Sands of Raman Reti
2nd of January, 2005 - 18:47
1st of January, 2005 - 17:21
31st of December, 2004 - 18:32
"He will speak to you."
30th of December, 2004 - 16:46
Spiritual mayor of the town
29th of December, 2004 - 13:17
28th of December, 2004 - 17:53
Meeting with Baba
27th of December, 2004 - 17:02
Parikrama of Radha-kunda
27th of December, 2004 - 16:56
The new initiates - Evening
26th of December, 2004 - 18:13
The new initiates - Morning
26th of December, 2004 - 18:12
Sands of Raman Reti
Posted: 2nd of January, 2005 - 18:47
Still out of electricity, heating up a bit of water to blend with the ice-cold water from the tank on the roof to make it through the morning shower. As the morning routines are done with, we leave with Yugal towards Vrindavan.
First stop at Braja's, where we sit down for a moment and chat on a number of topics. They are leaving soon, things are pretty much upside down there.
I drop my laptop and cell phone there for charging for a couple of hours, as I need to get some work done, too.
An outline of Yogapitha drawn on the sands of Raman Reti.
Around mid-day, Malati and Yugal head towards Loi Bazaar to take care of some practical things, while I first meet briefly with Rasaraj and Tarun Govinda, then heading out far into the fields of Raman Reti, hoping to find a peaceful place with a bit of untouched nature, with some friends with whom I was scheduled for a session on yogapitha-seva. Baba had requested me to explain the practice to them.
We headed out somewhere, just anywhere, out of civilization's reach into the fields. As none of us had taken any maps with us, I drew an outline of yogapitha on the ground and filled in the details, names and the such that couldn't be drawn on the sand, in the course of the narration. After about an hour and a half, as we are about to conclude the session,
two local goat herders come with a big flock of goats. baaa-a, ba-a-a-a-aaaaa...
Two local goat herders at Raman Reti.
They come around to check out what we are up to, and wonder what we are up to. Pointing to the drawing on the ground, the other asks, "House? House?" "No", I answer, "Radha-Shyam, Lalita-Visakhadi-sakhi-vrinda, Rupa-manjari. Yogapith-milan." Both take another good look at it. "Accha, accha!" they say, with big glowing eyes and jolly smiles on their faces. Such sweet Vrajavasis. What a piece of original Vrindavan we are having today by the kripa of Radharani.
Returning to Braja's room at MVT, I meet with Malati and Yugal again. After a brief chat, we head back towards Radha-kunda. It's already getting late, and on top of that a dense cloud of fog seems to have descended, covering the entire Vraja-mandala in its cape. The driver has to drive practically walking speed to keep the going safe, as visibility is near to zero. The trip takes us about double, if not more, the usual.
Reaching Radha-kunda, we find tha none of us had taken our torch-lights with us, as we had expected to arrive at our destination in good time before dark. The electricity is still out, and there are no lights anywhere. Whatever little light is visible is scattered in all directions by the fog, making it twice harder to navigate anywhere as the eyes won't adjust to the darkness. Eventually we bump into a familiar-looking lamp-post and take a right turn, and soon enough a left turn at the next lamp-post — which is visible from two meters away or so — reaching our house safe and sound.
Posted: 1st of January, 2005 - 17:21
Most of the forenoon we spend on the roof, sitting and chanting. As I'm working on a simple 3D-illustration of yogapitha, I'm popping over to the Mahaprabhu-mandir nearby to have a look at the lions at the gates from all possible angles. I seem to be having problems sketching together lions. While there, I bump into a Bengali gentleman who, as it turns out, is almost our neighbor. He relates how the mandir is unique in its style among the temples of the entire Vraja-mandala. It truly is gorgeous with all the fine detail that has been put into it.
Lion guarding the Mahaprabhu-mandir.
In the afternoon, we head with Yugal to meet Babaji Maharaja. Baba opens the discussion by narrating how the beauty and wonders of yogapitha are far beyond the reach of our mental abilities, and through the mere powers of the mind we cannot possibly conceive of the realm of lila. Baba instructs, "When you will understand, then you will also not be able to speak of it..." (See the media-section for an audio file of this.) I then show him the yogapitha-illustration I have sketched together, inquiring whether everything is in place there. Everything is correct, and I am very happy about it, not the least for the sake of my own bhajana.
