Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Travel Journal#5.16b: Radhastami (Zagreb & New Vraja)

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 16b
By Krishna-kripa das 
(August 2009, part two, section two)
 Radhastami (Zagreb & New Vraja)

(Sent from Budapest, Hungary, on September 1, 2009)


Radhastami at Zagreb
Radhastami at New Vraja
Insights from Sacinandana, Kavicandra, and Devamrita Swamis

Where I Am and What I Am Doing

By the grace of the Lord, I was able to attend two wonderful Radhastami festivals, one in Zagreb, Croatia, with Kavicandra and Sacinandana Swamis, and another at the New Vraja farm in Hungary with Candramauli, Devamrita, Niranjana and Sivarama Swamis. At the Polish Woodstock, the visiting Croatian devotees had tipped us off to the existence of the four-day festival in Zagreb with Sacinandana Swami and planted in us a desire to go there, in addition to the New Vraja festival, which I knew about, having attended in 2007. Although in a bordering country, Zagreb is no further than Budapest from New Vraja, just over two hours.

Radhastami in Zagreb

Sundarananda Prabhu, temple president of Zagreb, told me that they celebrate all the big festivals with a harinama in downtown Zagreb, and I was in blissAs that is the dharma for this age, I think it is a great idea, and I was very happy to go on harinama with at least sixty devotees on the Radhastami day. The party was so large than neither all the devotees nor all those looking at the party would fit in a single photo.

Like other European cities there are many restaurants with outside seating, giving many the opportunity to see the harinama.

Other features of the celebration were bathing ceremonies for Radha-Krishna with beautiful bhajanas sung by Sacinandana Swami and others, and nice talks about Radharani, nice prasadam, including the famed Radha red chutney, and nice community spirit.

The day before Sacinandana Swami told us that if one even once surrenders to Radharani that Krishna promises to accept that person, even if the person is unable to do anything else. It was such I nice idea that I decide to pray to Radharani, “I am Yours,” just to try it out, and I think that contributed a lot to my appreciation of the festival.

The whole mood was very blissful, and except for the Radhastami celebration in 2000 in Alachua when Radha-Syamasundara were installed, it was my favorite Radhastami.

On Radhastami, I also enjoyed teaching a couple devotees one verse from Sri Caitanya-caritamrita I had learned about Srimati Radharani:

radha purna sakti, krishna purna saktiman

dui vastu bheda nai, sastra paramana

Sri Radha is the full power, and Krishna is the possessor of full power. The two are nondifferent as the evidenced by the revealed scriptures.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi 4.96)

One devotee also taught me a verse about Radha which I placed as the concluding verse at the end of this journal.

Radhastami in New Vraja

In Hungary, they have a great Radhastami festival the Saturday after Radhastami, making attendance in two Radhastami festivals a real possibility.

New Vraja is famous for its beautiful Radha-Syamasundara Deities, and many plantings and bas relief depictions of the pastimes of Load Krishna and Lord Caitanya. Once I got to narrate all the pastimes illustrated to an English-speaking guest, who asked me at the end, why we worship only Krishna if Krishna and His incarnations are nondifferent. Then I got to talk about the special pastimes and qualities Krishna alone has. The New Vrajakirtanas are long and melodious, with a variety of contemporary instruments complementing the traditional Indian ones. I was especially happy that myvartma-pradarsaka guru, Niranjana Swami led three wonderful kirtanas while I was there, singing one of my most favorite tunes. 

Srila Prabhupada’s seat was nicely decorated.

Even in their evening outfit, Radha and Syama look so beautiful.

New Vraja is one of the few places in ISKCON where even the men dance nicely together in patterns. Even the day after the festival, there was such nice dancing.

Insights from Lectures

Sacinandana Swami (Adi-vasa ceremony for Radhastami):

Srila Prabhupada explained that it is our duty to serve Radharani, and through Radharani, Krishna.

Krishna once appeared, with Radharani, before Lord Siva, and told him, “A person who surrenders unto Me but does not surrender unto Radharani does not attain Me. A person who once surrenders unto Srimati Radharani saying, ‘I am yours’ attains Me, even without doing anything else. A person who wants to attain Me should surrender unto Radharani without reservation. Lord Siva, this is my most confidential instruction.”

In the morning we should chant japa, “Oh Krishna, Oh Radha, please accept me. Please give me some service.” We should give up meditating on our problems, and meditate on Radha and Krishna by chanting Hare Krishna. During the day, periodically ask yourself the question, “Am I pleasing to Radha and Krishna?”

