Is there room for all rasas in the Gaudiya Lineage?

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Whenever somebody (isckon) had a statement to show that Narayana Majaraja (Gurudeva) preached something different from Srila Prabhupada, Gurudeva refuted it. There is even a book which lists the different misconceptions and refutations: Our Gurus: One in siddhanta, one in heart. Very good examples of misconceptions is that one couldn’t speak about the pasttimes of manjaris and whether the jivas fell from vaikuntha or the tatastha region.

The speciality that Gurudeva came to give us was the manjari mood. Nobody had spoken openly about this until Gurudeva received the blessing to do so. It wasn’t forbidden, just hidden.

That Gurudeva had to clear up some misconceptions after Srila Prabhupadas disappearance was to be expected. So isn’t it to be expected that there will be some weeds that needs to be cleared after Gurudevas disappearance as well? The devotees may have matured in their understanding, but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t things to deal with.

The belief that the Gaudiya lineage can only contain those in manjari mood seem to be one of the weeds that have grown. There is two misconceptions that are linked: Caitanya Mahaprabhu only came to give the manjari mood and that one can only be a rupanuga if you follow Rupa Goswamis mood.

yuga-dharma pravartāimu nāma-saṅkīrtana
cāri bhāva-bhakti diyā nācāmu bhuvana

I shall personally inaugurate the religion of the age, nama-sankirtana. I shall distribute the four mellows of devotional service (dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya).

Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 3.19

Caitanya Mahaprabhu had external and internal reasons to manifest himself. One of the internal reasons was to taste the manjari mood (and more specifically Srimati Radhikas moods). So can only those who follow the inner mood of Mahaprabhu be a follower of him?

Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 3.19 refutes this. Mahaprabhu came to distribute the four rasas to everybody, but He Himself relished the madhurya mood. So do you have to only follow Mahaprabhus moods to be a follower of His teachings? Of course not, the verse refutes this.

The same thing with who can be called a rupanuga. You don’t have to follow Rupa Goswamis moods to be a follower of His teachings. His book “Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu” delineates how to go from the lowest stage of bhakti until prema. If you have a mood different from manjari, you can still follow the stages Rupa Goswami has described, and therefore follow his teachings.

It would be strange of our Parampara could only consist of manjaris. That there is a predominance of manjaris in the parampara is without question, but if it only could be manjaris – where would the other rasas go?

The spiritual world supports all the rasas and somehow they even manage to cooperate to serve Krishna. But in this world we have to create a distinct line between the rasas without cooperation? The different rasas have to have different lineages? It doesn’t make sense.

There are four different recognized sampradayas:

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Nowhere is there a lineage below the Brahma sampradaya that says that each rasa has their own lineage. There may be certain villages and biological families that have a predominance of a certain mood, but that doesn’t make them a lineage in their own right. The community and village of Saptagrama were especially blessed by Nityananda Prabhu (from O My Friend).

Even the origin of our sampradaya and creation (Lord Brahma) is in sakhya-rasa.

Narada is a bit of a special case, but he is identified with Madhumangala-sakha. As Narada he is in dasya-rasa, but Krishna also had Narada experience madhurya-rasa as Naradiya Gopi.

Vyasadeva appears in Gaura lila as Vrindavan Das Thakura who also had the cowherd boy Kusumapida inside of him.

Sukadeva who is in dasya mood, but somehow still was given the empowerment to speak Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Let’s entertain the thought that Nityananda manifested himself now – in 2016. The same Nityananda that we perform artik to with Gauranga. Nityananda is steeped in sakhya bhava. Would we say to him: “I’m sorry. You are in sakhya bhava, so you can’t possibly be in our Guru parampara. You have to go to your own lineage.”

Why would we limit Nityananda so? Are we afraid that if our mood is madhurya, that Nityananda can’t give it to us? Do we think that Nityananda can’t arrange the madhurya mood to manifest in us? There is no need to create boundaries for what siddha-dehas can do, they are expert at arranging Krishnas pastimes. They are probably expert at “arranging” us conditioned beings as well.

It becomes doubly laughable, because who is the original spiritual master? Nityananda who is the first direct manifestation of Balarama. To say he isn’t in our Guru parampara because he has sakhya bhava is apasiddhanta.

I would happily receive guidance from a pure devotee in another mood than mine, and I will have no doubts that he will be able to arrange the blossoming of madhurya mood in somebody else. I would even go so far and say that (S)He is in the Gaudiya Lineage. It’s not so far fetched really.

Groups: Yay or nay?

Srila Narayana Maharaja: One thing. I want to request that you should not feel that you are in group of Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja, you are group of Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, your group is Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, or you are group of that Puri Maharaja, or you are group of that, that. Don’t [think this]. You should only think that we are only group in Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s family.

Devotees: Gaura-premanande! Haribol!

Srila Narayana Maharaja: Our hari-katha is only one hari-katha. Water is the same, but bottle may be different, somewhat reddish, sometimes green, no harm. Wine same, but bottle may be different. Name may be some different, but we are all Gaudiya Vaisnavas, Rupanuga Gaudiya Vaisnavas, same thing. But now some are going and derailing. Swamiji Maharaja himself he told me, “Oh, go and preach and help, also help my devotees.” But now they have shut their doors, closed their doors. “Oh, Narayana Maharaja can’t go come.” And that is why they are going, falling down, always falling down, falling down. So you should hear hari-katha. I have only to give without any self-gain, nothing, only to help Swamiji and all the devotees who are now weakened somewhat. You had become weak, [so] I have come. Swamiji and my Gurudeva, Krsna, Mahaprabhu has sent me only to help you. Not that I have come to make disciples, and make so much wealth and money, another group. I’m not going to make another group. We are same group. I have come to assemble them in one group everywhere. “

Gurudevas sanga is splitting into groups, and I have begun to see this as a natural progression. Some seeks the shelter of Bhakti Vijana Bharati Maharaja, some Premananda Prabhu, some with Prema Prajoyana and some with Krishna Priya didi and Madhusudhana Maharaja in Krishna Balarama Mandira.

12304272_1677165415897841_6750689039592000845_oAll are still in the same line. Some may claim that if one doesn’t have the mood of the manjaris, one don’t belong amongst the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. But from my understanding, those in Gaura lila don’t all have the same manjari mood either despite Mahaprabhu came to taste manjari mood. Example; Sri Gadadhara Pandita is in the mood of a servant.

One seeks the group one is attracted to. Bhakti Vijana Bharati Maharaja is from what I hear an encyclopedia of harikatha. Premananda Prabhu is expert at service. I hear that in Prema Prayojanas group they are required to chant 64 rounds. I don’t know about KBM, but so far my impression is that they are able to boldly assert their meanings, however unintentionally. Each group may have some speciality given to them.

Isn’t it natural that once one have found the association that the heart is content with, that one stay under that shelter? Diksa and siksa is so important, and by taking siksa doesn’t one naturally become part of a group no matter how independent ones spirit may be? And siksa can be had several places – simultaneously.

Groups are natural. Animosity between groups is unnecessary, but at the same time you can’t avoid discussions to be raised. Such feelings will be stirred. If we look at the teachers listed in purebhakti.com everybody except Prema Prajoyana is listed.

“The world does not need any more big institutions. Big institutions and their resolutions do not inspire trust. They can’t do very much to solve individual problems or those of this world; the world needs individual performance. Only individual efforts, such as the efforts of Srila Prabhupada, impress the people in this world and will make them change. These difficulties have arisen so that all of you should get your act together and start to make a difference as individuals, in the service of your spiritual master. That’s what is necessary. Then the world will be blessed by Srila Prabhupada’s love.”

How Krishna controls everything, even our mistakes

There’s so much high class association that is becoming available and visible. I see groups as a natural progression. That isckon has managed to remain isckon is in itself a wonderous miracle and they have achieved so much.

People will always mingle towards the pure devotees.

The Truth will always shine brilliantly in the people it inhabits and groups will form around them. We are still one family. As we all have experienced, family isn’t perfect and sometimes the laundry is aired. Still, we are a family.

I agree with Gurudeva that we shouldn’t think we are a group, but a family. But at the same time I think that the group mentality comes with the conditioned territory. By staying within a group, we also get the opportunity to be worked on. That individual performance doesn’t just arise out of nowhere, it has been honed first and we have to choose our “folks” wisely.

The proof is in the doing

Can you prove that God exists? No.
Can you prove that God doesn’t exist? No.

10672179_926057464082714_5150527650646704156_nWhen I asked my Gurudeva to be his diska disciple, I got the question “Do you do 16 rounds?” At that time I had been doing so for a year. Now I don’t, but I strive for it. I keep on falling down, but my impression is that I manage to work myself upward again quicker than before each time. The truth is that when I asked my Gurudeva for diksa, I had only one vow I could give to him – my loyalty. That was my sankalpa.

I would never leave my dedication to him. No matter how fallen I am or would become, I would remain loyal. If I ever disagree with him, I will not leave him. That was the real vow I did. To always have faith in my Gurudeva, even when it gets hard. He is my father and family.

