Gaur katha - Part 2 - The story of Saranga Thakur

(Translated from Baba’s Bengali pravachan on the occasion of the Pran Pratishtha of Sri Sri Radha Madhav, on 3rd June 1999 at Sri Gouranga Ashram, then located in Chittarnjan Park, New Delhi, by Sukhvinder Sircar and Indrani Bannerjee)

Om Vishnupad 108 Tridandi Swami Sri Srimat Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami Maharaj ki Jai!

Nama-srestham manum api Saci-putram atra svarupam
Rupam tasyagrajam uru-purim Mathurim Gostavatim
Radha-kundam Giri-varam aho radhika-madhavasam
prapto yasya prathita-krpaya sri Gurum tam nato 'smi

(I am fully indebted to Sri Gurudeva, because he is giving me so many things. He is giving me theHoly Name containing the highest form of thought, aspiration, and ideal, and he is giving me the service of that great savior, the son of Mother Saci, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is like the golden mountain indicating the way to Krsna-lila. And Sri Gurudeva has brought me to Swaroopa Damodara, who is Lalita-devi, Srimati Radhika's closest friend. Then he has brought me to Sri Rupa, who was ordered to distribute rasa-tattva, and then to Sri Sanatana Goswami, who adjusts our position in relation to raganuga-bhakti. Gurudeva has brought me to Mathura Mandala, where Radha and Govind have their pastimes, where the forest, hills and every creeper, shrub and grain of sand are uddipana (stimuli) to help me remember Radha and Govind. He has given me Radha-Kunda and GirirajGovardhan, and aho! He has given me assurance of all these, so I bow my head with deep respect unto his lotus feet.) Sri Mukta-carita, Raghunatha dasa Goswami

Shri Dham Nabadweep consists of nine islands.

Ganga Saraswati Nodir epar opaar
Noyti Dviper Gaur Dhaam er bistar
Nijo dhaame leela Prabhu koren o bistaar

On the two banks of the rivers Ganga and Saraswati,
extending over nine islands,
was the sacred abode of Mahaprabhu.
The Lord manifests his eternal Leela in his abode.

Out of these nine islands, the topmost is Jahnudvip. Jannagar is a village situated in Jahnudvip. Saranga Thakur lived in an ashram in this village. One day, Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu along with his devotees started a Sankirtan Yatra towards Jannagar in Jahnudvip. On his way, he first arrived at the house of Nandan Acharya and had darshan of the deity of Gopinath. After that, he continued his journey to Jannagar of Jahnudvip and arrived at Saranga Thakur’s ashram. He told Saranga Thakur, ‘Listen Saranga, you’re now ageing and your body and senses are slowing down. So I would like you to accept a disciple by initiating him with the Krishna mantra. Once you have a disciple, you will be able to serve your beloved Shri Radha Madangopal deities with all your heart. In this old age, it is very difficult to serve the Radha Madangopal deities with a steady mind.’ That is why Mahaprabhu instructed that Saranga Thakur must accept a disciple by giving mantra-diksha.

Saranga Thakur said, ‘it is difficult to find a true disciple in Kaliyuga. This is the time of Kali, there is impropriety, injustice and doubt all around. If I initiate a disciple with a mantra, and if he does not practice it correctly, it will be an offence on his part and will only bring him misfortune. That is why I am determined not to give mantra-diksha and make a disciple.’

Mahaprabhu emphasized again, ‘I direct you to initiate a disciple.’ Saranga Thakur replied, ‘If it is your directive that I must initiate a disciple, then I make a vow that tomorrow, at the break of dawn, as soon as I wake up, I will initiate the first person I see and make him my disciple.’ Mahaprabhu replied, ‘So be it, tomorrow morning after waking up, you will definitely go to the Ganga. The first person you see there, you can initiate and make him your disciple. Tomorrow I will come back and see what kind of disciple you have got.’ Saying this, Sriman Mahaprabhu returned to Navadvipa with his companions singing and chanting the glories of Harinam. He told the devotees, ‘Please assemble here early tomorrow morning, we will again go to Jannagar in Jahnudvip.’

The next morning, everyone assembled as instructed and Mahaprabhu proceeded with them to Jannagar ecstatically singing the Harinaam. The purpose of this visit was to see the new disciple. The second day also he made a halt at Nandan Acharya’s house. He told Nandan Acharya, ‘Nandan, I am now going to Jannagar to meet the new disciple made by Saranga Thakur, after which I will return to your house along with all the devotees. And all of us will accept prasad sitting in your courtyard.’ Mahaprabhu told Nandan Acharya’s wife Mayadevi, ‘Ma, I am going to Saranga Thakur’s ashram to meet him and his new disciple, after that I will return to your house. Please make arrangements for the bhog of Lord Gopinath. I will accept my mid-day meal at your house. Today please offer payasam made with gourd (lauki) to Lord Gopinath.’ Mahaprabhu was very fond of this particular payasam. Sachi Mata would often prepare this payasam and offer it Mahaprabhu and Sriman Mahaprabhu would eat it with great relish.  Giving this instruction, he proceeded to Saranga Thakur’s ashram.
(5.25 min)

