My Wish List
Random list of things that need to be done to progress the sect and its works. Some of these ideas are needed to bring the sect into the modern age; some things are needed to reinterpret the original precepts of the sect as set out by Shri Vallabh and Shri Gusaiji. Some of these ideas are essential to get the younger generation interested in Pushti Marg again.
Please note - as mentioned before - only read this list if you are willing to be open to new ideas. They are very contemporary and sometimes very controversial.
Improvements for the town of Nathadwara :-
Improvements for the Haveli at Nathadwara:-
For the Vaishnavs :-
Haveli / Temple = at several points in this article I have used the word "temple" instead of "Haveli". This is because I feel at times the "mansion" character of the place is totally lost by the attitude of the servants and pilgrims alike. It only than remains a shell of four walls where people come and go. At best, this is a temple where people come with devotion, at worst it is den of money grabbing temple servants.
Improvements for the town of Nathadwara :-
The temple should pay for the welfare and education of the poor within Nathadwara. Like the organised way this is done in Tirupati, Nathadwara should do this properly.
Shri Krshna did this in Vraj and the whole incidence of Dana lila and Govardhanpuja is directed at uplifting the spiritual welfare of the community by first taking care of their material welfare. How can you pray on an empty stomach ? Especially when others are stuffing their faces in front of you ! Granted, no one really goes hungry in Nathadwara, but the wretched way in which some people are made to "beg" for the basic necessities of life is not good. And this too in the very shelter of the Lord ! Shri Vallabh and Shri Gusaiji would not approve of such suffering in His presence. It behoves each and every Vaishnav and especially Vaishnav institutions to care for the needy of the society around us - wherever we are - New York or Nathadwara !
Temple should sort out the city of Nathadwara and its cleanliness. Pilgrims that come to the town come for the temple and hence they are the guest of the temple and the Lord. As such, the temple should take responsibility for it.
Cleanliness is essential for seva. Cleanliness should than be essential in all aspects of our life, as for a vaishnav, his / her entire life is dedicated to the seva of the Lord. Their every breath is dedicated to God and is blessed with the grace of God. How can we than live amid squalor ? Would the Lord whom we love so much, like to be served under such circumstances ? Just as we keep our seva-room clean, so must we keep clean our house, our building, our community, our town and our country clean. Afterall, "sab bhumi Gopal ki !"
The town of Nathadwara should be especially kept clean as this is the focal point of our sect and it is the one place that reflects us and our principles in a concrete way. If that in its self is unclean or messy, what does that say about us ? Our young generation will not tolerate such mess as "part of life" and we need to come to terms with this.
This is not rocket science and other temple towns have achieved this goal with great effect. Tirupati, the tutelary deity of the Shri Vallabh, has a town which is so well organised, it is the envy of all India and all visitors appreciate their cleanliness and order. We too can do this.
Money must not be used as excuse for not achieving this. The haveli is sufficiently wealthy for this. Even if it felt this was beyond its reach, it should start with smaller projects and work towards others. If the temple administrators have full faith in the Lord and if their "ashraya" is firm, they would not even ask such a question. The Lord is capable of everything and is more than able to support all such projects. The administration should not ask vaishnavs for money for such projects. That would be anyashraya in the extreme. To think that others will provide rather than the Lord is in my view unacceptable. This is anyashraya - for in this way, the very people who preach ashraya are bowing to the commonest man for scraps rather than trusting in the Lord to provide.
Improvements for the Haveli at Nathadwara:-
The horrid roof over the Kamal chok should be removed and, replaced with something more in keeping with the architecture of the place. It looks too much like an industrial waste product. There are plenty of wonderful "covered atrium" designs being used in new and old buildings - in India and the west. These keep the balance of light and air circulation at optimum and are far more pleasing to the eye than the current monstrosity !
