Haridāsa Ṭhākura Tirobhāva
[September 19, 2021 is Haridāsa Ṭhākura Tirobhāva in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of a discourse by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on September 3, 2009. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is a special tithi - the disappearance day of Nāmācārya Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura. There are two prominent opinions prevalent with regards to Nāmācārya Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura. The first opinion is that Ṛṣika Muni's son, Mahātāpa Brahmā, who had appeared during the time of Prahlāda (Satya-yuga), has now come as Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura. In his earlier life, Mahātāpa Brahmā had collected tulasī leaves and offered them in the service of Bhagavān without first washing them. Thus, he had to take birth as a Yavana in his next life.
Second opinion is that during dvāpara-yuga, when Śrī Nandanandana Kṛṣṇa was cowherding with His cowherd boys, Brahmā desired to test Him thinking, only foolish people address Him as the Supreme Lord. Considering Him merely the son of a cowherding dynasty, Lord Brahmā questioned, “How can He be the Supreme Lord?” So Brahmā stole the calves Kṛṣṇa was herding along with the cowherd boys and hid them in a cave within the Sumeru Mountains. After one year lapsed, Brahmā came to check on Kṛṣṇa. To his astonishment, he found Krsna along with His cowherd friends happily herding calves in the forest as usual. When he immediately returned to check the cave where he had hidden them, he also found the cowherd boys asleep there. So where did they [the other set] come from?
BEWILDERMENT OF BRAHMĀ
It took no time for Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa to realize that Brahmā stole the calves and the cowherd boys, but for the sake of līlā He acted very anxious and wandered here and there in search of His lost friends and calves. Seeing Him act in this way, Brahmā became very happy in his mind, but as soon as he turned around Kṛṣṇa expanded Himself in as many cowherd boys and calves as were missing and returned home. Amazingly, no gopī or cow realized that their child had not returned home. But what changes had occurred?
Previously, the gopīs had more love for Kṛṣṇa than their own children, but now they found no difference in their love for Kṛṣṇa and their own children. It was equal. So they feared that they were entrapped by māyā because of their deep feelings of attachment for their children. Regardless, during that one-year period, nobody could recognize what changes had occurred. This is because Kṛṣṇa had assumed the forms so perfectly, replicating the voices, the bodily odors, and even their pranks and plays were so very like His original companions. Cows recognized their young-ones by smell, but they also could not recognize that Kṛṣṇa had become their calves. It is observed that cows have natural love for their younger calves, but now they were feeling more love for the elder calves than the younger ones because Kṛṣṇa Himself had assumed the form of the [older] calves. No one could distinguish, so perfect were the changes.
When Brahmā came and saw this happening, he was dumbstruck. To bestow mercy on Brahmā, Kṛṣṇa transformed all the cowherd boys and the calves into their four-handed Nārāyaṇa forms. Brahmā saw uncountable Nārāyaṇa mūrtis and then had the realization that Kṛṣṇa was the original (mūla-kāraṇa) cause of all.
WHAT KṚṢṆA’S FORM CONNOTES
At that point, Brahmā offered the prayers which are found in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam Canto 10 Chapter 14:
naumīḍya te ’bhra-vapuṣe taḍid-ambarāya
lakṣma-śriye mṛdu-pade paśupāṅgajāya
[O Lord, You are fit to receive the worship of the entire universe. O son of the king of cowherds, Your transcendental body is dark blue like a new cloud, Your garment is brilliant like lightning, and the beauty of Your face is enhanced by Your guñjā earrings and the peacock feather on Your head. Wearing garlands of various forest flowers and leaves, and equipped with a herding stick, a buffalo horn, a flute, and a morsel of grain mixed with yogurt in Your hand, You are most attractive. Your lotus feet are very soft. I offer my prayers unto You.]
You are 'paśupāṅgajāya', paśu-pa is Nanda Mahārāja and You are his son. Your complexion is 'abhra-vapuṣe', like a dark raincloud, and Your garment is 'taḍid-ambarāya', brilliant like lightning. What is the meaning? Like in the hot summer, when the world is suffering due to severe heat and lack of rains, as soon as clouds are seen in the sky, the heart rejoices in the hope that the rains are not far away. So your complexion is an indication of your compassion and Your pītāmbara yellow color garments brilliantly shinning like lightning gives the assurance that very soon rains will shower on us because whenever lightning accompanies the clouds, it is indicative that, if it is raining already, it will certainly increase or if it hasn’t rained yet then very shortly it will begin to pour. Such is Your merciful form!
HOW TO RECONCILE?
