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  1. 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 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 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. 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.
  2. A108-AI

    Fulfilled by Their Grace

    Babaji 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)
  3. Govardhan, 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.
  4. Shri Bhaktamal is a poetic work in Braj Bhasha that contains short biographies of more than two-hundred devotees. It was written by Shri Nabha Das ji, a saint belonging to the Ramananda tradition, in 1585. These descriptions of devotees are a much-loved subject of Katha speakers as hearing about the lives of devotees brings hope and inspiration to those who long for a connection to the Divine. ________________________________________________________________________________ Shri Madhav Das was a Brahmin who renounced the world when his wife left her body. Renouncing the world, he headed to Jagannath Puri. Once he reached Puri, he sat on the beach and became absorbed in meditation. He was so absorbed that he didn’t pay attention to the need to eat and drink. Seeing this, the most merciful Lord Jagannath ordered Laxmi Devi to take the finest food on a golden plate to him. When Shri Madhav came out of his entranced state, he saw the plate and began to weep tears of joy. He offered the food, then ate it and kept the plate to one side. He became absorbed in meditation once more. When the temple priests saw that the plate was missing, they flew into action to find it. Eventually, it was found next to Madhav Das. Understanding him to be a thief, they began to whip him. But that night, in a dream, the Lord appeared saying that the pundits will be ruined unless they beg forgiveness at Madhav ji’s feet. Madhav Das became sick an. He could not walk. Someone came to serve and clean him. When he regained consciousness he realized that it was Prabhu Himself. Holding on to His feet, Madhav Das said Why didn’t you just cure me? Why did you do so much hard work? I cannot stand to see my devotees suffering. That is why I came to serve you. You know that it is necessary to suffer the consequences of actions, that is my rule, so how can I break it? I only serve devotees and prove this truth to the world. People came to know about this incident and word about Madhav Das began to spread far and wide. People started to surround him. This didn’t suit him so he began to wonder around as a madman uttering the Lord’s name. Once he knocked on a woman’s door to ask for alms. In anger, she threw a wad of cloth at him. Madhav was happy. He dried the cloth and used it as a wick in the temple. After this, the woman became a great devotee who was always joyfully absorbed in meditation on the Lord. Once a Shastri scholar named Digvijay Pandit challenged Madhav Das to a debate. Madhav Das refused but the Pandit would not listen. Eventually, Madhav Das wrote a note saying, “Madhav has lost, Digvijay is the winner.” Pandit ji was overjoyed and immediately returned to Varanasi to tell people about his victory. He started to show people the proof, but when the other pundits read the note, it said, “Pandit ji lost, Madhav won.” Pandit ji was so angry that he returned to Jagannath Puri. He challenged Madhav Das to another debate and insisted that the loser must have their face painted black and ride around town on a donkey. Madhav Das tried to talk him out of it, but Pandit ji was not ready to listen. A debate was held in front of a crowded hall. Madhav Das did not attend, but the Lord took his form and won easily. When Madhav Das found out that Pandit ji was being taken around town with a black face, he begged the Lord to forgive the Pandit then he helped Pandit ji get off the donkey and begged his forgiveness. The Pandit’s anger faded. Blessed are the kind-hearted devotees who forgive us and care about our salvation.
  5. Shri Bhaktamal is widely believed to be an unbiased account of Bhaktas across all sectarian paths. Written almost 500 years ago in Brajbhasha by Nabhdas of the Ramananda Sampradaya, the work is rich in tales that carry layers of hidden meanings. This story relates to a Lila that happened in Dwarka but will remind Vrindavan devotees of many similar Braj Lilas – as when Bihariji, Radharaman ji and other Deities have also left the temple to visit devotees… In the village of Dakor in Dwarka, lived a devotee named Ramdasji. Every Ekadasi he would go to Ranchodh Temple to perform all-night kirtan at Jagran programs. When his body became old and weak, the Lord instructed him to give up the Jagran seva. Ramdas ji would not hear of not performing all-night kirtan. Seeing His devotee’s firm determination, the Lord was overcome and said, I cannot stand to see you in such difficulty when coming to the temple, so I will come to your house. Next Ekadasi, bring a cart and put it under the back window of the temple. I will arrange that the window is open. Then you pick me up and make haste in leaving. On the next Ekadasi, Ramdasji brought the cart. People thought that he came that way because he had become old and weak. The Jagran program in the temple was conducted, as usual, on Ekadasi. On the evening of the next day, Ramdasji took the Deity away. The next morning, when the Pujaris saw that the Deity was gone, they set out to find who was responsible. People immediately suspected Ramdas ji since he had come to the program riding on a cart. When the Pujaris arrived at Ramdas’ house he told them that he had followed the Lord’s instructions. He told them that Ramchodh ji had happily come and even drove the cart Himself. The temple priests beat Ramdas causing him many injuries but when they looked around they could not find Ranchodh Bhagavan. They started to worry that they had beaten Ramdas without reason. Someone said that they had seen Ramdas coming from the stepwell, so they went there to look. When they arrived, they saw the Deity in the water, which had turned red. Shri Ranchodh told them that, when his devotee was beaten, He had taken the wounds upon Himself. He expressed unwillingness to go back with them and told them where to find another Deity for the temple. To this day, the village is named Dakor (bandit), to commemorate this incident and Ramdas’ descendants proudly identify as the Deity Bandits.
  6. Site Admin

    Radhe Radhe! : Радхе Радхе!

    Rawal, a birth place of Radharani. Это место божественного явления Шримати Радхарани в Равале, недалеко от священной реки Ямуны, в Махаване — одном из 12 священных лесов Шри Враджа Дхамы — божественной земли Шримати Радхарани и Шри Кришны. Калинди Ямуна Джая, Джая Махаван. Храм Ладли-Лал Мандир, Божества Ладли-Лал — Радхика Кришна — маленькие дети пастухов Враджа. И Божество маленькой Радхики — Лали — дочки матери Киртиды и Бришабхану Махараджа.
