kāmān sarvān api ca vihitāṁs tikta-tiktān vidantaḥ |
hitvā vidyā-kula-dhana-janādyābhimānaṁ praviṣṭā
ye śrī-vṛndā-vipinam apunar-nirgamāṁs tān namāmaḥ ||
To those who have entered Vrindavan never to leave, rejecting a kingdom without enemies, along with beautiful women and all desires and duties, thinking them to be most bitter, and who have renounced their learning, noble birth, wealth, and fame to do so, we offer our respectful obeisances. (1.76)
After placing the accent on life outside of Vrindavan, Prabodhananda returns with admiration to the person who has managed to achieve the goal of being in Vrindavan, and has so committed to it that he never will leave. So committed, indeed, that all the usual goals of life have been rejected as bitter, simply the sources of misery (duḥkha-yonayaḥ) when placed against the great prize of prema.
The current situation of turmoil that has descended on the Dham with the influx of development and so-called progress is painful to those who feel nostalgia for the past simplicity. This simplicity of the past may yet find havens within the Dham, but it appears that Vrindavan itself is headed towards an urbanization that is still wild, almost completely uncontrolled. The invasion of rapacious land-grabbers and carpetbaggers, however, is the flotsam and jetsam of what Vrindavan is as a spiritual center. It means that, despite everything, the work of the scriptures in glorifying the Dham, such as the one we are exploring at the present moment, have produced their effect.
In fact, whether we call it pilgrimage or tourism, from the point of view of pure economics, the patterns are the same. The Puranas and texts like this one served as advertising. Acharyas and pandas traveled outside the holy places to drum up business, preaching and organizing pilgrimages, which were after all their source of livelihood, whatever the sincerity of their belief.
Vrindavan, as a product, was created by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu both directly — as in the story told of his discovery of Radha Kund — and through his disciples, the Goswamis, whom he instructed to mark out the places where important events from Krishna’s life were said to have taken place. They and their contemporaries took the job seriously and established temple worship, setting up dynasties to serve them and to build temples in their honor that were magnificent for their time. These, along with other cultural achievements, were the attractions, the glories that brought people from all over India to the Dham. There may have been degrees of sincerity and learning, from the most rapacious Pandas to the saintliest saints, but the one was and is as inevitable as the other.
The building of new residential developments advertising the glories of living in Krishna’s abode, making it possible for pious city dwellers from around the world to come and retire in Vrindavan is also not a new phenomenon, nor is the building of skyscraper temples and theme parks. Though the purists may think these things crass and vulgar or superficial and commercial, they do serve a purpose. Much as childish and even trivial myths also serve a purpose in the expression of profound truths. This does not mean that there should be no brakes place on the madness, in the interest of attracting people of quality and refinement to the Dham. But ultimately, it is above all those profound truths that must be preserved as the center of Vrindavan. And to a great extent, those truths are still to be discovered or rediscovered at new levels of profundity.
Much as we say Vrindavan is the vortex of the spiritual world envisioned as Goloka, the saints who have the purity of heart to preserve that vision internally are the spiritual center of that center. They are the spinal cord of the Dham. So Prabodhananda bows down to them, using the plural number to include us with him.
anāśritya vṛndāṭavīṁ tat-padāṅkām |
kutaḥ śyāma-sindhau rasyasyāvagāhaḥ ||
Not ever having worshipped once the dust
that sprinkles from Shrimatī’s lotus feet;
not having taken shelter even once
of Braja Dham, marked with her dainty tread;
not ever having spoken with the souls
so laden with the weighty love for her,
how foolish they who think that they can plunge
into the secret sea of nectar that is Shyam!
This verse gives the sequence: For those who are the most serious about completing their mission of life, first comes faith in Radha, the queen of Vrindavan and madhura-rasa, then comes taking refuge in Vrindavan Dham, and finally one finds the association of those who are truly immersed in Radharani’s world of love. Jai Radhe.
See previous 1.75.