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 Acharya Kesarī and diligently followed his instructions. However, Gurudeva did not want 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 Acharya Kesarī, he received inspiration on how to carry on his duties.
Acharya 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. Acharya Kesarī spoke on varied subjects, focusing especially on the glories of the Guru-varga and his own dviine 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. Acharya 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 Bhaksiddhānta 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 disputed 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 Acharya 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,” Acharya Kesarī responded.
When Gurudeva arrived, Acharya 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.”
Acharya 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.”
Acharya 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.’
Acharyadeva 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.” Acharya 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.
Through his life of dedication to Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla Gurudeva exemplified the nature of an ideal disciple. He never thought of his personal gain. One day, Acharya Kesarī said, “A brahmacārī in his guru’s āśrama must collect alms for the service of Bhagavān. You should visit the homes of householders and speak Kṛṣṇa’s glories to them. As a bee gathers pollen from many flowers and brings it back to the hive, you should collect a small offering from people’s homes and bring it to the āśrama to use in Bhagavān’s service. By this, people achieve pious merits that will help them progress on the spiritual path. Many people will not visit the temple of their own accord, therefore go door to door and invite everyone to come. Be careful not to form intimate relations with anyone; rather, you should establish everyone’s relationship with God, while remaining detached yourself. Remain neutral and don’t accept any offering for yourself; or else māyā can catch you.”
Happily accepting Acharya Kesarī’s instruction, Gurudeva began to go out daily and humbly beg alms from the villagers, without a trace of pride regarding his brāhmaṇa birth or past influential government post. He offered whatever he received to Acharya Kesarī. When he did not gather anything from the householders, he returned with wild roots and vegetables, dry wood, cow dung, or even soil to use in the farmland. He never came back to the temple empty-handed.
Śrīla Gurudeva usually went out with an old bābājī or fellow brahmacārī, for he was warned that a lone sādhu might become a victim of māyā at any me. One day, Gurudeva and a few brahmacārīs traveled by train to distant villages. From morning to evening they begged, village to village, without receiving any alms. Gurudeva was worried he would have to return empty-handed. It was deep summer, and the scorching heat left the brahmacārīs parched. Late in the afternoon, Gurudeva led the group to a well where people were filling their buckets.
A family there asked, “You sādhus appear hungry. Will you accept something to eat?”
“We have not come to satisfy our hunger,” Gurudeva said. “We are here for the service of our spiritual master. We first offer everything to him and then he offers it to Bhagavān. Only then do we accept the remnants.”
A righteous brāhmaṇa present at the well said, “We have just offered something to our Deities. Please take just a little mahā–prasāda.”
“A chaste wife never eats before her husband,” Gurudeva replied, “likewise a genuine disciple will first offer everything to his guru.
If the disciple accepts anything independently, he is like an animal.”
Closely observing Gurudeva, relates of the brāhmaṇa said, “Can’t you recognize this young man? is this Nārāyaṇa Tiwārī! We used to go to his home and hear hari-kathā from his father and grandfather. We always revered them as our gurus. Now Nārāyaṇa Tiwārī has come as a beggar to our little village.”
The brāhmaṇa family welcomed Gurudeva into their home and convincingly washed his feet. Neighbors and friends gathered and watched curiously as the villagers honored Gurudeva with great regard. Before Gurudeva and the brahmacārīs left, they were given a large amount of rice, cloth, and other paraphernalia for the temple and were invited to come back monthly.
When they returned late that night, Acharya Kesarī said, “You brought so much back today. How did you collect all of this?”
The brahmacārīs replied, “Wherever Gaura Nārāyaṇa goes, people recognize and honor him. The villagers of one area requested us to come bcka eve month to collect donations.”
One day, Śrīla Gurudeva saw two brahmacārīs fighting in the temple courtyard. They picked up bamboo sticks and struck each other so violently that blood flowed. Gurudeva thought, “Are they devotees or animals?”
Meanwhile, Acharya Kesarī was sitting outside his room within view of the scene, chanting peacefully without intervening. Gurudeva approached Acharya Kesarī and humbly asked, “O Guru Mahārāja, please tell me, why aren’t you rebuking the brahmacārīs for their behavior?”
“That is not my duty,” Acharya Kesarī said. “If they were following me, they would be humble. They are acting like animals. So, why should I worry about them? I am here solely to serve Guru and Gaurāṅga. I will help anyone who comes with a desire to serve, even if they have a bad nature; but if they would rather fight over sense enjoyment, then they should leave.”
