[Hari-katha inspired by the Guru-varga. Translated from the original Hindi discourse]
When Param Gurudeva entered Nitya-Lila on Saradiya-Rasa-Purnima in 1968, Srila Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami Maharaja became Acarya, Srila Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Gosvami became Secretary, and Srila Gurudeva became Vice-President. These three pillars of the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti had a meeting with the other members to discuss how to maintain the society.
During the discussion, Srila Trivikrama Gosvami Maharaja said, “There are so many brahmacaris; how will the temple be maintained? Therefore, we have some land by the Ganga. We could start a factory where we manufacture clothes, gamchas, and other materials, and with the profits from this, we will maintain the temple, and also we will use the gamchas and dhotis for the brahmacaris and sannyasis.”
Srila Gurudeva replied, “Just as the sun, moon, and different planets are all present, so Guru Maharaja is present. How can we start a business in his presence now, when we didn’t before in his presence? He has given us shelter at his lotus feet and we have left material life, along with all our present brahmacaris and sannyasis, and surrendered to him. Guru Maharaja instructed us to preach, to distribute the message of Mahaprabhu—not to start factories. It is our duty to bring everyone into Vaisnava-dharma, so why will we take those who have surrendered to Sri Guru and again engage them in the Karma-marga, the path of fruitive endeavor?”
Srila Trivikrama Gosvami Maharaja responded, “To do business like that is not ordinary karma. Bhagavan Himself said—mam nimittam krtam papam api dharmaya kalpate—apparent sinful activities done for My sake are actually religious activities. Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridara Maharaja himself opened a shop where he ground wheat and sold it and he opened other shops as well, and he has large ponds and makes so much laksmi from his enterprises.”
Srila Gurudeva replied, “We stayed with our Paramaradhyatama Guru-pada-padma for so many years without worrying about bodily maintenance; so why should we worry now about maintaining our bodies by business like karmis? Why has this rajasik-tamasik thought come in your mind? If we go down this path of doing business to maintain the temples, gradually we will become more and more engrossed in it and will end up as pakka materialists. It would be like taking on the care of so many cows but then being unable to maintain or take care of all their calves and the cows becoming old, selling them in the market, and thus in due course the cows would come in the hands of Muslims and be slaughtered by their hands. Then the seller himself gets the sin of killing the cow. Muslims eat the flesh of cows but Hindus who drink cow milk and later sell those cows, from whom they get nourishment, in the market—if those cows go into the hands of Muslims and are slaughtered—the Hindus are then worse then the Muslims, because they are committing sin knowingly. They are jnana-papis, which is much worse than committing sin without being aware it is sinful. That is not Dharma. Karmis give up their fruitive activities and begin to follow the path of Bhakti-yoga. But then, if the bhaktas begin to compete with one another to see how much money they can collect, they are worse then karmis. One should either perform exclusive bhakti or karma, but he should not mix the two. While living as a sadhu in the matha, if a person also does karma by running a business, then gradually his devotional sentiment will be lost and he will respect materialists, karmis. Our Guru Maharaja never taught us to do this.”
The devotees then asked Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja what should be done. He said, “When I was a young boy in the matha, Guru Maharaja instructed me to do service for Bhagavan by distributing His message. I would spend many, many hours at the press preparing magazines and periodicals for distribution and I would do work for printing books. I would also serve so hard to maintain the matha. But later, Guru Maharaja forcefully sent me out preaching. He said, ‘You must go and preach. Speak the glories of Bhagavan and attract everyone toward the service of Bhagavan. You will have no shortage of anything in your life.
ananyas cintayanto mam
ye janah paryupasate
yoga-ksemam vahamy aham
[Those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form –for them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.]
“Guru Maharaja said that Bhagavan maintains those who take shelter of Him and worship Him exclusively. He maintains them and provides them with whatever they need. We have all heard the story of Arjuna Misra. He was a poverty-stricken brahmana. He would read the Gita in the morning and then collect some donations to maintain his life and family.
One day he was studying this verse and some doubt came in his mind. He thought, ‘Bhagavan has said He will take care of His devotees and He will provide whatever they need if they perform His exclusive bhajana. But I am very poor and I have nothing to eat. When I go for bhiksa some people give, but most people don’t give. Sometimes I have to fast for days on end and sometimes people are so abusive towards me. I am trying to help everyone but Bhagavan is not maintaining me.’
So he scratched this verse from the Gita. Arjuna Misra then went out to perform bhiksa as usual. While he was gone a boy came to his straw hut and called out, ‘Oh, mother! Mother! Please open the door! Panditaji has given me so much to bring and he slashed me on the back viciously! He whipped me over and over again because I was a little late in coming. Please open the door and take all these goods.’
Hearing the young boy crying in such a pitiful way, the wife of the brahmana Arjuna Misra opened the door and she saw that this beautiful young boy was carrying expensive items: cloth, medicine, grains, different kinds of produce, even silver and gold ornaments and pots. She thought, ‘Oh, how did he bring so many things? He even brought pots to cook in.’
The whole house became filled with what he brought. She saw that he had scratches on his back as if he had been lashed. And he lamented, ‘Oh, I was a little bit late and therefore Panditaji lashed me again and again.’
The wife said, ‘Please sit here.’ She gave him a seat and said, ‘I will now quickly cook something and feed you, and I will give you something to drink. Please don’t leave.’
When she went to get a drink for the boy she thought, ‘Before we had some chipped clay pots but now he’s brought gold and silver pitchers and pots. What has my husband done? From where has he stolen all this? Who has he sent? Who would give so much wealth?’ When she returned to give a drink to the boy she was disappointed to see that he had left. She began to pace back and forth in the room very anxious and ready to chastise her husband.