Baba says that such illustrations and explanations will be helpful in clarifying the subject matter for all sadhakas engaged in the practice of lila-smarana.
Radha-Madanmohan with Lalita-sakhi.
After the darshan, we do our daily kunda-parikrama with Yugal. The pujari at Radha-Damodara is friendly and affectionate as always, and we spend a moment discussing the beauty of Radha-Damodara. In the course of the parikrama, we also make a new friend, the pujari of Radha-Madanmohan, who takes excellent care of the thakurjis there. He invites us in to take darshan closer, shows us the bhajan-place of Sanatana Goswami, and gives us some maha-prasad, tulasi and flowers from the altar. A very sweet person. For such seva as his for thakurji, we are always happy to offer a donation.
As we reached our house, the electricity was off. And it was off for the entire evening. Yugal came over in the course of the evening, and we did kirtan for a good while. Kirtan in the candle-light. As it turns out, he also recorded it. A historical occasion, he said of it, being the first Western kirtan at Gaura Dham.
Posted: 31st of December, 2004 - 18:32
First of all, I'd like to apologize for the delay in posting entries to Vraja Journal. On the first of January, the transformer for our side of the village fried, resulting in a ten-day electricity blackout. On the 10th we got some kind of electricity back, and since then I've struggled to catch up with the backlog with my already tight schedule. From now on for the next week or so, I'll very likely be posting shorter entries for the most part, and several per day, to catch up with the journal.
So, to the new year's eve. In the daytime, we set out to meet Baba with our questions on yogapitha, continuing from the previous day. At the end of the previous darshan I had said that everything is more or less clear now, but alas, as I sat down for my smarana, heaps of more questions arose. Anyhow, as we met Baba, we learned that his knee-pain had again increased, so we did not wish to bother him with any lengthy questions. The cold season is always difficult, not the least due to all the humidity, for his knees. Thus we did pranam, inquired briefly about his health, and moved onwards.
Babaji Maharaja at the ashram.
Returning home, we cooked something for Giridhari, and after prasad set out for Nitai's place for the gathering. A dozen or so devotees had come over. Roman from Sweden, our gurubhai Yadunath from Switzerland who lives at Radha-kunda since years, Karunamayi whom you all know, our neighbor Madhavi-lata Dasi and Nitai's friend Chintamani Dasi were present among the Western audience. Swarup Das Baba from Jagannath Mandir had come to do some kirtan, and Asim Krishna Das the artist, Manipuri Shivadas and his wife and Radhanath were there, too.
Chatting for a moment with everyone, Swarup Das began the kirtan, accompanied by Radhanath who played the mridanga.
After the kirtan, Nitai served out some small prasad and we looked through a slide-show of pictures from Nitai's upcoming project — he's constructing an ashram on the side of the Vrindavan-road near Radha-kunda.
Swarup Das Babaji and Radhanath doing kirtan.
As the festivities were over, we returned home and chatted for a moment with Yugal. I'll not even try to log here the themes and contents of our conversations, as the bulk of these entries would grow enormously.
The morning had been rather busy and I had not yet done my yogapitha-seva, so I sat down for the meditation without much awareness of what time it was. Somewhere amidst the one-hour session the day changed, and the fireworks began. Lots of noise all over the place, causing the peacocks sing wildly in concert with the dogs. However, amidst seva as I was, of course I would not leave it for the fireworks, as how could I tell Radha-Krishna and their companions that the fireworks were of more interest to my eyes than their splendid forms shining like millions of moons? One sakhi having a complexion the color of lightning, the other of ketaki-flowers in the spring, the third of kunkum and the fourth of lotus-filaments. Alas, may such a festival of colors manifest in my barren heart!
I wouldn't have minded watching the fireworks too, but I took this as an auspicious coincidence at the dawn of the new year, establishing a resolve in pursuing the attainment of the supreme beauty, demostrating its predominance over the perishable sights of this world, mere fireworks in the dark canvas of samsara. May the vision of Radha-Krishna frequently appear in our hearts in the upcoming year, if only as a brief flash of light momentarily illuminating the heart!
svapne'pi kiM sumukhi te caraNAmbu-jAta-
zobhAM parAm atitarAm ahahottamAGgaM
bibhrad bhaviSyati kadA mama sArtha-nAmA ||
Hey beautiful-faced one, when will I — even if in a dream — hold the shining, fragrant pollen of your lotus feet on my head, thus splendidly decorating it? Alas! Then truly it will be known as uttama-anga, the topmost part of my body!
