Padmanabhdasji, a Brahman from Kannauja.
*****PART 1 *****
Padmanabhdasji used to sit on an elevated seat in his own home and read the scriptures for an income. He didn't need to go out to read, people came to him to listen.
Once, Shri Acharyaji came to Kannauj and Padmanabhdasji went to see him. Shri Acharyaji was giving a discourse on the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Padmanabhdasji had the realization that Shri Mahaprabhuji was indeed the Lord himself.
He took shelter in Shri Acharyaji and was given the first [name] initiation, and thereafter the second initiation through which he surrendered body, wealth, heart and soul to the Lord.
One day at the start of the afternoon and evening services [Uthapan] Shri Acharyaji was at Damodardasji Sambhalvare's house and he was reading his Tatvartha Nibandha, his commentary on the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Padmanabhdasji came there, bowed low to his Guru and sat down to listen. This is the sloka that they studied:
vṚthyaṘthaṀ naiva yunjīta prāṆaiḤ kaṆṬagatairapi
tadbhāve yathaiva syāta
trayāṆāṀ yena kenāpi
[The essential purport of this verse is that one should never use the Shrimad Bhagavatam and its reading as a way of earning wealth]
Padmanabhdasji took water in his hands and swore that he would never recite any scripture for money ever again. He took this vow in Shri Acharyaji's presence.
Hearing the oath, Shri Acharyaji asked him just how he intended to support himself and his family, since he was a Brahmin. He suggested that he read the Mahabharat or other similar books. Padmnabhdasji interjected that he had taken a vow not to speak and so he would not, rather he would beg at the houses of his religious clients. He started to do this and they all respected him but then it came to his mind that, even after dedicating his life to being a Vaishnava, he had now stooped to begging.
‘This is not right', he thought. ‘I wear the sacred thread of a Brahmin and the kunti malas of Vaishnava, so, this way of life is not appropriate for me'.
He vowed not to do this either. Shri Acharyaji again asked him, “What will you do now to earn a living?” Padmanabhdasji announced that he would trade in wood and bundles of sticks which he would collect himself. He continued this till the end of his life.
[In this lila, Padmanabhdasji is Shri Svaminiji's Sakhi Campakalata.]
When Shri Acharyaji saw Padmanabhdasji's enthusiasm to beg for a living he was very pleased and said that all Vaishnavas should be as determined as him. Some time later, all of Padmanabhdasji's family got initiated. Padmanabhdas then asked Shri Acharyaji what he should do, and the reply was, “Do service for the Lord. However, Padmanabhdasji told him” I have read the puranas, the Mahabharat and many other scriptures, but I still find them really hard to relate to and have full faith in the Form of Shri Krishna.
Maybe if I could actually see Him then my faith would become firm. Faith is a fine reward, it's what I seek.” Shri Acharyaji then invited him to go to Vraja with him, telling him that there he would show him Shri Krishna's Form. He took him to a place near Mahavan where Lord Krishna performs His playful pastimes.
Shri Acharyaji sat down on the other side of the bank of the river Yamunaji in a place named Karnaval. It was morning time when a large part of Shri Yamunajis banks collapsed and a huge Form of Shri Krishna as tall as a palm tree emerged and told Shri Acharyaji to perform His service. Shri Acharyaji addressed Him thus, “nowadays there is not a Vaishnava on earth who would be capable of serving You in this massive Form. If you really desire to be served then please make Your size into one which will fit into a persons lap. Shri Krishna's Form then became small enough that the top of His head came up to Shri Acharyajis chin when He was sitting in his lap.
On that Svarupa were visible the symbols of Shri Yamunaji, Shri Giriraji, the cowherd boys and maidens, cows, forest bowers and all of the places in the land of Vraja.
Shri Acharyaji gave Him the name Shri Mathuranathji. Then he asked Padmnabhdasji if all his wishes had come true. Padmanabhdasji was ecstatic and replied that everything had been made possible through Shri Mahaprabhuji's Grace alone. Shri Mahaprabhuji remarked that he should be totally satisfied with whatever he received and forthwith serve the Lord.
