ISKCON Mayapur

The following is a class from the Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 6, chapter 9, text 52, given by His Grace Jananivas Prabhu on the 9 March 2007 at Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha Mandir, Chowpatty, Mumbai.

Indra is probably the most desirable position in the material world.  The position of Indra affords the most material enjoyment because Indra is king of the heavenly planets.

The Hari Bhakti Vilas provides a beautiful meditation on Krishna.  It describes how His shark-shaped earrings reflect on His shiny cheeks; the masses of His black, curly hair; how He is lying on a couch, playing His flute.  The demigods appear before Krishna (in his majestic feature).  They are offering prayers to Him.  The Gandharvas are there also.

There are 8,400,000 different types of bodies in this world – all based on different combinations of material desires.

The bulls and the cows come and see Krishna.  That is called santa rasa (love of God in neutrality).  There are also the babies, with bells on their ankles, the cowherd boys and the elder gopis.  The gopis faces are half-covered and their eyes are half-closed.   They are trying to see Krishna.  They are trembling uncontrollably.  They try to suppress their trembling, so the bells around their waists and ankles won’t ring. 

These are meditations for pujaris (priests of the Deity).

The neophyte devotee’s objective is to see the Deity form of Krishna in the Temple.  Ideally, we should also see Krishna in everyone’s heart.

Srila Prabhupada was on Juhu beach with one of his disciples, Dravida Maharaja.  They were looking at the ocean.  Srila Prabhupada asked, ‘What do you see?’  Dravida replied, ‘Krishna.’  Srila Prabhupada asked, ‘How?’  Maharaja answered, ‘I am the taste of water.’  Prabhupada looked a the salty water, ‘See.  This is the energy of Krishna.’

Sometimes you look at Radha-Gopinath (the Deities at the Mumbai Temple) and you see it’s Krishna.  You don’t have to analyze.  The gopis see a black tamala tree.  Radharani embraces the tamala tree.  All Her friends laugh at Her.  It’s not that they don’t see a tree – but they see Krishna (the tamala tree is black like Him).  They see things, but they see Krishna present in them.

The demigiods are not pure, unalloyed devotees.  Even in Vaikuntha.  In Vaikuntha they are pure, but they are not unalloyed.  The residents of Goloka Vrindavan are unalloyed.  The devas or demigods are devotees, but they are thinking of their desires.  Pure, unalloyed devotees only want Krishna’s pleasure.  Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to teach that.

Indra will kill Vritrasura with the bones of Dadici.  Vritrasura knows this.  When Indra drops his weapon, Vritrasura says, ‘Pick up your weapon and kill me.  It is Vishnu’s will that you kill me.’

The demigods fear death because they do not want to lose their position.  Srila Prabhupada, ‘Do you believe in reincarnation?’  The devotees, ‘No.  We are going back to Godhead.’  Prabhupada, ‘Lord Caitanya’s waiting for the devotees with a Sankirtan party.’

The Srimad Bhagavatam will bring out the particular relationship we have with Krishna.  The Bhagavatam gives all the different relationships you can have with Krishna.

The devotees do not want anything.  For example, Hanuman.  If Lord Rama wants Hanuman to have liberation, he’ll take it.  But, if it interferes with his service, he’ll reject it.

Who has come to give this essence of what Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to give? Krishna came 5,000 years ago.  He performed divine pastimes.  He left instructions, sarva-dharman parityajya – just surrender unto Me.  People couldn’t follow such a high standard in the Age of Kali.  So, Caitanya Mahaprabhu came – with no demands.  Just giving.  Freely giving vraja-prema.  Mahaprabhu’s our hero.

There is a prediction.  All the different sampradayas (disciplic traditions in India) will fall under Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s Sankirtan mission.  Caitanya Mahaprabhu declared, ‘I will give them the opportunity to taste vraja-prema.  This is the maha-mantra.’

We are eternal.  We have an eternal relationship with Krishna.  Simultaneously, we have come from Krishna – aham sarvasya prabhavo.  ‘Make an eternal change!’   You can change your eternal relationship.  There is the example of Shymananda.  He had a relationship of friendship with Krishna, but obtained a relationship in the conjugal rasa.  He changed his attitude in the association of Jiva Goswami, Narrottama and Srinivas.  His guru beat him with a stick, ‘Why are you crying in ecstasy hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krishna?  You don’t know what pleasure you’re missing in sakhya rasa.  You’re taking something lower!’

