Day 5/12 | Exploring Vrindavan
Following the Master | Holi Pilgrimage Vrindavan 2019
Today began with a morning visit to the temple of Gopeshwar Mahadev, the famous temple of Lord Shiva, wherein He is dressed as a Gopi. On the way to the temple, the group passed by Keshi Ghat on the banks of the Yamuna, the location where Lord Krishna washed His hands after killing the demon Keshi. At Gopeshwar Mahadev, all the devotees were allowed to touch the Shiva lingam to take Lord Shankara’s blessings. Afterwards, the group proceeded on to Vamshi Vat. Vamshi means flute, and Vat means Banyan tree, and fittingly, this is the location where Lord Krishna would play His flute, calling the gopis to perform the Raas with Him. There Guruji shared the story of how Gopeshwar Mahadev came to be. He said that one day, when Parvati was getting ready to join the Raas with Her sakhis, Lord Shiva expressed His deep longing to join them too. Parvati told Mahadev that men are strictly forbidden, and so at His request, they proceeded to disguise Lord Shiva as a gopi. Naturally the task was very difficult, given Lord Shankara’s manly figure and unique features, but having done their best, they joined the Raas. Lord Krishna was curious as to who this new sakhi of Parvati was. Parvati told Krishna it was nobody important, just a new friend. But as the Lord is ever omniscient, He played His game with Shiva. He invited the disguised Shiva to dance with Him, and Shiva duly obliged, soon losing Himself in ecstatic dancing. Mirroring Krishna’s every move, Lord Shiva had lost notion of where He was and the disguise He was meant to maintain. Seeing this, Lord Krishna performed a very special dance move, one that only He and Shiva could perform in the entire universe. Without thinking, Lord Shiva mirrored the move, and everyone fell silent in shock. By the time Shiva realised what had happened it was too late! Everybody recognised who He was, but Lord Krishna was extremely happy, and welcomed Lord Shiva heartily. Ever since that wonderful leela, Lord Shiva is honoured in Vrindavan as a gopi at the Gopeshwar Mahadev temple.
As the story concluded, Guruji gave everyone free time to go shopping at Loi Bazaar, before heading back to Sri Giridhar Dham for lunch.
In the afternoon, Satya Narayan Das Babaji gave a 2-hour class on the Bhagavatam. Babaji spoke of the Bhagavatam’s very purpose, how Veda Vyasa’s life was incomplete and how His Guru, Narada, instructed Him to write it. Babaji explained that no scripture speaks as clearly and decisively on the nature of God and Bhakti as the Bhagavatam. He stated how the Bhagavatam presents the Supreme Reality as being accessible in three different modes, namely Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. Although they are all one and the same being, experientially they differ. For the jnanis, the Supreme is Brahman. For the yogis it is Paramatma. But for the bhaktas it is Bhagavan. As he explored these ideas, Babaji led into the stories preceding the recitation of the Bhagavatam by Sukadev Goswami to King Parikshit. He spoke of the killing of the Pandava’s children by Ashwattama, including his attempt to kill Parikshit while he was still in the womb of his mother, Uttara. He spoke of the final battle between Dhuryodhan and the Pandavas and how Krishna so intelligently baited Dhuryodhan into a fatal confrontation with Bhima, and pacified an angered Balarama (Dhuryodhan’s Guru). Lastly, Babaji spoke of the birth of Sukadev Goswami to Vyasa and His wife. Since Sukadev was self-realised even while in the womb of his mother, he refused to be born and enter into the material world of Maya! He remained inside his mother for over 12 years, until Vyasa intervened. Sukadev agreed to exit his mother’s womb only if Lord Krishna would promise him that His Maya would not touch Sukadev. As Krishna agreed, Sukadev was born, and eventually through cunning persuasion, agreed to learn the Bhagavatam from his esteemed father, Krishna Dvaipayana Veda Vyasa. With this, Babaji concluded his first of two lectures scheduled for this pilgrimage.
As Babaji’s class concluded, the pilgrims went straight into evening prayers, which were followed by the now customary abhishekam to Giridhari. Today the group did not offer water to Giridhari, as Guruji instead chose to use the time to party! This turned out to be a kind of ‘pre-Holi’ party (our official Holi celebrations are planned for tomorrow). Fast-paced Holi bhajans were sung, flowers were thrown everywhere and the entire tent danced the night away, led by an extremely enthusiastic Guruji! Having danced ecstatically for a couple of hours, the day finally drew to a close with arati and dinner for the pilgrims.
Stay tuned for more posts as we ‘Follow the Master’ on a pilgrimage to the Divine!