Brahmā, seeing Kṛṣṇa holding a mixture of rice and yogurt in His left hand and standing and eating, disregarded this very form as ordinary, thinking that this is not in conformity with the Vedas [eating with the left hand], assuming if indeed He were the Supreme Lord, He would surely possess knowledge of the Vedas. Now, that very Brahmā is singing His glories. Therefore, it is very difficult to understand the scriptures, which is why they are to be studied under proper guidance from personalities who have realized the knowledge of the scriptures (śāstra-vid), otherwise one will not be able to reconcile the contradictions of the scriptures. On one hand it is said, ‘If something is purchased from the market and after using a portion of it for oneself, if the remaining part is offered to Bhagavān, it amounts to an offence.’ It is also mentioned, ‘Upon having darśana of the Deity form of Bhagavān, if one does not instantly offer obeisances, it amounts to an offence. So how will one be able to reconcile how the companions of Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa (sakhās) do not offer Him obeisances, but rather climb onto His shoulders when He is defeated in the sports and offer Him food which they have already tasted; are these not offences? How will you reconcile this?
There is an instance in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam when Tvaṣṭā Ṛṣi performed a yajña in which during his utterances of the mantras, some differences arose; where he should have pronounced in short, he uttered it longer, and vice versa. When he was to speak, ‘indra-śatro vivardhasva', he said the same exact words but without giving proper emphasis on the words, 'śatro vivardhasva'. By doing so, the result was opposite of the intended purpose.
In another place in scriptures it is said, even if one utters the words, 'marā-marā', one will be benefited by the fruits of uttering rāma-nāma. Where is the reconciliation as both are the verdicts of the scriptures? The difference is that one has been written for the purposes of 'karma-kāṇḍa' or service performed to Bhagavān with some ulterior motive and the other has been revealed for the purposes of performing bhakti. Externally, there is no apparent difference in the activities performed on the platform of bhakti and karma, but the difference is in the ultimate intention or goal. Indra performed Vāmanadeva’s worship very opulently and served Him well, but despite this, Indra had to suffer the sin of brahma-hatyā [when he killed Vṛtrāsura]. On the other hand, Hanumān did not have to suffer [when he burnt Laṅkā, killing so many including many brāhmaṇas, women, pregnant women and cows]. How can you reconcile this? Therefore, it is said that one must study the scriptures under the guidance of devotees.
THE GLORIES OF BHAGAVĀN AND VAIṢṆAVAS ARE NOT LIMITED BY CIRCUMSTANCES
After realizing his mistake, Brahmā sought forgiveness for his offence to Kṛṣṇa. As a matter of retribution, in Kali-yuga, Brahmā had to come to this material world in a Yavana caste because that same Kṛṣṇa descended on this earth assuming the bodily luster and mood of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, in the most munificent form as Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu. Feeling apprehensive that he might again offend Bhagavān in this incarnation, Brahmā performed penance in Antardvīpa. Understanding his internal mood of prayer, Śrī Kṛṣṇa gave him darśana in the form of Gaurāṅga and informed him that during the time of gaura-līlā he would take birth in the Yavana caste and his name would be Haridāsa and he would bring auspiciousness to all the living beings. He prayed for this arrangement (of taking a low birth) so that false ego or pride would not induce him to make another offence at the lotus feet of Gaurāṅga. Bhagavān or Vaiṣṇavas can take birth in any caste, and despite this, their glories and importance are not tainted in any manner.
Thus, he appeared in the village of Buḍhana in the Satkhīra subdivision of Khulnā (in Bangladesh). Some are of the opinion that the place lies in the district known as 24 Paraganās, while others say it is in the Jessore district in Bangladesh, and some others say it is in the Khulnā district. This is because of the repeated changes in the partitions of the land. He is 35 years older than Mahāprabhu, and 23 years older than Nityānanda Prabhu.
THE IMPACT OF HEARING ŚUDDHA-NĀMA
Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura used to chant the Holy Names and also preach the glories of the Holy Name and for this reason all people greatly respected him. Once, a jealous landlord named Rāmacandra Khān engaged a famous prostitute by the name Lakṣahīrā to spoil Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s character. She was very beautiful, young and claimed that she could accomplish the task within three days. Rāmacandra Khān wanted to send police along with her in order to expose Haridāsa Ṭhākura immediately but she refused, saying to wait till she first associated with Haridāsa. Haridāsa Ṭhākura lived in a hut and served tulasī-devī by performing parikramā, watering her and offering a lamp and then chanting the holy names. He would chant more than 3 lakh of names in a day and thus one crore in a month. Lakṣahīrā went there and tried to attract him by her expressions and gestures, but Haridāsa was unmoved (nirvikāra). He also spoke convincingly to her, assuring, “After chanting a fixed number of rounds of the Holy Name, I will fulfill your desire.”
