You possess all the highest, most transcendent
beauties of a woodland, and so
you are supremely blissful!
If someone should constantly sing sweetly of your virtues,
Ah Vrindavan! and know that in comparison to you,
even millions of lifetimes are extremely insignificant,
then what is there in this world that he could not disregard,
even as one disregards a blade of grass?
vṛndā-kānana kānanasya paramā śobhā parātaḥ parā-
nanda tvad-guṇa-vṛndam eva madhuraṁ yenāniśaṁ gīyate |
hā vṛndāvana koṭi-jīvanam api tvatto’titucchaṁ yadi
jñātaṁ tarhi kim asti yat tṛṇakavac chakyeta nopekṣitum||
This verse is repeated at 3.22.
What a fortune to live in the Holy Dham! Here again Prabodhananda Saraswatipada here again talks about the sylvan virtues. Though Prabodhananda specifically talks about Vrindavan, his Vrindavan should really be taken to mean the whole of Braj. And even though nowadays, the influence of the modern world is being felt through increased urbanization and a retreat from a life that is intimately associated with the natural world, nevertheless, there are still areas in Braj that are less overwhelmed by cars and noise. We think of Braj in terms of its potential as a human sanctuary.
India’s original culture is one of the mountains and the forests, the tapo-vana, where sages — even married sages with children — lived in their forest hermitages and practiced a life based in spiritual culture, in simplicity and in harmony with nature. This ideal was described again and again in the literature of the ancients, and it is the source of the Upanishadic culture that is at the basis of all Hindu spirituality. One entire section of the Vedic literature goes by the name āraṇyaka, meaning “writings from the forest.”
The Bhagavatam also advises the sage to live in harmony with nature by reducing his desires. The modern civilization is based on increasing desires and consumption in order to expand the economy. As such, one has more and more distraction from the cultivation of the inner self, both in work and in enjoying the fruits of work.
satyāṁ kṣitau kiṁ kaśipoḥ prayāsair
bāhau sva-siddhe hy upabarhaṇaiḥ kim |
saty añjalau kiṁ purudhānna-pātryā
dig-valkalādau sati kiṁ dukūlaiḥ ||
When there is ample ground to lie on, what is the need of great efforts to have a comfortable bed? And if God has given you arms, then what need is there of pillows? You can cup your hands to hold food, so what need is there of fancy plates and vessels, and what need is there of clothing when the trees provide bark, or the directions themselves are ample covering? (2.2.4)
cīrāṇi kiṁ pathi na santi diśanti bhikṣāṁ
naivāṅghripāḥ para-bhṛtaḥ sarito’py aśuṣyan |
ruddhā guhāḥ kim ajito’vati nopasannān
kasmād bhajanti kavayo dhana-durmadāndhān ||
Ah, the natural austerities of a simpler time! Who could live like this nowadays? Yet, the last line of these two verses still strikes a chord on the heartstrings of those who yearn for independence from the lords of material nature, the masters for whom one must slave in order to earn a crust of bread for himself and his dependents.
The Bhagavata mocks those who look for fulfillment in the senses, or even in the household life as the chewers of the already chewed. punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām. Even now, this is still wisdom. The pleasures of the senses have a beginning and an end and so the wise do not give them much importance. King Rishabhadeva says to his sons,
nāyaṁ deho deha-bhājāṁ nṛ-loke
kaṣṭān kāmān arhate viḍ-bhujāṁ ye |
tapo divyaṁ putrakā yena sattvaṁ
śuddhyed yasmād brahma-saukhyaṁ tv anantam ||
This human body is not meant for troublesome activities leading to sense gratification, which is how the stool-eating hogs live. Oh my sons, it is meant for divine austerity, by which one’s being is purified and one attains the infinite joys of God consciousness. (5.5.1)
It is impossible in this day and age to promote a lifestyle that is simple and God-centered. Everything is driven by economic growth and the consumption that is necessary to drive it. But this turns the entire world into a vast, waste-producing wasteland. The world is consuming itself at such a pace, it is almost frightening how the progress of mankind seems to be undercutting the very things — the water, the natural foods, the air — that are at the basis of human life itself.
As the human society continues on this mad march to anxiety and self-destruction, it is necessary right now, at this very moment, to create human sanctuaries where some semblance of the harmonious lifestyle with nature can be retrieved.
Indeed, the economic development should be used to create such havens for those who are hungry for a contemplative lifestyle. In the past, the kings and wealthy merchants would support the sages who lived in the tapo-vanas and protected them from the need of competing like animals for the basic necessities of life, and where they could cultivate the things of the spirit.
This verse does not mention bhakti, or even Radha and Krishna, the presiding deities of Vrindavan. But Vrindavan is archetypal nature. It is nature that has been brought into harmony with the needs and desires of humanity through a compassionate stewardship. The climate is favorable. If the Yamuna can be saved from the abuse that industrialization and overpopulation inflict upon it, it may be possible once again.
Sing the glories of God’s gifts in the form of the natural world as manifest in Vrindavan, and recreate Vrindavan as God-as-man’s playground. This is the ground zero of the spirituality that will reform mankind’s destiny, if we can only unlock its secrets. If we can only recognized that millions of lifetimes of chewing the chewed is not worth even five minutes of the tapo divyam, the divine austerity of living in the Dham.