Dear Godbrothers and Godsisters.Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and all glories to Guru Maharaja!
Greetings from Sri Vrndavana dhama. Guru Maharaja asked me to write a diary of the different activities he is doing here.
Srila Gurudeva arrived to Vrndavana at 2.30AM. This day was meant for building up strength for the filming project for Varsana which is starting tomorrow. The most of the day he was working on the computer.
The filming started today. Guru Maharaja attended mangala-arati, and after that, around 5.50AM an Ambassador started for Varsana. Our team consists of five devotees. Guru Maharaja, Tusta Krsna Prabhu (a Godbrother from U.K.), Svarupa Damodara Prabhu (a Godbrother from Novosibirsk, Russia), Bhakta Prinal (a devotee from S.A) and myself. First scenes were from Varsana village. Tusta Krsna Prabhu is a professional cameraman. He was mainly doing the filming, but under the careful instruction of Guru Maharaja. Many times Tusta Krsna Prabhu set the camera and then Guru Maharaja checked it, and sometimes altered the settings slightly. By this we can understand that like an artist he has a clear vision how a scene should look like. Pranal Prabhu was also sometimes filming with another smaller camera. Svarupa Damodara Prabhu and I were helping by carrying the parahernelia.
In the beginning a few shots of this small village were taken. There were many curious onlookers, some of which wanted also to be a part of this new DVD. Also some of the local animals like cows, monkeys, pigs and water buffaloes were shot (with the camera!). By walking across the village one can see the temples which are situated on the hills. One of the most interesting objects was sankhari cor, the place where Srimati Radharani broke Her pot of yoghurt. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has related a pastime connected with this incident. The exact spot is in a gulley, and it is quite interesting to see that there is a distinct mark of Radha’s yoghurt still visible on the rocks. I am not able to relate this pastime, but maybe you have heard it in Guru Maharaja’s lectures.
Quite a few of the locals were also after a donation. After sankhari cor we proceeded up the hill to Vilasgar. Guru Maharaja said this is one of his favourite places in greater Vrndavana. It is no wonder, because nowadays many of the places around Vrndavana town are really populated with pilgrims, tourists, locals and different varieties of business-spirited people. In Vilasgar there were no monkeys even. Guru Maharaja had his breakfast prasadam here and quite a bit of filming was done also, after all the scenery up there is very wonderful.
According to Dina Bandhu Prabhu this is the place of the pastime where Krsna dressed as the female singer. There is also a big jhulan (swing) where Radha and Krsna are having Their swing pastimes. Guru Maharaja told that actually the pastimes of Radha-Krsna are eternally going on in these different places. We can see them even now if we have a spiritual vision. After the filming was completed in Vilasgar we returned to Vrndavana. In the afternoon we went to the Yamuna. There a beautiful ceremony was held in which the ashes of two devotees were placed in the holy Yamuna river.
Guru Maharaja gave a small lecture where he spoke about the BG verse dehino ‘smin yatha dehe. He remarked that this verse means a sober person is not bewildered by death, be it his own or someone dear to him. He also spoke about the glories of Yamuna. River Yamuna is dark in color, darker than other rivers. This is because of her close connection with Lord Krsna. River Yamuna is said to be a thousand times holier than the Ganges, because Krsna did not only dip His lotus feet in her waters. The Lord immersed Himself completely in this holy river. After the speech the ashes were placed in the Yamuna. There was kirtana, and then Guru Maharaja performed an arati for Yamuna and then the all of us bathed in her waters.
Going to the Yamuna was also a small adventure, as in this time of the year she is not flowing so high as usually. We had to walk some way to the place of the ceremony. We even had to walk across a small river some twelve meters wide.
Today we started for Varsana a little after six AM. Not exactly Varsana, but the village of Ciksoli gram, where Srimati Citradevi used to live. Varsana is situated in a very beautiful landscape. There are many small villages there and Ciksoli gram is one of them. Srila Gurudeva said this village has been here even before Caitanya Mahaprabhu. That means it has really been in the same location since the times of the pastimes of Lord Krsna. I found it a very nice experience to visit this village. Compared to the Vrndavana town Ciksoli gram (as well as the other villages around Varsana) are still somewhat untouched. The people were not aggressive. They were not really after money. Truly they are very innocent. We started by re-filming Sankhori cor as yesterdays footage was not well focused. After that we went to Krsna-kunda, a place which is connected to the very same pastime as Radha’s broken yoghurt pot. We spent quite a long time filming this kunda. Guru Maharaja remarked there were unexpectedly little monkeys around. On previous years there had been really many. We found the reason for that. There was a cage, which was used like a trap the monkeys who are always after some eatables.
