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By Gaurdasi

(Translated from the original Bengali article in The Harmonist, August 2001) 

Om Vishnupad 108 Tridandi Swami Sri Srimat Bhakti Shravan Tirtha Maharaj ki jai !!

Every year 3-4 times Maharaj (Sri BS Tirtha Maharaj), used to come to Batkula and stay for 12-14 days.  Maharaj’s dear devotee Balai da’s house was in Batkula. Batkula was on one side of the river Anjana and across the river was the town of Anjangarh. Whenever He went there, Maharaj would stay at Rani di’s house in Anjangarh.

Balai da and his wife Vishakha were greatly blessed to have the supreme privilege of serving the lotus feet of their guru, Sri Srimad Bhakti Shravan Tirtha Maharaj. As for ordinary people like us, who are constantly tormented by the three-fold agonies of material life, we got the rare good fortune of hearing nectarine Bhagavat katha from Him directly. Not just that, in those days Maharaj used to sing divinely melodious kirtan and bhajan at any time. I have heard Him sing Shri Radha Govinda’s aarti and kirtan, Shri Shri Gaursundar’s aarti and kirtan, as well as kirtan and songs written by Srila Narottam Das Thakur and Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur. 

The magic of Maharaj’s mellifluous voice and His rendering of the songs was so sublime that merely hearing Him, caused our prana (life-air), to become spiritually agitated. Alas, I do not have sufficient command over language to adequately describe the blissful and sweet memories of those bygone days. 

Maharaj has said, “Without the grace of Krishna, it is not possible to have the bliss of hearing Krishna katha…” So what should I write!? Thinking about this, I felt that I should write the account of my first darshan of Maharaj.

The year and date I do not remember, but as per the Bangla calendar, it was around the 15th or 16th of Chaitra maas. (N.B. According to Gaurdasi’s oldest daughter, her mother first met Maharaj in the year 1969). 

On a spring day in Chaitra, I took a train from Tahirpur and arrived in Batkula station in the afternoon. In the station, I happened to meet with Harimati di, who was a disciple of Shri Akshay Kumar Brahmachari. She asked me, “Didi, would you like to hear Bhagavat katha? A sadhu maharaj is speaking Bhagavat katha at a house nearby…”. I was very fond of hearing Bhagavat katha. And that too from the mouth of a holy person? That was very rare indeed! I agreed at once. I was carrying some household provisions with me. Taking those along, I started walking with Harimati di. 

Before going further, it is worthwhile to acquaint readers with my identity and state of mind at the time of my first meeting with Maharaj. My identity is that I am the disciple of the Founder of Shri Guru Sangh, Parivrajak Acharya Shri Durga Prasanna Paramhansa, whose sanyas ashram name was Swami Nirvikarananda. I was and am quite proud of my identity. In this connection I recall a verse by a Vaishnav poet who has said that “Amar guru gaurav Singha Dwar”(my Guru’s fame is like the Singha Dwar) (Lion’s Gate of the Jagannath Temple).

And what was my frame of mind at the time? Every year on the full moon day of Vasant Purnima, my Gurudev Swami Nirvikarananda used to come to Tahirpur. In his leadership we used to celebrate Dol Purnima (birth anniversary of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) at the Ashram there. The program would be help on a grand scale with 8-hours continuous Taarak Brahma Naam Kirtan, Guru puja, bhog offerings to the Six Goswamis and cultural programmes etc. 

On the day before the festival, when I had gone to Tahirpur, I learnt that Gurudev was very ill and he would not be able to come to Tahirpur. Thus in the presence of Gurudev’s brother’s eldest son Thakur Bado da and the mahant of Kachrapara Giridhari Ashram the festival was celebrated.

Deprived of my Gurudev’s darshan and association, I was feeling extreme agony in my heart. It is very difficult to explain in words the feelings that were welling up in my mind. One week passed and I was roaming around like lifeless body. What could I do, where could I go to get a glimpse of my Gurudev, this thought agitated me constantly.

In that state of mind, I went along with Harimati di towards the house of Tarapad Sadhu. As soon as I stepped on to the platform at his house, my heart leapt. On the terrace of the second floor, orange coloured clothes were drying in the breeze. Going up the steps I was thinking “Would I be able to see my Gurudev here?” My gurudev was at the time indisposed and staying at the Nagtala Ashram in Kolkata. He would not be able to come here. However, this never occurred to me.

With these thoughts running in my mind, I ascended the steps and reached the second floor terrace where I beheld, surrounded by devotees, a proportionately built and slim young sanyasi of glowing countenance dressed in orange robes, reading from the Chaitanya Charitamrita. To the best of my memory, He was sitting in vajra asana.  His effulgent face made even the full moon seem dull. Truly there was no comparison to that world-enchanting form.

Sitting at the feet of Sadhu Baba Akshay Kumar Brahmachari I had once heard the story of Amiya Nimai written by Mahatma Shishir Kumar Ghose.  Could it be that the same Nimai has manifested here?

The beautiful princess of Vrishabhanu Maharaj Smt. Radharani has given a beautiful metaphor of Sri Krishna’s bewitching form. Addressing her confidential companions Smt Lalita and Vishakha, she says, “O my dear friends, listen a bit. You are my dearest friends, hear me now – how I came to be in this state. I had gone to the Jamuna to get water and there when I beheld the dark moonlike world-enchanting form of Krishna, my mind was like a deer caught in the net of the hunter. And the twin birds of my eyes were wounded by His arrow-like glances!”

Many great Vaishnav poets and maha-bhagavatas have eloquently described the enchanting form of Shri Shri Gaursundar. Here I will pen few words of Kanu Thakur’s song, who was raised by Janhva Thakurani, the consort of Prabhu Nityananda.  “You have made me mad Gora. Your beautiful form has driven me mad”. Such was the attraction of Shri Gaursundar that one look at Him and devotees went mad.

In my childhood in Eastern Bengal, I had heard a song the refrain of which was, “..seeing Gaura’s face, I have lost my mind. No medicine can help me now. Come my dear friend; let us go to Nadia…”

I was already a little emotionally overwhelmed after being initiated into diksha mantra by my Gurudev. I used to take some medicines to control my emotional outbursts. This helped me for some time, but then again I would lose my mental balance. After meeting Maharaj, once I lost my mind again. In that state, I went and heard Bhagavat katha from Him.

The day when Maharaj was leaving Batkula all the assembled devotees prostrated at His feet. I too offered my pranam. Maharaj said, “Bhalo theko” (Be well). This time I did not need to take my medicines. In a few days, I was completely healed. Even after many years, I did not again fall ill.

Devotees will be happy to hear what Maharaj Himself said about me. Once when I had gone to Gauranga Ashram in Kharagpur, Baba told me “You will stay with Pushpa (one of His disciples). I used to take my afternoon rest and spend the night at her place. One day I shared my story of “madness” and healing with Pushpa. After hearing my experience, Pushpa laughed and said, “O Hari! Are you the same “pagolini” (crazy woman) that Maharaj told us about?” He said “A mad woman in Batkula was healed just by seeing Him”!
This only confirmed my personal conviction that had I not met with Maharaj that time in Batkula, I would definitely have become mentally deranged and even died. This life of mine is His gift to me.

After this, twice, I was at death’s door. Once when I was severely down with malaria for a month and again when I was in a bad cycle accident and had injured my head. His causeless mercy saved me every time. Apart from that, my personal difficulties too were, needless to say, alleviated.

Now let me revert again to the day when I first met Him. Sriman Mahaprabhu’s leela was being spoken. The topic of the talk was, as far as I remember, the drama enacted by Shri Shri Gaursundar along with His associates, at the residence of Chandrashekhar Acharya. Other than that, I cannot recall anything significant.

The story ended and many of the devotees one by one, offered their pranam to Maharaj and took His leave. I remained sitting there. That day I was in no hurry to get home. The master of the house Tarapad babu told me that “Krishna katha will go on late into the night. There is no end to it.” I kept sitting there very late into the night due to my greed for hearing more Krishna katha. Maharaj also kept sitting there surrounded by some devotees. Very late at night I returned home.
 
The next day after school ended, I repaired to Tarapad babu’s house again. Tarapad babu handed me a lot of flowers (sadabahar) in order to weave a garland. Maharaj was sitting on the 2nd floor open terrace and a small sweet smile was playing on His face.

