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Sheela_Mata_Temple_Agroha.jpgBraj (Devanagari: ब्रज), also known as Brij or Brijbhoomi, is a region in Uttar Pradesh of India, around Mathura-Vrindavan. Brij, though never a clearly defined political region in India, is very well demarcated culturally. The area stretches from Mathura, Jalesar, Agra, Hathras and Aligarh right up to Etah, Auraiya and Farrukhabad districts. It is believed to be the land of Krishna and is derived from the Sanskrit word vraja. The main cities in the region are Mathura, Jalesar, Bharatpur, Agra, Hathras, Dholpur, Aligarh, Etawah, Auraiya, Mainpuri, Etah, Kasganj and Firozabad. The term "Braj" means "Pasture", and a settlement of herders and cattle breeders or Abode of Yadavs/Aheers or yaduvanshsthali. The residents or natives of Braj are called Brijwasi. Braj bhasha or Brij bhasha, closely related to spoken Hindi with a soft accent, is spoken throughout the region.

Брадж или Вра́джа (хинди ब्रज), также Бра́джбуми, Враджабху́ми — исторический регион в индийских штатах Уттар-Прадеш, Раджастхан и Харьяна. Является священным местом паломничества для вайшнавов, так как согласно Пуранам и другим текстам индуизма, в этом месте родился и провёл свою юность Кришна. Самые крупные города на территории Враджа — это Матхура, Агра, Алигарх и Майнпури. Географически и культурно Врадж расположен в самом центре доаба Ганги-Ямуны, который с древности являлся центром развития индийской культуры. Врадж занимает территорию в 3800 км² и располагается в "золотом треугольнике" Дели-Джайпур-Агра. Врадж можно разделить на два региона — восточную часть, в которой расположены такие места, как Гокула, Махаван, Балдео, Мат и Баджна; и западную часть, где находится округ Матхура с такими местами паломничества, как Вриндаван, Говардхан, Кусум-саровара, Варшана и Нандаграм. Врадж расположен на территории современных округов Матхура (Уттар-Прадеш), Бхаратпур (Раджастхан) и Палвал (Харьяна). Регион Враджа простирается от местечка Котбан в 95 км от Дели до Рунакты в районе Агры — места, получившего известность в связи с великим поэтом Сурдасом. Жителей региона называют "бриджбаси" или "враджабаси". Население Враджа разговаривает на диалекте хинди браджбхаша.

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4FEhy0YXl5Y.jpgTo celebrate Shri Krishna’s Janmotsava every year, King Vrishabhanu, Rani Kirtida, Radharani and their whole family stay four days in Nanda Baba’s palace (Bhadra Krishna 7-10th).

Two weeks later, Nanda Maharaj, Yashoda Maa, Krishna and family come to Barsana and stay three days in King Vrishabhanu’s palace to celebrate Srimati Radhika’s birthday. From the first to the 8th day of the bright half of Bhadra month, King Vrishabhanu elaborately decorates all the homes and streets in Barsana in preparation for Radha’s appearance. Musicians and drummers purify the atmosphere with a continuous flow of auspicious songs and ragas.

Two days before Radhashtami, Vrishabhanu Maharaj sends Shridham to invite Nanda Baba and family to come honor Shri Radha’s birthday. On the 7th morning, Nanda Baba, Shri Krishna and Their family come to Barsana in bullock carts, palanquins and by walking. Kirtidarani and Vrishabhanu Maharaj warmly greet them, arrange their rooms and feed them nicely.

Shri Radha, Lalita-sakhi, Vishakha-sakhi and other gopi yutheshvaris cook rice, puris, sabjis and kheer, which is offered to Bhagavan Narayana and then served out to all the guests.  Shri Radhika and the gopis lovingly quarrel over serving first. Yashoda pacifies everyone by making different lines with a different sakhi serving each one. After eating, everyone rests in their guestrooms.

As per the usual asta-kaliya lila schedule, Shri Radha cooks something for Krishna. Then carrying these items, Srimati and all go to Radha-kunda, meet Krishna, and enjoy Their midday pastimes.

Radhashtami

In the morning of Radhashtami, everyone watches Radhika’s grand abhishek performed by Gargi, daughter of the kula-guru Garga Rishi. Musicians play vinas, dolaks, mrdangas, dundubhis and pakhowajas. Paurnamasi blesses Radha with different mantras. After bathing Radha with herbal water, panchamrit and gavya, a hundred pots of water, and a huge conch showering water through the 1,000 jal patra, Shri Radha is anointed with fragrant oils, musk, sandal and camphor and dressed.

The manjaris offer a beautiful arati to Radharani. Yashoda Maa offers blessings and wonderful gifts of costly clothes and ornaments to both Shri Radha and Her yutheshvaris. Vrishabhanu Maharaj and Radharani donate ornamented cows and calves. Then Radhika and Her sakhis take some prasada and then start cooking a feast.