We know that diksa is a life-long process until we have achieved our siddha-deha. I also consider that as I have to prove to my Gurudeva that I am loyal and will work on my spiritual life forever, my Gurudeva has to prove to me that he will uphold his end of the deal. I give loyalty, but I also expect loyalty in return. In truth, I expect so much more from him than I expect from myself because he has to keep on making me move forward.

My Gurudeva left this world in 2010, and he proved in his life that he was utterly dedicated to Krishnas service. Though he’s disappeared I still expect him to uphold his deal, he has to prove this process is true to me.

Each year I see my faith is increasing. I don’t see it in the day to day, but I see it as months and years pass that slowly I’m going deeper, I’m being led along the path as long as I’m not resisting. I see it in my understanding, I see it when I suddenly recognize myself in verses and passages, I see it when I recognize what spiritual level I’m at.

It’s no coincidence that the first item in surrender is “reject what is unfavorable for bhakti”, and the second item is “accept what is favorable for bhakti”. It comes of itself and you notice it when some pulling lessen. You notice how your thoughts goes “it’s not the end of the world if I don’t get this..” and you shrug it off as inconsequential. Things that previously held so much sway. The taste and interest for it has lessened, almost gone. It happened of itself, you didn’t push for it.

The proof is in the process. It’s gradually revealed to you and with it a pearl of experience and wisdom. The process itself is addictive.

You just have to hold on, and Guru will drag you up. The proof is in the doing.

Room for variety and individuality in spiritual life

SrilaPrabhupada2

In Hindu Encounter with Modernity I learned that Sri Bhaktivinode Thakura, our revered Seventh Goswami, ate meat until he was 42. He stopped when he received diksa.To eat meat is reviled in our movement.

In “By His Example” Gurudas tells a story about how Srila Prabhupada during a flight watched a movie by Charlie Chaplin and he laughed so much that tears fell. Srila Prabhupada actually saw a movie – something that isn’t directly or even indirectly connected to service.

One of the criticisms of the biography of Tridandi Swami Bhakti Hriday Bon Maharaj (or the person itself is more correct) is that Hriday Bon Maharaja felt the need to visit the four holy sites in the Garhwal Himalayas of north India to atone for an grave offense in the past. The criticism goes along the path that staying in Vrindavin and chanting the maha-mantra should be enough to counter any previous offence.

I’m not so interested in these actions itself, what interests me is what these actions imply.

  1. That Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur ate meat until 42 really gives me hope and belief that it is possible to achive prema in this lifetime. He had trouble giving up meat because he liked it and still he somehow became THE Bhaktivinode Thakura.
  2. Watching a movie (however innocent Charlie Chaplin is) indicates that it’s possible to be an uttama maha-bhagavata and still there is a lot of room to interact in this material world.
  3. The path of Hriday Bon Maharaja solidifies the second point even more. It’s possible to follow vaidhi-bhakti, chant the maha-mantra and still need to visit different holy sites to atone for sins.

This tells me a story of life paths towards prema that leaves room for mistakes, leaves room for the individual and taking an individual path. We still have to follow vaidhi-bhakti, but even within vaidhi-bhakti people may need to take different positions and roads.

These stories and the story of Ajamila have crystalized a certain faith, a certain knowledge in me. As long as I keep on working on my spiritual life, I will be alright. Even if I fall off for some moments in time, I will still be alright. I’m being taken care of – at least spiritually.

These small bits of stories of our Acharyas doesn’t reveal how they managed to get to prema and I know at least one huge benefit they have above me; They were born in india. But the more I read and learn of the maha-bhagavatas in our line, the more astounded I become.

I love Bhaktivinode Thakura’s rational approach towards the philosphy, his tendency to question everything and not giving in, but keep on working. I find myself curious to learn more about his work and the conflicts he had to mediate. He had to have some serious people skills. I admire his scholarly pursuits when analyzing our philosophy.

In Srila Prabhupada I heard about a person who was a well of humour. Who could see the humour in different situations, who knew and made jokes. How I would have loved to be around that lightness.

In Hriday Bon Maharaja – well, I haven’t gotten far enough in the book to make an opinion yet 🙂

All this tells me what I have already known for a long time, but haven’t voiced. My path is different from yours. It’s okey, even healthy, to question our philosphy. I loved that Bhaktivinode Thakura even questioned whether Srimad-Bhagavatam was spoken from Vasudeva 5000 years ago. Keep the belief in the philosophy, but you can question everything else that relates to the materiel world.

 

Appearance Day of Srila Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Maharaja

Why do I keep on striving in my spiritual life when life is so hard? Today I got the sweet answer in a rememberance story from Kishori Mohan:

Today is the Appearance Day celebration of my spiritual uncle, Srila Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Maharaja, the beloved Godbrother of my Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Goswami Maharaja.

