Worshiping Narasingha on the Raga-Marga
Published on May 4th, 2023 | by Harmonist staff11
Q & A with Swami B. V. Tripurari
Q. I was told that after Srila Prabhupada became ill he established in his temples the chanting of the Narasingha pranati (prayer to Lord Narasingha) because it is a very powerful mantra for the protection of the spiritual master. On the other hand, certain devotees have told me that one should not chant this mantra because in their words, “It sends Radha and Krishna far away.” What then is the implication of Srila Prabhupada establishing such worship in his temples?
A. During my membership in Iskcon, Narasingha prayers were chanted after every arati ceremony, which in major temples were held six times daily. According to the book Prabhupada Lilamrta, our Srila Prabhupada established the chanting of the Narasingha pranati in May 1967, after he had what appeared to be a heart attack. Therein it is written:
“Devotees entered the front room of the apartment, and Prabhupada told them to chant Hare Krsna. Then he told them to pray to Krsna in his form of Narasinghadeva. [Satsvarupa said:] Swamiji said we should pray to Lord Narasingha and the prayer should be ‘My master has not finished his work.’ [Jadurani said:] He taught us the prayers to Lord Narasinghadeva. He said the words one by one, and I wrote them down. I called up the temples in San Francisco and Montreal and told them the prayer. Swamiji said, ‘You should pray to Krsna that, my spiritual master has not yet completed his work, so please let him finish.’”
The mantra Srila Prabhupada instituted in his society at that time is the Narasingha pranati that Mahaprabhu himself uttered in Puri Dhama along with a verse from Sri Jayadeva’s Dasa Avatara Stotram, which is found at the beginning of his book Gita Govinda, a very high rasa sastra. Apparently, Jayadeva was not worried about disturbing the divine couple when he prefaced his book with this stotram, a poem that under scrutiny speaks of “krsnas tu bhagavan svayam” while glorifying ten of Krishna’s avataras.
Neither was Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu disturbed by the worship of Sri Narasinghadeva. In Caitanya-caritamrta it is written, “After seeing the Deity of Lord Narasingha in the temple, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu offered his respectful obeisances by falling flat. Then, in ecstatic love, he performed various dances, chanted, and offered prayers.” All glories to Narasinghadeva, who is the Lord of Prahlada Maharaja and, like a honeybee, is always engaged in beholding the lotus-like face of the goddess of fortune.”
In the Vrindavana lila, the inhabitants worship Narasingha, as well as Narayana and his other avataras, for the protection of Krishna. Sri Narahari is also prominent in Gaura lila, which is our approach to raga bhakti. There he is worshiped for the protection of Sri Krishna nama-sankirtana. As was done in Gaura lila, Srila Prabhupada worshiped him for the protection of his movement. With regard to the raga-marga, Thakura Bhaktivinoda offers the following prayers to Sri Narasinghadeva in his Navadvipa-bhava Taranga:
e dusta hrdaye kama adi ripu chaya
kutinati pratisthasa sathya sada raya
hrdaya-sodhana ara krsnera vasana
nrsimha-carane mora ei to’ kamana
Within my sinful heart the six enemies headed by lust perpetually reside, as well as duplicity, the desire for fame, plus sheer cunning. Residing at the lotus feet of Lord Narasingha, I pray that he will mercifully purify my heart and give me the desire to serve Lord Krishna.
kandiya nrsimha-pade magibo kakhana
nirapade navadvipe jugala-bhajana
bhaya bhaya paya yan’ra darsane se hari
prasanna hoibo kabe more daya kari
Weeping, I will beg at the lotus feet of Lord Narasingha for the benediction of worshipping Radha and Krishna in Navadvipa, perfectly safe and free from all difficulties. When will this Lord Hari, whose terrible form strikes fear into fear itself, ever become pleased and show me his mercy?
yadyapi bhisana murti dusta-jiva-prati
prahladadi krsna-bhakta-jane bhadra ati
kabe va prasanna ho’ye sa krpa-vacane
nirbhaya karibe ei mudha akincane
Even though Lord Narasingha is terrifying toward the sinful souls, he offers great auspiciousness unto the devotees of Lord Krishna headed by Prahlada Maharaja. When will he be pleased to speak words of compassion unto me, a worthless fool, and thereby make me fearless?
svacchande baiso he vatsa sri-gauranga-dhame
jugala-bhajana hau rati hau name
mama bhakta-krpa-bale vighna jabe dura
suddha citte bhajo radha-krsna-rasa-pura
He will say, “Dear child! Sit down freely and live happily here in Sri Gauranga dhama. May you nicely worship the divine couple, and may you develop loving attachment for their holy names. By the mercy of my devotees, all obstacles are cast far away. With a purified heart, just perform the worship of Radha and Krishna, for such worship overflows with sweet nectar.”
ei boli’ kabe mora mastaka-upara
sviya sri-carana harse dharibe isvara
amani jugala-preme sattvika vikare
dharaya lutibo ami sri-nrsimha-dvare
Saying this, will that Lord delightedly place his own divine lotus feet upon my head? I will experience sublime love for the divine couple, Radha-Krsna, and undergo the ecstatic transformations called sattvika. Falling on the ground, I will roll about at the door of Sri Narasingha’s temple.
