In Vrinda’s beautiful forest,
sprinkled thickly with jewel vines and trees,
their flowers colorful joyful light,
under the shade of a kadamba tree risen from golden ground,
a fair and dark couple now fills our eyes.
vṛkṣaiś citra-jyotir-ānanda-puṣpaiḥ |
cchāyāyāṁ naś cakṣuṣī gaura-nīle ||
This verse strikes me as a bit of an interlude, a reversion to a kind of meditation that we saw in verses 2.30-32, so though I am loathe to say something belongs somewhere else rather than here, it feels a bit that way. This is especially so since the next few verses continue a theme to which it seems Prabodhananda has been building. So I will refrain from commenting on the verse today, but rather make something of a blog post.
I have always found it difficult not to play a role in my own explanation of these verses, though it is, for all intents and purposes, freeing oneself of one’s worldly identity, even that of the sādhaka-dehaitself, to become immersed in that mood of the Divine Madhura rasa. But I have toyed with the idea of the sādhaka-deha as a lila in itself. We are interested in our own lives and our own stories. And if the story is that of a sādhaka-deha, then it is the love story of you and God. On an non-theistic level, it is the story of the self and the Self, i.e., the “bigger than self, that is yet none other than the self.”
So when the story of the sādhaka-deha, i.e, one’s own life story in relation to the Perfect Self, the pathway towards that brilliant light of the True Self, touches the soul, then one experiences rasa. It is when one’s own story becomes a revelation that we experience rasa. That the story suddenly becomes clear and true, confirmed by Fate Herself.
As I work on Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, I find myself turning more and more inward. At present I have to concentrate my mind on Bhakti Sandarbha also, and so I am beginning to crave a different environment. After all, bhajan is my real calling in life. And at my age, who really wants to run around?
I was just over at Vineet Narain‘s house next door where he is putting on a big bash to celebrate the birth of a second grandson. Vineet knows how to party, Braj style, and he can get the most important local Bhagavata speakers to accept his invitation — brahmins, politicians, ultrarich businessmen and so on are all friends with him for many years and for many reasons, not least of which is his very successful seva to Braj Bhumi. But it is also safe to say that this is Vineet Narain’s natural milieu to begin with.
I am just an unimportant neighbor, and acquaintance and, of course, not at all of that milieu. I was a bit of a party crasher when you come right down to it.
So I thought, why not, since I am here, to introduce myself to the local MLA and some of the other political and important social figures at their table, but they were obviously busy with their world. It felt somewhat worldly also, as much as anything for me in Vrindavan feels worldly.
So I thought that I had said enough and did not wish to intrude any further. I rose and stated my polite goodbyes to the VP of the BJP for UP, who had come from Lucknow. I apologized to him that I had not been familiar with him before meeting, and he made a gentlemanly gesture and said we would meet again. I said I hoped so, but that I am getting a little too old to run around to politicians’ [or rich men’s] offices. Nevertheless, I have faith in Bharatavarsha and am attempting to get some service done to this land before I leave the world. Because I am ultimately a supporter of the BJP, and it is out of love for the idea I have of Bharatavarsha, as the birthplace and homeland of the Rishis, of the Buddha, of Mahaprabhu, of Krishna, of Radha Shyam and this divine land of Vrindavan.
And I am sincere. But rather than sweeping the streets myself to set example, as someone suggested to me the other day, I truly think that the greatest service I can do is to get to the bottom of things spiritually and to write about it. And my primary medium for understanding the Supreme Truth is the sādhanā of Braja-vāsa. That is what I think I am supposed to share at this stage in my life.
My basic premise is that those foreigners who have merged into Braja culture — and I mean Bengalis, Gujaratis, Nepalis and Dravidians, as well as the new generations of people from outside Bharatavarsha — they do so not without leaving their mark.
Those who come with a dream to live in a particular place, immigrants, enrich that place by enriching the dream that gives that place its character, even when they come with a lot of samskara baggage that might be quite undesirable. The dream of Vrindavan is not the same as the American dream, not by a long shot.
There is something of a learning process process involved here. It goes both ways, but those who teach about the outside world come from the outside world, and those who teach about the real Vrindavan, the Vrindavan that is ingrained in its eternal dust, are the ones who were born in it. And certainly anyone who plans on being a Brajavasi has to honor the people who live here and whose roots are here, across this entire spectrum of life and society, caste and class.
Indeed, such is the actual duty of an immigrant anywhere.
It is puzzling to me that foreigners could come to live in Vrindavan or Braj and then think that the people born here, high caster or low, educated or illiterate, are somehow not real Brajavasis unless they are marked Vaishnava sādhakas. Who think that they are here to teach rather than to learn, thinking that everything they need to know is already known.
For those who come to Vrindavan from afar, with whatever motivation, the highest motivation or ultimate goal is to enter into the Divine Vrindavan, which is a brilliant state of conscience above all others, the abode of Prema, the abode of Radha and Krishna. And since Braja-vāsa sādhana includes all the others, especially the most powerful ones, it is the only place where a complete sādhana of prema bhakti is possible.
Dhruvadas writes how a real rasika sādhaka sees Vrindavan: Even doing bhajan elsewhere is not as good as merely sleeping in the dust of Vrindavan and drinking the water of the Yamuna.
वृन्दावन में जो कबहुँ भजन कछु नहिं होइ ।
रज तौ उढ़ि लागै तनहिं पीवे जमुना तोइ ॥५३॥
vṛndāvana meṁ jo kabahuɱ bhajana kachu nahiṁ hoi |
raja tau uḏi lāgai tanahiṁ pīve jamunā toi ||53||
और देस के भजन ही घटत भजन की बात ।
वृन्दावन में स्वारथौ उलटि भजन ह्वै जात ॥५६॥
aura desa ke bhajana hī ghaṭata bhajana kī bāta |
vṛndāvana meṁ svārathau ulaṭi bhajana hvai jāta ||56||
I read Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta and I think about what it really means to be a Brajavasi. To just let the dust and water take over and propel my plunge into the Radha ocean where the mind fish of Shyamasundar swims.