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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'

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Niranjan Prasad Das (1912-2008)

Niranjan Prasad Das and Advaitadas, before Sadhu Baba's Samadhi, March 2000


Today I received a letter from my Guru-bhāi Golok Ghosh, informing me that my foremost Guru-bhāi Nirañjan Prasād Dās passed away on April 26, 2008. He was 96 years old and outlived his daughter Kṛṣṇā Dās by nearly two years. I will offer an obituary to this monumental bhakta later. A pdf file of my satsanga with him is available on my site, under the linktab 'Articles'.


আমার বন্ধু -এত বড় বন্ধু, এত বড় পারমার্থিক সম্পর্ক । এই সম্পর্ক ইহ-পর কালে ছিন্ন হবে ন । আমার সব আছে, কিন্তু এর মধ্যে অদ্বৈত আমার বড় বন্ধু । এইটা প্রশংসা নয় - এইটা truth, actually so"

'He is my friend, such a great friend. It is such a great spiritual connection. This connection will never be severed - not in this life nor in the next. I have everything, but among all this Advaita is my greatest friend. This is not a glorification, it is actual truth."

(Nirañjan Prasād Dās, Navadvīp, March 2000)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Various inquiries

Bhakta: I think among 64 items of bhakti, book distribution is also not mentioned but if any body does book distribution sincerely won't Kṛṣṇa take that? Kindly answer..........

Advaitadas: “Book distribution (if no money is stolen by the collector for his own purpose) is obviously a service rendered directly for the benefit of the Guru (paricarya sevā, as in sarvasvam vinivedya ca, “Everything must be offered to the Guru”, Hari Bhakti Vilāsa 2.10). No company profits from that. It can be included under viśrambhena guroḥ sevā, trustfully serving the Guru. Book distribution was of course not specifically mentioned there because in Rūpa Gosvāmī's days there were no printing presses so book distribution was not possible at the time.”

Bhakta: ‘Is there any truth in one getting the karma of someone who touches your feet?’

Advaitadas: “Look in Caitanya Caritāmṛta (Ādi 17.243-245):

eka-dina mahāprabhura nṛtya-avasāne
eka brāhmaṇī āsi’ dharilo caraṇe
caraṇera dhūli sei loy bāra bāra
dekhiyā prabhura duḥkha hoilo apāra
sei-kṣaṇe dhāyā prabhu gaṅgāte poḍilo
nityānanda-haridāsa dhari’ uṭhāilo


"One day, after His dancing, a brahmin woman came to hold Mahāprabhu's lotus-feet, taking the dust from His feet again and again. Seeing this, the Lord was endlessly distressed. At once He ran to the Ganges and jumped into it. Finally Nityānanda and Haridās pulled Him out again."

Bhakta: You told me (and śāstra says so) that one has to be humble at all cost. But when one is interacting in the world that is impossible.”

Advaitadas: How so?

Bhakta: "What if I were a policeman?"

Advaitadas: “I think that everyone can be humble including soldiers and cops; it is a question of nature, not of occupation. there are many humble cops and many proud 'saints'.

Bhakta: “But imagine if you have to catch a thief and he shoots at you, then you are forced to kill him....”

Advaitadas: Yes but that is my job then. It won't mean I can't be humble. Let me give you King Pratāpa-rudra of Orissa as an example. He was so humble towards Mahāprabhu, wasn't he? And yet he ordered many death sentences too, to criminals and opponents, and slaughtered many on the battlefield. He even ordered a death sentence on Rāmānanda Rāya's brother. Yet he swept the road in front of Lord Jagannāth and begged Mahāprabhu for his darśana. And when Mahāprabhu refused he humbly accepted that refusal.”

Bhakta: "In Mahānidhi Swāmī's edition of Ānanda Vṛndāvana Campū, in the chapter The Appearance of Lord Kṛṣṇa, page 31, it is said "The society girls visiting Nanda Mahārāja's house..." Society girls in Vraja Gokul? Wow! Can you say something about it?"

Advaitadas: The text is translated from Ānanda Vṛndāvana Champu 2.21-22. The word used by Kavi Karṇapura is actually vraja-nāgarīṇāṁ, which simply means 'the women of the town'. It does not refer to prostitutes or so, just the local cowherd women.”

