[Hari-katha inspired by the Guru-varga]
Today is Maghi-pūrṇimā and is the appearance day of Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura.
If we make a place in our hearts and have respect for the guru-varga and rāgātmika Vrajavāsīs in our gauḍīya paramparā, this will be very helpful for us. If one respects God’s associates, this is equal to respecting God. This respect is very powerful. We give respect to ordinary people for our own selfish purposes. But respecting God’s associates is very rarely seen in this world. Those who are very qualified and fortunate in life show respect and have love for God’s family members.
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura came in this glorious line of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Now we will try to remember how he followed and spread this line. We will try to offer our soul to him and try to approach his glories. Then, like when the sun rises, its light spreads all over the land, similarly, the glories of Vaiṣṇavas purify not only anarthas, they pull and bring one to God, and offer one to His lotus feet. This is the causeless mercy of the Vaiṣṇavas.
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura was born in Kheturi Grāma, in present-day Bangladesh. He heard the glories of Mahāprabhu when he was a boy. He had a strong desire, “Mahāprabhu has left now, but His followers are present: Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhu, Sanātana Gosvāmī, Jīva Gosvāmī, Nityānanda Prabhu, Gadādhara Pandita, Svarūpa Dāmodara.” But, soon, he heard that Gadādhara Pandita, Rāmānanda Rāya, Svarūpa Dāmodara and others had disappeared. Nityānanda Prabhu had also left. Then he became hopeless and despondent. He went directly to Vṛndāvana. By the time he arrived there, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī had also disappeared. Also, Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī disappeared. Only Jīva Gosvāmī Prabhu was present.
He desired to attend the hari-kathā of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, and he completely took his shelter. Jīva Gosvāmī not only trained and taught him, how one can follow and achieve actual realization, all good opportunity also was given by Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī.
Some teach and tell one, “Look at this, you may understand something.” But Jīva Gosvāmī Prabhu made relationship directly.
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura studied the Sat Sandarbas and all the Gosvāmīs’ books from Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī Prabhu. He would make new copies of these books. The books of Rūpa and Sanātana were old and becoming faded. The Gosvāmīs were present in their books, so Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura would help to carefully preserve the Gosvāmīs.
Now, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī instructed Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, “It is essential to take dīkṣā.”
Before he did not tell him this. After teaching him everything, he said, “Dīkṣā means to establish a relationship. In which group do you serve Śrīmatī Rādhārānī? Who will help you?”
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura tried to take initiation, but Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī would not give him dīkṣā. He said, “If you like me, then follow my instruction. This is helpful for you. Go to Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī. Mahāprabhu sent him to Vṛndāvana before the Lord took sannyāsa in Navadvīpa-dhāma. He sent Bhugarva Gosvāmī and Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī to Vraja-maṇḍala. Go to Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī, and serve him and Vraja-maṇḍala.”
The bhajana-kutira of Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī was at Kiśorī kuṇḍa, Khadirvana, near Varsānā, in Campakalata sakhī’s place. When Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī bathed in Kiśorī kuṇḍa, he would sometimes hear many songs and nice programs. He would always do parikramā of Vraja-maṇḍala. He would not stay for long in any one place, except for Kiśorī kuṇḍa, where he would pass many days. When he went to bathe, he would hear nice songs coming from the kuṇḍa. One day he went under water and sat in samādhi. This is called jala kumbhi. The water did not disturb him. Then he saw the Deities of Rādhā-Vinoda. He became very happy and took Rādhā-Vinoda out of the water. Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī began worshipping Rādhā–Vinoda and carried Them around in his bead bag. He had deep love and affection with the Vrajavāsīs. All knew him as Bada Bābā.
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura was ordered by Jīva Gosvāmī, “Go take dīkṣā from Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī.”
“How will this be possible?” Narottama thought. “If any Vaiṣṇava becomes happy with me, and his heart is touched by my sincere mood and endeavor, then he may accept me. Otherwise, if there is no faith, and one is not close to the Vaiṣṇava, heart to heart, then there is no real relationship.”
