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of a Traveling Preacher, Chapter 22
February 13, Sri Prahlad, Rukmini Priya and myself arrived in New Delhi
from Moscow. I will be spending 10 days in India, resting and recuperating
from our trip to Russia, before embarking on a preaching tour in Africa.
spending one precious day in Vrindavan, I traveled south to Udaipur to
join my son, Gaura Sakti dasa, and two of his business associates, Mickey
and Sherry Goldman, all of whom are on a business and recreation trip in
Rajasthan. After meeting Mickey and Sherry, I was a little apprehensive
about spending a planned five days with them, as our initial conversations
didn't go much beyond the daily news and the weather. Mickey and Sherry
are both older than me and come from conservative Jewish backgrounds, and
I could sense they felt a little uncomfortable around a Hare Krishna
devotee in saffron robes. But it appeared that Krishna had a plan for
them, which gradually unfolded as the days went by.
Mickey and Sherry inquired from me what sites would be interesting to
visit in Udaipur, they seemed a little surprised by my detailed reply. I
have been interested in Rajasthan for a long time, as much of its history
concerns Vrindavan Deities, many of Whom were moved to Rajasthani
locations such as Jaipur and Nathdwar during the 1700s to save Them from
the Muslim invaders. The original city of Jaipur was built by Maharaja Jai
Singh II to protect Srila Rupa Goswami's Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Govinda.
Nathdwar, near Udaipur, has been home to Madhavendra Puri's Deity, Sri
Gopala (Sri Nathji), for hundreds of years for the same reason.
his book, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, an extensive diary written
in the early 1800s, British Colonel James Todd describes Udaipur as
"the most diversified and romantic spot on the continent of
India." Even today, with its grandiose palaces, hilltop forts and
beautiful temples, Udaipur looks as it has been lifted straight from the
pages of a fairy tale book. When I suggested to Mickey and Sherry that
they begin by visiting Udaipur Palace, they asked if I would come along.
Though the palace is of little spiritual interest, I agreed hoping to
develop a deeper relationship with them in which I might be able to
inspire them in Krishna consciousness.
the palace we began making our way through the inner chambers. When Mickey
asked why the hallways are so narrow and the entrances to all the rooms so
low, I explained that they were built like that as a strategy to deal with
enemy soldiers attacking the palace. Invading soldiers could advance only
one at a time through the narrow hallways, and bowing their heads low upon
entering the rooms gave an advantage to the palace soldiers on the other
side who would easily behead them.
we reached the renowned Room of Mirrors, a young American man, seeing my
saffron cloth, approached and asked if he could speak with me. Folding his
hands and saying, "Hari Om," he asked if I had ever read the
Bhagavad-gita. When I replied that I had, a lively conversation began,
wherein we debated if God were a person or an energy. Mickey and Sherry
listened intently as I presented arguments for the existence of a personal
God. I took advantage of the situation more to preach to them than to my
impersonalist acquaintance. Though the young man would not concede defeat,
my arguments seemed to impress Mickey and Sherry, who as the day wore on
began asking questions of a spiritual nature. Last night over dinner we
discussed a number of spiritual topics, and our conversation seemed to
make them more relaxed in my presence. In fact, at the end of the evening
Mickey concluded by stating that in America it is unfortunate that Krishna
consciousness is sometimes thought of as a cult, when in fact it is an
ancient religion. On the way home, I reflected that although I wasn't
giving class to hundreds of devotees, as I was a few days ago in Russia,
at least I was able to convince one gentleman about the authenticity of
Krishna consciousness. Canakya Pandit states that even small doses of such
spiritual welfare are beneficial:
not a single day pass without your learning a verse, half a verse, or a
fourth of it, or even one letter of it; nor without attending to charity,
study and other pious activity." [Niti-Sastra, Chapter 2, Verse 13]
with our venture to Udaipur Palace yesterday, Mickey and Sherry today
asked my advice for another place to go. I was planning to visit the
temple of Sri Nathji in Nathdwar, about 50km south of Udaipur, and offered
to take them along. They were excited about the opportunity, as it was a
journey off the general tourist route, but afterwards I wondered if I had
made the right decision to invite them along. How would they, as members
of the Jewish faith, relate to Deity worship?
decided to explain the principle of Deity worship to them before we left.
As we all sat waiting for a car to take us to Nathdwar, I asked them if in
the Jewish faith a material object can be accepted as spiritual, due to
its association with God? I gave the example of the holy Cross in the
Christian faith, and the wine and wafers given to the faithful in the
Catholic Church. Although obviously material by nature, those items are
accepted as having taken on a spiritual quality, due to their being used
in the service of God. But Mickey and Sherry couldn't think of any such
example in their faith, until I suggested the Torah, the sacred book of
the Jews. I said it was only paper - but revered by the faithful and given
a special place in any home or synagogue because of its spiritual content.
