25th of December, 2004 - 6:31
Meeting Govardhan
24th of December, 2004 - 16:27
Festival of Sri Kunjabihari Das Babaji Maharaja
23rd of December, 2004 - 17:36
22nd of December, 2004 - 20:08
A foggy day at Yamuna
21st of December, 2004 - 20:21
The garden of rasa
20th of December, 2004 - 17:25
Siddha Madhusudan Das Baba's festival at Surya-kunda
19th of December, 2004 - 18:38
The lake of Sri Chaitanya
18th of December, 2004 - 18:44
In Vrindavan
17th of December, 2004 - 16:58
At Radha-Roman's house
16th of December, 2004 - 16:09
Today Delhi going
15th of December, 2004 - 17:30
Inquiries on bhajana
14th of December, 2004 - 20:01
A crash and Radha-Krishna katha
13th of December, 2004 - 18:14
A fairly uneventful day
12th of December, 2004 - 19:31
Publicity in the whole universe
11th of December, 2004 - 18:05
On bad deeds and good character
10th of December, 2004 - 16:50
Disappearances and instructions
9th of December, 2004 - 16:59
8th of December, 2004 - 17:49
Festival of Narahari Sarakara
7th of December, 2004 - 17:54
Back to Radha-kunda
6th of December, 2004 - 21:42
Visiting Vrindavan
6th of December, 2004 - 15:49
Half-way around Govardhan
5th of December, 2004 - 16:09
Electric outage
5th of December, 2004 - 15:04
Vrindavan Art
4th of December, 2004 - 17:17
Thoughts on our bhajana-marga
3rd of December, 2004 - 17:32
Meeting friends all day long
2nd of December, 2004 - 23:51
The second day in Vraja
2nd of December, 2004 - 17:39
Meeting Baba
2nd of December, 2004 - 0:20
From New Delhi to Vraja
1st of December, 2004 - 19:33
Giridhari's flute busted!
1st of December, 2004 - 7:30

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Posted: 25th of December, 2004 - 6:31

Two manjari-baskets.
In the morning, we left for Vrindavan to meet with Rasaraja and Braja along with their families. As a token of gratitude for the varieties of help they had given us, we had prepared small gifts for them. Manjari-baskets, containing varieties of uddipan (stimuli) for the upcoming relationship that was to be forged through the ceremony of diksha on the following day.

Each basket contained two beautiful framed pictures of Radha-Krishna, a container of astagandha-chandan (sandalwood with eight scents), a small vessel for preparing the chandan, a block of colored tilak for decorating faces, hands, feet and so forth, a container with Radha-kunda tilak for marking your head with the foot-dust of our Svamini, a container with a gunja-mala representing Sri Radha, a decorated cloth for various purposes, and a small bottle of saffron-oil especially suitable for the cold season. The basket itself is most suitable for picking flowers, for example at Surya-kunda before the mid-day pastimes at Radha-kunda.

vRndAraNya-mahezvarIM priyatayA yAs toSayanti priyAH |
prANa-preSTha-sakhI-kulAd api kilAsaGkocitA bhUmikAH
kelI-bhUmiSu rUpa-maJjarI-mukhAs tA dAsikAH saMzraye ||

I take shelter of the handmaidens of the Queen of Vrindavan, who are led by Sri Rupa Manjari, and who lovingly satisfy her by offering hazelnuts and other condiments, massaging her feet, bringing fragrant water and arranging trysts with her gallant and have thus become most dear to her. They are thus allowed to enter the scene of the Divine Couple’s most intimate affairs without the slightest discomfiture — a reward not given even to her dearest friends.

Gaurapriya, Rasavati Rai and Braja.
We met with our friends upstairs in the MVT restaurant. They had stopped over for a meal there. We just took a few cups of ginger tea to ward off the cold after the chilly ride to Vrindavan. Many families had gathered there, and the noise level was incredible. It is hard to imagine anyone could actually digest food in such an environment. The MVT folks had a christmas-celebration in progress. The place was decorated with christmas-lights, and the restaurant staff chanted "jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way..." with the accompaniment of karatalas. Had the late Swami Prabhupada been around, I would imagine he would have characterized it as "nonsense".

We headed over to Braja's place with him, Gaura-priya and the kids, soon followed by Rasaraja, giving them the gifts and chatting a while on a number of topics. Leaving towards Radha-kunda, we stop by at a shop just outside the MVT that offers varieties of organic vegetables for sale. This is a most welcome addition to the supplies available in Vrindavan,

A familiar sight — stuck at a railway crossing.
as most regular vegetables come from fields sprayed with DDT. Filling our bags, we take an auto-rickshaw back to Radha-kunda.

