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Vraja Vilasa 2 :: Burning in the Forest Fire of Old Age

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A108-AI

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O Sri Hari! I am burning in the forest fires of old age, the terrible snakes of blindness are biting me, I am pierced by the sharp arrows of dependence on others, and am surrounded by the lions of anger and so on. O Master! Please quickly make me drink the nectar of your love, so that I may ignore all these things and worship you in a steadfast manner!

 


VERSE 2

dagdhaṁ vārddhaka-vanya-vahnibhir alaṁ daṣṭaṁ durāndhyāhinā
viddhaṁ mām atipāravaśya-viśikhaiḥ krodhādi-siṁhair vṛtam
svāmin prema-sudhā-dravaṁ karuṇayā drāk pāyaya śrīhare
yenaitān avadhīrya santatam ahaṁ dhīro bhavantaṁ bhaje

Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: From this verse it can be understood that this Vraja-vilāsa-stava was written in Das Goswami’s old age. [He disappeared in 1586.] The more his old age advanced, the more his life-airs began to burn in an intolerable forest fire of separation from Sri Gaurāṅga and Sri Radharani. Moreover, tears constantly streamed from his eyes like monsoon showers out of separation from Sri Rūpa and Sanātana Goswami, causing his eyesight to vanish.

When old age comes one becomes naturally dependent and when anger arises there will be an obstacle to the continuity of bhajan, which makes it naturally hard to remain alive. Although Das Goswami has a transcendental pārṣada śarīra, the body of an eternal associate of the Lord, and thus these hardships do not have any influence on him, still he is humbly revealing his deplorable condition in this verse just to instruct the sādhakas. After all, in the Bhakti-ratnākara one can find a description of Das Goswami’s extraordinary adherence to the regulative principles of bhajan even as he grew old:

śrī dāsa gosāira kothā kohone na jāy; nirantara dagdha hiyā viraha vyāthāya
kothā śrī svarūpa-rūpa sanātana – boli; bhāsāye netrera jale viluṭhaye dhūli
ati kṣīṇa śarīra durbol kṣaṇe kṣaṇe koroye bhakṣaṇa kichu dui cāri dine
yadyapi śuṣka deha bātāse hāloy;t athāpi nirbandha kriyā sab samādoy
bhūme paḍi’ praṇami’ uthite nāhi pāre; ithe ye niṣedhe kichu na kohoye tāre
prabhu datta govardhana śīlā guñjā hāre; seve ki adbhuta sukhe āpana pasāre
divā niśi nā jānāye śrī nāma grahane; netre nidrā nāi aśrudhāra du’nayane
dāsa gosvāmīra ceṣṭā bujhite ke pāre; sadā magna rādhā kṛṣṇa caitanya vihāre

“Śrīla Dāsa Goswami is indescribable. His heart was always burning in the fire of separation. Calling out, “Where are you, Sri Svarūpa Dāmodara, Sri Rūpa and Sanātana!?” he would roll in the dust and float in his own tears. His emaciated body became weaker at every moment and he would only eat a little something every two or three days. Although his body was so frail that it could be blown away by the wind, he would still perform all his important duties. When he fell to the ground to offer obeisances to someone, he could not get up anymore, but if anyone (out of concern for him) forbade him to do this, he would not listen. He would forget himself out of ecstasy when he worshiped his Govardhana-śīlā and the guñjā-beads that Lord Caitanya had given him, and he did not know whether it was day or night when he chanted the beautiful names of Radha and Krishna. There was no sleepiness in his eyes which were always full of the tears of love. Who can understand the activities of Das Goswami? His mind was always immersed in the pastimes of Radha and Krishna and Lord Caitanya!” (Bhakti-ratnākara, 6th Wave)

Although he performed bhajan throughout the eight periods of the day, his thirst for more bhajan was never quenched, just as if he was suffering from cholera. Bhakti is by nature insatiable. As soon as satiation appears in bhajan, we must understand that its lifespan is diminished. One’s relish for the flavors of bhajan is proportional to one’s thirst for it. The greater one’s thirst, the greater the relish; the greater the relish, the greater one’s thirst. They increase and nourish each other.

In the first verse Das Goswami prayed for the mercy of the Vaishnavas in order to be released from the hands of the six enemies like lust and their great agent, the desire for distinction, and thus attain the great fortune of pure bhajan. Then again he thinks: “Even if I am saved from the grip of enemies like lust and distinction, then still this body of mine obstructs my bhajan. It is as if the forest fire of old age is constantly consuming my body. The burning of this fire is quickly destroying my ability to do bhajan.”

Although Das Goswami is an eternal associate of the Lord he gives a beautiful teaching here to the world. Many people think their youth is for unrestricted sense gratification and reserve bhajan for their old age. But alas! What else is it but craziness or foolishness to fritter away our youthful energy in fleeting sense pleasures and to delay making efforts to attain the immortal treasure of prema until old age when one’s powers are diminished. Thus we desire to give only the remnants of a life consecrated to illusion to the Lord? For this reason Śrīla Prahlāda Mahāśaya told his classmates, the children of the demons:

kaumāra ācaret prājño dharmān bhāgavatān iha
durlabhaṁ mānuṣaṁ janma tad apy adhruvam arthadam
yathā hi puruṣasyeha viṣṇoḥ pādopasarpaṇam
yad eṣa sarva-bhūtānāṁ priya ātmeśvaraḥ suhṛt
sukham aindriyakaṁ daityā deha-yogena dehinām
sarvatra labhyate daivād yathā duḥkam ayatnataḥ
tat-prayāso na kartavyo yata āyur vyayaḥ param
na tathā vindate kṣemaṁ mukunda-caraṇāmbujam
tato yateta kuśalaḥ kṣemāya bhavam āśritaḥ
śarīraṁ puruṣaṁ yāvan na vipadyeta puṣkalam

“O friends! A wise man begins his practice of the Bhagavata Dharmas from childhood! After all, human birth is very rare and, although it bestows the highest blessing, it can be finished at any time. In this material world the human birth is most favorable for surrendering to the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the dearmost friend of all living beings. O demons! The happiness arising from sense gratification can be obtained everywhere without effort, even in the animal species, as is misery. Therefore we should not endeavor for sense pleasures, by which our lifespan simply decreases. The auspiciousness arising from the worship of Lord Mukunda’s lotus feet can never be attained by serving the senses. Therefore an intelligent person should endeavor for the worship of Sri Govinda’s lotus feet, for as long as the body is not worn out by old age, disease and lamentation, and not for temporary sense pleasures.” (Bhāgavata 7.6.1-5)

Raghunath Das Goswami teaches the living beings: “Don’t wait until your old age to do bhajan, for there are many problems in old age!” He gives himself as the example of all these problems: “I am bitten by the snake of blindness! (daṣṭaṁ durāndhyāhinā). The poisonous bite of the snake of blindness is burning up my body, mind and life-airs. The power of my bhajan is being diminished, and there is no shelter from this suffering!”

Then again he says: “I am pierced by the sharp arrows of dependence on others” (viddhaṁ atipāravaśya-viśikhaiḥ): During old age the body and senses become invalid, so the help of others is needed to accomplish all kinds of daily duties, and this dependence is as miserable as being pierced by sharp arrows.

Das Goswami was the greatest renunciate; when he renounced his great wealth to come to the Lord’s lotus feet at Nilachal he began to live there by begging. That day the Lord became very pleased with him and told him:

bhālo koilā vairāgīra dharma ācarilā;
vairāgī koribo sadā nāma saṅkīrtana; māgiyā khāiyā kore jīvana rakṣaṇa;
vairāgī hoiyā yebā kore parāpekṣā; kārya siddhi nahe, kṛṣṇa korena apekṣā

“You have done very well by adhering to the principles of renunciation. A renunciate is always chanting the holy name, keeping himself alive by eating begged food. A renunciate who relies on others will not attain perfection. He will be neglected by Krishna.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 3.6.222-4)

These words from the Lord’s divine mouth are still floating on the canvas of Das Goswami’s memory, but in old age one becomes helpless and is forced to accept the help of others. This makes him feel that he is acting contrary to the Lord’s divine words and this misery feels to him like the sharp piercing of arrows.

