As commonly done in India, Śrīla Gurudeva’s parents arranged his marriage while he was still in high school—although the official wedding with a brāhmaṇa girl would not occur until Gurudeva was twenty-one. Paṇḍa Tiwārī told his son, “Now that you are engaged, and your education is almost complete, you should consider a career to pursue so that you can maintain a family.”
On the order of his father, Gurudeva agreed to search for an occupation. At that time the British sovereign regularly sent police recruiters to select qualified students for employment. On such an occasion Gurudeva was sent for an interview. Previously, he had heard that an individual of the corps must be fluent in English. Gurudeva knew some English, but was difficult for him to fully grasp the British accent of the interviewer. When the officer spoke, Gurudeva simply repeated his words in a confident voice.
The British officer asked Gurudeva, “What is your name?”
“What is your name?” Gurudeva repeated.
The officer instructed, “Tell me your surname.”
“Tell me your surname.”
The officer thought, “This boy is bold!” He then asked, “Will you not answer my questions?”
Gurudeva replied, “Will you not answer my questions?”
“This boy has a strong character,” the officer thought. Of course he had heard of Nārāyaṇa Tiwārī’s high grades and strong athletic nature, but now he could confirm that this young chap was not ordinary. He reported to his superior, “There is a strong, young man named Nārāyaṇa Tiwārī who will make a good officer.”
Before long, Gurudeva accepted an offer to join the local police division. He excelled in his training and was soon engaged as a police inspector. Political issues in India were escalating and he was assigned to assess conflicts and deal with them accordingly.
Gurudeva accepted the department’s orders but insisted, “I will need two horses for traveling.”
The police lieutenant agreed, “We will arrange as per your desire.”
When Śrīla Gurudeva began serving as an officer, incessant fighting plagued the nation due to intense struggles for independence. Disagreements and misunderstandings spiraled out of control. If a person saw someone whom he did not trust, he was prepared to quickly cut off his head—else his head would be first. Nevertheless, wherever Gurudeva went his character and influence brought about peaceful resolutions. Gurudeva not only empathized with all parties, his compassionate dealings altered aggressive mentalities as he effectively solved problems and misunderstandings between disputants. Gurudeva performed his duties with strength and poise. He harmonized all difficulties by explaining truths from the Vedic scriptures, especially the Rāmāyaṇa. By his influential association, people realized there was no need to quarrel and their antagonistic natures dissolved. Observing this, he was assigned special cases in Bihar, Bengal, and Odisha.
At that me, the British established a seemingly endless railway system along with public buses. They also introduced three-wheel vehicles that made such a racket they could be heard a kilometer away. Hearing the awful noise, cows and bulls would break their ropes and run wildly, dogs would bark, and everyone’s eardrums were numbed. Unlike the British who used vehicles to do all their tasks, Śrīla Gurudeva preferred to travel by horse.
Once, Gurudeva discovered the police department was sponsoring an athletic competition for junior officers to get promoted to senior positions. Gurudeva went to the British superintendent to apply for the event. The man said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Tiwārī, but you are not eligible for this event.”
“Sir, I don’t want a promotion,” Gurudeva said. “I am a sportsman. Please allow me to compete unofficially.”
The superintendent considered for some time, then finally agreed. Gurudeva competed in five events, including the long jump, high jump, and foot races, and he proved to be the ultimate victor in each category. The superintendent was so impressed with Gurudeva’s athletic performance that he awarded him a promotion on the spot to the amazement of the rest of the corps.
Śrīla Gurudeva was then posted in the city of Rājmahal, in Bihar, on the border of Bengal. Śrīla Gurudeva became immersed with his official duties and visits to his hometown were less frequent. Every six to eight weeks he went back to Tiwārīpura to visit his family and offer his wages to his father. Being pleased with his son’s respectful offering, his father returned the wages with the hope that Gurudeva would settle down and establish a steady family. Gurudeva spent his time in Tiwārīpura engaged in spiritual practice and, in due course, returned to his post. Even with a busy schedule he always maintained a fixed spiritual practice in the early morning before going to work.
From childhood Śrīla Gurudeva always felt a unique attraction to hari-kathā and would leave everything to attend any local spiritual gathering. Even now, in the midst of his busy life as a police inspector, he took the chance whenever possible to go and listen to holy discourses from saintly devotees.
One day, he went to an assembly where an erudite sādhu was reciting the Rāmāyaṇa. He became so absorbed in rāma-kathā that he did not notice the passing of time. The discourse carried on throughout the night before concluding. In the morning, Śrīla Gurudeva remembered he had been scheduled for a night shift.
Expecting to be heavily reprimanded, Gurudeva went to work as usual. The superintendent noticed his arrival and called, “Mr. Tiwārī, come to my office right away.”
Śrīla Gurudeva apprehensively went to the office. “Take a seat,” the superintendent said. Gurudeva sat in a chair. The man handed him an envelope. As he glanced down at the paper the superintendent said, “I went last night and checked on the officers.” He paused. “I was disappointed to see that some were falling asleep at their station.” Gurudeva looked up. The superintendent continued, “However, I was very pleased to see you alert and performing your duty with diligence. You have been doing great work, Mr. Tiwārī. Hence, I have decided to promote you.”
After meeting with the superintendent Śrīla Gurudeva went to his office and sat down, deep in thought. “This must be a sign from God,” he said. “Now it won’t be much longer before I leave.”
As a police inspector, Śrīla Gurudeva sent most of his time away from Tiwarīpura. He occasionally took leave and returned home to stay with his family, especially when there were festivals and large gatherings of sādhus in Tiwārīpura, such as during the month-long festival of Kumbha Mela in the spring.
One Kumbha Melā, a yogī came and boasted to the villagers, “I have undergone severe austerities for twelve years and have achieved the perfection of yoga. Now I can walk across water!”
All the villagers gathered at the riverside, eager to witness the yogī’s mystic feat. Hearing of the yogī’s boasting, Śrīla Gurudeva also went along to observe. Wearing a deerskin loincloth, wooden shoes, and holding a large waterpot, the yogī walked across the river and back with ease, head held high. The villagers were amazed and began to revere him greatly, but the wise village leader was unmoved by the performance. By his influence, the other villagers also gave less regard to the yogī. The yogī approached the village leader and asked, “Are you not impressed?
By crossing the river I have defied the laws of nature; that is no small feat.”
“You think that you are so great,” the leader said, “but we have a man in our village who is thousands of times greater than you. He is a great devotee! As a mere boy, he brought his schoolmate back to life from a fatal snake be by faithfully chanting the holy names of Lord Rāma.”
“Where is he?” the yogī said eagerly. “Please take me to him.”
He was brought to Śrīla Gurudeva, who was able to recognize him behind the beard and dreadlocks as the same boy he had saved in his childhood. Seeing each other, they embraced, delighted to meet again.
The yogī triumphantly exclaimed, “Just see what I have become!”
“What have you learned that is truly worthwhile?” Gurudeva asked. “Anyone can cross a river by boat for just a single coin. But can you walk across the vast ocean of suffering in material existence? Time is the most valuable treasure in this world, yet you have wasted many years of your life learning a cheap trick. If you had spent that me worshing God, you could have gained pure love for Him, making your life successful. What is the use of this mystic achievement if cannot save you from the cycle of birth and death?”
Embarrassed, the yogī asked, “What do you suggest I do?”
“Bhakti-yoga is the only process that can save you from the misery of material life and take you to the shelter of Bhagavān’s lotus feet,” Śrīla Gurudeva said. “Kṛṣṇa Himself says in the Bhagavad-gītā that bhakti-yoga is supreme among all types of spiritual endeavors:
yogīnām api sarveṣāṁ mad-gatenāntar-ātmanā
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ sa me yuktatamo mataḥ
I consider the yogī who constantly worships Me with great faith, and who deeply absorbs his mind in loving attachment to Me, to be the topmost of all yogīs.
Śrīla Gurudeva described the supremacy of bhakti-yoga to his friend, who lost his desire for fame and became eager to develop a relationship with God. Later in life, he received dīkṣā (formal initiation) from a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācārya and was given the name Prema-prayojana. He travelled to Uttara Kāśī, high in the Himālayas, and daily chanted three lakhs of harināma (300,000 holy names).
Srīla Gurudeva traveled as a police inspector in many areas of Bihar. Wherever he went he searched for genuine sādhus in hope of meeting a transcendental guru. He also traveled to the Himālayas, and many other areas of India, but was never fully satisfied with any sādhu he met. He once witnessed a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sādhu wandering the streets, shouting the holy names of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and rolling on the ground in spiritual ecstasy. Seeing him, Gurudeva’s taste for bhajana increased.
