This timeless classic, composed in Sanskrit in the seventeenth century, gives a compelling description of the stages of spiritual progress, likened to the flourishing of a beautiful vine.
What do we, as spiritual practitioners, experience as the vine of devotion blossoms? How do our dealings with others, our attitudes and our behaviour affect its development? How can we assess and enhance its growth?
Citing verses from Vedic antiquity, Madhurya-kadambini answers these and other questions with unparalleled clarity,insight and beauty.
Many leaves now now suddenly manifest on this vine, expanding its beauty at every moment and causing the flower of pure spiritual emotion (bhava) to blossom to its ultimate potential and bear the fruit of rapturous love of God (prema).
Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja dedicated his life to widely sharing the hidden jewels of bhakti-yoga. He often lectured on Madhurya-kadambini for weeks at a time, clarifying the stages of spiritual progress and inspiring in his listeners an eagerness to experience the increasingly blissful nature of bhakti, the soul’s rightful claim.
In an extemplary 89-year lifetime of devotion, he tirelessly rendered leading authoritative works on bhakti into Hindi as requested by his gurudeva, carefully elucidating their meaning. The Sanskrit writings and commentaries of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura comprise more than one dozen of these translations.
It brings me boundless joy that today, by the causeless mercy and inspiration of my most worshipful gurupada-padma, nitya-lila-pravista om visnupada astottara-sata-sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, we are presenting, for his pleasure, this edition of Madhurya-kadambini, a text written by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, the highly exalted crown jewel of Sri Gaudiya acaryas. In this text, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has presented has presented, in faithful adherence to Sri Rupa Goswami, a beautiful deliberation on the sequence of Sadhana-bhakti: sraddha, bhajana-kriya, anartha-nivrtti, nistha, ruci, asakti and bhava, or rati.
Life History of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura
Srila Visvnatha Cakravarti Thakura took his divine birth in a family of brahmanas from the Radhiya community of the Nadiya district in West Bengal. He was celebrated by the name Hari-vallabha and had two elder brothers, Ramabhadra and Raghunatha. During his childhood, he completed his study of grammar in the village of Devagrama. He then studied devotional scriptures at the home of his spiritual master in the Saiyadabad village of the Mursidabad district. While living in Saiyadabad, he wrote Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu-bindu, Ujjvala-nilamani-kirana and Bhagavatamrta-kana.Soon after, he renounced household life and went to Vrndavana , where he wrote many other books and commentaries.
After the disappearance of Sri Citanya Mahaprabhu and the six Gosvamis of Vraja, the current of unalloyed devotion (Sudha-bhakti) continued to flow by the influence of three great personalities: Sri Narottama dasa thakura, Srinivasa Acarya and Sri Syamananda Prabhu. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura is fourth in the line of disciplic succession coming from Srila Narottama dasa Thakura.
A disciple of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura , Srila Gnga-narayana Cakravarti Mahasaya, lived in Blaucara Gambhila in the Mursidabad district He had a daughter named Vishnu-priya but no sons, so he adopted a devotee named Sri Krsna-carana. Krsna-carana was the youngest won of another disciple of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, named Ramakrsna Bhattacarya, who was from the Varendra community of brahmana families. Sri Krsna-carana’s disciple was Sri Radha-ramana Cakravarti, the spiritual master of Srila Visvantha Cakravarti Thakura.
In Sarartha-darsini, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s commentaryon Srimad –Bhagavatam, he has written the following verse at the beginning of Rasa-pancadhyayi, the five chapters of the Tenth Canto of Srimad –Bhagavatam that describe Sri Krsna’s rasa dance with the gopis:
Sri-rama-krsna-ganga-caranan natva gurunuru-premnah
Srila-narottama-natha sri-gauranga-prabhum naumi
Here, the name “ Sri Rama” refers to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s spiritual master, Sri Radha-ramana; “Krsna” refers to his grand-spiritaul master, Sri Krsna-carana; “Narottama” refers to his great-great grand-spiritual master, Srila Nrottama dasa thakura; and the word”Natha” refers to Srila Narottama Thakura’s spiritual master, Sri Lokanatha Gosvami. In this way, he offers obeisances to all those in his disciplic succession up to Sriman Mahaprabhu.
