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A108-AI

The Meaning of Life

This is the continuing serialization of 252 Vaishnavan ki varta, the lives of the saints following Vitthalnath, son of Vallabhacharya. It has been translated from the original Braj Bhasha by Krishnaa Kinkari Devi. This is the sixteenth vartaSee previous.

Varta 16

The story of Madhusudan Das, a Gaudiya Brahmin who lived in Vrindavan.

*bhav-prakash*

Madhusudan Das is a devotee with a tamasi (divinely feisty) disposition. In the Eternal Lila his name is Bandini (a gopi). Bandini manifests from Indulekha and is thus a form of her divine loving mood.

Madhusudan Das was born to a Brahmin in Gauda Desh. His father was a disciple of  Shri Roop-Sanatan. [Because the brothers shared such a close spiritual connection, the Brajwasis of the time used to refer to Shri Roop Goswami and Shri Sanatan Goswami by the single name “Shri Roop-Sanatan”. It is not clear whether one or the other is referred to here, or whether the author is talking about both Goswamis. -Ed.]

Madhusudan Das’ father would travel to Vrindavan every year to see his Guru. He would serve his Guru for some days and, after receiving instructions from him, he would then return home.

When Madhusudan Das reached the age of 20, his father took him with him on his trip to Vrindavan. He had Madhusudan Das initiated by his Guru. Madhusudandas stayed on in Vrindavan with his father. He became very attached to the beauty of Vrindavan.

When his father wanted to set off for home, Madhusudan Das told him that he did not want to leave Vrindavan to go home with him, that he liked Vrindavan and wished to remain there forever. His father said, “My son, you are still a child. You are not yet married. I am old now, so you should come home with me. You can do whatever you like after I am dead.”

Madhusudan Das was not persuaded. Defeated by his son’s resolve, his father went home.

As he was leaving, Madhusudan Das’ father requested his Guru to look after his son and said that he was giving the boy into his care. Shri Roop-Sanatan told him not to worry, that he should go happily and that he would take care of his son. The father left some money for the expenses for his son and set off. Madhusudan Das began to fearlessly wander around Vrindavan.

*Part 1*

Once Madhusudan Das came to Sri Gusainji (Sri Vitthalnathji) in Gokul. Although Madhusudan Das had been initiated by a different Guru in his youth, after having the sight of Sri Gusainji in Gokul, he felt a great desire to become his disciple.

At that very moment he implored Sri Gusainji to bless him with initiation. Sri Gusainji recognised his intense longing and so told him to go and bathe, and thereafter he initiated him with the Lord’s Name and Brahma Sambandha. He then went inside to take Prasad.

He told Madhusudan Das that he should have his Prasad there that day, and he did so.

The next day, Madhusudan Das was cooking when Sri Gusainji was heading inside to have his meal. Sri Gusainji caught sight of Madhusudan Das and asked him, “Do you have any money to live on?”

Madhusudan Das replied that he had enough for a few expenses tied up in his bundle. Sri Gusainji told him to have his Prasad there that day, but then to go home the next day.

Madhusudan Das supplicated, “O Maharaj! As long as I have these few savings, I can cook and take Prasad. After that I can beg and survive like that. I do not wish to leave your lotus feet.”

For the next two days, Sri Gusainji fed Madhusudan Das. On the third day he did his own cooking, and when his money ran out he began to beg.

When he had been doing this for about four days, Sri Gusainji asked him how he was getting on. Madhusudandas told him everything.

“O Maharaj! I had enough for two days. On those days I cooked, made the offerings, and accepted the Prasad. Nowadays I go to beg in the day. In the evenings I get all the ingredients ready and in the morning I cook and make the offerings. When the Prasad comes back, I cover it and come to have the Lord’s Holy Sight. After that I partake of the Prasad, and then go out again to beg.”

Sri Gusainji again asked him, “From whose houses do you beg?”

Madhusudan Das revealed, “From the houses of Vashnavas, from Bhatt families, from the homes of the temple’s inner servants, and from Brajwasis. I also get alms from traders in the market.”

Sri Gusainji then instructed him, “You can accept alms from all of these people, but never from the Bhatts or the temple servants. You must never accept even a bean from them.”

*bhav-prakash*

The reason for this is that the Bhatts and temple servants live on wealth donated to Sri Gusainji and his lineage, and so to take from this source is an obstacle for Vaishnavas. This has already been explained in the Varta of Vishnudas Chipa.

*Part 1 Continued*

Madhusudan Das then acted according to these instructions. Some days later, Sri Gusainji gave Madhusudan Das the Seva of preparing Srinathji’s paan leaf offerings. He did this Seva very well.

On summer days when it was very hot, Madhusudan Das would operate Shrinathji’s fan for the whole night by pulling the rope. He did this for many days.

One day, Sri Gusainji came to the room where the Paan was prepared. He saw that Madhusudan Das was falling asleep. His eyes were full of sleep, but he was still holding the rope and swinging the fan. Sri Gusainji felt very happy to see his dedicated service.

Madhusudan Das had no idea that Sri Gusainji had seen him. He continued making this Seva until the very end of his life.

*bhav-prakash*

This story teaches us that Vaishnavas should be totally addicted to their Seva. Then the Lord will be pleased. Being addicted to Seva means that the embodied soul’s life is fulfilled.

In his treatise called Bhaktivardhini (How to increase Devotion) Sri Acharyaji has written, “The purpose of an embodied soul’s existence is fulfilled when they become addicted to Seva.”

Madhusudan Das’ addiction to Seva was perfect.

Thus concludes Varta 16, the story of Madhusudan Das on whom Sri Gusainji showered his grace and with whom he was always pleased. He was a recipient of Sri Gusainji’s grace and an accomplished Vaishnava. There is truly no end to his story.

 

A108-AI

Vrindavan, 2017.04.13 (VT): Mathura MP Hema Malini conducted a surprise inspection of Vrindavan and Mathura recently. She was profoundly disappointed to see the amount of garbage still littering the streets of the holy cities.

It is an embarassment, said the MP, to have pilgrims and tourists come from all over the world, only to find the holy land filled with garbage. The responsibility, she added, lies squarely on the municipal heads of both cities.

When Hema Malini first became MP, she was enthusiastic to reverse the previous so-called development work, which had been substandard at best and outright damaging at worst. She was optimistic about bringing back the Vrindavan of her dreams, which was the reality just a couple decades ago.

But getting it done was another matter, as the officers in charge of overseeing the work failed to be straighforward with the MP. Further, the departments failed to collaborate, sometimes even blocking each other’s work.

“If I make an appeal, I can get thousands of trash bins installed in Vrindavan,” Hemaji said, “but who will maintain them?” Although she has brought up the matter many times with the municipality, there has been no tangible result.

With a convoy of representitives from the District Administration, the Mathura Vrindavan Development Authority (MVDA) and the Public Works Department or Lok Nirman Vibhag (LNV), the MP first visited the 100-bedded hospital in Vrindavan, and the Utility Center, which is currently under construction. Next they began their inspection of the parikrama marg where it crosses Atalla Chungi.

There, the MP questioned officers about the encroachment of shantys and tea stalls on the dirt path, which is supposed to be reserved for pilgrims walking on parikrama. She also interrogated them as to why there was still so much garbage, and why the iron railings alongside the parikrama path were broken down. While none of the officers was ready to take responsibility for the parikrama marg’s state, everyone was ready to lay the blame on other departments.

The MVDA said the development of the parikrama marg was the LNV’s responsibility, while the LNV insisted it was the MVDA’s problem. Ten years ago under BSP rule, the LNV undertook Vrindavan’s beautification and the MVDA was the nodal agency for the project.

Unable to give the MP the answers she wanted, they all assured her that the beautifucation of the Govardhan parikrama marg was going on very well. Upon reaching Keshi Ghat, the officers briefed the MP on the Yamuna riverfront development project. At this point, the MP addressed journalists, first pouring her ire on the hoardings (signboards) that obstruct pedestrian space on top of being an eyesore.

She continued to say that despite the incomplete state of development in the two holy cities, apparantly nobody cared enough to do something about it. The sad fact is that once people enter politics, they tend to pay far more attention to how they can advance their position and gain finacially, than to actually doing their job. This is the one and only reason why Vrindavan is in the state it’s in.

Now, with the new BJP state government, the MP has hope that the actual development of Vrindavan will finally start to happen. Soon, she said, there will be a joint meeting with officers from all the departments involved in development. They will have to cooperate and begin their work in earnest.

The MP added that the Muktakashiya Rang Manch in Mathura will soon be developed as a grand theatre where Braj artists will have an opportunity to showcase their work.

 

A108-AI

May Mānasa Gaṅgā, who enjoys the great sweetness of Śrī-Sri Radha and Krishna’s boating pastimes and whose waves of ecstasy splash against Govardhana hill’s brilliant boulders, protect me.

VERSE 64:

gāndharvikā mura-vimardana nau vihāra
līlā vinoda; rasa-nirbhara bhoginīyam
govardhanojjvala śilā-kulam unnayantī
vīcī-bharair avatu mānasa jāhnavī mām

Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā:  In this verse Raghunath Das Goswami praises Mānasa Gaṅgā, one of Govardhana hill’s holy waters. yatra vai mānasī gaṅgā mahā-pāpaugha-nāśinī (Garga Saṁhitā) “On Govardhana hill is Mānasī Gaṅga, which destroys all great sins.” This Mānasa Gaṅgā is Sri Sri Girirāja’s eye. netre vai mānasī gaṅgā (ibid.) Mānasa Gaṅgā is the abode where Krishna plays watersports with his boyfriends and where Śrī-Sri Radha-Mādhava play different watersports with Their girlfriends. Raghunath Das Goswami is Sri Radha’s maidservant, hence he mentions the most rasik boating-pastimes of Śrī-Sri Radha-Mādhava when he praises Mānasa Gaṅgā.

In this verse, Mānasa Gaṅgā is praised in connection with the revelation of a sweet pastime. Das Goswami was absorbed in bhajan on the bank of Sri Radhakuṇḍ when he suddenly got a divine vision in which he saw Sri Radharani, Lalitā, Viśākhā and other sakhīs taking jugs with ghee and yoghurt to Govinda Kuṇḍ, a lake at the base of Govardhana hill. Under the guidance of Paurṇamāsī they set out from Radhakuṇḍ to Govardhan on the pretext of donating ghee to a fire sacrifice there, but with the actual desire to meet Shyam nearby. In his kiṅkarī-rūpa Das Goswami follows his/her Īśvarī.

The woods are illuminated by the golden bodily splendour of Srimati and her girlfriends. With restless eyes, Īśvarī looks all around: “Where is the Lord of my life?!” Waves of mahābhāva-desires to see her loving Sri Krishna rise on the ocean of her heart. When Shyam gets a message that Srimati Radharani and her girlfriends are approaching Govardhan Hill with ghee and yoghurt, Shyam dresses himself like an amazing boatman and sits in a boat on the Mānasa Jāhnavī.

Mānasa Gaṅgā’s bosom is illuminated by the bluish lustre of this boatman who enchants the three worlds. Seeing this young boatman, Srimati and her girlfriends put down their pots of yoghurt and stand on the shore. Then Srimati Radharani tells Paurṇamāsī:

boḍāi! ai ki ghāṭera neye
kothā hoite āsi, dilo daraśana, vinoda taraṇī beye
rajata kāñcane, nā-khāni jaḍita, bājiche kiṅkiṇī jāla
aparūpa tā’te, śobhā rāṅgā hāte, maṇi-bāṅdhā kerowāla
hāsite hāsite, gīta ālāpiche, ḍhulāiche rāṅgā āṅkhi
cāpāiyā nāya, ke jāne ki cāya, cañcala nayana dekhi
ratanera phāli, śire jhalamali, kadamba kusuma kāne
jaṭhara añcale, vāṁśiṭi guṅjeche, śobhe nānā ābharaṇe
āmarā kohibo, kaṁsera yogāni, buke nā heliho kehu
jagannātha kohe, śaśī ṣola kalā, pele ki chāḍibe rāhu?

(Pada Kalpataru)

“O holy mother! Who is that there near the Ghat? Where has he come from, showing himself to us, steering his blissful boat that is studded with gold and silver? His waistbells jingle and on his reddish hands are beautiful bangles! He smiles and laughs and sings a song while his reddish eyes are flitting this way and that. He wants me to board the boat. Who knows what he wants when you look at his naughty, restless eyes? A jeweled turban shimmers on his head and he wears Kadamba-flowers on his ears. He keeps his flute tucked in the scarf around his waist and is beautified by different other ornaments. We will say: King Kaṁsa will punish you!” But, Jagannātha dāsa says: “Will Rāhu (the eclipse) give up the full moon when he has caught it?”

The sakhīs call out: “Boatman! Boatman!” Hearing their call the enchanting boatman slowly brings his boat to the shore. With slow gait Srimati and her friends board the boat, casting ecstatic glances here and there. Suddenly the boatman Krishna stops Srimati from boarding the boat and says:

kohiche cikaṇa kālā
vāsa parihari, boisoho kiśorī, kori ei belā
nīla vasana, kaṭite paraho, dekhiye kāmpiche gā
navīna nīrada, bharame pavana, tvarāya ḍubābe lā
kānura vacana, śuniye tokhona, kapaṭe kohice dhani
tomāra aṅgera, cikaṇa varaṇa, kemone lukābe tumi
śuniyā e kothā, kohoye lalitā, keho nā koriho gola
kāliyā varaṇa, chāpābo ekhona, ḍhāli diyā ghana ghola
śuniyā nāgara, hoiyā phāṁphara, madhura madhura hāse
kohe guru dāsa, hṛdaye ullāsa, sukhera sāyare bhāse

Chikana Kālā (glossy-complexioned Krishna) said: “Give up Your veil and sit down, o Kiśori (adolescent girl). Now I will help You to cross the river. If You wear this blue sārī on Your waist, though, the wind will tremble quickly sink our ship, thinking it to be a monsoon cloud.” Hearing Kānu’s words Dhani (fortunate Radhika) falsely said: “Your body has this glossy black-bluish complexion; how will You hide that?” Hearing this, Lalitā said: “Let nobody cause any confusion! I will cover his black complexion now by pouring yoghurt over him!” Hearing this, Nāgara (amorous hero Krishna) became puzzled and began to smile sweetly.” Guru dāsa says: “My heart floats in an ocean of bliss!”

Joking in this way, Srimati and her girlfriends eagerly boarded the boat, while waves of deep love played in her heart. The young boatman brought the boat to the middle of the Jāhnavī, whose bosom became illuminated by the sweet and wonderful forms of the Divine Pair. Jāhnavī could not control the upsurge of ecstasy now that she got her most beloved pair on her bosom, and became agitated by high waves that smashed up against the large and brilliant boulders of Govardhana hill.

The billowing waves of ecstatic Jāhnavī gushed inside the boat, making Srimati afraid. The sakhīs said: “O incompetent boatman! Are You going to kill us by making us drown in the middle of the Gaṅgā today, or what?” The boatman didn’t notice anything; he was simply absorbed in relishing the sweet feelings of restless-eyed Srimati. As the boat sank Srimati became terrified and with eyes startled with fear she tightly clasped Shyam around the neck. In this way the sakhīs and mañjarīs relished the wonderful sweetness of the union of the Divine Pair. Jāhnavī’s desires were fulfilled. Slowly her waves became more peaceful and the boat reached the shore. After feeding Shyamsundar the yoghurt and the butter they were carrying, everyone went back to their own homes.

Holding the memory of this vision in his heart, Raghunath Das Goswami says: “May Mānasa Gaṅgā, who enjoys the great sweetness of Śrī-Sri Radha and Krishna’s boating pastimes and whose ecstatic waves are splashing on Govardhana hill’s brilliant boulders, protect me.” Śrīla Rūpa Goswamicharan also praised Sri Govardhan as such:

kaṁsārātes tari vilasitairātarānaṅga raṅgair
ābhīrīṇāṁ praṇayam abhitaḥ pātram unmīlayantyāḥ
dhauta grāvāvalir amalinair mānasāmartya sindhor
vīci-vrātaiḥ prathayatu sadā śarma govardhano naḥ

(Stavamālā)

“The waves of the Mānasa Gaṅgā-lake, where Sri Krishna becomes a boatman and accepts fees for his boat services from the gopīs, and which increases the love of the gopīs, which subdues Sri Krishna, wash the rocks of Govardhana hill. May that Govardhana hill bestow all auspiciousness on us.”

rādhā-kṛṣṇera nau vihāra, ujjvala rasera sāra,
nitya bhoga koritechen yini
govardhana śilā-kule, abhinava jhalamale,
taraṅgete ūrdhvete cālani
sei to mānasa gaṅgā, bhāgyavatī antaraṅgā,
rakṣā korun pratikūla hoite
yugalera līlā-rasa, hoibe ki saravasa,
e lālasā jāge mora citte

“May that fortunate Mānasa Gaṅgā, who always enjoys the boating pastimes of Radha and Krishna, which is the essence of the romantic mood, whose waves splash upon the newly shimmering boulders of Govardhana hill, and who is very close to the Divine Pair, protect me from all inauspiciousness. May the flavours of the pastimes of the Divine Pair become everything to me. This is the desire that awakens in my heart.”

 

A108-AI

This is the continuing serialization of 252 Vaishnavan ki varta, the lives of the saints following Vitthalnath, son of Vallabhacharya. It has been translated from the original Braj Bhasha by Krishnaa Kinkari Devi. This is the fifteenth vartaSee previous.

Varta 15

The story of Haridas Khavas, a Sanadya Brahmin from Mathura, who used to faint when he heard the Srimad Bhagavatam.

*bhav-prakash*

He is a devotee wih a rajasi disposition. In the Eternal Lila his name is Sarala (a gopi), who has a very innocent personality. She manifests from Ratikala and is thus a form of her divine loving sentiment.

Haridas was born in Mathura to a family of Sanadya Brahmins. From birth he was an innocent being. He had no involvement in any worldly wranglings.

His parents were very upset about this, wondering how they would ever be able to get him married off. They were always worrying. When he was eight they sent him to a learned man to study. He did study a bit. Then smallpox hit Mathura. Both his parents died. He wondered what he should now do. He was perplexed.

