O my Lord, Narottama dāsa is very unhappy. Please make me happy by engaging me in Your bhajana and saṅkīrtana. O Lord, My greatest fear is that I will not be able to overcome the obstacles on the path of bhakti. Therefore, I pray to You constantly.
Śrī Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura prays, “Please make me happy by engaging me in Your bhajana and saṅkīrtana. Don’t separate me from You, dear Lord or I will lose everything. Lust and anger are always ready to attack me.”
Śṛṅgī Ṛṣi’s father was very protective; he never lost sight of his son. Śṛṅgī Ṛṣi would bite the dry bark and fruits of trees during the night. But Māyā-devī’s soldiers allured him by placing many sweets around the trees. When Śṛṅgī Ṛṣi bit into these sweets, he became attracted by their taste. He returned the next night, and the night after that. And then, he ran away when his father was meditating. So, we will lose everything if we give Māyā-devī even a little chance.
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura says, “May I not distance myself from bhajana for even one minute. Then who will protect me from Māyā-devī? Therefore, bhajana is my life and soul.”
The desire for sense gratification is very dangerous.
We should give up this desire at once; or else, we will become greatly disturbed. Mahārṣi Gautama taught everyone this. Bhajana gives us life. We are dead if we don’t perform bhajana.
“O Prabhu! O Girirāja Govardhana! Please give me your service. I am always attacked by my enemies. O Giridhārī! Please protect me from lust, anger, and the other enemies.”
When will we desire Govinda’s service? How can we be free from all forms of disturbances? How can we perform śravaṇa and kīrtana? A sādhu renounces everything and comes to the temple. But he has no time for harināma or bhajana. How busy he is! He has no time to chant sixty-four rounds or to do kīrtana. What is his purpose? What will happen if he doesn’t receive soul food? Who will protect him? There is māyā in family life, but there can be more māyā near the sādhu.
Bhajana is food for the soul. We need only be greedy and busy for this. We don’t need anything else. Our business is only hari-kīrtana and hari-smaraṇa.
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has spoken how navadha-bhakti is indispensable for the soul. Śravaṇa and kīrtana is especially helpful. When we listen to hari-kathā from a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, madhyama-adhikārī, or an uttama-adhikārī, we will receive the moods and tendencies that are in their hearts.
By listening to an uttama-bhāgavata, the flow of hari-kathā from his heart will immeasurably help us. But, we must determine how much we are ready to accept his instructions. How much can our containers hold? A golden pot is needed to contain a tigresses’ milk, or else the milk will make a hole in the pot and trickle out. But the milk will not make a hole in a container made of gold.
So the power of a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī or a madhyama-adhikārī will enter our hearts when we listen to their hari-kathā.
But, the ‘containers’ must be examined first. What is our standard? Otherwise, we will distance ourselves from a mahā-bhāgavata when we disobey him. It is a big problem to understand our Guru-varga by their external actions. Who will accept their heart-rending hari-kathā? We are not the followers of Gaurahari, Nityānanda, or the mahā-bhāgavata Vaiṣṇavas.
Therefore, we cannot go beyond the purview of māyā and reside near their lotus feet. We are arrested by health, wealth, and home. The hari-kathā we receive will be according to the standard of devotion of the kaniṣṭha-adhikārī, madhyama-adhikārī, and uttama-adhikārī. Guru-pāda-padma knows our position. A child gradually progresses in school. But he will be demoted when he fails his classes. Is this cruelty? We will be in a confused position if we are not serious. The sādhaka should think, “I will rapidly progress if I am serious and strong.” The sādhaka will gradually progress from the stage of a kaniṣṭha-adhikārī to a madhyama-adhikārī. And then, he will become an uttama-adhikārī. But, everything will be lost if we don’t have a platform or a container (to store mercy). How can we understand the nature of the mercy of the Guru-varga? By their mercy, we will have taste for chanting harināma and taking part in harināma-saṅkīrtana. He will always have taste for hari-sevā. He will offer his heartfelt respect unto the lotus feet of Śrī Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas.
The sādhaka should chant loudly and pray for help when someone tries disturbing him. The sādhaka should say, “Why are you trying to attract me? You are a great enemy, you are stealing my time!”
You should carefully and strongly neglect the advances of anyone who is trying to attract and steal you away. By performing such actions, you will be a member of the Vaiṣṇava’s family. You will then have no problems.
