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Diaries by Sacinandana Swami

My Journey to India 2011 - Always in Vrindavana

November 30

Devotees of Krishna understand that the sacred land of His divine pastimes is fully competent to grant them ecstatic love – a love which is so rare that even the creator of this world, what to speak of great saints, hankers for it.

Living in Vrindavana is thus the fulfillment of one’s spiritual cravings. For some it is even the end station of their spiritual journey. With this in mind one devotee ecstatically praised Vrindavana:

“Day and night I glorify Vrindavana.
Who in this world can actually reach it?
It is filled with the waves of Shri Shri Radha Krishna’s pastimes.
Think of Vrindavana with love.
Roll in its dust.
Love it ardently.
Please its moving and non-moving living entities.
With all your heart take shelter of Vrindavana,
The best of all holy places.”

(Vrindavana-mahimamrita, 1.2.4-5)

Today I have a great problem:
In a few hours I will leave Vrindavana to drive to Delhi and then leave India for the West. Some great devotees consider this to be the greatest mistake possible. They argue: “You have returned to the kingdom of God – is there a single reason why you should leave it?”
Narottama dasa Thakura writes about leaving Vrindavana echoing this sentiment:
“By some indescribable good fortune I have come to Vraja. But alas – the witch maya found me, bound a noose around my neck and then forcibly pulled me out of Vrindavana. What a misfortune could be greater?”

Is there help for someone like me?
Yes, there is. And I will write about it in this journal. This journal will not be written with ink. It will be written with tears, the tears of longing for Vrindavana.

Great acharyas (teachers) of the past have said: “If you can’t stay in Vrindavana in your physical body, then reside there in your mind. This is just as good.”
When my spiritual master started the movement in New York, he was once asked by an American lady: “Swami, are you with us?” She must have noticed the otherworldly nature of Shrila Prabhupada and in a somewhat challenging mood asked him if he was fully present or maybe a little absentminded.
Shrila Prabhupada answered: “No, I am not in New York. I am always living in Vrindavana. I never left it.”

How to always stay in Vrindavana while doing all kinds of activities, apparently outside of Vraja, is an art that needs to be learned. It has a lot to do with staying in one’s sacred space – that dimension within the heart where the Lord and the soul reside.
From tomorrow onwards I will stay in a hospital for urgent health care. But I will try to apply the teachings about always staying in Vrindavana and share them with you. Thus we can always be in Vrindavana and who knows; maybe we will even meet in our meditation!

Mental Residence – How Real Is It? December 14

Dear devotees, dear friends, and dear readers,

Before you start reading this text, I would like to share that these “Always in Vrindavana” articles are short excerpts from my forthcoming book entitled “Always in Vrindavana”. The book will be a practical guide on how to visit, and stay in Vrindavana when we cannot be there physically. It will present meditations which will help the reader to touch the divine atmosphere of Vraja-dhama immediately in his or her mind. In addition it will contain philosophical discoveries and small insights into Krishna’s pastimes. Whenever you come to an exercise in the following articles, I would humbly like to ask you to first read the given instructions and then practice them afterwards.
We truly hope that these excerpts will enable you to discover the tremendous potency of this rarely discussed practice in Krishna consciousness. Residence in Vrindavana either physically or in the mind, is one of the five potent forms of devotional service which can arouse devotional ecstasies even by a slight contact. Given the many projects I am working on at the present moment I hope to present the book realistically sometime before the end of next year.

Here is the excerpt for you:

A couple of years ago I was struck by a life-threatening illness. As I was lying in my hospital bed, I first watched the snow fall and then much later spring arrive and decorate the trees with attractive flowers. All the while, I missed my seva (service) – and this made me sad.
I can never forget that day one of my visitors brought a specific passage from my spiritual master’s books to my attention.
The text described how a devotee, who had heard that His Lord wished to go to Vrindavana, constructed a flower-bedecked path for Him with cooling lakes at the sides – all in his mind.
Shrila Prabhupada had commented:
“For a pure devotee, it is the same whether he materially constructs a path or constructs one within his mind. This is because the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Janardana, is bhava-grahi, or appreciative of the sentiment. For Him a path made with actual jewels and a path made of mental jewels are the same. Though subtle, mind is also matter […]. The devotee is at liberty to serve the Lord either in gross matter or in subtle matter.” (Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita Madhya, 1.161, purport)

These lines helped me come back to the world of seva by understanding that when you are not able to do physical seva, you can do it in the mind and it’s just as good. My problem was solved: even though I remained bound to my hospital bed, I started to construct temples, speak in front of eager crowds and visit Vrindavana, singing and dancing in the temples. Even now I sometimes organize kirtan programs for 500 000 and more participants in my mind. Why not?

