A microsecond in the life

Yesterday was a fairly uneventful day, yet to describe it would require volumes, a kind of Proustian effort to understand how entire lifetimes, entire worlds, universal histories are contained in each microsecond, that to fully describe any moment would require volumes equal to the universe itself. This insight rarely flashes before anyone's mind, since we are usually fixated on immediate goals and desires, and those absorb our mind and intelligence to the exclusion of nearly all the phenomena, internal and external, that clutter ever moment of our lives.

And to write about it, well to write about it meaningfully, you have to make it into a story, and a story is an organization of those phenomena into recognizable and communicable patterns, which is why human beings are mythopoeic creatures, turning everything into story and myth. We have to simplify, but simplification means a kind of falsification. Trying to reduce everything into digestible truths usually means caricatures, cardboard cutouts, and cliches. The poets are the lucky ones who manage to convey the essential haziness of truth while still giving it some substance.

And that paragraph in itself is a microsecond's worth of reflection that took ten minutes to write. How would one write about an entire day without filling and wasting infinite amounts of paper, or nowadays, bytes of cyberspace? And yet it was, really, a perfectly ordinary day in my life.

I went to Mayapur yesterday. My purpose was manifold, but primarily to get a Bhagavad Gita and also to check in with Gadadhar Pran Prabhu. And it is perhaps the nexus of these two is the essence of the story, but how to describe it without the clutter of detail that each element requires? And yet, it seems that in my scatterbrained life, there are other important things to consider, so some of those things will have to go into other posts.

I went to Nabadwip yesterday to get a Bhagavad Gita, one that had a Bhaktivinoda Thakur translation. BVT did two Gitas, one based ostensibly on Vishwanath's commentary, another on Baladeva's. I am currently giving Gita classes here every evening, but we are using the Gita Press edition, a Bengali translation of Ramsukh Dasji's detailed and scholarly, yet accessible commentary.  We are doing the 13th chapter at present. While I was away, a few local devotees gather here to read from it and they have progressed this far. Since I had not read Ramsukh Das's commentary from the beginning, I am not yet sure what his angle is, though from what I hear, he was devoted to Ramachandra Bhagavan in the Ramasnehi sampradaya. The 13th chapter is the beginning of the jnana-yoga section of the Gita, and so it is to be expected that the original text itself would have a slant in the direction of jnana. Ramsukh Das

[Now you can see what I am talking about when I say that the moment telescopes into an infinite regression of fractals of detail. Can this be explained properly without volumes? Ever sentence should be prefaced with a "to make a long story short..."]

In fact the 13th chapter of the Gita is a revision of the Sankhya dharshan. Like many chapters in the Gita, a particular subject is raised on a familiar subject like yoga, and then it is revised in the perspective of the Bhagavata school. There were several places in Ramsukha Dasji Maharaj's commentary that I was doubtful of and I was quite surprised to find that there were no copies of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's two (or three) translations of the Gita, following the Vaishnava commentaries. So that is why I went to Nabadwip.

I got there at about noon, and had to walk a bit to get to the Gaudiya Mission, which was my first try. That is Audulomi Maharaj's math in Swaroop Ganj. Very nice ashram. They insisted I take prasad, Very nice prasad. They did not have a Bhaktivinoda Thakur Gita. So I bought the collection of Bhaktivinoda songs [it's a complete version, still the only one I have found] and went to Gadadhar's place, since it was midday and I realized that most places close down at this time of day.

*****

I walked into GP's place, exchanged a few words with Rai Kishori. One friend who was a regular help to her and who also took me to Assam in February to give path, Tamal, suddenly died a month and a half ago. He had been having heart problems, but left his body sitting upright overlooking the Ganges, so pretty auspicious. But Rai Kishori is certainly sad about it. Her father in Assam also left his body a few days later, so she is in a state of grief. Because of Tamal's death she was unable to go to be with her father at the time of his departure. This Saturday will be the 45th day after his death, so a feast will take place at Gadai Gauranga Kunj with sadhu seva.

