Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja LEARNING VERSES BY HEART January, 2009: Cebu, Philippines
[From mid-November to mid-January 2009 Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja resided in Cebu, Philippines, on a writing retreat. After returning from his morning walk at 6.45 am, he would have a short meeting with the devotees who stayed with him during that period, teaching his personal party slokas (verses) from various Vedic scriptures and giving them "homework assignments" to learn those slokas by memory. On the next day, he would listen as they recited the slokas and translations. Then he would request them to explain the meanings, after which he himself would give further explanation.
One interesting aspect of Srila Maharaja's meetings with his personal party was the loving informality and intimacy - the "father/sons and daughters" feeling which the reader happily picks up by reading the transcription below. The following is a few excerpts from those daily meetings.
Your aspiring servants, the harikatha team]
kalah kalir balina indriya-vairi-vargah sri bhakti-marga iha kantaka-koti-ruddhah ha ha kva yami vikalah kim aham karomi caitanyacandra yadi nadya krpam karosi (Sri Caitanya Candramrta 125, Prabodhananda Sarasvati)
["Now it is the age of Kali. My enemies, the senses, are very strong. The beautiful path of bhakti is spiked with countless thorns (like karma, jnana, and unrestricted sense enjoyment). My spirit is weak. My senses are powerful and agitated. O what shall I do? Where shall I go? O Lord Caitanya-candra, if you do not grant me Your mercy, what shall I do to save myself?"]
samsara-duhkha-jaladhau patitasya kama- krodhadi-nakra-makaraih kavali-krtasya durvasana-nigaditasya nirasrayasya caitanya-candra mama dehi padavalambam (Sri Caitanya Candramrta 54, Prabodhananda Sarasvati)
["O Caitanyacandra, I have fallen into an ocean of misery where I have been made a mouthful for the crocodiles and sharks of lust, anger, and so forth. Kindly give this destitute person, chained to wicked desires, the shelter of Your lotus feet."]
[Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] What is the meaning?
[Devotee:] O Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, I've fallen into this vast ocean of material existence, and this ocean is full of sharks and crocodiles.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] What are the crocodiles?
[Devotee:] Lust, anger, greed, illusion, and envy.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] And lust for ladies - this is what is meant by nakra, crocodiles. And what is the meaning of makara (shark). It is the desire for prestige and so many worldly problems.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Do you feel this mood of prayer from your heart?
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] You should realize the mood of these verses. I am giving you these verses so that you will truly realize them and enter the realm of bhakti. If you see a beautiful lady, are your eyes and heart attracted to her, or not? Though you reject the idea, still your heart goes there. It is extremely difficult to be a muni, one who is undisturbed in the midst of all adversities. You must realize this, and with tears in your eyes, pray all these verses.
Do you have any anger? These are crocodiles and other animals. You should realize all these truths.
[Devotee:] How do we realize?
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] By praying: he krsna! karuna-sindho! dina-bandho! jagat-pate! gopesa! gopika-kanta! radha-kanta! namo ‘stu te
["I offer pranama unto Sri Krsna, who is an ocean of mercy, the friend of the distressed and the source of creation.
He is the master of the gopas and the lover of the gopis headed by Srimati Radhika. You know this prayer. What is the meaning?
[Devotee:] O Krsna, You are an ocean of mercy.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] How do you know?
[Devotee:] Because He sends His most dear devotees to this world, to help the fallen jivas.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] More?
[Devotee:] I don't know more.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Putana came to kill Krsna, and what did He do?
[Devotee:] He gave her a motherly position (as a nurse in Goloka).
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:]: He has sent so many rsis and munis to train you. He is so merciful that He manifests as caitya-guru (the Supersoul, who acts as the guru in the heart). He has sent guru; Sri Guru came to you; this is the mercy of Krsna. Although Krsna always lives in Goloka Vrndavana, for the benefit of the poor conditioned souls He descended with His pastimes in order to invite the conditioned souls to witness them. Even those who will simply hear those pastimes will all be liberated, even after thousands and thousands of years. So, in this way, Krsna is karuna-sindhu, an ocean of mercy.
