Are these Deities from all of your houses, please raise your hands if your deities are here. Are these all garland makers? Please raise your hands if you are garland maker.
When we began this temple we had Deities this big and they did not get garlands. Gradually Radha Gopinath and other forms of the Lord appeared, and it was the spontaneous enthusiasm of all the devotees that created this wonderful worship that there is today. It is not that ever there was an order what type of garland or how many garlands each day. This is just from the few people who began and the enthusiasm of more and more and more devotees to participate, that the quality and the quantity increased. Simple service but making a garland for Krishna is a deep meditation. With every flower that we string on the mala our meditation should be an offering of our love, our devotion to Krishna. Actually if you make even a single garland with that attitude your life will be perfect. One mala offered or made with that spirit of devotion and you can go to Golaka Vrindavan. But it is not easy. Actually making garland is a sadhana like chanting our rounds. If we can say one name of Krishna purely, we can go to Golaka. We are chanting and chanting with the intent that some day that name will come from our heart and our life will be perfect. Similarly, when that one flower strung with pure devotion, an honest and sincere intent is put on the mala, your life could be perfect. That is the power of bhakti. Even in such a simple service we can reach the highest perfection. In the spiritual world the simplest things are the highest. The Gopas, they decorate Krishna and Balaram with feathers, fruits, leaves and flowers. Whenever they find them on the ground, they somehow put them together and make decorations for Krishna and Balaram. The Gopis, there are so many gardens in Vrindavan. Pushpavan near Kusum Sarovar, where every day, just before noon, Smt. Radharani collects flowers from that garden to make beautiful garlands to offer to Krishna when He meets her at Radha Kund. The Pushpavan is very symbolic. The highest devotee, Smt. Radharani, at the highest place at Radha Kund, with highest Lila is manifested. She is plucking flowers and making garlands for Krishna every day for all of eternity. What is our qualification to make the mala for Radha and Gopinath, for Gaur Nitai, for Gopalji. Actually we have no qualification. In the spiritual world most intimate associates of the Supreme Lord are performing this service. But by Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, by the mercy of vaisnavas, even with our false egos, our material desires and our spiritual laziness we have been given this service. If we understand its value then we are really grateful. We can achieve the greatest benefit.
Sankirtan is the process in this age of kali. Caitanya Caritamrita describes that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, through naam-sankirtan or prem-sankirtan, He garlanded the entire world. Sankirtan means together. Together we are trying to create a garland by which we chant the holy names together. It gives the highest pleasure to Krishna. Now what would happen if all the flowers in a garland are fighting with one another. It would be extremely uncomfortable for Radha-Gopinath. They are arguing, fighting, envious of each other. But when all the garlands, not the one flower saying ‘I am the best, you are all inferior to me, because of me this garland is excellent’. If the mala had any flower of that type of false ego, it would be a disturbance to Krishna. Every flower in the garland is there for the purpose of the whole garland. No flower is thinking ‘ I am the center’. Every flower is thinking ‘to whom we are being offered is the center – Krishna’, and we are all united for His pleasure. The big flowers, the little flowers, the red flowers, orange flowers, yellow flowers, white flowers, there is no racism among flowers. Not that I am whiter than you, I am bigger than you. All the flowers are ‘Achintya bheda-abheda’. They are simultaneously one and different. One in the sense that they are all united for the pleasure of Radharani and Krishna, and different in the sense that according to their capacity they are contributing their own beauty, their own softness, their own fragrance, and they are helping to make each other beautiful. A wonderful garland is where every flower is enchancing the beauty of every other flower. Not where one flower is trying to take the attention from all others. Simply by studying very carefully, philosophically, analytically, emotionally the nature of the single garland we can understand the inner truths of bhakti.
“patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhakta prayacchati”
Krishna tells “offer me with love and devotion, a flower, a fruit, little water, even a leaf; and I will accept it”. Everything is based on our devotion. Symptom of our devotion is our willingness to humble ourselves to be united for the service of Krishna. if you want to be great there is no place for you in Vrindavan or Vaikuntha. Because in the spiritual world it is a society where everyone is thinking everyone else is greater than me. Srila Prabhupada says ‘that is Vaikuntha consciousness – every other devotee is better than me, let me assist them, let me help them, let me harmonize with them’. That is devotion, because that is the consciousness that pleases Krishna. Selfishness, egotisms has no place in the spiritual world and it should be seen as the greatest distraction for our own spiritual development. But the tendency is to become caught up by the illusions of maya and we strive to achieve what is the absolute worst thing for our welfare. That is how maya breaks us, breaks our communities and breaks the chance of the world to receive bhakti. And we should know that the consciousness that you thread each flower is what Krishna accepts, not what everybody sees. Devotee may say that is the nicest garland I have ever seen, offered to Gopinath. But if you thread the flowers on it with ego, with bad feelings towards others in your mind while you are doing it, with selfishness; while others are saying ‘O it is a beautiful garland’, Gopinath would rather have thorns and prickers put on Him – ugly rotten thorns and prickers. That is the way He sees it. Because He sees the devotion, He feels the devotion, not what it looks like. Of course our devotion is to try to make it look as best as possible. We will not put thorns and prickers on the garland and call it love and devotion. We will get the best possible flowers and put them in the best possible combinations with the best possible consciousness. Selfish desires, envy towards others, parjalpa while making garlands, is like a poison. It is like giving nice sweet rice to Krishna and putting poison in it. He will not enjoy it.