With his permission Padmanabhdasji took Shri Mathuranathji back with him to Kannauj where he served His Lord most lovingly. Padmanabhhasji thought to himself, “I used to beg, but then, having become a Vaishnava, that seemed most inappropriate. Shri Acharyaji advised me to always be satisfied with whatever I am granted. The best state is not to have to do any gainful work but simply to worship Krishna.” So he kept to this way and served the Lord.
Once Shri Acharyaji was in Prayag and Padmanabhdasji was with him. A little way into the night he asked Padmanabhdasji to bring his wife to him from the other side of the river. He got up straight away and got ready to go.
Some other Vaishnavas who were sleeping there remarked that he must be mad to go out at that time of night, since all the boats were already tied up and boatmen all asleep in their homes. Padmanabhdasji was solely intent on fulfilling Shri Acharyaji's commands and knew that it would never be impossible to fulfill them.
Padmanabhdas ji got to the side of the river and looked around. Then a young boy appeared with a small boat. He asked Padmanabhdasji if he needed to go to the other side. “Yes” he replied! And the boy rowed him to the far bank. When they reached there the boy asked Padmanabhdasji if he would be needing to return and when he said yes, the boy said he would wait for him for some time but that he should try to be quick.
Padmanabhdasji collected Shri Akkaji and brought her back in that boat. When they had been dropped off at the river bank, Padmanabhdasji turned around but could no longer see the boy or the boat.
Shri Acharyaji told Padmanabhdasji to take rest. He went to the place where all the other Vaishnavas were sleeping. Some of them awoke and asked him where he had been and what he had been doing. When he told them about his journey to bring Shri Akkaji they reprimanded him that he had given a lot of trouble to the Lord. They even went to Shri Acharyaji and said the same thing but he set them straight by telling them that Padmanabhdasji had been acting on his orders alone and that they should not say anything to him.
This story shows us that a Vaishnava is not to be blamed if they trouble the Lord on behalf of the Guru. All is well if the Guru is pleased. That night was the appropriate time for Shri Gusainji to enter Si Akkajis womb. Shri Acharyaji had therefore ordered Padmanabhdasji to ferry her over and Shri Thakurji provided the boat. All of this was for the sake of Shri Gusainji's appearance which was of utmost importance.
This tale also shows Padmanabhdasji's unshakeable faith in his Guru and his determination to fulfill his teachers every last wish.
Once Shri Acharyaji was traveling from Gokul to Adel. A man of Kshtriya caste who was a trader accompanied him, bringing some goods with him. Shri Acharyaji arrived at Kannauj but the trader had fallen behind and thieves stole all his merchandise. Shri Acharyaji had already finished the preparations and offered them to Shri Thakurji when the merchant arrived there in tears. He asked Padmanabhdasji what Shri Acharyaji was doing. Padmanabhdasji replied that he would by now be taking his prasad. The merchant told him about his stuff being stolen.
Padmanabhdasji did not want to have Shri Aharyaji's Prasad interrupted, so he pulled the man outside and asked the full amount of his loss. Then Padmanabhdasji pulled into a shop where the owner knew him very well and asked him to give the exact amount of money to the trader to cover his losses. The shopkeeper did not demand it but Padmanabhdasji insisted on writing him an I.O.U. and on top of that promised to give the shopkeeper his very Dharma if he could not repay the loan. The merchant took the money and went home.
Shri Acharyaji asked Padmanabhdasji where he had been and he just said he had been busy for a little while. But Shri Acharyaji knew what had happened. He asked him whether he thought they that had some obligation to repay the merchant, and added that it had not been necessary to put himself into debt for that merchants sake. Padmanabhdasji replied that he would pay off the debt very soon but that if he had not done what he did then Shri Acharyaji's mealtime would have been seriously delayed, which would have destroyed his life's purpose!
