We three friends spent many days together. Such love developed between the three of us that our well-wishers called us Trayi, Tripadi, Trimurti, and other names [colloquially, ‘the three’, ‘the threesome’, ‘the trio’]. Those who could not see us with favourable eyes gave us the names Tryahasparsa, Trikuta, and Trikal¹. In fact, our friendship was really something remarkable and outstanding.
Amongst we three friends, one of us was senior in learning, intelligence, and simplicity. Somehow, even during our lifetime, we lost him.
Once, having an opportunity for a big day of leisure, we two friends became immersed in a game of dice first thing in the morning. At that time, the postman delivered a telegram. We read it and saw that it was a wire from our third friend, our lost elder brother. From the Arta Bandhu Kutir [‘cottage of a sorrowful friend’] on the bank of the ocean in Puri, he was calling we two friends for a final meeting.
* * *
At nearly midnight, with anxious and worried hearts, we arrived at our friend’s cottage. With a mild thrust, the door opened. Pushing through a thick screen, we entered inside. In the bright light of a lamp, we saw our best friend on one side of the room lying down on a bed strewn with blankets. Just as we looked towards him, he also looked towards us. Recognising his two invited guests, he spoke first, “Brother Satya², come, still now I am awake waiting for the immortal two of you.”
Seeing our elder brother in such a condition, our hearts were overwhelmed by a powerful whirlwind of simultaneous joy and sorrow.
We said, “Brother! You could have informed us well before the moment of your final passing. Have we become so greatly estranged? For want of money, which you consider objectionable, you seem to still now be wearing five year old saffron cloth.” As we went on saying many other things, our elder brother smiled mildly and said, “Stop, brothers, I am going to speak to you from my heart and convey to you a message about a hidden treasure. Wealth should be entrusted only to a friend.”
Saying this, he stopped again. How much did we start to think? What now? Leading a wandering life, our brother was ever young, and he had already donated all his inheritance to collectors. So, by providence or perhaps by virtue of spiritual practice, has our brother found a store of riches in a dense forest, at the base of a hill, or in the cave of an insurmountable mountain? The fortune of Bankim Babu’s Devi Chaudhurani³ and the dream of a netherworld kingdom some are said to have discovered covered our hearts for a moment. But just a moment later, because of our brother’s long-known character and current condition, as our glance fell towards his dress and ornaments, it came to our minds that as a result of enduring severe hardships, he had become mentally deranged. To suppress the current subject, we said, “Brother, when many of us were ready to offer to take care of you … ”
“What need is there any more for such statements? I will now speak to you a message by hearing which you truly, truly will be able to appreciate me. Please listen.”
He spoke these words in such a deeply thoughtful manner and with such a mixture of joyfulness and sweetness that we fell silent within an instant. At this time, even though we forbid him, he removed the blankets from his chest. Seeing a tulasi necklace around his neck, tears in his eyes, and his body decrepit like a dry leaf, that he was completely moribund yet unimpaired in mind no longer remained unknown to us.
By virtue of the solemness of the place, time, and middle of the night, we began to listen to his words with unwavering attention. “Satyen, look! To say that ever since childhood I have been crazed by dharma, diseased, and so on is true; since childhood, I have never found peace in any form of enjoyment or pleasure in this world. With an anxious, unsatisfied, and desirous heart, I have wandered from door to door to so many events, residences, and establishments, but nowhere have I been able to attain the unwavering grace of the goddess of peace.
“You both know studying the scriptures, teaching, and establishing schools was a major objective in my life. When I could not find any more peace even in that, then with the hope of attaining spiritual peace by chanting the Holy Name and associating with the Vaisnavas, I started to search for the Vaisnavas’ association. By reading the Vaisnava scripture Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta, I became confident that attaining the association of the followers of this path is the only way to attain the ultimate and highest good in life. But where? All whom I met in my search were also slaves of illusion (maya) just like me. They too were floating in a whirlpool of the Vaitarani⁴ inside a cave of hundreds and hundreds of desires. Furthermore, some of them had taken shelter of the mountain of vanity and pride. How many Bhagavatacharyas, Bhusans, Ratnas, Sripads, Prabhupads⁵, and so on did I seek out? It was all fruitless labour. Really, they have no standing at all, and yet they place their two physical feet atop the heads of the blessed sons of Laksmi and the store-keepers of Kuvera⁶.
