Vitthal Vipul Dev’s appearance day celebrated at Radha Bawri

Vrindavan, 2016. 12.08 (VT): Shri Vitthal Vipul Dev’s appearance day was celebrated amid the devotional events at Radha Bawri in Rajpur Village of Vrindavan. The saints came from Tatiasthan to participate in the congratulatory ‘Samaj’ arranged to pay tribute to the great saint from the Haridasi Sampradaya.
The devotees from Tatiasthan and other ashrams gathered at Radha Bawari in the morning and participated in the devotional event organized in honor of the great saint. A grand feast was organized where hundreds of devotees took prasad.
Shri Vitthal Vipul Dev was the first disciple of Swami Haridas, who appeared in 1532 . His parents were Shri Grujan and Shrimati Kaushalya (maternal Uncle and aunt of Swami Haridas). He left his house at the age of 30 and lived the entire life in Vrindavan. He authored 39 couplets.
He passed away at the age of 70, and his Samadhi is in Vrindavan.
Baba Sohni Saran Das, Baba Raskia Pagal, Baba Alveli Sharan, Baba Madan Bihari Das, Chhote Lal and other saints and brajwasis participated in the devotional ceremony.05vrnp02

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Be brave in Krsna consciousness

(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 06 May 2002, Srimad Bhagavatam 1.5.11)

KKS_harinam.1JPGResistance to surrender comes from maintaining material attachments even after receiving so many instructions on this subject matter. This is what holds us back! But how do we overcome this obstacle? We do so by being brave in Krsna consciousness, by being brave to choose for Krsna. We cannot just be ordinary devotees and just let our spiritual life go along. No, we have to be brave to do something special for Krsna. This is what is required! Let us try to be the exception. Let us not be of average standard and say, “Well, everybody is doing it like this so you cannot expect anything more from me.”

No, let us do something brave for Krsna and Prabhupada and then we will conquer our obstacles. We see in the scriptures the descriptions of those who conquered, they all made special endeavour. So let us try doing something extraordinary in our own way, according to our own inspiration. It is between us and Krsna.

We see in the Bhagavatam, in these pastimes, these personalities all did something special and they got special mercy and it is by mercy that we are going to be purified. We cannot purify ourselves, it is by mercy. We must attract mercy; we need mercy of the devotees, of the sadhus, of real saintly people and we the need mercy of Krsna.

Saintly people are merciful but they do not get too involved with people who are too materially entangled, they give a bit of mercy but then they withdraw from that association. So the more one is endeavouring to be Krsna conscious, the saintly people will notice that and will want to give their mercy. We all can equally attract the mercy of Krsna by special endeavour. This is the only way, there is no other way, be brave and trust Krsna.

Srila Prabhupada in New Vrindaban – 1969

New Vrindaban ISKCON Prabhupada Aghasura Road

The entrance way to New Vrindaban, along the start of the famed Aghasura Road.

Excerpted from an article written by Cintamani Dasi and previously published in the Brijabasi Spirit, October 1985.

It was May 9th, 1969. Before coming to New Vrindaban, Srila Prabhupada visited the Columbus, Ohio center. By some inconceivable good fortune I met him and was initiated. After breaking open the storehouse of love of God in Columbus, Krishna sent Srila Prabhupada to New Vrindaban to bless the ground with his lotus feet.

From Columbus two carloads of devotes went to New Vrindaban. Kirtanananda Swami and Srila Prabhupada drove in a black Lincoln. I was eager to ride in the other car that was going, but Jaya Gopal, the temple president told me, “You can’t go. Srila Prabhupada doesn’t want any bramacarinis in New Vrindaban. Only brahmacharis and married couples.” I was devastated. An Indian lady who was visiting the center asked what was wrong, and I told her. She ran upstairs and told Srila Prabhupada.

“She can come,” he said. “Tell her she can stay as long as I am there.” Srila Prabhupada was so merciful! I got back in the car. Soon, Srila Prabhupada was sitting in the front seat of the other car, and they were off. We tried to keep up with them, but it was not easy.

