Appearance of Radha-kunda
29th of October, 2005 - 6:57
Thakur Mahashaya's Disappearance Day
22nd of October, 2005 - 15:07
17th of October, 2005 - 22:54
Niyam Seva Begins
14th of October, 2005 - 15:21
The Controlled Chaos
3rd of October, 2005 - 3:19
Appearance of Radha-kunda
Posted: 29th of October, 2005 - 6:57
The ashtami a few days back was the appearance day of Radha-kunda. Babaji Maharaj narrated the story of the two kundas' appearance on his class at some length. I managed to follow most of it, as I was somewhat familiar with the narration. Otherwise, I follow roughly half of what's being spoken of on the classes. I might understand a bit more if the sound system didn't make such a fuzz of the sound! The narration is, however, a whole other story I don't have the time to narrate just now. Perhaps at a later time when time is more abundantly available!
The bath was to be taken at midnight between saptami and ashtami. Prior to that, we circumambulated the kundas with a kirtan party for a good while. "Radha-kunda, Shyama-kunda — Jivane marane gati!" None of that is recorded, I didn't dare taking my camera amidst the crowds. All in all, I was surprised at how smoothly it all went. At this time, once in a year, all the holy tirthas come at once to Radha-kunda.
Mahabhava-svarupa Sri Radha Thakurani!
Of course, even without the presence of a single tirtha, the water of Radha-kunda is non-different from the maha-bhava-svarupa of Sri Radha Thakurani and thus capable of bestowing one the highest blessing of all. Regardless, in remembrance of the pastime of the kunda's appearance, devotees especially take bath at this time.
The setup on the altar at Gopinath Mandir was rather peculiar on this day. Radha was lifted to the top of the altar with Krishna and Ananga Manjari down on two sides. See the photo section for a view of how that looked like. Such a pleasing sight to the eyes of Radha's kinkaris.
Today: Completing yet another nirjal ekadashi. I was a bit concerned over how it'd turn out to be in the heat of Vraja, as the call for liquid is somewhat more intense than in the cool climate of Finland. To my great surprise, I wasn't even hungry on the Dvadashi morning although the paran (breaking of fast) was well after eight instead of after sunrise, as it generally is. Full fasting on ekadashi makes the mind clear and purges the body of waste and toxins, a practice favorable for bhajan on many levels.
The renovated fence at Jahnava Baithak, finally in place. It was torn down for some unknown reason at the beginning of Niyam Seva. I didn't see anyone falling into the kunda though.
Fortitude in bhajan grows through Niyam Seva. Increase in the quantity of bhajan, together with a grand effort to focus on the Name and our other devotional practices, make one realize how easily — with the best wishes of Hari, Guru and Vaishnavas — a deeper commitment to bhajan is sustainable. Radharani willing, we shall be carrying much of the boost with us until the unforeseeable future to come.
Thakur Mahashaya's Disappearance Day
Posted: 22nd of October, 2005 - 15:07
Today is Narottama Das Thakur Mahashaya's disappearance day. The festival took place at Brajananda Ghera at Baba's ashram. The kirtan was originally scheduled for Radha Vinod temple, as Radha Vinod are the deities of Lokanath Goswami, Thakur Mahashaya's guru, but was moved for some reason unknown to me.
Sanatan Baba lead a beautiful kirtan featuring three songs; the first a traditional Gaurachandrika for tirobhava-festivals, the second Hari Hari Kabe Hobo Vrindavan Vasi, the last his Suchak Kirtan. After the festival, we completed our parikrama around Radha-kunda and returned home.
The festival of the Three Goswamis from a few days back. Babaji Maharaja on the right.
Babaji Maharaja is keeping busy during Niyam Seva. We haven't met him outside of lectures for several days now. Today we came around a bit earlier, but the ashran was crowded with a feast. I should let him know that Madhurya Kadambini has finally gone to press. We dated the preface to Thakur Mahashaya's disappearance, it seemed befitting as Vishwanath Chakravartipad, the author of the text, is in his disciplic line.
I wish to write a few words on how Vaishnavas disagree while remaining respectful. This is prompted by recent experiences with a respected senior Vaishnava who is also currently at Radha-kunda. He has chosen to avoid me, indeed to such a dramatic extent that when he accidentally looks in my direction, he immediately turns away — what to speak of responding to my "Radhe Radhe" greetings. This is of course born of his deep insight, in that he has realized that I am not a Vaishnava, and moreover someone whose face should not be looked at, lest one should instantly jump to a river with one's clothes on to purify oneself. For that insight, I should twice respect him as genuine seer of truths, but I would like to write on how Vaishnavas should relate to each other in an atmosphere of tension. I have noticed that some are under the misconception that I am a Vaishnava, and may therefore be puzzled by such conduct, which is in truth quite befitting from our blessed Vaishnava brother.
