Here is a little update on one of the services that I am involved in right now--the Bhakti Yoga Club at SMU.
A.: a hot-tempered, liberal, undergraduate student who had been attending the sessions for the past five weeks or more. Last night it was A.'s birthday. After the regular Bhakti Yoga session of japa, kirtana and short discussion, we planned to bring out the cake and have a little celebration for him. A. was torn whether to stay for our session or go out with his friends who invited him for "lobster" dinner (eewwww!) He kept getting pestering phone calls from his friends. As we asked him to stay at least 5-10 more minutes, he agreed. At one point, he went in the hallway and yelled on the phone, "Stop pestering me. It's rude to leave. I told you already.... Just leave me alone! (with swear words in between of course)." He canceled his lobster dinner, stayed with us the whole evening and ended up bringing some of his friends there to have cake. He told us that it was the best birthday celebration he ever had.
Last night, some students stayed even after the program was over. Bhadra Prabhu somehow got five students to participate in spontaneous kirtana. Next thing I knew there was an ecstatic kirtana and the five students were dancing, arms raised, with huge smiles on their faces. It was contagious and everyone in the room began dancing. Here we were in a posh, SMU meeting room dancing up and down in ecstasy. No one could really explain how or why it happened, but everyone was laughing as if intoxicated. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu ki jaya!
B.: in her late forties, works for a recycling company, into meditation, yoga, mode-of-goodness. She told me after her first experience of Bhakti Yoga that she never felt so good as after that session. She went through a difficult phase in her life which sent her searching for higher meaning. Christianity didn't satisfy her questions. She tried different kinds of yoga also, but nothing satisfied her. "I have never felt so fulfilled as I do now," she told me. She has been coming for the last 5 sessions. Here is an e-mail she wrote to me recently: "Hey Ratna! I am looking forward to tomorrow night. I have not had a chance to fetch up a set of beads of my own, but you know, I may be able to do that today. I have however been chanting in my mind frequently, and it is fine. I am so happy to have found you, or rather, that you all found me!"
Every week, for the three hours in front of the student center, we pass out flyers advertising our club. Someone passes out the flyers and I usually do the kirtana. People are so attracted to the music and interesting instruments. Two older ladies (maybe faculty members) stopped yesterday and kept telling me how beautiful it sounded. They stood there a long time just listening to the maha-mantra and trying to sing along.
C.: a graduate student who just joined SMU from China, one of the first members of the club this semester. She not only attended the first session, but she also joined us the next day for the flyer distribution, even though she doesn't speak English very well. She still comes and even though she is not really into the philosophical part of the program (and is a little skeptical), she just loves the family we have created for her. She doesn't have a car, so sometimes we drive her places. She helps with the setup for the programs and the "break down" at the end. I introduce her to others as one of the "oldest" members of the club and she is proud of it. Not an ordinary soul!
There are many more stories....but I will stop there. It is wonderful to see Krishna orchestrating everything. He is sending inquisitive souls and making all the arrangements. We just have to be willing instruments and ready to serve the sankirtana movement in whatever capacity we can. I hope these stories are of some inspiration.
Your servant, Ratna Radhika dasi