hould someone advise me,
“Leave Vrindavan,” I will cut out his tongue.
If someone tries to drag me from Vrindavan by force,
I will kill him.
I would fain marry a prostitute,
but I will not leave Vrindavan to marry elsewhere.
If I need to steal to earn my livelihood, I will do so,
but I will not take a single step out of Vrindavan.
vṛndāraṇyaṁ tyajeti pravadati yadi ko’py asya jihvāṁ chinadmi
śrīmad-vṛndāvanān māṁ yadi nayati balāt ko’pi taṁ hanmy avaśyam|
kāmaṁ veśyām upeyāṁ na khalu pariṇayāyānyato yāmi kāmaṁ
caurye kuryāṁ dhanārthaṁ na tu calati padaṁ hanta vṛndāvanān me ||
Here Prabodhananda Saraswatipada makes one of his more outrageous statements (prauḍhokti), deliberately provoking the mentality of the materialistic moralists.
The area of ethics and morality is a big part of any religion, as the yamas and niyamas are indispensible in giving one the appropriate character to fully engage in the internal life. All too often it is seen that misguided theists have a tendency to antinomianism, which means the sentiment that they can ignore the natural and human law in order to follow God, who is above the law. This makes it possible for tyrants and unscrupulous charismatic leaders to deceive less intelligent followers who want to find easy solutions to the problems of life. They thus create great disruptions for the general society. In fact, this same tendency is there in all manner of absolutist fanatics who think you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. In general, these people have some kind of utopian plan for society and feel they have been given the right to impose it. Prabodhananda’s statements have nothing to do with such false appropriations of transcendence to the Law.
Raghunath Das says,
na dharmaṁ nādharmaṁ śruti-gaṇa-niruktaṁ kila kuru
vraje rādhā-kṛṣṇa-pracura-paricaryām iha tanu
“Do neither the sinful acts condemned nor the pious acts ordained by the scriptures, but serve Radha and Krishna profusely in Braj.” (Manaḥ-śikṣā, 2)
Piety and sin are the two sides of the coin in material life. Sometimes, to go from one level of spiritual attainment, there are heart-wrenching choices to be made. The religious obligations like family and social responsibilities are a source of bondage, but one that has the sanction of various authorities whom we are trained to obey, or to consider ultimate in one way or another.
When Raghunath says, “Don’t do sin” and “Don’t do piety” he just means don’t do anything that is not favorable to the desired goal of rāgānugā bhakti, which is service to Radha and Krishna in Braj. It goes without saying that sin is an anartha and an obstacle. It is by its very nature erroneous and leads to the darkness of ignorance.
The dharmas that are taught in the Veda — indeed those that are innate to our natural embodied condition as human beings — are meant to elevate our consciousness to the sattva-guṇa, so that we can be happy even in this world. But there is more to Vrindavan than the sattva-guṇa, which also binds through that very happiness.
tatra sattvaṁ nirmalatvāt prakāśakam anāmayam |
sukha-saṅgena badhnāti jñāna-saṅgena cānagha ||
Of the three guṇas, because it is free from blemish, sattva is enlightening and free from dis-ease. It binds the soul, O sinless one, through attachment to happiness and the attachment to knowledge. (Gita 14.6)
But as one advances to deeper levels of understanding, the natural result is to see the hopelessness in finding the ultimate spiritual satisfaction in such dharmas. Those who are pious find ways of integrating their material duties and responsibilities with the culture of bhakti so that there is no overt clash. But as one progresses and one’s desire for bhakti increases, one becomes ready to leave everything aside in order to find circumstances that are anukūla or favorable to the practice of devotion. That is called śaraṇāgati.
Because all good comes from devotion, there is no possibility of a devotee causing suffering to others, which is the basis of all sin. The devotee sees how the culture of prema, love for Krishna, is the ultimate good and that all other goods flow from that, whether those with lesser vision recognize it or not.
So Prabodhananda Saraswati is saying he would become a thief in order to live in Vrindavan, because living in Vrindavan is still a higher value than that found even in the principle of asteya or non-stealing.
Nor does he intend to break the principles of ahiṁsā when he has so often affirmed his veneration for every living creature in the Dham. We have no fear that he or his followers will kill anyone or cut out their tongue. But don’t come to disrupt their bhakti with recommendations for some worldly or other-worldly achievement elsewhere. They will not even have time for an argument. They will not waste a moment listening to the frog-like croaking of one who speaks of other perfections in life than pure devotion to the Divine Couple of Vrindavan.
Similarly, it is almost impossible to believe that Prabodhananda would entertain in even the most remote recesses of his heart the desire to get married, what to speak of to a lowly woman who could almost certainly destroy his capacity for bhajana, but he has already said:
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 ||
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. (VMA 2.1)
The purpose of these verses is to show the supremacy of bhakti among all dharmas and in particular of that brand of bhakti that is available in Vrindavan above all its other forms.
It is furthermore a statement of implicit faith that the power of the Dham will quickly overcome any blemishes of character or disruptions in moral and ethical behavior due to misunderstanding of one’s identity as a servant of the servant of the servant of Radha and Krishna. The Gita’s api cet verse (9.31) is to give the devotee the confidence that even if he should be swept away by bad habit or desires arising from the unconscious, he should still take shelter of Bhakti Devi and the Divine Abode.
tavāsmīti vadan vācā tathaiva manasā vidan |
tat-sthānam āśritas tanvā modate śaraṇāgataḥ ||
One who has taken shelter (śaraṇāgati) leads a life of happiness, for with his words says, “I am yours, O Lord.” In his mind he so thinks. And with his body, he resorts to the Lord’s own abode. (HBV 11.677)
One will become free of rajas and tamas and situated in sattva, but for the devotee, sattva is only a stop on the way to the nitya Vrindavan.