another simple contemplation.. “Did I spoil my warm cozy sleep to come here and think about bow-bow biryani, with which I have no connection at all? This I can do any time of the day…why now only? I took so much of hardship for witnessing the arati of the Lord which lasts for just twenty minutes. He is doing His part by giving kind darshan and bestowing mercy… and I am standing before Him thinking of obnoxious things.
Hari Bol! He is reading my mind and what will He be thinking? How embarrassing…”
Lord Rshabhdeva says that human life is meant for tapasya, and that tapasya is meant for attaining the Supreme. People in general do not know what life is meant for and of those who know hardly few take to this path. By Srila Prabhupada’s mercy we are among those fortunate few who know about and have taken up the real mission of human life. In spite of all the facilities available we fail to do justice to our mission.
Really embarrassing though.. but still, what does Prabhupada say? Our anarthas may take a long time to vanish and we may still go on with our oblivious bhakti but it is not for long. The process of sadhana-bhakti will purify us. The consciousness that we are being watched by Prabhupada and the Lord will keep the mind alert. At least we will know where we are going wrong.
So, never mind, we will stick on to Prabhupada’s instruction and keep rushing to the temple. Day after day, our sincere endeavor will make us perfect. And we will do what we are supposed to do – ‘real meditation' at 4.15.
Jai Srila Prabhupada!