Srila Prabhupada, once upon arriving in Mayapur, went to his quarters, in a relaxed mood leaned back and put his legs on the desk. He then drank water and remarked “Ah Mayapur water” “Mayapur is the spiritual world! Living or dying in Mayapur is the same!” “When we live in Mayapur we are in the spiritual world! When we die in Mayapur we return to the spiritual world” – (HH JPS, Vyasa Puja offering from GBC). From this quote of Srila Prabhupada it seems that simply living in holy places like Mayapur has a tremendous effect on one’s consciousness both in this life and in the next.
Let’s look what the previous acharyas and the scriptures are saying about the purifying power of holy dhams. Srila Rupa Goswami has described Mathura mandala “I remember the Lord standing by the banks of the Yamunä River, so beautiful amid the kadamba trees, where many birds are chirping in the gardens. And these impressions are always giving me transcendental realization of beauty and bliss”. Srila Prabhupada comments on this quote of Srila Rupa Goswami by saying that this feeling described above is felt even by non-devotees. The places in the eighty four square mile district of Mathura are so beautifully located on the Yamuna river bank that anyone who goes there will never like to go back to material world. This proves that both Mathura and Vrindavan are situated transcendentally and one’s transcendental feelings are immediately aroused without fail after one arrives in Mathura and Vrindavan (NOD Ch 12).
The following statement in Padma Purana brings out the importance of living in holy places like Mathura or Dvaraka. “To travel to different places of pilgrimage means to attain emancipation from material bondage. This emancipation, however, is not the highest perfectional stage. After attaining this liberated stage, one has to become engaged in devotional service to the Lord. After attainment of the brahma-bhuta stage, one can further advance to engagement in devotional service. So this attainment of transcendental loving devotional service to the Lord is the goal of life, and it can be achieved very easily for one who lives in Mathura-mandala even for a few seconds” (NOD Ch 12).
What other proof do we want to understand the potency of holy dham, our founder acharya has confirmed it, previous acharyas have confirmed it and shastras have confirmed it. Now what are we waiting for, we should all pack up our bags, relocate and settle down in Mayapur or Vrindavan or Dvaraka or Mathura, whichever is convenient and nearest to us. After all we are practical people isn’t it? Thus we will achieve the love of God and go back to godhead. It sounds too simple to be true. Before we purchase our houses in the dhams, let’s take closer look at the same sources and find out what they say about what keeps the holy places pure.
Who keeps the holy places pure?
As the holy places are visited by millions of people, who actually keeps them clean. We are not talking about the environmental cleanliness. We are concerned about the sins that get deposited in the holy places. Srila Prabhupada mentions that holy places get piled up with sinful reaction of common man and it’s only because the devotees visit such holy places, they become cleansed (SB 1.13.10 lecture Geneva, June 1 1974). Now that we know the powerful holy places are kept clean by the visit of devotees, lets us take a closer look at the purifying potency of such devotees.
Purifying potency of devotee
Pure devotees of the Lord can not only purify the holy places but can change any place they visit to a place of pilgrimage. How is this done? There are two reasons to this.
Firstly, by his omnipresence, Bhagavan Sri Krsna is present everywhere through His potencies, just as electricity is transmitted within space. The pure devotees not only perceive Lord’s omnipresence but also manifest it, just as electricity is manifested in an electric bulb. They see the Lord everywhere, see everything in the Lord and feel His presence everywhere. The Lord being the Supreme purifying agent acts through his devotees and purifies the place where the devotee visits (SB 1.13.10 purport).
Secondly, the pure devotees, where ever they go don’t remain idle. They have no desire except to serve the Lord. That service is carried out by the process of hearing and chanting. They hear from authorities chant, sing and write about the Lord. By such pure devotional service they purify the atmosphere of any place (SB 1.13.10 purport).
Knowing the purifying potency of the pure devotees, it is the duty of everyone visiting holy places to find out such pure devotees and take association of them. If they don’t it, their visit to holy places is in the name only and won’t be complete.
Potency further elaborated
When we meet a devotee, his presence gives us encouragement. We can put forth spiritual questions and get enlightened and sanctified. Maharaj Parikshit when welcoming Srila Sukadev Goswami speaks the following verse which brings forth the purifying power of pure devotee
yesam samsmaranat pumsam
sadyah suddhyanti vai grhah
kim punar darsana-sparsa-
“Simply by remembering you, our houses become instantly sanctified. And what to speak of seeing you, touching you, washing your holy feet and offering you a seat in our home?” (SB 1.19.33)
From this verse we can understand two things. One is what should we do when we can’t meet pure devotees, we must remember them. Just that remembrance purifies the entire house. In case if we have the opportunity to invite such pure devotees to our home, we must offer a seat and take the opportunity to wash their feet.
Maharaj Parikshit continues his glorification
sannidyat te maha-yogin
patakani mahanti api
sadyo nasyanti vai pumsam
visnor iva suretarah
“Just as the atheist cannot remain in the presence of the Personality of Godhead, so also the invulnerable sins of a man are immediately vanquished in your presence, O saint! O great mystic!” (SB 1.19.34)
Through an analogy Maharaj Parikshit, brings out nicely the power of devotee’s potency. Just as demoniac atheists cannot remain wherever Supreme Personality of Godhead is present, in the same way our sins get removed in the presence of a pure devotee. Srila Prabhupada gives another analogy, just as ghosts cannot remain in the presence of Lord’s holy name, the ghostly sins of a person in the presence of a pure devotee. He goes on to instruct us by saying that we have to take association of pure devotees so that we are protected from the worldly demons and ghosts.
After taking association of a pure devotee, if we accept such a devotee as our spiritual master and surrender our life to that devotee, we will get assistance from him. Such assistance is as good as assistance from Lord Himself. By surrendering to such a pure devotee, our going back home back to godhead is guaranteed, although we have to do our part as well. When we become surrendered to such a pure devotee, the Lord takes care of the spiritual well-being of our family as well, just as Lord Nrsimhadev delivered Hiranyakashipu, the father of Prahlada Maharaj.
Superiority of the purifying potency of pure devotee
The above analysis, clearly bring out the superiority of the purifying potency of a pure devotee and also giving directions as to what one has to do after visiting a holy place. Not only does the person coming in contact with the pure devotee is purified, his family, his house is also getting purified. Pure devotee can create dhama environment wherever he goes, he carries such holy places and the Lord in his heart. We have seen this practically how Srila Prabhupada has created New Vrindavan Dhama and many such temples in the Western countries and transformed those places to a place of pilgrimage. In conclusion we can visit holy dhamas whenever we have time, not necessarily completely relocate to dhams to get the benefit. Instead, whether we are in the dhama or outside, we must take full advantage of the purifying potency of pure devotees of the Lord.
The above article is an open book essay on Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1.10-19, written by HG Adipurusha Das for the following question: “Describe devotees as personification of holy places. Compare the purifying potency of a dhama and a devotee quoting relevant sastric references.”