Day 11 Vrndavana 12/16
Our Braj Mandala Parikrama countunied under the able guidance of HG Devananda Pandit Prabhu ("The last man should be first!") as we visited various sacred sites in Nandagram and Barsana. The reality of how fortunate we are came to light at Ter-Kadamba, the bhajan kutir of Rupa Goswami. If you meditated just enough, the external film peeled back to reveal Rupa chastising his elder brother Sanatana for tasting the milk prasad cooked by a visiting girl named Radharani. Absolutely incredible. As Chaitanya said, in remarking that this was the place where Rupa Goswami wrote all the literatures that are the essence of our devotional heart: "This is the place where Krsna Consciousness began. Without Rupa Goswami writing these scriptures, we wouldn't know anything."
We also visited Vrnda-Kunda, praying for forgiveness of offences and lifetimes of service. In Barsana, the externals got to me. So many residents approaching seemingly with rupees in their eyes rather than katha or bhava. So there is every tendency to become hard-hearted, to criticize and offend. Good advice is to remember the Brijabasis are simple at heart internally, even if they appear greedy externally. If we say no, it should be done with respect and a "Radhe Radhe" to keep soft and receptive.
HH Sacinandana Maharaja gave a short and succinct brahmacari class in the evening, saying that brahmacarya doesn't just mean non-married life, it means acting always on the spiritual platform. He says that humility is an atom bomb against the false ego, and that by viewing women as atmas, spirit souls, we act properly in brahmacarya.
Day 12 Vrndavana 12/17
Completely exhausted, completely enlivened, completely intoxicated after the most sacred of long walks, 14 miles, the Govardhana Parikrama.
We began with breakfast at Kurosara Sarovara and then hit Giriraja's trail. Moving through Manasi Ganga, playfully dodging the Braj street kids with empty hands. We stopped at Govardhana Palace, lovingly run in the memory and inspiration of HH Tamal Krsna Maharaja, where we reunited with our fellow New V. Brajbasi HG Gauranga Kishore Prabhu, resplendent with babaji beard, his own small bhajan-kutir, and some serious sanskrit studies.
We were treated to a quick katha with HH Kesava Bharati Maharaja, who told of Govardhana Hill being the most secret place of play for Krsna and His cowherd boyfriends, and how no one who comes to Giriraja can leave without being deeply affected, and that we should remember this as our best fortune.
We then began our intimate darshan of Giriraja, stopping at Govinda-kunda to share pastimes and build small houses of silas in prayer to take residence near Giriraja in our next life. My house was very simple. No mansion for me. Just a roof, a dirt-floor, and Giriraja as constant darshan outside my window.
We turned the corner around the tail of Giriraja, rolling in the dust and watching as devotees threw mounds of carrots into the air to a sea of monkeys. Another universe indeed. At this point, the ol'feet went "oofh!" but we trudged on through noisy, narrow streets, piles of cow dung, cups of sugercane juice, and a million little rocks and thorns.
The journey concluded at the most sacred spot in the univrse: Radha-Kunda and Syama-Kunda, where liquid love of God sits for all to share. Here, my mood of deep prayer was slightly disturbed by pandits who wanted to perform my darshan for me, but I was able to pour my heart out in prayer, and give my japa beads the best bath I can ever give them. In order to soften my hard heart, I gave away my chadar to a young transcendental trickster residing at Radha-Kunda. Even if he has a big pile of chadars from gullible Americans back home in his bhajan-kutir, still, who knows what personality he might be.
Now, drunk, tired, and mystified, we survived the last leg and now stand, nay, we sit and recline after an austerity to be always cherished. May Giriraja grant us eternal service at His feet.