  7. Site Admin

    Raval : Равал

    Rawal, a birth place of Radharani. Это место божественного явления Шримати Радхарани в Равале, недалеко от священной реки Ямуны, в Махаване — одном из 12 священных лесов Шри Враджа Дхамы — божественной земли Шримати Радхарани и Шри Кришны. Калинди Ямуна Джая, Джая Махаван. Храм Ладли-Лал Мандир, Божества Ладли-Лал — Радхика Кришна — маленькие дети пастухов Враджа. И Божество маленькой Радхики — Лали — дочки матери Киртиды и Бришабхану Махараджа.
  8. Govardhan, 20.06.2019 As preparations for Govardhan’s famous Mudiya Mela get underway, transport authorities have announced that 1500 buses will be deployed to ferry people back and forth to the Mela. The same amount of buses was deployed last year and despite the extra buses, there will be standing room only. Govardhan’s Mudiya Mela is being celebrated this year between 14th July to 20th July. The biggest day of the fair will be Purnima, Tuesday 16th May. Purnima is always a big day for Govardhan Parikrama, as devotees enjoy circumambulating Giriraj on the night of the full moon. These days, the hot weather makes night time Parikrama even more popular and Govardhan becomes a 24 hour city. The crowds are so dense that walking at a quick pace becomes difficult so Parikrama takes a little longer than usual and the unbroken chain of people makes people imagine that Giriraj Maharaj is wearing a garland of devotees. The festival commemorates Guru Purnima, which coincides with the disappearance day of Srila Sanatan Goswami, the doyen of the six Goswamis of Vrindavan. The term mudiya refers to the shaving of heads that the Vaishnavas performed in mourning for Sanatan Goswami. Since Sanatan is often credited with restarting the practice of circumambulating Giriraj, this became the principal way of commemorating him. But visiting the major temples around Govardhan, including Mukharavind and Danghati, and bathing in the Manasa Ganga and other tanks around Govardhan form part of the ritual. While it is a bit early for international tourists, many consider that the festival season begins in Braj with Guru Purnima. Locals watch as the town wakes up from a seeming slumber during the summer months and pandals appear in every available space. Gurus who have come from across the state and interstate to follow their dream of building a temple/ashram in Vrindavan are visited by disciples from their home town or village. Jagran programs are popular, so those who don’t do Parikrama can enjoy all-night kirtan. Guru Purnima is the foremost opportunity of the year to pay tribute to our shiksha and diksha Gurus; Those who give us the gems of knowledge that brighten our days. Whether you celebrate by doing Govardhan Parikrama or by remembering your own Guru, Guru Purnima is a prime opportunity to meditate on the great saints of Braj – people like Sanatan Goswami whose renunciation and simplicity endeared him to all. Instead of aspiring for flashy Deity worship, Sanatan Goswami told Madan Mohan ji that, since he lived mostly by eating plain bread balls, he would not be able to guarantee that he can provide salt, even if that is the wish of the Lord. For Sanatan Goswami, the internal aspects of devotion far outweighed the external practices. He spent his days meditating on the Pastimes of the Lordships. Sanatan Goswami’s Govardhan shila It is said that the mercy of the Dham is magnified by the saints who have walked on this holy land. Sanatan Goswami is one saint from which we all receive countless blessings. His dedication to Govardhan Parikrama was so intense that he attempted to do it daily, even in advanced age. Wanting to save his devotee from hardships, even those willingly undertaken, the most merciful Lord Krishna personally presented Sanatan Goswami with a Govardhan Shila, whose Parikrama gives the same benefit as the entire Govardhan Parikrama. This Shila is now installed in Radha Damodar temple in Vrindavan, so, even today, devotees benefit from the boon granted to Sanatan Goswami.
  9. Vrindavan, 16.06.2019 Vrindavan Temples will celebrate Jal Yatra on 17th June. Jal Yatra is organised every year during the Purnima of Jyestha month (June) as per the Hindu calendar to give some relief to Thakur ji from the scorching heat. The festival is thought to have originated from the Puri tradition, where Jagannath takes bath on this day, then ‘falls sick’ and does not give Darshan for the next two weeks. In Vrindavan’s historical Sapta Devalaya temples, the focus of the festival is on providing pleasure for the Deities through water play. Padmalochan Goswami of Radharaman temple said that Jal Yatra is an old tradition. Together with other summer services, such as the fragrant phul bangala decorations and Chandan Yatra, it is designed to give relief to Thakur ji. Shri Radharaman ji during Jal Yatra In Radharaman and other temples, fountains are arranged on the altar. Visitors to the temple also benefit from the fine spray of water, making the day one of the most enjoyable summer Darshans. Shri Radha-Shyamsundar, Shri Radha-Gokulananda and the rest of the sapta-devalaya temples all celebrate this festival, so the festival is a great time to tour Vrindavan’s temples. Jal Yatra coincides with the Snan Yatra of Lord Jagannath in Puri. The Skandh Puran mentions that King Indradyumna arranged this ceremony for the first time when Jagannath, Baldev and Subhadra were first installed in Puri, Odisha. In this sense, Snan Yatra is considered the birthday of Jagannath Dev. The Lord comes out of His temple on procession and is offered a ritual bath with 108 pots of water, in the presence of His devotees. In the two Jagannath temples on Vrindavan’s Parikrama Marg, the Snan Yatra is celebrated with Abhishek in the afternoon. After this, Darshan will remain closed until 3rd July. On the afternoon of 4th of July, Shri Jagannath Baladev and Subhadra’s Rathayatra will be taken out on the streets in Vrindavan.
