As is Vaiṣṇava custom for any appearance day of the Lord, Śrīla Gurudeva fasted on Gaura-pūrṇimā, along with the rest of the devotees congregated at Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha. From morning to evening, the Caitanya-Bhāgavata and Caitanya-caritāmṛta were recited before the assembly, with special emphasis given on the reasons for the Lord’s advent.
When the moon began to rise in Navadvīpa, the assembled devotees sang the hymn recounting the birth of Lord Caitanya as Acaryadeva bathed the Deity of Mahāprabhu with milk, yogurt, clarified butter, honey, sugar, water, and fragrant oils. The devotees danced in bliss with their arms raised in unison, roaring, “Nitai-Gaura Haribol!” Some devotees played on trumpets and bugles, others on cymbals and drums, and others waved banners marked with the holy names. After garbing the Deity, Acarya Kesarī joined the kīrtaniyas (singers). Ecstatic symptoms manifested on his body as he danced in unbridled love of God. Mesmerized by the scene, Śrīla Gurudeva prayed for audience of Mahāprabhu and His associates. Suddenly, the material curtain covering the eternal spiritual abode lifted. Mahāprabhu appeared before Gurudeva’s eyes accompanied by Nityānanda Prabhu, Gadādhara Paṇḍa, Advaita Acarya, Śrīvāsa Paṇḍa, Sañjaya, Mukunda, and Vāsu Ghoṣa. Concealed to the ordinary observer, they danced in the courtyard of Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha to the sound of mahā–saṅkīrtana.
Śrīla Gurudeva’s hairs stood on end, he wept and shivered uncontrollably, and then he fell senseless on the ground. By the mercy of his divine master, Gurudeva was able to observe Mahāprabhu and His associates. Śrī Guru thereby fulfills the heartfelt desire of the sincere aspirant. Seeing Gaura Nārāyaṇa fallen senseless, Acarya Kesarī lifted him on to his lap. Gurudeva slowly returned to consciousness. Once awake, Gurudeva wept, longing to see the Lord again. He said, “Guru Mahārāja, your mercy is endless. By your grace alone I have witnessed Mahāprabhu and Navadvīpa-dhāma. But now, due to my great misfortune, I am no longer able to see the beauty of Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu.”
Acarya Kesarī pacified him, “Be peaceful. Soon you will be able to always perceive Mahāprabhu’s saṅkīrtana.”
From that day on Śrīla Gurudeva could not forget the beautiful form of Mahāprabhu; while chanting harināma or engaged in services, the scene of Mahāprabhu’s kīrtana remained fixed in his mind.
After Gaura-pūrṇimā, Śrīla Gurudeva accompanied Acarya
Kesarī and some close associates to various holy sites in Gauḍa-maṇḍala—the area in Bengal where Mahāprabhu performed His pastimes, which includes the appearance places of many exalted Vaiṣṇavas and associates of Mahāprabhu. They went to Śāntura, the residence of Ādvaita Acarya, and Phuliyā, where Haridāsa Ṭhākura resided. Next they went to Ambikā-kālanā, where Gaurīdāsa Paṇḍita worships the Deities of Gaura-Nityānanda that were created from a neem tree by the Lords’ Themselves when Gaurīdāsa Paṇḍa requested the Lords to always stay with him. Acarya Kesarī and Śrīla Gurudeva then went to Cāṭigrāma, the birth village of Mahāprabhu’s dear associates Puṇḍarīka Vidyānidhi, Caitanya Vallabha, Vāsudeva Datta, and Mukunda Datta. They then went to Ekacakrā-dhāma, the birthplace of Lord Nityānanda Prabhu, and next to Kaṭavā, where Nimāī Paṇḍa accepted sannyāsa from Keśava Bhāratī. Afterwards, they went to Śrīkhaṇḍa, where many eminent associates of Mahāprabhu took birth, such as: Narahari Sarakāra Ṭhākura, Mukunda Ṭhākura, Raghunandana, and Jagadānanda, to name a few. They finished their parikramā at Pānīhāṭī and Ādi Saptagrāma.
