Pastime of Gundicha Marjan
(A chapter from His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj's Bengali book
Sri Puri Dham Mahatmya-mukta-mala)
Mahaprabhu told all devotees, "Come every year to see Gundicha." Do you think He could say Himself, "Come to see Me?" That is why He said, "Come every year to Puri to perform this pastime of cleaning Gundicha."
Where are you going to go along with the chariots? To Sundarachal. This is the glory of the chariot festival. In Puri, the Jagannath temple is Nilachal, and Gundicha is Sundarachal. When Krishna left Vrindavan and went to Mathura, Dvaraka, all the Vraja gopis came to pull Him back to Vrindavan.
Therefore, those who pull the chariots are compared to gopis. We sing in the a kirtan, "Sri Krishna Chaitanya Prabhu jive daya kari' svaparsada sviya dhama saha avatari: showing compassion to all jiva souls, Sri Krishna Chaitanya came with His associates and abode." Vraja gopis appeared in the form of devotees (somebody appeared as Raya Ramananda, somebody as Svarup Damodar, somebody as Rupa Goswami, somebody as Sanatan Goswami, and so on) and performed the same pastimes that Krishna performed in Dvapar-yuga. So, the Lord Himself, taking the heart and halo of Sri Radha, appeared with His associates and performed this pastime of Ratha-yatra when devotees would pull the chariots and take them to Vrindavan.
The day before going to Vrindavan-Sundarachal, Mahaprabhu and all the devotees would clean the temple of Gundicha (that is non-different from Vrindavan). This is called Gundicha-marjan lila (pastime of Gundicha-marjan, or cleaning the temple). Prabhupad Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur wrote very beautifully about this pastime:
The Secret Behind the Gundicha-Marjan Pastime
(Srila Prabhupad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur delivered this lecture in Sri Purushottam Ksetra in 1922, the same year when Sri Purushottam Gaudiya Math was established; translated into English by Sripad B.K. Tyagi Maharaj)
Through this Pastime, Jagad-guru Sriman Mahaprabhu is teaching that if a fortunate soul desires to sit Krishna on the altar of their heart, then they should first of all clean their heart of all contamination; it is necessary to make the heart spotlessly clean, peaceful, and resplendent with devotion. If any thorny grass, weeds, dust, or coarse sand—anarthas (unwanted elements)—remain within the field of the heart, then the Lord, the ultimate recipient of all service, cannot be seated therein. Contamination and litter within the heart means anya-abhilasa (other desires), karma (fruitive action), jnan (knowledge), yoga, and so on. Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhu said,
"The highest devotion is that which satisfies Lord Krsna, free from the coverings of any pursuits such as action, knowledge."
(Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, 1.1.11)
Where there is any other desire except for devotion, where there are pursuits of jnana, karma, yoga, penance, or any other unfavourable to devotion mood covering the natural eternal devotional propensity of the soul, there is no pure devotion. Krishna does not appear anywhere except for the pure suddha-sattva devotion (devotion belonging to realm of the pure goodness).
Other desire means, "As long as I remain in this world, I shall merely gratify my senses." This sort of base desire, like thorny grass, pricks the pure soul's tender propensity for exclusive devotion. Fruitive action: "Through piety, sacrifice, charity, and austerity, I shall enjoy the pleasures of this world and the higher planes like heaven." Such selfish action is like dust. In the whirlwind of the cycle of karma, heaps of this dust, that is, desires, cover the spotless and clear mirror of our hearts. Because these desires to perform both good and bad actions, like countless heaps of dust, have been contaminating the hearts of the souls who are averse to the Lord birth after birth, such material desires are not going away from them. Souls that are averse to the Lord think that perhaps the thorns present within action can be removed through action, but this is a misconception; those who are convinced by it simply cheat themselves. As an elephant smears its body with dirt again after you bathe it, you cannot remove the material desires by engaging in actions motivated by material desires. All adversity a soul faces can be removed only through exclusive devotion, therefore the Supreme Lord finds a befitting place for His rest only at the throne of such pure hearts. This is why Thakur Mahasay has sung, "Bhaktera hrdaye sada Govinda visrama: Govinda always rests in the hearts of His devotees."
Monistic yoga and endeavours for speculative knowledge are just like sand. Through them, what to speak of the Lord's service or satisfaction, an endeavour is made to lacerate the Lord's body with a spear. Although at the beginning of the search for nondifferentiated Brahma, seekers of liberation may accept the Lord's Name, Form, and so on, to a certain extent, such seekers does not accept the independent existence of the Lord's Name, Form, and so on, at the time of their liberation or identification with Brahma. The Lord, therefore, does not appear within the heart of such unfortunate souls, who proudly consider themselves to be liberated [when in fact they are not]. It is for this reason that Sri Gaurasundar did not keep straw, dust, sand, and other forms of litter even within the boundary of the Lord's Temple compound, but rather threw them outside using His own outer cloth—so that by some storm all such rubbish would not enter the Temple again.
