Saturday, July 14, 2018

Chapter 16: Shri Ganga Mandir

Leaving the Govind Bag house all of us shifted with Shriji to Ganga Mandir in Sewa Kunj, in 1945.The Ganga Mandir has been the first site of Shriji's lila or divine play. It is a small but ancient east facing temple, adjacent to Ranapati Ghat on the sacred banks of the Yamuna.

Goddess Ganga

A huge, five feet tall, clean dazzling idol of an extremely lovely goddess Ganga made of white marble, sculpted in accordance with the principles of architectural science, has been installed. In this temple made of stone there is a small courtyard, two small rooms in the front, a dingy small room on the left side of Gangaji, and a stair case on its right to go up to the roof. There is a small room on the roof, in which I would do Naam Japa. Since the room on the right had only one door it would generally remain dark inside.

Shri Deviji & Manohar Baba with Shri Balkrishna Das ji Maharaj

Shri Deviji (her detailed description follows later on), a recipient of Shriji's grace, would daily do japa [1]of three lakh 'Mahamantras' for years together in this room. There was a small verandah in front of the inner sanctum of the mandir and adjacent to its right hand wall, Shriji's asan would be spread out. Shriji would sit here and write his spiritual discourse for four hours at a stretch. People would assemble to listen to his discourse and to have his darshan. A big bed of basil plants would keep waving in the eastern corner of the courtyard. Shri Pratapchand Chanak, an affluent sentimental businessman of Bilaspur-Raipur, residing in Vrindavan at that time kept coming here regularly for a month to see Shriji. Shriji's holy discourse would be held daily, particularly for him, which I would keep noting down, sitting behind a curtain. That one month long discourse has been compiled in 'Bhagwat Saar Sanket.'

Shri Roop Goswami

Once Shriji was sitting in this very verandah when vakil[2] Banke Bihariji and  Ayodhya Prasad Sahab came to see him.The vakil sahab asked Ayodhya Prasadji to read out 'Hansadoot' a poem composed by Shri Roop Goswami, in which Shri Radha is  sending the swan as a messenger to Lord Krishna to inform Him of Her agony of separation from Him. Shri Ayodhya Prasadji began reading the poem. Shriji's condition became deeply absorbed as he listened.  Although Shriji’s nature was to hide his feelings of religious rapture but this emotionally charged stage had gone beyond control. Tears began streaming down his cheeks and his nose began to bleed. We stopped the master sahab from reading further. After a while Shriji regained his normal composure after a while.

Satsang with a couple of Shriji's close devotees would be held for entire nights on the floor made of unbaked bricks in summer. Moreover, the pin drop silent night as well as the peaceful Ganga Mandir would fully cooperate in this exercise. All the devotees would have divine experiences in this exclusive sacred gathering.

A Cluster of Stars

Sometimes a cluster of innumerable stars would float in their midst and drift away. At times a cumulative flash of light would shine in their midst and vanish soon after.  This state was indescribable, and was meant to be just experienced. The above mentioned ecstasy is known only to him who has relished it.

Shri Bade Babaji Maharaj Radharaman Charandasji 

The ambiance of Ganga Mandir had been divine since ancient times. Shri Bade Babaji Maharaj Radharaman Charandasji of Navadweep Dham stayed in this very Ganga Mandir for a long period when he came to Vrindavan, about a hundred years ago.  Incidentally, Shriji also came and lived here for a span of ten years. The readers will get to read detailed descriptions of his bhava aveshas or trance like state of religious rapture, lila aveshas or emotionally charged states of ecstasy on witnessing the divine play of Shri Radha-Krishna, unfathomable anguish of separation and swooning, which have been given in appropriate contexts.

Santosh Behanji, a saint of the highest order residing in Vrindavan, used to say about Ganga Mandir,It is not Ganga Mandir but Gambhir Mandir[3]. Here the Name of God is not taken but eaten.

Shri Santosh Bahenji

Shri Santosh Behanji was born in an affluent sardar family of Jhelum in Punjab. She was endowed with traits of religious devotion from childhood. Ever since the age of seven she used to sing devotional hymns in the Shri Radha-Krishna Temple, for hours together. Every fiber of her being was filled with the spirit of sacrifice, detachment, compassion and service. She would heartily serve the worst of lepers or seriously sick persons without any aversion. Once she had got aShaligram' shila amidst the remains of flower offerings made in a mandir. Lifelong, she attended to the needs of this Shaligram shila.

Partition of India, 1947

In the terrible partition period of 1947 Santosh Behanji came to Vrindavan taking the sole wealth of religious devotion along with her,. Her eyelashes had rotted because her eyes would  constantly be shedding tears due to the anguish of separation from the Supreme Lover Krishna, and would always remain swollen. She would lie on the banks of the Yamuna, all night long or wander in the lanes of Vrindavan, searching for Lord Krishna. Each lane of Vrindavan is wet with her tears. I have seen this plight of hers with my own eyes.

She had great faith and reverence for Shri Maharajji. An incident written in Rasa Archan' reads as follows:-

Shri Banke Bihari ji

'Once she had gone to have darshan of Shri Banke Bihariji in her dreams. There was no one in the temple. Only she and Jaya Kishore Bhandari, the sevaka of Bihariji, were standing at the wooden railing. The darshan of Shri Bihariji was open. Shriji speedily walked past in front of her, without looking in any direction. She did not bow to him and going up started beholding Shri Bihari ji.  However, she was stunned to see Shri Bihariji's right eye bandaged.

Unnerved she asked,What has happened to Your eye?

Raising His hand in anger Thakur Bihariji replied,You are the one who has ruptured  My eye. Shri Maharajji walked past in front of you and you did not even salute him. The saints are indeed my eyes. Not respecting them is equivalent to virtually rupturing my eyes.

Santosh Behanji's attachment to Shriji became all the more stronger since that incident. Shriji also had much affection for her. When her anguished state of separation from Lord Krishna had peaked, she had wept wildly for three days at a stretch, at the feet of Shriji. She wanted him to make her behold Lord Krishna but unexpectedly some strong obstruction of destiny intervened to block the fulfillment of her longing to have a glimpse of Lord Krishna.

Shri Radha Baba

There is an abundance of divine experiences in Santosh Behanji's life of religious devotion. She had got the grace of the siddh[4] saint Shri Radha Baba in her first visit to him.

Lord Krishna will Himself appear to take you. Even if you don't believe this He will have to do it on my asking,Shri Radha Baba had given this written assurance to Santosh Behanji.

Sarla ji

Sarlaji, a born blind girl hailing from Santoshji's own city, came to Vrindavan and began living with her. Justifying her name, she too was of a simple and saintly nature. She kept having high class divine experiences, off and on. Santosh Behan ji took care of her like a child with great maternal affection. Sarlaji met her end in the divine raja of Vrindavan.

In summer Shriji would hold satsang on the roof and  rest there.

In the midst of the satsang, Maharajji would suddenly exclaim,Look, look, these saints have come by the sky route and are listening to the discourse!

The Kalpataru

Some of these God's own people were fortunate enough to have a glimpse of one or two saints. Shriji had become a virtual 'kalpataru' or wish fulfilling tree in those days. When the ardent longing for God realization of a couple of intimate participants would escalate in the flow of the satsang, they would put their heads in Shrji's lap and cry piteously. Anointing their heads with his streaming tears, he would assure them that he would help them attain God and become one with Him.

Thereafter, a miracle was performed by Shriji in this very Ganga Mandir.  Deviji, one of the foremost recipients of Maharajji's grace, was suffering from high fever for a couple of days.

At that very time, Shriji expressed his desire to eat 'khichdi[5].' There was no one to cook the dish. Hearing of this wish of his Deviji was hell bent to fulfil it despite having 104 degrees temperature. Staggering she got up and cooked the khichdi. Noticing her intense devotion, Maharajji ate the dish with great relish. Wonder of wonders! Shriji was eating khichdi at this end and Shri Deviji got blessings of the gopi bhava (of sweet and total commitment and love for Lord Krishna) at the other end.

'manon rachi khachi chandrika raakhi sakhyani saath '

'It seemed as if a well adorned moonbeam was placed among the sakhis of Krishna.'

Gopi Svarupa

Living in the same divine bhava of the gopi svarupa, Shri Devijni started have divine experiences of Lord Krishna's lila or divine play from that moment onwards. This incident is a living example of how saints' hearts can be pleased with such a small service and the great grace they can grant in return. Krishna, the supreme object of worship, for whose attainment great rishis and munnis, sadhakas and saints ardently yearn for by doing bhajan and sadhana[6] for long, was simply awarded by Shriji to Deviji, because Shriji was moved by her unfailing devotion.

It has been truly said:-

'rai jitni seva ko phal manat meru saman  | '

'When service of the size of a mustard seed is rendered to saints, its fruit has the dimension of mount Meru.'

Shri Balkrishna Das ji Maharaj

This incident occurred in 1947. Shriji remained in a state of bhava unmada or constantly intoxicated by divine madness for a year during this period. Moreover, the courtyard and rooms of the Ganga Mandir were watered with his tears.

On one hand, the Ganga Mandir used to be fragrant with the scent of Shriji's  insane, selfless prema for Shri Radha-Krishna whereas on the other hand the splendour of detachment in the Ganga Mandir was no less worth seeing.

