Saturday, February 23, 2008

travel journal#4.2: Mayapur, Puri, and Between

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 4, No. 2

By Krishna-kripa das

  (January 2008, part two) 

Mayapur, Puri, and Between

 (Sent from Mayapur, West Bengal, India, on 2/9/08)


Where I Am and What I Am Doing


    I am in Mayapur where winter has hopefully finally ended. I felt successful as I invited Kapilasva Prabhu on harinama, and he and his daughter joined our nagar-sankritana party with its three-hours harinamas for three or four days and had a great time. Devarsi Prabhu from France showed the DVD on Bhaktivedanta Institute conference in 2004, and it was nice to be reminded of the BI preaching again. I volunteered to be Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami's assistant in December in Delaware. I feel indebted to him for giving me the maha-mantra initiation and writing lot of wonderful books on Srila Prabhupada's life which created a lot of my initial faith in Prabhupada, as well as writing books filled with tips on sadhana. I meant to serve him in the past but I was absorbed in working with Adi Kesava and Sadaputa Prabhus for 23 years, so I never got around to it. December is slow for college preaching and harinama and so a good time to do it.


Tips on Devotional Service


Something to keep in mind: "The living being has no factual relationship with material nature. He is simply imagining everything, and this imagination is the cause of material existence. Spirit has no good reason to association himself with matter. He does so, although it is insane."—Jayadvaita Swami


"In an hour glass, the future is the sand in top and the past is in the bottom. The sand that is in between is the present. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says our only progress is that which we do in the present."—Hari Sauri Prabhu


"The material world: You can't win. You can't break even. You can't quit."—Pankajanghri Prabhu


"Lord Caitanya told Devananda Pandit, 'Never think you have understood Srimad-Bhagavatam. Each syllable has volumes of meaning.'"—BVV Narasimha Swami


Q: Why is Ekadasi called 'mother of devotion'?

A: Mother gives birth. Ekadasi gives birth to devotion.

                                                                                    —BVV Narasimha Swami


   "The greatness of this age is we have few good qualities. If we are honest we will become humble and thus able to chant Hare Krishna effectively."—Dhanurdhara Swami


   "Sacinandana Swami says, 'Do not think it is easier to go to another country than a holy dhama [spiritual place]. Just as you need a passport and visa to enter a country, you need special qualifications to enter the holy dhama.'"—Madhavananda Prabhu


"Low esteem is based on failure to dominate nature or become God which is on the platform of false ego, but spiritual humility is based failure to attain pure devotional service to God."—Dhanurdhara Swami


"Devotional service is all about experiencing mercy. A proud person cannot experience mercy because he always thinks he deserves more. It is not that we are not getting mercy, but that we cannot perceive the mercy we are already getting."—Dhanurdhara Swami


"Aisvarya is the pot in which madhurya is held."—Madhvacharya

[Aisvarya is knowledge of the Lord's majesty and madhurya is experience of the Lord's sweetness.]


"The pure devotee is so hungry for love of Krishna, he thinks he has none." —Dhanurdhara Swami


   Puri offers abundant benedictions, even to the unserious. If you inquire about the price of vegetables here, you get the result of offering prayers to Krishna. If you go to the Internet café [or anyplace else], you get the result of going on parikrama. Sleep counts as samadhi, the deepest perfectional meditation. Sometimes I think ill of people doing frivolous activities, especially in the sacred places, but now I am thinking of their good fortune to have come to Puri and to spiritually benefit in their frivolity.


Temple Descriptions—ISKCON Puri (original property)


   ISKCON Jagannatha Puri is situated on the site of Bhaktivinoda Thakura bhajana kutir. It is across the street from the Haridasa Thakura's samadhi. They have a very large murti of Bhaktivinoda Thakura there, and they chant his pranam mantra after Srila Prabhupada's in all the kirtanas there.

   Later in life, Bhaktivinoda Thakura was transcendentally despondent that Lord Caitanya's movement had not become more widespread. Thus Lord Caitanya appeared to him in a dream, and said, "If you perform your bhajana next to Haridasa Thakura's samadhi, it will be heard all over the world." Thus Bhaktivinoda Thakura build a small building there and performed devotional service to Krishna there from 1902 till 1914. And now, by the grace of the Lord, it is clear his bhajana is becoming heard all over the world.

   The ISKCON temple has deities of Lord Caitanya, who looks like He is experiencing some transformations in devotional ecstasy, and the beautiful divine couple, Radha-Giridhari. The temple rents rooms to devotees for 150 rupees per night, and they let me stay in the brahmacari ashram for free. They have a restaurant on the ground floor. Their new property is four kilometers south, down the beach, in a quiet part of Puri that the friendly temple president, Gaura Nitai Prabhu, said is a nice location for one's personal bhajana. 


Lord Jagannatha Delights in Prasadam Distribution


On my first day in Jagannatha Puri one devotee offered us some wonderful parathas with very little oil and spice that were made by the Chowpatty devotees for Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami's party. Before I had even finished one of them, I was informed about some Jagannatha prasadam downstairs. How could I pass up Jagannatha prasadam! Still munching my paratha, I rushed downstairs to see what was available. That beautiful sweet dal along with rice and sabjis (vegetables) were there in clay pots, and I took a leaf plate with a little of everything. Late for Dhanurdhara Swami's evening lecture because of taking prasadam, I entered the room. Smiling, Maharaja said he was glad to see me, and before I had even offered obeisances, he asked if I had gotten enough prasadam. I laughed and explained my recent experience, concluding that it seems in Puri, Lord Jagannatha wants everyone to be well fed.

