Back in Vrindavana by some good fortune. It’s a relief, an inspiration, but simultaneously a daunting challenge as well. Here there’s no other business, save and except cultivating a deeper spiritual connection. All the space and time in the world and not an excuse in sight. Back in London I can hide behind day-to-day responsibilities, practical demands, so-called achievements and given abilities, keeping busy and convincing myself that the journey is surely moving forward. Surrounded by a plethora of convenient justifications, we often avoid doing the internal soul-searching required for any sincere spiritualist. It’s possible to continue on for years without consciously gauging our actual level of spiritual absorption and genuine devotional substance. But now there’s nowhere to hide. It’s me, Krishna, my books and beads, lots of time to think, and the unique atmosphere of Vrindavana to inspire the connection.
They say your life is out of balance when you suddenly end up with some free time, and you just don’t know what to do with yourself. It’s existentially unnerving. Well, it sometimes feels like that when you come to the holy places in an off-peak time, with no ‘business,’ no meetings and no particular agenda in mind. The holy places proofread your devotion. We enter these sacred boundaries thinking we have developed so much, a long list of achievements, qualifications and devotional attributes. After a few days, however, you feel like the substance is probably significantly less. The proofreader has edited down the story of our spiritual life, omitting all the waffle and superficiality.
It’s humbling. A challenge, however, is also the greatest opportunity. It’s a healthy jolt to get you back on track. Vrindavana hones you in to remember the essence of life. It’s the place where the saints and sages documented, discussed and demonstrated the epitome of spiritual purity. Yesterday I visited the Radha Damodar temple, where Srila Prabhupada spent many beautiful years living as a lone mendicant. During his time here, he told of a Bengali widow who unfailingly walked to the Yamuna River every morning, promptly returning with a pot of sacred water for the service of the Deities. Sometimes he would open the temple gate for her, closely observing her demeanour. Reflecting on her devotion, he said she would surely attain spiritual perfection in this very life. Her entrance to eternity guaranteed, for her heart was completely devoid of selfishness and pretention. A natural devotion from deep within. Simple as that. It’s a reality check indeed. When, oh when?