By Indradyumna Swami
Krsna is the focus for most Brijbasis. Whether they are priests, sad-hus, farmers, shopkeepers, members of the town council, or tourists, Krsna is somehow present in each of their lives. One morning as I was per-forming Vrindavana-parikrama (a two-hour walk around the entire village of Vrindavana), I saw pilgrims from all walks of life reverentially walking the parikrama path. Most were Indian, but a number were foreigners from a va-riety of countries. Everyone seemed focused on the same goal: to receive Radha-Krsna’s mercy. If we practice Krsna consciousness we can transcend material designations and become united on the spiritual platform, each of us questing for God. It seems a simple solution to today’s world problems: if we can only realize that we are all brothers and sisters with a common father (God), we will stop seeing some people as friends and others as ene-mies. Here in Vrindavana, every living creature is viewed with that understanding and thus offered respect, regardless of its birth.
Krsna revealed this to me clearly when I was returning to my apartment after parikrama. I was walking past a telephone pole when a crow suddenly fell screaming to the ground in front of me. It had landed on a live wire and been electrocuted. Flapping, it was moving in agonized circles on the ground. Within moments, several local people ran forward to see. To my amazement, a man picked up the crow and wrapped it in his cadar, chanting Hare Krsna to the bird. The crow’s eyes slowly closed and I thought it had died, but the man told his son to fetch milk and a chapati. For more than an hour he and the small group of Brijbasis carefully nudged the crow back toward life. Finally the crow opened its eyes, squawked, and flew into the air. There was a loud roar of appreciation from the small crowd as they called out, “Jaya Radhe! Jaya Radhe!”
The compassion they had shown such a lowly creature astonished me. It confirmed that in Vrindavana, all creatures are accepted as the Lord’s eternal servants. Continuing on my way, I remembered a classic verse from
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
“The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahma∫a, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Bg. 5.18)
As I settled into my room to hear and chant, it occurred to me that Vrindavana is the perfect place to practice Krsna consciousness, if only because there is so much to stimulate remembrance of the Lord. Even a simple morning walk can reveal spiritual truth. I am blessed to be here, and content with my plan to spend two more months in this transcendental abode.
But I would soon realize Prabhupada’s statement, “I have my plan, you have your plan, but ultimately, Krsna has His plan as well.”
Enlivened by yesterday’s early morning parikrama, I invited several disciples to join me this morning. As we approached one of my favorite spots, Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvatî’s samadhi mandira near Kaliya-gha†a, Nand-inî dasî’s cell phone rang. It is a curious thing that being situated between New Delhi and Agra, Vrindavana falls within cell phone range. It was the first time Nandinî’s phone had rung since she had been in India, and she seemed quite surprised as she took it out of her bag and answered it. Her answering service had left her a message. I saw her pale. Not wanting to up-set the tranquility of the parikrama, however, she didn’t say anything.
All week I have been making a special effort to take Nandinî and Radha-sakhî-vrnda around Vrindavana. This is their first trip to India, and they have earned it. Both women have worked hard helping to organize this year’s Polish tour, setting up the Festival of India as a legal foundation, and often achieving success in the face of tremendous opposition. I appreciate their determination to preach Krsna consciousness, and by inviting them to Vrindavana, I was hoping to introduce them to the essence of our spiritual tradition, thus giving them increased strength and inspiration in their preaching. This was the mood with which Srila Prabhupada invited his dis-ciples to India in the movement’s early days. He wanted us to gain appreciation for our spiritual heritage and then return to the West enlivened. Nandinî and Radha-sakhî-vrnda seemed to be enjoying their first week in the holy dhama and were looking forward to the month ahead when they would visit Jaipur, Purî, and Mayapur.
I couldn’t put Nandinî’s ringing phone out of my mind. Finally, I drew her and Radha-sakhî-vrnda aside and asked who was on the phone. Nandinî was silent for a moment, then said, “Gurudeva, Radha-sakhî-vrnda and I have to return to Poland tomorrow.”
Stunned, I asked, “Tomorrow?! But you just got here! Why would you have to return tomorrow?”
“Do you remember the school in Swierzno we rent as our base during the summer tour?”
“Yes.” I was already beginning to feel nervous.
“Our long-time friend, the school director, left a message that the local priests are pressuring him to rent the school to them for the entire summer next year. They want to use it for a recreation base for school groups from other parts of the country. In reality, the director said, their purpose is to deny our festival program a summer base. You know that school is the only one on the coast willing to cooperate with us.”
I did know. I still remembered the campaign a group of senior Catholic priests had led last year along the entire Baltic seacoast, threatening and discouraging school directors from renting their institutions to our Festival of India tour. Nandinî added, “If we lose that school, where will we accommodate the two hundred festival devotees? The message was sent twelve days ago, and the director said we have until tomorrow to sign the con-tract. Otherwise he will be forced to sign the school over to the Church. No doubt they are thinking that by approaching the school director so many months before the holidays, they’ll outmaneuver us.”