You cannot change you eternal position as servant of God or Krishna – jivera svarupa haya krisnera nitya das.  Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains different relationships.  If you want material relationships – even with your own family.  When you’re realized, you can even have an eternal planet with your own family!  This is called satya sankalpa.  When you are pure, everything you desire becomes manifest. If you want to be a friend of Krishna, you can take birth in a family of gopas (cowherds), where their association will draw that relationship out.  You will get the association of nitya-siddhas (eternally perfect souls) and take birth as a gopi with gopis – if that is your pure desire.  The mood has to be empowered by devotees.  Thereafter, you go to the Spiritual World or the Kingdom of God.

You can change your body in the material world, so why not spiritually?

Jananivas Prabhu, Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 9.5.7, Sri Mayapur Dhama, 4 April 2002

‘Without illumination, nothing can be seen’. The sun, the moon and fire are ‘illuminating principles’. Discrimination is coming from Sudarshan. Sudarshan is ‘The Lord’s effulgence personified’.

Krishna contacts the material energy in the form of Siva, who is visuddha sattva. How is Krishna the seed-giving father of all living entities? He is the father of all living entities in the form of lord Siva. Siva impregnates Parvati ‘on a universal scale’. There are three creators. Behind the union of Siva and Parvati is Visnu’s desire. Mother and father are the cause of the child, but behind that is the desire to have a child.

‘The whole spiritual world is illuminated with this natural knowledge and religious principles’. This is the principle of “light” – om ajnana timirandhasya. ‘The whole process of Krishna Consciousness is illuminating’. ‘Love of Krishna is already in the heart. It’s already there. Only covered. Come out of the darkness and step into the light’. There is nothing before sunrise. When the sun rises, however, you can see yourself. ‘Illumination reveals everything, namely our consititutional position, our relationship with Krishna’.

‘Our endeavour is to remove the ignorance. That’s all’. We do not have to endeavour separately, like in the yoga process. We simply have to serve and love Krishna. Illumination brings us to the point of faith; and more illumination takes us further (sambhanda, abhideya and prayojana).

Srila Prabhupada’s definition of sama darsana: ‘I see everyone having an equal opportunity to serve Krishna’. He makes the unqualified equal to persons who have this knowledge. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur defined sama darsana as ‘seeing every living entity as a manifestation of his guru‘. The living entities are seen as being able to carry out his guru’s work.

When the Cosmic Manifestation ends, the processes of yoga, jnana etc. cease to exist. Only bhakti yoga exists eternally in the spiritual world. ‘Everyone is liberated. Only you don’t understand that. Why? Because of ignorance. Why is ignorance there? Because you are attached to it’.

‘This Krishna Consciousness Movement is eternal. The activities go on eternally. So we can become part of that also when we realize what’s going on here’.

‘Someone said these sunflowers follow the sun as it moves in the day’

ISKCON Mayapur, 19 March 2001

I made friends with Gulap Kali today.  Gulap is a female elephant, and her stable is near Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi.  Gulap was orphaned when the Ganga flooded, and adopted by the devotees of ISKCON Mayapur.  She has been engaged in the service of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava ever since.  She has the good fortune of carrying Radha-Madhava on her head during the Elephant Procession around the Temple Compound every Saturday night.  I have been told that she was once in a kirtan procession at the Yoga Pitha (next door to ISKCON Mayapur) and tears were streaming down her eyes as she danced with the devotees in ecstasy.  I called out to her – ‘Gulap’ – but she was a little shy.  Her minder allowed me to stroke the top of  her trunk.  And she acceded.

I bathed in Ganga around noon.  I visited the Jagannath Temple down the road from our Temple.  I took darsan of Jagannath-Baladeva-Subhadra and bought some maha-prasada at the little gift shop next to the Temple.  I also purchased a hand-woven dhoti at the hand-loom behind the Temple.

We took the ferry to Navadvipa.  By Krishna’s grace we met our brahmacari host Advaita Acarya prabhu.  Looking at the majestic white dome of Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi Mandir, Advaita Acarya remarked, ‘It is getting late.  Srila Prabhupada instructed his disciples to build the Mayapur Temple, but most of them are sick now.’  He mentioned how Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja had brought up this point in a lecture in Mayapur.  The ferry chugged along with its cargo of bicycles, women in colourful saris and men in gamchas and dirty shirts.  When will the Temple be built?

