Raas Panchadhyayee takes place in Harrisburg
Hidden in the hills of Harrisburg, United States of America, the Hindu American Religious Institute (HARI) was a place of celebration and worship during 5 days for more than 600 Hindu followers.
Young and old came from as a far as London and India to celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘HARI’ and to hear the divine words of Pujya Bhaishri. Following a very successful katha in New Jersey, Pujya Bhaishri blessed the state of Pennsylvania by reciting a five-day Bhagwat katha focussing only the theme of ‘Raas-Panchadhyayee’ from the Dashmas-Skandh of Shreemad Bhagwat Puraan.
HARI is one of the two temples in central Pennsylvania that serve more than 600 Hindu followers from surrounding towns, such as Dauphin, Lancaster and
Cumberland. Despite being a small community, the Hindu devotees of Harrisburg spent much time and resources in making this event truly divine. The ‘vyas-pitha’ was surrounded by a man-made ‘Vrindavan’ forest with images of Krishna and the ‘Gopis’ depicting scenes from the ‘Raas-Panchadhyaya’.
Every pravachan began with a beautiful dance performed by the young girls of Harrisburg. From Bharat Natyam to Garba-Raas, each dance was carried out with great effort. At the end of each dance, the devotees fell silent as they listened attentively to Pujya Bhaishri’s pravachan.
Pujya Bhaishri spoke of the importance of understanding the ‘Raas lila’ as it is highly misunderstood. He said, ‘The Dasham skandh of the Shreemad Bhagwat Puraan is described as the heart of the whole Puraan, and the Raas-Panchadhyaya (adhyayas 30-34) are it’s ‘Pran’, life source’.
Raas literally means experience of the Ras, the divine nectar. Pujya Bhaishri went on to explain that Krishna is no different from this divine nectar, and we only experience this Ras when we make the effort of coming closer to Krishna. ‘Even if we have only a slight liking for Krishna, we can be blessed with Raas,’ said Pujya Bhaishri.
To begin with, Pujya Bhaishri described the philosophical symbolism behind each of Lord Krishna’s attributes and features, from his flute to the colour of his clothes. Each fine detail has a deeper meaning. This is what initially attracts us to the Lord.
Pujya Bhaishri spent five days describing the journey of a Bhakta who wants to reach Bhagawan, God. The feelings, the obstacles and the benefits at each stage of the journey were described in detail. Only one who has experienced this could speak with so much emotion in the voice. Pujya Bhaishri genuinely mesmerised the crowd with his words and brought tears to everyone’s eyes. On the last day, as Raas lila took place, the devotees felt they were in Vrindavan experiencing the divine nectar.
The last day was made extra special, as it was the auspicious day of Guru Purnima. Prior to the pravachan, a special Puja took place of all the Saints of India. Although this day is originally the appearance day of Ved Vyasji, it is in honour of all the saints and Gurus.
On this day, Pujya Bhaishri’s pravachan was transmitted on the world-wide-web, and was heard by devotees in the UK, India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. He spoke of the difference between a mere stonecutter and a ‘shilpi’. ‘The shilpi selects the stone. He knows which stone will make a good murti and which wont. He cuts away at the stone so that a murti of Krishna can appear from the stone. Similarly, a ‘sadguru’ recognises and takes away the faults of the shishya, making the murti of Krishna appear in his heart.’
Pujya Bhaishri also spoke of how the Gopi’s taught the world Bhakti-Marg, how a Bhakta can reach God, and are therefore worthy of respect especially on the auspicious day of Guru Purnima.
As never seen before, every devotee in the hall was permitted to come to the Vyas Pitha and pay his or her respects to Pujya Bhaishri. The atmosphere was truly emotional as the devotees were happy to be in the company of Bhaishri and yet sad that the 5-day programme had come to an end.