I had the good fortune to meet Purnacandra Goswami at the Odessa festival in Ukraine in 2005. I attended part of his seminar on Narottama Dasa Thakura’s Prema Bhakti Candrika, and I share my notes (below), which include his sweet realizations, as an offering on his disappearance. For me, I had forgotten the nice lessons I learned from him, which I express at end of these notes, and it is his mercy that I am remembering them again now.
He was always very friendly to me and happy to see me. Once he told me he preached in America, and in the UK, but recently he focused on Eastern Europe because he found the people there to be especially appreciative.
I hope he has attained the goal he mentioned in his seminar, pure devotion to Radha and Krishna.
All glories to His Holiness Purnacandra Goswami.
Notes on Purnacandra Goswami’s Seminar on Prema Bhakti Candrika
I heard but three classes of this six-class seminar. I present this to stimulate your interest in Prema Bhakti Candrika, a celebrated book by Narottama Dasa Thakura.
Lord Caitanya dictated Prema Bhakti Candrika to Narottama Dasa Thakura, although the Lord was not still physically present at that time. The word ‘candrika’ means ‘moonbeams’. Prema Bhakti Candrika clarifies the goal and sadhana of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Gaurakisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja advised devotees to read Prema Bhakti Candrika and Prarthana to attain love of God. Bhaktisiddhana Saravati Thakura told his followers to read Prema Bhakti Candrika daily. Vrindavana Dasa Thakura said that Prema Bhakti Candrika lights the way on the path of bhakti as the moon lights the way through the forest. It is a collection of Bengali songs beginning with Guru Vandanam, which glorifies the guru and which we sing each day at guru puja. Then Narottama Dasa Thakura glorifies the Vaishnavas, the devotees of the Lord. Next he glorifies Rupa and Sanatana Goswami. Because Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis were personally instructed by Lord Caitanya, they are our main acharyas (spiritual teachers).
2.1 Engage body and mind in God’s service, without demigod worship.
2.2 Carefully follow the previous acaryas with consideration. Do not add or subtract.
2.3 Don’t associate with karmis (fruitive workers) or jnanis (mental speculators).
2.4 Don’t associate with karmis, jnanis, yogis. Give up all fruitive activities and all nonessential dharma. Give up distress and lamentation.
2.5 Don’t go to places of pilgrimage (because there are so many cheaters there).
2.6 Hear, chant, worship, and meditate the name, rupa (form) , guna (qualities), and lila (pastimes) of Krishna in the association of devotees.
Five stages of remembance:
1. smaran—occasional remembrances
2. dharana—one withdraws senses from objects and focuses on the Lord
3. dhyana—specific remembrance of a form or pastime
4. dhruva-anusmrti—flowing waves of remembrance with bliss
5. samadhi—complete absorbsion without deviation
2.7 Refrain from demigod worship.
2.8 I cannot control my senses despite hearing so much.
2.9 I will engage lust, anger, illusion, etc. in Krishna’s service:
2.10 Lust in eagerness to serve Krishna, anger against the enemies of the devotees, greed to hear the topics of Hari, illusion as a response to failure to attain Krishna, pride to be Krishna’s servant.
Envy cannot be engaged. We must understand with conviction that the idea that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” is an illusion. Prabhupada once said, “Bhakti is so simple, you might miss it.”
2.12 Calling out the holy name scares our enemies.
2.13 Profit, adoration, and distinction, may haunt you. Remember Krishna’s lotus feet. That will solve all problems.
2.14 Duplicity, illusory activities, and worshiping demigods are distractions. Everyone wants beauty and love. Let us look for that in the spiritual world.
2.15 Engage in worshiping your ista-deva. There must be a form of the Lord you adore. Hanuman is an example. Although he knows Narayana is God, he prefers to see Lord Rama. Avaditvam—dedication to your ista-deva. Just worship Govinda.
2.16 Your forefathers will be pleased with you.
2.17 If you are in Vrindavana or are thinking of Vrindavana, you can be happy.
2.19 If you are in Vrindavana and are not worshiping Krishna, you cannot be happy.
Purnacandra Goswami made the point that although we celebrate devotees’ birthdays, this is not part of Vaishnava practice. Vaishnavas do not like to put themselves in the center. Besides is our birth in this world really that glorious? He recalls one devotee he knew distributed prasadam to the devotees on her birthday, but did not tell them why.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura says friendliness, service, and conversation constitute association with devotees.
Purnacandra Goswami mentioned that we should think we are not qualified for spontaneous devotion, but always look in that direction. If we think we have attained raga-marga, we will get stuck and not progress. We should always be afraid of falling under the control of illusion.
He tells the story of a Russian lady who had been worshiping his picture for three years and who really wanted to be initiated because she was an old lady who could die at any time and didn’t want to go to hell. He said, “Until the GBC permits, I cannot initiate you.” She said, “My friends told me, ‘Do not come home until you are initiated.’” He told her there are many gurus who could initiate her. She admitted some partiality toward Niranjana Swami, and asked Purnacandra to recommend her, which he did. He said as a result of that experience, he could appreciate how Krishna feels when people approach Him for liberation.
