Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #13 – A Day in the Life in Vraja

March 25th, 2024

“A Day in the Life in Vraja” comes from some notes I took during the last ekādaśī I spent in Govardhan.


An old acquaintance organized a retreat in Govardhan of prominent Vaiṣṇava scholars lecturing in English who were either living in or visiting Vrindavan. He texted me to please attend. I was off to Varsana that day for an overnight stay—a first for me—but on my friend’s request I first stopped by the retreat to hear the lecture of an elderly and venerable Vaiṣṇava, a retired Sanskrit professor and a Bhāgavatam scholar. He made some very interesting points. One stuck in my mind:


If we want to develop deep love for Śrī Krishna, we must know His svarūpa. Although I usually haven’t understood the term svarūpa in the way he was using it, I understood from his lecture that by svarūpa he meant Krishna’s inner self—His character or heart. This understanding is more inspirational, he said, than just knowing His position or opulence, like His beauty or power, for instance. He gave an example to illustrate the superiority of knowing a person’s svarūpa over just understanding their opulence. An honorable man who gets married to a qualified wife may initially be more attracted to her beauty or social status, but if the wife is a loving person and her husband develops a deep relationship with her, then even if she gets older or even disabled, she will still be attractive to him. In fact, she will be even more attractive to her husband than when he initially met her because he now deeply knows her heart. In the same way, the most attractive aspect of Śrī Krishna is not His opulence, but His heart, which is revealed to those who have developed a relationship with Him. The process to know the svarūpa of Krishna is the glorification of Him, an expression of love that naturally inspires Krishna to give His heart to His devotee.


After the morning class, I headed to Varsana with Savyasaci das, an ISKCON devotee and a resident of Govardhan. He accompanied my group on my Govardhan retreat this year, and we very much appreciated his insights. When we got to Varsana, we first sat at Pili Pokar [1] Kund near our hotel and reflected on what we heard that morning, then added our own points. The gist of our discussion:


The heart is the only instrument we have that can feel and express emotions, and therefore it is so important to keep the heart fit for devotion to Śrī Krishna by offering all respects to others. In other words, one just can’t be envious and hateful with people and then with the same heart turn to God and feel devotion. Savyasaci thought of an analogy to help illustrate this point by comparing the heart to a musical instrument. Just as a musical instrument that is not tuned properly cannot produce beautiful music, similarly a heart improperly tuned to hate and envy, will not be able to turn towards Krishna and feel and produce beautiful and devotional feelings.


After sitting at Pili Pokar for our discussions, we decided to complete the whole Varsana parikramā. Afterwards we took some rest and then attended the all night kirtan at the ashram of the venerable Śrī Vinod Baba. Baba used to chant every evening, but now he only chants on Ekādaśī, so his small ashram was especially packed. By the time I got there at 11:00 PM, the only place to sit was around the corner from the main kirtan maṇḍapa even beyond the mats covering the ground for the audience to sit on. I humbly sat down, but the locals saw me, an older visiting sannyāsī, and accommodated me. I was soon up front where I could see Vinod Baba and the other kīrtanīyās. I absolutely loved the kirtan, but what impressed me even more was the humble mood of the Vaiṣṇava audience, especially how eager they were to respect and serve others.


A day in the life in the real Vraja: Respect for all others and chanting the holy constantly. I will miss Govardhan.


[1] https://www.brajrasik.org/media/peeli-pokhar-barsana


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