Vrindaban/ Mathura I arrived at

November 28th, 2000

Vrindaban/ Mathura

I arrived at the Kesavaji Gaudiya Math at 10AM, as planned. The Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Math is an important tirtha since, among other things, Srila Prabhupada took sannyasa there, stayed there for sometime, and also donated their Mahaprabhu deity. Being there again brought up a lot of pleasant memories from a time I used to regularly visit there and especially from the very warm relationships we had with many of the devotees there.

I was apprehensive about how I would be greeted because some of his disciples were upset with us when we stopped visiting, but I was determined to just maintain my poise as a humble Vaishnava visiting a senior devotee. I noticed that the Math (monastery) was not bustling, as it usually it is, with the visiting international devotees and local brajabasi pilgrims. It was just the local brahmacaris there, and the atmosphere was more subdued and peaceful, like it
was in the early ?90s before Narayan Maharaja became so popular.

As I entered the temple room on the second floor of the Math, Sriman Premananda Prabhu, the temple president, pays obeisances to me and then affectionately holds my hand. He has been honored by their society as seva-ratna?the jewel of servants. To this day he is still their main cook. I still remember how he would immediately prepare delicious prasadam for any guest who visited and then serve them with great happiness.

When I entered Maharaja’s room there are about fifteen people sitting there. It appeared that he was initiating a young brajabasi lady who has come with her mother. He is instructing her and she is crying. Maharaja has not realized that I have come in and I sit on the floor in a corner quietly. He soon, however, recognizes me, and motions with his hand that he needs five minutes before he can meet me. I reply that I am in no rush at all and that he should take his time.

I am not sure why he called me. Perhaps he was concerned that I may have not been welcomed properly at their Govardhana-annukut last month and I had not returned to visit him during his stay. I was not really so concerned with why he called, only happy to meet a person who is a longstanding friend and a well-wisher.

After five minutes he offers me a chair and slowly clears out the room so we are basically alone. He even has his assistant latch the door. He inquires about my welfare and we exchange pleasantries. He looked quite healthy and vibrant today?not much different from when I first met him. He certainly didn’t look 80 years old and, in jest, I asked him about his secret to remaining youthful. He replied, “You also look youthful,” clenching his fists at his side which seems to indicate that I got stronger and gained weight. I was somewhat surprised at this because I thought I had actually lost weight since the last time I saw him.

I told him that he must be so tired as he is busy from day to night. He said, “I am helping others and that is also helping me. My body, mind, and words are fully engaged in Krishna’s service, so it is not tiring.” He asked if I was fearful of visiting him. I told him that I wasn?t, that I was just waiting for the crowds around him to die down, but it is evident that there will always been many people around him. “That is the main thing”, he said, referring to the fact that I should not be hesitant to visit him. He asks me to visit him from time to time when I come to India.

I read him the part of the introduction in Waves of Devotion where he is acknowledged. He just nodded, but I could see he wasn’t very interested. I quickly put the book away thinking that perhaps it wasn’t proper to present oneself as an author of philosophy before one who is so senior.

Maharaja is leaving tomorrow and the crowds outside his door are building. He lets in another Indian couple that had been eagerly waiting to see him. His attention turns toward them.

I ask him if I can ask just one question: “If the qualification for spontaneous devotional service is the greed to serve the residents of Vrindaban, then how does that qualification come when most devotees need to practice vaidhi-bhakti?” He quickly replied that “if one properly enters the Caitanya Caritamrita, then everything can come.”

In the process of vaidhi-bhakti that we follow there is ample opportunity to hear about spontaneous devotional service. If one executes that process sincerely, immersing oneself in gaura/govinda-lila, then certainly the greed to follow the residents of Vrindaban should eventually manifest.

Time is up. I excuse myself, thank him, and walk out through the back door with his long time assistant Naveen Krishna, now Madhava Maharaja.

I rush back to Vrindaban as His Holiness B.B. Govinda Swami is hosting lunch for his friends, and many other devotees have been invited after that for kirtan at his house.

For those who have lived in Vrindaban, the program of kirtan and prasadam is a regular part of the culture. I remember fifteen years ago, when along with my good friend Rupa Vilas Prabhu, we used to host regular feast and bhajan programs for the senior devotees at his home. The cook was one of my assistants, Vishwanatha das, a Bengali Vaishnava, who was certainly one of the best cooks I’ve ever seen. One feast in particular was so extraordinary that?in the middle of the feast?H.H. Tamal Krishna Maharaja looked up and in a sober but enthusiastic voice declared: “I knew that one day in this movement we would be experiencing the ecstasy of Caitanya Caritamrita, but I never expected it this soon!” Maharaja was not only commenting on the feast, but the type of affection that flows through the heart, and to the heart, in an august assembly of devotees that one has affection for.

I felt the exact same way today in the company of such wonderful devotees as H.H. B.B. Govinda Swami, H.H. Sacinandana Swami, H.H. Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami, H.H. Niranajana Swami, H.G Kesava Bhararti Prabhu, Nandanandana Prabhu, and Dadu.

I sat next to Sacinandana Swami. He’s deep. I was soaking up his humble personal realizations of his own spiritual journey. I sense his single-minded determination to surrender and deeply experience Krishna consciousness. We have tentatively scheduled another meeting between us if I go to Bombay next month. If I want to proceed further in spiritual life, it is essential for me to spend time discussing personal spiritual practices with senior and like-minded Godbrothers now?especially in the absence of regular access to a senior siksa-guru. Of course, Paramatma is also siksa-guru.

The kirtan goes on for four hours. Niranjana Swami leads the most wonderful bhajans. B.B Govinda Swami also provides life with his powerful and rhythmic mrdanga playing, his incredibly sweet voice and his sheer power. One can’t help but appreciate the devotion that Govinda Swami puts into his kirtan, but I also can’t discount what he has brought from his birth: Maharaja is from Nashville, and his father is in the Country music hall of fame.

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