by Swami B.G. Narasingha
“Dāsa Gosvāmī and the Unique Position of Govardhana” is based upon a class by Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja that he gave in Vṛndāvana at Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple on 18th October 2009, on the occasion of Śrī Govardhana Pūjā.
Today is Annakūṭa, the worship of Govardhana, commemorating Kṛṣṇa lifting Govardhana Hill. However, I won’t speak about the actual pastime, but the unique position of Govardhana Hill. We have been discussing about Rādhā-kuṇḍa because our Upadeśāmṛta has been printed this year and that is where Upadeśāmṛta ultimately takes us. But this recalls something else – in the course of this whole Vṛndāvana experience there is what is called siddha-praṇālī. Along with siddha-praṇālī there is the aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā. This translates into the eightfold pastimes of Kṛṣṇa that are performed for twenty-four hours beginning to end. These are the full-fledged pastimes of Kṛṣṇa. It is mentioned in some śāstras that one should meditate upon the aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā and this is also supported by our ācāryas and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura also supports this. Therefore, it became the practice in his mission – which is very important for us because we are coming out of his mission, we are not something born on the ground somewhere. We grew off another branch and we draw the life of our existence from the same tree, the same root, and the same trunk. It is very important to know where we come from and what is the standard of our previous ācāryas. So Sarasvatī Ṭhākura recommended meditation on the aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā, the eightfold pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, and much to everyone’s surprise, they heard that this meditation was to be performed every day during Kārttika.
In the contemporary world of Vaiṣṇavism there is much controversy, where some people are prone to delve into the details of, not only the common pastimes such as Kṛṣṇa taking breakfast and walking out to the fields with the cows, but also the details of the mādhurya-rasa in the minutest detail. Then there is another section of devotees that say that we should not do that. It has been pointed out that Sarasvatī Ṭhākura encouraged this meditation on the aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā and during his time songs were sung according to the eightfold pastimes every day during Kārttika in the Gauḍīya Maṭha, and they still do. But what Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja called the ‘sentiment-mongers’ haven’t taken the trouble to find out is that meditation on the aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā is simply singing Kṛṣṇa’s Names which pertain to that līlā. There was no conversation about that līlā and no details were spoken of. Their meditation was through nāma, through the Name of Kṛṣṇa and that was related to the Śikṣāṣṭakam of Mahāprabhu. There were no detailed descriptions given in the mission of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Prabhupāda. No such things were allowed, particularly of the mādhurya-rasa and even vātsalya-rasa. He never allowed this and he never allowed class to be given from the Tenth Canto of Bhāgavatam.
Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes are meditated upon through His Name. This is the way of Mahāprabhu; this is the way of the Gauḍīya Maṭha; this is the way of all our previous ācāryas; this is the way of Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī and so forth. There are more detailed descriptions and these are in books that are bona-fide books, and these are to be read – like the Tenth Canto. I did not say that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta did not allow anyone to read the Tenth Canto. Certainly he didn’t give it to the beginners – Kṛṣṇa’s higher līlās and so forth. What he didn’t allow was for devotees to enter into discussions about it – it can be heard and it can be read but it should be considered to be an advanced topic and one has to pass so many lower stages first. For example, you should not pass Second Canto if you are not absolutely free from sex desire. This is written in the purports of the ācāryas. Otherwise you will carry something with you that is not good as you go forward. Śrīla Prabhupāda also says in his writings that you should not go past any particular verse that you do not understand. If you do not understand a verse, that is where you stop until you understand it, by the help of your guru, or another godbrother, or another śāstra – you don’t just continue reading.
Of course, there are combinations of these things. Each one of them is not absolute. There are sometimes discussions about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, but it is found that people tend to wish to discuss the intimate love pastimes of Kṛṣṇa and not the asura-vadha pastimes, the pastimes when Kṛṣṇa kills the demons. Once some men in Jagannātha Purī came to see Prabhupāda to get his blessings to stage a drama based on rāsa–līlā and they were from a classical Oriyan dance troupe – very experienced and very rigorous in the classical form of Odissi style dance. So they came very humbly when Prabhupāda was staying for a couple of weeks in Purī back in 1976. Prabhupāda said, “I cannot give my blessings.” And if you ever read that transcript, he says “No” about fifty times – “No, no, no!” He refuses to give his blessings for a drama about the rāsa-līlā. He says that, “The common people will misunderstand.” Now that is another point of discussions – what is common? That may include us also in the sense that we may have a common understanding because we are not so surrendered – there is a lot of ‘common’ living in us also. Then these gentlemen said, “We will do everything according to śāstra.”
He said, “No!” He kept saying, “No, no, no – I cannot give my blessings for such a project.” It is one of the most amazing transcripts of Śrīla Prabhupāda I have ever read.
Then they say, “Ok – we will do vātsalya-līlā, Mother Yaśodā.”
“NO!” He said. “No, they will think Kṛṣṇa is an ordinary baby and she is an ordinary mother.” Not even that – he would not give a blessing.
They were stumped. “What can we do?”
He said, “Bhagavad-gītā – Kurukṣetra!”
They were confused – “Bhagavad-gītā? Kurukṣetra? Nothing to enjoy there!” The real truth came out. They didn’t say it but that was what they were thinking.
It is mentioned that, “One should understand the transcendental nature of Kṛṣṇa,” and everybody says, “Got it! Saccidānanda-vigraha!” Well, if that were the only answer then there wouldn’t be any restrictions. It is very easy simply to say something like that. To actually understand the transcendental nature of Kṛṣṇa is not just simply repeating something we read somewhere. It is much, much more than that. But when that is said, everybody says, “Got it! I’m qualified – I have my ticket now!” Then they rush in. What they don’t understand about Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental nature is that Kṛṣṇa’s dancing is not for your pleasure. The seed of being an enjoyer is so deeply rooted within us, and we should hate it because it keeps us from loving God. It is a point of selfishness. It may be very small, but that infection affects our relationship with God. At the beginning it sounds almost cruel to us to say that ‘enjoyment is bad,’ but enjoyment is the root cause of suffering in the material world. Enjoyment seems great, you have a good time but we do that at the cost of somebody or something.
The rāsa-līlā is on the highest platform of Kṛṣṇa’s spiritual enjoyment and He is not doing that to please your material senses at the level of what you might watch at the local cinema. It is not for our pleasure. Therefore, when the ācāryas write, “One should understand the transcendental nature of Kṛṣṇa,” that is in fact saying that, “In your relationship with Kṛṣṇa, you are simply the servant and He is the Absolute Enjoyer.” That which is the highest and most valuable is to be protected. How is that protected? By not engaging in that without qualification. Would you engage in a sword-fight with razor sharp swords if you had no idea about what you were doing? If you did, you must be crazy because you would end up being hacked to pieces. We must deal with those things that are potentially harmful with great care.
Of course, the rāsa-līlā is not harmful, rāgānuga-bhakti is not harmful – what is harmful is our inability to deal with these subjects properly. Rather than being seen as a respectful onlooker whose heart is full of reverence, anticipation and love, you may be seen as an intruder who is trying to get some enjoyment out of this, and when that happens you are pushed back and tagged. “Beware of this person – he has not listened to all the ācāryas, who over the ages have given some caution about these things and have dedicated their lives to showing him the right path. He has ignored those warnings and is running down the wrong path.” Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja says that then they will mark you as suspect. Then it will be even more difficult to prove yourself again.
