The famous sannyasi named Bilvamangala Thakura is also known as Lilasuka. Suka means “parrot”. This name is said to have been given by his guru Somagiri on account of his merit in describing the loving lila or sports of Sri Krsna. There seems to have been more than one person of the name of Bilvamangala but we are concerned with the author of Krsnakarnamrta. The history of Bilvamangala Thakura is given in a book called Sri Vallabha Digvijaya. He appeared in the eighth century Saka era in the province of Dravida and was the chief disciple of Visnusvami. It is evident that Bilvamangala belonged to the Visnusvami sect, because neither the Ramanuja sect nor the Madhva sect had yet come into being. In a list of temples and monasteries kept in Sankaracarya’s monastery in Dvaraka, Bilvamangala Thakura is mentioned as the founder of the Dvarakadhisa Temple there. He entrusted the service of his deity to Hari Brahmacari, a disciple of Vallabha Bhatta. The worship of Padmanabha at Trivandrum was offered the first worship by Bilvamangala. The fact that Bilvamangala was at first a Sankarite follower before his conversion into Vaisnavism may be gathered from his own writing. During this period from before Sankara, Vaisnavism was making headway in the south under the active patronage of King Kulasekhara of Kerala, who was the author of the immortal Vaisnava poem Mukunda-mala-stotra. Bilvamangala’s conversion to Vaisnavism was quite possible in an age of religious revival, when the disciples of Sankara founded the maths at Trichur dedicated to Lord Visnu in His manifestation of Parthasarathi and Narasimha. The memory of Bilvamangala is still fresh at Trichur and other parts of the Kerala state.
Krsnadasa Kaviraja (16th century) by way of explaining ther first sloka of the Karnamrta, records the traditional account of the life of our poet in his commentary Sarangarangada. According to Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami the composer of Karnamrta was first given worldly attachments; then he cultivated kevala-jnana or contemplation of impersonality of Brahman; and thereafter he turned out to be a very close devotee of Lord Krsna. Born in a brahmin family in South India, he is said to have been a renowned scholar and lived on the eastern bank of the holy river Krsna-Venna in South India. He had an illicit love affair with a dancing girl who was a musician and harlot named Cintamani, who used to live on the opposite bank of the river Krsna-Venna, and whom he used to visit every night. One stormy night, finding no boat, he risked his life to cross the terrible river by floating on a corpse that lay on the surface of the stream. But, to his disappointment, he found the gate of the prostitute’s house was bolted from within. He shouted her name with all his might, but it was of no avail. His cries were deadened in the deafening thunder, boisterous winds and torrential rains which were beating on the windows and walls. What was to be done? Nothing could daunt his morbid passion which should be satisfied even at the cost of his life. He was then as a devil incarnate. The walls were too high and steep to scale. The weather-beaten but passionate Bilvamangala made a last desperate attempt to climb the steep wall. Having nothing else to hold on to, he seized the tail of a snake, which clung to the wall, and succeeded in leaping over but fell heavily to the ground on the other side of the wall bringing Cintamani to the spot. In what was practically a dying condition, he was discovered by his love for whom, for the sake of a frantic infatuation, he had risked his life. Had she not found and nursed him, it is certain he would have died. She carried him into the room and there nursed him tenderly as he hung between life and death. She, seeing his mad love for her, felt a pinch in her conscience and reminded him that such an intense love, if offered to God, might lead them to their highest good. When he recovered consciousness, she pitied and abused him for his fool hardy venture, saying, “What a great fool you are! Shame on your learning! I know and I am always conscious of my own wicked life and profession. Had you been attached to God in the way you love me, you would have been an angel.” It sounded like a call of God to Bilvamangala, who had existed in a circle of hell. The whole face of things was instantly changed, so inspiring were her words at that great moment. To him, those words of hers were not merely a reprieve, but a total deliverance from his hateful life, a restoration that suffused his whole being. Her grim censure proved wholesome to the remorseful Bilvamangala; changed the whole course of his life, giving it a swift turn into spiritual channels. With this she too renounced the world, giving up all her fortunes, and as such she became Bilvamangala’s vartma-pradarsaka guru or his guru showing him the way to the highest well being. The very next day he renounced the world and began the most severe asceticism, being initiated by his guru Somagiri. From this sannyasi guru, Somagiri, Bilvamangala learnt practices for self-control and concentration of the mind and also got Gopal-mantra. Later however, Bilvamangala once desired to enjoy the beautiful wife of a brahmana. But while in her company he became disgusted with himself for his lusty desire. Blaming his eyes for diverting him from his spiritual quest, Bilvamangala took the beautiful woman’s hairpins and pierced his eyes.