After Krsna -kunda we started to climb the stairs. The hills in this region are quite high. Four of them are said to be the heads of lord Brahma. Climbing up, we eventually came to a place called Mor kutira. This place is connected with the pastimes of Radha-Krsna and the peacocks. The pujaris did not let us film inside the temple, so we got on its roof and filmed the beautiful landscape. To tell the truth, we filmed inside this temple also.
Pranal Prabhu became our man of special operations after this temple. He hid the camera under his gamsha/chadar, pretending it to be his japabag (like some Gaudiya Matha devotees chant in this way). Then he was just filming. It was quite exciting to see how he is doing. This time it went really well. There is also something else about this temple but you will hear it later, on the day 6.
After the Mor kutira we went on to Man-mandira, a temple dedicated to Radharani’s angry mood. This temple was a very nice experience. The Deities here are called Sri-Sri Radha-Manbihari. Guru Maharaja honored his breakfast prasadam here. The devotees in the temple were following Nimbarka-sampradaya and they were very friendly. They even invited us for prasadam. Thus we found Tusta-Krsna Prabhu, Pranal Prabhu and myself honoring dahl, rice and chapatis made by these devotees. After filming this temple we returned to Vrndavana.
At 6.30 AM we started again for Ciksoli Gram. Going past the Krsna-kunda we again started to climb the stairs. This time our aim was to reach one of the two main temples of the area, Jaipur temple. On our way we spent quite a long time filming the landscape and the people there. Guru Maharaja also wanted to include monkeys in the footage. “Personality types”, he said. There were truly many monkeys.
We came across many pilgrims who were also doing parikrama of Varsana-dhama. Some were even doing dandavat-parikrama. There are many wonderful saintly people living in this area. There was one old old man who was there with his japamala. He was only chanting “Jaya Sri Radhe!”, “Radhe Radhe!” and “Radhe Shyam!”. That was all he said. If one has such a sadhana, we can only imagine how advanced he is. There were also small bhajan-kutirs, where the local babas were living, absorbed in their austerities. Although many of the Hindus are quite deep in maya and materialistic, in these holy places it is possible to find people who are genuinely engaged in spiritual practises.
While walking up Tusta Krsna Prabhu asked Guru Maharaja about the difference of the Nimbarkas’ Radhe-Shyam mantra and the mahamantra. Guru Maharaja replied that maha mantra is superior, because it is not just a glorification of the holy names. In fact the Hare Krsna -maha-mantra is an appeal to be engaged in the loving devotional service of Radha and Krsna. Having climbed up the pathway we arrived at the first temple. Guru Maharaja knows some of the pujaris there. One of them, Syamasundara das, had been very strict in terms of not allowing photographing the Deities Radha-Danbihari. However the present pujaris were very kind and allowed the Deities to be filmed for a small donation. Just in the courtyard of this small temple is a jhulan for the pastimes of Radha-Krsna.
Next we walked up to the second temple, which is also known as the Jaipur-temple. This temple was built some 150 years ago when the King of Jaipur wanted the ancient Deities Sriji-Laralilal to be moved to the state of Jaipur (actually the border of Rajastan and U.P. goes between the two hills where the two big temples are located). However the family worshiping Sriji did not want to let go of the Deities, so other Deities reside in this altar. One thing which is very remarkable about the Jaipur temple is the very elaborate decorations and carvings.
Guru Maharaja explained that the King(s) of Jaipur was very devotional. Even today the wonderful artworks and intricate decorations tell of the Krsna-conscious qualities of that King who lived over a hundred years ago.
There are three altars in the Jaipur-temple. The first is dedicated to Lord Hamsa-Gopala and on the altar are residing also the four Kumaras. Guru Maharaja explained the devotees in Nimbarka-sampradaya are especially devoted to Krsna’s Hamsa-avatara. This is because Nimbarkacarya is in the line coming down from the four Kumaras, who were instructed by the swan-incarnation of Krsna. On the middle altar reside Sri Sri Radha-Goshalabihari and on the third altar are the Deities Sri Sri Radha-Nrtyabihari. Officially it is not permitted to film the Deities of the Jaipur-temple. However, Guru Maharaja gave them a donation of some hundreds of rupees, so the pujaris then happily agreed to the filming. While speaking to the pujaris, Guru Maharaja asked which sampradaya they belong to. “Nimbarka-sampradaya?” “Gaudiya-sampradaya?”. The pujaris did not say yes as an answer. They said, “Maharaja, no no. We belong to the paid-sampradaya.”
