Another Side of Bhaktivinoda 11: Guru-pūjā to Yajneshwar Goswami and his Guru Mata Srimati Ramamani Goswamini

Baghnapada temple. See video.

Previous posts in this series.

1: Guru Nishtha
10: Entering Sri Nityananda’s abode and Bipin Bihari Goswami’s puja

There are three important books that imbibe this paramparā’s essential teachings:
  1. Śrī-Vaṁśī-śikṣā by Premadas Misra
  2. Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā by Sri Ramai Thakur
  3. Śrī-Muralī-vilāsa by Sri Rajaballabh Goswami
1. Vaṁśī-śikṣā by Premadas Misra contains the Rasaraj doctrine that Mahaprabhu taught to his priya-pārṣada Vamsivadana. In this regard it can be said that just as Prabhu gave various kinds of śikṣā to his various leading sampradāya ācāryas, such as Ray Ramananda, Rupa Goswami, and Sanatan Goswami, which we find in Caitanya-caritāmRta, the Rasaraj doctrine that Prabhu entrusted with Vamsivadan is equally important as it reveals the purport of Gauranga and Krishna’s internal rasamaya worship.

2. Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā by Sri Ramai Thakur, Jahnava Thakurani’s adopted son and disciple, is a jewel-like treatise which accurately illustrates Ananga Manjari’s rasa-tattva, her madhura-prema līlā with Shyamasundar, as well as providing a list of all the numerous kinds of sakhis who belong to her group. Though it also reveals Jahnava Thakurani’s rasa-tattva as she is herself Ananga Manjari. It is noteworthy that Bhaktvinoda’s personal handwritten copy of the original manuscript greatly helped in making this book’s first printed edition.

3. Śrī-Muralī-vilāsa by Sri Rajaballabh Goswami, Ramai Thakur’s nephew and disciple, is a historical documentary of Vamsivadan, Ma Jahnava and Ramai Thakur’s life stories in context with their traveling adventures, mood of worship, and teachings. A highlight of the book is Ma Jahnava’s `mañjarī-bhāva śikṣā~ to Ramai. Though the story about Ramai Thakur’s establishing the Baghnapara Sripat along with Krishna and Balaram nitya-sevā pūjā is equally fascinating. The book contains 21 chapters.

In Vaṁśī-śikṣā, Mahaprabhu instructs Vamsivadan on the importance of performing Guru-puja as follows:

yaiche rasarāja kṛṣṇa sarba daẏāmaẏa
taiche gurudeba e kahinu niścaẏa
jībera lāgiẏā śrī nandanandana
gururūpe saṁsārete karena bhramaṇa
ataeba gururūpa śri hari caraṇa
upāsanā rūpa astra kariẏā dhāraṇa
apramatta mana-rājya karaha bināśa
tabe ta haibe hṛde prema parakāśa
Just as all the devatas within Rasaraj Sri Krishna, they are all within Sri Gurudeva as well. Thus to deliver the jivas, Sri Nandanandana descends into our worldly samsara taking the form of the guru. So take up the weapon of Sri Hari’s lotus feet in performing Sri Guru Puja. Then all of our mind’s troubles will vanish as prema manifests in our hearts.
Here Krishna is referred to by the title Rasaraj, the transcendental enjoyer of the Rasa Lila and the gopis. Since Mahaprabhu’s teachings to Vamsivadana focus on such worship, we will have a lengthy discussion of the subject in an upcoming chapter.

As we left off in chapter 10, Bipin Bihari Prabhu and his sahadharmiṇī were heading for Sri Sri Radha Muralidhar’s Kunj, the abode of their Prabhupada, Sri Yajneshwar Goswami. At this moment, Bhaktvinoda is at the front of the procession and leading the sankirtan. In Bipin Bihari Goswami’s most acclaimed and voluminous book, Daśa-mūla-rasa, page 1216, he says, “The best and dearest of my disciples is Bhaktvinoda Thakur, who is pleasing to everyone. He is the ornament of the Datta dynasty and a true devotee of the Lord.”

So knowing about the love and affection that his guru places in him, it wouldn’t be surprising that Bhaktvinoda is now singing with heart and soul a divine feeling of bhakti which inspires his followers to perform kirtan at their very best too.