During his travels in government service, Śrīla Gurudeva once saw a group of sādhus anng the pañca-tattva mantra: Śrī-Kṛṣṇa-Caitanya Prabhu Nityānanda Śrī-Advaita Gadādhara Śrīvāsādi-Gaura-Bhakta-Vṛnda. They then sang the mahāmantra:
Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare
Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare
At an opportune moment Gurudeva approached the sādhus and asked, “Why do you chant ‘Śrī Kṛṣṇa-Caitanya’ first then ‘Hare Kṛṣṇa’ and then end with the names of Rāma? Rāma came first in Tretā-yuga, then Kṛṣṇa came in Dvāpara-yuga, and Caitanya Mahāprabhu came last in Kali-yuga.”
A boy in the group spoke up, “Officer, don’t you know Kali-yuga is the first age? Dvāpara means the second, and Treta means the third. So we chant Śrī Kṛṣṇa-Caitanya first. Caitanya Mahāprabhu is Kṛṣṇa Himself in the guise of a devotee incarnating to lead the saṅkīrtana movement. Kṛṣṇa is second, so we then chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, and third we chant Hare Rāma.”
Śrīla Gurudeva smiled at the boy’s clever response and went on his way. When Gurudeva returned home, he studied different Hindi books for references about the mahāmantra; he saw that Hare Rāma was before Hare Kṛṣṇa.
In 1945, a group of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sādhus came to the place where Gurudeva was serving as a police officer. Amongst them were Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Brahmacārī (known as Bhaktikamala), Tridaṇḍisvāmī Bhaktikuśala Nārasiṁha Mahārāja, and Śrī Rādhānātha Prabhu.
Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Brahmacārī was a disciple of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda. He was one of the prominent preachers who served under the guidance of his senior godbrother, the renowned Ācarya Kesarī Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, who is one of the dearmost disciples of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Brahmacārī preached vigorously in the cities and villages throughout Bihar and Bengal, such as Paṭnā, Dumkā, Rājmahal, and Bhāgalpura.
As the world held its breath for an end to World War II, the British regime struggled with the counteractive influences of Gandhi, Subha Candra Bose, Nehru, and other revolutionaries who strived to liberate India. Because of tension between Indian nationals and the British regime, the government monitored traveling sādhus suspecting that revolutionaries disguised themselves as saintly preachers in order to freely move about and form conspiracies.
When the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sādhus came to preach in Sāhebaganja, Bihar, Śrīla Gurudeva was assigned to investigate their intentions. He was please to receive this opportunity, as he was always searching for pure devotees. The preachers were invited to speak for seven days at the home of a high-ranking officer, Mr. Banarji. Gurudeva requested seven days to fully investigate the sādhus’ motives. He was granted permission and instructed to send a report afterwards to headquarters in Kolkata.
Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu was an eloquent scholar. In his discourses he focused on the teachings of the pure devotee Prahlāda, illuminating truths of the soul, the Supreme Soul, and confidential secrets of bhakti—culminating in pure love for Kṛṣṇa. Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu was fluent in Sanskrit, Bengali, and English. Śrīla Gurudeva spoke Hindi and English, but only partially understood Bengali. After the lectures, Gurudeva asked Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu questions concerning the Gauḍīya philosophy, and they discussed tattva (essential truth) in English. The other devotees present were happy to see Gurudeva’s sincere interest. They observed his deep faith and knowledge of śāstra (scripture) and could understand he was from a Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇa family.
īSrla Gurudeva attended Narottamānanda Prabhu’s discourses attired in traditional Vaiṣṇava cloth. He heard and participated while the Vaiṣṇavas sang the pañca-tattva-mantra and mahāmantra. After class Śrīla Gurudeva partook of mahā–prasāda and then inquired from Narottamānanda Prabhu about the Gauḍīya philosophy.
Śrīla Gurudeva asked questions such as: “What is your sampradāya’s conception of the soul? Why do some gurus teach that the body is the self and serving the body, family, and humanity is service of the soul and Bhagavān? Why do people run after illusory objects of māyā, ignoring God? How can one realize the identity of the soul and truly serve God?”
Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu explained, “The living entities come from the marginal energy, the middle plane separating the spiritual and material realms. From this marginal situation they can either glance towards God and go to His realm, or glance towards māyā and consequently fall into material existence. The embodied souls of this world have turned away from their true nature, which is to love and serve God. They want immediate gratification. They have no taste for spiritual life, and cannot give up sense enjoyment. To help the generally sinful populace who have no desire to cross beyond māyā lead a moral life, teachers proclaim that God will be pleased with those who serve family and society. This is only a preliminary step on the path to self-realization and at best can help one collect pious merits through occasional service to sādhus. The soul is not satisfied by material activities and thus always moves in search of happiness found through temporary relationships. A fortunate person comes in contact with a pure devotee and practices the sādhana of bhakti-yoga under his guidance. This process gradually removes the layers of illusion covering the soul and reveals the true self. When empowered by sādhus, people acquire the willpower needed to follow the transcendental path leading to Kṛṣṇa. Only pure love can quench the soul’s thirst for happiness. Śrīmatī Rādhārānī is the personification of pure love for Kṛṣṇa. By the mercy of Her representatives one can be perfected and personally serve Kṛṣṇa in an inherent spiritual form.”
Śrīla Gurudeva then asked, “Before your discourse this evening, I heard the brahmacārīs singing Hare Kṛṣṇa before Hare Rāma in the mahāmantra. What is the reason for this? I have seen Hare Rāma written first in Hindustani books. Why do you chant Hare Kṛṣṇa first? Kṛṣṇa appeared in Dvāpara-yuga, whereas Lord Rāma appeared before Him in Tretā-yuga.”
Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu replied, “Modern authors who claim in their books that Hare Rāma should be chanted before Hare Kṛṣṇa show their ignorance of Vedic injunction. The specific mantra prescribed for Kali-yuga is known as the mahāmantra—the great mantra for deliverance. It is elucidated in the Kali-santaraṇa Upaniṣad:
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
ṣoḍaśaitāni nāmāni dvātriṁśad varṇakāni hi
kalau yuge mahā-mantraḥ sammato jīva-tāraṇe
‘This mahāmantra consists of sixteen names and thirty-two syllables. In Kali-yuga this mantra can deliver all living entities.’
“Chanting Bhagavān’s names is instructed for all ages, but for each yuga there is also a specific process to attain salvation as mentioned in the Vedas. In Satya-yuga the process is meditation, and the mantra for this meditation is:
nārāyaṇa-parā vedāh nārāyaṇa-parākṣarāḥ
“In Tretā-yuga the process of liberation is Vedic fire sacrifices along with the following mantra:
rāma nārāyaṇānanta mukunda madhusūdana
kṛṣṇa keśava kaṁsāre hare vaikuṇṭha vāmana
“In Dvāpara-yuga the process is worship of the Deity form of the Lord along with the mantra:
hare murāre madhu-kaiṭabhāre
gopāla govinda mukunda śaure
yajñeśa nārāyaṇa kṛṣṇa viṣṇo
nirāśrayaṁ māṁ jagadīśa rakṣa
“In the present age of Kali, the results achieved by other processes in different ages are all contained within the chanting of Bhagavān’s holy names, as described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 12.3.52:
kṛte yad-dhyāyato viṣṇuṁ tretāyāṁ yajato makhaiḥ
dvāpare paricaryāyāṁ kalau tad dhari-kīrtanāt
‘What was realized in Satya-yuga by meditating on Viṣṇu; what was achieved in Tretā-yuga by sacrifice; and what was attained in Dvāpara-yuga by service to the Deity, can be availed of in Kali-yuga only by chanting the holy name of Hari.’”
Narottamānanda Prabhu continued, “In this age of Kali, spiritual practices are difficult because all material actions have some contamination. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 12.3.51 states:
kaler doṣa-nidhe rājan asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet
‘Although the age of Kali is a sea of faults, one can easily be liberated from material existence by chanting Kṛṣṇa’s names in saintly company.’
harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva gatir anyathā
‘In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.’
“Chanting the harināma-mahāmantra is the supreme religious ceremony of this age. While chanting, the divine sound of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s names enter one’s ears, flow into the heart, and cleanse the layers of ignorance covering the true nature of the soul. It is not difficult to participate in Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s movement. Grueling austerities are not required. Simply chant ‘Hare Kṛṣṇa.’ In Kali-yuga, Kṛṣṇa appeared as Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Exhibiting the role of a devotee, He propagated the chanting of His own names:
kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣā kṛṣṇaṁ sāṅgopāṅgāstra-pārṣadam
yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ
‘In the Age of Kali, taking up the method of worship known as the saṅkīrtana–yajña, or the congregational chanting of the holy name, intelligent persons adore that incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Kṛṣṇa, whose complexion is fair,
and who is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions.’”
Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu then received dozens of verses from Vedic scripture as evidence that Lord Caitanya is the dire manifestation of the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa in Kali-yuga.
Śrīla Gurudeva remembered his dream as a boy, when Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa came to him and said They had appeared in Kali-yuga as Gaura-Nitai. Gurudeva asked, “Are Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa also identical to Caitanya-Nityānanda?”
“Yes,” Narottamānanda Prabhu said. “In the authorized biographies of Caitanya Mahāprabhu it is mentioned that Mahāprabhu once gave darśana of His different incarnations for twenty-one hours, according to His devotees’ specified form of their worshipable Lord. God appears in different forms for the pleasure of His devotees, for each soul has an inherent relation with a specific aspect of God. For Murārī Gupta, Mahāprabhu showed His form as Lord Rāma. For other devotees, who had attraction to other incarnations, Mahāprabhu appeared before them as Varāhadeva, Nṛsiṁhadeva, and so forth.”
Gurudeva then asked, “What is the difference between harināma-saṅkīrtana and the gāyatrī–mantra?”
“The gāyatrī–mantra controls the mind, destroys impediments to bhakti, and promotes one from sinful tendencies. Harināma-śaṅkīrtana kindles pure love and the soul’s eternal relation with God.”
“In the second half of the mahāmantra, which aspect of Kṛṣṇa does ‘Rāma’ refer to? Who is higher, Kṛṣṇa or Rāma?” Gurudeva asked.
“Scripture states that the word Rāma in the mahāmantra refers to Rādhā-ramaṇa—a name of Kṛṣṇa indicating He who dallies with Śrīmatī Rādhārānī. It does not refer to Lord Rāma of Ayodhyā. In this mantra, Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa are entreated to bestow Their eternal loving service.
“The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.3.28) informs us that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Absolute Truth, the cause of all causes, and source of all incarnations of the Divinity—ete cāṁśa-kalāḥ puṁsaḥ kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam.
All incarnations, beginning with Rāma, are the parts, or parts of the parts of the Original Supreme Person, Kṛṣṇa. Brahmā, the architect of the material universe, confirmed this when he realized the Absolute Truth through meditation. Lord Brahmā prayed:
īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam
‘The Supreme Personality Krsna, or Govinda, is the embodiment of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. He is the controller of all controllers, and the source of all incarnations. He has neither beginning nor origin. He is the original source of everything and the cause of all causes.’
“Govinda is another name for Vraja Kṛṣṇa. Govinda means the giver of pleasure to the go, which, in Sanskrit, means: the senses, cows of Vraja, the gopas and gopīs of Vraja (cowherd men and women of Vraja), and also Gokula. He who lives in Gokula and is dear to everyone is called Govinda. He is the Lord of all.
“The Ṛg Veda, 220.127.116.11 states: apaśyaṁ gopām aṇipadyamā namā ca parā ca pathibhiś carantam sa-sadhrīcīḥ sa viṣucīr vasāna āvarīvartti-bhuvaneṣv antaḥ—‘I have beheld a boy (Gopāla) who appears in the dynasty of cowherds and who is infallible and indestructible. He moves mysteriously, sometimes coming near and sometimes going far away. He is attired in fine silks of riotous hues. In this way, He repeatedly exhibits His manifold pastimes in this and the transcendental world.’
“The Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad (Pūrva 2.8) states: eko vaśī sarva-gaḥ kṛṣṇa īḍyaḥ eko ‘pi san bahudhā yo ‘vabhāti—‘The one controller of all, the all-pervading, unparalleled Supreme Personality Kṛṣṇa, is the supreme worshipable object for the demigods, humans, and all ling beings.’
