Day 1, Monday,24/10/05
My name is Caitanya Carana dasa. I have been given the privilege of accompanying Srila Gurudev on His trip to Vrndavan and experience the Holy Dham in His transcendental company. On Gurudev’s request, I have started this diary.
The day before we are meant to leave Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath Mandir in Durban, South Africa, turned out to be quite eventful. As early as 06h30 I was making final arrangements with travel agent to confirm Gurudev’s seat numbers. Later I helped to contact Mumbai Temple to arrange for Gurudev to stop over when He arrived in India.
Day 2, Tuesday 25 /10/05
We were all packed and raring to go! I took my last darshan (for a while ) of Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath, took caranamrta and raced down the stairs to the waiting car.
Gurudev was already waiting as I leapt into the car and we began our 31-hour journey.
Once aboard the plane, Srila Gurudev kicked off His shoes and settled back in His seat. Turning to me, He asked, “Have you made any arrangements for your Prasadam?” When I said that I had not made any, Gurudev graciously offered to share whatever He had with me.
At one point, Gurudev shook His head. After some hesitation, I asked Him why.
“I forgot to take My medication this morning. Its not serious. It means I’ll have to take it when we arrive in Mumbai tomorrow morning”.
I asked Gurudev how to deal with the “special mercy” I found myself receiving. He said: “Just be thankful. Thank Krsna. Appreciate”.
There had been a miscommunication between the travel agent and the airline, so they did not have any food arranged for us. Fortunately, the hostess managed to rustle up some fruit, which I offered and we honored. Gurudev especially appreciated the WILDE apple juice that was served. Although we were several miles in the sky and far away from any other devotee association, it was amazing how strictly Gurudev observed the etiquette of honoring prasädam.
Gurudev chanted constantly. Hearing His soft, sweet, intense and heartfelt chanting made me feel exceptionally good. Although we were flying several thousand meters above the ground, I felt no fear. In fact, I’ve never felt so safe in all my life
Feeling inspired by Gurudev’s special association, and not wanting to waste the opportunity, I plied Him with questions. “How does one prepare one’s consciousness for Vrndavan?” Gurudev said: “Read Krsna Book.”
“What is the goal of life?” Gurudev said: “You know already”.
“Self-realization or maybe pure devotional service?”, I ventured. “They’re the same thing”, Gurudev said. “The goal is pure devotional service.
Self-realization means understanding you are the servant and serving the spiritual master is the only means to come to pure devotional service”.
I asked: “What is the etiquette to followed when one enters Vrndavan? When do we offer our obeisances? Do we offer at Srila Prabhupada’s Gate?” Gurudev said: “When we get off the taxi in Vrndavan. We can offer our obeisances then.”
When we arrived in Jo’burg, Gurudev asked me to check to see if I had everything with me. This was to prove to be a very important question
At Jo’burg Airport, we were greeted by Bhakta Suman and Vrajendra Nandan Prabhu. Suman had brought along Gurudev’s big (and heavy) camera. Gurudev asked me to check us both in for our next flight, get our boarding passes and ask whether we would be allowed to pass through immigrations at Mauritius or would have to wait in transit. I started to get our documents together, when I realized to my horror that I had lost my passport. After checking my person head to toe several times, all my bags and even the consultant, I realized that I may not be making the trip to the Holy Dham after all I was in utter and complete dismay. Gurudev tried to cheer me up by relating a few pastimes of His own. He said that once He lost His passport but the police later found it. Then, once He had even forgotten His ticket.
While Gurudev was thus re-assuring me, the other devotees were all over the place making different inquiries and working out different scenarios like re-scheduling the flight (which meant a six-day wait for the new passport!).
All the while I had my head in my hands, not believing what was happening. I asked myself: “Is this where the journey ends?”
I went to use the bathroom thinking all the while: “Am I undeserving of going to Vrndavan? Maybe I was not eager enough Maybe my desire was not strong enough As I returned from the bathroom, Gurudev phones me on my cell, saying that they had recovered my passport! I was in ecstasy! Still, I reminded myself that this was Krsna’s arrangement. Gurudev commented: “Its Krsna’s special mercy.” Later Gurudev said: “This is a sign from Krsna that you can’t go to Vrndavan by buying a ticket.” Its special mercy. Krsna’s allowing you to enter into the Dham.”
Srila Gurudev gave me some friendly advice: ” Never take your eyes off your luggage.”
At Jo’burg Airport, we were in for more surprises. Our flight would be delayed by an hour and all I wanted to do was to get my traveling over and done with.
When we boarded our Air Mauritius flight for the flight to Mauritius, I threw Gurudev’s and my jacket in an untidy pile on the empty seat between us. Gurudev started to set them nicely saying: “We should try and have things more in order.”
One of the most amazing aspect of this trip thus far was the fact that I was the sole beneficiary of ALL of Srila Gurudev’s remnants!
The reception by the Mauritian devotees was overwhelmingly warm! There are (at least) two devotees working at the Airport, and they took care of everything, from customs to boarding passes, to meals on the next flight to seating. What a pleasure! Furthermore, when we got through to the Airport lounge, we were greeted by a host of smiling Mauritian devotees. They garlanded Gurudev and showered Him with flower petals. Gurudev was then ushered into a reserved area in the Airport restaurant, where He honored prasädam.
The next leg of our flight was to Mumbai and would take 8 hours. I asked Gurudev what was the longest flight He was on. He said it was from L.A. to Auckland and took 14 hours.
Gurudev couldn’t get comfortable in His cramped seat, and as a result He couldn’t rest properly.
Day 3, Wednesday, 26/10/05
We arrived in Mumbai at 5 am. When I asked Gurudev how He was He said: “Not very well. I hardly rested.”
There was such a delay for our luggage! I mentioned this to Gurudev: “Does it usually take this long for luggage?” He said: “This is not long.”
When we eventually got our luggage and went through, we were greeted by two Indian boys who took us to a waiting car. Raju, our young driver was expert in weaving his way through traffic, which doesn’t seem to flow in any particular direction, or follow any particular rule. In twenty minutes we pulled into Hare Krsna Land. Gurudev decided that He would bath, take darshan and then a little prasädam.
It was the first time I witnessed the intensity and ecstasy of darshan in India. Their Lordships Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari and Sri Sri Sita-Ram-Laksman-Hanuman were looking exceptionally beautiful!
At the Mumbai Airport, Gurudev’s computer cables were a source of suspicion for the security personnel. They requested that He open His bag. All ended well though and we passed through. There was a long, hot wait at the Airport because our flight was delayed. Gurudev got Himself a fizzy drink from the canteen to cool off and I sipped on some water.
We arrived at Delhi Airport at 11h45. I managed to bungle things up yet again! Gurudev asked me at least twice if I had everything and I confidently said “Yes”. But I had left both of our jackets at Mumbai Temple! Gurudev was not pleased, at all
I fetched the luggage and loaded it onto a trolley. We were met at the Airport by Vaisnava Carana Prabhu, a God brother from Russia. We then began our long drive to Vraja.
Our driver made me very nervous. I won’t say that he’s very bad. Actually, he’s very good. To drive like he drives and not cause an accident must mean he’s an exceptionally good driver!
During the trip Gurudev asked me to keep some bottled water close by me “lest I lose it”. Then He asked about the jackets again. It is the duty of the spiritual master to “cut” the nonsense of His disciple. Boy, did I feel atomic at that moment!
As we entered Vraja, a unique peace permeated everything.
Gurudev confirmed this by saying that we had entered Vraja Mandala. Before I knew it we were passing Srila Prabhupada’s Gate. I offered my mental obeisances. A few dozen meters away we passed the Sri Sri Krsna Balaram Mandir. A little distance further and we were at Gurudev’s house. We were greeted by a group of ecstatic Russian devotees, who garlanded Gurudev, showered Him with flower petals and ushered Him inside. Then, at long last, we offered our dandavat pranams to the Holy Dham The devotees had a foot-bathing for Srila Gurudev. Gurudev then took prasädam with all the devotees on the rooftop – it was nectar!
Gurudev said that He would not come down to the Temple and that I should offer a lamp on His behalf.
As I entered Krsna Balaram Temple, I could hear Aindra “crying for Krsna”.
The Deities were ABSOLUTELY STUNNING! As I walked around I thought: ”
Vrndavan is everything I expected and more.”
As I turned in for the night, I meditated on Gurudev’s advice: “Be more conscious”. This brought to mind Srila Prabhupada’s statement: “First be conscious, then be Krsna Conscious”.
Day 4, Thursday, 27/10/05
I was afraid of committing more mistakes, and I approached Gurudev to find out what I would be doing. He said that I would be His personal assistant whilst on parikrama. I mentioned that I was mistake-ridden and a “klutz”, to which He replied: ” That’s true – to an extent”, with a chuckle and one of His warm, sunshiny smiles. “But you have to learn to not lose things. If you continue to lose things, you may have to start buying them.” This time He was dead serious, both in the tone of His voice and His facial expression.
