Srila Vrindavan Dasa Thakura’s Appearance Day

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Jun 032024
 

Today is Srila Vrindavan dasa Thakura’s appearance day. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 11.55) states, “Srila Vyasadeva described the pastimes of Krsna in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Vyasa of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was Vrndavana dasa.” In his purport Srila Prabhupada elaborates: “Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura was an incarnation of Vedavyasa and also a friendly cowherd boy named Kusumapida in krsna-lila. In other words, the author of Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura, the son of Srivasa Thakura’s niece Narayani, was a combined incarnation of Vedavyasa and the cowherd boy Kusumapida.” Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura was the last initiated disciple of Sri Nityananda Prabhu.

In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 8.33–40, 42, 44) Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami glorifies Srila Vrindavan dasa Thakura and his book Sri Caitanya-bhagavata (then called Sri Caitanya-mangala): “O fools, just read Sri Caitanya-mangala! By reading this book you can understand all the glories of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thakura Vrndavana dasa has composed Sri Caitanya-mangala. Hearing this book annihilates all misfortune. By reading Sri Caitanya-mangala one can understand all the glories and truths of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda and come to the ultimate conclusion of devotional service to Lord Krsna. In Sri Caitanya-mangala [later known as Sri Caitanya-bhagavata] Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura has given the conclusion and essence of devotional service by quoting the authoritative statements of Srimad-Bhagavatam. If even a great atheist hears Sri Caitanya-mangala, he immediately becomes a great devotee. The subject matter of this book is so sublime that it appears that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has personally spoken through the writings of Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura. I offer millions of obeisances unto the lotus feet of Vrndavana dasa Thakura. No one else could write such a wonderful book for the deliverance of all fallen souls. What a wonderful description he has given of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya! Anyone in the three worlds who hears it is purified. Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura has written Sri Caitanya-mangala and therein described in all respects the pastimes of Lord Caitanya.”

In his purport to text 45 Srila Prabhupada writes, “Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura’s Sri Caitanya-bhagavata was originally entitled Sri Caitanya-mangala, but when Srila Locana dasa Thakura later wrote another book named Sri Caitanya-mangala, Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura changed the name of his own book, which is now therefore known as Sri Caitanya-bhagavata. The life of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is very elaborately described in the Caitanya-bhagavata, and Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has already informed us that in his Sri Caitanya-caritamrta he has described whatever Vrndavana dasa Thakura has not mentioned. This acceptance of Sri Caitanya-bhagavata by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami indicates his acceptance of the disciplic succession. A writer of transcendental literature never tries to surpass the previous acaryas.”

And he writes in his purport to text 48, “The subject matter of this book is so sublime that it appears that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has personally spoken through the writings of Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura”—Srila Prabhupada explains, “The secret in a devotee’s writing is that when he writes about the pastimes of the Lord, the Lord helps him; he does not write himself. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita (10.10), dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te. Since a devotee writes in service to the Lord, the Lord from within gives him so much intelligence that he sits down near the Lord and goes on writing books. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami confirms that what Vrndavana dasa Thakura wrote was actually spoken by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and that Vrndavana dasa simply repeated it.”

How blessed we are to receive knowledge of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu through our glorious parampara—and to be engaged in their service.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

Sri Ramananda Raya’s Disappearance Day

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May 272024
 

We shall discuss the conversation between Sri Ramananda Raya and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, ramananda-samvada, recorded in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Eight: “Talks Between Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya.”

TEXT 1

sancarya ramabhidha-bhakta-meghe
  sva-bhakti-siddhanta-cayamrtani
gaurabdhir etair amuna vitirnais
  taj-jnatva-ratnalayatam prayati

TRANSLATION

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is known as Gauranga, is the ocean of all conclusive knowledge in devotional service. He empowered Sri Ramananda Raya, who may be likened to a cloud of devotional service. This cloud was filled with the water of all the conclusive purports of devotional service and was empowered by the ocean to spread this water over the sea of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. Thus the ocean of Caitanya Mahaprabhu became filled with the jewels of the knowledge of pure devotional service.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

According to revealed scriptures, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna Himself, the origin of all knowledge—perfect knowledge. Here, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the ocean of knowledge of the conclusive purports of devotional service, is taking the part of a student and asking questions, and He has empowered Sri Ramananda Raya to give perfect answers. Thus, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is compared to an ocean and Ramananda Raya to a cloud that draws water from the ocean and then showers the water upon the ocean as rain.

