VARTA 1: The Story of Nagaji Bhat (Part I)
Bhavaprakasha: Here begins the story of Sri Nagaji Bhat, whom Sri Gusainji called Nagiya’. Sri Gusainji used to call Nagaji Bhat ‘Nagiya.’ This was because, ‘nagiya’ means naga (cobra). Just as Vishnu dwells upon the divine serpent Shesh Naga’s heart—that is to say, He reclines upon him—Sri Gusainji forever and ever resides in the heart of Nagaji Bhat. The doubt may arise that Sri Gusainji is by nature merciful to the devotees. He resides in every devotee’s heart, so why should Nagaji Bhat alone be called naga? The answer can be found in Sri Acharyaji Mahaprabhuji’s Subodhiniji commentary on the tenth volume of the Srimad Bhagavatam, in the first kārikā of his invocation.
namāmi hṛdaye śeṣe līlā-kṣīrābdhi-śāyinam |
lakṣmī-sahasra-līlābhiḥ sevyamānaṁ kalā-nidhim ||
Through this verse, Sri Acharyaji is saying, “The High Lord, served by thousands of divine consorts, the Ocean of Virtues, reigns in the Milk Ocean of His lilas, reclining on the Shesh Naga of my heart.”
Similarly, Sri Gusainji is the Lord Himself who, along with all His lilas, reigns in Nagaji Bhat’s heart. With this sweet mood, Sri Gusainji used to call Nagaji Bhat “Nagiya”.
Furthermore, just as a naga is a gloomy (tamasik) creature, Nagaji Bhat is a devotee with divine loving stubbornness (tamasi). Devotees who are lovingly stubborn in nature have great attachment for the Lord’s Form. How do we know this? Once Nagaji Bhat was in the service of Sri Govardhanadhari. But at that time, Nagaji Bhat kept feeling the desire to see Sri Gusainji in his immanent (physical) form. So he wrote a verse and sent it to Sri Gusainji in Arail. [Arail is near Prayag and was Sri Vallabhacharya’s residence for many years.] Here is that verse:
sarasi kuśeśayam apy āsvāditum āgaccho’lino mārge |
yadi kanaka-kamala-pāne nāsīt toṣaḥ kim anyena||
In this verse, Nagaji Bhat calls Sri Gusainji a lotus growing in the water. And he refers to Sri Govardhandhara as a golden lotus. From this we can understand that Nagaji Bhat has greater affection for the immanent manifestation of Sri Gusainji.
And Nagaji Bhat’s celestial form is that of Padmavati gopi. She is a manifestation of Sri Lalita Ji. Divine loving stubbornness is her intrinsic nature. In the form of Padmavati, Lalita constantly serves Sri Chandravaliji. Sri Lalitaji’s manifests as Padmavati through Chandravaliji. But Lalita herself manifests from Sri Chandravaliji. Thus Lalita becomes a Sakhi qualified to serve both Sri Swaminiji and Sri Chandravaliji. She always remains absorbed in serving both.
Why? Because these two are the main Swaminis. Sri Swaminiju’s heart is the foundation and the sustenance of Love for Sri Thakurji, whilst Sri Chandravaliji’s heart incites his remembrance. So being, these two Swaminis reside at Sri Thakurji’s two sides. Whenever you see two Swaminis with Thakurji, understand it in this way: Sri Swaminiji always reigns at Sri Thakurji’s left side, and Sri Chandravaliji reigns at His right. Thus they are the two main Swaminis. There is no difference between them.
Padmavati is Sri Chandravaliji’s very loved and trusted sakhi. In the lila she remains immersed in serving Sri Chandravaliji very excellent things. In the very same way, Nagaji Bhat was forever fixated on offering all the best things to Sri Gusainji. Examples are this are well known in the stories of the mangoes and the cloth.
Sri Nagaji Bhatt was constantly engrossed in Sri Gusainji’s form. Therefore he did not have a separate arrangement for the Lord’s seva at home since he considered Sri Gusainji to be the Lord Himself. His level of seva was to serve Sri Thakurji through meditation; Mānasī sā parā matā. Thus he always remained rapt in the sweet elixir of Sri Thakurji’s lila.
Nagaji Bhat was born into a family of Satodara brahmins in Godhra. He was the youngest of four brothers. He studied up to a high grade. When their father died all the brothers became separated. The father had been a landlord and thus very wealthy. The money was divided up between them. After some time Nagaji got married to a pious wife. Some time later they had a daughter. Not long afterward a plague hit the village and Nagaji’s three brothers all died.
The kingdom was in trouble and and Nagaji lost all his wealth. He was very upset. In that village lived one of Sri Acharyaji’s disciples named Rana Vyas.Nagaji went to see him and told him his tales of woe. He was wailing. Rana Vyas told him to go to Arail and take shelter in his guru who was the Lord himself. “You will be very happy if you dedicate your life to him,” he said. “You will be happy in this world and the next. I myself am Sri Acharyaji’s disciple.” Hearing this Nagaji Bhat left Godhra to go to Arail, where he arrived after some days.
