Dear Śrīla Guru Mahārāja,
My koṭi-daṇḍavats at your lotus feet.
In 2012, when you were in Czech Republic, you instructed me to compose a simple praṇāma-mantra for the devotees, since the previous one was very long, hard to chant and equally difficult to memorise. The result was the following two verses:
namaḥ oṁ viṣṇu-pādaya kṛṣṇa-kṛpā śrī mūrtaye
śrīmate bhakti gaurava narasiṅgheti nāmine
WORD FOR WORD
namaḥ – I offer obeisance; oṁ viṣṇupādaya – unto he who is situated at the feet of Viṣṇu; kṛṣṇa-kṛpā – compassion of Lord Kṛṣṇa; śrī mūrtaye – unto the personification; śrīmate – who possesses divine qualities; bhakti gaurava narasiṅgha – Swami Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha; iti –thus; nāmine – named.
“I offer my pranamas to Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Gaurava Narasiṅgha Mahārāja who is the personification of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s mercy.”
namo ācārya-siṁhāya gaura-dayā-svarūpine
WORD FOR WORD
namaḥ – I offer obeisance; ācārya-siṁhāya – unto that lion-like ācārya; gaura-dayā – the compassion of Lord Gaurāṅga; svarūpine – unto the embodiment; su-siddhānta – proper philosophical conclusions; prakāśāya – reveals; ku-darśana – false philosophies; vināśine – eliminates.
“I offer my praṇāmas to that lion-like ācārya who is the personification of Śrī Caitanya’s mercy; I offer respects to he who manifests the true Vaiṣṇava siddhānta and eliminates all types of false philosophies.”
At first glance, I thought that these two mantras were very simple, but as with everything in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava siddhānta, when analysed, many important philosophical aspects may be found within them. According to my limited capacity, I will try to explain them according to what I have understood from your teachings and those of our previous ācāryas.
We generally understand namaḥ to mean simply ‘I offer obeisance,’ but the literal meaning is, na me iti namaḥ – ‘that which is not me is known as namaḥ.’ In other words, when we offer obeisance, we must leave behind that which we think is the self – the false ego. This is further explained by Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, quoting the Padma Purāṇa, in his Bhakti Sandarbha:
ahaṅkrtir ma-kāraḥ syān na-kāras tan niṣedhakaḥ
tasmāt tu namasā kṣetri svātantryaṁ pratiṣidhyate
“The syllable ma represents the false ego (ahaṅkāra) and the syllable na denotes the elimination of false ego. Thus, by chanting namaḥ, one negates one’s independence.” (Padma Purāṇa 6.226.41)
Thus, when we address the guru with namaḥ, we are surrendering the independent spirit that distances us from Śrī Kṛṣṇa. By surrendering to the guru, we hope to become established in sambandha-jñāna and understand our true self (svarūpa) and eternal nature as kṛṣṇa-nitya-dāsa.
Namaḥ also signifies that the jīva has no independence, but is a subject of the Lord and His agents. Thus, namaḥ denotes surrender (śaraṇāgati).
In the first chapter of Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, Sanātana Gosvāmī Prabhu quotes the Nārada-pañcarātra as follows:
yathā tathā yatra tatra na gṛhṇīyāc ca kevalam
abhaktyā na guror nāma gṛhṇīyac ca yatātmavān
praṇavaḥ śrīs tato nāma viṣṇu-śabdād anantaram
pāda-śabda-sametaṁ ca nata-mūrdhāñjalī-yutaḥ
“One should never speak the sacred name of the guru casually. A self-controlled disciple will never utter the name of his guru without proper respect and devotion. When saying the guru’s name one should fold one’s hands, bow one’s head, and use om Śrī viṣṇupāda as the prefix.” (Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 1. 94-95)
Apart from being an honorific title, Viṣṇupāda is used because Śrī Guru is firmly situated at the feet of the viṣṇu-tattva (viṣṇupāda-viṣṇuḥ-padyate labhyate yena sa viṣṇu-pādaḥ). Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura elaborates on this in his Hari-nāma Cintāmaṇi:
cid-vyāpāra samudaya viṣṇu-tattva-sāra
viṣṇu-pada bali vede gāya bāra bāra
“Spiritual elements related to the Lord are essentially viṣṇu-tattva. Again and again, the Vedas refer to them as Viṣṇupāda.” (Hari-nāma Cintāmaṇi 1.21)
Thus, because Śrī Guru is intimately associated with the viṣṇu-tattva through service, he is referred to as Viṣṇupada.
