Lessons from the parikrama path

Occasion: Pilgrimage to Ucha Goan
Date: Thursday, 8 November 2012
Author: Rukmini Devi Dasi

Unto those who will kick off their shoes and follow the myriad of saintly, sandy footprints on the parikrama path, Vraja dhama may reveal its boundless mercy. With this aspiration, Kadamba Kanana Swami and a bus load of devotees journeyed to Ucha Goan, the village of Srimati Lalita Devi. However, for the innocent and untrained, the dhama may be an overwhelming experience. Maharaja hinted at the most effective method via which we can enter the holy atmosphere:

Of course we are not just tourists who want to see places. We come to these places because we are looking for blessings. We are coming for different entrances into the realm of the spiritual world. I’m not in the mood of lets see everything quick, quick… picture, picture and what is this place? I’m more in the mood of sitting down and doing some hearing and chanting.

Srimati Lalita Devi’s Birthplace

Varsana is the birthplace of Srimati Radharani. It is surrounded by the villages of the asta sakis, the eight principle gopis. Lalita Devi is their leader and her village is Ucha Goan, which literally translates into “high village”. And high indeed it was! Upon arrival there, we climbed up the stone steps leading to the temple of Lalita Krsna Bihari. In the serene setting of Lalita Devi’s birthplace, Maharaja sang sweet bhajans. A vrajbhasi (local resident) spontaneously joined in the kirtan, rythmically beating his clay pot with a wooded stick!

Lalita Devi is the intimate friend of Srimati Radharani. As an elder she has the liberty to chastise. She is all of 27 days older than Radharani, and makes everyday count! Hot tempered and left-winged by nature; she is particularly rebellious against Krsna and rebukes him consistently for his lack of faithfulness.

From the high rasas of Goloka, Maharaja brought the personality of Lalita Devi closer to home. He made the point that amongst the many groups of gopis, Lalita is the leader of Srimati Radharani’s group. Rupa manjari (Rupa Goswami in Lord Caitanya’s pastimes) is her direct assistant. We are rupanugas, followers of Rupa Goswami, therefore Lalita Devi has a special place in the sampradaya (lineage) of Lord Caitanya.

Black Lord Balarama

Srimati Radharani acts as the spiritual master of the liberated devotee,” Maharaja said, “but for the conditioned soul the spiritual master is Lord Nityananda Balarama.” At the foothill of Lalita Devi’s temple is a temple of Lord Balarama; home to a deity with a difference! Due to his intense meditation on Krsna, being completely absorbed in service, Lord Balarama turned black!

So therefore we see in this place that Balarama is also here which is appropriate. So we can take shelter of Balarama and be in the mood of being a servant. This place is the place of being a servant! Being a servant means to be absorbed in that mood of being a servant of the spiritual master. It is in that way one can appoach the pastimes of Radha & Krsna and Krsna & the gopi’s. This is a place dedicated to that.

Our breakfast spot was near the samadhi (tomb) of Narayan Bhatta Goswami, a disciple of Gadadhara Pandit, who continued the excavation work of the Goswamis. The ecstasy of prasadam led to more spontaneous kirtan!

Deha Kund – The lake of complete surrender

Once Srimati Radharani and Lalita Devi were bathing in the waters of a near by lake. Krsna suddenly appeared at the banks and requested a gift. ‘Yes,’ came Srimati Radharani’s spontaneous reply, “I will offer you my body, my mind and all my possessions. I will offer you everything.’ In reciprocation, Krsna replied that he would also offer his body to Srimati Radharani and that his form would always be present in her mind.

That lake became known as Deha Kund or the place of exchanging bodies. It personifies the spirit of atmanivedanam, of offering everything to Krsna; then “krsna matir astu”, Krsna will always be present in our minds. Maharaja mentioned that in most cases our activities are divided, so much for Krsna and so much for ourselves. Even if we do a lot of sevice that weakness follows us. People bathe in Deha kund to make that inner transformation to allow them to give everything and not hold back.

So this Deha kund is not just another nice water body in Vrndavan to cool down the water buffaloes, although it may externally appear like that. Buffaloes are known not to be very intelligent but these buffaloes are very intelligent because they are taking bath in this transcendental water. They are souls that are much more pious than we are. Srila Prabhupada said that he created our piety on the strength of our own piety… we don’t even belong here but somehow or other we are here. So even the buffaloes are greater than we are here, and they are constantly bathing in these transcendental waters. If someone is eager they can jump in…

We dipped into the lake of surrender with a prayer that Krsna and his devotees may purify our minds by their constant inhabitance there and that we may give everything in their service. We emerged refeshed – sporting large, dark and all natural tilak from the mud of Deha Kund!

Kirtan at Krsna’s Dinner Table (Chapan Katori)

Afterward, we climed up a small hill passing the spot where Lalita and Krsna were once married and a rock with the imprint of Radharani’s veil. At the plateau, was a breath taking view of the temples of Varsana shrouded in mist. We all crowed over a particular elongated, flat rock with numerous natural depressions on its surface. It is said that Krsna and the cowherd boys would go there to have their noon-time picnics and the rock would naturally manifest fifty-six bowls to aid their meal. In effect, it would serve as Krsna’s dinner table!

Of course one might think, ‘Well, how do we know that?’ Vrndavan is such a place, full of mystery. The mystery of Krsna’s pastimes is a little covered and it’s only through devotional service and faith that all this is revealed.

Perching ourselves on the rocks, we were careful to keep our feet away from the Chapan Katori, (that would be bad table manners!). We embraced the last kirtan high on the hills of Ucha Gaon with the temples of Varsana on the horizon.

On the way back, while our stomachs churned from the bumpy ride, our minds churned the deep, merciful lessons from the parikrama path.

If you cannot view the slide show below, just visit flickr!

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