“They love greatly their rich friends who are known as Dina-tosan, Dina-bharan, and Dina-dayal⁷, but insignificant, poor, lowly, and unworthy persons like me were deprived of attaining the side-long-glance of their mercy. I became intolerant of the association of these worthless, “wood-chewing” scholars who are simply deluded by words.
“Then, our Sakhibheki, Sahajiya, and Baul⁸ brothers called out to me and said, ‘Listen, listen! We alone can give you peace. The essence of all Vaisnava truths, the truth of rasa, is found only amongst us.’ Fie on them! Even those who by their material practices sell their souls at the feet of the senses and remain bound by the chains of death also wish to buy and sell true peace.
“One day as I read Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta, I thought, alas! Alas! Why wasn’t I born at the time of the Lord’s direct appearance? Fie on my life and birth ridden with the diseases of egotism and pride in my ancestry. If I could become a servant of the servant of the best of the Vaisnavas Srila Haridas Thakur and the other great souls and attain the qualification to serve to the Lord, then my life would be blessed and complete. Where is my heart’s wish-fulfilling tree of divine love, the world’s wish-fulfilling jewel, Sri Gaurangasundar? Where is the Avadhut Acharya who showers the rain of divine love, Sri Nityananda Prabhu? And where are the innumerable devotee Acharyas who resemble suns and moons? I do not know by what great sin the residents of the world have lost all these innumerable jewels and gems. I do not know for what offence Sri Gaurasundar has deprived us of the dust of His holy feet.
“I decided that I understand it to be correct that in this world of passion and ignorance filled with demonic thought in these hunger-ridden, disease-stricken days of worldwide bewilderment by war beset with enmity and selfishness, my Lord, my merciful Master, is waiting with His associates for an opportunity to perform His Pastimes. So, where is my shelter? The Lord of my heart, who is desirous of divine love and peace for my heart, has not allowed me to become peaceful. So, should I follow the path to the liberation of self-annihilation (nirvana mukti)?
I took shelter at the feet of a renounced and supposedly liberated soul and spent a long time immersed in such deliberation. Yes, it is true that if I am unable to drink even a palmful of water from the ocean of divine love—from the lake of nectar—then death is best for me; this insignificant fellow was unworthy of the footdust of the eternally perfect devotees like Sabari, Vidura, and Vibhusan⁹, and so I was deprived of resolutely waiting for divine love like them. Gradually, I developed the notion that devotion is something attained by frail women and renunciation is the only way for men to attain liberation. Even all the pure external symptoms that arise as a result of devotion, such as weeping and horripilation, then seemed to me to be some sort of mental disorder. As a result of this conclusion, the goddess of devotion (Bhakti Devi) slowly withdrew from the field of my heart. As a materialist and agnostic, I turned into a maggot in dry wood. I reached the state that souls who do not develop love for pure devotees reach. Being averse to the lotus feet of the Lord, I became so deluded by impure intelligence that I fell from the path of hard-earned renunciation (jnan) like a torn net in the sky thrashed by the wind. I fell into the terrible turbulent whirlpool of patriotism, promoting education, and saving the fallen like Trisanku¹⁰ who fell from heaven into a newly manifest assembly of the seven sages. There was no peace in my heart. There was no joy in my mind. Having lost my way in life, like a meteorite fallen from its orbit, heart-broken, I began to burn. Oh! What terrible pain! I understood that this is the punishment of Yama found in the subtle world. A boundless ocean of lamentation …
I was watching the sun set over the ocean. The four directions were nearly still. There was a play of avira¹¹ over the water, earth, and heavens. My heart too was slowly becoming coloured by this dye. Thought of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s Pastimes of the highest divine love then came to mind. This is that place, but how far away are they? From how far away am I trying to paint within my heart that soul-captivating picture? At this time, the sound of a song arose from a cottage somewhere nearby. Although I was thinking of something else, the purport of the song came and touched me. With full emotion, the singer was singing:
nija-karma-dosa-phale padi’ bhavarnava-jale
habudubu khai kata kala
satari satari yai’ sindhu-anta nahi pai
bhava-sindhu ananta visala
[“As a result of my sins, I fell into the waters of the ocean of material existence. For how long did I flounder? I swam and swam, but I did not reach the ocean’s shore. The ocean of material existence is vast and unending.”]
