A full decade has passed since the release of Radha-Damodara Vilasa, Volume One, a momentous book that documented the journey of Radha and Krishna - the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort in Their forms as Sri-Sri Radha-Damodara - to the Western world. That journey was facilitated by the loving, herculean endeavor of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and augmented by the charisma, devotion and talents of two extraordinary individuals, Vishnujana Swami and Jayananda Prabhu, among others.
The initial stages of this spiritual journey were effectively and dramatically portrayed by Vaiyasaki Das in the first volume, which garnered much praise from various quarters, especially from the community of devotees. That being the case, I now feel justified and gratified in writing that volume's glowing introductory notes. The days I spent on that prefatory essay bore incredible fruit.
Those days blossomed into months and years, as days normally do, and, today, I find myself being asked to write such notes again - this time for what will be Volume Two of a trilogy. And because of the considerable moments that have elapsed between the publication of the first book and that of the second, I find myself thinking about time and space, and about how they impact an epic of devotional history like Radha-Damodara Vilasa.
Time is mysterious: In some cases, it changes things drastically. Milk sours; flowers wilt. People age and die. From another point of view, though, it's as if time simply does not exist at all. St. Augustine, espousing a subjective view of time, said that it embodies little that has anything to do with reality. It exists, he said, only in the: mind's apprehension of reality. In the 11th century, the Persian philosopher Avicenna doubted the existence of physical time altogether, opining that time only exists because of memory and expectation. Others have argued convincingly for both physical and psychological time, at least in the material world. And the scriptures have their own story to tell: In the spiritual realm, time is conspicuous by its absence.
The subject of Radha-Damodara Vilasa transcends time - in a sense. It focuses on a spiritual movement that, in its essence, goes beyond the limitations of all things material. And it is about individuals who, though their activities and accomplishments are constricted by past, present, and future, also stand outside the normal boundaries of time. How is this so?
The answer is disarmingly simple: The work of this movement and of these particular individuals is spiritual, and so even though the movement goes through numerous permutations, both good and bad, and the individuals - especially Vishnujana Maharaja and jayananda Prabhu -lived and died, apparently like so many others, they largely functioned in a transcendent realm, even while in the flesh. They contributed to a world that is immortal and supreme. Indeed, their activities were gently molded, as well as orchestrated, by the hand of God. They functioned within sacred space, revealing glimpses of the spiritual kingdom in their life and work. They fully embody the mystery of time, transcending it while, externally, submitting to its fearsome call.
No one in the material world can escape time. Nor should they want to. Time is, after all, a form of Krishna. And to submit to time properly is to submit to the Lord and His service. Otherwise, one merely goes sour, like milk, or wilts, like a flower. Not so for the pure devotee and his associates. For him (or her) life springs eternal, and while going through the motions of one subjected to time and space, such personalities live a life of ever-increasing bliss. Such a life of "timeless time" engulfed both Vishnujana Maharaja and Jayananda Prabhu.
Here, in Volume Two, Vaiyasaki Das illustrates this quite clearly. The volume picks up where the previous one leaves off. It is fall of 1972 - as if its subjects are functioning within the precincts of time - and we find ourselves sharing "time" with Srila Prabhupada in the holy land of Vrindavan, a land that is clearly beyond the limitations of past, present, and future. Vaiyasaki brings us there in his own inimitable way, virtually transporting us to Krishna's holy abode.
From there, we are brought to North America, where the Divine Couple - and their superlative devotees, the main protagonists of this book - extend their blessings to all who would receive them. We learn that Sri-Sri Radha-Damodara are the ultimate Sankirtan deities, unable to sit in one place, as other immobile manifestations of the Divine tend to. Rather, by the grace of Vishnujana Swami and later, Tamal Krishna Goswami, They seek to share the divine truth of Their existence with one and all.
They live on the road with their devotees, inspiring Their glories to be sung by experienced practitioners and by newcomers alike. They watch magazines and books go out, and, as a result, new seekers come in. Vishnujana Maharaja is at the helm, bestowing Their mercy through his shining example and mellifluous voice. Tamal Krishna Maharaja works closely with him, complementing his soft, endearing qualities with practical know-how, scriptural knowledge, and a sense of gravitas.
Jayananda, too, inspires this magical experience, but mainly through building magnificent festivals and helping fledgling devotees. Whereas Vishnujana Swami took to the streets overtly, with literally buses of devotees traveling the continent, Jayananda stuck more closely to ashrams and temples - yet outreach was his forte, too. Ratha-yatra and other outdoor festivals were his way of bringing God to the masses. Both he and Vishnujana Swami, then, shared a passion to help Radha-Krishna in Their mission as Radha-Damodara, that is, to perform Sankirtan - to reach out to people, both inside and outside of ashrams, and to give them Krishna consciousness.
As such, Vaiyasaki Das's book is a literature of exemplars, displaying the ideals of a community as much as the events of individual lives. Vishnujana Swami and jayananda Prabhu are no doubt the main models for the religious life as portrayed in the book you now hold in your hands, even if their exemplary behavior is predicated first on Prabhupada and his superlative example. This should be perfectly clear: While our two protagonists are center stage in this particular series of books, it is never far from the author's mind that they are flawed, human individuals, and that their "perfection" is precisely in their ability to take shelter of a pure devotee of the Lord, in this case, Srila Prabhupada. This truth is implicit in nearly every page of this book.
As the years have passed, Vaiyasaki prabhu has himself developed a reputation as a kirtan singer of respectable renown, both inside and outside the community of which he is a part, and since the writing of the first volume, his realizations and insights have developed considerably.
His own ability to take shelter of his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada - the same teacher who so inspired both Vishnujana Swami and Jayananda Prabhu - has grown with the years. Time can do that. A life lived properly helps one progress on the spiritual path, no doubt. And a person who lives many years pursuing the spiritual path in earnest will generally be closer to the goal than a fledgling devotee. Not necessarily, but generally.
Although spiritual advancement is not limited by time constraints, a seasoned devotee, an experienced practitioner, can usually access inner regions more effectively. More accomplished, more practiced, such a person brings long-cultivated virtues to the table. Vaiyasaki Das does this in his own life and in Radha-Damodara Vilasa. Because of this, his work will stand the test of time. Indeed, Radha-Damodara Vilasa transcends time, as I stated earlier, for it embodies the best that the spiritual world has to offer.
Although I am the lowest of men and have no knowledge, the inspiration to write transcendental literatures about devotional service has been mercifully bestowed upon me. Therefore I am offering my obeisances at the lotus feet of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has given me the chance to write these books. ICC, Madhya 19.134]
By the mercy of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, even a foolish child can fully describe the real nature of Lord Krishna, the enjoyer of the pastimes of Vraja, according to the vision of the revealed scriptures. I CC, Adi 4.1] For a long time people have asked, "When is the second volume coming out?" And now it is in your hands! It was of utmost importance to research and interview eye-witnesses, because a book about Prabhupada and his disciples must be accurate and devoid of errors.
Mahamaya Dasi wrote something terribly wrong about Vishnujana Swami in her book. I was shocked and questioned her about it. She replied that it was what she remembered. I asked her if she had doubled-checked with the memories of other devotees or done some research to determine that what she wrote was actually true. She said no, she relied on her own memory.
To avoid the pitfalls of relying on only one person's memory, I have done extensive research for the volume you are now holding. That's one reason the book has taken so long to come to print. The second reason is that I'm always traveling and preaching. Moreover, there is no one to assist me because I do not accept disciples, so this work is basically one man's endeavor.
Both the families of Vishnujana Swami and jayananda Prabhu received copies of the first volume of Radha-Damodara Vilasa. Vishnujana Swami's sister, Theresa, sent me a wonderful letter of appreciation. One of her comments was, "You must have researched up to the point of exhaustion." And it was true. I was meticulous in presenting all facts as fully authoritative and accurate. I did not merely rely on the memories of individuals, but cross-referenced and double checked everything to the best of my ability. I have continued that practice in the present volume.
As Sri Krishna states in the opening verses of Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 6, a sannyasi is a person who is dedicated to spreading the teachings of bhakti-yoga. Srila Prabhupada ordered me to share what I knew about Krishna consciousness wherever I went, therefore sitting in one place to write was not an option. So in my travels, I promote Prabhupada's mission and write, by his mercy. If I had remained in one place I could have finished much quicker, but I didn't have that alternative.
In the first volume there weren’t much of Vishnujana Swami's actual lectures, but the readers of Volume One were struck with wonder to see how Vishnujana Swami presented Krishna consciousness in all kinds of circumstances. Soon, people began to record his talks because they were far beyond the realizations of his peers. So in this volume you can actually hear Vishnujana Maharaja preach Krishna consciousness, and you will be further impressed. As a devotee for only 5 years, Maharaja preaches at a level that only a few rare disciples can do today, 35 years later.