Any outward compromise is not a real relationship. If one heart has not accepted another, then relation is only external. Such a relationship doesn’t conquer the Vaiṣṇavas. They are not pleased by money, cloth and external service. If anyone hates or abuses them, they will not be disturbed. Other people’s anger fires also do not burn them. They are above all this.
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura asked Jīva Gosvāmī Prabhu, “Prabhu, Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī is a neutral and nirapekṣa Vaiṣṇava, detached from everything in this world. He is the perfect follower of Mahāprabhu. His renunciation is very strong –- he never accepts anything from others. When he goes for bhikṣā, he only takes a little alms from the Vrajavāsīs and offers that to Rādhā-Vinoda, and then takes it. He offers obeisances to all the Vaiṣṇavas and Vrajavāsīs. He only came to Vraja-maṇḍala to fulfill the desire of Mahāprabhu. If he doesn’t become happy with me and accept me, then his love and affection won’t come from his heart to me. Externally I may say, ‘You are mine, I am yours.’ This doesn’t last long, this is only temporary. How can he be pleased with me?”
“Go to Kiśorī kuṇḍa, the place of Campakalata sakhī,” Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī said. “Pray and request Rādhārānī’s sakhīs and mañjarīs for some service. If you follow that way, and are strong for your service, then they will not neglect you. Have faith and respect for your eternal service, then no problem can ever come to you.”
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura went to Kiśorī kuṇḍa in Khadīravana and prayed to Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī, “Please give me shelter. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has instructed me to come to you. Please accept me.”
“This is not possible for me,” Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī said. “I have no time. Also, I don’t know anything. I am an insignificant person, sent by Mahāprabhu to Vraja-maṇḍala. I stay here, idly passing my time.”
He hid his own nature, because this is the nature of the gopīs. They are very secret and hidden. They don’t announce their glories to all, nor do they make any propaganda for their own popularity.
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura observed Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī’s activities from morning to evening. He would pray, offer daṇḍavat-praṇāmas, do parikramā of Kiśorī kuṇḍa, perform nāma-saṅkīrtana, and internally serve in aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā. He had no time for any other business. He had memorized all the books of the Gosvāmīs.
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura thought, “How will Guru Mahārāja accept me?” He thought about this, but could not find any means. Then he considered, “The holy dhāma is the manifested form of Baladeva Prabhu. I will make a relationship with the dhāma and pray to the dhāma.”
Anywhere Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī went through Vraja, performing parikramā and begging alms, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura would follow at a distance, offer praṇāma to the footprints of Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī, and smear the dust on his body. Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī would take mādhukarī and then wash his pot. After he had left that place, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura would take his remnants. He had no residence. He would sleep under any tree. He had not gone with desires for luxurious food or lodgings. When Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī stayed at any place, worshipped Rādhā-Vinoda and sang kīrtana for Them, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura would hear from a respectful distance.
Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī would sing of the pastimes of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa throughout the day, singing of niśānta-līlā in brāhma-muhūrta, and of Kṛṣṇa moving in the forest in the morning. From a distance, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura would hear and follow the prayers of Lokanātha.
When Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī rested, Narottama remained awake and would clean the surrounding area. He swept and then sprinkled fragrant water in the area. He also daily cleaned the latrine of Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī. Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura performed bhajana by offering daṇḍavat praṇāmas to the plants and creepers of Vraja. While going on parikramā, he would stop at every tree and offer daṇḍavat praṇāmas, weeping to them, “You are great sages who have taken birth in Vraja-maṇḍala. You are very peaceful and perform bhajana in one place. God and the holy dhāma have bestowed great mercy upon you.”
He would also pray to the animals of Vraja, “How can some mercy and blessings come to me? How will my Guru Mahārāja be pleased and accept me?”
He would pray to everyone. This is called sevonmukha vṛtti rāgānugā sukrti. It is not only śubha-karma, pious work. A prayerful mood, coupled with a sincere service tendency, is the process to enter rāgānuga-bhakti. Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, Campakalata sakhī and all the sakhīs and mañjarīs saw the service tendency and heard the prayers of Narottama. He was quite greedy. Spiritual greed is the only entrance fee — tatra laulyam api mūlyam ekalaṁ ¬— this is the price to pay. Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa have knowledge of everything we do and the intent behind our actions. The Vrajavāsīs would watch him and think, “This new Bābā has come, but Baḍa Bābā is not accepting him.”
He would weep and pray for mercy, rather than challenging or fighting with Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī.
One night, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura wept while cleaning and chanting harināma in the night. He showered Vraja-dhāma with the tears of his eyes.
Then Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī became very restless. He thought, “Why do I feel so bad now?”
In a dream, Śrīmatī Rādhārānī gave him a direct instruction, “O Mañjulālī, Narottama is waiting for your mercy. Why aren’t you accepting and giving him mercy and a chance for service? Otherwise, Mahāprabhu’s desire will stop, and this line will not run on. Rāgānugā vṛtti must be distributed. Otherwise, you have everything. If you go on just as you are, it is not good.”
Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī awoke and asked Narottama, “What do you want? Why are you sweeping and crying daily? I have told you, ‘I am not qualified or able to help you.’”
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura caught his feet, “Prabhu, please don’t reject me. Don’t neglect me. I am a very tiny, fallen soul. If you don’t accept me, I have no other refuge.”
His heart melting, Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī relented. Then he gave dīkṣā-mantra to Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura and said, “From today, continuously serve Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa under guidance of the Vraja-devīs in aṣṭa-yama-sādhana.”
Gurudeva gives qualification for nāma-sevā, dhāma-sevā and hari-sevā. But if I then neglect Gurudeva and go to serve others, I go far away from Gurudeva. Gurudeva never gives instruction to follow karma, jñāna or yoga.
Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī said, “Chant harināma and serve Hari’s dhāma and Hari’s jana, the Vaiṣṇavas. You have no other business. But do everything under guidance of the Vraja-devīs.”
Now, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura followed the desire and order of his Guru-pāda-padma. He very deeply and seriously chanted harināma. He did not meet with anyone. In the evening, he brought a little mādhukarī for his Guru Mahārāja. Then he took whatever prasādam was given to him by his Gurudeva.
But you know, Kṛṣṇa is very clever and very greedy. He was watching, looking, “Oh! A new mañjarī has now come to Mañjulālī. I will go and tease her, checking to see if she likes Me or not, talks with Me or not.” Kṛṣṇa is very clever and a very strange cheater. He doesn’t like if anyone is honest and chaste. But Narottama was very honest, chaste and strong.
On a burning hot summer day, in the middle of the afternoon, Kṛṣṇa came in the guise of a farmer who had gone in the forest with the cows and had become very thirsty. He came and spoke outside the cottage of Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī, “Bābā, Bābā.” Baḍa Bābā was doing bhajana and did not give attention to the calls of the farmer. Then He went to the other bhajana-kuṭīra, and called out, “Bābā, Bābā, Baḍa Bābā is not speaking with Me. He will not give Me a little water. Please give Me some water. I am very thirsty.”
Nearby was a village with many wells and ponds. If this were an ordinary farmer, he would have gone to any nearby well or pond. Why would he have come to beg from a Bābājī? But no. Kṛṣṇa came in the guise of a farmer to Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura and sweetly and politely requested, “Please give Me some water.”
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura thought, “Should I give Him or not? Should I open the door or not?” But Kṛṣṇa was waiting. He did not leave.
Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī was hearing everything in the nearby straw hut. Now, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura did not take permission from his Gurudeva. He opened the gate to his hut and gave the waiting farmer a little water. The farmer drank this and went. He did not stay. This was His desire. He knows how to tease.
