So I took a major step today. In my strategic program of concerted efforts to tie myself down to this place called Vrindavan, I went to the Sri Sri Radha Damodar temple and begged the sevayat, Sri Balaram Goswami, for the privilege of giving daily readings from the Bhagavata Tenth Canto or Gopala Champu in front of Srila Rupa Goswami's samadhi.
He has shown favor to the idea and we are to finalize tomorrow the times and so on. When a starting day has been fixed, I will invite all of you, my dear readers, to come and join me in a little, inostentatious ceremony there worshiping the Bhagavatam and for you to give me your blessings.
Holi has passed and the hot season is coming. The mood usually changes abruptly after Holi. But Vrindavan’s sustained, increasing energy is observable, as clearly as the scientists are able to observe the rise of the global temperature.
Here it was a Friday, which explains in part why the streets are as crowded as on any weekend or holiday. Ammachi is coming to Vrindavan in a few days and this will definitely mean a major influx of people at the Fogla ashram, you can be sure. Hundreds of thousands of people attended Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s event in Delhi, and many of those visitors -- some of whom came from around the world -- naturally overflowed into Vrindavan.
Every temple is brimming with life, it seems. But none more so than Radha Damodar. Of all the temples in the old town, Radha Damodar is the most international, mainly because of the presence of Srila Prabhupada’s quarters.
I came in the evening and a Tirtha Brahmin was sitting with a small group of middle-class Indians and telling them about Prabhupada. He wryly noted that there were three white-skinned people sitting in the room with us. I complimented him in Hindi to thank him for putting Srila Prabhupada on his “tour” as it were. I appreciated his awareness of the history of Vrindavan and Srila Prabhupada’s place in it, which is just as a religious tour guide should.
Balaram Goswami had seen the brief resume of Nirmal Chandra Goswami’s life written by Hari Bhakta Das that we published when his father left the world of mortals not so long ago. We spoke of his father and what had been written there (http://news.vrindavantoday.org/2016...). Following that, I explained to him a little of what I had written in my article about the three Vrindavans.
He understood perfectly what I was saying about the three Vrindavans.
I think he himself looked a little amazed at what is happening. Radha Damodar vibrates the best of Vrindavan energy. Either it is because the Yoga Peeth is so close, perhaps like the magnetic north pole and the geographical north pole, differently empowered, it does indeed vibrate.
The deities themselves sparkle in the electric light bouncing from their silver thrones to the constant sound of kirtan. Pairs of Radhas and Krishnas, all bigger than life, yet looking mesmerizing with their unblinking eyes, giving the same loving expression, their faces painted so as to turn them into mandalas, pools into which you can sink into a kind of aesthetic simplicity and ethereal calm.
And then there is the parikrama of the temple and the samadhis. This is much favored by people of all kinds. One woman, otherwise unremarkable, went streaming past me (I was admittedly looking this way and that, drinking it all in) with a strong and steady, determined Radhe Radhe! Another young father was holding his five-year-old’s hand and telling him to repeat the name of Radha. There were gaggles of colorful blond Russian girls seriously sitting in front of Jiva Goswami’s samadhi, but talking animatedly. One was showing another the samadhis of Siddhanta Saraswati and Narayan Maharaj.
My own eye was first drawn to the samadhi of Ananta Vasudeva Puri Das, who somewhat fittingly for me, stands first in this parade of Gaudiya Math presences in front of Kaviraj Goswami.
There was a young boy I first noticed praying before the Yogamaya temple, whose presence there drew my attention to that shrine. Then again I saw him stand extremely reverently behind the samadhi of Rupa Goswami, his head touching the wall. And again once bowing on his knees. He did not look physically particularly well or clean, an older street urchin or beggar, perhaps someone who had labored all day in the heat, but his devotional mood felt genuine and strong. He had no awareness of anything but his prayers, and yet there was no anxiety of a prayer coming from worries or material concerns.
I never cared much for the enclosing of the entire parikrama with a low ceiling. It felt to me like the hallways in a subway station or something. Which may for all I know to have been the intention, for it is always well frequented. Seven times, they say, is equal to once around Govardhan. Frankly I must be honest and say that despite the good intentions, it has to be one of the worst architectural errors I could possibly imagine.
Nevertheless I was very pleased to note that the Braj Vikas Trust has been doing some really quite elegant pink stone work in the haveli style on the inside of the main courtyard. I cannot imagine that Srila Bhakti Gaurava Narasingha Maharaj is not involved with this project, since he has (despite the subway halls and all that) been a sincere servant of Radha Damodar for many years and deserves all praise for it. Since the stone work is a little understated as the color is very light, it almost passed me by when I first came into the temple, and only noticed it after talking to Balaram Prabhu, so we did not discuss it and I was unable to ask these questions of him. But anyway, thumbs up as they say for the Braj Vikas Trust and the work they are doing restoring these temples.
You can see the new Govindaji temple here. The Braj Vikas Trust has also done the new Gopinath temple, Madan Mohan temple, and the Kaliya Daha temple. They seem to have no consideration of whether they are being profited on or not. At any rate I really liked the way the new Govindaji temple had been tastefully painted. It really brought out its 18th century feel of the building.
So, if everything goes well, I will shortly be taking a major step in my life by committing to a regular teaching activity, nitya patha, at a particularly sacred location with the express purpose of getting the mercy of Srila Rupa Goswami, Srila Jiva Goswami, Srila Bhugarbha Goswami and Krishnadas Kaviraj, Bir Ham Bir is also there... and of course the list goes on of our glorious parampara.
And there sits Srila Prabhupada in the procession, in a place of honor in the array. This is where the inspiration came from, I said to Balaram Prabhu. This was the energetic powerhouse that sent Srila Prabhupada outward. Prabhupada never kept his distance from the Goswamis. He had many friends among them and was obviously respected by them, from even before he came back with those dancing white elephants. But Srila Prabhupada must have quite understood that a great symbolic purpose was being arranged in his life, and that Krishna granted that symbolic purpose by giving him residence in the traditional nesting place of this particular breed of birds.
And here am I, one of Prabhupada’s offspring, beckoned from afar to come to serve at the Jiva Institute! Balaram Prabhu immediately asked after Satya Narayan Baba when I told him I stayed in Sheetal Chaya. There is this Jiva connection; Satya Narayan Dasji has also carved out a niche with Jiva Goswami. And it makes me proud to also be able to participate in and serve this tradition. Which is why I will be very pleased if the Lord will let me do this.