Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Notes from a weekend at Barsana

Afternoon class cancelled, so I escaped to Barsana for two days. I love Braj.

Looking out onto Shriji Road, one of the main entry points into Barsana, watching the daily traffic... here the cows and buffalo are not so free range, but always seem to be driven by old turbaned men in dhotis and carrying a long stick. Or an ox cart with an old Brijbasi and his wife, conversing, the only cargo a small pile of cow manure. Crowds of girls going to the school next door, sadhus galore, mostly of the serious looking variety. Less of the type that goes from bhandara to bhandara. The Brijbasi women still keep their ghumta here, and the more modern ones have to have a strong sense of defiance. And there are religious tourists, not much of the other kind.

The Barsana Ladiliji temple is magic. I was walking on my way to Priya Kund and there is one spot where one gets a particularly good view of it. It is the jewel in the lotus of Braj.

There are no doubt more spectacular temples and other places of worship in India and outside, but Shriji temple does seem to incarnate, somehow, inexplicably, in its feminine curves, the charms of prema.

Yesterday, soon after arriving, I walked up the steps to the top. No wonder they built temples on the tops of hills. It is such good penance to walk those 300 steps. Pretending I am still young, I try to keep a steady pace and watch my breath. By the time I get to the top I am both exhilarated and heavy of breath. One walks across the lower balcony until one reaches that final steep staircase to the top. People are photographing themselves against the backdrop of the temple.

Inside, it is magic. The difference between Vrindavan and Barsana is not only in size, but in the dominance of a single temple. Even Bihariji in Vrindavan cannot be compared, because of the multi-sampradaya nature of the town. Here, there is no sampradaya in Shriji temple. All the sadhus all sit in the darbar of the Queen of Braja.

And the families. And the other, more local visitors. Yesterday, a group of devotees sat for an hour singing Radhe Govinda with great force. The atmosphere is ebullient. The whole town rotates around Shriji. Everyone is her devotee.

I turned around to see Binode Baba paying his shirtless obeisances on a covered piece of the marble floor. I stand and watch, thinking that I have put on too many warm clothes, it is not that cold, and marveling at Babaji's routine. The "naga" mood of his little group gives me a kick. It feels so normal to be with them, somehow. The beauty of their vairagya...

The bell rings and everyone more or less surges to their darshan spots, to engage their eyes in unblinking devotion to the Thakur. It is mesmerization. There are no prayers for anything, the mind goes silent and simply watches the flames circle around the deity, in a powerful act of joyful, bell-ridden group silence.

Arati comes to an end with a loud sigh, and a group of about ten young men dive into their energetic mangalacharan and Kripa Kataksha Stotra, concluding with a kirtan prayer for grace.

I went late to Ladliji's temple again last night. I sat for a while. The Thakurji was out on the Jagamohan with Lalita and Vishakha. A small group of city pilgrims picked a spot on the veranda and chanted Radha's names enthusiastically. They were with a Gosai who explained the songs they sang.

From down the hill came the sounds of a Rasa Lila. It sounded pretty good, so I decided to make my day by visiting the Ras.

It was quite a different experience from Ras in Vrindavan. The audience was nearly all children, all from the local community. The troupe was also local. When I walked in, intending to sit among the children, a young man invited me onto the stage and first asked me to do puja to the Divine Couple on the simhasan.

I had to stand on one of the steps to put garlands on them. Radharani was unbelievably pretty, with such big eyes. I didn't think it was a boy for a moment. She smiled at me and then held up her hand in abhaya mudra. I took her hand and put it on my head, and she laughed. She was pleased.

I was sitting on the stage watching the swaroops dancing and watching the people around. Sitting right next to me was a baby, about one or a bit more. With the big kajol eyes, just staring wondrously, mesmerized by the dancers.

It was so villagey. A little kid about two, clueless, walks across the stage while the performance is going on. So rustic, but so charming.

The singing was actually pretty good. And the troupe was a little rough as a coordinated group, but not too bad. Swirling in their sequined costumes. I gotta pick up more of these Brajabasi gopi moves. Radharani's swaroop and one other little sakhi - a new recruit it seemed - looked like they were really having a lot of fun.

There is something about a society that has lots of children. Playing in the narrow streets. There were so many babies. We just don't see so many babies in the West.

In the tempo coming up, there was a Brijbasi couple with a beautiful big-eyed baby who just kept staring at me. And I stared right back. This looking into a baby's eyes is a darshan also. Who was the genius who saw that all babies are Bal Gopal?

I thought that when you commune with a baby this way, you are actually participating in society. We are all the protectors of the babies. The feeling of mamatA arises spontaneously.

This is something that seemingly can't go on. We need to stop making babies because of global overpopulation and the strains it is placing on our global home, and yet what social cohesion is lost due to the stressing of individualism and consumerist and materialistic ambitions?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Teaching Sanskrit at Jiva

Vinode Vani, who is one of my new pupils at Jiva Institute Sanskrit, asked me to answer some general questions about my method and objectives. So I thought I would share what I wrote here.

My earliest idea was not very ambitious at all. I started teaching and developing the course and method while in Rishikesh, but the yoga students there were less interested in pursuing Sanskrit. This is not so unusual as I have found very few foreign devotees to think that it is at all necessary. After all, it is well nigh impossible for foreigners to develop the kind of fluency in Sanskrit that comes from being born in a living, breathing cultural environment.

For me personally, Sanskrit began as an inexplicable attraction, based probably on hearing Prabhupada chant shlokas like the Shikshashtakam or Shadgosvamyashtakam or Gurvashtakam, etc. So I assume that there will be some few people who will have that inclination and it is important to give them facility. Love of Sanskrit will be helpful to developing love for Krishna, or the Supreme Truth.

But since spiritual life is so multidimensional, with so many levels of adhikara, I was just hoping to teach students those portions of text such as the daily prayers and so on so that they would have some understanding and enhanced pleasure and inspiration when chanting them. My main purpose was simply to enhance for them the simplest and most common Sanskrit experience through chanting.

When it came to teaching here at Jiva I started out with pretty much the same idea, but because of the nature of the institute and the students, I am being a bit more ambitious.

So it is or will be an important part of this course to learn the Bhagavata verses that Babaji chants as a regular part of the morning program. I hope to be able to get students to that point sooner or later, but we will have to start by first reading simpler texts like the Gita. So in this way the material that I prepared in Rishikesh like the Gita verses and Ishopanishad, etc. are being made use of in this course.

The big difference between the yogi culture of Rishikesh and that of Vrindavan is the way that we Gaudiya Vaishnavas love our scriptures. The importance given to hearing the Bhagavatam is one of the most central principles in our disciplic succession. The sound vibration itself is sacred and not different from Bhagavan. So the better access that we have to the Sanskrit language, the better we will be able to put into practice the bhakti-anga of shravanam, and from there be able to enter more deeply into the other bhakti practices.

Conversational Sanskrit is an important goal, but I have not got much experience in this area so that is why I will get the Sanskrit Bharati people to come here in February when I go on a bit of voyage to the East. By then many of the forms will be familiar to the students so they will be ready. Learning a bit of conversation according to their method will make students more familiar and comfortable with Sanskrit. So I look forward to including that in the program.

In my view, language has very strong link to a person's perception of the world. Language is the operating system software that we use for much of what we do and how we perceive and interpret reality. By using the English language, we naturally swim in the reality of the Anglosphere, which is the dominant matrix of reality of globalization. It is the default system of globalized reality and most Western people are naturally using it unself-consciously.

Americans and other people born in the core Anglosphere are often unilingual and have a blind spot about their own conditioning. By learning another operating system, especially one like Sanskrit, which is the medium for an entire civilization, we have the opportunity to do more than just enrich our own personality or satisfy our thirst for knowledge : it gives us a new way of perceiving and interpreting the world, and thereby insights into the common purpose of humanity.

These insights, by their inherent power, will be able to inform the dominant globalized culture by counteracting atheism, nihilism, consumerism, totalitarianism and other diseases of the age.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Can you just concoct stories about God and the Dham and present them as fact?

It has been a couple of months since I posted on the blog. I was not inactive. In Karttik I was making a big effort to enhance the Vrindavan Today website, concentrating on writing articles related to understanding the Dham as a "final step" in rāgānugā sādhana. I was conducting a daily meditation on the Vrindavan Mahimamrita (VMA) of Prabodhananda Saraswati. This work is no doubt the result of living in Vrindavan and experiencing its spiritual power. In particular, after returning from Bengal, the first time I had been away from Braj in two years, I could feel the effects of the Dham very intensely.

I think that perhaps I will cross post the VMA articles series, either here or on an independent site, but we will see. At any rate, for the time being, people can read those articles on the VT website.

A reader of this site recently wrote to me and asked the following:
Namaskar. Throughout your writings you teach reality over hagiography. Recently, you have written that (materially motivated) historical concoctions are an important part of remembrance in temple pilgrimage. History and concoction cannot go together as their very existence is opposed to the other.

I am writing this as factors of concern I had and have about temples. After they have enjoyed the fruits of publishing their historical concoctions - extracting historical facts becomes harder or nil.

In other words, publishing a concoction as truth is directly opposed to the promotion and perpetuation of truth. I am not questioning your choice rather clarifying considerations which would explain why I was upset about your apparent change of thinking in this matter.

I am not sure specifically what article he was refering to, perhaps in connection with the Dham where one is presented with "facts" that are not at all historically verifiable. This is obviously a problem that does not easily go away in a world where skepticism is the dominant virtue. I answered him personally and he suggested my publishing the reply. So here it is:

Before I begin, I have of late been following a psychologist and philosopher named Jordan Peterson. I think that you might be interested in hearing his talks on this and related subjects. If you have been following my blog, you will know of my interest in Jung and myth, etc. Peterson follows directly in this school, but he is a clinical empiricist and, like Jung, is a believer who is trying to understand God's work, though as a scientist he is loathe to say it. Anyway, I am impressed by him as a deep thinker and social commentator. His scope is very broad.

Though I am nowhere near as erudite as he, nevertheless I feel confirmed in a lot of what I have been saying by his insights. I find this very encouraging and hope that the doors to understanding religious belief and God that he is opening up will be followed by those to whom such things are important.

What is reality? What is the relation between the experience of the individual consciousness and the actual world externally, as it is?

Now most people in this world think that the hard stuff we are surrounded by is reality. Let me assure you, it is here today and gone tomorrow. What is real is the soul, which never changes, and is simply observing the passing scene.

There is, of course, a place for empirical reality. It is really very much like a video game called life in this world. Each one of us programmed for a particular adventure to live out and then go on to other levels, and so on.

Indian religion is almost solipsistic in its creed. It says: We have faith that if we surrender to God, our existential reality will take care of itself. God will provide for my achieving that purpose. Indeed, He always has.

Such faith must also be accompanied by renunciation, because you cannot surrender to God with material benefit in mind. How much discomfort you are willing to tolerate will determine how much you compromise with giving yourself completely to God. Everyone is to be tested in this manner, and that is for sure.

But if you have such faith you set about turning inward and dwelling in the Self. When you have come to this point, the External Reality has served its purpose. At this point, whatever External or Empirical Reality offers for experience is only confirmation, immediately or belatedly, of the benevolence of the Self.

Now, to answer your question. The acharyas are busy building a house that people who wish to attain the Inner Reality can live in. The trick is that the house has to be built in the External Reality. That is the reason that there are so many paths to God. Like the light hitting a prism, the One becomes Many.

So now let us say that I am a Seer of the Truth who knows that the instant the One Non-dual Truth hits Matter, it becomes compromised. What have I seen ? And how will I go about building my house for people to move toward that goal from wherever they are, and in the meantime live together in the best possible way, in a way whereby they will be as happy as it is possible to be in this world of misery and death, where no pleasure is not accompanied by loss and imperfection?