So, our mediation on the aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā in our line is through the Name that represents that līlā. One of those Names is Dāmodara. We are not to go too much into discussion on these matters, and in some cases we should not discuss anything about these things. Some discussion may be there – but not in public for two or three hundred people! How can the highest thing that has ever manifest in the theological world and in the history of humanity be out there for everybody? Even if you put it out there, most people don’t understand it. This is the case, not just in spiritual science, but even in material science – the common people cannot understand advanced mathematics and quantum theory. We see sometimes that in a documentary they may give a small synopsis and state that, “scientists have discovered wormholes in the universe”. But most people don’t really understand what a ‘wormhole’ is – it isn’t one of those things you find in an apple. If the scientists really try to explain what a ‘wormhole’ is using scientific jargon, then most people can’t understand. They get bored and think, “Hmmm…I think I’ll watch that repeat of ‘I love Lucy’ or something!” Spiritual science is also like that – the highest things are not meant for the masses. If you want to study and understand the foundation of something, you may do that. These things are there, but only for a limited circle and not for public domain.
Govardhana Hill and Rādhā-kuṇḍa are very much in everyone’s mind at this time because these places are host to Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Many of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes take place at Govardhana and Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Rādhā-kuṇḍa is considered to be non-different from Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, and we were discussing recently how Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, our Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja and many other great personalities of the past never took bath there. They only put a few drops of water upon their heads in order to set the example that a bath in Rādhā-kuṇḍa is not a physical bath – it is a spiritual bath and you are supposed to bathe there with your spiritual body. That stage is called siddha-deha. Even those that have reached that stage often do not take bath at Rādhā-kuṇḍa in order to set the example for the common people.
Nowadays the fashion is to buy land in Rādhā-kuṇḍa. One devotee bought land in Rādhā-kuṇḍa thirty years ago and had the keys to a small hut there. Prabhupāda heard about that and was absolutely furious and that devotee never returned to that property for the rest of his life. Many years later, he tried to give the land to Govinda Mahārāja, but Govinda Mahārāja told him, “No, no – we cannot live at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. We can live at Govardhana.” Now we here so many people are buying land and living at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Even one devotee has written a book and is propagating how one must take bath at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. “Oh, Prabhupāda said don’t take bath, but that was long back – you can take a reverential bath.” So we recently took a survey and found out that basically some of the sahajiyās take bath at Rādhā-kuṇḍa, barren village women take bath at Rādhā-kuṇḍa hoping to get Rādhārāṇī’s blessings to give birth to children, and two deviant groups of our own paramparā that take bath. All the other groups don’t take bath at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. When we told them about the devotees who bathe in Rādhā-kuṇḍa and swim in Rādhā-kuṇḍa, they were shocked because the paramparā standard is three drops of water upon your head with great reverence. You are not to touch Rādhā-kuṇḍa with your feet. Your shaggy backside, armpit hairs and grizzly beard do not belong in Rādhā-kuṇḍa!
Śrīla Purī Mahārāja gave a warning many times before he left this world, and I was present two or three times when he said it. He said, “The tendency for deviation wants to creep into the sampradāya. You must preach against those deviations and not allow this. It is our duty to protect the sampradāya and not allow it to be infiltrated by deceptive practices.” Taking bath in Rādhā-kuṇḍa is one of them.
Of course, many of us have made that mistake in the past due to misguidance. In 1976 some devotees dived into Rādhā-kuṇḍa one day and they were doing back-flips off the steps and it was crazy. I was in one corner chanting and one devotee came leaping over me and landed in the water. One devotee almost drowned there and they had to pull him out. It was chaos. The next morning the message came – somebody had told Prabhupāda what had happened and he said, “You have kicked Rādhārāṇī on the head! This is a great offence.” The he clearly said, “I don’t want anyone to bathe in Rādhā-kuṇḍa again.” That went on for about five years then somebody thought, “That’s old school – we can move ahead now because we know you should do it respectfully.” Certainly bathing respectfully is better than skydiving into Rādhā-kuṇḍa. However, the fact is that if you just look into what is the example of our previous ācāryas, you can understand that our sampradāya keeps great respect for those things that are most sacred. Of all the līlā-sthālis, Rādhā-kuṇḍa is given the most reverence. Next is Govardhana.
