Archive for November, 2000

Govardhana “Lord Nityananda is very

November 19th, 2000

Govardhana

“Lord Nityananda is very merciful. Taking one’s faith he gives the highest ecstasy.” (Dalalera-gita by Bhaktivinoda Thakur)

We met again for sanga. I’ve never experienced bhajans like this! Is it the mercy of Govardhana or the quality of the sadhu-sanga here? Am I finally getting some taste for Krishna consciousness?

My thoughts during kirtan: I felt completely satisfied and proud to be a Vaishnava, to be a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, to have the association of his sincere servants, to be an aspiring renunciate.

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Govardhana “Now that I have

November 18th, 2000

Govardhana

“Now that I have surrendered all that I posses unto your lotus feet, I throw myself down before Your house. You are the master of the house; kindly consider me your dog.” (Sarvasva Toma Carane; “Everything unto Your Feet” from Saranagati by Bhaktivinoda Thakur)

H.H. Niranjana Swami has arrived to stay in Govardhana for a month. We will meet every evening in his room for sadhu-sanga, centered on gaura-bhajans. In my opinion, no one sings gaura-bhajans like Niranjana Swami. He begins:

‘doyal nitai caitanya’ bole” nac re amar man
nac re amar man, nac re amar man

“Chanting the holy names ?Doyal Nitai Caitanya!??Oh my mind dances! Oh my mind dances! Oh my mind dances!”

Partha-Sarathi Prabhu, Gunagrahi Swami, Jayadvaita Maharaja, everyone becomes deeply absorbed in the timeless world of nama-kirtan. Some clear realizations:

I have been in Govardhana for a month trying to enter the mood of Govardhana, but attachment to Lord Gauranga and imbibing His mood of worship is the easiest path of entrance to Govardhana and the pastimes of Radha and Krishna.

There are followers of Srila Prabhupada with spiritual attainment. The future for sadhu-sanga looks bright. I am eager for their association, birth after birth.

Vrindaban/Govardhana While visiting the temple

November 17th, 2000

Vrindaban/Govardhana

While visiting the temple this morning I again met a few devotees who needed to speak to me. I therefore arrived back in my room an hour after schedule. My class is from Wednesday to Friday, so I will this leave this afternoon to spend my weekend in Govardhana. After lunch, I packed my bags in a rush because my ride would be waiting to leave immediately after my class. In general I saw my day thrown into passion. During the ride to Govardhana, I could sense some anxiety, but when I searched for the cause I really couldn’t find anything substantial. My conclusion:

Much of our anxiety is more related to the mode that we are in than to the actual circumstances of our lives. The symptom of goodness is happiness and the symptom of passion is distress. A lot of mental illness could be cured if people had a sattvic lifestyle.

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Japa Kutir, Vrindaban About five

November 16th, 2000

Japa Kutir, Vrindaban

About five years ago I was standing in front of the altar of Sri Sri Radha-Shyamasundar next to my friend Virabahu Prabhu, who was looking reverentially at the Deities. In his very formal and dignified voice, slightly tinged with an aristocratic Spanish accent, he turned to me and said, “This is the most beautiful Srimati Radharani in the world!” Yes, the resplendent beauty of Radharani here on the Sri Sri Radha-Shyamsundar altar is unparalleled. A nice sign hangs to the right of Radha-Shyamasundar listing the 26 transcendental qualities of Srimati Radharani. I?ve started memorizing two qualities every time I take darshan and then meditate on the Deities thinking of her qualities. Today:

  • She can agitate Krishna by the flavor of her glance.
  • She is expert in the art of singing.

Bhakti comes by spontaneous and practical service to a Vaishnava, and that attraction will only increase by their association and service. Eager to emulate them, we will carefully observe their activities. The mood of a Vaishnava is seva, or bhakti, and a Vaishnava’s activity is the glorification of Krishna. A desire in our heart then will grow to have their nature (desire). A desire for a desire is the same as that desire. Thus once attraction to the nature of a Vaishnava, which is devotion, has arisen in one?s heart, bhakti-devi has also manifest in one’s heart.