— Sri Raghunath Das Goswami, Vilapa Kusumanjali (11)
"He will speak to you."
Posted: 30th of December, 2004 - 16:46
In the morning, Braja, Rasaraja and Tarun came here together. We took some light breakfast and headed for Baba's ashram. Baba had had a table brought outside, as the weather was nice. He was working on some important documents there, including some papers for Rasaraja and Tarun Govinda.
Babaji Maharaja working on some important documents.
As we reached the ashram, we all gathered next to the samadhi-mandir of Sri Kunjabihari Das Babaji Maharaja, on the side of which the Govardhan-shilas to be given to Rasaraja and Braja awaited. Baba handed the shilas to both of them, and then in a jolly mood said that if they would cook nicely for Giridhari, then Giridhari would surely speak to them.
Baba asked us to come back in the afternoon time for some further instructions, but we had to cut it short and just come in an hour or so, as our initiates were scheduled to return to Raman Reti by the afternoon.
"Feed him nicely, and he will speak to you."
Waiting for Baba to take care of the pending work before we returned to him, Braja and Tarun Govinda went upstairs to buy some books with Dina Das, and the rest of us pretty much just hanged around there, some chanting and some chatting on various topics. The book storage is located directly above the lecture hall, hosting thousands and thousands of books. There are a total of 37 titles in Hindi and Bengali, I learn, most of them in Hindi. Braja decides to go for the full set.
As an hour had passed, we returned to Baba, who was now sitting upstairs. He gave some documents and further instructions on the matter of worship to the initiates, after which we walked to the tempo-stand with Rasaraja, Braja and Tarun, who were heading back to Vrindavan. We returned home, and I went over a number of documents and texts in preparation for the afternoon. We were scheduled to meet Baba in the afternoon for some questions regarding Yogapitha-seva.
Buying books upstairs with Dina Das.
Lila-smarana is understood in two basic divisions, namely svarasiki-upasana and mantramayi-upasana.
Svarasiki-upasana refers to meditational worship in the course of the flow of the eight-fold daily pastimes, in which the sadhaka visualizes himself in his manjari-svarupa as an assistant of the manjaris and the sakhis who render varieties of services to Radha-Shyama, partaking of the boundless joy arising of their sweet exchanges in the kingdom of lila.
Tarun knows the local style for carrying things around.
Mantramayi-upasana is compared to a pond amidst the river of asta-kaliya-lila, and consists of meditational worship in the yoga-pitha, at which Radha-Shyama have gathered along with the eight principal sakhis, eight additional sakhis, eight manjaris and four messengers. Prior to that, a corresponding scenario takes place in Navadvipa-dham, where Mahaprabhu and his associates have gathered to bless the sadhaka with their service.
Since such meditations are full of intricate details, a sadhaka sometimes needs to consult a realized sadhu to clarify his vision. Hence, we headed over at Baba's place, and sitting at his feet, inquired on numerous details regarding yogapitha-seva. Mid-way through the discussion, some people came in to discuss a practical matter with Baba. Quickly Baba concluded the affair and returned to our questions. It was very pleasing to see how much more Baba was concerned in instructing his disciples in the matter of bhajana than he was in taking care of varieties of external matters.
Returning home, in the evening I borrowed my laptop to Bul Bul for two hours, as they had some videos from relatives in Bangladesh they wanted to look at. There is no life without a PC, we figured, and headed over to Yugal's to go over some pictures from today. I must have said this before, but his archives are rather massive. You could, in principle, spend days and days going through all the material he has gathered. However, it was already getting late, so we returned upstairs and called it a day.
Spiritual mayor of the town
Posted: 29th of December, 2004 - 13:17
In the morning, Braja, Rasaraja and Tarun came over to our place to watch us do the morning-puja. I walked them through the abridged archan-paddhati of our param-guru while doing the puja myself, elaborating in places where elaboration was required. After the puja, which was a bit disconcentrated due to an attempt to explain so many things at the same time — and for that I apologize — we headed for Baba's ashram. It was the time for Tarun's diksha, finally. Something he had for long anticipated for.
