“The Surrender Goes On” by Taru dasa

(from the Nov.1976 issue of Brijabasi Spirit)

Way back in the early days of New Vrindaban, Srlla Prabhupada started calling the residents “the inmates of New Vrindaban.” From time to time I’ve tried to under­stand just what exactly this term means. Most of all, the term inmate indicates one who is locked in against his own will. Somehow or another, His Divine Grace has lured us all here and trapped us. Now by his forced rule, like the tight grip the warden keeps on his pris­oners, Srlla Prabhupada is trying to force us to become Krsna Cons­cious while we, being rascals, are trying to escape.

Just like prisoners we’re sub­jected to a rigorous schedule al­though we have no liking for it. But those in the prison house must abide by the rules even though they don’t wish to. It has’ always struck me that the devotees here make a lot of unwilling spiritual advance­ment. Krsna forces us to accept au­sterities although we are not prone to try to be very austere. Compared to the energetic enthusiasm and de­termination of the Sankirtana devo­tees who sometimes visit us during festive occasions, we farm devotees appear rather sluggish. The pace here is unquestionably slower. But Krsna takes care to heap various penances upon our heads which make us call out for His protection. So it is that just by remaining in New Vrindaban one’s Krsna Consciousness is gradually pushed along by the grace of the Lord, under the spiri­tual master’s direction. Apart from His Holiness Kirtanananda Swami, the kind jailer Srila Prabhupada has put in charge, no one here is a real stand out. Mostly we are just the burned out rejects from other ISKCON centers. But Maharaja has always patiently assured us that just by remaining here we will be­come Krsna Conscious. Of course, to remain here it is necessary to per­form a few other austerities…

“It’s two o’clock, prabhu, time to get up.” The voice sounds calm and pleasant but what is this per­sonage doing shining a flashlight in my face in the middle of the night? I try to pull the blankets over my head, but the persistent caller politely pulls them back and after some time I realize that ac­tually he’s right, this is when I’m supposed to get up. I don’t want to do it, but then I can see there’s no way to continue sleeping with a light in my face and someone shak­ing me by the shoulders. So crawl­ing to my knees to offer obeisances to my spiritual master I grope around for a towel and a change of clothes and head out to the bath

Strange as it may seem, this is not some rare case; rather, nearly half of the devotees who reside at Bahulaban, New Vrindaban’s main farm, rise at 2:00 a.m. and nearly everyone is up by three. This was not always the case. Four years ago it was rare to see anyone up before 3:30. In those days Kirtanananda Swami used to walk upstairs with his cane and wake almost everyone up himself. Gradually, he just started calling us a little earl­ier. For the longest time Maharaja got up at 2:30 every morning. After some years, a good number, perhaps a majority, of the devotees were also rising at this time. Then, ea­rly this spring, Maharaja one day began rising at 2:00 and, of course, encouraged us to do the same. Most of us were a bit out­raged internally, although we tried to maintain a submissive demeanor. Anyway, no one made too much of an effort to follow his example. So just like in former days, Maharaja began climbing up to the third floor asrama first thing in the morning, singing “jiva jago” and slapping the floor with his cane.

I may as well mention here that the men sleeping in this asrama are mostly all householders. There is another farm where the brahmacaris live, although a few of them stay at Bahulaban. It isn’t that the householder men have run out on their duties. They are living pea­cefully with their wives and child­ren, fulfilling their household du­ties by maintaining their family members and providing Krsna Cons­cious instruction. But a number of our householders simply prefer to spend the night ‘with the boys’ in­stead of at their own apartments, and those who prefer to stay home are certainly permitted to do so.

At least now there is a nice bath house. Who can ever forget walking out to the ghata in Decemb­er, breaking the ice to get a buck­et of water out and then dumping it on your head? There’s no hot water even now so it’s never that much fun bathing in the morning. The nights start getting pretty cool even in July. I figure there must be maybe twenty days a year when it’s nice to take that morning shower. The rest of the time the experience ranges from being toler­able to frightening, with the abso­lute worst being to walk in on a five-below-zero day and finding there’s no fire.