When praying, first glorify, then connect to your situation, and then make a request. 

Radha’s complexion is more golden than gold. This is because of Her effulgence.

Everyone is looking to God, but God is looking to Radharani.

How can one who is so low ask for something so high? How can a criminal ask for a post in the government? Radharani is very compassionate, and Her heart is like butter, which melts easily.

Once a disciple brought her dog with her to meet Sacinandana Swami at the Belgrade airport. He was doubtful but concluded that Krishna must have some plan. Then she told her story. A small dog who was without its mother showed up at her doorstep. Her heart melted, and although she was abrahmana and dogs are dirty, she welcomed the dog to stay. If a practicing devotee’s heart can melt, why not Radharani’s?

Tomorrow, Radhastami, is a day of hope. We can ask Radharani to be kind to us. Tomorrow we must try to please Radharani and try to please the devotees. During the day, we should ask ourselves “Am I pleasing to Radha?” “Am I pleasing to the devotees?”

Kavicandra Swami (Radhastami):

I am glad to hear you are going on harinama on RadhastamiShe is the supreme sankirtana leader. She is the best singer and dancer.

Srila Prabhupada said at the Deity installation of Gaura-Nitai in Los Angeles, to get the mercy of Krishna, you need the mercy of Radharani. To get the mercy of Radharani, you need the mercy of Lord Caitanya. To get the mercy of Lord Caitanya, you need the mercy of Lord Nityananda. To get the mercy of Lord Nityananda, you need to get the mercy of Jagai and Madhai, in other words, you need to go out and preach.

One who wants rati should meditate on the beautiful eyes of Radha-Krishna.

Radha wears a red sari with a blue shawl.

There is nothing Radha and Her friends will not do for Krishna’s pleasure.

All the holy places of Vrindavana are there in Navadvipa, but they are more accessible. 

Our pride thinking we have some qualifications keeps us from crying out to Krishna. By considering the spiritual master to be Krishna’s representative, and serving him we can come to the proper understanding.

It all depends on the audience, if one is able to speak.

I never prayed so much as I did when visiting Jayapataka Swami, for him to be able to stay with us.

Sacinandana Swami (Radhastami):

“The essence of all advice is that one should utilize one's full 

time--twenty-four hours a day--in nicely chanting and remembering the 

Lord’s divine name, transcendental form, qualities and eternal pastimes, thereby gradually engaging one’s tongue and mind. In this way one should reside in Vraja [Goloka Vrndavana dhama] and serve Krishna under the guidance of devotees. One should follow in the footsteps of the Lord’s beloved devotees, who are deeply attached to His devotional service.” (Nectar of Instruction, verse 8)

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati told his devotees on parikrama, “You must get on the spiritual path by hearing the holy names and by hearing Krishna-katha. Please understand Krishna’s holy name reveals in your heart, His form, His pastimes, and His associates. Then you must act accordingly. Then you attain remembrance, self-realization, and the kingdom of God.”

At noon, Radha is decorated by Her girl friends with earrings, which are the holy names of Krishna. Krishna wonders how, although the whole world is enchanted Him, He is completely captivated by Her qualities.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura describes Lalita and Visakha are group leaders with Radha as the chief. As maidservants of Sri Radha we should always live at Radha-kunda.

It is important to have in our mind our spiritual ideal and then we will go there because we always go to the place that we are thinking about.

Radha delivers souls out of the material world, takes pleasure in hearing flute songs, is dear to Krishna, and is fond of meditating on Lord Krishna.

Bhakti-devi is an expansion of Radharani, simultaneously one and different from Her. When we celebrate a festival dear to Krishna, Bhakti comes in our heart.

Sometimes during the day, stop and consider if you are pleasing to Krishna. Only if you are pleasing to Krishna will bhakti enter your heart.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura preached to some school children who were previous instructed by a materialistic swami who taught them, “Better to water an eggplant, not water Tulasi-devi.” Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura said Tulasi-devi is an explanation of Radharani who is very dear to Her and so is very dear to Krishna as well. An eggplant is only dear to Krishna when offered to Him. Tulasi-devi is the ticket collector for the entrance to the rasa dance. Without the mercy of Tulasi-devi, no one can attain the spiritual world. 

