Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura
[May 19, 2020 is the appearance day of Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt from a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on his disappearance tithi on April 9, 2010. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
[Śrīla Mahārāja would invariably recite the following two verses from Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata glorifying Mahāprabhu with great feel in his invocation prayers on the appearance as well as disappearance tithi of Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura. Then, before beginning the kathā, he would say, "With these verses only I offered my prayers to Śrī Caitanyadeva today."
visvāmbharau dvija-varau yuga-dharma pālau
vande jagat-priya-karau karuṇāvatārau
(Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata 1.1.1)
I offer my respects unto Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu, whose arms extend down to Their knees, who have golden yellow complexions, and who inaugurated the congregational chanting of the Holy Names. Their eyes resemble the petals of a lotus; They are the maintainers of all living entities; They are the best of brahmaṇas, the protectors of religious principles for this age, the benefactors of the universe, and the most merciful of all incarnations.
namas trikāla satyāya
jagannātha sutāya ca
sa-kalatrāya te namah
(Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata 1.1.2)
0 Lord who exists eternally in the three phases of time, 0 son of Śrī Jagannātha Miśra, 0 Lord accompanied by Your servants, sons, and wives, I offer my respectful obeisance's unto You.]
Today is a special day, the disappearance day of Patita-pāvana Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura. The appearance and disappearance days of Vaiṣṇavas are equally significant, because both inspire their remembrance, which brings about all-auspiciousness to the living entities.
NĀRĀYAṆĪ-SUTĀ VṚNDĀVANA DĀSA ṬHĀKURA
Traditionally, people would identify themselves with their father’s name, however Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, addressed himself as ‘Nārāyaṇī-sutā’, owing to the fact that his connection with Śrī Caitanya-deva was not through his father, but through his mother, Nārāyaṇī, who was graced by Śrī Caitanya-deva when she was only five years old. Nārāyaṇī is the daughter of Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita’s brother; she was residing in Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita’s house when Mahāprabhu first began performing saṅkīrtana there behind closed doors.
Upon discovering that some envious atheists had complained to the Muslim government officials with an intention to put him behind bars for ‘wreaking havoc’ during the nightly saṅkīrtana performed at his house, Śrīvāsa became anxious. Despite Mahāprabhu’s reassuring words, [that being the Supreme controller, He would inspire the perpetrators within their heart not to cause any harm to Śrīvāsa], Śrīvāsa was not fully convinced. Hence Mahāprabhu decided to prove Himself by commanding the five year old niece of Śrīvāsa, Nārāyaṇī, to weep in kṛṣṇa-prema and instantaneously, she drowned in the ecstasy overcome by kṛṣṇa-prema. [Seeing this astonishing occurrence, everyone was reassured.] Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura is her son. Having lost his father when he was just a child, he resided at his maternal grandparents’ home along with his mother.
In those days, the brāhmaṇas were accustomed to follow strict rules and regulations, however Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura was unconcerned with such considerations. The brāhmaṇas even objected to Nityānanda Prabhu giving mercy to Uddhāraṇa Datta who belonged to the merchant class. Yet no one dared to speak anything objectionable before Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, who by the mercy of Nityānanda Prabhu, fearlessly explained in his writings how in Kali-yuga, demons take birth among brāhmaṇa families to raise objections and present counter-arguments. It was quite extraordinary to be so bold in those days. Beyond contributing through his writings, he fearlessly propagated the unadulterated scriptural doctrines.
A SUBTLE CONSIDERATION OF BAD ASSOCIATION
Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura was so unprejudiced that in Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, he did not mention his father, even though this defied the prevalent social custom. He mentioned only those relatives who were practicing devotees. For instance, while he did not mention his grand-father, he mentioned his grand-father's brother owing to his connection with hari-bhakti. He considered - why waste time mentioning those in whom hari-bhakti has not awakened? Where there is no connection with kṛṣṇa-bhakti, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura exhorts, it is bad association.
Similarly, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī says,
duḥsaṅga’ kahiye—‘kaitava’, ‘ātma-vañcanā’
kṛṣṇa, kṛṣṇa-bhakti vinu anya kāmanā
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 24.99)
[Cheating oneself and cheating others is called kaitava. Associating with those who cheat in this way is called duḥsaṅga, bad association. Those who desire things other than Kṛṣṇa’s service are also called duḥsaṅga, bad association.]
