Day 8 circles around Vrindavan. Blessed is the land of Vraja, where the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma, dwells in the form of a mountain range in Varsana, to have the dust of the Divine Couple Sri Sri Radha-Krsna’s lotus feet on the head: where the maintainer, Lord Visnu, has assumed the forms of Govardhana and Visnu-parvata: where the moon-crested Lord Siva has taken up residence as Nandisvara Hill in Nandagrama: and where Sri Uddhava, the best of Hari’s servants, lives as a blade of grass, a small shrub or a creeper on the bank of Kusuma-sarovara.
Written by Renu Vasdev
We all met at the Kṛṣṇa Balarāma tree at 7.30 am and eagerly set off on the Vṛndāvana parikramā. It was a cool morning walk with shawls and cādaras wrapped around but soon to be taken off due to the rising sun and the vigorous pace set by Mahārāja. Wherever we go the magic formula of Mahārāja’s wonderful kīrtana followed by his lecture always inspires and often draws in visiting people who stop and linger to savour the atmosphere.
The first stop is at Śṛṅgāra-vaṭa, a place of sweet pastimes where Kṛṣṇa decorated Rādhārāṇī with jewels. It was a quiet courtyard undisturbed by the noise of the main thoroughfare that is Vṛndāvana in the last week of Kārttika. There is a central tree in this courtyard where this līlā occurred, next to the original tree trunk, marked with a necklace and flowers. To think this is THE TREE!
Mahārāja began with a quote from Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī expressing his humility and in the same breath glorifying Lord Nityānanda’s mercy: “Who in this world but Nityānanda could show His mercy to such an abominable person as me? Because He is intoxicated by ecstatic love and is an incarnation of mercy, He does not distinguish between the good and the bad. He delivers all those who fall down before Him. Therefore He has delivered such a sinful and fallen person as me.” (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Ādi-līlā 5.207-209) Later, Mahārāja asked that if Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja considers himself fallen, then where does that place us? Yet somehow we’ve been graced by transcendental knowledge. Śrīla Prabhupāda is the one who allows us to come to such a place, unconcerned about our sinfulness. Normally, one would have to be purified over many lifetimes before being allowed into such sacred places.
In his characteristic kindness Mahārāja said that we might feel that we had engaged in ‘fallen’ activities prior to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But even Jagāi and Mādhāi, who were the most fallen received Nityānanda’s mercy. Mādhāi in particular had problems in accepting this mercy and he wanted to know what he should do to atone, and eventually Lord Caitanya told him to build a ghāṭa and wash the feet of pilgrims. Mahārāja laughed and said that we don’t necessarily have to open bathing ghāṭas and bathe the feet of pilgrims, but we should make it our mission to distribute Kṛṣṇa’s mercy to those people caught up in the conditioned world. Prabhupāda was once asked how many devotees there were in his movement. He replied: “Unlimited… Everyone is a devotee, but some know it and some don’t.” Mahārāja said we should make everyone aware that they are actually devotees. But we need a drop of that bliss first and then it becomes easy to distribute it.
Lord Nityānanda has a close connection to Śṛṅgāra-vaṭa as He came here, sat and meditated under the very same tree. This is a place where Nityānanda’s mercy is especially invested. Mahārāja said that Lord Nityānanda is the main caretaker of the storehouse of the holy name, and that He is selling the pure holy name for the price of only one’s faith. Mahārāja then warned that if you try to get this without faith then he’ll give you the counterfeit holy name. Mahārāja further developed this idea: if we’re not trying to change our lives and habits then we are not sincere. Some people want the power of the mantra and are not interested in serving the holy name. This is not the correct attitude. The idea that we should be trying to serve the holy name was new to me. I can only suggest that you listen to the recording to get the full benefit of this powerful message.
Mahārāja also gave the example of the Indian Railways – no matter what the problems, the wheels keep turning. It should be the same for us. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in front or back, whatever service we’re doing, whether it’s high profile or in the background, we should appreciate that we’re all serving the holy name. We then had an irresistible offer from the head priest to see Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s original japa-mālā. So we all queued up and went inside the priest’s living quarters. It was most impressive – large beads the size and colour of black grapes. Apparently this priest is in Nityānanda’s lineage and has possession of the beads for 14 generations.
Next up was a mad scramble through throngs of pilgrims to get to Keśī-ghāṭa. Then Mahārāja’s kīrtana filled the air, while we sat on stone steps around him, looking at the Yamunā in front of us with colourful boats drifting by. Equally colourful people and some very loud children stopped to listen and entice us to buy lamps to offer.
In his lecture, Mahārāja asked us to dwell on Keśī’s demoniac mentality and also to dwell on the little demoniac quality that exists within all of us. He also spoke about some qualities (pushiness, stubbornness, etc.) which are valuable in the ‘outside’ world and to enter the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, in the sense that we have to be purposeful in our endeavour to change our lifestyle, frequently against the wishes of our family and friends. However, Vaiṣṇava etiquette requires that we are not always pushy but are ready for Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mercy by being flexible to accommodate the wishes of other Vaiṣṇavas.
Our last stop was at Vaṁśīvaṭa where the rāsa dance took place on a full moon night, bathing the whole place in white light. Mahārāja described the gopīs who left everything, their chores, their children, some half-dressed, to rush off to Govinda when He played His flute. In a captivating talk, Mahārāja described how the flute was heard by different personalities in different ways. Actually, I became completely engrossed in the talk and I strongly recommend that you all listen to it to truly appreciate Mahārāja’s messages!
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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