The story concludes.
The Duty of a Friend
Translated from the original Bengali article
published in Gauḍīya,
Volume 3, Issue 27, Saturday, 21 February 1925
and in Śrī Gauḍīya Darśan,
Volume 2, Issue 5, Thursday, 13 December 1956,
and Volume 2, Issue 6, Friday, 11 January 1957.
This article was published in Śrī Gauḍīya Darśan with a preface, translated from Bengali as follows: “The author of this article is Nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa Śrīpād Bhāgavata-janānanda Prabhu. Our supremely worshippable Śrīla Prabhupād felt some particular supramundane sentiment and performed a Pastime of shedding tears while reading this article.”
I took shelter at the feet of a renounced and supposedly liberated soul and spent a long time immersed in such deliberation. Yes, it is true that if I am unable to drink even a palmful of water from the ocean of divine love—from the lake of nectar—then death is best for me; this insignificant fellow was unworthy of the footdust of the eternally perfect devotees like Śabarī, Vidura, and Vibhūṣaṇ⁹, and so I was deprived of resolutely waiting for divine love like them. Gradually, I developed the notion that devotion is something attained by frail women and renunciation is the only way for men to attain liberation. Even all the pure external symptoms that arise as a result of devotion, such as weeping and horripilation, then seemed to me to be some sort of mental disorder. As a result of this conclusion, the goddess of devotion (Bhakti Devī) slowly withdrew from the field of my heart. As a materialist and agnostic, I turned into a maggot in dry wood. I reached the state that souls who do not develop love for pure devotees reach. Being averse to the lotus feet of the Lord, I became so deluded by impure intelligence that I fell from the path of hard-earned renunciation (jñān) like a torn net in the sky thrashed by the wind. I fell into the terrible turbulent whirlpool of patriotism, promoting education, and saving the fallen like Triśaṅku¹⁰ who fell from heaven into a newly manifest assembly of the seven sages. There was no peace in my heart. There was no joy in my mind. Having lost my way in life, like a meteorite fallen from its orbit, heart-broken, I began to burn. Oh! What terrible pain! I understood that this is the punishment of Yama found in the subtle world. A boundless ocean of lamentation …
I was watching the sun set over the ocean. The four directions were nearly still. There was a play of āvīra¹¹ over the water, earth, and heavens. My heart too was slowly becoming coloured by this dye. Thought of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s Pastimes of the highest divine love then came to mind. This is that place, but how far away are they? From how far away am I trying to paint within my heart that soul-captivating picture? At this time, the sound of a song arose from a cottage somewhere nearby. Although I was thinking of something else, the purport of the song came and touched me. With full emotion, the singer was singing:
nija-karma-doṣa-phale paḍi’ bhavārṇava-jale
hābuḍubu khāi kata kāla
sā̐tāri sā̐tāri yāi’ sindhu-anta nāhi pāi
bhava-sindhu ananta viśāla
[“As a result of my sins, I fell into the waters of the ocean of material existence. For how long did I flounder? I swam and swam, but I did not reach the ocean’s shore. The ocean of material existence is vast and unending.”]
nimagna ha-inu sabe ḍākinu kātara rave
keha more karaha uddhāra
sei kāle āile tumi tomā jāni kūle bhūmi
āśā bīja ha-ila āmāra
[“I began to sink, and I called out to everyone in a desperate voice, ‘Someone save me!’ You came at that time. I then understood that You are the shore, and I found a seed of hope.”]
I thought to myself that in the form of this song or as a message from the sky exactly what I am feeling has manifest before me. The singer then began to sing another song:
baḍa śela marame rahila
pāiyā durlabha tanu śrī-kṛṣṇa-bhajana vinu
janma mora viphala ha-ila
[“O Lord! O Lord! A huge spear has pierced my heart. I attained a rare human body, but I did not serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and my birth has now passed in vain.”]
vrajendra-nandana hari navadvīpe avatari’
jagat bhariyā prema dila
muñi se pāmara-mati viśeṣe kaṭhina ati
te̐i more karuṇā nahila
[“Śrī Hari, the prince of Vraja, has descended in Nabadwīp and filled the world with divine love, but I am wicked-minded and extremely obstinate. So, I did not receive His mercy.”]
svarūpa sanātana rūpa raghunātha bhaṭṭa-yuga
tāhāte nā haila mora mati
divya chintāmaṇi dhāma vṛndāvana hena sthāna
sei dhāme nā kainu vasati
[“Svarūp, Sanātan, Rūpa, Raghunāth Dās, Gopāl Bhaṭṭa, and Raghunāth Bhaṭṭa—I have had no attachment to them, and Śrī Vṛndāvan Dhām, the abode of divine, wish-fulfilling gemstone—I have never resided there.”]
viśeṣa viṣaye mati nahila vaiṣṇave rati
nirantara kheda uṭhe mane
e adhama dāsa kahe jībāra uchita nahe
[“I am completely absorbed in the mundane, and I have no attachment to the Vaiṣṇavas. Thus, I constantly lament. This fallen servant says, “I have no reason to live without the service of Śrī Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas.”]