   Walking back from the internet café in the evening, I saw sweet shop after sweet shop, many with khaja, known popularly as Jagannatha tongues, one of my favorite sweets. I had even made them for the deities on occasion. Recalling a pastime I heard last visit, in which Lord Jagannatha reveals He likes khaja so much that He accepts them as soon as they are thrown in the boiling ghee, I longed to buy one and eat it. Then I reflected that I should not waste my money meant for preaching Krishna consciousness on unnecessary sense gratification. "Surely someone will give me some prasadam sweets soon. Let me wait till then." When I returned to the temple, two or three devotees asked if had prasadam and urged I go downstairs and get some chapatis hot off the stove with some sabji. The next day, Baladeva Prabhu offered me some nice maha-prasadam from the Mumbai Jagannatha deities he had received while there—a least four varieties of sweets. Those must have been the sweets I desired the night before.

   All glories to Lord Jagannatha, who always makes sure His devotees get plenty of prasadam, and who thus inspires them in devotional service.




   Siddha Bakula was a powerful place. I chanted for twenty minutes with my head touching that tree which Lord Caitanya planted and embraced and which Haridasa Thakura chanted under. Physically touching the tree like that for so long definitely made an impression on my mind. The kirtana there was the most spiritually invigorating of all the kirtanas so far.

   As I liked Vrindavana better this visit, I also liked Puri better. Puri is nice because like Mayapur it reminds us of Lord Caitanya's pastimes and associates. Like Mayapur, as many people greet us with, "Hare Krishna." Unlike Mayapur and Vrindavana, we do not have either regular harinama programs or twenty-four kirtana programs at our Hare Krishna centers in Puri. If I was really ambitious, I could start them there.


Attempt at a Spiritual Conversation


   I talked to the other foreign tourist quota passenger on my trip from Puri to Howrah (across the Ganges from Kolkata). Julienne from Thailand was in Kolkata for a month volunteering for a charitable organization. She shared a room with other college-aged girls from Portugal, Chile, Italy, and another country, all doing the same charity work. Like many people in Kolkata, they had decided to go to Puri for the weekend. I explained I had some friends who were Hare Krishna missionaries in Thailand. I asked her if Thailand was primarily Buddhist, and she replied that it was but she was Catholic. I told her about the Catholic boy who attended our Hare Krishna programs in Gainesville. It was Lent, and he was avoiding meat on Friday, thus he came to our lunch and dinner programs that day. He had been impressed with similarities between the two traditions, especially in the offering of respect to previous saints. I explained the Hare Krishna founder, Srila Prabhupada, glorified Lord Jesus Christ as a shaktyevesh-avatar, someone who descends from the spiritual world and who is empowered by God, in Christ's case, to arouse God consciousness in others. Prabhupada felt, however, that if the Christians refrained from killing animals, only then would they be truly following the commandment not to kill. She responded, as the Christians often do, that God had put man in a superior position above the animals. That may be, I said, but it does not mean man has to kill them, especially when we can live very well on a vegetarian diet. I told how Francis of Assisi is my favorite of the Christian saints since he considered the animals like his brothers and sisters, and that some Christian monks also practice vegetarianism. I mentioned that the Buddhists were also originally vegetarian although many now eat meat. She mentioned about half the Catholics do not follow their principles strictly, and she found that was lamentable. I explained that Lord Caitanya, who originally started the Hare Krishna movement in Bengal, once said that of the civilized human beings who have some scripture, only about half of them actually follow it. It seems to me that the world's problems will end not so much by adopting a particular religion, but by following the one we have adopted, and I encouraged her in her following.

   She studies medicine in Sydney and mentioned to another passenger that she liked Indian food. I told her that we have many vegetarian restaurants serving Indian food in Australian cities, including Sydney, and I gave her my card so she could look them up.

   She mentioned how she had visited a Durga temple in Kolkata. I explained Durga is Mother Nature and is worshiped by those seeking a better position in this world but that her worshipers do not attain the kingdom of God. To seek a position in this world is like aspiring for a better cell in the jail, instead of aspiring to get out. She liked that analogy. I told her about our temple in Mayapur and how beautiful it is with is gardens and fountain in attractive rural setting, and I gave her the address of our web page on it.

   I hope she gained from her experience of meeting a Hare Krishna devotee. For me it just was nice to share some transcendental knowledge and opportunities with someone, especially after spending lots of time just hearing on pilgrimage.

   While writing this account, I regretted I did not try to sell her a book. I guess I figured because she seemed satisfied with her Catholicism, she would not accept it. That reason is not valid—I know because once, by Krishna's grace, I sold a Science of Self-Realization to a man reading a Bible in his car in a Gainesville shopping center!


"On the shores of the ocean, covering a very large area is the place known as Nilacala [Jagannatha Puri]. This is also known as Purusottama-ksetra, the abode of the Supreme Person. It has a most pleasing and peaceful atmosphere. Even at the time of the cosmic annihilation, this place remains intact, unscathed. I reside there eternally, and daily receive opulent offerings of foodstuffs."—Lord Krishna speaking to Lord Siva (Caitanya Bhagavata, Antya Khanda, Chapter 2).