Vrindavan, 2012.01.01 (AU): The fifteenth anniversary of Shripad Baba’s departure was held with a great feast at Radha Upasana Kunj in Moti Jheel in Vrindavan.
Govindananda Tirth Maharaj presided over the meeting. He said that Shripada Baba was an avadhut, but internally his mind was completely absorbed in the divine rasa of Radha Krishna prem. “He loved everything about Braj and Vrindavan: its trees, hills, the Yamuna, the cows, the dust of Braj and its residents, what to speak of its vast devotional literary tradition. He established the Braj Academy in 1978 in order to preserve this heritage.”
Rajaram Mishra said that devotees should attempt to build on his contribution and take inspiration from it.
Dr. Vaidyanath Jha said that Shripad Baba was a rasik of the flavors of Braj. He made the whole of Braj the central object of his worship.
Santa Das Maharaj also commented that Shripad Baba considered the whole of Braj to be the form of Krishna himself and therefore worshipable. “He saw everything here – the dust, the cows, the peacocks, hills, the rasik devotees and Brijvasis – as manifestations of Krishna’s form.
Many other Vrindavan devotees were present to offer reminiscences and praises for Shripad Baba’s contributions to Braj culture.
India and in particular my experiences in Brindaban (Vrindavan) inspired me to write “It Is He”. We went to Brindaban where Krishna lived 4000 years ago. It is one of the holiest cities in India – the whole town is Krishna conscious – everyone, everywhere was chanting ‘Hare Krishna’ and various permutations on that. It was my most fantastic experience; going to that place was great.
Ravi Shankar had arranged somehow that we were to meet Sripad (His Holiness) Maharaj, an ascetic who spoke some English and was going to show us around. We arrived there as it was becoming dusk and somebody ran off to try and find him. It’s all so ancient, all these little streets and old temples. A girl came back and said, ‘Come with us.’ So we went down to where the river Jamuna used to flow, but now it’s changed its course so it’s a dry bed.
It was an old Goswami’s house we went to. We sat there and had tea and then left after dark.
We went off with a man I didn’t know. We were walking and the more we walked, the more I thought, ‘God, this guy is incredible.’ Everybody was coming up to him all the time and touching his feet. He looked like an old beggar; real matted long hair and wearing an old sack robe, with bare feet. Yet all these swamis with shaved heads and saffron robes were coming and bowing to him and touching his feet.
He took us round to every temple in Brindaban and he was known in all of them. I was a stiff Westerner when we started off, but there was a moment when the atmosphere of the place got to me, melting all the bullshit away.
I thought about this man a great deal as it became a fantastic, blissful experience for me. Later, they gave us some rooms and we slept for just a few hours until he came and got us at 4 am to go for the morning puja in the temple. We’d probably only slept for 3 hours but it was the deepest sleep I ever had in my life and all through the sleep I could hear choirs singing. I still don’t know to this day – I don’t think it was temples I could hear – I think it was something else – all through the sleep I was hearing huge heavenly choirs – it was a fantastic experience.
The next day we went to the garden called Sevakunj, which is famous for Krishna’s ‘Lila’. Lila is a pastime, a transcendental activity. Maybe you’ve seen the pictures of all the Gopis (cowherd girl), the girls, and there’s a big ring of them and they’ve all got a Krishna each and are dancing in a circle). Krishna always played there; this was the place where he would hang out and dance.They close this park at sunset until sunrise and nobody’s allowed in there at night. The only people who have been in during that time, it has been said, have gone mad or have been found dead. All the birds and animals leave as soon as it’s sunset.
Inside there is a temple with a big brass bed on the altar, and as each of the different temples depicts a different aspect of Krishna, at this one (because he’s been up all night dancing with the Gopis and doesn’t get up early), they don’t open till about 10am for morning Puja. All the trees, which are so ancient, bow down and the branches touch the ground. Just to walk in that place is incredible.
That morning when we came back from the temple at about 5am, it was still dark, and we sat in a room. Sripad started singing a bhajan (a devotional song) to which we all sang the answering part, repeating it over and over. I got blissed out with my eyes shut, and didn’t want it to stop, even when I felt I was going to stop, we would keep it going on. In the end when it eventually stopped, the sun was so high; it must have been 9 or 10 in the morning – the time had flown by – fantastic.
And so he said to me, “Why don’t you make that into a song?” So what I did was take that old chant
Jai Radhe, Jai Radhe Radhe, Jai Radhe, Jai Sri Radhe…
and then wrote the English words in between the verses. “It Is He” was for Sripad Maharaj, a wonderful, humble, holy man.
Some of Sripad Baba’s teachings
The message of the saints of Braj is that you must empty yourself and get immersed in the lilas (pastimes) of Radha and Krishna. If we are lost in some other thought, then we cannot immerse ourselves in the consciousness of Braj, in which there is a constant flow of bliss. If one transcends the boundaries of space and time, one can certainly experience the invisible Radha-Krishna lilas taking place in Braj.
If you talk to a saint or even an ordinary man of this area, he will tell you that the lilas are taking place right now–at this very moment. The real life of Braj lies beyond the distinctions of woman and man. The saints of Braj are living this very life.
When Radhashtami is celebrated at Radha’s birthplace, Barsana, the emotions are so powerful that compassion and love are flowing in the air. This can be felt at all the festivals in Braj, which has a strong tradition of temple worship and festivals. In South India, devotion is governed by rules and laws. But in Braj, God is taken in a different way. In Braj He is treated as sakha, friend, or even mother or beloved. The devotion of love is a gift of Braj, as it was born here.
The message of Upanishads is that the individual and God are one. The moment one is able to recognize and understand this fact, at that very point Hinduism is established, and not before that. There is a need to eliminate the enmity which has been created due to fundamentalism. We have to bring into our fold the entirety of humanity. The great men of our culture have always advocated breaking through the limitations of the world to awaken the eternal values behind these limitations of country, time, seeing oneself as separate from others and good and evil forces. That awakening must first take place at the individual level. This will then bring awakening in society.
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