Archive for November, 2001

Govardhan Japa Thoughts IV To

November 19th, 2001


Japa Thoughts IV
To perceive something, we must use the intelligence. Don?t void oneself of intelligence when seeking the holy name. The holy name will not come by our intelligence, but when the holy name comes use your intelligence to understand Him. Think deeply upon each word and search for meaning. It is part of attentive chanting.

Japa Thoughts V
Srila Prabhupada taught clearly the value of chanting with feeling and a proper conception in his simple instruction, “One should chant the holy name as a lost child crying for his mother.”

Govardhan Japa Thoughts V The

November 16th, 2001


Japa Thoughts V
The root of prema (love of Godhead) is dainya (humility). What is the question of love without humbly serving and submitting oneself to ones lover? Even a powerful man who falls in love willingly submits, and serves, the desires of his beloved. True love invokes humility, and true humility invokes love, for it enables one to serve others.

By the Hare Krishna mahamantra we are glorifying God and begging for His service. Can a proud man put his heart in such words, and if one can?t chant with
sincere feeling what is the question of chanting with devotion and relish?

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu thus instructs:

“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street, more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant constantly.”

Only the humble soul can put his heart into the incantation of Hare Krishna and give it real meaning beyond just syllables and sounds.

Moral: If we want an attraction for the holy name we must serve, pray and chant for dainya (true humility).

Govardhan – Govardhan Puja It?s

November 15th, 2001

Govardhan – Govardhan Puja

It?s auspicious to celebrate a festival of Lord Krishna, or remember His pastime, on the day and in the place where it occurred. Such days and such places offer special opportunity to awaken devotion. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur describe this by a simple metaphor, “the days of Lord Hari give birth to devotion (bhakati janani madhava tithi). Everything in Krishna consciousness is personal. On special Vaisnava celebrations, the day, the place and the pastime thus all have potency to reciprocate our worship by opening the channel of mercy to the flow of bhakti. I am fortunate to be at Govardhan on the auspicious day of Sri Govardhan Puja.

Although I am glad to be here, I still opted to more or less continue my regular program of sadhana, rather than fully participate in the festivities. I don?t want to be distracted from my vow. However, as it is principle of devotional service to lavishly celebrate festivals of the Lord according to ones means, I build a little mountain of sweets for my Giriraj Maharaj with a variety of exotic sweets purchased at the famous Giriraj Misthan Bandhar (sweet shop) just down the road.

His Holiness Narayan Maharaj is now in Govardhan with his parikram party. Some of his disciples saw me on the road and told him I was here. One devotee therefore came to our ashram with a message from him inviting me to visit. Considering the tension between his mission and ISKCON I am never sure of the welcome there. By etiquette if a senior vaisnava calls one should go immediately, or at least as soon as possible. Tomorrow I go to Vrindaban, so I will visit him the day after tomorrow. I sense it will be a better day for meeting him as his party will be out on all day on parikram. The setting might be more personal.

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Govardhan Japa Thoughts IV A

November 14th, 2001


Japa Thoughts IV
A symptom of honesty is uniformity between what one is and what one portrays. An honest devotee faces his actual standing in devotion. It is thus paramount to
the cultivation of bhakti as it nourishes humility, the foundation of bhakti. Better to not chant ones rounds and admit it, than to not chant ones rounds and pretend to be chanting. The candor will foster modesty, a disposition helpful to chanting. It will also make it easier to fix at least some standard by which to proceed. Real integrity is to meet ones vows, but pretending will certainly doom progress.

Moral: Don?t bluff. Be who you are and then go forward in devotional service with sincerity.

I’m doing a lot of chanting, but without parikrama it appears more difficult to sustain the intensity of one’s focus. Parikrama naturally seems to maintain the force of one’s devotional practices. I miss it a lot, but can’t go yet. Still sore.

