Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura and Śrīla Vaṁśīdāsa Bābājī Mahārāja
[August 1, 2022 is the disappearance day of Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura as well as Śrīla Vaṁśīdāsa Bābājī Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of a discourse by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, on August 18, 2015. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is a special tithi; it is the tirobhāva of Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura and Śrīla Vaṁśīdāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. The āvirbhāva and tirobhāva tithis of vaiṣṇavas’ are equally significant and auspicious, because both invoke their remembrances. Devoid of their remembrance, we cannot attain our eternal welfare.
THOSE WHO ARE NOT SURRENDERED WILL EXPERIENCE MĀYĀ
Śrīla Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura said, 'aśeṣa māyāte mana magana hoilo, vaiṣṇavete leśa mātra rati nā janmilo’. In another place he said 'prabhu lokanātha pade nāhika smaraṇa’. When there is no remembrance of Vaiṣṇavas, then māyā will envelop us. In Vaiṣṇava-vandanā it is said, there is no need to do anything except call out the names of the Vaiṣṇavas, “vaiṣṇavera nāma labā, āra kichu nā karibā – I will do nothing other than take the names of the Vaiṣṇavas.” By taking the Vaiṣṇavas’ names you will derive strength, and in that way, māyā cannot spread her influence on you. Where there is no remembrance of Vaiṣṇavas, there māyā will prevail, in other words, those who are aśaraṇāgata (not surrendered), they will have to experience māyā.
HOW DOES ONE MEASURE ONE’S PROGRESS IN SĀDHANA?
kṣāntir avyartha-kālatvaṁ viraktir māna-śūnyatā āśā-bandhaḥ samutkaṇṭhā nāma-gāne sadā ruciḥ
āsaktis tad-guṇākhyāne prītis tad-vasati-sthale ity-ādayo ’nubhāvāḥ syur jāta-bhāvāṅkure jane
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 23.18-19)
[‘When the seed of ecstatic emotion for Kṛṣṇa fructifies, the following nine symptoms manifest in one’s behavior: forgiveness, concern that time should not be wasted, detachment, absence of false prestige, hope, eagerness, a taste for chanting the holy name of the Lord, attachment to descriptions of the transcendental qualities of the Lord, and affection for those places where the Lord resides — that is, a temple or a holy place like Vṛndāvana. These are all called anubhāva, subordinate signs of ecstatic emotion. They are visible in a person in whose heart the seed of love of God has begun to fructify.’]
It is said that one who is practicing [sincerely] will experience kṣānti – not being overcome with anger despite valid reason to be angry; one who possesses the quality of kṣānti never becomes angry. Second is avyartha-kālatvaṁ - not squandering even an iota of time in useless endeavors. Then comes viraktir – detachment from things of this world; followed by māna-śūnyatā – no desire for any honor or respect, in other words, no taste for attaining name, fame and prestige. Next comes nāma-gāne sadā ruciḥ - always possessing taste for singing the names and the glories of the Lord, followed by āsaktis tad-guṇākhyāne - attachment towards describing the transcendental qualities of the Lord and His devotees, and finally prītis tad-vasati-sthale - affection for residing in those places where the Lord resides, bhagavat-dhāma. Ity-ādayo ’nubhāvāḥ syur jāta-bhāvāṅkure jane - in a person whose heart bhāva has begun to fructify, all the above external symptoms become manifest. These symptoms naturally start manifesting in one's conduct; they cannot be attained [merely] by awarding any material certification.
If these qualities manifest then one should know that one has taken association and done bhajana.
SĀDHUS NEVER GIVE UP THEIR NATURE
What is the extent to which kṣāntir is observed in sādhus?
