Radhika Charana Renu – The dust of Srimati Radharani’s lotus feet
(Sri Prema Bhakti Chandrika)
– by Narottam das Thakur
By the time Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada passed away in 1977, he had already established 108 temples across six continents. These temples are a shelter for those who want to learn, preach and practice the science of devotion unto the Supreme Lord. He inaugurated the Rathayatra festival of Lord Jagannatha in major cities across the globe. He had initiated more than 5000 disciples and launched the ISKCON life membership program enrolling thousands of members. He encircled the globe fourteen times in these 10 years. He established major centers in Vrindavan, Bombay and Mayapur. He established the ‘Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust’ to unearth and renovate the holy places of Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes. He founded the BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) in 1972. He wrote approximately seventy books on the science of Krishna consciousness, sleeping only a few hours per day. These books continue to be an inspiration for devotees all over the world. Dozens of prominent scholars and educators from leading universities highly praised his work. Srila Prabhupada was magnanimous in the truest sense of the word, as his gifts to the world were unlimited and filled with tremendous spiritual value. In Chaitanya Mangala, Locana Das Thakura quotes Lord Chaitanya predicting that if the sinful people, giving up their religious principles, travelled to far off lands, His empowered commander in chief (senapati bhakta), would go there in due time to deliver them as well. Srila Prabhupada was the commander in chief of Lord Chaitanya. Another of Lord Chaitanya’s prediction that in every town and village of this world, the chanting of His holy name would become heard, came to pass through the pastimes of Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (prthibite ache yata nagaradi grama,sarvatra prachar haibe mora nama).
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead ,had mercifully appeared at Yogpeeth (in Mayapur, West Bengal, India) about 500 years ago (in the year 1486 AD), to bless us with the most wonderful, deep and ecstatic pastimes of Gaura lila. The identity of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as the Supreme Personality of Godhead can be verified in a number of Vedic scriptures like Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, Garuda Purana, Nrsimha Purana, Padma purana, Bhavishya Purana, Narada Purana etc. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the most munificent incarnation of the Supreme. Lord Gaurahari freely gives what no other incarnation of the Supreme Lord has ever given before – the ecstatic pure love of God. He does not consider one’s qualifications or background or pedigree before bestowing this supreme gift upon them, receiving which one achieves the ultimate perfection of his human life. This ecstatic love of God eludes the great demigods like Brahma, Shiva and Indra. Even Lakshmi devi, the wife of Lord Narayana, hankers to receive it. A yogi cannot achieve it , even after performing severe austerities for thousands of years. A Jnani cannot smell it even after analysing the whole of the vedic scriptures. This ecstatic love of God is extremely rare but it can be easily achieved by the causeless mercy of Lord Gauranga. That is why lord Chaitanya is known to be the essence of all the other incarnations of the Supreme – ‘Avatara sar Gaura avatara’. Although being the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself and having broadcasted the congregational chanting of the holy names of Krishna in all four directions, he did not pen any transcendental literatures Himself, but rather empowered his associates like Sri Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis to compose various literatures on devotion. It was through them that he expounded the science of bhakti (devotional service) and glorified Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The only work that is known to have been penned by him is the famous eight verses of Shikshashtakam. Sri Shikshashtakam carries the essence of the entire process of devotional science (Bhakti) from the very basics up to the highest goal of Krishna Prema (unconditional selfless devotional service unto Krishna). It can be stated without uncertainty that whoever deeply studies these instructions of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, follows them, and imbibes them to their heart, has indeed been blessed with a higher understanding of the path of Bhakti. These glorious shlokas are as follows :
A brahmana named Keshavacharya, a descendent of Harita, the compiler of Dharma Shastras, lived in a village named Sriperumbudur (Mahabhuta Puri) situated about twenty-six miles from Madras (Chennai). Keshava and his wife Kantimati were pious and possessors of all good qualities. One day, desiring to have a son, they bathed in the river Kairavani and prayed to the Supreme Lord. Lord Hari being pleased with them soon fulfilled their desire. During those days, the land of Bharata-Varsha suffered from a lack of devotion to the Supreme Lord Vishnu. People were largely opposed to the principles of devotional science. To deliver the land of Bharata (India), Lord Hari empowered a suitable entity with the potency of His sankarsana to usher in an age of devotion. Thus Sri Ramanujacharya was born in the year 1017 AD to Keshavacharya and Kantimati devi on a Thursday during the period of Adra Nakshatra in the village of Mahabhuta Puri. He became the acharya of the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya and the proponent of Visistadvaita philosophy.
