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84 Vaishnavas whose lives were touched by Shri Vallabhacharya ji

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imageproxy.jpgJay Shri Radhe! We are about to embark upon a new series of installments of 84 Vaishnavon ki Varta. We hope you will enjoy these accounts of the great souls whose lives were touched by Shri Vallabhacharya ji.

Introduction

Shri Acharyaji with wife and sons in seva

The 84 Vartas are the true history of the Path of Grace. No Pushtimargi Vaishnavas bookshelf or life is complete without them. We can look into these accounts of the close associates of Shri Vallabhacharyaji and learn from their every word. In the present day they can always solve the dilemma of how to behave under certain circumstances and especially how to keep the heart clean and pure enough for the Service of the Lord. Some Vaishnavas like to open the book randomly and get a message for that day; others do a regular and continuous reading of them. Vaishnavas are scattered all over the world and communications are good, but the 84 Vaishnavon ki Varta is like a guiding light, revealing the lives of so many individuals who serve Shri Krishna as Shri Vallabhacharyaji taught. They also simplify the understanding of Shri Vallabhacharyajis essential teachings, his Path of Grace. His philosophical System, rooted in passages from the Vedas, Sutras, ShrimadBhagavata Mahapurana and the Shrimad Bhagavadgita, is called ‘Brahma Vada’ which means perceiving everything to be God and nothing but God.

The individual grasps the concept of the greatness and all pervading aspect of God from which arises Bhakti, Loving Devotion to God as the Beloved. Recognition of His greatness can engender love and admiration which can then mature into simple Love which needs no reason because it is spontaneous and complete.

The characteristics of the Path of Grace and its fundamental thread of thought and attitude have been superbly elucidated in Shri Harirayjis ‘Pushtimargi Lakshanani’ treatise [also published by Vraja Kishori Publications] These 84 Vartas are prime examples of these principles in action.

Here we present the whole book in English for the diaspora – those Vaishnavas who cannot read the original text in Devanagari, and others fortunate enough to be exposed to this knowledge.

The text is composed by Shri Gokulnathaji, Mahaprabhuji’s great–grandson, and the commentary is by Shri Harirayji who was the great-grandson of Shri Gokulnathajis elder brother, and who had accepted Shri Gokulnathaji as his Guru.

Known as the ‘three life version’ these vartas describe three periods in the development of each of the individuals described:

1] their role in Shri Krishna’s pastimes in His Divine Realm,

2] their circumstance and character before meeting Shri Acharyaji and

3] their devotional life after initiation.

Herein are also revealed the variety of souls’ natures. The basic division is between divine and demoniac, that is, godly and ungodly. Within these categories, Shri Acharyaji makes the further distinctions of character, as per ‘pravahi’ [those who stay in the worldly flow and who are thus fundamentally ungodly], maryada (moral) and pushti (loving) both of whom are godly although quite distinct from each other. The Maryada Margis are souls who follow scriptural rules in their worship and expect the rewards as promised therein. The Pushti Margis serve the Lord in every kind of loving way without expectation of any reward other than more service! This service attitude is the most direct and intimate relationship with the Beloveds.

The combinations of Pravahi, Maryada and Pushti Bhaktas lead to Devotees with many varieties of character and deeds, [pushti-pravahi, pushti-maryada and pushti-pushti.] The highest category is the fourth, wherein the Devotees are beyond measure for they are most pure and rare and thus upon whose Love even the Lord is dependent. They are distinguished by their Love for the Beloveds that excludes the need to understand Their greatness.

The finest example of such devotees is the Gopis of Shri Vrindavan. They are the recipients of the Lords highest Grace.

All of these stories reveal different facets of Divine Grace and Daivi-Jivas (noble souls) whose natures, occupations, talents and tendencies are diverse but who are nevertheless the vessels of the Grace of the Lord, who is, after all, ‘Virudhdharmashraya’ – the Abode of Diverse qualities. For example, he is simultaneously the Creator and a small child sitting on His mother’s lap. The Form of Shri Krishna served in the Pushtimarga is He Who is the Beloved of the Gopis, ‘ShriGopijanavallabha’ and He Who plays in the Forest Bowers of Shri Vrindavan where He is “Shri ShriRadhakunjavihariji”. It is in this Vraja tradition that Shri Vallabhacharyaji has revealed to the Daivi-Jivas this most Graceful Form of the Lord which is His original Pure Bliss manifestation Whose purpose is to give joy to the devotees.

There are endless ways in which the Beloveds bless us, but, our hearts must be pure enough to recognize them. There are also many ways to relate to Him although the broad categories have been stated as ‘servant, parent, friend and lover’.

Pushtimargi devotees relate to Him in these ways and not as the Great God of all creation Who can grant liberation. They wish only to serve Him with love. They want to see Him in their hearts [known as the mood of viprayog or separation] as well as with their physical eyes [samyoga or direct union].