Now, no amount of empirical knowledge of the world can do anything more than hint at what the knowledge of the transcendental self is as an experience. The masters know that there are media by which Truth can be communicated, and of those the principal ones are Myth and Symbol.

Different myths and symbols arise for a reason. They compete because they all announce to the world a higher reality and they differ in what that highest glory of God is. But for us, for Bhaktivinoda Thakur, the real world is that of Chaitanya Krishna, and whatever serves the purpose of being aware of that world is, as far as possible, to be adequately presented so that those who live by empirical reality will not be too offended, but they know there will be limits to what can be done for such people. Mimamsakas.

Some myths are more important than others. Empirical reality serves a purpose until we reach the point of surrendering and embarking on the path of sadhana. At that point it has served its purpose and recedes.

mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te.

Jai Radhe.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Vrindavan gives the power to remember Radha's name

Facebook regurgitated a memory, a status I had posted three years ago.

kvāsau rādhā nigama-padavī-dūragā kutra cāsau
kṛṣṇas tasyāḥ kuca-mukulayor antaraikānta-vāsaḥ |
kvāhaṁ tucchaḥ paramam adhamaḥ prāṇy aho garha-karmā
yat tan-nāma sphurati mahimā hy eṣa vṛndāvanasya ||261||
How glorious is Radha, so far beyond the Vedic scriptures! And how wonderful Krishna, whose single abode is in the space between her breasts! And how low am I, such a fallen creature addicted to sinful life! If her name should manifest on my lips, it is only due to the glory of this land of Vrindavan. (RRSN 261)
My friends, this is the truth! The power of the Dham is to make you remember Radha.

Even if you wonder, "Why can't I remember Radha! Why isn't Bihariji merciful to me? Isn't the Dham supposed to make bhajan easier?" You are still doing bhajan by even asking the question.

Slowly but surely you will see your bhajan bear fruit in the Dham. It will begin when your tongue chants the name of Radha day and night. And you feel the heat of the Vrindavan air as a kind of
enveloping embrace of the Hladini Shakti.

It is not easy to escape the world.
And, of course, the world is real.
And here it is especially real,
because it is SO close to that Reality.

That one Reality we have learned to crave
by the mercy of the Holy Name.
That world of perfect love,
where the desire crazed love-struck adolescents of Vrindavan
remain in that perfect moment of love eternally.

Where the tedious things of this world
Time and Duty
do not interfere with the flow of love
for even a millisecond, except to create enough waves
to make it an eternally expanding fractal game of ecstasy.

rādhā-kṛṣṇa-rahasya-dāsya-rasa eveṣṭaḥ pumartho mama
tyaktvā sarvam ahaṁ kadāpi niyataṁ vatsyāmi vṛndāvane |
itthaṁ syād api vāci yasya paramāsaktasya gehādike
nāsaktāv api saktatā-parihṛtau taṁ pāti vṛndāṭavī ||1.94||
"The ultimate goal I desire in my life is to attain the nectar of confidential devotional service to Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. When will I ever give up everything and go to live in Vrindavan forever?" If such words should even appear on the lips of one addicted to the affairs of household life, Vrindavan will take care of such a person by giving detachment. (VMA 1.94)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Reality TV and Rearranging Reality

I have to admit that Trump is a real phenomenon. His presidency is reality TV. Really.

He really could blow up the whole world!!! Will he? What is he doing? God help us all... The sickening drama... this is happening to us!! This is not TV, this is reality!

Are we to believe he does not know exactly what he is doing? That he is not an experienced reality star for years.

He creates his character: Is he mad? Is he a fool? Is he a Nazi? What exact _kind_ of mental illness is he suffering from? Oh my God! Has a madman taken over the nuclear codes?!!??!!

It is really the most astonishing thing I have ever seen.

He takes away all pretense of the kind of thing that diplomatic powerful world leaders are supposed to do and say and does the opposite. And it is riveting. It is truly the Truman show come to life in a most challenging way.

The question is very much: What is reality? What are we to believe? The fake news? Everything is fake, everyone is fake. This is the world we have deconstructed ourselves to. Forget intersubjectivity, we are going to pursue our own selves and not lose ourselves to any values other than our pure self interest.

And that confusion is the reality that is being created. That reality has sprung forth, incarnated as Donald Trump, reality TV star in charge of our common reality. Our common illusion. The fear that films like the Matrix instill, that nothing is real and that our fantasies are just as real or not real as anything else.

And yet Trump seems dogged and impermeable. He needs to press forward with his agenda, which really creating a kind of urban jungle of free enterprise and ultra rich, and very dispensible masses. He seems to be stirring rebellion because it is good television, good for ratings... he follows classic Nazi storylines, or archetypes in a new setting, the best kind of story telling.

And slowly but surely he is changing the world. You think he isn't? I am in Vrindavan and I just see enough to know that he is changing the world.

And I am pretty sure that is not a very good world that he is making.


Those without eyes will see

In response to this VT story, Alex said,

Makes me wonder if she read the same BG where Krishna instructs Arjuna to not be a coward and fight: "She said that the Gita impressed upon her that, “The path to the truth is non-violent and no one should insult anyone else.”

My thought:

Well, if you think about it a couple of steps of logic down, you could make a case. That is not a problem.

On the other hand, you could ask whether it is appropriate to deduce that the Gita was about getting along and letting each other live. To which I say a good message found in a nasty place is still a good message.

She could have said, "Right, Krishna is like fighting a stupid religious war. So Hindus and Muslims should kill each other like our good lords intended, right?"

That would also have been a rational message, perhaps a little more prosaic. A little more external an understanding of the Bhagavad Gita.

My faith is that the Gita is a spiritual book, set in a particular cultural environment, but its wisdom is on the side of eternal "good" things, like peace and love and harmony and unity. The paradoxes it presents are deliberate and necessary, because no description of reality that did not contain paradox would be complete.

That is the premise. Now further arguments ensue, but the crux of the matter is that without a dominant body of individuals cultivating peace, genuine inner peace, genuine spiritual peace, there can be no enforcing of it among the rajasic and tamasic folk.

The Gita and indeed all shastras are "desire trees" in their capacity for multiple interpretations, which means multiple frames of reference based in multiple subjectivities or adhikaras.

Of what use is a shastra if it has multiple standpoints and is unclear? you may ask.

I would say, it is intentionally unclear or contradictory. Through these flash points of sensitivity it stimulates a unique collective world view, with a frame based on a certain collection of arguments about reality, what it is, what is its purpose, and what might be done about it, i.e., what kind of reality do we want to construct?

Is that good? Of course, because the frame in the Gita is centered on discussions about the truth of the self and the ways of knowing and discovering it. These are the what create the parameters of the arguments it stimulates.

The worst kind of person is the one who wants to enforce a uniform instruction on a text like the Gita. That is because the basic instruction of the Gita is to surrender to God. Period. And the most important God is the one instructing you -- the individual -- from within, not from without.

The rest of the Gita is just explaining to you the rationale for surrendering, as well as how to go about it and so on. A manual for practical spiritual intelligence, if you will.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

What does it mean to be a Brajbasi? Part II : Revealing Braja’s true form through faith and service

Prabodhananda Saraswati is the ācārya for Braja-vāsa-sādhana, i.e., the devotional practice of living in the Dham. Sometimes people find it difficult to understand his niṣṭhā and his vision of the Dham, which sometimes seems at odds with logic. Indeed, the "city of love" (Prema-pattanam) is full of contradictions. For those who believe that Vrindavan is everywhere and there is no need to think that a particular geographical location has any special characteristic, Prabodhananda says:

वृन्दारण्ये वरं स्यां कृमिरपि परतो नो चिदानन्ददेहो
रङ्कोऽपि स्यामतुल्यः परमिह न परत्राद्भुतानन्तभूतिः ।
शून्योऽपि स्यामिह श्रीहरिभजन-लवेनातितुच्छार्थमात्रे
लुब्धो नान्यत्र गोपीजनरमण-पदाम्भोज-दीक्षासुखेऽपि ॥२.१॥

vṛndāraṇye varaṁ syāṁ kṛmir api parato no cid-ānanda-deho
raṅko'pi syām atulyaḥ param iha na paratrādbhutānanta-bhūtiḥ |
śūnyo'pi syām iha śrī-hari-bhajana-lavenātitucchārtha-mātre
lubdho nānyatra gopī-jana-ramaṇa-padāmbhoja-dīkṣā-sukhe'pi ||2.1||

I would rather reside even as a worm in Vrindavan,
than somewhere else in a blissful spiritual body.
I would rather live here, even as a poverty-stricken beggar,
than as one possessing wonderful, unlimited wealth elsewhere.
I would rather reside here in Vrindavan,
even without doing any bhajan to Lord Hari whatsoever,
absorbed in greed for the most trivial things,
than elsewhere, even if I could there know the joy
of being initiated in the service of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna,
the lover of the gopis.


Vrindavan is the soul of this universe. The ultimate truth of Radha and Krishna's divine love is the all-pervading, underlying fact of existence, which has become manifest here in the incarnation of their Dham.

Even after Radha and Krishna become invisible to the world, their Dham remains. Although it is the nature of Maya to attempt to cover the Dham, and Kali does everything in his power to do so, nothing can ever fully cover the svarūpa-śakti's presence here. Those who say that the presence of material imperfection in the Dham is an indication that it is not special or necessary are wrong.

The svarūpa-śakti exercises its influence on all who stay here. But it becomes most clearly manifest when those who reside here cultivate the understand of the Truth of the Divine Couple and devotion to them. Whether they are here from birth or come from afar due to the attractions of the Dham -- because of the potential that Prabodhananda Saraswati is revealing in his Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta -- if they deepen their understanding of the revelation given to Vrindavan's "avatar generation" – from whichever tradition or sampradāya -- then they make the Dham reveal its true form.

It is much like the story told by Rupa Goswami where Krishna was able to hide his true identity by assuming the form of Narayan. He could fool some of the gopis even though their attraction to him was diminished by his disguise, but when Radha came by, he could not maintain it. He was obliged by her devotion to reassume his three-fold crooked form, playing the flute and smiling sweetly in the mood of the ujjvala-rasa.

gopīnāṁ paśupendra-nandana-juṣo bhāvasya kas tāṁ krtī
vijñātuṁ kṣamate durūha-padavī-sañcāriṇaḥ prakriyām
āviṣkurvati vaiṣṇavīm api tanuṁ tasmin bhujair jiṣṇubhir
yāsāṁ hanta caturbhir adbhuta-ruciṁ rāgodayaḥ kuñcati

What capable person could possibly fully understand the manifestations of the gopis' mood of love for the son of Nanda Maharaj, which rises to the highest extremes of incomprehensibility? When they saw Krishna disguised in his Vishnu form in all its splendor with four arms, their attraction diminished even though they knew it was God Himself. (Lalita-mādhava 6.15, CC 1.17.281)

So it is for Prabodhananda Saraswati or Raghunath Das or any other sādhaka who has attained the level of recognition of Vrindavan's true glories. No other place, not Mathura, not Dwarka, not Haridwar or Bhadrinath, despite their purity and holiness, can ever attract the single-minded aspirant for the service of the Divine Couple.

