Writings

Day 6 – 10th November, Badrinatha Japa Retreat – by Syamarani devi dasi

We gathered at the same spot at the same time and set off for Badrinatha. We usually take our own breakfast and return to Vrindavana after the day’s parikrama to have lunch.  This was an extremely long drive, our longest drive yet.  It was a little austere being in the bus for so long but when we arrived there, it was definitely worth it.

Guru Maharaj said “today we will wander in the mountains and valleys and chant the holy names”.  Krishna would bring the cows here and have wonderful pastimes in the mountains and valleys.  The main temple is of Adi Badrinath. There is a nice little kund that you pass on your way to temple.  One can bathe there but the water is generally cold as the kund is surrounded by trees.  There are many deities here but the main ones are Nara and Narayana. They are performing austerities there.  The other deities are Uddava, Sri Nathji, Radha Krishna.

One time Nanda Maharaj was listening to a sadhu who was travelling all over India.  The sadhu said I have been to all holy places from Kanya Kumari in the south all the way up 2 the Himalayas but the most wonderful place was Badrinatha.  Nara Narayana Rsi and Srila Vyasadev were here.  Nara Narayana was performing austerities and Srila Vyasadev was reciting vedic literatures.  No one else was around.  It was a wonderful situation.  Nanda Maharaj stood up and said “we are going to Badrinatha.  Pack your bags and
we will go to the Himalayas.  It is peaceful and quiet.  The Supreme Personality of Godhead and Srila Vyasadev is there – we will find them all. Krishna said “Badrinatha is here in Vrindavana”.  Nanda Maharaj patted him on his head and said “nice boy, good boy – but you haven’t been studying your geography very well.  Badrinatha is miles away, way up in the Himalayas”.  Krishna said come with me, I will show you that Badrinatha is in Vrindavana.  So they came here.  Nanda Maharaj said this is just hills and mountains.  Where is Uddava, Nara Narayana, Srila Vyasadev?  Krishna called out for them and Nara Narayana, Srila Vyasadev and Uddhava came and explained that this is the original Badrinatha.  The one in the Himalayas is an expansion of this one.  In Vraj, all are original forms of all the holy places.  Places outside of Vraj are all expansions.  Nara Narayana Rsi is always here.

Our program for the day is to wonder in the forest, stop in one or two places and take prasadam.  Sound like a good line-up.  We walked from the temple up towards the mountains.  It was silent and peaceful, lots of trees all around and cool breezes.  We walked a short distance and came to a place where Guru Maharaj stopped to narrate another pastime.  Bradrinatha is the place of Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati.  They used to be here a lot and they had a house on the hill.  One day they were wandering through the forest and sitting right here in the middle of nowhere was a child, a little boy, and they wondered where he came from.  There was no-one else around and the nearest village is like 20kms away.  He was sitting and crying.  Mother Parvati is very soft hearted and she said to Lord Shiva – let us go ask who he is, let us help him.  Lord Shiva said “wait a minute – I don’t like this. I think something is wrong here.  What is a child doing so far away from
civilisation?  I think we should leave him.”  Mother Parvati said no, he is a little child and he has been abandoned”.  Lord Shiva eventually said “if something goes wrong, I will have to say something about it”i [I was thinking maybe the famous “I told you so”].  Mother Parvati picked up the child and was pacifying him, asking where are you from?.. how did you get here?  The child said I am from the village way over that way.  I was in the forest with my mother and suddenly I couldn’t find her.  Lord Shiva said “I am warning you, there is trouble here”.  Mother Parvati said “come on hard hearted man, he is innocent, what can he do?”  They took the boy to their house on the hill.  The child said he is tired and that they must carry on with their activities.  So they left him in the house and went of to pick fruit, etc.  Later when they returned, they turned the handle of the door and the door was locked.  They looked in through the window and the little boy was looking at them.  Lord Shiva said “come on little boy, open the door now”.  The little boy said “nooooo”. Lord Shiva said “be a good boy and open the door”.  The little boy said “nooooo”.  They went around the house and tried all the doors and windows but it was locked from the inside.  They told the boy “open the door, this is our house”.  The little boy said “nooo, it is not your house now, now it is my house – goodbye”.  Lord Shiva and
Mother Parvati had to abandon Badrinath and move to Kedarnath which is 10kms away (we are going there soon).  Guru Maharaj said “be careful of Krishna, He may steal your house”.  Krishna stole this house, He stole the clothes of the gopis, He stole butter, He stole yogurt and he stole all their hearts while doing it.  Guru Maharaj cautioned “be careful of Krishna.  If you have a serious aspiration to remain in this material world, don’t chant Hare Krishna, don’t look at the deities, don’t associate with devotees – you will be finished in the material world”.  This is how Badrinath became the place of Lord Krishna.

