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A Vision of Unity Grounded in Equanimity

A Vision of Unity Grounded in Equanimity

[…] Language is most powerful when properly heard. Prahlada in the womb of his mother was able to hear and assimilate the spoken precepts of Narada. Prahlada’s classmates are similarly able to receive the same wisdom from his mouth. Whereas Hiranyakasipu’s fault is his inability to hear his son’s good advice (to abandon his adversarial mentality and to seek higher spiritual vision), Prahlada’s virtue is his ability to listen and to speak truth, but also to find strength in silence while being tortured by his father. This power of silence mirrors and complements the Bhagavata’s power of language to affect a vision of unity.

This vision of unity is grounded in equanimity that opens readers and listeners to the world of bhakti, in which word and meaning converge in transcendental devotional emotion.

—Reflections from the book “The Bhagavata Purana - Sacred Text and Living Tradition,” edited by Ravi M. Gupta and Kenneth R. Valpey (2013).


Rasika Revelation: the Appearance of Radharaman

In stark contrast to the prana-pratistha rite for image establishment described in Hari Bhakti Vilasa, is the origination story of Krishna’s image as Radharamana-lala, the “dearly beloved of Radha.” He is said to have appeared supernaturally and quite suddenly from a sacred salagrama stone. I will examine this narrative in some detail, showing how it serves as a vehicle for highlighting the link in the “chain of divinity” between exemplary worshiper and worshiped image; for expressing Radharamana’s uniqueness and multiple identity; and for grounding the community in what it considers to be authentic bhakti tradition.

As a child Gopala Bhatta meets Caitanya in south India (during the latter’s tour of 1510–11) and becomes His follower; later he joins Rupa and Sanatana, the two senior followers of Caitanya, in Vrindavan. There, on Caitanya’s posthumous order (received in a dream), he worships Krishna in salagrama stones, one of which, one night, is miraculously transformed into the petite murti (about 11 inches tall) seen today and known as Radharamana. […]

[…] The denouement (or “charismatic moment”) occurs one morning, when the Lord calls the sleeping Gopala to awaken and encounter him in the form that Gopala has so longed to behold. After awakening and bathing, Gopala finds in the basket holding the salagrama stones a “bluish shining” image from which spread “countless rays of light.” Gopala is confounded by what he sees. It is Gopinatha, the disciple, who provides the devotional explanation of the metamorphosis: “Gurudeva, this is none but a self-manifesting blue lotus from your mind-lake (manas sarovara) filled with the constant flowing tears from your exalted desire.” The magnetic force of Gopala Bhatta’s bhakti had become irresistable to its Object, who then appears directly out of the salagrama stone (once again confirming Prahlada’s statement that the Lord can appear anywhere). This shiny black image is delicately formed yet consists of the same (brittle, humanly uncarveable) material as the salagrama from whence it had apparently come.

The privacy of Gopala Bhatta’s fulfilled desire for darsana of the Lord yields immediately to the newsworthy public fact that a self-manifest (svayam-vyakta) murti of Krishna has suddenly appeared in Vrindavan. In Gaurakrishna Goswami’s account the Vaisnava community of Vrindavan is thrilled and only too willing to acknowledge that Gopala Bhatta’s “years of practice have today become complete” and to gather all requisites for a fittingly grand installation ceremony for the thakura (divinity), formally welcoming Him among the – as yet few – already present Krishna images and growing community of Krishna bhaktas.

—From the temple-founding narrative in “Attending Krishna’s Image – Caitanya Vaisnava Murti-seva As Devotional Truth” by Kenneth Russell Valpey (2006).