[November 26, 2019 is the disappearance day of Śrī Jagad-bandhu Bhakti Rañjana in Vṛndāvana, India. Below is an excerpt of his glories from 'My Beloved Masters' by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja.]
NEITHER A THIEF NOR A DONOR
Śreṣṭhārya Śrī Jagad-bandhu Bhakti Rañjana, a disciple of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, paid for the entire construction of Śrī Bāgbāzār Gauḍīya Maṭha in Kolkata. His contribution included the land, the temple area, the kīrtana hall and the rooms for Śrīla Prabhupāda and his devotees. Following the completion of the maṭha, the deities were brought on a chariot in a grand procession from the house Śrīla Prabhupāda rented at 1 Ultadāṅgā Road. A one-month festival of hari-kathā and kīrtana, which Śrī Jagad-bandhu Prabhu also sponsored in full, was held to celebrate the maṭha’s inauguration. Each evening, various dignitaries were invited to speak.
One evening during the festival, the invited speaker, a judge, mentioned in his address, “Śrī Jagad-bandhu Bābū is a generous donor.”
The quite uneducated and illiterate Śrī Jagad-bandhu Prabhu, who had never addressed an assembly before and who at first had no intention of doing so that day, requested Śrīla Prabhupāda, the chairman of the assembly, for permission to speak. After Śrīla Prabhupāda consented, Śrī Jagad-bandhu Prabhu declared, “The respected judge is most certainly incapable of speaking untruths. Still, what he has said about me is incorrect and improper. I can only assume that his actual motive behind praising me was to encourage me in my service to Śrī Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas. In reality, I can never be a donor. A donor is one who gives that which one owns to another. But what do I possess that I can give to others? Who am I to give anything in reality? I brought nothing with me when I came into this world, and I cannot take anything with me when I leave it.
“The only true donor in this world is Bhagavān. He has given me everything I have—not only wealth and property, but also this body, which includes eyes, ears, a nose, a mouth and so on. Whatever Bhagavān gives, He gives so it can be utilized in His service. Those who neglect to engage everything they have in the service of Bhagavān and instead use it for their own enjoyment are thieves.
“All I can say for myself is that I am not a thief; I am not a namaka-haramī. But at the same time, I am not a donor. I simply engage the wealth I have in the service of He who has given me that wealth.”
As a result of his association with elevated Vaiṣṇavas who possessed a service-centric disposition, Śrī Jagad-bandhu Prabhu, who was otherwise completely uneducated, received the intelligence and conviction that everything belongs to Bhagavān and should be used only in His service. I, too, hope to one day possess such intelligence.
ŚRĪLA PRABHUPĀDA'S GREAT VAIṢṆAVA
Śrīla Prabhupāda was greatly pleased with Śrī Jagad-bandhu Prabhu’s service, and he therefore bestowed his mercy on him by awarding him the title ‘Śreṣṭhārya.’ The word śreṣṭha means ‘best,’ and the word ārya refers to a simple-hearted brāhmaṇa who uses his simplicity in the service of Bhagavān. Therefore, the title ‘Śreṣṭhārya’ is a special designation, signifying ‘the best of the brāhmaṇas who serve Bhagavān.’ Śrīla Prabhupāda has written, “Simplicity is Vaiṣṇavism.” Because a person cannot be a Vaiṣṇava without being simple-hearted, the title ‘Śreṣṭhārya’ indirectly refers to a great Vaiṣṇava. This was the title bestowed upon Śrī Jagad-bandhu Prabhu by Śrīla Prabhupāda, his gurupāda-padma, who was profoundly pleased with him.
During the entire month-long inauguration festival of Śrī Bāgbāzār Gauḍīya Maṭha, a ghee lamp remained lit in a glass lantern atop the temple spire. At the end of the festival, the glass lantern broke, extinguishing the flame. When Śrīla Prabhupāda saw this, he ordered the brahmacārīs to check on Śrī Jagad-bandhu Prabhu in his home. When they reached there, they found that Śrī Jagad-bandhu Prabhu had left his body. They returned to the maṭha and reported back to Śrīla Prabhupāda, who explained, “Jagad-bandhu Prabhu was supposed to leave his body one month ago, but I kept him here until the completion of the festival.”