But Radha's love is so strong, her dedication so powerful, that Krishna cannot hold onto his disguise.
rāsārambha-vidhau nilīya vasatā kuñje mṛgākṣī-gaṇair
dṛṣṭaṁ gopayituṁ svam uddhura-dhiyā yā suṣṭhu sandarśitā |
rādhāyāḥ praṇayasya hanta mahimā yasya śriyā rakṣituṁ
sā śakyā prabhaviṣṇunāpi hariṇā nāsīc catur-bāhutā ||7||

At the beginning of the Rasa dance, when Krishna hid from the doe-eyed gopis in one of the kunjas, he cleverly disguised himself by taking on the Vishnu four-armed form so that even when they saw him they did not recognize him. But just look at the glory of Radharani's love, despite being all-powerful . (Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi 5.7, CC 1.17.293).

So, the work of those who reside in Vrindavan is to make the Dham manifest. They do so by perfecting their bhajan at whatever their level of understanding or the strength of their devotion. The innermost circle may be the least visible -- those who practice devotion in hiding. Others may preach or engage in welfare work or in cleaning, it does not matter as long as they work to make Radha and Krishna's abode into a living and breathing reality, inwardly and outwardly into God's own playground, to make it manifest to as many people as possible.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Glorifying Vrindavan: Where those thirsty for Braj rasa are going these days

From Vrindavan Today: Sometimes one gets the impression that there is a certain movement afoot. Suddenly, one figure bursts into prominence and influences the general mood of the community, sets the rhythm that others follow. When the flowers bloom and their fragrance is carried by the breezes in the spring, the bees and hummingbirds who feed on the nectar automatically swarm to the colorful garden where they are arrayed.

For the past few months people have been asking me with regularity, "Have you heard Premananda Baba's Vrindavana-mahimamrita lectures? Then I started looking on the internet and saw that his enthusiasts were making his lectures available every day, so I began listening.

And today, finally, I went to Shri Hit Dham on the Parikrama Marg, in the Varaha Ghat area a bit west of the Bhaktivedanta Goshala. Vishakha Dasi accompanied me and took some photos, which you can see here: Gallery.

Madan Ter and Shri Hit Dham

Shri Hit Dham is right next to Madan Ter. It appears that the two properties, both in the hands of the Radha Vallabha Goswamis, were divided up at some time. The area now known as Madan Ter, which is the original site where Hit Harivams Mahaprabhu first stayed in Vrindavan and where Radha Vallabh was first worshiped in Vrindavan.

According to his biographers, although he was born in Braj, Harivams spent the first 31 years of his life in Devavan (Deoband) in what is currently northeastern Uttar Pradesh. He then received a dream order from Radharani who told him to go and live in Vrindavan. While on his way there, Harivamsh stopped in a place called Charthawal near Muzzafarnagar, where he again received a dream command from Radharani to marry the two daughters of a brahmin in the village, who gave him the murti of Radha Vallabha as a part of his dowry.

Harivansh arrived in Vrindavan in 1535, taking shelter in the place known as Unchi Thaur ("high ground"), which is also known as Madan Ter. The date of Karttik Shukla Trayodasi is usually given for the celebration of Radha Vallabha's Patotsava, which marks when his worship was inaugurated. This festival is celebrated annually, primarily at Madan Ter.

Though Shri Hit Dham is the property of Radha Vallabha Goswamis, the place is occupied by a few sadhus and gardeners who take care of the bagicha. There is a small temple building and a shrine to Hit Harivamsh in generally pristine surroundings, but plans for new buildings are afoot. This inevitably happens when many people start to frequent a particular site.

The mood

And there were many people, perhaps 500, who came to listen to Premananda Maharaj. The small temple building only seats thirty or forty people at most indoors, so the greater number of people sit outside in the pleasant garden surroundings, under an old but flourishing jasmine vine. Others sit on chairs under a canopy. They are of all ages and of all sampradāyas, as many women as men.

One can see the tilak of Haridasis, Nimbarkis, Gaudiyas and Ramanandis amongst others. Premanandaji's kathā is for people who are coming to take shelter of Vrindavan, who are ready to follow Prabodhananda's strong instructions to take to exclusive bhajan of Radha and Madana Mohan in the nitya-vihāra. As a matter of fact, Prabodhananda Saraswati's bhajana sthali and samādhi are just a few hundred meters away in Purana Kalidaha, right next door to Madan Mohan.

[The names Madana-mohana or Madana-gopala appear 23 times in VMA, Radha-vallabha only twice. Radha-ramana or Radhika-ramana, seven times.]

Hit Premananda Govinda Sharanji Maharaj

Those sitting outside cannot see Premananda Baba, they can only hear his voice on the microphone. You can see what he looks like clearly on YouTube, though. His hair is dishevelled and his beard untrimmed. He wears tilak of Radha Kund mitti and smears it across his forehead along with chandan and saffron.

I heard that more than twenty years ago he was an Advaita sannyasi living in Benares. Then he came to Vrindavan and took shelter of a Baba in the Radha Vallabha line, which seems eminently appropriate for one who follows in the mood of Prabodhananda. He then took up a serious study of the Radha Vallabhi vāṇī texts, especially Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi and Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, along with the Braja bhasha works by Sewakji and Dhruva Das. But in his lectures, he also refers frequently to Rāma-carita-mānasa and the vāṇī-granthas of the Haridasis and the Nimbarkis, as well as the lesser known poets of the Radha-vallabhi line.

This openness to all the saints of Vrindavan is clear from the beginning of the morning sat-saṅga, when everyone sings a prayer by Bhagavant Mudita (initiated as a Gaudiya) addressed to the original greats of Braja from all sampradāyas, including those above-mentioned, as well as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Rupa, Sanatana, Raghunath Das and Jiva Goswamis.

Baba has only been giving pāṭha this way for the last couple of years, and most of his disciples have come to him in that time. None of his disciples lives there at Shri Hit Dham, but in other refuges nearby. They are told to devote themselves to bhajan in their own way, but to come every day for morning satsang and for another satsang in the afternoon when there are readings from the vani texts.

The pāṭha

His voice is somewhat hoarse, but clear and forceful. Indeed he thunders relentlessly in the style of one who is fully renounced and dedicated to ekānta-bhajana. His presentation is scholarly. There is no compromise in his voice.

aparataḥ puruṣārtha-catuṣṭayaṁ
bhagavato bhajanaṁ ca bhaved bahu |
dhruvam idaṁ tu vinā vṛṣabhānujā-
vanam aho na mahojjvalaṁ bhaktayaḥ ||

You can attain the four goals of life elsewhere; you can even attain the worship of Bhagavan, but outside of Radha's forest of Vrindavan, there is no attaining this devotion in the brilliant mood of erotic love. (VMA 15.24)
Verses like this are the ones that allow him to express the unique nature of the bhakti of Vrindavan Dham and the need to recognize the good fortune that one has to be there, among the trees and vines, the flora and fauna of the Dham, listening to the glories of Piyari and Pritam Shyam-Shyamaju, Yugal Sarkar, surrounded by other, chatak-like devotees who thirst for the nectar of their topics to the exclusion of everything else.

Most of the time Baba speaks with his eyes closed, except when he opens a book to cite some relevant passage. Today the principal verse was the following:

vṛndāraṇye sva-kara-racitāścarya-sat-puṣpa-vāṭyāṁ
nānā-puṣpādbhuta-racita-san-maṇḍape sat-pathena |
svāstīrṇāmbhoruha-mṛdu-dalenābhisāryāśu rādhāṁ
krīḍan kṛṣṇo’vatu sa bhavato juṣṭa-vartmopahāram ||

May the playful Krishna who has with his own hand made a garden in Vrindavan full of an incredible array of flawless flowers, and therein built a pavilion with various other wonderful blossoms, and who has covered the path whereby Radha will soon come to meet him with the soft stalks of lotus flowers, protect the gift of your chosen devotional path. (VMA 15.2)

His trance-like descriptions come especially when the verse is, like this one, a meditation on the beauty of Vrindavan or the Divine Couple, or some lila. For the first half of today's class, for instance, he was absorbed in remembering Krishna's preparing the kunj for Radha's arrival, with all the uddīpanas of ujjvala-rasa, and especially emphasizing the nature of prema as taking joy in the happiness of the Beloved, tat-sukhe sukhī bhāva.

The second half of the class was taken up with a response to a question about the gradual process of advancement in bhakti. He quoted verses from Bhakti-rasāyana by Madhusudana Saraswati giving an eleven-step sequence, explaining it in terms of madhura-bhakti in the Radha-vallabhi mood:

prathamaṁ mahatāṁ sevā tad-dayā-pātratā tataḥ |
śraddhātha teṣāṁ dharmeṣu tato hari-guṇa-śrutiḥ ||34||
tato raty-aṅkurotpattiḥ svarūpādhigatis tataḥ |
prema-vṛddhiḥ parānande tasyātha sphuraṇaṁ tataḥ ||35||
bhagavad-dharma-niṣṭhā’taḥ svasmiṁs tad-guṇa-śālitā |
premṇo’tha paramā kāṣṭhety uditā bhakti-bhūmikā ||36||

(1) Service to great souls; (2) becoming the recipient of their grace; (3) faith in the path they teach; (4) listening to the descriptions of Krishna's qualities; (5) the first sprouting of love (rati); (6) attaining knowledge of one's own spiritual identity; (7) the increase of love, (8) its manifestation in supreme joy; (9) firm commitment to the Bhagavat Dharma; (10) the attainment of Krishna's qualities in oneself; (11) the attainment of the highest state of love.

These are explained in Bhakti-rasāyana with reference to the Bhāgavatam.

It is nice to see that there is a hunger for this kind of uncompromising message of bhakti to Vrindavan. It is good that Radha Vallabh Jiu has sent someone to remind us all of Vrindavan's glories on a regular basis. Jai Sri Vrindavan Dham!!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Rasa in the sadhaka deha and the siddha deha.

Dr. Jayalakshmi Alankar shared this video, wherein the good doctor Lustig explains scientifically the difference between pleasure and happiness, dopamine and serotonin..

Her summary: "Pleasure is SATISFACTION derived from things and persons OUTSIDE US.
Happiness is SATISFACTION derived from the CORE OF DEEPEST BEING INSIDE US." - so simple to understand :)

I think prema-sukha is happiness AND pleasure.
It is pleasure experienced as waves in the ocean of happiness.

This thought was provoked by the sheer impossibility
of tasting ALL of the rasa that is present in so many writings
of so many rasika mahatmas
of so many sampradayas,
and knowing that I have to stick to ONE to get it.
That I have to concentrate on ONE toenail or whatever,
one sentence of one book.
That is when the rasa hits. Not otherwise.

The key to the door goes through one keyhole.

And yet, the thirst
-- the thirst of one with cholera --
to drink it all,
even in the frustration of knowing it is impossible,
even while knowing that merely drinking one drop
would give it all,
is a wave in the glorious ocean of sadhana rasa.

It combines kama with prema,
or it is kama-maya prema,
or it is prema, which is confused as kama.
It is the overall picture, the story of your life,
the great adventure of finding God,
of having found That in Him and Her,
and becoming closer and closer to Them
in their penetrating, continuous, ever strobe-lighting variety,
that leaves you bobbing up and down
in a calm ocean of pure ecstasy.

ami kinibo luṭibo, harināma rasa...
rase māṭiẏā, ha-ibo bibaśa
rasera rasika caraṇa paraśa
koriẏā majibo rase anibāra
kobe hobe bolo se din āmāra.

I will buy it in the market of the Holy Name
I will steal it, but I will have the rasa of the Name.
I will become intoxicated and not know which way to turn.
I will take the dust of the rasika's feet
and submerge into the limitless ocean of rasa.
When, O when, will that day be mine?
They are two sides of one coin.
The yearning and the having.
And even when having, one yearns,
or yearns to yearn.

Happiness, in Lustig's thought, is sattva guna.
He is right. But we are interested in the nirguna,
which has three _divine_ gunas,
without which there could be no lila.

