I bow to Shri Vitthaladhish, who is swarthy as well as golden in color. He is most beloved and nourishes the vraja gopis as well as those who have total love and refuge.
The non-dual Brahmavad philosophy that proclaims Brahman's form is also known as the Pushti Marg or the Blessed Path of Grace and was revealed by Jagatguru Shrimad Vallabhacharya. The beloved followers of the Blessed Path have throughout the history of the lineage maintained an unbroken tradition of daily having the good association with the stories of the bhaktas. It is a very important part of satsang.
Shri Vitthalnathji's fourth son, Shri Gokulnathji, has revealed through his lotus mouth the stories of the 84 and 252 Vaishnavas. There accounts are a fruit in themselves and were recited before gatherings of bhaktas. Later Shri Hariraya Mahaprabhu expanded on the inner meanings of the stories and revealed the essence of the devotional mood with his commentary on the stories called the Bhava Prakash. With Shri Hariraya Mahaprabhu's grace and commentary we are able to appreciate the depth of the devotional subject.
A wick simply placed in a clay bowl of oil will not ignite unless it is lit. Only when the wick is ignited will it produce light. In a similar way, the inner meanings of Shri Gokulnathji's words have been revealed and ignited by Shri Harirayaji's Bhava Prakash commentary. The stories of the bhakta's lives presented in this book will enlighten present day practitioners who follow the Path of Grace.
Some Bhaktas were rich, some old or penniless while others were kings or even sannyasis. Within these stories of the bhaktas, we find all the various modes of worship. Through the study, recitation and satsang of these accounts, one can understand the teachings of the lineage as well as the inner devotional mood. They easily reveal the devotional practice, the modes of the worship as well as the behaviour of the bhaktas. Bhaktas should have daily association with the 84 and 252 Vaishnavas and should also review the Nij and Gharu accounts as well as the Amazing story of Shri Nathji.
Bad association should be abandoned and we should recognize the excellence of satsang, the association of other bhaktas. Shri Hariraya Mahaprabhu advises us that one's entire life is wasted if bad association is not renounced.
Throughout his Shiksha Patra (Fourty-one letters), Shri Hariraya Mahaprabhu has spoken about the importance of satsang. It is through satsang that God's form becomes firmly established in the heart. Shri Vallabhacharya enlightens, "The only practice that pleases Hari is the bhakta's humility." The lives of the bhaktas should never be considered in a mundane manner nor should the moods of devotional service that are revealed in their accounts ever be judged in a worldly way. With balanced behaviour and thought, absorb the teachings of the bhakta's follow the commands of Guru and Bhagavan and serve Hari, Guru and the Vaishnavas.
Shyamdas, with Tulsi's editing assistance, has translated the lives of the 252 Vaishnavas from Braja Bhasha into English. Through their translation the teachings of bhavas and seva practices of the Path of Grace can be understood in an easy, pleasant and natural way. It is my heartfelt wish that devotion may increase in the hearts of those who read these stories. Blessings.
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