TEXT : First of all Nagaji Bhat approached Sri Acharyaji for Holy Name initiation. Then Sri Acharyaji instructed Nagaji Bhat thus: “Nagaji! Go to my son (Sri Gusainji) and receive the Holy Name from him.”
Bhavaprakasha: Why so? Because Nagaji Bhat is related to Sri Gusainji’s Form. He was destined to have greater affection for Sri Gusainji. Thus Sri Acharyaji instructed him, “Go to my son and receive the Holy Name from him.” And the second reason was that Sri Acharyaji would soon become an ascetic, and he would have the tradition carried on by his descendants. This is why Sri Thakurji had instructed him to marry. Considering all this, Sri Acharyaji sent Nagaji Bhat to Sri Gusainji.
Here the doubt may arise: Sri Acharyaji’s eldest son is Sri Gopinath. Why did Sri Acharyaji not send Nagaji Bhat to him? The answer is: Sri Gopinathji is the avatar of Sri Baladevji, who adheres to the path of lawful limitations. He is greatly inclined towards performing spiritual practices. Sri Gusainji would lead the Path of Grace in the future. He would be the one to spread this Path of Grace. For this reason Sri Acharyaji offered the Pushti Margi souls into the care of Sri Gusainji. The main vessel of Pushti Margi philosophy is Nagaji Bhat. So Sri Acharyaji sent Nagaji Bhat to Sri Gusainji. Thus Nagaji Bhat became Sri Gusainji’s first servant. Just as Sri Acharyaji Mahaprabhuji’s first servant is Damodardas Harsani, in the same way Sri Gusainji’s first servant is Nagaji Bhat.
TEXT: Nagaji Bhat went to Sri Gusainji and offered his humble request; then Sri Gusainji had mercy on him and gave him Holy Name initiation. Thereafter he gave him Brahma Sambandha (the second initiation). Nagaji Bhat became a vessel of Sri Gusainji’s grace and an accomplished devotee. Nagaji stayed with Sri Gusainji for several days, then he returned home.
Later on, the time came for Nagaji Bhat’s daughter to get married. The Vaishnavas of Khambhaich heard about it. Those Vaishnavas were disciples of Sri Gusainji. They gathered some wealth amongst themselves and wrote an promissory note, folded it to conceal it inside a letter, and sent it with a messenger from Khambhaich to Nagaji in Godhra.
In the letter, those Vaishnavs wrote to Nagaji, “This wealth is for your daughter’s wedding. Please make it a grand occasion.” The messenger brought this letter to Nagaji Bhat’s home in Godhra and gave it to him. After reading it Nagaji Bhat thought to himself, “It is not at all appropriate for the wealth given by these Vaishnavas to be used for a wedding. This is not my idea of the righteous path. I shall give my daughter in marriage to a poor Brahmin. This money belongs to Sri Gusainji and it would be better for it to be given to him.”
Bhavaprakasha: Nagaji was a householder, therefore it was not right for him to use the wealth of others. A Vaishnava’s wealth always belongs to Sri Thakurji, therefore Nagaji did not want to use it for worldly purposes.
TEXT: Nagaji wrote a note confirming receipt of the funds and sent the messenger back to Khambhaich with it. He went to a gold dealer and purchased gold coins from a gold dealer and came home again. He took a bamboo pole and, after making it hollow, filled it with the gold coins. Nagaji dressed up as a cloth dealer and, carrying that stick in his hands, traveled from Godhra to Gokul in order to have the darshan of Sri Gusainji there.
Sri Gusainji became aware that Nagaji was on his way to see him. On the way there was an old lady Vaishnava living in a village who was one of Sri Gusainji’s disciples. Sri Gusainji revealed to her in a dream that one of his disciples Nagaji Bhat would soon be coming there dressed as a cloth dealer. He told her to keep him in her home and feed him for three days, making sure that she fed him with only sakhdi prasad.
NOTE: There are different types of samagri used in offerings in the Pushti Marg: Ansakhdi, which uses grains with the exception of rice, etc., is fried in ghee and never boiled; and sakhdi, which is principally boiled rice and daal, etc. The distinction between sakhdi and ansakhdi is the same as that of kacha and pakka elsewhere in Braj. The Pushtimargis altogether have five divisions of samagri for offerings also. Dudhghar is another category, which uses only milk products and sugar and is used for bal bhog. The distinctions are based on the transmission of contamination through touch. Those engaging in deity worship must be aware of the rules for separating the different kinds of food and the pots, etc., used for cooking.
That very night Sri Gusainji told Nagaji in a dream that on the following day he would meet a certain lady in a certain village and that he should stay in her home for three days and accept sakhdi prasad from her.