Motiramji would go out daily for bhiksha in the morning and come back at about 12 to 1 PM. Thereafter, Manji (Motiramji's wife) would undertake the task of cooking food. A griddle, a wide mouthed metallic pot, Shriji's lota[7], and old tattered bedding were the only articles available in the house. The same metallic vessel was used for making tea and cooking lentils whereas Maharajji's lota would come in use for drawing water from the well. At times, wood, dung cakes, pieces of paper or rags instead of fuel were used for cooking food or making tea. Food would be cooked and be ready by 3 PM, and we would get the propitiatory meal, and that too generally once a day. Motiramji would get just that much bhiksha which was enough for a day and nothing was saved for the next day.

Shri Radha-Krishna

Shriji's condition in the Ganga Mandir was so intoxicated in those days that he was not conscious of even eating, drinking or resting. Shriji was always immersed in the divine love of Shri Radha-Krishna. Once he was lying down and a devoted couple was present there. The sheet moved aside from his body due to carelessness when he turned his side. Looking at his bodily leanness, the couple was shocked into speechlessness.

Oh! How thin is his body, every bone of the chest is visible! Let us bring a tin of ghi. We should make him fit by making him eat something,” they exclaimed.

As soon as Maharajji heard their words, he sat up laughing loudly and humorously talked them out of the plan.

Dr. Hotichand would massage Shriji's feet sometimes at night. Whenever I would get a chance of massaging Shriji's feet I was always apprehensive of causing pain to Shriji by pressing his feet too hard. Despite being so weak Shri Maharajji had amazing agility which matched lightning. I never saw him sleeping soundly. He never touched milk or ghi during the period of extreme detachment. If he was offered even a quarter seer of milk he could not digest it later on. He was happy  eating bare dry rotis[8] and was never fond of eating mithai[9].

Living with Maharajji, one never wished to eat and drink, this thought did not ever strike one. Ganga Mandir was the abode of satsang or rather if we say that this Mandir was an empire of religious rapture and bhava in those days, it would not be the slightest exaggeration.

Shri Maharajji would either get up during the night or sit up or wake up Motiramji and me,Wake up and listen. Go and get the satsangis[10]  too.

Motiramji would quickly go and bring a couple of satsangis. The satsang would begin and constantly gush forth, all night long.

Listen, listen! I am not saying this. The voice is coming from somewhere else,   Maharajji would exult in between.

Shri Manohar Baba with Maharaj ji

Others would fall asleep whereas Shriji and I would sit facing each other. There would be no lit lamp in the middle of the night and only Shriji's voice would resound softly in the serene ambiance.
Divine Vrindavan

One day, Shriji was sitting in the verandah of the Ganga Mandir. Motiramji and I were sitting next to him. Old Durga Ma, a former acquaintance of Shriji, who stayed in the garden of Shri Rangji Temple, came to see Shriji at this very hour. She was a high-ranking saint and a love-struck devotee. Lost in love for Shri Radha-Krishna, she would not be conscious of her physical existence for hours together. Thrice, she had had a vision of divine Vrindavan. Moreover, Durga Ma had implicit faith in Shriji. Talk about God went on naturally for some time. While leaving she invited Shriji to have food with her the next day. Accepting her loving insistence, Shriji agreed but forgot to go to her place. I forgot as well but Motiramji remembered the invitation at noon.

“Oh! It slipped my mind. In any case, she too is madly in love with Lord Krishna and probabaly would have forgotten about our coming,” remarked Shriji.

Shri Motiram went to Durga Ma in the evening and told her about Shriji's failing to remember the invitation.

What are you talking about ! Shriji came at one o' clock and left. When he didn't come by 12 o'clock I began weeping. All of a sudden he came around one o'clock and left quickly after taking lunch. Ask these women sitting here. I served him food with my own hand,” responded Durga Ma.

That day Shriji had not stepped out of the Ganga Mandir and gone anywhere. I had been with him all day long. Such miraculous incidents kept taking place in the Ganga Mandir.

[1]     Japa: incantation
[2]     Vakil: native lawyer
[3]     Gambhira Mandir : Mahaprabhu stayed in Gambhira constantly for last 12 years of His manifest pastimes. During this time He was feeling intense separation from Krishna and was manifesting His viraha-bhava
[4]     Siddha: perfected and sanctified by penanace
[5]     Khicdi: a gruel made of boiled rice and lentils
[6]     Sadhana: spiritual practice
[7]     Lota: (in India) a small container for water, usually of brass or copper and round in shape.
[8]     Roti: a type of unleavned bread in India
[9]     Mithai: Indian sweets
[10]    Satsangi: seeker of truth

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