We just managed to get a train from Navadvipa to Howrah.  I decided not to go to Jagannath Puri, as it was outside of the authorized programme my Temple President, Sikhi Mahiti prabhu, had prescribed for me.  The beautiful green rice paddy fields of Gauradesa almost took my breath away.  Sadly, we were going back into the city.  Gaurakishore Babaji Maharaja – the Spiritual Master of Srila Prabhuapada’s guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur – told Bhaktisiddhanta that Calcutta was hell.  ‘Never leave Vrindavan’, he instructed him.  Why, then, did Bhaktisiddhanta make Calcutta the headquarters of the Gaudiya Matha?  And why did he leave his body in Calcutta?  Did he disobey his guru?  Vrindavan is a state of consciousness.  Lord Chaitanya, for example, danced ecstatically before Lord Jagannath at the Ratha Yatra Festival singing, ‘Mora mana Vrindavan! Mora mana Vrindavan!’ (‘My mind is Vrindavan!  My mind is Vrindavan!).  Similarly, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was always in Vrindavan consciousness and, therefore, never left Vrindavan – even when he was physically in Calcutta.

Calcutta was like a black-and-white ink sketch:  sooty, full of crows, full of dust and noisy.  We spent three hours at the station trying to buy tickets.  To no avail.  We crossed the Ganga, and tried to get ‘Tourist Quota’ tickets (tickets reserved for tourists) at Fairlie Place.  No luck there. I informed Padmanabha prabhu that the clerk had recommended we return tomorrow.  Padmanabha prabhu said, ‘No problem’.

20 March 2001 – Taking the train from Navadvipa Station to Howrah Station

My train to Howrah Station was delayed by 3 hours at Navadvipa Station.  Padmanabh and I visited the ISKCON Preaching Centre at Lake Avenue, Calcutta.  We were directed to an ISKCON Guest House called Geeta Bhavan (‘Gita House’).  Geeta Bhavan had been donated to ISKCON by a wealthy Calcutta businessman.  We were hungry so we left our bags in the room, hailed a cab and combed the streets of Calcutta looking for the Govinda’s Restaurant.

Jai Gauranga Prabhu introduced me to these amazingly addictive sweets at one of the shops on the Boundary Wall of the ISKCON Mayapur Campus.  He told me that they were Radha-Madhava maha-prashada – made by a European mataji who lives in Mayapur. When I asked Jai Gauranga how they were made, he replied, ‘Gour.  Dates, I think.  Moori.  And a little ghee’.  I made these for Gauravani and Mukunda during a break from their film strategizing.  Offer, and enjoy!   MCD.

The Recipe:

Preparation time: 15 minutes.

1. Heat 220g organic dates in 65ml (about a quarter of a cup) water on high heat in a small pot.   The dates should be quite dry so that the balls can be fairly hard when they have set.  Stir, and remove when the dates are soft and have absorbed the water. Mix, and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, melt 150g gour/jaggery (unrefined sugar) with three tablespoons of ghee at medium-high heat in another small pot. Stir. The gour is ready when it has totally melted and starts to boil.  Turn heat low.

3. Roast 100g moori/mamra (puffed rice) in a pan or in the oven. Bake or roast until crispy, but don’t scorch the puffed rice.

3. Mix dates with gour.  Simmer, and stir. Remove from heat when the mix has blended evenly.

4. Add crisp moori to the date-gour mix.  Make sure the mixture is consistent.  Do this while the gour-date mix is still warm.  Let the mixture cool down for about five minutes.

5. Roll into 10 medium sized balls while still warm (otherwise the mix will be too hard to mould into balls).

6. Make a divine offering. And feast!!

Pankajanghri prabhu taking us on a tour of Mayapur

18 March 2001, ISKCON Mayapur

Pankajanghri prabhu gave Bhagavad-gita class in the evening.  His words were simple, but profound: ‘There is the theoretical understanding, ‘I am eternal servant of Krishna’; and  there is the practical application based on sadhu, sastra and guru.  Many cannot put this into practice.  Then, there are those who put this into practice but cannot practice for long.  And there are those who practice for long, but who still fall away.  Devotional service can be quite testing‘.

I met Pankajanghri some hours later behind Radha-Madhava’s kitchen.  He was pacing up and down in the darkness, chanting his japa.  I offered him my obeisances.  I was surprised when he did the same back.  Senior devotees normally just fold their palms and say, ‘Hare Krishna!’  He reminded me of a schoolboy.  Youthful, despite his age.  He was very humble.  I asked him about the wooden Deity of Lord Chaitanya in Prabhupada’s rooms.  He dead-panned, ‘Clay’.  The Deity was made from clay.  I had some pictures of Radha-Madhava which I had bought at one of the gift shop booths on the Campus.  I asked him to write something at the back of one of the photos.  He asked me what I should write.  I said, ‘I just want your blessings, prabhu’.  He wrote, ‘May you always think of Radha-Madhava’.