Vrndavan is amazing! Everything Krsna Conscious you do – chanting, hearing, taking darshan etc. seems to be magnified many times over. Everything is reminding you of Krsna
That evening Gurudev decided to take us out on a walk to the Madhan Mohan Temple. First we visited the Bhaktivedanta Goshala. The cows here looked healthy, fearless and lotus-eyed. Gurudev spoke about the importance of cows in African culture (for the benefit of His Russian disciples). As Gurudev walked, rose petals fell from His garland as if as an offering to the dust of Vraja
We came to Kaliya Ghat, where Krsna chastised the Kaliya serpent. Although I had heard this pastime many times before, hearing it from Gurudev’s lotus lips right at the very spot that it occurred brought this pastime to life.
Gurudev also said: “As Krsna freed Himself from the coils of Kaliya, we should pray to be freed from the clutches of Maya.”
We came to the roof of the Madhan Mohan Temple, from where Gurudev pointed out several key pastime areas.
When we started to head back to the house, it was quite dark, but Gurudev never missed a stride as He walked through the narrow streets of Vrndavan Town. I swear He could have done so blindfolded
Day 5, Friday, 28/10/05
We left for Yavat at 06h15. It was a very long and bumpy ride. I saw the real village life I had read so much about.
Although most of us had dozed off, Gurudev was as alert as always, chanting japa the whole way. When we got off, Gurudev offered His obeisances and we followed suit.
We came to Deities of Jatila, Kutila and Abhimanyu. Gurudev told us a hilarious pastime about Srimati Radharani and Krsna bewildering Jatila.
As we approached Ter Kadamba, Gurudev expertly directed the camera-men on which were the best angles to shoot from. Here there some very friendly pandars, who were respectful and did not demand a donation, which we were becoming wary of by now. I served Gurudev His breakfast of fruits. He went to use the bathroom, and asked that I wash His hands when He returned. In my haste to get the water-bottle from my bag I dropped Gurudev’s sunglasses on the ground. Gurudev was fried, and chastised me.
At 3pm we all went to the Yamuna to perform the last rites for some devotees. Sitting on the banks of the Yamuna, Gurudev gave a short class. He said that there are 5 very merciful personalities in Vrndavan: 1)Govardhan Hill 2)the dust of Vraja 3)Gopisvara Siva 4)Vrnda Devi and 5)Yamuna Devi.
After the class, Gurudev performed an arati to the Yamuna. Then He placed the ashes of those fortunate devotees into the swiftly-flowing waters of the Yamuna. We all took a dip in the Yamuna’s cool waters, following Gurudev. He swam about majestically and then came to the shore to change. Then we all headed back to the house. Somehow or the other, I contrived to leave Gurudev’s hat behind! Gurudev was not impressed On the way back to the house, Gurudev said: “Lesson number one, Give the rikshawala exact fare. Don’t expect change. Lesson number two, Don’t pay the rikshawala until the end of the trip.” These instructions penetrated my thick skull
Day 6, Saturday, 29/10/05
Gurudev gave this morning’s Srimad Bhagavatam class. It was nectar! He examined the role of ISKCON, the modes of material nature and “reading reform”. Many of His God brothers contributed to the Q and A session, making it a festival of hearing. Even after that, people were practically queuing up to speak Him.
We left for Vrndavan Parikrama at 10h30. Gurudev offered His dandavat pranams to the Holy Dham and we followed suit. When we came to Kesi Ghat, Gurudev explained the pastime. Gurudev said: ” Srila Prabhupada explains in the Krsna Book that the Kesi demon died passing urine and stool. So, it must have been pretty spectacular.” He laughed heartily.
Although this parikrama was much shorter than Govardhan (perhaps 9km), the pace was unrelenting and Gurudev was in “top gear” all the way, from start to finish!
Day 7, Sunday, 30/10/05
I had to arrange Gurudev’s fruit breakfast so I left the Temple-room immediately after the Nsrimhadev prayer.
I packed up the breakfast and Gurudev’s glasses, gamchas and sun block, then I raced off to the car.
We left the house at about 06h15 heading for Asiesvara Mahadev Kund.
As we neared the Kund, I realized to my horror that I had forgotten Gurudev’s hat at the house! Gurudev was thunderstruck at my stupidity:
“You’re joking, right? You have to be kidding. That’s amazing!” I tried
to apologize but couldn’t say anything sensible. He said that He’d use His gamcha, and continued with the day’s schedule.