Here at Audarya we worship a Narasingha sila with these prayers of Thakura Bhaktivinoda and we sing Jayadeva’s stotram on the appearance days of the various avataras mentioned therein. In his prayer, Bhaktivinoda Thakura shows us how to pray to attain eligibility for raganuga-bhakti. Having attained such eligibility—or better stated, jata-ruci raganuga-bhakti—the worship of Narahari Bhagavan will certainly diminish in the life of the raganuga-sadhaka as he or she focuses exclusively on his or her ista-devata. However, in perfection the worship of Sri Narasinghadeva may again surface in an effort to achieve something for one’s dearmost, Sri Krishna. In this case one would be praying to God to accomplish something for Krishna while unaware, due to the influence of yogamaya, that Krishna is svayam bhagavan. I also personally worship Narasinghadeva with a prayer to understand the meaning of Srimad-Bhagavatam, as he revealed its meaning to Sridhara Swami, whose commentary Mahaprabhu so praised. I first offered this prayer in Jaipura, where Sri Jiva Goswami’s Radha-Damodara are served along with a Deity of Narasinghadeva.
All considered, I do think it is important for devotees to cultivate a conceptual orientation to the worship of Narasinghadeva that is appropriate for serving Krishna in the mood of Vraja bhakti. Unfortunately, a good number of so-called devotees of Narasinghadeva are attracted to thoughts of personally “fighting with demons” and thus they worship him for wrong reasons. For Gaudiya Vaishnavas, the right reason to worship him is as Bhaktivinoda prays, “to beg at the lotus feet of Lord Narasingha for the benediction of worshipping Radha and Krishna in Navadvipa, perfectly safe and free from all difficulties.” The best example of worship of Narasinghadeva is Prahlada, who was so gentle. Those who actually understand this sad-aisvarya form of Bhagavan become gentle as well.
As for the idea that the worship of Narasingha chases Radha-Krsna far away, let me give you an example of the opposite occurring. It is well documented that on the occasion of Narasingha Caturdasi Gopala Bhatta Goswami was deeply and prayerfully contemplating the intensity of Prahlada’s bhakti and how it caused Sri Narasinghadeva to appear from a stone pillar. He contemplated this great wonder while wishing he had his own Deity of Krishna to offer seva-puja to and hoping that Mahaprabhu would soon fulfill his promise to visit him in Vrindavana. When he awoke, the deity of Radha-Ramana, who is considered to be nondifferent from Mahaprabhu, appeared from one of his saligrama stones. So in other words, when Gopala Bhatta Goswami contemplated Prahlad and Narasinghadeva, the result was not the disappearance of Radha and Krishna but rather their appearance.
Worth noting here is that Srimad-Bhagavatam makes it very clear that Prahlada’s ista-devata was Krishna. In a Sanga entitled “Eagerness for Vraja Bhakti,” I cited references for this in reply to a question about his devotion. The point is that Narasinghadeva is a special manifestation of Krishna—Krishna appearing in a form suitable to the circumstances, the protection of Prahlada. Of course, Prahlada is a vaidhi-bhakta, so he worshiped Krishna in vaidhi-bhakti, not raganuga-bhakti.
It is also interesting to note that Srila Prabhupada told us to pray in one way in the beginning of his preaching and a different way as he neared the end of his preaching lila. In the beginning he asked us to petition Bhagavan Narasingha to protect his preaching—the message of Gaura, the order of Sri Radha’s handmaiden, Nayanamani (Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura). In the end he told us when we asked if we could pray for him to pray to Krishna thus: “My dear Lord Krishna, if you so desire, please save Srila Prabhupada.” Similarly, we find the worship of Narasingha Bhagavan in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s adi and madhya lilas, but it is for the most part absent in his antya-lila. His antya-lila is filled with the exclusive worship of Govinda in the bhava of Radha.
Narasingha Bhagavan is known in many forms, such as Ugra-narasingha, Vira-Narasingha, Laksmi-Narasingha, Yoga-Narasingha–he must have unlimited names and moods. For aspirants of Vraja bhakti, are certain forms of Narasinghadeva more approachable and/or recommended for worship and offering prayers for removing obstacles to bhakti?
