Saturday, February 17, 2018

The other side of another side and back again

I am currently traveling in Bengal and spent a few days with Gadadhara Pran Das, and so I thought I would share a couple of chapters of his new book, “Another Side of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur" :

Chapter 1:
Chapter 2:

Naturally, there are some people who find it necessary to repeat what is the “official story” about Lalita Prasad Thakur, because of things that happened between Siddhanta Saraswati and his younger brother and their differences of opinion.

Obviously, when GP and I made the decision to “move on” from Iskcon, we did so in full knowledge of what to expect. That is why GP says, in effect, “OK, you guys, we know your side. Everybody knows your side by now. And bully for you. All glories to your service and your nishtha. But Bhaktivinoda Thakur was big enough to have more than one side.”

And I think that GP is quite clear when he quotes from Harinama-cintamani, that the bhajananandi side existed in Bhaktivinoda.

prabhāte cārdharātre ce madhyāhne divasaṅkṣaye
kīrtayanti hariṁ ye vai na teṣāmanyasādhanam

The single-minded devotee who chants the Holy Names of the Lord in the morning, in the middle of night, at noon and at the end of the day, has absolutely no need for any other spiritual practice. (HBV 20.379)

evam ekāntināṁ prāyaḥ kīrtanaṁ smaraṇaṁ prabhoḥ
kurvatāṁ parama-prītyā kṛtyam anyan na rocate
bhāvena kenacit preṣṭha-śrī-mūrter aṅghri-sevane
syād icchaiṣāṁ sva-mantreṇa svarasenaiva tad-vidhiḥ
vihiteṣv eva nityeṣu pravartante svayaṁ hi te

Exclusive devotees engage in practically nothing other than chanting the Holy Name and practising smarana. Doing this with supreme love, they have no taste for any other activity. They may serve their beloved Deities according to their own particular mood, following their own desires and using their personal mantra. They also set the rules for this worship according to their personal taste. Regular duties (like bathing, etc.) are conducted automatically (i.e., without any direct mental involvement). (HBV 20.382-384) (Bhajana Rahasya)

Perhaps not everyone is prepared for that stage. In may be generations before any Western person is ready, so intensely has raganuga bhajan been surrounded by fences of fear. The mystic, intensely personal kind of bhajan is not a fake. It is the real life, the soul of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Call it a dirty job, if you will, but someone has to do it, otherwise Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s concluding works, Bhajana Rahasya and Harinama-cintamani, become irrelevant.

Anyway, someone thought to send me the following quote from Prabhupada-lilamrita:

Today was Srila Prabhupada's final day in Mayapur. Jayapataka Maharaja was instructed during the walk to arrange a meeting with Srila Lalita Prasada Thakura, the only remaining brother of Srila Prabhupada's Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Prabhupada wants to meet with him on his way into Calcutta tomorrow.

Apparently Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had some difference of opinion with Lalita Prasada. Lalita Prasada is a babaji, a member of a class of reclusive devotees who remain aloof from the general population and simply chant the maha-mantra. His brother, on the other hand, was a sannyasi, an active preacher who created a large movement and attracted much opposition in the process. Apparently Lalita Prasada considers himself to be more confidentially situated in his relationship with the previous acaryas and Krishna.

Despite this, Srila Prabhupada has been negotiating to get either a lease or ownership of the birthsite of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the father of Bhaktisiddhanta and Lalita Prasada, and our spiritual great-great grandfather. He wants to renovate the place and maintain a preaching center there. Prabhupada has met with Lalita Prasada previously, who said he was willing to cooperate with us. He has not been able to develop the birthsite, but still some of his men are hesitating. He has a committee to manage his affairs, and now it appears they want another meeting. 
Without raking up the controversial points, Srila Prabhupada made a few observations by which we could understand the actual symptoms of confidential service. "So what is the use of such men? Why he's keeping these men? They cannot do anything. He gets some pension, and he spends that money. But they are not doing anything. So what is the meaning of this committee?"

Jayapataka Maharaja told Prabhupada that the Thakura has admitted that many times he has told some of his men to leave their family life and take up some preaching, but they don't do it. "How they'll do it?" Prabhupada rejoined. "They do not know how to preach. Neither they are trained up. That means it is his disqualification. He could not train them how to preach. Even Caitanya Mahaprabhu, He was training Haridasa Thakura, Nityananda, 'Go there. Preach there. Do that.' My Guru Maharaja was doing that. But he [Lalita Prasada] has no power. He cannot do it. He simply talks that he is a very confidential devotee. That's all. He cannot preach. Otherwise Prabhupada developed this Mayapur, and he could not do anything. That means he has no such power."

"He should have developed that place," Jayapataka Swami ventured.

"Yes. He simply talks of big, big work. In the beginning, Prabhupada had no committee, nothing of the sort. That he'll not admit, that he has no power to do so. He simply thinks that he is a very confidential son of Bhaktivinoda Thakura."

Going down to the front gate, Prabhupada went to inspect the painting of the front wall. The gurukula children were gleefully yelling "Jaya Prabhupada! Haribol!" all the way down the road and he reciprocated with smiles and "Hare Krishna!" He has an ingenuous rapport with them, innocents entrusted to him to send back to home, back to Godhead. And they love him without reservation, putting in him their full trust, as guileless young children do. As he made his way out the gate, he emphasized why he has had such success in his preaching mission.

"You must be always convinced that if we simply take up the knowledge given by Krishna, then you are perfect. That's all. A little success is there for me, [more] than other swamis and yogis. It is due to my conviction on this point. I never compromised with anything which is not spoken by Krishna. Did you mark it or not?" All the devotees replied in unison. "Yes."

Satsvarupa Maharaj has done a masterful job of propaganda here, what can I say? Juxtaposing those innocent gurukula children and Prabhupada, to the useless followers of Lalita Prasad Thakur and his powerlessness. Well done, I say. And all the devotees dutifully echoing his teaching unquestioningly caps the anecdote with a fine diapason.

So this is the “truth.” Could the other side also be legitimate and true, or even more true? Truth is revealed gradually as one’s adhikara makes one capable of recognizing and understanding it.




I decided some months ago to put the picture at the top of this note on my altar, so it is now a permanent object of meditation for me. I often look at it and wonder what my Prabhu said to Prabhupada to make him laugh like that! I really love the twinkle in Prabhu’s eyes as he says whatever it is he is saying to his spiritual nephew.

I speculate about it sometimes. My first speculation was that Prabhu was making some comment about his disciples. If you look at the series of photos that Yaduvara took in 1972, you will notice that Gurudas and Shyamsundar, not able to understand the Bengali conversation, have fallen asleep on their malas. I thought, he must have made some comment about what a big job Prabhupada had undertaken, to take these young men and endeavor to train them in bhakti sadhana, but expressed it in such a way that made Prabhupada uncharacteristically burst out laughing, without reserve. Perhaps he said something about their level of adhikara.

As I further contemplated the picture, I fantasized that Prabhu was asking Prabhupada to send him a couple of his leftovers, including the fallen Das Jagadananda, “who is useless to you anyway. And maybe send me a couple of others...” I wonder if such an absurd request would not have made Prabhupada laugh like that. It even looks like a goodhearted laugh. Perhaps he said, “Alright, maybe I can spare one or two. Just for you, kaka.”

Anyway, after a couple of days in Nabadwip, I went to Birnagar and looked at the surroundings and I thought, “Thank God Prabhu had the prescience not to sell out to Prabhupada!” A curse on development!

What would have happened if Prabhupada had had his way and a couple of American brahmacharis had been stationed there expressly for the exclusive purpose of committing Vaishnava aparadha, I don’t know, but one thing is sure: What Lalita Prasad Thakur was preserving of Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s legacy was worth saving. Because only he was following and teaching the path of Harinama-cintamani as Bhaktivinoda Thakur intended it. I think Gadadhar has been showing that rather nicely in the first two chapters of “Another Side of BVT.”

This is the end game of Vaishnava sadhana and there are not yet many takers. There are not many who can jump the walls of dharma as the gopis did. Lobha is not an easy thing to get, not if it requires you to give up that something you have already been told over and over is the ultimate -- without really having studied the shastra -- and been prescribed for you by your guru on the fear of being cursed to go to hell if you abandon it. That is called dharma. At ever step, you advance by giving up dharmas. That is usually called “progress” if it is done right.

Anyway, there are a few of us who took that risk. And thank God Lalita Prasad Thakur was there to reenact the Harinama-cintamani guru-disciple scene with Gadadhar Pran Das. It is not such a surprise that there may only be one or two jewels who will be able to preserve this path of bhajan, the one that Prabhu was given himself by BVT at the age of ten. For all the generosity of Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan movement, in the end, the Gita tells it like it is:

manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ

Where are the adhikaris? And even among the adhikari sadhakas only a few can live a life of such intense inwardness.

Lalita Prasad was born in the same year that Bhaktivinoda Thakur took initiation in ekadasa bhava from his guru, six years after the birth of his older brother Bimala Prasad. No two children ever have the same father, not really. Bhaktivinoda Thakur presented himself slightly differently to each of them, what is so surprising about that? I think that he did have some special affection for this son, as is clearly revealed in the autobiography, which was written as a letter to him.

Yesterday morning I was chanting japa in my room at Dwadash Mandir. Maybe Prabhu did not have the power of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Bhaktivedanta Swami to fulfill their worldwide preaching missions. Does it mean that Lalita Prasad Thakur was not empowered to do something different?



What is interesting here is that life will not let you stand still and so, to prevent the total destruction of Dwadash Mandir, it does indeed need to be developed. And it is perhaps more than a little ironical that I should participate in that. Maybe Prabhupada is getting his way after all, and that is what made his laugh so transcendent.

On the other hand, perhaps it is Bhaktivinoda Thakur, and behind him Nityananda Prabhu and Ananga Manjari (as you will see from the later chapters of GP’s book), who are making all these arrangements.

Hari Gopal Dasji is doing some things now, and the sign of success is that the lovely pukkur across the street, which was also neglected for so many years, is now being cleared of the greenery so that some of those unimaginative, ugly concrete boxes that are used for shops everywhere in India will go up.

It is Kali-yuga. It seems unstoppable. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Another side of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Chapter 2

We continue with Gadadhar Pran Das's new book, the 20 chapters of which will be published here in instalments.


Chapter Two: Raganuga Sadhana following Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Manjari Parampara

The first time I got Lalita Prasad Thakur's darshan it was unexpected, because I had made no plans to see him. That was back in 1974, when Srila Prabhupada was inaugurating his first Mayapur-Nabadwip Dham Parikrama in which I was taking part. During the festival, one day I had to go to Calcutta. On the train I met a Bengali gentleman who was himself just returning from Mayapur after visiting Srila Prabhupada. We started talking about many things, but when the train stopped at Birnagar he said to me, "Would you like to meet my Prabhupada?"

"Your Prabhupada?" I asked in surprise.

"He is Bhaktivinoda Thakur's son, Lalita Prasad Thakur," he replied.

The invitation aroused my curiosity so I decided to follow him. When we arrived at the ashram, which happened to be Bhaktivinoda Thakur's birthplace, I noticed that there were twelve ancient shrines dedicated to Shiva just beside the mandir's entrance. Then, we entered Prabhu's room, where I was astonished on seeing his transcendental form.

Prabhu was chanting japa and seemed definitely to be transported into another state. Because his eyes were closed, his disciple and I just stood there watching him. I will never forget the innocent childlike expression he had. His mouth was watering as he zealously fingered his japa mala. Tears were streaming from his eyes and a big smile lit up his face. He was totally engrossed.

This went on for a while until his disciple thought to inform him of our arrival. When Prabhu's eyes finally opened, he appeared to be returning from another realm. We fell to the ground to offer our prostrated pranams. Then his disciple stood up to introduce me.

"Prabhu, here is a bhakta coming from Mayapur. He is Bhaktivedanta Swami's disciple." Prabhu looked toward me, nodded and said, "Your Guru Maharaj sometimes comes to visit me," and while patting his chest, added, "We are friends."

The bhakta then asked me, "Do you have any questions to ask Prabhu?"

I couldn't think of anything to ask just then. I was still a new devotee, only 23 years old. Seeing my hesitation, Prabhu asked, "Do you know any song by Bhaktivinoda Thakur?"

I thought for a moment and as one came to mind, I said, "Yes."

"Can you sing it?" he requested.

"I am not so good at kirtan," I replied. "But I can try." Then I sang:

yaśomati nandana braja bara nāgara
gokula rañjana kāṇa

Prabhu's eyes instantly lit up! He clapped and his head musingly rolled with the song's tune. I could only remember three or four lines, so I had to repeat them over again and again. Nevertheless Prabhu was horripilating! I am sure that it didn't have anything to do with my ability in kirtan, but rather came from seeing a young foreigner attempting to sing a song composed by his own father. This aroused a happiness and pride in him that was transcendental.

After Prabhu spoke for a while with his disciple, he returned to his bhajan. We offered our pranams and left. Coming outside, the bhakta asked me, "What is your impression?"

I replied that I had never seen anyone with such attraction for Nama japa. But the bhakta went on, "Whenever I come here, whether it is day or night, I always find Prabhu chanting like this. And sometimes he goes into bhava."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Romāñca kampa pulaka aśru... " he replied.

I often remember this first meeting I had with Lalita Prasad Thakur, but unfortunately I have forgotten the name of the bhakta who introduced me to him. In fact, I never saw him again. So I regret that I never got to show my gratitude to him for the great favor he bestowed upon me.

Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's concluding shiksha.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur has specifically written Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi for the consummate bhaktas. In Chapter 12 he points to the ultimate sadhana by quoting Gauranga Mahaprabhu's own words in Caitanya Bhāgavata.

āpane sabāre prabhu karena upadeśa
harināma mahāmantra śunaha hariṣe
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
prabhu kahe harināma ei mahāmantra
ihā japa giẏā sabhe kariẏā nirbandha
ihā haite sarba siddhi haibe sabāra
sarba kṣaṇa japa ithe bidhi nāhi āra

"Mahaprabhu blissfully instructed, "Now hear the Krishna nama maha mantra.

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare

Everyone should chant this in japa, taking up a vow. For whoever does so will attain sarva siddhi. The only rule is to chant this always." (CBh 2.23.650)

Bhaktivinoda Thakur comments, "Here the word nirbandha! (accepting a vow) means that the sadhaka or the sadhika should chant the 16-name, 32-syllable maha mantra using a tulasi mala with 108 beads. On chanting four rounds, one grantha is completed. But we should increase our chanting until sixteen granthas are done (one lakh). And then gradually we will rise to the stage of chanting three lakhs (192 rounds). By following Mahaprabhu's instruction to always perform Nama japa, many Mahajanas have attained sarva-siddhi in the past. But even today we can become siddha by adopting this process.

Rasa-vardhini Tika: Here the term sarva-siddhi means the attainment of our nitya gopi svarupa and nitya seva to Radha Krishna in the eternal abode of Goloka Vrindavan. We know this because Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself explains this in Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's last chapter how we can progress in achieving this goal. His teaching there begins with this wonderful siddhanta:

pūrṇa prasphuṭita nāma kusuma sundara |
aṣṭa-kāla nitya-līlā prakṛtira para ||

"The beautiful flower of the Holy Name fully blossoms in Radha Krishna's ashta-kala lilas, which they enact far beyond the material world. (Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi 15.24)"

Bhaktivinoda Thakur goes on, "Although these lilas are very far away, we can perceive them by combining lila smarana with our Nama japa."

Rasa-vardhini Tika: Sri Rupa Goswamipad, our sampradaya acharya, has written about Radha Govinda's ashta kala lilas in eleven sutras. Then he gave them to Krishnadas Kaviraj to expand upon. Thus Ggovinda-līlāmṛta advented, and extensive narration of Radha Govinda's eightfold daily pastimes in 23 chapters. Because Krishnadas is Sri Kasturi Manjari, one of Radha's chief manjaris, this narration is in fact a direct eyewitness account. The eight time periods that make up Sri Yugal Kishora's daily schedule in Goloka Vrindavan are:


1) Nishanta lila, 3.36 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.
2) Pratah lila, 6.00 a.m. to 8:24 a.m.
3) Purvahna lila, 8.24 a.m. to 10:48 a.m.
4) Madhyahna lila, 10.48 a.m. to 3.36 p.m.
5) Aparahna lila, 3.36 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
6) Sayahna lila, 6.00 p.m. to 8:24 s p.m.
7) Pradosha lila, 8.24 p.m. to 10:48 p.m.
8) Nisha lila, 10.48 p.m. to 3.36 a.m.


Govinda-līlāmṛta* is more than a book, for it shows how we can directly take part in the lila.
[*Govinda-līlāmṛta in English translation with an extensive commentary and rasa analysis can be obtained from the author.]

The Goswamis say that we can directly take part in the lila. The Goswamis say that we can be there now, in Radha Govinda's nitya-lila, simply by always thinking about them. This enjoyable process culminates when the sadhaka or the sadhika takes birth as a gopi in Vraja. Hence, while remembering Radha Krishna's ashtakala pastimes, we are to meditate on our mentally conceived gopi svarupa as well. Bhaktivinoda Thakur explains this process as follows:


sādhite ujjvala-rasa āche bhāva ekādaśa
sambandha vayasa nāma rūpa |
yūtha veśa ājñā-vāsa sevā parākāṣṭhāśvāsa
pālya-dāsī ei aparūpa ||58||

"To ideally perform madhura-rasa seva to Radha Krishna we should meditate on the eleven aspects of our Vraja gopi svarupa, which are: (1) relationship, (2) age, (3) name, (4) bodily color, (5) yutheshvari, (6) dress, (7) order, (8) kunja of residence, (9) seva, (10) highest ambition and (11) shelter." (HNC 15.58)

The eleven items that make up our Vraja gopi svarupa are called ekādaśa bhāva. They are to be given or confirmed by a bonafide guru* when the disciple is truly qualified to receive them. Bhaktivinoda Thakur goes on:

[*Here a bonafide guru is the one who has received ekadasa bhava previously from his guru in an unbroken manjari parampara.]

ei ekādaśa bhāva sampūrṇa sādhane |
pañca daśā lakṣya haya sādhaka jīvane ||59||
śravaṇa varaṇa āra smaraṇa āpana |
sampatti e pañca-vidha daśāya gaṇana ||60||

"The complete realization of these eleven aspects of one’s spiritual identity develops through five recognizable stages in the life of a practitioner: (1) śravaṇa or hearing, (2) varaṇa or acceptance, (3) smaraa (remembering), (4) Apana (appropriation) and (5) sampatti or full possession." (HNC 15.59-60)

Bhaktivinoda Thakur next says: "When the lobha awakens to attain one's own Vraja gopis svarupa, one should hear all about the lila tattva and rasa tattva from a qualified guru. This first stage is thus termed śravaṇa-daśā.

Rasa-vardhini Tika: During the stage of śravaṇa-daśā, one should also carefully study those of the Goswami's shastras that are directly related to one's cultivating their madhura rasa sambandha with Radha Krishna, such as Govinda-līlāmṛta, Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Vilāpa-kusumāñjali and Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi, etc.

Concerning the next stage of varaṇa-daśā, Bhaktivinoda Thakur says,

rādhā-kṛṣṇa aṣṭa-kāla yei līlā kare |
tāhāra śravaṇe lobha haya ataḥpare ||64||
lobha ha-ile guru-pade jijñāsā udaya |
kemane pāiba līlā kaha mahāśaya ||65||
gurudeva kṛpā kari karibe varṇana |
līlā-tattve ekādaśa bhāva-saṅghaṭana ||66||
prasanna ha-iyā prabhu karibe ādeśa |
ei bhāve līlā-madhye karaha praveśa ||67||
siddha rūpe siddha bhāva kariyā śravaṇa |
sei bhāva svīya citte karibe varaṇa ||68||

"If lobha awakens in the heart after hearing about Radha Krishna's ashta kala lilas, one may inquire from the guru about how to attain them. If the guru is merciful he will describe the ashtakala in the context of the disciple's ekadasa bhava and say, 'You may enter the lila in this way.' Thus after the disciple hears about his siddha-svarupa and siddha-bhava from the guru and accepts these teachings within his heart, this is the stage called varaṇa-daśā." (HNC 15.65-68)

Bhaktivinoda Thakur continues,

varaṇa kālete nija ruci vicāriyā |
guru-pade jānāibe sarala ha-iyā ||69||
prabhu tumi kṛpā kari yei paricaya |
dile more tāhe mora pūrṇa prīti haya ||70||
svabhāvataḥ mora ei bhāve āche ruci |
ata eva ājñā śire dhari hye śuci ||71||

"At the time of the varaṇa-daśā, the disciple should consider his personal ruci and frankly discuss this with his guru. Because only then can the disciple accept his ekadasa bhava with loving attachment. Therefore the disciple should submit as follows: 'Prabhu, my nature and desires are like this, please instruct me in the way that I can completely accept your order with all my life and soul." ((HNC 15.69-71)

Rasa Analysis: Before approaching the guru for receiving the ekadasa bhava, the disciple should have a good idea of what he or she wants. After all, his svarupa will be her very own. So it should ideally fit with her personal preferences. To give a clearer picture about how this process takes place, I shall tell you about how I received ekadasa bhava.

To be honest, it was Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's last chapter that changed my life. Although I had a desire to be a gopi in Vraja lila, I had no idea about how to do the sadhana. So after reading Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's descriptions about how such sadhana is to be executed, my lobha to adopt the process awakened. "But who can award me my Vraja gopi svarupa?" I wondered. "For there is nothing like this available in the society to which I belong. Furthermore, to simply mention the topic here will invite condemnation."

Then a close friend told me that Bhaktivinoda Thakur's son Lalita Prasad Thakur received ekadasa bhava from his father. Upon hearing this, I remembered my first meeting with him and how he had been so enthusiastically chanting the Holy Name. I had no idea about what kind of sadhana he was performing. It suddenly dawned upon me that he must have been steeped in gopi bhava. Then, while seeing the lila in a sphurti, he would sometimes go into bhava samadhi.

With such thoughts in mind, I soon arrived at Bhaktivinoda Thakur's birthplace at Birnagar and one of Lalita Prasad Thakur's senior disciples from Nabadwip was with me, Shashanka Shekhar Balniyogi, whom we called "Doctor Babu." When we entered Prabhu's room and offered our pranam, the Doctor Babu said, "O Prabhu! One anuragi bhakta is coming to see you. Please hear his plea."
Then, folding my hands, I humbly submitted, "Prabhu, when going to join Krishna for the Rasa Lila, the gopis had to leave their husbands, their society, and everything else behind to join him. I am coming to you in the same spirit to beg diksha and ekadasa bhava."

Being a rasika, Prabhu smiled and waved his hand to comment, "ihāi to gopī-bhābera prakṛta artha baṭe: This is the definition of gopi bhava, no doubt."

Lalita Prasad Thakur was 101 years old then, and he knew that he would soon leave this world. Nevertheless, I pleaded that if he considered me unfit to receive his mercy, I was willing to wait indefinitely outside his door until he thought I was fit.

Though Prabhu mercifully fulfilled my expectation -- for he gave me exactly what I was hankering for-- when he first mentioned my manjari svaruhpa, I said to him, "Prabhu, can you give me the name 'Sukhi'?"

He thought for a moment and replied, "Your siddha manjari nama will be Parama Sukhi." I liked that much better.

I desired that my body resemble the color of a champa flower. Hearing this, Prabhu immediately replied, "svarṇa campā" and his choice was better this time, too.

Concerning my age, I wanted to be a little older than most of the other manjaris for a few reasons. When I asked if that was alright, Prabhu replied, "The manjaris' ages can extend up to 14." His answer came as a surprise and gave me the courage to ask, "Well, can I be 13 years, 9 months old then?" After some thought, Prabhu said, "13 years and 3 months." With due consideration, I could understand that his verdict was an ideal compromise, since to be older than this would not be fitting.

Concerning my dress, I had something unusual in mind. I requested, "Prabhu, as the parrots of Vrindavan have deep green wings, light green bodies and red beaks, can my ghaghra be deep green, my orna light green, and my kanchuli bright red?" Prabhu smiled and said, "Why not?"

Although the manjaris in our parampara can serve under any one of Radha's ashta sakhis according to their choice, and although Vipin Vihari Prabhu, Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Lalita Prasad Thakur all chose to serve under Lalita, I wanted to serve under Vishakha for a few personal reasons, and Prabhu approved this.

Though it is in this way that Bhaktivinoda Thakur shows us in Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi how our gopi siddha deha factually comes into existence, it is the sadhaka's personal ruci combined with the guru's vast experience and judgment that form the seed of our siddha-deha. But this is only the beginning. Because after receiving the seed (ekadasa bhava), it is the sadhaka's duty to make it fructify and blossom. Hence one's manasi seva in the ashta kala lila combined with the constant Nam japa will lead us to svarupa-siddhi, the direct seva that we hanker for.

So in raganuga sadhana, the process and the goal are very similar. Our gopis siddha deha along with our eligibility to directly serve alongside Krishna's nitya siddha sakhis and manjaris comes simply by our deep absorption in this activity. Sri Narottam Das Thakur assures us that this is the bonafide path in a few simple words.

sādhana bhāvibo yāhā, siddha-dehe pābo tāhā
rāga pathera ei se upāya

"Our siddha deha is formed by what we contemplate during sadhana, for this is the method of the raga marga." (Prema-bhakti-candrikA 55)





Chapter Two: Raganuga Sadhana following Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Manjari Parampara
The first time I got Lalita Prasad Thakur's darshan it was unexpected, because I had made no plans to see him. That was back in 1974, when Srila Prabhupada was inaugurating his first Mayapur-Nabadwip Dham Parikrama in which I was taking part. During the festival, one day I had to go to Calcutta. On the train I met a Bengali gentleman who was himself just returning from Mayapur after visiting Srila Prabhupada. We started talking about many things, but when the train stopped at Birnagar he said to me, "Would you like to meet my Prabhupada?"
"Your Prabhupada?" I asked in surprise.
"He is Bhaktivinoda Thakur's son, Lalita Prasad Thakur," he replied.
The invitation aroused my curiosity so I decided to follow him. When we arrived at the ashram, which happened to be Bhaktivinoda Thakur's birthplace, I noticed that there were twelve ancient shrines dedicated to Shiva just beside the mandir's entrance. Then, we entered Prabhu's room, where I was astonished on seeing his transcendental form.

Prabhu was chanting japa and seemed definitely to be transported into another state. Because his eyes were closed, his disciple and I just stood there watching him. I will never forget the innocent childlike expression he had. His mouth was watering as he zealously fingered his japa mala. Tears were streaming from his eyes and a big smile lit up his face. He was totally engrossed.
This went on for a while until his disciple thought to inform him of our arrival. When Prabhu's eyes finally opened, he appeared to be returning from another realm. We fell to the ground to offer our prostrated pranams. Then his disciple stood up to introduce me.
"Prabhu, here is a bhakta coming from Mayapur. He is Bhaktivedanta Swami's disciple." Prabhu looked toward me, nodded and said, "Your Guru Maharaj sometimes comes to visit me," and while patting his chest, added, "We are friends."
The bhakta then asked me, "Do you have any questions to ask Prabhu?"
I couldn't think of anything to ask just then. I was still a new devotee, only 23 years old. Seeing my hesitation, Prabhu asked, "Do you know any song by Bhaktivinoda Thakur?"
I thought for a moment and as one came to mind, I said, "Yes."
"Can you sing it?" he requested.
"I am not so good at kirtan," I replied. "But I can try." Then I sang:

yazomati nandana braja bara nAgara
gokula raJjana kANa#
Prabhu's eyes instantly lit up! He clapped and his head musingly rolled with the song's tune. I could only remember three or four lines, so I had to repeat them over again and again. Nevertheless Prabhu was horripilating! I am sure that it didn't have anything to do with my kirtan ability, rather in seeing a foreigner attempting to sing his father's own composed song aroused a happiness and pride in him that was transcendental.
After Prabhu spoke for a while with his disciple, he returned to his bhajan. We offered our pranams and left. Coming outside, the bhakta asked me, "What is your impression?"
I replied that his unquestionable attraction for Nama japa astonished me. But the bhakta went on, "Whenever I come here, whether it is day or night, I always find Prabhu chanting like this. And sometimes he goes into bhava."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"romAJca kampa pulaka azru... " he replied.
I often remember this first meeting I had with Lalita Prasad Thakur, but I have forgotten the name of the bhakta who introduced me to him. In fact, I never saw him again. So I regret that I never got to show my gratitude to him for the great favor he bestowed upon me.
Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's concluding shiksha.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur has specifically written Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi for the consummate bhaktas. In Chapter 12 he points to the ultimate sadhana by quoting Gauranga Mahaprabhu's own words in Caitanya Bhagavata.
āpane sabāre prabhu karena upadeśa
harināma mahāmantra śunaha hariṣe
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
prabhu kahe harināma ei mahāmantra
ihā japa giẏā sabhe kariẏā nirbandha
ihā haite sarba siddhi haibe sabāra
sarba kṣaṇa japa ithe bidhi nāhi āra
Mahaprabhu blissfully instructed, "Now hear the Krishna nama maha mantra.

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare#
Everyone should chant this in japa, taking up a vow. For whoever does so will attain sarva siddhi. The only rule is to chant this always.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur comments, "Here the word nirbandha! (accepting a vow) means that the sadhaka or the sadhika should chant the 16 name, 32-syllable maha mantra using a tulasi mala with 108 beads. In chanting four rounds, one grantha is completed. But we should increase our chanting until sixteen granthas are done (one lakh). And then gradually come to the stage of chanting three lakhs (192 rounds). By following Mahaprabhu's instruction to always perform Nama japa, many Mahajanas have attained sarva-siddhi in the past. But even today we can become siddha by adopting this process.
Rasa-vardhini Tika: Here the term sarva-siddhi means the attainment of our nitya gopi svarupa and nitya seva to Radha Krishna in the eternal abode of Goloka Vrindavan. We know this because Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself explains this in Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's last chapter how we can progress in achieving this goal. His teaching there begins with this wonderful siddhanta:
pūrṇa prasphuṭita nāma kusuma sundara |
aṣṭa-kāla nitya-līlā prakṛtira para ||
The beautiful flower of the Holy Name fully blossoms in Radha Krishna's ashta-kala lilas, which they enact far beyond the material world. (Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi 15.24)

Bhaktivinoda Thakur goes on, "Although these lilas are very far away, we can perceive them by combining lila smarana with our Nama japa."
Rasa-vardhini Tika: Sri Rupa Goswamipad, our sampradaya acharya, has written about Radha Govinda's ashta kala lilas in eleven sutras. Then he gave them to Krishnadas Kaviraj to expand upon. Thus Govinda-līlāmṛta advented, and extensive narration of Radha Govinda's eightfold daily pastimes in 23 chapters. Because Krishnadas is Sri Kasturi Manjari, one of Radha's chief manjaris, this narration is in fact a direct eyewitness account. The eight time periods that make up Sri Yugal Kishora's daily schedule in Goloka Vrindavan are:

1) Nishanta lila, 3.36 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.
2) Pratah lila, 6.00 a.m. to 8:24 a.m.
3) Purvahna lila, 8.24 a.m. to 10:48 a.m.
4) Madhyahna lila, 10.48 a.m. to 3.36 p.m.
5) Aparahna lila, 3.36 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
6) Sayahna lila, 6.00 p.m. to 8:24 s p.m.
7) Pradosha lila, 8.24 p.m. to 10:48 p.m.
8) Nisha lila, 10.48 p.m. to 3.36 a.m.

Govinda-līlāmṛta* is more than a book, for it shows how we can directly take part in the lila.
[*Govinda-līlāmṛta in English translation with an extensive commentary and rasa analysis can be obtained from the author.]
The Goswamis say that we can directly take part in the lila. The Goswamis say that we can be there now, in Radha Govinda's nitya-lila, simply by always thinking about them. This enjoyable process culminates when the sadhaka or the sadhika takes birth as a gopi in Vraja. Hence, while remembering Radha Krishna's ashtakala pastimes, we are to meditate on our mentally conceived gopi svarupa as well. Bhaktivinoda Thakur explains this process as follows:

sādhite ujjvala-rasa āche bhāva ekādaśa
sambandha vayasa nāma rūpa |
yūtha veśa ājñā-vāsa sevā parākāṣṭhāśvāsa
pālya-dāsī ei aparūpa ||58||
"To ideally perform madhura-rasa seva to Radha Krishna we should meditate on the eleven aspects of our Vraja gopi svarupa, which are: (1) relationship, (2) age, (3) name, (4) bodily color, (5) yutheshvari, (6) dress, (7) order, (8) kunja of residence, (9) seva, (10) highest ambition and (11) shelter." (HNC 15.58)
The eleven items that make up our Vraja gopi svarupa are called ekādaśa bhāva. They are to be given or confirmed by a bonafide guru* when the disciple is truly qualified to receive them. Bhaktivinoda Thakur goes on:
[*Here a bonafide guru is the one who has received ekadasa bhava previously from his guru in an unbroken manjari parampara.]

ei ekādaśa bhāva sampūrṇa sādhane |
pañca daśā lakṣya haya sādhaka jīvane ||59||
śravaṇa varaṇa āra smaraṇa āpana |
sampatti e pañca-vidha daśāya gaṇana ||60||
"The complete realization of these eleven aspects of one’s spiritual identity develops through five recognizable stages in the life of a practitioner: (1) śravaṇa or hearing, (2) varaṇa or acceptance, (3) smaraNa (remembering), (4) Apana (appropriation) and (5) sampatti or full possession."

Bhaktivinoda Thakur next says: "When the lobha awakens to attain one's own Vraja gopis svarupa, one should hear all about the lila tattva and rasa tattva from a qualified guru. This first stage is thus termed śravaṇa-daśā.
Rasa-vardhini Tika: During the stage of śravaṇa-daśā, one should also carefully study those of the Goswami's shastras that are directly related to one's cultivating their madhura rasa sambandha with Radha Krishna, such as Govinda-līlāmṛta, Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Vilāpa-kusumāñjali and Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi, etc.
Concerning the next stage of varaṇa-daśā, Bhaktivinoda Thakur says,

rādhā-kṛṣṇa aṣṭa-kāla yei līlā kare |
tāhāra śravaṇe lobha haya ataḥpare ||64||
lobha ha-ile guru-pade jijñāsā udaya |
kemane pāiba līlā kaha mahāśaya ||65||
gurudeva kṛpā kari karibe varṇana |
līlā-tattve ekādaśa bhāva-saṅghaṭana ||66||
prasanna ha-iyā prabhu karibe ādeśa |
ei bhāve līlā-madhye karaha praveśa ||67||
siddha rūpe siddha bhāva kariyā śravaṇa |
sei bhāva svīya citte karibe varaṇa ||68||

"If lobha awakens in the heart after hearing about Radha Krishna's ashta kala lilas, one may inquire from the guru about how to attain them. If the guru is merciful he will describe the ashtakala in the context of the disciple's ekadasa bhava and say, 'You may enter the lila in this way.' Thus after the disciple hears about his siddha-svarupa and siddha-bhava from the guru and accepts these teachings within his heart, this is the stage called varaṇa-daśā."

Bhaktivinoda Thakur continues,

varaṇa kālete nija ruci vicāriyā |
guru-pade jānāibe sarala ha-iyā ||69||
prabhu tumi kṛpā kari yei paricaya |
dile more tāhe mora pūrṇa prīti haya ||70||
svabhāvataḥ mora ei bhāve āche ruci |
ata eva ājñā śire dhari hye śuci ||71||

"At the time of the varaṇa-daśā, the disciple should consider his personal ruci and frankly discuss this with his guru. Because only then can the disciple accept his ekadasa bhava with loving attachment. Therefore the disciple should submit as follows: 'Prabhu, my nature and desires are like this, please instruct me in the way that I can completely accept your order with all my life and soul."
Rasa Analysis: Before approaching the guru for receiving the ekadasa bhava, the disciple should have a good idea of what he or she wants. After all, his svarupa will be her very own. So it should ideally fit with her personal preferences. To give a clearer picture about how this process takes place, I shall tell you about how I received ekadasa bhava.

To be honest, it was Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's last chapter that changed my life. Although I had a desire to be a gopi in Vraja lila, I had no idea about how to do the sadhana. So after reading Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's descriptions about how such sadhana is to be executed, my lobha to adopt the process awakened.

"But who can award me my Vraja gopi svarupa?" I wondered. "For there is nothing like this available in the society to which I belong. Furthermore, to simply mention the topic here will invite condemnation."

Then a close friend told me that Bhaktivinoda Thakur's son Lalita Prasad Thakur received ekadasa bhava from his father. Upon hearing this, I remembered my first meeting with him and how he had been so enthusiastically chanting the Holy Name. I had no idea about what kind of sadhana he was performing. It suddenly dawned upon me that he must have been steeped in gopi bhava. Then, while seeing the lila in a sphurti, he would sometimes go into bhava samadhi.

With such thoughts in mind, I soon arrived at Bhaktivinoda Thakur's birthplace at Birnagar and one of Lalita Prasad Thakur's senior disciples from Nabadwip was with me, Shashanka Shekhar Balniyogi, whom we called "Doctor Babu." When we entered Prabhu's room and offered our pranam, the Doctor Babu said, "O Prabhu! One anuragi bhakta is coming to see you. Please hear his plea."

Then, folding my hands, I humbly submitted, "Prabhu, when going to join Krishna for the Rasa Lila, the gopis had to leave their husbands, their society, and everything else behind to join him. I am coming to you in the same spirit to beg diksha and ekadasa bhava."
Being a rasika, Prabhu smiled and waved his hand to comment, "ihāi to gopī-bhābera prakṛta artha baṭe: This is the definition of gopi bhava, no doubt."

Lalita Prasad Thakur was 101 years old then, and he knew that he would soon leave this world. Nevertheless, I pleaded that if he considered me unfi to receive his mercy, I was willing to wait indefinitely outside his door until he thought I was fit.

Though Prabhu mercifully fulfilled my expectation -- for he gave me exactly what I was hankering for-- when he first mentioned my manjari svarupa, I said to him, "Prabhu, can you give me the name 'Sukhi'?"

He thought for a moment and replied, "Your siddha manjari nama will be Parama Sukhi." I liked that much better.

I desired that my body resemble the color of a champa flower. Hearing this, Prabhu immediately replied, "svarNa campA" and his choice was better this time, too.

Concerning my age, I wanted to be a little older than most of the other manjaris for a few reasons. When I asked if that was alright, Prabhu replied, "The manjaris' ages can extend up to 14." His answer came as a surprise and gave me the courage to ask, "Well, can I be 13 years, 9 months old then?" After some thought, Prabhu said, "13 years and 3 months." With due consideration, I could understand that his verdict was an ideal compromise, since to be older than this would not be fitting.

Concerning my dress, I had something unusual in mind. I requested, "Prabhu, as the parrots of Vrindavan have deep green wings, light green bodies and red beaks, can my ghaghra be deep green, my orna light green, and my kanchuli bright red?" Prabhu smiled and said, "Why not?"
Although the manjaris in our parampara can serve under any one of Radha's ashta sakhis according to their choice, and although Vipin Vihari Prabhu, Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Lalita Prasad Thakur all chose to serve under Lalita, I wanted to serve under Vishakha for a few personal reasons, and Prabhu approved this.

Though it is in this way that Bhaktivinoda Thakur shows us in Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi how our gopi siddha deha factually comes into existence, it is the sadhaka's personal ruci combined with the guru's vast experience and judgment that form the seed of our siddha-deha. But this is only the beginning. Because after receiving the seed (ekadasa bhava), it is the sadhaka's duty to make it fructify and blossom. Hence one's manasi seva in the ashta kala lila combined with the constant Nam japa will lead us to svarupa-siddhi, the direct seva that we hanker for.
So in raganuga sadhana, the process and the goal are very similar. Our gopis siddha deha along with our eligibility to directly serve alongside Krishna's nitya siddha sakhis and manjaris comes simply by our deep absorption in this activity. Sri Narottam Das Thakur assures us that this is the bonafide path in a few simple words.

sādhana bhāvibo yāhā, siddha-dehe pābo tāhā
rāga pathera ei se upāya
"Our siddha deha is formed by what we contemplate during sadhana, for this is the method of the raga marga." (Prema-bhakti-candrikā 55)









Monday, February 12, 2018

Another side of Thakur Bhaktivinoda :: Gadadhar Pran Das

Another side of Thakur Bhaktivinoda

An in-depth research study of Thakur Bhaktivinoda's authentic guru parampara (with siddha-pranali and ekadasa bhava) which descends from Sri Jahnava Ishvari, who is Ananga Manjari in Vraja Lila, and from Srimati Vishnupriya Devi in Sri Gaurasundara's madhura Nabadwip Lila.
by the fallen sadhaka.

Gadadhara Pran Das
gadadhar_das000@yahoo.co.in





Chapter One : Guru Nishtha

It is surprising that although Thakur Bhaktivinoda had a large family of 13 children, only two of them became exemplary Vaishnavas. The first was Bimala Prasad, who later became famous as Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. Born in 1874, he was Thakur Bhaktivinoda's sixth child. Then in 1880, the Thakur had another devoted son whom he named Lalita Prasad. As the bhakti in these two sons began to mature, their father encouraged them in two different ways:

1) to Bimala Prasad, Thakur Bhaktivinoda requested that he widely preach, make disciples, construct maths and mandirs and work to establish varnashram dharma;

2) but to Lalita Prasad, the Thakur said, "I want you to remain at my Janma Sthan (at Ula Birnagar) and daily chant three lakhs of Harinam japa in gopi bhava."

As time went on, both of these sons took to heart the mission their father blessed them with and succeeded. Now that Bhaktisiddhanta's influence, precepts and teachings have spread far and wide throughout the world, this essay will introduce the bhakti path that Thakur Bhaktivinoda desired to preserve through Lalita Prasad.

Now this brings to mind the two main reasons for Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's advent, because the Lord had both an external and an internal mission to fulfill.

More commonly known in the external mission, because it can be easily grasped and understood by a much larger audience: that Caitanya Mahaprabhu came as the yuga avatar to promote his Harinam sankirtan yuga dharma and uplift the people -- a task that requires lots of preaching. Caitanya-caritāmṛta however, goes on to tell about the main (internal) reason as follows:
ye lāgi’ avatāra, kahi se mūla kāraṇa
prema-rasa-niryāsa karite āsvādana
rāga-mārga bhakti loke karite pracāraṇa
rasika-śekhara kṛṣṇa parama-karuṇa
ei dui hetu haite icchāra udgama
Gauranga's main reason for adventing was: (1) to relish the essence of prema rasa, and by so doing (2) awaken raganuga bhakti in the people. Because Sri Krishna is the greatest rasika and very merciful he comes as Sri Gauranga to fulfill these two desires. (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 1.4.14-16)

Now what type of prema did our Gaursundar specifically come to relish? Wouldn't it be Vraja prema? After all, aren't the gopis Krishna's greatest bhaktas in Vraja? And amongst the gopis, it is Srimati Radharani's mādanākhya-mahā-bhāva which is the topmost prema of all. Hence, Gauranga's main reason for coming was to relish Radha's superlative prema in the context of her madhura lila with Krishna.