At the banks of the Kund, Gurudev gave class about the significance of it’s name. “Asiesvara” ‘asa’=desire and ‘isvara’=Lord. The Kund is so named not because Lord Siva fulfills all material desires, but because his desire to get the first prasädam from the raj bhoga offering to Krsna. (There is a lingum at Nandagram that receives the first plate.)
Whilst at Ter Kadamba, Gurudev related the story of Srimati Radharani preparing “mud cookies” for Durvasa Muni, using the dust of Vraja mixed with Yamuna water. As He spoke, a parrot cried out from the trees overhead.
Gurudev commented: “It’s a messenger of Vrnda Devi observing us, and it will report to Her that there are some nice visitors from South Africa and Russia here.”
We came to Srila Rupa Goswami’s bhajan kutir. Gurudev said that the Goswamis slept under a different tree every night. Why? They would do so because at night they would dream about the pastime that took place under that tree.
Gurudev explained how once Srimati Radharani brought sugar and rice for Rupa Goswami. He made sweet rice and took it to Sanatan Goswami. Sanatan became disturbed because he felt that he had engaged Radharani in his service.
However, they then honored the sweet rice and cried tears of ecstasy. At that exact moment, the pander (Bhakti Bandab Hrsikesa Maharaja) brought in some sweet rice for Gurudev! He relished it and then the other devotees were served.
Next we came to Kamal Kund. When asked about the name, Gurudev said: “It is a kund of lotuses.”
Next we came to Moti Kund. Gurudev related the pastime about how Krsna planted Mother Yasoda’s pearls here and they grew into pearl trees.
At Pavan Sarovara, Gurudev related how Krsna and His cowherd boyfriends would be swimming in one part of the lake and Srimati Radharani and Her girlfriends would be at another. Krsna would swim to Radharani undetected whilst underwater and pull Her under.
Next we came to Sanatan Goswami’s bhajan kutir. Gurudev said that Sanatan Goswami simply traveled from village to village continuously for 50 years.
We stopped at the Samadhi of Akincana Krsna das Babaji Maharaja. “Although Srila Prabhupada had problems with some of his God brothers, he had a very good relationship with Akincana Krsna das Babaji Maharaja”, said Gurudev.
“He was very well-educated and was always chanting.”
During the afternoon, Gurudev gave many darshans. I was there when one Russian mataji spoke to Him. Gurudev is such a good listener. He somehow manages to make a person feel completely at ease. One can speak openly and frankly with Him because He evokes a sense of trust. He is also not miserly with His time. He gives Himself freely
Day 8, Monday, 31/10/05
This was the day I was introduced to Giriraj! I packed Gurudev’s things and He asked me to check if everything was there. I confirmed that they were. I noticed that Gurudev also added some rubbing balm and bandage to the bag.
(It appears that He has incurred a knee injury, but He didn’t want to make it a big deal. And this BEFORE His Govardhan Parikrama walk of 21 km!)
We all walked from the house to the Temple to meet our bus. We were greeted by a big gathering of devotees, who all offered their obeisances to Gurudev.
Many devotees garlanded Gurudev, who smiled warmly.
After a short wait, we were off to Kusum Sarovara, and the start of the Govardhan parikrama.
I was seated next to Gurudev, with my back-pack separating us. It was a golden opportunity to study Gurudev closely. Although the bus went to three petrol stations before filling up (and also climbed a bank at the last stop!), Gurudev never batted an eyelid. He simply chanted His Gayatri and then went on to chant His japa quietly. We came to a train-crossing, and I took the opportunity to ask Gurudev a question. “In the analogy of the train and the three phases of understanding the Absolute Truth, how is the Paramatma concept explained?” Gurudev said: “In this stage of understanding, the person sees the carriages, the engine and the track as separate.”
As we approached Govardhan Hill, Gurudev called out : “There’s a blue cow!”
We all turned to catch a glimpse of this rare beauty.
The bus came to a stop, we got off and offered our prostrated obeisances. A little while later, we got our first “up-close and personal” sight of Giriraj, rising up out of the dust of Vraja. We offered our dandavats and touched our heads to the foot of this glorious hill. Gurudev pointed out the spot where Caitanya Mahaprabhu had embraced Govardhan Hill.
Next, we came to the place where Hanuman had almost taken Govardhan Hill away in Ram-lila, but had been ordered to stop by a heavenly voice, saying that the bridge to Lanka had been completed. Govardhan was disappointed, and the Lord said that when He came again as Krsna, he would involve the Hill in His lila.