After preparing some prasad, we head for Baba's darshan. Since two of our friends are about to get diksha, we spend a moment asking about some related practicalities. Rasaraja in particular is fond of his name, and wonders if Baba might change that. Baba says that since it is a good Vaishnava-name, there is no need for change. However he checks whether Rasa's original name starts with the same letter, as this convention seems to be rather strictly observed.

I ask whether Baba always gives a new name, even to disciples in West Bengal, as I had earlier heard that some Gaudiya-gurus only give new names when someone becomes a renunciate. Baba said that he does always give a new name, if not at the time of diksha, then latest at the time of giving pranali, when one receives both his parshada-name with all related details, and a proper Vaishnava-name in the guru-pranali.

As Baba speaks of the Siddha Baba of Govardhan, I mention that some Gaudiya parivars hold the opinion that the teachings of Siddha Baba on the dual astakaliya-worship of Gaura-lila and Radha-Krishna-lila is a new thing, as the former has not been elaborated on by the six Goswamis of Vraja.

Babaji Maharaja contemplates the matter at hand.
Baba says that it is not a new thing, because Siddha Baba has written on the direct advice of Radharani, who appeared to him and directed him to write of the lila in such a manner so as to make the process of lila-smarana easier for the sadhaka-samaja. Gopala Guru Goswami and Dhyanachandra Goswami have also written of Mahaprabhu's astakala-upasana in their Paddhatis.

Baba explains that the objecting opinion is held by some Goswamis of Advaita-vamsa. The followers of Advaita Prabhu were divided in two over the issue. The followers of Achyutananda accepted the upasana of Mahaprabhu, and the other party did not. Concluding the topic, Baba says that the subject matter of raganuga-bhakti is difficult to understand, and its understanding only becomes possible through bhajana.

Karunamayi Das was also at Baba's place, we walked together the way back to Gaura-dham. His house is rather close to ours. Returning to our house, we chat for a moment with Yugal and Ananda Hari, who has come over for a visit there, and then head upstairs to our room.
Meeting Govardhan
Posted: 24th of December, 2004 - 16:27

Pilgrims doing Govardhan-parikrama.
It was a sunny day since a long time. The fog was gone, and the morning sun cast its pleasant rays over Radha-kunda, inspiring new life in the environment stiffened by the coldness and the moisture. From the winter forest to the summer forest. All six seasons are present in the forests around Radha-kunda.

Since the weather was clear, we left for Govardhan with Yugal, on bike, to film the parikrama. A pleasant ride in a pleasant weather, and lots of good footage, some of which will be available shortly. A bit embarassing, though, that my first parikrama of Giriraja should be riding on a bike. Giriraja is so beautiful. Christmas eve is a public holiday also in India, and huge amounts of people are on the move. An uninterrupted stream of pilgrims flows around the mountain. We even get stuck in a traffic jam at the town of Govardhan.

Darshan of Radha-kunda.
After the parikrama, I leave for the parikrama of Radha-kunda and Shyama-kunda with Malati. Tomorrow we were scheduled to head for Vrindavan to meet Braja and Rasaraja, and the kunda-samskara was supposed to start on the 26th, so time was short if we wanted pictures of the two kundas with water still inside. We end up with some 200 pictures, which should cover both kundas from just about any angle.

Coming up the stairs from the bank of Shyama-kunda, we bump into the ever-so-jolly Prana Krishna Das Baba. He is always going somewhere with a big smile on his face, often with his gong, doing kirtan. He always comes to pat my back in a lovely manner. I am also always happy to see him.

Prana Krishna Das Babaji walking at Shyama-kunda.
Moving on with the parikrama, we take a closer look at the new paintings that have been painted at the sitting place of Mahaprabhu. Very charming, and painted with an intriquing style. See "Views" for a big picture of the painting.

After the parikrama, we went to meet Babaji Maharaja. I asked some questions regarding Yogapitha-seva concerning the moods of the parshadas of Mahaprabhu in aprakata-Navadvipa. Baba explained how the prakat-lila and aprakat-lila of Mahaprabhu are somewhat different in appearance; for example, Mahaprabhu only joins Svarupa and Ramananda during his years as a sannyasi, while in the aprakata-lila they are both present in youthful forms in Navadvipa-dham.

I also asked about the appearances of Advaita Prabhu and Srivas Thakur in prakata-lila, as many artists depicted them in many different ways. Concerning Advaita's beard, Baba quoted a passage from Chaitanya Bhagavata, explaining how he just had a little bit of beard on his chin, not the full, long beard we sometimes see. Concerning Srivas Thakura, Baba explained that as he was a grihastha, he had long hair, and was dressed in white.

Babaji Maharaja sitting upstairs.
Long hair was normal for grihasthas during those times, though nowadays most people keep it short, many even assuming the appearance of renunciates.