Shri Acharyaji further quizzed him, “But you also put your dharma on the line!” Padmanabhdasji replied, “Some guarantee had to be given.”
Shri Acharyaji returned to Adel and Padmanabhdasji went to a local king and fulfilled his wish to hear some religious discourses. Padmanabhdasji refused to recite the Shrimad Bhagavatam but agreed to recount the stories of the Mahabharat.
The king agreed and the reading took place. He told the stories of the war so vividly that the listeners actually started fighting amongst themselves with swords and then with sticks. When the reading was over, after a few days, the King was prepared to make a huge payment.
Padmanabhdsasji however refused to accept such a large amount of money and only took as much as he owed and soon paid back the lender. That is how great Padmanabhdasji was.
The merchant thought that whilst he had lost all his goods why was Shri Acharyaji having Prasad? After all, a compassionate person would sort out another's grief before eating. And Shri Mahaprabhuji questioned why Padmanabhdasji had taken a loan in order to help the merchant who had after all fallen behind on the journey and thus been vulnerable to attack. It is not good to take loans, he would say, because there is no relying on the body, and it would not be good to die with a loan hanging over ones head.
Padmanabhdasji replied that if Shri Acharyaji had heard the merchant crying he would have had to delay his taking by Prasad by at least two hours. This would constitute the wasting of Padmanabhdasji's whole lifes purpose, for, as he reasoned, the Guru should never have to suffer any kind of trouble whilst a good servant is around. His reckoning was that his whole personal path of righteousness [his dharma] would have been thus ruined. The debt was nothing compared to this situation as he would soon pay it off. And, he said, what power can Time have over Shri Acharyaji's divine power of Grace? The debt could not trouble him. Such was his faith.
He was also willing to put his Dharma down as guarantee to the loan because that was not important in comparison to the fact that he had surrendered everything to Shri Acharyaji. His worldly dharma could only bring him the meager temporary fruits of heaven whereas he had now embraced the Grace-filled path of Devotion.
He was willing to give up everything for Shri Acharyaji. His righteous Path was nothing to him compared to Shri Acharyaji's happiness. Also, he was very happy to have given the money to the merchant because the latter would now happily praise Shri Mahaprabhuji and his entourage instead of bad-mouthing them all over the place and comparing Shri Acharyaji's behaviour to that of a worldly king. Padmanabhdasji considered that the whole incident was a test of his own steadfast faith.
Padmnabhdasji did not accept the excess money that the king was willing to give him because he had embraced the way of life of not earning money through work. He knew that it was not proper to accept money in return for telling the Lord's stories. Whatever he did was only for Shri Acharyji's satisfaction. He had signed away his dharma but he got it all back. Then he came back home again.
Padmanabhdasji had two daughters. The eldest had been married but her husband died very soon after the marriage. For the younger one, he was hoping to find a Vaishnava Boy. He asked around and very soon found an initiated Vaishnava boy who was, however, from a different caste. Padmanabhdasji wasn't worried about worldly ways and when another Vaishnava told him the boy was a nice devotee he immediately went to the boy's home and anointed his forehead with red powder as a sign that he had given his daughter to him. He told the boy he was ready to perform the marriage on any day that he chose.
With the wedding fixed, he happily returned home. There the elder daughter named Tulsan, who had never even seen her worldly husbands face, and was always engaged in serving the family deity Shri Mathuranathji, met him and he told her about the arrangements he had made for the marriage. Her father said that all had been said and done, but she wanted him to cancel the arrangement.
Padmanabhdasji asked her to bring a knife with which he would cut off the thumb with which he had anointed the boys forehead.”How could I possibly do that?”, she said. “Well,how can I cancel the marriage? said Padmnabhdasji. It is arranged with a disciple of Shri Acharyaji. That is what is important, that is my faith.”
When Padmanabhdasji told his daughter that the most predominant factor here was the boy and his family's Vaishnava Dharma then she understood the importance of the Path. Her love for the Vaishnavas developed, as did her seva and Shri Thakurji began to communicate with her.
The marriage was performed very nicely and the caste issues were thus ignored. The reason is that, for a Vaishnava, it is love for the Lord that counts. Worldly and Scriptural considerations take a back seat. Firm faith in the Lord obliterates all anxiety, and other factors lose their sway. Padmanabhdasji was this type of strong and dedicated Vaishnava.
******PART 5 *********
There was a Kshatriya lady who came daily to Padmanabhdasji's home. One day, Tulsan asked her why she came so frequently. She replied that she regarded Padmanbhdasji as a great soul and a qualified Vaishnava and her problem she was hoping to solve was that she could not conceive. She asked Tulsan to convey her plea to her father.
When she told him about this matter he asked his daughter to bring some water. In heartfelt meditation he washed his Shri Achryaji's feet with it, touched it to his own feet, and then gave it to that Kshatrani saying “Now go, you will certainly have a son. Call him Mathuradas.” That is exactly what happened!
Why did Padmanbhdasji give her water that had touched his own feet? After all a Vaishnava never sings their own praises. Normally a Vaishnava would give Shri Thakurji's Foot-water. But Padmanabhdas ji reasoned that she had come to him with the specific desire for a son, and really and truly he should not use Shri thakurji's prasadi water for such a purpose. Why would he bother Shri Thakurji in this way? So he gave his own. However, he was always lost in contemplation on Shri Acharyaji and he gave it with this mindset.
He had no expectation of praise. However it is true to say that if someone takes shelter of an accomplished Vaishnava their wishes com true. To grant a son is no big deal. That is what she wanted and this act did not become an obstacle in his devotion because he did not egotistically consider himself to have done it – the motivation for the appropriate action came into his head and he did it knowing it to be the Lords wish, not his own doing.
Shri Gusainji has written “buddhi preraka kṚṢṆasya pādapadmaṀ prasīdatu” [‘may my every action be pleasing to the Lord Shri Krishnas Lotus- Feet, for He is the inspiration for all my actions.] Anyone who thinks otherwise is floundering in the ocean of worldly existence. Padmanabhdasji's pure feeling was that it was all the wish of his Beloved Lord.
One day Ramdasji, another disciple of Shri Mahaprabhuji, left his Shri Thakurji with Padmanabhdasji whilst he went to Jatipura to have darshan of Shri Nathaji. Shri Acharyaji engaged him in the inner service of Shri Nathaji. Padmanabhdasji served his Shri Thakurji whilst he was away. Some time afterwards, some Muslims invaded the town and stole Ramdasji's Thakurji.
Padmanabhdasji went to the Mughal Leaders home and sat outside without eating or drinking. The Leaders wife noticed this and told her husband that a Brahmin was fasting there and that if he died the murder would be upon his hands. She told him to give him back his Lord. The Mughal returned Ramdasji's Shri Thakurji to Padmanabhsasji. He took Him home, bathed and then bathed Him in the Five Nectars. He dressed and adorned Him, cooked and offered Him some nice foodstuffs. When the Lord finished partaking of the offerings, he fed the Prasad to some Vaishnavas. Only then did he eat.
Ramdasji became aware of these happenings and, for seven days he also did not eat, although he was able to nicely fulfill his seva to Shri Nathaji. Padmanabhdasji came to intuitively know that Ramdasji had suffered because of these events. He decided to go to Jatipur to have Darshan of Shri Nathaji and also to meet Ramdasji.
First he went to see Shri Nathaji and then he met Ramdasji. Padmanabhdaji said to him, “Through all of this, it was only fair that I should have suffered some disturbance, but you had left your Shri Thakurji with me, so why did you need to fast for seven days too?” Ramdasji replied, “True that may be, but I have been serving my Shri Thakurji for many years so it is only natural that I feel so much connection.”
Padmanabhdasji stayed for some days before returning to Kannauj.
If a Vaishnava's Shri Thakurji comes to your home you should serve Them as if They were your own. Ramdasji did not have any anxiety about leaving his Shri Thakurji with a Vaishnava in this way, but he still felt grief at Shri Thakurji's disturbed situation when He was abducted. He also felt joy when the Lord was comfortable and happy.
One day, Padmanabhdasji decided to travel to Adel to see his Guru together with his whole family and his Shri Thakurji. He wanted to see his Guru and listen to the nectar of his discourses.
They all came there and spent some time, but they were financially compromised and so for the offerings to their Shri Thakurji they soaked chickpeas and the next day offered them with the sentiment that they were all different types of varied tasty preparations like rice, sweet rice cooked in milk and all kinds of vegetable dishes.
Shri Thakurji accepted all the preparations in the mood in which they were offered.This was their daily ritual.
One day a Vaishnava noticed this and told Shri Acharyaji about it. He came to Padmanabhdasji's place of Seva at the time of the offerings and asked why the chickpeas were arranged in separate little piles.
Padmanabhdasji explained what kind of preparation each of the piles was. Shri Acharyaji then understood that Padmanabhdasji did not have enough money but that even then he focused on the Seva and not on the acquisition of wealth, showing his immense patience. Shri Thakurji was very pleased with Padmanabhdasji.
Shri Acharyaji went home and whilst he was taking Prasad he told his wife about the situation. Later on she cooked many preparations and sent them with a Vaishnava to Padmanabhdasji for offering to his Shri Thakurji. When Tulsan told her father that such a package had arrived he told her to put it aside and remarked that this was a call for them to leave that place.
She put the package aside. The very same thing happened the next day and so Padmanabhdasji told her to again put the package aside and announced that they would be leaving the next morning. That morning he quickly finished his Seva and made the food offerings. He said to his Shri Thakurji, “If you would like to stay here with Shri Acharyaji then You will be able to enjoy many types of preparations. If You come with me I will only be able to offer You whatever is available to me at that time.” Shri Mathuranthji spoke to him and told him that he liked his ways and would accept whatever he was able to offer.
Padmanabhdasji finished the Seva and hired a boat. He told Tulsan to return back all the food that Shri Akkaji had sent to them. He packed all their belongings and Shri Mathuranathji in the boat and then went to Shri Acharyaji to take leave of him.
Shri Acharyaji asked him where his Shri Thakurji was. Padmanabhdasji told him that Shri Thakurji was already sitting in the boat. Shri Acharyaji sent them off and whilst returning home he pondered as to why he had left in such a hurry. Shri Akkaji then told him that she had sent foodstuffs to them on both days but that they had returned them. Shri Acharyaji realized that this was why they had left. Padmanabhdasji reached home and carried on serving his Lord.
This story shows that the Guru's wealth holds even more importance than Shri Thakurjis wealth. It is stated in Shrimad Bhagavatam [11th canto, chapter 17,verse 28] that even if one earns through begging, that money should be offered to the Guru and one should only eat when the Guru says it is ok, otherwise one should remain hungry. If that be the case, how, here, would Padmanabhdasji ever accept wealth from the Guru? Shri Acharyaji has for this very reason written in his Vivekadhairyasraya treatise [Wisdom, Perserverance and Refuge] that tolerance of the three types of suffering constitutes Patience.
Padmanabhdasji could have taken revenge on the Muslims who took Ramdasji's Shri Thakurji away. But he was patient and instead, fasted for seven days and said nothing. In this way he tolerated grief related to the Lord. He married his daughter to a boy of a different caste and in this way had to suffer worldly condemnation. He had to suffer the difficulties of not having enough to eat. But he never renounced his Dharma [his chosen Path of Grace] That is why Shri Gokulnathji wrote in hs commentary on Shri Vitthalnathji's Sarvottam Stotra that Padmanabhdasji was a one in a million Vaishnava who had truly understood and lived according to Shri Acharyaji's teachings.
Shri Acharyaji was always pleased with Padmanabhdasji. There is truly no end to his story.