Day 19, Friday, 11/11/05
Gurudev took the devotees for a walk to some of the Temples of Vrndavan at 4pm. We visited the Govindaji Temple, where Gurudev explained about it’s rich history. He showed us a deity of Durga, that was the only remaining original deity. As a result of the treacherous actions of Aurangzeb, the original deities were either moved to Jaipur, put into lakes or buried for safe-keeping.
Next we went to the Temple of Gopiswara Mahadev. Gurudev explained how Lord Siva had desperately wanted to gain entry into the rasa dance, and approached Paurnamasi, who changed him into a gopi. Still, he was not allowed entry, so he eventually agreed to serve as a gatekeeper (or as Gurudev put it, a “bouncer”).
Then we came to the Samadhi of Gopal Guru. Gurudev had hardly sat down for ten minutes when the resident priests began to beat very strongly and loudly on gongs and ring all sorts of bells, making it impossible to hear anything.
They also burned copious amounts of lobhan that made us tear and made it practically impossible to breath. (It so happened that the beginning time of our talk coincided with their arati.) Gurudev was very respectful and remained attentive, and patiently waited for them to end. They never did!
It appears that this was the beginning of their “evening program”. We beat a hasty retreat. The head pujari made sure that he gave some maha-prasadam to Gurudev first, though. Our last stop was at Vamsi Vata. Gurudev said that this was where Krsna played upon His flute, summoning the gopis for the rasa dance.
Day 20, Saturday, 12/11/05
We left for Kadamba Kandhi at 6h30 after a half an hour wait for the transport to arrive. When our driver eventually arrived, I noted that he looked very young. As it turned out, he was also very tired and was on the verge of falling asleep behind the wheel. I had to keep prodding him with Gurudev’s danda, which I had in my hands, to keep him conscious! After some “close shaves” and getting miserably lost in the labyrinth of dirt-roads, we eventually reached the spot. Once there, we clearly saw that it was worth all the trouble. It was scenic, peaceful and surcharged with spiritual potency. “The autumn rasa dance occurred here,” Gurudev explained. He then found a suitable spot under one pillu tree and began reading from His notes, the Vrndavana Mahatmya by Prabhodananda Saraswati. Sitting there, in that most auspicious setting, reading about the glories of the Holy Land of Sri Vrndavana Dham to an eager audience, Gurudev looked like one of the Six Goswamis Thereafter, all the devotees dispersed to different parts of the forest to “chant and explore”, whilst Avadhuta Candra Prabhu and I stayed with Gurudev and chanted our japa. After a while Gurudev heard some birds chirping loudly in the trees above. He asked me if I could record them, and I said that I could. After several attempts I managed to capture the sounds and played it for Gurudev. He was pleased.
When we got back, Gurudev took His bath and honored prasadam. Then He was off to the Yamuna to perform the final rites for His disciple, Prema Bhavini Dasi . Avadhuta Candra Prabhu and I remained back though and attended a Book Distribution Seminar by H.G. Vyasasika Prabhu, which was fully approved of Gurudev, and turned out to be very motivational.
Day 21, Sunday, 13/11/05
We left for Yavat at 06h30. After a very, very bumpy drive, Gurudev arrived with a group of perhaps 20 South African and Russian devotees. He announced that today’s filming would involve some shots of Himself and the devotees.
At the Temple of Jatila, Kutila and Abhimanyu, Gurudev spoke about some humorous pastimes related to this infamous threesome as the crew filmed. He spoke about how Krsna once disguised Himself as Abhimanyu, and on another occasion, He acted as a “snake-doctor”. The devotees were in stitches! We all followed Gurudev to the roof, where we took prasadam. A group of monkeys appeared, and seemed very intent on “joining us for prasadam”, but the priests there shouted and wielded a big stick causing them to leave us in peace, eventually.
Next, we came to Ter Kadamba, where Gurudev gave more amazing pastime classes. We then sat and chanted for half an hour, absorbing the transcendentally serene atmosphere in Gurudev’s association.
Gurudev then took us to Nandagram. As we arrived, the usual swarm of pandars began hounding us, but our old friend Bhadri Prasad came to the rescue. On the rooftop, Gurudev pointed out the various pastime places to the devotees.
