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  1. Nandagaon is Krishna’s childhood village, where he lived until he was twelve years old. At every corner in Nandagaon, there are places associated with Krishna lila – Pawan Sarovar where Mother Yashoda used to bathe Krishna; Moti kund, where Krishna made pearls grow on trees to decorate his cows and tease the gopis who had refused to give him pearls, and, of course, Nanda Bhavan, the temple on top of the hill, which marks the site of the residence of Shri Krishna and His family. Nandagaon was named after, the head of the village, Nandababa, and Nanda Baithak is the place where Nandababa held meetings with townsfolk. According to local legend, it was here that the young Krishna presented the case to worship Govardhan instead of Lord Indra. It is also thought that Krishna and Balaram left to go to Mathura from this place. It was here that they boarded Akrurji’s chariot to attend the wrestling match in Mathura, which led to the liberation of Braj from the cruel reign of king Kamsa. Nanda Baithak was uncovered only 90 years ago by Sant Haridas who had a vision of Krishna and Balaram sitting in Nandababa’s lap surrounded by townsfolk. From this vision, he understood that this must be the place where Nandababa held official meetings. Sant Haridas painted the scene from his dream vision on the wall. The painting was destroyed, but it was replicated by a painter who had seen the original. Sant Haridasji passed away 50 years ago. His Samadhi and the replica painting of his vision is at Nanda Baithak. There is also a kund here called Nanda Kund. Until a few decades ago, the water from this kund was used in the temple kitchen.
  2. Vrindavan, 17.01.2019 Makar Sankranti is considered highly auspicious for spiritual and charitable activities. Most temples in Mathura-Vrindavan celebrated the festival on January 15 this year. The Hindu festival of Makar Sankranti which is celebrated in the month of Magha, marks the first day of sun’s transit from Sagittarius to Makara (Capricorn) ‘rashi’ (zodiac sign). Despite the cold weather, people lined up at the ghats for ‘Yamuna Snan’ early in the morning. Many people also did Vrindavan Parikrama. After performing ‘Dugdh-abhishek’ and other rituals on the Yamuna riverbank, many took the traditional ‘sankalpa’ (sacred vow) to donate food, clothes and other items in temples or to the poor. ← Shri Shri Radha Shyama Sundar on Makar Sankranti Devotees thronged temples throughout the day. Special ‘Panchmeva Khichri’ was offered in Vrindavan’s Banke Bihari temple, while a ‘Chappan Bhog Khichri Mahotsav’ was organised at Baldeo Dauji Temple. Makar Sankranti also marks the end of the month-long Khichri festival in many temples. Sesame seeds were donated in Dwarkadhish, Cantt. Kali Mata, Deergh Vishnu, Ramchandraji, Dauji, and Lakshmi Temples. At the Radha Kund Gopalji Temple, Bal Gopal was draped in new winter finery. ‘Suhaag Sonth’ made with saffron and warm spices such as nutmeg and mace was offered as ‘bhog’. On this day, women in Nandgaon and Baldeo follow a particularly sweet tradition of persuading their elders and trying to even up differences with them through folk songs. Many religious, charitable and political organisations set up Khichri festivals/distribution at various locations. Surya Narayan, P.C. Radharaman Dasi Parikar → The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Makara Sankranti Festival began on the day of Lohri – January 13. Various programs were organized at 24 different locations in which around 120 Swayamsevaks performed ‘seva’ (service) for the saints of Braj. Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kalpana Garg distributed sweets and jaggery in Malin Basti. Vishva Hindu Mahasangh Matrshakti did ‘Khichri Seva’ at the Kankaali Temple and Kapil Muni Ashram Goshalas. Sadbhavana Silaai Prashikshan Kendra distributed sewing machines, blankets and saris to girl students. Reading material, notebooks, stationery items and clothes were given to children in Narayana Anaathalaya by Vrindavan Bal Vikas Parishand. Serving cows is also an important part of Makar Sankranti festivities, so many took the opportunity to visit Goshalas and contribute to the important work of maintaining stray cattle. Mahant Mahendra Das Maharaj said that ‘seva’ (service) and charity are the essence of Hindu festivals. Swami Sureshanand reiterated the importance of generosity in the building of society and nations.
  3. On each of the hilltops in Barsana stands an important historical temple, the best known being Maan Mandir or Radha Rani Temple. Kushal Bihari temple, stands on a hilltop around half a kilometre from Maan Mandir. It is a majestic temple with an interesting history. The temple was completed in 1911 but the deity could not be established until 1918. Intricate stonework of Kushal Bihari temple Kushal Bihari temple was built by the Jaipur King, Madho Singh II. The temple was built at an expense of 15-16 Lakh Rupees and took 14 years to build. In addition to the main hall and temple room, the complex includes over 60 rooms for temple sevaiyats and brahmacharis. It is said that the day before the installation of the deities in the temple, Radha Rani appeared Raja Madho Singh II’s dream and told him that her home is the place where she has been staying, in the temporary temple. The king thus abandoned the idea of shifting the deity. He installed a different set of deities in the Kushal Bihari temple and built another temple. Madho Singh II ,and his wife were devoted to Radha-Krishna. He had the Madhav Vilas (in Vrindavan) built in his name, and Kushal Bihari temple is named after queen Kushal. Madho Singh II was known as a Dharmic king who ruled the kingdom according to his guru’s orders. He had 5 wives but no sons. He left this world in 1922. The first temple sevaiyat was Radheshyam Brahmachari, disciple of the Nimbark Mahatma Shri Gopaldas. According to Nimbark Sampradaya history, Radheshyam Brahmachari renounced the world at a young age and took shelter of Shri Gopaldas in Vrindavan. The Nimbark sampradaya manages the temple and conducts the rituals according to their tradition. Shri Nimbark Acharya Nimbark Sampradaya is one of the four Vaiṣṇava Sampradāyas. The Sampradaya was founded by Nimbark Acharya (c.7th century CE). Nimbārk acharya was born in Vaidūryapattanam, the present-day Mungi Village, Paithan in East Maharashtra. He migrated with his parents to Mathurā and settled at what is now known as Nimbagrāma (Neemgaon), situated between Barsānā and Govardhan.
  4. In Sva Niyama Dashakam, Shri Raghunath Goswami instructs himself about how to remain steady in Braj where Radha Rani is always present and is always occupied in mercifully arranging service opportunities for Manjaris, saints and ordinary devotees. VERSE 4: gatonmādai rādhā sphurati hariṇāśliṣṭa-hṛdayā sphuṭaṁ dvārāvatyām iti yadi śṛṇomi śruti-taṭe tadāhaṁ tatraivoddhata-mati patāmi vraja-purāt samuḍḍīya svāntādhika-gati-khagendrād api javāt But if I hear even with faintly that out of loving madness Radha has gone to Dwarka, where she is clearly manifest and where Hari is holding her to his heart, then with a jubilant spirit I will immediately fly from Vraja faster than even Garuḍa, the king of birds who flies with the speed of mind, and blissfully land in Dwarka! Vishnu on Garuda, flying faster than the mind Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In the previous verse, Sri Raghunath Das, who suffers the pangs of separation from the Divine Couple, vowed that he would not leave Vraja Dham, the matchless playground of Radha Madhava, for even a moment, even if Krishna would personally call him to come to Dwarka. “Alright then,” one may ask, “now what if Sri Radharani went to Dwarka and Sri Raghunath Das would be blessed there with the sweetness of the Yugala Kishor, then would he go there or not?” As an answer to this question Shri Raghunath begins this verse by saying that Shri Radharani is naturally not inclined ever to leave Vraja to go to Dwarka. This he has reasonably explained in the previous verse. But then again, maybe she would become so maddened out of separation from Krishna that she would lose her senses and go to Dwarka anyway! In Srimad Bhāgavata it is described that Shri Radharani went to Kurukshetra on the occasion of a solar eclipse, and in Lalita-mādhava Nāṭakam Srila Rupa Goswami describes how she became completely mad out of separation from Krishna and committed suicide by jumping into the Yamunā at Khela Tirtha, from where she entered into the sunglobe, finally ending up in the Nava-Vrindavan garden in Dwarka. But, according to the scriptures and the ācāryas, these two forms of Radharani are mere expansions of the fountainhead Shri Vrishabhanu-nandinī. This fountainhead Vrishabhanu-nandinī never leaves Vrindavan. This daughter of Vrishabhanu has two manifestations – 1) Saṁyoginī and 2) Viyoginī. The former was manifest in Kurukshetra and the latter went to Dwarka’s Nava-Vrindavan garden in transit through the sunglobe. Srila Gopal Guru Goswami quotes the following verses from the Sanat Kumāra Samhitā in the Paddhati-traya: “In Vraja there are three Radhas – Saṁyoginī or Kāmā, Viyoginī or Vāmā and Kīrtidā-putrī. Kāmā and Vāma are two expansions of Kīrtidā-putrī. Kīrtidā Putrī knows that: “My Prāṇa Ballabha never leaves Vraja!” When Mathuranātha (Krishna, the Lord of Mathura) leaves for Mathura in his Vāsudeva-prakāśa and Sri Nanda-nandana’s consequently disappears from Vraja, Kīrtidā-putrī relishes the rasa called ‘pravāsa’ (foreign sojourn of the beloved). The Munis call this loss of association ‘pravāsa’. Thinking “The Lord of My life has left Me to go to Māthurā!”, Vāmā Radha became totally overwhelmed by anguish and jumped into the Yamunā to go to another manifestation of Gokula, named Goloka, where she could relish the taste of union with her Lord once more. The other manifestation of Sri Radha, named Kāmā, suffered so much of separation after Krishna went to Mathura that she went on pilgrimage to Kurukṣetra, yearning to see him.” Although this expansion of Shri Radha went to Kurukṣetra, eager to see Krishna, this meeting with him could not be as relishing as meeting him in Vraja. Weeping and weeping she sang: anyera hṛdaya ‘mana’,āmāra mana vṛndāvana, mane vane eka kori jāni tāhā tomāra padadvaya, korāho yadi udoy, tabe tomāra pūrṇa kṛpā māni prāṇanātha! śuno mora satya nivedana vraja āmāra sadana, tāhā tomāra saṅgama, nā pāile nā rahe jīvana “For others the heart is the mind, but my mind is Vrindavan. I know this forest and my mind to be one and the same. If you would make your lotus feet appear there I would consider that to be your full mercy. O Lord of My life! Listen to My earnest prayer: Vraja is My abode, and if I cannot meet you there I cannot remain alive!” Another expansion of Shri Radha, named Vāmā, jumped into the Yamunā and went to Dwarka through the sunglobe, but despite the fact that she lived in the new Vrindavan-garden and that Dwarkanātha came there dressed as Vrajendra-nandana, she still desired to meet Krishna in Vraja. From all these facts it is clearly understood that it is impossible for Kīrtidā-sutā (the original Radharani) to go to Dwarka and meet Dwarkanātha there. “Despite that”, Shri Raghunath says, “I will heed to anyone who argues what would happen if Radhika became so maddened by feelings of separation from Krishna that she would actually leave Vraja go to Dwarka and stay with him there. If I hear such a thing I would fly there even faster than Garuḍa, who flies faster than the mind, I would land in Dwarka and would be blessed there with the sweet relish of the Yugala Kiśora.” Shri Raghunath Das’s svarūpa is Shri Radha’s beloved maidservant, and the sweetness of the Yugala Kiśora is his very life. He is so attached to living in Vraja because that is the place where he can serve the Divine Couple and relish Their sweetness. Therefore he will take shelter with body, mind and words of any place where he can serve Them and relish Their boundless sweetness – this is the purport. Radha Rani and her maidservants Especially the kiṅkarīs (maidservants) always stick to Shri Radhika like her shadow. They always stay with her when she feels separation from Krishna, to console her and to serve her. They cannot stay without her anywhere, not even for a moment. Therefore wherever Shri Radha is, there is Shri Raghunath’s most coveted shelter – that is the inner meaning of this verse. From this verse we also learn that Shri Radha possesses mental equipoise and does not leave Vraja to go elsewhere, even though she greatly desires to meet Krishna. This is why Shri Raghunath is so attached to living in Vraja! virahete unmādinī,vṛṣabhānu rāja nandinī dvārakāya gamana korile. śrī kṛṣṇera āliṅgane, sukhe hon ageyāne, nayanete dekhiche sakale “If Vṛṣabhānu’s princess goes mad out of separation from Krishna and goes to Dwarka, where everyone can see that she goes beside herself of bliss when he embraces her……” ei kathā yadi śuni, manodhika drutagāmī, garuḍa hoite savegete vraja cheḍe śighra uḍe, yāi dvārāvatī pure, āṅkhi bhare yugale herite “…as soon as I hear this I will fly out of Vraja faster than Garuḍa, who is faster even than the mind, and go to Dwarka where I will fill my eyes with the vision of the Yugala Kiśora.”
  5. Vrindavan, 15.01.2019 ‘Andal Utsav’ or ‘Shri Vivah Utsav’– the five-day festival celebrating the marriage of Devi Goda (Lakshmi or Andal) and Lord Ranganath was concluded at Vrindavan’s Rangji Temple yesterday. The festival commenced on 10th January with a grand procession in which Goda Devi went around the temple to invite her ‘sakhis’ (friends) to the ‘wedding’. Accompanied by sounds of ‘dhol’ and ‘shehnaai’ in traditional south Indian style, the goddess reached the ‘Barahdwari’ where women devotees welcomed her with turmeric and flowers. Temple Sevaiyats and their families were joined by hundreds of people to witness the marriage ceremony of the ‘Divya Dampathi’ (divine couple). Devi Goda blessed devotees with her veiled glances while going around the temple in her palanquin. After four days of festivities, Andal and Lord Rangamannar married in accordance with Vedic rituals and injunctions, yesterday. As per tradition, the bride was taken for ‘Yamuna Darshan’ in the morning. All pre-marriage rituals were conducted in the ‘Barahdwari’. In the afternoon, Lord Ranganath mounted his ‘vahan’ – Garuda, and proceeded towards Barahdwari. The marriage procession was greeted by Shri Godamma’s father, Vishnuchitta Suri. Betel nuts, silk clothes, and other presents were offered to the Lord on arrival. The temple resounded with Vedic chants as ‘Saptapadi’ rituals – the most important ritual in a Hindu marriage ceremony where the bride and groom go around the holy fire seven times and take the seven marriage vows – were conducted. Lord Ranganath tied a ‘Magalasutra’ (sacred thread) around Devi Lakshmi’s neck. After the ‘Saptapadi’ rituals, the divine couple gave ‘darshan’ to devotees in ‘Sheesh Mahal’. The ceremony concluded with Lord Rangamannar’s bathing rituals in the temple pond (Pushkarni). Shri Rangji Temple, Vrindavan Built in 1851, Sri Rangji Mandir is dedicated to Lord Sri Goda-Rangamannar. Goda or Andal as she is popularly known in South India was a great 8th century Vaishnava poet-saint and Lord Ranganatha is none other than Shri Krishna. Goda composed the ‘Tiruppuvai’ – a collection of devotional poems/songs of love for her beloved Lord Krishna and his ‘lila bhoomi’, Vrindavan. Lord Ranganatha answered her prayers by becoming her bridegroom. In Rangji Mandir, Lord Krishna is present as the bridegroom with a walking stick in his hand as is the custom in a traditional south Indian marriage. To his right is Andal and to the left, Garuda – his vahana. Shri Rangji temple is one of the largest temples in North India where one can witness the coming together of south and north Indian traditions in the spirit of Goda herself.
  6. Vrindavan, 16.01.2019 The Hindu festival of Makara Sankranti which is celebrated in the month of Magha, marks the first day of sun’s transit from Sagittarius to Makara (Capricorn) ‘rashi’ (zodiac sign). It is considered highly auspicious for spiritual activities because on this day the Sun God – considered as ‘Pratyaksha Brahmana’ – begins ascending into the Northern Hemisphere. The day also holds special significance for Gaudiya Vaishnavas as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was initiated into ‘Sanyasa’ by Srila Keshav Bharti on this day. The village where Mahaprabhu’s hair shaving ritual was conducted came to be known as ‘Katoya’. It so happened that just few days before his initiation, Nimai Pandit was treated roughly by a group of Brahmins in Nadia who were opposed to him. The incident troubled him deeply because he realized that the villagers’ casual attitude will never let them surrender to him. Though he has come to deliver them from the sufferings of this material world, they think of him as a classmate, a relative, a friend or just another householder. FB_IMG_1547640115101-300x300.jpgP.C. Mahanidhi Swami (Official) On the day he was supposed to leave, Nimai instructed his loved ones to keep chanting the Lord’s name in all circumstances, favorable or adverse. “Chant his name while eating, or sleeping, chant during the day, chant at night…If you love me, never do anything without remembering Krishna,” he said. That night, Nimai had a long conversation with his mother. He also asked her to prepare some pumpkin ‘Kheer’ (Indian dessert). Bowing down to his sleeping mother and wife, he left home in the dead of night. After crossing the Ganga, Nimai reached the village of Katoya. On the evening before Makara Sankranti, people came in large numbers to take a dip in the Ganga. They were taken aback on learning about Mahaprabhu’s decision to enter ‘sanyasa’ at such a young age. The barber performed ‘mundan’ (head shaving ritual) on Nimai’s soft hair with tears in his eyes. After this ‘seva’ (service), he pledged to give up his profession even if that meant subsisting on alms, though later, he became a ‘Halwai’ (sweet meat maker). People were aggrieved to see Nimai in the garb of a ‘sanyasi’ (monk). They ran amok closing their eyes to avoid witnessing the scene. Shri Chandrashekhar Acharya could resume the ceremony only after Nimai pacified the crowd. When Shri Keshava Bharti proceeded to give him the sanyasa mantra, Nimai informed that he had already received it in a dream and whispered the mantra in the guru’s ear. Shri Keshava Bharti whispered it back to him and gave him the name ‘Krishna Chaitanya’- the one who will awaken Krishna consciousness in the hearts of all. Although Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s sanyasa brought grief to his loved ones, he performed this lila to bless everyone with the nectar of Krishna’s name.
  7. ← Pandit Krishna Das Babaji By Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das Maharaj: When Sri Sri 108 Pandit Sri Krishna Das Babaji Maharaja, Bhakti-tirtha, was about 15 years old, three desires (sankalpas) mysteriously arose in his mind: “I will worship Radha-Krishna in the mood of gopi-bhava,” “I will study Srimad Bhagavatam!” “And I will chant Harinama and do Sankirtana!” As a tender teen, Babaji Maharaja had no idea what is gopi-bhava. Nor did he know that the rest of his long life of 101 years would be spent realizing these three desires. From where did these three beautiful, transcendental ‘sankalpas’ come from? Bhagavan Sri Krishna answers in Sri Gita (6.44): “purva abhyasena tenaiva, hriyate hy avaso pi sah, “Because of performing bhakti yoga sadhana in a prior life, one is automatically attracted to the same practices in this life.” In 1918 (Magha Sukla Trayodashi), Babaji Maharaja appeared in Dakshina Khanda, West Bengal near the village of Gaura-Govinda Nitya-Parisada Sri Narahari Sarkar Thakura. Babaji Maharaja appeared in wealthy Brahmin family of Krishna bhaktas hailing from the Kasyapa and Shandilya gotras. At the age of five, Babaji Maharaja lost his mother and was raised by his grandparents. In 1940, Babaji Maharaja graduated with honors from high school, and then stayed home managing the family estate. Most of the day, he chanted Shri Shri Radha-Krishna Nama (aka the Hare Krishna maha-mantra). Babaji Maharaja recalls those days saying, “I felt so much bliss in my mind while chanting Hare Krishna that I lost all interest in material life. I decided that I will leave home, become a sadhu and live in a Himalayan cave doing bhajan like Dhruva and Prahlada Maharaja. Detecting my mood of detachment, my uncle gave me a Gita to read, hoping that I would learn about duty, stay home, get married and so on. However, the Gita had the opposite effect and after reading it, especially 9.33; 18.65-66), I became even more determined to leave home and become a sadhu. “Then one night, Radha-Krishna appeared in my dream. They looked very beautiful dancing together in a most exquisite and attractive way. I moved towards them, but then They vanished, leaving me with an intense thirst to see Them again.” A short time later, Babaji Maharaja’s uncle’s baby of two years old was visiting his home. He gazed at Baba and suddenly surprisingly said in a most distinct way, “Dada! I give you a blessing: Become a sadhu!” At first, Babaji Maharaja couldn’t believe his ears, but then he thought that Bhagavan Sri Krishna must be speaking through that baby’s mouth. “Being a young Indian boy, however, I was afraid to leave home and I worried about getting food and shelter. Then Krishna appeared in a dream holding a club and said, ‘Don’t worry or fear. Just leave home and become a sadhu. If anyone tries to harm you, I will destroy them with this club!’” Babaji Maharaja left home and went to Gaya for Vishnu Darsana, Ganga snana, then on to Haridwar where he arrived after a month of walking. Babaji Maharaja lived on the bank of the Ganga under a tree, and in a garden house offered by a sympathetic devotee. Babaji Maharaja passed a few years in Haridwar staying in different places, chanting Hare Krishna and studying Bhagavad-gita. Babaji Maharaja then came to Vrindavan Dham in 1940 and did Vraja parikrama, subsisting on madhukari, before settling in Cakalesvara, Govardhana. There Babaji Maharaja met a ‘niskincana’ sadhu who lived there, doing bhajan and madhukari. Feeling the utmost respect and attraction to him, Babaji Maharaja took Diksa from that Gaudiya Vaisnava saint named Shri Shri 108 Sanatana Das Babaji Maharaja, who was the favorite ‘vesh’ disciple of the famous Govinda Kunda Siddha Baba, 108 Sri Sri Manohara Das Babaji. In 1941, Babaji Maharaja took sannyasa (babaji vesh) before Shri Raghunath Dasa Goswami’s Samadhi. Babaji Maharaja spent time with his guru in Radha Kund and Govardhan, studying sastra in the association of Sri Kunjabihari Das Babaji, Gaura-Gopala Dasji, Sri Dina Sarana Maharaja, Priyacharana Dasji Maharaja, Parameshvara Dasji Maharaja, and Shri Advaita Das Babaji Maharaja. Babaji Maharaja studied Sanskrit for a few years in Vrindavan and received degrees in Sanskrit grammar, the title ‘Vaishnava darsana tirtha’ and became a Bhagavata Acarya. Returning to Govinda Kund in Govardhan, Babaji Maharaj did bhajan and served his Guru and the other great ‘Govardhan nivasi bhajananadi sadhus’ staying at Govinda Kund. Not only was Babaji Maharaja an amazing Pandit, a strict ‘vairagi’ (renunciate) and a perfect gentleman, he was expert in cooking, book keeping and managing temples and ashrams. Appreciating Babaji Maharaj’s superb scholarship, honesty and impeccable behavior, several Vrindavan temple trusts requested his service as Mahant. For 35 years, Babaji Maharaja selflessly served as the Mahant of the Gwalior Mandir, Kusuma Sarovara; Mahant of Siddha Manohara Das’s temple in Govinda Kunda, and the Radha-Syamasundara Mandir in Prema Sarovara. Of his 101 years as a sadhu-sannyasi, Babaji Maharaja did Radha-Krishna bhajan in Vraja Mandala for 80 years. All his belongings fit into one shoulder bag. Babaji Maharaj never had a bank account, personal ‘kutir’ (house) or any land. He wandered here and there living a completely renounced life—moving between Govinda Kunda, Radha Kunda, Kusum Sarovara, Prema Sarovara and Barsana. He initiated many devotees, wrote several books on Gaudiya Vaisnava tattva, sadhana and sadhya, and often went to Bengal, Assam and other places to discourse on the Srimad Bhagavatam, and preach ‘suddha Radha-Krishna bhakti bhajan’, and the ‘prema dharma’ introduced by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. During his long life, Babaji Maharaja freely taught Sanskrit and the secrets of the Srimad Bhagavatam to scores of eager brahmacaris and Babajis. As a service, whenever Babaji Maharaja was requested by other Gurus like Sri Sri 108 Pandit Sri Ananta Dasji Maharaja, he would give sannyasa vesh (bheka) to their disciples. Babaji Maharaja was a gentle, humble, unassuming sadhu with a fantastic memory of slokas from the Bhagavatam, Gita and other sastra. He deeply knew all the Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhantas, and he would compassionately share his vast wisdom with anyone seeking his shelter. Babaji Maharaja constantly stressed the need to take complete shelter in Harinama; always be completely humble; never offend any Vaishnava; and always remember the nitya-lilas of Radha Govinda Yugala. Govinda-lilamrta and Shri Raghunath Dasa Goswami’s Stavavali were his constant companions. Babaji Maharaja satisfied the thirst of all seekers who came for his Darshan. He emanated friendly warmth, care, and oceans of wisdom. Babaji Maharaja treated everyone like his own, making sure each and every devotee was satisfied and comfortable. And most importantly, before leaving his sublime association, everyone just had to take Krishna prasadam, which he often personally served with the utmost love. On January 11, 2019, at 7.10 A.M. Srimati Radharani came to Babaji Maharaja’s kutir in Barsana, and said, “Hey Baba! Now come with Me. We have to go to Nandagram to cook breakfast for Shri Nandanandana.” And thus Babaji Maharaja’s incredibly long life of Harinama, Gopi-Bhava and Bhagavata came to a beautiful close. He fulfilled his three sankalpas, perfected his bhakti sadhana bhajan, and went to Goloka Vrndavana to blissfully serve His beloved Radha Govinda Yugala for time eternal! 108 Sri Sri Pandit Sri Krishna Das Babaji Maharaja, Bhakti-tirtha ki jai! Jai Jai Sri Radhe! Jai Gurudeva! Jai Gurudeva! Jai Gurudeva!
  8. In a case held before the court of Raja Jai Singh, Baladeva Vidhyabhushan proved the legitimacy of the Gaudiya Sampradaya, which was being questioned by Ramanandi priests. The priests argued: How can Radha and Krishna be worshiped together since they are not married? And how can Vishnu be worshiped through Krishna? Baladev Vidhyabhushan was sent to the court in Amber (Jaipur) to defend Gaudiya Vaishnavism by his shiksha Guru, the renowned Vrindavan scholar Shri Vishwanatha Chakravarti. ← Radha Govind Dev, Jaipur In 1669, Aurangzeb issued a decree that the temples of Vrindavan should be destroyed and many deities were moved to the region now known as Jaipur. When Govind Dev arrived, Raja Jai Singh was overjoyed, as he had visited Vrindavan when he was seven years old and had been naturally attracted to the Vrindavan way of worship. However, the Ramanuja priests, who had until then enjoyed official favour, felt that their position was being threatened. At the time of hearing in which Vidhyabhushan established the legitimacy of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the political infighting had been going on between the Ramanandi priests and Gaudiya Vaishavas for many years. It had now reached the point where the Ramanandi priests demanded that Radha be removed from the main altar of Govinda Temple and be placed on a separate altar. According to their argument – Sita and Ram are married, so are Lakshmi and Vishnu, so they can be worshipped together, but there is no precedent for the worship Radha and Krishna together. To appease the Ramanandis, Raja Jai Singh told them that he would ask the Gaudiyas to place Radha Rani in a separate room; explain their breach of Vaishnnava etiquette and prove their link with the Madhava Sampradaya. Baladev Vidyabhushana was the perfect person to defend the Gaudiyas as he had been initiated in the Madhava Sampradaya during his youth; born in Odisha, the young Baladeva travelled to Karnataka in search of a preceptor. In the Ananda Tirtha (Madhava Sanpradaya) Matha, Baladeva studied Madhava Acharya’s commentary on Vedanta Sutra and perfected his debating skills. He then travelled on to Puri where he met Radha Damodar Das who explained that Gaudiyas are not interested in commentaries on Vedanta Sutra as they consider the Srimad Bhagavatam to be the natural commentary as it was written last. Radha Damodar Das recommended that Baladev read Jiva Goswami’s Bhagavata Sandarbha. This work impressed Baladev, as it seemed to expand on Madhav Acharya’s writings, so he was convinced to join the Gaudiyas and travelled to Navadvipa then Vrindavan. ← Madhava Acharya Baladeva’s study of Madhav Acharya’s commentary on Vedanta Sutra, was put to good use when he was called to defend the charge of the Ramanandis that Gaudiya Vaishnavism cannot be considered a legitimate sampradaya because it is not a system established by any of the four learned Vaishnava preceptors who wrote commentaries on the Vedanta Sutra to refute the commentary written by Shankar Acharya (788-820). The four Vaishnava preceptors from whom the four main sampradayas – Ramanuja, Nimbarka, Madhava and Vishnuvami – each describe the connection of the universe and living entities to the Supreme. Shankarachaya interprets the Vedanta Sutra from a monist perspective, whereas Madhav Acharya’s interprets it from a Dualist perspective. In the chapter “Baladeva Vidyabhusan: The Gaudiya Vedantist” in Journal of Vaishnava Studies Vol 1, no2, Michael Wright explains the difference in the interpretations of the Vedanta: “Put simply, Shankara taught that only the Supreme is real or true, while the world of forms is an illusion; Madhava taught that the Supreme is indeed real and true, but the world is also real, not an illusion. Madhava asserted that while the world may be relative, temporary and non-absolute, it is nevertheless real in its own way.” The Ramanandis who contested the authenticity of Gaudiya Vaishnavism followed Ramanuja, the main proponent of Vishishtadvaita philosophy, a philosophy that is closer to Shankaracharya’s monism. When Baladeva Vidyabhushan rose to give evidence before Raja Jai Singh’s court, the Ramanandi representatives tried to stop him from presenting his evidence by saying that they would not accept anything written by Gaudiya Vaishnavas, since they had no authorised sampradaya. In reply, Baladeva assured them that he was from the Madhava sampradaya but that Radha Damodar Goswami and Vishwanath Chakravarti of the Gaudiya Sampradaya were also his gurus. The Ramanandis had to accept Baladeva as a qualified sanyasi and pandit of an authorized lineage but argued that he argue by referencing Madhava Acharya’s commentary on Vedanta Sutra, as the Gaudiya Vaishnavas had no separate commentary. This put Baladeva into a dilemma as Madhava Acharya’s commentary does not directly justify the worship of Radha-Krishna as practiced by Gaudiya Vaishnavas. This dilemma led Baladeva to embark on an impossible task – to write a Gaudiya Vaishnava commentary on the Vedanta Sutra in only a few weeks. Michael Wright describes what Baladeva did after a recess was granted so that a Gaudiya Vaishnava commentary could be produced. “Baladeva went to Govindapur just outside Amber [Jaipur]. Presenting himself before the deity Govinda, he knelt and prayed, “O Govinda, your devotee Vishvanatha has sent me here to defend you and your devotees, but I cannot do it! I am just a soul fallen in ignorance. If you wish, you may empower me to write a Vedanta Sutra commentary that will glorify you. If you wish, I shall write the truths I have learned from your devotees and your scripture. And I have faith that by your mercy, thee truths will appear most logical.” Then Baladeva began to write. Pausing scarcely to rest, he wrote and prayed and wrote again. Days and nights passed, but he did not stop. Some chroniclers of the tradition say he wrote for one month. Others say it took him only seven days. Either way, he soon accomplished the improbable, if not the impossible. Baladeva returned from Govindapur with his commentary. By now, keep expectancy had been aroused in all the various parties. Jai Singh, hoping to see the Gaudiyas vindicated, was especially eager to see the commentary. The Ramanandis, however, awaited the commentary with some trepidation, hoping they could defeat it readily …Baladeva then addressed each of the Ramanandis’ objections to Gaudiya worship. “I have expounded on every aspect of Gaudiya practice in chapter Three,” he said. “Since your criticisms concern our style of worship, you should turn to Chapter Three to see how Vyasa, the author of Vedanta Sutra has provided for our worship. You object to our worship of Radha with Govinda,” Baladeva continued, “on the superficial grounds that they are not married. In verses forty through forty two, I have presented the true position of Radha in relation to Krishna. Radha is the eternal energy of Krishna and is never separated from him. Their relationship may be parakiya [married] or svakiya [unmarried], but that does not affect the eternality of their union. The separation of Radha and Govinda you have effected is artificial and therefore offensive to the Lord, who holds deep affection for his female energy. “You have criticized our predilection for worshiping only Krishna , neglecting the worship of Narayana, Vishnu, which you say is mandatory for all Vaishnavas. I have addressed that point in my comments on verse forty three. According to the Vedanta Sutra , Narayana may be worshiped in any of his forms including Krishna. No scriptural injunction prohibits the worship of Govinda exclusive of Narayana.” The Ramanandis had to accept Baladeva’s arguments and drop the case.
  9. Govardhan, 10.01.2019 Braj Tirtha Vikas Parishad will begin the treatment and purification of the holy waters of Govardhan’s Radha and Shyam Kund this week. A Gurugram-based agency has been roped in for the job. The project will be carried out in collaboration with the Tourism and Fire Departments. It is expected to take three months for completion. Situated on the Govardhan Parikrama Marg, Radha Kund is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Braj. Thousands of people visit the place during festivals. Even though residents and activists have been vocal about the polluted state of its waters, this has not deterred devotees from performing ‘Achaman’ (sipping of water for purification) or bathing in the kund. It is heartening that the government has finally started working on a solution. To begin with, firefighting machines will be used to overdose the two kunds which together cover an area of more than 3 acres. This will help in the proliferation of pollution-combating bacteria. Results will be visible within ten days of overdosing. According to BTVP chief engineer AP Singh, maintenance of the post-treatment kunds will not be a costly affair. If the project is successful, BTVP will implement this strategy for treatment of other kunds in Braj. The derelict state of these ancient and sacred water bodies of Braj is no secret. Many have been encroached upon, while others that have dried up are reduced to dumping grounds for construction and human waste. The previous government planned the renewal and restoration of ancient water bodies of Braj under the World Bank’s Pro- poor tourism project. Eleven kunds situated in Vrindavan, Mathura, Goverdhan, Varsana and Nandgaon were identified for it. There was no progress on the execution front however. The incumbent government led by chief minister Yogi Adityanath pruned the list to include nine kunds which will also feature on UP’s official tourist map. These include Potra Kund, Davanal Kund, Govind Kund, Harji Kund, Narad Kund, Madhusudan Kund, Vihval Kund, Priya Kund and Vrishabhanu Kund. Last year a sum of Rs. 100 crore was promised for their renovation.
  10. A108-AI

    Braj saints leave for Kumbh

    Vrindavan, 10.01.2019 Kumbh Mela, the mass Hindu pilgrimage and also the world’s largest religious gathering, has started in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh. Millions of pilgrims will attend the event over the course of approximately 48 days to bathe at the sacred confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna, and Sarasvati. Sadhus and saints of Braj have also reached Prayagraj to attend this auspicious event. The first ‘Shahi Snaan’ will be held on ‘Makar Sankranti’ (January 15). Karshni Guru SharananandJi Maharaj, Swami Swaroopanand Maharaj, Swami Govindanand, Swami Maheshanand and Acharya Ashok Joshi from the Raman Reti ‘Karshni Udasin Ashram’ left for the Kumbh on Wednesday. Religious discourses and cultural programmes have been organised by the Karshni Shivir at sector 7, Prayagraj Kumbh. Chote Thakur Harivallabh Sharma will perform ‘Raaslila’. Mahant Ladlisharan Das said that the glories of Prayagraj Kumbh are as eternal and pristine as the spiritual and cultural heritage of Braj. Prominent religious personalities such as Yog-guru Swami Ramdev, The Dalai Lama, Jagadguru Rambhadracharya, Govind Dev Giri Maharaj, Bhagvat Bhaskar Krishnachandra Shastri Thakurji, Maluk Pithadheeshwar Mahant Rajendra Das Maharaj and Achraya Pundarik Goswami have been invited to address pilgrims at the Karshni Shivir. Braj saints will forcefully demand the construction of Ayodhya Ram Temple at the ‘Kumbh Dharm Sansad’ which will be held on January 31 and February 01. Recognised as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ by UNESCO last year, Kumbh Mela is the largest public gathering and collective act of faith. It is held every three years in one of the four places including Haridwar (Ganges), Ujjain (Kshipra), Nashik (Godavari), and Prayagraj by rotation. At any given place, the Kumbh is held once in 12 years. A special Kumbh fair is held in Vrindavan, on the banks of the Yamuna every 12 years, whenever the main Kumbh is at Haridwar. There are several lilas relating the Kumbh to Vrindavan. One popular belief is that while flying with the pitcher of amrit (nectar) obtained after ‘Samudra Manthan’, Garud Dev sat on the Kadamba tree at Kalidah.
  11. Sva Niyama Dashakam is Shrila Raghunath Das Goswami’s ten instructions or rules for himself. These instructions form ten main points of focus for devotees wanting to engage themselves in Krishna Bhakti. In verse 2, Raghunath Goswami pledges his devotion to Braj and his enthusiasm for associating with the residents of Braj. Continuing along this same line, in verse 3, he expresses his determination to stay in Braj: sadā rādhā-kṛṣṇocchalad-atula-khelā-sthala-yujaṁ vrajaṁ saṁtyajyaitad yuga-virahato’pi truṭim api punar dvārāvatyāṁ yadupatim api prauḍha-vibhavaiḥ sphurantaṁ tad vācāpi hi nahi calāmīkṣitum api Even if the greatly opulent Lord of the Yadus (Krishna) should personally invite me to come and see him in Dwarka, I will not leave the land of Vraja, the eternal matchless playground of Radha and Krishna, for even a moment, even if I were to suffer separation from the Divine Couple there for ages! Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In the previous verse, Shri Raghunath Das vows that even if he can associate with saints and see the deities of Krishna in other holy places, he does not desire to leave Vraja. He would rather spend his time in Vraja speaking nonsense with the villagers. Now one may ask: “What if Krishna personally called for Raghunath Das to come to Dwarka, to mitigate the burning pangs of separation from which he is suffering — would he then desire to leave Vraja and go to Dwarka?’ To dispel these doubts Raghunath writes this verse, in which he confirms his loyalty to Vraja. Shri Raghunath Das says: “What to speak of a short time, even if I suffer the pangs of separation from Krishna for aeons, I will not go to Dwarka, even if the supremely majestic Yadupati (Krishna of Dwarka) should personally call me there to see him!” When, in his manifest pastimes, Krishna left Vraja to go to Mathura, Nanda and the cowherders did not desire to go there to see him, no matter how much they suffered from his separation, and even though it was only a very short distance (12 kilometers) from Vrindavan to Mathura. The reason is that the love of the Vrajavāsīs is completely sweet. They can only be happy by loving Krishna in the human way of relating: “He is my son, he is my friend, or he is my lover.” They would not be able to see him in that way in Mathura. Their love would shrink back with timidity when they saw him engaged in his royal duties, with all his prowess and opulences. There’s not a drop of selfish desire left in the love of the Vrajavāsīs. Their minds and hearts are totally absorbed in giving pleasure to Krishna. Krishna would feel embarrassed if he saw them in Mathura, because in this majestic abode he would not be able to carry Nanda Baba’s shoes on his head, anoint his head and other limbs with mother Yashoda’s foot-dust, be defeated by his friends in play, or fall at the feet of his proud, beloved Radha. It would not make him happy to meet them outside of Vraja where the mood is different, therefore, the Vrajavasis, who only care about his happiness, do not desire to go and see Krishna anywhere else. If they should ever meet him elsewhere, they would feel great anguish and say: tomāra ye anya beśa, anya saṅga anya deśa, braja-jane kabhu nāhi bhāẏa braja bhūmi chāḏite nāre, tomā nā dekhile mare, braja-janera ki habe upāẏa “The people of Vraja are never attracted to you in another dress, another country and with other associates. We cannot leave Vraja and if we don’t see you we will die. What should the people of Vraja do about this?” (CC 2.13.146) Hence Sri Raghunath Das says: “Even if I suffer separation from Krishna for ages I will not go to see the vastly opulent Yadupati, even if he himself tells me to do so!” Shri Raghunath Das is actually Sri Radha’s beloved maid-servant, therefore he never desires to leave Sri Sri Radha Madhava’s many blissful and rasika pastime places in Vraja Dham. Krishna is called Līlā Puruṣottama, the Supreme Person in his playful aspect. The taste of his pastimes can never be fully relished in abodes like Dwarka, because the devotees’ love is hampered by all the majestic glory there. In Vraja, the special quality of Krishna’s pastimes is their sweetness. kṛṣṇera yateka khelā, sarvottama nara-līlā, nara-bapu tāhāra svarūpa. gopa-beśa beṇu-kara, naba kiśora naṭabara, nara-līlāra hoy anurūpa “Of all of Krishna’s pastimes, his human-like pastimes, in which he appears as a human being, are the greatest. Then he dresses like a young adolescent cowherdboy, holds a flute in his hand and is adept in dancing, exactly according to human pastimes.” (CC 2.22.109) The special feature of that best of adolescent dancers, Vraja-nandana, is that he is Eros personified. There’s no comparison to the sweetness of his erotic pastimes with the Vraja-sundaris, who are all endowed with mahā-bhāva. Especially his pastimes with the crown-jewel of Vraja gopis, mahā-bhāvavatī Srimati Radharani, are endowed with endless glory. Srila Raghunath Das is Shri Radha’s dear maidservant, and he is very happy to take shelter of Radha and Madhava’s transcendental playground of Vraja, where he can remember all their blissful amorous pastimes. When that playground is merciful, the practising devotee will also be able to see the immensely sweet, self-manifest pastimes of Sri Radha and Madhava that always take place there. This is what happened with Sri Lilashuk and other fortunate devotees. The pastimes of Radha and Madhava began to float before their eyes. For this reason, Shri Raghunath Das vows never to leave Vraja and not to go to Dwarka for even a moment, even when he is being called there by Krishna himself. His vow of living in Vraja stands firm. yugala vilāsa khelā, yathā nitya nava līlā, sukhamaya śrī vṛndāvana. vrajadhāma tyāga kore, yete dvārāvatī pure, ājñā kore madana mohana “If Madana Mohana orders me to leave Vraja Dham, blissful Sri Vrindavan, the place where the Yugala Kiśora always perform Their pristine pastimes, and to go to Dwarka…. prauḍha vibhava-śālī, yadupati yāre boli, sei prabhu korite darśana. lava nimeṣārdha tare, yāibo nā vraja cheḍe, e saṅkalpa korechi grahaṇa ….even if the very wealthy Yadupati asked me to come and see him I would not leave this Vraja for even a split second. This is my firm vow.”
  12. Vrindavan, 05.01.2019 Last week we brought you the life story of Ramakrishna Baba from OBL Kapoor’s seminal work, The Saints of Braj. Now enjoy the inspirational story of his younger godbrother, Sri Radharaman Das Baba. Born on April 14th 1932 in a village in West Bengal, Sri Radharaman Das Baba received initiation from Sri Rama Das Baba. His initiation at an early age was arranged by his devotionally minded mother, Lalita Devi. OBL Kapoor describes the change that took place after initiation and how he quickly attained Vrindavan: “After initiation, a sudden change was noticed in him. He used to retire to a lonely place and meditate for hours. His eyes always swam in tears. In this state he somehow completed his education and passed the MA examination from Calcutta University. But when his parents began to negotiate for his marriage, he found himself standing on a crossroad. He renounced the world and went to Vrindavan. In Vrindavan, he took sanyasa diksha from Sri Madhava Dasa Baba Ji. Then he went to village Maghera where his elder godbrother, Sri Ramakrishna Das Baba lived. Under his guidance he studied Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Sri Chaitanya Bhagavata and other scriptures. After this, he began to live in Vihar Vana, near Rala village, and practiced Sadhana. His absorption in bhajana was so deep that he would not even go for madhukari every day. He went for madhukari only once or twice a week and collected sufficient rotis to last him for a number of days. When the roties dried, he dipped them in water and ate. The result was that he developed a gastric ulcer. Acute pain in the stomach caused great difficulty in bhajan. He had to go to Calcutta for treatment. He was admitted in a hospital. His younger brother Sacidulala and niece Kumari Nandini attended him. But his condition worsened day by day. One day, in the evening, the pain in the stomach suddenly became too severe. The doctors were called. He overheard one of them saying to the other, “He may vomit blood tonight and die.” He was not afraid of death, but his anxiety was that he would die out of Vrindavan in a Calcutta hospital. In his anguish he began to pray to Radharani. “O Svamini (the mistress of my heart)! Why have you turned me out of Vrindavan to die here like a dog? Perchance I have committed some offence. May be that instead of doing bhajan, I have only deceived myself and others by aping as one absorbed in bhajana. If I had not done so, you must at least have given me the boon of death in Vrindavan. You thought I did not even deserve to die in Vrindavana. But my Swamini! Even though undeserving, am I not yours? Even if I have aped, have I aped as someone other than your servant? You are by nature so merciful that even if a man takes your name by mistake, you give him Darshan. I do not know why you are so indifferent to me. I do not ask for Darshan because I know I do not deserve it. I ask only for death in Vrindavan. Have mercy on me, Svamini, have mercy on me! As he said this, he cried aloud in deep distress then became unconscious. His cry did not go in vain. It touched the heart of Radharani. She came running along with Krishna and gave him Darshan in his unconscious state. With a smile on Her face, She showed him Her right hand, as if to bless him with death in Vrindavan, while Krishna gently moved his Lotus hand on his stomach and asked in a tender voice, “Where do you feel pain, Baba?” How could Baba say where he was feeling pain and to whom? For the pain as well as the questioner had disappeared along with the question and Radha had disappeared too. ← Rang Mahal in Nidhivan The next morning, the doctors were surprised to see the patient, who was writhing with excruciating and incurable pain till only eight or ten hours before, and should have died by morning, had sat up and was asking for food. But, after this miracle, after which Baba became illness free and returned to Vrindavan, Sri Radharaman Baba began to feel intense separation from Radha Krishna. “How could he bear the thought that those, who were his own more than anyone else, be remote from him more than anyone else?” He moved to a cave in Govardhan known as Raghav Pandit’s cave, but his ‘pain of separation’ continued to increase and he paid little attention to his body. For sustenance, he took only buttermilk and neem leaves. Baba had Darshan many times while in Braj, but his thirst for darshan could not be quenched. Once, he and Baladev Rama had Darshan and were told to go to Jaipur, upon which the pair found themselves standing hear Jaipur station. And, once again, he was called back to Vrindavan at the right time: “On November 26, 1987, when he was still in Jaipur, he had a vision and a message from Radharani. He called Baladev Ram and said to him, “Radharani has called me to Vrindavan. Take me there. The next day Baladeva Rama started with Baba in a car to Vrindavana. On the way, Baba went to meet some of his disciples and devotees and said to them while parting, “I take leave of you. May Radharani bless you!” After reaching Vrindavan, Baba announced that he was going to see one of his disciples, Murali Lal, but did he not return. Baladeva Rama and Atmaram ji from Gyan Gudri, went to Murari Lal’s house to ask about Baba. Murari Lal said that Baba never came. The trio searched for Baba but found no clues. A few days later, they read in the Amar Ujala news that the body of a baba ji had been found underneath Radha Rani’s Rang Mahal in Nidhivan. Due to the mysterious circumstances, police conducted an autopsy but no cause of death could be found. Hence, all who were ready to understand what happened knew that Baba had gone to transcendental Vrindavan at the call of Radharani Who had accepted him as Her sakhi. Baba’s siddha manjari deha had entered Radha Rani’s Rang Mahal in her eternal abode in transcendental Nidhivan.
  13. Braj, 06.01.2019 Krishna Das baba’s Samadhi is in Ranvadi, a village 3 miles SW of Chhata. Baba’s disappearance day at his Samadhi in Ranvadi was celebrated on 5th January. Born and raised in Bengal, as soon as he heard talk of preparations for his marriage, he left home and began walking towards Braj. One hundred and fifty years ago, Braj was mostly jungle. Baba lived simply in his small hut. Since he had come to Braj at a young age, Baba never had the opportunity to travel much. The desire to visit the four main Dhams arose in his heart but Radha Rani appeared to Baba in a dream and told him that the most favourable thing for him to do would be to say in Braj and do bhajan. Baba passed off the instruction to stay in Braj as a doubt arising from his own mind. He decided to fulfill his desire to travel anyway. ← Tapta Mudra Baba reached Dwaraka where he received a Tapta Mudra (branding with auspicious symbols), which is a practice mentioned in the Vedas but is not part of Braj Sadhana. As soon as he received the symbols, Baba began to feel separation from Braj. He decided to return, but Radharani again appeared to him in a dream. Radharani told Baba that since he has joined the group of Dwaraka devotees, he should go to Dwaraka, not Braj. This time, Baba realized that the dream was not just the workings of his imagination. He obeyed the order, but later decided to go and visit his friend, another baba called Krishna Das, who lived in Govardhan. Krishna Das of Govardhan was pleased to see his friend and asked where he had been. When Ranvadi Krishna Das told him what happened. His friend from Govardhan said, 'Well then, now you have become a servant of Maharasheshwari (Satyabama Devi, one of Krishna’s wives).' Ranvadi Krishna Das was stumped. He did pranam to his friend and went back to his hut, where he gave up all food and water. He held an image of Radha Rani to his heart and remained sitting in one place for three months. Suddenly, the heat of his penance burst out of his body and his skin started burning. Jagannath Das and his disciple Bihari Das were passing by and saw that Krishna Das’ skin was burning. The hut was shut up tight, so they broke in. Passers by gathered around. Jagannath Das asked for some cotton balls. He placed three wicks on Krishna Das’ forehead. Then, the fire suddenly spread and Krishna Das was no more. All glories to Krishna Das, who realized the glories of living in Braj Dham as Radha Rani’s servant.
  14. Vrindavan, 06.01.2019.01.06 Braj Tirtha Vikas Parishad (BTVP) and the State Tourism Development Corporation have jointly undertaken a renovation and beautification drive worth Rs. 1.5 crore at Bhandira Van which is celebrated as one of the 12 main forests of Braj. Encroachments on the way to the main temple (from Chanhari to Bhandirvan) were removed at the orders of SDM, Dr. Rajendra Pensiya. Action was taken against those who failed to comply within 24 hours. Provisions for visitors’ convenience such as resting points, toilets and proper roads leading to Vamsi Vat are being constructed at the site. According to the temple priest, Ramanlal Sharma, restoration work will also be undertaken at Bhandira Koop – the ancient well mentioned in Puranic legends. BTVP vice-president Shailja Kant Misra and CEO Nagendra Pratap surveyed the area and instructed officials to maintain the ancient look and feel, even as the place is given a facelift. According to the Padma Puran, there are twelve forests in Mathura-Mandal, namely, Bhadra-, Śrī-, Lauha-, Bhandira-, Mahā-, Tāla-, Khadira-, Bahulā-, Kumuda-, Kāmya-, Madhu- and Vṛndā-vana. Bhandira Van also finds mention in Brahma Vaivarta Puran, Garga Samhita, and Gita Govind. Situated on the way to Mant village from Mathura, it is home to many ‘leela sthalis’ of Sri Krishna such as Bhandira Vat, Venu Koop, Raas Sthali, Vamsi Vat, MallaKrida Sthan, ShriDama Vat and Shyam Talaiya.
  15. Vrindavan, 02.01. 2019 New Year 2019 was welcomed with chants of ‘Radhe Radhe’ echoing across Braj Dham. ← 156 tonne fruit offering at Radha Kund Huge crowds gathered in Govardhan to see the Radha Kund and Shyam Kund shining with bright lights. Elaborate rituals were held at Shri Giriraj Temple. As the New Year also coincided with ‘Saphala Ekadashi’, people took a dip in the kund and asked Radha Rani to grant their wishes. Hundreds of tonnes of fruit was offered to the kunds. Thousands upon thousands of devotees rang in the New Year with a darshan of their beloved Lord Banke Bihari. The temple was decorated with colourful balloons for the occasion, and perfumes were sprinkled in the premises. Even though the entry and exit points were regulated and arrangements were made to ensure one-way movement of people, the crowd swelled beyond the control of the police/security personnel. The temples’s Parikrama Marg entrance had to be closed by barricading. Banke Bihari temple on New Years day → People also thronged Ladliji Mandir in Barsana, Nandgaon’s Nand Bhavan, Baldeo’s Dauji Mandir Dwarkadheesh temple and Jhadi Wala Hanuman in Naujheel, Mathura. ‘Chappan Bhog’ was organised at Bawla Ashram’s Hanuman Mandir and Kusum Sarovar. Food and blankets were distributed at ‘Bhandaras’ that were set up in numerous locations. Many devotees also chose to celebrate the New Year by doing Govardhan, Vrindavan or Gehvarvan (Barsana) Parikrama. While the crowds made multiple darshans problematic and some locals chose to avoid the crowds, others went to have a first darshan at the temple they feel most connected to. TRAFFIC AND CROWD MANAGEMENT- HITS AND MISSES Police remained on guard to ensure smooth movement of traffic and security of pilgrims. Extra force was deployed at popular temples, railway stations, bus stands and highways. Checks were conducted at regular intervals with officials being particularly alert against illegal products including alcohol and drugs being carried inside the city. All entry points in Govardhan and Vrindavan were manned by the Police. Four-wheelers and outside vehicles were restricted at the peripheries. However, despite all efforts, there were some lapses in traffic and crowd management. As parking facilities in Vrindavan were inadequate, vehicles were directed to ‘Naveen Mandi Samiti’ on Panigaon raod. While it was supposed to be a free parking facility, some miscreants were reportedly making money on the scene. In Vrindavan, slow-moving traffic near Raman Reti, Attala Chungi, Vidyapeeth Chauraha, Harini Kunj, Parikrama Marg and Chatikara Road inconvenienced locals and pilgrims alike. Police also failed to manage the crowd at Banke Bihari temple as the entry points from Dauji Tiraha, Vidhyapeeth Chauraha and Gautam Pada were left unguarded. Shri Shri Radha Gopinath
  16. Here we present the second verse of Ragunath Goswami’s Swa Niyam Dashakam (ten rules for governing oneself). In this verse, Ragunath Goswami expresses his love of Braj, together with his determination to remain in Braj and to worship Braj, Brajwasis, Braj’s temples and deities all together. VERSE 2: na cānyatra kṣetre hari-tanu-sanāthe’pi sujanād rasāsvādaṁ premnā dadhad api vasāmi kṣaṇam api samaṁ tv etad grāmyāvalibhir abhitanvann api kathāṁ vidhāsye saṁvāsaṁ vraja-bhuvana eva pratibhavam I will not live in any other holy place for even a moment, even if there is a deity of Lord Hari there and even if I can lovingly relish transcendental topics of Hari there with great devotees. Instead, I will live in Vraja birth after birth, even if I pass my time speaking nonsense with the ordinary villagers. Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In this verse, Sri Raghunath Das takes a firm vow always to live in Vraja with great love. One of the five extraordinarily powerful items of sādhana bhakti is living in Vraja, and even a slight performance of any of these items can awaken prema in the offenseless practising devotee’s heart. It is therefore needless to say that a person who is fixed in living in Vraja will easily attain the perfection of prema. Rāgānugā-sādhakas who are fixed in the rasas of Vraja, should always live in Vraja and do bhajan there: kuryād vāsaṁ vraje sadā (BRS). This is one of the most internal items of bhajan. Undoubtedly, bhāva-bhakti will awaken in the heart of a devotee who is fixed in Vraja, but moreover, even if an offenseless devotee simply touches the land of Vraja, devotion will appear in his heart. This has been loudly proclaimed by the scriptures: parānanda¬mayī siddhir mathurā-sparśa-mātrataḥ. Such extraordinary, inconceivable powers cannot be fathomed by the intelligence. ← Ragunath Das Goswami who gave up a luxurious lifestyle to eat only remnants of remnants Even if he can be so fortunate to see the deities of different temples and hear topics of the Lord from the mouths of great devotees there, Sri Raghunath Das does not desire to live in any other holy place, such as Badarikashram, not even for a moment. He desires to stay in Vraja birth after birth, even if he just spends his time speaking nonsense with low-caste villagers there. The purport of this is that in other holy places, the glories of Lord Hari are heard and chanted in a mood of awe and reverence (aiśvarya-jñāna), and this will certainly destroy the sweet mood of a Vraja-bhakta if he goes there. Also the darshan of different deities outside of Vraja will inevitably awaken a feeling of awe and reverence in the heart of a Vraja devotee. In Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, Sanatan Goswami describes how Sri Gopa Kumar, who served Krishna in the sweet fraternal rasa in Vraja, went to the holy abodes of Vaikuntha, Ayodhya and Dwaraka and had personal meetings there with Narayan, Ramachandra and Dwarkanath Krishna. Instead of making him happy, these meetings made him very distressed because they filled him with feelings of awe and reverence. Finally, in Sri Uddhava’s house in Dwarka, Narada and Uddhava advised Gopa Kumar to abandon these majestic abodes and go to Vraja Dham, the abode of sweetness. In this connection Narada Muni said: tat tu laukika-sad-bandhu-buddhyā prema bhayādijam; vighnaṁ nirasya tad gopa-gopī-dāsyepsayārjayet tad dhi tat-tad-vraja-krīḍā dhyāna-gāna-pradhānayā; bhaktyā sampadyate preṣṭha-nāma-saṅkīrtanojjvalam * * * * * * * * * * * * * tad vai tasya priya-krīḍā-vana-bhūmau sadā rahaḥ nivasaṁs tanuyād evaṁ sampadyetācirād dhruvam “O Gopa Kumar! One who desires to serve the gopīs and gopas of Vraja and to give up obstacles like fear of the Lord takes shelter of Krishna’s lotus feet and lovingly approaches him as a good worldly friend. This devotional practice, which awakens the love of Vraja, mainly consists of singing and meditation, as well as the brilliant practice of nāma sankīrtana. For this devotional practice, devotees exclusively reside in Krishna’s playground Vraja Bhumi, where they swiftly attain the desired Vraja-prema.” (BBhāg. 2.5.217-8, 220) Just as the exclusive attention and devotion of an ekānta-bhakta for his favorite deity is very lovely and praiseworthy, similarly the exclusive loyalty of such devotees for the playground of their beloved deity is also very lovely and highly favorable for the attainment of their perfection in bhāva. This exclusive loyalty to one certain deity or holy abode does not mean that the devotee disregards, disrespects or belittles other forms of the Lord, because: ananta rūpe eka rūpa nāhi kono bheda “There are innumerable forms of the Lord, and one form is absolutely non-different from the other.” (CC) In the same way, devotees do not belittle or disrespect other sacred abodes of the Lord, which are all manifestations of one and the same sandhinī-śakti (the Lord’s existence-potency). Rather, these holy abodes and their presiding deities are very pleased with such exclusive devotees. In this way, although Sri Raghunath Das may be found discussing all kinds of wordly topics with the Vrajavāsīs, this greatly enhances his own mood of Vraja consciousness. Therefore he vows to live in Radha Madhava’s playground Vraja Dham birth after birth and he has given up the desire to live in other holy places, even if he can see deities of the Lord, associate with great devotees or be engaged in hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord with such devotees there. ← Sanatan Goswami samadhi at Madhan Mohan temple In Bhakti Ratnakara it is described: “Although Sanatana Gosvami was most renounced, his love for the people of Vraja transcended all his rules of renunciation and out of great love for them he would speak about worldly subjects with them all night. He would inquire about their welfare most affectionately: How many sons and daughters do you have and where are they married? What are their names and how do they live? How much harvest did you collect and how much ploughing have you done? Are you physically well? How do you feel mentally?” The Vrajavasis were all very happy when he asked these things from them and they gradually informed him of everything. If anybody was suffering that would make Sanatan Goswami very unhappy. In this way they passed the whole night, speaking until sunrise.” vraja chāḍi anya dhāme, rasika bhakata sane, hari kathā mahotsava hoy yāhāke bhajanā kori, śrī govinda yadi heri, tabu mana tathā nāhi dhāya “Even if I could attend great festivals where rasika bhaktas hold Hari-kathā and even if I could see my worshipable deity Sri Govinda there, I would not leave Vraja to go to any other holy place.” kintu ei vṛndāvane,itara janera sane, grāmyālāpa korite korite janme janme vāsa kori,seho śreyaḥ mane kori, e lālasā sadā mora cite “But in this Vrindavan I would even speak all kinds of nonsense with the villagers. I think it would be better if I could live there birth after birth. This desire is always on my mind.”
  17. Vrindavan, 31.12.2018 With the onset of the month of Paush (of the Hindu calendar), Goswamis of Nandgaon’s Nanda Bhawan are taking extra care to protect Lord Krishna and his family from the cold weather. ‘Mithi Khichri’ (a sweet preparation of rice and lentils) made with generous amounts of saffron, ‘Kasturi’ and nuts, is being served to the lord. A brazier has been lit to keep the Lordships warm. Thakurji has been wearing warm clothes and having saffron and kasturi ‘Paan Beeda’ (betel leaf and betel nut mouth freshener) since the beginning of ‘Agahan Maas’. He enjoys warm and delicious saffron milk along with the entire family before going to sleep in a cozy blanket. Hand stuffed cotton shawls, ‘bagalbandhi’ shirts and ‘fargul’ (a type of coat) are used for the deity’s ‘shringar’ (decoration). He also gets a daily massage with warm, perfumed essential oils. The services will continue till the arrival of ‘Basant Ritu’ (Indian spring). Similar rituals are being followed in all temples of Braj. The lordships are enjoying Khichri along with other winter delicacies and services. Nanda Bhawan is located atop Nandhiswar Hill in Nandgaon. Nandgaon is considered as one of the sub-forests or Upvans of Vrindavan. Nand Raeji’s father, Parjanya, lived here along with his entire clan, but later he moved to Gokul because of the terror of the horse-demon Keshi.
  18. OBL Kapor has described many of the inspiring saints of Braj, including Shri Ramakrishna Das Babaji and his brother Shri Radharaman Das Babaji. Born in a religious family in Calcutta, both the brothers moved to Vrindavan as soon as they got the chance. The elder of the two brothers, Ramakrishna Das baba, made two only disciples, who he initiated after he became blind. He shunned fame but his absorption in bhakti and absolute refusal get tied up in parapeksha (dependence on others) led him to become one of the renowned saints of Braj. ← OBL Kapoor. P.C. Open Library Ramakrishna Das’ refusal to get tied up in parapeksha was witnessed first hand by the chronicler of Braj’s saints. Shri OBL Kapoor. Normally, Babaji would visit three houses to ask for madhukari. If he did not get any food then, instead of wasting more time in search of food, he would fast for that day. Baba normally lived alone in a jopedi (shack) in a solitary place. Once, when Babaji became ill, he went for treatment in his Guru’s ashram in Vrindavan. Kapoor met him and persuaded him to take some milk for the sake of his health. Babaji refused to accept anything from outside Braj. Kapoor describes what happened when Baba found out who was paying for a few days’ milk: “I requested him to take some milk because he was too weak. After a good deal of persuasion he agreed. I arranged for the supply of milk. A few days later my friend, Sri Harirama Singhaniya, an industrialist of Calcutta, came to Vrindavana. He requested me to take him to some siddha saint for darshan. I took him to Baba. He was very much impressed by him and wanted to do some service for him. I said, “Baba does not accept any service from anyone. He also does not need anything except madhukari. With great difficulty he has agreed to take milk for a few days.” At once he said. “Then please let the milk be supplied at my expense.” I agreed rather reluctantly. Singhaniya Ji had not yet paid for the milk. But it could not remain hidden from Baba’s keen spiritual sense that henceforth the milk he would drink would be purchased with the money of a person who lived outside Vraja. The very next day he called his disciple Madana Mohana and said, “Madana, I will not live here, Take me back to Maghera immediately. ” Madana said, “Baba, everything here is so favourable and your health has begun to improve. You should stay here until you are quite well.” “No, No. You don’t know. There is parapeksa (dependence on others) here. I cannot stay here for even a moment.” OBL Kapoor presents Ramakrishna Das Babaji’s life as an “illustrious example of ceaseless bhajana”. Born in 1911 in Jasohara in East Bengal, “he did not lose time in determining his goal and dashing towards it like an arrow”. At only 18 years of age, he was initiated by Rama Das Babaji of Pathabani Ashram in Calcutta. After living in his Guru’s ashram and serving his guru for some time, he went to Varanassi to study scriptures. As soon as he had completed his studies, he came to Vrindavan and took Babaji vesh from his godbrother, Shri Rajani Babaji Maharaj of Govindakund. From here, he proceeded to Maghera, a small village about four miles from Chhatikara to begin his “life-long ceaseless bhajan”. “An essential part of his bhajana was kirtana. He performed kirtana four times during the day, prabhati kirtana early in the morning at 3.30am, madhyanha kirtana at midday, arati kirtana in the evening and abhisara kirtana at about 10pm. He performed kirtan at such a high pitch that his voice would be heard in the remotest corner of the village. His engrossment in kirtana was so deep that sometimes he exclaimed aloud “Ha Nitai!” or “Ha Radhey!” and fell senseless on the ground. All the rest of his time he spend in Giridhari-seva and lila smarana.” Baba lived in a small hut with hardly room to lie stretched out. The hut was in a low-lying area which would flood in the rainy season. The area was infested with mosquitoes but, the advice of villagers to move to another place, Baba chose to remain in that place and felt that the conditions were favourable as fewer people came to visit. Baba did not accept disciples. He lived alone in his hut, He ate only two rotis in the day and a quarter of a roti at night. He slept for only an hour or so and refused to waste time on bodily needs. Living in this way, Baba went blind. He then accepted two disciples – Pranagauranga Das and Madana Mohana Das – who lived near him in separate huts. Even when Baba was ill, he did not seem to be suffering and seemed oblivious to the afflictions of the material body. “Baba was physically ill, but spiritually he seemed to swim always in the ocean of bliss. The waves of the ocean tossed him up and down and he sometimes laughed, sometimes wept and sometimes cried aloud like one who has one mad, because the bliss was too intense for his frail body and mind to contain.” On several occasions, when people touched him, they got a shock of spiritual power like an electric current. Baba’s material body was truly just a vehicle for his spiritual practice. In the tradition of the great saints and Rishis, Baba was fully aware when the time to leave his body was approaching. At midday on Trayodasi, May 13, 1984, Babaji demanded to be taken to his guru’s ashram in Vrindavan, where kirtan had been going on continuously for thirty years. Kapoor describes what happened as soon as Baba reached the ashram: “Baba said, “Take me to the place of kirtana.” He went and sat there and remained sitting in meditation for about half an hour. He was, perhaps, waiting for Nrsinha Chaturdasi, which was to start after half an hour. As soon as Nrsinha Chaturdasi started, he shouted, “Jai Nitai! Jai Radhe!” and left the body to meet his Gurudeva and Parama Gurudeva in transcendental Vrindavan, and to play his part in the divine lila of Radha-Krishna under their guidance. Everyone had thought that Baba had gone to Vrindavana, but would return to Maghera after a few days, as he had done before. But this time he was called to transcendental Vrindavana, from where no one ever returned. If he appeared to have gone to the phenomenal Vrindavana, it was because what appeared as the phenomenal Vrindavana was itself the transcendental Vrindavan. It appeared as phenomenal to people, whose vision was perverted. To one like Baba, whose spiritual eyes had opened, it was the same transcendental Vrindavana, where Krishna-lila was eternally going on, where not only the gopas and gopis, but the birds and animals, the trees and creepers and even the grass and the dust were made of sat (existence) cit (intelligence) and ananda (bliss) and were eternally engaged in the service of Krishna, where everything was tuned to the flute of Krishna, where even time stood still or flowed, and space expanded or contracted like the petals of a lotus, according to the sweet will of Krishna.” Jai Nitai! Jai Shri Radhe Shyam! (Based on “The Saints of Braj”, OBL Kapoor, Chapter 24, “Sri Ramakrsna Dasa Baba Ji”, Aravali Books International, New Delhi, 1998).
  19. Steven J. Gelberg, a religious studies theorist, has attempted to provide an explanation of how Vrindavan evokes ‘spiritual emotions’. The foremost spiritual emotion is Bhakti – the desire to become the Lord’s instrument with the selfless desire to please the Supreme Lord. Before describing how Vrindavan helps to awaken this highest of spiritual emotions, Gelberg explains what Bhakti is, saying: “Bhakti is not mere theoretical acknowledgement of, or pious regard for, the Deity, but (in its most evolved form) direct, profound, ecstatic, mystical apprehension of (and active relationship with) God, conceived in the most personal of terms.” Of all the religions in the world, there is something special about Hinduism, especially some of the varieties of Hinduism that are practiced in Vrindavan. Gelberg quotes Charles Brook’s explanation of the superiority of the understanding of human psychology that is found within Hinduism: “Perhaps in no other religious system have human emotional potentials been so considered, categorized, and sacralized than in the codification accomplished by the Bengali Vaishnavas.” These writers produced numerous texts delineating the path of bhakti, categorizing and elaborating the various stages of mystical devotion, even typologizing varieties of religious ecstasy – always tying in their highly nuanced analyses to features of and episodes from the Krishna story….Some of the terms they use, such as ‘rasa’, ‘bhav’ and ‘prem’, have entered into the vocabulary of every devotee of Krishna. Terms such as ‘rasa’ and ‘bhav’ derive from Sanskrit drama and poetics, and refer to the various aesthetic moods invoked by dramatic and poetic works. ← Worshipable representation of Rupa Goswami at Radha Damodar temple Rupa Goswami, in particular, transmuted these aesthetic categories into mystical ones. Thus rasa, which in the poetic sense refers to “the supreme relish of literary enjoyment” comes to refer to the sublime mystical sentiments experienced by t in relation to Krishna. Brooks explains that these mystical rasas: “are patterned primarily upon the emotions that result from various dyadic relationships common to all humans, and these serve as paradigms for the mystical variety. They are specifically based, however, upon the set of relationships that Krishna had with the inhabitants of Vrindaban during his descent to earth, and which are believed to eternally exist in the heavenly Vrindavan…Bhava, on the other hand, “indicated a predisposing emotion that one has toward Krishna which becomes rasa only when it is highly refined and integrated into the devotee’s entire being through experience. “ Vrindavan is seen by both the scholastic theologians and the pilgrims as the place most conducive to the development and experience of these mystical emotions. The environment is already saturated with Krishna Bhakti, due both to the presence of widespread, intensive devotional activity, as well as the “invisible” mystical presence of Krishna’s eternal spiritual realm, wherein the devotional rasas are played out in their fullest perfection. Shri Hariram Vyas ji, P.C. Kishorban → Hariram Vyas, a mystic and poet who lived in the Vrindaban area in the late sixteenth century, praised Vrindaban as (in Entwistle’s paraphrase) “the capital of all those who are receptive to sublime aesthetic feelings.” It is the place where one may experience the bliss that arises from beholding Krishna and Radha. Residence in Vrindaban offers the best chance of attaining…the full experience of the eternal and transcendent dimensions of the environment in which they sported.” Pilgrims and residents engage in a wide variety of activities that help them to connect with the transcendent Vrindavan – visiting temples, participating in kirtan, watching Rasa Lila performances, performing Parikrama, rolling in the dust on the streets…the list is endless. The enormous variety of devotional activities itself helps to indicated the different bhavas. Seeing other people’s engagement in devotional activities encourages newcomers to take up a practice that suits their mood, so momentum builds up and everyone in Vrindavan finds themselves getting engaged in some or other devotional activity. Modern philosophers confirm that the desire to engage in religious activity is part of being human – that we are in fact religious entities. Mircea Eliade coined the term “ontological thirst” to describe the innate desire for the sacred: “the sacred is pre-eminently the real, at once power, efficacy, the source of life and fecundity. Religious man’s desire to live in the sacred is in fact equivalent to his desire to take up his abode in objective reality, not to let himself be paralyzed by the never-ceasing relativity of purely subjective experience, to live in a real and effective world, and not in an illusion. This behaviour is documented on every plane of religious man’s existence, but it is particularly evident in his desire to move about only in a sanctified world, that is, in a sacred space.” Gelberg goes on to describe other emotional drives that propel people to go on pilgrimage to Vrindavan: The yearning for paradise; the desire to escape from restrictive social structures that prevent spontaneity; nostalgia for childhood pastimes (similar to Krishna’s childhood pastimes); desire for liberation from the material world and the desire for ecstatic experiences. Even if a person can only ‘mentally live in Vrindavan’, Vrindavan residence has a powerful impact on a person’s life. Gelberg quotes Haberman’s explanation of the prominence given in Hinduism to mental projections: “The world of mental images or imagination is taken much more seriously in India than it is typically in the West. If one could somehow hold in mind (smarana) a mental image harmonious with Ultimate Reality, one would live in or participate in…that reality. One becomes what one “holds in mind”. Therefore, the Vaishnavas strive to meditate on, or remember, the Ultimate Reality…an in this way attempt to share in that reality.” For those who believe in the ideal realm, the material is an imperfect reflection of the spiritual world, and, once we leave Vrindavan, our memories will be an imperfect reflection of the material Vrindavan. Anyone who has ever lived anywhere else other than Vrindavan, may find themselves wondering whether they are actually in the ‘real Vrindavan’, and there is a thick curtain of illusion (maya) that protects Vrindavan from prying eyes and prevents ‘real Vrindavan’ from being easily perceived. Hence, as Gelberg concludes: “It thus appears that however much the transcendental atmosphere of Vrindaban might normally inspire lofty, sublime states of devotional consciousness, there are those who can physically be there without really “being there”; while others can “be there” even if they are thousands of miles away. Vrindaban is, then, a state of mind, a mode of being, a sacred space that is at once nowhere and everywhere, a place in the heart and in the soul.” Whether or not one is physically in Vrindavan, loving devotional service (bhakti) is the key that provides entrance to transcendental Vrindavan. Seeing others practice bhakti, the desire to be in Vrindavan and the perception of ‘spiritual emotions’ like rasa, bhava and prem (in oneself and others) help to open the doors of the mind to the authentic Vrindavan experience. (Article based on: Steven J. Gelberg, “Vrindavan as a locus of Mystical Experience”, Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Vol 1, No. 1, 1992, (ed.) Steven J. Rosen.)
  20. Mathura, 23.12.2018 On Tuesday, Yamuna Devi (42), wife of Raju Goswami, was on the roof of her house when she was attacked by a pack of monkeys. Many houses have rooftop toilets and, many women are forced to hang clothes on the roof despite the danger (to person and property) from monkeys. In the areas where monkeys have learnt to attack in packs, residents and visitors alike are terrorized by the violent primates, some of which are ready to sink their teeth into whoever they come across. Yamuna Devi’s family are not lamenting that if something had been done about the monkey problem, Devi might still be alive. When the monkeys attacked her on the roof of her house, Devi shouted and tried to fight them, but they did not stop their attack and she fell to the ground, sustaining serious head injuries. Her family took her took her to a small hospital and spend over an hour going from one hospital to another. Unsatisfied with the treatment in the small hospitals, they eventually decided to go to Nayati hospital in Mathura, however Devi was pronounced dead on arrival. 2040291_orig-300x169.jpgMany residents feel frustrated that despite their complaints about dangerous packs of monkeys, nothing is being done to remove the large male monkeys, who are not afraid of humans and are fond of attacking woman and children for food or any items that they imagine might be traded for food. While hundreds of minor incidents occur every day, that result in losses of thousands of rupees of property and hospital treatment for wounds, serious incidents also occur frequently. In another report this week, an 18 year old girl sustained serious head injuries after she chased some monkeys who had taken her lunch box onto the roof. She suddenly found herself being attacked by a pack of monkeys and in the ensuing struggle, she fell from the roof.
  21. ← Dauji temple, Baldao Vrindavan, 23.12.2018 Brajraj Dauji Maharaj’s 438th appearance day was celebrated on Agahan Poornima (December 22) in Baldeo. The day began with learned Brahmins chanting Balbhadra Sahasrasnaam (1000 names of Lord Balbhadra) amidst the enchanting sound of the Shehnai horn After a ‘Panchamrita’ and saffron abhishek (bathing ceremony), Dauji was offered a warm blanket as part of the ritual that signals the onset of the extreme winter. According to temple priest, Ramnivas Sharma, the quilt offered to Dauji and his Divine Consort Revati is made using a 75-metre-long cloth and 12 Kgs of cotton. Dauji’s Poshak requires 56 metres of warm fabric. The Deities were offered special Kheer (rice pudding) in the afternoon and warm milk with nuts at night. The day also marked the commencement of the month-long Agahan Poornima Mela, popularly known as the ‘Lakkhi Mela’. The fair was inaugurated by UP Power Minister Shrikant Sharma. MLA Pooran Prakash was the other chief guest. Dauji (elder brother of Lord Krishna and the King of Braj) and Mata Revati (daughter of King Kakudmi) appeared on Margashirsha Poornima of Samvat 1638 (1583 as per the Gregorian calendar). The murti (statues) were consecrated by Shrimad Vallabhacharya Mahaprabhu’s grandson, Goswami Gokulnath and were first worshiped in a small hut. The temple was constructed a year later, with Dauji’s responsibilities being handed over to Goswami Kalyan Dev and his descendants. According to archaeologists, the Dauji murti dates back to Kushan Period and is the most ancient in Braj. The seven-headed serpent, ‘Sheshnaag’ can be seen above His head.
  22. Sri Gaurāṅgāya namaḥ VERSE 1: gurau mantre nāmni prabhu-vara-śacī-garbhaja-pade svarūpe śrī-rūpe gaṇa-yuji tadīya-prathamaje girīndre gāndharvā-sarasi madhu-puryāṁ vraja-vane vraje bhakte goṣṭhālayiṣu param āstāṁ mama ratiḥ Let me have the greatest love for my Guru, my initiation-mantra, the holy name of Krishna, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the greatest of all Lords, who has appeared from the womb of mother Sach, Sri Swarup Damodar, Sri Rupa Goswami , his devotees and his elder brother Sanatan Goswami, the king of hills Govardhan, Gandharvika’s lake Radha Kund, Mathura Puri, the forests of Vraja, the meadows of Vraja and the inhabitants of these meadows. ← Devotee worshiping at Sri Raghunath’s samadhi, Radha Kund. Stavāmṛta Kaṇā Vyākhyā: In Sādhakāveśa, Srila Raghunath Das Goswami humbly considers himself to be an ordinary immature practicing devotee and takes ten firm vows for himself to become fixed in bhajan. Devotees who are fixed in bhajan and desire to attain the perfection of prema should strictly keep their vows. raghunāthera niyama yena pāṣāṇera rekhā (CC) “Raghunath Das’s vows were indelible like the lines on a stone.” Pure devotees who wander in the realm of bhāva, do not have to follow any regulative principles because they are floating on the waves of bhāva without being aware of external matters for long stretches of time. It is therefore difficult or sometimes impossible for them to adhere to external rules. Still we see that these great realized souls knowingly do not give up their exemplary regulative principles of bhajan in any way. When Namacharya Srila Haridas Thakur became old and was unable to keep his daily quota of japa, he prayed to Sriman Mahaprabhu that he could proceed with his antardhāna-līlā (his pastime of leaving his body at his own chosen time). In other words, he would rather give up his life than his vows. Srila Raghunath’s adherence to his strict vows is described in the sixth wave of Bhakti-ratnākara: atikṣīṇa śarīra durbala kṣaṇe kṣaṇe; karaẏe bhakṣaṇa kichu dui cāri dine yady api śuṣka deha bātāse hālaẏa; tathāpi nirbandha kriẏā saba samādaẏa bhūme paḏi’ praṇami’ uṭhite nāhi pāre; ithe ye niṣedhe kichu na kahaẏe tāre anukūla ha-ile praśaṁsaẏa bāra bāra; dekhiẏā sādhanāgraha debe-o camatkāra “Raghunath’s emaciated body became weaker at every moment, and he would only eat something every two or four days. Although his body was so brittle 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, he could not get up anymore, but if anyone (out of concern for him) forbade him to do this, he would not listen. Seeing his strict adherence to his vows, even the demigods were amazed!” These ten vows of Srila Raghunath Das are like the pole star, like a compass for the Gaudiya Vaishnava practitioners. Previously, in his Manaḥ-śiksā, Sri Raghunath Das already expressed his loving attachment to the same deities and holy abodes as here in this verse, where he repeats himself to make it absolutely sure that love for them is indispensable for those who want to attain the perfection of prema. First of all, Sri Raghunath desires to become attached to the lotus feet of his guru. In Sri Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswami has described 64 limbs of bhakti, starting with taking shelter of the lotus feet of a guru; accepting an initiation mantra from him; learning the intricacies of bhajan from him, and serving him with love and faith. These are three gates through which we enter the temple of devotion: guru padāśrayas tasmāt kṛṣṇa dīkṣādi śikṣānaṁ viśrambheṇa guroḥ sevā. The guru must be pleased by serving his lotus feet with firm faith, love and passionate devotion. Worship of God can never reach perfection unless the guru is pleased, that is the undisputed verdict of the scriptures. tad-prasādo hi mūlam (Sri Jīva Goswami): “The cause of perfection is the guru’s grace”. yāhāra prasāde bhāi, e bhava tariyā yāya, kṛṣṇa prāpti hoy yāhā hoite (Prema-bhakti-candrikā) The secondary effect of the guru’s satisfaction is liberation from the material world, and the main result is attainment of Krishna’s lotus feet. In this way the devotee becomes blessed in all respects. Just as water turns into ice when it is exposed to excessive cold, similarly the ocean of the Lord’s grace takes a solid form when it descends to earth in the form of the guru. Therefore attainment of love for Krishna and of his devotional service are easily accomplished as a result of love for the guru’s lotus feet. śrī guru caraṇe rati, ei se uttamā gati, ye prasāde pūre sarva āśā (Prema-bhakti-candrikā) After this, Sri Raghunath expresses his desire to love his initiation mantras. The mantra which is received from the guru’s lotus feet at the time of initiation is called the iṣṭa-mantra, or the beloved transcendental formula. yo mantraḥ sa guruḥ sākṣāt yo guruḥ sa hariḥ svayam (Vāmana Kalpa) “The mantra is non-different from the guru and the guru is again non-different from the Supreme Lord Hari.” Therefore, those who wish to worship Krishna should receive mantra-dīkṣā from a bona fide guru. In his commentary on the verse “mantrasya ca parijñānam” from the Bhāgavata (11.21.15) Srila Vishwanath Chakravartī writes: sad-guru-mukhāt yathāvat parijñānaṁ mantra-śuddhiḥ “The mantra is really pure when it emanates from the mouth of a bona-fide guru.” Such benefits cannot be had from practicing a mantra that is just taken from a book. By the Lord’s wish, the mantras that contain His names have been empowered by sages like Narada, who have adorned them with invocatory syllables (bīja) and affixes such as svāhā or namaḥ. In this way, the practitioner of the mantra establishes a special relationship with the Lord and vice-versa. When the devotee practices his mantras with rati (attachment) he will surely and swiftly attain the highest goal of love for the Lord’s lotus feet. After this, Sri Raghunath desires love for and attachment to the holy name of Sri Hari. Because the holy name and the Lord are non-different from each other, the holy name is also self-manifest and transcendental to māyā. The devotee can never independently bring down love for the holy name simply on the strength of his own practice. Just like the Lord himself, the holy name cannot be perceived through the senses, but when a living entity becomes sevonmukha, which means that he develops a service attitude, the holy name will automatically appear on his tongue. Srila Rupa Goswami writes in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.234): atah śrī-kṛṣṇa nāmādi na bhavet grāhyam indriyaiḥ sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ Sevonmukha means the endeavor to please and delight the Lord with one’s devotional service. When, by the grace of great souls or through their association, a devotee realizes that the Lord is most pleased if he performs nāma saṅkīrtana, he enthusiastically begins to practice it. By the grace of the great souls, the holy name then automatically arises on his tongue and extends its delectable influence there. When the holy name is chanted with other desires than to love and please the Lord, only a semblance of its power and influence will become manifest. Even if this nāmābhāsa (semblance of the holy name) is practiced again and again, rati or anurāga will not be attained, but, when the holy name is chanted without ulterior motives, simply out of love for the Lord, the practising devotee will be blessed with prema, love for the Lord’s lotus feet and taste for chanting the holy name. kṛṣṇa nāma mahā-mantrera ei to svabhāva; yei jape tāra kṛṣṇe upajaye bhāva kṛṣṇa-viṣayaka premā parama puruṣārtha; yāra āge tṛṇa tulya cāri puruṣārtha kṛṣṇa-nāmera phala premā sarva śāstre koy (CC) “It is the nature of the kṛṣṇa-nāma mahā-mantra that anyone who repeats it develops love for Krishna, which is the fifth and final goal of human life, before which the other four goals are mere blades of grass. All the scriptures say that love for Krishna is the proper result of chanting his holy name.” After this, Srila Raghunath prays for love of Sri Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet. He is himself one of Mahaprabhu’s eternal associates and his extraordinary rati or anurāga for Mahaprabhu is world famous, but still he humbly and insatiably prays for love for the Lord’s lotus feet to engage the Gaudiya Vaishnava aspirants in Sri Gaura-bhajana. The root cause of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas’ love for the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna is loving worship of Sri Gauranga’s lotus feet. gaura prema rasārṇave, se taraṅge yebā ḍube, se rādhā-mādhava antaraṅga (Prārthanā). In his Chaitanya-candrāmṛtam (88) Sripad Prabodhananda Saraswati has written: yathā yathā gaura-padāravinde vindeta bhaktiṁ kṛta-puṇya-rāśiḥ tathā tathotsarpati hṛdy akasmāt rādhā-padāmbhoja-sudhāmbu-rāśiḥ “When a very fortunate soul experiences devotion for Gaura’s lotus feet, the nectar-ocean from Radha’s lotus feet suddenly floods his heart.” Particularly in this present age of Kali, the confidential worship of Radha Madhava is the great merciful gift of Sriman Mahaprabhu. Sri Gaurasundara has given that sweet Vraja worship, which was unattainable for even the greatest sages of the relatively purer ages of Satya, Tretā and Dvāpara, to the unfortunate, sin-stained people of the age of Kali, thus raising them to the most elevated platform. Therefore, without taking shelter of his lotus feet, the sweetness of Vraja can never be relished. kṛṣṇa līlāmṛta sāra, tāra śata śata dhāra, daśa dige bohe yāhā hoite se caitanya līlā hoy, sarovara akṣaya mano-haṁsa carāho tāhāte “Sri Chaitanya’s pastimes are like a shoreless lake from which hundreds and hundreds of rivulets of Krishna pastimes, that are the quintessence of nectar, flow in all directions. Make your mind a swan that swims in that lake!” caitanya līlāmṛta pūra, kṛṣṇa-līlā sukarpura, doṅhe meli hoy sumādhurya sādhu-guru prasāde,tāhā yei āsvāde, se-i jāne mādhurya prācurya ye līlā amṛta vine, khāya yadi anupāne, tabhu bhaktera durbala jīvana “This nectar of Chaitanya’s pastimes becomes even more sweet when the nice camphor of Krishna pastimes is added to it. Anyone who relishes this by the grace of the saints and the guru knows its abundant sweetness. If a devotee simply eats and drinks without drinking this nectar of Chaitanya’s pastimes, his life will be weakened.” It is not that one must take shelter of Gaura-worship just to relish the sweetness of Radha Krishna’s pastimes. The lotus feet of Sri Gauranga and Sri Radha Madhava are simultaneously worshiped by the Gaudiya Vaishnavas and they are both their final goal. hethā gauracandra pābo, sethā rādhā-kṛṣṇa (Srila Thakur Mahashay). By calling Sriman Mahaprabhu Śacī-garbhaja Sri Raghunath humbly indicates that he has attained mercy from him like one can only get from the mother, but that unfortunately he could not become permanently attached to the worship of this most merciful Sriman Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet. Mahaprabhu became carefree when he placed Raghunath Das in the care of Swarup Damodar and called him “Swarup’s Raghu.” Here, Sri Raghunath prays for attachment to the lotus feet of Swarup Damodar. Out of shyness and awe, Sri Raghunath would not freely speak about himself. Instead he would tell the Lord through the medium of Sri Swarup Damodar. prabhu āge kathā mātra nā kore raghunāth; svarūpa govinda dvārā kohāya nija bāta. When Swarup Damodar submitted Raghunath’s questions to Mahaprabhu, the Lord smiled and told Raghu: hāsi mahāprabhu raghunāthere kohilo; tomāra upadeṣṭā kori svarūpere dilo sādhya sādhana-tattva śikho ihā sthāne; āmi toto nāhi jāni iha yoto jāne “I’ve given you Swarup Damodar as a teacher. Learn the means and the goal from him! I don’t know as much as he knows!” In this way, the Lord made Raghunath Swarup Damodar’s pupil in all respects. Raghunath humbly thought: “The Lord has given me Swarup Damodar as an invaluable jewel, but alas! Unfortunately I have not become attached to his lotus feet!” Hence Raghunath takes a firm vow to worship the lotus feet of Sri Swarup Damodar. ← Srila Rupa Goswami’s samadhi at Radha Damodar temple, Vrindavan After that, Srila Raghunath takes a firm vow to become attached to the lotus feet of Srila Rupa Goswami, his teacher of rāgānugā-bhakti endowed with regulative principles. At the end of his Stavāvalī, in the Abhīṣṭa-sūcanam (2), Sri Raghunath himself says: yad-yatnataḥ śama-damātma-viveka-yogair adhyātma-lagnam avikāram abhūn mano me rūpasya tat-smita-sudhāṁ sadayāvalokam āsādya mādyati hareś caritair idānīm Through the efforts of Sri Rupa Goswami my mind has become equipoised (śama), controlled (dama) and absorbed in transcendence through the practice of ātma-viveka (spiritual discriminati¬on) and yoga. Because of attaining his merciful glance and his nectarean smile my mind has now become maddened by Sri Hari’s pastimes!” In other places in his books, Sri Raghunath shows his topmost faith in and devotion for Sri Rupa Goswami ādadānas tṛṇaṁ dantair idaṁ yāce punaḥ punaḥ śrīmad-rūpa-padāmbhoja-dhūliḥ syām janma-janmani ādadānas tṛṇaṁ dantair idaṁ yāce punaḥ punaḥ; śrīmad rūpa padāmbhoja-rajo’haṁ syāṁ bhave bhave “Taking a straw between my teeth, I pray again and again that I may become a speck of dust at Srimad Rupa Goswami ‘s lotus feet, birth after birth!” In Rādhā-kṛṣṇojjvala-kusuma-keli (44) he has written: idaṁ rādhā-kṛṣṇojjvala-kusuma-keli-kali-madhu- priyālī-narmālī-parimala-yutaṁ yasya bhajanāt mamāndhasyāpy etad vacana-madhupenālpa-gatinā manāg ghrātaṁ tan me gatir atula-rūpāṅghrija-rajaḥ “By worshiping the matchless dust of Srila Rupa Goswami ‘s lotus feet, even the limping bumblebee of the words of an ignorant and arasika person like me is able to now smell a little of the fragrance of the honey of Radha and Krishna’s playful and brilliant flower-quarrel, that is scented by the words of their dearest girlfriends. This matchless foot-dust is my only goal!” In this way, Sri Raghunath shows his topmost devotion for Srila Rupa Goswami. Still, he humbly says here that he has no love for these lotus feet at all and prays that he may become attached to them once. ← Sanatan Goswami’s samadhi at Madan Mohan temple, Vrindavan After that, Sri Raghunath prays that he may become attached to the lotus feet of Srila Sanatan Goswami. In his Vilāpa-kusumāñjali (verse 6) he surrenders to Srila Sanatan Goswami’s lotus feet, writing: vairāgya-yug-bhakti-rasaṁ-prayatnair apāyayan mām anabhīpsum andham kṛpāmbudhir yaḥ para-duḥkha-duḥkhī sanātanaṁ taṁ prabhum āśrayāmi “I surrender to my master Sanatan Goswami, who is an ocean of mercy, who is very unhappy when he sees others suffering and who made me drink the nectar of devotion laced with dispassion, although I was blind and unwilling.” Suffering the pangs of separation after the disappearance of Sri Gauranga, Sri Raghunath Das actually came to Vraja Dham to commit suicide by jumping from Govardhan hill, but Srila Rupa and Sanatan Goswami consoled him and advised him to settle down at Radha Kund. Srila Raghunath felt that whatever he had accomplished in bhajana sādhana, either in this life or the next was all due to Rupa and Sanatana’s grace, but he unfortunately could not become attracted to the lotus feet of they who bestowed such causeless mercy on him. In this humble way, Sri Raghunath became very unsteady and took a firm vow to be lovingly attached to Sri Rūpa and Sanātana as an indispensable part of his bhajan. ← The Shila gifted to Raghunath Das Goswami, now in Radha Gokulananda temple, Vrindavan After that, Sri Raghunath desires loving attachment to Giriraj Sri Govardhan. In Nilachal, Mahaprabhu had given him His Govardhana-Silā, which was dearer to him than life, and explained to him what the real svarūpa of the rock is; prabhu kohe – ei śilā kṛṣṇera vigraha; ihāra sevā koro tumi koriyā āgraha. “The Lord said: This stone is Krishna’s own body; serve it with great enthusiasm!” (CC) By the Lord’s grace, Sri Raghunath saw the stone as Krishna himself while he served it, and floated in an ocean of transcendental bliss: pūjā-kāle dekhe śilāya vrajendra-nandana (CC). Due to his advanced stage of transcendental realization, Sri Raghunath understood the secret significance of the Lord’s giving him the Govardhana Śilā, and this made him go beside himself in bliss. raghunātha sei śīlā mālā yabe pāilā; gosāira abhiprāya ei bhāvanā korilā śīlā diyā more samarpilā govardhane; guñjā mālā diyā dilā rādhikā caraṇe ānande raghunāthera bāhya vismaraṇa; kāya mane sevilen gaurāṅga caraṇa When Lord Chaitanya gave him the rock from Govardhana hill and the string of sacred guñjā beads, Raghunath thought about the Lord’s purpose as follows: “The Lord has entrusted me to Govardhana hill by giving me this rock and he placed me at the lotus feet of Sri Radhika by giving me this string of guñjā beads!” Raghunath Das was beside himself in ecstasy and he served Lord Gaurānga’s lotus feet with body and mind. While his heart is burning in the fire of separation from the Lord, Sri Raghunath exclaims: “Alas! Although the Lord submitted me to the lotus feet of Govardhana hill, my heart could not become attracted to Him!” Hence Raghu takes a firm vow here to love the lotus feet of Guṇa-nidhi Haridāsa-varya Srila Giriraj. Then again he prays for an increase of his topmost love for Sri Radha Kund. Srila Raghunath is known as Kuṇḍavāsī; his great loyalty and love for Sri Radha Kund is well known to everyone. The remembrance of Radha Kund is horizontally and vertically entwined with the remembrance of Srila Raghunath Das Goswami. As soon as someone says “Radha Kund” we remember Srila Raghunath Das Goswami. Raghunath is exclusively fixed in Sri Radha Kund, the most intimate playground of Sri Sri Radha Madhava, and he always prays to Priyajī’s lake to relieve him from the burning pain of separation from them by allowing him to see and serve them there: sva-kuṇḍaṁ tava lolākṣi sa-priyayā sadāspadam atraiva mama saṁvāsaḥ ihaiva mama saṁsthitiḥ he śrī-sarovara sadā tvayi sā mad-īśā preṣṭhena sārdham iha khelati kāma-raṅgaiḥ tvaṁ cet priyāt priyam atīva tayor iti mām hā darśayādya kṛpayā mama jīvitaṁ tam “O Lolākṣi (restless eyed girl)! Your lake is always the dwelling place of you and your Beloved. Here only will I live and here alone will I remain!” “O beautiful lake! (Radha Kund)! My mistress always plays loving games in you with her beloved Krishna. If you are dearer to them than the dearest, then please show me my mistress, who is my very life!” (Vilāpa-kusumāñjali 97, 98) Sri Raghunath also desires loving attachment to Sri Madhupuri. In the Padma Purāṇa it is said: aho madhupurī dhanyā vaikuṇṭhāc ca garīyasī dinam ekaṁ nivāsena harau bhaktiḥ prajāyate “Aho! Blessed is this Madhupurī, which is greater even than Vaikuṇṭha-dhāma! Even after staying there for one day one becomes devoted to Lord Hari!” Of the seven greatest holy cities of the earth, Mathura is the greatest and is worshipable by all other holy places. In Sri Rupa Goswami ‘s Mathuraṣṭakam it is seen: adyāvanti-patad-grahaṁ kuru kare māye śanair vījaya cchatraṁ kāñci gṛhāna kāśi purataḥ pādū-yugaṁ dhāraya nāyodhye bhaja sambhramaṁ stuti-kathāṁ nodgāraya dvārake devīyaṁ bhavatīṣu hanta mathurā dṛṣṭi-prasādaṁ dadhe “O Avanti! Today you can take a spittoon in the hand! O Māyāpuri! Fan softly! O Kāñci! Hold an umbrella! O Kāśi! you hold the shoes in front! O Ayodhye! Don’t be afraid anymore! O Dvārake! Don’t utter anymore praises now, because today Mathura-devīhas become pleased with you. Casting a merciful glance on you, she has accepted you as her maidservant!” After this, Sri Raghunath covets loving attachment to Vrajavana or Vrindavan. Vrindavan here means the present municipality which has a circumference of 5 kos, or 16 kilometers. The whole of Vraja Mandal is also often called Vrindavan. The name Vrindavan can thus be used for both the municipality as well as its surroundings. Just as Sri Radha Kund is Raghunath’s dearmost place of worship because it was revealed by Sriman Mahaprabhu, who is dearer to him than millions of lives, similarly Vrindavan is also dearer to him than life because it was unveiled by Sriman Mahaprabhu and Sri Rūpa and Sanatan Goswami. When Mahaprabhu came to Vraja, Vrindavan was nothing but a jungle. Vrindavan was the last place Mahaprabhu went when he performed the Vraja Mandal Parikrama. He would go there daily, coming from Akrura Tirtha where he was staying. In Vrindavan, the Lord blissfully remembered Krishna’s pastimes and performed nāma saṅkīrtana in solitude. Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami describes the Lord’s tour of Sri Vrindavan as follows: On the first day he bathed in Kaliya Hrada and Praskandana tīrtha and had darshan of Dwadashaditya Tila, Keshi Ghat and the Rāsa-sthalī (Vamsi Vat) before returning to Akrura Ghat for taking a meal and rest. On the second day, he bathed in Cīra Ghat, took rest and chanted nāma saṅkīrtana at Tentula Talā (Imli Talā) before returning to Akrura Ghat at midday to take his meal. On the third day he chanted nāma saṅkīrtana in Vrindavan until midday, considering this to be a more peaceful place than Akruura Ghat, where he was bothered by crowds of people, and he met a certain Krishna Das of the Rājaputa caste (kṣatriyas from Rajasthan) before returning to Akrura at midday. On the morning of the fourth day he returned to Vrindavan with Krishna Das to chant nāma saṅkīrtana. If there had been any temples or ashrams at that time, the Lord would not have returned to Akrura Ghat daily to take his alms. One day the Lord sat down at Akrura Ghat and remembered Akrura’s vision of Vaikuṇṭha and the Vrajavāsīs’ vision of Goloka as he looked in the Yamuna water. Out of sheer ecstasy he jumped into the water and was about to drown if Krishna Das had not called Balabhadra Bhattacharya to help him pull the Lord out. Balabhadra understood that it was not free from danger to keep the Lord in Vraja, because: vṛndāvane ḍube yadi ke uṭhābe tāre (CC) “Who would lift him out if he drowned in Vrindavan?” This statement proves again that Vrindavan was an uninhabited place at the time of Mahaprabhu’s visit. In Vrindavan, Sri Chaitanya Deva revealed the holy places Dvādaśāditya-tilā, Keśī-ghāṭa, the Rāsa-sthalī and Cīra-ghāṭa, and later; on the order of the Lord, and by his grace, Sri Rūpa and Sanatan Goswami revealed all the other playgrounds of Krishna. The Vrindavan we see today is the merciful revelation of Sriman Mahaprabhu and Rūpa and Sanatan Goswami. The Padma Purāṇa, Uttara Khaṇḍa, says: pañca yojanam evāsti vanaṁ me deha rūpakam; kālindīyaṁ suṣumnākhyā paramāmṛta vāhinī atra devāś ca bhūtāni vartante sūkṣma rūpataḥ; sarva devamayaś cāhaṁ na tyajāmi vanaṁ kvacit āvirbhāvas tirobhāvo bhaved atra yuge yuge; tejomayam idam ramyam adṛśyaṁ carma-cakṣuṣā “This forest (Vrindavan) extends over five yojanas (ten miles) and, the Yamuna River, which carries the highest nectar, is its spine. All the demigods and spirits reside here in subtle forms. I, the aggregate of all the