Here are some of my memories:

Once, Sudevi and Anu Radha were in his room and he was affectionately ‘harassing’ them with questions.

He asked them, “Why do you want to love Krsna?”

They answered, “Because He is beautiful!”

He said, “No, that is for You! Why do you want to love Krsna?”

They seemed perplexed and answered, “Because Gurudeva told us to!”

Sudevi saw me listening from outside and said, “Maharaja, my husband is outside. Ask him!”

So I had to enter the room. He was very strong in his classes, so I was a bit timid.

He asked me, “Why do you want to love Krsna?”

I replied, “I don’t know Maharaja. Please tell me!”

He responded, “Because it is your NATURE!”

He was so simple, yet so profound.

I loved his classes. They were a bit heavy, but I needed it. They always grounded me.

I remember in 1996, not many devotees were attending his classes. Srila Gurudeva told us that we should hear from him. He said something like, “He may look frightening, but actually, he’s very soft!”

Srila Gurudeva would always lovingly argue with him. Pujyapad BV Trivikrama Maharaja would say something like, “Candravali is the best devotee of Krsna.” And he would give his reasonings.
This would cause Srila Gurudeva to become very enthusiastic to prove the superiority of Srimati Radhika. I remember once that this conversation continued for quite a long time.
We were out on Parikrama at Rama Ghata, and it still continued.
They walked together to take acamana at Yamuna River and the arguing still continued. Finally, Srila Gurudeva jokingly said to him, “Anyhow, they all came to hear me speak, not you!” They were both laughing. Srila Gurudeva walked ahead and Maharaj was just laughing and shaking his head.

Later on, that same day, at Biharvan (where all the cows are), Maharaja sang Radhe Jaya Jaya Madhava Dayite, his eyes full of tears.

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From sannyasa vesa to babaji vesa

 

sannyasa dressOne person who received sannyasa from my Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, has changed from being a sannyasi to accepting babaji vesa and a new name from Sri Ananta das Babaji of Radha Kunda.

Just to be clear, I have never heard of Sri Ananta das Babaji of Radha Kunda before this situation and I have never read his books. I also don’t know the sannyasi, I have only seen him during festivals.

This is controversial and generates a lot of discussions in the sangha. So whenever I encounter something I know little about, I always try to approach it without judgment and caution.

So the first thing is to figure out what my Gurudeva and the parampara say about this. This fragment of a lecture tells me what the difference between sannyasi and babaji vesa is:

Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: We are not speaking about giving bābājī-vesa. He never gave bābājī-vesa to anyone who was previously given sannyāsa. Our Guru Mahārāja also gave bābājī-vesa, and Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura also gave bābājī-vesa to some, but they never changed anyone from sannyāsa to bābājī.

There is almost no difference between a sannyāsī and bābājī, in the sense that the mantra of both is the same. The main difference is that the bābājī is mostly a bhajanānandī (a renunciant who mostly concentrates on his personal bhajana, spending less time in preaching activities), and the sannyāsī is a goṣṭhyānandī (a preacher who is also engaged in bhajana). Only those who don’t know the principles of either can change their dress. We should not change.

Source: Gaudiya Sannyasis Never Become Babajis

So there really isn’t much difference in terms of meaning except the dress signifying that one focus more on one’s personal bhajana. Of course, I believe there is room for a sannyasi to focus on his personal bhajana as well for longer periods of time if that is needed, but okey.

If there is any philosophical difference between Sri Ananta das Babaji and the Guru parampara, I don’t know.

Today the sannyasi gave a statement:

