Devotees' Experiences

Om Vishnupad 108 Tridandi Swami Sri Srimat Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami Maharaj ki Jai !!

Baba in Neelachal


Puroshattamdham, the abode of Lord Jagannath, has for centuries attracted the hearts of millions of devotees. It is the ultimate destiny of man, and to be able to go to Puri as a pilgrim, again and again, is considered to be the outcome of good deeds performed in previous lives, the blessing Sri Gurudeva and Sri Govinda.

It is the place where the eternal lila of the Lord is being performed: a lila as sweet as it is divine, as mortal as it is supreme.

Behind the hustle and bustle of the market place on the Boda Danda, the calling of the Pandas, the thronging and the endless flow of pilgrims, sadhus and devotees, the divine lila of Shri Krishna in the form of Lord Jagannath, continues unobtrusively. Much like the unheard hum of mantra in the true devotee's heart, the Divine Lila persists in all its ageless glory and in all its divine intention. Only to the most exalted of souls, is this lila revealed. To the others, it is a thing to aspire for, a goal to be achieved, something to live for, a distant dream, elusive in its beauty.

To the bhaktas in Bhubaneshwar, Baba's coming is an occasion look forward to. His arrival is awaited with much joy and anticipation, particularly because we would be accompanying Him to Puri (Neelachal), the day after his arrival, either from Delhi or Calcutta. Although Purl happens to be so close to Bhubaneswar and anyone can pay a visit to Lord Jagannath whenever he likes, we nurse a desire to be able to accompany Baba, to be with Him during the entire tour, and to return with Him. The joy of having darshan of Lord Jagannath increases manifold when He is with us. It is as though He removes from our eyes the veil of ignorance so that we can see clearly and feel intimately.

Usually Baba has a group of ecstatic kirtaniyas who travel with Him. They come to Puri with Baba. It is an experience rich in spiritual intensity, to flock around Him and the kirtaniyas, circumambulating the vast temple of Lord Jagannath. Naam sankirtan is performed to the accompaniment of musical instruments like khol, cymbals, flute, violin and santoor. The kirtaniyas are dressed in yellow and white with symbols of Baba’s ashram. Walking with Him and hearing the kirtan we feel that we belong to a completely different sphere of existence.

Our ears fill with the divine chants, our hearts throb to the beat of the khol and our eyes swim in Prema’s spiritual waves, we follow Baba’s majestic footsteps and drink in the magic of the moment through the pores of our bodies.

During the parikrama of the temple, we visit different sites where memories of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are revived. There is a small shrine which houses Mahaprabhu’s feet imprints where we pay our obeisance. The great Sri Nrisinghadeb’s temple at which Mahaprabhu used to worship, the first thing He did when He entered the temple, is also a place which fills us with wonder and nostalgia. It is because of Baba’s kripa that these wonders of history are revealed to us, making our sojourn all the more meaningful.

The Khirachora Gopinath temple inside the main temple premises is a spot dear to Baba. He bids us sit on the polished floor of the Nat Mandir from where we can clearly see the jugal murtis of Srimati Radharani and Sri Krishna in all their splendour. A few vaishnavas would be busy inside, offering worship, preparing garlands or reciting verses from the writings of Vaishnava saints of yore. They would all stop whatever they were doing to bow before Baba. Some kind of secret communion would seem to occur between them and Baba. Passers-by would stop, congregate around Him and then the kirtan would begin.

The kirtan would transform the atmosphere in such a way that one would lose sense of time, place and of oneself. Even the playful monkeys that inhabit the temple tops would sit still for some time, as though enchanted by the devotional songs of Baba’s Kirtaniyas. The sky, the clouds and the birds would seem to be joining in and Baba would be sitting still as an image. His silken robes of saffron, fluttering in the breeze, adding more lustre to His already lustrous face, hands and feet. Even the great stones and their sculpted images would burst into life as the Kirtan echoed from wall to wall. One would never grow tired of this music, or of sitting with Him on the temple steps. He would appear to us as King of all Kings, also the humblest of all devotees. Onlookers would stare at Him finding Him to be someone completely out of this world, but also as someone who is the closest to their hearts. Sometimes, He would talk to them. His words would seem to carry nectar straight to their hearts, pouring love, karuna and hope. Many people have seen him just once, but have His memory imprinted deep in their souls.