In jest, Yashoda Maa says to Kirtida, “Sakhi, you are so hard hearted that you make tender Radha cook so much!” Kirtida replies, “Because our Radhika got a unique boon to cook nectar-filled health foods, my Prabhu Vrishabhanu wants you and Nanda Maharaja to savor Radha’s delicious preparations today. After Radha and the sakhis finish cooking, Yashodarani blesses them all and has some manjaris fan Radha to remove Her fatigue.

The Yogurt Game

Later everyone proceeds to the bank of Bhanukhor, King Vrishabhanu’s bathing tank on the east side of Barsana hill. Then, like on Janmashtami, everyone starts playing Dadhikada, a game of throwing yogurt, butter and milk on each other. Afterwards, according to age and gender, everyone bathes in different corners of Bhanukhor, eats and takes rest.

Later, Shri Radha goes to Radha-kunda and enjoys all Her usual pastimes with Krishna. The only exception to Their daily asta-kaliya lila flow is that, for these three days, Shri Krishna is staying with Radha in Her own palace in Barsana!

Naumi Lilas

The next morning in Barsana, Radha-Krishna and the gopis bathe, eat and go out to perform Their usual morning pastimes. At noontime, Radha-Krishna and the gopis go to Mor Kutir in Barsana and Krishna entertains the gopikas by dancing like a peacock. Then Radha and Krishna throw laddus to all the sakhis. Later, at midday, Radha and Krishna dance the Rasa in a secret place in Gehvara, Radha’s personal garden/forest just near Her father’s palace.

In the late afternoon everyone returns to the palace. At that time, Shri Krishna, Nanda Baba and his family take leave from King Vrishabhanu and return home to Nandagram in the topmost bliss.

Shri Radha’s three day janmotsava ki jai!

Jai Jai Shri Radhe!

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swing-darshan-768x506.jpgQuestion to Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji: In Bhakti Rāsāmṛta Sindhu 1.2.24, Śri Rupa Gosvāmipāda quotes SB 3.25.26 about Śri Kṛṣṇa’s beauty, and how a bhakta can never desire any sort of mukti after realizing Śri Kṛṣṇa‘s sweetness.
This makes perfect sense to me. I do have a doubt about the experiences of jñāna-mārga saints, especially those from Maharashtra who had darśana of Śri Kṛṣṇa but remained jñānis. Here are a few examples:

1. Nāmadeva Mahārāja, born in the 13th century, is said to have had darshan of Lord Viṭṭhala and Rukmiṇi Devi whenever he desired. The popular story is that Lord Viṭṭhala told him that he (Nāmadeva) did not really understand Him, and that he should surrender to jñāna-mārga guru, Śri Visoba Khechar, to realize nirguṇa-nirākāra Brahman. (I personally have zero faith in this story. It is suggested that writings from this period have been lost or corrupted).

2. G.K. Pradhan talks about meeting Shankar Maharaj, a realized avadhuta from the Dattatreya sampradaya, and asking him, “Did Bhagavad Gītā really happen?” In reply, Shankar Maharaj put his hand on his head, and G. K. Pradhan suddenly found himself in the middle of a huge battlefield, seeing Śri Kṛṣṇa speaking Gītā to Arjuna. G.K. Pradhan remained a jñāni aspiring for brahma-jñāna.

3. Mama Deshpande, a saintly person in the Dattatreya sampradaya, is said to have had darśana of rāsa līlā and then fainted. But he did not become Vaiṣṇava.

One may argue that great jñāna-yogīs and brahma-jñānis had darśana of Śri Hari and remained in jñāna-mārga, thus realizing that nirguṇa-nirākāra-Brahman is higher than realization of the personal form of Śri Kṛṣṇa.

Such arguments have no support in Bhagavad Gītā; the Bhāgavata, right from the very beginning (ātmā-rāmas ca munayo), refutes them. But how am I to understand the examples cited by the jñānis about realized yogīs having darśana of Śri Kṛṣṇa and still aspiring for brahma-sāyujya? Why would Śri Kṛṣṇa manifest Himself before them? Are these lies or some form of ābhāsa? Or is the form seen an illusory form of Śri Kṛṣṇa (like the asura who created an illusion of killing Śri Kṛṣṇa’s father Vāsudeva while fighting Śri Kṛṣṇa)?

Having read Tattva Sandarbha, I am not very disturbed by this doubt, The Bhāgavata is the pramāṇa and anecdotal evidence cannot be accepted as a valid source of spiritual knowledge. But it would be helpful to resolve/reconcile these stories.

Answer: The answer lies in the verse itself: in BRS 1.2.24, Śri Rupa Goswamipāda quotes SB 3.25.26 about Śri Kṛṣṇa’s beauty and how a bhakta can never desire any sort of mukti after realizing Śri Kṛṣṇa‘s sweetness.