Once, some Bābājīs went to a house program. They were told that many malpuas, kacoris, paneer, and halavā would be distributed. Also, donations, and turbans would also be given. The Bābājīs thought, “This person is such a nice devotee. He is serving me so nicely.” Unfortunately, the Bābājīs didn’t think of Śrī Hari before, during, or after honoring mahā-prasāda.
eka-dina śāntipure, prabhu advaitera ghare,
dui prabhu bhojane bosilo
śāk kori’ āsvādana, prabhu bole bhakta-gaṇa,
ei śāk kṛṣṇa āsvādilo
heno śāk-āsvādane, kṛṣṇa-prema aise mane,
sei preme karo āsvādana
jaḍa-buddhi parihari’, prasāda bhojana kari’,
‘hari hari’ bolo sarva jana
One day the two Lords, Caitanya and Nityananda sat down for lunch at Śrī Advaita’s house in Śāntipura. Gaurāṅga tasted the śāk, green leafy spinach, and spoke to His devotees, “Kṛṣṇa has tasted this śāk. If you taste this kind of śāk, love of Kṛṣṇa arises in the heart. Having this love in your hearts, taste these remnants. Abandoning your mundane intelligence, honour the Lord’s prasāda and all of you just chant ‘Hari! Hari!”
By honoring mahā-prasāda, you will spontaneously remember Śrī Hari and His holy names. By thinking of mahā-prasāda as ordinary food, you will think, “Oh the person who has arranged for this prasāda is a very rich and respected person. He has also given me so much praṇāmī.” You will forget your harināma. This is called the poison of materialists.
gorā pāhu nā bhajiyā mainu
prema-ratana-dhana helāya hārāinu
adhane yatana kari’ dhana teyāginu
āpana karama-doṣe āpani ḍubinū
sat-saṅga chāḍi’ kainu asate vilāsa
te-kāraṅe lāgila je karama-bandha phāsa
viṣaya viṣama viṣa satata khāinu
gaura-kīrtana-rase magana nā hainu
kena vā āchaye prāṅa ki sukha pāiyā
narottama dāsa kena nā gela mariyā
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura
Alas! I did not worship my Prabhu Gaurāṅga and neglecting the treasure of pure love of Kṛṣṇa, I lost it. I endeavoured
for useless things rejecting the real treasure of prema and I am drowning myself in my own misdeeds. I rejected the association of the saintly devotees for temporary enjoyment and in this way I have become caught in the noose of my own karma. I continually drank the venomous poison of sense-gratification rather than becoming absorbed in the rasa of gaura-kīrtana. For what happiness do I stay alive? Why don’t I, Narottama dāsa, simply die?
The conditioned souls mistake poison to be tasty and good. They smell and lick every drop of this poison. They always want to run and jump into the ocean of māyā. They glorify those who steal their hearts. They cannot forget them. They honor the person who supplies them with food. But their real auspiciousness lies in being grateful to the Vaiṣṇavas and their prasāda.
Śrīman Nityānanda Prabhu took prasādam from Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī and distributed it to everyone. Everyone thought about Mahāprabhu and remembered pulina-bhojana in Vraja-maṇḍala. No one remembered māyā. No one remembered Dāsa Gosvāmī’s father or his wealth.
This is called prasādam. The Bhagavad-gītā (2.65) states:
prasāde sarva-duḥkhānāṁ hānir asyopajāyate
prasanna-cetaso hy āśu buddhiḥ paryavatiṣṭhate
For one who is self-controlled, the threefold miseries of material existence no longer exist. In such a state of happiness, one’s intelligence soon becomes fixed.
All our anarthas, sorrows, and anxieties will be removed by honoring mahā-prasāda. We will then always be of fixed faith. We are not really honoring prasāda if we eat, sleep, and enjoy. Similarly, if we are not progressing even after listening to hari-kathā, then we should understand that we are depriving ourselves of the invaluable help offered by hari-kathā. We have no respect for hari-kathā. This should carefully be deliberated upon.
bhajanera madhye śreṣṭha nava-vidhā bhakti
’kṛṣṇa-prema’, ‘kṛṣṇa’ dite dhare mahā-śakti
tāra madhye sarva-śreṣṭha nāma-saṅkīrtana
niraparādhe nāma laile pāya prema-dhana
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 4.70-71
Among all the limbs of bhajana, the nine prescribed methods are the best, for these limbs of bhakti have great power to deliver Kṛṣṇa and kṛṣṇa-prema. Amongst these nine limbs the most important limb is to always chant the holy name of the Lord, for if one chants avoiding the ten kinds of offenses, one very easily obtains the most valuable treasure of prema.