He went to Visram Ghat and sat on the banks of the Sri Yamunaji River. He cried bitterly. At that very time, Sri Gusainji was performing his daily prayers. He caught sight of Haridas and then sent his personal servant to go up to Haridas and call him to come over to where he was.

Haridas came there and Sri Gusainji addressed him, “O, Haridas! why are you crying?”

Haridas replied, “O, Maharaj. I have no-one in this world. I am also ignorant. So, I come to take shelter in you. Please keep me close to youself. I am poor and I am an orphan.”

Sri Gusainji instructed him not to worry, that he should go and have a bath in the Sri Yamunaji River, after which he would make him his disciple and keep him close. Haridas was pleased to take a bath and then Sri Gusainji initiated him with the Lord’s Name and Brahma Sambandha. He then instructed him to work as his personal servant. Haridas did exactly that.

*Part 1*

Haridas began to serve as Sri Gusainji’s personal servant. One day Haridas asked him, “O, Maharaj! I would love to hear you read the Srimad Bhagavatam. Sri Gusainji instructed him to go instead to Ujjain where Krishna Bhatt would read the Srimad Bhagavatam to him. He explained that he would only be able to find a few free hours to read the Srimad Bhagavatam, but not enough to do a complete reading. He also said that if someone was only able to find three hours to read the Srimad Bhagavatam then it would take a whole five years to complete it. Therefore he again told Haridas to go to Krishna Bhatt in Ujjain.

“He will explain everything to you very nicely,” Sri Gusainji said.

Sri Gusainji gave Haridas a letter for Krishna Bhatt from himself. Haridas took his leave and set off for Ujjain. He reached there after a few days. Haridas went to meet Krishna Bhatt and gave him the letter from Sri Gusainji. He was very happy to receive it and put it on his head out of respect. Then he read it and felt great joy.

Haridas explained, “I requested Sri Gusainji to read the Srimad Bhagavatam for me, but he told me to come to Ujjain where you would read it to me. So, here I am! Therefore please read the Srimad Bhagavatam for me.” Krishna Bhatt said that the following day was auspicious and that they would start then.

The next day Krishna Bhatt began to read the ‘Bhramara Gita’ [Ode to a black bee]. He started to tell the story, but Haridas fainted. He stayed unconscious for three hours. He came round after being given some herbs. Krishna Bhatt closed the book.

Then Haridas exclaimed, “O, Bhattji! Please continue with the story.”

Krishna Bhatt said, “But what will I tell Sri Gusainji? Because if I start the next reading, you will not regain consciousness.”

*bhav-prakash*

Why? Because Haridas was still not developed spiritually. Therefore he was not able to grasp nor tolerate the subject matter.

*Part 1 continued*

Then Haridas took leave of Krishna Bhattaji and returned to Sri Gusainji in Gokul. He bowed to him and told him what had happened. Sri Gusainji kept quiet. Haridas began to serve Sri Gusainji as he had before.

*Part 2*

Once, one Vaishnava placed a donation of one rupee before Sri Gusainji. The coin was in front of Sri Guainji’s couch.

Sri Gusainji had gone inside to partake of Prasad. When he re-emerged he asked Haridas, “Where is the coin that was here before?” Haridas replied that he had placed it in the shelf in the wall.

Sri Gusainji instructed him, “From today onwards leave any money you see alone. Do not pick it up.” Haridas took this teaching to heart.

*Part 3*

Another time when Sri Gusainji was taking his meal he asked Haridas to hang his shawl up to dry. Whilst Haridas was adjusting the couch a Brahmani came there and began to speak with Haridas. He got involved in the conversation and forgot to hang up the shawl.

The two of them were still talking when Sri Gusainji returned. He saw that they were chatting away and stood still. When the Brahmani finally got up and left, Sri Gusainji entered the Baithak. He asked Haridas, “Are you not going to dry the shawl today?”

Haridas replied that he had been talking and forgotten his task. Sri Gusainji then forbade him to talk to anyone’s wife like that, and from that day on Haridas followed this teaching.

Thus concludes Varta 15, the story of Haridas Khavas who was graced to receive such teachings. He was the recipient of great grace and, in truth, there is no end to his story.

 

A108-AI

May the Rāsa-sthalī protect me: the place where the Rāsa-dance took place, which is filled with all the wonderful sweetness of the three worlds, where Krishna Murārī dances with the gopīs, who are clever in the arts of Eros, and then abandons them to take Sri Radhika to a lonely place to decorate her with flowers and enjoy with her in great jubilation. 

VERSE 63:

vaidagdhyojjvala valgu ballava vadhū vargeṇa nṛtyannasau
hitvā taṁ murajid rasena rahasi śrī rādhikāṁ maṇḍayan
puṣpālaṅkṛti sañcayena ramate yatra pramodotkarais
trailokyādbhuta mādhurī parivṛtā sā pātu rāsa-sthalī

Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In this verse, Das Goswami praises the most delightful place where the Rāsa-dance takes place.

The Rāsa-līlā is the crownjewel of all of Sri Krishna’s pastimes. Śrīpād Śrīdhar Swāmī explains the word ‘rāsa‘ as follows: rāso nāma bahu nartakī yukta nṛtya viśeṣaḥ “The Rāsa is a kind of dance wherein many girls are dancing.” In the Alaṅkāra-shastras we can find the following statement: naṭair gṛhīta kaṇṭhīnām anyonyātra kara śriyām nartakīnāṁ bhaved rāso maṇḍalībhūya nartanam “When the male dancers and the female dancers stand in a circle, the male dancers embrace the female dancers around the neck and the female dancers hold each other in the arm, then this dance is called a Rāsa.”

Although this is the popular explanation of the word ‘Rāsa’, Śrīmat Jiva Goswamipāda has written: rāsaḥ parama rasa-kadamba-maya iti yaugikārthaḥ “The pastime that contains the greatest amount of rasa is called Rāsa.

Rasa is the main ingredient of the Rāsa, because when the word rasa is inflected in the optimal way, it becomes Rāsa.

Rasa means relish and when it is inflected to Rāsa it means the pastime which contains the most relish. The purport of this is that the Rāsa-līlā is the pastime in which the gopīs can fully and blissfully relish the unrivalled sweetness and beauty of Sri Krishna’s perfect form, flavour, fragrance, sound and touch through their famous mahābhāva-love, and Rasika Śekhara (the king of relishers) Sri Krishna can fully and blissfully relish the perfect forms, flavour, fragrance, sound and touch of the Vrajadevīs, who are anointed with the famous mahābhāva.

The hero of the Rāsa-līlā is Vrajendranandan Rasikendra Mauli Sri Krishna, the heroines are the Queen of the Rāsa-dance Sri Radha herself, who is endowed with mādanākhya mahābhāva, and the Vrajasundarīs, who are endowed with mahābhāva, and the place is the Śrī-Sri Rāsa-sthalī, the most rasika place on the bank of the Yamuna which is endowed with extraordinary natural beauty. This verse praises this Rāsa-sthalī.

Rāseśvarī Sri Radha is the main pillar of the Rāsa-dance. tāhā vinā rāsa-līlā nāhi bhāya cite (Caitanya-caritāmṛta) “Without her, Krishna does not like the Rāsa-līlā.” Hence, Raghunath Das Goswami praises the Rāsa-sthalī by describing the great glories of Rāseśvarī, saying: “This is the place where Krishna Murārī dances with the gopīs, who are clever in the arts of Eros, and then abandons them to take Sri Radhika to a lonely place to decorate her with flowers and jubilantly enjoy with her in different ways.”

In the description of the Mahā Rāsa, it can be seen that on the Rāsa-night, Sri Krishna first attracted the Vrajasundarīs with his enchanting flute playing and then joked with them by speaking words of rejection to them (upekṣā-vāṇī). Their humble prayers then removed his neglectful manner and he met with them, laughing and joking.

During their first pastimes of meeting, the Vrajasundarīs became very proud of their good fortune of getting the greatest attention from Sri Krishna‚ and Sri Radha became jealous that Krishna was enjoying equally with all the gopīs. tāsāṁ tat saubhagamadaṁ vīkṣya mānaṁ ca keśavaḥ praśamāya prasādāya tatraivāntaradhīyata (Bhāg. 10.29.48) “Seeing the gopīs‘ pride of their good fortune and Radha’s jealous pique, Keśava abandoned the Vrajasundarīs and went off alone with Sri Radha. In this way he subdued the pride of the Vrajasundarīs and pacified Sri Radha’s jealousy.”

Actually the Rāsa-līlā had not commenced yet at that time, but it was about to begin and thus, Śrīpād speaks about Krishna leaving the gopīs who were dancing. All the Gopa-sundarīs are endowed with mahābhāva and are expert in the arts of Eros, so the fact that Krishna took Radha away in front of them all and brought her to a lonely place to enjoy pastimes with her there shows her greatness far beyond the glories of all the other gopīs.

Das Goswami is Sri Radha’s beloved maidservant, so his favorite part of the various events that took place during the Rāsa-līlā is that Sri Krishna took away Sri Radha alone from millions of other assembled gopīs, decorated her with floral ornaments and enjoyed amorous pastimes with her in solitude. That is why he mentioned this pastime in his description of the Rāsa-sthalī.

When Sri Krishna took Radha away and disappeared with her during the Mahā-Rāsa even Sri Radha’s girlfriends weren’t aware of it. When they did not see Sri Radharani in their midst anymore they understood that Sri Krishna must have taken her off somewhere, and they became simultaneously happy (because of Sri Radha’s greatness) and sad (because they could not see the pastimes of the Divine Pair anymore). But when Sri Krishna took Sri Radha along and disappeared with her, her maidservants, who are nondifferent from her in the heart, were with her and could personally witness the sweet and intimate pastimes of the Divine Pair, and feel very happy and proud about the special glories of their Īśvarī. This can be learned from the descriptions by Sri Rūpa Gosvāmipāda:

rāsārambha vilasati parityajya goṣṭhāmbujākṣī-
vṛndaṁ vṛndāvana bhuvi rahaḥ keśaveṇopanīya
tvāṁ svādhīna priyatama pada prāpaṇenārcitāṅgīṁ
dūre dṛṣṭvā hṛdi kim acirād arpayiṣyāmi darpam

(Utkalikā Vallari – 42)

“When will my heart be filled with pride as I see from afar how Keśava leaves all the lotus-eyed girls of Vraja at the beginning of the Rāsa-dance in Vrindavan and takes you to a lonely place where he, under your command, decorates you with flowers?”

In his description of the Rāsa-līlā, the Rāsa-vaktā (speaker) Śrīpāda Śuka Muni has clearly mentioned that Sri Krishna privately and blissfully enjoyed with Sri Radha in different ways in the Rāsa-night, arranged her hair and adorned her with decorations like flowers:

atra prasūna-vacayaḥ priyārthe preyasā kṛtaḥ
prapadākramane ete paśyatā sakale pade
keśa prasādhanaṁ hyatra kāminyāḥ kāminā kṛtam
tāni cūḍayatā kāntām upaviṣṭam iha dhruvam
reme tayā svātma-rata ātmārāmo’pyakhaṇḍitaḥ

(Śrīmad Bhāgavata 10.30.32-34)

“Sri Radha’s rival gopīs told each other: “Here Krishna has picked flowers to decorate his beloved with. Look! Here he stood on his toes to pick flowers from a high branch; that’s why we can see half footprints in the earth here! Look, look! Here Krishna arranged her hair and sat down to make floral ornaments for her head. Although he is Self-satisfied and Self-delighted, he enjoyed romance with this girl in various ways here!”

Raghunath Das Goswami says: “May the Rāsa-sthalī, where Śrī-Sri Radha-Mādhava freely enjoyed such amorous pastimes and that fills the three worlds with the very wonderful sweet flavours of the Rāsa-dance, protect me!”

vidagdhā ujjvalā gopī, yārā kṛṣṇa anurāgī,
sarva śreṣṭha kṛṣṇa kāntā-gaṇa
kori nānā nṛtya raṅge, govinda yādera saṅge,
yāre loiyā koilā antardhāna

sei śrīmatī rādhāre, nānā puṣpa alaṅkāre,
sājāiyā rasika govinda
dampati yugala mili, śṛṅgāra mādhurya keli,
kore yethā pāiyā ānanda 

trailokye adbhuta śreṣṭha, mādhurya maṇḍita preṣṭha,
‘rāsa-sthalī’ kori ārādhanā
sethā vāsa virodha yāte, rakṣā koro tāhā hoite,
nirantara ei se kāmanā

“May the Rāsa-sthali, where Rasika Govinda danced various dances with his greatest lovers, the gopīs, who are expert in the arts of Eros and who are passionately attached to him, and then left them to decorate Srimati Radha with different floral ornaments, where the Divine Couple finds great joy in playing Their sweet romantic pastimes and which is ornamented by the most wonderful kinds of sweetness of all the three worlds, protect me from anything or anyone who is stopping me from residing there. Thus I yearn to worship the place where the Rāsa-dance took place!”

 

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Initiation of a goddess

This is the continuing serialization of 252 Vaishnavan ki varta, the lives of the saints following Vitthalnath, son of Vallabhacharya. It has been translated from the original Braj Bhasha by Krishnaa Kinkari Devi. This is the fourteenth vartaSee previous.

Varta 14

The story of Ganesh Vyas, a Srimali Brahmin who lived in the West.

*bhav-prakash*

Ganesh Vyas is a devotee of Satvik disposition. In the Eternal Lila his name is Pramodini (a gopi). She manifests from Ratikala and is thus a form of her Divine loving sentiment.

Ganesh Vyas was born into a family of Srimali Brahmins in the west. His parents died when he was only a few months old. One of his uncles took him into his home. He grew up there, and when he was about twenty he joined a group of people that was traveling to Mathura. They reached there after traveling for a few days.

At that time Sri Gusainji was residing in Mathura. He was performing his prayers on Visram Ghat. It was there that Ganesh Vyas had his sight.

He addressed him, “O, Maharaj! I am an orphan, having no parents. I take shelter in you. Please make me your disciple. Please give me some service.”

Sri Gusainji recognized him to be a Divine Soul and told him to take a bath in the Sri Yamunaji River. He bathed and came to Sri Gusainji. Sri Gusainji initiated him with the Name and Brahma Sambandha. He then employed him as a personal servant. Ganesh Vyas began to serve very lovingly.

*Part 1*

Once Ganesh Vyas was traveling to Dwarka to deliver some supplies to the Lord. One evening he had just left one village and was traveling towards another when it began to rain really hard. He looked around but could not see anywhere to shelter. Then he saw a temple underneath a spire. He ran towards it.

He saw that there was a statue of a goddess inside. There was lots of worship paraphernalia there but nobody to be seen. Ganesh Vyas thought to himself, “There must be a priest in this temple. Perhaps he has gone into the village. He will be returning soon.” Thinking thus, he found some shelter outside, put his luggage there and sat down.

Night fell but no-one came there. That Devi was very powerful: she looked after all her things herself. Offerings came to her on a regular basis from one King. She would eat them and then just sit there. If any Pujari dared to come there she would devour him. Thus she was famous in all the local villages. Worship paraphernalia would be donated but she collected them all and put them to one side.

At that time, one lone man came there to have her sight. He said to Ganesh Vyas, “Do not sleep here. No priest ever sleeps here. No-one can stay here.” Ganesh Vyas asked him the reason for this. He told him, “No-one stays here or sleeps here because if they did, the Goddess would eat them.” That man had the sight of the Goddess, told all of this to Ganesh Vyas and then departed.

Fearlessly, Ganesh Vyas went inside and put all the donated items in one corner. He bathed the Goddess, sounded the Lords name in her ear and put a Prasadi tulsi mala around her neck. He made her into a Vaishnava. He looked around and found all sorts of items lying there. Using them he cleaned the temple. He stayed there that night. He ate whatever Prasad he had with him and he drank water from a nearby well. Then he went to sleep.

That night the Goddess spoke to the king in a dream and told him not to offer her the type of things he had been bringing. She told him that she had become a Vaishnava, and that she would not now eat [meat] as before. She told him to employ a priest there to cook for her, and that she would eat whatever he cooked. The king was very surprised.

The next morning, Ganesh Vyas picked up his supplies and carried on his journey. The king then came to have the sight of the Goddess. He noticed that someone had washed the temple and bathed her. He noticed the tulsi mala tied around her neck. He was very happy to see all this. He then employed a priest to serve her and provided him with supplies for the daily offerings. The priest would cook and make the offerings to her and then he would eat.

*bhav-prakash*

This is the true form of an accomplished Vaishnava: they purify the gods, godesses and pilgrimage spots. This Vaishnava was so kind that he stopped his journey to fulfill that goddess’ purpose.

*Part 2*

Sri Gusainji would often be angry with Ganesh Vyas but he never let it bother him. He was a great Vaishnava. The more Sri Gusainji was angry with him the more pleased he became. He thought to himself, “I hope that Sri Gusainji will always be angry with me. He is only angry because he regards me as his close servant. Otherwise whom would he have to be angry with?”

*bhav-prakash*

This teaches that you should only be angry with those you know to be your own.

*Part 2*

Ganesh Vyas thus felt that Sri Gusainji’s anger was one of his great qualities.

After some more time, Ganesh Vyas left his body. One Vaishnava came to know this and went to relay the news to Sri Gusainji. When he heard those words, that Ganesh Vyas had left his body, his hair stood on end. Seeing this horripillation of Sri Gusainji one Vaishnava asked, “O, Maharaj! You always used to be angry with Ganesh Vyas! So now, hearng this news, why are you getting goose bumps?”

Sri Gusainji replied, “It would be impossible to find another sevak like Ganesh Vyas. There is no-one like him, nor will there ever be. I was angry with him, but he always regarded that as a good lesson. He never felt bad about it. He was very very close to me.” Hearing these words of Sri Gusanji the Vaishnava kept silent.

Thus concludes Varta 14, the story of Ganesh Vyas who was a recipient of Sri Gusainji’s great grace and an accomplished Vaishanva, although his story really has no end.

 

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Vrindavan, 2017.04.12 (AU): Hanuman Jayanti was celebrated lovingly on Tuesday,  by the residents of Shri Krishna’s homeland, Vrindavan.

This year marked the forty-fourth anniversary of the Hanuman Jayanti festival organized by the Hanumat Ramayan Samiti at the Om Namah Shivaya Ashram in Vanshivat. Beginning from the ashram, a parade (shobha yatra) was taken out through Gyan Gudri, Gopinath Bazar, Pattharpura and several other major thoroughfares of the town, before returning again to the ashram. Hanumanji rode on a flower-decorated float, and stopped at various places for the faithful to offer worship. Devotees performed aarti and showed flower petals on Hanumanji to express their love for him. On other floats, various lilas of Shri Krishna and Shri Ram were depicted in tableau. Shri Gopal Krishna Shastri, Bihari Lal Vashishth, Banbihari Pathak, Dr. Gopal Prasad Sharma, Swami Narayanacharya, Radharaman Pathak and others were present.

Hanuman Jayanti was celebrated in various ways throughout Vrindavan. Some arranged non-stop readings of the entire Ramayan, and some offered beautiful palaces made of flowers (phool-bangla). In the morning at the Luteriya Hanuman Mandir, there was a recitation of Shri Ramcharit Manas and “Hanuman Chalisa” along with a havan (fire offering). In the evening a phool bangla was offered. Sevayat Mahesh Goswami offered the aarti and distributed prasad to all.

At the Singhapaur Hanuman temple in the morning, Hanumanji Maharaj was offered akhand path, special clothes and ornaments, 56 kinds of food offerings (chhapan bhog), and aarti. Special Hanuman pooja was also organized at Neem Karoli Ashram. At the Uddhav-Gopi milan sthal in Gyan Gudri, a continous reading of the Ramayan was held for Panchmukhi Hanumanji, as he enjoyed a beautiful phool bangla offered to him by his devotees. Prasad was distributed to conclude the program.

At Hanuman Teri, a seminar was organized on “Hanumanji’s devotion in human life.” During the program, Mahant Vrindavan Das and Dashrath Das said that another name for bhakti (devotion) is Hanumanji. By devotion to him, the soul is easily liberated from the worldly sufferings of Kaliyug. Ramsharan Das, Narsingh Ramayani, Krishnadas, Shyamdas and others were present.

In the temple of Shri Radha-Sneh Bihari Ji, the Akhil Bharatvarshiya Brahman Mahasabha organized a pooja of Hanumanji’s chitrapat (picture), praying for peace on earth and blessings upon the nation. Acharya Atulkrishna Goswami, Bihari Lal Vashishth, Balkrishna Gautam, Ramvilas Chaturvedi and others were attended the event.

The Women’s Satsang Mandal lovingly and enthusiastically celebrated Hanumanji’s birthday, which is also the 14th anniversary of their association. Attendees included Rashmi Mishra, Priyanka Sharma, Pushpa Sharma, Chanchal Sharma, and Sudha.

 

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I take shelter of Krishna’s playground named Āsthānī at the base of Nandishwar Hill. It is a beautiful pavillion, lovingly made of large stones, by expert architects, set in a square shape. There Sri Krishna plays many fun games with his friends; thus it is anointed by the fragrance of Sri Hari’s lotus feet.

VERSE 62:

prītyā nandīśvara giritaṭe sphāra pāṣāṇa vṛndaiz
cātuṣkoṇye’nukṛti gurubhir nirmitā yā vidagdhaiḥ
reme kṛṣṇaḥ sakhi parivṛto yatra narmāṇi tanvann
āsthānīṁ tāṁ hari pada lasat saurabhāktāṁ prapadye

Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In this verse, Raghunath Das Goswami praises Sri Krishna’s playground named Āsthānī. āsthānī maṇḍapaḥ pāṇḍu-gaṇḍa-śailāsanojjvalaḥ. āmoda vardhano nāma paramāmoda vāsitaḥ (Radha Krishna Gaṇoddeśa Dīpikā) “On the white slabs of stone adjoining Nandishwar Hill is Āsthānī, the place where Krishna sits with his friends. He looks very beautiful sitting at this place.” Another name of this place, which is always scented by the greatest perfumes, is ‘Āmoda Vardhana.”

Sri Nandishwar Hill is the abode of many of Sri Govinda’s pastimes, and it is most dear to Vrajendranandana. sambhrājate priyatayā vrajarāja sūnor govardhanād api gurur vraja vanditād yaḥ (Vilāpa Kusumāñjali – 60) “Nandishwar Giri is most dear to Sri Nandanandan and is even more worshipable for the people of Braj than Govardhana!” Krishna is always intoxicated by the taste of the blissful games he plays here with his friends. Sri Nand Maharaj engaged different expert artistic architects in making a square platform here out of large jewel-studded slabs of stone where his Gopāl could play with his friends. How many sweet and humorous pastimes of laughter and joking Sri Hari expands here with his friends!

Das Goswami is a maidservant who has taken shelter of Sri Radharani’s lotus feet. Sometimes she goes to Nandishwar as a messenger who carries a message of virahiṇī Srimati, and sees Sri Krishna playing here on this platform. When Mādhava sees Srimati’s maidservant, he blooms up, as if his life is fulfilled! How wonderful is the majesty of Sri Radha’s love, that ānandamaya vigraha (Krishna, the embodiment of transcendental bliss) considers himself blessed when he sees her maidservant! Krishna is completely subdued by the love of Sri Radha, who is his pleasure-potency. Sri Hari, who perspires when he is repeatedly fanned by Sri Radha’s restless eyelids, who is agitated even when he lives in the city of her beauty and who remains thirsty, even though he drinks the nectar of her smile again and again, is the bestower of our delight!

In his maidservant form, Das Goswami experiences how this wonderful playground called Āsthānī smells of Sri Hari’s lotus feet. His heart and mind are intoxicated by this wonderful bodily fragrance. This bodily fragrance has the greatest influence on the young ladies of Braj!

netra nābhi vadana, kara yuga caraṇa,
ei aṣṭa-padma kṛṣṇa aṅge
karpūra lipta kamala, tāra yaiche parimala,
sei gandha aṣṭa padma saṅge

“There are eight lotus flowers on Krishna’s body – his eyes, his navel, his face, his hands and his feet – and these eight lotus flowers smell of lotus anointed with camphor.”

hema kīlita candana, tāhā kori gharṣaṇa,
tāhe aguru kuṅkuma kastūrī
karpūra sane carcā aṅge, pūrva aṅgera gandha saṅge,
mili ḍākā yeno koilo curi

hare nārīra tanu mana, nāsā kore ghūrṇana,
khasāya nīvī chuṭāya keśa bandha.
kori āge bāurī, nācāya jagata nārī,
heno ḍākāti kṛṣṇa aṅga gandha

(Caitanya-caritamrita Antya Ch. 19)

“When golden sandalwood with aguru (Aquilaria agallocha), vermilion and musk is mixed with camphor and spread on Krishna’s body it adds to Krishna’s original bodily fragrance and merges with it as one. That combined fragrance steals the bodies and minds of the women and makes their noses dizzy. It makes the women of the world dance like madwomen. Thus Krishna’s bodily fragrance acts like a robber.”

Radha’s maidservants perceive how this fragrance maddens their mistress with feelings of ecstatic love. Das Goswami says: “I take shelter of this Āsthānī platform, which is scented by the fragrance of Sri Hari’s lotus feet!” As a result of such surrender, Raghunath Das Goswami always wishes to experience the sweet pastimes that are taking place there.

giri-taṭe nandīśvare, vidagadha kārigare,
kṛṣṇa-krīḍā kautukera tare
vistṛta pāṣāṇa-vṛnde, catuṣkoṇa kore chande,
ye ‘āsthānī’ sunirmāṇa kore
śrī govinda sakhā saṅge, madhumaya krīḍā raṅge
yathā nitya korena vihāra
hari pāda-padma gandhe, āmodita ye maṇḍape,
āśrayete lālasā āmāra

“I want to take shelter of the platform called Āsthānī at the base of Nandishwar Hill, which was constructed in a square fashion with large slabs of stone by expert architects, where Sri Govinda always enjoys his honey-sweet games with his friends and which is delightful with the fragrance of Sri Hari’s lotus feet.”

 

A108-AI

This is a continuation of the life story of Siddha Jaikrishna Das Babaji of Kamyavan, whose disappearance day was yesterday. Read the first part here

Radha Kund, 2017.04.09 (Vishakha Dasi for VT): The Raja of Bharatpur heard about Jaikrishna Das Babaji and became very anxious to have his darshan. Baba, however, refused to meet the Raja. He never met with worldly-minded people.

One day while Baba was out collecting alms, the Raja came to Baba’s hut disguised as a poor farmer. He sat down in the doorway and waited for Baba to return. But as Baba was walking towards home, he suddenly stopped and turned back towards the village.

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Ghat of Vimal Kund, Kamyavan (P.C. Manorama Dasi)

As he walked through the village, Baba cried, “O Brajwasis! O my friends! My hut is on fire! Please go and put it out!” The villagers quickly ran to Baba’s cottage, but they did not see any fire. They only saw the Raja sitting there, dressed like a farmer. With folded hands, the Brajwasis begged the Raja not to force himself on Baba anymore. Reluctantly, the Raja went home, and Baba washed the place where he had been sitting with water and cow dung. But Baba’s blessings were with him; his heart soon became humble and free from worldly attachment.

One day at midday, something happened in Baba’s lila meditation which made him very sad. He started weeping in deep separation from Shri Krishna.

Suddenly there was a knock at Baba’s door. He did not answer it. He could hear some children playing outside.

“Bengali Baba! Bengali Baba! Open your door!” said one boy. Baba said nothing.

“Baba, o Baba! We are very thirsty! Please give us some water!” As usual, some boys had come to disturb his meditation. He kept silent.

“Bengali Baba!! I know what kind of nice bhajan you are doing! You heartless Baba, you are as cold blooded as a butcher! Hey! Come out of your hut and give us water! We are sooo thirsty!!”

Baba burst out of the door with a stick in hand. But as soon as he opened the door, he was surprised to see the banks of Vimal kund filled with so many beautiful cows, and many cowherd boys, each surpassing the other in beauty. His anger disappeared immediately.

He said to the ringleader, “Lala! Which village do you come from?”

“I’m from Nandgaon,” the boy replied.

“What’s your name?”

“Kanhaiya.”

Bābā turned to another boy and asked “What’s your name?”

“Baldau,” the other boy replied.

Kanhaiya said, “Baba, don’t waste time. First give us water, then talk.”

Baba did not have any cups or glasses. So the boys cupped their hands and Baba poured water directly into them from his water pot.

As Baba served the water, Baba looked into Kanhaiya’s eyes, and Kanhaiya stared into Baba’s. It was like some magical spell, so absorbed they were in each other. Kanhaiya wasn’t drinking; he was only looking at Baba with so much love. The water fell like a stream on the ground, but neither of them notices.

The boys started laughing and clapping their hands, and it was only then that Kanhaiya realised what he was doing, and started to drink.

When he was satisfied, Kanhaiya said, “Look, Baba! We come from a long ways away every single day, and we don’t get anything to eat or drink. We are going to come to you every day from now on. Keep some snacks and drinks for us.”

Baba said, “No, Lala! Don’t come and disturb me like this every day!”

Baba immediately went inside and shut the door. But there was something so mysteriously attractive about those boys. He felt the irresistible urge to have another look. But when he opened the door, all the beautiful cows and cowherd boys were gone. How could they disappear in just a moment? Was it all a dream? A hallucination? No. The water Baba had spilled was still there on the ground. And their sweet fragrance still lingered on the banks of Vimal Kund.

SiddhaJaikrishnaBabaKanha-2.jpg

Suddenly Baba realized that Kanhaiya must have really been Kanhaiya… he was Krishna himself, whom Baba worshipped. A wave of bhaav flowed through his body like an electric current, and tears began to flow. He was overwhelmed with joy to think that Krishna had come… but when he remembered he told him never to come back, all his joy turned into grief. The sadness was so intense that he felt his heart would burst. Through his tears he thought he could see Kanhaiya, and Kanhaiya was saying, “Get up Baba! Don’t be sad. Tomorrow I will come back to you, and this time, I will never leave.”

The next day, an old Brajwasi woman came to Baba with a beautiful deity of Laddu Gopal. She said, “Baba, I am very old! I can’t serve my Gopal anymore. Please serve him from now on.”

Baba said, “How can I serve Him, mother? Gopal is a small baby, and needs so much care. Where will I get all the things he needs?”

“Don’t worry about that, Baba,” said the old lady. “I wil provide everything he needs.” Speaking thus, the old woman went away.

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Vrinda Devi

That night in his dream, he saw that the old lady was actually Vrinda Devi, showering him with her blessings.”

Krishna’s nature is topsy-turvy. Sometimes someone calls for him, but he does not come. Sometimes someone does not call for him, yet he comes. Sometimes he even comes to those who completely snub him. Many great ascetics call and call for him till they are worn out, and he does not even appear in their mind’s eye.

But for his accomplished devotees, he is always right behind them.

After serving Gopal for some days, Siddha Jaikrishna Das Babaji left his body on chaitra shukla dwadashi. Perhaps he heard the flute song of Shri Krishna and departed. His last words were, “Where is my shawl? Where is my blouse? Where is my beautiful skirt?”

Gopal! I want to ask you something. Will you answer? You flew just like a honeybee from Bengal in the form of Shri Radha-Madanmohan, to relish the sweetest nectar of Baba’s loving seva. So many days you drank that honey, but still your thirst was not satisfied. So you came in yet another form to his humble cottage. Baba is Radharani’s maidservant; his power to serve you is as infinite as you are. Perhaps even if you took infinite forms, and enjoyed infinite service from him, still you would not be satisfied. Tell me, what was it about him that charmed you so?

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Siddha Baba’s Gopal

(These stories from the life of Siddha Jaikrishna Das Babaji are taken from Shri Haridas Das Babaji’s Gaudiya Vaishnav Jivan and Dr. OBL Kapoor’s Braj ke Bhakt and The Saints of Braj.)

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Today is the disappearance day of Siddha Jaikrishna Das Babaji of Kamyavan (also known as Kaamvan).

Jaikrishna Das Babaji was in the lineage of Shri Gangamata Goswamini of the Gangamata Matha in Puri. No one knows who his guru was or where he was from. When he first came to Braj, the goddess Vrinda Devi instructed him through a vision to settle down at Kamyavan. There he lived under a tree performing intense spiritual practice and meditation on Radha and Krishna’s eternal lila.

It is said that the methods of lila meditation practiced in Braj today are to a great extent influenced by Siddha Jaikrishna Das Babaji of Kamyavan. In fact, Siddha Krishnadas Babaji of Govardhan and Siddha Madhusudan Das Babaji of Suryakund were both his followers.

Because he lived in the open air, the Brajwasi children used to pester him a lot while he was trying to meditate. For this reason, Baba began to think of leaving Kamyavan for some place even more remote. But the villagers did not want Baba to leave, and so they built a small hut for him on the bank of Vimal Kund, where he could do his meditation in peace.

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Vimal Kund

Baba remained in that hut doing bhajan constantly, coming out only once a day to bathe in Vimal Kund and collect alms (madhukari).

It is said that Baba never slept at all. Throughout the night, he drowned in thoughts of Radha and Krishna. Sometimes he would pray, and sometimes he would weep. At times he could be heard arguing lovingly with someone. When he would scream out loud, overwhelmed with sacred love, his whole hut would shake. Once the ceiling even cracked from the sound.

Siddha Jaikrishna Das Babaji had a powerful magnetic energy around him. This divine attraction pulled people to him, even from far away. If anyone got Baba’s association just once, it became impossible for that person to leave him.

Once Shri Bhagavan Das Babaji visited Jaikrishna Das Babaji. Immediately, the two became so close that it felt impossible to leave. Whenever the subject of Bhagavan Das Babaji leaving came up, both of them would fall unconscious. After one month Bhagavan Das Babaji managed to tear himself away with great difficulty. But still, Jaikrishna Das Babaji’s memory remained with him.

On another occasion, Shri Naval Kishor Goswami came to visit Baba, bringing his deities Shri Radha-Madanmohan. Even Radha-Madanmohan felt so attracted to Baba that they decided to remain with him in Kamyavan. The night before Goswamiji was supposed to leave Braj, Madanmohan came in his dream and said that although he was pleased with him, he would rather stay with Baba from now on. Goswamiji left in tears, leaving Madanmohan behind.

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The ancient deity of Vrinda Devi was rediscovered and worshipped by Shri Roop Goswami about five hundred years ago. She now resides in Kamyavan. Siddha Jaikrishna Das Babaji received great blessings from Vrinda Devi. (P.C.: Unknown)

Soon after, a humble young Babaji came to assist Siddha Jaikrishna Das Babaji. He took wonderful care of Shri Radha-Madanmohan and of Baba. Baba was very pleased with him, and decided to teach him the path he himself followed – the path of complete absorption in Radha and Krishna’s pastimes through meditation (ashta-kalin lila smaran). Jaikrishna Das Babaji asked the young Babaji if he had his guru-pranali (the list of the names of the gurus in his lineage), and  siddha-pranali (the names of those gurus in their eternal gopi forms).

The young Babaji replied, “Please forgive me, Maharaj. I have no idea what guru pranali is.” Jaikrishna Das Babaji explained to him about the path of ashtakalin lila smaran and why the guru pranali and siddha pranali were important to this extremely deep practice. He instructed the young Babaji to go back to Bengal and ask for the guru-pranali and siddha-pranali from his Gurudev.

The idea of such deep meditation on the lila was very tempting. But the young Babaji was completely captivated by Jaikrishna Das Babaji’s love. The thought of leaving him and Shri Radha-Madanmohan was unbearable for him. He started weeping. But Siddha Baba calmed him down with sweet words, and at last the young Babaji agreed to go to Bengal.

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Hathras Junction Railway Station

And so one morning, with great pain in his heart, the young Babaji set out for the train station. At that time there was no railway station in Mathura, so he had to go all the way to Hathras to catch the train. Saying goodbye to Baba, he wept as he walked down the lonely path. He reached Hathras at night.

Standing on the platform the young Babaji thought, “It would be better to die than to board that train. But if I disobey Baba, that is also death for me. Either way, I am dead.” He started praying intensely to Radharani and Vrinda Devi. “I know you know everything. I am your helpless servant, so why are you throwing me out? You are my only shelter. Please have mercy on me, o Radhe! Please bless me that before the evil moment of sitting on that train comes, may my soul leave my body!”

Suddenly he heard the sound of the approaching train. Barrelling in at full speed, it raced towards the young Babaji. But the train did not stop. It simply kept going, till it was out of sight. Radharani had heard his prayer! And so the young Babaji made up his mind to return to Kamyavan.

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Siddha Jaikrishna Das Babaji’s altar

Meanwhile in Kamyavan, Vrinda Devi appeared to Jaikrishna Das Babaji in a dream and scolded him saying, “Why did you send that boy outside of Braj? His guru-pranali is on your Beloveds’ altar!”

Baba jolted awake, but Vrinda Devi had disappeared. Weeping, he mentally begged her for forgiveness.

When the sun rose, he bathed in Vimala Kund and woke up Shri Radha-Madanmohan. And it was true. The young Baba’s guru-pranali was there on the altar.Embracing that sacred manuscript to his heart, he went to the temple of Govind Dev where the ancient deity of Vrinda Devi resides.

There he sat in meditation, weeping and praying to the goddess with a mixutre of thanks and longing, hoping that the young Babaji would return home. Baba did not eat or drink anything the whole day out of anxiety.

Around sunset, the young Babaji returned home and bowed to Jaikrishna Das Babaji, bathing his feet in an endless river of tears.

Jaikrishna Das Babaji was overjoyed and embraced the young Babaji. After taking prasad together, the two revealed to each other the great mercy received from Radharani and Vrinda Devi. After this incident, Jaikrishna Das Baba’s fame began to spread throughout Braj Mandal.

Part 2

(These stories from the life of Siddha Jaikrishna Das Babaji are taken from Shri Haridas Das Babaji’s Gaudiya Vaishnav Jivan and Dr. OBL Kapoor’s Braj ke Bhakt and The Saints of Braj.)

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From today, everyone’s beloved Banke Bihari Lal will appear in beautiful palaces made of flowers (phool bangla). The phool bangla festival begins on Kamada (Phuldol) Ekadashi in the Banke Bihari Temple, and will continue up to Hariyali Amavasya. For 108 days, Thakurji will give his darshan amidst the most lavishly fragrant flowers.

The tradition of offering Banke Bihari a flower house or phool bangla in summer was started by Swami Haridasji himself. The purpose of this offering is to give Thakurji relief from the summer heat. In those early days, Banke Bihari’s phool bangla was an intimate affair in Nidhivan Raj, but in modern times the phool banglas are extremely grand and opulent.

Generally, devotees have to wait one year for the chance to sponsor a phool bangla for Banke Bihari. Temple sevayat Srinath Goswami says that most of this year’s bookings were made last year, and if anyone wants to offer one this year, the chance is very slim. There may be only one or two days left available throughout the summer. According to Prahlad Vallabh Goswami, the cost of each phool bangla ranges from thousands to hundreds of thousands of rupees.

The phool bangla tradition also nourishes Vrindavan’s economy, providing a good deal of business to the gardners who provide the flowers and the artisans who construct the banglas. Both Indian and foreign flowers are used, including carnations, marigolds, lillies, lotuses, orchids, rajnigandha (tuberose), roses and various kinds of jasmine.

Shri Radhavallabh Ji, Shri Radharaman Ji, Shri Radha-Shyamsundar Ji, Shri Saneha Bihari Ji and other deities of Vrindavan will also be offered phool banglas during this period.

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Here Sri Radhika was jubilantly showered as the Queen of Vrindavan by Sri Paurṇamāsī, who  had heard Lord Brahmā’s order in the sky, with the waters of sacred rivers like Mānasa Gaṅgā and with the assistance of goddesses like Sāvitrī. May this Unmatta Radha-sthali (Umrao) shower me with happiness.

VERSE 61:

sārdhaṁ mānasa jāhnavī mukha nadī vargaiḥ saraṅgotkaraiḥ
sāvitryādi surīkulaiśca nitarām ākāśa vāṇyā vidhoḥ
vṛndāraṇya vareṇya rājya viṣaye śrī paurṇamāsī mudā
rādhāṁ yatra siṣeca siñcatu sukhaṁ sonmatta rādhā sthalī

Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā:  In this verse Das Goswami describes Unmatta Radha-sthalī, the place where Sri Radharani was anointed as the Queen of Vrindavan.

The Goswamis joyously described this pastime of Sri Radharani being showered as the Queen of Vrindavan. In his Dāna Keli Kaumudī and in his Stavamālā‘s “Radhaṣṭaka” and “Premendu Sudhā-satra”, Śrīla Rūpa Goswamipād has mentioned Srimati as the Queen of Vrindavan. Śrīla Dās Goswamicaraṇ has described Radha’s abhiṣek in this verse as well as in his Muktā Caritra and Vilāpa Kusumāñjali.

On the order of Sri Rūpa Goswamipād, Śrīla Jiva Goswamipād has written a matchless treatise named ‘Mādhava Mahotsava’, a great poem in which Sri Radharani’s abhiṣek is elaborately and expertly described. Because they were supported by scriptural and Purānic statements as vṛndāvanādhipatyaṁ ca dattaṁ tasyai prasīdatā (“Krishna, being pleased with Radha, gave her sovereignty over Vrindavan”, Padma Purāṇa) and rādhā vṛndāvane vane (“In Vrindavan Radha is the Queen”, Matsya Purāṇa) the Goswamis were absorbed in describing Srimati’s abhiṣek-festival.

In the scripture Mādhava Mahotsava it is described as follows: “By Sri Krishna’s wish Sri Vṛndā-devī showered nectar in the form of an ethereal voice, which addressed Paurnamasi Devi: “O Queen of yogīs Paurṇamāsi! Swiftly shower this Candra-lakṣmī Sri Radha, who arose from an ocean of matchless qualities and who is seated on a jewel-studded throne which is decorated with the great beauty of gold, in the universally-praised land of Vrindavan!

“This abhiṣek of Sri Radha will bring matchless beauty to Sri Vrindavan, Gokul and the whole world. Therefore, O Paurṇamāsi! Let Yashoda and other cowherdwomen bring Sri Radha to the king of meadows, Vrindavan, in front of her girlfriends, that are all reflections of her divine form, and let them arrange for the adhivās (auspicious ceremony preceding the main ceremony, Ed.). Tomorrow, on Madhu Pūrṇimā (the full moon of Caitra, or April), Sri Radha will certainly undergo this auspicious shower! Today all the adhivās preparations, like perfumes and so forth, must be completed for Sri Radha, who is the reservoir of all the most excellent attributes!”

This ethereal order was announced throughout Braj. Everyone thought that the god Brahmā had announced this order, which granted auspiciousness to Braj and the whole world.

After this, the whole of Braj-maṇḍala reacted with an upsurge of wonderful ecstasy. With a great festival Sri Radha’s wonderful royal abhiṣek was accomplished. The coronation took place on Madhu Pūrṇimā under the guidance of Paurṇamāsī. Yamuna, Mānasa Gaṅgā and other holy waters arrived in personified forms, and Sāvitrī, Indrāṇī, Rudrāṇī and other leading goddesses jubilantly came there as human ladies to attend the abhiṣek of Sri Radha, bringing different presents with them. In front of Sri Krishna, all the Brajwasis, and all the goddesses, Paurnamasi Devi performed Sri Radha’s abhiṣek in a great public gathering.

The place where Sri Radha’s abhiṣek took place is named ‘Unmatta Radha-sthalī’.

Sri Jiva Goswami has written the book Mādhava Mahotsava in nine ullāsas (jubilant chapters). In the ninth and final ullās, Sri Jiva Goswamicaraṇ describes how Sri Radha ascends the throne in front of everybody, including Sri Krishna, and accepts sovereignty over the kingdom, and he has called this chapter ‘unmada-rādhika‘ This means that the most bashful Sri Radha accepted this royal shower in the ecstasy of loving intoxication. For this reason the place is called unmatta rādhā-sthalī.

In Braj-maṇḍal the place where Sri Radha’s rājyābhiṣek took place is called ‘Umrāo’. “amīra umrāo“, or rājā-rājaḍā (Bengali saying for princes and princelings or princely persons). With this purpose the village is named Umrāo.

paurṇamāsī yogīśvarī, vṛndāraṇye adhiśvarī,
śrī rādhāya koilā abhiṣeke
dhanya sei rādhā-sthalī, vandī āmi kutūholī,
avanata koriyā mastake

“Blessed is this Radha-sthalī, where Paurṇamāsī, the Queen of the yogīs, bathed Sri Radha and anointed her as the Queen of Vrindavan! I bow my head down and praise this place enthusiastically!”

kṛṣṇa vidhu alakṣite, ājñā kore asākṣāte,
deva vāṇī boli yāre śuni
harṣa bhare paurṇamāsī, saṅge sab vrajavāsī,
śrī rādhāre sarva śreṣṭha māni

“Moon-like Krishna gave this order in an unseen way, and everyone who heard it took it to be a divine voice. Filled with joy, Paurṇamāsī, along with the people of Braj, considered Sri Radha to be the greatest of all.”

premonmatta koribāre, unmatta rādhā-sthalī vare,
devī-gaṇera nṛtyera vibhaṅga
mānasa gaṅgāra jale, nānā raṅge kutūhole,
samārpilā abhiṣeka raṅga

“The goddesses danced with beautiful gestures to fill Unmatta Radha-sthalī with ecstatic love and Mānasa Gaṅgā blissfully offered her water for this abhiṣek pastime.”

sei rase mora mana, abhiṣikta anukṣaṇa,
hoiyā rahuka tāra vare.
ei prārthanā kori āmi, nahi mui anya kāmī,
kṛpā koro rādhāsthalī vare

“May I receive the blessing that my mind will be showered by this rasa at every moment. This is my prayer, and I do not desire any other boon. O Radhasthali, be merciful to me!”

 

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Agra, 2017.03.27 (Hemendra Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times) Motivated by Uttarakhand high court orders declaring rivers Ganga and Yamuna living entities, an environmentalist in Agra has asked the Agra police to register a case against those “guilty of attempt to murder” the Yamuna.

Brij Khandelwal, environmental activist, has blamed officials of various departments, including Agra district magistrate, Agra divisional commissioner and general manager of Agra Jal Sansthan, for “attempting to kill the river by slow poison”.

The unfiltered water of dirty drains, besides the sewer, continues to flow into Yamuna despite crores received for sewage treatment from state and central governments, Khandelwal said in his letter to Agra SSP.

“Using this amount, the river could have been otherwise saved, but despite having a sewage treatment plant, such untreated water is added to the river,” he said, urging the SSP to file an FIR in this regard.

“The level of dissolved oxygen has drastically fallen and is an outcome of the negligence of these officials… which has caused huge damage to river Yamuna resulting in loss of aquatic life,” Khandelwal, who is also the founder of the River Connect Campaign, said.

‘For years together, efforts are on for construction of Agra Barrage to save Yamuna but due to lack of efforts by these erring officials, the scheme could not be completed and the river thus lacks the required water level,” he said.

Khandelwal also drew attention to the rampant encroachment on the river banks, and blamed the Agra Development Authority for the negligence.

 

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This is the continuing serialization of 252 Vaishnavan ki varta, the lives of the saints following Vitthalnath, son of Vallabhacharya. It has been translated from the original Braj Bhasha by Krishnaa Kinkari Devi. This is the twelfth vartaSee previous.

Varta 13

The story of a Brahmin who lived in Bengal and was a cloth trader.

*bhav-prakash*

He is a devotee with a tamasi disposition. In the Eternal Lila his name is Anandini (a gopi). She manifests from Ratikala and is a form of her divine loving sentiment. The Brahmin was born in a village in Bengal. He was married when he was 11 years old. His wife was not a Divine Soul, thus unrelated to the Divine Lila. His father died when he was about 25 years old. That was when he started to trade in cloth.

*Part 1*

One time the Bengali came to Mathura for business accompanied by a lot of business people. These businessmen used to go to Delhi where the king lived in order to sell cloth. The Bengali joined them in such business dealings. He was a capable Brahmin and he was able to support himself on the business he did in Mathura and so he resided there. In that group there were some Vaishnavas and they were going to Gokul to have the sight of Sri Gusainji. The Brahmin went with them. He had the sight of Sri Gusainji along with all the others. The Brahmin resolved to become Sri Gusainji’s disciple.

He supplicated Sri Gusainji , “O, Maharaj! Please accept me as your servant.”

Sri Gusainji made him bathe and then initiated him with the Name and Brahma Sambandha. Afterwards he went to Delhi to sell cloth. On completing the trading he returned to Bengal taking the earnings with him. An idea sprang up in his heart to use the wealth to buy the most special cloth and send it to Sri Gusainji to make a garment for him to wear. He obtained a length of cloth of the very best quality which cost 250 rupees. Then there was a tax of 15O rupees. Only then he was able to bring the cloth out of the town.

He rolled up the cloth and hid it in a hollow bamboo tube and, using it as a walking stick, left the town. He took his wife with him.

*bhav-prakash*

Why? He wanted to have his wife initiated by Sri Gusainji.

*Part 1 continued*

The security men who stood at the town gates thought that he was just a Brahmin who was going along for his bath. He had taken the roll of cloth out of his house and gone on his way. He arrived in Gokul after some days and bowed to Sri Gusainji. He took the cloth out of the bamboo and placed it in front of Sri Gusainji. He was very pleased by it. He said, “This cloth would be very nice for Sri Nathji.”

*bhav-prakash*

Why? Because the Lord alone may enjoy things of the very highest quality. Therfore one should only offer Him the finest items. This is the duty of a good servant.

*Part 1 continued*

At that very moment he called the tailor and had him make a garment for Sri Nathji. It was ready on that very day.

Taking that garment with him Sri Gusainji set off early the next morning together with the husband and wife and they went to Sri Nathdwara (Jatipura). Sri Gusainji bathed, went up the mountain and entered Sri Nathji’s temple. He had His Holy Sight and then offered Him His lunchtime meal. After the time for the meal elapsed he accepted the offerings back as Prasad and then opened the doors of the temple. The Brahmin experienced great love as he had the Holy Sight of Sri Nathji.

On the next day Sri Gusainji offered the new garment to Sri Nathji. When the Bengali Brahmin Vaishnava had the Holy Sight of Sri Nathaji he was overjoyed. After completing Sri Nathaji’s Seva, Sri Gusainji came down from the mountain. The Brahmin bowed to Sri Gusainji over and over, considering his life purpose to have been fulfilled. He then requested Sri Gusainji, “O, Maharaj! Please initiate my wife.” Sri Gusainji explained to him that she was not a Divine Soul and therefore he would only give her the first, Name initiation. He did so.

Then the Brahmin began to think, “That very special cloth has been offered to Sri Nathji. I should now bring some more cloth of the same quality so that Sri Gusainji may also wear a garment made from it. Then my life will have been successful!

Thinking thus he took his leave of Sri Gusainji and went back to his homeland of Bengal. The couple took a few days to reach home.

Some days later the Brahmin announced to his wife , “Lets beg to survive. If any money comes from trading then we will save it.”

His wife objected, “We are surviving very nicely on the money you make from trading, so where did you get this idea from?”

He replied, “None of these folk give up their way of making a living, so why would we give up? Our best way to earn is to beg, so why would we leave this?” The Brahmin did not reveal his intention to her.

[Translator’s note: the normal way for Brahmins at that time was to receive alms from the community according to strict rules. He wanted to use the earnings from his trading to buy another roll of cloth]

*bhav-prakash*

Why? Because her mind was worldly. People of a worldly mindset do not understand Divine ways and so one should never reveal such matters to them because this will only lead to conflict. This is the principle here.

*Part 1 continued*

So the Brahmin began to live from begging. Soon enough money came in for the Brahmin to buy another roll of special cloth. He went and purchased the cloth and brought it to Gokul in the same way as before. He arrived after a few days and bowed low to Sri Gusainji. He presented the cloth to him.

Seeing it, Sri Gusainji announced, “One Vaishnava previously brought such a roll of cloth. It was offered to and accepted by Sri Nathaji.”

The Bengali Vaishnava bowed down to Sri Gusainji and said, “I was the one who had brought that roll of cloth.” Sri Gusainji was delighted with him. He began to hand the cloth over to his personal servant but the Bengali Brahmin interjected.

He bowed low and said, “O, Maharaj! That first cloth was accepted by Sri Nathji. Would you yourself now please accept this one? After seeing you wearing the cloth, I will return home.” Sri Gusainji replied, “Sri Thakurji can accept these excellent offerings over and over again. I don’t usually accept them. lt is only through the likes of you that such items as you have come here, otherwise who would be able to bring such special things? This roll of cloth is worthy of being offered in the temple.”

The Vaishnava again said, “ This is the Lord’s house. There is no shortage of anything here. But I would still like you to accept some garments made from this roll of cloth. When I have seen you wearing them I will return home. Sri Gusainji called the tailor and had many garments sewn for Sri Nathaji, After that he had something made for himself.

*bhav-prakash*

A servant should never enjoy any thing, especially something of the best quality, without first offering it to his Lord and Master. Otherwise it will be an obstacle in the devotional path.

*Part 1 continued*

The Bengali Vaishnava was very happy. The tailor sewed the garments and brought them there. Sri Gusainji dressed Sri Nathji in one of them and, after finishing the temple service and taking his Prasad and after a short rest, he wore the other one and came to sit in his Baithak.

The Vaishnava was overjoyed to see this. For as long as the Vaishnava stayed in Gokul, Sri Gusainji made a point of wearing it every day for a while. After quite some days the Vaishnava took his leave from Sri Gusainji and set off back to his own part of the country.

Sri Gusainji asked him before he left, “What business do you do in Bengal?”

He told Sri Gusainji everything about his life, and Sri Gusainji was pleased with his condition.

Then the Vaishnava addressed Sri Gusainji, “O, Maharaj! I had heard that you are known as the ‘the one who fulfills all his devotees’desires’. Now I have experienced this for myself. I have seen the truth in this name. If you give your permission, please may I now go home?”