“Realizing Śri Kṛṣṇa‘s sweetness” is the important part of this verse. These people whom you have mentioned saw Kṛṣṇa but did not realize His sweetness. They only saw Him according to their concept in jñāna-mārga but not as love personified. Kaṁsa also saw Kṛṣṇa but he saw Him as death personified, mṛtyur bhojapateḥ (SB 10.43.17)

Many people had darśana of Kṛṣṇa but saw him as per their bhāva. The bhāva of the Maharastrian saints was that Kṛṣṇa is the personified Brahman. So they saw Him as such. Therefore, they did not give up their concept of jñāna-mārga. Rather, their bhāva was confirmed. Kṛṣṇa says—ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham: “I reciprocate according to the bhāva of persons who approach Me.”

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After extensively studying Vedic scripture, Shri Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji realized the necessity of establishing a proper facility to protect and spread this ancient knowledge. With the support of his family and guru, Shri Haridas Shastri Maharaj, Babaji founded the Jiva Institute of Vedic Studies, which focuses on translating and teaching rare religious texts. Babaji has been teaching Vedic philosophy to an international audience for several decades. Recently, he was invited to speak at Facebook headquarters.

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Baba-Anand-Gopal-Das.jpgDelhi/Mathura, 27.08.2019

Anandgopal Das has filed an affidavit in the National Green Tribunal relating to concerns for his safety after a video with death threats started circulating on social media.

Anandgopal Das and the Giriraj Sanrakshan Sansthan are active participants in the battle to protect Govardhan, however, now the activist feels that his life is in danger by those who dislike his work of drawing attention to the issue.

The affidavit also mentions the lack of progress on the 17 points that the NGT has drawn up for Govardhan protection and development.

Govardhan faces severe traffic problems, especially on weekends and festival days, making it almost impossible for residents to reach their own homes, however, work on the long awaited ring road is moving at a snail’s pace.

Furthermore, according to Anandgopal Das, police deliberately harass residents by stopping their vehicles on the Parikrama and the anger gets turned against him. According to him, instead of working for the protection of Govardhan, authorities are backpedalling and motivating anti-social elements against him.

The affidavit says that the needs of residents and basic services like sewage are overlooked by the administration, however, authorities are willing to spend on building a guest house in Govardhan, at the cost of Crores of Rupees.

The threatening videos are in contempt of court. The evidence and affidavit will be heard in the tribunal in the next hearing, on 28th August.

 

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In Vrindavan, especially at this time of year when the earth is cleansed by plentiful rain and greenery, we get the opportunity to experience shanaih-punanti-kalena, the process of gradual purification.

devah-kshetrani-tirthani
darshan-sparshan-arcanaih
shanaih-punanti-kalena
tad-apy-arhat-tama-ikshaya

Brajvasismad Bhagavatam (10.86.52).

“Gradually over time, one can become pure and religious by seeing, touching, and worshipping various kshetras, tirthas, (sacred places and water bodies), and Devatas.”

This verse marks the very starting line of Bhakti (devotional life). The starting point is when we realize that we need to be purified. Only then do we get the chance to learn and progress. We can remain oblivious in a world of sense gratification, many chose to, but, the extent we get purified is the extent that we will be able to perceive Divine Will.

Hopefully, the desire to be purified is the reason that people come to Vrindavan or go to the temple anywhere. If we keep the desire to be purified in mind it is sure to happen quicker. And, as the purification takes place, it becomes apparent as our mind becomes open to the intense experience of the Extreme Beauty (Rasa) of Shri Krishna’s Lilas in Vrindavan.

Screenshot-203-207x300.png← Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami Maharaj

As Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami Maharaj said in his introductory speech to the Rasa Lila program at Jai Singh Ghera on Hariyaliteej – the Rasa will begin when Swamiji creates the ‘Swar ka Jhula’ (musical swing). If we are open to it, we can perceive Extreme Beauty in many places – especially in nature, temples, devotional art/music, and the people who have dedicated themselves to preaching, devotional service, music and art.

Extreme Beauty, or Rasa, is abundant, especially in Vrindavan. There is not one grain of dirt on earth that is not spiritual, it is all His energy. And, in Vrindavan even the dirt sparkles, especially after the rain…

The Yamuna gives inspiration by moving steadily in one direction, despite all the pollution and insult, forbearing the slings and arrows of the world, remaining steadily on Her path.

67645059_2124902317809863_50636037056731Radharaman Jhula 2019 →

In many Braj temples, Jhulan Yatra continues for several weeks after Hariyaliteej. The Deities enjoy Their Pastime of swinging and the Brajvasis swing along with them in heart and mind.

We may be on the swing of the ups and downs of material life, happiness and sadness, success and failure…but it will stop swinging so wildly when we perceive Radha and Krishna’s swing.

