2012 Wherever He Goes Becomes Vraja
Dear Śrīla Prabhupāda
On this occasion of your divine appearance, please accept by humble obeisances at your Vraja-dust–laden lotus feet and allow me to offer the following paltry words in praise of you and your mission.
Your eternal servant,
* * *
Chanting japa, I walk along the dirt road from Sunrakh to Garuḍa-Govinda in Vṛndāvana, Govinda Mahārāja ten paces ahead of me, the late morning sun beating down from above, the silence of the dhāma all around. Birds sing in the trees, a herd of blue cows graze nearby, and the silence is broken by the occasional gust of wind shaking the leaves on the trees. I see the banyan tree where the cowherd boys would rest and the ruins of the large kuṇḍa where the cows would bathe. I feel the transcendental atmosphere unique to Vṛndāvana-dhāma—a pervasive sweetness that invokes memories of the divine cowherd prince, of His exploits and His exchanges of love with His associates.
As that sweetness mixes with the sound of my chanting and the sights of the dhāma—completely captivating my heart—a very different picture suddenly comes to mind. A picture in a faraway land, and yet a picture pervaded by the very same Vṛndāvana atmosphere in which I walk.
It is Montreal, 1976. Śrīla Prabhupāda and the devotees are sitting at Dorval Airport, waiting for the departure of the plane that would take His Divine Grace to New Delhi and a meeting with Indira Gandhi. Śrīla Prabhupāda sits in a chair fingering his beads, and we devotees sit around him chanting.
Suddenly I feel a wave of spiritual energy that seems to wash away not only the sounds and sights of the airport but the influence of the modes of nature from my heart. Suddenly I am seated in another land. I experience freedom, lightness, happiness, and sweetness—inexplicable sweetness. Where does it all come from? The compass of my being spontaneously points to Śrīla Prabhupāda, a waterfall of bliss cascading wave after wave of transcendental emotion that transforms the waiting room into Vṛndāvana, the same Vṛndāvana in which I now walk to Garuḍa-Govinda.
How wonderful! But how is it possible? Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja explains:
bhavad-vidhā bhāgavatās tīrtha-bhūtāḥ svayaṁ vibho
tīrthī-kurvanti tīrthāni svāntaḥ-sthena gadābhṛtā
“My Lord, devotees like your good self are verily holy places personified. Because you carry the Personality of Godhead within your heart, you turn all places into places of pilgrimage.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.13.10)
Because Kṛṣṇa always resides in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s heart, wherever Śrīla Prabhupāda goes is Vṛndāvana; he transforms whatever place he visits into that sweetest place of pilgrimage. In turn, the people in those places also become purified, and in time they themselves become places of pilgrimage—residents of Vraja.
On that day at Dorval Airport, out of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s boundless grace, I became intensely aware of his Vṛndāvana presence. It was an experience not to be forgotten. It made me understand that Śrīla Prabhupāda’s traveling and preaching was taking Vṛndāvana all over the world, and turning the entire planet into a place of pilgrimage.
But as Govinda Mahārāja and I neared Garuḍa-Govinda, I recalled how Śrīla Prabhupāda also wanted all his followers—especially sannyāsīs—to help him in distributing the sweetness of Vṛndāvana. He did not take such a responsibility exclusively as his own. Śrīla Prabhupāda had said,
„Tīrthī-kurvanti tīrthāni svāntaḥ-sthena gadābhṛtā. Because a pure devotee carries Kṛṣṇa within his heart, therefore wherever he goes he makes a holy place. It is said in the śāstra. So not me, but everyone of you, if you are pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa, then wherever you’ll go, that is a holy place. Tīrthī-kurvanti tīrthāni. To become sannyāsī means that, that he’ll be pure devotee, and wherever he will go, he will purify. That is [what] sannyāsa means. [Morning Walk conversation at Marina del Rey, Los Angeles, 14 July 1974]
His Divine Grace ordered us to become pure devotees and transform into Vraja all the places we travel to and live in.
I take a deep breath, as if to inhale the Vṛndāvana atmosphere around me. In Dorval, Śrīla Prabhupāda inexplicably revealed to me a glimpse of what it means to be Kṛṣṇa conscious and to be an emissary of the spiritual world. It will take more than deep breaths to become the pure-devotee/sannyāsī Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke of. But it would be possible by repeated showers of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mercy, the grace of Vṛndāvana itself, and the power of the holy names he has given.
Although this year has not blessed me with such a transformation, I pray that one day I may honor Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance day by having become the devotee/sannyāsī who converts every place he goes into Vṛndāvana. When that personal transformation does come, when I one day join the ranks of such similarly accomplished godbrothers and godsisters, that day will have been a suitable offering to His Divine Grace. He is most pleased when the Kṛṣṇa consciousness he brought matures in his followers.
O gentle Vaiṣṇavas who celebrate the appearance day of our beloved Śrīla Prabhupāda! O Garuḍa-Govinda! O divine land of Vraja! Please bless me to one day offer a spotless Vṛndāvana-heart at the feet of His Divine Grace, our ever well-wisher.