On October 16, sometime after Pradyumna started reading that evening, Prabhupäda interrupted, saying to the devotees, “Arrange a light here,” pointing to the bare socket hanging above his head. It was getting dark.

As the class continued, it was “business as usual” for the Vrajväsés circumambulating the temple. Some would stop to offer lamps at Rüpa Gosvämi’s samädhi. Others would stop to stare at the Westerners. Birds chirped in the bushes behind Prabhupäda, and monkeys sometimes came and disturbed us with their monkey business. A few Våndävana residents attended Prabhupäda’s classes.
The electricity went off.

“I think that you are straining to see,” Prabhupäda said to Pradyumna, who was reading in the twilight.

“Someone is bringing a candle, Prabhupäda,” Guru Däsa said. “Acyutänanda, you can start kirtan until the light comes,” Prabhupäda instructed.

At the end of the class, an Indian gentleman questioned Çrila Prabhupäda about his married disciples.

EXTRACT FROM FESTIVALS


Because Prabhupäda was speaking on The Nectar of Devotion for two hours every evening, at five in the afternoon the devotees would again walk to the temple. Sometimes they’d have a rip roaring kértana outside his room, in the main courtyard, before class.

Before beginning class, Prabhupäda chanted “Jaya Rädhä Mädhava,” his head tilted in concentration. Facing away from the temple and wearing a sweater to protect himself from the chilly weather, he sat on a simple cushion behind a low desk on a raised platform covered by a cloth. Someone would garland him. The devotees sat in front of him, the ladies on his left-the side of Rüpa Gosvämi’s bhajan-kuöér, and the men on his right, the samädhi side. With everyone responding to his lead, the courtyard echoed with praise of Krishna. Sometimes as Prabhupäda sang, the devotees danced. Prabhupäda then handed Pradyumna a copy of The Nectar of Devotion and told him to read. Looking scholarly, Pradyumna sat up, wearing his glasses halfway down his nose. Next to him sat Çrutakérti, who recorded all the wonderful lectures. From these classes came the series of tapes on The Nectar of Devotion. What Rüpa Gosvämi wrote, Srila Prabhupäda shared with the devotees.

EXTRACT FROM FESTIVALS


On some mornings Prabhupäda would walk back and forth on the roof chanting japa, and devotees would watch him from the samädhi area below. Sometimes we were allowed to sit with Prabhupäda in his room as he chanted. One morning Prabhupäda noticed Devaåñi, with his extra-large beads hung around his neck sädhu-style. He was sliding them around his neck as he fingered them. Prabhupäda became angry.

“Where is your beadbag? Why are you chanting without one?” he shouted.

Everyone stopped chanting to hear Devaåñi’s answer. He stammered an explanation, but Srila Prabhupäda was not satisfied. Pointing toward the door, Prabhupäda demanded that Devaåñi leave and return with a beadbag. Prabhupäda upheld the standard of chanting with beads in a bag (or covered). The Hari-bhakti-viläsa says that one’s beads must be gupta, hidden or covered; otherwise, the effects or results of the chanting are stolen by demons, ghosts, and enemies. There is also the practical aspect of keeping the beads clean.

EXTRACT FROM FESTIVALS


In Vrindavan, Srila Prabhupäda commemorated the sharad purnima by visiting Sevä-kuïja, where Krishna danced with the gopis. That same day Srila Prabhupäda awarded sannyäsa to Guru-kåpä, Parivräjakäcärya, and nineteen-year-old Paramahaàsa. That initiation took place when I was in Agra. Another initiation was held not long after I got back. Early in the morning an arena for a fire yajïa was set up in the courtyard next to Rüpa Gosvämi’s samädhi, and I was initiated, along with Manmohan Däsa from the congregation in Bombay, Çacimätaä Däsi from Calcutta, and a few others whose names I’ve forgotten. Srila Prabhupäda presided over the ceremony, chanting all the mantras, as we offered grains into the fire. Draviòa Däsa was taking s
annyäsa, and he was asked to come forward first. Prabhupäda asked him to repeat the sannyäsa-mantra after him, then named him Païca-Draviòa Swami, and handed him a daëòa.
I sat in front of Prabhupäda, watching him chant on my beads. I have seen footage of this, but it lasts only a few seconds. I don’t recall someone filming. I was surprised to see I wore just a kurtä, not a hari-näma cädar. During the ceremony I was thinking, “I am here in the courtyard of Rädhä- Dämodara temple in the month of Kärttika, during the auspicious early morning hours, taking my beads from the hands of my beloved Srila Prabhupäda.” I was getting a gift from another world, the gift of the holy name.

Extract from FESTIVALS: CHAPTER 2 KARTIKKA


Agra is famous for the Taj Mahal, built between 1631 and 1653 by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his wife. Twenty thousand people worked on it, including experts from Italy and France. Semiprecious stones from all over the world are embedded in its marble walls. It ranks as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I’d heard a lot about the “glories” of the Taj, and I’d developed a desire to see it.

In Krishna, book, Srila Prabhupäda says that the Taj Mahal is especially pleasing on the full-moon night of the çarat season, which is the eve of the month of Kärttika : “During the night of the full moon of the çarat season, many foreigner s go to see the beautiful reflections of the moon on the tomb.” Our visit to Agra coincided with the full-moon night, and that day I read this statement to Draviòa to convince him that Prabhupäda approved of foreigners visiting the monument. He reluctantly agreed to go, which provided me the excuse I needed to see the Taj.

When we arrived in the evening, we saw large crowds drinking in the beauty caused by the full moon’s reflection on the dome. I also tried to appreciate the vision, but failed miserably. Unlike everyone else, I kept wondering what was so wonderful about this world-wonder. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t increase my appreciation. I was happy to realize that · I didn’t have the eyes to see it.

At the end of our stay in Agra we hired a Tempo, a medium-size truck, to transport all the bhoga. We happily rode back to Våndävana, knowing that Prabhupäda would be pleased with our efforts.

Extract from FESTIVALS: CHAPTER 2 KARTIKKA


During our darçana, Prabhupäda told us we would be staying in the Mahäräja of Bharatpura’s palace on the bank of the Yamunä at Keçé­ghäöa, just a ten-minute walk from Rädhä-Dämodara. About forty devotees stayed at the palace. I remember Kauçalyä Däsi, Vaikuëöhanätha and his wife, Çäradéyä, and the single men-Påthu-putra, Dvija Hari, Premänanda, Yaçodänandana, Kulaçekhara, Paramahaàsa, Guru-kåpä, and Parivräjakäcärya. There were a few new arrivals from abroad: Kåñëadäsa, Çivänanda, and Parikñit.

The palace was a beautiful eighteenth-century home that could be entered only through one wide gate. Within its grounds were rooms on the first and second floors that opened onto verandas facing an open-air courtyard, at the center of which stood a mango tree. From the rooms facing east we could look out over Keçé-ghäta and the Yamunä, and from the roof there was a panoramic view not only of the Yamunä but also of Bilvavana , one of the five forests of Våndävana on the eastern side of the Yamunä.

Inside the palace was a small temple that we used for maìgala-ärati. The palace deity was cared for by a püjäré who doubled as the palace watchman. Everyone considered it quite a treat to be at a Mogul palace overlooking the very spot where Lord Kåñëa relaxed after killing the Keçé demon. Prabhupäda said that any demons of doubt would be killed by our living at Keçé-ghäta.

When the electricity went off, we had to grope our way around at night or use candles and flashlights. In the early-morning darkness some of us bathed at the well in the courtyard, and others, who didn’t mind swimming with big turtles, went to the Yamunä behind the palace. Näräyaëi Däsi said, “We used to jump in the Yamunä before maìgala-ärati even though we couldn’t see where we were jumping. But it was deep enough.”

