Monday, August 06, 2012

Vrindavan Bhajan

Living in Vrindavan, even for a quasi-hermit like myself, is a spiritual boon. First of all, the raj, the dust of Vrindavan itself has an inexplicable power that nurtures one's devotion. It may be imperceptible even to some who reside here, but I think that a devotee will eventually remark upon the subtle transformations that take place after enduring contact with this magic powder.

Normal, mundane-seeming activities like eating and sleeping become seamlessly tied into bhajan until there is really no distinction.

Though I don't go out much, it sometimes does happen. The occasional parikrama, for instance. Darshan of the main temples on Hariyali Teej. A few days ago Manjari Dasi (Tenant) invited me to Gopinath Bhavan for a conference on Rupa Goswami that is held there annually. I got to slip in the mud on my way and get anointed by the Braj raj to keep me nice and humble before arriving, and there I was able to hear Shrivatsa Goswami and Achyuta Lal Bhattaji speak in glorification of our beloved mula acharya. Achyuta Lal Bhatta Goswami was especially powerful in his presentation on rasa-niṣpatti, even though speaking in English in which he is not entirely fluent. I should have blogged on that...

A couple of Narayan Maharaj's women disciples of whom I had previously heard, Savita Dasi and Uma Didi, were other speakers. I met some old acquaintances and afterwards we had prasad at Rupa Sanatan Gaudiya Math. Now that is nice "living in Vrindavan" stuff.

Yesterday, Jagannath Poddar phoned me up and asked me to edit an article he had written in English. I haven't been doing anything for Vrindavan Today for a long while now. But still, the connection is there and a little external seva to the Dham is going on. Another small positive from being here in the Dham.

The other day I stepped out to buy something. Sugar, I think. I ran into my next door neighbor. I have several nice neighbors here. This one lives right behind Ananga Sukhada Kunj. His name is Jai Kishor Sharan, a Nimbarki who is also the editor of the Sarveshwar monthly magazine, which is probably the most official Nimbarki publication as it has the stamp of approval of Shriji Maharaj, Sri Sri Radha Sarveshwar Sharanji Maharaj.

Jai Kishorji was waiting to see the doctor because he has not been feeling well lately. In my usual inconsiderate way I did not inquire from him too much about his physical difficulties. The weather is giving colds and fevers to a lot of people right now. Despite my complaints about the late arrival of the monsoon, rains seem to be above average in Vrindavan this year, and that usually leads to various health problems. I was a little too happy to see him. We talked for about 15 minutes.

Jai Kishor is a householder. He has been living in Vrindavan for the last 31 years. I wanted to ask him about where he was from and how he came to live there, and so on, but never got to those questions. He told me that he is currently working on a new edition of Mahāvāṇī. Mahāvāṇī is one of the most important rasika works of the Nimbarka sampradaya. Indeed, ever since I was given a copy by Brahmachari Brajvihari Sharan at Golok Dham Ashram in Delhi (Surata Sukha from Mahāvāṇī) I have been enjoying this work, piece by piece.

Some time back I also picked up a copy of Sribhatta's Yugala-śataka, also published from Vrindavan's Shriji Mandir way back in 1973 and still available for peanuts! This has many scholarly articles and Prem Narayan Shrivastav's excellent commentary, which I have been enjoying quite a bit.

Jai Kishorji told me how he spends day and night working on this new edition of Mahāvāṇī, giving a word-for-word definition for all the difficult Brajbhasha words, depending entirely on Radharani's divine grace, since many of them cannot be found in any dictionary. (Though I must say that for Rs. 3000 you can now get Winand Callaewert's magnificent three-volume Brijbhasha dictionary, which is especially meant for the poetic literature of Braj. I will get one as soon as I can spare the change.) There are indeed many words in Braj that escape explanation even in Beriwala and Shrivastav's editions of these works.

Jai Kishor also lives pretty much like a hermit himself. He says he has no other purpose but to remain absorbed in the nitya-vihāra day and night so we shared some common sentiments there. So for the last couple of days, I have been reading Yugala-śataka as my bedtime reading and getting a great deal of pleasure from it and from Prem Narayan Shrivastav's extensive remarks liberally sprinkled with quotations from the vāṇī literature of all the sampradayas.