They are still confusing the terms. What I am talking about is Lustig's idea of happiness and pleasure as mutually incompatible psycho-physical states, one leading to misery (pleasure) and the other to happiness, which is a calm and constant steadiness of well-being.

These are easily recognizable extremes presented since time immemorial in the Upanishads and so on. It is recognized by Vaishnavas as a duality, that of either liberation or sense-enjoyment at two extremes of a particular spectrum..In that scheme,They are still confusing the terms. What I am talking about is Lustig's idea of happiness and pleasure as mutually incompatible psycho-physical states, one leading to misery (pleasure) and the other to happiness, which is a calm and constant steadiness of well-being.
These are easily recognizable extremes presented since time immemorial in the Upanishads and so on. It is recognized by Vaishnavas as a duality,that of either liberation or sense-enjoyment. Sattva-guna is a necessary prerequisite for liberation, i.e. it s on the side of the continuum that leads to liberation, the others being in the opposite direction..

Now Prema is the Vaishnava state that is beyond liberation.
It is the synthesis of bhoga and tyaga,
combining the best of both.

Why? Because in both the sadhana stage and the siddha stage
one is engaged in lila!
Lila in the sadhaka stage is your own sadhana story.
Of course, you are doing some sadhana,
but you are watching your progress, that is your story.

But you are also playing a role in a play,
the name of which is "finding God."
In other words, you are creating a particular identity,
and that idenity is called sadhaka.
And this story, if well written by you, is full of rasa.
This story is the story of a writer of one story,
the story of the sadhaka. That's you.

It is the rasa that perhaps culminates in such a revery:

শ্রী-রূপ পশ্চাতে আমি রহিব ভীত হঞা ।
দোঁহে পুনঃ কহিবেন আমা পানে চাঞা ॥১॥
সদয় হৃদয়ে দোঁহে কহিবেন হাসি ।
কোথায় পাইলে রূপ এই নব দাসী ॥২॥
শ্রী-রূপ মঞ্জরী তবে দোঁহা বাক্য শুনি ।
মঞ্জুলালী দিল মোরে এই দাসী আনি ॥৩॥
অতি নম্র চিত্ত আমি ইহারে জানিল ।
সেবা কার্য দিয়া তবে হেথায় রাখিল ॥৪॥
হেন তত্ত্ব দোঁহাকার সাক্ষাতে কহিয়া ।
নরোত্তমে সেবায় দিবে নিয়ুক্ত করিয়া ॥৫॥

śrī-rūpa paścāte āmi rahiba bhīta hañā |
doɱhe punaḥ kahibena āmā pāne cāñā ||1||
sadaẏa hṛdaẏe doɱhe kahibena hāsi |
kothāẏa pāile rūpa ei naba dāsī ||2||
śrī-rūpa mañjarī tabe doɱhā bākya śuni |
mañjulālī dila more ei dāsī āni ||3||
ati namra citta āmi ihāre jānila |
sebā kārya diẏā tabe hethāẏa rākhila ||4||
hena tattba doɱhākāra sākṣāte kahiẏā |
narottame sebāẏa dibe niẏukta kariẏā ||5||

I will stand behind Sri Rupa, trembling shyly,
the Two will look at my face and ask,
ask with merciful hearts and laughing,
"Where did you find this new servant-girl, Rupa?"
Sri Rupa hears their words and says,
"Manjulali brought this servant to me.
I saw that she was of extreme humility,
so I gave her some service to perform
and I am keeping her.

And saying this directly to the Two
she will engage this Narottam in their service.

[The vyashti guru, Sri Gururupa Manjari,
in progressive fashion, through guru-parampara,
hands you over to the samashti guru, Sri Manjari.
This is a different guru parampara:
it is your personal experience of guru tattva in your life.]

But the sadhana of a rasika bhakta is to meditate on the nitya-vihara. That is supposedly where the sadhaka lila ends, but it doesn't.

It doesn't because a seva-dasi is always a sadhika,
serving the pleasure of Yugala Kishore.
writing their play and watching them perform.

In the beginning, this new duality seemingly pits one lila against another,
that of interior and exterior, and this is what makes both of them rasa-maya.

As a matter of fact, without the rasa in the sadhaka deha,
i.e., in the sadhaka lila,
i.e., by learning to see that IT IS GOD's lila,
it's his lila with you and you alone,
that when objectified, separated from yourself,
and then IDENTIFIED with,
just as if watching yourself in a film or a play,
the condensed, essential version of a long story,
of perhaps a multilifetime story with multiple rejected versions,
with the dramatic bits played up or down
to tell one grand story that you could tell your grandchildren
and that rasa, or variable gratification,
that comes with each telling
then propels you into stronger meditation on the eternal nitya-vihara,
Oh Vaishnava sadhaka!
which dazzles with its beauty
which drowns you with its intensity
which embraces you in the ever union of the Divine Couple.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

What does it mean to be a Brajbasi? Part I : The eternal glory of residence in the Dham

Cross posted from Vrindavan Today.

While in Barsana recently, I was standing in the Ladli temple on the outside terrace portion and someone appeared to have fainted. An elderly Brijbasi Gosai, with a bushy white moustache, a colorful turban and yellow silk dhoti, a stick in his hand, was walking toward me. For some reason I was impelled to say something stupid and started to speak, but my Hindi tongue was tied and could not express, "We must all pass by that."

At the Brajvasi's insistence I repeated myself again without success and ended up stuttering out the words andham tamah, "the darkness of ignorance." Which I knew the instant they came out of my mouth that they did not fit at all what I really wanted to say, pointless as it was.

The Gusai responded vehemently in a tone of chastisement, but even singing a Brijbhasha song, glorifying Braj Dham as sat-cit-ananda, and how nothing that happens here can ever be andham tamah. I stood there with my head down looking like a stupid schoolboy as he continued, his final word being, "You are only a beginning Brajvasi."

Well better a beginner than none at all. But he is perfectly correct. It is not an easy thing, to be a Brajbasi.

The eternal glory of residence in the Dham

Taking shelter of Braja Dham is the ultimate achievement of the sādhaka devotee of Radha and Krishna. It is the culmination of many lifetimes of devotional practice and culture.

Living in Vrindavan is both the process (sādhanā) and the ultimate goal (sādhya). Of all the 64 sādhanas listed in the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, five are identified as best of all:

śraddhā viśeṣataḥ prītiḥ śrī-mūrter aṅghri-sevane
śrīmad-bhāgavatārthānām āsvādo rasikaiḥ saha
sajātīyāśaye snigdhe sādhau saṅgaḥ svato vare
nāma-saṅkīrtanaṁ śrī-mathurā-maṇḍale sthitiḥ 
(1) Faith and special love for serving the Deity,
(2) relishing the topics of the Bhāgavatam in the company of rasikas,
(3) 1keeping the company of saintly persons who share the same devotional aspirations, who are affectionate and superior to oneself,
(4) chanting the Holy Name, and
(5) living in the region of Mathura, i.e., Braja-mandal.
(Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.90-92)
Only in the sādhanā of Braja-vāsa are all five sādhanās possible simultaneously.

On the one hand, it is the easiest of sādhanās, because all it requires is your physical presence in the Dham, allowing its inherent potency (vastu-śakti) to work its magic on you. In other words, you don't really need to do anything else but be there.

On the other hand, it is the hardest of all because it truly penetrates to the very core of what all bhakti-sādhanās are about. It is about cracking the hardest nut of all -- the ego, the knot that binds us to material existence. This is what I call the sādhanā of identity. Therefore, the true results of living in Braj is that one will take delight in devotional practices precisely because that is what one has become, that is what it means to be a Brajbasi.

This is why Rupa Goswami calls the instruction to reside in the Dham along with executing the other practices, "the essence of instruction."

smṛtyoḥ krameṇa rasanā-manasī niyojya |
tiṣṭhan vraje tad-anurāgi-janānugāmī
kālaṁ nayed akhilam ity upadeśa-sāram ||
Gradually engaging the tongue in sweetly chanting and the mind in constantly remembering Krishna’s name, form, pastimes and so on, one should remain in Braj and pass the remainder of one's days under the guidance of a passionate lover of the Lord. This is the essence of all instruction. (Upadeśāmṛta 8; See also VMA 1.30.)
Kālaṁ nayed akhilam, "to pass the remainder of one's days", i.e. to stay there forever, indicates that this is expected to be something that happens at the end of one's life, as an attempt to finalize the business of bhakti-sādhanā before it is too late.

So what is the nature and meaning of Braja-vāsa sādhanā? In essence, it is integral to the culture of rāgānugā bhakti itself, since rāgānugā bhakti truly does focus on the transformation of one's identity. Therefore it is no surprise that Rupa Goswami includes residence in Braj as one of the essential elements of rāgānugā practice:

kṛṣṇaṁ smaran janaṁ cāsya preṣṭhaṁ nija-samīhitam |
tat-tat-kathā-rataś cāsau kuryād vāsaṁ vraje sadā ||
sevā sādhaka-rūpeṇa siddha-rūpeṇa cātra hi |
tad-bhāva-lipsunā kāryā vraja-lokānusārataḥ ||
One should live forever in Braj, remembering Krishna and the most beloved associates who surround him and remaining absorbed in hearing and chanting about them. Here in this very place, Braj, one should serve the Lord [and the Dham, which is not different from him] following the residents of Braj in both the external sādhaka-deha and well as internally in the siddha-deha, out of the desire to attain their loving mood. (BRS 1.2.295-296)
One has to follow both internal and external exemplars. That is why we often hear the words ānugatya-maya, it is based in obedience and conscious adherence. There is a very significant psychological truth involved here, because this dual culture of identity is one that is designed to converge, that is, one attains psychological harmony of the internal and external selves.

So Rupa Goswami confirms the upadeśa-sāra given by him in the Upadeśāmta, but he is making it a little more clear. Rāgānugā bhakti sādhanā is about identity above all. It is about becoming something which at present one is not. It is about replacing our material identities, our upādhis, with a new identity, namely that of a resident of the Supreme Lord's own abode.

Now Jiva Goswami states here, "If one cannot live in Vrindavan physically, he or she should do so mentally." (sāmarthye sati vraje śrīman-nanda-vrajāvāsa-sthāne śrī-vṛndāvanādau śarīreṇa vāsaṁ kuryāt, tad-abhāve manasāpīty arthaḥ).

This does not really mean that living physically in Braj is optional, but that one should not depend on living in Braj before beginning one's rāgānugā sādhanā. But if one is given the grace to come physically to Braj, then this is the best way to perfect his or her transformation of identity into a Brajabasi. This is because that sādhanā takes place on an external as well as an internal level, and direct service to the Brijbasi who is a rāgātmika bhakta in the worldly Vrindavan is the indispensable element.

The threefold nature of residence in the Dham and its goal of is further described by Raghunath Das Goswami:

anārādhya rādhā-padāmbhoja-reṇum
anāśritya vṛndāṭavīṁ tat-padāṅkām |
asambhāṣya tad-bhāva-gambhīra-cittān
kutaḥ śyāma-sindhau rasyasyāvagāhaḥ ||
Not having worshipped the holy dust
that sprinkles from Śrīmatī’s lotus feet;
not having taken shelter of Braja Dhām,

marked with her dainty tread;
not ever having spoken with the souls
so laden with a weighty love for her,
how foolish those who think that they can plunge
into the secret sea of nectar that is Śyāma!
(Raghunath Das Goswami, Sva-saṁkalpa-prakāśa-stotra, 1, See more commentary at VMA 1.43 )
This verse was sent by Jiva Goswami to Gadadhar Bhatta Goswami precisely for the purpose of wooing him to Vrindavan, making it clear that (1) he was an adhikāri for Brajavāsa sādhanā, and (2) that it was necessary for him to act in keeping with that adhikāra if he truly wished to immerse himself in the blissful ocean of rasa that is the goal of every sādhaka. Without the complete transformation of identity, external and internal, that is impossible.

