One particular sloka, or verse, touched the innermost corner of my heart as I began my journey into the interiors of Mayapur’s mystical nature under the direct guidance of none other than my most revered spiritual master, Srila Jayapataka Swami Maharaj, a direct disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of ISKCON. The transcendental sentiments hidden in the two simple lines of this verse sounded so nectarine to my ears that I printed it on a sheet of paper along with a picture of Lord Chaitanya shedding tears out of intense feeling of separation from Krishna, and placed it on my desk. I started meditating on that verse and praying to Sri Mayapur dham to please allow me to experience at least a tiny drop of that divine sentiment.
The verse was written before some 540 years by Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati Thakur, an associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in his famous book Chaitanya-chandramrta, Text 46:
vanchito smi vanchito smi vanchito smi na samshayah
visvam gaura-rase magnam sparsho’pi mama nabhavat
TRANSLATION: I have been deprived, I have been deprived, surely I have been deprived! The whole world has become immersed in love for Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, but alas! not even a drop of that love has touched me…!!! (Exclamations infinite…)
Apparently the verse does not mention who or what deprived the author of that love but, on the other hand, the verse itself is a proof of how deeply the author was immersed in it. In my own case, however, after spending more than two decades in search of it, I realize that it is my mundane desires and false ego that have deprived me of getting drenched in this all-inundating love of Gaura sundara, especially despite residing on the merciful land of Sri Mayapur where it is freely and abundantly available to every aspiring soul.
Sri Mayapur, the innermost region of Navadvipa, is on the eastern side of river Ganges, or mother Ganga. Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur describes the sixteen krosas of Navadvipa dham in his book Navadvipa dham mahatmaya:
“There eternally exists sixteen rivers within the sixteen krosa area of Navadvipa. On the eastern bank of the main Ganges are four islands and on the western bank there are five. The different tributaries of the Ganges surround these islands and give the dham its splendor. The main Ganges always flows in the middle, while other pious rivers flow in various tributaries. Near the Ganges flows the beautiful Yamuna, and the Sarasvati river flows within another river. East of the Yamuna are the long streams of the Tamraparni, the Krtamala, and the Brahmaputra. The Sarayu, Narmada, Sindhu, Kaveri, Gomati, and Godavari flow swiftly throughout the breadth of Navadvipa. All these rivers intersect to form the nine different islands of Navadvipa.
Following the desires of the Lord, sometimes the streams dry up, and then again by His wish they flow with water; by the Lord’s wish sometimes places become covered with water, and by His wish they again become visible. In this way the dham endlessly enacts its lila, but the same dham remains always manifest to the fortunate living entity. If a devotee has an acute desire in his heart, all the islands and rivers will be visible. By devotion, the dham is sometimes visible in dreams, meditation, or to the naked eye.”
I note two things with interest here. One is the names of the rivers, especially Sarasvati, which, as per modern geography, is no more visible. It is revealed here that the holy waters of this mysterious river flows within another river. The other interesting revelation is how the different streams surrounding Mayapur dry up following the desires of the Lord and how they again flow with water.
Less intelligent persons, or, in other words, majority of us, can argue that there is no proof to substantiate the above claims as such mystical phenomena are invisible to naked eyes. All that I can offer to such people is sympathy. If they can bathe every day in what they see as ordinary water, take shelter of the tract of land that they see as ordinary land, and participate in the Navadvipa Mandal Parikrama, there is some hope that by the mercy of Sri Mayapur, one day they will be able to see those otherwise invisible rivers and places as faith becomes manifest in their hearts by the blessings of Mayapur dham and their eyes become anointed with the love of Krishna by the grace of Lord Chaitanya. Thakur Bhaktivinod continues:
“The island which lies at the junction of the Ganges and Yamuna is known in the sastras as Antardvipa. Within Antardvipa lies the holy sanctuary of Mayapur, where Lord Caitanya appeared. Know, devotees, that Maha-vana, in the center of Goloka, is none other than Mayapur of Navadvipa.
