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Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura

[June 7, 2021 is the appearance day of Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt from a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on his disappearance tithi on April 9, 2010. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]


[Śrīla Mahārāja would invariably recite the following two verses from Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata glorifying Mahāprabhu with great feel in his invocation prayers on the appearance as well as disappearance tithi of Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura. Then, before beginning the kathā, he would say, "With these verses only I offered my prayers to Śrī Caitanyadeva today."


ājānu-lambita-bhujau kanakāvadhātau,

saṅkīrtanaika-pitarau kamalāyatakṣau

visvāmbharau dvija-varau yuga-dharma pālau

vande jagat-priya-karau karuṇāvatārau


(Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata 1.1.1)


I offer my respects unto Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Śrī Nityānanda 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 brahmaṇas, the protectors of religious principles for this age, the benefactors of the universe, and the most merciful of all incarnations.


namas trikāla satyāya

jagannātha sutāya ca

sa-bhṛtyāya sa-putrāya

sa-kalatrāya te namah


(Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata 1.1.2)


0 Lord who exists eternally in the three phases of time, 0 son of Śrī Jagannātha Miśra, 0 Lord accompanied by Your servants, sons, and wives, I offer my respectful obeisance's unto You.]

Today is a special day, the disappearance day of Patita-pāvana Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura. The appearance and disappearance days of Vaiṣṇavas are equally significant, because both inspire their remembrance, which brings about all-auspiciousness to the living entities.


NĀRĀYAṆĪ-SUTĀ VṚNDĀVANA DĀSA ṬHĀKURA


Traditionally, people would identify themselves with their father’s name, however Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, addressed himself as ‘Nārāyaṇī-sutā’, owing to the fact that his connection with Śrī Caitanya-deva was not through his father, but through his mother, Nārāyaṇī, who was graced by Śrī Caitanya-deva when she was only five years old. Nārāyaṇī is the daughter of Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita’s brother; she was residing in Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita’s house when Mahāprabhu first began performing saṅkīrtana there behind closed doors.


Upon discovering that some envious atheists had complained to the Muslim government officials with an intention to put him behind bars for ‘wreaking havoc’ during the nightly saṅkīrtana performed at his house, Śrīvāsa became anxious. Despite Mahāprabhu’s reassuring words, [that being the Supreme controller, He would inspire the perpetrators within their heart not to cause any harm to Śrīvāsa], Śrīvāsa was not fully convinced. Hence Mahāprabhu decided to prove Himself by commanding the five year old niece of Śrīvāsa, Nārāyaṇī, to weep in kṛṣṇa-prema and instantaneously, she drowned in the ecstasy overcome by kṛṣṇa-prema. [Seeing this astonishing occurrence, everyone was reassured.] Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura is her son. Having lost his father when he was just a child, he resided at his maternal grandparents’ home along with his mother.


In those days, the brāhmaṇas were accustomed to follow strict rules and regulations, however Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura was unconcerned with such considerations. The brāhmaṇas even objected to Nityānanda Prabhu giving mercy to Uddhāraṇa Datta who belonged to the merchant class. Yet no one dared to speak anything objectionable before Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, who by the mercy of Nityānanda Prabhu, fearlessly explained in his writings how in Kali-yuga, demons take birth among brāhmaṇa families to raise objections and present counter-arguments. It was quite extraordinary to be so bold in those days. Beyond contributing through his writings, he fearlessly propagated the unadulterated scriptural doctrines.


A SUBTLE CONSIDERATION OF BAD ASSOCIATION


Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura was so unprejudiced that in Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, he did not mention his father, even though this defied the prevalent social custom. He mentioned only those relatives who were practicing devotees. For instance, while he did not mention his grand-father, he mentioned his grand-father's brother owing to his connection with hari-bhakti. He considered - why waste time mentioning those in whom hari-bhakti has not awakened? Where there is no connection with kṛṣṇa-bhakti, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura exhorts, it is bad association.


Similarly, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī says,


duḥsaṅga’ kahiye—‘kaitava’, ‘ātma-vañcanā’

kṛṣṇa, kṛṣṇa-bhakti vinu anya kāmanā

(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 24.99)


[Cheating oneself and cheating others is called kaitava. Associating with those who cheat in this way is called duḥsaṅga, bad association. Those who desire things other than Kṛṣṇa’s service are also called duḥsaṅga, bad association.]


Any desire other than Kṛṣṇa and kṛṣṇa-bhakti is duḥsaṅga. Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura epitomized this principal throughout his life and exemplified it through his precept. Therefore, Kavirāja Gosvāmī says,


manuṣye racite nāre aiche grantha dhanya

vṛndāvana-dāsa-mukhe vaktā śrī-caitanya

(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 8.39)


[The subject matter of this book is so sublime that it appears that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has personally spoken through the writings of Śrī Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura.]


“This scripture cannot be written by an ordinary human being. These are the words spoken by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu through Vṛndāvana dāsa's mouth.”


THE GLORIES OF ŚRĪ CAITANYA-BHĀGAVATA


Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura’s writings most wonderfully depict the prevalent social conditions as well as the future times. This is especially true of Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata. Originally, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura’s book was named ‘Śrī Caitanya-maṅgala’ but upon later discovering that Locana dāsa Ṭhākura had also named his book, 'Śrī Caitanya-maṇgala', Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura humbly renamed his work as 'Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata' because his work was actually quite voluminous, while 'Śrī Caitanya-maṅgala' was shorter.


Throughout his writing, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura expresses that his composition is the fruit of Nityānanda Prabhu’s inspiration, further asserting how no one can know bhāgavata-tattva (knowledge about the Absolute Truth) unless Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu reveals it. He used very simple, comprehensible language; not complicating the contents by including abstruse Sanskrit verses from various scriptures. In order to prevent his work from becoming more voluminous than it already was, he did not elaborate on Śrī Caitanya-deva's later pastimes i.e. after acceptance of sannyāsa. Moreover, he predicted that Vyāsadeva would expand on that in the future.


He said, ‘āge vyāsa kariba varṇane’-- i.e. later Vyāsadeva will narrate'. So, Mahāprabhu’s sannyāsa-līlā has been narrated by Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī in two parts, Madhya and Antya in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura included the narrations of some of the later pastimes in summary form whereas Kavirāja Gosvāmī greatly elaborated on them.


Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura said, ‘āge vyāsa kariba varṇane’ [vistāriyā varṇite āchena veda-vyāsa], meaning Vyāsa will do further narration and Kavirāja Gosvāmī spoke the same words, satya kahena,—‘āge vyāsa kariba varṇane’ -- I elaborate on what Vyāsa has already narrated in Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata'. He said 'caitanya-līlāra vyāsa—vṛndāvana-dāsa – “I do not have such ego that I narrate the pastimes in more detail than my predecessors, but for my own eternal welfare and to humbly follow the order of guru, Vaiṣṇavas and Haridāsa [the then sevāite pūjārī of Rādhā Govinda temple in Vṛndāvana], who ordered me to narrate the sannyāsa pastimes of Caitanya-deva, I am narrating only what Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura left undescribed, so as to not make this scripture unnecessarily voluminous.”


Therefore, by the study of both Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata and Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta and by the grace of the Vaiṣṇavas one can get some idea about Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s glories and pastimes.


HIS STYLE OF COMPOSITION


Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura’s hallmark was that he composed many verses [in Bengali language] based on corresponding scriptural verses, bringing out their essence in a manner which was not only appealing but easy to decode for the general masses as well.


The famous Bhagavad-gītā verse (9.22) – ‘ananyāś cintayanto māṁ’, he translated as –


ye-ye-jana cinte more ananya haiyātāre

bhikñā deṅa muñi māthāya vahiyā

(Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya, 5.57)


[I personally carry on My head the needs of any person who thinks of Me without deviation.]


Meaning those devotees who worship Me with one-pointed devotion, I personally carry upon My head what they need and deliver it to them.


Another verse from the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (1.2.23) – ‘nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhyo’, he translated as –


yadi tiṅho nāhi jānāyena āpanāre

tabe kāra śakti āche jānite tāṅhāre

(Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya, 3.70)


[Who has the power to know the Lord if He does not reveal Himself]


There are so many other beautiful translations he has rendered. Śrīla Prabhupāda, in his Gauḍīya-bhāṣya commentary to Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, cited all the pramāṇa ślokas [original verses corresponding to select verses from Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata] just to enlighten the masses about the brilliance of Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura's contribution. Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura translated the essence of the scriptural verses in the form of those simple prayers, refuting all different ideologies and establishing the supremacy of the Gauḍīya ideology in a manner easy to understand. Śrīla Prabhupāda proved how Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura’s writings were indeed based on scriptures and not merely a figment of his own imagination. Those who read Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata and the foreword to the Gauḍīya-bhāṣya commentary will understand all this. Whosoever reads Śrīla Prabhupāda’s commentary becomes astounded.


Sūrya-kānta Gosvāmī, the gosāi of Śrī Bāṅke-Bihārījī from Vṛndāvana, became astonished upon seeing so many scriptural references being quoted as evidence in the Gauḍīya-bhāṣya, which indicated the depth and vastness of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s study of the scriptures. [He had composed and printed these books and] that too in a span of just 18 years of his preaching efforts. Sūrya-kānta Gosvāmī said, “How is it humanly possible to study and quote so many references?” He added that he was a mere child when he met Śrīla Prabhupāda.


Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura has nicely explained in Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata the evolution of different philosophical doctrines such as 'viśiṣṭa-advaita-vāda' followed by 'dvaita-vāda' and 'bedhābedha', until we arrive at 'acintya-bedhābheda'.


There are many scriptural evidences to prove the Godhood of Śrī Caitanya-deva but very few about Nityānanda Prabhu being Baladeva. Although Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura has not quoted scriptural references proving Nityānanda Prabhu’s identity as being non-different from Baladeva, he has composed many beautiful pāyāras (short Bengali verses) establishing this truth.


Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura explained everything in a very endearing fashion. He elucidated Nityānanda tattva, i.e. the first expansion of the Supreme Lord with great affection, because without His grace no one can attain the grace of the Supreme Lord.


ŚRĪLA VRNDAVAN DĀSA ṬHĀKURA IS 'PATITA-PĀVANA'


Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura exhaustively and specially sang the glories of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu. His bhajanas attracted all, and recommended the worship of the lotus feet of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu.


Nityānanda Prabhu accepted all types of roles to attract various categories of conditioned souls to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. One of the reasons He enacted the pastime of adorning Himself with ornaments was to attract the dacoits. Eventually those dacoits took shelter of Nityānanda Prabhu after repeatedly failing in their attempts to loot Him. [Endnote 1]. [This pastime has been beautifully narrated in Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata by Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura.]


Nityānanda Prabhu possesses so much affection for all souls that He cares for them like parents care for their children, sometimes even by beating them for their own good. Can anyone else do such a thing?


Once in Shanti Niketan, I witnessed a father beating his own child black and blue. Overcome by compassion for that child, I offered his father some money, requesting him to stop beating the child; only to realize later that in beating the child, the father exhibited more compassion than I, because the act of beating was done for the child’s ultimate welfare. The father told me, "My son is refusing to study. If I do not control him now then he will become a fool like me. He will simply become a mill worker like me and will have to sustain on daily wages or sometimes even starve." [Endnote 2]


At the end, I was left to wonder – was my attempt to relieve the child from being beaten a greater exhibition of compassion than the father beating him. Certainly not! Then why did I go to free that child? Because often, one may be deceived with what meets the eye. This principle is presented by Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura – It is inappropriate to judge anything as good or bad merely based on external actions, without assessing the underlying cause behind it.


How big a risk the father had to take to discipline his child for the latter’s welfare? Likewise, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, Nityānanda Prabhu’s direct disciple, sings His glories and with folded hands, implores everyone to take shelter of Nityānanda Prabhu for their eternal welfare.


After extensively glorifying Nityānanda Prabhu, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura says, “[If someone disregards these glories and instead] If someone blasphemes Nityānanda Prabhu, I will kick that person on his head.” Externally speaking, such words may sound harsh and far from appealing, but upon deeper consideration one will realize how they imply 'adbhuta dayā' (phenomenal compassion). Therefore, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura is addressed as 'Patita-pāvana Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura' (literally deliverer of the fallen). [Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura says -] ‘Despite all my preaching efforts, should any soul remain bereft of the desire for his own eternal welfare [while even having committed offenses against Nityānanda Prabhu], then I shall resort to kicking him on the head, thereby giving him my foot dust.’


It is said –


bhakta-pada-dhūli āra bhakta-pada-jala

bhakta-bhukta-avaśeṣa–- tina mahā-bala

(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā 16.60)


[The dust of the feet of a devotee, the water that has washed the feet of a devotee and the remnants of food left by a devotee are three very powerful substances that bestow strength in spiritual practices.]


Subtle coverings upon our heart, though externally invisible, cause obstructions hindering our progress in bhajana; such obstacles are destroyed by these three transcendental substances. But Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura is taking upon himself this great responsibility of giving his foot dust upon the heads of the conditioned souls for their eternal welfare, just as Nityānanda Prabhu had graced Śivānanda Sena by kicking him on his head. [This analogy is pertinent here with regards to blessing in the form of foot dust, however Śivānanda Sena is not a conditioned soul. He is an eternal associate of the Lord.] [Endnote 3]


So like Nityānanda Prabhu, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura is also very compassionate towards the living entities to bestow eternal good upon them in some way or the other.


Today is Patita-pāvana Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura's disappearance day. I offer my humble obeisances at his lotus feet and pray for his causeless mercy. I beg at his lotus feet that by his grace I may obtain the strength to preach and practice hari-bhakti as fearlessly as he did.


Vāñca-kalpa-taru....



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ENDNOTES


Endnote 1: