Śrī Vakreśvara Paṇḍita
[June 24, 2023 is the disappearance day of Śrī Vakreśvara Paṇḍita 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 appearance tithi on June 25, 2016. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is a special day. It is the appearance day of Śrī Vakreśvara Paṇḍita. Aniruddha from kṛṣṇa-līlā appeared in gaura-līlā as Vakreśvara Paṇḍita in Triveṇī of the Hugli district, West Bengal.
DANCING WITH VOLCANIC ENERGY
During the Ratha-yātrā, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu used to dance in front of Lord Jagannātha. He would organize the various devotees into seven groups [assigning them different sevās such as leading kīrtana, singing chorus, playing mṛdaṅga, dancing, etc.] Vakreśvara Paṇḍita was chosen as the dancer in the fourth group and Govinda Ghoṣa was its lead kīrtanīyā.
Once Vakreśvara Paṇḍita started dancing, he could dance continuously for 72 hours (3 days and 3 nights). He prayed to Caitanya-deva to provide him 10,000 Gandharvas to do kīrtana, as he danced, for that would give him great happiness.
“daśa-sahasra gandharva more deha’ candramukha tārā gāya, muñi nācoṅ — tabe mora sukha”
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Ādi 10.19).
ATONEMENT OF VAIṢṆAVA APARĀDHA
In the case of Vaiṣṇava-aparādha, Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata mentions that by glorifying or serving the Vaiṣṇava one blasphemed, one nullifies the poisonous effect of that blasphemy.
[Mahaprabhu explained how to atone for offenses to the Vaiṣṇavas in answer to a brāhmaṇa's question. (Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya 3.449-458)
Listen, Brāhmaṇa, if someone eats poison then he must take ambrosia through the very same mouth. Then the poison will be digested and the body will become immortal by the power of the divine ambrosia. Now let me answer your question. Whatever blasphemies you have unknowingly made are exactly like poison which you have eaten. Now you must use the same mouth to constantly glorify Kṛṣṇa's name and qualities, which are like ambrosia. You have used this mouth to insult the devotees, now use it to glorify them. Glorify the devotees as the best of humanity, glorify them in songs and poetry. I will destroy all the poison of blasphemy through the ambrosia of the ecstasies of Kṛṣṇa's glories. You have all unknowingly committed offenses; this is the truth. If you should stop all kinds of offensive activity and simply engage in praising Kṛṣṇa and His devotees, then you will be free from all the sins you have committed, however numerous they may be. You will not be able to achieve the same results by millions of atonements.]
One time Devānanda Paṇḍita became implicated in vaiṣṇava-aparādha by failing to raise any objection when his disciples threw Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita out of the assembly due to the latter becoming overwhelmed upon hearing Devānanda Paṇḍita’s recital of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. As a result of his offence to Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita, Devānanda Paṇḍita could not develop love of God, [or have faith in Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu] despite his continued commitment to serving Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
However, after some time, by some good fortune, Devānanda Paṇḍita got an opportunity to nicely serve Vakreśvara Paṇḍita. Because of this affectionate service, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu showed His favour to Devānanda Paṇḍita during His next visit, saying, “You are the servant of My dear devotee Vakreśvara Paṇḍita. By serving him you have greatly pleased Me.”
By serving Vakreśvara Paṇḍita, Devānanda Paṇḍita was freed from the aparādha he committed towards Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita. Offence unto the feet of one Vaiṣṇava can also be atoned by serving another superior Vaiṣṇava [in case that Vaiṣṇava who was offended is not available to forgive the offense or one is unaware that a Vaiṣṇava offence has been committed.]
This is how Mahāprabhu gave mercy to Devānanda Paṇḍita. Mahāprabhu then explained two types of bhāgavatas: grantha-bhāgavata and bhakta-bhāgavata, and that one must serve both. Grantha-bhāgavata or śāstra can be served by śravaṇa and kathā (hearing and repeating) and bhakta-bhāgavata can be served by feeding him and rendering other services.
I did not learn all this by reading śāstras; I heard it when I used to go for darśana of Vaiṣṇavas. Once after Navadvīpa Parikramā, there were no rickshaws around and people from Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha were going to Māyāpura by foot. Pujyapāda Vāmana Mahārāja’s brahmacārī name at that time was Sajjana-sevaka. He used to come from Chuṇchuṛā (the press was there at that time), to our maṭha with a cement bag to fill with vegetables and carry it all the way to Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha. We cannot even imagine these tasks now. When Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla Dāmodara Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktyāloka Paramahaṁsa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and Guru Mahārāja used to meet, they would only speak hari-kathā. I have never heard any other talks at any time; it was always strictly hari-kathā. In those days, there were not many scriptures available in print, yet there were so many crowds for hari-bhajana.
GURU MAHĀRĀJA BEING COMPARED TO ŚRĪ VAKREŚVARA PAṆḌITA
Every year after the Gaura-pūrṇimā festival, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja used to invite many of his godbrothers to attend a function at his Śrī Caitanya Sarasvata Maṭha at Kolera-dāñgā, Navadvīpa-dhāma.
During the time of one such occasion, Guru Mahārāja, after the completion of the Gaura-pūrṇimā festival, was engaged in managing the affairs of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha—such as bidding farewell to the pilgrims and settling accounts— and despite his sincerest desire and efforts to reach Śrī Caitanya Sarasvata Maṭha in a punctual manner, he arrived somewhat late to the assembly of Vaiṣṇavas gathered there. Upon seeing that Guru Mahārāja had arrived, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja said, “Mādhava Mahārāja, you have arrived very late today. We have been waiting for you for a long time.” Guru Mahārāja replied, “Mahārāja, because many pilgrims had come to our maṭha for Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā, we have incurred a great debt. Today I was busily engaged in settling these debts and resolving other issues, so that the services of the maṭha can continue. I beg for you and all the other Vaiṣṇavas present to please forgive me for my delay.” Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja then said, “ ‘Nārambhān ārabhet kvacit—There is no need of such an ostentatious display.’ Why have you taken on more responsibility than you can easily handle?”
