I AM PREPARING to go to Vrndavana for a pilgrimage. To travel thousands of miles to reach a holy place will take a lot of effort, and to live without the ease of home will take tolerance. The packing alone the separating out the essential from the nonessential makes me slow down and take stock of my life. Why am I going on this pilgrimage? I need to remind myself that there is no home in the material world. I need to remember how to use my time well, how to defer the invitation Maya offers at every second to slip into unconsciousness. I need to remember that Krsna is with me now, even in the West, even in my own little life.
Going on pilgrimage brings remembrance of Krsna. According to The Nectar of Devotion:
An unalloyed devotee who has developed ecstatic love for Krsna is always engaging his words in reciting prayers to the Lord. Within the mind he is always thinking of Krsna, and with his body he either offers obeisances by bowing down before the Deity or engages in some other service. During these ecstatic activities he sometimes sheds tears. In this way his whole life is engaged in the service of the Lord, with not a moment wasted on any other engagement.
Visiting the holy sites will allow me to immerse my thoughts in Krsna's pastimes and offer my obeisances to Him. It will release me from the day-to-day concerns that are background noise in my life. I will be able to move out of my plans for the future into the immediate present, where Krsna is with me now.
This is the essence of what I hope to achieve during this pilgrimage: to see Krsna's presence in the everyday. I want to spend each day learning to depend on Krsna, for this is how I can always be with Him. I should not need physical austerity or the objections of others to drive me to Krsna's shelter; I should be able to turn to Him in any situation simply because I love Him.
We can know Krsna in any situation, but we have to ask Him for His association. We do that by praying, by chanting His holy names, and by expressing to Him our heartfelt feelings. We also need the strong conviction that Krsna will give Himself to us. That is called asa-bandha, the mood of thinking, "Because I am trying my best to follow the routine principles of devotional service, I am sure that I will go back to Godhead, back to home."
Krsna consciousness simply means awakening to what is. Krsna wrote in His letter to the gopis that He is never apart from them. He told them not to doubt this existential fact. For us it is easier to realize Krsna's presence when we go on pilgrimage, especially to Vrndavana, where life is made difficult by the absence of familiar comforts.
* * *
I am writing this partly to forestall nervousness about going to the dhama, Vrndavana, Krsna's sacred abode. I can lose my spiritual conciousness just by worrying whether we will ever reach there. I can never have peace in my present material body and mind. Going to Vrndavana is not going to change that fact. Therefore, let me abide in Krsna by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
To arrive in Vrndavana is a great success. The dhama offers blessings to the pilgrim. But even the preparation and travel to get there is important. The pilgrim is always advancing advancing toward surrender to the dhama and to Krsna. Lord Caitanya taught that while chanting we should think ourselves lower than a blade of grass and should be more tolerant than a tree. Then no one can obstruct us from our constant chanting. To truly approach the dhama we must enter this state of mind.
* * *
Also we have moved on from our campground in northern France and we are on our way. The internal journey is not a fragile state I will lose at someone's whimsical words. It doesn't depend on whether our plane connections go smoothly or I am surrounded by gentle friends or the prasadam is hot or the pen refills remembered. These are not what I depend on to practice Krsna consciousness.
I am going home. I will have to travel so far to recognize that my home is in Krsna and that Krsna is everywhere. I will have to travel so far to remember that the material world offers no home, no peace, no shelter, no comfort. Whatever comforts I am attached to serve only to strand me in a barren wasteland of godlessness. I will have to travel so far to see that home means chanting sixteen rounds and serving Srila Prabhupada, that home is not a place but a shelter in Krsna consciousness.
* * *
Special among holy places, Vrndavana is where Krsna chose to appear and perform His pastimes. Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to go to Vrndavana to add depth to our Krsna consciousness and bring home the reality of Krsna.
Devotees from around the world go to Vrndavana on pilgrimage. They go to increase their chanting and hearing and remembrance of Krsna, and to share their realizations with one another. The sincerity of purpose one finds in these devotees inspires one's own Krsna consciousness. As the Vedas state, there is no point in going on pilgrimage for relief from sins if one does not associate with saintly persons.
The chanting is our way to be with Krsna wherever we are in the world. And Vrndavana is the best place to go to realize this. In the Padma Purana the Lord says: "I am not in Vaikuntha or in the hearts of the yogis. I reside where My devotees glorify My activities."
So let me go to Vrndavana and chant in the association of my Godbrothers and Godsisters. Let me travel the thousand or so miles to find that Krsna has been with me all along. And let me realize while there that I have no home in the material world, no shelter, and no existence separate from what exists in the practice of Krsna consciousness.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.