nimagna ha-inu sabe dakinu katara rave
keha more karaha uddhara
sei kale aile tumi toma jani kule bhumi
asa bija ha-ila amara
[“I began to sink, and I called out to everyone in a desperate voice, ‘Someone save me!’ You came at that time. I then understood that You are the shore, and I found a seed of hope.”]
I thought to myself that in the form of this song or as a message from the sky exactly what I am feeling has manifest before me. The singer then began to sing another song:
bada sela marame rahila
paiya durlabha tanu sri-krsna-bhajana vinu
janma mora viphala ha-ila
[“O Lord! O Lord! A huge spear has pierced my heart. I attained a rare human body, but I did not serve Sri Krishna, and my birth has now passed in vain.”]
vrajendra-nandana hari navadvipe avatari’
jagat bhariya prema dila
muni se pamara-mati visese kathina ati
tei more karuna nahila
[“Sri Hari, the prince of Vraja, has descended in Nabadwip and filled the world with divine love, but I am wicked-minded and extremely obstinate. So, I did not receive His mercy.”]
svarupa sanatana rupa raghunatha bhatta-yuga
tahate na haila mora mati
divya chintamani dhama vrndavana hena sthana
sei dhame na kainu vasati
[“Svarup, Sanatan, Rupa, Raghunath Das, Gopal Bhatta, and Raghunath Bhatta—I have had no attachment to them, and Sri Vrndavan Dham, the abode of divine, wish-fulfilling gemstone—I have never resided there.”]
visesa visaye mati nahila vaisnave rati
nirantara kheda uthe mane
e adhama dasa kahe jibara uchita nahe
[“I am completely absorbed in the mundane, and I have no attachment to the Vaisnavas. Thus, I constantly lament. This fallen servant says, “I have no reason to live without the service of Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas.”]
Hearing the sound of the singer’s song mixed with distress on the shore of the ocean, my heart melted. I then desired to meet the singer.
I saw that the singer was a Vaisnava wearing tilak and a tulasi necklace. Although I did not have initial trust in Vaisnava babajis because of my previous prejudice, just by speaking with him for a moment and seeing his radiant mood of devotion, facing blooming with joy, and wonderful manner of speaking about the Lord, my heart automatically became attracted to him.
To get to know him personally, I sat down there, briefly described my state of mind and condition, and earnestly enquired about how I could find spiritual peace.
He then brought to my ears such sweet, heart-maddening, and insightful words about true dharma, the duty of the soul, and the pure unconditional love and devotion spread by the Lord of divine love Sri Krishna Chaitanya that my nearly dead body and mind were revived like new blossoms on a tree branch at the arrival of spring.
To express as he did such nectarean words, such elixir for the heart and ears, such divine discussion of the Lord, is completely impossible for an extremely insignificant person like me. Still, I will try to recount some of his heart-pleasing words which still now ring like a song in my heart and ears.
He told me, “Brother, all the worldly knowledge you have heard, studied, and discussed up to this day is inferior knowledge; it is simply deception. There is never proper glorification of the Lord amidst discussion of texts of science, philosophy, or various forms of law. All such knowledge—as ignorance mistaken for knowledge and falsity mistaken for truth—like a poisonous vine mistaken for a sandalwood tree—has completely transformed the field of your heart into a dry barren plain and covered over the goddess of devotion’s (Bhakti Devi’s) overflowing power which emanates from the feet of the Lord and destroys the contamination of Kali. Thus, Srimad Bhagavatam says:
mrsagiras ta hy asatir asat-katha
na kathyate yad bhagavan adhoksajah
tad eva satyam tad u haiva mangalam
tad eva punyam bhagavad-gunodayam
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 12.12.49)
[“Words that do not describe the transcendental Lord are false, harsh, and useless. Only words that describe the qualities of the Supreme Lord are truthful, beneficial, and purifying.”]
When the qualities of the Lord, the fame of the Lord, and the Name of the Lord are glorified, and in particular when the Name of the Lord is glorified in the association of pure devotees, within an instant the waves of the ocean of intense sorrow and lamentation are subdued and in lieu of them begins to flow the gentle Ganges of devotion, which is always festive and bears ever-new waves of joy. Without the mercy of the goddess of devotion, the world is void, dark, and full of lamentation. Look, even the author of the Brahma-sutra, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and many other great texts, the great sage Vedavyas, who was fixed in the Absolute, once felt himself to be extremely sorrowful. When this faultless wise man sat on the bank of the Saraswati with a completely disturbed mind and tried to ascertain the cause of his own weariness, Narad Maharaj arrived there. When asked by Vyasadev about the cause of his mind’s dissatisfaction, Narad Maharaj said, “O Guru of the world and sage fixed in the Absolute, it is true you have written the fifth Veda, the Mahabharata, the Brahma-sutra, and other texts, but thereby the glories of Lord Sri Krishna, whose is praised by the most exalted souls and expressions, has not been fully glorified. Thus, your heart has come to this state of being afflicted with lamentation.
na yad vachas chitra-padam harer yaso
jagat-pavitram pragrnita karhichit
tad vayasam tirtham usanti manasa
na yatra hamsa niramanty usik-ksayah
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 1.5.10)
[“The wise consider statements, even of impressive composition, that do not in any way proclaim the glories of the Lord, which purify the world, to be a place for crows where swans from pleasant abodes never delight.”]
“Sadhu devotees reject all texts composed with fine sentiments, ornaments, verses, sentences, and so on that are devoid of discussion of the wonderfully sweet Pastimes of the Lord that purify the universe, considering them completely worthless like a pit for crows and other refuse eaters or an instrument of play for selfish persons with fleeting desires. As swans living at Manasa Sarovar¹² do not go to other small pools, so devotees whose joy is the service of the lotus feet of the Lord never care for poems or other compositions ornamented with worthless material sentiments. Devotees only engage in glorification of the Lord in the association of the sadhus as this removes the contamination of Kali and bestows all possible joy. You too should immersed yourself in the nectar of descriptions of the Pastimes of the embodiment of rasa Lord Sri Krishna and find the highest peace for your heart.”
In this way, I drank the nectar of discussion of the Lord for fifteen days with the revered Babaji and attained the highest fulfilment. But, brothers, one very deep sorrow has remained in my heart. Alas! Why from birth was I deprived of the nectar of discussion of the Lord? Why did I pass so many long days in vain? The revered Babaji told me about the ten fundamental principles (dasa-mula) of Sriman Mahaprabhu.
yada bhramam bhramam hari-rasa-galad-vaisnava-janam
kadachit sampasyan tad-anugamane syad ruchir iha
tada krsnavrttya tyajati sanakair mayika-dasat
svarupam vibhrano vimala-rasa-bhogam sa kurute
If in the course of traversing through higher and lower births throughout material existence, a fortunate soul meets a Vaisnava whose heart is melted by love for the Lord, then that soul bound in illusion will develop taste (ruchi) by the association of that Vaisnava. Then, when their conditioning within illusion has lessened slightly by chanting Krishna’s Name, glories, and so on, they will gradually realise their true self and experience the pure love and joy of service to Krishna.
Spiritual knowledge of the Lord does not develop fully without devotion to the Lord. Thus, becoming subservient to a devotee of the Prince of Vraja’s nondifferent form of Sri Krishna Chaitanya, advancing in regulated devotional practice (vaidhi-bhakti sadhana), and attaining divine love and devotion (prema-bhakti) is the ultimate and highest good for the soul. Without the grace of the goddess of devotion, who is ever-joyful, a human being’s birth and life are worthless. Souls who are averse to Krishna fall into the clutches of the witch of illusion (Maya).
krsna-bahirmukha hana bhoga vanchha kare
nikatastha maya tare japatiya dhare
pisachi paile yena mati-chchhanna haya
maya-grasta jivera haya se bhava udaya
“ami nitya krsna-dasa” ei katha bhule
mayara naphara hana chira-dina bule
(Sri Sri Prema-vivarta: 6.2–4)
[“When souls become averse to Krishna and desire enjoyment, nearby Maya seizes them. When someone is possessed by a ghost, they become deranged. This condition overtakes souls bound by Maya. Forgetting, ‘I am an eternal servant of Krishna’, souls become slaves of Maya and wander indefinitely.”]
Every word from Thakur Bhakti Vinod Prabhu resonates in my heart as truth and joy and excites me. By his grace, I have been able to understand that apart from service to Krishna and love for Krishna, every form of opulence in this world, as paraphernalia for the enjoyment and vice of persons with selfish desires, is worthless.
I have also understood that within a very short time, associates of Sriman Mahaprabhu have descended to the earth and that in the place of the birth and Pastimes of Sriman Mahaprabhu as shown by Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur, as well as all over the world, they are spreading and will continue to spread the Holy Name. Thus, Srila Vrndavan Das Thakur has written of the prophecy which came from the holy mouth of Sriman Mahaprabhu:
prthivite achhe yata nagaradi grama
sarvatra prachara ha-ibeka mora nama
[“My Name will be spread everywhere through every town and village on the earth.”]
Brothers, the Name of the Lord, devotion to the Lord, and love for the Lord are truth¹³. This is the hidden treasure I have to give you.”
As he spoke, he began to cry and tears streamed from his eyes. In the moment, no further questions to ask our brother came into our minds.
He said, “Chant! Brothers, chant:
sri-krsna-chaitanya prabhu nityananda
sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi gaura-bhakta-vrnda
Losing ourselves, we began to chant with him. Then he began to sing:
ye anila prema-dhana karuna prachura
hena prabhu kotha gela acharya-thakura
kaha mora svarupa rupa kaha sanatana
kaha dasa raghunatha patita-pavana
kaha mora bhatta-yuga kaha kaviraja
eka-kale kotha gela gora nata-raja
pasane kutiba matha anale pasiba
gauranga gunera nidhi kotha gele paba
[“Where has the Lord who so mercifully brought the wealth of divine love to this world gone? Where are my Svarup, Rupa, and Sanatan? Where is my Raghunath Das? Where are the saviours of the fallen souls? Where are my Raghunath Bhatta and Gopal Bhatta? Where is my Krishnadas Kaviraj? Where has the great dancer Gora suddenly gone? I will break my head on a rock, I will enter fire—where can I go to reach the reservoir of all virtues Sri Gauranga?”]
Singing this final line again and again in a tone infused with melancholy and profound devotion, he fell silent. The two stars of his eyes were still, and he became absorbed in a vision of Vaikuntha. With a voice beautifully adorned with extraordinary love, he said, “O emissaries of Vaikuntha adorned with the marks of the Lord’s feet who distribute the nectar of the Lord’s messages! Come! Come! Let me hear the nectar of discussion of the Lord. … Go! Go! This is the prayer of my heart at the feet of the Lord—” He said this much and then fell silent again.