Govardhana is non-different from Kṛṣṇa, and this is seen in the pastime itself when Kṛṣṇa becomes Govardhana. Thousands of years later when Mādhavendra Purī conducted the Annakūṭa festival – which went on for a year – many things were going on, brāhmaṇas were chanting mantras, kīrtana was happening, but Mādhavendra Purī saw that the Deity of Kṛṣṇa was actually eating. Nobody else could see this. Similarly, it could be seen that when the Vraja-vāsīs made their offerings to Govardhana, Kṛṣṇa was non-different from Govardhana Hill. At the same time, in the greater līlā of Kṛṣṇa, Govardhana Hill is a śānta-rasa bhakta. The trees, the rivers, the hills – all these things are in śānta-rasa. Govardhana Hill is a śānta-rasa bhakta, but Kṛṣṇa becomes Govardhana. Govardhana holds a very unique position and similarly, other personalities hold an equally unique position – the guru being one of them. The guru is a jīva but he is not to be thought of as jīva-tattva. He is to be thought of as guru-tattva, as Kṛṣṇa’s representative. He is simultaneously one and different. Govardhana is both Kṛṣṇa and a devotee of Kṛṣṇa. Rādhā-kuṇḍa is non-different from Rādhārāṇī. But we do not say that Rādhā-kuṇḍa is Rādhārāṇī and a devotee of Rādhārāṇī – you cannot find any prayer that says that Rādhā-kuṇḍa is a devotee. But Govardhana is non-different from Kṛṣṇa and also a devotee. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja has explained that Govardhana is a śānta-rasa bhakta.
This brings us to the worship of Govardhana and the correct way of worshipping Govardhana. That is something that we get form our prayojana-ācārya. Prayojana means ‘perfection,’ and the prayojana-ācārya is he who represents perfection. That is Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī – but he is not the head of the sampradāya. The head of the sampradāya is Rūpa Gosvāmī, and Raghunātha Dāsa has showed what is traceable in Rūpa Gosvāmī’s works. He makes that very, very clear. If you really want to know the value of a good teacher, you should study his students. A teacher may know something, but he may not have the ability to pass it on to others. In teaching, he may have a limitation. He cannot pass that in to others. If he cannot pass that on to others, why would you want him as a teacher? I point this out to the Ṛtviks – they claim that nobody attained any level of purity or perfection; only Prabhupāda had it. He couldn’t give Kṛṣṇa consciousness in its entirety to anybody and all of the five thousand disciples that tried failed. Therefore, it’s quite arrogant to even try – the last five thousand people failed dismally, but you are going to do it? You must think you’re Rambo or Hercules! Five thousand people have tried to take this examination and all failed. Why would you want to go to a school where nobody ever graduated, nobody ever got a job and nobody ever got any respect for going to that school in the first place? If you were smart, you would first examine the school, see what kind of degrees they give and where the graduates go. You wouldn’t want to go to a school that doesn’t even give you a certificate – where you just sit there without learning anything and you never graduate. So the Ṛtviks say nobody succeeded – I ask, “What is success? Success means to become a pure devotee and to develop love of God. If nobody’s done that, then it doesn’t exist. Then there’s a defect in Prabhupāda because that he couldn’t give it to anybody by any means – even by causeless mercy. If you analyze the Ṛtvik philosophy it is a horrific offence against Śrīla Prabhupāda. It’s saying that he was not qualified. He had no causeless mercy and it suggests that he was an inadequate teacher because nobody understood what he was teaching. Then the Ṛtviks turn to the students and say that they are all a bunch of buffoons because they were all miserable failures. Then that reflects back to Prabhupāda and ultimately to Kṛṣṇa because He only sent Prabhupāda miserable buffoons. Somebody once said that to Prabhupāda about Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta. They asked, “Are all your godbrothers rascals?” and Prabhupāda on the spot became so angry that he swung his cane and stopped it right in front of that persons face and said, “My Guru Mahārāja did not initiate rascals! You cannot even think a bad thought about my godbrothers.” If you are saying that the guru’s disciples are all rascals, fools and failures, then also reflects on the position of the guru. There is one letter where Prabhupāda wrote that, “They will judge me by you.”
In the ultimate examination, the teacher is the student. Everyone knows the position of Vyāsadeva as the literary incarnation of Godhead. He has so many disciples and his guru is Nārada Muni – but everybody sits in front of Śukadeva. There, Vyāsa is a student. He has come there to hear. It was Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement. The point is that nobody was complaining, “Why are we hearing from Śukadeva? His guru and his guru’s guru are here today! Why are we listening to a sixteen-year-old? Nārada, a disciple of Brahmā, is here. We have Vyāsa, his disciple. Why are we listening to a kid?” No – because they knew that the real proof of anything that Nārada or Vyāsa had to be present within the disciple. This was the test. The test comes to the disciple to represent the guru. We can’t just say, “Oh, my guru is everything so I can’t do anything!” That is a cop-out! That is not acceptable and it is not a proper glorification of guru.
Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī represents that which is within Rūpa Gosvāmī. Rūpa Gosvāmī is considered to be the abhidheya-ācārya – the middle plane, not the perfect plane. Perfection is in him, but he dedicates himself to the plane of engagement. Abhidheya means practical service engagement. That is so important to us. Sanātana Gosvāmī, who Rūpa considered to be his guru, is the sambandha-ācārya. Sambandha means the ABCs – what is the basic approach. Rūpa Gosvāmī takes it from there to proper engagement and the fruit of the perfection of bhakti is shown in Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī and he takes us to Rādhā-kuṇḍa. His prayers explain the concept of rādhā-dasyam, with such a desperate plea for the mercy of Rādhārāṇī that he says that, “Even Kṛṣṇa is of no use. What is the use of Govardhana? What is the use of Vṛndāvana? What is the use of anything without Your blessing? Without your mercy I am finished! Without You, none of these things are of any use.” That is a very intense desire for the mercy of Rādhārāṇī. This is the standard of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya. We are trying to cultivate such an intense desire by serving those who already have it. Dāsa Gosvāmī brings this out and he is serving who? Rūpa Gosvāmī, who already has it.
It just so happens that Mahāprabhu gave Raghunātha Dāsa a govardhana-śilā and a guñja-mālā. This is in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. There is a funny mistake in that section. The devotees who were doing the verse translations for Prabhupāda, translated guñja-mālā as “small conch shells.” Most devotees don’t know that Prabhupāda didn’t translate the verses – that was done by Nitāi, Jaya Śacī and a few others. There was a marathon and there was no time to do any research by calling somebody in India. There was no internet in those days and you could only mail a letter to ask somebody. I think that mistake is still there. Guñja are red, white and black berries. These berries are deadly poison also. Don’t ever eat one as mahā-prasādam. They attack your respiratory system and it can kill you. In fact, there is an international ban from the early 1900’s on this berry and any jewelry made from it because the Jesuits made rosaries from the bigger berries and sent them to foreign countries. What happens is that if you pierce the bead with a needle and you prick your finger, if the sap enters your blood stream that is enough to kill you. Apparently a few nuns mysteriously died and they finally figured it out. You can find this plant listed amongst poisonous plants in Hawaii and some other places. Goats can eat it and they are unaffected. If you boil it in milk, then apparently you can eat it – but I’ve never tried and I don’t recommend it. But it is very interesting because this berry represents Rādhārāṇī. It is a very subtle thing. And in the eternal līlā of Kṛṣṇa, the gopīs make jewelry from guñja for Kṛṣṇa. It is said in the śāstras that He is decorated with ornaments made from guñja berries.
Mahāprabhu gave Raghunātha Dāsa a śilā from Govardhana, this little necklace and some instructions how to worship Govardhana. So as time went on, Raghunātha Dāsa understood several things from this – one thing he understood was that the guñja-mālā represented Rādhārāṇī. It is not directly Rādhārāṇī. Rādhā-kuṇḍa is directly Rādhārāṇī – it is a mystical pond that is non-different from the most mystical Deity of devotion, Rādhārāṇī. The pond and the Deity of Rādhārāṇī are the same. The guñja-mālā is not Rādhārāṇī. It is a representation of Rādhārāṇī. It is just as the guru represents Kṛṣṇa, but He is not directly Kṛṣṇa.
Raghunātha Dāsa also understood that Govardhana is Kṛṣṇa, so the worship of Govardhana in our paramparā must be performed with this mālā. Then it is the worship of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. If the mālā is not there, then Rādhārāṇī is not there and the worship is not correct according to how it was given by Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
One more thing Raghunātha Dāsa realized was that when Mahāprabhu gave him the śilā He was telling him that his eternal place of residence was at Govardhana and that his service should be performed at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. You should remember these two things – his place of residence was at Govardhana, his place of service was at Rādhā-kuṇḍa and you read various statements of our contemporary ācāryas of the 20th century, this will begin to resonate with what you read. This brings us again to the original point we began with about siddha-praṇālī.
Out in the world, siddha-praṇālī generally means that the guru sits you down and gives you eka-daśa-bhāva. He tells you which village you live in eternity; he tells you what group of servitors you belong to; he tells you your spiritual name in eternity – eleven points of your eternal identity. Then he gives you a letter. So they say that he knows all these things so he’s giving these things to you. In other words, he’s ahead of you. He’s already in eternal līlā so he knows who you are. This suggests that your spiritual identity is eternally fixed, because if you haven’t got there yet, how would the guru know? Now you would think that the guru would only disclose such high things after some time – not after three days! But that is what happens. You can go out there and get yourself this list, a letter (dīkṣā-pātra) and eka-daśa-bhāva in three days. Three days if you have a little cash – otherwise you have to hang around and do some floor cleaning until you tell the guru, “Oh, my visa’s running out. I have to get back to Germany. Could I get that now?” Then you get it and you go. Of course, we don’t get such a thing. When such people ask me, “Did you get siddha-praṇālī?”
I tell them, “Yes. Did you?”
They say, “Oh yeah! So what’s your siddha-praṇālī?”
Then I tell them, “I don’t think you could understand.”
But you will understand if you are a sharp listener. Where is your home? I just told you – in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism, your eternal home is Govardhana, your group leader is Rūpa Gosvāmī, Rūpa-mañjarī. That is the camp you belong to. And there are a few other things of the nature of devotional service that come to you. Then other things will be left to your realization. But they are given. Out of the eleven things in eka-daśa-bhāva, at least four things are already there. Just understand them and cultivate that meditation and the other things may come when you are fully liberated and you are ready to go there and perform your eternal service. But getting it all on one big list on a piece of paper after three days, three weeks, six weeks etc. and then traipsing off somewhere?
One person that we happen to know who went this way was told he was a peacock. Some devotees happened to walk past his room and they heard him imitating the noise of a peacock. They looked inside his room and he was moving around like a peacock, flapping his arms and squawking. Later, another sahajiyā said, “That is ridiculous! There are no peacocks in our sampradāya!” The whole thing was ludicrous. But all those people who we know in current times that went to that side, gave it up, went back to school, became professors, got a reputable job and did something very ordinary in the world.