In the Path of Grace, the former is more revered because in the state of separation from one’s Beloved, one can simultaneously remember all of ones loving experiences with Them whereas in the latter the play of the present is prominent.


Shri Acharyaji shows how on every leaf on every tree in Braj there is a Swaroop of Shri Krishna

Both states are equally valuable and as the end result, the Devotee is never a moment without the Beloved’s remembrance and their every emotion is linked to the Divine. They clearly see the Lord in their own and everyone else’s hearts so that their spiritual realization of sarvatmabhava (seeing God in all) is perfected. Their rich Devotion is enhanced with these two aspects at all times. Grace is recognized in every situation.

The reward of pure PushtiSeva, the realization of the Lord’s presence is attainable only through great humility. Such humbleness is pleasing to Vaishnavas, the Guru and the Lord.

The Svarupas of the Lord mentioned in these accounts are still worshipped to this day in the families of the Vaishnavas or the Gurus ancestral havelis (homes). The occurrences within these stories are reflected in Their traditions of worship.

ŚRĪ GOPĪJANAVALLABHĀȲA NAMAḤ!

84 Vaishnavon ki varta
FOREWORD: Shri Hariraya ji’s Bhavaprakasha

[EXPLANATION AND CLARIFICATION OF THE RELATIONSHIP OF EACH OF THESE DISCIPLES TO THE TEACHINGS OF SRI ACHARYAJI, THEIR GURU]

The reason for the appearance of the 84 Vaishnavas:
Divinely oriented souls are scattered throughout the 84 lakh species of creation and so the 84 Vaishnavas are revealed in order to liberate them from these repetitive wombs. Embodied souls [humans] are of 84 types: 4 categories came to this earthly planet. They are Rajasi, Tamasi, Satviki and Nirguna. Of these, the Nirguna souls are associated with and uplifted by Shri Vallahacharyaji. The other three categories are uplifted by Shri Gusainji. [“The 252 Vaishnavas”]

Shri Govardhannathji cannot live without Shri Acharyaji. Therefore He manifested His 84 most personal and totally pure Vaishnavas, one from each one lakh [one hundred thousand] wombs, thus uplifting all those Vaishnavas through them.

The scriptures [Shastras] concerned with Divine love and moods of the heart have prescribed 84 ‘seats of love’. Now these 84 Vaishnavas are the spotless representatives of all of these seats revealed in the Lord’s loving Pastimes.

It is declared that Shri Acharyaji has 12 limbs. Each one of these 12 limbs contains the 6 Divine qualities [aishvarya-opulence,virya-strength, yasha-fame, sri-beauty, gyana-knowledge and vairagya-renunciation] and additionally He Who is the embodiment and source of all these ‘dharmas’, known as the ‘Dharmi’. So,each limb has 7 features.7 x 12 =84 and so Shri Acharyaji’s form is divine and all-powerful.

The Pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead take place within the 84 kos [168 mile] circumference of this Realm of Vraja. Each of them uplifts the souls fallen into the 8,400,000 species or wombs through the specific pastimes in those places whereby the Vaishnavas return to their rightful identity within the pastimes. This is how the 84 Vaishnavas may be understood.

One day, when Shri Gokulnathji, immersed in bliss while discussing these accounts of the 84 Vaishnavas with Kalyan Bhattji and other Vaishnavas, did not broach the subject of the Subodhiniji, even until half the night had passed. OneVaishnava approached Shri Gokulnathji and enquired, “O, Great Teacher, when are you going to start the readings? Half the night has passed already.”

Shri Gokulnathji replied “thesestories we have read today are the reward of all the other readings. Know that they constitute every good result of any other scriptural reading. There is nothing superior to Vaishnava devotees. The path of Grace reaches its full maturity through them alone. ShriAcharyaji said “O Damala, this Path is made for you. Therefore you should recognize the superior position of Vaishnavas and these 84 are his devotees way beyond any material qualities and thus superior.

Additionally there remain the devotees of satviki, rajasi and tamasidis positions. ShriGusainji had 84 in each of these categories which total the 252 Vaishnavas who are his disciples. So,then, know the significance of Shri Acharyajis and Shri Gusainjis devotee associates.

Now Shri Harirayji reveals some of the devotional mood within the forthcoming stories to be told by Shri Gokulnathji. First of all he throws light on the tale of Damodardas whom Shri Acharyaji called Damala.

Shri Acharyaji called Damodardas ‘Damala’ which derives from the word ‘amala’ meaning: faultless. There is a little play on words here,for, even an ordinary Vaishnava is ‘amal’ [without the last a, also meaning faultless] and thus even just their sight is purifying. But, Damodardas is said to be amala, with the a, because even just seeing him or saying his name can remove all sin!

The understanding reads thus: When a Vaishnava devotee on the Path of loving devotion has much love for the Lord then they are ‘amal’, but when they have even more love for Shri Acharyaji they are then ‘amala’.

