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Diary of a
Volume 4, Chapter 4
by Indradyumna Swami
November 5-24, 2001
The focus of most of the residents here in Vrindavan is Krsna. Whether they are priests, sadhus, farmers, shop owners, members of the town council, or simply tourists, in some way or other Krsna is present in everyone’s life. One morning as I was doing Vrindavan-parikrama (a two-hour walk around the entire village of Vrindavan), I noticed many other pilgrims, from all walks of life, also walking reverentially on the parikrama path. Most were Indians, but many were foreigners from a variety of countries. Everyone was focused on the same goal: getting the mercy of Radha and Krsna. I thought how, by practicing Krsna consciousness, we can transcend our material designations and become united, on the spiritual platform, in quest of God. It seems a simple formula for the present problems of the world: if we simply realize that we are all brothers and sisters, due to having a common father (God), then we will cease to see someone as friend and another as enemy. Here in Vrindavan all living creatures are offered that respect, regardless of how low their birth.
Krsna showed this to me clearly when I was returning to my apartment after parikrama. While passing a telephone pole, suddenly a crow fell screaming on the ground in front of me. It had landed on a live wire above and had been electrocuted. Flapping its wings, it was moving around in circles on the ground. Within a moment, several local people ran forward. To my amazement, a man picked up the crow and wrapped it in his cadar, while chanting Hare Krsna to the bird. The dazed crow’s eyes slowly closed, and I figured it was dead. But the man told his son to run and fetch some milk and a capati, and for more than an hour he and the small group of Vrajavasis carefully nurtured the crow back to life. Finally the crow opened its eyes, squawked, and flew into the air. There was a loud roar of appreciation from the small crowd as they called out, "Jai Radhe! Jai Radhe!" and continued on their way.
The compassion shown for such a lowly creature astonished me and confirmed my thoughts that morning on parikrama: here in Vrindavan all creatures are accepted as eternal servants of God. Continuing on my way, I remembered a classic verse from Bhagavad-gita:
vidya-vinaya-sampanne brahmane gavi hastini suni caiva sva-pake ca panditah sama-darsinah
"The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [out-caste]." [Bhagavad-gita 5.18]
As I settled into my room for my morning program of hearing and chanting, I reflected how Vrindavan is the perfect place for practicing Krsna consciousness, if only because there is so much stimuli to remember the Lord. Even a simple morning walk can reveal so many spiritual truths. I felt blessed to be here and content with my plan to spend two more months in this transcendental abode. But I was soon to realize Srila Prabhupada’s statement, "I have my plan, you have your plan — but ultimately Krsna has His plan for us as well."
Having been so enlivened by my early morning parikrama, I invited several disciples to join me the next day. As we were coming close to one of my favorite spots in Vrindavan, the samadhi mandir of Srila Prabodhananda Saraswati near Kaliya-ghat, Nandini dasi’s cell phone started ringing. It is curious that, being situated between New Delhi and the tourist center of Agra, Vrindavan falls within range of cell phones. It was the first time Nandini’s phone had rung in India, and she seemed quite surprised as she took it out of her bag and answered it. It was a recorded message on her answering service, and as she listened her face went white. Not wanting to upset the peace and tranquillity of the moment, however, she didn’t say anything.
Throughout the week, I had been making a special effort to take Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrinda dasi around Vrindavan. This was their first trip to India, and they deserved it. Both ladies worked very hard helping organize this year’s Polish tour, setting up the Festival of India as a legal foundation and often achieving success in the face of tremendous opposition. I appreciated their determination to preach Krsna consciousness, and by inviting them to Vrindavan I was hoping to introduce them to the essence of our spiritual tradition, thus giving them increased strength and inspiration to return to the West and preach. This was the mood that I had seen in Srila Prabhupada when he invited us to India in the early days of the movement. He had wanted us to get an appreciation for our spiritual heritage and then return, enlivened, to our duties in the West. Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrinda seemed to be enjoying their first week in the holy dhama and were looking forward to the month ahead in Jaipur, Puri, and Sridhama Mayapur.
Concerned about Nandini’s reaction to the phone call, I drew her and Radha Sakhi Vrinda to the side after we had completed parikrama. I said, "Who was the call from? You seem disturbed."
Nandini was silent for a moment, and then said, "Srila Gurudeva, Radha Sakhi Vrinda and I have to return to Poland tomorrow."
Stunned, I said, "Tomorrow! But you just got here. Why in the world do you have to go back tomorrow?"
She replied, "Do you remember the school in Swierzno that we rent as our base during the summer tour?"
"Yes," I said, getting a little nervous.
She said, "Our long-time friend, the school director, left a message on my phone that the local priests are pressuring him to rent the school to them for the entire summer next year. They want to use it for a recreation base for school groups from other parts of the country. But in reality, the director said, their purpose is to deny our festival program a base for the summer. And you know that school is the only one on the coast still willing to cooperate with us."
Thinking for a moment, I remembered the campaign by a group of senior Catholic priests last year along the entire Baltic Sea coast, threatening and discouraging school directors from renting their institutions to our Festival of India tour during the summer season.
