This is a story about how kind Giriraja has been to me.
Today in Christchurch we celebrated Govardhana Puja. It is actually in four days but having the public celebrations on the weekend makes it more accessable for our guests. I look forward to this festival as there is always something special in store for me it seems on this day every year.
I actually made the decision to start chanting 16 rounds per day of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra on Govardhana Puja in 1997. I remember that day quite clearly despite the foggy consciousness I had at the time. I walked several kilometers to the Australasian House in Perth thinking it would just be a normal Sunday Feast program. I wasn’t aware that it was a special event on the Hare Krishna calender. When I arrived there were a lot more folks there then I was accustomed to and it seemed that the devotees had a special glow about them. Somehow I had the fortune of already realizing that the devotees were very special people and was reverent of the fact that they lived what they spoke and didn’t display their spirituality as an aspect of their vanity as seemed to be the habit of so many other pseudo-spiritual personalities I’d come across in my spiritual search.
The chanting that night was really heartfelt and blissful and despite my reluctance to dance, being so much in the mode of ignorance, I couldn’t help myself. It was sweet and something nice was happening in my heart so I went with it. At some point in the evening the devotees brought out this big beautiful hill and decorated it with the most exotic sweets I’d ever seen. I found out later that most of them were cooked by Rasa Vigraha Prabhu who was a senior Bengali cook for Sri Sri Radha-Madhav in Mayapur Dham. There were spirals that were dripping with honey, round sweets rolled in coconut, square sweets with several layers, pools of what looked like yoghurt, tiny trees made of Marzipan, monkeys and cows made of cookie dough, cones filled with cream, and the hill itself was made of a sublime substance I had already become familiar with from the Hare Krishna Food For Life Center …. halava!
On top of the Hill there was one particularly outstanding feature. At first I thought that it was an ornately decorated sweet that was meant to stand out from the rest being garlanded with flowers and seated on a small throne. I looked closer and the smile on this sweet was very captivating. As we continued to walk and dance around the hill I kept looking up to catch a glimpse of this sweet as it somehow made me very happy to look there. As we rounded the table again I stared with curiosity at the smiling face and realized that this was no edible sweet but a very beautiful reddish brown stone with a face painted on and with decorative jewelry. This made me more curious but somehow I was caught up in the devotees’ enthusiasm and that seemed to make me content to just go along with dancing around this very beautiful hill with an attractive stone decorated gorgeously at the top. I just felt good inside and really peaceful and satisfied – that was also a new experience for me too such that I just tried to take it all in.
Little did I know how much Giriraja reciprocates with anyone fortunate enough to circumambulate His Divine Form. After some more festivities they let all of the beautiful devotee kids run up and take the sweets from the hill. This surprised me as I thought that so many hours and many people’s efforts must have gone into creating such a masterpiece feast for the eyes. It was really beautiful but also beautiful to see these gorgeous glowing kids run up and take sweets to their hearts content. Then some adult devotees in saris began to take the sweets from the hill and put them into some buckets. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t mind trying some of those exotic sweets.
So I waited in line to partake of the feast as per normal Sunday Feast protocol. Afterwards I sat down and when I was nearing the end of such a wonderful feast one young devotee lady came around with one of those buckets and asked me if I wanted a sweet. “Oh yes! I was hoping to try some actually!” Somehow my enthusiasm to eat the sweet attracted her mercy and she gave me several of the sweets and let me pick the ones I wanted from the bucket. I can’t remember all of the one’s I picked but I do remember one in particular that was spiralled and dripping with honey. It was so delicious that I had to collect myself a little after taking a bite. I never had anything so delicious enter my mouth as Rasa Vigraha’s jelebees. They were directly from the spiritual world and even in my stupor I felt so enlivened by eating them that I had to brave the potential embarrassment to ask for more. This young devotee lady (her name was Lalita Sundari Mataji) seemed really excited that I wanted to have more and I felt so comfortable and at home asking for them because of the genuine spiritual reciprocation she treated me with. She was in transcendental consciousness and was seeing herself as the instrument in delivering Giriraja’s mercy to a very miserable but fortunate entity as I certainly was. She asked me to just wait a second while she looked for more. A minute or so later she came back with a whole plate stacked full of them! I was really touched by her kindness which seemed to have no manipulative motivation behind it. Somehow I was under the impression that I was expected to eat all of them which, as much I would have liked to, was not possible. I asked her permission if I could take them with me and maybe give some to my friends and she seemed even happier that this was my intention.
