Once, Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “I live eternally at Rādhā-Dāmodara.” Śrīla Prabhupāda’s place of residence at Rādhā-Dāmodara is very, very significant in a number of ways. Firstly, it is the place where we find the samādhi of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī is the head of our sampradāya. Just behind his samādhi, we find Śrīla Prabhupāda’s place of bhajana. He used to look out of his little window while writing his purports to the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and he told us, “By seeing the samādhi of Rūpa Gosvāmī, I got inspiration to go to the west.”*
* “From ‘56 to ‘65 I was in Vṛndāvana. I would sit at Rādhā-Dāmodara and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa and see the samādhi of Rūpa Gosvāmī. And I would type and cook a little. These samādhis are the best in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. They gave me inspiration to go to the West. I have a hundred places to go now, but I still like it here.” (Prabhupāda to Hayagrīva Dāsa, from the article, With Śrīla Prabhupāda in Vṛndāvana, published in Back To Godhead, Issue 53, 1973)
It is also quite significant that the Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple is also the place of Jīva Gosvāmī, who is the Gauḍīya tattvācārya. All the writings and teachings of Rūpa and Sanātana were supported by Jīva Gosvāmī. He took on all opposition and defended the conceptions of Rūpa-Sanātana which are non-different from the conceptions of Mahāprabhu. In Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Bhāgavatam purports and other writings, he also took on so much opposition – Māyāvādīs, Śūnyavādīs, materialists and so many brands of atheism doubting the existence of God. In the place of Jīva Gosvāmī, Prabhupāda took up that service.
It is generally known that Mother Yaśodā bound Kṛṣṇa’s waist with ropes and for this reason He is known as Dāmodara. But at Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple, another binding took place. Kṛṣṇa was captured, defeated and tied up – but it wasn’t Mother Yaśodā that tied Him up and He wasn’t tied with ropes. It was the love of Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī that bound Him. Śrī Līlā-śuka Bilvamaṅgala Ṭhākura writes about this pastime.
līlā-śukena racitaṁ tava kṛṣṇa-deva
karṇāmṛtaṁ vahatu kalpa-śatāntare’pi
“May this Karṇāmṛtam, composed by Līlā-śuka who has manifest the glories of the constant fame of Kṛṣṇa who is bound by Rādhā’s girdle, and decorated by the lotus feet of Śrī Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, flow for a hundred kalpas.” (Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta 110)
Śrīla Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī further explains in his commentary to Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta, that the name Nīvī-dāmodara refers to Kṛṣṇa who was bound by the girdle of Rādhārāṇī. He then cites a verse from the Bhaviṣyottara Purāṇa:
saṅketāvasare cyute praṇayataḥ saṁrabdhayā rādhayā
prārabhya bhrū-kuṭiṁ hiraṇya-raśanā-dāmnā nibaddhodaram
cāṭūni prathayantam ātma-pulakaṁ dhyāyema dāmodaram
“When Kṛṣṇa neglected Their appointment, Rādhā became angry and seizing Him, She bound Him around the waist with golden ropes. He then explained that He could not come because He had to attend the Kārttika festival organised by His mother. Let us meditate upon Dāmodara, who speaks eloquent words as His hairs stand on end.”
Kavirāja Gosvāmī explains that the word nīvī also means ‘treasure’ which refers to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s love for Kṛṣṇa. Thus, it is said that Lord Dāmodara was bound by the prema of Rādhārāṇī.
In the area known as Sevā-kuñja, Rādhārāṇī defeated Kṛṣṇa, and that is where Kṛṣṇa worshipped the lotus feet of Rādhārāṇī. That is where He showed that rādhā-dāsyam, service of Rādhārāṇī, is the highest achievement. Śrīla Prabhupāda used to say that Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple is the most sacred place in Vṛndāvana.* When the ācārya speaks, the deepest thing may not be revealed directly, because the indirect revelation is considered to be higher than the direct revelation. We may talk about so many high things from time to time, not every day – the service of Rādhārāṇī, the position of Rūpa Gosvāmī, Rūpa-mañjarī etc. and such talks may be heard by so many people. But what will they make of that? What will come of that? That is called the subjective plane and there it is a more substantial thing. Many have heard the message. Even the sahajiyās have heard the message about Rādhārāṇī, Kṛṣṇa etc. but they have never actually entered into that plane. They simply make a business out of it. The guru does not always directly reveal the truth, but through his advancement and through revelation in the heart, these things can be realised by the disciple.
