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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Advaita Ācārya's Śālagrāma-śilā


There is this famous picture depicting Advaita Ācārya worshiping Śālagrāma-śilā to invoke the advent of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and this is also widely taught, but this is not correct.

Advaita Ācārya indeed had a Śālagrāma-śilā, as Advaita prakāśa, chapter 4, says –

koto dine āilā puṇya gomukhī parbote; tabe gelā śrī gaṇḍakī śālagrāma kṣetre
tahi snāna kori prabhu korilā viśrāma; hari nārāyaṇa nāma jape aviśrāma
dekhi eka śilā cakra sarva-sulakṣaṇa; bhakti kori tāhā loiyā korilā gamana

“After dancing in ecstatic love and offering His obeisances Advaita Ācārya continued to holy Mount Gomukhī and Śrī Gaṇḍakī Śālagrāma Kṣetra, where He bathed and rested. He untiringly performed japa of the holy name of Hari Nārāyaṇa here, and found a Cakra-Śīlā, endowed with all auspicious marks, which He took along with great devotion.”

Caitanya Caritāmṛta (Ādi 3.105-109) describes Advaita Ācārya’s invocation of Śrīman Mahaprabhu as follows –

ei ślokārtha ācārya korena vicāraṇa; kṛṣṇake tulasī-jala deya yei jana
tāra ṛṇa śodhite kṛṣṇa korena cintana - ‘jala-tulasīra sama kichu ghare nāhi dhana’
tabe ātmā veci’ kore ṛṇera śodhana; eta bhāvi’ ācārya korena ārādhana
gaṅgā-jala, tulasī-mañjarī anukṣaṇa; kṛṣṇa-pāda-padma bhāvi’ kore samarpaṇa
kṛṣṇera āhvāna kore koriyā huṅkāra; e-mate kṛṣṇere korāila avatāra

“Advaita Ācārya considered the meaning of the verse in this way: “Not finding any way to repay the debt He owes to one who offers Him a Tulasī-leaf and water, Śrī Kṛṣṇa thinks, ‘There is no wealth in My possession that is equal to a Tulasī-leaf and water.’ Thus the Lord clears the debt by offering Himself to the devotee.” Thinking like this, the Ācārya began worshiping the Lord. Thinking of the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, He constantly offered Tulasī-mañjarīs and Gaṅgā-water, appealing to Śrī Kṛṣṇa with loud roars and thus made it possible for Kṛṣṇa to appear.”

There is no mentioning here of Him worshiping a Śālagrāma-śilā for this purpose. Śrī Caitanya Bhāgavat (Ādi-khaṇḍa 2.78-83) also gives a summary description of the event, also without mentioning Advaita Ācārya worshipping a Śālagrama-śilā.

sei navadvīpe boise vaiṣṇavāgragaṇya; ‘advaita ācārya’ nāma, sarva-loke dhanya
jñāna-bhakti-vairāgyera guru mukhyatara; kṛṣṇa-bhakti vākhānite jeheno śaṅkara
tribhuvane āche joto śāstrera pracāra; sarvatra vākhāne,—’kṛṣṇa-pada-bhakti sāra’
tulasī-mañjarī-sahita gaṅgā-jale; niravadhi seve kṛṣṇe mahā-kutūhale
huṅkāra koroye kṛṣṇa-āveśera teje; ye dhvani brahmāṇḍa bhedi’ vaikuṇṭhete bāje
ye-premera huṅkāra śuniyā kṛṣṇa nātha; bhakti-vaśe āpane ye hoilā sākṣāt

“In that Navadvīpa the leader of all the Vaiṣṇavas, named ‘Advaita ācārya ‘, lived, who was the most blessed in all the worlds. He was the main guru of jñāna (knowledge or wisdom), bhakti (devotion) and vairāgya (renunciation). He was like Śaṅkara (Śiva) in His explanations of Kṛṣṇa-bhakti. He preached all scriptures that existed in the three worlds and explained them all to mean ‘devotion to Kṛṣṇa’s feet is the best’. In great eagerness He always worshiped Kṛṣṇa with Tulasī-mañjarīs and Gaṅgā-water. He roared in a powerful absorption in Kṛṣṇa, and that thunderous sound pierced the shell of the cosmos, resounding in Vaikuṇṭha. When Lord Kṛṣṇa heard these premik roars, He appeared (on earth, as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu), being subdued by (the love of) His devotee.”

