prestalibhih sevyamanau smarami
"In a temple of jewels in Vrndavana, underneath a desire tree, Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, served by Their most confidential associates, sit upon an effulgent throne. I offer my humble obeisance’s unto Them."
This verse is a description of Vrndavana with Radha and Krsna situated there. Vrndavana is the name given to the forest where Srimati Vrndadevi (Tulasidevi) grows profusely. The word vana means 'forest.' Actually it is not a forest as we ordinarily consider a forest because it is very thick with green vegetation. There are twelve such vanas in Vrndavana. Some are located on the western side of the Yamuna and others on the eastern side. The forests situated on the eastern side are Bhadravana, Bilvavana, Lauhavana, Bhandiravana and Mahavana. On the western side are Madhuvana, Talavana, Kumudavana, Bahulavana, Kamyavana, Khadiravana and Vrndavana. These are the twelve forests of the Vrndavana area.
Within these forests there are tulasi plants and other trees also, but all the trees are living desire trees, spiritual. They can serve Krsna in any way desired. They have become trees by their voluntary desire. They are all spiritual beings, there is no force. Everyone has a particular tendency to serve Krsna in a different way. The trees and plants in Vrndavana are also living beings, but they are not ordinary living beings. They have decided to serve Krsna by supplying fruits and flowers. They want that service.
Everyone has got a particular propensity to serve Krsna in Vrndavana. Someone is serving as the land there. Someone is serving as the throne. Someone is serving as the supplying agent of fruits and flowers. Someone is engaged in His service as the gopis, confidential servitors. The cows, calves, everything-they are all different living entities. They are not made of these material elements with material body.
tabhir ya eva nija-rupataya kalabhih
goloka eva nivasaty akhilatma-bhuto
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
"I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, residing in His own realm, Goloka, with Radha, resembling His own spiritual figure, the embodiment of the ecstatic potency possessed of the sixty-four artistic activities, in the company of Her confidantes (sakhls), embodiments of the extensions of Her bodily form, permeated and vitalized by His ever blissful spiritual rasa."
The residents of Vrndavana are all also expansion of Krsna's pleasure potency. In one sense they are also Krsna. They are not different from Krsna. Sakti-saktimato abheda: "The power and the powerful, they are not different, identical." Just like the sun and the sunshine. In the sun globe there is heat and light, and in the sunshine, there is heat and light. So far heat and light is concerned, they are one. Similarly, Krsna and Krsna's pleasure potency, ananda-cinmaya, is known as hladini. Radha-krisna pranaya-vikrtir hladini-saktir asmat. Whatever description is there of Vrndavana, that is expansion of Krsna's pleasure potency. They are not different. Therefore in the beginning it is said, divyad, "shining," or "divine," "transcendental."
We should not consider Vrndavana as an ordinary forest. Here we have got Vrndavana on this planet. That is also not an ordinary forest. It is the exact same Vrndavana as it is Goloka Vrndavana. There is no difference. Therefore Narottama dasa Thakura says, visaya chahya kabe, suddha ha'be mana kabe hama herabo, sri-vrndavana. "When the mind is completely purified, being freed from material anxieties and desires, then I shall be able to understand Vrndavana and the conjugal love of Radha and Krsna, and then my spiritual life will be successful."
Our present position is that we are materially diseased. We have to become free from the material disease. Material disease means sense gratification, and the most formidable disease is sex. This is called material disease. We have to become free from the contamination of visaya, material enjoyment. This is the statement of Narottama dasa Thakura. "When my mind will be cleansed of all material desires, then I shall be able to see what is Vrndavana." It is very difficult to see Vrndavana with material desires. Bhakti, devotional service to the Lord, means the first qualification is to become free from all material desires. Then we will be able to see Vrndavana.
Vrndavana parikrama means the circumambulation of Vrndavana. In the Adi-varaha Purana it is said: "Those who visit, one by one, the twelve forests of Vrndavana go to the spiritual abode." The forests total twelve, and their extension is estimated to be eighty-four krosa. A krosa is a distance of two miles. Out of the twelve forests, the Vrndavana forest extends from the town of Vrndavana up to Nanda-grama and Varsana, a distance of sixteen krosa (thirty-two miles), within which the Pancakrosi (five krosa) Vrndavana town is situated.