Sri Gusainji was very happy and saw him off. The Brahmin reached his home in Bengal home after a few days. On the day he reached home it was the day he should have to worship his dead father. The previous day his wife had obtained some urad dal [white lentils] and some oil. She soaked the lentils and then ground them and prepared some little dumplings. The Brahmin arrived home at this time.

His wife saw him and said, “It is good that you have come home. Today is your father’s celebration day. I have prepared some dumplings.” She called him and told him to bathe and go to honour the day and to return soon.

The Brahmin asked his wife, “What exactly is to be done on this day?”

When she had finished the cooking, she told him it was all ready. The Brahmin offered it all to Sri Nathji. The dumplings were not enough so he asked her, “Do you have any sweets at home?” She replied that she had a little jaggery left. She brought it over to him.

The Brahmin sat and lost himself meditating on Sri Nathaji’s Form. He imagined Him wearing the new garments as he had seen just before he left. Sri Nathji’s Form was inside his heart and he said to Him, “O, Maharaj! My wife has made these preparations with a worldly mindset: However, please do accept them for Yourself.”

The Brahmin most lovingly placed them before Sri Nathji. Seeing the intensity of his love, Sri Nathaji came all the way from Sri Girirajji to Bengal and accepted the dumplings and the jaggery.

*bhav-prakash*

The question that arises here is why did he offer the shraddh* [death anniversary] preparations to Sri Nathji? This is opposed to the ways of the Path of Grace. Why did Sri Nathaji accept those offerings? The Brahmins wife had made the preparations from goods put aside for the Shraddha. However the Brahmin, in his mind, had not thought of the Shraddha day. On that day there was actually nothing else in the house. Therefore the Brahmin offered those preparations to Sri Nathji with a very pure heart. Seeing this love in his heart, Sri Nathji was pleased to accept the offerings. Sri Nathji is also known as, “The one who fulfils the devotees’ desires to please Him.” If one offers up anything to Sri Nathji with true and perfect love then He will certainly accept it. This is the principle here.

*Part 1 continued*

The Brahmin realized that Sri Nathji had come to his home. When He had enjoyed the offerings and was about to leave to go back to His temple He said, “I have partaken of your dumplings and jaggery and now I am going.” The Brahmin was so happy and felt that his life had been fulfilled.

“My fortune is immense, that Sri Nathaji came to my home. Out of respect for Sri Gusainji’s Path, He accepted my offerings of dumplings and jaggery.” At that same time when Sri Nathji came to the Brahmins house, Sri Gusainji was up on Sri Giriraji offering Sri Nathji His lunch. However Sri Nathji had gone to the Brahmin’s house without Sri Gusainji knowing.

At the appropriate time, Sri Gusainji accepted back the lunchtime offerings as Prasad, performed the Rajbhog Arati*, came down from the Mountain, partook of the Prasad and went to rest. However he could not sleep. Then Sri Nathji, carrying a red cane in His hand, came to Sri Gusainji.

Sri Gusainji bowed down to His Lord and then took Him up onto His couch with him. He kissed His Face, rubbed His cheeks and asked, “O Baba, why are you out of sorts today?”

Sri Nathaji said, “I am hungry today.” Sri Gusainji said,

“Oh! But You just had lunch! Nevertheless, tell me what You would like and I will get it for You.”

Sri Nathji said, “You had already taken the offerings away when I came back. That is why I did not have my lunch.”

*bhav-prakash*

The inner meaning of this is that the Lord, in His Form as the Uplifter of the Devotee [Bhaktodharaka*], had not eaten the offerings. He had partaken of them in His ‘Sarvodharaka *[the Lord Who uplifts everyone] Form and thus was still hungry according to Sri Gusainji’s Loving Mood for Him.

*Part 1 continued*

Sri Gusainji was perturbed and asked Sri Nathji where He had been. Sri Nathji told him that he had been to the Bengali Brahmin’s house, the one who had offered the roll of very special cloth, to eat dumplings and jaggery. Sri Nathaji told him all about that Brahmin’s situation.

When Sri Gusainji heard all this his heart was filled with emotion. Sri Nathaji left Sri Gusainji and went back up into His temple.

Sri Gusanji made all the inner temple servants bathe and told them to get together and make more lunchtime offerings for Sri Nathaji. They did just that. Sri Gusainji also bathed, went up to the temple, sounded the conch and offered a plate of sweet balls. The main cook then informed Sri Gusainji that all the offerings were ready.

Sri Gusainji accepted the sweet balls back as Prasad and then offered all the rest of the lunch. After the appropriate time, Sri Gusainji cleared the offerings and put Sri Nathji to rest, then descended the mountain and came to sit in his Baithak where he wrote a letter to that Bengali Brahmin. He sent it off with two Brajwasis.

He wrote, “On that day, what was it that you offered to Sri Nathji? Please write back to me with your answer.”

The two Brajwasis soon reached that Vaishnava’s home in Bengal. He was overjoyed to see them. They put Sri Guainji’s letter in his hand in which he had recounted all the events of that day. The Brahmin was filled with overwhelming love and put the letter onto his head, bowed down to it and then became even more happy after reading it.

He settled in the two Brajwasis comfortably, cooked, offered and fed them with Prasad. In the evening the Vaishnava wrote his response. In it he supplicated Sri Gusainji over and over and wrote about everything that had happened on that day.

He wrote, “O, Maharaj! It was my very great fortune that Sri Nathji, with respect for your Path, granted my wish. There were only a few dumplings!” Then he sent the letter with the two Brajwasis after showing them every hospitality. It took them a few days to get back from Bengal to Gokul and deliver the Brahmin’s letter to Sri Gusainji.

Sri Gusainji gracefully read the letter. He felt very happy. He then went to Chacha Harivamsji and told him the whole story. He also experienced overwhelming love in his heart when he read it.

Thus concludes Varta 13, the story of the Bengali Brahmin who was a recipient of Sri Gusainji’s great grace and an accomplished Vaishnava, although, in reality, there is no end to his story.

 

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Vrindavan, 2017.03.26 (VT): Soon Vrindavan will be connected with other important places of the country by railway. The much awaited gauge conversion work between Mathura and Vrindavan has been given a green signal. An amount of twenty crore rupees has also been sanctioned for this project.

Trains will be able to come directly to Vrindavan in coming years. Once completed, the upgraded railway track will provide a link between Vrindavan and other cities of the country. It will be easier for devotees coming to Vrindavan from Kolkata, Mumbai and other cities.

The Department of Railways may introduce new trains directly to the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan, which draws a big number of devotees every year.

As of now, people are largely dependent on three-wheeler auto rickshaws to commute from the nearest railway station in Mathura to Vrindavan. These autos are usually overloaded and several have overturned in the past. The work for upgrading the meter gauge to broad gauge will begin as soon as funds are release for the work.

There are also proposals for upgrading five railway stations between Mathura and Vrindavan. Under this project, four existing stations – Mathura, Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi, Masani and Vrindavan – would be upgraded and a new railway station would be developed somewhere at the entry point of Vrindavan.

The General Manager of the North Central Railway will visit Mathura for inspection on 27th March.

 

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2017.03.21 (Michael Safi and agencies, The Guardian) Indian court cites the Whanganui in New Zealand as example for according status to two rivers considered sacred.

The Ganges river, considered sacred by more than 1 billion Indians, has become the first non-human entity in India to be granted the same legal rights as people.

A court in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand ordered on Monday that the Ganges and its main tributary, the Yamuna, be accorded the status of living human entities.

The decision, which was welcomed by environmentalists, means that polluting or damaging the rivers will be legally equivalent to harming a person.

The judges cited the example of the Whanganui river, revered by the indigenous Māori people, which was declared a living entity with full legal rights by the New Zealand government last week.

Judges Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh said the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries would be “legal and living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities”.

The court in the Himalayan resort town of Nainital appointed three officials to act as legal custodians responsible for conserving and protecting the rivers and their tributaries. It ordered that a management board be established within three months.

The case arose after officials complained that the state governments of Uttarakhand and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh were not cooperating with federal government efforts to set up a panel to protect the Ganges.

Himanshu Thakkar, an engineer who coordinates the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, said the practical implications of the decision were not clear.

“There are already 1.5bn litres of untreated sewage entering the river each day, and 500m litres of industrial waste,” he said.

“All of this will become illegal with immediate effect, but you can’t stop the discharge immediately. So how this decision pans out in terms of practical reality is very unclear.”

Indian courts have been critical of three decades of government efforts to clean up the Ganges, a 2,500km waterway named after the Hindu goddess Ganga. The latest cleanup initiative has set 2018 as its deadline, one that water ministry officials have reportedly conceded is unlikely to be met.

Thakkar said Monday’s decision could be an effort by courts to broaden their scope for intervention in the river’s management. “[The] government has been trying to clean up the river by spending a lot of money, putting in a lot of infrastructure and technology, but they aren’t looking at the governance of the river,” he said.

He gave the example of the Yamuna, which is monitored by 22 sewage treatment plants in Delhi. “But none of them are functioning according to their design in terms of quantity and quality, and we don’t know the reason,” he said.

“You need a simple management system for each of the plants and give independent people the mandate to inspect them, question the officials and have them write daily and quarterly reports so that lessons are actually learned.”

Environmental activists say many rivers in India have become dirtier as the economy has developed, with city sewage, farming pesticides and industrial effluents freely flowing into waterways despite laws against polluting.

The Yamuna is the main tributary of the Ganges that officials say is tainted with sewage and industrial pollution. In some places, the river has stagnated to the point that it no longer supports life. Water from the Yamuna is treated chemically before being supplied to Delhi’s nearly 19 million residents as drinking water.

In New Zealand, the local Māori iwi, or tribe, of Whanganui in the North Island had fought for the recognition of their river – the third largest in New Zealand – as an ancestor for 140 years.

Last Wednesday, hundreds of tribal representatives wept with joy when their attempt to have their kin awarded legal status as a living entity was passed into law.

“We have fought to find an approximation in law so that all others can understand that, from our perspective, treating the river as a living entity is the correct way to approach it, as an indivisible whole, instead of the traditional model for the last 100 years of treating it from a perspective of ownership and management,” said Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the iwi.

 

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All I have belongs to You

This is the continuing serialization of 252 Vaishnavan ki varta, the lives of the saints following Vitthalnath, son of Vallabhacharya. It has been translated from the original Braj Bhasha by Krishnaa Kinkari Devi. This is the twelfth vartaSee previous.

Varta 12

The story of Manikchand Kshatriya, who lived in Agra

*bhaav-prakash*

Manikchand is a devotee with a tamasi disposition. In the Eternal Lila his name is Ragini. She manifests from Champakalata and is a form of her divine loving sentiment. Ragini has a Sakhi named Anuragini and she became his wife.

In a part of Agra named Gopalpura there were two Kshatriya families living nearby. These two were born into these two houses. The two families were very friendly to each other and therefore decided to get their son and daughter married together. They did this when the two had grown up a bit. Manikchand’s father worked in the King’s palace and amassed a lot of wealth. When his father died Manikchand also worked for the king.

*Part 1*

One day Sri Gusainji set off for Adel from Sri Nathdwara [Jatipura]. In Agra a family of Vaishnavas lived in a house behind that of Manikchand. Sri Gusainji stopped off there.

It was the hot season and so Sri Gusainji was sitting up on the roof where the window looked out onto the market. Directly opposite this was Manikchand’s house. Manikchand’s wife had gone up onto her roof. From there she caught sight of Sri Gusainji who appeared to her as the most blissful manifestation of the Lord Himself with His Face, hands and Feet etc. Simply through the effect of having his sight she began to feel tired and then lost all consciousness of her body.

When Manikchand came home from work he asked the maid where his wife was. She replied that she was sitting up on the roof. He also went up there, but she was not aware of his arrival. Her vision was totally fixed on Sri Gusainji’s form.

She then spoke to her husband, “Look! The Supreme Lord is sitting over there.” Hearing these words of his wife, Manikchand also felt weak as he also stared at Sri Gusainji’s form.

Sri Gusainji stayed there for a few hours into the night and then he went to take rest. The two of them stayed standing there and kept looking at Sri Gusainji. Then Manikchand came round and said to his wife, come on, let’s get on now.

She said, “Now where else is there to go?”

They stayed sitting there the whole night. When morning came they performed their daily ablutions, bathed and went over to Sri Gusainji, bowed to him and entreated him, “O, Maharaj! Please fulfill us!”

Sri Gusainji blessed them by giving them the Name initiation and the Brahma Sambandha. At that very moment, Manikchand sang this celebratory poem to Sri Gusainji.

*Raag Dev Gandhaar*

In all the four Ages You uphold the promises of the Vedas.
Whenever the righteous Way dwindles,
You Yourself manifest.
In the Satya Age You came as the divine boar
and split the demon Hiranyaksha’s chest.
In the Treta Age You were Ram in Dasarathas home
and wiped out Ravan’s race.
In the Dwapar Age you saved the Land of Braj from drowning,
and Indra fell at Your Feet
You killed Kamsa and all his demon entourage and thus
relieved the burden of the world.
Now You have manifested in Sri Vallabh’s line
and defeated the impersonalist philosphers.
Manikchand the poet now says,
“I have seen Your divine Form in Sri Gusainji.”

Manikchand then sang many such poems before Sri Gusainji. In them he describes how he sees the Supreme Lord within Sri Gusainji.

Manikchanand was firmly fixed on this vision of Sri Gusainji. Seeing this, Sri Gusainji was very pleased with him. Manikchand requested Sri Gusainji to grace his home. He did, and stayed there for three days.

Afterwards when Sri Gusainji was about to set off to return to Adel, the couple stood outside their house dressed in very simple clothes. Manikchand said to Champabhai, “Please take away whatever there is in this house. It all belongs to Sri Gusainji.” When his horse had gone to the stable and the goods were all tied on to the camels he made the offering to Sri Gusainji. He gave everything he owned.

Sri Gusainji then invited the couple to partake of Prasad there. Sri Gusainji stayed there an extra three days. On the fourth day he set off for Adel.

Manikchand gave one camel’s rope to his wife and held one rope himself and they walked together with the party. Quite a lot of stuff remained in Manikchand’s home. They sold it all for 76000 rupees.

The two of them accompanied Sri Gusainji for some distance outside the village. The camels were up front. Sri Gusainji took some time to say goodbye to all the Vaishnavas present. Then his palanquin caught up with the camels. Sri Gusainji then asked his personal servant who the lady was who was walking with the camel. He answered that she was Manikchand’s wife. Sri Gusainji stopped the camel and his palanquin in that very place and then asked the man again where Manikchand was. He answered that Manikchand was walking behind.

Sri Gusainji called him to his side and told him to turn round and go home. Manikchand kept quiet.

But his wife spoke up and said, “O, Maharaj, just where should we go? We have no other shelter than your lotus feet.” He tried to make her understand in so many ways and told her again to turn home.

She said, “O, My master. Please give me some service in your home for me to do. I will even collect cowdung and make patties out of it. But we have no other place to go. If you don’t want me to come with you then please just sell me and take my price with you. To whomsoever you sell me, I shall serve them well, but I no other shelter than yourself.”

Sri Gusainji tried to persuade her but she would not listen. Sri Gusainji then said, “I need to ask something from you” She replied, “But I have nothing left, what can I give you? I only have his body left and that already belongs to you. Do whatever you wish to me, but I have nothing else to give.” Sri Gusainji then spoke to Manikchand, “Please listen to what I have to say.” In this way Sri Gusainji conveyed the message to his wife that she should go home and make Seva there. He instructed Manikchand to do some type of business.

Manikchands wife then said, “But I do not know how to make Seva.” Manikchand asked what kind of business he should conduct. “I have no funds”, he said. Sri Gusainji’s store manager was standing next to him. Sri Gusainji asked him whether Manikchands donations had reached the store yet. The store manager replied that a donation of 76,000 rupees had been deposited from Manikchand. “They also kept absolutely nothing at home” he revealed.

Sri Gusainji asked Manikchand how much he would need to start up a business and he replied that he could start with ten thousand rupees. Sri Gusainji instructed the store manager to give Manikchand 10,000 rupees. Manikchand objected, “But, O, Maharaj, how can I take your wealth?” Sri Guainji told him, “Take this money and use it to earn more. Then you can send this money back!”

Manikchand again asked, “But, O, Maharaj! If I take this money from you I will have a loan hanging over my head. Should I then make business with that money? The body is impermanent. If I die without paying that money back then I will have that loan on my head. Therefore I do not feel that I should use your money for business.”

Sri Gusainji said, “Please do earn money from this loan. It will never be considered as a debt hanging over you.” After this, Sri Gusainji instructed Manikchand’s wife, “Please accept whatever I give you. I am very happy with you. I promise you that, where I usually stay in Sri Nathdwara for five months every year, now I will spend four months there and one month, when I am traveling to and from there, I will reside in your house.”

Having received these orders, Manikchand came home. Sri Gusainji gave Manikchand one Deity of Child Krishna for them to serve. Sri Gusainji showed Manikchand’s wife how to make the Seva for some days and then, whilst he was making the Seva, both husband and wife would stand and observe.

Sri Gusainji thus taught Manikchand everything he needed to know about Seva. They both began to serve most lovingly. Manikchand began to earn money using the funds he had been given. They lived off a quarter of the earnings and put three quarters away as savings. They soon earned back the loaned amount. When Sri Gusainji came to their home they placed the ten thousand rupees in a money pouch before Sri Gusainji.

Manikchand requested him to accept it so that he was now free of debt. “I now have, through your blessings, enough funds with which to make business. I wish to no longer keep the loaned money.” Sri Gusainji was very pleased with Manikchand and said, “King Bali also made an offering but Manikchand’s offering is different.”

*bhaav-prakash*

A doubt may arise here – King Bali also made an offering to the Lord and he took nothing back. Manikchand took money out of his offering to make business with and in this way paid off the loan. How could this be called an offering? Because King Bali made his offerings according to the ways of the Path of Lawful Limitations. The Lord accepted and took the offerings. Things that are thus offered can never be taken back. In the case of Manikchand he made the offerings according to the ways of the Path of Grace, with love only. It was done in the same way that, in the world, a master and his servant should interact.