“Can’t someone else in Poland sign the contract?” “Legally, only Radha-sakhî-vrnda or I can sign.”
“And who knows what other tricks the priests may have up their sleeves? We have to be there,” Radha-sakhî-vrnda said.
Because so few people were flying, Nandinî and Radha-sakhî-vrnda had no trouble getting a flight to Warsaw. Late in the evening the next day they called from northern Poland: “Mission accomplished. We got there just in time to sign the contract. We have the school for the summer.”
This is the meaning of disciple. A disciple is one who will put the spiritual master’s interests before his or her own. I am grateful that Nandinî and Radha-sakhî-vrnda showed no hesitation in leaving India, but were willing to ensure that our preaching could continue next summer. In Krsna book we read how Sandîpani Muni was similarly pleased with the surrender of his two students, Krsna and Sudama, who demonstrated the proper behavior for disciples. After Krsna and Sudama had undergone hardship on his behalf, Sandîpani Muni said:
My dear boys, it is very wonderful that you have suffered so much trouble for me. Everyone likes to take care of his body as the first consideration, but you are so good and faithful to your guru that without caring for bodily comforts you have taken so much trouble for me. I am also glad to see that bona fide students like you will undergo any kind of trouble for the satisfaction of the spiritual master. That is the way for a bona fide disciple to become free from his debt to the spiritual master. It is the duty of the disciple to dedicate his life to the service of the spiritual master.
What I didn’t expect was that like Nandinî and Radha-sakhî-vrnda, I too would have to cut my pilgrimage short. Toward the end of the tele-phone call, Nandinî said, “Gurudeva, we’re sending you the financial projection for next year by e-mail. With costs rising and increased government pressure that our festival meet strict security and health standards, we are going to need more money than we originally predicted.”
The next morning I opened my e-mail and read their report. I realized I had no choice but to surrender to “Krsna’s plan” that I leave Vrindavana before the end of Karttika. I was going to have to preach and raise funds for the Festival of India.
As far as I know, there is only one reason to leave this transcendental abode: to preach Krsna consciousness. Although bhajana and preaching seem so different—bhajana means internal meditation in a solitary place and preaching is so external and usually performed in crowded towns and villages—they are nonetheless intricately connected. By focusing on bhajana we become purified and thus develop a strong desire to share the nectar of Krsna consciousness with others. By preaching under difficult cir-cumstances throughout the year, we hanker for the special atmosphere of Sri Vrindavana-dhama, where we can relish the association of devotees and the sacred tîrthas without disturbance.
Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day festival was fast approaching. Knowing that helped me move from bhajana to preaching. I had gone to Srila Prabhupada’s rooms at the Radha-Damodara temple several times to meditate on how Srila Prabhupada spent so much time there, preparing for his journey to the West to introduce Krsna consciousness to the world. Sit-ting alone in his rooms, I came to understand that as his spiritual son, I have the responsibility to help him carry out his mission. No doubt my stay in Vrindavana has been beneficial: I gained a deeper appreciation for the holy name, a clearer understanding of the scripture, and as I thought about the matter more, I realized I have also gained a stronger desire to share that mercy with others. Based on that last consideration, it seemed appropriate to leave.
On the evening before Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day, I went back to Radha-Damodara temple one last time to write my offering to Prabhupada. In those sacred rooms where Srila Prabhupada often looked out into the temple courtyard at Srila Rüpa Gosvamî’s samadhi for inspiration, I very much felt the presence—and separation—of my spiritual master. I wrote my offering in that mood and read it to His Divine Grace the next day in the assembly of the many dear godbrothers and godsisters at Krishna-Balaram temple. It felt like a fitting conclusion to my Vrindavana pilgrimage. When I was finished, I turned my attention to my duties in the West.
Here is my offering:
Dearest Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories unto you on this auspicious day of your departure from this world!
In August 1976, after visiting our temple in Paris, France, you expressed your satisfaction with your visit and said you looked for-ward to coming back again the next year. We worked hard that coming year in the expectation of seeing your lotus feet again. In those days, with your annual visits and regular updates of your travels, we always remained absorbed in thoughts of you. Despite your busy schedule you also remembered us, often writing and encouraging us in our devotional service to the Lord. When my saõkîrtana party wrote to you asking if we could install and travel with Gaura-Nitai Deities, you responded that you felt such worship might interfere with our most important service of distributing your books. You recommended that we worship a picture of Pañca-tattva instead. You said that the members of the Pañca-tattva are the proper Deities for Kali-yuga, because they are the most benevolent and merciful of all the Lord’s incarnations. Following your instructions, we worshipped a picture of their lordships with heart and soul, and as we did, our sankîrtana results increased as did our faith and attachment to you.
Although you had thousands of followers and we were separated from you by thousands of miles, we felt (as did all your disciples) your immediate concern, care, and love for us. Anxious for your return to Paris, our anticipation of seeing you again increased as each day passed.
