Today is a most auspicious occasion. Mother Arca-vigraha was a very special devotee, and she really gave everything to Srila Prabhupada and Krishna and the devotees. I think of the verse akamah sarva-kamo va, moksa-kama udara-dhih/ tivrena bhakti-yogena, yajeta purusam param, that akamah, whether one has no desires, sarva-kamo, or is full of desires, moksa-kama, or is desirous of liberation, tivrena bhakti-yogena, if one engages in bhakti-yoga to Krishna, tivrena, with great intensity—that is a very important point: with great intensity, and in a sense it doesn’t even matter what your service is, but if you give yourself to it fully, if you put your heart into it fully—then you can approach the Supreme Lord, the supreme destination.
akamah sarva-kamo va
yajeta purusam param
“A person who has broader intelligence, whether he is full of all material desire, is free from material desire, or has a desire for liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead.” (SB 2.3.10)
Mother Arca-vigraha did that, and in a way she was helped in the end by her pain—intense, difficult pain—because it turned out that the only thing that gave her relief was hearing and chanting about Krishna. His Holiness Bhakti Bhrnga Govinda Swami Maharaja recounts an incident when he went in to see Arca in her room and she was literally crying in pain. Arca was a very strong woman, and she never complained, but she was just in so much pain that she couldn’t control herself, and she was weeping, and Govinda Maharaja began to speak krsna-katha, about the pastimes of Krishna to her, and miraculously she stopped feeling the pain. She started to smile and laugh and enjoy the hearing and remembering of Krishna. So, she had discovered a secret: that as long as she was absorbed in Krishna, she could pretty much transcend the pain, but as soon as she was lax in remembering Krishna, the pain came back in full force. So her pain actually helped her.
She was a very caring and compassionate person. She always gave her best to help devotees, and she genuinely liked and appreciated them. Sometimes even devotees who were considered somewhat renegades in ISKCON or somewhat eccentric in ISKCON would come to visit her, and she would always receive them and encourage them. Sometimes other devotees were worried and would mention these devotees’ bad reputations to her, how these devotees were perceived by others, but that didn’t stop her. She just wanted to extend herself to anyone and everyone, and she genuinely appreciated them as very dear friends.
She was a real artist. She found a way to convey deep spiritual truths in a new vocabulary of form and color. She did one series called “The Eye Opener” that illustrated different principles of Krishna consciousness. On occasion she’d put a little reference to a verse from the Bhagavad-gita, but the images themselves said so much. She displayed the first ones on her wall in her home in Johannesburg, and two completely different people became vegetarian just by seeing her depiction of meat-eaters sitting around the table, how they were developing the faces of animals. She conveyed that idea that by eating the flesh of animals, the eaters were becoming like animals and probably preparing their next birth as animals.
The day known as Aksaya-tritiya occurs on the third day (tritiya) of the waxing moon in the month of Vaisakha. Every second of this blessed day is completely auspicious, and so there is no consideration of any one period (muhurta) being better than another. Aksaya means “inexhaustible”; anything a person undertakes on the day of Aksaya-tritiya is bound to succeed, especially the performance of devotional activities, which guarantee inexhaustible benefit.
It is said that Aksaya-tritiya is the day when Treta-yuga began and the river Ganges descended to earth. Also, the festival known as Candana-yatra starts on Aksaya-tritiya.
In the Madhva-sampradaya Aksaya-tritiya is celebrated as the day of the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Parasurama. In the Sri Krishna Mutt monastery a special festival takes place during which the aksaya-patra, the marvelous pot gifted by the sun-god to Draupadi, is worshipped. Srimati Draupadi was given the benediction that her pot would provide unlimited food at each meal, until she herself ate from it. It appears that the pot came under the custody of Sri Madhvacharya, and on Aksaya-tritiya it is worshipped and prasada is lavishly distributed throughout the day.
An interesting incident took place on Aksaya-tritiya in Nandagrama, where Sri Krishna enjoyed His childhood pastimes with Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yasoda. When Nanda Maharaja established his residence in Nandagrama, he excavated a large lake, then known as Nanda Sarovara. Nanda Maharaja, his family members, and all the Vraja-vasis used to bathe in that lake. And it is said that while Nanda Maharaja and his family bathed at one end of the lake, Vrsabhanu Maharaja would occasionally come and bathe with his family at the other end. According to local tradition, Srimati Radharani and Krishna used to swim underwater to the middle of the lake and engage in pastimes.
One day, little Krishna noticed that instead of cooking the usual meal of rice, dal, sabji, and chapatis, Mother Yasoda was making all kinds of fried preparations with dal, noodles, and flour. When Krishna asked her why she was cooking those things, she replied that Nanda Maharaja was going on a pilgrimage the next day and that the fried things she was cooking would last for several days without spoiling.
