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What happened during Covid-19 Vrindavan Quarantine?

What happened during Covid-19 Vrindavan Quarantine?

It was 26 February 2020 when we innocently departed from Mauritius airport heading towards India. We were on the way to celebrate the most joyful time of the year with our Gurudev Paramahamsa Vishwananda – Holi. When the whole world slowly started to freak out about Covid-19 situation, we were on our way towards the safest place on the planet – Vrindavan. At that time India almost didn’t know about coronavirus. Due to rapidly growing temperatures at the beginning of March, reported cases of coronavirus infections in India were almost at 0. Even though Indian government issued certain regulations and limitations for public gatherings, Guruji made sure that we have the time of our life with him in Vrindavan.

Life was amazing. Even when PM Modi announced around 20 March 2020 that India will voluntarily go under one day of self-imposed lockdown, we were not really bothered. It didn’t even make sense what one day of lockdown would change… But it was on glorious evening of 23 March 2020 when Guruji announced to everybody that lockdown won’t be one only day – but two weeks instead – when slight panic started to awake in people. For me personally, Guruji’s suspiciously high level of excitement about this lockdown was way more disturbing than any other existential problem. I could feel it in my bones – that he will have fun of his life during this lockdown. And for us it meant only one thing – annihilation of our egos and any comfort zone that was left in us. In that moment I realised that we will go out of this quarantine as changed people. I just couldn’t imagine how much…

Sweet ‘n Sour
Beginning of Vrindavan quarantine was undoubtedly the sweetest, with pinch of sour moments. Everything was new, exciting, unpredictable. Just because of the fact that we are going to spend quarantine time with Guruji – something that might not happen ever again in this life (or many more to come) – our joy knew no bounds. And I cannot hide the fact that little fear and panic didn’t add amazing spice to the situation.

The same evening of 23 March Guruji asked ashram management team to make food reserves for months to come… Very soon rickshaws were parking in front of the ashram with hundreds of kilos or rice, dal, chickpeas, different kinds of flour, potato, onion and many other things. Nobody really knew what is going to happen, while at that time we had more than 50 people stuck in the ashram. We needed to get ready to live on rice and dal for indefinite amount of time. Even though in the end we somehow ended up having 5-star level food every single day. Don’t ask me how. I don’t understand.

Thank you, Onion
If you read carefully, you might notice one outstanding ingredient that played very important role during peak of coronavirus period – onion. Onion is something that you will usually not find in Vaishnava ashrams. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Plus, if Guruji is something – he is definitely unusual and outstanding Guru.

Slight off-topic. I remember when few years ago somebody asked Guruji why is he always recommending to people to consume onion in this or another form, for more or less any medical issue. His answer was brilliant. He said:

“This is between me and onion.”

Whichever relationship two of them share, coronavirus made him remember this relationship again. During months to come, we were eating insane amount of onion and garlic. And when I say insane, I really mean it. One day when we ran out of onion, we thought this is enough. But then Swami Paranthapa, who was in charge of the kitchen spoke to Guruji and Guruji said that we need to get more onion, as this is the only thing that keeps us alive because his blessings are inside the onion. So we got more onion. And garlic. In insane amounts.

PS. If you live in the country where coronavirus is still present, you might like to apply Guruji’s suggestion to keep fresh onion (cut in half) in every room in the house, as it helps to kill all viruses and bacterias. He also gave recipe for onion soup that we can eat 2-3 times per week. For that please write to me personally.

Savage mode: ON
It was few days after the lockdown has started that we found ourself in pre-industrial age (read: Stone Age). Our kitchen has become pile of bricks put together. We were fanning the fire to keep it going. Axe and chainsaw became our best friends that were extracting litres of sweat every day as we needed to chop unbelievably low quality wood for the fire. On +35 degrees and more.

As people were not allowed to go out, animals were also the ones paying the price for that. Vast majority of animals in Vrindavan live exclusively from what people give them – or what they steal from people. Hence, we have found ourselves in an open war with Vrindavan monkeys. Fu…ing crazy monkeys.

Since indoor kitchen was too small for number of people we needed to feed every day, we were forced to cook outside, which made our ashram perfect target for monkeys. They started to bite people, throw stones at the ashram windows and sometimes even throwing whole bricks from the roof. Anything just to get some food. They even formed gangs and were bribing the ashram dogs to not attack them while they were approaching. And then we would wonder in confusion why dogs are just laying down all the time during monkey attacks.

It was the time to hit back. We organised daily monkey-watch around the ashram. We were equipped with slings and bamboo sticks. In a matter of days we became so skilled that they stopped coming to the ashram. I guess they learned how to think twice before doing anything stupid.

Even the education and disciplinary system called for ancient methods. As Guruji was slowly getting “bored”, we desperately needed to find a way to entertain him. Otherwise he would find a way to entertain himself and I think nobody would like that. So idea was born that every day we play quiz with questions form Vaishnavism, Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharat etc. Plan was sometimes successful – sometimes not so much. Picture depicting the situation in which we were is self-explanatory, I believe. (Juicy details are and will stay known only to those that were in the ashram at those times…)

Depression phase
Since a year ashram is in the process of building a new wing. Lot of new areas were used for organisation of events during Holi time. Interior was so beautifully decorated that you could not even notice that space was not fully finished. Until one day when workers came and took all the decoration fabrics and lights that ashram rented from them. Simultaneously, as lockdown restrictions became more strict we needed to close open passages from ashram complex to the street. More people left Vrindavan at this point as well. Atmosphere in the ashram suddenly became much darker and depressive.