Then He would take us inside the main temple to witness the Arati. If there was huge crowd, people would automatically part to allow Him to pass. The otherwise proud priests of the Puri Temple, would be loving and respectful towards Him, as though they instinctively recognized His innate divinity. He would show us the place where Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu stood each day during his eighteen years' stay in Neelachal. He would also point out to us Mahaprabhu’s three deep finger impressions on the wall, caused by the intensity of feelings which overwhelmed Him as He gazed at Lord Jagannath’s big circular eyes and drank the beauty of his enigmatic smile. One by one, we would also put our finger tips there and try to experience the same madhura bhava. We would silently pray that Baba may bless us so that someday in this life, or in lives to come, we may become pure enough to at least touch the shores of Prema, if not drown completely in its sweet waves. Millions of years of tapasya may be insufficient for this. But unconditional love and total surrender and Baba’s kripa are the paths for reaching this goal.

Baba’s presence amongst us would help us to remember Mahaprabhu’s deep attachment to Lord Jagannath in whom he beheld his beloved Shri Krishna and to whom he had dedicated his entire being. Indeed so much so, that he finally merged in his image in the same temple leaving behind no trace of his mortal remains. The presence of Baba would remind us of all these things and make us realise that Mahapradhu is again with us, telling us of his past deeds, helping us to find connections between His present Lilas and these of His previous incarnation. We would then feel complete.

We have learnt from Baba all the lessons of humility as we see Him perform saashtang pranam to the deities, politely refusing the invitation of the temple pandas to step right up to the Ratna Shinghasa as there are thousands of shaligram shilas installed below. All of us know that Baba is a lover of shaligrams and that He has a vast collection made available to Him by miraculous means. Therefore, it is no surprise the unlike other eager devotees, He prefers not to enter the sanctum.

While talking about Mahapradhu in the Temple of Lord Jagannath, it would not be out of place to mention an incident which took place before my eyes, many years ago, when I was new to Baba. I had gone visiting the temple with my family when suddenly I had a Darshan of Baba (who was then in Bhunaneswar) in the temple. I was conscious of no one else, except Baba and a few other devotees dressed in white and with long hair, who seemed to have materialized there and then. They welcomed Him heartily with sweet words in Bengali thus:

"Tumi Esecho ? Amra Koto Kaal theke tomar apekya chilam. Esho, ektu Prasad Grahan Karo". (You have come ? We have been waiting for you since so long. Come and have Prasad with us).

The whole scene vanished before my very eyes as I slowly became conscious of the reality surrounding me – my family, other visitors, the garrulous Pandas and the stalls selling diyas and flowers. No one else had noticed what I had seen. I was completely puzzled. What had I seen ? Was it real, or a vision. Did it really happen, or had I imagined it all ? I only remembered that the devotees whom I had seen at that time resembled those who were Mahaprabhu’s associates depicted in paintings by artists. Even today, I feel baffled by this episode. I can only conclude that it was a vision and I can never forget the magical men, dressed in white and with long shoulder length curly hair.

At last it would be quite late in the evening when we would come of the temple. The moon and the stars would seem to be aching to reach down below to us, and the waves of the nearby sea would be engulfing the stillness with their deep melodies. At night we would have Mahaprasad in Baba’s own hotel suite. Each one would eat his fill of the dishes chosen by Baba. We would crack jokes, make merry, or wait for some miracle to happen all the time forgetting that being with Baba, enjoying Mahaprasad, loving each other and being filled with His love were after all the greatest miracles of our lives.

We would return to Bhunaneswar, but with great reluctance, unwilling to leave His side. He would spend the night in Neelachal, communing with Lord Jagannath and praying for our well being.

Jai Guru !

Jai Sri Radhey !