Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
The last time I wrote I was in Aravade at the Deity installation. The grand procession was on the Friday night, and during it Lokanatha garlanded me with a garland of 50 Rupee notes, which I think walked around with for the whole evening, much to the amazement of many of the locals. When they saw me garlanded in that way many of them offered obeisances, which of course tends to happen when one is a sannyasi, but now it seemed more were doing so, and I wondered if it was the special garland!
Then the Saturday was the installation of Radha Gopala, and Sunday was a special public programme with a number of the major local politicians attending. The Finance Minister from the Maharastian state government was there, and I gave a talk in which I asked the people gathered, about 5000 or more, if they would like it if the government gave some money for the temple. The people were very enthusiastic about that. Then the minister got up and said they will give one crore of Rupees (more than $200,000)!
I think they had already decided to give that donation before I spoke, though.
On Sunday we installed Deities of Viththala Rukmini. Viththala is a form of Krishna Who was worshipped by the saint Tukarama, who was a disciple of Lord Caitanya referred to in Caitanya-caritamrita:
tatha haite pandarapure aila gauracandra
viththala-thakura dekhi’ paila ananda
“From there Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to Pandarapura, where He happily saw the temple of Viththala Thakura.” (Caitanya-caritamrita Madhya Lila 9.282)
In his purport Srila Prabhupada says: “The city of Pandarapura is situated on the river Bhima. It is said that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu initiated Tukarama when He visited Pandarapura, and thus Tukarama became His disciple. Tukarama Acarya became very famous in the Maharashtra province, and he spread the sankirtana movement all over the province. The sankirtana party belonging to Tukarama is still very popular in Bombay and throughout the province of Maharashtra. Tukarama’s book is known as Abhanga. His sankirtana party exactly resembles the Gaudiya-Vaisnava sankirtana parties, for they chant the holy name of the Lord with mrdanga and karatalas. The Lord Viththaladeva mentioned in this verse is a form of Lord Visnu with two
hands. He is Narayana.”
One of the chief priests from the Viththala temple in Pandapura came for the installation, and led the whole procedure. He was a very friendly fellow and somehow took a liking to me and would periodically come and talk with me in Marathi, which is somewhat similar to Hindi, and I would try to understand him and reply in my broken Hindi, which he appreciated.
There is a special practice in Maharastriya that when sadhus or special guests are honoured at a programme, the hosts put turbans on them, and this is what happened with us. But putting on a turban is not a small job, and maybe these men were also not expert at it, and we found them pulling the cloth around our heads really tightly, and one of them, when he tucked some cloth in under the bottom of my turban, scratched my head with his finger nails. There is still a scab on my forehead from the wound.
There are some photos of this part of the programme included with this report.
The next morning I flew from Kolhapur back to Bombay and then to Calcutta, and the Temple President of our Juhu temple kindly arranged for a devotee to come to the Bombay airport with some prasadam for me. It was another amazing feast, of exotic prasadam. Devotees are very nice.
I landed in Calcutta at 8pm that evening (the 9th) and was met in the airport by Saci Kumar and Isvara Puri, two of my disciples from South Africa, and we drove very slowly back to Mayapur, arriving there just after
Mayapur is a very amazing place. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes: “Sri Caitanya’s incarnation, however, is most uncommon. By His mercy, a serious person, though filled with offenses, can quickly obtain love of God. When someone calls out the names of Nitai and Caitanya, Krsna prema comes looking for him. Offenses do not hinder his progress, and he soon sheds tears of ecstasy out of pure love of God. By the mercy of Lord Caitanya, all the offenses quickly flee away, the heart becomes pure, and love of God fully
blossoms. Because people in Kali yuga commit unlimited offenses, which are difficult to check, there can be no means of deliverance other than Gauranga’s name. Therefore, in Kali yuga, I see no alternative to Sri
Gauranga. This is also the proclamation of the scriptures.
“As Sri Gauracandra appeared in Navadvipa, it is therefore the crest jewel of all holy places. Offenders are the object of punishment at other holy pilgrimage places, but in Navadvipa dhama they are purified. The example is the two brothers Jagai and Madhai, who committed great offenses yet still received Nitai and Gaura. What to speak of other places, at Vrndavana the offenders are punished. But a person who has committed hundreds of offenses can easily receive the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu and overcome those
offenses in Navadvipa dhama. For this reason, sages endlessly praise Navadvipa of Gaura mandala.”
I have to take part in the GBC meetings, which started on the 12th, but that meant I had a couple of days to reflect on my experiences here in previous years before things really got started.
I first came to Mayapur in 1976, on my first visit to India. India was a completely different place in those days. We arrived at night and I took rest on a single chadar on the plain concrete floor. The only water supply
was a hand pump by the front gate, and we used that for bathing, washing clothes and drinking. Needless to say we all got sick, and it became quite chronic.
One of the devotees was passing stool in a field nearby and a man came up to him with a knife and demanded his watch, right in the middle of him dealing with his call of nature. It was dramatic!
The kirtanas were amazing, and I was always in the middle of them. One evening Visnujana, the famous kirtana leader, was singing for the evening arati and all the devotees were completely wild in ecstasy, but the next morning he had disappeared, and has never been seen since then.
Every mosquito bite became septic and swelled up like a balloon and left a horrible sore, the scab of which would immediately be eaten by the flies that were so aggressive that you couldn’t swat them away. If you succeeded they were back before you could swat them again.
Still it was an amazing experience, and Srila Prabhupada was there, so that made up for all the austerities. Chanting japa was so easy. We all found we could chant the whole day and never felt tired or distracted. Such is the nature of the holy dhama, particularly Sri Mayapur Dhama.
But this time I was here for the GBC meetings, and that is a very serious responsibility. Every year the GBC Body meets in Mayapur in February/March time, and then in Bombay in October, and considers some of the very important subjects facing the movement. So far we have had 4 days of the meetings, and perhaps the most important thing to be discussed has been the new Temple of the Vedic Planetarium.
There are still some permissions needed before we can begin construction, but the project leader Ambarish prabhu (Alfred Ford) told us that as soon as the permission are through we will be able to start in 60 days. All the plans are done, and he is going to contribute some millions of dollars to start the construction.
Otherwise, Mayapur is beautiful and the conditions are wonderful, and one can feel the presence of Lord Caitanya everywhere. Srila Prabhodananda Sarasvati prays:
“Creating great tidal waves in the ocean of mercy, splendidly dressed in wonderful saffron garments as glorious as the sunrise, and glowing with the nectar of pure love of Krsna, may the wonderful and handsome moon of Lord Caitanya, which has risen from the milk ocean of Saci’s womb, enter the sky of your heart.
“Chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, His own holy names which bring auspiciousness to the world, His hand trembling with love as He touches the knotted string about His waist to count the number of names, His face bathed in tears as He comes and goes, eager to see His own form of Lord Jagannatha, and bringing great delight to the eyes of all, may the golden form of Lord Hari protect you all.
“Uprooting the dense darkness in the hearts of the entire world, making the nectar ocean of the bliss of pure love of Krsna overflow its shores without limit, and cooling this universe tormented by the threefold miseries, may the splendid moonlight of the moon of Lord Caitanyacandra eternally shine within your hearts.”
At the end of the meetings I will write more. In the meantime I will post a couple of classes I have given, over the next few days.
Hoping this meets you well.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami