Prayag the king of holy places bears the confluence of the three holy rivers of India the Ganga, the Yamuna and the subterranean Sarasvati. Recently, it also was home to a confluence of transcendentalists who visited the holy site to participate in the Kumbha-mela. The BTG team too decided to visit this great gathering of saints and check if there was something to share with its readers. What follows are a few reflections during our short visit there.
On our way to the mela site, we soon discovered that fees for local travel had in-creased manifold. Anyone in the travel business from the ordinary rickshaw wallah to the organized travel agent was trying his best to cash in on the opportunity. The sudden influx of visitors was all they could ask for. This was their share of the benefits of the mela, We saw some traders who had arrived to sell their goods. We saw some who were meditating by the side of the road, in hopes of attracting admirers. Some had come to Kumbha-mela for mukti. Some had come there seeking answers for questions burning within their hearts. Hare Krishna devotees had come to dis-tribute the holy name and prasada. I couldn't notice anyone unsatisfied. Everyone had their fill.
I was reminded of Bg. 4.11, ye yatha mam prapadyante ., where Lord Krishna mentions that He rewards everyone in accordance with the person's surrender. He allows jnanis to merge into His impersonal Brahman effulgence as per their desire and He allows different devotees in various rasas to enjoy loving dealings with Him as per their desire. Whatever a transcendentalist seeks genuinely, the Lord supplies. It was just like every-one at the Kumbha-mela was getting what they had come there for. In our prayers to Lord Krishna, if we pine for temporary matter, Krishna will give us that. If our desires are for service to Guru & Gauranga, we will be blessed in that particular way. If we ask for something else, as a kind father, Krishna will give us that. Thus, we need to be extremely mindful of our entreaties to the Lord. If we are not careful, we might end up in a deep state of remorse post-receiving from the Lord. If we exercise caution in giving in to the demands of our heart and follow the previous mahajanas during our prayers, we might experience fulfilling bliss in Krishna consciousness, thankful for what the process has naturally offered to us out of its own accord.
Our dip at the actual spot of holy confluence of the three rivers was not ordinary. We experienced satisfaction and certain purity on immediate contact with the sacred water. As we were being transported to the site in water in a small boat, we posed a casual question to the boatman – whether he himself had taken a dip there. His answer was a surprising 'no.' We couldn't believe our ears. This busy boatman was ferrying tens of passengers to and fro daily to the holy site. He had benefitted so many pilgrims but he himself had been bereft of the mercy which he had helped so many others to receive.
I realized that opportunities to advance in Krishna consciousness are plenty. In fact we may be surrounded by such opportunities all around us. However, we may not comprehend their importance in the midst of our busy lives. Sometimes, we even recognize what is important but we postpone doing it anticipating plenty of time in the future. We feel that right now is the time for sorting through more urgent matters in life. Time however is steadily advancing on its own course, not waiting for any mortal's permission. Very soon, I might find myself bereft of any such opportunity to advance. Thus, I thought – I have to learn to live in the present rather than in the past or in the future. The past is history and the future is a mystery. The present is all I have with me. I should learn to take every chance to advance as if it were my last chance. Every mantra should be chanted as if it could be my last mantra. Every service is an opportunity to offer my personal contribution for the pleasure the Lord.
On our return journey, I was happy that the Kumbha-mela had given me much more than I had asked for.
Nanda Dulal Dasa is a member of the BTG India editorial team.