*****

I went into GP's room and he was kneeling in front of his bed, writing. He is still working on Another Side of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. He is on the eighth or ninth chapter now. He did not waste time with niceties. This is Gadadhar Pran Das, whose life is his bhajan. It was as though I hadn't left for even a minute.

He began by asking me to help translate a passage from Vishwanath's commentary from Ujjvala-nilamani, The subject is that thorny problem of multiple manifestations in the nitya-lila, how Krishna and his eternal associates can have multiple simultaneous manifestations with different moods and activities, and even be unaware of what they themselves are doing in these different manifestations. After I gave a rough oral translation, he said, "Yes, exactly. This means that one can have multiple forms and personalities in the nitya-lila, simultaneously a manjari and a sakhi or preyasi in Golok Vrindavan, a male body in Gaura Lila and also that of a Nadia Nagari. There is nothing that restricts you to one or the other or excludes you from another rasa even if you are primarily linked to one. This is also going on in Nitai's lila and in that of many other Mahaprabhu's associates where they are ascribed multiple identities in the Braja-lila, for instance."

When he realized I was not going to be staying, he started right in with explaining what he was writing and then actually read to me the chapter on Guru Puja.

Although he started by speaking a little about Bipin Bihari Goswami. He quoted the exchange of letters that surrounded Kedarnath Datta's being awarded the title "Bhaktivinoda" in 1885 [See footnote 4 in this post], his main point was that the entire Baghnapara guru-varga joined together to honor him, not just Bipin Bihari Goswami. Gadadhar's point here is that Bhaktivinoda Thakur is not the be-all and end-all of this diksha sampradaya, but that Bipin Bihari Goswami's connection to the Baghnapara line goes all the way to Jahnava Mata and Nityananda Prabhu on the one hand, and then to Ramachandra Goswami's grandfather, Vamshivadanananda Chattopadhyay, the incarnation of Krishna's flute and the guardian of Vishnupriya Devi in Nabadwip after Mahaprabhu's sannyas. So, according to Gadadhara, this disciplic line has two esoteric aspects, one connected to Jahnava Mata and the other to Vishnupriya Devi.

He goes on to emphasize that these teachings of this particular disciplic line can be found in three books:
  • Anaṅga-mañjarī sampūṭikā by Ramachandra Goswami or Ramai Thakur (about Jahnava Mata, revealing the tattva of her as Nityananda Shakti and Ananga Manjari)
  • Muralī-vilāsa by Rajvallabh Goswami (the life of Ramai Thakur and Jahnava Mata's instructions to him)
  • Vaṁśī-śikṣā by Prema Das (the teachings of Vamsivadan Thakur)

These three books represent the unique slant of the Baghnapara Goswami line.

So Gadadhar Pran takes the disciplic succession seriously and daily recites the names of each member and does puja to them. At this point he enters into a description of his internal puja and meditation in the nitya Goloka Nabadwip. As he has told previously how he started his raganuga career following Madan Mohan Das Babaji, but felt some constraints in the method that he taught and eventually broke free, recognizing that if one is forced to do raganuga sadhana in an identity for which one has no affinity, then the entire concept of raganuga falls apart.

As Bhaktivinoda Thakur states

vidhi-mārga rata jane svādhīnatā ratna dāne

rāga mārge karāna praveśa


To the devotee following the path of vidhi
the Holy Name grants the jewel of independence
and thereby gives entry to the path of Raga.

The point being that taste or passion and independence are of necessity linked. One has to follow one's own inclination or it is not raga.

So rather than following Madana Mohan Das's instruction to be a brahmachari sadhaka in the Nitya Nabadwip, he started to think of himself as a householder with a wife and children who were all participating in the worship of Radha and Krishna, Gaura and Gadadhar in the a palatial residence which just happens to neighbor that of Gadadhar Pandit. Indeed, Gadadhar Pran thinks of himself as Gadadhar Pandit's cousin. He is also his neighbor who goes to visit. He then described how the whole family gathers and goes in the accompaniment of kirtan to Lalita Prasad Thakur's kunj and so on through the parampara. His description of Bipin Bihari Goswami's dwelling is interesting in that he pictures arriving there and seeing a play of Krishna lila based on BBG's book, Madhura Milana.