We told Baba of our upcoming visit to Vrindavan on the following day, and also mentioned that Jagadananda would be coming to Vraja soon. He will be staying right next door from us at Radha-kunda, a month is the plan for now. Baba was happy to hear that the obstacles on his path to Vraja had been removed. Earlier, I had filmed a video clip of Babaji Maharaj inviting Jagadananda over and assuring him to not worry, that his desire to come over would be fulfilled. By the grace and desire of all Vaishnavas, this is now turning into reality.

After the darshan, we followed the regular daily routine — returning home, preparing an evening snack, posting to the journal and taking rest. I won't be boring you with mentioning this every day, but it does always happen.
Festival of Sri Kunjabihari Das Babaji Maharaja
Posted: 23rd of December, 2004 - 17:36
In the morning, Rasaraja, Braja and his family, together with Nilamadhava and Krishnamayi, came over from Vrindavan to join the celebration of Sri Kunjabihari Das Babaji Maharaja's festival. We headed for Brajananda Ghera for Baba's darshan, and met him briefly. Baba had told that he would confirm the date for Rasaraja's and Braja's diksha today. Baba always consults the Panjika and looks for the nearest possible auspicious date for diksha.

The kirtaniyas assembled, singing from the Prarthana of Thakur Mahashaya.
Purnima the 26th was the closest available auspicious day, so that'd be it, then. Ten o'clock in the morning, as it's the cold season now and the mornings are so chilly.

The kirtan was already in progress when we arrived. The kirtaniyas had assembled in the lecture hall and sang various songs from Thakur Mahashaya's Prarthana. Such sweet kirtana! The songs from Prarthana were followed by a Suchaka-kirtana of Sri Kunjabihari Das Babaji Maharaja. Suchaka-kirtanas are songs, generally in Bengali verse, describing the life of the sadhu whose disappearance is being commemorated. To read Babaji Maharaja's biography, click here.

After the kirtan, the painting of our param-guru was mounted on a palanquin and carried around the parikrama-path of Radha-kunda and Shyama-kunda, accompanied by kirtan. There must have been close to two hundred devotees participating there.

Parikrama around Radha-kunda.
The Bengali kirtaniyas took turns in leading the chanting, and occasionally one Vrajavasi also lead kirtan in his unique, local style. The parikrama took about an hour, as the procession stopped frequently as various kirtans were sung in different places around the parikrama-path.

Returning to the lecture hall at Brajananda Ghera, the palanquin was set down and the kirtan still continued for a moment. One kirtaniya, who had carried a small cup of yoghurt on top of his head, broke it and the prasadi was distributed among all the assembled Vaishnavas, dots put on everyone's forehead. This is a tradition with such processions. I'm sure we can all think of countless pastimes in which yoghurt pots are broken.

Prasad-seva was next in the sequence of festivities. Prasad was first served for the senior men of the audience, so we headed to some tulasi-wallahs

Kirtan after the parikrama.
to purchase japa-malas for both nama-japa and diksha-mantra-japa, along with kanthi-malas, and pancha-malas to be worn around the neck while remembering one's diksha-mantras. Pancha-mala, Baba told, consists of five malas, namely tulasi, gunja-berries, clay from Radha-kunda, amalaki and rope from Jagannath's cart. We wear it in following Sriman Mahaprabhu's example, who used to wear a mala of gunja-berries around his neck during the time of smaran. smaraNer kAle gale pare guñjA-mAlA. (CC 3.6.290) Later on, Baba explained, other sacred items beneficial for our bhajan were added in, and thus the pancha-mala came about.

Done with the shopping, we returned to the ashram, bumping into Ishan Das who tells that Baba had already been wondering where we were. However, it seems we came in just in time, as the first group of devotees were just about to finish their prasad-seva. We sat right next to the big jala-keli painting at the end of the hall. I got a seat next to Braja's son, Bhaktivinod, who is notorious for his skills in enjoying prasad.

Prasad-seva with various preparations.
In addition to putting it into your mouth and tasting, he has figured, you can do so many interesting things with it! Anyhow, to my great amazement I only got a little bit of rice on my clothes.

Dina Das, to whom we always tell that Malati doesn't need special arrangements and can just take a little bit of whatever she can eat of the feast, had again said that he would prepare something special for her. However, in all the hurry of the festival he had forgotten about it, and came in as we were half-way done with the prasad, relating how he is so embarassed that he had forgotten about this. Malati again told that it isn't necessary. Next thing we see is Dina Das running somewhere with a pot to get some milk, and shortly he comes back with a small plate of steaming hot paneer. So embarassing for her, and so very sweet of him!

