Another side of Bhaktivinoda Thakur 5: Learning Siddha Krishnadas Baba's Gutika

Not more than two months after I received diksha and siddha-pranali from Lalita Prasad Thakur in 1980, he left this world, entering Radha Krishna's nitya-lila. But Prabhu's departure stirred a greater desire in me for the bhajana-shiksha that I desperately needed. This lured me to Radha Kund the same year.

When the Toofan Express pulled into the Mathura station, late as usual, I was contemplating how to reach my destination. It was late afternoon and I was alone. So I started praying to Radharani for guidance. Whenever I enter Vrindavan, it always seems that something mystical happens, and this time was no different. Stepping down from the train onto the platform, I saw a Vaishnava friend from Nabadwip named Jadunath Saha who was getting off the same train a couple of bogies away. Upon seeing me, he came running over. Since we were both alone and in the same predicament, we decided to team up.

"Come with me," he said, "I shall introduce you to a great sadhu."

We got on the bus to Govardhan and arrived there just before dark. Jadunath then took me through the town along roads he obviously knew well and led me to a remote location somewhere beside Govardhan hill where we saw a hut and some vairagi Vaishnavas surrounding it. They appeared to be waiting for darshan of the person inside. Coming closer, Jadunath said, "This is the bhajan sthali of Tinkori Goswami Maharaj, who is presently the most advanced bhajananandi Vaishnava in Braja Mandal."

After standing there for a while, one of the babajis ushered us inside. I was surprised to see the sadhu inside was wearing only a kaupin. Still I could definitely feel the shakti emanating from him. I fell to the ground to offer my pranams. Upon getting up, I uttered the first words that came to my mind: "Baba, please give me your kripa ashirvad so that I can become Radha's dasi."

On hearing my prayer, I noticed that a smile came to his face. His eyes were moist and twinkling as he put his hand on my head and said, "Tathāstu. (May it be so!)"

I immediately experienced a current of bliss that made my hairs stand on end.

Coming outside, I asked Jadunath, "Please tell me something about this sadhu. He seems to have some divine power."

Jadunath laughed and said, "You can't imagine how many big, big seths (rich businessmen) come begging for his blessings. They throw wads of money at him and he never touches it. He simply tells them to go and do Vaishnava seva."

"That sounds unusual," I commented. "Nowadays there don't seem to be many vairagi Vaishnavas turning down money, especially when it comes so easily."

"But Tin Kori Baba's vesha guru, Siddha Manohar Das Babaji of Govinda Kund was even more advanced." Jadunath went on. "Many say that he daily chanted seven lakhs of nama japa."

"That's humanly impossible," I objected.

"For you or for me, maybe so," Jadunath replied. "But for a siddha purusha who is solely devoted to nama bhajan, why should this be impossible? In his biography we can read about numerous supernatural events that happened in his life."

That night Jadunath and I took shelter at Tinkori Baba's ashram near Manasi Ganga. Because my stomach was upset I had to fast. So when I headed for Radha Kund the next morning alone, I started feeling hungry. While walking along the parikrama path, I saw a Vrajavasi sadhu sitting under a pilu tree, and he was calling to me. At first I thought he was a beggar. But as I came closer, he asked, "tum thora prasad khaega, baba? (Would you like something to eat?)"

Since I was hungry I couldn't resist the invitation and sat down near him. Then out of nowhere appeared a Brajavasi girl carrying a thala with roti, sabji and buttermilk. While partaking of the meal, I was surprised at the prasad's extraordinary flavor. It appeared to be divine. Then I remembered the girl who brought it. I didn't get to see her very closely, but as I recall she reminded me of a Braja gopi. Then a story came to mind: That Radha and Krishna have personally pledged to feed anyone who goes hungry in Braja. This thought awakened a wonderful feeling in me, and tears came to my eyes.

Upon arriving at Radha Kund I had a lead to follow: one of my god-brothers had previously been taking bhajana-shiksha from Madan Mohan Das Babaji of Ghana Madhava Ghera. So after asking around how to get there, I became joyful upon finding his bhajan kutir in an ideal secluded location. Entering the courtyard, I knocked on the door and climbed up some wooden steps to the second floor. What a great place to do bhajan, I thought. There was a wonderful bird's eye view of Shyama Kund. Upon seeing Madan Mohan Baba sitting there doing japa, I offered my pranams and our first discussion began.

Let me introduce this mahatma to our readers. Among Vraja raga marga sadhakas, Madan Mohan Das Babaji Maharaj was a kind of specialist, whom I would call a naishthika lila smarananandi Vaishnava. When I met him in 1980 he was editing a rare book entitled śrī śrī Gaura Govinda's Aṣṭakāla Līlā Smaraṇa Guṭikā. The book had not been printed yet. Over the previous 2½ centuries it had been handed down in the form of handwritten copies made by the raganuga sadhakas who wished to learn its contents from their guru. The word guṭikā means a medicinal pill that contains some essential ingredients for curing a sick person. Yet, similarly, this special book will not only cure our material disease, it can bring the greatest spiritual fortune. Because the sadhaka and sadhikas who daily practise the Guṭikā lila smarana method will, at the time of attaining siddhi, reach the highest realm in the spiritual world, Goloka Nabadwip and Goloka Vrindavan Dham to receive a male siddha kishora svarupa for serving Sri Gaurasundar, and a female manjari svarupa for serving Sri Sri Radha Krishna.

Now how did the Guṭikā advent? That is an amazing story. In ancient times in Vraja, siddha mahatmas were not as scarce as they are today. There were also greater numbers of bhajananandi Vaishnavas who daily performed ashtakala lila smarana. They would meditate on Radha Krishna's lilas that are described in Govinda-līlāmṛta and Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta. Though because shastras containing Sri Gaurasundar's ashtakala lila narrations in Goloka Nabadwip were not available, many anuragi Vaishnavas felt that something was missing. That is when Srimati Radharani personally appeared before Siddha Krishnadas Babaji of Manasi Ganga, and ordered him to compile the Guṭikā. It is by her merciful blessings that this amazing lila smarana paddhati has become the most popular among the Vraja Vaishnavas.

When Madan Mohan Baba saw my eagerness to learn the Guṭikā, he became merciful. He took me to Sri Sri Gadadhar Chaitanya mandir [Gadadhar Chaitanya mandir is ancient. Its construction and seva puja was arranged by a rani disciple of Ganga Mata Goswamini, one of Gadadhar Pandit's disciples at Puri.] and arranged daily prasad and a bhajan kutir for me there. I would then go to learn from him in the morning and in the evening. Though before niyam seva begins, Siddha Krishnadas Baba's viraha mahotsava takes place at Manasi Ganga. That year Madan Mohan took me there and it was a very memorable experience. During Siddha Baba's sucaka kirtan [***] one of the Babajis went into bhava. First he started levitating, lala came to his mouth, a number of sattvika bhavas erupted in his body and he fell unconscious. No doubt those emotions were genuine because in seeing them something very wonderful awakened in me.

On another occasion I got his darshan again. That was when I was walking near Pani Ghat while doing a pancha krosi Vrindavan parikrama. I heard someone swiftly coming from behind me. And as I looked back, there he was! His face and body seemed to be deeply transported in some divine state of transcendental emotion. I saw him just for a second as he shot past me like an arrow. When he disappeared into the distance, I had to sit down there to regain my composure. This experience confirmed to me that the bhakti process is real, and that it culminates in bhava and prema.

Before we begin analyzing the Guṭikā's contents, let me tell a little more about some of the sadhus who blessed me during those days at Radha Kund. Though it is sad and remarkable that such Vaishnava sanga is no longer available. There was a Manipuri babaji named Gopal Das who helped me a lot. Like Madan Mohan he was quite old and eccentric. He had a jovial way of speaking. Whenever I visited him, he would go on and on discussing the Guṭikā's contents and while doing so he would pull out one after another many different maps and diagrams that he personally made to illustrate his edition. He had carefully analysed many different handwritten copies before he came out with the Guṭikā's first printed version. I noticed that Ananta Das Pandit would regularly consult him and Madan Mohan Das Baba before he came out with another printed edition some years later.

These three mahatmas would do the parikrama of the Kundas every afternoon together to discuss the Guṭikā. Ananta Das Baba would give one of his evening paths in Radharaman Ghera and made a special asana for Gopal Das Baba because he revered him as a shiksha guru. I also to quite often follow them and overhear their conversations about the Guṭikā.
Another sadhu I will never forget was Jayakrishna Das Baba of Govinda Kund. He was quite old and on Madan Mohan Das Baba's recommendation I often went for his darshan. But the last time I visited his kutir near Siddha Manohar Das Babaji's ashram he was so deeply absorbed in smaran that I just sat there to silently chant japa. Then after a while, and seemingly coming out of nowhere, he began relating the lila he was steeped in. It appeared that he was speaking from a trance and this gave me the feeling that he was really seeing the lila and taking part in it as a Braja gopi! But after that I never saw him again because when I came to his door the next time a local Vaishnava informed me that he had left for the nitya-lila.