Hearing the sound of the singer’s song mixed with distress on the shore of the ocean, my heart melted. I then desired to meet the singer.
I saw that the singer was a Vaiṣṇava wearing tilak and a tulasī necklace. Although I did not have initial trust in Vaiṣṇava bābājīs because of my previous prejudice, just by speaking with him for a moment and seeing his radiant mood of devotion, facing blooming with joy, and wonderful manner of speaking about the Lord, my heart automatically became attracted to him.
To get to know him personally, I sat down there, briefly described my state of mind and condition, and earnestly enquired about how I could find spiritual peace.
He then brought to my ears such sweet, heart-maddening, and insightful words about true dharma, the duty of the soul, and the pure unconditional love and devotion spread by the Lord of divine love Śrī Kṛṣṇa Chaitanya that my nearly dead body and mind were revived like new blossoms on a tree branch at the arrival of spring.
To express as he did such nectarean words, such elixir for the heart and ears, such divine discussion of the Lord, is completely impossible for an extremely insignificant person like me. Still, I will try to recount some of his heart-pleasing words which still now ring like a song in my heart and ears.
He told me, “Brother, all the worldly knowledge you have heard, studied, and discussed up to this day is inferior knowledge; it is simply deception. There is never proper glorification of the Lord amidst discussion of texts of science, philosophy, or various forms of law. All such knowledge—as ignorance mistaken for knowledge and falsity mistaken for truth—like a poisonous vine mistaken for a sandalwood tree—has completely transformed the field of your heart into a dry barren plain and covered over the goddess of devotion’s (Bhakti Devī’s) overflowing power which emanates from the feet of the Lord and destroys the contamination of Kali. Thus, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam says:
mṛṣāgiras tā hy asatīr asat-kathā
na kathyate yad bhagavān adhokṣajaḥ
tad eva satyaṁ tad u haiva maṅgalaṁ
tad eva puṇyaṁ bhagavad-guṇodayam
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 12.12.49)
[“Words that do not describe the transcendental Lord are false, harsh, and useless. Only words that describe the qualities of the Supreme Lord are truthful, beneficial, and purifying.”]
When the qualities of the Lord, the fame of the Lord, and the Name of the Lord are glorified, and in particular when the Name of the Lord is glorified in the association of pure devotees, within an instant the waves of the ocean of intense sorrow and lamentation are subdued and in lieu of them begins to flow the gentle Ganges of devotion, which is always festive and bears ever-new waves of joy. Without the mercy of the goddess of devotion, the world is void, dark, and full of lamentation. Look, even the author of the Brahma-sūtra, the Mahābhārata, the Purāṇas, and many other great texts, the great sage Vedavyās, who was fixed in the Absolute, once felt himself to be extremely sorrowful. When this faultless wise man sat on the bank of the Saraswatī with a completely disturbed mind and tried to ascertain the cause of his own weariness, Nārad Mahārāj arrived there. When asked by Vyāsadev about the cause of his mind’s dissatisfaction, Nārad Mahārāj said, “O Guru of the world and sage fixed in the Absolute, it is true you have written the fifth Veda, the Mahābhārata, the Brahma-sūtra, and other texts, but thereby the glories of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, whose is praised by the most exalted souls and expressions, has not been fully glorified. Thus, your heart has come to this state of being afflicted with lamentation.
na yad vachaś chitra-padaṁ harer yaśo
jagat-pavitraṁ pragṛṇīta karhichit
tad vāyasaṁ tīrtham uśanti mānasā
na yatra haṁsā niramanty uśik-kṣayāḥ
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 1.5.10)
[“The wise consider statements, even of impressive composition, that do not in any way proclaim the glories of the Lord, which purify the world, to be a place for crows where swans from pleasant abodes never delight.”]
“Sādhu devotees reject all texts composed with fine sentiments, ornaments, verses, sentences, and so on that are devoid of discussion of the wonderfully sweet Pastimes of the Lord that purify the universe, considering them completely worthless like a pit for crows and other refuse eaters or an instrument of play for selfish persons with fleeting desires. As swans living at Mānasa Sarovar¹² do not go to other small pools, so devotees whose joy is the service of the lotus feet of the Lord never care for poems or other compositions ornamented with worthless material sentiments. Devotees only engage in glorification of the Lord in the association of the sādhus as this removes the contamination of Kali and bestows all possible joy. You too should immersed yourself in the nectar of descriptions of the Pastimes of the embodiment of rasa Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa and find the highest peace for your heart.”
