Today myself and Sri Prahlada, who is visiting me from Australia, went on a short parikrama of Vrindavan. Along the way we met my parikrama guru, Deena Bandhu prabhu, who we followed to the Radha Gokulananda temple. His love for Vrindavan is contagious.
Today myself, Sri Prahlada das, Narottam das Thakur das and Haridas Varya das arrived in Thiruvananthapuram, the capitol of Kerala in South India. Lord Caitanya visited this area during His tour of South India 500 years ago. It was in the nearby Adi-kesava temple that He discovered the famous 5th chapter of the Brahma samhita. Caitanya caritamrita describes several other temples He visited in this region as well. We plan to retrace His footsteps for a week and then head north to Gujarat for our 6-week festival tour. The photo is of the beach in Thiruvananthapuram, which is one of the southernmost cities in India.
gaura amara, je-saba sthane,
koralo bhramana range
se-saba sthana, heribo range
pranayi bhakata sange
“In the company of pranayi (intimate, beloved) devotees, I will go to all the places where Lord Caitanya joyfully wandered.”
[ Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, Suddha Bhakata, Text 3 ]
Today we drove 80 kilometers through a jungle area to the temple of Sri Janardana which was visited by Lord Caitanya 500 years ago. The temple architecture was unlike any other I have seen in India. Sri Caitanya Caritamrita describes how Mahaprabhu chanted and danced in great ecstasy for two days in front of the Deity. In the inner sanctum, in front of the Deity, I prayed that our upcoming festival tour in Gujarat would be successful and that hundreds of thousands of people would get the opportunity to hear the Hare Krsna mantra and the philosophy expounded by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We are getting such preaching opportunities only by the grace of our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, and we are deeply indebted to him.
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu remained for two or three days at Ananta Padmanabha and visited the temple there. Then, in great ecstasy He went to see the temple of Sri Janardana.” [ CC Madhya 9.242 ]
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu chanted and danced at Sri Janardana for two days. He then went to the bank of the Payasvini River and visited the temple of Sankara-narayana.” [ CC Madhya 9.243 ]
January 5th, 2014
My good friend Shyamlal das, who was born in Navadwip and served most of his life in South Africa, has passed away. Srila Prabhupada personally encouraged Shyamlal a number of times in his preaching activities and gave him several small gifts in appreciation for his services. Shyamal and I started the Durban Ratha Yatra way back in the late 80’s. You couldn’t find a better friend. I will miss him dearly.
January 6th, 2014
One of 15 billboards advertising our 6 programs in Ahmedabad, Gujarat starting in 4 days. May Srila Prabhupada be glorified throughout the 3 worlds!
January 6th, 2014
Pictured here is the entrance to the ancestral home of Srila Bilvamangala Thakur near Thiruvanathapuram, in Kerala. Nearby was the residence of the prostitute, Cintamani. It was Cintamani’s words of wisdom that inspired Bilvamangala Thakur to go to Vrindavan to find Krsna. He lived in Vrindavan for around 700 years and became a great devotee. He wrote the famous Krsna-karnamrita which describes the loving pastimes of Radha and Krsna. Within the compound pictured below is a family deity worshipped by Bilvamangala Thakur. The local people say his samadhi is beneath the alter, although other devotees say it is in Vrindavan
January 7th, 2014
Today is my close friend Shyamlal prabhu’s funeral. I wrote this letter to him to be read at the ceremony:
My dear friend Shyamlal,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I was happy to hear of your departure the other day. It was very difficult seeing you in a painful condition for such a long time. As Srila Prabhupada wrote posthumously to our godbrother, Jayananda prabhu, “Krsna has done a great favor to you, not to continue your diseased body, and has given you a suitable place for your service.” [ Letter, May 5, 1977 ]
I don’t like to think of you incapacitated as you were the last several months of your life. I want to remember the many years of service you rendered to Srila Prabhupada; service that His Divine Grace acknowledged by thanking you on several occasions and by bestowing upon you several gifts. I always enjoyed it when you proudly showed me the pen Srila Prabhupada personally gave you!
And the first Durban Ratha Yatra in 1987 – what a grand success it was! Although subsequent Ratha Yatra’s have been “bigger and better” none of them can compare to the glorious victory that you, myself and Yamunacarya dasa achieved in organizing that first one during the apartheid era in South Africa. Surely Srila Prabhupada has taken you to his side just for that one incredible service.
Shyamlal you were in every sense of the word a, “Prabhupada man.” Devotees often noted how you would constantly praise him and do your service sincerely for his pleasure. What a wonderful devotee of the Lord you were! What a wonderful disciple you were! What a wonderful friend you were! And what a wonderful husband and father you were, as well! All of us will miss you dearly.