Nandini continued: "If we lose that school, we can’t imagine where we’ll accommodate 200 devotees for the summer. The message was sent twelve days ago, and the director said we have until tomorrow to sign the contract, otherwise he’ll have to sign the school over to the Church. No doubt, they are thinking that by approaching the school director so many months before the holidays, they’ll out-maneuver us."
I said, "Can’t someone else in Poland sign the contract?"
"Legally, only myself and Radha Sakhi Vrinda can sign," Nandini replied. "And who knows what other tricks the priests may have up their sleeves. We have to be on the spot."
Because so few people are flying these days, Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrinda had no difficulty making reservations and were on a plane to Warsaw that very night. Late in the evening the next day, they called me from the north of Poland. "Mission accomplished," Nandini said. "We got here just in time to sign the contract. We have the school for the summer."
I thought, "This is the meaning of disciple: one who will put the interest of the spiritual master and Krsna before one’s own." I was thankful that Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrinda had shown no hesitation to leave India and go back to Poland to ensure that our preaching would continue next summer. In the Krsna book, we read how Sandipani Muni was similarly pleased with the surrender of his two students, Krsna and Sudama, who were demonstrating the proper behavior of a disciple. After their undergoing hardship for him, Sandipani Muni said to them:
" ‘My dear boys, it is very wonderful that you have suffered so much trouble for me. Everyone likes to take care of his body as the first consideration, but you are so good and faithful to your guru that without caring for bodily comforts you have taken so much trouble for me. I am also glad to see that bona fide students like you will undergo any kind of trouble for the satisfaction of the spiritual master. That is the way for a bona fide disciple to become free from his debt to the spiritual master. It is the duty of the disciple to dedicate his life to the service of the spiritual master.’" [Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, "Meeting of Lord Krsna with Sudama Brahmana"]
What I didn’t expect was that like Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrinda, I, too, would have to cut short my pilgrimage to beloved Vrindavan for similar reasons. Towards the end of the telephone call, Nandini said, "And Srila Gurudeva, we’re sending you the financial projection for next year on email. With costs rising and increased government pressure that our festival meets strict security and health standards, it is going to be higher than we predicted."
The next morning, I logged on to my email and, after studying the report, surrendered to "Krsna’s plan" that I must leave Vrindavan before the end of Karttika to preach and raise funds for the Festival of India.
As far as I can understand, there is only one reason to leave this transcendental abode: to preach Krsna consciousness. Although the activities of bhajan and preaching seem so very different (one is basically an internal meditation in a solitary place, while the other is the external activity of loudly chanting the holy names in the crowded towns and villages), they are nonetheless intricately connected. By focusing on our bhajan, we become purified and develop a strong desire to preach and share the nectar of Krsna consciousness with others. And by preaching in difficult circumstances throughout the year, we hanker for the special atmosphere of Sri Vrindavan-dhama where we can relish, without disturbance, the association of devotees and the many sacred places in the dhama.
Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day festival was fast approaching, and this helped me to transform my meditation from bhajan to preaching. Several times I went to Srila Prabhupada’s rooms at the Radha-Damodar temple and meditated on how Srila Prabhupada spent so much time there, preparing for his eventual journey to the West to introduce Krsna consciousness to the world. Sitting alone in his rooms, I reflected that as his spiritual son, I had the responsibility to help him carry on that mission. No doubt my stay in Vrindavan had been beneficial for me: I had gained a deeper appreciation for the holy name, a clearer understanding of the scriptures and, as I thought about the matter more, a stronger desire to share that mercy with others. Based on this last consideration, it seemed the appropriate time to go.
The evening before Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day, I went back to Radha-Damodar one last time to write my offering for that auspicious day. In those sacred rooms, where Srila Prabhupada would look out into the courtyard of the temple to get inspiration from the samadhi of Srila Rupa Goswami, I very much felt the presence — and separation — of my spiritual master. In that mood, I penned my offering and read it to His Divine Grace the next day in the august assembly of many dear godbrothers and godsisters at the Krsna-Balarama temple. In my mind, it was the fitting conclusion to my pilgrimage to Vrindavan. After finishing my reading, I turned my attention to my duties in the West.
Dearest Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories unto you on this auspicious day of your departure from this world!
In August 1976, after visiting our temple in Paris, France, you expressed your satisfaction with your visit and said you looked forward to coming back again the next year. We worked hard that coming year in the expectation of seeing your lotus feet again. In those days, with your annual visits and regular updates of your travels, we remained always absorbed in thoughts of you. Despite your busy schedule you also remembered us, often writing and encouraging us in our devotional service to the Lord. When my sankirtan party wrote to you asking if we could install and travel with Gaura-Nitai Deities, you wrote back to us that you felt such worship might interfere with our most important service of distributing your books, and you recommended that we worship a picture of Panca Tattva. You said that Panca Tattva are the proper Deities for Kali-yuga, as They are the most benevolent and merciful of all the Lord’s incarnations. Following your instructions, we worshipped a simple picture of Their Lordships with all our hearts and souls, and as we did so our sankirtan results increased — along with our faith and attachment to you.