So the first thing to understand that Braja sādhanā is an essential element of a sādhanā of identity, which operates in two dimensions, as do all sādhanās, one external and one internal.

Those who have taken the long road through many lifetimes from a strictly external consciousness (bahirmukhatā) to Braja-bhāva, are impelled by the search for authenticity in both. This generally means following (ānugatya) an authentic teacher in a tradition or paramparā that teaches such a culture.

Jai Radhe. Part II will follow soon.

Friday, September 15, 2017

When will that day be mine?

Three and a half months in Birnagar has come to a sudden and very abrupt change of Dham. I am feeling the intoxication of Vrindavan.

Intoxication is not really permitted in sādhanā, but then again, sādhanā is really about nothing else BUT intoxication. The intoxication of forgetfulness of conventional reality. Which is inevitably accompanied by a fear that one is distancing oneself from the conventional reality of duty and attentiveness to the normative.

When Bhakta Das and I were about to get off the train in Mathura -- he goes to Radha Kund, I to Vrindavan -- he said that he felt it would be lonely going to his cottage in Gaura Dham Colony. He has been relishing the kind of respect and sense of community and purpose that he gets at Dwadash Mandir.

I also felt something like that on arriving here. There we fulfill a role in the service of our Guru, which makes us automatically seen as special, through our relation, through our connection. Here we are specks of dust, luminous nevertheless, in the ujjvala dust of Braj. There, we bring the luminosity for others to bask in.

It is a different world for me here in Vrindavan on multiple levels. Too many to count, in fact.

I wrote about some of this yesterday.

Being driven to DO SOMETHING is dharma. What you are driven by is ahankāra, your ātmābhimāna, who you think you are, on the deepest level. The sādhanā of identity is about attacking on this level, through a two-pronged approach, one being the this-life sādhaka-deha, the other inward, the siddha-deha. There is no question of an identity sādhanā without attention to both. This is an extremely astute psychological insight. But one that is hard to implement, which is why it is called a sādhanā.

At any rate, on the train I was reading a book I picked up about Ananta Vasudeva, aka. Puridas, one of the most controversial figures of the post-Siddhanta Saraswati age. He was acclaimed as Srila Prabhupada's successor on March 26, 1937, and everyone attended the coronation, but later abandoned the Math and his initiation from Siddhanta Saraswati. I picked up the book at the Bagh Bazaar Gaudiya Math, where he is still "Acharyadeva" the first successor of Srila Prabhupada.

The author of the book Harikripa Das, is a disciple of Audulomi Maharaj and a member of the Gaudiya Mission as it was formed and formulated in the post Puridas era, so this biography skates over Puridas' abandonment of his role as Acharya of the Gaudiya Mission.

So the bio is strong on the early life of Ananta Vasudeva and doesn't really bother trying to explain what he did after 1947.

Ananta Vasudeva was born in 1895 in east Bengal. His father and mother were both disciples of Bhaktivinoda Thakur as was his older brother, who later became Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj. As a result, he was able to visit the Thakur in Kolkata when only 16. Saraswati Thakur was there. His parents no doubt were encouraged by their son's devotion and prompted him to sing something, so he sang the following song, to the delight of the author himself.

This translation is by Dasharath Suta, I believe, attempting to keep the same meter and rhyme scheme, which means it could potentially be sung in English in the same tune. [With apologies to Dasharath Suta Prabhu, I have made a few revisions.]

kabe habe bala se-dina āmāra
(āmāra) aparādha ghuci, śuddha nāme ruci,
kṛpā-bale habe hṛdaẏe sañcāra

When, oh when will that day be mine?
When my offenses ceasing, taste for the name increasing,
when in my heart will your mercy shine,
When, oh when will that day be mine?

tṛṇādhika hīna, kabe nije māni,
sahiṣṇutā-guṇa hṛdaẏete āni
sakale mānada, āpani amānī,
haẏe āsbādiba nāma-rasa-sāra

Lower than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree.
When will my mind attain this quality?
Respectful to all, not expecting their honor,
then shall I taste the name’s nectar sublime.
When, oh when will that day be mine?

dhana jana āra, kabitā-sundarī,
baliba nā cāhi deha-sukha-karī
janme-janme dāo, ohe gaurahari!
ahaitukī bhakti caraṇe tomāra

Great wealth or followers, poetic beauty,
I don’t want them, nor comforts of the body.
Birth after birth give me, Oh Gaura Hari,
causeless devotion to Your feet divine:
when, oh when will that day be mine?

(kabe) karite śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāma uccāraṇa,
pulakita deha gadgada bacana
baibarṇẏa-bepathu habe saṅghaṭana,
nirantara netre babe aśru-dhāra

When will I utter Krishna, Krishna, Krishna,
with words choked up and shivering body?
When will tremble all over, lose bodily color,
tears pouring from my eyes:
When, oh when will that day be mine?

kabe nabadbīpe, suradhunī-taṭe,
gaura-nityānanda bali niṣkapaṭe
nāciẏā gāiẏā, beḏāiba chuṭe,
bātulera prāẏa chāḏiẏā bicāra

When in Navadvipa along the Ganges shoals,
shouting ‘Gaura-Nityananda’ as a surrendered soul,
dancing, chanting, running everywhere,
when will I become half mad of mind?
When, O when, will that day be mine?

My version:

When on the banks of the Ganges in Nabadwip
will I sincerely call out "Ha Gaura Nityananda"?
Dancing and singing, I will run hither and thither
practically mad, without care for others !
When, O when, will that day be mine?


kabe nitẏānanda, more kari daẏā,
chāḏāibe mora biṣaẏera māẏā
diẏā more nija-caraṇera chāẏā,
nāmera hāṭete dibe adhikāra

When will Lord Nityananda show mercy upon me,
when will I reject the world of maya?
Bestow unto me the shade of Your lotus feet,
let the right to preach the Name be mine.
When, oh when will that day be mine?

My version:

When will Nityananda be merciful
and release me from my material illusions?
When by giving me the shade of his feet,
will he permit me to attend the market of the Holy Name?
When O when will that day be mine?

kiniba, luṭiba, hari-nāma-rasa,
nāma-rase māti ha-iba bibaśa
rasera rasika-caraṇa paraśa,
kariẏā majiba rase anibāra

I will beg, borrow, or steal the nectar of the name.
By the name’s effect I will feel paralyzed.
Oh! Enjoyer of the nectar of the name,
When will I touch your lotus feet till the end of time?
When, oh when will that day be mine?

kabe jībe daẏā, ha-ibe udaẏa,
nija-sukha bhuli sudīna-hṛdaẏa
bhakatibinoda, kariẏā binaẏa,
śrī-ājñā-ṭahala karibe pracāra

When kindness to all beings will be appearing,
with free heart forget myself comforting,
Bhaktivinoda in all humility prays,
"Now I will set out to preach Your order sublime."
When, oh when will that day be mine?

My version:
When will mercy for the lost souls arise in me,
when in true humility I put a stop to my self-importance?
Bhaktivinoda humbly prays, "When will I preach
Gauranga's order from door to door?
When, O when, will that day be mine?"

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, still Bimala Prasad Datta, Siddhanta Saraswati, also expressed his pleasure and encouraged the boy to learn all of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's songs.

As I post this I decided to look for versions of the song on line. Here is the first one that came up. Here's another, by Agnideva. This is the best one I found, sung by a Bengali though still using harmonium. And then an even better one, in classical Gaudiya Math style, only khol-kartal.

Funnily enough, another book I was reading on the train, also from the Gaudiya Mission, was the speeches and articles written and compiled by Ananta Vasudeva in 1938, on the occasion of the 100th appearance day of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. There are a number of different angles of vision, presented in a very intelligent and historically sound manner.

There was a long quotation from an article in Sajjana-toshani, in which the Thakur states his preference for kirtan sung with khol and karatal and without any "western" instruments. The Thakur took quite a conservative stance in this, thinking that the use of these simple original instruments alone is closer to Nitai-Gaura's heart -- more authentic. He also sniffs at modern tunes, saying the traditional ones are the best and dearer to the founder of the sankirtan movement. I think it is almost inevitable that where the knowledge of the language is absent, the musical aspect will dominate. And this results in a new aesthetic that, however beautiful, lacks that authenticity.

Most Gaudiya Maths still follow this system, and I have not yet seen even a harmonium at Dwadash Mandir and we did the 24-hour kirtan without anything other than khol karatal. The difference, I think, is in the relative places taken by the Name and the music. It may be said: the more music, the less Name.

Once again, I have my feet in both boats. I think there is a place for all kinds of musical expression in bhakti, but there is also a place for the more austere and simple kirtan. For those who crave the authentic and original experience. But at the same time, those who know the authentic experience are the ones who can make meaningful musical innovations, if they should want to.

Eight Poems by Gopinath Bosak (Part II)

Part I

5. My day of fasting

যে দিন তোমার ভকতের সাথে একত্র না হয় বাস
যে দিন তাদের হরি-কথোদয়ে বঞ্চিত থাকে এ দাস
আমার সেই দিন উপবাস

ye dina tomāra bhakatera sāthe ekatra nā haẏa bāsa
ye dina tādera hari-kathodaẏe bañcita thāke e dāsa
āmāra sei dina upabāsa

The day that I do not have the company of devotees,
the day that I am deprived of their wondrous Hari katha,

that, for me, is a day of fasting.

যে দিন রসনা রসে না বসে না রসময় হরি-নামে
যে দিন সুখের কীর্তন রসে বঞ্চিত বিষয় কামে
জীবনের পরিহাস
আমার সেই দিন উপবাস

ye dina rasanā rase nā base nā rasamaẏa hari-nāme
ye dina sukhera kīrtana rase bañcita biṣaẏa kāme
jībanera parihāsa
āmāra sei dina upabāsa

The day that my tongue does not relish, does not touch
the delectable syllables of the Holy Name,
the day that I do not experience the joy of kirtan,
cheated by my desire to enjoy sensual pleasures--

my life turns into a joke;

that, for me, is a day of fasting.

যে দিন যুগল রাঙ্গ শ্রী-চরণে স্মরণ করে না মন
যে দিন চরণে দেয় না অঞ্জলি তুলসী ফুল চন্দন
বৃথা দেহ গেহ বাস
আমার সেই-ই দিন উপবাস

ye dina yugala rāṅga śrī-caraṇe smaraṇa kare nā mana
ye dina caraṇe deẏa nā añjali tulasī phula candana
bṛthā deha geha bāsa
āmāra sei-i dina upabāsa

The day that my mind does not meditate
on the rosy feet of the Divine Couple;
the day that I do not make to those feet
an offering of flowers, tulasi and sandalwood--

useless are my body, my home and my life

that, for me, is a day of fasting.

