Parul Upadhyaya

Temple Of My Dreams

A young girl hankers and prays for association of devotees until a temple opens next door.
On 31″ December 1999 was my first visit to an ISKCON temple. That day, in Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha Temple, Chowpatty, Mumbai my cousin Shyamasunder Dasa was getting married. There, for the first time, I saw His Holiness Radhanatha Swami Maharaja. I thought that now-a-days when Indians are rejecting their culture, here was Maharaja, who although a foreigner, was so nicely teaching our countrymen their own tradition and culture. It was my first experience to see a marriage in a temple before the Deities and I liked the simple but beautiful ceremony and the devotional atmosphere. Later Shyamasunder spoke to us about Lord Krishna. I could understand only one thing from his talk that if we surrender to Lord Krishna then He will free us from all our sins. Then we returned to Ujjain.

Parul UpadhyayaI realized that I could find the answers to my questions only in ISKCON. At that time, I was 13 years old and I used to ask spiritual questions to anyone who appeared knowledgeable. But I was never satisfied. I would ask, “Who is the greatest God?” Those who worshipped Lord Siva would say that Lord Siva is the supreme, those who worshipped Lord Visnu, called Lord Visnu as god, and devotees of Devi said that she was the supreme. Somebody else told that Brahma, Visnu, and Lord Siva, are the greatest gods. But I would think, “How can all three be the Supreme God? There has to be one, who is the Supreme.” I would also ask, “Where was I before I was born? Where I will be after death?”

A few days after returning from Mumbai, my aunt, (mother of Shyamasunder Dasa) Devakimayi Devi Dasi, visited us in Ujjain. I asked her, “Who is God?” She answered that Lord Krishna is God. People so far had always been answering my questions in a round about way, so when I heard so clearly that Lord Krishna is God I became very satisfied. Still I asked her, “How is it possible? Lord Krishna is an incarnation of Lord Visnu.” She replied, “No, it’s not like this. Lord Visnu is an incarnation of Lord Krishna and there are three not one Visnus. This is the description given in Srimad Bhagavatam.” From that day onwards, I began to chant one round of Hare Krishna mahamantra. Even then, sometimes, I would think, “Is Lord Krishna really the Supreme God?”
Then one day one of my relatives challenged me, “We have Srimad Bhagavatam at home. But nowhere has it mentioned that Lord Krishna is God?” I said, “Perhaps you have not read it completely. It must have description of Lord Krishna as God?”
Then I went to his home to check Srimad-Bhagavatam for myself. As soon as I glanced at the first page, I found in the first line, “Lord Krishna, who is the caitanya of this world ….. ” I did not read ahead. The answer was staring at me. I begged forgiveness from the Lord that I doubted His position, but inside I was very happy that Lord Himself guided me to the proof of His supreme status. Similarly, once a friend of my father came to our house. He is very well read in Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Vedas. I asked him, “Which god do you worship?” he replied, “I am a devotee of Lord Siva.” “Who is God according to the Vedas and scriptures?” I asked. He told me that there are three expansions of Visnu coming from Lord Krishna and creation takes place through Maha Visnu. But the supreme Lord is only Lord Krishna.” When I turned 16, my father got me to Mumbai for summer vacation. We went to the temple and father took a subscription of Bhagvad Darshan (Hindi edition of Back To Godhead). Papa left me for 15 days at the home of my aunt and said, “Try to find out how much truth is there in this organization.” My father had lived in a temple since childhood and seen many frauds in the name of god; therefore, he did not want me to fall prey to some cheating organization. During the vacations, I would go with my aunt and cousin Shraddhaiy to Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha Temple. I liked the temple very much. My sister Carulata’s (Campaklata Devi Dasi) friends would also be very nice to me. One day, Campaklata didi told me that a devotee should be humble like a blade of grass. I tried to follow this principle. Shraddhaiy gave me a video CD of installation festival of Sri Pancatattva in Mayapur and another CD about Lord Caitanya. Campaklata didi told me about the four regulative principles and said that we should not eat onion, garlic, tea, coffee, chocolate, coke etc. From that day, I left eating these items and began to chant 4 rounds.
When I returned to Ujjain I told my mother, “I am not going to eat onion and garlic.” “This is a temporary phase,” mother said, “Soon you will give up these fanciful ideas.” I stuck to my vow and began to eat roti with pickle. When mom saw that I was determined not to eat onion and garlic, she started cooking separately for me. I would first offer that food to Lord and then eat. This double cooking, however, would make mother late for her office. So soon, she began to cook everything without onion and garlic. Thus, gradually everyone at home stopped eating them. I would read Bhagvad Darshan magazine daily both at home and school, and when I would come home, I would beg everyone, “Please hear me. Let me tell you what nice things I read today.” However, nobody wanted to listen.
In frustration and loneliness, I would daily cry in front of Lord, “Nobody understands me here. There is no devotee here. Why don’t you call me to Your abode? You declared that whoever comes to Your shelter, You forgive all his sins. How many sins have I committed that You are keeping me so far away from You? There is not even an ISKCON temple here, where I can get the association of devotees. Please Lord, help me, please.” I would worship Lord before going to the school, and do Nrsimha arati in the evening. I was feeling very lonely. People said, “You don’t eat onion and garlic. Who will marry a girl like you?” I would think, “These people think only about marriage, money, and job. There is hardly any place in their hearts for God. ” Only my father, nanaji, and mamaji supported me saying that I was doing the right thing. But I had no devotee to help me.

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One day a new biology teacher came to my school. Her name was Mrs. Wagle. I saw her wearing a tulasi neck bead and the ISKCON tilak on her forehead. “Are you in ISKCON?” I asked. “Yes,” she replied. “But how do you know about ISKCON?” I told her everything. From that day onwards, we grew closer and she became more of a mother than a teacher to me. I would read Science of Self-Realization and Bhagvad Darshan and ask her questions. Every Sunday, I would accompany her to Indore where the disciples of His Holiness Romapada Swami ran a center. On Ramanavami went with Wagle madam (Malinipriya Devi Dasi) to Mumbai. There her son and daughter-in-law were receiving initiation. Wagle madam son’s name is Dr. Ranjit Wagle. He serves in Bhaktivedanta hospital as an ophthalmologist. After initiation, he received the name Gauranga Sunder Dasa and my cousin Shraddhaiy rece ived the name Vrajarasa Dasa. When the abhiseka of the Deities was going on then my elder sister Manjari Priya said to me, “During the abhiseka whatever you ask from the Lord for your devotional service is very quickly granted.” I prayed, “Oh Lord! I do not want education or wealth. I only desire that you keep me in that place where I can find Your holy name and Your devotees.”
During the return train journey with Wagle madam, we met a devotee who had come from Los Angeles California and was going to the Ujjain Kumbha-mela. Her name was Vedavyasa Devi Dasi and she was a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. She came with me and stayed in Our house for a few days.
When my father saw her genuine devotion he asked, “Ujjain is the place where Lord Krishna had studied under Sandipani Muni, still there is no ISKCON temple here. Why?” “Very soon ISKCON will arrive here,” she prophesized.
By that time, I had begun chanting 16 rounds and soon appeared for my 12th exams. From the very beginning, I had excelled in studies, but I hardly studied that year. I had lost all interest in my books. All the time I would only read books of Lord Krishna. Within my thick Physics textbook, I would hide ‘Krishna, the reservoir of all pleasure’ and read it secretly. Moreover, I fell sick during the exams. When the result was declared, I had failed. I was shattered and cried bitterly. My cousin Ritu, who is also an ISKCON devotee, was with me at that time. She consoled me, “Lord Krishna never does anything wrong to anyone. You were topper since childhood because you used to study a lot, and this year you have failed because you neglected your studies.”
This setback helped me; my pride got shattered and I became more tolerant. However, I did not lose a year. Because of a new rule, the same year I got regular admission in M.P. board school.

Parul Upadhyaya-3In July, I read in a newspaper that there is going to be a big ISKCON temple in Ujjain. I was jubilant. Everyday I would scan the newspaper for even a tiny bit of information about the new temple. In the newspaper itself, I had my first darsana of His Holiness Bhakticaru Swami Maharaja. One day, during the Maths class in school, suddenly our teacher exclaimed with surprise, “Hey! Look there! There are the Hare Krishna.” I was so overcome with joy on seeing the devotees, that completely forgetting that I was in a class, I ran out to meet them. After speaking to them for a while, suddenly it dawned to me that my class was going on. Shyly I stepped in to the class. Everyone was staring at me. “Why did you go out” sir asked me. I replied that I wanted to see the ISKCON devotees. Everyone started laughing at me. Later I came to know that a temporary ISKCON temple had been built just behind my school. Nothing could stop me now. Everyday I would visit the temple with my friends and ask about the opening.

On 7th November 2004, Deities were brought in the temporary temple structure and construction began. On that occasion, I had my first darsana, in person, of His Holiness Bhakti-caru Swami Maharaja. Maharaja was holding something covered with white cloth. When he went inside the altar and the darsana opened, I found that They were small Deit ies of Radha Madana-mohana. The Lord had finally appeared in Ujjain! I could not believe it. Not only the Lord appeared, but I also found as my spiritual master His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami Maharaja, who had brought the Lord to Ujjain. What more mercy could I have asked for?
12th November was Dipawali.I told my father that I wanted to go for the Mangala arati. Papa took me for the arati and let me stay there after it ended. On that day, Maharaja gave the Srimad-Bhagavatam class. Since the class was in Bengali, he asked me, “Do you know Bengali?” “No.” I replied. Then he asked a woman to translate the class for me. I was very happy that day it was the first time Guru Maharaja had spoken to me! That day papa also heard the class and asked Maharaja, “How can we experience the spiritual world while staying in this world ?” Maharaja was very happy with the question and very nicely gave the answer. Papa found so much bliss in the Mangala arati that he felt as though he was in heaven. He also developed a desire to join ISKCON. He met Maharaja and then left his job in Reliance and became a full-time devotee in temple. This was the happiest occasion for me. Life has come full circle for me. Where initially I was alone in Ujjain, now I have wonderful association of devotees, Guru Maharaja, and Lord everything. Truly if we take one step towards Lord Krishna, He rushes to us with thousands of strides.
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