We welcome you to Sri Vrindavan Dham.
By the causeless mercy of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, we are being given this most sacred opportunity to be together. For those who are followers of Krishna bhakti, this is the holiest of all holy places in the entire universe – Sri Vrindavan Dham. It is my great honor and fortune that you are giving me this opportunity to serve you by speaking something on behalf of my Guru Maharaj during our time here.
Radhanath Swami explains the meaning of pure devotional service
In the Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, there is a beautiful verse- the ideal place for executing Krishna consciousness or pure bhakti is Vrajbhumi or Vrindavan, where all the people naturally love Krishna and Krishna naturally loves all of them. In this regard Srila Prabhupad cites the Bhagavad-Gita. Could everyone hear? You could hear, some people cannot hear.
ye yatha mam prapadyante
tams tathaiva bhajamy aham
“As a person approaches the Lord, Krishna reciprocates accordingly.”
If we give all of our hearts to Krishna, Krishna gives Himself to us. The capacity of what we have to give to Krishna in relation to infinity, is a drop, but yet that drop when is offered with love, it is more precious to Krishna than all the wealth in all the material and spiritual existence. That is His nature. If we offer a drop he returns a bottomless, shore-less ocean of His love in reciprocation. This is the principle of Bhakti. – Radhanath Swami
If we approach the Supreme Lord for material benefits, we will get some material benefits in due course of time. There are mystical yogic siddhis like: the actual capacity to perform supernatural miracles, prapti-siddhi or by chanting a mantra we could produce things within our hands, by chanting mantras your body could dematerialize and rematerialize any place in the universe you desire, read minds, and control people’s minds. If we approach such siddhis, if we approach for elevation to higher planets or if we want mukti, that state of complete peace beyond all the dualities of this world wherein we realize, aham brahmasmi, we are eternally spirit beyond birth and beyond death, in due course of time Krishna will give that. But, if with all humility and sincerity, we approach the Lord to serve with love, then Krishna will give Himself and that includes everything else.
Here in Vrindavan, Srila Rupa Goswami has written
silanam bhaktir uttama
[CC Madhya 19.167]
“The meaning of pure bhakti is to be untainted by any desire except to serve the Supreme Lord with love.”
atah pumbhir dvija–srestha
This is the conclusion of the Srimad Bhagavatam, that the supreme perfection of whatever occupation we may be doing, of all of our responsibilities, of all of our spiritual practices, is that Krishna is pleased. Srila Prabhupad writes that this type of pure devotional service is very rare, durlabam. Why is it so rare? Krishna tells in Gita that out of thousands of people who approach me, one actually understands me as I am, because when Krishna gives bhakti, true bhakti, he gives himself eternally. He is bhakta-vatsal; the all-powerful is conquered by the love of His own devotee. Srila Prabhupad writes although pure devotional service is so rare, Krishna will give it easily for one who is sincere, serious and has no ulterior motive.
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
yena mam upayanti te
This is Krishna’s promise in the Bhagavad-Gita, “For one who worships me with love (priti), I give the understanding by which they could come to me.”
bhaktyā tv ananyayā śakya
aham evam-vidho ’rjuna
The Gita tells, “Only by unalloyed, undivided devotion can I be understood as I am standing before you.”
Radhanath Swami glorifies Vrindavan – the eternal abode of Lord Krishna
It is very important that when we come to Vrindavan, we truly humble ourselves to appreciate the good fortune we are receiving. Without genuine humility there cannot be deep appreciation or gratitude and these are preliminary qualities to actually connect to the current of grace that is flowing in this holy place. – Radhanath Swami
Our scriptures and our acharyas tell us the nature of the material and spiritual existence. This universe has different divisions. Among bhu, bhuva, swarga, we are in the bhu-loka, the earthly area. Above us is swarga-loka, the incredible heavenly planets. Above there is maha-loka, jana-loka, tapa-loka (the places of the greatest, most enlightened rishis) and then there is brahma-loka, the highest planet where Lord Brahma resides. But beyond this material creation is the Brahman or the Brahma-jyoti, where the all-pervading spiritual light that is inside and outside of everything within creation, and at the same time it expands infinitely everywhere beyond material creation. For those who approach the impersonal aspect of the absolute truth, liberation is entering into the light of Brahman, but within that spiritual sky of Brahman, the scriptures and the sages tell us, there are spiritual planets called Vaikuntha, paravyoma.
In those spiritual planets, the Supreme Absolute Truth, the one God of all living beings manifests in various forms and aspects for the singular purpose, of giving love and receiving love. Liberation in Vaikuntha means the eternal soul that is now the very life force within us, assumes an original spiritual personality and body. We always have it; it is just in a dormant state as long as we are covered by illusion or maya. But in that state, the all beautiful, all loving Lord reciprocates in loving relationships forever with all of his devotees. There is the place of Ram, Narsimha, Shiva, and Vaman; and of all those planets, there is a place called, Madhurya-dham or Goloka, which is the abode of Krishna. It is not that they are different people; same person but different roles.
People speak about God being great and in the Vedas we understand to some extent how infinitely great God is. What is the capacity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead to reciprocate love with all different kinds of souls in infinite varieties of ways?
Goloka is the place of Purna-Brahman, Purna-avatar where
- the Lord manifests the fullest extent of supremacy, in the sense that his aishwarya or his infinite power and greatness moves to the side, overshadowed by the Lord’s infinite sweetness, beauty, charm and love,
- the Supremacy of God being the controller of all controllers (Parameshvara) is overshadowed, or let us say moves to the side for intimate loving relationships,
- Krishna assumes the role of our friend or our child or our lover.
This is Goloka. Once in a day of Brahma, which is about 8 billion 64 million years, Krishna personally comes in this original form, and brings with him his eternal abode. When Krishna manifested 5000 years ago, he came with his abode, Vrindavan of this world, an identical expansion of his eternal residence, and along with his loving devotees: Nanda, Yashoda, Sri Radha, Vrishabhanu, Kirtida, Balaramji, Stoka Krishna, Sridama, Subala, Lalita, and Visakha. They all are eternal expansions of the one Supreme Lord from the spiritual world, who came to perform beautiful pastimes in this world, just to attract our hearts back into that pastime of love.
Srila Prabhupad explains how Krishna tells in the Gita,
paritranaya sadhunam vinashaya cha dushkritam
dharma sansthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge
“The Supreme Lord comes to annihilate the miscreants, to reestablish the principles of true dharma, and to give pleasure and protection to the pious.” But actually the Absolute Truth parabrahman could do that through His energies, he can do through saktyavesh–avatars, his empowered representatives, but the Lord comes in His original transcendental nature into this world, especially for the purpose of performing such beautiful pastimes, and giving us such deep profound teachings to awaken our love for Him.
Vrindavan is always Vrindavan. I will give an analogy. Each and every one of us is an eternal soul, sat-chit-ananda: eternal, full of knowledge and full of happiness. But due to negligence, we engage in so many varieties of selfish activities, and in doing so, so much pollution is accumulated in our mind that we can no longer recognize who we really are. The mind is a mirror. The mind is meant to reflect the pure nature of the soul, and its love for Krishna; but when the mind is covered by dust because we forget what its real purpose is, then all we see is dust.
Vrindavan is non-different from Krishna; it is Krishna’s abode. Sri Radharani is Vrindavaneshwari. Vrindavan is the expansion of her love to facilitate unlimited pleasures to Krishna. It is the abode of love. – Radhanath Swami
Although Krishna is in our heart and Krishna is everywhere, we cannot see unless the power of our love of our heart awakens; when that awakens it dissipates all the fog of illusion. The world is a mirror of the condition of our own minds. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur said, “I only find faults in others because I am honeycombed with faults myself”. When there is pollution within our own minds, then we will simply see whatever pollutions that people have covered this holy dham with, on the external level of consciousness.