Any desire other than Kṛṣṇa and kṛṣṇa-bhakti is duḥsaṅga. Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura epitomized this principal throughout his life and exemplified it through his precept. Therefore, Kavirāja Gosvāmī says,
manuṣye racite nāre aiche grantha dhanya
vṛndāvana-dāsa-mukhe vaktā śrī-caitanya
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 8.39)
[The subject matter of this book is so sublime that it appears that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has personally spoken through the writings of Śrī Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura.]
“This scripture cannot be written by an ordinary human being. These are the words spoken by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu through Vṛndāvana dāsa's mouth.”
THE GLORIES OF ŚRĪ CAITANYA-BHĀGAVATA
Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura’s writings most wonderfully depict the prevalent social conditions as well as the future times. This is especially true of Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata. Originally, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura’s book was named ‘Śrī Caitanya-maṅgala’ but upon later discovering that Locana dāsa Ṭhākura had also named his book, 'Śrī Caitanya-maṇgala', Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura humbly renamed his work as 'Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata' because his work was actually quite voluminous, while 'Śrī Caitanya-maṅgala' was shorter.
Throughout his writing, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura expresses that his composition is the fruit of Nityānanda Prabhu’s inspiration, further asserting how no one can know bhāgavata-tattva (knowledge about the Absolute Truth) unless Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu reveals it. He used very simple, comprehensible language; not complicating the contents by including abstruse Sanskrit verses from various scriptures. In order to prevent his work from becoming more voluminous than it already was, he did not elaborate on Śrī Caitanya-deva's later pastimes i.e. after acceptance of sannyāsa. Moreover, he predicted that Vyāsadeva would expand on that in the future.
He said, ‘āge vyāsa kariba varṇane’-- i.e. later Vyāsadeva will narrate'. So, Mahāprabhu’s sannyāsa-līlā has been narrated by Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī in two parts, Madhya and Antya in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura included the narrations of some of the later pastimes in summary form whereas Kavirāja Gosvāmī greatly elaborated on them.
Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura said, ‘āge vyāsa kariba varṇane’ [vistāriyā varṇite āchena veda-vyāsa], meaning Vyāsa will do further narration and Kavirāja Gosvāmī spoke the same words, satya kahena,—‘āge vyāsa kariba varṇane’ -- I elaborate on what Vyāsa has already narrated in Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata'. He said 'caitanya-līlāra vyāsa—vṛndāvana-dāsa – “I do not have such ego that I narrate the pastimes in more detail than my predecessors, but for my own eternal welfare and to humbly follow the order of guru, Vaiṣṇavas and Haridāsa [the then sevāite pūjārī of Rādhā Govinda temple in Vṛndāvana], who ordered me to narrate the sannyāsa pastimes of Caitanya-deva, I am narrating only what Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura left undescribed, so as to not make this scripture unnecessarily voluminous.”
Therefore, by the study of both Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata and Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta and by the grace of the Vaiṣṇavas one can get some idea about Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s glories and pastimes.
HIS STYLE OF COMPOSITION
Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura’s hallmark was that he composed many verses [in Bengali language] based on corresponding scriptural verses, bringing out their essence in a manner which was not only appealing but easy to decode for the general masses as well.
The famous Bhagavad-gītā verse (9.22) – ‘ananyāś cintayanto māṁ’, he translated as –
ye-ye-jana cinte more ananya haiyātāre
bhikñā deṅa muñi māthāya vahiyā
(Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya, 5.57)
[I personally carry on My head the needs of any person who thinks of Me without deviation.]
Meaning those devotees who worship Me with one-pointed devotion, I personally carry upon My head what they need and deliver it to them.
Another verse from the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (1.2.23) – ‘nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhyo’, he translated as –
yadi tiṅho nāhi jānāyena āpanāre
tabe kāra śakti āche jānite tāṅhāre
(Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya, 3.70)
[Who has the power to know the Lord if He does not reveal Himself]
There are so many other beautiful translations he has rendered. Śrīla Prabhupāda, in his Gauḍīya-bhāṣya commentary to Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, cited all the pramāṇa ślokas [original verses corresponding to select verses from Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata] just to enlighten the masses about the brilliance of Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura's contribution. Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura translated the essence of the scriptural verses in the form of those simple prayers, refuting all different ideologies and establishing the supremacy of the Gauḍīya ideology in a manner easy to understand. Śrīla Prabhupāda proved how Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura’s writings were indeed based on scriptures and not merely a figment of his own imagination. Those who read Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata and the foreword to the Gauḍīya-bhāṣya commentary will understand all this. Whosoever reads Śrīla Prabhupāda’s commentary becomes astounded.
Sūrya-kānta Gosvāmī, the gosāi of Śrī Bāṅke-Bihārījī from Vṛndāvana, became astonished upon seeing so many scriptural references being quoted as evidence in the Gauḍīya-bhāṣya, which indicated the depth and vastness of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s study of the scriptures. [He had composed and printed these books and] that too in a span of just 18 years of his preaching efforts. Sūrya-kānta Gosvāmī said, “How is it humanly possible to study and quote so many references?” He added that he was a mere child when he met Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura has nicely explained in Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata the evolution of different philosophical doctrines such as 'viśiṣṭa-advaita-vāda' followed by 'dvaita-vāda' and 'bedhābedha', until we arrive at 'acintya-bedhābheda'.
There are many scriptural evidences to prove the Godhood of Śrī Caitanya-deva but very few about Nityānanda Prabhu being Baladeva. Although Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura has not quoted scriptural references proving Nityānanda Prabhu’s identity as being non-different from Baladeva, he has composed many beautiful pāyāras (short Bengali verses) establishing this truth.
Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura explained everything in a very endearing fashion. He elucidated Nityānanda tattva, i.e. the first expansion of the Supreme Lord with great affection, because without His grace no one can attain the grace of the Supreme Lord.
ŚRĪLA VRNDAVAN DĀSA ṬHĀKURA IS 'PATITA-PĀVANA'
Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura exhaustively and specially sang the glories of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu. His bhajanas attracted all, and recommended the worship of the lotus feet of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu.
Nityānanda Prabhu accepted all types of roles to attract various categories of conditioned souls to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. One of the reasons He enacted the pastime of adorning Himself with ornaments was to attract the dacoits. Eventually those dacoits took shelter of Nityānanda Prabhu after repeatedly failing in their attempts to loot Him. [Endnote 1]. [This pastime has been beautifully narrated in Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata by Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura.]
Nityānanda Prabhu possesses so much affection for all souls that He cares for them like parents care for their children, sometimes even by beating them for their own good. Can anyone else do such a thing?
Once in Shanti Niketan, I witnessed a father beating his own child black and blue. Overcome by compassion for that child, I offered his father some money, requesting him to stop beating the child; only to realize later that in beating the child, the father exhibited more compassion than I, because the act of beating was done for the child’s ultimate welfare. The father told me, "My son is refusing to study. If I do not control him now then he will become a fool like me. He will simply become a mill worker like me and will have to sustain on daily wages or sometimes even starve." [Endnote 2]
At the end, I was left to wonder – was my attempt to relieve the child from being beaten a greater exhibition of compassion than the father beating him. Certainly not! Then why did I go to free that child? Because often, one may be deceived with what meets the eye. This principle is presented by Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura – It is inappropriate to judge anything as good or bad merely based on external actions, without assessing the underlying cause behind it.
How big a risk the father had to take to discipline his child for the latter’s welfare? Likewise, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura, Nityānanda Prabhu’s direct disciple, sings His glories and with folded hands, implores everyone to take shelter of Nityānanda Prabhu for their eternal welfare.
After extensively glorifying Nityānanda Prabhu, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura says, “[If someone disregards these glories and instead] If someone blasphemes Nityānanda Prabhu, I will kick that person on his head.” Externally speaking, such words may sound harsh and far from appealing, but upon deeper consideration one will realize how they imply 'adbhuta dayā' (phenomenal compassion). Therefore, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura is addressed as 'Patita-pāvana Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura' (literally deliverer of the fallen). [Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura says -] ‘Despite all my preaching efforts, should any soul remain bereft of the desire for his own eternal welfare [while even having committed offenses against Nityānanda Prabhu], then I shall resort to kicking him on the head, thereby giving him my foot dust.’
It is said –
bhakta-pada-dhūli āra bhakta-pada-jala
bhakta-bhukta-avaśeṣa–- tina mahā-bala
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Antya-līlā 16.60)
[The dust of the feet of a devotee, the water that has washed the feet of a devotee and the remnants of food left by a devotee are three very powerful substances that bestow strength in spiritual practices.]
Subtle coverings upon our heart, though externally invisible, cause obstructions hindering our progress in bhajana; such obstacles are destroyed by these three transcendental substances. But Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura is taking upon himself this great responsibility of giving his foot dust upon the heads of the conditioned souls for their eternal welfare, just as Nityānanda Prabhu had graced Śivānanda Sena by kicking him on his head. [This analogy is pertinent here with regards to blessing in the form of foot dust, however Śivānanda Sena is not a conditioned soul. He is an eternal associate of the Lord.] [Endnote 3]
So like Nityānanda Prabhu, Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura is also very compassionate towards the living entities to bestow eternal good upon them in some way or the other.