Svetadvipa, Vaikunntha, Goloka, and Vrindavan reside in Navadvipa at all times. By the order of Gauracandra, the seven holy cities: Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya (Haridvara ), Kasi, Kanci, Avanti (Ujjain), and Dvaraka, are always present in their own places within Navadvipa. The city of Maya, at Gangadvara, has its original form as Mayapur in Navadvip dham. The glories of this particular place are profusely sung in the scriptures.
That person who once visits Mayapur is easily freed from the bondage of maya. One who walks throughout Mayapur is freed from the influence of maya and the repetition of birth.”
Hmmm… Find a problem here? What most people wonder is, if by visiting Mayapur just once a person gets freed from the cycle of birth and death, what about those who commit sinful activities while on visit to or even residing in Mayapur? Do they also get delivered?
In the same book, Navadvipa Dham Mahatmaya, Sri Nityananda Prabhu addresses this question when Srila Jiva Gosvami, the person who directly heard about Navadvip’s glories from the Lord, apparently had a similar doubt:
“Listen, Jiva. Both Vrindavan and Navadvipa are the shelter of countless blissful devotees. Purified living entities who have crossed over the material nature live here as Krishna’s associates. This dham is an eternally pure spiritual abode, where material nature and time are conquered. In this abode, the land and time are eternally full of bliss and completely opposite to the material world. You should know that the houses, doors, rivers, streams, forests, and court-yards are all completely spiritual and intensely attractive. That blissful place, transcendental to material nature, rests on Krishna’s inconceivable and supremely magnanimous sandhini energy. By that energy the dham has descended here in Nadia, for Krishna’s real desire is to deliver the living entities. Materialistic persons cannot enter the dham, nor is there any material influence here.”
“Maya has eternally covered the dham with a film of dull matter. People who have no relationship with Krishna Chaitanya simply live on top of that covering, blind to the real truth. Though one is thinking, `I am in Navadvipa,’ Praudha Maya happily keeps that person far away from the dhama. But if by some great fortune one receives the association of a devotee, that relationship, or sambandha, with Sri Chaitanya will be established.”
Getting delivered from the clutches of maya is not an easy task by any means. In fact, it is impossible for a conditioned soul to do so on his own. Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita (7.14) that maya, His illusory energy, is duratyaya, extremely difficult to overcome, and that those who surrender unto Him can get easily cross beyond it.
Here one may argue that maya is considered difficult to overcome but it is not impossible to overcome on one’s own. The reality is, going beyond this illusory energy is not the goal of life; getting attached to the Lotus Feet of Krishna and being immersed in His divine love is.
For argument sake, even if a person goes beyond the clutches of maya without surrendering to Krishna, having no shelter on that platform, he again falls down, as, being eternally dependent by his constitutional position, a soul must be either under the shelter of Maya or Krishna. This is confirmed in Srimad Bhagavatam (10.2.32):
ye ’nye ’ravindākṣa vimukta-māninas tvayy asta-bhāvād aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ
āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ patanty adho ’nādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ
TRANSLATION: O lotus-eyed one, those who think they are liberated in this life but who are devoid of devotional service to You are of impure intelligence. Although they accept severe austerities and penances and rise to the spiritual position, to impersonal Brahman realization, they fall down again because they neglect to worship Your lotus feet.
This loving relationship between a living entity and Lord Krishna exists eternally but remains dormant in conditioned state. The first stage in realizing this relationship is called sambandha. In order to make us get a glimpse of the otherwise unfathomable glories of Sri Mayapur, Sri Nityananda Prabhu continues explaining how sambandha is not an ordinary thing and how by the mercy of Lord Chaitanya, starting from sambandha one can eventually enter into the highest platform of bhakti, or devotional service:
“This topic of sambandha is a deep thing, O son of Vallabha, a treasure that the conditioned souls cannot easily understand. Even if one calls out the name of Sri Krishna Chaitanya with seeming affection, if that relationship is not established in his heart, he simply remains in the material realm. Such a person resides on top of the dhama’s illusory covering and never attains pure bhakti. That person is the dharmadhvaji, or hypocritically devout, who is especially duplicitous, who has no humility and is full of pride, yet still thinks he is fully qualified.”
