Madhukar Thompson goes to satsang with Gaura Bhakti Guru Gaurahari Das
Thiruvannamalai, Friday, January 30, 2009
He is a Bhakti Marg Yogi in the lineage of the Saint Chaitanya who lived some 500 years ago. While entering the rooftop I encounter four devotees sitting on mats on the floor while one person, a happy looking man, sits in a white plastic chair. This is Gaurahari Das. He sits there holding a drum (a khol) placed on his lap. One meter away from him stands a video camera. It is directed at him.
Gaurahari Das, an American national, welcomes me with a namaste. As soon as satsang begins he distributes a sheet with 10 mantras written on it, in English. Before singing he adjusts the camera and switches it on – pointed at himself.
We begin chanting the first mantra, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Gaurahari beats the drum rhythmically while chanting. Then he chants a few slokas by himself. After ten minutes the singing stops.
“Has anybody a question?” he asks us. As if answering his question a loud fart explodes from my backside. There is loud laughter all around. The satsang has definitely got off to a joyous beginning.
“Does anybody else want to speak up?” Gaurahari questions laughingly.
“Perhaps we could start with all of you stating why you have come to this satsang. How is that?”
We all agree.
“I would like to record the proceedings. Is that okay with you?”
Again, we agree.
“Who would like to begin?”
Taking the lead I suggest, “Perhaps this time I should answer your question with my voice…” Loud laughter…
Gaurahari jumps out of his chair to swing his camera in my direction.
“I noticed your flyer in the ‘Tasty’ restaurant,” I explain, “FREE satsang it says… And the friendly and joyous looking picture of yourself touched me somehow. So far during my search I was never on a specific bhakti (devotional) path where mantra and bhajan singing were the central means to enlightenment. Yes, there was a lot of gratitude, devotion and surrender to my gurus and to the teachings at the time. But if at all, chanting mantras and singing bhajans happened “on the side” so to speak. Also, I wanted to meet the guru – you! – who on his flyer dares to boldly assure enlightenment to everyone who became involved on the path he offered. I was wondering what makes you so certain of your claim.”
“Very good! I suggest we will talk about this issue after all of the others have stated their reasons for coming, okay?”
“Sure. No problem.”
And so it goes. Gaurahari keeps swinging his camera back and forth between himself and the students each time there is talking going on, on either side. Yes, this looks funny. And he knows this and laughs about it saying that he has no assistant and therefore he needs to do all the work by himself.
According to him the reason why his suggested path does work is simple: Because it had worked for him, it would work for others too. He had followed his teacher’s instructions. And now he was asking his students to follow his directions. However, during the hour I stay there, Gaurahari Das does not reveal any specifics about the required sadhanas. The whole thing is mainly based on trusting him – and God, i.e. Lord Krishna – to deliver.