9th February, 2014, Vrindavan Dhama.
I had not been to Vrindavan Dhama since last Kartika, which is a shame as I live just a 2.5 hour drive away.
It was a double bonanza trip for me, first HH Janananada Maharaj was there and he had agreed to give me some time, he is a very simple, austere and humble Sanyasi. In the words of HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj he is one of the hidden jewels of ISKCON. Maharaj always stay at ISKCON Goshala. The second bonanza was that Sumeet prabhu got me a room at the same Goshala. I have no love for cows and I thought staying close to them I might inculcate some love for cows.
I left on Saturday noon and reached Goshala around 4 pm. I had planned to change, take darshan of the Deities and then meet Maharaj. As I got down from the car and turned towards the Goshala building I saw HH Janananada Maharaj walking with his assistant. I paid my obeisances, he was pleasantly surprised to see me and said that he is going for a program and might get late so he will see me tomorrow morning. I kept on walking with Maharaj and after some time requested him if I too could attend the program. He agreed to my request, the program was at ISCKON hospice. Maharaj refused to sit in my car and chose to walk stating that it was a short distance and he always prefers to walk.
We reached the hospice and the program started Maharaj gave a very nice lecture on SB 1.7.7.
My points of learning from the lecture:
1. Srimad Bhagavatam is the fruit of vedic knowledge, we should be concerned with the fruit rather than getting lost in the vast vedic knowledge.
2. Knowledge is good but what we do with the knowledge is more important. Maharaj gave many examples from Srimad bhagavatam like Hiranyaksha, who had the knowledge about spirit soul but still utilised it for the wrong purpose.
3. False ego means false identity, we are thinking of ourselves at the bodily platform rather than as a spirit soul. Maharaj gave the example that if a person is watching TV along with his dog and is totally immersed in the TV program, laughing, crying, etc. watching it. The dog must wonder why my master is behaving in such an odd way. The dog is not connected with the TV and will wonder if his master has gone crazy! Maharaj said similarly in today’s time we identify with our wallet and now mobile phone and how badly we lament when we lose our mobile phone as if our life air is lost.
4. Maharaj concluded the session by instructing us that we to see everything in relation with Krishna and not with ourselves. This is what Guru maharaj also always teach us that Krishna should be in the centre and not us.
As maharaj was leaving and reached the main gate of the building, he turned back and asked the doctor accompanying us that he wants to see the facilities and meet the patients. We turned back and then Maharaj went through the facilities, there weren’t too many patients, and the building, though simple, was well maintained. Then we went to the top floor and met patients. We were told that they are all cancer patients, at their last stage. Srila Prabhupada’s kirtan was playing in each room and somehow the atmosphere was not that of complete gloom.
Maharaj went and met every single patient. He held their hand, consoled them not to fear and told them to chant the Holy name. Maharaj was full of compassion.
We came back to Goshala, I took permission to get fresh and take darshan of the Deities. I checked into my room. It was a very simple room, just a bed and nothing else, the bathroom was neat and simple. Standing outside the room the air smelled fresh, though scented with cowdung, hay and other paraphernalia.
I went to the temple and took darshan of Their Lordships. It is always a very humbling experience standing in from of Krishna & Balram and facing music in the heart that my progress in spiritual journey is negligible and no efforts in preaching. I took darshan and told Them I would try harder and begged for their mercy. I could get Mahaprasad from the counter for dinner.
I came back to Goshala. I found the ambiance here very soothing, a pleasant change from all the hustle and bustle around the temple. I felt as if I in a different Vrindavan. To my surprise I found that the geyser in my bathroom is not working and I wondered how to take a cold morning bath but then Maharaj’s assistant came to my rescue and told me that I can get warm water from Maharaj’s bathroom. I honoured the Maharaprasadam in the room and was in the bed by 9pm. It was very calm and serene barring some noises from cows and monkeys which I actually liked.
I got up without the alarm as at 3 am, I felt as if the whole place has come suddenly alive. There was some generator or machine which started with great noise and the people were moving around, cows and what not. One Brahmachari was already taking a bath my bathroom, as he came outside I asked him `Is the geyser working?’ He said the water is fine, though not hot it is not very cold also. It gave me courage to enter the washroom and I thought if he could take it then so could I. I opened the tap of the geyser and there was no difference in the temperature and water was so cold! All my thoughts and courage of taking a cold water bath got evaporated immediately and I shamelessly went toward’s Maharaj’s room to get warm water. Maharaj came out and gave me an inquiring look. I explained about the geyser and Maharaj told me to take water from his bathroom. As I came out of room after getting ready, I was not ready for the chill and it is some walk to the main temple from here. As I walked out I saw a Brahmachari starting his scooter. I requested him for a lift till the temple and I was right in time for Prabhupada arti at his samadhi.
As I stood there with darkness all around me and just the light from Samadhi illuminating I wondered if this shows that unless I take shelter under the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada I will remain in darkness.
Then it was time for the mangal arti and surprisingly for a Sunday it was not all packed up and I found a good place to stand in front of the altar. The Kirtan peaked at 4.30am and the altar doors opened.
Mangal arti darshan is always very very special and somehow it always reminds me of Krishna Lila. After a melodious arti and then Tulasi pooja, I went to Srila Prabhupada’s quarter to chant my rounds. I felt too cold there and had to take shelter of the guest house reception where I paced from one side to another to keep myself warm.
It was then time for the Shringar darshan and Guru Puja.
I wonder how the beauty of the Deities at Vrindavan always seemed to increased every time and They always look so fresh as if They have just came out after taking a bath, Nava Yauvana.
Morning class was by HH Bhakti Marg swami Maharaj. Two lessons I learnt
1. Looking into the past is in the mode of tamoguna (ignorance), looking into the future is in the mode of rajoguna ( passion) and looking or putting our consciousness into the present is in the mode of Satoguna (goodness).
2. Our philosophy is not so much devotion to Krishna but devotion to Krishna’s devotees.
I had a quick breakfast at Govinda’s and then came back to Goshala. There was a group of new devotees who had arrived from Punjabi Bagh temple with two Brahmacharis.
All glories to preaching !
I met Maharaj again. He spoke about working on the `internal’ as well `external’. He explained that our internal consciousness is known only to us unless we confide in some devotee. Hence externally devotees may correct us in chanting properly, correct our pronunciation, our dress, etc. but internally we have to work ourselves very consciously as only we know this internal status.
Maharaj also advice that`Grahsthas’ must maintain at least a basic standard for Deity worship. He explained very nicely that if one learns all the rules and regulations when learning to drive a car then it may get little cumbersome in the beginning but later it will help a lot when one would drive almost without remembering but still following the rules. He said imagine a driver who learns without any rules and what kind of driver that person will turn out in the future.
I left Dhama at noon after taking darshan of Their Lordships.
All glories to Sri Radha Shyamsundar
All Glories to Sri Krishna Balram.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.