Acarya Kesarī described the pastimes and glories of each place they went to. When Gurudeva heard the glories of Ādi Saptagrāma, the appearance place of Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, he asked, “Why did renounced Vaiṣṇavas like Haridāsa Ṭhākura go to the house of Hiraṇya and Govardhana Majumadāra? After all, Mahāprabhu said, ‘Meeting with kings and royalty is like taking poison. Renounced Vaiṣṇavas never meet with such men.’ Despite this, we see that numerous Vaiṣṇavas in the renounced order went to the house of the aristocratic viceroy Govardhana. Why was this?”
Acarya Kesarī explained, “Haridāsa Ṭhākura had no desire for wealth or anything material. He was niśkiñcana–akiñcana, completely neutral and free of mundane desires. Haridāsa Ṭhākura had the transcendental desire to meet with Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, the son of Govardhana Majumadāra. Dāsa Gosvāmī came from the eternal world of Vraja-maṇḍala. In Mahāprabhu’s līlā he is Raghunātha, but in vraja–līlā he is Rati Mañjarī. Without Rati Mañjarī’s mercy, rati, attraction for Kṛṣṇa will not arise in one’s heart. Rati Mañjarī bestows anurāga and the desire for bhajana, bhakti, and a transcendental relation. At present, our rati is for our own senses. Without spiritual strength and attraction we are unable to transcend our material condition and enter the eternal realm.
“Once Nityānanda Prabhu sat under a tree on the bank of the Gaṅga in Pānīhāṭī in the company of Śānanda Sena and thousands of bhaktas. Raghunātha came to meet Nityānanda Prabhu there and prostrated himself before the Lord from a distance. Nityānanda Prabhu called him forward, saying, ‘Thief! You have been hiding from Me; today I will give you a punishment. Now and forevermore you must serve all the Vaiṣṇavas.’ Nityānanda Prabhu placed both His feet on the head of Śrī Raghunātha and said, ‘The living beings are only truly helped when they receive vraja–rati. You must distribute this rati to not only the people that visit your home but to everyone. I have been thinking about pulina–bhojana—how Kṛṣṇa picnics with His friends on the bank of the Yamunā. Arrange prasāda at once for everyone here. This will please Me.’
“Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī made all necessary arrangements with haste and ease. The love of svarūpa–śakti empowered him. He did not distribute just sweet yogurt, flat rice, and fruits that morning on the riverbank. In that festival, Rati Mañjarī distributed rati, loving attraction for Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. The medium was flat rice, ghee, fruit, yogurt, and so forth, but in truth he was not giving ordinary substances. On Lord Nityānanda’s order, he gave his pure heartfelt love to the devotees.
Mahāprabhu directly manifested in the midst of that festival and Nityānanda Prabhu offered the preparations to Him first. Mahāprabhu gladly accepted that offering, prepared with rati and offered by Nityānanda Prabhu—the original guru of all. Afterwards, His prasāda was distributed to tens of thousands of eager recipients. All became full of bliss, receiving the rati distributed by Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī. Nityānanda Prabhu ordered Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī to never stop this service.”
Gurudeva asked Acarya Kesarī, “Rati Mañjarī gave this vraja–rati; did not Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura—the emissary of svarūpa-śakti—also distribute this rati?”
“Indeed he did.”
“And you are also distributing this rati, Gurudeva?”
“Yes,” Acaryadeva said with a smile, “those fortunate souls who have a ready vessel in their hearts all receive this rati.”
“If I pray for this,” Gurudeva asked, “will the Guru-varga bestow upon me?”
“Yes, why wouldn’t they? If you beg for this with faith and respect, the merciful Guru-varga will certainly give it to you.”
Acarya Kesarī indicated the occupation of sādhakas. “We are simple beggars,” he said. “Sādhakas visit the places of the Guru-varga and beg for vraja–rati from the ācāryas. If you seek charity from general people they may give one, five, or ten rupees, but they can’t give vraja–rati. They will engender viṣaya–rati, attainment for sense objects, and will try to make you their servant. Only the Guru-varga bestow pure love.”