Furthermore, the word pāda means ‘the supreme destination of Viṣṇu’ (param padam vaiṣṇavam), and viṣṇu is defined as ‘He who pervades’ (veveṣṭi). If we apply the rule of Sanskrit grammar known as mukta-pragraha-vṛtti (the ultimate meaning of a word), Viṣṇu refers directly to Kṛṣṇa, who is the original Viṣṇu. Evidence for this is found in the śāstra:
yathā rādhā priya viṣṇoḥ
“Rādhā is the beloved of Viṣṇu.” (Padma Purāṇa)
vikrīḍitaṁ vraja-vadhubhir idam ca viṣṇoḥ
“The sporting of Viṣṇu with the young girls of Vraja.” (Bhāgavatam 10.33.40)
Thus, viṣṇupāda also indicates ‘one situated at the feet of Kṛṣṇa, who pervades the senses of His devotees.’ When viṣṇupāda is prefixed with praṇava (om), it denotes that Śrī Guru is situated in transcendence.
Kṛpā stems from the root kṛp, meaning, ‘to be capable of doing something for someone.’ It is defined as pāpam karayati nirūulayatīti kṛpā – ‘That which uproots pāpa (the pollution of the self) is called kṛpā.’ Kṛṣṇa-kṛpā refers to the mercy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who removes all the anomalies of the jīvas. Kṛṣṇa’s mercy manifests in many forms. However, in this regard, Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī writes:
guru kṛṣṇa-rūpa hana śāstrera pramāṇe
guru-rūpe kṛṣṇa kṛpā karena bhakta-gaṇe
“According to the opinion of the śāstras, the guru is the manifestation of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa appears in the form of the guru to show His mercy to the devotees.” (Cc. Madhya 22.47)
In the words of Śrīla Prabhupāda, “There are many incarnations. So guru is also incarnation of God – the mercy incarnation of God.” Therefore, Śrī Guru is the manifestation of Kṛṣṇa’s mercy because he comes to remove the ignorance that has covered the jīva from time immemorial. Through his efforts, the suffering souls are rescued from the blazing fire of the material world. According to Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, this merciful temperament is the first quality of a spiritual master:
paricaryā-yaśo-lābha-lipsuḥ śiṣyād gurur na hi
kṛpā-sindhuḥ susampūrṇaḥ sarva‑sattvopakārakaḥ
“The guru is most compassionate (kṛpā-sindhu), thus he should accept disciples only for the benefit of the fallen conditioned souls. Because the guru is fully satisfied in the self, he is the benefactor of all living entities.” (Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 1.45)
When the words kṛṣṇa-kṛpā are followed by Śrī mūrti, the literal meaning is ‘one who is the embodiment of Kṛṣṇa’s mercy.’ However, there is a deeper understanding of the words Śrī mūrti in connection to guru-tattva.
At the beginning stage of bhakti, we are told to consider Śrī Guru as the representation of Kṛṣṇa (śākṣād dharitvena samasta śāstrair). Further on, we understand that Gurudeva is the delineation of Baladeva/Nityānanda, the ādi-guru. At the apex of understanding guru-tattva, Śrī Guru is seen as the delegation of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the pleasure potency of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the highest attainment for all those in the line of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī. As Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja has said:
“If we raise our head a little higher and look up, then we shall find Rādhārāṇī and Gurudeva. It is Rādhārāṇī who is instrumental in accomplishing the function of Gurudeva from behind. The source of grace for the guru is coming from the original source of service and love. Śākṣād dharitvena samasta śāstrair, we are asked to see Gurudeva not as opaque but as transparent, to such a degree that through him the highest conception of service, the first conception of service can be seen. It can be obtained there. If we are earnest, then we shall find the highest link from the original source. We are requested not to see guru as limited in his ordinary personification, but as the transparent mediator of the highest function in his line. If only our vision is deep, we can see that according to the depth of our śraddhā, our vision, guru-tattva is very particular, very noble, very broad, wide and very deep.” (Follow the Angels)
The word Śrī may be taken as referring to Śrī Devī, or Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, thus Śrī mūrti also means ‘one who has manifest as the delegation of Śrīmatī Rādhikā.’
Śrīmate means ‘one who possesses beauty or divine qualities’ (Śrī+mat). However, a more esoteric meaning is found when one again considers Śrī to refer to Rādhārāṇī – thus Śrīmate means ‘one who is close to Śrīmatī (Śrī Radha).’
It is of no small importance that Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja bestowed this title upon you. The direct meaning of bhakti-gaurava is ‘one who shows great reverence, or dignity, towards devotion.’ In your lectures, books, articles and in your own life of bhajana, you have shown the highest respect for the teachings of our guru-varga and presented them with great dignity.