We could parallel that with an example from the Bible – it is said that God would speak to King Solomon. But somehow Solomon just couldn’t get it together – he kept building pagan temples. How many times does God have to talk to you before you get serious? If God Himself appears with angels in the sky and trumpets and tells you to quit smoking – would you try and sneak out the next morning for a quick smoke? You can’t find the will to stop smoking when God Himself is talking to you? No, when God talks to you, you are done with this world. You are on the fast track to success. It’s the same case with siddha-praṇālī – the guru reveals to you something that is supposed to be an absolute reality and then you just shelve it and go back and get a degree in Sanskrit or Indology? How is that possible? That suggests to me that whatever he gave wasn’t real. It is not a meditation that becomes real. Somebody may argue, “Well, it is. It would have been real if they had stuck with it.” But why isn’t anyone sticking with it? And if you came in contact with such a high person who knows who you are in eternity, how can you just shelve it so easily? One may think that is the potency of māyā. And I agree – the whole thing is māyā! His giving it to you, you meditating upon it, you giving it up – it’s all māyā. I don’t find that recommended by any of our ācāryas. Meditation on Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, particularly through the Holy Name, yes. Jīva Gosvāmī wrote his Mahā-mantrārtha Dīpikā where he describes Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes through the mahā-mantra, Bhaktivinoda has also done this. You don’t even need to go to all the songs where there is a variety of Names – everything is already there in the mahā-mantra. In Bhajana-rahasya, the whole līlā of Kṛṣṇa is packed in the mahā-mantra, and Bhaktivinoda has separated that and told us what is what. But we are not satisfied. We want to know more, but we are not fit for the thing we want to know. The ‘knowing’ propensity itself is a defect. Knowledge is good up to a point. After that, “I want to know, I want to know” is not good. It has to become, “I want to serve, I want to serve, I want to serve.”
Dāsa Gosvāmī realizes this through the correct worship of Govardhana with guñja-mālā. He realizes his eternal place of residence and he is the prayojana-ācārya, therefore it is marked. It is also marked in this world where we live that praudha-māyā covers the eternal dhāma. We don’t see that. We only see what is visible with the eye. It is not Loi Bazaar, it is not the cheap clothes; it is not the rickshaw-wallahs; it is not the shopkeepers with Prabhupāda’s photos hanging in their shops that actually enthuse us spiritually. There is nothing that you can see with the naked eye except the Deity that will do that. It is what is beneath all of this that is seeping up which you cannot see – the eternal Vṛndāvana. That is enthusing you. But Prabhupāda writes that when the liberated souls come to Vṛndāvana they do not feel enthused. They feel separation from the Lord. But we come here from the west and we feel enthused. Prabhupāda says that there is contamination out there, even while preaching. When we come to Vṛndāvana we want to be part of the big kīrtanas, take lots of prasādam, meet our old friends etc. but this is all very secondary in regards to why we are here and what is to be gained here. What is to be gained here is coming from a much deeper platform, and although we cannot see it, that is what is nurturing our soul. It is on the substratum. Prabhupāda wrote about the Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple that he resides here eternally, Rūpa Gosvāmī is here eternally, Jiva Gosvāmī is here eternally – “All the great ācāryas are here eternally and whomever stays here must endeavour to associate with them and learn from them.”
That doesn’t mean that you are going to see Rūpa Gosvāmī walking around here. But Prabhupāda is saying that they are here and you must learn from them here – this is not a visual thing; it is on the mystical side. Many people here will claim, “When I chant, I see Kṛṣṇa and the cows etc” We tell them, “Yes, you keep chanting and that will go away.” If they are seeing Kṛṣṇa, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja says, “That is not the Kṛṣṇa we are looking for. We don’t know which one they saw, but that is not the one we are looking for.” The common villager is having kṛṣṇa-darśana, but that is not the Kṛṣṇa we are looking for. The one we are looking for is much deeper and harder to find. He is much more rare than that. The disciples of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta were not easily carried away by anything and, in one sense, they were not appreciated by everyone.