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Desire trees, rainbows, Dāsya Ras, Balarām Bhakti and Vṛndāvan’s Cupid

Bhakta: "Have you ever seen a kalpa taru?"

Advaitadas: "Every tree in Vraja is a kalpataru, as far as there are any left now. First the Muslims chopped down the forests, then the British and now the Hindus themselves get so much money that they all need to build a house in Vṛndāvana, as a socio-religious status symbol, without actually ever living there even. So there go the last kalpatarus. Anyway, kalpatarus only fulfill pure devotional desires, so only a pure devotee really benefits from them. In the Ānanda Vṛndāvana Campu it is described how the gopīs get all the paraphernalia of their services from the kalpa tarus in Vṛndāvana.  It is said, for instance, that when Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa finished frolicking in the water of Rādhākuṇḍa, the mañjarīs open the pumpkins on the branches of the kalpatarus and take out clean and fresh towels to dry Them with."

Bhakta: "Whenever Kṛṣṇa claims, in the līlā granthas, that He is the proprietor of all that is in Vraja, isn't that aiśvarya buddhi seeping through?"

Advaitadas: "No. You have to see it in the context of the līlā's socio-economic situation - Kṛṣṇa is not the son of a cobbler, His father is the king of Vraja. In such a feudal environment the political ruler is also the proprietor of the place. But the proprietor is Nanda, not Kṛṣṇa. Such is Nanda's influence that Jaṭilā is adviced by Paurṇamāsī, who is the authoritative local brahmin, to send her daughter in law Rādhā to go to his home daily to cook for Kṛṣṇa, though normally that is a breach of the etiquette."

Bhakta: "So dāsya rasa in Vraja is also still not aiśvarya?"

Advaitadas: "No way. The servants like Raktaka and Patraka consider Kṛṣṇa to be the son of the king and therefore an important local master, but never God Himself."

Bhakta: "In rasik literature Cupid is often called 'almighty'. Isn't that aiśvarya?"

Advaitadas: "No of course not. Mādhurya means that anyone in Kṛṣṇa's environment can be almighty, be it Cupid, Kaṁsa, Nanda Mahārāja, Jaṭilā, Lord Nārāyan (Nanda's deity) but never Kṛṣṇa Himself. In mādhurya-jñāna Kṛṣṇa is subjugated, in aiśvarya the devotees are. Of course in actual fact Kṛṣṇa IS almighty, but the rāgānugā bhakta forgets this at one stage (as does Kṛṣṇa Himself). If you see Kṛṣṇa as merely human without first realizing His almight everything becomes mundane or sentimental."

Bhakta: "Why is there a need for a separate Cupid in Vraja, often referred to in Rasik literature, while Kṛṣṇa is Himself also hailed as the Supreme Cupid?"

Advaitadas: "In his Rādhā Kṛṣṇa Gaṇoddeśa Dīpikā (38) Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has identified Cupid in Vraja as the gopa Ujjvala (it is quoted in Haridās Dāsjī's commentary on Dānakeli Cintāmaṇi verse 138). Just as Yogamāyā is omnipresent as an energy in Vraja līlā but she is also present as the person Paurṇamāsī, so it is with Cupid and Ujjvala. As a matter of fact, Hlādinī energy is present as Rādhikā Herself personally as well.”

Bhakta: "You quoted Sanātan Gosvāmī's Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta that the Gokula (prakaṭ) līlā of Kṛṣṇa and the Goloka (aprakaṭ) līlās are just the same, but is there not a verse someone that says that the light shines brighter in the dark (Kṛṣṇa's līlā in the material world) than in the light?"

Advaitadas: "Yes, that is in Viśvanāth Cakravartīpāda's comment on Śrīmad Bhāgavata 10.14.37 - prapañca niṣprapañco'pi viḍambayasi bhūtale. However, this is for those who are on the outside looking in. When you are on the inside looking out (in the middle of the līlā) it wont make any difference. You won’t notice the difference."

Bhakta: "In another song on your website (1st song of Rāi Rākhāl) it is described how the gopīs get mesmerised by the flute playing of Balarām and all the other gopas."

