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Diary of a
Traveling Preacher, Volume 4, Chapter 2
by Indradyumna Swami
October 9-25, 2001
"O brother! When you close your eyes in death, where will your loving wife, children, brothers and relatives be? Where will your good qualities be? Where will your fame be? Where will your pride, wealth, education, control over others, powers and opulences be? O learned and intelligent friend! Why do you not renounce these things and run to Vrindavana?" [Vrindavan-mahimamrta, Sataka 1, Text 81]
Before flying to India I was deluged by e-mails, phone calls, and faxes warning, advising and pleading with me not to go because of the risk of terrorism and, more so, tension between India and Pakistan. Many of the arguments were logical, but I finally decided to go after coming across a relevant purport in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which I read the morning before my flight. I was unsure of what to do, until my spiritual master gave me clear advice:
"Sometimes the members of the Krsna Consciousness Society are afraid of the impending danger of world war and ask what would happen to them if a war should occur. In all kinds of danger, they should be confident of their protection by the Visnudutas or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati). Material danger is not meant for devotees. This is also confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Padam Padam yad vipadam na tesam: in this material world there are dangers at every step, but they are not meant for devotees who have fully surrendered unto the lotus feet of the Lord. The pure devotees of Lord Visnu may rest assured of the Lord's protection, and as long as they are in this material world they should fully engage in devotional service by preaching the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Krsna, namely the Hare Krsna movement of Krsna consciousness. [Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.3.18, purport]
On October 8, I flew from Warsaw to New Delhi with Sri Prahlad and his wife, Rukmini Priya dasi. After a brief stopover in Vienna, we were the first passengers to reboard the airplane. Knowing it was a full flight, I settled into my seat and observed the rest of the passengers as they boarded, curious to see who might sit beside me for the nine-hour journey. I noticed one woman coming down the aisle who appeared to be extremely nervous. Upon seeing me she seemed to calm down, and appeared relieved when she discovered her seat was right next to mine. We exchanged a few pleasantries, but otherwise didn't speak the entire flight.
Hours later, when we had landed in Delhi and were preparing to leave the plane, she said to me, "Can I share something with you?"
I said, "Yes, of course. What is it?"
She said, "I have a phobia about flying, which has increased because of the recent terrorist attacks in America. I was very anxious as I boarded the flight, but when I saw you, a monk dressed in saffron robes, I prayed to God, 'Please Lord, let me sit near him and everything will be all right.' And it was. Thank you for being my guardian angel."
Being taken by surprise, I managed to say only, "You're welcome," as we both joined the flow of passengers leaving the plane.
As we were all walking down the stairs to immigration and customs, a man and his wife stopped me. The man said, "Thank you."
Amused, I said, "Thank you for what?"
He replied, "For being on that flight."
With that, they walked on. Once again, it confirmed for me that many people, more nervous than ever because of the terrorist attacks, are appreciating the shelter of spiritual life.
It was well after midnight by the time we had cleared customs, and we immediately took a Tata Sumo van out to Vrindavan. In my excitement, I was unable to sleep during the two-hour journey and merely counted the minutes until we arrived at 4am. Even at that hour, Vrindavan was fully awake and bustling with activity. Unlike the West, most people in Vrindavan are up well before sunrise, either on their way to one of the 7,000 temples in the village or simply beginning their daily activities of cooking, cleaning, and getting ready for work. As we stepped out of the van, my senses were enlivened with the sweet smell of night-blooming jasmine, the sound of temple bells ringing, and the sight of people quickly moving through the streets to visit their favorite temple. Only the hot humid air was unpleasant, and I was quickly drenched in perspiration as I unloaded my bags from the van.
But I wasn't complaining. Having been to India many times, I was familiar with the austerities of heat and cold, simple food, crowded streets and occasional lapses of water and electricity. Such austerities afford little opportunity for sense gratification, and ultimately serve to make one a little callous towards material existence. Among other things, visits to holy places are meant for performing austerity and decreasing one's bodily demands. Krsna says clearly in Bhagavad-gita 18.67:
idam te natapaskaya na bhaktaya kadacana na casusrusave vacyam na ca mam yo bhyasuyati
"This confidential knowledge may never be explained to those who are not austere, or devoted, or engaged in devotional service, nor to one who is envious of Me."
But the rewards of visiting such a wonderfully auspicious place like Vrindavan far outweigh any austerities one has to undergo! The benefits of devotional service performed in the land of Vrindavan are magnified 1000 times, and the beauty of Vrindavan is nicely described by Srila Prabhupada in the Krsna book. One passage in particular, though short and simple, has always been for me, and many ISKCON devotees that I know, the classic portrayal of that transcendental land: "Vrindavan is such a nice place. Flowers are always blooming, and there are even various kinds of decorated deer. Birds are chirping, peacocks are crowing and dancing, and bees are humming. The cuckoos there sing nicely in five kinds of tunes."
After settling in, I visited the Krsna-Balarama Mandir and Srila Prabhupada's samadhi, and then took a long walk through Vrindavan, carefree and happy, visiting different temples. It was a moment I had been waiting for for a long time. Often during the past year, on our festival tour in Poland, I would mentally visit different holy places in Vrindavan — to get relief from the constant opposition we faced, or simply for divine inspiration. It helped to meditate on Vrindavan from a distance, but actually coming regularly and having darsan of Vrindavan's many holy places personally gives me the strength to go on in devotional service year after year.
