Archive for December, 2001

Vrindaban Vrindaban Mystery III I

December 22nd, 2001

Vrindaban

Vrindaban Mystery III
I met Navala Kishor, a former student, in front of the temple. After gurukula he went on to study the Bhagavatam with some of the best Vaishnava scholars in Vrindaban. He then completed his Ph.D. from Delhi University in sad-darshan (the six major philosophers of India). Whenever we speak, even casually, I learn something new.

When I told him I was now fifty-one, he said, “That’s good, because at fifty there was still some hope of material life, but at fifty-one there is no hope. In Hindi fifty is pachasa?the suffix ‘asa’ meaning hope?indicating that at the age of fifty there is still prospect of enjoying one’s senses. In Hindi, however, fifty-one is ekavan?the suffix ‘van’ meaning forest?indicating that at fifty-one there is no hope for material life, and thus with a singular purpose, eka [Hindi for one], one should go to the van, the forest?especially vrinda[van]. So it is good that you are now living in Vrindaban because at your age there is little hope for material life.”

Navala Kishor is gifted, both as a scholar and a speaker. His aptitude for learning and speaking sastra indicates a continuance of scholarship and spiritual life from a previous life. Talking with him today and noting his development on the path of devotional scholarship invoked remembrance of the day he enrolled in gurukula, over twenty years ago, and the unusual events leading to his admission:

I was sitting in my office when Ramesh Sharma, a simple and pious brahmana came to my door requesting admission for his son, with the humble addendum, “I want to give my son to Srimati Radharani.” When I told him our fee, 300 rupees per month, he lamented, “But my whole salary from government service is only 400 rupees! How will I maintain my wife and other children?” Although Ramesh humbly pleaded for his son’s admission, I was unbending. The school was already struggling financially and our modest basic tuition was our only source of income. I had already granted far too many concessions to local children, most of whom failed our expectations. Finally Ramesh left. I could see he was dejected. As he approached the door to my office on his way out I again heard the faint murmur of his despair: “But I want to give my son to Srimati Radharani.”

I was surprised when Ramesh suddenly entered my office two hours later to continue his plea, but with even greater fervor, “I want to give my son to the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani. I will give 200 rupees?half my salary?and I will somehow manage my family with the rest. Please accept my son!” This time I was moved by his earnest appeal. He is genuine I thought. He really was ready to sacrifice his whole life in order to give his son for the service of Srimati Radharani. Although it was, in one sense, against my better judgment, I immediately agreed.

Ramesh was elated. To my surprise he began to explain the short mystery behind his return to my office:

“After leaving your office I wandered behind the temple to the Krishna-Balarama tree in Raman Reti. I fell to the ground and began to cry. All of sudden I heard the sweet faint voice of a young girl: ‘Dear sir, why are you crying?’

“I initially felt disturbed by the intrusion of a stranger. Without looking up I thus replied, ‘Why do you want know? Leave me alone!’

“She continued, however, in a soft comforting voice. ‘Why are you crying? Don’t cry. Everything will be okay.’

“Her words somehow touched my heart and I burst into tears. ‘I want to give my son to Srimati Radharani, but they won’t accept him!’

“‘They will accept him!’ she boldly declared. ‘Go back immediately. He will be accepted!’

“Stunned by the confidence and compassion of the sweet voice that unexplainably brought comfort and happiness to my soul a thought spontaneously popped into mind: ‘Maybe it’s Srimati Radharani!’ I suddenly looked up, but no one was there. Searching the open field not a soul was to be seen. Re-charged with confidence I set off to your office, the enticing thought?’Maybe it was Srimati Radharani! Maybe it was Srimati Radharani!’?racing repeatedly through my mind like the repetition of a sacred mantra. And it was Srimati Radharani! Otherwise how could she know that my appeal, which was repeatedly rejected by you, would now be accepted without question?”

At the time I didn’t know what to make of it, although over the years I have known Ramesh Sharma and he has proven to be a man of impeccable character. Meeting his son, Navala Kishor, today, more than twenty years later, and seeing his dedication and spirituality, for a minute the tempting thought came again to mind. “Maybe it was Srimati Radharani!”

I received the following correction from Jan Potemkin, my friend from high school, on the journal from December 4th: “I really liked your last entry. Before publishing your journal, please note that it was Stanley (an explorer, I think) who spoke to Dr. Livingston, not Albert Schweitzer. Sorry, you’re off by 50 years or so.”

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Vrindaban I haven’t made an

December 21st, 2001

Vrindaban

I haven’t made an entry in the journal since returning to my residence in Vrindaban, the japa-kutir, more than a week ago. I am alone here, so it is taking some time to settle in. I’m even cooking for Sri Giriraja Maharaja. Although day-to-day chores take time, I also enjoy being self-reliant. I’m more settled now so there is ample time to write again. I will begin today.

Govardhan In the evenings we

December 10th, 2001

Govardhan

In the evenings we meet in His Holiness Niranjan Swami?s room to discuss Krishna consciousness, but mostly to chant Gaura bhajans.

