Archive for October, 2000

Govardhana I thought about the

October 30th, 2000


I thought about the relationship between my nama-vrata and preaching Krishna consciousness. It is clear to me that if I want to give Krishna consciousness, I must have Krishna consciousness, and the process is chanting the holy name. The best way for me to accomplish that is to focus my attention on the holy name in a holy place. If, in preaching Krishna consciousness, one only gives the mission or surrender to the mission, but neglects to inculcate a taste for Krishna consciousness in others?and especially that for nama-kirtana?one may miss actually giving others the true mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In other words, we should not only bring others into the mission for the sake of spreading it, but for the sake of actually becoming Krishna conscious ourselves. I looked at the sadhu again and heard, “Baba!” I couldn’t exactly hear what he was saying, but I understood him clearly. Language obviously isn’t the only means of communication.? “What are you so afraid of. Don’t you realize that Krishna is in everyone’s heart?”

As I walked up to the top of the ghat and turned right to walk around the corner to my rikshaw, I looked back. The sadhu was still laughing and flapping his right hand. I also began to laugh and enjoyed the fun of exchanging a kind of laughing ecstasy (hasya-rasa) with him. We maintained eye contact and our mutual laughter until I eventually drifted out of sight. By Krishna’s mercy, I had entered the dhama.

Govardhana adharam madhuram vadanam madhuram

October 29th, 2000


adharam madhuram vadanam madhuram nayanam madhuram hastitam madhuram
hrdayam madhuram gamanam madhuram madhuradhi pater akhilam madhuram

?His lips are sweet, His face is sweet, His eyes are sweet, His smile is sweet, His heart is sweet, His gait is sweet. Everything is sweet about the Emperor of Sweetness!?

Bhinatvam nama maminoh. Krishna and His name are nondifferent. The holy name is therefore a very sweet person. We have a loving relationship with that sweet person who is unlimitedly kind to us. Chanting in that mood invokes the sentiment and devotion that maintains dynamism in chanting.

Hundreds of devotees siege the ashram throughout the day, at different times, for Govardhana parikrama. It is nice to see His Holiness Bhakti Caru Maharja and His Holiness Gopal Krishna Maharaja. The atmosphere at Bhaktivedanta Sadhana Ashram (our ashram) is sublime, but with so many people coming, it is also a bit distracting. My rounds suffer and there is not much time for reading.

Good news! I left five of my books at Rasabihari Lal’s, the bookstore at Loi Bazaar, and all are sold in two days. I need to find a way to get more of these books to India.

We should be careful about associating with the local residents of Vrindaban. Real brijabasis have svabhavika-bhakti, natural love for Krishna, but externally they may even lead ordinary lives. They are difficult to understand and dealing with them can be confusing. There are, however, a few simple hearted brijabasis that I got to know and love in the course in living in Vrindaban for more than twenty years. At Bhaktivedanta Ashram all the devotees have deep affection for Nanuram. Nanuram is a relatively tall, aging-but-ageless?is he 50 or 75??simple-hearted Govardhana-basi (resident of Govardhana) who visits the ashram regularly at prasadam time. When asked for his age, his reply is always the same: ?Younger than you.? When pressed further, he sincerely says he has to ask his mother. Nanu means child. His mother still calls him Nanu, so he feels young.

He often goes to Kesava Bharati’s room for animated conversations that sometimes last almost half an hour. There are lots of joking and other affectionate exchanges. The amazing thing is that Nanuram only speaks and understands the local vernacular, brajabhasa, and Kesava Bharati doesn’t understand a word of it. This has been going on for two years. Nanurama has yet to figure out that Kesava Bharati doesn’t understand what he is saying, but they still seem to bond. It’s an amazing thing to watch. All I can figure out is that they are both so much from the heart that despite a lack of verbal communication they still achieve a high level of mutual understanding.