We came to Manasi Ganga, where Krsna manifested the Ganga from His mind.
“This is the real Ganga, “said Gurudev. “Krsna also had His boating pastimes here.”
“Here is the Temple of Manasi Devi. She is Yoga Maya. She protects the Dham”, said Gurudev.
Next we came to Brahma Kund. Brahma heard that Krsna would wash His hands in this Kund and changed himself into a fish so he could have the mahaprasad, but Krsna saw him in the water and didn’t wash His hands there.
At the Temple of Haridev, we heard how the gopis summoned Krsna, who appeared on the scene and danced “in an amazing manner”.
At the bazaar in Town, we bought sonpapri. Gurudev said that “son” means sun owing to the sweet’s golden colour.
At Annakoot, Srila Gurudev gave the pastime of Krsna asking the Vrajabasis to offer their puja to Govardhan instead of Indra, and how Krsna, the Hill and the gigantic form that called out “Anniyor! Anniyor!” were actually the same Person. Hearing this pastime being related by Gurudev at the very spot of the event made it come to life!
We all sat on the ground before Gurudev, who sat on a concrete platform around a huge banyan tree. He related the rest of the Govardhan-lila, explaining that the storm that Indra sent to Vrndavan “could have destroyed the universe”.
“The residents of Vraja were thus sheltered for seven days and seven nights, yet they felt no hunger or thirst. They sustained themselves by looking at Krsna.”
Gurudev continued: “Krsna likes the Govardhan-lila because there are so many rasas going on simultaneously.
We came to Mukut Sila. Gurudev explained that when Balaram saw Krsna’s Rasa-lila, He was so astonished that the mukut (crown) fell off His head and made an impression on the rocks of the Hill, which had melted in ecstacy.
When we came to Kamiavan, Gurudev rolled in the dust of Vraja. We all followed in great ecstacy! Gurudev explained if one rolls in the dust at Kamiavan, his desires will be fulfilled.
“But we should desire only pure devotional service.”
At Uddhava Kund, Gurudev explained how exalted a personality Uddhava actually was, simply desiring to become a blade of grass, so that he could benefit from having the dust of Vrndavan’s residents namely the gopis) falling upon him.
When the queens were feeling intense separation from Krsna, they remembered Uddhava, and they came here to Uddhava Kund, and attracted the attention of Uddhava by engaging in Harinama sankirtan.
Uddhava appeared and took all the gopis to Kusum Sarovara, where he recited the pastimes of Krsna. All the queens disappeared, one by one, until they all went back to Godhead.
Then, after a long walk, we came to Radha Kund – the most auspicious place in the universe. Gurudev offered His dandavat pranams and splashed some water onto His head, and we all followed suit.
We then reached Kusum Sarovara, and the end of our parikrama. Gurudev decided to take bath here, and was joined by the other devotees.
When we arrived at the house I was feeling unwell and rested for an hour. I woke up later and went to offer my lamp. As soon as I got back, I crashed out and only waking up at 7am.
Day 9, Tuesday, 01/11/05
Gurudev heard me wake up and peered out at me from His room. He inquired about my health, and suggested that I go to see a doctor. After bathing, I went in to see Gurudev. He said that I should keep my distance from Him, because He was very susceptible to such illnesses. I said that I understood, and later that morning I went to see a doctor.
When I got back I told Gurudev what had happened and He said that I should rest for the rest of the day.
Although I tried very hard to rest, being in Vrndavan somehow makes sleeping quite impossible. There’s so much to do and so much of spiritual energy permeating every atom! Still, I had to abide by the instructions of Gurudev, so I had a rest for 90 minutes.
It’s Diwali in Vrndavan, and the whole town (including the Krsna Balaram
Temple) is lit up with small candles. The explosive sound of the fireworks made sleeping very difficult, as the Vrajabasis celebrate this joyous festival.
Day 10, Wednesday, 02/11/05
We left to Govardhan at 7am. When we arrived at the ISKCON Govardhan Centre, Dravidic Prabhu was leading a roaring kirtan. Gurudev and Dravida Prabhu exchanged smiles. We went to the Temple-room and took darshan of Gaura-Nitai, Giriraj and Srila Prabhupada deities.
The first speaker was Gopiparanadhana Prabhu, who spoke about the significance of Govardhan puja and the reason for parikrama. ” We do Govardhan parikrama because Krsna did it, not because we want pious credit.”
The next speaker was Gurudev. He spoke about this lila being Krsna’s “special favorite”, because He had a chance to have pastimes with all His devotees simultaneously. Krsna argued with His father using karma mimamsa.
