Bhajana Rahasya: Humility and Grace

The third chapter of the Bhajana Rahasya is based on the tṛṇād api sunīcena verse. To elaborate on this verse, Bhaktivinode Thakur depends on Mukunda-mālā and Stotra-ratna, two hymns from the Sri Vaishnava tradition predating Ramanuja. Bhaktivinoda had translated many of these verses in his Gīta-mālā and he reuses those same translations here.
In view of the discussions of karma related to child abuse and so on, these verses may cause a bit of discomfort. Actually to think oneself a sinner, a fallen creature -- this goes against the militant humanism of our "enlightened" period of human civilization.

Certainly, one of the principal criticisms against cults is that they force-feed teachings that are meant to vitiate a person's self-esteem and thus make him more malleable by the "authorities."

In a traditional society, where the leaders themselves would have been trained in humility, and where they bowed down to sages who were completely disinterested in worldly achievements, it may have been conducive to the creation of a culture of peacefulness and cooperation. But the capitalist / consumerist culture prefers social disintegration and the illusory cult of the individual.

Now every fool thinks himself "the greatest" and a person like Donald Trump, the very opposite of the Vaishnava ideal, is glorified as an appropriate leader for human society.

So one may ask, how is an abused child, who has had his sense of self worth destroyed by abuse and by everything that accompanies it, especially in the context of such cultic training, going to be benefited by compounding his sense of guilt and responsibility for his own fate?

There are stages of grief which end with acceptance. Leave aside the abusers. It is unlikely they will ever be able to experience the honest humility to repent fully. What penances would a child sex abuser have to do in order to prevent lifetimes of suffering in response for his acts? Punished in this life or the next, the victimizer plays the victim and remains completely bound in the chains of his karma.

It may never be possible for an abused child to grow "normal" or to completely free himself of the stain of what he or she has experienced.

I honestly cannot say if it is possible, but Scott Peck wrote in "People of the Lie" that as a psychoanalyst he had encountered many cases where people who had suffered the worst injustices were able to rise above their experience and lead not only productive but inspiring lives. His answer was that there is something called "grace" that is undefinable and causeless, that is the only thing to which he could attribute this difference.

So if that is true, if grace is the only solution, then the path of grace, bhakti, is the key to the cure. And the key to grace is humility. And the key to humility is to accept that knowingly or unknowingly, we are responsible for our own condition in this world.

In fact, we are all unworthy of grace, but God pours his grace into the vessel that is purified by the cleansing process of chanting the Holy Name, which is made possible by thinking oneself to be lowly, by being tolerant of the sufferings imposed by external forces, by seeking no glory for oneself, but only for Guru and God. If one has the good fortune to associate with advanced, truly loving devotees -- not mere actors -- then the actions of Grace and the cure will be complete.

na ninditaṁ karma tad asti loke
sahasraśo yan na mayā vyadhāyi
so’haṁ vipākāvasare mukunda
krandāmi sampraty agatis tavāgre

There is no despicable sinful action in this world that I have not committed a thousand times [in this and in previous lives]. Now the time has come for me to be judged for these sins, O Lord Mukunda, "Giver of Liberation", and so I cry before You in my helplessness. (Stotra-ratnam 20)

Bhaktivinode Thakur—

hena duṣṭa karma nāi yāhā āmi kari nāi
sahasra sahasra bāra hari
sei saba karma phala peye avasara bala
āmāya piśiche yantropari
gati nāhi dekhi āra kāndi hari anibāra
tomāra agrete ebe āmi
jā tomāra haya mane daṇḍa deha akiñcane
tumi mora daṇḍa-dhara svāmī

There is no wicked deed that I have not done thousands and thousands of times. The reactions of those deeds have now becoming strong as the time comes for them to bear fruit and i am ground on the treadmill of karma.

I see no other refuge than You, O Lord, and so I am crying here before You without stopping. Punish this worthless soul as You think fit, for You are my master and You hold my fate in Your hands.

From Yamunacharya’s Stotra-ratnam (49)—

vapur-ādiṣu yo’pi ko’pi vā
guṇato’māni yathā-tathā-vidhaḥ
tad ahaṁ tava pāda-padmayor
aham adyaiva mayā samarpitaḥ

Whatever condition or identity I have accepted after taking different kinds of bodies according to my situation in the modes of nature, so be it. On this very day, I am surrendering this ego to your lotus feet.

Bhaktivinode Thakur—

strī-puruṣa-deha-gata varṇa ādi dharma jata
tāte punaḥ deha-gata bheda
sattva-rajas-tamo-guṇa āśrayete bheda punaḥ
ei rūpa sahasra prabheda

je kona śarīre thāki je avasthā guṇa rākhi
se ahaṁtā ebe tava pāya
saṅpilām prāṇeśvara mama bali ataḥ para
āra kichu nā rahila dāya

There are thousands of distinctions in the bodies we take—they may be male or female, in different varnas, or have other kinds of differences arising from their situation in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance.

Even so, it does not matter in what body I reside or what situation I find myself. O Lord of my life! I now surrender my ego at Your lotus feet. From now on I have nothing left that I consider mine and I am not responsible for anything.

[You are my Lord. Whether you kill me or allow me to live, that is Your right, for I am Your slave. Bhaktivinode says, “May I always remain focused on Your service alone.”]


Bhaktivinoda Thakur continues with a verse from Bilvamangala. As I was doing this translation, I looked for other explanations or commentaries from the shastras to enrich the relish of the verses. This verse looks much like those from the Mukunda Mala and Stotra Ratna, but in this case, the commentary comes from Yadunandan Thakur's beautiful verse translations. What makes it delightful, in terms of the progression in Bhajan Rahasya, is that through Yadunandan we now get a vision of Radharani's humility in separation

Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta (30)--

nibaddha-mūrdhnāñjalir eṣa yāce
dayāmbudhe deva bhavat-kaṭākṣa-
dākṣiṇya-leśena sakṛn niṣiñca

Folding my hands over my head, I beg You, speaking freely with the courage given me by a humility that has no other outlet: “O Ocean of Mercy! O Lord! Soak me just once with Your compassionate glance.”

Expanded translation: [Radharani says:] O Krishna! You who take joy in your dalliances with the cowherd girls! I fold my hands over my head according to the ritual etiquette of humility. I am your maidservant and I entreat you, loudly and clearly, with the following words. Please hear them, O Lord of my life!

If looking directly at me somehow interferes with your pleasure, then do not bother. Even a brief sidelong glances will drench me with nectar. Your glances are so soft, so generous that even a drop of that nectar will soak me and extinguish the flames of my unhappiness.

Listen, O friend, to this helpless person’s plea. Come back into the midst of the circle dance again, dressed as the best of dancing actors, and dance again with the cowherd girls. If I have offended you in some way, I know that you are still an ocean of compassion and will forgive me. So please return and let me see you once again in that form. (Yadunandan Thakur)


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