Mayapur residents speak about life in the holiest of holy places.
Originally from England, Krsna Madhuri Devi Dasi joined the Hare Krsna movement in Australia. She had lived in Vrndavana for a few years before moving to Mayapur three years ago.
IN THE MORNINGS I assist the pujaris, the devotees directly attending the Deities. I take care of the Deities' paraphernalia, set up the jewelry trays, make new jewelry, iron Lord Nrsimhadeva's clothes, clean the Deity paraphernalia rooms, grind sandalwood to make paste, and so on. In the afternoons I do secretarial service in the office of my spiritual master, His Holiness Jayapataka Maharaja.
Srila Prabhupada's mood of compassion is very much predominant in Mayapur. The dynamic energy of devotees engaged in spreading Krsna consciousness enlivens the atmosphere. Traveling groups are always going out to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books, and when they return there's a nice mood of appreciation from the other devotees.
Efforts to deliver Krsna consciousness to others are always expanding. Bhakti Purusottama Maharaja regularly organizes Bhagavad-gita conferences, where people who have bought Gitas from the traveling book-distribution parties are invited for a three-day intensive course in bhakti-yoga. There are similar programs for students. Of course, guests are always coming here just to visit, and devotees engage them in either chanting in the temple or writing the holy name in the park.
Because Mayapur is near the Ganga, the breeze from the Ganga is always blowing over us. Ganga-devi [the goddess of the river] is always chanting the holy names of the Lord. Therefore anyone who comes in contact with the Ganga or is touched by the breeze becomes enthusiastic to chant Hare Krsna.
The emphasis on teaching Krsna consciousness, while cultivating our own hearing and chanting, creates a healthy, balanced mood. We cultivate our attachment to the holy name and at the same time try our best to distribute the holy name to others.
It feels like we're in a spiritual oasis, insulated from the material world. Lord Caitanya is holding us up by His causeless mercy; therefore everything is so much easier here. As soon as we enter Mayapur, we feel lightness and relief, having come under the cooling shade of the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya. Mayapur is the spiritual world. When Lord Caitanya is pleased that we are sincerely taking shelter of and following the instructions of His pure devotees, then everything will be revealed to us.
Living in Mayapur has helped me so much spiritually. I came here during an extremely stressful time in my life. I wanted to take shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya, who is so very merciful. And His dhama, His sacred abode, is similarly merciful. When I came to Mayapur I felt protected and sheltered. Wherever we are in Mayapur, we can hear the holy name. Devotees chant round the clock in Srila Prabhupada's original house, tapes of his chanting are played over loudspeakers in Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi and in the park, and devotees are almost always singing for the Deities in the temple.
I have been able to appreciate more and more the great value of the association and friendship of the Vaisnavas. It's the most treasured thing. This society of devotees that Srila Prabhupada has given us is a precious gift. In times of need, especially, we depend on the mercy of the Vaisnavas. It's through the Vaisnavas that Krsna extends His mercy and kindness. We're so much indebted to Srila Prabhupada and also to all the devotees by whose mercy we're able to live here in Mayapur and attempt to render some service.
Before I came to Mayapur, Krsna took everything away from me, even the persons most dear to me. Within the space of two weeks my husband died and I lost my previous spiritual master. So when I arrived in Mayapur I was in a very wretched condition. Somehow I became the object of the compassion of the devotees and received their mercy. By hearing from the Vaisnavas I was able to accept everything that happened to me as Krsna's mercy. By taking shelter of the Deities, who are so very merciful, and experiencing so much reciprocation from Them, I've been feeling increasing hope, faith, and conviction in my Krsna consciousness. Although by Krsna's arrangement my life is much simpler now, I'm experiencing greater happiness and satisfaction than ever before.
Uttama-sloka Dasa is in charge of Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi in Mayapur. Originally from Italy, he has been living in Mayapur for ten years
SINCE I FIRST CAME to Mayapur, it's become much busier more activities, many more devotees, many more pilgrims. Mayapur is attracting the attention and interest of not only the people of West Bengal but of all of India. It's satisfying the spiritual quest of all the people who visit.
Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi receives an average of 125,000 pilgrims a month in the high season (winter), and 45,000 in the low season (rainy season). In the peak month of January, we have up to 350,000 pilgrims. On holy days such as Gaura Purnima, 50,000 people come in one day. We distribute 700,000 pieces of prasadam a year.
Forty devotees serve full-time at the Samadhi, and another forty are staff members.
Donations from prasadam distribution and museum tours provide enough money to maintain the Samadhi and the grounds.
I'd like to encourage everyone to come to Mayapur. It's a wonderful spiritual experience that's not to be missed.
I tried many times to stay in other temples, but I never could stay long. I don't think I'm very spiritual. But although I've often thought of leaving Mayapur, I'm still here. So Mayapur must be very good for spiritual life.
I can't compare living in Mayapur with living in any other place. I feel cared for in Mayapur. Despite my inability to dive deep into the essence of the dhama, I do feel that Mayapur offers a unique gift.
I have personal experience in Vrndavana and other holy places that it's so difficult to stay unless you're very Krsna conscious. If you commit offenses in the other dhamas, the reactions come to you like a ton of bricks. But in Mayapur it seems that no matter what mistakes you make, the Lord doesn't kick you out. There's always a second chance. That mercy is very tangible. That is my experience in Mayapur, and that's why I'm still here.
