I have wanted to write a blog about encouraging devotees to come to visit Mayapur for a long time now. It’s a topic that is very dear to my heart because I never thought it would be possible even for me to one day get here; a lonely 25 year old barely holding on to her spiritual life. India just seemed impossible! I knew no one, and felt that I somehow wouldn’t belong. Just the opposite happened.
I threw my anxieties and inhibitions to the wind and started my new life serving Krsna in the Holy Dham… and I have never looked back. Now I want to encourage all to come to this most merciful of places! This article, written by Braja Sevaki dd., came to my attention just as I started to meditate about writing. It was written in 2003 for the BTG magazine but still applies today. Read it and get inspired. Life continues to pass us by too quickly; so please, take the opportunity to visit Mayapur Dham!
– Mandakini Dasi
This is possibly the hardest thing I’ve had to write. The Editors of BTG asked me to write some articles about Mayapur. “From the perspective of someone who lives there,” they said. “To bring Mayapur more to the attention of the public,” they said. Right there, that was the hard part — bringing it to the attention of the world. It’s kind of a hard thing to do. Srila Prabhupada wanted Mayapur brought to the attention of the world. He called it the most important place in the universe. He wanted a temple of unparalleled size, majesty and beauty built in Mayapur. He once said,
“I have named this temple Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir, the Rising Moon of Mayapur. Now make it rise, bigger and bigger until it becomes the full moon. And this moonshine will be spread all over the world. All over India they will come to see. From all over the world they will come…”
In Kali-yuga, Mayapur is the place from which all spirituality emanates. In the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya (or lineage) to which ISKCON belongs, Mayapur has long been a most sacred place. It is the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, the golden avatar of Krishna, who appeared 500 years ago to re-establish the prescribed method of spirituality for this age, according to the Vedic scriptures: chanting of the holy names of the Lord. And that’s what Hare Krishnas do. We chant. We worship Lord Caitanya. So Mayapur is important — not only to us, but as far as the scriptures are concerned, to the entire world.
In the Vaisnava tradition, there is a long line of great devotees whose mission it was to bring Mayapur to the attention of the world. Perhaps the most prominent was Bhaktivinoda Thakura. By the 1800s, Gaudiya Vaisnavism had declined to a condition that was alarming to Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Deviant sects, claiming to be followers of Lord Caitanya, had obscured the essence of His teachings to such a degree that Gaudiya Vaisnavism was practically non-existent. Through his prolific writings, though, Bhaktivinoda Thakura reestablished the legacy of Lord Caitanya, maintaining that the Vaisnava philosophy was non-sectarian and meant not only for Indians, but for the entire world. In 1885 he wrote,
“Lord Caitanya did not advent Himself to liberate only a few men in India. Rather, His main objective was to emancipate all living entities of all countries throughout the entire universe and preach the Eternal Religion… There is no doubt that this unquestionable order will come to pass… Very soon the unparalleled path of hari-nama sankirtana [the congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord] will be propagated all over the world.”
OK, so that’s good. It’s important that people know its history. It’s an important place, after all. But to bring world focus here? I’m somewhat reluctant. Mayapur is so incredibly beautiful, it’s hard to consciously take a step toward changing that. It’s peaceful in Mayapur. It’s a beautiful, lush, green village on the Ganges, in West Bengal. It’s amazing. There are basically no cars in Mayapur. None. Well okay, a few 🙂 There are cars that come and visit, but past the ISKCON property, the road leads to the river, where the boat crosses into Navadwip. In other words, it’s a dead end street. That means no vehicles. There are rickshaws (a few — probably around 50 on a normal day, hundreds on a festival day); cycles (lots — hundreds and hundreds). And villagers. Lots of those too. But no cars. An occasional bus that delivers passengers to the river, turns around, and comes back.