Here also, there is no mentioning of Śṛī Advaita-ācārya invoking Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s advent with a Śālagrāma-śilā. Śṛī Advaita-ācārya’s prāṇa-nātha was Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Madangopāla instead. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

pūrva rāga rahasya


Vaiṣṇava - On the one hand we see Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa meeting from birth, as Padma Purāṇa says that Rādhikā was born blind and got Her vision only when Kṛṣṇa visited Her and on the other hand in the opening acts of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmi's 'Vidagdha-mādhava'-drama, we read about pūrva rāga, how Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa first hear of Each other when they are already in adolescence.

Advaitadās - Yes, Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja and Nanda Mahārāja are neighbors, presiding over Barsānā and Nandagrām respectively, so it is inconceivable that Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa did not know each other before adolescence. There are several answers to this question.

First of all, Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism focuses on nitya līlā, the eternal pastimes, not naimittika līlā, occasional (but in a sense also eternal) pastimes.

Secondly, we must remember that līlā does not take place in linear time as we know it in the material world. Jīva Goswāmī explained that in his commentary on Bhagavata 2.9.10 — kāla-vikrameṇa hi prakṛti-kṣobhāt sattvādayaḥ pṛthak kriyante | tasmāt yatrāsau ṣaḍ-bhāva-vikāra-hetuḥ kāla-vikrama eva na pravartate tatra teṣām abhāvaḥ sutarām eveti bhāvaḥ - “The power of time in Vaikuṇṭha works separately of (beyond) time which is prompted by material modes like sattva. Hence there are no six transformations caused by the power of material time there (birth, growth, full grown state, decay and death).” 

What I said just a few seconds ago, that is gone forever. In the meantime I became a few seconds older. That cannot be recovered. You cannot become younger anymore, you cannot turn back the hands of time. Linear time is destructive. The pastimes of the Lord take place outside of the linear time frame. Kṛṣṇa is often addressed in the Bhāgavata with names denoting pastimes He had not performed yet at 'that' time. Durvāsā Muni blessed Śrī Rādhikā that whatever She would cook would give strength and health to Kṛṣṇa. But the līlā of Her cooking for Kṛṣṇa, which happened 'later', as a result of it is also eternal. So how does it work? There is no 'past' before it. How is it possible? 

So it is the same with pūrva rāga - Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa always meet again for the first time. This is the point of the whole concept of anurāga. When Rādhikā sees Kṛṣṇa on top of Mount Govardhana She says to Her sakhīs in the Dāna-keli-kaumudī (28)—

prapannaḥ panthānaṁ harir asakṛd asman-nayanayor
apūrvo’yaṁ pūrvaṁ kvacid api na dṛṣṭo madhurimā 
pratīke’py ekasya sphurati muhur aṅgasya sakhi yā
śriyas tasyāḥ pātuṁ lavam api samarthā na dṛg iyam

"Kṛṣṇa has crossed the path of My eyes so many times before but I have never before seen such sweetness as today. My eyes cannot drink even a drop of the beauty in one portion of one limb."

So the time-frame of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa's 'first meeting' does not apply here, and there is also the divine deluding power of Yogamāyā. Even if They had known Each other from birth, they would still be in an illusion of a 'first meeting' during Their adolescence.

We contemplate this aṣṭakāla līlā now for 36 years and we could think 'Oh I know that stuff now, it is old.' But it isn't. Read it and contemplate it again and it is exactly like the first time, but even more attractive than before. vibhur api kalayann sadābhi vṛddhim (Dāna Keli Kaumudi 2) "Though this nectar is all pervading it always increases again still." If we experience ever freshness, then what to speak of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, Who are at the pinnacle of anurāga? Every word, every movement there is eternal. If Guruji says you are 12 years 3 months and 15 days old, if you wake up the next morning, you will not be 12.3.16 days old but again 12.3.15 days. It is an eternal loop.

Another thing we must consider is that Kṛṣṇa can perform many different līlās at the same time, as Nārada Muni discovered in the Bhāgavata, when he visited Kṛṣṇa in Dvārakā [Canto 10, chapter 69], and that dramas like Vidagdha Mādhava are templates, blueprints, school-examples to introduce new sādhakas to the different situations and bhāvas in Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa-līlā, rather than a mere continual story.   

