Following the lunar calendar, the day after Sri Krishna Janmastami marks the celebration of the birth of Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami (September 1, 1896–November 14, 1977), the Vaishnava monk, global proponent of Krishna bhakti and founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
To honor the day I’ll share a poem penned for the occasion in 1986 by one of Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami’s disciples, Tamal Krishna Goswami. It’s a poem I find particularly edifying in understanding the nature of the relationship between guru and disciple as well as the tension between the pains and joys of renunciation. It’s entitled “Oh, My Master’s Lotus Feet Are Bittersweet”.
Oh, My Master’s Lotus Feet Are Bittersweet
By Tamal Krishna Goswami
God’s greatest gift, service to my master,
Exorcist of the ghost of past desire,
Sweet purgative, bittersweet oil of castor.
I’ve found my master’s service does inspire
Desirelessness of all but pleasing him;
Without remorse, I watch life’s joys expire.
Let lust retire, that most acidic sin,
By guru’s grace, its misery alkalize
My soured life, rescued by his discipline.
I hide my sin in shame lest he recognize
My faults and condemn what I enjoyed;
Better than praise: chastisement satisfies.
My futile lies, God’s servant to avoid,
Fearing his virtues would smash my vain conceit,
Forced by his love into service unalloyed.
How can I avoid the shelter of his feet,
When the feelings of my heart are overjoyed?
Oh, my master’s lotus feet are bittersweet.