11 May 2016

Following the Master: Vrindavan & Jaipur Day 6-7 Conclusion

Day 6 of the pilgrimage was a very special day as it was Akshaya Tritiya, as well as, the main bathing day for the Kumbh Mela happening in Ujjain.

During the day we celebrated our own version of the Kumbh Mela by taking a dip in Radha Kund and doing puja to Govardhan. The Govardhan Hill has immense spiritual importance among the devotees of Lord Krishna. After Krishna protected the inhabitants of Vraj from the wrath of Indra, He counselled them to worship Govardhan Hill, for which they did through Puja and a Parikrama around the hill.

In the evening we celebrated Akshyay Tritiya by visiting the Banke Bihari temple. Akshyay means something that does not perish, or in more simple words, you do not suffer any loss on account of it. All the acts performed on this day become perennial in nature. The ancient wisdom teaches us to give, to donate for a noble cause, and to look for the divine blessing on this day.

On this day it is common for everyone to visit the Prince of Vrindavan, Sri Banke Bihari Ji. It is only on this day throughout the year that devotees get a chance to see and admire the beauty of His feet. As sung by exalted and divine devotee, Saint Surdas: this is by the grace of Darshan and Dhyan (meditation) of the Lotus Feet of Lord that all impossible things become possible in the world. The lame can cross high mountains, the blind can see each and every thing, the deaf can hear, the dumb can speak and the poor can become rich and powerful so as to be honoured to move with Chhatra (ceremonial umbrella, generally used in grand processions).

Sri Swami Vishwananda and the group visited the Banke Bihari temple in the evening for Darshan. It was extremely crowded and there was a lot of pushing happening, but everyone in the group was lucky enough to get a glimpse of the murti. The evening Darshan of the Lord carried an even bigger blessing as he was only wearing a dhoti (loincloth) around his waist. It is called the Sarvang Darshan – Darshan of the whole body of Shri Banke Bihari Ji.  It was definitely the most action packed day of the pilgrimage.

As day 6 was filled with events, day 7 was more relaxed and a fitting end to the pilgrimage. The participants were given an opportunity to spend some personal time with Swamiji as well as go shopping before concluding the pilgrimage. The day ended as we celebrated Sri Ramanajua Acharya’s 999 birthday and wished Swamiji farewell to the airport. As with every pilgrimage with Sri Swami Vishwananda and Bhakti Marga, it was filled with external and internal experiences that can only be had by the grace of the Master, by "following the Master" wherever He may lead you.

Thank you for following our blog series during Swamiji's pilgrimage, if you yourself are interested in getting the whole experience of such a pilgrimage, then check out the pilgrimage in South India coming up (Registration ends June 1st): https://www.bhaktimarga.org/southindia2016

9 May 2016

Following the Master: Vrindavan & Jaipur Day 4-5

Day four of the pilgrimage proved to be the longest and most exciting day thus far. After doing abishekam to Sri Swami Vishwananda’s personal deity, Giridhari, we made our way back to Vrindavan. Even though the trip from Jaipur to Vrindavan is only "five hours long", it took us over 13 hours to get back. Along the way, we made plenty of stops to visit different saints and temples, and each stop was an amazing experience in and of itself.

One of the stops included a very beautiful ashram directly outside of Jaipur. The venerated saint of the ashram would have darshan of Hanuman and Lord Ram on a regular basis. Even though the saint had passed away, the disciples continued to keep the ashram alive with puja and kirtan everyday.

The main highlight of the day was the visit to the Madan Mohan temple in Karoli. Karoli is about 182 kilometers southeast of Jaipur and about 100 kilometers southwest of Vrindavan. It is a small town and home of the amazing Madan Mohan Temple. Madan Mohan means “one who can even enchant Cupid.” In the temple, there are three altars. Madan Mohan stands on the centre altar, with Sri Radha on his left and Lalita Devi on his right.

The deity of Madan Mohana, also known as Madana Gopala, was first discovered by Advaita Acharya, a disciple of Chaityana Mahaprabhu. It was installed at a place overlooking the river Yamuna by Srila Sanatana Goswami and it was the very first temple to be built in Vrindavan after the long years of abandonment. The original deity of Madan Mohan was taken to Karoli in Rajasthan for safety during the attack on Vrindavan by Aurangzeb.

After visiting many saints and temples, we arrived in Vrindavan at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. Everyone was extremely tired from the long journey.

The fifth day of the pilgrimage had a late start since most people got some well-needed rest after the long journey the day before. The majority of the morning was spent getting situated in the rooms and performing the abishekam to Giridhari (Swami’s personal deity).

Later in the day, we traveled with Guruji to various temples around Vrindavan. The highlights being the Banke Bihari temple and the Radharaman temple. In previous blogs, these temples have been talked about quite a lot, but just to say briefly, that these are the temples that truly capture the experience of Vrindavan, as they are a must to visit. Not only that, but it is also interesting to note that the Banke Bihari temple is Guruji's favorite temple.

All in all, the fifth day was very relaxed since we had gathered the necessary rest after the long journey the day before. But even though the fifth day was down time for the group, the locals were busy preparing for the upcoming Akshyay Tritiya, a very special holiday in Vrindavan.

If you'd also like to attend a pilgrimage in India, check out the pilgrimage in South India coming up with Sri Swami Vishwananda. Registration ends June 1st: https://www.bhaktimarga.org/southindia2016

7 May 2016

Following the Master: Vrindavan & Jaipur Day 2-3

The second and third day in Jaipur started off with abishekam to Guruji’s personal deity, Giridhari, as well as to two Radha Krishna murtis. These deities are called "Radha Madhav" and are from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself who gave them to Khanja Bhagavan Das, one of his companions.

Through out the second and third day, the group had some time to go shopping in India, and find deals and interesting spiritual items for sale at the local shops. Because the weather is very hot out, most temples typically don't open until later in the evening, giving the group some extra leisure time.

On the second night specifically, we visited the Gopinath Temple. The Gopinath Temple reminds one of the colourful Indian culture and the rich music associated with it. Not only that, but to be here with our Guruji, in the presence of a living master, the blessings are felt tremendously and the atmosphere is too special to truly explain.

The next night we spent visiting the Radha Vinod Lal temple which was installed by Lokanath Goswami. Lokanath Goswami was the first devotee sent to Vrindavan by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. One of Lokanath's notable disciples is, Narottama Dasa Thakur, who became well-known as a great poet and composer who had written many moving Vaishnava songs.

Another temple we visited was the Radha Damodar temple which was established by Jiva Goswami in the year 1542 C.E.  The deities themselves had actually been discovered by Rupa Goswami, who later gave them to his dear disciple and nephew – Jiva Goswami for service and worship. Though due to the terror of the Muslim king Aurengzeb, the Sri Radha Damodar deities were shifted to Jaipur. Till now there is a discussion if the original deities are still in Jaipur, or if they were brought back to Vrindavan.

The third night concluded with a satsang from Guruji as he shared with us the glory of Krishna, and what it means to truly have Love for God. The last two days were full of grace and tomorrow we wake up early to go back to Vrindavan, and (of course) along the way, we will be visiting a few temples. Jai Gurudev!

If you'd also like to attend a pilgrimage in India, check out the pilgrimage in South India coming up with Sri Swami Vishwananda. Registration ends June 1st: https://www.bhaktimarga.org/southindia2016

6 May 2016

Following the Master: Vrindavan & Jaipur Day 1

After the completion of the Atma Kriya Yoga retreat, we left very early in the morning on 4 May 2016 to Jaipur for the next part of the pilgrimage. The plan is to spend four days in the holy city of Jaipur visiting the famous temples of the city.

The trip from Vrindavan to Jaipur was approximately 5 hours (taking into account Indian traffic), the time was spent singing bhajans and of course, periodically stopping to have a chai tea. After arriving in Jaipur, the group went directly to the airport to welcome Sri Swami Vishwananda, as he was flying into India from Frankfurt, Germany. After a quick lunch we set out for our first visit to the temples of Jaipur.

The first temple we visited in Jaipur was the Govind Dev Ji temple. It is the most well known temple in Jaipur, and thousands people visit it daily. The murti in the temple is of Krishna, and the story of it goes back thousands of years.

Sri Krishna ́s grandson Vajranabha had three deities carved according the descriptions of Krishna. When they were finished, it is said that Govinda Dev had the same face as Krishna. The murti was then installed in Vrindavan and opened for devotees to worship.

In the 16th century, Vrindavan was abandoned and only deep forests remained there. It was the appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that brought the discovery of this Sri Krishna deity in Vrindavan. Then, during the years of the fanatical Muslim attacks on the hHndu temples, the deity was taken away and hidden in Jaipur.