All external parameters were set. Ashram was fully closed. Nobody was allowed in or out. We were totally locked within the “four walls”. Nobody knew what is happening inside or outside. It was kind of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” type of situation.

Unexpected change of hearts…
Until that moment everything was running smooth. Excitement caused by external situation was still running through our veins. But then… Something changed.

Guruji withdrawn himself. He became much more silent and meditative. It was the time when he started tradition of daily online japam and satsang which is happening until today. As outer walls of ashram closed; as Guruji became more introverted – it naturally pushed us to look more within. Guruji himself was talking about it during almost every satsang of his… It was the time when nature itself forced us to look within.

And this was the time when series of churning of the oceans started. Fifty-something of them. Everybody had its own ocean to churn and all of them had something in common. Poison was the first thing that emerged from each one of us.

We started to very much dislike what was happening to us, as we all felt like we are losing control. Inner demons naturally took over as we were caught off-guard.

It was soon after that Guruji unexpectedly left Vrindavan. He said it was the time to go back to Germany. We didn’t know it then, but annihilation phase was about to start.

Transformation of a lifetime
Vrindavan quarantine story is for everybody to speak about themselves. So here I can speak only about my story. It is the story of genius, masterpiece plan whose sparks Guruji ignited more than a year ago. Now it was the time to give it a proper blow for situation to burst into flames. Just one sentence from Guruji at the very precise moment was enough.

It has started almost three months ago, and only now I have collected myself enough to speak anything about it. Well, these three months were rather needed for me to scratch at least the surface of essence that Guruji wanted to teach me through these series of events. Only now I was able to look deeply and closely enough in order to dissect the lessons from experience itself. Because ultimately, we get certain experiences only to learn something from them. Otherwise they are useless. And for somebody like Guruji – whose only aim is to free us from clutches of this material word as soon as possible – he will do everything to make our process of liberation faster.

For what he did this time, regardless of how painful it was, I can say only one thing: hats off to you, Guruji. As you are about to read some of the lessons that he taught me, please bear in mind one thing – he orchestrated just one single situation that resulted with all of these lessons. And as the time is passing by, I am getting to know more of them, almost every single day.

Oh, and yes, I got tattoos on the way. Accidentally.

1. Self-confidence
One of my biggest life-lessons. It is definitely something that I still need to work on a lot, probably until the end of life, but support that Guruji showed me this time slapped me in the face hard enough. If he believes in me so much – and he knows me for real – who am I to doubt myself?
2. Masculinity
I was never particularly dominant masculine figure, but this time Guruji showed me that even conceptions of what I thought real masculinity was, was completely wrong and stupid. And now I can clearly see that 99% of men’s concepts of masculinity are completely wrong as well. Ultimately, it is collective consciousness that dates centuries behind that often makes us behave in completely irrational way.
3. Social conditioning
Influence that social conditioning and social norms have on us is probably one thing that struck me the most. When I was freed from single social conditioning I carried in me for almost three decades, I felt like tons of garbage was taken from my back in one second. Please, do yourself a favour, and don’t give a f…k what people think about you.
4. Shyness
Probably another by-product of social conditioning. Only reason why people become shy is because somebody out there placed a norm how you should be, behave or react in certain situation. Shyness happens only when we cannot accept ourselves and we think that we are not good enough. Very similar idea like self-confidence, just manifested in different way.
5. Feeling of self-worth
Nothing that happens outside will make us feel worthy unless we find it within ourselves. So try to save yourself some time and look for it within. You were designed in a certain way and it all makes sense. Don’t look for justification and reasoning outside.
6. Communication matters
Value of precise communication is underrated. We type, only type and then type even more. We look into text fields on our screens more than at people’s faces and then we wonder how things go wrong. It is so much harder to look at person’s face and stay honest VS speaking out “truth” via messages. Thoughts matter. Words matter. Actions matter. Be thoughtful and watchful.
7. Responsibility
Responsibility is not only taking certain task on ourselves and making sure that we complete them. It also means facing consequences if we fail. Even more than that, responsibility means taking actions, because as long as we are passive, somebody else must take responsibility for of us.
8. Freedom
Freedom doesn’t mean becoming anarchist. It means being independent and able to take the responsibility for our actions. If we are able to do that, then yes, we can do whatever we want. But we will also need to pay the price for that.
9. Placing boundaries where they belong
Respecting our boundaries of privacy is unbelievably important. The more we allow people to cross them, the more we will lose and hurt ourselves. Even more than that – if we don’t respect our boundaries, neither people will respect them, neither will we respect theirs. Ultimately, everybody is going to get hurt. It is just pointless vicious circle.
10. Truthfulness
Sugarcoating doesn’t pay off. Well, in short-term maybe yes. But in long-term, it totally sucks. Whenever we try to sugarcoat something it means that we are not able to tell the truth – regardless of the reason.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”- Buddha

So choose wisely.
Journey never stops
I could go on and on. But in reality, experience is what makes us learn things. Reading books usually doesn’t help. Even reading this blog post won’t help you. It can only inspire you to open yourself towards the possibility of learning. Or at least admitting the possibility that you have something to learn. Universe will take care of the rest.

Guruji always inspires us to share our stories from spiritual path. Everybody’s story is unique – everybody’s path towards God is unique. But each and every one of them is beautiful. Even Guruji said recently that journey is the best part of the story, regardless of how painful it is. Goal is always the same. But journey is what makes us different. Journey is the way how God is bringing us closer to Him. So don’t be shy to share it…

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