Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chapter 16: Ushaji's Upasna or Mode of Worship


Attaining God is easily accessible by upasna or sitting near your isht or favoured deity.Shri Thakur(Krishna's svarupa) and Bobo were so instinctively close that she had developed an all-consuming intimacy with him.


If Krishna is the repository of madhurya, Bobo was equally tender in expressing and experiencing her love for Krishna, which was the form of her worship.The supreme lover is passionately drawn by such hungering devotees.


Shri Nabhaji, the composer of 'Bhaktmal', propagated upasna or service to Krishna's svarupa, which allows the life of the devotee to interact with that of the Lord. It remains the primary form and expression of devotion in the Pushti Marg.


Ushaji's passionate love for Krishna lay within the norms of the shastras and acharyas. In Vaishnavism, all men and women in the world are said to be spiritually women and the Lord alone is male, because a woman's love for her lord or husband is the only greatest possible love. One can observe an effortless convergence of Acharya Ramanuj's thought process, Shri Vyasdev Acharya's moving nikunj upasna, the doting seva of Acharya Vallabh and Goswami Vithalnath plus their inimitable madhur upasna, and the Gaudiya Upasna of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in her religious devotion.


This great saint of Braj neither confined madhur rasa nor raved about nitya vihar and considered nikunj upasna the basis of rasa relishing. The parakiya form of love expressed through one's status as parakiya, who is a woman married to another but yet in love with Krishna makes one's love free from the constraints of marriage. In the same way nikunj vihar is steeped in Radha-Krishna's romantic dalliance in the bowers of Vrindavan.Her sublimation of sensual feelings to spiritual desires and related heightening of spiritual experience was well within the contexts of religious aspiration in a land of highly restrictive social constraints.


Loving tenderness of the dark-hued god captivated her. Wearing the vaijanti mala (flower garland) and playing the mellifluous flute he crossed her threshold and she was drawn in deligious anguish to his side.


Krishna grants frution according to the bhava with which we sing his glories. There are as many methods of religious devotion as there are Vaishnavas. Bobo was always absorbed in madhurya bhakti or the sentiment of sweet romance and got loving assurances from Krishna at every step.


I recall Shri Priya Sharan Das. Residing at Goverdhan, the renowned saint of Braj had once remarked," The refrains of religious sects, their supremacy, style and path is for the elementary sadhakas or devotees." Bobo believed that in the constant proximity of Radha-Krishna all rasas, bhavas and paths merge, and are symbolic of the terrifying love of Krishna which invades our hearts. When we offer ourselves to the supreme lover with energy and joyfulness and love it is known as our bhava.


Revered Bobo expresses at one instance," My ardent longing is not calmed by your divine majesty.I am fascinated by you as a cowherd of Braj when you go off with other gopas to graze the soft eyed cows that are the wealth of your village.Your form as Radha's lover, wearing the mor mukut and enrapturing the world with a slight smile and roving eyes, becomes you most of all. You may be worshipped by others as divine incarnate but for me you are the teasing, elusive and insistent paramour."


Nij Svaroop and Nitya Svaroop


Krishna's divine play is lacking without the gopi bhava and sakhi bhava, which are synonymous. Gopis are said to be of two kinds; one is sadhan sidha attained by constant devotion and the other is nitya sidha or eternally present. When Krishna incarnated in Vrindavan, the eternal parikar of Gaulok also manifested along with him. Gopis are the kayavyuhas or replications of Radha Rani. All sects and scriptures have acclaimed Lalita Sakhi as the primary sakhi and closest to Shri Radha.


Let us study the experiences of Bobo to understand how much entry she could gain into the most intimate transcendenal exchanges of Radha-Krishna. Lying down for some time after kirtan in the morning was a part of her regime; in isolation she would relish their amorous frolics and participate in their playfull dalliance.


