Naren Bābu questions the Brahmo preceptor by letter
In the morning, Naren Bābu posted a long letter he had written the previous night. The letter was addressed to the head Brahmo preceptor. In it he glorified devotional service and condemned dry speculation. He wrote in detail specifically about the condition of his mind, and he asked the Ācārya some questions.
Prema-kuñja and the festival there which everyone joined
Just after sending the letter, one Vaiṣṇava came and invited everyone for a festival at Prema-kuñja. Anand Bābu, Bābājī, Mallik Mahāśaya, and Naren Bābu all promised to attend.
At ten o’clock in the morning after finishing pūjā, prayers, and the reading of śāstra, they all went to Prema-kuñja. Prema-kuñja is a most sanctified place, surrounded by a wall and beautified by many mādhavī creepers. The Deities of Lord Gaurāṅga and Nityānanda Prabhu were situated in front of a broad courtyard. Many Vaiṣṇavas were performing kīrtana there.
Visiting Vaiṣṇavas were gradually coming. They all sat in the courtyard and discussed various topics.
Within the kuñja there was one room for the Vaiṣṇavīs. One Vaiṣṇavī named Prema-bhāvinī was reciting Caitanya-caritāmṛta there.Even though the Vaiṣṇavī’s room was separate, still male Vaiṣṇavas were not forbidden to visit.
The woman’s room at Prema-kuñja and Prema-bhāvinī’s recitation of Caitanya-caritāmṛta
Naren Bābu said to Anand Bābu, “You see, I don’t find any difference between the āśramas of the Brahmos and the Vaiṣṇavas. As the woman Brahmos read and sing, the woman Vaiṣṇavas do the same here. This arrangement is not new for the Vaiṣṇavas. So there is no doubt that the Brahmos have seen this system and followed it.”
After gradually moving forward, Naren Bābu and Anand Bābu arrived at the woman’s room. They saw all the female servants of Kṛṣṇa sitting in the dust. Prema-bhāvinī was sitting on a small āsana and reciting śāstra. She was wearing plain white cloth. Her forehead was marked with long tilaka, and her neck was decorated with tulasī beads. Her limbs were marked with the holy name of Hari. Near her was an ācamana cup. The Vaiṣṇavīs sitting around her were wearing the same dress and holding japa-mālā in their hands. They were all looking at Prema-bhāvinī’s face like cātaka birds. She was sweetly reciting from Caitanya-caritāmṛta (2.23.9-13):
kona bhāgye kona jīvera `śraddhā’ yadi haya
tabe sei jīva `sādhu-sañga’ ye karaya
sādhu-sañga haite haya `śravaṇa-kīrtana’
sādhana-bhaktye haya `sarvānartha-nivartana’
anartha-nivṛtti haile bhaktye `niṣṭha’ haya
niṣṭha haite śravaṇādye `ruci’ upajaya
ruci haite bhaktye haya `āsakti’ pracura
āsakti haite citte janme kṛṣṇe prity-ankura
sei `bhāva’ gāḍha haile dhare `prema’-nāma
sei prema—`prayojana’ sarvānanda-dhāma
“If, by good fortune, a living entity develops faith in Kṛṣṇa, he begins to associate with devotees. When one is encouraged in devotional service by the association of devotees, one becomes free from all unwanted contamination by following the regulative principles and chanting and hearing. When one is freed from all unwanted contamination, he advances with firm faith. When firm faith in devotional service awakens, a taste for hearing and chanting also awakens. After taste is awakened, a deep attachment arises, and from that attachment the seed of love for Kṛṣṇa grows in the heart. When that ecstatic emotional stage intensifies, it is called love of Godhead. Such love is life’s ultimate goal and the reservoir of all pleasure.”
One of the listeners, a young lady named Rasa-bhāvinī, asked, “Sakhī, what is rati?”
Hearing that question, Prema-bhāvinī replied, “Rati is the seedling of prema.”
Rasa-bhāvinī slightly smiled and again inquired, “Where does rati reside, and unto whom should it be reposed?”
Prema-bhāvinī was an experienced Vaiṣṇavī. She had many times already discussed all these topics and understood the conclusions. Hearing Rasa-bhāvinī’s question, Prema-bhāvinī’s heart melted in ecstatic love and incessant tears began to flow from her eyes. She began to speak.
“Sakhī, don’t harbor worldly consciousness in spiritual subject matters. This is not the rati that you hear about in the debauchee’s perverted sensual activities. The rati in the material body is burnt in the crematorium along with the body. It doesn’t permanently remain with you. The rati experienced in the dealings between men and women in this world—that is very insignificant, because the pleasure of the body is finished with the body. The living entity is spirit soul, he has an eternal body. In that eternal body every living entity is strī, or enjoyed, and Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra is the only puruṣa, or enjoyer. The demands of the material body should be reduced and those of the eternal body should be increased. As a woman’s rati, or affection, rushes severely towards a man, the transcendental rati of the eternal strī’s body rushes towards Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The heart’s lust for sense objects is called rati. But the spiritual body’s natural lust for Kṛṣṇa is the living entity’s eternal rati. Sakhī, if that rati is not manifest, then why you’ll give up everything—honor and respect—to live in Vraja. Rati is a natural propensity. It is causeless. On seeing the sense objects it becomes agitated. As I said previously, rati is the seed of prema. This seed should be sprouted by the watering process of hearing and chanting.”
As Prema-bhāvinī spoke feelings of ecstasy arose in her. She became restless and fell, while exclaiming, “O Lord of my heart, where are You?” Everyone became anxious and chanted hari–nāma to her.
Naren Bābu said to Anand Bābu, “See, here’s an example of pure love. Those fools who call Vaiṣṇavas debauchees are most unfortunate. They cannot understand what Vaiṣṇava prema is.”
Honoring prasāda at the Prema-kuñja festival
Meanwhile, a conch shell was blown and all the Vaiṣṇavas assembled in the courtyard. All the visiting Vaiṣṇavas sat down to honor the festival prasāda. In order to show respect to the renounced Vaiṣṇavas, the gṛhastha Vaiṣṇavas waited. There arose loud chanting of the names Śrī Gaurāṅga and Nityānanda. Everyone began taking prasāda saying, “Prema sukhe.” While taking sak, or spinach, one Vaiṣṇava took a few strands in his mouth and cried out, “Oh! How much happiness Kṛṣṇacandra had eating this sak!” Taking kṛṣṇa-prasāda, they were all overwhelmed thinking how Kṛṣṇa was pleased. After honoring prasāda, everyone got up while chanting “Hari bol!” with love and devotion.
Hearing the glories of the Vaiṣṇava’s remnants, the two Bābus and Mallik Mahāśaya honor some
The festival organizers gathered together some of the Vaiṣṇava’s remnants. When Anand Bābu asked Yogi Bābājī about this, Bābājī replied, “That prasāda is called adharāmṛta, or nectar of the lip’s. Whoever is averse to honoring this adharāmṛta due to caste consciousness is a pretender and devoid of equanimity. He cannot be considered a Vaiṣṇava. The festival’s adharāmṛta is the testing ground for those who are proud of their caste. Particularly, the visiting Vaiṣṇavas have purified all types of people; for by taking their remnants with love, one’s pride of birth is vanquished. When one’s pride of birth is vanquished, one can get kṛṣṇa-bhakti.” Anand Bābu, Mallik Mahāśaya, and Naren Bābu then honored those remnants with great love and devotion.
Only Vaiṣṇavas can bring unity among humans
Naren Bābu said, “I see that only Vaiṣṇavism has the purity to bring unity amongst humans. The Brahmos are falsely proud of their equanimity, but in practice they’re not magnanimous. Now I understand that in cultivating religiosity one must know that all living entities are equal. It is the opinion of the Āryans that one should maintain some discrimination in matters of worldly dealings and birth. When it is seen that caste is simply based on worldly discrimination, then the defects that the Brahmos point out in judging caste is simply extraneous.” Anand Bābu and Mallik Mahāśaya both supported Naren’s conclusion.
Everyone thus finished taking prasāda. All the Vaiṣṇavas chanted “Hari bol!” as they returned to their own places. One old Vaiṣṇavī was the manager of Prema-kuñja. She affectionately took Anand Bābu, Naren Bābu, and Mallik Mahāśaya to the woman’s room and had them sit down. They were all pleased, being enchanted by her motherly affection. The old Vaiṣṇavī inquired, “Where is your residence? By your speech it appears you are from Calcutta.”
Mallik Mahāśaya, Anand Bābu, and Naren Bābu then gave their introductions.
Prema-bhāvinī introduces herself as Naren Bābu’s pisīmā and discussions of their pastincrease their affection
Listening to Naren Bābu’s introduction, Prema-bhāvinī moved forward and asked, “Can you recognize me?”
Naren Bābu said, “No.”
Prema-bhāvinī said, “Can you say where your aunt is now?”
Naren Bābu said, “When I was just a child my aunt went to Kāśī. She never returned home. I can somewhat remember her features. She used to put me to sleep with stories about dacoits.”
Prema-bhāvinī said, “I’m that aunt of yours! When I left you and went to Kāśī, I found that very painful. I stayed in Kāśī for some time but found the association to be not good so I came to Vṛndāvana. I’ve been living in this kuñja for the last twenty years. Since coming here, I’ve become attached to Vaiṣṇavism. I’ve read all the Vaiṣṇava literatures, listened to the sādhu’s instructions, and gradually taken complete shelter of Hari’s lotus feet. Since coming here I haven’t tried to get news about you or written any letter to you. I remained silent fearing that if I inquired about you I may fall into the material whirlpool again. After seeing you today I’m feeling a kind of jubilation. Seeing you with tilaka and japa beads, I couldn’t think of you as a family member. In my father’s side everyone was a śākta, or worshiper of Devī. Please tell me how you’ve become a Vaiṣṇava.”
Naren Bābu told everything about himself. Hearing this Prema-bhāvinī became overwhelmed with joy and couldn’t speak. “Hey Nanda-tanaya! Hey Gopī-jana-vallabha! Who can understand on what pretext You accept someone and bestow mercy on him.” Saying this, Prema-bhāvinī fell to the ground. Her hairs stood on end, and her body began perspiring and shivering.
Naren Bābu picked his father’s sister up with affection as if she were his mother. On seeing this, Anand Bābu and Mallik Mahāśaya were somewhat bewildered. Rasa-bhāvinī, Kṛṣṇa-kāṅgālinī, Hari-raṅgiṇī, and other Vaiṣṇavīs smeared their bodies with the dust from Prema-bhāvinī’s feet while sweetly chanting. One old Vaiṣṇavī said, “Prema-bhāvinī’s life has become successful. She is illumined with that love of God which is difficult for even Lord Brahmā to attain.”
After some time Prema-bhāvinī came to her external senses. She opened her eyes and, while crying, began to say, “Naren! Stay for a few days and visit me daily. Let your devotion to your guru’s feet be fixed. Without the mercy of the guru, no one can have Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. When you go home, take some Vraja dust for your mother.”
Naren Bābu said, “Pisīmā! If you wish to go home, I will take you with special care.”
Prema-bhāvinī said, “Darling, I’ve become indifferent to everything. I no longer desire nice food, nice clothes, nice house, or loving relations. I strongly desire to serve Kṛṣṇa with a fixed mind. Had you not taken shelter of Vaiṣṇavism, I wouldn’t have introduced myself to you. The devotees of Kṛṣṇa are my mother and father—they are my friends and brothers. Only Kṛṣṇa is my husband. Leaving life with Kṛṣṇa, I won’t go anywhere. You stay well and worship Kṛṣṇa.”