In this book we hope to give inspiring guidelines on how to reside in Vrindavana mentally when it is not possible to go there physically. However, before describing the actual practice, it seems wise to remove a common doubt:

 “How can there be any actual benefit in only thinking of being in Vrindavana? Has anyone ever stilled his or her hunger merely by imagining to eat? Hallucination and fantasies can never replace the actual experience, no matter how nice they may appear to some hopeful daydreamers.”

I would like to give the following response to this doubt: The full power of the spiritual reality can never be understood by our limited minds. One aspect of this power is that any contact with this reality – even if only in thought – is real contact. If you think of Krishna, you touch Him in your mind and you will immediately feel the effect. Please try it. The same applies to His abode, Shri Vrindavana-dhama. Meditating on the Holy Dhama brings you there in your mind, and then Kishna manifests by Himself.
Shrila Prabhupada once wrote to a few disciples: “Vrindaban is the only solitary transcendental abode within this universe where Krishna Consciousness automatically reveals.” (Letter to Janardana and others, New York, June 28, 1967)
Just like you automatically get wet when you go out into the pouring rain, Krishna will automatically reveal Himself if you stay in Vrindavana, even if you go there only in your mind.

What is the actual benefit of meditating on Vrindavana? Firstly, one will meet Krishna. There are many devotees who can tell you their own moving stories of how they met Krishna in the form of His jewel bedecked hands, hands through which He made arrangements in their lives. I often tell devotees, “Don’t try to immediately see Krishna’s face. First discover His hands through which He makes His arrangements in your life.”

The second benefit is that by thinking of Vrindavana you leave the disturbed atmosphere of kali yuga behind and enter the divine atmosphere of Vrindavana in which it is much easier to chant, meditate, or do other spiritual activities. And the wonderful thing is that this atmosphere will carry you through the whole day and protect you from material influences.

The third benefit is that you will be surcharged with Vrindavana’s two energies which roam around the Holy Dhama and start working on all genuine pilgrims. These are the taraka shakti which liberates you from material influences and the paraka shakti which strongly attracts you to Krishna by instilling love for Him into your heart.

During His lila in this world, Krishna moved to different parts of the universe and beyond by His expansions, but He Himself always remained in Vraja, not moving out of it for even a finger’s breadth.

Krishna’s love for His earthly playground is so strong that already as a child He crawled in its mud which is stirred together by the dung and urine of the cows. With His brother Balarama, the two looked like a pair of snakes, one black, the other white, slithering smilingly through the dust.

In our mind’s eye let us envision how Krishna and Balarama enter the verdant forest filled with intoxicating smells of different flowers of the blossoming trees. Krishna looks at the trees with a mixture of astonishment and pleasure and then lovingly addresses His brother, “Look, Balarama, these trees bow down offering you their fruits and flowers. And look at these bees – they must be great saints because they follow you everywhere, even into the most remote places, chanting your glories.”
The bees respond to the ecstasy filled atmosphere of Vrindavana by increasing the volume of their humming and the divine brothers and their friends react by happily imitating their singing. Krishna often feels inspired to take His flute from His belt and play in the same pitch as the humming of His bee devotees.
The forest of Vrindavana is fully conscious and thus engages in the personal decoration seva of Krishna. Although He and His friends are already fully decorated by their mothers, as soon as they enter the forest they take off their ornaments made of pearls and gold. They prefer to adorn each other with the fruits, green leaves, fresh mango sprouts, bunches of flowers and peacock feathers which they find everywhere in the forest. Finally, to add fresh colors, they draw artistic designs on each other with soft chalk from the ground.

One can relish these descriptions from the Bhagavad-Purana remembering that every living entity and nonliving being in the spiritual world is fully conscious and full of eternal knowledge and bliss. No one and nothing there is covered by the dullness and ignorance which have spread a blanket of unconsciousness over everything in this world. By listening attentively one already begins one’s mental residence in Vrindavana.

In the next chapters we will learn how to exactly practice residing in Vrindavana, starting with seeing through the eyes of revealed scriptures. But first of all let us get rid of the misconception that only the Vrindavana we can touch and smell is real. Can you touch and smell love? Of course not. But it is nevertheless very real and makes, as the saying goes, the world go ‘round.

The Gates to Vraja – A Guide for Mental Residence: The Shrutekshita Path – Seeing Through the Ears, December 21

When we speak of the Holy Dhama, we have to consider that there are actually two dhamas – not one. The two are the seen and the unseen dhama. Of the two the second is more effective in evoking transcendental feelings.

