In 1951 or 1952, paramārādhya Śrīla Gurudeva had gone to the border region of Sundaravana in Bengal before Śrī Dhāma Navadvīpa parikramā to preach śuddha-bhakti, to invite faithful people to join the parikramā, and to collect provisions for the parikramā. One day Śrī Gurudeva was taking us with him to the house of a faithful devotee when he encountered Jyoti Bābū with some of his followers. Jyoti Bābū, who later became the chief minister of Bengal, was at that time the main chairman of the Communist party of Bengal. As a leader of the opposition party, he had come to investigate the condition of the flooded land in the border region. When he saw Śrī Gurudeva dressed in saffron cloth and carrying his tridaṇḍa, he stopped and asked in a very arrogant way, “From where are you coming?”
Śrī Gurudeva replied politely, “We are from Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti in Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma.”
Jyoti Bābū: Have you come to inspect the state of the flooded area and show sympathy for the people?
Gurudeva: We have come to preach pure vaiṣṇava-dharma for the eternal welfare of the living entities, and to collect some provisions for Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā.
Jyoti Bābū: Can’t you see that the lives of these people have been thrown into turmoil by the terrible flood? Their crops have been ruined, and village after village has been submerged. They are expecting help from others for food and clothing, yet you have come to beg alms from these very people?
Gurudeva: The flood has come? Where is it? So far the cigarette at your lips has not been extinguished, so where is the flood? Dear Sir, this flood is not the real flood. We have come here to extinguish the fire of devastation that is afflicting the jīvas birth after birth, and to protect the living beings from the real flood waters, which come at the time of the universal inundation.
We have come here so that those jīvas who are averse to Kṛṣṇa may attain their natural condition of everlasting happiness. A living entity can never be happy as long as he does not adopt the principles of dharma in his life and as long as he does not worship Bhagavān. Atheistic life is animal life. You are going to ruin Bengal and India completely by accepting the conception of Western civilization.
Jyoti Bābū: We do not believe in the Vedic scriptures. We believe in hard work. Work (karma) is life, work is God. It is because of people like you that this country has gone to hell. You people should do some work yourselves and then give instructions about work. Begging alms is the occupation of cowards.
Gurudeva: It is atheists like you who have caused the devastation of India. India was happier and more civilized than the other countries of the world as long as her politics were governed by dharma and her people were faithful and religious. In ancient times stalwarts like Hiraṇyakaśipu, Rāvaṇa, Duryodhana and Kaṁsa were far greater advocates of karma than you are, but the scriptures recount how they all came to an abominable end. More recently, we have heard of Alexander the Great and Napoleon and in modern times champions of karma like Hitler, Mussolini and Lenin. Have you not observed their miserable fate? There is no place in India for atheists like Cārvāka and others. India is the country of sanātana-dharma. No one can vanquish this sanātana-dharma, no matter how influential he may be. A day will come when you will not even have the opportunity to repent.
When Jyoti Bābū heard Gurudeva’s answer, he was at a loss for words. He promptly departed in a tantrum, accompanied by his followers.
Śrī Gurudeva was a fearless speaker of the impartial truth. Before his powerful arguments, even the most proficient logicians used to bow their heads in defeat.
Śrī Gurudeva and the alms received
Once (in around 1951) Śrīla Gurudeva stayed at Śrī Uddhāraṇa Gauḍīya Maṭha, which was the headquarters of Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti at that time. From there he went out and preached śuddha-bhakti everywhere. The sevā and pūjā in the Maṭha, as well as Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā and other activities, used to run on whatever alms came from madhukarī. Before Śrī Dhāma Navadvīpa parikramā, I [the author] went with parama-pūjyapāda Śrī Śrīmad Nārasiṁha Mahārāja to Śrī Rāmapura and other towns near Kolkata to preach and beg alms.
After preaching and performing bhikṣā for fifteen days we returned to Śrī Uddhāraṇa Gauḍīya Maṭha, having collected a total of two hundred and fifty rupees, which at that time was a large sum of money. As soon as I arrived, I offered my praṇāma at paramārādhyatama Śrīla Gurudeva’s lotus feet. After giving his blessings, he asked, “How was the preaching?”
“The preaching went very well,” I replied. “We collected about two hundred and fifty rupees.” Gurujī was very pleased. Some time later pūjyapāda Nārasiṁha Mahārāja came before Gurujī, offered his praṇāma and put the donation in Gurujī’s hand. Śrī Gurudeva asked, “How much is it?”
“Two hundred and twenty-five rupees,” replied pūjyapāda Nārasiṁha Mahārāja.
“Where are the remaining twenty-five rupees?” asked Śrīla Gurudeva.
“I have kept some rupees for my personal expenses,” replied Mahārāja.
“Bring those donated rupees right now and give them to me,” said Śrī Gurudeva.
Śrīpāda Nārasiṁha Mahārāja was somewhat angry and said, “Can’t we keep even a few rupees for our immediate expenses?”
“First please kindly give them to me.”
Pūjyapāda Mahārāja somewhat resentfully went to his bhajana-kuṭī, brought back the remaining twenty-five rupees, and threw them down in front of Śrīla Gurudeva. Gurujī picked up the money, counted it and then returned those very same rupees.
“If you are just going to return them, then what was the point in taking them in the first place?” asked Śrīpāda Nārasiṁha Mahārāja.
Śrī Gurudeva became quite grave and said, “The food and wealth of sensuous people contains poison which ordinary people cannot digest. It has been written in śāstra that when a sādhaka eats food from a sense enjoyer, his heart becomes wicked and it is not possible to remember Bhagavān with such a disturbed mind. Therefore sādhakas should always be careful. Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī is direct proof of this. He did not accept the money sent by his own father, because although his father appeared to be a Vaiṣṇava, he was actually not (vaiṣṇava-prāya). Even advanced sādhakas have been deviated and have fallen from the realm of bhajana due to eating the food of sensuous people. That is why I have taken this money from you. It was acquired from sense enjoyers, and therefore it was mixed with poison. Now I have purified it and I am giving it back to you. There is no danger in it any more.
“Disaster is guaranteed if even one paisa that has been collected in the name of Śrī Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas is used in one’s own service. I do not use even a single paisa from donations for my own purposes. Who can engage donated wealth in the service of Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas? Only a highly qualified Vaiṣṇava who has offered his body, mind, words and everything at the feet of śrīla gurudeva and the Supreme Lord, who is unconditionally surrendered at the lotus feet of Bhagavān, and who is empowered in bhajana. Ordinary temple devotees cannot.”
When pūjyapāda Nārasiṁha Mahārāja heard this, he became thoroughly ashamed and all misgivings were dispelled from his heart. Bowing his head, he said with complete humility, “Please forgive me. I never took this matter so seriously. Whatever you are saying is completely correct. I will follow this instruction the rest of my life.”
The lesson to be learned from this is that one should never at any time utilize for one’s own enjoyment money or commodities received from worldly people. One should offer them at the divine feet of gurudeva or equally elevated Vaiṣṇavas, because such Vaiṣṇavas can engage these commodities in the service of Bhagavān. Otherwise, their poison is deadly for the sādhaka. Śrīman Mahāprabhu has said:
viṣayīra anna khāile malina haya mana
malina mana haile, nahe kṛṣṇera smaraṇa
When one eats food offered by sensuous or worldly people, the mind becomes contaminated, and in that state one cannot remember Kṛṣṇa.
pratigraha kabhu nā karibe rāja-dhana
viṣayīra anna khāile duṣṭa haya mana
mana duṣṭa haile nahe kṛṣṇera smaraṇa
kṛṣṇa-smrti vinā haya niṣphala jīvana
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 12.50–51)
One should never accept alms from royalty or wealthy people because when one eats such food the mind becomes polluted. A polluted mind cannot remember Kṛṣṇa, and without remembrance of Kṛṣṇa one’s whole life is a failure.