[Devotee:] That means He is the friend of the most fallen.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] In what way? When, Sudama-vipra went to see Krsna, he was extremely poor. What did Krsna do? He gave Sudama great wealth and opulence. *[See Endnote 1]
Do you know the history of the elephant Gajendra and the crocodile? *[See Endnote 2] When Gajendra called to Krsna's incarnation, Lord Visnu,the Lord came to the seashore where Gajendra and the crocodile were engaged in battle. Lord Visnu killed the crocodile and gave him liberation. Moreover, He gave Gajendra pure bhakti and that elephant then went to Vaikuntha. This is another example of Krsna's being dina-bandhu. There are so many other examples.
How is He Jagat-pate?
[Devotee:] This means He is the controller of the whole world.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] How?
[Devotee:] He manifests as His various incarnations: Maha-Visnu, Garbodakasayi-Visnu, Ksirodakasayi-Visnu, the Guna-avataras, Saktyavesa-avataras, and Manvataras. In so many ways, He is managing this entire universe for the benefit of the living entities.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] He has created; that is, He has empowered Brahma to create, and Brahma created the universe. He empowered Sankara (Lord Siva) to destroy. He personally became Visnu, and as Visnu He is supporting and nourishing the world. He also manifests as the Supersoul in the heart of all living entities, and in that form as well as his form as Krsna speaking to us through Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita) He has warned us to be careful.
How is He Gopesa?
[Devotee:] Gopesa has two meanings. He is the controller of the gopis, and He is controlled by the gopis.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] No. Gopesa is a combination of two words: gopa (cowherd boy) plus isvara (controller or Lord). He nourishes the cowherd boys by giving them the relish of His prema.
[Sripad Madhava Maharaja:] He saved the gopas from the demons. He is controlled by His cowherd friends.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Gopika-kanta means that He is controlled by the gopis. Radha-kanta: He is controlled by the love and affection of the gopis, and especially by the love of Srimati Radhika. You should try to remember the mood of this verse, as well as the meaning of each word of every verse that I am giving you. You will then realize these verses, and after that any prayer or verse that comes to you will come with realization.
What is the next verse?
naham vipro na ca nara-patir napi vaisyo na sudro naham varni na ca grha-patir no vanastho yatir va kintu prodyan nikhila-paramananda-purnamrtabdher gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah (Padyavali, 74):
["I am not a brahmana (priest or Vedic scholar), ksatriya (warrior or administrator), vaisya (agriculturalist or businessman), or sudra (worker), nor a brahmacari (celibate student), grhastha (householder), vanaprastha (renounced householder) or sannyasi (full renunciate). Being transcendental to this gross and subtle body, I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of the master of the gopis, Sri Krsna, who is the ultimate shelter of everyone, full of transcendental bliss and an ocean of unlimited nectar."]
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Are you American?
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] You are from England?
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] This verse is explaining that you are not from England. You should not have any worldly identity. What are you?
[Devotee:] I am a servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Sri Krsna.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Servant of the gopis - Gopi-bhartu [meaning "Krsna, who is controlled by the gopis"].
You are American because you are more fair in complexion?
[Devotee:] This is false ego.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Why is that false ego?
[Devotee:] "Kintu prodyan nikhila-paramananda-purnamrtabdher." Krsna, who is always served by the gopis, is the most attractive, self-effulgent personality, and He is the supreme object of our service.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Why don't you mention that false ego is due to dehatma-buddhi, the illusory attachment for personal bodily coverings and everything connected with the body?
In reality we are atma, pure spirit soul, but due to our bodily identification, we have a false conception of ourselves. Why has this come? It is due to Krsna-bhuli, forgetfulness of Krsna.
[Devotee:] Due to ignorance and forgetfulness.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Why has ignorance come? Because we have forgotten Krsna. In what way have we forgotten Him? We are infinitesimal jivas - not Paramatma, the Supersoul. Being tiny, it is possible to forget Him.
Who has told this verse (naham vipro...)?
[Devotee:] Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] To whom? In general, He has told this verse for the benefit of all, but specifically He told it to Sri Svarupa Damodara and Sri Raya Ramananda. He used to relish this verse in various ways, weeping continuously. Will you remember this until the end of your life?
[Devotee:] By your mercy, Gurudeva.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Don't forget this.
Who told you all this?
[Devotees:] You have told us.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] So don't forget this for your entire life.
The next verse is:
samsara-sindhu-tarane hrdayam yadi syat samkirttanamrta-rase ramate manas cet premambudhau viharane yadi citta-vrttir mayapurakhya-nagare vasatim kurusva
["If you cherish the desire in your heart to cross the ocean of material existence, if you have the desire to taste the sweet nectar of the holy name, if you have an intense eagerness to play in the ocean of prema, you must certainly reside in the city of Sri Mayapura." (Sri Navadvipa-satakam, Verse 9, by Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati Thakura]
From time to time you should read Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, from beginning to end; and after this Srimad-Bhagavatam - from top to bottom. We are engaged in devotional services all day, but within this time we must somehow take some time - in the night or day, to study. In a single day, Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami sometimes slept one prahara (approximately three hours, and sometimes they did not sleep at all. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not sleep at all - neither in the day or night. We should also curtail our sleeping.
In my young age, and then after I took sannyasa, up until my old age - my seventy-fifth year, I never slept in the daytime. In the daytime I used to go to the garden of our Math (preaching center or temple), or to a park, even in the heat, and I used to read all these scriptures. You should also do this.
A grhastha works very hard throughout the day, performing many activities; we should do ten times more than that - in Krsna-bhajana. Krsna-bhajana is our life and soul. After this, life is finished, we do not know what birth we will take.
krsna tvadiya-pada-pankaja-panjarantam adyaiva me visatu manasa-raja-hamsah prana-prayana-samaye kapha-vata-pittaih kanthavarodhana-vidhau smaranam kutas te
["O Krsna, my request is that the swan of my mind be caught this very day in the network of the lotus flowers of Your feet and dwell there in the ocean of rasa. At the time of death the throat will be choked up with mucus, air and bile. Under such conditions, how will it be possible to remember Your name?"]
[To Madhava Maharaja:] Can you explain this verse?
[Sripad Madhava Maharaja:] A devotee is praying to Krsna: "Krsna tvadiya-pada-pankaja-panjarantam adyaiva me visatu manasa-raja-hamsah - Oh Krsna, I want that my mind becomes like a swan and enters Your lotus-like feet right now. As a swan takes the lotus root in Mana-sarovara, I want my swan-like mind to enter Your lotus-like feet and take the honey from there." If Krsna will ask, "Why are you in a hurry? Your lifespan is so long; wait a little." The devotee will tell Him, "No, I want to do this right now." Krsna will ask, "Why not wait for your old age to come?" The devotee will reply, "At the end of my life I will be in great pain and my throat will be filled with mucus, and my voice will be choked, so how will I remember You? I want my mind to be focused on Your lotus feet right now, and in that way I will be able to remember You at my last breath." If he remembers now and leaves his body now, there will be success; this is the meaning. So do not wait until old age for practicing Krsna consciousness, and remembering and chanting. This verse was written by King Kulasekhara. *[See Endnote 3]
[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] Do you understand? Always remember this. Otherwise, if we wait for death to remember Krsna, then, when our throat is choked up with mucus, bile and air, we will not be able to remember. "Adyaiva me visatu (may I enter such remembrance right now)" - we should think seriously about all these things.
[*Endnote 1: This chapter describes how Lord Krsna ate a morsel of the flat rice brought by His friend Sudama and bestowed upon him wealth greater than that of the King of heaven.