Niranjan Swami shares his realization on harinam initiation (paraphrase):

“Harinam initiation means to give the Holy Name. Giving the Holy Name means to give faith in the Holy Name, for one can only chant the Holy Name determinedly as far as one’s faith allows. It is thus an offense to give the Holy Name to one who has little faith, for they will offend the Holy name. By his instructions, the spiritual master thus first creates faith in Krishna-kirtan so that one is inspired, determined and attracted to adopt a vow to chant at least sixteen rounds properly. Chanting the Holy Name is therefore the first duty of the bonafide disciples.

“Further interaction of the spiritual master with his disciple is for the singular purpose of increasing their faith in the Holy Name, especially by the guru?s teachings. The disciple thus sees their spiritual master’s instructions and dealings as the means to become purified and qualified for the pure Holy Name (suddha nam), the process given by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for achieving love of Godhead. Thus the disciple?s appreciation, faith and relationship with the spiritual master naturally increases as they become increasingly perfected in chanting Hare Krishna. The real guru-disciple relationship is thus based on the Holy Name and the disciples attraction for chanting.”

Maharaja?s words struck me and solidified my conception of my real duty to those I instruct, and their duty to me. I did note that while in Govardhan, as my attraction for chanting increased, my appreciation, gratitude and relationship for Srila Prabhupada also significantly deepened. After our discussion, Niranjana Swami sings, “Keno Hare Krsna Nam”, by Bhaktivinoda Thakur. ”

(Refrain) Oh, why does my heart not weep from chanting the Holy Names Hare Krishna?

1. The bird of my heart does not know what past sinful activities it has committed to cause this inability to chant Hare Krishna properly.
2. O forest bird! I have kept something for you very carefully within the cottage of my heart?the holy name of Lord Hari, which is overflowing with pure sweet honey.
3. O bird, you could learn the chanting of this name if you were taught. A bird is easily able to speak all names; why then does this bird of my heart refuse to chant Hare Krishna? Oh, why does my heart not weep from chanting the holy names Hare Krishna?
4. O Bird! Come, let us go to the spiritual world, the land of true everlasting beauty. It is the place where the imaginary man of my mind will never again come and go on the revolving cycle of birth and death.
5. O bird! At the time of death, your body will simply be placed upon a funeral stretcher, lifted on the shoulders of four persons and carried to the cremation grounds.
6. Alas! The cremation fire will then enter your mouth and totally consume your tongue. There will be nothing you can do to save yourself, for at time it is too late?you will be unable to speak any more.”

Govardhan I am still at

December 9th, 2001

Govardhan

I am still at Govardhan. It?s hard to leave, especially as more sadhus arrive.

His Holiness Sacinandana Swami, His Grace Bhurijan Prabhu and his wife, Her Grace Jagattarini devi dasi, are now all in Govardhan. They have rented a newly built dharmasalla (pilgrim guesthouse) on the other side of Govardhan for a sadhana retreat for just a small group of serious devotees, about forty. I ride my bicycle there everyday for their association.

There is much more room between the parikram path and Govardhan Hill on its western side. Most of their retreat classes are thus held in small forest under a tree, completely undisturbed by residents or pilgrims, an ideal setting.

The day before yesterday I attended Sacinandana?s seminars on the Holy Name. Yesterday the whole group chanted 64 rounds by the side of Giriraj.

Today I heard Bhurijan?s lecture on studying the Bhagavatam.

Bhurijan stressed that he reads the Bhagavatam not to spout knowledge, but to become influenced by it. In this regard, he demonstrated a technique of study that he tries to employ everyday for at least fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the handout about this so I cannot reproduce it verbatim. The essence of his method is to put oneself in a prayerful mood before reading, as if one is approaching the Deity. One then should read slowly looking for meaning, not to finish a set amount. When a sentence touches ones heart or inspires one, one should softly read that sentence aloud several times, and then meditate on it praying for further meaning.

To demonstrate the method, he read to us just one paragraph from Krishna book. He discussed the realizations and images he gleaned from just the first sentence and asked others for input. What manifested from just that one sentence was quite dynamic. He thus demonstrated how even just a few phrases or even one word could invoke so many remembrances and conceptions if approached thoughtfully and prayerfully.

Bhurijan is the consummate teacher. He then had us break up into groups and asked us to read in a similarly meditative manner from a selection of our choice from anyone of Srila Prabhupada?s books provided at the retreat. We were then to free write for fifteen minutes on whatever we read. Basically, the free writing here meant to start writing on a particular subject and continue writing with whatever comes to ones mind, never lifting ones pen, even if one loses ones train thought. Bhurijan finally asked each group to discus their realizations among themselves. I looked around. The discussions were animated and intense.

I was paired with Sacinandana Swami. We shared with each other what we wrote and discussed our realizations. Our exchanges were also quite intimate and deep.

When Bhurijan called the group back together for his next lecture, the devotees were so absorbed that they were reluctant to heed his call. It actually took some time for him to gather them. What we actually learned: The true meaning of sadhu sanga.

From Bhurijan?s lecture:

“The name Pariksit means examiner. Lord Krishna appeared in Maharaj Pariksits womb. For the rest of his life he examined everyone searching for Krishna, searching for that wonderful form. We should also examine the world, searching again for that experience of Krishna we had that first attracted us to His lotus feet.”