Unfortunately, in recent times, so many people come to Vrindavan without really coming to serve the dham. People come in a material way. The difference between material and spiritual is very simple. Material is when I put myself in the center, my focus and purpose is about me, what can I gain from this in a selfish way? Selfish desires are when we want sensory pleasures, profit, prestige, and distinction. When we come to Vrindavan with these motivations, we offer these tendencies, and therefore there is so much pollution, on a gross and subtle level. There is absolutely nothing that human beings can do to the truth of Vrindavan, because Vrindavan is a spiritual place; this is always the eternal abode of the Lord. But, when we cover it in so many ways with our own pollutions, we are only covering our own abilities to appreciate what is really there, and we are making it so much more difficult for other people too. But when there is actual desire to serve with love, and if we come with a deep appreciation, although we want to make Vrindavan clean, as a seva and we pray and fight for that purpose, but we are seeing what it really is, Krishna’s divine abode.
vrindavanam parityajya padam ekam na gachhami
“Krishna never, for all eternity, takes a single step out of Vrindavan. This is His eternal abode.” Even in his lila in this world when he appeared to go to Mathura or Dwarka, or when he left this universe at the end of his past times, Govindam adi–purusam tam aham bhajami, that original Govinda, the king of madhurya-rasa, forever remains in Vrindavan, and when we have spiritual vision, when we have this appreciation, Krishna reveals Himself to us.
Radhanath Swami explaining the mood in which one has to approach Vrindavan Dham
Narottam Das Thakur taught us the attitude of approaching Vrindavan. Srila Prabhupada explains, you cannot actually come to Vrindavan by buying a ticket, you can get an airline ticket to Delhi, and you can get a train ticket to Agra or to Mathura, and you can get a tanga or a taxi or a bus to Vrindavan, which can put our physical body in the physical proximity which is Vrindavan. But Vrindavan is a state of consciousness.
We cannot actually enter into Vrindavan unless we come in the spirit of taking ourselves out of the center and putting Krishna in the center. Actually Krishna is always in the center; it is our illusion that we forget that, this is the nature of love to put the object of love in the center of everything we do. – Radhanath Swami
It is practical.
yat karosi yad asnasi
yaj juhosi dadasi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kurusva mad-arpanam
Krishna tells, “All that you do, all that you give away, whatever austerities you perform, whatever yoga, whatever occupation, whatever family responsibilities, whatever relationships, just put me in the centre; do it is an offering of love to me.” That will bring eternal charm, unlimited happiness to whatever we do because it becomes real. It’s the awakened state of our true self.
janasya mohaya maham a meti
These three principles are the very root of all suffering, the tendency to think in terms of ‘I’, ‘Me’ and ‘Mine.’ Maya is so subtle and so powerful that she will try to delude us even while we are trying to do devotional service, even when we are chanting the holy names.
param vijayate sri-krishna-sankirtanam
The prime benediction for all humanity is this Sankirtan.
kaler dosha–nidhe rajann
asti hy eko mahan gunah
kirtanad eva krishnasya
mukta–sangah param vrajet
“The age of kali is an ocean of faults, but there is one benediction – simply chanting Krishna’s holy names in kirtan, one can attain the perfection of liberation.” It is the ultimate blessing that the all beautiful, all loving Lord of all beings has appeared within the sound of the name. But maya’s power is that we can be doing kirtan putting ourselves in the center, thinking ‘Let me become famous; let me become popular, let me gain something through this chanting, may people love me for this chanting.’
Real kirtan is not just the chanting, it is the consciousness within where we chant. – Radhanath Swami
trinad api sunicena
taror api sahishnuna
kirtaniyah sada harihi
Lord Chaitanya said, this is the most important principle to understand when we are doing kirtan or japa, to be deeply attentive to our chanting, to be chanting to put Krishna in the center of our life, and to inspire everyone to see Krishna in the center of their life, not ‘me’, not ‘mine,’ but Krishna, and when we have this humility then Krishna will manifest through us individually and collectively. – Radhanath Swami
Sometimes when we do service, we think, ‘What can I gain from this service, either on the gross level like physical rewards, or on the subtle level like fame and prestige?’
Real kirtan is to give Krishna fame, to give Krishna prestige. The reality is, Krishna is supremely famous and that is one of his six opulences. All we have to do is just recognize it and help other people recognize it. And when our happiness is in putting Krishna in the center, our happiness becomes infinite and eternal because, Krishna is infinitely and eternally the supreme object of love. – Radhanath Swami
jnatva mam santim ricchati
Krishna tells in Gita, if we want to be peaceful, actual peace, there is no other way except to recognize that the Supreme Absolute Truth is the proprietor of everything that exists, and that everything is ultimately meant for God’s enjoyment and that Krishna is our most intimate loving friend in every situation. Gita tells that when we have this understanding and live accordingly, then we can attain a peace that none of the reversals, dualities neither earthquakes nor tsunamis nor nuclear bombs nor death itself nor even universal annihilation, nothing could disturb that peace because, it is within us. It is the awakening of our own souls and our own love for Krishna. Narottam Das Thakur teaches that when we approach Vrindavan our mood should be to put Krishna in the center. “My Lord, how can I serve you?”
visaya chadiya kabe suddha ha’be mana
kabe hama heraba sri-vrndavana
Thakur Narottam sings, when will that day come when I will be freed from all of my material desires, desire for profit, adoration, and distinction? When my life is truly to come to serve and give pleasure then I will see Vrindavan. Not only will we see Vrindavan when we come here to this holiest of all holy places but when we have this consciousness of putting Krishna in the center, we will see Vrindavan everywhere through our feelings of separation and through our remembrance of Krishna.
vrindavanam parityajya padam ekam na gacchati
Krishna never takes a step out of Vrindavan but yet Krishna is in all of our temples and Krishna is in our hearts, and Krishna is in everyone’s hearts, and Krishna is in his holy names when we chant-
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Wherever we chant the names sincerely, we are in Vrindavan and we can actually recognize it when we learn to really appreciate: what is Krishna’s mercy, what is the mercy of the Guru and the Vaishnavas, what is the glory of the chanting of the holy names, and the opportunity to serve.
Appreciation is of paramount importance in order to understand something’s value and if we do not understand its value, we will take the most precious thing to be something ordinary, take it for granted and not really benefit from what we have. – Radhanath Swami
If you have $10 million in a bank account but you don’t know that you have the bank account, what is the use of all that money? That is the situation for all of us.
Our natural inheritance is prema bhakti, eternal happiness, eternal liberation, Krishna, Sri Radha, and Vrindavan, that is what Krishna has given all of us, but we forgot where it is. We even forgot we have it. It’s our nature. – Radhanath Swami
jīv jāgo, jīv jāgo, gauracānda bole
kota nidrā jāo māyā-piśācīra kole
This is Lord Sri Chaitanya’s message, “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up sleeping souls! You are sleeping on the lap of maya. Wake up and chant these holy names – Mukunda, Madhava, Hari and understand who you really are, understand that the real happiness, the real wealth you are seeking in so many situations is within yourself.”
Bhakti is the process, the art of awakening our true spiritual potential to love and one of the nine processes of bhakti is padasevanam.
śravana, kīrtana, smarana, vandana,
pāda–sevana, dāsya re,
pūjana, sakhī–jana, ātma–nivedana
There are nine processes of devotional service: beginning with hearing about the Lord (Hari katha), chanting in kirtan and japa, speaking, smaranam (remembering), praying, worshiping, serving, becoming a friend, surrendering our everything and padasevanam, means to serve the lotus feet of the Lord.
One of the elements of padasevanam is pilgrimage to holy places. One of the nine limbs of bhakti is to come to holy places like Vrindavan, Navadweep, Puri, Dwarka, with a will to spiritually progress. We come to these holy places not so much to see as to serve. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur told, “Do not try to see Krishna, try to serve Krishna in such a way that he is pleased to see you,” and that is how we approach a holy place. What can we see just with these little eyes?
When we come to these holy places with a deep desire to serve the dham, to serve the deities, to serve the vrajvasis, to serve the cows, to serve the Vaishnavas, the devotees, to serve the Lord and His names, through that service attitude Vrindavan reveals herself to us. – Radhanath Swami
One time somebody who was living here in Vrindavan doing bhajan came to see Srila Gaur Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj and told him that, “I have just bought a nice property in Vrindavan,” and Gaur Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj understood his consciousness.