In his early life, Bilvamangala Thakura was an impersonalist monist, and he used to meditate on the brahman effulgence. Later he became a devotee, and the reason for this change is explained in a verse that he himself wrote, and which was quoted by Srila Rupa Gosvami in his book Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (3.1.44.). advaita-vithi-pathikair upasyah svananda-simhasana-labdha-diksah \ sathena kenapi vayam hathena dasi-krta gopa-vadhu-vitena. “Although I was worshiped by those on the path of monism and initiated into self-realization through the yoga system, I am nonetheless forcibly turned into a maidservant by some cunning boy who is always joking with the gopis. (CC Madhya 10.177-178).
His devotional spirit that had been acquired in his previous life or lives, but was up to now latent, now became manifest. He composed these slokas about the Vrndavana-lila of Krsna while offering service to his guru, and seeing these, Somagiri gave him the appelation “Lilasuka” and permitted him, at his desire, to go on pilgrimage to Sri Vrndavana. Then he traveled to Vrndavana and composed beautiful songs about Krsna, whom, although he was rendered blind, he could see with spiritual vision. On his way, his love intoxication became intensive and he became extremely impatient. It was Krsna himself who added to his love intoxication and thus became his siksa-guru towards the acquirement of the climax of love intensity. He intensely desired to enter into the eternal pastimes of the Lord, and he lived at Vrndavan for 700 years in the vicinity of Brahma-kunda, a still existing bathing tank in Vrndavan. In the Krsna-karnamrta, he specifically mentions Bhagavan, Krsna the cowherd boy who has peacock feathers on His crown, as his instructing spiritual master because the Lord of Vrndavana used to come to Bilvamangala and talk with him and supply him with milk. One time when Krsna was walking with him they were holding hands…
He lived for some time at Vrndavana after his initiation. He is said to have composed his poem when he was still at Vrndavana, and on the way from there to his native province.
Bilvamangala actually entered into the transcendental pastimes of Lord Krsna. He has recorded his transcendental experiences and appreciation in the book known as Krsna-karnamrta. Karnamrta means “nectar for the ears.” 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 in Cintamani, who was his instructing spiritual master because she first showed him the spiritual path. The prostitute Cintamani deserves commemoration for having saved him from death, both physical and moral, and presenting him to literature and to the world of Vaisnavas, It was God who was mysteriously preparing him for a world where sins and lusts are unknown. God lifted him out of the slough of earthly sin through the instrumentality of Cintamani whom Bilvamangala has immortalised in the the first sloka of his Krsna-karnamrta, ana makes obeisances to her who, in the character of a harlot, showed him the way to the kingdom of God. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu acquired this one sataka of the three satakas of Krsna-karnamrta from the south of India. He heard it recited at a gathering of brahmana Vaisnava panditas on the bank of the river Krsna. He was so charmed to hear of the sweetness and grace of Krsna’s divine love sports which compose the subject matter that He kept a copy of it with great care and enthusiasm. Sri Caitanya told Ramananda Raya that His devotional principle is just the same as that found in Krsna-karnamrta. Krsnadasa Kaviraja says that there is no book like the Karnamrta in the whole of the threefold world. He who reads it incessantly knows the depth of the charming beauty of Sri Krsna.
yei yei sloka jayadeva, bhagavate
rayera natake, yei ara karnamrte
sei sei bhave sloka kariya pathane
sei sei bhavanese karena asvadane
“When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu read the verses of Jayadeva’s Gita-govinda, of Srimad-Bhagavatam, of Ramananda Raya’s dram Jagannatha-vallabha-nataka, and of Bilvamangala Thakura’s Krsna-karnamrta, He was overwhelmed by the various ecstatic emotions of those verses. Thus He tasted their purports.” (CC Antya 20.67-68)
karnamrta, vidyapati, sri-gita-govinda
ihara sloka-gite prabhura karaya ananda
“The Lord especially liked to hear Bilvamangala Thakura’s Krsna-karnamrta, the poetry of Vidyapati and Sri Gita-govinda by Jayadeva Gosvami. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu felt great pleasure in His hear when His associates chanted verses from those books.” (CC Antya 15.27).
Raya Ramananda, Vasudeva Datta Thakura and others made copies of it for their personal use. It has, since then, been regarded as the very best kind of devotion in the Gaudiya Vaisnava community. We are only discussing the first Sataka of 112 verses of the Krsnakarnamrta which Sri Caitanya recited, and which is the most popular in Bengal.
The complete treatise Krsna-karnamrta is dedicated to the transcendental pastimes of Sri Krsna and Srimati Radharani. It is a book to be read and understood by the most elevated devotees of Sri Krsna.
This Forum is dedicated only to stories and pastimes of Krishna and His devotees
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