Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #8 – Vṛndāvana the Beautiful!

February 25th, 2019

I renewed a cherished old daily practice. Early in the morning, before the dawn of the day, I walk out into Vṛndāvana to experience its beauty. And what is that beauty? Is it the visual as I negotiate through the meandering streets to the town’s center, or circumambulate the city on the path now paved around it? Is it the dilapidated structures, open sewers, and sleeping street dogs, or piles of strewn trash with the pigs feasting on it? What exactly is the beauty of Vṛndāvana?

 

In the far distance I periodically hear the birth of a kīrtana and then another and another. I can’t see them, but it’s so mystical to witness a city gradually awakening to the sweet sound of the holy name.

 

An elderly bābā sits on the side of the parikramā path in the cold. He sits in the same spot every day without fail, beautifully chanting the morning melody of Hare Krishna on an old harmonium. His smile reflects the beauty of his heart. I read his mind: “I am the most fortunate person in the world!”

 

I pass through the narrow corridors that embrace the once grand but now in disrepair Keśī-ghāṭa. I step over the small powerful stream of sewage rushing towards the river. I continue down the long dark corridor where on my left the path finally fully opens to the river in descending sandstone steps. A smattering of small rooms and platforms in the palace wall house sādhus and paṇḍitas huddled for joyous worship with incense and mantra. I pass a family sleeping together to the side of the path under a pile of thick blankets. The father’s head pops up “Haribol!” The children follow suit. They all smile. A blissful family in the most unlikely of places.

 

Thank God the celebrated, nasty eye glass-hat-purse snatching monkeys are still asleep as I walk the narrow street to the center of town, carefully negotiating my stroll around the resting bulls and sleeping dogs. Even I am overwhelmed, Venus and all,[1] by the thick ambrosial fragrance of devotion surrounding me. I whiff what I feel is the hearts of the vrajavāsīs’ offering incense to their Lord. My heart is buoyed by their devotion.

 

An old sādhu bathes by the hand pump in just his kaupīnas.[2] A barefoot shop keeper throws water in front of his shop to clean the ground, and then waves incense before baby Gopāla[3] on the shelf. I see the same souls every day. What happy hearts with so little!

 

A simple man on a bike passes me on my right singing odes to Krishna in joy. An old widow scurries past with soft, deep prayers to Radha under her breath. I occasionally pass a full throttled maṅgala-ārati kīrtana as I peer into the various temples behind the worn, intricately carved entrances. A few temple hopping souls occasionally rush past me to catch another ārati on their morning rounds. A whole city gradually awakening to devotion. A joyous sight!

 

I meet a simple mālī (gardener) as I walk through the beautiful flower gardens of Vṛndāvana just minutes from the town. Hundreds of acres of lush, colorful floral acres rest before me, a splash of hue if I ever saw one. Yes, the real Vṛndāvana is also still there hidden through a secret black gate that seems to forever preserve its beauty. Amidst the truly paradisiacal Vṛndāvana the mālī tells me his woes. The floods wiped out his crop. As he is complaining I am puzzled as his eyes and body still sparkle with immense joy. I ask a simple question, “How can you be so happy?” His answer was like a mantra revealing the true glory of Vṛndāvana, whether walking through its run-down town or strolling through its splendid gardens.

 

Happiness is a heart filled with devotion. Ah, Vṛndāvana the beautiful!

 

 


[1] I sometimes joke about the weak Venus in my astrological chart, which is not overly sensitive to refined things like fine scents.

[2] Loin cloth

[3] His deity of baby Krishna

 

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