The easiest path to perfection is what Lord Chaitanya teaches in His sikshatakam. He says that one should think himself lower than a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree. One should not desire respect for himself but should offer it to others. These qualities are essential for understanding our relationship with the Lord because only those possessing them can sing the glories of Lord Krishna’s holy names attentively thus awakening within their hearts their eternal relationship with Krishna.
Emphasizing on the fact that Lord Chaitanya, also known as Gauranga by His loving devotees, is non-different from Lord Krishna, Sriman Nityananda Prabhu continues:
“Whoever makes a distinction between Gauranga and Krishna is contemptible and will never attain a relationship with Krishna. But, in the association of devotees, one who possesses the qualities beginning with humility will first worship Gauranga in dasya, or servitude, relationship. This dasya-rasa is the highest mood in the worship of Gauranga. It is in that mood that the devotees call Sri Gauranga `Mahaprabhu.'”
It is explained that besides dasya rasa, there are other rasas or mellows that one relishes while performing devotional service to Lord Krishna. Although all the mellows are complete in themselves, previous acharyas have explained how dasya rasa in included in sakhya rasa, sakhya rasa is included in vatsalya rasa, and so on. Madhurya rasa being the highest of all includes all other rasas.
“One who is qualified in madhurya-rasa worships Gauranga in the form of Radha and Krishna. As Radha and Krishna have combined in one form as My Gauranga Raya, Their pastimes do not appear to be manifest in His form. When the worship of Gauranga in dasya-rasa reaches full maturity in the heart of the living entity, madhurya-rasa naturally develops in his heart. At that time one’s worship of Gaurahari qualifies him to worship Radha and Krishna in Vrindavana. Gauranga then drowns the devotee in the nectar of Radha and Krishna’s eternal pastimes, which the devotee enters as he attains Vrindavana.
“The materialist, who is blind to spiritual life, cannot see the deep relationship between Navadvipa and Vraja, which are simultaneously one and different. Know for certain that this same relationship exists between Gaura and Krishna, who are also simultaneously one and different. Gauranga, however, is worshiped in madhurya-rasa in the form of Radha and Krishna. O son of Vallabha, very soon, Rupa and Sanatana will teach you all these truths. Now the Lord Himself has given to you the right to enter Vrindavana. Jiva, do not delay any longer in going there!
“Saying this, the all-merciful Nityananda Prabhu put His feet upon Jiva’s head and invested him with spiritual power. In ecstatic love of God, Jiva Gosvami remained unconscious for some time at Nityananda Prabhu’s feet. He then began to roll on the ground there, in Shrivasa’s courtyard, as ecstatic symptoms of love manifested in his body. Crying, he said, “How unfortunate I am that I did not see the Lord’s pastimes in Navadvipa with my own eyes. Gaurahari performed His pastimes to free the souls bound in the material world, but I did not see those activities, so my days simply pass uselessly.” (Source)
The transcendental sentiment expressed herein of having missed something sublime is similar to what Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati expresses in the verse that we referred to in the beginning of this article. A little deeper analysis of these statements sends down a shiver as my selfish mind puts forward a question before my meager intelligence: if great souls like Sri Jiva and Thakur Probodhananda feel they have missed Lord Chaitanya’s mercy, what about you, an insignificant creature with his heart influenced by all six enemies of the soul?
Hopeless as I find myself, I turn back to the author of that beautiful verse, Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati, for solace. I find my answer in his book Sri Navadvipa Sataka (39-40):
“I praise sweet Mayapur, where a dabbler who walks down many paths at once, a fool, one who has rejected his proper religious duty, an independent person who will not follow the rules of the scriptures, a person who has not the slightest scent of the touch of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and who lives there only out of lust and greed, all attain the supreme destination.”
Indeed, he adds, a bewildered fool cannot understand Sri Navadvipa-dham, which is hidden from all the Vedas, and which is the place where one may attain the ultimate happiness of devotional service, the highest of all happiness in this world. Realizing that I am one of those bewildered fools, I take shelter of Sri Mayapur dham remembering that the secret is to be more humble than a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree. Then and only then can I begin to taste the nectar of loving devotional service to Lord Krishna that is freely distributed by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, especially to those who take shelter of this supremely merciful land.