Narayana Bhatta, a pious brahmana who had hailed from the exalted Madhyageha family, lived with his wife Vedavati at Pajaka Kshetra on the shores of the Papanasini river. This place is situated by the Vimanagiri mountains on the southeast of Udupi Kshetra (Karnataka, South India) and is famed to be the place where Lord Parasurama had created holy tirthas. In due course of time, Narayana Bhatta and Vedavati devi had two sons but unfortunately, both died prematurely. The brahmana couple, then being bereft of any progeny, performed severe austerities for twelve years while subsisting only on milk. They yearned to have an immortal son. The Supreme Lord was pleased with their austerities and wanted to reward them. This was the time when pure devotional service was scarce all over Bharata-Varsha. Sanatana Dharma was on the decline while atheism, in the form of Buddhism, and covered atheism, in the form of Shankaracharya’s Mayavada, was forcibly pushing people towards existence in dense ignorance. To revive Sanatana Dharma and its essence of pure devotional service, Vayu, the demigod of wind, appeared in this world by the divine will of Lord Vishnu. Just as he had previously appeared as Hanuman in Treta Yuga and as Bhima in Dvapara Yuga, similarly, Vayu appeared as Sri Madhvacharya (Purnaprajna) in this age of Kali from the womb of mother Vedavati. He was born in 1238 AD, on the auspicious occasion of Vijayadashami, and he was named Vasudeva.
Lord Brahma, Prahlada Maharaja, and Richika Muni’s son Mahatapa had combinedly incarnated as Haridas Thakur. Srila Haridas Thakur is the namacharya of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya and is an eternal associate of Sri Chiatanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Haridas Thakur had accompanied Lord Chaitanya in most of His magnanimous pastimes. He was an empowered incarnation of the Supreme Lord who had appeared just to set an example for all of us to follow. He had delivered innumerable suffering souls by bestowing upon them the nectar of the holy name. Though being born in a family of Muslims, Haridas Thakur widely propagated the chanting of Krishna’s holy name as the ultimate spiritual practice and preached how the Lord and His holy names are actually non-different from each other. Haridas Thakur teaches us that the holy names of Krishna are non-sectarian and that God is one though we might call upon Him by different names. The relationship between the Lord (supersoul) and the jiva (soul) is eternal and chanting of the ‘Hare Krishna Mahamantra’ is the most effective means to evoke and revive this eternal relationship, especially in this age of Kali. Haridas Thakur used to chant Krishna’s holy names, 300000 times a day, a practice he continued till the very end of his life.
Sri Gour Mohan De and Srimati Rajani devi became the proud parents of Sri Abhay Caranaravrinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Srila Prabhupada) on the 1st of September, 1896. A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896 AD-1977 AD) or Abhay Carana, as he was previously called, was born on the auspicious occasion of Nandotsava, at the home of his maternal grandparents, in the suburbs of Tollygunge in Kolkata. The fortunate jackfruit tree under which he was born stands tall this day. Kolkata (erstwhile 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 parts of the city although they intermingled during 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. We 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’). Soon after Srila Prabhupada was born, an astrologer had prepared a horoscope for the child and made an accurate prediction. He prophesied that when Srila Prabhupada would reach the age of seventy, he would cross over the oceans, become a great preacher of religion and inaugurate 108 temples.
On the 6th of February 1874 AD at 3.30 pm in the afternoon, Bimala prasad Datta (later renowned as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura) appeared in this world, at a place not very far from the Jagannatha temple in Puri. He was the fourth son of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srimati Bhagavati Devi. We have dedicated a separate article in honor of Srila Bhaktivinoda, who also happens to be an exalted acharya of our Vaishnava sampradaya. Sri Bimala Prasad Datta exhibited the thirty-two bodily symptoms of a great personality, at the time of his birth. He was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck like a Brahmin’s thread, perhaps a sign of his glorious mission.
Read more about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Dwadash Gopal, or the twelve cowherd boys of Vrindavana, had appeared in Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes and assisted Him to manifest His Harinama sankirtana movement. They were also intimate associates of Lord Nityananda and helped Doyal Nitai widely preach the glories of Lord Chaitanya and the holy name of Krishna. Kavi Karnapura, the author of Gaura Ganoddesa Dipika, identifies these twelve cowherd boys of Vrindavana as follows –