[January 26, 2023 is Vasanta Pañcamī in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on Vasanta Pañcamī, on February 2, 2014 and February 1, 2017. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets from Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata and other sources to facilitate the proper flow of content.]
Today is Vasanta Pañcamī, the beginning of the spring season. From today onwards, they will stop offering warm clothes to Lord Jagannātha. Today also happens to be the appearance day of Śrīmatī Viṣṇupriyā Devī (Mahāprabhu’s śakti), Śrī Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi, Śrīla Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī and Śrī Raghunandana Ṭhākura along with the celebration of Sarasvatī-pūjā.
Additionally, it is the disappearance day of Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, Śrīmad Bhakti Viveka Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Śrīmad Bhakti Svarūpa Parvata Gosvāmī Mahārāja. It is also the annual festival of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, in Tejpura, Assam. Even if I limit myself to speak only ten minutes on each person, it will take a lot of time.
There are two types of Sarasvatī - Vidyā Sarasvatī and Śuddha Sarasvatī. Vidyā Sarasvatī is worshipped by materialists, upon whom she bestows material education, by which they remain attracted to the material world whereas, Śuddha Sarasvatī takes us [transcendentalists] towards the Lord. How can we understand this?
All the scholars were intimidated when Digvijayī Keśava Kāśmīrī Paṇḍita, the undefeated champion of learning, arrived after triumphing over the entire country. They began to fret, 'What can we possibly utter in his staggering presence?' When Digvijayī Paṇḍita approached them in search of a worthy opponent, they all unanimously recommended the name of Nimāi Paṇḍita, the teacher of Sanskrit grammar. When Digvijayī Paṇḍita approached Nimāi, he said, “I have heard you teach Kalāpa-vyākaraṇa.” Nimāi Paṇḍita humbly responded, "I only act as if I am teaching [Factually I cannot teach properly]. Because when the students inquire, I am incapable of clarifying their doubts adequately.” Then Digvijayī Paṇḍita quipped, "So You won’t be able to understand alaṅkāra-śāstra". Nimāi prompted, "I don't understand it, but I have heard of it. But I am desirous of hearing from you the glories of Gaṅgā. Kindly oblige."
Like a cyclone, the Digvijayī Paṇḍita instantly composed many ślokas in glorification of Gaṅgā. When he was done reciting, Nimāi chose a śloka from the middle of his composition and asked him to consider the faults and qualities of that particular śloka. The Digvijayī Paṇḍita affirmed, "There are no faults in my composition, only qualities. You would not understand it anyway." Nimāi said, "This is the reason behind my inquiry.” Then He pointed out a fault in his presentation where Digvijayī had composed a term ‘bhavānī-bhartur’. Nimāi explained the word ‘bhavānī’ in itself implies the wife of Śiva, however by adding ‘bhartur’, it implies another husband of Bhavānī.
That is when it dawned upon Digvijayī Paṇḍita that he had met his match; being unable to counter Nimāi’s critique, he became very anxious. Nimāi encouraged him, "At least mention the qualities of this śloka". Rendered utterly speechless, Digvijayī Paṇḍita could not do even that. Nimāi then said, "Go today, read the scriptures again and we can discuss tomorrow". But Digvijayī Paṇḍita was not able to rest at all that night. In a state of panic, he prayed to Sarasvatī-devī, "I have conquered the whole of India, but I have lost to a mere child today! O Devī, I must have surely committed some offense!" Sarasvatī-devī replied, "It was not an offense. I am Vidyā Sarasvatī, I can defeat the material world, but that boy is my husband. In front of Him, I cannot speak. But you are so fortunate. The benefit of education is not in defeating others; rather it is in rendering devotional service unto Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. You are fortunate that you received His darśana."