So our temple is for one purpose only to help people realize how to love Krishna. When we offer beautiful cloths, beautiful garlands, beautiful ornaments to the Deities it attracts people to Krishna. Actually it is preaching. People see how these devotees are taking so much care, so much time, God must be in this form. They would not be doing this for a statue, otherwise they would be getting paid for it. So by doing the best we can, we actually attract people’s consciousness to begin to appreciate Krishna in His Personal Form. But the consciousness with which we make these garlands is what is going to have the potency to actually affect people’s hearts. To the degree we offer our service with pure devotion, to that degree anyone who appreciates it, makes great spiritual progress. Whereas if we offer something in a very material state of consciousness, people who appreciate it will make very little progress.
Garland is a special part of our tradition. It is the way we honor special guests. It is the way we honor the spiritual master and the vaisnavas. It is a form of worship. It is a form of appreciation. Deities are getting two garlands every day – Morning before Mangal Arati, and before the Shringar Dharshan. But just to humble you, when I was Pujari, when we woke them up in the afternoon, we also gave them new garlands. Even Radha Vrindavan Chandar, when I was pujari, we have before Mangal Arati, Sringar darshan, then we put them to rest, we changed all their cloths and gave them new garlands every afternoon also. I think you should consult others, especially the treasurer. But it’s wonderful how worship is increasing so beautifully. And it is so nice to see how you are all doing your seva at home. I am very happy for this day, because now if any of you will invite me to your house, I can say I have already been there. But the spirit of ladies coming together every morning, every evening, working for hours and hours to do this humble service for the Deities and for Srila Prabhupada, it is very beautiful to see a very simple part of the heart of our temple. Many visitors from other places, they speak with great appreciation for the garland makers. Just to see every one coming, working hour after hour after hour. Even people coming from long distances almost every day, just to be together with devotees to serve Radharani and Gopinath. Very simple, very deep, very wonderful. Soon we will be having Pushya-abhishek, where hundreds and hundreds of members of the congregation are allowed to also participate in this service.
Gopal’s Garden – all our children are like flowers, Gopal’s Fun School also. Bringing all these children together to make them into a beautiful garland to offer to Krishna. Planting the seeds, offering the water, pulling the weeds, putting the natural fertilizers just to make that flower grow. You should meditate on the miracle of every flower you string on that garland. It is a living miracle. It is coming out of the ground, grows with water, with sunlight, with earth, with fertilizer to a brilliant color, nectarine fragrance, lovely texture, so beautiful. Then little bee comes on it, takes its …… and puts it on another. The wind may also spread the ………. from one flower to another. The flowers have babies. It is like that. Every flower is actually a baby of a mother. It is Krishna’s miracle. One of the beautiful things I appreciate about flowers and garlands is how within a day they wilt and become soggy and lose their fragrance, lose their color, lose their texture and nobody wants them. Is not that wonderful? It is so metaphorical to a life. Everything in this world like a flower begins as a seed. Every living being begins like a seed and starts to grow as a sprout, then blossoms, then wilts and dies finally. But Krishna accepts the essence. This body does not last much longer than a flower garland from the perspective of eternity. The amount of time that a flower garland wilts and is no longer nice in our vision, is really a long time compared to our time from the perspective of Lord Brahma. Our whole life span is not even a second from his perspective, and all the aging and wilting and everything. So a devotee is sargrahi. All he is concerned with is the essence, seeking the essence of life, seeking the essence of everything we see. And what is the essence? The essence is that everything is connected to Krishna. The essence is eternal. The essence cannot be wilted by time. “…………………….” When you offer a garland to Krishna, or you put a flower, when you offer one flower, some people thread the flowers, other tie the flowers, according to your tradition of garland making. Did you ever see those malas when they tie, with little string they tie each flower – very strong garlands. And every time you place one on, the act of devotion is eternal. Whatever you offer to Krishna that investment of devotion will never wilt, will never be lost. It is ever fresh and forever. That is the beauty of bhakti.
Thank you very much, Hare Krishna.