He became very strong with this person and in fact he chastised him. He said, “Who are you to think you could buy property in Vrindavan? What kind of wealth do you think you have, that you could buy property in Vrindavan? According to the saints and the scriptures, one single grain of dust in Vrindavan is chintamani, it is transcendental jewel. All the wealth in this world, in all the heavenly planets, in all the creation is not enough to purchase a single grain of dust from Vrindavan, and you are thinking you just bought an acre of land. You are in illusion! This is Krishna’s abode, you are not the proprietor. What a grand illusion! You have a deed with a contract and a land that is stamped by the Government and you say I am the proprietor. Sri Radharani is Vrindavaneshwari. She is the queen of Vrindavan; every molecular particle is her property, and it has infinite value because it is her property.” So, on a superficial material level we can think like this.
Radhanath Swami narrates the story behind the manifestation of Sri Sri Krishna Balaram temple
I was just reading about when Srila Prabhupada got the land for the Krishna Balaram temple. Somebody was actually going to donate this land. Do you all know the story? Please raise your hand if you do not know the story. Raise your hand if you know the story. Even I don’t know the story but I will try to tell something because what all can we know. Isaac Newton said, “When I am trying to know what this universe is, I am just picking little pebbles of sand on the shore of ocean of the knowledge that is meant to be gained.” This is the material world, what to speak of the spiritual world.
Anyways, Srila Prabhupad wanted a wonderful place in Vrindavan where people could come from all over the world to actually experience the bhakti here.
The blessings here in Vrindavan are infinite. Every grain of dust, every tree, every particle is saturated with the love and the devotion of all the great acharyas, who have done their bhajan here, and Sri Sri Radha-Krishna on a spiritual platform are eternally performing their pastimes. Wherever we perform our devotion, the results or the benefits are multiplied many times over in Vrindavan. When we are in Vrindavan in the month of Karthik, those benefits are thousands of times even more. So to be here in the holiest place at the holiest time with so many holy people is such a blessing. – Radhanath Swami
Srila Prabhupad lived in Vrindavan at the Radha Damodar temple for over six years. He was feeling, he was experiencing, he was reciprocating with Krishna’s and Radharani’s grace here and his dream was to bring people from all over the world to get their blessings, their grace, and be purified here. So, he left Vrindavan and he went to Mumbai, then to Calcutta, and then boarded the ‘Jaladuta’ to New York.
In 1970, he brought a group of his devotees back to India. He was travelling to various places in November of 1971 and he came with about 30 or 40 of his devotees to Vrindavan. First time in the history of the world, as far as I know, any group of foreigners ever came to Vrindavan. The Vrajvasis were astounded. They were not just a group of foreigners, but everyone had tilak, everyone had japa mala, everyone wearing dhotis and saris, everyone was carrying mridangas and kartals and performing kirtan and japa and with all their hearts; they came to worship Radha Krishna. The vrajvasis were happy and I was here at that time. I was very shyly standing in the corner watching all of this, with great wonder. From the little corner, I watched Yaduvar Prabhu and Vishakha Devi getting married in Vrindavan. Ceremony was presided over by Srila Prabhupada. It was beautiful and one of my God brother’s Nanda kumar was the pujari.
I was sleeping on the bank of the Yamuna and they asked me, “Why don’t you stay with us? We are all living here”.
But I was very attached to the bank of the Yamuna, so I said, “I will come”.
So, at about four in the morning, I would come and Nanda kumar would engage me in collecting flowers for the deities. He actually taught me how to pluck flowers from different places. We would go to various places of Vrindavan and pluck little flowers from the vines, to offer to Thakurji, Sri Sri Radharani and Krishna. During their travels, someone offered Srila Prabhupada some land and in India when somebody offers you land that could mean anything. Srila Prabhupad met Kshirodakshayi Vishnu Prabhu in London and he became a devotee. His origin was Indian, and he was a businessman. So Prabhupada sent him to try to arrange to get the land.
Srila Prabhupad was infinitely compassionate, loving, spiritually wise, and totally transcendental but also practical. He knew that the devotees have the tendency to be transcendental in their attempts, and so they become very impractical because while totally depending on Krishna we have to honor and respect the way the world works, and adjust accordingly.
So this devotee wrote to Prabhupada and said, “He is going to give us the land, he is going to give us the land”.
Prabhupada said, “Get the deed signed”.
The devotee didn’t think of that and forgot about that. Later he went to the person, “I want the deed signed.”
Person said, “Deed! Why do you want a deed?” So then it was becoming very serious. So the person said, “I want to give you this land.”
Then, when it came to the time of signing the deed, Srila Prabhupad said, “I will come at that time.”
At that point, the person said, “I don’t know if Srimati Radharani wants to give you the land or not. How can I give it unless Radharani assures me that this is what she wants, because it is not my land to give? It’s Radharani’s land and I don’t know.”
The devotee said, “I don’t know what Srimati Radharani wants, but I know my Guru Maharaj Srila Prabhupada wants it. I know that he really wants the land and he wants to use it in Krishna’s service. He doesn’t want to claim proprietorship over it. He wants to use it to serve Vrindavan, to serve Srimati Radharani and Lord Sri Krishna. Let me think about it.”
And then finally after some days the owner said, “There is only one way to know if Srimati Radharani wants me to give this land or not.” He said, “I am going to take two pieces of paper and I will write ‘Yes’ on one piece and fold it up, and write ‘No’ on the other piece and fold it up. And then mix them up and put them on the altar in front of Srimati Radharani’s lotus feet. Then you should pick one of those, and if you pick ‘No’, then I will never in my life give you the land, and if you pick ‘Yes’, I will give you the land instantly.”
This person was all alone. He said, “I can’t do that!” And he said, “My Guru told me that I am not allowed gambling and this is gambling.”
“So then,” the person said, “you will not get the land. There is no question, either you do this or the deal is off.”
So he was all alone. He had no one to consult.
He said, “Either do it now or never.”
So this devotee, from the core of his heart, prayed to Prabhupada, prayed to Srimati Radharani that, ‘Please give me the ‘Yes’ paper.’ Now put yourself in his position: Srila Prabhupada was in Calcutta or something and he is waiting for the news, and he doesn’t know what is happening here and he was so eager to serve Radharani and Krishna here in Vrindavan. So he approached the altar. Put yourself in his body for a moment, would you be nervous? He was trembling, he was really nervous. He was praying, vandanam, this process of devotional service, he was really deeply praying, ‘Krishna please, Srimati Radharani please, Srila Prabhupada please.’ He was praying, ‘Everybody please,’ and the papers looked exactly the same, and they were folded. He lifted one, and the whole destiny of Prabhupada’s movement in Vrindavan was in his hands. He opened it; on it was written ‘Yes’.
Srila Prabhupada was very happy when he got the news and he immediately sent two of his most faithful, devoted and competent followers: Yamuna Devi and Gurudas Prabhu. He told them, “You go to Vrindavan and lead this project.” So they came. I believe it was in April and I think they came just about the time when this land thing was happening. But, when they came to Vrindavan it was 125°F which means approximately 52°C. It was extremely hot summer. This is 1972 and I was here. I remember they were living on the roof top at Sri Sri Radha Damodar temple because they did not have the land yet. I am going to come back to that.
Prabhupada came immediately and he said, “Get the cornerstone now! We will sign the deed. As soon as the deed is signed, we will have the cornerstone laying ceremony. We will put in Anantasesha under the ground, and then the land belongs to Krishna and Radharani.” So he came. He was only coming for a day or two and they were signing the deed at the Radha Damodar temple. Shyamsundar Prabhu was Prabhupada’s secretary. He had a royal electric typewriter and Prabhupada was dictating the deed to him and he was typing and right when they were in the middle of the deed, all the power went out. In those days, you don’t know when the power was going to go back ON in Vrindavan. It could be out for the rest of the day. So, how do you write a deed because electric typewriters don’t work without electricity? So Srila Prabhupad turned to Yamuna Devi because Yamuna Devi was a master at the art of calligraphy that means very ornamented beautiful artistic handwriting.
In the early days in San Francisco and London, Srila Prabhupada would have Bhakti Shastri exams for the devotees. Exams were very simple in those days. When he saw her writing, he would have Yamuna Devi personally hand-write the certificate for each devotee. She would put golden basmins.