Guru Maharaj told us a little about some of the places just before Badrinatha.  We passed a big temple Pashilpa (derived from Pashupada – animal feet).  Here Krishna and the cowherd boys used to herd cows everyday. Once they lost their cows.  They were playing extremely serious games together and when they turned around, they wondered “where did the cows go?” They looked and couldn’t find the cows.  Then one cowherd boy looked and found a hoof print in the sand and he called out “pashupada!”  They found the cows like that.  All the villages have some history behind it.  Before this place was the village of Didavalli, the birthplace of Mother Yashoda. Before that was a big village Deeg.  Before that was Gantuli.  Gantuli means
tied together.  Here as children, Radha and Krishna and the gopis used to have a wedding – children’s wedding.  Radha and Krishna’s clothes used to be tied together.  That is still being done in Hindu or Krishna Conscious weddings – the clothes are tied together for a short period.  Traditionally you are meant to be tied together for 1 week.  Guru Maharaj joked – then you can get to know each other very closely, every aspect of each other’s life”. Once Lord Caitanya wanted darshan of the Gopal deity at the top of Govardhan hill.  He arranged a rumour that the muslims were coming.  The devotees took Gopal from the top of Govardhan Hill to Gantuli.  Lord Caitanya went and had darshan of Gopal.  This is described in Caitanya Caritamrta.  Wherever you go in Vraj Mandal, all are pastimes places.  We continued to walk up the mountain – it just got steeper.  Our next stop would be Lakshmana Jula.

As we walked, Guru Maharaj told us that we were walking right in the middle of the Ganges.  The Ganges ran through here once and Guru Maharaj said we had to have spiritual eyes to see it.  He told us that He hoped we are good swimmers :  The climb just got steeper and steeper and as usual Guru Maharaj looked like he used no effort at all.  I am sure Guru Maharaj forgot to mention to us that he was a mountain climber as well as a surfer.  He is a naturali We climbed up a set of stairs and met a cheeky cow along the way who almost sent some of the devotees over the side of the steep mountain edge.  We came to the temple at the top known as Lakshman Jula.  There is a deity of Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord Rama.  After the battle in Lanka, Lakshman was feeling bad for having killed the son of Ravana, Indrajith.  He was a devotee of Lord Shiva and he thought that he had offended Lord Shiva by doing that.  He asked what he could do to overcome that reaction.  He was told that there is only 1 olace powerful enough to help.  That place is Sri Vrindavana Dham and he needs to go and perform austerities there.  He asked “in vrindavana, what is the best place to go and perform austerities?”  He was told to go the Badrinatha where Nara and Narayan were performing austerities.  Guru Maharaj said that if we wanted to make up for something we did wrong then we should come here also.  He thought this place was perfect and he wondered through the hills and valleys.  He found this beautiful place here, overlooking the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.  He thought this was perfect and he performed austerities just here!

Guru Maharaj mentioned that later on another great devotee did a similar program of austerities.  His deity is in the temple next to the stairs.

Ribumuni, the deity of an old man with long hair, was a great devotee.   He also performed austerities, particularly meditating on Radha and Krishna within his mind and heart.  He was sitting here, just behind where the alter is, overlooking triveni and he was remembering Radha and Krishna and meditating on them.  It went on day after day, then turned to months, then years.  1 day, he sat to meditate, he visualised Radha and Krishna in his mind.  They appeared in his mind.  He remembered, meditated, prayed and then suddenly they disappeared from his mind and heart.  He was shocked.  He wondered what happened, where did they go.  He thought “they abandoned me! Where did they go?”  He opened his eyes and Radha and Krishna were in front of him.  He was overwhelmed in ecstacy.  His body melted and formed the waters of a kund further up in the Ganges known as Deva Sarovara.  Guru Maharaj said that the last time He was here, He went to the kund and we could go there as well.  It is about 5-10 mins walk.  Guru Maharaj asked each of us, 1 by, to go and look at the view from behind the altar.  This was where the confluence of the 3 rivers were and it is an awesome sight is so beautiful.  When then took prasadam and after that we sat and chanted one round all together with Guru Maharaj chanting into the microphone.  It was definitely one of my better rounds that I have chanted.  After that Guru Maharaj told us we could wander about, not too far off, or climb the mountains or go wherever and find a spot to meditate.  We sat with Guru Maharaj and chanted for a long while and then some of us decided to go to Deva Sarovara.  We climbed down a super steep hill – very, very risky.  We got down the hill and landed up right in the middle of the Ganges river.  We do not have spiritual eyes, but we were very respectful and we took some cooling water on our heads and splashed about for a while and tried to be good swimmers for the next 10 minutes or soiThis time we climbed up another steep hill to get to Deva Sarovara.  We repeated the pastime that we just heard about how this kund was formed.  Surprisingly we all remembered a bit and we eventually had the entire pastime checked.  There is very little
water left in this kund but it is most serene up there.  We trekked back to Lakshman Jula.  By this time Guru Maharaj was ready to take a walk along the Yamuna River.  Some devotees went with him, the rest made their way back to the buses.  Some took bath in tapasya kund.  Then we set off once again on our long, long trip – back to Vrindavana.

Guru Maharaj said to us that we do not perform austerities just for the sake of it.  If performing austerities increases our devotional service, then that austerity is valuable.    There should be no focus on sense
gratification, only focus on Krishna!  Guru Maharaj joked that there were no shops where we could buy snacks or 7 up.  Here we just chant.

We are constantly told that it is not easy back in our countries to want to go and meditate in the forests like they used to do it.  Our countries are mostly concrete jungles.  But here at Badrinatha, we were able to do it –
the setting is perfect and one can definitely chant some wonderful rounds or perform some austerities there.  If you have not seen this place as yet, try and go there on your next trip.  It will be worth the effort!  It is the
more tranquil part of the parikrama.  Just to be able to chant with Guru Maharaj is all the reason one needs to go.

Tomorrow we will be go to Mathura.

Your servant
Syamarani devi dasi

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