Sun rising over Gaura-dham.
In went Tarun Kishor, and out came Tarun Govinda Das, happy as ever. Some phala-bhog was given to us, after which Braja and Rasaraja headed for the tempo-stand to meet with their families. A whole bunch of people had come from Vrindavan with Dhanurdhar Swami of ISKCON.
Yugal and Tarun headed back to the house to arrange for pictures for worship and the such, and we just headed somewhere without any particular destination. From the sabji-market, we spotted Monika and some of her friends standing right in the middle of sangam, approached from all directions by enthusiastic pandas. To the rescue, we figured, and picking them up, headed to our house at Gaura Dham.
Babaji Maharaja with Tarun Govinda Das after diksha.
Tarun and Yugal were somewhere else, however, so we just sat down on the roof, chatting for a while and waiting for them to arrive. And soon enough they came. As there was still plenty of time until lunch prasad was to be served out, we set out for parikrama. Moni's friends from Germany purchased a good quantity of various kanthi-malas on the way from some tulsi-wallahs near Lalita-kunda. We bought a bottle of water on the way. A good idea to do before a meal, if your stomach isn't used to local water.
Dina Das was serving prasad, as usual. Amidst the sumptuous meal, one baba respectfully educated us on the difference in style between devotees eating puris and monkeys eating puris.
Our guests seemed to be full up to neck towards the end of the meal, but boldly finished it all. Yugal told them how this was a great priviledge, that they were having a meal at the place of the spiritual mayor of the town. He has a selection of interesting analogies, to which I may return in a later entry.
Taking prasad at Baba's place.
Baba asked about Rasaraja's and Braja's whereabouts. I told that they had gone to meet their families, who had come with one ISKCON sannyasi for Radha-kunda parikrama, and that therefore they could not come for lunch-prasad. Laughing, Baba said that in the ashram, they also serve prasad to saffron-cloth devotees, and that Maharaja would be welcome to take prasad if he wanted. Perhaps next time Maharaja may make a small detour on the parikrama and take darshan of Babaji Maharaja and the beautiful paintings on the wall of the lecture hall, taking some prasad as well.
Returning home as Tarun, Moni and the rest (apologies, I am forgetting the names right now), on the way we bumped into our neighbor, Krishna Das, who enthusiastically showed us his first print-out. A maha-mantra in Hindi, Roman and Bangla letters, which he had managed to lay out on an A4-size paper twice in such a way that he could just cut it in half and have two identical sheets in the end. This he did by printing twice on the paper, while turning it around. Not the most eloquent solution, but it worked, and he was happy about it. Finishing the support session, we returned home and did some bhajan in the evening, as the day had been quite busy. It was already late.
Tarun, Monika and friends from Germany.
Posted: 28th of December, 2004 - 17:53
The morning was foggy, but the clouds dissolved by 10 o'clock. In preparation for Tarun's upcoming diksha, we figured some additional pilgrimage would be in place to purify the heart and to bring the mind to a fulfilled and receptive state.
Thus we left for parikrama of Govardhan. Only the first half, though, turning back after Manasi Ganga, as we were a bit short on time, and Tarun was still a bit tired after his flight here.
First rocks of Govardhan near Gwal Pokhar.
After a quick visit to Kushum Sarovar, we headed towards Gwal Pokhar, where the cowherd boys once hassled Madhumangal, stealing the sweets he had collected during Surya-puja — and on top of which he was sitting to ensure their safety. Around here, Govardhan comes up from below the ground for the first time. Nearby is Shyama Kutir and the beautiful Ratna-kunda, one of the most serene places around Govardhan. That's the place where Sri Krishna rejoined the gopis after defeating Sankhachuda.
Taking darshan of Manasi-ganga at the Mukharavinda Mandir, we headed to meet Sanatan Goswami and Chakalesvar Mahadeva. However, our visit there was brief as usual, as customarily you won't have ten seconds of silence from the various pujaris and pandas who hassle you for donations. Before continuing the parikrama, we also paid a visit to the samadhi-mandir of Siddha Krishna Das Babaji Maharaja. At the ashram, we met the Mahant, Sri Harimohan Dasji, whom you may remember as the enthusiastic old man playing mridanga at the festival of Sri Kunjabihari Das Babaji at Radha-kunda a few days back. I offered a donation for Siddha Baba's seva, and he gave me two booklets, one containing Siddha Baba's biography, the other a brief manual for yogapitha-seva. After receiving some laddu-prasad, we moved onwards through the bazaar.