In this regard, the word gaurava is of the utmost significance because of its presence in the verse composed by Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura:
matala hari-jana viṣaya raṅge
pūjala rāga-patha gaurava bhaṅge
“The servants of Lord Hari, who revel in satisfying His transcendental desires, worship the path of spontaneous devotional service in a mood of awe and reverence.”
In the article, Rāga Patha is Above All, written in 2008, you compared Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja to Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī. During ratha-yatra, when Mahāprabhu sang a verse that seemed to extol mundane love, only Śrī Rūpa understood its full significance. Similarly, when Sarasvatī Ṭhākura composed the above verse, only Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja fully understood its deep purport.
If Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja is to be compared to Śrī Rūpa for understanding this śloka, then you are like Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī (who propagated the philosophical conceptions of Śrī Rūpa) because of your dedicated service to this particular verse.
A secondary explanation of gaurava is, guroḥ bhāvaḥ sa iti gauravaḥ – ‘one who is the property of his spiritual master is called gaurava.’ And when bhakti is added to the beginning of gaurava (bhakti guroḥ bhāvaḥ iti gauravaḥ) it means, ‘One who is the property of the guru who spreads bhakti’ – in this case, Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Furthermore, when gaurava is explained as gaurasya bhāvaḥ sa iti gauravaḥ, it indicates, ‘he who belongs to Gaura.’
Narasiṅgha is the Bengali pronunciation of the Sanskrit word ‘Narasiṁha’ which is one of the 108 sannyāsa titles found in Gauḍīya Kaṇṭhahāra. The story of Prahlāda and how he was protected from his demonic father by Lord Narasiṁha is well known. Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī explains in his Bṛhat-bhāgavatāmṛta (1.3.81), that pure devotion starts with Prahlāda, thus it can be said that Narasiṁha protects the cultivation of śuddha-bhakti.
While anarthas remain within the heart, progressive spiritual advancement is not possible. Śrī Narasiṁha removes those impediments to bhakti (bhakti-vighna-vināśana) and this is explained by Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda in Navadvīpa-dhāma Māhātmya. There, he states that by the mercy of Narasiṁha, one becomes eligible to worship Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa:
kāṅdiyā nṛsiṁha-pade māgibo kakhana
nirāpade navadvīpe yugala-bhajana
“Weeping, I will beg at the feet of Narasiṁha for the benediction of becoming freed from all difficulties in order to worship the Divine Couple (Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa) in Navadvīpa.”
Nara means ‘that which is related to humans.’ The element that is common to all conditioned human beings is ignorance, or lack of spiritual knowledge. Siṁha is an animal who is a killer. Thus, the word nara-siṁha means, ‘one who eliminates ignorance in humans and bestows true knowledge.’
Guru Mahārāja, you are indeed the very personification of the name that was given to you by Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja – you maintain the dignity of the process of pure devotion (bhakti gaurava) and protect it, just as Narasiṁha protected Prahlāda and eliminated all unwanted atheistic elements.
Because of his strong stance against apa-siddhānta, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was known as ācārya-keśarī, or the ‘lion-guru.’ Similarly, in this praṇāma-mantra, you have been given the appellation ācārya-siṁha because of your fearless preaching against various types of philosophical misconceptions. The word ācārya is explained in the Vāyu Purāṇa:
ācinoti yaḥ śāstrārthāṇ ācāre sthāpayaty api
svayam ācarate yasmāt ācāryas tena kīrttitaḥ
“One who has realised the conclusions of the śāstra and establishes proper conduct, and who himself behaves properly, is an ācārya.”
Since you understand, establish and teach pure Gauḍīya siddhānta, and show a proper example in your bhajana life, you are certainly qualified to be called an ācārya.
Although generally, the lion is considered the most ferocious of creatures, it is also most kind to its young. Śrīdhara Svāmī, the great commentator on the Bhāgavatam, has written:
ugro’py anugra evāyaṁ sva-bhaktānāṁ nṛ-keśarī
keśarīva sva-potānām anyeṣām ugra-vikramaḥ
“Although He is certainly very ferocious, Narasiṁha is very kind to His devotees – just as a lioness is kind to her own cubs, but very savage with other creatures.” (purport to Bhāgavatam 7.9.1).
Similarly, like the aforementioned lioness, you are most compassionate to your loyal disciples and followers, but for those who oppose the teachings of our guru-varga, you manifest your ugra-rūpam to them. Thus, ācārya-siṁha means ‘the lion-like ācārya who protects the true devotees and the path of pure bhakti.’
