Monday, September 26, 2016

Uddhava's glorification of the Gopis

I have been appreciating Babaji's morning chanting of hymns, which I happily participate in each morning. He has a teacher who has given him a number of striking tunes for these Sanskrit verses, which make my "chanting of Sanskrit mantras" in need of updating. I was also inspired to make a few spontaneous recordings, using those tunes and on my SoundCloud page I have also added a few recordings of Babaji also.

Most Gaudiya Vaishnavas tend to chant songs in Bengali or common Sanskrit hymns like Rādhā-kṛpā-kaṭākṣa-stotram, but Babaji has chosen to select notable hymns or passages from the Bhagavatam itself, which is a testament to his devotion to our main shastra.

The following verses are Uddhava's famous panegyric glorifying the gopis in 10.47. These verses are unique because there is no other such praise dedicated to any devotee by another devotee found there.

After staying in Vrindavan in the association of the cowherd folk, Uddhava is so impressed by the gopis’ devotion that he glorifies them as no other devotees have been glorified in the Bhagavatam. Though he himself has been directly told by Krishna that he is his atma, he glorifies the gopis, indicating their incomparable superior status in the spiritual realm.

In his mangala verses to the third division of the Pūrva-campū (15.3) of Gopāla-campū, Srila Jiva Goswami writes a nice verse specifically glorifying Radharani based on this hymn:

śrīr āsāṁ na tulāṁ bibharti nitarām ity uddhavaḥ kīrtayan
yāsām aṅghri-rajo nanāma hariṇā yaḥ svena tulyo mataḥ |
tāsāṁ tat-priyatā-sudhākara-tanuṁ viṣvak cakorāyite-
nānenānugatāṁ samasta-mahitāṁ vandāmahe rādhikām ||
Uddhava glorified the gopis, saying that Lakshmi
could never ever be on their level.
[Even though] he is considered by Hari to be his equal,
he made his obeisance to the dust of their feet.
Amongst these gopis, we worship Radhika,
the most glorious of them all,
whose body is like the moon of love for Krishna,
transforming him into a chakora bird
which pursues her everywhere to drink its rays.
The above citation refers to verses 60 and 61 below. Krishna states that Uddhava is his equal in BhP 3.4.31.

noddhavo’ṇv api man-nyūno yad guṇair nārditaḥ prabhuḥ |
ato mad-vayunaṁ lokaṁ grāhayann iha tiṣṭhatu ||
Uddhava is not in any way inferior to me because he is never affected by the qualities of matter. Therefore he should stay here in order to teach specific knowledge of me to the world.

etāḥ parāṁ tanu-bhṛto bhuvi gopa-vadhvo
govinda eva nikhilātmani rūḍha-bhāvāḥ |
vāñchanti yad bhava-bhiyo munayo vayaṁ ca
kiṁ brahma-janmabhir ananta-kathā-rasasya ||

Among embodied beings on this earth, these cowherd damsels alone are supreme because they have achieved the highest love exclusively for Govinda, the self of the universe. Such a love is aspired for not only by people afraid of being born again but also by sages, and even by me. What else is there to be attained by birth as a brähmaëa by someone who has developed a relish for the stories of the infinite Lord? (58)

kvemāḥ striyo vanacarīr vyabhicāra-duṣṭāḥ
kṛṣṇe kva caiṣa paramātmani rūḍha-bhāvaḥ |
nanv īśvaro'nubhajato'viduṣo'pi sākṣāc
chreyas tanoty agada-rāja ivopayuktaḥ ||

What comparison can be made between these forest-dwelling women who are tainted by their infidelity [to their worldly husbands] on the one hand, and this most elevated love for Krishna, the Paramätmä, on the other. Surely the Supreme Lord grants the highest welfare to one who constantly worships Him even without knowing His reality, just as the king of medicines, heavenly ambrosia, cures all diseases even when used unwittingly. (10.47.59)

nāyaṁ śriyo'ṅga u nitānta-rateḥ prasādaḥ
svar-yoṣitāṁ nalina-gandha-rucāṁ kuto’nyāḥ |
rāsotsave’sya bhuja-daṇḍa-gṛhīta-kaṇṭha-
labdhāśiṣāṁ ya udagād vraja-vallavīnām||

Oh, the grace which was conferred on the cowherd damsels of Vraja - who got their desire fulfilled in the form of having their necks encircled by His strong arms during the rasa festival - did not descend on to the celestial damsels possessing a fragrance and splendor like a lotus or even on Çré who is exclusively attached to His bosom. Then how could others expect such mercy? (10.47.60)

āsām aho caraṇa-reṇu-juṣām ahaṁ syām
vṛndāvane kim api gulma-latauṣadhīnām
yā dustyajaṁ svajanam ārya-pathaṁ ca hitvā
bhejur mukunda-padavīṁ śrutibhir vimṛgyām

Oh, let me take birth as a shrub, creeper or herb in the forests of Vrindavan, so that I will be blessed with a dust particle from the feet of these gopis. These gopis gave up their own families as well as the principles followed by the virtuous, which are so difficult for a chaste woman to abandon, and attained Govinda, for whom even the Vedas are still searching. (10.47.61)

yā vai śriyārcitam ajādibhir āpta-kāmair
yogeśvarair api yad ātmani rāsa-goṣṭhyām
kṛṣṇasya tad-bhagavataś caraṇāravindaṁ
nyastaṁ staneṣu vijahuḥ parirabhya tāpam

At the time of the Rasa Lila, these gopis took the Supreme Lord Krishna’s lotus feet, which are worshiped by the goddess Lakshmi, by Brahma and the other gods, and by the great yogis who are free from all desire, and placed them on their breasts, embracing them, and so became free of their suffering. (10.47.62)
vande nanda-vraja-strīṇāṁ pāda-reṇum abhīkṣṇaśaḥ
yāsāṁ hari-kathodgītaṁ punāti bhuvana-trayam

I constantly glorify the dust of the feet of the women of Nanda’s cowherd pastures. Their chanting of the activities of Lord Krishna purifies the entire universe. (SB 10.47.63)

You can here the recording here:

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Haridas Das Babaji :: Servant of Gaudiya Sahitya

(originally posted on Gaudiya Discussions , 2004)

Appearance: Bhadra 30, 1305 = Sept. 14, 1898
Disappearance : Ashwin 3, 1364 = Sept. 20, 1957


Before taking to the Vaishnava life, Haridas Das was known by the name Harendra Kumar Chakravarty. His birthplace was in the village of Madhugram in the Pheni subdivision of Noakhali district in what is now Bangla Desh. He came from a line of scholarly Brahmins: his father's name was Gagan Chandra Tarkaratna and grandfather was Goloka Chandra Nyayaratna. Haridas Das only had one brother, Manindra Kumar, who left home to take up a life of renunciation while still quite young. Neither brother ever married, but observed the principles of celibacy throughout their lives. Manindra Kumar took initiation from the same spiritual master as his brother and came to Nabadwip where he lived at the Haribol Kutir for fifteen years, taking the name Mukunda Das Babaji.

Harendra Kumar was a very clever student and passed all his academic exams with honors. In 1925 he graduated from Calcutta University with an English M.A. in Sanskrit, specializing in Vedanta. He was first in his class and awarded a gold medal. A little before graduating, he took initiation from the renowned Vaishnava acharya Sri Harimohan Shiromani in the diksha succession from Gadadhar Pandit.

After graduation, he taught for some time in Kumilla, at the Ishwar School, but only for as long as it took to pay off his debt to his teachers and spiritual master. During this time, his intelligence, learning and sterling character impressed everyone. As all good teachers, he combined the personality of a tough disciplinarian with that of a gentle parent-figure. He was known for his punctuality and devotion to duty, as well as the affectionate care he gave to his students.

Nevertheless, after only three years of teaching, he began to feel a strong desire to pursue the spiritual life and so began a life of bhajan, living sometimes in Nabadwip, at others in Vrindavan. He came back and taught for a while at Kumilla College, but not long thereafter renounced material life definitively, taking vesh from Sri Sri Giridhari Haribol Sadhu* with the name Haridas Das. After that, he remained in Nabadwip and lived on madhukari at his vesh guru's ashram, Haribol Kutir in Poraghat, Nabadwip.

Haridas Das has written about both Haribol Sadhu and Harimohan Shiromani in his Gaudiya Vaishnava Jivan.

Sri Sri Giridhari Haribol was given this name because of his devotion to chanting "Haribol" in kirtan. Whenever Haridas Das was asked who his father was, he always gave Giridhari Haribol's name and never talked about his previous life or his degrees or academic accomplishments. If anyone asked him about his blood father, he always said with great humility, "He has died, may he rest in peace." Haribol Sadhu left this world in Jagannath Puri in 1944.

At some time prior to this (an exact year would be nice) Haridas Das was in Govinda Kund, practicing intense bhajan. While there, the siddha mahatma Manohar Das Babaji ordered him to work on recovering lost Gaudiya Vaishnava scriptures. Haridas Dasji took this order seriously and until his dying breath was deeply involved in this service to Gaudiya Vaishnava literature.

The extent to which Haridas Dasji received the blessings of the Divine Lord to accomplish this service can be seen from the following anecdote. Many people heard him tell this story, but this account has been taken from an article written by the devotee Suresh Chandra Datta in the Phalgun 1364 issue of Sudarshan magazine:

Once Haridas Dasji was engaged in a search for Sanatan Goswami's Kṛṣṇa-līlā-stava, but was not meeting with any success. One day he was sitting by the Yamuna and calling out to Sanatan Goswami, hā hā prabhu sanātana! and crying with frustration. As he was descending the stairs to the water, he saw a bundle floating on the waves, touching the shore. Curious, he plucked the bundle out of the water and found an ancient manuscript of the Krishna Lila Stava. He took the manuscript and held it to his head, then to his chest, and then to his nose, ecstatically smelling the perfume of old paper mixed with incense and sandalwood.
Haridas Das had all the godly qualities described in the Bhagavad Gita. He had the humility that is the ornament of the Vaishnavas, and stayed free of faultfinding. He kept all the principles of sadachar, and showed a powerful spirit of renunciation. His attractive personality impressed all who came in contact with him.

He preferred to remain out of the public eye. He never went to large gatherings, and though he was often invited to lecture or give discourses on the scriptures, he always refused. Even so, all who were interested in Vaishnava literature recognized his contribution and expressed their gratitude to him. Swedish professor Walther Eidlitz and the German scholar E. G. Schulze in particular praised him lavishly for his publications. It is impossible not to be impressed by what Haridas Dasji was able to accomplish on his own and without riches or political clout, simply through hard work and unfailing determination.

Though he was an imposing figure, light-skinned, tall and long-armed, with wide-eyes and a steady smile, his face luminous with spiritual power and devotion to Vaishnava practices, and yet he was so hospitable that he would rise up from his seat to eagerly greet any guests to his kutir.

He was ready to undertake any effort to achieve the needful in establishing the authentic Vaishnava path. At some time early in his life he heard the sweet singing of a youth singing Radha Madhava's names in a beautiful voice and was plunged into a sea of feeling for the Lord, a feeling that all his university education or a life of austerity never undid. All this is the proof of the unequalled mercy of his teachers and spiritual masters on him. His humility before his teachers always amazed anyone who witnessed it, such as when he met his university professor Dr. Amareswar Thakur later in life and prostrated himself on the ground in front of him.

Haridas Dasji always seemed to be rushing from one library or manuscript collection wherever he heard of one, from one end of the land to the other. He looked through countless manuscripts like someone obsessed trying to find any evidence of works that had hitherto been unknown--writings by Mahajans, Goswamis or other Vaishnavas. He never thought about whether food or shelter would be waiting for him, his only concern was to go where there was a possibility that some new literary discovery could be made. But the discovery alone was not enough, he wanted to make these jewels shine for all, and so he translated and published so many such works. Simultaneously, he was constantly gathering notes related to the geography and history of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya. Everywhere he went, he would inquire into the family histories of Mahaprabhu's associates. Though his efforts alone were glorious, the success he achieved in compiling the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhan--the fruit of these researches, was even more glorious.

The Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhan was the last work completed by Haridas Dasji. He would work on it for 16 or 17 hours a day. In fact, he finished the second volume (Parts 2, 3 and 4) of the Abhidhan on the day before he left his body. He was in Calcutta going through the last proofs of the first volume and he said, "I am not well. When the Abhidhan is finished, I will be too." On September 20, 1957, just three days before Mahalaya, he fell ill, and after only seven or eight hours of sickness he entered the spiritual world. He was only 58. Had he remained alive another three days, he would have seen the first completed printed editions of the first volume. The second volume was completed a year later after proofreading and copy-editing by other volunteers.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Diksha Parampara

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati started a NEW sampradaya. There are two Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradayas, with two different diksha paramparas. The Gaudiya Math diksha parampara STARTS with Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. Saraswati Thakur rejects the previous diksha parampara which was followed by Bhaktivinoda Thakur.

Am I right or wrong?

So if you choose to accept Siddhanta Saraswati's line, then fine. But you have to recognize that they are two different paths, similar in many respects, supposedly following the same shiksha tradition. But in the traditional paramparas, the shiksha includes a particular culture of raganuga bhakti that is NOT accepted by the Gaudiya Math. They have their reasons, their interpretations of shastra that are their own. They are not in agreement. But in view of the similar objective and similar antecedents there is a possibility of cooperation, but it is not very likely as long as each considers the other illegitimate.

In fact, since everyone is chanting the Holy Name and the Holy Name is the ultimate arbiter, we should say that both are recipients of the Holy Name's particular mercy, which takes different forms for different people in different adhikaras. Hence the multiplicity of sampradayas. The only problem is the Holy Name does not like Vaishnava ninda.

The Gaudiya Math was created in opposition to the traditional Vaishnava paramparas. It was against the family lines of descendance and against the practice of bhajan as it had evolved in Radha Kund amongst the bhajananandi Vaishnavas. Saraswati's rationale may have had validity, that is not the point I am debating.

What I am saying is that if you wish to follow the traditional method of bhajan including siddha pranali you need to get initiated into the sampradaya that teaches it.

The Bhakti Sandarabha makes it clear that siddha pranali is a part of the archana marg into which one must be initiated. Nowadays there are many in the Gaudiya Math who will give you siddha pranali because it does not require any special imagination to invent an ekadash bhava. I can give you one right now if you want. So no problem.

I heard Narayan Maharaj gave siddha pranali. Narayan Maharaja said Keshava Maharaj was given siddha pranali by Siddhanta Saraswati. Moreover, I have learned that in this parampara, siddha pranali is given as far back as Bhaktivinoda Thakur, but does not include HIS guru!! Whom the Thakur has mentioned numerous times as the source of his own siddha identity. How anyone in their right mind can think that this is what "parampara" of ANY kind -- siksha or diksha -- means is beyond me.

So if you want to follow the system as it was taught and practiced in Radha Kund and by other bhajananandi Vaishnavas in Braj, then you should take initiation in a traditional line that goes back directly to Rupa and Raghunath in Braj.

Accept that there is a difference. Accept the fact that some people will make that decision. They are not your enemies. They are Vaishnavas who are seeking the way to prema. If they are engaged in anadhikar charcha, they will have to come down a few notches, but in this endeavor there is no loss or diminution. No pious endeavor goes unrewarded.

The difference is that the Gaudiya Math does NOT follow Gaur Kishor Babaji's diksha line. There is not one in ten thousand who even know the name of his guru. The problem of rejection comes from the Gaudiya Math. One may deny it, but the rejection of Bipin Bihari Goswami is the root of it all.

Yes, there are always differences, and the Nitai Gaur Radhe Shyam people have their own vision, but they have always given respect to the Goswamis and to the Babajis. If you accept a parampara you start by respecting the people in it.