Today is Patita-pāvana Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura's disappearance day. I offer my humble obeisances at his lotus feet and pray for his causeless mercy. I beg at his lotus feet that by his grace I may obtain the strength to preach and practice hari-bhakti as fearlessly as he did.
(From Bhumipati dāsa’s translation of Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya, 5.528 – 706)
A young brāhmaṇa lived in Navadvīpa who was a formidable thief and plunderer. No one was equal to or greater than him in this illicit field. He was the commander-in-chief of all the thieves and plunderers. He was a brāhmaṇa in name only. Actually, he was the most evil-minded person. He had no mercy in his body. He did not hesitate to kill others and always kept company with similar murderous men. When this rogue saw the beautiful ornaments and valuable necklaces worn by Nityānanda Svarūpa, he decided to steal them. In the guise of a friend, he wandered with Nityānanda Prabhu to steal His ornaments. Nityānanda Prabhu, however, understood that the so-called brāhmaṇa was really a mischievous cunning dacoit. There was a pious brāhmaṇa called Hiraṇya Paṇḍita who lived in Navadvīpa. He was a most humble devotee of the Lord. Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu stayed at the house of this fortunate soul since his house was in a lonely place.
Meanwhile, the evil-minded brāhmaṇa conspired with his friends. "Brothers, why are we still suffering? Goddess Caṇḍi has blessed us with a treasure. All the jewellery this mendicant wears are made of gold, pearls, diamonds, and jewels. I can't estimate how many millions of rupees they're worth. Goddess Caṇḍi has kindly given us a wonderful chance. He lives in the lonely house of Hiraṇya Paṇḍita. We can snatch all these ornaments in an hour. Prepare yourselves with swords and shields and get together at night. Tonight, we'll invade and plunder Hiraṇya Paṇḍita’s house."
Having made this plan, all the thieves left for their homes. At night, they gathered at the planned spot. They had swords, knives, and tridents. They surrounded the house where Nityānanda Prabhu was staying. They sent one spy ahead to check out the situation in the house. Nityānanda Prabhu was taking His meal and all the devotees were chanting the holy names all around Him. The servants of Nityānanda were drunk with kṛṣṇa-prema. Some roared like lions and others shouted loudly. Some wept in ecstasy while others clapped their hands laughing loudly. Some made various noises like hai, hai. They were awake feeling ecstatic love.
The spy returned and informed the others that Avadhūta was eating and others were staying up. The thieves decided, "Let Him eat and go to bed. Then we'll invade the house. For now we'll wait and watch." All the thieves sat beneath a tree waiting for the right time to plunder Nityānanda's wealth. One of the thieves said, "I'll take the golden bangles." Another said, "I'll take the pearl necklace." Someone said, "The golden earrings are mine." Yet another said, "I'll take the golden necklace." Someone said, "I'll take the silver ankle bells." In this way, all the thieves were living in the abode of imagination.
That night, by the will of Nityānanda Prabhu, Nidrā-devī, the deity of sleep, captured all the thieves. They fell asleep right where they waited. They were bewildered by the Lord's illusory energy. The night passed, yet they did not wake. At dawn when the crows began to caw, the thieves finally woke up. When they found that it was morning, they became very sad. They hurriedly hid their weapons in the forest and went to take bath in the Ganges. Finally, the thieves returned to their homes and began to abuse each other. One of them said to the other, "It was you who first fell asleep." Another one replied, "Oh, you're talking like you were awake all night and saw who was asleep and who was awake." Then one said, "Stop this fighting! Goddess Caṇḍi kindly saved us from disgrace."
Then that most sinful brāhmaṇa, the chief of the thieves, said, "There's no use to fight. By the mercy of goddess Caṇḍi, whatever's happened has happened. Does it mean that everyday we'll fail? I think goddess Caṇḍi baffled us today since we went without worshiping her. So let us go and worship goddess Caṇḍi properly. We should offer her meat and wine." Discussing like this, all the thieves worshiped goddess Caṇḍi with meat and wine.
The next day, the thieves armed themselves again with various weapons. All wore dark blue garments like a band of warriors. In the dead of night when all were fast asleep, the thieves surrounded the Lord's house. From a distance, the thieves saw that many giant guards surrounded the Lord's house. The guards were armed with fierce weapons and always chanted the names of Hari. They were strong and heavily built. They carried sharp weapons in their hands. The thieves saw that just one of those guards could kill hundreds of thieves like themselves in no time. The guards were decorated with flower garlands and sandalwood paste. They continuously chanted the name of Hari. Lord Nityānanda slept peacefully in the house while these guards chanted the name of Kṛṣṇa on all sides.
The thieves were struck with wonder. For the time being they gave up the idea of invading the house and met off on one side. They discussed among themselves, "Where did these guards come from?" One of them said, "I guess somehow or other Nityānanda Avadhūta came to know our plan. Then He must have hired these guards from someone."
Another thief said, "Brothers, I've often heard many people say this Avadhūta is actually a learned scholar. This Avadhūta Mahāśaya is certainly a wise fellow. Just see how he's protected himself. The guards that we just saw don't appear to be ordinary human beings. Because of his extraordinary powers, I think people call Him Gosāi or Lord." Someone else said, "Oh, shut up! How can He be a Gosāi when He eats and wear clothes like us?"
Then the sinful brāhmaṇa commander-in-chief of the thieves began to speak, "I know the reason for these guards. Many people often come from distant places to see this avadhūta. I'll bet some wealthy guest has come to meet the avadhūta. These are all his guards. They're all emotional, that's why they always chant the names of Hari. Even if He keeps these guards, how long can He avoid our wrath like this? Let's go home today. We'll wait quietly for ten days." The thieves then returned to their homes. Meanwhile, Avadhūta Nityānanda peacefully enjoyed His sleep.
After sometime, the sinful thieves planned another raid to steal Nityānanda Prabhu's ornaments. But the night they decided to break into the Lord's house was, by providence, the darkest night imaginable. It was so dark that people were unable to move about. At the dead of this black night, the thieves armed themselves with sharp weapons and got together. As soon as they got near the Lord's house, they suddenly became blind and could not see a thing. This sudden blindness shocked the thieves so much that their minds, intelligence, and life airs almost ceased to function.
One fell in a trench and was covered by mosquitoes, leeches, and gadflies. Another fell into the pit where people wash hands after eating, there scorpions and bugs also bit him. Another thief fell on a heap of thorns. He suffered miserably from the pricking of thorns and could not move. Another one fell in a ditch and broke his hands and legs. Some of the thieves caught a very high fever. They all were totally perplexed.
At that time, Indra the king of heaven happily sent forth showers of rain and storm. First the thieves were tortured by the bites of leeches and bugs, and now they all suffered in a hailstorm. They did not die but floated in the ocean of miseries. The force of the wild wind, heavy hail, and thundering rendered them unconscious. The intense rain completely soaked the thieves and feeling extreme cold, they shivered uncontrollably. They lay blindly suffering. Since the thieves came to plunder Nityānanda Prabhu, Indra, the King of heaven, angrily tortured them very severely.
At last, the sinful brāhmaṇa chief of the thieves had a sudden change of heart. He began to think, "Nityānanda is not an ordinary man. He must be God. What the people say is true. The first day, He bewildered us by making us sleep. Yet by His illusory energy, we couldn't understand a thing. The next time, He showed His prowess by manifesting many wonderful guards. Yet, I still didn't become aware of His greatness. The agony we just suffered is just proper for a sinner like me. I dared to steal from the Lord! Who can save me now? There's no alternative than to surrender to this Avadhūta Nityānanda." Thinking like this, the brāhmaṇa took shelter of the lotus feet of Nityānanda Prabhu with undivided attention.
Remembering the lotus feet of the Lord frees one of all danger. Taking shelter of these lotus feet instantly relieves even a most grave offender. When all the thieves began to think like this, they regained their eyesight. By remembrance of Nityānanda Svarūpa, the thieves got relief from the rain and storm. After having suffered to the verge of death, the thieves soon found their way again and returned to their homes. Then they all went to bathe in the Ganges.
The brāhmaṇa chief of the thieves, now weeping, rushed to take shelter of Nityānanda Prabhu's lotus feet. Nityānanda, the Lord of the universe, was sitting in His room glancing mercifully upon His devotees. All His devotees were chanting the names of Hari. The Lord, the crest jewel of avadhūtas, shouted aloud in ecstasy. When the chief of the thieves arrived, he raised his hands and cried, "Please save me!" He then offered respectful obeisances. His hair stood on end. Tears of love began flowing and he started shivering. The brāhmaṇa cried loudly and entered into a state of rapture, merged in the ocean of bliss. Seeing the power of Nityānanda Svarūpa, he was amazed and danced jubilantly. He raised his hands and repeatedly said, "O my dear Lord Nityānanda, You're the savior of the fallen!"