After the festival, we accompanied the Vrindavan-vasis to the tempo-stand and arranged for a jeep for them to get a smooth ride back to Raman Reti. You can get a jeep, one of those grayish old ones, for almost the same price as an auto-rickshaw, if only they are available, and the ride goes much faster. Returning to our house, we found that Bul Bul had invited some babajis over for kirtan at his house. They went on for several hours, but I was held back by some work upstairs. As we finally went downstairs to attend the kirtan, we found out that they had just finished. Some sweet kirtan it was, for all we could hear upstairs. We chatted for a moment with Yugal and took rest after a long, fulfilling and exhausting day.
Posted: 22nd of December, 2004 - 20:08
Today is Mokshada-ekadasi. I hear they also call it Vaikuntha-ekadasi. My friend Bhrigu could probably give you a class on this particular ekadashi. However, I am not that well educated in this regard.

Malati says I should post a picture of myself. Here goes, yesterday at Yamuna. I'm a bit short on relevant photos for today.
For me, ekadasi is the day on which I try to do a bit more bhajan with variable success, and on which I am constantly reminded of the futility of various pursuits in this world. God thank, today I did not get entagled in anything completely ridiculous, as is often the case on this particular blessed day twice a month.

The electricity was out for a good while, so heating water was a bit of a problem. It is getting quite chilly here. Despite our best efforts to heat up some water with gas — an effor that took the better part of an hour — it turned out cool water was the best we were going to get. So cold it is, then. It is particularly pleasant when dried off in the end with a towel that is still wet from the previous day, thanks to the fog that helps keeping it soaked.

Out of the bath, we find monkeys chewing on our laundry bucket. The bag with the washing powder seems to be of particular interest for them. I end up chasing them away with my camera monopod. Perhaps I should have let them get the taste of some cheap quality Indian washing powder, they'd learn to stay away from our laundry, then. They stole some of it the other day, damn rascals, and hung it to the top of a tree nearby. Our neighbor Krishna Das the bookstore-wallah spotted them in a tree on his property and took them down for us. I note they are cutting down the small forest next to our house. Wondering why on earth anyone might do that, I learn from Bul Bul that they cut it down every other year or so and sell the wood, and the forests grows back to its current size soon enough. What a relief — I've seen enough trees cut down for good in Vraja to have my heart ache for each tree I see being cut.

Visiting downstairs to drop a note to Yugal, I have the pleasure to meet Hari Charan and his wife from Vrindavan. Baba is always telling me how they are such nice devotees and how I should pay a visit to them some time in the future.

Our friend here has little concerns on whose cooking to eat. Mata Bhumi, a dedicated Vaishnavi, supplies all he can ever imagine to chew on.
I remember Hari Charan well from our last visit, we did some parikrama of Giriraja together. Aside some topics on bhajana, we discussed a number of health-related issues. He is well founded in naturopathy, homeopathy and other such fields of natural treatment, and Malati is always inclined to learn more on such topics, both to help other Vaishnavas and to take care of herself, as she frequently has some small problems with her health.

I'm taking care of some pending work still, and Malati is preparing new dresses for our Thakurjis. In the evening, we head for Baba's darshan. Drawing from a related issue, we discuss what an initiated Vaishnava should and what he should not eat. Baba says that one should not accept food cooked by persons without proper diksha. Consuming such foodstuffs is not conducive for bhajana. Sri Chaitanya himself instructed Kamalakantha as follows:

viSayIra anna khAile duSTa haya mana
mana duSTa hoile nahe kRSNera smaraNa
kRSNa-smRti vinu haya niSphala jIvana

"Accepting food from a mundane person makes the mind wicked. With a wicked mind, one cannot remember Krishna, and without the remembrance of Krishna, one's life is wasted."

Strictly interpreting, this principle applies to accepting foodstuffs cooked by any person who is not engaged in bhajan proper. The food we consume influences our consciousness, and if we are under a constant influx of moods from persons who do not share our spiritual inclinations, our bhajan will be hampered. Engagement in smarana demands great subtlety and concentration of mind, and in facilitating smarana the mind must be protected from the persistent influences of the world.

A selection of like-minded sadhus sitting down at Siddha Baba's festival at Surya-kunda a few days back.
Therefore we are advised by Sri Rupa: sajAtiyAzaye snigdhe sAdhau sangaH svato vare — Seek out the company of sadhus who are of the same inclination, who are affectionate and tender-hearted, and who are more advanced than you are. This unity of inclination is understood particularly in the context of ekanta-bhakti and unity in our nitya-svabhava, aspiring for similar moods and relationships with Radha and Krishna.