Pankajanghri prabhu changed track and said, ‘It’s my birthday today’.  I said, ‘But I thought it was at your birthday the other day’.  He replied, ‘Yesterday.  That was our tithi.  Tithi is the according to the moon.  Today is our actual birthday’.  He went on, ‘One Vaisnava near here from the Gaudiya Math is a hundred years old.  He says, ‘Trees live to be a hundred’.  So, what’s the big deal about having a birthday?’.  I said, ‘It is different.  You are a Vaishnava’.  Pankajanghri then asked, ‘What is your name?’  ‘Michael’.  ‘How long have you been at the Temple?’ I said, ‘Here?’ ‘No.  In ISKCON’.  ‘Four years’.  ‘And you are uninitiated?’  I told him about my meeting with Radhanath Maharaja and he said, ‘He’s accepted you.  That’s real initiation.  You are fortunate to have a Spiritual Master!’

Since Pankajanghri prabhu is such a revered pujari (priest of the Deity), I wanted to ask him a pertinent question.  So I asked,’What is the essence of Deity worship?’  He replied, ‘You have to understand who you’re dealing with.   The Deity is not just wood or stone.  If you think like that, it’s because you think you are made of blood and marrow.  The Deity is spiritual.  Krishna mercifully comes in the form of the Deity for our benefit.  We should always have the consciousness that the Lord is sentient.  The Lord can, of course, alternate between matter and spirit, spirit and matter’.  His words shed new light on Deity worship for me.  He continued, ‘We have to be careful of offences.  In the beginning we are absent-minded.  We have bad thoughts and commit seva-aparadhas [offences while serving the Deity].  As we progress, there is improvement.  Everntually, after some years, our consciousness develops by serving the Deity.  We can take that consciousness outside the Temple and see the Lord everywhere’.

I thanked Pankajanghri prabhu, and took his leave.

18 March 2001, Sri Mayapur Dhama

Vaishnavas are like salt.  Salt pervades a dish, but cannot be seen.  Similarly, the presence of great devotees has a high impact, yet they never push themselves forward.  Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhus are like that.   I never met them during my first visit to Mayapur in 1997, but certainly felt their presence.  As twin pujaris of ISKCON Mayapur, Jananivas and Pankajanghri are an integral part of the Mayapur experience.  This time I had heard more of their glories and wanted to hear from them and witness their unwavering dedication to Radha-Madhava.  I was not  disappointed.

Subhaga Maharaja gave the English Srimad Bhagavatam class in the Sankirtan Building on the morning of March 18 2001.  He spoke philosophically about the beauty and joyfulness of the bhakti process from Chapter 15 of the 7th Canto.  He related an incident where an impersonalist came to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur with mangos.  Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati distributed the mangoes to his disciples, leaving one rotten one for the impersonalist.  Bhaktisiddhanta said, ‘All is one.  So, this is the same’.  The man reluctantly ate the rotten mango.  He explained how Bhaktisiddhanta encouraged his disciples to honour sumptuous offerings of prashadam (offered foods) – gaja, sweet dal and laddhu – in Jagannatha Puri.  He quoted the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, telling his disciples to ‘Eat Simply Wonderful [a delicious milk sweet], and go back to the wonderful world’.  Prashadam should be taken in moderation, however.  As we make advancement we should minimize our intake of prasada.  Today was Srivas Thakur’s Appearance Day.  It was also the tithi celebration of Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhu’s Appearance Day.  Subhaga Maharaja ended his class by saying, ‘Happy Birthday’ to the twins.  Pankajanghri prabhu humbly responded, ‘Make us happy’.

I visited the Yoga Pitha – the Birthplace of Lord Chaitanya – with Padmanabha prabhu.  Yoga Pitha means ‘blending-spot’ – where the spiritual comes in contact with the material creation.  We offered our obeisances to lord Siva – at the site where Mahaprabhu appeared. We bathed in Ganga again.  Then went home. I heard there was going to be a celebration – a vyasa-puja ceremony – for the twins, but did not know where it was going to take place.  The observance of the twins’ birthday was kept  secret because, in their humility, they often disappeared at the hint of a celebration.  They lived to serve Radha-Madhava and the Deities of the ISKCON Mayapura Candrodaya Mandir.

Some time after noon I saw Ganga prabhu, one of the local residents of Mayapur, leaving the Conch Building.  I followed him to Jananivas and Pankajanghri’s quarters, behind the Altar.  The devotees had brought two vyasasanas into their room and the brothers were seated next to each other with garlands around their necks.  A group of about thirty devotees – permanent residents of Mayapur – were singing the guru vandanam prayers, offering garlands and gifts to the brothers.  There was a queue of devotees standing in line.  Some were standing, some were making offerings to them and others were bowing at their feet.  The twins, in return, were handing out maha-prasada from the Deities.  It was a sweet and moving scene.