যে দিন জীবন সরবস্ব-রূপ হৃদয়ে উঠে না ভাসি
যে দিন পিরীত বিলাস ও কৃপায় ফোটে না-ও মুখে হাসি
যে দিন যুগল সেবনের রসে ভরিয়া উঠে না বুক
যে দিন তোমার বিষযের রসে অন্তর মানে না সুখ
দুর্ভাগ্য সর্ব-নাশ
আমার সেই-ই দিন উপবাস

ye dina jībana sarabasba-rūpa hṛdaẏe uṭhe nā bhāsi
ye dina pirīta bilāsa o kṛpāẏa phoṭe nā-o mukhe hāsi
ye dina yugala sebanera rase bhariẏā uṭhe nā buka
ye dina tomāra biṣayera rase antara māne nā sukha
durbhāgya sarba-nāśa
āmāra sei-i dina upabāsa

The day that the only reason for living,
the Divine Couple's form, does not float up in my heart;
the day that my face does not break out in a smile
at remembering their loving pastimes, by their blessings;
the day that my chest does not fill with the pleasure
of rendering service to that Divine Couple;
the day that I do not find pleasure at thinking of You,
being distracted by the attractions of sensual life--

that is a day of great misfortune, a tragedy--

that, for me, is a day of fasting.

যে দিন নিজের ভজন গর্বে জেগে উঠে অভিমান
যে দিন সে হেতু চকিতের প্রায় হও ও হরি অন্তর্ধান
যে দিন হৃদয় দৈন্য আসনে ভকতি দেবী না পূজে
যে দিন এ দেহ হয় না ভূষিত বৈষ্ণব চরণ রজে
যে দিন গোবিন্দ সম্বন্ধ বিহনে উঠে হীন অভিলাষ

সে দিন কুদিন কুগ্রহময়
মহাসঙ্কট মরণের ভয়
ভূকম্প ঘূর্ণি ঝঞ্ঝা প্রলয়
দুর্ভিক্ষা আর মহামারী চয়
সে দিনে করে বাস

ye dina nijera bhajana garbe jege uṭhe abhimāna
ye dina se hetu cakitera prāẏa hao o hari antardhāna
ye dina hṛdaẏa dainya āsane bhakati debī nā pūje
ye dina e deha haẏa nā bhūṣita baiṣṇaba caraṇa raje
ye dina gobinda sambandha bihane uṭhe hīna abhilāṣa

se dina kudina kugrahamaẏa
mahāsaṅkaṭa maraṇera bhaẏa
bhūkampa ghūrṇi jhañjhā pralaẏa
durbhikṣā āra mahāmārī caẏa
se dine kare bāsa

The day that I become vain of my accomplishments in bhajan,
and my heart fills with the sin of pride;
the day that for that very reason, like the extinction of a candle,
Krishna suddenly disappears from my heart;
the day that my heart does not take a humble seat
to render worship to the goddess of devotion;
the day that this body is not decorated
with the dust of a Vaishnava's lotus feet;
the day that bereft of any relation to Krishna,
base desires rise up within me--

that day is filled with inauspiciousness,
the stars and asterisms are all malignant;
it is a day of great danger
and fear of death;
earthquakes, tornados, cyclones, worldly destruction,
famine, the plague--

are all present on that day.

যে দিন আত্মা বুভুক্ষু আমার সেই দিন উপবাস
গোপী অনুগতি অভাব গোপীর সেই দিন উপবাস

ye dina ātmā bubhukṣu āmāra sei dina upabāsa
gopī anugati abhāba gopīra sei dina upabāsa

The day that my soul goes hungry,
that, for me, is a day of fasting.

The day that I do not follow the gopis--
that, for me, is a day of fasting.



6. The two husbands dilemma

Part I.

দিদি ! দুই ভাতারের ঘরকন্না কি বিষম দায়
সব বিরুদ্ধ স্বভাব তাই ।
ঠেকেছি বিকিয়ে মাথা দুই ঠাকুরের গুরুর পায় ।

O sister ! What a predicament I am in !
I have to manage two husbands’ households,
and they are the complete opposites in every way!
I have really done it by selling my soul
to the feet of two different holy masters.

তায় কারো সঙ্গে নাই কারো মিশাল
একটা বাঙ্গাল একটা দেশাল
কেহো ডাল ভাত খোসাল, কেহো মাখন রুটি চায় ।

tāẏa kāro saṅge nāi kāro miśāla
ekaṭā bāṅgāla ekaṭā deśāla
keho ḍāla bhāta khosāla, keho mākhana ruṭi cāẏa |

Neither seems to get along with the other.
One is a Bengali, the other’s from the back country.
One likes rice and dahl;
the other wants ghee and rotis.

আবার জেতেও তারা দুটা দু তাল
একটা বামন একটা গোয়াল
কাজেই দুটোর দুরূপ খেয়াল
আমি ঠেকলাম দুটানায়

ābāra jeteo tārā duṭā du tāla
ekaṭā bāmana ekaṭā goẏāla
kājei duṭora durūpa kheẏāla
āmi ṭhekalāma duṭānāẏa

And then, they are of different castes—
one’s a Brahmin, the other a cowherd !
So they have whims that go in opposite ways;
I am being pulled in rival directions.

গোয়ালা কয় মাখন তোল
বামুনে কয় ফুল তুলসী তোল
ভোরের বেলা দুটোর দুটি রোল
আমি খাটবো কার কথায় ?

goẏālā kaẏa mākhana tola
bāmune kaẏa phula tulasī tola
bhorera belā duṭora duṭi rola
āmi khāṭabo kāra kathāẏa

The cowherd says, “Go churn the butter.”
The Brahmin says, “Go pick flowers and Tulasi!”
These are the orders I get at the break of dawn—
which one of the two must I obey?

(আবার শুনো দিদি মজার কথা)
গোয়ালা কয সাজো ষোডশী
আমি মেয়ে ভালোবাসি
বামুনে কয় হও সন্ন্যাসী
ছেঁড়া কাঁথা দিয়ে গায়

(ābāra śuno didi majāra kathā)
goẏālā kaya sājo ṣoḍaśī
āmi meẏe bhālobāsi
bāmune kaẏa hao sannyāsī
cheɱḏā kāɱthā diẏe gāẏa

(Now listen, sister, while I tell you something amusing.)
The cowherd says, “Dress up in all your finest!
Make yourself up! I love girls!”
But the Brahmin says, “Renounce everything!
Shave your head and dress in rags!”

নদীয়া বামুনের ছেলে
নাচে গায় হরি বোলে
বৃন্দাবনের রাই বোলে
গোয়ালা বাংশী বাজায়

nadīẏā bāmunera chele
nāce gāẏa hari bole
bṛndābanera rāi bole
goẏālā bāṁśī bājāẏa

In Nadia, the Brahmin's son
dances and sings and shouts “Haribol!”
In Vrindavan, the cowherd calls for Radha,
playing songs on his enchanting flute.

Part II

দিদি কলি-যুগে দুই ভাতারই সদ্-উপায়
দুই সিদ্ধ-দেহে ভজবি তায়
একটী পুরুষ একটী নারী
তুই বেশ করেছিস বেচে মাথা
দুই ঠাকুরের গুরুর পায় ॥

didi kali-yuge dui bhātāra-i sad-upāẏa
dui siddha-dehe bhajabi tāẏa
ekaṭī puruṣa ekaṭī nārī
tui beśa karechisa bece māthā
dui ṭhākurera gurura pāẏa ||

O sister! In this age of Kali,
two husbands are indeed the best way to go!
Worship them both in two spiritual bodies—
one male, the other female.
You have done well, girl, to sell your soul
at the feet of these two, different, holy masters.

এই দেখো তোর সিদ্ধ দেহ আছে পড়ে
একটী পুরুষ আর একটী নারী
গুরুর বাক্য অনুসারে
ঠিক কোরে নে আগে তারে
আন্তরিক ভাবনায়

"ei dekho tora siddha deha āche paḏe
ekaṭī puruṣa āra ekaṭī nārī
gurura bākya anusāre
ṭhika kare ne āge tāre
āntarika bhāvanāẏa

Look – your spiritual bodies are there waiting —
one a man, the other a woman.
Follow your guru’s directions
and clarify both together with him,
according to your most deeply-felt inner thoughts.

শুনো ওলো প্রাণ সই
তোর সিদ্ধ দেহ হলে সয়ি
তুই দুই হয়ে দুই দেহে জাবি
ব্রজ গোয়ালিনীর প্রায়

śuno olo prāṇa sa-i
tora siddha deha hale saẏi
tui dui haẏe dui dehe jābi
braja goẏālinīra prāẏa

Listen, my dearest friend!
You have a spiritual body, which is just lying there.
You will become two, and into both of these
you will go as a cowherd girl in Braja.

দেখ শ্রীরাধিকা বৃন্দাবনে
রাসরস সুবসনে
ললিতাদি সখীর সনে
মেয়ের দেহে কুল কলঙ্কিনী হোয়ে
বাংশীর তানে নাচে গায় !

dekha śrīrādhikā bṛndābane
rāsarasa subasane
lalitādi sakhīra sane
meẏera dehe kula kalaṅkinī hoẏe
bāṁśīra tāne nāce gāẏa

Just see Radha in Vrindavan,
all dressed up beautiful for the rasa dance
amidst the gaggle of girlfriends led by Lalita
there, in a girl’s body, blackening your family name,
you will sing and dance to the song of Krishna’s flute.

আবার সেই রাধা নদে পুরে
সেই গোয়ালিনী রাধা নদে পুরে
গদাধর নাম ধরে
আজন্ম সন্ন্যাস করে
মেয়ের গন্ধ নাহি গায়

ābāra sei rādhā nade pure
sei goẏālinī rādhā nade pure
gadādhara nāma dhare
ājanma sannyāsa kare
meẏera gandha nāhi gāẏa

Then again, that same Radha has come to the town of Nadia,
that cowherd girl Radha is here in Nadia town
taking the name of Gadadhar,
renounced from birth, never even touched
by the scent of a woman.

তেমনি তুই মেয়ের দেহে
বৃন্দাবনে মধুর রস ভজনে
তোর গোয়ালা ভাতারের সনে
কুল-শীল তেয়াগিয়ে
নাচবি লো কদম্ব তলায়

temani tui meẏera dehe
bṛndābane madhura rasa bhajane
tora goẏālā bhātārera sane
kula-śīla teẏāgiẏe
nācabi lo kadamba talāẏa

So, you will take a girl’s form in Braja
worshiping in the madhura rasa,
with your cowherd “husband”,
renouncing family and acceptable mores,
you will dance at the foot of a kadamba tree

(আবার সেই তুই) গদাইর মত পুরুষ দেহে
দাঁড়বি শ্রীবাসের গেহে
তোর বামুন ভাতারের বামে
সময় বুঝে নদীযায়

(ābāra sei tui) gadāira mata puruṣa dehe
dāɱḏabi śrībāsera gehe
tora bāmuna bhātārera bāme
samaẏa bujhe nadīyāẏa

And the very same you,
taking a male body like Gadadhar’s
will go to Srivas Thakur’s house
and stand to the left of your Brahmin “husband”
understanding what is right for his Nabadwip mood.

গৌরেশ্বর বৈষ্ণব জগতে
এ-রস রসে গোপতে
গদাধরের অনুগতে
অন্যে না সন্ধান পায়

gaureśbara baiṣṇaba jagate
e-rasa rase gopate
gadādharera anugate
anye nā sandhāna pāya

In the Vaishnava world of Lord Gauranga
this secret delectable mood has been hidden
revealed only to those who follow Gadadhar;
others have not a clue.

আদর্শ দণ্ডক বনে
রামচন্দ্রকে মুনি-গণে
মধুর রস ভজনে
উপভোগ করতে চায়

ādarśa daṇḍaka bane
rāmacandrake muni-gaṇe
madhura rasa bhajane
upabhoga karate cāẏa

The example is found in Dandakaranya
where the silent sages who saw Rama
were enchanted and wished to enjoy him
in the sweet mood of romantic love.