Radha and Krishna’s swing is the swing of the perception of Extreme Beauty (Rasa); as it becomes too intense, the swing reaches its crescendo then glides down as Radha and Krishna go back to their friends and Their next meeting starts getting planned.

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krishna-janm-festival1.jpgMathura, 2019-08-08

The Yogi government has planned a grand three-day Janmashtami celebration in Mathura on August 23, 24 and 25 this year. The decision was taken on Sunday during a meeting chaired by Chaudhary Laxmi Narayan Singh, UP minister for dairy, culture and ‘Dharmarth Karya’.

For the first time in Braj, conch shells and bells will be sounded at midnight (12.05 am) in all temples including Shri Krishna Janmasthan, mathas and homes simultaneously. The culture minister gave special instructions to assemble students of Sanskrit Vidyalayas in large numbers for this particular event.

The meeting was attended by tourism secretary Jitendra Kumar, BTVP vice-chairman Shailja Kant Misra, DM Sarvagya Ram Mishra, senior police inspector Shalabh Mathur, CDO Ram Niwas, MVDA vice-chairman Nagendra Singh, district officer (admin) Satish Kumar, SP (traffic) Brajesh Kumar, SP (security) Gyanendra Kumar, Asst. Director (tourism) Priti Singh, Asst. Director (entertainment tax) Amit Singh, tourism officer DK Sharma and others.

Through this initiative, the government intends to make Braj’s Janmashtami celebrations famous in national and international circuits. Various religious and cultural programs will be held on the 12 acre land adjacent to Vaishno Devi Mandir in Chhatikara, Vrindavan. Prominent among these will be one-hour discourses by renowned religious preachers and ‘Bhajan Sandhyas’ (congregational chanting) every evening for three days.

Temples and surrounding areas (including houses) will be brightly lit by respective temple managements. Important roads and Ghats will also be decorated with lights and massive temporary gates will be constructed at entry points to Mathura by the Vikas Parishad. The Cultural ministry will organise cultural events at popular locations.

 

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Vrindavan, 02.08.2019

Question:
 In SB 1.5.15, Nārada Muni, the father of all preachers of Bhāgavata-dharma, is heavily condemning all the works of Vyāsadeva because they encourage people to engage in sense gratification. In SB 11.3.26, one of the Nava-yogendras instructs Nimi Maharaja to have faith in the Bhāgavata and not to criticize other śāstras. 

Can you give an explanation by which we can reconcile both of these statements of the Bhāgavatam?

Answer: When we read a book or hear a person, we need to understand the intention of the author or speaker and not just take their words at face value and misunderstand them. What is important is what the author or speaker is trying to convey and not what you understand from it, disregarding their intention. Keeping this in mind, if you read the fifth chapter of the First Canto, which is a dialogue between Nārada and Śrī Vyāsa, then you can see that Vyāsa himself has asked Nārada to find out the cause of the former’s  dissatisfaction even after writing various scriptures for the welfare of humanity (SB 1.5.2 –1.5.7).

Nārada gives a lengthy response, and the verse you mentioned is one of them. From the context, we understand that Nārada’s intention is not to criticize the scriptures other than Bhāgavata Purāṇa, but to inform Vyāsa of the cause of his dissatisfaction. If Vyāsa had not asked him this question, Nārada would have had no reason to speak in this way. If you read chapters Five and Six of the First Canto, which are mostly the words of Nārada, then you will see that the essence of his talk is in speaking about the essence of pure devotion, not criticizing other scriptures. To stress the importance of pure devotion, he has to point out to Vyāsa that by writing these other books, he has neglected this fact and that is why he is feeling dissatisfied. It is like a doctor who may speak in a negative manner about sweets to a diabetic patient. His intention is not to criticize sweets but to stress to his patients to avoid eating sweets. 

Question: Nārada Muni chastised Vyāsadeva (in 1.5.9) that even though he has described devotional service in his works, Vyāsadeva had only described devotional service as a means to obtain other goals such as sense gratification or mukti. 

But we see that the same Nārada Muni encourages Dhruva Maharāja to perform bhakti to fulfill his material ambition. This is exactly one of the reasons Nārada chastised Vyāsa.

How do we understand this? Why did Nārada chastise Vyāsadeva, for he himself is preaching, “perform bhakti to fulfill one’s material ambition or sense gratification”?.

Answer: You are making the same mistake as in your previous question. First of all, your question itself is wrong.

Nārada did not chastise Vyāsadeva for recommending bhakti as a means to fulfill his material ambition or sense gratification. You yourself have quoted SB 1.5.15, in which Nārada is referring to dharma and not to bhakti. Please read carefully and do not impose your understanding incorrectly unto Nārada. 

