Dhanurdhara Swami January 17th, 2001
I write my journal in the evening before bed, but again I am exhausted and can just barely scratch my pad with some notes to be expanded later. Again I reflect on the kirtans here. I start and they are off. Full shelter in the holy name and it goes on for hours. When I think that we too tired to continue we become further absorbed. Saintly Mother Srimati met the group yesterday and then told me that this is this best group I?ve brought yet. My instinctive reply: ?That?s because we are the most the fallen and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is patita-pavana.? The same point rises again like a reoccurring theme. Many of the devotees this year are normally stressed out, so to speak, but their somewhat helpless condition allows them to approach Mahaprabhu and his devotees with need?the best qualification for approaching the mercy of the dhama.
We assemble at the Ganga for today?s parikram at the island of Modadrumadvipa, a forty-five minute boat ride up the Ganges. It?s scenic and we even see an occasional dolphin leap out of the water. We finally disembark by a small forest with many tall trees and climb fifteen feet to shore where we begin kirtan through a small dirt path lined by an occasional forest dwelling, quickly leading to the center of the small village of Mamagachi. This is a very special place containing the residence of Lord Rama (Mamgachi is non different than ayodhya) and many wonderful Vaishnava associates of the Lord such as Malini Devi, Vasudeva Datta, and Saranga Thakur.
Our kirtan quickly passes the center of town and crosses the railroad tracks, and as happens every year, empties a lower secondary school of hundreds of students who run wildly out of their classrooms enchanted by the kirtan of foreign devotees.
Another half kilometer and we are at the Modadruma Gaudiya Math, one of the 64 Gaudiya Maths founded by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. This particular Math was established to mark the birthplace of Vrindaban dasa Thakur, the author of Caitanya Bhagavat. We take darshan of his Deities, Sri Sri Nitai-Gauranga, and the small white murti of Vrindaban dasa Thakur established in his honor. It?s inspiring, especially as Sri Vrindaban Thakur is Sri Veda-Vyasa incarnate in gaura-lila and I consider my main devotional service to study and teach Srimad Bhagavatam.
We continue and in a few minutes reach the Saranga Deva Gausiya Math. Vasudeva Datta?s home was nearby and His deities, Radha Madan Gopal, are worshiped here, as are Radha Gopinatha, the worshipful Lords of param-vaisnava Saranga Murari, the foremost disciple of Saranga Thakur, the seventy-seventh branch of the Lord Caitanya tree of bhakti.
Often our stay in Nabadvipa is too short to visit all of its nine islands. I therefore always make it a point to visit Modadrumadvipa specifically for the sanga of Jagat Bandhu, the 73 year-old lone sevite of the Saranga Deva Gaudiya Matha. He bounds up with enthusiasm as soon as he hears the kirtan of the visiting Vaishnavas and heads immediately to the kitchen to prepare them prasadam. Unfortunately, today we cannot stay for lunch, but still he quickly arranges for us some tasty sweets. Our hearts are captured by his simplicity, friendliness, and boundless energy for vaisnava-seva.
Jagat Bandhu?the friend of the world?is a fitting name for this unpretentious man-of-the-people-type saint, who is anything but ordinary. His guru had instructed him to worship the Deity with love, but more important to serve all Vaishnavas?especially with sumptuous prasadam. Taking the order of his preceptor on his head he has been serving Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha and the Vaishnavas in Mamagachi for over 65 years, since he was eight years old, a time when the area was mostly a wild jungle. If within the whirl of his service you can get him to sit down, he excitedly tells the adventures of his jungle seva to Gopinatha, packed with tales of tigers, wild boars, and pythons. Every year he shares a new adventure.
Last year he told the story of how he fell and seriously hurt his back when climbing up a tree to pick fruit for Gopinatha. The injury was so debilitating that he could hardly walk, but somehow he still managed to continue his Deity seva. Unfortunately, for the first time in over sixty years he was unable to fetch the Deities water from the Ganga?almost two kilometers away. He was astonished the next morning to see some of the local forest monkeys dragging a bucket filled with Ganga water into the ashram.
That same year one of the monkeys stole the Bhagavad-gita right from his hands while he was sitting on veranda in front of Gopinatha during his usual late evening studies. When he returned to trade some bananas for his book, he was astonished to see the monkey sitting in his seat holding the Bhagavad-gita and over fifty monkeys sitting before him apparently attentively listening.
Do I believe him? Yes, When a person has no other ego than ?I am the servant of Gopinatha and the Vaisnavas,? I implicitly trust that person and honor their words although I can?t always confirm exactly how those words are true.
Caitanya-Caritamrita literally means ?the character of the life force in eternality.? That character?s affectionate surrender to the Supreme Lord is expressed through a loving relationship with the Lord and His devotees. We are reading Caitanya-Bhagavata every evening and relishing the descriptions of perfected souls expertly exchanging and nourishing loving relationships between themselves and with the Lord. Such love is real happiness, unending pleasure without misery. It is unlike material pleasure, which can only give temporary satisfactions, and invariably leads to some form of misery that eventually eclipses that pleasure. Living together as Vaishnavas on parikram, centering our lives on the Lord?s glorification, enables us to not only constantly hear about the loving relationships among the associates of Lord Caitanya, but also, live them to some extent. With that we can glimpse, if even only shadow, real happiness based on spiritually centered relationships.
A friend in Vrindadan sent me a copy of an unfinished paper he is writing on ?the philosophy of Caitanya and his followers? for a volume on ?systems of Vedanta? for a project called ?Project of History of Indian Science, Philosophy, and Culture.? It?s a very comprehensive sixty-page summary of Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy. I read his description, of prayojana-tattva this morning, where he describes the characteristics of priti, or love. A few paragraphs were relevant to my thoughts today:
?In the material world, people are also hankering for love. As a result they seek out relationships so that they can exchange love. If their love is unfulfilled with one person, they seek someone else. When they become frustrated with human relations, they try to repose their love in a pet or even inert objects. For the sake of love one can sacrifice everything, including one?s life, which is most dear. Nothing gives more satisfaction and happiness than love. One manifests one?s best character toward the object of his love. There is no cheating or crookedness involved in true love. Even the cruelest person acts favorably towards his beloved.
?Love in the material world, however, is ephemeral and impure. It is tainted with selfish motives and the object of one?s love is not eternal and perfect. Nobody has the perfect qualification to be the object of love, except Bhagavan. Love is a two-way exchange, and such a perfect exchange is not possible between human beings because of their inherent limitations and imperfections. Therefore, people keeping changing the objects of their love in search of the perfect person. In childhood one loves one?s mother, then friends and later a sweetheart, and in this way one goes on changing the objects of love. In one lifetime after another, a person tries to love parents, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, friends, relatives, children, wealth, nation, name and fame, his or her own body and so on but never attains lasting peace. He or she has not attained the real object of love. After which the search will come to an end. That object is Bhagavan. As described earlier, Bhagavan means that person who is the fountainhead of all good qualities in their utmost perfection. He is eternal, all pervading and full of love. He has the unlimited capacity to reciprocate with everyone?s love simultaneously and He has no personal motives to fulfill.?