There was a family mood among us. We had to do everything ourselves. We had no hired cooks. Mälati, Näräyaëi, and others cooked at the palace, and Çrutakérti, Yamunä, and Pisimä shared the cooking for Prabhupäda and his staff. We took care of one another and would go to the classes and harinämas together, then squeeze into Prabhupäda’s room for darçanas. During one class Prabhupäda noticed Vaikuëöhanätha looking pale. He’d caught jaundice. So right there during class Prabhupäda began describing how to cure jaundice by eating sugarcane. It was a family thing to do. We were an intimate group because we all loved Srila Prabhupäda. He was in the center; we were a team helping one another serve him.

Extract from FESTIVALS: CHAPTER 2 KARTIKKA


Traveling by train, about fifteen of us from Bombay arrived at Mathura station early one morning. We rode to vrindavan on three horse-drawn Tonga s, costing ten rupees each. In caravan style we passed Kåñëa Janmasthän, the birthplace of Lord Krishna in Mathurä, and the Birla Mandir, with its clusters of domes. The tonga drivers amused us along the way as they cleared the busy road by shouting, “Rädhe! Rädhe!”-a transcendental replacement for high-pitched horns. Occasionally a peacock flew low across our path.

As we entered vrindavan, its skyline dotted with temple spires, we heard devotional songs blaring from numerous speakers. Swarms of sädhus in saffron dress walked to prasädam booths along thenarrow roads. Finally, after almost an hour, our tongas stopped in front of the arch leading to the Rädhä-Dämodara temple. We quickly unloaded and hastened along the small walkway to the temple.

What excited me as much as being in vrindavan for the first time was that this was my first opportunity to be in Srila Prabhupäda’s close association? During the two Hare Krishna festivals in Bombay where I’d seen Prabhupäda, I’d been amid thousands of people. At the paëòäls I’d heard Prabhupäda’s väëé, or discourses, and this brought me to his vapuù, or personal association, for more instruction. I’d come to formalize our eternal relationship as guru and disciple. During the whole journey from Bombay I clutched a letter from Giriräja Prabhu, my temple president, recommending me for hari-näma initiation. Because I was a new, unknown devotee, this letter was my ticket to meet Srila Prabhupäda, and I couldn’t wait to hear what he would say.

A few devotees greeted us at the door and ushered us into the temple courtyard, where we offered obeisances to Sri Sri Rädhä-Dämodara. I’d never seen so many exquisitely beautiful deities. Then we were brought to Srila Prabhupäda’s quarters. We entered and saw Prabhupäda sitting on a modest äsana, a cushion propped up behind him.

We offered our respectful obeisances and took seats on the cool floor. Prabhupäda looked fresh, bright, and happy to receive us. It seemed as though he was waiting for his spiritual children to arrive. He made us feel comfortable by asking about our journey.

Extract from FESTIVALS: CHAPTER 2 KARTIKKA


The Rädhä-Dämodara temple was home to Srila Prabhupäda in the early 1960’s. In 1954, Prabhupäda left his home and family and settled in Jhansi. When things became unfavorable for his mission there, he moved to Mathura. Prabhupäda eventually shifted to vrindavan, and a little later he rented two rooms at the Rädhä- Dämodara temple. From July 1962 until August 1965 Prabhupäda stayed there, envisioning the day when Rüpa Gosvämi’s teachings would be spread worldwide. During these three important years, he completed his three-volume set of the First Canto of the Bhägavatam, which he took to America. At the Rädhä­ Dämodara temple, Prabhupäda laid the foundation of his mission to execute the will and instructions of his spiritual predecess
ors. He once wrote: “Vrindavan is a charmingly beautiful place, and situated there in the grove known as Sevä-kuïja is the sacred temple of Rädhä-Dämodara. I take the lotus feet of these deities as my only shelter, and I petition them to be kind upon me and guide me to life’s ultimate goal.”

