The interior of the temple room is indeed an exquisite master piece of devotional art - tastefully composed decorations, paintings and columns depicting the main incarnations of the Lord.
Revati Raman Prabhu is serving here as the temple president, and he has also been chairing our Committee for Devotee Care. It was his first time to host the GBC meetings in his temple, and he wonderfully demonstrated what it means to care for his many honorable guests - something which is not an easy task at all.....!
From the very beginning of my arrival I could sense his attentiveness towards all the little details of being an exemplary host in a wonderful service mood.
Visiting now his home temple gave me an opportunity to get a deeper insight into his wonderful Vaisnava qualities and his deep sincerity in spiritual life.
During these four days of the meetings I was fortunate enough to get his valuable time in personal discussions, sharing realizations and visions about the importance of spiritual culture within our ISKCON society.
He also shared some of his secrets of temple development, declaring: "My main focus is the morning program and book distribution. I am there for the full morning program every single day, spending quality time with our brahmacaris." The very basis for trusting and affectionate relationships...!
No doubt - Krsna has empowered His servant Revati Raman Prabhu in order to establish this amazing temple with such outstanding devotional atmosphere!
Such service is only possible by the mercy and empowerment of the Lord Himself.
And around 75% of all the laxmi for the temple construction had been collected through book distribution! Needless to say: Tirupati receives a never ending flow of visitors to the famous Balaji temple on every day of the year - what a wonderful opportunity to distribute Prabhupada's books to them!
As in previous years I shared the room with Dina Sharana Mataji from Germany, and we were happy to get each other's association once again.
As usual the scedule of the meetings was tight - the entire day was spent in meetings: plenary meetings with the entire GBC body at the beginning of every morning and afternoon session, followed by meetings in our Devotee Care Committee.
Our main topics were the upcoming ILS (ISKCON Leadership Sanga) in 2014, and we were also working on our various Manuals for Devotee Care which every Sub Committee is compiling. I personally am in charge of the Manual for Care for Leaders and Care Givers.
During these meetings I always relish the chance to get the association of so many senior devotees. And I eagerly take advantage of the opportunity to connect with Maharajas and preachers, inviting them to our festivals in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sweden. And I happily accept the shower of mercy, appreciation, encouragement and affection which they are pouring over me.
The highlight of my visit to Tirupati was the special darshan of the famous Balaji Deity which Revati Raman Prabhu had arranged for all the members of the GBC meetings.
Venkatesvara, the four-handed Lord Visnu, the Deity of Balaji with His potencies named Sri and Bhu, is located on Venkata Hill, about eight miles from Tirupati.
One early morning we drove up the winding road leading us to the top of the mountain where this famous Balaji Temple is located. Usually the pilgrims are walking up this hill, which takes around 5 to 6 hours. And once they arrive they have to stand in line for another 8 hours in order to get the darshan of the Lord.
This is what it means to show eagerness to see the Lord - to happily accept so much endeavor and tapasya!
Revati Raman Prabhu has good relationships with the leaders of this temple, and thus he was able to arrange for us to jump the queue. Nevertheless - we all had to fill in our passport details into a big book - one person after another, which also took it's time. Then we were guided along fenced pathways, passing through several waiting halls and gates.
It certainly increased the excitement and anticipation.
I felt as if I was about to enter Vaikuntha to receive an audience of the Lord......!
Coming closer to the actual temple area the atmosphere became more and more surcharged with awe and reverance. Everywhere the Lord's servants were rushing around being busily engaged with many important matters, while the atmosphere was filled with the chanting of various mantras beginning with a long "Om......".
One could sense a mood of elaborate service in cleanliness, strictness and punctuality, which created an uplifting and transcendental atmosphere.
Finally we were ushered along a narrow corridor up to the very altar to receive darshan of Lord Balaji. Guards were rushing every visitor to move on in order to make the entire process of taking darshan faster. Nevertheless, when I arrived in front of Balaji I moved to the side and managed to stand there for several minutes - simply bathing in the atmosphere of this transcendental encounter, until one guard requested me to move on....
Revati Raman Prabhu took our group around the area, showing us several side temples and altars while sharing stories and explanations.
No doubt, he was at home here....!
Behind big glass windows we saw around fourty men sitting and counting
money - it takes them 24 hours a day to keep count of all the donations they receive! Some were sorting through the coins and notes to pick out the many small and bigger pieces of gold which also come into the donation box. The people who are engaged in counting and sorting are not allowed to wear any sewn cloth so they cannot steal anything.
Whatever falls into the donation box has to be offered to Lord Balaji. One donation box is consisting of a big sack with a wide opening, designed to offer larger items to the Lord. Revati Raman Prabhu told how once a baby fell into this donation sack. The child could not be returned to his mother but had to be given to Lord Balaji! He was raised within the temple and became a fully surrendered servant of Lord Balaji.....!
Revati Raman Prabhu introduced us to some of the temple managers. I noticed their relaxed and detached mood, they were so much at ease - without any kind of anxiousness for donations, which one can often sense at other temples in India.
Here Balaji's servants have the experience and full faith that Krsna is the most wealthy personality.
It is one of the most oppulent temples in India....
Visiting Lord Balaji was certainly an extraordinary transcendental experience, giving some little glimpse into the realm of Vaikuntha.....
On the 26th of October I flew off to Dhaka/Bangladesh....
Your servant, Devaki dd