September 27, 2016: The Sacred Abode Of Lord Siva
Our team of 13 devotees has successfully completed the 53 kilometer pilgrimage around sacred Mount Kailash in western Tibet. We encountered numerous obstacles and setbacks due to the extreme high altitude and harsh climate, but all of us persevered desiring the blessings of Lord Krsna’s best devotee, Lord Siva.
“O gatekeeper of Vrindavan! O soma, all glories to you! O you whose forehead is decorated with the moon and who is worshipable for the sages headed by Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Narada! O Gopiswara! Desiring that you bestow upon me love for the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha Madhava, who perform joyous pastimes in Vrindavan, I offer my respects unto you again and again!”
[ Sankalpa Kalpadruma, text 103, by Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur ]
September 20, 2016: Arriving At Mount Kailash
After 3 days of difficult travel we finally arrived at our destination in western Tibet: the sacred Mount Kailash. This morning we begin our 3 day parikrama around Lord Siva’s abode.
September 19, 2016: Soul Stiring Adventure
Yesterday we began a 3-day drive through the Himalayas from Lhasa to Mount Kailash in remote western Tibet. The very site of these great mountains stirs the soul!
“There is no mountain range like the Himalayas, for this range contains both Kailash and Manasarovar. As the dew is dried by the morning sun, so our sins are dried when we gain sight of the Himalayas.”
[ Ramayana ]
September 18, 2016: The Mythical Abode
Construction on the Potala Palace began in 1645. It is said to be the mythical abode of a great Buddhist saint, overlooking the city of Lhasa in Tibet. Potala Palace has been the seat of numerous Buddhist saints throughout history, many of whom are entombed in the large structure. At the samadhi of one saint we saw a large, “pearl from the head of an elephant”, something I had been searching for for many years.
September 17, 2016: Rooftop Of The World
Tibet is the highest region on earth with a population of 8 million people. Two million of them are nomads. On our way to Mount Kailash we stopped in the capitol, Lhasa, on a Buddhist religious holiday. Many Tibetans were out visiting various holy places throughout the old city. While most of our group stayed back to climatize to the high altitude ( 3,600 meters ) myself and Ananta Vrindavan dasa went out to meet to the people and observe their spiritual culture.
September 13, 2016: Up Close
On our way through Vrindavan to pack our gear for our trip to Tibet, we did Govardhana parikrama. It was ekadasi and the parikrama marg was packed with people. By Giriraja’s grace we discovered a newly opened path near the village of Aniyor, that runs very close to the hill. It was a photographers dream and was perfectly captured by Ananta Vrindavan dasa.
September 12, 2016: The Winding Road
While in Kashmir we visited various Buddhist monasteries to observe their traditions and share our teachings. The monasteries were situated high in the mountains to provide the monks a peaceful and quiet atmosphere for their spiritual practices. Getting to the monasteries was often a challenge due to the dangerous winding mountain roads. Upon arriving at one monastery after a particularly grueling journey, a monk joked with us saying, “You have just traversed the road to enlightenment!”
September 10, 2016: A Priceless treasure
Dear Devotees: There are certain priceless treasures that I keep close to my heart as I travel and preach around the world. Things that give me great inspiration; like the holy names, my beloved deities, instructions that Srila Prabhupada gave me and certain special items like a bead from Srila Jiva Goswami’s japa-mala and a small piece of cloth from Lord Caitanya Maharaprabhu. I also carry the following 1994 Vyasa Puja offering of Sivarama Swami everywhere I go. I must have read it hundreds of times… and each time I read it I cry. For me, it reveals the essence of Lord Caitanya’s samkirtan movement and the heart of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. Some of you may have read it and others not. In either case, it’s a masterpiece and can be read again and again.
Dear Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your divine lotus feet. All glories to you on the celebration of your appearance day.
While planning a composition for your offering, I was also attending to my regular correspondence. One letter stood out among the others. I enclose it here, translated into English, for your pleasure.
Dear Sivarama Swami,
Hare Krsna. Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I hope you do not mind my writing to you. I have never written to a spiritual master before. You do not know me.
