Mahanidhi Madan Gopal Das

In his masterpiece of devotional poetry known as Saranagati, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes his encounter with sri-nama. In the passage below, he explains how the holy name gradually reveals its transcendental splendor before the sincere sādhaka who chants with faith and surrender. May the devoted readers marvel at the Thakura’s words, and pray to sri-nama to touch their hearts in the same wonderful way.

“My heart is just like a desert, hot with the rays of the sun. This is my internal mental condition. The desire for temporary, material things cannot satisfy me because by nature they are death-producing. And not one or two, but thousands of such death-producing desires have taken shelter in my mind. So, my subconscious region is always burning. This is my condition. But somehow, by the grace of the sādhu and guru, the holy name of Kṛṣṇa with its infinite prospects has entered through the holes of my ears and reached the plane of my heart. And there, with some peculiar hope, with infinite, auspicious possibilities, it touched my heart with a new kind of nectar.

“New hope is aroused by that sound. Then by force it comes from the heart towards the tongue. Not that by the endeavor of my tongue I am producing that sound—no. What came from the heart of a saint through my ear, entered my heart, and that forcibly appeared on my tongue, and began to dance.

“That is the holy name proper. It descends from above. It cannot be produced by the material tongue. Its source is above. And through an agent of the Absolute it comes through the ear to the heart. From the heart it gathers some sympathy, then the holy name of Kṛṣṇa forcibly appears upon the tongue and begins to dance. With great force that sweet sound comes to the tip of the tongue and begins dancing.

“The real effects of the divine name have been described here. If it is a real and living name the voice will be choked up. There will be shivering in the body, the legs will be unable to stand, and sometimes tears will flow in a current on the body. One’s hair will stand on end, and sometimes the body will change color. The material mind and consciousness will fade away, and we may fall in a swoon. The whole body and mind will appear as if it is being attacked, shivering, and influenced in different ways.

“Apparently it may seem that so many troubles are created in the body and mind, but the real heart is overflowing with a particular kind of strange, sweet juice. Sometimes a devotee thinks, ‘I am swimming in an ocean of nectar. My whole existence is submerged in an ocean of nectarean rasa. I am beside myself and cannot understand where I am. What is this? What is surrounding me? Am I going mad? Where is my past experience, my seriousness, my gravity…where are they?’

“I have been completely converted by a foreign element. I am a doll in the hands of a great force that is so affectionate to me. I cannot ascertain how it is possible that by my faith I have entered this great, unknown environment. And at last I find that I am captivated. My entire being, within and without, has been captured and controlled by an especially sweet force. It is beyond description. I came to take shelter of Him and accept Him as my guardian. But now at His hands, I am being dealt with in such a merciless and oppressive way.

“Still, I feel everything is very pleasing beyond my experience. I cannot resist anymore. I am fully captured. So let my faith go anywhere because I cannot escape. I am captive in the hand of a sweet loving friend. All my independence is gone, and I have no other choice but surrender.

“I find that He is an autocrat. He does whatever He wants. Since it is not possible for me to resist, I must surrender. Now I will cooperate and do whatever He wants. Meanwhile, I find that the holy name is like a blossoming flower emanating wonderfully sweet streams. The holy name contains so many sweet variegated forms of current within Him. In different ways He is wonderfully expressing Himself. Sometimes He shows a peculiar type of color and form, and then disappears.

“So many charming aspects are revealed within, as He forces me to surrender at the base of that altar. He shows Himself in His full-fledged form as He leads me to Vṛndāvana to witness His vraja-līlā with Rādhā. I find myself in the midst of His uniquely sweet and loving abode. He says, ‘You see! I have so many wonderful things and this is your home. I am not imagination but concrete reality. You will find that this environment is very sweet and favorable, and you should live here.’

“I see that He is exchanging a variety of loving rasas with His many devotees. And I find that a spiritual body had emerged from my previous one, and that I have a permanent place here in His service. Such a new life I find here that all considerations of my past life and experience have vanished. What He said is true; my real life is here, and my previous material life was a waste.

“Now I find that chanting the holy name gives me a new hope, a new prospect, and new encouragement. The name supplies whatever we want. All our internal hankerings will be fulfilled if we chant the name. The holy name is eternal, full of ecstasy, and it is the purest of the pure.

“I find I have been completely converted, and now my innermost hankering is this: Let whatever is against this sweet name vanish forever from the world. Everyone should come here. I am ready to sacrifice my life to finish any opposition, so that everyone can easily, peacefully, and fearlessly enjoy this absolute, sweet and blissful life.” (Śaraṇāgati)

An excerpt from the book Art of Chanting.

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