I spent a week in September with my godbrother Gadadhar Pran Das at Gadai Gauranga Kunj, doing a small vrata with him and observing his bhajan pranali, I am sharing this article written by him. It has two parts.
At the present time, Gadadhar Pran spends the entire day in the service of Gadadhar and Gauranga, and is working on restoring a painting of his Nadia Yugal. For three days up to Purnima, however, we spent almost the entire day in japa and meditation, chanting three lakhs together in the beautiful environment of the Kunj, overlooking the Ganges, bathing three times in the holy river, doing kirtan and honoring Gadai Gauranga’s delicious prasadam prepared by Rai Kishori Devi.
The centerpiece of Gadadhar’s nitya bhajan paddhati these days is the recital of Śrī Śrī Gaurāṅga-pratyaṅga-varṇanākhya-stava-rāja, attributed to Advaita Acharya Prabhu and found in a book from the Srikhanda tradition called Bhakti-candrikā. Gadadhar Pran has gone to a lot of trouble researching this work and he is convinced that it is a genuine work by Advaita Prabhu as it is present in many ancient collections. I accept it on his word.
He recites this stava three times a day, in the morning he chants the Sanskrit and recites the Bengali prose translation. At lunch time, he chants the Bengali padyānuvāda of Akinchan Das, and in the evening the Sanskrit alone. This he does with great feeling, standing in front of his deities, his eyes fixed on them, his voice cracking with emotion.
The author promises in the phala-śruti that whoever chants it three times a day will surely attain Gauranga’s madhura-prema in the nitya Nabadwip. It is in the deep hope of attaining this goal that he has learned all these versions of the stava by heart and has unfailingly maintained this practice for several years now.
In the Yoga Sūtra, there is a statement (1.21) tīvra-saṁvegānām āsannaḥ: “When one’s practice becomes very intense, the goal is near to being achieved.” I have known Gadadhar for 40 years, most of which he has spent in complete devotion to his Gaura and Gadadhar in his beautiful Mayapur ashram. He has turned two properties near the confluence of the Ganges and the Jalangi into a natural paradise filled with flower and fruit trees, with chabutaras, cupolas and gazebos everywhere so that one can sit in the pleasant scented breezes cooled by the Ganges waters and fix the mind entirely on Gauranga Mahaprabhu as the Nadia Nagara.
But one should not think that he is doing this whimsically or that he did not pay his dues by doing the rāgānugā bhajan of the Rupanugas in Braj. As soon as I can, I intend to start serializing his translation and commentary of the Govinda-līlāmṛta on Vrindavan Today so that one can get an idea of how he actually practices his līlā smarana. I can honestly say that I have seen up close any devotee, Indian or foreign, that has taken to the core message of rāgānugā bhajan and unfailingly stuck with it in spite of all obstacles over his entire lifetime -- obstacles coming from both within and without.
There are many who still choose to find fault with Gadadhar for sins both real and imagined, and there are others who condemn him for his Gaura Nagara bhajan. It is clear that nobody can or will stop him. I know how much pain it causes him to be falsely accused of horrible misdeeds, but the bitterness of such calumny is washed away by the sweet nectar of his bhajan, and indeed it acts as a protection against insincere hangers-on and the externally oriented superficial dilettante devotees who have no idea of what it means to follow the āmnāya-siddhā guru-paramparā up to the revelation of one’s eternal svarūpa in the nitya-dhāma.
Gadadhar has written numerous books. Indeed I feel ashamed when I see with what diligence he has produced book after book -- about Mahaprabhu’s gift of rāgānugā bhajan in madhura rasa, the Govinda-līlāmṛta translation and commentary that took five years to complete, the Vishnupriya trilogy, translations of Lochan Das’s Dhāmāli and other works from the Srikhanda Vaishnava family, and now his work on the Stava-rāja. Through these one can observe the development of his own insights into the madhura-līlā of Gaura Krishna and his parshads. If one believes in the path of rāgānugā bhakti, there are few Vaishnavas -- and certainly none from the West who speak the English language -- of his caliber who are worthy of respect and support. And I therefore urge those who are capable of doing so to support the publication of his books and the deity seva at Gadai Gauranga Kunj. If anyone merits it, it is he.
dīkṣāsti cet praṇatibhiś ca bhajantam īśam |
śuśrūṣayā bhajana-vijñam ananyam anya-
nindādi-śūnya-hṛdam īpsita-saṅga-labdhyā ||
One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Krishna. One should offer his humble obeisances to the one who has undergone spiritual initiation [dīkṣā] and is engaged in worshiping the Deity. And if one encounters a pure devotee who is advanced in undeviating devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others, one should associate with and faithfully serve him, recognizing him to be the ideal spiritual companion.
na prākṛtatvam iha bhakta-janasya paśyet |
gaṅgāmbhasāṁ na khalu budbuda-phena-paṅkair
brahma-dravatvam apagacchati nīra-dharmaiḥ ||6||
One should not look upon any devotee in this world as being material, even if one sees in his body and mind flaws that are the result of his or her nature. The spiritual qualities of the Ganges water are not lost because of the bubbles, foam and silt that are characteristic of all rivers.With regards to those who would condemn Gauranga Nagara bhajan as “unbonafide”, let it be said that the frog in the well cannot hope to know the ocean of the divine līlā. But I will let Gadadhar speak for himself:
Sri Gaurasundar’s Main Activity
Although Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Caitanya-bhāgavata and other Chaitanya shastras all describe Gaurasundar’s main activity in Nadia, most readers miss discovering this topic, since His biographers have presented it in a covered way. So it’s not surprising that Gaurasundar’s most attractive or internal pastimes have become almost entirely lost today. But now we may ask, “Why were they kept a secret?”
Well, to answer, isn’t it true that most of the people in Kaliyuga haven’t even got a clue that Sri Gaurasundar is svayam bhagavān? So how will this vast majority of the human populace be able to fathom His madhura līlās?
Moreover, because the Lord’s character is divine, never should it be compared with what is called love in our world. Therefore, it can be fatal if someone should hear about Prabhu’s romantic activities and then go on to blaspheme Him out of sheer ignorance concerning His Supreme, transcendental position.
But now the consummate bhaktas can bring up a very meaningful question: “If Gaurasundar’s main activity remains hidden, how will we learn about our eternal relationship with Him?”
Although we are writing this essay to address this important matter, we should first have some idea about our eternal relationship with Krishna. So here is a verse written by Kavi Karnapura’s gurudeva, Shrinath Chakravarti, that will give us some direction:
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Essential Teachings
ramyā kācid upāsanā vraja-vadhū-vargena yā kalpitā
śrīmad-bhāgavataṁ pramāṇam amalaṁ premān pumartho mahān
śrī-caitanya-mahāprabhor matam idaṁ tatrādaro naḥ paraḥ
1) Vrajendra nandan Sri Krishna is our worshipable Lord; 2) His abode is the ever sweet Vrindavan 3) The topmost of worshiping Him is that devised by the gopis; 4) Srimad Bhāgavatam presents this evidence; 5) Prema is therefore our ultimate goal.Here we learn about Gaurasundar’s desire that His followers worship Vrajakishora Krishna in gopī-bhāva. But how does the Bhāgavatam depict the gopīs’ prema-sevā to Krishna? Let’s sample two of its verses to find out:
juṣṭaṁ tat-taralānandi kumudāmoda-vāyunā
uttambhayan rati-patiṁ ramayāṁ cakāra
While strolling with his beautiful gopīs along the Yamunā’s moonlit shore – where the sand is white as camphor, and the cooling southern breeze escorts the fragrance of blooming lotus – Krishna desires to awaken their erotic feelings. Thus while tightly embracing His sweethearts – Krishna caresses their thighs, fondles their breasts, kisses their lips and unloosens their lower garment. Everything is done in a playful mood as Krishna’s soft, luring smiles captivate the gopis’ hearts. So just as Kāmadeva enjoys amorous keli with his consort, the goddess Rati, Krishna makes love with all the Vraja sundarīs. (10.29.45-6)Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti comments on this stirring, romantic scene from the Bhāgavatam by first raising a relevant question:
“How is it possible that Krishna enjoys rati-keli with millions of gopa-sundarīs in this open area, which doesn’t have the privacy of separate kunjas or flower beds?”At the conclusion of the Bhāgavatam’s rāsa-līlā narration, Sukadeva Goswāmī tells that Krishna accepts a human form and comes to our world to perform such wonderful pastimes as these simply to allure the bhaktas with His mercy. Because after hearing about the rāsa, they may then take up the gopīs’ method of bhajan to attain Sri Krishna’s madhura sevā just as they perform it.
His own answer: “Just as Svayam bhagavān Sri Krishna is limitlessly powerful, so is the transcendental land of Sri Vrindavan. For even a small particle of Vrindavan dust the size of a sesame seed can expand into a vast area containing private pleasure kunjas – along with fragrant flower beds, betel nuts, sandlewood paste, perfumes, cool drinking water and everything else needed for Krishna’s rati pastime. Sri Yogamāyā makes all of these things possible. And after Krishna’s rati-līlā, She withdraws everything as it was before. In this way, Yogamāyā increases Sri Krishna and the gopīs’ pleasure.”
Yet now it should be mentioned that some Vaishnavas may not feel inclined to follow the gopīs’ kāntā-bhāva, i.e., the mood of a consort, which the Bhāgavatam describes. Rather, they will submit, “Let us serve Radha and Krishna as manjari gopīs, since this is the mood of our Six Goswāmīs.”
Now which path should we follow? We ask because on one hand, Gauranga’s prema-dharma is based on the Bhāgavatam’s pure teachings which eulogize the gopīs’ consorthood prema. But on the other hand, won’t many bhaktas wish to follow our Six Goswāmīs’ mood in manjari bhāva?
After examining the exceptional merit of the rasa found in both paths and noting that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu duly authorizes both, however, wouldn’t it be befitting that we adopt both methods? Because, after all, both processes will serve a wonderful purpose in our nitya sevā to the Lord in the exciting course of His madhura prema līlā.
Here is what we are talking about: Since manjari bhāva sādhana is the recommended path in Vrindavan, one would be wise to take it up. But in Nadia also we can discover that Gauranga’s leading associates worship him in the Bhāgavatam’s kāntā-bhava mood. And in the previously quoted verse, Srila Shrinath Chakravartipāda has hinted at this when he says that this exalted prema is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s matam idam, or main focus in the līlā. Thus his disciple, Srila Kavikarnapur, goes on to reveal the same siddhānta in his Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā, 15:
Srila Kavikarnapur’s Verdict
vilasanti sma te jñeyā vaiṣṇavā hi mahattamāḥ
Here is the verse’s external and internal meaning:
(1) The bhaktas who always enjoy pleasurable pastimes with Sri Visvambhara in Nabadwip are His greatest Vaishnavas.
(2) The bhaktas who enjoy conjugal loving pastimes (nitya vilāsa) with Sri Visvambhara in Nabadwip are His greatest Vaishnavas.
Now won’t most readers just take the first meaning and go on? That may be so, but the second, internal meaning reveals Srila Kavikarnapur’s message for the rasika bhaktas, those who are attracted to Prabhu’s madhura pastimes. Because just as Krishna’s greatest bhaktas, the gopīs, enjoy rati-keli with Him, they also become Gauranga’s greatest Vaishnavas and thus go on relishing those same pastimes in Nadia.
Srila Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī also indicates the same thing in his Caitanya-candrāmrta, 18:
kasyāpi praviveśa naiva dhiṣaṇā yad veda no vā śukaḥ
yatra kvāpi kṛpāmayena ca nije’py udghāṭitaṁ śauriṇā
tasminn ujjvala-bhakti-vartmani sukhaṁ khelanti gaura-priyāḥ
There is an exalted madhura bhakti path which was unknown to the greatest sages of our world, headed by Vyāsadeva. Sukadeva Goswāmī was also clueless about this matter, as it is undisclosed in the Vedas. Yet even the merciful Lord Sri Krishna didn’t reveal this secret to His Vraja bhaktas. These are the wonderful prema-keli affairs that Gauranga’s priyās eternally relish in their intimate loving relationship with Him.By saying "Gaura-priyā", Srila Sarasvatī-pāda is referring to Gaurasundar’s limitless consorts who are, in fact, His madhura bhaktas. For as Prabhu’s svarūpa-śakti counterparts, they can manifest a beautiful female form to relish madhura bhakti rasa with Him.
Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Rāya’s Discussion
To help us understand this verse’s deep meaning, let us now go to the last part of Sriman Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya’s discussion in Caitanya caritāmrta, Madhya 8. Here, when Ramananda Raya mentions the gopīs’ kāntā prema, Prabhu ecstatically answers:
ei premāra vaśa kṛṣṇa – kahe bhāgavate
“This is the paripūrna kṛṣṇa prāpti, the most complete attainment of Krishna. For the Bhāgavatam declares, Krishna is totally subjugated by the prema of His gopī consorts.” (Madhya 8.88)How does the gopīs’ kāntā-prema described in the Bhāgavatam surpass other forms of Bhagavat-prema? Ramananda answers:
śānta-dāsya-sākhya-vātsalyera guṇa madhurete baise
The qualities and relish of the dāsya, sākhya and vātsalya rasas can all be found in madhura-rasa. (Madhya 8.86)Here the term “kāntā” specifically means a parakīyā consort. For just as she can be her beloved’s dāsī, sakhī, or care for him like a mother, and be his loving mistress – the complete attainment of Krishna lies in kāntā-bhāva alone. As Mahaprabhu’s questions (and Ramananda’s answers) begin from the first step and proceed to the very top of the Bhagavad-bhakti ladder, at this stage Ramananda thought he had reached the top, and was thinking to get a rest. But Mahāprabhu went on: “Is there not something more? If so, please tell me.”
eta-dina nāhi jāni, āchāye bhuvane
“Oh my! I’ve never met anyone in the world who would inquire beyond this!” (Madhya 8.97)But then he remembered: “Oh, Radha-prema comes next!”
Then Mahaprabhu became restless and asked, “If Radha’s love excels the gopīs’ kāntā prema, can you please explain why?”
Ramananda replied, “Radha’s love is incomparable in the three worlds. For when Krishna enjoys with millions of Vraja sundaris during the rāsa-līlā, only Radha can completely satiate His desires!” Radha’s pirīti is impossible in humans as it is limitlessly pure, deep, refined and sweet. But then Prabhu asked: “Is there not something more? If so, please tell me to give complete satisfaction to my ears.”
Hearing this, Ramananda became puzzled. “What could be higher than Radha prema?” he thought. Finally he admitted: “Swamin, I’ve reached the end; all of the śakti that You have given me has been depleted. So if You want to hear more, please bless me so that I can answer. Nevertheless, let me sing a song that I composed. Let’s see whether this will please You.”
anudina bāḍhala, avadhi nā gela
nā so ramaṇa, nā hāma ramaṇī
duṅhu-mana manobhava peṣala jāni’
e sakhi, se-saba prema-kāhinī
kānu-ṭhāme kahabi vichurala jāni’
nā khoṅjaluṅ dūtī, nā khoṅjaluṅ ān
duṅhukeri milane madhya ta pāṅca-bāṇa
ab sohi virāga, tuṅhu bheli dūtī
Radha’s Reply to Krishna’s Sakhī Messenger “Sakhī, when our eyes first met, my love for Krishna awoke intensely – and it ever goes on increasing! Now is He the ramana, and am I the ramanī? … we cannot tell! For Cupid has stolen our minds, pulverized them together – and made us one! O sakhī! During our last love-encounter a messenger wasn’t required – for Cupid directly united us! So why are you coming to unite us again? Just see the love of my splendid hero, Sri Krishna.”As Rāmānanda sang, Mahaprabhu become restless and reached over to cover his mouth. This was to conceal His intimate affairs. Because herein Prabhu perceived His own svarūpa in Nadia, which only His intimate priyās can relish. This is what Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī’s verse has revealed: There is an exalted madhura bhakti path that was unknown to the greatest sages headed by Vyāsadeva. Sukadeva Goswāmī was also clueless, as this topic isn’t mentioned in the Vedas. And merciful Lord Sri Krishna didn’t reveal this secret either to His Vraja bhaktas. These are the wonderful prema keli affairs that Gauranga’s priyās eternally relish in their intimate relationship with Him.
Rupa Goswami’s Version
Sri Rupa Goswami’s renowned anarpita-carīm verse has a similar, deep meaning. So let us examine it:
samarpayitum unnotojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ sacī-nandanaḥ
May you always see Sachinandan Gaurahari’s beautiful golden form in your heart. For He advents in the Kali-yuga to award an invaluable gift that was previously unoffered: His very own unnatojjvala-prema-bhakti-rasa.In our Vaishnava world there is a common opinion that the madhura-bhakti treasure that Rupa alludes to here is manjari bhāva. This special prema rasa is anarpita (new) because previously the Bhāgavatam and other ancient bhakti shastras haven’t mentioned it. Though it is also unnata (very exalted) – as the relish of manjari’s sevā excels even the bliss of Krishna’s gopī consorts. Hence Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wishes to promote this form of the madhura rasa in the Kali-yuga.
