Sri Sri Prapanna Jivanamrtam - Positive and Progressive Immortality, a Sanskrit
devotional treatise on the subject of Divine Surrender by Srila Sridhar Maharaj, has
become a standard text-book for devotees everywhere. "This is the first book of to
read - and it is also the last," says Srila Govinda Maharaj in
Chapter 4 of his book, Golden Reflections, which is condensed
here. "If you read this book carefully, you will get everything. It is divided into
the six kinds of saranagati, or surrender, and many examples are given from the
scriptures as well as from the devotees' lives. Everything is covered here, and if you
read it minutely you must stand in the plane of dedication. It is a very valuable
book." And in an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Sermons of the
Guardian of Devotion, Volume III, Srila Sridhar Maharaj tells us what inspired him to
compose this book.
But by the time the Western devotees came to Srila Guru Maharaj, he could not wait, and therefore he expressed his fourth lesson. For example, he expressed the explanation of the Gayatri Mantram - gayatry-artha-viniryyasam gita-gudhartha-gauravam - which previously no one had done widely. Srila Guru Maharaj's conception is very high, and he gave that Gayatri explanation in the last chapter of his life. But it is also necessary to know his previous presentation. We can receive that from his book Sri Sri Prapanna Jivanamrtam. We must take this scripture into our hearts and then we shall be able to understand the other things. The first stage for us has been given by Srila Guru Maharaj there.
Everything is there, including the very highest things, but mainly there is one theme: saranagati, or surrender. The first thing is saranagati. The fully surrendered soul can understand everything, and this is shown in Sri Sri Prapanna Jivanamrtam along with many examples. If we can think in that way, and try to proceed in that way, then no problems will come to us. In the middle stage is Srila Guru Maharaj's Srimad Bhagavad Gita explanation. There are some sections in particular, where Srila Guru Maharaj gave high explanations; especially worth mentioning are verses 9:30-31 and 10:9-10. And in his last manifest Pastimes Srila Guru Maharaj gave, amongst other things, his Rig Mantram explanation of Gayatri.
Srila Guru Maharaj expressed to me, "Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad gave me the property and Nityananda Prabhu ordered me: 'You must try to give this to others,' therefore lastly I am trying to do so. Also others including Candidas, Vidyapati and Narottama Thakur expressed some high conceptions. Who is able to understand shall understand it in future, but what I have I want to express now." That was Srila Guru Maharaj's desire and in that way he gave such high conceptions. But if someone tries to read the fourth lesson without first reading from the beginning the first, second, and third lessons, then that will be very difficult - and that can also be harmful.
When I tried, by the order of Srila Guru Maharaj, to read the Harinamamrta Vyakarana in order to learn Sanskrit, there was one book, Amarakosa, the meaning of which I could not understand. Nobody can understand its meaning at first because it is only a book of words, a selection of words. It lists the main names of Vishnu, of Indra, and so many main alternative names of others. Everything in heaven has so many names, not just a single name, and Srila Guru Maharaj instructed me, "You must memorize it otherwise you will not be able to read or write Sanskrit, because you will not be able to understand its meaning." To only memorize names without any meanings is very hard for me, but those first lessons are necessary. Recently I saw that book and was reminded of this.
Therefore it is necessary to complete the first lesson, the second lesson, and the third lesson - then it is possible to understand the fourth lesson. Srila Guru Maharaj gave those first three lessons in Sri Sri Prapanna Jivanamrtam, as well as the fourth lesson. If you read this book carefully, you will get everything.
Srila Guru Maharaj has given the meaning of saranagati in this book. In verse 1:35 in particular, he says:
bhagavad-bhaktitah sarvam, ity utsrjya vidher api"Being governed by the faith that all success is achieved by serving the Supreme Lord, to abandon servitude even to scriptural injunctions and take exclusive refuge in the lotus feet of Sri Krishna in every time, place, and circumstance, is known as saranagati - unconditional surrender."
kainkaryam krsna-padaika, srayatvam saranagatih
What is saranagati? It is bhagavad-bhaktitah sarvvam. It is not even necessary to serve any other god or demigod, but only through service to Krishna we can get everything. Therefore we must take shelter at the lotus feet of Krishna. Service to Krishna can give us everything, and this type of faith is called saranagati. If you can memorize just one sloka, or verse, and put that in your heart, then from this one sloka you will get everything ever given in any scripture.
I tried before to know, in one sentence, what is saranagati. We know that saranagati is surrender, but that is not sufficient. Therefore I asked Srila Guru Maharaj. He replied, "Have you not read Prapanna Jivanamrtam?"
I said, "Yes Maharaj, I have, but is the explanation there?" Then he quoted the above sloka, and this is the main thing. There are six kinds of saranagati. In Prapanna Jivanamrtam this is explained and in each case there are examples and expressions of the feelings of other devotees. If you read this book you can understand. There Srila Guru Maharaj explains the subject very clearly and very nicely. Saranagati is the first thing - and saranagati is the last thing. If you want to enter into transcendental knowledge you must first take shelter of saranagati. This is the first lesson and this is the last lesson.
Everything is covered in this book, and if you read it minutely you must stand in the plane of dedication. Many examples are given there from the scriptures as well as from the devotees' lives. It is a very valuable book. It is not necessary to have gone through Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita before reading it. This is the first book of to read - and it is also the last. Srimad Bhagavad Gita, of course, is also the first and last book to read, but there are many things in there that are mixed in with bhakti, or devotion.
In Prapanna Jivanamrtam only bhakti is found, and nothing else. But in the Gita there are description about karma, yoga, jnana, and many other things; that is why everybody likes it. The karmis like it, the terrorists it, the yogis like it, Mahatma Gandhi liked it, Jawaharlal Nehru liked it - everybody likes the Bhagavad Gita! The reason is that they each receive something from it to fulfill their own purpose. But in Sri Sri Prapanna Jivanamrtam, everything that is included is only for the purpose of devotion - the relationship between Krishna and the jiva. It is a very pure devotional book.
Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj said to his sister: "This Prapanna Jivanamrtam is a very important and nice book. You have money, so please you spend some money for the printing of this book." Her name was Bhavini Didi. We called her Pishima or "Madan's Mother," and it was she who subsequently gave the money for the first printing of this book.
Another of the very high type of slokas in this book, is verse 4:3 by Sri Kulasekhara:
nastha dharme na vasu-nicaye naiva kamopabhoge"O Lord, I have no faith in religiosity, economic development, or sense enjoyment. May all these things come to pass as they are ordained according to my previous karma. But my earnest prayer is that birth after birth I may have unflinching devotion for Your lotus feet."
yad yad bhavyam bhavatu bhagavan purva-karmanurupam
etat prarthyam mama bahu-matam janma-janmantare 'pi
tvat padambhoruha-yuga-gata niscala bhaktir astu
It is not very difficult to understand what Krishna-bhakti is, but what is necessary is the mood of surrender. If you surrender you can understand everything; if you do not fully surrender then many difficulties will come. There is no difficulty for the surrendered soul.
sad anga saranagati haibe yanhara / tanhara prarthana sune sri nanda-kumara"If you want Nanda Kumar, you must have this six-fold saranagati." [The six limbs of saranagati are: acceptance of the favorable; rejection of the unfavorable; full confidence in the Lord's protection; embracing the Lord's guardianship; full self-surrender; and surrender in humility.]
I wanted to culture that, so at that time, after coming to live alone I recollected all I had imbibed in my Math life, and also consulted about saranagati in Hari Bhakti Vilasa, in Srila Jiva Goswami's Bhakti Sandarbha, and in the Ramanuja Sampradaya's writings. I then tried to collect it all together and arrange it in a particular way as I thought best. In this way I began to write the book Sri Sri Prapanna Jivanamrtam, that it may also help others who might come in such a position as mine. That was the real reason.
The title Sri Sri Prapanna Jivanamrtam means, prapannanam, jivane, amrta-svarupam: "The nectar in the life of the surrendered souls." This was my conception from the beginning: prapanna-jivanamrta. Those who have come to take this, to feel it, this will be like nectar to them. To those who have surrendered, it will be nectar to them, but others, the ordinary people, may not appreciate it.
It will be the nectar in the life of those who have surrendered, those who have the real adhikara, or the proper qualified standard of faith to receive it. Srila Jiva Goswami wrote, "Those who have faith in the Veda, in Srimad Bhagavatam and such things, they are to read this book; otherwise, I put a curse, that those who do not have such faith should not come to read my book." Jiva Goswami has written in such a way: "You unbelievers won't come to touch my book. You who are unbelievers, it is not meant for you! It is only for those who have faith in such things. Others are discarded. You - the ordinary public - are discarded. You must not touch my book because you will misunderstand it."
This is also a custom of proper behavior. If one ventures to read such things, at least he must approach with some caution, and not with the mood of curiosity, "Oh, why does he say this?" for that will be dangerous. So, adhikari nirnaya. Whoever will come to read the Veda, if he has not attained the standard, he will misunderstand, or mutilate it. Paroksa-vado vedo 'yam / balanam anusasanam [Srimad Bhagavatam - 11:3:44]. "The Vedic purport is presented in an indirect, veiled manner, in order to instruct undisciplined, childishly foolish persons."
In his Uttara Mimamsa of the Vedanta Sutra, Vedavyasa has written athato brahma-jijnasa. Sri Shankaracharya says that in relation to this aphorism - athato - means anantaram, "after this." After what? "After one has attained sama, dama, titiksa, all these qualifications. One who has qualities such as having controlled his senses and his mental speculations [sama, dama], has a very tolerant and persevering spirit [titiksa], and so on, he will come to study this book. After he has acquired a certain grade in such qualities, he will come to study this. It is not for the ordinary people who will misunderstand, misinterpret, and mutilate it, thus creating trouble in society." So for the benefit of society Shankaracharya says that only such persons will come, and they will gain a clear and proper understanding. They will then preach that to the public in particular installments, and all will be benefitted thereby.
Ramanuja says, "No, athato does not mean that - athato means, "after finishing the Purva Mimamsa of Jaimini." There is purva-mimamsa [primary teaching] and uttara-mimamsa [higher teaching]. So, after one has finished the course of purva-mimamsa, that is, niskama varnasrama-dharma, he will then come to understand the study of this uttara-mimamsa. When he has finished successfully the karmadhikara, he will come to enter into jnanadhikara, and that will be beneficial to him." This is Ramanuja's opinion.
And Baladeva Vidyabhusan says, "Whoever he may be, whether a karmi, or jnani, 'atha' means he must have sat-sanga, sadhu-sanga. From any position, if he can get the association of a proper sadhu, he is qualified to study this book and he will understand the real meaning."
So everywhere there is consideration of adhikar, that is, yogyata, or "fitness." One must acquire the standard of qualification, and have healthy association, then he can try to understand that particular plane.