Association invokes interest. Association also nourishes interest. Exactly the opposite, disassociation diminishes interest. Interestingly though, disassociation does not necessarily destroy interest, especially if the interest is engraved in our consciousness. And that’s a relief to me. Relief because it gives me a hope that by temporarily being away from Sri Mayapur or meditating on its glories, my interest in Sri Mayapur will not be destroyed. One thing I dread losing is association of Sridham Mayapur.
This year, the day before Gaura Purnima in Sridham Mayapur, my mind was permeated with a mixed feeling. Celebrating Lord Chaitanya’s appearance day was undoubtedly a matter of immense joy but while the mind was joyful, I had an accompanying feeling of being a loser. I felt uneasy almost the whole day. Sure I was waiting for welcoming this most auspicious day, but in a lone corner of my heart a fear of meeting the day kept bothering me. Why? This was going to be my 35th Gaura Purnima in Sri Mayapur. The thought elated me but the other side of that fact, that after these many years, I was still struggling to have a steady Krishna consciousness made me feel lost. My solace was the following realization:
“Just as love of Godhead is dormant in our hearts, attachment to Lord’s pastimes places such as Sri Vrindavan Dham and Sri Mayapur Dham is also dormant in our hearts.” (Knowing Sri Mayapur As It Is – 10)
Since it is inherent, one day it will surely manifest. How long it takes to manifest depends on how eager and how sincere one is. For a hard-hearted person like me, my only hope is my hope that by somehow being around Sridham Mayapur, without being envious of it and its residents, one day I will experience at least a drop of that transcendental ocean of pure love of Krishna that Krishna Himself, in the form of Lord Chaitanya, distributed freely in this very place! How can this fact not be exciting?
As I contemplated this, an amazing historical event resurfaced in my mind rekindling my waning hope. It reassured me that no one, including myself, will remain bereft of Lord Chaitanya’s mercy if one wants to receive it. The only qualification is a burning desire. Good association is the key.
The confusing factor for a devotee, however, could be to find the right association, especially in Kaliyuga when hypocrisy runs through almost everyone’s veins. But I realize there is nothing to get discouraged about when one has Srila Prabhupada‘s books and the books of the previous Vaishnava acharyas.
The narration of Lord Nityananda to Srila Jiva Gosvami about the history of Simanta Dvipa, when svayam Maya Devi, who bewilders one and all, waits for the association of Lord Chaitanya, shines forth as an unfailing guiding light.
Describing the pastime of Lord Chaitanya with Mother Parvati, who is none other than Durga Devi, Sriman Nityananda Prabhu roared as He went on to the place now known as Simuliya, and revealed to Sri Jiva that it is actually Simanta dvipa, which is on the border of Navadvipa on the south bank of the Ganges.
“One time during Satya-yuga, Lord Shiva began madly dancing, while chanting the name of Gauranga. Parvati asked him, ‘Please tell me who is Gauranga. By seeing your astonishing dance and hearing the name of Gauranga, my heart is melting. All that I have heard in the way of mantra and tantra till now only leads to more entanglement for the living entities. Dear husband, please tell me something of this Gauranga. By worshiping Him will I receive actual life?’
“Hearing Parvati’s words, Lord Shiva meditated on Gauranga and said, ‘Unto you, who are the primordial energy, one portion of Sri Radha, I will tell the crest-jewel of all truths. Accepting the spiritual emotions of Sri Radha, Krishna will descend in this Kali-yuga at Mayapur in the womb of Sachi. Lord Gauranga, intoxicated with pastimes of kirtana, will distribute the jewel of prema to everyone without discrimination. Whoever does not drown in that flood of prema is most unfortunate. O Devi, just by remembering the Lord’s promise that He will come, I pass my life drowning in love of God. Being unable to control myself, I have given up my own city of Kashi. Within Mayapur, on the bank of the Ganges, I will live in a hut and worship Gauranga.'”
What an exciting revelation! Take note of a few things.
1) This discussion took place in Satya yuga, meaning minimum 2.16 million years ago. Sri Gauranga, i.e. Lord Chaitanya appeared in Sri Mayapur merely 539 years ago. How come then Lord Shiva is talking to Srimati Parvati Devi about Gauranga?
This is similar to the question Arjuna had when Lord Krishna, who was apparently only a few years older than him told Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita (4.1) that He (Krishna) had given the same knowledge of Bhagavad Gita to sun god Vivasvan millions of years ago.
Lord Krishna and Lord Gauranga are non-different. They are eternally present but appear and disappear like the sun. Sunrise does not mean the sun is born and sunset does not mean the sun is dead. It’s we who see the sun rising and setting, not those who live on the sun planet. Now this leads to another question whether there is civilization on the sun planet. Yes there is.
2) It says Lord Shiva meditated on Gauranga. Again, how did Lord Shiva mediate on Sri Gauranga in Satya yuga if He appeared only a few hundred years ago? The fact that Lord Shiva did meditate on Lord Gauranga further proves that Sri Gauranga exists eternally.
3) Lord Shiva says “O Devi, just by remembering the Lord’s promise that He will come, I pass my life drowning in love of God. Being unable to control myself, I have given up my own city of Kashi. Within Mayapur, on the bank of the Ganges, I will live in a hut and worship Gauranga.” This unequivocally shows Lord Shiva is a devotee of Lord Krishna. In fact he is the greatest of all devotees. This is confirmed by the Puranic statement that says vaiṣṇavānāṁ yathā śambhuḥ, Lord Shambhu (Shiva) is the greatest of all Vaishnavas, the devotees of Lord Vishnu.
Sriman Nityananda Prabhu continued:
“Hearing Lord Shiva’s words, beautiful Parvati quickly went to Simanta dvipa. As she constantly meditated on the form of Gauranga and chanted His name, she became immersed in prema. After some time, Gaura chandra appeared with His associates to bestow mercy on Parvati. His complexion was like molten gold. He had long arms, wavy hair, and beautiful limbs. He was wearing a long dhoti folded thrice, and from His neck swung a garland of flowers, which was very attractive to behold. In a voice choked with love, Gaura Raya said, ‘O Parvati, why have you come here?’
As I read this description of Lord Chaitanya’s transcendentally beautiful bodily features, I close my eyes and try to meditate on Him. Spellbound as I get, my heart yearns, as if runs to reach the scene. Next, the 1st verse of Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat (1.1.1) hits my memory. It is one of the most beautiful verses I have ever read in my life.
आजानु-लम्बित-भुजौ कनकावदातौ सङ्कीर्तनैक-पितरौ कमलायताक्षौ विश्वम्भरौ द्विज-वरौ युग-धर्म-पालौ वन्दे जगत् प्रिय-करौ करुणावतारौ ॥
ājānu-lambita-bhujau kanakāvadātau saṅkīrtanaika-pitarau kamalāyatākṣau
viśvambharau dvija-varau yuga-dharma-pālau vande jagat priya-karau karuṇāvatārau
ajanu-lambita-bhujau kanakavadatau sankirtanaika-pitarau kamalayataksau
visvambharau dvija-varau yuga-dharma-palau vande jagat priya-karau karunavatarau
TRANSLATAION: I offer my respects unto Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Nityananda Prabhu, whose arms extend down to Their knees, who have golden yellow complexions, and who inaugurated the congregational chanting of the Holy Names. Their eyes resemble the petals of a lotus; They are the maintainers of all living entities; They are the best of brahmanas, the protectors of religious principles for this age, the benefactors of the universe, and the most merciful of all incarnations. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.1.1)
The other thing that strikes my mind is the affectionate way in which Lord Chaitanya addresses Mother Parvati. “O Parvati, why have you come here?”. This is irresistibly captivating and indicative of His eternal loving relationship with Her. Devi Parvati, being apparently unaware of Her real position, and Her heart drenched in pain, fell at Sri Gauranga’s lotus feet and reacted with this heart-wrenching reply:
“O Prabhu Jagannatha, life of the universe, though You are merciful to all, You have deceived me. O deliverer of the fallen, You have appointed me to bind up all the living entities in the material world who are averse to You. I have come into the material world to do this work, and have thus been cheated of Your unlimited prema. People say that wherever Krishna is there is no Maya. I am therefore forced to always remain outside Your spiritual realm, in the material world. So how will I ever see Your pastimes? If You do not offer a way, I am without hope.”
Saying this, Mother Parvati took dust from the lotus foot of Sri Gauranga and placed it on Her simanta (part in the hair) in great distress. From this incident came the name, Simanta dvipa.
Someone may wonder if the name Simanta dvipa came after this pastime, and if Simuliya is only a name used by ignorant people, then how was it known in the past? We have to understand that all the nine islands of Sri Navadvipa Dham are eternal. Simanta dvipa is eternally known as Simanta dvipa. In every kalpa the Lord enacts His eternal pastimes with His devotees in similar fashion and reveals the eternal characteristics of His transcendental abode. For example, Radha kunda is also eternally existing in the spiritual world but still we hear the pastime of its appearance day that took place only a few thousand year ago in Dvapara yuga.
Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur continues narrating what Lord Nityananda told Sri Jiva. He explained how Lord Gauranga was pleased to hear from Mother Parvati and addressed Her as follows:
“O supreme goddess, listen carefully to My words. You are My energy, you are not separate or different from Me. My one energy has two forms. Within the spiritual kingdom, My original energy has one form as Sri Radha, but for carrying out activities in the material world She has expanded Herself as you. Without you, My lila could not be accomplished, for in the form of Yogamaya, you are necessary in My pastimes. In Vraja, you are eternally present as Paurna mashi, and in Navadvipa you are present as Praudha Maya along with Kshetrapala Shiva, guardian of the Dham.”
“Saying this, Gauranga disappeared, and Parvati became overwhelmed with love.”
Reading this narration my heart feels joyful. And why not? Being the Mother of the universe, Ma Durga has a special place in Her children’s hearts. Personally I have always felt close to Ma Durga, who appeared as Devi Parvati and is known as Simantani Devi in Sri Simanta dvipa. It is mentioned in the same book, Sri Navadvipa Dham Mahatmaya, that Mother Parvati stays in one form as the goddess of Simanta dvipa, and in another form as Praudha Maya in Sri Mayapur.
Some people who do not understand Her actual position as revealed by none other than the supreme Lord, Sri Gauranga, often make mistake and deride Ma Durga as Maya and a mere demigoddess. Maya means that which is not real but Ma Durga is very much real. How can a person who claims to be a follower of Sri Gauranga not respect Ma Durga when the Lord Himself says that, being His energy, She is non-different from Him? She is not Maya; she represents Maya, the illusory potency of the Lord, for the ultimate benefit of we conditioned souls. As stated by Lord Chaitanya, She is an expansion of Srimati Radha.
Simanta dvipa is fabulous with lush green forests and gorgeous mango groves. Pasturing grounds for cows and abundance of colorful flowers add to its eternal beauty. The ancient banyan tree with a large trunk and very thick branches is mystical. The journey from here to the bank of Ganga is refreshing and spiritually reenergizing. If it was not for Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur, we would not have known the glories and mystical nature of this place the way we do it today. Through his mature spiritual insight, he has revealed this eternal truth of Sri Navadvipa Dham to us and we are eternally indebted to him.
As the Gaura Purnima day concluded, I noticed devotees from all over the world preparing to leave for their next destination. My heart again sank as I thought of their pain of going away from Mayapur. While some of them may have had an easy trip, some may have spent their years of saving to attend this festival. Some may have come taking risk of their health, and some others may have faced difficulties while staying here. Some may have wanted to stay longer but could not and some may have decided to come back every year. All of them are blessed by Sri Mayapur Dham. I sincerely hope that they had a blissful experience here and that they will carry the sweet memories of this most magnanimous abode of Lord Chaitanya in their hearts.
Among the many sweet memories of this wonderful Gaura Purnima festival, a repeated occurrence that stings my heart every year, is the visuals of tens of thousands of local pilgrims who come to Sridham Mayapur from nearby towns and villages for the festival, but do not find a proper place to spend the night. Knowing the situation they come with simple arrangements for sleeping but it’s very austere. Even if they manage to get some rest, how will they spend the morning? ISKCON has built some public toilets and bathrooms and it also does some prasad distribution, but all this is no where close to enough compared to what is needed. I see there women, both old and young, children and elderly people. Where will they sleep? Where will they find food if they need more than what they have with them? What about their privacy? What about their safety? What if they fall sick at night? Some pilgrims come unprepared. They don’t sleep at all and some spend the night in taking care of their relatives. Why can’t I invite them to stay at our home? But how many can I invite? They are in thousands!
These and many other questions haunt me as I walk back home at late night, my heart filled with guilt for my inability to provide them a better situation. The only thing I could do is pray for their safety and mental comfort. My appreciation for their devotion and my desire to do something substantial for this class of pilgrims rise as I look around and see them sleeping in such an austere condition. I sincerely hope that in the future we will be able to provide them better facilities.
I am convinced the pilgrims who take the trouble of coming here knowing they won’t have proper accommodation cannot be ordinary human beings. Their affection for their little Nimai must be a driving force behind their willingness to take the austerity, year after year, to come to His birthplace on His birthday. Many of them bring toys and little gifts for baby Nimai. They offer it to Nimai at the Yogapith, the place where He appeared at the home of Sachi Mata and Sri Jagannath Mishra.
The Supreme Lord, the most munificent Lord Chaitanya, must be showering His unlimited mercy on these special souls and protecting them. I bow down to their feet and pray to Sri Mayapur Dham that, if situation demands, I also can manage to live under adverse circumstances without caring for bodily comforts, and never give up the association of this magnanimously merciful, supremely sacred, and bewilderingly beautiful land of Sridham Mayapur.