  10. 14.06.2019 While some managed to keep a fast from water on this most important Ekadasi of the year, others worked to get the benefit of Nirjal Ekadasi by distributing sherbert water, which is also thought to bring benefits. People organized distributions outside many of Braj’s temples, braving the heat themselves to distribute cold drinks to devotees. Others made donated water pots and fruits, as Vishnu is thought to be particularly pleased by donations on Nirjala Ekadasi. Distributions were organized at Mathura’s Bhuteshwara temple and Vrindavan’s Luteri Hanuman temple, among others. Devotees who attended Radharaman temple in the late evening were treated to mango Prasad as the mangoes used as decoration were thrown out into crowd. Radhavallabh Naukar Vihar There were special decorations and arrangements for Thakurji’s pleasure in many temples. Radhavallabh celebrated Naukar Vihar (boat festival) and the altar of Mukut Mukarvind temple in Govardhan was decorated by luscious flower bungalows.
  11. Vrindavan, 12.06.2019 Devotees enjoyed the first day of Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami’s Seva Mahotsav yesterday. In the lead up to Maharaj taking over the leadership of Shri Radharaman ji’s service, it was announced that the service would be organized according to a secret theme. Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami Seeing the lush green decorations, the crowded room of devotees understood that the theme was the ‘groves of Vrindavan’, which is fitting since that Shrivatsa Goswami Maharaj is known as ‘the environmentalist Goswami’. There were several ‘trees’ on the Jagmohan, which had been recreated from branches and were adorned with flowers. Shri Radharaman was sitting on a small podium in the middle of the recreated forest. The podium looked like a temple within the temple. The sides and dome of the podium were created from carved banana tree trunks with ornate floral themed carvings. Lattices of white Mogra flowers weaved over colourful cloth added colour and made for a pleasing aesthetic effect. Radharaman ji was wearing a fine silk saffron coloured suit enriched with sequin designs. The most striking thing about His appearance was His large eyes. Unlike many Deities, Radharaman ji’s eyes change. Sometimes He has thin, mischievous-looking eyes, but yesterday He had big eyes, lotus eyes to look at and shower mercy on all those who came before Him. Shri Radharaman ji 11.12.19 Photo: Shubankar Goswami There were yellow and green flags covering the roof and pink and yellow cloth adorning the podiums at the back of the temple where Tulsi Maharani and Giriraj Maharaj reside. Tulsi Parikrama after Sandya Aarti at Radharaman temple Each Goswami family has their own approach to Radharaman ji’s seva and devotees say that Thakurji’s mood and characteristics change according to the individual artistic style and devotional mood of the family in charge. Devotees often comment that when Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami and his sons are in charge, Radharaman ji looks like a young prince. The regal atmosphere is enhanced during the evening Aarti. During Sandya Aarti at 7.30pm, two straight lines of men stand in straight lines the outskirts of the inner group of Aarti participants holding silver flagpoles. Maharaj’s seva will continue until the 22nd June. Shrivatsa Maharaj’s seva period arises every two years. The special Darshans at this time are not to be missed.
  12. Shri Lalacharya was a saint in the line of Ramanujacharya Maharaj. He had the most respect for anyone wearing the dress of a Vaishnava. He used to honour all those who wore Vaishnava attire. He considered all Vaishnavas as his brothers. His wife understood his mood, but others often didn’t understand. One day Mrs Lalacharya went to get water with a few of her friends. A body with the markings of a Vaishnava, including Tulsi neckbeads, washed up on the shore. Teasing her, her friends said Look at him carefully. Is he your husbands older brother or younger brother? When his wife told him of this incident, Lalacharya began to cry. He was thinking, my brother was a Vaishnava saint and has now attained the abode of the Supreme. Then, they went to the river to perform final rights according to tradition. On the thirteenth day, Lalacharya organized a feast in honour of the Vaishnava. He invited the Brahmins of his local community but they all declined, thinking that Lalalacharya is trying to corrupt them by inviting them to a feast in honour of a person whose caste and history is unknown. The Brahmins who were against the feast convinced the others not to go, so, in the end no one was willing to come to his house for the feast. Lalacharya was concerned about this matter so he explained what happened to Shri Ramanujacharya ji. Rananujacharya ji said, Don’t worry, those Brahmins are just ignorant about the glories of Vaishnava Prasad. Then Ramanujacharya himself proceeded to Lalacharya’s house to partake of the Prasad. The local Brahmins who saw him tried to stop him but were a bit taken aback by his divine glow. They waited outside and planned to interrogate Ramanujacharya further when he came out of the feast. After the feast Ramanujacharya left Lalacharya’s house, not by road but by rising up into the sky. When the local Brahmins saw this, it opened their eyes so that they could see their mistake. They fell at Lalacharya’s feet crying and begged forgiveness. Lalacharya was a great Vaishnava. He did not want to make anyone ashamed so he said to them, You are all Brahmins. You make me ashamed by talking this way. It was by your actions that I had the Darshan of a great saint. I am grateful to all of you. The Brahmins no longer had any doubts about Lalacharya’s philosophy. They went to his house and took the grains that had fallen on the ground as Prasad. They became filled with joy and many took Vaishnava initiation.
