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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rādhākuṇḍa, Week 52, 2008


More satsanga at Rādhākuṇḍa:
Bhakta:
"Some sādhus in Navadvīp told me that when the Guru gives mantra to a śiṣya the mantra becomes nirjīva (lifeless) and needs to be recharged through puraścarana (an austere ritual in which one chants the mantra many times)."

Advaitadas:
"pūrṇa śuddho nitya mukto 'bhinnatvan nāma nāmino (Padma Purāṇa) " The holy name is fully pure and eternally liberated due to being non different from the named." That is because the name is God Himself. God needs no recharging. He is not a cellphone. On the contrary, it is the practitioner who constantly needs to recharge his/her own spiritual batteries, by practising this mantra."

Bhakta:
"Should I just sit here, chant and wait for the Guru to come to me or should I go out searching for one?"

Advaitadas:
tad vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad) "To know and realize that one must approach a Guru". The word abhigacchet is in imperative case - one must approach a Guru, so you should go to him."

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Some reflections.....

The Gosvāmīs represented the renunciants' wing of the Sampradāya, which every sampradāya should have. There will always be those with a naturally renounced tendency. For them the 6 Gosvāmīs are the perfect example. There is a certain rasa to vairāgya as well - vairāgya yug-bhakti rasaṁ prayatnair apāyayan mām (Vilāpa Kusumāñjali - 6) "Sanātan Gosvāmī made me drink the rasa of bhakti endowed with vairāgya".

********

If there was one reason why I was sick for so long in Vṛndāvan and spent just 33 of these 117 days at Rādhākund it must have been to help remind me how precious the days are at this rasamaya aprākṛta dhāma, this divine rasa-laden abode.

********
And finally -
Two more prominent Rādhākuṇḍa-residents passed away - in November Sādhu Bābā's tīrtha guru Radhacharan Desla (75) and in July Madanmohan Das Babaji (85). The former, like Gopal Ghosh, told me much about Sādhu Bābā's ambrosial pastimes, and the latter I have often consulted on bhajan-matters somewhere between 1982 and 2002.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rādhākuṇḍa saṅga

Recently I had the following discussions with devotees around Rādhākuṇḍa:

Bhakta: " What about the Vrajavāsīs? Some are even Buddhists, offering Coca Cola and snacks to the tiles in their homes, saying God does not exist."

Advaitadas: " Actually a landslide majority of Vrajabāsīs is Hindu and Vaiṣṇava. Mahāprabhu told Jagadānanda Paṇḍit: mathurār svāmīr saṅga nā loibā  "Don't take the company of the people of Mathurā (Vraja)." He then said  sanātanera saṅga na chāḍibe ek-kṣaṇa ' Never leave the company of Sanātan Gosvāmī', which nowadays means the followers of Sanātan Gosvāmī, the pure Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. Vṛndāvana Mahimāmṛta and other scriptures glorifies the Vrajabāsīs in connection with Kṛṣṇa in great superlatives, because they are living in His abode only. Sādhu Bābā offered feasts and other gifts to the Vrajabāsīs, but because they took advantage he would not stay in Vraja too long, lest he would not get too disappointed with them. He never stopped loving the Vrajabāsīs, though. "

Bhakta: " Your preaching of rāgānugā bhakti being available before anartha nivṛtti may have been the cause of some of the current Sahajiya movements starting in the west."

Advaitadas: " Perhaps, but it is the same in Bengal - āul, bāul etc. are caused by misinterpreting the ācāryas. What can be done? There will always be some abusers. Doing rāgānugā bhakti before anartha nivṛtti doesn't mean one should deliberately break the principles - anarthas means subtle attachments which we should remedy through sādhana while following the principles."

Bhakta: Some say meditation on the mañjarī svarūpa in an unripe stage causes one to take birth as a mundane Indian woman in the next life."

Advaitadas:
1. There must be a sense of belonging to Smt. Rādhārāṇī, not that you just identify with some Vrajavāsī women you see on the street. Reading and meditating on Vilāpa Kusumāñjali, Utkalikā Vallarī and Rādhā-rasa Sudhānidhi is helpful as well as associating with like-minded devotees and residing at Rādhākund."
2. You have to start somewhere, even while anarthas are there, there must be basic aspiration.
3. It is an internal meditation on a transcendental form, which will be revealed in truth at the bhāva bhakti stage.
4. Those preachers of caution need not worry too much - only a happy few take interest in rāgānugā bhakti anyway."

Bhakta: But Kṛṣṇadās Kavirāja Gosvāmī writes in his Kṛṣṇa Karṇāmṛta ṭīkā (3) that one can meditate on the siddha deha before bhāva bhakti too."

Advaitadas: "That may still mean on the stage of āsakti, niṣṭhā or ruci."

Bhakta: " It is said that only bābājīs / sannyāsīs attain the spiritual world."

Advaitadas: " You cannot make a reservation, nor is it only through celibacy that one can attain the spiritual world. Such a reservation is certainly not there for bābājīs or sannyāsīs that just wear their uniform but do not follow the rules of their ashram, as some foolishly believe. The Bhāgavat says (2.6.20) - antas trilokyās tvaparo gṛhamedho'bṛhad-vrataḥ  "Others, who live in the three worlds (material world), who are not in the spiritual sky, are fixed on the home and do not follow the great vow (celibacy or bṛhad vrata)." There needs to be prema and the stages beyond - rāga, anurāga, bhāva mahābhāva etc., as is explained in Mādhurya Kādambinī. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gītā (18.65):

manmana bhava mad bhakto mad yaji māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi satyaṁ te pratijāne priyo'si me


"Think of Me, be My devotee, worship Me and bow down to Me. Thus you will surely attain me. I promise you this because you are dear to Me."
Arjuna would surely attain Kṛṣṇa and he was a gṛhastha."

Bhakta: "Where did you learn such nice Bengali?"

Advaitadas: "Association. You don't learn a language from a book. You learned your mother tongue before you even entered kindergarten just from association with your relatives. Association is everything."

Bhakta: "Is the Guru supposed to be siddha?"

Advaitadas: "That's a bit much to ask nowadays, huh? Still one should take initiation..."

Bhakta: "What about 'brahmaṇyupaśamāśrayaḥ' (qualifications of the Guru given in SB 11.3.21, saying he should be in spiritual consciousness and in control of himself)?"

Advaitadas: "According to Jīva Gosvāmī in Bhakti Sandarbha (206), this applies to śravaṇa- or śikṣā-guru, not to dīkṣā-guru. For that he quotes another verse, 11.3.48.Surely a Guru must be qualified but it is objectively speaking, not easy to know who is siddha, or to find one. Subjectively speaking, for the śiṣya, the Guru is none other than Bhagavān. Hence I object against talk of 'uttama', 'madhyama' and 'kaniṣṭha' Gurus. That is pulling the Absolute into the realm of the relative. No śāstra speaks of uttama, madhyama and kaniṣṭha Gurus. Rather, the Bhāgavata (7.15.26) says:

yasya sākṣād bhagavati jñāna dīpe prade gurau
martyāsad-dhi śrutaṁ tasya sarvaṁ kuñjara śaucavat

'The fool who sees the Guru, who is God Himself and who is the giver of the light of divine knowledge, as a mortal person, sees all his learning go in vain."

Bhakta: "Some prominent Vaiṣṇavas claim the word brahmacārī and the āshram with that name was not especially marked by celibacy. It just means 'student'."

Advaitadas: Yajñavalkya Muni says:


karmaṇā manasā vācā sarvāvasthāsu sarvadā
sarvatra maithuna-tyāgo brāhmacaryaṁ pracakṣate


"To always give up sex, everywhere, in action, mind and words, is called brāhmacarya."

Bhakta: "The Bhagavat says ajāta śatrava śānta sādhava sādhu bhūṣaṇam - 'The devotee's enemy is never born".

Advaitadas: "You may have to see this as a glorification of the sādhus. Sanātan Goswāmī was jailed and almost killed by a robber. Raghunāth dās Gosvāmī was jailed, Yudhiṣṭhir Mahārāja had many ferocious enemies, too. Haridās Thākura was nearly beaten to death by the Muslims. Everyone naturally gets friends and enemies in life. No one is without enemies."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gīta Pañcakam

On Ekādaśī I spent two hours in the internet shop vainly waiting for two Russian hippies to give me the PC, though I had booked the time. I took advantage by reading the new book by Ananta das Bābājī, called Gīta Pañcakam. The purports of Anantadās Paṇḍitjī are of the usual high quality one can expect from him. This is not a review, because I just browsed through the book a little. This Gīta Pañcakam (meaning 5 Songs), contains 5 stotrams in the Vraja-section of the 10th Canto of the Bhāgavata - Veṇu Gīta (10.21), Gopī Gīta (10.31), Yugal Gīta (10.35), Uddhava Gīta (10.47), and Bhramara Gīta (10.47).

Some nice things I picked up though:

In SB 10.21.18, Rādhikā's prayer to Girirāja, Anantadāsjī quotes Her as saying that the stones of Girirāja keep Kṛṣṇa's feet warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
He also explains the killing of the Mura demon from another Purāṇa than the Bhāgavata:

Mura got the boon from Lord Brahmā that he could kill any celestial being (normally considered immortal), simply by touching them, but Lord Nārāyaṇa tricked him by claiming he was a coward. When Mura heard this he thumped his chest in indignation, 'Me, a coward??!" and thus killed himself, pretty much as what happened with Vṛkāsura.

There was also this charming verse:

doṣākaro'pi kuṭilo'pi kalaṅkito'pi
mitrāvasāna samaye vihitodayo'pi
candras tathāpi giriśaḥ śirasā bibharti
naivāśriteṣu guṇa-doṣa vicāraṇā syāt

"The moon may be at fault as the source of the night, he may be crooked and he may rise after the sun sets, still Giriśa (Shiva) carries him on His head. Morale: One should not consider the faults and virtues of those who take shelter of you."

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sūryakuṇḍa tragedy

Yesterday I could not blog this because the Rādhākuṇḍa cyber-joint was closed due to this disaster - The annual Sūryakund-festival in honour of Siddha Madhusūdan Dās Bābājī brutally ended when the roof of the Mandir collapsed and bābājīs both on and under the roof were either killed or got wounded. Last night I heard that 3 Vaiṣṇavas from Rādhākuṇḍa were killed, but since overnight 7 more were killed the death toll from Rādhākuṇḍa may have risen. Total death toll, according to Dainik Jagaran, is 12. Some 60 were wounded. As there were no ambulances in the small remote village, the victims were taken to hospitals in Agra and Mathurā by private car. Care there seems to be below standard, perhaps because the hospitals were flooded with casualties.

Everyone, many thanks for the worried e-mails - I am perfectly safe. I could not attend the Utsava due to my leg problems. I haven't attended since 1988, actually.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Four kinds of pious men

Modern comment on Bhagavad Gītā 7.16 :


catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ janāḥ sukṛtino'rjunaḥ
ārta jijñāsur arthārtī jñānī ca bharatarṣabhaḥ


"Four types of pious persons come to Me - the distressed, the poor, the wise and the inquisitive."