Furthermore, assuming you were right, then Nārada still is not wrong when prescribing bhakti to Dhruva Maharaja to fulfill his material ambition. If you read the 8th Chapter of Canto 4, beginning from verse 27, you will understand it is not that Nārada is prescribing bhakti to Dhruva without any reason. He sees that Dhruva was bent upon getting a kingdom superior to his father (SB 4.8.37). Seeing his determination, Nārada explained to Dhruva the greatness of bhakti and said that one can attain anything through bhakti (SB 4.8.41). He knows that Dhruva will engage in bhakti and then by the power of bhakti he will become purified of his material desire. So Nārada’s intention was not to preach to Dhruva to fulfill his material desire but there was no point in preaching to Dhruva about the path of pure devotion. He would not have accepted it because he was too determined to take revenge for the insult he got from his stepmother. An expert teacher knows how to bring his subject to pure devotion and not just be a fanatic, singing the same song to everybody. Like an expert doctor, he knows what medicine and what dose can be helpful for a patient. If you give a heavy dose of medicine to a patient which he cannot assimilate into his system, then instead of helping him, you are bringing more harm. Kṛṣṇa gives a similar advice in the Gītā, na buddhi-bhedaṁjanayed (“One should not unsettle the minds of unaware people,” 3.26)

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Question: When Śukadeva Gosvāmī spoke Śrīmad Bhāgavatam to Parīkṣit Maharāja, he was just 16 years old according to SB 1.19.26. It is described in SB 1.9.8 that Śukadeva Gosvāmī was present when Bhīṣmadeva was passing away. How can Śukadeva Gosvāmī be present at that time because Pāṇḍavas ruled for 40/50 years after the war and then Parīkṣit Maharāja ruled for even more time. But when Śukadeva Gosvāmī spoke Śrimad Bhāgavatam to Parikṣit, he was described as 16 years old.

Answer: When it is said that he was 16 years old (SB 1.19.26), it means that he appeared like a 16-year old, although he was much senior in age. This has an implied meaning (vyan͂janā-vṛtti) that he was beyond the influence of time and thus beyond the influence of material guṇas, and thus a liberated person. This has a further implied meaning, that having such characteristics he is free from the four human defects of bhrama, pramāda, karaṇā-pāṭava, vipralipsā (illusion, inadvertence, imperfect senses, and deceiving mentality).

This also implies that what Śukadeva Gosvāmī will speak in response to King Parīkṣit’s question is authoritative and should not be doubted. Śāstra teaches not only by direct statement but also through implied meaning. Indeed, implied meaning is the heart of kāvya (poetry). This is what creates rasa. You know that in the very beginning, the Bhāgavata has been indicated as a book of rasa (SB 1.1.3), Kṛṣṇa is also described as nava-yauvana, a boy of fresh youth. This does not mean that he is only 16 years old. We know that He lived on earth for 125 years. 

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Mahant Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji

After extensively studying Vedic scripture, Shri Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji realized the urgent need to establish a proper facility to protect and spread this ancient knowledge. With the support of his family and guru, Shri Haridas Shastri Maharaj, Babaji founded the Jiva Institute of Vedic Studies, which focuses on translating and teaching rare religious texts. Babaji has been teaching Vedic philosophy to an international audience for several decades.  Recently, he was invited to speak at Facebook headquarters.

 

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67900607_2230716780573302_5825952948944896000_n.jpgVrindavan, 29.07.2019

Every morning on the Vrindavan Parikrama Marg at around 10 o’clock a group of excited looking, simply clad devotees emerge after a Katha in the garden at Hit Dham, on the corner after Bhaktivedanta Hospital. Some loiter on the Parikrama Marg to speak to passers-by and invite them for Darshan.

This has been going on for several years and the group is growing. Those who wonder what the mostly yellow and white people are so excited about, only have to listen to Maharaj’s Katha once. The simplicity, the contentment, the love and faith in Vrindavan Dham, the poetry of Braj Shastra, it is all there ready for those who are ready to take part.

For those not acquainted with the Hindi Language, Maharaj’s disciple Shri Hit Rang Biharani Sharan Ji has translated some lectures into English. More and more people from across India are coming to Vrindavan with questions after hearing lectures online.

Maharaj’s katha is filled with simple solutions to help get our minds away from attachment to bodily matters and towards the highest Rasa. It only takes five minutes of listening to a lecture to find something that seems to be handpicked advice, especially for you. Whether the next step in your spiritual journey is to spend more time in Vrindavan, or whether you need more detachment from your body, everyone finds something helpful in Maharaj’s lectures.

To a man from Delhi who asked what to do about his wife’s cancer, Maharaj replied that he doesn’t know the cure for cancer, and only knows that this is part of the cycle of birth and death. What is more important than curing cancer of the body is curing the cancers of maan (value system), otherwise, what is the point of curing physical cancer, then going on to live a life where the burden of sin just goes on increasing?