Therefore she sat there, waiting and listening to harināma, not with good intentions, on the contrary, only fueled by her bad motives. Even so, her listening worked like a medicine. As the day broke she became impatient to leave. Haridāsa said, “Please excuse me, I could not complete my rounds but I am sure I will be able to complete them tomorrow.” So the next day again she returned, first offering praṇāms to tulasī-devī and Haridāsa Ṭhākura and then taking a seat. He continued his chanting of the Holy Name and another night passed. Haridāsa said, “Do not feel unhappy because today also I could not complete my rounds. I will definitely finish my rounds tomorrow.” She came on the third day too, and after hearing nāma continuously she was transformed. She admitted the truth to Haridāsa Ṭhākura - that Rāmacandra Khān had sent her to him with the intention to spoil his character.
Then Haridāsa Ṭhākura told her, “I knew beforehand. I remained here only to bring about auspiciousness for you.” Haridāsa Ṭhākura instructed her to reside in that hut where she could perform tulasī parikramā and chant harināma. He gave the same teachings to her as he was practicing, i.e. chant so many rounds, and afterwards he left that place.
Rāmacandra Khān had committed Vaiṣṇava aparādha by attempting to spoil the life of Haridāsa Ṭhākura. Even though Haridāsa Ṭhākura did not take offence, the penalty was that the Muslim ruler's men came and plundered his house. They cooked and ate non-vegetarian food in the place where he performed Devī-pūjā, disgracing his sacred space. Additionally, they arrested all the members his family, looted their wealth and left; it was such an uncanny instance.
VAIṢṆAVAS DON’T ACCEPT CONTAMINATED WEALTH
Meanwhile, that prostitute became a great Vaiṣṇavī. Many advanced Vaiṣṇavas would go to meet her. She was also instructed to donate all her wealth to the brāhmaṇas. She could have offered it all to her guru, but in this regard our parama-gurudeva (Śrīla Prabhupāda) explained, if the Vaiṣṇavas did not first accept it she was to offer it to the brāhmaṇas in charity. This is the rule.
THE DIRE CONSEQUENCE OF VAIṢṆAVA APARĀDHA
From there Haridāsa Ṭhākura came to the Huglī district to a place known as Saptagrāma. A big religious assembly was being held there and Haridāsa Ṭhākura desired to listen. Many karmī and jñānī scholars deliberated on the glories of harināma, quoting that it destroys all sins and so on. Realizing that the discussions were headed in the opposite direction, Haridāsa Ṭhākura stood up and presented that the real fruit of chanting of the Holy Name is not liberation from material world. He explained such a goal could be accomplished by the mere reflection of harināma (nāma-ābhāsa). Ārindā [Gopāla Cakravartī], a person who used to perform financial dealings for very rich persons, stood up under the influence of his status and retorted, “These are the statements of a sentimentalist or mad person. People endeavor so much to attain liberation and this man says that liberation is possible by mere nāma-ābhāsa or in other words, just by the glimpse of the Holy Name? If it does not happen, then his nose will have to be cut off.” Haridāsa Ṭhākura replied, “Why are you arguing? It is not my opinion; these are the words of the scriptures that I have heard and presented.”
The man insisted, “If this is untrue, then your nose will be cut”. But Haridāsa Ṭhākura was not upset. However Hiraṇya and Govardhana Majumdāra, under whom the tax collector, Ārindā, was working felt this was an offence to Haridāsa Ṭhākura because their spiritual teachers Balarāma Ācārya and Yadunandana Ācārya were acquainted with Haridāsa Ṭhākura and used to visit him. Immediately they dismissed Ārindā from his work and three days later he contracted leprosy and his nose melted off. People at the assembly glorified Haridāsa Ṭhākura's spiritual powers, but Haridāsa Ṭhākura at once left the place.
THE SNAKE GAVE AWAY
He went to Phuliyā and there also, one strange incident occurred. As he was living in a cave there, a snake charmer informed him of a poisonous snake in the cave. The snake charmer could identify the snake just by the odor of its body. Snake charmers possess a special knack for knowing about the snake's presence by the smell itself. This is not just hearsay; I have personally witnessed it too. Once, in our Māyāpur maṭha also, a snake charmer detected the scent of a poisonous snake there. Then by playing on his pipe he captured the snake and put it in his basket. Then he said there is another and asked his companions whether there was place for it in the basket. The snake charmer explained the next snake was not very poisonous, then he caught it also and put it in his basket. Just from the smell he could identify the presence of a poisonous snake.