Then, as Prabhu relishes such bhavas, the path of raganuga bhakti is automatically revealed by his transcendental emotions! In other words, anyone who sees or hears about Prabhu's activities can easily be lured into adopting the gopis' mood of bhajan. And when this is the case, Caitanya-caritāmṛta clearly tells us what we are supposed to do:
ataeva gopī-bhāva kari aṅgīkāra
rātri-dina cinte rādhā-kṛṣṇera vihāra
siddha-dehe cinti’ kare tāhāi sevana
sakhī-bhāve pāya rādhā-kṛṣṇera caraṇa
 
Just accept gopi-bhava, and contemplate Radha-Krishna's pastimes, day and night. Meditate on your siddha deha always while performing manasi seva within the mentally conceived form. Thus you will attain Radha Krishna's carana-seva as a sakhi. (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.8.227-228)
Here is the essence of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings in a nutshell. When Thakur Bhaktivinoda requested Lalita Prasad to daily chant three lakhs of nama japa in gopi bhava, he desired this path for him. But to ideally take up such sadhana, a special form of initiation is required. Thus, Thakur Bhaktivinoda gave Lalita Prasad mantra diksha with siddha pranali and ekadasa bhava so that he could properly perform gopi anugata bhajana.

From this day, Lalita Prasad entered an internal world where his father resi des as a Vraja kishori named Kamal Manjari, his guru rupa sakhi. Kamala Manjari is 12 1/2 years old. She wears a star-clustered dress. Her bodily color is like lightning and she serves under Lalita Sakhi.

But so that Lalita Prasad could assist Kamal, Thakur Bhaktivinoda awarded him a gopi-svarupa named Lata Manjari. Lata's bodily color is like molten gold, she also wears a star-clustered dress and serves under Lalita, just as Kamal Manjari does.

In Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's last chapter, footnote 29, Thakur Bhaktivinoda tells how he gave this special mercy to Lalita Prasad.

gurudeva śiṣyera svabhāvikī pravṛtti parīkṣā kariyā yakhana dekhibena ye tini śṛṅgāra rasera adhikārī baṭe, takhana tāhāke śrī rādhāra yūthe, śrī lalitāra gaṇe, sādhakera siddha mañjarī svarūpa avagata karāiyā dibena. sādhakera ekādaśa bhāva o sādhyagata aṣṭakāla līlā dekhāiẏā dibena. sādhakera ye ghare janma grahaṇa kariyā, ye patira saṅge tāhāra vivāha haya, tāhā baliẏā dibena. veda dharma parityāga karataḥ śrī yūtheśvarī pālyadāsī bhāva o tāhāra aṣṭakāla nityasevā dekhāiyā dibena. sādhaka se bhāve varaṇa kariyā smaraṇa daśāya praveśe karibena. ihāi sādhakera gopl janma.


The guru will test the disciple to see if he or she is eligible for shringar rasa sadhana. If so, he will assign the sadhaka's siddha manjari svarupa within Radha's yutha in the group of Lalita. The guru will then award ekadasa bhava (the eleven items that make up the sadhaka's siddha manjari svarupa, such as name, form, quality, and seva, etc.) and explain what her nitya-seva will be in Radha Krishna's ashtakala lila. The guru will even tell which gopa and gopi's home the sadhaka dasi will take birth, and to which gopa she will be married. But after transgressing Vedic dharma, the sadhika manjari will become the palya dasi (fostered maidservant) of her yutheshvari Radha to carry out her ashtakala nitya seva.

When the sadhaka accepts these items from the guru, he may begin the stage of smarana daśā, for she will take birth as a Vraja gopi in this way.

Now how did Lalita Prasad attain such mercy? We shall say that it was his guru nishtha, deep faith in his father (in the form of her guru rupa sakhi), for he believed firmly that she could award him Radha Krishna's nitya-seva. But there is something equally important that we cannot overlook: that Lalita Prasad also had strong faith in his father's guru, Vipin Vihari Goswami, whose name is Vilasa Manjari. Because he knew very well that only by the mercy of her manjari parampara that descends from Ananga Manjari--will Kamal Manjari, Lata Manjari and their followers receive the privilege to perform Radha Krishna's nikunja seva.

What we are talking about is the authorized system called siddha pranali. To explain how this works, just suppose that someone such as you or I deeply crave to attain Radha Krishna's yugala seva. But since we are in this material world, how could we possibly reach Radha Krishna who eternally reside in the highest abode in the spiritual world? This is when siddha pranali works just like a ladder that will lead us into the spiritual world.

Now because Vipin Vihari Goswami's manjari parampara begins with Ananga Manjari she is at the top of the ladder. And because she resides eternally with Radha Krishna, the parampara's ladder is fixed in the nitya lila. Then the manjaris belonging to Ananga Manjari's parampara each form a step on the ladder as it leads down to Thakur Bhaktivinoda's guru rupa sakhi Sri Vilasa Manjari in the following order:

(1) Ananga Manjari, (2) Sri Ratna Manjari, (3) Sri Raasa Manjari, (4) Sri Kanak Manjari, (5) Sri Rati Manjari, (6) Sri Dana Manjari, (7) Sri Madhu Manjari, (8) Sri Guna Manjari, (9) Sri Ras Manjari, (10) Sri Juthi Manjari, (11) Sri Vilasa Manjari.

Coming next are Sri Kamal Manjari and Sri Lata Manjari who are the 12th and 13th members of this manjari parampara.

Now we can understand how people today can reach Radha Krishna's yugal seva in the nitya lila. By taking shelter of an amnaya siddha manjari parampara such as this one and receiving the mercy of its members, we can reach the nitya lila and upon arriving there, each manjari member will be our eternal friend and guide to help us.

The word amnaya means the descending mercy which comes from a nitya siddha parshad of the Lord, and it descends through each member of the parampara to reach its initiated members today. Though if the parampara is broken anywhere in the line from its first member up to the present day, the amnaya kripa it transmits cannot reach us -- just as the lights in our home won't light up if our electric line from the powerhouse is broken.

Now let us ask, in this parampara can we say that our recent acharyas such as Lata and Kamal or Vilas Manjari are supreme authorities? Here the answer is no, because as a nitya-siddha parshad, Ananga Manjari is the sampradaya acharya. And hence, every other member of her parampara is here anugata or dasi follower. And here we can understand the importance of gopi-anugata bhajan, the necessity to follow in the leading gopi's footsteps.

Caitanya-caritāmṛta advises,
gopī-ānugatya vinā aiśvarya-jñāne
bhajileha nāhi pāya vrajendra-nandane
By worshiping in reverence on the vidhi-marg and neglecting to follow in the gopis' footsteps, we can never attain Krishna in Vrindavan. (Caitanya-caritāmṛta 2.8.229)We conclude this first chapter entitle "Guru Nishtha" with Thakur Bhaktivinoda's reverential prayer to Vipin Vihari Goswami. He wrote this at the end of his Caitanya-caritāmṛta commentary entitle Amṛta-pravāha-bhāṣya:

vipina-vihārī hari tāṁra śakti avatari
vipina-vihārī prabhu-vara
śrī-guru-gosvāmī-rūpe dekhi more bhava-kūpe
uddharila āpana kiṅkara

"Krishna, known as Vipin Vihari, made his energy descend into this world as Vipin Vihari Goswami, my lord. Seeing me, his humble servant, in the dark well of worldly existence, he took the form of my spiritual master to delivered me." (Amṛta-pravāha-bhāṣya, p. 1687)

Here it is noteworthy that Thakur Bhaktivinoda follows the same method that Rupa Goswami adopts to honor his gurudeva Sanatan Goswami. In Sri Rupa's guru-vandana at the beginning of Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi and Vidagdha-mādhava, etc. He refers to Krishna and Sanatan Goswami as the same person. He says that Krishna, who is sanātana (eternal) came in the form of Sanatan Goswami to deliver him. Similarly, Bhaktivinoda refers to Vipin Vihari Krishna and Vipin Vihari Goswami as being non-different since Krishna came in that form to deliver him. In this way, Thakur Bhaktivinoda demonstrates the kind of faith that a sincere disciple should maintain for his guru in the Rupanuga Vaishnava tradition.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Globalization and Religious Identity

Humanity is engaged in a conversation between faith and faithlessness and there are many shades of gray between the two. Opposition is not the answer, but synthesis.

This is one of the reasons I like Jordan Peterson. He is arguing in favor of Western civilization, by which he means the theistic Christian tradition. He argues from biology and psychology to show that the basic tenets of Christian religion are integral to the evolutionary process and reflect biological elements in our makeup that stretch back millions of years, way before humanity awakened. And that we should thank our lucky stars that in the modern west especially we get to play an eminently playable game. In other words, all facility is there to make your life meaningful.