gṛiṣṭam gṛiṣṭam punarapi punaścandanam cāru gandham
cinnam cinnam punarapi punāh svādu caivekṣukhanḍam
dagdham dagdham punarapi punāh kancanam kantavarṇam
nā prānānte prakṛtivikṛtih jayate sajjanānam
[When repeatedly rubbed against a stone, a piece of sandalwood only emits a pleasant fragrance. Although sugarcane is cut into many pieces, it only continues to taste sweet. A chunk of gold when repeatedly heated in fire only emits its natural shine. In the same way, the qualities of a great personality do not undergo the least bit of change even at the end of their lives. (This verse is taken from the commentary to Gangāṣṭakam by Śrīdhara Venkateṣa a.k.a Ayyaval)]
'gṛiṣṭam gṛiṣṭam punarapi punaścandanam cāru gandham' i.e. even when sandalwood is repeatedly rubbed, it will not emit a bad odor, rather a sweet fragrance will emanate from it. No matter how much you chop sugarcane into bits or crush it by machine, it will only give sweet juice, never bitter, unlike lemons which are always sour. Gold when burnt in fire does not turn black, but glows all the more, unlike a diamond, which is considered more precious than gold, but turns to charcoal when placed in fire and loses all its value. In the same way, a sadhu, even (prāṇānta) at the end of his life, will not change his nature.
Just as Nityanānda prabhu says “What did you think? That you could hit Me and make Me bleed and I would leave you without giving you prema? Impossible!” By force, Nityānanda Prabhu gave prema-bhakti [to Mādhāi].
A PURE DEVOTEE CONSIDERS NO ONE AS HIS ENEMY
In 1925, my parama-gurudeva, Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura organized Śrī Navadvīpa Dhāma Parikramā with the Deity of Śrīmān Mahāprabhu mounted on an elephant. However, when the procession reached Prauḍamāyā [in present day Navadvīpa], bricks and stones started flying from all four directions. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s sevaka, [cleverly disguised himself as a Muslim] with a hukkā in hand, went to the police station to report the situation. Then the police arrived and enquired from Śrīla Prabhupāda if he suspected anyone’s hand behind this crime. The police were prepared to file an FIR (First Information Report) but Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “I do not blame anyone.” The servants said, “If no legal action is taken, we may have to stop conducting Navadvīpa Dhāma Parikramā in the future because day by day their protests will only increase.” But Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “These perpetrators have done what would have costed us lakhs of rupees to achieve. They gave Gauḍīya Maṭha tremendous publicity. The news about the attack on the Gauḍīya Maṭha’s parikramā party has been featured on the front page of [the famous daily] Ānanda Bāzāra Patrikā”. The article read, “Four hundred years ago Nityānanda Prabhu was also hit by a rod (rodā mārā) here, still He continued His pracāra. Today His followers, who despite being protested about and attacked upon, are continuing their pracāra.” In this way, the news spread in all four directions causing even the King of Tripurā and Vardhamān, to become eager to receive the news updates.
THE DISAPPEARANCE DAY OF ŚRĪLA RAGHUNANDANA ṬHĀKURA
Today is Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura’s tirobhāva tithi; he is a Śrīkhaṇḍa-vāsī.
vyūhas trītīyah pradyumnaḥ priya-narma-sakho’bhavat cakre līlā-sahayam yo rādhā-mādhavayor vraje śrī -caitanyadvaita-tanuḥ sa eva raghunandanaḥ
The third member of the catur-vyūha, Pradyumna, took part in Rādhā-Mādhava’s līlā in Vraja as Kṛṣṇa’s intimate friend or priya-narma-sakhā. He has now appeared as Raghunandana, whose body is not different from that of Caitanya.
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared in the Śaka year 1407. And from the
external consideration, Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura appeared on Vasanta Pañcamī in the family of physicians in the Śaka year 1432. On the Vardhamāna-Katwā rail route, before Katwā is Śrīkhaṇḍa, the Śrīpāṭa of Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura; it is approximately a mile before the Śrīkhaṇḍa Station.
Śrī Mukunda Dāsa, Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura’s father, was employed as a rāja-vaidya (physician to the King) and Narahari Sarkāra, who is Madhumatī-sakhī in kṛṣṇa-līlā, was his uncle. Narahari Sarkāra had great affection for Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura. Although externally Mukunda dāsa was a rāja-vaidya, internally he was fully absorbed in the Lord and always filled with divine love. Only the King could recognize this.
THE IMPACT OF SLIGHT UDDIPANA
Once upon seeing the King being fanned by a peacock feather, Mukunda Dāsa became overwhelmed with love and remembrance of Kṛṣṇa and fell down from his elevated seat. The King called his attendants and anxiously asked them to check whether he had died. When Mukunda dāsa came back to consciousness he said, “I suffer from epilepsy and hence I fell.” However the King could understand that by seeing the peacock feather he fainted in kṛṣṇa-prema. This incident is described in 'Caitanya-deva-nirṇaya'.
