Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bengal I

My next door neighbor here in Vrindavan was a woman named Krishna Kumari Dasi, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada’s who had had a pretty rough life in ISKCON, to say the least. At any rate I wrote about this place on Vrindavan Today a couple of years ago. LINK.

As it so happens, things change and right now, the garden stands empty... Akhiladhar has gone to St. Petersburg with his wife to settle visa issues and to collect money to develop the property. He wants to create a separate venue with guest house for Russian devotees.

gave me the key and so the last couple of nights I have been going there to do a little kirtan. The dominant feature there is the rather full sized figures of Gaura Nitai standing in front of the Yamuna, with Madan Mohan temple in the background. But as I sing the Gaura arati of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, the river sure looks like the Ganga to me.

The statues were made by Akhiladhar, though he told me he was not an artist... I had to laugh at the uncanny resemblance Gaura and Nitai had for Krishna Kumari herself. What emotional currents flow beneath the waves of our lives...

Picture from 2011.

The surroundings were all thatched roofed structures. Actually, such imagination... The whole thing reminded me a bit of Gadadhar Pran and the Nabadwip of his imagination. I had a momentary fear as I lit the incense that the whole miniscule Bengali village would go up in flames.

* * * * *

A few weeks ago, I was at the Jiva Institute when I met Ishan Gaura Das, a British devotee who lives in Denmark. He has written a number of books on various subjects. He researched the parampara, he told me, and decided that he wanted to have a connection with Bhaktivinoda Thakur through Lalita Prasad Thakur and he asked me if I had a godbrother at Radha Kund, as he had heard. So, yes, Harigopal Dasji Maharaj, our old Bhakta Das, who has been living there in Gaur Dham Colony in Radha Kund for the past 30 years, in a small plot of land. He leads the babaji lifestyle, took vesh from Ananta Dasji, and just does bhajan, daily parikrama of Govardhan for the past 30 years. So I gave Ishan Gaura a little map of Gaur Dham and off he went.

A few days later, he came back and told me that he had taken initiation from Harigopal Dasji. He had simply gone to him and told him he wanted to have this connection. And off he went back to Denmark.

A few days after that, Harigopal phoned me and told me what he had said before: Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s birthplace is falling apart and if something is not done, the place will be lost or destroyed. The Gaudiya Math and ISKCON are hovering around like vultures, and Lalita Prasad Thakur’s legacy will have no one to carry it on. The committee of the Bhaktivinoda Goshthi has appealed to him as the only disciple, it would seem, with any kind of stature, to please come to Dwadash Mandir and help to give it some life.

Of course, life means money, which is not really a babaji’s business, and Harigopal may have a little property there, but he is a pretty genuinely renounced Vaishnava, as far as I can tell. But now that he has a disciple, he is thinking how to serve the Guru Pat. He asked me to go with him to Bengal for the annual meeting of the committee in Birnagar, and with Ishana Gaura’s help he wants to start building a boundary wall to protect the Dwadash Mandir property. At any rate, on May 22, I will be going to Bengal for the first time in ages.

I wrote that I do not know whether or not I can do anything in service, or even if my presence will be welcomed. But it is time that I served my Guru with humility.


* * * * *

When Ramdas conceived of the Garden of Gratitude, he did so with the spirit of Bengal. It was a dream that Prabhupad made real: It was the world of Gaura-Nitai. The Garden has seats and footprints of many of Mahaprabhu's intimate associates. It is the world of Gaudiya devotion in an ideal form, one that has had trouble keeping its life. The aesthetics of the garden, the physical mood has been created, but it is empty, and to survive it will need a three-storey guest house, for which some of these mud and thatch cottages will be destroyed.

No comments: