Shrila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Maharaja’s pranama mantra is as follows:
nama om visnu-padaya gaura-presthaya bhu-tale
srimad bhakti-pramodaya puri goswamin iti namine
"I offer my obeisance unto Om Visnupada Shrila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Gosvami, who is most dear to Shri Gaura in this world."
divya-jnana pradatra ca prabhave janma janmani
jnana-vairagya-dehaya sastra-siddhanta samvide
"Birth after birth, may he always bestow and enlighten me with divine knowledge. He is the personification of spiritual wisdom and is the revealer of the conclusions of sastra."
patitanam samuddhare yati-vesadharaya vai
pracaracara karyye ca jagarukaya sarvada
"He has accepted the robes of a sannyasi in order to deliver the fallen souls. He is always attentive to both devotional practice and preaching."
yathoddhavasya-kumarad bhagavadarccane rati
vaisnavanam sarva krtye daksata parama tatha
"In his youth, he developed an attraction towards the worship of the Supreme Lord, in the same way that Shri Uddhava did. He is supremely expert in all the devotional ceremonies of the Vaisnavas."
On the auspicious day of the appearance of Shrila Puri Maharaja, I received a request from Mukunda Dasa as follows:
"Today while doing an offering and reading the pranama-mantra for Shrila B.P. Puri Maharaja, it is mentioned, the service of Shri Puri Maharaja is just as Shri Uddhava to Shri Krishna. Very nice to read it and would love to hear more on this – ‘the service of Shri Puri Maharaja is just as Shri Uddhava to Lord Krishna’."
My reply was as follows:
Uddhava is known as the dear most and intimate friend of Lord Krishna. So much so that Krishna says,
na tatha me priyatama atmayonir na sankarah
na ca sankarsano na srir naivatma ca yatha bhavan
"O Uddhava! Neither Brahma nor Siva are as dear to Me as you; My elder brother Sankarsana is not as dear to Me as you, nor even Laksmi. Even My own Self is not as dear to Me as you." (Bhagavatam, 11.14.15)
From the very beginning of his life, even as a young boy, Shrila Puri Maharaja manifested great attachment towards Lord Krishna. Shri Uddhava carried a message from Krishna to the gopis in Vrndavana and upon his return, he announced that above all, the gopis were the greatest devotees of Krishna. Similarly, in his adult life, Shrila Puri Maharaja carried the message of krsna-bhakti to the world and announced that the greatest devotees of Krishna are the gopis of Vrndavana and among the gopis, the topmost position is held by Shrimati Radharani. Praising the gopis as the greatest devotees, Uddhava prayed to take birth as a blade of grass in Vrndavana so that he may be trampled upon by the lotus feet of the gopis. Shrila Puri Maharaja also had such sentiments towards Vrndavana and the gopis.
asam aho carana-renu-jusam aham syam
vrndavane kim api gulma-latausadhinam
ya dustyajam sva-janam arya-patham ca hitva
bhejur mukunda-padavim srutibhir vimrgyam
"The gopis of Vrndavana gave up their husbands, children, and families who are difficult to renounce, and sacrificed even their religious principles to take shelter of the lotus feet of Krishna, which are sought after even by the Vedas themselves. O! Grant me the fortune to take birth as a blade of grass in Vrndavana, so that I may take the dust of the lotus feet of those great souls upon my head." (Bhag. 10.47.61)
As Caitanya Mahaprabhu has suggested, Gaudiya Vaisnavas accept the Bhagavatam as the topmost pramana (evidence).
In the 10th canto of the Bhagavatam, we are taken to the highest conception of divinity and shown who are the greatest devotees of Krishna. In the conception of other sampradayas, Laksmi, the Four Kumaras, Siva, Candravalli and others are conceived as holding the highest position, but Bhagavatam dismisses all in front of the Vraja-gopis and heralds Shrimati Radharani as the topmost devotee. Indeed, Shrimati Radharani is the full embodiment of mahabhava, of the hladhini-sakti, the internal pleasure potency of Krishna.
The following is an excerpt from "Loving Search for the Lost Servant" by Shrila B.R. Shridhara Maharaja proclaiming the glories of Shrimati Radharani, radha-dasyam, in the Gaudiya Vaisnava conception:
Once, the Diwan of Bharatpur had come on a pilgrimage with his family to the holiest of places, Shri Radha-kunda, the holy lake of Shrimati Radharani. He and his family were circumambulating Radha-kunda. They would fall flat on the ground, offering obeisances lying down with their arms outstretched. Every time they bowed down in this way, they would mark the spot where their fingertips touched the earth. Then they would slowly rise, step forward to where that spot had been marked, and again fall flat, offering their obeisances with great respect and adoration. In this way they were circumambulating the entire Radha-kunda. Upon seeing such intense worship, Paramananda Prabhu, an intimate disciple of our guru maharaja Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, intimated to Prabhupada that the Diwan and his family must have great respect for Radharani to circumambulate the Radha-kunda in such a fashion.
At that time Prabhupada said, "Their angle of vision towards Radha-kunda and Radharani is different from ours. They recognize and revere Krishna. And because Radharani is Krishna's favorite, they also have some reverence for Radha-kunda. But our vision is just the opposite. Our concern is with Radharani. And only because She wants Krishna do we have any connection with Him."
And so, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas know only Radharani. They are concerned only with Her, and Her duties, Her necessities. They are ready to serve Her in all respects, and cannot contemplate any service without Her. That is the highest achievement of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, that is the special feature of Mahaprabhu's party, and that was announced by Raghunatha Dasa Goswami in his Vilapa-kusumanjali (102):
kalo mayatigamitah kila sampratam hi
tvam cet krpam mayi vidhasyasi naiva kim me
pranair vraje na ca varoru bakarinapi
This verse is a direct prayer to Radharani. It expresses a particular type of hope which is so sweet and reassuring that it is compared with an unlimited ocean of nectar. He says, "There is a hope which is sustaining me and nurturing my existence. With that hope I am somehow passing my days, dragging my life through these tedious times. That nectarine ocean of hope is attracting me and keeping me alive. But my patience has reached its end. I can't endure it any longer. I can't wait any more."
"At this moment if You do not show Your grace to me, I am finished. I shall lose my prospect forever. I shall have no desire to continue my life. It will all be useless. Without Your grace, I can't stand to live another moment. And Vrndavana, which is even dearer to me than my life itself -I am disgusted with it. It is painful; it is always pinching me. And what to speak of anything else, I am even disgusted with Krishna. It is shameful to utter such words, but I can have no love even for Krishna unless and until You take me within Your confidential camp of service." This is the prayer of Raghunatha Dasa.
When Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada would begin to explain this verse, his figure would become transformed. He would become full of emotion; his face would become like that of a phantom.
In this verse, Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami, taking an extreme risk, says, "O Radha, if I do not get Your favour, I don't want anything. I want You and You alone. To have an independent relationship with anyone else, eliminating You, is impossible in my life. You must be first, and then others. Without You, we can never even think of a separate relationship with Krishna." Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja has written that without Radharani's company, Krishna is not beautiful. Everything is relative-dependent. A teacher depends on the student, and the student depends on his teacher. Although Krishna is the enjoyer, He is completely dependent on the enjoyed, Shrimati Radharani. The two are correlative; one cannot be separated from the other. As the enjoyed, Radharani is also absolutely dependent on Krishna, the enjoyer.
Radharani says, "My fate is lost forever because I have given Myself, I have sold Myself to many places. When I heard the flute, I dedicated Myself to the song of the flute. When I heard the name of Krishna, I dedicated Myself to that sound. And when I saw a beautiful picture of Krishna, I wholly dedicated Myself to that picture. So in three places I have sold Myself completely, with no possibility of any happiness or peace in My life. If l had dedicated Myself to only one thing, there might have been a possibility of peace, but because I have dedicated Myself in three different places, I am hopeless.
"Seeing the picture of Krishna, I couldn't contain Myself. I couldn't but give Myself to that beautiful figure, and so I dedicated Myself fully. The name of Krishna also purchased Me fully. And the sweet sound from the flute - that has also drawn Me to the extreme of dedication. So how can I hope for peace in My life? It is impossible, My friends." Radharani did not know it at that time, but the source of Krishna's flute, His name, and His beauty are one. If She could have seen how all three of these meet together, then it would have been possible for Her to have peace of mind. But it is difficult to understand this principle.
How is it that the sound of Krishna's flute, the sound of His name, and a picture of His form are nondifferent from Krishna Himself? Idealism. In Hegel's words, ideal realism. The absolute idea is not to be dismissed as an abstract thing; rather, it is the basis of all existence. Reality is there, but it is ideal realism. And the foundation of the reality of Vrndavana is given by Nityananda, Baladeva: nitaiyer koruna habe, braje radha-krsna pabe, dharo nitaicarana du,khani.
After Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes the position of Radharani in his Saranagati, he says, "I want to serve those who have the service of Radharani in their heart. I want to serve the feetdust of those whose only wealth is the service of Shri Radha. I want to fall before them and take the dust of their holy feet. If you cannot fix your mind in the service of Radharani, then all your attempts to serve Krishna are useless. If you cannot achieve earnestness in the service of Shrimati Radharani, then all your labour for Krishna has gone to hell." We cannot conceive of a sun without heat, nor can we conceive of Godhead without His potency. So also, no conception of Krishna is possible without Shrimati Radharani. We can't know any Madhava without Radha.
She is Krishna's other half, in Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta's language, the predominated moiety. Devotional service as a whole is represented by Her, because both the intensity and the comprehensiveness of Her service to Krishna are unparalleled. There are so many examples of chaste and pious ladies in the ancient history of the Puranas: Saci, the faithful wife of Indra; Sati, the wife of Lord Siva; Laksmidevi, the goddess of fortune; Satyabhama, Krishna's wife in Dvaraka; Rukmini, the principle queen of Krishna in Dvaraka; and even the antagonists of Radharani, headed by Candravali. All of them represent different aspects of Radharani. They all spring from the main potency which is known as Radha.
The name Radha comes from the word aradhania: One who can serve, who can worship, who can give respect, who really loves Krishna, who can render loving service. All of these other ladies who are famous for their chastity and piety are but partial representations of Radharani. If we note the scriptures and scrutinize the position of those virtuous ladies, we'll find that the source of all their chastity and devotion is Shrimati Radharani. She is the fountainhead of devotion. And so Bhaktivinoda says, "I bow down and take the dust of the holy feet of those who have as their only wealth the service of Radharani. I hanker after nothing else." Whoever knows this and always travels on that path with a sincere heart is most fortunate.
It is the ideal that makes one great, not any material possession. One who has the highest ideal is really wealthy. The highest ideal is the most valuable thing we may possess. And less valuable things must be eliminated if we are to concentrate our efforts and save ourselves from useless endeavour. Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to show us that highest ideal - the path of divine love. And we find divine love of Godhead in its highest intensity in His life and teachings of Shrimad-Bhagavatam. The whole Shrimad-Bhagavatam is meant to illustrate the ideal of divine love which reaches its highest expression in Shrimati Radharani.
The Shrimad-Bhagavatam sings very gloriously about the paramour relationship of Radha and Krishna. The Vedas and other Puranas are not so expressive about such confidential pastimes, yet we find a hint of the glories of Radha and Krishna in Shrimad-Bhagavatam. And the Gosvamis have more fully expressed Radharani's devotion in their writings. In Rupa Gosvami's Padyavali, we find Her saying, "My Lord, people say that I have a bad reputation because of My connection with You. I do not feel any trouble in My heart because of this. My concern is that I could not give Myself to You completely. The people in general say that I am illicitly connected with You, but what disturbs Me is that I could not really give Myself to You. I feel that I am not fit for Your service. This is only the trouble within My heart."
And the ecstasy of divine love increases in separation. One day, when Krishna was playing with His cowherd boyfriends in the pasturing grounds of Vrndavana, Krishna suddenly felt extreme separation from Radharani. He sent His best friend Subala to Radharani, saying, "Go to My Radha and fetch Her. Without Her, I can't live. Suddenly I have so much desire for Her company that I can't stand it anymore. Somehow manage to bring Her." Subala said, "How is it possible to bring Her here in the jungle in broad daylight?" Krishna told him, "Somehow manage it!"
Subala thought, "What should I do?" Subala was very intimately connected with the family of Radharani's husband. He went to the house of Radharani and told Her girlfriends, "Krishna can't tolerate separation from Radharani any longer. He is so eager to meet Her that He is going mad. Somehow you have to arrange for Them to meet."
"How is it possible?" the gopis asked. Subala explained to them that Krishna was nearby in the jungle. They discussed between themselves what to do. Subala was a beautiful boy who resembled Radharani. So Subala took the dress of Radharani, and Radharani wore Subala's cowherd dress.
When Radharani was discovered wearing the dress of Subala, She was challenged by Her family members: "Subala! What are you doing here?" In the dress of Subala, Radharani said, "A calf is missing and its mother is mooing. So I have come here looking for that calf." So a calf was given to Radharani, and She carried that small calf on her breast into the forest. In this way, Radharani was disguised as Subala, while Subala, who had taken the dress of Radharani, remained behind in Her room.
Radharani had been given a hint of where Krishna was hiding near the forest's edge. She went to seek Him out. At last, when Radharani saw Krishna, She approached Him in the garb of Subala. Krishna was mad. He could not detect that Radharani had come, but mistook Her for Subala. He said, "Oh, Subala, you have come back without Radharani! Couldn,t you bring Her?"
Radharani began cutting jokes: "No", She said, "lt was impossible for me to bring Her in the daytime." Krishna said, "Then what am I to do? I can,t tolerate My life any longer." Radharani said, "If You say so, I can go to Candravali and bring her." "No, no", Krishna said, "Curd cannot satisfy the thirst for milk. It is not possible!" Krishna was faint with disappointment. Then Radharani embraced Him, saying, "My Lord, can,t You recognize Your maidservant? You failed to recognize Me!" Then Krishna was again full of joy.
Although the pastimes of Radha and Govinda are mentioned in the scrip~ tures, these are all very high things. They are not ordinarily to be expressed in words, but still sometimes we are forced to speak about them because the high ideal of divine love given by Shrimad Bhagavatam is the supreme goal of life . Of course, the scholarship of Sukadeva Gosvami and Srl Gauranga Mahaprabhu have helped, to a certain extent, to establish the dignity of the proposal that love is above knowledge. It was admitted by everyone that Sukadeva held the highest attainment of the learned men of knowledge; he was unanimously admitted by the scholars to hold the highest position. Because of this, when Sukadeva Gosvami came to inaugurate the principle that divine love is above everything else, the scholars had to take notice. Caitanya Mahaprabhu demonstrated to the scho~ lars that His intelligence and scholarship excelled everyone else's. So when He came with the tidings of divine love, then it was easier for the ordinary men to accept it as the highest ideal and try for it.
So Vasudeva Ghosh says, yadi gaura Iia hate, tabe ki haita kemane dharitam de. If Mahaprabhu had not appeared in this Kali~yuga, then how could we tolerate living? How could we sustain our lives? What He has given -the very gist of life, the very taste, the charm of life - without that, we think it is impossible for anyone to live in this world. Such a thing has been invented, discovered by Gauranga. If He had not come, then how could we live? It is impossible to live devoid of such a holy and gracious thing as divine love. Without Caitanya Mahaprabhu, how could we know that Radharam stands supreme in the world of divine love? We have received all these things from Him, and now we think that life is worth living. Otherwise to live would be suicidal.