Swami brought that up in his lecture on Nrsimha caturdasi:
We should worship Prahlada-Nrsimha, either with Hiranyakasipu on Nrsimhadeva’s lap or in the moment afterwards when Nrsimhadeva offer Prahlada benedictions.
I found the answer to my question in this talk by Swami Tripurari, given on Narasingha caturdasi: http://swamitripurari.com/2012/05/narasingha-caturdasi-2012-like-father-unlike-son/
Aspirants of Vraja-bhakti worship Narasingha Bhagavan in relation to Prahlada, for whose protection Bhagavan Sri Krsna appeared with full opulence in his amazing form of Narasingha-deva. Prahlada, possessing pure bhakti, free of any tinge of material desire, refused all offers of material or spiritual benediction from Narasingha-deva (but when pressed asked only that Hiranyakasipu be given bhakti), thus establishing the supreme position of totally selfless pure bhakti. So either tearing apart Hiranyakasipu or gently blessing Prahlad, Sri Narasingha with Prahlad is our “window” to Vraja-bhakti.
What a wonderful, enlightening response. Thank you so much.
Very nice Sangha Guru Maharajah. I had heard of praying to Lord Narasigha for the removal of impediments from one’s practice, but had never heard of asking the Lord to protect one’s spiritual master. You have given me more to meditate on when I pray or sing in glorification of His past times.
No less an authority than Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaj, sannyasa-guru of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, recognized the importance of Lord Narasingha. On the very roof of his Sri Devananda Gaudiya Math visitors will notice the form of Ugra Narasingha where he placed it. It would be guru-aparadha and spiritual suicide for anyone coming in the line of Srila Kesava Maharaj to speak condescendingly of this honored Visnu-tattva form.
It would be spiritual suicide for anyone to speak condescendingly about any Visnu avatara.
Srila Jiva Goswami talks about Jata Ruchi & Ajata Ruchi Raganuga Bhakti. Is this “Ruchi” the same as Lobha/Laulyam?
What does it mean in practical terms that in Ajata Ruchi stage one must make an admixture of Vaidhi & Raga, Sravanam kirtanam, smaranam etc is same for both practices then how does one perform an admixture?
Yes, Sri Jiva uses the word ruci for lobha, which is hard to come by. Nonetheless, should one become attracted to the ideal of Vraja bhakti as a result of sadhu sanga, one should pursue it by engaging the in the angas of vaidhi bhakti with a view to attain that ideal, rather than reverential love of God. Gradually, as ruci manifests, one is in a position to serve, not only in one’s sadhaka deha, but also in an internal meditative siddha deha. And for that matter, even those with lobha are expected to also fortify their ruci through engagement in the angas of vaidhi bhakti, which are also angas of raga bhakti, such as sravanam, kirtanam, and smaranam.
Thanks for responding Maharaj.
Sometimes it’s said that the Ruchi mentioned by Sri Jiva is implying taste & not the stage which comes after Nistha, is this correct?
Also when Sri VCT says Raganuga Bhakt goes through Anartha Nivritii, Nishtha etc is he referring to Ajata Ruchi Raganuga Sadhakas?
Yes, lobha or Jiva’s ruci is s often thought of as being different form the stage of ruci, which also applies to vaidhi bhakti. However, the term ajata ruci is refereed to by Krsnadasa Kaviraja as ajata rati. In doing to Krsnadas is referring to the stage of bhava. And Bhaktivinoda refers to the stages of ruci and asakti as stages in which lila smaranam is applicable in the full sense of the term. Here he is referring to manasi seva in one’s siddha rupa. One of his arguments among others is that without taste one cannot maintain such practice.
Interestingly, Mukunda Goswami’s Brs commentary on 1.2.309 states that attaining lobha is more difficult than attaining bhava in vaidhi bhakti, which Rupa Goswamis says is sudurlabha, difficult to attain.
VCT does not invoke the term ajata ruci. But his explanation implies developing degrees of lobha from immature to mature. At any rate, my conclusion is as follows:
Just as eligibility for vaidhî-bhakti constitutes faith—sraddha—in its efficacy and this sraddha informed by sastra is either pliable, firm, or well-informed, similarly the lobha that grants eligibility for raga-bhakti also arguably appears on a scale from immature to mature. Thus, Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes eligibility for raganuga-sadhana as lobha-mayî-sraddha, faith infused with lobha. Furthermore, he writes that, “According to the degree of greed possessed by the rightful candidates for raganuga-bhakti, they can also be divided into the three categories of uttama, madhyama and kaniṣṭha.” Such an understanding includes within it both the budding and the mature definitions of lobha we find in the Gaudiya community and places each initiated member of the sampradaya on the raga-marga. Hence as lobha manifests and matures, the sadhaka’s heart is cleansed and he or she is able to gradually adopt all the practices of råga-bhakti.