When everyone saw the behavior of the brāhmaṇa, they were struck with wonder. They began to discuss why this thief is behaving like this. Someone said, "He must be just pretending with a plan to steal when he gets the chance." Another said, "Since Lord Nityānanda is the savior of the fallen souls, his heart must have changed by the Lord's mercy." Seeing the wonderful change in the brāhmaṇa, Nityānanda Prabhu smilingly asked him, "O brāhmaṇa, please tell Me what you want? I'm very surprised to see your wonderful qualities. Please tell Me all about the glories of Kṛṣṇa that you've seen and heard. Speak freely, without worry."
Hearing the Lord's words, the pious brāhmaṇa was unable to utter a word. Rather, he began to cry. He began rolling on the ground all over the courtyard, as he laughed, cried, and danced in his own way and mood. Finally, the brāhmaṇa calmed down and narrated the whole story to the Lord. "O Lord, I live in Navadvīpa. I'm a brāhmaṇa in name only. My behavior is worse than a hunter or dog-eater. O Lord, I always remain with thieves to rob, steal, and plunder. I do nothing but violence to others. Everyone in Navadvīpa immediately trembles upon seeing me. There's no sin I've not committed. Seeing your valuable ornaments, I wanted to steal them. One day, I armed myself with weapons and came with other thieves to steal Your riches. That day, You bewildered me with sleep. But by Your illusory energy, I was unable to recognize You.
"Another day after worshiping goddess Caṇḍi, I came to Your house with swords, knives, and tridents. But, to my surprise, I saw a wonderful thing. Many giant guards surrounded Your house. Each appeared like a drunken elephant. They were adorned with flower garlands hanging down to their knees. They constantly chanted the names of Hari while You happily slept inside. O Lord, I was so sinful I could not understand Your glories. That night, we returned home thinking You had hired some guards for safety. After a gap of few days, we came again yesterday. But as soon as we approached Your house, we lost our eyesight and fell down. We suffered being pricked by thorns, bitten by leeches and bugs, and pounded by a hailstorm. We were too disturbed to move. After Yamarāja thus tortured us, we finally got pure devotion to Your lotus feet. By Your causeless mercy, we can now remember Your lotus feet without deviation.
"It's by Your mercy alone that we regained our sight. O Lord, You are indeed the savior of the fallen. You've saved us from further misery by Your mercy. This is the glory of remembering You. O Nityānanda, O Śrī Bāla-gopāla, please protect me. You're the only maintainer of all beings. They say that though a person falls heavily on the ground mother Earth is again kind to him. In the same way, even if one commits offenses at Your lotus feet, he is ultimately saved from all misery by Your remembrance. O Lord, You forgive all offenses and show mercy on the fallen souls. I'm the most sinful since I kill brāhmaṇas and cows. You won't find anyone more offensive than me. Even if the most sinful take shelter of Your lotus feet, You will liberate them without a doubt. You protect the lives of all beings from their very birth. You are the ultimate deliverer of them all. Anyone who remembers You is freed from ignorance. Such a person easily goes back to Godhead."
The brāhmaṇa prayed to Nityānanda Prabhu, crying aloud. Such is the pastime of the Avadhūta. Hearing the brāhmaṇa’s prayers, everyone was struck with wonder. They all offered him respects. The brāhmaṇa said, "O Lord, now I take Your leave forever. I don't want to keep this body anymore. Since I was envious of You, I should end my life by jumping in the Ganges as atonement. Hearing the brāhmaṇa’s truthful words, the Lord and all the devotees were very pleased.
The Lord said, "O brāhmaṇa, you're indeed fortunate. You're a staunch devotee of Kṛṣṇa birth after birth. Otherwise, why did He bestow mercy on you like this? Who can experience such a wonderful influence except a devotee? Lord Śrī Gaurāṅga has incarnated to deliver all the fallen souls. There's no doubt about it. Listen, O brāhmaṇa, I'll take all your sinful reactions, but you must not sin again. From now on do not steal, plunder, or do violence to anyone. Lead a pious life always chanting the holy names of Hari. You'll then be able to deliver others. Gather all the thieves and plunderers together and preach to them to lead a pious life."
Lord Nityānanda then took off His garland and happily put it on the brāhmaṇa. Everyone loudly chanted, "Jaya! Jaya!" The Lord thus liberated the brāhmaṇa. He caught hold of Nityānanda Prabhu's feet and with faltering voice began to pray, "O my Lord Nityānanda, savior of the fallen! Please give this sinner shelter at Your lotus feet. I dared to envy You. I'm so sinful; what is my destiny?" The ocean of mercy Lord Nityānanda put His lotus feet on the head of the brāhmaṇa. Having Nityānanda's merciful lotus feet on his head nullified all his offenses.
