18 March 2001, ISKCON Mayapur
Pankajanghri prabhu gave Bhagavad-gita class in the evening. Â His words were simple, but profound: ‘There is the theoretical understanding, ‘I am eternal servant of Krishna’; and Â there is the practical application based on sadhu, sastra and guru. Â Many cannot put this into practice. Â Then, there are those who put this into practice but cannot practice for long. Â And there are those who practice for long, but who still fall away. Â Devotional service can be quite testing‘.
I met Pankajanghri some hours later behind Radha-Madhava’s kitchen. Â He was pacing up and down in the darkness, chanting his japa. Â I offered him my obeisances. Â I was surprised when he did the same back. Â Senior devotees normally just fold their palms and say, ‘Hare Krishna!’ Â He reminded me of a schoolboy. Â Youthful, despite his age. Â He was very humble. Â I asked him about the wooden Deity of Lord Chaitanya in Prabhupada’s rooms. Â He dead-panned, ‘Clay’. Â The Deity was made from clay. Â I had some pictures of Radha-Madhava which I had bought at one of the gift shop booths on the Campus. Â I asked him to write something at the back of one of the photos. Â He asked me what I should write. Â I said, ‘I just want your blessings, prabhu’. Â He wrote, ‘May you always think of Radha-Madhava’.
Pankajanghri prabhu changed track and said, ‘It’s my birthday today’. Â I said, ‘But I thought it was at your birthday the other day’. Â He replied, ‘Yesterday. Â That was our tithi. Â Tithi is the according to the moon. Â Today is our actual birthday’. Â He went on, ‘One Vaisnava near here from the Gaudiya Math is a hundred years old. Â He says, ‘Trees live to be a hundred’. Â So, what’s the big deal about having a birthday?’. Â I said, ‘It is different. Â You are a Vaishnava’. Â Pankajanghri then asked, ‘What is your name?’ Â ’Michael’. Â ’How long have you been at the Temple?’ I said, ‘Here?’ ‘No. Â In ISKCON’. Â ’Four years’. Â ’And you are uninitiated?’ Â I told him about my meeting with Radhanath Maharaja and he said, ‘He’s accepted you. Â That’s real initiation. Â You are fortunate to have a Spiritual Master!’
Since Pankajanghri prabhu is such a revered pujari (priest of the Deity), I wanted to ask him a pertinent question. Â So I asked,’What is the essence of Deity worship?’ Â He replied, ‘You have to understand who you’re dealing with. Â The Deity is not just wood or stone. Â If you think like that, it’s because you think you are made of blood and marrow. Â The Deity is spiritual. Â Krishna mercifully comes in the form of the Deity for our benefit. Â We should always have the consciousness that the Lord is sentient. Â The Lord can, of course, alternate between matter and spirit, spirit and matter’. Â His words shed new light on Deity worship for me. Â He continued, ‘We have to be careful of offences. Â In the beginning we are absent-minded. Â We have bad thoughts and commit seva-aparadhas [offences while serving the Deity]. Â As we progress, there is improvement. Â Everntually, after some years, our consciousness develops by serving the Deity. Â We can take that consciousness outside the Temple and see the Lord everywhere’.
I thanked Pankajanghri prabhu, and took his leave.