Damodardas had unshakeable immutable love for his Guru Shri Acharyaji and once, when Shri Acharyaji had fallen asleep with his head in Damodardas’ lap, Shri Krishna, Upholder of the Shri Giriraji mountain, approached there to meet Shri Acharyaji but Damodardas asked the Lord not to wake him up and did not even bow down to the Lord for risk of disturbing his resting Guru. That was the depth of his faith and he gained the name Damala, for he put his Gurus needs before his own merit. Shri Gusainji once asked Damodardas why he had elevated his Guru above the Lord and he replied “is the reward greater than the one who grants it? It is the granter of the reward who decides whether it is given or not.” This is Damodardas firm faith and thus he was called Damala, for there was not even a hint of any other feeling within his heart.

There are more meanings to glean from his name. In his “Purushottama Sahastranam Stotra” treatise, Shri Vallabhacharyaji has explained that Shri Krishna, when known as Damodar (because He allowed His mother to bind Him with a cord around the waist) is thus  revealed to be very kind to His devotees.

Shri Acharyaji has explained this in his Shri Subodhiniji. The Highest Form of God allows His devotees to hold Him under their sway. He appeared not to be able to even undo the ties! In this way, through the pastime with Shri Yashodaji, He lets us see the true Form of the Gopis and their relationship to Him. He allowed Shri Yashodaji to tie Him up! He deemed fit to be tied up since it was the Gopis who brought the rope. But He was incapable of undoing the knots that Shri Yashodaji had tied. So He caused the two Yamalarjuna trees to fall down with a crashing sound and then only did the Gopis untie Him. The status given to Shri Yashodaji and the Gopis here is even beyond Shri Thakurjis own. This is when the Lord appeared as He Who is most merciful to His devotees. So this is why Damodardas was given such a name, for he was an exclusive devotee and Shri Acharyaji was bound to him through love. That’s why he famously exclaimed, “Damalaji, this Path was made for you alone. There may be many devotees but I depend on you.”

Damodardas’ form in the Spiritual world is Shri Lalitaji Sakhi. In those private Pastimes Shri Lalitaji is Shri Svaminijis close companion and here Damodardas was Shri Acharyaji’s closest disciple. He was celibate from birth and never entered into marriage or became a householder.

Shri Lalitaji’s form can be known within the following poem:

(Raga Kedaro)

“The Lord smiles as He drinks His evening milk. As He does so He also chats softly and sweetly with Shri Radhikaji, Who is more Dear to Him than His own life-breath. The bowl of nectarean milk is presented by Shri Lalitaji’s hand. She gives it to Shri Thakurji  Who offers it to His Beloved first before sipping it Himself. The Lovely Lady lives in Shri Thakurji’s heart and when He looks at Her in there He smiles some more. The Poet Rasika [Shri Harirayji] surrenders to the freshly new and beauteous Form of Shri Shyama and Shri Shyam.

This is the mood of this poem-“The two Beloveds are sitting on a jewel studded throne. ShriLalitaji comes there with a bowl of milk, boiled until thick, sweetened with sugar candy and fragranced with saffron and other spices. Shri Lalitaji considers, Both of Them are sitting before me. If I give the bowl to Shri Svaminiji, She will drink it only after He has tasted it. If it happens this way my idea will not be fulfilled. That is why I will give the bowl to Shri Thakurji Who will first of all offer it to Shri Svaminiji before He tastes it. She gives the bowl to Shri Krishna. He first gives it to Shri Radhikaji and then savours it Himself. She tastes it from His very hand. In His hand is the Wish granting Jewel Chintamani which is Shri Svaminji’s heart from which He enjoys it. In this way He is satisfied by the drops of milk and He smiles with joy. Shri Harirayji takes shelter in this fresh and new pastime of great Beauty.”

This is the same kind of mood as between Damodardas and Shri Acharyaji. This is why Damodardas did not have deities to serve but only served his Guru. For him Shri Acharyaji is the Lord Himself. Damodardas is the best example of ‘manasi Seva’-service which manifests uninterruptedly  in the mind and heart. He was thus always drowning in the bliss of the Ocean of Love for the Lord.

About the Translator and her initiation in to the life of loving service: 

After meeting Shyamdas in Gokul around 1974 and entering the Vallabha Sampradaya through this connection I was initiated with “Brahma Sambandha” and invited  by my Guru, Shri Prathamesh Gosvami Ranacodlalacharyaji, to live in the Shri Mathuradishji Haveli in Jatipura. I spent several years serving and studying there in the lap of Shri Giriraji. Now, in my later years, I keep my heart close to the Path through translations of these Vaishnava Biographies and the abundant Poetry of the Ashtachaap  disciples of Shri Vallabhacharyaji and his son Shri Gusainji much of which as yet untranslated/transliterated word-for-word into English. The matter given in this series is directly translated from the original Vraja Bhasha.

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