At a high school in Portland, Oregon, the reader sits beside Vishnujana Swami as he presents a slide show describing the qualities of a bona fide guru. Everyone should know the actual qualities of a spiritual master so they can choose a guru based on knowledge, not on sentiment. He also describes the qualities of a bona fide disciple. He goes on to describe all aspects of life in the practice of bhakti-yoga, including marriage, renunciation, sadhana, Deity worship, and returning back to the spiritual realm. Vishnujana calls his bhakti-yoga presentation, Easy Journey to Other Planets, after the title of Prabhupada's first book.
At the present, japa retreats have become popular for improving the chanting on beads. As you read Vishnujana Swami's realizations on japa back in 1973, after only five years of chanting, you will be astonished. His insights will bring you to a higher understanding of the culture, tradition, and daily practice of mantra meditation.
In the early days of the movement, everything was progressing through spontaneous inspiration guided by Srila Prabhupada and Sri Krishna. People became inspired and acted on that inspiration. Prabhupada fanned those sparks of inspiration and gradually developed the devotional programs in his ISKCO society.
Srila Prabhupada adopted quite a liberal approach with his young followers, as did his Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, before him. This liberal approach is in keeping with the most magnanimous incarnation ever, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
All great reformers and visionaries are liberal and thus they upset the status quo. Therefore, they are criticized by their contemporaries, the conservative class. The criticism often crosses over to the realm of vaishnava-aparadha, and this clash between liberal and conservative is evident even in the ISKCON world.
Srila Prabhupada explained during a class that poet Alan Ginsburg had commented, "Swamiji, you are very conservative." But Prabhupada did not agree. "No, I am the most liberal. You do not know. If I become conservative, then none of you will come to me."
In San Diego, he elucidated further. "Conservative means unnecessarily you catch some rules and regulations without any meaning or without any utility. That is conservative. In Sanskrit it is called niyamagraha."
In this volume, the sannyasi leaders of the Radha-Damodara party, Vishnujana Swami and Tamal Krishna Goswami, were so liberal that they could engage people in devotional service who otherwise might never have survived life in an ISKCON temple. You will read how some leaders lost their early enthusiasm and innocence. As their mood began to change, they increasingly strayed from the liberal transcendental vision given by His Divine Grace.
Towards the end of the book, it becomes clear that Vishnujana Swami is disturbed by something that makes him sad. Various people begin to notice this although they don't know why his mood has changed. The reader becomes an eye-witness to the development of Vishnujana's Krishna consciousness as he experiences different challenges, including his greatest challenge.
Some readers may be disturbed by the actions of Tamal Krishna Goswami in this volume. Goswami was an intriguing personality, an empowered servant of Srila Prabhupada. Yet, he also had to overcome many challenges to achieve success in preaching as you will discover.
The spiritual master is known to give both the "sweet sauce" and the "hot sauce." Tamal Krishna was frequently the recipient of Prabhupada's heavy side as well as his soft side. In his own dealings, Goswami used to dish out the "hot sauce" unreservedly in the early days. Some persons were the recipients of the "hot sauce" and their memories are included to present a balanced portrait of Goswami's character. Those who utilize the "hot sauce" shouldn't be surprised when others also use it.
Although Tamal Krishna was a good person at heart, he acted in a heavy way to get results. And he did achieve results in preaching and management as you will see. Most people are followers and cannot accomplish what they need to do, therefore they require a strong leader to make them act. Some sannyasis are too soft and can't accomplish much because people take advantage of them.
Sri-Sri Radha-Damodara arranged the perfect balance - Vishnujana Swami with the sweet sauce and Tamal Krishna with the hot sauce. The analogy of the lenient mother and the strict father is appropriate in this regard. Krishna is ultimately in control and both personalities needed to be involved to achieve what they did together.
I hope nobody feels upset about the incidents in the narrative where Tamal Krishna Goswami acts in an unconventional way. He was aware of his own nature and has also recorded these events in his own writings. All activities performed in devotional service are on the absolute platform. I'm not writing this book to present material activities. Still, there may be an occasional reader who will think that his guru has not been sufficiently glorified. To such people I must emphasize that Radha-Damodara Vilasa is not written by a disciple glorifying his spiritual master. Rather, this is one of those rare manuscripts written specifically to glorify one's godbrothers and godsisters.
As Advaita Acharya demonstrated, receiving the mercy doesn't always mean receiving praise. In the same vein, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta stated that people who pointed out his faults were actually his friends, not the ones who were continually glorifying him.
Sri Vishnu uses the mace as well as the lotus flower. He is not only sweet. He also has His other side and can hit hard when it is deemed necessary. In the same way, all human beings have both sides as well.