Then Gurudeva was very disturbed. “Okay,” he came out and said to Narottama, “You don’t like it here. You like Him. Now you can’t stay here any more. Go! Go! Serve Him. Follow Him. Don’t stay more with me. Otherwise, Rādhārānī will reject me. She will not accept my service.”
If anyone independently serves Kṛṣṇa and has desire for kṛṣṇa-sevā, this creates a big problem for one who has surrendered himself to the one-pointed service of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī.
Therefore, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura sings—
rādhā-bhajane jadi mati nāhi bhelā
kṛṣṇa-bhajana taba akāraṇa gelā
“If the desire to serve Śrīmatī Rādhikā does not appear in my heart, then my worship of Kṛṣṇa is simply useless.”
kevala mādhava pūjaye, so ajñānī
rādhā-anādara koroi abhimānī
“Those who worship Mādhava alone are ignorant; they simply neglect Śrīmatī Rādhikā out of their mundane pride.”
By solely serving Kṛṣṇa, one will become like Brahma. If you have no desire to serve Rādhā, and are not under guidance of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, then there is no hope for you.
Now, Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī no longer allowed Narottama to stay with him. But did he reject him? This is also not possible. If Guru rejects his disciple, then the disciple will become completely dry and lost, because there is no longer a relation between them.
Weeping bitterly, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura went to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī knew everything from his samādhi. He said, “Now Gurudeva knows you like Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa’s followers, and has a desire for you to preach everywhere. Give everyone a chance and qualification to serve Kṛṣṇa.”
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī Prabhu gave a bullock cart full of the Gosvāmīs’ granthas to Narottama, Śyāmānanda and Śrīnivāsa Prabhu. They walked all the way from Vṛndāvana to preach throughout India, in states like Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assām, Manipura, Meghalaya, Tura, Gohati.
When they arrived at Viṣṇupura, in a forest area near the Bakura district, they took some rest at night. A king named Bir Hambir ruled in that region. He had an astrologer with the power to see who was coming through his kingdom with great wealth, and Bir Hambir would arrange to steal it.
The astrologer told the king, “Three Bābājīs are coming through your territory with boundless wealth. If you steal that treasure which they carry, you will be fabulously rich.”
When Narottama, Śrīnivāsa and Śyāmānanda Prabhu were resting, the king sent a group of his dacoits, who stole the chests on the bullock cart and brought them to the king. Opening the chests, the king was astonished to only see paper and books. “This is useless!” he shouted.
Narottama, Śrīnivāsa and Śyāmānanda Prabhu were very sad when they woke in the morning and saw everything had been stolen. “We have only one copy of the Gosvāmīs’ books,” they lamented. “The original copies have been put in samādhi! How hard the Gosvāmīs labored day and night!”
There was no paper or ink in those times. The Gosvāmīs wrote by candlelight at night on palm leaves and recorded all vraja-līlā on these priceless pages.
Śrīnivāsa Ācārya told Śyāmānanda Prabhu and Narottama Prabhu, “Please continue preaching. I will remain here and perform dhyāna to somehow retrieve the Gosvāmīs’ literatures. When I am successful, I will send news and meet again with you. I will not leave until I accomplish this.”
Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura and Śyāmānanda Prabhu departed. Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura went to Kheturi Grāma. There he daily wept in deep separation and prayed to his Guru Mahārāja, Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī. He had not only one separation. He felt great separation from his Guru Mahārāja, as well as the Gosvāmīs.
Gaṅgā Nārāyaṇa Cakravartī, Rāma Kṛṣṇa and many others took shelter and dīkṣā from him. He wrote and printed many books. At the time of hari-kathā and kīrtana, he sang with deep separation, and his disciples would write these songs down.
Now the time is over. Gaura Premānande! Hari Haribol!
[Offered in remembrance of Śrīla Gurudeva
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja]
[CC-by-NDNC Bhakta Bandhav]