So Prabhupada told her, “I will dictate the letter and then you should make it a beautiful artistic calligraphy deed.” Meanwhile Srila Prabhupad wanted witnesses there, so he had many of his God brothers, many of the prominent Goswamis of Vrindavan, many of the government officials for Vrindavan together. They were all sitting in the room and the writing ended. So, Yamuna Devi had 20 minutes and she wrote this deed according to how Srila Prabhupad dictated it. She put gold on some of the letters and put nice stampings on it. It was beautiful! She brought it in and Srila Prabhupad held it up for everyone to see. No one had ever seen a legal deed like this. It was like the writings of the six Goswamis in English. Srila Prabhupad was showing everyone, “You see this nice daughter of mine, Yamuna Devi; you see how she makes her deeds?” Everyone was deeply inspired. Srila Prabhupad signed and everyone signed. So that original deed was artistically written by Yamuna Devi and that is how the land was procured at Krishna Balaram temple.
Radhanath Swami glorifies Yamuna Devi and explains the importance of following in the foot-steps of great personalities
I was recently reading part of the manuscript of Yamuna Devi’s biography. It began as an autobiography. But she had a feeling that Srila Prabhupad would be calling her back to him. So, she requested her very dear lifelong friend, Dinatarini Devi, to complete her memories if she physically departs.
Yamuna Devi explains that it was 52° C, that means 125° F, and she is from Oregon which is quite a cold windy place, near the ocean on the west coast of the northern part of America. It was very hot. In April- May, it kept getting hotter and hotter and the nights were as hot as the days. There were five men and she was the only lady. Everyday all the men were sleeping out, under the sky on the roof, where at least there was some air and some breeze, little bit, but because she was a lady, she could not sleep on the roof with all of them. So she had to sleep in this tiny little room that hardly had a window. There was no electricity, no running water, and no fan, and compared to the 125°F or the 52°C outside, it was hotter inside; it was like an oven. How to sleep?
She said, she would go downstairs, get water, soak a cloth with water, like one of her saris, and just put it on her whole body just for some little sense of moisture. But within 10 minutes it was bone dry. She writes that it was very difficult and what to speak of everything else they had to do: they had to build a temple, they hardly had any money, and they did not know how to do anything. They had to survive with nothing but then she would remember that, ‘for six years Srila Prabhupad lived through the summers here at Radha Damodar temple in the same place, he did not have anything more than I did, and if my Guru Maharaj Srila Prabhupad lived here and he endured all these difficulties for all of us, I should be joyful, I should be grateful to endure these difficulties in my service to him.’ Her life became so meaningful and so joyful. The situation didn’t change but her consciousness changed.
What was the change in consciousness? This is crucial for all of us to understand. She was grateful and therefore she was able to genuinely, from the core of her heart, appreciate what she was being given. This is the way we enter Vrindavan. Yamuna Devi was not here to enjoy; if she was here to enjoy, she would be suffering miserably. She was here to be enjoyed; she was here to serve. How was she able to see that? How was she able to transform her consciousness?
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told us that the only way to understand Vrindavan, the only way to understand Krishna, the only way to understand bhakti, the only way to understand kirtan is mahajano yena gatah sa panthah, which means to follow in the footsteps of the great souls. – Radhanath Swami
That is what was she captured in her heart. Sitting all night sleepless in a burning oven with hardly any air to breathe, knowing that it is going to get harder and harder for the next few months, having so many responsibilities, so much service to do, she just remembered her Guru, Srila Prabhupad. ‘He lived in this building, he lived in this place, and he passed through the same summers serving his Guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. My Gurudev was so grateful to be right beside the samadhi of Rupa Goswami, Jiva Goswami, Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami, right beside the Seva Kunj (the place of Sri Krishna and Sri Radha’s Rasalila).’ When she remembered the greatness of Prabhupad’s example, when she remembered the opportunity she had to follow in his footsteps and to serve him, the heat did not change, the circumstance did not change, but her consciousness totally transformed, and what was painful became joyful. She actually entered into the true spirit of Vrindavan, because she came in the mood of being the servant of the servant of the servant.
There is a poem by a great saint of the Pushti-Marg. He writes that, when I am walking through the forest of Vrindavan and a thorn pierces deeply into my barefoot, because it’s a thorn of Vrindavan, I feel 10 million times more happiness than the experience of mukti (of being eternally liberated in the Brahman realization). How many of you have had that experience? Say Haribol, say it louder. So, if you get pierced by thorns during the yatra, try to remember how fortunate you are; it is a matter of consciousness.
If we actually appreciate the blessing we have of being in Vrindavan, appreciate who Vrindavan is, then our hearts are actually receptive to really receive the grace of Vrindavan. – Radhanath Swami
Radhanath Swami describing Akrura’s mood while entering Vrindavan
Srila Prabhupad said, “When coming to Vrindavan we should be in the mood of Akrura.” After Krishna liberated Kesi, Aristasura and Vyomasura, Kamsa, the King of Mathura, was becoming extremely disturbed because he understood that Krishna was the eighth son of Devaki. He was going to kill him unless he killed Krishna. So he arranged two brutal rakshasas, powerful wrestlers to fight with Krishna and Balaram, and also arranged some massive elephants to assist. He told Akrura to go and bring Krishna and Balaram to Mathura.
Akrura loved Krishna. He loved Krishna more than everything on earth, he loved Krishna more than anyone on earth, and he knew that Krishna was the Supreme Lord. He was his uncle and Krishna was his nephew. He was being sent on a mission and the purpose was to kill Krishna and Balaram. So as he was riding in his chariot, he was praying, ‘Even though I am on such a bad mission of such a bad person, Krishna will understand. He knows my heart, He knows my love and I will see Him. After all these years I will see Krishna and I will serve Krishna. I will surrender my heart and life to Krishna.’ All the way tears were pouring from his eyes, and his heart was in anticipation, eagerness to surrender, to serve and to give his full body, mind, words and love to Krishna. That was his prayer. He was deeply absorbed in that spirit. When he came to the outskirts of Vrindavan in that state of mind, he was able to see the spiritual world.
ye yathā māḿ prapadyante
tāḿs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
“As we approach, as we surrender to Krishna, Krishna reveals Himself accordingly.” Vrindavan is His abode. As Akrura was coming, he saw in the sacred dust of Vrindavan and saw the footprints of Krishna and Balaram and his love for Krishna awakened in such a way that in ecstasy, he fell from his chariot, he lay on the ground, and put his body fully in the dust of that footprint of Krishna. . He was approaching with such humility, gratitude, appreciation, and he was feeling himself so infinitely fortunate, a fortune that he did not deserve, that when he saw the footprints of Krishna, he gave his life.
When he went little bit forward, he met Krishna and Balaram. There Krishna was like a playful child and he smiled upon Akrura. He knew his heart. Akrura was a messenger of Kamsa but Krishna doesn’t see the external aspects.
Srila Prabhupad explains – Krishna does not see everything that is offered; He sees the intent, the purpose in which it is offered. – Radhanath Swami
Now, many people would think that Akrura was really a terrible person, a messenger of Kamsa to bring Krishna back to Mathura with the intent to destroy him. But Krishna is the parmatma; Krishna understood Akrura’s heart. He was coming with love, with total faith, surrender, with the will to serve. He was coming to offer his life and so Krishna smiled upon him. Krishna knew everything. He embraced Akrura, he honored and respected Akrura and brought him home for prasad.
Akrura’s mission was to take Krishna out of Vrindavan for the first time. Everyone else in the whole vrajbhumi was very disturbed with this, but Krishna understood his heart and was pleased. What does surrender mean?
Saranagati, surrender is not defeat, in the material sense when one army loses the war to another, they surrender, there is nothing sweet about that. But saranagati is the sweetest of all sweet things. Surrender is when out of love and gratitude, we surrender our will to the will of our beloved Krishna. It’s the eternal final conquest of truth over illusion, it’s when our love for God conquers over our false ego, the ahankar, it is when the bliss (the ananda of the soul) once and for all conquers all the miseries due to envy, lust, greed, arrogance and illusion. Saranagati means liberation, liberation from selfishness and egoism, liberation from birth and death. Saranagati means entering into the realm of pure unalloyed love to receive Krishna’s infinite love, and to offer our love. The Srimad Bhagavatam tells, when you water the root of the tree every part of the tree is nourished. In that saranagati, in that sweet surrender of love to Krishna, then we recognize the truth. – Radhanath Swami
Krishna says, “When one is enlightened by this truth, one sees that all living beings are in me, are of me and are mine.”
aham bija-pradah pita
“We see every living being as a part of Krishna,” and therefore inherently we love everyone. We see everything that exists as Krishna’s property.
