[November 15, 2023 is the disappearance day of Vāsudeva Ghoṣa in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of a discourse by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on October 25, 2014. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is a special day, it is the tirobhāva tithi of Vāsudeva Ghoṣa Ṭhākura and my śikṣā guru, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Sarvasva Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja.
FORGETFULNESS OF VAIṢṆAVAS IS THE ONSET OF MISFORTUNE
Āvirbhāva and tirobhāva tithis of Vaiṣṇavas are equally worshipable because both award us their remembrance. Remembrance of Vaiṣṇavas is our wealth (sampada) and their forgetfulness is our misery (vipada).
Indirectly, Śrīla Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura imparted this lesson to us through his words, ‘prabhu lokanātha pada nāhi to smaraṇa – I am unable to remember my guru’s lotus feet.’ If we do not possess remembrance of Vaiṣṇavas then this is our misfortune. He further 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.’
I have not developed even the slightest loving attachment for Vaiṣṇavas. In such a state everything is useless. When remembrance of Vaiṣṇavas does not come to us, then we should know that our days of misfortune have begun. As long as we are remembering them, we are fortunate.
From external vision, Govinda, Mādhava and Vāsudeva Ghoṣa were three brothers who appeared in Agradvīpa within Navadvīpa. Among the three brothers, Govinda Ghoṣa was unhappy due to having lost his only son. So Lord Gopīnātha told him, “I am your son, so why should you lament? [I will do whatever is required when you leave this world]” When Govinda Ghoṣa left this world, Lord Gopīnātha took kuśa grass in His hand, performed the śrāddha ceremony of Govinda Ghoṣa.
All the three brothers were Mahāprabhu’s kīrtanīyas [Endnote 1]. Just now we listened to a kīrtana composed by Vāsudeva Ghoṣa. His śrīpāṭa [residence] is in Tamluk. Vāsudeva Ghoṣa went to Tamluk, established his residence and stayed there. His śrīpāṭa and Kṣīracorā Gopīnātha [Remunā] are operated and served by those in the disciplic succession of Śrīla Rasikānanda Gosvāmī.
A carnival is traditionally held for Govinda Ghoṣa whose śrīpāṭa is in Agradvīpa. Many people assemble there and it is known as Ghoṣa Ṭhākura’s melā; it is still being held despite the fact that most have forgotten the name of Ghoṣa Ṭhākura [Endnote 2].
THE FIRST EVER PAÑJIKĀ
Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja instructed my parama-gurudeva, Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, to prepare the Navadvīpa Pañjikā (Vaiṣṇava Pañjikā) which would include all the auspicious tithis like Janmāṣṭamī, Ekādaśī, and other important tithis such as the appearance and disappearance days of various Vaiṣṇavas. This service was specifically entrusted to Śrīla Prabhupāda due to his expertise in astrology. So it was on the order of Śrīla Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, that Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura created the first Vaiṣṇava Pañjikā in Vaiṣṇava history. This pañjikā, which marks the āvirbhāva and tirobhāva of the Vaiṣṇavas, is continuing even to this day. Otherwise, who would have remembered that today is Vāsudeva Ghoṣa's tirobhāva tithi? Who would have known who Vāsudeva Ghoṣa is?
HUMILITY - AN INDICATOR OF EXALTATION
We just now heard a wonderful kīrtana, what humility he has expressed – “That providence has made the heart of Vāsudeva Ghoṣa like stone because it is not melting upon hearing the name [of Bhagavān] which has the power to melt everything. I did not experience such a thing”. He is repenting in this way – this is called humility.
tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
Śikṣāṣṭaka Verse 3
[“Thinking oneself to be even lower and more worthless than insignificant grass that has been trampled beneath everyone’s feet, being more tolerant than a tree, being prideless and offering respect to all others according to their respective positions, one should continuously chant the holy name of Śrī Hari.” (GVP)]
To the extent one has advanced in devotion, to that extent he will be humble. That is why he said, “Providence has carved the heart of Vāsudeva Ghoṣa out of stone because it is not melting by taking the name of Gaurāṅga.”
Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja has referred to himself by saying:
jagāi mādhāi hôite muĩ se pāpiṣṭha
purīṣera kīṭa hôite muĩ se laghiṣṭha
mora nāma śune ĵei tāra puṇya kṣaya
mora nāma laya ĵei tāra pāpa haya
emana nirghṛṇa more kebā kṛpā kare
eka nityānanda binu jagata bhitare
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 5.205-207)
[I am more sinful than Jagāi and Mādhāi and even lower than a worm in stool. The pious activities of a person who hears my name are completely destroyed. Anyone who utters my name commits a sin. Who in this world but Nityānanda could show His mercy to such a vile person as me?]
Such humility manifested in Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī.
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, too, expressed similar sentiments:
adharo ‘py aparadhanaṁ aviveka-hato ‘py aham
tvat-karuṇya-pratikṣo ‘smi prasīda mayi madhava
Stava-mālā, Volume 1 Praṇāma-praṇaya-stava (14)
[Although I am a mine of offenses, and although I cannot tell right from wrong, I still hope for Your mercy. O Mādhava, please be merciful to me.]
Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī also humbly said, “I am expert at mundane talks and I am also adept at Hindi, Phārsi, Urdū, Sanskrit, Banglā; however, I consider there is no fool greater than I because I do not know myself.” So, he enquired from Śrī Caitanya-deva about his real identity ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Why am I suffering the threefold miseries?’ Had anyone posed such a question before like, 'Who am I?'
ETERNAL SERVANT OF KṚṢṆA
In reply, Śrī Caitanya-deva did not say, “Your identity is that you are a servant of Kṛṣṇa.” No, instead He stated:
jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya — kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’ kṛṣṇera ‘taṭasthā-śakti’ ‘bhedābheda-prakāśa’
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 20.108
[The constitutional position of the jīva is that he is an eternal servant of the Lord. He appears from the Lord’s marginal energy and a manifestation simultaneously one with and different from the Lord].
Śrī Caitanya-deva mentioned the constitutional position of all the living entities as eternal servants of Kṛṣṇa. He established that by practicing one will not become Prabhu [or the Lord] nor would He entertain such conception – “pāśa-baddho bhavet jīvaḥ pāśa-muktaḥ sadāśivaḥ—a person bound by the ropes of māyā is a jīva, but when he is released from those bonds, he becomes Sadāśiva.” Eternally he will remain a servant. Hence, kṛṣṇera ‘taṭasthā-śakti’ ‘bhedābheda-prakāśa’ –The living entity is Kṛṣṇa’s marginal potency, Bhagavān is sad-cid-ānadamaya vastu and so are the living entities. The living entity is infinitesimal (aṇu) and the Lord is infinite (vibhu), this is the difference. Thus, although both are one in quality and are sac-cid-ānanda, Bhagavān is vibhu-sad-cid-ānanda and the living entity is aṇu-sac-cid-ānanda. There is a difference here as well, which is that the living entity is bound by his actions (karma phala baddha) and Bhagavān is not.
BHAGAVĀN REMAINS BHAGAVĀN IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES
Whatever Bhagavān does is līlā, His pastimes, they are performed by His own will. So, it is said, na nāma-rūpe guṇa-doṣa eva vā – [The Supreme Personality of Godhead has no material birth, activities, name, form, qualities or faults. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 8.3.8] Even if Bhagavān assumes the form of a boar, He is still Bhagavān. As Kūrma [the tortoise incarnation] He is Bhagavān. As Matsya [the fish incarnation] He is Bhagavān. As Nṛsiṁha [the half man-half lion incarnation] He is Bhagavān. So the consideration will not be in terms of the forms He assumes. In all situations, He is sarva-śaktimān [omnipotent]. If it were not so, can a tortoise carry Mandara Mountain upon his back which all the demigods and the demons by their combined efforts could not lift? As Kūrma, He carried it effortlessly upon His back and by doing so, He only experienced pleasure. Whichever form Bhagavān appears in, He is sarva-śaktimān. However, we will not realize this.
SPIRIT IS THE DETERMINING FACTOR
A fakīr [destitute] does not get enough clothes, he is poor. And Mahātmā Gāndhijī [an Indian activist who was the leader of the Indian independence movement against the British rule] also used to wear minimal clothing [He wore a handspun (khādi) loincloth as a propaganda to boycott British goods including their cloth as a mark of non-cooperation]. So just by wearing minimal clothing can one become Gāndhijī? For someone like Gāndhi, it is an ornament and for the fakīr it is a matter of constraint or helplessness, due to non-availability.
Just see, ordinarily those who fast during a vrata [fast] they are happy, and those who do not get to eat are unhappy. On Ekādaśī day, in Jalandhar, one beggar was crying, “Please give me two rupees I want to drink tea.” He is crying for two rupees, whereas those who observe Ekādaśī fast are rejoicing, ‘I have observed a fast, so I have no difficulty!’ So it depends on the spirit.
DEVOTEES ALSO PERFORM PASTIMES
When Bhagavān performs His pastimes, it will be superlative, because all the sixty-four qualities come from Him alone. Just like Bhagavān, His devotees also perform pastimes. Bhagavān sometimes makes His devotees very wealthy and at other times very destitute. Devotees are happy in either position. Śrīdhara Paṇḍita was poor, but was he unhappy? When he was offered any boon he desired, did he ask for wealth? No. He prayed, “May that Prabhu who used to snatch banana bark, banana flowers, and radish from me become my Lord life after life.”
These three brothers were kīrtanīyas of Mahāprabhu; during Ratha-yātrā they used to sing kīrtanas in one of the seven groups.
In regards to the three brothers, Vāsudeva Ghoṣa, Govinda Ghoṣa and Mādhava Ghoṣa, Vaiṣṇava-vandanā mentions,
śrī-govinda ghoṣa vandiba sāvadhāne
jā’ra nāma sārthaka prabhu karilā āpane
vandiba mādhava ghoṣa prabhura prīstihāna
prabhu yā’re karilā abhyaṅga-svaradāna
śrī vāsudeva ghoṣa vandiba sāvadhāne
gaura-guṇa vinu jā’ra anya nāhi jñāne
“No matter how much they sing, their voice will never diminish or fade (abhyaṅga-svaradāna)” Such are their glories. They have awarded me the fortune of serving them today [by singing their glories].
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 10.115 [BBT]
govinda, mādhava, vāsudeva — tina bhāi yāṅ-sabāra kīrtane nāce caitanya-nitāi
The three brothers Govinda, Mādhava and Vāsudeva were the eighty-second, eighty-third and eighty-fourth branches of the tree. Lord Caitanya and Nityānanda used to dance in their kīrtana performances.
The three brothers Govinda, Mādhava and Vāsudeva Ghoṣa all belonged to a kāyastha family. Govinda established the Gopīnātha temple in Agradvīpa, where he resided. Mādhava Ghoṣa was so expert in performing kīrtana that no one in the world could compete with him; He was known as, “The singer of Vṛndāvana” and was very dear to Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu. It is said that when the three brothers performed saṅkīrtana, immediately Lord Caitanya and Nityānanda would dance in ecstasy. According to the Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā (188), the three brothers were formerly Kalāvatī, Rasollāsā and Guṇatuṅgā, who recited the songs composed by Śrī Viśākhā-gopī. The three brothers were among one of the seven parties that performed kīrtana when Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu attended the Ratha-yātrā festival at Jagannātha Purī. Vakreśvara Paṇḍita was the chief dancer in their party. This is vividly described in the Madhya-līlā, chapter thirteen, verses 42 and 43.
[Excerpt from a lecture on the tirobhāva of Śrī Govinda Ghoṣa Ṭhākura given on March 27,2017 by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja. For complete lecture visit this link – https://www.visuddhacaitanyavani.com/single-post/2018/03/13/Govinda-Ghosa]
To this day, many from Māyāpura attend the festival, but not as many go to see Gopīnātha, during the carnival (melā). The festival is popularly known as ‘Ghoṣa Ṭhākura’s melā’ and it is quite grand.
Every year after Mahāprabhu’s appearance day, fourteen vigrahas (Deities) from Kṛṣṇanagara, are gathered there. I recall how the king of Kṛṣṇanagara used to bring all the vigrahas (Deities) and arrange a grand festival there.
Many people put up stalls there, stay for two days to earn well and leave. There was one person who was working on our fields. He once asked for three days off, as he wanted to participate in Ghoṣa Ṭhākura’s melā. The deities of Mahāprabhu for each of our maṭhas came from there. Guru Mahārāja preferred it that way, as it was symbolic of the fact that we worship Mahāprabhu of Navadvīpa. It has been almost 375 years now, and the carnival still happens in a grand fashion.