I gave Jananivas prabhu a picture of Radhanath Maharaja and His Grace dressing Radha-Gopinatha.  He exclaimed, ‘Oh, it’s Chowpatty!’  Jananivas placed a large simply wonderful in my hand.  I bowed and made way for the next person in  line.  Someone handed me a pair of karatalas, which I played ecstatically.  The kirtan was brief, but rousing.  Then Bhakti Purussotama Maharaja recited the prema-dhvani prayers.  The devotees moved in a colourful procession to the marble corridor behind the Deities.  A huge transcendental feast was served.  Some of the local preparations and western dishes that the twins liked were served.  The feast was out of this world:  I ate and ate but did not feel full.

Jananivas and Pankajanghri were sitting on the far end of the corridor with the Bengali brahmacaris.  At one point a cluster of brahmacaris leaned forward and took the remnants of both twins from their plates!  This is very rare because Jananivas and Pankajanghri are very humble and rarely let anyone take their remnants.  I sat there and appreciated their wonderful qualities and the wonderful celebration of their lives.

Padmanabha and I passed the tulasi grove of the brahmacari asrama and made our way to the rear entrance of the Temple.  We left our capalas by the doorway, rang the bell and entered.  We quickly offered obeisances and headed for Srila Prabhupada’s murti.  We offered dandavats to Srila Prabhupada, touched his feet and offered obeisances to Lord Sthanu-Nrsimha, Sri Sri Pancha-Tattva and Sri-Sri Radha-Madhava and the Asta-Sakhis.  Everything about Mayapur was big.  Chunky.  The Temple walkways, buildings, the two Temple rooms, the chandeliers, the tulasi plants on their mandaps, the altars and, of course, the Deities.  The largeness of the ISKCON Mayapur Campus seemed to radiate the audarya (mangnanimous) mood of Lord Chaitanya.  Radha-Madhava’s exalted pujaris, Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhus, were also there – as always.

The Temple Room resembled an airport hangar.  The roof was high and the interior spacious.  Sri Sri Mayapura-candrodaya Mandir was not a ‘finished’ Temple in the sense of Krishna-Balarama Mandir in Vrindavan; or Radha-Rasabihari, in Mumbai.  His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, ISKCON’s Founder-acarya, had placed Ananta-Sesa in the foundations in 1977.  He had  envisioned a colossal ‘Temple of the Vedic Planetarium’ in Mayapur.  Since he was no longer personally present, his disciples intended to fulfill his grand ambition.  This adbhuta mandir (‘magnificent Temple’) had been predicted by Lord Nityananda over 500 years ago.  His Holiness Jayapataka Maharaja related another prophecy by Srinivas Acharya, a confidential associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.  Srinivas Acharya had a vision in which he saw what appeared to be life-size Deities of the Pancha-Tattva, on the altar of a wonderful Temple, in Sri Mayapur Dhama.  These Deities were being worshipped by devotees from different parts of the world.  When Srinivas looked closer, however, he saw that the figures on the altar were not Deities but the Pancha-Tattva Themselves!  About a hundred years ago the great Vaishnava acarya, Bhaktivinoda Thakur, had a divine vision wherein he saw a beautiful Temple and Celestial City on the present ISKCON land.

One of our South African devotee-teachers, Nrsimhananda prabhu, was giving Bhagavad-gita class upstairs.  I rushed up the stair-case to catch the tail-end of it.  I marvelled at how much progress had been made on the Mayapur Campus since my first visit in 1997.  Everything was very pakka.  I mentioned this to the Director of ISKCON Mayapur, His Holiness Bhakti Purusottama Swami.  He humbly replied that it was because of the Festival.  We attended Gaura Arati, the auspicious worship of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in the Pancha-Tattva Temple Room.  The Festival period was over, so most of the foreign pilgrims had left and many of the local devotees had gone to Vrindavan or elsewhere.  There couldn’t have been more than 50 devotees in the Temple room.  Kirtan was still jubilant, and I got quite sweaty dancing, though the large fans kept me cool.  After arati, I caught up with some devotee acquainances.  I saw Subhaga Maharaja, whom I had met in Vrindavan in 1997.  The gentle Bengali sadhu informed me that he had had a brain tumour and that it had been removed.  He looked a little frail.  I also saw one of the cooks from Chowpatty Temple, Saci Suno prabhu.

I presented one of the pujaris with carob from my friend Nanda Kumar prabhu.  He gave me some of Radha-Madhava’s jewellery to give to him in reciprocation for his gift.  Padmanabha and I took some hot milk and moori with the brahmacaris, and returned to the ashram to take rest.

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