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My recent trip to India.

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Hare Krsna To All
Pranams
All glories to Srila Prabhupada
 
I returned a week ago from a month long trip to India. Basically I spent about 12 days in Vrndavana, about a week in Jaipur and the rest of the time at Bhaktivedanta Eco Village,Kollur Valley, Karanataka South India.
 
[Vishrama ghata in Mathura]
 
 
The trip was successful in that I accomplished basically all that I wanted, went to all the Holy places I have read about over the past 35 years or so,even though this was my 6th trip to India, and got to see many very old devotee friends not seen in over 30 years. However one aspect loomed immediatley imminent before me.
 
I had heard how polluted Vrndavana had become, but didnt really believe it-- until I got there. I first visited Vrndavana way back in 1975, when the Krsna Balarama  temple first opened and it was spectacular at that time. There was the Raman Reti sands and forests with lots of peacocks out behind the temple, there was very large open fields right across from the temple on Bhaktivedanta Marg (Road), a packed dirt road all the way into Loi Bazaar and only peddle rickshaws occupied the roads besides the local Brijabasis, who all were walking.
 
All that has changed and the change is not good. Now on this same "road" which is broken up into millions of pieces of concrete, mud, and who knows what else, with lots of open sewage flowing everywhere, there are countless cars, auto rickshaws and other contraptions which all spew forth tons of pollution into ones eyes,nose, and lungs and the air as well. I couldnt believe what I saw--Vrndavana the highest place in this universe, spiritually speaking, has now become one of the most degraded and polluted places on this earth. Once one gets over this shock, and tries to adjust his mentality to this new impediment to spiritual "vision", then one can start to once again try to appreciate the value of Vrndavana Dhama. And that isnt easy believe me. For me, the best places were out of the towns of Vrndavana and Govardhana, where the old time Vrndavana still lives, the places far away like way down south of Mathura in the forest of Mahavan, the place of Radharanis birth Reval and Dowji, the temple of Lord Balarama and also Gokul with its Raman reti or clean sands and clean ashrams as well. These places are not affected as of yet by all the commercialization ow taking place where within the Vrndavana area a half acre of land sells  for half million dollars . Unbelievable land costing that much in India in Vrndavana. And I was told it is not bhaktas who are pushing up the prices, its outside Indians who are wealthy, and who are not necessarily there for the "dust of Vrndavana".
 
But all that aside, it still is Vrndavana Dhama, a very special place and always will be, One just has to try harder to "see" it now. In one sastra it's stated that when the Yamuna and Govardhana hill finally disappear then the full force of Kali yuga will take place and local brijabasis told me that they are surprised how fast Govardhana hill seems to be sinking downward into mother Bhumi. 
 
There are many good things going on however despite all this. One of them is Care for Cows a non profit run by Kurma Rupa das a Prabhupada disciple and old friend of mine from Vancouver farm days. I just happened to discover this when we went there and asked the Indian man who was the front man that day there, who spoke perfect English. I asked him where he was from, he told me he used to live in Renton Wash , just about 70 miles from where I presently live, and I was shocked to hear that . Then I asked him the name of the devotee who ran this place he said Kurma rupa--I said I used to know a devotee by that name--did he ever live in Canada I asked?
 
He said yes I think he told me that once. So he got him on the phone,he came out, and it  turned out we did know each other about 30 years ago when we both were living and serving Srila Prabhupada in Canada Vancouver temple .
 
Talk about small world and getting smaller--and this type of exchange was to happen several times more to me while I "found" old friends all over India.
 
By the way, if anybody wants to donate laxsmi to a wonderful cause, please send it to this organization. They will not waste you donation and believe me, there is nobody pocketing any of it on the side--It all goes to the cows. ------   careforcows.org
 
[Yasoda nandan dasa feeding chapatis, gur and bananas to willing calfs at care for cows]
 
The best part of the Vrndavana trip for me was going to Krsna Balarma temple in the evenings and taking part in Aindras kirtans. This devotee lives in a different world than most of us. First of all he daily worships  around 3000 Salagram Silas in his room, or one should rather call it his ashram/temple room within the brahmacari ashram. I wanted to take a picture, but he told me I couldnt because he had not yet put the crowns on his Deities. Anyway, he would show up about a half hour before the sundar arotik and everybody who knew, was already there waiting for him. There was a large roped off area around him and about 50-100 devotees who regularly took part in this evening of intense Kirtan which only reminded me of Srivas Angan- the closed doors of Srivas Thakurs ashram where only Lord Gauranga and His associate blissfully sang all night long.
 
[Aindra and others leading another ecstatic kirtan at Krsna Balarama mandir
 
So Aindra is publishing a book now about Sankirtan, and , two of the bad boys of the local GBC, have told him if he publishes that book-which seems to have some controversial material,  they will kick him out of this temple. Sounds normal doesnt it? All the really good devotees, are gradually being pushed out of the temples they all originally founded and worked on giving their life blood for, and told to get out. The reason is iskcon really does not want any Prabhupada disciples in HIS own temples, and this policy has been ongoing since  Prabhupada physically left us.
 
I was staying down the street from Radha Raman temple at the actual building that OBL Kapoor lived in, Srila Prabhupadas old Godbrother. Nice place and off the beaten track from all the traffic of most of Vrndavana. Until one day when I came back around 6PM, it was just getting dark and there was a huge street commotion going on right in front of my building. It was a wedding party !!! This is something you dont want to happen to you if you plan on sleeping any time soon that night. The noise these people generate with their portable trucks  with huge loud speakers blaring off into the nether regions is not even on the richter scale in decibels. It is so loud, you cannot hear yourself chant-and thats inside another building across the road, with all doors and windows closed tight.And what they play is not Krsna kirtan-rather some form of modern disco music, if you can call it that.and the make matters worse, there was no water in my apt that day, so I had to go down the street and pump some into a large bucket, haul it upstairs, and then take a bath.
 
After tolerating about a half hour of this racket I had had enough, went downstairs and asked somebody with body language, since none of them spoke english, what time this thing was going to be over. They just ignored me like I was not there. So I went down to Radha Raman temple trying to find Padma Nabh the man in charge, in this neighborhood, he wasnt home, but somebody else was and he was talking to two devotees on the porch below him about some other matters. When they finished, I asked what time this wedding party will end, and he just shrugged his shoulders, basically saying whenever they get tired of it !! I also added for good measure to him that my water was off and he said somebody would come down to fix it. So I was tired, wanted to get some sleep, and mad at the same time. But this is Radharanis town, she is in charge here, and nobody else,since Vrndavana Dhama runs under her authority, the Internal Energy of the Lord.
 
Wall mural depicting a crazy fellow cutting a branch of the tree Krsna sat upon 5000 years ago-next day he died and then all his family also died]  
 
Next I turned to the two devotees standing there, and it was almost totally dark by now. I asked one,after carefully looking him over, are you a Prabhupada disciple? It turned out he was Paramadvetti Swami who operates about a 100 temples/farms in S America, and has an ashram in Vrndavana. We spoke briefly introducing each other, and he then invited me to his ashram, not far away, Vrnda Kunda, for prasadam . I was thinking, this is really amazing !! Every day here it seemed, something nasty would happen followed the next day by something very nice.Again another distasteful event (the noisy wedding),and followed immediately by that, a way out of it !! So I went with him and one of his disciples to his ashram. We stopped by Gopeswara temple (where Lord Siva assumes the form of a gopi so he can take part in Krsna lila), and the Swami explained to me how he tried for 8 years to buy some ashram/land in Vrndavana to no avail--until somebody told him you cant get anything done in Vrndavana unless you go thru Lord Siva who lives here as Gopisvara. As soon as he prayed to Gopisvara, the very next day he told me this beautiful ashram, that was built several hundred years ago by a princess, became available and the very same day he bought it and transfered title into his organizations name. This never happens or that quick in Vrndavana.
 
So anyway, we talked for a couple hours into the night about what we both do, I told him about our Hare Krsna Society and how we are dedicated solely to Srila Prabhupada and preserving his original teachings and we printed a book called Srila Prabhupada Siddhanta . He wanted a copy and I told him I just dropped off a dozen at Rasabihari book store in Loi Bazaar.He said he would go the next day and get one. I also noticed that as soon as you walked into his place there was a huge picture of Srila Prabhupada hanging over the doorway, and several others as well inside his main room where he stayed. I felt hopeful seeing this.
 
