Lord Krishna Descends to Reestablish Vedic Culture, by Stephen Knapp

Why the Lord descends into this world is for multiple purposes, but primarily for two reasons. One of which is that, since He originally enunciated the ancient religious path of the Vedas for the benefit of the whole universe, whenever that becomes obstructed by the demoniac or wicked atheists, He descends in one of His forms, which is in the transcendental mode of pure goodness. Thus, He again establishes the righteous Vedic path. It is explained that He is the same Supreme Person, and in His incarnation as Krishna appeared in the home of Vasudeva with His plenary portion, Balarama, who played the part of Krishna’s brother. This was for the second reason, which is to relieve the earth of the burden of the demoniac. As Krishna, He came to kill the hundreds of armies led by the kings who were but expansions of the enemies of the gods, and to spread the fame of the Yadu dynasty. (Bhagavata Purana 10.48.23-24)

Arjuna, after understanding the position of Lord Krishna, recognized His superior position and said, “Thus You descend as an incarnation to remove the burden of the world and to benefit Your friends, especially those who are Your exclusive devotees and are rapt in meditation upon You.” (Bhagavata Purana 1.7.25)

The sages at Kuruksetra, while addressing Lord Krishna, also summarized the reason for Lord Krishna’s appearance in this world. They explained that at suitable times He assumes the mode of pure goodness to protect His devotees and punish the wicked. Thus, the Supreme Personality descends to maintain the eternal path of the Vedas by enjoying His pleasure pastimes. (Bhagavata Purana 10.84.18)

It is also described that when the Lord assumes a human-like body, it is to show His mercy to His devotees. Then He engages in the sort of pastimes that will attract those who hear about them. Then they may become dedicated to Him. (Bhagavata Purana 10.33.36) These pastimes of the Lord are so powerful that they can remove the sins of the three planetary systems and deliver those who are trapped in the continuous cycle of birth and death. (Bhagavata Purana 10.86.34) Those who desire to serve the Lord should hear of these activities. Hearing such narrations of these pastimes destroy the reactions to fruitive work [karma]. (Bhagavata Purana.10.90.49)

It is by Lord Krishna’s pastimes that He calls all the conditioned souls to Him through love. Thus, by His wondrous activities He attracts all beings to return to their natural, spiritual position by reawakening their dormant love and service to Him. This is the purpose of human life, which provides the best facility and intellect for understanding our spiritual identity and connection with the Lord. As Sukadeva Gosvami explained to Maharaja Pariksit, “He, the Personality of Godhead, as the maintainer of all in the universe, appears in different incarnations after establishing the creation, and thus He reclaims all kinds of conditioned souls amongst the humans, nonhumans and gods.” (Bhagavata Purana 2.10.42)

“To show causeless mercy to the devotees who would take birth in the future of this age of Kali, the Supreme Personality, Krishna, acted in such a way that simply by remembering Him one will be freed from all the lamentation and unhappiness of material existence.” (Bhagavata Purana 9.24.61) However, Lord Krishna also explains that when He descends in His human form, the fools who are ignorant of His spiritual nature and supreme dominion over everything deride and criticize Him. (Bhagavad-gita 9.11)

Nonetheless, Lord Krishna Himself further explains the reasons for His appearance in this world to King Muchukunda: “My dear friend, I have taken thousands of births, lived thousands of lives and accepted thousands of names. In fact, My births, activities and names are limitless, and thus even I cannot count them. After many lifetimes someone might count the dust particles on the earth, but no one can ever finish counting My qualities, activities, names and births. O King, the greatest sages enumerate My births and activities, which take place throughout the three phases of time, but never do they reach the end of them. Nonetheless, O friend, I will tell you about My current birth, name and activities. Kindly hear. Some time ago, Lord Brahma requested Me to protect religious principles and destroy the demons who were burdening the earth. Thus I descended in the Yadu dynasty, in the home of Anakadundubhi. Indeed, because I am the son of Vasudeva, people call Me Vasudeva.” (Bhagavata Purana 10.51.36-40)

OUR MISSION TO DEFEND VEDIC DHARMA

By understanding the above paragraphs, we should know that Lord Krishna appeared to reestablish the Vedic tradition because it had become lost. I emphasize this point because, in spite of the many challenges or threats against Vedic culture that Hindus face from others in upholding their tradition, sometimes they still say there is nothing for us to worry about because it is Sanatana-dharma, eternal, that it will never disappear no matter what happens in this world. When I hear this, I ask them whether they have really understood what Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita. For therein we can understand that this Vedic spiritual knowledge does indeed disappear or decline from the face of the earth at times, and must be brought back, or defended in order to keep it prevalent amongst humanity.

In the beginning of Chapter Four of the Bhagavad-gita, we hear of one of the prime reasons why Lord Krishna descended into this world. He explains it this way in a conversation with Arjuna:

“The Supreme Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku. This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time, the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost. That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend; therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science.”

Arjuna then said: “The sun-god Vivasvan is senior by birth to You. How am I to understand that in the beginning You instructed this science to him?”

Bhagavan Sri Krishna then continued: “Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy! Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion–at that time I descend Myself. In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of dharma, I advent Myself millennium after millennium. One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Bhagavad-gita 4.1-9)

So here we see very clearly that Vedic dharma and its spiritual processes may indeed by eternal, but it may also decline or even disappear from humanity from time to time. This means that if Lord Krishna appeared to reestablish this knowledge and tradition, we should be serious about defending it and making sure that it does not start to decline again. When it comes to defending Vedic dharma, we need to understand that it is not just up to Lord Krishna. It is also up to us. We cannot expect that Lord Krishna will appear again so easily when He was here only 5,000 years ago to do what we should now be doing. We should take it upon ourselves to assist in preserving, protecting, and promoting it for its perpetuation. This is for the benefit of all humanity. We should be willing to take up a bold stance to meet this responsibility, or it may again very well start to decline from the face of the earth like it did before.

This is also why there are various acharyas and devotees, representatives of the Supreme, who may be empowered to provide the guidance for humanity so people everywhere can know how to continue the ways of following Vedic dharma and apply it to their lives.

So to help in this way is not only a service to humanity, but also a service to dharma itself, and to the mission of Lord Krishna, and to all representatives of Vedic culture. What can be a higher cause for us than that?

Importance of Bhagavad-gita in This Day and Age, by Stephen Knapp

Most everyone at some point hears about the Bhagavad-gita, but do they know what it really contains, or how profound and deep is the knowledge that it provides?

Besides being the classic Eastern text that it is, and the summary of most Upanishadic information, it is the core of the deepest levels of spiritual knowledge. It is also like a handbook for life. Just as when you purchase an appliance of some kind, like a refrigerator, television or computer, you get a manual that teaches you how to use it. So in the same way, if God created this world and put us here, doesn’t it seem that He should also tell us what is the purpose of this life and how to use it accordingly? The Bhagavad-gita is such an instruction manual for anyone. It provides the basic answers that most people have about life, and the universal spiritual truths that can be used by anyone, anywhere, and at any time in history. In this way it is timeless.

So let me explain a little of its importance and why we should take it seriously. I will not go into all of the details of what the Bhagavad-gita teaches, but I will provide a quick overview and summary of each chapter to give you an idea of the information you can discover and the benefits if you read it.

Of course, we know it was spoken on the battlefield at Kurukshetra as the forces prepared for war, a war meant to uphold the Dharmic principles against those who were bereft of them and before things became more evil then they already were, so there was little time in which to speak the Bhagavad-gita. Therefore, it was a brief conversation between Arjuna and Lord Krishna.

So, once the scene is set in the first chapter, from the second chapter it begins to explain some of the highest spiritual realizations known to humanity. It begins to explain exactly who and what we really are as spiritual beings. Without this knowledge in a person’s life, the Vedic literature says that humans are little better than polished animals.

The reason for this conclusion is that the human life is especially meant for spiritual inquiry because in no other species of life here on earth does the living being have the faculty, such as the intelligence and the means to understand spiritual knowledge. Otherwise, this implies that there is little difference in the purpose of life between humans and animals who are mostly interested in merely eating, sleeping, mating, and defending what they think is theirs.

However, human life is not merely the means to acquire knowledge from the teachings and explanations of others, but it also offers the facility to realize it within oneself by practice. It is a matter of uplifting one’s consciousness so that one can perceive the higher dimensions that exist all around us. This is more than merely accepting something on faith alone, but it is a matter of attaining direct perception of what the Vedic literature discusses.

So, from the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, we begin to learn our real identity as the soul within these bodies. The Bhagavad-gita explains the size and nature of the soul, and how it is completely transcendental or beyond the body itself. It is beyond time and beyond the effects of the three dimensional world. It is beyond the limitations of the body and mind.

This teaches us many things. It shows that regardless of our physical limitations, we can rise above them because, spiritually, we are already above them. We simply have to realize that. What does it mean to realize it? It means to directly perceive that truth, to see it as plain as day. And then live according to that realization. This teaches us that regardless of our situation, socially or physically or economically, we can rise to higher levels of existence, both in this world and in the next.

This teaches us that no matter what kind of pressures we may feel from our classmates at school, or what good or bad biases that may come from our fellow workers, or what kind of labels they put on us, or how much they may purposefully demean or criticize us, or even how great we think we are, we can be grounded, fixed in understanding who and what we really are as a spiritual being inside the limited material body. That is how we should see ourselves. And then we can be confident that regardless of what others may say, we know who we are and can go through life fixed in perceiving our real identity and our purpose in this life and what really is our higher potential. As an old saying points out, it is better to see yourself truly than to care how others see you.

When you are spiritually grounded, it is no longer necessary to always try to convince others of your self-worth, or of your social status, or of trying to make it into the right clique or group of people. We become convinced of who we are. We work in our own way to provide a contribution to society, to make something of ourselves that has meaning, beyond the typical superficialities and meaningless and worldly gossip that occupy the minds of most youth and adults today. We know that as long as we keep working in our own way, both intellectually and spiritually, attaining the skills that will enable us to do something significant, that our time will come when we can make a mark on this world in our own sphere of influence, which may continue to expand from there.

So we may be popular in school or not, or recognized in our career or not, but by our spiritual knowledge, as provided in the Bhagavad-gita, and by the confidence it gives us, we work to always become better, more uplifted, more refined, and more realized than we are, always making ourselves into a better person. Then we can help ourselves and others in more effective ways. This is just some of what the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita can provide if we look into it carefully and understand who we really are and what is our greater potential.

As we proceed through the Bhagavad-gita, in Chapter Three, Lord Krishna discusses Karma-yoga, the knowledge of how every action creates an opposite and equal reaction. Fifty years ago in this country of the USA, hardly anyone spoke of karma, unless they were students of yoga or Eastern philosophy. Now everyone talks of karma, it is a part of the vocabulary, whether they really understand it or not. But the point is, where do you think that came from? How do you think they started to know about karma, or yoga for that matter, except for the fact that the teachings of the East and yoga, which are centered around the Bhagavad-gita, continued to spread throughout the West.

Similarly, considering all the knowledge that the Bhagavad-gita has within it, do you think that you will learn such things in the colleges or university courses? Hardly. You have to go beyond that. You have to take separate or alternative studies, like in studying the Bhagavad-gita or other Vedic texts, or listening to those who know about it. Then you can also begin to learn the basic laws of the universe as outlined in the Bhagavad-gita, as in the laws of karma. Otherwise, how will you begin to understand that your present circumstances and tendencies may be carry-overs from a previous existence? Or even from many previous existences that we have experienced. You only begin to understand these things by studying the Bhagavad-gita, the teachings of which are also expanded in the Upanishads, and then even more elaborated in the Puranas and other Vedic texts and commentaries.

In Chapter Four, called Transcendental Knowledge, it is explained to Arjuna how this knowledge was given down through the parampara, or disciplic succession. Lord Krishna explains the purpose and the transcendental nature of His appearance in this world. Also how to perform one’s actions so they are spiritual activities, which can then enable a person to reach the spiritual abode.

In Chapter Five, Karma-yoga, Action in Krishna Consciousness, it is explained how to perform one’s actions in the right consciousness of bhakti-yoga, and the way to focus on the natural, self-sufficient happiness within.

In Chapter Six, Sankhya-yoga, we find the instructions on how to conquer the mind to attain the natural inner happiness–beyond the senses–and become established in self-realization, the perception of one’s real identity. And then to see all else, all things around you with a steady mind, free from desires and possessiveness.

Then Lord Krishna gives instructions on how to practice yoga and meditation so that we can eventually perceive the spiritual dimension all around us, of which we are a part. Then we can enter and experience boundless transcendental joy and bliss, free from maya or illusion, and in touch with the Supreme Consciousness. Then such a person can see God everywhere and every being in God. Thus, he is never lost.

In Chapter Seven, Knowledge of the Absolute, we have the instructions on how to know God, and how to see that everything rests and depends on God, like pearls strung on a thread. Also, how to recognize the power of God in all the powerful aspects of nature. Thus, we become aware of God and His potencies in all things around us until we reach the abode of God.

Chapter Eight, Attaining the Supreme. This chapter gives more specific information about the ways of material nature, how to get free of it, and how our consciousness at the time of death, developed by our thoughts, words and deeds, determines our next life, our next destination. Therefore, if we are remembering God, Krishna, then we can attain Him. So the instructions include how to think of Lord Krishna and attain Him through devotional yoga. Also, there are instructions in how to understand the higher and eternal nature, beyond all matter, which is the ultimate destination of us all.

In Chapter Nine, The Most Confidential Knowledge, Lord Krishna gives advice that this spiritual knowledge is the king of all knowledge, the most secret of all secrets, and by following it we can attain direct perception of the self by realization. Lord Krishna goes on to explain how everything is working under Him, but fools will never be able to recognize this. But by engaging in devotional yoga, the mind becomes spiritualized enough to understand God as He is by realization, far beyond any mental speculation. Lord Krishna goes on to explain that He is impartial to all, but becomes a friend to those who offer loving service. By engaging in this process systematically, you can reach the highest abode.

In Chapter Ten, The Opulence of the Absolute, we find explanations on how everything, all spiritual and material worlds, emanate from the Absolute Truth–God. Those who know this engage in devotional yoga to God, and with that love, Lord Krishna gives them the understanding by which they can come to Him.

Then Lord Krishna tells Arjuna how He is situated in all the powers and powerful things throughout the universe, whether it is the radiant sun, the tranquil moon, the water of the ocean, the transcendental Om, the chanting of the holy names as in japa meditation, and in the immovable Himalayas, and much more. But it is only with a single fragment of His energy does Lord Krishna pervade and support this entire universe. This leads to…

Chapter Eleven, The Universal Form. It is in this chapter wherein Lord Krishna shows Arjuna, by giving Arjuna divine eyes, how He is spread throughout the entire universe by His energies and expansions. Some of what Arjuna sees is beautiful beyond compare, and other things that he sees in this universal form are terrible and frightening. Some are hundreds of thousands of multicolored divine forms, as well as demigods, planets, past and future events, and a splendor so bright it would equal hundreds of thousands of suns. Both birth and death could be seen within this amazing universal form that spread in all directions, both near and far throughout the universe.

This made Arjuna humble, who then requested Krishna to relieve him of this view and show him His four-armed form, and then again His more familiar and lovable two-armed form.

Now Arjuna was convinced that Lord Krishna was the Supreme and everything both within and beyond this material manifestation, as well as the father and creator of this material manifestation.