Vishwanath Chakravartipad has written in the third chapter of his Madhurya Kadambini that Vaishnava-ninda does not apply only to pure devotees; one should respect even a wicked, fallen, and deceitful person who has sought refuge of the feet of Govinda. Should that not be there, a negative spiritual impact will take place. Jiva Goswami cites the Skanda Purana in his Bhakti-sandarbha as follows:
hanti nindati vai dveSTi vaiSNavAn nAbhinandati |
krudhyate yAti no harSaM darzane patanAni SaT ||
There are six types of Vaishnava aparadha, all of which are sources of falldown: To kill a Vaishnava, to blaspheme him, to hate him, to not welcome him if he comes to your door, to be angry with him, and to not rejoice on seeing him.
The more extreme aparadhas aside, to not express joy at meeting a Vaishnava is also an aparadha. Now, why would that be considered an aparadha? The word aparadha means to displease (apa=dis and rAdha=please), and by not expressing joy upon meeting a Vaishnava, sorrow is caused in his heart. To cause unmerited sadness in the heart of a Vaishnava is to cause one's own joy of devotion to vanish. The story of Rupa-Sanatana and the Vaishnava who thought they laughed at him is a famous illustration of this principle.
One should also not express anger towards a Vaishnava. Sadly, especially when tending to practical matters, this is often seen, even here at Radha-kunda. The mere sight of someone acting in an angry manner towards a Vaishnava is ungratifying, a cause of sorrow in the heart. Through a public expression of anger towards another, one brings grief to the hearts of many Vaishnavas. With the presence of such sadness, Govinda will say: "I live in the hearts of the Vaishnavas -- Why have you come to pollute my dwelling? Perhaps it would be better if you were not in the company of Vaishnavas?"
An aspiring Vaishnava will long to have a tender heart, as in that heart Govinda is to recline. Acts against proper devotional principles will easily cause grief in such a tender heart. Let us all be mindful of our activities towards other Vaishnavas, and indeed towards all living entities. Even on a superficial matter that holds little spiritual essence, if one has the choice of either going about in one's regular manner and causing grief to someone, or temporarily adjusting one's ways to not inconvenience another (while holding on to his principles), there is no question over which course of action one should take. A Vaishnava does not wish to cause grief to others.
Posted: 17th of October, 2005 - 22:54
Today is Rasa Purnima. All deities are clad in white and decorated finely for the evening. Unlike usually, they will be staying up throughout the night today and on the purnima after Niyam Seva concludes, sporting their rasa-pastimes. The maidservants tend to the needs of the hero and heroine of the drama, providing various cooling, exciting and nourishing ingredients according to the time's need, accompanying the dance with diverse instruments.
The Rasa at the end of the Ashvina month is also known as the Sharadiya Rasa, or the autumnal Rasa. It takes place in Nidhuvan. The following Rasa at the end of the Kartika month is known as the Maha Rasa, located in Seva Kunja. The third famous Rasa, the Vasanti Rasa, takes place at Chand Sarovar near Govardhan in the month of Vaishakha, in the springtime.
Today was also a partial lunar eclipse. Archan was to be completed by around eight in the morning, after which Thakurji would go to sleep to awaken after the period of the eclipse is over, after six in the evening. No archan is done during the eclipse or the preceding nine hours, as it is a period of asauchya, impurity, as the demon Rahu gives grief to Chandra, the deity of the moon. We also fast during this period, as Chandra and Surya are the deities who nourish vegetation and so forth, and we do not wish to partake of their gifts at the time of their agony, lest asuric spirit enter into our hearts and minds.
Rahu evidently didn't read the posters the Panch committee had glued all around Radha-kund, as he was late by a good twenty minutes. I watched the eclipse waning on the roof of Gopinath Mandir with Sanatan Baba, Anath Bandhu Baba and a number of others. Anath Bandhu Baba asked if I could provide him another copy of a photo I had made for him from an old photo of his, of his kirtan guru. The man sitting next to him looked eeriely familiar, and as Baba spoke with him of the photo, I realized it was none else than the said kirtan guru himself.
