It was Rasa Purnima, the full moon night of October. According to the Srimad Bhagavatam this was the night when Lord Krishna performed the Rasa dance, a dance that represents the most perfect intimacy between the soul and God.
At Radhagopinath Temple, Mumbai, devotees had worked all day to transfigure the holy altar of their Lordships Sri Sri Radha and Krishna into a replica of the flower forest of Vrindavan. Now, in the darkness of the night, a veil of dim blue light (of course from concealed electric bulbs ;)) draped that forest; and amidst trees, creepers and fountains were deities of Radha, Krishna and the Gopis dressed in bright attires.
Radhanath Swami sat in front, singing kirtan in deep emotion, while devotees who numbered in thousands chanted in response. He chanted a slow melody that surfaced that yearning for devotion in every sincere heart; I played the mradanga drum in a soft beat while the hand cymbals chimed in the backdrop.
After hours of chanting, Radhanath Swami requested one of the monks to lead the Kirtan, now that he was exhausted. As the new singer took the microphone, upon a friend’s instigation I kept the mradanga drum aside and placed the dholak drum on my lap. BHOOM! It’s very first beat was foreboding, for my conscience whispered that dholak didn’t fit the occasion. Dholak is meant for roaring kirtans, not soft one’s. But that whisper soon drowned in the booms, and before long, my beats–and not the lead singer–controlled the kirtan; the kirtan roared, the crowd rose to their feet and danced in wild abandon.
Radhanath Swami looked appalled. The reason was obvious to me: the music didn’t reflect the mellow mood of the festival. Guilt rushed through me upon seeing Radhanath Swami’s displeasure, and my hands froze. Meanwhile, Radhanath Swami leaned over to his dear student Gaur Gopal Prabhu and told something in his ear. In response, Gaur Gopal Prabhu directed the kirtan party to swerve back to the soft melody. The music then fell to gel with the occasion.
I was mortified: I had ruined one of the best festivals of the year; I had desecrated the devotional sentiments of the devotees; and I had spoiled the Kirtan. I decided to beg forgiveness from Radhanath Swami the next day. But that night my mind reeled with apprehensions about Radhanath Swami’s response. Will he glower at me in disgust? Will he jab his finger into my chest and banish me from his sight? Or, in his natural self, will he forgive me with a sweet smile?
The next morning I caught Radhanath Swami alone in the staircase. Pressing my hands together I apologized, “I am sorry for spoiling the kirtan yesterday.” Radhanath Swami surprised me with an amused smile. “Gaurang, you don’t have the potency to spoil the kirtan of the Supreme Lord.” Softly touching my forehead in blessings, he walked away.
He had not only forgiven me, but had also deeply humbled me. How could any mortal like me spoil the glorification of the almighty Supreme Lord? We might imagine doing that, but no activity of the mundane realm can hinder the enjoyment of the Supreme autocrat Lord Krishna. And what to speak of disturbing the Supreme Lord, the consciousness of even the Lord’s exalted devotee floats above the undulations of worldly mishaps.