Book excerpts Acarya Kesari Srila Acaryadeva in Mursidabada

Srila Acaryadeva in Mursidabada

On 23 December 1960, paramaradhya Srila Gurudeva arrived with his associates at Howrah Baharampura city in the district of Mursidabada, having received a special invitation from the distinguished residents of that city. Srila Gurudeva’s childhood friend Sri Krsnadeva Mukhopadhyaya and many local people were anxiously waiting to welcome him at the Baharampura Court Station. When he arrived they enthusiastically greeted him with garlands, sandalwood and other paraphernalia, and then brought him and his party by car to Sri Haripada Saha’s temple in the city of Howrah, where he was to stay.

The next evening, Srila Acaryadeva gave a powerful lecture on the duty of human life to a huge congregation in the large courtyard of the temple. On the third day, 25 December, Srila Acaryadeva delivered another profound lecture at the same place. The subject was ‘The original nature of vaisnava-dharma’. Lawyers, teachers and other educated people of the city were fascinated by his lecture, which was replete with the truths of Vedanta. On the special request of these people, Srila Acaryadeva extended his stay for three days and spoke on mukti-tattva and acintya-bhedabheda, analyzing very deep philosophical principles. The general public became enchanted when they heard his powerful discourses. At the end of the program, Srimad Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Maharaja gave a lecture cum slide show on sri gaura-krsna-lila.

After preaching suddha-bhakti for five days in Howrah Baharampura, Srila Acaryadeva accepted the special invitation of the respected Raya Bahadura Surendra Narayana Singh, a very religious and learned person, and went to Jiyaganja with his preaching party. On the first day, Raya Bahadura organized a large religious assembly in the extensive courtyard of the local Candi-mandapa. At his special request Srila Acaryadeva gave a lecture full of deep truths regarding the philosophy of acintya-bhedabheda.

He said, “Para-brahma Sri Krsna, the Lord of all lords, who creates all the material universes, is advaya-jnana para-tattva, the non-dual Supreme Absolute Truth. He is the unparalleled Truth. He is not formless (nirakara), without power (nihsaktik) and without attributes (nirvisesa); rather, He is the inconceivable possessor of all energies (sarva-saktiman). Actually, the Supreme Absolute Truth, Sri Bhagavan, has one sakti, which is called para-sakti or antaranga-sakti. However, this para-sakti is known by different names because it performs many kinds of functions. Amongst these names, three are principal, namely cit-sakti, jiva-sakti and maya-sakti. The spiritual world manifests from cit-sakti, innumerable living entities from jiva-sakti (also called tatastha-sakti ), and innumerable material worlds from maya-sakti (also called bahiranga-sakti ). When we say ‘manifest’ it is to be understood to mean the transformation of the different saktis, or energies, of the Lord.

“The saktis of para-tattva (the Absolute Truth) are simultaneously one with and different from the transformations of those same saktis, but this oneness and difference is beyond the petty reasoning, logic and comprehension of the jivas. In this sense, it is inconceivable. At the same time, it is conceivable or accessible through the medium of transcendental sound. Therefore, this oneness (bheda) and difference (abheda) is called acintya-bhedabheda.

“Now, what do we mean when we say that it is accessible through the medium of transcendental sound? This should be understood very carefully. When we say ‘transcendental sound’, we mean the words of the scriptures such as the Vedas, the Upanisads, Vedanta-sutra, the Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Srimad-Bhagavatam, which are accepted by the genuine guru-parampara. This specific relationship of simultaneous oneness and difference (bheda and abheda) can be understood only by the authority of this transcendental sound; otherwise it remains inconceivable. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught this acintya-bhedabheda-tattva to Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, and it has been very thoroughly discussed by Srila Jiva Gosvami in the Sat-sandharbhas and by gaudiya vedantacarya Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana in his Govinda-bhasya.”

This lecture was so full of very deep philosophical thoughts that even learned and educated people – what to speak of the general audience – could not understand it easily. They all told Sri Acarya Kesari that, since the lecture had been so difficult to understand, they wanted to hear a simple and easy talk about the duty of human life. Srila Gurudeva therefore spoke the following day on ‘Dharma and the duties of human life’. He refuted the views of the modern apasampradayas and upasampradayas and extensively discussed pure sanatana-dharma, bhagavad-bhakti. Every day after Srila Gurudeva’s lectures, tridandi-svami Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Maharaja gave a lecture, with the help of slides, on Sriman Mahaprabhu’s teachings. Prayers were also offered to Sri Hari, Guru and Vaisnavas at the beginning and end of the lecture every day, and the songs of the mahajanas (spiritual authorities) and the harinama maha-mantra were sung.

Preaching of suddha-bhakti in Sundaravana (Bengal)

On 24 January 1961, on the special invitation of the Dharma Sammelana, Sri Acaryadeva arrived at Rajanagara near Kakadvipa, along with his associates. Among them was tridandi-svami Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja [the author], the editor of the Hindi Sri Bhagavat-patrika, published in Sri Dhama Mathura.

