Upon returning from Tārīpura, Śrīla Gurudeva accompanied Ācharya Kesarī throughout Bengal in preparation for the annual Navadvīpa-dhāma Parikramā. While Ācharyadeva was absent, he left Narahari Sevā-vigraha Prabhu in charge of Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha. Narahari Prabhu led a life of austerity. Even in the coldest part of the winter, he only wore a simple cotton cloth and a thin shawl. While Gurudeva was collecting rice for the Parikramā, Narahari Prabhu contracted chicken pox. The other devotees tried to take care of him, but out of humility he refused treatment. Gradually his condition worsened. Narahari Prabhu humbly locked himself in his room to avoid interference, so that he could incessantly chant while fully engaged in the internal service of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. On the morning of January 30, 1948, Narahari Prabhu left this world and entered the pastimes of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.
The devotees sent a telegraph to Ācharyadeva informing him of Narahari Prabhu’s departure. Broken-hearted Ācharya Kesarī rushed back with Gurudeva to Navadvīpa. When he arrived, he ran to the room where Narahari Prabhu had been respectfully placed and embraced his body. He wept, “O Prabhu! You are not just my elder brother. You are everything to me. Without you, I am an orphan.”
Ācharyadeva performed the last rites of his dear godbrother and arranged a celebration to commemorate his life of service. On the day of the festival, Ācharya Kesarī extensively glorified Narahari Prabhu. Upon hearing Narahari’s praises, some raised doubts, “If he was such a great Vaiṣṇava, why did he suffer so much in his last days? He took shelter of Śrīla Prabhupāda but left this world in such a bad condition. He must have made a grave offense.”
In his classes over the next few days, Ācharya Kesarī explained that it is impossible for ordinary people to understand the nature and activities of Vaiṣṇavas. Vaiṣṇavas are constantly engaged in God’s service. If people come and distract them, then they pray for sickness. “When you see a great Vaiṣṇava apparently suffering from material misery, understand with certain that he is actually experiencing the highest ecstasy. Arrogant people who are bewildered by sense enjoyment owing to perceived knowledge, education, birth, wealth, and beauty cannot understand the activites or position of a Vaiṣṇava. A Vaiṣṇava, on the contrary, never considers count of birth, level of education, or wealth to be significant qualifications; rather he distributes the Lord’s mercy to everyone, regardless of their social position or cultural background.”
General people cannot distinguish between an ordinary person and an eternal associate of Kṛṣṇa. The apparent sickness of liberated souls is merely the test of Kṛṣṇa to see who has love for His devotees. Kṛṣṇa thinks: “Do you love My devotees due to selfishness only—when they serve you and are beneficial to your happiness—or do you have unconditional love for them? Are you willing to serve them in all manners and circumstances when they appear to be suffering from grave illness?”
Even when the body of Mahāprabhu’s dear associate Sanātana Gosvāmī was covered with oozing sores, Mahāprabhu embraced him and ensured his well-being. At that moment other devotees requested Mahāprabhu, “He is ill, please do not touch him.”
Mahāprabhu responded, “In any condition, My devotees are beloved to Me.”
Acharya Kesarī explained that Śrīla Prabhupāda gave Narahari Prabhu the name Sevā-vigraha because he was the living embodiment of service, and the bestower of sevā-vṛtti, the tendency to serve. He could grant the eligibility for the transcendental service of Māyāpura, the Dhāma, the Vaiṣṇavas, Prabhupāda, and the Guru-varga. Therefore his name is Sevā-vigraha Prabhu. By remembering him, and following his example, one will attain eternal spiritual service. Although he was senior to most, Narahari Sevā-vigraha Prabhu served everyone as though they were his superiors. If the senior does not serve the juniors, how will the juniors learn how to serve? Service establishes a relation. Reading books or chanting mantras is theoretical, but service gives realization and awakens pure love in the heart.
Ācharyadeva instituted an annual festival to be held in honor of Śrī Narahari Sevā-vigraha Prabhu. When he construed Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha, he named the main gate in Narahari Prabhu’s honor, calling Narahari Toraṇa.
