Garuda Govinda and Rama Tala
Our last day brings us to Bahulavana, Garuda Govinda and Rama tala and unfortunately concludes the Braja Parikrama 2019. Stay tuned for more articles on the Braja Parikrama with some exciting videos in the works!
See you next year @2020 !
Written by Rukmiṇī Devī Dāsī
The Vṛndāvana bus is like a 4DX movie experience: moving seats, shattering windows, huge loads of tough straw that brush too close for comfort. Maybe it was the spirit of Bahulāvana, a place dedicated to cows, that turned the bus into a mega-sized bull and the passengers into Spanish rodeos, jumping in their seats!
In contrast, Bahulāvana itself is a sweet and gentle place with a touch of innocence. We pass healthy-looking cows and a small temple with Deities of Jagannātha, Baladeva and Subhadrā. Up a small flight of stairs are Deities of Kṛṣṇa and Bahulā, one of His favourite cows. An old lady, visually impaired in one eye, sat peacefully in a corner churning milk into butter – like the real deal! She looked upon us kindly.
We settled on the steps of a kuṇḍa at the base of the temple. It was our last day. Most of us were a little battered with a cacophony of coughs punctuating every sentence and mantra. We could have laid a path around Vraja (daṇḍavat parikramā style) with all the tissues we have used and most likely a certain brand of lozenges is raking in a fortune. Yet every devotee in that saṅga seemed to be a veteran; we embraced the parikramā together, danced together, heard and chanted together and accepted the gifts of Vṛndāvana (both deep and dusty) together.
A sweet and soulful melody got the devotees chanting the holy name with heart. Some raised their hands in surrender, others were closed-eyed in blissful meditation (or severe lack of sleep). Then Mahārāja hit the final key on the harmonium, spontaneously announcing that it was time for a play. Looking with eagle vision into the natures of people, he selected one devotee in a cow-print sari to play a cow, another a tiger, a third a calf. He became the brāhmaṇa and narrator. The ledge of a high chatris made a perfect stage. And with no rehearsal and little direction it was curtains up. A gentle mother cow grazing with two pointed fingers as horns, was attacked by a seriously vicious tiger (of Australian descent). She begged her predator to allow her to first feed her baby calf, and promised to return as his prey the next day. In scene two the mother cow broke the news to her calf, who turned out to be a very logical thinker and proposed many arguments why he should go instead. A brāhmaṇa interjected in the conversation, volunteering to go to the tiger himself as the cows are to be protected in brāhmaṇical culture. Thus the noble cow, noble calf and noble brāhmaṇa each would not let the others go and eventually they all went to the tiger. The tiger saw a bargain in the making, and was ready to devour all of them when Govinda descended (a dread-locked version), evoking a change of heart in the tiger.
All the actors bowed to a rousing applause. Mahārāja spoke about the benefits of a village-based lifestyle especially if based on spiritual culture. “It doesn’t take much to create a wonderful environment – just glorify Kṛṣṇa. By creating a spiritual culture in a place you discover its true nature. The material world is simply a corner of creation and is covered by illusion. By glorifying Kṛṣṇa, we remove the illusion and the spiritual world descends.”
He explained that if we recreate the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa with bold and creative festivals, then we uncover the spiritual nature of the world we live in. The gopīs did the same in separation from Kṛṣṇa: one gopī placed her foot on the head of another who was playing the part of Kāliya.
A few minutes drive away is a popular temple of Garuḍa Govinda. Usually we don’t see Garuḍa with Govinda but once Śrīdāmā took the form of Garuḍa and became Kṛṣṇa’s carrier; these Deities commemorate this pastime.
We filled the small temple room and the curtains were open for a few quick moments before closing again. The pūjārīs were milking the anticipation; did they perhaps think that Garuḍa may fly off?
From the outside it is evident that Ramtala has been subject to special care. Its gardens are well trimmed with soft green grass and clear signage. It’s super clean without pāṇḍās or “Das rupee” kids. It is cared for by the Braj Foundation. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of Vraja could be cared for like this!