  13. A108-AI

    Three days in Barsana

    The Brahmachal hills of Barsana are amazing. When you walk along the ridge from Maan Mandir towards the Jaipur temple, with all these shriveled trees and the skinny monkeys, it seems to shimmer with a divine luster. The monkeys run like mad when Vinode Baba comes distributing his goodies — sweets and chapatis. I don’t think there is that much food on the mountain. The monkeys in Barsana are much smaller than their cousins in Vrindavan. Amazingly, however, they don’t go down into the town to cause trouble and ravage the garbage dumps wherever they find them. Nor do they steal glasses. There are thousands of them on the mountain, but they are barely noticeable down below in the town – which disproves my theory that the red rhesus monkeys will always gravitate to human refuse and remain indifferent to their natural habitat. Maybe there is something different about Nature in the rocks of Brahmachal. It is almost impossible for me to speak of Brahmachal without talking about refuse. The other day while on Parikrama with Vinode Baba, he took a slight detour to go around Dahiya Kund. I had never been there before and I noticed the Braj Foundation had put up a stone information board, explaining the lila and the Braj Foundation’s role in repairing the kund at the request of Ramesh Baba. Well, though this work was done only a few years ago, it looks like an abandoned outpost from the Nehruvian period. Decorative pillars have fallen. Stone slabs are overgrown with grass and weeds. Local residents use the place for drying cowdung and protect their valuable patties from damage with thorns. The kund itself is practically empty of water, except for a puddle or two, and fast-growing eucalyptus are growing rapidly along with other acacia bushes. It is hard to say what good has come of the TBF’s work if it is reduced to a ruin so quickly. Things degrade very quickly in this country, and if they are neglected in this way, that is what can be expected. What is worse is that most of the water that is meant to supply the kund never makes it. The Parikrama path around the kund, and also built by TBF is like walking on stepping stones through the middle of a bog. I would say wetland, but since it is wastewater from the buildings at the bottom of the hill in Gahvarvan and is filled with all the usual kinds of refuse it feels more like .a sewer. It might be nice if it wasn’t a sewer. We are all very proud of Ramesh Baba and his Padma Shri award and all the good work he has done for the environmental movement. But quite frankly, the garbage disaster that is on Brahmachala starts with Gahvar Van and Maan Mandir and continues unabated all the way to the Ladili Mandir. It is impossible not to notice and I wonder why so many people don’t! Perhaps it is that they only see the sacred and do not perceive at all that the plastic wrappers and a thousand other variations of garbage that litter the entire length of the Parikrama. And I am not being entirely negative here. I barely saw it this time either, and certainly, I looked at it with barely any emotional charge, as we foreigners often feel. Brahmachal does really vibrate at a frequency that transports you into some kind of world of light. I got an inkling of Rupa’s verse__ dṛṣṭaiḥ svabhāva-janitair vapuṣaś ca doṣair na prākṛtatvam iha bhakta janasya paśyet | gaṅgāmbhasāṁ na khalu budbuda-phena-paṅkair brahma-dravatvam apagacchati nīra-dharmaiḥ ||6|| One should not look upon a devotee as a mundane being after seeing the flaws of body or mind produced by his nature. It is like the fact that the Ganges waters lose their divine nature as liquid Brahma because of the bubbles and mud that are in the nature of river water. (Upadeshamrrita 6) So I stuck to the happy mood and dashed off to the Ladili Lal temple where one enters yet another world. There is a kind of joyful anarchy, something of a crazy community of multiple groups of devotees doing their own bhakti thing, or tourists and pilgrims wandering round gazing at everything – the sadhus, the Gosais, the people in general, just milling around and looking down at the town or Jaipur mandir from the verandas. View from Ladli ji Mandir Ramesh Baba sits somewhat regally surrounded by his very distinctive looking inner group – vairagis with dreadlocks and wearing a few rags, flamboyant Radha Kund tilak all over their body. And so, of course, anyone coming into the temple, especially someone important from the devotee world, has to come and give his pranam. The local children, many of whom are beggars, harass him for sweets without caring for the distinguished Vaishnava raj sabha. Sometimes Brijbasis or temple Gosais come and regale Baba with folklore and legends. Sometimes they even put on a show for him spontaneously, singing devotional Braj-related songs and stories from a well-developed long tradition. It is bliss. It really is bliss. The temple courtyard is surrounded by steps and two meters of verandah. People sit here, many of them Babas and other sadhu types, chanting japa or just watching. Many have their regular place where they come day after day, waiting for the curtains to open and arati to begin with a great crash of bells. Everyone at arati sings their own song, or don’t sing at all. Arati is about just looking, or staring at the deity, darshan, if you can get a glimpse through all the heads. But when it is over, there is a great cry from the devotees Jai Radhe! And there is a hurling of flower petals at the Divine Couple. And then start the stotras. Two main groups chant different mantras. In the back it is the old Gosais and in the front it is the youth. The young men chant Kripa Kataksha Stotram with unparalleled vigor. The meter is very rhythmic (short long short long, etc.) and unchanging, totaka, I think it might be, and so lends itself to increased tempo and staccato regularity, kada kari?yasiha ma? k?paka?ak?abhajanam…. And then they sing “Radha Kishori daya koro”, with lots of utsaha. The result is uplifting. In the back the old Gosais chant a potpouri of verses, some standard and many from the Radha Rasa Sudha Nidhi. The temple is filled with a joyful racket while a priest takes the burning lamp through the crowd to offer it to some other shrines When he comes to the steps at the back of the courtyard leading to the open veranda, the Gosais separate to make a path for him and they take the flame prasad as he passes. Then you do parikrama of the temple and go down one of the three ways down the hill on that side. An interesting one is in Rangili Gali which breaks off from the main stairway. It is very narrow, very unchanged from the old times. Anyway, it looks unchanged. I have a friend from Birnagar, Krishadas, who lives with his wife in one of the houses on that lane. He invited me to lunch one day. There is no electricity. There is a great view of the Ladili temple from the roof. I thought it was pretty cool. And this is something that was very cool for me this time is that I seem to have some interesting friends in the Vaishnava community there. The first day I saw Anurag Baba in the temple and he told me to come and see him. I went the next day. We sat and mostly he talked. The man is a wealth of information about North Indian religion, and knows everyone and all the stories about everyone. He is originally from the Punjab. His father was a professor and an Arya Samaji. But he used to give Ramayan readings also. Anurag came to Braj when still a teenager and has been here ever since. He goes everywhere, knows all the histories and traditions. He told me that he was depressed because in the last year or two so many (23 he said) great Vaishnavas left the world. His bhajan, he said, is not to chant japa of the holy name, but to repeat the names of 2000 saints on his mala. We mostly talked about parampara because I have been thinking about it a bit lately. Anurag Baba is initiated in the Nitai Gaur Radhe Shyam