Arriving at the kunja’s front entrance, Prabhupada and Krishna Kamini Devi get down from the palanquin to reverentially pay their obeisances. Though after getting up after doing sāṣṭāṅga praṇāma everyone hears the auspicious sound of conch shells, ringing bells and stirring ulu vibrations coming from the palace. So surely a great festival must be going on in there? And as we follow Prabhupada and his sahadharmiṇī up the steps to look in, our guess was right, amidst a festive crowd of devatā-like people who are all exceptionally well-dressed Sri Muralidhar’s rājābhiṣeka ceremony is going on with great pomp. There are many serene yājñika brāhmaṇas surrounding the snāna-vedī. And because Muralidhara is quite tall, a high platform has been erected so that the pujaris can pour from above the abhiṣeka-jala and other sanctified ingredients to bathe him. As I watch the snāna-jala stream over the Lord’s glamorous body, he appears to be jāgrata [alive]. Then our Prabhu [Bipin Bihari Goswami] spots his Prabhupada, who is directing the event as the head pujari. So in seeing him busy, Prabhu motions to us that we all just sit down and watch. Looking to Muralidhara’s captivating moon-face and shifty eyes makes me wonder, “Is he looking at me?” But after a moment I conclude that he must be, since his charming glances and sweet smile are stealing my patience!

But the pujaris then hold up a silken cloth to cover his darshan, as he will now be dressed. After a while, when the cloth is removed, the people swoon upon viewing Muralidhara’s stunning rāja-veśa… as the sounds of conchshells and ulu vibrations echo throughout the palace. Many brahmanas then lift up Muralidhara, carry over to a flower-decorated ratha, and carefully place him on a siMhāsana made of pure gold.

At this exciting moment, 108 divinely dressed kiśorī brāhmaNa girls, who look like devis from heaven, suddenly appear to surround the puṣpa-ratha. And, on Prabhupada Yajneshwar Goswami’s cue, they begin to dance and sing Vraja-līlā saṅgīta. In seeing the ratha starting to move, the crowd goes wild, then Bipin Bihari Prabhu gets up to exclaim, “Come on! Let’s all join the procession.” As he strats up a stirring kirtan. But many other sankirtana sampradāyas are joining Muralidhar’s rathayatra ceremony too. What a fantastic event!

After circumambulating the nāṭa-mandira four times, Prabhupada leads the procession into another large nāṭa-mandira where Radharani’s abhiṣeka and śṛṅgāra having been going on simultaneously. Though as we enter this wonderfully decorated place, I see Prabhupada offering sāṣṭāṅga praṇāma to a graceful woman who looks more regal than goddess Saraswati. While seated upon an opulent siMhāsana, she has been directing Radha’s abhiṣeka ceremony as hundreds of sevā-dāsīs follow her command. In looking to Bhaktvinoda, I see that he is asking his Prabhu who this Maharani is. And, as I learn that she is Prabhupada’s guru-mātā, Srimati Ramamani Goswamini, I offer her hundreds of pranams in my mind.

Though when Muralidhar arrives before the Radha-vigraha, something even more sensational happens: The vigraha suddenly disappears and Radha and Krishna directly advent. Oh my! Although Yogamaya arranges everyone’s previous Vraja svarūpa, there is one gopis who stands out amongst the others. She is Rasa Manjari, Ananga Manjari’s second avatāra.

[As Ananga Manjari is 13 years old, has the bodily color of a vasanta ketaki flower, and a dress which matches the color of a blue lotus, and performs dressing sevā, Rasa Manjari has the same age, bodily color, dress and sevā. In Gaura Lila she is Ramamani Goswamini.]

Taking charge she arranges the gopis in different groups, and vana-vihāra begins. Then Yogamaya arranges that a Vrindavan forest path appear before our eyes. On one side is the Yamuna and on the other is a beautiful forest filled with fragrant blooming flowers. As Radha and Vanamali dance, hand in hand, down the pollen-laden pathway, the gopis toss flower petals over them. Then while singing rasa-maya saGgīta, Rasa Manjari’s group surrounds the Divine Couple.

But what happens next? She steps inside the circle to sing an amazing and heart-rending solo. As Radha and Krishna become mesmerized by her performance they stop to clap their hands in time with Rasa Manjari’s singing.

Then Yuthi Manjari steps in to dance alone while singing her personally composed song, and this inspires Radha and Krishna to dance along in step with her singing, but when it is Vilasa Manjari’s turn to do a performance, something amazing happens; The whole Vrindavan scene disappears, and Bipin Bihari Goswami is left standing before Radha Muralidhar’s yugala-vigraha with a look of great surprise appearing on his face.

Ramamani Goswamini knows why Bipin Bihari and his group have come, so she leads him and the bhaktas to a private room where she addresses everyone by personally speaking to her son: “Oh Yajneshwar, as the bhaktas have come to duly perform your puja, let them do so. But let us not forget that the auspicious time to worship our parama-pūjyapāda kula-devatā Sri Nitai Chand won’t last much longer. So as many Gurujana remain to whom we must perform puja first, let us proceed quickly.”

Ramamani Goswamini then goes to wait in the palanquin as she has become very eager to worship her Ma Goswamini, Srimati Guna Manjari.

