Another side of Bhaktivinoda Thakur 2: Raganuga Sadhana following Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Manjari Parampara
We continue with Gadadhar Pran Das's new book, the 20 chapters of which will be published here in instalments.
Chapter Two: Raganuga Sadhana following Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Manjari Parampara
The first time I got Lalita Prasad Thakur's darshan it was unexpected, because I had made no plans to see him. That was back in 1974, when Srila Prabhupada was inaugurating his first Mayapur-Nabadwip Dham Parikrama in which I was taking part. During the festival, one day I had to go to Calcutta. On the train I met a Bengali gentleman who was himself just returning from Mayapur after visiting Srila Prabhupada. We started talking about many things, but when the train stopped at Birnagar he said to me, "Would you like to meet my Prabhupada?"
"Your Prabhupada?" I asked in surprise.
"He is Bhaktivinoda Thakur's son, Lalita Prasad Thakur," he replied.
The invitation aroused my curiosity so I decided to follow him. When we arrived at the ashram, which happened to be Bhaktivinoda Thakur's birthplace, I noticed that there were twelve ancient shrines dedicated to Shiva just beside the mandir's entrance. Then, we entered Prabhu's room, where I was astonished on seeing his transcendental form.
Prabhu was chanting japa and seemed definitely to be transported into another state. Because his eyes were closed, his disciple and I just stood there watching him. I will never forget the innocent childlike expression he had. His mouth was watering as he zealously fingered his japa mala. Tears were streaming from his eyes and a big smile lit up his face. He was totally engrossed.
This went on for a while until his disciple thought to inform him of our arrival. When Prabhu's eyes finally opened, he appeared to be returning from another realm. We fell to the ground to offer our prostrated pranams. Then his disciple stood up to introduce me.
"Prabhu, here is a bhakta coming from Mayapur. He is Bhaktivedanta Swami's disciple." Prabhu looked toward me, nodded and said, "Your Guru Maharaj sometimes comes to visit me," and while patting his chest, added, "We are friends."
The bhakta then asked me, "Do you have any questions to ask Prabhu?"
I couldn't think of anything to ask just then. I was still a new devotee, only 23 years old. Seeing my hesitation, Prabhu asked, "Do you know any song by Bhaktivinoda Thakur?"
I thought for a moment and as one came to mind, I said, "Yes."
"Can you sing it?" he requested.
"I am not so good at kirtan," I replied. "But I can try." Then I sang:
gokula rañjana kāṇa
Prabhu's eyes instantly lit up! He clapped and his head musingly rolled with the song's tune. I could only remember three or four lines, so I had to repeat them over again and again. Nevertheless Prabhu was horripilating! I am sure that it didn't have anything to do with my ability in kirtan, but rather came from seeing a young foreigner attempting to sing a song composed by his own father. This aroused a happiness and pride in him that was transcendental.
After Prabhu spoke for a while with his disciple, he returned to his bhajan. We offered our pranams and left. Coming outside, the bhakta asked me, "What is your impression?"
I replied that I had never seen anyone with such attraction for Nama japa. But the bhakta went on, "Whenever I come here, whether it is day or night, I always find Prabhu chanting like this. And sometimes he goes into bhava."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Romāñca kampa pulaka aśru... " he replied.
I often remember this first meeting I had with Lalita Prasad Thakur, but unfortunately I have forgotten the name of the bhakta who introduced me to him. In fact, I never saw him again. So I regret that I never got to show my gratitude to him for the great favor he bestowed upon me.
Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's concluding śikṣā.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur has specifically written Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi for the consummate bhaktas. In Chapter 12 he points to the ultimate sādhana by quoting Gauranga Mahaprabhu's own words in Caitanya Bhāgavata.
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
prabhu kahe harināma ei mahāmantra
ihā japa giẏā sabhe kariẏā nirbandha
ihā haite sarba siddhi haibe sabāra
sarba kṣaṇa japa ithe bidhi nāhi āra
"Mahaprabhu blissfully instructed, "Now hear the Krishna nama maha mantra.
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
Everyone should chant this in japa, taking up a vow. For whoever does so will attain sarva siddhi. The only rule is to chant this always." (CBh 2.23.650)Bhaktivinoda Thakur comments, "Here the word nirbandha! (accepting a vow) means that the sādhaka or the sadhika should chant the 16-name, 32-syllable maha mantra using a tulasi mala with 108 beads. On chanting four rounds, one grantha is completed. But we should increase our chanting until sixteen granthas are done (one lakh). And then gradually we will rise to the stage of chanting three lakhs (192 rounds). By following Mahaprabhu's instruction to always perform Nama japa, many Mahajanas have attained sarva-siddhi in the past. But even today we can become siddha by adopting this process.
