Pilgrimage to Puri (Part III): Gaudiya Vaishnava pilgrimage
- Part I : Tirtha, Kshetra, Dhama
- Part II : Pilgrimage to Puri in the 19th Century
- Part III : Gaudiya Vaishnava Pilgrimage
How a Gaudiya Vaishnava performs pilgrimage
According to our most worshipable Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, performing the Dham parikrama is a way in which a devotee can easily practice the five most powerful acts of devotional service: associating with devotees, chanting the Holy Name, hearing the Bhagavatam, residing in Mathura (or the Holy Dham) and serving the deity form of the Lord.
sādhu saṅga nāma kīrtana bhāgavata śravaṇa
mathurā vāsa śrīmūrtira śraddhāya sevana
sakala sādhana śreṣṭha ei pañca aṅga
kṛṣṇa prema janmāya ei pāṅcera alpa saṅga
eka aṅga sādhe keha sādhe bahu aṅga
niṣṭhā haile upajaya premera taraṅga
One should associate with devotees, chant the holy name of the Lord, hear Srimad Bhagavatam, reside at Mathura and worship the Deity with faith and veneration.
These five limbs of devotional service are the best of all. Even their brief performance awakens love for Krishna. Whether a person executes only one or several of these processes of devotional service, the waves of love of Godhead will well up as a result of his or her fixed determination or niṣṭhā. (CC 2.22.214-5, 219)
śraddhā dūre 'stu pañcake
yatra svalpo 'pi sambandhaḥ
Each one of these five devotional activities is possessed of extraordinary power. Even without faith, if a pure-hearted person has the slightest connection to such activities, he will quickly develop deep feeling for Krishna. (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.238)Since we have had the good fortune to come to this auspicious place, we should not stop chanting the Lord’s name, qualities, or pastimes for even a moment while we are here. Such activities are always auspicious, but when in the Holy Dham, they become even more powerful and effective. They quickly give results in that Krishna’s blessings come more quickly to His devotees in the Dham. This is part of the surrendering process: to believe firmly that Krishna will be merciful.
When in the Holy Dham, one should avoid discussing mundane topics or gossip, but make every effort to concentrate on the Lord’s name, form and pastimes. This is a sign of true intelligence. The topmost form of worship is the worship of the Lord’s holy name:
bhajanera madhye śreṣṭha navavidhā bhakti
kṛṣṇaprema, kṛṣṇa dite dhare mahāśakti
tāra madhye sarvaśreṣṭha nāmasaṅkīrtana
niraparādhe laile nāma pāya premadhana
Of the many ways of executing devotional service, there are nine that are considered to be the best, for they possess a great capacity to deliver love for Krishna and thus Krishna himself. Of these nine processes of devotional service, the most important is the chanting of the Lord=s holy name, for if one chants without committing offences he will obtain the treasure of love for the Lord. (CC 3.4.70-1)The great benefit of coming to a holy place is that it is the place where people dedicated to the spiritual life make their home. Therefore, Bhaktivinoda Thakur says,
tīrtha phala sādhu-saṅga sādhu-saṅge antaraṅga
jathā sādhu tathā tīrtha sthira kari nija citta
sādhu-saṅga kara ataḥpara
The real fruit of visiting the Holy Dham is the association of saintly devotees. In such intimate association, the worship of the Lord is very pleasing. A place is considered holy if saintly devotees are present there. Remember this always and forever associate with devotees. (Kalyāṇa-kalpa-taru, 14)This instruction should be our guideline whenever we go to a holy place. We should all be careful to seek out real devotional treasures when visiting the Holy Dham, making sure that we get the company of devotees who will make our visit there worthwhile. Association with devotees is the root cause of bhakti, and without their mercy, there can be no advancement in devotional service.
mahat-kṛpā vinā kono karme bhakti naya
kṛṣṇa-bhakti dūre rahu saṁsāra nahe kṣaya
No one can achieve bhakti without the blessings of the great devotees. You cannot even attain liberation from material entanglement, what to speak of devotion. (CC 2.22.51)“Taking shelter of Your abode”
Residing in the Holy Dham is part of the fundamental process of devotional service – taking shelter of the Lord or śaraṇāgati.
tavāsmīti vadan vācā
tathaiva manasā vidan
tat-sthānam āśritas tanvā
One who has taken shelter makes use of his body to reside in a holy place connected to the Lord. With his words, he says, “O Lord, I am Yours.” And he uses mind to think of himself as belonging to the Lord. In this way, he enjoys spiritual bliss. (Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 11.677)Anyone who comes to the Holy Dham of Purushottam Kshetra should daily sing the following bhajan written by Bhaktivinoda Thakur, which illustrates this way of taking shelter:
ki jāni ki bale tomāre dhāmete
tumi dayāmaya patita-pāvana
I don’t know what I have done to deserve this, but here I am, taking shelter of Your abode. O savior of the sinful, You have so mercifully dedicated Yourself to saving the fallen.
bharasā āmāra ei-mātra nātha
tumi to karuṇāmaya
tava dayā-pātra nāhi mora sama
avaśya ghucibe bhaya
My only hope, O Lord, is that You are compassionate. This makes me the most worthy recipient of Your mercy, so You will surely erase all my fears.
āmāre tarite kāhāro śakati
dayāla ṭhākura ghoṣaṇā tomāra
adham pāmare trāhi
No one in this world can save me, so sinful am I. Yet You have vowed loudly and clearly to kindly deliver the lowest and most sinful of humankind.
sakala chāṛiyā āsiyāchi āmi
tomāra caraṇe nātha
āmi nitya-dāsa, tumi pālayitā
tumi goptā, jagannātha
I have given up everything to come here and fall down at Your feet, O Lord. I am Your eternal servant, O Jagannath, and I make You my protector and maintainer.
tomāra sakala āmi mātra dāsa
āmāre taribe tumi
tomāra caraṇa karinu varaṇa
āmāra nahi to āmi
Whatever I have is Yours. I am only a servant and You will take care of me. I have accepted Your lotus feet as everything in my life, I make no claim even over my very self.
bhakativinoda kāṅdiyā śaraṇa
layeche tomāra pāya
kṣami aparādha nāme ruci diyā
pālana koro he tāya
I, Bhaktivinoda, cry as I take shelter of Your lotus feet. Since I have done so, forgive me my offenses; give me a taste for chanting Your holy name and protect me always. (Śaraṇāgati)
Seeing the Dham with transcendental eyes
One often hears criticism of Lord Jagannath’s sevaks, the temple priests, whether it be for their exploitation of pilgrims, the laxity of their spiritual practices, the insincerity of their faith, or some other transgressions, real or imagined. Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself addressed this issue in his short work, The Temple of Jagannath at Puri (1871). It is clear from the Thakur’s career and statements that he sympathized with reformist tendencies that sought to eliminate corruption from the religious life of India.
A devotee is naturally troubled to see a holy place not being treated with the proper dignity by the people who live there or those who visit it. This is expressed in the idea of dhāmāparādha, or “offences to the Holy Dham.” The primary offense to the Holy Dham is considering its residents as ordinary people. Proper Vaishnava behavior is to treat all the Dham’s residents as denizens of the spiritual world, as is repeatedly stated in the Puranas.
aho kṣetrasya māhātmyaṁ
diviṣṭhā yatra paśyanti
sarvān eva caturbhujān
How glorious is this land, eighty miles across from one end to the other. The demigods look down on this land and see that all its residents have four arms like those of Vaikuntha. (BRS 1.2.106, from Brahma Purana)
kṣetraṁ tad durlabhaṁ vipra samantād daśa-yojanam |
tatrasthā dehino devair dṛśyante ca caturbhujāḥ ||
praviśantas tu tat kṣetraṁ sarve syur viṣṇu-mūrtayaḥ |
tasmād vicāraṇā tatra na kartavyā vicakṣaṇaiḥ ||
When the gods look down on this rarest of lands, which is twenty miles across, they see that everyone who lives there has a four-armed form. Even those who simply visit that land take on spiritual forms like that of Vishnu. Therefore one should be careful to never judge its residents. (Padma-purāṇa 7.11.5-6)
se sthānera prabhāve yojana daśa bhūmi
tāhāte basaye jata jantu kīṭa kṛmi
sabāre dekhaye caturbhuja deva-gaṇe
bhuvana-maṅgala kari kahiye je sthāne
nidrāteo je sthāne samādhi-phala haya
śayane praṇāma phala jathā vede kaya
pradakṣiṇa phala pāya karile bhramaṇa
katha-mātra jathā haya āmāra stavana
hena se kṣetrera ati prabhāva nirmala
matsya khāileo pāya haviṣyera phala
By My holy influence, the gods see every single living being in the ten yojanas of this territory, even including the worms and insects, as four-armed beings. I have made everyone there a source of good for the entire world. By the holy potency of Jagannath Puri, even one who spends his time there sleeping gets the benefits associated with samadhi; one who just lies down gets the fruits of paying obeisance; one who walks about that land gets the fruits of circumambulating the deity; simply by talking, one gets the results of offering praises to the Lord; and even someone who eats fish in this holy land gets the fruit of eating haviṣyānna.
nija-nāme sthāna mora hena priyatama
tāhāte jateka baise se āmāra sama
se sthāne nāhika yama-daṇḍa-adhikāra
āmi kari bhāla-manda vicāra sabāra
This land has been named after Me because I love it so much. All those who live here are equal to Me. The Lord of Death has no right to come here to punish the residents of this land. I am the only one who judges their good or bad actions. (Cbh 3.2.371-7)This means that for the Western mind, there are occasionally sensibilities that are offended and experienced as cultural clash. Hypocrisy, greed, and uncleanliness are some of the flaws that may spring to the eyes.
In 1990, when a piece of masonry fell from an arch on the Jagannath temple, Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj wrote, “These events have caused people to make all kinds of speculations and criticisms [of the temple priests]. Of this we say that Lord Jagannath is the master and controller of the universe. He is the life of every living being’s life. It is incorrect to blame a handful of Lord Jagannath’s direct servants for defects in His service while making a hypocritical show of piety oneself.”
Anyone who believes in the concept of Jagannath’s sacredness and in the idea of reincarnation as explained in the Bhagavad Gita must recognize the fundamental venerability of anyone who is born or takes up residence in a holy land like Puri. This requires a special effort to recognize how the sacred is manifest there. Though this may at times be difficult, cultivation of this attitude should be considered an integral part of any pilgrimage. One who wishes to make the most of his or her visit to the Holy Dham should take care to remain in the company of pure devotees. This is the starting point for all spiritual advancement.
On the other hand, there is no reason that devotees from whatever part of the world cannot work to the greater glory of the Dham without offending those who live there, by performing various kinds of selfless service.