7. Don't go into Radha's kunj

আর জেও না রাধার কুঞ্জে আমার মন
ধন্য কলির আগমন

āra jeo nā rādhāra kuñje āmāra mana
dhanya kalira āgamana

Don't go into Radha's kunj, my mind;
the glorious age of Kali has arrived!

রাইয়ের কুঞ্জে কলঙ্ক আছে, পতি ফিরেন পাছে পাছে
ধরতে পারলে ধরে কেশে নাকে করবেন অপাবেশন

rāiẏera kuñje kalaṅka āche, pati phirena pāche pāche
dharate pārale dhare keśe nāke karabena apābeśana

In Radha's kunj, disrepute is waiting;
your husband is lurking around, following you.
If he catches you, he'll drag you by the hair,
he may even cut off your nose in anger.

রাধা কৃষ্ণ দুই এক পুরুষ রূপে গৌর-গদাধর স্ব-স্বরূপে
উদয় হলেন নবদ্বীপে দুয়ের রসে দুয়ে করতে আস্বাদন

rādhā kṛṣṇa dui eka puruṣa rūpe gaura-gadādhara sba-sbarūpe
udaẏa halena nabadbīpe duẏera rase duẏe karate āsbādana

Radha and Krishna have taken male forms
and now appeared in their own identities
as Gauranga and Gadadhar in the land of Nabadwip,
where both of them relish each other's loving moods.

সত্য ত্রেতা দ্বাপর যুগে, জে রস দিতে নারেন কোনো যুগে
সে রস আজ সঙ্কীর্তন সমাযোগে স্বভক্তে করলেন সমর্পণ

satya tretā dbāpara yuge, je rasa dite nārena kono yuge
se rasa āja saṅkīrtana samāyoge sba-bhakte karalena samarpaṇa

Krishna was unable to give this rasa in any previous age
whether Satya, Treta or Dwapara;
but now the Lord is bestowing this very same rasa,
on his own devotees through sankirtan.


8. We are Radha's dasis

ওলো! আমরা রাইয়ের দাসী !
আমরা রাইয়ের দাসী আমরা রাইয়ের সেবা ভালোবাসি

olo ! āmarā rāiẏera dāsī !
āmarā rāiẏera dāsī āmarā rāiẏera sebā bhālobāsi

Hey everyone! We are Radha's dasis
We are Radha's dasis
and we love to serve Radharani.

রাই যখন যে ভাবে থাকে, আমরা ঘিরে বসি
রাই কাঁদিলে আমরা কাঁদি, হাসিলে আমরা হাসি

rāi yakhana ye bhābe thāke, āmarā ghire basi
rāi kāɱdile āmarā kāɱdi, hāsile āmarā hāsi

Wherever Radha is, in whatever mood she is,
we sit around her in a circle.
When she cries, we cry;
when she laughs, we laugh.

রাই শ্যামকে ভালোবাসে তাই আমরাও ভালোবাসি
রাই আনুগত্যে শ্যাম সেবা করি দেখে রাই বড় উল্লাসী

rāi śyāmake bhālobāse tāi āmarāo bhālobāsi
rāi ānugatye śyāma sebā kari dekhe rāi baḏa ullāsī

Radha loves Shyam, so we love Shyam, too.
When she sees that we serve him according to her directions,
she becomes very enthusiastic.

রাই শ্যাম-নাম ভালোবাসে তাই আমরা নামে পিয়াসী
রাই সুখে নাম করি বলে, সেই ভালোবাসে কালাশশী

rāi śyāma-nāma bhālobāse tāi āmarā nāme piẏāsī
rāi sukhe nāma kari bale, sei bhālobāse kālāśaśī

Radha loves Shyam's name, so that makes us thirsty for it.
and because we sing his name for her, she loves that black moon even more.

রাইয়ের মুখে কৃষ্ণকথা শুনি মোরা সব দিবানিশি
রাইয়ের কথা কৃষ্ণমুখে শুনি আমরা হই উল্লাসী

rāiẏera mukhe kṛṣṇa-kathā śuni morā saba dibāniśi
rāiẏera kathā kṛṣṇa-mukhe śuni āmarā ha-i ullāsī

Day and night, we all listen to Radha speak about Krishna;
and when we hear Krishna speak about Radha, that gives us great joy.

রাইয়ের নামটি সার করে শ্যাম বাজায় মোহন বংশী
রাইয়ের নামে বাংশী রব শুনি আমরা হই উদাসী

rāiẏera nāmaṭi sāra kare śyāma bājāẏa mohana baṁśī
rāiẏera nāme bāṁśī raba śuni āmarā ha-i udāsī

Shyam plays Radha's name, the essence of life,
as the enchanting tune on his flute;
When we hear Radha's name in the flute song,
we forget about everything else in our lives.

রাইয়ের প্রতি অপূর্ব পিরীতি করেন গো কালো শশী
রাইয়ের প্রীতি দেখে পড়েছি শ্যামের প্রেমের ফাংসি

rāiẏera prati apūrba pirīti karena go kālośaśī
rāiẏera prīti dekhe paḏechi śyāmera premera phāṁsi

The black moon Krishna has incomparable love for Radha;
from seeing the love Radha has for him,
we have fallen into Shyam's net of love.

রাইয়ের নামে আমরা মানী, কৃষ্ণেতে হই উদাসী
রাই মিলিলে শ্যামের সনে, মোরা করি মিশামিশি

rāiẏera nāme āmarā mānī kṛṣṇete ha-i udāsī
rāi milile śyāmera sane morā kari miśāmiśi

We swell with pride at hearing Radha's name,
but we are indifferent to Krishna.
We only mix with Shyam when she meets with him.

মোরা রাইয়ের দাসী বলে কৃষ্ণ কতই বা হয় উল্লাসী
রাইয়ের কৃষ্ণ বলে হই মোরা সদাই শ্যাম প্রত্যাশী

morā rāiẏera dāsī bale kṛṣṇa kata-i bā haẏa ullāsī
rāiẏera kṛṣṇa bale ha-i morā sadāi śyāma pratyāśī

Krishna becomes so joyful when he learns that we are devoted to Radha.
We always think of Krishna because we know that he belongs to Radha.

রাইয়ের সনে কৃষ্ণ মিলন বড়ই ভালোবাসি
যুগল প্রেমের সেবা নিয়ে সদা মোদের ভালোবাসা-বাসি

rāiẏera sane kṛṣṇa milana baḏa-i bhālobāsi
yugala premera sebā niẏe sadā modera bhālobāsā-bāsi

We love to see it when Krishna meets with Radha.
Our only joy, our happiness, comes from serving the Divine Couple
in ecstatic love.



Eight poems by Gopinath Bosak (Part I)

I don't know much about Gopinath Bosak except that he was a householder disciple of Pran Gopal Goswami (d. 1941) who himself probably left his body in around 1980 or thereabouts. He was a great Vaishnava who wrote many poems, his Bengali versification of Vishwanath's Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta being the most widely known and relished. I saved the following from a collection of his poems, choosing ones that I particularly liked. I have long since lost that book. I published an earlier version of these poems on Gaudiya Discussions many a moon ago, but never posted them here. So here they are now.

1. Seven spears in the heart

नृपो न हरिसेविता व्ययकृती न हर्यर्पकः
कविर्न हरिवर्णकः श्रितगुरुर्न हर्याश्रितः ।
गुणी न हरितत्परः सरलधीर्न कृष्णाश्रयः
स न ब्रजरमानुगः स्वहृदि सप्त शल्यानि मे ॥

nṛpo na hari-sevitā vyaya-kṛtī na hary-arpakaḥ
kavir na hari-varṇakaḥ śrita-gurur na hary-āśritaḥ |
guṇī na hari-tat-paraḥ sarala-dhīr na kṛṣṇāśraYaḥ
sa na braja-ramānugaḥ sva-hṛdi sapta śalyāni me

The king who does not serve Hari,
the person who spends, but offers nothing to Hari;
the poet who does not glorify Krishna with his words;
the person who has taken a spiritual master,
but not taken refuge in Hari;
the person with good qualities who is not fixed on Hari;
the simple-hearted person who has not taken shelter of Hari;
and one who has taken shelter of Krishna,
but does not follow in the footsteps of the gopis --
These are the seven spears that pierce my heart.
(Gopāla-pūrva-campū 33.61)

হউক না কেন রাজ্য পতি যদি নাহি কোরে হরি-সেবা
হউক না কেন অর্থব্যযী হর্যর্থে নহিলে ব্যর্থ সবা
হউক না কেন কবিশ্রেষ্ঠ যদি হরিগুণ না বর্ণয়ে
হউক না কেন গুর্বাশ্রযী যদি নহি হরি সেবাশ্রয়ে
হউক না কেন গুণবন্ত যদি হরি তৎপর না হয়
হউক না কেন সরল চিত্ত যদি নাহি করে কৃষ্ণাশ্রয়
হউক না কেন হরিশ্রিত যদি নহে ব্রজভাবাশ্রিত
এই সপ্ত শল্য বিষ জাত দুঃখ হৃদি সতত ব্যথিত ॥

hauka nā kena rājya pati, yadi nāhi kare hari-sebā
hauka nā kena arthabyayī, haryarthe nahile byartha sabā
hauka nā kena kabiśreṣṭha, yadi hariguṇa nā barṇaẏe
hauka nā kena gurbāśrayī, yadi nahi hari sebāśraẏe
hauka nā kena guṇabanta, yadi hari tatpara nā haẏa
hauka nā kena sarala citta, yadi nāhi kare kṛṣṇāśraẏa
hauka nā kena hariśrita, yadi nahe brajabhābāśrita
ei sapta śalya biṣa jāta duḥkha hṛdi satata byathita ||

So you are the master of a kingdom,
what use is it if you do not serve Lord Hari?
So you are the biggest of spenders,
it is all a waste if you do not spend on behalf of Hari!
So you are the best of poets,
what use is it if you do not glorify Lord Hari?
So you have taken initiation from a guru,
what use is it if you do not take shelter of Lord Hari?
So you are decorated with all the virtues,
what use is it if they are not used in his service?
So you are simple in mind,
what use if you have not taken shelter of Krishna?
And so you have taken shelter of Lord Hari,
what use is it if you have not taken refuge in the mood of Braja?
The poison from these seven darts pierces my heart
and spreads through my body, leaving me always in pain.


2. Rare, rarer, rarest

দেবতা দুলহ মানব জনম সবহু জনম সার
তা পর দুলহ আর্য্য মানব ভারতে জনম যার
তা পর দুলহ বৈদিক রীতে সকাম করম যোগী
তা পর দুলহ নিষ্কাম জন জ্ঞানময় ফল-ভোগী
তা পর দুলহ সংযত জন সাধু শাস্ত্র সুবিচারী
তা পর দুলহ শুদ্ধ গেয়ানী নিগুণ গুণ বিচারী
তা পর দুলহ জ্ঞানোত্তরা পরা ভকতি সঞ্চারে যারে
তা পর দুলহ ভুক্তি মুক্তি সিদ্ধিকেও পরিহারে
তা পর দুলহ মহদ্ উপায়ে কৃষ্ণ-ভজন-কারী
তা পর দুলহ সাসঙ্গ ভক্ত শ্যাম রতি অধিকারী
তা পর দুলহ কৃষ্ণ-প্রেমে যদি হয় অকৈতবে
তা পর দুলহ সেই প্রেমে যাহে গোপী-জন-প্রিয সেবে
তা পর দুলহ ব্রজ-জনআনুগ অকৈতব রাগে সেবে
সবহু দুলহ রাধিকার ভকত সেবা করে গোপীভাবে

debatā dulaha mānaba janama sabahu janama sāra
tā para dulaha āryya mānaba bhārate janama yāra
tā para dulaha baidika rīte sakāma karama yogī
tā para dulaha niṣkāma jana jñānamaẏa phala-bhogī
tā para dulaha saṁyata jana sādhu śāstra subicārī
tā para dulaha śuddha geẏānī niguṇa guṇa bicārī
tā para dulaha jñānottarā parā bhakati sañcāre yāre
tā para dulaha bhukti mukti siddhikeo parihāre
tā para dulaha mahad upāẏe kṛṣṇa-bhajana-kārī
tā para dulaha sāsaṅga bhakta śyāma rati adhikārī
tā para dulaha kṛṣṇa-preme yadi haẏa akaitabe
tā para dulaha sei preme yāhe gopī-jana-priya sebe
tā para dulaha braja-janaānuga akaitaba rāge sebe
sabahu dulaha rādhikāra bhakata sebā kare gopībhābe

This human form of life is very rare, even for the gods.
It is the best of all the forms of life.