Saranga Thakur could not sleep the entire night. He was thinking, ‘I have vowed to Mahaprabhu that I will make a disciple out of the first person I see in the morning. Now I am anxious about who I will see in the morning. What if the person is already initiated somewhere else or does not want to be initiated? Srimad Bhagavat Gita states, that mantra initiation should be given only to devoted souls. I can only initiate someone who out of love requests for the mantra with great eagerness. But now, I have given my word that I will initiate the first person I see. How is it possible for me to fulfill this vow?’ This is how he fretted the entire night.
(6.10 min)

The next day, getting up early morning chanting the name of Gaur Govind he proceeded towards the Ganga. Jannagar was situated on the banks of river Ganga. On reaching the Ganga, he stepped into the waters to take his bath. As soon as he entered the water, something came and bumped against his body. He thought ‘perhaps it was a burnt log from the crematorium.’ When he touched it, he realized it was not a burnt log but the dead body of a young boy. An exquisitely beautiful young boy’s dead body had come floating and touched his body. Saranga Thakur was surprised to see the body of such a beautiful boy. He wondered, ‘what could be the cause of this young boy’s death? This beautiful young boy must have certainly died due to a poisonous snake bite.’
If someone dies due to snake bite, as per custom the dead body is cast into the river. ‘I wonder about the parents of this boy, and how they must be faring at the death of their son? I am sure they must be suffering great agony. Who would be the unfortunate mother and father of this beautiful boy?’ He was perplexed as to what he should do now with this dead body. He suddenly remembered his vow to Mahaprabhu that he would initiate the first person he saw in the morning. At that time, he did not specify whether the person is living or dead. He had simply said thatI will initiate the first person I see. ‘Now, even though this is dead body I have to give him Mantra initiation and honor my vow.’
(8.33 min)

With great care he brought the body to the bank and sat down with it. He decided to give the mantra into the ear of the dead boy. Taking his mouth close to the boy’s ear, he whispered the divine Krishna mantra. As soon as he whispered the 18-syllable mantra into the boy’s ear, the boy came alive. He sat up and looked at his Gurudeva’s face. He prostrated at Saranga Thakur’s feet and began to recite verses in praise of the Guru.
(9. 15 min)

Saranga Thakur thought, ‘What is this miracle? I am speechless at Shriman Mahaprabhu’s compassion and grace. Was it to witness this mercy that I was waiting all this while?’ At that time several pious souls had arrived at the bank of the Ganga for their holy dip. They also directly witnessed the scene. They wondered, ‘Can such an extraordinary occurrence be really possible?’ A big crowd gathered and there was a lot of commotion. Saranga Thakur felt it was not appropriate for so many people to gather there around him on the banks of the Ganga. A true Vaishnav never aspires for fame and prestige. He was worried if people start showering him with praise and giving him honor. So, he quickly took his new disciple and went back to his ashram.
(10.5 min)

Meanwhile, Shriman Mahaprabhu accompanied with all his devotees amidst the chanting of the glorious Harinam arrived at Saranga Thakur’s ashram in Jannagar, Jahnudvip. Saranga Thakur was sitting with his disciple under the bakul tree in his ashram. As soon as Mahaprabhu arrived, Saranga Thakur ran towards him and prostrated at his feet. He worshipped him with great devotion. He told Mahaprabhu, ‘Dear Lord, how great is your mercy! Your compassion knows no limits. Here is the boy I found to be my disciple; I offer him to you.’ Mahaprabhu enquired, ‘is this the boy you have initiated with mantra?’ ‘Yes, my Lord’, replied Saranga Thakur. As Mahaprabhu took his seat, the young boy prostrated and surrendered himself at the feet of Mahaprabhu.

Mahaprabhu saw that the boy’s face was resplendent with devotion. Mahaprabhu said, ‘You’re beautiful both in form and disposition. You seem to be an embodiment of simplicity. Tell me, what is your name?’ The boy replied, ‘My name is Murari. I was born in the Goswami family of Shordanga. That day was my sacred thread ceremony. After the sannyasa ceremony, when I came back inside, I was bitten by a poisonous snake that had yellow blue and white colors. When the snake bit me fell unconscious. After that I was not aware what happened to me. When I came back to my senses, I saw I was in the lap of my Gurudeva. On the return of consciousness, I found my Guru.’
(11.46 min)

Mahaprabhu said to him, ‘You were born of the Goswami family of Shordanga and your name was Murari. Your parents must be so grief-stricken on losing you. I will take you with me to the Goswami family in Shordanga. There, we will all witness the scene of your reunion with your parents.’ On hearing this, Murari said, ‘Prabhu, it is such a great fortune that I have obtained my Guru and with his grace I had the darshan of your celestial self. Can you make it possible that my parents on receiving my news, come here instead, and have darshan of my Guru?’ (12.20)

Mahaprabhu said, ‘Your wish will be fulfilled.’ Shriman Mahaprabhu who is the wish-fulfilling tree exhibited his magnanimous nature and said, ‘You will not have to return back to your house. Not just your family members and relatives, but the entire village will come here and take shelter at Saranga Thakur’s feet.’ Saranga Thakur had said that it is difficult to find a genuine devotee in Kaliyuga and that he will not make any disciple, and yet the entire Shordanga village became disciples of that very Saranga Thakur. (12.48 min)

Mahaprabhu now said to Murari, ‘you have taken shelter at the lotus feet of your Guru. From today your great good fortune begins. In any birth in any physical form if one can surrender at the lotus feet of a Sat Guru, that is true good fortune.