In the first verse of Śrī Śikṣāṣṭaka, there is a phrase - "vidyā vadhū jīvanam". In order to make fools like us understand, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, while elaborately explaining the first verse of Śikṣāṣṭaka, delineated ‘vidyā-vadhū-jīvana’ as "viśuddha-vidyā-vadhū-jīvana-rūpa - the life of the bride of transcendental knowledge”. Notice that he used the prefix ‘viśuddha’ while mentioning vidyā, indicating Śuddha Sarasvatī. So it is clear that there are two types of Sarasvatī.
ŚRĪ PUṆḌARĪKA VIDYĀNIDHI
In Gaura-līlā, Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja appeared as Śrī Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī appeared as Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita. Once, Mukunda said to Gadādhara Paṇḍita, "Today I will take you to meet a wonderful Vaiṣṇava", as he took Gadādhara Paṇḍita to meet Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi.
As they arrived, Gadādhara Paṇḍita was bewildered to find Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi reclining comfortably on an ornate bed, its legs carved out of special inguli wood, holding a mattress as soft as milk. His eyes fell on the golden spittoons next to the bed. [Those who did not know him would consider him to be a prince as everything about him and around him gave the impression that he was a man of an easy and comfortable life given to pleasure] Immediately a doubt arose in the mind of Gadādhara Paṇḍita – ‘How can one be a Vaiṣṇava if he is enjoying such opulent facilities?’ Perceiving the doubt in Gadādhara Paṇḍita’s mind, Mukunda quoted a śloka from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.2.23) –
aho bakī yaṁ stana-kāla-kūṭaṁ
jighāṁsayāpāyayad apy asādhvī
lebhe gatiṁ dhātry-ucitāṁ tato ’nyaṁ
kaṁ vā dayāluṁ śaraṇaṁ vrajema
[Alas, how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than He who granted the position of mother to a she-demon [Pūtanā] although she was unfaithful and she prepared deadly poison to be sucked from her breast?]
[As soon as Vidyānidhi heard this description of devotional service, he began to weep incessantly. An unprecedented flow of tears from his eyes appeared. All the symptoms of ecstatic love like tears, shivering, perspiration, losing consciousness, hairs standing on end, and loud shouting simultaneously manifested in his body. He could not remain steady and fell to the ground. He broke all the surrounding paraphernalia by the kicking of his feet. Nothing was spared. What happened to the opulent pān container and the nicely prepared pān? What happened to the water pots that were used for drinking water? Where did the bed fall by the kick of his feet? Out of ecstatic love, he tore apart his opulent clothes with his two hands. What happened to his opulently styled hair as he rolled on the ground and cried profusely? “O Kṛṣṇa, O my Lord! O Kṛṣṇa, O my life and soul! You have made my heart hard like wood or stone.” He lamented and cried loudly, “In Your present incarnation I have been deceived.” He fell to the ground and rolled about so forcefully that everyone thought, “Have his bones been broken to pieces?” He shivered so vigorously out of ecstatic love that even ten men could not hold him still. Clothes, bedding, water pots, bowls, and all other paraphernalia were smashed by the kicking of his feet. There was not a single item spared. After manifesting ecstatic symptoms for some time in this way, he remained there lying unconscious. Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, Madhya 7.78-92]
This incident proves that Vaiṣṇava darśana is not obtained merely by observing the external appearance of a Vaiṣṇava.
Seeing all these ecstatic symptoms on the body of Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi, Gadādhara Paṇḍita realized that Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi was a great Vaiṣṇava. Worried that he had committed an offence unto Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi, he resolved to accept Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi as his spiritual master, and thus atone for his offence. Today is the appearance day of Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi.
ŚRĪLA RAGHUNĀTHA DĀSA GOSVĀMĪ
Śrīla Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī was a prince, and the sole heir to both his father and uncle – Hiraṇya and Govardhana. Using Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī as an example, Caitanya-deva gave us many lessons.
When Raghunātha Dāsa met Caitanya-deva in Śāntipura, Mahāprabhu perceived that Raghunātha Dāsa desired to leave his family and come with Him. Using Raghunātha Dāsa as an example to instruct those who have an unsteady mind, Mahāprabhu ordered Raghunātha Dāsa: "Be patient and return home; don't be mad. Slowly you will cross the material ocean. Don't do monkey renunciation".