From that time on, Śrīla Gurudeva committed prayers of the Guru-varga to memory and repeated them daily in supplication:
tavaivāsmi tavaivāsmi na jīvāmi tvayā vinā
iti vijñāya rādhe tvaṁ naya māṁ caraṇāntike
Śrī Vilāpa-kusumāñjali 96
I am Yours! I am Yours! I cannot live without You! Knowing this, O Rādhe, please give me a place at Your lotus feet.
yat-kiṅkarīṣu bahuśaḥ khalu kāku-vāṇī,
nityaṁ parasya puruṣasya śikhaṇḍa-mauleḥ
tasyāḥ kadā rasa-nidheḥ vṛṣabhānu-jāyās
O daughter of Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja, O ocean of rasa, that beautiful boy who wears a peacock feather in His hair is actually the original Supreme Personality. Still, He is always falling at the feet of Your maidservants, begging them dolefully with many humble words for entrance into Your kuñja, where the two of You engage in Your playful loving affairs. I pray to become one stick in the broom that Your maidservants use to clean Your delightful kuñja.
hā devī! kāku-bhara-gadgadayādya vācā
yāce nipatya bhuvi daṇḍavad-udbhaṭārtiḥ
asya prasādam abudhasya janasya kṛtvā
gāndharvike! nija-gaṇe gaṇanāṁ vidhehi
O Devī, falling on the ground like a stick, I prostrate myself before You and, in great distress, implore You with a choked voice: O Gandharvikā, please mercifully count this fool as one of Your own.
Śrīla Gurudeva daily petitioned the Divine Couple with these verses. He also memorized the love-filled songs of the previous ācāryas and absorbed his mind in those meditations. Gurudeva became
a skilled kīrtanīya and encouraged his juniors to participate in kīrtana. When he sang, Gurudeva meditated on the profound meanings of the songs. Acarya Kesarī and the other Vaiṣṇavas were delighted with the sweetness of Śrīla Gurudeva’s singing. Gurudeva encouraged all the devotees to attend the temple functions. If a brahmacārī did not attend the temple kīrtana and classes, Gurudeva would take note and ask him,
“Prabhu, is something wrong? Are you ill and unable to attend the programs? How can I help you?” If that brahmacārī continued his absence, Gurudeva would come sit by his bed at artik time and start playing instruments and singing there. Grinning, the devotee would then accompany Gurudeva to the temple hall.
In the months following Gaura Pūrṇimā, many brahmacārīs traveled on preaching engagements. Śrīla Gurudeva stayed at Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha with some of the younger brahmacārīs and a few elder Vaiṣṇavas. Gurudeva was enthusiastic and took responsibility for many services. He remained with Acarya Kesarī and diligently followed his instructions. However, Gurudeva did not wait to be given instructions before performing needful tasks. Pure disciples do not think, “I will wait for an order from my spiritual master, and only then will I serve.” Considering Guru and Vaiṣṇavas to be his family, Gurudeva had a natural service tendency and thought, “How can I help? What needs to be done?” Then, by the mercy of Acarya Kesarī, he received inspiration on how to carry on his duties.
Acarya Kesarī was busy with publications and preaching. In the evenings, he spoke hari-kathā. On his instruction, Śrīla Gurudeva sang morning and evening kīrtana in the temple hall. His sweet voice touched the hearts of those who heard him. After kīrtana, Gurudeva sat and attentively listened to hari-kathā. Acarya Kesarī spoke on varied subjects, focusing especially on the glories of the Guru-varga and his own divine master, Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Śrīla Gurudeva faithfully assimilated the teachings.
For some days no one was giving class after morning bhajanas, so Gurudeva began speaking after kīrtana. Acarya Kesarī was pleased to see the enthusiasm of his disciple, and told him, “O Gaura Nārāyaṇa, continue giving class. You will thus receive the benefits of both hearing and chanting about the Lord. You can speak in the mornings on the Caitanya–Bhāgavata.”