On the way down the stairs in the town of Nandagram, we were approached by some intrepid beggars. The climax of it all came when one old man said:
“Hare Krsna! Money!” I turned to Gurudev and said, “That is what’s known as the direct approach.” Gurudev laughed, “Yes. That’s pretty much straight to the point.”
After Nandagram, we headed back to the house. At one train-crossing, we were waiting for what seemed to be an eternity as SEVEN trains passed by us.
Gurudev commented, “It’s a record!”
At 4pm, Gurudev lead a group of us on a visit to some of the Temples of Vrndavan. We visited the Radha-Gokulananda, Radha-Raman and Radha-Gopinatha Temples. Gurudev told us about the predominating deities and the acarya linked to each temple.
Day 22, Monday, 14/11/05
We left for Govardhan parikrama at 5h30. We reached the Hill at 7am and offered our obeisances to Giriraj. Gurudev explained what our plan for the day was, and that our stops would be brief, since we wanted to complete the parikrama by 13h30.
As we walked, I meditated on Gopiparanadhana Prabhu’s advice that we should do the walk to please Krsna, and that it shouldn’t be an ordeal.
We set off at a cracking pace that never eased up. As we approached the southern end of the Hill, Gurudev saw some blue cows. “This is Krsna’s special mercy.” He said it twice. “Last year there was a whole group of them. Maybe 15 to 20.”
We rolled in the dust of Vraja at Kamiavan.
At the Nrsimhadev Temple, we all took darshan, and then went onto the roof to take prasadam. Gurudev was intending this to be the only major break, so that the devotees could make it back to the temple for lunch. However, as the day wore on the devotees became more and more weary, but remained cheerful. Eventually, when we reached Uddhava Kund, Gurudev gave the devotees a “democratic choice” to spend a longer break, which they took very gratefully.
Although I had heard all these pastimes before, hearing from Gurudev’s lotus lips made it even more special, and it served to consolidate what I had heard once before. From that stage on, Gurudev changed into top gear and left us trailing in His dust.
When we got back to the house, Gurudev took His bath and honored prasadam.
Then, although I know He must have been tired, He dove straight into His work at His computer. Amazing!
Day 23, Tuesday, 15/11/05
We left for filming at 06h10. After a long, bumpy trip, we arrived at Paraso Kund. Gurudev explained that when Krsna was leaving Vrndavan for Mathura followed by all the residents of Vraja, He stopped here, and promised to return “Paraso” (the day after tomorrow). Avadhuta Candra Prabhu and Vaisnava Carana Prabhu filmed for about fifteen minutes and we left for Siha. Siha means “quickly”, implying that Krsna promised He’d come back to Vrndavan quickly.
Then we came to Domilavan, and Gurudev explained that there were two gopis, called Rimkhi and Jimkhi, who put a plan into action to bring Radha and Krsna together, causing Their “two minds to become one”.
Then we were off to Nandagram again. For the first time during our shooting here it was relatively clear and free from haze. Gurudev didn’t waste a second, and sprang into action, setting up the big camera Himself. Gurudev then directed the shooting of the various pastime places for an hour before we left for Vrnda Kund.
We arrived at the serene, beautiful setting of Vrnda Kund at 13h00. We were informed that the lunch scheduled for 1pm would now be served at 2pm.
Gurudev was not disturbed by this turn of events and used the time to do more shooting.
H.G. Dina Bandhu Prabhu and his Vraja Mandala parikrama party arrived at 13h30. He began a bhajan and then gave a funny pastime class. He is so expressive! Gurudev decided to get some footage of His God brother’s class, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. We then observed arati, whilst singing the Vrnda Devi Astakam. It was very special We then had a HUGE feast. Afterwards, Gurudev asked me to round up everybody and everything, and we left for shooting. That feast must have been really intoxicating, because Avadhuta Candra, Vaisnava Carana and I all left our shoes behind. Gurudev was not impressed When we got back to Vrndavan and Gurudev was walking back to the house, He let out a big sigh, “Whew! It turned to be a full day.” I agreed wholeheartedly since I was also feeling the strain of our hectic schedule.
Later that night I went to witness the last Damodarastakam for Kartik. The temple was completely packed!