Unfortunately, Nanuram’s wife died and left him no children and he has to take care of his old and sickly mother. Nanuram, however, seems to have no worries?or at least there are no overt symptoms of anxiety. He does Govardhana parikrama everyday as far as he needs to go to be invited for prasadam. He generally eats at several places a day. He is on the thin side, but his face is bright with color?the emblem of health.

The custom for rich men visiting Govardhana is to feed the brahmanas and sadhus living in the dhama and give them a small donation for coming. Nanuram has been known to take a full feast at one place, and two hours later, at the next feast, eat three kilos of rabri (cooked down milk with sugar). He remains, however, after a small nap on his left side, energetic and hungry. I have seen this personally during the feast days at our ashram.

Govardhana is the place where Krishna ate unlimited foodstuffs while simultaneously retaining a voracious hunger. It seems a benediction must have even been passed down to the residents of Govardhana. Nanuram now also comes to talk to me. I enjoy it, although I can’t understand a word he says.

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Govardhana – Govardhana-puja nirupadhi-karunena sri-saci-nandanena

October 28th, 2000

Govardhana – Govardhana-puja

nirupadhi-karunena sri-saci-nandanena tvayi kapati-satho’pi
tvat-priyenarpito’smi iti khalu mama yogyayogyatam tamagrhnan nija
nikata-nivasam dehi goverdhan tvam

“O Govardhana! Although I am a cheater and a rogue, the greatly merciful Sri Sacinandana Krsna Caitanya, who is most dear to you, has offered me unto You (so You are therefore obliged to accept me). Without considering whether I am qualified or unqualified, please bestow upon me a residence near Your side.” ?Verse 10, Sri Govardhana-Vasa-Prarthana-Dasakam by Sri Raghuntha das Goswami

Rose early to chant. I concentrated on an important realization about chanting that Partha Sarathi Prabhu shared with me last year. He said that to advance in bhakti we must get the mercy of the great souls past and present. The conduit for that mercy is our attachment to those great souls. Attachment to the great souls comes from the service, worship, and glorification of them. We should, therefore, pray to the saints in our guru?s parampara and the eternal associates of the Lord before chanting. One should especially pray for the mercy of one’s spiritual master.

My chanting begins with prayers to Srila Prabhupada. At least initially, I chant with deliberate consciousness of his kindness toward me, of my dependence on his mercy, and of my relationship with him. There is not a better darshan of Giri-Govardhana than the one through the window of my room here while sitting on my bed. The tall neem trees in our courtyard thirty feet from our veranda perfectly frame the most verdant and lofty section of Govardhana Parvat (mountain). Near the bottom of that frame, through the ornate spiked fence on top of the stonewall surrounding our ashram, I see a steady march of colorful pilgrims, frequently in groups, often chanting responsively?radhe rahde shyam milate! It makes me think that, this year, there is probably no need to build a Giriraja out of prasadam to honor my Giriraja Maharaja as I do in most places of the world when I celebrate Govardhana-puja.

The ashram does, however, offer a beautiful abhiseka and sumptuous annukut festival on the foothill of Giri-Govardhana across from our ashram. Indradyumna Swami expertly leads kirtana for hours. The devotees are in the spiritual world, but now realize it. It was that nice.

My personal worship for Giriraj Maharaja was simple this year, but very sweet. My godbrother, Satyanarayana, bought sweets at the famous Giriraja Misthan Bandar (sweet shop) and some fruits for my personal puja. Satyanarayan is the godbrother who supervised the printing of my book. We have a good friendship and we enjoyed serving my Deities together.

It’s been a long day, but I cannot forget Govinda Hari. Govinda Hari is my worshipful Govardhana sila who sits as a five-foot elongated boulder at the base of Govardhana Hill, near the sacred Govinda-kunda. It is 5 o’clock in the evening, but I go on bicycle ride with Krishna Kripa from Houston to bathe and clean him with the sacred waters of Govinda-kunda. We happily chant nija nikata nivasam goverdhan tvam, begging Giri-Govardhana for eternal residence there. It was a short bike ride and a simple worship, but the heart feels cleanse and satisfied.