parivar, but he is one of those extreme independent types. From the time of Boro Dada and Ramdas Babaji, the Nitai Gaur Radhe Shyam panthis have a great tolerance as well as respect for eccentricity. So on the parampara issue he was very liberal, saying that no one can restrict the will of the omnipresent and omnipotent God to reveal himself in response to a soul that establishes a relation with him. At any rate, I can barely remember a word of it and of course I did not have a recorder because I was without gadgets for a day or two. He told me so much about Shyam Charan Das, the founder of the Shuk sampradaya, who did not have a sampradaya himself. Hit Harivamsh, and so on. He said, “Are these not mahatmas?” Basically, his objection is only to those who are narrow-minded and claim that their revelation is the only authentic one. He also knows a lot about Sikhism and its Hindu roots, Nanak and Guru Govinda Singh and so on. Like I said, the man is a treasure trove. Vinod Bihari Baba with Pandit And of course, that is not all that I have to say about Barsana! I really go for the kirtan at Vinode Baba’s and to listen to him talk. It seems that his entire face has been shaped around a smile, with high round cheeks and twinkling eyes. This becomes most manifest when he is doing kirtan or quoting a good verse that hits the point about some aspect of bhajan. Yesterday it was about nistha, total commitment. Vinode Baba sticks to the basics, Gita and Bhagavata. He doesn’t go off on lila sphurtis or poetic descriptions from Radha Rasa Sudha Nidhi or anything like that. He talks a good vairagi line. Nama bhajan, that is the main thing. The kirtan is always resounding, no matter how many people. No matter who else is there, or even whether Baba himself sings, It always takes you into a world the kirtan itself creates in that environment. Vinode Baba’s band of merry men is really dedicated to the Maha Mantra. They are mostly good singers and instrumentalists, and guests and vairagis (renunciates) from the neighborhood are naturally attracted and participate. Often there are talented musicians who come. In the Priya Kunj ashram, people are constantly coming for darshan, but most are disappointed. They don’t know that the best time for darshan is kirtan time. It is a bit late in the evening (around 9), but that is when Baba makes his appearance… After what I said about Dohiya Kund, I should mention that Priya Kund, which I wrote about effusively not so long ago is also showing the signs of deterioration and neglect. The water is filling up slowly with empty plastic bottles and chip wrappers. Half of the structures and steps are not swept or maintained, and many of the pillars or domes on the chatris have been broken. Several of the chatris have already disappeared entirely. This is less than two years after the refurbishment! But they sure do keep pumping water into it, and it is still a playground for the youth in the hot season. Jai Radhe!
  14. A108-AI

    Jugal Ghat is now a garbage dump

    29.04.2019, Vrindavan The banks of Yamuna in Vrindavan that were once the dotted by sacred groves have been transformed into a garbage dump because of the incompetence and nonchalant attitude of civic authorities. Despite the state government and NGT’s stringent guidelines, construction debris and solid waste is being plonked on the river banks, particularly the area near Jugal Ghat. Devotees are deeply distressed to see the sanctity of the revered goddess being violated in such a manner. Religious gatherings that are organised on the river bank without permission and approval of concerned authorities also add to the garbage overload as no one is held accountable for the consequences. Blaring loudspeakers further vitiate the atmosphere with noise pollution. NGT lawyer Akash Vashistha expressed concern about the situation after examining the site on Wednesday. He said that around five years back NGT had imposed a fine of Rs 20 lakh on the Municipal Corporation and District administration for similar offences in response to a petition filed by activist and social worker Mahant Madhumangal Sharan Das. However, even this hasn’t been able to shake the authorities out of their laxity. He said that if the municipal corporation doesn’t act on the issue soon, the matter will have to be brought to the notice of NGT again. It will be naive to assume that the menace is limited to Jugal Ghat alone. The heavy rain and windstorm that wrecked Braj a fortnight back exposed the failure of development and sanitation efforts in the Dham. Tones of garbage and debris were washed ashore on Ram Ghat and Krishna Ghat due to the flood. Locals said that they hadn’t seen so much dirt being accumulated in the Yamuna in 12 years. Even after cleaning the garbage for two days, 25% was still remaining.
  15. Kusum Sarovar, which means a lake of flowers, is also known as Sumana Sarovar. It is believed that long back a beautiful forest once ran all around the kund, which was filled with sweet-smelling flowering trees. Standing near the two well-known pilgrimage towns of Mathura and Vrindavan, this place is located on the holy Govardhana hill that is famously associated with Shri Krishna. Among the lesser known historical monuments in the state of Uttar Pradesh are a group of 18th century memorial chattris or cenotaphs with a pretty water-body or kund in the foreground, known as Kusum Sarovar. Standing near the two well-known pilgrimage towns of Mathura and Vrindavan, this place is located on the holy Govardhana hill that is famously associated with Sri Krishna. Near this group of monuments also stand the Radha kund and Narada Kund, the latter being the place where it is believed that Bhakti Sutra was written by Narada. The recently renovated Kusum Sarovar group of chattris was built as a memorial for Maharaja Suraj Mal and his wife Kishori Rani in 1764 by his son Maharaja Jawahar Singh, the Jat ruler of Bharatpur, who reigned the region from 1707 to 1763. The central structure of the memorial is a large square with a high stone terrace, prettily carved domed bastions at corners, and lateral bays. The main chattris are built at the centre of a raised, ornamented high platform with two staircases to reach the top. Maharaja Suraj Mal, in whose name the chattris were built, was the famous Jat king who had successfully defeated the Mughal army stationed at Agra, causing much damage thereafter. According to some historians, Suraj Mal was later killed in Delhi in 1763 in a Mughal ambush, somewhere near the Hindon River. Later during the colonial era, members from this dynasty died while fighting against the British. The pretty kund that stands in front of the famous Jat king’s chattris also has an interesting history. The name of this kund is supposedly derived from an episode in the Kilakinchita Lila, where it speaks of Radha and the gopis gathering flowers to offer to Surya in a closely situated Surya Temple. It was on the banks of this sarovar that they would regularly meet Krishna and his friend Madhumangala. Kusum2-620x413.jpgKusum Sarovar chattri P.C. Monidipa Dey, Financial Express Kusum Sarovar, which means a lake of flowers, is also known as Sumana Sarovar. It is believed that long back a beautiful forest once ran all around the kund, which was filled with sweet smelling flowering trees such as mallika, chameli, juhi, champaka, bel, among many others. Set beautifully against the exotic sandstone memorial chattris, the 60 feet deep sarovar also holds a replica of Radha and Krishna’s feet in a separate monument. The chattri ceilings hold remnants of beautiful frescoes that depict scenes from various Krishna-gopi leelas. According to folklore, Muni Ashtavakra had once performed penance on the banks of Kusum Sarovar for a darshan of Sri Radha-Krishna. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is also believed to have visited this sarovar, and taken a dip in the cool waters of this holy kund.
