After staying for 4 1/2 months in Vrindavana, Sri Krishna's Birthplace, the holiest of all holy places, I am back in Zurich, Switzerland. „Are you happy to be back?“ Many people asked me these days. “Did you miss Zurich?“ Well, how can you miss something if you are residing in a place that's non-different from the spiritual world? Ok, I have to admit, it is not always easy to really be in the Dhama, to be able to really maintain the consciousness that you are in a place that`s non-different from Krishna's eternal abode. Vrindavana can be challenging; The weather, the climate. It was very cold in January and now became very hot in April. The chaos and the noise on the streets, the health problems I had and so on.
Walking through the streets of my neighborhood here at the Zurich Temple I appreciate the fresh air, the pleasing weather, the amazingly clean streets. Enjoying the view from Zurichberg (the hill where our temple is located) and seeing the beautiful lake of Zurich, the mountains in the background I feel in some way happy to be back in my hometown.
But something is missing here! Where are the cows on the streets? Where are the Sadhus walking by on the parikrama road? Where are the Brijavasi kids riding on a bullock cart to school while singing `Radhe Radhe`? Where are the monkeys who help me to remember my hero and role model Hanuman? Where are the kalpavriksa trees who are decorated with the names of Sri Radha? Where are the green parrots knocking on the window when I am about to take a nap? Where is the elderly lady who offers every evening a lamp to Tulasi Devi? Where is the Vraja-Dust who covers my body when a herd of cows pass by? Where has the sweet sound of the Holy Name, which could be heard from every corner of my neighbourhood, gone? Where are the most beautiful forms of Sri Sri Radhe Syamasundar who pretend to be deities, although they are directly the Divine Couple blessing everyone with Their sweet smiles?
Although Zurich is a beautiful city, and I am grateful to be here, in some way all the cleanliness, all the peacefulness, all the opulence is not giving me the nourishment my soul is hankering for. Something is missing. It's Krishna Consciousness! Vrindavana might be chaotic and dirty compared to the advanced Swiss civilization. But what is the use of all material advancement if no one remembers the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He who has provided us with everything we need to live? He, who is the well-wishing friend in everyone`s heart. He who is the only object of Love. The beauty of places like Vrindavana is that residing there one easily remembers Krishna, which is the ultimate goal of life (always remember Krishna and never forget Him).
Srila Prabhupada describes the special characteristic of Vrindavana in a purport that I just read the other day, after my Japa Walk in the neighbourhood: „The purpose of pilgrimages is to remember the Lord constantly, and therefore the Lord is known as tértha-kérti. The purpose of going to a place of pilgrimage is to get the chance to glorify the Lord. Even today, although times have changed, there are still pilgrimage sites in India. For example, in Mathurä and Våndävana, where we had a chance to stay, people are awake from early in the morning at 4 A.M. up until nighttime and are constantly engaged, some way or other, in chanting the holy glories of the Lord. The beauty of such a pilgrimage site is that automatically one remembers the holy glories of the Lord. His name, fame, quality, form, pastimes and entourage are all identical to the Lord, and therefore chanting the glories of the Lord invokes the personal presence of the Lord. Any time or anywhere pure devotees meet and chant the glories of the Lord, the Lord is present without any doubt. It is said by the Lord Himself that He always stays where His pure devotees chant His glories.“ 1
Because of the strong spiritual atmosphere created by the saintly devotees of the Lord, Sri Krishna is very much present and to remembering Him becomes much easier. But what to do, if one is not able to always live in a holy place? Srila Rupa Goswami has advised that one should mentally live in Vrindavana and render devotional service if he cannot live there physically and Srila Prabhupada once stated, "Although I am presently living in America, my residence is in Vrindavana because I am always thinking of Krishna. Although I may be in a New York City apartment, my consciousness is there, and this is as good as being there“.
In other words, on a more subtle level, to be in Vrindavana is not so much a question of the place, but much more of consciousness. There where Sri Krishna is again put in the centre and where I identify myself as an eternal servant, there is Vrindavana! Srila Prabhupada shared this secret of creating a Vrindavana atmosphere during a lecture at the Krishna Balaram Mandir: „If you can create that central attachment for Krsna, then it is Vrindavan. Then you can create Vrindavan anywhere–any family, any society, any country. Just make the point of attachment Krsna, and it is Vrindavan. That is required. That is Krsna consciousness movement.“ 2
Sri Vrindavana Dhama ki jaya!
1 - SB 3.1.45 pp
2 - SP Lecture in Vrindavana on 12.10.75