She muttered to herself, ‘Why did you beat the innocent boy? Your heart is like a stone! You are like a butcher! You have no compassion!’ She would go in and out of the house looking for her husband, and then paced back and forth muttering to herself.
When Arjuna Misra returned from bhiksa empty-handed, she began shouting at him. ‘Why did you beat him? He is such a soft and tender young boy and his back was bleeding from your lashes! He gave so much wealth to us—everything we could ever need and then, he wouldn’t even stay for a drink of water. He was probably afraid you would come back and beat him more!’
Arjuna Misra thought, ‘Oh, she hasn’t eaten properly for many days, therefore she must have gone mad.’
He wanted to go inside the house with her and somehow pacify her but she said, ‘First you must respond! Otherwise don’t touch me or come inside! Why did you beat that boy?’
‘Who did I beat?’
‘Oh, now you are making some drama and claiming innocence? As if you don’t know? He was such a beautiful, sweet boy and you gave him so much to carry and still you beat him?’
Then Arjuna Misra became somewhat apprehensive and entered the room. He set down his empty bhiksa bag and said, ‘Alas! Today I didn’t get anything, here is the bag.’ Coming inside his house, he saw it was full of expensive items. In the kitchen he looked and was astonished. He said, ‘Oh what happened?’
‘You sent all this with the young boy. Why are you acting as if you don’t know?’
Then he thought, ‘Oh, I know what it might be,’ and he said, ‘please bring my Gita.’ He had almost nothing else in his house before the boy came. When he looked at the Gita, he saw that where he had struck the verse out with the red marker earlier, the marking had now been removed. The word of God is not false. It is Supreme Truth. Bhagavan and His name and His promise are all inseparable. When Bhagavan makes a promise, then He will surely fulfill it.”
Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami Maharaja then said, “Srila Rupa Gosvami wrote that Bhagavan and His name are the selfsame truth. When one chants the name of Bhagavan, then Bhagavan is not distant. He is present and will not allow one to suffer. Arjuna Misra said to his wife, ‘Oh, you are so fortunate. The Lord has come to your house today, but I have committed a grave offense. When I scratched out this verse from the Gita then it was like I was scratching the back of the Lord Himself. But Bhagavan came and gave you everything.’ Hearing this, his wife became more upset. She said, ‘Oh! The Lord came but I couldn’t feed Him anything? Oh, now you won’t eat and I won’t eat. We will fast. I will die fasting unless the Lord comes again. I asked the Lord, ‘Please take some water; please take some drink. Let me cook for You. I committed no offense, but still He left after bringing these things.’ She sat down and began weeping. Before, she was sad for another reason. But now, hearing that it was none other then Krsna, and she had been deprived of serving Him, she lamented even more and began weeping bitterly. Finally, the Lord had to appear in their home, and He remained there in His murti form. Arjuna Misra’s wife had so much devotion for Krsna. She said, ‘Unless you eat first Lord, then we will not eat anything. We will only take Your remnants.’
“Wherever one goes, if he is sincerely endeavoring to serve Bhagavan, then Bhagavan will care for him and arrange for his maintenance. Therefore we should not worry so much how to maintain the matha. We should only consider how to follow the instructions of our Guru Maharaja by preaching the glories of Guru Gauranga and Radha-Krsna. Krsna said: patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayachati—whatever you have, whether it be a leaf, fruit, flower, or some water, just offer it to Me with a pure heart and I will certainly accept it. So we should not think, ‘Oh we need to have so many fancy things to offer the Lord.’ We should be satisfied with what He gives us and in this way maintain our lives and engage all our time and energy in our service to Guru and Gauranga. Bhagavan is hungry for love not for any material object.
“Bhagavan has given us this opportunity to serve and He is watching us to see what we will do. If we give it up and become karmis or jnanis, then there is no person more foolish then us. Prabhu has given us birth and as long as we are present with this life, we will live according to His desires with whatever He wants to give us. But, we will not divert from His direct service.”
Srila Trivikrama Maharaja agreed and said, “Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja is the representative of our Guru Maharaja. We will follow whatever he advises.”
Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja continued, “We will all go preaching and with whatever comes we will maintain the asramas and mathas. We will speak hari-katha and sing kirtan and if He wants to arrange anything for us to eat then we will take that after offering it to Him. Those who are always engaged in filling their bellies will also die one day. Those who eat so much die faster, and those who live a simple life will actually live longer.”
So the three pillars of the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti decided to all preach in different areas of India. When Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja, Srila Trivikrama Gosvami Maharaja, and Srila Gurudeva all went to preach, they where very successful and many new boys came to live as Bramacaris and they collected so much. Especially when Srila Gurudeva and Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja returned from preaching, many young boys came with them. Srila Trivikrama Gosvami Maharaja teased them saying, “Oh, fill up the Gosala (cow-shed) with so many wild animals! Keep them in the gosala and they will be busy eating and sleeping day and night.”
Srila Gurudeva responded, “Oh, worldly people have only two businesses. To earn money and then use it for enjoyment!”
“How will you maintain all these new brahmacaris?” Trivikrama Maharaja asked.
Srila Gurudeva teased Trivikrama Maharaja saying, “He is afraid of having his own children and so seeing others have children, he is afraid of them as well. Anyway, we do not have to worry about maintaining them, He who gave them birth, who created them, He will maintain them—this is the responsibility of the creator.”
[CC-by-NDNC Bhakta Bandhav]