KṚṢṆA IS BHĀVA-GRAHI JANĀRDANA
One day before leaving for work in a rush, Śrī Mukunda Dāsa asked his son Raghunandana to serve the family Deity the bhoga. Raghunandana was a mere child, thus when he saw that the food he offered had not been physically accepted by the Deity, he began to cry pleading, “Why are You not accepting the bhoga? Is it because I am not initiated and am unaware of the mantras?” After seeing the boy crying, Śrī Gopīnātha, their family Deity, ate everything.
This Raghunandana, in his childhood, by his loving service had made his worshipable Deity Gopīnātha eat a laḍḍū [a sweet ball]. He returned to his father with the empty plate announcing, 'Gopīnātha ate the offering on the plate'. This surprised his father. From the external consideration he was a mere child, therefore his mantra was 'Eat! Eat!' Seeing his loving devotion, the Lord was obliged and He ate everything, leaving not even a morsel. Mukunda was bewildered. The next day he called his son and instructed him to make the offering to the Deity just as He had done the previous day while Mukunda Dāsa hid himself. Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura pleaded to Gopīnātha, “Eat! Eat!” And just when Gopīnātha had eaten half the laḍḍū, Mukunda dāsa entered. At that time Gopīnātha stopped eating, leaving half the laḍḍū in His hand. Seeing this, Mukunda was filled with love; he took his child in his arms and spoke to him in a choked voice.
To this day in Śrīkhaṇḍa, those who are fortunate, can have darśana of Gopīnātha with a half-eaten laḍḍū in His hand; a laḍḍū which was fed to him by Raghunandana who is non-different from Cupid himself, says Uddhava Dāsa [who composed a bhajana based on this pastime] with great feeling. People are fascinated and wonder who can feed Gopīnātha a laḍḍū in this way other than the great loving devotee Raghunandana?
WHO IS THE FATHER?
One day Caitanya-deva asked Mukunda, 'O Mukunda, are you the father of Raghunandana or is Raghunandana your father?' Mukunda answered, 'Raghunandana is my father, because whatever devotion I have for Kṛṣṇa comes from him’. Even without considering whether Raghunandana had undergone dīkṣā [a pre-requisite for Deity worship], the Lord had accepted bhoga from his hands. Hence Mukunda dāsa said, “I am Raghunandana's son. This is my conclusion, because my devotion to Kṛṣṇa has come from him.” Then Mahāprabhu smilingly said, “What you said is true. One who awakens devotion to Kṛṣṇa is certainly the spiritual master. From whom one imbibes devotion to Kṛṣṇa, he is to be considered as guru.” So Caitanya-deva instructed Mukunda to remain in his profession as a vaidya, earning and maintaining the family while allowing Raghunandana to perform śrī-vigraha-sevā. Because he was a kṛṣṇa-sevaka, his mind did not deviate from kṛṣṇa-sevā even for a moment.
MYSTERY BEHIND MADHU-PUṢKARIṆĪ AND NŪPURA-KUṆḌA
There is a pond [next to the house of Narahari Sarkāra], where the water had
once been transformed into honey, which was fed to Nityānanda Prabhu. [known as Madhu-puṣkariṇī.] On its banks, on a kadamba tree, two flowers blossom daily [by the power of Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura, they blossom daily, regardless of the season] and are offered to Śrī Gopīnātha and His potency [śakti].
When Abhirāma Ṭhākura would offer obeisances to any śāligrāma-śilā it would break into pieces if it was fake. [One day he came to Śrīkhaṇḍa and] When he offered praṇāms to Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura and embraced him, Abhirāma Ṭhākura melted with feelings of prema. Then Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura performed a dance (uddaṇḍa nṛtya) jumping so high in the air that one of his ankle bells slipped off and flew some four miles away [in a place called Akai-haṭṭa near the house of his disciple Kṛṣṇa Dāsa. Later a tank was excavated to commemorate this pastime and given the name Nūpura-kuṇḍa].