Although this view is befitting from the point of view of Krishna’s Vraja līlā, more can be discovered in Sri Rupa’s verse. Because he is praying to Sri Sachinandan, and blessing the bhaktas that they always see Him in their heart, the exalted madhura prema that he refers to must certainly be found in Nabadwip as well. In Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī’s verse also, the madhura prema of Gauranga’s priyās can also be termed anarpita (previously unoffered), since Vyāsadeva, Śukadeva and Krishna’s Vraja bhaktas were clueless about it. Moreover, in Mahaprabhu and Ramananda’s sādhya-sādhana-tattva discussion, this topic comes at the very end, after Radha prema. Therefore, the madhura prema of Gauranga’s priyās is surely, as Rupa defines it, a highly exalted (unnata) gift that Sri Gauranga mercifully wishes to offer the people of the Kali-yuga.
Ānugatyamaya and Pratyakṣa Worship
Now an important question arises: Where are these exciting madhura prema līlās eternally going on? The answer is in Goloka Nabadwip and Vrindavan, where every bhakta can serve Svayam Bhagavān in both the ānugatya-maya and the pratyakṣa or direct form of madhura-bhakti worship.
The ānugatya-maya bhajan is found with the manjaris for they serve Radha and Krishna under the leading sakhis' and mañjarīs’ direction. Yet the pratyakṣa worship can be seen in Srila Prabodhānanda’s verse where the bhaktas assume a Gaura priyā female svarūpa to serve Gaurasundar in a direct one-to-one loving relationship.
So apart from attaining a mañjarī siddha-svarūpa to serve Radha-Krishna, there are two more identities which are ideal for Gaudīya Vaishnavas to aspire for in Goloka Nabadwip. We refer to “two” because Gauranga’s madhura upāsanā has basically two main streams:
1) His Rādhābhāva, and
2) His rasarāja worship.
In Gaurasundar’s Rādhā-bhāva-līlā-prakāśa the bhaktas generally serve in handsome brāhmana kiśora forms. This is Mahaprabhu’s ānugatya-maya aṣṭa-kāla sevā which is executed by following Prabhu’s leading associates in the company of one’s guru and guru paramparā members. But when the bhaktas join Prabhu’s rasarāja līlā prakāśa, their pratyakṣa loving relationship with Gaurasundar takes place in their Gaura-priyā female svarūpa.
The following references show how Gauranga’s rasarāja upāsanā is sadopāsya, an eternal form of worship that everyone can take up:
(1) In Narahari Sarkar Thakur’s Bhakti-candrikā’s first verse he says:
“Taking the mood of the Amorous Hero (kānta) Gaurasundar can award supreme bliss and eternal peace in the heart of limitless jīvas.”
(2) In Sri Advaita’s Stavarāja, verse 28, He says:
“O Gaurahari! At the slightest hint, You embrace Your bhaktas with Your lovely arms and become bhakta-vātsala, for sharing Your splendid kānta-bhāva  prema with every one of them!”
 bhakta-vātsala: the Lord’s affectionate behavior with His bhaktas  kānta-bhāva: the mood of the Amorous Hero
(3) In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, 1.2.297-299, Sri Rupa offers two forms of madhura-bhakti sādhana for his rāganugā followers:
sambhogecchāmayī tat-tad-bhāvecchātmiketi ca
sā dvidhā keli-tātparyavaty eva sambhogecchāmayī bhavet
tad-bhāvecchātmikā tāsāṁ bhāva-mādhurya-kāmitā
1) sambhogecchā-mayī: the path for those desiring to attain the Lord’s prema-keli pastimes in kāntā-bhāva;
2) tad-bhāvecchātmikā: the path for those hankering to serve Radha Krishna as mañjarīs to relish Their enchanting bhāvas.
Purport: Here, because Sri Rupa offers his bhakta followers both of these paths neutrally, we can imbibe that both must surely have a useful utility in the līlā’s course. For just as the tad-bhāvecchātmikā mañjarī bhāva is the most befitting path in Vraja, the sambhogecchāmayī process is ideal for those wishing to follow after the internal moods of Gauranga’s Nabadwip bhaktas. Though in Svayam Bhagavān’s highest abode, Goloka, it should be noted that just as Sri Gaurasundar’s Nabadwip bhaktas serve in His Rasarāja and Rādhā-bhāva-līlā-prakāśa, so do the Six Goswamis.
One can see more photographs of Gadai Gauranga Kunj here.