Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #42 – Entering Vṛndāvana

October 15th, 2018

“Where are you calling from Dennis?”

“Vṛndāvana.”

“How is my Vṛndāvana?”

I couldn’t believe how sweetly and affectionately my mother voiced those two words: “My Vṛndāvana!” It had been ten years since my parents visited me here in January of 1982. They weren’t happy with my choice and it was quite a sacrifice for them to come here. Imagine two middle class New Yorkers staying at a guesthouse where there wasn’t even Western style toilets and living in a town that still hadn’t seen purified bottled water yet. I’ll never forget what my mother shared with me when I came to check on her first thing in the morning on the third day of her visit.

“Something terrible happened last night.”

“What is it mom?”

“I’m ashamed to admit it.”

“Mom, what is it?!”

“I can’t say.”

“MOM! WHAT HAPPENED?”

“No, I am ashamed to admit it.”

After her third refusal, I became adamant, “MOM, TELL ME!”

“I woke up in the middle of the night chanting Hare Krishna!”  She paused a second, and in character with a Brooklyn Jewish mother added seriously: “I could have killed myself!”

Despite her reply, her reaction struck me. I immediately thought of a room conversation about the power of Vṛndāvana where Śrīla Prabhupāda, in his very sober and authoritative voice, told one guest: “Even a dog at the end of their life who dies in Vṛndāvana goes back to Godhead. That is the glory of Vṛndāvana-dhāma!”

I was then also inspired to recall Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words from the Nectar of Devotion, which seemed to validate my mother’s experience despite her reaction: “Such transcendental feelings are aroused immediately and without fail after one arrives in Mathurā or Vṛndāvana” and could “actually be felt even by non-devotees.” (NOD, ch. 13, footnote)

Now on to my own entrance into the dhāma this year:

I arrived at midnight in Delhi and practically slept the whole way to Vṛndāvana, only to sit up as we entered its boundary. I have been living here for most of the last forty-two years. Vṛndāvana is my home.  How strange this time to somehow feel a bit of a culture shock. Maybe it was that I just woke up or perhaps I had become conditioned to the comforts of the West, but as soon as I entered my room I felt a powerful welcoming feeling. I immediately started to chant. Usually when I begin chanting it’s the holy name, my soul, and between them the mind to be controlled. But now it felt as it was just my soul and the name with nothing in between. That is the glory of this sacred place.

Day after day here there is confirmation of that glory, especially as I see the visiting pilgrims that I host overwhelmed with their experience of being here, an experience I think they will never forget. This is “my Vṛndāvana”! With strong conviction I affirm that I never want to leave.

This morning a local friend came to visit me. He was glorifying a famous sādhu that lectures in the morning in a nearby sacred forest-like ashram on the parikramā mārg. I heard from a few others who attend his classes how deep and clear this sādhu’s realizations are.  My friend shared his notes with me that he translated into English from Hindi. One statement in particular struck me and put things in perspective:

“We should never leave Vṛndāvana for sense gratification. But if one leaves Vṛndāvana on the order of guru to spread the glories of the holy name and leaves his body there, then that place is non-different than Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma.”

So those are my thoughts on entering the holy place. I am here now and come every year only because my sevā brings me here. I love the sādhu’s point that where sevā brings you, here or there, is non-different from Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma. But still I am humbled to be here and so happy to serve. And yes, there is no place like Vṛndāvana.

 

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