Wednesday, November 5, 2008

India Journal, Part 3

Finally i get out of bed in my room at Yamuna Kunj, and open the door which leads to a veranda. From the veranda to the left you can see the white marble towers and brass cakras of the Imli Tala Mandir. The original Imli Tala is the tamarind tree that Krishna sat under during the ras lila after Radha disappeared from His sight. He meditated on Radha and turned a golden color, foreshadowing His appearance as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In that avatara, Mahaprabhu returned to this same spot on the Yamuna where he sat and meditated on Himself. It's at this sacred place that the Imli Tala Mandir was built by Sripad Bhakti Sarangi Goswami, a godbrother of Srila Prabhupada. He installed beautiful deities of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath and Sri Sri Gaura Nitai here, as well as the footprints of Lord Caitanya. Sometimes Prabhupada would visit this godbrother's temple when he lived at Radha Damodar.

The sun shines every day in India during this season and it is surprisingly hot in the late morning. I just need a t shirt and lungi and baseball cap as a sunscreen. No coat, jacket, sweatshirt, shoes and socks. Life is simple here.

I pay my obeisances to Imli Tala as i leave Yamuna Kunj and catch a ricksaw to take me to Gopeswar Mahadev, my first stop in Vrindavan. This temple is in the old part of Vrindavan where no tourists come and most pilgrims rarely visit. I buy a 10 rupee garland from one of the flower wallas who sit on the temple steps, take off my shoes and walk in. It's around 11 am and the morning worship is coming to an end. Inside the inner sanctum where Gopiswar Mahadev sits, a brahmin priest presides over the final washing of the Lingam while reciting prayers before the temple closes for midday. I appear with my garland and the priest decides to let me offer it and participate in the worship. First he indicates i can drink some "caranamrita" that has been collected in a gumshaw from the washing of the Lingam. An assistant wrings a piece of the gumshaw into my cupped right hand, and i sip the caranamrita. Then the priest asks me to come close to the Lingam and offers me a lota of clean water to bathe Mahadev. I first ask him to purify my hand that sipped the caranamrita by pouring some water on it, then i take the lota and do my impromptu abhiseka. After the bathing, i bow down on my knees and the priest takes my head and touches it three times to the low silver or brass walls that surround the Lingam. I feel a bit like a child in doing this "forced obeisance" but don't mind since it's for Gopiswar Mahadev. I offer a quick silent prayer while this is happening. Obeisances complete, the priest asks me for a donation. I was already thinking about that. I take out a 50 rupee note and place it on the floor next to the Lingam. The priest looks satisfied and i am also satisfied and get up. He gives me a leaf cup of Lord Siva's maha prasad to take with me as i leave.

On my way out of the inner sanctum, the worker who had given me caranamrita from the gumshaw takes 2 flower garlands that are the maha prasad of Mahadev, and puts them around me. I give him a 10 rupee donation. As i'm leaving the outer temple, a couple of brahmans who are sitting on the floor reading scriptures also indicate that they want a donation. I place two 10 rupee notes on their place sittings. They also appear satisfied. Now i go out to the street. I see a street dog and offer him a piece of the maha prasad by placing it in front of him. A couple of local beggars see that and ask for some maha prasad for themselves. I oblige until there is only a small amount of prasad left, which i pop in my mouth.

From Gopiswar Mahadev it's only 100 meters to Vrinda Kunj, a beautiful ashram developed by my godbrother, Paramadwaiti Swami. I'm glad to see him. Last time we met was one year earlier in Miami. Vrinda Kunj is much nicer than Miami, a green garden with monkeys playing freely, basic bungalows for brahmacaries and guests and an old restored temple for Giriraj. It's ekadasi and i stay for a simple lunch of vegetables and peanuts.

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