The people who used to sit in the chok before were fine sitting in the sunshine. Understandably, the new generation of pilgrims are a softer breed and need protection from the sun. At noon and during the summer, a flexible awning of more traditional sort can be spread across the opening of the chok. This will let natural light and air circulate around the chok during the cooler parts of the day. It will also bring the chok back to its natural Indian-ness rather than this shipyard look
The metal staircase in the chok joining the twin havelis of Shri Nathji and Navnit Priyaji needs to be removed. It rattles with every step taken and makes a horrid din. The chok is meant to be a place of rest and contemplation, not such noise. If the administration wants to improve access to the Dhajaji, a better route needs to be found so as not to disturb the Lords of Nathadwara. A noiseless stairway needs to be built to retain peace in the palace of Shri Nathji !
Stop further marbling of the temple. It is a beautiful place and does not need to be encased in marble - this looks ugly now - it is over done and is reducing the proportions of the courtyards and halls by making the walls too thick and too high.
The marbled walls of the inner halls are fine. The intricately carved marble verandas of Navnit-Priyaji's garden are in keeping with the Rajput character of the place. But the marbling of the choks - Ratan and Kamal chok etc- is over the top. It has taken the ruggedness out of the traditional outer courtyards of regal palaces and has made it more claustrophobic - especially with the new, hideous roof pressing down from above.
Create a proper queuing system so that the vaishnavs can have a jhakhi without being pushed and shoved. One's mind should be at peace when catching a glimpse of the Lord and should not be aggravated by being elbowed and hurt.
It is nonsense to say that "this is the way it was intended to be." God's grace (Pushti) should be sought and obtained by grace and not by clamour. In this mess, no one has the opportunity or indeed the peace of mind to actually appreciate the beauty of the Lord.
I applaud the system of putting in progressively higher tier platforms to allow people at the back to have a darshan of the Lord. But the number of people who fall off the platforms or are shoved from one level to the next with no warning of rise or drop of height - is dangerous to say the least. Vaishnavs should be able to view the Lord in peace and if they wish to continue the darshan, they can go the back and use the platforms.
As it is, those who have paid extra cash to the temple servants or have paid for the more expensive manoraths go in first anyway, so this will be a more formal,refined way of organising the queue system and making sure the temple benefits from the proceeds and not individuals.
Vaishnavs also need to change their attitude to darshans. Pushing and shoving their way in for a jhakhi causes "kashta" (pain) to vaishnavs. As Shri Nathji, Shri Vallabh and the vaishnavs are of equal importance to us, surely causing pain to vaishnavs is equal to causing pain to our beloved God and Guru. How can we gain the benefits of a jhakhi / darshan if we are causing pain to the person whose darshan we seek ! We really need to reconsider how we behave in the haveli and with vaishnavs in general.
The prasad should be distributed by the Haveli and not by external shops. This way the purity of the food and proceeds of these can remain in the Haveli's coffers and not go to outsiders.
The very idea of having prasad "sold" is abhorrent. But, we live in a modern world and it is as material as it can get. Coming to terms with the reality of the times, if we must "sell" consecrated food, let it be done in a systematic way so that the pilgrims can be assured about the authenticity and purity of the prasad they are buying.
The pay system for the temple servants should become monetary rather than "in kind". The current system is not geared for the modern times and does not serve the people it is suppose to - the temple servants. The system should reflect the times and will motivate the servants to serve rather than milk the system. (see the article on wages)
The servants in the Haveli should serve with greater enthusiasm and this can be encouraged by providing them with proper pay and incentives packages. They should also receive formal training in their profession to make sure they are all competent and are doing the best they can. Jobs should not be hereditary, but based on merit.
Shri Vallabh and Shri Gusaiji have removed people in major positions when competency of the temple servant was called into question. Afterall, these people are not serving mere icons, but the Divine Himself ! Some have forgotten this and see this as a mere job and a way to fill their belly rather than a seva. They have squandered their saubhagya (good fortune / luck) of being in constant attendance to the Lord by thinking "how much longer must I be in the Haveli - I have a business to go back to as soon as this job is done !"
The temple singers and musicians should perform properly and if they do not, they should be held accountable - afterall, they serve the divine court and must be competent to serve such an august majesty.
Their mastery and excellence is not in question. But many, after a time, seem to have flagging desire to do seva -they simply serve for the sake of it. They eat excessive amounts of pan, eat fried food etc and their voices soon looses the delicacy needed to explore the full range of ragas of Ashtachap's poetry. Their mastery over the text and sometimes even the bhavas in these is not what it should be. The Lord deserves to be served with greater love and dedication, after all, these singers of the Lord's court have a high standard to emulate - that of the astachaps !
The new changes proposed by the temple board (please see 1 , 2) are a recipe for disaster. They will alter the haveli and the town forever - and not for the good either. "Darshan by appoint only" is totally against the spirit of Pushti Marg. The town and its small, individually owned shows will no longer be the source of seva material for the visiting vaishnavs. We have to show how we oppose this move !
Museum of ShriNathji :-
The vast treasure trove of art and artefacts of the Haveli should be displayed in a proper museum. This will allow vaishnavs to appreciate the aesthetics of the sect and will let more people enjoy the treasures of the Haveli at closer range. In this day and age, it is inconceivable that so much ancient art is being sequestrated behind closed doors and so many people do not have access to it.
This is particularly so with Pichoies, paintings, jewellery and utensils being used for seva in the inner sanctum. If people can see the breath taking beauty of the Lord's wardrobe, furnishings etc, they will be able to appreciate the darshans that much more. I will give you my own example - Had I not read the excellent book "Krishna as ShriNathji" by Amitbhai, and read the details of some of the pichoies and shringars, I would not be interested in Pushti Marg as I am now. It helped me re-visit my roots and reawakened my desire to follow the seva of the Lord rather than just run in and out of the temple with the rest of the crowd. Indeed, seeing some of the pichoies mentioned in the book, made me feel that much more part of the "bhava" of the darshan.
Like the other great museums we see around the world, the exhibitions should be revolving throughout the year, basing their theme on season or an era of our history. By showcasing only a part of the divine treasures at any given time, items in daily use in the haveli need not be exhibited. Lord's daily routine need never be disturbed. The exhibition should serve to help the vaishnavs appreciate our art and history.
Indeed, if a painter of Nathadwara wants to paint a particular shringar, he is given full access to the pichoies and jewellery - so that he can depict the Lord as accurately as possible. When a man with a commercial motive is allowed access to these items, why shouldn't people with devotional motives be afforded the same access ?
An oft quoted excuse is "safety" of the items in a museum. The world's finest museums are able to display countless priceless items of antiquity and rarity with due care and security. India too has the skill set for building such museums - indeed there are many world class museums in Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Chenai (plus other other cities) and I don't see how this can be even defended as a credible excuse.
Cost should not be barrier either -because if you build some thing truly great, people will come - and if our faith in the Lord is absolute, than such worries are futile anyway !
The other main nidhies of our Pushti Marg should also exhibit their treasures. Space permitting, these can be small, but still equally secure and enlightening. For the future of our sect, it is imperative that we educate our future generation about our history.
For the Vaishnavs :-
There should be greater emphasis on courses that Vaishnavs can take - in Nathadwara and outside (in main cities like Mumbai, Calcutta etc) to promote the principles of the sect. To do this, the language used must be modernised and made more accessible to the lay followers.
Particularly the philosophy and music. There should also be short courses - Summer Workshops etc - which are useful introductions for Vaishnavs and their children. This is the only way we are going to keep the tradition going. The new generation is far more inquisitive than before. It needs logical and precise answers to its questions.
To survive the next millennium, we need interest and participation from our lay vaishnavs in the sect. It is our responsible to ask for what we need to reaffirm our faith. Progress our soul is our own responsibility. We can not neglect this duty to our own soul and must ask for adequate support for our spiritual progress. It is our responsibility to make sure we keep order in the haveli and not push and shove as we go through. Afterall, do we not see our Lord in our fellow vaishnavs ? There is much we, as lay members of the sect, that we can do to help improve the situation. Let us act together to so that the new millennium sees us flourish in to the centuries beyond 2000 !
� Bhagwat Shah
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