Krishna said to Radha if someone worships Me without first worshiping You, he will not get any benefit. Without Your merciful glance, no one can attain Me. One who follows in your footsteps has no fear of Yamaraja and attains a body to serve Me in the spiritual world. 

Lust and love are as different as iron and gold. Lust is to please your own senses, and love is to please Krishna’s senses.

Lalita saw Radha walking through her courtyard, which was filled with water, thorns, and dangerous snakes. She asked why She kept her courtyard in that condition? Radha replied she was practicing to serve Krishna expertly during monsoon season and in the depths of the dangerous forest.

Once Krishna told Radha that Her name was worth hundreds of His names. Radha laughed, and said No, Yasomati is your dearmost. Krishna said, “Soon you will see.” One evening, the gopis encouraged Krishna to dance for them, and so He did. Then Mother Yasoda came and reprimanded the gopis,“Krishna spends all day taking care of the cows and now he is tired, do not make Him dance, let Him take milk and take rest.” The gopis replied, “Your Krishna may take milk and take rest, but our Krishna dances with us.” Yasoda was bewildered, and went home, and saw the words of the gopis,were, in fact, true—her Krishna was lying in bed. The gopis invited Yasoda to ask her Krishna to come, and let the two Krishna’s dance together, and said, “I bet we will see your Krishna is our Krishna and our Krishna is your Krishna.” Radha put some sandalwood pulp on Her Krishna to distinguish Him from Yasoda’s Krishna. In the dancing, Gopinatha Krishna danced so wonderfully that Gopala Krishna gave up and merged back into Gopinatha Krishna, acknowledging defeat. Yasoda was disturbed at the disappearance of her Krishna, but Radha said, “Do not worry, you will find Him sleeping in bed at home.” And so she did. We each have our own Krishna, who expands just to be with us. Krishna is there for us, but are we there with Krishna?

You cannot say directly, “Krishna, I am Yours.” You must say, “Radha, I am Yours.”

Sacinandana and Kavicandra Swamis, Questions and Answers:

Sacinandana Swami: We all have questions, otherwise we would be so ecstatic in spiritual ecstasy we would not experience the miseries of the material world.

Q: To get the greatest benefit on our Vrindavana trip, what should I do, what should I look for, and how should I look for it?

A (SNS): You need to cross from the material vision to the spiritual vision. You should not think it is hot, dusty, dirty, and full of cheating rikshaw drivers. You should make a spiritual connection with Krishna. Trnad api. Be tolerant and respect everyone as more advanced for being dhama residents, and chant the holy name. Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura would saydhama means nama. Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura told his disciples not to look around on parikrama, because what you see is not the holy dhama.First hear from the sadhu and hear the holy name, and then you can pay attention to the cultural aspects. Take appropriate literature to read. Just like if you look at the Hare Krishna movement, if you do not hear from the scripture, then you see a very chaotic group of well-intentioned people in a new religious movement. But it is so much more. In the dhama, make sure you render some service. Vrindavana is a land of seva. There everyone serves.

Q: Based on your travels in the world, what makes someone take to bhakti, rather than merely to enjoy pious life?

A (KCS): Like the verse says, hearing the Bhagavatam and taking it seriously. Souls are the same everywhere. Local management may differ. Understanding Krishna is the Supreme Lord, just like first Gita catur-slokiverse indicates is primary. Giving without desiring to receive is difficult. Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura once told a disciple “be thankful for opportunities to practice tolerance.” Prabhupada said that if a good spiritual practice is there, management will follow. The process works for everybody, if it is applied.

Q: We heard yesterday that we should take shelter of Radharani yet sometimes we feel that it is taboo in ISKCON to talk about Radharani and Her pastimes. How do we adjust this?

A (SNS): Prabhupada was very careful that we would understand everything properly. Once the devotees had swimming competitions at Radha-Kunda, so Srila Prabhupada discouraged people from bathing there, although the Nectar of Instruction recommends it. Similarly, Prabhupada wanted to make sure that Radharani was understood in the right way. If you approach the highest in the wrong way, then it can become the lowest.

Q: Sometimes people speak according to the scripture but it has a negative result. How to avoid this?

A (KCS): There is guru, sadhu, and sastra. We see how Srila Prabhupada acted.  

A (SNS): It is very important to check our motivations. Why does someone only quote the scriptural statements on one side of an issue and not see them all. Bhakti is all motivation. We must be trying to please Krishna.

Q: Is it possible to approach Krishna directly?

A (SNS): Follow your own calling if it fits into the general guideline of guru, sastra, and sadhu.

