Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #47 – Sādhus of Vṛndāvana

November 25th, 2019

A question recently came to my mind. I have lived here for almost forty-four years. Why? There are two types of causes for doing something: an external cause and an internal cause. The external cause — and note here external does not mean superficial — is why we do something for the benefit of others. The internal cause is why we do things for ourselves.


The external reason why I come here is for sevā, service. One of my important sevās, is to help pilgrims, especially from abroad, to enter, understand, and experience Vṛndāvana. If my sevā, whatever it may be, brought me some place else, I would not be here. And, I should note, that if one leaves this holy place to share its glories of pure devotion then that place is certainly as good as Vṛndāvana.


My internal reason for coming here is that there are people that live and visit here for an extended stay that are advanced in devotion. In other words, I may not be able to fully understand Vṛndāvana, this most holy of places, but because there are devotees/sādhus here who can, I come here to benefit from their association. That brings me to Sādhus of Vṛndāvana, the subject of this week’s Greetings.


Sādhu I


A friend shared his efforts in Kārttika to deepen his attraction for the holy name of Krishna. He described a moment of intense disappointment and frustration. Despite his effort to just focus on chanting for this special month, he was not getting what he wanted. He subtly told me that he was so desperate that he almost began to question the practice itself. At that point his heart suddenly opened, and his experience of the holy name became deeper than ever before. I trusted his word. The only thing separating us from a full revelation of God is our desire to embrace His grace. The sādhu’s extreme disappointment was only a reflection of his intense desire to be with Krishna and serve Him in the form of His holy name, a yearning that attracted Krishna’s mercy. I am grateful for such company.


Sādhu II


Another friend just arrived. Every year he spends the winter in Govardhana. His health is so chronic and debilitating that he can only leave his bed for five or six hours a day before again collapsing in exhaustion. We met and compared notes. He shared with me that despite the fact that his pain is more than ever, his meditation and focus on the holy name keeps on increasing. It confirmed for me a very important point: the holy name in non-different from Krishna and therefore not simply dependent on our ability and effort to mechanically produce it. How else to explain the holy name flowing through someone’s consciousness even when their body is ravaged with pain? Such association is priceless.



Sādhu III


I was more than impressed with what I saw. Bhūrijana Prabhu took me to the site of the Govardhana retreat center. He has been trying to develop it along with Sacinandana Mahārāja for years. The obstacles to completing such a project here in Govardhana are enormous. They have purchased more land since the last time I was here. They now have nearly ten acres with an unparalleled darśana of the sacred mount. The basic structure of almost three hundred rooms is now complete, and everything will be finished with the finest materials. Behind that structure even stands a small mobile-free zone with cottages, including a ventilated basement/cave below each cottage to deepen one’s meditation. A large kīrtana pavilion and separate prasādam complex will soon be started. But more impressive than the physical structure is the consciousness of the leaders of the project. They only want to serve Girirāja and please the Vaiṣṇavas. After years of toil to make this happen, neither will even construct or keep private quarters for themselves. I see this singular desire to please guru and Krishna, and consequent detachment from profit and admiration, as the fruit of their years of deep study of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Such sādhus are rare.


Sādhu IV — A Remembrance


When word came to me that Śrīla Prabhupāda’s godbrother Akiñcana Krishna dāsa Bābājī was hospitalized and near death, I immediately rushed to the CFC hospital in Vṛndāvana where he had been admitted. That was more than thirty-five years ago. Bābājī Mahārāja was famous for chanting the holy name non-stop day and night, and even Śrīla Prabhupāda described him as having no material desires and at the highest level of devotion.[1] Unfortunately, by the time I arrived he had already departed for Nandagrāma, the home of Krishna, where soon after he left the world. As Bābājī Maharja had only left the hospital minutes before, the doctor was still in the room, so I inquired from him about his condition. What he told me was astounding. Although Bābājī Mahārāja had been unconscious when the doctor put his stethoscope to his heart, he heard the constant repetition of the holy name. By my faith I didn’t doubt what I was told, and years later such a phenomenon was also confirmed when studying a book on classical meditation. The book described that the perfection of the constant, concentrated repetition of a mantra after years of practice is that the mantra becomes so deeply embedded in the subconscious that it continues non-stop without extraneous effort. How fortunate to meet such devotees.


“The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 22.54)



[1] “Śrīla Prabhupāda himself had spoken of Krishna dāsa as niṣkiñcana, ‘having no material attachments,’ and paramahaṁsa, ‘a swanlike pure devotee.’” Obituary in Back to Godhead, June 1982


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