March 29, 2016: Kiwi Land
The town of Varsana in Vrindavan is where Srimati Radharani lived with her family 5,000 years ago. New Varsana is where Her aspiring devotees live in beautiful New Zealand. The large community of devotees work harmoniously together in a loving spirit of devotion. Their reception for us yesterday touched our hearts as we sang and danced together in great happiness. Glad to be back in Kiwi Land!
[ Photos by Dina Bandhu das ]
March 28, 2016: The Jewel of Australia
The New Govardhan community is like a brilliant jewel set in the colorful green landscape of New South Wales, Australia. Everyone agreed that the kirtan retreat there this weekend was one of the best festivals to ever take place in the Australian yatra. We all vowed to come back next year and make it an annual event.
March 26, 2016: Sacred Sound Kirtan
Video coverage of the blissful Sacred Sound Kirtan Retreat at New Govardhan in Australia. Devotees came from all over the country to chant and dance together in one of ISKCON’s largest communities nestled in the beautiful green rolling hills of New South Wales.
March 25, 2016: Sacred Sounds
Today was the first day of the Sacred Sounds Festival at New Govardhana in Australia. Set in the beautiful rural countryside of New South Wales over 600 devotees enjoyed a day of classes, kirtans and delicious prasadam. All the action was perfectly captured by our dear Anatnta Vrindavan dasa.
March 24, 2016: On the Road
I’m on the road again, this time in Australia. I am missing Vrindavan, but happy to be sharing my good fortune with all.
“So, this is formal accepting of sannyasa, but real sannyasa will be fulfilled when you’ll be able to induce the people of the world to dance like you. That is real sannyasa. This formal dress is not sannyasa. Real sannyasa is when you can induce other people to become Krsna conscious and they dance in Krsna consciousness. If you can turn one man to become Krsna conscious, then your going back to Godhead, back to home, guaranteed. That is real purpose of sannyasa.”
[ Srila Prabhupada letter to Subal Swami, November 13, 1974 ]
March 19, 2016: This Land Of Love And Bliss
Today I am leaving beloved Vrindavan for a 6 week preaching tour of Australia, New Zealand and China. My heart is torn between staying and going, but go I must because it is the desire of my spiritual master to introduce others to Sri Vrindavan Dhama. This morning I visited Radha Kunda to bath and beg for mercy. If it is Srimati Radharani’s desire then one day I will again return to this land of love and bliss.
March 16, 2016: Like Father, Like Son
Several days ago, here in Sridham Mayapura, we gave sannyasa to my disciple, Uttama Sloka dasa. He became Bhakti Rasayana Sagara Maharaja. Ananta Vrindavan dasa followed the ceremony from start to finish and produced this lovely video.
March 16, 2016: Ananta’s Eye
March 14, 2016: Bhakti Rasayana Sagara Maharaja
March 12, 2016: Sannyasa initiation
March 11, 2016: China Yatra
March 8, 2016: Thrilling To See!
March 7, 2016: Gopisvara Mahadeva
March 6, 2016: Sannyasa Initiation soon
The sannyasa initiation ceremony for my disciple, Uttama-sloka dasa, will now take place at 10 am on Sunday, March 13 at the Jagannatha Mandir in Sridham Mayapura. Please come, or if you are unable to make it, send this stalwart devotee your blessings.
March 4, 2016: The Light of the Soul
“Welcome home!” Mahavan dasa, a Russian disciple, greeted him as Indradyumna Swami Maharaja came out of New Delhi’s slick new airport terminal, tired after his flight from Bangalore. Mahavan is his secretary when Indradyumna Swami travels in India. A brahmachari in his thirties, he wears saffron, shaves his head, and stuffs his bag with the latest gadgets—cell phones, iPads, ear buds, chargers.
“We’re not home yet,” Maharaja said. “I wish we were, but Vrindavan is still a good three hours away.”
“Well, let’s get there quickly,” he said. “The car is just over here.”
They began working their way through the crowd of people that were going into and coming out of the terminal when Mahavan suddenly pointed to an elderly man in soiled burgundy-colored robes in the midst of the throng. “Gurudeva,” Mahavan said, “look at that man. It looks like he’s asking people for help. I think he’s a beggar.”
“He’s not a beggar,” Indradyumna Swami Maharaja said. “He’s a Buddhist monk from Tibet. It’s part of his tradition to approach others for alms. It helps the monks develop humility.”
“But he doesn’t have a begging bowl,” Mahavan said, “and he looks desperate.”