The distressed and inquisitive are mostly westerners, Indians are mostly arthārthī, after money. When the Indian brahmacārī joined an organisation with many western members and found his western bride and concomitant US green card he will serve the deities in Milwaukee temple for a few weeks and then start his business and send greenbacks to his extended family in India. Alternatively, the arthārthī may remain in India, don Rūpa Goswāmī's dress and start a lucrative business with kīrtana, disciples etc. Being a saffron-clad ' bonafide prabhu' is usually more lucrative though. Another type of arthārthī gives Bhāgavat Saptāha in a huge pompous circus announced by huge billboards, for huge rewards from the audience but without instilling any bhakti in them.

The inquisitive is usually an ignorant westerner with a big brain, who learns lots of śāstra, but when his intellectual curiosity is satisfied and he is about to mount a vyāsāsana, he turns Buddhist, punk-rocker, hippie or a combination of them. The Gauḍīya-Discussions elite was typical of such jijñāsus (inquisitive). Mañjarī bhāva and siddha praṇālī are usual objects of curiosity, so they take initiation into that, but drop the pactise when their curiosity is satisfied and it turns out one needs to be pure for it (smaraṇaṁ tu śuddhāntaḥkaraṇataḥ sāpekṣā).

The ārta, or distressed, is usually a westerner who had too much sex and/or drugs, or who is too ugly, or too shy, or impotent, homo-, bi- pedo- or a-sexual and tries to flee from such a problem into a celibate order, which will ultimately fail if there is no real bhakti to give a higher taste. The ārta is usually very eager to get 'liberated in this lifetime' and thus puts some extra ice cubes into his early morning bathing water to detach him from his body as soon as possible. In a sense, the ārta is higher than the arthārthī, because bhakti for purification is in the mode of goodness and bhakti for the money is in the mode of passion (SB 3.29.7-12). In either case, bhukti mukti spṛhā yāvat piśācī hṛdi vartate (BRS) ' How can prema arise when the witches of the desires for enjoyment (the arthārthī) and liberation (the ārta) are still in the heart?'

The jñānī, or wise, is one who understands and knows the teachings of śāstra and Guru applies them too - this can be either westerner or an Indian. This is the real bhakta (teṣāṁ jñānī nitya yuktam, 7.17), but is very rare too (sa mahātmā sudurlabha 7.19). Of course the poor, curious and distressed may have real bhakti too, through which they can transcend their motivations and become pure devotees. And in any case, Kṛṣṇa says udāra sarva evaite (7.18) "they are all glorious", just for coming to the right place.

Written in Vrindavan, October 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Self-evident?

We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

On a Vaiṣṇava forum I recently debated a secular issue and to support his point a devotee quoted this sentence from the US constitution. Actually, this is not an authoritative statement in principle because those who drafted this constitution are of course conditioned souls, who are prone to mistakes, inattentiveness, deceit and imperfect senses (bhrama pramāda vipralipsā karaṇāpaṭava). Comparing this statement with the verdicts of śāstra was amusing, because it turned out to be not-so self-evident at all.

'All men are created equal' has two flaws in it -

1. No one was ever created. na tvevāhaṁ jātu nāsam na tvaṁ neme narādhipāḥ (Bhagavad Gītā 2.12) "Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you nor all these kings." The jīva is beginningless and thus never created.
2. No one is equal, created or otherwise. In his commentary on the Vedanta Sūtra 2.1.35, Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa argues that God may be blamed for being partial, since some souls suffer and some souls enjoy, but the Vedanta Sūtra text denies that by saying: na karma vibhāgād iti cen nānāditvāt 'If there is a division (inequality) of karma (then that is unfair), but no, for it (karma) is anādi (beginningless).' Baladeva then continues to quote a verse from the Smṛti:

puṇya pāpādikaṁ viṣṇuḥ kārayet pūrva karmanā
anāditvāt karmanas ca na virodhaḥ kathancanaḥ

"Viṣṇu engages (the conditioned souls) in sin or virtue according to (their) previous karma, but there is no controversy (injustice) in that since karma is beginningless.'

Regarding equality on the material level, no Barack Obama is going to turn each homeless bum in Harlem into a Beverly Hillbilly. Inequality is intrinsic. Even communism failed to bring equality to even a single nation.
Then what about ' unalienable rights' like Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness'? Can any US government provide it?

Life - what about the lives that were lost in all the US interventionalist wars, and that are lost now since abortionwas legalized? Can the US government insure or protect Life? Hardly. jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyuḥ (Bhagavad Gītā 2.27) "For those who are born, death is sure."
Liberty - Freedom is an illusion. In this world we serve our families (by having to maintain them), governments (by paying taxes) and our senses. In the spiritual world we serve Krishna, but there is no freedom anyway anywhere.
Pursuit of Happiness -
ye hi saṁsparśaja bhogaḥ duḥka yonaya eva te
ādyantavanta kaunteya na teṣu ramate budhaḥ

(Bhagavad Gītā 5.22)

"Any enjoyment which arises from the touches of the senses are just sources of misery. They have a beginning and an end and thus a wise men does not rejoice in them." duḥkālayam aśaśvatam (Bhagavad Gītā 8.15) ' This world is miserable and temporary.' As the Christian founders of the American state must have known from the Bible, this is the valley of the tears..

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ruci means chanting, not womanizing

Yesterday one commentator to my 'Advaita's rebuttal to Advaita's reversal'- blog of November 4 quoted this verse from Bhakti Sandarbha (312), from Gautamiya Tantra:


prītir atra tādṛśa-ruciḥ ....
na japo nārcanaṁ naiva dhyānaṁ nāpi vidhi-kramaḥ
kevalaṁ santataṁ kṛṣṇa-caraṇāmbhoja-bhāvinām


"There is no japa, no deity worship, no meditation and no succession of rules. There is only feelings for Kṛṣṇa's lotus-feet."

It is important that this verse is not misunderstood to mean rāgānugā bhakti consists of idleness, dirtiness, carelessness, much less debauchery. This verse is quoted in the context of the ruci stage of rāgānugā bhakti. It means that the rāgānuga bhakta has no quota or duty of japa, deity worship or meditation, but he will do it (nāma gāne sadā ruci, he always has taste for nāma) naturally. Otherwise what would be the meaning of rāga (passion) and ruci (taste), if he would not chant or meditate? This would make no sense. As for dhyāna, rāgānugā bhakti has been called 'mano-dharma' (mental religion) by Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda (Rāga Vartma Candrikā), and then the rāgānuga bhakta will not meditate? The Gosvāmīs' books are sūtras (aphorisms) and can be easily misinterpreted by unscrupulous people who want to twist them to their advantage.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Advaita's rebuttal of Advaita's reversal

On October 31 Jagadānanda Dās posted a blog in a reaction to my blog of October 5. His mundane intellectual superimpositions on transcendental śāstra have been dealt with many times by yours truly and others, but as he continues to try to defy the ācāryas and śāstra by denying that sex is for procreation, here’s an updated and extended catalog of what the ācāryas and śāstras have to say on it:

"As one in his list of definitions of what a Vaiṣṇava is, Jīva Gosvāmī in his Bhakti-sandarbha (202) cites the Skanda-purāṇa's instructions of Mārkaṇḍeya to Bhagīratha:

yathā skānde mārkaṇḍeya-bhagīratha-saṁvāde -
dharmārthaṁ jīvitaṁ yeṣāṁ santānārthaṁ ca maithunam 
pacanaṁ vipramukhyārthaṁ jneyās te vaiṣṇavā narāḥ 
atra śrī-viṣṇor ājnā-buddhyaiva tat tat kriyata iti vaiṣṇava-padena gamyate

"Those people for whom the purpose of life is religion, for whom the purpose of sexual intercourse are children, and for whom the purpose of cooking is to serve the brāhmaṇas, go by the name of 'Vaiṣṇava'."

Thus those, who act in awareness of the orders of Viṣṇu, are understood as Vaiṣṇavas. The essence of the thought here is that a Vaiṣṇava would not do something that wouldn't be pleasing to Viṣṇu, and since sexual intercourse for mere enjoyment isn't something that can be offered, a Vaiṣṇava would not unnecessarily engage in it. Then, the Bhāgavata-purāṇa repeats the concept in three locations, describing the suitable period for sexual union:

gṛhasthasya ṛtu-gāminaḥ 

"The householder have sexual intercourse only in the fertile season."  S.B. 7.12.11

gṛhasthasyāpy ṛtau gantuḥ

"However [though brāhmacarya was described], the householder may approach his wife for intercourse in the fertile season."  S.B. 11.18.43

evaṁ vyavāyaḥ prajayā na ratyā imaṁ viśuddhaṁ na viduḥ sva-dharmam 

"In the same way [as with other injunctions giving room for sensual indulgence], sexual intercourse should not be for the sake of lust, but for the sake of progeny. Regardless, people do not understand such pure sva-dharmas."  S.B. 11.5.13

The theme is brought up in Bhagavad-gita (7.11):

dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu kāmo'smi bharatarṣabha

"I am that lust, O greatest of the Bharatas, that is not contrary to dharma."

The commentaries prominent in the Gauḍīya line of thought, namely those by Śrīdhara Svāmī, Viśvanātha Cakravartī and Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, read as follows:

śrīdharaḥ -- dharmeṇāviruddhaḥ sva-dāreṣu putrotpādana-mātropayogī kāmo’ham iti 
viśvanāthaḥ -- dharmāviruddhaḥ sva-bhāryāyāṁ putrotpatti-mātropayogī
baladevaḥ -- dharmāviruddhaḥ svapatnyāṁ putrotpatti-mātra-hetuḥ

Śrīdhara: "I am lust that is not contrary to dharma, suitable only for bestowal of progeny in one's wife."
Viśvanātha: "Not contrary to dharma means suitable only for the birth of progeny in one's wife."
Baladeva: "Not contrary to dharma means for the sole cause of the birth of progeny in one's wife."

Hence, begetting children with one's duly wedded wife is the desired application for sexual desire.

Further, in Bhagavad Gītā 10.28, Kṛṣṇa says prajanaś cāsmi kandarpaḥ “Of progenitors I am Cupid.”
Śrīdhara Swāmī comments:

prajanaḥ prajotpatti-hetu kandarpaḥ kāmo’smi na kevalaṁ sambhoga-mātra-pradhānaḥ kāmo mad-vibhūtir aśāstrīyatvāt

“I am the desire that is only for making children, the desire for sex for just pleasure is not scriptural.”
Madhusūdana Sarasvatī comments :

kāmānāṁ madhye prajanaḥ prajanayitā putrotpatty-artho yaḥ kandarpaḥ kāmaḥ so’ham asmi ca-kāras tv artho rati-mātra-hetu-kāma-vyāvṛtty-arthaḥ

“Of desires I am the desire for making children only. ca means it excludes sex just for pleasures.”
Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa comments :

prajanaḥ santānotpādakah kandarpaḥ kāmo’ham rati-sukha-mātra-hetuh sa nāham iti ca-śabdāt

“I am the desire for just making children, but I am not the desire for mere sexual pleasures.”

Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, citing Padma-purāṇa (5.9.44-47), praises a householder's abstinence except for the sake of begetting progeny as the equivalent of brāhmacarya:

ṛtu-kālābhigāmī yaḥ sva-dāra-nirataś ca yaḥ 
sarvadā brahmacārīha vijneyaḥ sa gṛhāśramī 

"One who is devoted to his own wife and approaches her for intercourse in the period suitable for fertilization is known always as a brahmacārī even though he may be in the householder-āśrama." (HBV 11.156)

iti matvā sva-dāreṣu ṛtumatsu budho vrajet 
yathokta-doṣa-hīneṣu sakāmeṣv anṛtāv api 

"Thinking this way, even if his wife is willing during unseasonable times, the intelligent person will approach her only in her fertile period. when she is free of detrimental effect, as has been explained before." 11.173

This is just śāstra. Now comes yukti (common sense): If sex were not for procreation, then why do women get pregnant of it each time? And why does one apply artificial tricks to avoid that, items of contraception that do not grow on the trees?

As for our professor's argument that sex is LOVE, the following from the śāstras and ācāryas (this is really kid stuff, it doesn't take a rocket-scientist to understand):

ātmendriya prīti vānchā tār boli kāma;
kṛṣṇendriya prīti dhare tār prem nāma

Caitanya Caritāmṛta: “ The desire to satisfy one’s own senses is called kāma (lust) and the desire to please Kṛṣṇa’s senses is called prema (love)."

ātaeva kāma-prema bahu antara;
kāma andhatama prema nirmala bhāskar (CC)

“Therefore there is a big difference between lust and love – lust is deep darkness and love is clear light.”

Let then not our friend, who was twice initiated into the sannyāsa-order of life, come with self-styled ahangropāsana theories like ‘our sex is love for Kṛṣṇa’ or ‘ it’s the same as Kṛṣṇa’s’, because the first quote I made from Caitanya Caritāmṛta is also confirmed at the end of the Bhāgavat’s Rāsa-līlā: naitat samācarejjātu manasāpi hyanīśvara ‘ Not even in one’s mind should one imitate the intimate pastimes of the Lord’ vināśatyaciran mauḍhyāt ‘ You quickly perish from such foolishness’ yathā rudro’bdhijaṁ viṣam ‘ As you can also not imitate lord Shiva’s drinking poison from the ocean’. It’s only that he knows it. In Holland we say – a warned man counts for two.’

As for svarūpa-siddha bhakti, Brajabhūṣaṇa dāsji patiently explained (in my blog of August 22, 2008), quoting from Viśvanātha's ṭīkā of Bhagavad Gītā 9.27, that as soon as overall surrender has taken place, everything is done for Kṛṣṇa’s sake. If the progeny does not show interest in bhakti, that is between Kṛṣṇa and the child – the parent can only have the best – devotional – intentions.

The 1960s' western sexual revolution-generation is turning 60 and frankly, I think it's pathetic to see a 60-year old, who has known Vaiṣṇava siddhanta for 40 years, speak of lust as love like this.

By the way, I don't agree that undue loss of seed is mass murder, as no doctor or scientist can perceive the soul in any of the millions of sperm cells released during an ejaculation. Many times a woman does not get pregnant even if approached on a fertile day.

Anyway, my final comment to Jagat and his faith-fellows is this: If illicit sex would lead to enlightenment, the whole world would have been enlightened from day 1.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Diwāli 2008


Bhakta: ‘ What is the origin of Diwālī?”

Advaitadas: “Originally it celebrates Lord Rāma’s return from exile. But it is also celebrated in connection with other deities.”

Bhakta: ‘ How is it connected with Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism?

Advaitadas: ‘ Dāmodar month in general is connected with one līlā:

saṅketāvasare cyute praṇayataḥ saṁrabdhayā dhārayā

prārabhya bhrukuṭim hiraṇya rasanā dāmnā nibaddhodaram
kārtikya jananī kṛtotsava vare prastāvanā pūrvakam
cāṭūni prathayantam ātma pulakaṁ dhyāyema dāmodaram


‘’Once, in the auspicious month of Kārtika, Kṛṣṇa could not meet His beloved Rādhārāṇī in the kuñja on time, so Śrīmatī frowned Her eyebrows out of loving anger and bound Kṛṣṇa around the belly with a golden rope. Śrī Kṛṣṇa then explained to Her that He was too late for his appointment because He had been held up in Ma Yaśomatī’s festival so Śrīmatī released Him again. We meditate on Śrī Dāmodara, who is studded with goosepimples of loving ecstasy!’’ Here Kṛṣṇa is sometimes called Nīvi Dāmodar, who is bound by the strings of Śrī Rādhikā. The pearl-līlā (Mukta Carita by Śrī Raghunātha Dāsa Goswāmī) also takes place on Diwāli, so Diwāli reminds rāgānuga bhaktas of that.”

Bhakta: “ How does a practitioner of mañjarī bhāva experience Dāmodar-līlā?”

Advaitadas: “When one is deeply committed to mañjarī bhāva, one can skip the daily singing of Dāmodarāṣṭakam. The līlā itself can still be appreciated by some  mañjarī bhāva-practitioners as observers of mother Yaśoda’s motherly love for her son. Speaking of vātsalya bhāva, Sādhu Bābā's Pitṛdev, the renowned rasik pāṭhak (lecturer) Śrīla Ānanda Gopāl Goswāmī Prabhupada, was, during one of his pāṭhs, requested to speak on bālya līlā. Hearing this, he stood up from the vyāsāsana at once and left the assembly hall. Such was his niṣṭha in mañjarī bhāva. It is a very famous story that I heard outside of the family. Such niṣṭha is very rare, though - most devotees will just sing Dāmodarāṣṭakam daily during the Kārtik month.

Bhakta: ‘There seems to be disagreement on when to start Kartik vows – some Vaiṣṇavas start on Ekādaśī and others on Pūrṇimā.”

Advaitadas: “Haribhakti Vilāsa (16.80) says:

āśvinasya tu māsasya yā śuklaikādaśī bhavet
kārtikasya vratānīha tasyāh kuryād atantritaḥ

Kārtik-vows are observed from (Āśvin śukla) Ekādaśī to (Kārtik śukla) Ekādaśī.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cyberjoint sanga

Despite all my physical woes, Vṛndāvana is of course a place where you meet many Vaiṣṇavas. This is the gist of one such meetings, in a cyberjoint -

Bhakta: "Some say that the jīva never falls from Goloka but does fall from Vaikuṇṭha."

Advaitadas: "na yatra māyā (Śrīmad Bhāgavata 2.9.10) - Brahmā said there is no māyā, when he had a vision of Vaikuntha. He did see Vaikuṇṭha, not Goloka, and: no māyā, no fall. Can you show me anywhere in śāstra that we don’t fall from Goloka but do fall from Vaikuṇṭha?”

Bhakta: ‘Is it true that one can attain bhāva bhakti only through the personal association of a mahā bhāgavata?”

Advaitadas: ‘Such association is of course welcome but is not imperative. At least I cannot find statements in śāstra that personal saṅga is the only way to bhāva bhakti."

Bhakta: ‘Some give the example of Raghunāth dās Goswāmī, who was placed under Swarūp Dāmodar’s care by Śrīman Mahāprabhu and later he took shelter of Rūpa Goswāmī. He was never without superior guidance and empowerment.”

Adwaitadas:
"1. Raghunāth dās Goswāmī was a nitya-siddha and needed no bhāva-bhakti from anyone.
2. Even if that were so, whose personal association did he get after Rūpa Goswāmī passed away? Raghunāth dās Goswāmī outlived Rūpa Goswāmī for about 27 years. So I find no practical or scriptural evidence for this personal-saṅga philosophy."

Bhakta: “It is said that taṭastha śakti means that we came from Mahāviṣṇu and then we made a choice between the spiritual and material world.”

Adwaitadas:
1. ‘There is an avalanche of evidence from śāstra, beginning with the Bhāgavata, that our ignorance is beginningless, while your theory implies there was a beginning. This is contradictory. Bhagavad Gītā’s first lesson (2.12-30) is that the soul is unborn. Where was it then before this ‘beginning-scene’ which you depict here?
2. There is no evidence for the historical event you suggest here, in any śāstra whatsoever, be it the Bhāgavata, or any of the Goswāmīs’ writings.
3. It sounds like we rubbed our eyes when we came out, had a brief thought “Where shall I go now?” and then, without any reason, chose for eternal bliss with Kṛṣṇa or eternal suffering in the material world. What about the śāstras’ repeated statements that our ignorance is beginningless (anādyavidyā)?”

Bhakta: “It is also said that due to contacting material nature, our natural love for Kṛṣṇa is turned into lust.”

Advaitadas: ‘nitya siddha kṛṣṇa prema’ (CC) “Kṛṣṇa Prem is eternally perfect”, which means that once it is attained it is never lost. These are two entirely different things, though they appear to be similar. ataeva kāma-prema bahut antar, kāma andhatama prema nirmala bhāskara (CC) ‘Lust and prema are very different from each other – lust is deep darkness while prema is clear light.”

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Engaging all senses" - blogs deleted and "Work and Family" blogs revised

I have deleted my blog of December 8, 2007 and the last paragraph of the following blog ("Week 49") because I read the Haribhakti Vilāsa text pāyūpasthayoś ca tatra sākṣād ayogyatvāt, which says one cannot use the genitals and the anus in Kṛṣṇa's service, out of context. tatra means 'here', 'in this context', the context being Haribhakti Vilāsa 11.627-9, describing several ways in which the active- and knowledge-senses engage directly in Kṛṣṇa's service, like the head in bowing down, the nose in smelling offered incense and Tulasī, etc. sākṣād means ' directly'. Sanātan Goswāmī states in the quoted ṭīkā that in this context the anus and genitals can not be directly engaged. My friend Brajabhūṣan personally wrote me last August:

"Now, regarding your quote from HBV: my understanding is that the tika-kari says that 'when describing sādhana bhakti, various activities related to our senses were mentioned, but those related to anus and genitals were not included as they are not directly (sākṣād) suitable for the service.'That's clear, you will not offer to Kṛṣṇa such direct 'service' as passing stool in front of Him, nobody would like it, not even a person dearest to you (like your mother, let's say) would like it. Nevertheless, she would like it if you emptied your bowels regularly (in the toilet, of course) as only this way you could maintain your health. I believe Kṛṣṇa reasons in the same way."