On the way back to our ashram I see Gaura-Narayana and the other brahmacaris from our ashram walking toward us on Govardhana parikrama. They are incredible souls?especially Gaura Narayana and his assistant, Asita: They have already worked day and night for two days preparing the festival and then worked all day today organizing it, and yet what do they do when they finish? A full parikrama of Govardhana Hill at 6 in the evening!

“How fortunate they are,” I thought as I was whizzing by them on my new green bicycle towards the ashram, “that this is their concept of recreation.”

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Govardhana The brijabasis celebrate Govardhan-puja

October 27th, 2000


The brijabasis celebrate Govardhan-puja today, but the ISKCON calendar lists Govardhana-puja for tomorrow. It feels awkward celebrating major festivals in Vrindaban on different days than everyone else here. It would be much simpler to just celebrate when everyone else does. Narayana Maharaja’s Vraja Mandala parikrama party is staying next door to us at the Modi Bhavan, a large and scenic dharmasala (hostel) complex built and managed by the prominent Indian industrialist, Kedaranatha Modi. They are holding their Govardhana-puja today directly across from where they are staying, at the foot of Govardhana Hill.

Their festival is a very colorful. Hundreds of well-prepared bhoga preparations are brought for offering to the base of the hill in small decorated wicker baskets, held mostly on the heads of their lady pilgrims. First, however, they hold a large spontaneous abhisheka. Last year I was nearly trampled by a stampede of spontaneous devotion from hundreds of Punjabi lady Vaishnavas eager to bathe the one large stone on Govardhana that the Kesava Gaudiya Math establishes as their focus of worship today.

I went with Indradyumna Swami to offer our respects. Although we stood humbly behind hundreds of pilgrims, we were spotted and invited to bathe Giri-Govardhana first with their other sannyasis.

Since most of the pilgrims were at one time in ISKCON, I knew many of them, and many came to affectionately greet me. There was also an element whose mood was very cold and unwelcoming. Once a group gets big, it becomes very difficult for many of its members to represent its original ideals. I understand this, but I am exhausted with sectarianism and want to stay clear of it, wherever it is. I did not return for the feast.

I read something on the self-destruction of movements that Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu gave me today. It’s food for thought:

?I have had with my friend Wes Jackson a number of useful conversations about the necessity of getting out of movements?even movements that have seemed necessary and dear to us?when they have lapsed into self-righteousness and self-betrayal, as movements seem almost invariably to do. People in movements too readily learn to deny others the rights and privileges they demand for themselves. They too easily become unable to mean their own language, as when a ?peace movement? becomes violent. They often become too specialized, as if finally they cannot help taking refuge in the pinhole vision of intellectuals. They almost always fail to be radical enough, dealing finally in effects rather than causes. Or they deal with single issues or single solutions, as if to assure themselves that they will not be radical enough.”
?In Distrust of Movements, Wendell Berry

One devotee asked me if Fakir Mohan is bona fide and how he got such a strange name. I asked his assistant, Madhavananda, and he told me some of Fakir Mohan’s history.

As a young boy in Orissa, barely 14 years of age, Fakir Mohan, became very attracted to the songs of Bhaktivinoda Thakur and left home to join the Gaudiya Math, never to return home again. As he was a very intelligent young boy, the acarya in that Gaudiya Math?I don’t remember his name?surprisingly sent him back to school. After completing college, he returned to the Math, but when his guru saw how well he did in school, he ordered him to return to school, get his PhD, and to become a teacher. Following his guru’s order, he became a professor of Sanskrit, went to classes in full Vaishnava dress wearing tilak, taught Krishna consciousness through his subjects, and beyond the bare necessities of life, used his earnings for missionary activities?especially the publication of books he wrote himself on Gaudiya Vaishnavism in Orissa. All this time, he remained a naisthika brahmacari, a strict celibate, for his entire life.

Fakir is an Urdu name for a Muslim mendicant, but it has become a generic name in Orissa, even for Hindus. Hundreds of years ago there was a Vaishnava saint named Fakir Mohan, and Madhavananda thinks that Fakir Mohan’s guru named him after that saint.

Is he bona fide? I listened carefully to everything he spoke so far and it seemed very supportive of Srila Prabhupada?s teachings. He has the qualities of an advanced Vaishnava, and even the more conservative ISKCON devotees at the Krishna Balaram Mandir seem to respect him. He is not initiated directly by Srila Prabhupada, so there might be some differences on some things?hopefully minor, I don’t know. If I hear anything different, then I will, of course, follow the authority of Srila Prabhupada, but that doesn’t mean there cannot be elevated souls that are not in direct line with Srila Prabhupada. Certainly, Srila
Prabhupada didn’t think that way.

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Govardhana Fakir Mohan gave class

October 26th, 2000


Fakir Mohan gave class again. Before class he paid dandavats to each and every sannyasi and, when they returned his obeisances, he affectionately and softly grasped their hands humbly, almost crying, “Bless me, I know nothing!”

I again did not take notes, but one point stuck in my mind: He gave an analogy comparing a guru to a cow, milk to the knowledge he gives, and a proper disciple to her affectionate calf. His point was that unless the guru sees the disciple with affection, like a respectful son or daughter, knowledge does not naturally flow, just like a cow cannot be milked unless it sees its affectionate calf. Still, to get milk, something else is needed?grass. Harinama is the grass. Even if one hears from the guru, unless he offers harinama, knowledge will not manifest.

Went on parikrama to Radha-kunda with Indradyumna and Fakir Mohan. Fakir Mohan sang bhajans the whole way and also translated them to English. He mostly sung the songs of an Orissan Vaishnava, Devakinanda dasa, that expressed his mood:

vrndavana-basi jata vaisnavera gana Prathame vandana kari sabara carana

First I offer my obeisances at the lotus feet of the dear devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu residing in Vrindavan. Falling flat on the ground at their lotus feet, I offer my obeisances to the associates of Mahaprabhu residing in Sri Nilacala, Jagannath Puri Dhama. I offer my obeisances at the lotus feet of one and all of the dear devotees of Mahaprabhu residing in Nabadwip.

nilacala-basi jata mahaprabhura gana Bhumite padiya vandan sabara carana

I offer my obeisances unto the lotus feet of all the dear devotees of Mahaprabhu residing in Gaudadesh. Gauranga Mahaprabhu’s dear devotees may be residing in any corner of the world. Wherever they reside I offer my obeisances unto their lotus feet. I offer my obeisances unto the lotus feet of all those persons who will become Mahaprabhu’s dear devotees in the future. Catching straw in my teeth, I offer obeisances at their lotus feet.
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Govardhana I found out early

October 25th, 2000


I found out early this morning that Fakir Mohan was asked to give class. I adjusted my schedule so I could attend his class but, still, I arrived a few minutes late. A seat was saved for me next to Indradyumna in front of the speaker. He soon handed me the following note:

“His plan was to go on parikrama at 3AM, but I asked him to give class and he immediately agreed. Madhavananda mildly objected and he chastised him! Maybe if we beg him he’ll stay for 2 or 3 days. He’s so humble I think most people can’t recognize him. Srila Prabhupada said that we can understand a person?s position by how they speak. What do you think?”

I was very inspired by his class. He would read a few sentences at a time from Srila Prabhupada’s purport and then explain the point in a very animated, but practical way. He would then quote a verse to demonstrate his point. When he did, he would spontaneously break into a song with zeal, Orrissan style, accompanied by mrdanga. He has a very powerful and melodic voice, louder than a microphone could amplify, but I was most touched by his devotion. He gave heart and soul to each word. “Radha Krishna Bol Bol Bolo Re Sobhai!” he sang with fervor several times. Every verse, even Bhagavad-gita, was sung in this way during the class.

