O.B.L. Kapoor, The Saints of Vraja
Sarasvati Jayasri Classics,
Caracas, Venezuela 1992
Sri Krsnaprema (Ronald Nixon)
Sri Krsnaprema (Ronald Nixon) was born on May 10, 1898 in a religious family of England. He passed B.A. Honours in English Literature from the Cambridge University. His religious leaning were apparent even while he was a student. After passing B.A. Honours he applied himself seriously to the study of Buddhism, Christianity and Theosophy. But when the first world-war broke out, he joined the Royal Air Force.
When the German army formations were pouring in German occupied Belgium and preparing for a fresh attack, the R.A.F. was ordered to bombard them. A number of pilots along with Nixon flew in their bomber-planes toward Belgium. But the German fighter planes were wary. They chased the R.A.F. planes. All the R.A.F. planes were destroyed and their pilots killed. Nixon's fate would have been the same, but for the intervention of a supernatural power that caught hold of his wrist and took the plane high, very high and turned it backwards. As it turned backwards, he lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he found himself in a military hospital near London.
While he was convalescing in the hospital, several times he felt in a half-conscious state that someone was telling him, "Your life has been saved by a supernatural power. You can go and search it out in India."
The supernatural power not only saved his life, but gave it a new direction. He began to look for an opportunity to go to India and delve into the secrets of the Divine or the Supernatural. Providentially Dr. Jnanendra Natha Cakravarti, the vice-chancellor of the Lucknow University, was at that time in London. He was looking for a suitable person for the post of lecturer in English in Lucknow University. He was very much impressed by Nixon, not only because of his brilliance and scholarship, but also -and perhaps specially- because of his interest in Indian philosophy, religion and culture. He gladly offered the post to him.
Nixon joined the Lucknow University. He lived with Dr. Jnanendra Cakravarti and his wife Monika Devi. Monika Devi was a highly educated and cultured lady. She was also deeply religious. She was impressed by Nixon's sincerity of purpose and genial nature. She showered all her affection upon him and began to treat him as her son. She called him "Gopala." Nixon called her "Ma."
Nixon continued his search for the Divine. Since he was interested in Buddhism, he learnt Pall and read the works of the Buddhist religion in the original. He also practised meditation according to them. But this did not give him satisfaction. Therefore he turned to Vedanta. He learnt sanskrit and studied the Upanisads, the Gita and the Bhagavata. The result was that he turned more and more towards Krsna till he accepted Him as his ista, that is, the Lord he adored and worshipped. This was bound to happen because of his penetrating intelligence and deep spiritual insight.
But the most important factor that ultimately veered him round the feet of Krsna was the company of Monika Devi. Outwardly Monika Devi was an ultra-modern lady. She had travelled with her husband to Europe, America and a number of other countries. She was well acquainted with Western etiquette. In social gatherings and parties at her home, which were a regular feature of her husband's social life, the way in which she played the hostess, going from table to table, laughing and cracking jokes, and making the party go with her scintillating repartees, one could easily mistake her for a Western lady. But she had a mystic personality, which baffled the eyes of ordinary people, used to accepting the surface appearance. It was possible to get a glimpse of her real personality by the way in which she responded to Bengali kirtans or Hindi bhajanas, specially relating to Krsna and His lila. She listened to them with astonishing warmth and tears constantly coursed down her cheeks. At such moments one could not help feeling that she was a denizen of the deep, a citizen of an utterly different world.
Her real self could not escape the keen eyes of Nixon. He observed that in parties at her home sometimes she suddenly disappeared and retired to her room. He wanted to know the secret of her sudden disappearance.
One day there was a special party at her house. In the midst of music that was going on Nixon saw her suddenly rushing to her room. He quietly followed her from a distance. When he peeped into the room, he saw that she was sitting in a corner, motionless and unconscious. When she came out, after about half an hour or so, her eyes were wet and an inconceivable peace seemed to radiate from her face. Nixon said, with folded hands like one who had committed an offence, "Ma, your Gopala has today stealthily peeped into your secret treasure. But has the son no claim upon the treasure of his mother? Why did you keep it hidden from him so far, Ma?"
Affectionately touching his chin she said, "Since you have already peeped into it, I shall tell you everything about it. But not just now.
The next day she called Nixon to her room, when no one else was there and said, "Gopala, you know that behind the body is the atma. When the atma is awakened, one is completely changed. Then one goes to parama-atma, Sri Bhagavan and embraces His feet. This has started happening in my life."
She added, "You know that my husband is not only an educationist, but also a philosopher and a leading theosophist. I was also interested in theosophy. But theosophy did not satisfy us.
Then both of us turned to Vaisnavism. I went to Vrndavana and took initiation from Acarya Sri Balakrsna Gosvami of Radharamana temple. Since then I have been absorbed in Krsna-prema-sadhana. I want to keep my sadhana a closely guarded secret. But Krsna is so naughty that time or no time, He pulls me near Him whenever He wishes. At that time a light emanates from His feet, which makes me unconscious of my body and the world outside. I do not do anything. It is He, who pulls me and drowns me in the ocean of His ambrosial presence and company."
Nixon's heart was kindled with a new hope and new light. He said, "Ma, why not set me also on the sweet path of Krsna-prema?"
Ma said, "You can now surely set your foot on the path of Krsna-prema, because you are already disillusioned with Buddhism and your study of the Upanisads and the Gita has made you familiar with the basic principles of Hinduism."
Nixon started his bhakti-sadhana under the guidance of Monika Devi.
Soon after Jnanendra CakravartI shifted to Varanasi as Vice-Chancellor of the Benares Hindu University. Nixon could not stay on in Lucknow. He also accepted the post of Professor of English in the Benares Hindu University on a salary much lower than what he was getting at Lucknow. But he was so popular in Lucknow that as soon as the professors of the university, the students and others came to know about this, they started coming to him in groups to persuade him not to leave Lucknow. The reasons for his popularity were his extraordinary brilliance, his repartees in social gatherings, his total absence of selfishness and of the slightest trace of pretence, his informal and unargumentative conversation, his faculty of summing things up and reaching a convincing conclusion, and above all his disciplined way of life and love for India and Indian philosophy, religion and culture.
But no amount of persuation could move him from his decision. He joined the new post in the Benares Hindu University. He found the religious atmosphere of Benares much more congenial to him and his bhakti-sadhana under the guidance of Monika Devi went on undisturbed.
One day he said to Monika Devi, "Ma, I have decided to take vaisnava samnyasa."
"That is a nice idea," said Ma.
"I have also decided to take samnyasa diksa from you."
"I am a householder. How can I initiate you in samnyasa?"
"I do not know all that. You will have to give samnyasa-diksa to me."
Ma kept quiet for a while, then said, "All right, I will give samnyasa diksa."
She went to Vrndavana, first obtained samnyasa-diksa herself from Acarya Balakrsna Gosvami, and then gave it to Nixon. After samnyasa she was named Yasoda Ma, Nixon was named Krsnaprema. Who could believe that Monika Devi, born and bred in the lap of luxury, an aristocrat to the fingertip, who went every two years to England, had become a samnyasim and shaved her head. Indeed, she was a lady, who had to be seen to be believed. And Krsnaprema was no less a marvel. He was perhaps the first European, who became a vaisnava, exchanged his English dress for the ochre-coloured garment, wore mala of tulasi beads, and put on the yellow U-shaped tilaka on the forehead, running down up to the bridge of the nose.
After some time Jnanendra Natha Cakravarti passed away. This marked the beginning of a new chapter in the life of Yasoda Ma. She retired to the Himalayas with Krsnaprema and her daughter Moti Rani, and established an asrama with a temple at Mirtola, some eighteen miles from Almora. The place around the asrama was called Uttara Vrndavana. In the temple of the asrama were installed two beautiful images of Krsna and Radha. In early days a pujari and a brahmin cook were engaged. But later Krsnaprema himself became both, pujari and cook. Both the duties were performed by him in orthodox ritualistic manner. He also collected the provisions by begging.
Krsnaprema's adherence to orthodox vaisnava practices was proverbial. Once a Bengali scientist and a friend said to him teasingly, "If my widowed grandmother followed all this ritualistic procedure, I could understand. But you have had such a different background. Back in your Cambridge days you must even have eaten plenty of beef. How is that you can observe such orthodox restrictions?"
Krsnaprema laughed and said, "I believe that any self-imposed discipline, external or internal, is rather a good thing in this present age, when every kind of social and individual restraint is being discarded. Besides this is the path laid down by those, who have gone before me and reached the goal. Who am I, just entering the path, to say, 'I will do this and not that, accept this discipline, but not that?' I accept the whole."
In course of time two other English friends of Krsnaprema joined him at Mirtola. One was Madhava Ashisha, who had come from England to serve as a ground engineer in the Second World War. When the war was over, he went for a brief holiday to the Himalayas. Somehow he heard about Krsnaprema. He went to see him one day and never returned. The other was Alec (Dr. R.D. Alexander), who resigned his post as chief surgeon of a Lucknow Hospital, accepted Ma as his guru and became a permanent member of the Mirtola Asrama.
Krsnaprema had completely surrendered himself at the feet of the Guru and thus opened himself to her grace, which descended upon him, not as rain drips, but as it falls in torrents from heaven. Ma herself once gave two examples of his complete surrender to her. She said, "When Gopala first wanted to accept me as his Guru, I told him: 'I can accept you only if you promise me that even if you don't have any more spiritual experiences for the rest of your life, you won't give up.' I knew, of course, that there was no chance of risk or failure, if he gave the pledge.
I only wanted him to bear it in mind that there must be no half-hearted acceptance, no condition, no bargaining that he must have this or that. He gave me the pledge and he accepted me in toto as a baby accepts his mother in spontaneous trust."
The other instance was a miracle that happened to him, a miracle, which could not have happened, if his surrender to the Guru was not complete.
An insect once bit his ankle, while he was meditating outside. It got septic and Alec and two other doctors, who were summoned, could not control it. It grew worse and worse till it became so critical that an amputation of the leg was suggested. It was then that Ma said, "He could be cured if he stopped all medicine and took only caranamrtam (water touched by the foot either of the Guru or the image of the Lord. In this case the water touched by Ma's toe every time). He consented at once, ignoring the doctor's misgivings, and was cured miraculously.
As to Krsnaprema's spiritual attainments, it should be enough to say that the little Lord Bala-Gopala had accepted him as His elder brother (Dada). Yasoda Ma had motherly affection towards Bala-Gopala. She also loved Krsnaprema as her son. In this way Krsnaprema was the elder brother of Bala-Gopala. Bala-Gopala not only had no objection to this relationship, He gladly accepted it, which is evident from what happened one night.
One night, while Krsnaprema was asleep, he heard someone calling, "Dada, dada!" With a start he looked all round, but could not see anyone. Thinking that it was an illusion he closed his eyes. But again he heard that sweet call "Dada!" This time it was quite clear that the call came from inside the temple.
But there was no one inside the temple except Thakura (the deity). Could it, therefore, be the call of the Thakura? He went near the temple. Again he heard - "Dada, I am feeling cold. The window is open."
A current shook his body. Hurriedly he opened the door of the temple, went in and closed the window. He covered Thakur's body carefully with the quilt. While doing so, he said, "Thakura, you also feel cold?"
A streak of tears flowed down the cheeks of Thakura!
Krsnaprema was petrified. He gasped out, "Ha Jhakura!" and wept. But controlling himself somehow he wiped the tears of Thakura with his bahirvasa (outer garment).