Just like it is impossible for the material eyes to see the soul and God, it is difficult for the material senses to recognize the dhama. A lot gets filtered away.

However, it is possible for conditioned souls to see the dhama. This functions the same way as one can “see” distant objects in the mind through the descriptions and eyes of others who perceive them firsthand. In the same way, we can see the dhama through the eyes of the scriptures and great devotees.
I experienced “seeing through hearing” today. I’m still in Delhi and received a phone call from Mayapur. The person I was talking to was close to Mother Ganga, and through his descriptions (or: through his eyes) I “saw” how Mother Ganga had changed her course and that a huge dolphin was jumping in her waves.

Seeing through hearing from devotees or holy scriptures is the best way to see what cannot be seen by the limited material eyes. This is explained nicely in the Shrimad Bhagavatam (3.9.11):

“O my Lord, Your devotees can see You through the ears by the process of bona fide hearing, and thus their hearts become cleansed, and You take Your seat there. You are so merciful to Your devotees that You manifest Yourself in the particular eternal form of transcendence in which they always think of You.”

Shrila Prabhupada comments: “The shrutekshita path is to hear from bona fide devotees who are conversant with Vedic wisdom, free from mundane sentiment. By this bona fide hearing process, the neophyte devotee becomes cleansed of all material rubbish, and thus he becomes attached to one of the many transcendental forms of the Lord, as described in the Vedas. […] The Lord sits on the lotus heart of the devotee in the eternal form the pure devotee desires, and thus the Lord does not part from the devotee, as confirmed in the previous verse. The Lord, however, does not disclose Himself to a casual or unauthentic worshiper to be exploited.”

Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura once demonstrated how the dhama cannot be seen by the material eyes. Together with a few disciples he went for a morning walk down the road in front of his ashrama in Mayapur. As customary in India, several villagers were squatting at both sides of the road, using it for their morning bathroom activities and the smell of the ‘human heaps’ penetrated the air. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta’s disciples were repulsed and remarked, “O Gurudeva, sorry, it stinks abominably here. Let us take another route.”
However, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta’s perception of the Holy Dhama was different – he did not see what the material eyes saw, nor did he smell what the material noses smelled. Joyfully he responded, “Why can’t you smell the intoxicating fragrance of the champak flowers? The Holy Dhama cannot be appreciated with the material senses.”

Just like these disciples 70 years ago, many of us today are also not yet elevated enough to perceive the dhama. Until our transcendental senses have been fully revived, we have to perceive the spiritual reality through the eyes of sadhu, guru and shastra – just like a blind person can “see” the world by hearing from those whose eyes work well.

Let us hear a description of the transcendental forest of Vrindavana from Shukadeva Goswami. Let us hear what he ecstatically narrates and sees with his transcendental eyes. For a moment we can mentally sit down in the transcendental forest of his description and absorb ourselves in his narration. Be fully present in this exercise, perhaps Shri Krishna will appear in your mind.

Before we start let me recommend how to read transcendental literature most effectively by practicing “Active Reading.” Active Reading means listening with eagerness, hoping the words will reveal their transcendental meaning to you. Don’t be passive with your mind switched off, be in a receiver mood. Follow the words like a calf follows its mother, hoping that it will get to drink from her udder. These words carry worlds in their wombs – worlds which can take birth in your consciousness!

Active Reading Exercise:
Cool breezes coming from clear lakes cooled the forest of Vrindavana. The fragrance of lotus flowers growing in those lakes perfumed the air. All directions were filled with the sweet sounds of intoxicated birds and bees flying in flocks among the blossoming trees.
Shri Krishna, like a dancer about to step on stage, entered the forest with a peacock feather ornament on His head. He had put a trumpet shaped karnikara flower behind His left ear. Occasionally He moved it to the right ear and then back to the left, signaling that He was in a joyful and playful mood. A yellow garment as brilliant as a flash in a storm cloud covered His transcendental form. He wore a five-colored garland of victory reaching down to His knees. The ground was eager for His touch and so He left the marks of His lotus feet, like the chakra and the line, in the dust. He played His celebrated flute and danced to the enchanting melody which poured out of His loving heart. Many cowherd boys jumped around Him not being able to contain their joy and loudly sang His glories.

Seeing through the eyes of the scriptures and the sadhus is a powerful method to enter Vrindavana. When we hear the devotees describe the transcendental eternal Vrindavana we will not think of a dusty track of land in Vrindavana, but instead we will go into the transcendental dimension, which waits forever for those equipped with eagerness and purity.

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