The following discourse was delivered by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja in Badger, California on June 14, 2005
This is my tenth visit to Badger. Each year I travel around the world and remind everyone about kṛṣṇa-bhajana. I encourage the devotees not to be weak. I tell them to be strong in bhakti.
I have taught you the purport of Śrī Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta regarding the jñānī-bhakta, śuddha-bhakta, premī-bhakta, premapara-bhakta, premātura-bhakta (various stages of devotion and devotees) and above that – Vraja. I have told you about Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s associates in Vraja – in dāsya-rasa, sakhya-rasa, above that vātsalya-rasa, above that mādhurya-rasa, and within that something more.
I have also explained Rāya Rāmānanda Saṁvāda, which will very soon come to you in the form of a book. I have explained rūpa-śikṣā, sanātana-śikṣā and so many other topics. Although I have only touched on all these transcendental topics, I have explained almost everything to you.
Kṛṣṇa-tattva (the established philosophical truths regarding Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa) is like an endless ocean. I have touched that ocean, and I want to give you at least a particle of it so that your life will be happy.
This year I thought I should give you the teachings of the book, Śrī Bhāgavatārka-marīci-mālā. This book is the essence of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, as it is written by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. No one had given this before him.
The knowledge that takes us to Kṛṣṇa is called Upaniṣad. There are so many Upaniṣads, more than 1008, and the essence of them was collected by Śrīla Vyāsadeva and is called Brahma-sūtra. Brahma-sūtra cannot be understood by ordinary persons, and therefore Vyāsadeva also made a commentary on it – called Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is thus the essence of the Upaniṣads, Brahma-sūtra and all other scriptures.
In Garuḍa Purāṇa it has been written:
artho ’yaṁ brahma-sūtrāṇāṁ
“The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the authorized explanation of Brahma-sūtra, and it is a further explanation of Mahābhārata. It is the expansion of the gāyatrī-mantra and the essence of all Vedic knowledge. This Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, containing eighteen thousand verses, is known as the explanation of all Vedic literature.”
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is supreme among all the literature written by Śrīla Vyāsadeva. Many ṛṣīs (sages) and maharṣis (saintly kings) like Śaṅkarācārya, Rāmānuja, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇusvāmī, Nimbāditya and others have written commentaries on this, but something was lacking in them. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then came and gave its full meaning.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura tells us in his Bhāgavatārka-marīci-mālā. “I am going to write something, but I fear to do so.” Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī also feared when he was writing Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta. He considered, “Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta is so high class that very rare persons are qualified to read this; so what should I do? Should I not write it?” But then he concluded, “If I do not write about these transcendental topics, they will disappear from this world.” He felt compelled, thinking, “Birds like the cuckoo only eat the mañjarīs (buds or stamen) and sweet essence of mango. A crow cannot do this. Crows only like bitter things, like the juice of nima. If I write this Caitanya-caritāmṛta, then naturally the cuckoo-like devotee will read it, and the crow-like non-devotee will not have interest. So I must write”.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s fear was different. He wondered, “What should I do? If I write, then a desire for fame may develop in my heart, and this is very bad for a Vaiṣṇava. He also considered, though, “I was thinking I should not tell these very secret topics to others, but then I remembered the words of my Gurudeva. I determined, ‘If he has ordered me to write, I must do so. If I do not write about all the topics ordered by him, I will be ungrateful. I must do it!’ I threw out my shame and began to write, ‘O Gurudeva Vipina-bihārī Prabhu, O exalted Vaiṣṇavas, if I have committed any offences, please forgive me.’”
Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has not mentioned the name of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Guru in the list of ācāryas in our guru-paramparā. Prabhupāda was against the caste Gosvāmīs. Vipina-bihārī Prabhu once put his feet on the head of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, who is a manifestation of Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita – Śrīmatī Rādhikā – and Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda could not tolerate this. He told Vipina-bihārī Prabhu, “What nonsense are you doing? Do you know who he is? He is one of the Gosvāmīs – Gaura-śakti Gadādhara Paṇḍita – and still you have put your feet on his head? He thus rebuked Vipina-bihārī Prabhu, who then ran away.