Sri Acharyaji has written in his ‘Siddhant Rahasya Treatise’,

“Therefore, at the start of any undertaking, everything should be offered up. The teachings that ‘that which has been given all belongs to the Lord and cannot ever be accepted as His Prasad’ belongs to another Path. The higher realization is perfected just as in the world a servant perfects his relationship with his master.”

Therefore Manikchand borrowed money as if it were a worldly transaction. And that too under Sri Gusainji’s instruction. His dedication was thus perfected. This is the way to look at this.

*Part 2*

[This story is taken from Krishna Bhatt’s book]

Once it was the wedding of Manikchand’s son. Manikchand wrote an invitation to Sri Gusainji and then welcomed him into his home. Sri Gusainji came to Agra from Gokul. After some days it was Sri Gokulnathaji’s birthdy. Sri Gusainji wrote and sent a letter to Sri Giridharji in Gokul saying, “Please make the arrangement for the celebration of Vallabh’s [Sri Gokulnathaji’s] birthday. I will return after this wedding.” When the wedding was over, Sri Gusainji took his leave of Manikchand and went back to Gokul. So great was Sri Gusainji’s grace upon Manikchand.

Thus concludes Varta 12, the story of Manikchand and his wife who were great recipients of Sri Gusainji’s grace and accomplished Vaishnavas. In truth there is no end to their story.

 

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Seeing that his son, the Lord of Braj Sri Nanda Maharaj, had no son of his own, grandfather Parjanya Gopa engaged in worship of Sri Nārāyaṇa by ardently fasting, so that he could get a grandson (Sri Krishna) who would be the abode af all great qualities, who could destroy the demons and lift the Govardhana hill. This world-famous pool named Kṣuṇṇāhāra Taḍāga is my shelter.

VERSE 60:

parjanyena pitāmahena nitarām ārādhya nārāyaṇaṁ
tyaktvāhāram abhūd aputraka iha svīyātmaje goṣṭhape
yatrāvāpi surāri-hā giridharaḥ pautro guṇaikākaraḥ
kṣuṇṇāhāratayā prasiddham avanau tan me taḍāgaṁ gatiḥ

Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā:  In this verse Kṣuṇṇāhāra Taḍāga is praised. Seeing that Sri Nanda had no son Sri Parjanya Gopa, the grandfather of Sri Krishna and the father of Sri Nanda, performed penances in the form of fasting to please Lord Nārāyaṇa. He prayed to Sri Nārāyaṇa’s lotus feet: “May Sri Nanda obtain a son, who is the abode of all attributes and who can destroy the demons and thus delight the world!”

Krishna cannot be obtained through penance. Sri Nanda and Yashoda are Sri Krishna’s eternally perfect parents and Sri Krishna is also eternally Sri Nanda’s son. In the prakaṭa-līlā Sri Krishna advented as Nanda and Yashoda’s son, but that was merely caused by their eternally perfect parental love for him. In the worldly custom, though, everyone thinks that Sri Nanda-nandan is the result of Nanda’s father Parjanya Gopa’s harsh austerities of fasting on the bank of the Kṣuṇṇāhāra Taḍāga.

This is the sweetness of the worldly or human-like pastimes. All the Brajwasis know that, and Sri Nanda Maharaj also thinks that this bhuvana sundara (the world’s most beautiful) child Sri Krishna, who is the reservoir of all great attributes and who is able to kill the demons and lift mountains, is the benefit of father Parjanya’s worship of Lord Nārāyaṇa. What’s more, when Sri Krishna is playing at Kṣuṇṇāhāra Sarovara and he hears from the people that his grandfather had performed penances there by fasting for a long time to get him as a grandson, and that it was therefore called Kṣuṇṇāhāra Sarovara, his heart is humbled by great devotion and respect for his grandfather and he considers himself greatly honoured.

Blessed is the love of Braj and the Lord’s complete subjugation to this love! That Original Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna, as a result of worshipping whom all the people of the world are blessed by attaining the fulfillment of all their desires, that Lord, who embodies all the Vedic scriptures, sees himself as the result of the penances of his grandfather Parjanya and is proud of it. Only in Braj the Lord can be subdued by love in this way, nowhere else. Not only is he subdued by their love, the relish of this pure love, which is free from even a whiff of awe and reverence, is the treasure he always longs for.

aiśvarya jñānete sab jagata miśrita; aiśvarya śithila preme nāhi mora prīta
āmāre īśvara māne – āpanāke hīna; preme vaśa āmi tāra nā hoi adhīna
āmāke to ye ye bhakta bhaje yei bhāve; tāre se se bhāve bhaji e mora svabhāve
mora putra mora sakhā mora prāṇa-pati; ei bhāve kore yei more śuddha bhakti
āpanāke boḍo māne – āmāre sama hīna; sarva bhāve āmi hoi – tāhāra adhīna

(Caitanya-caritämåta Ādi Ch. 4)

“The whole world is mixed with knowledge of my majesty, but love which is slackened by knowledge of my majesty does not please me. Those who see me as the Lord and themselves as inferior can not subdue me with their love. In whatever mood my devotee worships me, in that same mood I will worship him – that is my nature. I am subdued in all respects by a person who is purely devoted to me, thinking: “He is my son, he is my friend”, or “He is the Lord of my life”, who considers himself superior and me equal or inferior to him.”

Forgetting all of his prowess, the Lord is subdued by the love of the people of Braj in all moods, according to the amount of their love for him. The love of the people of Braj covers all of Sri Krishna’s own awareness of his prowess and, he allows himself to be moulded according to their love. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartīpād has written: yathā saṁsāra-bandhe nipātya duḥkam evānubhāvayituṁ māyāvṛttir avidyā jīvānāṁ jñānam āvṛṇoti yathā ca mahā madhura śrī kṛṣṇa-līlā sukham anubhāvayituṁ guṇātītānāṁ śrī kṛṣṇa parivārāṇāṁ vrajeśvaryādīnāṁ jñānaṁ cicchakti-vṛttir yogamāyaivāvṛṇoti tathaiva śrī kṛṣṇam ānanda svarūpam apyānandātiśayam anubhāvayituṁ cicchaktir āvṛttiḥ premaiva tasya jñānam āvṛṇoti. premnas tu tat svarūpa-śaktitvāt tena tasya vyāpter na dosaḥ “It is the essence of Krishna’s cit-shakti, or knowledge-potency, named prema, or love of God, that covers him over, making him forget his actual identity, although he is ecstasy personified, for the sake of increasing his own ecstasy, just as avidyā, or the ignorance-potency of māyā keeps all the living beings bound up in the material world, making them experience only suffering, and the transcendental energy of yogamāyā covers over the God-knowledge of Krishna’s transcendental associates in Vraja like mother Yashoda, making them experience his all-sweet humanlike pastimes. There can be no fault in prema covering over Krishna’s knowledge of his svarūpa (true identity), rather it is most relishable.” Śrīpāda Dāsa Goswamicaraṇ says: “May that world-famous Kṣuṇṇāhāra Taḍāga be my shelter”, or: “May it be the greatest support for my practice of prema!”

parjanya śrī nanda pītā, adbhuta tāhāra kathā,
kṣuṇṇāhāra sarovara tīre
vrata kori anaśane, pūjā kori nārāyaṇe
pautra rūpe pāilā kṛṣṇere
śrī kṛṣṇera pitāmahe, pade yeno mati rahe,
kṛpā hoile sarva labhya hoy.
ei more nivedana, janme janme hoy yeno,
kṣuṇṇāhāra taḍāga samāśraya

“The story of Sri Nanda’s father Parjanya is amazing! On the bank of the Kṣuṇṇāhāra-pool he began to fast and worship Lord Nārāyaṇa. Thus he obtained Krishna as a grandson! May my mind dwell in the feet of Sri Krishna’s grandfather, for by his grace everything desirable is attained. May I have the shelter of Kṣuṇṇāhāra Taḍāga, birth after birth! This is my prayer!”

 

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Radha Kund, 2017.03.19 (Vishakha Dasi for VT): In part one of this series, Sage Narad journeyed to Eternal Vrindavan to experience the love of Shri Radha and Krishna. He also learned the secrets of worship from Lord Shiv and Vrinda Devi.

Sage Narad wanted to share the bliss he had found in Vrindavan with the world, and so he wrote the Narad Bhakti Sutra.

Narad Bhakti Sutra is comprised of 84 aphorisms on the sacred love of Braj. An aphorism is a short statement which has many layers of meaning. Commentaries help to unlock the meanings and make the core message more accessible.

The following is the commentary of Sutras 54 and 55 of the Narad Bhakti Sutra by Vaisnavacharya Chandan Goswami of the Shri Radharaman Temple in Vrindavan. By the blessings of Shri Giridhari, the commentary was published in the form of a book called Way to Love in 2013. Maharaj has written a touching article about how this book came into being; you can read it here.

I chose this particular excerpt because I feel that it captures the essence of the entire book.

Sutra 54      

गुणरहितं कामनारहितं प्रतिक्षण वर्धमानं अविछिन्नं सूक्ष्मतरमनुभवरूपम्

guṇarahitaṁ kāmanārahitaṁ pratikṣaṇa vardhamānaṁ avichhinnaṁ sūkṣmataram-anubhavarūpam

This sacred love is devoid of qualities, it is desireless and it increases with each moment. It is unbroken, is subtler than the subtlest and it is the form of innermost experience.

The Lord is described by the six main attributes He possesses: wealth, fame, strength, knowledge, beauty and detachment. Sacred love is a form of the Lord, and here, Sage Narad defines the six attributes of sacred love:

1. Devoid of Qualities 

The following incident was published in a Spanish newspaper. A beautiful woman, with long silky hair and beautiful teeth, used to visit a bar regularly. One night at the bar, a man, who found her very attractive, approached her and started to compliment her splendour by telling her how luscious her hair was, how beautiful her teeth were and how stunning she looked. Whenever she would go to the bar, the same man would approach her and praise her beauty again and again.

One evening, she asked him, “Do you really admire my beauty?”

“I have never known anyone as beautiful as you. You are the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen,” he replied.

She said, “Come home with me.”

They went to her house and they sat down, and she asked him, “Can you please tell me again how beautiful I am?”

“I never saw such long and silky hair. It seems like God created you with His own hands,” he replied.

The woman took off her wig and said, “Seeing as you love my hair, let me give it to you and as you are very fond of my teeth as well, here, have them.”

She pulled out her false teeth and gave them to him. Seeing her without teeth and hair, the man was stunned and speechless and he left the house silently. In this situation, the love was dependent on the qualities possessed by the woman and not the woman herself.

People tend to love because they are either attracted towards the beauty, power, money, intelligence, humility or any other kind of quality which they find attractive in the person they desire. But they love only as long as these qualities exist in them. Many relationships end because what one perceives as love is actually a love of the qualities which exist in one’s partner and if those qualities fade or change with time or circumstances, the connection deteriorates. Sage Narad very clearly says that sacred love is devoid of qualities. One who pursues desires connected with the senses does so for self-satisfaction. Sacred love is not connected to the senses because without even seeing one’s Beloved, without hearing about the Beloved, without touching the Beloved, the love still blossoms in one’s heart.

Once, some friends asked Radha, “Why do You love Krishn even though He’s a thief?”

Radha replied, “I know His heart. He does not want that we should be defamed, so He tries to act like a naughty child. He steals butter from various houses so His elders will feel that He is not mature enough to do any chores. By being mischievous, He gets ample free time and gets the chance to meet Me.”

Radha loves Krishn regardless of his good or bad qualities. She loves Him for the sake of love and this is the first point of this aphorism.

2. Desireless

There is a slight difference between love and desire. A particular desire can be quenched, for example by buying an object one craves. The urge leaves once the object is bought, but when one feels love, the feeling intensifies with each moment and there is no definitive end to the experience. There is a story which illustrates the nature of desire. A street performer wanted to impress a king, in order to acquire the king’s horse as a reward. So he sat in meditation and went into a deep trance. The king was really impressed and gave an order to his ministers to put him in a room. Time passed and the king died. Thereafter, a few generations passed, yet the street performer did not come out of his trance. One day, he emerged from his meditation and the first thing he said was, “Oh King! Are you impressed by my meditation? Will you reward me your horse?” Even after spending hundreds of years in meditation, his desire to own that horse was not satisfied.

Desire yearns to satisfy oneself, whereas love wants to satisfy one’s beloved. There are two types of devotees: one who is desirous and one who loves. If both of these devotees offer food to their Deities, the one who desires will offer what he really wants to eat that day, according to his taste and wants his Lord to be pleased with his choice. Yet the loving one will try to find signs, try to feel and understand what Krishn Himself wants to eat that day. Loving someone with desire is love offered on the basis of conditions; it is one where the motive is of mutual pleasure, not exclusive pleasure for the Lord. In this case, the feeling of dissatisfaction remains within, whether one’s desire is fulfilled or not. But love in its purest form loves the Beloved for His sake.

3. Sacred love increases with each moment

In India, the river Ganga starts from Gomukh. The Ganga emerges as a stream at the origin, and the more she flows, the more she increases in width. At the end, where she meets the sea, she is known as Ganga Sagar. Here, she is very wide. People say that the breadth of the Ganga River at Ganga Sagar is more than 40 kilometres. The nature of love is also like this; it expands with time.

A lover always feels that his love is inadequate, and this inspires a deep yearning in him to use every effort to increase the level of his affection towards his Beloved. This sentiment develops sacred love in him. From one day to the next, this pristine love grows rapidly.

prem sadā baṛhibau karai jyo sasikalā subeṣh
pai punau yāme nahῑ, tāte kabahu na seṣh

“Sacred Love grows eternally like the waxing moon,
but this moon is never full and its waxing never ends.”
(Vrajwasi Poetry)

4. It is an unbroken inner experience

Sacred love is never broken. There are people who show intense love, but as a result of jealousy or heartache, triggered by an action from their beloved, they end the relationship. Or they show anger and start to behave negatively and walk away. This is not the nature of sacred love. Sacred love is never broken, even if a lover hears something bad about his Lord. Once one starts to love Lord Krishn, it becomes difficult for even the Lord Himself to break that connection. For example, in the Srimad Bhagwatam, the gopis came to Krishn to take part in the Raas Mandal, and He asked them to go back to their houses, but they refused. By this instruction, Lord Krishn was testing how eager the gopis were to be with Him, and when they melted His heart with their unflinching devotion to Him, He accepted them into the Raas Mandal. He did not break the devotional connection that the gopis had started.

Many canals originate from a river. In the beginning these canals are very broad, but they trail off before reaching the ocean. The same can be said about people who show intense love in the beginning but whose love fades with time and without reaching the ocean of sacred love. In the devotional world, there is one type of devotee who is like a river; his love always increases and is never broken. Equally, there is another type of devotee whose love can be compared to a flowing canal. He shows so much love in the beginning but when he finds that his desires are not fulfilled by the Lord or when he does not find his desired connection with the Lord, he feels like he is wasting his time in the relationship. Sacred love is not like this. It is an unbroken chain which connects one to the Lord with the mood of complete devotion and without any preconceptions or expectations.

5. Subtler than the subtlest

Once the gopis asked Brahma, “Please transform us into divine dust of Vraj so that a potter may collect it and make a clay cup for Krishn, and maybe Krishn will fill the cup with water or milk and kiss it with His beautiful lips. We know that it is hard for us to be with Him but by becoming subtle like Vraj dust we can be with Him always.” A lover tries to be in his Beloved’s service in every way. He does not try to present his offering as a gesture to impress his Lord. The lover just tries to be at his Lord’s service and endeavours to make Him happy.

6. Form of innermost experience

There is a difference between knowledge and love. In love, even if the beloved is physically far away, the lover experiences that his beloved is present with him. The nature of this relationship is such that even if the couple have disagreements or see flaws in each other, it does not impact the love they feel for each other or their experience of that love. The love transforms the beloved’s imperfection into perfection. This affection even keeps the beloved alive when he or she is physically deceased. But when one is drawn to the path of knowledge, one feels the actual reality. If someone is physically far, he is far. If someone is not beautiful, he is not beautiful and if someone is dead, he is dead. The nature of love has the power to make a stranger into one’s dearest. The particle bhav in the word anubhav means that which changes constantly. The anu particle transforms the meaning of bhav into: that which never changes. And love is anubhav, that innermost experience. Everything changes over the course of one’s life such as one’s body, religion, relationships, and so forth, but what remains unchanged is anubhav: one’s innermost experience with the Lord.

Once, one of the closest associates of Radha, Lalita, asked Her, “What is the nature of Your relationship with Krishn?”

Radha replied, “Whatever you feel defines Our relationship, give it that name.” Her response showed that a relationship is not bound by a name. All relationships are dependent on love, but love is not dependent on relationships.

Lalita replied, “You are His Beloved and He is Your Beloved.”

Radha replied, “O friend! You do not know anything. You only know the surface of love.”

nā so ramaṇ nā hām ramaṇῑ,
duňhu mana manobhav peṣhala jāni

“He is not the Lover, nor I the Beloved. Both of Our hearts are One.”
(Chaitanya Charitamrit 2.8.194)

For this reason, this love is the innermost experience. If a devotee experiences his Beloved, then his Lord is the Enjoyer and the devotee is the one being enjoyed, and the pleasure experienced by his Lover is the innermost experience for the devotee: in other words, the internal bliss felt by the devotee when his service fills his Lord with joy. In his poetry, the great devotee Rasakhan reflects the essence of this aphorism:

binu jovan gun rūp dhan, binu svārath hit jāni
suddh kāmanā te rahit, prem sakal rasakhāni
ati sūćham komal atihi, ati pataro ati dūr
prem kaṭhin sab te sadā nit ikras bharpūr
rasamay svābhāvik vinā svārath achal mahān
sadā ekras baṛat nit suddh prem rasakhān

“That love which cares not for looks, money or age, which is pure and beyond the touch of selfish wanting, is a treasure-trove of pure sweetness. It is exceedingly subtle and tender, very delicate and very distant. It is also the most difficult of all, overflowing with eternal and unchanging ecstasy. That sacred love is naturally delectable, selfless, unwavering, always rapturous and ever-increasing – so says the poet Rasakhan.”

