Everyday at dawn during Kārtika, Śrīla Gurudeva and the sannyāsīs led the party of devotees on parikramā to the pastime places
of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. Sometimes Gurudeva listened to the glories of the places from the other sannyāsīs and sometimes he spoke himself. Śrīla Gurudeva often sang the following prayer, composed by Śrīla Bhaktinoda Ṭhākura:

rādhikā-caraṇa-padma, sakala śreyera sadma,

jatane je nāhi ārādhilo

rādhā-padāṅkita-dhāma, vṛndāvana jāra nāma,

tāhā je nā āśroy korilo

rādhikā-bhāva-gambhīra citta jebā mahādhīra

gaṇa-saṅga nā koilo jībane

kemone se śyāmānanda, rasa-sindhu-snānānanda,

labhibe bujhoha eka-mane

A person who has failed to worship Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s lotus feet with great care, which are the abode of all types of auspiciousness, who has not taken shelter of the dhāma known as Vṛndāvana, which is ornamented by Śrīmati Radhika’s footprints, who has never in life associated with Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s devotees, whose moods, like Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s, are very deep and grave, and whose hearts and intelligence are fixed in Her worship, how can one ever experience the bliss of bathing in the ocean of śyāma-rasa? Please understand this most attentively!

Śrīla Gurudeva then advised, “If you desire prema and entrance into transcendental Vraja, you must go to Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s pastime places under the guidance of rūpānugavaiṣṇavas. By the grace of the rūpānugavaiṣṇavas you will be connected to the līlā-bhūmi, and the eternally occurring pastimes of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa will manifest in your heart. While in the dhāma, don’t endeavor to gratify your senses; it  will result only in misfortune. As you wander in Vraja, model yourself on the Vraja-devīs as they absorbed themselves in Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, weeping in agony after He departed from Vṛndāvana. If even one tear falls from your eyes onto the dust of the dhāma, your parikramā will be successful.”

Sometimes while speaking, Śrīla Gurudeva’s heart would melt and he would weep profusely. Overwhelmed by ecstatic symptoms and absorbed in līlā-kathā, he would fall senseless. Remaining in this state for an hour or more, the brahmacārīs held him in their arms and fanned him until he finally arose and continued on parikramā. Śrīla Gurudeva would sometimes lead the pilgrims for a dozen or more kilometers under an unrelenting sun. Then, with his head in the lap of one brahmacārī, another brahmacārī massaging his feet, and one fanning him, Śrīla Gurudeva would rest a while.

In the evening after a day of uninterrupted parikramā, kīrtana, and hari-kathā, a few brahmacārīs collected gu, buttermilk, and capātīs from the homes of the Vrajavāsīs. The Vrajavāsīs felt very close to Śrīla Gurudeva and respected him as a wise elder of their community. Just as the Vrajavāsīs had respect and affection for Sanātana Gosvāmī and Rūpa Gosvāmī, calling them Baḍā-Baba and Choṭā-Bābā, similarly, Śrīla Gurudeva was highly esteemed by the Vrajavāsīs and referred to as Bābā or Mahārāja. The Vrajavāsīs all knew Śrīla Gurudeva, and it was a common sight throughout the year to see him on parikramā in various areas of Vraja-maṇḍala.

Sannyāsīs and devotees from various societies had great faith in Śrīla Gurudeva and his non-sectarian spirit. Thus many people from all over India would gather and perform parikramā together under his guidance. The pilgrims walked in procession, while the luggage and cooking paraphernalia were taken on horse or buffalo carts. As Sanātana Gosvāmī would go on parikra of Vraja and rest under a different tree each night, Gurudeva also stayed at a different place eve night with the devotees: on sool grounds, empty fields, dharmaśālās, and dilapidated temples.

Śrīla Gurudeva would send the brahmacārīs to serve the sannyāsīs and householder disciples of Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and Ācaraya Kesarī. He said, “Go and soak their feet in hot water, then massage them with oil. Otherwise, how will they be able to go on parikramā tomorrow?”

“By this kind of service to Vaiṣṇavas,” Gurudeva instructed the brahmacārīs, “you will receive their affection and mercy. Bhakti will never descend if Vaiṣṇavas are disrespected or neglected. Pride has no place in bhakti. One must learn to respect and serve all jīvas for the pleasure of guru and Bhagavān.”

In whichever village Śrīla Gurudeva chanced to stay, the surrounding Vrajavāsīs would come and participate in the programs, sing in the kīrtanas, and listen to the hari-kathā. The villagers would normally retire when it became dark at around 7:00 p.m., but when Gurudeva came to their village on parikramā, they would light candles and kerosene lamps and attend the programs. They would bring hot milk and capātīs or porridge as offerings to the pilgrims.

Śrīla Gurudeva said with gratitude, “My dharma is to serve the Vrajavāsīs, not to take from them.”

Paṇḍitas and brahmaṇas would leave their homes and listen to hari-kathā late into the night. Some Vrajavāsīs would ask Śrīla Gurudeva questions on various topics. Once, when Gurudeva concluded his hari-kathā before a crowd of pilgrims and locals, a leader amongst the Vrajavāsīs spoke up, “Bābā, you are always speaking of vraja-bhakti and the moods of the gopīs. What is the most prudent and straightforward process to obtain this most exalted aspiration? We locals are set in our ways. To what degree can we engage in devotional practices every day? You are a great ācārya and hearing hari-kathā from you inspires us all. How can we practically integrate these teachings into our daily lives? We will try our best to abide by your advice.”

Śrīla Gurudeva replied, “One who has desire for vraja-bhakti must follow Ekādaśī purely. On Mādhava-tithi (Ekādaśī) you should engage your time in worshiping Śrī Hari and fasting from grains and sense enjoyment, all the while cultivating in your heart the aspiration to attain Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s service in Vraja. For one who does so, vraja-bhakti is assured.”

Śrīla Gurudeva spoke in depth on the glories of Ekādaśī. The villagers were inspired and agreed to follow Ekādaśī, as well as to encourage others to do the same. Another Vrajavāsī then asked, “We took birth in Vraja-maṇḍala. Why aren’t our hearts pure and full of love for Vraja and Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa?”

“You have taken birth in Vraja because of pious merits from past lives,” Gurudeva said, “but you have been debased by undesirable association. A covering of māyā inhibits one from experiencing Vraja in truth. That net of illusion is attainment to material family life and sense gratification in this world, along with distaste for bhakti and Kṛṣṇa. People have made their homes all over Vraja but know nothing other than the four walls of their house. Since they do not frequent Śrī Hari’s temple, their inimical family members gradually convince them to leave Vraja for a more affluent city ”

Gurudeva continued, “Those under the influence of wicked company begin to think, ‘What is there at the mandira? Why should I follow bhakti, Ekādaśī, and all that fanciful talk? This is the modern world we live in. The place for old-world sentimentalism is rapidly passing.’ The homes of such people are like the dens of demons, where everyone is engaged in selfish enjoyment; while the homes of those who have faith and devotion become temples of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. Those people never suffer any shortage.”

“Nowadays, people say, ‘This place is mine. This is my house, my land.’ No one can purchase property rights in the Lord’s transcendental abode. Although living in Vraja, people want to make their businesses successful, to become wealthy and to live comfortable lives. As a result of pious actions in previous lives, one may take birth in Vraja, thus receiving a chance to develop pure love for Kṛṣṇa and consequently perfect his life; however, if one wastes this opportunity and engages in sinful activities, he will soon be sent out of Vraja.

“People who identify with the physical body and blood relatives as their own, but who do not have such feelings towards Kṛṣṇa, are not real Vrajavāsīs. Those who do not have Kṛṣṇa-bhakti, but who still proudly advertise themselves as Vrajavāsīs, are akin to cheating gurus who mandate spiritual procedures without following these edicts themselves. On the other hand, those who are truly Vrajavāsīs do everything for Kṛṣṇa out of spontaneous love. They see that their house is Kṛṣṇa’s house and their relatives His family. They celebrate festivals in their house for Kṛṣṇa’s birthday and the appearance days of His incarnations more lavishly than festivals for their kin. They don’t claim Vraja is theirs, as they know it is the property of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.”

“The potency of svarupa-śakti pervades Vraja,” Gurudeva said. “One gets the result of offering prostrations just by sleeping in this dhāma, and mere speech here bestows the results of hari-kathā; however, this only applies for one who is properly directed in his love and who is actually situated in the dhāma. Those in Vraja who have spiritual greed for Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s service are empowered by svarupa-śakti and become related to Kṛṣṇa and the Vrajavāsīs. Many people who live in Vraja do not understand this essential truth, and they worship various demigods and goddesses. Kṛṣṇa advises against demigod worship in the Gīta. He stopped the Vrajavāsīs’ worship of Indra and had them worship Girirāja Govardhana in his place. Real Vrajavāsīs will follow Kṛṣṇa’s desire by honoring Girirāja and developing attainment for the service of Śrīmati Rādhikā.”

Thousands gathered when Śrīla Gurudeva held programs in the different villages. The pilgrims and other participants were not concerned about giving opulent prasāda—they only wanted to receive the nectar of Śrīla Gurudeva’s harikathā. Śrīla Gurudeva would sometimes weep while describing kṛṣṇa-lila, and at such moments the audience could not hold back their own tears. Hearing his hari-kathā, the villagers realized Śrīla Gurudeva is a pure Vrajavāsī, eternally related to Vraja.

Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from: rasik@kripa.tv )