A short life full of Bhakti and Prem is better than a long life of sin, so focus on cleansing the heart with charanamrita, listening to the nectar of the Lord’s pastimes… We are more focused on curing the ills of the body, but if maan is in a good state then that will keep us on the right track in this life as well as the next.

In order to increase our detachment from the body, Maharaj advises that we think of it as if it were someone else’s body – body is feeling itchy, body wants this…This simple technique does wonders to help stop the identification with the body – instead of identifying with the functions of the body as what I want, we just see them as what the body is doing, not of great concern to us; like an itch in someone else’s body.

Maharaj advises that we can achieve Ahimsa (non-violence) by seeing everyone as ‘apna’ (one of us, a dear one). Especially in Vrindavan, we should see every living being as our child or sister or mother. Otherwise, we will not get the full anand (joy) of living the Dham.

And how can we increase our awareness of the presence of God’s energy around us? Simply see God everywhere – Even inanimate objects are all made with His energy, it is all Him. Every lizard, every dog, look at them and think ‘this is a form of God’. This will bring peacefulness and happiness.

Maharaj Ji advises that the simplest solution and assured means for attaining Prem is taking shelter of Vrindavan Dham and Braj-Raj (Holy Dust).

“Vrindavan is not to be regarded as an ordinary place on earth, or just a religious place but Eternal (चिन्मय), where Divine Lilas of Priya Pritam are happening even today. Vrindavan Dham is fully capable of cleansing us of all sins and showering Priya Lal’s Anupam Ras (अनुपम रस). If we take the shelter of Vrindavan Dham and live our life as per our Guru’s instruction we will undoubtedly attain our true identity (स्वरुप की प्राप्ति).”

According to the biodata on Maharaj’s website vrindavanrasmahima.com Pujya Maharaj Ji was born to a modest and extremely pious (सात्विक) Brahmin (Pandey) family and was named Aniruddh Kumar Pandey. He was born in Akhri Village, Sarsol Block, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

His grandfather was a Sanyaasi (सन्यासी) and the overall household environment was deeply devotional, utmost pure and serene. His father Shri Shambu Pandey was a devotional person and accepted Sanyaas (सन्यास) in later years. His mother Shrimati Rama Devi was very pious and had great respect for all saints. Both were regularly engaged in Sant-Seva and various devotional services. His elder brother enhanced the spiritual aura of the family by reciting verses from Srimad Bhagavatam which the entire family would listen to and cherish. The holy household environment intensified the latent spiritual spark concealed within him.

Given this devotional family background, Maharaj Ji began reciting various prayers (चालीसा) at a very young age. When he was in class 5th, he started reading Gita Press Publication, Shri Sukh Sagar.

Leaving home for a life of renunciation at only 13, Maharaj spent several years meditating on Lord Shiva on the banks of the Ganga, between Varanasi and Haridwar. After watching Rasa Lila continually for one month, he became captivated by Radha Krishna’s Pastimes and got the train to Mathura.

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Rath Yatra, the Festival of Chariots, is celebrated in Puri with grandeur, enthusiasm, fanfare, elaboration and religious fervour. In Vrindavan, simple amazement sets the tone for this auspicious day.

If you are in Vrindavan during Rath Yatra, you can be a part of a wonderful experience when the beautiful chariots come out in the streets in a lavish procession, from the many temples here. The experience is delightful when these chariots circumambulate Gyan Gudri. The major attractions are the chariots from the three ancient temples of Gopinath, Govinda and Madan Mohan and also the temples at Jagannath Ghat, Vishram Ghat and Sadhu Mai Ka Ashram.

It's not simply about Rath Yatra celebration in Vrindavan. There is more to the story than it meets the eyes. Many people are unaware of the meaning of Rath Yatra and its special significance in Vrindavan. Do you know why all the chariots meet at Gyan Gudri? Let us tell you this beautiful story.

Jagannath Deities placed in the empty temples

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Radha Gopinath temple Rath Yatra

We spoke to many scholars and Acharyas who narrated the story behind Rath Yatra in Braj. After the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb raided Vrindavan, the idols of Gopinath, Madan Mohan and Govinda were moved to Jaipur, India's Pink City, and so, as a result, the original temples had no Deity. Gopinath Lal Dev Goswami of Gopinath temple explains that the acharyas of that period decided to place the idols of Jagannath in those empty temples.

Once the new temples of Gopinath, Madan Mohan and Govinda were built and the replicas placed, Lord Jagannath's Deity was also set up in the new temples. Since the idol of Jagannath was in the temple, it was necessary to take the Lord out on Rath Yatra. According to Sanatan Kishore Goswami of Madan Mohan temple, the ideal place for Rath Yatra was Gyan Gudri, where Sri Uddhava, one of Shri Krishna's disciples, heard about Divine love directly from the Braj gopis.

