Monthly Archives: January 2018

Spirituality – Why and What ???

spirituality why what

The English Dictionary defines the word “spiritual” as “Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”.

Now before ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ delves deeper into this topic, it is essential for all of us to understand as to who we actually are? The answer to this question will help us make sense of life, in the first place, and lead us to the gradual understanding of what truly is the goal of it. In other words,the more we discuss and brainstorm upon our own identity, the more clarity it shall provide to logically deduce as to what we are essentially searching for.

Are we our Bodies ?

For instance, according to one popular school of thought, human beings and in fact all living beings ,are just a lump of flesh and blood.They argue, that our activities of thinking,willing and feeling arise out of complex interactions of matter. However,we are practically yet to conceive a robot in any of our science labs,that successfully demonstrates any symptoms of creativity,inspiration or love – the elementary functions of our conscious selves. So though there is no proof to this theory, it is still nonetheless a theory, and is widely accepted and endorsed by many.
It is worthwhile mentioning over here, that a cell, which is the basic constituent of a human body,has a definite life span, and once a particular cell dies, it is replaced by another. In this way, it is believed that over a span of 7 years, all the cells that constitute the physical body of a person, are completely replaced by the new ones. So in effect, a person receives a new body in every 7 years. Now if someone identifies himself with his own body, then he should be considered dead in the next seven years, as he gets physically replaced, or should we say, it is he who is completely replaced.Hence going by this school of thought, a person should be considered a completely different individual, after a span of seven years. And the new individual, seven years older, would be a different person with different sets of qualities, nature, acumen and consciousness who would have nothing to do with the person who he had just replaced. Going further on this, a person shouldn’t be sentenced for any crime, for more than seven years, as it would implicate that a different individual would have to suffer for the misdeeds he has not committed (it was committed by someone he has replaced). Another implication of this philosophy, might be the inclusion of an expiry date of seven years ,to the academic degrees. So Doctors, engineers,singers,etc need to prove their qualification periodically at a gap of seven years, as the new person might not be born as qualified as the person he had just replaced.

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Bhakti – The culmination of all Yogic processes

yoga ladder

From the previous article entitled ‘Spirituality – Why and What ???’ , we now understand the deep desires of the soul and its eternal connection with the supersoul. We understand how these fundamental hankerings of the soul are the very objectives ,that we try to achieve through the various avenues of this world; albeit unsuccessfully.Hence, ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ shall now discuss about the proper processes which have been well documented in the ancient Vedic scriptures, that guide us to achieve this much elusive fulfillment missing in our lives- by satisfying the very desires of the Soul. The process of uniting the soul and the Supersoul is also known as Yoga.

The Bhagavad Gita, is considered to be one of the most sacred and revered books, that constitute the vast Vedic literatures.It comprises of seven hundred verses spoken by Sri Krishna, the Supreme Lord Himself, who descended in this world about 5000 years ago ,to give us a taste of His eternal sweet pastimes. The Bhagavad Gita encompasses the conversation between Sri Krishna and His friend Arjuna, in the middle of a battlefield, at a time when Arjuna was thoroughly disillusioned and confused as to what was his duty.

Sri Krishna ,first of all, apprised Arjuna of the reality of our existence. All of us, including the various other life forms that exist, are spiritual beings, entrapped in a material body.The soul can neither be destroyed by any weapon, nor be damaged by water,fire or wind. The soul or the spirit ,neither takes birth ,nor does he ever suffer death.Instead, the soul goes through a process of transmigration, from one body to the next, in a quest of attaining perfection. The soul finally attains a stage of perfection when it is able to rekindle its lost relationship with the Supreme.Thus Lord Krishna taught Arjuna ,how the so called happiness and grief, success and failure, relationships, hankerings for name, fame and prosperity ,etc associated with this world, are actually based out of the assumption, that we are our bodies. Forgetting our eternal identity, we try to build our identities based out of the temporary objects of this material world, and suffer in the process. Instead, we should align our engagements and relationships, in a way to suit our actual (eternal) objective – to perfect our existence.In other words we should stop acting on a bodily platform, and start acting on a spiritual platform. The process of Yoga helps us in achieving this objective and enables us to harmonize our actions with our actual spiritual mission.