This was an unusual event for me also, because I have no ongoing personal contact with anybody who associates with the Gaudiya matha, living in the west for practically all my life.So I tried to explain to the Swami that our guru, Srila Prabhupada did not want us to be around these people at all, or even buy their books, for that matter. But the Swami insisted otherwise, and quickly I could see why he did so. Back in the early days of iskcon breakup after Srila Prabhupada left us, chaos returned and the new "leaders" of iskcon wanted themselves in the acarya seat and all their Godbrothers who objected to this- OUT of all the temples.
 
So this Swami told me he also objected to these unauthorized changes to Prabhupadas iskcon and they basically told him to get out as well. So I started to imagine being in that situation, living in India with all its hodge podge of swamis, yogis, charlatans, babajis,and others who want to recognized as "somebody", and what would an iskcon devotee and leader do with himself in this situation? They  would gravitate to the Gaudiya Matha since that group was apparantly the source of our spiritual master Srila Prabhupada and maybe they would or could help one in this particular situation-especially since most devotees in those early days knew nothing about all the warnings  Prabhupada gave to us about associating with his Godbrothers. 
 
Given the Swamis predicament at that time I could understand why he and all others gravitated to the Gaudiya Matha, especially when they "acted" so nice to these neophyte devotees from the west.
 
But now times are different, we have on CD , MP3 or book form all the instructions that Srila Prabhupada gave to us regarding our spiritual development and the lengthy warnings he gave to us HIS DISCIPLES, about the dangers of associating with his deviant Godbrothers.
So I didnt pursue arguing with the Swami about his association with the Gaudiya Matha in India, but left it alone  that night, knowing that I was going to give him the ENVY CD that Gargamuni and Brahmananda prabhus put together, the next day.This CD has all the complete information and warnings Srila Prabhupada gave on Gaudiya matha.  I figured, the damage they(GaudiyaMath) caused this devotee was already done, but if he heard directly again from his spiritual master Srila Prabhupada, about what Prabhupada wanted for the future of this movement regarding initiations  and whom to associate with, then there was some hope he would figure it out. The result was not up to me, I was only a mailman delivering the words to all of our Spiritual Master Srila Prabhupada.
 
The basic problem always facing all of us Bhaktas is ignorance of the truth. We are rotting here in this place because we are ignorant of our real selves, and that ignorance can be removed by faithful and regularly hearing from Krsna's bona fide representative Srila Prabhupada, the Senapathi bhakta predicted in Caitanya Mangala by Locan das Thakur, 500 years ago,who would deliver Mahaprabhu to the entire world thru his movement.
So I left the swamis temple late at night and one of his disciples gave me a ride on his scooter back because I had no idea how to get there. Meanwhile the wedding party was still going full blast around midnight, so I took my mattress out of my room, went further away, or deeper into the building, rolled it up like a chapati  with me inside, and stuck myself inside trying to ignore the still loud noise filtering thru to my ears. Somehow I got some sleep that night, maybe an hour or two, and began chanting again early that morning. This is Vrndavana Dhama, under the control of Srimate Radharani and one has to tolerate all kinds of things, and my guess is when either or both Radha and Krsna feel you have had enough, They let you off the misery hook and then give you some mercy.
 
below is Vrnda kund,and for me one of the nicest places in all of Vrndavana. It is away from all the crowds, it is very clean, and is the home of Vrnda Devi one of the few original Deities still within Braj Mandala. She refused to leave when all the others were going because of the Muslim attacks.  
 
[Vrnda kunda- a very special place]
 
Vrnda  tulsi Devi
 
[a deity of Govardhan with hands and legs] 
[Govardhan hill ]
[Panca pandava trees--this one is Bhima still at Radha Kunda]
[Beautiful murti of Srila Prabhupada at a store in Loi Bazaar]
 
[Prabhupada at Radha Damodara temple in his original room
I am only giving tidbits of this trip, as there is too much too tell in this letter.
 
more incuded in letter #2
Hari bol
Damaghosa das
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