Hari-katha inspired by the Guru-varga.
The souls bound by maya reside within a material body. Some bodies are like caves with four supporting pillars. Superior to those bodies are those with two pillars. Sometimes the souls live in bodies of plants. Some are able to stand without any support at all, and some are dependent on the strength of another plant or object to be able to stand. There are many species of life created by God. The soul transmigrates through these many kinds of bodies of varying levels of consciousness.
Jayadeva Gosvama has written that Sri Kesava has accepted the uniform of these bodies of different levels of consciousness in order to help the jivas. Kesava wants to help, but the jivas do not wish to accept His help. Desiring to come close to Kesava, some persons follow Kesava-vrata. They, however, are criticized. People say, “What is this Kesava-vrata? Why are you following this?”
If we do not establish relationship with Kesava, then who should we do so with? Should we make relationships with mundane dacoits and cheaters? Should we follow their vratas? Why is following Kesava’s vrata and aspiring for His company a problem? Kesava is trying to help the jivas, but the conditioned souls are lost in their own pride and false ego. Jivas say, “I am a Vaisnava. I am a Vaisnavi,” but they are not really interested in coming close to Kesava. This vrata is mentioned and written in the calendars, but if you follow it, people chastise you.
The vrata of the maha-bhagavata Ragatmika Vrajavasis is continuous. They do not actually need to follow Caturmasya Vrata or Kartika-vrata, for they are constantly performing vrata. They have bhakti and relate only with Krsna and Guru-pada-padma. The conditioned soul, however, must not remain inactive. He must take the shelter of Tulasi and Lord Kesava.
Sastra gives many instructions. Fortunate persons follow these instructions to the best of their ability.
Krsna wakes early in the morning. The sakhas are ready, and so are the cows, calves, deer, cuckoos, peacocks, peahens, and other animals. They are ready to go with Krsna to the forest. Krsna and Baladeva Prabhu sound their buffalo horns and, taking up their sticks and flutes, the party sets out. There is nice drama and dance. Everyone is very happy as they walk with Krsna through the gardens of Vrndavana. Vrndavana does not imply a small area. Vrndavana means all of Vraja-mandala.
What do Krsna’s companions do in the forest? Do they simply play in the waterfalls and streams? Do they only collect roots and fruits and eat them? Do they simply graze the cows? Is this enough? It may seem like this is all they are doing, but they are actually enrolled in a course of training administered by Krsna. Krsna takes care of the sakhas and teaches them.
The Gopala Campu, Ananda Vrndavana Campu, Harivamsa Purana, Visnu Purana, Padma Purana and other sastras have explained Krsna’s vana-lila. It is all written there. If someone has desire, he will collect that.
Krsna teaches that the jivas have come and are wondering through millions of material bodies. In His pastimes as Ramacandra, He promised the 60,000 sages of Dandakaranya, who were chanting gopala mantra, that He would manifest His vana lila in Dvapara-yuga and thus train everyone that came to Him and make their relationship with Him very sweet.
Dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhurya—Krsna teaches the jivas about these rasas. He says, “I do not want you to be My servant. I want you to be My friend. If you do not have friendship with Me, then you will look for friends among the cheaters and rascals.”
The jivas are always seeking friendship. Nowadays, people do not even like their parents. They like only their friends. Lord Kesava says, “I want the jivas to be My friends. Why do they go to others for friendship.”
This is why Krsna goes to the forest. There He teaches all the jivas. If one can go to Vraja and receive training from Krsna, he will be spiritually strong and uninterested in the so-called training of cheaters. That connection of friendship will never break.
Rupa Manjari and Rati Manjari administer special classes for Krsna in Seva Kunja and also at Radha kunda in Govardhana. Krsna sends the sadhana siddhas that are ready for manjari bhava there.
Krsna takes everyone to the forest, where there is green grass, lakes, ponds, sweet fruits, and fragrant flowers, and teaches what is helpful for developing our relationship with Him and His devotees and what is unfavorable. In this world, many people try to steal you by showing affection. Both the demigods and the demons came to Vraja and created disturbance. What is the use of going to anyone else other than that Kesava? Another meaning of the name Kesava is He who accepts discipleship from Visakha devi with the desire to serve Srimati Radharani’s hair. Kesava performs Radharani’s service and also teaches it. Following Kesava-vrata means to endeavor to be near that Kesava. What is the use of making relationship with anyone else? Who else is our true friend? Let us not pray to anyone else for instruction and care. Everyone else is a cheater.
Rupa Gosvami therefore sings:
vraje vijayinam bhaje vipina-desatah kesavam
[With fresh kadamba buds adorning His ears, strings of fully blossomed malati flowers forming a crown upon His head, and a brahmana thread of slightly opened and charming jasmine flowers slung around His neck, He returns from the forest to the village of Vraja – I worship that Sri Kesava.]
“O Kesava, may You be glorified. Maya has defeated me. I have no real well-wisher apart from You. Maya offers many bribes to make the jiva her slave. But You are great. All glory to You! Only you will protect me. O Vipinacandra, O Vrndavanadhisa, I worship You. Please, give me Your care, protection, and association.”
Jayadeva Gosvami sings:
kesava! dhrita-narahari-rupa! jaya jagadisa! Hare
“Kesava shall be with you when you reside in the water as an aquatic. He shall be with you in His form of Kurma. He shall help you as Varaha. Wherever you go, and whatever situation you are in, Kesava shall be there.”
Why not make friendship with that Kesava? Once, in Puri, after Rama Navami, Mahaprabhu was very serious. He spoke to Ramananda Raya. “Candana Yatra is coming,” He said. “Kesava-vrata, Candana Yatra, Snana Yatra—all these programs are approaching. Please, tell Sarvabhauma Pandita and Kasi Misra to make arrangements for serving these programs.”
When Candana Yatra came, Mahaprabhu went to Candana Sarovara and performed thunderous sankirtan with His devotees. There Madana Gopala performed boat pastimes. Mahaprabhu and the devotees had decorated the Lord’s boat and sitting place. Madana Gopala’s body was covered with candana and He was fanned by His servants.
Mahaprabhu jumped into the water of Candana Sarovara and played with His devotees as Krsna played with His sakhas. Mahaprabhu observed every day of this festival like this, doing sankirtana sometimes on the land, sometimes in the boat, and sometimes in the water. He was absorbed in a special mood.
This mood can be achieved by following Kesava-vrata and being near Kesava. Mahaprabhu taught this.
We must take our own body, mind, and senses—our entire life—and paste it like candana for Kesava’s service. But Kesava will say, “No, you will not be My servant. You will be My friend,” and He will accept us.
The pastimes and practice performed by Mahaprabhu during this Kesava-vrata time are greatly significant and are described in books like Caitanya Mahakavya and Caitanya-candra Natakam. Mahaprabhu engaged in nama sankirtana every day, jumping high into the air and dancing beautifully. He and His devotees sang:
kesava! dhrita-narahari-rupa! jaya jagadisa! hare
We are in Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s line. We must see what He followed in His own life. Mahaprabhu also followed Caturmasya Vrata very seriously. At the end of Caturmasya Vrata and Kartika Vrata, Mahaprabhu would send all the Gaudiyas back to Bengal. Then the time of Katyayani-vrata would come. During that period, Mahaprabhu would continuously hear Bhagavatam from Gadadhara Pandita at I-Tota. On the last day, Mahaprabhu said, “Gadadhara, where has Gopinatha gone? Where is He?” He ran about in the garden chanting:
kaha jao kaha pao vrajendra-nandana
vrajendra-nandana vina phate mora mana
“Gadadhara, you are singing this gopi gita, but how can I find Him?”
Mahaprabhu looked for Krsna everywhere in the garden. Not finding Him, He rolled on the ground and cried.
Svarupa Damodara said, “Why are You so disturbed. Gopinatha is in Your heart.”
“He is in My heart?” Mahaprabhu asked. He immediately began to scratch His chest, trying to take Gopinatha out. The devotees hurriedly caught hold of His hands. They said, “No, no, no. Gopinatha has come out of Your heart. He is in the garden.”
Mahaprabhu ran back to the garden at once. “Where is He?” He cried, and fell senseless. When Mahaprabhu regained consciousness, He looked at the place on the earth where His tears were falling. “Oh, You are here?” He dug in that spot, and found the Deity of Tota Gopinatha. Mahaprabhu was overjoyed. He took Gopinatha on His lap and embraced Him. With a beaming smile on His face, He brought Gopinatha to Gadadhara. He said, “Gadadhara, I have found Gopinatha.” Then He recited the verse:
tasam avirabhuc chaurih smayamana mukhambujau
pitambara-dharah sragvi saksan manmantha-matah
[Then Lord Krsna, a smile on His lotus face, appeared before the gopis. Wearing a garland and a yellow garment, He directly appeared as one who can bewilder the mind of Cupid, who himself bewilders the minds of ordinary people.]
“Gadadhara, arrange a seat for Him,” Mahaprabhu said. From that day, Gopinatha has been situated there at I-Tota, sitting atop the spread shawls of the gopis and playing the flute, with a bashful smile gracing His dark face.
Mahaprabhu recited the prayer:
kasturi-tilakam lalata-patale vaksah-sthale kaustabham
nasagre vara-mauktikam kara-tale venuh kare kankanam
sarvange hari-candanam sulalitam kanthe ca muktavali
gopa-stri parivestito vijayate gopala-cudamanih
–Sri Gopala-sahasra-nama-stotra (28)
[His forehead is decorated with musk tilaka, the Kaustubha jewel rests upon His broad chest, and an exquisite pearl hangs from the tip of His nose. The flute gracefully rests in His lotus hands and bracelets adorn His wrists. His entire form is anointed with candana, and a necklace of pearls graces His attractive neck. All glories to the crest jewel of the gopas who is surrounded by all the young vraja-gopis.]
Mahaprabhu’s praying gradually became filled with more intensity. The devotees joined Him and a great kirtana started. Everyone chanted the mahamantra and the holy names of Gopinatha. This occurred at the time of Katyayani-vrata.
Mahaprabhu teaches us everything through His divine pastimes. Now, however, no one likes Gaura or Gauri. People are greedy for their own name and fame. They want people to follow them and say, “I will not follow Caturmasya Vrata, I will not follow Kesava-vrata, I will not follow Katyayani Vrata. I do not need anything. Everyone should follow me. My disciples should worship me.” They do not know the meaning of the word ‘disciple’ or ‘discipline’. The real guru practices himself, preaches, and offers everything and everyone to the Guru-varga.