My name is Bhaktin Dora and I live in Pecs, Hungary. I am 14 years old and I live at home with my mother and older sister. In 1992 I went to the Hare Krsna Festival with a friend. I was not very interested, but I enjoyed the chanting and dancing at the end. After it was over I bought a book, The Science of Self-Realization. I do not know why, generally I never read. I think it was because of the chanting. I took the book home and cannot remember what happened to it.
One day my mother found it and was very angry with me. She thought that I was reading this kind of thing. You see, our family members are all very strict Catholics. They thought Krsna
consciousness was some kind of “brainwashing”. Actually, I wasn’t reading the book, I had forgotten all about it. Somehow, it just “appeared”. Anyway my mother was going to throw it away.
My grandmother, who is 68, was in the kitchen at that time. She lives in the apartment upstairs. She came in and took the book. She looked at it and scolded me in a very heavy way. I thought that would be the end of it. I did not mind it so much as I was in a lot of maya at that time. About a week later, I overheard a conversation between my mother and grandmother. Granny was saying that this was not an ordinary book. She said that what Prabhupada was saying is what Jesus Christ said and that Krsna is God. I was very surprised. She said that we should listen to what Prabhupada said and chant Hare Krsna because that was the religion for this age. There was a lot of
talk about how Christianity was no more, and no one was following the Bible, but what Prabhupada said was pure and perfect.
Things really took a turn from there. One day my grandmother visited the nama-hatta center here and began to chant on beads. She also began to buy Prabhupada’s books one by one. She was spending all her pension on buying what she called the “beautiful, holy Bhagavatam”. Sometimes she could only afford to eat potatoes, but she kept buying the books. The devotees even came to her flat and helped her set up an altar. When I went upstairs, they had taken all the pictures down, and there were Krsna pictures everywhere.
That was really the beginning. One night, granny had a dream about
Prabhupada. Something really happened to her then. I don’t know what it was, but she began to get very enthusiastic. Next she began to get the whole family involved. I mean, not just me and my mother and sister, but her two sons, their wives and six children as well as her brothers, sisters and relatives. Before she used to carry a Bible with her and quote Jesus Christ. Now she has a Bhagavad Gita and quotes, “the good Lord Prabhupada”. She became a veritable transcendental terror. Everyone in the family has to chant at least one round a day. In addition, granny made everyone become a vegetarian including my dog Sikra, and we offer our food to a picture of Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya.
Now, I am also getting out of maya and chanting and reading a little also. Where I go to school my friends inquire about Krsna, as they know I am a devotee. The whole family goes to the nama-hatta, all sixteen of us. During the Christmas Marathon, we all tried to distribute Prabhupada’s books. Even granny would take books with her to the market and sell them to the vendors. Everyone is afraid of her because she is fearless. They all think she has gone crazy, but she does not care.
Now she is saving to go to Budapest to see the newly installed Deities. She has heard that Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda “came” to Hungary and are being worshipped there by the devotees. She says she wants to see God just once in this life.
At this year’s Hare Krsna festival, you were speaking to the guests after the kirtana. You must remember my grandmother because she came and sat right beside you and asked so many questions. At the end when you stood to leave, she even kissed your hand, remember? I also wanted to ask a question, but I was shy. Could I please ask you now? I hope you do not mind, Maharaja.
I want to know what kind of man Srila Prabhupada was. He must be so dear to Krsna to have spread this message all over the world. What are these books that changed my family so much? How is it possible that he can speak so powerfully through them? You must feel very fortunate to be his disciple. How great a man he is. Sometimes when my granny chants in front of a picture of Krsna she cries. How does Prabhupada do that? I want to cry like that too. Granny dreams of Prabhupada, and sometimes she talks to his picture. Although it says on the cover of the book that he passed away, is Prabhupada really dead, or is he still alive? Do you think I can meet him someday?
I am sorry that I have gone on so. I would like to be a good devotee one day and help you and Prabhupada spread Krsna Consciousness. Please could you answer my questions ?
Srila Prabhupada, what is this brand of mercy that you gave this old lady I just barely met, that you never gave to me ? She never met you, never saw devotees, she is not even initiated by you. What is this kindness that you bestow upon her, that you do not give me, “your fortunate disciple?”
