I am very happy to be able to start this series, a translation of the Braj Bhasha book, 252 Vaishnavan ki varta, from the Vallabhacharya sampradaya, better known as Pushti Marg or “the path of Grace.” Krishnaakinkari has been translating and publishing literature from the Pushti Margi tradition for many years, helping to make it known to a wider audience in the English-speaking world. I am sure that those around the world who love Vrindavan will delight in these stories.
In the Path of Grace [Pushtimarga] the tradition and temples of which are today centered for the most part in Vraja in Srimad Gokul and Jatipura, these Vaishnava Vartas which recount the lives of Divine Souls and how they are initiated into the Vaishnava devotional life, are probably the best known and widely discussed pieces of literature. They reveal, in layman’s language, the principles of the Path and how to apply them to one’s devotional life. They are informative and inspiring, since they describe the history, traditions, geography, pilgrimage, lifestyle, names, dress, eating habits, music, festivals, educational system, home-remedies, folk traditions, environmental and socio-political conditions and the dos and don’ts of this Path of Grace founded by Srimad Vallabhacharyaji (1479 to 1531 AD).
These 252 Stories all occur within the lifetime of Vallabha’s son Sri Vitthalnathaji, also known as Sri Gusainji (1516-1572). They are composed by Sri Gokulnathaji, his fourth son, and the commentary Bhāva-prakāśa is by Sri Harirayji, Sri Vallabhacharyaji’s great-grandson. The language is Vraja Bhasha.
The text that follows is translated into English by Krishnaakinkari, faithfully following the original. Let it speak for itself. Historical dates are not as important as the content. Bhava supersedes Gyan.
These are the stories of the 252 Vaishnavas as revealed by Sri Gokulnathaji, with the commentary of Sri Harirayaji, written here as he explained it.
There are 84 Vaishnavas who are all parts of Sri Acharyaji’s own form, who are the foremost devotees in the neutral mood (nirguna). Their stories were told in the 84 Vaishnavon ki Varta.
Additionally, there are 84 Vaishnavas of the divine peaceful nature (sattviki)*, 84 Vaishnavas of the divine passionate nature (rajasi)*, and 84 Vaishnavas of the divine lovingly stubborn nature (tamasi)*. Altogether these three groups make 252 Vaishnavas, and all of whom are related to Sri Gusainji’s form. In fact, they are the divine, perfectly capable parts of Sri Gusainji’s own Form.
Once with great pleasure Sri Gusainji said to Rukmini Bahuji, “All these Vaishnavas are mine; in fact, they are parts of my own body form.” Sri Rukmini Bahuji humbly asked, “Which part of you is Uncle Harivamsji?” Sri Gusainji replied to Sri Rukmini Bahuji, “Uncle Harivamsji is the pupil of my eyes.”
Thereafter, one day Uncle Harivamsji got injured. He was in pain. At that moment, Sri Gusainjis eyes began to ache. Sri Rukmini Bahuji asked Sri Gusainji, “Why are your eyes paining you?” Then Sri Gusainji instructed her, “Uncle Harivams has been injured and he is in pain; that is why my eyes are hurting.” After that, when Uncle Harivamsji got better, Sri Gusainji’s eyes also healed.
In this way, Sri Gusainji taught Sri Rukmini Bahuji the true nature of accomplished Vaishnavas. This is why one should always fear offending Vaishnavas. Why? Because there is no difference between Sri Thakurji and accomplished Vaishnavas. In the book Pushti Pravaha Maryada, Sri Acharyaji Mahaprabhu has written explaining the true nature of accomplished devotees. The verse is as follows:
tasmāj jīvāḥ puṣṭi-mārge bhinnā eva na saṁśayaḥ |
bhagavad-rūpa-sevārthaṁ tat sṛṣṭir nānyathā bhavet ||12||
svarūpeṇāvatāreṇa liṅgena ca guṇena ca |
tāratamyaṁ na svarūpe dehe vā tat-kriyāsu vā ||13||
These are the qualities of accomplished devotees. Thus there is no difference between the Lord and the accomplished devotees. Further, Sri Gusainji is himself the Lord in full. Thus the accomplished devotees are the parts of his Form.
In this way, Sri Gusainji showed Sri Rukmini Bahuji the true nature of Vaishnavas. He did so in order to give her firm and lasting faith. One may observe all kinds of behaviour in accomplished Vaishnavas, but one should never doubt them.
Now Sri Gusainji’s personal servant Sri Gokulnathaji reveals the profound stories of the 252 Vaishnavas, and Sri Harirayaji interprets their inner meanings through his commentary, in order to impart this knowledge to the Vaishnavas of Pushti Marg.
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