Rarer still is birth as an Aryan in the land of Bharata;

Rarer yet is the Aryan who, desiring some worldly reward,
engages in karma yoga according to the Vedic rites;

Rarer yet is the one who gives up worldly goals
and seeks the rewards of spiritual knowledge;

Rarer yet is the self-controlled person
who dwells on the conclusions of sadhus and scripture;

Rarer yet is one with pure knowledge, who can distinguish
between the Divine with attributes and without;

Rarer yet is the one in whom the devotion
that transcends knowledge surges up;

Rarer yet is the devotee who casts aside
all ambition for worldly pleasure, liberation or mystic power;

Rarer yet is the one who engages in Krishna bhajan,
following the methods taught by the perfected souls;

Rarer yet is the devotee engaged in sāsaṅga bhajan,
for he is eligible for attaining love for Krishna;

Rarer yet is the one who has attained love for Krishna without deception;

Rarer yet is the one who serves the Beloved of the Gopis in this mood of love;

Rarer yet is the one who follows a resident of Braj
and serves with sincere and loving enthusiasm;

But the rarest of all is the devotee of Radhika,
who serves in the mood of the gopis.


3. What is a Gaudiya Vaishnava?

বাহিরে সে আলা-ভোলা অন্তরে হৃদয গলা
মুখে সদা কৃষ্ণ বোলা চোখে অশ্রু মালা
দীনতায় সে মাটির মানুষ নিষ্ঠাতে অচলা
কৃষ্ণ দিতে কৃষ্ণ নিতে ধরে শক্তি সব
অলৌকিক লোকবৎ গৌড়ীয় বৈষ্ণব

bāhire se ālā-bholā antare hṛdaya galā
mukhe sadā kṛṣṇa bolā cokhe aśru mālā
dīnatāẏa se māṭira mānuṣa niṣṭhāte acalā
kṛṣṇa dite kṛṣṇa nite dhare śakti saba
alaukika lokabat gauḏīya baiṣṇaba

He looks artless, guileless,
but within, his heart is melting;
the name of Krishna always on his tongue,
a garland of tears in his eyes.
In humility like a lowly no one,
his faith is unswerving as a mountain.

To give or take Krishna,
is the power in his hands.
He looks just like anyone,
but he is beyond the world.
That is a Gaudiya Vaishnava.

সবার নীচে পড়ে থাকে, সবাইকে সে সেব্য দেখে
সবার ইষ্ট মিষ্ট ভাখে, কৃষ্ণ তত্ত্ব জ্ঞানে
সবাই দেবা সবার সেবা, কৃষ্ণ অধিষ্ঠানে
নিখিল ভেদ সমন্বযের মূর্তি সবৈভব
তোমার প্রেমে গড়া সে গৌড়ীয় বৈষ্ণব

sabāra nīce paḏe thāke, sabāike se sebya dekhe
sabāra iṣṭa miṣṭa bhākhe, kṛṣṇa tattba jñāne
sabāi debā sabāra sebā, kṛṣṇa adhiṣṭhāne
nikhila bheda samanbayera mūrti sabaibhaba
tomāra preme gaḏā se gauḏīya baiṣṇaba

He humbly takes the lowest place;
he sees everyone as an object of service;
to all he speaks what is pleasing and sweet,
connected to the truth of Krishna;
he knows that Krishna dwells in every soul,
and so all are worshipable and he serves all.

All differences are resolved in him,
this is the glory he incarnates.
Formed through and through by Your love--
that is a Gaudiya Vaishnava.

সর্বোত্তম সদৈন্য বিনয় নিরহং সুশান্তি নিলয়
নিতাই গ্রহ গ্রস্ত হৃদয় সদয় বিশ্ব জীবে
তোমার ইচ্ছায় চলে বলে তোমার ইচ্ছায় সেবে
তোমার গণ সঙ্গে সে পায় প্রেম রসার্ণব
তোমার সৃষ্ট হৃষ্ট ইষ্ট গৌড়ীয় বৈষ্ণব

sarbottama sadainya binaẏa, nirahaṁ suśānti nilaẏa
nitāi graha grasta hṛdaẏa sadaẏa biśba jībe
tomāra icchāẏa cale bale tomāra icchāẏa sebe
tomāra gaṇa saṅge se pāẏa prema rasārṇaba
tomāra sṛṣṭa hṛṣṭa iṣṭa gauḏīya baiṣṇaba

He is the best of all, yet he makes no claims.
He is without ego, the abode of blissful peace.
He is under the astral influence of Nitai,
and so merciful to all souls in the universe.
He walks and talks according to Your desire,
according to Your desire, he serves.
When in the company of those who are Yours,
he finds an ocean of relish.
Your personal creation, Your own ecstatic object of worship --
that is a Gaudiya Vaishnava.

কৈবল্যকে নরক মানে, স্বর্গকে খপুষ্প জানে,
ইন্দ্রিয কৃষ্ণ সেবনে, বিশ্ব-পূর্ণ সুখে,
দৈবতাদি নাহি গণে, তোমার কৃপোন্মুখে,
তোমারই ঔদার্য বীর্য আত্মা অকৈতব
তোমার কৃপা মূর্তিমন্ত গৌড়ীয় বৈষ্ণব

kaibalyake naraka māne, sbargake khapuṣpa jāne,
indriya kṛṣṇa sebane, biśba-pūrṇa sukhe,
daibatādi nāhi gaṇe, tomāra kṛponmukhe,
tomāra-i audārya bīrya ātmā akaitaba
tomāra kṛpā mūrtimanta gauḏīya baiṣṇaba

He takes non-dual liberation as equal to hell,
and heaven to be a mere flower in the sky;
his senses are all engaged in Krishna's service,
and so he sees the world as a place of joy;
he pays no attention to other gods,
turned only toward the search for Your mercy;
He is filled with the heroism of Your munificence;
his heart is without deception;
the incarnation of Your blessings --
that is the Gaudiya Vaishnava.

সংসারে সে অনাসক্ত, বাহ্য দেহে সাধক ভক্ত
অন্তরে সে অনুরক্ত, রাগানুগা লোভে
গৌরোৎসবে ব্রজের ভাবে, সদা ইষ্ট সেবে
কেশশেষসুদুর্লভ গোপীর অনুভব,
অচিন্ত্য প্রভাবী সে গৌড়ীয় বৈষ্ণব ॥

saṁsāre se anāsakta, bāhya dehe sādhaka bhakta
antare se anurakta, rāgānugā lobhe
gaurotsabe brajera bhābe, sadā iṣṭa sebe
keśaśeṣasudurlabha gopīra anubhaba,
acintya prabhābī se gauḏīya baiṣṇaba ||

Though detached from the world;
externally, he carries on like a sadhaka bhakta;
yet within he seethes with rāgānugā greed.
In Gauranga festivity, the mood of Braja
he always serves the object of his love:
the experience of the gopis,
so rare for even Brahma, Vishnu and Ananta.

Of incomprehensible divine power,
that is the Gaudiya Vaishnava.


4. Again and again

ছাড়ি ছাড়ি বলি, ছাড়িতে না পারি, বিষম বিষয় বন্ধন
ভজি ভজি করি ভজিতে না পারি, ভজনীয় নন্দনন্দন

chāḏi chāḏi bali, chāḏite nā pāri, biṣama biṣaẏa bandhana
bhaji bhaji kari bhajite nā pāri, bhajanīẏa nanda-nandana

Again and again, I say I will give it up—
but I cannot give up my attachment to the terrible
attachments of sense gratification.

Again and again, I say I will engage in bhajan,
but I cannot worship the most worshipable
son of Nanda, the king of Braja.

করি করি বোলি করিতে না পারি হরি অনুরাগি সঙ্গ
জানি জানি করি জানিতে নারিনু জাতরতি জনরঙ্গ

kari kari boli karite nā pāri hari anurāgi saṅga
jāni jāni kari jānite nārinu jāta-rati jana-raṅga

Again and again I say I will,
but I cannot remain in the company
of those who truly love Krishna.

Again and again I say I know,
but I have not yet been able to know the delightful ways
of those in whom feelings of love for Krishna have arisen.

বড় বড় করি বড়ই মানিনু অভিমানে হই অন্ধ
অধম অধম কহি গোয়াইনু কপট জীবন মন্দ

baḏa baḏa kari baḏa-i māninu abhimāne ha-i andha
adhama adhama kahi goẏāinu kapaṭa jībana manda

Again and again I have become puffed up,
thinking myself to be something extraordinary,
blinded by my egotistical pride.

Again and again I have said
how low and miserable I am,
leading a hypocritical life of false humility.

যত যত সাধু ভকত প্রবর দূরে থাকে মোরে ছাড়ি
যত হয় মোর অভিমান ভোর, তত হই গুরু ভারি

yata yata sādhu bhakata prabara dūre thāke more chāḏi
yata haẏa mora abhimāna bhora, tata ha-i guru bhāri

Whatever great advanced devotees there are,
the saintly persons whose very company I need,
they all stay far, far away from me.

And the more deeply I become
immersed in my smug arrogance,
the more I think that I am a worthy teacher of others.

নিজ নামে রুচি, তাই নামে রুচি, রুচি না হ-ইল নামে
সেবা সেবা করি সেবা চাহি ফিরি, লাভ পূজার কামে

nija nāme ruci, tāi nāme ruci, ruci nā ha-ila nāme
sebā sebā kari sebā cāhi phiri, lābha pūjāra kāme

I love to hear my own name being spoken
this is why I have taste for the Name in name only,
but, in fact, I have no taste for the Holy Name.

Again and again I say that I want to serve
and I wander around looking for service,
but I do it all for profit and prestige.

ভজন ভজন, মিছে গরজন, সাধু কৃপা বিনা বৃথা
সাধু কৃপা ফল, নামে চোখে জল, অপরাধ ক্ষয় যথা

bhajana bhajana, miche garajana, sādhu kṛpā binā bṛthā
sādhu kṛpā phala, nāme cokhe jala, aparādha kṣaẏa yathā

Again and again I talk about bhajan,
but it is all false sloganeering;
without the blessings of the saintly, it is all meaningless.

The result of the saint's blessing
is tears in the eyes when one chants the Holy Name,
the destruction of all offenses to the Name.

আমি-অভিমান কর সমাধান, সাধু পদরজে শোধ
নিতাই দাস দান দাও অভিমান, গোপীভাবে আত্মবোধ

āmi-abhimāna kara samādhāna, sādhu padaraje śodha
nitāi dāsa dāna dāo abhimāna, gopībhābe ātmabodha

O Lord! Please solve this problem
of intractable pride I have in myself.
Such purification can only come from the dust of a sadhu's feet.

Give me pride in being the servant of Nityananda;
and reveal to me my true identity
as a cowherd girl in Vrindavan.