With some reluctance, a resident invites all to come to the sacred land of Lord Caitanya.
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 Mayapur to the attention of the world. I hesitate to share Mayapur because I love it so much just the way it is.
But 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 Chandrodaya 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 the present age of Kali-yuga, Mayapur is the place from which all spirituality emanates. In the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya (lineage) to which ISKCON belongs, Mayapur has long been a most sacred place. It is the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, the golden avatar of Krsna who appeared five hundred years ago. Lord Caitanya taught the method of spirituality the Vedic scriptures prescribe for this age the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. And that's what Hare Krsnas do. We chant. We worship Lord Caitanya. So Mayapur is important not only to us, but, the scriptures tell us, to the entire world.
The Mission of Our Predecessors
In the Vaisnava tradition, a long line of great devotees accepted the mission to bring Mayapur to the attention of the world. In recent history, perhaps the most prominent was Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. By the 1800s, Gaudiya Vaisnavism had declined to a condition that was alarming to Bhaktivinoda. Deviant sects claiming to be followers of Lord Caitanya had obscured the essence of His teachings to such a degree that Gaudiya Vaisnavism had almost disappeared. Through his prolific writings, Bhaktivinoda Thakura reestablished the legacy of Lord Caitanya.
Bhaktivinoda maintained that the Vaisnava philosophy was nonsectarian 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 names of the Lord] will be propagated all over the world."
Okay, so that's good. It's important that people know something of Mayapur's 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, peaceful village on the Ganges, in West Bengal. It's amazing. There are basically no cars in Mayapur. There are cars that come and visit, but past the ISKCON property the road leads, a half mile or so, to the river, where boats cross over to Navadwip. In other words, the road's a dead-end street. A cul de sac. A close. There are a few dozen rickshas, hundreds of bicycles, and lots of villagers on foot. But no cars. An occasional bus delivers passengers to the river, turns around, and comes back.
At the moment in Mayapur it's monsoon season. As I write, the rain is falling softly, and a cool breeze is lifting the curtains. It's so incredible: 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.
As the rain drips 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's 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 the mind, in the heart.
That leads me back to the initial goal here: bringing Mayapur to world attention. When I write about Mayapur, I can capture only a tiny portion of its beauty, its lushness, its tranquility its personality. It's impossible to describe Mayapur fully. To truly appreciate its beauty, one has to be here.
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 in one of those towns, I would send photos home to my family, and I'm sure they thought the pictures were touched-up, 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 the spiritual world. The scriptures say that it's "nondifferent" from the spiritual world. That's no tourist brochure byline . . . that's some kind of important! The most important. How many places can claim that?
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 some forty temples, all with the same purpose: to propagate the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. That is the key to Mayapur's special-ness. No other destination can offer that.
The Essence of Spirituality
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 village. London, Sydney, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sweden 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 amid 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 tossed into a pool creates concentric circles, so a global community with its attention focused on the center can create an international environment of harmony. That center is the essence of spirituality. That essence is Sri Mayapur Dhama.
So that's the fix I'm in. This most stunning place that I call home is something I want to cherish, to keep as it is, to protect. I love Mayapur as 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 it's the spiritual world. And in the spiritual world, nothing is ruined by being shared with thousands, or millions. Sharing Mayapur doesn't diminish or deteriorate it, doesn't detract from its beauty. Mayapur will expand, on and on, for thousands of years, into a place that the entire universe will know and love. Just as I do.
And I can't stop that expansion, 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 about it.
So that's why I want to tell you: Mayapur is the ultimate destination. Get a ticket, whatever way you can, but just come here. And bring a really good suitcase, because you're going to have to drag your heart home . . . it won't want to leave.
Braja Sevaki Devi Dasi is a disciple of His Holiness Tamal Krsna Goswami. She is the author of three books, and her poetry has been published in Australia and Britain. She lives in Mayapur with her husband, Jahnu Dvipa Dasa.