Advaitadas: "In this līlā, called Gopāṣṭamī, once a year, Rādhā joins the cowherd boys in the meadows. They don't get mesmerised by the gopas' flute-playing as they do by Kṛṣṇa's flute-playing – that is not the point of it. Rādhā dresses up as Subal and goes out in the daytime with Kṛṣṇa. The gopas’ flute-playing is a signal that this unique opportunity is arising for Her and that delights Her. This is not an amorous līlā involving Balarām or so. What Balarām does with the gopīs is not our concern. It is not described in any grantha at all in our entire sampradāya. The only description of Balarām and the gopīs is in chapter 65 of the 10th canto and the ācāryas have written practically no comments on it. We are devotees of Kṛṣṇa, not of Balarām - ārādhyo bhagavān vrajeśa tanayaḥ

Bhakta: ‘I read in Smṛti Śāstra that one should not look at a rainbow. Is that because it will remind a brahmacārī of women?”

Advaitadas: First of all, the Caitanya Caritāmṛta says ‘indra-dhanu śikhi-pākhā’, the rainbow reminds us of Kṛṣṇa’s peacock-feather crown’, secondly what will you do on the speedway, 100 m/h, when suddenly a rainbow appears in the sky? Close your eyes, crash and get killed? Thirdly, even the strictest brahmacārī cannot avoid seeing attractive women – they are simply there. One must transcend them. Viśvanatha Cakravartī says about that (SB 7.15.22 tika) : asankalpāt strī ramaṇādinā kāmotpattāvapi naiva strī mayā sambhoktavyeti sankalpa sadṛśān niścayāt kāmaṁ jayet  “The desire for women can be defeated by having a firm resolve, even if lust has arisen, realizing ‘This woman is not enjoyable for me’.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Lord of Goloka, pre-planned action and the Guru’s mingling

Bhakta: "I think that the comments on these rasika books are sometimes a bit far-fetched and they always draw a most erotic conclusion."

Advaitadas: "This is called a rasika vyākhyā and is really the prerogative of the rasika bhaktas and acaryas. This type of books is their exclusive domain. As far as the general prerogative of a commentator or elaborator is concerned, he need to take care of just two parameters - rasābhāsa (perverted flavour) and viruddha siddhānta (controversial theories aka bogus philosophies)."

Bhakta: "Sometimes it seems that the Vrajavāsīs know that Kṛṣṇa is God. In songs and books about Vraja lila they sometimes acknowledge that directly or indirectly."

Advaitadas: "Yogamāyā often plays a very intricate game with them. She herself appears in the form of Paurṇamāsī, who even personally arranges much of the līlā. As she is a brahmin she is considered authority in the village community and on her order alone Rādhā goes cooking for Kṛṣṇa in the morning, which otherwise would have been immoral in the eyes of the pious villagers. She is also the most learned person in the community, so from her the simple villagers hear things from śāstra. She recites the Purāṇas to the gopīs, who want to be externally known as pious girls. Then they hear all kinds of things like Kṛṣṇa is the Lord of Goloka, and later they tease Him with it, never seriously considering that He actually is the Lord of Goloka."

Bhakta: 'Speaking of which, on page 5 of your Dāna līlā padas file (see madangopal.com  Literature - Song Translations) there is a song where Kṛṣṇa says to the gopīs:

"I am the Lord of Goloka — don't You recognise Me? All the great demigods like Brahmā are serving My feet and humbly call Me Hari, but You don't even lift Your face to look at Me!"

Advaitadas: "Yes but this is bragging only. The next couplet says:

"Hearing Krishna's words, fortunate Rāi became delighted at heart and spoke false rasika words: "Why did You leave Goloka to herd cows in this forest? What pleasure does the Lord of Goloka find here?", and three couplets later:

"You claim to be the Lord of Goloka, but then why do You have such a (wicked) mentality? Think deeply about the moral consequences of what You're doing."

So see, this is sheer mādhurya. Even if they know Kṛṣṇa is the Lord of Goloka, then still they rebuke and ridicule Him. "

Bhakta: "But She says, 'Why did you leave Goloka?' I thought the whole area was Goloka?"

