Book excerpts Acarya Kesari Pāñcarātrika guru-paramparā and bhāgavata-paramparā

Pāñcarātrika guru-paramparā and bhāgavata-paramparā

Nowadays, people are constantly concocting new objections to the lineage being presented by the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya as their authentic guru-paramparā. Some believe that since Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa was initiated into the Madhva sampradāya, he was not actually a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava. They assert that, although he had the association of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, the influence of the Madhva sampradāya was strong. In his own writings, he stubbornly included Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya as part of the Madhva sampradāya. Therefore, they conclude that Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa cannot be accepted as an ācārya of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya.

Another group of ignorant people say that jagad-guru Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda created a completely new concept which he called the bhāgavata-paramparā1. According to them, he has explained in this supposedly new doctrine that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is a disciple of vaiṣṇava-sārvabhauma Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, and that Śrī Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja is a disciple of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Some so-called Vaiṣṇavas (sahajiyās) also present the doubt that Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s guru-paramparā cannot be considered bona fide because he conferred the renounced order (sannyāsa) upon himself. Paramārādhya Śrīla Gurudeva shattered all these accusations with powerful logic and solid scriptural evidence. His analysis of the subject is presented below.

The disciples and grand-disciples of Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda are currently preaching Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s pure kṛṣṇa-bhakti and śrī harināma throughout the world. Because they have preached so extensively, in prominent countries such as America, England, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the streets and avenues in every city – and even in every town and village – are resounding with the holy name, and young men and women are very enthusiastically applying themselves to the cultivation of pure bhakti. They are meeting Vaiṣṇavas from India, and performing harināma-saṅkīrtana and preaching pure bhakti with them. A few ignorant, so-called Vaiṣṇavas of the sahajiyā community are agitated by this and are trying to mislead the common people by presenting fraudulent accusations against the Sārasvata Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava lineage. Śrīla Gurudeva has established the rational and perfect conclusion on this matter in his essay entitled Gauḍīya Vedāntācārya Śrī Baladeva. Here, we present some extracts from that essay.

The guru-paramparā of the commentator [Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa]

The historical truth regarding the guru-paramparā of the commentator, Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, is as follows. He first acquired specific expertise in the bhakti-śāstra under the guidance of Pītāmbara dāsa, the crest jewel of renounced sādhus. After that, he accepted ñcarātrikī-dīkṣā from a Vaiṣṇava named Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara dāsa, who appeared in a dynasty of Kānya-kubjīya brāhmaṇas. Rādhā-Dāmodara dāsa, the grandson of Rasikānanda Murāri, accepted dīkṣā from another Kānya-kubjīya brāhmaṇa, Śrī Nayanānanda-deva Gosvāmī.

Rasikānanda Prabhu, a disciple of Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu, is the fourth guru before the commentator Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣana in the ñcarātrika guru-paramparā2, and his son was the aforementioned Nayanānanda-deva Gosvāmī. The guru of Śrī Śyāmānanda was Śrī Hṛdaya-caitanya, whose guru was Gaurīdāsa Paṇḍita upon whom Śrīman Nityānanda Prabhu bestowed His mercy. Even though Śyāmānanda Prabhu was a disciple of ācārya Hṛdaya-caitanya, he afterwards accepted discipleship under Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī was a disciple of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, who was a disciple of Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, and Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī was a follower and associate of Śrīman Mahāprabhu.

The śiṣya-paramparā of Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa

We have given an account of the ñcarātrika-paramparā from Śrīman Mahāprabhu down to Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa. Now we will give an account of his śiṣya-paramparā. Śrī Uddhara dāsa, referred to in some places as Uddhava dāsa, was a disciple of the commentator Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa. Some think that these are two different people, but in any case Uddhava dāsa had a disciple named Śrī Madhusūdana dāsa. Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī was a disciple of this very Śrī Madhusūdana dāsa. Previously, as vaiṣṇava-sārvabhauma, or the prominent leader of the Vaiṣṇava community in Mathurā-maṇḍala, Kṣetra-maṇḍala and Gauḍa-maṇḍala, he became famous by the name of Siddha Jagannātha dāsa. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura accepted this very Siddha Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja as his bhajana-śikṣā-guru, in accordance with the system of bhāgavata-paramparā. It was under the direction of vaiṣṇava-sārvabhauma Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura discovered the birthplace of Śrīman Mahāprabhu at Śrī Dhāma Māyāpura. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was the śikṣā-guru, or bhajana-guru, of Śrīla Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. Śrīla Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja accepted my gurupāda-padma, oṁ viṣṇupāda aṣṭottara-śata Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda, as his disciple and gave him the dīkṣā-mantras and so on. Whoever is unable to accept this paramparā is to be counted amongst one of the thirteen types of apasampradāyas mentioned in writing by Śrī Totarāma Bābājī Mahārāja. Alternatively, he may be regarded as the creator of a fourteenth apasampradāya.

ñcarātrika-paramparā and bhāgavata-paramparā

From this guru-paramparā we can easily understand that Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa is a follower of Śrīman Mahāprabhu within the spiritual family lineage (parivāra) of Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu. Śrī Śyāmānanda accepted the guidance of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, and because Jīva Gosvāmī is exclusively rūpānuga, a follower of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, it therefore follows that Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa is also a rūpānuga Vaiṣṇava. There are those who acknowledge that Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa is in the line of Śrī Śyāmānanda, and yet deny that he is a rūpānuga Vaiṣṇava, and therefore not qualified for the topmost service mood of unnata-ujjvala-rasa. Such people are certainly only deluded offenders. Although Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa accepted ñcarātrikī-dīkṣā from Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara dāsa, he also accepted instructions in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and the literature of the Gosvāmīs.

The system of bhāgavata-paramparā is superior to that of ñcarātrika-paramparā, and is founded on the degree of proficiency in bhajana (bhajana-niṣṭhā). The charm and superiority of bhāgavata-paramparā is that ñcarātrika-paramparā is included within it. In bhāgavata-paramparā there is no obstruction in regard to time. From the viewpoint of pure bhakti, the doctrines of ñcarātrika and of bhāgavata both explain the same teachings with the same objective. In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 19.169) it is said, “pañcarātre, bhāgavate ei lakṣaṇa kaya – these symptoms are described in Vedic literatures such as the Pañcarātras and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.” The prākṛta-sahajiyā sampradāya, while claiming to be followers of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, accumulate offences to the lotus feet of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. Similarly, nowadays the jāti-gosvāmīs and those who accept their remnants and follow in their footsteps – such as several members of the sahajiyā, kartābhajā, kiśorībhajā and bhajanākhājā sampradāyas – proudly conceive of themselves as followers of Cakravartī Ṭhākura, but cast calumnies against the commentator Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa. In this way, they are growing excessively hateful and progressing towards hell.

Both diagrams are of the ñcarātrika guru-paramparā and the bhāgavata-paramparā. It will enable readers to properly appreciate the speciality of bhāgavata-paramparā, and also understand how ñcarātrika guru-paramparā is included within it. With the aid of these diagrams, we will give an account of the ñcarātrika guru-paramparā and bhāgavata-paramparā of Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu, Śrī Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and other Vaiṣṇava ācāryas.

Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu: In ñcarātrika guru-paramparā Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu’s disciple is Gaurīdāsa Paṇḍita, and his disciple Hṛdaya-caitanya is the dīkṣā-guru of Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu. In bhāgavata-paramparā Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s disciple is Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, the disciple of Sanātana is Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, and Rūpa’s disciple is Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu is the śikṣā disciple of this same Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. It is no exaggeration to say that Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī was superior to Śrī Hṛdaya-caitanya in tattva, rasa, bhajana and indeed in all respects. For this reason, Śrī Hṛdaya-caitanya personally sent Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu to Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī for advanced instruction in the practice of bhajana, and Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu accepted the guidance of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. Thus the serious question which deserves our consideration here is this: which is superior – ñcarātrika guru-paramparā or bhāgavata-paramparā?

Śrī Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura: According to the ñcarātrika guru-paramparā, Śrī Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura’s guru is Śrī Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī. However, there is no record anywhere of Śrī Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī’s ñcarātrika dīkṣā-guru. Texts such as Śrī Gauḍīya-vaiṣṇava-abhidhāna have stated that Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu is Śrī Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī’s guru, but it is a well-known fact that Śrīman Mahāprabhu did not accept anyone as His disciple according to the ñcarātrika method. That means that if Śrīman Mahāprabhu is actually the guru of Śrī Lokanātha Gosvāmī, it is only on the basis of bhāgavata-paramparā. In any case, Śrī Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, besides being the ñcarātrika disciple of Śrī Lokanātha Gosvāmī, is also the disciple of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī in the bhāgavata-paramparā. It was under the guidance of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī that Śrī Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura became steeped in bhajana-śikṣā.

Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī: In the ñcarātrika-paramparā, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī is the disciple of Śrī Yadunandana Ācārya, who is situated in the ñcarātrika branch of Śrī Advaita Ācārya. However, if we deeply consider Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī’s life history from another viewpoint, we find the very clear and indelible influence of the bhajana-śikṣā of Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara and Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, who are his gurus in the bhāgavata-paramparā. Here, too, if we compare ñcarātrika-paramparā with bhāgavata-paramparā, we find that the superiority of the bhāgavata-paramparā shines as radiantly as the sun.

Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa: According to the ñcarātrika guru-paramparā, Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa is a ñcarātrika disciple of Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara in the line of Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu. At the same time, in bhāgavata-paramparā he is a disciple of Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, under whom he studied Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and all the various Gosvāmī literatures, and from whom he received advanced instruction in bhajana. Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara himself sent Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa to Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura. The guidance of Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura in the life of Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa is widely known. Only under this guidance did he defeat the Śrī sampradāya Vaiṣṇavas at Galtā-gaddī and kept intact the service and worship of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govindajī. It was after attaining the mercy of Śrī Govindadeva, Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī’s worshipful deity, that Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa composed Śrī Govinda-bhāṣya. There is no doubt about Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa being a rūpānuga Vaiṣṇava, because he is under the guidance of Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, who is himself most assuredly a rūpānuga Vaiṣṇava. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa attained the mercy of Śrī Govindadeva, the treasured life-breath of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, and ensured the continuation of service to Him. From this perspective, also, since he attained the mercy of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and his worshipful Lord, Śrī Govindajī, what doubt could possibly remain about his being a rūpānuga Vaiṣṇava?

Śrī Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura: According to the ñcarātrika guru-paramparā, the dīkṣā-guru of Śrī Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is Śrī Vipina-bihārī Gosvāmī, who comes in the ñcarātrika-paramparā of Śrī Jāhnavā Ṭhākurānī. From another viewpoint, vaiṣṇava-sārvabhauma Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja is the bhajana-śikṣā-guru of Śrī Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in bhāgavata-paramparā. Vaiṣṇava-sārvabhauma Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja is a disciple of the famous Madhusūdana dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja in the paramparā of Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa. It is not even necessary to say that vaiṣṇava-sārvabhauma Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja is superior to Śrī Vipina-bihārī Gosvāmī in tattva-jñāna, bhajana-śikṣā, etc. No one can deny that Śrī Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s life is imprinted with the stamp of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja’s guidance.

Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura: According to the ñcarātrika guru-paramparā Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s dīkṣā-guru is Śrī Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, who descends from Śrī Jāhnavā Ṭhākurānī in the ñcarātrika guru-paramparā. Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja accepted the attire of a renunciant from a disciple of vaiṣṇava-sārvabhauma Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja named Śrī Bhāgavata dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. Thus by bhāgavata-paramparā, Śrī Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja is in the branch of Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. According to this analysis, by ñcarātrika-paramparā Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura is in the paramparā of Śrī Jāhnavā Ṭhākurānī, and in bhāgavata-paramparā he has been connected with Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja.

It is clear from Śrīla Sarasvatī Prabhupāda’s life history that Śrī Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s practices, precepts and bhajana-praṇālī were his very life and soul, and that he made the fulfilment of the Ṭhākura’s aspirations the sole aim and object of his life. Thus his guru in bhāgavata-paramparā was Śrī Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, whose guru was Śrīla Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. Therefore, there is not even the slightest justification to point a finger at the guru-paramparā of Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, the founder-ācārya of the Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha.

Several additional facts are worthy of our consideration on the subject of ñcarātrika guru-paramparā and bhāgavata-paramparā:

(1) If a ñcarātrika dīkṣā-guru in his constitutional spiritual form (siddha-svarūpa) is situated in a rasa that is lower than that of his disciple, how can he give bhajana-śikṣā pertaining to the more elevated rasa? In this situation, the disciple must go elsewhere and take shelter of a Vaiṣṇava who is qualified to give the appropriate superior guidance. For example, Śrī Hṛdaya-caitanya is an associate in sakhya-rasa in kṛṣṇa-līlā, whereas his disciple Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu (Duḥkhī-Kṛṣṇa dāsa) is an associate in madhura-rasa. Therefore Śrī Hṛdaya-caitanya personally sent Duḥkhī-Kṛṣṇa dāsa to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī to receive higher bhajana-śikṣā in madhura-rasa.

