Monday, February 3, 2003
Sri Chaitanya Saraswata Krishnanushilana Sangha
Lotus Eyes — Lotus Tears
Gadadhar — Mahaprabhu's Ecstatic Correlative
— Sri Bhakti Sudhir Goswami Maharaja
...as Gadadhar sings the songs of the Bhagwat, tears cascade from his eyes like a shower of flower offerings, washing the words from its pages...
— Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev Goswami
Srimad Bhagavatam is God — in book form, cherished as the crème de la crème of Veda, extracted by spiritual intelligentsia (sarva vedanta saram yad). The introduction includes a solemn yet optimistic declaration: Krishna has returned to his domain along with Dharma, spiritual knowledge et al. Under the influence of the modern age that ensues, Kali Yuga, all spiritual insight will be lost. But now the brilliant sun of this Purana has risen illuminating the path back to Godhead (with eighteen thousand rays, verses).
Preparing his own dazzling garland of Bhagwat sun rays (Bhagavata Arka Maricimala), Bhaktivinode Thakur concludes with an astonishing revelation: "While I fear that it may be viewed as conceit, I must reveal how this compilation came about. Once while I was in deep meditation upon the Bhagavatam I beheld a divine vision. Mahaprabhu's second self, Swarup Damodar Goswami, appeared and empowered me: ‘Compile one thousand verses of the Bhagavatam, distill the essence — the cream of the cream of the cream.' Providing a theme, he delivered a lucid explanation of the first three verses according to Vaishnava theology (sambandha, abhhideya, and prayojana tattva)."
Srila Sridhar Maharaja contemplated a similar compilation proposing to further condense the nectar into three hundred verses. To understand his intent, and qualification to realize the same, some background is necessary. In this connection I once asked Srila Guru Maharaja about a famous conversation of Srila Prabhupada and Acyutananda.
When Prabhupada returned to India from his successful preaching campaign, establishing the worldwide Krishna consciousness movement, surprisingly some Godbrothers were not eager to receive him. He was however, enthusiastically received with a grand reception organized by Srila Sridhar Maharaja and his Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math along with one other math. With kirtan the members the maths escorted Srila Prabhupada and disciples to Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math from the Nabadwip Dham train station stopping at the other temple along the way.
They held a grand celebration full with pomp and circumstance. All the sannyasis and brahmacharis looked beautiful swaying to the kirtan in unison, uniformly marching like a band of saffron warriors. Prabhupada's senior disciple Acyutananda noticed the mood after arriving at Chaitanya Saraswat Math was by contrast toned down and intimate. Formality was minimal, favoring affectionate dealings. Acyutananda wondered whether his perception was one of style or substance. He asked Prabhupada who clarified: "The first math’s emphasis is on quantity, whereas Sridhar Maharaja emphasizes quality. I want that our society will have both — the superior quality of Sridhar Maharaja, in quantity."
Beyond the public lectures, Acyutananda inquired further about Srila Prabhupada's private Bengali talks with Srila Sridhar Maharaja. Prabhupada revealed, "I offered him the presidency of ISKCON. He declined — he is keeping things within. He has very high realizations about Krishna and Mahaprabhu. They are so deep, if I were to tell, you would faint!" What he meant is worth clarifying. Srila Sridhar Maharaja offers his own explanation: "By 'faint' he means, we will be unable to maintain consciousness in that plane."
Alternately, we will disconnect from the world around us. Mahaprabhu's ecstatic trance was so deep, his existence was barely traceable in the physical plane. At last it was not discernible at all, completely vanishing into higher reality. Invisible — except for souls of the stature of Bhaktivinode Thakur. Srila Sridhar Maharaja gives the example of tossing a flower into the current of the Ganges. The flower disappears, carried away by the current. But if we run along the bank, moving at the speed of flow, we can keep pace. Such souls as Bhaktivinode Thakur, through deep penetration (internal heart flow), enter a current of Lila achieving immediate experience: the spiritual equivalent of space time continuum (kabe gauravane suradhuni tate 'ha radhe ha krsna' bole).
Additionally, when it is said "devotee’s faint" it does not mean they become unconscious in the ordinary sense. Rather the intensity of awareness of the higher plane causes a perceptual disconnect from this plane resulting in fainting. Higher substance descends, according to its own necessity, eclipsing lower experience (adhoksaja). This is the preferred method of descent of revealed truth (tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam).
Mahaprabhu's physician associate Mukunda entered a trance while offering medical advice to a Muslim king. As they sat on a veranda, a servant shaded the king with a peacock-feathered fan. Enthralled by the peacock feathers, Mukunda's remembrance of Krishna entered a deep state of ecstasy. Increasingly oblivious to surroundings he fainted. Returning to external consciousness, he attempted to conceal his devotion, saying he suffered from epilepsy. Srila Sridhar Maharaja's answer includes the inverse: it is so high and deep one can only penetrate according to capacity, but a glimpse of the Infinite is so intense, one will be unable to maintain consciousness and be forced to return to this plane (yanra yata sakti tata pathare santare).
Once, late in the afternoon in Nabadwip, at Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, I approached Srila Sridhar Maharaja with an unusual request. In a relaxed atmosphere, amid hearing mail and news, with Srila Govinda Maharaja by his side, I referenced his talks with Srila Swami Maharaja. "What is it about those talks that would make one faint?" Srila Govinda Maharaja laughed.