When the bhoga offering was made to Krsna, He called out “Anniyor! Anniyor!
Give Me more food.” But Krsna wasn’t greedy for food. He wanted, and was greedy for, the love and devotion of the brijbasis. He can’t have enough of it.
The entire program thus far was on the roof.
After more speakers, Dravida Prabhu lead kirtan, and we all filed down to the garden for go-puja. Then we progressed to the side of Govardhan Hill, where Gurudev and His God brothers performed abhishek for Giriraj. After He was done, Gurudev wiped the remnants of the abhishek on my sinful head, and requested that I join the queue to bathe the Hill. I did so with great pleasure!
As I walked up to the initiation arena, I saw Gurudev speaking to my temple president, Svarupa Damodara Prabhu. Gurudev said, as I arrived, “Our Caitanya Carana has been having a very eventful stay in Vrndavan. Something like a ‘ baptism of fire’ .” He went through the whole list of my “adventures” in the Dham, whilst I turned crimson with embarrassment. Gurudev gave a class before initiation, about the ten offenses. Bhakta Sven was duly initiated and given the name Govinda-Kund das Brahmacari. Gurudev asked him to continue to apply himself seriously to his Sanskrit studies, chant the minimum number of rounds, follow the regulative principles and never to leave Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON.
We then joined the other devotees for a feast. As we walked down to His sitting place, it became evident just how many of Srila Prabhupada’ s disciples were gathered there (at least 30). I served Gurudev His prasädam and then relished the maha maha prasädam!
On the drive back to Vrndavan, we saw that there were thousands of pilgrims doing Govardhan parikrama.
I had a few errands to run for Gurudev when we got back to the house. I was having great difficulty in getting the information Gurudev wanted, and realized that I will have to be very patient and steadfast in executing the order of the spiritual master, making it my life and soul.
I asked Gurudev to use His computer to download lectures from my digital recorder, and He mercifully consented.
Day 11, Thursday, 03/11/05
When we arrived at Varsana, Gurudev explained to the group of devotees in the bus the program for the day.
As we got off the bus, Gurudev said that we could either wear our shoes or not. He wore His, but I didn’t wear mine.
Big mistake! Varsana’s hillsides are covered with very sharp shale stones At Vilasgar, we took prasädam. We visited the temples of some of the gopis before entering the main temple. At the Palace of Maharaja Vrsabhanu, we were harassed by several pandars. We had to practically run down the stairs!
At Anjanakol, Gurudev explained that at this place Krsna applied
anjana (mascara) for Srimati Radharani.
When we arrived at the house, Gurudev first took His bath and then honored prasädam. After I took my prasädam, I asked Gurudev how I would get my diary typed out because I had no access to a computer. Gurudev took compassion on me and said that I could use His.
Gurudev and Ksudhi Prabhu spoke about their memories of Srila Prabhupada as a part of the build-up to Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Day.
Day 12, Friday, 04/11/05
We left for Nandagram at 6h15. Gurudev is so expert that He directed the local driver on what was the best route to take! The trip was very long, very slow and very, very bumpy.
When we arrived at Nandagram, we were swamped by a swarm of pandars. Gurudev was unperturbed and walked straight up to an old man sitting in the door-way, who it turns out is an acquaintance of Gurudev’s for some years.
The pandar, known as Bhadri Prasad Goswami lead us into the temple room where we had darshan of Nanda Maharaja, Mother Yasoda, Krsna and Balaram. The pandar explained about various pastime places and Gurudev in turn explained to us. He then took out a book and turned to a page where Gurudev had signed His name from a previous visit!
Gurudev smiled knowingly as He made an entry for today.
Gurudev directed Vaisnava Carana Prabhu to do some shooting from this great vantage point.
We all were then lead to the pandar’s house for a snack of buttermilk, roti, pickle and sugar candy.
I left Gurudev’s sunglasses behind at this house but luckily the devotees picked it up. Gurudev commented: “He’s very generous. He keeps giving things away.” I felt microscopic
The next stop was at Vrnda Kund. After we took darshan, we assembled around Gurudev in the courtyard, where He gave a short talk, explaining that this was ISKCON property by the sincere endeavor of His God brother, Dina Bandhu Prabhu . Gurudev took His breakfast of fruit and tea at this scenic and peaceful setting. After doing more shooting, we left the tranquil Vrnda Kund.
After a long drive we arrived at Sanket. Gurudev explained that the deity was Paurnamasi. Srimati Radharani and Krsna used to meet here secretly. “Sanket” means secret. We visited the bhajan kutir of Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami and then headed back to the house.
