Written by Rukmini
Searching for the Enchanter (Karauli)
jayatāṁ suratau paṅgor
mama manda-mater gatī
“Glory to the all-merciful Rādhā and Madana-mohana! I am lame and ill advised, yet They are my directors, and Their lotus feet are everything to me.” (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Ādi-līlā 1.15) “The reason why we have come here,” said Mahārāja at the Madana-mohana temple in Vṛndāvana,” is to evoke a desire to go to Karauli. Madana-mohana is the attractor of Cupid and He can take away our material attraction. They say the roads are better these days. They used to look like the ocean (hills like waves). Madana-mohana is on one such hill; pay the price and get the mercy or stay at home safe in bed!” It was early morning, just after maṅgala-ārati, when the roll of suitcases echoed in the Vṛndāvana streets. All the parikramās thus far were layered with meditations preparing us for the Jaipur trip and the air was abuzz. Passport and visa check? We are ready for the mercy. Or so we thought we were. “Everyone is equal,” to quote Orwell, “but some have better bus karma than others,” said Mahārāja.
On a gentle incline bus two stalled. We were out on the smoky streets. There were two options: wait for another bus that would come in the proverbial “half hour” and potentially miss the darśana of Madana-mohana or… We piled into the three, already full, buses behind us. Some stood in the aisles freezing under the AC. Some sat on the engine next to driver, roasting from the feet up. Others sat behind the driver and in brace position, should the bus brake quickly and send them careening through the windscreen. And still others squeezed too many into seats too few. Whatever the case, we were not giving up on Karauli. In the meantime, Mahārāja’s bus arrived on schedule; fortune favours the holy. They lined the streets of Karauli with harināma and sat in patient kīrtana in front of Śrī Śrī Madana-mohana, the original Deities of Sanātana Gosvāmī. Five hours after originally embarking, the remaining buses arrived. Joyous to finally reach Karauli soil, we spilled into the temple room at the peak of the kīrtana…
“Śrī Govinda, Gopīnātha, Madana-mohana” Twirling across the marble floor, and bouncing off the quaint, artistically designed walls, we called from our depths… “Madana-mohana, Madana-mohana.” …And the kīrtana raged on for a glorious hour. “Welcome to Karauli, said Mahārāja, “Welcome to the lotus feet of Madana-mohana” But we had missed the darśana. “Darśana is more than seeing Kṛṣṇa,” he later mentioned, “because Kṛṣṇa sees us.” With His super-vision, would Śrī Śrī Madana-mohana see us from behind the large steely doors? The Karauli Vaiṣṇavas served us a lunch topped with piping hot purīs and mahā-prasādam. We rolled back into the temple room to hear Mahārāja’s final decision: we would all wait for 2.5 hours to allow everyone the sacred and rare darśana of Madana-mohana, potentially a once-in- a-lifetime event. By the mercy of the Vaiṣṇava a blind man is allowed to see.
Promptly, Mahārāja whisked us away on the magic carpet of the Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta to all corners of the universe in search of the most glorious devotee – not with Aladdin, but Nārada Muni. Nārada approached a brāhmaṇa in Prayāga who sent him to a King in South India, who sent him to Lord Śiva… Although all were exalted Vaiṣṇavas, each expressed an increasing degree of intimacy so the search continued. When meeting Śrī Prahlāda, upon whose head Nṛsiṁhadeva placed His lotus hand and licked his entire body, Nārada did not want to leave. He had been cursed by Dakṣa, however, to never be able to stay in one place. Śrīla Prabhupāda said that through the parents of his disciples, he inherited Nārada’s curse and he passed it on to his sannyāsīs. “I too cannot stay in one place,” said Mahārāja “but I came up with a plan. I want to take you all with me, so that we can go from place to place together.” Later in Jaipur, Mahārāja described how with the Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, Sanātana Gosvāmī puts a lens on Kṛṣṇa and adjusts the focus such that we ask, “What is the goal?” This is the essence of sambandha-tattva (making a connection with Kṛṣṇa) established by Sanātana Gosvāmī in his books as well as by his Deity. Madana-mohana attracts people away from Māyā. Often spiritual life feels like we have to keep pushing ourselves to keep up principles and practices but we can approach Madana-mohana so we can be pulled ahead instead.
How to approach Madana-mohana? We can only do so by the mercy of Sanātana Gosvāmī. We took shelter of the Ṣaḍ-gosvāmy-aṣṭakam, meditating on the qualities of the Gosvāmīs through each curvy meter. As oceans of Kṛṣṇa-prema and being non-envious by nature, they were loved by all. They chanted and danced in ecstasy, studied śāstra scrutinizingly, lived simply and have the ability to purify all conditioned souls. Upon Mahārāja’s instruction we stood pressed against the gates for 45 minutes awaiting darśana, unwilling to be pushed away by any of the locals. Conches blew, curtains swished open to reveal the glossy black marble form of Śrī Śrī Madana-mohana with kind eyes and a welcoming, playful smile. With proportionately the largest lotus feet I’ve ever seen, surely there was shelter enough for us all in its reddish tinge. Oh Madana-mohana, may your flower arrows of divine attraction pierce our hearts and pull us to Your lotus feet. May they attract us with such force that our eyes and minds never shift to the temporary. May we in turn become attractive, assisting the mission of the Gosvāmīs to attract others to You.