The following is a translation, commentary, and compiled explanation of the first verse of Śrīla Narottam Ṭhākur’s Śrī Prema-bhakti-chandrikā. The commentary following the verse translation is formatted in a series of entires in the following format: (1) a transliterated word or phrase from the original text, (2) the gloss thereof from the prose translation, and (3) commentary thereupon supported by references to and citations from śāstra (scripture) and the teachings of the Āchāryas of the Śrī Rūpānuga sampradāya. The explanations are compiled from the lectures of Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj and Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj.
ॐ अज्ञानतिमिरान्धस्य ज्ञानाञ्जनशलाकया ।
चक्षुरुन्मीलितं येन तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः ॥
om ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjana-śalākayā
chakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ
om–[A prayerful invocation:] namaḥ–I offer obeisance tasmai–unto him, śrī-gurave–the divine master, yena–by whom [my] chakṣuḥ–eyes andhasya–blinded timira–by the cataract ajñāna–of ignorance [have been] unmilitam–opened śalākayā–with the wand [used to apply] añjana–the collyrium jñāna–of knowledge.
I offer obeisance unto Śrī Guru, who has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the cataract of ignorance, with the collyrium of knowledge.
ajñāna: “Ignorance.” Ajñān means (1) the absence of sambandha-jñān—understanding of the true self (viz. ātma, svarūp, soul), Kṛṣṇa, and the true self’s eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa, (2) misconception thereof, and (3) the illusion that results. Its fundamental cause is aversion to the Lord (bahirmukhatā):
īśād apetasya viparyayo ’smṛtiḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 11.2.37)
“Forgetfulness (of the true self) and misconception (of one’s identity) arise for those who are averse the Lord.”
A soul in ajñān, lacking awareness of the true self, identifying with a false self (usu. identifying with the body as the self), and bearing a false sense of entitlement (misunderstanding of ’I’ and ‘mine’), engages in misconceived action (karma) and undergoes the reactions to this in the physical environment in the form of loss and gain and in the mental environment in the form of conditioning which perpetuates ajñān. As the soul revolves through this cycle, they become completely bewildered: they are subjected to suffering perpetually, they desire only ends that perpetuate their suffering, and they resist the influences that can alleviate their suffering.
timira: “Cataract.” According to Śrīla Viśvanāth Chakravartī Ṭhākur, timira means (1) a disease of the eyes and (2) darkness. The disease implied is a cataract, the condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively clouded, resulting in dimmed vision and ultimately blindness. Darkness is metaphor for all forms of deception (kaitava):
ajñāna-tamera nāma kahiye ‘kaitava’
dharma-artha-kāma-mokṣa-vāñchhā ādi saba
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Ādi-līlā, 1.90)
“The darkness of ignorance, known as ‘deception’, is the desire for dharma, artha, kāma, mokṣa, and so on.”
Dharma means pious karma that results in artha, desirable objects, which serve as a means to kāma, the fulfilment of desires. Mokṣa means liberation from entanglement in the cycle of karma. Although dharma, artha, kāma, and mokṣa are renowned as the four goals of human life by undiscerning followers of the Vedas, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam for its outset denounces them as forms of deception (with the phrases nirasta-kuhukaṁ in 1.1.1 and projjhita-kaitavo in 1.1.2) because (1) they arise not from the real need of the soul but from the soul’s false ego in ajñān and (2) they severely perpetuate ajñān and result in no tangible benefit to the soul:
kṛṣṇa-bhaktira bādhaka—yata śubhāśubha karma
sei eka jīvera ajñāna-tamo-dharma
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Ādi-līlā, 1.94)
“Because they are obstacles to Kṛṣṇa-bhakti, all forms of pious and impious karma are simply the darkness of the soul’s ignorance.”
The desire for the liberation of merging into Brahma (the form of mokṣa known as sāyujya-mukti) is considered the worst form of deception (Cc: Ādi, 1.92) because such desire diametrically opposes the soul’s true nature and eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa.
jñāna: “Knowledge.” Jñān here means divya-jñān, knowledge of the divine, which has been systematically revealed by Śrīman Mahāprabhu as knowledge of (1) sambandha: the true self, Kṛṣṇa, and the true self’s eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa, (2) prayojan: the highest attainment—the ultimate fulfilment of the true self, and (3) abhidheya: the path to realise that highest attainment.
veda-śāstre kahe sambandha, abhidheya, prayojana
kṛṣṇa, kṛṣṇa-bhakti, prema—tina mahādhana
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Madhya-līlā, 20.143)
“The Vedic Scriptures teach sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojan, that is, the three great treasures of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa-bhakti, and Kṛṣṇa-prema.”
A brief illustrated outline of sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojan is as follows.
The true self is the eternal soul distinct from the gross and subtle bodies:
indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir buddher yaḥ paratas tu saḥ
(Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā: 3.42)
“The wise say that the senses are superior to matter, the mind is superior to the senses, the intelligence is superior to the mind, and who is superior to even the intelligence is the self.”
The supreme controller and object of worship is Śrī Kṛṣṇa [Cc: Ādi, 4.67]:
īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sach-chid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam
(Śrī Brahma-saṁhitā: 5.1)
“Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is the origin (of all of existence), who has no origin, who is the cause of all causes (the God of all Gods), who is the embodiment of eternal, spiritual ecstasy, and who is (known throughout the Vedas) as Govinda, is the Supreme Lord.”
ete chāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.3.28)
“All Avatārs are manifestations or sub-manifestations of the Puruṣa (Viṣṇu), but Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord Himself (Svayam Bhagavān).”
vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam
brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.2.11)
“Knowers of reality state that reality is non-dual consciousness (Kṛṣṇa) and is known as Brahma, Paramātmā, and Bhagavān (Viṣṇu).”
The soul’s eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa is that of servant and loving master:
jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya—kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’
kṛṣṇera ‘taṭasthā-śakti’ ‘bhedābheda-prakāśa’
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Madhya-līlā, 20.108)
“The nature of the soul is that of an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa. The soul is Kṛṣṇa’s marginal energy, a manifestation both different and nondifferent from Him.”
kāmādīnāṁ kati na katidhā pālitā durnideśās
teṣāṁ jātā mayi na karuṇā na trapā nopaśāntiḥ
utsṛjyaitān atha yadu-pate sāmprataṁ labdha-buddhis
tvām āyātaḥ śaraṇam abhayaṁ māṁ niyuṅkṣvātma-dāsye
(Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu: Paśchima-vibhāga, 2.35)
[The soul’s realisation of their true nature:] “I have obeyed the wicked dictates of lust, anger, and so forth, for so long and in so many ways! Yet they have never taken pity upon me, and I have never felt any shame or satisfaction! O Lord of the Yadus, at last I have abandoned them and attained proper consciousness: I have surrendered unto You, the abode of fearlessness. Please engage me in Your service.”
Prema, divine love for Kṛṣṇa, is the highest attainment for every soul:
ātmendriya-prīti-vāñchhā—tāre bali ‘kāma’
kṛṣṇendriya-prīti-ichchhā dhare ‘prema’ nāma
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Ādi-līlā, 4.165)
“The desire to satisfy one’s own senses—that we call kāma, and the desire to satisfy Kṛṣṇa’s senses bears the name prema.”
jātānurāgo druta-chitta uchchaiḥ
hasaty atho roditi rauti gāyaty
unmāda-van nṛtyati loka-bāhyaḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 11.2.40)
“Avowed to practices of bhakti, those who by chanting the Name of their beloved Lord have developed deep loving attachment to Him (prema) and have had their hearts melted loudly laugh, cry, shout, sing, and dance as though mad, oblivious to the public.”
Bhakti, devotion, is the means to attain prema:
ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā
(Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu: Pūrva-vibhāga, 1.11)
“Pure bhakti is constant endeavour to please Kṛṣṇa that is free from fleeting desires and unobstructed by exploitation (karma) and renunciation (jñān).”
na sādhayati māṁ yogo na sāṅkhyaṁ dharma uddhava
na svādhyāyas tapas tyāgo yathā bhaktir mamorjitā
bhaktyāham ekayā grāhyaḥ śraddhayātmā priyaḥ satām
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 11.14.20–21)
[Kṛṣṇa says:] “O Uddhava, neither yoga, nor metaphysics, nor social duty, nor study, nor austerity, nor renunciation can captivate Me as intense bhakti does. I, the soul and beloved of the sādhus, am attainable by unalloyed, faithful bhakti.”
Śrī Guru’s dispensation of divya-jñān also refers to dīkṣā, Śrī Guru’s initiation of a student:
divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt kuryāt pāpasya saṁkṣayam
tasmād dīkṣeti sā proktā deśikais tattva-kovidaiḥ
“That which grants divine knowledge and destroys all sin is called dīkṣā by preceptors realised in the truth.”
While dīkṣā is thought conventionally to be the ceremonial bestowal of a mantra and formal acceptance of a student, the substance of dīkṣā is the transmission of divya-jñān, and to emphasise this Śrīla Narottam Ṭhākur has prayed to Śrī Guru (to begin his Prema-bhakti-chandrikā) with this verse ajñāna-timirāndhasya.
añjana: “Collyrium.” Coating the inside of the eyelids with collyrium, a medicated eyewash, is a long-standing ayurvedic medical treatment for cataracts.
śalākayā: “With the wand.” Ayurvedic texts specify the shape and dimensions of a short, thin, blunt-ended wand resembling a pencil used to apply collyirum. Because this tool and treatment for cataracts is not widely known at present, no rendering of śalākayā has been included above in the prose translation of the verse.
chakṣur unmīlitaṁ: “Opened my eyes.” The eye ‘opened’ by Śrī Guru is not the eye of the physical body, but the divya-chakṣu, the divine eye, the eye of the true self, which is known as the upanayana within the rite of dīkṣā. As the medicinal effect of collyrium removes a cataract from the physical eye and thereby a person’s blindness, so the purifying effect of the divine knowledge (divya-jñān) given by Śrī Guru removes the cataract (and consequent darkness) of ajñān and enables the divine eye of the true self (upanayana) to see. Unmīlitaṁ, ‘opened’, should be understood in this sense as curing the disease which causes the soul’s blindness.
When the disease of ajñān is gone, the soul can see clearly: “I was blinded by the cataract of ignorance, and all the sights I saw and all the knowledge I gathered with my external eyes were useless to my soul. Furthermore, they actually increased the darkness of the ignorance I was in. With my mundane eyes, mind, and intellect, I could see and understand only mundane things. I had no awareness of reality at all. Even when I heard the Name and glories of Kṛṣṇa, observed the practices of bhakti, met with Gurus and Vaiṣṇavas, travelled to the Lord’s Dhām, and honoured the Lord’s prasādam, I could not recognise their divine nature and treated them just like ordinary things. The eye of my soul was blind. But now by Śrī Guru’s grace, I understand that I have lost awareness of my true self, fallen into the realm of māyā (illusion), falsely identified with the gross and subtle bodies, and undergone the suffering of saṁsāra unendingly as a result of my senseless aversion to my eternal Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. I now realise that everything is solved simply by restoring my eternal relationship with Śrī Kṛṣṇa as His servant, and I am eager now to engage exclusively in Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s service and aspire for the perfection of my existence: serving Him with pure selfless love (prema).”
The ultimate development of this opening of the eyes is summarised as follows:
santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti
yaṁ śyāmasundaram achintya-guṇa-svarūpaṁ
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
(Śrī Brahma-saṁhitā: 5.38)
“I serve the inconceivable, beautiful, and original Lord, Govinda, whom the sādhus always see within their hearts through eyes of devotion tinged with the salve of love.”
śrī-gurave: “Unto Śrī Guru.” Etymologically, Guru is defined in the scriptures as the ‘dispeller of darkness’:
gu-śabdas tv andhakārasya ru-śabdas tan-nivārakaḥ
andhakāra-nirodhitvād gurur ity abhidhīyate
“The syllable gu means darkness, and the syllable ru means its remover. A Guru is so called because he dispels darkness.”
Ajñāna-timirāndhasya is thus a mantra for offering obeisance unto Śrī Guru which illustrates Śrī Guru’s inherent function.
If we are eager to enter into Vṛndāvan Dhām, we must surrender to Kṛṣṇa, and we will try to get His mercy through His devotee, specially His representative Śrī Guru. Guru can open our eyes: ajñāna-timirāndhasya. Every day we are using this mantram for Guru-praṇam. Ajñān means illusion. The illusory environment has covered our eyes, covered our everything—covered our existence. We are feeling, “This is our body, this is our house …” We think many things are ours here, but that is all bogus. It is only a passing show going on. Still, we think things will remain with us. This type of illusion, darkness, can be removed through transcendental knowledge and Kṛṣṇa’s representative Śrī Gurudev.
chakṣur unmilitaṁ yena tasmai śrī-gurave namaḥ
(Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj on 9 April 1998 in Govardhan)
Everything transcendental is existing, and transcendental vision we receive from Gurudev.
om ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjana-śalākayā
This means he opens our transcendental eyes.
(Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj on 2 December 2005)
The eye to see is given by Gurudev.
The cataract is removed by Gurudev, and he gives divya-darśan, the divine eye, divya-chakṣu—dīkṣā. Dīkṣā means divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt: transcendental knowledge is imparted.
(Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj on 16 July 1982)
Our Guru Mahārāj used to given the example of a boy who is born in a dark prison house. A gentleman from outside comes to him and says, “Come, I will show you the sun.”
The boy picks up a candle, but the gentlemen tells him, “There is no necessity of candle to see the sun.”
“Am I a fool?” replies the boy. “Nothing can be seen without the help of a light.”
The gentlemen then drags the boy out to see the sun, and the boy exclaims, “Oh! By the sun’s light, we can see everything!”
Such wonderfulness will come to a soul in bondage when they come in connection with Brahma, Kṛṣṇa, God conception proper. Total wonder.
hy astīti nāstīti bhidārtha-niṣṭhaḥ
vyartho ‘pi naivoparameta puṁsāṁ
mattaḥ parāvṛtta-dhiyāṁ sva-lokāt
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 11.22.34)
He is self-effulgent. He does not depend on any other thing to make Himself known. Still, there is always a section that cannot have any conception of who He is. This defect is in them. The sun is self-effulgent, but the owls cannot see. There are so many animals that cannot see light. They must be cured. Only to them is there no existence of the sun because they do not have the eye to see.
Mattaḥ parāvṛtta-dhiyāṁ: to a particular section there is a question as to whether God is or God is not. That will always continue because that particular section will continue, and it does not mean that there cannot be any sun because there is this section that cannot see it. He is self-effulgent. He has the power to show Himself to all.
om ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjana-śalākayā
chakṣur unmilitaṁ yena
The duty of the Guru is to remove the cataract from the eyes, the ignorance. When cataract is removed, then one can see.
(Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj on 24 August 1984)
The eye is necessary: divya-darśan [divine vision], dīkṣā [initiation]. Dīkṣā means to acquire such an eye, the inner eye. Divya-jñān [divine knowledge] is a second eye, another eye within. At the sacred thread ceremony, the upanayana is meant to be imparted: another eye to see things around you. This is the eye of judgement, a theistic eye.
Try with this eye to see your Friend, your Friend with infinite affection for you. Don’t be afraid of anything. Get the eye to see that you are surrounded by a friendly circle. This is the depth of the vision of that eye, and that is to be appreciated.
kuryāt pāpasya saṁkṣayam
Pāpa [sin] means previous prejudice which opposes us in reading the deeper truth in the background. Pāpa is prejudice, and such prejudices should be removed.
divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt kuryāt pāpasya saṁkṣayam
tasmād dīkṣeti sā proktā deśikais tattva-kovidaiḥ
Those that have real knowledge about reality say that dīkṣā means to read the inner meaning, inner movement, and inner tendency passing through the cover of things. What is the environment? What is the inevitable? What is the irresistible inevitability that must happen which none can oppose? What is that? That is something friendly, something affectionate to us. We are to learn to read that the ultimate power is friendly to us.
(Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj on 25 January 1983)
When Kṛṣṇa was in the assembly of the Kurus, Duryodhan, Karṇa, and Duḥśāsan came to capture Him, but He showed Himself in such a posing that Devarṣi Nārad and others present there began to praise His nobility greatly. Dhṛtharāṣṭra was blind, but he heard those hymns and appealed to Kṛṣṇa: “I have no eyes, but I hear from my sons that You are showing them a very noble figure. Please grant me sight for a few seconds and allow me to see Your great and beautiful figure. Then again You may make me blind. Only for the time being, please remove my blindness so that I can get the chance to have a view of Your magnanimous presence.”
Kṛṣṇa replied, “There is no necessity of curing your blindness. I say that you will see.”
And he saw. In spite of his blindness, Dṛtharāṣṭra then saw Kṛṣṇa’s figure. So, no eye was necessary to have a sight of Kṛṣṇa’s figure. His will was the only cause. When He wants to make Himself known, then one can know Him. Those in whose favour He opens the door of His sight can know Him. It comes simply from that: His consent.
Arjuna requested Kṛṣṇa, “I want to see Your viśva-rūpa [universal form].”
“Yes, Arjuna, you see.”
Arjuna began to see.
It is simply His will.
yam evaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhyaḥ
(Śrī Kaṭha-upaniṣad: 1.2.23)
Whomever He accepts, admits, or gives a pass can see, “Yes, you may see Me. I give you a visa to enter My domain.”
Nothing material can help. Only His agents who are empowered by Him can come to help in some way by saying something about Him.
Gurudev is said to give the eye, the eye of this nature: He can never be seen by dint of any power raised from this material plane, gross or subtle; only He can make Himself known by His own grace. That sort of eye, that sort of knowledge, that sort of idea [we receive from Gurudev]. Everything is only at His disposal. Everything is for Him, and there is not a particle to satisfy our individual purpose.
(Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj on 22 August 1982)