Part 5 – The early hours with His Grace Bhurijan Prabhu
My first trip to Sri Vrindhavan Dham was in August 2007. I was new to ISKCON and this made the trip even more special. One of the highlights of that trip was the Sri Goverdhan parikrama. I had organized a taxi to pick me up from Krishna – Balaram mandir at about 4:30am, after the mangal aroti. Alone in the car with only a silent driver, we drove away, covered all around by the morning night before I finally reached the outside of a closed shop. I could remember seeing a handful of pilgrims walking on the road. There was a fence on the far right side blocking some wild bush and trees. The driver said that I can start my parikrama from where the car had stopped. I stayed in the car. I was scared. Nervous. Where do I go now? What route would I take? What if I get lost? Will it be safe? Can I complete and get back to my room in time?
Before I left the Krishna- Balaram temple, I offered, probably my most sincere prayers to Srila Prabhupada. At his samadhi. Basically I said, “Please, I beg you to help me today to complete the Goverdhan Parikrama without any difficulties. I am very scared.” Once again, this time in the taxi, I closed my eyes, folded my hands in prayer, the driver still sat silently in the car and I re-submitted the same request to Srila Prabhupada. Only this time, my eyes were shut even more tightly. Then I opened. And you won’t believe this but at that exact moment, a person passed by my car. I noticed that he was wearing a saffron kurta. And he had a shaved head !
I said, “Thank you Prabhupada ! Yes! “and I immediately moved from the left to the right side of the car, opened the door, jumped out and called out to the devotee. As he turned, I noticed the tulasi neck beads and a tilaka. He had a saffron dhoti. Our style ! He is one of us ! Same team ! I was elated.
Me : Hare Krishna
Him : Hari Bol
Me : Are you going on the Goverdhan parikrama?
Him : Yes
Me : That’s great !! Can I join you please? I haven’t done this before and I don’t know where I am going…
Him : Sure, follow me
With that, he became my guide. He asked me to pay obeisances to Goverdhan right then and there…on the road, which I did, pointing towards the fence. The holy Hill was on the other side of that fence! I noticed that he was chanting as he walked. And I followed. He then led the way and I followed behind. As we entered the inner path of the parikrama, which he recommended, he turned to me and introduced himself. I can’t remember but I think he said he was from Latvia and that his dad was based in South America. I introduced myself too.
Me : Are you here for Krishna Janmasthami?
Him : No…I live here…for atleast 6 months of the year
Me : Oh wow…do you work? Study? travel?
Him : I am learning Srimad Bhagavatam here…from my guru
Me : Oh…who is your guru?
Him : His Grace Bhurijan prabhu
The cold Saturday morning at the New Nandagram farm, miles away from Melbourne, was turning out to be a beautiful day by the time we completed honouring our morning prasadam. Everybody were finishing their various tasks to get the best seats in the hall to listen to HG Bhurijan prabhu’s class. I was excited as well. It’s been 2 years and since then I have heard his name at the Melbourne temple every now and then, when he visited here for lectures. But somehow or another, I always missed it, due to work and distance of travel. And finally here it is. Don’t know how he looks, don’t know he sounds. I like surprises.
There was a nice melodious kirtan in the room by Krishna Gaja prabhu who easily has the best voice in our temple. As I sat there next to the heater, 4 rows back, in a fully packed room which was now warming up, I suddenly noticed the guests quickly shift from their seated position to one of paying obeisances. I turned and looked at the door to see his arrival. No one was there. He had already made his way to the altar and was observing it carefully. Then he turned, paid his obeisances, looked at the altar again and walked over to his seat.
At that point, I remembered that I had received a book from 2 kids at the temple during the book marathon last year (27/12 to be exact), titled, “My Glorious Master – Remembrances of Prabhupada’s Mercy On a Fallen Soul by Bhurijana Dasa“. “I should ‘ve got that book“, I thought, “I could have collected his autograph!”
He seemed very pleased to be in the room, had a gentle smile, was shorter than I expected, wore a jacket and carried a shoulder bag. As soon as he sat, a tumbler of warm water reached the side table. He looked at us all, Smiled. He, then passed on a warm greeting to Krishna gaja prabhu with a huge smile. Over the days, we would see how much he appreciated this young devotee from our temple. He would keep encouraging him to sing and he would just sit and listen to his kirtan. Other times, he would ask Krishna gaja to continue his part of the kirtan. It was so nice to see this admiration for a younger devotee.
When Bhurijan prabhu’s takes the mrndanga for his kirtan, he would immediately appear very grave. It would have a slow start and then take up a very melodious tune and then slow again. The entire room was in full participation throughout this session. He was like a seasoned music conductor. With a motion of his hand, he would ask one batch of seated guests to sing while others sat silently and listened. Then he would motion the silent batch to sing while others followed. In this way, the leading of the kirtan would move to different groups around the room. It was so nice. Different voices each time. Sometimes, you heard the voices of children leading the kirtan, another time of old devotee men, another time those of matajis and another time of young male devotees.
We, Buffalo devotees taped one of our kirtanas and sent it to Prabhupada with a letter. The mrdanga and karatalas were soft and the melody sweet. Then devotee men sang first as a group and the women responded. Then kirtana began slow, sped up, and again slowed. A guitar accompanied us. Prabhupada replied to my letter.
My Dear Bhurijana,
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter of January 13, 1969 along with the kirtan tapes and pictures of the Buffalo temple. I cannot tell you how very much I enjoyed listening to this wonderful tape recording. All of the super excellent qualities of kirtan were present on this tape and it was thus a great joy to hear it. On this tape, Rupanuga has set an example for all householders because there was singing on this of Hare Krishna by all of his family members. It was all sounding very nicely, and I am going to show this tape to the Sankirtan Party here in Los Angeles so they may take example from such nice kirtan……
Your ever well-wisher,
A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami
A part of the letter from the book, “My Glorious Master – Remembrances of Prabhupada’s Mercy On a Fallen Soul by Bhurijana Dasa”