No one was giving the man anything. As they watched, a teenage boy shoved him aside. The monk covered his face with his hands and sat down on a bench. A moment later, an affluent-looking couple walked past, and he got up and approached them, but they too ignored him, and when he persisted the man shouted at him. The monk looked flustered. He sat back down on the bench and stared straight ahead, as if in contemplation. Despite his bedraggled condition, he appeared effulgent.
Maharaja was shocked at the way people were treating him. The swami felt it was his duty to help him, so he started to walk toward the bench when the monk noticed him and jumped up to hurry over and grab hold of his sleeve. “Please let me stay with you for a while,” he said in English. “I need the shelter of spiritual people.”
“Sure,” Maharaja said. “Why don’t we sit down?”
“Do you have the time?” he asked softly.
“For someone like you I have all the time in the world,” Maharaja said. They walked toward the bench he had been sitting on. He continued to hold onto Maharaja’s sleeve.
“Are you hungry?” Indradyumna Swami Maharaja asked. “Can I get something for you to eat?”
“Thank you, no,” he replied. “I am not hungry.”
“Have you lost your way?” Maharaja asked. “Maybe I can help you get to your next destination.”
“Just a minute,” he said. He straightened his back and closed his eyes, assuming a meditative pose. As he slowly inhaled and exhaled, he became calm, serene, and composed.
“How in the world did he manage to find such peace right after being mistreated?” Indradyumna Swami Maharaja wondered. The minutes passed, and he felt a wave of tranquility come over him as well. Finally the monk opened his eyes. He didn’t look directly at the Swami, but stared into the distance as he told him his story.
“My name is Tsering Lama,” he said. “I come from the Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet. I have lived there since I was five years old.”
“Wow!” Maharaja said. “How old are you now?”
“I am seventy years old.”
“And what service do you do in the monastery?”
“I study the scriptures,” he said. “Since my childhood I have studied the teachings of Master Lama Tsongkhapa who lived in the fourteenth century. He was the founder of the Gelug-pa School which I belong to, and a highly respected teacher of the Buddhist scriptures. My main service is to debate with others about the scriptures. It is an integral part of our tradition.”
“I am honored to meet such a learned scholar,” Indradyumna Swami Maharaja said. “And I am sorry to see how people are treating you today.”
He shook his head, as if to suggest the mistreatment was of no concern or perhaps to dismiss his praise. “It has been my lifelong dream to visit Bodh Gaya,” he said. “It is the place where Buddha attained enlightenment. That holy site is here in India in the state of Bihar. Several months ago I said goodbye to my beloved disciples and set out on foot alone for Bodh Gaya.”
The Swami wondered how many hundreds or even thousands of disciples such a man could have.
“When I arrived here in Delhi,” he continued, “two men invited me to spend the night at their home. I was exhausted from months of traveling, so I accepted their invitation. That night they fed me and gave me some tea to drink. The next thing I knew I was waking up on the sidewalk in a Delhi slum. It seems that the tea they gave me was laced with some drug that caused me to fall unconscious. I discovered that they had stolen everything I possessed: my clothes, my passport, my money, of course, and even my sacred chanting beads. I had been saving that money since my childhood for this pilgrimage, and suddenly it seemed impossible that I would make it to Bodh Gaya.
“Now I have nothing. I have been here at the airport for three days begging for money to complete my journey. Nobody has given me a single rupee, most likely because I look so dirty and disheveled.”
Maharaja took his hand. “I will help you,” he said.
“No, no,” he said. “I will not take money from a holy man like you.”
“It’s OK,” The Swami said. “I am not holy yet. I’m trying, but I’m just a beginner, really. I have a long way to go. Believe me, you can safely accept some money from me.”
“What you say in humility is not true,” he said soberly. “I studied your face. I can see your true self through your eyes.”
“You can see me through my eyes?” Maharaja asked.
“Yes” he replied. “I have learned this from our Tibetan masters.” He looked straight into Maharaja’s eyes with a steady stare. Feeling uncomfortable, Indradyumna Swami Maharaja looked away, but the monk caught his chin with his hand and turned his head toward him so he could study his face. His small hand had a powerful grip.
Maharaja also looked at his face. His dark brown eyes peered out from slanted eyelids that curved upward at the outer corners, reminding him of Tibetan art. He had a small flattish nose, and his thin lips, though fixed in a determined line, seemed to be slightly, almost imperceptibly, smiling. He obviously had not shaved for some days, and his golden skin bore a few small scars. He seemed to glow with a radiance that Indradyumna Swami Maharaja could feel more than see, and the softly pungent fragrance of Tibetan incense still hovered about his stained, travel-weary clothes. Though his head barely came up to the Swami’s nose, he had the feeling that he was standing in front of someone large and powerful, someone who could knock him over with the flick of a finger.