EVERY GENUINE MOVEMENT attracts persons who stand out by their acts of selfless sacrifice. Vishnujana Swami and jayananda Prabhu were two such persons in the Hare Krishna movement. Their spirit of humble service and commitment to spreading the glories of kirtan, the singing of the Holy Names of the lord, left an indelible impression on everyone who met them. Each became a legend in his own time. Vishnujana Swami was active in devotional service for only eight years and jayananda for only ten before they passed from our vision. They left behind no disciples, no books, no temples.
This book is a humble attempt to properly glorify these outstanding devotees. The goal is to preserve their place in Vaishnava history so that succeeding generations may know of the important roles they played in helping Srila Prabhupada establish lord Chaitanya's mission worldwide.
Although saintliness is rarely achieved, Vishnujana Swami and jayananda Prabhu seem to be acknowledged as saintly by the people who knew them. The personal memoirs in this book give us an insight into the character and personality of these two saintly personalities.
Also of primary Significance in the book is the introduction of the Supreme lord and His eternal consort, who display Their childhood forms as Sri-Sri Radha-Damodara.
The following discussion supports the observation that the advent and traveling sankirtan pastimes of Radha-Damodara were indirectly, but clearly, predicted in scripture just as the advent and sankirtan pastimes of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu were indirectly, but clearly, predicted.
The lord sometimes makes unscheduled visits as part of His sankirtan lila. In kali-yuga the lord again makes His own appearance, but this time He comes incognito, in the mood of a devotee. This advent of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is due to both internal and external considerations. The internal reasons, antaranga vicara, are for His own Divine Purpose.
The external reasons, bahiranga vicdra, are for the benefit of the conditioned souls. Bringing His associates and the full paraphernalia of His transcendental abode, He reclaims the fallen souls and gives pleasure to the devotees by chanting His own Holy Name. He establishes the yuga-dharma, by personally inaugurating the sankirtan movement, and teaches the process of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.
Although this appearance is covert, it is prophesied in Srimad-Bhagavatam :
In the age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Krishna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krishna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions. [SB, 11.5.32]
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's advent and lila are also described in the Sri Visnu-sahasra-nama, which appears in the Mahabharata.
"In His early pastimes He appears as a householder with a golden complexion. His limbs are beautiful, and His body, smeared with the pulp of sandalwood, seems like molten gold. In His later pastimes He accepts the sannyasa order, and He is equipoised and peaceful. He is the highest abode of peace and devotion, for He silences the impersonalist non-devotees."
Chanting and dancing blissfully throughout the Indian subcontinent, Lord Chaitanya freely distributed the Holy Name of Krishna to enable everyone to taste the ecstatic mood of love for God. He tastes it Himself first and then distributes to everybody else, even amongst the lowest of mankind. After inaugurating the sankirtan movement in India, the Lord left the rest of the service to His surrendered devotees. But He guaranteed that the whole world would have the opportunity to drown in the ecstasy of krsna-prema by making His own prophecy:
In every town and village around the world My name will be sung.
With this prophecy Lord Chaitanya reveals that He will come again, because there is no difference between Krishna and His Holy Name - kali-kale nama-rope krsna-avatara.
In kali-yuga especially, Krishna descends as the sound vibration of the maha-mantra. Both the Holy Name, nama, and the possessor of the Name, ndmi, are one. Both are on the platform of eternal existence, eternal knowledge, and eternal bliss. This is the Absolute nature of Krishna and His Holy Name.
This is further corroborated in the Chaitanya-bhagavat, Madhya-lila, Chapter 27, wherein the Lord informs His mother, Saci-mata, at the time of taking sannyasa, that He will descend two more times and that she will also accompany Him. He will appear in the form of the Holy Name, while she will appear as the tongue that vibrates the pure Name. Secondly, He will appear in the form of the Deity, and she will become the substance from which the Deity is formed.
According to Vaishnava acharyas, the following verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam, wherein the sage Karabhajana discusses the yuga-avataras, is understood to predict Lord Chaitanya's appearance as the kali-yuga avatar.
O Maha-purusa, I worship your lotus feet. You gave up the association of the goddess of fortune and all her opulence, which is most difficult to renounce and is hankered after by even the great demigods. Being the most faithful follower of the path of religion, You thus left for the forest in obedience to a brahmana's curse. Out of sheer mercifulness You chased after the fallen conditioned souls, who are always in pursuit of the false enjoyment of illusion, and at the same time engaged in searching out Your own desired object, Lord Syamasundara.
Brahma Sutras (79)
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