A monkey appears very renounced: he doesn’t wear clothes, has no house to stay, no belongings or accumulation for the future. He sits just like a yogi with his palms folded on his forehead, but actually he has his eyes on everyone’s bag. As soon as he gets a chance, he will, without any warning, instantly snatch whatever he can from your bag. A monkey exemplifies someone who wears the dress of a renunciate on the outside, but manifests the complete enjoying tendency inside - ‘andara mein ṣākta, bāhira mein śaiva’, is an expression referring to those who wear their enjoying tendency inside, but externally they are digambara (naked; often smearing ashes on their body), and in a religious assembly, they act as Vaiṣṇavas.
Śrīla Raghunātha Dāsa accepted Mahāprabhu’s instructions and returned home. Thereafter, he carried out his household activities just like a materialist. Later when Nityānanda Prabhu came to Rāghava Paṇḍita’s house in Pānihāṭi village, Raghunātha Dāsa went there to meet Him. When he arrived, Raghunātha Dāsa was introduced to Nityānanda Prabhu as the son of Govardhana Majumdāra offering his respects to You.
Nityānanda Prabhu exclaimed, "Thief! You are stealing and trying to run away, but today I have caught you! Now you must treat us all with a Dahī-ciḍā feast!" Raghunātha Dāsa was profusely elated to arrange for the festival.” He also gave dakṣiṇā to all who attended the festival as per Rāghava Paṇḍita’s advice. [Thus he served the Vaiṣṇavas very nicely.]
At the end, he expressed to Nityānanda Prabhu, "I don't like this material world. Please bestow Your mercy so that I can escape [and attain the shelter of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s lotus feet.]" Nityānanda Prabhu placed His feet on Raghunātha Dāsa’s head and blessed him - "Your attachments have been removed". Raghunātha Dāsa asked, "I am being watched by guards day and night, how can I escape?" Nityānanda Prabhu said, “When the time is appropriate, you will get the inspiration in your heart”. From this we get the lesson that only after first receiving Nityānanda Prabhu's mercy, one can have Mahāprabhu’s mercy. Without Nityānanda Prabhu's mercy, one cannot have darśana of Vṛndāvana either.
ŚRĪ RAGHUNANDANA ṬHĀKURA
Śrī Raghunandana Ṭhākura was the son of Mukunda, who was a doctor in the royal court. Mukunda was such a premikā bhakta that just by seeing a peacock feather, he would faint in love of God. Once Caitanya-deva asked Mukunda, "Tell me Mukunda, is Raghunandana your father, or are you Raghunandana's father?" Mukunda said that Raghunandana was his father. He said this because he accredited Raghunandana for having received kṛṣṇa-bhakti from him.
Once Mukunda had to go away for service, thus he asked Raghunandana to serve their Deity, Lord Gopīnātha, in his lieu. Raghunandana offered bhoga to Gopīnātha, but observed that Gopīnātha did not eat. As a small boy, in his simplicity, he assumed that the Lord would eat just like people normally do, so when he noticed that the food was still intact, he began to cry. He thought that because he did not know the mantra and procedure properly, the Lord would not accept food from him, thus he prayed, "My father will come home soon and scold me, so please eat!" At this point, [seeing His devotee’s helplessness] the Lord [who is controlled by love] had no choice but to accept. So when Raghunandana brought back the offering plate, it was empty. The Lord had eaten everything.
When Mukunda returned and heard about this, he was astonished to hear that the Lord had eaten everything. When Raghunandana was questioned, he became confused. He said, "You asked me to serve the Lord, and now you are asking how the Lord ate everything?" To resolve the matter, they made some big coconut laḍḍūs and asked Raghunandana to offer it to the Lord. Meanwhile, Mukunda hid himself in the room to see if the Lord really eats the offering. Raghunandana offered the laḍḍu to Gopīnātha by hand. With Mukunda hiding, when Raghunandana called the Lord to eat, He did not come. Seeing this, Raghunandana began to cry, thinking that now he would be chastised by his father. [Unable to see his tears], the Lord came and accepted the laḍḍū and started eating it. After the Lord ate half of the laḍḍū, Mukunda appeared in front of Him and hence, the Lord abruptly stopped eating.
