Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Deserving desirable association

As often happens, there was a Facebook discussion where the issue of pure Vaishnava association came up.

Though I have been known to disagree vehemently with “first deserve then desire” motto that circulates in the Gaudiya Math, I found myself saying, “The purer you chant, the more likely you are to find pure association. Remember, first deserve then desire.”

The point, of course, is that you cannot expect to even recognize or appreciate good association if your mind has not been purified and prepared for it by bhajan.

Rupa Goswami says desirable association is
  • bhajana-vijña :: a person who is fully knowledgeable about and experienced in the path of bhajan
  • ananya :: is entirely committed to the Divine Couple, i.e, exclusive
  • anya-nindādi śūnya-hṛdam :: has a heart that is entirely free of the tendency to criticize others.
If you cannot find someone who fits the bill exactly, try to get as close to this ideal as possible. And of course, one starts by trying to emulate the standard oneself. If you do that then you will naturally attract good association. Desiring something vague like "a pure devotee" is pretty pointless if one is overwhelmed with anarthas, at least where long-term close or frequent association is concerned.

In 1979 I was still a sannyasi in Iskcon, but in early September I took initiation from Lalita Prasad Thakur while nevertheless still remaining in the organization. Prabhu never told me to leave. I think he wisely figured I would make that decision myself when the time came.

In the period before I left (in December) for good, I took a couple of preaching excursions, one to Shillong and the other to Hyderabad.

While in Shillong, I was doing the rounds of people's houses (hovels more like it, these were refugees from Bangladesh mostly) and in one of them I met an aged but wrinkle free man with tilak and mala. He was bald or shaven headed, but whatever the case, I remember his smooth and effulgent pate.

We sat down and he started to talk about Radha, quoting the kamsarir api verse from Gita Govinda and glorifying Radha, how Krishna left the Rasa dance to find her because he felt no enthusiasm for anything without her. I had never heard anyone speak this way before. His speech was so musical, his feeling so intense, tears came to both our eyes. I felt as though truly this man was closer to my Swamini than anyone in my crowd.

Then a bit later I went to Hyderabad and was leading sankirtan and giving classes and doing all other good sannyasi stuff and at the same time trying to keep the gifts Prabhu had given me, but seeing management difficulties in the temple made me feel uncomfortable with my environment. Those days were intense, with the Bhajana Rahasya my constant companion.

One day in the temple room, an elderly gentleman, speaking English, just came up to me and started talking about Raghunath Das Goswami. But he kept referring to him as "Svaruper Raghu" and, seeing the expression on my face, explained the story of that name from Chaitanya Charitamrita. There was so much affection in his voice while saying these words, "the Raghunath who stayed under the protection of Svarup Damodar," that I thought, "How much love this man has for Raghunath Das! Who is this man? Where can I find those who will give me such love for Svaruper Raghu?"

The next day I set off to speak in Mumbai temple, but when the train stopped in Bangalore, I got out and took a return ticket and went straight to Birnagar. Prabhu gave me babaji vesh and after spending a couple of weeks there, I came to stay permanently with Madhusudan in Nabadwip old town, where I remained for the next five years.

While crossing the Ganges, we consecrated my danda and sacred thread into the holy river, remember Nityananda and his breaking of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's danda..

I never met those two men again, but they left an indelible impression in my mind and helped push me into an entirely different direction in bhakti. Would Radharani have sent them to me if I was not ready? Would I have recognized them if I was not ready? Would they have affected me the way they did if I was not ready?

Jai Radhe!

No comments: