March 2010


It sucked.

The End.

Ok ok, I suppose I should write something but Im not posting any pics because we all know what the Taj looks like. While we were in Vrindavan my family was all into going to the Taj Mahal, which isn’t that far away. I find the Taj to be so super lame and cliché. Ok, seriously, ticket prices are ridiculous, for Indians its super cheap, like 7 Rs. but for non-Indians its 700 Rs. So my husband thought that as long as my family and I don’t say anything they wont realize that we aren’t native Indians. I can pass for native Indian, my sister and Dad can pass for Indian. My Mom on the other hand, with her light complexion and freckled face coupled with her short brown hair, didn’t fool the guards. My husband instructed us that if anyone asks, tell them we’re from Bangalore. We stood in line and the guard checked our tickets, he took one good look at my Mom and told my husband that there was no way she was Indian. My husband quickly changed the story, saying that we were all from Bengal and my mother had no clue, so when the guard turned to her and asked “where are you from?” She grinned and said “Bangalore”. Yep, my husband had to go back and buy the expensive tickets before we were let through. During the ordeal my sister had managed to go through, and while she waited for us a female guard asked her a question, she couldn’t respond and she rejoined us.

So the Taj was built by some king with three wives and he liked the third one best (they always do, sheesh) and built this thing for her when she died. I guess some people find it romantic and a wonderful expression of your love for someone. Its lame. You stand in a ridiculously long line that goes around the building a couple times and when you go inside it’s a dark room with two tombs, one of Shah Jahan and the other of Mumtaz Mahal and then you leave. Exciting, I know. I think if I were into historical architecture this would have interested me more because Wikipedia talks about a bunch of stuff that I didn’t really take notice of. Or I just looked at it and thought, “well that’s Muslim-y” and that was it. The thought of people getting their hands cut-off after it being built wasn’t so appealing to me either. Meh.

The Yamuna has been getting smaller and smaller due to her separation from Krishna. The Yamuna runs right behind the Taj Mahal. My husband told a story that there is a balcony that Mumtaz used to look out of from her palace and the Yamuna was so close she would look at her reflection. Its kinda romantic I guess.

So while we were outside the building I could faintly hear Srila Prabhupada singing the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. I pretty much thought I was going crazy. That maybe the line was so long I started hearing things. But even after I had gone through the Taj and we were just hanging out outside the building, I could hear it. I mean, I didn’t want to be at the Taj but would I literally become schizophrenic from not being in Vrindavan? As we were leaving I could still hear this music faintly, it was driving me crazy, did no one else hear it? Why is no one saying anything?! Finally I turned to my Dad, “Do you hear that? Its way off in the distance?! That music?!” My Dad shrugged, “Yeah, its Prabhupada chanting Hare Krishna.” And that was it.

At that point I realized something. Love was not found in that man who made a marble house dedicated to a decayed corpse. It was that personality who gave us a house the whole world could live in. Love is not seen in monuments and buildings, but is depicted through our hearts. Srila Prabhupada loves Krishna so so much that he cant contain himself, he has to share it with everyone. That is love. We look for love in all the wrong places and for all the wrong reasons, but Srila Prabhupada is so kind, an embodiment of true love, that he distributes love of Krishna freely, he is so eager for us to taste what he tastes, to give us a glimpse of his love for Krishna so that we too can rekindle our lost love. Srila Prabhupada loves us so much that even here, even in the most odd and random place you can hear Srila Prabhupada:

“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare….”

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My Deities, Sri-Sri Radha Madanmohan

I remember when I asked my boyfriend if he would buy Radha-Krishna Deities for me while he was in Mayapur for the installation of Sri Pancha-tattva. I made it clear that I didn’t want anything more than four inches because I was concerned that I wont be able to care for Them very well and I thought having some small Deities would be easier to take care of and seem less formal. At the time I was studying at North Dakota State University and one night he called me, “Did you buy my Deities?” I asked excitedly.
“Well I had to choose between these beautiful ten inch ones and some okay looking four inch ones. So I picked the ten inch ones.”
“You did WHAT?! How will I take care of ten inch Deities?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll love Them, I know you will take good care of Them.”

When he returned to the US he encouraged me to name Them even though I hadn’t seen Them. I wrote down a list of names and tried them out singing for example “Jaya Radha-Govinda, Radha-Govinda, Raaaaadhe!” Eventually I picked the name Radha-Madanmohan, it had the best ring to it and if They truly are as beautiful as my boyfriend said Then “He who attracts even Cupid” will suit Them. My boyfriend thought it was a great name since anyone who had ever seen Them thought They were so beautiful. He sent me an outline of Their bodies so that I could make a new outfit for Them that somehow miraculously fit perfectly. He was right, They were so beautiful, that when he gave Them to me that summer of 2004, I never let Them go.

Once a good friend and godsister of mine and I had a chance to spend some time together. She told me about Guru Maharaj’s project in Ujjain. He was building a big beautiful temple there and she was missing his association. She gave me a picture of the Deities there and when I asked the name of the Deities she replied “Sri-Sri Radha Madanmohan”. She felt very happy staying with me since my Deities were also Radha Madanmohan. It was quite a wonderful coincidence, at the time I wasn’t aspiring for HH BhaktiCharu Swami but I could see that Madanmohan certainly had a plan.

Deity Dressing 3/14/10

Eventually my boyfriend and I got married and I moved to Orlando, Florida. We began to worship Sri-Sri Radha Madanmohan regularly. I noticed in his bookcase was the only volume he owned of Sri Caitanya Cariamrta. It was about the pastime of Srila Sanatana Goswami. What is wonderful about being married to my husband is that through him I began to have a deeper appreciation for Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and an understanding of the acaryas in our parampara. I read that volume with great interest.

The pastime of Srila Sanatana Goswami is pretty amazing. He was put in jail because he no longer wanted to serve the government. He got a letter from his brother Rupa saying “Hey! Lord Caitanya is coming to Benares! Anupama and I are going! Wish you were here!” Sanatan Goswami bribed the guard to let him out. He fled to see Lord Caitanya in Benares and despite his wealthy background, he gave it all up and wore a simple torn quilt and a woolen blanket- he eventually gave up the blanket. So he’s sitting outside the home of where Lord Caitanya was staying and Lord Caitanya was like “Candrasekhara, there’s a devotee at your door, bring him in.” And Candrasekhara  looks outside and says, “Theres no one there except a poor Muslim guy.” And Lord Caitanya was like “Yep, let him in.” And then they were so happy to see each other they hugged super tight but Sanatan Goswami felt super embarrassed but Lord Caitanya didn’t mind. So then Sanatan Goswami got all shaved up and accepted some torn clothes from Tapan Misra which made Lord Caitanya happy, and he gave up the fancy blanket that I mentioned earlier which made Lord Caitanya even more happy. And then he decided to become a beggar and that made Lord Caitanya super happy. So then Lord Caitanya revealed a lot of very deep philosophy to Sanatan Goswami and Sanatan Goswami tried to get Lord Caitanya to admit that He is Krishna but Lord Caitanya didn’t fall for it. Lord Caitanya instructed Sanatan Goswami to find all the places in Vrindavan that Krishna performed His pastimes, because when Krishna left, they all became hidden. And he was also instructed to write books about bhakti yoga, establish temples of Krishna in Vrindavan and to write a book about proper Vaisnava behavior. More devotees need to read that book. Seriously.

So the Sri-Sri Radha-Madanmohan Mandir is actually the first temple erected in Vrindavan, which was erected by Sanatana Goswami. And it is said that for anyone who is sincere in devotional service, they must first approach Krishna in His Madanmohan form, who is very merciful. Im a knucklehead, so this is good news for me. Its wonderful when Krishna creates coincidences in life, isn’t it? Its His sense of humor, I think that’s how I know when He’s got His hand in it.

Imagine how wonderful it was to see this beautiful temple twice during my weeklong stay in Vrindavan! The first time I went was with my husband and his father and brother while we went on Vrindavan Parikrama (advice: wear comfy shoes…seriously…don’t get humble about this) and the second time I went was with my family and husband and my father-in-law on Janamastmi. My Dad got yelled at by the pujari because he was holding a video camera and that is a no-no in all temples in India. But the way the temple is built, you don’t go inside the temple. You just climb a long set of stairs and the Deities are there in all Their shining mercy so he didn’t realize that we’d get to the Deities so soon and that They would be all out in the open like that. Not exactly out in the open, but you know, not inside the building.

I used to wonder why people aren’t allowed to take pictures or videotape inside the temples. I thought that maybe it was superstition. But standing in front of Sri-Sri Radha-Madanmohan in Vrindavan. I realized that this is an experience that shouldn’t be captured in a picture but in your heart. Visiting these temples are supposed to give you a deep spiritual experience, if you’re so focused on taking pictures you miss the whole thing. Or maybe cameras steal your soul, I dunno.