Occasionally in the evening, after my duties are finished, I catch a few minutes of the BBC news on my shortwave radio. Today I am sad to hear about another disaster in New York as a plane crashes in Queens. They interview the local residents. I appreciate one fireman’s realistic response to the reporter when asked how he’s personally handling such crisis after crisis:

“It’s unfortunate, but we are getting expert at disaster.”

The response is very matter of fact, and I see also a universal message. Material life is disaster after disaster and then we die?the ultimate disaster. We must become expert at disaster, ultimately dealing with inevitable death. We should all become expert at disaster by coming to the stage of pure chanting and thus transcending all dualities of the material world. Are we getting “expert at disaster”?

Govardhana I finish my afternoon

November 13th, 2001


I finish my afternoon chanting by 6PM and stroll outside my room on the roof of the palace ashram. Govardhana Hill rises in front of the ashram and is always a welcoming sight. I hear a lecture coming from the Modi Bhavan, the large dharmasala (guest house for pilgrims) next door, who are hosting a local Vaishnava sadhu. I listen carefully:

“Krishna’s beauty is ever expanding and manifests according to the love of His devotees. As the gopis have the greatest love for Krishna, He is most beautiful in their presence?especially in the presence of Srimati Radharani, the greatest of all gopis. When Srimati Radharani’s love is at the stage of transcendental pique (maan), Krishna becomes desperate to pacify Her. He humbly approaches Radhika to beg Her forgiveness. He is sweating, His hands are folded, He bends slightly from the waist, and streams of tears are pouring from His eyes. His beauty is unlimitedly enhanced by His sweet humble mood. No other person but Sri Radhika can bring out in Sri Krishna such a sweet temper, and thus in the presence of no other person is His beauty so stunning.”

I was struggling this evening to complete my chanting. After listening to the sadhu say a few words I thought, “This is the fruit of my chanting today krishna-katha.”

Japa Realizations III
Taste in chanting requires some nice thoughts of Krishna so that His name is understood properly and can manifest naturally with all His glory.

Govardhana Japa Realizations II The

November 12th, 2001


Japa Realizations II
The holy name is non-different from Krishna, but can we create Krishna by our lips and tongue? It is not a mechanical construct. Rather, the holy name descends and takes the form of syllables and sounds to one who is eager,dependent, and humble?one who invokes at least a dim reflection of the holy name by approaching Him without offense. Perfection therefore requires mercy. Mercy requires humility. Chant and beg for Krishna to appear on our tongue for His descent in His own sweet will.

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Govardhana When I awaken this

November 11th, 2001


When I awaken this morning, I can barely walk to the bathroom; the feet are that bad. I dress and shuffle slowly to the temple, but I cannot stand during mangal-arati. I have to be more careful about vows that require physical austerity, because the body has limits. I should have been more prepared. Still, I’m very disappointed. I’ve failed to maintain my vow.

There is some solace, however. I can still take shelter of my nama-vrata, and perhaps my afternoon chanting will be more attentive. It is difficult to hear while I’m concentrating on negotiating rough roads with sore feet.

Nama-vrata, a vow to significantly increase the number of rounds daily, sounds like a great austerity. Normally it would be, but not at Govardhana. Chanting here is much easier. Of course, the struggle is there and determination is required, but the dhama gives a strength and enthusiasm in Krishna consciousness that is difficult to imagine elsewhere. Even newcomers experience a substantial surge in their spiritual capabilities here, provided their approach is proper. And when one performs a little austerity here for the purpose of increasing one’s devotional service, peacefulness and enthusiasm inevitably blossom?especially prayerfully circumambulating Giri-Govardhana and begging for the mercy for the holy name.

I am writing this journal entry by the window of my room, which looks out onto the beautiful Dan-ghati view of Govardhana?the place where Krishna enacted the tax pastime. My vision has significantly changed in only a week. Giriraja no longer looks distant. He is friendly and inviting, eager to fulfill the desires of his devotees, whatever they may be. It’s better to ask for krishna-prema.

Bolo Giriraja Maharaja ki jaya!