Sivananda Dasa, originally from Poland, received spiritual initiation at the age of thirteen. An accountant for the construction department, he has lived in Mayapur since October 1996.
Mayapur is the most Krsna conscious place I've ever lived. Everyone who comes here knows about Krsna. I joined ISKCON in 1982, when Krsna consciousness was underground in Poland. There was no question of giving Krsna consciousness to others. We could not even leave the house wearing a dhoti.
Living in Mayapur has made me more Krsna conscious. You can't forget Krsna here. And I've become more conscious of how Krsna fulfills our desires, whether spiritual or material.
For example, one day my wife was telling me stories about our Deities, which she has worshiped since before we were married. She said that every time she ran out of incense, someone would give her some incense, even though she hadn't asked for it. This happened many times, not just with incense, but also with oils and other paraphernalia.
I was thinking, "I've taken care of these Deities for two years, but nothing like that has ever happened to me."
Then the very next day, I ran out of incense, and a brahmacari gave me a gift of some incense. Krsna fulfilled my desire so quickly, making His own arrangements for my service to Him.
I was a devotee for ten years before my first visit to Mayapur. Once I came, I liked it so much I started coming every year. My desire now is to stay in Mayapur and be an accountant for the new temple for the rest of my life. Let everyone come and get their desires fulfilled.
Yamanuja Devi Dasi, the wife of Sivananda Dasa, is also from Poland. She is twenty-seven years old, has an infant son, and loves to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books, a service she has done since the first day she joined ISKCON, nine years ago.
Mayapur is an easy place for those who want to distribute books for life. Just step out the door and people are there, always new people. The Indian people are eager to hear from us Westerners. They want to know why we took up Krsna consciousness. In the West I often had to struggle just to get myself out of the house, and people weren't always nice. In Mayapur you don't have to make a special endeavor to tell others about Krsna consciousness; there are so many opportunities.
Even with a baby I've been able to continue distributing books. Madhava is helpful. He takes time from me, but he also gets the attention of the people. They come to see the baby and end up with books.
One time I was speaking with a friend near the temple, and a group of villagers surrounded us.
The eldest man, the group leader, said in Bengali, "Look at the little Vaisnava, and he has little tilaka [the clay mark on the forehead]."
Someone else noticed, "And he has little neck beads."
I took out a book, The Life and Precepts of Lord Caitanya, from between Madhava and his front pack and said, "And he also has a little sastra [scripture] for a little price."
They liked the joke and bought the books I had with me. I had to go back to the box and get more so that they could each get one.
My desire to do this devotional service has been fulfilled in Mayapur. I don't know if I'd be able to do this in the West with a baby. Here I have to make an endeavor not to do it.
In Mayapur if you make even a little endeavor, you feel very much rewarded. In the West I felt like I had to struggle more. In Mayapur, Krsna consciousness seems so natural.
One day I was thinking about how I had been neglectful in my chanting, and I decided to do something about it.
I prayed to Lord Nrsimhadeva, "Please help me with my chanting," and then I went to Srimad-Bhagavatam class.
After class, a Bengali brahmacari [male celibate student] I didn't know said, "Did you lose your beads?"
I checked, and I didn't have them. "Strange," I thought.
He said, "They're hanging on the gate in front of Lord Nrsimhadeva."
As I retrieved them I thought, "The Lord must have heard my prayer."
Since then I have really tried my best when chanting.
Any devotees with no particular mission in the West should come here. So many guests come that we can't
possibly speak to all of them. We need hundreds of devotees to answer questions, take the guests around, and make them feel welcome.
Originally from a village in West Bengal, Kamalapati Dasa joined ISKCON in Mayapur in 1992. He is the community's leading distributor of Srila Prabhupada's books.
THE DIFFERENCE between my life in Mayapur and my former life is like the difference between heaven and hell. When I was at home, I didn't have the association of devotees. I had no idea about the four regulative principles no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, and no gambling. I didn't know that Krsna is God. I didn't recognize that the material world is full of misery.
When I was living at home, I had no idea that there is so much pleasure in living in an ashram. I knew only the stereotyped life getting a job, getting married, and so on. After coming here, I could understand that there is a much better life, the life of devotional service.
I find a clear distinction between material life and spiritual life. In material life people are envious of one another, always quarreling, fighting. In spiritual life those things are not there or at least they are rare.
When I received my brahmana initiation, my spiritual master told me to live in Mayapur and preach wholeheartedly. For the last six years I have been distributing Srila Prabhupada's books. My main preaching areas are the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland. These places are in the Himalayan foothills northeast of Bengal, and they are all disturbed by terrorists. Though my service is sometimes dangerous, Krsna always protects me.
Living in Mayapur and distributing books help me understand the instructions and teachings of my guru, Srila Prabhupada, Lord Caitanya, and the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Mahamaya Devi Dasi, who conducted the interviews, is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. Originally from the USA, she spends most of the year in Mayapur. When she's in the States, she proofreads for BTG. She is compiling a database of Srila Prabhupada's disciples.