Sri Sri Guru-Gauranga Jayatah!
Jaya Sri Radhe!Dear Vaishnavas and Vaishnavis, please accept my humble pranams.I am updating my status to share with you my joy of all the great mercy that as been bestowed upon me recently. By the mercy of Srimati Radhika and Her dear maidservants in our glorious Rupanuga Vaisnava lineages I have been blessed in the most unexpected and most glorious way. I am asking for your blessings and prayers as I continue with my spiritual quest to attain the eternal service of Srimati Radhika.
After the departure of our most beloved Gurudeva, Srila BV Narayana Goswami Maharaja, I have been praying for direct guidance in my life of someone who could help me realise what he so expertly instilled a greed in me to realise, the transcendental mood of the maidservants of Srimati Radhika, manjari bhava. Such persons are indeed rare in this world and to meet even one is astonishing. He taught us that if even a drop of greed for these moods comes into our hearts our lives are a success. I cannot say how much greed he gave me but I can say that I want nothing else and have wanted nothing else for many years. So you can imagine my great happiness when I met yet another great Guru and maidservant of Sri Radha who has captured my heart just as Srila Gurudeva, Srila BV Narayana Goswami has done. By the causeless mercy of Radha Kunda Mahant, Sri Ananta das Babaji Maharaja I am proud and overjoyed that such expert guidance is continuing in my life.I realise that this may seem a very radical decision to some of you and that many of you will reject me even after years of close friendship and service to Sri Guru and Gauranga but I pray you will read on a little more and hear my reasons and perhaps you will bless me even if you cannot accept me any longer.
All my life I have pursued Love of God. First as a Christian wanting to love God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength as is the main teaching in that faith. Although I knew very little about God I wanted this above all else. In the mid 80’s I met the Hare Krishnas and was delighted to learn that God is indeed Krishna. Now I was learning so much about Him and His associates. This was and continues to be the greatest revelation of discovering my relationship to Him and His associates. You can well imagine how my Christian colleagues took that “radical” news. I was shunned to say the least. Then after many years of learning more and more about Bhakti I prayed for a Guru like Srila Prabhupada, who in my eyes and heart was like Jesus Christ.Such a great personality finally came into my life in the transcendental personality of Srila BV Narayana Goswami Maharaja, Srila Gurudeva. Instantly he captured my heart and mind and I dedicated myself to his service and pleasure sincerely and fully. Many glorious years of enlightenment followed as he showered me with his mercy. He awakened in me the feeling that I could certainly be a maidservant of Srimati Radhika and encouraged me to fully dedicate myself to this goal. He told me to see that everything I do is connected to that goal. And so, with what I knew and with the boldness that comes with greed for something, I pushed on without compromise. I had been taught that such a Guru needs to be a pure self realised soul, as Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (4:34). After my most beloved Gurudeva disappeared from this world my heart longed to again be under such guidance. Gurudeva is always present in my heart and is guiding me still from within. Every day more and more mercy comes from him showing me the way forward. We need to always be in sadhu sanga, the association of those who have the mood we aspire for and are affectionate to us, thus giving us a taste of the transcendental love of God they have in their heart.
Then two years ago I did something that was officially shunned by the Institution around Srila Gurudeva, I read the books of Sri Ananta das Babaji of Radha Kunda. The wonderful thing is that I found the exact same mood of my dearest Gurudeva in his books and became very happy, as you might imagine. Then last year I had the good fortune to meet him and my heart immediately recognised Sri Guru! There is no doubt in my heart and mind and I feel Srila Gurudeva, BV Narayana Goswami’s blessings strong as ever to take shelter of him for my further realisation. I know many strongly disagree with this conclusion but I know Guru when I see one. I was ostrecised for leaving ISKCON to come to Gurudeva but soon had my faith confirmed with his association. And now the sanga of devotees that followed Srila Gurudeva officially have rejected me and plan to convince all of you to do the same. I am deeply sorry for any pain this is causing or confusion but I can only follow the flow of greed in my heart towards my goal. I am endeavouring to see that everything I do is connected to my goal of realising my identity as a maidservant of Srimati Radhika. How could I ever reject such an opportunity even at the expense of losing so many sweet friends and well wishers?

And so if you unfriend me I understand and only pray that you bless this little jiva will one day find her way back home to Godhead.

All glories to Srimati Radhika!
All glories to Sri Gauranga!
All glories to Sri Nityananda!
All glories to Sri Rupa Goswami!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
All glories to Srila BV Narayana Goswami Maharaja!
All glories to Sri Ananta das Babaji Maharaja!

I have been indeed blessed that they have all blessed me beyond my dreams but in answer to my prayers.

My new name is Madhavananda das and I am wearing Babaji vesha to please Sri Guru.

Your humble,
Madhavananda das

It’s a lovely statement, and usually I would become happy if a person has found genuine sadhu-sanga. People advancing spiritually is a joyous occasion and makes me happy.

Here’s the thing that makes it hard to reconcile:

If there is little difference between babaji vesa and sannyasi vesa, why change dress? Wouldn’t the act of changing dress be a let down of the one giving sannyasa and also the guru-parampara?

Doesn’t the act itself show that one has gone outside the guru-parampara?

 

(And let me just comment on this statement “And now the sanga of devotees that followed Srila Gurudeva officially have rejected me”. I only speak for myself, but to reject a person is an immature action. The mature action is to welcome a person and deal with something from situation to situation. Krishna wants us all, though sometimes we walk off path, sometimes we follow the path but on the grass and rocks beside the path and sometimes we walk in the wrong direction. Though in my experience is that when those “big” words like rejection is used, it generally doesn’t mean rejection, but that one has been disallowed doing something for a while.)

