Yoga Dev has been spending some time in New Vrindaban helping in the garden. He also wanted to build an inipi, a sweat lodge, to help with the health of some of the devotees. A sweat lodge is like a sauna but beyond just being a sweat bath there is a lot of prayer involved so it purifies the body, mind and helps cleanse the dust from soul.
It is a low structure constructed from saplings and then covered with blankets and black plastic so it holds the steam and is in complete darkness so the energy of the participants can be focused on prayer.
While the Vaisnava version naturally includes chanting the maha mantra, it also tends towards respecting the Nrshimhadev incarnation.
As saplings are scarce in the forest here due to the overpopulation of deer, Yoga Dev brought in the necessary saplings from his home in Maryland. He had the 20 footers strapped to the roof of his Ford Escape as he stopped at my house on the way in to discuss some details.
Unfortunately, when he went to leave his vehicle wouldn’t start. We hooked up the jumper cables and tried to jump start it but we were unsuccessful. Maybe it was fortunate because if the Air Conditioning compressor was going to fail and make turning over the engine hard which, coupled with a weak starter on the verge of failure, made even jump starting it impossible, the fact it happened at my house rather at a gas station in the middle of nowhere was fortunate. Still, we had to reload the saplings and all his paraphernalia into my van to get them to the site, and now he didn’t have a vehicle to run around in when building the inipi.
The next day Tulasi went with and him helped to build it but it wasn’t a good day. It was about as hot as is tolerable for us Northern Hemisphere guys, very humid and no breeze, so it was austere weather conditions for digging the fire pit, leveling the site along with stripping the bark from and bending the saplings into place. Yoga Dev was having one of those days that was physically uncomfortable working outside and all the little things that can go wrong were going wrong, nothing major but at the end of the day he was feeling like it hadn’t been a good one.
As the saplings need to be fully hydrated in order to be bent into shape without splintering as the sunlight faded Yoga Dev decided to take the ones that hadn’t been installed yet and put them into the ghat submerged in water so they wouldn’t dry out any further than they already had and maybe even soak up a little water to replace any lost during the day.
The ghat is the lake by the temple where the Swan Boat Ceremony occurs. There has also been water collected from sacred ghats and rivers in India, including the Ganges and Yamuna, poured into it so it is considered to be linked to those holy waters.
As they were easing the the saplings into the ghat Yoga Dev noticed something covered with aquatic weeds laying there. He picked it up, washed it off and found it to be a Ganesha deity carved out of stone. Not metal or other material but stone. The sweat lodge uses stones heated in a large open fire that are carried into the lodge for water to be poured onto to generate the steam. The stones that do this are honored as being representatives of the oldest living entities on the earth, the Stone People
So for a stone carved into the form of Ganesha to arrive for the sweat lodge was exhilarating for Yoga Dev. It took it as a sign of great auspiciousness. The next day he placed the deity in the honor position at the site and every thing went as smooth as silk. Which isn’t hard to believe as Ganesha is the the Remover of Obstacles.
Hare Krishna devotees don’t worship demigods for material success, as the thought is to focus on the Supreme, Krishna and his direct incarnations. Just as when the roots of a tree are watered, there is no need to water the leaves, if Krishna is satisfied, all the demigods are also satisfied.
Still, as Ganesha showed up unbidden he was welcomed as a devotee of Krishna and will be an honored guest thanked for blessing the ceremony with his presence. Where else but in a Holy Dhama like New Vrindaban would something like this happen. New Vrindaban Dhama ki jaya!