Now, someone may think that this is a rather harsh rule, and that it is not reasonable to follow such rigid regulations. These regulations, however, do not exist for no reason at all. The rules are there to ensure our sound spiritual growth. To receive diksha from a spiritual master is to enter the path of self-sacrifice, thrusting ourselves for a journey of no return. dIkSA-kAle bhakta kare Atma-samarpaNa — At the time of diksha, the devotee offers his very self to guru and Radha-Krishna, submitting himself at their feet, declaring: "Ha Radhe! Ha Krishna! Henceforth I shall be yours, and yours only, and no other shelter shall I seek!"

Chanting our diksha-mantras, we invoke our beloved lords and say: Svaha — I offer myself unto you. As the brahmins pour clarified butter into the sacrificial fire, so we pour our very selves into the fire of bhajana, yearning to enter the rapture of loving mellows in Vraja-dham. If this is not our resolve, why should we accept a guru as a matter of fashion, not being prepared to do what it takes to move on? Certainly, gradual change is called for, but the resolve must be there, that eventually I shall reform myself and become a sadhaka proper, striving to love and live with Radha and Shyama forever.

Cows grazing right next door from us.
Baba said that if for some reason anyhow we must take such foodstuffs, then let it be so, as we are not this stomach after all, but it should not become the standard in our daily conduct.

In the evening, we went to visit Amiya and Subhangada, to pick up Sudevi's old sewing machine. And I mean old, it looks like it's from the seventies, the colours and everything. Their small Thakurji has a cute woolen hat on, Santa Claus style. We end up talking about a good number of topics. Speaking of buffalos, Amiya mentions his having heard that one of Nanda Baba's brothers, perhaps Upananda, has many, many buffalos, and that Krishna sometimes runs off to their place, drinking milk directly from the udders of these buffalos. Krishna likes Upananda very much. His dear friend, Subhadra, is his son. Subhadra often accompanies Krishna on the pastures of Vraja as they herd the cows of Nanda Maharaja.
A foggy day at Yamuna
Posted: 21st of December, 2004 - 20:21

On the bank of Yamuna.
In the morning, we left for Vrindavan. The main objective was to find something nice for Rasaraja, Braja and their families. Not something you could just buy in the bazaar, something special, and of particular devotional significance. We figured we'd go around the temples and see if we might pick up something of particular interest on the way. We first headed for Radha Raman. However, there was no darshan at this time. About half an hour, we were told. It was already close to noon and most temples seemed to be closed down.

As we had a bit of spare time at our disposal, we figured we might go and see if we could find Shrivatsa Goswami somewhere in the neighbourhood. He had dropped me a mail a month or so back, asking me to give him a call when I come over to Vraja. Aside my getting a chance to enjoy sadhu-sanga, we would have a number of topics to cover regarding coordination of efforts in digitizing the Gaudiya canon in the context of Gaudiya Grantha Mandir, as well as some more general issues regarding Sri Chaitanya Foundation. Their website might also gain of my expertise in the realm of new media, he said. I suppose I can give it a shot, why not.

Madan Mohan Mandir.
For what I hear, Shrivatsa Goswami is very fluent in English, a scholar, an eloquent speaker and a friendly personality. Many academics seem to like to keep in touch with him. I have never met him in person.

We then headed for the darshan of Yamuna. We hadn't seen her yet during this visit. A bunch of boatmen tried to get us onboard, and the mynas played around with the pigs. A couple of cows grazed here and there. It was a foggy day, only the shape of the temple of Madan Mohan loomed in the horizon.

nanda-nandanAntaraGga-bhakti-pUra-vardhinI |
mAM punAtu sarvadAravinda-bandhu-nandinI ||

"By the touch of a drop of whose water, the sins of people vanish;
Who incites a flood of antaranga-bhakti for the son of Nanda Maharaj;
And who is auspicious for those longing to reside on her banks —
May this daughter of the Sun always purify me!

From Yamuna, we headed for Loi Bazaar, and picked up something of interest on the way.

An unusual view of Loi Bazaar.
However I won't write of that until after tomorrow, we don't want to spoil the surprise.

Loi Bazaar was pretty messed up today. It was full of ditches, three meters deep. An excavator about as wide as the bazaar itself had torn the place apart. I have no idea what they might have been working on. I'm pretty sure this isn't the latest extension of the Delhi subway structure they're working on, nor do I believe they might actually be building a reasonable sewage system anytime soon. Somehow we managed to get past the ditches and moved on to Bankhandi Mahadev bazaar and our favorite cloth merchant. Giridhari wants new clothes...

Knowing that Baba's lecture was scheduled to begin in an hour, we rushed home and made it there just in time, sitting down in the middle of the mangalacharan. The same theme continues. gaurAGgo hRdaya udayan mAM madayati

Adhivas-kirtan in progress.
This vision of Sri Gauranga arising within the inner chamber of my heart, sank as he is in the deep rapture of Radha-bhava in Gambhira, maddens me!

After the evening aratik, the kirtaniyas started the adhivas-kirtan in commemoration of Sri Kunja Bihari Das Babaji Maharaja's upcoming tirobhava-tithi. And an amazing kirtan it was! Video clips to follow as soon as I capture them and edit them a bit. Keep an eye on the media-section. Some prasad was being served after the kirtan, but we politely avoided it, as eating local cooking that late at night could not possibly make you feel too good the next morning.
The garden of rasa
Posted: 20th of December, 2004 - 17:25

Gaurapriya with the kids, Bhaktivinod and Rasavati Rai. Cow and Braja. Rasaraja and Yugal.
In the morning, Rasaraja and Braja with his family came over for a visit at Radha-kunda. We met at our house in Gaura Dham and walked together to meet Babaji Maharaja. Baba was sitting upstairs. He had been waiting for us to arrive. Braja had been over for a visit the other day, but for the rest this was the first meeting.

After doing pranama, we were all standing and I was trying to figure out where to sit, as in front of the desk on the floor we wouldn't really be able to see Baba well, and on the left side of the desk there was really very little space for us. Baba pointed us to sit down on a long bench next to his desk, where Rasa and Braja sat. I still stood up, as I never quite feel comfortable sitting on the same level with Baba. However he had me sit down there, too. We discussed at length various matters on Vaishnava-practices. Initiation, sadachar (befitting conduct), necessary sadhana and so forth. Baba was in a jolly mood. We must have spent almost an hour there. I must have said it before, but I am always impressed by how Baba always seems to find the time for those who wish to follow our path of bhajana.

After the darshan, we head for kunda-parikrama. However, since the kids are "approaching meltdown" as Braja put it, we don't go inside mandirs, but just do a quick walk around the two kundas. With the exception of Nityananda Baithak, where we pop in for a visit. That isn't really a mandir as such, the place has a big yard with a small kutir for Nitai on one end and a small mandir for the Thakurjis at the other.

Baba offers respects to the grantha.
They've now covered the Tulasis there with varieties of bags and cloth to protect them from the cold. After the parikrama, Rasaraja, Braja and the rest head back to Vrindavan and we head back to our house.

In the afternoon, Baba gave a class again. At the beginning of each class, a flower garland is offered to the grantha (sacred text). These texts, the remnants of the rasa-asvadan (relish of rasa) of our acharyas, are most worshipable. The prasadi-garland of the grantha is then offered to the speaker. Not that fresh garlands are given to the speaker and the grantha is offered none. We are to see ourselves as servants of the teachings of our acharyas, not masters. This relationship is reflected in varieties of practical matters such as this. People often tell Baba how they appreciate his writings, and Baba frequently notes how they are the teachings of the Goswamis, and he is only presenting them. And very eloquently he dos it, indeed. When giving discourses, too, it seems as if he were stringing a beautiful garland of flowers from the rasa-garden of the acharyas.

In the evening, we pay a visit to Krishna Das and Madhavi-lata, our near neighbors. They have a new PC that they need some help with. Krishna Das has a bookstore on the parikrama-marga on the bank of Shyama-kunda, Kundeshvari Granthalaya he calls it.

Tomorrow is the adhivas-kirtan for Sri Kunja Bihari Das Babaji Maharaja's festival. This is his samadhi-pitha.
Baba had also mentioned of this earlier to us, that they would need some help in that regard. We spend an hour or so patching up various issues, and then a good while absorbed in various discussions.

I need copies of Haridas Dasji's Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhan and Gaudiya Vaishnava Jivani, which Krishna Das says he'll try to arrange for me. Very useful reference texts, the two. Some friends from ISKCON have inquired about the history of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition with respect to lady gurus, particularly as diksha-gurus. In a monastic movement such as theirs, it seems to be a major issue of contention requiring extensive historical evidence from "authorized texts" and so forth. This hasn't been an issue really in the more society-incorporated traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Just the other day we saw Prana Krishna Das Baba, who is initiated in the line of Jahnava Ma descending through the famous Pran Gopal Goswami. In their line, there are some 13 ladies acting as diksha-gurus. In general, it has been very common in our tradition. Not as much in communities of renunciates, though, as among the lines preserved among the descendants of the various associates of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, such as Nityananda, Advaita and the rest.

It seems to be ten o'clock already. Time flies...
Siddha Madhusudan Das Baba's festival at Surya-kunda
Posted: 19th of December, 2004 - 18:38

Siddha Baba's samadhi-mandir.
In the morning, we leave with Bul Bul and family for Surya-kunda. Today is the festival of Siddha Sri Madhusudan Das Babaji Maharaja, and Vaishnavas from all around the 84 krosh Vraja-mandal gather to commemorate his disappearance. A contemporary of Siddha Krishna Das Baba of Govardhan, and according to some, the vesh-guru of Jagannath Das Babaji, he became renown as a siddha due to some extraordinary events taking place in the course of his bhajan.