It is a complex argument with many strands, but the conclusion derives from the Western countries' material, technical and social success, which can be attributed to the way that their culture evolved as a result of the specific ideas that its mythologists, poets, artists, theologians and philosophers developed. Because the pragmatic test of success is how those same ideas predominate globally due to their capacity to build competency, and such competence is the ultimate measure of achievement and the key to not just winning in the universal game of hierarchy and social status, but to survival itself.

And, the corollary to that is that other cultures and societies have failed to achieve the same kind of efficient and technologically competent societies because of some deficiency in their mythologies, theologies and philosophies. This is clearly why Peterson is admired by the so-called "white nationalists" or white supremacists and male activists and so on.  He says the achievements of culture including religion are not to be scoffed at. For those of us who have adopted a non-European religion that not only professes to be superior but contains many overt criticisms of the modern West, Peterson is perhaps a good place to start in our attempt to understand our adopted culture and its history (both long term and recent) and to assess its value, positive or negative. If we want to move the needle forward on Vaishnavism and make it a force for good in the world, then we must understand very closely how it works in the world. What are the practical effects of bhakti on the character of mankind and is that how humanity progresses toward a greater Good and a greater Truth?

Cultural Superiority

The debate about cultural superiority and inferiority is fraught with the problem of prejudice: Are they not all equal? The question can be framed as: Are the mythologies, theologies and philosophies of a culture consciously produced as tools of power and oppression, or do they represent something more profound and representative of higher forces that also lead to evolutionary success, the ability to survive and reproduce?

Jung would have it that these are the products of the collective unconscious, which push us towards a higher state of being, i.e., evolution.

India has had a different kind of evolution ruled, perhaps Peterson [I think Peterson is following a Weberian kind of view here, in contrast to Marx.] would say, not by a responsible work ethic, but by a mystical rejection of the world. I think that it is necessary to clarify that, because he seems to recognize that there are some who follow a contemplative or mystical life and I really don't think he would be totally against it. I haven't heard him comment on Hinduism much, but he certainly does not like New Age much, and Hinduism especially in the West tends to be in that ballpark. He is not a fan, I would think, of any otherworldly religion, although he no doubt would recognize the role played by visionaries, the Zarathusthras.

But what was Prabhupada's attitude to the West?

When Prabhupada made the decision to leave ISKCON in the control of his Western disciples without a way for any of his godbrothers to play any kind of meaningful leadership role, he was saying, in effect that, "Yes, I accept globalization. I think [like Bhaktivinoda and many of his contemporaries, like Bankim Chandra and then most prominently Vivekananda] that India might be actually improved by the Western influence, even in matters spiritual."

The blind man and the lame man working together was the image he imprinted on his disciples. He implied that the work ethic and scientific mindset that his Western disciples manifested were not only compatible with Hinduism by being used in the service of preaching, but were in fact a fulfillment of its doctrines about karma-yoga and bhakti-yoga.

One of Prabhupada's early letters written when he was in Montreal was an appeal to other religious leaders to form an alliance of theistic religions. In other words, he was able to see common cause with other theisms, namely Christianity. He decided not to pursue it: superficial feel-good ecumenism was certainly not the solution he was looking for anyway. And it is not so surprising that the still world-dominant Christianity would not have given much thought to the proposals of the insignificant leader of a bunch of shaved-headed teenagers dancing and chanting with drums and cymbals in the streets.

If East and West are to meet exclusively on conditions of complete surrender, i.e., as a pure question of power dominance, it is unlikely to lead to much good. But for an appropriate synthesis to take place, it is necessary to understand the practical social and psychological consequences of the different religious approaches and doctrines, especially our own.

There may be similarities but there are also important differences between our theism and that of the so-called Abrahamic religions, just as there are between those three, as well as internally within them. And of these, we Krishna converts should be more interested in the differences between the culture of our origin and that of our chosen destiny.

In this connection, it is also important to ask why ISKCON has in general gravitated to serving the Hindu community, who find the philosophy of Vaishnavism somewhat closer to what they are familiar with, rather than Western seekers. Jordan Peterson is showing in a very important way WHAT the seekers are looking for a profound way. Can an other-worldly religion be the answer?

It has been my feeling that a religion that is not socially and materially successful cannot survive. A religion that cannot build strong communities that perpetuate the unifying rituals and beliefs, and develop them within the circumstances of their surrounding societies, cannot possibly survive. This requires adaptation, but such an adaptation must be based on a profound understanding and experience of the highest goals of the tradition, otherwise it simply merges into the broader dominant culture and contributes little to it.

This is a job that has barely been undertaken and is not one that is popular with Krishna bhakti institutional leaders for a variety of reasons. Mainly because as soon as you use your intelligence independently, you become a problem for a dogma-dominated institution.

The problem of authority based social organization

One main criticism from the Enlightenment that has been levied at India, is that the doctrine of fidelity and obedience to the guru stifles independent intelligence. Jordan Peterson correctly says that obedience is better than chaos and that independent intelligence is by no means a generalized characteristic in any society. Nevertheless, independent intelligence is what makes adaptation and evolution possible. Conservatism makes traditions possible, but it can also stifle adaptation and that results in death.



My thesis is that having Western people converting to Hinduism forms a kind of bulwark against the total Westernization of India.

ISKCON forms a kind of buffer in that way, but the irony is of course that it is functionally a creation of Americans applying their intuitive knowledge of the pragmatic American way of life and work ethic to the matter of spreading this particular spiritual culture, once they had been convinced that they were following the oldest and wisest and truest culture of spirituality in the world.

Globalization means to enter into a dialogue with the rest of the world because ultimately your survival depends on it.

I was struck by Bhaktivinoda Thakur who argued in one place in Sajjana Toshani that India was an old civilization and its citizens should allow the British to run the place while the Indians tended to their pursuit of "old man things," by which he meant bhajan and which I understand to mean preparing for death.

Bhajan and preparing for death are really not two different things and that is the core message of the Bhagavatam. Swami Veda Bharati also thought much about Bhishma's iccha-mrityu. He considered yoga to very much be the science of dying.

And the argument is that you die to live. Even as you live, if you live as though life were a preparation for death, and that you can die saying you have fulfilled your life's function in God's eyes, then it has been a furthering of the evolution of the human species towards the Good and the True.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Jiva Tirtha Sanskrit Progress Report


This has been a very good year for the Jiva Tirtha Sanskrit course and things are progressing quite nicely, though in the usually bumbling way.


This is the second year we have been doing this course at Jiva and it is still a work in progress. One student Stuart Trusty pushed to have the manual published in a small number after the first year was over. This year we have been able to build on that work and at the end of this year we should have a second edition.


Even so, I think it will take one more year before it will finally be publishable, as what I have learned this year will need to be better assimilated to the overall method.


By an interesting coincidence, one of my students this year is Vinode Vani Dasi. She was in Dallas in 1973, the first full year that the original ISKCON Gurukula was in operation. Like many things in ISKCON, the early days were the headiest, filled with the most enthusiasm. We had a rather good reminiscence about it in yesterday's class. The Gita memorization contest and the Krishna Book quiz games were two of the things that remained as very positive memories.


Many of the things I still do in the classroom come from the experience of trying to teach those children Sanskrit -- first Western kids in English, and then later at the Mayapur Gurukula in Bengali. Things like group chanting declensions before class, for instance. Memorizing verses.


And I did have a bit of experience also teaching at the university level, but not so much. Then teaching in Rishikesh. Each one of these experiences presented certain challenges that have led to an somewhat idiosyncratic approach to teaching Sanskrit, based really on speed -- getting the easy stuff first, try to understand the Sanskrit way of thinking.


Language is an operating system for the brain. If you follow George Lakoff you will understand how even a single language has different "programs". Prabhupada instilled in me a faith that Sanskrit represents a superior programming system because it inevitably leads to contemplation of the Absolute Truth. It orients the brain in frames (to use Lakoff's term) towards God. All knowledge and perception is reframed into a God-oriented narrative. For the yogi sadhaka, this is almost a compulsory prerequisite.


The desired goal is to be able to think in Sanskrit. If you start learning Sanskrit according to the model of thinking in Latin or French, you will never get very far.


Over the years, of course, DOING Sanskrit has always been more important (it seemed) than teaching it. But by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj's grace, an opportunity has been provided where serious students can apply themselves and it is my great good fortune that these students are tolerating my untidy teaching style and being persistent.


I am calling them my guinea pigs, but quite honestly, they are participating wholeheartedly and thereby helping the development of this course immensely. "Teach what you want to learn" is a truism. Really, it is great because it helps to get us to a place where more advanced concepts can be taught. And believe me that is a great relief!! It is a relief to be able to envision getting to the good stuff!!


