A Pilgrim’s Diary: Part 1

In this multi-part series, Gaurangi-priya dasi gives an intimate view into her experiences during her recent pilgrimage to Vrindavana.

12/29/10

I have planned and been anxious, excited, scared, and looking forward to this day for so much time now. I am going to Vrindavana, India!! I am feeling enthused and ready for my journey of spiritual rejuvenation. I am coming to see you, Radhe-Syama, Krishna-Balarama, and Sri Vrindavana Dhama.

In preparation, I listened to a recording of my Gurumaharaja’s class given upon arrival in Vrindavana when he was there in 2007. I find it appropriate for me to hear and prepare for the proper mood to enter Vraja. He said that the Vrajavasis do not want anything, ami kichu chai na, ami kichu chai na. They only want to serve Krishna. This should be our mood when we enter that realm, not that we will think, “What can I get from Vrindavana.” We must enter that realm with a mood of service. When we have that attitude then there are no problems, there are only service opportunities.

I will only have three short weeks in Vrindavana, so I am praying to imbibe the proper mood so that I can take full advantage of this sacred place.

1/1/11 12:45am

Happy New Year! I am sitting in Krishna-Balarama Mandira, and my enthusiastic brother, Amala-purana, just heralded in the New Year with the most fantastic harinama-sankirtana. He is living in Vrindavan serving as part of the 24-hour kirtan mandali, helping to maintain the akandha-nama (non-stop chanting) that was inaugurated 24 years ago by the late Aindra Prabhu. The members of this party are an inspiration to watch,chanting together as a team, supporting each other instrumentally, emotionally, and vocally, they carry on the akandha-nama here in true dedication and love for Sripada Aindra Prabhu. The love they carry for him in their hearts is so evident to me as I watch them. It is a beautiful sight to see.

So 2010 has ended, and a new year has begun. I sit in the home of Krishna-Balarama and our dearmost Srila Prabhupada, who said, “My place of worship is Mayapur, and my home is in Vrindavana.”

I do not fully comprehend the sacredness of this spot or my privilege in being here, but I hope that the next nineteen days will bring me closer to comprehending my fortune. For now I feel grateful to Srimati Radhika, who I feel has brought me here safely and continues to completely take care of me, and I feel most blessed to have been able to enter this new year by participating, even if on the outskirts, in this amazing kirtan party. I sat today for over six hours in kirtan and find it so invigorating. I am reminded of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s statement that “the safest place in the material world is in the kirtan of the holy name.

May this auspicious start to my new year continue and propel me towards my goal of guru-seva and steadiness in my sadhana-bhakti. I pray that that my heart softens towards all Vaishnavas and that I increase my desire for service and worship of Gaura-Nityananda!

1/4/11

I have been here in Vrindavana for just five days now, and am feeling so at home. Here is brief snapshot of some of my impressions:

The Deities of Krishna-Balarama and Radha-Syamsundara are more beautiful in person and the temple is amazing. The preaching here is incredibly inspiring. Prabhupada’s family is so international and yet the same everywhere, and you see everyone from everywhere here in Vraja. I saw 7 species of animals in one day that I would only be able to see in a zoo in the U.S. Pedestrians never have the right of way, and you better listen out for those horns and move out of the way!!  The ‎24-hour kirtans are the greatest gift of Vrindavana. Loi Bazaar is super fun and like no other kind of shopping experience you can imagine. Care for Cows is an amazing place to be and is the real Vraja. I love how everybody says “Radhe Radhe” for all kinds of purposes like “Move out of the way,” “How are you?” “Bye,” “Thank you!” or “Your welcome.”

It is really cold here these times of year with no heat in any buildings, so it is kind of like camping out all day. And the best thing about being here is that Radhe-Syama are the presiding Lords and anywhere I look I am reminded of them. It would be very difficult to try to forget Krishna here, and so it is so wonderfully easy to remember him.

1/12/11

I am in the upstairs of Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi. There are alcoves near the marble lattice carved windows, and I remember from my last visit here that finding one and sitting in the quiet and solitude up here is a favorite for me.

The samadhi is externally beautiful to look at. The marble carvings on the grand structure are delicate yet impressive, as the towering white domes reach to the sky. Yet the true beauty of this place is its testament to a loving, amazing, and genuine pure devotee. The samadhi of the guru becomes the place of worship for the disciple and their access into that realm where the guru entered when leaving this mortal world. Prabhupada’s heart resides here at Krishna-Balarama Mandira, where those two Lords frolicked with their cowherd friends in the soft sands of Raman-reti. Prabhupada’s longing from his prayer on the Jaladuta is very evident to me here. He wrote,” O dear friend, in your company I will experience great joy once again. In the early morning I will wander about the cowherd pastures and fields. Running and frolicking in the many forests of Vraja, I will roll on the ground in spiritual ecstasy. Oh, when will that day be mine?”

In this samadhi I can also feel the enormous grief and love his young disciples felt upon his departure. The cornerstone plaque at the back of the alter is a sweet testament to that.

“This cornerstone of the Divine Samadhi Mandir of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness was placed on the 25th Day of October, 1979 by the loving hands of all his disciples from around the world.”

I can imagine the time when this cornerstone was laid when so much in the worldwide institution had to be maintained, yet this grand samadhi to their beloved Prabhupada had to be built as well. I’m curious about the history and time-frame of its construction. I imagine it took many years.

This samadhi is so much more than just a monument. It holds the divine body of Prabhupada, his inner meditation on his pranesvara, the love of his followers, and the history of his fledging movement. And I find my guru here as well. Out of the hundreds of photos of Srila Prabhupada, the one I find painted on the huge back wall, has my guru dancing in front of his Prabhupada at the San Franscisco Ratha-yatra. It is Prabhupada’s little mercy to my often troubled and torn heart to let me find my guru here with him.

I pray to this patriarch of the grand Iskcon movement for firm faith in my gurudeva, for a desire to serve and preach, and for steadiness in the process of bhakti-yoga that he and the previous acaryas so kindly outlined for me and all of us determined enough to apply their teachings to our lives. I pray for a place in his heart. I feel so at home and protected and comforted here in his samadhi and in his Krishna-Balaram Mandira.

While acknowledging some of the shortcomings within Iskcon, a senior devotee recently explained to me that this temple is the heart of Iskcon and Krishna-Balarama are the main deities worshiped here, so they are the protectors of Iskcon. Further, Krishna generally listens to his older brother, Dauji, so Sri Balarama, who appropriately is the adi-guru, is really in charge of Iskcon. With this in my heart, I bow to that effulgently beautiful Balarama, who with his white moon-like face glances with love-laden eyes unto all devotees who visit here. I pray that with Baladeva’s inspiration, members of Iskcon recognize where there needs to be change and understand it to be everyone’s duty to rise to the occasion. Balarama shows us what needs to be done, but we need to do it. I pray to him for spiritual strength for all his devotees of Iskcon as well as for loving dealings among all Vaishnavas within the Bhaktivinoda Parivara. I pray also for peace in my tender heart and for enthusiasm to push forward to his lotus feet regardless of social or institutional positions or practices. In the end all we have is divine grace along with our faith, determination, and fixed consciousness.
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Gaurangi-priya dasi was born into Gaudiya Vaishnavism and received diksa from Swami Tripurari in 2006. She lives with her husband and two children in Hillsborough, NC, where she runs her Bharata-natyam dance school, Prema Natya Vidyalaya, and works as an assitant teacher in the local Waldorf School.


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