Nice arguments can also be found in my blogs of August 22 and October 1. My friend Boris quoted this verse from Haribhakti Vilāsa (8.410), which also mention the genitals (śiśna) as instrument of devotional service:

itaḥ pūrvaṁ prāṇa-buddhi-dharmādhikārato jāgrat-svapna-suṣupty-avasthāsu manasā vācā karmaṇā hastābhyāṁ padbhyām udareṇa śiśnā yat smṛtaṁ yad uktaṁ yat kṛtaṁ tat sarvaṁ śrī-kṛṣṇārpaṇaṁ bhavatu svāhā māṁ madīyaṁ ca sakalaṁ haraye samarpayāmīti oṁ tat sat 410

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Satyanārāyan Dāsji on work and yukta-vairāgya

Jiva Institute, Vṛndāvana, October 1, 2008 -

Advaitadas: (Referring to the 'Work and family' debate of August 22):
"Sanātan Goswāmī says in Haribhakti Vilāsa that the anus and genitals cannot be used in Kṛṣṇa's service."

Satyanarayan Das: "If I don't pass stool I will suffer and that hampers my devotional service. The genitals can be used to make Vaiṣṇava children. If they don't become devotees that is not your fault if you did your best to train them. It is the attitude that counts. After all, Kṛṣṇa said dharmāviruddha bhūteṣu kāmo'smi (Bhagavad Gītā 7.11) ' I am desire in those beings who do not contradict virtue'. There are 4 types of bhakti - transcendental, sāttvika, rājasik and tāmasik. The activity is the same, however. They do pūjā but one does it for Kṛṣṇa's pleasure, one for purification, one for fame followers and money and one to destroy somebody. It is the attitude that counts."

He then confirms Brajabhūṣaṇa's opinion on uttama
bhakti. He adds to it, when I speak of asat saṅga on the work-floor: "Mahāprabhu gave the example of the para-vyasaninī nārī, the adulterous woman who lives with her husband (job, family) but whose mind is always fixed on her lover (Kṛṣṇa)."
He furthermore thinks it is great if one can have honest money without having to work for it (as I had almost all my life) - Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas have no duty to work, just to bhajan.

Advaitadas: Rūpa Goswāmī has rejected deliberate (dry) renunciation in favor of practical (yukta) renunciation (Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu 1.2.255-256) Why then we see deliberate acts of renunciation in the Goswāmīs' lives, like Sanātan Goswāmī swapping his expensive quilt for the beggar's rag?"

Satyanārāyan Dāsji: "Vairāgya was in high esteem in India in those days, as a vital part of jñāna-mārga, which was prominent before bhakti was. Such deliberate acts of vairāgya by the Goswāmīs were examples for the social and public image of our sampradāya. Lord Caitanya Himself gave that example by taking sannyāsa. Raghunāth Dās Goswāmī's drinking of a little buttermilk at Rādhākund was not deliberate vairāgya - he felt such joy from his bhajan that he just lost interest in eating and sleeping. The Bhāgavata (1.2.7) says vairāgya occurs naturally, as a result of bhakti - jānayātyāśu vairāgyaṁ."

(Adwaitadas comment: Raghunāth Dās Goswāmī's progressive practise of vairāgya in Puri led him from deliberate vairāgya to yukta vairāgya - instead of begging at the Simha Dwār, speculating about who would give alms or not, he saved time for hearing and chanting by eating at the charity booth instead.)

Advaitadas: ' I broke Ekadaśī last week out of ignorance. Should I atone by doing the Nirjalā-vow next June?"

Satyanārāyan Dāsji: " I would just apologize for the breach, that's all"
(Note: Nirañjan Bābu said verbatim the same to me).

Adwaitadas: " But it is mentioned in Haribhakti Vilāsa"

Satyanārāyan Dāsji: " There are 1000s of rules there. We must accept the gist of them from the Guru." 
He then tells me that Haribhakti Vilāsa is not a book for or by smārtas, as is sometimes claimed: "Why would it be? There are already so many Smṛti śāstras anyway. In his Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu ṭīkā (1.2.296) Viśvanātha Cakravartī also rejects so many rules."

Adwaitadas: " Though jugupsa rasa is rejected by Rūpa Goswāmī in relation to Kṛṣṇa, we see descriptions of Mahāprabhu's saliva and nose-fluid flowing out of His mouth (Caitanya Bhāgavat), Tulasī Mañjarī cleaning Rādhārāṇīi's toilet with her hair (Vilāp kusumāñjali 18), or jokes about Kundalatā's menstruation (Govinda Līlāmṛta)."

Satyanārāyan Dāsji: " It is a material vision that makes it jugupsa (repulsive) for you, but look at Ṛṣabh-dev's carita: He rolled in his own stool, but it is described (SB 5th Canto) that his stool smelled deliciously, in a radius of miles around."

Satyanārāyan Dāsji concludes by saying: ' We translate the word 'dāsa' as ' servant' but actually it means 'slave' - we are sold out to Guru and can no more act otherwise."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gaur Nāgarī, public Abhiṣekh, brahmacāriṇīs and dhṛti

Bhakta: “A prominent bhakta is saying that there is really a line of Gaura Nāgarī bhāva, coming from Mahāprabhu's associate, (forgot his name ..) that has practised and is still practicing it.”

Advaitadas: “These associates are Locandās and Narahari Sarakāra. The point is, Murāri Gupta worshipped Rām and Nṛsiṁhānanda Brahmacārī worshipped Nṛsiṁha and these are also associates of Mahāprabhu. But these are exceptions. We are to follow the authorized ācāryas ourselves - the 6 Gosvāmīs, and they have not prescribed any of all of this. The ācāryas, both then and now, are giving mañjarī bhāva.”

Bhakta: “In the abhiṣek in India everybody can take part?”

Advaitadas: “No, I have never seen this anywhere in India. It is done by the pūjārīs. You see, in Iskcon everyone can take part - menstruating women, people who passed stool in cotton clothes, who wore the same clothes for a week or more, or people who did not shower at all. If I ever have a public abhiṣek I would never allow anyone to shower Giridhārī. In Sādhu Bābā’s āshram its also done just by the pūjārīs.”

Bhakta: “Yes, after seeing your arguments I agree, though at that time I saw it as a mercy.”

Advaitadas: “Mercy comes in the form of harinām; everyone can take part in kīrtan. Not in arcanā. What is the use of vetting pūjārīs on sadācāra and 'brahminical qualifications' then if you allow all dirty bums to shower Kṛṣṇa with (contaminated by) stool and menstrual blood on His own birthday even?”

Bhakta: “You say the mañjarīs have no intimate relationship with Kṛṣṇa but we do find statements in Kṛṣṇa Bhāvanāmṛta, Govinda Līlāmṛta and Muktā Carita that hint at it or even openly describe it.”

Advaitadas: “rasika līlā-matters are subjective, tattva is objective. In other words, if your Guru teaches that the mañjarī is not married and is an all-round brahmacārinī, also not enjoying with Kṛṣṇa, then that is your svarūpa. If other ācāryas say you are married and/or enjoy with Kṛṣṇa, then that is your svarūpa. But tattva is objective. Its not that one Guru’s teaching that the living entities fall down from the spiritual world is true and another Guru’s teaching that we were always here is also true.”

Bhakta: “Nāndīmukhī is called brahmacārinī in the Muktā Caritra (428), but she asks Kṛṣṇa about amorous details. How is that?”

Advaitadas: “That’s nothing. mañjarīs are eternal brahmacārinīs and they have the most intimate access to Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Speaking of brahmacārinīs,  for long I wondered whether this term was actually Vedic. I only accepted it as such when I first read this verse. I was under the impression that it is not Vedic for a girl to remain single and that they should all be married in time for their own protection, but when I took dīkṣā from my Guru I found that he encouraged his female disciples also to remain single and take jobs as teachers, nurses etc.”

Bhakta: “In the Bhāgavata (10.45.60) Rukmiṇī seems to preach to women not to accept a man whose body is filled with puss, stool, urine and covered with hair everywhere as a husband but simply to worship Kṛṣṇa. That is preaching to girls to remain brahmacārinīs.”

Advaitadas: ‘bālasya neha śaraṇaṁ pitarau nṛsiṁha (SB 7.9.19) – The parents cannot protect their child, tvad upekṣitānām – if it is neglected by You.” Similarly a woman cannot really be protected by her husband, if God decides otherwise.

Bhakta: “Previously (blog of June 2, 2008) you objected against compulsory Nṛsiṁha worship because Nṛsimha is such an aiśvarya deity, but Nanda Mahārāja loved the Nārāyan-deity too.”

Advaitadas: “Nanda Mahārāj only loves Kṛṣṇa. People in Vraja are formally worshipping Sūryadeva (Rādhā’s family) Durgā (Candrāvalī’s family) or Nārāyan (Kṛṣṇa’s family) but that is only a backdrop for the greatest love for Kṛṣṇa that the Vrajavāsīs posses. Who of them cares for Nārāyan?”

Bhakta: “If they don’t care for Nārāyan why they worship Him at all?”

Advaitadas: “Kṛṣṇa wont want to live in a paradise full of atheists. And He can also not live in a paradise where He Himself is God – so the solution is that devatās are worshipped in His environment. Everybody in Vraja has their kuladeva, their traditional family-deity.”

Bhakta: “So they worship Nārāyan to go to the abode of Nārāyan in the next life. They think like that?”

Advaitadas: “Most Indian families are not really hankering for this to be their last birth in the material world. They are mostly interested in their relatives and their family deity is another thing. Nanda Mahārāja is like that too, in the līlā of course. Once Nārada Muni approached Nanda Mahārāja and told him: “Why don’t you renounce household life – it is all māyā.” Nanda Mahārāja replied: “Oh sādhu, I am totally happy in this household life – I have Kṛṣṇa as my son. What more would I want?” This is called dhṛti, contentness.”

*

This will be the last blog from Holland for now, I am flying to Delhi tomorrow, though I am suffering from complications of ear infections. Everyone keep their fingers crossed – I will take painkillers for the take-off and landing (ear-pressure).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Balarām Bhakti (2), Astrology, the Rāsa līlā’s aiśvarya and Kaustubha.

Bhakta: “In some places (in the west) an Ekadaśī-feast is taken on Balarāma’s birthday.”

Advaitadas: “Actually Balrāmji is not at all a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava upāsya (worshipable deity). This vrata or utsava for Balarāmji’s birthday is not observed by any Vaiṣṇava group I know of (apart perhaps from villagers in Dauji village or the bhaktas of Gaura Dauji in Vṛndāvana, neither of whom are Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas), nor is it mentioned in any śāstra like Haribhakti Vilāsa or Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu. As I said in my blog of August 7, we are devotees of Kṛṣṇa, not of Balarāma. No fast is required or prescribed for it.”

Bhakta: ”But Nṛsiṁhānanda Brahmacārī worshipped Nṛsiṁha and Murāri Gupta worshipped Rāma.”