gods, also never leave this forest. I appear and disappear here age after age. This transcendentally effulgent lovely forest can not be perceived by the material eyes.” When this Vrindavan and its transcendental pastimes had vanished through the force of time Sri Raghunath’s dearmost Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Rūpa and Sanatan Goswami unveiled it once more, so that it became dearer to him than his very life-airs. That is why he prays for loving attachment to Sri Vrindavan. The word vraja-vana can also mean the twelve forests and subforests of Vraja Mandal: tena dṛṣṭā ca sā ramyā keśavasya purī tathā; vanair dvādaśabhir yuktā puṇyā pāpa-harā śubhā “he saw these twelve lovely forests of Keshava, which destroy all sins and bestow all auspiciousness and virtue.” In the Padma Purāṇa it is seen: bhadra-śrī-lauha-bhāṇḍīra-mahā-tāla-khadirakāḥ; bahulā-kumudaṁ kāmyaṁ madhu-vṛndāvanaṁ tathā dvādaśaitāny araṇyāni kālindyāḥ sapta paścime; pūrve pañca vanaṁ proktaṁ tatrāsti guhyam uttamam “Bhadra-, Sri-, Lauha-, Bhāṇḍīra-, Mahā-, Tāla-, Khadira-, Bahulā-, Kumuda-, Kāmya-, Madhu-and Vrindavan – these are the twelve forests of Vraja. Of them, seven are on the west bank of the Yamunā and five are on the east bank. These are the most confidential forests.” Sri Raghunath desires loving attachment for these twelve most sacred forests. Then Sri Raghunath prays for loving attachment to the goṣṭha, or pasture fields of Vraja. There’s nothing as sweet as Krishna’s goṣṭha-līlā: nija sama sakhā saṅge, go-gaṇa cāraṇa raṅge bṛndābane sbacchande bihāra yāra beṇu-dhvani śuni, sthābara jaṅgama prāṇī, pulaka kampa aśru bahe dhāra “Krishna freely plays with his friends on an equal level, tending his cows in Vrindavan. When the moving and non-moving living entities hear the sound of His flute, they shiver, get goose-pimples and shed streams of tears out of ecstasy.” (CC) Srimatī Radharani and her sakhīs also come to the goṣṭha when they hear this enchanting flute-song and bless the devotees at Radha Kund, that appear as kiṅkarīs, by playing their sweet pastimes of meeting with Śyāmasundara there. By the grace of the goṣṭha, Sri Raghunath is blessed with relishing the sweetness of the sweet Goṣṭha-Līlās – that is why he desires loving attachment to the goṣṭha. Sri Raghunath also always desires loving attachment to the Vrajavāsī-bhaktas, without whose mercy the Darshan and the attainment of the loving devotional service of Radha Madhava is impossible. In our commentary on the first verse of Manaḥ-śikṣā we have elaborated on this point and that commentary may be consulted. śrī guru karuṇāmaya, vando tāra padadvaya, prema kalpataru vara dātā dīkṣā-mantra harināma, yāhāra amūlya dāna, kibā gābo tāra guṇa gāthā “I praise the lotus feet of my merciful guru, who is a wish-yielding tree of love of God, and the greatest donor, who gave me the invaluable jewels of the initiation-mantra and Hari-Nāma. How can I sufficiently praise his glories?” nāma nāmī abheda jāni, guruvākya satya māni, japa mana parama ādare śrīkṛṣṇa caitanya deve,svarūpa gosvāmī pade, mati rahu yuga yugāntare “Knowing the Lord to be non-different from his holy name and the words of my guru to be the truth, I repeat the holy syllables with great awe. May my mind dwell in the lotus feet of Krishna Chaitanya-deva and Swarup Damodar, age after age!” prabhura abhinna rūpa, nāma yāra śrī rūpa, ujjvala rasera kārigara yāra śuddha kalevare, śakti sañcārita kore, prabhu kore rasera pracāra “Sri Rupa Goswami , who is non-different from Mahaprabhu, is the craftsman of the erotic rasa. The Lord infused his power into his pure form to preach the science of rasa.” śrī rūpa gosvāmī pade, mati rahu pade pade, bhajana rājyera adhipati daśanete tṛṇa dhare, ei bhikṣā pade poḍe, yugalera manera pirīti “May I always be attracted to Sri Rupa Goswami’s lotus feet, for he is the master of the kingdom of bhajana! Holding a straw between my teeth I pray for this alm: May I love the divine Couple!” tāhāra agraja yini,vairāgyera cūḍāmaṇi, Srila sanātana yāra nāma vṛndāvane vṛkṣamūle, hākṛṣṇa govinda bole, yāra hṛde gaura guṇa-dhāma bṛhad bhāgavatāmṛta, pade pade parāmṛta, hari bhakti vilāsādi kori. grantha ratna kore dāna,tribhuvane jayagāna tāra pada hṛdayete dhari “I carry the lotus feet of Sri Rupa Goswami’s elder brother, named Sanatan Goswami, who is the crown jewel of renunciants, who cried out ‘Hā Krishna! Govinda!’ while simply dwelling at the base of Vrindavan’s trees, who always carries Gaura Guṇadhāma in his heart, who wrote jewel-like books like Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, which is the highest nectar at every step, Hari Bhakti Vilāsa and others, and whose glories are sung by the three worlds, in my heart!” rādhā kuṇḍa govardhane, bando mui sarva kṣaṇe, yugala pirīti kore dāna madhupurī vṛndāvane, goṣṭhe yoto bhaktagaṇe, pade pade ananta praṇāma “At every moment I offer my obeisances unto Govardhana hill and Radha Kund, for they bestow love for the Divine Couple on us. I offer countless obeisances to the lotus feet of all the devotees in Vraja, to the town of Mathura and to Vrindavan.” vrajavāsī vaiṣṇava-gaṇe, mui dīna akiñcana, vrajera yoto sthāvara jaṅgama gala lagnī kṛta vāse, nitya vandi abhilāṣe, anurāga vṛddhira kāraṇa “I always praise the Vrajavāsīs, the Vaishnavas and all the moving and nonmoving creatures of Vraja, being a fallen indigent wretch. I humbly pray that my attraction for them all may increase.”
  23. ← Wall painting at Vanshivat Vrindavan, 24.11.2018 Come the full moon night of Kartik and devotees are seen enchanted in the devotion of Maharasa. The Kartiki Purnima, or the Raas Purnima was observed in different ways in Braj – Vrindavan. It is a special day for Vrindavan, as the holy city was discovered on this day more than 500 years ago by Shriman Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This day also symbolizes the eternal love of Krishna for the Gopis, as the Maha-rasa was performed on this day. Celebrated in honor of Shri Krishna, His consort Shri Radha and the Gopis, the festival was celebrated with melodious songs, dance and folk stories. It is said Lord Shiva was named as Gopeshwar on this day, as He tried to enter the Divine pastime of Maharasa, in guise of a Gopi. Many cultural programs were also organized which provided platform for singers, dancers and musicians in the temples of Vrindavan. This day also marked as the last day of the auspicious month of Kartik. Visitors from distant places reached Vrindavan to spend this special day with the Lordships of Vrindavan. All the temples were decorated in a unique way, and attracted a big number of devotees. The temples of Gopinath, Gopeshwar and Vanshivat had the special significance on this day. The Gopinath temple was decorated with flowers and lights. Delicious 56 Bhog was offered to Shri Radha Gopinath ji. The Lordship was seated between the eight gopis. ← Lord Shiva becomes Gopeshwar Special cultural program was organized in which the western devotees also participated. They dressed themselves as Krishna and Gopis and performed the dance of Maharasa to please Lord Gopinath ji. Shri Gopinath Lal Dev Goswami Maharaj, the sevait of Gopinath Mandir said, “Krishna was given the name of Gopinath on this day. In the holy texts, the Ras Poornima has a special significance. In the later autumn Shri Krishna’s union with the Gopis with Dance & songs is expressed in Rasa Lila. Every year we celebrate this festival in a big way.” Like every year, this year also a procession of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was taken out for Nagar Parikrama from Amiya Nimai Mahaprabhu Mandir, situated at Gopinath Bazar. The streets were reverberated with the Kirtan of ‘Amader Prana Gora Ray’. Emotion busted out and tears rolled from the eyes of devotees, remembering the causeless mercy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The procession stopped in every temple and the image of Mahaprabhu was worshipped. It went to Gopinath, Radha Raman, Gokulananda, Gopeshwar, Govinda, Imlitala and many other temples before coming back to the Boro Gour Mandir. The Yamuna Ghats of Vrindavan and Mathura were decorated with the earthen lamps as this festival is also known as ‘Dev Deepavali’, the celebration of Diwali by the gods.
  24. *****VARTA 4/2******* PARVATI, THE DAUGHTER IN LAW OF PADMANABHDASJI. ***Bhavaprakasha*** Parvatiji was a devotee of a ‘Rajasi” nature. In the Lord’s eternal Lila, Padmanabhdasji himself is one of the eight main Sakhis named Campakalata. Her Sakhi, Sucarita appeared on earth as Purusottamdasji Mehra Kshatri. She had a lovely character and made everyone happy. Sucaritas Sakhi was Rupavilasini and she appeared as this Parvatiji. She was extremely beautiful but spent a lot of time on her appearance. She was so proud of her beauty that she fell from her Lila position. ******PART 1******** Parvatiji served her Sri Thakurji very nicely. Purusottamdasji Mehra knew her very well. Whenever he visited Kannauj, he would stay there with her. Once, when he came to Kannauja, he first stopped off at Adel to visit Sri Gusainji. Parvatji’s hands had turned white [a form of skin disease] and she suffered a lot because of this but it made her humble. She then realized that she had been Purusottamdasji’s Sakhi and therefore he should be able to help her. She wrote him a letter asking him to tell Sri Gusainji of her plight, especially because her skin condition was causing her a lot of agony during cooking and preparing offerings. ***Bhavaprakasha*** She thought to herself, “I was so proud of my beauty and I was proud in front of Sri Thakurji. This is why I have suffered such a fate.” Therefore she requested Sri Gusainji to help her. ****PART 1 contd.***** She sent off the letter and included in it a coin to offer to Sri Gusainji. Purusottamdasji read it out to him. He also offered him the coin and relayed Parvatiji’s plea. Sri Gusainji said he would give his answer in two or three days. ***Bhavaprakasha*** This situation arose because she had been proud in front of Sri Thakurji. Sri Gusainji could find no other faults in her Seva. Three days later, Sri Gusainji got back to Purusottamdasji and told him to write a letter to Parvatiji to tell her she would soon be fine and fit for Seva so not to worry any more. Sri Thakurji would soon heal her. Purusottamdasji wrote such a letter and sent it to her. She was very happy when she received it and happily went about her seva without any sadness. After three or four months, her legs and hands were cured. She became very happy. She wrote another letter to Sri Gusainji and sent it to him through Purusottamdasji Mehra. She wrote, “O, Maharaj, through your Grace and power I am better”. She sent another offering in the letter as well. Purusottamdasji delivered the letter to Sri Gusainji and read it out to him. Sri Gusainji was very pleased. In this way Parvatiji was an accomplished Vaishnava who always followed the Lords wishes, thus always pleasing Sri Gusainji. There is really no end to her story. This Varta, is part of a series brought to you by the combined efforts of Vraja Kishori Seva Trust and Vrindavan Today. These amazing stories of pure Vaishnavas, form an important part of Pushti Marg literature. The “84 Vaishnavon ki Varta” has been translated into English by Krishnaa Kinkari.
  25. A108-AI

    The qualities of a true guru

    Rupa Goswami cites verse SB 11.3.21 in the Bhakti rasamrta sindhu to describe both the guru and the disciple. Sanatana Goswami also cites this same verse in his book Hari Bhakti Vilāsa in a similar context, and Gopal Bhatta Goswami elaborates on it further in his commentary. The verse is as follows – tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam Therefore, one desirous of knowing the ultimate welfare should resort to a teacher who is well versed in scripture, has realized the absolute reality, and thus is fully peaceful. The qualifications of the teacher then are as follows. He/she is śābde niṣṇātaṁ – expert in the knowledge of sastra. The word niṣṇātaṁ means that a person is drenched in knowledge, like one is drenched when taking a shower. pare niṣṇātaṁ- has realization of it. The guru is also drenched (niṣṇātaṁ) in experience of parabrahman, and not only knowledge. Practices it in his/her own life. To recognize a genuine teacher is not easy. The śābde niṣṇātaṁ part may be easier to determine. One can inquire about Whether the guru spent a significant amount of time with their guru (several years). This is recommended by Gopala Bhatta Goswami in the Hari Bhakti Vilāsa (pp. 32 onwards at the link above). Whether the guru took systematic training in the different darśanas. Whether the guru is well-versed in Sanskrit, the language of the scriptures. These are some basic standards that should be met. Of course, it is not possible to discern the pare niṣṇātaṁ part for any disciple. The qualifications of the disciple are as follows. He/she Takes shelter of the guru. (guruṁ prapadyeta) Is inquisitive about that which brings the supreme benefit, which is uttama bhakti. (jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam) This means that the disciple must be detached from material enjoyment, otherwise he/she will not be interested in uttama bhakti.