Refuting the opinions of the atibadi Rupa Kaviraja
Hemalata Thakurani was the learned Vaisnavi daughter of Srinivasa Acarya. Once an estranged disciple of hers named Rupa Kaviraja concocted is own doctrine, which opposed the philosophical conceptions of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. He taught that the position of acarya could only be occupied by one in the renounced order, never by a householder, Rupa Kaviraja’s aim was to completely disregard the necessity of following vidhi-marga (the path of regulated devotional practice) and to propagate a so-called raga-marga (dotrine of spointaneous attraction) that was undisciplined and disorderly. His new doctrine stated that one could abandon the practices of hearing and chanting and practice raganuga-bhakti by remembrance alone. For this, Hemlata Thakurani ensured that Rupa kaviraja was expelled from the Gaudiya Vaisnava community,since that time, Gaudiya Vaisnavas have known him as an atibadi, a person from one of the eleven unauthorized sahajiya communities that concoct their own method of devotional service.
Fortunately, Srila Cakravarti Thakura was present at this time, and he refuted Rupa Kaviraja’s false conclusion in his Sarartha-darsini commentary on the Third Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srila Cakravarti proved unequivocally that qualified householder descendants of an acarya . He said that it is unlawful and contrary to the statements of scripture for unfit descendants of acarya families to adopt the title “Gosvami” out of greed for disciples and wealth.
Householder disciples in the line of Sri Nityananda Prabhu’s son Virabhadra and descendants of the rejected sons of Sri Advita Acarya award and accept the title “ Gosvami”, an action considered improper by Vaisnava acaryas. Although Srila Cakravarti Thakura acted as an acarya, in order to instruct the follish and unfit desendants of acarya families of modern times, he personally never the title”Gosvami”.
Protecting the honour of the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya through Srila Baladeva Vidhyabhusana
When Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura became very old, he spent most of his time in a semi-conscious state, deeply absorbed in bhajana. During that time , a debate broke out in Jaipur between the Gaudiya Vaisnavas and other Vaisnava who supported the doctrine of Svakiyavada, or the Lord’s pastimes of wedded love.
The Vaisnavas from the antagonistic camp had led King Jaya Singh II of Jaipur to believe that the worship of Srimati Radhika with Sri Govindadeva is not supported by the scripturs. Their contention was that Srimati Radhika’s name is neither mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam nor in the Visnu Purana, and that She was never married to Sri Krsna according to Vedic injections.
The antagonistic Vaisnavas further objected that the Gaudiya Vaisnavas did not belong to a recognized sampradaya, or line of disciple succession. From time immemorial, there have been four Vatsnava sampradayas: (1) the Sri Sampradaya (disciple succession headed by Laksmi-devi, the goddess of fortune), (2) the Brahma sampradaya (the disciple succession headed by Lord Siva) and (4) the Sanaka (Kumara) Sampradaya (the disciple succession headed by Sanaka-kumara) sampradaya (the disciplic succession headed by Sanaka-kumara, the eldest of the four sons of Brahma).
In this age of Kali, the principles acaryas of these four sampradayas are, respectively, (1) Sri Ramanuja, (2) Sri Madhva, (3) Sri imbaditya. The antagonistic Vaisnavas said that Gaudiya Vaisnavas were outside these four sampradayas and therefore without pure lineage. Further, they argued that because Gaudiya Vaisnavas did not have their own commentary on Brahma-sutra (also known as Vedanta –sutra, the philosophical treatise written by Vyasadeva, which consists f succinct aphorisms that embody the essential meaning of the Upanisads), they could not be regarded as a genuine Vaisnava sect belonging to any genuine disciple succession.
Maharaja Jaya Singh knew that the prominent Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas of Vrndavana were followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami, and he invited them to Jaipur to take up the challenge of the Sri Ramanuja Vaisnavas. Srila Cakravarti Thakura was very old at the time and fully absorted in the transcendenatal bliss of bhajana, so he sent his student Srila Baladeva Vidhyabhusana to address the Jaipur assembly. Gaudiya Vaisnava Vedantacarya Sri Baladeva greatest among exalted teachers of Vedanta, left for Jaipur for Jaipur accompanied by Srila Cakravarti Thakura ‘s disciple Sri Krsnadeva.
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