Once a reminiscence tugged her in this state. She saw," Her manifest self transform into her divine form. She is wearing a flashy lehenga and radiant kanchuki, a veil is draped around her head, hands are loaded with bangles, kundals adorn her ears, and a zone of bells sounding with ravishing melody around her waist. Impassioned by the elusiveness of youth, she is wandering in a wild forest in search of the sakhis. Bewildered, she peeps into one nikunja after another with her anklets tinkling in quick succession.


On the other front sakhis flashily dressed are frantically searching for her. All of a sudden passing by the nikunja posited on the left, they meet this sakhi (Bobo). Two of the sakhis move ahead and holding Bobo's hand, embrace her. Others laugh in joyous abandon and hug her. Chatting about love escapades ,the sakhis take her to Priya-Priyatam sitting on a clean sofa-like boulder.


Lifting both their arms Radha-Krishna spring up joyously on seeing this beloved sakhi. Bringing her close, they dote on her. Placing her between both her beautiful legs,Kishori Radha rocks her for some time and soon after makes her sit by her side. Holding her hand, she gives it in the supreme lover's lotus hands.


Ardently Krishna placates his intimate sakhi's irrepressible longing in that transcendental moment.


I am presenting a letter written by Bobo to her handsome Krishna in a dairy. She wrote," I was sitting in the kirtan at night, when a strange woman's question startled me," Are you married Bahen?" Amazingly I nodded my head in the affirmative. "Where does he live?" Came next. I regained my composure and some force made me reply,"Here." Smiling she insisted that I must make her meet him.Taken aback, I was amused at her eagerness," Certainly but after the kirtan gets over."


I stood up in embarrasment and she got up too.(Probably it was your divine play that she made personal inquiries even on being a stranger) Taking her I stood at your threshold since you are my very essence. But what next?


I stood rooted but your laughter and Priyaji's mysterious smile were not hidden from me. Probably assuming me to be insane, and gullible and miraculously because of you the Bahen left. When I returned she had vanished."


Similarly once perturbed Bobo ran into the temple and stood in front of Thakurji's Shrine. He appeared even on the doors being shut and lifting her took her inside. She narrated the incident to Sushila Bahenji whom she had met in 1948. In frenzied ecstasy at this contact, Ushaji shrieked with joy. She was lying down when her body sprang up about two feet in the air and she was oblivious. Flustered, Sushila Bahenji loudly began chanting the mahamantra to pacify her and gradually Bobo became conscious.


She writes at one instance." Yes, I remember clearly! You were harsh by fervently involving me in worldly cares but occasionally made me relish your captivating madhurya to assure me of your support. You recollect the day my beloved, when alarmed by the pitch dark world, frightened I fled like a thief and fell down in your temple (garbhgriha). Instantly you flung open your doors and made me sit at your feet. Sheltering me from everyone, you brought me absolutely close to you.Tell me the truth, have you forgotten that day."


It so happened that once after the early morning kirtan, Bobo lay down. She saw that the breeze of Basant tugged the heart strings of beautiful maidens. Spring is a harbinger of the escapades of Braj Balas, making them relish Krishna's romantic sentiments.


"Yes, Bobo saw the site of Vasant Utsav (holi). Nature is glorified by the fragrance of yellow flowers and seems flirtatious. It is the dark grey of early morn. The sun god slowly reflected a reddish glow in the eastern direction.The site is enclosed by trees and there is an open courtyard in the centre.


At one end is a bower decorated with creepers and bushes. Hordes of sakhis are busy foraying to prepare for the madan utsav. One very delighted sakhi (Bobo) decked with a yellow kanchuki and crimson coloured lehenga, pink dupatta draped over the kanchuki, with tinkling anklets arrives. She is holding red gulal in a shining platter with joyous abandon.


She just manages a foothold when Krishna, the colour of the condensed sky, sneaks in from behind and holds her hand. Shyly she screws her eyebrows and turns to look backwards. Her eyes are filled with the langour of love and she blushes. A smile plays on her lips and the elation of that moment is inexpressible.