Japa Kutir, Vrindaban One naturally

November 15th, 2000

Japa Kutir, Vrindaban

One naturally organizes his environment according to one’s desires and modes. The japa-kutir was designed and named by Baladeva Vidyabhusana as a place for devotional practices. I am also consciously trying to organize my room for my spiritual needs. I no longer sleep on a bed. In the evening I roll out a thin mattress on the floor so I can put it in away during the day and mop the floor where I sleep. The change was inspired by a sadhu who told me that those who are serious about bhajan don’t like chanting with foreign entities around, referring to the dirt and contamination from sleeping. My simple wooden bed is therefore reserved as my place of worship. On the side of the bed, next to the window, I’ve placed my asana (seat of worship). This vantage point gives me a perfect view of the domes on top of Srila Prabhupada?s samadhi, which are about two hundred yards from the japa-kutir and across the fifty-acre field that borders our house.

There have been some improvements to the japa-kutir since we got Panditji, our new caretaker, even though he’s eccentric and very easily upset. “Light swamiji! Light swamiji!” he calls out every morning and every night to remind me to either turn on or turn off the security lights on the veranda, which were illogically placed in my room. I used to be disturbed by him, but since he is efficient, relatively honest, and keeps the place clean, I?ve learned to tolerate him?even like him. He also keeps our garden beautiful?a burgeoning tulasi forest with plenty of rose bushes.

I also started my regular evening program of joining Aindra’s kirtan. The kirtans gets better and better?and more and more popular. It’s quite a show and very spiritually potent. Bhurijan Prabhu told me that, for him, ISKCON-Vrindaban means the Deities and Aindra’s kirtans. I agree. At least thirty resident devotees and countless pilgrims regularly attend. The “going to shows” or concert-tendency can easily be dovetailed in Vrindaban.

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Japa Kutir, Vrindaban I will

November 14th, 2000

Japa Kutir, Vrindaban

I will resume my daily practice of visiting Srila Prabhupada at his Samadhi Mandir after breakfast now that I am in Vrindaban. My worth is his mercy?tomara karuna sar. It’s a fact. Whatever I personally treasure?Vrindaban, the holy name, the Bhagavat?are his gifts.

While standing by the side of the altar of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai I feel an affectionate mild slap on my back and the greeting of a devout high-pitched voice. I recognize that it is saintly Vibhu Caitanya welcoming me from behind.

Vibhu Caitanya, in his household life, like Gaura Kishor dasa Babaji, was a simple grain merchant in Bengal. He would use much of the modest profit from his shop to feed the Vaishnavas. When his family repeatedly objected to what they thought was his excessive charity, he eventually just left home in 1975 for Vrindaban, where he met Srila Prabhupada and surrendered to his lotus feet.

Srila Prabhupada immediately engaged Vibhu Caitanya as the cook for the temple Deities, a service that he executed expertly and sincerely for over twenty years, until old age forced him to retire and to adopt the less strenuous service of serving out caranamrita. Single-handedly, he was cooking every offering, including the Deities? sweets?entering the kitchen well before mangala-arati and not leaving before nine at night. All of these offerings were elaborate and incomparably delectable. Once, shortly after his retirement, I passed him on the steps and he was gently laughing?”Six men! Six men!”?indicating how many people at the time the temple had to engage to replace him.

Occasionally I would hear his voice calling me from outside my room. When I would open my door he would be standing there with a tiffin of samosas, kachouris, sweets, and other spiritual delicacies from the Deities. Service in Vrindaban could get very austere and even stressful and I would sometimes question if I were even making advancement at all. Whenever I received this tiffin of maha-prasadam directly from his hands, however, I understood that it was the direct the mercy of Srimati Radaharani, and my despondency would be relieved.

