A very wonderful and adventurous journey has come to an end. It started in the winter of 2017 and now, sitting in an airplane on my way back to Zurich, I have completed my Bhakti Vaibhava course, the study of the first six Cantos of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Yes, the Bhagavatam is Krishna Himself and I truly feel that I came closer to Krishna by studying the descriptions about Him and His devotees.
To have completed this study fills my heart with a deep sense of satisfaction, having achieved something wonderful! This feeling is enhanced especially because it was not so easy to do. There were many challenges on the way. Within the last two years, I traveled four times to India, I spent more than nine months in Vrindavana and another six months following the course from Zurich, not an easy task considering the service and responsibility I have at Zurich Temple.
Health issues also made the study more challenging or even interrupted them completely. Besides having a twisted ankle and lower back pain, I was also knocked out by severe typhoid fever. I ended up five days in a hospital in Mathura followed by several weeks of recovering. I guess these kinds of sufferings were part of the purification that Krishna had prepared for me. After all, studying Bhagavatam in the Holy Dhama is not meant to be just an intellectual entertainment but for a transformation of the heart. Did I experience a transformation? Well, I guess there is still a long way to go, but I do feel a deeper sense of detachment from the world of sense gratification and more attraction towards Krishna. Especially these first six Cantos are meant to awaken detachment and an understanding of the greatness of the Lord within the listener.
Certainly, I will miss Vrindavana and the studies. It was so wonderful to actually reside in the Dhama instead of just visiting for a couple of days. To me, this meant to become familiar with the day to day life of the local Brijvasis, to make friends with the fruit walla and the barber on the street, to feel at home at Srila Prabhupada's Krishna Balaram Mandir and to meet with devotees from all over the world.
The study itself, of course, was an amazing journey. Beginning with the First Canto, hearing about Krishna’s pastimes after the Battle of Kurukshetra, how King Pariksit received the age of Kali and how he was being cursed to die within seven days. Then we learned about different Avatars and the creation of the world, about Yogis with mystical powers such as Kardama Muni and powerful instructions by Kapiladeva, followed by the astonishing prayers of a living entity in the womb of his mother. In the Fourth Canto, the narrations of how Daksha ended up with a goat’s head and how Dhruva achieved the Lord after following the instructions of Narada are given. In the Fifth Canto, we read about the mind-blowing description of the structure of the Universe and learned about the three lives of Bharat Maharaja as a king, a dear and an avadhuta saint. The incident of Ajamila`s death in the sixth Canto showed the power of the Holy Name and Citraketu’s reaction upon being cursed by Parvati, to become the demon Vritrasura, showed the glories of pure devotees who never fear any condition in life.
In order to assure a deep learning experience, the study was quite demanding in the sense that we had to submit a weekly sadhana report and regular homework, learn sixty Sanskrit verses, write eight essays, including verbal presentations, and of course, write the exam for each module.
Besides the study experience, other highlights included Kirtanas at the Vrindavana Kirtana Sanga in the presence of H.H. Gunagrahi Swami and events with H.H. BB Govinda Swami and H.H. Indradyumna Swami at Radha Raman Temple, VIHE Festivals such as Govardhana Puja at Goverdhana and a whole week of Krishna Katha with H.H. Radhanatha Swami and 8,000 devotees!
What can I say? I am extremely grateful (1) and wish that the effect of hearing Bhagavatam will continue to transform my life and I pray that we all develop more and more taste in the process of hearing and chanting!
yatreḍyante kathā mṛṣṭās tṛṣṇāyāḥ praśamo yataḥ / nirvairaṁ yatra bhūteṣu nodvego yatra kaścana
„Whenever pure topics of the transcendental world are discussed, the members of the audience forget all kinds of material hankerings, at least for the time being. Not only that, but they are no longer envious of one another, nor do they suffer from anxiety or fear.“ (2)
1 - Special Thanks to the Devotees at ISKCON Zurich who took up extra service and made it possible for me to go to India several times in a short period. In particular to Vrindavana Candra Prabhu and Keshava Madhava Prabhu as well as Simha Vihina Mataji and Nayana Manjari Mataji.
And a great thanks of course to Prasanta Mataji, her VIHE team, all the wonderful teachers that made the study possible and last but not least my fellow students for their inspiring association!
2 - Srimad Bhagavatam 4.30.35