ŚRĪLA VIŚVANĀTHA CAKRAVARTĪ
Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has mentioned that the kāma-gāyatrī mantra contains twenty-four and one-half syllables. When Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī could not understand how the mantra contains twenty-four and one-half syllables [even after a lot of research], he decided to fast to death, lamenting, "I am literate, yet I cannot understand this!" He had fasted for three days, until Rādhārāṇī appeared to him in a dream and said, "Hari-vallabhā! Check in Varṇāgama-bhāsvat. The letter ‘ya’ which comes before the letter ‘vi’ is considered to be a half syllable. Kṛṣṇadāsa is My devotee therefore there can be no mistake in his writing". Satisfied by this resolution of his doubt, he then broke his fast.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī has composed Śrī Gurvāṣṭakam, which we recite every day. He has also composed an aṣṭakam extolling the glories of Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura and commentaries on the Bhāgavata, the Bhagavad-gītā in addition to books like Mādhurya-kādambinī, Aiśvarya-kādambinī and so many others. Today is his disappearance day.
ŚRĪLA BHAKTI VIVEKA BHĀRATĪ GOSVĀMĪ MAHĀRĀJA
Today is also the disappearance day of my śikṣā guru, Tridaṇḍi Swāmī Śrīla Bhakti Viveka Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, a jewel-like disciple of Śrīla
Prabhupāda, who was especially empowered by Mahāprabhu. Śrīla Bhakti Viveka Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was a senior sannyāsa disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda and a very good preacher of wonderful character.
Before joining the maṭha permanently, he was working at the Secretariat and he would spend his holidays at the maṭha on Ultadanga Road; he stayed on the first floor. During one such visit, he was returning to his room when he heard Śrīla Prabhupāda mention him, "There was that boy; I don't see him anymore, but I recall how he used to hear kathā very carefully". Then he heard someone reply, "He has left to get married". Śrīla Prabhupāda asked, "Nobody could make him stay back?" Then Mahārāja, who was already climbing the stairs, appeared in front of Śrīla Prabhupāda and announced, "I have returned!" Śrīla Prabhupāda asked, "You came back?" to which he affirmed, "Yes, I have come back." After this incident, he never left the maṭha, nor did he get married. Once, although it was raining outside in Māyāpura, he took the initiative to clean vessels [while getting drenched in the rain]. When Śrīla Prabhupāda observed this, [feeling he had the appropriate qualification to accept sannyāsa] he told him it would be good for him to take sannyāsa.
He had a very tall figure. When he performed nagara-saṅkīrtana, he would attract many people. Śrīla Bhakti Viveka Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja had a broad face, and did very nice kīrtana. Being absorbed in kīrtana, he would lift his hands up.
He preached extensively. His kathā was always very sweet. Once while preaching in Ḍhākā, several people opposed him, as there was a strong sahajiyā influence there. Nobody was prepared to even rent out a building for the Gauḍīya Maṭha. Nevertheless, Śrīla Bhakti Viveka Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja spoke kathā in Ḍhākā for a month and attracted many to attend his programs. He resolved to acquire land in Ḍhākā for the Gauḍīya Maṭha from the municipality there. Land could be easily obtained with the help of a letter from the commissioner granting permission, however, because of the prevailing opposition to the Gauḍīya Maṭha, no Hindu was willing to give their recommendation. In the end, a Muslim commissioner recommended him, and hence, a large maṭha was established in Ḍhākā.
Mahārāja carried out so much preaching there. Once there was an exhibition, in which the story of Choṭa Haridāsa was depicted. There was also a picture depicting people collecting money from pilgrims in exchange for darśana of the Deity in a temple. The same type of people were also depicted using śāligrāma to break groundnuts for eating. While this exhibition was largely opposed in Kolkata, the people of Ḍhākā very much appreciated it.
