I took this photo in March of this year. It is the Mahant of Samaj Bari Ashram, Sripad Vishnu Das Babaji, and Sri Rama Bandopadhyaya. I was told that she was travelling and speaking and she wouldn’t likely be back to the ashram for some time. I was sitting in the reception room talking with Mahant Maharaj when she unexpectedely walked in. I was very pleased to receive her darshan again! They are both disciples of Sripad Ramdas Babaji Maharaj–two of only a very small amount of his sisyas that are still physically present with us. Sri Rama Bandopadhyaya is a very learned Vaisnavi and a Professor as well. Even at her advanced age she still travels through India attracting crowds of Vaisnavas who are anxious to hear her sweet Hari-katha. She has written a number of books including a commentary on Chapter 14 of the Srimad Bhagavat, the Brahma Stuti, a portion of which will be the focus of this post. I will be adjusting and using sections of an English rendering by my gurubhai, Subrata Adhikary Ji. I selected this section of her tika because I particulary enjoy her comments on Hari-katha.
mahAjanera yei patha, tAte hobo anurata
pUrvApara koriyA vicAra |
sAdhana smaraNa lIlA, ihAte nA koro helA
kAya mane koriyA susAra ||PBC 14||
“I will remain dedicated to the path outlined by the mahajanas, the great authorities, distinguishing between the Mahajanas of yore and ones of the present day. Do not neglect lila-smarana and make it the essence of your life through your body and mind.”
In this portion of the commentary she is now dicussing the following verse of the Brahma Stuti:
jJAne prayAsam udapAsya namanta eva
jIvanti san-mukharitAM bhavadIya-vArtAm |
sthAne sthitAH zruti-gatAM tanu-vAG-manobhir
ye prAyazo `jita jito `py asi tais tri-lokyAm ||SB 10.14.3||
“There are some who, without stuggling in jnana-marg, remain in the same order of life in which they were called, spending all their time hearing with great humility descriptions of Your excellences from Your great devotees. All their actions–speech, thought and their every breath is saturated with devotional fervor for You. You, who are unconquerable by anything in the three worlds are certainly conquered by them.”
Hearing the glories of Krishna’s devotee is more helpful to jiva than glorification of Krishna Himself. This is the reason that Brahmaji is using the term “bhavadIya.” Brahma has also has used another term, “san-mukaritAM,” which means the glories of Krishna and His devotee should be san-mukaritAM, or in other words one should hear the glories of Krishna and His devotees from the lips of of a Vaisnava. The effect of hearing Hari-katha from a non-Vaisnava will not be the same. For example we drink milk to attain bodily strength, but if the tongue of a snake contacts that same milk, that milk will become like poison.
Here one can raise the question why it is required to hear the Hari-katha from the mouth of a Vaisnava? A real Vaisnava will just speak from sastra, and I can just read the sastras myself. What is the necessity to listen to the same thing from the mouth of a Vaisnava? This is an improper conclusion. It is true that the Vaisnava would be speaking from sastra, but he would not only be speaking the words from sastra-–as saints follow the words of the scriptures for their own sadhana and bhajan, they actually experience sastra. They directly realize what they are speaking and thus when they mix their own bhajan realization with the words from the sastra while delivering Hari-katha, their speech becomes extremely powerful and has much more of an impact upon the listener.
With the help of a mundane example this may become clearer. Beneath a banyan tree one can find numerous small banyan fruits, which contain small seeds within. Though all the required ingredients to germinate the seeds like soil, water, air and light are available beneath the banyan tree, we do not see the appearance of new banyan saplings growing beneath the tree. Rather we can find that the saplings of the banyan trees are appearing on the edge of roofs, near houses, on top of walls, etc. The saplings are found to grow where the normal required ingredients for germination are largely absent. How is this possible that they are growing in places where the main ingredient, soil is absent? The reason is that when the fruits of the banyan tree are consumed by birds, these seeds become mixed with the saliva of the birds. When they are digested they are transformed and they are transferred to those remote locations in the stool of those birds. Thus those otherwise dormant seeds grow wonderfully even without the presence of soil which would normally be necessary for sucessful germination. The new saplings are even sometimes seen growing on stone.