A (KCS): In the Deity worship, we approach Krishna directly, but we do it by approaching the guru first.

Q: Whatever we are doing, we need the blessings of the guru to succeed. How do we serve the guru in such a way to get his blessings?

A (KCS): I like the saying “Just do it.” If we endeavor in that way, under our guru’s order, we will be successful. If we try to serve the devotees, Krishna will take care of us. I would like to give up my endeavor to be comfortable in this body. Please give me your blessings. 

A (SNS): I would focus on one particular instruction of the guru. It is hard to do everything. Srila Prabhupada said that in the endeavor to please the guru, an ant does not have to become an elephant.

Sacinandana Swami:

One brahmana cried to Krishna lamenting his wife wanted to him to find a husband for his daughter but he had no dowry. Krishna appeared and asked the brahmana what he wanted. The brahmana explained. Krishna said, “I am just a poor cowherd boy. All I have is my stick and Radharani. So I will give you Radharani.” Thus the brahmana received Radharani but he was in double anxiety because now he would have to get two daughters married. The gopisdiscovered Radha was missing, and searched for her, eventually finding her. Radha explained the situation. The gopis asked the brahmana was he wanted in exchange for Radharani. He noticed their jewels and asked for a pile of jewels equal to the weight of Radha. Thus Radha was placed on one side of a scale and the gopis’ jewels were piled on the other side until they were of equal weight. Then Krishna, Radha and gopis, and the scale all disappeared, but the jewels remained. This shows the Krishna gives us what we want, no matter how foolish it is. The brahmana lamented when he realized that he could have had the association of Radha and Krishna and Their service, but instead he just had a pile of jewels.

Meanwhile a jackal that was being tortured by some boys cried helplessly, “Radhe!” Hearing the piteous cries of the jackal, Radha had Lalita rescue the creature, which she brought before Radharani. Because the jackal cried out Radha’s name in helplessness and not asking for a specific material benediction, Radha blessed her to become Her eternal maidservant and the jackal assumed the spiritual form of a small gopi and returned to the spiritual world. The moral of the stories is that it is better to take shelter of Radha than Krishna, and it is better to just surrender in helplessness and not to ask for material benedictions.

At night devotees offer lamps to Radha-Kunda and chant this prayer:

munindra-vrinda-vandite triloka-soka-harini prasanna-vaktra-pankaje nikunja-bhu-vilasini vrajendra-bhanu-nandini vrajendra-sunu-sangate . . .

Once sadness personified (hereafter, Sadness) was lamenting in a field quite miserably. An old woman inquired about why she was so sad. Sadness said I am sad because no one loves me. I am Krishna’s servant, and I appear to people to soften their hearts so they will take shelter of Krishna. But everyone chases me away. They try to be tough. They drink beer. In this way, they avoid me. The old woman let Sadness cry out her unhappiness until she was done. Then Sadness felt better. “I will travel with you,” said the old women, “and we shall visit people together.” Sadness was ecstatic. “Can I know your name?” The old woman said with a smile, “Yes, I am Hope. When people cry out their hearts in sadness, I will come and give them hope.”

Devamrita Swami:

In Radharani and in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu there are simultaneously compassion to save the fallen and the ecstatic feelings of separation from Krishna.

As you cannot separate heat and light from fire, you cannot separate Krishna from His potencies like Radharani.

Although Krishna is self-satisfied, the beauty of Vrindavana, and the beauty of gopis, headed by Radharani, inspire Him to enjoy the rasa dance.

There is anger associated with Radha-Krishna’s pastimes. In the beginning, Krishna is treating all the gopis equally, but Srimati Radharani became angry.

Krishna disappeared to get Radharani to experience the ecstasy of separation.

The gopis cannot imagine that Krishna can enjoy without them.

Caitanya-caritamrita says Radha and Krishna are the exchange of love.

Our topmost spiritual teachers never complete their mission, never attain their goal. Their mood was always, “Where is Krishna? How can I find him?”

Everyone wants to belong to someone. Even Krishna wants to belong to someone.

If one small part of Krishna’s feet feels pain, Radha doesn’t wish to live.


radhe vrindavanadhise

karunamrita vahine

kripaya nija padabjam

dasyam mahyam pradipatam

“Oh Radha, Queen of Vrindavan, carrier of the nectar of mercy, please bestow upon me the service of Your lotus feet.” (Deity worship prayer)