Thursday, February 5, 2009


Touch of the Brajabasi: Prologue
Read the Introduction 


In the golden morning, I sat in a wooden chair amidst the rooftop maze of the brahmacari asram in Chowpatty, facing Radhanath Swami’s room. I basked in the quiet. I reveled in the feeling of waiting to see my spiritual master.

Maharaj emerged in his saffron robes from around a maze corner and smiled to see me. “Ah yes, please come in,” he said.

“Maharaj, I just came to give you this letter. That’s all.” I said.

He gestured to the floor, “Please, sit, Bhakti,” he said, and he settled to the bamboo mats.

“O-okay,” I said, and sat across from him. The walls were covered in beautiful terra cotta swathes of cow dung. Pictures of the seven deities of Vrindavan hung on the wall.

“Maharaj, I am leaving for Vrindavan tomorrow. It will be my first time in the holy dham,”

“Really?” he said.

“Yes. Please, I ask for your blessings to appreciate the holy dham. What are your thoughts?”

He contemplated for long moments. He then spoke with soft deliberation, “Seek out those who are living pure lives. You can socialize anywhere in the world, but Vrindavan is special, it is the holy dham. Seek out the association of the Vaishnavas who inspire you and will guide you.”

“I shall,” I said softly.

As I lived in Vrindavan for the next month and a half, his words echoed within me. For the first full month, I struggled daily to appreciate the holy dham – the streets, the temples, and most of all the people. I just didn’t connect with anything. My mind mostly raged with grievances of the pollution and the poverty, and doubts if this land was holy at all. I saw temples as businesses, every street as a ghetto, every beggar an exploiter of charity. 

I had come during the holiest – and thus the busiest – month of the year, Kartik. When it ended, and Vrindavan slowed to its usual pace of a busy village, I began to see things I had never seen before.

I saw how hard my heart truly was.

Brajabasi means a ‘resident of Vrindavan (Braja)’. Somehow, the Brajabasis who lived pure lives reached out to touch me, they inspired me, and they guided me. They touched my heart in some deep way, softened it, changed it somehow. I’m still trying to understand.

The following three stories are my brushes of fate with the residents of Braja.  

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