Krishna then asked where His father was going, and Mother Yasoda replied that he was going to Prayaga. Little Krishna went to Nanda Maharaja and asked him where Prayaga was and why he was going there. Nanda Maharaja explained that Prayaga was the sacred place where the three rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Sarasvati met and flowed together and that to take bath there was most auspicious.
The next morning was Aksaya-tritiya, the perfect day to start on a long journey. As usual, Nanda Maharaja got up early and went to take bath in his lake. When he got there, he saw a man he had never seen before—an imposing, regal person—rolling in the dust and laughing loudly. Every now and then he would get up and dive into Nanda Sarovara, and then again he would come out and roll in the dust and laugh, and again bathe in the lake.
Nanda Maharaja approached the kingly man and asked, “Maharaja, who are you?”
“Baba, I’m Prayaga,” the man replied.
“Prayaga? I don’t know anyone in Nandagrama with that name.”
“No, no. I’m not from here. I’m Prayaga Raja, the king of all the holy places (tirthas)!”
“And why have you come here today, Maharaja?”
“Baba, all year long people come and bathe in my waters and leave their sins there. So, every year, on Aksaya-tritiya, I come here, roll in the dust of Vraja, and bathe in this sarovara, because this dust and this lake have the potency to purify (pavana) one from all sins.”
Nanda Maharaja was amazed. Suddenly he noticed that on the other side of the lake were many beautiful ladies in silk saris embroidered with gold and silver threads. They were also bathing in the lake. Approaching them respectfully, Nanda Maharaja asked who they were.
One lady replied, “Baba, I’m Ganga.” Another said, “I’m Sarasvati.” And yet another said, “I’m Godavari.” They all responded with the names of different holy rivers: Kurujangala, Kaveri, Narmada, Brahmaputra, Mahananda, etc.
Then Nanda Maharaja asked, “And why have you come here today? I’ve never seen you before.” The ladies explained that all year long people put their sins into their waters and that every year on the Aksaya-tritiya day they came to Vraja to roll in its dust, bathe in the sarovara, and become purified (pavana).
After taking his bath, Nanda Maharaja went back up the hill to his residence. By that time, little Krishna was awake. Coming before His father, He asked, “Baba, are you going now?” “No, Lala. I’m not going.” “Why, Baba?” “Because today, all the places where I wanted to go came to take bath in our lake and become purified (pavana). So why should I take the trouble to go to them when they all came here?”
From that day, Nanda Sarovara became known as Pavana Sarovara.
“No one can understand the loving intimacy between Gadadhara Pandita and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Gadadhara Pandita gave up his vow and service to Gopinatha just as one gives up a piece of straw.
Gadadhara Pandita’s behavior was very pleasing to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s heart. Nevertheless, the Lord took his hand and spoke to him, displaying the anger of love.
“You have abandoned Gopinatha’s service and broken your vow to live in Puri. All that is now complete because you have come so far.
“Your wanting to go with Me is simply a desire for sense gratification. In this way, you are breaking two religious principles, and because of this I am very unhappy.
“If you want My happiness, please return to Nilacala. You will simply condemn Me if you say any more about this matter.”
Saying this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu got into a boat, and Gadadhara Pandita immediately fell down unconscious.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu ordered Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya to take Gadadhara Pandita with him. The Bhattacarya told Gadadhara Pandita, “Get up! Such are the pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.” (CC Madhya-lila 16, 137-143)
Gadardhara Pandit’s Appearance Day (Right click to download)
In mid-July I started wearing tilak to my work at the hospice. I thought that since many other spiritual practitioners were expressing their faith by wearing crosses, doves, silk threads, pentacles, and other items, I would wear my tilak, which tells the world that I am a devotee of the Lord. And I have found that simply keeping tilak at work has opened the door for spiritual questions and conversations.
On the morning of Monday, August 6, 2007, after our daily report and medical-staff checks, we began doing our usual tasks of caring for the patients. As ours is only a ten-bed facility, we are able to give loving care to each patient individually. Often, while I care for or bathe patients who are unable to do such tasks for themselves, I chant or sing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. On this particular morning I was caring for a woman named Jane Kohr, who had been with us for almost a week. She was a kind and polite person, and I enjoyed the time I was spending with her. Around 8 a.m. on August 6, I entered her room and found that she was getting closer to leaving her body. She was unresponsive to verbal cues, and her body was limp. I sang the maha-mantra one last time, while she received her final bath. Hospice staff called her family, who were always friendly and appreciative of our care for her. When I was finished, I spoke with some of the family members in the hall. Jane’s grandson approached me to thank me, and then he pointed to his forehead and to my tilak and asked if I was a Hare Krishna. I smiled and said that yes, I was a devotee of Krishna. “Well,” he said, “then maybe you know of my uncle Jayananda.”