In a short while, devotees started arriving. Rani di also came from Anjangarh. Tarapad babu informed us that his son and daughter-in-law had received mantra diksha that day. Maharaj was sitting surrounded by devotees. One lady from the gathering said laughing and waving her arm, “What to do Maharaj you are in bondage now!” (Meaning, having given initiation, the Guru becomes responsible for the disciples). Maharaj smiled shyly and lowered His head.

On this day too, Maharaj gave a discourse. I came to know that on the next day, there would be another pravachan by Maharaj in a nearby devotee’s house. That day too I returned home very late. On the third day, I again went to Tarapad babu’s house after my school finished. Maharaj left with Tarapad babu to the devotee’s house where He was going to give the pravachan. His attendant Hem too went with them. I also went along.

Reaching there Maharaj entered the house and took the seat that had been arranged for Him. The host presented a garland and sandalwood paste to Maharaj and then to all the assembled devotees. That day Maharaj spoke about Shri Nityananda Prabhu for almost two-and-half hours, right from his birth and his entire life. When the discourse ended, it was night already. As soon as He was finished, Maharaj stood up to leave.

I was feeling very gratified after hearing the pravachan. I had heard Bhagavat katha and Gaur katha many times before, but Maharaj’s rendering was like a stream of ambrosia. I had never before experienced such bliss. Bhagavat katha when heard from the mouth of a Mahapurush gives rise to true bhakti. One’s heart and mind are as if transported to a different realm. All material afflictions are relieved.

As soon as He finished the pravachan, Maharaj stood up immediately and made ready to leave. The host entreated everybody to partake of prasad and only then leave. All the devotees waited for prasad and Maharaj’s attendant Hem also waited. I stood up. I was not looking for any prasad. My eyes were looking elsewhere. Tarapad babu handed me a hurricane lamp and said, “here, take this and light the path for Maharaj back to the house.”

I walked ahead with Maharaj following. Tarapad babu’s words reverberated in my mind. I was thinking, He who has come to show the path to the entire world… how can I light up His path?! How is that possible!?

Reaching back at Tarapad babu’s house, Maharaj went up to the open terrace and sat down in His usual place. A pleasant mellow spring breeze was blowing. I also sat nearby. Soon Tarapad babu and others returned. Aah! What to say about the sweet memories of those days? It is something completely different altogether.

After hearing Gaur Krishna katha from His mouth, the burning sensation in my heart subsided. It was like a steady stream of nectar falling into the ears.

The next day when I woke up, I saw that in the courtyard of my neighbour’s house, a bela tree was in full bloom. White as milk, the heady fragrance of the flowers was wafting all around. My mind also followed their direction. I was not interested in their nectar; I wanted to pick the flowers to make a garland for Maharaj.

However, this particular neighbour was infamous for being foul-mouthed and very short tempered. If I were caught while picking the flowers, I would be badly humiliated by him. But casting aside my fears, I decided that by hook or by crook I would definitely pluck the flowers in order to offer it to Maharaj. By the grace of Krishna, I was not caught while stealing the flowers.

[To be fair, apart from a foul temper, this neighbour also had one very good quality. Every morning he would do Guru puja and recite the Guru stotram in a loud voice. It was very nice to hear. He was a disciple of Swami Akhandananda. When he became old, he went to live in his guru's ashram.]

I would like to make a point here. I was never in the habit of stealing flowers at all. In his village, my father had a big plantation where he had planted many flowering bushes like jasmine, mogra, bela, lotus, jaba, rose etc.

After weaving the garland with the bela flowers, I went to Tarapad babu’s house and handed it over to him. He happily took it and put it around Maharaj’s neck. Woven with love, the garland was now swinging brightly around Maharaj’s neck.

May Shri Shri Gaursundar be pleased with this small insignificant attempt at writing which I have taken up. It is my prayer that devotees who read it may find it good and inspiring.

Craving the indulgence of Vaishnavas I end my story.

Amar Guru Gaurav Simha Dwar Tene Gelo Akash Marg
Shri Guru Jai !!

Madhu vasant phalguni dol holi
Vrindavane holi kheli
Gaur purnima shubh lagne jaatakam
Pranamami Gaur Hari Shravan Tirtha padam

 

Jai Gurudev !

Jai Jai Shri Radhey !