After the eclipse we took bath in the kunda and headed back to our house to wake up Thakurji and to offer bhog. Our badly needed drink of water had to wait until seva-puja was complete with a full abhishek after the puja-paraphernalia was washed, and it must have been closer to nine until we finally had our meal.
The full moon nights in Vraja are amazing. The light permeates every corner of the land. You won't need a torch to find your way around. Hence Radha's need for white chandan and the rest, being discreet is of the essence while on abhisar!
Niyam Seva Begins
Posted: 14th of October, 2005 - 15:21
Niyam Seva is the period between Papankusha Ekadashi and Utthana Ekadashi. At this time, Gaudiya Vaishnavas far and wide gather in holy places such as Vraja-dham. Radha-kunda in particular is popular, I keep hearing how in all of Vraja the events at Radha-kunda are the greatest, just as Radha-kunda is the mukut-mani of the entire Vraja Mandal. This year the tithi was not pure, and the vrata started on the following Dvadashi.
A great adhivas-kirtan took place yesterday evening in preparation for the disappearance festivals of Raghunath Das, Raghunath Bhatta and Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswamis. They all departed on the same day, on different years. Yugal has uploaded some video footage from the occasion, check it out at Jayasriradhe.Com. I also have a stack of videos, but will in all likelihood only get around to processing them once I'm back in Finland.
Devotees undertake a number of vows for the duration of Niyam Seva. Babaji Maharaj said that hearing Krishna katha is the principle vow to follow. One should also spend time doing kirtan and reciting varieties of ashtakams and stotras. You may download some ashtakams here (pdf). Translations to follow whenever I get around to that, if I do. Our own schedule is rather tight, and I have a number of things to tend to besides the regular observances as well. There are also a number of dietary restrictions. The bottom line is that one should eat simply and sattvik foods, only once or twice a day, and if possible, the same foods throughout the month.
I'll cut this short this time. We're following nirjal vrata on Ekadashis, and I have a comfy 38+ degrees fever on top of it to make my day. Curious as it is, the mind is peaceful while the body is a bit emancipated. It's now beyond nine in the evening, and we'll be getting up at two to attend the Kunjabhanga-kirtan followed by mangal arotik at Gopinath Mandir on the bank of Radha-kunda.
The Controlled Chaos
Posted: 3rd of October, 2005 - 3:19
Preparing for the flight to Vraja has reached the stage of controlled chaos. I am now at the point at which Malati would be a nervous wreck if she were around. She flew in a bit in advance, good for her. I'm in the middle of wrapping together Madhurya Kadambini for press. Jagadananda Dasji has done a fine job editing the text, and Rasaraja Dasji has kindly organized the printing. Below, a sample of the cover for the book. Still a bit in need of work, but the concept is there.
Yes, and then I'll need to wrap together a glossary as well, and a couple of diagrams to illustrate some of the more technical and structured content of the text. We are looking forward presenting the text to Baba. He wrote me in a letter a while back that these books, if we'll endeavor to publish them in English, will be a matchless asset for the audience of devotees in the whole world for all time to come. Shastra-seva is close to Baba's heart.
Malati sent me the details concerning tomorrow's solar eclipse. That, as we know, is an inauspicious event, as Rahu, a being of darkness, swallows the light of the sun, casting his shadow on the world. Here in Helsinki it'll be a partial eclipse, roughly a quarter of the sun will be covered. A reminder for all, if you do watch it, don't watch with your bare eyes to avoid eye damage.
In Vraja, I hear, it'll be a full day's project. Up early in the morning and finishing Thakur-seva, then putting Thakurji again to rest, only to awaken at evening. Once the eclipse is over, one is to also bath and change clothes, and also to wash all archan paraphernalia. One may take a bit of prasad right after the morning seva, but if at all possible, that should be followed by full fasting until the evening.
I'd like to thank everyone who's donated to the upcoming Lake of Flowers Kartika-project — we've covered a bit over half of the material expenses involved. If someone is in the mood of helping out with the rest, we certainly won't mind. We're looking forward collecting some 20 hours of video and 30 hours of audio during our stay there, which approximately doubles the current archive.
Those of you who are wondering what's happening with the Lake of Flowers DVDs, I still haven't gotten to polishing and mastering them in the way I'd have wanted. I'm looking at wrapping that up by the end of the year, December should leave me good time to work on it.
Two thirds done, one third to go. Back to Madhurya Kadambini. Argh, and it's Monday morning, so presumably back to all other work as well.