Day 13, Saturday, 05/11/05
Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Day. The Samadhi was packed! We ran to the temple room, where there were even more devotees After greetings, we all assembled in a huge pandal. There was Guru-puja to Srila Prabhupada and then various disciples of Srila Prabhupada spoke. It was absolutely nectarean! I felt so close to Srila Prabhupada through His disciples. Gurudev gave a talk about “offenses”. He quoted a thought-provoking statement by Srila Prabhupada: “You are asking about offenses, because you WANT to continue offending.”
One of Gurudev’s God brothers, Sankarsan Prabhu said Something sweet: “Srila Prabhupada is like water:
1)cleansing by it’s touch 2)clear via medium 3)pleasing sound.”
At this stage Gurudev indicated that He wanted to go back to the house. I hastened to oblige After the HUGE feast, I had to LSD. Gurudev walked in just as my head hit the pillow. “Not feeling well?”, He asked, obviously displeased that I was resting during the day. I mumbled something about needing to rest after my medication. He said: “Huh.” and walked into His room.
Later that evening Gurudev requested me to go and “take a look at Srila Prabhupada’s House. It’s really done up well.”
It was amazing! I never felt so close to Srila Prabhupada in all my life There were flowers everywhere, Aindra Prabhu was leading a sweet bhajan, the lights were dimmed just at the right brightness, many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples( including Gurudev) sat on the floor near facing the bed where Srila Prabhupada had left this material world. The bed was bedecked with flowers, Srila Prabhupada’s cadar and a frame of Srila Prabhupada. A large flower garland in the shape of Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental body was placed on the exact spot where He leftie On the way back to the house, I met Gurudev and thanked Him for His advice to visit Srila Prabhupada’s house. Srila Gurudev said: “Yes. It’s something else”, with tears welling in His eyes.
Day 14, Sunday, 06/11/05
We headed off to Nandagram after a delay waiting for our transport. A large group of boisterous boys made it practically impossible for Avadhuta Candra Prabhu to film.
We were joined by a friendly pandar who became a little assertive and insistent.
At the Nrsimhadev Temple of Nanda Maharaja, some of the resident priests were insisting that we not film the deities.
Gurudev with His sweet and charming nature managed to convince them to allow us to shoot some footage.
The friendly priest gave an explanation about each deity and even lit a gas burner to provide light for filming.
The pandar was becoming such a nuisance that Gurudev eventually asked him to leave us alone.
Gurudev took prasad at Uddhava Kyari.
Day 15, Monday, 07/11/05
Gurudev gave class this morning. It was in English, with a translator speaking Hindi. It was well-attended. The class revolved around what to make of difficult circumstances. Gurudev quoted the example of Queen Kunti, who faced amazing odds and took them in her stride with such ease because she was a fully surrendered, pure devotee of the Lord.
A meeting that Gurudev was meant to attend in Mathura didn’t materialize.
This meant that His lunch could be served earlier. I phoned Mother Nitya Kishori and told her what had to be done. Amazingly, she was able to prepare and deliver Gurudev’s lunch within an hour!
There was meant to be a “parikrama” with Gurudev, which never materialized, much to the disappointment of a group of eager South African devotees.
I visited the doctor again on Gurudev’s advice and took the chance to ask about the proper mood that one should have in Vrndavan, because I was only seeing dirt and slowness . Gurudev said: “You have to be careful not to allow yourself to get distracted by the things that are happening on the surface, and are covering the transcendental atmosphere.”
He repeated His advice that I read Krsna Book, which I immediately did.
Day 16, Tuesday, 08/11/05
We left the house at 06h15. We arrived at a kund we thought was Candravali Kund, and began shooting. After Gurudev questioned the locals, they made us aware that this was actually not Candravali Kund and the friendly villagers directed us to the correct location.
Gurudev struck a conversation with one of the local boys, who seemed to be a very learned fellow. The boy, Hari Om Sharma, as it turned out, was a university graduate who had come back home to help his parents to harvest since he had not yet got a job.
As Gurudev introduced us, I saw how used this opportunity to glorify His disciples.
On one completely ghastly dirt road, Gurudev commented: “The field is better than the road.” And indeed it was!
After shooting for about 40 minutes, we headed into Nandagram Town and the Temple. Gurudev called for the big camera to use it’s superior zoom ability.
Our attempts were severely hampered though by the dense fog that was present that day.