Radhanath Swami elaborates on Srila Prabhupada’s instructions in seeing Krishna everywhere
Once someone asked Srila Prabhupad, “How do we see Krishna everywhere, because Krishna tells in Bhagavad-Gita, ‘For one who sees Me everywhere and everything in Me, for him I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me,’ how we are supposed to see Krishna everywhere?”
Because of his deep compassion, because he cared so deeply for everyone, Srila Prabhupad could make the most profound and inconceivable philosophical concepts so simple and practical to understand. May I tell you his answer? That is a very deep, profound, mystical, inconceivable conception, how to see Krishna everywhere?
Srila Prabhupad pointed to his table, his spectacles or eyeglasses were sitting there. Srila Prabhupad said, “When you see these eyeglasses, what do you think?”
Then the devotee said, “I think these are Prabhupad’s eyeglasses.”
And he said, “and what do you feel when you see those eyeglasses?”
“When I see the eyeglasses, I remember you, and when I remember you, my heart feels with love for you.”
He said, “Just like that, everything is Krishna’s. As we become Krishna conscious, we see that everything is Krishna’s, and therefore everything we see, it reminds us of Krishna. When we are reminded of Krishna, we feel so grateful and our love awakens for Krishna. When we read Krishna book, when we chant the names of Krishna, when we read the Bhagavad-Gita, the Srimad Bhagavatam, the more we know about Krishna, the more we naturally love Krishna, and whatever we see it reminds of Krishna. I see a pillar, I see floor, I see a light bulb, there is no bliss in seeing that kind of stuff, but spiritual vision means this is Krishna’s energy, that means, Krishna is in his energy, and I remember Krishna, I remember Krishna’s name, I remember Krishna’s pastimes, I remember the beautiful descriptions of Krishna’s form, and I appreciate and seeing that floor is awakening love in my heart. That is Krishna consciousness!”
This is how we enter Vrindavan. We are coming as beggars.
naivarhaty abhidhatum vai
Kunti Devi prayed that Krishna, “Those who are too much attached and proud of their wealth, their education, their beauty or their high birth or placement in society, they cannot chant your holy names with humility and feeling.” Tvam akincana–gocaram means you are the property of those who are impoverished. What does that mean? That doesn’t mean to be in poverty on a material level, it doesn’t mean necessarily that if you give away all your wealth, you leave your family and you sleep under a tree, you are going to be able to chant the holy names purely. Most people, if they do that, will die, and they will be in so much anxiety.
Yudhishtir Maharaj was the king, Parikshit Maharaj was the king with palace, but they were akincana–gocaram, because they understood nothing is mine. Krishna tells in the Gita, “I am the intelligence of the intelligent, I am the strength of the strong, I am the ability in people and I am the proprietor of everything.” We are the caretakers, we are instruments, and it is not our position to lord it over. It is not our position to exploit, and it is not our position to take credit. That is bondage. The liberated state, the free condition is- gopi–bhartur pada-kamalayor dasa-dasa-dasanudasah.
akincana–gocaram means to genuinely feel in our heart, ‘I am the servant of the servant and my only wealth, my only property is the opportunity to serve.’ Whatever we do, Krishna sees to the extent that this is our intent, and that is how he reciprocates. When we come to Vrindavan, in our hearts we are coming like beggars, we come to beg for mercy, beg for grace, beg for the opportunity to hear about Krishna, to chant Krishna’s names, beg to serve, beg for that love, and when that eagerness consumes us then we are actually in Vrindavan. – Radhanath Swami
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu valued Vrindavan very much. When we see how the great personalities perceived Vrindavan, then we get some understanding of how we can enter into Vrindavan. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wanted to see Gopal more than anything in creation. Gopal, Srinathji was residing on the top of Govardhan hill. Practically, he was yearning to see the darshan of his Param Guru’s Ishtadev, but he was seeing Govardhan as Krishna’s body and he would not put his foot on Krishna’s body. He circumambulated the whole Govardhan hill but he was seeing Krishna directly, personally in Govardhan. When he first approached Giriraj, the first stone he saw of Govardhan hill, he embraced that stone. It was a big stone. He was weeping and weeping and weeping, torrents of tears in the mood of Sri Radha, who he was. He was directly embracing the body of Krishna. Srinathji Gopal had to arrange a special pastime because Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was longing to see Srinathji Gopal, and Gopal was longing to see Him. ‘Ye yatha mam prapadyante, when we yearn to see Krishna, Krishna will yearn to see us.’ When we take him for granted, he will tell us, “Alright go ahead, go ahead, do what you are doing.” But Mahaprabhu would not put his foot on Govardhan hill.
So one day, while Lord Chaitanya was there, somebody came to the village of Anior and said, “There is an army of Turkish soldiers, they are about to attack here, so we should all evacuate and we should hide Gopal.” So they went up the hill, took Srinathji down the hill, and brought Him to a little village not far from Giriraj. Lord Chaitanya went to that village and did not leave Srinathji Gopal for all those days. He was dancing and singing for Gopal and after some days they realized that it was all a rumor, there was never any army or soldiers anywhere. So they went, they had a procession back and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was dancing and singing
HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE
HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE
When they went to climb upon Govardhan hill, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu stopped and offered his dandavats, his prostrated obeisances. This was his appreciation of Vrindavan, and not to take it for granted.
We are not supposed to see with our eyes, we are supposed to see with our ears. As we hear how the great personalities have approached vrajbhumi and as we read in the scriptures, that is, how we see. – Radhanath Swami
Radhanath Swami explains Srila Prabhupada’s instructions in approaching Sri Radha Kund
Sri Radha Kund which is at the foot of Govardhan hill is non-different than Sri Radharani, and the water of that kund is Sri Radha’s love. Her body, her love in liquid form is in Radha Kund, and Krishna personally spoke that, “Sri Radha, as you are most dear to me, in the same way your kund, Radha Kund, is most dear to me.” Rupa Goswami also describes the glories of Sri Radha Kund. Raghunath Das Goswami, our prayojana acharya, who taught us the highest limits of love of God, made his residence on bank of Radha Kund. When Srila Prabhupad heard that the devotees went to Radha Kund, holiest of all holy places and were swimming and joking, Prabhupad was not happy with that. We have to understand, appreciate, humble ourselves with gratitude to actually enter into Vrindavan and he taught us something. It is not just an external method; it is a state of consciousness. Everything Srila Prabhupad was teaching us was to transform our consciousness. We have to take it deeply.
He said, “When you go to Radha Kund, it should be in a prayerful mood, bow down and your bath should be to just take a drop or few drops of that sacred water and sprinkle it on your head.” What does that mean? It means to deeply humble ourselves, to feel so infinitely grateful, so infinitely disqualified for the amount of mercy that we are receiving, that to just touch a drop of this water is an inconceivable blessing, and we should be weeping, we should be on our knees forever offering gratitude, thinking, ‘I don’t deserve this but by the mercy of Guru and the Vaishnavas, by the mercy of Sri Radharani, I get to see Radha Kund and be touched by a drop of that water.’
Whether we put a drop on our head or whether we fully submerge ourselves in a bath in Radha Kund, the actual true spiritual benefits that we are going to access is to the degree we have that consciousness that this drop is more priceless than anything, and to be touched by this drop is a greater blessing than earning millions of crores of rupees and living in beautiful palaces, it is more precious than having millions of followers who honor me or worship me, it is more precious than being liberated from suffering from this world forever, and it is more precious than all the siddhis of the mystics. This is Sri Radha’s love.
This drop from Radha Kund is considered the most precious thing in existence by Krishna himself, and who am I with all my lust, envy, anger, greed, illusions, and attachments, who am I to approach this drop? But by the mercy of Guru and Vaishnavas and by the mercy of Sri Radha, I am being touched by this drop. This is the spirit that Srila Prabhupad taught us of how to approach Vrindavan, how to approach the holy name, how to approach the opportunity to serve in whatever situation that may be; this is Krishna consciousness. We are conscious of Krishna’s grace, Krishna’s beauty, and Radha’s love and when we are conscious of that, how can we be proud?