After Narahari Prabhu’s disappearance, Anaṅga-mohana was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Ācharya Kesarī was informed that he would not recover. He brought Anaṅga-mohana to a tuberculosis hospital in Madras, renowned as one of India’s best, and gave the responsibility of caring for him to Śrīla Gurudeva. Some complained to Ācharya Kesarī, asking why he was spending so much of the temple donations on one brahmacārī. He replied, “Brahmacārīs are an integral limb of the temple. To serve a brahmacārī and to serve the temple is one and the same.”
Although Anaṅga-mohana’s malady was highly contagious, Śrīla Gurudeva risked his own life by selflessly caring for him. Anaṅga-mohana continued to vomit blood and was unable to eat. He became emaciated, and was senseless most of the time. In the course of his service, Gurudeva himself became ill, but he never swayed from his determination. He stayed with Anaṅga-mohana, cooked for him and fed him, cleaned up after him, and read to him from the Bhāgavatam and Caitanya–caritāmṛta. Ācharya Kesarī also remained in Madras until he had to leave for other responsibilities.
Anaṅga-mohana was sleeping when Ācharyadeva left. When he woke up and could not see Ācharya Kesarī, he cried out, “Where is Bābā? Take me to Bābā. Where is he? Who brought me here? Why have I been taken away from him?” He was crying and shouting.
Śrīla Gurudeva tried to console him. “When you are a little better, I will take you to him.”
“No! I must go now.”
Śrīla Gurudeva gave Anaṅga-mohana a picture of Ācharya Kesarī and put in his chest, saying, “He is here.”
Anaṅga-mohana clasped it to his chest and loudly cried, “Where is Bābā? I can’t live without him. Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are calling me. I am going to Vṛndāvana.”
Śrīla Gurudeva caught Anaṅga-mohana’s feet and said, “If you are going, how can I stop you? But please pray for me as well. I also want to go to Vṛndāvana.”
“Yes, Bābā is there in Vṛndāvana. I am going to him.”
Gurudeva witnessed symptoms of spiritual ecstasy in the body of Anaṅga-mohana. Although he was in the last stages of his ailment, he owed no signs of pain. He continuously chanted the names of Gaura-Nitai and Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.
As he was leaving his body, Gurudeva prayed to him, “O Prabhu, please give me a drop of your one-pointed devotion to Śrī Guru-pāda-padma. When you are in Vṛndāvana, please pray that I may join you in the service of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa under the guidance of Guru Mahārāja.”
Anaṅga-mohana then left this world while chanting the names of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Gurudeva wrote a letter to Ācharya Kesarī, telling him, “You gave me your dear associate to care for. I could not protect him. Experiencing grief in separation from you, he left his body while calling out the names of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. The Vraja-devīs do not want to be separated from Kṛṣṇa for even a moment. Those gopīs who were held back from going to the Rāsa dance left their physical bodies and went to meet with Kṛṣṇa in their eternal spiritual forms. Likewise, I could not keep your dear servant in the hospital. He has gone to be with you in the eternal world.”
Ācharya Kesarī responded with a letter that read, “Yes, but don’t worry. I am with you. You are with me and he whom you speak of is also with me. There is a permanent relation between guru and disciple. He is not far from me. He is here.”
The eternal associates of Bhagavān have an inmate relation with one another, and exist always in a transcendental state. Caitanya Mahāprabhu left his disciple Choṭā Haridāsa, but when Mahāprabhu was on the bank of the ocean He said to Svarūpa Dāmodara, “I hear the singing of Haridāsa. O Svarūpa Dāmodara, can you hear it?”
“Yes, yes. It is the melody of Haridāsa.”
“Where is Haridāsa?”
“Prabhu, You left him one year ago. He went to Prayāga and gave up his life. Some say he has become a brahma-rākṣasa.”
Angered, Mahāprabhu shouted, “Brahma-rākṣasa? That is impossible! He stayed with the Vaiṣṇavas, led in Jagannātha Purī, and accepted Jagannātha’s mahā-prasāda. He left this body, but he is with me in his spiritual body.”