Still, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura gave him so much respect. [He was a Vaiṣṇava, but not so high-class like Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s self-realized instructing Guru.] Vipin-bihārī’s Gurudeva is in the line of the self-realized spiritual master, Śrī Vamśī-vadanānanda, who used to drink tea. *[See endnote]
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura continued, “I took the order of my Gurudeva on my head and began to write down this verse [SB 1.1.1], because he had told me, ‘Go on reading and try to understand. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself. Everything will be revealed in your heart.’
“Then, as soon as I began to write, Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara appeared to me – not in a dream, but in a sphūrti (momentary vision) – as Śrīmatī Rādhikā used to see Śrī Kṛṣṇa in a sphūrti and Śacī-maiyā saw Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in that way. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu would regularly come from Purī to His home in Māyāpura, and take prasādam there.
“In the same way Svarūpa Dāmodara came and told me, ‘You must do it. Take the prominent verses – the essence of the verses – of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. All the verses from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam are prominent, but you should take the essence according to the principals of sambandha (our relationship with the supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa), abhideya (the process to attain him) and prayojana (the ultimate goal of life). Explain, through these verses, the living being’s relationship with Śrī Kṛṣṇa, as well as the process to realize that relationship, as told by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī (In his Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has explained the sixty-four limbs of bhakti). And finally, you should explain the ultimate goal – kṛṣṇa-prema. Select verses according to subject, make a garland of these verses, and place this garland in the hands of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. She will give it to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and He will be very happy.’
“He told me, ‘If you compile this book, it will be very, very important. All Vaiṣṇavas who truly want bhakti will read it and practice bhakti according to its teachings.’ He also said, ‘I myself will explain Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam’s first verse:
janmādy asya yato ’nvayād itarataś cārtheṣv abhijñaḥ svarāṭ
tene brahma hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye muhyanti yat sūrayaḥ
tejo-vāri-mṛdāṁ yathā vinimayo yatra tri-sargo ’mṛṣā
dhāmnā svena sadā nirasta-kuhakaṁ satyaṁ paraṁ dhīmahi
[“O my Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, son of Vasudeva, O all-pervading Personality of Godhead, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You. I meditate upon Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa because He is the Absolute Truth and the primeval cause of all causes of the creation, sustenance and destruction of the manifested universes. He is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations, and He is independent because there is no other cause beyond Him. It is He only who first imparted the Vedic knowledge unto the heart of Brahmājī, the original living being. By Him even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion, as one is bewildered by the illusory representations of water seen in fire, or land seen on water. Only because of Him do the material universes, temporarily manifested by the reactions of the three modes of nature, appear factual, although they are unreal. I therefore meditate upon Him, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is eternally existent in the transcendental abode, which is forever free from the illusory representations of the material world. I meditate upon Him, for He is the Absolute Truth. (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.1.1)]
This verse is important, for the entire Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is present herein. All the pastimes of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa and all Vaiṣṇava philosophy are present in this verse. It is so profound that the general devotee cannot understand it.
When I first read this verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, along with the commentaries of Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī and, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, I could not understand the meaning. Then, by chance I read this book, Bhāgavatārka-marīci-mālā. Reading the presentation of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s revelation of Śrīla Svarūpa Dāmodara’s explanation made it possible for me to easily understand it.
Śrīla Svarūpa Dāmodara explained the first verse, and then he told Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, “You should explain all the verses in this light.” Thus, the importance of this book is that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was guided by Śrīla Svarūpa Dāmodara. There are so many commentators of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, but none of them can be like Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara. You should know that he is Lalitā-devī, and his explanation is therefore the highest.
I want to begin discussing something from this book. In previous visits I have told you about the aim and object of sādhana-bhajana – gopī-prema, over and above that, rādhikā-prema, and finally the mood of the mañjarīs. You should know all this. Now you should try to follow the process told by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, beginning from “adau guru–pādāśraya (accepting the shelter of the lotus feet of the bona fide, self-realized Guru), viśrambena-sevā (serving the Guru with intimacy), śikṣā (following his instructions), dīkṣā (taking initiation) and the rest of the ten limbs of bhakti in relation to Śrī Guru.
