Thursday, July 21, 2016

Prabodhananda Saraswati: The three great commitments


Yesterday was Prabodhananda Saraswati’s tirobhava tithi. Jagannath and Tamal Prabhu organized a meeting of Vaishnavas at the samadhi in Kalidaha. I went at 5 when it was to begin and found several sannyasis from the Gaudiya Math, Gopananda Bon Maharaj and Bhaktivedanta Madhusudan Maharaj were sitting on in front of the samadhi temple. Prawal and I went to visit Siddha Jagadish Das Baba’s samadhi, which is just next door. We met Prem Das Shastri there and exchanged a few words.

Amazingly enough, there has only been a celebration here for two years now. The ashram is a poor babaji ashram, and I suspect that there was no celebration of Prabodhananda's tithi, sampradaya-wide, for many, many years. Last year, for the first time, Jagannath Poddar and Tamal Krishna Brahmachari of Imli Tala decided that Prabodhananda Saraswati was too important a figure in the history of Vrindavan that a meeting to discuss his contribution was a necessity.

The place is itself small and has been broken up into many kutirs for bhajanandis. I can imagine what it was like when it was surrounded by sand dunes, but now it is hidden away behind Kalidaha Ghat. In front of the samadhi there is an empty dirt space out in the open, with room for perhaps 100 people at most to sit. It was filled up quickly with devotees from various places — many babajis, devotees of the Gaudiya Math including several sannyasis.

The talks though given in Hindi could practically have been given in Bengali the crowd was so overwhelmingly Bengali and Gaudiya Vaishnava, and renounced, committed to living in Vrindavan. Bhajananandis, in other words.

Naturally, there was talk about Prabodhananda Saraswati's identity. Perhaps I should take some credit, as I opened by asking whether there was one, two or three Prabodhanandas? But I admired the elegance with which Madhusudan Maharaj gave his shloka bedecked talk to glorify the three nishthas, the three grand commitments that are exemplified in Prabodhananda Saraswati's works: the grand and total commitment to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the Chaitanya Chandramrita, the grand and total commitment to Radha in the Sudha Nidhi, and then his total self-loss in residing in Vrindavan.
Madhusudan Maharaj took the position that there were two Prabodhanandas, one who was in South India and Gopala Bhatta's guru, and the other who was Prakashananda and then wrote all the works attributed to Prabodhananda.

To support the former, he said it was impossible in those days for a brother born in a family of Ramanujaite priests to become a Mayavadi sannyasi, and yet the author of Sudha Nidhi, in the Gaudiya recension, concludes with the following verse to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu–
 
sa jayati gaura-payodhir
māyāvādārka-tāpa-santaptam |
hṛn-nabha udaśītalayad
yo rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhinā ||
May the Golden Lake be ever glorious, who has cooled the sky of my heart, which was burning from the summer heat of the Mayavada sun, with the ocean of nectar that is Radha rasa, or, by revealing the verses of this book, Radha Rasa Sudha Nidhi to me. (RRSN 272)

Prema Das Shastri, like all the speakers, chose verses that illustrate the same three kinds of dedication. He pointed out that Prabodhananda, from the verses he wrote about Vrindavan, clearly did not believe in accumulating money to build temples or anything of the sort. His renunciation was immense and his bhajan intense.

For Chaitanya nishtha, he chose the following well-known verse from Chandramrita–

saṁsāra-sindhu-taraṇe hṛdayaṁ yadi syāt
saṅkīrtanāmṛta-rase ramate manaś cet |
premāmbudhau viharaṇe yadi citta-vṛttiś
caitanya-candra-caraṇe śaraṇaṁ prayātu ||143||
If your heart yearns to cross the ocean of material suffering,
If your mind takes pleasure in relishing the nectarean taste of sankirtan,
and if all your mental functions wish to swim in the ocean of prema,
then you should take shelter of the feet of the moon-like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. (CC 143)
For Radha nishtha —
yasyāḥ kadāpi vasanāṁcala-khelanottha-
dhanyātidhanya-pavanena kṛtārtha-mānī |
yogīndra-durgama-gatir madhusūdano'pi
tasyā namo'stu vṛṣabhānu-bhuvo diśe'pi ||
I bow down to the direction in which Vrishabhanunandini is present, for even Madhusudan, whose characteristics are incomprehensible to even the greatest yogis, thinks himself to be most fortunate and fulfilled when the most glorious breezes arising from the playful movement of the hem of her garments wafts his way. (RRSN 1)
And for Vrindavan Dham nishtha, he cited the following verse from the Mahimamrita,

bhrātas tiṣṭha tale tale viṭapināṁ grāmeṣu bhikṣām aṭa
svacchandaṁ piba yāmunaṁ jalam alaṁ cīraiḥ sukanthāṁ kuru |
saṁmānaṁ kalayātighora-garalaṁ nīcāpamānaṁ sudhāṁ
śrī-rādhā-muralīdharau bhaja rasād vṛndāvanaṁ mā tyaja ||
O Brother! Stay each night at the foot of a different tree. Beg for food in the villages. Freely drink the Yamuna waters. Make yourself a nice shawl from torn and discarded cloth. Consider praise to be a most horrible poisonous cup, and lowly condemnation to be nectar. Worship Radha and the Player of the Flute with relish. Never leave Vrindavan. (1.48)

And of course, each verse was elaborated on with a sweet explanation. Other speakers included Achyuta Lal Bhatt Goswami and Sushri Savita Devi.

There is talk about protecting the samadhi (there is no other temple there) or "improving" it. I suppose they will have to improve it, probably by enclosing it with protection from the monkeys and perhaps from the rain, building a small nat mandir and so on. Many devotees came forth with contributions on the spot to enhance the facility and glory of Prabodhananda Saraswati.
But I was happy to see that both representatives of the Gaudiya Math and from the Gaudiya babaji community sitting together. But of course, any discussion of Prabodhananda Saraswati's glories without the presence of representatives from the Radha Vallabha sampradaya is to be considered incomplete.



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