ALWAYS ENGAGED IN SERVICE
Mahāprabhu, the father of saṅkīrtana, gave Raghunandana the service of offering garlands and sandalwood paste to the devotees on the ādivāsa tithi -- the day before the saṅkīrtana yajña – and to make the final offering at the end of the yajña. During cāturmāsya Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura would take the Khaṇḍa-vāsīs (residents of Śrīkhaṇḍa) along with him to Jagannātha Purī and when seven sampradāyas (groups) would perform kīrtana before Jagannātha’s chariot, in the kīrtana group of the Khaṇḍa-vāsīs Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura and Narahari Sarkāra would dance. Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura also participated in the Kheturī festival organized by Śrīla Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura where Śrīnivāsa Ācārya performed the mahā-abhiṣeka of the Deities; these Deities weren’t installed as is conventionally done because they were self-manifest. He also participated in the tirobhāva tithi of Śrī Gadādhara Dāsa in Katwā and of Narahari Sarkāra Ṭhākura in Śrīkhaṇḍa.
Regarding him it is said, anyone who is dear to Raghunandana will win Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya's mercy life after life. Some say that Raghunandana is so merciful that he gives life to the most humble and fallen. Others say, there is no one whose humility can compare to his, and externally he is as beautiful as Kandarpa himself. There is description about this in Bhakti-ratnākara.
BLESSING ŚRĪNIVĀSA ĀCĀRYA
Before his disappearance he explained that in the future the spread of Vaiṣṇavism would not be easy, but assured and blessed Śrīnivāsa Ācārya. He spoke thus to Śrīnivāsa –
kṛṣṇa-caitanya-candreṇa nityānandena samhrite avatāre kalāv asmin vaiṣṇavaḥ sarva eva hi bhaviṣyanti sadodvignah kāle kāle dine dine prāyaḥ sandigdha-hṛdaya uttametara-madhyamāḥ
(Śrī Kṛṣṇa-bhajanāmṛta verses 3-4)
A time will come in the future when people will succumb to various doubts after the disappearance of Caitanya-candra and His companion Nityānanda Prabhu. Due to the age of Kali, all Vaiṣṇavas will become more anxious; whether very advanced, somewhat advanced or neophyte, all will be filled with doubts.
But do not let this worry you. Gaura-rāya will accomplish many great works through you. I bless you that you remain long on this earth and that you and your followers protect our Lord's religion. Those who are opposed to devotion to Kṛṣṇa will become devotees by your influence and they will take shelter of you'. (Bhakti-ratnākara 13.177-179)
Śrīla Raghunandana Ṭhākura offered his son Kānāi Ṭhākura at the lotus feet of his Gaura-Gopāla Deity and disappeared from this world on the fourth day of the waxing moon (Śukla-caturthī) in the month of Śrāvaṇa. His son Kānāi Ṭhākura hosted a festival as a part of his father's last rites.
He ended his pastimes by repeating the names of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya again and again. How glorious is that day of Śrāvaṇa-śukla-caturthī when all will sing the glories of Raghunandana Ṭhākura!
'vaiṣṇavete guṇa-gaṇa karile jīvera trāṇa, śuniyāche sādhu guru mukhe.'
THE DISAPPEARANCE DAY OF ŚRĪLA VAṀŚĪDĀSA BĀBĀJĪ MAHĀRĀJA
Today is also the tirobhāva tithi of Śrīla Vaṁśīdāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. He appeared in the village of Majidpura in the Mymensingh District of Bangladesh. He is a paramahaṁsa Vaiṣṇava. He was very tall, but while plucking flowers from a tree, he fell and broke his limb and because of this accident he used to walk with a limp. He had round eyes like a fish; they were so fierce and luminous as if emitting fire.
CORA NE DIYĀ. CORA NE LIYĀ
Śrīla Vaṁśīdāsa Bābājī Mahārāja used to serve the Deities of Śrī Śrī Radhā-Kṛṣṇa and Śrī Śrī Gaura-Nityānanda. He only wore a kaupīna (loincloth) and whatever people would bring as offerings he would set aside. Nobody would dare to touch these offerings. One day the servant complained to Śrīla Vaṁśīdāsa Bābājī Mahārāja that the vessel used to prepare bhoga for the Deities had been stolen and the fruits had been eaten by a cow. Śrīla Vaṁśīdāsa Bābājī Mahārāja just laughed and remained silent. When the servant inquired, he smilingly replied, “Cora ne diyā. Cora ne liyā.” – One thief gave and another thief took away!
Who is the thief? Kṛṣṇa!