So by about 2:30 there’s a good­ly number of devotees chanting japa in the temple. The ideal is to fin­ish all sixteen rounds before Mangala aratrika so you’ll be able to go to work right after breakfast. Factually, most of the devotees are doing this now. It used to be a pretty remarkable event, “Wow, I finished all my rounds before ara-trika!” But now that is the stand­ard everyone aims at. Again it has only been by Maharaja’s indefatigable example and constant preach­ing that we have tried to improve. I don’t suppose that it’s possible for all centers to adopt this prac­tice, since a lot of Sankirtana parties stay out rather late. But for farmers the day’s about over when the sun goes down so we take rest pretty early, just after Sundara aratrika, around 9 p.m.

At 4:30 a.m. the altar curtain rises to reveal Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha VrndavanaCandra, the most beautiful Deities in the world as we have been informed by Srila Prabhupada himself. Beautiful and soothing like the rays of the moon in the early morning hours, the faces of Their Lordships enkindle Their devotees’ desire to render Them some service. By this process of regulated Deity worship the mind is trained to remember the form of the Lord for Whom he is rendering service. Otherwise our work tends to seem mundane after some time. These early morning hours are espe­cially auspicious for such devot­ional activities, so Srila Prabhu­pada has ordered all his disciples to rise before 4 a.m. and attend the aratrika in the temple.

Mangala aratrika is immediately followed by worshiping Tulasidevi, Krsna’s favorite plant, and then by Guru puja, worship of the spiritual master. Thus over an hour is spent in kirtana, or congregational chanting of the Lord’s Holy Names. There are a few readings from the Vedic scriptures, then Srlmad Bhag-avatam class. During this time the Deities are bathed and dressed. At 6:30 the curtains are again opened and the devotees again have the op­portunity to greet Radha Vrndavana Candra, newly attired in Their Mor­ning outfit.

Breakfast, which follows immedi­ately at 6:45, is as regulated as the rest of the schedule. Oat water and rice is the daily menu with ev­eryone being treated to a portion of maha prasada, the food offered on the altar to the Deities. Con­trasted to the devotees’ simple foodstuffs, Radha and Krsna feast six times daily on wonderful delic­acies, featuring a wide array of milk preparations. Fifteen gallons of whole milk are used daily simply for the Deity preparations. So each morning the devotees sample a por­tion of this maha prasada along with their rice and oat water.

By 7:30 the work force is swing­ing into action. Bahulaban is un­dergoing a total facelift these days. Two new buildings are in the process of going up, the block has been laid for the new bath house and kitchen, and plans are being made for tearing down the present temple building and constructing a new one. In addition, Kasyapa is pushing a lot of dirt around with the bulldozers scraping new fields out of the West Virginian hills.

The goshalla houses forty milk cows and up to two dozen young calves. The cows seem very content with their new home which is much more spacious than the former barn. However, we would do well to ac­quire some more pasturing ground, as there is only enough grass to graze on for a few months out of the year. Therefore, the loyal mem­bers of the plough department, headed by Madhava Ghosa dasa, are busy all summer putting up hay, grain and silage for the long win­ter months.

The women are engaged all day cooking, sewing and making garlands for the Deities. Their Lordships are also dressed again in the af­ternoon and there are four more aratrikas offered during the day. So most of the women have some en­gagement in maintaining the Deity worship. Forty to fifty garlands are made each day and at least that many separate food preparations are offered as well. In addition, they have to maintain the cleaning and laundry. Kirtanananda Maharaja says, “Everyone always tells me that the women here have to work so hard. I always take it as a compli­ment . ”

Even the young gurukula children have some service to perform, whe­ther it is weeding the gardens in the summer, or cleaning up the roadsides or bringing in some fire­wood during the winter months.

After a good day’s work everyone is ready to come in for Bhagavad-gita class in the evening, and the final aratrika at 8:00 p.m. Once again we are enlivened by the tran­scendental presence of Sri Sri Rad­ha Vrndavana Candra. After aratrika the devotees take some hot milk prasada and then retire. As every­one else is retiring, Radhanatha dasa, the head pujari from the brahmacari farm, takes up his duty of chanting bhajan, nice devotional songs, throughout the night hours, and along with Manobhirama dasa, our night guard, continues the round-the-clock devotional service at Bahulaban. Hearing Radhanatha’s chanting is the one thing which makes rising early in the morning bearable. The devotees file out to the bath house and stop to offer their obeisances as another day of devotional service begins.

–Taru dasa

Information and Links

Join the fray by commenting, tracking what others have to say, or linking to it from your blog.

Reader Comments

Sorry, comments are closed.