Often, even when worldly action, speculative knowledge, and so on, have been removed, subtle forms of contamination remain within the heart. These can be compared to kutinati, pratisthasa, jiva-himsa, nisiddhachar, labha, puja, and so on. Kutinati means duplicity. Pratisthasa means desire for worldly honour—"May the ignorant call me a great soul on account of my solitary worship and imposture." Pratisthasa means desire to be recognised as a 'devotee'or 'Avatar' by showing a perverted reflection of divine emotions, such as artifical symtpoms of ecstasy within one's hard heart, in order to fulfil one's selfish desires for worldly enjoyment. Jiva-himsa means hesitation to, or miserliness about, preaching pure devotion; indulging mayavadis, materialistists, and enjoyers; and speaking so as to keep the attention of such persons. Labha and puja mean living off the Lord's Names, mantras, Deities, or the Bhagavat in the name of religion, cheating the ignorant, and accumulating wealth, honour, and so on. Nisiddhachar means associating with the opposite sex and non-devotees of Krishna, such as materialists, speculators, and enjoyers.
Sri Gaurasundar first swept out large heaps of all such sand, straw, dust, and so on, that had accumulated over many days and then, after cleaning every area within the Temple a second time with brooms and water, began scrubbing the Temple and the Lord's altar with the dry cloth He was wearing so that no subtle blemishes would remain anywhere.
After all of the sweeping, cleaning, scrubbing, and so on, there was no trace of any dust particles or even subtle blemishes within the Temple, which was not not only spotlessly clean but also soothingly cool, that is, the practitioner's heart had become free from the bearing pain comparable to a desert scorched by the sun—free from the flames of the fire of the three miseries produced by desire to enjoy the mundane (adhyatmik-tap: miseries caused by the body and mind; adhibhautik-tap: miseries caused by others; and adhidaivik-tap: miseries caused by the gods). In fact, when desires for enjoyment and liberation—all other desires, worldly endeavours, knowledge, yoga, and so on—are dispelled from the practitioner's heart and the soul's propensity for pure devotion manifests, such peace and soothing coolness appear naturally.
Ignorant souls do not understand that often, even when all selfish desires have been dispelled, a subtle blemish still remains within an unknown nook or corner of the heart: the desire for liberation. What to speak of the impersonalists' desire for sayujya-mukti (the liberation of merging into Brahma), Sriman Mahaprabhu scrubbed away with His own cloth even the subtle blemishes of desire for the four other forms of liberation [salokya: residing in the Lord's abode, samipya: being in the Lord's presence, sarupya: having a form like the Lord's, and sarsti: having opulence like the Lord's].
In this way, adopting the mentality of an soul for the welfare of all souls, Sri Gaurasundar, as a Jagad-guru, personally taught how a practitioner should, with great enthusiasm, while loudly chanting Krishna's Name, clean their heart for Krishna's sake in order to make their heart a place for the pleasure Pastimes of the Autocrat Sri Krishna and be able to lovingly satisfy Krishna's senses.
yadyapyanya bhaktih kalau kartavya,
"Although the other eight practices of devotion should be performed during Kali-yuga, they should be performed with kirtan."
(Krama-sandarbha-tika on Srimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.23–24)
Sriman Mahaprabhu came over to every devotee, took hold of their hands, and taught them how to clean the Temple. He praised the devotees who were serving well, and, as the Lord adorned with the heart of She who is the personification of the fulfilment of Krishna's desires—Sri Radha—He benevolently chastised those whose service was not up to His standard, took hold of their hands, and taught them the proper way to serve Krishna. Not only that, He also instructed and inspired the pure-hearted devotees who were dedicated to the Absolute and proficient in serving according to His teachings to perform the work of an Acharya for souls averse to the Lord.
tumi bhala kariyachha, sikhaha anyere
"To devotees whose cleaning He approved of, the Lord said: 'You have done well. Teach this to others so that they also perform well in this way.'"
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta, Madhya-lila, 12.117)
Furthermore, one will become dear to the Lord to the extent that one can remove impurities from one's heart and keep it clean, and He prescribed the peaceful practice of service to Hari-Guru-Vaisnava for those who have not yet completed the process of anartha-nivrtti (removing all unwanted elements).
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