Śrīla Bhāratī Mahārāja made another maṭha in Svargadvāra, by the name of Gauḍīya Āsana. He later handed the maṭha over to Śrīla Śrīrūpa Siddhāntī Mahārāja, whose sevakas are taking care of it now. He also handed over his Kolkata maṭha to Śrīla Śrīrūpa Siddhāntī Mahārāja.
ŚRĪLA BHAKTI SVARŪPA PARVATA GOSVĀMĪ MAHĀRĀJA
Śrīla Bhakti Svarūpa Parvata Gosvāmī Mahārāja was from Godruma. When he was a young boy, Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda used to give him two karatālas
and send him out, instructing him to sing the kīrtana “nadīyā-godrume nityānanda mahājana”. Upon his return, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura would give him prasāda.
On the instruction of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, he took harināma from Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī (Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s disciple, whose samādhi is next to Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s in Godruma). Later on, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī said to Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura “As per your instruction, I gave him harināma, but I am not qualified to give him dīkṣā.” So Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Thakur asked him to take dīkṣā from Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Śrīla Parvata Mahārāja’s speech was quite harsh, hence people were not as inclined to hear from him. Once, he gave a talk in a school in Kaptipada, Orissa. He said," What should I speak? What will these people understand? They are not yet educated. How will they understand if they are uneducated?" The teachers and the King of Kaptipada were also present there, and they all opposed him. Suspecting that the upset citizens might try to attack him that night, the sevakas of Śrīla Parvata Mahārāja suggested, "You don't need to go, we will go and do kīrtana and come back". But Śrīla Mahārāja did not agree, he said, "Gurujī sent us to preach, not to spoil the preaching. Due to my mistake in delivering the speech, if somebody beats me, I will tolerate it. Regardless, I will go there". At the beginning of his speech, he asked his audience, "What is akṣara jñāna? This material world is a kṣara vastu (destructible object). Brahma is indestructible. Bhagavān is not part of this material world. Kṛṣṇa-bhakti is transcendental to the material world. This is the real knowledge and those who don’t know this are therefore considered uneducated.” Hearing his speech, people were astonished to hear what Mahārāja actually meant by ‘education’ and appreciated his explanation. Later Mahārāja established a maṭha in the same place.
In another instance, he took the mud from the place where Śrīla Prabhupāda was sitting when he had gone to preach and used that dust to establish a temple in Udālā.
Later, having met with an accident, travelling became very difficult for him. Still, he used to sit in a bullock cart, or use a stick and travel for preaching without complaining. He never stopped preaching.
He was very strict. He used to give one cup (100 gm.) of wheat flour to his sevaka to make four roṭis for him. Once, his sevaka made five, very fine roṭis. Seeing this, Mahārāja chastised him heavily - "I asked you to make four, why did you make five?" The sevaka explained," I did not add more flour, but with the same amount, I made thin roṭis so it would be easier for you to mix with milk." Mahārāja would not accept this, he simply said, "You are trying to feed me more and kill me". In reality, he wanted to teach his sevaka that one should follow guru’s order exactly, without the slightest deviation.
Even though his sevakas feared him, nevertheless their service attitude was so remarkable; they took very good care of him, especially when he was paralyzed. They would clean his toilet, carry him, feed him, and so on. So I have deep respect for all his servants. Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja used to say to his servants, "I feel like embracing you for your guru sevā." After he disappeared, they used to celebrate their annual function on his disappearance day. Our Guru Mahārāja would attend that function. Later Śrī Bhakti Vallabha Tīrtha Mahārāja and I used to go every year.
It is not possible to mention all the details in one day, therefore, I will tell more at another time. I just touched upon all these points, because it will be an offense if I fail to honour them on their tithi. So, I remember them today and offer my daṇḍavat praṇāms to them, seeking their mercy.