Many devotees from various missions would come for the darśana, guidance or shelter of Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Mahārāja. Once, one of our godbrothers from a big institution who was a GBC and guru went to see Śrīla Purī Mahārāja who was about one hundred years old at the time. He came and told him that he was having trouble meditating on his gāyatrī and when he chanted he was not able to concentrate. He asked, “Can you give me advice so that I can concentrate properly again?”
Śrīla Purī Mahārāja replied, “Yes, it’s easy. Stop initiating and stop installing temple Deities – this is distracting you.”
Now in that devotee’s world, that was like being told to give up bhakti-yoga. He was very respectful and he left, but he didn’t follow that whatsoever. He didn’t understand that this person was not just playing with his mind; he was not against him. He knew that what he was doing was not good for his own devotion. He was doing all these things in the name of creating neophyte devotees who will remain neophytes forever and it was bringing him down to their level. This is not service to Mahāprabhu, so stop this! Mahāprabhu says, na janam – this means, do not be so eager to make disciples. Don’t run after this! Prabhupāda once wrote that, “Simply increasing the number of neophytes is not service to guru. This is not real guru-pūjā.” He wrote a poem here at Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple and made a scathing comment about just increasing the numbers of neophytes. But someone may say, “He made five thousand disciples!” He wasn’t increasing the numbers of neophytes. We had five classes a day! We went out on hari-nāma eight to twelve hours a day in the street – there was training, training, training, training…you couldn’t even take initiation unless you lived in the temple. Now you can take initiation when you are three years old! You can’t read, you can’t do anything! You have a house with no altar, there’s no class, and you wake up every day at eight O’clock – no problem! You can get initiated. That is increasing the numbers of neophytes and whoever does that, their own bhakti will be disturbed little by little and it may even be inperceivable to them. So this man perceived it and went to Śrīla Purī Mahārāja and told him, “What should I do to become more focused?” And he was told, “Stop initiating and stop installing Deities.” He couldn’t accept that. He didn’t leave the devotional path, but he’s probably not doing as well as he could have been.
The disciples of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta stood like lighthouses for the truth and they did not want to compromise or minimize the truth for the sake of wealth, for the sake of gaining many followers or for the sake of spreading the mission. They wouldn’t do that. They preached a standard and a qualification. At the same time, they were very kind, very generous, very merciful, very gracious but they would not give you anything that would do you ultimate harm. It was much more different than it is today, In the name of being merciful, we may get something that will actually put us in harm’s way because we are not fit to receive such a high thing.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja was a guardian. He considered himself as a guardian at the door. He said. “I have been given the position of a gatekeeper, but I am not giving visa to everyone.” He was scrutinizing. That is our great blessing that he is doing that. He is not allowing us to go forward unless we have the right conception and the right attitude and we have developed the right qualification. That is what happens when we place ourselves under the guidance of a śikṣā-guru. He may stop us right where we are.
More Articles by Swami B.G. Narasingha
'Śrīyā Śuka’ was written by Swami B.G. Narasingha on July 11th 2010. This article answers the question whether Śukadeva Gosvāmī was the parrot of Rādhārāṇī and what his actual position is. After writing this, Narasingha Mahārāja received a number of death threats from certain quarters, inspiring him to write a follow-up article, ‘Heresy, Inquisition, Jihad, Fatwa and the Hare Kṛṣṇas.’
An Open Letter to an ISKCON GBC
'An Open Letter to an ISKCON GBC was written by Swami Narasingha in November 2017, in relation to Māhāraja's article, ‘Gaura-Rādhā-Mādhava and the Temple of Misunderstanding’
Jīvas and the Marginal Plane
“Jīvas and the Marginal Plane” was written in January 2005 by Śrīla B.G. Narasiṅgha Mahārāja, in response to a question concerning the ‘fall’ of the jīva, as explained in the GBC book ‘Our Original Position’ (OOPs). Narasiṅgha Mahārāja gives many quotes from the previous ācāryas to show how the misconception of the jīva’s ‘fall’ is erroneous.