I shouldn't forget to mention Ananta Das Pandit's path, which has always been {for nearly four decades) a great contribution to the Radha Kund samaj and a source of inspiration to all of those who have been fortunate enough to hear him speak. Through this medium he has done a lot to further the trend of manjari bhava sadhana. Though I found his earlier discourse, at the time he was compiling his Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi commentary the most memorable.


Prem Prakash said…
Gadadhar Pran's work is extraordinary. Is there anything else like this available in English to guide and inspire divine lovers? Not that I am aware of.
Jagadananda Das said…
Jai Radhe. I just got back into Vrindavan and I feel like I have a million things to do. It is good to be back, much as I love the East, this is home. When I hear Premananda Baba on the mike singing "Jai Vrindavan, Sri Vrindavan, Pran Vrindavan, Jivan Vrindavan!"

So I do have a ton of things to do and I have to get my Sanskrit class and manual in order, so that will dominate over the next month. And besides that, I have a ton of things to write about and hopefully will do some of that today before I get totally engrossed in my life here again. I am feeling a bit febrile again. My trip east really was a kind of vacation and I have some notes about that which I will print up.

Thank you very much Prema Prakash for your continued support and appreciation of Gadadhar's work. Indeed, I support him for many reasons, and not just because he is my godbrother and I have been a fellow traveller with him for so long, each of us going in a somewhat different direction, but nonetheless connected to the same umbilical chord.

There is a lot to say about that. Somehow in my life I have made a few important connections with other human beings and those are each placing demands on me. My work here at Jiva is not motivated by anything other than appreciation for Satya Narayan Das Babaji. It is self-interested because I think that I spiritually benefit and grow by doing the work I do here. Money is thankfully not an issue.

Gadadhar is something of a lightning rod. Most of my other friends do not like him personally or are opposed to his bhajan method. I have also had my difficulties with him in the past... stomping out angrily from Gadai Gauranga Kunj to get on the boat, swearing to never return... that kind of thing.

It is true that GP is very self-centered and that is one of the interesting things about him. In some ways he is a narcissist or any other number of psychological conditions that basically mean he lives in his own reality and sees no real reason to enter anyone else's.

He lives in a self-created world of total dependence on Gadai Gauranga. Call it magical belief or whatever, but he just talks about Gauranga, tries to convince and cajole others to worship Gaura-Gadadhar in nagari bhava. And when he finds someone who wants to listen, who finds it as lovely and enchanting as he does, he shivers in ecstasy.

There must be a place where narcissism and self-realization meet. The artist and the mystic and indeed anyone on the path of self-discovery, much as he depends on others to attain his self-conception, ends up leaving aside the conventions that others have established and follows the tune that he alone hears.

Our sampradaya is very strong in its orthodoxy, as is no doubt inevitable with any well-developed sect or church. Our Gurudeva was also very strong in his commitment to follow Bhaktivinoda Thakur, and indeed that is a very important reason that we both (and a few others, like Steve Bohlert) decided to follow him.

But our gurudeva was 100 years old when we took initiation from him. I was a little less than a year before him. Madhusudan was a couple of months before me. Madhusudan is now a lecturer in an American university. He is the one GP refers to as having studied with Madan Mohan Das Babaji in this article.

What links the four of us together, besides our guru, is that we are all unconventional in our following. I once wrote that the greatest good fortune in my life was to be graced by Srila Prabhupada (Bhaktivedanta Swami) and the second great blessing was to leave Iskcon and to get the blessings of Lalita Prasad Thakur.

In many ways, GP is more orthodox that anyone. Indeed, I also look to our scriptures also for proofs of my interpretation of the tradition's texts and the central practices that personally follow. But one great struggle for me has been to integrate those things with a modern, empirical world view. Jung was a great help for me, and Peterson is really giving a big boost to confirming my Jungian interpretation of my own experience as a Vaishnava. (cont'd)

Jagadananda Das said…
You could say that Gadadhar and I are both following our own truth. And that is why I support him and why he inspires me to follow my own. I support him in every way I can. His eka-nishtha is unparalleled, and I take that as the principal sign of his worth, not the "correctness" or "incorrectness" of his theology. There are other things involved.

