This year a special presentation of the Ashtayama lila was made from Oct. 4-8, with explanations by Hit Ambarishji Maharaj. A large crowd of perhaps a thousand people flocked to the ashram each day, many of them coming from Delhi and other places outside Braj, listening with rapt attention.
It is hard to imagine the same kind of discourse or this kind of audience anywhere else but in Vrindavan.
Ambarishji Maharaj speaks straight from Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi and the vāṇī texts that are most dear to the Radha-vallabhis. The day I managed to sit in, I enjoyed his refined style, his recitation of verses, his subdued presentation of songs, and the strength of his commitment to the siddhantas of the Sudhā-nidhi.
He quoted Dhruvadas, one of the most important early vāṇī-kāras of the sect, who said that the one gets the seed of bhajan from the guru and waters it with hearing and chanting about rasa, but one protects the small plant by building a protective fence, which is siddhānta or philosophy.
Though the theme of his talks had been the ashta-kala pastimes, which on that day was shringar, or dressing the Divine Couple, because this was the last day of the program, he mainly concentrated on themes represented in the following verses of Sudhā-nidhi, which for him constitute the distinctive feature of the Radha Vallabhi sect.
It would be impossible for me to give a proper resume of his entire two-hour talk, but I think that if I just quote some of the verses he recited and explained, you can get an idea of the general direction of his talk.
yasaḥ putryāḥ pūrṇa-praṇaya-rasa-mūrter yadi labhe |
tadā naḥ kiṁ dharmaiḥ kim u sura-gaṇaiḥ kiṁ ca vidhinā
kim īśena śyāma-priya-milana-yatnair api ca kim ||115||
If I obtain even just a little of the intimate service to the complete embodiment of the experience of love, the daughter of the best of the Brijbasis, Vrishabhanu, then of what use to me are dharmas? Of what use are the hosts of divinities, and what use the rules and regulations of shastra? What is the use of God Himself? Or efforts to attain the pleasing association of Shyamasundar Himself?
The point is not to minimize the commitments of other devotees or their practices, but just to state that for a devotee in this prema-rasa, it all seems dry and hollow. Even though for some there is rasa, for the rasika it is still virasa. This is the extent of the absolute commitment to the eternal union of the Divine Couple as the highest truth.
sāndra-premāmṛta-rasa-mahā-sindhu-koṭir vilāsaḥ |
sā ced rādhā racayati kṛpā-dṛṣṭi-pātaṁ kadācin
muktis tucchībhavati bahuśaḥ prākṛtāprākṛta-śrīḥ ||136||
The playful movement of a single ray of the light coming from Sri Radha’s glistening toenail-jewels is equivalent to many millions of great oceans filled with the nectar of the most intense pure love. If that Radha should ever cast a glance of mercy on someone, then liberation becomes completely insignificant to them, what to speak of all spiritual and material opulences. (136)
vṛthā śruti-kathā-śramo bata bibhemi kaivalyataḥ |
pareśa-bhajanonmadā yadi śukādayaḥ kiṁ tataḥ
paraṁ tu mama rādhikā-pada-rase mano majjatu ||
Enough of worldly subjects! I find them more horrific than a million hells! Making such great efforts to understand the Vedas and Upanishads is a waste of time. Moreover, I fear the liberation of “isolation” (kaivalya), If Shukadeva and other great devotees are intoxicated with the worship of the Supreme Lord, what is that to me? For my part, I only pray that my mind be absorbed in the nectar of Radha’s lotus feet. (83)
parāṁ vā no jānāty ahaha na satāṁ cāpi caritam |
rasaṁ rādhāyām ābhajati kila bhāvaṁ vraja-maṇau
rahasy etad yasya sthitir api na sādhāraṇa-gatiḥ||
One who does not know the ways of the world, nor the scriptures, nor the family traditions, nor even the behavior of the saintly, if [in his heart] he reveres (ābhajati) the rasa [as being] in Radha, and the bhāva in Krishna (Vraja-maṇi), then his unique and secret status is not one that is accessible to common folk. (147)
Some people complain that the path of Hit Harivansh is not Vedic. But in fact, the rasikas of Vrindavan are the only ones who really follow the Upanishad statement raso vai sah. Rasa here means prema-rasa. Our object of worship is not Krishna, not even Radha. Our worshipable object is their mutual love, it is the prema manifest between them.
In speaking of four elements necessary for bhajan, namely Guru, mantra, ishta and association with rasika devotees, in other words, devotees with the same kind of absolute commitment to relishing the beauty of the Divine Couple and service to Radha in sakhi bhava. In relation to this last point, he told a story related to Hit Das Swami himself.
Hit Dasji was living in the Paramahamsa Ashram on Gandhi Road with Akhandananda Saraswatiji and studying Vedanta with him, even after many years of living in Vrindavan, having been initiated in the Radha Vallabhi tradition, doing bhajan and taking the renounced order.
Then one night, Hit Dasji had a dream in which he saw a woman in white with a three-month baby in her arms. She said to him, “Only you can save this child.” Hit Dasji said, “Why are you lamenting over the physical body. Everyone must die. This is all Maya.” The woman answered, “I am not ignorant. I did not come here to listen to lessons on philosophy. Try to understand how I am suffering and save this child. Only you can do it.”
When he woke up, he was mystified by the dream and tried to find out its meaning. He told it to a friend who interpreted it as follows: “The woman is Bhakti Devi herself. The baby is Bhava, because Bhakti is the mother of Bhava. You are an exclusive devotee of Radha Vallabha, but here you are spending your time studying Vedanta, so your love is being weakened by the culture of knowledge. So Bhakti Devi is pleading with you to not let your spirit of love come under threat.”
After this Hit Dasji decided to stop studying Vedanta with Akhandananda Saraswati, even though they remained friends to the end.
The nishtha is in sakhi-bhava.
tasmāt koṭi-guṇojjvalaś ca madhuraḥ śrī-gokulendro rasaḥ |
tac cānanta-camatkṛti-pratimuhur varṣad-rasānāṁ param
śrī-rādhā-pada-padmam eva paramaṁ sarvasva-bhūtaṁ mama ||
Countless times more relishable than the flavor of Brahmananda is that connected to Vishnu. Millions of times brighter than that is the sweet rasa related to the Lord of Gokula. Raining down infinite astonishment are the topmost of all rasas, the sweet lotus feet of Srimati Radharani. They alone are my life and soul. (Svāyambhuva Āgama)