This is a copy of a map that Radhanath Swami drew in 2008 for some guests that were staying at the Chowpatty Temple in Mumbai. The little arrow points to a very special temple with very special deities who are close to Radhanath Swami's heart.
And so one cool Vrindavan morning, with map in hand, a group of us boarded rickshaws and made our way through the twisting back alleys towards Moti Kund. We deboarded at the vast and empty Moti Kund, and while the others sped ahead, I walked as slowly as I could. I breathed and soaked in the moment. Here I was, at last.
We walked around to the open metal gates, and entered a vast and quiet yard with a giant tree that loomed over the temple. Two boys greeted us - one was older (maybe 12), in his traditional clothes of kurta and lunghi, and the younger one (maybe 9) wore Western garb. The older boy seemed to be the pujari of the temple, because he ushered us inside, then circled around and opened the deity doors.
A picture of Ghanashyam Baba was on the altar, and the deities of Radha Gopijana Vallabha smiled upon us. I felt like I needed to sit and stay awhile, though, to reach any of the honey in this jar. So I asked if we could sing Jaya Radha Madhava, since one of the lines calls out "jaya gopi jana vallabha..."
After about five minutes, to our surprise, the two boys carried in an old, beat-up dholak drum and 3 pairs of kartals on tattered strings. The pujari boy asked me, "Harmonium?" Stunned, I bashfully said no. I continued to sing, this time playing the dholak. After quite some, everyone in the group moved on to visit the temple of Banke Bihari. Still, I was searching for the honey in the jar of this temple. So I stayed. I remained on the floor to chant japa.
From a nearby temple, blasted-out speakers played old recorded bhajans which spindled their way into the templeroom. The melody was beautiful. I kept glancing at the dholak. At last, I put aside my chanting beads and picked up the drum. I sang the the same tune that filled the air.
I got swept away. I sang and sang, and the walls of the vast, empty templeroom echoed back. I kept meaning to stop, because I had to meet up with the others again soon, but I didn't stop. I couldn't stop.
And then... the two boys entered the templeroom again. The pujari boy unlocked the Deity gates and went right up to the altar and right up to the deities to do something. Then he stepped off the altar, locked the gates again, and walked right up to me.
He held a kanti mala, a pair of sacred neckbeads, in his hand. The other boy looked on with a wide smile.
I stopped singing and the templeroom fell quiet. "I... uh..." I placed my hand on my chest. "For me?"
The pujari boy nodded.
I reached out a hand, and into it he dropped the mala. The string seemed so delicate, each bead handmade. Right then and there, I slipped it over my head. The wood was scratchy against my neck. I folded my palms to both boys and smiled, and they folded their palms and grinned in return. They they dashed off.
I continued to sing, stunned.
In reflection, I feel like what the pujari boy did was something Ghanashyam Baba himself would have done. Ghanashyam would have been so overjoyed that someone - anyone - would come to see His beloved Radha Gopijana Vallabha that he would want to reciprocate in any soulful, humble way he could.
Thank you, Radhanath Swami, for guiding me to that cool and quiet morning in Vrindavan. Thank you for opening the jar.