* “… it all began here. Therefore, these Rādhā-Dāmodara rooms are the hub of the wheel of the spiritual universe.” (Prabhupāda to Hayagrīva Dāsa, recounted in his book, Vrindaban Days, Chapter 5)
So, when Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke about Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple, he didn’t mention this intimate pastime of Kṛṣṇa being defeated by Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa worshipping Her. He simply said, “It is the place of Rūpa Gosvāmī and Jīva Gosvāmī” and made his disciples understand, that it is a very sacred place. He did not go into any detail about that. What are we to understand from this? We should understand that these things are not simply meant for the ear. These are heart realisations, and one should try to become qualified for them. We have only heard a little, but that gives us some idea. For example, people in India may only hear a little about America, but they hear enough to awaken the desire to want to go there. It is not possible for them to fully understand what is in America. No matter how hard we would try to explain to them what is in America, they will have to see for themselves. If that is true about America, then what to speak of the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa? Even Śrīmad Bhāgavatam only points in the direction, “Go this way! Go in the direction of kṛṣṇa-līlā.” In Śrīmad Bhāgavatam a summary of kṛṣṇa-līlā is given. As lengthy as the Tenth Canto is, it is nonetheless, a summary – but it is such an important summary! It is so potent that it will awaken within us a desire to know, “Who is this Kṛṣṇa? Who is this cowherd boy who roams the fields of Vṛndāvana with cows and plays on Govardhana Hill?” By hearing about the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, this desire may awaken within us. This is our highest fortune in life. It is for this reason that Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself came. It is for this reason that His devotees came, and it is for this reason also that Śrīla Prabhupāda came to the western world.
Some devotees think that Śrīla Prabhupāda became great when he arrived in America. What does that mean? It means that we contributed to his greatness. Because of us, he’s great! Some people say that a ‘golden age’ of Kali-yuga began when the Jaladūta docked in America. This is just an expanded version of the phrase, āmāra guru jagat-guru (‘my guru is the universal guru). It may be that your guru is the jagat-guru, but the emphasis is on āmāra (my) and not on guru. This mentality is found in neophytes. Their guru may be very high and the disciple may become very fanatical about that, but that fanaticism is mixed with their own false ego. This should be avoided.
Once, Śrīla Prabhupāda told one of his lady disciples a story. While writing the Gītā-Govinda, Jayadeva Gosvāmī became very disturbed when he found that he wanted to write a śloka wherein Kṛṣṇa begged for the mercy of Rādhārāṇī. He thought, “How has this impure thought entered my mind? Kṛṣṇa is begging for the mercy of Rādhārāṇī?” He abandoned his pen and told his wife, “I’m going to bathe in the Ganges to purify myself.” Soon after, he returned and sat down while his wife served him his meal, and after finishing, he went to his room. Then his wife sat down to take her meal, but while she was eating, again Jayadeva entered the house, freshly bathed. Seeing his wife eating, he chastised her saying, “What are you doing? You are eating your meal before your husband?” She said, “You already ate your meal then you went to your room!” Jayadeva became even angrier, “Are you completely mad? I just came back from taking my bath.” Again, his wife told him, “You came here, you ate, then went to your room!” Jayadeva then went to his room and looked at his manuscript. There was the verse that he had hesitated to write:
smara-garala-khaṇḍanaṁ, mama śirasi maṇḍanaṁ
dehi pada-pallavam udāram
“Mercifully bestow upon My head the soft petals of your lotus feet, which dispel the poison of love in separation.” (Gītā-Govinda 10.8)
Many revelations must have come to him at that time, and one of them was, “Oh, how fortunate my wife is!” He returned and gave obeisance to his wife.
What Kṛṣṇa wanted to say, He revealed in Jayadeva’s heart. Yet he originally thought, “How can I write this? It is not proper” and he abandoned his pen. But Kṛṣṇa desired that, “It must be written!” and He came and wrote it Himself and then vanished. When Śrīla Prabhupāda told this story to his disciple, she said that Śrīla Prabhupāda became very pensive and his mood was very intense, but again, he just focused on this point – what Kṛṣṇa wants to give, He will give through His devotee.
Many times the ācārya will point exactly to a topic, but for his own internal reason, he may not say what it is. Later, his servant may further explain that topic. This is the paramparā. Jīva Gosvāmī wanted to say that parakīya-rasa was the most super-excellent aspect of mādhurya-rasa, but he was opposed, not by Sahajiyās or Māyāvādīs, but by the moralists – cultured people who felt that svakīya was the only recognisable plane of mādhurya. Śrī Jīva wanted to explain that parakīya-bhāva has no contact with this mundane conception, but the moralists could not understand because their purity was contaminated with mundanity. Later, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura came in our line and pointed out the hidden meaning within the writings of Jīva Gosvāmī. It was couched, but he revealed, “Here is parakīya-bhāva!” *
* Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura explains the true position of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī in his Ānanda-candrikā commentary to Ujjvala-nīlamaṇī.
This doesn’t occur only once – it happens many, many times. The true potency to understand the teachings of the guru, the potency to know his heart and the potency to understand Mahāprabhu is not simply based on external knowledge that enters the ear. It is an internal arrangement that is made. We call it the ‘subjective plane of reality’, and when that comes to us, then we will understand these things. But we may have many different conceptions if the words go no further than our ears. So how can we attain the right conception? We must serve the conception. You should serve that which you recognise to be the highest. Once, a god-brother told me, “Yes, I also take from the conception of Śrīdhara Mahārāja!” I replied, “That is your mistake! Don’t take anything! Put your head there! Sacrifice, surrender and serve this conception – then you will understand the conception of Rūpa Gosvāmī. But you cannot take it for your pratiṣṭhā.”
