As a young man, due to a series of seemingly random events, I became entranced by Krishna. Through the magic of the maha mantra (and cruelty-free food) I became spellbound by this ocean blue man/God who possessed the limitless compassion of Jesus and the Buddha, as well as the pulling power of Prince in the early 1980’s. I spent many Sunday nights listening to stories from the Bhagavad Gita. The way the swamis spoke, well it was like watching a blockbuster unfold at IMAX. I also loved hearing about ISKCON founder, Srila Prabhupadha and how he was a teacher to many in New York, London and San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district in the 1960s and 70s. His students included Allen Ginsberg and George Harrison, two of my all-time heroes. I mean, really?
Shanti and Atmaram would also talk lovingly about Krishna’s birthplace, Vrindavan in India and how the vibration was heightened due to people chanting Hare Krishna non-stop. I was truly fascinated.
Fast forward 20 years…I guess my karma was finally ripe.
Vrindavan is a very small walled city of thousand-year-old temples as well as modern buildings. Everyone but EVERYONE chants Hare Krishna. His name is graffiti’d everywhere. In fact Hare Krishna, Radhe Radhe and Ram Ram are used in the same way one would say hello, goodbye and thank you in most other cities. Love is therefore always on everyone’s minds.
During our stay, the temple in which I spent most of my time was ISKCON. The architecture was awe-inspiring, with intricately carved marble a prominent feature (at times I felt as if I was in Dinotopia). However, the visual magnificence faded in comparison to the vibration created by the 24hr Kirtan. That’s right Hare Krishna 24 hours a day (I had NO IDEA that this was what my early teachers actually meant). I later found out that seva for many of the devotees is to chant Hare Krishna as part of a little band, for a few hours a day for up to THREE YEARS. The community all take turns and not once in the last 27 years has there been a break in these holy proceedings. It made me think deeply about how I choose to spend my time and that busy-ness is really a convenient construct designed to pull us back to mundane ‘reality’ and away from our daily practice, whatever that may be. The majority of the Kirtan wallahs I met had full time jobs and family commitments.
One day our guide took us to a secret garden in the very middle of Vrindavan. It was an outdoor temple of sorts and I have a feeling that the devotees within this temple gave birth to the term ‘cheeky monkeys’ . I imagined that they were Hanuman’s monkey soldiers. They gave you a strong feeling that you were on THEIR land. The divine vibration here was even stronger than at ISKCON and it didn’t take a genius to work out that this was one of Krishna’s primary playgrounds. I felt the hair on my arms and the back of my neck stand on end. You couldn’t hear the auto-rickshaws outside the walled garden and I thought if I strained enough I might just be able to hear Krishna’s seductive flute. Locals say that between the hours of dusk and dawn, the monkeys leave the garden because the vibration is even too strong for them. Lord Krishna was clearly the original rock star…
I couldn’t leave Vrindavan without buying a harmonium. I ended up buying two from a man called Gopal (naturally) who was brought up at ISKCON and spent years of seva singing Kirtan there at dawn. His wife lives and works in Melbourne and he asked if I lived close to her. Gopal and I sang and played together. He had the voice of someone whose divine practice is music…
Being in Vrindavan made me feel like a kid again. Innocent. And I had the child-like wish of wanting the harmoniums to be so heavy that they weighed me down, making it impossible to leave. Vrindavan as a holy city – and India as an utterly beguiling country – planted powerful seeds in my consciousness. Every day since my arrival home, I’ve thought of India and my heart has ached. These days when I chant the maha mantra I think of Krishna, Vrindavan, India, the Mystic Madness pilgrims and my Indian family.
I am filled with gratitude.
I long to be reunited.
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

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