For the evening, a very large religious conference was organized in the extensive courtyard of Rajanagara High School, and Srila Acaryadeva was unanimously selected as chairman. Speakers from other sampradayas gave lectures, after which Srila Acaryadeva called upon tridandipada Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja and Sri Cidghanananda Brahmacari, who were the chief guests of the assembly and in favour of vaisnava-dharma, to speak. Finally, Srila Acaryadeva gave a very interesting lecture on the difference between Bhagavan Kapila and the sankhya philosopher Kapila, who appeared later. He asserted that Hindus are the only followers of sakara-vada (the principle substantiating Bhagavan’s form), whereas all non-Hindus are impersonalists (nirakara-vadis).

Srila Acaryadeva explained that Kapiladeva Rsi is the original founder of sankhya philosophy. There are two Kapilas. The first Kapila appeared in Satya-yuga as the son of Maharsi Kardama and Manu’s daughter Devahuti. He is an incarnation of Bhagavan and is famous for being the founder of sankhya philosophy. Although he did not compose the book named Sankhya-darsana, the doctrine of sankhya that he established is very clearly found in Srimad-Bhagavatam and other scriptures. It was the second Kapila Muni (who destroyed the dynasty of Sagara) and who appeared in Treta-yuga who composed the book Sankhya-darsana. Even though this Sankhya-darsana is a compilation of the essence of the original Kapiladeva’s philosophy of sankhya and contains excellent explanations of atma-tattva, the reality of the soul, it contains some specific features that are completely against the conclusion of the Srutis. (For instance, Kapila Muni says that Isvara is incomplete, and that the non-sentient material nature, prakrti, is the original creator of the material world.) According to vedanta-sastra this is against the opinions of Srutis, and therefore, the society of sadhus have no respect for the modern Sankhya-darsana.

There is no mention of the word ‘Hindu’ in the ancient scriptures, yet all the followers of sanatana-dharma are to be understood as Hindus. All Hindus accept that Bhagavan has a form (sakara-vada), and they worship the transcendental deity of the Lord. Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jains and followers of religions other than Hinduism all believe in a formless Absolute (nirakara-vada). The followers of sanatana-dharma are followers of eternal dharma. All religions other than this sanatana-dharma have a beginning and an end. Even though their followers do formally believe that God has no form, they are forced to accept a form or shape in one aspect or another. Their scriptures also contain descriptions of God, such as the shape and form of Khuda. In the Buddhist and Jain temples huge deities are worshipped. If Isvara has no form, then what is the need of temples, mosques, churches and Buddhist stupas? For whom are they required? If there is no form and nobody actually exists, then for whom are the temples and mosques intended?

Acaryadeva was also elected chairman on the second day of the religious conference. After members of other sampradayas had spoken, Srila Acaryadeva instructed me [the author] to lecture on the Absolute Truth (para-tattva), the identity of the worshipful object (upasya-vastu) and worship of Him. I established that Vrajendra-nandana Sri Krsna is solely advaya-jnana para-tattva, the Supreme Absolute Truth who is beyond all dualities. In support of this, I presented scriptural evidence such as ete camsa-kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.28), isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah / anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam (Brahma-samhita 5.1), and aradhyo bhagavan vrajesa-tanayas-tad-dhama vrndavana … nah parah. I also strongly emphasized Sriman Mahaprabhu’s opinion that the topmost aim for the living beings is to attain sri krsna-prema and that the highest worship of Sri Krsna is that of the vraja-ramanis.

After that, Sri Visvanatha Raya, Sri Sudarsana Brahmacari and Sri Cidghanananda Brahmacari spoke about vaisnava-dharma. At the end, Srila Acaryadeva nicely explained to the whole audience that the vaisnava-dharma established by Caitanya Mahaprabhu is actually sanatana-dharma.

The organizers of the conference, especially the teacher Surendranatha Bhattacarya (MA triple) and Sri Dvijendranatha Patra Mahodaya, highly praised Sri Acaryadeva’s style of lecturing, his mood and his thought. At the end of the conference they discussed dharma with Srila Guru Maharaja.

[CC-by-ND GVP]

