Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Quest for Krishna consciousness: Ashram life in Vrindavan

vrindavan, anandomoyee ma ashram
Sri Anandomoyee Maa Ashram
I was carrying a book named ‘Death Must Die’, written by Atmananda who was a disciple of Sri Anandomoyee Ma. The book was an account of personal spiritual quest by Blanca, an Austrian lady who left his country in search of spiritual awareness. It was a first-hand account of Blanca, later on Atmananda who had close associations with India’s greatest modern saints, unfolding her personal life from the pages of her diaries.

Upon arriving in the Vrindavan, the first reaction was to run away. The place didn’t have the charm of Varanasi as I was expecting to be. Moreover, the heat and humidity drained me completely after a few kilometers of walking. I felt a tremendous urge to leave the city without visiting any temple. Almost 2 hours of sauntering around the lanes, temples and ashrams, I couldn’t find a single place to stay.

Then I thought to go to Ramkrishna Mission, but upon arrival I found it as a charitable hospitable. It was a disappointment and again I was walking down the road and suddenly I crossed the ashram of Sri Anandamoyee Ma. Well, it was a fortuitous event, to the best of my belief, which convinced me to get a stay in this sprawling ashram, established in the name of a saint whose book I was reading for last two days. Eventually, I found an appropriate place to stay, with Vidur, a guy from U.P., a regular visitor who cleared some of my doubts about Vrindavan later on.

Evening Bhajan and emotional outburst

In Vrindavan, everyone as it seemed in a comforting illusion, love towards Lord Krishna was imbibed in the whole atmosphere. My intellectual stream of thought made it difficult to understand the essence of their devotion; also I was too wrenched from the religious structure of our society.

My pride was shattered in the first evening when I had attended evening aarti (evening prayer and ceremony) and devotional songs in the ashram. The secretary Shyamal da, a 50 plus old bramachari (celibate monk), sung 14 songs, pouring his emotions into it. I had observed that the whole atmosphere was gradually grasping from the very core of my heart. At the middle of ceremony, my eyes were wet and shed stream of tears.

From the slokas, songs and overall atmosphere, a sense of self-analysis and reflection came automatically wherein the discursive mind was profoundly stilled and from the stillness spontaneously arising a more fundamentally authentic level of consciousness. I must say it was an emotional outburst, but as a “reasonable man”, I was fully aware of things, depending on my direct experience rather than blindly follow a faith.

vrindavan ashram anandamoyee ma temple

There is a profound spiritual unfulfilling feeling for the last 3-4 years that disturbs me immensely. I feel I am at a crossroad of my life where I have to have a strict decision to stick upon. When I saw young westerners and even old ones at ISCKON, I thought why and what drew these men and women to come to Vrindavan. There were old westerners who left their comfort after such a long habitual way of living and embraced Krishna Consciousness in the small, filthy and terribly crowded city like Vrindavan.

Ashram life – seclusion and discipline

In the ashram there were six young boys, all below age 20. I was amazed to see that those boys had dedicated their studies learning Bhagavatam and other Hindu scriptures. All of them were minutely performed all rituals, with complete dedication and love. 

Ashram life was not hard, particularly because I was a traveler or guest there, but I maintained a life of devotee out there. I woke up in the morning then after bath, I went to the temple for morning bhajan and mediation, and then breakfast at ashram. It was very light breakfast, probably some potatoes or chapatti (Indian bread) and a glass of milk. Then I stayed there or roamed around Vrindavan, but personally I didn’t like much the whole surroundings, particularly because of ferocious monkeys and heat. I preferred to stay inside the ashram, read and written down my notes.

isckon temple vrindavan architecture
ISCKON Temple in Vrindavan
Many people ask or wish to ask perhaps, what’s the principle difference living in a secluded place or ashram, if you are doing almost the same routine. Well, there is one principle difference I find while staying in mountains or in ashram or monasteries is the level of concentration, to an extent of heightened awareness. It happens during smoking pot, but solitude living naturally impose that awareness within me, of course without any physical discomfort like marijuana.  

I would wish to stay in that place for more but I have certain works to come back to Delhi. Shymal da (the secretary) asked me to come again and stay there for a few months. He told me that I was in a juncture where I had to decide quick about my life. I understood what he meant and I said prostrate before him and bid adieu. 

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