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Title: Ratha Yatra in San Francisco

User: neilsf††† Date: 2006-10-18 12:23:21


Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna!


All Glories to Swami Gaurangapada! All Glories to all the Devotees!


Yesterday was the 40th annual San Francisco Ratha Yatra festival. The first Ratha Yatra in 1966 was the first time that a Ratha Yatra was held outside of India. I feel very happy to have been able to participate in such a landmark event.


The event was sponsored by the Berkeley ISKCON temple. I thought about volunteering to do some service to help get things together, but I decided against it, because I'm not really sure what my realtionship to the Berkeley temple should be. On one hand, I'm hesitant to get too involved with an ISKCON temple, but on the other hand, I feel that if I do some service it would be good for me. So anyway, I didn't volunteer and I ended up feeling a little bad about it.


Yesterday morning, I got dressed in a pair of jeans and I wore a new kurta that I bought just for the Ratha Yatra. I have a couple of dhotis, but I'm somewhat hesitant to wear them, because even though I had a devotee show me how to put one on a few years ago, I always feel very self conscious and wonder if I really am wearing it correctly. So I wore jeans instead. I also put tilak on and it made me happy because I felt like I looked like a devotee.


When I left the house and went to the bus stop to ride over to Golden Gate Park where the parade was going to be, I started feeling very self conscious. It was warm out and I started sweating quite a bit. Mostly I was sweating on my forhead. I was afraid that the tilak was going to run and look very stupid. Iwas the only devotee on the bus and of course I felt that everyone was looking at me. It was painful to feel that way, so I told myself that I didn't care if people thought I was crazy and I made it through to the park.


Once I got to where the chariots were waiting to start and there were other devotees there, I started another form of self criticism. I was thinking that my tilak was all runny and looked stupid. I started telling myself that I'm not a real devotee and that I shouldn't pretend to be...Its amazing all the self criticism that I can come up with.


So I was standing off on the sidelines, talking with myself rather than trying to talk to any devotees. I was getting somewhat angry that nobody seemed interested in talking to me. So I started doing my rounds and that calmed me down a bit. As I was chanting softly to myself, a mataji approached me and asked me if I would like to do some seva. I said sure. It made me feel happy that someone actually asked me if I wanted to help out.


It turned out that she wanted me to walk next to Lady Subhadra's chariot and carry a rope near the wheels and make sure that devotees didn't get too close to the wheels. I was very happy to have this seva because while we were waiting for the chariots to start moving, I had a wonderful view of Lady Subhadra and her pujaris as they were getting her ready to go on the ride. I felt so blessed to have such close association with Lady Subhadra. Whenever I looked up, It seemed like she was looking at me. And it really seemed that she was very much enjoying the outing because she had such a big smile. I was glad to do that service because it made me feel that I was able to actually be a part of the festival and not just an observer.


After the chariots got to the destination, I went straight to the prasadam tent to get some prasadam. It was not terribly crowded and the line went fast, so I was able to sit down with the Lordís mercy rather quickly.


Then I spent sometime walking around the festival site and looking at the different booths that were up. They all seemed pretty much to be the same as they ever are, so I didnít really stick around too long. I guess that if I wanted to, I couldíve tried to engage with some of the devotees and tried to make connections, but I often times feel that I really donít have much to say and conversations are difficult. I wish that I had thought about making some cards or stickers with the Nityananda, Gauranga and Hare Krishna mantras on them, but I feel so inconsistent with my own chanting, I really donít feel qualified to do any preaching work.


All in all it was a nice day. I was very happy to perform a small service for Lady Subhadra. Iím thinking that next year I will try to become more involved. Iím thinking that maybe what Iíll do is go to the Berkeley temple more frequently and get there early and volunteer for seva around the temple and then maybe I can feel more a part of things...weíll see


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