You have to understand that GP is above and beyond all, an artist. And that is what makes him a great bhakta. He lives in a world of creativity, i.e., he knows that reality is internal and is, above all, beautiful. If he has no patience for those who don't understand, I agree with him.

There is no point in trying to understand Gaudiya Vaishnavism, which is principally an aesthetic, a doctrine of aesthetics, an understanding that life is beautiful if your internal vision is beautiful. And the sadness of opposition is a pain that uplifts.

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)

For Gadadhar, you just have to replace "Hari" with "Gaura" and "gopis" with "Nadia nagaris" and you will understand his personality.
Jagadananda Das said…
I have a lot more to say, actually, Prem Prakashji, and just hope that I don't get overwhelmed by all the commitments I have taken on. I would like to separate out GP's material from my own, for it deserves an independent life and place of its own. My fundamental hope is that by making him and his work known, people will be attracted and give him the support he needs, technically and financially.

My blog is already all-over-the-place, and it is time my real voice came out again. And I do think it will come out.

Life is proving a little more intricate than just the experience of ups and downs. Here was a down, for instance...

I will have more thoughts on this and some of them I will try to publish on the blog today. Hopefully I will have the energy to do it, with all the other stuff I need to do. But I know that if I don't review my trip very quickly, it is likely to get buried. This happens more often than it should, unfortunately.

Thank you once again, Prem, for your support. It means a great deal to me and I appreciate it greatly. I am glad we met personally and I hope that one day you will make a trip to India to visit GP and myself, together or separately. I am sure you will find it an interesting experience, at the very least. Jai Radhe! Jai Gaur Gadadhar!
Prem Prakash said…
Hello, Jagadananda dass, It truly is wonderful to hear from you and receive this detailed response. If you're ok with this public format, I think I will be, too, though you should have my personal email if you want to continue with more privacy.

It is my pleasure to support your work. I feel you are one of the most important voices in the Western Vaishnava world. I don't know if this is translating into appreciation with your contemporaries, but I certainly hope your work will have a legacy and influence the transmission of bhakti to coming generations. I spend a considerable amount of time on this blog, reading your writings. I have a hunch I am not alone and you are touching more people than you might realize.

I have written with GP a bit, and I find him remarkable. His personality is irrelevant to me as I'm not planning on asking him to the prom! The depth of his smaranam is unlike anyone I have ever met. There are a large number of subtleties to his writing that I find extraordinary. I also find him somewhat of a personal challenge, in that his commitment has forced me to examine my own, or lack of one on my part. His passion has placed a fine mirror in front of me whereby I can see I am not truly greedy for Radha-Krishna, for Gauaranga. Honestly, I can't determine if I am resistant due to the calling of my own svadharma, or if I'm just plain ego stubborn. Time will tell.

I've been thinking lately how ironic it is that so many who preach about bhakti, prema, bhava, ras, etc., seem so devoid of it themselves. I had already read the piece you recommended that was a "down," but I admire your willingness to take a chance, to risk yourself in the name of love. Are we not encouraged to become pagala, to wager our minds on behalf of our love? "I am the nerve of the gambler."

As we get older, I think more and more that the odds of actually succeeding on a spiritual path are a gazillion-to-1. Between the lack of availability of teachers and teachings, cultural and social decline, and our own personal failings, we're likely to fall short of our goal. I've decided, however, that if Hari ever looks me in the eye and asks why I was such a mess, I want to be able to answer, "Because I tried really darn hard." I'd rather apologize for my mistakes than not have tried my darndest. Whatever might have been "a down," I'll proclaim, with a line my 15 year-old son and I have been saying (stolen from from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"), "At least I tried, goddamit, at least I did that."
madan said…

what an incredible report; my heart melted when in reading, the vraja-rasika-sadhu touched his hand on his head and said 'TATASTU'; came to shake the hairs on my arm;

what to say of so great vairagi that is the transcendental personality of tinkodi-babaji-maharaja; and what of this unique moment in which he gives the supreme blessing of radha-dasi to a Westerner;

how I wanted to be in your place at that magical moment;

I was moved by the merciful parama-karuna of tinkodi-das-babaji-maharaja;

I never tire of being surprised by your experiences in braja, in this life;

what kind of sukriti the lord [jagadananda-das-babaji] performed in this life or in past lives; Can you give me the formula?

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