This is part two of “What it means to be a Brajavasi”. Part I is here.
Prabodhananda Saraswati is the ācārya for Braja-vāsa-sādhana, i.e., the devotional practice of living in the Dham. Sometimes people find it difficult to understand his niṣṭhā and his vision of the Dham, which sometimes seems at odds with logic. Indeed, the “city of love” (Prema-pattanam) is full of contradictions. For those who believe that Vrindavan is everywhere and there is no need to think that a particular geographical location has any special characteristic, Prabodhananda says:
वृन्दारण्ये वरं स्यां कृमिरपि परतो नो चिदानन्ददेहो
रङ्कोऽपि स्यामतुल्यः परमिह न परत्राद्भुतानन्तभूतिः ।
शून्योऽपि स्यामिह श्रीहरिभजन-लवेनातितुच्छार्थमात्रे
लुब्धो नान्यत्र गोपीजनरमण-पदाम्भोज-दीक्षासुखेऽपि ॥२.१॥
vṛndāraṇye varaṁ syāṁ kṛmir api parato no cid-ānanda-deho
raṅko’pi syām atulyaḥ param iha na paratrādbhutānanta-bhūtiḥ |
śūnyo’pi syām iha śrī-hari-bhajana-lavenātitucchārtha-mātre
lubdho nānyatra gopī-jana-ramaṇa-padāmbhoja-dīkṣā-sukhe’pi ||2.1||
I would rather reside even as a worm in Vrindavan,
than somewhere else in a blissful spiritual body.
I would rather live here, even as a poverty-stricken beggar,
than as one possessing wonderful, unlimited wealth elsewhere.
I would rather reside here in Vrindavan,
even without doing any bhajan to Lord Hari whatsoever,
absorbed in greed for the most trivial things,
than elsewhere, even if I could there know the joy
of being initiated in the service of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna,
the lover of the gopis.
Vrindavan is the soul of this universe. The ultimate truth of Radha and Krishna’s divine love is the all-pervading, underlying fact of existence, which has become manifest here in the incarnation of their Dham.
Even after Radha and Krishna become invisible to the world, their Dham remains. Although it is the nature of Maya to attempt to cover the Dham, and Kali does everything in his power to do so, nothing can ever fully cover the svarūpa-śakti‘s presence here. Those who say that the presence of material imperfection in the Dham is an indication that it is not special or necessary are wrong.
The svarūpa-śakti exercises its influence on all who stay here. But it becomes most clearly manifest when those who reside here cultivate the understand of the Truth of the Divine Couple and devotion to them. Whether they are here from birth or come from afar due to the attractions of the Dham — because of the potential that Prabodhananda Saraswati is revealing in his Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta — if they deepen their understanding of the revelation given to Vrindavan’s “avatar generation” – from whichever tradition or sampradāya — then they make the Dham reveal its true form.
It is much like the story told by Rupa Goswami where Krishna was able to hide his true identity by assuming the form of Narayan. He could fool some of the gopis even though their attraction to him was diminished by his disguise, but when Radha came by, he could not maintain it. He was obliged by her devotion to reassume his three-fold crooked form, playing the flute and smiling sweetly in the mood of the ujjvala-rasa.
gopīnāṁ paśupendra-nandana-juṣo bhāvasya kas tāṁ krtī
vijñātuṁ kṣamate durūha-padavī-sañcāriṇaḥ prakriyām
āviṣkurvati vaiṣṇavīm api tanuṁ tasmin bhujair jiṣṇubhir
yāsāṁ hanta caturbhir adbhuta-ruciṁ rāgodayaḥ kuñcati ||
What capable person could possibly fully understand the manifestations of the gopis’ mood of love for the son of Nanda Maharaj, which rises to the highest extremes of incomprehensibility? When they saw Krishna disguised in his Vishnu form in all its splendor with four arms, their attraction diminished even though they knew it was God Himself. (Lalita-mādhava 6.15, CC 1.17.281)
So it is for Prabodhananda Saraswati or Raghunath Das or any other sādhaka who has attained the level of recognition of Vrindavan’s true glories. No other place, not Mathura, not Dwarka, not Haridwar or Bhadrinath, despite their purity and holiness, can ever attract the single-minded aspirant for the service of the Divine Couple.
But Radha’s love is so strong, her dedication so powerful, that Krishna cannot hold onto his disguise.
rāsārambha-vidhau nilīya vasatā kuñje mṛgākṣī-gaṇair
dṛṣṭaṁ gopayituṁ svam uddhura-dhiyā yā suṣṭhu sandarśitā |
rādhāyāḥ praṇayasya hanta mahimā yasya śriyā rakṣituṁ
sā śakyā prabhaviṣṇunāpi hariṇā nāsīc catur-bāhutā ||7||
At the beginning of the Rasa dance, when Krishna hid from the doe-eyed gopis in one of the kunjas, he cleverly disguised himself by taking on the Vishnu four-armed form so that even when they saw him they did not recognize him. But just look at the glory of Radharani’s love, despite being all-powerful . (Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi 5.7, CC 1.17.293).
So, the work of those who reside in Vrindavan is to make the Dham manifest. They do so by perfecting their bhajan at whatever their level of understanding or the strength of their devotion. The innermost circle may be the least visible — those who practice devotion in hiding. Others may preach or engage in welfare work or in cleaning, it does not matter as long as they work to make Radha and Krishna’s abode into a living and breathing reality, inwardly and outwardly into God’s own playground, to make it manifest to as many people as possible.
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- Srila Prabhupada, Globalization and the Three Vrindavans (Part II) - October 29, 2017
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