  16. A108-AI

    20 ways to love Krishna

    Scriptures describe twenty topmost amazing and intimate ways to express your devotion, dependence and attachment to your Priya Thakurji, i.e. beloved transcendental murti form of Bhagavan Shri Krishna. Of Shri Rupa Goswamipada’s sixty-four limbs of bhakti-sadhana, ten forms of bhakti (#23-42) directly involve Shri Thakurji and His worshipers - us! Upon reading this description you will discover that our beautiful, sweet, charming and playful master, Shri Krishna, not only likes formal worship, but Shyama also likes the wild frantic dancing of His bhaktas. The term Shri-Thakurji means one’s favorite and beloved murti or Deity of Shri Krishna i.e. Bankebihari, Radha-Vallabha, Radha-Shyama or Radharamana. By citing Shrimad Bhagavatam and other Puranas, Shri Rupa Goswamipada reveals twenty different ways to please and personally interact with Radha and Krishna in their most beautiful, merciful, and accessible transcendental forms. After listing each item, Shri Rupa mentions the benefits attained by these loving exchanges with Bhagavan Shri Krishna. Their sources from Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu are in brackets. By engaging in these ways with Shri Thakurji, you will: conquer maya, and become free from disease, sin and rebirth (1.2.125-6, 129); attain liberation to Vaikuntha (1.2.139); and fulfil all your desires (1.2.165). 20 ways to love Krishna Accept Shri Thakurji’s Nirmalya (1.2.125) (Eating, smelling, touching and wearing Krishna’s divine food, perfumes, flower malas and celestial clothing.) Agre-Tandavam – Dance Frantically Before Shri Thakurji (1.2.128) Dandavats to Shri Thakurji (1.2.129) Stand Up to greet Shri Thakurji (1.2.130) Follow Shri Thakurji In Procession (1.2.131) Visit Shri Thakurji’s Sacred Places (1.2.132) (i.e. temple, Vrndavana, Navadvipa etc.) Parikrama (1.2.135) (Shri Thakurji’s murti or temple four times Worship Shri Thakurji “Deity Worship” (1.2.137) (bathing, dressing, feeding) ‘Paricarya Seva’ to Shri Thakurji (1.2.140) (wave camara, ring bell, blow conch) Solo singing Bhajans or Gita for Shri Thakurji (1.2.144) Sankirtana, Singing Loudly (1.2.145) (Krishna’s names, qualities, pastimes) Japa, Silently Utter Diksa Mantras (1.2.149) (before Shri Thakurji) Vijnapti, Submissive Prayers (1.2.151) (express your worthlessness, and submit your inner feelings towards Shri Thakurji while ever yearning for His personal service) Stava-Patha (1.2.157-9) (before Shri Thakurji, recite Bhagavad-gita; prayers of acaryas and mahajanas; and your spontaneous outpourings and heart’s compositions) Naivedyam-Svado, Relish Maha -Prasada (1.2.160) (honoring Shri Thakurji’s tulasi, grains, fruits etc.) Padya-Svado (Drink Shri -Thakurji’s Caranamrta (1.2.161) Dhupa-Saurabhyam (1.2.162) (smelling Shri -Thakurji’s incense, flowers, malas, perfumes) Shri-Murti-Sparsanam (1.2.165) (touching Shri Thakurji – if one is qualified) Shri-Murti-Darsanam (1.2.166) (looking at your Priya-Shri-Thakurji, and being overwhelmed by feelings of love) Aratrika-Darsanam (1.2.167) (seeing Shri Thakurji’s arati, festivals, and puja—bathing, dressing etc.)
  17. Mathura, 2019.04.11 Given the significance of Yamuna as ‘jeevan’ and ‘mokshdayani’ (giver of life and liberation), and as one of the ‘Ashtabharyas’ of Shri Krishna (as Kalindi), Yamuna Chhath is one of the most important festivals in Braj. The divinity of Yamuna is well established in Puranic and Bhakti Literature, the latter belonging to the middle ages. She is at the center of worship in the Pushti Marga Sampradya. Besides, her role as enabler to the flourishing of life and civilization has been well-acknowledged in Braj for centuries now. According to Laxmi Narayan Tiwari, founder-secretary of Braj Culture Research Institute, there is evidence of the tradition of Yamuna worship as far back as the first century BC, around which time Mathura was ruled by the Mitravanshi Kings. Gomitra was an early King of the Mitravanshi dynasty. Several coins and other artefacts belonging to his period have been found during excavations in Mathura and nearby areas (particularly the Sonkh Tila and Gosana village hill area). Based on the inscriptions from coinage and a broken slab excavated in Vrindavan few years back, it is speculated that Gomitra was a follower of Bhagavat Dharma. One such coin, which is conserved along with other artefacts and written records from this period at the Braj Culture Research Institute in Goda Vihar, Vrindavan, is shown in the adjoining picture. The institute has also published information on this subject under the title “Braj ke Abhilekh –Bhaag 1”. While numismatists say that the female figure seen on the coin is Goddess Lakshmi, Tiwari believes that she is Yamuna for two reasons – the Lotus flower in one hand, and wave-like parallel lines below her feet which suggest she is a river goddess. Aquatic life forms (fish and turtles) are carved out between these two lines, further hinting at her being Yamuna as the river is particularly associated with Turtles. According to Tiwari, the Gomitra coin is the most ancient depiction of Yamuna in human form, which also establishes the antiquity of her worship in Braj.