In the morning the old lady arose and began her seva, cooked and made the offerings to her Lord. After the correct amount of time she accepted the offerings as prasad, made her Sri Thakurji comfortable, put the prasad away, came outside and stood there. In the afternoon Nagaji found himself on the outskirts of that very village and stood on the path. He was worried about going to an unknown house without an invitation. Standing on the same path the old lady was also worrying about whether the Vaishnava was coming. They were both anxious until she saw him from afar. Full of devotion and love she approached Nagaji Bhat. She affectionately greeted him with “Jay Sri Krishna!”
Later on she explained to Nagaji Bhat how Sri Gusainji had instructed her to invite him to stay in her home. She asked him with great respect and then brought him to her house. Nagaji Bhat realized that this was the lady from whom Sri Gusainji had ordered him to take prasad. However a doubt arose in his mind as to how he could accept prasad from her.
Bhavaprakasha: The reason for this doubt was that Nagaji was a Gaud Brahmin by caste, and he was considering caste divisions. In the Lila this old lady is a sakhi of Sri Chandravaliji named Bahula who had a very simple nature. She is therefore very dear to Chandravaliji. At this time Nagaji was not aware of her identity and so had not recognized her heart, hence his doubt.
TEXT: Then the old lady invited Nagaji to bathe. He replied that he did not intend to accept sakhdi prasad from her. She said that he should eat only what he pleased, but that he should have a bath anyway. Nagaji did just that. She then served him prasad of the ansakhdi and dudhghar types, and he partook. He then announced that he was now going to take his leave but the old lady reminded him that Sri Gusainji had told her to keep him in her home for three whole days. Nagaji stayed for the three days but only partook of ansakhdi prasad. After this Nagaji took his leave of her and proceeded to Gokul to have the Holy Sight of Sri Gusainji.
Bhavaprakasha: The question here arises, “Why did Sri Gusainji insist on his staying there for three days?” Answer: Up until now Nagaji was not able to recognise a Vaishnava’s true form. By making him stay for three days the idea was to let him become aware of the extent of a Vaishnava heart. Therefore he ordered Nagaji to stay with her for three days.
Sri Gusainji had also instructed him to partake of sakhdi prasad from her hand. This is because sakhdi prasad represents deep affection. When one has deep affection for a Vaishnava they should offer them sakhdi prasad. The old lady had deep affection for Vaishnavas. Sri Gusainji wanted to grant Nagaji the experience of this through her. Thus the order for him to take sakhdi prasad from her hand. In three days this experience should have become established in his heart.
There is another reason too: For the sake of the old lady’s heart Sri Gusainji told Nagaji to share sakhdi prasad with her for three days, thus fulfilling her hearts desire. However Nagaji was not yet aware of this. So he only partook of ansakhdi prasad for those three days.
TEXT: On the day that Nagaji was to arrive in Gokul, four hours before, Sri Gusainji announced to the Vaishnavas gathered around him, “My Nagaji should arrive today.” He then bathed and dressed in his dhoti and uparna*, sat on his Aparas* seat.
At that moment Nagaji arrived and, having the vision of him as the Lord bearing a conch and discus, bowed low before him. Sri Gusainji asked him when he had arrived. He replied that he had only just arrived. Then Sri Gusainji asked him, “O, Nagaiya, with which Vaishnavas did you stay during your journey? Where did you take prasad?” Nagaji replied that he had stayed with one old lady for three days and had partaken of ansakhdi prasad. Hearing this Sri Gusainji asked him, “Why did you not accept sakhdi prasad from that Lady who is one of my closest disciples?” Saying this Sri Gusainji turned his back on Nagaji.
Bhavaprakasha: The reason for this was that Sri Gusainji had told him to accept her sakhdi prasad for three days in order that he might receive the blessed gift of firmly established love in his heart. He asked, “Why did you question my instructions? That old lady, because of you, did not have any sakhdi prasad today and that is an offence.” Sri Gusainji was very unhappy and so turned his back on Nagaji.
TEXT: After depositing the pole containing the coins in the store, Nagaji immediately went back to that old lady’s house. She offered him some ansakhdi prasad. Nagaji told her that he had come specifically to partake of sakhdi prasad. She was very happy and offered him some. Nagaji stayed there and partook of sakhdi prasad for three days. Thereafter he took his leave of her and set off back to Gokul. He arrived there after some days and bowed low to Sri Gusainji who asked him where he had been for all these days. When Nagaji told him that he had stayed in the old lady’s house for three days and partaken of sakhdi prasad then Sri Gusainji became overjoyed.
Bhavaprakasha: Now Nagaji had realised the true Vaishnava form. Therefore Sri Gusainji was glad.
This serialized translation of the Braj Bhasha book, 252 Vaishnavan ki varta is being made available by Krishnaa Kinkari, who has been studying and practising in the Pushti Marg tradition for many years. Her website is here for those who would like to communicate with her or to purchase her books.
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