Update 22.01.2014

The sannyasi linked to an article on vnn.org about Srila Bhakti Hriday Bon Maharaj who was a disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja. Hriday Bon Maharaja apparantly gave up sannyasa for babbaji vesa, then took up sannyasa again.

So how to reconcile these things?

Update on 27th january 2014
There’s a sound file where Gurudeva makes some statements about Sri Ananta Das babaji. But I can’t for the life of me understand what he’s saying because of the bad sound quality.

My hidden love

na karma-bandhanam janma,vaisnavanams ca vidyate
visnor anucaratvam hi, moksam ahur manisninah

“A vaisnava does not take birth under the jurisdiction of karmic law. His birth and disappearance is transcendental. The wise have declared that the servants of visnu are eternally engaged in the liberated service of the Lord and hence are free from the laws of material nature.”

tvp-shop-klv-oneOne of the things I really wonder about is how the pure devotees got to the point they are. To attain prema is no easy thing or achieved in one lifetime. I remember sitting in one of Gurudeva’s lecture where he stated “To achieve prema will take many lifetimes. For you – maybe twenty lifetimes”. I thought for myself: that’s a lot of lifetimes.

The trouble is – people like my Gurudeva; I don’t really think he ever was a conditioned being. I think for some reason he chose to display his pasttime here and I happened to stumble across his path. But my path is from the conditioned state, and I have to walk that path to prema.

I would liked to just spend time with a person who has walked the same path and just ask, ask, ask how that person dealt with different situations, the decisions he/she took, what the reasoning behind them was, how it felt. How it feels now. Because I’m envious. I know there are people both younger and older than me that have chosen to live doing service towards a pure devotee. How did they get there?

I know I’m where I’m supposed to be now – I can’t really see I will be able to change it or even if I’m ready. I believe that things happen when you are ready for it, and I’m in the path I’m in for a reason.

That’s why one of my hidden pleasures is reading biographies, and the one biography that have given me the most is a biography of Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja. What a gem of a book! What really makes this book important for me is that it’s written about how Gour Govinda Maharaja changed. It’s apparent that he was born in an conditioned state, and it tells about his transition to prema. How his body changed color, when he came to external consciousness he had to be told: this is your foot, hand etc.

But more important for me is how his life was before he changed. How he led his life. He went through hardships I can’t imagine, and I wonder how Krishna can be so harsh towards his devotee that are so dedicated to him. He just kept on going, tolerating this harsh material life, having material responsibilities that tried to eat him up, but he kept on going. Never wavering.

Now – that I can relate to. That’s what I’m looking for. I want to relate to people that are walking this conditioned life and somehow made it to the end or close to it. I want to hear their experiences and everything.

But of course, Gour Govinda Maharaja was no ordinary being. He was born in a famous Kirtana family, a devotee from birth and he had paramahamsas in his family which chose when to leave their body. I don’t think he was born with any material desires, he just had some small steps left (and I have no idea what those steps was). So this was his last lifetime while I still have at least 20 lifetimes before I might be where he was. So I guess I need to read at least 20 different lifetimes of biographies 😉

So, do you have any book/biography recommendations to me?

Disappearance day of Narayana Maharaja

Today is the disappearance day of my harinama and diksa Gurudeva, Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. In that regards I will publish a story from his life to illustrate his glories. The wonderful story is from Srila Gurudeva – The Supreme Treasure – Volume 2. The second volume of Gurudevas biography, written by his Sripad Bhaktivedanta Madhava Maharaja who was his secretary for thirty years, following and serving him devotedly.

Srila Gurudeva – The Supreme Treasure Volume 2, from page 21:

Sriman Narayana Prabhu worked as a policeman. On one night, Śrīman Nārāyaṇa Prabhu was scheduled to work the late night shift, from 10 pm to 6 am. Earlier that day after his lunch, he was thinking, “My duty’s time has still not come, so I can chant some rounds for some time, and then I can join the office in the evening”.

But he became so absorbed in chanting harināmā that he forgot all about the time and his work duties until the wee hours of the next morning. Seeing that there was only half an hour left before the completion of his shift, he became very anxious and quite worried. He arrived at the station and told his colleague, “Maybe my higher officer marked me red in the attendance book. Oh, and of course he must have been so much angry with me for being late and irregular”.

GurudevaHis fellow officers were surprised. “What are you saying, Mr. Tivariji? You have done so many activities since this evening. Your superior officer has become so much satisfied. Come on my friend, how can you say that you were not here? See here is where you signed in.”