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Vrajavāsīs' Vaikuṇṭha-darśana and sādhana-exemption

Śrīmad Bhāgavata, 10.28.16, speaks of the Vrajabāsīs' darśana of the spiritual world -

te tu brahma-hradam nītā magnāḥ kṛṣṇena coddhṛtāḥ
dadṛśur brahmaṇo lokaṁ yatrākrūro’dhyagāt purā

"The cowherd men were brought by Kṛṣṇa to the Brahma-hrada, made to submerge in the water, and then lifted up. From the same vantage point that Akrūra saw the spiritual world, the cowherd men saw the world of the Absolute Truth."

Viśvanātha Cakravartipāda comments: "The unlimited spiritual effulgence, called the brahmajyoti in Text 15, is compared to a lake called Brahma-hrada, which actually exists in the river Yamunā. Śrī Kṛṣṇa submerged the cowherd men in that lake literally, and also in the sense that He submerged them in the awareness of the impersonal Brahman. But then, as indicated by the word uddhṛtāḥ (uplift), Kṛṣṇa lifted them up to a higher understanding, that of the world of the Lord, Vaikuṇṭha. This is also stated in the Bhāgavata (2.7.31): ahnayāpṛtaṁ niśi śayānam ati śrameṇa lokaṁ vaikuṇṭham upaneṣyati gokulaṁ sma, “Kṛṣṇa brought the Gokula-residents, who were sleeping at night after a day's hard labor, to Vaikuṇṭha."

Though 10.28.16 seems impersonal, in the next verse it is said that Kṛṣṇa showed them Vaikuṇṭha - 10.28.17 - kṛṣṇaṁ ca tatra cchandobhiḥ stūyamānaṁ su-vismitāḥ 'He was praised there by the Personified Vedas, to the cowherds' astonishment'

So this vision could not have been of the indistinct brahma-jyoti if the Personified Vedas are there.

Śrīdhara Swāmī's ṭīkā to 2.7.31 is nice -

ahni āpṛtaṁ vyāpāra-yuktaṁ niśi śayānam iti ca vaikuṇṭha-prāpti-sādhanānuṣṭhānābhāvo darśitaḥ


"The Brijbasis were so busy in the day that they slept at night. It shows one can attain Vaikuṇṭha without practising sādhana (just by being dear to Kṛṣṇa)"

So verse 2.7.31 shows the power of love beyond sādhana prasaṅga bhakti (the devotees´ regular duties of chanting one's rounds etc). 

It is also a beacon of hope for gṛhastha bhaktas who may have no or little time for nāma-sādhana.

The same thing goes for the Pāṇḍavas, as Sanātana Goswāmī comments on his Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta (1.4.109) - vinaiva kiñcit sādhanaṁ tān prati prasannaṁ kṛta kāruṇya-bharam "Kṛṣṇa was pleased with them without them doing any sādhana, He was filled with compassion."

There is a caution given however, that if there is spare time it must surely be utilized in sādhana.
Sādhu Bābā’s householder disciple asked: “Bābā, how can we be devoted to the Lord?”
Bābā replied: “Take shelter of Śrī Guru’s lotus feet, believe Śrī Guru’s words, earnestly do bhajana according to Śrī Guru’s instructions, then surely the goddess of devotion will be pleased with you. 'sādhya-vastu' 'sādhana' vinu keho nāhi pāy (C.C.) “Without practising no one can attain spiritual perfection.” Those who must work all day should at least in the evening do some japa and meditation, for the śāstras provide us with this hope: krome krome pāye lok bhava sindhu kūle (C.C.) “Slowly and gradually the people will reach the shore of the ocean of material existence.`

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Is love free?

It is often heard that if we cannot freely choose, then there is no question of love. Is love actually really 'free', however?

Let us look at the ācāryas' explanations of the famous sentence muktiṁ dadāti karhicit sma na bhakti yogam ("The Lord sometimes bestows mukti but not bhakti") from Śrīmad Bhāgavata 5.6.18. It is a most important and often quoted sentence, and it shows that

1. bhakti is greater than mukti.
2. bhakti is rarer than mukti.
3. love is a gift, it is not free choice - as we will see in the following commentaries.

This makes all the difference. 'sma na bhakti yogam' literally means 'He never bestows it', but it practically means that He hardly bestows it, otherwise I would not be writing this and no one would be reading this. 

Charity begins at home, so let us start in the family and first study the ṭīkā to this important sentence by Śrīnātha Cakravartī, the famous disciple of Advaita Ācārya and Guru of Kavi Karṇapura. He writes in his Caitanya Mata Mañjuṣā:

mukundo mokṣa-prado’pi bhajatāṁ karhicit kadācid api muktiṁ na dadāti tarhi kiṁ dadāti tatrāha—bhakti-yogaṁ bhaktau yogo yasya sa bhakti-yogaḥ premā tam 

"Although Mukunda is the bestower of liberation he never gives it to those who do His bhajan. Then what does He bestow? It is said here - He gives bhakti yoga and that bhakti yoga means prema."  

Śrīla Sanātana Goswāmīpāda comments on this sentence:

evaṁ bhagavat-prasādaika-labhyatā, anyathā ca parama-daurlabhyam iti darśitam 

"Thus it is only attained by the grace of the Lord, otherwise it is seen to be very rarely attained."

Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī confirms this in his Krama Sandarbha ṭīkā -

bhakti-yogam atra premāṇam 

"Bhakti yoga here means prema (which He bestows - rarely)."

Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda comments -

bhavadbhyo hy abhajadbhyo’pi parama-premādhikya-dānasya 

"That he gave the highest prema even to you, who do not worship him, is the highest position."

From all these explanations of Śrīmad Bhāgavata it is clear that prema or love is a gift and not a free choice or so, though this is the popular (mis-)conception based on material experiences.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

7 Instances of siddha deha in Śrīmad Bhāgavat

7 Instances of siddha deha in Śrīmad Bhāgavat 

On October 14, 2014, I published a blog which listed 4 instances in which a siddha deha, personal spiritual body, was described or mentioned in Śrīmad Bhāgavata, while the Bhāgavata mostly describes liberation as merging into Brahman or into Bhagavān. Since then I myself and several other devotees have found more verses on siddha deha in Śrīmad Bhāgavata, so I decided to delete the old blog and replace it with this updated one, adding 3 more instances to it. 

Nārada Muni in Śrīmad Bhāgavat 1.6.27-8-

evaṁ kṛṣṇa-mater brahman nāsaktasyāmalātmanaḥ
kālaḥ prādurabhūt kāle taḍit saudāmanī yathā

"O brāhmaṇa Vyāsa! Concentrating only on Kṛṣṇa, not attached to material enjoyment and pure in mind, the time of receiving my spiritual body occurred simultaneously with that of giving up my material body, like lightning flashing simultaneously with lightning."

prayujyamāne mayi tāṁ śuddhāṁ bhāgavatīṁ tanum 
ārabdha-karma-nirvāṇo nyapatat pāñca-bhautikaḥ

"Having been awarded a transcendental body befitting an associate of the Lord, the body made of five material elements, with karmas relating to the present body, fell away."

Śrīdhar Swāmī ṭīkā - bhagavatā mayi prayujyamāne nīyamāne – the word prayujyamāne means ‘the siddha deha is brought by the Lord’. anena pārṣada-tanūnām akarmārabdhatvaṁ śuddhatvaṁ nityatvam ity ādi sūcitaṁ bhavati: the bodies of the associates of the Lord are pure, without prārabdha-karmas, and eternal.

Viśvanātha Cakravartī ṭīkā - "The Lord previously promised hitvāvadyam imaṁ lokaṁ gantā maj-janatām asi: giving up this low body you will become my associate. (SB 1.6.23)  At the time of being made to accept a body which was śuddha-sattva (śuddhām) because it was not a material body and because it belonged to the Lord (bhāgavatīṁ), my material body (pāñca-bhautikaḥ) fell away. Giving up my material body and attaining a spiritual body were simultaneous, like the expression “I am walking while the cows are being milked.” The Lord’s own words were hitvāvadyam imaṁ lokam. The use of the verb form hitvā (giving up the material body) in this case indicates simultaneously giving up the material body while receiving the spiritual body. It is said:    

kvacit tulya-kāle ’pi upaviśya bhuṅkte ṛṇat-kṛtya patati cakṣuḥ saṁmīlya hasati mukhaṁ vyādāya svapitīty ādikam upasaṅkhyeyam -

There are examples in which the participles indicate simultaneous actions as in sitting down and eating, assuming debts and falling from esteem, closing the eyes and laughing, lowering the head and falling asleep. (Bhāṣā-vṛtti)."