When they agreed, I explained that in the Vedic tradition, the Deity is
carved from stone, marble or wood, and after installation according to
authorized scriptures, is accepted as non-different from the Lord.
with the new idea, at first they seemed confused. Mickey said, "We
were taught that worshipping such statues is idol worship." Then to
my surprise, Sherry spoke up and said that because God is present
everywhere, there is no reason He couldn't be in the Deity while at the
same time not being limited to that form. Mickey nodded his head in
agreement. Confident that my new friends had made a little progress in
Krishna consciousness, I opened the door of the taxi as it arrived and we
began our journey to Nathdwar.
and Sherry were obviously pleased with the exotic atmosphere of Nathdwar,
with its colorful flags, banners and shani bands that welcome thousands of
pilgrims. I did note, however, that there were far less pilgrims present
than during my last visit three years ago. Obviously, the recent
earthquake in nearby Gujarat has had an effect on the number of pilgrims
visiting Nathdwar. Sri Nathji is the worshipful Deity of most Gujaratis,
but with Indian officials putting the death toll of the earthquake at more
than 30,000 (locals say 100,000), and with many more people homeless and
relief work making travel difficult, most Gujaratis are not making the
pilgrimage to Nathdwar at present.
curious thing happened as we approached the temple, which surprised all of
us. As I stopped in a shop to purchase a small silver box for my Deities,
a poor sadhu approached me and held out his hand for a donation. I don't
generally give laksmi in such situations, but I relented and decided to
give the poor man 10 rupees. Not having any small bills with me, I asked
the shop owner to change a larger bill for smaller ones. To my surprise,
he gave the bill to an equally poor woman who happened to come by begging
at that same moment. Without a word, she reached into her old cloth and
pulled out a wad of bills and a large bag of coins, and right there on the
street changed the large bill for the shop owner!
incident reminded me of Srila Prabhupada's instructions on giving money to
beggars in India. When his disciples first came to India, they didn't know
how to respond to the repeated requests for money from the poor and the
sadhus on the street. Srila Prabhupada replied that they could give, but
only to sadhus, and in particular to those sadhus who sat calmly on the
ground, as is customary, waiting for mercy from others.
the Sri Nathji temple we saw many pilgrims waiting for the doors to open.
The men were waiting outside one set of doors, the women by another. The
custom at the temple is that when the doors are opened, the pilgrims
charge forward to have the best vantage point for seeing Sri Nathji. The
ladies are directed to the front of the temple and the men towards the
told Mickey and Sherry that it would be "every man for himself"
when the doors opened, and that they should try their best to get inside
the temple and see the Deity. We would meet outside after the 30-minute
darsan was over. There wasn't much else I could do. I knew from past
experience that darsan of Sri Nathji was like a transcendental football
match, with thousands of pilgrims pushing and shoving to see Him in a very
enough, when the conch sounded and the doors opened, thousands of men and
women surged forward to get Sri Nathji's darsan. Sherry's eyes opened
widely as she was suddenly swept into the temple with a wave of women. I
grabbed Mickey by the arm as the men's group tumbled into the darsan hall.
As the crowd surged forward Mickey and I were shoved backwards and
forwards, while simultaneously being spun around as everyone clamored to
that I would have only a few precious moments before Madhavendra Puri's
Deity of Sri Gopala (Sri Nathji), I had memorized Madhavendra Puri's
prayer to the Lord that I had read recently in Caitanya-caritamrta.
Although it was a very deep prayer, beyond my realization as an aspiring
devotee, Srila Rupa Goswami has stated that if we don't have the desire
for pure devotional service, at least we should "desire to
desire" to have it. I felt if I was going to see this special Deity
for only a few moments, I may as well pray to Him in the mood of His most
beloved servant who is training us to approach Krishna without any
material aspirations. When suddenly I got a glimpse of Sri Gopala, I
managed to stand still for a few moments and folding my hands made my
supplication to Him:
dina dayardra natha he
My Lord! O most merciful master! O master of Mathura! When shall I see You
again? Because of My not seeing You, My agitated heart has become
unsteady. O most beloved one, what shall I do now?" [CC Madhya 4.197]
this prayer Madhavendra Puri is praying in the mood of separation, the
highest sentiment of love of God. It is very rare to attain, but it's
certainly possible if we strictly follow Srila Prabhupada. Once I asked
Srila Prabhupada about the mood of separation. He was visiting our New
Mayapur community in France in 1974 and was giving darsan on the lawn
outside the chateaux. He was speaking about how the pure devotee sees
Krishna everywhere because of his deep love for the Lord. When he finished
and asked for questions, I raised my hand and said, "Srila
Prabhupada, if the pure devotee sees Krishna everywhere, why does Lord
Caitanya, who is in the mood of a devotee, say in His Siksastakam prayers
that He is feeling so much separation from Krishna?
Prabhupada looked at me for what seemed eternity, then replied, "That
is difficult to know, but some day you will understand."
Prabhupada, I'm still far from that realization, but I have faith that by
menial service to your lotus feet, all these things will be revealed to me
brief meditation on Sri Gopala was broken when the huge crowd, heaving
with hundreds of devotees, suddenly spilled Mickey and myself back out on
to the stone steps in front of the temple.
gathering ourselves, I looked anxiously at Mickey, wondering how he had
fared with his first darsan of the Lord in a temple. Buttoning up his
shirt and rearranging his disheveled clothes, he looked at me and said
with a surprised look on his face, "I made it!" It wasn't
exactly the reaction I had hoped for.
few moments later Sherry emerged from the temple with a blissful look on
her face. With a big smile she said, "Maharaja, I got some of the
sacred water and I also ate the little green leaves the priest gave
me!" As we walked back to the car she excitedly told us how she had
been "right in front of the Deity," and began explaining in
detail how beautiful He looked. As she described His big eyes, His
charming smile, and curious form "bent in three places," I
smiled remembering my apprehension as to how she and her husband would
understand what a Deity was. A few days ago they had come to India as
simple tourists, but by the Lord's mercy had already begun to understand
some aspects of the all-beautiful Lord.
traya paricitam saci vistirna drstim
dear friend, if you are indeed attached to your worldly friends, do not
look at the smiling face of Lord Govinda as He stands on the bank of the
Yamuna at Kesighata. Casting sidelong glances, He places His flute to His
lips, which seem like newly blossomed twigs. His transcendental body,
bending in three places, appears very bright in the moonlight." [CC
© CHAKRA 05 June 2001
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