We decided to continue after lunch, which was scheduled for 12h00. Later, we discovered that lunch would be served an hour later. Gurudev, however, was completely fixed as ever.
He went about His business of shooting as if nothing had happened at all, but I knew that He had not eaten anything the entire day.
Eventually, we did get to take prasädam – an hour and a half later – with Bhadri Prasad Goswami. We had a HUGE feast! I swear the rotis were 30cm in diameter!
Immediately after the meal, Gurudev hastened up to the roof and continued filming.
Day 17, Wednesday, 09/11/05
When we arrived at Nandagram, we tried to find Keer Kund.
Avadhuta Candra Prabhu was being followed by the usual horde of curious village children. Gurudev, commented with a laugh, “Look. He’s got a whole parikrama party!”
Then we came to the Temple of Yasodamayi. This was the place where Yasodamayi was born.
The priests here were Ramanandis, followers of the Sri sampradaya. They insisted on offering us tea, but Gurudev flatly declined.
Outside, the priest showed us Yasoda Kund. He invited Gurudev to sit with him under a huge peepal tree, and Gurudev acceded then called all of us up to join them on the raised concrete platform. We chanted japa together for a while.
We then assembled in the courtyard and the priest brought some milk, which he insisted that we drink. At least cups each. Nice!
When we arrived at Gandhok, Guruev said: “Krsna used to play with a ball here as a child.”
The pandar here was very jolly. Sitting on the steps of the Kund, he explained that not only were there many fish in the Kund but also huge turtles. Without a word he called to a colleague to bring him some capati dough. Tossing it into the water, he gave a smile. Within a few seconds, a large turtle surfaced and started to eat the dough. We were amazed at how docile the creature was, even allowing itself to be petted.
As we watched, a gigantic catfish surfaced and joined the feast!
Next we came to Kokilavan, where Krsna makes a sound like a kokila(cuckoo).
On the way back to the house, Gurudev stopped to film some birdlife, in the water. I commented: “Bakasura!”
Gurudev said, : “Actually the place where Krsna killed that demon is not far from here.”
When He finished shooting, Gurudev packed away the camera. He then noticed that the lens was dirty and decided to shoot the entire thing again. Gurudev is such a perfectionist!
At night, I decided to take some stronger medication for my “flu blues”.
Day 18, Thursday, 10/11/05
I woke up earlier than normal and attended both Mangal aratis. When I came back to the house to prepare Gurudev’s breakfast, I entered His room to offer my obeisances. He asked about my health. I told Him that I had taken stronger medication and was feeling better. He suggested that I take a day off to rest, and get myself fully better, and that the others would manage.
“But it’s up to you”. I said, ” My heart is telling me that I should come with You, but my brain is telling me to stay behind today.”
And thus, for the first time since we arrived in India, I am deprived of the association of Srila Gurudev When Gurudev got back, I prepared to serve Him His lunch.
After Gurudev took His bath, He took lunch. Gurudev eats so frugally – two capatis, one-and-a-half spoons each of two subjis and side-dishes of lime, ginger and pickle. Bas.
I reflected on my time apart from Srila Gurudev and my God family.
Interestingly enough, I am reading a chapter of the Krsna Book entitled “The Gopis Feelings of Separation”!
Srila Prabhupada writes there: “The gopis of Vrndavan were so attached to Krsna they were not satisfied simply with the rasa dance at night. They wanted to associate with Him and enjoy His company in the daytime also. When Krsna went to the forest with His cowherd boyfriends and cows, the gopis did not physically take part but their hearts went with Him.
And because their hearts went, they were able to enjoy His company through strong feelings of separation.”
The level of intense and sincere separation is far beyond the realms of my experience in Krsna Consciousness, of course.
Yet still, it is a nice meditation
Day 19, Friday, 11/11/05
Attended the full morning program today. When I took a break to have a shower, I met Gurudev. He was chanting His japa in Srila Prabhupada’s House.
He asked me to tell Raghunath Bhatta Prabhu that He wanted to meet with him.
As fate may have it, I met Raghunath Bhatta Prabhu at Srila Prabhupada’s Guru Puja, and gave him the message. I wanted to change some dollars into rupees and asked Gurudev to let me have $100, which He kept locked up for me. He offered to change the money for some of His rupees, which I accepted. Gurudev showed me an e-mail addressed to me that He had received from Haridev Prabhu from South Africa. Haridev wanted me to buy him a book. I thanked Gurudev and went out to buy the book.
Later Gurudev called me in saying that the computer was available for me to work on the diary. I eagerly sprung into action!