By N. Swaminathan, Ph.D.
A pilgrimage to ISKCON’s grand complex in Lord Chaitanya’s land provides indelible inspiration for an engineer and his family.
When I entered the spacious temple and looked to the right, I was stunned on seeing the huge and extremely beautiful deities of Radha-Madhava, with four sakhis on each side gazing at the perfect beauty of Lord Madhava and Srimati Radharani and very eager to serve Them. The temple was full of devotees offering ghee lamps, an act that symbolizes how our heart burns in separation from Krishna. My family and I also got ghee lamps and offered them to Radha-Madhava and the eight sakhis.
We then went to the adjoining hall, also spacious. When I saw the huge golden Panca Tattva deities, I couldn’t imagine ever having to leave Mayapur. The devotees’ graceful dancing and the beautiful kirtana enchanted me. And before I could recover, I was in front of the deity of Nrisimha. Dressed in silver, He looked like silver fire. He was so ferocious, and yet so assuring. I don’t remember how many times I offered obeisances to Him, or maybe I didn’t at all.
Thank you, Srila Prabhupada. Even though you were satisfied with whatever Krishna provided to you, you undertook great hardships to create such a beautiful place and a real society of devotees so that people like me would be attracted to spiritual life.
I work in an engineering software company, and I had been attending a Bhagavad-gita class conducted by ISKCON for four months when our teacher invited my family and me for a four-day pilgrimage to Mayapur during the auspicious month of Damodara (Karttika). Mayapur is the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who in the sixteenth century propagated the chanting of the holy names of Krishna, the recommended spiritual practice for Kali-yuga, the current age.
Our reception at ISKCON Mayapur’s Gada Bhavan was most magnificent. We were garlanded with flowers, and cool sandalwood paste was applied to our foreheads. This is how guests are received in the Vaishnava tradition, said our hosts.
The next day we got up really early and bathed in unheated water. We attended mangala-arati at Prabhupada’s Pushpa Samadhi and then at the Radha-Madhava temple. I completed sixteen rounds of chanting before 7:00 A.M., and I had a full day ahead of me.
While walking to the goshala, we were shown the grihastha quarters and a building that’s home to brahmacharis two months a year. The rest of the year they are out traveling in buses and distributing Prabhupada’s books. We also were told about four schools: one with the CBSE pattern, one with the Cambridge Board, one a girls’ school, and one a Vedic gurukula. The first three have a mixed curriculum, modern with Vedic, but the last is purely Vedic. We were surprised. What about the future of these boys? We learned the answer, a very instructive one, when we went to the gurukula in the evening.