Sutra 55

तत्प्राप्य तदेवावलोकयति तदेव शृणोति तदेव भाषयति तदेव चिन्तयति

tat prāpya tadevāvalokayati tadeva śrṇoti tadeva bhāṣayati tadeva cintayati

After the attainment of sacred love, the devotee sees nothing but love, hears only about love, speaks only of love and thinks only of love. 

Here, Sage Narad describes how the nature of a devotee blossoms when he is in a loving relationship with the Lord. As a lover, he sees his Beloved everywhere and in everything. He thinks about and only sees His Love. Even with the external worldly distractions, his mind is constantly meditating on his Lord and relentlessly remembering Him. The devotee fails to see and enjoy objects disconnected from his Beloved.

A gopi once said:

jit dekhauň tit syāmamaῑ hai
syām kuñj ban jamunā syāmā, syām gagan ghan ghaṭā ćhaῑ hai
sab raṅganmeň syām bharo hai, log kahat yaha bāt naῑ hai
maiň baurῑ kῑ loganhῑkῑ syām putariyā badal gaῑ hai
chandrasār ravisār syām hai mṛgamad syām kām bijaῑ hai
nῑlkanṭhko kanṭh syām hai mano syāmatā bel baῑ hai
śrutiko acćhar syām dekhiyat dῑpsikhāpar syāmataῑ hai
nar devankῑ kaun kathā hai alakh brahm ćhabi syāmamaῑ hai

“Everything I see is saturated with Shyam. The bower is shyam,[1] the cloudy sky is shyam, the Yamuna River is shyam. All the colours are imbued with shyam. People are telling me this is something strange! Have I gone insane, or have the pupils in everyone’s eyes become shyam? The sun and moon are shyam, all the musk is permeated with shyam. Lord Shiv’s throat is shyam [from swallowing the poison after the churning of the milk ocean]. The vine of love growing in my heart is shyam. The letters of the scriptures are definitely shyam and the wick of the candle is also shyam. What to speak of men and gods, even the formless Absolute looks like shyam to me!” (Brajwasi Poetry)

The poet Thakur captures the very essence of a devotee in this state:

kānan dūsro nām sunai nahi ekahi raňg rańgo yaha ḍoro
dhokhehu dūsro nām kaṛhai rasanā mukh bāńdhi halāhal boro
ṭhākur chittakῑ vṛtti yahai ham kaisehu ṭek tajaiň nahi bhoro
bāvarῑ ve ańkhiyāń jari jāyń jo sāvaro ćhaańḍi nihārati goro

“Our ears refuse to hear any name but His, for the thread of our fate is dyed in Shyam’s colour alone. If we were to say any other name, it would be like pouring poison on our tongues and binding our mouths shut. The poet Thakur says, ‘Our hearts and our entire minds, even the subconscious mind, are so overtaken by Him, we can never, even unconsciously, act otherwise. If our crazy eyes try to give up Shyam to behold any other colour, burn them and let us go blind.’”

In this state of being, every sound that permeates the lover’s ear is nothing but the sweetest melody of his Beloved’s love-song. He never tires of praising Him because in every word that he speaks, he enjoys the incomparable flavour of the nectar of sacred love. All the limbs of his body feel only the presence of his Beloved. The lover’s heart is unable and unwilling to expand for anyone else. His love transforms into the reflection of his Beloved.

Drowning in the ocean of love is an indescribable feeling, and it is the highest state of infinite bliss. Hence, the Chandogya Upanishad (7.24.1) mentions, “The state of the Infinite is the state in which nothing else is seen, nor heard, nor thought of. That which is Infinite is immortal and that which is finite is mortal.” This is sacred love. It is whole and it intensifies with each passing moment. The flow is unbroken, subtler than the subtlest, and therefore, it cannot be defined.

[1] This poem is a play on words. The word shyam can mean dark or more specifically, lovely and black with a bluish tinge. Shyam is also one of Krishn’s most prominent Names.

 

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Radha Kund, 2017.03.18 (Vishakha Dasi for Vrindavan Today) Growing up I often found myself questioning what love really is. I used to annoy my mother with judgemental comments during television programs and films.

“You call that love?” I would scoff. “This is not love. He’s just being selfish. Obviously!

My sweet mother would tell me to stop thinking so much and just enjoy the movie, swearing never to watch anything with me again.

One example of a song that I found upsetting is Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” in which a man basically tells a girl he would allow his body to be exploded into a million pieces for her, even though she “would not do the same” for him. Does he live in a war zone, I thought, that catching a grenade for her is something she really needs? Or more likely, is he just being a manipulative kook?

What passes for love in pop culture, I felt, was a sorry excuse. Sadly, the love we find in everyday life (and in ourselves) can be equally disappointing at times. But of course, that didn’t stop me from looking for it!

It was only years later – long, in fact, after entering the Gaudiya Vaishnav path and moving to Vrindavan – that I started learning what love really is through the Narad Bhakti Sutra.

Vaisnavacharya Chandan Goswami of the Shri Radharaman Temple has written a beautiful commentary on the Narad Bhakti Sutra called Way to Love. When, in his infinite kindness, he blessed me to help a little with its publication, the unanswerable questions in my heart started to receive answers.

But before sharing some of the nectar from this beautiful and revolutionary text, I want to share how Sage Narad, the son of Brahma and wandering kirtaniya of the heavens, received the direct experience of that ultimate love of Braj. And his story revolves around the beautiful Narad Kund.

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Narad Kund

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Gateway to Narad Kund

Across the parikrama marg from Govardhan’s Kusum Sarovar, through a sandstone gate and down an earthen path, lies the beautiful Narad Kund. The wooded area around the Kund is very peaceful, far enough from the parikrama marg to be totally free of blaring horns and passers-by. Each time I’ve been to Narad Kund, only a couple of Brajwasis could be seen in the beautiful ashram, including one elderly Babaji chanting Radhe Krishna Krishna Krishna Radhe Radhe, Radhe Shyam Radhe Shyam, Shyam Shyam Radhe Radhe – to the soft beats of the dholak.

The ashram is clean and intelligently developed; still close to nature and full of many large, old trees. The new temple hall is very large and well-constructed, yet it blends in with its surroundings almost to the point of being unnoticeable. There are also a few simple rooms for the monks, and a small gaushala.

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Paaras Peepal

The kund (lake) itself is teeming with life! Sitting on the bank for a few minutes, you can see chubby black ducks and various other chirpy, happy water birds, kingfishers and turtles, lots of green parrots, and even water snakes! There is also a special tree here called the Paaras Peepal, said to be the fifty-first grandson of a tree that lived here during Sage Narad’s time, and which grows four different types of flowers on its branches.

Sage Narad himself resided at this very spot, and he is said to live here still, in an unseen, spiritual form.

Several important incidents from Sage Narad’s life took place at Narad Kund. It was here that Dhruv Maharaj received diksha from him, and it was here that Prahlad and his mother took his shelter. In fact, according to the ashram’s pamphlet, Prahlad was born at Narad Kund.

Sage Narad’s Journey to Eternal Vrindavan

According to the Vaishnav traditions of Braj, the highest form of love is found in the hearts of Shri Krishna’s lovers – the gopis – in His eternal Abode, Vrindavan. Wishing to experience that ultimate state of love, Sage Narad approached his guru and father, Lord Brahma, for help.

Several scriptures describe Sage Narad’s journey to Eternal Vrindavan. The Padma Puran, Patal Khand, tells how Brahma took Narad to Govardhan. There, Brahma made Narad bathe in a lake called Amrit, which is understood to be Kusum Sarovar.

As soon as Sage Narad bathed in that lake, he was transformed into a beautiful woman. Suddenly, many other divinely beautiful young women surrounded him, and began asking him questions.

“Who are you?” They asked. “Where are you from, and how have you come here?”

Narad did not know what to say. How had he gotten there? How had he become a woman? It all felt like a dream!  Lalita Sakhi told him that he had reached Vrindavan. Then she and the other sakhis took Narad to meet Shri Radha and Krishna.

In the form of a gopi, Narad remained with the Divine Couple for an entire year, immersed in the ecstasy of their love. Then Shri Radha took Narad back to the same lake, and asked him to bathe in it again. The sage was transformed back into his previous form as Narad.

From that day forward, Sage Narad remained absorbed in Vrindavan, and constantly sang about the great secret he had experienced.

Lord Shiv Teaches Narad the Path of Love

The Padma Puran goes on to tell how Sage Narad approached Lord Shiv to learn about the path of love for Radha and Krishna. Mahadev then revealed the mantra by which Shri Krishna is worshipped. He also told Narad the meditation for this mantra. 

Mahadev said:

You should remember Shri Krishna seated next to his Beloved, on a throne in the forest of Vrindavan. The form of Krishna you should meditate upon has two arms. His raincloud-dark body is wrapped in an elegant yellow garment. His chest is embraced by a garland of forest flowers, and his head is adorned by a peacock feather crown. His face is lovelier than millions of moons, and his eyes are rolling with the intoxication of love. He wears  a single karnikar flower in his ear, and a bindi on his forehead, which is anointed with fine sandalwood paste. His earrings shine like the morning sun, and His cheeks glitter with drops of perspiration. His eyes are riveted to His Beloved’s lotus face as He looks at Her from the corner of His eye and raises a single eyebrow. His handsome nose has a pearl nosering, and his lips are like ripe bimba cherries shining in the moonlight of his teeth. His arms shimmer with beautiful arm-bands, bracelets and rings inlaid with precious gems, and in his left hand he holds the flute and a lotus. His waist is encircled by an attractive scarf and a string of flowers, and His feet shimmer with beautiful anklets. He is very agile and eager to please His Beloved with an offering of romance. Meditate in this way on Shri Krishna, who is laughing with his beloved and is repeatedly making her laugh.

Then you should remember Shri Radhika, who is seated at his left side. She wears a blue dress upon her lovely body, which is bright as heated gold. Her face is like a lotus blossoming with a great smile, and it is half-covered by the edge of her garment. Her eyes are transfixed on the face of her Lover, as the chakori bird beholds the moon. With her thumb and forefinger she gently feeds her Lover a betel-leaf wrap (paan). Her lovely, large breasts shimmer with the pearls of her necklace, and below her slender waist, her wide hips are adorned by a chain of tiny bells. She wears beautiful earrings, armlets, rings and bangles set with precious jewels, with tinkling anklets on her delicate feet. The essence of beauty, her body, is bewitching; captivating in every limb, she drowns in the ocean of joy. She has just crossed the threshold of youth, and she is easily pleased. Oh best of Brahmins, Shri Radhika is surrounded by her wonderful friends (sakhis) who are similar to her in age and qualities. They always serve her with fans and yak-tail whisks.

Mahadev continued:

The chaatak bird drinks only rain that falls directly from the raincloud. It rejects all other water [even though the rain is its source]. Abandoning the lake, the river and the sea, the chaatak either dies or makes its impassioned appeal to the clouds. In the same way, you should always pray to your Beloveds, saying, “Please be my shelter!” You should always seek your Beloveds’ happiness, and the happiness of those who are their own, especially the Guru. Likewise, avoid displeasing them. I, who have sought their refuge, will explain how they are pleased. Thinking, “the Divine Couple will surely deliver me,” you should have firm faith in them. You should pray, “Oh my Beloveds, you destroy the fear of those who take your shelter. You are the saviors of your devotees from this worldly existence, and from the illusion of friends, children, home and family. Whoever I am, whatever I have in this world and the next – all that I have dedicated today at your lotus feet. I, a sinful person, I have given up all means to save myself. There is no other way for me; only you are my shelter. Oh Lover of Radhika, in thought, word and deed I am yours. Oh Beloved of Shri Krishna, I belong to you alone. You both are my refuge. Oh jewel-mines of compassion, I seek your shelter. Please bless lowly me with the chance to serve you.” Thus muttering quietly this prayer of five verses, with a desire to serve Them, remain immersed in Shri Radha and Krishna’s remembrance.

[…]

O Narad, if you do this, they will certainly accept you as their maidservant […] I have no doubt that Shri Krishna will grant His service to one who has but once sought his refuge, and who has prayed to Him saying, ‘I am yours.’

Knowing Sage Narad to be a worthy vessel of his mercy, Lord Shiv gave him further instructions:

You should look upon yourself as one amongst them [the sakhis] who is charming, who is endowed with beauty and youth, who is a beautiful young woman, who knows many crafts and arts, who is fit for Shri Krishna’s enjoyment but who is averse to enjoyment though solicited by Krishna, who is the follower of Radhika, who loves Radhika and who is devoted to serving her, who loves Radhika even more than Krishna, and who, through love, day by day brings about the union of the Divine Couple, and who is extremely happy due to the pleasure and joy of serving them. In this way one should, beginning with the early part of the day till late night, offer service to them in Vrindavan.

Narad asked Mahadev, “I wish to hear about the lilas which Shri Krishna performs throughout the day. How can I serve Him through meditation without knowing about this?”

Mahadev replied, “O Narad! I do not fully know those lilas. Go to Vrinda Devi. She will reveal them to you. She, the servant of Govinda, surrounded by her group of friends, lives near Kesi-teerth, not far from here.”

Delighted, Narad circumambulated Mahadev and bowed to him again and again. Then he proceeded to Vrindavan.

Vrinda Devi Reveals the Eternal Lila to Narad

When Vrinda Devi saw Sage Narad, she offered her obeisance to him and asked why he had come.

Narad replied, “Oh auspicious Lady! I wish to hear from you about the daily life of Shri Krishna. If you consider me fit, then please tell it to me from the beginning.”

Vrinda Devi replied, “Oh Narad! I shall tell you this greatest of secrets, since you are a devotee of Shri Krishna. You should not reveal this great secret.”

In supremely charming Vrindavan, which is adorned with many beautiful kunjas (forest havens) is a house adorned with divine gems, in an arbour of desire-yielding trees. There the Divine Couple lie sleeping in each other’s arms. Later by my orders, the birds awaken them. Their deep embrace brings them great joy, and they are frightened of losing this closeness. They have no desire at all to arise from the bed. But they are forced to do so by the repeated entreaties of the parrots and the mynah birds.

Vrinda Devi went on to reveal in detail the entire ashta-kalin-lila (lilas throughout the day) of Eternal Vrindavan.

“Oh goddess!” said Narad, “I am blessed! There is no doubt you are pleased with me, for today you have disclosed to me the delightful lila of Shri Krishna.”

Having received the teachings of Lord Shiv and Vrinda Devi, and having tasted the love of Eternal Vrindavan himself, Sage Narad resided at Narad Kund, immersed in the bliss of his Beloveds’ lilas. 

Although he was relishing the supreme love of Vrindavan for himself, Sage Narad wished to share that bliss with the souls of this world. And so he wrote his treatise on love, the Narad Bhakti Sutra.

What was Sage Narad’s message to the world? In part two of this series, we will begin to explore Sage Narad’s book of love.

to be continued…

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gallery_1_31_153165.jpg“RADHE RADHE!” came the loud chanting of the Brajwasis (locals of Vrindavan) who had just entered Bankey Bihari temple – one of the most famous Krishna temples in India, as it opened its doors for darshan.

The sound stopped me short, as I was about to put a bite of halwa puri in my mouth. “Radhe Radhe!” the men and women dressed in traditional attire continued, as they clapped their hands together rhythmically.

I stared at them a little bewildered. Scanning their faces, I turned to my mother who was sitting on the temple floor beside me, receiving prasad and talking to the pandits.

“Why are they calling me, Mummy?” I asked with confusion.  I turned to the crowd and yelled, “Yes, I am here! Why are you calling me?”

My mum looked down at her 5-year-old daughter and laughed hysterically. With Radha as my name and Radhe as my nickname, I naturally assumed the call was for me. I once read about a princess from Rajasthan who came to this temple and had such a strong connection, that Krishna followed her and was found missing at his temple home. That day, I think he followed me too.

Bearing a name permanently conjoined with one of Hinduisms most loved Gods often made me wonder what role Krishna as a character played in my own life. I have always been besotted with Krishna, and I know it’s not only because my name is Radha, though this has undeniably contributed to the realisation of an incomparable bond.

I admit there have been times where I didn’t feel thrilled about my name. For example, when it was constantly butchered growing up around foreigners, being called ‘Radical’. Or when random guys in an attempt to flirt will say, “Your name is Radha? Then I am Krishna!” Seriously how could they believe I have never heard that one before?

Maybe because of my (borderline) obsession, I’m often asked if I would like to end up with a man with the personality type of Krishna. Honestly, which girl doesn’t dig the attractive/flirt/bad boy/prankster? But in truth, my love for Krishna is much deeper than romantic love.

Familiar with the ritual of prayer from a young age, a realisation came to me in my teen years. After school one day I was sitting with my best friend, Krishna Lila Sims, an American girl whose family are Hare Krishna devotees. (It’s not surprising that Radha was drawn to Krishna yet again). She was discussing a quote from The Mahabharata that she loved, spoken by one of its characters, Queen Kunti.

Kunti prayed to lord Krishna and stated that people only seem to remember God during times of suffering. So if that is what it took for her to remember him more often, to please give her more suffering. This really boggled my mind. I had always been taught to pray for the things I wanted most, and in prayer to ask God to ease my suffering. So why would someone desire suffering in order to pray?

She explained, “See that’s what Krishna is all about, That’s how His worship differs. He is the love Deity. You pray to him, just for the love of Him. No reason, no request, just simply for the love of Him.

 

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Vrindavan, 2017.03.08 (VT): After Nandgaon and Barsana, it was the turn of Vrindavan to begin the celebration of Holi on the Rangbharni Ekadashi. On Wednesday, the celebrations began with the offering of gulal in the temples and performing the Panchakosi Parikrama. The colors of love and devotion were flung from the temples. The priests were throwing the flower petals and gulal from the temple.

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While the maximum hordes of devotees were attracted to the Banke Bihari Temple, the temples which celebrate the festival in a traditional way attracted the ascetic folks. The tradition came alive in the temples of Radha Raman, Radha Ballabh, Yashonda Nandan, Madan Mohan (Bhattji), Radhika Ballabh, Shriji kunj and Topi Kunj. The regular visitors of Vrindavan made visit to these temples and enjoyed the unique way of celebrations in each temple.
The celebrations began with traditional fervor throughout the town. Holi Samaj Gayan, Holi Kirtan, Raslila performance were organized in different temples and ashrams. The famous Bhramar Shyam Ras Lila of Jai Singh Ghera began on Thursday by the troupe of Swami Fateh Krishna.

