Two Sides of Kasyapa (Now known better as Varsana Swami)

As Taken from the Oct. 1978 Issue of the Brijabasi Spirit:

varsanaswoct-1978.JPG    lord-jgannatha-1978.JPG

       The following was compiled from an interview with Kasyapa dasa wherein we talked about how he came to Krsna Consciousness and about his two major engagements-dressing Lord Jagannatha and driving a bulldozer.          

I was always real attached to animals because that was the only kind of friend I ever had. I never hung out much with karmis. Even as a kid I wouldn’t associ­ate with them at all. My father never let me keep domestic animals. If I wanted a pet I went out and caught a wild animal and tamed it. So I had a bunch of wild animals roaming around with me all the time. There was a porcupine, raccoon, opossum and some tame snakes. Wild birds would come down and land on my shoulder and walk around with me.       

The other kids were always talking about how they wanted to grow up and become police or firemen. Somebody asked me what I wanted to do and I said that I wanted to find out about God. They said, “What do you care a-bout that for?” At that point I decided they were all crazy and I didn’t want to have anything to do with them.      

I went to church every Sunday and read the Bible a lot. I used to give all my allowance to the church. I couldn’t think of anything better to do with it. I didn’t want it for myself. But one day I found out that all of the money I was giving was just going to restore the church. It was a beautiful old church and they tore out all the beams and made it into some ridiculous-looking modern thing. I thought why should I work so hard and get all this money and give it to the church and they turn a-round and do that. They always told me they were helping people. So when I found out about this, it all seemed like a complete farce and I got real bitter about it.      

Then I tried being an atheist for a while but it just didn’t seem right at all. I couldn’t believe that man   was meant to be miserable. But I was really frustrated. I got myself into plenty of situations where I could have gotten killed. I didn’t really want to die but I didn’t know anything better to do. I had to avoid guns most of my life be­cause I knew that if I got near one I’d shoot myself.        

But I knew that if I stuck around long enough I’d find what I was looking for. I knew that there was somebody somewhere who would be my guru and teach me. The problem was being able to put up with all the misery. Even one day in the material world is hellish.         

Sometimes I’d just get on a motor­cycle and drive off into the woods and keep going until I couldn’t see any sign of human civilization. Then I’d stay there for a few days and pray alot. I’d say I know there’s somebody with me. I don’t know what he looks like or who he is or anything about him, but I know he’s here with me. I knew that was God and I desperately wanted to know how to reciprocate with Him. But in all my attempts I just wasn’t making any headway at all.        

Eastern philosophy appealed to me and it seemed like there was really something to it. I thought that those people took their religion very seriously.          

So I used to go out to a wildlife reserva­tion and read some of the Vedic litera­tures but I couldn’t come to any con­clusion. You can read the Upanishads but you can’t figure out what to do after that. There is no process recommen­ded.          

One day I was sitting up in a tree reading and this boy climbed up next to me. He had just recently run into the devotees and had bought a Krsna Book. He started telling me all about it and it was just exactly what I wanted to hear.        

After talking to that boy I went right to the temple. I had always had a long list of questions about God, nature and the absolute truth. I knew all my life that if I ever met someone who could answer these questions that he knew the true process of self-realization. When I came to the temple I asked all of these questions and the devotees answered them perfectly, one after another. There was no doubting then.       

I started staying at the temple but it was hard for me. I’d hardly ever been in the city before. They wanted me to go out on sankirtan every day. It was just a terrifying situation for me, being on the street and having to deal with people.        

But I was beginning to see that devo­tional service is so powerful that it can even change a person like me. I began to realize that actually I could make it in the city. That’s when Kirtanananda Maharaja came through and brought me back here.        

When we came to New Vrindaban I saw that here was a chance to work without having to contend with all the hostile people. I tried my best to work hard because I knew that’s what Maha­raja wanted. I didn’t want to be a burden to my spiritual master. So I wanted to work as hard as I could. I’m not very in­telligent. I can’t memorize any scripture. Some stories about Lord Jagannatha stuck in my head but I can’t re­member anything else.          I was given the job of driving the horses and later on got into this hea­vy equipment. We’ve been up here clear­ing land for the Palace for about five years now.         

