Sometimes simple events can change the course of life. Some events can be reassuring and some re-enlightening. In almost all cases, what we learn from them depends on our thought process. Two persons can learn different things from a same experience. On the other hand, two persons can learn the same thing from different experiences. As I was wandering on the holy land of Sri Mayapur, the innermost island of Sri Navadvip dham, during a late evening when the atmosphere was surcharged with sheer spirituality, from distance I saw the tall, pointed dome of Yogapith and felt something unusual about it. It looked a little dark to me.
Once there, while circumambulating the transcendental Neem tree, under whom Lord Chaitanya made His appearance on this planet some 530 years ago, a thought crossed my mind- I remembered a paragraph from the last published article in this series.
“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.” (Knowing Sri Mayapur As It Is – 6)
For a fraction of a moment, as I moved towards Lord Sri Sri Lakshmi Nrsimha, and Sri Sri Gaura Gadadhara temple, I wondered if what is said above applied to me too. My momentary doubt, or hesitation, wasn’t about the scriptural statement but about my own qualification to be freed from the influence of Maya just by walking in and around Mayapur.
While my mind challenged me, taking shelter in what I had learned from the books of acharyas, I went on, ignoring the mind. The very next moment i was relieved and all my concerns vanished as I meditated on the most magnanimous nature of this land. I again remembered the following lines from Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati Thakur:
“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.” (Sri Navadvipa Sataka (39-40)
I could see the benefit of reading the glories of Sri Mayapur dham from the writings of the previous acharyas. At the same time- and obviously no comparison- I could also see the difference between my reading from acharyas’ books and Sri Jiva hearing from Lord Nityananda. My consciousness was confined to externals like the brightness of the Yogapith dome while Sri Jiva saw and experienced the spiritual nature of Sri Navadvip dham. This was not only because He was hearing directly from the Supreme Personality of Godhead but also because he was doing so with a pure and cent percent surrendered heart.
The book Navadwip Dham mahatmaya describes how upon hearing from Lord Nityananda the glories of Navadvip dham, Sri Jiva became overwhelmed with ecstasy. The Lord compassionately lifted him and accepted him as His own. Jiva, overcome with emotion, said the following with folded hands:
“You are the form of the universe, the abode of the universe, Balaram. Being an insignificant living entity, what can I know of Your qualities? You are my eternal master, I am Your servant. My only aspiration is the shade of Your lotus feet. That person who receives Your mercy easily attains the lotus feet of Sri Chaitanya and drowns in the water of prema. Without Your mercy no one will get Gaura, even if he worships Gaura for a hundred lifetimes.
Sometimes Gauranga may punish someone, but You will protect him; but if You punish someone, Gaura will never accept him. Therefore, Lord, only on the strength of my past devotional activities, I take shelter of Your lotus feet. Be merciful and give permission that I may receive the darshana of Gauranga and gain attachment for Him.”
Note that Sri Jiva was not one of those modern-day sentimentalists who accept ordinary men as god incarnations. When God incarnates, His appearance and activities match scriptural predictions. Vedic scriptures reveal how Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Lord Krishna Himself and likewise, Lord Nityananda is Lord Balaram Himself.
Apart from identifying Lord Nityananda’s transcendental position Sri Jiva also stated Vedic conclusion that without the mercy of Lord Nityananda no one can get Lord Chaitanya’s mercy. He recalled how when he was a young child he had the darshan of Lord Chaitanya, and how the Lord had advised him to go to Sri Navadvip and serve Lord Nityananda.
“When Gauranga came to Ramakeli and accepted my uncles, I was a young child. At that time my eyes filled with tears as I saw Gauranga’s form, which since then always appears in my mind. I fell and offered obeisances at Gauranga’s feet, and I became filled with happiness as I touched His body. At that time, the Lord told me to study the scriptures and, after finishing studies, go to Navadvipa, where I would attain everything at the lotus feet of Nityananda Prabhu. Although I am insignificant, I took that order on my head and acquired as much knowledge as I could. But though I studied all the books in Chandradvipa, I could not get a suitable Vedanta teacher. The Lord ordered me to study Vedanta and reveal Krishna-bhakti conforming with the Vedanta-sutras. So I have come to Navadvipa to Your lotus feet. Whatever You order, I will obey. By Your order, I will go to Jagannatha Puri and study Vedanta under Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya.”
This is full surrender! This is true humility! This is genuine innocence! One of the most essential qualities of a Vaishnava is, he is simple at heart. Duplicity and arrogance cannot impress the Lord. Srila Prabhupada says how when Srila Sanatana Gosvami first met Lord Chaitanya, he presented himself as a fool. Sanatana Gosvami said that although the world knew him as a pandit, a learned person, in reality he did not know even his own identity. Srila Prabhupada adds how Lord Chaitanya replied that Sanatana Gosvami did not have to think like that as he indeed was a greatly learned person. Unless one is genuinely humble and fully surrendered, he cannot receive full mercy of the Lord.