Madhusudan Das was born in Kulina brahmin family. In his youth, his parents arranged a marriage against his wishes. On the night of his wedding, he escaped for Vrindavan, leaving behind his bride and family. Wishing to not be detected by anyone, he lived in secluded places. One day, as he sat on the banks of Yamuna, contemplating on the need to receive mantra-diksha, he met a mahanta from the lineage of Gangamata. The mahanta instructed Madhusudan Das to take bath in Yamuna, after which he would be initiated. Having bathed, the mahant bestowed him the ten-letter Krishna-mantra, explaining its import.

A view of the serene atmosphere of Surya-kunda.
Lost in joy, Madhusudan sank into a trance, only to discover that his guru was nowhere to be found as he eventually regained external consciousness.

Desiring to learn more on the mysteries of raganuga-sadhana, he sought shelter of Siddha Krishnadas Baba of Govardhan. Siddha Baba inquired about his guru-pranali, or succession of teachers. The customary method of worshiping Radha-Krishna on raga-marga is to conduct the service in allegiance to one's succession of gurus in their siddha-svarupas. This channel, through which the divine moods of Vraja flow down to the sadhaka-bhakta, is commonly known as the siddha-pranali. One is to know the divine characteristics of the siddha-rupas of his guru and the entire succession of gurus traced back to the associates of Sri Chaitanya, contemplating on oneself as one among the manjaris, serving under the guidance and command of guru-manjari and the group of manjaris in one's pranali. Such guru-pranalis are often called parivars, or families. The siddha-pranali is truly our family forever. Each pranali has their individual characteristics and methods of bhajan to be observed.

Vaishnavas assembling at Surya-kunda.
Given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding his diksha, Madhusudan Das was unable to say anything of his pranali. Regretting this, Siddha Krishnadas Baba said that he would be unable to teach him the worship of raga-marga according to the customary methods, and directed him to Siddha Jayakrishna Baba of Kamyavana, hoping that he might perhaps be of assistance. There was a great predicament there. Madhusudan Das could not take initiation again, since he had already received the mantra. Jayakrishna Das Babaji directed him to seek shelter of harinama, praying earnestly and awaiting what Sriman Mahaprabhu and Sri Radha would arrange for him.

Feeling despondent, he left for Radha-kunda and thought of leaving his body in the waters of the sacred pond, as what good would maintaining it be if he could not learn the true methods of bhajana. One night, he tied himself to a big Govardhan-shila and thrust himself into Radha-kunda. All of a sudden, someone grasped him, took the stone off his neck, placing a palm-leaf into his hand and throwing him to the bank of the kunda. On the palm leaf was written all he needed for commencing his bhajan. After consulting the two aforementioned Siddha Babas of Vraja, he again returned for Radha-kunda, receiving the darshan of Sri Radha. In this vision, he was directed to go to Surya-kunda and spend the remainder of his life there, steeped in bhajan.

Samadhi-mandir of Manipuri Gopal Das Baba.
Towards the end of his life, on one day he narrated the glories of Sri Yogapitha to a sadhaka who came to consult him on the matter. Amidst the explanation, Siddha Baba fell into samadhi, to never awaken again for our vision. Baba had joined Radha-Shyama in their yogapitha-milana.

Returning to the festival... Every year, many sadhakas walk to Surya-kunda from their respective bhajana-sthalis. However, since we were offered a car drive, we took the easy route. Last year we walked the route from Radha-kunda to Surya-kunda, it is a beautiful and scenic walk there. As we reach Surya-kunda, the kirtana is already in progress. Hundreds of devotees have gathered for the festival, there are even a number of buses parked around the location. Surya-kunda is truly a charming place, still fairly untouched by urbanization, unlike many other places around Vraja-mandala.

Suryadeva in the mandir.
Briefly walking around and taking darshan of the thakurjis, Nitai-Gaura, and the samadhi of Siddha Baba, we head for the parikrama of Surya-kunda with Bul Bul and the family. On the other side of Surya-kunda, you'll find the bhajan-sthali and samadhi of Gopal Das Baba from Manipur, who stayed there for four decades. He, too, is told to have received the darshan of Radharani in the course of his bhajan. Completing the parikrama, we reach the temple of Surya-deva.

