Meaning of Vyäsa-püjä
by His Grace Shri Vrindavanchandra Das
Since time immemorial, pilgrims who go to the River Ganges for purification stand half submerged in her waters. In a mood of devotion, they take palmfuls of the Ganga’s own water and, with supplication and prayers, offer it back to her. Similarly, those who have received the mercy of guru, for their own purification, gather that mercy, which is the be-all and end-all of their life, and offer it back to him, feeling that they have no other possession to give him.
Çréla Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura has written, çré guru caraëakamala bhaja man, guru-kåpä vinä nahi koi sädhana bal, bhaja man bhaja anukñan: “O mind, just worship the lotus feet of Çré Guru! Without the mercy of the guru there is no power to execute the regulative practices of bhakti. Therefore, O mind, just worship him at every moment.”
Due to the distraction of the illusory energy, a devotee may find himself bereft of the opportunity of such constant service and remembrance; therefore, once a year, on the anniversary of the guru’s appearance, the disciples gather together and offer worship, prayers, and obeisances. This function is known as Vyäsa-püjä.
Çréla Vyäsadeva, the literary incarnation of God, composed the Vedic scriptures and specifically the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, the essence of all truths, and through his disciplic succession that knowledge has been transmitted. The bona fide guru who is thus empowered to receive knowledge in this line is offered this ceremony of Vyäsa-püjä and may also sit on the vyäsäsana.
In the sixteenth century, Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu and Çré Nityänanda Prabhu churned the ocean of pure devotional service and brought forth the means of deliverance for the conditioned souls of the Kali-yuga: Their divine saìkértana-chanting the holy names of the Lord.
It was the desire of Caitanya Mahäprabhu that the saìkértana-yajïa should be propagated throughout the whole world. He empowered His devotees to assist Him in various ways. To teach His philosophy of bhakti, Çré Nitäi went to Bengal; in Puré there were Rämänanda Räya and Svarüpa Dämodara, and the Gosvämés were sent to Våndävana and deputed to write books on bhakti-yoga. Kåñëadäsa Kaviräja, Våndävana däsa Öhäkura, Lokanätha Gosvämé, and other contemporaries wrote about Mahäprabhu’s life and precepts. Following them, Çréniväsa Äcärya, Narottama däsa Öhäkura, Viçvanätha Cakravarté Öhäkura, and others throughout the centuries continued the tradition. But all these great äcäryas stayed within the confines of Bhärata-varña (India), and thus the mercy of Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu lay bound up within the lotus bud of Vraja-Gauramaëdalabhümi, not reaching the far shores of the päçcätya-deçap (Western countries).
At the dawning of the modern world, Öhäkura Bhaktivinoda conceived of furthering the teachings of Caitanya Mahäprabhu by writing some treatises on bhakti-yoga in English. This was further nurtured by his son Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Gosvämé, who became the most bold and erudite Vaiñëava scholar of his time. And then it was that Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté gave Çréla Prabhupäda the order to preach and print books in English, and thus through Çréla Prabhupäda’s lifetime of intense devotion and dedication, the lotus bud of Mahäprabhu’s mercy unfurled, and only now is it complete, as the holy name of the Lord is being spread to every town and village.
For this reason, Çréla Prabhupäda is the most unique and beloved guru of the entire sampradäya in the line of Caitanya Mahäprabhu.
The divine characteristics of such a person as Çréla Prabhupäda are revealed by Bhaktivinoda Öhäkura in his song Çré guru-caraë kamal bhaja mana:
kåñëa-kåpä ki änanda måti dénanan kauna nidhän
jïäna-bhakti prema tina prakäçata
çruti småti aurapuräna mahi kinho spañta pramäëa
tana mana jévana pade arpane sadä harinäma rattan
“Çré Gurudeva is the personification of the bliss of Kåñëä’s mercy. He is the storehouse of compassion for the poor and suffering souls. He reveals divine knowledge, pure devotion, and ecstatic love of God, and he is the saviour of the fallen souls. Therefore, offer your body, mind, and very life at the feet of Çré Guru, Srila Prabhupada, and always chant the divine name of Çré Hari.”