Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #8 – I Fell in Love with a Mountain and Other Govardhan Musings

February 21st, 2022

I Fell in Love with a Mountain


I gaze towards the path just outside my ashram gate. A river of faithful scurry around Govardhan. My favorites? The old Brijabasi ladies whose Olympic pace seem to defy their age. Their dress? Have you ever seen Granny from the show Beverley Hillbillies?[1] I put my ear to the ground. I hear only kirtans or joyful chatter. Even the struggling out-of-town businessmen with their puri and pakora potbellies seem to somehow enjoy the arduous five-to-seven-hour trek. I hit the ground in prayer. I’m off. My own trek of gratitude begins.


Roti Baba


I pass a twenty-foot lean-to kitchen on my right that is open to the pilgrim road, the dwelling of Roti Baba. I have gone by that shanty thousands of times. I have never failed to see him majestically standing there, well over six feet, strongly built, light swarthy complexion, shirtless, covered with a short white cotton wrap from waist to knees, sporting a perfect long grey sadhu beard and dreadlocked beehive hair. He is the emblem of calm, the picture of perfect dignity, as he soberly oversees his operation of volunteers who feed hundreds, often thousands, of pilgrims day and night. His specialty: rotis!  As I pass by, I bow my head, appreciating his life of steady service.


Seeing Govardhan


The real Vrindavan is the hearts of the residents and pilgrims. It takes only a simple kirtan to bring their mood of devotion to the surface. If their smiles fortunately touch your heart, you too may become blessed with a vision of the dhāma. Then what was once a land too often carelessly cluttered with refuse becomes the spiritual world. It is still two hundred yards to Jatipur, but I can distinctly smell the sour milk spoiling in its gutters from the gallons of milk poured daily in non-stop ceremonial bath of Govardhan. I immediately think, “Spoiled milk incense – my favorite brand!” – reminding me of the rivers of devotion offered at the feet of Sri Giriraja. I love it!


Super Bol![2]


I pass the Jaya Radhe team. You heard me right. They all wear red sweatshirts with their team’s name “Jaya Radhe” scribed on the back of the shirt below their shoulders and their number just below that. What’s their sport? Who do they compete against? I inquire. They are a group of men from Gwalior in their thirties. Years ago, they bonded together with the vow to yearly do a daṇḍavat parikrama around Govardhan beginning on Rasa Purnima. They sit together exhausted, but in bliss, a short respite from their tapasya before they continue their six-hour daily jaunt, the first day of a week-long effort. What a team! By dint of their determination and devotion I am certain they have won the Super Bol.


Radha Tantra


I arrive back at the ashram. Sri Madhava Misra is finishing up a Radha Tantra yajña in my courtyard. Radha Tantra? He asked to use my courtyard on Rasa Purnima for a fire yajña to invoke auspiciousness for the world. My thing is the shakti of the holy name, but he is kindhearted and expert. It doesn’t hurt that he is the grandson of Acarya Prabhakar, Srila Prabhupada’s first disciple,[3] and loves to serve the devotees of ISKCON. He is fifty now and had, since the age of nine, traveled for more than thirty-five years with his guru perfecting his spiritual craft until his guru passed from this world a few years ago. Anyway, I trust my instincts that his intentions are good. It seems he is the real deal tantra. It’s quite a spectacle of svāhās seen practically no other place in the world. He sat for the last nine hours without blinking, focused on his craft of feeding a hundred kilos of the finest oud and agar wood and other fine ingredients into an emblazed twelve-foot square aṣṭa-dhātu kunda[4]. I sat for a while chanting the Hare Krishna mantra and with each svāhā I offered myself to the fire in service to Sri Radha. Only in India, only in Govardhan. Yes, I have fallen in love with a mountain!



[1] Granny was a prominent character on the popular sit-com from the 60s called the Beverley Hillbillies. The local village Brijabasi ladies typically wear a skirt to their ankles with a buttoned-down shirt past their waist. Just reminded me of her character from that show.

[2] Sometimes it is difficult to know the frame of my audience, which is international. The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in the USA.

[3] https://prabhupadabooks.com/letters/bombay/may/01/1974/acarya_prabhakar_mishra

[4] A fire sacrifice is often done in a kunda, a vat to contain the fire. Aṣṭa-dhātu is when something is an octo-alloy, made of eight different metals.

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