“Brahmā explains later in the Brahma-Saṁhitā that Lord Rāma and all other incarnations manifest from the Original Personality, Śrī Kṛṣṇa:
rāmādi-mūrtiṣu kalā-niyamena tiṣṭhan
nānāvatāram akarod bhuvaneṣu kintu
kṛṣṇaḥ svayaṁ samabhavat paramaḥ pumān yo
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
‘I worship the original Personality, Govinda, who manifests Himself in the material world as Rāmacandra and many other incarnations, who are His plenary portions and sub-portions, and who personally appears as Kṛṣṇa.’ ”
Narottamānanda Prabhu continued, “There is a special distinction between Kṛṣṇa, Rāma, and other incarnations. Kṛṣṇa, as present in Vraja, is the highest form of the Absolute Truth. He is the zenith of opulence and sweetness and is the root source of all other incarnations. Lord Rāma is māryadā-puruṣottama, the Supreme Person who teaches how to follow religious principles, while Kṛṣṇa is līlā-puruṣottama, the Supreme Person who engages in sweet, loving pastimes. Rāma and Kṛṣṇa are identical according to tattva; however, according to rasa there is a distinction between Them. Rāma came to establish morality and pious conduct in relation to this world. Kṛṣṇa, on the other hand, came to attract people to Vraja through a glimpse of His sweet activities. Kṛṣṇa is raso vai saḥ (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 2.7.2)—the embodiment of all divine loving flavors. Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mercy is essential to properly understand the glories of Kṛṣṇa and divine relationship with Him in the highest spiritual abode.
“Kṛṣṇa has sixty intrinsic qualities in His personal expansions as Rāma and Nārāyaṇa. Vaikuṇṭha, where Viṣṇu resides, is the domain of opulence, whereas Vraja, the abode of Kṛṣṇa, is a place of unalloyed sweetness. In Vraja, Kṛṣṇa has four unique attributes beyond those of Viṣṇu: (1) the captivating beauty of His eternal form, (2) the sweetness of His flute-playing, (3) the sweetness of His pastimes with the residents of Vraja, (4) and the special sweetness of His love in Vraja.
The sweetness of the love between Kṛṣṇa and the Vrajavāsīs is so exalted that all opulence is feeble in comparison.”
“How should one chant harināma?” Gurudeva asked.
“Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, ‘In all places, at all times, and in all circumstances, chant the mahāmantra.’ There is no rule governing how or when to chant. However, a faithless person can pass many lives chanting without coming close to perfection. Kṛṣṇa reveals Himself to the dedicated practioner who has faith in His names.”
Affectionately concluding the discussion, Narottamānanda Prabhu and Śrīla Gurudeva retired for the night. Gurudeva contemplated what he had heard, and for the first time he felt satisfied with the responses to his inquiries. The Gauḍīya philosophy intrigued him and he was determined to apply what he had heard in his life.
Srīla Gurudeva relished hearing from Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu and greed arose in his heart to adopt a lifestyle dedicated to the practice of unalloyed devotional service. That person who has spiritual greed for pure love will have no desire for anything else. Honeybees and hummingbirds are attracted to the nectar of flowers, whereas vultures and jackals feed on carrion. Similarly, saintly men seek the nectar of unadulterated love while the wicked-minded crave gross sense pleasure.
When Śrīla Gurudeva met with Narottamānanda Prabhu, he remembered that as a boy, he had come upon a yogī who told him he would renounce family life after meeting with pure sādhus. He hence asked Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu about the nature of a genuine saintly person.
“What are the symptoms of a pure sādhu?” Gurudeva asked.
Śrīpāda Naroamānanda Prabhu said, “A bona fide sādhu is steady-minded and always absorbed in thoughts of God. Arjuna asked Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā (2.54): ‘O Keśava! What are the symptoms of a person whose intelligence is fixed in pure consciousness?’
“Kṛṣṇa replies in four verses, saying: ‘O Pārtha, when a person gives up all material desires arising from the mind and when, with his mind thus controlled, he becomes satisfied by the blissful nature of the self alone, he is to be known as a steady-minded sage. One who is not disturbed by the three types of distresses arising from the self, nature, and other living beings, who remains free from desires in the presence of happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called an equipoised saintly person. One who is devoid of mundane affection, and who neither rejoices in gain, nor despairs in loss, is known to have fixed intelligence. When a person can completely withdraw his senses from sense objects at will, just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs into its shell, his intelligence is firmly fixed. He who identifies himself with his body may artificially restrict his enjoyment by withdrawing the senses from their objects, but his taste for sense pleasure still remains. However, for one who has experienced a higher taste, in other words, realized the Supreme Soul, his taste for sense objects automatically ceases.’”
Continuing, Narottamānanda Prabhu said, “Worldly people have an intense desire to enjoy, and for this they lie, cheat, and sin in various ways. When sādhus are near such people, they make themselves as foolish so as to not be disturbed by dealing with the wants of materialistic people. Internally, the sādhus are constantly absorbed in God’s service, and when in favorable company, they manifest their service externally as well. To properly understand sādhus, one must pray for the grace of God. By God’s mercy a person meets with a pure sādhu and by that sādhu’s mercy he meets with God.”