Then again he says, “I am attacked by the lions of anger and so on (krodhādi siṁhair vṛtam).” In old age, anger naturally awakens; this is the natural course of the body’s development. It strikes the heart like the attack of a turbulent lion. When some traveler is by fate surrounded by a blazing forest fire and simultaneously bitten by a black snake, pierced by the sharp arrows of a hunter, and attacked by many lions, then no one but the victim himself can understand how it feels to befall so many calamities at the same time. Das Goswami says: “I am suffering in a similar way.”

Although he is always engaged in bhajan, Das Goswami thinks that his old age is physically impeding it. How great is his craving for bhajan, even though he is already swimming constantly in the ocean of bhajan! He thinks to himself: “By drinking nectar, old age vanishes and the body is given new energy. By drinking nectar the demigods have become immortal. If this old age were gone then all the conditions connected with it would also be gone and I would be so fortunate to resume my bhajan without worries.”

Hence he submits this prayer to Sri Govinda’s lotus feet:

svāmin prema-sudhā-dravaṁ karuṇayā drāk pāyaya śrī hare
yenaitān avadhīrya santatam ahaṁ dhīro bhavantaṁ bhaje

‘O Hari! O master! Please swiftly make me drink the nectar of your love so that I can ignore all these conditions and I can always worship your lotus feet!”

The meaning of these vocatives is as follows: Sri Krishna is the master or controller (svāmī), without his grace no one can attain prema simply on the strength of his own sādhanā. Sādhanā merely cleanses the heart of the sādhaka and makes it fit for prema to enter it. Sri Krishna may mercifully give prema to such a worthy object of his grace. As for Hari, it is said,

hari śabdera bahu artha dui mukhyatama;
sarva amaṅgala hare, prema diyā hare mana

He is Hari, which means that he removes (haraṇa) all impediments from the surrendered sādhaka and steals his mind through prema. (Caitanya-caritāmṛta)

Although the demigods in heaven become immortal by drinking nectar, this is an impediment for the devotees of Krishna. The transcendental body of their bhajan is nourished by the nectar of prema. The relish of the flavors of prema make one forget all physical conditions, nourishes the transcendental body of bhajan and constantly extends the energy of bhajan. When a sādhaka can relish the nectar of bhajan in his heart of hearts, then all unfavorable factors for his bhajan will be removed and he will be able to continue doing bhajan forever. This is the essential teaching of this discussion for the sādhakas.

vārdhakya rūpa dāvānale,  dagdha kore tile tile, kṣaṇe kṣaṇe mana ucāṭana
andhatā-rūpa kāla sarpa, bhayāvaha yāra darpa, daṁśanete iha acetana

“I am burning in the forestfire of old age at every moment and this always upsets my mind. I fell unconscious from the bite of the black snake of blindness, who is very proud of his terrifying nature.”

pāravaśya rūpa bāṇe, hiyāra mājhāre hāne, tāhe viddha koriyāche more.
krodha rūpa siṁha more, ghiriyāche cāri dhāre, palāite kebā śakti dhare?

“My heart is pierced by the arrows of dependence and I am surrounded on all sides by the lions of anger. Who has the power to escape from them?’

he svāmin he hare, ṣaḍ aiśvarya sadā yāre, dāsī hoye nitya sevā kore.
premāmṛta koro dāna, prāṇa bhari kori pāna, sañjīvita koroho āmāre

“O master, O Hari, whom the six opulences are always serving like a mere maidservant, please give me the nectar of prema! I will drink it with all my heart! Please revive me !”

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