“The Jayananda?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. And he told me how his uncle had built the Ratha-yatra carts. He then went in to inform his mother that I was a Hare Krishna.
Gaynelle, Jayananda Prabhu’s sister, came out of the room and said that she was so happy that a Krishna devotee had cared for her mother. The whole family expressed that it meant so much to them. Gaynelle kept saying that she couldn’t believe that I was a Hare Krishna. She said that she told her mother but wasn’t sure that her mom could hear her. I said that I had a feeling she already knew, and I laughed.
Jane, a granddaughter, mentioned that she remembered her uncle making really great Indian food and offering it to God and then the family sitting on the floor and eating it. She remembered his robes and how happy he was. Jane said that he had been pretty depressed before meeting devotees.
I let Jayananda Prabhu’s family know that during the Ratha-yatra festival we hang a nice photo of him next to Srila Prabhupada’s photo. They told me that an old friend of Jayananda’s (who is not a devotee) happened to be in Africa several years ago and saw his first Ratha-yatra festival there, and to his astonishment there was a huge photo of Jayananda Prabhu on the front of the cart. He had called Gaynelle to share the news.
They told me that Jayananda was always very kind, even as a child, and never spoke badly of others. From the many stories they told me, his saintly qualities shined through even in his childhood. Gaynelle told me that her brother once spent hours on a family vacation at the beach picking ticks and fleas off a homeless dog. He couldn’t stand to watch it suffering. Jayananda’s nephew told me about running around the kitchen table as a small child with his uncle, who was laughing and chanting Hare Krishna.
When I went back into Jane’s room, the family was gathered around her bed holding her hand. Her breaths were faint, and she was about to leave her body. I stepped out to give the family some space, and about five minutes later they came to the front desk and asked for me to look at her. When I opened the door, I saw that her body had turned yellow and waxy. It was apparent that the soul had left and that the physical body was all that remained. The nurse reported that she had passed, and the family, though sad, also felt relief.
Gaynelle told me that she had asked her brother for support. Since he couldn’t physically be at their mother’s passing, she had been looking for a sign that he was supporting her. She felt that a devotee’s being present and caring for her mother was not a mere coincidence. It was, I believe, Krishna’s endless mercy!
I thanked the relatives for allowing me to serve their family, offered my pranamas, and said, “Hare Krishna.”
Today is the most auspicious occasion of Sri Gadadhara Pandita’s appearance day. As many of you know, Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself in the role of His own devotee. He is Krishna, but with the complexion and in the mood of Srimati Radharani. There are different purposes for the Lord’s advent. The internal reason for Lord Chaitanya’s appearance is that He wanted to experience the glory of Srimati Radharani’s love for Him, Her relishing of the wonderful qualities in Him that She alone experiences through Her love, and the happiness She feels when She experiences the sweetness of His love for Her—which only She can experience. And the external reason (not that it is any less significant) was to propagate the yuga-dharma, the recommended method for God realization in each particular age (yuga).
To assist the Lord in His pastimes, four principal associates descended with Him—Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Prabhu, Srivasa Thakura, and Gadadhara Pandita. Together with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, they constitute the Pancha-tattva. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 1.14) the author offers his respects to all five together:
“I offer my obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Krsna, who is nondifferent from His features as a devotee, devotional incarnation, devotional manifestation, pure devotee, and devotional energy.”
Krishna appeared in the form of a devotee (bhakta-rupa), as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu; as the expansion of a devotee (sva-rupakam), as Nityananda Prabhu; as an incarnation of a devotee (bhakta-avataram), as Advaita Prabhu; as a devotee (bhakta), as Srivasa Thakura; and as the devotional energy that inspires a devotee (bhakta-saktikam), as Gadadhara Pandita. Together they all came to propagate harinama-sankirtana as the yuga-dharma for the present age.
We are now in Kali-yuga, the worst age. But although Kali-yuga is the worst, it affords us the best opportunity to realize God, through the chanting of the holy names. At the end of Srimad-Bhagavatam Sri Sukadeva Gosvami says, kaler dosa-nidhe rajann: this Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults. An ocean—you cannot measure the length or breadth of an ocean. Asti hy eko mahan gunah: but within Kali-yuga there is one great opportunity. What is that? Kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet: by chanting the holy names of Krishna, one becomes liberated from material association and attains the supreme goal of life.