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Diary of a Traveling Preacher, Chapter 23
By Indradyumna Swami

February 18-19, 2001

Our entourage of myself, Gaura Sakti, and Mickey and Sherry Goldman reached Jaipur on the morning of February 18. There we were joined by Sri Prahald and Rukmini Priya from Vrindavan. Mickey and Sherry were eager to see the sights of the Pink City constructed by Maharaja Jai Sing II as a fortress to protect Srila Rupa Goswami's Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Govindaji, Who left Vrindavan when the Muslims invaded India in the late 1700s. In time other important Gaudiya Vaisnava Deities came for the same reasons: Radha-Damodar, Radha-Gopinath, and Radha-Vinode, the Deities of Jiva Goswami, Madhu Pandit, and Lokanath Goswami respectively. They have all been worshipped here for hundreds of years. Radha-Govinda, being the principle Deities of Jaipur, are worshipped nicely, but not as much attention is given to the other Deities.

Previously, hundreds of years ago, the rulers gave prominence to the worship of the Deity, knowing that by doing so there would be good fortune for the people. However, modern rulers ignore the Deities in preference to their own positions to gain name, fame and money. As a result, the beautiful city of Jaipur is slowly deteriorating. Also, there has been a severe drought here for more than three years. Water is rationed; most people are supplied with water for only two hours a day. As a result, crops are affected and the price of food has escalated. No one knows how to solve the problem, but the answer is clearly given by Srila Prabhupada in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

"When the Hare Krishna mantra is chanted by many men together, the chanting is called sankirtana, and as a result of such a yajna there will be clouds in the sky. In these days of drought, people can gain relief from scarcity of rain and food by the simple method of the Hare Krishna yajna. Indeed, this can relieve all of human society. At present there are droughts throughout Europe and America, and people are suffering, but if people take this Krishna consciousness movement seriously, if they stop their sinful activities and chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, all their problems will be solved without difficulty." [SB 9.1.17, purport]

On our list of the many attractions in Jaipur was the temple of Radha Govinda. In fact, it was naturally the first place to visit because of its being in the very center of the city. Thousands of people begin their day there by attending mangala-arati and greeting the Deities later in the morning. I feel a special attachment to Radha-Govinda for several reasons. Firstly, They are the beloved Deities of Srila Rupa Goswami, who is one of our principle teachers in the art of loving Krishna. Secondly, Their history is colorful and intriguing with Their daring move from Vrindavan to Jaipur. Lastly, Their present worship touches the heart and brings forth spiritual feelings.

I first came to Radha-Govinda's temple as a new sannyasi in 1979. I was traveling alone on my way to south India to visit the appearance site of Lord Nrsimha in Ahovalam. When I entered Radha-Govinda's temple room early one morning, there were thousands of people singing beautiful songs to Govindaji with intense emotion. With their hands together in namskara, they swayed back and forth appealing to the Deity with love and devotion. I had been chanting Hare Krishna for years, but I had never chanted with so much feeling. The fact that thousands of people were doing so simultaneously had an overwhelming effect on me. I had a realization that the holy names were the only means of deliverance in this age, and I witnessed that the beauty of Govindaji made those devotees call out to Him with love.

"Let the twice-born enter the fearless kingdom of yoga, Vedic study, and solitary meditation in the forest. Let them become liberated in that way. As for us, we will spend hundreds of thousands of births chanting the holy name of Lord Krishna, whose splendid dark complexion and yellow garments are like a host of blue lotus flowers blooming in a grove of yellow-flower-bearing kadamba trees." [Padyavali - Introduction, Verse 18]

As Mickey and Sherry entered the Radha-Govinda temple room with me, they appeared relieved that visiting a temple didn't mean going through the pushing and shoving we experienced with the enthusiastic followers of Sri Nathji in Nathdwar. Although there were thousands of people coming to see Govindaji, the temple room is large and spacious. To my surprise, Mickey and Sherry went straight to the front in order to get a good view of Radha-Govinda and study Their transcendental forms. In Nathdwar they had only a glimpse of Sri Nathji; here they wanted to see first hand Who all the commotion was about. Our discussion about Deity worship had evolved since our initial conversation, when they politely referred to it as "idol worship." But they had experienced something special at Sri Nathji's temple and were curious to know more. Their attitude reminded me of Srila Prabhupada's words at the installation of the first Radha-Krishna Deities in Los Angeles. He said, "If you see these Deities as brass, They will remain like that to you forever. But if you approach Them with love and devotion, one day They will speak to you!"