Day 24, Wednesday, 16/11/05
During japa-time I decided to chant my rounds in Srila Prabhupada’s House, and I met Gurudev there. As I was leaving to get some maha-sweets for His breakfast, He called me over to give me final instructions regarding His breakfast for the trip tomorrow. He would take fruit-salad, and His lunch would have to be foil-wrapped, so that it may be heated on the plane.
At the house, Gurudev said that the bags would have to be packed that night since we were leaving at 06h30 the next morning. He said that ALL His cloth should be washed and ironed by 7pm. After an amazing SB class by Jadavacarya Prabhu, I hastened back to the house to serve Gurudev His breakfast.
Avadhuta Candra Prabhu and I then took prasadam together, perhaps for the last time in who knows how long We left for a final Temple-tour with Gurudev at 4pm. We took a riksa to Radha-Damodar Temple, only to discover that it was closed until 6pm. We decided to go to Radha-Syamasundar Temple, only to be told the same thing.
Unperturbed, Gurudev said, “No problem, we’ll visit some other places.”
First we went to the Srnga Vat/ Nityananda Vat Temple. Here, we were told, Krsna decorated Srimati Radharani’s hair. We also saw a banyan tree under which Nityananda Prabhu chanted. During the darshan, the priest touched Lord Nityananda’s Harinama danda to Gurudev’s head. Then we headed to Seva Kunja and then Lalita Kund Although, the place was completely overcrowded with monkeys, Gurudev appreciated the fact that this was the only pastime place that was relatively untouched by people “trying to make a rupee” by further “developing it”. Gurudev explained how Lalita had taken Syamananda Pundit to meet Srimati Radharani. We then came to the samadhi of Syamananda Pundit, and since there was plenty of time, Gurudev took the opportunity to tell us the full pastime.
Syamananda Pundit used to sweep the forest floor as a service to the Divine Couple. One day he found a dazzling ankle-bracelet, and concluded that it could only be Srimati Radharani’s. When Lalita approached him and asked for him to return it, he said he would gladly do so but requested if he could do so personally. He was dipped into Lalita Kund and became a gopi, Kanaka Manjari. In that form, he went to see Srimati Radharani and returned the bracelet. She pressed the bracelet against his forehead creating an impression like that of a tilak, which stayed with him for life.
We then came to Tilak Sthan, and Gurudev told us that it was here that the incident occurred.
Gurudev then lead us to Radha-Damodara Temple. After darshan of the gorgeous deities, we went to Srila Prabhupada’s Rooms. Here Gurudev said, “This is were the Krsna Consciousness Movement began.” I felt a deepening connection with Srila Prabhupada as Gurudev explained the history behind the various artifacts. This culminated in us chanting one round of japa together, under Srila Prabhupada’s and Gurudev’s loving gaze. All the while, a tape of Srila Prabhupada chanting, speaking and leading kirtan played over the P.A.
system. We all got a strong dose of “Prabhupada Consciousness”. Gurudev lead us in a circumambulation of the property’s many samadhis. We came to the samadhi and bhajan kutir of Srila Rupa Goswami. Looking into the deity’s eyes, I prayed, “Please help me understand the teachings of Krsna Consciousness and then teach others” Undoubtedly, this was one of the highlights of my trip to Vrndavana At the Radha-Syamasundar Temple, Gurudev indicated that the original deity given to Syamananda Pundit by Srimati Radharani was still present on the altar.
As Gurudev lead us through the town, I caught a glimpse of the Yamuna. Upon seeing this glorious river flowing so gently and beautifully before my very eyes, I offered my obeisances then and there.
When I found a riksa, and we were heading back to the house, I told Gurudev about my prayer. He said, “Very good”.
As soon as we got back to the house Gurudev had me swing into action packing His bags. It took an hour, and was absolutely nectarean! Gurudev was pleased that it was properly done. I then packed my own bag and headed back to town to change my currency. When I got back after 10, everybody was resting
Day 25, Thursday, 17/11/05
Gurudev lead the Mangal Arati kirtan at Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi. I then raced to the Temple-room to get a final darshan of Their Beautiful Lordships Sri Sri Krsna-Balaram, Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundar and Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai.