After a couple of hours, we were driving on the winding roads of West Virginia. Then we went down a bumpy little road and parked next to the old school house.

We (Labangalatika, Nara Narayana, Hrisikesa and I) started walking up a narrow grass path that we could barely see. I was carrying a sleeping bag and a small suitcase, and after the first mile I was wondering if I was going to make it. “Oh God! Oh Krishna! When are we ever going to get there?”

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Srila Prabhupada speaking with his followers outside the original New Vrindaban farmhouse, Spring 1969.

Finally, the small house came into view. As we got nearer, I saw Srila Prabhupada. He was sitting outside on the grass with several devotees around him. He was beaming. It was a beautiful, sunny, transcendental spring day. Seeing Srila Prabhupada made everything perfect. He was just sitting there, looking around at the devotees. It was obvious he really liked it in New Vrindaban.

Satyabhama brought prasadam out for the devotees, and along with Srila Prabhupada we honored the tasty prasadam. Satyabhama then served out more prasadam, but I was skipped. I was thinking, “I want more prasadam, but I don’t want to ask in front of my spiritual master.” Just then Srila Prabhupada looked at me and asked, “You want more?” Amazed, I said, “Yes.” I knew I had to be careful what I thought because Srila Prabhupada knew everything.

Later on, I looked over the “facilities.” The women – Syama Dasi, Labangalatika, and I – stayed on the second floor of the barn, above Kaliya, the cow. There was a well outside for water. In the afternoon we would literally slide down a steep hillside to Kesi Ghat to bathe. It was a little austere, but just being with Srila Prabhupada made everything ecstatic.

It was cold the first night we stayed in the barn. Morning came, and someone hit a gong – time to get up! Near the temple there was a small room where everyone put on tilak before entering the temple. Mangala arotika was so ecstatic! Srila Prabhupada would come downstairs and sit on a raised platform that had a gold pillow on it. Kirtanananda Swami would play harmonium. Sometimes Hayagriva would blow his kelp horn that was so long he practically had to stand in the kitchen to play. Everyone danced ecstatically. Afterwards, Srila Prabhupada would give classes on Srimad Bhagavatam.

After the morning program, the devotees would go to work. I washed pots and dishes. Outside the kitchen there was a wooden platform with a big tin tub on it, and I used to haul up well water and wash pots in the tub. We didn’t have scouring powder or soap. We used sand or pebbles to scrub the posts. They had to be very clean or Srila Prabhupada would complain. The best part about the service was that a few times a day Srila Prabhupada would come outside and walk right by, so even washing pots was ecstatic.

Once, when Srila Prabhupada walked by, a brahmachari was standing in front of the wooden platform playing his guitar, trying to teach me “Govinda Jaya Jaya.” He said he wanted to make a record, but since I was a new devotee, I didn’t know too much. Srila Prabhupada came over and said to him, “Why are you standing so near?” All of a sudden I could feel my face turning red. I realized that Srila Prabhupada didn’t want the women to be talking to the brahmacharis, even if it was just to learn a song. I was thinking, “I wish he would move.” But the brahmachari just stood there and said, “Oh, Srila Prabhupada, I was just teaching her this song.” “Oh,” said Srila Prabhupada, “You are teaching her?” And he just walked away.

After Srila Prabhupada took his lunch he always left some remnants. Often, the brahmacharis would run with his remnants into the woods, tackling each other to get the most. One day a new couple arrived. When the girl saw the brahmacharis running into the woods, she couldn’t understand the meaning of it. I explained that the remnants form the spiritual master’s plate are very potent.

On several occasions devotees came down from New York to visit Srila Prabhupada. The brothers Brahmananda and Gargamuni came one day, wearing jeans and suspenders. They came without notice, which produced some anxiety. “Would there be enough prasadam for Brahmananda?” He really could eat a lot of prasadam.

