VMA 1.80 Run Run to Vrindavan

Vrindavan sky

mahā-bhāgyair avāptaṁ vapur idam ihākarṇi mahimād-
bhuto vṛndāṭavyāḥ kalitam akhilaṁ svapna-sadṛśam|
śubhāyām āśvāso nahi nahi matau nāpi vapuṣi
kṣaṇe’sminn eva tvaṁ tad abhicala vṛndāvana-vanam||
O friend,
by great good fortune you have attained
this body through which you have heard
Vrindavan's wonderful glories,
and learned that everything in this world is like a dream.

Don't ever put any faith in a beautiful woman,
no, no, nor in the mind, nor in the body.
In this very moment, you should
run towards the Vrindavan forest. (1.80)
Commentary

Jiva Goswami spends several sections of the Bhakti Sandarbha (152-159) explaining that bhakti is free of the material qualities. In this discussion, he also mentions the Holy Dham and so I wish to discuss the nirguṇa nature of the Dham here.

The Holy Dham is not within the qualities of material nature. So we have to understand what that means. What does it mean that bhakti is not within the guṇas? According to the Gita and Sankhya philosophy, everything in this world is just the interplay of these qualities. How can something like Vrindavan which is clearly being influenced by the Maya saṁskāras that surround it, the saṁskāras of saṁsāra, be considered transcendental to the guṇas?

The relevant verse here is the following from the Eleventh Canto, where Krishna says:

vanaṁ tu sāttviko vāso grāmo rājasa ucyate
tāmasaṁ dyuta-sadanaṁ man-niketaṁ tu nirguṇam
The forest is a sāttvika residence,
that related to a village is said to be rājasika;
the gambling den is a tāmasika dwelling,
but my abode is beyond the guṇas. (SB 11.25.25)
The existing visible Vrindavan appears to be deeply entrenched in the modes of passion and ignorance. This verse says that the urban setting, living in society with many people around, is the basic element of a rājasa environment. In the world today, there is a great urbanization going on, especially in India, and Vrindavan is caught right in the middle of it.

With each passing day, more and more people throng to Vrindavan. The crowds on special festival days and weekends are greater, and this is indeed the will of the powers that be: more people coming, more people spending: Urbanization and economic development (artha) are the route to all that is good.

This is called rajo-guṇa, and in its wake will inevitably come the call to cater to the tastes of the faithless who come from afar with dumb curiosity, without spiritual motivation. And such people (and even those who profess to be of purer goals) will allow and even promote the four principle vices of the Kali-yuga -- animal flesh, alcohol, prostitution and gambling. The argument will be that these are democratic rights that must be defended in a secular state. And that there will of course be an economic argument to support such things because some people will profit handsomely. This is called tamo-guṇa.

Vrindavan is for the bhajananandi Vaishnavas. Prahlad answers his father's question, "What is the best thing you have learned up until now?"

tat sādhu manye'sura-varya dehināṁ
sadā samudvigna-dhiyām asad-grahāt
hitvātma-pātaṁ gṛham andha-kūpaṁ
vanaṁ gato yad dharim āśrayeta

I think the best thing, O best of the demons, for all embodied beings, who are constantly agitated in mind due to accepting this temporary body as the self, is for them to give up their attachment to the family, which like a blind well is the cause of their downfall and bondage. They should then go into the forest and take exclusive shelter of Lord Hari. This is what I think the best thing. (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.5.5)
Some people gloss vanam (forest) in this verse as Vrindavan. This may or may not be the original intention, but that is really what Vrindavan is in ideal terms: the combining of the transcendental power of the Dham with the culture of sattva. In the sattva-guna the full power of the Dham can be perceived more directly by the sādhaka. And this indeed is the intent of the essence of instruction, according to Rupa Goswami also, and indeed all the rasika bhaktas of Braj Dham.

But it is hard for someone who is already on the platform of sattva not to be disturbed by the madness in the narrow streets of this town. Since the model for economic growth is based on the automobile, it seems unlikely that anyone is going to turn off the traffic tomorrow, though if there is anyone sane in this vikāsa-crazy Mathura district, they will understand how this constant honking and jockeying for space when there is so little of it, completely destroys the ideal ambience of Vrindavan. Our aim has to be to preserve as much sattva as we possible can so that people who come can perceive the spiritual bliss of this abode of bhakti.

Despite this, though it is frustrating to see this craziness, we still hold to the basic theological tenet that Vrindavan is beyond the qualities of nature, nirguṇa. You may say, "How is that possible? It is not sattva, so how can it be conducive to bhajan?" Prahlada's verse above says, just go to the forest, away from the madding crowd, and there, away from the hurley burley of the masses, you meditate on the Supreme Truth and attain the peace that passeth all understanding

The idea is fundamental: bhakti is not dependent on sattva. In this crazy world, sattva is at a premium. I mean, sattva is quite a rare thing. But bhakti is transcendental. I think perhaps only a nirguṇa Vaishnava would understand it, and experience the śuddha-sattva, even in the middle of the vortex.


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