The Holy Land’s Winterland

 by Sucitra devi dasi (From the Feb.1978 Issue of Brijabasi Spirit)
“Where once the forest thicket flourished black, bare trees sleep, forgetful and still.”
It seems on first sight that the herds of young deer that gather around Srila Prabhupada’s Palace are sages, rather than ordinary forest animals. They do, in fact, emanate a most attractive efful­gence, and their large, black eyes show no fear. Sometimes they simply stand and watch Kirtanananda Maharaja’s jeep as it passes up the forest road to the Palace.   They   don’t   run,   but   rather watch, as though all things concerning the Palace, as a matter of duty, must be known to them. It is a well-known fact that great sages and saintly persons, by dint of their mystic power, suit them­selves with various types of bodies from time to time in order to accomplish some mission;  therefore, it does not seem extraordinary to me that perhaps this is also the case in regards to the deer in New Vrindaban.

Winter is just the suitable time to ac­complish suitable purposes here. The special quality of winter in the holy land is its purity. It is no wonder that since time immemorial sages have chos­en to reside in places of perpetual win­ter such as the Himalayas. Badarakas’-rama, a famous place of pilgrimage high in the Himalayas, is even to this day the residence of Sri Nara-Narayana Rsi and Srila Vyasadeva, who are saktyavesava-taras of Godhead, and they are visited from time to time by such great person­alities as Srila Madhavacarya.

Summer, in spite of all its opulence and carefree ease, is burdened by a cer­tain degree of hubbub. Not so in winter. Just as the forest sleeps but dreams not, likewise, many distractions that waylay us in summer and steal our irreplaceable time .wither with the arrival of winter, just like the autumn leaves.

The cold, invigorating atmosphere withdraws the sap from the trees, and it seems that in some similar manner it withdraws the sap from sense gratifica­tion as well. Therefore, just as in winter the wise gardener painlessly prunes the suckers from the fruit trees, just so the devotees can prune the suckers of sense gratification from their creepers of love of Godhead which grow in this holy land of New Vrindaban. How unique is the beauty of austerity, breathtaking in its purity and calmness, and that is the beauty of this holy place in the winter.

Often times Srila Prabhupada describ­ed Krsna Consciousness as being an open secret. It is for everyone without dis­crimination, but it can be understood only by those who make the effort, just as the old adage “God helps those who help themselves” points out. And this is especially true concerning the pleasure of austerity. Winter is so kind as to make it readily available to everyone who stays in New Vrindaban—the pleasure is in the service, and there is no doubt that the pleasure is magnified many-fold. Per­haps the question will be raised as to how a material condition such as a drop in temperature and some snow can en­hance the transcendental nectar of de­votional service, but it can be under­stood that the added austerity is the cat­alyst that gives one the impetus for self-realization .

When the world of the forest is all but dead, and so many of the animals are deep in hibernation, the devotees here are awake and singing Lord Krsna’s praises in so many ways. The future of New Vrindaban, during the sleep of winter, seems conversely closer and more real than ever. On account of the serving mood being so intense, the intricate other worldly designs of the temples which will one day grace the rolling hills of New Vrindaban seem to tower above the busy shops and construction sites with a special presence. I simply wish ev­eryone could come and stay the winter and forever. It is not possible in this brief space to even hint at the innumerable treasures, great though sometimes hidden, that are the holy land of New Vrindaban.

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