Saturday, January 11, 2014
I was passing through the busy street in Srimongol when the faint sound of music reached me over the city's din. I looked and saw the temple's courtyard through the gate to my right: well lit, yet not too bright. A centered, roofed, open, brick shelter stood in front of the statues of Krishna and other deities. Devotees, a group of young men, were singing a Kirtan, the Hare Krishna Chant in the shelter, as the evening offering. I stood at a corner at first, unsure of what was proper given my being non-hindu, and then sat down at the corner of the shelter. The singers, as rhythmic as they were, as joyful as they were, sang several tunes of the chant. They started each tune in mid tempo and then reaching a crescendo near the end. The beats from the hand drums made me want to swing and move with the chanting. Hare Krishna; Hare Krishna; Krishna, Krishna; Hare, Hare. Sitting at the edge of the shelter, in half-light, I could look up and see the stars. And sometimes I closed my eyes and just accepted the music as it reached me. Closing my eyes, I saw the blue of the night. I could feel the blue of the moment: me, a lonesome traveler, passing through and bumping upon an offering, a ritual that has taken place in these lands for hundreds of years. The moment, the singing reminded me, for some reason, the pre-1960s in greater Bengal, when the ethnic, religious, societal cleansing hadn't quite started to take full effect. Back then, these chants and this music was not intermixed with anxiety about the future, but was only of devotion and joy. Back then, a song offering like this could have tens of singers. Tonight there were only seven. Who knows, when I return again, maybe they will all be gone to India. I may never hear this song again. I may never return. So, I listened to the chanting, the blue of the music, the blue of devotion, and the blue of the moment. Alone. In this moment.
I flow, like a river, from village to village, port to port, offering to offering. We all do. We cannot ever return to the same moment, same people, the same place; the same we were. Like a river, we flow and become more and become less than what we were and we don't return. Knowing this, and feeling the joy of the music made me lose myself in the happy sadness of the moment. I was sad because I would not experience this evening again; and happy because unexpectedly, I was gifted this devotion to Krishna. Unlike Krishna, I don't receive countless devotions everyday, through the ages. So, I accepted this once in a lifetime devotion, though not to me, with an open heart. At the corner, there I sat. I saw the stars, sometimes closing my eyes. The evening was full of the chant: the joyful drums, the devotees singing, and me a lonesome traveler.
(here's a Hare Krishna Chant similar to what I heard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lqx6qZDJTo)