Then in November came the unbelievable and unbearable news: you had performed your final pastime and left this world to rejoin your beloved Lord in the spiritual sky. Srila Prabhupada, on that day we were suddenly plunged into feelings of separation un-like anything we had ever experienced. In the initial stages of our devotional service, we came to know so many facets of spiritual life. One still unknown to us, however, was the pain of separation we have had to endure until this day.
Srila Prabhupada, Krsna sent Uddhava to Vrindavana to give His gopîs hope. Please send me a sign that I will indeed, by faithful and loving service, be able to join you again in your pastimes sub-lime. I know that vani is more important than vapu˙, but if I can be assured that one day I’ll be with you again, I can take any risks in my preaching. I’ll know that even death itself, suffered in the line of duty, will serve my desire to bring me back to you.
In 1971 I felt separation from you after your brief visit to our Detroit temple. I expressed those feelings in a letter to you. You kindly wrote back: “Yes, I am also feeling separation from my Guru Maharaja, but I always feel that he is watching over and protecting me.” Please bless me with the same ability to see you constantly in my service to the Lord.
The responsibilities you have entrusted to all of your followers are generally reserved for the Lord’s most advanced devotees. We need your guidance and protection to be able to faithfully execute your orders and to spread your teachings throughout the world.
No doubt your guidance and protection come in many ways. Often I see you in the mercy you bestow upon the devotees around me. As a single ray of light shining through a piece of crystal causes a rainbow of colors, so your mercy, reflected through the hearts of your followers, shines brilliantly in their service to you. It is by your decree that they offer their service, and just as one sees an artist’s personality in his work, so we can see you in the your sincere followers’ activities.
Just behold your illustrious son, Radhanatha Maharaja! His unique ability, inspired by you, to uplift the hearts of thousands of souls, who are spellbound by his lectures and kîrtanas, can best be appreciated when he comes to Vrindavana for Karttika. Buses and buses of devotees follow him throughout the dhama as he introduces them to your dearest place of worship.
No doubt we see you in Gopala Krsna Maharaja’s service. He reflects your heart’s desire that everything be done big in Krsna consciousness. Following in your footsteps and empowered by your desire to see the movement always expand, he became the force behind the success of the Glory of India temple, which has risen from the dust of Delhi to become a place of pilgrimage.
And Lokanatha Maharaja is truly fulfilling Mahaprabhu’s desire to see the holy names chanted in every town and village. How your chest must swell with pride when you point him out to your transcendental associates in the spiritual sky. “Just see my spiritual son,” you must say, “the one with the bullock cart and performing kîrtana. His service guarantees that he’ll come to live with me eternally.”
Look now, with eyes filled with love and appreciation, upon your spiritual daughter, Daivi-sakti dasî, who continues to serve you year after year in Sri Vrindavana-dhama. She knows how dear your Krishna-Balaram temple is to you, and she faithfully carries out her duties here, much as she did when you were present. She would never leave your institution, Srila Prabhupada, having faith in your words that it is the selfsame body she served personally in the days of her youth.
Now just look to the left and see your stalwart sons, Brahmananda and Gargamuni, two of the first to receive your mercy. They know you well and continue to share you with all of us when we need you most, still speaking about you twenty-four years after your disappearance. The material energy has the ability to cause things to deteriorate with time, but the love and faith Brahmananda and Gargamuni have for you is so strong that it resists the forces of nature and allows you to stay ever-fresh in their minds.
Do you remember Dhanañjaya and Bala Gopala? Of course you do, for spiritual love transcends the ravages of time. They have also chosen to remain caretakers of this mandira, which is so dear to you. Imbibing your desire to provide a place for your followers in the dhama, they represent your concern that all of us become Brijbasis in due course of time.
And see the wandering mendicant, Dîna-bandhu Prabhu. Following your personal example, he continues to take devotees on pilgrimage in this holy land. You are an eternal resident of this sa-cred abode, Srila Prabhupada, and we are indebted to your beloved son Dîna-bandhu for enlightening us about the glories of this most sacred tîrtha. He is helping us aspire to one day join you in your eternal pastimes here. Empowered by you, he speaks with the same affection you have for Sri Vrindavana-dhama.
No doubt you can see Kesava Bharatî Prabhu, who has faith-fully executed one of your last desires: to take darsana of Govardhana Hill. By developing and overseeing his project at the foot of Giri-Govardhana, he has arranged for you to now sit peacefully in the temple room there, beckoning your followers to gradually develop a deeper understanding of the Lord.
As sons and daughters inherit their parents’ qualities, so these and many, many more disciples and grand disciples demonstrate that you are with us, watching over and protecting us in our devotional service. My humble prayer on this auspicious day is that you continue to give me your association and guidance through the mercy you bestow upon these loving and loyal followers until the day comes when I can again join you in your “ISKCON in the spiritual sky.”
Until then I remain,