Monday Morning Greetings 2021 #46 – Sādhus of Govardhan

November 15th, 2021

An old toothless babushka, maybe in her late eighties, sits hunched over on the grass outside the open pavilion in Braj Vasundhara in Govardhan, where Bhakti Vijñāna Goswami gives class. I stand next to a friend who is translating the class for me just ten yards from her. Unexpectedly, the old lady turns around and slowly makes her way towards me. An old Lakshmi-Narasimha deity is put in my hand. I look at it, but before I can say a word she just saunters off. I look at my friend puzzled, “Now what?” “It’s for you,” he replies, “She’s like that.” I then hear her legend: “Her name is Satya. She has been here it seems forever, at least longer than any other Russian devotee. Since she came, she has been living in a tiny room near Kaliya Ghat right off the parikrama path, with just enough space for a bed and a couple of people to sit. A multitude of deities adorn the shelves above her bed. Once during the rainy season, a cobra took shelter in her room, but she lived there peacefully for weeks despite the pleas of others to leave. The snake eventually departed. Even at her advanced age, she still bathes every morning without fail in the Yamuna, even in the middle of winter!” I thought: “She’s the real thing. I’m not that. Only in Vrindavan, and only a Russian babushka!”


Well maybe not only a Russian babushka. French Canadian-born, Six Goswami-like Jamuna Jivana das ambushed me with an embrace from behind at Radha Kunda. I embrace him in return. A contest of devotion; he wins. I’m forced to slacken when I sense he will squeeze forever. He lived at Kusum Sarovara for ages, his bead bag as his only possession, where he tolerated a simplicity and dependence that few could bear. After some time, he shifted to Radha Kunda for further dedication to Śrī Radha and to share with others what he has learned from the books of Śrīla Prabhupāda. He is now more or less settled in Vrindavan, not Radha Kund. I’m puzzled as to why. “Everyone in Radha Kunda now has Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books (I suppose he meant from him). I now also visit Delhi and Punjab for kirtan.” The complete package: Dedication to the holy name, abject indifference to anything outside of Krishna’s will, complete faith in the teachings and mission of Śrīla Prabhupāda with a selfless commitment to distributing that message to others. Another jewel that Śrīla Prabhupāda hid in the land of Braja.


A serious sādhaka here expresses his wish that Śrī Radha do to him whatever it takes to purify him in this life for Her service. I shudder at the thought. What would it take to uproot my attachments and misconceptions? We can’t avoid it. Sincere devotion must come to the platform of śaraṇāgati (surrender).


In Memoriam: Last Thursday my godbrother Rajendranandana das passed from this world in San Diego while chanting the holy name. We were initiated together in Dallas. I remembered him as a very kind and soft-hearted devotee. I hadn’t followed his devotional career in the past years, but from what I read in some homages all agreed: he was exceptionally pure, kind, loving, and filled with the pastimes of Śrī Gauranga—a rare soul indeed. After reading these homages, I began to wonder how I will be remembered, but then I catch myself. What a nonsense thought! Become that way and leave the rest to Krishna.


Final Thoughts: Vikram, who assists me here in Govardhan, came back from a lecture in Hindi from a famous sādhu on Vrindavan Mahimamrita, a book about the glories of Vrindavan. He shared with me some notes he translated into English. One especially caught my attention: “One who resides in Vrindavan should never leave, but if one leaves Vrindavan to share the glories of Vrindavan that place is as good as Vrindavan.” When I came here this year, I was skeptical of my motives. For forty-six years I have only come here for service, first in the gurukula, then in hosting the pilgrims, but with the restrictions for foreigners coming still in place, and now having shifted to Govardhan, I wasn’t sure what service merits my residence here? I have been here for less than a month, but it couldn’t be clearer in my heart: Govardhan is my home. My service is to chant the holy name, purify my heart, and, as people come to my door, share with others what Śrīla Prabhupāda has given to me—all the while basking in the saṅga of the Govardhan sādhus.


Comments are closed.