Prabhupada ISKCON New Vrindaban 1969

Srila Prabhupada & devotees enjoying prasadam near the original New Vrindaban cow barn, Spring 1969.

Although there were only a few devotees, we would still have a Sunday feast. During the feast the pots of prasadam were lined up outside. Every devotee would eat to their full satisfaction. Finished, some of the men would fall asleep on the grass near the pots, wake up later and eat more.

Srila Prabhupada’s lifestyle was so simple in New Vrindaban. Every morning his servant Devananda would heat up water in an aluminum pail over an outside fire. Srila Prabhupada would take the water and bathe in it in a little shack next to the temple. Sometimes in the morning, Srila Prabhupada would get a massage. One day Bhurijana dasa came and was taking some pictures of Srila Prabhupada getting a massage. Srila Prabhupada laughed and said, “These pictures are not for the Back to Godhead magazine!”

In the cool mornings, Srila Prabhupada would often take walks and a servant would follow, fanning him with a big leaf. I used to clean Srila Prabhupada’s room above the temple. In one closed off section he had small Radha Krishna Deities, and in the main section there was a mattress. Next to the mattress were two black trunks with some of Srila Prabhupada’s belongings and books. He used the trunks as a desk.

Prabhupada ISKCON New Vrindaban 1969

Srila Prabhupada seated in his quarters during his first visit to New Vrindaban, Spring 1969.

Early one morning, he came upstairs, surprising me. I was still cleaning his room. On the desk was a garlanded picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. Srila Prabhupada took the garland off the picture and handed it to me saying, “This is from Krishna, with blessings.”

Then the day came for Srila Prabhupada to leave New Vrindaban. Srila Prabhupada walked at a brisk pace down the two mile path with all the New Vrindaban devotees behind him. I felt sad when he left but knew we couldn’t keep him there forever, although I would have liked that. We understood he had to spread Lord Caitanya’s mercy to other fallen souls.

 

Prabhupada New Vrindaban ISKCON Persimmon Tree

Srila Prabhupada sat outside daily under a persimmon tree, Spring 1969.

Special endeavour

(Kadamba Kanana Swami, September 2008, Cape Town, South Africa, Lecture)

CPT_RY2015When the principles of the mode of goodness becomes our second nature, this is the point where you begin to enjoy spiritual life. Spiritual life is very nice! We are chanting and having nice association and we are very happy.

But this is not all. Still we must sacrifice, we must do whatever we can to save condition souls. You may say, “Well, you know, they’re very sinful, very fallen and I don’t know if I can associate too much with those people because I might fall down. It is better to stay safe.”

Sit there safe in your nice little spiritual life, in your sweet little Krsna bubble but know one thing for sure, you are STILL-NOT-FULFILLED! There is STILL-SOMETHING-LACKING! In spite of everything, in spite of having all the Krsna conscious videos that you can imagine, in spite of having 3 000 cd’s, in spite of having 12 000 lectures and 78 000 pictures of Krsna… in spite of all of that still… still somehow or other, a sense of emptiness just hits you every once in a while.

So, if we do not make that sacrifice, if we do not take the trouble to save the condition souls, it will not happen, we will not be truly fulfilled and satisfied.