What am I referring to? It is just this. After having come in contact with you for just a few months, what inspiration did you give this granny in that dream? What did you move in her heart that made her change her life in its final days? That made her turn against the current of banality and tradition and strike out alone to change her world. No sympathy, no association, no institutional support. Boldness I do not possess, changes I do not have the strength to make.
Srila Prabhupada, I want to know what is that you say to her from your picture when she talks to you? I have so many pictures.You do not speak to me through them.
Although I worship Deities daily, I continue to see them as made of marble and wood. How is it this old lady has the conviction that God has “come” to her country ? Why have you not given such vision to me? Where did she get the conviction that a pilgrimage to the city capital would yield the final goal of her life?
One last thing, Srila Prabhupada, how is it that when Dora’s granny chants in front of a picture, she cries ? How do you do it ? I want to cry like that too. When will you give me that mercy ?
Srila Prabhupada, this is one letter, from one girl who came in contact with you. How many millions of such souls are there who have yet to write, who are directly experiencing your mercy daily, who read your books with implicit faith, whom you talk to in dreams and pictures, whose lives you change abruptly and reward with tears when chanting the holy names ?
How many people cross the boundaries of rules and regulations by the strong boat of your mercy and practice and taste Krsna Consciousness in a realm beyond logic and argument? I think these people are meeting you every day. How will I acquire their good fortune? When will you one day bestow some of this special mercy upon me that you give to them?
If I am not to acquire it directly, even after begging for it, then I will
serve such souls who have reached your mission. I will offer them prasadam, give them your books and show them how to practice. I will chant with them. Thus I can hope to gain a new perspective of your greatness, even though I may never fully understand it.
Your insignificant servant,
September 10, 2016: The Moon of Rasa Dance
“I wander over this earth meditating on Her, who is a moon shining in the rasa-dance arena, who is a host of bright lamps in Vrsabhanu’s palace, and who is the central jewel in the necklace of Goloka.”
[ Narada Muni, Garga Samhita 1.8.12 ]
September 8, 2016: New Vraja Dhama
New Vraja Dhama, ISKCON’s 300 acre farm in Hungary, is the largest eco village in Europe. It is situated in a small village in the southernmost part of the country, 2 hours drive from Budapest. It was established in 1993 with the purpose of educating people about the values of self sufficiency, cow protection and a natural, God centered lifestyle. It’s aim is to put Srila Prabhupada’s motto, “Simple living and high thinking” into practice. The entire project has manifest from the heart of Sivarama Swami as an offering of love to Srila Prabhupada and the presiding deities of Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara.
September 7, 2016: “Of Immovable Things I am The Himalayas”
In the 10th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita Krsna declares, “Of Immovable Things I am The Himalayas.” Over the past few days we had a rare opportunity to see the beautiful northernmost part of the Himalayas along India’s restricted border area with China in Jammu Kashmir. A 7-hour drive from Leh took us on a rough and dangerous road through some of the most amazing scenery in God’s creation. We finally arrived at Panong Tso lake situated at 4,350 meters. The saline ( saltwater ) lake is 134 kilometers long and entirely freezes over in winter. We spent the night there further acclimatizing ourselves for our upcoming expedition to Mount Kailash in Tibet in 15 days.
September 2, 2016: Visiting a Monastery in the Indus Valley
Yesterday we visited the Thiksey Monastery, home to 60 Buddhist monks, in the high desert region near Leh, India. Founded in 1433 it is situated 3,600 meters above sea level in the Indus Valley. The monks received us well and invited us to their prayer ceremony. We chanted japa while they recited slokas from ancient parchment leaves. The beauty of the natural setting was overwhelming.
September 1, 2016: Top Of The World
The city of Leh, high in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, is bordered by Tibet, China and Pakistan. Myself, Bada Haridas and Ananta Vrindavan dasa have come here for a 10-day break after 48 public festivals along the Baltic Sea coast in Poland this summer. In addition, we are acclimatising ourselves for our upcoming trek to Mount Kailash in Tibet in two weeks. The process of acclimatising helps one to gradually adjust to extreme high altitudes. We are also taking the opportunity to visit local Buddhist monasteries and discuss philosophy with the monks and present them with Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is. Book distribution at the top of the world!