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Once, a brahmacārī asked Śrīla Gurudeva, “Why do we go on parikramā every year? I heard that in our line mānasī-sevā is the highest practice. So, is it necessary to do parikramā physically year after year? Why don’t we simply visit the holy places mentally?”“Five material elements compose the physical body,” Śrīla Gurudeva answered. “These elements are governed by demigods. If we do not take the body on parikramā and engage it in the service of Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas at the holy places, we will remain indebted to the presiding deities of the elements in our bodies and will not be able to achieve salvation. During parikramā our bodies touch the dhāma and become purified, and we have the opportunity to serve the sādhus. Our bodies thence purified, the senses become favorable to the execution of devotional service. The nine limbs of devotion are naturally performed during parikramā. When we engage in bhakti, the demigods presiding over the elements of the body are pleased and discharge all debt. If we don’t engage our bodies in service, our senses will be agitated, and it is unlikely we will have the mental discipline to serve internally. Laziness is the worst malady. We must cure indolence by forcible engagement in service. For this reason we travel in sādhu-saṅga to all those places where Śrīman Mahāprabhu and Nityānanda Prabhu went with Their associates:gaura āmāra, ye saba sthāne, karala bhramana raṅgese-saba sthena, heriba āmi, praṇayi-bhakata-saṅge‘In the company of devotees that have love for Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu, I will visit the places where My Lord happily wandered.’“Alone you cannot attain perfection. By going on parikramā in sādhu-saṅga, and smearing the dust of the holy places on your body, you will certainly receive the mercy of Śrī Guru, Kṛṣṇa, and the dhāma.“The Guru-varga serve the dhāma by annually bringing the devotees together for parikramā. They teach us that parikramā of the dhāma must not only be done annually, but daily—no matter where we are physically. We learn from them that we must first offer praṇāmas to the Guru-varga when we wake in the early morning, chant our mantras, and also visit all the dhāmas, praying to Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, ‘Please let me stay nearby you. Without you I am a helpless orphan. Please do not reject me.’ You will always be with Guru and Vaiṣṇavas if you have this humble and prayerful mood.“While chanting harināma, you should mentally go to Vraja-maṇḍala, Navadvīpa-maṇḍala, and Kṣetra-maṇḍala. Offer obeisance at each of the places within these dhāmas, and pray at those places, as well as to all the devotees and associates of Rādhā, Kṛṣṇa, and Mahāprabhu. Render service in the mind by sweeping, cleaning, and decorating the dhāma, and offer gifts to the Deities. By doing so, your mind will be present in the spiritual abodes and will not wander in the realm of illusion, māyā-maṇḍala.“The dhāma cuts our relations with our temporary home and family, and awakens our relation with our eternal home and family. In truth, we are refugees in this world; like guests staying for some time in a boarding house—our material body. In these temporary dwellings we meet with many other refugees, whom we call our relatives. Inevitably however, death will come and all these relations will be lost. We must understand this bitter lesson. The duty of sādhus is to take the conditioned souls to the dhāma and connect them to Kṛṣṇa and His associates. is Navadvīpa-dhāma Parikramā has been going on continually from the time of Nityānanda Prabhu and Jīva Gosvāmī, to the time of Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. My Guru Mahārāja continued this tradition and that continuation runs on to this day. All branches of the Gauḍīya Maṭha perform Navadvīpa-dhāma Parikramā.”In 1986, a massive celebration was held in Māyāpura for Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s fifth centennial. Millions of people came to Māyāpura from India and all over the world in the days before and after Gaura-pūrṇimā just for a chance to see the birthplace of Mahāprabhu. In preparation for all the people, the Bengal government set up temporary shelters, hand-pump wells, lights, and other facilities all around Māyāpura. The Indian Prime Minister granted 25 lākhas rupees for preparation and orchestration of the festival.Each branch of the Gauḍīya Maṭha organized a party of many thousands for Navadvīpa Parikramā; the overall congregation of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas was well over a hundred thousand adherents from all over India. The fifteen thousand strong Parikramā party of the Gauḍīya Vedānta Samīti, led by Śrīla Gurudeva and his dear godbrothers, Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Trikrama Gosvāmī Mahārāja, was the largest group.ISKCON invited the Parikramā party of the Gauḍīya Vedānta Samīti to participate in their opulent celebrations at the Māyāpura Candrodaya-mandira on Jagannātha Miśra Mahotsava. Śrīla Gurudeva led the procession from Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha to Māyāpura, with dozens of other sannyāsīs and scores of brahmacārīs, all singing, playing instruments, and dancing ecstatically in saṅkīrtana. A hundred and eight mṛdaṅgas played in rhythm to the kīrtana of Mahāprabhu’s names and glories, and devotees carried 108 clay pots of paraphernalia for Mahāprabhu’s abhiṣeka. As the grand procession entered the Candrodaya-mandira’s gates, the devotees were welcomed with showers of flower petals from both sides.Śrīla Gurudeva spoke in the temple room, glorifying Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, and the specialty of Māyāpura and Mahāprabhu. Gurudeva concluded his speech saying, “The glories and specialties of Sri Guru are always present in the place that Vaiṣṇavas are welcome, and those who respect Vaiṣṇavas can experience the mercy of Śrī Guru. Those who serve and respect the family and disciples of Śrī Guru are true guru-sevakas. Today, the magnanimous disciples of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja have conquered the world by their service to the Vaiṣṇavas.”Thereafter, Śrīla Gurudeva offered puṣpāñjali to the deity of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, and then proceeded to Yogapīṭha with the Parikramā party. At midday, over 50,000 Mahāprabhu-bhaktas gathered in a field by Śrīdhara-āṅgana. 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