Banke Bihari took birth in the hearts of his devotees

dsc_0108Vrindavan, 2016.12.04 (VT): Banke Bihari’s appearance day was celebrated with joy and gaiety in Vrindavan on Sunday. Many religious ceremonies were conducted on this occasion. Special congratulatory Samaj Gayan (badhai) was organized at Nidhivan.
The Mahabhishek was performed at the appearance place in Nidhivan at 5 am, where a ceremonial bath was given to the footprints (charan) of Banke Bihari ji with milk, ghee, curd, honey etc.
The celebrations began in early morning in Nidhivan where Banke Bihari appeared, pleased by the devotion of Swami Haridas. The entire premises as well as the Banke Bihari Mandir and its surroundings were decorated with flowers, flags, festoons, balloons and lights.
The ceremonial Mahabhishek was performed by Bhikki Goswami, Bacchu Goswami, Rohit Goswami and others. In the temple, the Mahabhishek was performed at 7 am in full view of the devotees. The perfumes of hina, rose and kesar were sprayed in the temple and the deity of Bihari ji was dressed with special saffron clothes with work of silver and jewels. A Maha-aarati was also performed following the bathing ritual.
A grad procession (badhai shobha yatra) was taken out from Nidhivan. The procession consisted of several brass bands, other musical performing groups, decorated horses, high flags and kirtan groups. It was headed by decorated chariots carrying the images of swami Haridas ji and Radha Krishna sitting on his lap. The sants from different akharas walked with the procession carrying the respective signs belonging to their akhara.dsc_0106dsc_0110
The dandia dance of the women devotees was the center of attraction. The women devotees were dancing and singing badhai. A rope was encircled with sticks around the group of women devotees who were performing the dandia dance so that street traffic would not disturb it.
The procession passed through the main bazaars of Vrindavan to reach the Banke Bihari Temple by the time of Rajbhog at noon. The Goswamis welcomed the procession on reaching the temple. The image of Swami ji was taken inside the temple and then Rajbhog was offered to Bihari ji.
It is believed that Swami Haridas ji feeds Bihari ji with his own hands on this day, and the Lord relish it sitting on his lap on this day. After the Rajbhog aarati, at the end of the celebrations, the Prasad was distributed among the devotees.
The famous couplets of Swami Haridas ji was sung by the devotees:
Mai ri sahaj jori pragat bhai ju rang ki gaur shyam ghan damini jaisen..pratham hun hut abu bun aagen hun rahihai na tarihai taisain…an gang ki ujraii sugharaii chaturaii sunderta aisan….shri haridas ke swami Shyama Kunjbihari sam vais vaisain….

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Delivering the Antidote to Today’s Ills

Srimad-Bhagavakrishna-embracing-calftam contains a discussion between Dharma, in the form of a bull, and the Earth, in the form of a cow. Eventually he asks her, “The so-called administrators are now bewildered by the influence of this age of Kali, and thus they have put all state affairs into disorder. Are you now lamenting this disorder? Now the general populace does not follow the rules and regulations for eating, sleeping, drinking, mating, etc., and they are inclined to perform such anywhere and everywhere. Are you unhappy because of this?” (SB 1.16.22)

In his purport, Srila Prabhupada writes, “The so-called administrators are all untrained in the affairs of a ksatriya. The ksatriyas are meant for administration, as the brahmanas are meant for knowledge and guidance. The word ksatra-bandhu refers to the so-called administrators or persons promoted to the post of the administrator without proper training by culture and tradition. Nowadays they are promoted to such exalted posts by the votes of the people who are themselves fallen in the rules and regulations of life. How can such people select a proper man when they are themselves fallen in the standard of life? Therefore, by the influence of the age of Kali, everywhere, politically, socially or religiously, everything is topsy-turvy, and therefore for the sane man it is all regrettable.”

What Srila Prabhupada wrote more than fifty years ago is relevant today. And the antidote would appear to be to educate people in Vedic knowledge as presented in Srila Prabhupada’s translations of Srimad-Bhagavatam and other books—delivered to them by people such as me and you.

Hare Krishna.

—Giriraj Swami

Vrindavan, November 2016 – Part 3

Read about Vrindavan Part 1

Read about Vrindavan Part 2


Written by Rukmini dd

Monday, 07 November – The Hills of Varsana 

It became a familiar sight to watch Maharaj launch himself into the bus and claim the front seat. Once aboard, he would often break into fluent Hindi (Dutch or English in the same breathe). He dealt with our driver or some locals, taking charge of every situation –  and in India there are always “situations”. The bus ride was never his favourite part of the day. He could’ve easily opted to take a private car and a smoother journey for himself but he made the sacrifice merely to be with us.