 TEXT 243

anyonye mili’ dunhe nibhrte vasiya
prasnottara-gosthi kahe anandita hana

TRANSLATION

Thus they met time and time again, sitting in a secluded place and jubilantly discussing devotional service by the question-and-answer process.

TEXT 244

prabhu puche, ramananda karena uttara
ei mata sei ratre katha paraspara

TRANSLATION

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked the questions, and Sri Ramananda Raya gave the answers. In this way they were engaged in discussion throughout the night.

TEXT 245

prabhu kahe,—“kon vidya vidya-madhye sara?”
raya kahe,—“krsna-bhakti vina vidya nahi ara”

TRANSLATION

On one occasion the Lord inquired, “Of all types of education, which is the most important?”
Ramananda Raya replied, “No education is important other than the transcendental devotional service of Krsna.”

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Texts 245 to 257 are all questions and answers between Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya. In these exchanges there is an attempt to show the difference between material and spiritual existence. Education in Krsna consciousness is always transcendental and is the best of all forms of education. Material education aims at increasing the activities of material sense gratification. Beyond material sense gratification is another negative form of knowledge called brahma-vidya, or impersonal transcendental knowledge. But beyond that brahma-vidya, or knowledge of the impersonal Brahman, is knowledge of devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Visnu. This knowledge is higher. And still higher is devotional service to Lord Krsna, which is the topmost form of education. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.29.49), tat karma hari-tosam yat sa vidya tan-matir yaya: “Work meant for pleasing the Supreme Lord is the best, and education that enhances one’s Krsna consciousness is the best.”

Also, according to Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.23–24):

sravanam kirtanam visnoh
  smaranam pada-sevanam
arcanam vandanam dasyam
  sakhyam atma-nivedanam

 iti pumsarpita visnau
  bhaktis cen nava-laksana
kriyeta bhagavaty addha
  tan manye ’dhitam uttamam

This is a statement given by Prahlada Maharaja in answer to a question raised by his father. Prahlada Maharaja said, “To hear or chant about Lord Visnu, to remember Him, to serve His lotus feet, to worship Him, to offer prayers to Him, to become His servant and His friend, to sacrifice everything for His service—all these are varieties of devotional service. One who is engaged in such activities is understood to be educated to the topmost perfection.”

COMMENT

This is the first in the series of questions and answers, and it seems appropriate in this environment of education, but as Srila Prabhupada says at the beginning of the purport, these questions and answers are meant to highlight the difference between the material and the spiritual. Material existence begins from the basic misconception that “I am the body and everything in relation to the body is mine.” More or less everyone is in this bodily concept of life. They identify with the body and are deeply attached to things related to the body. And because they identify with the body, they think the goal of life is to give pleasure to the senses of the body. Whatever they do is more or less for the sake of the body.

Srila Prabhupada gives the example that if you are performing a mathematical calculation and you make a mistake in the first step, then even if you perform all the other steps perfectly, you will likely stray further and further away from the actual answer or solution. If we begin from the mistaken premise that “I am the body,” even if everything else we do is perfect in terms of the body, because we made the most fundamental error in the very first step, we will end up further and further away from the actual goal. Continue reading »

Chandana-yatra and Sri Madhavendra Puri’s Appearance Day

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May 232024
 

Today is a very auspicious day, for many reasons. One reason is that today is Chandana-yatra. It is also Sri Madhavendra Puri’s appearance day. So, I thought to read about Sri Madhavendra Puri’s pure devotional service and how he brought candana for the Deity of Gopala and ultimately offered it to the Deity of Gopinatha, who is not different from Gopala.

jaya jaya sri caitanya jaya nityananda
jaya advaitacandra jaya gaura-bhakta-vrnda

We read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter 4, “Sri Madhavendra Puri’s Devotional Service”:

In his Amrita-pravaha-bhasya, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura gives the following summary of the Fourth Chapter:

One night while in Govardhana, Madhavendra Puri dreamed that the Gopala Deity was within the forest. The next morning, he invited his neighborhood friends to accompany him to excavate the Deity from the jungle. He then established the Deity of Sri Gopalaji on top of Govardhana Hill with great pomp. Gopala was worshiped, and the Annakuta festival was observed. This festival was known everywhere, and many people from the neighboring villages came to join. One night the Gopala Deity again appeared to Madhavendra Puri in a dream and asked him to go to Jagannatha Puri to collect some sandalwood pulp and smear it on the body of the Deity. Having received this order, Madhavendra Puri immediately started for Orissa. Traveling through Bengal, he reached Remuna village and there received a pot of condensed milk (ksira) offered to the Deity of Gopinathaji. This pot of condensed milk was stolen by Gopinatha and delivered to Madhavendra Puri. Since then, the Gopinatha Deity has been known as Ksira-cora-gopinatha, the Deity who stole the pot of condensed milk. After reaching Jagannatha Puri, Madhavendra Puri received permission from the King to take one “mana” of sandalwood and eight ounces of camphor. Aided by two men, he brought these things to Remuna. Again he saw in a dream that Gopala at Govardhana Hill desired that very sandalwood to be turned into pulp mixed with camphor and smeared over the body of Gopinathaji. Understanding that that would satisfy the Gopala Deity at Govardhana, Madhavendra Puri executed the order and returned to Jagannatha Puri.

TEXT 1

yasmai datum corayan ksira-bhandam
  gopinathah ksira-corabhidho ’bhut
sri-gopalah pradurasid vasah san
  yat-premna tam madhavendram nato ’smi

 I offer my respectful obeisances unto Madhavendra Puri, who was given a pot of sweet rice stolen by Sri Gopinatha, celebrated thereafter as ksira-cora. Being pleased by Madhavendra Puri’s love, Sri Gopala, the Deity at Govardhana, appeared to the public vision.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Bhaktivinoda Thakura annotates that this Gopala Deity was originally installed by Vajra, the great-grandson of Krsna. Madhavendra Puri rediscovered Gopala and established Him on top of Govardhana Hill. This Gopala Deity is still situated at Nathadvara and is under the management of descendants of Vallabhacarya. The worship of the Deity is very luxurious, and one who goes there can purchase varieties of prasadam by paying a small price.

TEXT 2

jaya jaya gauracandra jaya nityananda
jayadvaitacandra jaya gaura-bhakta-vrnda

 All glories to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu! All glories to Nityananda Prabhu! All glories to Advaita Prabhu! And all glories to all the devotees of Lord Caitanya!

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

Now we will skip to Remuna, where Madhavendra Puri received the pot of condensed milk stolen by the Deity Gopinatha. Madhavendra Puri was afraid that when news of the event spread, everyone would want to see him and appreciate him. So he thought he should not remain there any longer but should leave immediately for Jagannatha Puri. Continue reading »

Sri Nrsimha-caturdasi

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May 212024
 

We shall read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Five, Chapter Eighteen: “The Residents of Jambudvipa Offer Prayers,” from the series of prayers recited by Prahlada Maharaja to Lord Nrsimhadeva. Text 8 is a very important prayer, or mantra, and in it many words are repeated, which gives them great emphasis.

TEXT 8

om namo bhagavate narasimhaya namas tejas-tejase avir-avirbhava vajra-nakha vajra-damstra karmasayan randhaya randhaya tamo grasa grasa om svaha; abhayam abhayam atmani bhuyistha om ksraum.

TRANSLATION

I offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Nrsimhadeva, the source of all power. O my Lord who possess nails and teeth just like thunderbolts, kindly vanquish our demonlike desires for fruitive activity in this material world. Please appear in our hearts and drive away our ignorance so that by Your mercy we may become fearless in the struggle for existence in this material world.

TEXT 9

svasty astu visvasya khalah prasidatam
   dhyayantu bhutani sivam mitho dhiya
manas ca bhadram bhajatad adhoksaje
   avesyatam no matir apy ahaituki

TRANSLATION

May there be good fortune throughout the universe, and may all envious persons be pacified. May all living entities become calm by practicing bhakti-yoga, for by accepting devotional service they will think of each other’s welfare. Therefore let us all engage in the service of the supreme transcendence, Lord Sri Krsna, and always remain absorbed in thought of Him.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

The following verse describes a Vaisnava:

vancha-kalpa-tarubhyas ca
   krpa-sindhubhya eva ca
patitanam pavanebhyo
   vaisnavebhyo namo namah

Just like a desire tree, a Vaisnava can fulfill all the desires of anyone who takes shelter of his lotus feet. Prahlada Maharaja is a typical Vaisnava. He prays not for himself, but for all living entities—the gentle, the envious, and the mischievous. He always thought of the welfare of mischievous persons like his father, Hiranyakasipu. Prahlada Maharaja did not ask for anything for himself; rather, he prayed for the Lord to excuse his demoniac father. This is the attitude of a Vaisnava, who always thinks of the welfare of the entire universe.

Srimad-Bhagavatam and bhagavata-dharma are meant for persons who are completely free of envy (parama-nirmatsaranam). Therefore Prahlada Maharaja prays in this verse, khalah prasidatam: “May all the envious persons be pacified.” The material world is full of envious persons, but if one frees himself of envy, he becomes liberal in his social dealings and can think of others’ welfare. Anyone who takes up Krsna consciousness and engages himself completely in the service of the Lord cleanses his mind of all envy (manas ca bhadram bhajatad adhoksaje). Therefore we should pray to Lord Nrsimhadeva to sit in our hearts. We should pray, bahir nrsimho hrdaye nrsimhah: “Let Lord Nrsimhadeva sit in the core of my heart, killing all my bad propensities. Let my mind become clean so that I may peacefully worship the Lord and bring peace to the entire world.”

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has given us a very fine purport in this regard. Whenever one offers a prayer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one always requests some benediction from Him. Even pure (niskama) devotees pray for some benediction, as instructed by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His Siksastaka:

ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram
  patitam mam visame bhavambudhau
krpaya tava pada-pankaja-
   sthita-dhuli-sadrsam vicintaya

“O son of Maharaja Nanda [Krsna], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick Me up from the ocean of death and place Me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.” In another prayer Lord Caitanya says, mama janmani janmanisvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi: “Life after life, kindly let Me have unalloyed love and devotion at Your Lordship’s lotus feet.” When Prahlada Maharaja chants om namo bhagavate narasimhaya, he prays for a benediction from the Lord, but because he is also an exalted Vaisnava, he wants nothing for his personal sense gratification. The first desire expressed in his prayer is svasty astu visvasya: “Let there be good fortune throughout the entire universe.” Prahlada Maharaja thus requested the Lord to be merciful to everyone, including his father, a most envious person. According to Canakya Pandita, there are two kinds of envious living entities: one is a snake, and the other is the man like Hiranyakasipu, who is by nature envious of everyone, even of his father or son. Hiranyakasipu was envious of his little son Prahlada, but Prahlada Maharaja asked a benediction for the benefit of his father. Hiranyakasipu was very envious of devotees, but Prahlada wished that his father and other demons like him would give up their envious nature by the grace of the Lord and stop harassing the devotees (khalah prasidatam). The difficulty is that the khala (envious living entity) is rarely pacified. One kind of khala, the snake, can be pacified simply by mantras or by the action of a particular herb (mantrausadhi-vasah sarpah khalakena nivaryate). An envious person, however, cannot be pacified by any means. Therefore Prahlada Maharaja prays that all envious persons may undergo a change of heart and think of the welfare of others.

If the Krsna consciousness movement spreads all over the world, and if by the grace of Krsna everyone accepts it, the thinking of envious people will change. Everyone will think of the welfare of others. Therefore Prahlada Maharaja prays, sivam mitho dhiya. In material activities, everyone is envious of others, but in Krsna consciousness, no one is envious of anyone else; everyone thinks of the welfare of others. Therefore Prahlada Maharaja prays that everyone’s mind may become gentle by being fixed at the lotus feet of Krsna (bhajatad adhoksaje). As indicated elsewhere in Srimad-Bhagavatam (sa vai manah krsna-padaravindayoh) and as advised by Lord Krsna in Bhagavad-gita (18.65), man-mana bhava mad-bhaktah, one should constantly think of the lotus feet of Lord Krsna. Then one’s mind will certainly be cleansed (ceto-darpana-marjanam [Cc Antya 20.12]). Materialists always think of sense gratification, but Prahlada Maharaja prays that the Lord’s mercy will change their minds and they will stop thinking of sense gratification. If they think of Krsna always, everything will be all right. Some people argue that if everyone thought of Krsna in that way, the whole universe would be vacated because everyone would go back home, back to Godhead. However, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says that this is impossible because the living entities are innumerable. If one set of living entities is actually delivered by the Krsna consciousness movement, another set will fill the entire universe.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

vancha-kalpatarubhyas ca
   krpa-sindhubhya eva ca
patitanam pavanebhyo
   vaisnavebhyo namo namah

Srila Prabhupada quoted this verse in the purport because it describes a Vaishnava and because Prahlada Maharaja, who recited the prayers that we are reading and discussing, is an excellent example of a Vaishnava. Continue reading »