Shortly after, the brahmacārīs stopped fighting and approached Acharya Kesarī, each defending his own side and claiming the other was at fault.
“You can go to the police to settle your dispute,” Acharya Kesarī said. “This is not the place for such nonsense. If you want to practice bhajana, I shall help you; otherwise, you can leave immediately.”
Acharya Kesarī was a strict authority and did not tolerate activities unfavorable to bhakti. He was reared in a family that owned and rented vast amounts of land. Entire villages paid their dues to his family. As a young man he often dealt with difficult situations and unruly tenants. Later, while living in Māyāpura, he was an expert manager of the Gauḍīya Maṭhas. Having a grave disposition,
he never took sides in personal disputes between temple residents.
However, if anyone attacked the temple whatsoever, he became like a lion defending God’s proper. Accordingly, his godbrothers gave him the title Acharya Kesarī, ‘the lion-like preceptor.’
The Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha compound included a large field where the devotees cultivated vegetables. In those days, Acharya Kesarī had insufficient funds to construct a fence around the property.
To protect the land, the brahmacārīs surrounded the area with thorn bushes. Still, buffalos and other animals entered the garden, consuming and destroying the vegetation. Herdsmen would intentionally allow their drove to enter the area. Gurudeva and the brahmacārīs tried repeatedly to protect the tract of land, but the herdsmen came late at night while everyone was asleep, allowing the drove to eat everything.
Intending to stop the intruders, Śrīla Gurudeva kept vigil one night. The herdsman arrived at midnight, fully intoxicated and rowdy. To their surprise, Gurudeva drew a large stake and began to drive the buffaloes away. Startled, the herdsman yelled, “Why are you driving our herd away?”
“Why are you destroying our temple’s farm?” Gurudeva shouted back. “I won’t tolerate such unlawfulness!”
Ignoring his questions, the herdsmen assailed Gurudeva. Undaunted, Gurudeva struck them with his stick. The scene became hysterical as the drunken men called out to one another and retreated. The perpetrators returned to their village and instigated their neighbors to defend them. That same night, an angry mob returned and surrounded the temple compound. By this point the police were involved and trailed behind the horde. The commotion roused Acharya Kesarī. After hearing a brief summary of the affair, he told Gurudeva, “Go inside while I talk with the officers.”
Acharya Kesarī approached the head officer who said, “We are here to arrest the man who beat the herdsmen. Hand him over.”
Acharya Kesarī calmly escorted the officers into the compound and offered them seats saying, “Please tell me how one person could fight alone against so many? A large band of these men came with their herds to ravage our land. They come on a regular basis and allow their animals to eat our vegetables. Tonight they were drunk and attacked our brahmacārī when he confronted them. In the midst of the confusion, they beat each other and ran away, shouting like madmen.”
“Where is the man who fought with them?” the officers asked. “We want to see him immediately.”
“First examine these drunken buffalo herders,” Acharya Kesarī said. “Ask them how one man could beat all of them?”
The police questioned the herdsmen and observed their drunken state. Upset by their behavior, the police said, “If you ever come back and disturb this temple, we will beat and imprison you!” They told Acharya Kesarī, “Call for us if they return to disturb you. We will protect the temple.”
At that moment Gurudeva came out of the inner room and introduced himself. The officers said, “Oh! It’s Tāiwrījī! Are you the same distinguished inspector who recently left his post? We have heard about your eminent composure but were never able to meet you.” They were pleased to meet the esteemed Nārāyaṇa Tiwārī and engaged in friendly exchanges before dispersing the crowd and securing the temple on their leave.
Acharya Kesarī was impartial when the two brahmacārīs had previously been selfishly fighting yet protected Śrīla Gurudeva in this instance because he was defending the temple.
Acharya Kesarī told Śrīla Gurudeva, “One who acts against the rules of dharma must pay the consequences; but you must be qualified in order to discipline others. By surrendering to God, your life will be successful; otherwise, you will fail the test during challenging circumstances. When Rāvaṇa stole Sītā-devī from Rāma, Hanumān jumped across the sea and burnt down Rāvaṇa’s city of Laṅkā. This was true humility. Devotees are submissive to Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, and tolerate all attacks upon themselves, but owing deference to demons is the sign of a coward, not a devotee.”
Acharyadeva concluded, “You never need worry. Kṛṣṇa is protecting you.”
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from: [email protected] )