 I could never understand why Maha­raja wanted to build Prabhupada’s Pal­ace on this site. It was nothing but an old dump in the woods. But when I did some exploring I found that actually there was some incredible land around.       

Maharaja wasn’t into clearing the land in the beginning. But as soon as we cut a few trees down it opened things right up. You could catch a glimpse of the view from here and he became very excited. We brought in the horses, oxen, tractors, the bulldozer—everything we had. We started clearing it out in all directions.      

Now you can see that this is the per­fect place. People come up and as soon as they see Prabhupada’s rooms they start crying. It’s just so beautiful that they can’t believe it.        

I could never think of a better way to try and .offer something back to the spiritual master. Of course, it’s not pos­sible to ever repay him. But I feel very fortunate to be able to work on this pro­ject.Besides that, the Palace has turned out to be much more beautiful than anyone conceived. It’s attracting peo­ple from all over the world. It’s become a center of preaching. Not just here— it’s helping distribute books everywhere. Our distributors are telling people that we have an ideal solution and if they ask where it is, this community is there to back them up. They can tell everyone about our nice communities like New Vrindaban which are living examples of the practicality of our philosophy. There’s a lot more potency preaching like that.          

As for dressing the Deities, it was just completely out of my mind. I didn’t think I’d ever have a chance. The altar is the last place for a sudra. But Maharaja made me do it, he forced me to. Of course, as soon as L started I became attached and didn’t want to stop. I always had the desire to reciprocate with God and taking care of the Deities is just like-walking into your relationship with KfSna.I started out dressing Gour-Nitai. But the whole time I was looking right at Jagannatha, thinking, “Boy, I’d sure like to be on that altar!” I’ve always been attached to big things-big trucks, big equipment. Big Jagannatha is the ultimate.      

Sometimes there is a conflict in my mind because these two services, work­ing the equipment and dressing the Dei­ties, kind of interfere with each other. That’s why I took the opportunity after Snana Yatra, when the Deities were away, to carve my own Deities. They can accept a lot of things which can’t be accepted by installed Deities, like unregulated service. If I come in late at night I can still read to Them or offer some flowers.        

Anyways, Maharaja told me that running the heavy equipment is carv­ing New Vrindaban.  Whether   we’re carving out the holy dhama or carving Deities, there is actually no difference. It’s hard working out here, blasting rocks, building roads and stuff. Some­times you can forget your relationship with Krsna. But I just keep on seeing those big eyes all day long and it keeps me going.         

I’d love to be able to do more Deity worship. But right now we have to go ahead with this construction work. We don’t know how much longer this mechanical civilization will last. We’ve got such big goals for this community that we have to do as much as we can while we’ve got all this facility.          

I remember when Maharaja first men­tioned bringing Big Jagannatha down to Bahulaban. I said that I was thinking of going the other way, building Them a temple out in the woods somewhere. He laughed at me and said, “Jagannatha is not a country Deity. He lives in the city. He wants everybody to come and see Him.”                  

Right then I knew I’d have to surrender to living in Bahulaban, which is just like a city to me. If that’s what Lord Jagannatha wants, I have to do it so that I can stay at His lotus feet.        

Right now I’m just looking forward to building Radha-Vrndavana Candra’s new temple. Then, when it’s finished, we can move Lord Jagannatha over to the middle altar at Bahuiaban. I don’t really like having Him over in the cor­ner.

Information and Links

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

Write a Comment

Take a moment to comment and tell us what you think. Some basic HTML is allowed for formatting.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Click here to login.

Reader Comments

Hare Krishna Maharaj,
Please accept my warmest wishes. You probably don’t remember me, but you were one of the first devotees I ever met at a Rainbow gathering many years ago. I lived in New Vrindaban during the Interfaith City of God years. I’m hoping to come to New Vrindaban this weekend with my two sons, Zeal and Ian, for Ghovardhana Puja. It would be wonderful if I might stop in and say hello. One of my earliest memories in Krishna consciousness is when you told me the story of Krishna lifting Ghovardhana Hill and saving the cows and the townsfolk. Hope you are well. Hare Krishna.

I don’t know how regularly VS checks the internet. I will stop by his place and advise him you are coming if he is there.

He stays in the woods just above Kirtanananda Swami’s old house across from the Palace in case I miss him.