We should cry for Krishna. Srila Prabhupada says in Nectar of Devotion, “One should learn this small technique, and he should be very eager and actually cry to become engaged in some particular type of service.”
If we have Krishna-prema (love of God) then hell will become heaven. If we have no Krishna-prema, then heaven is hell. Pure love for Radha-Krishna is the only goal. Laulyam or great yearning is the only price of love of God. In Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.11.26, there is a great example of yearning given by Vritrasura, “O lotus-eyed Lord, as baby birds that have not yet developed their wings always look for their mother to return and feed them, as small calves tied with ropes await anxiously the time of milking, when they will be allowed to drink the milk of their mothers, or as a morose wife whose husband is away from home always longs for him to return and satisfy her in all respects, I always yearn for the opportunity to render direct service unto You.”
We must understand that sense enjoyment is a cause of misery and not happiness.
We should be anxious that we have not attained our eternal service to the Lord.
Q: From what stage does spontaneous bhakti arise?
A: Ruci. Because there is taste. That is the motivation. But there is a little tendency (a scent) even in nistha or steadiness, which develops through ruci, and attains fullness in asakti. Nistha (steadiness) means 75% of anarthas (unwanted things) are removed and the remaining anarthas are no longer obstructions because they are minimized.
You get a hundred times the benefit if you chant japa after placing dirt from the base of the tulasi plant on your forehead.
Throughout Prema Bhakti Candrika, Narottama Dasa Thakura decries pious and impious activities and mental speculation and anything except pure devotion to Radha and Krishna.
9.1 I will neither speak of mundane topics or hear them. I will only talk of my worshipable Lord.
9.2 How much can I describe the science of the Supreme Lord. O mind, just absorb yourself in Him.
9.3 O Govinda, moonlike person of Gokula. Joyfully serve Him with His sakhis.
9.4 I have described the truth. Please give up material desires. Serve your guru, and you can become a maidservant of the sakhis.
9.5 The most successful devotional service is to remember His pastimes in sanga (association) with the sadhus (saints).
9.6 By decorating our body with the dust of Radha’s feet, we easily attain Krishna.
Krishna states, “I tell you the truth, the truth, the truth. Without Radha’s mercy one cannot attain my mercy.”
9.7 Acaryas point to the shelter of Radha’s lotus feet. Lord Caitanya is Radharani, so we are already worshiping Radharani.
9.8 Glories to the holy name of Radha, who lives in Vrindavana. Destiny has cheated me—I have not heard Radha’s glories.
9.9 Anyone who chants Radha’s glories will soon attain Krishna. I wish not to see those averse to this.
9.10 O brother, simply by chanting Radha’s name, you can attain Radha’s lotus feet, and simply by chanting Radha’s name, you can attain Krishna.
9.11 Please give up false ego, pride, and material knowledge. Worship your guru. Engage friends and relatives in guru’s seva (service).
9.12 Please serve Lord Caitanya with attachment and determination for He is the giver of love of God. He is Krishna Himself.
9.13 Accepting Radha’s luster and emotions, Lord Krishna descended in Navadvipa with His associates.
Devotees of Lord Caitanya in audarya-bhava (mercy) live in Navadvipa in Goloka and those attracted to the sweet aspect of Goloka in Krishna-lila go there, and those attracted to both can go to both places. Therefore Srila Prabhupada did not stress one or the other because Mahaprabhu (Lord Caitanya) can accommodate all kinds of people in His sanga (association). Prabhupada wanted ISKCON to be broad enough to accommodate everyone (a house in which the whole world can live). Ratha-yatra has both sambhoga (union) and vipralambha (separation) feelings.
9.14 Gaurahari has appeared and showered love of God. Why did He cry again and again for Krishna? Only the devotees know.
9.15 One should internally be absorbed in thoughts of Krishna while externally executing the nine items of devotional service. Without attaining this inner sincerity, everything is meaningless.
9.16 Lusty desires are killing you. Lament, O servant of Hari. Associate only with devotees of Krishna for they alone can deliver us.
9.17 So many wives and children have come and gone, but I have not taken to Krishna consciousness.
9.18 The principle means of livelihood in raganuga-bhakti is to discuss Radha-Krishna in sadhu-sanga.
9.19 I will not disclose my path of worship to everyone and anyone. I will bow down to the devotees.
9.20 Whatever Sri Gauranga has spoken, I have related here.
9.21 Placing the lotus feet of Locana Dasa Thakura on my head, I, Narottama Dasa Thakura, described Prema Bhakti Candrika.
As a result of taking this seminar given by Purnacandra Goswami on Narottama Dasa Thakura’s Prema Bhakti Candrika, I am more conscious that our goal is love for Radha and Krishna and not freedom from misery, the spiritual world, ‘spiritual advancement,’ etc. I meditate while chanting our japa of Radha and Krishna’s names that we are associating with Radha and Krishna directly and thereby gradually developing our love for Radha and Krishna. There is no better practice or goal, and so there is no reason to let our restless minds wander elsewhere. Thus I think the seminar has been helpful in my case.
All glories to His Holiness Purnacandra Goswami.