In the first half of the praṇāma-mantra, the phrase kṛṣṇa-kṛpā śrī-mūrti was used. In the second half, you have been described as gaura-dayā-svarūpa – the embodiment of Śrī Caitanya’s mercy. Whereas Śrī Kṛṣṇa is immersed in the sweetness of madhurya-līlā, Śrī Caitanya’s disposition is that of audaryata, or magnanimity. He desires the dispensation of prema to one and all. That is the mercy of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
sabā nistārite prabhu kṛpā-avaāara
sabā nistārite kare cāturī apāra
“The Lord descended as the most merciful avatāra in order to deliver everyone. He thus devised many methods in order to liberate them all.” (Cc. Adi 7.38)
The word dayā (compassion) has been defined in various ways. In his Bhagavad-gītā commentary, Rāmānujācārya describes dayā as the inability to tolerate the sufferings of others. The Śāṇḍilya Upaniṣad (1.1) states, dayā nāma sarva-bhūteṣu sarvātranugrahaḥ – ‘That which is called dayā means showing mercy to all creatures at all places.’ The root of dayā is day (to sympathise with) and da – ‘to give, or distribute.’ Because Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the most magnanimous, the word dayā is most applicable to Him. However, even more magnanimous are those who distribute the dayā of Śrī Caitanya’s teachings. With the desire to please your guardians, you constantly conceive of various ways to spread the mercy of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in the form of the saṅkīrtana movement.
There are many words in Sanskrit for ‘embodiment’ or ‘form’ – so why is the word svarūpa used? Svarūpa indicates that this is the intrinsic nature of Śrī Guru (sva+rūpa) – it is not a transitory temperament. In both the material and spiritual worlds, his very nature is that of a unit of dedication to the Supreme Lord and His entourage. He eternally possesses sevakābhimāna (the pure ego of being a servant), while the Lord whom he serves is endowed with sevyābhimāna (the mood of being served). Therefore, you are referred to here as gaura-dayā-svarūpa – ‘one whose eternal nature is to serve Śrī Gaura by distributing His mercy to others.’
Siddhānta means ‘that which bestows the attainment of perfection’ (siddha+anta). There are many philosophies that make such high claims, yet under careful scrutiny they may not hold up. The prefix su in Sanskrit denotes that which is correct, beautiful and perfect. In India we find various siddhāntas amongst the Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas that are correct according to śāstra-pramāṇa (scriptural evidence), but they generally lead to vaikuṇṭha-prāpti, or the achievement of Vaikuntha, where the Lord is worshipped as Nārāyaṇa and His expansions in a mood of awe (aiśvarya-pradhāna). Su-siddhānta, or the philosophy of supreme beauty, is only found within the concepts given by Śrī Caitanya and His followers. Their aim is the attainment of the sweetness of Yaśodānandana Kṛṣṇa in Goloka, and in particular, the attainment of rādhā-dāsyam – service within the camp of Śrī Rādhā, under the shelter of Śrī Rūpa-mañjarī. Śrī Guru clearly reveals all this (pra+kāśa) and he is thus known as su-siddhānta-prakāśaka – ‘He who reveals the highest philosophy of beauty.’
Just as Śrī Guru is the revealer of su-siddhānta, he is also the remover of ku-darśana, or false doctrines. For the positive to thrive, the negative must be eliminated. In Sanskrit, darśana literally means ‘to see,’ A philosophy is called a darśana because it is supposed to help us see the ultimate reality. However, when ku is applied as a prefix to darśana, it indicates a false philosophy. Ku implies a deficiency or hindrance, thus ku-darśana means ‘that which impedes the proper perception of reality’ – just as when a foreign object enters the eye and our sight is impaired. Śrī Guru forces our eyes open and gives us sudarśana, the proper perception, which ultimately manifests as Kṛṣṇa, Reality the Beautiful. Thus, śāstra states:
cakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena tasmai śrī gurave namaḥ
“I offer obeisance unto Śrī Guru, who has opened my eyes with the wand smeared with the salve of knowledge, when they were blinded by the cataracts of ignorance.”
Spiritual cataracts (timira) manifest through the deceitful teachings of false philosophies. Śrī Guru eliminates such doctrines originating from ignorance, thus he is ku-darśana vināśaka.
This is my humble attempt to explain the deeper understanding of the composition of your praṇāma-mantra. If anything I have written is philosophically correct, it is solely by your mercy only, because my meagre intelligence has been guided by you. If anything I have written is incorrect or against the conclusions of guru and śāstra, then that is exclusively due to my own foolishness.
Śrī Narasiṅgha pāda-sevakā –
Svāmī Bhakti Vijñāna Giri