Then in Chapter Twelve, Devotional Service, Lord Krishna explains the ultimate goal of life, and the essence of how to practice bhakti-yoga, focusing especially on how to serve and fix our mind and intelligence on the Supreme as Lord Krishna in all our activities and undertakings.

Then we have Chapter Thirteen, Nature, The Enjoyer, and Consciousness. This explains how the body is the center of the field of material activities, and how we should understand the body as the vehicle in which both the soul and Supersoul–Paramatma–reside. Also, that the body is not our real identity, but we should see through the body to recognize the living being within. The soul is beyond the body and illuminates the body by consciousness. This is the symptom of the soul within. Now we merely have to spiritualize our consciousness to directly perceive the soul, and then see the difference between the body and soul.

The field of activities also includes the five elements, ego, intelligence, the senses, mind, and various emotions that project from the mind, along with all moving and non-moving things. Aside from all this, Lord Krishna explains the characteristics of His expansion as the Supersoul and how to perceive Him within.

In Chapter Fourteen, The Three Modes of Material Nature, Lord Krishna describes the three modes or gunas and their characteristics as goodness (sattva), passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas), and the nature of those according to how they are situated in each of these modes of nature. This also determines if one is progressing upward while acting in the mode of goodness, or simply maintaining while in the mode of passion, or regressing downward in ignorance or darkness. This analysis will also reveal the condition of one’s next birth. As explained in verses 14 and 15 in this chapter: “When one dies in the mode of goodness, he attains the pure higher planets. When one dies in the mode of passion, he takes birth among those engaged in fruitive activities; and when he dies in the mode of ignorance, he takes birth in the animal kingdom.”

So the goal is to know how to act in order to rise above these three modes, which Lord Krishna clearly explains as being the process of devotional yoga.

Chapter Fifteen, The Yoga of the Supreme Person. Here Lord Krishna emphasizes how to engage in that yoga process which can elevate you to rise above all material inebriates and limitations, and material happiness and distress, in order to reach the spiritual abode.

Even though the living beings are all parts of the Lord, they are struggling very hard with the mind and the mental interpretations of our experiences within this material field of activities and the way we see ourselves in this world. Furthermore, until these conceptions are purified, they are carried from one body to the next, one life to the next, just as air carries aromas. One who is spiritually ignorant cannot understand how this takes place. But the progressing transcendentalist can clearly see all of this. Krishna also explains that one who knows Him as the Supreme Being knows everything and engages in devotional yoga to Him, and his endeavors will know perfection.

Chapter Sixteen, The Divine and Demoniac Natures. Here Lord Krishna makes it clear how to recognize the Divine qualities and actions, as well as the demoniac, both of which are in ourselves and in those around us. It is only the divine qualities that are conducive to spiritual progress and liberation, whereas the demoniac actions and qualities will keep you bound in material existence for many lifetimes. So the next step is to associate with those of a divine nature and develop such qualities in ourselves, and avoid the demoniac. The demoniac can never approach God nor the spiritual world, but reach progressively lower forms of existence.

Chapter Seventeen, The Divisions of Faith. In this chapter Lord Krishna explains that there are different kinds of faith and religions depending on what level of the modes of material nature are displayed by the living being, such as goodness, passion or ignorance. Therefore, some religions will be more materialistic, based on ego, or the bodily identification and attachment and pride, while others will be more spiritual. So there is a difference between various religions, as explained in this chapter. They are not all the same, which sometimes people like to say. Lord Krishna describes the difference herein in a way we can clearly see the varieties and categories to which they belong. It is up to us to study this carefully to understand this.

So as we go along in our study of these chapters, we begin to see a pattern or repetition in these teachings. There is much knowledge on various aspects of life and spiritual understanding, but time and again Lord Krishna expresses that it is He who is the Supreme Being, the creator of the universe, and it is He who should be the center of our worship and meditation. Furthermore, all of this knowledge is meant to raise our consciousness so we can return to the spiritual world. That is what this is for. Lord Krishna repeats this in several chapters herein. This is not some kind of philosophy to contemplate, but it is an action plan for the benefit of humanity so we can directly attain a spiritual vision and perceive the spiritual reality all around us, up to the point in which we can enter that spiritual domain, which is our real home. The material world is temporary and can never give the joy we are seeking. This is why Lord Krishna is explaining all of this, to motivate us to act according to His directions and attain the realm of eternal happiness and bliss, which is our eternal and constitutional nature. And He summarizes this in the final chapter of Bhagavad-gita.

Chapter Eighteen, The Conclusion, The Perfection of Renunciation, or Yoga of Renunciation for Moksha–Liberation from Material Existence. Herein Lord Krishna explains the way to become spiritually perfect through the proper means of renunciation or detachment from activities, but also how to continue with prescribed duties. Yet, out of all we may do or practice, Lord Krishna finally concludes with the instructions on the ultimate way of perfecting one’s spiritual life and realize the highest truth, which is by performing devotional service, bhakti-yoga, and in this way rekindle one’s relationship with God and then reach the eternal and imperishable spiritual abode.

In this way, a person can cross over all obstacles of conditional life by Lord Krishna’s grace. Otherwise, a person will remain lost in the whirlpool of material existence. By surrendering unto Him, and then by His grace you can attain peace and the supreme abode. Lord Krishna then concludes that this is the most confidential of all knowledge given for your benefit. He instructs that if you think of Him, become His devotee, worship Him, just surrender unto Him, then you will be free from all sinful reactions and come to Him without fail.

It is further concluded that anyone who studies this conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna worships Lord Krishna with his or her intelligence. And simply by listening with faith to this conversation a person becomes free from sinful reaction and at least attains the planets of the pious.

So these are the basic instructions that are related in the Bhagavad-gita, and some of the benefits of studying it. So, in this way, a person can acquire proper direction in life, a deeper realization of one’s true identity, and attain a level of self-confidence and peace by inward reflection and realization that can never be reached through ordinary, materialistic studies or endeavors. Furthermore, these can be applied to assist us in all aspects of life to help bring us to our higher potential in everything we do, materially or spiritually. This is the power and the importance of the Bhagavad-gita and the instructions of Lord Krishna found within it.

Thank you very much,

Jai Sri Krishna.

Time Line of Lord Krishna Supported by Science

(An Excerpt from “Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture”)

By Stephen Knapp

 

As devotees and followers of the Vedic path, we already accept the premise that Lord Krishna appeared 5,000 years ago and spoke the Bhagavad-gita in the Mahabharata war. But it is always nice when scholars, other researchers and science can add support to what we already propose. So let’s take a look at this.

One aspect that can show us the early nature of Vedic society, and with a little more reliability, is highlighting the time when Lord Krishna was present. This is another point that has generated many opinions, but is now much clearer than ever with more recent research and findings.

Astrophysicist Dr. Narahari Achar, a physicist from the University of Memphis, clearly showed with astronomical analysis that the Mahabharata war took place in 3067 BCE. Examining the Mahabharata, books 3, 5, and 18, his sky map software showed that all these descriptions converge in the year 3067. Achar also acknowledged that some 30 years earlier, in 1969, S. Raghavan had arrived at the same date.

In determining the date of the Mahabharata war at Kurukshetra, astronomical references in the epic can be used, of which there are more than one hundred and fifty. Most of these that pertain to the war, though there are many scattered throughout the texts, is in the Udyoga and Bhisma Parvas. Those in the Bhisma Parva are especially systematic and are also in accordance with the astrological omens described in the Atharva Veda and its Parishishtas, referring mostly to comets. When these are put together with the retrograde motion of Mars before reaching Jyestha, this leads to the unique date of 3067 BCE for the date of the war, which was previously proposed by Professor Raghavan. 1

This corroborates with the view that the age of Kali-yuga started in 3102 BCE, according to Dr. Achar. As stated in the Puranas, Kali-yuga had already begun, but its full influence was held back because of the presence of Lord Krishna. Then when Lord Krishna departed from this world, which is said to have occurred 35 years after the war of Kurukshetra in 3067, making it the year of 3032 BCE, then Kali-yuga began to show more of its effects. 2

In the time line for the passing away of Grandfather Bhisma, for example, it is said that Bhisma passed away on the Magha (January-February) shukla ashtami, after the winter solstice, which leads to the date of January 13, 3066 BCE for the winter solstice. 3

So, in considering the chronology according Professor Raghavan, we have:

Lord Krishna’s departure from Upaplavya nagara on the mission for peace–September 26, 3067 BCE

Krishna reaches Hastinapura–September 28, 3067 BCE

Lunar eclipse–September 29, 3067 BCE

Krishna rides with Karna–October 8, 3067 BCE

Solar eclipse–October 14, 3067 BCE

The war begins–November 22, 3067 BCE

Fourteenth day of the war, continued into the wee hours of the morning–December 8, 3067 BCE

Balarama returns–December 12, 3067 BCE

Winter solstice–January 13, 3066 BCE

Bhisma’s passing away–January 17, 3066 BCE 4

Departure of Lord Krishna– 3031 BCE.

About when Vedavyasa composed the main Vedic texts– 3000 BCE

About when the Sarasvati had dried up or disappeared–1900 BCE

The above accounts for 48 days from the time of Bhisma’s fall to the time of his passing. However, it is generally accepted that Grandfather Bhisma had 58 sleepless nights between the time of his fall and the time of his passing. Yet, if you count the 10 days that he lead the armies into war in which he may also have not been able to sleep, that would give the full 58 sleepless nights that are described.5

The famous astronomical text known as the Surya Siddhanta also states that the sun was 54 degrees away from the vernal equinox when Kali-yuga began on a new moon day, which corresponds to February 17/18, 3102 at Ujjain.

From the internal evidence in the Mahabharata text, the coronation of Maharaja Yudhisthir can be determined to be 36 years before the beginning of Kali-yuga, or about 3138 BCE. One scholar, Dr. Patnaik, had calculated the date of the starting of the Mahabharata war to be October 16, 3138 BCE from references available in the epic itself.

Of course, different scholars may arrive at variations in their calculations, and there have been a few different versions of the Mahabharata, and over the many centuries since it was written, additions and accretions are found. For example, verses 2.28.48-9 mention roma and antakhi in Sanskrit, which some scholars interpret to mean Rome and Antioch. This places these mentions not earlier than 300 BCE since Antioch was founded in 301. 6 However, this does not limit the age of the earlier form of the Mahabharata, which is known to have been written shortly after the war of Kurukshetra.

Nonetheless, as B. N. Narahari Achar explains, other scholars have proposed varying years for the Mahabharata war, from 3102 BCE to 3139 BCE. However, none of these dates can produce the astronomical configurations described in the Mahabharata.

Another point of consideration is that it is generally accepted by most Vedic scholars that the age of Kali-yuga began in February 17-18 of 3102 BCE, which also coincides with the astronomical configurations. This also is given credence from the Aryabhatta Tradition in which Aryabhatta, who lived 476-550 CE, explains that when he was 23 years old, 3600 years of Kali-yuga had elapsed. Aryabhatta, one of the great mathematicians and astronomers of India in the 5th century CE, examined the astronomical positions recorded in the Mahabharata. In his work, the Aryabhattiya, he calculated that the approximate date to be 3100 BCE, justifying the date of the Kurukshetra war to have been fought about 5000 years ago, as the tradition itself and most Hindus have always said.

This again identifies the year of 3102 BCE. However, the Mahabharata itself does not describe when Kali-yuga began. All it says is that the war took place some time during the interval of Dvapara and Kali-yugas, and it certainly took place before Lord Krishna left this world. But there is evidence that Kali-yuga had already begun before Lord Krishna disappeared.

In the Bhagavata Purana (1.15.36) it is explained, “When the Personality of Godhead Lord Krishna left this earthly planet in His selfsame form, from that very day Kali, who had appeared partially before, became fully manifest to create inauspicious conditions for those who are endowed with a poor fund of knowledge.”

Therefore, Kali-yuga had already appeared, but it was only due to the presence of Lord Krishna who was holding back its influence. But after He left this world, Kali’s full potency took effect, which is also stated in the Kali-raja Vrittanta. Thus, the war is most likely to have been in 3067 BCE and the beginning of Kali-yuga accepted as 3102 BCE.

Some people, such as Max Muller and others, have had trouble accepting this date as the time of the Mahabharata, because they felt that the descriptions of the planetary positions of the Saptarishis (Ursa Major) were not real. However, a similar description is also given in the second chapter of the twelfth canto of the Bhagavata Purana, which helps verify the time of the Mahabharata.

One particular point to consider is that it has been shown that the positions of the Saptarishis, as explained in the work of Anthony Aveni, noted author of The Empire of Time: Calendars, Clocks and Cultures, that in many cultures, even in Africa and American Indian cultures, it is believed that the entire solar system revolves through the galaxy of the Milky Way, around the brightest star of the Pleiades, in the Taurus constellation. These are known as the Seven Sisters or Krittikas in the Vedic tradition. The brightest star in the Pleiades is Alcyone, and the sun completes one revolution around this star in approximately 3000 years. This has made the Pleiades a sacred object in the sky in many cultures. But the point is that it is this periodic revolution that is why the Saptarishis repeat their positions described in the Bhagavata Purana every 2700 years. Thus, when calculations are based on the position of these stars, we have to realize that the Vedic texts, including the Ramayana and the descriptions therein, could be relating to time periods much earlier than we think.

Additional evidence that can help establish the time of Lord Krishna was in Mohenjodaro, where a tablet dated to 2600 BCE was found which depicts Lord Krishna in His childhood days. This shows that Lord Krishna was popular at least prior to this date. 7

We also have records from Greek travelers who came to India following Alexander’s invasion which have left references to Krishna. Authors like Pliny referred to Krishna as Heracles, based on Hari Krishna. They record that Heracles (Krishna) was held in special honor by the Sourseni tribe (Shuraseni, based on Shura the father of Vasudeva and grandfather of Lord Krishna) in such places as the major city of Methora (Mathura).

The Greek records go on to record that Heracles (Krishna) lived 138 generations before the time of Alexander and Sandrocottas, which was about 330 BCE. This then calculates, based on about 20 years per generation, to roughly 3090 BCE, which is about the right time considering 3102 BCE is the date when Kali-yuga began. Thus, Lord Krishna was a genuinely historical figure who lived about the time of 3200-3100 BCE, having lived to 125 years of age.

 

WHEN LORD KRISHNA LEFT THIS WORLD

The above information leads us to the approximate date when Lord Krishna left this world. As B. N. Narahari Achar again describes: “According to the epic Mahabharata, Krishna first appears [in the epic] at the time of Draupadi’s wedding, and His departure is exactly 36 years after the war. No information about His birth is available in the epic itself, although there is information about His departure. Krishna observes omens (Mahabharata 14.3.17), similar to the ones seen at the time of the war, now indicating the total destruction of the Yadavas. [Astrological] Simulations show that in the year 3031 BCE, thirty-six years later than 3067 BCE, there was an eclipse season with three eclipses. A lunar eclipse on 20 October was followed by an annular solar eclipse on 5 November, followed by a penumbral lunar eclipse on 19 November, within an interval of 14 days and at an aparvani time. Thus the date of departure of Lord Krishna is consistent with the popular tradition that He passed away 36 years after the war. The information about His birth can be gathered from the Harivamsha and the Bhagavata Purana…. It should be understood, however, that the date of His departure from this world is established on the information in the epic and on the basis of [astronomical] simulations, and it turns out to be 3031 BCE.” 8

 

MORE PROOF OF THE EXISTENCE OF LORD KRISHNA

Sometimes there are comments and even controversies amongst those who are less informed regarding whether Christianity or Vedic culture came first. Some people point out that the devotional elements within the Vedic tradition, especially in regard to the Bhakti movements, must have come from Christianity first and then appeared in the Vedic Vaishnava tradition, the followers of which exhibit much love and devotion to Lord Krishna and Vishnu and His other avataras. But this idea, that Vedic culture came from Christianity, which some Christian preachers in India still try to use in their attempts to convert people, could not be further from the truth. The fact is that there is archeological proof that the Vaishnava tradition of devotion to Lord Vishnu existed many years prior to the appearance of Christianity.

Not far from the Buddhist site of Sanchi in Central India, we take a 45-minute ride on the very bumpy road to Vidisha or Besnagar where we find the Heliodorus column, locally known as the Khamb Baba pillar. This was erected by Heliodorus, the Greek ambassador to India in 113 BCE. Heliodorus was sent to the court of King Bhagabhadra by Antialkidas, the Greek king of Taxila. The kingdom of Taxila was part of the Bactrian region in northwest India, which had been conquered by Alexander the Great in 325 BCE. By the time of Antialkidas, the area under Greek rule included what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Punjab.

Heliodorus writes on the stone pillar the time it was erected and the fact that he had converted to Vaishnavism, or the worship of Lord Vishnu. The inscription on the column, as published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, says:

“This Garuda column of Vasudeva (Vishnu), the god of gods, was erected here by Heliodorus, a worshiper of Vishnu, the son of Dion, and an inhabitant of Taxila, who came as Greek ambassador from the Great King Antialkidas to King Kasiputra Bhagabhadra, the Savior, then reigning prosperously in the fourteenth year of his kingship. Three important precepts when practiced lead to heaven: self-restraint, charity, conscientiousness.”

This shows that Heliodorus had become a worshiper of Vishnu and was well versed in the texts and ways pertaining to this religion. It can only be guessed how many other Greeks became converted to Vaishnavism if such a notable ambassador did. This conclusively shows the Greek appreciation for India and its philosophy.

It was General Alexander Cunningham who was doing an archeological survey in 1877 who first took notice of the significance of the column. However, he did not attend to the inscription that was on it because it was covered with vermilion. This was because the pilgrims who worshiped had a custom to smear the column with vermilion.

It was only in January of 1901 when a Mr. Lake uncovered the paint from what he thought was some lettering. Once the ancient Brahmi text was translated, the historical significance of the column became ever more apparent.

The British Sanskritists, due to their superior views of themselves, had developed the idea that much of the Vedic traditions and legends of Lord Krishna had to have been incorporated from the Bible and the stories of Jesus. However, this Heliodorus column was the archeological discovery that proved to the disappointed British that knowledge of Krishna and the Vaishnava tradition predated Christianity by at least 200 years. The column indicated that the Indians did not adopt legends of Christ to put in their Puranas to be used for the stories of Krishna as the British had hypothesized since this gave proof that knowledge of Krishna predated Jesus by almost 200 years.

Another point to consider is that if a Greek official was so impressed with the philosophy of Vaishnavism that he converted to it in 200 BCE, then it means that Vaishnavism and the element of spiritual devotion to God, as found in the Bhakti tradition, had to have originated several hundred years if not several thousand years earlier in order for it to have developed to a stage wherein the Greeks were so much impressed by it. So this is a serious historical site to see.

The Heliodorus column also indicates that the Vedic tradition accepted converts at that time. Only after the difficulties between Hindus and Muslims was there a hesitancy on the part of Hindus to accept converts to the Vedic tradition. The Vedic religion saw itself as universal and welcomed all people into its embrace. As Raychaudhari writes: “The Beshnagar record testifies to the proselytizing zeal of the Bhagavatas [Vaishnavas] in the pre-Christian centuries, and shows that their religion was excellent enough to capture the hearts of cultured Greeks, and catholic enough to admit them into its fold.”

This evidence further shows that Greece was but a part of Vedic culture and repeated what it and its philosophers had learned from the Vedic sages rather than being a source of the higher levels of philosophy as some people think. Furthermore, this evidence bears witness to the fact that the Christian tradition and its main element of devotion or bhakti to God was found in Vedic culture long before it appeared within the confines of Christianity. In fact, much of the deeper spiritual philosophy in Christianity is but a repeat of what had been previously established and much more deeply developed in the older Vedic tradition. So to fathom the deeper aspects of the different levels of devotion to God, one can investigate the Vedic and Vaishnava tradition to learn the finer details.

Additional archeological finds include the Mora Well and Ghosundi Inscriptions, which tell us that the rich and complex Vaishnava conception of God and full expansions of the Godhead into the material universes were already well established in the first two centuries before Christ. Seven miles west of Mathura in the small and unimposing village of Mora, General Cunningham made another vital find regarding the historicity of Vaishnavism. In 1882, on the terrace of an ancient well, he discovered a large stone slab filled with inscriptions. Although more than half of the writing had already peeled away on the right side, the remainder was legible. It was transcribed, and a facsimile of the inscription was published in the Archaeological Survey of India’s Annual Report. The message was clear. Not only was Krishna worshiped in the centuries before Christ, but also His expansions or associates, especially “the five heroes of the Vrishni Clan.” Scholarly research makes evident that these five are Krishna (Vasudeva), Balarama (Sankarshana), Pradyumna, Samba, and Aniruddha.

This was the proof that the complex theology, metaphysics, and cosmology of Sanatana-dharma and Vaishnavism definitely existed in an advanced state centuries before Christ. The Mora Well inscription is an important archeological proof of this historical fact.

Furthermore, in the village of Ghosundi in the Chitor district of Rajasthan is found the Ghosundi Inscription, which largely duplicates the message of the Mora Well Inscription. Kaviraja Shyamala Dasa first brought this evidence to light in The Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society. Today, the inscription can be inspected in the Victoria Hall Museum in Udaipur.

The surviving part of this inscription relevant to this chapter reads as follows: “[this] railing of stone for the purposes of worship is [caused to be made] in the Narayana-compound, [dedicated] to the Blessed Ones [bhagavabhyam] Samkarshana and Vasudeva, the gods…”

The inscription is in a form of Sanskrit script called Northern Brahmi script, which dates the inscription as being from the second century BCE in either the late Maurya or early Sunga periods. An almost identical inscription also was uncovered nearby and is called the Hathi-vada Inscription. According to K. P. Jayaswal of the Archaeological Survey of India, these inscriptions demonstrate that not only the Kshatriyas but also the Brahmanas or priestly and intellectual class worshiped Krishna as the “Lord of all,” and, thus, Vaishnavism was entrenched in the entire Indian society.

The same point is made in the famous Nanaghat Cave Inscription in the state of Maharashtra, where Vasudeva and Sankarshana (or Krishna and Balarama) are included in an invocation of a Brahmana. On epigraphical grounds, this inscription is dated conclusively as coming from the second half of the first century BCE. Additionally, Raychaudhuri reports:

The Nanaghat Inscription shows further that the Bhagavata [Vaishnava] religion was no longer confined to Northern India, but had spread to the south and had captured the hearts of the sturdy people of Maharashtra. From Maharashtra it was destined to spread to the Tamil country and then flow back with renewed vigor to the remotest corners of the Hindu Vedic world.

There is also much numismatic evidence that corroborates the antiquity of Krishna. For instance, excavations at Al-Khanum, along the border of Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, conducted by P. Bernard and a French archeological expedition, unearthed six rectangular bronze coins issued by the Indo-Greek ruler Agathocles (180?-?165 BCE). The coins had script written in both Greek and Brahmi and, most interestingly, show an image of Vishnu, or Vasudeva, carrying a Chakra and a pear-shaped vase, or conchshell, which are two of the four main sacred symbols of God in Vaishnavism.

 

DATE OF LORD RAMA

Another point we could discuss is the approximate date of Lord Rama. Lord Rama appeared in the Solar Dynasty, but even the time frame of His appearance may shed more light on the antiquity of Vedic culture. Naturally, scholars have different views on when He may have existed. Some say He was here a few thousand years before Lord Krishna. In fact, in an April 2011 edition of the Times of India, Saurabh Kwatra writes that using the zodiac and the recorded tithis, days marked according to the phases of the moon, he calculated that the birth of Lord Rama, as related in the Valmiki Ramayana, was December 4th, 7323 BCE. While using other forms of planetary computer software, others have come up with other dates.

Though these may be some of the more recent calculations, still the tradition places the era of Lord Rama much earlier than that. For example, the Vayu Purana (70.48) says:

tretayuge chaturvinshe ravanastapasah kshayat

I

ramam dasharathim prapya saganah kshayamlyavan

II

This relates that the misbehaving Ravana was killed with his kiths and kins in a war with Rama in the 24th Treta-yuga. We are presently in the 28th chaturyuga (cycle of 1000 yugas) of the Vaivasvat manvantara. Furthermore, this is corroborated by Rupa Goswami in his Laghu Bhagavatamrita that Rama appeared in the Treta-yuga of the 24th yuga cycle. There are 71 cycles of the four yugas in a manvantara period, which would mean the appearance of Lord Rama would be about 18 million years ago.

Another interesting point is that in the Suderkand section of the Valmiki Ramayana (5.4.27)elephants with four tusks are mentioned as standing at the gates of Ravana’s palace. Also in 5.27.12 an ogress named Trijata sees in her dream Lord Rama mounted on a great elephant with four tusks. The fact that they knew of elephants with four tusks is very intriguing since, scientifically speaking, a quick reference to the elephant with four tusks is called a Mastondontoidea, which is calculated to have evolved around 38 million years ago, and is suspected of becoming extinct around 15 million years ago. This would help verify the ancient date of Lord Rama to be around 18 million years ago. Interesting… isn’t it?

The more we look in the right places for the right evidence, the more we see that the Vedic tradition indeed holds the universal spiritual truths.

CHAPTER NOTES

1. B. N. Narahari Achar, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 203.

2. Nicholas Kazanas, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 53.

3. B. N. Narahari Achar, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 225.

4. Ibid., p. 231.

5. Ibid., p. 244.

6. Nicholas Kazanas, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmouth, USA, 2010, p. 53.

7. V. S. Agrawal, India in the Days of Panini, 1953.

8. B. N. Narahari Achar, Origin of Indian Civilization, Edited by Bal Ram Singh, Center for Indic Studies, Dartmought, USA, 2010, p. 246-7.

 

How We Can See God, By Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa)

             First of all when it comes to trying to see God, if we expect to see God with our material senses, we need to first understand the limitations of the senses we have. We often need glasses merely to see clearly, and we also need enough light to do so. If it is too dark, or if there is no light with which to see, we can hardly make out what is right in front of us. So it is fair enough to say that we will never see that which is spiritual with these dull material senses.

However, even when it comes to researching the smallest elements like the atoms, and then defining parts of them like neutrons, protons, etc., do the scientists actually see every molecule that they discuss, even with super powerful microscopes? Sometimes not. In some cases, they only see the evidence that such particles exist, but do not directly see the particle itself. Similarly, even if we cannot see God directly with our material senses, we can still look around and see the evidence for God’s existence. But to do that, we also need to have the right knowledge.

For example, even a person with a little common sense can understand that there must be a source of everything, a point of origin, or what some call an Absolute Truth, the underlying basis or foundation for everything. And that something can be called God. That is why in some circles people ask, What is not God? And in that respect, we can perceive that everything is a part of God, or everything is but a display of God’s energy, including ourselves. Then we begin to see or feel the presence of God all around us.

However, in the Vedic sources of knowledge, such as the Bhagavad-gita, we find wherein Lord Krishna Himself begins to instruct Arjuna how to recognize Him in so many things. By meditating on and understanding this knowledge, we can begin to more closely recognize the evidence for God all around us, especially in all great and powerful things.

In Bhagavad-gita (7.4-11) Lord Krishna explains, “Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego—altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies. Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe. Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution. O conqueror of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me as pearls are strung on a thread.

“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste in fresh water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable Om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man. I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances [which brings one closer to God] of all ascetics. O son of Pritha, know that I am the original seed of all existences, the intelligence of the intelligent, and the prowess of all powerful men. I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire.” 

Another aspect of this description in Bhagavad-gita is to recognize how God Himself descends into this material realm to reveal Himself through His divine instructions, pastimes, personality, and to show us His form. And even if He is not in front of us personally, we can learn about Him and see Him through the descriptions of the Vedic shastra. Thus, even though we may not be able to see Him with our material senses, He can indeed reveal Himself and make Himself visible to us through such means. However, we also need to become qualified to do that, which we will discuss shortly.

            In another aspect of seeing God is that found in the descriptions that many of you have no doubt heard about in near-death-experiences. Often it is described that in such an experience someone may be going down a tunnel, sometimes greeted by past relatives, until they finally approach a fantastic light, a being of unconditional love and acceptance. They often do not exactly see the form of this being, since it is engulfed in light, but they accept the being to be the object of their faith or religion, such as Jesus, or Buddha, or Krishna, or someone similar.

          When our own level of consciousness is lower than the higher beings that we may encounter, as in a near-death-experience, we may often see them and the frequency in which they exist as merely white light. In other words, we have not elevated our own consciousness to the frequency of that level of existence to be able to perceive and discern all the details therein. Thus, we perceive such entities as either beings of light, or engulfed in effulgence.

          A similar experience is described in the Shri Ishopanishad in mantras 15 and 16, where it says: “O my Lord, sustainer of all that lives, Your real face is covered by Your dazzling effulgence. Please remove that covering and exhibit Yourself to Your pure devotee. O my Lord, O primeval philosopher, maintainer of the universe, O regulating principle, destination of the pure devotees, well-wisher of the progenitors of mankind—please remove the effulgence of Your transcendental rays so that I can see Your form of bliss. You are the eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead, like unto the sun, as am I.”

          In this way, we have to raise ourselves to the same refined frequency or energy level as God in our endeavor to perceive Him directly, beyond the dazzling effulgence. Also, the last statement in the above paragraph means that as the sunshine is basically of the same quality in essence as the sun, and an expansion of it, so we are also the same spiritual quality as God. We are not as powerful as God, but we are of the same essential quality. Thus, seeing God is not unexpected, but we simply have to regain that same spiritual quality in our consciousness to acquire the ability to perceive God directly. And all that really means is to reduce the power of the material energy’s influence on ourselves through our spiritual practice.

          One more example I would like to use is the radio and television waves that carry the signals of so many stations, whether it be news, music, entertainment, or other forms of communication that are all around us all the time. However, if I do not know about them, or do not think they exist, then how can you convince me that they are real? After all, you cannot see them, taste them, smell them, or feel them. So how can you convince someone that they are real?

          The answer is that you have to have a good receiver. Then anyone will see that such waves are all around us, but they mean nothing unless you have a good receiver. Then you realize that throughout the frequency range in which these waves travel, there are so many such waves, and that they are extremely useful, with numerous things that can be done with them. You can even broadcast your own radio waves simply by your cell phone, or use your GPS system, etc. Then they become such a common part of our everyday lives that we no longer even think about them. So if someone says that radio and television waves are not real, or that he does not believe in them, what would you think of him? Obviously, this guy has no knowledge, has no experience, he is not in touch with reality, which means he must have been living under a rock, in a closet, or way out in the wilderness all of his life. You would think he is too weird.

          Similarly, if someone has no knowledge of God, and says he does not believe in God, what would you think? Pretty much the same thing, that he is merely out of touch with the proper knowledge that would help make someone understand how to recognize God.

          Therefore, another way to perceive God is through the instructions and knowledge as given by a spiritual master, or a person who is a good receiver of the transcendental vibration that exists all around us. Thus, he can receive or perceive it, and then also broadcasts the spiritual knowledge through his instructions that will allow us to understand it, at least to those who will listen. This is how we learn, through such personal instructions or through books that are written by such pure receptors of the spiritual vibrations.

          It is also through this means that we can train ourselves to be such receivers of spiritual vibrations or frequencies if we want to. We have to learn it from others to be able to do it ourselves. It is through the spiritual practices, as provided by those spiritual teachers who are already successful, and through the information and instructions given in the Vedic texts, that will also enable us to elevate our consciousness, and the vibrational frequency in which we operate. Then we can also see that which exists in those higher dimensions or spiritual realms.    

          Therefore, unlike those religions that depend mostly on faith, the Vedic or Dharmic system is that a person follows the path to spiritualize their consciousness to the point where the spiritual dimension becomes perceptible, and then one can begin to enter into that dimension and function on that level. The point is that our consciousness is where we live. We may keep our body in a house, or in particular clothes, and so on, but it is our consciousness that is the vibrational frequency in which we live and send out to others. And as we raise that frequency, we will be able to see that which exists on those higher frequencies as well. In other words, the more spiritual you become, the more you can perceive that which is spiritual. As you become more spiritual, meaning the more you spiritualize your consciousness, then the more qualified you become to recognize, approach, or even see God in so many ways. And once you begin to have that experience, then there is no further argument about what is or what is not God.

          So, would you like to become such a perceiver of the spiritual realm? If you do, then the way we work to uplift and spiritualize our consciousness includes the following: Chanting or singing devotional songs, or the names of God, using mantras for japa meditation, associating with like-minded people, discussing this knowledge and information, especially by going to the temple, eating blessed vegetarian food or Krishna prasada, etc. 

          We have already explained many of these processes in greater detail as related in my other articles, free Ebooks and paperback books. Some of the articles on my website that can be helpful include:

1. Finding Our Real Spiritual Identity

2. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, What’s so Special About Chanting Hare Krishna?

3. Seeing the Divinity in Everyone

4. Spiritual Enlightenment: What Is It

5. The Secret of Bhakti-yoga

The Secret of Bhakti-yoga

The Secret of Bhakti-yoga

By Stephen Knapp

             There are various kinds of yoga; such as karma-yoga, based on purifying our activities; Jnana-yoga, based on acquiring spiritual knowledge and insight; Raja-yoga, the mystical yoga system; and Bhakti-yoga, attaining union with God through love and devotion. From these yoga systems, additional systems have also developed. But these four basic forms of yoga are all discussed in the primary and essential Vedic text of the Bhagavad-gita. But out of all of them, Lord Krishna specifically directs us toward engaging in Bhakti-yoga, love and devotion toward Him. So why is this so special?

            Bhakti-yoga is the devotional service performed for Lord Krishna, or one of His incarnations, such as Lord Vishnu, Lord Ramachandra, etc. Lord Krishna explains that, “Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti [Arjuna], perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.”28  This means free from karma, which is an important point in our spiritual progress. 

            Sri Krishna goes on to relate that “Those who know Me as the Supreme Lord, as the governing principle of the material manifestation, who know Me as the one underlying all the demigods and as the one sustaining all sacrifices, can, with steadfast mind, understand and know Me even at the time of death.29  And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt. Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail. Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Krishna and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.”30  

            In this way, we can begin to understand that devotional service ultimately brings us to the level of being able to see Lord Krishna directly. It is by this method that numerous other saintly sages and yogis have come to be able to directly see the Lord. The point to remember is that the more spiritual we become, the more we can perceive that which is spiritual. The more purified our consciousness is, or the higher the vibrational level upon which our consciousness functions, the more we can see and enter into that higher level of existence or reality. It awakens our transcendental senses that exist within us. So the process of continued service to Krishna and His devotees will bring about the purification which will allow us to enter into Krishna’s domain, even within this very lifetime, if we are fortunate enough.

            As Lord Krishna further relates, “The form which you are seeing with your transcendental eyes cannot be understood simply by studying the Vedas, nor by undergoing serious penances, nor by charity, nor by worship. It is not by these means that one can see Me as I am. My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding. One who is engaged in My pure devotional service, free from the contaminations of previous activities and from mental speculation, who is friendly to every living entity, certainly comes to Me.”31 

            “One can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.”32

            Lord Krishna also explains in the Bhagavata Purana that the residents of both heaven and hell want to take a human birth on earth since such a human life provides the best facility to achieve transcendental knowledge and love of God. Neither heavenly nor hellish bodies provide the efficient means for such opportunity.33 This is the fortunate nature of life on this earth planet and in these humans bodies, which we often take so much for granted.

            Furthermore, Lord Krishna describes in the Bhagavata Purana the highest level of happiness that can be attained when we have a taste for serving Him. He says that if you fix your consciousness on Him, giving up your material desires, you will share a happiness with Him that cannot be experienced in any way by those who remain engaged in sense gratification. If you do not desire anything of this world, and have achieved peace through controlling the senses, and if your consciousness is equipoised in all situations, and when your mind is satisfied in Him, you will find happiness wherever you go.34 If or when you are without any desire for personal gratification, and when the mind is attached to Him, peaceful and without false ego, merciful to all living beings, and when your consciousness is not affected by the prospects for gratifying the senses, then you can find a happiness that cannot be known or achieved by those who lack such qualities.35  In other words, this is beyond anything that a common man may experience.  

            With the explanations that follow we can understand that a separate endeavor for engaging in the mystic yoga tradition is not needed. Whatever spiritual goals you may wish to attain can be acquired simply by engaging in devotional service to the Supreme. Sri Krishna explains this: “One who can control his senses by practicing the regulated principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord and thus become free from all attachment and aversion.47 And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.48 He who meditates on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Partha [Arjuna], is sure to reach Me… One who at the time of death, fixes his life air between his eyebrows and in full devotion engages himself in remembering the Supreme Lord, will certainly attain to the Supreme Personality…49  After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.”50  

            This is the powerful effect of the process of thinking and dedicating your activities to Lord Krishna. However, the same result can also be acquired by proper association with those who are spiritually advanced. In this regard, the Supreme Lord personally told Uddhava that it is by associating with His pure devotees that you can destroy your desires for the objects that can gratify the senses. It is this purifying association that can bring the Lord under the control of such a devotee. You may perform the astanga-yoga system, engage in philosophical analysis of the elements of material nature, or practice nonviolence and other ordinary principles of piety, like dig wells, give in charity, plant trees, or other public welfare activities. You may even chant the Vedas, perform penances, take up the renounced order of life, worship the demigods, chant confidential mantras, or visit the holy places. But all such activities cannot bring Him under your control.51 Even though you may engage with great endeavor in the mystic yoga system, or philosophical speculation, or charity, vows, penances, rituals, or even studying the Vedas and teaching the Vedic mantras to others, still you cannot achieve Him by these means alone.52 

            However, by example we can see that as the residents of Vrindavana, headed by the gopis [cowherd girls devoted to Krishna], were always completely attached to Him with the deepest love, they could not find any other comfort or happiness in their separation from Him when Krishna’s uncle Akrura took Him and Balarama to Mathura. All of the nights in which the gopis spent with Krishna in Vrindavana went by like a moment. And now, bereft of His association, the gopis felt those same nights drag on forever, as if each night were a day of Brahma. Just as the great sages in yoga trance merge into self-realization, just like the river merging into the ocean, and are thus oblivious to any material names and forms, in the same way the gopis of Vrindavana were so completely attached and absorbed in thought of Him that they did not think of their own bodies, or of anything of this world, not even of their future. Their complete consciousness was simply absorbed in Krishna. Though they were not completely aware of His actual position, by their thoughts and association with Him, they all attained Him, the Supreme Absolute Truth.

            Therefore, as Lord Krishna goes on to explain in the Bhagavata Purana: “Abandon the Vedic mantras as well as the procedures in the supplementary Vedic literature and all their injunctions. Simply take shelter of Me alone, for I am the Supreme Personality of Godhead situated within the heart of all conditioned souls. Take shelter of Me wholeheartedly, and by My grace be free from fear in all circumstances.”53

            An example of such fearlessness for devotees on the path of spiritual progress is related as follows: Those who are yogis learn how to control their lives so that they pass away from this world at the right moment, and in the right consciousness, so that they will not take birth in this world again. However, Lord Krishna explains this, and concludes that for His devotees there is no reason to be overly concerned about such things. “According to the Vedas, there are two ways of passing from this world–one in light and one in darkness. When one passes in light, he does not come back; but when one passes in darkness, he returns…54 Those who know the Supreme Brahman pass away from the world during the influence of the fiery god, in the light, at an auspicious moment, during the fortnight of the moon and the six months when the sun travels in the north. The mystic who passes away from this world during the smoke, the night, the moonless fortnight, or in the six months when the sun passes to the south, or who reaches the moon planet, again comes back.55 However, the devotees who know these two paths, O Arjuna, are never bewildered. Therefore be always fixed in devotion.”56 Thus, for a devotee who is always thinking of Krishna, there is no reason for any other endeavor or concern in the performance of one’s spiritual progress.

            Krishna further clarifies in the Bhagavata Purana that whatever mystic perfections can be achieved by good birth, herbs, austerities and mantras can all be achieved by devotional service to Him; indeed one cannot achieve the actual perfection of yoga by any other means.57 Everything that can be attained through fruitive or karmic activities, penance, knowledge, detachment, mystic yoga, charity, religious duties, or any other means of perfecting life can be easily achieved by His devotee simply through loving service to Him. If for some reason His devotee desires to be promoted to heaven or attain liberation, or a residence in His abode, such benedictions are easily achieved.58 

            A similar point is reiterated by the Lord in His form as Kapiladeva when He explains that because His devotee is completely absorbed in thought of Him, he does not desire such benedictions as going to the higher planetary systems, like Satyaloka, nor any of the eight mystic powers obtained from yoga, nor does he desire to be liberated into the kingdom of God. However, the devotee nonetheless enjoys all offered benedictions even in this life, even without asking for them.59 

            In conclusion, everything that can be accomplished by separate endeavors in other processes are not left out of the path of devotion to the Lord. “A person who accepts the path of devotional service is not bereft of the results derived from studying the Vedas, performing austere sacrifices, giving charity, or pursuing philosophical and fruitive activities. At the end he reaches the supreme abode.”60 

            This is the secret of the potency of bhakti-yoga. 

CHAPTER NOTES

28. Bhagavad-gita 3.9

29. Ibid., 7.30

30. Ibid., 8.5-7

31. Ibid., 11.53-55

32. Ibid., 18.55

33. Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.20.12

34. Ibid., 11.14.12-13

35. Ibid., 11.14.17

47. Bhagavad-gita 2.64

48. Ibid., 6.47

49. Ibid., 8.8, 10

50. Ibid., 8.15

51. Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.12.1-2

52. Ibid., 11.12.9

53. Ibid., 11.12.9-15

54. Bhagavad-gita 8.26

55. Ibid., 8.24-25

56. Ibid., 8.27

57. Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.15.34

58. Ibid., 11.20.32-33

59. Ibid., 3.25.37

60. Bhagavad-gita 8.28

Why I Became a Hindu / a Krishna Bhakta

Why I Became a Hindu / a Krishna Bhakta

By Stephen Knapp

 

            When I go to India one of the most common questions I get is why did I become a Hindu, or what attracted me so much to India and its culture. Many people wonder why, if I’m born in the opulence and decadence of the West, would I be so interested in India? Why would I be so fascinated by their ancient Vedic tradition? Wouldn’t I already have everything I would want, everything I need? Maybe not. Maybe the American dream is not all it’s cracked up to be, at least not without a higher level of spirituality for balance and completeness. Maybe Western religion also does not give all we need. So, let me provide a little insight into why I took up the Dharmic path.

            Now this is about “why” I became a follower of Sanatana-dharma, not “how” I became a Dharmist, which is a longer story. But this does include a little of how it happened.

            Back when I was a teenager, I felt like I did not fit into this world and thought ill of the premise that the whole purpose of life seemed to be based on the idea that you have to get an education to learn a skill so you could find a career that should last the rest of your life, even if you don’t know what you want to do. So, I was cynical toward everyone because of that, and would have fun playing the subtle game of tearing apart anyone’s paltry purpose for their existence. In that process, I would find that most people also had little reason for what they were doing. They just went along with the crowd because it seemed right, or because their parents wanted them to do something. Of course, it was amusing to my friends to make these kinds of jokes at others’ expense, but I was just irritated for being pushed into a world with social patterns and expectations that didn’t make sense to me.

In my mid-teens I became a musician. Music was the only thing I liked. It saved my life. I learned how to play guitar and specialized in bass guitar, and became quite good at it. So, I spent time hanging out with other musicians, artists, and hippies of the area, and though we would express ourselves in various ways, we would still get serious at times and sit down and wonder what was our real purpose in this life and where we really fit into this world. Then, in my late teenage years, I had to set my guitar down for a while and do some considerable research into the various philosophies and spiritual paths of the world to find some solid answers for the real purpose of life.

            Having grown up as a Christian, which was typical of most people in America, I decided to seriously look into it. I studied the Bible, not only in Sunday school and Church, but privately I read the Bible from cover to cover. It took me a year to do that, so I was fairly determined, but I did it. This was simply to see what was really contained in its pages. I knew of few other people, especially of my age, who had read the Bible from cover to cover. But I had more questions than it could answer. So, I had to keep searching for the spiritual knowledge I wanted to know, because if you look deeply into the Bible, it mostly covers moralistic principles, what to do or not do. These, of course, are necessary for any religious path, but it is only the beginning. I wanted to know more about spiritual knowledge and the process to increase my spiritual perception. The fact of the matter is that most religions start with faith and end with faith, without any real spiritual experiences or realizations in between. There is often nothing to take you to a deeper level of self-perception, but merely the same beliefs in concepts that remain outside your own encounters, and often times with no encouragement from the church authorities to reach that level of consciousness. So, I obviously had to look elsewhere for the information I needed.

            Now is that being difficult? I don’t think so. I was just asking the kind of questions that any inquisitive and decent human being would ask. But if you look, what does the Bible say about God, even in simple matters such as what is His form, what does He look like? Other than mentioning that He appeared as a burning bush or a dove, etc., it does not say much. It also says he is a jealous and angry God. But why would God be angry and jealous, and of who? He already owns everything, and everyone is under His control, so what is the problem? Or is it actually a matter of humanity merely projecting their own weaknesses on their conception of God? Then the conception of God that is presented is not really God at all, but merely mankind’s idea of what God must be, based on their own weaknesses and imagination. Well, this was not what I wanted to learn.