Rasa-vardhini Tika: Here the term sarva-siddhi means the attainment of our nitya gopi svarūpa and nitya sevā to Radha Krishna in the eternal abode of Goloka Vrindavan. We know this because Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself explains this in Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's last chapter how we can progress in achieving this goal. His teaching there begins with this wonderful siddhānta:
aṣṭa-kāla nitya-līlā prakṛtira para ||
"The beautiful flower of the Holy Name fully blossoms in Radha Krishna's aṣṭa-kāla līlās, which they enact far beyond the material world. (Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi 15.24)"Bhaktivinoda Thakur goes on, "Although these līlās are very far away, we can perceive them by combining līlā-smaraṇa with our Nama japa."
1) Niśānta līlā, 3.36 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.Govinda-līlāmṛta* is more than a book, for it shows how we can directly take part in the līlā.
2) Prātah līlā, 6.00 a.m. to 8:24 a.m.
3) Purvāhna līlā, 8.24 a.m. to 10:48 a.m.
4) Madhyāhna līlā, 10.48 a.m. to 3.36 p.m.
5) Aparāhna līlā, 3.36 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
6) Sāyāhna līlā, 6.00 p.m. to 8:24 s p.m.
7) Pradoṣa līlā, 8.24 p.m. to 10:48 p.m.
8) Niśā līlā, 10.48 p.m. to 3.36 a.m.
[*Govinda-līlāmṛta in English translation with an extensive commentary and rasa analysis can be obtained from the author.]
The Goswamis say that we can directly take part in the līlā. The Goswamis say that we can be there now, in Radha Govinda's nitya-līlā, simply by always thinking about them. This enjoyable process culminates when the sādhaka or the sadhika takes birth as a gopi in Vraja. Hence, while remembering Radha Krishna's aṣṭa-kāla pastimes, we are to meditate on our mentally conceived gopi svarūpa as well. Bhaktivinoda Thakur explains this process as follows:
sambandha vayasa nāma rūpa |
yūtha veśa ājñā-vāsa sevā parākāṣṭhāśvāsa
pālya-dāsī ei aparūpa ||58||
"To ideally perform madhura-rasa sevā to Radha Krishna we should meditate on the eleven aspects of our Vraja gopi svarūpa, which are: (1) relationship, (2) age, (3) name, (4) bodily color, (5) yutheshvari, (6) dress, (7) order, (8) kunja of residence, (9) sevā, (10) highest ambition and (11) shelter." (HNC 15.58)The eleven items that make up our Vraja gopi svarūpa are called ekādaśa bhāva. They are to be given or confirmed by a bonafide guru* when the disciple is truly qualified to receive them. Bhaktivinoda Thakur goes on:
[*Here a bonafide guru is the one who has received ekādaśa bhāva previously from his guru in an unbroken manjari parampara.]
pañca daśā lakṣya haya sādhaka jīvane ||59||
śravaṇa varaṇa āra smaraṇa āpana |
sampatti e pañca-vidha daśāya gaṇana ||60||
"The complete realization of these eleven aspects of one’s spiritual identity develops through five recognizable stages in the life of a practitioner: (1) śravaṇa or hearing, (2) varaṇa or acceptance, (3) smaraṇa (remembering), (4) āpana (appropriation) and (5) sampatti or full possession." (HNC 15.59-60)Bhaktivinoda Thakur next says: "When the lobha awakens to attain one's own Vraja gopi svarūpa, one should hear all about the līlā-tattva and rasa-tattva from a qualified guru. This first stage is thus termed śravaṇa-daśā.
Rasa-vardhini Tika: During the stage of śravaṇa-daśā, one should also carefully study those of the Goswami's shastras that are directly related to one's cultivating their madhura rasa sambandha with Radha Krishna, such as Govinda-līlāmṛta, Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Vilāpa-kusumāñjali and Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi, etc.
Concerning the next stage of varaṇa-daśā, Bhaktivinoda Thakur says,
tāhāra śravaṇe lobha haya ataḥpare ||64||
lobha ha-ile guru-pade jijñāsā udaya |
kemane pāiba līlā kaha mahāśaya ||65||
gurudeva kṛpā kari karibe varṇana |
līlā-tattve ekādaśa bhāva-saṅghaṭana ||66||
prasanna ha-iyā prabhu karibe ādeśa |
ei bhāve līlā-madhye karaha praveśa ||67||
siddha rūpe siddha bhāva kariyā śravaṇa |
sei bhāva svīya citte karibe varaṇa ||68||
"If lobha awakens in the heart after hering about Radha Krishna's aṣṭa-kāla līlās, one may inquire from the guru about how to attain them. If the guru is merciful he will describe the aṣṭa-kāla in the context of the disciple's ekādaśa bhāva and say, 'You may enter the līlā in this way.' Thus after the disciple hears about his siddha-svarūpa and siddha-bhava from the guru and accepts these teachings within his heart, this is the stage called varaṇa-daśā." (HNC 15.65-68)Bhaktivinoda Thakur continues,
guru-pade jānāibe sarala ha-iyā ||69||
prabhu tumi vkṛpā kari yei paricaya |
dile more tāhe mora pūrṇa prīti haya ||70||
svabhāvataḥ mora ei bhāve āche ruci |
ata eva ājñā śire dhari haye śuci ||71||
"At the time of the varaṇa-daśā, the disciple should consider his personal ruci and frankly discuss this with his guru. Because only then can the disciple accept his ekādaśa bhāva with loving attachment. Therefore the disciple should submit as follows: 'Prabhu, my nature and desires are like this, please instruct me in the way that I can completely accept your order with all my life and soul." (HNC 15.69-71)Rasa Analysis: Before approaching the guru for receiving the ekādaśa bhāva, the disciple should have a good idea of what he or she wants. After all, his svarūpa will be her very own. So it should ideally fit with her personal preferences. To give a clearer picture about how this process takes place, I shall tell you about how I received ekādaśa bhāva.