Pride, false pride is a gross exposure of how far away we are from Krishna. To the degree we connect to divine grace, we are humbled, humbled in a way that we are so grateful, so eager to serve and to reciprocate with that love, humility, gratitude, appreciation makes our service irresistible to Krishna. – Radhanath Swami
How is that? Sri Radha is the hladini shakti; she is the pleasure potency of Lord Krishna. She is the reservoir of all prema or love. When we connect to her grace through bhakti then that devotion, that love which awakens in us, it is the grace of Sri Radha and when we offer that to Krishna, even a drop of her love, like a drop of Radha kund, that drop coming from us is irresistible to Krishna. This is bhakti! This is Vrindavan! This is the realm of the magic of the highest reality of the spiritual world. Should I continue?
Radhanath Swami describes the pastime of Lord Chaitanya reciprocating to King Prataparudra’s desire
King Prataparudra was the king of all of Orissa, a majestic Gajapati with beautiful palace, armies, great wealth, but he understood from his Guru, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, that Lord Chaitanya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, mahajano yena gatha sapantha. When he saw how Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya was transformed from being a liberated soul in mukti to be an ecstatic follower of prema bhakti, he wanted that.
Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya was asked by King Prataparudra, “Who is this sannyasi that has just come to Puri? I heard about Him.”
Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya said, “He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
He immediately accepted it and he wanted his darshan but when Lord Chaitanya returned from South India, he was not willing to give darshan. He wanted King Prataparudra’s heart to churn to understand the value of serving the Lord, and he wanted a lesson to be given to the whole world, to you and me, for all time.
Maharaj Prataparudra had achieved everything materially, a person could want. He was the undisputed king, there were no elections every four years, and he did not have to make allies with opposing parties to stay in power. Everybody loved him because he was such a fair and loving father to the whole kingdom. He knew that love for Krishna means service to Krishna. He had everything but he understood that without love for God, without love for Krishna, everything he had was like so many zeros. Prabhupad’s example that material acquisition, whether it be wealth or fame or followers or knowledge or mystic powers, whatever it means, from a spiritual perspective, it is all zeroes. Some people have one zero, some people have two, and some people have ten million zeroes. Some people work so hard birth after birth after birth and they acquire hundred million zeroes, and you know what it takes to defend a 100 million zeroes, you have to give your whole life to get it, whole life to protect it, but when you add them all up, it is zero. But, when you understand that it is all meant for Krishna’s service, bhakti, it is putting a ‘one’ in front of those zeroes. It does not mean that you have to give up the zeros, you just put ‘one’ in front and then it is actually ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, million, hundred million, billion, trillion, or a quadrillion.
King Prataparudra understood that, ‘Without devotion to Krishna my whole kingdom is useless.’ He was willing to give it up and become a beggar, if that is what was required to serve Lord Chaitanya. And ultimately at the time of the Ratha yatra, King Prataparudra, from his heart, accepted the role of a sweeper of a street and swept the road. Lord Chaitanya was watching from a distance. He was not just seeing the sweeping, he was seeing the heart, the intent King Prataparudra was feeling, ‘I am just the most humble servant of the Lord,’ and at that moment Lord Chaitanya decided to bestow upon him His full mercy.
Radhanath Swami describes the spirit of Vrindavan by glorifying Sri Madanmohan Brajwasi
One of our very dearest friends, just a few days ago passed from the world, I would like to speak something about him because if you open your ears and your hearts to hear what I am about to say, it will help us to really understand what is the spirit of Vrindavan. His name was Madanmohan Brajwasi. He was a vrajwasi from koshi. Generation, generation, countless generations, as far as I know, as far as time could trace out, his family has lived in Vrindavan, Vrajbhumi. The first time I met him years and years ago. He was very humble, sweet, and pure, and he had natural spontaneous love for Krishna. There was absolutely no trace of envy or ego in him. He was just a simple, pure brajwasi and when he sang kirtan, it was so effortless: it just flowed from his heart, and it flowed from his soul (his atma) with love through his mouth. He was perhaps the most popular singer in all of vrajbhumi.
For about 30 years, I was told, every day, I think from 5 to 6 o’clock at night on all Vrindavan radio stations, they would have recordings of him singing. At All India Radio in Delhi, he would record and they would play special shows regularly. But yet he just loved to serve, he could sing Krishna’s names day and night. He would sometimes come to Mumbai; I could speak for hours. Can I tell you one story about him? What time I am supposed to end? The managers haven’t decided, so should I continue?
When I was at the bedside of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj during his last days with us in this world, we had an agreement that whatever time we spent together, all day we would only talk about Krishna, Lord Chaitanya, the great saints, our beloved Guru Maharaj, and the Vaishnavas because from the medical perspective he was supposed to pass from the world every day. When I came, they said, “He had at most three days,” and I was with him eight weeks; that means every day he could go. So the conversations, the kirtans were very deep; nothing superficial meant anything.
One day, this is in the last one or two weeks, I got a phone call that some of the vrajwasis that I have known for 43 years were in America doing kirtan and speaking from the Srimad Bhagavat, and they really wanted to see me. But I knew that usually they are either in Washington DC or New York or California or New Jersey, and here I am in the middle of Pennsylvania. Also, I promised that I would not leave Bhakti Tirtha Swami; I would be in his bedside as long as he was still living with us. But they really wanted to see me.
I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I will be able to come.”
But I tried finding out where they are and somebody called me back and said, “They are in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania which is just 45 minute drive.”
So I said to Srila Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj, “Do I have your permission to go and actually I will try to bring them back to sing for you.”
And he said, “Yes, you go.” He said, “I promise, I will stay alive until you get back.”
So I said, “Promise?”
He said, “I can’t, I am not the controller but I promise; that’s my wish.”
So I went and I called, “Are you still alive?”
“Yes, yes, I am there.”
Every now and then I would call, “Are you still alive?”
“Yes, yes,” he said, “because I want to die in your arms”
And I promised him so I had to be there. So I went and they were at some home: Panditji, Narasimha baba, Giridhar, Madanmohanji. They were performing kirtan. Madanmohanji and I honored prasad, and I told him about my friend that he could die any day, “Will you come back with me to sing?”
They said, “Yes, we will come”.
So I had a van and we were driving. We came back and we came into Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s room. He was lying in his bed, he couldn’t sit up and Madanmohan vrajwasi began to sing a beautiful song about Srimati Radharani and Krishna in his very pure spontaneous loving spirit. He sang with such simple, sweet devotion.
When someone chants Krishna’s names or prayers of Sri Radha without ego, with sincere affection, the power of the name can penetrate to our very soul. – Radhanath Swami
As Madanmohan vrajwasi was singing, His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami went into a state of total ecstasy. There were only a few of us in the room but his disciples, who were his caretakers, had never ever seen him in this state before. He was uncontrollably crying, not just crying, wailing. I can’t try to imitate him but he was crying out Krishna’s name, tears, torrents of tears were flowing and pouring from his eyes, his limbs were trembling and he was just crying out loud, and Madanmohanji was just sitting there singing, just a very small man. Everyone was crying to see Bhakti Tirtha Swami connect to the holy name in that way. All of us had that experience with him. It was incredible!
It went on and on and when finally Madanmohan vrajwasi ended the singing, Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj was beside himself, with a choked voice he said, “I wanted to leave my body in Vrindavan, but I wanted to show the world that wherever there is a temple of my Guru Maharaj, that is Vrindavan. So, I decided to leave my body here.” He said, “But Srimati Radharani and Shyamsundar, Vrindavan came to me in the form of a vrajwasi to bless me before I die.” He was so thankful. It was something beautiful.
While I was with Bhakti Tirtha Swami, taking care of him, I got a phone call from Mumbai that our very dear devotee Stoka Krishna Prabhu had just been diagnosed with the worst possible type of cancer. They said, “He had three weeks to live.”
I spoke to him on the phone. I have told this story so many times. He was only 32 years old, and he was just married about two years or three years before. He just had a baby, beautiful little girl, but he was telling me, “Why is this happening to me? Why am I so fortunate that I had so many opportunities in my life to hear Srimad Bhagavatam? Why am I so fortunate that I had so many opportunities: to chant the holy name, to be in the association of devotees, to offer arati, to attend arati, and to serve? I don’t deserve this and I am so fortunate. That was his mood; he was always smiling and grateful. That was in June. After Srila Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj passed away from the world with hundreds of people around him chanting, crying, in love and gratitude; it was the most beautiful departure possible.
When I was flying back to India, the sirens were going off in the airplane, and they announced an emergency landing. The entire control system of the airplane went out and they would have to land at about 500 miles an hour. They kept telling in the announcement, “Put your head between your legs,” and everybody knew that very likely we were going to die. It was very suspenseful and I remember, I was chanting and I was thinking, ‘Bhakti Tirtha Swami was dying, and everywhere in the world people were praying for him and blessing him, and I am going to probably die and nobody is saying anything for me, it is just me and the holy name and Prabhupada.’ For all part I was chanting in that state, it was without doubt ‘the best japa’ I ever had on an airplane in my life. We were bouncing on the runway and there were bulk fire engines with their hoses and ambulances all around the plane. We were bouncing and bouncing and bouncing and somehow the plane landed and the fire hoses were all around us, because they told us that at any second we could be on fire. Finally the plane started moving and the pilot said, “We are sorry for the inconvenience but thank you for flying with us and we hope that next time you fly, you choose British Airways.”
That was such an emotional experience for me. Every time I come from India or to India, I go through British Airways, just out of gratitude. I was in my own fallen little way, when everybody else was like screaming and crying, I was doing Hare Krishna; I was actually having a glimpse of Radharani and Krishna while I was chanting. Krishna tells in Bhagavad-Gita that in his abode, the spiritual world, there is no need for sun or moon or electricity. Wherever there is a need for sun or moon or electricity, there will be anxiety.
That is why his abode is Vaikuntha. I am trying to philosophically give a lesson to what just happened, should I try? There is some bhog in vipralamba.
There is union and separation, and separation actually increases the experience of love and happiness when there is reunion. When we take that divine principle and reflect it within this world, it is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder; that sometimes we don’t understand the value of something or someone until we lose them. It is human nature to take things for granted. But when something is taken away, then we understand how valuable it is. – Radhanath Swami
So we have been sitting here, talking, thinking and speaking for so many hours and we are not thinking, ‘Oh! How nice that by Krishna’s grace, by Sri Radharani’s grace we are in Vrindavan, and we have this electricity where we could actually hear.’ Yes? We take it for granted, but when it is taken away, and now we understand the value of having a sound system to hear. So it is very nice.
I got off the airplane and met with Stoka Krishna Prabhu on Advaitacharya’s appearance day, a very very holy day in January. Stoka Krishna Prabhu was going through the very last stages. The night before, I saw that he was going; and he was fully conscious. I said to Stoka Krishna Prabhu, “I believe Srila Prabhupad and Sri Sri Radha Gopinath are waiting for you at the other side of that doorway.”
And he said, “I am ready to go.” He was smiling, and he said, “I know that they are waiting for me and I could feel them waiting for me, and I have no attachments in this world. I am ready.” He was so sincere, so humble, and so simple. The next day, I was chanting at his bedside with him but since I was up for most of the night, I was really tired; so I decided to go to my room to rest for a few minutes. As soon as I lay on the straw mat on the floor, somebody knocked on my door. I was thinking, “Oh, who is this?” and I opened the door.
I don’t know who the devotees were and they said, “We just came from Vrindavan and we have garlands from Radha Govind temple, Radha Shyamsundar temple, Krishna Balaram temple, and from Radha Raman. We also have water from Radha kund, Yamuna, and Govind kund.” They were giving me all these things: just piles of garlands and all these different little vessels of water.
So, I went to Stoka Krishna. He was lying there and I put all the garlands on him, sprinkled all the water on him, and put all tulasi leaves from all different places: Seva Kunj, Nidhuban, and the lotus feet of all the main deities of Vrindavan. I put it on him and the kirtan was going on. Then I went in my room and lay down. Again I heard knocking sound on the door. So, I got up and opened the door. Somebody had just come from Govardhan and they had the garlands and the tulasi leaves from Raghunath Das Goswami Samadhi and dust from Govardhan hill. So I went in again and sprinkled it on Stoka Krishna Prabhu. He was just lying there. And I went again to my room to try to get a few minutes to rest.
(Knocking sound) I opened the door. It was Madanmohan Vrajwasi. I just was with him when he was singing for Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj, just before he left. I thought this is such a blessing! I said, “Would you like to sing kirtan for Stoka Krishna Prabhu?”
“Yes! Yes!” He does not speak English; he could to kirtan day, night, and any time. So he sat and he was playing a harmonium. He was singing and everyone was chanting. I was sitting at the bedside and Stoka Krishna was covered with garlands, tulasi leaves and chandan from all the holy places and that is how he left this world.
Now, Madanmohan Vrajwasi had a favorite song, it is a beautiful vrajwasi song where he is singing about how his greatest prayer in life is to sweep Sri Radha Rani’s palace, to sweep the steps of Sri Radha Rani’s home, to sweep the forest pathways of Ghevarvan, Barsana and Sri Vrindavan. This is the prayer, ‘Let this be my only desire, just to sweep the pathways and the steps for Sri Sri Radha Krishna in their abode,’ and he was saying this for so many years. He was 83 years old. He was living at Maan-mandir and every day, as far as I understand, even though he was such a famous singer, such a great saintly person, he would spend over two hours all alone just sweeping the steps that lead to Sri Radharani and Krishna’s temple; sweeping all the way from the top to the bottom. Nobody noticed him, nobody cared about him, but he would just be blissfully sweeping and singing the songs. The day before Sharad Purnima, he was all alone sweeping the steps to Sri Sri Radha Govindji’s temple, and Sri Radharani took his life. What he was saying his whole life and what he gave his life to, was his final moment of sweeping the steps of Sri Radha’s temple. He passed from the world sweeping. Just yesterday, we went to his family’s home for the 12th day ceremony and we were remembering him. But this is how we appreciate Vrindavan. To be a sweeper in Vrindavan is such a blessing.
Gaur Kishore Das Babaji saw some sweet little vrajwasi people sweeping and as they were sweeping, they were covered with the dust that they were sweeping. He said, “These are the most fortunate people in all of creation. You are wealthy! Every particle of that dust is chintamani, it is priceless and you are covered with the dust.” One time a person bowed down, did his dandavats to Gaur Kishore Das Babaji and started taking the dust off him, and Gaur Kishore Das Babaji said, “What are you doing? Do you know it is taking you millions of births to have the opportunity to be touched by that dust and you are so recklessly just wiping it off you?” This is the appreciation.
Radhanath Swami instructs on the right mood to receive their Lordships grace by glorifying Syamananda Goswami
Shyamananda, earlier in his life, his Guru, Hridaya Chaitanaya from Ambika Kalna in Bengal, gave him the name, Dukhi Krishna. He was a great scholar. He came to live in Vrindavan about 450 years ago. His Guru was Hridaya Chaitanya but his siksha guru was Jiva Goswami. He was studying at the Radha Damodar temple and his classmates were Srinivasa Acharya and Narottam Das Thakur. Shyamananda Goswami was a pure enlightened acharya. Later on, he had tens and thousands of followers. He was a great scholar of the Vedanta and the scriptures. He was perfect in every way but every day for many hours, his seva was just to be on his hands and knees with one of those little vrajwasi brooms and keep sweeping Nidhivan and the whole area of Seva Kunj. Brooms there have no handles. They just take some straw, you have seen, and just wrap something around the top, get on their knees and sweep. In those days there was no pavement. It was just dusty paths. He would be on his knees sweeping.
You see there is gyana and there is vigyana. We can study scriptures, we could memorize slokas, we could memorize philosophy, we could be trained to defeat all opposition to what we believe, but none of that indicates any realization.