I left that night really really happy. I’d never felt like that before. Something stirred deep inside me and it was undeniable. Despite my vanity, long hair, goatee and appetite for carnal pleasure I felt some new kind of satisfaction that ran much deeper than anything I’d ever experienced. I was what most would probably call a ‘seeker’ so I was open to the Hare Krishna ways and even chanted from time to time when the urge struck me. Just recent to then some devotees were encouraging me to chant a steady four rounds per day and I was struggling with that. That night it all seemed to make sense … the more I chanted then the more I could feel this happiness. So I challenged myself to chant sixteen rounds like the devotees did until the end of the year and that way I could see what would happen. I really wanted to have the same satisfied glow about myself as the devotees so by Giriraja’s indescribable mercy I could see that it all came from the chanting. Thank you Giriraja. Look what you’ve done for me – you’ve completely changed my life and filled it full of love with You in your many forms and with your devotees who have showed me so much undeserved kindness despite myself.
So every Govardhana Puja since then has been eventful. I won’t go into too much detail but suffice to say that Giriraja is so kind and sometimes in unpredicable ways.
Today was especially nice. Last week I met an older New Zealander lady who had spent some time in India travelling from asram to asram in search of spiritual truth. Somehow her travels and misadventures with those eager to take advantage of wandering western pilgrims had landed her at the feet of Sri Giri-Govardhana in Vrindavan Dham. While there she felt really inspired to take with her a small piece of the sacred Hill. After leaving India she spent something like fourteen years in Canada and only recently returned to Christchurch and is living with her sister. And Giriraja has travelled all this way with her for so many years ….. in a box! She put Him away many years ago and as we were talking last Sunday she remembered that He was packed away in a box in her shed! I told her that in a week we were going to celebrate Govardhana Puja and that she should bring Him to the festival as all the devotees will be enlivened. She wanted to bring Him but was doubtful that she could even remember which box she had Him stored in.
So this week the lady (her name is Supriya given by some guru in her search) showed up early and when she saw me she said, “Guess what? I found the piece of Govardhana Hill and I have it here with me.” I got all giddy like a kid in anticipation. I asked her to walk into the paraphenalia room with me and was hoping that Giriraja could go on the altar to enthuse the devotees. So then Supriya fished around in the bottom of her purse and produced a paper bag with Giriraja inside. Then she placed Him in my hand and again I felt really happy like when I first had Darsan of Giriraja years ago. He was very multi-coloured with shades of red, brown and even some white. I asked her if I could paint His face and by that time the devotees were already circumambulating the Hill outside the temple. So I painted His face as quickly as I could and then came out in the middle of the kirtana and placed our smiling Giriraja right on top of the Hill as the devotees were decorating it with tiny sweets. In the kirtana the devotees shouted “Haribol!!” and it was really nice. Just see ….
It felt so nice to serve Giriraja that way and I take it as His special mercy on me. Also He allowed me to encourage this very fortunate lady to further her relationship with Him. I got to speak to her from Bhagavad-gita Chapter nine where Krishna says that if a devotee offers even a fruit, flower, leaf or water with love that He will glady accept it. I explained how Srila Prabhupada said that Krishna actually feels indebted to a devotee who offers anything with love so much so that in return He gives Himself. She liked hearing this and told me that she will start offering some incense to him. I will see her on Wednesday and then next Sunday where hopefully I can encourage her to chant on beads a little. She is no stranger to meditation techniques so I think it should be easy to point the way for her.
This was a nice festival too. Look at the diety of Krishna that Yasoda-Dulal Prabhu made out of cow dung ….
Also I got to donate $108 for the new backdrop for Their Lordships Sri Sri Nitai-Gauracandra. It cost much more than that but I got to help Laxmi Mataji who paid out of pocket over $600 for this enlarged photo …
Sweet isn’t it?
Giriraja Maharaja ki jaya!
Sri Sri Nitai-Gauracandra ki jaya!
Harinama ki jaya!