The Raman Reti Karshni Udasin Ashram is in old Gokul where Vasudeva first brought the baby Krishna after his birth and placed him in the custody of Nanda Gopa and Yashoda Gopi.
Raman refers to Divine Play and reti means sand, so Raman Reti is the place where Lord Krishna grazed the calves and played in the sand with his friends during his childhood.
Nearly two hundred years ago, the saint Swami Gyandasji was traveling in the area of Vrindavan and Mathura looking for a place to perform his sadhana and tapasya (austerities). He found the land which is now called Raman Reti to be very conducive to his spiritual practices. Thus he remained there for some time, during which a local person would bring his daily food.
One night Gyandasji had a dream in which the Lord appeared to him and instructed him not to eat the food that was being brought to him as it was not conducive for his spiritual practices. Thus, from that point on he did not accept these gifts. However, he did not go begging for he was filled with faith in the Lord and was sure that his needs would be met.
In Raya, approximately 20-25 km away from Raman Reti a pious man was performing his meditation during which he heard the Lord commanding him to go to Raman Reti where he would find a saint engaged in penance.
He was to ask the Saint if there was anything he could do, and to offer himself fully in the service of the saint. Thus, the man went to Raman Reti where he found Swami Gyandasji performing sadhana. He told Swami Gyandasji that the Lord had sent him here to offer seva, and requested Swami Gyandasji to direct him accordingly.
Swami Gyandasji instructed the man to simply bring him seven handfuls of chana (grams) every week. He would eat one handful a day. Swami Gyandasji engaged himself fully in austerities and consumed merely a handful of chana per day for 12 long years.
After approximately 12 years, one day there was a knock at Swami Gyandasji’s door. When he inquired “Who is there?” the reply came: “I am the One for whom you have been searching, the One for whom you have performed your penance and tapasya.”
Swami Gyandasji answered, “If You are really the One then You should have no need for me to open the door, for You are Omnipotent and Omnipresent. If You are truly the One, then show Yourself to me.” At this, the Divine appeared to Swami Gyandasji directly in front of him.
Swami Gyandasji was a respected scholar from a Saraswat Brahmin family. He was very learned and used to give spiritual discourses. Many of the saints and sadhus who would listen to his satsang asked him, “How can we also have the darshan of Ramanbihariji? How can we also have this divine experience which you are sharing with us in words?” So, Gyandasji realized the need of establishing a deity in the mandir in the image of the Divine Form which he saw.
So he traveled to Jaipur to see if there was a murti that would personify the image; however unfortunately none of the murtis he saw properly portrayed the Image he had beheld. One day, the Raj Shilpi, who used to come to Swami Gyandasji’s daily satsang, requested Swamiji to create the image out of wax, a replica of the Divine Form which had appeared to him. Swami Gyandasji did so, and based on this the Raj Shilpi carved the image in stone. That is how the deity of Shri Raman Bihariji came into being in the form in which we have his darshan today.
On the left is the Raman Bihari temple, where akhanda kirtan of the Maha Mantra goes on constantly with a rather colorful group of sadhus.
Swami Gurusharanananda, Maharaj Shri, the current acharya of the Karshni Udasin Ashram with the Dalai Lama. One of the most striking things about the whole event is the quite evident affection that exists between the two men. He joked a lot during the press conference, holding Maharaj Shri’s hand and occasionally pulling on his long beard.