To learn more about Sanatan Goswami click here

Sri-Sri Radha Shyamasundar on Janamastmi Day

“O Queen of Vrndavana, O Radharani, Your complexion is like molten gold, Your doe-like eyes are captivatingly restless, a million full and brilliant moons wane before Your lustrous countenance, and a blue sari, having stolen the hue of a fresh rain-laden cloud, has enwrapped Your exquisite form. O Radha, You are the crest-jewel of all the dallying damsels of Vrndavana, fragrant and pristine like a budding jasmine flower. Your sublime form is adorned with priceless jewelry, and you are the best of all the charming and intelligent gopis. You are decorated with all wonderful excellences and surrounded by eight dedicated and beloved cowherd girls known as the asta-sakhis.

“The ambrosia of Your beautiful lips, red as the bimba fruit, is life-giving syrup to Krsna. O Radha, I am rolling on the banks of the Yamuna, my poor heart filled with anticipation, praying to You with all humility. I am guilty of being an offender, a rascal, a useless wretch–yet I beg You to kindly engage me in even the smallest service to Your lotus feet. O most merciful Lady, it will not become You to ignore this most distressed soul, for Your heart is always overflowing with compassion and love.”
-Srila Rupa Goswami Sri Prarthana-Paddhati

I don’t know what I was thinking. We went to Vrindavan during Janamastmi but didn’t book a hotel room. Its not that I didn’t try, I sent emails to book a room in the guesthouse or at least have someone suggest a hotel for us to try contacting but I never got a response. I thought that maybe I had lucked out like I did in Kolkata. I had emailed them, they didn’t email back but had a room booked for us anyway. No such luck. I remembered that a common belief among devotees is that if you get the mercy of Radharani, the Queen of Vrindavan, then you will have the privilege of staying in Vrindavan for more than three days. We weren’t even there one day, barely an hour and it seemed hopeless.

After some time my family, composed of my husband, father-in-law, Mom, Dad and my younger sister, lugged our bags to a hotel that said that they could only take us for one night as someone had the two rooms for the next day. Not even one day. Radharani wouldn’t let us stay for one day. My husband, sister an I walked around Vrindavan for an hour going from hotel to hotel asking if they could possibly give us two rooms for a week, or even one room for a couple days but we got turned down everywhere we went. People from all over India booked months in advance and it was painful seeing them just walk right past us, ask about their room and then disappear into the hotel. I felt bad for my sister. It was her third day in India and she was wandering around the dirty streets of Vrindavan in the heat and no sign of relief.

My younger sister is very pretty and what some might consider high maintenance, unlike me- a walking mess- she makes sure to be well-dressed and made-up before leaving the house. In our family she was always the one that stayed out of trouble, and I remember her always being very thoughtful of others. After all, she could have stayed with my parents instead of wander through the streets with us. Eventually she went back to the hotel and my husband and I search for an hour more. I considered taking my family to Agra and putting them up in a hotel there and I would stay in Vrindavan, even if I had to sleep in the streets. Even if I would have to sleep in the mucky gutters that line the roadside, I wouldn’t skip out on this adventure. We stopped at the Krishna-Balaram temple,
“Prema-Rupa, I need you to stay here while I continue looking.”
“No! I want to stay with you, why are you leaving me here?”
“Im going with my friend to keep looking and I need you to stay here and pray to Radharani.”
I sighed, “Are you sure?”
“Positive, I’ll be right back.”

I sat amongst a group of devotees in front of Sri-Sri Radha-Syamasundars altar, lively kirtan was being sung while we waited for the altar doors to open. I prayed to Radharani while chanting on my japa beads. Certainly She must know Im here, She wouldn’t neglet me, would She? Since my husband gave me Sri-Sri Radha Madanmohan in 2004, She has always been the one I turn to, the one I felt understood me best, the one I could depend on. I came all the way here just for Her. The altar doors open, the chanting exploded and people pushed their way to the front with their offerings of money, garlands and vegetables, eager to receive a little mercy. I slowly made my way to the front, my eyes focused on Her, oblivious to my surrounding. “Give me a sign,” I prayed, “a flower to fall, anything at all. I want to know you are listening.” I pleaded to Her my case. How I loved Her and wanted to serve Her. I told Her that having a hotel is not important to me, for Her, I could sleep in the streets but its my family’s first time here.

Nothing.