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The A B C D of Bhakti

panchatattva

Bhakti or the process of rendering devotional service unto the Supreme Lord is really very easy. In the process of Bhakti Yoga, one does not require to practice the physical austerities of astanga yoga or renounce the society altogether as in the other yogic processes. Yet one practicing Bhakti, finally achieves that supreme destination that eludes the practitioners of all the other yogic paths. The Gopis of Vrindavana were simple cowherd girls, who could achieve the supreme treasure of the Lord’s love. Now one might question, as to what their qualification was? They were neither the experts of astanga yoga nor learned scholars of the Vedic scriptures. Instead their qualification was simply an intense desire to serve the Lord and His beloved associates. Their desire was so intense that they could completely overlook their own pleasures or even sacrifice their very existence to serve Sri Krishna. Such was the stature of their devotion, that it bewildered even the Supreme Lord, and made Him wonder ,as to how one could love Him so much. The Supreme Lord hence had to descend again as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to relish and understand the devotion of the Gopis. ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ has covered the appearance pastimes of Lord Caitanya in a separate article entitled – YogPeeth, Mayapur, Navadvipa – The birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’. Though it is not possible for us to imitate the exalted mood of the Gopis, we should hanker for opportunities to serve the Lord and deepen our relationship with Him. This is the very perfection of our lives.

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Sri Nilambar Chakravarti’s residence ,Belpukur,Navadvipa (Simantadvipa)

belpukur Sri nilambar gtb

“What one attains by travelling to all the holy places is attained just by remembering the transcendental abode of Navadvipa” – Navadvipa Dham Mahatmya

One of the sweetest spiritual sites that ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ has come across during its vast journey across Bengal is the maternal home of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Located at a place called Belpukur within the precincts of Simantadvipa (one of the nine islands constituting Navadvipa) , this is where Sri Nilambar Chakravarti, Mahaprabhu’s maternal grandfather, used to reside along with his family 500 years ago.Sri Madana Gopala, the worshipable deity of Sri Nilambar, has been carefully preserved at this holy place and continues to accept our humble service till this day. The beautiful deities of Sri Nilambar Chakravarti and his daughter Srimati Saci devi is also worshipped over here.The temple priest ,Sri Nimai Krishna das Prabhuji, who lives and serves here, is a direct descendant of Nilambar Chakravarti, and has been subsequently initiated into the Gaudiya Sampradaya by HH Jayapataka Swami Guru Maharaj.

Being His maternal home, this place is very dear to Sri Gaurahari. Infact all of us have a very special place in our hearts towards our maternal homes, and the Supreme Lord ,being a person, is also no different.In fact, a lot of His balya lilas (childhood pastimes) have taken place here at Belpukur. The dust of this holy place is thus sanctified with the lotus footprints of Little Nimai.

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Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara temple, Khardaha

syamasundara khardaha

Sri Birchandra Prabhu, or Birbhadra Goswami , as He was later referred to, was born on the ninth day of the dark fortnight, in the holy month of kartika (october-november). Birchandra Prabhu was the son of Sri Nityananda Prabhu and Vasudha devi. Srimati Jahnava mata was His initiating spiritual master. Sri Birchandra was an expansion of the Supreme Lord Himself, and appeared in this world to assist His father in furthering the mission of Lord Caitanya.Kavi karnapura reveals in his Gaura Ganoddesha Dipika that the expansion of sankarshan, who sleeps on the ocean of milk (Kshirodakashayi Vishnu) and manifests as the supersoul in our heart , had incarnated as Birchandra Prabhu in Mahaprabhu’s pastimes.