Hearing Srila Govinda Maharaja laughing, Srila Guru Maharaja inquired why. Govinda Maharaja explained, "Goswami Maharaja wants to hear something that will make him faint!" He then explained in Bengali. Srila Guru Maharaja laughed. Srila Govinda Maharaja surveyed the "catalog of things that make one faint," suggesting Guru Maharaja recite his sloka about Gadadhar Pundit. The one he intended for the introduction to establish the theme of his Bhagwat verse compilation. The mood shifted dramatically — Srila Sridhar Maharaja intoned:
nilambhodi tate sada sva viraha ksepanvitam bandhavam
srimad bhagavati katha madiraya sañjivayan bhati yah
srimad bhagavatam sada sva nayanasru payanaih pujayan
goswami prabaro gadadhara vibhur bhuyat mad eka gatih
On the sands of the blue ocean in Puri, feeling deep separation from himself (Krishna), Mahaprabhu is consoled by his friend Gadadhar (Radharani).
Doing my best to offer dandabat, I staggered off the veranda. Descending a few stairs, I stepped out of view, supporting myself with my head pressed against a stone wall. Eyes closed, I tried desperately to hold remembrance of that glimpse of higher reality. Suddenly sounds of the environment intruded. Again I was engulfed by the world of sense experience ("Till human voices wake us, and we drown.")
As one nears death, suffering the loss of a beloved, Gadadhar tries to resuscitate Mahaprabhu by supplying the intoxicating wine of Krishna-katha to drown the agony of separation plaguing his heart.
As Gadadhar sings the songs of the Bhagwat, tears cascade from his eyes, like a shower of flower offerings, washing the words from its pages.
My only goal is to enter that current of devotion flowing from the divine heart of that best of Goswamis — Gadadhar.
By the divine grace of Srila Sridhar Maharaja, such an astonishing conception was projected on the mirror of my conscious self — so beautiful, luminous — it penetrated the layers of dust and ego, covering my heart, providing a momentary glimpse into his conceptual domain.
I returned to find Srila Sridhar Maharaja and Srila Govinda Maharaja sitting peacefully, engaged in light conversation. This was not a memorable experience for either one of them. Apparently they had been doing this together for the last forty years!
As Srila Govinda Maharaja recalls, "Sometimes Srila Guru Maharaja would share a sloka jewel the way a boy tosses you one of his favorite marbles." Only these gems are consciousness embodied (cintamanis carana bhusanam angananam). Srila Sridhar Maharaja: "The scriptures (slokas) are an objective posing of the subjective. Actually they want to be preached. We shall offer ourselves as carriers to become their instruments (hrdaye pravesa)."
Srila Sridhar Maharaja would jest that he couldn't complete the work because he was an “ease lover” (ananda lilamaya vigrahaya). He later revealed the only person he felt qualified to complete this task, in terms of spiritual heart and depth, is Srila Govinda Maharaja:
What Srila Guru Maharaja wanted, that I cannot do. In which way I shall do this? That is the question. Srila Guru Maharaja wanted to make Srimad Bhagavatam within three hundred slokas. And he gave me some consciousness — a clue how to do it. That he has given me. He told lastly, 'I cannot do it, but you will try to do.'
The call ends and Srila Govinda Maharaja connects it to his train of thought:
But I have become a businessman! [Laughter] And over the whole world I make business! But my business is a good business — distributing Krishna consciousness.
[The telephone rings with an order for Krishna consciousness.]
Hello, Govinda Maharaja speaking…
Actually in the world there are so many problems. And my nature is to take the problem in my head. I have been doing this my whole life — since my youth. Willingly or unwillingly, they involve me and I also get involved with that.
Then Srila Govinda Maharaja became grave. As Mahaprabhu sang an inexplicable sung before the chariot of Jagannath, Srila Govinda Maharaja recited a poem of Rabindranath, anticipating the chariot of Yamaraja:
Otherwise, if I shall get one clean bed… and it is my desire also… for that I am making one small house in Govardhan for me and my friends: like Ashram Maharaja, Goswami Maharaja and others. We will stay there and relish slokas. I shall stay there in one room and beside there will be another four rooms for my guests. When they will come, they will stay there. And downstairs five rooms are there for other devotees to stay.
In this way I am making one house in Govardhan at Sri Dayita Das Seva Kuñja, and in resonance with the mood of devotion of Narottam Thakur, I have planted trees bearing champaka, bakula, kadamba, and tamal flowers draped in madhavi, malati, and jasmine creepers, creating a charming kuñja.
But my real bhajan is preaching. What is Krishna’s plan I do not know. He gave me a push and sent me to the hospital — stroke happened. And the doctors revealed that I had suffered two strokes. One had already happened before this one. “And now a third is waiting for you — to send you to Goloka Vrindavan!” [Laughter]
'Preme esechilo chole gelo… Love came into my life but too soon departed… Now I have nothing to do but wait for that guest (death) who will come one day, blow out my life like a lamp, and take me away in his chariot.
Having consecrated his entire life in service, in his final days, the deepest sort of divine feeling rose up from the heart of Madhavendra Puri. As Srila Govinda Maharaja observes: from the heart an offering will appear…
I know not when, nor whether we shall go down or ascend…'
All is the will of Lord Krishna — I believe by his will everything is possible.
yam yam vapi smaran bhavam tyajante kalevaram...
[Cf. The Fire Bed of Separation]
Copyright © 2002 Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math