            Furthermore, what does the Bible really say about the soul, about our spiritual nature, about our spiritual relationship with God and each other, or even about heaven and hell, or things like that? Furthermore, it was completely absent of any description of the soul. Thus, it really does not say all that much regarding higher spiritual knowledge, which means there are numerous questions left unanswered. This also means that we have to rely mostly on faith that we are doing what is necessary to reach heaven. After all, this is one of the goals of Christianity. Everyone has hopes of going to heaven. In this way, it offers a very elementary level of spiritual knowledge based on the idea that you have to do whatever the church tells you if you expect to have any relationship with God. Without that, you may face excommunication, which is synonymous with going to hell. Sorry folks, but that is not enough for me, or any sensible person for that matter.

            However, another problem is that the church took out most references to the topics of karma and reincarnation, which I later found out in my research had been a part of a political ploy to keep people in line with the demands of the church. Without such obedience, they would not be good Christians, and, thus, have no standing in the eyes of God, or so they say. So, you cannot expect to get the whole spiritual truth out of such books when these kinds of things are done to them. 

So, where do we go to find the answers? Therefore, I also studied Judaism, Egyptology, magic, witchcraft, I Ching, palmistry, Tarot, Voodoo, Zen Buddhism, mysticism, Yoga, and many other esoteric topics. I even read most of the Koran. However, as anyone who reads the Koran will see, in comparison with other scriptures, it is not a book which focuses much on theology or spiritual doctrine. It does not dwell on describing our eternal spiritual identity, the characteristics of the soul, or the spiritual nature of God. In fact, it provides a harsh view of God when compared to other religious texts like the Vedic literature. It presents God, Allah, as a God who gives out much punishment with little or no mercy for those fallen ones who do not follow the Islamic path, even though verses within it say how merciful He is. But this is mercy mostly showed to those who are already followers of Islam or who convert to Islam, while apostates deserve to be killed. But, again, is this really God, or only mankind projecting their own characteristics and demands into their concept of God?

In this way, it became obvious to me that all religions are not the same. They definitely take you to different levels of understanding. The Bible and Koran, for example, deal mostly with moralistic principles, which are, of course, necessary if a person is to begin any spiritual process. However, books of the western religions consist mostly of rules, or dos and don’ts with the promise that if you follow all of them properly, you will go to heaven. Otherwise, you go to hell with no second chance. In the conventional monotheistic religions, it’s like you are walking a tightrope just to make sure you do not make the mistakes that will take you to hell, what to speak of trying to make any genuine spiritual advancement. But anyone who is spiritually experienced and knowledgeable knows that you cannot go to heaven by faith alone. It just does not work that way. The only way you can go to a higher dimension is by changing your consciousness to a higher level of perception and activity, and doing it right here in this life. And I found few genuine spiritual paths that provided the means or the processes by which you could do that.

Thus, I had to continue looking for the answers I needed for a higher understanding and for things to make sense to me, including the purpose of life. But fear-based religions, those that promise hell and punishment if not followed, were not for me. I did not want the fear of going to hell as the main motivation for accepting a particular spiritual path, or a dogma that everyone was supposed to accept in order to go to heaven, or to maintain an approved connection with an institution or church to keep from being excommunicated and, thus, going to eternal damnation. This did not seem logical to me. I wanted a path that could give me a natural and progressive way to attain a clear perception of the spiritual dimension, not dogma or fear-based indoctrination or blind faith.

In all my research, I finally read the Bhagavad-gita, which was like the final piece of the puzzle that I had been putting together from all of my philosophical and spiritual investigation. I could see that all of the spiritual paths were connected. Through the knowledge they offer, they can bring a person to different levels of consciousness, some higher and some lower. But the Bhagavad-gita gave me exactly what I needed, which was a big boost in spiritual understanding, and I knew I needed more. So, I went on to read the Upanishads, Vedanta Sutras, Yoga Sutras, and other texts including the Puranas. These all gave me profound insights into the purpose of life, and, finally, let me know that this world is not my real home anyway. It is not like I have to find a permanent place here, or an occupation that has to last forever, like I was being taught in school at the time, and which was expected of me by my parents. I was a spiritual being and only a passing tourist on this planet as I moved forward, preparing for higher realms.

            As I studied the Eastern texts, it became clear that we all have a connection with God regardless of what our religion is, or whether we have a connection with a religious institution or church. All we have to do is reawaken that relationship. And the Vedic system gives you many tools to choose from to help you do that, such as gurus and teachers, sacred texts, temples for worship and learning, systems of yoga, and processes of development. Nothing is forced on you.

In the Vedic process, you choose your own speed at which you advance, your own methods that work best for you, the level of understanding and the spiritual texts you want to use. You decide whatever lessons you need to learn in order to proceed. And whatever advancement you make is never lost.

It’s not a question of having a dogma forced on you. It is a matter of proceeding at the rate that works best for you so that your spiritual progress unfolds naturally, not artificially or superficially. The Vedic system expects you to have your own spiritual awakenings and experiences when you are ready for them or developed enough.

I did not want to merely read about the spiritual dimension, and what it must be like. I wanted to see it. I did not want to merely read about the Supreme Being, which is more than you can get in most Western religions anyway. Most of them have no idea about His appearance, characteristics, how He acts, jokes with His devotees, or displays His pastimes and love towards them. But I wanted direct evidence and realizations, a connection to fill my soul, and to complete my purpose in life. I did not get that from anything else, whether it was material pursuits or Western religions. They all remained too shallow for me. I must admit that even parts of Hinduism were more like intellectual exercises or pursuits until I came to the teachings of Lord Krishna, especially in Bhagavad-gita and then in the Bhagavata Purana. These provided deep teachings that awakened a higher awareness of life and the spiritual nature of us all.

I also did not try to learn this spiritual knowledge through an academic pursuit. Most academics have never experienced whatever spiritual culture they teach anyway, or may even teach outright wrong information about it. Armchair philosophers often lack the necessary direct insight and awareness to qualify for teaching others. It is known amongst all Eastern mystics that anyone, regardless of qualifications, academic or otherwise, who does not engage in the spiritual practices described in the Vedic texts, cannot actually enter into understanding the depths of the Vedic spiritual science, nor acquire the realizations that should accompany it. So, rather than pursuing my research in an academic atmosphere at a university, I directly engaged in the spiritual disciplines that have been recommended for hundreds of years. Thus, in time, I studied the Vedic knowledge and spiritual practice under the guidance of a spiritual master.

After several years of serious independent study, I earnestly took to the Dharmic process of yoga and became a steady follower of it. This was because it gives a person the means or the system to spiritualize one’s consciousness, and, thus, actually begin to have insights into perceiving the spiritual dimension. It does not merely prescribe faith that such a thing exists, but it gives you the descriptions of it and the process by which you can have your own spiritual experiences. The point is that the more spiritual you become, the more you can perceive that which is spiritual. This is the key. Thus, the spiritual dimension no longer remains a mystery, or merely something you study or learn about, but it becomes a reality, something to experience. And that makes all the difference. Thus, I imbibed the teachings within the Vedic texts and that of Lord Krishna and took up the path of yoga, especially bhakti-yoga or devotional yoga and became a Krishna bhakta. Thereafter, I lived in an ashram to practice, study, and be trained in the Vedic teachings and learn the way of regulated spiritual life, sadhana, along with temple rituals, puja, and so forth until I became initiated into the Brahma-Gaudiya sampradaya under the auspices of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and was given the name of Sri Nandanandana dasa. Several months later I was brahminically initiated as well.

One of the reasons why I became a Krishna bhakta is that He is the God of unconditional love, which is something that everyone is looking for, and He also instructed in the Bhagavad-gita to stand up and protect Sanatana-dharma for the benefit of others. At the battle of Kuruksetra, Arjuna wanted to leave the battlefield and go to the forest and meditate, but Lord Krishna said no. It was best to do one’s duty and stand up to protect Dharma, not only for oneself but for all others as well. By working for the benefit of others in such a way, one simultaneously helps oneself. You get a little of the credit, or punya, for whatever advancement others make because of your endeavors. And now this is one of my main activities, not only pursuing my own practice of Sanatana-dharma, but helping to preserve, protect, and promote or explain Vedic culture so others can understand, utilize and benefit from it.

If we look at the library of Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita, Upanishads, Mahabharata, or Vishnu Purana, or especially the Bhagavata Purana, they all explain various aspects of the nature of God, what our spiritual identity is, what is this universe, where we came from and where we are going based on whatever our actions are, and what are the pastimes, characteristics, attributes, and nature of the Supreme Being. How else are we supposed to learn this knowledge, and where else can it be found in such a complete fashion? I have studied all of the world religions and no other texts or scripture offers such a depth of spiritual information. That is why I have concluded that the Vedic philosophy is the last bastion of deep spiritual truth and knowledge. Nothing offers what it does. Vedic culture, essentially, takes up where the Western religions leave off.

That is why I never went back to the Western religions, though I may respect all paths and still study portions of them for comparative reasons. But what is the point of going back to something less profound, less expansive, less spiritual, less dynamic than what we have in the Dharmic tradition and philosophy as found in India? To do so makes no sense. Though raised in the West with its Christian beliefs and its modern facilities, many of us Westerners look toward the East, especially India, for our inspiration and spirituality. We are rejecting some of the very aspects of the Western religions that some of the present day Indians are accepting when they convert to them. This means that possibly they have not looked into them as deeply as we have, at least when it comes to seeking the deeper aspects of spiritual knowledge, beyond moral principles. They also may not be looking at the bloody history they have left in their trails through the past. Horrible crimes against humanity have been committed in the name of these religions, mostly in order to control such people and make them convert, not by their spiritual purity, but by political force whether they wanted to or not.

In this way, Vedic culture, Sanatana-dharma, by giving me this spiritual knowledge, saved my life, more than music did. It gave me the insights I needed to understand the purpose of life, what I was doing here, where I came from, where I’m going based on my actions in this life, and how to acquire the highest levels of spiritual perception. It gave me the means to keep going in this world. For me, without those things, my life remained incomplete and void of real meaning. It meant that I had little purpose to continue living. Why bother with something that made little sense to me? And materialistic life was just that, something that made no sense.

However, anyone who grasps the big picture of things, meaning to understand that our existence spans many lifetimes, will know that this is not my first life as a follower of Sanatana-dharma. I was obviously an Indian devotee in India in a previous life. I’m only taking up where I left off from before. And I will continue to follow Sanatana-dharma, as well as work to preserve, protect, and promote it for the benefit of others until the day I die. And I invite others to join me on this great path.

The thing is that I was not born into Vedic culture in this life. I did not learn about it because my parents or grandparents followed it, like most Indians do. I was born in a small Midwestern town in America where there was no hint of any Vedic tradition. So, I had to search for it and fight to attain it. That is why I do not take it for granted at all. And no one is going to take it away from me now that I’ve found it.

I know what my life was like when I did not have it, and it has made such a difference in my life compared to when all I had was the elementary form of religion that I started with. I learned the benefits of the Dharmic path and how it can relate to my life, and the many improvements of understanding it has given me.

So, as a typical American, when we find something good, positive, and advantageous, we want to share it with others. Our enthusiasm makes us want to have others take a look at it and see what they think. And I’ve seen what it has done for others with its deep spiritual knowledge, peace, insights into our purpose in life, and how to increase our own spiritual perception, over and above mere faith and hope. This is why I have gone to write various books on the many aspects of Vedic culture, so others can learn about it, use it in their life, and benefit from it. I especially try to write in a way to make the lofty and sophisticated Vedic philosophy understandable for the regular layman.  But amazingly, many Indian Hindus have also appreciated what I do and have expressed how they have gathered much from my own learning, realizations, and experiences about which I have written. This enthuses me to continue the work I do to help preserve, protect, and promote the Vedic knowledge and its traditions. Its timeless wisdom and spiritual knowledge still serves an important purpose.

However, as things stand today, we may think that the battle of Kuruksetra was just a story in the Mahabharata, a scene for the Bhagavad-gita in which Lord Krishna told Arjuna that it was foolish for him to want to go off to the forest to meditate when his duty was to stand and fight. But fight for what? To fight for Sanatana-dharma and our freedom to pursue the spiritual Dharmic path. Thus, we should all follow in the footsteps of Arjuna in this way, under the direction of Lord Krishna to do our parts to take a stand to help protect Vedic culture. In this way, I have worked with a wide number of organizations, both within India and outside, and numerous individuals who have similar ideas for doing this.

It is not our time to be timid about standing up for our rights to follow the Dharma. It is not time to be afraid to come together and work to preserve our culture from those forces, whether they be different religions, non-Hindu politicians, Marxists, or secularists who still wish to destroy it or see its demise. We should be on the forefront to work with each other to maintain our spiritual traditions. We should be on the forefront to create a spiritual revolution in India through the promotion of Vedic spiritual knowledge, and allowing all other interested people to participate in it without restriction. If we can do this, we could change India in 18 days, which was the same length of time as the Battle of Kuruksetra. Vedic culture is, as I call it, the last bastion of deep spiritual truth. We must all do our part to preserve and protect it, and make sure that India remains the homeland of a dynamic and thriving Vedic tradition. 

Hari Om and Jai Sri Krishna.

              Other reasons why a person should seriously take a look at Vedic culture can be found in my E-book “Why Be a Hindu: The Advantages of the Vedic Path.”

Vrindavana: The holy Land of Lord Krishna

Vrindavana: The Holy Land of Lord Krishna

By Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa)

(An Excerpt from Stephen’s book “Seeing Spiritual India”)

 

        This provides a description of a tour through Vrindavana, the holy land of Lord Krishna where He displayed many of His most intimate pastimes. Thus, we can see that the stories found in many of the ancient Puranas, or the Mahabharata are not merely myths or legends, but we can see the places where they actually happened. We start in Mathura, then go to Gokula, Vrindavana, and then to other places in the greater area of Vraja, or Vraja-Mandala. Our description begins below the detailed map. 

  

MATHURA

                As we begin our tour of the holy places of East and Central India, the first major holy place to see is only a short three hour ride by train or bus ride south from Delhi. Now that they have built a nice highway through the area, the road is much faster than it used to be. Vraja, which has a perimeter of 168 miles and is composed of many villages and towns, is considered nondiferent from the holy places of Mayapur (Navadvipa), Jagannatha Puri, and Dwaraka. The same spiritual nature is manifest in all of these places. But Vraja is considered the holiest of all holy dhams. In many places in the shastra are descriptions of the glories of  Mathura and Vrindavan. The glories of Mathura are elaborately explained in the Varaha Purana, chapters 152 through 180. One verse states: “A moment in Mathura is worth a thousand years spent in Kashi (Varanasi).” And simply by bathing in the Yamuna River in Mathura one can be freed from all sins. Residing here for only a few weeks qualifies one for liberation from material existence. And each step taken in Mathura is equal to visiting a holy place elsewhere. It is explained that those who die here attain Vishnu-loka, the abode of Lord Vishnu in the spiritual sky of Vaikuntha, and do not take birth again.

                The descriptions of the glories of Vrajamandala go on and on, but they are known only to a few rare souls in this world. Only the most fortunate get to hear about it, what to speak of getting the opportunity to visit this holy place. And since it is only a few hours away from Delhi, anyone who is spiritual inclined must visit this sacred place.

                Many holy men can be seen visiting the temples, walking in the streets, singing or chanting as they go. Though they may seem destitute, they are often very jolly because of their spiritual wisdom and freedom from materialistic problems. Here the holy men and saintly women enter into a higher reality that makes their bodily condition less significant. Many bhaktas, sages, and mystics have experienced unimaginable levels of spiritual ecstasy here, though superficially the area may look like any other part of India where people are engaged in the struggle to survive. But as you look deeper, if you are capable of it, you will find quite another aspect of Vrajamandala that draws pilgrims by the thousands from all over India.