Siddha Baba's samadhi-mandir at Manasi Ganga.
Downtown Govardhan, near Dana-vedi, is awfully busy with traffic.
Dana-vedi is the area of the tax-collecting pastimes you may read of from books such as Dana-keli-kaumudi and Dana-keli-cintamani. Clearing through the bazaar and taking a left turn in the end towards Radha-kunda direction, we noted to our surprise that Govardhan was visible much of the way onwards from there. I do not recall being able to see Govardhan all that much in the past, perhaps some forest has been cut down, or some walls broken away. A pleasant surprise, whichever the case. Passing by Uddhava-kunda, where Uddhava Mahashaya resides in the form of grass, we headed onwards.
Downtown Govardhan, a large delivery of grass.
There was a goshala near Uddhava-kunda with dozens of very sweet cows. Malati had some bread she had taken as a snack on the way, which we served out to them. Such enthusiasm! They were actually a bit silly, in a sweet sort of way. We love cows. A small cowherd-girl showed up, curiously watching what we were up to. And soon enough the old man of the family came around, too.
Three small puppies stood on a platform near the goshala, all cuddled together. One of them must have had fever, he was shaking real bad. What a pity we didn't save any of that bread for them, I'm sure they could have used some of it too.
How cute can you get?
Soon enough we reached Radha-kunda. On the way around the kundas, we purchased the malas required for Tarun's diksha, and then headed to Vrajananda Ghera. We told Babaji Maharaja of our returning from parikrama. He is always happy to know that devotees are taking darshan of the various holy places of Vraja. As Tarun asked whether he could keep the name he already had, Tarun Kishor, or whether Baba would like to change it, Baba said that actually,
since both Tarun and Kishor mean essentially the same thing, he would change it a bit. We also agreed that in the evening, we would come to show him some footage of the festival at Surya-kunda.
Babaji Maharaja upstairs in the ashram.
On the way back home, we bumped into Nitai Das from Sweden, our neighbor who has been living at Radha-kunda since a long time. He invited us over for a gathering of devotees on the new year's eve. Nitai is a disciple of Haridas Babaji, the brother of Krishna Das Madrasi Baba, who used to do bhajan at Govinda-kunda.
In the evening, we returned to Baba's ashram with Tarun and Yugal. I brought my laptop over, too. Baba laughed at some of the scenes there, including a buffalo staring at the camera and chewing and chewing, and a close-up of a pot full of some kind of sabji with chilis as the main ingredient. He was happy to have the darshan of this festival, as he had been unable to attend himself. I also played a short collection of clips from the adhivas-kirtan of his guru-maharaja's festival. Dina Das and some others attended, too. It was a long, fulfilling and exhausting day.
Meeting with Baba
Posted: 27th of December, 2004 - 17:02
Meeting Baba, we introduce Tarun to him. Of course Baba already knows him, since they have been exchanging letters over the years. Yugal says that Tarun leads the statistics with his fifty something letters. Baba is also happy to meet Tarun Kishor, finally. He had come over once before, but got no chance to meet Baba, who was in West Bengal at that time.
Tarun finally meets Babaji Maharaja.
A few minutes into the conversation, Tarun asked about whether Babaji Maharaja would be so kind as to bestow diksha to him. Tarun wondered whether he was qualified for it, or not. Baba told that there was certainly no problem there. From all those letters, he said, he knew both Tarun's heart and mind. Taking up the panjika, Baba sought for a suitable date for diksha. Since there were no festival days in sight before Tarun's departure, purnima 29th would be the day.
After the darshan, we returned to our house and went through all the pictures Yugal, our dedicated archiver,
had taken on the parikrama. A big thank you to him for supplying some of the photos in the previous entry detailing the parikrama of Radha-kunda.
And the meeting is joyful...
We concluded the day with a tasty evening snack, thereafter ensuring that everything was in place in Tarun's room. He was very happy of his experience. It is very important, we noted, that there are people in the dham whom you know and who can show you around to ensure a positive experience. Otherwise, one may easily feel a bit lost and alone in the grand world amidst the cultural shock and the complexities of life in India.
