Where will they be ? (VMA – 1.81)
- Authored by – Shrila Prabodhananda Saraswati Pada
- Commentary by – Shri Jagadananda Das
bhrātar yarhi nimīlito’smi nayane tatra kva kāntātmaja-
bhrātṛ-svāpta-suhṛd-gaṇaḥ kva ca guṇāḥ kutra pratiṣṭhādayaḥ |
kutrāhaṅkṛtyaḥ prabhutva-dhana-vidyādyais tataḥ sarvatas
tvaṁ nirvidya sa-vidya kintu na calasy adyaiva vṛndāvanam||1.81||
when you close your eyes in death,
what will become of your loving wife,
your children, brothers, relatives and friends?
Where will your good qualities be?
Where will your fame be?
Where will your pride, wealth, education, control over others,
and other powers and opulences be?
O learned and intelligent friend,
why do you not renounce these temporary things
and go to Vrindavan on this very day?
The overriding theme of the first hundred verses of VMA is that of renunciation. This is the basic principle of spiritual life: The pleasures of the world are the source of pain and one should not have faith in them. See VMA 1.58. Prabodhananda Saraswatipada invests these verses with an urgency that is palpable. The world, whatever its pleasures, is impermanent and the source of misery.
O bhaktas! Relish these verses with their mad mood of renunciation, as Prabodhananda jumps from condemnations of those who don’t see the transcendental beauty of Vrindavan, who cannot see the presence of Radha and Krishna, who think the people and creatures of Vrindavan are like any other mortals… It is a kind of madness, no doubt about it, yet one that the followers of Prabodhananda choose to participate in, in the desire to see the madness of love and beauty take form here in the world.
Bhakti is transrational, translogical. And yet it requires faith. That faith comes when one is touched by grace. Prabodhananda was touched by the grace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which first of all made him see the limitations of yoga and jnana, what to speak of heavenly pleasure, which as a jnani he would already have abandoned even before that.
kaivalyaṁ narakāyate tridaśapūrā-
viśvaṁ pūrṇa-sukhāyate vidhimahe-
ndrādiś ca kīṭāyate
taṁ gauram eva stumaḥ ||
Identification with Brahman appears like hell,
the heavenly kingdoms like so many figments of the imagination,
the indomitable black snakes of the senses
appear to have had their fangs extracted,
the universe appears to be full of joy
and the gods Brahma and Mahendra
seemas insignificant as worms
to those who have become wealthy
with the grace of Gaura’s merciful glance:
I offer my praises to him.(34)
premā nāmādbhutārthaḥ śravaṇa-patha-gataḥ
kasya nāmnāṁ mahimnaḥ
ko vettā kasya vṛndāvana-vipina-mahā-
mādhurīṣu praveśaḥ |
ko vā jānāti rādhāṁ parama-rasa-camat-
ekaś caitanya-candraḥ parama-karuṇayā
sarvam āviścakāra ||
Who’d ever have heard that the wonderful purpose of life is prema?
Who would have known the glories of the names (of Krishna) ?
Who would have been able to enter
the tremendous sweetness of the forests of Vrindavan?
And who would have known the extent of the amazing glories
of the supreme rasa that is Radha?
Chaitanya alone revealed all these things by his supreme mercy.
I have given up trying to explain these things to those who have no taste, no attraction, who have fallen for the traps of parokṣa-vāda, that misdirect those whose hearts are riddled with desires for something other than bhakti.
And no doubt there are those who think that the quest to serve and preserve Vrindavan is also a kind of folly. Politics and economics, these things stir passions, but passions about ineffable things, about vague things like religious heritage are just so medieval. What place could they possibly have in the modern world?
Sevā. Bhakti means sevā. And sevā of the Dham is the best sevā because sevā in the Dham incorporates all the five best kinds of bhakti. Service in the state of knowledge is called bhakti. This is not karma-yoga, this is prema-bhakti-yoga. Find out how to serve. If you have faith in the Dham, find out how to serve. If you don’t have faith, read Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛtam, and may you find Prabodhananda’s madness attractive.