Govardhana In July I wrote

November 9th, 2001


In July I wrote a series of journal entries on humility and asked the reader to send their realizations. They are still coming. Yesterday I received a powerful quote by Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Dev Goswami from Brahma Muhurta that seemed to succinctly sum up the discussion we had on humility:

“Humility means not to encroach on the rights of others. And also, it should not be such as to kill one’s own self. It must be natural.”

Woke up this morning with very swollen feet from yesterday’s parikrama around Govardhana Hill. Years ago, while I was living in Vrindaban, I could do a full ovardhana-parikrama for several consecutive days without any problem. My feet were gradually cultured for the task by living in Vrindaban. This year I came directly from America to Govardhana, went out on parikrama, and continued going on parikrama for eight days so far without break. My feet are getting worse everyday.

I have changed my parikrama schedule because of the heat. I am leaving at 3:30 in the afternoon instead of mid-morning. By 3PM today, however, I was still not sure if I would be able to go. I contemplated just wearing shoes to make it easier, but as an old resident of Vraja, the offense of worshiping Krishna with shoes seemed more painful than the blisters on my feet. I don’t want to give up. I made a vow, and unless I am absolutely physically unable to continue, I am determined to keep it.

Going around everyday is an austerity?even when I’m healthy. I want to make sure that I do not renounce the parikrama prematurely just to avoid that austerity. Many old?even physically disabled?devotees limp around Giriraja daily. What are my aches compared to theirs? They have ample excuse to stop, but they remain fixed in their vows. And so should I!

I ask Asit, the temple manager, what he thought. He is a Govardhana-basi, a resident here. He is respectful of me and says, “Okay, wear shoes. No problem.” But in the same breath says, “Go. Giriraja will protect you. The feet will get better as you go” Asit is a real devotee, so what he says is not just words but realization. Hearing his faith in Giriraja almost makes me feel like an infidel to stay back.

As I sit in front of the ashram with Asit, Devaki Pran walks in. Devaki Pranis an ISKCON devotee from the Maharastra State in India. Still in his late thirties, he has somehow retired to Radha-kunda. He goes around Govardhana Hill twice daily, every day of the year, and three times on Ekadasis and festivals. Once he even went around four times, walking for nearly for 18 hours. I show him how badly bruised my feet are and ask his opinion on what I should do. He shakes his hand nonchalantly in the direction of the parikrama path indicating that I should without question go. “No problem,” he says. “Just walk slowly. Giriraja will protect you.”

The pain has substantially subsided since the morning and Giriraja looks inviting. I confidently decide to go. Besides, today I walk on the Govinda-kunda side where stretches of soft sand make the walk slightly easier. My cane also helps to propel me along. Giriraja is helping! I remain focused and determined and even pick up the pace. The pain gradually subsides. The walk remains austere, but tolerable. Two hours and forty minutes later I fall to the ground in front the ashram and thank Giriraja for a successful parikrama. I drag myself upstairs to soak my feet in hot water. The feet are sore, but the spirits are uplifted. It’s the mercy of Giriraja and it’s worth the price. No gain without pain.

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