In this way, I drank the nectar of discussion of the Lord for fifteen days with the revered Bābājī and attained the highest fulfilment. But, brothers, one very deep sorrow has remained in my heart. Alas! Why from birth was I deprived of the nectar of discussion of the Lord? Why did I pass so many long days in vain? The revered Bābājī told me about the ten fundamental principles (daśa-mūla) of Śrīman Mahāprabhu.
yadā bhrāmaṁ bhrāmaṁ hari-rasa-galad-vaiṣṇava-janaṁ
kadāchit saṁpaśyan tad-anugamane syād ruchir iha
tadā kṛṣṇāvṛttyā tyajati śanakair māyika-daśāt
svarūpaṁ vibhrāṇo vimala-rasa-bhogaṁ sa kurute
If in the course of traversing through higher and lower births throughout material existence, a fortunate soul meets a Vaiṣṇava whose heart is melted by love for the Lord, then that soul bound in illusion will develop taste (ruchi) by the association of that Vaiṣṇava. Then, when their conditioning within illusion has lessened slightly by chanting Kṛṣṇa’s Name, glories, and so on, they will gradually realise their true self and experience the pure love and joy of service to Kṛṣṇa.
Spiritual knowledge of the Lord does not develop fully without devotion to the Lord. Thus, becoming subservient to a devotee of the Prince of Vraja’s nondifferent form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Chaitanya, advancing in regulated devotional practice (vaidhī-bhakti sādhana), and attaining divine love and devotion (prema-bhakti) is the ultimate and highest good for the soul. Without the grace of the goddess of devotion, who is ever-joyful, a human being’s birth and life are worthless. Souls who are averse to Kṛṣṇa fall into the clutches of the witch of illusion (Māyā).
kṛṣṇa-bahirmukha hañā bhoga vāñchhā kare
nikaṭastha māyā tāre jāpaṭiyā dhare
piśachī pāile yena mati-chchhanna haya
māyā-grasta jīvera haya se bhāva udaya
“āmi nitya kṛṣṇa-dāsa” ei kathā bhule
māyāra naphara hañā chira-dina bule
(Śrī Śrī Prema-vivarta: 6.2–4)
[“When souls become averse to Kṛṣṇa and desire enjoyment, nearby Māyā seizes them. When someone is possessed by a ghost, they become deranged. This condition overtakes souls bound by Māyā. Forgetting, ‘I am an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa’, souls become slaves of Māyā and wander indefinitely.”]
Every word from Ṭhākur Bhakti Vinod Prabhu resonates in my heart as truth and joy and excites me. By his grace, I have been able to understand that apart from service to Kṛṣṇa and love for Kṛṣṇa, every form of opulence in this world, as paraphernalia for the enjoyment and vice of persons with selfish desires, is worthless.
I have also understood that within a very short time, associates of Śrīman Mahāprabhu have descended to the earth and that in the place of the birth and Pastimes of Śrīman Mahāprabhu as shown by Śrīla Bhakti Vinod Ṭhākur, as well as all over the world, they are spreading and will continue to spread the Holy Name. Thus, Śrīla Vṛndāvan Dās Ṭhākur has written of the prophecy which came from the holy mouth of Śrīman Mahāprabhu:
pṛthivīte āchhe yata nagarādi grāma
sarvatra prachāra ha-ibeka mora nāma
[“My Name will be spread everywhere through every town and village on the earth.”]
Brothers, the Name of the Lord, devotion to the Lord, and love for the Lord are truth¹³. This is the hidden treasure I have to give you.”
As he spoke, he began to cry and tears streamed from his eyes. In the moment, no further questions to ask our brother came into our minds.
He said, “Chant! Brothers, chant:
śrī-kṛṣṇa-chaitanya prabhu nityānanda
śrī-advaita gadādhara śrīvāsādi gaura-bhakta-vṛnda
Loosing ourselves, we began to chant with him. Then he began to sing:
ye ānila prema-dhana karuṇā prachura
hena prabhu kothā gelā āchārya-ṭhākura
kā̐hā mora svarūpa rūpa kā̐hā sanātana
kā̐hā dāsa raghunātha patita-pāvana
kā̐hā mora bhaṭṭa-yuga kā̐hā kavirāja
eka-kāle kothā gelā gorā naṭa-rāja
pāṣāṇe kuṭiba māthā anale paśiba
gaurāṅga guṇera nidhi kothā gele pāba
[“Where has the Lord who so mercifully brought the wealth of divine love to this world gone? Where are my Svarūp, Rūpa, and Sanātan? Where is my Raghunāth Dās? Where are the saviours of the fallen souls? Where are my Raghunāth Bhaṭṭa and Gopāl Bhaṭṭa? Where is my Kṛṣṇadās Kavirāj? Where has the great dancer Gorā suddenly gone? I will break my head on a rock, I will enter fire—where can I go to reach the reservoir of all virtues Śrī Gaurāṅga?”]