The holy dham of Khardaha is located hardly at a distance of 20 kms from kolkata.The land of merciful Nityananda Prabhu is decorated all over with various wish fulfilling trees that readily bestow pure devotion upon all without any discrimination. Various demigods have been waiting and meditating for millions of years desiring to take birth in the transcendental abode of Khardaha, where they shall be able to associate with the Lord’s pure devotees and obtain the dust from their lotus feet.The land of Khardaha is a witness to Lord Nitai’s ecstatic pastimes, merely contemplating upon which ,one easily gains entry into the realm of transcendence.Srimati Jahnava Devi, Vasudha devi, Birchandra Prabhu have all manifested their sweet pastimes here and sanctified this holy tract of land. ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ is exceedingly blessed to have been able to visit Khardaha and take darsana of Radha Syamasundara jiu, who continues to shower His causeless mercy upon us suffering souls. Just a stone’s throw from the Syamasundara temple is the residence of Nityananda prabhu where Birchandra had appeared in this world.This house is renowned all over the three worlds as ‘Kunja Vatika’ and we have covered our visit to this place in a separate article entitled  – ‘Kunja Vatika, Khardaha’.

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The pious Mullicks of Bengal

pathuriyaghata

Amidst the tiring monotonous life of North Kolkata, quietly stands the residence of the great Mullicks. Pathuriaghata street, was once the abode of the bengali rich. Even in the 21st century the area is replete with colonnaded mansions.The Mullicks have played a very significant role in shaping and preserving the Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal. In course of our pilgrimage across the state, we have come across several significant temples and ancient spiritual sites, which are currently managed or have been renovated by the Mullicks. The Mullicks originally belong to the gold mercantile community (suvarna baniks) and have traditionally been rich businessmen. To get a glimpse of their enormous wealth, one might simply look up the example of Jadulal Mullick who has a road named after him. His son Manmatha Nath Mullick, bought a pair of zebras from the zoo to pull his carriage through the streets of Kolkata. ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ had the good fortune of visiting this ancient residence of the Mullicks here at Pathuriaghata street. We talked to Mr. Rajat Mullick, one of their descendants, and he was more than happy to relate the history of their great lineage to us.

Sri Uddharana Datta Thakura and A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are the foremost of the great suvarna baniks to have graced our parampara (Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya). To read and relish more about Sri Uddharana Datta, one might refer to our article entitled – Sri Uddharana Datta Thakura Sripat, Adisaptagram (Near bandel)’. Surrendering his life unto the lotus feet of Lord Nityananda, Sri Uddharana, who had hailed from a very opulent gold mercantile family,subsequently renounced his wealth, fame ,prestige and accepted the robes of a mendicant to further the cause of Krishna consciousness. These heart melting pastimes of Adisaptagram (situated in Hooghly, West Bengal) took place around 500 years back.

Srila Prabhupada, the founder acharya of ISKCON, by whose mercy and magnanimity, millions across the world ,can today follow in the footsteps of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates, also traced back his own family lineage to this gold mercantile community in Saptagram.To read more about Srila Prabhupada, please refer to our article entitled – The birthplace of A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Tollygunge’. Srila Prabhupada once mentioned how the Britishers had established Calcutta, taking the financial help and assistance of these suvarna baniks (Gold merchants).These businessmen had come down from their ancestral homes in Adisaptagram, to set up their businesses here in Calcutta. The Bengalis with the title De ,Sil or Mullick actually belong to this same family lineage and hence share the same gotra (Srila Prabhupada’s earlier name was ‘Abhaya Carana De’). The title ‘Mullick’ was later awarded by the Muslim rulers to those in this community, who intimately associated and conducted business with them.But despite the differences in their surnames, all these family members share a common ancestral root.

The Mullicks of pathuriaghata street have also originally hailed from Adisaptagram. Rajaram Mullick, their ancestor, was the first in their family, to shift his residence to Kolkata and set up his business over here.‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ would now like to take this opportunity to reminisce about the significant spiritual sites of Bengal, which the Mullicks have been instrumental in preserving and promoting.