Thakura slept. But there was no sleep for Krsnaprema. Thakura had called him 'Dada', as if through this one word He had poured all his affection upon him. Could his small heart contain it? It was running out incessantly through his eyes in the form of tears.
There was reason for Krsnaprema's tears. But why did Thakura weep? Krsnaprema had simply asked him, "Do you also feel cold?"
To understand this it is necessary to understand the real nature of Thakura. Thakura, in His innermost self is Love (prema). Love, or prema, is the highest rasa (transcendental relish). So He is called Rasa — "raso vai sah." He is both, Rasa and Rasika (the enjoyer of rasa). The highest rasa He enjoys is the love (prema) or rather the loving service (prema-seva) of His bhakta. Therefore, the relationship between Him and His bhakta is integral. He is incomplete without His bhakta. In His innermost and real self He realizes Himself fully only in relation to the loving service of His bhakta. His siddha-bhaktas serve Him directly in His eternal abode, the transcendental Vrndavana. Sadhaka-bhaktas, who have not yet fully realized Him, do not have access to Him in transcendental Vrndavana. But Thakura, in order to satisfy His ever-growing desire to relish the loving service of His sadhaka-bhaktas, comes down to their plane in the form of His image. His descent in the form of His image is both an act of grace, and self-fulfilment. For in this form He also fulfills Himself by enjoying the loving service of His sadhaka-bhaktas. The bhakta bathes Him, feeds Him, decorates Him and sings or dances before Him with love, and He accepts his service with love and enjoys it. He enjoys it, because He has real craving for it.
No doubt craving implies incompleteness and the great Lord, who creates and destroys the universe, who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, has no want, no craving, no incompleteness in Him. But in this form, although He enjoys His aisvarya or lordliness, He does not enjoy the highest rasa that comes from the loving service of His bhaktas. In order to enjoy this rasa, He limits Himself and assumes a human form. In this form His aisvarya (lordliness) is completely eclipsed by His madhurya (sweetness), and He actually feels hungry and thirsty, cold and warmth and craves for all those things, which His devotees offer Him. If the devotees says or does anything, which is in conformity with this form, He relishes it to the extreme. If he says or does anything, which is not in conformity with it, He feels hurt in the innermost and the tendermost corner of His heart. Krsnaprema had hurt Him by asking whether He also felt cold and the only way in which He could answer His question adequately was by shedding tears.
Who could assess the value of the tears of the Thakura better than Krsnaprema? He tore off the corner of his bahirvasa, with which he had wiped His tears, and put it inside a silver amulet, which he wore close to his heart all the rest of his life.
As Krsnaprema's sadhana continued, his relationship with the deities in the temple became more and more intimate. The deities made him feel not only their living presence in the temple, but also their graceful acceptance of his loving service in different ways.
Once Krsnaprema cooked halava pudding and offered it to the deities. After the offering he came out of the temple, closed the door and, as usual, sat down to meditate along with the other inmates of the temple. While meditating he started suddenly and said, "Let us go and see if the Lord has actually taken the halava." As they opened the door of the temple, they were surprised to see that about half of the halava was scooped out by the Lord and they began to dance joyfully.
One day, after the deities were made to sleep, Krsnaprema came out of the temple and locked the door as usual. The next morning, when he opened the door, he was surprised to see Radharam's golden necklace round the neck of Krsna and Krsna's golden nupura (a tinkling ornament worn round the ankles) round the ankles of Radharanl.
At once he called the other inmates of the asrama and said, "See, our frolicsome Lord's amorous lila!"
Gradually Krsnaprema came so close to Radharani that She began to speak to him. An example of this is an interesting episode relating to one of Krsnaprema's disciples.