By the time I turned around to greet him, Vibhu Caitanya was already paying his obeisances. In a deep meditative way, indicative of the heartfelt respect of one imbued with the consciousness of servant of the servant, I returned the obeisances and stayed down for a while. When I finally stood up, Vibhu Caitanya was still down. It happens every time.

To this day I will never leave Vrindaban without asking him to pray to Srimati Radharani for my return.

I also see Mother Srimati chanting and intensely praying to Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai. Mother Srimati is a saintly and learned widow fromMayapur, who is our parikrama guide for Ekachakra whenever we visit the Mayapur area. We talk for a while and she quotes Bhaktivinoda Thakur: “Dhama-seva leads to nama-seva, which leads to kama-seva.”

I reply, “Kama-seva?” Kama refers to lust or desire.

She said, “Yes, when we chant the name purely, then Krishna opens His heart to us and reveals his kama, or desire for us. That is perfection!”

I start my class today. I?ve only told two people, but a good crowd shows up. I realize how much I miss lecturing regularly. It’s my main devotional offering to Srila Prabhupada.

Govardhana/Vrindaban I returned to Vrindaban

November 13th, 2000

Govardhana/Vrindaban

I returned to Vrindaban and settled into my room at the japa-kutir. His trusted assistant Baladeva built the japa-kutir for Satsvarupa Maharaja, but due to health reasons, Maharaja could not use it. I was thus fortunate to be given his room on the roof.

The house had already become a bit of a tirtha. During the Babrid Mosque controversy in Ayodhya, we even hid Srila Narayana Maharaja at this house. The police were putting Hindu fundamentalists in jail after the Mosque was torn down and a rumor was floating around Mathura that Narayana Maharaja was next. Narayana Maharaja is a Vaishnava, not a Hindu fundamentalist, but being probably the most prominent spiritual leader in Mathura, he was at risk.

He stayed for ten days with Satsvarupa Maharaja. I remember Narayana Maharaja telling us personally how impressed he was by living with Satsvarupa Maharaja, noting that Maharaja arose everyday near midnight and, like the Goswamis, slept so little. Every afternoon many senior devotees would meet on the roof of the japa-kutir to discuss krishna-katha with Narayana Maharaja.

Now Partha Sarathi Prabhu has also stayed there for a month of spiritual practice and meditation. He loved the atmosphere?especially the unparalleled view of the dome of Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi Mandir. For the last three years I have also been having regular lectures there every evening on Bhagavatam, Caitanya Bhagavat, and now Bhakti-Sandarbha.

The japa-kutir is sanctified place but, unfortunately, it now appears that Baladeva needs to sell it.

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Govardhana/Vrindaban/Govardhana I went to Vrindaban

November 12th, 2000

Govardhana/Vrindaban/Govardhana

I went to Vrindaban for the day to attend the Vyasa-puja ceremony for Partha Sarathi Prabhu, held on the large veranda outside my room there. About twenty of his disciples attended and it was short, sweet, and intimate. Krishna spoke through me to glorify His devotee. My talk was appreciated, but I can’t remember too many of the details. I just remember how pleasing it was to spend time with my dear friend and godbrother.

Now that kartik is over, I reduced my rounds by a third. I miss the healthy pressure of the vrata (vow). It created a shield of determination to protect me from distraction and personal laxity. One also needs a strong purpose to not allow others to infringe on one’s personal time without offending them. A nama-vrata is a good reason. I started reading ?Follow The Angels? by Srila B.R. Sridhara Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada’s revered godbrother. In that book he gives a wonderful interpretation of the enigmatic verse from the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

“Lord Siva says, ?I may know the meaning of the Bhagavatam and Sukadeva may also know. As for Vyasadeva he may or may not know it. The Bhagavatam can only be known through bhakti, not by mundane intelligence or by reading many commentaries.?”