Comment by Mother Srimati during a discussion about surrender “There are two stages of surrender according to Bhativinoda Thakur. First stage?whatever we have we give to Krishna. Second stage?our mood is ‘Krishna, I?m yours!’. We give to Krishna what is His.”

Comment by Bhurijan on Mother Srimati?s comment, “There is a third stage of surrender at the stage of prema discussed in Nectar of Devotion, ?Krishna you are mine!'”

Govardhan I am staying on

December 8th, 2001

Govardhan

I am staying on Govardhan, but that is not the highest thing. Higher than Govardhan is unalloyed service to the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If it is not higher than why did Srila Prabhupada leave Vrindaban for the West? I remember a glorification of Srila Prabhupada by a famous Vrindaban saint during Srila Prabhupada?s Vyasa Puja at the Sri Krishna Balaram Mandir in 1991. He enthusiastically declared to assembled devotees:

“If all the great Vaisnavas in the last fifty years were congregated in this assembly and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu entered, who would he go to first? I say He would go to Srila Prabhupada!”

Govardhan By the Lord?s grace,

December 7th, 2001

Govardhan

By the Lord?s grace, I have been given some time to stay here and chant. Better take advantage while my fortune lasts. There is no certainty of one’s destiny. My mission could change tomorrow. I remember times in the late 70s when my workday literally started at 5 AM and went all day with no time for myself. It went on that way for years. The main thing is, regardless of one circumstance, to remain a servant so that one is satisfied with whatever service the spiritual master and the Supreme Lord offer. But if one is given time for direct devotional service, chanting and hearing about Krishna, it should be treasured and not a moment wasted.

Govardhan Vrindaban Mysteries II His

December 4th, 2001

Govardhan

Vrindaban Mysteries II
His Holiness Niranjana Swami arrives in Govardhan for the month. He joins me on my late-afternoon walk to Anniyor. We discuss his favorite topic, the holy name. Maharaj becomes animated and shares his realizations. We become lost in hari katha for forty minutes. As we are almost back to the ashram, an old sadhu appears on the parikram path racing towards us in a swift wobbling old sadhu walk. It is dusk. We can barely make out his silhouette. As he approaches I hear a faint, but rapid machine gun-like mutter of the holy name mantra after mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Hare Hare”, mixed with an occasional ecstatic emphasis on one of the names in a couplet, HAREEE Krishna! “Hare RAAAMA!” He seems familiar. I politely study his face. It?s namacarya Sanatan das babaji, the siddha mahatma from Nandagoan. “Sanatan das?!” I query in almost a “Dr Livingston, I presume?”* tone. He nods. I hit the sands of the path. I offer pranams. Sanatan stops, smiles and responds in his typical rapid repeated murmur of maha mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna…”, and then passes continuing his babaji trot around Govardhan.

Siddha Mahatma, perfected soul? How can I say? But day and night, Sanatan never stops chanting the holy name. For over forty years, the holy name has remained on his tongue every minute of his waking existence. Sanatan Das is the foremost disciple of Srila Prabhupada?s god-brother Akincana Krishna Das Babaji, who Srila Prabhupada himself recognize as a paramhamsa. The true disciple imbibes the mood of his guru. Like his master, the holy name incessantly pours from his lips.

When Srila Krishna Das Babaji passed away, my god-brother BB Govinda Swami felt deep separation. He thus went around and asked Sanatan?s contemporaries and followers if there was anyone left on the planet of his stature. The same answer echoed again and again, “Sanatana Das”, “Sanatana Das”.

I have been praying sadhu sanga. It?s my entreaty while chanting the holy name. The holy name sent Niranjana Swami to accompany me today, who immersed me in nam katha around Govardhan. By nam katha, Sanatan appears out of the dark and blesses us with the pure name, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna”. The mysteries of Vrindaban unfold.

* A famous phrase uttered by Albert Sweitzer when meeting the long lost missionary doctor, Dr. Livingston, in the depths of Africa where he was ministering medical assistance to the people.

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Govardhan Extend my stay in

December 1st, 2001

Govardhan

Extend my stay in Govardhan for two weeks. Return to Vrindaban just for two days. Fakir Mohan, an unassuming Vaisnava saint from Orissa has brought to Vrindaban his Deities, Sri Sri Radha Madhava. Sri Sri Radha Madhava are the personal Deities of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur from his ancestral place in Orissa, Choti. They were lost for over fifty years until Fakir Mohan, an ardent follower of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, found them after years of arduous search. For Karttik, they are placed on the altar of Sri Sri Radha Shyamasundar. He explained to me why:

“When your Prabhupada chanted Radha Madhava, he cried [referring to a famous incident when Srila Prabhupada introduced the song Jaya Radha Madhava and went into apparent ecstatic trance]. By his tears, he has attracted Radha Madhava. The Gaudiya Math, and all the Vaisnavas in Vrindaban, are coming to the Sri Krishna Balaram Mandir to see Radha Madhava, but your Srila Prabhupada cried for Him. He has thus come there.”

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