Advaitadas: “Yes but these are exceptions, not the rule. It is not that the entire community is to be forced by its leaders to worhip Nṛsiṁha, Rāma or Balarāma. The rules are clearly and elaborately laid out in the Gosvāmīs' books. Instead the Śrāvaṇa Pūrṇimā is famous for its celebration of Raksa Bandhan, which is not some mundane Hindu-bindu festival, since it is celebrated by Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in Vilāpa Kusumāñjali (88), and of course Jhulan Purṇimā.”

Bhakta: “Then it is said that Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma perform pastimes in Raman Reti in Vṛndāvana.”

Advaitadas: “I have never read that in any of the Gosvāmīs books. Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma go with the cows from Nandagrām (58 km from Vṛndāvana) in the morning to tend Their cows in Govardhana (30 km from Vṛndāvana) and then return to Nandagrām again in the afternoon. That is the pattern of Their eternal pastimes in the Gosvāmīs’ books. Kṛṣṇa Himself comes to Vṛndāvana, without Balarāma, only at night to dance the Rāsa.”

Bhakta: “Can astrology tell us something about our spiritual lives?”

Advaitadas: “The Gosvāmīs have not mentioned astrology anywhere in their books, so it seems that the stars have no influence on those whose lives are surrendered to the Lord, the Controller and the Creator of the stars…”

Bhakta: “In the Rāsa līlā in the Bhāgavata, the gopīs often address Kṛṣṇa as the All-powerful one, the all-pervading one, the Lord of Lakṣmī etc. That is heavy aiśvarya.”

Advaitadas: “There are two answers to this – the first is that Śukadeva showed the mādhurya in different places in the Bhāgavata –

mādhurya bhagavattā sāra,        braje koilo paracāra,
tāhe śuka vyāsera nandan,
sthāne sthāne bhāgavate,          varṇiyāche nānā mate (CC)

“Sweetness is the essence of Godhead, and Śuka, the son of Vyāsa, has revealed this at different places in the Bhāgavat, in different ways.” In different places, but not everywhere. The tenth canto is a patchwork of mādhurya and aiśvarya, even the Rāsa-līlā narrations. In the Gopī Gīta (SB 10.31), the gopīs first call Kṛṣṇa the Supersoul (akhila dehinām antarātma dhṛk, verse 4) and later on (verse 16) they call Him a cheat for leaving innocent girls in the dead of night (kitava yoṣita kas tyajen niśi).

The second answer is that expert rasik ācāryas, particularly Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda, have given rasika explanations to all these supposedly aiśvarya-names and attributes of Kṛṣṇa in their commentaries. Many of these reverend addresses of Kṛṣṇa are explained to be sarcasm of the gopīs. Kṛṣṇa’s rejection of the gopīs is turned into a plaintive plea (by Kṛṣṇa) and the gopīs’ plaintive plea to Kṛṣṇa turns into a proud rejection instead. The ācāryas have thus explained the verses in such a way that all rāgānugā bhaktas can enjoy a flow of uninterrupted mādhurya when they read the Bhāgavata.”

Bhakta: “What is the color of Kaustubha maṇi? We argued among our bhaktas, but no one knows for sure. I only remember on place in Ānanda Vṛndāvana Campū when pearls on Kṛṣṇa’s chest become red because of the light of Kaustubha. Can you kindly help me?”

Advaitadas: “Indeed, this is there in Ānanda Vṛndāvana Campu (kaustubha raśmi-pūra-śoṇāyamāna-vara-mauktika, AVC 22.25) and is also confirmed in Kṛṣṇa Bhāvanāmṛta (12.65): uditendu sūrya śata nindi kaustubhācchalato yato jagad avāpa raktatāṁ “The Kaustubha defeats the rising sun and moon and pervades the universe with redness.” Elsewhere in Kṛsṇa Bhāvanāmṛta, however, the Kaustubha is compared with Kṛṣṇa Himself, when Rādhikā wears it on Her chest after winning it in the dice game in ch.15), which would indicate it is Kṛṣṇa's colour. However, that can be read as the Kaustubha just being a representative of Kṛṣṇa on Rādhikā's chest because it is normally an inseparable apparel of Kṛṣṇa.”

Bhakta: “But in Ānanda Gopāl Gosvāmī’s purport of Vilāpa Kusumāñjali, verse 34, it is said: "O Sumukhi! The Kaustubha-gem and Your Syamantaka-jewel are embracing Each other (when You embrace Kṛṣṇa), like a black moon (Kaustubha) playing with a lotus flower (Syamantaka)!” Here the Kaustubha gem is said to be black.”

Advaitadas: “I may have erred there. The Bengali text says: ubhayera maṇite kolākoli. kāla-cāṅd kamalera saṅge kheliche. tomāra mukha-kamala vigalita madhu āsvādana korite dekhilām etc. I might have drawn a conclusion there that was not originally meant so. The translation, instead of the one you quoted from me, should have been: “The gems of both of Them (Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa) are in an embrace. The black moon plays with the lotus. I saw Him relishing the honey that trickles from that lotus.” I believe now that that black moon is Kṛṣṇa Himself, not the Kaustubha gem.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Guru in the Bhagavad Gītā

The only Guru-verse in Bhagavad Gita (tad viddhi praṇipātena pariprasnena sevayā, 4.34) seems to indicate that the Guru here is plural (the words upadekṣanti, jnānina and tattva darśina are all in plural case). However, the commentators all agree that here too the worshipable Guru is in the singular.
Śrī Madhusūdana Sarasvatī comments:

bahu-vacanaṁ cedam ācārya-viṣayam ekasminn api gauravātisayārthaṁ na tu bahutva-vivakṣayā. ekasmād eva tattva-sākṣātkāravata ācāryāt tattva-jnānodaye satyācāryāntara-gamanasya tad-artham ayogād iti draṣṭavyam

„The ācarya is mentioned here in plural case but still he is one. The plural case was only used here in an honorary way. It does not mean that one should have many Gurus. Divine knowledge is arising from a single Guru who has seen the truth. One should see here that it is unfit to go to other Gurus for this purpose.”

Śri Viśvanātha Cakravarti comments:

praṇipātena jnānopadeṣṭari gurau daṇḍavan-namaskāreṇa. bhagavan! kuto’yaṁ me saṁsāraḥ? kathaṁ nivartiṣyate? iti paripraśnena ca. sevayā tat-paricaryayā ca. tad vijnānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham iti śruteḥ

praṇipātena means offering prostrated obeisances to the knowledge-instructing Guru. ṭhe paripraśna (inquiry) is: „Bhagavan (Gurudeva)! Why am I in the material world? How can I stop material life?” sevayā means serving him or her.” Then he quotes the Upaniṣad-verse sa gurum evābhigacchet „To know this, one should approach a Guru who is learned and realized”. All of this is in singular case.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Śrī Janmāṣṭamī 2008

Śrīmad Bhāgavata
Canto 10, chapter 3, verses 1- 8


śrī-śuka uvāca
atha sarva-guṇopetaḥ kālaḥ parama-śobhanaḥ
yarhy evājana-janmarkṣaḿ śāntarkṣa-graha-tārakam
diśaḥ prasedur gaganaḿ nirmaloḍu-gaṇodayam
mahī mańgala-bhūyiṣṭha- pura-grāma-vrajākarā
nadyaḥ prasanna-salilā hradā jalaruha-śriyaḥ
dvijāli-kula-sannāda- stavakā vana-rājayaḥ
vavau vāyuḥ sukha-sparśaḥ puṇya-gandhavahaḥ śuciḥ
agnayaś ca dvijātīnāḿ śāntās tatra samindhata
manāḿsy āsan prasannāni sādhūnām asura-druhām
jāyamāne 'jane tasmin nedur dundubhayaḥ samam
jaguḥ kinnara-gandharvās tuṣṭuvuḥ siddha-cāraṇāḥ
vidyādharyaś ca nanṛtur apsarobhiḥ samaḿ mudā
mumucur munayo devāḥ sumanāḿsi mudānvitāḥ
mandaḿ mandaḿ jaladharā jagarjur anusāgaram
niśīthe tama-udbhūte jāyamāne janārdane
devakyāḿ deva-rūpiṇyāḿ viṣṇuḥ sarva-guhā-śayaḥ
āvirāsīd yathā prācyāḿ diśīndur iva puṣkalaḥ

Śrī Śuka resumed : Now came the most delightful hour, fraught with all blessings, when precisely the asterisk Rohiṇī ( presided over by Brahmā, son of the birthless Lord Viṣṇu) was at the ascendant and when ( the rest of ) the asterisks, planets and (other) stars bore a gentle aspect. The quarters became clear ( of clouds as though it were autumn, although the rainy season had not yet ended); while the firmament was marked with the presence of multitudes of stars shining unobscured. The earth was seen as auspicious with its towns, villages, pastures and mines. The rivers flowed in a limpid stream; ponds bloomed with lotuses; rows of forest-trees laden with bunches of flowers rang with the sweet noise of birds and swarms of bees. A hallowed breeze ( coming as it did from the direction of the holy Yamunā ) and wafting a sweet fragrance, blew delightful to the touch; the sacred fires of the twice- born ( that had been extinguished due to Kaṁsa's persecution ) burst into flames (automatically ) on the occasion. The minds of the righteous became cheerful oppressed as they had been by the demons. When that birthless Lord was about to be born kettle-drums sounded ( of themselves ) in heaven. At that time Kinnaras and Gandharvas sang, Siddhas and Cāraṇas uttered praises and Vidyādhara women danced with celestial nymphs. Full of joy, sages and gods showered flowers and clouds gently rumbled after the manner of the (roaring) ocean. When midnight enveloped in ( thick ) darkness came and when people's prayer ( for His descent ) began, Lord Viṣṇu, the Indweller of all hearts, manifested Himself in His entirety through Devakī,—who possessed a form similar to that of a goddess (being an incarnation of Aditi, the mother of the gods ),—even as the full moon would appear in the eastern horizon."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Work and family - a debate

I had an interesting discussion with my friend Brajabhūṣaṇa Dās (HDS), who expressed disagreement with me about the issue of Work and Family. Brajabhūṣaṇa Dās argued that work is itself uttama bhakti.

Brajabhūṣaṇa Dās: I think that separating one's job from one's bhakti is one of the major mistakes of Western devotees. I don't have enough knowledge of Bhakti Sandarbha, so I can't argue in this direction, but I can do so in regard to BRS 1.1.11. The word kṛṣṇānuśīlanam refers to activities done directly or indirectly to Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa-sambandhi kṛṣṇārthaṁ vānuśīlanam iti - tīkā by Viśvanātha and Jīva). A devotee who has taken dīkṣā and has surrendered in this way to guru and Kṛṣṇa does all his activities, directly or indirectly, to please these two. Thus by having a job he indirectly serves as by earning money he can maintain his body fit for service (buying food, paying for rent, electricity...) He can use the rest of his money for direct service, as agreed on with his Guru. Therefore, uttama-bhakti comprises all your activities. It's not that only chanting, kīrtan etc is bhakti and your going to work is not - providing, of course, that you keep your consciousness of a servant all the time.

Advaitadas: “If all of this would be included in uttamā bhakti, then why would Jīva Gosvāmī have made a distinction between svarūpa siddha, āropa siddha and saṅga siddha bhakti at all?”

Brajabhūṣaṇa Dās: “Although, as said, I don't have much knowledge of Bhakti Sandarbha, still I will try to explain, drawing on my Guruji's darśans and Sanskrit texts that are at my disposal (and that I can understand). It is very probable that in a treatise on bhakti its author would try to describe all kinds of bhakti. In reality there is only one real bhakti, and that is uttama bhakti, ie that which is done only for Kṛṣṇa's pleasure, without other motives (BRS 1.1.11). However, as it happens, people usually do have some motives and use bhakti to achieve their respective goals. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī thus describes also these kinds of bhakti.

Speaking for example about āropa-siddha-bhakti, it's clear that this is not bhakti in itself (svato bhaktitvābhāve'pi) yet is considered to have the status of bhakti (bhaktitvaṁ prāptā) on account of offering one's work, etc, to Bhagavān (bhagavad-arpaṇādinā karmādi-rūpā). This kind of a person wants something from Bhagavān so he offers him his work (otherwise he wouldn't offer it). Thus, we can speak about āropa-siddha-bhakti in case of a material person who at least accepts that there is God but is yet far from attaining the stage when he will not want anything from Him, just please Him (far from the stage of uttamā bhakti). Basically it's karma-miśra-bhakti, not pure bhakti.

So the answer to your question is that in Bhakti Sandarbha Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī wanted to show all kinds of bhakti (also those done by persons with various material motives) therefore he made this distinction. However, in his commentary on uttama bhakti (which isn't done by persons with material motives) in BRS 1.1.11 he doesn't speak about all these various kinds of bhakti, as the topic is uttama bhakti solely. There he says that the word 'anuśīlanam' means doing all your activities, directly or indirectly, favourably for Kṛṣṇa (kṛṣṇa-sambandhi kṛṣṇārthaṁ vānuśīlanam iti) which is possible if you are surrendered.”

Advaitadas: “Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda clearly comments on Bhagavad Gītā 9.27 that offering all your activities is niṣkāma karma yoga, which does not culminate in kevala bhakti.”

Brajabhūṣaṇa Dās: “When I said that after surrendering to your Guruji all your activities are done directly or indirectly for pleasing him and Kṛṣṇa, I didn't mean by that offering your activities to Kṛṣṇa. In the very ṭīkā you mention (Bg. 9.27) it is said that in the highest bhakti it is not that you do work and then you offer (the result of) it. Rather, you offer yourself first (to Guru and Kṛṣṇa - at the time of dīkṣā) and then everything you do is automatically for Kṛṣṇa. (bhagavati viṣṇau bhaktiḥ kriyate, sā cārpitaiva satī yadi kriyeta, na tu kṛtā satī paścād arpyate) Because what happens if you work and offer it to Kṛṣṇa? By this you maintain your independence or separation from Guru or Kṛṣṇa. You don't want to surrender, you don't want to do what your Guru tells you - you just want to do what you want to, but at least you offer the work to Kṛṣṇa, so it's not as bad as someone who works and enjoys the fruit of his work without any regard for God. Still, it's not uttama bhakti. This working and offering it to Kṛṣṇa is āropa-siddha-bhakti (something like a first step of a material person towards devotional path) while wanting only to please Him, which includes all the activities of a surrendered disciple, is uttamā-bhakti, the highest bhakti. Clearly, these are two totally different phenomena, and we cannot apply things connected with a material person doing aropa-siddha-bhakti to a surrendered disciple doing uttama-bhakti. Therefore, in uttama bhakti there is no separation between your job (and similar 'material' things) and your bhakti. Imagine the situation of someone who has taken diksa - he wants to do all those devotional items but has only little time for it, as he has to work in order to survive, to say the least. He will be nervous that he spends so much time doing something which he thinks (as 'bhakta' nicely suggested) does not give pleasure to Radha and Kṛṣṇa. He will constantly live with this inner tension which will certainly not be very helpful in his devotional life and may account for a lot of frustration, or even leaving the path seeing the almost impossibility to dovetail his working life with his devotional life. Isn't it a big contrast to someone who understands that all his activities are for Kṛṣṇa and guru only? Such a person doesn't have this inner tension and can thus fully use his potential for service.”

Advaitadas: “What about all the expenses your non devotee children or non devotee wife make? What about taxes you have to pay which will be spent on mundane or sinful activities of the state? Is that also uttama bhakti? I know it all depends on the attitude, but if you know what some of your hard earned money is spent on, can you honestly offer that to Kṛṣṇa? When I was collecting for Iskcon, I believed this was uttama bhakti but when I found out that the gṛhasthas were using my blood sweat and tears for buying expensive ponies for their children and expensive jeeps and luxury cars for themselves, my uttama bhakti collapsed on the spot. I mean, you cannot just fake it, can you?”

Brajabhūṣaṇa Dās: “As a surrendered devotee I would never marry someone less surrendered or having other motives than pleasing guru or Kṛṣṇa. I agree with 'bhakta' that a (devotee-) marriage is no longer a prison, quite the contrary. As I said, to be able to serve you need to have money for buying food, paying rent... Usually people need a job to acquire it. So when you have a job you have to pay taxes - it's part of the system. If you don't pay them, you might run into trouble and get to prison - so how will you serve there? Therefore I see no difficulty in paying them. If they use them in an improper way, what can I do? It will be their bad karma, but I can go on serving. And, apart from that, while many people are corrupted, still I think the majority of tax money goes on civil servants' pay, pensions etc, otherwise the state couldn't function, so my paying of taxes contributes to the normal working of the society. I think Kṛṣṇa is happy when societies work well. Of course, all I do is with my Guruji in my mind. He never said a word against taxes. Rather, he always says that we live in a society and we need to follow the rules of that society. Only when you live without problems or conflicts with the society can your service fully be done.

I am sorry to hear about your bad experience with ISKCON. Your conviction was certainly ruined on finding out about jeeps etc and I imagine it must have been very painful. However, I think that now you realize that the fault was not in the philosophy of uttama bhakti itself. Rather, you were unlucky to serve unworthy Guru(s). Uttama bhakti can only be practised under a genuine guru, who is realized. There is no doubt that all the activities you do under his guidance are uttama bhakti, as He is Kṛṣṇa Himself guiding you in a human form.”

Brajabhūṣaṇa Dās writes in his following e-mail:
“If it happens though that you are married, have children, then you also have obligation towards them. In the same way as you have your obligation towards the society you have them towards your family members too. Of course it's very sad if you thus have to support beef-eaters etc but it IS your responsibility to take care of them, otherwise how will the society function. But, I think, people should do it just the way you do it - give them the minimum they need. My Guruji says that we SHOULD maintain our family commitments / relationships. For example, my parents are beef-eaters too, but I see no harm in helping them financially, since I am their son and they are my worshipable. In Kṛṣṇa-bhajanāmṛta it is said 'pitā gurur vā patir vā nirguṇo'pi pūjya eva' - even if they become devoid of good qualities they are worshipable. I don't agree with their lifestyle, but I support them as much as necessary and associate with them only as much as necessary.”

Advaitadas (from a previous e-mail): “Can you show from other writings of the ācāryas that āropa siddha bhakti is not bhakti? I understood from svato bhaktitvabhāve'pi that it means that the activity in which is engaged is not really bhakti, and that it speaks of the activity rather than the attitude. Then bhaktitvam prāpta means the job is performed in a devotional mood so it becomes bhakti.”

Brajabhūṣaṇa Dās: “In whatever way we may understand 'svato bhaktitvabhāve'pi' I think we both agree that āropa-siddha-bhakti is something inferior to uttama bhakti. Now, if we are talking about someone doing uttama bhakti, then according to the ṭīkā I mentioned, all his activities fall under this, whether they are directly or indirectly done for Kṛṣṇa. You cannot say that a person is doing uttamā bhakti but his job is only āropa-siddha-bhakti, can you?

Just as the Pāṇḍavas. Did they have time for japa, kīrtan etc? No, they were busy managing the kingdom, fighting the enemies, meeting so many people adverse to bhakti etc, and still were considered such great bhaktas. They were engaged in their job, weren't they? Do you think it could be considered only āropa-siddha-bhakti? Of course not.

The same with gopīs, our highest ideal. Kṛṣṇa was very happy when they perfectly performed their job (= taking care of their family members, household chores etc), and not only when they met Him, danced with Him etc. They were not some sages living in an isolated place, doing japa, kīrtan, avoiding asat-sanga...

Now why do we have these kind of bhaktas as our ideal? You know very well that 'siddhasya yat svarūpaṁ sādhakasya tat sādhanam' (“What is natural for the siddha is exercise for the sādhaka”) We should thus follow their example, trying to imbibe it by daily practice. As you see, having a job and working is part of it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Guru Tattva


Sādhu Bābā forbade his disciples to accept any śikṣā-Gurus and preached that Guru is one. I absolutely accept that but I have felt guilty about not being able to live up to that. Not that I have ever placed any other sādhu than Bābā on the altar to do pūjā to, or that I have ever addressed anyone else as Gurudeva or so, but I did go around and consult quite a few persons since Bābā ended his manifest pastimes. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī teaches in Bhakti Sandarbha (238) :

śrī gurvājnayā tat sevanāvirodhena ca anyeṣām api vaiṣṇavānāṁ pūjanaṁ śreyaḥ anyathā doṣaḥ syāt. yathā śrī nāradoktau - gurau sannihite yastu pūjayed anyam agrataḥ. sa durgatim avāpnoti pūjanaṁ tasya niṣphalam

“It is good to worship other Vaiṣṇavas only if it is on the order of Sri Guru and does not contradict his service. Otherwise it is a fault, as is said by Śrī Nārada: “Whoever worships others in front of the Guru attains a bad destination and his worship will be fruitless.”

Recently I decided to compile a collection of glorifications of the Guru for those sceptics who believe it is not necessary or important to accept one, and as I immersed myself in the ācāryas’ comments on the relevant verses, particularly the verses about the 24 Gurus in the 11th Canto, I found the answers and consolation to my conscience problem (about having consulted so many others) too:

labdhvānugraha ācāryāt tena sandarśitāgamaḥ
mahā-puruṣam abhyarcen mūrtyābhimatayātmanaḥ

“Having attained the mercy of the ācārya and having been shown the scriptures by him one should worship the Supreme Lord in the image of his choice.” Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī comments: anugraho mantra-dīkṣā-rūpaḥ. asyaikatvam eka-vacanatvena bodhyate “The word ācārya is in singular case. The mercy is bestowed in the form of initiation.” (Srīmad Bhāgavata 11.3.48)

Although Śrīmad Bhāgavata 11.9.31 (na hyekasmād gurur jñānaṁ susthiraṁ) seems to say one cannot get full knowledge from one single Guru alone, all commentator-acaryas have said this does not mean one should erect a forest of śikṣā-guru-pictures on one’s altar -

Śrīdhara Swāmī comments:

jnāna-pradaṁ gurum eveti jñāna-pradaṁ gurum ekam eva vakṣyati, mad-abhijñaṁ guruṁ śāntam upāsīta [bhā.pu. 11.10.5] iti. uktaṁ ca, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam [bhā.pu. 11.3.22] iti.