After spending an hour or so in the Jaipur-temple we proceeded onwards. Guru Maharaja went to a nearby garden for chanting the gayatri and maha-mantra. Because the Jaipur-temple is situated on the top of a hill, the scenery is very beautiful, so this place is very beautiful. However in a nearby tea-stall they were playing some hindi-songs. It sounded just like cinema-music. Guru Maharaja said the songs had in them some devotional aspects. Still we could understand how Kali-yuga has sneaked in into India’s spiritualism. One of the songs was about how a person is calling Radha and Krsna with a cell-phone.
This day we did not go out filming. Guru Maharaja took part in the mangala arati and he chanted japa in the rooms of Srila Prabhupada, as usual. There is a room just next to Krsna-Balarama-mandir where Srila Prabhupada used to live. Nowadays these rooms are kept as a museum where one can see many of the personal items used by Srila Prabhupada. Usually in the morning time this is a very peaceful place for chanting..
Srila Gurudeva gave the SB class this morning. In the class he was speaking how many times we cannot directly preach Krsna-conscious philosophy to the people, due to their conditioning. As an example he gave Dhruva Maharaja, who was preached to by Narada Muni. Another important theme was that mere study of the holy scriptures is not enough. There are many university scholars, who may know Bhagavad-Gita by heart, but still they have not at all improved their lives, but on the contrary they are addicted to all kinds of sinful activities. It is essentiel to study the scriptures under the guidance of a self-realised soul.
It was said by Guru Maharaja: “Just like the other day we were visiting Varsana and we went to a place there named mor-kutir. Some of you may know that place upon one of the hills. It’s a little asrama of some esoteric-type sadhus. They’re Nimbarka, are they? Anyway, whatever, they’re some esoteric sadhus and they really look the part very much. So we walked in and there was the main devotee with candana all over his entire head and so on. As we said, he really looked like just a real example of esoteric Vaisnavism. And he was sitting there with his disciples or younger associates. And they had the radio playing, quite loud.
Hopefully you are not aware but at the moment there is or there was a cricket test-match being played somewhere in India, between Australia and India. And this was what they were listening right there in the front of the altar, loud, the cricket test match. Anyway it’s apparently, at least arguably showing a lack of a transcendental taste.
I even if one gets access to these things one way or another.. In fact we noticed that day there were a number of people in Varsana doing parikrama with a portable radio playing the cricket test match and with their big tilakas on I but there must be a connection with a realised spiritual master.” “Unless one is in touch with a realised spiritual master, he cannot actually realise the real nature of the self as a devotee. Aham brahmasmi may be the first step but then jivera svarupa haya krsnera nitya dasa. Ultimately it must come to this point that we realise that we are the eternal servant of Krsna . And our whole lives, not just in a general sense but in every sense our whole lives must be focused in Krsna-consciousness. And not just focused part-time in Krsna-consciousness and part-time in material existence. But in order to achieve that one needs the association and direction of one who is really qualified like that.”
Today Guru Maharaja continued with the filming. In the morning we drove to Varsana and first we climbed up the stairs to the main temple in Varsana. It was quite a long staircase. Guru Maharaja counted the number of stairs was 192 Srila Gurudeva said this temple of Sri Sri Sriji-Lararilal is one of the most difficult temples when it comes to filming. One of the reasons is that the Deities presiding in the temple are one of the original 5000-year old Deities, carved by Vajranabha. In the past the pujaris have acted quite violently, if they have seen even a glimpse of a camera. It was no wonder if they yelled at someone trying to film the altar. They often would confiscate the film from the camera. Sometimes they would even physically attack.
Although it is a common practise in India, bribery would not work in this temple, not even with big notes like 500 rupees. So we went into the temple and there was a special strategy that was developed to achieve success in our mission. Four of us, Guru Maharaja, Tusta Krsna Prabhu, Svarupa Damodara Prabhu and myself would go to the altar like pilgrims usually do. We would have darsana as normal. In the same time Tusta Krsna Prabhu would act as if he had a phonecall to his cell-phone. He has a phone with a camera built in in it. So nonchalantly he was handling his phone and he shot some photoes, and succeeded nicely. The pujaris would not even notice.
In the meantime Pranal Prabhu would enter, as if he was not one of our group. Just like the other day, he had hid the small video camera under his chaddar and was looking like an usual Gaudiya Vaisnava pilgrim. He would film in secret. To misdirect the pujaris’ attention our group would ask questions like “How old these Deities actually are?” “What are Their names”. And so on. We would give nice donations to the pujaris, accept caranamrta and maha-prasadam. It is possible that the pandas had some doubts about Pranal. They said “No filming!” as if to test him. Despite this the outcome was some 15-20 seconds of quite nice quality footage of Sriji-Laralilal. I must say it was a quite exciting experience.
