Published on June 8th, 2023 | by Harmonist staff0
Śrī Navadvīpāṣṭakam 9
padyāṣṭakaṁ prīta-manāḥ paṭhed yaḥ
su-durlabhaṁ prema samāpnuyāt saḥ
May that person with a sympathetic heart who deeply reflects on and recites this Navadvīpāṣṭakam attain that prema for the lotus feet of Śrīman Śacī-nandana that is so rare.
Here in the phala-stuti of this aṣṭakam—its ninth verse—we learn that despite the fact that Gaura prema is rarely attained, simply by reciting and deeply reflecting on this Navadvīpāṣṭakam with a sympathetic heart one will attain it. Śrī Rūpa so blesses his readers.
A sympathetic heart—prīta-manāḥ—or more literally “pleased at heart,” refers to one’s being resonating with the ideal of prema. This is the result of sādhu-saṅga. Ideally such saṅga should be sajātīya and snigdhasya—like-minded and affectionate—resulting in the imparting of bhakti saṁskāras, spiritual impressions of Gaura prema that are otherwise not possible to attain.
Earlier in this commentary we learned that bhāva-bhakti is sudurlabhā, rarely attained.1 Here the same word is used with regard to attaining Gaura prema. However, this prema is much rarer than bhāva-bhakti in general. Indeed, even the ruci for rāga-mārga that constitutes eligibility to tread the path is more rarely attained than bhāva-bhakti in vaidhī-mārga!2 This ruci/lobha derives only from the grace of great saints, who are hard to come by. To see such a saint is the perfection of the eyes; to touch such a saint is the perfection of action; to glorify such a saint is the perfection of the tongue—sudurlabhā bhāgavatā hi loke.’
In his Gīta-śīkṣā imparted to Pāṇḍava Arjuna, Śrī Kṛṣṇa informs his friend that out of thousands of persons only one will be interested in the ātmā, and out of thousands of such persons only one will make the effort to realize the ātmā, but only one in a thousand among them will endeavor to realize the Paramātmā. And among such God-realized souls it is rare to find one who has pursued prema and realized Vraja Kṛṣṇa.3 And by extension, Gaura Kṛṣṇa prema is rarer still. Gaura, his līlā, and his dhāma are the secret of secrets deeply embedded in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the theological sequel to the Bhagavad-gītā.
The Bhāgavata reaches its apex in its rāsa-pañcādhyāya. And therein we find the genesis of Gaura līlā. In the third of these five chapters central to the entire text, Kṛṣṇa tells the gopīs that he cannot repay their saintly love in kind, even if he tried for the life of the gods.
na pāraye ‘haṁ niravadya-saṁyujāṁ
sva-sādhu-kṛtyaṁ vibudhāyuṣāpi vaḥ
yā mābhajan durjara-geha-śṛṅkhalāḥ
saṁvṛścya tad vaḥ pratiyātu sādhunā
I am not able to return your sevā in kind, even if I were to try until the gods die. Your connection in union with me is immaculate. Loving me, you have severed the world knot of hearth and home, so difficult to untie. Thus may your saintliness be your recompense. (Oh! If only I could become so sādhunā . . . . )Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.32.22
Thus, Kṛṣṇa suggests that the gopīs’ saintliness—sādhunā—is its own reward. There is nothing higher than this. However, in the above verse the word sādhunā can also refer to a saint, implying that if Kṛṣṇa could himself become a sādhu, perhaps he could repay these milkmaidens through his saintliness.4 And this of course is exactly what he does. Indeed, once in every day of Brahmā5 he adopts the guise of a sādhu and sings in saṅkīrtana of their virtues. Thus we find hidden in this verse his intention to openly praise the gopīs’ prema and that of Rādhā in particular and, given his nature, to do so with the hidden hope that he might taste it himself. Were it not for Gaura and his pārṣadās, the secrets of the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam would remain hidden.
Tradition has it that Vyāsa’s Bhāgavata poems of prema were written high in the Himalaya, hidden away in one of her mountain caves. The snow-capped Himalaya have for centuries whispered to the residents of Bharata as to the high-minded secrets she holds on high in the hearts and minds of her resident ṛsīs. Not everyone can hear her message, and among those who can, not everyone can heed her call. Still she nourishes the subcontinent with her current of the Ganges flowing into the valleys and plains below, along the banks of which people gather and have formed centers of civilization, growing, trading, bathing, and praying.