Sunila and his wife Arati were his disciples. They lived in Allahabad, but occasionally went to Mirtola to enjoy the company of Gurudeva. Once they became very impatient to go to Mirtola. But they did not have requisite money for railway fare. Arati suggested that they might sell her gold bangles. So they sold the gold bangles and went to Mirtola. One day, when Krsnaprema came out of the temple after the morning service, he had two gold bangles in his hand. He said to Arati affectionately, "Arati, would you tell me what you have done with your gold bangles?" Arati stood dazed and silent, looking towards the ground. Krsnaprema said with a smile, "I know everything. Radharani has told me that in your eagerness to come here you sold them, because you were short of money. She has given Her own gold bangles to me and said, 'Give them to Arati to wear. I do not like her hands without bangles." He gave the bangles to her. Lucky Arati! A shiver coursed down her spine. She was bewildered and so overwhelmed with bhava that she might have fainted. But somehow she controlled herself, bowed down to the Guru and washed his feet with her tears.
Krsnaprema generally passed his winters in Vrndavana in the company of his parama-gurudeva, Sri Balakrsna Gosvami. First he went to Vrndavana on February 18, 1931 with Ma. His visit created much excitement among people in Vrndavana, because he was the first European they saw in the form of a vaisnava, wearing mala of tulasi beads and tilaka and chanting Harinama. He was also the first European, who was allowed entry into the Radharamana temple. There was some opposition to this amongst the vaisnavas in the beginning, but it subsided, when they came to know that Krsnaprema was truly as devout a vaisnava as anyone else in Vrndavana. Not only this, the vaisnavas organized a meeting in his honour under the presidentship of Sri Banamali Lala Gosvami and conferred on him the title, 'Gaura-prema-nidhi,’ (ocean of love for Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu).
There was a secret behind the title which came to my knowledge from the diary of Sri Bala Krsna Gosvami. Krsnaprema did not regard Gauranga Mahaprabhu as an incarnation of Sri Krsna. He had pledged that although he was initiated into Mahaprabhu's sampradaya, he would not accept Mahaprabhu as identical with Krsna, until Krsna Himself made him do so. Krsna, who always dances to the tune of a sincere devotee, told him in a dream, "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the same as I." After this his love for Mahaprabhu increased by leaps and bounds and he really became Gaura-prema-nidhi, an ocean of love for Gauranga.
In 1944 the clouds of sadness cast their shadow over Uttara-Vrndavana. Yasoda Ma passed away, Krsnaprema was hit by a thunderbolt.
But Ma never kept her Gopala away from her eyes even after her passing away. That day when Krsnaprema returned to the asrama after cremating Ma's body near Dandesvara water-fall, he was too tired and slept till late at night. Towards the end of night he heard Ma's voice: "Gopala, you are still asleep. Get up, it's time for bhajana" After a little pause she said again, "Gopala, rest assured, I always live near you, as I did before."
Krsnaprema got up with a start and looking all round with tears in his eyes said, "If you are so near Ma, why can't I see you? Will I never see you again?"
"No Baba, you continue your sadhana. You will draw near me step by step and ultimately meet me here in this cinmaya (transcendental) Vrndavana."
That Ma was always near Krsnaprema to guide him even after her death, and Krsnaprema sought her advice whenever he thought it necessary, is evident from one incident. Once, after Ma's passing away, when Krsnaprema had gone to Vrndavana, Motirani and Dr. Govindagopala Mukhopadhyaya of Varanasi were also with him. He received a telegram from his old friend, Dr. Govindagopal's elder brother, requesting him to go to him in Vaidyanatha Dhama before returning to Mirtola. When he was conferring with Motirani and Govindagopala as to whether he should go to Vaidyanatha or not, all of a sudden he got up and said, "Wait a minute." He went inside his room. Returning after some time he said, "Ma has bidden, 'Go at once to Mirtola. Your presence there is necessary.’"
Immediately he left for Mirtola. On reaching there he found that the pujari, whom he had entrusted the seva (service) of Thakura in his absence, had gone. If he had not reached there that day, Thakura would have had to fast.
In 1948 Krsnaprema set out on pilgrimage to the South. He visited Maharsi Ramana's Asrama in Tiruvannamalai, where he had a typical and revealing experience.