I left the Temple at 5am to prepare Gurudev’s breakfast of fruit-salad, and to wrap up His lunch in foil. We were packed and ready to leave at 05h50, but unfortunately the car only arrived at 06h20, much to the annoyance of Gurudev.
The devotees escorted Gurudev to the car with a lively kirtan. Although it was a “mixed crowd” that was assembled there, comprising of disciples, non-disciples and well-wishers, it was clear from their body language that they were experiencing impending feelings of intense separation from Gurudev. I was amazed at how much Gurudev was able to touch people’s hearts with His purity, love and warmth. The kirtan continued long after the car had made it’s way down the narrow road and taken the turn towards Delhi The trip was weary and slow, but we eventually reached the airport a minute before the cut-off time for check-in. However, the security officer operating the x-ray scanner had other ideas. He was suspicious about the wires in Gurudev’s bag, and insisted that we open it. As quickly as possible, I had Gurudev’s bag unlocked and the search was done to the full satisfaction of the officer. Gurudev then instructed me to check in for both of us. It was His idea to remain in another part of the airport to avert suspicion over our overweight bags. The assistant at the Air Mauritius counter had other plans, though He wouldn’t allow me to make the booking without Gurudev being present. There were no major hiccups though, to our pleasant surprise, and we passed through with a sigh of relief. The last possible hurdle was the hand-luggage check-in. We already knew that we were over-weight in this department, but yet again we sailed through without much difficulty. Once we were through, Gurudev turned to me and said, “Well, now that that’s over, the next step is prasad.” We both laughed, in relief that the worst was over. I sought a suitable, private spot and set up for Gurudev’s breakfast.
We then went to the waiting area and sat there to wait for our flight to board. Gurudev chanted all the time.
After some time, Gurudev turned to me and asked, “Well, what do you think of your trip to Vrndavan?”
I said that I was very grateful for having made the trip in His association, and thanked Him for making it so wonderful. I recalled how apprehensive at first, but later on, as the transcendental atmosphere of Sri Vrndavan Dham soaked into my pores, I started “getting into it”. I thanked Him again.
Gurudev said, “If one comes to Vrndavan, one must be accompanied by older, senior devotees. Otherwise, if he comes with younger people who knows?”
I thanked Gurudev again for guiding me so lovingly and caringly through my trip.
Reflecting on the whole experience, I concluded that the filming at Nandagram afforded me to catch a glimpse of the real Vrndavan, as it is Our plane took off at 13h45. Once we were on board, Gurudev asked whether I would like to sit on the double-seater in front of us, so we would both have more room, and I hastily shifted to the front seats. I served Gurudev His lunch at 14h15. I asked the catering crew to heat up the prasadam in their oven, but unfortunately the pizza stuck to the foil. This did not impress Gurudev. However, other than that I thought that things went well, until Gurudev said, “We will have to survive until we reach Mauritius.”, causing me to think that perhaps He was not fully satisfied I gazed out of my window at the immense body of water that was the Indian Ocean. I pondered over the analogies used in sastra, comparing the material world to be an ocean of miseries. Getting a bird’s eye view of the ocean allowed me to appreciate this analogy more.
Whilst I was having great difficulty chanting japa or reading, because of the nauseating Hindi movies they screened, Gurudev simply chanted and read Krsna Book. I was completely amazed We arrived at Mauritius Airport at 18h45. Even as we walked off the plane, we were greeted by a Mauritian devotee, who worked at the airport. He briskly lead us through the terminal, through customs and immigrations without a hitch, causing me to comment, “This is my favorite airport in the world.”
Gurudev replied, “Yes! The best.”
As we came out into the car-park, we were greeted by a group of enthusiastically chanting Mauritian devotees. They garlanded Gurudev and showered Him with flower petals. He was ushered to the car and drove for about an hour before reaching Haridev Prabhu’s house. Once there, the devotees bathed Gurudev’s lotus feet and did Guru-puja. Then we served Gurudev prasadam. Gurudev retired soon after prasadam, saying that He was tired. Understandably so, since He had been working non-stop on filming, leading parikramas and giving counsel to so many devotees during the entire time we were in Sri Vrndavan Dham…