Whilst the bus was stalled at a train crossing, Maharaj munched on a couple bananas. Breakfast is never an issue for him on parikrama although he often would consider us and and allow us time to satisfy grumbling tummies whilst he just continued speaking or singing; the glorification of Krsna should be nirantara – incessant.

And then the hills of Varsana rose up in front of us. Adi Kesava and Maharaj planned our route just before exiting the bus. Maharaj was very eager to go to a particular kund, which was to be our last stop. As we walked in to the small town, we suddenly found ourselves lodged between the sharp juncture of two hills with vertically flattened rocks. Maharaj climbed halfway, choose a spot on the rocks and began bhajans at what appeared like a common village crossing.

“Sancaricor, where we are now, is where two hills join; the perfect location for Radha and Krsna to meet. This narrow passage way is the perfect location for the dhankeli lila, where Krsna demanded yogurt and butter as tax. One wonders, ‘Doesn’t it get boring?’ We are always looking for something new, different. On the spiritual platform the pastimes is so sweet one can’t get enough therefore it just continues in different varieties.”

Our next stop was Ciksoli, or the village of Citradevi and it was a climb! Around Varsana are the villages of the astasakis, the eight principal gopis. Here Krsna and his friends would steal yogurt and butter from the storehouse of Citra’s family. On one occasion they were caught and escaped via the window, only Madhumangal got stuck and the elder gopis found him and punished him ‘in the place that mothers do’. The temple was beautiful artwork with a substantial hall to host guests and our kirtan party. On the way back down, Maharaj bumped into Bhakti Caitanya Swami. Vrindavan gifts us the darshan of sages at every turn. We did a quick walk through Srimati Radharani’s garden, which has taken some effort to reinstate, before bracing ourselves for the heights of the Varsana hills.

“We can’t pinpoint these places, we rely on the locals and some places are just there to recreate the transcendental nature of the dham.” We are blind in Vrindavan. What can we see? We move forward, walking in Maharaj’s giant footprints. We sit when he sits, move when he moves, bow when he bows. All we can hope to do is just keep moving, up the devotional terrain, higher and higher, ignoring the complaints of tired bodies. “Keep moving, don’t fall,” was the mantra. Often times he would look over his shoulder to ensure that none of us fell by the way side.

After a brief pause at the Rajastani temple and a stolen darshan, we moved forward. Panda’s block our path every few hundred meters calling, ‘dhaan, dhaan’ beseeching us to pay for our entrance into this holy place, much in the mood of their Lord.  I couldn’t help but feel that ascending the hills of Varsana was but a metaphor for the path back to Godhead. And suddenly we were there at the Sriji temple, a breath taking wonder with a view to stop hearts. The pujaris gave Maharaj preferential darshan and he shared the mahaprasadam with each of us with his own hands, calling for kirtan. After all, should we reach the spiritual world, what would we do? We would do what we always do; chant Hare Krsna.

Varsana gave us many moods of mercy, but solitude was not one of them. Maharaj searched for quiet, meditative spots but it was not to be. We descended from the Sriji temple to the kund that Maharaj was anxiously wanting to visit.

Peelu Pukor

When Srimati Radharani was cooking for Krsna because of Durvasa Muni’s benediction, Mother Yasoda was very pleased with her. She wondered,”Who is this girl, is she the Goddess of Fortune”’ Yasoda was convinced that this girl was the best match for her son. Spontaneously she smeared tumeric on Srimati Radharani’s hands. “What is this?” Srimati Radharani enquired, alarmed, “This means you are now engaged!”

“I’m too young, what will my parents say?”

“Just show it to your parents, they will be happy.” Radha was embarrassed. Lalita said that its just tumeric so she could wash it off. There was a pond nearby, with deep blue water and Sri Radha washed her hands.  As she looked at that that pond she became absorbed in remembering Krsna. She washed her hands and just kept washing and washing till not only the tumeric but her very own golden colour entered the water.