The idea is that Bhagavatam is not just a matter of words, ink, and paper. It is cit-sakti?spiritual potency, directly Krishna. When the Bhagavatam manifests itself through a qualified person, it is not manufactured from or dependent on that person’s intellect?although the intelligence used in Krishna’s service is an important part of the process. It manifests through the person from a higher realm. It therefore may be beyond a person’s intellectual capacity or memory, and the person serving as an agent to manifest the Bhagavatam may or may not even understand what he has spoken.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur used to pray to each word in the Bhagavatam and volumes of meaning concerning the pastimes of Radha and Krishna would pour forth onto his page. No one could decipher that from the mere literal meaning. So by mundane intelligence even the author of the Bhagavatam, Srila Vyasadeva, may or may not know its full meaning. When I put the First Canto of Bhagavatam on tape, I would spend the day before preparing it as nicely as I could. The next day, I would try to present the message as clearly as possible, with the understanding that Krishna is nondifferent from his message. If, by Srila Prabhupada’s grace, I was able to elucidate the text cogently, the experience of hearing the message, both for the speaker and hearer, seemed beyond the intellectual or mental sphere. It was a meditation on Krishna, and an experience of His presence. When you meet someone that is attractive, it is experiential, not academic. In the studying of Bhagavatam we use our intelligence in Krishna’s service, but ultimately it is an observation, not a theoretical study.

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Govardhana – Kartik-Purnima (End of

November 11th, 2000

Govardhana – Kartik-Purnima (End of Caturmasya)

Every purnima (full moon day), pilgrims come from all over North India, Uttar-Pradesh, Delhi Punjab, and Haryana for a full parikrama of Govardhana. There has been a nonstop parikrama outside our property for the last twenty-four hours. The crowds actually start from the Ekadasi before the full moon and steadily build to a crescendo on purnima. In the last five years, these crowds have dramatically increased in size each year to the point where Govardhana parikrama has become a prominent part of the spiritual and social life of North India.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was also a Govardhana Hill in Upstate NY where all of the devotees on the Northeast coast of the US could festively head to every month as part of their spiritual/social life? With all its dirt, disorder, and poverty, Uttar-Pradesh wallas (the residents of India’s largest state) still have the wealth of Govardhana Hill in their state.

Kartik-Purnima in Govardhana is the most popular purnima. I can count from my window at least thirty people walking past the front gate of our ashram every ten seconds. I estimate that an average parikrama takes 5 hours and thus calculate that every 24 hours there are almost 500,000 pilgrims circumambulating Govardhana Hill. Many of these people are walking together with the people from their village to form kirtana groups. It’s a Fifth Avenue crowd in rush and density, but with dhotis, red and yellow Rajasthani turbans, and a lot more devotion. I also see Olympic-like sadhus wearing babaji-vesa (short white dhotis) in great shape?racing and chanting around with beads in one hand and walking sticks in the other. There are also a few old Indian village ladies, with their old skirts and buttoned-down shirts, dressed somehow like the granny from the ?Beverly Hillbillies? (if you go back that far).

Gunagrahi Maharaja, an expert percussionist, admires the wild enthusiastic drums?mostly dhola, a North Indian wood drum?which accompany each kirtana. He has a keen ear for music and told me that he can hear about ten distinct kirtanas at one time. He also has bad insomnia from the jetlag, and since the window to his room faces the parikrama path, he’s usually kept up throughout night. Though he’s not at all bored with the show, the lack of regulation is taking its toll.

As I am writing I also hear the cacophony of kirtanas outside my window: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Radhe Krishna, Radhe Krishna, Honk! Honk! Indian cars and busses with loud speakers are blaring Hindi bhajans and selling home medical cures.

We ended kartik with a feast. I’m somewhat of a connoisseur of feasts?not just the preparations, but with the serving and atmosphere created to relish it as well. Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu is eagerly waiting to break his kichari fast for the month, but we all sit in anticipation.