Nava-vidha-bhakti (the nine limbs of devotion) are especially helpful in Kali-yuga. They easily bestow kṛṣṇa-prema. Kṛṣṇa-prema will especially be attained by chanting harināma without committing offenses. We need only weep, chant, and pray to Harināma Prabhu. We should constantly practice to attain perfection in our chanting. Even if our mind wanders, we should bring it back and be absorbed in chanting harināma. We should do strong sādhana.
We should warn our mind and say, “How long will you wander? You should chant everyday, or else I will punish you. I will not give you food, lodging, or rest. I will not give you anything. You should come and chant with me. You should get out if you don’t wish to do so. I will not give you any facilities.”
Seeing our endeavors, will Nāma Prabhu not be pleased? Will He not clean and help us? Saṅkīrtana is done with many devotees. If only one person chants harināma, then it is called kīrtana. We may not chant when everyone else is chanting—still, the holy name will enter our ears, and ask, “Why are you not chanting? Where are you? What are you thinking about? Why are you disturbed? You should loudly sing and dance!”
Thus, all our bogus desires will run away. By chanting, and singing with everyone, a very powerful result is obtained. But nobody is our helper if we chant alone. We will then sleep. We will have no guardian to protect us. While chanting, a person may fall asleep. But it is not possible to fall asleep during kīrtana. While chanting harināma, you should pray:
śuno, he rasika jana, kṛṣṇa-guṇa agaṇana,
ananta kohite nāhi pāre
kṛṣṇa jagatera guru, kṛṣṇa vānchā-kalpa-taru,
nāvika se bhava-pārābāre
hṛdoya pīḍita jā’ra, kṛṣṇa cikitsaka tā’ra,
bhava-roga nāśite catura
krame loya nija antaḥpura
karma-bandha, jñāna-bandha, āveśe mānava andha,
tā’re kṛṣṇa karuṇā-sāgara
pāda-padma-madhu diyā, andha-bhāva ghucāiyā,
caraṇe korena anucāra
vidhi-mārga-rata-jane, svādhīnatā ratna-dāne,
rāga-mārge korāna praveśa
rāga-vaśavartī ho’ye, pārakīya-bhāvāśroye,
labhe jīva kṛṣṇa-premāveśa
premāmṛta-vāri-dhārā, sadā pāna-rata tā’rā,
kṛṣṇa tāhādera bandhu, pati
sei saba vraja-jana, sukalyāṇa-niketana,
dīna hīna vinodera gati
Listen to me rasika-jana! Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental qualities cannot be counted. It is not possible to describe all His unlimited qualities. Kṛṣṇa is the guru of the whole world. He is a wish-fulfilling desire-tree. He is the boatman who will steer us across the ocean of material existence. Kṛṣṇa is the doctor for those who have heart pain, and He is very expert at destroying bhava-roga, the disease of material existence. By distributing the nectar of ecstatic love to all the souls who are averse to Him, He gradually brings them back into His own personal abode.
Kṛṣṇa is an ocean of mercy for those who are bound up in karma, and jñāna, which blinds a man’s eyes. Giving the honey of His lotus feet, he destroys the darkness of material life and makes one a personal servant of His own lotus feet. Śrī Kṛṣṇa gives the jewel of independence to those persons who are fixed in following the path of rules and regulations, thereby giving them entrance into the path of spontaneous loving devotion. Becoming captive by such spontaneity and then taking shelter of pārakīya-bhāva, the living being attains absorption in ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the close friend, and maintainer of those who are always engaged in drinking the stream of nectar of love of God, prema. All the residents of Vraja are an abode of ultimate auspiciousness and this low and fallen Bhaktivinoda has no other goal but them.
While chanting harināma, we should always think of kṛṣṇa-līlā. By taking part in saṅkīrtana, a person will find himself inundated by symptoms of ecstasy.
namo namaḥ śrīla narottamāya
Śrīla Narottama Prabhoraṣṭhakam 2
I offer my repeated obeisance unto Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, whose shining teeth and gentle smile born from the bliss of sankīrtana illuminates all directions. Drops of sweat and a flow of tears constantly bathe his face.
Srila Narottama das Thakura ki Jaya! (Excerpted from a Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Sri Prema-Bhakti Candrika”. Available from [email protected] )