VMA 1.73: If you can't live there yourself, then help make it possible for others

Originally posted on Vrindavan Today. Widows come to Vrindavan especially from Bengal. To help them live in the Dham is a service that will help your Braja-vasa sadhana.
Previous 1.72, "If you can't give up the world, then meditate on Vrindavan" introduces the subject that is continued in today's verse.

vastuḥ koṭi-guṇaṁ śrutaṁ hi sukṛtaṁ vāso’nna-vāsādibhiḥ
tīrthe vāsayituḥ svayaṁ hi tarati dvau tau sa yat tārayet |
premānanda-rasātma-dhāmani pare vṛndāvana-vāsakas 
tv āścaryāṁ vṛṣabhānujā-priya-ratiṁ prāpnoty anāyāsataḥ ||

We have heard that one who serves
those who live in a holy place
by giving them housing, clothing and food
has millions more pious activities to his credit
than one who simply lives there.

And one who helps others dwell in sacred Vrindavan,
the abode that has the nectar bliss of pure love as its essence,
easily attains the amazing feeling of love
for the beloved of Vrishabhanu Raja’s daughter,
for he not only crosses over himself,
but helps those two others cross over. 


The etymological meaning of tīrtha is “ford” or “place of crossing.” It is the place where one crosses over to the other side. As we have noted before, tīrthas were places where one went to die, for they were believed to have a special connection to the other world. They were places where the sins of a lifetime could be washed away in an instant and one’s consciousness turned towards the Absolute, in whatever way one conceived of it.

But though the Puranic texts are full of magical tales of absolution, these are mostly aimed at people with childish intelligence. Behind all magic is method, and the salvation that comes from the holy places is not simply a matter of bathing or cleansing the external surface of one’s mundane being, but the cleansing of all of the upādhis in order to realize one’s true identity as a spiritual being. The principal process for attaining such a goal is hearing spiritual truths from individuals who are situated in knowledge. Therefore Krishna makes the powerful statement in the Bhāgavatam,

yasyātmabuddhiḥ kuṇape tridhātuke
svadhīḥ kalatrādiṣu bhauma ijyadhīḥ |
yat tīrthabuddhiḥ salile na karhicij
janeṣv abhijñeṣu sa eva gokharaḥ ||
One who thinks that the self is this body made of mucus, wind and bile, who thinks his wife and relations belong to him, and that the land of his birth is worshipable, and moreover thinks that the holy places are meant for bathing and not for associating with those who have experience of spiritual matters, is nothing better than a cow or mule. (10.84.13)
The glory of such saintly residents of the tīrthas is further stated by Maharaj Yudhisthir to his uncle Vidura,

bhavad-vidhā bhāgavatās
tīrtha-bhūtāḥ svayaṁ vibho
tīrthī-kurvanti tīrthāni
svāntaḥ-sthena gadābhṛtā
Great devotees like yourself are themselves places of pilgrimage. Indeed, you make the places of pilgrimages truly holy, for you carry the Lord in your heart. (1.13.10)
All the above applies in even greater measure to Vrindavan. Vrindavan is the abode from which all other holy places get their power. This is the meaning behind stories such as the appearance of Radha Kund, where all the sacred rivers gathered to enter into its holy waters. Where there is a higher truth, all lesser truths participate in it and derive their own truth from it.

We have been hearing from Prabodhananda of the alternatives to a life of austerity and total commitment to bhajan in the Dham. Now here he glorifies one additional service to the saints living there. Vrindavan stands above all other tirthas, the glories of which are amply spoken of in the scriptures. The holy places all have a special status because they are where saints congregate and dwell to perform their spiritual practices in the company of like-minded sādhakas.

The holy places have traditionally not only provided shelter for such dedicated men, but also for women who whether out of misfortune or out of genuine spiritual desire come to receive charity. The widows who live in Vrindavan should not be seen as ordinary mortals, for the glories of the Dham are such that one is not permitted to discriminate between superior and inferior residents of the Dham. There are no doubt more and less spiritually serious sādhakas in the Dham, more and less honest or determined sadhus, but it is one of the functions of tirthas and the Dham that they are places for people to give and to receive charity. And here Prabodhananda glorifies those who given in charity to the residents of the Dham, those who make residence there possible for others, as being eligible for rati or bhāva for Krishna, the lover of Radha.

So for those who are not able to live in the Dham themselves, this is certainly a golden opportunity, a way to serve the Dham.

It has not been my habit to ask for charity for myself or for others, but over the years I have either started or participated in projects in the Dham where money is needed. I will give a short list here and ask for those who are charitably disposed and would like to help these various services to progress to please get in touch with me at the email for this blog "premaprayojan" at google mail to find out the best way to send donations.

  1. Vrindavan Today. After the recent difficulties with VT, we have incurred legal expenses in order to go through the dispute resolution mechanism for regaining control of the Vrindavan Today brand. I am also very much eager to expand the website by hiring writers and a website manager. It is hard to find volunteers, and even volunteers need to live. There are also office expenses and so on. Those who would like to get a daily dose of Braja raj will certainly benefit from expanded services. But VT is more than a news blog, it has the potential to promote and help a variety of services to the Dham via the Braj Vrindavan Heritage Alliance. So donating to this project will have multiple beneficial repercussions.
  2. Birnagar Dwadash Mandir. I have been giving information about Bhativinoda Thakur's birthplace where I have been staying there for the past month. Harigopal Dasji has been working very hard to restore the buildings and to construct facilities for the bhaktas, especially needed during the annual festival, which just finished a few days ago. The monthly maintenance costs are Rs. 30,000, which are collected with some difficulty. For those living in wealthier countries, this is not a significant amount (about 500 US$) but a headache for us here. Harigopal Dasji Maharaj estimates that projects like restoring the man-made lake, finishing the repairs on the Shiva mandirs, finishing the incompleted constructions will take at least another 5 lakhs (10K US$). I am also eager to do some publishing both in English and Bengali, such as the Sva-likhita-jivani, Harinama-chintamani, Bhajana-rahasya and other translations in English, while I think there is a need for a collection of all of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's writings in a single set of volumes, a "collected works" series, ideally in both English and Bengali. Donating to these projects will help keep Bhaktivinoda Thakur's parampara through Lalita Prasad Thakur vibrant.
  3. Gadai Gauranga Kunj. Currently I am posting Gadadhar Pran's latest book, "Another Side of Bhaktivinoda Thakur." Gadadhar has no stable source of income to maintain his ashram, and I think it is high time that his valuable books became more easily available to devotees around the world. Those who are interested in bhajan will have great difficulty in find a more valuable resource than these books, which are not easily available in printed form. Some help in this regard would be greatly appreciated. You can contact GP directly at gadadhar_das000@yahoo.co.in.
  4. I myself have plenty of material that I would like to see published. And of course there is the Grantha Mandir, which is a potential publication resource and needs some committed and competent staff to work on it. 
Of course, better than money would be committed and competent volunteers who are interested in doing the service directly... much of which requires advanced education in shastra as well as bhajana-nishtha, or commitment to spiritual practice. All the above are great opportunities to advance in those aspects of devotional culture. But as Prabodhananda Saraswati is saying here, if you cannot do it yourself, help others to do it. Through those you help, you will help many, many others.


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