There is a pond symbolising a lake of the Yamunā where Saubhari Muni meditated in Satya-yuga. Being in the water, he was aware of the community of fish and was so appalled when Garuḍa ate its king that he cursed the carrier of the Lord to die if he ate there again. His offence resulted in the sprouting of lust in his heart and later, upon seeing two fish mate, he abandoned his meditation in search of a wife. He ended up with 50 princesses and after many years of sensual distraction it dawned on him that he had become diverted from the goal.
“We understand that the offence to Garuḍa fructified and covered Saubhari. Offences to the devotees will pull us down. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura writes that a madhyama can fall to the kaniṣṭha platform by offences. By offences we lose taste.”
Mind: But what if a Vaiṣṇava ill-treats me? Am I not just speaking the truth
Answer: Even if a Vaiṣṇava acts against us we should leave it to Kṛṣṇa to rectify.
Devotee: How can we be in the company of fault-finders without becoming one ourselves?
Answer: Keep a distance. Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī would walk away. Don’t be a part of it. By hearing one criticize a Vaiṣṇava we allow them to steal away our spiritual advancement and we become implicated in the offence.
Devotee: What if you’re a manager and have to hear criticism?
Answer: In management you may have to judge situations and people. Real leadership is in the mood of a parent. What do you do if your child is offensive? Help them grow.
Mind: What if a senior acts in an improper way?
Answer: Criticism of seniors is especially dangerous. We can give respect but keep a distance and reserve our full faith. We can recognise it but not magnify it by talking about it again and again. Even if they have a weakness they have some special credit with Kṛṣṇa.
Mind: What do I do if faults are glaring at me?
Answer: If we are looking for a fault then we will find it but rarely will we have to say something about it. Okay, if someone is stealing, we may have to say “thief”, but very respectfully.
Mind: Am I not helping someone by pointing out their faults?
Answer: A spiritual master has to find fault in the disciple. It is his duty but it is still dangerous. Why would we want to volunteer to be the one who points out mistakes? Are you your brother’s keeper? Is it up to you to point out faults? It is the job of the teachers.
Mind: Many bad things happen when good people stay quiet.
Answer: Fight when it is worth it, if it is something important. Otherwise avoid it. And if you fight, win!
Mind: What if one criticises for the sake of a service?
Answer: We used to think that if it was done in service that would be okay, but you will still get a reaction if you unduly criticize.
Devotee: With many senior devotees around we can get conflicting instructions. How do we avoid offending them?
Answer: The order of the spiritual master supersedes that of any other Vaiṣṇava but we should try to please the Vaiṣṇava as well, if possible.
Mind: Why did it take Saubhari Mini so long to realize his offence?
Answer: He was not humble. He overestimated himself and his authority. His lack of humility kept him blinded.
With these very practical instructions our parikramā ended on a very sobering note. He also explained his connection with the dhāma and why he wanted to share it with us:
“Somehow I came here before Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. I was allowed to stay and serve and I associated with others who were serving in the dhāma. I became a devotee of the dhāma. Everyone connects with something and for me the dhāma was very important. Thank you very much for coming. The few austerities were worth it. I hope we can find the time and energy to do it again and again.”
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Photos by Svasti-Gopinatha, Tamala Krsna, Gauravani, Padmanabha, Zoltan, Gopali, Tamala Krsna, Tattva Darsana and others
Braja Parikrama 2019 Schedule
- 1st Nov – Govinda kund, Tribhuvanatha Samadhi, Nrsimha temple Puncari
- 2nd Nov – Gosvami Temples Vrindavana
- 3-5 Nov – Jaipur
- 6th Nov – Yavat, Vrindakund
- 7th Nov – Sanket, Anjanoka
- 8th Nov – Vrindavan Parikrama
- 9th Nov – Unchagaon
- 10th Nov – Rest
- 11th Nov – Krishna Kund, Prem sarovara, initiations
- 12th Nov – Garuda Govinda, Rama Tala