Krishna Prema's Food for Thought 2020 # 8 - My First Visit to Mayapur in 1999
Sri Dhama Mayapur, the birthplace of the Golden Avatar, Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, is the most merciful place of all holy places. My own spiritual life had its beginning here in Mayapur, something I am always reminded of whenever I come here. On my flight back to Zurich, I reflected on the glories of the holy dhama and its merciful nature:
„Someone who just happens to come to Navadvipa Dhama is freed from all offences. For those who walk throughout Navadvip, the benefit of millions of asvamedha yajnas are accrued with every step and the bonds of maya are cut along with the cycle of repeated birth and death. To attain liberation one simply needs to bathe in the Ganga at Navadvip. Here eating Gauranga’s maha-prasada gives one devotion to Gauranga, and sleeping is accepted as paying obeisances.“ (1)
How Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu showers His mercy on innocent visitors in His transcendental abode was experienced by me about twenty-one years ago. I had already been in touch with Krishna Consciousness by that time, but I considered myself more of an independent spiritual seeker than a real devotee of Lord Krishna. I was just about to fly to Kolkata in order to work for a welfare project, cooking for homeless street kids, when I met a book distributor on the street. When I told him about my plans he encouraged me to visit Sri Dhama Mayapur while I am there in Kolkata. An advice that I took to heart.
I remember clearly how I entered through the main gate of ISKCON Mayapur, smelling the sweet fragrance of incenses. I was enchanted by the beauty of the park and the Prabhupada Samadhi. While standing there, some local Brahmacaris noticed me. I wonder what they must have thought seeing this unusually looking visitor, dressed in bordeaux-red Lungi and Kurta, and having long, loose hairs and a beard. A hippie who looked a bit like a mixture of John Lennon, a Yogi and a Buddhist monk.
Without introducing themselves or explaining anything, they approached me, put a Tulasi Kanti-Mala around my neck and dropped a Neem Japa Mala and saffron bead bag in my hand „Welcome to Mayapur!“ one of them said. „That's a good start!“ I thought to myself.
After getting a room at Gita Bhavan Guesthouse, I spent the day roaming around the beautiful park and visiting Srila Prabhuapda's impressive Pushpa Samadhi. It was a powerful experience. Somehow just being there gave me a lot of faith in Srila Prabhupada and I felt how I would like to adopt this practice of Bhakti, devotion to Sri Krishna, in my own life more seriously. Later that day, I was introduced to a Swiss devotee who had been living for many years in Mayapur, Dina Caitanya Dasa. While accepting Prasada at his house, I learned that the time I had chosen to visit was perfect, since it was the holy month of Kartik!
The next morning I visited the Mangala Arati, the first I have ever experienced. I was amazed that so many people gathered so early in the morning. After the arati, I tried the Mantra meditation. I had chanted before but not in a temple and in the association of other devotees. The mediation went well and I was able to focus on the Holy Name, but then my mediation got briefly interrupted by a gentle touch. A senior monk had placed his hands on my right shoulder and said with a merciful smile on his face:
„Your material life is over, and your spiritual life has now started!“
Wow, what a blessing! But ignorant as I was, I thought to myself: „what does he mean by `has now started`, my spiritual life has started already a long time ago!“
Only years later did I realize that he was right, that by coming to Sri Dhama Mayapur, by starting to seriously chant the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra that my spiritual life had indeed started.
And it was also only years later that I understood, that this devotee was none other than Pankajangri Prabhu, one of the most intimate servants of the Lord here in Mayapur.
This is how Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mercy is manifested, through His dear devotees!
1 - From Sri Godrumacandra-bhajanopadesa by Bhaktivinoda Thakur, quoted in the Book `Gauradesa - The Place of Gauranga Mahaprabhu` by Manjari Devi Dasi, page 8