Next we asked the pandas whether the many paintings in the ceiling could be filmed. They agreed. However after a minute or so they came and forbade Tusta Krsna Prabhu from filming. “It is the rule of this temple that no filming is allowed”, they said. So we went outside the temple to film the beautiful scenery. Pranal Prabhu went back to the pandas and asked again whether it would be OK to film the temple room. The pujari said this time it would be possible, but only after 1PM, when the altar would be closed. We went on with our filming. Just outside the temple there is a small shrine for lord Brahma. After all the Varsana temple is on one of his heads. There is also a shrine for kamadhenu, and an alcove which is said to contain impressions of Radharani’s footprints.
So we filmed the stairs. When we reached Varsana town we visited some attractive small temples. In one of them are Deities, which are considered by some to be the original Deities. There are the Deities of Srimati Radharani, Maharaja Vrsabhanu, Srimati Kirtidadevi and Subala. There is also another temple dedicated for Sri Sri Radha Krsna and the eight gopis.
Having spent some time in these temples we went outside the town to a place called pili-pokhara (yellow lake). This is a place where Radha washed her hands, which were smeared with turmeric by mother Yasoda. In Vedic culture this is the tradition, if a young girl is to be married with someone. Guru Maharaja explained this is a very special holy place, and even Sri Krsna assumed the form of Gauranga Mahaprabhu on bathing here. Srila Gurudeva and Tusta Krsna Prabhu filmed here for a long time. After that it was already past noon so we returned to Varsana.
Guru Maharaja and I stayed back in the town, and the others proceeded up the 192 stairs to the temple. It took a long time. Guru Maharaja said “either things are going very well or there must be some problems”. After about an hour Pranal Prabhu came to the car and presented Guru Maharaja with a surprise: “a plate of Srimati Radharani’s mahaprasadam from the rajabhoga offering”. It had been really a success. The pandas had even come to show the different paintings and presenting that “here is a good place to film”.
Afterwards Pranal said they had been “just like kittens”. It could have been otherwise as well. They even wanted to have a copy of the new DVD. If they ever get it, perhaps it should be a special edition in which the part fith Sriji-Laralilal is omitted. It is quite clear that all these wonderful achievements can only be possible by the mercy of Srimati Radharani.
As usual, we started at 6.30 AM. However our team had a different constitution. Tusta Krsna Prabhu had fallen sick and there were four new devotees in our team, Brhad-mrdanga Prabhu and three devotees from Russia. Our destination today was Unchagaon, the place of Srimati Lalitadevi.
Unchagaon is situated on a hill, so there one can have a very beautiful view of the holy land of Varsana. For this reason Guru Maharaja wanted to film the surrounding areas. Although there is some distance, from Unchagaon one can see even the temples of Varsana. We used the big professional camera to film the scenery and the holy places. Guru Maharaja wanted me to film some interesting details with another, small videocamera: “Cows, peacocks, other birds, plants, small Brijvasis, anything of interest.”
There is also a small temple in Unchagaon, where the Deities Sri Sri Radha-Lalitabihari reside. It is a nice place and it is maintained by very nice people. Guru Maharaja remembered the pujari, Mahesh, from the previous year. They spoke some time and meanwhile Mahesh brought some chass (Brijvasi buttermilk) for our filming team. Chass is a traditional drink in Vraja. This time it was flavoured with salt and cumin.
We went on with the filming to a nearby lake which is called deha-kunda. It was at this place that the gopis surrendered their everything to Sri Krsna, including their bodies. Then we proceeded to the bhajan-kutir and samadhi of Sri Narayana Bhatta Goswami, who was a follower of the six goswamis of Vrndavana. He was uncovering many of the lost sites of Lord Krsna’s pastimes. He had a Deity of laddu-Gopala. While walking around in Vraja-mandala, laddu-Gopala used to speak to Goswami Maharaja when they came to some important place. The Lord also narrated to him the actual significance of that particular place. Guru Maharaja also had his morning prasadam at this place.
Next we proceeded to Sakhi-giri Parvati, the hill of the gopis. This is another important holy place. One of the sites in this hill is Citra-sila, the rock which has images on it. Guru Maharaja related the pastime that happened here. Once Srimati Radharani arranged the wedding ceremony of Sri Krsna and Srimati Lalitadevi. Being absorbed in Her service, Radha became so ecstatic, that Her veil falled off. Also the veil experienced such intense ecstacy that it became very hot. And the roch it fell onto also became ecstatic and melted. Thus an image of Radha’s veil was left on the rock and it is still visible. It is quite an amazing sight. The rock is completely smooth, but quite distinctly one can see an impression of Radharani’s veil.
