You’ll also taste the morning and evening programs and perhaps even the kirtanas and prasada, and you’ll likely feel the pain of blisters-all peppered with realizations from pilgrims in the field.
Furthermore, whenever we reach a pastime place, we will tell you about what happened there, referencing the writings of Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas? And we have included route maps.
There is so much nectar to be heard on Vraja- mandala Darsana we touch on the essential while hoping to arouse your interest in transcendental events that span the millennia. And we try to deepen your appreciation not just of the Lord’s pastimes but of our Gaudiya parampara’s contribution and service to Vraja- dhama.
We hope those unable to travel to Vrndavana for the Vraja-mandala parikrama will use this book to become connected by mind and heart to the parikrama party. Vraja-mandala Darsana is written like a thirty- day journal, so you can read a chapter a day as part of your Karttika sadhana no matter you is in the world.
Additional, of reading this book inspires you to join the parikrama one Karttika, we shall consider our endeavor a resounding success. May this book facilitate your absorption in Vraja-dhama?
Prabhupada’s first Indian disciples, he received harinama initiation in 1972 and served in various positions at the ISKON Juhu temple. He was awarded sannyasa initiation in 1975.
As years passed, I became suitably acclimated to India, and my taste for parikrama grew, as did my attachment to the dhamas and to Lords Gauranga and Krsna, Thus, aside from associating with senior Vaisnavas, my main interest in visiting Mayapur and Vraja was to immerse myself in the Lord's pastimes, and that immersion opened a new vista of Krsna consciousness for me.
And yet, once I boarded the plane and left the dhama behind, as time passed I would find my enhanced Krsna consciousness gradually fading. I couldn't live in Vrndavana, but I realized that I couldn't progress in Krsna consciousness without doing so.
Then one day I came across the following verse:
krsnam smaran janam casya
kuryad vasam vraje sada
The devotee should always think of Krsna within himself and should choose a very dear devotee who is a servitor of Krsna in Vrndavana.
One should constantly engage in topics about that servitor and his loving relationship with Krsna, and one should live in Vrndavana, If one is physically unable to go to Vrndavana, he should mentally live there. (Caitonya-caruamrta, Madhya 22.161)
"Live in Vrndavana mentally."
With that simple instruction, Srila Prabhupada answered my quest to perform parikrama continually. It was immaterial whether my body was in the USA or the UK. If my mind was absorbed in the Lord's dhamas and lilas, I could be in Vraja and be with Krsna.
To nurture remembrance of Vrndavana, I began to read the parikrama books available at the time - such as those by Padmalochan Prabhu - as well as books by our acaryas, like Vraja-vildsa-stava. Just as I chanted japa when I visited pastime places in India, I could now visit pastime places while chanting japa in the West.
For me, therefore, Loknath Maharaja's Vraja-mandala Darsana is not only a guide through Vrndavana but a means to live in Vraja while I serve in Hungary. I am indebted to him for giving me further inspiration for my Krsna consciousness, and I urge the readers of his book to use it not solely as a guide through Vraja, but as a guide through life back to Krsna.
Loknath Maharaja has narrated Krsna's pastimes In his simple yet erudite style so we may learn to live with Krsna and thus be insulated from the Lord's external potency. In this way, our dormant attachment for Vraja and its residents will gradually awaken in our hearts and, as the quotation I gave says, we will naturally become attracted to certain pastimes, places, and Vrajavasis. Such attachment will eventually open for us the door to eternal Vraja, where we can one day be part of the pastimes other practicing devotees will be hearing about and remembering here on earth. No doubt, even after the author of this book has entered into Krsna's eternal lila as the servant of a Vrajavasi, his book will continue to guide others to that same divine destination.
One must circumambulate the temple building at least three times. (In every temple there is an arrangement to go around the temple at least three times. Some devotees go around more than three times - ten times, fifteen times - according to their vows. The Gosvamis used to circumambulate Govardhana Hill). One should also circumambulate the whole Vrndavana area.
Of parikramas to the various dhamas around India, the ultimate parikrama is of Vraja-mandala, also referred to as caurasi-krosa parikrama. Caurasi means "eighty-four" and one krosa equals about two miles, so the total parikrama is 168 miles long. ISKCON's Vraja-Randal parikramas are a little longer - this figure does not include the additional distance covered during the localized parikramas we perform at certain junctures, such as the Mathura parikrama, the Govardhana parikrama, the Kamyavana parikrama, and so on.
How Vraja-mandala parikrama started in ISKCON
Our yearly Vraja-mandala parikrama program is the natural extension of an instruction Srila Prabhupada gave me in 1976. In the early part of that year, I was serving with the Nitai-Gaura World Traveling Sankirtana party, which was traveling in two German buses and preaching in North India. Our program had been successful for several months, but unfortunately, because of problems with India's Vehicle Controls Department, the buses had to leave India.
Around Radhastami that year, our party heard that Srila Prabhupada was in Delhi, so we decided to report to him the loss of our buses and ask for instructions. When I met with him, Srila Prabhupada told me to forget about the buses and instead start a bullock-cart sankirtana party. He suggested I travel and preach in the villages of India.
Srila Prabhupada reiterated his instruction in subsequent meetings in Delhi and Vrndavana, and he gave me detailed instructions on how to bring harinama and book distribution to the villages. This led to the birth of ISKCON's padayarth program. Not long afterwards, we left with our first bullock cart from Vrndavana to Bengal, Odisha, and up to Bhubaneshwar. Then, due to unavoidable circumstances, there was a break in the program.
ISKCON Padayatra had its renaissance in 1984 when Jayapataka Swami proposed the idea of doing a padayatra that retraced Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's footsteps in honor of the 500th anniversary of Lord Caitanya's appearance. Soon, the proposal was made before the GBC and was passed unanimously, with ISKCON leaders supporting the Endeavour with tremendous enthusiasm.
On September 2, 1984 the padayatris assembled in Dvaraka and began their walk to Mayapur via Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India. The trip took nineteen months. The party arrived in Sridhama Mayapur on March 20, 1986, just in time for Lord Caitanya's 500th Gaura Purnima. It was a historic walk - a nearly impossible dream come true.
The padayatra program was meant to end in Mayapur that Gaura Purnima, but we had met with such huge success that we could do nothing but carryon! After the Gaura Purnima celebrations, we decided to complete the parikrama circle by returning to Dvaraka.
Our new itinerary would take us north to Badarikasrama, which was the only dhama of the four the padayatra had yet to visit. (We had visited the other three - Dvaraka, Ramesvaram, and Jagannatha Purl - on our way to Mayapur). Vrndavana was more or less on the route to Badarikasrama, so we decided we would also stop there.
ISKCON Padayatra arrived in Vrndavana just before the 1987 Mayapur- Vrndavana festival. In those days we held a yearly Vrndavana festival right after the Gaura Purnima festival in Mayapur. Although we came to Vrndavana for the festival and to visit our Krishna-Balaram temple before continuing on to Badarikasrama, the Lord had other plans for us.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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