Later, this brāhmaṇa convinced many thieves and plunderers to take shelter of the Śrī Gaurāṅga’s lotus feet. They gave up all sins like stealing, plundering, and violence. They began to behave like saintly persons. All of them chanted the names of Hari millions of times. They became expert in viṣṇu-bhakti and became mad in prema, always singing the glories of Kṛṣṇa. Such was the causeless mercy of Lord Nityānanda.
In other incarnations, the Lord did not give such prema. But Lord Nityānanda convinced everyone to take up Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He helped them reach the lotus feet of Lord Gaurāṅga. The brāhmaṇa, who at one time rejected Nityānanda Svarūpa, now preached to his thief and plunderer friends to accept Nityānanda. The symptoms of prema such as shedding of tears, shivering and, standing the hair on end which are eagerly desired by the great mystic yogis were easily achieved by none other than common thieves and plunderers. This is the exhibition of the wonderful prowess of Nityānanda Svarūpa. O brothers, please worship the lotus feet of Nityānanda. Only by His mercy can one attain the lotus feet of Gaurāṅga.
Anyone who hears the mercy of Lord Nityānanda will no doubt achieve the association of Gauracandra. One who hears with attention of the deliverance of these thieves will certainly meet Nityānanda and Śrī Gaurāṅga.
(Excerpt from an article from the upcoming biography - ‘The Roots of My Devotional Creeper’)
As we were waiting, I saw that right in front of a nearby tea shop was a man who had tied a child’s hands to a tree and was beating him with a visūtī**. I assumed that the man was the owner of the tea shop and that the boy probably worked for him. Perhaps the boy had broken some drinking glasses, or maybe he stole something minor, as is the nature of young boys. In any case, the man was beating the boy so severely that I could not tolerate it. I climbed down from the rikśaw and headed toward them. From a distance and with Śrī Lokanātha Prabhu two paces behind me, I threateningly demanded that the man stop beating the child.
The man stopped beating the child, looked over at me, came forward a bit in our direction and offered praṇāma to Śrī Lokanātha Prabhu and myself. Seeing this, I realized he must be a reasonably virtuous man. I told him, “Look, if this boy has somehow harmed you or stolen something, I will reimburse you for your loss. But my goodness, let him go. Only a savage would beat a child so badly.”
Although I had angrily accused him of being a brute, the man remained calm and collected. “Mahārāja,” he said, “this boy is my son.” As soon as he said this, it felt as if the earth had been pulled out from under me. Indeed, I had been flying around the sky of my own speculation, until his words immediately grounded me. I was baffled. “Why is he beating his son like this?” I thought to myself.
The man explained, “This is not my tea shop, Mahārāja. I work as a laborer in the rice mill. You see, both my wife and I are illiterate, but we desperately want our son to learn to read and write. We want him to make something of himself. After requesting my boss at the mill many times to somehow or other use his influence, my son was given admission in a good school.
“We don’t have much money, and our lives are filled with great hardship. I work long hours at the mill to provide for our family. I get only one day off a week, and I don’t even know when that day will be. Because of my work hours, I don’t receive much of an opportunity to monitor my son’s scholastic activities. My wife stitches clothes day and night to pay for our son’s private tutoring, but he doesn’t want to do anything besides play gullī-ḍaṅḍā†. We very affectionately explained our situation to him, but nothing came of it. Yesterday, his tutor told us, ‘At this rate, your son is certain to fail. I can no longer teach him, because people will vilify me if one of my students fail.’ ”
At this point, the man began to weep as he spoke. “If I do nothing, if I don’t chastise him, he will become illiterate like me and be forced to live the life of a laborer. In that case, he will have to endure great hardship, and he’ll starve if he’s not fortunate enough to find work. It breaks my heart, Mahārāja, but I am forced to beat him. I don’t know what else to do.”
I was utterly ashamed. I had wanted to rescue the boy, but what harm was there from which to rescue him? His father’s punishment was neither needless nor excessive. I considered that my connection with the boy was fleeting and sentimental, whereas the boy’s father possessed genuine affection for him. Although externally it appeared as if I was concerned for the boy’s well-being, it was his father who truly had his best interests in mind.
Those who were nearby said, “It is good this Mahārāja has saved that boy, otherwise his father would have killed him!” It occurred to me that this was the perspective of a sthūla-darśī, or one who sees only external circumstances. A sūkṣma-darśī, or one who recognizes and understands the subtle aspects of any given situation, would never say such a thing in this situation.