Shri Krishna and Balaram Move to Mathura

Lord Krishna's Rath Yatra is also held in Vrindavan along with Jagannath. This festival is related to the gopis' divine love for Devkinandan Krishna. Shri Krishna rode a chariot for the very first time in the holy land of Vrindavan. This chariot was sent by Krishna's uncle King Kamsa to bring Devkinandan and Balaram to Mathura.

Shri Krishna takes the form of Jagannath

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Govinda Deva Rath Yatra

The separation from Vrindavan made Krishna take Jagannath's form. The Utkala Khanda of the Skanda Purana tells the story of Krishna's manifestation as Jagannath. During a solar eclipse, Devkinandan, Balaram, Subhadra and Dwarka's other residents went to take a holy dip in a pond at Kurukshetra. Lord Krishna's parents Nanda and Yashoda, Radha and the other residents of Vrindavan were burning due to the separation from Hari. Knowing about Shri Krishna's whereabouts, they all went to meet Him.

Balaram's mother Rohini Ma spoke to Krishna's wives in Dwarka about His favourite pastimes in Vrindavan and the Gopi's divine love for Him. Rohini's narrative was kept exceedingly confidential. That's why she posted Subhadra near the door, so that no one could enter the premises.  Realising that Rohini Ma was talking about Him, Devakinandan and Balaram came close to the door, standing on Subhadra's left and right sides.

Hearing of these stories, Devakinandan was overcome with strong feelings of separation from the holy land of Vrindavan. Shri Krishna was so fascinated hearing about His pastimes in Vrindavan that His heart started melting. Both Devakinandan and Balaram were so overjoyed that Their inner feelings manifested outwardly.  Their eyes were dilated, heads pressed together into their bodies and their limbs drawn back. Witnessing these physical transformations in Krishna and Balaram, Subhadra too felt euphoric and took the same form. After hearing about Krishna's pastime in Vrindavan, Devakinandan and Balaram with Subhadra in the middle unveiled their ecstatic form and it is this form that is worshipped as Lord Jagannath, Balaram, and Subhadra in Puri.

Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra in their special forms

After Shri Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra returned to their normal forms, and Devakinandan had recovered completely, he realised that it was Narada's trick because he planted the idea in Rohini's mind to narrate the story of Krishna's pastimes in Vrindavan.

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Madan Mohan temple's Rath Yatra

Though Narada Muni thought that his activities would make Krishna angry, but to Narada's relief, Shri Krishna was pleased with him.  In fact, the Lord wanted to shower His blessings on Narada Muni. So Narada prayed to Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra to appear in those forms at some place in the world to give Darshan to their devotees. The special form is also called ‘Patita Pavana', the rescuer of the fallen and liberator of the universe. This is why Shri Krishna welcomed Narada's wish to give Darshan to His devotees as ‘Jagannath' in Puri.

The separation of Shri Krishna from Vrindavan made Him take Lord Jagannath's form. Though we associate Rath Yatra with Puri, the holy festival has its roots deeply seated in Vrindavan, where Shri Krishna has His favourite pastimes.

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Fulfilled by Their Grace

imageproxy.jpgBabaji Maharaj (Shri Ramdas Baba) is chanting jap in a silent, meditative mood. Many disciples are gathered around him, also chanting jap. After some time, the conversation turns to Shri Harinaam Sankirtan. Babaji Maharaj is delighted by this, and his voice trembles as he murmurs a few quiet words to himself. Then he says to the assembled devotees, who have taken shelter of him:

"Look; Shri Harinaam Sankirtan destroys all sins. It cleanses the heart and mind, and it grants us Krishna prem and Krishna’s seva. All these things come automatically when one chants the Holy Name. Thus Shri Krishnadas Kaviraj has said:

sankirtan hoite paap sansaar naashan
chitta shuddhi sarva bhakti saadhan udgam
krishna premodgam premaamrita aaswaadan
krishna-praapti sevaamrita samudre majjan

"Through sankirtan, all sins and worldliness are destroyed. The mind and heart are cleansed, and devotion is attained, with its different limbs of sadhan. Even Krishna prem itself is attained through sankirtan, and the chanter savours the immortal nectar of that true love. At last, he or she attains Krishna himself, and drowns in the ocean of his blissful seva." (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya-lila 20.13-14)

But it is also said that no matter how much we chant the Holy Name, if we also commit offences (aparadh), then we will not attain Krishna prem.

heno krishna-naam jadi loy bahu baar
tathaapi naa hoy prem naa bahe ashrudhaar
tabe jaani aparaadh aachaye prachur
krishna naam beej taahe naa hoy ankur

"If you chant Krishna’s Name many times and you still do not attain prem – if tears of love do not flow from your eyes – then know for sure you have committed a lot of offences. Thus the seed of Krishna’s Name has not even sprouted in you."(Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila 8.29-30)

"We are Kali jeevs [ie. we live in such a degraded age]. Offences are bound to happen. Is there no hope for us then? There is no need to worry like this. In this age, our Shri Nitai-Gauranga have come. They do not see faults, nor do they count offences. By their grace ... just by taking their Name ... prem is attained.

chaitanya-nityanande nahi e sab vichaar
naam loite prem hoy bahe ashrudhaar

"But with Shri Chaitanya and Nityananda, such things are not considered. By taking their Name, you will surely attain prem and flow with tears of love." (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila 8.31)

Speaking thus, Babaji Maharaj let out a deep roar of ecstasy. All the others fell silent. It was as if the discussion had been completely fulfilled by Shri Nitai-Gauranga's grace.

