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Shri Krishna Karnamrita
By Shrila Bilvamangala Thakura Dasa
Translated by Kusakratha Dasa
Edited by Purnaprajna Dasa.
Published by Rasbiharilal and Sons, Loi Bazaar, Vrindavan
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Srlla Prabhupada regarded Sri Bilvamari-gala Thakura very highly and referred to him many times in the purports of his books. 1 can very well remember how, when I joined ISKCON in 1970, in Boston, we would put on a play every Sunday for the feast. I liked to take part in the dramas and there were a few plays that were performed over and over again. One was the story of how Sri Bilvamarigala Thakura became a great devotee. This play was a favorite of the devotees because we could empathize with Bilvamangala's great attachment for his beloved prostitute.
In a purport, Srlla Prabhupada tells this story very nicely: "Sri Bilvamarigala Thakura, a great acarya of the Visnu SvamI Vaisnava sect, in his householder life was overly attached to a prostitute who happened to be a devotee of the Lord. One night when the Thakura came to Cintamani's house in torrents of rain and thunder, Cintamani was astonished to see how the Thakura could come on such a dreadful night after crossing a foaming river which was full of waves. She said to Thakura Bil¬vamarigala that his attraction for the flesh and bone of an insignificant woman like her would be properly utilized if it could be diverted to the devotional service of the Lord to achieve attraction for the transcendental beauty of the Lord. It was a momentous hour for the Thakura,and he took a turn towards spiritual realization by the words of a prostitute. Later on the Thakura accepted the prostitute as his spiritual master, and in several places of his literary works he has glorified the name of Cintamani, who showed him the right path."
We will see that Cintamani is mentioned in the very first verse of this book. This verse is also quoted in the Caitanya-caritamrta of krishnadasa Kaviraja. In the purport, Srlla Prabhupada gives more information about Sri Bilvamarigala Thakura: "This verse is from the krishna-karnamrta, which was written by a great Vaisnava san-nyasl named Bilvamarigala Thakura, who is also known as Lllasuka. He intensely desired to enter into the eternal pastimes of the Lord, and he lived at Vrndavana for seven hundred years in the vicinity of Brahma-kunda, a stillexisting bathing tank in Vrndavana. The history of Bilvamarigala Thakura is given in a book called Srl-val-labha-digvijaya. He appeared in the eighth century of the Saka Era in the province of Dravida and was the chief disciple of Visnu SvamI. In a list of temples and monasteries kept in Sarikaracarya's monastery in Dvaraka, Bilvamarigala is mentioned as the founder of the Dvarakad-hlsa temple there. He entrusted the service of his Deity to Hari Brahmacarl, a disciple of Vallabha Bhatta."
"Bilvamarigala Thakura actually entered into the transcendental pastimes of Lord krishna. He has recorded his transcendental experiences and appreciation in the book known as krishna-karnamrta. In the beginning of that book he has offered his obeisances to his different gurus, and it is to be noted that he has adored them all equally. The first spiritual master mentioned is Cintamani, who was one of his instructing spiritual masters because she first showed him the spiritual path. Cintamani was a prostitute with whom Bilvamangala was intimate earlier in his life. She gave him the inspiration to begin on the path of devotional service, and because she convinced him to give up material existence to try for perfection by loving krishna, he has first offered his respects to her. Next he offers his respects to his initiating spiritual master, Somagiri, and then to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who was also his instructing spiritual master. He explicitly mentions Bhagavan, who has peacock feathers on His crown, because the Lord of Vrndavana, krishna the cowherd boy, used to come to Bilvamangala to talk with him and supply him with milk. In his adoration of Sri krishna, the Personality of Godhead, he states that JayasrI, the goddess of fortune, Srimati RadharanI, takes shelter in the shade of His lo¬tus feet to enjoy the transcendental rasa of nuptial love. The complete treatise krishna-karnamrta is dedicated to the transcendental pastimes of Sri krishna and Srimati RadharanI. It is a book to be read and understood by the most elevated devotees of Sri krishna."