Although you had thousands of followers, and we were separated from you by many more thousands of miles, we felt (as did all your disciples) your immediate concern, care, and love for us. Anxious for your return to Paris, our expectations of seeing you again increased as each day passed.
Then in November came the unbelievable and unbearable news: you had performed your final pastime and left this world to rejoin your beloved Lord in the spiritual sky. Srila Prabhupada, on that day we were suddenly plunged into feelings of separation unlike anything we had ever experienced. In the initial stages of our devotional service, we came to know so many facets of spiritual life. One left unknown to us, however, was the pain of separation we have had to endure until this very day.
Srila Prabhupada, Krsna sent Uddhava here to Vrindavan to give hope to His gopis; please send me a sign that I will indeed, by faithful and loving service, be able join you again in your pastimes so sublime. I know that vani is more important than vapu, but if I can be assured that one day I’ll be with you again, then I can take any risks required in my preaching, knowing that even death itself, in the line of duty, will serve my desire to be with you.
In 1971, I was feeling separation from you after your brief visit to our temple in Detroit. I expressed those feelings in a letter to you. You kindly wrote back: "Yes, I am also feeling separation from my guru maharaja, but I always feel that he is watching over and protecting me." Please bless me with the same ability to see you constantly in my service to the Lord.
The responsibilities you have entrusted to all of us, your followers, are generally reserved only for the most advanced devotees of the Lord. We need your guidance and protection to be able to faithfully execute those orders, meant to spread your teachings throughout the entire world.
No doubt your guidance and protection come in many ways. Often I see you in the mercy you bestow upon the devotees around me. As a single ray of light shining through a piece of crystal causes a myriad of colors, so your mercy, expanded through the hearts of your followers, brilliantly shines throughout their service to you. By your decree their service is done, and just as one sees the personality of an artist in his painting, so one can see you in the activities of your sincere followers.
Just behold your illustrious son, Radhanath Maharaja! His unique ability, inspired by you, to uplift the hearts of thousands of souls, spellbound by his lectures and kirtans, can best be appreciated when he comes to Vrindavan for Karttika. Buses and buses of devotees follow him throughout the dhama, as he introduces them to your dearest place of worship.
And no doubt we see you in the service of Gopal Krsna Maharaja, who reflects your heart’s desire that everything should be done big in Krsna consciousness. Following in your footsteps, and empowered by your desire to see the movement ever expanding, he was the force behind the success of the Glory of India temple rising from the dust of Delhi to become a place of pilgrimage.
And Lokanath Maharaja! He is truly fulfilling Mahaprabhu’s desire to see the holy names chanted in every town and village. How your chest must swell with pride when you point him out to your transcendental associates in the spiritual sky. "Just see my spiritual son," you must say, "the one with the bullock cart and kirtan. By his service, it’s guaranteed he’ll come to live with me eternally."
Look now, with eyes filled with love and appreciation, upon your spiritual daughter, Daivi Sakti, who continues year after year with her service to you in Sri Vrindavan-dhama. She knows well how dear your Krsna-Balarama temple is to you, and faithfully carries out her duties to you here, much as she did when you were present. She would never leave your institution, Srila Prabhupada, having faith in your words that it is the selfsame body she personally served in the days of her youth.
And just see over here to the left, your stalwart sons, Brahmananda and Gargamuni, two of the very first to receive your mercy. They know you well and continue to share you with all of us now, when we need it most, twenty-four years down the road. The material energy has the innate ability to deteriorate things with time, but the love and faith that Brahmananda and Gargamuni have for you is so strong that it resists that very force of nature, while keeping you ever fresh within our minds.
And do you remember Dhananjaya and Bala Gopal? Of course you do, for spiritual love transcends all the inequities of time. They have also chosen to be caretakers of this mandir most dear to you. Imbibing your desire to have a place for your followers to come and be enlivened in the dhama, they represent your concern that all of us become Vrajavasis in due course of time.
And see the wandering mendicant, Deena Bandhu prabhu, who, following your personal example, continues to take devotees on pilgrimage of this holy land. You are an eternal resident of this scared abode, Srila Prabhupada, and we are indebted to your beloved son, Deena Bandhu, for enlightening us about the glories of this most sacred tirtha, so that we may one day aspire to join you in your eternal pastimes here. Empowered by you, he speaks with the same affection you have for Sri Vrindavan-dhama.
And no doubt you can see Kesava Bharati prabhu, who has faithfully executed one of your last desires: to take darsan of Govardhan Hill. By developing and overseeing his project at the foot of Giri-Govardhan, you now sit peacefully in the temple room there, beckoning your followers to come and gradually develop a deeper understanding of the Lord.
As sons and daughters inherit the qualities of their parents, so these, and many, many more disciples and grand-disciples, demonstrate that you are surely with us, "watching over and protecting us" in our devotional service to the Lord. My humble prayer on this auspicious day is that you continue to give me your association and guidance through the mercy you bestow upon these loving and loyal followers, until that day comes when we can again join you in your "ISKCON in the spiritual sky."
Until then I remain,
© CHAKRA 26 November 2001
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