"The word jñāna-pradam guru, or the Guru who bestows divine knowledge, is in singular case in verses 11.10.5 and 11.3.21. »

Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s Krama Sandarbha comment:

nanv eka eva yogyo guruḥ kartavyaḥ. tasmād eva sa-parikaraṁ jñānaṁ setsyati. kiṁ vā, matāntara-jnā evānye praṣṭavyāḥ. kiṁ gurv-ābhāsair vyāvahārika-padārthair ity āśankyāha—na hīti. ekasmān mukhyād guror labdhaṁ supuṣkalaṁ susthiraṁ yaj jnānaṁ tad api na syāt na sampadyate. kutaḥ? tatrāha—brahmeti. tat-tan-matena mati-bhaṅgād ity arthaḥ. tasmān mahā-gurūpadiṣṭa-mata-poṣāya tad-viruddha-mata-nirasanāya ca sva-buddhyā mananārthaṁ vyāvahārika-padārthā eva gurutvena sambhāvitāḥ, na tu kāpilādi-matāntara-sthāpakā iti bhāvaḥ

« Actually one should surely accept one single qualified Guru and perfect one’s knowledge through him. Should one then inquire from teachers who have differing opinions? Why is it then recommended that one learn from many so-called spiritual masters appearing in the forms of ordinary material objects? The Avadhuta replies to this that even if one receives steady and profuse knowledge from a single, major Guru, it cannot be accomplished by hearing from him alone. That is made clear in the second half of the verse – though brahman is unique, it is sung of by the seers in many different ways.” By hearing so many different opinions our purpose and resolution is ruptured. Therefore while hearing all these different teachers (by observing all these ordinary objects) one should use one’s discriminating intelligence and due reflection to nourish and strengthen the opinion of the great teacher (one’s own Guru) and to refute opposing views. Consulting so many teachers should not serve to establish opposing views like those of Kapila and others."

Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda comments:

nanu mad abhijñaṁ guruṁ śāntam upāsīta [bhā.pu. 11.10.5] iti, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijnāsuḥ śreya uttamam [bhā.pu. 11.3.22] ity ādy uktibhya eka eva gurur āśrayaṇīyo’vagamyate. nāpi śvetaketu-bhṛgu-pramukhair bahavo gurava āśritāḥ. satyaṁ mamāpi mantropadeṣṭā gurur eka eva upāsyo vartate. kintūpāsanāyām ānukūlya-prātikūlya-dṛṣṭāntībhūtā ete padārthāḥ parāmṛśya gurū-kṛtā ity anvaya-vyatirekābhyāṁ me śikṣā-gurava evaite jneyāḥ…… śikṣā-gurūṇāṁ tu bāhulyam eva prāyo jnāna-dārḍhya-prayojakam ity āha—na hīti......

“From two other Bhāgavata-verses mentioned before and after (11.3.21-22 and 11.10.5) it is clear that one should take shelter of one single Guru alone. Even great sages like Śvetaketu or Bhṛgu did not take shelter of many Gurus. Truly, only the Guru who gave me my mantra (the dīkṣā-guru) is worshipable for me. śikṣā-Gurus with their direct and indirect teachings can surely serve to point out what factors are favorable and unfavorable for my worship, though. Accepting many instructing teachers is done for strengthening one’s knowledge.”

Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda’s ṭīkā on Śrīmad Bhāgavata 11.29.34:
niveditātma mat-svarūpa-bhūtāya man-mantropadeśakāya gurave – „Surrender to me means surrendering to the Guru who instructs in My mantra (the dīkṣā-guru) and who is My very form.”

In other words, other sādhus and material objects that teach us something true, are all just manifestations of our one and only beloved Śrī Gurudeva. Along with these comments all the other Guru-verses in the 11th canto, 11 in total, speak of the Guru in the singular case.

This is just a synopsis. The full compilation has been posted on my website madangopal.com, under the name ‘The glories of (the one) Guru’, at the linktab ‘Articles’.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jhulana Purnima

Jhulan Purnima 1998, Sadhu Baba's Ashram, Navadvip



Descending from the Swing

(This kirtana concludes the Jhulana Festival)


JHULANĀ HOITE, NĀMILĀ TURITE, 
RASAVATĪ RASA-RĀJA,
RATANA ĀSANE, BOSILĀ JATANE, 
RATANA MANDIRA MĀJHA
SU-CĀMARA LOI, BĪJANA BĪJAI, 
SEVĀ PARĀYAṆĀ SAKHĪ
SUBĀSITA JALE, BADANA PĀKHĀLE, 
BASANE MOCHĀIYĀ DEKHI
THĀRI BHORI KOI, VIVIDHA MIṬHĀI, 
DHARI DUHU SANMUKHE
SAKHĪGAṆA, KOTOHU KAUTUKE, 
BHOJANA KORILO SUKHE
TĀMBŪLA SĀJĀIYĀ, KONO SAKHĪ LOIYĀ, 
DOHĀRA BADANE DILO
EI KEŚA KUSUME, ĀPĀDA VADANE, 
NICHIYĀ NICHIYĀ NILO
KUSUMA TALAPE, ALAPE ALAPE, 
BOSILĀ RĀDHIKĀ ŚYĀMA
ALASE IṢATO, NAYANA MUDILĀ, 
HERIYĀ MOHITA KĀMA
DEKHI SAKHĪGAṆA, KOTOHU JATANE,
 ŚUTĀYALO DUHU TĀYA
SAKHĪRA IṄGITE, CARAṆA SEVITE, 
EI DĀSA VAIṢṆAVA DHĀY

“Rasavatī Rādhā and Rasa-rāja Śrī Kṛṣṇa swiftly descend from Their swing, enter a jewelled chapel, and sit on jewelled seats there. The sakhīs, who are always surrendered to service, then fan Them with cāmara-whisks. One sakhī washes Their faces with scented water, and then wipes Their faces with a soft cloth. Then large plates filled with various sweets are brought before Them, from which the sakhīs then blissfully feed Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa Their feast. Afterwards, a sakhī places betel-leaves into Their mouths. Rādhikā-and Śyāma are then adorned from head to toe with flowers and are brought to a bed of flowers. When Cupid then sees how They slightly close Their eyes of fatigue, he is wholly captivated! When the sakhīs see this too, they carefully lay the Divine Pair down on the bed and, on the sakhīs’ indication, Vaiṣṇava das comes running to serve Their lotus-feet!”

This song has been added at the end of the file Jhulan Lila at madangopal.com, linktab 'Literature', linktab 'Devotional song translations'.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Nirañjan Prasād Dās, an obituary


Nirañjan Prasād Dās was born in February, 1912, in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). I do not know much of his early life, only that he was a teacher, was married and fathered 7 children between 1947 and 1971 (all of whom became Sādhu Bābā's śiṣyas). He emigrated from then-East-Pakistan to W. Bengal in India in 1960 and settled in Navadvīp Dhāma's suburb of Prācīn Māyāpur. There he was one of the first persons to discover Sādhu Bābā in the woods outside Prācīn Māyāpur  in 1970. Nirañjan Bābu had had a yogi Guru before, in Sītā Kunda, in East Bengal, but he told me that, after meeting Sādhu Bābā, he had 'erased all he had learned before and never again listened to anybody else'. In his case this was no empty rhetoric, he had really done this. Nirañjan Bābu soon became Sādhu Bābā's most trusted confidante. Among others, Bābā dictated a drama to him about Advaita Prabhu, but it was lost during the great flood of 2000.

I personally first met Nirañjan Bābu in the morning of November 27, 1982, in the godown where I had spent my first night in Sādhu Bābā's ashram. He very shyly entered into the room. I was at once attracted to that, as well as to his twinkling eyes and humble demeanor. As he was the only person in the area who spoke English and I had not yet learned any Bengali, he became my most important link to Sādhu Bābā. I could not imagine then that he would remain so forever, and not only because of his knowledge of English. The very first thing he said to me was: "You are very fortunate..." he paused and then said: "To have taken shelter of Bābā."

Among other things, he was the first devotee to bring me closer to Vilāpa Kusumāñjali, a booklet Sādhu Bābā had personally given me to study and memorize on December 1, 1982. I could read Bengali script and knew a little of the language too, but I obviously needed help in understanding this pivotal text. Nirañjan Bābu did that by dictating his English translation to me, though sometimes he was really shy because of the extreme intimacy of the text. One time he interrupted his dictate and told me: "You see, this is all very difficult (upāsanā), since we have so many desires for this ourselves......"

In December 1982, I wrote a short simple English poem in praise of Sādhu Bābā. Nirañjan Bābu found it and asked me to lend it to him. I did so and a week or so later Nirañjan Bābu returned to the āshram with a beautiful 10-couplet Bengali padyānuvāda. Although I was injured and sick at the time, he dragged me out of my room into the Ashram's courtyard and began to recite first my English write-up and then his own Bengali padyānuvāda, causing tears to stream from Bābā's eyes like Gaṅgā-streams. (The padyānuvada is included in a pdf version of this obituary on www.madangopal.com)

In January 1983 Sādhu Bābā entrusted Nirañjan Bābu with the responsibility of compiling his arcanā paddhati (manual of worship), named Saṅkṣipta Nitya Karma Paddhati, which is still universal literature for all of Sādhu Bābā's disciples. Nirañjan Bābu wrote the introduction himself:  (original Bengali text in the pdf):


"This booklet named 'Saṅksipta Nitya Karma Paddhati' has been compiled to further the bhajan of all the sādhakas who aspire for the Śrī Śrī Yugalkiśora of Śrī Vṛndāvana. A small preface is given to this booklet with some details that need to be known about these eternal chores. Śrī Mahāprabhu defined the true shape of all living entities to be 'jīvera svarūpa hoy nitya kṛṣṇa dās' (an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa). Hence it is the main duty of all living entities worship Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Madangopal, absorbed in one's own svarūpa. Only that can make human life useful and most auspicious. Seeing the terrible condition of the living entities in the age of Kali the heart of Śrī Śrī Advaita Prabhu, who is none other than Mahāviṣṇu and Sadāśiva, was broken, hence He invoked the advent of the most merciful Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa on the full moon day of Phalgun in Navadvīpa, through oblations of water and Tulasī-leaves. For those who have a special desire to serve this Lord of the heart, this booklet was published from Sādhu Bābā's Ashram, in Śrīdham Navadvīpa's Rāmacandra Pura today, on Śrī Akṣaya Tritiya, 1391 Bengali year (May, 1984), with the approval of Śrī Śrī Sādhu Bābā, on the installation day of his beloved deity Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Madangopal-Deva, as his special blessing. If this booklet can assist the focused sādhakas in their bhajan then this work of mine will have become fulfilled. 
iti.
Guru Kṛpā Prārthi, Śrī Nirañjan Prasād Das."