Haridāsa Ṭhākura said, “I do not feel its presence”, but the people who came to have darśana of Haridāsa Ṭhākura and hear his hari-kathā knew about the snake. So Haridāsa Ṭhākura said, “If indeed there is a snake then I will leave the place in three days and go elsewhere.” After saying this, a snake appeared from the cave thinking, “I was residing here to hear harināma from him but for my sake he has to leave the place.” In this way the snake removed himself from the cave.
Then he came to Śāntipura to reside. There he used to meet with Advaita Ācārya often. When Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared, Advaita Ācārya felt great ecstasy in his heart and Haridāsa also felt great jubilation. They realized there must be some reason for their happiness, otherwise why would they feel such great joy, but they were unable to understand the reason. Later they got the news that a son had been born to Advaita Ācārya’s friend, Jagannātha Miśra . Along with his wife, Advaita Ācārya went to congratulate him. He offered varieties of gifts like people normally give on such occasions. and Śacī Devī worshipped him by offering clothes etc. as per Vedic injunctions.
MERCY ON THE PERPETRATORS
Because Haridāsa Ṭhākura was chanting the Holy Names, he was warned by the Yavana administrators, “You have to give up chanting of the Holy Name, otherwise you will be severely punished with beatings by cane until death in 22 market places.” Not in one market place, but in 22 market places (as it was a big town), in order to give the public the message, ‘In spite of taking birth in a pure Yavana family he has accepted the dharma of the kafirs and is performing harināma, and this is the punishment one has to face for such a sin’. Why was Haridāsa not unhappy about the punishment meted out to him? He was grateful, “I associated with the enemies of cows and brāhmaṇas, and so compared to this great sin, this punishment is very less. I should have been subjected to more severe punishment.” When he was asked to give up chanting of the names he said, “Even if my body is cut to pieces and life may leave it, still I can never abandon the chanting of the Holy Name.”
So he was given this punishment but he did not die. Some people begged the soldiers, “Please don’t beat him like this! We will give you money if you beat him with less force”. But the men had instructions to beat him to death. Finally they told Haridāsa Ṭhākura, “If you do not die then our lives will be taken away.” Then Haridāsa Ṭhākura performed the pastime of falling unconscious, making it appear as though his life airs had left his body. Thinking that his body is not fit for burial [auspicious for Muslims] or even burning, he was thrown into the Ganges [inauspicious for Muslims]. He floated to the other shore of the Ganges i.e. Śāntipura and again started performing harināma. When the soldiers saw him chanting and walking away on the other shore, they became afraid of him and realized he was a living saint and sought his forgiveness.
THE COST OF IMITATION
One day a snake charmer was singing Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes and was making the snake dance to his tunes. Hearing the kṛṣṇa-līlā kīrtanas, ecstatic symptoms of love for Kṛṣṇa arose in the heart of Haridāsa Ṭhākura and he was overwhelmed with love for Kṛṣṇa. Seeing this, one deceitful brāhmaṇa also began to exhibit [imitate] such symptoms which in turn enraged the snake charmer who went and hit the man with his cane. The people were astonished. He did not say anything to Haridāsa Ṭhākura, but he beat the fake brāhmaṇa black and blue because the snake's mood (āveśa) had entered into him.
COMMAND TO PREACH
Later Caitanya-deva ordered Haridāsa Ṭhākura and Nityānanda:
śuno śuno nityānanda, śuno haridās
sarvatra āmār ājñā koroho prakāś
prati ghare ghare giyā koro ei bhikṣā
bolo ‘kṛṣṇa’, bhajo kṛṣṇa, koro kṛṣṇa-śikṣā
Śrī Caitanya-Bhāgavata, Madhya-Khaṇḍa (13.8-9)
[Listen, listen, Nityānanda! Listen, Haridāsa! Make My command known everywhere! Go from house to house and beg from all the residents, ‘Please chant Kṛṣṇa’s name, worship Kṛṣṇa, and teach others to follow Kṛṣṇa’s instructions.]
Haridāsa Ṭhākura was robust, well-built, stout and also 23 years older than Nityānanda Prabhu. As they preached all over the place, the devotees welcomed them and the atheists attacked them. When Jagāi and Mādhāi attacked, Nityānanda Prabhu could run away swiftly but Haridāsa Ṭhākura experienced great difficulty and became unhappy. When they returned the next day they were again confronted by Jagāi and Mādhāi, “Yesterday we chased You away and again You have come back, speaking the same words?”. When Jagāi and Mādhāi attacked again, Haridāsa Ṭhākura struggled to escape.