                Basically, Vraja is the land of Krishna. If you really want to understand the pastimes of Krishna, you have to know Vraja. And if you want to know the significance of Vraja, you have to understand Krishna’s pastimes. Krishna was born in Mathura 5,000 years ago but lived in Gokula for three years, then moved to Chatikara and Vrindavan for three years, then lived in Nandagram for three years, and from age 10 to 28 He lived in Mathura. After this He moved to the western coast of India where He lived in Dwaraka for over 96 years. Thus, He stayed in this world for 125 years, but some of His sweetest and most attractive pastimes were performed in Vraja. To fully explain these pastimes and where they took place in this present volume is impossible, unless we wanted to greatly extend the length of this book. There are other books that you can acquire that will explain these pastimes much more fully. But there are some significant sites and temples that I’ll try to briefly describe so you can visit and understand their significance. We will start our tour at Mathura since that is usually where we get off the train or bus.

                Mathura is the largest city in Vraja with around 325,000 residents. It is a very busy, noisy, and dusty town with a large railroad junction. Nonetheless, it is an important town for pilgrims. Besides being the birthplace of Lord Krishna, Srila Vyasadeva also took birth here at Krishna Ganga Tirtha on the banks of the Yamuna, where there is a small temple to Ganga Devi and many Shiva lingas. It was also at Ambarish-tila where the great devotee King Ambarish fasted while waiting for the sage Durvasa Muni to return from being chased by Lord Vishnu’s chakra, as described in the Bhagavata Purana. Not far from Krishna Ganga Tirtha is Vishrama Ghat, the best known of all the bathing ghats on the Yamuna in Mathura. Anyone can direct you to it. It was here that Lord Varaha rested after saving the earth from Hiranyaksha and spoke the Varaha Purana. Lord Krishna also bathed and rested here after killing Kamsa, the demoniac king. And Sri Chaitanya also bathed here while visiting Mathura. So many pilgrims come here to perform various rituals and take a purifying bath. You can also watch the aratika to the Yamuna River that takes place every evening around seven PM.

                The most important temple in Mathura is the beautiful Keshava temple that represents the place where Krishna was born. It stands next to a mosque that the fanatic Muslim Aurangzeb built where the original Keshava temple stood before he tore it down in 1669. Nowadays it is all fenced in and you have to go through security gates to enter the temple. The present temple has lovely Radha-Keshava deities and paintings of Krishna’s pastimes cover the walls and ceiling of the large interior. It is said that simply by seeing this deity of Keshava, within a second a person is relieved of the sins of one’s past seven births and will not take birth again. You can also enter the mosque building to see where the original Krishna Janmastan temple stood. There is a nice little altar there now with Krishna deities. The real spot where Krishna is said to have been born is a few blocks away, represented by a very small temple building, past the Potra Kund. The Potra Kund is said to be the location where Mother Yasoda would wash Krishna’s baby clothes. Then down a side street is the place where King Kamsa’s prison was located in which Lord Krishna first appeared. The building is not very well kept because it is located on property owned by Muslims. But this may change in the future.

                Other important temples in Mathura include the Dwarakadish Mandira which is not too far from Vishram Ghat. It has a small, beautiful black deity of a four-handed Dwarakadish, similar to the deity in the huge temple at Dwaraka. This temple is quite popular and many people crowd to see the arati ceremonies. Nearby is a temple of white Sweta-Varaha, and another of Adi-Varaha which was supposed to have once been Lord Indra’s deity in Swarga, his heavenly abode. The deity was later taken by Ravana to Sri Lanka and then to Ayodhya by Lord Ramachandra when Rama defeated Ravana. Lord Ramachandra gave it to His brother Satrughna who brought it to Mathura. This story is more fully explained in Chapter 163 of the Varaha Purana.

                Downstream from Vishrama Ghat is Prayaga Ghat where the ancient temple of Veni Madhava is located. It is said that by bathing here one gets the benefit of bathing at the sangam (where the three rivers of the Ganga, Yamuna, and underground Sarasvati meet) in Prayaga (Allahabad). A little farther is Bengali Ghat where Vasudeva is said to have crossed the river when taking baby Krishna in his arms from Kamsa’s prison to Mahavana after His birth. Next there is Dhruva Ghat where there is a temple on a mound called Dhruva Tila which marks the spot where Dhruva performed austerities to get the darshana of Lord Narayana, as described in Srimad-Bhagavatam.

                Across the river from Vishrama Ghat, about 200 metres from the river, is the small village of Isapur. Here you will find a temple with an image of Durvasa Muni which marks where the great mystic performed many austerities and meditated during Satya-yuga.

                Mathura’s most popular Shiva temple is the Rangeshwara Mandira, one kilometer south of Vishrama Ghat. This is one of four main Shiva temples of the city, which includes Bhuteshwara to the west near Krishna Janmastan, Pipaleshwara in the east near Vishrama Ghat, and Gokarneshwara in the north. Near the Rangeshwara Mandir is the Keshava temple of the Gaudiya Math where Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. The temple has beautiful deities of Radha-Keshava and Sri Chaitanya.

                During the afternoon when the temples are closed you can visit the Government Archeological Museum. It has a good collection of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist sculptures and art work. Mathura was a major Buddhist center with as many as 20 monasteries when the city was visited by Fa Hian around 401 C.E. and Hiuen Tsang in 634. But things drastically changed for Hindus and Buddhists alike when the Muslim invaders, like Mahmud of Ghazni, arrived in 1017. After that Buddhism practically disappeared from Mathura.

                Another place open all day is Ranga Bhumi, the area which was the wrestling arena of King Kamsa located across from the Main Post Office. On a hill, Kamsa-tila, is where Krishna killed the demoniac Kamsa, and just beyond it is where Krishna crowned Ugrasena as King of Mathura.

  

GOKULA  

                Six kilometers south of Mathura is the small town of Gokula next to the Yamuna River where Krishna lived during part of His childhood. There are several temples here, such as the Gokulnathji Mandir and the temple in the reconstructed fort, Nanda Qila, of Krishna’s father, Nanda Maharaja. Across from the temple are diorama displays of Krishna’s Gokula pastimes. These temples are interesting to visit, but the priests often act like they simply want to make a business of doing special pujas for you and then charge you high prices for them, like 125, 250, 501, or 1001 rupees. So if you do not want this, be sure to tell them you simply came for darshan and then leave a small donation you can afford. Nearby is also a shrine that is the entrance to an underground chamber, located down a few flights of stairs, that has the deity of Mayadevi, who appeared as Krishna’s sister. She appeared from Mother Yasoda but was put into the arms of Mother Devaki by Vasudeva, Krishna’s father, to fool Kamsa into thinking that their seventh child was actually a girl. King Kamsa was waiting for their seventh child to kill Him since he had heard that he would be killed by their seventh child, who would be Lord Krishna. However, when Kamsa learned that their seventh child was born, he went to the prison where he had kept them to see this child. But, instead of Lord Krishna being there, it was Mayadevi who rose up into the air and escaped his clutches. She warned him that the child he was looking for was born elsewhere, and then she disappeared. 

                Two kilometers south of Gokula is Mahavana where there is the Nanda Bhavan temple on a small hill. Inside are large images of Nanda, Mother Yashoda, Balarama, and baby Krishna. The pillars are said to have come from the original palace of Maharaja Nanda. This is also near the janma-bhumi or appearance place of Lord Balarama. A short ride away is the Yamalarjuna Bhanga, also called Ukal Bandan, where you can see an ancient grinding mortar said to be the one Mother Yashoda tied to baby Krishna in order to try and get Him to stay in one place. But He dragged it between two yamalarjuna trees and caused them to crash to the ground. When the trees fell, two demigods were freed who had been cursed to live as these trees for offending Narada Muni. However, Narada Muni had also blessed them to eventually be freed by Lord Krishna. Then the two demigods were allowed to return to heaven. The Srimad-Bhagavatam explains all of these pastimes.

                A kilometer further south is Brahmanda Ghat, which is not only a beautiful and serene bathing spot on the Yamuna, but also where Krishna’s mother suspected Him of eating dirt. When she looked in His mouth she saw the whole universe. This place is a quiet place much of the time, but when you go during the month of Kartika (Oct-Nov) when many people come to Vrindavana for pilgrimage, the place can be very crowded with busloads of people doing their sacred bath and getting darshan of the local Krishna deity.

                A short ride further south is Chinta-garam Ghat. This is indeed a very quiet and lovely spot along the Yamuna. Only a few sages live here with their cows and a small temple with a few deities of Krishna and a Shiva linga. It is soothing under the tree and sitting in the sand. This is the place where Mother Yasoda visited in order to sooth her mind after being confused by seeing the universe in her son’s mouth. She could not fathom that such a sight could be seen in Krishna, so she had to come here to calm herself. So even today it is a nice and quiet place with the only sound coming from the wind and the birds in the trees. 

                Seven kilometers further south is the Dauji temple. Dauji is the deity of Lord Balarama that was originally installed 5,000 years ago by King Vajranabha, Krishna’s great-grandson. In fact, he established a number of Krishna deities in the area. The present temple was built 200 years ago by Shyama Das of Delhi. Many people also attend this temple to get darshan of the single deity of 6 feet tall Lord Balarama. From the other side of the temple you can see the deity of Revati, Lord Balarama’s wife. Nearby is the Balabhadra Kund or Kshira (milk) Sagara (sea) where the deity of Lord Balarama had been hidden during the Moghul invasion. Near this kund is a temple to Harideva and in the bazaar is another temple to Banke Bihari.

 

 

VRINDAVANA

                Back in Mathura we start toward Vrindavan and soon find the Gita Mandir, a very nice temple built by the Birla family. The temple has a very good standard of worship for the deities of Lakshmi-Narayana, as well as Sita-Rama. The central deity is of Lord Krishna explaining the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. In the courtyard is a column called Gita Stambha that has all the Bhagavad-gita verses engraved on it.

                Twenty minutes away we find the Pagal Baba temple complex. It has residential facilities surrounding the courtyard, and a large temple with many dioramas of the different incarnations of Krishna on the bottom level. As you go to each higher floor there are altars with deities of Lakshmi-Narayana, Sita-Rama, Vamanadeva, etc. On the top floor you can look out and get a good view of the town of Vrindavan in the distance. Across the road nearby is a path leading to Akrura Ghat, which used to be along the Yamuna River until the river changed its course, as it often does in this area. Akrura Ghat is where Akrura, Krishna’s uncle, got to see Krishna and Balarama as Vishnu and Ananta lying on the surface of the Yamuna. Akrura had stopped there to chant the gayatri mantra while taking Krishna and Balarama to Mathura. What the vision signified was that Krishna never leaves Vrindavan, He eternally resides there, but Krishna’s expansion as Vishnu was going to Mathura.

                Now we continue to the most holy town of Vrindavan which has many temples to see. In fact, it is said that there are over 5,000 temples in this town, both large and small. Out of all of these, I will describe the most important. Vrindavan is not a place you go to and expect all its secrets to become easily revealed. It is said that you do not get to Vrindavan simply by purchasing a ticket. Vrindavan is not only a geographical place, but it is a state of spiritual consciousness, without which you will not comprehend the special nature of the place. Thus, as you become qualified through bhakti-yoga, and by receiving the blessings of the resident devotees, Vrindavan will gradually reveal itself to you. I have personally experienced this. Only after staying in Vrindavan for several weeks was I able to find and understand the meaning of certain places and temples that I had been looking for from the time I arrived. Slowly I began to have my own realizations about the spiritual characteristics of this holy town.

                For me, Vrindavan is my favorite place in all of India. I love to walk around the village visiting the temples and holy places, seeing the beautiful deities, dealing with the friendly residents, and watching the pilgrims who also tour the temples. Of course, this does not mean that you should not be careful as in other places in India. There may still be plenty of ricksha drivers and store keepers who are too willing to raise the price on their services and merchandise when they see a foreigner. And some tourists are easy prey for such people. But after having done as much traveling as we have throughout the rest of India (unless you have come straight to Vrindavan from Delhi upon your arrival in India), we will find that Vrindavan is a small and very sweet village that is easy to get to know.

                The spiritual nature of this place can be very apparent if one is able to perceive it, and some people feel it right away. But there can be plenty of things that can hinder your absorption in such spiritual bliss. Things like mosquitoes, noisy monkeys that fight in the night that keep you from sleeping, incredibly hot summers, cold winter nights without central heat, and so on. For the average person it is not an easy place in which to live. That’s why it is recommended to keep your visits in Vrindavan short so you do not lose respect for the place and consider it an ordinary, mundane town, and, thus, become critical and offensive. Such an attitude makes one lose all ability to enter into even the most basic level of Vrindavan’s spiritual atmosphere. In the proper consciousness, one can perceive that everything about Vrindavan is spiritual.

                Rupa Goswami explains in his book Sri Upadesamrita that Vridavan is spiritually superior to Mathura because this is where Krishna’s highly esoteric rasa-lila pastimes take place. Rupa Goswami was the top literary disciple of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and chief of the Goswamis who lived in Vrindavan about 500 years ago. He wrote many books about the art of devotional service to Krishna and restored many of the holy places in Vraja, re-establishing its spiritual importance. The rasa-lila is the pinnacle of transcendental loving exchange between Krishna and His purest devotees, the gopis or cowheard girls, as explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The rasa dance is purely spiritual and not easily understood by mundane scholarly interpretations. If one is not a bhakta (devotee engaged in bhakti-yoga), one cannot comprehend such elevated love of God.

                The rasa dance took place in the forest of Seva Kunj, which used to be a much bigger area than the small enclosed forest it is today. Nonetheless, it is considered the center of Vrindavan, and is where, according to shastra or the Vedic literature, the rasa dance takes place every night. In fact, it’s said that Krishna never leaves Vrindavan; the spiritual pastimes are eternal. We will understand this more clearly as we visit a few of the temples and relate the pastimes connected with them. Just one thing about visiting Seva Kunj is watch out for the monkeys. There is quite a pack that lives there and they can be aggressive in ways such as stealing your glasses, which has happened often, or your camera, shoes, etc.

                There are a number of important temples in this area. Just north of Seva Kunj is Imli Tala. Here we find a very old tamarind tree that has existed since the days of Krishna in the courtyard of a Radha-Krishna temple that was built by Bhakti Saranga Maharaja. Krishna used to sit under this tree and His body would turn golden from ecstatic separation from His dearmost devotee, Srimati Radharani. Five hundred years ago, Sri Chaitanya would sit under the tree and due to His love for Krishna His golden body would turn blackish.

                Heading east we visit the Radha-Damodar Mandir. The original deities of Radha-Damodar were installed by Rupa Gosvami in 1542, but were later taken to Jaipur where they are now worshiped. The present deities are considered equal to the original. There is also a stone or shila from Govardhana Hill in the temple that has an actual footprint of Krishna on it. Krishna personally appeared to Sanatana Gosvami to give him the shila. He told Sanatana that because he was having difficulty from old age he should stop his daily circumambulation of Govardhana Hill and simply circumambulate the shila. The footprint became part of the stone when Krishna stood on it and caused the stone to melt from the sweet sound of His flute playing. Now pilgrims circumambulate the temple four times, which is equal to walking once around the 15 mile path of Govardhana Hill. You can ask the pujari (priest) at the temple for Giriraja darshan and for two rupees he will bring the Govardhana shila for you to see.