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The birthplace of A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Tollygunge

tollygunge

Sri Gour Mohan De and Srimati Rajani devi became the proud parents of Sri Abhaya Caranaravrinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada on the 1st of September, 1896. Srila Prabhupada or Abhaya Carana ,as he was previously called, was born on the occasion of Nandotsava, at the home of his maternal grandparents, in the suburbs of Tollygunge. The fortunate jackfruit tree under which he was born stands tall this day. Calcutta back then was the capital of British India and the ‘second city’ of the British Empire. The British and the Indians lived in separate portions of the city although they intermingled in work and business. The Indians lived more towards the north of the city while the british lived amongst their theatres ,racetracks and cricket fields in central Calcutta. Sri Gour Mohan De used to reside along with his family in his rented house at 151 Harrison Road (refer –Srila Prabhupada’s pastime places in Central Kolkata). He was a cloth merchant with moderate income and belonged to the aristocratic suvarna banik (gold merchant) community. ‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ cannot help at this point but contemplate upon the exalted pastimes of another eternal associate of the Lord, Sri Uddharana Datta Thakura, who also belonged to this gold mercantile community (refer – Sri Uddharana Datta Thakura Sripat, Adisaptagram (Near bandel)’). Soon after Srila Prabhupada was born ,an astrologer prepared the horoscope for the child and made an accurate prediction. He predicted that when Srila Prabhupada would reach the age of seventy, he would cross over the oceans, become a great preacher of religion and open 108 temples. In this article ,however, we shall try to primarily focus on the pastimes that Srila Prabhupada had enacted here in India ,before he travelled abroad and established this worldwide movement.

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Sri Gaudiya Math, Baghbazar, Kolkata

Gaudiya math

Situated on the bank of the ganges at the heart of North Kolkata, the Baghbazar Gaudiya Math represents the rich cultural and Vaishnava heritage of Bengal. Presently under the authority of the Gaudiya mission, the Baghbazar Gaudiya Math was established by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura (spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada) on the 5th of october,1930. Sri Jagabandhu Dutta belonging to the Banaripara of District of Barisal (Bangladesh) procured a piece of land on the bank of the Ganges at Baghbazar and donated it to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta for the purpose of establishing this temple. Calcutta was then the capital of British India. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, after having established the Caitanya Math at Mayapur (refer – Sri Caitanya Math , Sri Chandrasekhar Acharya Bhavan (Masir Bari), Mayapur, Navadvipa) wanted to open a main center ,his head office, in this capital city. This beautiful temple, ornamented with marble halls, is situated at a place where Mahaprabhu had once rested for sometime while travelling from Jagannath Puri to Baranagar (refer – ‘Sri Bhagavatacharya’s residence,Baranagar Path bari’). Srila Bhaktisiddhanta saraswati Thakura had spent the last six years of his manifested pastimes here at the Baghbazar Gaudiya Math. His Bhajana kutira and the room where he used to live, has been carefully preserved till this day.

‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ considers itself exceedingly fortunate to have been able to visit the Baghbazar Gaudiya Math.The grandeur and the imposing presence of this ancient temple has mesmerized us. The enchanting deities of Sri Gaura Radha Binodananda jiu continue to bestow their merciful darsana upon one and all.We seek blessings of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and would like to beg for his permission, in order to pen a few lines in his glorification.

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Srila Prabhupada’s pastime places in Central Kolkata

HDG AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder acharya of Iskcon, our dear spiritual grandfather, has been and continues to be the greatest proponent of Krishna consciousness in the entire world. A true visionary, Srila Prabhupada, has built a home in which the whole world can live in peacefully. The International society for Krishna consciousness (his brainchild) has expanded its footprints to all corners of this world today, and has been instrumental in distributing the causeless mercy of Lord Caitanya in every town and village. Srila Prabhupada is none other than the commander in chief of Lord Caitanya, and he was empowered by the Lord and His Gurudeva to deliver the fallen souls all over the world. From the time he landed in America (1965) till the time he left his body (1977), Srila Prabhupada had encircled the globe a full 12 times, overseeing the construction of over a hundred Iskcon temples.In addition he has left us with hundreds of his books that continue to provide guidance and inspiration to devotees all around the world.‘The Gaudiya Treasures of Bengal’ has covered the life and pastimes of Srila Prabhupada in more detail in the article entitled – ‘The birthplace of A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Tollygunge’. In this present article ,however, we intend to provide a brief sketch of his pastime places in central Kolkata ,where he had grown up and spent a significant portion of his life.

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