Śrīmad Bhāgavata 1.15.32 -

niśamya bhagavan-mārgaṁ saṁsthāṁ yadu-kulasya ca 
svaḥ-pathāya matiṁ cakre nibhṛtātmā yudhiṣṭhiraḥ 

“Hearing the arrangements of the Lord and the proper situation of the Yadu family, without others knowing, Yudhiṣṭhira fixed his mind on attaining Kṛṣṇa’s abode. “

Normally the word svaḥ refers to the material heavens but in this case it means Kṛṣṇa's abode because later on in Śrīmad Bhāgavata [1.19.20] it is said about the Pāṇḍavas' final attainment -

na vā idaṁ rājarṣi-varya citraṁ
bhavatsu kṛṣṇaṁ samanuvrateṣu
ye ’dhyāsanaṁ rāja-kirīṭa-juṣṭaṁ
sadyo jahur bhagavat-pārśva-kāmāḥ

"O best of kings! It is not surprising that those desiring to associate with the Lord, born in the Pāṇḍava family and devoted solely to Kṛṣṇa, immediately gave up the royal throne served by kings' crowns."

From the context of this verse it is clear that bhagavat-pārśva-kāmāḥ means wanting to attain the Lord's side in the spiritual world because the departure of Kṛṣṇa from the material world had already taken place in chapter 14 of the same Canto.

Śrīmad Bhāgavata 3.2.23 is the clearest case of a soul attaining a personal relationship with Kṛṣṇa in a spiritual body, and it is most astonishingly bestowed to someone who tried to kill Him -

aho bakī yaṁ stana-kāla-kūṭaṁ
jighāṁsayāpāyayad apy asādhvī
lebhe gatiṁ dhātry-ucitāṁ tato ’nyaṁ
kaṁ vā dayāluṁ śaraṇaṁ vrajema

"Oh! Evil Pūtanā, who offered her poisonous breast to Kṛṣṇa to drink with the intention of killing him, attained the position of a nurse in the spiritual world. Who else is so merciful? I surrender to him!"

Another very clear one - Śrīmad Bhāgavata 3.15.25:

yac ca vrajanty animiṣām ṛṣabhānuvṛttyā
dūre yamā hy upari naḥ spṛhaṇīya-śīlāḥ
bhartur mithaḥ suyaśasaḥ kathanānurāga-
vaiklavya-bāṣpa-kalayā pulakī-kṛtāṅgāḥ

"Those who are far above rules by following the Lord with dedication, who are superior to us, and whose qualities are desirable by us, and whose bodies develop goose bumps and uncontrolled tears through attraction to discussions of the Lord possessing most excellent qualities, enter Vaikuṇṭha."

Verses 13-24 were an elaborate description of Vaikuntha so the context of this verse is crystal clear.

Dhruva undergoing transfiguration, his human body turning into a spiritual body on the spot, in Śrīmad Bhāgavat 4.12.29 –

parītyābhyarcya dhiṣṇyāgryaṁ
pārṣadāv abhivandya ca
iyeṣa tad adhiṣṭhātuṁ
bibhrad rūpaṁ hiraṇmayam

"Circumambulating and worshipping the plane which brought him to Dhruvaloka, an outpost of Vaikuṇṭha, offering respects to the two associates of the Lord, assuming a golden form, Dhruva desired to board the plane."

Ajāmila in Śrīmad Bhāgavat 6.2.43 -

hitvā kalevaraṁ tīrthe
gaṅgāyāṁ darśanād anu
sadyaḥ svarūpaṁ jagṛhe
bhagavat-pārśva-vartinām

"After seeing those forms, Ajāmila gave up his body at this holy place on the Gaṅgā River and immediately attained a spiritual body as an associate of the Lord."

Śrīnātha Cakravartī, disciple of Advaita Prabhu, comments in his Caitanya Mata Mañjuṣā-ṭīkā – sadyo’vyavadhānenaiva – sadya means seamlessly, (this happens) without a break, immediately.

Gajendra says in Śrīmad Bhāgavat 8.3.19 –

yaṁ dharma-kāmārtha-vimukti-kāmā
bhajanta iṣṭāṁ gatim āpnuvanti
kiṁ cāśiṣo rāty api deham avyayaṁ
karotu me 'dabhra-dayo vimokṣaṇam

"Persons desiring dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa worship the Lord and attain the desired destination. What to speak of other benedictions, they also receive a spiritual body. May that Lord of unlimited mercy liberate me and bestow such a spiritual body."

To my knowledge there are no more references in Śrīmad Bhāgavata of the siddha deha.