On the way to Jaipur from Udaipur, Mickey and Sri Prahlad discussed Deity worship. I was intrigued, because Mickey and his wife are from conservative Jewish families where, of course, "idol" worship is condemned.

Mickey: Does the Deity have to be thousands of years old, or can someone establish a new Deity?

Sri Prahlad: New Deities are made according to the directions of scripture. Six types of Deities are described therein: those made from wood, stone, metal, gems, earth, and in the mind.

Mickey: I would tend to believe in a Deity in the mind.

Sri Prahlad: That's the highest form of worship, but also the most difficult. Therefore, the physical Deities are given to help focus on internal meditation.

Mickey: Is Deity worship like yoga?

Sri Prahlad: There are different types of yoga; the process we follow is bhakti yoga, or the yoga of love and devotion. Through Deity worship we practice worshipping God with love.

Mickey: This is all so interesting, so fascinating. I could never have understood it unless I came here and saw it for myself.

Seeing Mickey and Sherry intently studying the forms of Radha and Krishna, the head pujari did an amazing thing that only deepened my faith in the power of the Deity to reciprocate with our approaches to Him. He called Mickey and Sherry forward to the front of the altar and had them stand 10ft away from Radha-Govinda! Sherry had spontaneously purchased a garland outside the temple, and now that she was in front of the Deity she gathered strength and slowly handed it to the pujari, indicating that he should give it to Radha and Krishna. Understanding the special nature of the moment, the pujari took the garland and gave it to Radharani, and then took two garlands from Radharani and Tulasi leaves from the feet of Govindaji and came back and gave them to Mickey and Sherry. Myself and many pilgrims present watched in amazement.

When Mickey and Sherry came back from the altar, they garlanded themselves, ate the Tulasi leaves and folded their hands in namskara looking at Radha and Krishna.

Deciding that from this point on I would have no hesitation in bringing them closer to the Lord, I gave them a number of Govindaji's maha lugloo sweet balls and said that they should distribute them to the people. As soon as they held the prasadam out, they were deluged by pilgrims eager for mercy. Mickey was in bliss and turned to me saying, "It's better to give than to receive."

We left very early the next day for Vrindavan. Mickey and Sherry were eager to go to Vrindavan because I had told them there were 5000 temples there. Mickey asked if there were Deities in every temple, and I said, "Yes, of course."

Then he asked if all the Deities were black. I replied, "Yes, most of Them are."

When he asked, "Who is the girl who's always standing next to Krishna," I gave him a brief explanation.

As he started with yet another question, I had to say, "Mickey, let's take a little rest now. We'll talk about all this in Vrindavan. The atmosphere there is very conducive for these types of questions."

For a few moments he was silent, and then like a young boy he said, "How long will it take us to get to Vrindavan?"

I replied, "I don't think it's going to take you very long to actually get there, Mickey."

"What's that?" he said.

"Nothing, Mickey. Let's take rest," I said.

I couldn't believe the transformation that had taken place with our two guests from rural America. Only days before they had so many doubts about the process of worshipping the Deity of the Lord. Now they were expressing so much eagerness to see Him. Krishna is surely the supreme mystic!

"I offer my respectful obeisances to wonderful, playful, mischievous Krishna who, if He desires, can make an ocean dry land, dry land an ocean, a blade of grass a thunderbolt, a thunderbolt an insignificant blade of grass, fire cool, or snow a blazing fire." [Padyavali - Introduction, Text 6]

© CHAKRA 10 June 2001

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