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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