Deep in The Woods

by Bhavisyat dasa  ( from Sept, 1981 Issue of the Brijabasi Spirit)


Lord Balarama, Subadhra and Lord Jagannatha on Their way back to Vrindaban

        When New Vrindaban is mentioned to any devotee in ISKCON these days, there is virtual certainty that he will automatically think of Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, Radha-Vrindaban Candra and Srila Bhaktipada. It wasn’t so long ago however, that New Vrindaban meant a two mile walk up a nearly impossible road to a run-down farmhouse and cabins being fixed up by a small crew of mostly neophyte devotees. It also meant cows, cold water, lots of woods, and lots of austerity. It also meant mud. Most importantly, it meant big Lord Jagannath who manifested Himself from a tree whose stump can even now be seen from the old Vrindaban road.

        Since then New Vrindaban has gotten BIG. Now thousands of visitors come weekly to see Prabhupada’s Palace. New Vrindaban and Krishna consciousness are becoming well-known world-wide. One is reminded of the struggle of the Pandavas, stuck in the woods for so many years and then emerging to become glorious world-leaders. When their life in the woods was behind them, as kings, they sometimes recalled their happy and peaceful days in the forest when they always thought about Krishna, as compared to their lives as heads of state with all it’s burdens and pressures. Similarly, as with any emerging large community still undergoing “growing pains” in it’s rapid expansion, there sometimes seems also to be hassles and delays causing anxiety (such as waiting an hour to use the phone, or not being able to get a vehicle when needed). These are admittedly small problems compared to the bewildering complexities faced by the non-devotees, but for those of us who remember “the good old days in Vrindaban,” there is a hankering for a peaceful and quiet atmosphere of Krishna consciousness.

Recently, big Lord Jagannath mercifully returned to New Vrindaban for His Snana-yatra bathing ceremony and then recuperated at our Talavan forest cabin. During His recovery an uncertainty lingered as to His destination after becoming well again. The old Vrindaban farm had been mentioned as a possibility if someone could be found to fix it up in time for Lord Jagannath to move in. Somehow or other, yours truly got the inspiration to restore the old farm house for Lord Jagannath’s pleasure. Three weeks of full-time effort was put into the project with large assists from Bimbadhara dasa and Gaudiya dasa. By Sunday July 12, we thought we were ready for the Lord’s Ratha-yatra to Vrindaban farm, deep in the woods. However, Srila Bhaktipada thought differently. That Sunday was perhaps the sunniest day of 1981 so far. The whole week had been dry and sunny and the back road to Vrindaban farm, which runs through some of the deepest woods in West Virginia, had been cleared of branches which could have struck the Lord. So we all figured we’d put their Lordships Baladeva, Subadhra, and Jagannath on a specially framed tractor trailer and tractor-drive them through the woods in procession. However, at the board meeting early in the morning, the first words from Sri la Bhaktipada were: “Lord Jagannath doesn’t want to go to Vrindaban. “I tried to keep my outer appearance calm and thoughtful, but inside I was quaking nervously and thinking, “Ooh, no…Srila Bhaktipada, have mercy!” His reasons were numerous:

1) The back road was too narrow with cliffs, and muddy.

2) The altar wasn’t big enough at Vrindaban.

3) Nothing was prepared for His stay in Vrindaban.

        Also there were not enough devotees to worship Him properly. So I had to accept what Srila Bhaktipada was ordering. What choice was there? When the spiritual master says, “Go.” the disciple asks, “How fast and in what direction?”

       Anyway, since I am totally unsurrendered, I started objecting and putting up so many counter arguments which all were completely rejected. But since the main objection seemed to be that the route to go to Vrindaban was awful, and since his last comment at the meeting was, If Mr. Snyder agrees to let all the devotees parade their Lordships across his land, then it’s O.K.”, I simply decided to make a final last ditch effort of going to see our neighbor, Mr. Snyder to plead for us to cross his property with a few vehicles and an escort of devotees. Surprisingly enough, he agreed, (Jagannath’s arrangement) but he stipulated that some heavy equipment work be done on his driveway in return. I immediately assured him this would be taken care of as soon as possible. (Although I didn’t get a chance to mention any of this to Kasyapa, who is in charge of the heavy equipment, until the next day.) Then I ran all over the ridge, looking for Srila Bhaktipada. When I found him, I blurted out, “Mr. Snyder says, “It’s O.K.” What do you think of crossing his property now?” My fingers were crossed. Then he smiled and said, “All right, let’s do it,” and he drove away. So we had our New Vrindaban-style Ratha-yatra on the back of a four-wheel drive pickup to Vrindaban farm and installed Lord Baladeva, Lady Subadhra, and Lord Jagannath on Their altar and had a little festival which was enjoyed by all the devotees. In the temple, Srila Bhaktipada’s comments were, “We started at Vrindaban, and although we’re expanding rapidly, we aren’t attached. We can always come back to Vrindaban, chant Hare Krishna and be happy.” Lord Jagannath seems to be very happy in Vrindaban, and it has become a place of pilgrimage for all the devotees to come see the ecstatic features and pastimes of Their Lordships. We are trying to make arrangements for more and more devotees to visit, but it is something of an austerity to come to Vrindaban. You have to walk two miles up a muddy dirt road, impossible by vehicle, or come across the valley, which entails having a modest amount of mountain climbing ability. But it should be an austerity to reach Vrindaban and we should not be bothered by the access routes. Srila Bhaktipada eventually wants to build a bridge across the valley from the Palace. We hope to see that happen next summer. After that, what? The main principle is always chant Hare Krishna and be happy!


Jaya Jagannatha


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