In the winter, Acharya Kesarī sent Śrīla Gurudeva to collect alms for the Navadvīpa-dhāma Parikramā. Śrīla Gurudeva traveled with Bhakti Kuśala Nārasiṁha Mahārāja, Mukunda Vinoda Bābājī, and other senior Vaiṣṇavas. Whoever he went with was pleased to have him in their group, because the collection always went well when Gurudeva was present. Śrīla Gurudeva once came back with Śrīpāda Nārasiṁha Mahārāja after a fruitful collection. Śrīpāda Nārasiṁha Mahārāja gave 250 rupees to Acharya Kesarī and went to his room. In those days, this was quite a large sum. Acharya Kesarī was pleased with their endeavor.
He asked Gurudeva, “How did the preaching go?”
“It was very successful,” Gurudeva said. “We collected 300 rupees.”
Acharyadeva is known as Acharya Kesarī—the lion-like preceptor. Hearing this from Gurudeva, he roared, “Hey Nārasiṁha Mahārāja! Come here! You collected 300 rupees, but you only gave me 250. Where are the remaining 50 rupees?” Śrīpāda Nārasiṁha Mahārāja reluctantly handed over the additional money to Acharya Kesarī.
“Why did you keep this money?” Acharya Kesarī asked.
“I needed to arrange the next preaching engagement,” Nārasiṁha Mahārāja answered.
“If you asked,” Acharyadeva said, “I will give whatever amount you need, whether be 50 rupees, 100, or anything. You must understand that Vaiṣṇavism is transparent. This money has been collected for the service of Bhagavān. If anyone uses it for himself, it will act as poison. It is not easy to digest the poisonous wealth given by materialists. It is imbued with their desires for sense enjoyment. Using it independently would negatively affect your consciousness and spiritual life. I am saying this for the welfare of all the brahmacārīs and sannyāsīs. In the time of Prabhupāda, we gave every single coin we collected directly to him.”
After saying this, Acharya Kesarī took the rupees and put them in his pocket. Later that day, he called for Bhakti Kuśala Nārasiṁha Mahārāja and gave him 100 rupees.
Acharyadeva said, “Many pitfalls are waiting on the path of renunciation. It is important to think carefully before performing any action. You should give everything you acquire to your guardian. By his touch, the bhikṣā is sanctified.”
Śrīpāda Nārasiṁha Mahārāja and all others present gravely accepted the instruction of Acharya Kesarī regarding proper Vaiṣṇava etiquette.
In the course of his service, Śrīla Gurudeva traveled through seemingly endless villages with Mukunda Vinoda Bābājī, a disciple of Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Once while preaching in the Bardhamān district, they came to the village of Kurmona. Upon seeing Śrīla Gurudeva, the local villagers whispered amongst themselves. “That young sādhu is very strong and healthy; it is doubtful that he is an honest renunciate. These sādhus are probably thieves who have come in the guise of monks. They must be a scouting party. Let’s catch these bogus sādhus and have them arrested.”
Dacoits had recently visited this village, hence many of the locals were suspicious of any stranger that visited. Surrounding Śrīla Gurudeva and Mukunda dāsa Bābājī, they shouted, “Dacoits! Thieves! Catch them!”
“We are not thieves!” Mukunda dāsa Bābājī pleaded. “Please let us go in peace.”
Gurudeva and the Bābājī were locked in a room. Bābājī Mahārāja worried, “They are going to beat us! What should we do? O Kṛṣṇa! Hey Gaurāṅga! Please save us!”
“Don’t worry so much. Everything will be fine,” consoled Śrīla Gurudeva.
Neighboring villagers gathered to see the two dacoits dressed as sādhus. Bābājī Mahārāja begged, “Please let us go. We came from Navadvīpa-dhāma and mean no harm.”
A police van soon arrived. Moving the crowds aside, the officers entered the room where Śrīla Gurudeva and the elderly sādhu were waiting. The villagers pressed against the windows to see what was happening.
Śrīla Gurudeva spoke to the officers in English. “We have only come to invite people to our annual Navadvīpa-dhāma Parikramā.”
The officers were surprised, “You know English?”
The head officer inquired, “What is your name?”
“My name is Nārāyaṇa Tiwari.”
“Nārāyaṇa Tiwarī!” the officers said in amazement. “The Nārāyaṇa Tiwari?”
Having heard extensively of the esteemed NārāyaṇaTiwarī, the officers gave him a respectful salute. They spoke with him in English for a few minutes before chastising the villagers. “Do you know who this is? He is not an ordinary man. Respect him properly. He is a formerly renowned officer in Bengal and Bihar. Now he has given up his prestigious position to beg door-to-door. He is a great soul like Svāmī Vivekānanda. It is your good fortune to serve these exalted devotees. They have left their families and all material possessions and have come here to read the message of God. If you make any offense to them, your life will be ruined.”
The villagers begged for forgiveness and requested Śrīla Gurudeva and the Bābājī to stay in their village and speak hari-kathā. In the evening the whole village gathered to hear Śrīla Gurudeva speak. After inspiring them to follow bhakti in their homes, Śrīla Gurudeva invited them to the annual pilgrimage of Navadvīpa-dhāma. Many of the villagers gave generous donations of rice, dāl, and other necessities for the temple.
As night settled back in Navadvīpa, Acharya Kesarī was concerned because Gaura Nārāyaṇa and the Bābājī still had not returned. When they finally arrived late at night after collecting more than any other party, the Bābājī reported to Acharyadeva, “Today we have brought back so much! I will take this Gaura Nārāyaṇa with me on bhikṣā every day. When he speaks in Engligh, everyone offers him respect.”
Acharya Kesarī asked, “Gaura Nārāyaṇa, what happened? How did you collect so much?”
“When we went to Kurmona,” Gurudeva replied, “the villagers thought we were thieves and locked us in a room. When the police found out I was previously an officer, they let us go and chastised the villagers for disturbing us. The villagers then gave us all of this.”
“This has happened by Kṛṣṇa’s desire,” Acharya Kesarī said. “If you wanted to speak to that many people, you would have had to move through many towns and villages. By Kṛṣṇa’s will, so many villagers came automatically and gave bhikṣā to you, thus making a relation with you and the temple. Now they will come to Navadvīpa-dhāma Parikramā.”
“Yes, we invited everyone,” Gurudeva said.
“If you had preached without such an obstacle, it would have been less successful,” Acharya Kesarī said. “I see that you are strong and never defeated or disturbed by anyone. You have great faith in the Guru-varga. A disciple must never become hopeless or abandon his service. Sense enjoyers run from the field of duty as soon as any small disturbance arises. Because you tolerate everything for the service of Mahāprabhu and the Vaiṣṇavas, the Guru-varga will always protect you.”
From then on, whenever there was an important or demanding task to perform, Acharya Kesarī would call upon Śrīla Gurudeva.
That year the Parikramā was larger than usual. Hundreds of people came from the towns and villages in the area where Gurudeva had been, and they became attracted to Acharya Kesarī and the Parikramā. The householders who had accosted Śrīla Gurudeva and Bābājī Mahārāja also came to Acharya Kesarī with reformed hearts and gave substantial donations.
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (excerpted from “Sri Guru Darshan”; available from: [email protected] )