Ācharya Kesarī told Śrīla Gurudeva, “Anaṅga-mohana has not left us. He is continuing his service. Come here, and you will be able to learn everything from him.”
The sevaka (servitor) has love and Gurudeva accepts this love.
When the Vrajavāsīs’ hearts melt, pure existence and love enters the hearts of the practioner and thence eternal service is easily attained.
When Śrīla Gurudeva returned to Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha, he felt a great potency appear inside him. He was always with Ācharyadeva and performed every available service including cooking, cleaning, washing cloth, and writing down Ācharya Kesarī’s articles for publishing.
One night Śrīla Gurudeva saw in a dream that Anaṅga-mohana was with Ācharya Kesarī, engaging in all activities as he had prior to his departure. Gurudeva told Ācharya Kesarī of the dream in the morning, saying, “Guru Mahārāja, I saw Anaṅga-mohana wh you serving in all manners.”
“Yes, I never left him and he never left me,” Ācharya Kesarī said. “He is now present with you. He helps you while you cook and serve me.
Else, how could you do everything alone? Therefore he does everything with you.”
In honor of Anaṅga-mohana, Ācharyadeva established a temple in the village of Siddhāvāṭī, on the border of Bengal and Bihar; there, annual festivals were held for his dear sevaka.
The next year, during Cāturmāsya, Sajjana-sevaka also fell ill with tuberculosis. Ācharya Kesarī took him to the tuberculosis hospital in Madras and the door prescribed medicine along with a diet that included tomatoes. The brahmacārīs in the āśrama led strict and austere lives. They ate simply, once a day during Cāturmāsya, never taking any items forbidden during those four months. Sajjana-sevaka did not want to take tomatoes because doing so would violate his Cāturmāsya vow. However, Ācharyadeva insisted that he eat them to maintain his life of service. Although Sajjana-sevaka accepted tomatoes, Ācharya Kesarī and Śrīla Gurudeva diligently followed the highest standard of Cāturmāsya. e door advised Ācharya Kesarī that Sajjana could recover if he carefully took his medicine and stayed in a healthy climate.
Śrīla Gurudeva accompanied Ācharya Kesarī, Sajjana-sevaka, and Adhokṣaja Bābājī to his āśrama in the remote village of Siddhāvāṭī, where they stayed for a month. On the way there, Adhokṣaja Bābājī purchased oil and grains to last the month. Śrīla Gurudeva served there by cooking, transcribing Ācharya Kesarī’s dictations, and caring for Sajjana-sevaka. Since Adhokṣaja Bābājī Mahārāja was elderly, Śrīla Gurudeva went to the market, cooked and offered all the meals, served the prasāda, and cleaned everything alone.
When cooking, Gurudeva deep-fried the vegetables until they were soft, rinsed them in hot water to remove the oil, and then stir-fried them with spices or used them in a soup. Ācharya Kesarī complimented him for the healthy prasāda, which, although lite, was flavorful.
After a week, Adhokṣaja Bābājī informed Ācharya Kesarī that their store of oil was depleted. Ācharya Kesarī inquired, “How is that possible? Gaura Nārāyaṇa is cooking simply, with very little oil.”
Adhokṣaja Bābājī smiled and said, “Sastā bhī khāeṅge, aur baḍiyā
bhī khāeṅge!” (We’ll eat cheap, but it’ll taste great!).
One day when Gurudeva was cooking, Adhokṣaja Bābājī and Ācharya Kesarī observed from outside the kitchen without Gurudeva noticing. Ācharya Kesarī laughed in amusement to see Gurudeva’s clever way of making the vegetables so tasty yet lite.
In those days, India did not have a cure for tuberculosis. Most of the time the patient would not survive. Ācharya Kesarī desired that qualified people would be there to maintain his society after his departure.
He thought, “Sajjana-sevaka is very qualified. I will not let him leave now.” He invested his spiritual power in Sajjana-sevaka. Thus he was restored to good health and continued his services. Tests will come many times in the life of a devotee, but by faith in God and determination to follow the path of bhakti without faltering, one will certainly surmount all trials.
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (excerpted from “Sri Guru Darshan”; available from: [email protected] )