The title of the book you are now reading, Nava-vraja-mahimā, when rendered in English becomes “The Glories of New Vraja-dhāma.” I originally conceived of itas a booklet, meant to guide devotees visiting the holy places of New Vraja-dhāma, ISKCON’s rural community in Hungary.
As you must have noticed, the book has
grown in size since its inception and would now likely require a small
handcart for eager pilgrims to be able to transport it from one pastime
place to another! Nonetheless, it still serves its original purpose of
extolling New Vraja-dhāma by praising its presiding Deities,
Rādhā-Śyāmasundara, and by narrating the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes
in His eternal abode, Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma.
Texts that glorify the holy abodes (dhāmas) of the Lord are called dhāma-māhātmyas. Two prime examples of this genre of devotional literature are Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Mathurā-māhātmya and Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Navadvīpa-dhāma-māhātmya. Both of these books establish the sanctity of the dhāmas they depict–Vṛndāvana and Navadvīpa respectively–by citing Purāṇic praise of the dhāmas
themselves as well as the pastime places within their boundaries. There
is, however, an interesting difference between the two. Mathurā-māhātmya is an unordered compendium of scriptural references to the pastime places it describes, while Navadvīpa-dhāma-māhātmya chronicles
the Lord’s pastimes and the places at which they occurred by following
the sequence in which pilgrims visit those places as they circumambulate
the dhāma. Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda also recounts the personal
spiritual reflections he gleans from circumambulating Navadvīpa in an
appendix to Navadvīpa-dhāma-māhātmya that he calls Navadvīpa-bhāva-taraṅga.
Despite their stylistic differences, the transcendental benefit readers derive from these two types of māhātmyas is the same. They act as practical guidebooks to the dhāma,
and at the same time they aid pilgrims in immersing their thoughts in
the Lord’s glories. For that reason, devotees who do not travel to the dhāma
can also derive transcendental benefit by circumambulating the holy
places in their minds as they meditate on both the Lord’s pastimes and
the dhāma’s glories as they are recounted in sacred texts of this nature.
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Sivarama Swami’s talk at Birmingham temple on his writing of Nava Vraja Mahima and the Vraja Vasis.
Excerpt: “It was Srila Prabhupada’s
desire that one of the ways in which we have to take responsibility for
giving Krsna Consciousness to others and glorifying Krsna is to write
books. So I’ve been trying to do that for the last almost 15 years, and
this particular book relates to the establishment of Vrndavana
in Hungary – it’s called New Varja Dhama – some of you have been there
and visited, if not then please try to do so sometime.
We tired to model it on a smaller
version of Bhauma Vrndavana, which is Vrndavna in India. And not only in
terms of having a temple, but also the different pastime places, or at
least the major pastime places, also being established in terms of
small memorials or hills, gardens, kunds, and a Goverdhana Hill,
Nandagram, and Varsana, these things are all there on a smaller scale
than what you see in India.
The idea being that it helps fix the
reality of the fact that wherever Krsna is, that’s a holy place. And
it’s a holy place whihc is a tangible reality and a holy place which has
all of Krsna’s pastime places. And so the book’s then about not only
how originally and historically it was established, getting on for
15-16 years ago, but actually how one can also do parikrama there in the
same way that one does parikrama in Vrndavana.”
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From part one of Sivarama Swami’s talk in South London.
Excerpt: “I’ll just give a short introduction, then perhaps speak from the book itself. In Hungary in 1996 we installed Deities of Radha Syamasundara in a newly constructed temple on what we have at present – about 650 acres of land.
In Krsna Valley, but now it’s spread to the next valley over, so maybe in the future it will be Krsna valleys. The idea was to fulfil Srila Prabhupada’s desire, which was to actually establish a self-sufficient farming community based on his principles of simple living and high thinking.
The high thinking part is very easy. Thinking is usually easy, high or low; but simple living, that’s very difficult. Especially for those who are used to living under these conditions, by these conditions I mean living in cities. So I hope the example isn’t relevant to any of you, but it’s like being a drug addict. Drug addicts have great difficulty giving up drugs, especially when they’re on heavy drugs, so our post modern materialistic society is a very heavy drug and it’s extremely difficult to give it up.”