Govardhana Vrindaban Mysteries II Full

October 30th, 2002


Vrindaban Mysteries II

Full parikrama today.

The old Narasimha temple: I’ve gone on Govardhana-parikrama many times, but I’ve never visited the old temple of Narasimha on the far side of Apsara-kunda. This surprises me because it is a substantial temple, like a small fort on a hill, with a winding brick road twisting up to the entrance leading to a courtyard with one of the best views of Govardhana Hill. The temple is run by a very old saintly pujari, at least in his 80s, and presumably unmarried (he lives there alone). Not many people come here, so he must have a very solitary life, although he seems quite satisfied. To take up the life of a pujari in a remote temple with few, if any, visiting pilgrims, is sort of a declaration that material life is finished. Such a resolve is tempting, attractive. I’ve thought about it, but I am too restless.

At the Narasimha temple, I had what I call an internal potency experience. Not that I experienced an infusion of devotional ecstasy, the real internal potency experience, but it’s what I call such an experience for lack of a better word for it. My “internal potency” experiences happen occasionally on parikrama. It goes like this:

You enter a sacred place, a temple, or a lila-sthan (a place of the Lord’s pastimes) without a particular plan to do so–often by just seeing a temple or on the unplanned invitation of a friend who has been there before. You enter the place and begin chanting and reading and also relating with the residents there. From the moment you enter, you lose sight of time and make no plans on what to do. You follow what is dictated by circumstance and become absorbed in the devotional atmosphere and activities. Although there is no sense of schedule, at a particular time you leave, also without a plan. You feel elated and uplifted, but shortly after leaving, you again gain orientation on your timetable for the day, including the anxiety of attempting to control one’s life independent of God’s will. You reflect in contrast to the moments before when there was no sense of time, just absorption in the internal potency. Finally you realize just how much most of one’s life is dictated, sometimes very subtly, according to one’s ego, the desire to enjoy and control, and not by the direction of the intelligence or the Lord in the heart.

Omen at Rasa-sthali: Walking north on the parikrama path from the Narasimha temple I honor the rock candy given by the Narasimha pujari. To wash our hands, Vaiseseka Prabhu and I turn into the Rasa-sthali forest area (the place of Radha-Krishna’s spring rasa dance) where there is a water tap on the outside wall of the fortress-like temple compound. Before leaving, Vaiseseka Prabhu looks above the tap on the wall to decipher a saying written in Hindi. All of thesudden, I see an unusual furry ball whiz above his head. It happened so fast I thought that someone had thrown something, but it’s alive. A bird crashes against the wall, falls to the ground, quivers for a moment, and stops. It’s dead!

Eerie! I can’t help but think what all this means. Is it as simple as a random bird’s death? And if it is, then why did this happen right as we entered the solitary forest? Is there something more to this omen? We continue our walk. Vaiseseka gets the message we need to hear, regardless of what this unusual incident is meant to envisage for us. “Just see how flickering this world is!”

We continue walking north through monkey-land on the west side of Govardhana. In the distance a monkey holds her limp young chimp–another unusual sight. She puts her baby down. It’s dead! Whew! I have never seen even one death in countless parikramas, but now two in five minutes. Strange! What does this mean?

Vaiseseka spontaneously quotes in Sanskrit from the Bhagavatam, and then translates: “Four things give us evidence of the flickering nature of this world: hearing, direct experience, inference, and traditional wisdom.”

Today we are learning of the temporal nature of this world by direct experience. But are we actually learning? A little more than a year ago I was in lower Manhattan when the World Trade Center collapsed. If a whole city didn’t get the message of this “flickering world,” and I didn’t get the message, then what will I learn now from a kamikaze bird at Rasa-sthali?

He quotes again: “There is one thing to forget and two things to remember. Forget what you have done for others. Remember what others have done for you. And remember death!”

Prema-pujari: Further down on the western side of Govardhana Hill, just before Radha-kunda, we briefly pay our respects to Uddhava Bihari, the place where Uddhava, overwhelmed by the standard of prema (love of Godhead) of the residents of Vrindaban–especially the gopis–prays to be a lump of grass in Vrindaban so the dust of the gopis would grace his head. Sitting before the Deities is the humble pujari who has been serving Uddhava Biharaji for over 50 years. There hasn’t been a time yet on parikrama where I haven’t met our friendly pujari, sitting in the same place, peacefully serving out caranmrita (the water which has bathed Uddhava Bihari). I greet him warmly, as I always do. He smiles, hugs me, and then embraces Vaiseseka. I ask for a blessing. As I bend at the waist, he places his two hands with extended palms over my head rocking back and forth in a gesture of blessings. As his hands gently pat my shoulders, he speaks sweetly and repeatedly in broken English, with perhaps the only words he knows:

“Happy! Happy!”

Vaiseseka admires the simplicity and purity of the pujari’s blessings, and smiling in heartfelt appreciation, says, “What a nice thing to say!”

Brisk pace: Vaiseseka Prabhu, my companion today, has set a blistering four-hour pace. I have to trot occasionally to keep up with his long powerful strides, but I follow, and it goes surprisingly well. We left at 5:15 AM, stopped at the Narasimha Temple by Apsara-kunda, briefly visited Uddhava Bihari, bathed in Radha-kunda, had kirtan at Harideva, and we’ve still returned by 10 AM. A great start to the day.

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