Climbing on we came across another important place. On this very hill Krsna and the cowherd boys once had their lunch. Even today one can find a place where there are impressions of the boys’ lunchbowls. Here the impressions are very distinct and they are arranged in a neat line. Quite amazing. What I have written here cannot truly express these important place. If you are more interested, you had better get the Varsana parikrama DVD when it is published.. From the cowherd boys’ lunchsite we still went on to find a rock with the impression of the gopis’ handprints. However we could not find this. Today we did quite a bit of walking. One could say that while in the association of Guru Maharaja, one will improve on many levels, both spiritual and physical.
Today we started at 6.30 AM. HG Tusta Krsna Prabhu was still sick, so we had the same composition as the previous day. On Wednesday we had heard about a village called Dawara, and it was said this village is connected with Tungavidya-devi, one of the asta-sakhis. Guru Maharaja wanted to see this village. Actually it was not very far from Varsana and Cikitsoli, so we drove there first.
We found the temple dedicated to Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari and Tungavidya-devi. It was maintained by one Gaudiya Matha, branching from Kesava Maharaja, one of Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers. From the first moments the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. An old devotee was sitting there with thick spectacles, making a garland for the Deities. Gopinatha das, pujari, offered our whole group delicious malpuras and sweet chass. They happily agreed to let their temple to be filmed. The altar in the temple was simple but beautiful. Also opposing the altar there was an ancient carving depicting Sri Sri Radha Krsna and Their pastimes. Also Tungavidya-devi was there. Unfortunately the Muslims had molested this wonderful piece of devotional art.
Gopinatha-pujari told us to return at 10.30 AM for rotis and dahl. While waiting we had a small adventure in the countryside of Dawara. We went to look for a plae called Syama-sila in the nearby hills. We also found it. Syama-sila consists of very special rocks which are coloured as blackish and golden. Although this place is not described in Vrndavana guidebooks, one might suppose the significance of the Syama-sila is that it does not differ from Radha and Krsna. From Syama-sila we had a nice view of the surroundings. There is also a place called Chota-Giriraja just nearby Dawara. This hill is said to be the little brother of Giriraja Govardhana. After we came down from Syama-sila we went on to Ratna-kunda, which is the place where Srimati Radharani planted pearls in one pastime with Lord Krsna.
Quite some time passed in filming these holy sites and thus we returned to the temple at 11 AM. We were taken to a small prasadam room and we all sat on the floor behind leaf plates. Then the temple devotees, including Gopinatha started to serve prasadam. It was a quite simple meal consisting of rotis, two subjis, dahl and raw sugar. To tell the truth this was a very wonderful lesson of Vaisnava culture. We sat there honoring prasadam and the devotees serving prasadam came back again and again. Actually it became a pastime. We had had enough prasadam, but still they wanted to feed us more and we had to make some ways by which we could neatly refuse from accepting more prasadam. In the same time the temple devotees tried to find new ways by which they could smuggle in one more roti or a little bit of dahl. It was truly amusing.
After we had had our feast we were about to leave the temple. On this moment all the devotees offered their humble obeisances to each other. By the grace of Guru Maharaja we had had this wonderful experience of the sweetness of Vaisnava dealings. Unlike other places in Vrndavana no one in Dawara came to us to ask for money. This is the beauty of these small villages. Although they may be difficult to reach, people are there very innocent. They are not corrupted by tourism and business-spirited activities. Everything is very simple and natural. It could be said that the difficulty orf reaching these places is actually something that will save them in the final hand. It may not be easy for devotees to go there, but also Kali has to work harder to push his influence there. Unless there was a need to go back to West for preaching, one could certainly spend a lot of time in the small villages of Vraja, chant Hare Krsna and be happy.
After Dawara we proceeded to Prema Sarovara. This is a holy lake which was formed by the loving tears of Radha and Krsna. There is also a small temple there, where the Deities are said to be original Deities carved by Vajranabha, i.e. They are 5000 years old. As a contrast to the temple in Dawara, the pujari here welcomed us by saying “Nofilming here! One photo of these Deities costs 1000 rupies!” Actually we were not so sorry about it although the Deities Sri Sri Radha-Premabihari are truly beautiful. We spent about an hour filming Prema Sarovara. Srila Gurudeva also chanted his gayatri mantras in this holy place. At about two o’clock we started again for Vrndavana.
These are some of the transcendental pastimes of our Guru Maharaja here in Sri Vrndavana dhama. Certainly one could write more about these adventures, but knowing one’s human limitations it may be best to stop here, but only for some time. More pastimes are to come.
Aspiring to become your servant,