Nirañjan Bābu was the greatest Guru-bhakta I ever met in my life and will probably always remain so. His Guru-niṣṭhā was highly contagious and he was the greatest instigator of whatever Guru-bhakti I may have. Like no one else he made me really understand the importance and the joy of Guru-bhakti. His surrender to Sādhu Bābā was so complete that I ascribe all teachings he gave me to Sādhu Bābā personally, and put them in Sādhu Bābā's  mouth without any hesitation, even if I never heard them from Sādhu Bābā's Śrī-Mukha myself. Nirañjan Bābu and his daughter personally lifted me over the threshold of western rationalism, scepticism and scientific thinking and led me into the wonder-world of India's simple yet sublime attitude of faith.

Nirañjan Bābu never went to Braja simply because Bābā never took him there, even if I encouraged him to go there. He said: 'উনি না নিয়ে গেলে দেখাবে কে দ্বাদশ বন?' 'Unless he takes me there, who will show me the 12 forests?'

We had very close association in Sādhu Bābā's parṇa kutir, straw hut, the bhajan kutir where Bābā had given me the honour of residence from February to August, 1983. Often, while visiting me in the kuṭir, Nirañjan Bābu lamented his decision to enter household life: "You see, I used to be very fond of this conjugal life, but now alas alas! I can only just visit the āshram occasionally whereas I would have liked to be a full time member and thus fully associate with and serve Bābā."

When our gurubhāi Bābul Dā saw Nirañjan Bābu and me talking on the roof of the Ashram he said: svarūpa-rāma rāya! (colloquial Bengali for "These two are just like Mahāprabhu's dearmost servants, only talking about Kṛṣṇa with each other")

Nirañjan Bābu one time complimented me by saying: "You come from so far and you really come here to do bhajana, while the others are only waiting for the next meal to come from the altar."

I left Navadvip in April 1984, not to return until March 2000.

Meanwhile, in 1993, Nirañjan Bābu's wife left her body right in the chamber of the famous downtown-doctor Bhaumik, exclaiming Rādhe Rādhe! Rādhe Śyām!' totally unexpectedly.

From the mid-1980s to early 1990s I badly neglected Śrī Gurudeva but Sādhu Bābā would not be Sādhu Bābā if he would have just let me rot in saṁsāra, so:


durdaive sebak yadi jāy anya sthāne,
se ṭhākur dhanya tāre cūle dhari āne


"If by some bad luck the servant goes away, blessed is that master who drags him back by the hair." (CC Antya 4.47)

Bābā had sailed off, but he had left someone behind, as the Devatās sing in the Bhāgavat (10.2.31):


svayaṁ samuttīrya sudustaram dyuman
bhavārṇavaṁ bhīmam adabhra sauhṛdaḥ
bhavat padāmbhoruha nāvam atra te
nidhāya yātaḥ sad anugraho bhavān


"O self-luminous One! Your grace towards the devotees is limitless! On the strength of Your grace the devotees take shelter of the boat of Your lotus feet and cross over the ocean of material existence, which is otherwise hard to cross. These devotees in their turn are so kind towards the conditioned souls that they keep this boat of Your lotus feet in this material world for their redemption."

For me, that boat was Nirañjan Bābu. From early 1995 to early 2002 Nirañjan Bābu sent me long letters with all he could tell me about Sādhu Bābā's astonishing activities and teachings, thereby confirming many things Bābā had taught me personally and adding many many things which I did not know yet. So once again Nirañjan Bābu became the conduit between Bābā and me. Among the many things he sent me was the Abhisekhastakam, an 8-couplet Bengali song he composed himself in praise of the appearance of Sādhu Bābā in this world, which I have used to open Sādhu Bābā's hagiography with, which is posted on madangopal.com.

When I returned to Navadvīp in March 2000, after a 16-year absence (I travelled there mainly to meet him), Nirañjan Bābu was called from his home. When he arrived we embraced and his body shuddered of emotion.

Later, in a room of the ashram, he took up a fan and began to fan me, though he was old enough to be my grandfather and vastly superior to me in all respects. I asked him to discontinue, explaining that I regarded him as my Guru simply because of his total surrender to Bābā - his words were Bābā's words, for sure.
During the same conversation I once uttered the words 'Guru Vāṇī', which caused Nirañjan Bābu to open his mouth in awe and fold his hands, saying 'Oooh Bābā.....'.

He told me that the biggest Pandits of Navadvīp used to come to Bābā's ashram with hands folded out of respect.

About our friendship he said: āmār bandhu -eto boro bandhu. eto boro pāramārthika samparka. ei samparka iha-para kāle chinna hobe nā. āmār sob āche, kintu er madhye advaita āmār boro bandhu. ei-ṭā prasaṁsā noy - eiṭā truth - actually so." yadi bhālobāste hoy, bandhuke bhālobāsbo. "My friend - such a great friend. Such a great transcendental connection. This connection will never be severed - not in this life nor in the next. I have everything, but my greatest friend is Advaita. This is not a glorification - this is actual truth. If I should love anyone I should love my friend." ki kore jāben āpni? "How can you go?" (How can you leave this place where you are loved so much?) He quoted Rupa Gosvami's famous verse "tuṇḍe taṇḍavinī ratiṁ vitanute" ('I yearn for millions of tongues' etc) and Mīra-bāi's 'vinā prem se nā mile nandalāl'  ("without prema you cannot attain Nanda's son").

In December 2001, while studying the holy Bhāgavat at home, Nirañjan Bābu suffered a stroke, causing him severe brain damage. During my next trip to Navadvīp, in February, 2002, when I came to his house to visit him, he fell in my arms, a venerable old man falling in the arms of a western hippie and weeping with divine emotions. I did not know what to do - I wondered what Rāma Rāya would have done when Mahāprabhu fell into his arms.

Nirañjan Bābu would interrupt his monologues with sobs of Rādhe Rādhe! Rādhe!  He said: 'I have seen Gurudeva, while tears streamed from his eyes, saying Rādhe Rādhe! Rādhe!"

He would humbly lament: ei -vastuṭā pelām nā "I could not attain Kṛṣṇa." kobe tā pāi jāni nā "I don't know when I will get it"

Nirañjan Bābu sporadically visited that year's Sitanath Utsava. When he did, on February 17, 2002 he told me: “We will meet again here.” I responded: “Bābār charan tale. (at the footsoles of Baba) ” Nirañjan Bābu (to other bhaktas, about me:) "He is a good man. He has an Indian heart.'

During my last visit to Navadvip in Kartik 2003 communicating with Nirañjan Bābu had become difficult. He could not understand me verbally anymore, but he could read still, so I scribbled down my questions and remarks on pieces of paper, in Bengali script and he would respond to that. As far as that was possible I recorded that, though there were long pauses of silence in between. I showed Nirañjan Bābu printouts of some of the webpages of madangopal.com, our then freshly started website, and he loved it though he probably did not understand what the internet was and how far-reaching a tool it can be. By then meetings with him just took place in his house - he was no longer able to visit the ashram, not even by rikshaw.

From my Indian diary, October 6, 2003: "Nirañjan Bābu preaches to me heavily to remain focused on Bābā. It is so important to him that, despite his extremely advanced age (91) and concomitant weakness, he grabs me by the collar and shakes me to press me to surrender to Bābā alone. He misunderstands my tīrtha yātrā for a search for other sādhus, although I try to convince him it is not like this. He says Bābā called me Advaita because it means one, and not two (Gurus). He did not call me Advaita, but you." I write in response: "Nirañjan means "pariskāra" (crystal clear)." Nirañjan Bābu smiles broadly. He says he and his family never go to listen to lectures anywhere - they will remember Bābā's paths (lectures) forever.
He said: "Although Baba expired, he is hearing everything. Also now. You can go to Shāntipur, but you will not find anyone like Sādhu Bābā there." Guru jāi bolechen tāi sab "Whatever the Guru has said, that is all"- otherwise you will fall down. A-dvaita (your name) means there is no second (Guru). (If you think like that) he will come down to you - in your heart. That is why Bābā has given you that name, in Vṛndāvana."

I last saw Nirañjan Bābu in person in front of his Prācīn Māyāpur home on October 28, 2003. Nirañjan Bābu energized me by quoting Sanātan Dās -গুরু পাদপদ্মে রহে যাঁর নিষ্ঠ ভক্তি; জগত তারিতে সে ধরে মহাশক্তি "Those who are fixed in devotion to the lotus feet of the Guru bear the great power to deliver the world." We embraced and, anticipating I would probably not see him again, I told him: ābār dekhā hobe - yekhāne hauk nā keno. ekhāne vā okhāne -- mṛtyu ki? - "We will meet again, whether it is here (in another birth) or there (in our mañjarī dehas) What is death to us?" Since then we had had no more contact.

A few years later my Guru-brother Golok wrote to me, saying I should not send any more donations for Nirañjan Bābu s treatment because he had become unable to sign the receipts, let alone having been able to respond to letters. His daughter Krishna had already taken over his correspondence by letter with me in 2002. Despite the fact that we had not contacted for nearly 5 years and there was no hope of his recovery, his demise is, of course, still a great loss.

He was so old that he even outlived his eldest daughter Krishna with 2 years.
Now I feel orphaned once again, after the demise of Sādhu Bābā (1986) and my mother (2005).
Speaking of my mother, the brain damage she suffered from several strokes, which made it impossible for her to even recognize me, let alone communicate, did make the farewell easier. The same goes for Nirañjan Bābu.

Nirañjan Bābu had a number of favorite ślokas, he mentioned the first five verses of Kṛṣṇa Karnāmṛta, anarpita carim cirāt karuṇayā avatīrṇa kalau (CC Ādi 1.4), kā kṛṣṇasya praṇaya janibhūḥ śrīmatī rādhikaika (Govinda Līlāmṛta 11.122), rādhā kṛṣṇa praṇaya vikṛtir hlādinī śaktir asmad (CC Adi), but his favorite verse must have been this:


rādhā karāvacita pallava ballarīke
rādhā padāṅka vilasan madhura sthalīke
rādhā yaśo mukhara matta khagāvalīke
rādhā bihāre bipine ramatāṁ mano me


(Rādhā Rasa Sudhānidhi - 14)

"May my mind rejoice in the play-forest of Rādhā, where the vines and leaves are touched by Rādhā's hands, the ground is sweetened by Rādhā's footprints and where the birds madly sing Rādhā's glories."

Full pdf-version of the hagiography available on my site, linktab 'Articles'