In the afternoon, Sri Radha and her sakhis walk from Radha-kunda to worship Surya in this temple, and of course, to meet her priyatama. Krishna, posing as a brahmin youngster, his disguise undetected by Jatila who has come to spy on Radha and to ensure she will not meet Krishna, engages Radha in the worship of Surya, having her chant mantras with varieties of clever double-meanings. These nectarine pastimes are narrated in rasika-texts such as Krishna-bhavanamrita and Govinda-lilamrita that describe the asta-kaliya-lila, or the eight-fold daily pastimes of Radha and Krishna.

A lila-kirtan in progress.
After the kirtan in the yard of the ashram of Siddha Baba on the opposite side of the kunda from the temple concludes, another roaring kirtan begins in the kirtan-hall. The kirtan-party dances out and along the streets, reaching the mandir of Surya-deva, where kirtan describing the madhyahna-lila (mid-day pastimes) is sung. As the kirtan-party returns to the ashram, prasada-seva begins. Causathi-mahanta-bhoga has been offered. In the kirtan-hall of the ashram, a plate was prepared for each of the 64 main associates of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a name written next to each of them. This is commonly done in various major festivals.

People sit in rows, and sumptuous prasad is being served.

Causathi-mahanta-bhoga, Gaura-Nitai on the background.
Remembering my latest feast experience and considering the fact that my tummy is still a bit upside down, I just squat at the end of the line without a plate and pick up a sweet to simultaneously honor the prasad and to save myself from the unpleasant consequences of taking anything in bigger quantities. As people are still taking prasad and we have to wait for the others, we do another parikrama of Surya-kunda. Now the parikrama-marga is much more peaceful. We shoot the entire parikrama on video. Expect to see views of the parikrama, as well as of the festival, soon in the media-section.

Reaching Radha-kunda in the evening, we cook the dinner in candle-light, as the electricity is out for change. Satisfied yet exhausted, we call it a day and take rest.
The lake of Sri Chaitanya
Posted: 18th of December, 2004 - 18:44

The Mahaprabhu-mandir is out there, somewhere.
It's incredibly foggy this morning. We had heard that the wintertime would be foggy, but had seen little of it as of yet. However, this morning we seem to have plenty enough. The big Mahaprabhu-mandir opposite us, which you've all seen before, isn't visible at all. Around ten in the morning it begins to dissolve. The fog creates a mystic, eerie atmosphere which I personally enjoyed very much, but the downside of it is in all things practical, such as trying to get your laundry dried.

The electricity was out for a good while in the daytime. Malati was amidst preparing lunch for Thakurji, the dough for the rolls had been sitting in the owen for a couple of hours or so. Eventually we figured that we were the only house in the village without electricity, our cable had broken. Chandana's younger brother seems to be an electrician in making, he fixed the problem in no time at all.

Babaji Maharaja giving patha.
I leave for the patha with Yugal and Braja, who has come over for a visit to meet Baba, and Malati heads to meet a friend of hers to take darshan of her Thakurji. Baba still continues on the same theme, Sriman Mahaprabhu's lila in Nilachala, and more specifically, in the Gambhira, where he relished the heights of Radha-bhava. Baba is very absorbed in the patha, evidently he is envisioning the sports of Gauranga in his heart as he speaks. There is no end to the depth of the mysteries of the Gambhira-lila, just as there is no end to the mysteries of Sri Radha's moods of maha-bhava and divyonmada. Mahaprabhu also tasted manjari-bhava after relishing the moods of Radha, Baba told on another occasion. Narrations of Gaurachandra are a veritable reservoir of Sri Krishna's nectarine pastimes.

kRSNa-lIlAmRta-sAr, yAra zata-zata dhAr |
daza-dig bahe yAhA haite ||
se caitanya-lIlA hay, sarovara akSay |
mano-haMsa carAha tAhAte || (cc 2.25.271)

"Krishna's actions are the essence of the nectar of the gods; their hundreds and hundreds of currents stream in every direction. Send the swan of your mind to swim on the lake of Chaitanya, the fathomless spring from which they arise."

Meeting with Braja, the spirits are high.
After the class, we meet with Malati and head for Baba's darshan. Braja had come over during Purushottama-mas, too. "Oh yes, I have seen you so many times!" Baba says. Braja has brought him some medicinal knee-warmers infused with menthol and other healing extracts. They seem to be a very welcome gift, given that the cold season is right behind the corner.

In the evening time, we spot Ananda Hari at Roman's place and pop in for a visit. They seem to have become good friends. As usual, we end up discussing varieties of lofty subjects at considerable length. What does it mean that the body of a suddha-bhakta is completely spiritualized, why then do we see him suffering of disease and so forth? Can two individuals have the same ekadasa-bhava, the eleven commonly delineated aspects of siddha-deha? I am a bit too short on time to start duplicating these conversations here. To join the fun, book a ticket for Radha-kunda and fly over for a visit.

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