After some minutes he spoke. “You have served your master well in this life.”
“Well, I have done some service,” Indradyumna Swami Maharaja said. “Like I said, I’m trying, but…”
“You have spread his glories through the written word, through discourses, and through festivals that you hold in distant lands.”
“Distant lands?” Maharaja thought. “How could a Tibetan monk know about the festivals in Poland?”
“But your service was interrupted last year by disease,” he said.
“Well, yes. I had a bout with cancer and…”
“In March,” he said.
Indradyumna Swami Maharaja caught his breath. “Yes,” he said. “Yes. You are exactly right. It was in March of last year.”
“And there is more disease to come,” he said.
“Oh really?” Maharaja said. He could hear the disappointment in his own voice.
“But don’t worry,” he said. “I will help you.”
He got off the bench and sat down on the ground in a full yoga asana. He closed his eyes once more and quickly seemed to be transported to another plane. After a few minutes his eyebrows furrowed in the intensity of his meditation and his lips moved as he chanted mantras in the Tibetan language.
People stopped to stare at the unusual sight: a sannyasi sitting on a bench and a Buddhist monk meditating on the ground next to him. They looked at the Swami as if asking for an explanation, but he had none. Maharaja could only sit silently while the monk offered prayers on his behalf.
Twenty minutes later he opened his eyes and turned to Indradyumna Swami Maharaja. “I have removed the obstacles,” he said. “You will live a long life in service to your master.”
“Well, gosh,” Maharaja said. “Thanks so much.” He got up and helped him back onto the bench.
“Compassion is central to the teachings of Buddha,” he said.
“I know that,” Maharaja said. “But why are you being so kind to a stranger like me?”
“We are not strangers,” he said. “I am returning a favor you offered me several lifetimes ago.”
Maharaja felt the hair on his arms stand up.
“You mean… Are you saying we were together in a previous…?”
“Some things are better left unsaid,” he replied. “And I must go. I must try to fulfill my dream.”
“Wait,” Indradyumna Swami Maharaja said. “Wait a minute. I want to help you.”
“No,” he said. “As I already told you, I would not accept money from you. You are using it to help people less fortunate than yourself.”
“But wait,” The Swami said. “How do you know how I use money? We’ve only just met.”
“As I told you,” he said, “the eyes show the light of the soul.”
He turned and started walking away toward the terminal.
“No!” Maharaja said running after him. “I won’t let you be mistreated by those people again. Please take this donation. It’s enough to get you to Bodh Gaya and back to Tibet by train.” He pushed some bills into his hand.
He looked at the money for a long time. When he looked up his eyes were moist.
“I will accept your kindness,” he said slowly. “And I will not forget you.”
He started walking away again, but then stopped and turned back.
“We won’t meet again in this lifetime,” he said. “But I will leave you a special gift in the monastery in Lhasa. When you arrive, mention my name. The monks will direct you.” He took a small piece of paper from the sleeve of his robe and wrote down the address of the monastery. Indradyumna Swami Maharaja felt goose bumps erupt on his body.
“Please make sure you go there,” he said. “What I am leaving for you will be a great asset in service to your master.”
“Do you mean money?” The Swami asked.
“Oh, no,” he said. “Nothing like that. It is something more wonderful than anything money could ever buy. You will not be disappointed.” With that he disappeared into the crowded metro station.
Indradyumna Swami Maharaja turned to Mahavan. “What just happened? Was that a dream?”
“No,” he said, looking as astounded as Maharaja felt. “I saw it with my own eyes. Will you actually go to Lhasa?”
“Yes, of course I will,” he replied. “I’ve always wanted to go to Tibet. And now I have the best reason ever: to increase my service to my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada.”
“Can I go with you?” Mahavan said.
“You must come,” Indradyumna Swami Maharaja said, “just to remind me that I’m not dreaming when we discover what the monk has left us. And to confirm that service to a great soul never goes in vain.”
“One can attain the path of liberation from material bondage only by rendering service to highly advanced spiritual personalities. These personalities are impersonalists and devotees. Whether one wants to merge into the Lord’s existence or wants to associate with the Personality of Godhead, one should render service to the mahatmas. For those who are not interested in such activities, who associate with people fond of women and sex, the path to hell is wide open. The mahatmas are equipoised. They do not see any difference between one living entity and another. They are very peaceful and are fully engaged in devotional service. They are devoid of anger, and they work for the benefit of everyone. They do not behave in any abominable way. Such people are known as mahatmas.”
[ Srimad Bhagavatam 5.5.2 ]
March 3, 2016: The Sacred Grounds