                On the left side of the Radha-Damodar temple, through a doorway, are the samadhi tombs or representative tombs of Jiva Gosvami, Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami, Bhugarbha Gosvami, and a puspa samadhi (flower or representative samadhi) of Bhaktisiddhanta Gosvami. Through a door on the right side of the temple is the samadhi and bhajan kutir (small and private place for worship) of Rupa Gosvami. On the right side of the courtyard are the rooms where Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada lived for several years from 1959 to 1965 and wrote his commentary on the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, which he later brought to America.

                Not far away is the Radha-Shyamasundara temple, which is one of the seven main temples of Vrindavan and has some very beautiful deities. It was established by Shyamananda Prabhu XE “Shyamananda Prabhu”  who was a disciple of Sri Chaitanya and a very elevated bhakta. In fact, one time he saw Srimati Radharani. He would regularly clean the little forest area of Nidhibana and happened to find an anklebell. He thought it must be Radharani’s since he knew Krishna and Radha often spent Their evenings there. When Radharani discovered one of Her anklebells was missing, she sent Lalita to find it. At Nidhibana Lalita saw Shyamananda Prabhu and asked him if he had found an anklebell. He said he had and asked if it was hers. Lalita said it belonged to her sister and asked to have it. Shyamananda said he would not give it to her but only to her sister. Lalita insisted that he give it to her, and Shyamananda continued to refuse. So Lalita returned to Radharani and Radha decided to personally go for the anklebell Herself. Approaching Shyamananda, Radha asked for the anklebell and he was happy to give it to Her. Radha, being pleased with his service, revealed Her identity to him and by impressing Her anklebell into his forehead personally gave him a tiloka mark. Later, the other bhaktas criticized him for wearing a new style of tiloka. But that night Srimati Radharani appeared to Jiva Gosvami in a dream and told him that She was the one who gave Shyamananda the tiloka mark. Then all the devotees went to Shyamananda to ask for forgiveness and accepted that he actually saw Srimati Radharani. This is another story signifying that the eternal pastimes of the spiritual realm are continually taking place in Vrindavan.

                A little walk (half-block) from the Radha-Syamasundara temple is Loi Bazaar, one of the main shopping areas in the village. Here you can find all the necessities for living in Vridavana. There are shops of all kinds, for clothes, medicines, utensils, food, deities and worship paraphernalia. Walking eastward through the bazaar we next see the Shahji Mandir which was built in 1876 by Shah Kundan Lal of Lucknow. This is an attractive temple that has small Radha-Krishna deities, and shows how Shah Kundan Lal, a rich jeweler, appreciated service to Krishna in Vrindavan. To the left of the temple and down a lane is a small but pleasant Krishna temple of the famous poetess Mirabai.

                On the eastern side of the Shahji Mandir is another enclosed park called Nidhibana. This is where Radha and Krishna performed many pastimes. Even now it is considered that They still take rest here in the evening. Thus, there is a small temple of Radha-Krishna sleeping on a bed located here. This was also the place where Haridasa Gosvami found the deity of Banki Behari, another famous temple in Vrindavan which we will visit shortly.

                Another important temple nearby is the Radharamana Mandir, founded by Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. Gopala Bhatta had been worshiping a shalagrama-shila, which is a stone form of Krishna that he had gotten while on pilgrimage in Nepal. However, he longed to have a deity of Krishna to worship and dress. One day the deity of Radharamana manifested from the shalagrama-shila, thus fulfilling Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s desire. You can still see the stone form on the back of the deity, from which He manifested Himself. This is one of those miracles of bhakti.

                A short walk farther down the lane is another of the seven major temples, the Radha-Gokulananda Mandir, founded by Lokanatha Gosvami. On the altar of this medium sized temple are the Radha-Vinoda deities of Lokanatha Gosvami (though his original deities were moved to Jaipur), along with Radha-Vijaya Govinda of Baladeva Vidyabhushana, Radha-Gokulananda of Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, and a Sri Chaitanya deity that belonged to Narottamadas Thakura. The temple also has a small Govardhana shila that was rubbed smooth by Sri Chaitanya who used to hold it while chanting Krishna’s holy names. The shila had been given to Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami. Across from the temple in the courtyard are the samadhis of Lokanatha Gosvami, Narottamadas Thakura, and Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura who were all important Vaishnavas in the Gaudiya line. The Radha-Vamsi Gopala temple is also nearby, farther down the street, and is where Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada lived from 1954 to 1962 and wrote his first commentary on Bhagavad-gita.

                Following the street to the Yamuna River we come to Keshi Ghat where Krishna performed the pastime of killing the Keshi demon. Keshi was a henchman of the demoniac King Kamsa and took the form of a huge horse to terrorize the residents of Vrindavana. Krishna, therefore, killed the demon and then washed Himself in the Yamuna.

                The Adi Varaha Purana establishes that by taking a holy bath at Keshi Ghat brings the results of bathing at all the holy places, and is worth 1,000 baths in the Ganges. Therefore, Keshi Ghat is one of the holiest ghats in Vrindavan. Not far from Keshi Ghat is Bhramar Ghat where Bilvamangala Thakura, the author of Krishna Karnamrita, performed austerities years ago. Lord Krishna used to appear in Vrindavana just to serve His great devotee Bilvamangala by supplying him with a cup of milk everyday.

                As we head back into the village, not far from the Radharamana temple is the Radha-Gopinatha Mandir. It is another of the seven original temples and was founded by Madhava Pandita. The original deities were transferred to Jaipur and similar deities were again installed in this temple. Around the corner is the New Radha-Gopinatha temple with deities of Srimati Radharani, Gopinatha, and Srimati Jahnava. Jahnava was Lord Nityananda’s wife and this deity of her was brought from Jahnava’s native Bengal by a man who said the deity appeared by Divine Will. This was years after she had left this world. Then the deity of Gopinatha appeared to the temple priest in a dream and told him that Jahnava was actually the elevated gopi Anangamanjari, and that the deity should be placed on the altar next to His left side. So this is why the deities in this temple are now arranged in this way.

                Farther into the eastern part of town are many other temples; including the large and ornate Lala Babu Mandir with Radha, Krishna, and Lalita deities. Then at the corner where we turn off from Loi Bazaar to go toward the Banke Bihari Mandir, we find the Gopishwara Mahadeva Shiva temple with a Shiva linga, said to have been originally installed by Krishna’s great-grandson, Vajranabha, and is the place where Lord Shiva did austerities in hopes of entering the rasa-lila dance as a gopi (cow-herd girl). In the morning devotees wash the linga with milk and other items, and then later the pujaris dress the linga in bright colored clothes.

                Retracing our steps just three shops back, on the left we can find the Pishima Gaura Nitai temple. This small temple has the deities of Gaura-Nitai which had belonged to Murari Gupta. They are about three feet tall, with eight inch Radha-Krishna deities and some Govardhan shilas in front.

                From the Gopishwara temple heading south, other temples we can find include the Tikarirani Radha-Krishna temple; the especially beautiful Thakura Yugala Kishora temple, which has many small cut mirrors embedded in the walls and a sleeping Krishna deity on a swinging bed; and the large Rangaji temple with its South Indian style gopurams. This temple is a major landmark along the road and modeled after the Sri Rangam temple near Trichy in Tamil Nadu. It has three gates you go through to get to the central temple. Presently, Westerners can go in as well, but it used to be that they were not allowed past the third gate.

                Not far from this temple is Brahma Kunda where the demigod Lord Brahma prayed to Krishna for forgiveness after testing Him to see if He was actually the Supreme. The story is that one time Brahma took away all of Krishna’s friends and cows. After a moment he came back to see what Krishna’s reaction was and to his amazement saw all of the boys and calves still there. Krishna had expanded Himself into the forms of all the boys and calves. Realizing his insignificant position, Brahma returned all the boys and calves he had taken and prayed for Krishna to excuse his ignorance.

                Next is the Radha-Govindaji temple that is another of the seven major temples of Vrindavan. It is across the road and a little farther down the street from the Rangaji temple. It was established by Rupa Gosvami where he discovered the Gopala deity. The beautiful temple is made out of red sandstone and was completed in 1590. The temple is now only two storeys tall but once reached up to seven storeys. The Muslim fanatic Aurangzeb, doing his dirty work once again, dismantled the upper five storeys of the temple due to his envy. While his men were destroying the temple, there was a loud thunderous noise that shook the ground. This put fear into the hearts of the men and they immediately stopped and ran away. Due to fear of the Moghuls, before they arrived the devotees moved the original deities to Jaipur where today many pilgrims go to see them. So the temple now has pratibhuh deities, or representative expansions, of the original Radha-Govindaji that are worshiped. The original Govindaji deity is said to have been installed thousands of years ago by Vajranabha.

                A hundred yards northeast of the Govindaji temple is a mound that has the ruins of the Sakshi Gopala temple. The present Sakshi Gopala temple is just outside of Jagannatha Puri. Sakshi Gopala had been discovered and installed in the temple in Vrindavan, but walked over 1000 miles to Vidyanagar to bear witness for one of His devotees. This story is told in our coverage of the Jagannatha Puri temples. Following the road going south and then west from the Radha-Govindaji temple, you can find many more temples and ashramas of Vrindavan.

                Back at Seva Kunj, we now head west to the Radha-Vallabha Mandir. This is a temple that is the center of the Radha Vallabha sect founded by Sri Hit Hari Vamsa, a disciple of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami who was known for his poetry about Radha and Krishna. After this we see the Banki Behari Mandir, one of the most popular temples of Vrindavan. Haridas Gosvami found Banki Behari at the bottom of Visakha Kunda in Nidhiban after Haridas had a dream in which the deity told him where to look. When you visit the temple you will see that the curtain in front of the deity is closed for a few seconds every minute. This is because the deity once walked off the altar and out of the temple to follow a great devotee who had come for darshan. Apparently the devotee and deity gazed at each other too long and the deity became fond of the devotee and later walked off the altar to find him. When the temple priests found the deity of Banki Behari, they placed Him on the altar again but began closing the curtain at short intervals to keep the deity from getting too attached to any of the visiting devotees. This tradition has continued ever since then.

                Not far away, located down a lane, is the Asta-Sakhi Mandir, a lovely eight-sided, dome-topped temple. This temple offers darshan of not only Radha-Krishna (Radha-Rasabihariji in this case), but also of eight important gopis. They include Rangadevi, Champaklata, Chitra, and Lalita on the left, and Vishakha, Indulekha, Tungavidya, and Sudevi on the right. From this temple you can easily see the old temple of Radha-Madan Mohan to the west.

                The Madan Mohan temple, located on a hill near the old river bed of the Yamuna, was established by Sanatana Gosvami. This was one of the first temples erected after Sri Chaitanya’s visit to Vrindavan. The deity is said to have been found in the hill by Sri Advaita who gave the deity to a Mathura priest. The priest treated the deity like one of his children and when Sanatana Gosvami saw this he criticized the priest for not following the many rules and regulations for deity worship. Then in a dream Madan Mohan told Sanatana that He had been happy with the priest’s spontaneous love, but now He was no longer happy with all these rules that were supposed to be followed. So Sanatana went to see the priest who then gave the deity to Sanatana. At first Sanatana used to keep Madan Mohan in a tree because he had no where else to keep Him. Then one time the deity asked for some salt with the dried bread that Sanatana offered to Him. Sanatana only said, “I am an old man. What can I do? Please accept it the way it is.” Just then a rich merchant was taking a boat loaded with salt down the Yamuna. By Krishna’s will the boat became stuck in the shallow river. Madan Mohan changed into a cowherd boy who led the merchant to Sanatana. Sanatana could do nothing to help the merchant, so the merchant prayed to Madan Mohan that if his boat became free he would sell his salt and return to use the money to build a nice temple. After praying, the merchant returned to his boat and found that it was no longer stuck. When the merchant sold the salt, he returned to build the temple. So this is how the temple was erected. Later, this was the deity from which Krishnadas Kaviraja got the inspiration to write the Caitanya-caritamrta.

                Unfortunately, in 1670, due to the threat of fanatic Muslims, the original Radha-Madan Mohan deities were moved to Jaipur, and then again moved to Karauli where a nice temple was built for them. Pratibhuh deities were later installed in the Vrindavan temple. You can still see the bhajan kutir, or place of worship, of Sanatana Gosvami, along with a well said to have been dug by Krishna Himself for Sanatana’s water. While you are here, you can have a drink from the well. Sanatana Gosvami’s samadhi tomb is on the hillside behind the temple. Walking east along the old river bed we can reach Kaliya Ghat marked by the old Kadamba tree from which Krishna lept into the Yamuna to chastise the multi-headed serpent-demon, Kaliya. This is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam as is most of Krishna’s Vrindavana pastimes. Farther down the trail is Varaha Ghat where Krishna manifested His form as Varaha for the amusement of His friends.

                Varaha Ghat is in the area of Raman Reti on the outskirts of the village of Vrindavan. Raman Reti means cooling sands and is where Krishna and Balarama would come and play amongst the large trees, flowers, chirping birds, and peacocks. Raman Reti is where the ISKCON temple of Sri Sri Krishna-Balarama is located along the road called Bhaktivedanta Swami Marg. This has become a very popular temple amongst pilgrims who visit Vrindavan. You will find the most beautiful deities of Krishna and Balarama on the center altar, with Sri Nityananda and Sri Chaitanya on the left altar, and Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundar on the right. The tamal tree in the courtyard is said to be where the tree was under which Srimati Radharani would wait for Krishna to return from herding the cows. The temple was founded by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and his lovely samadhi is in front of the temple where his body was interred.

                Located along the main road from the Raman Reti area or Krishna Balamara Mandir heading toward the downtown area of Vrindavana is the Vrindavana Research Institute. This place has many old manuscripts and along with original leaves with the hand writing of Sanatana, Rupa, and Jiva Gosvamis.

                Some of the additional ashramas that you can find in Vrindavana include the Neem Karoli Baba Ashrama, near the main road on the parikrama path. His samadhi shrine, along with temples to Hanuman, Sita-Ram and Durga are here. The Ananda Mayi Ma Ashrama is the ashrama of the renown woman saint, on the main road. And Jagadguru Dham along Raman Reti Road is the ashrama of Swami Prakashananda Sarasvati, when he’s not staying in his Austin, Texas ashrama. He also has places in Barshana, near Vrindavana, called Rangeeli Mahal and Vishwa Kalyan Kendra.

                Today, Vrindavana is gaining in popularity. Construction and development is an ongoing thing. More apartments and temples, and guests houses with temples, are always being built. So there are many more temples in Vrindavana that you can easily visit simply by wandering around the town. This is where you cannot easily forget Lord Krishna, and most anything you do will give spiritual progress. But respect for the holy dham must be maintained, or offenses committed here can also bring harsh results.

 

 

GREATER VRAJAMANDALA

                Some other very holy places are located elsewhere in the greater area of Vrajamandala, such as Radha Kund, the bathing place of Radharani and Her most elevated assistants, the gopis or cowherd girls. Radha Kund is located on the northern end of Govardhan Hill. Sri Rupa Gosvami explains in verses 9 and 10 of his Sri Upadesamrita that out of all the places in Vraja, Radha Kund is superior to them all because it is flooded with the ambrosial nectar of Krishna prema, ecstatic love of God. Therefore, those who live here are the most fortunate in the universe. The Padma Purana also explains that just as Radharani is most dear to Krishna, Her bathing place of Radha Kund is also dear to Him.