At the moment in Mayapur it’s monsoon season. As I’m writing, the rain is falling softly, and a cool breeze is lifting the curtains. It’s idyllic: fresh-smelling, picturesque, tranquil. Birds are singing, and that’s the only noise, besides the gentle whirring of the fan and an occasional distant train horn from across the Jalangi river. The rain continues to drip softly onto the balcony. Again I wonder why I would possibly want to contribute to attracting world attention to this pocket of the universe that is so blissful, it’s easy to believe one is in the spiritual world. And green — I never imagined a green so lush, so rich, so intense. And so many shades of green. I can’t believe anyone who comes here would not walk away with a stunningly beautiful impression forever embedded in their mind; in their heart.
I guess that leads me back to the initial goal here: bringing Mayapur to world attention. When I write about Mayapur, I can only capture a tiny portion of its beauty, its lushness, its tranquility — its personality. It’s impossible to describe. One would have to experience it personally to truly appreciate its beauty. Then again, there are so many beautiful places in the world. This morning I was looking through a magazine from Thailand. There’s one beautiful country. Or Indonesia — similarly appealing. I’m from Australia; where white sandy beaches and turquoise water is the norm, especially in the northwest corner of the country, where the Indian Ocean rolls gently into remote, still-untouched coastal towns. When I lived there, I would send photos home to my family, and I’m sure they thought the pictures were individually enhanced, because the colors were so unbelievable. So many places on this planet capture the mind, enchant the senses, bury themselves in the heart.
But Mayapur attracts the soul. Think about that. How many places can claim that? Mayapur is no ordinary tourist destination. It’s not even an extraordinary tourist destination. It’s actually the spiritual world. It is described in the scriptures as “non different” from the spiritual world. That’s no tourist brochure byline…that’s some kind of important. The most important. Mayapur is not only a feast for the senses; it satisfies the soul. The spiritual energy of Mayapur is undeniable. Along the main road — the only road — there are around 40 temples, all with the same reason for being there: to propagate the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. That is the key to its specialness. No other destination can offer that.
The state of the world at the moment is another factor contributing to Mayapur’s attractiveness. The world, in general, is struggling. It’s hell out there. I haven’t always lived in a peaceful village. London, Sydney, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Stockholm, you name it: I’ve seen it all. I’ve certainly seen enough, at least. None of them have the answers. They may be cool places; they may even temporarily satisfy. But they don’t exactly exist for the eternal benefit of mankind. The message of Lord Caitanya and the preaching mission of His envoy, Srila Prabhupada, exists to reinforce the genuine identity of the soul amidst a world intent on borders, boundaries, and bodily designations. Prabhupada’s International Society for Krishna Consciousness crosses those boundaries, fuelled by the most crucial element of Lord Caitanya’s character: His compassion for the fallen souls of Kali yuga, all of whom are searching for peace — within themselves and their environment. As a stone thrown into the middle of a pool creates concentric circles, so a global community, with its attention focused on the centre, can create an international environment of harmony. That centre is the essence of spirituality. That essence is Sri Mayapur Dhama.
So that’s my problem. This most stunning place that I call home is something I want to cherish, to keep as it is, to protect. I love Mayapur like I have never loved a place before. And it returns that love. Really. So why would I want to bring people here and “ruin” what is, to me, perfection?
Because, like I said, it’s the spiritual world. And in the spiritual world, nothing is “ruined” by being shared with thousands, or millions. It loses nothing; it does not detract from its charm, it won’t deteriorate or diminish, or become something less. It will expand, on and on and on, for thousands of years to come, into a place that the entire universe will know and love. Just like I do. And I can’t stop that, as much as I even wish I could sometimes. In a way, I don’t want to stop it, of course. I want everyone to see Mayapur, to feel Mayapur, to love Mayapur the way I do. When something’s that good you want to keep it to yourself, but after a while, you know that to really ‘enjoy’ it as much as possible, you’re going to have to tell someone.
So, here it is: Mayapur is the ultimate destination. Get a ticket, whatever way you can, but just come here. And bring a really good quality suitcase, because you’re going to have to drag your heart home … it won’t want to leave.
Back to Godhead magazine, Issue Nov/Dec 2003.