Here is one that I have been memorizing. Shribhatta is nearly always brief, with the words of the dohā repeated in the pada. His work was arranged probably by subsequent members of the sampradaya, and so have the same categories or chapters as found in Mahāvāṇī, but in a different order. This pada is from the Siddhānta-sukha section. For those who don't know any Hindi, just try to repeat the sounds and feel the melody in the words.

(dohā)
sevya hamāre haiṁ sadā, vṛndā vipina vilāsa
naṁdanaṁdana vṛṣabhānujā, carana ananya upāsa
(pada)
saṁto! sevya hamāre śrī piya pyārī, vṛndāvipina vilāsī
naṁdanaṁdana vṛṣabhānu-naṁdinī, carana ananya upāsī
matta pranai basa sadā ekarasa, vividha nikuṁja nivāsī
śrībhaṭa juga baṁśībaṭa sevata, mūrati saba sukharāsī
We always serve the romantic pastimes in the Vrindavan forest. This is the exclusive worship of the lotus feet of Nandanandan and Vrishabhanu Nandini.

Oh saints! Hear me as I proclaim that our worshipable objects are the Lover and the Beloved, forever engaged in their sensuous pastimes in the Vrindavan forest, for we are exclusive worshipers of the lotus feet of Nandanandan and Vrishabhanu Nandini.

The Divine Couple are governed by intoxicated love joy, absorbed in the one flavor of the nitya-vihāra, residing in the different bowers of Vrindavan. Sri Bhatta serves that Divine Couple, the form that is the sum total of all happiness, at Bamsibat.
This is what I like about these rasika vāṇīs, simple and direct, exclusive bhajan of the nitya-vihāra.

I love this simple enthusiasm, along with this dancing joyful language of Braj. This is the upāsanā of eternal union. I have had discussions with Gaudiyas about the relative merits of union versus separation, and although I am an unalloyed and unequivocal follower of Srila Rupa Goswami, my preference is for the worship of the Divine Couple in union. After all, the culmination of separation must be union, and even separation is glorified as a kind of union!

I shared these thoughts with Jai Kishor Dasji and he of course agreed. "This nitya-vihār is the one eternal underlying Truth from which everything arises and in which everything finds its ultimate resting place."

The other day I was relishing a song from Narottam Das's Prārthanā, one of his many heartfelt prayers for a life in Vrindavan Dham.

hari hari ! āra kabe pālaṭibe daśā |
e saba kariyā bāme yāba vṛndāvana dhāme
ei mane kariyāchi āśā ||1||

dhana jana putra dāre e saba kariyā dūre
ekānta ha{i}yā kabe yāba |
saba duḥkha parihari vṛndāvane vāsa kari
madhukarī māgiyā khāiba ||2||

yamunāra jala yena amṛta-samāna hena
kabe piba udara pūriyā |
kabe rādhā-kuṇḍa jale snāna kari kutūhale
śyāma-kuṇḍe rahiba paḍiyā ||3||

bhramiba dvādaśa vane kṛṣṇa-līlā ye ye sthāne
preme gaḍāgaḍi diba tāɱhā |
sudhāiba jane jane vraja-vāsī-gaṇa sthāne
kaha āra līlā-sthāna kaɱhā ||4||

bhojanera sthāna kabe nayana-gocara habe
āra yata āche upavana |
tāra madhye vṛndāvana narottama dāsera mana
āśā kare yugala-caraṇa ||5||

(1) Hari Hari! Oh when will my situation change? When will I put all these things aside and go to Vrindavan Dham. For so long I have cherished this hope.

(2) Abandoning property, society, children and wife, I will go there, completely alone. Leaving all my suffering, I will reside in Vrindavan, begging for my food.

(3) When will I fill my belly drinking the water of the Yamuna, which is like the nectar of the gods? And when will I bathe joyfully in the water of Radha Kund, and lie down to rest on the banks of Shyama Kund?

(4) I will wander through the twelve forests, rolling in the dust wherever Krishna performed his pastimes. I will ask the local people, every one of them, where the other holy places are.

