The Big Black Snake Again: Entering the Dhama 2003

August 19th, 2003

Vrndavana

We live in a world that we falsely view as a productof our desires and fears. Because everyone sees theworld differently, we conflict with those who share
our world.

For example, before getting married, the husband and wife have exclusive control of their living space. But after marriage, they are thrust into a shared space.
The question then arises: How should that space look, especially when the husband and wife come from varied backgrounds with opposing tastes and wants? A fight frequently ensues for control until the stronger partner wins. Sometimes one of the partners comes to the conclusion that their mate no longer matches what they had envisioned them to be at the time of their fleeting romance. Frustrated, they might even try to transform their partner or seek a new one more agreeable to their conceit.

Entering the dhama means relinquishing such narcissism?the tendency to see the world as if it only exists for oneself?for Vrndavana is an eternal reality
moving exclusively for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. To reside here is to implicitly make the claim, ?I will live in the dhama only for service!?

To test the integrity of our assertion, the Lord, through His internal potency, sometimes moves things in the dhama against our self-absorbed interest. We are forced to question ourselves: Do I want to stay in a place where I have no control, a place that exists solely for the pleasure of God?

My test usually comes on the first day with the appearance, real or imaginary, of the big black snake at Kesi-ghata (see my previous journals, dated October 24-31, 2001 and October 5, 2002, for an explanation).

First Test
This year it wasn?t a big black snake, but there was definitely something black. It started with a dream: I was standing by a great ocean, something like the one in Puri. Bhurijana Prabhu was there along with a revered unknown Vrndavana sadhu, a person I wanted to please. The waves of that ocean continually washed up a huge black fish the size of a dolphin. Thinking that the sadhu would be entertained, I tried to show him this phenomenon, but I could not catch his attention.

In my waking state, I asked Bhurijana Prabhu what he thought this meant. He said that he didn?t know much about dreams, but from what little he did know, he thought the ocean might represent the subconscious and the black fish could be the shadow, or dark side of the subconscious. The black fish coming to shore is thus the dark side of oneself emerging from the subconscious.

His analysis made sense to me. Coming to Vrndavana means to become purified of the false ego, the pretentious self. We think we are devotees, but scratch beyond the mask of pretension and the ugly face of egocentrism arises.

If by coming to Vrndavana I can identify and rid myself of the false ego, the sadhus will be pleased and I may gain entrance into the dhama.

Second Test
Coming here on the plane, Mikey told me how he wanted to arrive in Vrndavana with nothing as a sign of his insignificant position. Nice thought. Saci-Suta, his friend and well-wisher, however, insisted that he take Saci?s sleeping bag. Mikey was very appreciative, but he told me that he would have been happier if he could have come with nothing.

You get the karma of those that you are with. When we alight from our plane in Delhi I see my name, ?Dennis Winiker,? on the Passenger Service Board, requesting me to report to their desk at baggage claim. We are informed that none of our luggage made the plane in London. We are entering Vrndavana, on the wish of Mikey, with only the clothes on our back.

Third Test
I am sitting in my room, chanting japa. Fatigued from jetlag, I sit in an uncharacteristic pose for japa?lying in a bamboo chair with my feet resting on the bed. Clunk! Something lands on the thin cotton chadar just over my right shoulder. On first thought, I assumed it was a ?tik-tik,? the small harmless lizard. On second thought, however, I thought, it?s much too big! I bolt from my seat and whip my shoulder forward, thrusting the creature to the floor. It was a huge gruesome black bat! The bat, which seems to represent the shadow of my subconscious, then flies hideously around the room and mysteriously disappears. In 30 years I have never seen a bat in a room. What is Krishna telling me?

Fourth Test
Mikey comes to help me with my Giriraja-puja. I ask him to go downstairs to pick tulasi and flowers. I am peacefully halfway through my prayers, enjoying the first worship of Giriraja in Vrndavana, when I hear a rumble outside my door followed by a scream. ?Krishna! Krishna!? I leap from my asana, grab my cane, and open the door. Mikey is backed into a corner by a horde of vicious monkeys and he is barely keeping them at bay by wildly flailing the front of his dhoti before them. I flail my own cane and miss the monkeys, grazing Mikey?s nose, before quickly pulling him inside, bolting the door as the mad monkeys try to push their way in.

Evidently, while going downstairs, Mikey passed a baby monkey crying on the stairs. The mother of that monkey, thinking that Mikey was the cause of the baby?s cries, became livid and returned with two friends to confront him.

?It was pretty scary,? Mikey said. ?More scary then when my head was busted open and bloodied last December with a three-foot crowbar when I was walking through the ghetto in North Philadelphia.?

I told him the little monkey attack reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock?s ?The Birds,? the scariest movie I ever saw. ?Yeah, like that,? he said.

Quite an entrance test, but Mikey humbly assures me that he?s passed the rites of passage by invoking the attitude for entering Vraja: ?Whatever it takes, Maharaja. Vrndavana is my only hope.?

Note: Srila Prabhupada said that, in terms of visiting Vrndavana, a devotee should stay for ?three days or three years.? I take that to mean that it is easier to maintain a humble service mood if you visit for a short pilgrimage, but for those who stay longer, there should be a serious commitment to service. I find that these tests often come when one makes the claim to reside longer and not on short pilgrimages, where it is exciting and easy to keep focus. On our short pilgrimage, we also enter Vrndavana by first going to through Mayapur, where offenses are forgiven. This is the recommended method for going to Vrndavana.

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