I will not dwell on your departure. It was but a brief moment in your wonderful life as a devotee. One devotee asked me today, “How did he die?” I quickly turned to him and said, “Don’t ask me how he died. Ask me how he lived.”
We have nothing to lament today for your birth in Navadwip was glorious, your life was glorious and your death – with your beloved daughter Jahnavi dasi by your side – was also glorious.
I hope to follow in your footsteps. I wish you well in your continued service to our beloved spiritual master Srila Prabhupada and I look forward to meeting you again on the transcendental path for more adventures in service to His Divine Grace.
Your friend and servant,
January 7th, 2014
Yesterday we traveled north through the jungle to the famous Adi-kesava temple which Lord Caitanya visited 500 years ago during His journey through South India. It was in the Adi-kesava temple that Mahaprabhu found a copy of the 5th chapter of the Brahma-samhita. The inner sanctum of the temple was constructed over 4,000 years ago. The deity of Lord Visnu is lying down and is 22 meters long. He is visible through 3 different alters where one has darsan of His feet, His torso and His head respectively. He is made of 16,108 salagrama-silas kept together by various forest herbs, which are covered over in a sweet syrup made from dates that hardens to make His form as Lord Visnu. While we were having darsan a householder couple offered the deity one kilo of gold. In the temple we saw the very place that Lord Caitanya sat and read the Brahma samhita. We also visited a nearby 300 year-old palace of the kings who served the Adi-kesava deity.
“When the Lord saw the Adi-kesava temple, He was immediately overwhelmed with ecstasy. Offering various obeisances and prayers, He chanted and danced.
“All the people there were greatly astonished to see the ecstatic pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They all received the Lord very well.
“In the temple of Adi-kesava, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu discussed spiritual matters among highly advanced devotees. While there, He found a chapter of the Brahma-samhita.
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was greatly happy to find a chapter of that scripture, and symptoms of ecstatic transformation — trembling, tears, perspiration, trance and jubilation — were manifest in His body.
“There is no scripture equal to the Brahma-samhita as far as the final spiritual conclusion is concerned. Indeed, that scripture is the supreme revelation of the glories of Lord Govinda, for it reveals the topmost knowledge about Him. Since all conclusions are briefly presented in the Brahma-samhita, it is essential among all the Vaisnava literatures.
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu copied the Brahma-samhita, and then with great pleasure He went to a place known as Ananta Padmanabha.”
[ Caitanya caritamrta Madhya-lila: 9.235 – 241 ]
This is the exact place that Lord Caitanya sat to read and copy the Brahma Samhita while in the Adi Kesva temple in Kerala.
January 7th, 2014
The ancient Adi-kesava temple in Kerala, South India. Lord Caitanya visited the temple 500 years ago.
January 8th, 2014
Yesterday evening we took darsan of Lord Padmanabha. Like many other temples in this region of India the Lord is lying down in a mystic slumber. Western, non-Hindu people are forbidden to enter the temple, but ISKCON devotees ( from anywhere in the world ) may enter with the express written permission of the King. We received that permission on our last day here as the previous King had passed away just a few days before we arrived and things were a bit chaotic. Although he was very busy the new King, out of appreciation for Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON signed our application and we were able to have one of the most amazing darsans of our lives. Photography is not allowed in the temple, so I was only able to take photos of the outside of the temple and it’s surroundings. This morning we leave purified and enlivened for a most important service to Srila Prabhupada: our festival tour in Gujarat which starts tomorrow evening. Ten thousand people are expected to attend. May Lord Padmanabha empower us to inspire the people to take up Krsna consciousness with full enthusiasm!
January 9th, 2014
This evening in Ahmedabad we are holdin the first of 33 festival programs throughout the state of Gujarat. We are following in the footsteps of Srila Prabhupada who, along with his western disciples, successfully held such grand events throughout India during the early years of our movement. May his grace be upon us! “I am so glad to note that you are planning a Hare Krishna festival in Detroit, on the order of the ones we held in India (Bombay and Calcutta). We had a very large tent, displayed our literatures, had kīrtanas and āratī ceremony for Radha and Krishna, spoke some on Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, and distributed prasādam sumptuously, to not less than 20,000, and as many as 40,000 people came daily to participate; it was so successful. And our magic was simply this chanting
and dancing; that’s all.” (Letter to Batu Gopal, 8 July 1971.)