  18. Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor (1909-2001) The siddha babas of Braj are not easily recognizable, and rightly so, as they shun name and fame, giving their devotion and precepts only to the qualified. OBL Kapoor personally met and collected information about hundreds of siddha devotees of Braj – persons whose attachment to the Supreme far outweighs any lingering attachment to the body, to the extent that it is often difficult for them to survive in this world. Hearing about their pastimes is awe-inspiring and might even help us to recognize the rare soul who is siddha. For the modern striving devotee, the stories of the devotees of the modern age is very useful. For this reason, the stories of the lives of the devotees of approximately the last two hundred years have been collected." (Extract from the Preface to Braj ke bhakt, Translated from the Hindi by J.K. Brzezinski) Kapoor later released an English edition of Braj ke bhakt, called "The saints of Braj". In the chapter on Shri Gauranga Dasa Babaj, Kapoor describes how he used to come to Vrindavan in search of a siddha Mahatma – a great soul who is directly in touch with the Supreme. "After my spiritual master Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj had passed away, I was in great distress. Though I knew that his benedictory hand was still on me, I felt that without his living presence, I was like an orphan. There was no one to whom I could go to for succour, guidance or inspiration. My wife was in greater distress because she had only received Harinama from him. She was to be given proper initiation on some auspicious day later. But he passed away before that auspicious day came. We used to go to Vrindavan in search of a siddha Mahatma, whom we could accept as a spiritual guide or guardian. Once I asked an old saint in Vrindavan, "Is there any siddha saint in Vrindavan at present, a spiritual dynamo, to whom one could go to charge his battery whenever it became weak or discharged?" "Of course he replied, Have you not met Sri Gauranga Das Baba ji Maharaj of Ramanreti?" "No" "Then what have you been coming to Vrindavan for? He is the only siddha saint in Vrindavan at present. He is most unostentatious and humble. But the spiritual treasure behind his simplicity can hardly escape the eyes of a discerning sadhaka. You must go and see him." My wife and I went to see him the same evening. We saw a fair coloured, attractive looking sadhu of about sixty, sitting all alone in his room and doing japa. His eyes were wet, his face was radiant and a heavenly peace seemed to reign on and around him. It appeared from his eyes that love, which filled his heart up to the brim was spilling out through the eyes. He cast a tender look at us, as if to draw us close to his heart and give us a loving embrace. We felt that we had found the guardian, the great saint we were looking for. Our hearts melted and tears began to stream from out of our eyes." Baba could understand that we were in distress. He said affectionately, "If there is anything that afflicts you, do not worry. Go and tell your tale to a kalpataru over there (he pointed out the Neem trees in the ashram). Every tree in Vrindavan is a kalpataru (desire tree). If you embrace it and speak out your heart to it, it listens and helps. There is nothing it cannot help you with. It can even present to you the most cherished objects of your heart – Radha and Krishna, if you so desire." My wife said, "Baba, if I go to a kalpataru, there is only one thing I shall pray for. I will say – Give me the guru I want. But since I have found in you the guru that I want, why should I go to the kalpataru and not pray to you directly? Would you not kindly give me diksa and accept me as your sisya?" "Lali, you are mine," replied Baba affectionately. "And what about me Baba?" I asked excitedly. "You are both mine," said Baba, looking at me with deep affection. "But Baba, I am already initiated by Shri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaja." "So what? He is your diksha guru, I am your siksa guru. You should regard the diksa guru and siksa guru as one. My problem was solved. Baba gave me the best of his love and blessings and in the few remaining years of his life I remained in close contact with him." The descriptions of the ‘devotees of Braj’ in OBL Kapoor’s work certainly sets the standard and gives us an inkling about why ‘siddha mahatmas’ are not easy to find or recognize. OBL Kapoor’s siksha gura, Shri Gauranga Das, also came to Vrindavan in search of a siddha baba. Once, when on the train on the way to Sanskrit College, he met a Vaishnava and asked him… "Have you come across a siddha vaisnava saint?" "Yes I have. Have you not heard of Sri Rama Dasa Baba ji Maharaj? He is the only siddha vaisnava I have known. I have seen such asta satvika bhavas appear on his body at the time of kirtana as I have never seen or heard anywhere else. Rama Dasa Babaji is the disciple of Sri Radharamana Charana Dasa Baba ji Maharaj, whose miracles, like making a tree dance in Sankirtana, bringing back to life a corpse ready to be burnt on the funeral pyre, granting Krishna-prema to people by his mere embrace and many others, are well known all over Bengal and Orissa." So Shri Gauranga Dasa (who was then known as Dhirendra) took initiation from Rama Dasa Baba. After some time, with permission of his guru, he went to Vrindavan to practice lila smaran under the guidance of Shri Jagadisa Baba of Kalidah who affectionately called him ‘Gopal’. To outsiders, Dhirendra seemed to be loitering around the banks of the Yamuna, which caused people to complain to Jagadish baba saying, "Your Gopala does not do any bhajana. He only loiters around like a lunatic." Jagadisa Dasa replied, "What Gopala does is the bhajana of the highest order. He cannot do anything except bhajana." Jagadisa Baba sent Dhirendra to study the shastras and Braj Bhasha literature under the guidance of Pandit Ramakrishna Dasa Baba, the sent him back to his Diksha guru in Calcutta, who gave him Sanyasa Diksha. After this time he was called Gauranga Baba. Gauranga Baba lived very simply by begging in a village in Bengal. One day he had a dream that Giriraj was calling him and saying "Take me to your Kuti. I long for your service." The next day, a Deity came out of the ground where some people were digging a well so Gauranga Baba started serving the Deity in his hut. Gaurange