When he entered the hall, where the Maharsi reclined daily on his coach, he sat down in silence, along with the others to meditate at his feet. But as soon as he sat down, he heard a voice, questioning him again and again: "Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?" He tried hard to ignore it, but it went on and on like an importunate visitor, knocking at the door. So in the end he just had to formulate an answer: "I am Krsna's servant." At once the question changed into "Who is Krsna?" He answered: "Nanda's son." But the questioning went on pauselessly. He thought of other answers like — "He is an Avatara, the One in all, the Resident of every heart" and so on... But the questioning would not cease, till at last he gave it up, left the hall and returned, deeply disturbed, to meditate. But he had no peace. The voice gave him no respite, till, in the end, he had to evoke Radharani.
Radharani revealed the answer to him. She said: "Nothing exists besides Krsna. So how can He be described? You can only say that 'Krsna is Krsna!'"
Next morning, when Krsnaprema sat down again at Maharsi's feet, the Maharsi gave him a lightening glance and smiled. He understood that he was behind all that questioning. Then as he closed his eyes to meditate, a delectable peace descended upon him. He put a question to the Maharsi in silence: "And who are you, may I humbly ask?" As he put this question, he had to open his eyes involuntarily to see that the coach was empty. He closed his eyes once again and opened the next moment to see that he was seated on the coach as before. Obviously his disappearance implied that he was beyond nama-rupa (name and form) and this was the only way in which he could answer the question from his point of view and realization as a jnani.
The silent conversation, that took place between the two great souls, highlights the distinction between the jnani and the bhakta. The jnani swims in an ocean of negative peace and tranquility, which is empty, colourless and motionless, the bhakta swims freely in an ocean of love and bliss that throbs with life and sports of the great Lord, the concentrated form of all beauty, love and goodness.
From Tiruvannamalai Krsnaprema went to Srirangama. He had a wonderful experience in the Srirangama temple. As soon as he prostrated himself before the Lord's image, he lost outer consciousness and saw a vast ocean made of liquid light. Then there was a ripple in the ocean and countless white lotuses erupted on its blue waves, one after another and on each flower stood a lovely Krsna with Radha, Radha smiling and Krsna playing His magic flute! Krsnaprema shivered and tears flowed from his eyes as he saw this.
Krsnaprema once said, "If we want to reach the goal, the Eternal, we have to steer the boat straight out and across to the other shore." His boat had now reached very near the other shore. On November 14, 1965 it reached the destination, the Eternal Vrndavana, where Radha and Krsna must have been waiting impatiently to give him a warm welcome.
Krsnaprema had many Western admirers and disciples, but the number of Indians, who lighted their torches at his flame, was much greater. There are many Indian gurus, at whose feet we can see sitting many foreign disciples, but he was, perhaps, the only foreigner of his time, at whose feet we could see sitting many Indian disciples. By imbibing the teaching of the great rsis of India and living according to it he had reawakened and intensified in them the awareness of their own spiritual inheritance. His three books "Search for Truth," "Yoga of Bhagavat-gita" and "Yoga of Kathopanisad," still draw discerning seekers, who feel the need for guidance in their search for the Eternal and the Blissful.
Krsnaprema emphasized that there are two things necessary for reaching the Goal — unflinching faith and self-surrender at the feet of Sri Guru and the Lord. He defined faith as "the light which the higher personality sends to the lower." It is one's firm conviction about the Eternal, which keeps the flame of aspiration alive amidst the darkness of doubt and despair. He wrote, "I keep a whole collection of doubts, grow them in fact like mustard and cress, and when they are ripe, I eat them up."
He defined self-surrender (saranagati) as "the offering of the mortal (ahuti) in the pure flame of the immortal." Self-offering must be total and unconditional. It involves, "the staking of everything that does not matter for the One Thing that matters and the complete replacement of the ego by Krsna's will."