Advaitadas: "She challenges: "If you are really Kṛṣṇa (as the Supreme Lord) then why did You leave Goloka?" This proves exactly that the gopīs are not aware that they are in Goloka, and that is the fun and the sweetness of the song."

Bhakta: "Where are they then?"

Advaitadas: "They are of course in Goloka, but they think it is just an ordinary forest."

Bhakta: "The demigods in Vraja, do they think that Kṛṣṇa is Nārāyaṇa or superior to Nārāyaṇa?"

Advaitadas: "Look at the Bhāgavata: Lord Brahmā prayed to Kṛṣṇa in Vraja: nārāyaṇo'ṅgaṁ nara bhū jalāyanāt (10.14.14) "Nārāyaṇa who lies in the water is your particle only."

Bhakta: I hear many weird explanations about the verse prakṛteḥ kriyamānāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ (Bhagavad Gītā 3.27). Like, if you move your limbs it is not you who is doing it but the Supersoul."

Advaitadas: "My brother is a doctor and he is now also into spiritual literature, so we correspond on these things. He told me that it is scientifically proven that decisions are taken a split second after they are already carried out, which proves that our detailed movements are not really consciously decided, or not at all decided by us. Because of such discoveries he is now also seriously accepting the existence of God. prakṛteḥ means 'of material nature', and kriyamānāni means 'fully performed'. We act according to millions of automatisms, breathing, blinking the eyes, body language, scratching itches etc, without thinking about it. Although driving a car is a dangerous and responsible activity (especially with many devotees on board) we do it easily without attention even. We think about so many other things while driving."

Bhakta: "What about the demigods?"

Advaitadas: "The demigods are embodiments of the elements - air, water, fire, much of which our bodies and minds consist of. Craziness is a result of disturbed life-airs f.i. The demigods control these elements. We practise millions of automatisms, actually carried out by the demigods, so can you imagine the mega-intelligence of each of these devatās, that actually carry out the motoric functions of billions of living beings in one universe! Terabyte databases!"

Bhakta: “There is a translation of the Bhāgavata (7.12.11) which says that the gṛhastha approaches his wife in the season with the permission of the Guru.”

Advaitadas: “That is not a correct translation of that verse. The text says guru vṛttir vikalpena gṛhasthasyartu gāmināḥ.

The word vṛtti means: turning, rolling; being, existence, livelihood, maintenance; mode of being or acting, conduct, behaviour, esp. good conduct or respectful behaviour towards; devotion to or pursuit of; usage, practice, rule; nature, character, style (d.); action, activity, function or force of a word; commentary on a Sūtra. (Monier Williams)

And vikalpa means: alternative, choice between two or more; difference, variety; supposition, (false) conception; uncertainty, doubt. (Monier-Williams)

Neither of these words mean ‘permission’. guru vṛttir vikalpena means ‘the service of the Guru is optional for the gṛhastha, who is tu gāmī, approaching the wife in her season. At that time Guru service is not possible. The context of the sentence is the brahmacārī’s duty of serving the Guru, which may or may not be possible for the gṛhastha, who usually does not live with the Guru. Śrīdhara Swami, Jīva Gosvāmī and Viśvanātha Cakravartī have not commented on this sentence, but the English translation of Gita press says so and the Hindi translation of Krishna Shankar Shastri too.

The above explanation has also been given by ācārya Vīra-Rāghava: gurvī vṛttir gurvānuvṛttiḥ strī saṅga rāhityādi rūpā brahmacarya vṛttiḥ gṛhasthasya tu vikalpena kadācid bhavet kadācin na syāt. kadā na bhavet? ……………ṛtu-gāmina iti. ṛtu gāmitvād guru vṛtti vikalpa iti bhāvaḥ. ṛtu-kāleṣu guru vṛttir nāstīti ca bhāvaḥ. asyā vṛttir duṣkaratvābhiprāyeṇa gurviti viśeṣaṇam upāttam. “The brahmacārī does not associate with women, so he can constantly serve the Guru, but that is not so for the gṛhastha, who can sometimes do and sometimes not do this service. When can he not do? …………. When he approaches his wife in the season. Then Guru service becomes an option. In the seasonal time the Guru is not served, for it will be difficult to accomplish.”