Śrīman Nārāyaṇa Prabhu became astounded and said, “What! I have come here and joined the office today and was so busy in my work that my officer became happy!”

His friends looked at him and said, “Yes, therefore in the registration book, your officer has promoted you to a higher rank”.

Śrīman Nārāyaṇa Prabhu couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He checked the attendance book and saw that indeed his superior officer had written next his name “highly recommended for promotion”. He understood what had happened. The Lord Himself came, assumed his form and performed his duties so expertly that his superior was extremely pleased. Śrīman Nārāyaṇa realized how Kṛṣṇa was so merciful to him. He thought of the mercy that Kṛṣṇa bestowed on Pūtanā, giving her the position of a nurse in Goloka Vṛndāvana and he started crying. He remembered this verse:

aho bakī yaṁ stana-kāla-kūṭaṁ jighāṁsayāpāyayad apy asādhvī lebhe gatiṁ dhātry-ucitāṁ tato ‘nyaṁ kaṁ vā dayāluṁ śaraṇaṁ vrajema

Śrīmad-bhāgavatam 3.2.23

Alas, how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than He who granted the position of mother to a she-demon [Pūtanā] although she was unfaithful and she prepared deadly poison to be sucked from her breast?

Śrīman Nārāyaṇa solemnly vowed in his mind, “Why waste my life? I will give up this job and will only do bhajana of the Lord.”

When Śrīman Nārāyaṇa revealed his mind to Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu, the latter said, “Tivārījī, it is true, there are so many examples in the scripture of Bhagavān Himself coming to serve His devotee.”

“Oh, Prabhu, can you please give me an example?”

Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu, enthused by the young man’s eagerness to hear the pastimes of Bhagavān and His devotees, quoted the verse 9.22 from Bhagavad-gītā:

ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāh paryupāsate teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy āham

“However, for those who are always absorbed in thoughts of Me, and who worship Me with one-pointed devotion by every means, I Myself carry the necessities they lack and preserve what they have.”

“In connection with this verse,” said Śrīpāda Narottamānanda,“There is a true story of Śrī Bhagavān personally coming to serve His pure devotee, Ārjuna Miśra.

The Story of Ārjuna Miśra

Once there was a pure devotee named Ārjuna Miśra, who was a very poor brāhmaṇa. Every morning he would perform his bhajana, spend two hours writing a commentary on Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, and then go out to beg alms.

Ārjuna Miśra’s wife would prepare the food collected by her husband, offer it with love to their deity of Bhagavān, Śrī Gopīnātha, give the mahāprasāda to her husband with great attention, and later partake whatever prasād was left with great satisfaction. This was their constant mood, and they were fully satisfied in the consideration that their poverty was a gift from Śrī Bhagavān. So their time passed blissfully.

Nearly all their clothes were torn, and between them they posessed only one cloth – a dhotī – that was suitable to wear outside the house. When her husband was out begging alms, his wife wore a piece of ragged, torn cloth. When he was at home and she needed to go out, she wore the dhotī.

One day, after his morning bhajana, Ārjuna Miśra sat down to write a commentary on the Bhagavad-gītā verse 9.22:

ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāh paryupāsate teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy āham

“However, for those who are always absorbed in thoughts of Me, and who worship Me with one-pointed devotion by every means, I Myself carry the necessities they lack and preserve what they have.”

Pondering this, Ārjuna Miśra’s mind became perplexed with a grave doubt that he was unable to resolve. He thought, “Will that Person, Svayaṁ-Bhagavān, who is the only master of the whole universe, Himself carry the necessities they lack of those who are engaged in His single- pointed bhajana, and preserve what they have? No, this can’t be true, because why is my situation as it is? I am completely dependent on Him, and with exclusive devotion, have offered everything to His lotus feet. So why do I have to undergo this misery of poverty? The words in this verse, ‘I Myself carry the necessities of those engaged in My bhajana’ , could not have been spoken by Bhagavān; someone must have changed it.”

Ārjuna Miśra tried to resolve this dilemma on the strength of his own intelligence but became increasingly doubtful and perplexed. Finally, he put three slash marks on this line with his red pen, and went out to beg alms.

Now, the most compassionate Bhagavān, who protects the surrendered souls, saw the doubt appear in the mind of His devotee. Taking the form of an extremely beautiful, tender, dark-complexioned boy, He filled two baskets with ample rice, dāl, vegetables, ghee and many other goods, and tying the baskets to the ends of a bamboo rod, He personally carried them on His shoulder to the house of Ārjuna Miśra.

Finding the door locked, He knocked several times, calling loudly, “Oh Mother, Oh Mother!’”

