VMA 1.92 : For those making excuses

Originally published on Vrindavan Today. The other Cheer Ghat.
ṛṇa-grasto yāyāṁ katham ahaha vṛndāvanam ahaṁ
tyajeyaṁ vā vṛddhāv agati-pitarau dāra-śiśukān |
kathaṁ vā maj-jīvān bata parihareyaṁ nija-janān
satāṁ ślāghyo bhūtvātma-phala-kalano muhyati kudhīḥ ||1.92||

"I have so many debts, how can I go to Vrindavan?
How can I abandon my helpless parents in their old age,
or my wife and little children?
How can I leave my community,
as dear to me as my own life?"

Such a one, who seeks the benefit of the soul,
though praised by the good, is bewildered,
his intelligence corrupted.


Commentary

The Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta is a manual for those who wish to take up the sādhanā of Braja-vāsa.

The previous verses were the painful cry of one who is experiencing acute suffering in the miseries of material life. The bondage to worldly duty and the obligations imposed by external conditions -- especially family -- have become an overwhelming burden of incessant worry, ever to remain unfulfilled, uncompensated in the fulfillment of the true hunger of the soul.

The sādhaka longs to be free. Vrindavan is the paradise to which he can escape and there live without ties, a beggar, a niṣkiñcana possessing nothing and desiring nothing, not even a hut to sleep in, or a regular source of food. He will depend purely on the Lord's grace, and accepting it as grace even when the desired grace seems not to be forthcoming.

Or if by chance, you might find, by grace, a threadbare hut of mud and branches and straw, somewhere under a banyan tree or in the tall grasses near the Yamuna, and sit in the morning breezes and chant the holy names in a state of peaceful meditation, looking out at the natural beauty of the river, the wetlands that harbor all manner of birds, the sky reverberating as the stilling, heavy heat of the day approaches, and there you remain, inside and out, an integral part of Vrindavan.

And the human Vrindavan is the others like you – perhaps living a kos away, but still worth walking to for a visit to talk Hari katha and do some kirtan together. And those who were born and live there, with their costumes and their language and their customs, their cows and buffalo, their rotis for madhukari are a kind of bliss personified. You can hear them race by on Govardhan parikrama with their colorful, mirror-sequined skirts swirling, calling and responding to Radha and Shyama's names and lilas.

This is the dream.

And the other side, the picture of samsara, is dismal. The family members are stifling, selfish, needy and dependent. You are bound by roles that are obstacles to this dream. Should they not share it, then it seems they have missed the point of human life.

devarṣi-bhūtāpta-nṇāṁ pitṇāṁ
nāyaṁ kiṅkaro nāyam ṛṇī ca rājan
sarvātmanā yaḥ śaraṇaṁ śaraṇyaṁ
gato mukundaṁ parihṛtya kartam
Not to gods, not to the Seers,
not to creatures, not to kin,
no, not to the human race,
nor the ancestors --
To none of these am I any longer
servant or debtor!

For with all my being
giving up all other obligations,
I have thrown myself on the shelter
of the One who is the only shelter,
the Giver of Liberation, Mukunda. (SB 11.5.41)
This is a world-view that is generally not encouraged in those religious circles that are interested primarily in social cohesion. There is nearly always a struggle between pravṛtti-mārga thinkers and nivṛtti-mārga thinkers. The latter are usually feared as the most dangerous and fanatical of all – ready to give up everything for another world that no one can see!

Pravṛtti-mārga thinkers should be preaching to those following the pravṛtti-mārga, and nivṛtti-mārga thinkers to those who think like them. Otherwise people just become confused about their duty in life and the world falls apart, unravels at the seams.

Somewhere along the line pravṛtti and nivṛtti are meant to meet up. But those whose niṣṭhā, as Krishna puts it in the Bhagavad-gītā, is in one of these will by nature be indisposed to understanding the other. And there, by following the path for which one has the adhikāra, Krishna assures not once but twice that perfection in wisdom comes to both (3.3, 5.4).

And that wisdom is that this world is ultimately empty, empty before our birth and empty after we die, so empty in between also. The purest reality is that where God exists in his purest being. And where there are human beings who contemplate this purest being, there God is most present. And that is what ultimately transforms the environment, and society, and the world. No amount of absorption in illusory relations will -- on its own -- result in the kind of fundamental transformation of every dimension of the world towards sattva.

But in these verses, the only result of the pravṛtti-mārga is to inflame this burning feeling of desolation in the world, that nothing here is ever going to give ultimate satisfaction to the soul. And this is the imperative underlying all the Vedanta, of whichever school. Anyone who thinks that happiness is achieved by fulfilling all of one's obligations to the gods, the forefathers, the family, the sages of yore, to every living being is, in fact, wrong.

Only by recognizing the impermanence of all these and seeking the indwelling truth, the One who resides in the cavern of every heart, can one find true happiness.

Only when liberated from all obligations through grace and the heart is free to take absolute shelter of the Protecting Force of All and to free oneself to the contemplation of that Truth, that all-blissful truth, can one find the ultimate purpose of human existence.

And when that all-blissful truth is perceived as Radha and Krishna, the paramount root of all beauty, then the call to relish this mesmerizing object of purest love, of purest beauty, then one has truly come to its internal-most revelation. Later in the Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta we will have meditations on the forms that this purity of love and beauty take. But for now, Prabodhananda is approaching the end of the first śataka with, and indeed hammering away at this theme of the adhikāra or qualifications for Braja-vāsa-sādhanā.

In the next verse he will make it clear that these are not pleas from him personally, but that he is giving instruction to those who are in the conditioned life how to pray for Braja-vāsa and reminding them exactly what level of renunciation will be necessary for one to come from outside of Braj Vrindavan and then to enter into it fully, in its vyavahārika, prātibhāsika and pāramārthika realms of truth.

For those who come from outside of Braj, it is necessary to look at Vrindavan in all levels of perception as being outside the world of conditioning. But this can only come about as the result of realizing its transcendent dimension. The qualification for the jñāna-mārga is to be free of any desire for happiness in this world or the next. That is also the qualification for sannyāsa. And Vrindavan is for those who at a certain point in their bhakti-sādhanā have achieved an admittedly high level of capability, of renunciation, or commitment to the authentic path of Braja bhakti. These are the ones who can come to the practice known as Braja-vāsa-sādhanā.



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