2007 You Produce Feelings of Ecstasy
Dear Śrīla Prabhupāda,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your lotus feet, all glories to you.
I am sitting in Vṛndāvana writing another book. To my left, the spire of your samādhi-mandir is just visible. To neutralize the sounds of construction, barking dogs, fighting monkeys, and amplified kīrtanas, I listen to your bhajanas through my headphones. Your voice is the only relief.
Bhaja Hū Re Mana ends and the next song begins: Vibhāvarī-śeṣa—my favourite. I lean back and close my eyes.
It is evening time in 1973; I am alone in the saṅkīrtana van near Platsburg, New York, while Śukra Prabhu is buying groceries from a supermarket. Tired, I listen as your sonorous voice rings through the air,
vibhāvarī śeṣa, āloka-praveśa,
nidrā chāri’ uṭho jīva.
It is one of those unrehearsed mystical moments. Suddenly there is only the names of Kṛṣṇa—Kṛṣṇa Himself—and nothing else.
nṛsiṁha vāmana, śrī-madhusūdana,
There is no Platsburg, no parking lot, no van; only Kṛṣṇa’s names like whitecaps riding the waves of your soul-stirring and timelessly familiar voice.
Then you repeat, once, twice, thrice, jāmuna-jīvana, keli-parāyaṇa, and tears glide uncontrollably down my cheeks, I sob, I shiver, my heart cannot contain what it feels.
Is it bliss?
More than bliss, it is bliss induced by Kṛṣṇa’s presence. Kṛṣṇa is present by your voice. Kṛṣṇa is in the van, or wherever it is that I am.
It can’t be. But it is. And at the moment it is an indisputable reality. Forget that I joined only months ago, forget that only the realized see Kṛṣṇa, forget any arguments—Kṛṣṇa is here.
And then, when the song is over, you slowly, purposefully explain every word, every line. But your words are not a purport. They are the incantations of a transcendental magician, who with each letter, each syllable, each word, manifests Kṛṣṇa and Vṛndāvana before me.
I can see, feel, touch, and smell Kṛṣṇa and His abode—all through my ears. And while you continue to speak, I remain immersed in a long-forgotten reality that completely suffuses my being with unending happiness and complete satisfaction.
“Śyāma, His bodily hue is blackish, therefore He is called Śyāmasundara…Navīna nīrada, nīrada means cloud, His complexion is just like new cloud. New cloud, blackish, rūpa. Still He is so beautiful. Generally black is not considered very beautiful within this material world, but because His body is transcendental, even He is blackish, He is the universally attractive. Rūpa manohara. Mohana-vaṁśī-vihārī, simply when He stands with His flute, He, even though He is blackish, He becomes so attractive to everyone.”
So beautiful! So attractive!
To hear those words is to taste a beauty that is the essence of all beautiful things. In the presence of that beauty everything and everyone pales.
Then you conclude, “Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is requesting everyone, ’Now you chant all these different names of the Lord, and save me.’’ Rākho vacana mano: ‘My dear mind, please keep my word. Don’t refuse, go on chanting all these holy names of Kṛṣṇa.’”
But the echo of your song, your voice, Vṛndāvana, Kṛṣṇa-the-beautiful, resonates in that place where I am, for what seems like a few moments of eternity.
Then “click,” and Śukra enters with an armful of groceries.
It was not my first transcendental experience, nor the last. But like all others it was the outcome of your grace. As Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says, “It is the primary duty of the spiritual master to produce feelings of ecstasy within the hearts of his disciples.” And like other feelings of ecstasy, this one came to me, as it does to all your followers, by contact with your words. For your words contain the extraordinary potency to awaken souls to their eternal identity and bring them face to face with Kṛṣṇa. This phenomenon is described with incomparable beauty and clarity by Pṛthu Mahārāja, and by your purport to his words.
“My dear Lord, You are glorified by the selected verses uttered by great personalities. Such glorification of Your lotus feet is just like saffron particles. When the transcendental vibration from the mouths of great devotees carries the aroma of the saffron dust of Your lotus feet, the forgetful living entity gradually remembers his eternal relationship with You. Devotees thus gradually come to the right conclusion about the value of life. My dear Lord, I therefore do not need any other benediction but the opportunity to hear from the mouth of Your pure devotee.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.20.25)
And, from your purport: “A pure devotee always engages in the service of the Lord, taking shelter of His lotus feet, and therefore he has a direct connection with the saffron mercy-particles that are strewn over the lotus feet of the Lord. Although when a pure devotee speaks the articulation of his voice may resemble the sound of this material sky, the voice is spiritually very powerful because it touches the particles of saffron dust on the lotus feet of the Lord. As soon as a sleeping living entity hears the powerful voice emanating from the mouth of a pure devotee, he immediately remembers his eternal relationship with the Lord, although up until that moment he had forgotten everything.”
Somehow, amongst the countless jīvas wondering aimlessly, I had the good fortune to be blessed by the saffron particles emanating from your voice. And in the same way as those particles give occasional and unexpected glimpses into the spiritual world, they are also the key for perpetual residence there.
Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura concludes the statement quoted above: “But, without sādhana, such feelings [of ecstasy] cannot remain a permanent reality. If a disciple wants to feel spiritual ecstasy, day and night, he must follow a strict sādhana.” (Devadasa, Chapter 12, Page 66)
The full meaning of “strict sādhana” is strictly following all the teachings and orders given by the spiritual master.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, I have a golden container in which I have been collecting one by one, year after year, the saffron particles you gift. Due to foolishness or negligence I occasionally miss some. Nonetheless, those that I have are my greatest asset, my greatest treasure. Sometimes I open the container, taste a few particles, rub them over my body. Again it is like in Platsburg, but more. Again it is that same Kṛṣṇa, but even more beautiful. So beautiful!
One day I will douse myself in the contents of my box and go to that place from where you are broadcasting the beauty and message of Vṛndāvana. Then perhaps I can accompany you as you sing
Until that day I hope to live close to your words. So close that I never miss one saffron particle that emits from your lotus lips. Especially when you say “Śyāma.”