Some remembrances from class (I didn’t take notes): Nama (the holy name) will do everything; nama will give everything. Give nama to guru, not money. The guru wants your faith in Krishna, which can be best given by offering the holy name in sacrifice?yajnaih sankirtan prayair.

When one does nama-seva he will not stop practical devotional service. Rather, it will be done spontaneously and nicely?not forced, like Jagai and Madhai who got prema-bhakti from Lord Caitanya and then, with their own hands, constructed a ghat for the pilgrims and cleaned it everyday.

He sometimes serves an old Vaishnava saint in his nineties from Orissa named Haridas Sena. One of Haridas’s associates joked to him, “Why don’t you take Fakir Mohan as a disciple?” Haridas replied, “But will he jump in the ganga”?indicating that a real disciple must have faith and be surrendered. He humbly mentioned that he is unable to do seva now because of old age, meaning that because he is so old, no one will allow him to serve them.

Govardhana suditasrita-janarti-rasye ramya-cid-ghana sukha-svarupine nama

October 24th, 2000


suditasrita-janarti-rasye ramya-cid-ghana sukha-svarupine nama
gokula-mahotsavaya te krsna purna-vapuse namo namah

?O Hari-nama! O Krsna! You destroy the miseries of those who take Your shelter. For your devotees You are very charming and delightful. Your form is the personification of knowledge and bliss, and therefore you are a festival for the residents of Gokula. I bow down again and again before You,whose form is fully spiritual like Vaikuntha.??Rupa Goswami’s Namastaka (7)

Indrayumna Swami excitedly came to my room to tell me that one very nice sadhu named Fakir Mohan and a few of his associates are requesting to stay for the night in our ashram so that they may leave early in the morning for Govardhana parikrama. It was the same sadhu I had heard about three days ago! I immediately went to greet him.

Fakir Mohan was standing on the round marble veranda protruding over the inside courtyard, which is directly outside the small temple room on the roof. Our ashram devotees naturally surrounded him, as many of them were also Orissan and already had some acquaintance with him.

Fakir Mohan made a strong first impression on me?not by the force of a strong personality, but by his very unassuming and humble nature. He was about Srila Prabhupada’s size, near 70 years of age, toothless, unshaven (for kartik), and wearing a simple hand washed white dhoti and kurta. He was, however, very jovial, bubbling with a devotional fervor and laughter that reminded me of the sincere enthusiasm of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrother Krishna dasa Babaji.

I was introduced to him by his assistant Madhavananda dasa: “This is Dhanurdhara Swami, the Maharaja who sent a message that he was coming to Vrindaban to see you.” Fakir Mohan spontaneously responded with enthusiasm and respect. “Maharaja! Maharaja!” he said with gusto. To my embarrassment he paid dandavat-pranams (full obeisances), then stood up, a little bent at the waist and with folded palms?a classical pose of respect indicating that this body and these hands are for your service. We exchanged pleasant words until he and his party were called for prasadam. I thought, “Today I met a very nice Vaishnava sadhu.?

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Govardhana – Ekadasi Yesterday I

October 22nd, 2000

Govardhana – Ekadasi

Yesterday I was feeling discouraged and hopeless because my concentration was not deep, although I was trying. I felt that I would never become a devotee. Today chanting, however, came easy. Sometimes Krishna encourages one in this way. It is undeserved kindness.

Devamrita Swami came to visit me. Devamrita Swami is from New York and joined in Henry Street after graduating from Yale. He has a rare vitality and vision for preaching. He is making many devotees in New Zealand and I was impressed with the dynamics of his vision. I have heard of his preaching as he sometimes comes to meet Bhurijan Prabhu in Perth and Bhurijan told me about it.

