We set off bright and early. The bus dropped us of at the beginning of a village, about an hours walk away from Kadamba Kandi. We walked through Sunira – the village of Sudevi. It was a long walk and when we eventually arrived we visited a small temple with only a picture on the altar. There is a famous pastime that took place here which we will get into in a little while. Guru Maharaj explained how we could tell a Kadamba tree apart from the rest. He said it has sort of round leaves and round seed pods. The trees here are old and big. This is the biggest grove of Kadamba trees left in Vraja Mandala. Kadamba trees used to be everywhere but as Kali Yuga is progressing, industrialised farming is increasing and the beautiful forests are being destroyed. Kadamba Kandi is the narrow valley in between two ridges. This area is noted for being the place through which the rasa dance passes. The spring rasa dance starts at the Southern end of Govardhan Hill and it comes this way past Kadamba Kandi. This is regularly going on. Guru Maharaj pointed out that there are very interesting trees in this grove. He pointed us to a Kadamba tree which was embracing a smaller tree – a tamal tree. Listen to this – He said this was symbolic of the embrace of Radha and Krishna. The Kadamba tree represents Srimati Radharani and the Tamal tree is Lord Krishna. Even the colour of the Tamal tree is similar to the colour of Krishna. These two trees had grown naturally like this. This is actually quite an amazing sight and one has to see it to believe it.
In the tree, right above where Guru Maharaj was sitting is a special sitting place of Radha and Krishna. In that tree it is clearly visible that the branches are shaped in such a manner that it looks like two seats – one for Radharani and the other for Krishna. By the way, it does not look like anyone carved this out – this looks extremely natural. The kund that we see here is called Krishna kund. This kund is covered by trees so the waters remain cool always.
Now, back to the temple and that famous pastime. This temple is dedicated to two famous Nimbarka sadhus who lived here a few 100 years ago. The picture on the altar shows a sadhu with his hair caught in the tree. One sadhu, Naga Babba, lived here. He was a very, no-no, he was an extremely renounced vaishnava sadhu. He used to wear only coupins, even in the extremely cold winters. He was moving around this area chanting the holy names. Now I think most of us know – sadhus do not cut their hair and their hair becomes extremely long. They wrap the hair up at the top of their heads and it sticks up like a bun – that is called a jaat. Guru Maharaj said that they do not go to the hairdresser to have it done nicely so that it remains in one place. But somehow they have to get it to stay. They mix different sticky things to hold it together, like resin from the trees. They mix it with the jaat, it sets and it becomes hard – that is what is called a good jaat! This sadhu has a very big jaat and he was moving around in this area. One day, his jaat got caught in a tree. Now, he did not walk into the tree. It felt like someone took it and stuck it in the tree. He called out “who did that?” But he was stuck and he could not move. No-one had answered. Some devotees came and tried to untangle him but they could not. Naga Babba thought that this was a special arrangement so he told the devotees “just leave me here. I want the person who stuck me in the tree to come untangle me”. So he was just standing there for 1 day, then 2 days, then 3 days. He didn’t eat anything for 1 week, then 2 weeks – he was just waiting. People were offering to cut the jaat saying that he could grow another one but he was still waiting for that person to come. That person was Krishna. After some time, Krishna appeared before him. Krishna said “ok, it was me. That’s a fact. I’ll untangle your hair now.” Naga Babba said “No, no, no – not yet. You are here on your own. I want to see you with Srimati Radharani.” Then Srimati Radharani appeared and Naga Babba allowed Radha and Krishna to untangle his hair from the tree.
Guru Maharaj said that there is a bajan kutir at the top of this “hill”. We looked and it looked more like a “mountain”. He said that it was nice to chant japa up there. We could not believe what we were hearing! I was thinking, it could be nice to chant japa right here! So today’s program was mainly to chant japa – a nice relaxing day which we very much needed. Guru Maharaj said that he usually goes up the “hill” and sits behind the bhajan kutir and chants his japa there. He also mentioned that the set-up was very much similar to Kedarnath.