                Across from Radha Kund is Shyama Kund, Krishna’s bathing place. Krishna dug Shyama Kund when Radharani insisted that He purify Himself by bathing in all the holy rivers after He had killed the Aristasura demon who was in the form of a bull. So rather than going to all the sacred rivers, He simply dug His heel into the earth and called the presiding deities of the various holy rivers of India to merge their waters into the pool. After bathing, He explained to Radharani and the gopis that the bull was actually a demon, so they should also take a purifying bath to rid themselves of the sin of siding with a demon. Radharani became upset and decided She could also make a kund or lake. Thus, She and the gopis broke their bangles and dug a hole, but it remained dry to Krishna’s amusement. However, by using water from the nearby Manasi Ganga lake and the waters from the presiding deities of the holy rivers who appeared, Her kund also filled up. Thus, these kunds are very special to pilgrims who visit. It is said that anyone who bathes here will get the perfection of Krishna prema, which is far beyond mere liberation from material existence. It is said that Radha Kund is the liquid form of Radharani’s ecstatic love for Krishna. And since Radha Kund is Lord Krishna’s favorite bathing place, anyone who bathes in Radha Kund gets the mercy of Lord Krishna and will attain Krishna prema, ecstatic love for Lord Krishna. Similarly, Radharani also said that anyone who bathes in Shyama Kund will get Her special favor. Therefore, Radha Kund is difficult to attain.

                To recognize the spiritual significance of Radha Kund may not be so easy for neophytes. As I said earlier, in order to perceive the spiritual atmosphere in Vrindavan you have to receive the blessings of the resident devotees and become qualified so that Vrindavan reveals itself to you. An example of this was related to me by a friend. When he visited Radha Kund he met an old sadhu, a saintly man who had retired from material life and was now living at Radha Kund. My friend asked the sadhu some questions and at first the man hesitantly explained that he did not work or attempt to maintain himself. He simply depended on Krishna and chanted the holy names at Radha Kund. How he got his food was that a small boy would come by and give him some food every day. The man explained that as a person becomes more and more spiritual, he will recognize the eternal atmosphere that pervades Vraja, especially at Radha Kund, and he will not feel the need to take so much care of the body. My friend then asked him if he could actually see the spiritual world or if he had ever seen Krishna at this holy place. The old man said he had not seen Krishna, but sometimes he could here the gopis talking with Krishna or discussing amongst themselves how Krishna looked and what He was doing.

                My friend then asked the old sadhu how it was possible for him to perceive such things? The man then began talking quite readily and convincingly told my friend that Radha Kund was indeed the spiritual world; you simply had to remove your materialistic vision. Then the old man took my friend’s hand and pushed it flat to the ground on the banks of the Radha Kund and said, “Just touch this land and you can feel the spiritual nature of it.” My friend told me that at that moment a charge went up his arm from the ground and he could actually feel the difference, that this was indeed a spiritual place. But before my friend got the blessings of this sage, he could not really feel the difference. And that is what is necessary. Until you can actually perceive it, all you can do is to try to understand with your mind and imagine how Krishna performed so many pastimes here, and how this place is spiritual. But the actual realization of such things goes much further than that. It is a matter of re-establishing your spiritual identity and connection with the spiritual realm. It is the reawakening of your spiritual consciousness and actually perceiving the subtle nature of spiritual reality.

                In the area of Radha Kund as you circumambulate the area, you can find numerous temples and important places. To describe a brief tour around Radha and Shyama Kunds, we first enter the area from the bus stop, and on our way along the road we come to the Radha-Gokulananda temple, which has the pratibhu or representational deities that belonged to Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakur. Going farther along, we next come to the Kundesvara Mahadeva temple and the sacred peepul tree. Mahadeva  Shiva is one of the guardians of the holy dham. Then we soon get our first view of Radha Kund, and pay our respects by bowing our heads toward this form of Radharani. Farther down across from the vegetable market is the lane on the left that goes to the Purana Mandir, which has a lovely set of Radha Krishna deities. These were found by Raghunatha dasa Goswami when he was excavating the kunds. Continuing on, we come to the road that leads to the left. This can take us to the Gaudiya Math temple with the beautiful deities of Radha-Kunjabihari. Farther on we can also reach the Shiva Khor or kund, and the Ramesvaram Shiva temple.

                Back to the main parikrama path, we can next see the Radha Kanta temple right at the corner of Radha Kund. Across from that on the left of the road is the Sri Gopal temple. Then just down the street on the right is the Radha-Gopinatha temple, which also has at the far end the samadhi tomb of Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. Exiting through the door on the south side, we are now along the water of Radha Kund where many people take a holy bath. This is near the private bathing place of Jahnavi, the wife of Lord Nityananda when She lived here at Radha Kund nearly 500 years ago, which you can see there.

                Going farther along the main parikrama road, we next see a circular platform, which is a rasa-sthali where dances are performed at times. There we take a right turn. Going down the path we can find the bhajan kutir of Gopal Bhatta. Around the corner is also Krishna dasa Kaviraja’s bhajan kutir, the small living quarters where he wrote the Caitanya-caritamrta and several other important spiritual books. Then there is Raghunatha dasa’s bhajan kutir and the cremation place of these Swamis used when the Muslims were coming into the area. Rather than taking the chance of having their bodies disturbed in case the Muslims would dig them up, they cremated them instead. On a side road there is the bhajan kutir of Bhaktivinoda Thakur where he and Bhaktisiddhanta would stay when visiting the area. Farther along the parikrama road we next find Lalita Kund on the left, across from which is Jiva Gosvami’s bhajan kutir. Next along the road and down a lane on the right toward Shyama Kund there is the place of Madhavendra Puri’s sitting place, and around the curve we come to Lord Chaitanya’s sitting place. This used to be like a little hut or bhajan kutir, but now they have expanded it and put a roof over it. After that we continue our walk down the lane and other temples can also be found, such as Asta Sakhi Mandir, Nitai Gauranga Sitanatha Mandir, Manipur Maharaja Mandir, Radha Gopinatha Mandir, a Gaura Nitai Mandir, Radha Govindaji Mandir, and other temples that are located around the kunds. Then we go to the sangam or meeting place of the two kunds where many people take a holy bath or do some special worship or pujas to the kunds, since they are non-different from Radha and Krishna. If it is not crowded and somewhat peaceful, it is also nice to sit and meditate or chant japa for a time, contemplating our good fortune to be here. Then returning to the path and going through some shops we pass a deity of Hanuman and pray that he relieves us of whatever offenses we may have committed while visiting, and then we return to where we started.

                These temples and holy places can be located with the help of local residents, or guides may present themselves to show you around or to help you do some rituals or puja to Radha Kund and Shyama Kund. They are called Tirtha gurus, or the local pandits who know all about these special tirthas, holy places. This is alright, but be sure to establish a price before you accept their service. Presently you can also get guidebooks of these specific areas. You can find them at the Krishna-Balarama Mandir, or in a few of the shops in Loi Bazaar at Vrindavana. These will have photographs, maps to show you around, and more detailed stories of the pastimes that have taken place here. You must definitely visit these places if you are in the area.

                One word of caution: this is certainly a holy place but when there are crowds of people here, do not take any valuables with you or keep wallets in your pockets, especially if you will bathe in the water. It is not uncommon that such things end up missing. And the road between Vrindavana and Radha Kund is closed at night because of thieves and dacoits. So if you plan on visiting Radha Kund, do not wait too late at night or you may up having to spend the night or taking a longer route through Govardhana to Mathura to get back to Vrindavana.   

                Next we see Govardhana Hill which is the hill Krishna lifted with the little finger of His left hand for seven days to shelter the residents of Vraja from the torrential rains that Indra had sent. Indra sent heavy rains when he became angry after seeing the residents of Vraja worshiping Govardhan Hill instead of him, according to the directions of Lord Krishna. Only later did Indra realize his great mistake. The hill is also considered a manifestation of Krishna Himself, just as the hill at Barsana is a manifestation of Brahma, the hill at Nandagram is Shiva, and Charanpari is Sesha. Therefore, many pilgrims circumambulate Govardhana as an act of worship, a route that is about 15 miles long and passes near many other holy spots along the way. I will describe a few of the main places along the route.

                Usually devotees start their parikrama or circumambulation of Govardhana near Kusum Sarovara. This is a great swimming spot and where Radharani used to pick flowers before meeting Krishna here. It now has beautiful chatris, or small temple enclosures, at one end, which has beautifully painted ceilings. These have many beautiful illustrations of the pastimes of Radha and Krishna. The story of how these came to be built is quite interesting. When the Moghuls ruled over Delhi, the King of Bharatpur, Suraja Mal, attacked them, but lost his life doing so. However, his son, Jawarchar Singh, decided to attack and vowed that if he won, he would return and develop Kusum Sarovara in glorification of Lord Krishna. So he assembled an army and attacked Delhi and defeated the Muslim tyrants. Therefore, he returned and built the temples around Kusum Sarovara with his newly victorious wealth.

                Nearby Kusum Sarovara in a separate compound across from it is a temple to Uddhava with a deity dating back to the days of Krishna. Across the road and down the lane is also a temple and kund of Narada Muni where he wrote the Narada Bhakti Sutras. There is a little image of Narada Muni in the small temple there.

                From here we walk down the road until we reach Manasi Ganga, which is a lake where Krishna made the Ganges appear, and which has a small township around it. There are several little holy spots to see here. So as we make our way around it we can see the places such as the Makharvinda Mandira which stands out along the waterfront on the southeastern corner of the lake. The Chakra Tirtha area on the eastern side of Manasi Ganga has the Shiva temple called the Chakalesvara Mahadeva Mandir. Across from that is one of the bhajana kutirs of Sanatana Gosvami, and a small Mahaprabhu Mandir. On the western side of the Manasi Ganga you can see the Manasi Devi Mandira and the Harideva Mandira is located up a few lanes. Your local guidebooks or maps, or traveling with someone who knows the area, will make finding these places easier. Or also asking the local people how to reach them as you walk along will also work. I’ve been to these places several times, but the first times I would go with someone else to show me the way.

                Walking farther down the road, or through the small alleys from the Harideva Mandir, we next come to Govardhana town. We make our way to the Dana Gatt Giriraja Mandira, the temple where we pay our respects to Govardhana Hill because this is where He starts to actually become visible. The hill itself has been shrinking for hundreds of years, and the first part of the parikrama we really cannot see Him because of being underground. But now the hill becomes visible and we can see the rocky formation. As we start this part of the parikrama, there is also a place that shows Radharani’s footprint. As we approach the southern end of Govardhana Hill, we arrive at Govinda Kund. This is a good place to rest for a few minutes. This kund was created when Indra, the king of heaven, performed the bathing ceremony for Lord Krishna. After Indra realized his mistake for harassing the people of Vraja with heavy rains that he had sent, he returned and performed a bathing ceremony for Lord Krishna in order to try and pacify the Lord and obtain His forgiveness. The accumulated water from the bathing ceremony gathered to form this kund.

                As we start again, there are other smaller temples and little kunds and forests along the way that we walk through. A person could actually spend several days just going to each holy place and hearing or reading about the pastimes that took place there. Finally, we reach Naval and Apsara Kundas, which are at the far end of Govardhana Hill and near the half-way point when we start heading back to the north along the other side of Govardhana Hill. Therein we continue through the small forests and past more small and occasional temples and kunds. Along this part of the route there is also a place called Aparadha Kund, which is a small pond just off the path where Indra atoned for his offense to Lord Krishna for having sent the torrential rains over Vraja. As we keep going, if we are with a group, someone will likely be guiding us to the most important places and will explain the meaning and history behind each one. Of course, we cannot slow down too much if we expect to get back in time to catch our return ride to Vrindavana.

                Finally we reach Uddhava Kund, and stop for a few minutes at the small temple here. The temple has Radha Krishna deities, believed to have been originally installed by Vrajanabha, Krishna’s grandson. A new set of Radha-Krishna deities has also been installed now which is famous for being formed out of one piece of marble. Behind the temple is the Uddhava Kund, the water of which is said to have originally come from the tears of Krishna’s queens when they were consoled by Uddhava at this place.

                Then we move on past a new Mahaprabhu temple, and on around Radha Kund and Syama Kund again. After going around them we head west back to Kusuma Sarovara. This completes our parikrama walk around the hill of Govardhana. Doing this provides immense spiritual purification and merit for our devotional advancement, not to mention a real adventure into the spiritual land of Vraja.

                Again, many of these places around Govardhana can be found with the help of special guidebooks and maps. But the easiest way is to come to Vrindavana for a visit during the month of Kartika (Oct-Nov). This is the time when devotees celebrate Govardhana Puja, or the worship and respect of the sacred hill. Then you can easily go on one of the Govardhana parikramas when groups of devotees gather in buses to go to Govardhana Hill early in the morning and walk around the hill and stop to visit these particular holy places along the way. 

                North of Govardhana is Barsana, 30 miles from Mathura, the town where Radharani grew up and the capital city of her father, King Vrishabanu. Once we arrive, we walk up the steps to get to the main temple of the town that looks like a fortress on the hilltop which can be seen from miles away. This is the Shriji or Larily Mandir, a local name for Radha. It is very ornate and the walls of the interior are covered with paintings of Krishna’s pastimes. Lovely Sri Sri Radha-Krishna deities are on the altar. A short walk away is the Radha-Kushal Behari Mandir, another majestic temple on a different peak of the hill, with Rajasthani style architecture. A little farther away on another peak is the Mayur Kuti temple that has a painting of Krishna dancing as a peacock for Radha’s pleasure. The painting was done by a blind saint who had the divine vision of the pastime as long as he was working on the painting. On another of the hill’s peaks is Man Kutir, a temple marking where Krishna made Radharani angry for fun, but She left Him to lament and look for Her. Then the other gopis brought Them back together, much to their celebration. The four peaks of this hill represent the four heads of Brahma, and the hill is considered an expansion or incarnation of Lord Brahma.

                A few miles from Barsana is Nandagram, another place where Krishna performed many childhood pastimes described in the Bhagavatam. On top of the hill is the main temple that has deities of Krishna, Balarama, Nanda Maharaja (Krishna’s father), Mother Yashoda, Srimati Radharani, and two of Krishna’s friends. There is also a Shiva lingam in a small shrine across from the temple called Nandisvara, said to have been installed by Vajranabha many hundreds of years ago. It is considered that this hill is an incarnation of Lord Shiva. From the top of the walls that surround the temple we can get good views of the area, and someone who is familiar with it can point out other nearby places connected with Krishna’s pastimes that we may want to visit.

                As I’ve said, this is by no means a complete description of Vrajamandala and the holy places within it, such as Vrindavana, Mathura, Govardhana, etc. And there are too many to mention for this discourse which covers all of India. However, there are already full length tour books dedicated to doing this, which I recommend you to purchase. The significance and the history of Vrindavana is a full topic by itself. Nonetheless, this description of Vraja will certainly give you a start for finding the important places to see if you’re ever fortunate enough to visit. It is explained that all the holy places of India are manifest in some way in Vrajamandala. Thus, Rupa Gosvami writes that anyone who leaves Vraja to go to other holy places achieves nothing but the trouble it takes to get there. Nonetheless, I will be describing many of the holy places throughout India anyway.