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Thursday, September 27, 2007

25 ২৫

Sādhu Bābā shortly after he gave me diksa, on his 48th birthday anniversary in Navadvip, October 1982

It is often said that the day of your initiation is the day of your new, spiritual birth. In that case it is my 25th birthday today, though my material body is already 51. The closest statement I can find in śāstra to confirm this belief is

dīkṣā kāle bhakta kore ātma samarpana; 
sei kāle kṛṣṇa tāte kore ātma sama. 
sei deha kore tār cid-ānandamoy; 
aprākṛta dehe tar caraṇa bhajoy 

from Caitanya Caritāmṛta 4.192-193. "At the time of initiation the devotee surrenders him/herself. At that time Kṛṣṇa considers that devotee to be equal to Himself. He grants the devotee a transcendental body through which the devotee can worship His lotus feet." Śrīla Kṛṣṇadās Kavirāja then quotes the following verse from the Bhāgavata (11.29.34) to illustrate it:

martyo yadā tyakta-samasta-karmā 
niveditātmā vicikīrṣito me
tadāmṛtatvaḥ pratipadyamāno 
mayātma-bhūyāya ca kalpate vai 

"If a mortal person gives up all social duties to surrender unto Me, I grant that person immortality and My personal service." Of the ṭīkās, Śrī Viśvanātha's is the most interesting. He explains: niveditātmā mat-svarūpa-bhūyāya man-mantropadeśakāya gurave -"Surrendering one's self means surrendering to the dīkṣā-Guru". Then he quotes a śloka from an unknown source:

yo’haṁ mamāsti yat kincid iha loke paratra ca 
tat sarvaṁ bhavato nātha caraṇeṣu samarpitam

"Whoever I am and whatever I have, either in this world or in the other, all that, O Lord, I offer unto Your lotus feet."

ātma-bhūyāya sva-bhṛtyai "ātma bhūya means attaining the Lord's servanthood."
phalaṁ tu premavat pārṣadatvam "The result is prema and becoming the Lord's personal associate."

In the week preceding my dīkṣā I had been interviewing Bābā with the help of Bābā's disciple Nivedita Bannerji (now living at Rādhākund under the name 'Haripriyā Mā'). This lady was the only person present who knew both English and Bengali, so she was of crucial importance. Because Bābā was scheduled to return to Navadvīp on September 27 and was said not to visit Vraja more than once a year, I was compelled to make a snap decision on taking dīkṣā. Moreover, I was unsure if my visa would be extended to last another year. On September 24 I had resolved to take dīkṣā and expressed my application to sister Nivedita, who told Bābā.  It was an exciting moment, because Bābā thought for a while before he decided to give me dīkṣā. In those days traditional Vaiṣṇavas were very suspicious of westerners (with some reason) and were very cautious about giving them dīkṣā.  Only 2-3 Gurus had so far agreed to give them dīkṣā, so it was far from guaranteed. Besides, the Haribhakti Vilāsa (chapter 1) says that Guru and śiṣya must test each other for 1 year (brāhmin), 2 years (kṣatriya), 3 years (vaiśya) and 4 years (śūdra), so where would that even leave a westerner? So it was a great relief when Bābā said yes. He will give it tomorrow. Later that same afternoon I hear that Bābā wants to postpone it to September 27, the day of his departure back to Navadvipa. Many years later, in 2000, I learned that 25-9-82 was a bad constellation, mūlā, while the 27th was an auspicious one, uttarāṣāḍhā. Baba was so kind to give me a good launching-pad for my bhajan!

I was also asked to hand in a notebook for Bābā to write the mantras and other instructions in. I asked him to give me a new name on that day. This was also kind of special, because new names are generally only given when devotees take sannyāsa, as we can see in the pastimes of Gaurāṅga f.i.

I received a number of photos to install on my altar - one of Bābā, one of Advaita Prabhu and one of Rādhā-Madangopāl, the deities of Jyetha Mahāśoy (Bābā's elder brother Govinda Gopāl Gosvāmī).

