By Swami B. V. Tripurari
The summer season is fading into autumn here at Audarya, and with it the anticipation of rain mounts. Cowherds, it is said, are always looking to the sky for rain. But here rain means the end of a busy outdoor dry season, and as the rainy season approaches there is also much to be done before the rain falls.
Baladeva Purnima and Krsna Jayanti fell this year on the California calendar at the end of the long Audarya summer. The clear sky or billowing white clouds will be followed shortly by dark rain clouds. Of course the Krsna rain does not begin in earnest until his month, Margasirsa/November, but often some drops do fall in early September with Radhastami just ahead. First Radha, then Krsna in full, as we look forward to celebrating her day, the eighth of the waxing moon just opposite Krsna Jayanti on the eighth day of the waning moon.
I composed a song for Madhuvan’s mangala arati—the waking of the cowherds to the sound of Balarama’s buffalo horn in pursuit of rousing Krsna for cowherding:
aruṇera āge, piṇḍāra upare
śṛṅga bājāya balarāma
“bhāi ’re, bhāi ’re!” ḍāki’, gojana tolāya,
nidrita ta’ thāke śyāma
“With the rise of the red sun, on a raised platform, Balarāma blows his horn. At the call ‘Bhāi’re!’ the cowherds rise, as Śyāma sleeps on.”
So the first line goes in Syamasundara das’s Bengali rendering of my original English composition. I have published the entire song elsewhere, and we offered it to Balarama during his avirbhava mahotsava. That festival was well attended by local devotees identified with various Gaudiya sects—all from the glorious Bhaktivinoda Parivara—as well as members of our own sect, including a well-known Finnish couple that biked to the festival from New York!
Krsna Janmastami followed after much preparation. The evening lila-katha opened with a description of the family lineage of Krsna, beginning with his great-grandfather, Devamidha, followed by a lengthy description of his grandfather Parjanya (rain cloud), who was a veritable monsoon of auspicious qualities and father of five sons, all of whom were named from the Sanskrit verbal root nand—bliss.
The nature of Krsna’s abhira caste and the role of Gayatri-devi in his appearance, along with the virtue of the Vedic Gandharva marriage were highlighted, among many other points. As it turns out, the Gandharva marriage is the most celebrated. Mahabharata says that in this age girls are competent to pick their own husbands and that marital bonds derived from mutual consent between girl and boy are best.
From there we continued with the story of Krsna’s birth, all from the Vraja perspective. The plight of the cowherd community as Nanda and Yasoda, their king and queen, aged but bore no son, their longing and the longing of Nanda and Yasoda and the role of such laulasa-mayi brought longing to my own heart in the final talk of the night and this longing carried me through into the Nandotsava and corresponding avirbhava mahotsava—Vyasa Puja— of my Guru Maharaja, Pujyapada A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the following morning.
The Vyasa Puja discussion stressed that which constitutes glorification and that which does not. It was apparent that there was much to say in terms of appropriate praise of Prabhupada in light of his role in the Bhaktivinoda Parivara with its emphasis on kirtana and distinct and unique role within the Gaudiya sampradaya, including its particular perspective on raga–marg abhideya–tattva. The safest place to be in this world is in the kirtana of the holy name! I was fortunate to be blessed with the opportunity to lead the kirtana for Prabhupada’s arati and the subsequent arati for Sriman Gaurasundara and Nityananda Avadhuta.
During the kirtana/arati for Prabhupada I was transported back to the time he was present amongst us and asked me to lead the same kirtana of Narottama Thakura—sri guru carana padma—and at the same time to new heights of ananda and appreciation for all that A. C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada means to the Gaudiya sampradaya. During the Gaura arati/kirtana I was drawn to the magnanimous nature of Bhaktivinoda and prayed fervently for his continued krpa to always remain in the safest place in this world—kirtana of sri nama and Bhagavata katha. We should live only to keep the current of Bhaktivinoda alive in the world.
On to Radhastami!