Vrindavan, 2017.06.10 (VT): Today is the disappearance day of Shri Shyamananda Prabhu, a member of the third generation of saints in Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lineage. The Shri Radha-Shyamsundar temple near Seva Kunj is celebrating his life today with special pooja, kirtan, prasad distribution and other festivities.
Shyamananda could be called the patron saint of sohni seva – serving the dust of Vrindavan by sweeping. By sweeping Vrindavan, he got the full kripa of Shri Radharani.
Shyamananda was the disciple of Shri Hriday Chaitanya, and the grand-disciple of Gauridas Pandit, who was an incarnation of Shri Krishna’s playmate, Subal Sakha. He was from Bengal, but his guru sent him to Vrindavan to study under Shri Jeev Goswami. After studying all the scriptures in great detail, Shyamananda decided that the best seva he could do was to sweep the dust of Vrindavan where Radha and Krishna dance the Raas Lila.
As he swept, Shyamananda would chant the Holy Name and meditate on Shri Radha and Krishna’s lilas. He was so lost in the ocean of bliss that he would forget his physical body.
Today, the street on which Shyamsundar Temple resides is the border between Seva Kunj and Nidhivan. Originally Nidhivan reached all the way to this street, although now it is covered wilth concrete and buildings. Shyamananda used to sweep this part of Nidhivan every day.
One day while sweeping, Shyamananda found a golden anklet (nupur). The anklet was so beautiful, it felt as if the sun had fallen from the sky and was sitting in the dust of Vrindavan. The aura of the anklet was so overwhelming that as soon as Shyamananda touched it, he began to feel he was going mad with love. He started to cry, and soon he fainted in bliss.
It was a long time before Shyamananda became conscious again. Shyamananda felt that the anklet must belong to some divine personality, so he tied it around his neck, over his heart.
After some time, an old Brajwasi Brahmin lady came up to Shyamananda. The lady said, “My name is Radha Dasi. My child, have you seen a golden anklet? I am looking for it everywhere. The anklet belongs to my daughter-in-law. She came to bring water from the Shri Yamuna River and dropped it somewhere. The anklet is very expensive. Please give it to me, if you know where it is.”
“I did see an anklet, but how do I know it is yours? Take me to your village with you. I want to show the anklet to your friends and neighbors. If they confirm the anklet belongs to you, then I will give it to you.”
“My daughter-in-law is a princess,” said Radha Dasi. “I cannot possibly allow you to see her.”
“Then I cannot give you the anklet,” said Shyamananda, smiling.
The old lady remained silent for some time. Then she smiled and said, “Alright, then come with me.”
Taking Shyamananda’s hand, the old lady led him under the bending branches of Nidhivan’s beautiful trees. Shyamananda had to bend down to pass through them. Finally they reached a clearing.
In the clearing, Shyamananda saw Shri Radha sitting there along with her closest sakhis and manjaris. Overwhelmed, he looked at his friend, the old woman, but the old woman was not an old woman… she was Lalita Sakhi. Shyamananda then realized that he, too, had taken on a female form like theirs.
Lalita Sakhi brought Shyamananda to the lotus feet of Shri Radha. She said, “This is your maidservant Kanak Manjari. She has found the anklet that you lost while you were dancing in the Raas Lila last night. Please grant her your mercy.
Radharani took the anklet from Shyamananda’s hand and touched it to his (her) head. The touch of the anklet created a new tilak. Before this day, Shyamananda’s was called Duhkhi Krishnadas (sad Krishnadas) because he always cried in separation. The name Shyamananda was given to him on this day by Shri Radharani.
From her heart, Radharani manifested a deity of Shri Krishna and gave him to Shyamananda. This deity became known as “Shri Lalaji” and he is still worshipped to this day in the Shri Radha-Shyamsundar temple in Vrindavan.
Overwhelmed with Shri Radha’s love and blessings, Shyamananda bowed at her feet, and she asked him to place the anklet back on her ankle.
Shri Lalita Sakhi warned Shyamananda not to tell anyone about what had just happened, except his shiksha guru, Shri Jeev Goswami. Then Shyamananda returned to external consciousness.
Shyamananda told Shri Jeev Goswami everything. Shri Jeev’s eyes flowed with tears of love as he embraced Shyamananda.
But the Brajwasis, seeing Shyamananda’s new tilak and hearing his new name, thought that Shri Jeev Goswami had re-initiated Shyamananda. The news passed from the Brajwasis to the Bengali Vaishnav community and eventually got back to Shyamananda’s guru in Bengal.
Shyamananda’s guru, Shri Hriday Chaitanya, was extremely upset to hear that Shyamananda had rejected him as a Guru. He discussed with other saints of the Gaudiya Sampradaya about what was to be done.
To be continued…