“And so we remember Lord Caitanya because it is by his mercy that we may come here. Local residents are here by their karma, not us. So we respect the local residents, who knows what pious activities they have performed to be here? But for us, Srila Prabhupada created our piety.” Maharaj mentioned that it was easy to see that even in India, a land of saints, Srila Prabhupada his purity and unique love for Krsna stood out. At Peelu Pukor our feet touched the earth again and connected to the ground in gratitude.

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Wednesday, 09 November – Brahmanda Ghat and Raval

As we piled out of the bus at Brahmanda Ghat, Maharaj was the first to quickly circumambulate a sacred tree and appease the pujari with a donation before moving to the actual ghat; only to find a host of local ladies bathing. So he hauled back all the brahmacaris and sent the female disciples down to scout out and let him know when the coast was clear. It was a hilarious start to the day. After our numerous attempts to get them to ‘juldhee, juldhee’ (move quickly) eventually Maharaj descended and settled on a spot midway on the stairs. He began bhajans with some of his classical, never-out-of-fashion tunes. Kirtan began slow and meditative with a gradual build-up and this seemed to be more his mood in the parikramas. He tried to keep the drummers from speeding up but eventually he couldn’t help but reach rocking. The holy name is a natural pivot in all our parikramas and a significant way we gain entrance in this sacred places; to simply serve in singing.

Maharaj opted for us eat to breakfast, since ‘eating’ was quite the mood this of place, it was where Krsna supposedly ate clay. Once Krsna returned from the forest with the cowherd boys. All of them complained in unison to Mother Yasoda that Krsna had ate clay. “It’s a lie,” Krsna said, “A political entreaty. A plot for revenge.” He was innocent. He didn’t do anything. But Balarama testified that Krsna did indeed eat clay. “Even your big brother agrees,” countered Mother Yasoda. “Oh Mother,” crooned Krsna, “How can you think of that of your own son? I can’t believe that my own Mother thinks I’m a liar.”

Within our minds we visited Nanda Maharaj’s palace, quite nearby, and placed the dust on our heads. And more bhajans at the side of the Yamuna. Every holy name must be pronounced to perfection, each unlocking a different mood in the melody.

After Maharaj ate few ‘powder apples’, the tasteless India variety, he motioned to wash his hands at a water pump. A kind villager was pumping water and allowing a cow to drink. Maharaj humbly waited. The cow caught sight of Maharaj and paused to let him wash his hands. Maharaj offered his pranams to the cow before leaving. Who knows who the animals in Vrindavan really are?

Raval

Our next destination was the birth place of Srimati Radharani, Raval. As we exited the bus it was evident that other parikrama parties were both inside and around the main temple in Raval so we entered the temple only to offer our obeisances to the Deities which included a Deity of Radha in childhood form. We crossed over to the nearby gardens and found shelter under a sacred tree which is all you need in Vrindavan. We didn’t realise at first just how sacred that kalpavriksa was; a Tamal tree entwined with a Kadamba tree, representing the Divine Couple. It had been a tiring journey for Maharaj. He had given so much of himself in and around these parikramas that in the first kirtan he almost fell asleep. He switched gear to speaking about our connection to this sacred place.

A theme throughout the parikramas has been that Vrindavan is covered but can be perceived by adjusting our consciousness. Maharaj added that sometimes the dham itself manifests through the external layer, like in the form of the sacred trees where we resided. He explained that the essence of such a sacred place, if we meditated according to our lineage, was to see that we are “simply the servant of the servant of the servant, a hundred times removed” because if we don’t bring such high pastimes back to the level we can assimilate then we risk taking them cheaply. Being very much over our heads in such a setting, he directed us to pray to Srimati Radharani for her mercy; that we may serve with a little love that our worldview may change and for a drop of taste, “What could one drop of taste not do for us?” We had come to Vrindavan looking for Krsna. Maharaj assured us that even if we didn’t find Him, the search was blissful and we would have secured the next drop of mercy that would help us forward. That was how we were to survive – drop by drop.

With these prayers buried in the soft earth of Raval we returned to our buses, dragging our feet. It was such a blessed place. No-one really wanted to leave.

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