A letter of appreciation to the devotees of the Christchurch temple / Признательность преданным из Новозеландского храма
A letter of appreciation to the devotees of the Christchurch temple in New Zealand on the occasion of the inauguration of their new temple. Their original temple was destroyed in an earthquake in 2011.
Dear Devotees of the Christchurch yatra,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to the presiding sannyasis, His Holiness Ramai Swami and His Holiness Bhanu Swami.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the momentous re-opening of your temple. Yesterday, I watched the live streaming of the installation of Sri Sri Nitai Gauracandra, and I was deeply touched by the devotion shining in your eyes as you welcomed back your beloved deities who so sadly disappeared from your vision on that fateful day of February 22, 2011. The phoenix of a glorious temple has now arisen from the dust and ashes of that terrible tragedy; the temple has been built not only with bricks and mortar, but with your budding love for the Lord as well.
That genuine devotion, brought on by years of separation and expressed so beautifully during Sri Prahlada’s opening kirtan yesterday, reminded me of a prayer by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur in his Gitavali:
“My eyes are streaming with tears like a downpour in the rainy season and the world has become void. In Govinda’s absence my life airs no longer stay within me. Tell me how I can go on living? I have become so anxious. Still, taking shelter of harinama once again, Bhaktivinode calls out to Radha’s Lord: ‘Please show yourself to me. Please save me, or surely I will die.’”
The Lord works in mysterious ways. It’s almost as if He disappeared from your vision to increase your attachment to Him. As I continued watching the installation ceremony, I remembered another verse from Srimad Bhagavatam spoken by the Lord to a young Narada Muni. The Lord had briefly appeared to him but had then disappeared:
sakad yad darsitam rupam
etat kamaya te ‘nagha
mat-kamah sanakaih sadhu
sarvan muncati hrc-chayan
“O virtuous one, you have only once seen My person, and this is just to increase your desire for Me, because the more you hanker for Me, the more you will be freed from all material desires.” [ Srimad Bhagavatam 1.6.22 ]
Certainly your material desires were greatly diminished by working together to maintain your community in the aftermath of the earthquakes. The Lord left your vision, but never left your hearts. Now, after many long years, you once again have a place to congregate and to serve Nitai Gauracandra together. By doing so, not only will your love for the Lord increase, but your love for each other will also deepen. Please take full advantage of your great fortune and visit the new temple in every spare moment you have. In essence, the temple is your real home. Here you have an ongoing opportunity to glorify the most beautiful Gaura Nitai deities in our entire ISKCON movement.
On this special occasion it’s important to remember and glorify the great effort and sacrifice made by His Grace Ramanuja Prabhu. He has worked hard and selflessly for so many years to manifest the temple in all its glory. No doubt, this new temple is a manifestation of the love he has in his heart for Srila Prabhupada and his mission. We should all understand that without Ramanuja, this temple would not exist. Thank you Ramanuja Prabhu! And thank you to your good wife Bhaktin Carolyn who has stood by your side and supported you in your efforts for the last six years. She herself has been absolutely indispensable to the rebuilding of the temple: as a chartered accountant, she had the contacts through which you were able to secure the insurance settlement after the earthquake. The payment was uncertain for a long time, and it took her hundreds and hundreds of hours of communication and correspondence to obtain the money built this temple.
Let us also remember the pioneering efforts of Alalanath Prabhu, the first temple president in Christchurch. He planted the seeds of devotion that have now matured into the community you see before your eyes. Thank you Alalanath Prabhu! And let us not forget Laksmi Nrsimha dasi who gave her inheritance as the deposit for the Bealey Ave property on which the new temple sits.
Then there is my good friend Kalasamvara Prabhu who held the position of temple president for many years. He watered the seeds that Alalanath Prabhu planted and developed those seeds into a thriving devotee community. It was during that time that I had the good fortune to first visit the Christchurch temple. Oh the kirtans we had! The feasts we relished! And the festivals! It is all etched in my heart of hearts forever!
Many devotees are to be glorified today for their contributions over many decades: devotees like Jahnava-mata dasi, Karunika dasi, Laksmi dasi, Yasoda-dulal Prabhu, and Bhakti-rasa Prabhu who passed away in 2008 and is missed today. It is a long list and I hesitate to mention more names for fear of leaving anyone out. I will simply offer my respects to all devotees — past, present and future — who are part of the Christchurch temple.
sakala vaisnava-pade mora namaskara
ithe kichu aparadha nahuka amara
hoiyachen hoiben prabhur jato bhakta vrnda
vandana kori’ sabara charanaravinda
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of all Vaisnavas, praying I will not commit offences in my attempts to please them. To all Vaisnavas who have ever been, and to all Vaisnavas who will ever be, I offer my obeisances to their lotus feet.” [ The poet Devakinandana dasa ]
Due to my great misfortune I am not able to be present with all of you today. Nevertheless, by the grace of science and technology I am able to witness your great happiness and joy on this special occasion. And we all know that Srila Prabhupada is present through the transcendental medium and is showering you with his causeless mercy.
Let us always remember that the ideal worship of Gaura Nitai is to bring fallen souls back to the shelter of Their lotus feet. The ultimate purpose of the new temple therefore will be achieved when hundreds and thousands of new guests get the opportunity to behold the moon-like faces of Nitai Gauracandra over the coming years. Srila Prabhupada once said that our temples are bases for going out to preach the divine command.
“Chanting the holy name constantly can purify even the most fallen sinner, and after he becomes purified, he in turn is to be counted amongst the saintly persons who can purify others by his association.” [ Brhad Naradiya Purana ]
I offer my humble obeisances to all of you! All glories to your services! All glories to Srila Prabhupada! All glories to Sri Sri Nitai Gauracandra! All glories to Giri-Govardhan!
“May the Supreme Lord who is known as the son of Srimati Saci-devi be transcendentally situated in the innermost chambers of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, He has appeared in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most sublime and radiant mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love.” [ CC Adi-lila, 1.4 ]