After having Darshan of Govind Dev Ji, the entire pilgrimage group started to sing kirtan at the temple. We ended up staying at the temple for nearly two hours. As many people were drawn to the large western group and kirtan, Guruji in his humility gave time to many of the curious onlookers and blessed each one that came to him.

On Day 2, the group starts early with temple visits, and also a satsang with Guruji - stay tuned.

If you'd also like to attend a pilgrimage in India, check out the pilgrimage in South India coming up with Sri Swami Vishwananda. Registration ends June 1st: https://www.bhaktimarga.org/southindia2016

4 May 2016

Following the Master: Vrindavan & Jaipur 2016

We are excited to cover the next “Following the Master” series from Jaipur and Vrindavan. It’s our hope that you will join us on this journey over the next week as we write about the cities, the temples, and most importantly, the experiences of traveling in India with Sri Swami Vishwananda.

The pilgrimage to Jaipur and Vrindavan started on April 30th with the first ever Atma Kriya Yoga retreat in India. It was an exciting and intense past few days as the retreat concluded on May 3rd, in Vrindavan with the pilgrimage participants preparing to set off on the next part of the journey to Jaipur.

Below you can find an overview of what the participants did over the past few days.

30 April - Atma Kriya Yoga satsang and evening visit to Banke Bihari Temple and Radha Raman Temple

1 May - Atma Kriya Yoga informational sessions / OM Chanting / AKY group practice / kirtan / meditation on the banks of Yamuna river

2 May - Japa walk / AKY group practice at Nidhivan / AKY informational sessions / kirtan

3 May - AKY group practice in Orinda Kund / Atma Kriya Yoga informational sessions / kirtan

The Atma Kriya Yoga techniques given by Sri Swami Vishwananda is one of the most powerful yoga practices ever given to mankind. For the participants to have the opportunity to awaken Love through the practice of AKY in the holy places sanctified by Lord Krishna, is a truly unique opportunity.

Atma Kriya Yoga and Vrindavan. Love and love. And what is Guruji? Love. Which path does Guruji show to us? Just Love.

We have had an amazing AKY Retreat these three days. As Guruji says, Atma Kriya Yoga means to be aware of God in all your actions in your life. And Vrindavan is a unique place to help to do that connection, to help the sadhaks to begin to feel AKY in their daily lives, not only as techniques, but as a way of life.

Guruji always reminds us of the importance of the sangha, the importance of being together to pray, to sing, to do AKY… The importance of being candles of light for others, of sharing what he gives to us. These retreats are part of this, and a special moment to help the participants to become more aware of the precious gift that we have with Atma Kriya Yoga.  And if Atma Kriya Yoga is the nine forms of bhakti, there’s no better place than the heart of love and devotion to infuse that in the lucky sadhaks.

As everything is with Guruji, AKY is not about theory, it’s about experience. It’s about your personal experience with God. Having Rishi Tulsidasananda with us and the whole of Vrindavan at our disposal, the real AKY has begun to shine through the hearts of the participants. - Swamini Prabhaavati, Spain

There aren’t enough words to describe what one can feel when arriving at Brindavan. One things for sure, it makes a big difference in your heart!

These three days of Atma Kriya Yoga retreat enlightened us in such a way that it will be remembered and felt in our hearts for aeons.

Just to pinpoint some of the highlights, we were fortunate enough to walk where Krishna walked, meditate and do our kriya where Radha danced, pay our respects to Banke Bihari and Madan Mohan, feel our bare feet in sacred soil. Reading about these stories in books like “Inspirations” is one thing, but living it where they really happened is no less than magic.

Rich Tulsidasananda lectured about AKY in a way that few can. His love and bhakti for Gurudev and Tulsi Devi has such dimensions that spread to all of us so beautifully that it could only be completely felt in front of Mother herself in Orinda Kund, where she dwells. A lifetime experience is to dive into the sacred waters of the Kund of Orinda Devi. Sitar shared his complete joy of our beloved sadhana making us craving to do more and more every day. - Gaura Das, Portugal

After concluding an amazing past few days of going deeper into Atma Kriya Yoga, we set off on a new journey as we travel to the Holy city of Jaipur, India to begin the second phase of the pilgrimage with Sri Swami Vishwananda. Stay tuned!

If you'd also like to attend a pilgrimage in India, check out the pilgrimage in South India coming up with Sri Swami Vishwananda. Registration ends June 1st: https://www.bhaktimarga.org/southindia2016