There is considerable mention of the krishna-karnamrta in the Caitanya-caritamrta of krishnadasa Ka-viraja. In the Madhya-lila, it is clearly mentioned that this book was a great favorite of Lord Caitanya: "As the spiritual master chastises the disciple and teaches him the art of devotional service, so all the ecstatic symptoms of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhuincluding despondency, moroseness, humility, restlessness, joy, endurance and anger instructed His body and mind. In this way, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu passed His time. He also passed His time reading the books and singing the songs of Candldasa and Vidyapati, and listening to quotations from the Jagannatha-vallabha-nataka, krishna-karnamrta and Glta-govinda. Thus in the association of Svarupa Damodara and Raya Ramananda, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu passed His days and nights chanting and hearing with great pleasure.
Lllasuka [Bilvamangala Thakura] was an ordinary human being, yet he developed many ecstatic symptoms in his body. What, then, is so astonishing about these symptoms' being manifest in the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead? In the ecstatic mood of conjugal love, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was on the highest platform; therefore, all the exuberant ecstasies were naturally visible in His body."
In his purport to this verse, Srlla Prabhupada writes: "Lllasuka is Bilvamangala Thakura Gosvaml. He was a South Indian, a brahmana, and his former name was Silhana Misra. When he was a householder, he became attracted to a prostitute named Cintamani, but eventually he took her advice and became renounced. Thus he wrote a book named Santi-sataka, and later, by the mercy of Lord krishna and the Vaisnavas, he became a great devotee. Thus he became famous as Bilvamangala Thakura Gosvaml. On that elevated platform he wrote a book named krishna-karnamrta, which is very famous amongst Vaisnavas. Since he exhibited so many ecstatic symptoms, people used to call him Lllasuka."
When Lord Caitanya toured South India, He found the krishna-karnamrta and this is nicely described in the Caitanya-caritamrta: "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu next went to the bank of the krishna-venva River, where He visited many holy places and the tem¬ples of various gods. The brahmana community there was composed of pure devotees. They regularly studied a book entitled krishna-karnamrta, which was composed by Bilvamarigala Thakura. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very pleased to hear the book krishna-karnamrta, and with great eagerness He had it copied and took it with Him. There is no comparison to the krishna-karnamrta within the three worlds. By studying this book, one is elevated to the knowledge of pure devotional service to krishna. One who constantly reads the krishna-karnamrta can fully understand the beauty and melodious taste of the pastimes of Lord krishna. The Brahma-samhita and krishna-karnamrta were two books that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu considered to be most valuable jewels. Therefore He took them with Him on His return trip."
In his purports to these verses, Srlla Prabh-upada wrote: "This river is a branch of the river krishna. It is said that Thakura Bilvamangala resided on the banks of this river, which is also called the Vina, the VenI, the Sina and the Bhlma.The book, krishna-karnamrta, was composed by Bilvamangala Thakura in 112 verses. There are two or three other books bearing the same name, and there are also two commentaries on Bilvamarigala's book. One commentary was written by krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvaml and the other by Caitanya dasa Gosvaml. In his early life, Bilvamangala Thakura was an impersonalistic monist, and he used to meditate upon the impersonal Brahman effulgence. Later he became a devotee of Lord krishna."
The verse from this book that Srlla Prabh-upada most often quoted is explained by him as follows: "In conclusion, if a disciple is very serious to execute the mission of the spiritual master, he immediately associates with the Supreme Personality of Godhead by van! or vapuh. This is the only secret of success in seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Instead of being eager to see the Lord in some bush of Vrndavana while at the same time engaging in sense gratification, if one instead sticks to the principle of following the words of the spiritual master, he will see the Supreme Lord without difficulty. Srlla Bilvamangala Thakura has therefore said:
bhaktis tvayi sthiratard bhagavan yadi sydd
daivena nah phalati divya-kisora-murtih
muktih svayarh mukulitafijali sevate 'smdn
'If I am engaged in devotional service unto You, my dear Lord, then very easily can I perceive Your presence everywhere. And as far as liberation is concerned, I think thac liberation stands at my door with folded hands, waiting to serve me and all material conveniences of dharma [religiosity], artha [economic devel¬opment] and kama [sense gratification] stand with her.If one is very highly advanced in devotional service, he will have no difficulty in seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If one engages in the service of the spiritual master, he not only sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead but attains liberation. As far as material conveniences are concerned, they automatically come, just as the maidservants of a queen follow the queen wherever she goes. Liberation is no problem for the pure devotee, and all material conveniences are simply awaiting him at all stages of life."