For the aspiring devotee who wishes to be constantly engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna the process of smarana or continuously remembering the pastimes of the Lord as he has heard from the pure devotee or the spiritual master in the association of like-minded devotees is most important as Maharaj Prithu submitted to Lord Vishnu Himself:
sa uttamasloka mahan-mukha-cyuto
smrtim punar vismrta-tattva-vartmanam...
My dear Lord, You are glorified by the selected verses uttered by great personalities. Such glorification of Your lotus feet is just like saffron particles. When the transcendental vibration from the mouths of great devotees carries the aroma of the saffron dust of Your lotus feet, the forgetful living entity gradually remembers his eternal relationship with You. Devotees thus gradually come to the right conclusion about the value of life. My dear Lord, I therefore do not need any other benediction but the opportunity to hear from the mouth of Your pure devotee. (SB 4.20.25)
As the month of Kartik came to end and devotees departed for their respective places the only means of solace has been but to remember their association and wait eagerly in anticipation to again hear hari katha in their association. After completing their six days yatra at Chitrakoot, Madhya Pradesh, with Srimat Subhag Swami, devotees arrived at Vrindavan for this year's kartik festival and fortunately they again had the good fortune of hearing from His Holiness Subhag Swami for over a week. Memories of Chitrakoot were still fresh even after arriving at Vrindavan. Of the fourteen years of exile in the forest, Lord Ramachandra along with His wife Sita and brother Lakshmana spent eleven years in the forests of Chitrakoot, which itself shows how special is Chitrakoot. His Grace Niranjan Prabhu and his wife Her Grace Mukunda Priya devi dasi, both disciples of Srila Prabhupada, residents of Chitrakoot dham, made the devotees feel more homely by their presence. Niranjan prabhu spoke about Lord Ramachandra's different pastimes at Chitrakoot and at the same time shared his memories about Srila Prabhupada.
Mother Anasuya, the chaste wife of Sage Atri, performed austerities and brought one branch of the Ganga to Chitrakoot where it is known as Mandakini Ganga, to assist her husband in performing his devotional activities. Anasuya devi also gave instructions to Sita at Chitrakoot on how to serve Lord Rama. Subhag Maharaj gave class right at the spot on the banks of the Mandakini where Lord Ramachandra performed His pastimes for the three hundred and fifty devotees from different parts of India and from abroad as well...yanti deva vrata devan...mad yanti yaji no 'pi mam and ask one devotee from each of the different states of India and from other countries to translate the verse in their own language. It was such a wonderful experience...it felt as if even though you don't know their languages still when they spoke you could understand what they were saying.
Ram Ghat on the banks of Mandakini Ganga, the caves of Gupt Godavari, the ever pleasing Kamad-giri or the sacred mountain on which Lord Ramachandra set up His residence - which is considered to be as good as Giriraj Govardhan in Vrindavan and many other pastime places of Lord Rama decorate Chitrakoot as beautiful ornaments which have attracted the minds of saintly personalities since time immemorial. Many ashrams would very happily and hospitably welcome the devotees and gladly agree to allow them to take prasadam which they provide free of cost to the sadhus every day. Lecture halls for the six days program as well as accommodation for the devotees were arranged at the Udyamita campus. Seminars on importance of devotee association, simple yet clear lectures by Subhag Swami, tips by Niranjan prabhu, fired up kirtans, chanting at train station and of course dramas depicting pastimes of lord Ramachandra enlivened the devotees. His Holiness Subhag Swami explained the meaning of go to dhama only for sightseeing....this is meant for those who don't know the real purpose of visiting holy places. The dhama is accepted to be holy because the Supreme Lord or His devotees enacted pastimes there and more because advanced devotees reside in these places and constantly speak about the Lord's pastimes. It is instructed that one visit the holy places because there one can avail the opportunity to hear Krishna katha from self-realized souls and enrich their Krishna consciousness."
Giving unexpected gifts to unexpecting devotees was wonderful...led by Kanupriya das, a senior yet very humble disciple of Subhag Swami from Australia, starting from jackets, sleeping bags, shawls, dhotis, sarees, bags, socks and paraphernalia of all sorts. After relishing the days at Chitrakoot Dham and carrying ample blessings and memories devotees arrived at Vrindavan on 10 November. With full enthusiasm we continued with kirtans, classes, offering lamps to Damodara, reading from Krishna book, sharing realizations to make the best use of our stay in Vrindavan , that too during the most auspicious month of Kartik. His Holiness Subhag Swami arrived later in Vrindavan towards the end of November and we were fortunate to have his association again after Chitrakoot. Bhagavatam classes in Krishna Balaram temple, morning and evening walks, Goshala kirtans...essence would be to follow Prabhupada's instructions.... "You are fortunate (having come to Vrindavan), no doubt, but don't be complacent. Try to do more and more service...hanker for more service.
-When Guru says something it has got some potency. As we see in the story about the South Indian Brahmana who was illiterate but was trying to read the Bhagavad-gita because his spiritual master instructed him to do so every day and just by trying to follow his guru's instruction he was able to see Krishna in his mind. Mahaprabhu appreciated him and said that you are truly reading Bhagavad-gita. It may seem very difficult to carry out the instruction of the guru but guru has already kept all potencies within the instructions- when one tries sincerely to follow the instruction then the blessings manifest.
- Vrindavan is the embodiment of simplicity and joy. Compared to me (in age)- all of you have a long way to go so my request to all of you is- please remain very very sincere- then automatically you will be enthusiastic (in Krishna consciousness)."
This year Kartik was a bit more special, more responsibilities, made new friends, old friends became closer and remembering all that we heard from Maharaj makes our smarana more sweeter.