Maharaja opens up independent urban preaching centers where he devises and implements a multitude of programs to interest several different types of people. He has yoga classes, a cutting edge lecture series, and book distribution. He creates a dynamic culture in his centers so that once people visit, they become attracted. Part of that culture is developing camaraderie among the people centered on studying and distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books. His method of book distribution, however, is thoughtful. He stresses developing relationships with the people so that they read the books, maintain some sort of contact, and hopefully visit the center. He told me that a big book distributor in his program is, therefore, someone who just meets a few people a day and not only sells them a book but has such an impression on them that they eventually visit the center. By organizing book distribution in his way everyone connected with the center can easily participate in the mission. It makes sense.

I wrote a quick list today of how bhakti comes into the heart. It is a first draft and subject to discussion and revision.

  • The process is sadhana-bhakti, the conscious utilization of the senses in Krishna’s service for the purpose of awakening devotion in the heart.
  • The essence of sadhana-bhakti is to remember Krishna and never forget Him.
  • The acarya finds the best ways and means for the people to do so among the nine basic practices of devotional service.
  • The best way to remember Krishna is to chant His holy names, although proper execution of any of the nine activities of devotional service can invoke full remembrance of Krishna.
  • Lord Caitanya specifically recommended nama-sankirtan as the best means of becoming Krishna conscious.
  • Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila Prabhupada emphasized dedicating oneself to distributing the holy name as the best way for us to remain absorbed in chanting and hearing about Krishna.
  • If one does not have the taste to remain fixed in chanting and hearing about Krishna, service to the great souls will give one an affinity for hearing about Krishna.
  • Although chanting is the best way to remember Krishna, unless one has the mercy of the Lord and a service attitude one cannot chant with concentration and devotion. Therefore to do nama-sankirtan properly it is essential to fullysurrender to a bona fide spiritual master.
  • If done properly, there is no dichotomy between chanting and hearing about Krishna and serving the mission of the spiritual master, which includes sadhana-bhakti.
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Govardhana Preliminary stages of chanting:Fix

October 21st, 2000


Preliminary stages of chanting:

  • Fix a time and place for the holy name.
  • Focus the mind on the holy name.
  • Search the heart and pinpoint our present level of spiritual desire.
  • Nourish that desire by determination and prayer.

Even if we have no bhakti, we can pray for bhakti, and that’s bhakti. Some spiritual desire, according to our level of realization, must accompany our chanting. If it doesn’t, our chanting can become simply mechanical. The first level of chanting is accompanied by at least the desire and prayer to control our mind and free it from the distraction of material desire.

I am eating much less and realize that as I am older and less active I need very little to keep the body and soul together. Two small practices can give one an immediate boost in spiritual life: Eating properly and rising early.

An English devotee visiting Govardhana today from Vrindaban told me about a sadhu from Orissa, Fakir Mohan, who is staying in the house next to my place in Vrindaban. Fakir Mohan was a friend of Srila Gaura Govinda Swami. He will stay in Vrindaban for three weeks and speak on the Bhagavatam everyday. I was also told that for the last three years he has been lecturing on just the fourth verse of the Catur-Sloki Bhagavatam to some ISKCON devotees in Orrisa who live near him, but stressing nama-kirtan. I was surprised when I heard that he even gave Srimad Bhagavatam class at Krishna Balarama Mandir for two days. I am eager to meet him and sent a message to his assistant that I would like to visit him and hear him speak and that I will therefore visit Vrindaban in a few days. I hanker for sadhu-sanga.

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Govardhana I received a message

October 20th, 2000


I received a message today from an old friend that upset me. In fact, my mind seemed to dwell on this for much of the day. I recalled something from Narottama dasa Thakur’s famous verse?that when one’s mind is full of anxieties, one cannot see Vrindaban. To maintain Vrindaban consciousness I finally just walked to Govinda-kunda to bathe.

I thought about what upset me:

  • Good relationships?whether it is friend, servant, parent, or lover?mean mutual commitment and service. When one gives oneself to another it is disappointing when the other party does not reciprocate properly, or at all.
  • I am disturbed when Krishna moves things against my plans.
  • Chanting brings purification. Purification means giving up attachments. Krishna is reciprocating my chanting by an arrangement to purify me of my attachments.

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