The higher devotees may say some very intimate things about Kṛṣṇa, but there is a danger for the lower devotees. We may repeat those very same words, but we have to be careful because we may be influenced by pratiṣṭhā. These things will enthuse and charm us, but when we tell these things to others, we have to be careful that we are not making a business of this high conception. We should not show off – “See what I know? I know so much!” We may be well intended, but because we are neophytes, we may fall under that sway. Therefore, we should leave such work to the higher devotees. ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja said, “The prospect is so great, why risk it?” If it takes a hundred thousand lifetimes to enter into eternity – that is nothing! That is a small price to pay – the goal is so great. Why risk being barred from there? Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja explained that the Lord’s most intimate eternal associates guard the higher world. If they trace in us any misgiving, selfishness or pratiṣṭhā, they will not allow us to go there. We cannot force our way in. We have to serve our guru-paramparā very sincerely. This is so simple that even a child can understand it. It’s very simple, but it is also very profound. A child may come and clean the guru’s room, that is very good, but can that child understand the guru’s conception? When we can serve the heart-conception of our guru, then we have actually achieved guru-sevā. This is where many devotees have fallen short of the goal in bhakti. They have served with body and mind, but not with their soul –the soul means with the heart. They swept floors, they collected money and they even sold books. Many people did that, but they never properly grasped the conception inside those books.
Here, in this world, we succeed by being forceful, but in that world, we must enter head first and head down. Everyone in that world is our superior. We are superior to none – inferior to all. This is actually the feeling of an uttama-adhikārī. When we actually have that humble mood of service, Kṛṣṇa and His devotees will bring us inside. But if that mood is lacking, even if we have wealth, followers etc. these things will not help us. Those things will not bring us one inch closer to the ultimate goal of life.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja said, “The things of the lower world can never give fulfillment” This is such a simple, but beautiful statement. This expression is right under our nose throughout our whole life, but who has figured it out? The soul is a higher thing, higher than matter. We must realise that matter can never fulfil our inner desires. We can never be satisfied by the lower – only by the higher. We have to be attentive to this. How can we be attentive in the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness? How can we achieve the ultimate goal of existence? Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja said, “You have come to Swami Mahārāja’s movement for that purpose – now don’t be a self-deceiver, don’t cheat yourself.” After starting on the path to attain the highest goal, will you settle for ‘position’? Will you settle for the position of a GBC? Will you settle for the position of a temple president? Will you settle for the position of a guru? Whatever it may be – don’t settle for any of those things! You came for the ultimate goal of life, now pursue the ultimate goal of life! How will you do that? Mahāprabhu says sādhu-saṅga – keep association with devotees. ‘Devotee’ doesn’t mean those who don’t know where they’re going, who are not fixed on the goal of life and are simply enthralled by māyā. Sādhu-saṅga means associating with devotees who are liberated from māyā.
In Caitanya-caritāmṛta the association of sādhus is pronouncedly given in Mahāprabhu’s teachings to Sanātana Gosvāmī. Of course, some devotees will say, “We have already come to a sādhu – we have Prabhupāda. We are loyal to Prabhupāda!” But even after coming in touch with a sādhu, you have to keep that connection with him. Even if you’ve awakened love of God, you are not independent of the sādhu.
kṛṣṇa-bhakti-janma-mūla haya sādhu-saṅga
kṛṣṇa-prema janme teṅho punaḥ mukhya aṅga
“The root cause of devotion to Kṛṣṇa is the association of sādhus. Even when love for Kṛṣṇa arises, association of sādhus remains the most essential principle of devotion.” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 22.83)
How else are we to relish love of Kṛṣṇa but in the association of His devotees? There is no other alternative. Once we become a lover of Kṛṣṇa, we won’t want to associate with anyone to except His devotees!
This world is a treacherous place – guard your soul! Don’t allow it to be consumed by matter. Guard your soul! We all came to Prabhupāda’s movement for that purpose. Don’t be a self-deceiver! Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has said:
Maintain thy post in spirit world
As firmly as you can,
Let never matter push thee down
O stand heroic man.
O Sāragrāhī Vaiṣṇava soul,
Thou art an angel fair,
Lead, lead me on to Vṛndāvana
And spirit’s power declare.
There rest my soul from matter free
Upon my Lover’s arms
Eternal peace and spirits love
Are all my chanting charms.*
* This English poem was composed by Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda at Purī while performing bhajana in 1871, in contemplation of the samādhi of Nāmācārya Śrī Haridāsa Ṭhākura.
Don’t allow yourself to sink into this material world. You have the human form of life, you have come in touch with Śrīla Prabhupāda and the sādhus; you have come in touch with the words of the holy scriptures; you have come in touch with the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa – we must protect all these things as our wealth!
(From a class given in New York on July 7th, 1998)