Extract from FESTIVALS: CHAPTER 2 KARTIKKA


There is an extraordinary number of large deities of historical importance on the altar of the Rädhä-Dämodara a temple. In the center are Jiva Gosvämi’s deities: Dämodara, with Rädhä to His left, and Lalitä to His right. Others are Jayadeva Gosvämi’s Sri Sri Rädhä-Mädhava; Krishnadäsa Kaviräja’s Sri Sri Rädhä-Våndävana-candra; and Bhügarbha Gosvämi’s Rädhä-Krishna deities. These deities all originally had Their own temples, but Their servants appropriated the temple properties and combined the püjäs at the Rädhä-Dämodara temple.

Pilgrims to the temple can also take darçana of Srila Sanätana Gosvämi’s Govardhana Sila, which bears Krishna’s footprint. In Sanätana Gosvämi’s old age, Krishna appeared and offered
him this Sila. The Lord asked Sanätana to simply circumambulate the çilä because Sanätana had grown too old to complete Govardhana parikramä, as was his daily habit. It is well known that by circumambulating this temple four times, one derives the benefit of Govardhana parikramä. No wonder pilgrims flock there.

The temple was constructed by Jiva Gosvämi, and the six Gosvämis met there for iñöagoñöhés. One side of the Rädhä-Dämodara compound houses more than 108 samädhis, including those of Jiva Gosvämi, Krishnadäsa Kaviräja, and Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvati (his puçpa-samädhi). On the other side of the compound stand Rüpa Gosvämi’s samädhi and bhajan-kuöér, in their own courtyard. It was here that Rüpa Gosvämi left this world. Jiva Gosvämi, his nephew, looked after him in his last days.

Extract from FESTIVALS: CHAPTER 2 KARTIKKA


VRNDAVANA, 1972

In August Srila Parbhupada wrote to Tejiyas Dasa and Guru Dasa :” My plan is to come to Vrndavana or Kartikka, and I want to stay in the Radha-Damodara temple until nearly the end of November. I will lecture daily in the courtyard, especially for the benefit of the devotees. So you can make the arrangements.”

This was the first and only Kartikka festival he observed in Vrndavana with his disciples. Of course, when he lived there in the early sixties he was present during Kartikka. Although it was an internal program to strengthen his disciples, and he was teaching them how to observe Kartikka, this year he did not sing the Damodarastakam and offer ghee lamps daily. But the festival included his classes on Nectar of Devotion, harinama processions to ISKCON’s new property in Ramana-reti, a celebration of Govhardana-puja, and of course his blissful association in the Radha-Damodara temple during the month of Damodara. He’s already described the importance of Kartikka in the Nectar of Devotion:

One of the most important ceremonial functions is called Urja-vrata. Urja-vrata is observed in the month of Kartikka; especially in Vrndavana, there is a specific program for temple worship of the Lord n His Damodara form. “Damodara” refers to Krsna’s being bound with rope by His mother, Yasoda. It is said that just as Lord Damodara is very dear to His devotees, so the month known as Damodara or Kartikka is also dear to them….. Even persons lacking seriousness who execute devotional service according to the regulative principles during the month of Kartikka, and within the jurisdiction of Mathura in India, are very easily awarded the Lord’s personal service.”

One devotee asked Srila Prabhupada a question about this: “This is the beginning of Urja-vrata. Can you describe what that is and how it should be observed?”

Prabhupada replied: “Urja-vrata – you chant Hare Krsna twenty four hours away for a month. That’s all.”

The devotees laughed. Guru Dasa chanted: “hare Krsna, Hare Krsna.”

Prabhupada continued: “Yes. Don’t sleep. Don’t eat. This is Urja-vrata. Can you execute it?”

The devotee replied: “ I don’t know.”

This provoked more laughter. Yet according to the Gautamiya-tantra, Kartikkais particularly meant for mantra-sindhi – perfection in chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra.

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