Begin from Guru. If your foundation is strong – your belief in Guru is strong – then, on this foundation, kṛṣṇa-kathā and all philosophical truths will be revealed to you. If a man is chanting and remembering but at the same time criticizing others, what will happen? His bhakti will be finished. We should first try to follow Śrī Upadeśāmṛta:
vāco vegaṁ manasaḥ krodha-vegaṁ
etān vegān yo viṣaheta dhīraḥ
sarvām apīmāṁ pṛthivīṁ sa śiṣyāt
[“A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind’s demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world.” (Nectar of Instruction, verse 1)]
atyāhāraḥ prayāsaś ca
jana-saṅgaś ca laulyaṁ ca
ṣaḍbhir bhaktir vinaśyati
[“One’s devotional service is spoiled when he becomes too entangled in the following six activities: (1) eating more than necessary or collecting more funds than required; (2) over endeavouring for mundane things that are very difficult to obtain; (3) talking unnecessarily about mundane subject matters; (4) Practicing the scriptural rules and regulations only for the sake of following them and not for the sake of spiritual advancement, or rejecting the rules and regulations of the scriptures and working independently or whimsically; (5) associating with worldly-minded persons who are not interested in Kṛṣṇa consciousness; and (6) being greedy for mundane achievements.” (Nectar of Instruction, verse 2)]
utsāhān niścayād dhairyāt
saṅga-tyāgāt sato vṛtteḥ
ṣaḍbhir bhaktiḥ prasidhyati
[“There are six principles favourable to the execution of pure devotional service: (1) being enthusiastic, (2) endeavouring with confidence, (3) being patient, (4) acting according to regulative principles such as hearing, chanting and remembering Kṛṣṇa, (5) abandoning the association of non-devotees, and (6) following in the footsteps of the previous ācāryas. These six principles undoubtedly assure the complete success of pure devotional service.” (Nectar of Instruction, verse 3)]
Even if you are performing bhajana – the nine limbs of the devotional service – as follows…
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
[“Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Viṣṇu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words) — these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.5.23)]
If there is some duplicity in your heart, this will create a hole in the bottom of your heart and your bhakti will go away. Even if you have made some advancement in bhakti, what you have will go away. Therefore, it will be best if we explain and hear what Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has given us in this Bhāgavatārka-marīci-mālā.
You may find this subject difficult to understand. During the next few days you will not be hearing pastimes like: “Mother Yaśodā bound Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa was weeping.” Rather, there is some deep siddhānta here, and you should try to carefully hear and understand it. You can ask questions if you don’t understand.
aikāntikī harer bhaktir
Even one who practices one-pointed devotion to Hari will only create a disturbance if he abandons the rules of śruti, smṛti, the Purāṇas and the Nārada-pañcarātra. The remnants of Śrī Kṛṣṇa are called mahā–prasāda. When a pure devotee honours this mahā–prasāda, his remnants are called mahā–mahā–prasāda. Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī says in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 16.60):
bhakta-pada-dhūli āra bhakta-pada-jala
bhakta-bhukta-avaśeṣa, — tina mahā-bala
The foot dust of a devotee, the water that has washed his feet and the remnants of food left by him are three very powerful items. By serving these three items, kṛṣṇa-prema-bhakti will appear. They are extremely powerful. It is improper for a sādhaka-bhakta to imitate the behaviour of pure devotees.
Once, my Gurudeva, then Śrī Vinoda-bihārī Brahmacārī, and his god-brother Śrī Narahari Prabhu went to Śrī Vaṁśīdāsa Bābājī’s bhajana–kuṭī to take his darśana. Bābājī had offered tea and was distributing it. Vinoda-bihārī and Narahari Prabhu also received some tea prasāda. Vinoda-bihārī paid his respects to it, put it aside and did not take it. When Narahari Prabhu asked him why, Śrī Vinoda-bihārī answered philosophically, “An object which is taken by a mahā–bhāgavata can still be unsuitable for us. Mahādeva drank a deadly poison. He is capable of doing that, but if an ordinary person drinks poison, he is sure to die. For a sādhaka it is only proper to follow the rules of the bhakti-śāstras.”]
Image/Art made possible by Pixabay.com, Krishnapath.org and/or Bhaktiart.net
Unless indicated differently, all verse translations and quotes are from the books by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja Prabhupāda (Vedabase.com)