On the first day, I made it a point to visit the five personalities that bestow the greatest mercy upon aspiring devotees in the holy dhama; Gopisvara Mahadeva (Lord Siva), Vrindadevi, Yogamaya, the Yamuna River, and Govardhan Hill. I prayed to them that my stay in Vrindavan would be fruitful from the transcendental point of view.
Walking around, I met many old friends that I'd known through the years — pujaris in temples, shopkeepers, sadhus, even rickshaw wallahs (drivers). What impressed me most in those encounters was that in each case we simply talked about Krsna consciousness. The pujaris told me of the outfits the Lord had worn during the recent hot season, the shopkeepers talked about the festivals they had observed, the sadhus spoke of the Lord himself, and the rickshaw wallahs — well, they bargained for lower prices. But it was all music to my ears, for nowhere did I hear about terrorism, the main subject matter of discussion in every other part of the world. Though the threat of such evil is real, it seems that through the advancement of information technology, the world has never been more focused on a single event in the history of mankind. But like all world events, large and small, it will come and go. In the meantime, the valuable time remaining in our lives, which could have been used for inquiring about eternal, spiritual matters will have decreased.
Mundane news has to be taken in small doses, otherwise it preoccupies our lives and gives rise to uncertainty and fear. Devotees must give more time to sastra than they do the daily news. Srila Prabhupada is very clear on this point:
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu has advised, grama-katha na sunibe, bhala na khaibe na bhala na paribe — don't indulge in gramya-katha ( village talk ). Therefore we always advise, 'Don't read newspaper. Don't read any other book,' because it is full of gramya-katha. Avoid it as far as possible. There is no need. What is the news of a gramya-katha newspaper? The same thing repeated. 'Here there is flood, where there is train disaster, where there is accident, where one politician is giving speech, another politician is giving speech.' This externally very attractive news — we should avoid it completely. We shall simply talk of Krsna. That is the safest method." [ Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 6.1.64 — 9.1.75 ]
The beauty of Vrindavan is that the "village talk" is mostly about Krsna. Of course, I suppose if one is determined to hear news of the outside world, the BBC comes in loud and clear and there are plenty of newspapers, even in Vrindavan.
Srila Prabhupada explains that as important as the holy place itself, are the saintly persons who live there. In my first few days in Vrindavan, I was fortunate to meet such Krsna conscious individuals in most unexpected ways. While doing Govardhan Parikrama with a small group of devotees, we visited the temple of Dauji (Balarama), not far from Govinda-kunda. As we entered the temple, an 11-year-old girl approached and encouraged us to come forward to see the Deity. After paying obeisances, we sat before the Deity, marveling at His transcendental form. Noticing that the girl was carefully observing us, I spoke to her with my disciple, Dauji Krsna dasi, translating.
I said, "Do you live here?"
Looking fondly at the Deity, she replied, "Yes. My father is the priest here and I help him worship the Deity before I go to school. Every morning I bathe the Lord and then serve Him prasadam."
I was impressed. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I said.
She replied, "I will do whatever Dauji desires. We are not independent — we cannot do anything without His sanction."
Amazed that such a young girl had so much devotion for the Deity, I continued, "Do you want to live in this village all your life?"
"Yes, of course," she said. "I never want to leave Vrindavan. This is where Krsna and Balarama play."
By this time I was not only impressed, but embarrassed. This girl was displaying so much natural affection for the Deity and the spiritual land of Vrindavan. It seemed disproportionate — I have been practicing Krsna consciousness for 31 years and am still struggling to muster some sincere sentiment for the Lord, while this young girl's love for Krsna seemed so spontaneous and natural.
"Would you like to visit America?" I foolishly blurted out.
"Why would I want to go to America?" she replied. "If it is so nice there, why have you all spent so much money to come here to Vrindavan?" Then answering her own question, she said, "Because Dauji is here, and He's the most attractive person."
I thought for a moment, "Who is this little girl? Then I remembered the words of Lord Jesus Christ, "And a child shall lead them."
She completely won my heart by her response to my last question. Recognizing that she was a real devotee desiring to do service, I said, "Do you need anything?"
She replied, "I'd like a book that I can learn English from, so that when foreigners come I can tell them everything about Krsna."
"Is that all you want?" I said.
But she didn't reply. She just gazed at the Deity and remained silent. I thought to myself, "Of course you don't want anything more. You have everything here. You have Krsna. I hope in my short stay in Vrindavan I can obtain just a little of the devotion you have for the Lord."
As she continued staring at the Deity, we quietly paid our obeisances and left the temple. I looked at my arm and my hair was standing up. That little Vrajavasi girl was no ordinary soul. Does it matter that she has never heard of the present woes of the world?
"I pray that I may engage in the service of the moving and non-moving residents of Vrindavan. What are Brahma and the other demigods in comparison to them? The residents of Vrindavan are more glorious. They are very dear to Vraja's king. Their forms are eternal, spiritual, and full of nectar. Their glories are limitless. They are the root that sprouts into the bliss of the Upanisads."
"Don't do anything! Don't say anything! Forget everything you've seen! Remember the fair and dark couple that pains Kamadeva, flee the common people and go to transcendental Vrindavan!" [Vrindavan-mahimamrta, Sataka 1, Texts 61; 32]
© CHAKRA 26 October 2001
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