In the course of His loving talks with His friend Sudama, Lord Krsna said, "My dear brahmana, have you brought any gift for Me from home? I regard as very significant even the smallest offering from My loving devotee." But the poor brahmana was ashamed to present Krsna with his meager gift of flat rice. However, since Lord Krsna is the Supersoul dwelling in all hearts, He knew why Sudama had come to visit Him. So He grabbed the small bundle of flat rice Sudama was hiding and ate a morsel of it with great pleasure. He was about to eat a second morsel when Rukmini devi stopped Him.
Feeling as if he had gone back to Godhead, Sudama spent that night comfortably in Lord Krsna's palace, and the next morning he set off for home. As he passed along the highway, he thought of how fortunate he was to have been so honored by Sri Krsna.
Absorbed in this meditation, Sudama arrived at the place where his home used to be, and he was struck with great wonder. Instead of his broken-down hovel, he saw a series of opulent palaces. While he stood astonished, a group of beautiful men and women came forward to greet him with singing and music. The brahmana's wife, wonderfully adorned with celestial jewelry, came out of the palace and welcomed him with great love and reverence. Sudama entered his home together with her, thinking that this extraordinary transformation must have been due to the Supreme Lord's mercy on him.
From then on Sudama lived his life amidst lavish wealth, yet he maintained his mood of detachment and constantly chanted the glories of Lord Krsna(.) In a short time he broke off all bonds of bodily attachment and attained the kingdom of God. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.81.1-2)]
[*Endnote 2: In the midst of the Ocean of Milk, there is a very high and beautiful mountain that has an altitude of ten thousand yojanas, or eighty thousand miles. This mountain is known as Trikuta. In a valley of Trikuta there is a nice garden named Åtumat, which was constructed by Varuna, and in that area there is a very nice lake.
Once, the chief of the elephants, along with female elephants, went to enjoy bathing in that lake, and they disturbed the inhabitants of the water. Because of this, the chief crocodile in that water, who was very powerful, immediately attacked the elephant's leg. Thus there ensued a great fight between the elephant and the crocodile. This fight continued for one thousand years. Neither the elephant nor the crocodile died, but since they were in the water, the elephant gradually became weak whereas the power of the crocodile increased more and more. Thus, the crocodile became more and more encouraged. Then the elephant, being helpless and seeing that there was no other way for his protection, sought shelter at the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (Srimad Bhagavatam, 8.2 Summary) ]
[*Endnote 3: If we are serious of being transferred to the loka , to the place where Krsna is, then we have to train up the mind so nicely that at the time of death we can remember Krsna. Therefore one great king, Kulasekhara, is praying to Krsna, "Krsna tvadiya pada-pankaja..." King Kulasekhara is praying to Krsna, "Adyaiva visatu me manasa-raja-hamsah. Adyaiva . Prana-prayana-samaye kapha-vata-pittaih smaranam kutas te." He is praying, "Krsna, I am now in good health. So kindly award me death immediately. Adyaiva. Immediately, so that my mind, which is just like a swan, can take pleasure by entering into stem of Your lotus flower-like feet."
Krsna's feet are always compared with the lotus flower, and the lotus flower has got a stem. The swans take pleasure in being entangled with that stem. They go and dive into the water. This is their very good sporting.
King Kulasekhara is taking that sporting and comparing his mind with the raja-hamsa . "As the raja-hamsa takes pleasure by entangling himself in the stem of the lotus flower, similarly Your lotus feet, there is a stem. So my mind, which may be compared with raja-hamsa, let it be entangled now, immediately. Otherwise I do not know . Prana-prayana-samaye kapha-vata-pittaih. When all bodily functions will be mixed up, kapha-vata-pittaih [mucus, air, and bile], 'ghan ghan,' there will be some sound, how I will be able to remembering Your lotus feet? So let me die immediately, immediately. Now I am quite fit. Otherwise I may not be able."
This is the point. The mind should be kept in a healthy condition. Therefore, one who dies with full sense and remembering Krsna, oh, he is successful. (Srila Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, Bhagavad-gita lecture 1.28-29, London, July 22, 1973).]