Hearing this, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja said, “Mādhava Mahārāja, I would like to reply to pūjyapāda Yāyāvara Mahārāja’s comment.” “Yes, Mahārāja-jī. As you please,” Guru Mahārāja replied. “For an elephant,” Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja started, “a stick of sugar cane is as insignificant as nasavāra (snuff tobacco), whereas for an ant, the same sugar cane stick is like a mountain. An activity that to us may seem like a huge endeavor is nothing but an insignificant task for pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja; he can perform such deeds without any difficulty. “In this regard, I have had first-hand experience. Śrīla Prabhupāda had sent pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja—then known as Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī—and me to acquire some land at the meeting place of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda at Kovvur, near the banks of the Godāvarī River, in order to establish Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s footprints (pāda-pīṭha) there. After many days of endless endeavor, I said, ‘Hayagrīva Prabhu, Śrīla Prabhupāda has sent us here with great hope to obtain a piece of land on which to establish Mahāprabhu’s pāda-pīṭha. My brahmacārī name given by Śrīla Prabhupāda was Rāmānanda dāsa, and this is the meeting place of Śrīman Mahāprabhu and Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya. Although we have tried our best to acquire land, we have not been successful. What is your opinion? Should we stay here longer, or should we leave for Madras for preaching?’ “Śrī Hayagrīva Prabhu replied, ‘It is my feeling that we have thus far not made any special endeavors. I think we should continue our efforts for some time more.’ ”
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja then mentioned to all the Vaiṣṇavas present, “You may estimate his capability from this statement of his. The apparent end point of our attempts was for him a beginning point of fresh endeavors. Later, through his tireless efforts, a large plot of land was acquired in Kovvur and a maṭha was established there. Śrīla Prabhupāda used to describe Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī as having ‘volcanic energy,’ and Śrī Vāsudeva Prabhu used to call him sarva ghaṭe, one who excels in completing all types of tasks. “My personal view about pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja is that he is comparable to none other than Śrīla Vakreśvara Paṇḍita, an associate of Śrīmān Mahāprabhu who could dance continuously during kīrtana for seventy two hours without becoming fatigued.”
REMEMBRANCE OF THE LORD AND HIS DEVOTEES: THE SUCCESS OF A DEVOTEE’S LIFE
A Vaiṣṇava’s appearance and disappearance day is equally worshipable. Why?
avismṛtiḥ kṛṣṇa-padāravindayoḥ kṣiṇoty abhadrāṇi ca śaṁ tanoti sattvasya śuddhiṁ paramātma-bhaktiṁ jñānaṁ ca vijñāna-virāga-yuktam
By remembrance, all the inauspiciousness will become weak and disappear. Then it will bestow auspiciousness. The mind will become pure, and bhakti towards the Lord will develop. Jñāna (knowledge of our eternal form and the Lord’s eternal form) will develop. Jñāna means knowledge and vijñāna means realized knowledge, or knowledge with understanding (or experience). What is vairāgya? There are two types of vairāgya – negative and positive. Negative implies detachment towards worldly objects and positive is attachment towards the Lord. Both will happen simultaneously because the mind cannot be left vacant; it requires attachment to something. That is why Viśvāmitra fell down even after performing austerities for 60,000 years. Saubhari also did penance for 10,000 years, but afterwards he married the 50 daughters of King Māndhātā.
Our success depends on remembrance of the Lord and His devotees. Srila Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura has said– “aśeṣa māyāte mana magano hoilo, vaiṣṇavete leśa-mātra rati nā janmilo” - when our mind runs towards māyā, then we will not develop love towards Vaiṣṇavas.
He taught us nicely by repenting himself – “prabhu lokanātha pada nāhi to smaraṇa” - my remembrance is not in my Guru’s lotus feet. How did he attain his Guru? On the order of Srila Jīva Gosvāmī, he was instructed to seek the shelter of Śrīla Lokanātha Dāsa Gosvāmī, who was the first Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava (along with Srila Bhūgarbha Gosvāmī) to go to Vṛndāvana.
Because of the humility in the hearts of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura, our parama Gurujī [Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura] only allowed us to sing their kīrtanas. Once in Agartalā, one brahmacārī began to sing a Hindi kīrtana and our Guru Mahārāja immediately asked him to stop. The brahmacārī responded that people will not understand otherwise. Gurujī remarked, “Did this Hindi kīrtana become necessary in Agartalā? As long as I am alive this should not recur”. The brahmacārī was intimidated by the force of Guru Mahārāja’s fierce conviction. They had this kind of fierce belief. Śrīla Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s brother opposed Prabhupāda’s teachings, so when he saw somebody who had visited him, Śrīla Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja would take pañca-gavya* as a form of repentance. These Vaiṣṇavas were so firm in their convictions and completely detached from worldly matters.
Vakreśvara Paṇḍita’s disciple was Gopāla Guru. Gopāla Guru’s place is in Rādhākānta Maṭha, which is the Gambhīrā. There are many people from Vakreśvara Paṇḍita’s sampradāya in Orissa. Today, on his appearance day, I pray for his mercy.
*pañca-gavya – a purifying mixture of five products from a cow – cow urine, cow dung, milk, yogurt and ghee