Question: I have a question about the holy dhama of the Lord. When the Lord descends to this world, He also manifests His eternal abode, associates, etc. After the disappearance of the Lord and His associates from the vision of the people, the dhama of the Lord still remains manifest to the people of this world. My question is that: Is the dhama which we see with our eyes the exact same spiritual abode of the Lord which was manifest when the Lord was present as the avatara before the people or is it some semblance of the spiritual abode of the Lord? If it is the exact same spiritual abode of the Lord, then why don’t we see the spiritual features of the abode like beautiful forests, Yamuna with lotuses, etc.? Is it just because we do not have the spiritual eyes of prema to see the dhama? Kindly clarify my doubts.
Answer: Your assumption that the dhama remains manifest after the disappearance of the Lord and His associates is wrong. The dhama also becomes unmanifest along with them. Therefore, the rest of your questions do not arise.
Question: So then why do we say that the dhama of the Lord like Vrindavan, Ayodhya, etc. is a holy place? What are the various places in the dhama, like Govardhan Hill, Barsana, etc.? Are they just imaginations by some people that the Lord did His pastimes there? Is it not that Krishna actually lifted the Govardhan Hill that we now see with our eyes? Is it not that He performed various pastimes at places, which we see with our eyes, like Kaliya ghat, Chirghat and Keshighat along the banks of the Yamuna?
Answer: There are three types of dhama—the aprakata dhama (the unmanifest), which is not visible to people of this world, the prakata dhama (the manifest), which was visible to people of this world when Krsna was personally present, and the bhauma dhama (the terrestrial or earthly dham). When Krsna appears, the prakata dhama becomes manifest in the bhauma dhama. The bhauma dhama appears material to material eyes and has characteristic like any other material object. But to those who have spiritual vision, it does not have material characteristics. In this very bhauma dhama they see the unmanifest dhama.
So basically, what you see now is the replica of the original dhama. This is where the dhama was manifest and now still exists in an unmanifest state. It can still be witnessed by qualified people.
Ultimately, it is non-different from the original dhama. Just as the deity form of Krsna, that appears to be made of stone or other material, but is actually Krsna Himself. As Mahaprabhu said, pratima nahi tumi saksat vrajer nandana, “O Lord, You are not the deity but directly the son of Vrajendra, Krsna”. However, this fact can be realized only by a qualified devotee. So simultaneously both exist—the deity as seen by a common person and Krsna directly, as witnessed by a qualified devotee. The same is true about the dhama according to the acintya-bheda-abheda principle.