Previously, the forests of Vrndavana on the shore of the Yamuna were all beautiful gardens full of trees of mango, jackfruit, apples, guava, oranges, grapes, berries, palm fruit and so many other plants and fragrant flowers. Because the forests were on the bank of the Yamuna, naturally there were ducks, cranes and peacocks on the branches of the trees. All these trees and birds and beasts were pious living entities born in the transcendental abode of Vrndavana just to give pleasure to the Lord and His eternal associates. The sublime nature of Vrndavana is described in many Vedic texts. The Adi-varaha Purana states: "O Prthivi (Mother Earth), this twelfth forest, Vrndavana, is the destroyer of all vices and is protected by Vrndadevi. It is certainly My favorite place. Here I will perform pastimes with My gopas and gopis in the famous beautiful places which are beyond the attainment of the demigods."
Vrndavana is described in the Skanda Purana, Mathura-khanda, as follows: "Vrndavana is completely under Vrndadevi's grace. Sri Hari Himself lives in this splendid, incomprehensible place, which is served by the demigods headed by Brahma and Siva. Extending over a wide area, Vrndavana is decorated with forests of tulasi and the asramas of saints. Vrndavana is as dear to Govinda as Laksmi is to Visnu. Surrounded by His cowherd boys and cows, Madhava sports in Vrndavana with Balarama. 0 what a beautiful place is Vrndavana where Govardhana mountain along with many other holy places created by Lord Visnu are situated."
Then in the Padma Purayta it is stated: "Vrndavana is filled with transcendental bliss. It destroys the greatest sins and miseries. Simply by living there one is awarded liberation." Vrndavana is not polluted. Instead, Vrndavana is always helping us. Anyone who comes to Vrndavana is helped immediately, even though he might be considered a sinful criminal. But if a person remains in criminal mentality in Vrndavana, then he will have to accept another birth to suffer. Then after that birth again he will be elevated ..
Vrndavana is also described in the Srimad Bhagavatam 00.11.28) in the following words: "Between Nandesvara and Mahavana is a place named Vrndavana. This place is very suitable because it is lush with grass, plants, and creepers for the cows and other animals. It has nice gardens and tall mountains and is full of facilities for the happiness of all the gopas and gopis and our animals."
In the Gautamlya-tantra, Krsna tells Narada: "Every part of this beautiful Vrndavana is My abode. Every creature or demigod who lives in this place will attain Goloka dhama after death. The cowherd girls who live in My abode are yoginis. The five yojanas of Vrndavana forest are like My body and the spinal cord of the body is the Kalindi (Yamuna) River, which flows with nectarean water. (According to Srila Prabhupada, a yojana is thirteen kilometers or eight miles.) Deities and other spirits live here in invisible bodies. And I, living within every being, never leave this place. My appearance and disappearance has been enacted in every age. The divine and glorious illumination of this place is beyond worldly vision. The glories of Vrndavana are beyond anyone's calculation. People say Vrndavana covers sixteen krosa, and in the sastra it is said Vrndavana extends five yojanas. Whoever has darsana of Govinda in Vrndavana never goes to Yamalaya (the abode of the Lord of Death, Yamaraja), but attains the destination of pious persons."
In the Skanda Purana, Narada Muni says, "In this world Vrndavana is the Vaikuntha of Govinda. Vrnda and other female devotees of Krsna also remain there. O Mahapala, those great souls who get darsana of Govinda in Vrndavana are the most glorified persons in this world." Simply by visiting the Deity of Govinda in Vrndavana one becomes highly elevated in pious life.
Service in Vrndavana Dhama (dhama-seva) Service in Vrndavana dhiima consists of hearing about the dhama, remembering the dhama, glorifying the dhama, desiring to visit the dhama, observing the dhama from a distance, going toward the dhama, circumambulating the dhama, touching the dhama, taking the dhama as one's shelter, and repairing, beautifying, and cleaning the dhama. Of these forms of dhama-seva, residing in Mathura-mundala is said by Srila Rupa Gosvami to be one of bhakti's five most important angas: Association with devotees; chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra; reading Srimad- Bhagavatam regularly; residing in Mathura, the birthplace of Krsna, and worshiping the Deity with great respect and veneration.
Recommendations for Dhama-seva Srila Prabhupada writes in Krisna book, Chapter 34: "The pilgrims take bath, worship the Deity, and give charity; they are also recommended to fast one day. They should go to a place of pilgrimage and stay there at least for three days. The first day is spent fasting, and at night they can drink a little water because water does not break the fast."
In Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada writes: "Those who have not attained the stage of spontaneous love for Krsna should not live in Vrndavana very long. It is better for them to make short visits." (Cc. Antya 13.39, purport)
"The system is that anyone [who] comes to the temple, he brings something to offer to the Deity. That is the beginning of love [to] give something. If I love you, I must give you something; and whatever you'll give me, I shall accept it. So give something to Krsna and take His instruction. If people take advantage, automatically he becomes devotee, lover of Krsna. That is the success of life." (Letter from Srila Prabhupada, 18 March 1976)
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