Feel free to drop us a mail if you're coming this way.
Parikrama of Radha-kunda
Posted: 27th of December, 2004 - 16:56
In the morning, we head for Baba's ashram to pick up Rasaraja's and Braja's pancha-malas. Collecting them and speaking briefly with Babaji Maharaja, we left for Vrindavan with Yugal.
Reaching Raman Reti, we first went to Keshava Dham, a suburb on the right side of Raman Reti (looking from Chatikara direction), at which there is a facility for various naturopathic treatments. Hari Charan, a gurubhai from Vrindavan, had recommended the place. It was a bit after midday, so the doctor had already left the premises. There was, however, a very friendly young man from Orissa who was studying there for three months, and who took us for the full tour of the facility. Keshava Dham is a very peaceful place, approximately a ten-fifteen minute rickshaw-ride away from the Bhaktivedanta Swami gate.
Meeting with Tarun and Monika.
Leaving Keshava Dham, we went to MVT to meet with Tarun Kishor, who had arrived on the previous day with Monika from Germany. Meeting them for the first time, we sat down for a while and chatted, waiting for Rasaraja and Braja who were supposed to come back around two in the afternoon.
They had gone for parikrama, led by Dhanurdhar Swami, with their families and some other devotees. Speaking a few words with them and handing over the pancha-malas and namavalis (harinama-chadars in English). Tarun packed up his stuff, and picking Yugal into the car on the way, we left for Radha-kunda.
Samadhi-mandir of three Goswamis.
Unloading Tarun's bags into his room — downstairs right next to Yugal's — we set out for a full parikrama of Radha-kunda. Since we had a lot of time at our disposal before Babaji Maharaja would be available, we went to just about each and every place, starting from Ma Jahnava and Das Goswami's samadhi-mandir, bowing down to Radha-kunda on the way. Then onwards to Radha-Govindaji and the Jihva-mandir, followed by the samadhis of the three Goswamis, and the bhajan-kutirs of Gopala Bhatta Goswami near
Shyama-kunda, and of Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami, Raghunath Das Goswami and Visvanath Cakravarti, all three near Manasa-pavan-ghat, where Radharani and the sakhis take bath in the afternoon. The Pancha-Pandava tree is also located here.
The sweet Sri-Sri Radha-Damodara.
Heading to my favorite mandir at Radha-kunda, and perhaps in all of Vraja — Radha-Damodara at Jiva Goswami Ghera, where Sri Jiva also sat, doing his bhajan. We both gave generous donations to the pujari for Radha-Damodara's seva, as very much like both the Thakurjis and the pujari, who takes excellent care of them. He first brought us cups of sweet rice prasad, and anxious to share some more, then brought us cups of sabji. It was basically just potatoes with some spices, but incredibly tasty. Radha-Damodara must surely have tasted of it. They are so sweet and beautiful. Damodar had a cute woolen shirt on.
Passing by Radha-Vinod and the ashram of Prana Krishna Das Baba, and walking past Gopi-kupa, we reached Tamal Tala and Sriman Mahaprabhu's sitting place. It is always quite dark here for some reason, befitting the name of the place. The next place on the way around is the temple of Radha-Madanmohan, overseen by the Goswamis of the original Madanmohan Mandir in Vrindavan.
Also a very beautiful sight, and a temple well taken care of. The sitting place of Sanatan Goswami is here on the yard. Soon after Radha-Madanmohan, we have the audience of Nitai-Gaura in the Gaura-Nitai mandir — enormous and intense murtis blessing you with their kind glance.
Pilgrims at Tamal Tala.
Next darshan is at Nityananda Baithak. On one end of the yard is the place where Nitai sat, visiting Vraja in the course of his pilgrimages in search of Gaura. On the other end are the deities of Radha-Gopinath. Returning to the parikrama road and taking a right turn at the corner, we get the darshan of Kundeshvar Mahadeva. Bam Bam bole. Then, the sabji-market and Radha-kunda on your right side, soon reaching Brajananda Ghera. We are in the habit of starting and concluding our parikrama there, paying the customary obeisances also at feet of our gurudeva. Here, we of course also do parikrama of our parama-guru's samadhi.
To be continued...