Brahmando bhromite kono bhagyobaan jeeb
Guru Krishne proshaade paye Bhaktilata beej

If a fortunate Jeeva while wandering in the universe finds Guru and Krishna, he will be bestowed with the seed of devotion. You will now receive the treasure of devotion. Receiving a Guru means opening the doors to devotion. Krishna enters a Jeeva’s life only with the Guru’s grace. The compassion and grace of Krishna arrives in a devotee’s life through the form of the Guru. You have no cause for worry since you have surrendered to Guru and come under his protection. The Guru is the benevolent form of Krishna. Having a Guru in your life is the same as having Krishna himself. So have no doubt that now you will receive the great treasure called Krishna. Now come along with me to Nandan Acharya’s house, we have all been invited there for the mid-day meal.’
(13.38 min)

Meanwhile a difficulty had occurred.  Shriman Mahaprabhu had come with all his devotees to Nandan Acharya’s house. He had told Nandan Acharya’s wife Mayadevi that they will all sit together in your courtyard and have their mid-day meal. He had also told her to prepare payasam made of gourd. Mayadevi thought that this is such great fortune that Mahaprabhu with all his devotees will come and have his meal sitting at their courtyard. Truly there is no limit to our good fortune, she thought. Filled with ecstatic joy, she began all the preparations. She fully immersed herself in making the arrangements. Mahaprabhu had told her about his most favorite food. There was a big gourd in her house and she was preparing gourd for cooking the payasam. She was fully absorbed in meditating on Mahaprabhu as she was assembling the gourd. She was completely immersed in meditating on the Leela of Mahaprabhu dancing in the sankirtan congregation. The waves of the grace of GaurLeela engulfed her and she completely drowned in the indescribable ecstasy of Mahaprabhu’s pastimes.

She was so absorbed in the meditation that she did not realize that instead of the gourd, she had sliced her two-month-old baby who was in her lap. The room was filled with blood. Mahaprabhu immediately came to know about this incident and told Nandan Acharya, ‘Nandan, a great misfortune has occurred in your house. He then told Saranga Thakur, ‘I had come to see your new disciple but what a great misfortune has occurred. Meditating on my Leela, Mayadevi has diced up her own baby instead of the gourd. A river of blood is flowing in the house.’ With lightning speed Gaur Hari came to Nandan Acharya’s house. He saw that even then, Mayadevi had no outward consciousness. The gourd was lying intact next to her. Mahaprabhu came and held her hand and said, ‘Ma what have you done? Fully absorbed in your meditation of me, you made such a big mistake. You substituted your child for the gourd.’ Mayadevi came back to her senses and saw blood everywhere. All the devotees were wailing at this heart-wrenching incident. Everyone thought: we had come here for joyous festivities and partaking of food but instead here we find the place submerged in great sorrow.
(17.14 min)

Mahaprabhu looked at Nandan Acharya and all the devotees and said, ‘Your wife is not at fault. She is like the mother of the entire world and like my own mother Sachi Mata. She was totally immersed in my love. Everything will become fine once again. Do not worry. All of you sit in the courtyard and immerse yourself in the Naam. Mayadevi made the blunder while meditating on my name. The glory of the Hare Krishna Naam purifies everything. It purifies all inauspicious spaces. That which has been broken into pieces becomes whole again. The spectacle that you are witnessing now will soon be converted into a joyous scene. Everything will be set right. Mayadevi’s son will be returned to us.’ Mahaprabhu assured them that there is no reason for fear or to be sorrowful. ‘Begin to sing the holy Naam’. Mukunda Dutta asked Mahaprabhu, ‘In which raag should I sing the Naam?’ Mahaprabhu said, ‘The highest name is the name of Krishna. If you take this name, you will get back whatever you have lost. The child who has been cut into pieces will become whole again. Please begin singing the Harinaam. When you are immersed in the chanting, we will find ourselves in the banks of the Radha Kunda. We will reach Vamsi Vat. Have no fear, Vrindavan will be revealed right here.’ Mukunda Dutta asked Mahaprabhu, ‘which is the raag that will fill us with that joy?’ Mahaprabhu instructed, ‘sing in Emon (Yaman) raag.’ So, the congregation began to ecstatically sing the Naam in Emon raag.(19.30 min)

As they sang, they found that the baby was alive and well and there was no trace of the tragedy that had occurred.



Jai Guru !!