Just came back from a weekend in Barsana. Made a new friend, Bishwambhar Das, who has a nice Gaur-Nitai temple on the Govardhan Road.
I was with a couple of Bangladeshi devotees that I met after arati in the Ladlii temple. They had recognized me from Birnagar where they had come a few months before for Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s utsav. They are from Khulna, one is a disciple of Sachinandan Bhaktiprabha, who made a large number of devotees in that area.
After they left me, I noticed that an effulgent-looking sadhu in his early 40’s with nice Radha Kund Nityananda tilak in yellow-orange cloth was still sitting alone in the same place where he had been talking with a group of babas a few minutes earlier. Being attracted to him, I went and sat down with him and struck up a conversation.
He told me a bit about his life, how he came to Braj when only eight years old and was trained in music and Vaishnava scriptures by his gurus. He named his whole guru parivar, which includes Adwaita Das Pandit Babaji and comes through Siddha Jagannath Das Baba. He wanted to take me to his temple and since I felt I had a little time before kirtan at Vinoda Baba’s, I accompanied him down the steps and through the market and to the Govardhan highway.
Somewhere along the line, my two Bangladeshi acquaintances joined us. We talked about preaching in Bangladesh since there is talk of me going later this month. Bishwambhar Baba went once, he said, and felt it was impossible for a Hindu to function openly and unashamedly without inviting repercussions from the majority community.
Bishwanbhar came into his temple, with large Gaura Nitai deities. Rather bare and in need of some paintings and verses on the walls. As if from nowhere, about ten or fifteen bhakta men gathered and produced a harmonium, and Babaji treated us to a number of Mahajan Padavali.
When he spoke after the kirtan, he launched into a discourse comparing Bhaktivinoda Thakur with Narottam Das. I will have to expand on this a little further, since in fact I agreed with him and is quite relevant to how I am orienting myself to the life of Bhaktivinoda Thakur.
Babaji Maharaj put me on the spot at the beginning by asking me to explain the sādhya and sādhana tattva on the basis of Prema-bhakti-candrikā. I stuttered and stammered a few words before he broke in and saved me from my misery by seizing the opportunity to glorify the PBC, building up to a nice climax with
manera smaraṇa prāṇa, madhura madhura dhāma,
yugala vilāsa smṛti sāra |
ei tattva sarva tattva sāra || 61 ||
sādhya sādhana ei, iha boi āra nāi,
At about nine I got itchy to go to Vinod Baba’s so I reluctantly left. But my purpose in going to Barsana is always to spend a bit of time with Vinode Baba, in particular when he is doing kirtan.
I also went for a walk to Uncha Gaon on Sunday and visited Lalita Sakhi’s temple and Narayan Bhatta’s samadhi where 1 met some nice sadhus and Brijbasis.
I did not take pictures of the Lalita Sakhi temple, but I rather liked it. It is on top of a smaller hill. It reminded me of many of the mountain or hilltop temples I saw in Uttarakhand. This temple has plenty of verses painted on the walls, glorifications of Braj, good instructions for a religious and devotional life, but was otherwise without ostentation. There is a Gosai there. A Brijbasi woman from the village told me that everyone in the village is his disciple. He is a descendant of Narayan Bhatta.
When walking down the staircase on the opposite side of the temple, I came to a charming sight. An older woman and a young boy were taking care of their placid, cud chewing buffalo. The boy attracted my attention because he was feeding two calves. Another woman, about 45, with a bright chartreuse bodice and a nice smile approached me. She asked, “Radhe Radhe Baba. What are you doing?”
“I am taking joy in the Darshan of the Brajvasis,” I said.
She was pleased and asked me whether I would like to eat something. I hadn’t had breakfast so I answered quickly in the affirmative. She took me through the villages, whose streets have not yet been paved. We had to step on a stone across brackish black mud and led me to her small house, pakka.
Her son, his wife and their son and daughter were all there were in the house. The daughter-in-law was in the kitchen preparing rotis and without a wait of more than five minutes, I was brought a place with a big pickled pepper and a spinach preparation and a beautiful piece of black bread soaked in ghee. That bajra roti sent me into a state of bliss, it was crispy and thick.
I then walked to the Revati-Raman temple, then a bit further on to a Ram temple. On the way I met a Ramanandi sadhu who guided me to Narayan Bhatta’s samadhi where he lives. The samadhi area is very nice and peaceful with plenty of trees and a sandy surface.
I am still feeling the weight of an attack of tamo-guna – lethargy and loss of enthusiasm about my work. I kept the computer off for the whole weekend and mostly ignored my phone. I really wish that the computer did not exist.
Computers offer the possibility of accomplishing more and more. But at the same time, they bind you to an illusory necessity of accomplishing more and more, a type of internal or infernal control organized by the material nature to hold us in its vise.