But first we took breakfast prasadam. Then Guru Maharaj spoke a little about chanting. He started off with the famous “harer nama harer nama…” – we all know how that goes right? He said “we are not tourists! We are sadhakas practicing devotional service. Why are we sitting on these buses going for long drives to far out places when we can go to easy places? The thing is, if we want something more…we have to endeavour more.” Guru Maharaj said that once after he gave class a local approached him and said: “when I chant my rounds I find it so difficult. My mind is going here, there and everywhere. I don’t know what to do. But to worship the deities is easy. So I will rather not chant and do more deity worship.” Guru Maharaj said “in Kali-yuga, the process is chanting the holy names. We HAVE to cultivate that somehow or the other. If we do not develop a taste for it, our taste for other devotional activities will also become lost. Chanting is the foundation of all Krishna conscious activities”. He further said: “Srila Prabhupada explains in Nectar of Devotion that whatever else we do will be a reflection of the quality of our chanting.” Guru Maharaj further said: “Very important activities are not going on on the basis of material skill. It may seem like that but it is actually going on on the basis of our chanting. If we cultivate chanting nicely, other services will develop and improve very dynamically. The first thing is that we MUST be attentive. If not, automatically our chanting will deteriorate. We will not be aware because we are not attentive therefore we do not hear how we are chanting.” Guru Maharaj then referred to an incident in South Africa of a devotee he knows for many years. When this devotee chants inattentively, he chants “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Hare”. So Guru Maharaj joked that this was the Hare Krishna mini mantra. Guru Maharaj said that he used to point it out to this devotee but he used to say no, it was not possible and he used to get upset. So one day some devotees recorded him from behind and they played it to him. He still said no, no, you edited it to sound worse. Guru Maharaj said that we should chant attentively. He also said that at japa workshops there are particular techniques which one could use to chant attentively. One of the ways is that for each bead you chant on you trick your mind by saying: “I will only listen to this mantra attentively” – and continue to say that for each of our 108 beads. Guru Maharaj also pointed out that we should become detached from whatever is going on around us. He recommended that we should take a mauna vrata – a vow of silence – that is you are not allowed to say anything other than the holy name. Wow – so much wonderful nectar to relish. I hope you all print this page and paste it up where you could see it constantly and please try and practice this also.
Then Guru Maharaj said we could go up on the hill and chant, or stay right where we were or we could walk around – or whatever we wanted. We just had to meet back here at 1pm. Guru Maharaj, without wasting another minute, headed straight for that hill. I remember seeing Him at the bottom and when I looked again – He was right at the top. A good 15 minutes or so later after trying to map a route through the dense bushes, we reached the top – all breathless and worn out – ready for a nap. We trekked up there in our saries, like everywhere else on parikrama and we walked through lots of bush. We had such a lot of thorns on our saries which caused it to become stuck together and it was a tapasya removing it. It was bad enough climbing that hill but even worse was to remove all the thorns. In future, if someone catches me gardening in a sarie…don’t think it is weird – just remember all my hiking up mountains in a sarie. So once we settled down we just relaxed and tried to chant. Guru Maharaj however seemed unaffected as usual and He made the most of his time up there. From up here I could see clearly the two ridges with Kadamba Khandi at the very bottom. It is very pretty from up there and it feels miles away from civilisation.
At the end of the day we made our way back to the temple at the bottom of the hill. We were ready to walk back to the buses when we realised we were missing a devotee. Those who had the sound systems tried calling out to him. But there was no response. Guru Maharaj said: “no problem, we will come and get him next year.” We started our walk back to the bus. As we went through the village again, we stopped at the temple of Sudevi and had darshan. The devotee who went missing eventually found us – he was being driven on a motor cycle by the locals – and he was chastised by the organiser for not keeping time.
So that brought an end to our “japa retreat” at Kadamba Khandi. Some wonderful words were spoken by Guru Maharaj and I pray that we are able to really practice chanting attentive rounds. In this way we could improve all our other activities and make progress in Krishna Consciousness. Tomorrow we are heading out to Kamyavan and we will let you know what happens there.
Syamarani devi dasi