Ultimately the Gaṅgā, reminding the Hindus in part of the mountains’ distant secrets that are in fact so close to our souls, reaches the Bay of Bengal. And it is from this Bay that the East more than anywhere else connects to the waterways of West, where the secrets of the soul are sealed. There the Hindu religious myths, metaphors, and poetic efforts to put life’s inner meaning into words are largely considered meaningless, as is everything else in the dominant Western philosophy of materialism.
But the Bay of Bengal offers hope. From the cave of Vyāsa, where Vyāsa Rāya wrote the Bhāgavata’s poems in his maturity, as if carried by the current of the Gaṅgā, those poems have arrived safely in Gauḍa-deśa—West Bengal. Therein, the līlā of cowherd Kṛṣṇa in his pursuit of the bhakti that Rādhā embodies has surfaced in the form of Gaura līlā. And the secrets of the sages are now sold for merely the price of one’s faith in the efficacy of harināma, with which they are one. Man may not go to the mountain, but here we see that the mountain has come to every man, woman, and child.
There are many sacred landscapes throughout the earth, but Bharata contains so many that this subcontinent is often thought to be entirely constituted of sacred geographical space. Bharata India—even today is often referred to by the West as the mystical mother of all religion. From its manner of greeting (namaste) that acknowledges and honors the ātmā in our neighbor, along with its ahiṁsā that further acknowledges the panpsychic underlying reality—the ātmās in all animation; to its methodology (yoga/sādhana) that Merton sought out in earnest and that so readily lends itself to adaptation by other traditions; to its inclusiveness with regard to other ego- effacing spiritual traditions; to its details as to the nature of the hereafter; Bharata’s sanātana dharma, the perennial philosophy, is priceless at the cost of merely well-reasoned faith. The scripturally stated worldview of Bharata adds up to the less that is much more, the wealth of our common human prospect hidden in our underlying ātmā’s capacity to love, to give. And it is within Bharata in the Gaṅgā delta’s Navadvīpa that the heart of divinity descends as the perfect object of love, Kṛṣṇa, in pursuit of the experience of Rādhā’s love for him from her vantage point, rasarāja mahābhāva dui eka rūpa—Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya. What place could be more sacred?
There is nowhere quite like Navadvīpa, other than Vṛndāvana. As we have seen, the two are one. They differ only in that the secrets of Vṛndāvana, while fully present in Navadvīpa, are given out from this magnanimous realm to anyone who simply believes in them. From here they are broadcast far and wide. Thus to hear of them is not hard. The arduous challenge of scaling the Himalaya and leaving the world behind has been done away with, as the snow-capped mountain range has melted with the volcanic explosion and subsequent lava of Gaura’s prema, unstoppable and rushing to the Gaṅgā delta to form the nine islands of Nadīyā. High frozen mountain peaks have been melted, flattened, and made fertile, and climbing has been turned into dancing, meditative silence into song. Here the distant mountain sun rises each morning in the east, appearing ever so soothing and close enough to touch, should one run across the endless green fields of rice and merely reach out. Aruna in color, Mitra makes friends with Gaura’s bhaktas6 as if delaying his ascent to the lowly heavens in an effort to remain on the shores of Navadvīpa. Here the sun himself, who lights the world, and all the world’s gods and goddesses are enlightened and startled by the brilliance—the ujjvala-rasa—of Nadīyā that makes the eyes of those with sympathetic hearts who regularly recite this Navadvīpāṣṭakam rain with tears of prema for Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya.
- It is rarely attained through sādhana arising from sādhu-saṅga because one must first attain attachment (āsakti) for the object of one’s love, and only sādhana driven by such attachment gives rise to bhāva. Such attachment is the antithesis of material life that is based on material attachment. And no other type of sādhana, such as yoga-sādhana, etc., will give the same result. [↩]
- Mukunda Goswāmī makes this point in his commentary on Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.309. [↩]
- Bhagavad-gītā 7.3 [↩]
- Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta 2.7.138 [↩]
- Brahmā’s day is longer than Indra’s life. The implication here is that Kṛṣṇa tries to repay the gopīs over and over again in every day of Brahmā, or for the length of Brahmā’s life. [↩]
- Burnt reddish orange—is the color of fraternal love. Mitra is the god of the sun who presides over light. His name means “friend.” [↩]