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Right from the morning devotees swarmed in the temples to get sprayed with the colors thrown by the priests on behalf of the deities and danced on the tunes of the traditional songs being sung in the temples. They put colors on each other and visiting the temples. The big pichkaris (water guns) made of sliver and brass was used to throw water color on the devotees.

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The organic colors were used in the most of the temples. The preparation for holi began months ago as the flowers of ‘Tesu’ were collected and dried up. The flowers were dried to make the colors and then grind-ed to a fine powder. The powder was then mixed with the water to produce a beautiful saffron and red color.
Large number of the rural folks performed the Panchakosi Parikrama of Shri Dham Vrindavan, and then went to play Holi with their favorite Lordships in the different temples of Vrindavan. The clouds of colors could be seen in the temples as well on the Parikrama Marg, when devotees flung colored powder in the air and thrown on each other. The entire atmosphere was filled with colors as the priests were throwing colors on the devotees from the ‘Sanctum Sanctorum’ of the Lord.

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Several processions from the various temples and ashrams were taken out carrying the palanquins in which the deities were seated. The priests threw colors on the devotees. The festive mood in the town began on the Ekadashi and will prevail till the Purnima. Amid the typical folk songs of holi, the devotees were seen dancing to its music.

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The markets were flooded with the heaps of gulal – they were arranged in pyramids and sold loose. Vendors sit on street corners selling gulal to the passer-by. The powder color is made up of many rich colors like pink, magneta, red, yellow and green.

 

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Radha Kund, 09.03.2017 (Vishakha Dasi for VT): A few days ago I went to Nandgaon (नन्दगाँव) to attend the festivities surrounding Lathmar Holi. I was thrilled, because I knew it was going to be a total immersion experience.

I had a special invitation through a friend of a friend – a Goswami of Nandgaon’s main temple – to stay at his family’s home and enjoy every aspect of the festival along with them.

Our trip was to last three days. The first day would feature Laddu Holi, in which laddus (ball-shaped sweets) would be thrown. That day was also the beginning of holikashtak – the eight main days of Holi. (In Braj, Holi techinically starts on Vasant Panchami and lasts for 40 days!) The second day would be Barsana’s famous Lathmar Holi, and the third day would be Lathmar Holi in Nandgaon. Lathmar Holi is a unique celebration in which the village women dress up in their finest clothes and ceremoniously beat the men from the neighboring town. The festival is a huge draw for Krishna devotees (and photographers) around the world, but neither my friend or I had attended it before.

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I had also never met our host before, and I had no idea what the living situation would be like in Nandgaon, so I packed light and left my laptop at home.

In my mind, the accomodation was going to be extremely austere. Perhaps we would be sleeping on someone’s rooftop or in a courtyard, in the open air with cement bricks for pillows! My friend and I even wondered if we should bring a tent. But just as we were about to leave Radhakund, we got word back from our host that tents and sleeping bags were not necessary – everything we would need was there at home.

And thus the three of us – my friend, her young son and myself – started our journey to the glorious Nandgaon!

I drove my scooty (motor scooter) all the way there for the first time, while my friend caught a ride in someone’s car. The fields on the way were absolutely lush and gorgeous, and I found myself fighting the urge to stop at different places and explore.

There are so many places to see in Braj! I have lived here for almost ten years and explored quite a bit, yet there are so many stones left unturned!

At last we reached our destination – Nandgaon!

Nandgaon is the hometown of Shri Krishna and His brother, Balram. It’s the place where the divine brothers live eternally with their parents Yashoda and Nand – the King and Queen of the cowherd clan.

The central attraction of the village is the temple of Krishna and Balram, situated on a hill, which is called Nandishwar Parvat. Nandishwar Parvat is said to be a form of Lord Shiva. Similarly, the palatial home of Shri Krishna’s Beloved, Shri Radha, is atop the hill called Brahmachal – a form of Lord Brahma. And of course, near Radhakund we have our beloved Govardhan Hill, who is a form of Krishna Himself.

Our host – Krishna Murari Goswami – lives just at the foot of Nandishwar Parvat, not far from Yashoda Kund. We found him standing in the doorway of his home with a big smile as soon as we arrived.

The house was a typical Brajwasi home of cement and bricks, but fairly large in size, with an open courtyard where the women cooked on the chula (clay stove). Soon we were treated to a delicious lunch of handmade chapatis (flatbreads) and pulses that had been farmed organically on the family’s own land. They also very sweetly gave my friend’s son a yellow bagalbandhi to wear, so he would fit in with the other “cowherd boys”. We immediately felt at home.

 

Krishna Murari Goswamiji is only nineteen years old. He is lean and jovial, with good English and excellent manners. As a child he studied at the ISKCON Gurukul in Vrindavan (I noticed several awards for academic and behavioural excellence on the bookshelf) and according to his mother, his home recieves many guests from abroad.

It seems Krishna Murari Goswamiji had invited everyone he knows to attend this festival, but somehow we were amongst the few who were able to come. Still, the house was full with many extended family members, and we ended up cozily sharing a room with five or six of them.

I soon found out that our host has a real love for the stories of Shri Krishna. In fact, he didn’t really speak about anything else the entire time we were there, which was delightful. That first afternoon he was immersed in readying himself for the upcoming festivities, but he made sure to steal away some time to share some translations he is doing, as well as an article he is working for Shri Sachinandan Swamiji.

Here is a short excerpt from that article, which has already been published by Sachinandan Maharaj’s Facebook page. You can read the full article here.

मुकुट वारौ रे मुकुट वारौ तेरी करैगो
हाथ लकुट कंबर की खोई
वे तो सुर ही गाऊन कौ रखवारौ
इन्दर कोप कियौ ब्रज ऊपर
वानै मूसर धारा जल डारयौ
सूर दास प्रभु कुँवर मिलन कूँ
याने बाँयें हाथ गिरवर धार्यौ

mukut vaaro re mukut vaaro, teri karego
haath lakut kambar ki khoi
ve to sur hi gaun kau rakhwaro
indar kaup kiyo braj upar
vaane musar dhara jal daaryo
soordas prabhu kuwar milan ku
yane baaye haath girivar dharyau

On Vasant Pancami, Madhumangala and Sridham are conversing with the gopis in Varsana. The gopis are asking the gopas, “How are you going to enjoy Holi this time? As far as we are concerned, we will color you from head to toe and we will definitely defeat you at Lathmar Holi.

The gopas replied to this sweet challenge with the following song:

O, gopis! Do you know who will color you the most this time? It is the bearer of the peacock feather and the bejeweled crown. He will definitely color you the most.

“He holds a bejeweled flute [and cowherding stick] in His hands and wears a single garment made of a blanket, which engulfs Him from head to toe. He is the only devata who protects the cows. He will color you.

“The king of the gods, Indra, displayed his anger by sending torrents of heavy rainfall all over Vraja. At that time He was the only one who protected the land of Vraja. He who is known as the savior of the whole Vraja will color you.

“Even the great poet Surdas affirms that He, just to have a close meeting with His loved ones, held the greatest of all mountains (Girivar) on His left hand. He will definitely color you this time.

Through this conversation the gopas promised or challenged the gopis in the name of Krishna and even the gopis too well accepted the challenge.

The gopas then informed Krishna and Balaram, and the other cowherd boys about his sweet conversation with the gopis.

Even today this sweet conversation is told to Krishna Balarama in Nandagram at Their shayan arati during the month of phalgun (Holi month). Because it’s bedtime, shayan arati is usually sung softly. But on this occasion big kettledrums are brought into the chamber before the altar and with a lot of joyful noise this song is sung – just to remind Krishna and Balarama that the Nandagram gopas have promised the Barsana gopis that Krishna will color them. So in order not to forget this promise, not even in Their dreams, the Nandagram gopas are reminding Krishna and Balarama even at the time of Their sleeping.

I asked Krishna Murari Goswamiji to tell us a little bit about the first day’s ceremonies, and he obliged with great enthusiasm.

“Today the gopis from Radharani’s side are coming to invite Krishna and Balram for tomorrow’s Holi in Barsana. They have come with a pot of colour [gulal], and they will offer it to Krishna and Balram saying, ‘Oh Krishna and Balram! We have come on behalf of Srimati Radharani. You are invited to play holi in Barsana with all of Your cowherd boys, so come tomorrow! When they see that Krishna and Balram have accepted their invitation, they will return to Barsana and there will be laddu maar holi (throwing of laddus).

“Then in the evening there will be singing. And through that singing, we will tell everyone that tomorrow we are invited to Barsana to play holi, so everyone should decorate themselves and be prepared for the festival. And in the morning everyone will prepare their shields.”

“What are the shields made from?” I asked.

“They’re made from some type of rubber, and bound with ropes. You’ll see that, and you will also help in decorating them nicely. And once we decorate them, we will go to Krishna and Balram and say that – ‘Okay… You are calling us? We will come to accompany You! Then they [the Goswamis in the spirit of Krishna’s cowherd boys] will sing and dance and show their shields like this [gesturing]… jump it so They know – ‘Ok! Krishna Murari is bringing this! Oh, Haridev is bringing this!

“Then everyone will get some small amount of color and put it here [in a cloth tied around the waist]. I will make a pocket like this, a place where I can put the color and just take the color from there. That is meant for that… that is called phenta. Then everyone will start; they will go to Nandishwar Mahadev because, you know, Lord Shiva is our security guard. He should also be invited with the mood that, ‘We are going to Barsana to play Holi… you should also come. You are living in our house, so how can you not come?’ Then everyone will know that Lord Shiva is also invited. Once everyone is invited then they go to one very old temple where one Baba was living – they go and invite him and his deities.”

image2-e1489088554520.jpgAround eleven in the morning we proceeded to the temple and had darshan of Shri Krishna and Balram with Their parents. We loved watching how the Goswamis, with the mood of Krishna’s sakhas, danced so joyfully to the music along with the sakhi-vesh-dhari devotees who had come from Barsana. Our host himself danced from the moment we arrived until long after my friend and I went home. It was apparent how much these Brijwasis had looked forward to this day.

My friend and I enjoyed in our own way, strolling along the temple’s rooftop, enjoying the spectacular view, and later playing Holi with children on the stairwell of the temple entrance. I personally enjoyed peeking under the rooftop canopy alongside some little boys, just because Brijwasi kids are so much fun to hang out with.

After coming back home for a short rest and lunch of Brijwasi rotis and sabji, we proceeded to Barsana by scooty to attend the Laddu Holi ceremony. It was a really beautiful program where Holi rasiyas were sung under a thick mist of pink powder, and then suddenly the Barsana Goswamis began to throw laddus from the rooftop. In the form of laddus and red color, it was like bliss was raining down on us, celebrating the fact that Shri Krishna had accepted Radharani’s invitation for Holi.

I had a big smile on my face as I thought, “There they are! Laddu Holi’s laddus!” 

There were many more people desiring laddus than there were laddus – and I guess the uncertainty made it all the more satisfying when one actually caught one. I did not catch a laddu but someone who did offered his laddu to me, and I saved it to give to a certain mahatma.

We lingered for some time at Shriji Mandir then proceeded back to Nandgaon, had prasad with our host family and again went to the temple in Nandgaon for Samaj Kirtan. During this kirtan the special gulal from the pot sent by Radharani in the morning was scattered upon the heads of all the present Goswamis, and some of it was taken home by them as Prasad.

Halwah was also distributed, to ensure the boys had sufficient strength to face the Barsana women the next day. I ate some as well, hoping it would help me get to the top of Shriji Mandir in the rush, and take lots of pictures for this article!

The ceremonies of that first day were lovely, but the most precious thing was the association of the local people, the Brajwasis. It would not have been the same without them, for we would not have had the chance to witness a drop of the beauty of their love for Shri Krishna.

Many of the Goswamis I met, like many other Brajwasis, could resemble coconuts at times – a rough exterior, hard to penetrate, but full of sweetness inside. I appreciate and worship them the way they are, but I also felt happy that our host’s mood was different – he just let himself be known with his natural sweetness and enthusiasm. I was really thankful for that because so often, many of us find ourselves stuck on the outside.

And I felt very fortunate just to be there, because for us, these places, Nandgaon and Barsana, are our eternal Home.

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17141651_10101210294043292_1344098320_n.jpgBarsana, 2017.03.05: The ‘Laddoo Holi’, was celebrated in Barsana on the eve of the ‘Latthamar Holi’ on Sunday. The residents of Barsana, the priests and devotees smeared colored powder (gulal) on each other and the ‘laddoos’ were flung to mark the beginning of the ‘Latthmar Holi’. The flung laddoos were kept with reverence as blessed offering.

Holi, the festival of colors is celebrated across Vraja with great deal of fervor and enthusiasm. The different places related to Krishna’s pastimes in Vraja, have unique ways to celebrate the Holi. On Sunday, it was the rain of ‘Laddoos’ at the Ladli ji Mandir in Varshana. The Laddoos were being flung from every side.

A priest (panda) from the Varsana Temple, who pretended to have come from Nand Bhavan of Nandgaon as a messenger, was welcomed on behalf of Shri Vrishbhanu baba,  father of Radha Rani. The Panda came to convey the message of accepting the challenge of playing Holi at Varsana.

The ‘laddoos’ were offered to the Panda to welcome him in Varsana. Getting the laddoo, the panda started to dance in ecstasy. The devotees also started dancing with him. Brajwasis were singing the song, “Nand gaon ko pando braj barsane aayo”…..

The song, the dance and the mood of the festival mesmerized the devotees. They immersed in the ‘holi mood’ completely splashing colors on each other and tossed the laddoos in the air. Everyone irrespective of any cast and creed caught the laddoos, and ate it with great devotion.

 

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Gusaiji-Gokul.jpgSince the time of Acharya Shri Vitthalnathji (Shri Gusaiji), Raag, Bhog and Shringar took on a new significance in the Pushti Marg sect.  He highlighted the importance of transforming people’s natural addiction to material things to the spiritual.

In an imperial age, when artistic and cultural achievements were reaching new heights, Gusaiji recognized the need to evolve the more austere form of Shri Vallabhacharyaji’s form of worship into something more elaborate.  In order to make God available to the people of his own time, Shri Gusaiji expressed the basis of Pushti Marg in a way that the modern man or woman could understand and follow.

At a time when new modern musical instruments were being introduced (tabla, sitar, etc.), new musical modes and raags were being devised, Shri Gusaiji helped preserve the purest form of ancient Indian music – Dhrupad. He helped resurrect interest in the original Indian music and through his active encouragement, he helped revive popular and imperial interest in Dhrupad.

Tansen, the greatest musician of Akbar’s court, converted to Islam to further his career.  Later, impressed by the divine court of Shri Nathji, and the music it produced, he converted to Pushti Marg and returned to Hinduism.

Shri Gusaiji was a connoisseur of fine things in life -–spiritual and material.  Just as he helped preserve the best of the old world, he also took ideas from the best of the new world.  Many of the bhogs (food items) introduced during his time reflect the culinary delights introduced and invented in the modern India of his time.  For example, the jalebi we all eat with such gusto, and a central feature of the bhog during Gusaiji’s utsav, was a new delicacy at the imperial court in Agra. Many regional, courtly and folk delicacies were introduced at the time.  Soon, the kitchens of Shri Gopal at Gopalpura were cooking fine delicacies that were certainly the envy of all.

Even in dress code, new, modern dresses were added to the wardrobe of the purely south Indian dress of dhoti and uparna.  Ghardar jamma, charvaag and achkan were offered o the Lord on festive occasions. These dresses preserve the haute couture of Medieval India.

It is in Shringar that we see some of the best fusion of these ancient and modern ideals. The age-old paagh was now decorated with expensive strings of pearls, rubies and emeralds, a style very much in vogue at the imperial court.  Aigrettes with plumes of peacock feathers (at court they wore feathers from various exotic birds) were studded with precious stones; chokers worked in gold and precious stones replaced the enamel ornaments of the previous era. Soon, like the royals of his time, Shrinathji also began to be dressed head to toe in a glittering array of jewels. Even his socks and shoes (mojadies) were embroided with real jewels.

In this way, Shri Gusaiji helped save the embattled Hindu sense of self-confidence by introducing a new court at Govardhan: a court that could rival the imperial court of Agra and yet be its best friend, thus embodying the very spirit of the time.

Many of the greatest politicians of the time, rulers and courtiers alike, were drawn to the court of Shrinathji.  Akbar himself came on a number of occasions to converse with Shri Gusaiji and even managed to obtain darshan of the Lord during Sharad Purnima.  During his many visits to Gokul he was even allowed to attend the regular darshans of Shri Navnit Priyaji. Taj Begam, the chief queen of Akbar and mother to the heir, was a deeply religious woman who was a devotee of Shri Gusaiji.  Tansen, Birbal and Raskhan were devotees too. Many Rajput kings prided themselves in being devotees of the sect.

This had a great impact on the fledgling sect at the time.  It absorbed many of the customs (purda for example) and ideas of the these esteemed devotees of the time. Gifts from the royal played a great part in helping to shape the modes of Shringar that were offered to the Lord at the time. Many jewels of that era are still offered to the lord and are worn on special occasions.

One of the most important jewels offered during that period is the diamond that is worn in the “chibuk” (chin) of the Lord. Akbar offered this during his Sharad Purnima darshan and since than, it has come to occupy a very special place in the shringar of Pushti Marg.

It is not known exactly when pichwais were added to the “Shringar” portion of the darshan, but the idea of using soft furnishings to transform a room was well-known at the time of Shri Gusaiji. It is more than possible that coloured and embroided cloth may have been hung in the inner sanctum of Shri Nathji from the earliest time.  Painted pichwais were added later, and later still, more and more of them were commissioned and preserved to commemorate special events.

Over the centuries, this idea of progressive infusion has been carried out by several enlightened Goswami balaks.  New festivals, such as Teej and Ghoomar have been added. New foods and musical instruments (such as sarangi) have been added to further the “raag, bhog and shringar” much espoused by Shri Gusaiji.

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