And serving those who can serve Radharani is the way to approach Her vicinity. By serving the servants of the servants, we are assured of success in getting the grace of Krishna. If somehow one can be counted in the group of Shrimati Radharani's servitors, one's future is assured.
Within the group of Radharani's servitors, we aspire to be rupanugas, followers of Shri Rupa. And the followers of Shri Rupa will have great earnestness to look after the order of Shri Rupa, as he does towards Lalita. In this way, through Rupa Gosvami, our devotional service is going to the highest plane. And our highest gain is only there. Not even our connection with Radharani or Lalita-devi is the highest goal of life, but our highest aspiration is to serve in the Rupanuga sampradaya; that means that our highest attainment is in Shri Rupa's connection.
Radha-dasyam has been said to be the highest attainment. Why? The quality and quantity of rasa that Radharani can draw from Krishna can never be found anywhere else. So if you are situated just behind Radharani, you'll be allowed to taste not only the quantity, but the highest quality of rasa.
No other person can draw such high rasa from Krishna. The fullest, highest type of quality is drawn from Krishna: He gives Himself fully and wholly and deeply. So if you are in Shri Rupa's group, then you can have a taste of that sort of rasa.
In Radharani's camp, when Krishna and Radha are enjoying very solitary pastimes in a secluded place, the grown-up sakhis can't venture to enter the room and assist Them. The young girls, the manjaris, are sent there. The leader of that young group can enter where both Radha and Govinda are very closely connected, when even the sakhis do not venture to go for fear of causing some interruption. But Rupa and the marnjaris can enter there at that time due to their young age. That sort of rasa that cannot be had even through the sakhis can be had only through the manjaris.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura prays to gain admission there. He has such a high quality of aspiration. He says rupanuga hoite sei doya. He runs to be enlisted in the group of Rupa, who can grant us that sort of prospect. And Prabhodananda Sarasvati has described the prerequisite for understanding all these things:
yatha yatha gaura padaravinde
vindeta bhaktim krta punya-rasih
tatha tathotsarpati hrdy akasmat
radha padambhoja sudhambhu rasih
"As much as you surrender to the lotus feet of Shri Gauranga, you'll find yourself safely situated in the service of Radha~Govinda. Don't try to approach Radha~Govinda directly; if you do, there may be some difficulty. But the lotus feet of Shri Gauranga will take you there safely."
In my Sanskrit poem dedicated to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, I have explained all these points:
sri-gauranumatam svarupa-viditam rupagrajenadrtam
rupadyaih parivesitam raghu-ganairasvaditam sevitam
jivadyair abhiraksitam suka-siva-brahmadi sammanitam
sri-radha-pada-sevanamrtam aho tad datum iso bhavan
"What was sanctioned by Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by His descent was intimately known only to Shri Svarupa Damodara Gosvami. It was adored by Sanatana Gosvami and served by Rupa Gosvami and his followers. Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami tasted that wonderful thing fully and enhanced it with his own realization. And Jiva Gosvami supported and protected it by quoting the scriptures from different places. The taste of that divine truth is aspired for by Brahma, Siva, and Uddhava, who respect it as the supreme goal of life. What is this wonderful truth? Shri radha-pada-sevana: that the highest nectar of our life is the service of Shrimati Radharani. This is most wonderful. O Bhaktivinoda Thakura, you are our master. It is within your power to allow them to bestow their grace upon us. You are in a position to bestow the highest gift ever known to the world upon us all. It is at your disposal. O Bhaktivinoda Thakura, please be kind to us and grant us your mercy."
So Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, our most benevolent Lord, has come to search for His long lost servants and to give to them this highest ideal of divine love. Gaura Haribol!