The brāhmaṇī heard the calling, but being home alone and wearing only her torn cloth, she felt she could not answer the door. The knocking and calling continued, and finally finding no alternative, with head lowered shyly, she opened the door. Carrying the weight of the full baskets on the bamboo, the boy entered the courtyard, placed His load on the floor and stood to one side. Śrī Bhagavān in the guise of a boy, said, “Mother, Paṇḍitjī (the brāhmaṇa, Ārjuna Miśra) has sent these supplies. Please take them inside.”

The brāhmaṇī’s face was lowered, but hearing the sweet words of the boy, she looked up and saw the two big baskets, filled with more vegetables and food grains than she had ever seen in her life, right there in the courtyard. Being repeatedly requested by the boy to take them, she finally carried them in a daze to the inner chamber of the house. Constantly gazing upon His beautiful face, she became completely happy.

Oh, how beautiful His face is! How can a person of such dark colour have such exquisite beauty? She had never even imagined such beauty. Awestruck, she stood transfixed. Then she noticed that on the boy’s chest were three bleeding slash marks. It looked as if someone had cut his chest with a sharp weapon. Her heart became deeply disturbed and she cried out, “Oh son! Which cruel person has made these cuts on Your chest? Alas! Alas! Even a stone heart would melt at the thought of hurting such a soft, tender body!”

Śrī Kṛṣṇa, in the guise of the boy, said, “Mother, while bringing you these foodstuffs, I was delayed, so your husband punished Me in this way.” With her eyes filling with tears, the brāhmaṇī cried, “What! He made these cuts on your chest? When he comes home I’ll ask him how he could have done such a brutal thing! My son, don’t feel distressed. Stay here for some time, and I will prepare some of this food and You can accept the prasāda of Ṭhākurjī.”

Seating the boy in the courtyard, the brāhmaṇī went to the kitchen and started to prepare an offering. Kṛṣṇa then thought, the purpose for which I carried these food-stuffs has been completed. When the brāhmaṇa comes home, he will discover the authenticity of My words, and will never doubt them again. Thus having made arrangements to dispel the doubts of His devotee, Kṛṣṇa disappeared.

That day, despite great effort, the brāhmaṇa was unable to collect any alms. Losing all hope, he returned home, considering the situation to be the will of Ṭhākurjī, his deity. His wife opened the back door when he knocked, and since he knew there had been no supplies in the house, he was surprised to see her cooking, and inquired, “What are you cooking? How is it that you have some supplies?”

Now she was surprised, and said, “Well, you sent a six-month supply of food with that little boy. Why do you ask? And I never knew your heart was so hard like stone. How could you slash the tender body of that boy three times on His chest? Have you no mercy?”

The brāhmaṇa was astonished.

“What are you talking about? I didn’t send anything home… nor did I hurt any boy. Please explain!”

The brāhmaṇī showed her husband the huge pile of supplies brought by the boy. Then she took him to the courtyard to show him the boy and His cuts… but the boy was not there. She searched the whole house for Him. Where had He gone? The courtyard gate was closed, as it had been before the boy came. The couple looked at each other in surprise. The whole situation began to dawn on Ārjuna Miśra, and tears began to flow continuously from his eyes.

After washing his hands and feet he entered the deity room and opened his Bhagavad-gītā. The three red pen slashes he had made that morning on the line: “I Myself carry the necessities of those engaged in My bhajana”, were now gone. His doubt was completely dispelled, and overwhelmed with happiness, he came out of the deity room crying.

“My dear, you are so fortunate! Today you directly saw Śrī Gopīnātha! And He personally brought all these foodstuffs! How could I have possibly sent so much stock, just by begging?”

Then he explained to his wife, “This morning, while writing my Bhagavad-gītā commentary, I doubted one statement of Śrī Bhagavān, and slashed some words with three lines of red ink. That’s why the tender chest of the sweet young boy you saw, our Ṭhākurjī, Gopīnātha, was marked with three cuts. He is supremely compassionate, and went to considerable trouble to prove the authenticity of His statements, and to remove the doubts of an atheist like me.”

His throat choked up and he was unable to speak further. Overwhelmed with love, he cried out, “Oh Gopīnātha! Oh Gopīnātha!” and then fainted. Standing in front of their deity Śrī Gopīnātha, the brāhmaṇī was struck dumb, and her eyes filled with tears. Returning to external consciousness a while later, Ārjuna Miśra took his bath, did his daily duties, offered to Śrī Gopīnātha the meal that his wife had prepared, and with great love they both accepted His remnants. He continued writing the commentary on Gītā every day, immersed in love of God.