Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Year's Reflections, III: Vrindavan Today and Gaudiya Grantha Mandir

As I mentioned in the previous post, I started an on-line newspaper a year and a half ago called Vrindavan Today. This post has been sitting here for more than a week, unfinished. As usual, when this happens the flow of time is producing changes, fluctuations of mood, and so does not truly represent the way I felt on January 1. On the whole, I am much less optimistic about the fate of this project.


When I started this post, I had just posted an article on Vrindavan Today about Shripad Baba. While researching that, I read something about him that was on a blog by Hindi writer Karan Singh Chauhan. I did not have time to translate any of the interesting anecdotes that he wrote. But here is one:

तो देखा आपने बाबा का प्रभाव । पैसे की क्या कमी है ? उनके इशारे पर लाखों आ जाते हैं । आप जानते ही होंगे देवराहा बाबा को । पेड़ पर जो रहते थे । बड़ी-बड़ी हस्तियां उनके दर्शन को आती थीं । पैसे की तो चाह नहीं फिर भी आने वाले बोरा भर कर रख जाते थे ।

आश्रम के चार कमरे नोटों की बोरियों से भरे रहते थे । खुला भंडारा चलता था बारह मास । बाबा तो नहीं रहे, उनके दो-तीन मूढ़ से चेले हैं । वे बाबा के इशारे पर सब काम करते हैं । बाबा ने एक बार कहा कि तीन दिन का अंतर्राष्ट्रीय सेमिनार है, कुछ बंदोबस्त करना होगा । बस चेलों ने दो लोगों के सिर नोटों की बोरी लाद भेज दी ब्रज अकादमी ।

The gist is that although Shripad Baba lived like a vairagi with not a personal penny to his name, he was surrounded by bags of money. He would simply give the sign and hundreds of thousands of rupees would come to him. There was another influential sadhu in Vrindavan, Devraha Baba, who lived in a tree. Many many rich and influential people were constantly visiting him. He did not ask for money from anyone, but they would just leave bags of money there for him and leave. There were four rooms in the ashram and each one of them was filled with gunny sacks of currency notes.

Throughout the twelve months of the year, there would be sumptious food for anyone who was hungry. Even when Devraha Baba was not in the ashram, two or three not so bright disciples would stay there. They would do whatever Shripad Baba told them to do. On one occasion Shripad Baba had a three-day international seminar at the Vraj Academy and had to make arrangements. He told Devraha Baba's disciples and they immediately came there carrying the gunny sacks of money on their heads.

So that is what happens when things get to a certain point of influence and fortune. Which is completely NOT where I am at. I have never been an organizer or activist. This sudden possession by spirits is a combination of unexpected factors and has not met with the approval of everyone who matters to me personally. As a matter of fact, it is already causing a great deal of stress in my personal relationships.

A week ago I was saying: Yes, I have all these projects and come hell or high water I am going to get them ALL done. I was even thinking no particular strategy was necessary, that the pure force of some yogic will would be sufficient to bring everything to fruition. But of course my track record is particularly horrible and one should take that into account before inflating oneself with delusions about changing the world.

I have been doing Vrindavan Today for a year and a half, Grantha Mandira for nearly ten years. I can honestly say that not a penny has come to me personally from either of these projects in all that time.

The Grantha Mandira has been used by thousands of people who have literally downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents from the site, but what to speak of sending money, they don't even help the project's principal goal, which is to improve these texts by correcting mistakes and so on. Either no one really studies the texts or no one cares. I can't believe that nobody studies them or uses them for some purpose or another, even if just for copying and pasting verses, but I can believe that no one gives a damn.

Clearly, I have not thought about this as a money-making operation. I have another purpose. But my friend tells me that blogs are inherently "not serious." No one seems to take me particularly seriously here at this blog either.

In Vrindavan Today, there is the ever-recurring article about the plight of widows in Vrindavan. And brace yourselves for more. Recurring stories we can almost write ahead of time. I have heard that Oprah Winfrey intends to film a special on the subject in January or February.

So we can expect some lovely handwringing from well-meaning Americans who will open their pocketbooks to keep the numerous institutions serving widows in Vrindavan over the next few months. And Vrindavan's reputation as the "city of widows" will be etched even deeper in stone. And like the "international basket case" Bangla Desh, Vrindavan will be known as the town that has its palm eternally stretched out for a donation.

Today on another VT post, I crossposted an article about how wonderful Vrindavan is from an ISKCON devotee. One friend has given me an earful about why I am promoting this stars-in-the-eyes vision of Vrindavan. I should be puncturing balloons not puffing them up.

The ISKCON woman writes, "One hot summer day, when I got stuck in traffic on my way home, and all around me were metal cars, asphalt, huge buildings with shining glass windows. All of this was almost melting from heat and smoke. That is when a picture came to my mind of Krishna and the cowherd boys grazing cows in the forest. I suddenly realized that Srila Prabhupada has got a point there. He actually suggests an alternative to this hellish modern city life."

Then yesterday I posted another article about Shripad Baba and the Vraja Academy, along with George Harrison's impressions of Vrindavan and Devraha Baba in 1971. How he heard "choirs of angels" at night. And yet another article I crossposted laments the changes that the writer has observed in the last few years.

So which is the real Vrindavan? Is there a real Vrindavan?

My idea was that Vrindavan Today is about ALL the Vrindavans. It is the composite picture. And the purpose of the composite picture is that (1) some people will love Vrindavan in all its facets, and (2) will do something to make Vrindavan more like the ideal image of a sacred place.

Blind love is not the best love. I guess that some people are afraid to open their eyes because then their illusions will burst. My idea is that ideals are there only so that we work to realize them. They don't come in one piece.

But in all likelihood, Vrindavan Today will be abandoned as I work on this blog and publishing its contents and message. I am coming to the conclusion that this is my life's main task. Jai Radhe.

1 comment:

Rajesh Jalota said...

Respected Jagatji
In your blogs about Sripad Baba, i did not find any mention of Damodar Baba who is looking ater more than 1000 cows in Sripad Gaushala started by Sripad Baba. Since 2000 i am visiting Gaushala and i am experiencing divinity about that place. The more i read about Sripad Baba, Banke Bihari ji more i want to learn more about and immerse bhakti rasa.