The point is that is not an item of Vedic culture that the Guru tells the disciple when to make a baby or that he mingles in the private lives of his disciples, period. Make no mistake, though. It is not that Sādhu Bābā did not protect his married disciples from māyā – he tought that not only the brahmacārīs, but also the gṛhasthas should beware of spilling genital fluids. It's not that anything goes.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Jala-brahma, prostitutes and Kṛṣṇa's eye-meals

Bhakta: "You didn't really explain the three (adhyatmika adhidaivik and adhibhautik) dimensions of the holy rivers, in your blog of February 6, 2007."

Advaitadas: "When the British came to India they considered the Hindus crazy for thronging to the rivers by the millions, thinking that a dip in them (like at Makar Sankranti or Kumbha Mela) would grant freedom from sin or even liberation. For them that was just idolatry and superstition, because they did not know the adhyatmika dimension of the holy rivers. jala brahma flows from the toe of Nārāyan - this is highly mystical. Yamunā is the daughter of the sun. Yet this is all over śāstra, including the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava śāstras. Rūpa Gosvāmī wrote a Yamunāṣṭakam praising the daughter of the sun - māṁ punātu sarvadāravinda-bandhu-nandinī."

Bhakta: "So is it the jala brahma or the material water which runs from the Himālayas?"

Advaitadas: "The tangible water sprouts from Gangotri, high up in the Himālayas, but the jala brahma sprouts from Nārāyan's toe. In the Bhāgavata (5.17.4) it is described that the Gaṅgā water is carried across the universe in billions of airplanes."

Bhakta: "Actually, all the ācāryas comment differently on this verse - they say that the travelling Ganges water and the billions of airplanes are two separate phenomena on that sky-path. You can read that also in the English translation of the Gita Press edition."


Advaitadas: "Oh thank you, that is very revealing."

Bhakta: "It is also said in one of the ācāryas' commentaries on the 5th canto that, though the (mystical) colour of Gaṅgā is pure white, because of the saffron dust of the feet of Viṣṇu, it is tainted red. Śrīdhara Swāmī writes in his commentary on the Viṣṇu Purāṇa that the Gaṅgā gets coloured saffron because of the saffron from the bodies of the goddesses bathing upstream."

Advaitadas: "That is very beautiful, thank you."

Bhakta: "In the Bhāgavata (1.11.19) it is described that there are prostitutes in Dwārakā. Is that possible?"

Advaitadas: "Only one ācārya has written a ṭīkā to this verse. He gives 'actresses' as first translation of 'vāra-mukhya'. 'veśyā' or prostitutes is the secondary meaning. But anyway, if you want my take on it - Dwārakā is a big city and just as Yogamāyā arranges for an entire backdrop of rural beauty in Vraja for Kṛṣṇa's enjoyment, so she creates a wonderful city as a backdrop for his urban enjoyment as well. Whether these prostitutes actually practise their profession I do not know. I assume that these prostitutes are for decoration only."

Bhakta: (Jokes:) "We desired the prostitute and so we fell down from the spiritual world (laughter)."

Bhakta: "It is sometimes said that Kṛṣṇa can eat with His eyes, on the altar for instance when the offering is going on?"

Advaitadas: "It is described by Jīva Gosvāmī in his comments on Brahma Saṁhitā 5.32: haste'pi draṣṭuṁ śaknoti - He can see with His hands too. cakṣur api pālayitum - he can flee with his eyes, and tathānyad andy apy aṅgam anyaṁ kalayitum, he can see with his other limbs too."
Kṛṣṇa says in the Brahma Vaivarta Purāṇa -

naivedyaṁ purato nyastaṁ dṛṣṭyaiva svīkṛtaṁ mayā
bhaktasya rasanāgrena rasam aśnāmi padmaja

"Simply with My glances I eat all food-offerings that are placed before Me. O Padmaja! I eat the flavour of the devotees' devotion only!" Kṛṣṇa is a great magician. This is, of course, aiśvarya. Madhurya Kṛṣṇa just eats with His mouth.”