They depart from Prema-kuñja and see some cowherd boys’ Vasanta festival on the way
At that time, Yogi Bābājī called them. Mallik Mahāśaya, Naren Bābu, and Anand Bābu offered obeisances to the old Vaiṣṇavī and Prema-bhāvinī and went to the outer room.
Bābājī said, “The day is over, let’s go to our kuñja.” Saying this the four started off.
After going some distance they saw a kadamba forest. There were a few Vraja boys dressed as cowherds dancing under a tree. As they danced, they softly chanted the following song in Vasanta rāga:
abhinava kuṭala, guccha samujjala
praṇayī jane rata, candana sahakṛta
jaya jaya sundara nanda-kumāra
saurabha saṅkaṭa, vṛndāvana-taṭa
adhara-virājita, mandatara ita
locita nija parivāra
caṭula dṛgañcala, racita rasoccala
bhuvana-vimohana, mañjula narttana
gati valgita maṇi-hāra
“O beautiful son of Nanda! All glories to Your Vasanta pastimes in Vṛndāvana, which is filled with the fragrance of flowers. Your curling hair beautifies the fresh budding flowers in it, and Your body is decorated with powdered dyes thrown by Your beloveds. The sweet gentle smile on Your lips make the gopīs jubilant, and Your fleeting glance overwhelms Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī with love. Your nectarean dancing pose, which captivates the world, causes Your jeweled necklace to move to and fro on Your chest. You are the eternal friend of the surrendered souls and have incarnated to sport in their hearts. (or: You are dwelling in the heart of Sanātana Gosvāmī as his best well-wisher.)”
Moving a little forward, Anand Bābu inquired, “O boys! What are you doing?”
One of the boys stepped forward and said, “We are engrossed in our life’s treasure—Kṛṣṇa’s Vasanta festival.”
Anand Bābu asked, “Will you take some money?”
The boys replied, “Kṛṣṇa’s forest pastimes don’t require money. Green leaves, flutes, horns, sticks, cows, and lovers—these are the ingredients of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Sweetness is the only mood of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. We don’t know what opulence is. I am Subala, he is Śrīdama, he is Balarāma, this is a stick, that’s a horn, this is a kadamba forest, and we are all lovers of Kṛṣṇa. What need do we have? You may depart, the time for our service is running out.”
Relishing the mood of Vraja, they enter Yogi Bābājī’s kuñja
Anand Bābu and Naren Bābu left that place and went ahead to Bābājī, who replied to their inquiry, “Why do you ask about vraja-bhāva? Everyone here has this sentiment, and everything is absorbed in this mood. All the boys are spiritually situated. See, even the trees are humbly bending down, being absorbed in Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in the cave. Time to time the birds sing “Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.” Alas! Vṛndāvana is such a strange sight for those who are engaged in argument.”
As Bābājī spoke, feelings of ecstasy arose in him. Exclaiming, “Hey Rādhe! Hey Vṛndāvaneśvarī!” he became stunned.
Seeing Bābājī’s condition, Anand Bābu and Naren Bābu ecstatically chanted, “Hari! Hari!” and began dancing.
Anand Bābu said, “Isn’t it strange! Brāhmācārya Mahāśaya wants to save all these boys from the pit of idol worship! I would have written him, `Vaidya-rāja! Heal your own disease.’”
After a little while they all danced in ecstasy as they entered Yogi Bābājī’s kuñja.
Giving up argument, the two Bābus execute devotional practices with the Vaiṣṇavas
Everyday the Bābus read devotional literature, discussed the Absolute Truth, chanted hari–kīrtana, performed parikramā, honored mahā-prasāda, had Deity darśana, and performed various other devotional practice. The two Bābus found nothing interesting outside the Vaiṣṇava’s association. If someone wanted to argue, they would say the time of argument has passed. “Let the Brahmo followers argue over whether the Absolute Truth has form or not and what is religion and irreligion. Let us remain enchanted by drinking the nectar of hari-bhakti. Where ignorance is bliss, it’s folly to be wise.”
In this way a few weeks passed.