A few beginner questions, and a long-winded introduction
I have had a passing interest in Krishna for around seven years. I have had some brief stays in temples, a couple 2-week stays and a 1-week, all at different temples. I learned much in those first months and stuck to the principles, chanted and read daily for over a year. I came from a rural area so I practiced alone, mostly doing my Japa and studying the Bhagavad-Gita. I had little contact with devotees other than those visits. I slowly fell back into a material life, although from time to time I would pick up Japa again, reread a smaller book like Sri Isopanisad, or simply wear kanthi-mala as a memory. I eventually broke the four principles and although I had Krishna in my heart, I ignored it continued self-pleasure. I traveled a lot and kept searching for a source of happiness. I drank some and did much of what is normal for someone in the early 20s, but it always seemed like I was forcing myself into a societal standard that I didn't actually morally agree with. I am simply not interested in the hobbies and lifestyles of most people my age. I dismissed my interest in Krishna Consciousness as a psychological pacifier at a tumultuous point in my life, convinced myself of atheism, that my interest in Krishna was a longing and attachment to the idea if God rather than something I truly believed. I was only 18 when I first visited a temple, and I am now 25. Anyways, I have finally have finally given into my heart. I moved around a year ago and have spent the time still blinded by maya, but there happens to be a temple nearby. I am finally able to have the association I lacked in the beginning of my spiritual exploration. So, I made contact with a brahmacari at the temple through the internet, and went to visit around evening arati. We spoke for awhile ,and I will be visiting again in a couple of days to do some service. I have been following the principles again for awhile before visiting. I feel a lot of guilt for having quitting my journey towards Krishna. During dashan I was almost terrified to step into the temple room. I was so nervous to even be in the presence of other devotees and to speak to a brahmacari. I stumbled over the few words I spoke that evening to other devotees, and my lackadaisical memory of proper etiquette had me feeling low. I am so worried about offending our Lords devotees. I am not worthy of even making eye contact with these people. Perhaps I am being too hard on myself, but maybe in time, with devotional service I will at home again. So, despite my faltering interest over many years, I am still a beginner.
This discussion is in part to introduce myself, to clear my mind, and to ask a few simple questions.
When I first began visiting temples, I was taught to pay obeisances upon entering the temple, knees and hands on the ground. Then, pay obeisances to Prabhupada, keeping him to my left. The deities would be last during darshan times, kept to my left but respected by fully prostrating on the ground, body outstretched with hands above head. I should then stand, pray, and then offer obeisances to any other deities present (usually a representation of Srimati Radharani). I noticed at this local temple, some devotees entered the temple room and immediately bowed before the altar rather than upon entering or at Prabhupadas feet. I now feel awkward and perhaps I have been doing something offensive. How should a devotee properly pay their respects when entering the temple room?
I am also a little perplexed on how to speak about gurus. Is it proper to address a guru by their name alone when speaking to another devotee, or is there a formality? For instance, His Holiness Hridayananda Goswami... how should I properly address him in conversation with another person? Is name alone proper, or should he be addressed by a title? Are there titles only disciples should use?
With pronunciation, I realize that typically the final "A" in most Sanskrit words is not pronounced. So that Ramayana is a three syllable word although by western phonetics it would be four. However, the final A is pronounced in Bhagavad-Gita, so what are the rules on when this vowel at the end of a word spelled in English should be silent, and when it's actually meant to be pronounced?
I am not at this time considering initiation. I am a neophyte with a long road ahead. But, the first guru I met has always had a certain attraction. I have had the honor of meeting four ISKCON gurus in my temple visits, but this particular guru has always came back into my mind. If I do advance in Krishna Consciousness, I feel he would be the guru I want to learn from. Simply being in a room with him was mystical and humbling to me. I have not had the chance to meet him again since the first temple I ever visited seven years ago. But, the local temple near me is his "home" and I am ecstatic about being able to eventually hear him speak again. So, I am wondering if it's appropriate to make contact with the guru down the road, or if I should simply keep my head into my devotional services and hope that perhaps I am noticed when the time is right for further instruction or steps into Krishna Consciousness? I am not looking for initiation at this time, but I desperately want guidance and I can think of no greater man on this planet to seek advice from. Would it be offensive if I attempted to email him despite being very new, and having fallen from the path years ago? I feel that I'm not worthy of speaking to devotees, much less a spiritual leader.
My final question (for now), is what is my next step? I have only had one visit to the local temple. I am very antisocial and the Sunday feasts are intimidating especially since I am new here. I spoke with the brahmacari about this. I will be doing some simple service this weekend, and I am so very pleased that my offer to assist was heard. It will be exciting to serve the temple. I will have the opportunity to talk more with devotees and perhaps figure out to take the next step. But, while I have your ear, what do you wonderful devotees suggest for someone like me? I want to serve the temple and learn as much as possible. I feel so strange not knowing anybody and being so clueless on etiquette, songs, mantras, etc. I spent a lot of time chanting the Maha Mantra and reading scriptures, but that does not prepare me for association with devotees and attending temple services. As I said earlier, I am worried about offending or seeming strange.
Thank you for the attention, I'm humbly your servant and awaiting any wisdom you may grace me with.