Welcome to Shri Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan
Divine Glimpses - When Bihariji eats sweets.
Vrindavan is abound with tales of Lord Krishna descending into physical form to help out his beloved devotees. Some of the most famous ones are as follows:
As practicing vaishnavas we all have developed a habit of offering to the lord whatever food is prepared in our kitchen. We also solemnly offer bhog in the temples we visit, and partake it as the prasad. Even if we are not at home, may be traveling, or at a friend's place, or in a party we say our silent prayers before we take our meals - Shri Krishnarpanam - whatever I have, is offered to Lord Krishna. The practice has a great practical significance - we shall always be eating healthy, fresh and satvic food as stale or tamsic food can not be offered to the Lord. The important spiritual significance of the practice is derived from the dialogue between sage Valmiki and Lord Rama when latter visited the hermitage during his vanvas (exile in forests) in treta yug. Lord Rama asked the sage -Where should I live? To which the wise sage answered wittily, "You are asking me where should you live? Tell me where you are not and I will show you the place." Further elaborating about Lord's preferred places to live, the sage mentions the heart (or mind) of those who take their food only after offering to you as prasad, is where you reside with devi Sita and brother Laxman.
So we follow the practice. We ritually offer the choicest of food, fruits etc to the lord. Did we ever stopped for a moment to ask ourselves what is the outcome of all this? We are putting in so much of effort, incurring so much of cost; will He really accept our offering? Will He eat? OR more specifically Does He eat? We might have asked the question silently to ourselves and immediately brushed it aside fearing blasphemy, inviting His wrath for asking such questions. So the question never comes out of our lips and naturally we do not get the appropriate answer too.
Gwariya (cowherd) Baba, a saint of yesteryears residing in Vrindavan dared to ask the question loudly and that too in Shri Banke Bihari temple. During the morning Darshan time the saint, who always referred to the lord as his friend (being a fellow cowherd); loudly asked everybody present in the temple “Has any of you seen my friend eating?” So many people were present in the temple courtyard at that time the senior elderly Goswamis, devotees from far and near, ladies, children, sewadars and whomsoever you may think of to be going to the temple. While Baba repeated his question loud and clear to all, nobody came forward. Most of them thought Baba has turned mad. Nobody believed such a question can come from a sane person. Somebody sarcastically remarked, "Arey Baba, lord never eats. Just think, if he starts eating who will offer him Bhog? Everybody knows, He does not eat, therefore everybody offers him so much of Bhog. They are sure they will get everything back to feed themselves and earn punya at the same time by offering Bhog." They just laughed at Baba. True to his saintly nature, Baba ignored all the sarcasm and teasers and kept repeating his question. Now he started cornering senior Goswamis and asked them individually, "Have you ever seen Him eating?" Still nobody dared to answer. As baba repeated his question, a voice came from an elderly Goswami "Yes Baba, I have seen your friend eating." Hearing this Baba's joy knew no bounds. He rushed to Goswamiji, held him strongly from the arms, shaking him vigorously he almost shouted, "Tell me, revered sir, kindly tell me when, how and where did you see him eating? Your words are like nectar to me. Sir kindly tell me urgently when, how and where did you see him eating?" "Baba have patience, I will tell you every thing. Come here, sit with me. I will narrate you what I experienced here, in this very temple itself." said Goswamiji. Everybody in the temple courtyard fell silent. In fact nobody had imagined such an answer could come out for Baba's most unexpected question. Not only Baba, but everybody present was keen to hear what Goswamiji was about to say.
Goswamiji narrates his experience:
A few months ago, I was in the Sewa of Bihariji. I entered the sanctum sanctorum at the appointed hour, performed all my duties right from cleaning the temple, washing the floor, awakening lord from sleep, offering the kalewa, achman, giving bath, adorning with beautiful dress, ornaments, flowers, applying sandalwood paste, itr, snacks and beeri(betel). Having done all this I opened the doors for Darshan. The temple was crowded as usual, devotees were continuously offering their respects and offerings of flowers, Bhog, money etc. Temple was filled with the din of Bolo Shri Banke Bihari Lal Ki Jai! Bolo Swami ji Maharaj ki Jai ! Jai Jai Shri Radhe!! I was continuously on my toes accepting offerings from devotees, distributing prasad, flowers etc. It was all so routine that I had no slightest of hunch that it was going to be very special day for me, that I was about to have a divine glimpse, that Bihariji had chosen me to reveal himself. Such a fool I was. I was engaged in performing all the usual duties of a pujari mechanically. By the time of Bhog I was quite tired, I drew the curtain, closed the doors and cleared the floor of flowers etc to create right clean ambience for offering Bhog. As I was performing my duties, my mind strayed wild. I started thinking how wasteful it all is? We all are putting in so much effort to feed Bihariji, who is nothing but an idol, an inanimate object. How an idol can eat? Knowing it very well, all of us are still repeating the ritual of Bhog several times everyday. How foolish? While my mind was wandering stray and wild, my body was doing its duty lawfully. I do not know as to when I pulled up the tables in front of Bihariji, when I placed the Bhog on those tables, when I placed water etc. My mind being occupied by incoherent thoughts, and my conscious trying to repel those, it was a sort of war going on inside me. In such an unstable mental state I finally put tulsi patra (basil leaves) prayed - Shri Kunj Bihari Deva Arpanam and came out of sanctum sanctorum from the private side door, closing the doors behind me.