Afterwards Haridāsa Ṭhākura complained to Advaita Ācārya, with whom he had an old friendship, “I will not go along with this avadhūta [someone beyond social customs]. He can jump high and run fast but I cannot. He is very fickle.” Then Advaita Ācārya foretold, 'Today you saw two drunkards, tomorrow you will witness three drunkards dancing together.'
Thus he prophesied the future happenings as when they returned on the third day, [Mādhāi] suddenly struck Nityānanda on the forehead with a broken mud pot. Still Nityānanda spoke to them, “Just because you have hit me on the head do you think I will not give you prema? Surely I will give you.” Then the devotees uttered in shock 'Alas! Alas! (What a mercy!!).’ Between the two, Jagāi begged, “Mādhāi, Stop hitting. There has never been such a compassionate donor and there will never be one in the future!” Saying thus, he stopped Mādhāi. The great commotion attracted Caitanya Mahāprabhu to appear there. He summoned His cakra (Sudarśana cakra) in order to finish Mādhāi.
THE FIRST PREACHING ENCOUNTER
Nityānanda Prabhu had previously questioned Haridāsa Ṭhākura, “Am I fickle or is your Prabhu cañcala? He gives orders like a king, instructing us to go and give the message to all and if we do not follow His orders we will be committing faults. But how can I be fickle? I think Your Prabhu is fickle.” But to understand such words is not easy. Both are singing the glories of each other, but in vyatireka-bhāva, in an indirect manner, this is called vyādha-stuthi (indirect glorification).
Immediately Nityānanda Prabhu stopped Mahāprabhu, “If You have affection and love for Me then I beg You for his life.” Mahāprabhu said, “Jagāi has stopped Mādhāi from further violence, so I bestowed mercy upon him, but not Mādhāi.”
“Both are offenders”, Nityānanda Prabhu pointed out, “So why should there be any disparity in bestowing mercy?” Then Mahāprabhu said to Jagāi and Mādhāi, “If you will promise that you will not repeat such an offence again I can pardon you, otherwise, I will finish you.” Then they touched their ears with both hands and said, ‘never again.' This is the role of Haridāsa Ṭhākura and Nityānanda in Mahāprabhu’s first preaching pastime.
I AM NOT QUALIFIED
Later after accepting sannyāsa, Mahāprabhu left along with Nityānanda, Jagadānanda, Dāmodara and Mukunda. At that time, Haridāsa Ṭhākura prayed to Jagannātha-deva and pleaded for permission to follow along.
Later, when all the devotees visited Mahāprabhu in Jagannātha Purī they offered their praṇāms to Mahāprabhu in the Gambhīrā at Rādhākānta Maṭha, but Haridāsa was not to be seen. That time Mahāprabhu asked, 'kaha mora Haridāsa– where is My Haridāsa?’ Haridāsa was on the road offering daṇḍavat praṇāms to Mahāprabhu from very far. He said, 'I am a mleccha, I do not have the qualification to go near Mahāprabhu.” He never went near the Jagannātha Mandira.
When the devotees made arrangements for Mahāprabhu’s stay, they decided to host Him at Rājaguru Kāśī Miśra’s place which had a big garden and two rooms on the either side. Mahāprabhu accepted only on the condition that he reside in one of those rooms called the 'Gambhīrā'.
Mahāprabhu requested a room in a secluded place for Haridāsa Ṭhākura in Purī and presented that place to Haridāsa when he arrived. Previously it was secluded but now you must wind through many houses to reach there, causing it to seem further than it actually is. Haridāsa stayed there and chanted the Holy Names. Whenever Rūpa and Sanātana came to Jagannātha Purī, they stayed with Haridāsa Ṭhākura. These two brothers also would not go to the Jagannātha Mandira, or even near the vicinity of the temple. Their thinking was that the servitors of Jagannātha would be busily running around in that place for the service of the Lord and it would be an offence if by chance their bodies should touch yavanas like them [making the servitors impure and thus unfit for the Lord’s service].
Once, in the location of Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s residence, Mahāprabhu planted a twig of the bakula tree [brushing twig-used in Jagannātha’s service] which instantly grew into a tree. Thus, Mahāprabhu made arrangements so that they all could sit underneath the shade of the tree and chant harināma peacefully. Haridāsa Ṭhākura lived in a hut and would daily sit under the shade of that bakula tree and chant harināma. The place is now famous as 'Siddha-bakula'. Mahāprabhu made arrangements for their prasāda as well and His sevaka Govinda would go daily to fetch prasādam for them.