Revered Bobo would call out to Kishoriji as svamini. Feeling intensely close to her, Radha Rani asked her to address in a more intimate manner.


Once while doing sankirtan Bobo saw her divine body as separate from her individual self.Heavily adorned with finery, she is sitting beside Radha Rani on a boulder. Resting her head, Radha Rani is pampering her while handsome Krishna hidden behind a dense tree is watching the scene. Priyaji gestured with her eyes and the supreme lover stepped out.


The three of them sat engrossed for a while as three distinct bodies but in essence a single entity. Construing Krishna's desire for a loving relationship with Bobo, Priyaji went to the nearby nikunja and dark Krishna continued sitting. A passionate dalliance ensued with the sakhis also relishing the scene.


The matter dates back to 1967 when revered Bobo took a vow of silence or maun as a mark of love for Radha-Krishna.The entire day was spent in pampering Shyama-Shyam and attending to their needs. In the evening she would wander out for the closeness of Shri Yamunaji.


In the last week of September 1967 Bobo sat absorbed on the sandy banks of the Yamuna for hours. All of a sudden she got up and headed home. Unknowingly she turned towards the Shri Radha Raman Mandir and kept walking.


Having darshan of Radha Ramanji she was delighted. Not yet satisfied she kept waiting for the temple doors to open again and saw,"There is an extremely beautiful enclave which has an oval shaped line of dense trees. Bobo in her divine form is sitting on an attractive platform posited in the centre. She peeps behind trees and is eagerly seeking Priya-Priyatam. The dark grey evening is captivating.


Standing in a dance posture Bobo is expectant when tiptoing from the back handsome Krishna embraces and startles her. Meanwhile holding on to both ends of his pitambar and in a similar dance posture, Krishna is frivolously resting his head against hers. Lifting her with one of his arms he takes her into a nearby nikunja bathed in milky whiteness,. A rounded radiant courtyard is present for Radha-Krishna to sit on. Spirited Priyaji can be seen coming from behind a cluster of trees.


Dotingly Radha Rani rests her head on Bobo while the supreme lover places his left hand on Priyaji's shoulder.All three seem lost in an amorous frolic longing for yet more. Regaining her composure,Bobo was grateful(particularly to Kishoriji it seemed she had organised this escapade intentionally)and embarrassed. She made Priya-Priyatam sit on the site fabricated for them. Instantly several sakhis dressed in colourful finery arrived from the neighbouring thickets. Bobo was sure they would tease her and sat right at the back, delighted yet sceptical.They spotted her and amused Priya-Priyatam with their banter.


She had no inkling when the darshan opened and got up to leave in a trance. The episode continued and she saw heavily adorned Sushila Bahenji en route. In her divine form, she was carrying a platter of paan (betel leaf) and offering it to Shyama-Shyam. No one can say how long Bobo relished the deeper ecstasies of devotion.


The instinctive bhava of a person and seva is known as bhakti or religious devotion. When upasna or mode of worship transforms in to personal experience, one reaches the heights of elation and ecstasy.


Bobo endorsed the doctrine that Krishna is very much in and of this world but yet he is above it, he is human and yet divine, a mere mortal in love with the gopis of Vrindavan but essentially divine, sensuous but also pointing to the spiritual aspect of romantic love. And when there is this intimacy of Krishna through love there no need for either contempleation or devotion that is generally reserved for god realization.The ultimate lesson for the devotees of Krishna is that the search for the other is the search for the self.The multiple is ultimately one.


Searching for purity and peace, the greatest of saints can sight Krishna, the supreme lover, due to their energy and joyfulness and love where there is no place for societal constraints. Love and religious observances are strung together but at times love surpasses devotional practices.


Bobo was steeped in madhurya bhakti. Her pathos of longing was appeased by the joy of belonging. She was replete with the gopi bhava and knew that Krishna abided in her heart when she sang his praise and dwelt in her longing for him.

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