On september 26 I begged 15 Rs dakṣiṇā (alms for the Guru) from two friends in Vṛndāvan and early on Monday, 27th september, I took a bath in the Yamunā (Bābā had asked me to do so) and put on a neat dhoti (normally I walked around in short white rags in those days). At Bihārījī Mandir I bought a flower garland and then proceeded to Advaita Bhavan. I arrived a bit early because Bābā had to bathe still. After bathing Bābā took me into the back room, blinded the windows and whispered two dīkṣā-mantras in my right ear. After that he also gave me the mahā mantra, which he called tārak brahma nāma. This was also extraordinary - Bābā normally first gave only harināma and only six months later mantra, but he gave me mantra at once, while I was even just a westerner, and then harināma afterwards. I had to repeat each word of each mantra three times over. After this he made tilaka on the twelve designated places on my body with the emblem of the Advaita-parivāra. My friend Rādhā Ramaṇa had previously told me how it looks and now Bābā confirmed it in deed: A stem on the forehead and a Banyan-leaf on the nose. After that Bābā took a Tulasī-mālā in the hand to put around my neck, but when he saw that I already had one he left it. Bābā had already written the dīkṣā-mantras in my notebook in both Bengali and English, adding to it: "Your present name is Adwaita dasji Maharaj". The dīkṣā consisted of just two Kṛṣṇa-mantras, as I had expected, the two mantras that are actually mentioned in the śāstras. I asked Bābā what the rules for an initiated devotee are, and he told me: ‘Eat pure, be chaste and don’t drink’ (this is just a rough, concise translation of a more elaborate sermon Bābā gave me). I offered Bābā the flower garland I bought, but it was entangled, and I failed to unravel it, so I just left it like that on the floor. Then I gave him the Rs.15 guru dakṣiṇā that I managed to collect but he did not want to accept it. Instead he said, in English: "I don't need this. I want your heart." This is also not a usual reaction for a poor Indian sādhu vis a vis a rich westerner. I left the money at his feet. Bābā also said: “Our caste distinction is based on the body, not on the soul.” I received a Bengali folder with an arcanā paddhatī that explained the rites for practising the mantras. I also asked Bābā for siddha praṇālī, but he found that too early. Before leaving for Navadvīpa, Bābā told me: “If you have any questions about bhajan then ask my elder brother.”

The family's Vṛndāvana-residence is in Patthar Purā, in the north of town. Patthar Purā means "stone city", the place in Vṛndāvana that delivered the stones to build Rūpa Gosvāmī's Govinda Mandir, which is just down the road from there. I received my mantras at the base of the Yogapīṭh, Śrī-Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s mystical meeting place.


  1. Congratulations for staying on the GV path after all these years!

    Without the mercy of the guru we would have not come this far.

    Radhe Radhe

  2. Happy Birthday, dear Advaita dasji!

    With respect,

  3. Wonderfully touching, thank you for telling the tale.

    Congratulations on this most excellent birthday. Without this moment 25 years ago, and your subsequent work, many of us would not be here... so a deep heartfelt thank you as well.

  4. Thanks for the congrats everybody. I hope to commemmorate again (and still) on my (Advaitadas') 50th birthday, if I make it that far, both spiritually and physically (2032's a long way off....)

  5. Congrats, Adwaita dasji Maharaj! ;-) Thank you for sharing this story with us.


  6. "Adwaita dasji Maharaj!"

    Hahaha. Let me explain, Bhrigu. Sadhu Baba was not exposed to Vaishnava-groups where all devotees get new names at initiation. As I mentioned in the blog, usually people had a name-change when they took sannyasa (Nimai/Caitanya f.i.), or (re-) converted to Hinduism (Rup-Sanatan f.i.). So when I asked Sadhu Baba for a name, he took it like that. Needless to say, I did not deserve the Maharaj-title. It was not a sannyasa-initiation, Sadhu Baba neither took nor gave sannyasa.

  7. Very nice to read this new telling of it. :-) It's always nice to read about him and feel your constant faith in him.
    -- Brian

  8. happy spiritual birthday, my very dear friend

    - Tarun Govinda das

  9. Thanks for sharing all this. I'd be happy to read about all your experiences you had during your 9 years in India.

  10. I have written down the most intersting events and later digitalised them in text files. I would, of course, really only share these journals with very intimate friends. Snippets of that diary have been posted on this blog and on Gaudiya Discussions. Summarising, I can say that the first 3 years of Advaitadas' existence (1982-1983-1984) have been the most groundbreaking and eventful. They were followed by a 10-year depression (1985-1995) and the last 12-13 years have again seen an upward curve.