(5) When will the place where Krishna had his picnic with the cowherds appear before my eyes, and all the other minor forests? Of all these forests, Vrindavan is where Narottam Das's mind yearns to serve the Divine Couple.
This is the feeling of separation from Vrindavan. When I was singing this pada a couple of days ago, I could feel the rikshaw wallas who live in the usual poverty stricken hovels just on the corner of my street. Though living in what we would call squalor with their wives and urchins, I could feel how this Narottam Das song had dragged them here, and even the words madhukarī māgiyā khāiba resonated. Their driving rickshaws is what, if not begging for their food? Are they not treated with almost the same contempt as beggars?

And the same can be said of the widows, so popularly lamented about all over the world, making Vrindavan famous as a symbol of oppression to women! They too came to Vrindavan because of something other than economic opportunity.

I can relate to this mood of separation from the Dham. When I left India in 1985, not to return until after a long exile of twenty years, I often remembered Narottam Das, who himself never returned. This is the song I remembered over and over back then:

aneka duḥkhera pare layechile braja-pure
kṛpa-ḍora galāya bāɱdhiyā |
daiva-māyā balātkāre khasāiyā sei ḍore
bhava-kūpe dileka ḍāriyā ||3||

punaḥ yadi kṛpā kari e janāre keśe dhari
ṭāniyā tulaha braja-dhāme |
tabe se dekhiye bhāla natubā parāṇa gela
kahe dīna dāsa narottame ||4||
After so much suffering, you dragged me to Vrindavan, tying the rope of mercy around my neck. Then cruel fortune loosened that rope and threw me back into the well of material life. If you would only again show your mercy and grab me by the hair, pull me out of this hole and throw me down in Braja Dham, then things will look well. Otherwise I may as well just die. Thus says the unfortunate Narottam Das. (Song 5)
It is true that separation from the Dham itself is a rare state of mind that is bestowed on only the rarest of mortals. The vision of the Dham as real and eternal, beneath the coverings that material consciousness gives it, externally and internally, is another even rarer gift.

Vrindavan Dham is the land of Divine Union. To be here in the company of devotees, in the state of mind that is enthusiastic about bhajan, is the rarest grace of all.

Of all the millions of jivas who are in the world, only a few are even remotely potential devotees of Radha and Krishna. Of such potential devotees, only a few have heard even the Holy Name. Of those, how many have become even part-time devotees with a little positive sentiment for Krishna? And of those, how many have had the good fortune to meet a rasika devotee who will reveal to them the joys of the Divine Couple's lilas. And of such devotees, how many will commit to bhajan? And of such bhajananandis, how many are fortunate enough to be dragged by the hair to Vrindavan and left there in the company of devotees (tad-anurāgi-janānugāmī) to deepen their love for the Divine Yugala?

I am truly most fortunate. May this bliss never cease.

Jai Sri Radhe! Jai Sri Vrindavan Dham!

dhanyo loke mumukṣur hari-bhajana-paro dhanya-dhanyas tato’sau
dhanyo yaḥ kṛṣṇa-pādāmbuja-rati-paramo rukmiṇīśa-priyo’taḥ |
yāśodeya-priyo’taḥ subala-suhṛd ato gopakāntā-priyo’taḥ
śrīmad-vṛndāvaneśvary-atirasa-​vivaśārādhakaḥ sarva-mūrdhni ||

The one seeking liberation is fortunate in this world, but more fortunate than he is the one who is committed to the worship of Hari. More fortunate than such a person is one who has placed love for Krishna's lotus feet on the highest place of worship. Greater than that is the worshiper of Krishna as Rukmini's husband, then the son of Yashoda, the friend of Subal, and then as the lover of the gopis. But the most fortunate of all, who stands at the head of all the spiritualists of the world, is he who worships Krishna as the one who is totally overwhelmed by the excessive rasa that comes from the Queen of Vrindavan, Srimati Radharani. (VMA 2.35)

1 comment:

Satya devi dasi said...

Radhe Radhe! I'm glad you were able to go to the Rupa Goswami conference that Manjari Dasi (Talent) organizes. Every year I wait to hear from folks about it. It sounds like such nectar.

Regarding the rickshaw wallas and widows, I'm not sure that their poverty is self imposed. Narrotam das had "property, society, children and wife" that he voluntarily abandoned.

The pada from Siddhānta-sukha is wonderful. Have you seen or heard this one: http://www.spiritvoyage.com/mantra/Namaste-Shri-Radhe/MAN-000414.aspx

Radhe Shyam