Narottamānanda Prabhu then quoted verses from scripture glorifying sādhus:
sādhu-saṅga sādhu-saṅga—sarva-śāstre kaya
lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 22.54
‘All revealed scriptures proclaim that even a moment’s association with a sādhu, can grant one perfection.’
tulayāma lavenāpi na svargaṁ nāpunar-bhavam
bhagavat-saṅgi-saṅgasya martyānāṁ kim utāśiṣaḥ
‘Ascension to the heavenly planets and liberation from material existence cannot be compared to even a moment’s association with Kṛṣṇa’s pure devotee. What then can be said of material benedictions, which are for those who are meant for death?’
sādhavo hṛdayaṁ mahyaṁ sādhūnāṁ hṛdayaṁ tv aham
mad-anyat te na jānanti nāhaṁ tebhyo manāg api
‘Lord Viṣṇu said, “The sādhu is always within the core of My heart, and I am always in the heart of the sādhu. My devotees know nothing but Me, and I know only them.’
Narottamānanda Prabhu concluded, “God is present in the hearts of sādhus. By associang with sādhus, attainment of God is guaranteed.”
“This is true,” Gurudeva said. “You are such a sādhu, please bless me.”
“I only follow in the footsteps of a pure sādhu.”
“I am fortunate and joyful to have met you.”
“Śrī Guru-pāda-padma has an ocean of love,” Narottamānanda Prabhu said. “I am only distributing one drop of that nectar.”
“O Prabhu,” Gurudeva said, “please tell me, who is your guru, and where do you reside?”
“I am the disciple of Paramārādhyatama Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda. On his order, I travel to towns and villages, distributing the supreme glories of the mahāmantra in order to get permanent relief from all miseries to those suffering in material life. Now that my beloved Śrī Guru-pāda-padma has reentered the spiritual world, I am staying in the guidance of his inmate servant, Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Mahārāja, in the Gauḍīya Vedānta Samitī he founded. Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Mahārāja is a fearless preacher of the truth who soundly defeats all doctrines opposed to devotion. Therefore he is known as Ācārya Kesarī—the lion-like preceptor. You should come and meet him. Our headquarters are in Navadvīpa-dhāma, at Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha. You are welcome to come to the temple at any me.”
“Yes, I will certainly come,” Śrīla Gurudeva said.
“Please do,” Narottamānanda Prabhu said. “If you do, I am sure you will become completely satisfied and blissful at heart. Living in the company of pure devotees completely satisfies the self, whereas staying with materialistic people causes only suffering. Worldly people are thirsty for sense enjoyment and are always busily engaged in acquiring material objects to satisfy their desires. As an animal may run far into the desert after the mirage of water without ever being satiated, people in this world have an intense desire to enjoy—yet they are never satisfied. Pure devotees worship Kṛṣṇa empowered with divine love from Srimati Radhārānī and they spread the process of attaining this love and completely satisfying the self to the people of this world. Caitanya Mahāprabhu advented to drown the world with this love.”
Śrīla Gurudeva spoke with Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu every evening after the preacher’s public discourses. At the conclusion of the final day, Gurudeva and Narottamānanda Prabhu bade each other farewell. Gurudeva said, “I am fortunate to have met you. I hope to spend more time with you soon.”
“I consider myself favored to have met you,” Narottamānanda Prabhu said. “It is rare to find someone who has greed for pure bhakti. You are qualified and blessed. I am confident you will soon come and join our preaching.”
“How can this be?” Gurudeva thought. “I am from a brāhmaṇa family and have a high government post. How will I beg door to door?”
Śrīla Gurudeva bowed down to the devotees and then departed. He thought of Narottamānanda Prabhu’s advice and steadily his greed to meet Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja increased. Spiritual attraction has great power. Worldly people warn, “Stay at least a hundred yards away from sādhus, for they will destroy your family life and ruin your taste for this world. Wherever the sādhu goes he transforms others into sādhus; therefore, if you value your present life, avoid them at all costs.”
Upon returning to Navadvīpa-dhāma, Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu told Śrīla Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja about Gurudeva, saying,
“We met a police officer named Nārāyaṇa Tiwārī. He is a learned brāhmaṇa eager to dedicate himself to spiritual life. Hearing about you, he desired to come for your darśana.”
Pleased to hear this, Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja spoke with certain, “He will come soon.”
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from: [email protected] )