Swami Veda told me back in the day when he first engaged me at Rishikesh that he knew it as university policy that one always hires the seniormost lecturer to teach the beginners. He may just have been trying to butter me up, but I think what he was getting at is that the person who has the most love for a subject will instill that love in his students.


So in a way it is not the Sanskrit language that the best teacher will instill in his student, but a love for Sanskrit.

It is very gratifying to feel that love being mirrored this year.

And, I will add, it will make this course really good next year. So I am already sending out a warning to all prospective students that next year may be the last year I do it. So take advantage if you can.



In a kind of coincidence, a friend of mine simultaneously posted a black and white video of Prabhupada speaking. This is where I first heard Sanskrit, in his quoted verses.

https://www.facebook.com/prabhupadavideos/videos/269189890129371/

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Notes from a weekend at Barsana

Afternoon class cancelled, so I escaped to Barsana for two days. I love Braj.



Looking out onto Shriji Road, one of the main entry points into Barsana, watching the daily traffic... here the cows and buffalo are not so free range, but always seem to be driven by old turbaned men in dhotis and carrying a long stick. Or an ox cart with an old Brijbasi and his wife, conversing, the only cargo a small pile of cow manure. Crowds of girls going to the school next door, sadhus galore, mostly of the serious looking variety. Less of the type that goes from bhandara to bhandara. The Brijbasi women still keep their ghumta here, and the more modern ones have to have a strong sense of defiance. And there are religious tourists, not much of the other kind.




The Barsana Ladiliji temple is magic. I was walking on my way to Priya Kund and there is one spot where one gets a particularly good view of it. It is the jewel in the lotus of Braj.

There are no doubt more spectacular temples and other places of worship in India and outside, but Shriji temple does seem to incarnate, somehow, inexplicably, in its feminine curves, the charms of prema.



Yesterday, soon after arriving, I walked up the steps to the top. No wonder they built temples on the tops of hills. It is such good penance to walk those 300 steps. Pretending I am still young, I try to keep a steady pace and watch my breath. By the time I get to the top I am both exhilarated and heavy of breath. One walks across the lower balcony until one reaches that final steep staircase to the top. People are photographing themselves against the backdrop of the temple.

Inside, it is magic. The difference between Vrindavan and Barsana is not only in size, but in the dominance of a single temple. Even Bihariji in Vrindavan cannot be compared, because of the multi-sampradaya nature of the town. Here, there is no sampradaya in Shriji temple. All the sadhus all sit in the darbar of the Queen of Braja.

And the families. And the other, more local visitors. Yesterday, a group of devotees sat for an hour singing Radhe Govinda with great force. The atmosphere is ebullient. The whole town rotates around Shriji. Everyone is her devotee.

I turned around to see Binode Baba paying his shirtless obeisances on a covered piece of the marble floor. I stand and watch, thinking that I have put on too many warm clothes, it is not that cold, and marveling at Babaji's routine. The "naga" mood of his little group gives me a kick. It feels so normal to be with them, somehow. The beauty of their vairagya...

The bell rings and everyone more or less surges to their darshan spots, to engage their eyes in unblinking devotion to the Thakur. It is mesmerization. There are no prayers for anything, the mind goes silent and simply watches the flames circle around the deity, in a powerful act of joyful, bell-ridden group silence.

Arati comes to an end with a loud sigh, and a group of about ten young men dive into their energetic mangalacharan and Kripa Kataksha Stotra, concluding with a kirtan prayer for grace.



I went late to Ladliji's temple again last night. I sat for a while. The Thakurji was out on the Jagamohan with Lalita and Vishakha. A small group of city pilgrims picked a spot on the veranda and chanted Radha's names enthusiastically. They were with a Gosai who explained the songs they sang.

From down the hill came the sounds of a Rasa Lila. It sounded pretty good, so I decided to make my day by visiting the Ras.

It was quite a different experience from Ras in Vrindavan. The audience was nearly all children, all from the local community. The troupe was also local. When I walked in, intending to sit among the children, a young man invited me onto the stage and first asked me to do puja to the Divine Couple on the simhasan.

I had to stand on one of the steps to put garlands on them. Radharani was unbelievably pretty, with such big eyes. I didn't think it was a boy for a moment. She smiled at me and then held up her hand in abhaya mudra. I took her hand and put it on my head, and she laughed. She was pleased.

I was sitting on the stage watching the swaroops dancing and watching the people around. Sitting right next to me was a baby, about one or a bit more. With the big kajol eyes, just staring wondrously, mesmerized by the dancers.

It was so villagey. A little kid about two, clueless, walks across the stage while the performance is going on. So rustic, but so charming.

The singing was actually pretty good. And the troupe was a little rough as a coordinated group, but not too bad. Swirling in their sequined costumes. I gotta pick up more of these Brajabasi gopi moves. Radharani's swaroop and one other little sakhi - a new recruit it seemed - looked like they were really having a lot of fun.

There is something about a society that has lots of children. Playing in the narrow streets. There were so many babies. We just don't see so many babies in the West.

In the tempo coming up, there was a Brijbasi couple with a beautiful big-eyed baby who just kept staring at me. And I stared right back. This looking into a baby's eyes is a darshan also. Who was the genius who saw that all babies are Bal Gopal?

I thought that when you commune with a baby this way, you are actually participating in society. We are all the protectors of the babies. The feeling of mamatA arises spontaneously.

This is something that seemingly can't go on. We need to stop making babies because of global overpopulation and the strains it is placing on our global home, and yet what social cohesion is lost due to the stressing of individualism and consumerist and materialistic ambitions?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Teaching Sanskrit at Jiva

Vinode Vani, who is one of my new pupils at Jiva Institute Sanskrit, asked me to answer some general questions about my method and objectives. So I thought I would share what I wrote here.

My earliest idea was not very ambitious at all. I started teaching and developing the course and method while in Rishikesh, but the yoga students there were less interested in pursuing Sanskrit. This is not so unusual as I have found very few foreign devotees to think that it is at all necessary. After all, it is well nigh impossible for foreigners to develop the kind of fluency in Sanskrit that comes from being born in a living, breathing cultural environment.

For me personally, Sanskrit began as an inexplicable attraction, based probably on hearing Prabhupada chant shlokas like the Shikshashtakam or Shadgosvamyashtakam or Gurvashtakam, etc. So I assume that there will be some few people who will have that inclination and it is important to give them facility. Love of Sanskrit will be helpful to developing love for Krishna, or the Supreme Truth.

But since spiritual life is so multidimensional, with so many levels of adhikara, I was just hoping to teach students those portions of text such as the daily prayers and so on so that they would have some understanding and enhanced pleasure and inspiration when chanting them. My main purpose was simply to enhance for them the simplest and most common Sanskrit experience through chanting.

When it came to teaching here at Jiva I started out with pretty much the same idea, but because of the nature of the institute and the students, I am being a bit more ambitious.

So it is or will be an important part of this course to learn the Bhagavata verses that Babaji chants as a regular part of the morning program. I hope to be able to get students to that point sooner or later, but we will have to start by first reading simpler texts like the Gita. So in this way the material that I prepared in Rishikesh like the Gita verses and Ishopanishad, etc. are being made use of in this course.

The big difference between the yogi culture of Rishikesh and that of Vrindavan is the way that we Gaudiya Vaishnavas love our scriptures. The importance given to hearing the Bhagavatam is one of the most central principles in our disciplic succession. The sound vibration itself is sacred and not different from Bhagavan. So the better access that we have to the Sanskrit language, the better we will be able to put into practice the bhakti-anga of shravanam, and from there be able to enter more deeply into the other bhakti practices.

Conversational Sanskrit is an important goal, but I have not got much experience in this area so that is why I will get the Sanskrit Bharati people to come here in February when I go on a bit of voyage to the East. By then many of the forms will be familiar to the students so they will be ready. Learning a bit of conversation according to their method will make students more familiar and comfortable with Sanskrit. So I look forward to including that in the program.

In my view, language has very strong link to a person's perception of the world. Language is the operating system software that we use for much of what we do and how we perceive and interpret reality. By using the English language, we naturally swim in the reality of the Anglosphere, which is the dominant matrix of reality of globalization. It is the default system of globalized reality and most Western people are naturally using it unself-consciously.

Americans and other people born in the core Anglosphere are often unilingual and have a blind spot about their own conditioning. By learning another operating system, especially one like Sanskrit, which is the medium for an entire civilization, we have the opportunity to do more than just enrich our own personality or satisfy our thirst for knowledge : it gives us a new way of perceiving and interpreting the world, and thereby insights into the common purpose of humanity.

These insights, by their inherent power, will be able to inform the dominant globalized culture by counteracting atheism, nihilism, consumerism, totalitarianism and other diseases of the age.