I was invited again to my dear friend Mohan prabhu’s home for breakfast. I declined the invitation as I already had one at temple but accepted the invitation for lunch! As I walked by the street to his home, I looked at the beautiful lining of trees on either side of the road sprinkled by the late morning sun. People in their cars moved about in an organised manner. At the traffic light junction, people would look at me and perhaps be wondering – what is he wearing? what’s that on his forehead? I would stand there proud of my Vaishnava tradition, a part of the bhakti army aiming to take the world towards the light of peace everyone is hampering for. But first, lunch.
As I walked in to Mohan prabhu’s home, I could immediately smell the aroma. Yes, there was dosa and the Karnataka-styled sambar too. There would be other surprises as usual. We exchanged pleasantries and sat on the carpeted ground pulling each other’s leg with smart remarks & jokes, which devotees often playfully share with each other. There was still time for lunch and there was much to catch-up on in the meantime.
As we spoke, Mohan prabhu’s guest Rasa-mandala Dasa arrived into the living area. A Moroccan by birth, he had taken to the following of the Hare Krishna movement as his life and soul. An accomplished author, teacher and a researcher, he loved to say that he had done the Sri Vrindhavan parikrama (circumbulation of the holy town of Vrindhavan), 18 or so times! I loved hearing that too because i love that parikrama as well. Pilgrims to that town can often be seen doing this walk early in the morning and coming to their point of start, 2 hours later. The entire way is memorable. Both sides dotted with village life, wandering cows, hungry monkeys, speeding bicycles, temples, sweet shops getting ready for trade and thoughtful devotees of Lord Krishna walking towards their goals – it surely is a heart touching moment of the day.
He was carrying a large book in his hand which I immediately recognised to be the Vraja-mandala book written by His Holiness Lokanath Swami. I was in the holy town of Sri Vrindhavan in 2015 when that book was launched. The event was well attended and by the time I got there, all the copies had been sold out! And now i was seeing it again almost 2 years later in Australia. He sat next to me and said, “Let’s go to Vrindhava” and gave a very happy smile that is so typical of his every speech. Although old, he always seemed so young and quickly builds a good rapport with youngsters. Always wearing a smile, he loved to touch the topics of Krishna. In the my first meeting of him few weeks ago, i had the opportunity to help him settle down into Mohan prabhu’s home – helping him with his luggage and offering prasad. This time we were no strangers and i was keen to listen.
He opened the book and moved his hand over the silky pages to feel them. He was happy he had a copy. He seemed satisfied that Vrindhavan was within his hands grasp. He was probably thinking where to start and asked if I had been to the holy place before. Mohan prabhu was sitting next to him having his lunch. I quickly eyed his plate – dosa, sambar, fruit jam, south-indian gun powder mix in ghee, muffin and papaya fruits. Can’t wait for that lunch!
Rasa-mandal prabhu then touched upon the pastime of Kaliya, the enormous snake that troubled the residents of Vrindhavan with his poison and even attacked Lord Krishna in the waters of the Yamuna. He pondered about the hometown of this snake and wondered if he was from the regions of Bali. We know the snake was defeated by Lord Krishna and then retired to the waters of Fiji. He also spoke a bit of the Kabamba tree on which Lord Krishna climbed to jump into the Yamuna river. After this, he touched on the Madana-manohar temple and it’s story and also spoke about the Indian Padayatra (a walk covering major temples) taking months to complete. He finished by asking us questions to see if we paid any attention – what is Kaliya-hrda, what does dwadasaditya-tila mean etc. I could answer and passing with flying colours 🙂
He then asked, “do you have a copy of this book also?“.
I said, “no…i don’t..i had wanted one but missed out on getting it when i was in Vrindhavan during it’s launch“.
He said with a smile, “oh…i have some copies which i brought with me when i came here. Why don’t you get your own from me?”
And that’s how I got the book last weekend. When i got home, i opened up the new book with great joy and excitement!
I have just started reading it and it’s truly beautiful. The whole narrative feels like you are right there with hundreds of devotees and traversing the various locations of the holy place. If you would like a copy, you can order it from the author’s website. And if you haven’t been to Vrindhavan before, then please do make a trip there. Those of you, who go there often, please continue to do so by visiting, hearing, reading, sharing and remembering!
“Don’t, don’t harbour illusions about your body, home and everything else! Know that death will thwart all your plans! O friend, run, run to Sri Vrndhavana! Don’t make your heart harder than a thunderbolt.”
– Sri Vrindhavana-mahimamrta, stake 1, text 70.