His countenance was illuminated with bright joy. It was now dawn, and rays of reddish light coloured his body as though with avira. We then understood that our best friend was a beautiful devotee and resident of the eternal abode who, having now given up his manifest Pastimes in the material world, had attained entrance into the eternal Pastimes in the spiritual world.
About the author
Bhagavata-janananda Prabhu was a disciple of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur who passed away at an early age while residing in a Temple of Srila Saraswati Thakur in 1925. In April of 1926, Srila Saraswati Thakur established a math in Chiruliya near Midnapore (in southern West Bengal) and named it “Bhagavat Janananda Math” in honour of Bhagavata-janananda Prabhu.
Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj recounted (19 August 1980) that Srila Saraswati Thakur said of Bhagavat-janananda Prabhu: “Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur came in his garb, but I could not understand, I could not catch that.”
3: Bankimchandra Chattropadhyaya, referred to here familiarly as Bankim Babu, was a key figure in the literary renaissance of Bengal and the Indian Independence movement in the 1880s. One of his most celebrated novels is Devi Chaudhurani, set in 18th century Bengal, in which a banished house wife becomes a patriotic bandit who brings order and upliftment to the turbulent society of her time by practising the teachings of Srimad Bhagavad-gita.
6: “The blessed sons of Laksmi” and “the store-keepers of Kuvera” are figurative ways of referring to the rich, Laksmi being the goddess of fortune and Kuvera being the treasurer of the gods in Svargaloka.
8: Sakhibhekis, Sahajiyas, and Bauls are deviant Vaisnava sects that engage in Vaisnava practices such as kirtan, worship, and recitation and remembrance of the Lord’s Pastimes but do so in a manner that misconstrues and misuses these activities as means to selfish enjoyment.
9: Sabari, Vidura, and Vibhusan all spent the majority of their later life waiting to be reunited with their beloved Lord. Sabari lived alone in a forest ashram waiting for years on end for Lord Ramachandra to visit as was foretold by her Guru. Vidura left the association of the Pandavas and Kurus prior to the battle of Kuruksetra, performed pilgrimage for eight years, and returned only to find that Lord Krishna had already departed from the world but had left a final message for him with Maitreya Rsi. Vibhisan, the brother of Ravan, broke the laws of loyalty to family, surrendered to Lord Ramachandra, and later ruled the kingdom of Lanka on the order of the Lord.
10: Trisanku was a king named Satyavrata in the solar dynasty and ancestor of Lord Ramachandra who committed three sins in his youth and thus became known as Trisanku (tri: three; sanku: sins). His sins were (1) bringing shame to his family by his misbehaviour, (2) stealing a cow from his Guru Vasista Rsi, and (3) eating and distributing the meat of this cow. Trisanku later requested Vasista to arrange for him to go to Svargaloka in his earthy body. Vasista refused, and Trisanku then asked Vasista’s sons to help him. They were appalled by his disregard for the decision of his Guru Vasista and cursed him to become a chandal. He then appealed to Visvamitra Rsi for him, and after even the gods refused to participate in the sacrifice Visvamitra arranged for this purpose, Visvamitra raised Trisanku to Svargaloka using his own supernatural power. Lord Indra denied Trisanku entrance and threw him back towards the earth. Visvamitra Rsi then suspended Trisanku in the air and began to construct a new slightly lower form of Svargaloka around him. Svargaloka is associated with the Polestar and the seven sages are associated with the constellation Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) which closely moves around the Polestar. Trisanku’s position is said to be the origin of the Southern Cross (Crux) and the other stars around it as a replica of the stars of the seven sages.
The notion of ‘saving the fallen like Trisanku’ means to help those who do not deserve help, help others in an inappropriate way, help others in a way that does not really help them, and help others only for the purpose of demonstrating one’s own power or pursuing one’s own interests.
12: Manasa Sarovar is a lake on Mount Kailash created by Lord Brahma, who performed penance on its banks. The lake is known to be very pristine, tranquil, and beautiful and to be the home of a great abundance of swans.