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Bilvapaksha and Bharadvaja-tila
All glories to Shri Gaurachandra, the wanderer of Nadia's groves! All glories to Shri Nityananda, the master of Ekacakra! All glories to Advaita Ishvara, the master of Shantipura! All glories to Gadadhara of Ramacandrapura! And all glories to Gaura-bhumi, the essence of cintamani, where Krishna wandered in Kali-yuga.
The son of Padmavati, Shri Nityananda Prabhu, after crossing the Ganges and going some distance, said to the devotees, "See this attractive place named Bilvapaksha. Generally people call it Bela Pukhariya (or Belpukura). The place known in the scriptures as Bilvavana in Vraja is situated here in Navadvipa.
"One time some brahmana devotees of Shiva worshiped him by offering the leaves of his favorite tree, the bilva, or bael, tree for a fortnight's duration. Shiva was pleased with the brahmanas and gave them krishna-bhakti. Amongst those worshipers was Nimbaditya, who had been very attentive in the worship. Shiva spoke to him, `At the edge of this village is a sacred bilva forest. Within that forest, the four Kumaras are sitting in meditation. By their mercy, you will receive transcendental knowledge. They are your gurus. By serving them, you will receive all that is of value.' Saying this, Lord Shiva disappeared.
"Nimbaditya searched and found that place. On an attractive platform in the forest near Shiva, he saw the four brothers-Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana, and Sanat-kumara-sitting unseen by others. They were young, naked, and noble in character. Nimbarka cried out in excitement, `Hare Krishna! Hare Krishna!'
"On hearing the holy name, the Kumaras' meditation broke. They opened their eyes and saw before them an ideal Vaishnava. Satisfied by this sight, one after another they embraced Nimbaditya. `Who are you?' they asked. `Why have you come here? We will certainly fulfill your prayers.'
"Nimbarka offered his obeisances and humbly introduced himself. Sanat-kumara smiled and said, `Knowing that Kali-yuga would be very troublesome, the all-merciful Supreme Lord decided to propagate devotional service. He empowered four men with devotional service and sent them into the world to preach. Ramanuja, Madhva, and Vishnusvami are three of these men. You are the fourth of these great devotees. Shri, Lakshmi, accepted Ramanuja, Brahma accepted Madhvacarya, Rudra accepted Vishnusvami, and we, meeting you today, have the good fortune to teach you. This is our intention. Previously we were engaged in meditating on the Brahman, but by the Lord's mercy that sinful act has gone away. Now that I know the sweet taste of pure devotional service, I have written one book named Sanat-kumara Samhita. You should receive initiation into its teachings.'
"Seeing his guru's mercy, the wise Nimbarka quickly took his bath in the Ganges and returned. He offered obeisances and humbly said, `O deliverer of the fallen, please deliver this low rascal.'
"The four brothers gave him the Radha-Krishna mantra and instructed him how to worship Radha and Krishna filled with sentiments of great love, called bhava-marga. Having obtained that mantra, Nimbaditya resided at this sacred place and worshiped according to the injunctions of that samhita.
"Radha and Krishna bestowed Their mercy by appearing before Nimbarka. Lighting up all directions and gently smiling, They said, `You are very fortunate. You have performed sadhana in Navadvipa, Our dear abode. Here We take on one form, as the son of Shacidevi.'
"While saying this, They combined in one form as Gauranga. Nimbarka was astounded on seeing that form and exclaimed, `Never have I seen or heard of such a remarkable form anywhere!'
"Mahaprabhu said, `Please keep this form secret now. Just preach krishna-bhakti and the pastimes of Radha and Krishna, for I am very happy in those pastimes. When I appear as Gauranga, I will enjoy educational pastimes. At that time, you will take birth in Kashmir and tour India as a champion scholar out to defeat all opponents. Your name will be Keshava Kashmiri, and you will be celebrated everywhere for your great learning. While wandering on tour, you will come to Mayapur. The learned scholars of Navadvipa will flee when they hear your name, but I will be intoxicated with learning and take pleasure in defeating you. By the mercy of Sarasvati, you will realize My identity, give up your pride, and take shelter of Me. Then I will give you the gift of bhakti and send you out to preach devotional service again. So you can satisfy Me now by preaching the philosophy of dvaitadvaita (monism and dualism), keeping My identity secret.
"`Later, when I begin the sankirtana movement, I Myself will preach the essence of the four Vaishnava philosophies. From Madhva I will receive two essential items: his complete defeat of the Mayavada philosophy, and his service to the Deity of Krishna, accepting the Deity as an eternal spiritual being. From Ramanuja I will accept two great teachings: the concept of bhakti unpolluted by karma and jnana, and service to the devotees. From Vishnusvami's teachings I will accept two main elements: the sentiment of exclusive dependence on Krishna, and the path of raga-bhakti. And from you I will receive two excellent principles: the necessity of taking shelter of Radha, and the high esteem for the gopis' love of Krishna.'"
"When Gaurachandra disappeared, Nimbarka wept out of love. After worshiping the feet of his gurus, he left for preaching krishna-bhakti."
Nityananda then pointed out to Jiva in the distance, Rama-tirtha, where Lord Balarama killed the Kolasura demon and then took bath with the Yadus. This place is now known as Rukmapura, and it is situated on one end of the Navadvipa parikrama. During the month of Kartika this place is especially glorious.
Leaving behind Bilvapaksha, Nityananda Prabhu and the devotees went up to Bharadvaja-tila village. Nityananda explained, "After seeing Ganga-sagara, Bharadvaja Muni came to this place. The great muni stayed here for some days and worshiped Lord Gaurachandra.
Satisfied by the worship, Lord Vishvambhara mercifully appeared before the muni and said to him, `Your desire will be fulfilled. When I advent, you will see Me.'
"After speaking these words, the Lord disappeared and Bharadvaja fainted in great ecstasy. After staying on this hill for some days, the muni departed to see other tirthas. The common people call this place Bharuishanga. The scriptures consider this a major tirtha."
While speaking these topics, they returned to Mayapur, where Ishana
Thakura came forward to welcome them back. Nityananda Prabhu, in unprecedented prema, danced and sang amongst the devotees. That day, in the house of Jagannatha Mishra, the best of all holy places where Gauranga appeared with the holy name, the Lord's own mother fed the Vaishnavas. How to describe the bliss at that place? The sound of the kirtana resounded loudly.
Desiring the shade of the feet of Nitai and Jahnava, Bhaktivinoda sings these pastimes of Navadvipa.