Singing this final line again and again in a tone infused with melancholy and profound devotion, he fell silent. The two stars of his eyes where still, and he became absorbed in a vision of Vaikuṇṭha. With a voice beautifully adorned with extraordinary love, he said, “O emissaries of Vaikuṇṭha adorned with the marks of the Lord’s feet who distribute the nectar of the Lord’s messages! Come! Come! Let me hear the nectar of discussion of the Lord. … Go! Go! This is the prayer of my heart at the feet of the Lord—” He said this much and then fell silent again.
His countenance was illuminated with bright joy. It was now dawn, and rays of reddish light coloured his body as though with āvīra. We then understood that our best friend was a beautiful devotee and resident of the eternal abode who, having now given up his manifest Pastimes in the material world, had attained entrance into the eternal Pastimes in the spiritual world.
About the author
Bhāgavata-janānanda Prabhu was a disciple of Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur who passed away at an early age while residing in a Temple of Śrīla Saraswatī Ṭhākur in 1925. In April of 1926, Śrīla Saraswatī Ṭhākur established a maṭh in Chiruliya near Midnapore (in southern West Bengal) and named it “Bhagavat Janānanda Maṭh” in honour of Bhāgavata-janānanda Prabhu.
Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj recounted (19 August 1980) that Śrīla Saraswatī Ṭhākur said of Bhāgavat-janānanda Prabhu: “Śrīla Bhakti Vinod Ṭhākur came in his garb, but I could not understand, I could not catch that.”
9: Śabarī, Vidura, and Vibhūṣaṇ all spent the majority of their later life waiting to be reunited with their beloved Lord. Śabarī lived alone in a forest ashram waiting for years on end for Lord Rāmachandra to visit as was foretold by her Guru. Vidura left the association of the Pāṇḍavas and Kurus prior to the battle of Kurukṣetra, performed pilgrimage for eight years, and returned only to find that Lord Kṛṣṇa had already departed from the world but had left a final message for him with Maitreya Ṛṣi. Vibhīṣaṇ, the brother of Rāvaṇ, broke the laws of loyalty to family, surrendered to Lord Rāmachandra, and later ruled the kingdom of Laṅkā on the order of the Lord.
10: Triśaṅku was a king named Satyavrata in the solar dynasty and ancestor of Lord Rāmachandra who committed three sins in his youth and thus became known as Triśaṅku (tri: three; śaṅku: sins). His sins were (1) bringing shame to his family by his misbehaviour, (2) stealing a cow from his Guru Vaśiṣṭa Ṛṣi, and (3) eating and distributing the meat of this cow. Triśaṅku later requested Vaśiṣṭa to arrange for him to go to Svargaloka in his earthy body. Vaśiṣṭa refused, and Triśaṅku then asked Vaśiṣṭa’s sons to help him. They were appalled by his disregard for the decision of his Guru Vaśiṣṭa and cursed him to become a chaṇḍal. He then appealed to Viśvāmitra Ṛṣi for him, and after even the gods refused to participate in the sacrifice Viśvāmitra arranged for this purpose, Viśvāmitra raised Triśaṅku to Svargaloka using his own supernatural power. Lord Indra denied Trisaṅku entrance and threw him back towards the earth. Viśvāmitra Ṛṣi then suspended Triśaṅku in the air and began to construct a new slightly lower form of Svargaloka around him. Svargaloka is associated with the Polestar and the seven sages are associated with the constellation Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) which closely moves around the Polestar. Triśaṅku’s position is said to be the origin of the Southern Cross (Crux) and the other stars around it as a replica of the stars of the seven sages.
The notion of ‘saving the fallen like Triśaṅku’ means to help those who do not deserve help, help others in an inappropriate way, help others in a way that does not really help them, and help others only for the purpose of demonstrating one’s own power or pursuing one’s own interests.
12: Mānasa Sarovar is a lake on Mount Kailash created by Lord Brahmā, who performed penance on its banks. The lake is known to be very pristine, tranquil, and beautiful and to be the home of a great abundance of swans.