Although Bipin Bihari Prabhu, Bhaktvinoda and their followers were well-prepared to offer Prabhupada Yajneshwar Goswami a grand puja with lots of bhakti, on his Ma Goswamini’s suggestion, he allows that only a small ceremony with paJca upacāra be performed. [incense, lamp, flowers, scents, and a bhoga offering]. But the bhaktas also agree that since our Guru kuladevata Jahnava Nitai’s worship is the foremost, henceforth all the other guru pujas must be done in abridged form so that we can read Nitai’s abode in time.

After Yajneshwar Goswami’s puja is completed, he and the bhaktas before Ramamani Goswamini who has been waiting for them in the palanquin. And it looks like she wants to leave right away.

But the bhaktas contemplate, “How can we leave without performing her befitting puja?”

Nevertheless, in knowing their thoughts, Ma Goswamini sternly requests, “You may all do one thing, please take me to my mother’s abode first. Then you may do whatever you like.”

Ramamani Goswamini’s Gurudevi is her mother, Sri Guna Manjari Goswamini, and she lives with her Guru Mata, Srimati Maheshwari Goswamini, which is not far away.

Why are women guru’s equally acceptable?

At this instance Thakur Bhaktvinoda wants to ask his Prabhupada about women who become gurus, since there are some Vaishnavas who may be hesitant to accept a woman in this role. Although the svārasikī meditation we are reading is unfolding in Golok Nabadwip, where questions of this sort are not necessary, Bhaktvinoda wishes to dispel the doubts that bhaktas may have about this matter.

Bhaktvinoda: Prabhu, since we have a number of women gurus in our paramparā, what is your opinion about this?

Bipin Bihari Goswami: Well, are women not the greatest bhaktas? Now just consider, even though Sri Krishna is Jagad Guru, or the Supreme Spiritual Master of all, doesn’t he admit that Srimati Radharani is his prema guru?

rādhāra prema guru āmi śiṣya naṭa
sadā āmā nānā nṛtya nācāẏa udbhaṭa
Radha is my prema-guru and I am her dancing disciple. For in whatever way her prema subjugates me, I madly dance to that tune.
By the Lord’s arrangement our Guru-parampara has 13 members; five of them are women, and eight of them are men. We have numbered each member in the order of descent.

Women Men
1. Vishnupriya Devi 2. Vamsivadana Thakur
3. Jahnava Ishwari 4. Ramai Thakur
9. Maheshweri Goswamini 5. Rajavallabha Goswami
10. Guna Manjari Goswamini 6. Keshava Chandra Goswami
11. Ramamani Goswamini 7. Rudreshwar Goswami
8. Dayaram Goswami
12. Yajneshwar Goswami
13. Bipin Bihari Goswami

Bipin Bihari Goswami goes on: Now let us try to understand the significance of having female members. Because when I said that women are the greatest devotees, wouldn’t you agree that the gopis are Krishna’s greatest bhaktas? Yet, if we wish to think and act as men with puruSābhimāna and assume that women are inferior, how will we attain Krishna’s highest rasa sevā in madhura-prema? Although in our world men can dominate over women and think they are superior, in Krishna’s transcendental realm of madhura pastimes, only women can enter. Therefore every male in our paramparā is actually a female too – not only in Krishna’s but in Gauranga’s internal pastimes as well.

To shed light on this topic, let us briefly discuss Vishnupriya and Gauranga’s Nabadwip vihara in Goloka, since these lilas are separate from the Lord’s other pastimes, as they unfold in a separate prakāśa of their own. Because we are connected to Vamsivadana, Priyaji’s beloved disciple, he can easily lead us into this secret world. But in doing so, he and every other male who enters must first take on a female form.

Now let me speak about my Gurudeva, who was initiated by his mother, Ramamani Goswamini. I have personally witnessed on many occasions how he receives much more vatsalya affection and encouragement from her than he could ever expect to get from a male guru. Let us not forget that mothers have a softer nature. Hence they can easily forgive the offenses of their śiSya santāna. And very quickly offer them benedictions.

Bipin Bihari Goswami goes on. “Oh who can explain about how rare and exalted are the glories of this guru paramparā, since it is led by Sri Gauranga’s internal śakti in Nabadwip, and by Sri Nityananda’s internal śakti in Vrindavan. It is only befitting that a few other female members advent in this wonderful spiritual family as well.

Let us remember that in Goloka Nabadwip we are not going to find any sannyasis or babajis. Gaura, Nitai and Advaita are all married, and so are most of the bhaktas. So it is a family lila where women play great supporting roles. They are there to help their husbands, sons, and daughters serve Gauranga and his bhaktas.

Another side of Thakur Bhaktivinoda

An in-depth research study of Thakur Bhaktivinoda's authentic Guru-paramparā (with siddha-praṇāli and ekādaśa bhāva) which descends from Sri Jahnava Ishvari, who is Ananga Manjari in Vraja Lila, and from Srimati Vishnupriya Devi in Sri Gaurasundara's madhura Nabadwip Lila.

By the fallen sādhaka,
Gadadhara Pran Das
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