Rasodgara: A week with Gadadhar Pran
|Gadadhar Pran absorbed in lila-smaran.|
I am back in Birnagar after a week at Gadai Gauranga Kunj. Today is Radhashtami and I am slated to give a talk on Radharani at a fairly big gathering in Badkulla village, about 15 kilometers from here. So mostly I want to prepare for that and meditate, etc., for the rest of the day. But I wanted to get this post up, so here I am making a few brief comments about the past week.
Most of you have by now seen the continuation of "Another side of Bhaktivinoda Thakur" series that Gadadhar has been writing. He doesn't use the internet or have a computer, so his handwritten manuscript is typed and then edited by me before it goes on line. We finished typing on Wednesday, so for the remaining days of the week we followed his normal schedule together.
Gadadhar's program is based on the lunar calendar. From pratipad to pūrṇimā he does a vrata of chanting four lakhs a day. He completes a lakh in about two hours, so that means eight hours of chanting, broken up into four two-hour periods. The other fortnight he concentrates on writing and painting.
He is very regular, getting up before 3 a.m. every morning, and going up on the open balcony overlooking the Ganga to chant. The whole time I have been here I have also been following that schedule. If intensity is the measure of bhajan, then Gadadhar is quite intense (tīvra-saṁvegānām āsannaḥ). It was personally beneficial for me to follow him at least for japa. Sitting for eight hours a day is a bit of a challenge, but if you break it up into four 2-hour periods, it is quite doable.
I have become habituated to sitting in yoga posture either siddhāsana or padmāsana, and I usually chant silently. Gadadhar doesn't. He moves around and has lots of bhāvas from his līlā-smaraṇa. After the first few days we started sitting face to face, which was very powerful.
|This is where I sit to meditate at 3 in the morning when I am at Gadai Gauranga Kunj. |
It is incredibly silent until one of these barges goes by with its putt putt putt motor
that resounds through the silent sky for miles and miles.
Since the principal subject of Gadadhar's book is guru-paramparā, we discussed a lot about Bipin Bihari Goswami and the Baghnapara line to which he belonged, and to which we also therefore belong. Bhaktivinoda Thakur's influence has been so strong that nearly all those who follow him -- whether they accept the dīkṣā-paramparā or not, have more or less forgotten what preceded him. This means that Bipin Bihari Goswami is an unknown factor to most, which is really a major lacuna.
As I have been stressing, Bhaktivinoda took initiation from Bipin Bihari when he was a mature 42 and his guru was twelve years younger, after he had examined him for at least five years and found him satisfactory according to both teaching and character.
Gadadhar and I looked through Bipin Bihari's Madhura-milana [a portion of which forms an element in this post], and I have been going through the much longer work, Daśa-mūla-rasa. I won't be able to go through it thoroughly enough to share all details here with my friends on-line, since it is about 1300 pages long, written in Bengali couplets and tripadis, but I certainly intend to post the portion of the book where he talks about his own life.
Actually, the last 350 pages are all about the history of the Baghnapara sampradāya and his own life. His relationship with Bhaktivinoda Thakur comes up in that context and he spends a couple of pages writing about it. I will translate that portion and present it here in the next few days.
Gadadhar Pran has been quite right to emphasize the paramparā beyond Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Bipin Bihari Goswami also. The paramparā gives us a connection to Nityananda Prabhu and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's direct associates Ma Jahnava and Vamsivadan Thakur -- and Gadadhar also emphasizes the connection to Vishnupriya Devi through Vamsi Thakur. This is "our family": this is Bhaktivinoda Thakur's real spiritual family to which all those who claim to follow him truly belong.
Reading Bipin Bihari's books, which I am now doing for really the first time, one gets the impression that he is much more of a classical rasika than Bhaktivinoda Thakur, who is more oriented to preaching to the uninitiated and somewhat reluctant to speak directly of Radha and Krishna's lila. His poetry is of a quality at least equal to that of Bhaktivinoda.
One important thing that Bipin Bihari Goswami writes about in his autobiographical notes is his relationship to his śikṣā-gurus, Bhagavan Das Babaji and Caitanya Das Babaji, both of whom were important contemporaries and considered siddha by most of the Vaishnavas of the time. Jagannath Das Babaji and Gaur Kishor Das Babaji were also contemporaries who were important figures in the Gaudiya Vaishnava world during this time, but knowing of this strong connection to Bhagavan Das and Caitanya Das widens and strengthens our connection to the broader Vaishnava community.
There is very little about these mahatmas on line, so I will try to introduce a bit from their biographies before I get back to Vrindavan. At any rate, if one really wants to know Bhaktivinoda Thakur, how is it possible to do so without knowing Bipin Bihari Goswami?
|Looking out over the Ganga from Gadai Gauranga Kunj.|
Just by way of example, I get postings from Srila Narayan Maharaj's sangha on a regular basis and sometimes I edit them according to the Vrindavan Today standards and then post them on line there. So for Radhashtami, there was a nice lecture by Narayan Maharaj which I uploaded to VT.
He begins his talk with a commentary on the last Siddhi-lālasā song by Bhaktivinoda Thakur. He says, "Only under the guidance of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur is it possible to render service to Srimati Radhika." But that very song has the names of Vilasa Manjari, Bipin Bihari Goswami's manjari identity and Ananga Manjari, the Vraja identity of Jahnava Thakurani, who is the founder of his disciplic succession. Bhaktivinoda Thakur is praying there to his guru and to the entire guru-praṇāli ("the channel of mercy") for them to give him a place at Radharani's lotus feet. Narayan Maharaj ignores this, as we would expect him to. So how does he -- and here I am not singling him out specifically, but the entire Gaudiya Math and its offshoots -- think that one is going to get the Thakur's "guidance" if one doesn't recognize the very gurus to whom he prays for grace?
It frankly boggles my mind. I consider it offensive. One day it is my hope that those who really wish to get Bhaktivinoda Thakur's mercy will also recognize that there is -- as Bipin Bihari Goswami himself says -- an antaraṅga and bahiraṅga in every guru's following. The rāgānugā section is the inner circle, and if one wants to enter the Thakur's inner circle, one has to follow his guru-praṇāli.
|Magnificent banyan that GP is mostly letting just grow. |
He has planted a couple of other banyan, but this one is getting on 20 years old.
It seems that all the trees in the ashram have matured in the last year.
Maybe along with his bhajan.