Aug 02, 2014 CANADA (SUN) A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 166.
As we near the end of the 'Glossary of Places', the next holy site on Srila Bhaktivinoda's list is Vraja-dhama:
"Vraja-dhama - the one hundred sixty-eight square mile tract of land where Sri Krsna enacted His earthly pastimes."
There are relatively few mentions of Vraja-dhama in Jaiva Dharma, but many, many mentions of 'Vraja'. Vraja-dhama figures most prominently in this transcendental novel, and we find it mentioned at the very beginning, and the very end of Jaiva Dharma.
As the story opens in chapter one, we meet one of our most important characters -- the great Vaisnava preacher, Sri Prema-dasa Babaji. Having traveled to get the instruction of such an advanced personality, another of the heroes in Srila Bhaktivinoda's story opens the scene. This devotee is not named in the story until chapter three, when he is identified as Vaisnava dasa. Prior to this point, he is referred to simply as 'the saintly sannyasi'. Here, in chapter one, his story begins with the first mention of Vraja-dhama:
"Setting down his kamandalu, the regal sannyasi respectfully folded his hands and said, "O master, I am very unfortunate. I studied the sankhya, patanjala, nyaya, vaisesika, purva-mimamsa, and uttara-mimamsa philosophies. I studied the Vedanta, Upanisads, and many other scriptures also. I travelled on pilgrimage to Varanasi and many other holy places. I spent much time debating with others the meaning of the scriptures.
"It is twelve years now since I accepted a sannyasi danda from Srila Saccidananda Sarasvatipada. After I accepted the danda I spent my time always travelling to all the holy places. Wherever I went in Bharata-varsa I always associated with the sannyasi followers of Sankaracarya. Passing through the stages of kuticaka, bahudaka and hamsa, after a few days I attained the stage of paramahamsa. Then I stayed always at Varanasi.
"Observing a vow of silence, I took shelter of the sayings 'aham brahmasi' (I am Brahman), 'prajnanam brahma' (Brahman is consciousness), and 'tat tvam asi' (You are that), which Sankara declares are the maha-vakyas (most important statements of the scriptures).
"Then one day a saintly Vaisnava singing songs about Lord Hari's pastimes came before me. Opening my eyes wide, I gazed at him. He was bathed by the tears flowing from his eyes, and the hairs of his body stood erect in ecstasy. In a choked voice he chanted "Sri Krsna Caitanya! Prabhu Nityananda!' Again and again he danced with faltering steps. Sometimes he fell to the ground.
"As I gazed at him and heard his song, my heart became filled with love, a love I have no power to describe. Even though I became filled with love, I followed the rules of paramahamsa life and I did not speak a word to him.
"I am pathetic, my rules of paramahamsa life are pathetic, and my so-called good fortune is also pathetic. Why did I not speak to him?
"Since that day my heart has been irresistibly drawn to the feet of Sri Caitanya. I became very agitated. I spent many days searching for that Vaisnava, but I did not see him anywhere.
"When I saw that Vaisnava and heard the holy names from his mouth I became filled with a pure and sacred bliss. Before that time I did not know that such a bliss existed anywhere. I did not think it was possible for a human being to experience such bliss.
"After some days of thinking I decided that it would be best for me to take shelter of the feet of a Vaisnava. Then I left Varanasi and went to Sridhama Vrndavana.
"There I saw many Vaisnavas. Every one of them was calling out the names, 'O Sri Rupa! O Sri Sanatana! O Sri Jiva Gosvami!' and lamenting. They were all meditating on Sri Sri Radha-Krsna's pastimes and in voices choked with love, calling out the name of Navadvipa.
"From that moment I have yearned to see Navadvipa. After a 168 mile journey from Sri Vraja-dhama, I arrived in Mayapura a few days ago."
And while we have a great deal more to cover by way of instruction on Vraja-dhama from Jaiva Dharma, having opened the story here, we will point out that this divine story also ends in Vraja. In fact, it is the very final word of Srila Bhaktivinoda's book.
Chapter forty closes with these words from the Thakur:
"Persons who yearn to attain the feet of Lord Gaura, the delivered of the Kali-yuga, will have faith in this book.
I place a curse on any person who does not have even the smallest particle of faith, but still reads this book.
Persons who speak the theory of dry impersonal liberation cannot understand Krsna. Only faithful persons can purely understand Lord Krsna's pastimes in Vraja."
(Vraja-dhama, to be continued…)