I told Her that I was willing to give up fancy saris for simple cotton ones if we could stay. That’s a big deal, I love sari’s. Im attached to every single one of them, even the rattiest dirtiest sari I hang on to until its completely shredded to pieces.

Nothing.

I begged and pleaded and bargained with no reply, “even if the pujari gave me a maha-flower, I’ll take that to mean something.” I held my hand out with the other devotees while the pujari handed out the flowers and tossed them into the crowd. My hand turned up empty. Slowly, people started to meander away. I pleaded with Visakha-Sakhi to convince Radharani to give me a little mercy, just a little. Radharani would listen to Visakha, right? They’re BFF’s She’s got to listen.

Nothing.

Then I got angry, “Okay Radharani, that’s how You want to be? Fine. I give you my attention, my love. I always make sure You get everything first. You get the fanciest dressing, my husband fusses at me about how long You take to get dressed and I always take up for You. I spent hundreds of dollars on You year after year, trying to give You the nicest, the best and I come to Your home and this is my treatment? Maybe I wont come back, is that what you want? Fine, be like that.”

Nothing.

Brokenhearted. I continued to silently pray, fingering my beads, still hoping for that sign. It had been four hours from when my husband left until he came back. He shook his head solemnly and we walked back to our hotel room without saying a word. We knew what this meant for us.

We got back to the hotel, my family was in their room, and my father-in-law was asleep on his bed. “This devotee is very well-known here in Vrindavan, he thought that if he came with me he could pull a few strings and get us a room, we walked by foot everywhere for four hours but everyone turned us down.” We lay in bed, my head on my husbands shoulder. I imagined my good-hearted husband walking around in the hot hot sun, “I know you prayed very hard for us, but maybe this is Krishna’s desire. My friend said that if he hears anything he will call me. But he doubts he’ll hear anything” We stared at the phone expectantly, the only sound was the whirring of the fan above us. We waited and waited but no one ever called. Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough, maybe I wasn’t sincere enough. Maybe God doesn’t care about what we want, about our desires, even if it is to serve Him. “Here is what I think we should do,” I whispered, “I think you should take our family to Agra and find a hotel for them there. They can stay there for the rest of the week….and I’ll stay here.”
“And what will you do here?”
“I just have to stay. Even if I have nowhere to stay, I just need to be here. I am determined to be here.” I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. The thought of my family and I not getting the mercy of Radharani was unbearable. I prayed one more time, I begged Her to not neglect me. I wanted the mercy so badly. Hot tears poured down my face as my husband tried to console me.

And then the phone rang.

Sri-Sri Radha Syamasundar in Alachua on Gaura Purnima day

Hungry. That is the only word I can use to describe how I felt standing in front of Sri-Sri Radha Shyamasundar in Alachua on Gaura Purnima. My eyes were hungry for the form of Krishna. Radha-Shyamasundar are always impeccably dressed, everything is perfect about Them but on Gaura Purnima, they were especially breathtaking. Standing in front of Them, I wished that my eyesight was perfect- no- I wished it was more than perfect so that I can relish every part of Radha-Shyamasundar with my eyes. The altar reminded me of Janamastmi in Vrindavan, full of foliage and flowers, it was simply amazing. And Their outfits were so beautiful with shiny sequined colors that faded from one to another. What is amazing about the Lord is that a dress is just a dress and a necklace is just a necklace, but when Krishna wears it, it becomes transformed, it bewilders my mind! His beauty makes ordinary things more beautiful. It’s the complete opposite of how people dress! Amazing. Simply amazing.

Waiting for the abhisek to start I sat in the back of the temple room and mindlessly fingered my beads. Its bad, I know. I looked at Radharani and wondered why some devotees turn down the opportunity to serve Them. So beautiful and such an intimate service. I wondered how some devotees have the privilege to perform devotional service but neglect others the privilege to serve Them too. Certainly we should be greedy for Krishna, but we should never be stingy.

I don’t get people. Especially devotees.

Gaura Purnima marks a new year for us devotees. This year I would like to blog more. Last year was pretty rough for me, I was going through some things not worth talking about so bloging was last on my mind. But I did finally have the good fortune of going to India and I would like to talk about some of my experiences. Mostly so that I don’t forget, but also because I want to remember the amazing time I had. I remember worrying that I wouldn’t like India, I know so many very wonderful devotees who went to India and hated it but the minute I got there I loved it. I even loved the things that I didn’t like. I cant wait to go back.

Radharani is so so beautiful. I just love Her

Our home Deities, Sri-Sri Radha Madanmohan on Gaura Purnima Day