Call it artistic imagination or direct perception of nitya Nabadwip Dham, Gadadhar's vision of the pastimes is the richest I have ever seen or heard by anyone in any language. It is true svārasikī smaraṇa. And, it is telescoped. He has elaborately envisioned each moment, and the accumulated or collected results of his smaraṇa do not have to be formally repeated each time, they are contained in even a moment's recollection. It goes on, even if his attention is primarily fixed on some other manifestation of his own eternal pastime in Nitya Goloka Nabadwip.

He asks, in his book, "Why am I doing this? Isn't it forbidden to reveal one's internal meditations?" His answer is that first of all there is a precedent, since Bhaktivinoda Thakur in his Siddhi-lālasā did the very same thing. Indeed, all līlā texts implicitly imply the presence of the sādhaka bhakta in his or her role. Next he says that this particular smaraṇa of the Guru Puja belongs to the category of "external" sādhana, even though it is a svārasikī meditation.

*****

Rai Kishori called out that it was getting late and time to make the bhoga offering to Gadai Gauranga. Gadadhar Pran takes bath in the Ganges three times a day, once before the noon offering which is usually made around 3 in the afternoon. I had to borrow a gamcha, but how could I resist a bit of a swim in the Ganga, letting her currents take me downstream to the next point where I can climb out?

I was previously getting a little money from a devotee friend and most of that was going either to Gadadhar or to the Dwadash Mandir. Unfortunately I had to tell Gadadhar that this source of help had completely dried up. He said, "My only wealth is that I chant four lakhs every day. Today I probably won't be able to do it because you came by, but my daily schedule is to get up at quarter to three and chant a lakh before mangal arati..."

Anyway, I am thinking that I need to find donors. Gadadhar's unique books and bhajana-paddhati are too valuable to allow them to disappear due to lack of support. Dwadash Mandir is also undergoing major repairs and overhaul. My Prabhu Lalita Prasad Thakur and this heritage of the Bhaktivinoda Goshthi needs to survive. It will survive with or without me, but I would like to make a more concrete contribution... Everything is Guru and Gauranga's mercy.

*****

At 3.30 I went out, grabbed a rickshaw out to the Chaitanya Math. Like Swaroop Ganj, the road is narrow, inadequate to the large number of vehicles and pedestrians trying to make their way past the stalls that line both sides from Hulore Ghat way past the Chandrodaya Mandir. The road, like that in Swaroop Ganj, is also in disrepair and flooded here and there, adding to the difficulty in moving about. The Chaitanya Math also had no Bhaktivinoda Thakur translations of the Gita.

It was only on the way back that I remembered that Bodhayan Maharaj had done a version with Vishwanath's commentary and the Thakur's translation. It was too late to go to Nabadwip town. Next time I come to Nabadwip, I will go to the Devananda Gaudiya Math, they used to publish the edition with Baladeva's commentary.

I was a bit disappointed though. The translation and commentaries are very brief compared to those of Ramsukha Dasji, not really helpful in assessing his view of the different verses. At any rate, jñāna, even bhakti-anukūla jñāna, is quite different from svārasikī smaraṇa. That is my lesson for today...

In my class that evening, two women and their teenage children came to join the regulars. I did not have to stick to the subject of puruṣa, prakṛti and sāṅkhya darśana. It does get a little dry...








Comments

Prem Prakash said…
Reading this post got me to thinking of all the events that have conspired to make the experience possible. There's Prem Prakash being born in this time/space loka, learning to read, computers being invented, Jagat developing this blog, Gadadhar Pran being so remarkable, and on and on. Seems like there might be many microseconds of pure grace the ordinary jiva misses, to make a long story short.

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