Vigyana, realization of the knowledge we learn comes through the humility of our service. One of the greatest most worshipable acharyas to this day was teaching us how to appreciate Vrindavan with such love and with such gratitude. He would sweep the pathways practically all day every day and because he was so grateful to be doing this seva in this holy place, feeling himself so undeserving that Krishna reciprocated.- Radhanath Swami
One day when he was sweeping, he found a beautiful little ankle bracelet. When he saw it, something happened in his heart, and he understood that this is very special. Srimati Radharani put that anklet when she was performing her lila dancing with Krishna and just for Shyamananda, it fell off. Lalita Sakhi, Sri Radha’s original expansion and closest friend, disguised herself and went to Shyamananda and said, “Did you see an ankle bracelet here? I am looking for it. My dear friend has lost it.”
Shyamananda said, “I will only give it to your friend.”
So, she said, “Come with me.”
There is ‘prakata’ and ‘aprakata’ Vrindavan. There is the manifest and the un-manifest. In the un-manifest, it is the lila of the Lord that is beyond our material vision and which is the inner substance of Vrindavan, the reality. Lalita Sakhi brought Dukhi Krishna into the inner realm of the aprakata Vrindavan. Dukhi Krishna realized that now he had the form of a gopi and his name was Kanaka manjari. Lalita Sakhi brought this little gopi to Srimati Radharani and he presented the ankle bracelet to Sri Radha. Sri Radha took that ankle bracelet and pushed it on his forehead and made a tilak, a very special tilak and gave him the name Shyamananda, which means one who gives great pleasure to Sri Radha. Also she gave a deity of Krishna named Shyamsundar. If you go to the Radha Shyamsundar temple, you will see the original smaller deity of Shyamsundar that was given by Sri Radharani to Shyamananda Goswami. Then he came back into his form again in this world and now his name was Shyamananda and he had this tilak on. He continued sweeping the dusty pathways of Vrindavan. The rest of the story is very very beautiful, but what we want to understand from what we have just spoken is, because he valued, he appreciated, he was so humble and grateful for the opportunity to sweep the pathways of Vrindavan, he received that darshan, and he accessed that grace. We cannot imitate him but in whatever we are doing, there is no service that is great or small in any devotional service to the Lord.
Radhanath Swami instructs on service attitude by glorifying Srila Narottam Das Thakur
I will just speak one more story of sweeping and then we do have to end till tomorrow. Narottam Das Thakur was the son of zamindar, a great king, a landowner, who had massive wealth, and he left everything to come to Vrindavan. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, hearing him crying for him, appeared in a vision to Narottam Das Thakur, and told him that you go to Vrindavan and Lokanath Goswami will be your Guru. When Narottam Das Thakur came, Lokanath Goswami was in a state of separation because Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami had recently left this world, and his beloved dear most friends and Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had left the world, and Swarup Damodar Goswami and all of his dear most friends had left the world. So he was in a state of deep separation as he offered worship or seva to Radha Vinod, his worshipable deity.
Narottam very humbly approached and prayed, “Please accept me as your servant.” Lokanath Goswami said, “In my life I have never initiated anyone and I have no intention to do so. I am feeling so much love in separation, I can hardly even live, how can I start a new life of being a Guru? It’s not possible.” But Narottam Das Thakur wanted to serve his Guru, initiation or not, he understood the value of seva. Lokanath Goswami was so humble and he would not allow anyone to do anything for him.
Thakur Narottam, early in the morning, would go to the place in the forest where Lokanath Goswami would respond to the call of nature. Before he would take his morning bath in the River Yamuna every morning, before he would come Narottam Das Thakur as little sweeper, he would sweep the place with his own hands, he would clean the urine and stool that were left before, and sweep it and make it perfectly nice: thoroughly, meticulously, and beautifully. Next day, Lokanath Goswami would come, respond to nature’s call and bathe in the river. This was going on for weeks and after some time Lokanath Goswami was thinking, ‘Who is doing this? Why is this place always so clean? It’s just the forest, it’s just dust, and the riverbank is at a little distance.’
So one morning he went very early to that place and he hid. He was hiding behind bushes and he saw Narottam Das Thakur with a little broom sweeping, sweeping the dust from the riverbanks, sweeping the dust in the forest where there was urine and stool, he carefully removed it with his hands, and swept and took water from Yamuna and sprinkled it very nicely. As he was sweeping, his body was covered by the dust, he was weeping in love, in humility with gratitude as he was singing beautiful songs. Lokanath Goswami could not believe this. He came out from the bushes. “Narottam! What are you doing? Why? Why are you doing this? You are a prince, you are the son of a king, you are a great scholar, and you are a saint, why are you on your hands and knees cleaning the stool and urine of another person? Why are you on the ground sweeping the dust? This is not befitting of you.”
Narottam Das Thakur revealed the essence to all of us in his response with tears of love and gratitude, and in a choked voice he said, “I have left all the treasures of the wealth and the power of the fame of this world to come here, and now by your grace Guru Maharaj, I have attained the ultimate fortune, the opportunity to render humble menial service for you.” This is how he valued seva. This is how he valued the simplest, most menial form of seva- sweeping a sewage area. He was not seeing it as a sewage area, he was seeing it as Vrindavan, and he was seeing it as Vaishnava seva. At that time, Lokanath Goswami’s heart changed. He said, “Yes, I will initiate you”.
Radhanath Swami speaks on the mood to see Vrindavan Dham by giving examples of great acharyas
We have come to Sri Vrindavan Dham following in the footsteps of these great souls. Let this be our meditation. Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami were multibillionaires by today’s standards. They were the prime minister and finance minister of an entire kingdom. They had palaces, jeweled ornaments, the best of clothes, the best food; they had incredible power and popularity. They escaped it. Sanatana Goswami was willing to be persecuted and imprisoned with the hope of coming to Vrindavan. When they came here, they slept in the dust, under a different tree every night. What was their gratitude? What was their appreciation? They were not thinking, ‘I am sleeping in the hard cold ground under a tree.’
Please understand that there were cold winters and hot summers, and sometimes wet monsoons. They begged for food. They would get some wheat grains, which grew in the sacred soil of Vrindavan, add some Yamuna water, make a ball, throw it in a blazing fire, take it out and offer it to Krishna. That is what they were eating: begging, getting some chickpeas, cheapest foods, and sleeping on the ground. But they were in the Gopi bhava, they were in the ultimate happiness, and they were grateful. They were seeing every tree as Krishna’s kalpavrikshas, they were feeling the soil as the chintamani dham soil. They were grateful. This was a wealth billions of times greater than anything else that can be attained. That is how they were living. We cannot imitate them but what was their appreciation of Vrindavan. Raghunath Das Goswami would do two thousand pranaams, dandavat pranaams to the Vaishnavas every day, to Krishna and Radharani every day, to the devotees every day, two lakhs of chanting Hare Krishna every day and he would do Govardhan parikrama every day. Such value!
So I will end here today with this preparation for our yatra. Inconvenience or convenience, it is all a matter of how you interpret it with your mind.
Let us be grateful and let us really try to appreciate the value of the fortune of what Srila Prabhupad has given us: entrance into Vrindavan. We have the opportunity to make immense volumes of spiritual advancement at every moment when we are here. Let us see Vrindavan through the eyes of the scriptures in this sense, and let us be grateful to each other, because if we don’t feel gratitude towards the Vaishnavas, if we don’t honor and respect the Vaishnavas, there is no possibility of entering into the mood of Vrindavan. – Radhanath Swami
Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami was living here and he gave us a glimpse. He actually spoke the words of all the great acharyas when he said that, “I offer my prostrated obeisances and worship the dust of the feet of every single devotee, the advanced acharyas, all the way to the new coming neophytes who are just getting inspired to follow bhakti, anyone who is approaching Krishna. Let me worship them with my heart.”
This was his gratitude. Let us also approach Vrindavan with this gratitude, with this appreciation: for Srila Prabhupad, for the senior devotees, for our friend devotees, for the junior devotees, for each other, for every leaf, for every tree, and for every monkey. If a monkey steals your glasses, understand, you could just be angry or you could just change your consciousness, ‘Krishna sent that monkey because he wants me to have spiritual vision, he wants me to recognize how I actually really need to have spiritual vision.’
Every situation is a great opportunity to express our love for Krishna. Let that be the spirit for all of us during our yatra in Sri Vrindavan. – Radhanath Swami
Thank you very much.