January 11th, 2014
Dear Devotees: To our delight ( and somewhat to our amazement ) 852 devotees have already officially registered for the Sadhu Sanga Retreat over Memorial Day weekend in North Carolina, USA. However, the resort’s capacity is just 900 persons and we cannot exceed that number. So there are only 48 places left. If you are seriously thinking of joining us for the retreat please register now. We will close registration after we reach 900 persons. This is not a gimmick to register devotees. The retreat is very popular this year due to the presence of Radhanath Swami, Sacinandana Swami, Giriraja Swami and many other illustrious devotees; what to speak of kirtaneers like Bada Hari Haridas, Madhava prabhu, Acyuta Gopi dasi and others 🙂 [ visit: www.SadhuSangaRetreat.com ]
January 12th, 2014
This morning we went on harinama samkirtan in Ahmedabad to drum up publicity for this evening’s festival program. People were fascinated to see so many western devotees along with their blissful Gujarati brothers and sisters chanting and dancing in great happiness through the streets of the city. Srila Prabhupada once called ISKCON the, “United Nations of the spiritual world.”
January 14, 2014
My good and longstanding friend, Bimal Prasad dasa, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has only weeks to live. A senior Prabhupada disciple, he has done much service for our movement in both South Africa and Australia. Tonight I am leaving our festival tour in Gujarat to spend a day with him in Adelaide, Australia. It will be very difficult to say goodbye to a loving godbrother whom I have served alongside for over 30 years. Please everyone give your blessings to Bimal and keep him in your prayers.
— with Bimal Prasad Das.
I spoke to the crowd of 1,500 people at this evenings festival in Ahmedabad and then drove quickly to the airport to catch my flight Australia. I’ll bring good tidings to my dear friend Bimal Prasad who is leaving this world and then with his blessings return to India to continue the preaching that is so dear to our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada.
I have arrived in Australia after a 20-hour journey. I am resting up and tomorrow I will spend the day with my dear friend Bimal Prasad das for the last time. We will laugh and joke as always and remember the good times we had together serving the mission of His Divine Grace, by who’s mercy we became spiritual bothers. My only fear is if I can hold back my tears. But then again, why should I?
Remembrance is a golden chain
Death tries to break, but all in vain.
To have, to love, and then to part
Is the greatest sorrow of one’s heart.
The years may wipe out many things
But some they wipe out never.
Like memories of those happy times
When we were all together.
[ Author unknown ]
January 20th, 2014
Yesterday we held a festival program in the center of Anand, Gujarat. Over 4,000 people attended. Anand translates as ‘bliss’ in sanskrit. It was certainly blissful reminding the local people of their original culture of Krsna consciousness. Today we will have harinam in Dakor and visit the famous deity of Ranchor-raya.
January 21, 2014
Yesterday we went on harinam in Dakor, home to the famous deity of Ranchor. In sanskrit Ranchor signifies a coward or, “one who leaves the battlefield.” Krsna, however, is glorified and is famous amongst His devotees as Ranchor because He left the battlefield to rescue Rukmini, His first queen in Dwarka. People were stunned seeing so many western devotees singing Lord Krsna’s holy names and many joined in the kirtan, chanting and dancing alongside us. After harinam we had darsan of the beautiful deity of Ranchor in the temple and we all prayed to Him to allow us to continue helping Srila Prabhupada rescue fallen souls from this terrible age of Kali.
Photo of Ratha Yatra today in Rajkot. Blessed we are to be singing daily throughout the towns and villages of Gujarat.
“When people properly glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead or simply hear about His power, the Lord personally enters their hearts and cleanses away every trace of misfortune, just as sun removes the darkness or as a powerful wind drives away the clouds.’
[ Srimad Bhagavatam 12.12.48 ]
This evening at our festival in Rajkot, Gujarat people came in by the droves. At one point I turned to a security guard and asked, “Sir, how many people are here?” Not taking his eyes off the entrance to the field he replied, “Eight thousand and counting.” As I walked onto the stage to give a lecture later in the program I looked out at the mass of people and thought, “Srila Prabhupada, we live for this and this alone. Please continue to give us service to your lotus feet birth after birth.”
“I have very much appreciated hearing from you the news of your success in your preaching tour. That is very important portion of India and there is much to do there in future. So you are paving the way. Therefore I am requesting that both of you with your party join me very soon at the Hare Krsna Festival in Bombay, Cross Maidan. At least you should come by January 1st. This is our big opportunity to emphasize our preaching strength to the big men of India and population in general. I think that you will enjoy preaching in that way and I want to place my best preachers there for that purpose. Kindly oblige and do the needful.”
[ Srila Prabupada letter to Yasodanandana and Gurukripa, December 21, 1972 ]