Seeing such exalted Vaishnava qualities in Sri Jiva, and hearing his sweet words, Nityananda Prabhu embraced him and, unable to contain Himself, began weeping out of pure affection. This is the nature of spiritual affection. One should not misunderstand such behavior as worldly emotions. Loving relationship between the Lord and His pure devotees can be understood only by those devotees who are free from the influence of material nature.
“On hearing Nityananda Prabhu speak, Jiva Gosvami began weeping and fell to the ground unconscious. Nityananda then bestowed His mercy on Jiva by putting His two lotus feet upon his head, thereby giving him spiritual strength. Jiva then began dancing in that assembly of Vaishnavas while chanting, “Jaya Shri Gauranga! Jaya Nityananda Raya!” Witnessing this display of Nityananda’s mercy, Shrivasa Thakura and the other devotees present all began dancing and chanting, “Shri Gauranga! Nityananda!” The place resounded with great spiritual vibration. After some time Jiva controlled his dancing, and Nityananda had him sit down nearby. Jiva stayed at Shrivasa’s place, but in the evening he again came to see Nityananda Prabhu.
“As Nityananda was sitting alone, singing the glories of Lord Gauranga, Jiva came forward and fell at His lotus feet. Nityananda was very particular to make Jiva sit very close to Him. Jiva, however, became very aware of his own miserable condition. He folded his hands and said, “Lord, be merciful to me and describe the essential truths about Navadvipa dham.” Lord Nityananda said, “O Jiva, I will tell you, but you should keep these deep topics within your heart. Do not broadcast them here and there just yet. They will be propagated after our Lord completes His manifest pastimes. This Navadvipa is the best of dhams. Crossing over the Viraja River and the Brahman effulgence, beyond the Vaikuntha planets one comes to Sveta dvipa, Shri Goloka. Penetrating further, one comes to Gokula Vrindavan, or Krishna loka.”
“That Krishna loka exists in two states of emotion. Rasa expands there in the form of madhurya and audarya, sweetness and munificence. Audarya exists within madhurya in fullness, and madhurya exists within audarya in fullness. But, that place where madhurya is the chief state is known by fortunate persons as Vrindavan. And that place where audarya is eternally predominant is called Navadvip in all the Vedas. There is no difference between Vrindavan and Navadvip, only the different manifestations of rasa makes them distinct.
This is one of the most confidential topics that greatly advanced devotees also have difficulties realizing. Vrindavan and Navadvip are simultaneously different and non-different. Realization of rasa tattva is not possible by merely studying books. What to speak of worldly scholars, even learned devotees of the Lord also cannot fully understand the mystical nature of Navadwip and Vrindavan unless they receive the mercy of Lord Nityananda, directly or through His pure devotees.
Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur explains that the “dham is eternally perfect, fully spiritual, and unlimited. Those whose intelligence is tinged with dull matter cannot approach there. But, under the influence of the hladini-shakti, the energy governing bliss, the living entities give up material paths and by the strength of perfect knowledge attain their eternal spiritual activity of devotional service. The whole of Navadvip is a spiritual manifestation, for at this holy place Sri Gauranga performed His transcendental activities.”
If this is the case, and since it is the case, I had no reason to see anything external in the Yogapith dome. The darkness I noticed was not due to lack of light but due to ignorance in my heart. Or else, on transcendental plane, Yogapith, being the dwelling place of the Supreme Lord, shines more brilliantly than millions of suns and is soothing more than millions of moons. A simple incident and a momentary thought helped me assess the level of my consciousness. I realized the reason for my unusual experience- it was nothing but material contamination.
I was happy that I was put in my place by that humbling realization. Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur makes the following conclusive statement at the end of Chapter 4 of Sri Navadwip dham Mahatmaya: “people with material vision see Navadvipa as made of material elements; for them maya covers the eternal dham. Actually maya does not exist in Navadvipa, for it is not a material place influenced by time, nor are the living entities there subject to material troubles. But, as the living entity becomes bound by his fruitive activities, under illusion he perceives the dham to be a material place.”
May the all merciful Lord Nityananda bestow upon us His causeless mercy as without such mercy, people like myself have absolutely no hope to get even a glimpse of the spiritual nature of Sri Mayapur Navadvip dham let alone developing pure attachment for the lotus feet of Lord Chaitanya. Let the soothing brilliance of Sri Yogapith enlighten the hearts of all those who aspire to take shelter in the holy dust of Sri Mayapur dham!