Similarily great Vaisnavas practice the teachings of the words of the sastras in their devotional lives. They digest those words in their hearts and mind and a transformation occurs through their bhajan. When the words of the sasta and bhajan realization are combined and presented in the form of speech eminating from the lotus-lips of a Vaisnava, the power of Bhakti Maharani is manifested and even a greatly fallen person is delivered from ignorance at once by hearing such katha.
Bhagavan Sri Kapila Dev has said that Hari-katha from the mouth of great saints acts like a medicine in the mind and heart of jiva. It cures the disease and weakness of the mind and ears. An example of a disease of the ears is interest or “‘ruci” in hearing mundane talks about wealth and property. Blaspheming others and having interest in hearing about ones own “glories” is another example. With such weaknesss of the ears one is not able to listen to Hari-katha for any length of time. Just as in the case of a weak patient who is unable to walk for a long period of time–he requires periodic rests during his walks. Likewise, if one is unable to listen to Hari-katha for a long period of time that is a sign of having a weakness of one’s ear.
By hearing Hari-katha from the lips of a Vaisnava, the disease of the ear will be cured. At that time one’s ears will not be interested in hearing talks about mundane wealth or material enjoyment. One can understand that their disease is cured if they could go on listenting to Hari-katha indefinitely. We have been speaking of the ears, but the same is true for the mind as well. The disease of the mind is enjoying thoughts of materialistic topics, and the symptom of its weakness is to be unable to think of Krishna. Hearing the glories of Krishna from the mouth of a Vaisnava will cure one’s mental diseases and strengthen the mind as well. That is why Brahmaji is telling, “san-mukaritAM” – hearing the excellences of Krishna and His devotees from the mouth of saints is understod as the easiest way to sustain their life.
Brahmaji has talked about hearing Hari-katha, but in which way should one hear Hari-katha? Is it dependent on the person who is about to hear Hari Katha? Is that person independent? In other words can he listen to Hari-katha according to his own will? Brahmaji is going to answer that now.
No! The person who wants to hear Hari-katha is not independent. The Goddess of Hari-katha is the controller of this and she is supremely independent. Thus the master of language, the speaker of the Veda, Brahma has used the term “zruti-gatAM”. Hari-katha is supremely independent. If Hari-katha mercifully enters into the ears of devotee then he can hear it, otherwise not. Now a question may arise. How is this possible? If I sit near the Vaishnava while he is delivering Hari-katha, why can I not have access to this? Great saints are telling us, in spite of sitting in a place where Hari-katha is taking place, unless and until one receives the mercy of Hari-katha Devi he will still not be able to actually hear it. He would feel sleepy or his mind would wander and think about something else. Eventually his Hari-katha will be finished and he will not be able to taste even a single drop of it.
Then what is the remedy? The solution is that before coming to hear Hari-katha one should pray to Bhakti Maharani. ”O! Hey! Goddess Hari-katha Devi! O Bhakti Maharani! Please be merciful to me! Please manifest your presence in my ears!” This is the significance of the usage of term “zruti-gatAM.”
In order to attain Hari-katha one should associate with Vaisnavas. Hari-katha is only available near the Vaisnava. Everyone has their own taste. Wealthy people relish talks about money, and the Vaisnava only talks about Krishna. One can find rotten meat where dogs live, while in a lion’s den one can expect to find elephant pearl, “gajamuktA”, as after killing elephants lions will keep the elephant pearl in his own den. So, as one would find rotten talks of wealth near rich people, precious Hari-katha is only found near the Vaisnava.
vaiSNava saGgete mana, Anandita anukSaNa,
sadA hoy kRSNa parasaGga
dIna narottama kAnde, hiyA dhairya nAhi bAndhe
mora dazA keno hoilo bhaGga (17 Prarthana)
“Oh mind! In the association of the Vaisnavas you can constantly and blissfully discuss topics of Krishna! The fallen Narottama weeps: Alas! my heart has become impatient (because I am deprived of such association)! Why have I ended up in this condition?”