Japa Realizations I
Harinama is a prayer, but what are we praying for? Our chanting should be thoughtful, not mindless. We should concentrate on hearing each syllable, but why? For us it is not a mechanical ritual adopted from our forefathers, but a dynamic process of realization that we have boldly embraced in this lifetime for enlightenment. Why we came is why we should chant?at the very least. If we are not cognizant of our prayers, has Krishna appeared on our tongue?

Govardhana I really worked on

November 10th, 2001


I really worked on my feet last night?soaking, scrubbing, massaging with oil. They feel slightly better, but they are still quite bad. Again I ponder whether or not I should go. I reason, “My feet were worse yesterday and I made it, so today I should certainly be true to my vow.” Just a short ways into the parikrama I realize that my feet today are much more sensitive. My pace slows to a crawl. The Radha-kunda side of Govardhana has long sections of rocky, broken paved roads, and hard rugged dirt paths. Even when I am healthy these stretches are testing. Frequently I stop to sift painful small granules of sand from the long and deepening cracks opening in both feet.

It is not even a quarter of the way around and I sense defeat. Although I am determined to complete my vow, I realize the toll taken physically, there is no way I will be unable to walk tomorrow. Three and a half hours later I collapse in relief at the front gate. Asit, as he does every night, is waiting for me at the ashram door. He greets me affectionately and helps me upstairs to my room. I’m tired, but very spiritually enlivened. With my feet burning, but my spirits so high, it becomes so obvious that happiness and distress don’t exactly parallel physical pleasure and pain. Actually, I’m feeling so enthused in service to Giriraja that I’m ready again for the long haul tomorrow.

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.

Govardhana Downloading e-mail in India,

November 4th, 2001


Downloading e-mail in India, especially in a small town like Govardhana, can be time consuming. I just don’t have time for it during Kartik. Even the mode of the whole operation would impair my life here. Luckily, an old colleague has offered to do it for me weekly in Vrindaban. So it’s off to Vrinbaban to send off the journal and quickly check my mail.

At 7 AM I leave for Vrindaban on a tempo, an archaic Indian put-put open taxi, pouring soot emissions into the cab?an antique of sorts imported from Germany in 1937, now built in India, but without a single change in design in 64 years! The advantage? If you like the native flavor, it’s the mode of travel by the locals, the village brijabasis, and it’s cheap. Damn cheap. The 14 rupee fee (.25 US) suits my budget for my stay here if I am to make the weekly one-hour trip.

I hop off the tempo in front of the ISKCON Krishna-Balaram Mandir. Naturally, I meet many friends. It takes a half-hour just to walk forty feet into the building. Several visitors have been looking for me wanting to know if I will be doing any parikramas. I politely refuse, but I’m torn. A sadhu, as much as possible, is open and welcoming when a person approaches for spiritual help. I try to be that way and it also suits my nature. This month, however, is reserved for myself. If I give, give, give, and don’t put anything in, what will be left to give? This is the month to get something to give, and I’m resolute in my purpose, although it pains me to see acquaintances somewhat lost here in Vrindaban.

By nature, I’m somewhat extroverted. I use the term not so much in the sense of frailty, but as a disposition. An extrovert is more energized by the external environment, by people, and less inclined to the lonely internal world of solitude, thoughts, and dreams. An introverted disposition is the opposite. Years of practicing Krishna consciousness, however, has tempered my disposition. My room on the roof of the Bhaktivedanta Ashram is cave-like. To enter its three-foot walls you have to pass through two thick doors, and when the windows are closed, it is silent and pitch black. I like the cave and rarely leave except for the lone daily march around Govardhana. I am happy in my world of japa, thoughts, and dreams?at least for the month.

The sweetest part of the day: Damodarastakam (the eight verses in glorification of Lord Damodara). Raghunananda is a simple village man from Orissa. He is also surprisingly a sangeet-acarya?a master of classical Vaishnava song. I don’t have much of an ear for music, but I’ve never heard singing like Raghunananda in the evening at the small temple here. The beauty and richness of his voice and the subtle, wholly unpretentious devotional nuances of his singing enraptures our small gathering.

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