Although Gurudeva had only been living in the temple for a few months, he read and provided insightful purports from the Caitanya–Bhāgavata daily. One day he spoke about the special contribution of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda. A few elder disciples of Prabhupāda living in the āśrama heard Gurudeva speaking about their divine master as if he knew him personally. They diluted his remarks saying, “We have seen Prabhupāda with our own eyes and knew him very well. You never met or even saw him, so how do you speak so audaciously, as though you are very familiar with his character?”
“I have seen him,” Gurudeva boldly replied.
“This new boy is insolent,” Prabhupāda’s disciples said amongst themselves. “He only recently joined the temple and now is claiming to have seen our Prabhupāda.”
They went and complained to Acarya Kesarī, “O Keśava Mahārāja, this new boy Gaura Nārāyaṇa is saying that he has seen Śrīla Prabhupāda and thus knows his glories. He is arrogant and does not follow proper Vaiṣṇava etiquette.”
“Call him here,” Acarya Kesarī responded.
When Gurudeva arrived, Acarya Kesarī asked him, “They are saying that you claim to have seen Śrīla Prabhupāda. Have you?”
“Yes, I have seen him,”
“How have you done so?”
“Many of Prabhupāda’s disciples only saw him with their eyes,” Gurudeva said, “But this is not the best way to perceive divine personalities. I have seen him with my ears through the medium of your merciful speech. Hence, I have seen Prabhupāda through your eyes and your heart.”
Acarya Kesarī was surprised to hear this and told Gurudeva to continue.
Gurudeva said, “Prabhupāda, the entire disciplic succession, Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa are all present in your heart. When you spoke about Prabhupāda, I made a place for your words in my heart. Now Prabhupāda is always present there along with you.”
Ācāa Kesarī’s heart melted. With a choked voice he said, “I am very happy that you have truly heard the glories of Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas. The Bhāgavatam gives evidence that the ears are the best way to perceive transcendental personalities.
āsse śrutekṣita-patho nanu nātha puṁsām
‘O my Lord, Your devotees see You through the ears by the process of proper hearing. You take Your seat in the pure lotus-like hearts of such devotees.’
Acaryadeva continued, “Spiritual reality is not accurately perceived with one’s mundane vision. Many people saw Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī as he wandered about naked. They mocked him by clapping, laughing, and throwing rocks at him; but the young Śukadeva Gosvāmī remained completely oblivious, being fully absorbed in the Absolute Truth. When he spoke the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam for seven days and nights without stopping, all the great sages listened intently. By the method of aural reception, they were able to understand the nature and qualities of Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Still, many of the sages could not realize all the truths of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam because they were not surrendered to Śukadeva Gosvāmī. Only Sūta Gosvāmī, Parīkṣit Mahārāja, and a few others perfectly realized the highest truth of loving devotion to Kṛṣṇa.” Acarya Kesarī addressed Śrīla Gurudeva, “Continue reading and speaking from the Caitanya-Bhāgavata. I am pleased with your sincere endeavor.”
Through his faith, Śrīla Gurudeva exhibited the potency of the spiritual master’s speech and demonstrated that to comprehend transcendental topics one must hear from a self-realized saint. When a disciple hears
the words of Śrī Guru and saintly devotees with full faith and attention, the import of their words will be revealed in his heart and will cut asunder the knots of material attachment. Disciples who lack faith in Śrī Guru and neglect his speech can never cross the miserable ocean of birth and death, for they remain attached to temporary mundane relations, which are like pieces of straw coincidentally meeting for a short time in the ocean. Therefore, disciples must consider if the words of Śrī Guru are their true wealth. The intelligent disciple will place the statements of Śrī Guru in his heart, understanding what a great jewel he has obtained. This self-effulgent jewel will cast its divine light, removing the darkness that has kept the embodied soul in ignorance for millions of lives. Such treasure of hari-kathā can only be obtained by the grace of a pure devotee.
(Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! Excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from [email protected] )