The legend, or I should say history, of Govardhana is based on large quantities of food, offered and eaten. From personal experience, I have full faith in the benediction that we can sit by the side of the King of mountains and eat as much as we want?aniyor! aniyor! Our kitchen is a bit famous, and as expected, everything is expertly cooked. To our surprise Giriraja has been offered a large variety of North Indian, Gurjarati, Bengali, and international fare: Puris, rice, bitter melon, sukta (Bengali spiced vegetable soup), channa subji (Punjabi chick pea and vegetable preparation), palak paneer (spinach and cheese), dahl, bhel puri (An exotic Gujarati snack with chidwa, and several chutneys), dhokla (Gujarati dahl bread), coriander chutney, saffron srikant, sweet rice, rasa malai (Bengali cheese and cooked down milk sweet), vegeratarian jello, and butter pecan ice cream.

I was amazed by how much everyone ate. What we really relished, however, was the affection we all had for each other by spending the month together at
Govardhana practicing and sharing Krishna consciousness, a mood nourished perfectly by that wonderfully cooked feast, perfect serve-out, and the hospitable atmosphere of humble devotees. I was on the roof outside of my room talking to Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu when we spotted Kesava Bharati Prabhu walking quickly toward us. Ravindra Svarupa has a way with words and sometimes he would utter spontaneously perfect descriptive phrases like, “Here comes Kesava Bharati, the affable spirit of the place!”

Kesava Bharati’s open-heartedness and warmth from the beginning of the project has helped create and maintain a unique mood here of strict Krishna consciousness with a full openness of heart. I overheard heard Ravindra Svarupa tell him, after completing his own arduous vow and wandering in the garden gazing affectionately at Govardhana, “I’m going to miss this place!”

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Govardhana Intoxicated bees were humming

November 10th, 2000

Govardhana

Intoxicated bees were humming here and there amidst the rows of lush green trees filled with colorful, aromatic flowers. All the lakes, rivers, hills, and forest resounded with the melodious singing of flocks of many kinds of birds as they flew from place to place. Madhu-pati Sri Krishna, accompanied by Baladeva and the gopas entered Vrindavana and, while gazing the cows,vibrated a mellow sweet tune upon His alluring flute.” (Venu-gita 10)

Yesterday my chanting and service was slack. This morning a slight malaise,or fear, entered my consciousness. It was the familiar feeling one gets when you commit yourself to becoming resident of Vrindaban, but become relaxed in devotional service Vrindaban is Krishna?s internal potency and, therefore, everything here moves for His pleasure. If one is living in Vrindaban, but moving for his own pleasure, one is moving in the wrong direction. His life has become incompatible with the dhama and that unnatural situation is immediately felt in the heart.

Our property here, almost two acres, is filled with a variety of beautiful trees and flowers. Lok-pramana (evidence by village talk) espouses the theory that the king who built this small palace as his place of worship in Vrindaban even planted all of the possible varieties of local medicinal plants. There are rose, marigold, and tulasi gardens; rows of ashok and neem trees; and plenty of tamal and kadamba trees?favorites of Krishna and Radha. The kadamba trees here also form a beautiful kadamaba-kunja (a forest room manifest exclusively by the natural growth of flowers or trees). A six-foot indigenous red-stone and mortar Rajasthani wall surrounds the property with a three-foot wrought iron spiked fence on top. It is necessary for security and to keep the thousands of Govardhana monkeys from our beautiful gardens.

Every animal has its own nature. Monkeys do monkey business, or damage. Therefore, at our house in Vrindaban, we plant mostly roses because, evidently, monkeys don’t like to eat them. Of course, they still come to break their stems and destroy them. The ashram in Govardhana, therefore, employs two chokidharas (gatemen) armed with imported slingshots just to keep out the monkeys. It’s a full-time job. At around 6AM, just after sunrise, the monkeys come from all directions to siege the palace. “Rah! Ah! Eh!” the chokidhars grunt, as they chase one monkey after another from the roofs of the towers on the various corners of the palace. They also chase them from the gardens until they jump back over the wall. “Rah! Ah! Eh!” the brahmacaris shout, as they also join in, as does Kesava Bharati. It’s war!

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