To be honest, it was Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's last chapter that changed my life. Although I had a desire to be a gopi in Vraja līlā, I had no idea about how to do the sādhana. So after reading Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi's descriptions about how such sādhana is to be executed, my lobha to adopt the process awakened. "But who can award me my Vraja gopī svarūpa?" I wondered. "For there is nothing like this available in the society to which I belong. Furthermore, to simply mention the topic here will invite condemnation."
Then a close friend told me that Bhaktivinoda Thakur's son Lalita Prasad Thakur received ekādaśa bhāva from his father. Upon hearing this, I remembered my first meeting with him and how he had been so enthusiastically chanting the Holy Name. I had no idea about what kind of sādhana he was performing. It suddenly dawned upon me that he must have been steeped in gopī-bhāva. Then, while seeing the līlā in a sphurti, he would sometimes go into bhāva samādhi.
With such thoughts in mind, I soon arrived at Bhaktivinoda Thakur's birthplace at Birnagar and one of Lalita Prasad Thakur's senior disciples from Nabadwip was with me, Shashanka Shekhar Balniyogi, whom we called "Doctor Babu." When we entered Prabhu's room and offered our pranam, the Doctor Babu said, "O Prabhu! One anurāgi bhakta is coming to see you. Please hear his plea."
Then, folding my hands, I humbly submitted, "Prabhu, when going to join Krishna for the Rasa Lila, the gopis had to leave their husbands, their society, and everything else behind to join him. I am coming to you in the same spirit to beg diksha and ekādaśa bhāva."
Being a rasika, Prabhu smiled and waved his hand to comment, "ihāi to gopī-bhābera prakṛta artha baṭe: This is the definition of gopī-bhāva, no doubt."
Lalita Prasad Thakur was 101 years old then, and he knew that he would soon leave this world. Nevertheless, I pleaded that if he considered me unfit to receive his mercy, I was willing to wait indefinitely outside his door until he thought I was fit.
Though Prabhu mercifully fulfilled my expectation -- for he gave me exactly what I was hankering for-- when he first mentioned my manjari svarūpa, I said to him, "Prabhu, can you give me the name 'Sukhi'?"
He thought for a moment and replied, "Your siddha manjari nama will be Parama Sukhi." I liked that much better.
I desired that my body resemble the color of a champa flower. Hearing this, Prabhu immediately replied, "svarṇa campā" and his choice was better this time, too.
Concerning my age, I wanted to be a little older than most of the other manjaris for a few reasons. When I asked if that was alright, Prabhu replied, "The manjaris' ages can extend up to 14." His answer came as a surprise and gave me the courage to ask, "Well, can I be 13 years, 9 months old then?" After some thought, Prabhu said, "13 years and 3 months." With due consideration, I could understand that his verdict was an ideal compromise, since to be older than this would not be fitting.
Concerning my dress, I had something unusual in mind. I requested, "Prabhu, as the parrots of Vrindavan have deep green wings, light green bodies and red beaks, can my ghaghra be deep green, my orna light green, and my kanchuli bright red?" Prabhu smiled and said, "Why not?"
Although the manjaris in our parampara can serve under any one of Radha's aṣṭa sakhis according to their choice, and although Vipin Vihari Prabhu, Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Lalita Prasad Thakur all chose to serve under Lalita, I wanted to serve under Vishakha for a few personal reasons, and Prabhu approved this.
Though it is in this way that Bhaktivinoda Thakur shows us in Hari-nāma-cintāmaṇi how our gopi siddha-deha factually comes into existence, it is the sādhaka's personal ruci combined with the guru's vast experience and judgment that form the seed of our siddha-deha. But this is only the beginning. Because after receiving the seed (ekādaśa bhāva), it is the sādhaka's duty to make it fructify and blossom. Hence one's mānasi sevā in the aṣṭa-kāla līlā combined with the constant Nam japa will lead us to svarūpa-siddhi, the direct sevā that we hanker for.
So in rāgānugā sādhana, the process and the goal are very similar. Our gopis siddha deha along with our eligibility to directly serve alongside Krishna's nitya-siddha sakhis and manjaris comes simply by our deep absorption in this activity. Sri Narottam Das Thakur assures us that this is the bonafide path in a few simple words.
rāga pathera ei se upāya
"Our siddha-deha is formed by what we contemplate during sādhana, for this is the method of the rāga-mārga." (Prema-bhakti-candrikā 55)