(Translated by Vishakha Dasi from the Hindi book "Shri Baba Ramdas Kathamrit" by Dr. OBL Kapoor)

 

 

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mansi-ganga-tank-mathura-indian-tourism-entry-fee-timings-holidays-reviews-header.jpgGovardhan, 01.06.2019

With Mudiya Mela approaching this month (14thJuly to 20th July), it is an apt time to meditate on the glories of Shri Manasi Ganga – the Ganga that Shri Krishna manifested from his mind (manas). Manasi Ganga is not only connected with Shri Krishna’s pastimes, the Kund also connects with Chaitanya Lila, as Sanatan Goswami meditated nearby; as did Nanda Das, one of the Ashta Chhap poets who are most dear to the followers of Pushti Marg.

There are a wealth of legends surrounding Manasi Ganga, and while some seem to be conflicting, we can easily see how others are parallel threads of the same truth. For example, some say that Manasi Ganga was manifested because, seeing Krishna’s great love for the Yamuna, Ganga Devi also wanted to be present in Braj. Some connect the reason for Shri Krishna manifesting the Ganga with Nanda-Yashoda, while others say that Krishna manifested it to bathe after killing a demon. Manasi Ganga plays several roles in Krishna Lila but none would deny that Ganga Devi’s desire to be in Braj is part of the reason for her presence here as Manasi  Ganga.

The legend of Shri Krishna manifesting Manasi Ganga for Yashoda and Nanda Baba is held dear to many people’s hearts, as it carries the message that it is not necessary (and may be detrimental) to leave Braj to go on pilgrimage. If there is no Ganga in Braj, there may be a reason to leave Braj to take a bath in this holiest river. Despite their advanced aged Nanda Yashoda were planning to go for Ganga snan but Krishna manifested Manasi Ganga so that his parents would never leave Braj.

Manasi Ganga is also connected with Shri Krishna’s demon-killing pastimes as the killing of the calf-demon, known as Vrisbhasura or Aristasura. Killing a cow is a grave sin and it was necessary for Shri Krishna to cleanse himself by bathing after killing this demon who had taken the form of a calf, so He manifested Manasi Ganga and bathed in her cleansing waters.

The area around Manasi Ganga is densely populated with temples including Hardev temple, Mansa Devi temple, Chakaleshwar Mahadev temple and many other historical temples.

Amer’s King, Bhagwan Das is believed to be responsible for building the permanent ghats on Manasi Ganga in the early 1600s. The ghats were later extended by Raja Man Singh.

Many believe that Govardhan Parikrama should be initiated after a cleansing bath in Manasi Ganga, as this was recommended by Srila Rupa Goswami in his Mathura mahatmya. Most pilgrims will include a stop here.

The most renowned place to enter Manasi Ganga is Mukut Mukarvind temple, below which there are water spouts to make taking snan in the kund easier.

Recent reports of pollution causing Manasi Ganga to change colour may put some devotee off taking a full bath, however, most will sprinkle a few drops of water for ceremonial cleansing.

To the North of Manasi Ganga is Chakaleshwar Mahadev temple. Chakaleshwar Mahadev is one of the four protectors of Braj. Nearby is Sanatan Goswami’s Bhajan Kutir. One of the legends associated with Sanatan Goswami is that it is said that he planned to leave the area due to the mosquitoes, however, Lord Shiva appeared and begged him not to leave saying that he will get rid of the mosquitoes.

The 1611 record lists the departure of Srila Sanatan Goswami on the day of Guru Purnima. At this time, scores of Brajwasis shaved their heads and did Govardhan Parikrama in his honour. This tradition is alive and well today with people coming from across India to celebrate Guru Purnima in Braj and do Govardhan Parikrama.

On the south side of Manasi Ganga is Mansa Devi temple which was rebuilt by Hathi Singh Jat,  the ruler of Saunkh, after was destroyed by Aurangzeb in 1670.

The Aswatha tree near the temple marks the sitting place of Nanda Das, one of the later Ashta Chhap poets (8 great poets of 16th Century Braj); a disciple of Shri Vittalnathji (Gusainji), the younger son of Shri Vallabhacharya.

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