(2) It may happen that guru and disciple in ñcarātrika guru-paramparā are in the same rasa, but that the guru is not as highly qualified as the disciple. Under such circumstances, the disciple must go and take shelter of an uttama Vaiṣṇava for higher bhajana-śikṣā‚ and this Vaiṣṇava will be called his guru in bhāgavata-paramparā.

We can see from these two considerations that the ñcarātrika process has some inherent defects, whereas the bhāgavata-paramparā is completely free from these defects, and is flawless in all respects.

(3) All members of the Gauḍīya sampradāya accept Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu as jagad-guru, and consider themselves to be His followers. However, on what basis do they maintain this conviction? There is no recorded account anywhere of Śrīman Mahāprabhu giving dīkṣā-mantra to anyone. This means that Śrīman Mahāprabhu is not anyone’s guru in the ñcarātrika-paramparā, although He Himself is a disciple of Śrī Īśvara Purī. Therefore, if the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava community accepts the guidance and discipleship of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, it can only be on one basis, and that basis is bhāgavata-paramparā.

(4) Each and every Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava is proud to call himself rūpānuga. But the point to consider is this: how many disciples did Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī initiate by the ñcarātrika method? The fact is that Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī is his one and only dīkṣā disciple, and Śrī Rūpa is not actually a dīkṣā disciple of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. So on what basis do members of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava community accept Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī as their guru? How is it possible to be a follower of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī and at the same time a follower of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu? Even Sanātana Gosvāmī, who is the śikṣā-guru of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, has not a second thought about calling himself rūpānuga. The basis of all these examples is one – bhāgavata-paramparā. It is only on the basis of bhāgavata-paramparā that Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī is the disciple of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and that the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava community considers Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī to be their guru.

Who is the ñcarātrika dīkṣā-guru of Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī? We cannot say, because he has not mentioned the name of his ñcarātrika dīkṣā-guru in any of his writings, but he has named his śikṣā-gurus in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 1.37):

ei chaya guru—śikṣā-guru ye āmāra
tāṅ’-sabāra pāda-padme koṭi namaskāra

These six gurus [the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana] are my śikṣā-gurus and I offer countless obeisances at their lotus feet.

At the end of each chapter of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta he has written:

śrī-rūpa-raghunātha-pade yāra āśa
caitanya-caritāmṛta kahe kṛṣṇadāsa

Praying at the lotus feet of Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Raghunātha, always desiring their mercy, I, Kṛṣṇadāsa, narrate Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, following in their footsteps. * (bbt translation)

In these statements he has specifically accepted Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī as his śikṣā-gurus on the basis of bhāgavata guru-paramparā.

From these facts it becomes thoroughly obvious that the bhāgavata-paramparā, which includes ñcarātrika-paramparā, always shines forth brilliantly. Those who ignore these facts and who cast aspersions on the guru-praṇālī of Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, doubting that they are rūpānuga Vaiṣṇavas, are certainly staunch opponents of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and secret agents of Kali.

Thus, whatever opinion paramārādhyatama Śrīla Ācārya Kesarī has written on the subject of the guru-praṇālī of Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, and also in regard to ñcarātrika guru-paramparā and bhāgavata-paramparā, is both logical and fully in agreement with the established conclusions of the scriptures.

1Editor: the succession of bona fide gurus rooted in receiving and following transcendental instructions from their predecessors

2Editor: the disciplic line based on receiving formal mantras

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When 99.9% of people come to Guru what do they bring? They bring their faults and complaints and all their bad things. They think about others and want to show Guru that 'I am so great and everyone else is bad.' They come to Guru offering all these gifts of complaints, fault-findings and bad things that they have collected...

Once, During the Month of Kartik

The elderly gopīs consoled Śrī Yaśodā in various ways. Gradually, her heart began to feel relief, and the charm of her face began to reappear. Then Śrī Yaśodā, the daughter of Śrī Sumukha Gopa, fed her darling son her breast-milk to His great delight. After this, she took her meal with the wife of Śrī Upananda and the other ladies, who were her greatest well-wishers...

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