Feeling shameful, I quietly returned to the rikśaw. During the incident, the boy’s mother was quietly standing some distance off. I realized she must have brought her son to the mill so the boy’s father could confront him about his apathy toward his schooling. She watched the beating in silence, and now she was patiently waiting to apply cow dung to her son’s wounds in order to reduce the burning sensation he was sure to experience. How wonderful is love in which salve is applied after the meting out of a beating!
We received our rice and left, but this small incident left a big impression on my heart. When I remember this story, many confidential realizations appear in my heart, one after another. I remember how Śrī Mahāprabhu was ready to punish Jagāī and Mādhāi with His Sudarśana-cakra, and Nityānanda Prabhu saved them; I remember how Śrī Jagannātha Miśra was ready to beat young Nimāī, and the tairthika-brāhmaṇa saved Nimāī; and I remember how Bhagavān was punishing the conditioned souls by keeping them in this material world, and Śrī Prahlāda Mahārāja and Śrī Vāsudeva Datta offered to sacrifice themselves for the liberation of them all.
In reality, affection does not imply only pleasantness; chastising a child also falls within the category of affection. That day, I concluded that affection on its own is only fifty percent love, whereas affection with chastisement is one hundred percent love.
** A type of stick that leaves a burning welt for about two days when used as a weapon.
† A game in which a small wooden, tapered peg (gullī) is launched and hit with a stick (daṇḍa).
(Excerpt from the same lecture as above, given by Śrī Mahārāja on April 10, 2010)
Every year, Śivānanda Sena arranged for all the devotees to travel to Jagannātha Purī to be with Śrī Caitanya-deva. One day he was delayed due to settling some tax payments. As a result, Nityānanda Prabhu, exhibiting great anger retorted, "Śivānanda is late in arranging for accommodations and food for the pilgrims, may his three sons die!" That year his wife, three sons and nephew were all accompanying him. That statement reached the ears of Śivānanda’s wife.
Later when Śivānanda Sena arrived, he touched Nityānanda Prabhu’s lotus feet and prayed, "Prabhu, I apologize for being a little delayed. Now please accept the accommodation I've arranged for You." At that time, Nityānanda Prabhu kicked him on the head. Śrīkānta, Śivānanda’s nephew, who also witnessed this, found it intolerable and unfair, and out of frustration left the group and departed alone for Jagannātha Purī ahead of everyone else. He thought, 'My uncle is serving so diligently, yet instead of being praised, he is cursed and kicked on the head while he is offering obeisances? This is unjust by all means!’
Upon reaching Purī he offered prostrated obeisances to Śrī Caitanya-deva while still wearing his upper garment. Upon noticing this, when Govinda prompted him to take off his upper garment before offering obeisances to be in line with proper etiquette, however, Śrī Caitanya-deva stopped him, saying that Śrīkānta had come with an unhappy heart. Hearing these words, Śrīkānta felt ashamed and astonished, wondering how Mahāprabhu could assess his mental state, as he had just arrived.
Back in the travelling party, after satisfying everyone, when Śivānanda Sena returned to take rest, his wife with tears in her eyes exclaimed, 'putre śāpa dichena gosāñï - gosāi has cursed our three sons to die!' Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja retained her remark verbatim, in the same colloquial manner as she had uttered it. This is his specialty. He also retained the exact term, 'peṭāṅgi utāra', which Govinda had spoken to Śrīkānta. The word 'peṭāṅgi' refers to the upper garment. This peculiarity makes his descriptions/narrations very beautiful.
Śivānanda said, "O mad woman, why are you crying over Nityānanda Prabhu’s remark? Let our three sons perish!" Śivānanda Sena said this, being fully aware of Nityānanda Prabhu’s glory; he understood His compassion in a way that his wife could not. For instance, sometimes a mother may address her child saying ‘You better die!’ and later she would feel no sense of remorse about it. However, if anyone else says the same to her child, she is prepared to fight. Why? Because although the words spoken by both parties are alike, the mother feels that her saying ‘you better die’ will actually prolong her child's life; whereas the same words spoken by someone else will decrease it. Although the words are identical, there is a huge gulf of difference in the underlying emotion with which they were spoken.
Likewise, in hari-bhakti, significance is given to the mood or consciousness (bhāva) and not to the words. So when Nityānanda Prabhu actually blessed Śivānanda Sena in the form of a curse, that blessing reached Caitanya-deva without any words being spoken. As a result, He told Govinda, “As long as Śivānanda Sena, his wife and children remain here give them My remnants.” The blessing of having received Nityānanda's powerful foot dust disguised as a kick on the head gave Śivānanda Sena as well as his family the eligibility to receive Mahāprabhu’s remnants.