Now I had a break of about thirty minutes as singers started to sing Bhog Pad (prayers sung at the time of Bhog). During this time I chatted with some friends sitting in the Jagmohan. I forgot all about my dilemma during chat and became mentally stable.
As the singing came to an end, it was time to enter sanctum again and resume my priestly duties. I went inside unmindful of thoughts I had sometime back. But Bihariji remembered everything and now listen to me more carefully what I saw there. As I pulled the tables away, I noticed one of the besan laddoos was scratched. I did not consider it abnormal as it could have been done due to my own fault in handling the dish or may be the halwai's (cook) fault. After removing tables I lifted the water vessels to offer achman (drinking water). As I lifted water vessel close to the lips of Bihariji, I saw his face first time after Bhog - and I was stunned. I saw a few particles of besan laddoo sticking to his lips! Almost in a trance I went back to the dish and now I saw what I had not seen earlier- the scratch marks on the laddoo were clear imprints of a child's teeth! I again looked at the divine face, yes besan laddoo particles were there and additionally there was that charming, mischievous but reassuring smile as if saying - believe me - I AM.
Baba, I did not exactly see your friend eating but I can tell you He eats and He only can show you that He eats.
What happened after?
As Goswamiji narrated his experience, Baba became highly emotional, tears were rolling down his cheeks and he was almost sobbing like a child. With great patience and mustering all his courage he said, "Goswamiji, you have done a great favor to me by narrating your experience. This my friend Bihariji never eats with me. I always ask him to come to me and share the food but he does not come. I always thought He does not eat, He does not require food like all of us. But now I know He requires food, He eats also. Today I will see how he does not come to me and eats with me. The fellow may be going hungry all these days, I will see that he eats properly." saying so Baba got an earthen vessel full of sweets and stood in the temple courtyard, holding the vessel in his hand he started to coax the Lord to come to him and taste those excellent sweets. Now everybody was sure that Baba has lost his balance, how Bihariji could come out to him? The story narrated by Goswamiji was altogether a different matter. But Baba was determined. He continued his efforts to invite his friend, who was not able to come out of sanctum, He had his own limitations. Finally it was time for Bhog. As usual doors were shut, Bhog placed in front of Bihariji and priests came out of the private side doors.
Disappointed but not defeated, Baba sat in a corner with his vessel of sweets, still he was determined to feed Bihariji by his own hands and waited for Darshan to open again. The temple courtyard was full of devotees and nobody paid any attention to Baba.
A handsome boy, dark complexion, about 8-9 years of age walked down to Baba. In a sweet voice the boy uttered, "Baba, I am hungry. What are you holding in that earthen vessel? Why don't you give it to me?" Without looking at the child , Baba said, "No, No, it is not for you or anybody else, it is for my friend. He will come soon. I am holding it for Him, I can't give it to any body else. Try your luck somewhere else." The child giggled, "Look at me. Who am I? If I am not your friend, who else is your friend?" Baba looked at the boy. It was He! That enchanting smile, those big eyes, that sharp nose, those beautiful locks of hairs and .. and ..Baba was lost. the child lovingly shook him off the trance, "Baba, I am hungry. Feed me please. I am very hungry." And Baba made the child to sit on his lap and started to feed. Baba just kept on feeding the child and looking at His innocent face. Time stood still for him while it passed as usual for the world. It was now time to open the Darshan after Bhog. The priests tried to open the private side door but it did not open. It seemed as if it was locked from inside. They tried again and again but no chance. Confusion prevailed in the temple as how could it happen and what to do now? The child sitting on Baba's lap suddenly became restless, "Baba, I am getting late, I have to rush off." saying so the child jumped off Baba's lap and disappeared in the crowd. Satisfied Baba now came back to his surroundings. As he heard of the prevailing confusion, Baba walked up to the priests and said confidently, "Try to open the doors now, it will open." The doors were again tried and they opened this time effortlessly! On asking how he knew the doors can now be opened, Baba said, "My friend was with me, He sat on my lap and I fed Him with my own hands. As a precaution He might have locked the doors from inside while sneaking out. He got late and therefore all of you were put to inconvenience."
There was great thunder BOLO SHRI BANKE BIHARI LAL KI JAI and darshan were thrown open to the devotees.