Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #51 – Winter in Vṛndāvana Part I

December 23rd, 2019

It’s Tuesday — another day with the nothing-to-write blues. It’s definitely pressure, but I’m not worried. Classic Bhagavad-gītā. Do your duty and leave the results to Him. If Krishna wants, it will happen. A few reflections:


There is magic in putting your pen to page (fingers to the computer). It seems to activate part of the brain. I now know why Satsvarūpa Mahārāja wrote a series of books called Every Day, Just Write. If you can’t express yourself, or don’t know what to write, just write. Wonders will happen.


Pressure. I kind of like it. It serves as a barometer to my soul. Nothing to write. Why? Laxity in service and practice means a lack of clarity of mind and a dearth of realization to see and say something. Simple solution. Chant! Chant more!


Back to the page. A thought came: Winter in Vṛndāvana.


There is magic in Vṛndāvana in the time after Kārttika and the ensuant retreats until the Christmas holiday, when there is a short respite from the massive influx of visitors. I can even walk outside in relative solitude. Don’t get me wrong, the pilgrims bring a certain intensity of devotion, but along with the throngs of visitors comes the passion and the commercialism. This short winter lull in the bustle bares Vṛndāvana down to the local residents and their mood and culture. I love it.


I brought a flower garland for the deities of the Radha Tila Ashram next door. The sādhus are sitting peacefully taking prasad on the floor, which is one-foot of sifted Vṛndāvana dust, in their three-sided caged hall attached to their ashram. The small porch has a perfect view of the real Vṛndāvana. These kind sādhus have preserved a two-acre forest where hundreds of happy birds are welcomed by the pounds of millet left on the ground for their daily feed. They implore me to join them. I park myself on the cushy sand of Vraja. Ah! To sit with the simple sādhus of Vṛndāvana!


Vikramaditiyan, the assistant of Indradyumna Swami, takes Radhacaran and me to a place I have never seen before — the country path to Varṣāṇā through the mystical forest of Śrī Radha with its thousand-year old trees. As we walk through the thick talcum powder-like dust roads, lined with stately old trees and bordered by the lush fields of golden Radha-colored mustard flowers that are hugging the path, I am struck by its beauty. We finally reach the village of Varṣāṇā. One thought keeps coming through my mind as we pass one simple, happy “Rādhe, Rādhe!” smiling folk after another. These people have little, but what is important is not what they have, but how they feel. The fact of real happiness is staring me in the face. It’s the consciousness, stupid!


The parikramā continues. Vikramaditiyan takes us to an ashram on the foothills of the Śrīji Mandir, Varṣāṇā’s main temple, for prasādam. He knows the sādhus well and introduces me. I don’t know what he said, but the sādhus practically fall over each other to honor me. As I sit there honoring the most delectable prasādam, I can see that it’s not just me. Each and every visitor that enters is honored, and each person entering imbibes the same mood. Their humility is genuine. It’s like a page out of Jaiva Dharma.[1]


Just as I am about to leave, the mahant, who I was told has been chanting since five in the morning, suddenly comes out of his room. He profusely thanks me and drapes my shoulders with a new expensive pashima chaddar in a way that we have to embrace. A thought follows:


When you are criticized from people who are not well-wishers it is common to respond by thinking of your qualifications in defense. When you get honored by those who are pure far beyond what you deserve, it makes you reflect on your lack of qualification. I leave humbled and happy.


The winter evenings already have gotten down to 45 F/8 C degrees. I haven’t surrendered yet to using the space heater. I fear getting too cushy. I remember the advice of an old local friend, a married sādhu, who lived in Vṛndāvana so simply. “Vṛndāvana is for Krishna. When you want to have a prolonged stay here, then you have to show Krishna you are here not for your enjoyment. My experience is that you will be tested. You can either self-impose a simple life with some austerities to demonstrate your sincerity, or some challenge will be imposed in another way to test your sincerity.” I have observed that people who come here to stay a long time and adjust too much for their comforts never stay. I fear getting too comfortable.


“Of months I am November and December [Mārgaśīrṣa]” (Bg. 10.35, spoken by Krishna)


[1] Jaiva Dharma is a novel by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura that is about the activities of very advanced Vaiṣṇava monks living in a forest ashram in Godrumadvīpa, one of the nine islands of Navadvīpa, the birthplace of Śrī Caitanya.

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