Going way too far
Posted on April 7, 2014
(From Mukunda Goswami's Vyasa-puja offering, 2000)
"We cannot make this institution or this center as a brothel!" That's how you ended your lecture at the Manor one Sunday morning in August, 1973. I'd been sitting erect on the temple floor, eyes closed, brows knit, affecting my best pseudo-yogi listening posture. But I was sound asleep. How I managed to stay upright remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of my life.
It had been a late night. That wake-up call was the end of your lecture. It was over! But wait a minute! I thought you were speaking on Srimad-Bhagavatam. How did that sentence creep in? Devotees were bowing down, and you stood up and headed toward the temple room door. You were climbing the stairs to your rooms.
I thought back to the evening before. What had happened that night probably infuriated the neighbors against us more than anything else. There was the stage, with its 250-watt amplifiers, huge speakers, and blasting rock music in the tiny village of Letchmore Heath -- Letchmore Heath, population 250, the coveted bucolic hideaway where frog-and-cricket choruses can keep you awake at night.
During our "environmentally unfriendly" promotional event, guests puffed on reefers, and some couples walked arm-in-arm, occasionally stealing into the bushes. Apparently none of this had escaped your watchful eye. From the vantage point of your second-story quarters, you had scanned the grounds, clearly observing the evening's happenings under an English summer sun that didn't set until 9.30 p.m.
Your startling statement the morning after, about the temple becoming a brothel, brought our miscalculation into sharp focus. We'd gone way too far along the track of yukta-vairagya, or engaging matter in the service of spirit.