Baba had to spend all his time in serving Giridhari, so he had hardly any time left for lila smarana. He then returned to Vrindavan to ask Jagadisa Baba what he should do. Jagadisa Baba advised him, "With folded hands you express to Giridhari your inability to serve Him and leave him on the Govardhan hill. You should yourself follow the path of abstinence and bhajan shown by Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatan". As Kapoor explains, "A lower end has sometimes to be sacrificed for the higher. Sanatan Goswami and Gauranga Dasa Baba ji sacrificed lower service of the Deity with the physical body and meterials on the mundane plane, to a higher service with spiritual body (siddha deha) and materials on the transcendental plane in smarana." The most merciful Supreme Lord instructs all as they are qualified to hear. Sometimes we imagine ourselves to be qualified for a level of service that we really don’t understand. Just as it is not easy to see Krishna’s lilas, it is also not easy to see those siddha babas who can see. And even if we meet them, will we recognize them? The following example from the chapter on "Krsnachaitanya Dasa Baba" shows what happens when devotees try to jump to a level that they are not ready for: Chandrasarovar, Govardhan "Vrajamohana Dasa Ji of Yasohara, who, after taking vesa from [Sri Krishnacaitanya Dasa] Baba, lived in Chandrasarovar and served him, once asked for instruction in lila smarana. Baba expressed in this connection the views of two great saints of his time who had become siddha through lila smarana. He said, when Pandita Ramakrishna Dasa Baba lived in Balapokhara in Govardhan, I went to him and asked for instruction in lila smarana. He replied, ‘If anyone else had asked me to give him instruction in lila smarana, I would have given him a slap on the cheek.’ I understood what he meant and did not have the courage to say anything. Lila smarana is not easy." Once two devotees went to Jagadisa Dasa Baba of Kalidah and requested him to give them instruction in lila smarana. Baba talked about other things, but did not say a word about lila smarana. They went again after a few days and made the same request. Again they returned disappointed, because Baba parried all questions regarding lila smarana. Then they began to practice lila smarana after taking instruction from another mahatma. Next time when they went to Baba, they found that he knew everything about their bhajana without their telling him anything about it. He asked with a smile, "How is your smarana going on?" "It is going on, but not very satisfactorily", replied the devotees. "Baba said, "You don’t know. There is no smarana without marana (death). One has to conquer the body and forget all about it before doing lila smarana. One has for all practical purposes to die as far as the world is concerned Sri Krishnachaitanya Baba himself tried to leave the body so as to be able to remain constantly in remembrance of Krishna Lila. He arranged for a Bhagavata Saptaha. On the last day, after a grand feast, he breathed his last. Kapoor describes the incident: "On the tenth day all the Vrajabasis and Mahatmas, who lived within fourteen miles of Chandrasarovara, were invited to a grand feast. All arrangements for the feast were completed. Then suddenly Baba breathed his last. Festivity was over and dark clouds of grief and dismay cast their shadow over the scene. People waited in vain for a long time for the reappearance of some sign of life in Baba’s body. At last, arrangements were made for the funeral. His body was carried to the cremation ground for burning. As soon as the body reached there, he was heard saying, in a lean voice, "Where are you carrying me? Take me back to my place." After that Baba became famous but he moved to a secluded place. Many people requested him to give them initiation but he only gave initiation to a few, after the insistence of his guru, Shri Haricharana Das Babaji, disciple of Shri Gaurkishora Shiromani. One day, one of Krishnachaitanya Baba’s disciples suspected that something had happened to Baba because when he used to say Jai Radhe everyday after paying pranam at Baba’s cottage near Chandrasarovar, but, on that day there was no reply. He consulted a Mahatma, who told him, "Absence of any response from Baba is not a cause for anxiety because Baba is so absorbed in Lila that he often goes into Samadhi and remains unconscious for house. But I saw one extraordinary thing happen this morning. I saw that Baba’s hut was aglow with a supernatural light such as I had never seen before. I do not know what kind of light it was. I never saw a lamp in Baba’s cottage." The villagers found Baba in an unconscious state. They held kirtan in an attempt to revive him but his state remained the same. Just then a pandit from Barsana came running with paan saying that Radha Rani has sent it for the Bengali Baba who is dying. As soon as the paan was placed in his mouth, Baba said, "Jai Radhe" and sat up but remained in a state of ‘divyonmada’ (divine madness) for several months. "He would in a fit of emotion sometimes laugh, sometimes weep and sometimes fall unsconscious on the ground. People thought he had gone mad. They took him to the Gwalior temple in Kusum Sarovar for treatment. In Gwalior temple, food used to be served on behalf of the Raja of Gwalior. As soon as Baba reached there he said, "I will not eat Raja’s food. Take me back from here." He was brought back to Chandrasarovara. Gradually his divyonmada subsided. Radharani had once again foiled his attempt to leave the body, because she wanted to keep him alive for some more time to serve as a beacon light to the fallen souls and show them the path of bhakti by example and precept At last the time came when Radharani wanted to accept him in Her service. Baba came to know about it. He thought he should go and meet all the people, who were dear to him. So he went to Sesayi, Vansi and other villages, stayed there for some time and came back. On returning he said to Vrajamohana Dasa, "This time I told everyone while coming back that this was my last meeting with them. They were very much aggrieved. But what could I do? In the year 1940 on Kartik Krsna Astami, Baba left the body finally to take shelter under the lotus-feet of Radharani. His Samadhi was laid in Chandrasarovar. Saints of Braj ki Jai! Radharani ji Jai!
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