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Vrindavan: The good, the bad, the ugly

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There are three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas. Through these gunas we experience the world as good, bad or just plain ugly. For this reason, my experience in Vrindavan has these three taints.

………

Loving Vrindavan. Last night I went to Radha Raman, Tattiya Sthan and Goda Vihar. What a place Vrindavan is.

I went to Tattiya Sthan inspired by a book by Surya Kanta Goswami, a Bihariji sevadhikari, called Nikunj ka rahi, “Pilgrim to the Nikunj.” It is a devotional historical novel of the life of Bhagavat Rasik, who was the eighth in line from Swami Haridas and a Mahant of Tattiya Sthan. The time is the beginning of the 19th century.

Surya Kanta Goswami’s descriptions of the Vrindavan of that time and the spirit of renunciation and loving attraction to the Dham is inspiring me all over. It may be worth translating it for Vrindavan Today and I shall if I ever get the time. What I felt in this book is an authentic vision of Vrindavan.

I am taking greater pleasure in smearing Braj and Radha Kund raj on my body. There is something primitive and very visceral about that. In Surya Kant Goswami’s book, he recounts a vignette of Lalita Kishori Baba. How some upright citizens came to him hoping he would help them “preach dharma.” When they came, they saw him sitting in samadhi and waited a long time for him to come out of it. At some point, a disciple came with milk and made some noise. Baba came out of his trance, drank the milk and then cleansed his hand by wiping it in the sand, and then went back into japa and meditation on the lila. The upright citizens realized he was not going to be of much use to them.

After Tattiya Sthan, I went back to Radha Raman. I guess I was covered with sand from paying my dandavats. I saw Vaishnavacharya Chandan Goswami. I took the dust of his feet and he took the dust from my head. Radhe Radhe.

Lesson: The thing about sampradaya in Vrindavan is that we are all merging into the ocean of Vrindavan Dham and its rasa.


Afterwards I went and talked to Acharya Naresh Narayan at Rangaji. He is the editor of a monthly magazine, Ananta Sandesh, which gives news of the Ramanuja sampradaya in northern India as well as installments of classical texts from the Sri Sampradaya with Hindi translations.

We commiserated a bit. Acharyaji had gone with the BVHA delegation to see the DM yesterday. Acharyaji was not so hot on what transpired. The DM did not show his cards, he thought, nor did he show the plan that is being implemented on the Yamuna ghats. So a whole huge Vrindavan riverfront plan is being implemented without any public hearings. The BVHA asked for the plan, but nothing was shown. Why the secrecy?

Acharyaji said at one point, “Hey, the Kaliyuga has only just begun. It is still a baby. More than 400,000 years to go. Just see what Kali has managed in the last 20 years! Hang on to your hats. It will be a long ride.” That is of course a paraphrase.

I went to arati at Lala Babu’s temple and cycled back and forth to Tattiya Sthan via Gyan Gudri. This is really the most beautiful part of the older, built up Vrindavan. Every building is pretty. The streets are quiet and clean. The vibe is really good. A totally different world from the Bihariji area. And Lala Babu’s temple itself is also a treasure.

The whole town is full of treasures. Some big, some small. But ubiquitous. Even MORE ubiquitous than the garbage!!!


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Photo from Sharat Purnima 2013. Different cups, different drink. Same basic problem.

After that, I was cycling back on the Parikrama Marg. Yesterday was a major Parikrama day, and being a Saturday, there were many people. And being hot, a lot of people give water (pyau) or sherbet to the passers-by. The trouble is that the people giving sherbet give it in plastic cups that then get thrown on the road. At each one of these spots, there are thousands of these flimsy clear plastic cups spread on the sides of the road and in the crap-crammed drains. 

I stopped at one ashram and asked the well-intentioned gentlemen, “You people have good intentions. You want to do something for the devotees and so you are giving refreshments to them for free. But do you realize that you are destroying Vrindavan by creating such a mess?”

“We will clean, we will clean!” they protested.

“What about RIGHT NOW?” I asked. “Why is it okay for this garbage to be spread everywhere for even one moment? You have a garbage bin here, it is only half full. Why do you allow people to throw their cups on the Parikrama Marg? Why do you allow this disrespect for the Dham? People come to the Dham and then they go back and say, ‘Yeah, Vrindavan, great place, but really dirty.’ Why do you contribute to that?”

I am a bit on the warpath these days. I keep stopping honking youths on motorcycles and asking them Why? Why? Why do you create this constant noise? For no good reason.

This honking is just a way of saying, “I am anxious, I am uptight. I need to enjoy sense gratification and you are standing in my way.”

There is no need, no purpose to it other than to disturb. Horns were made just to disturb. That is their purpose. Cars are blocked everywhere. Everyone wants to move but no one can. So, in my frustration, I honk and honk. What does it produce but more anxiety, more tension? What else does it do but destroy the atmosphere of Vrindavan?

People come here to experience the Vrindavan <i>mood</i>. To see the deities, to hear Bhagavata and kirtan. To experience something <i>different</i> from their crappy city lives in Delhi. So why do these idiots want Vrindavan to be more like Delhi? Even worse than Delhi in some ways.

We will fight Kaliyuga, one idiot at a time.

With patience and humility.


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Mahant. Photo from 2010.

At Tattiya Sthan, I only stayed for about forty minutes. Samaj was starting and a lot of time was spent tuning instruments… a sarangi and santra along with harmonium. Later a flute joined. But it was Saturday, so a lot of outside people were there. I noticed that there is a parking lot across the street from Tattiya Sthan now. In miniscule, this is the problem. Outside people come with mixed desires. However the vibration of the site affects them, they also affect it.

The Mahant comes in everyone stands up as he pays sasthanga dandavats to the deity and to Haridas Swami’s samadhi and then sits down on his asan, which is also made of mud and govar, beside the samadhi. He opens a window to the samadhi on his side and then accepts the reverences of the devotees silently.

He is almost like a living statue, a soul absorbed in Braja rasa, his body already buried in layers of Braja raj and thick tulsi mala. Not of this world. One of the people in the Samaj, playing pakhaway, was wearing a blue pyjama with Homer Simpson faces all over it. Man size, but who could wear such a thing, in a holy place, in front of a deep bhajananandi Vaishnava vairagi? Sometimes this world is too strange.

The post Vrindavan: The good, the bad, the ugly appeared first on Vrindavan Today.

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