Tridandisvami Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
February 22, 1997
This year, 2019, Shrila Narottama dasa Thakura’s appearance day is on February 19 (in India). We are hereby sending you a lecture that Shrila Gurudeva gave in Bali in 1997 on his appearance day. Click here to hear the soundfile:
Today is a very auspicious day. It is the birthday of Shrila Narottama dasa Thakura, who is one of the solid and strong pillars of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's preaching. After the generation of the Six Gosvamis and Shrila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, Narottama Thakura, Shyamananda Prabhu and Shrinivasa Acarya became the leaders of the Vaishnavas in Bengal. They took all the books of the Six Gosvamis and other authentic Vaishnava literatures and preached all over Bengal. Especially, Narottama Thakura preached in Eastern India, in such places as Assam and Manipura.
Shrila Narottama Thakura was a prince. He was the son of very famous king in that area. From childhood he had impressions of pure devotion and wanted to cultivate them. He therefore went to Vrndavana, where he heard about the glory of Shri Jiva Gosvami and became attracted to him. Together with Shyamananda and Shrinivasa, he studied all the sastras from Jiva Gosvami – Vedanta-sutra, Shrimad-Bhagavatam, and especially the Six Sandarbhas. In this way, the three of them became learned in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's Gaudiya siddhantas.
Shyamananda Prabhu was a disciple of Hridayananda of Kalna, yet he joined in to hear the lectures of Shri Jiva Gosvami, and he treated him more like his guru than his Gurudeva, Shri Hridayananda. Shri Narottama Thakura also studied in the school of Shri Jiva Gosvami. Jiva Gosvami personally told him to take initiation from Lokanatha dasa Gosvami, and he told Shrinivasa Acarya to take initiation from Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. In those days there were no restrictions as there are today. Everyone was free to associate with topmost Vaishnavas.
In fact, gurus would advise their disciples: "Take the association of these most exalted Vaishnavas, and in this way you will develop your Krsna consciousness." There was no caste consciousness as there is today: "Don't go to other Vaishnavas, even though they may be very high-class. This is our party, and that is their party, and that is the other group's party." At that time there was no party spirit at all; everyone belonged to the family of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. All used to hear from all.
Jiva Gosvami had such a pure heart, free from any envy, that he told Narottama Thakura and Shrinivasa Acarya to take initiation from these two high-class Vaishnavas. They had made up their minds to take initiation from Jiva Gosvami, but he told them: "Oh, they are my seniors. You will be more benefited by taking their shelter." We are not pure enough to speak in this way to our subordinates. Our hearts are not so improved.
Thus, Jiva Gosvami sent them to those two great Vaishnavas – but the two had vowed to not make any disciples.
The pastimes of Lokanatha dasa Gosvami have not been told in Chaitanya-caritamrta or in any other book. Lokanatha dasa Gosvami was such a topmost elevated Vaishnava that he warned Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shrila Sanatana Gosvami, and other writers: "If you want my mercy, then do not glorify me or write my name in your books." When they assured him of this, only then did he give his blessings and tell them: "Your books will be successfully completed. Krsna's mercy will be on you." It is for this reason that these great Vaishnava authors have not mentioned his name. They obeyed him; they followed his order.
One day, by the order of Jiva Gosvami, a very beautiful prince, that boy Narottama, came to Lokanatha dasa Gosvami and took his foot-dust. Lokanatha dasa Gosvami asked him: "Who are you?"
Narottama replied, "I am a very wretched person, a fallen boy. I want to take shelter of your lotus feet. Please initiate me."
Lokanatha dasa Gosvami flatly refused. He told Narottama, "You can go to any famous Vaishnava and take his shelter. I am a worthless person. I don't know how to do bhajana. I only eat, drink, and sleep. I do not engage in bhakti. It is better that you go to any learned and qualified person."
Narottama dasa Thakura requested again and again, but Lokanatha das Gosvami remained grave and refused to initiate him. Although Narottama dasa Thakura left at that time, he began to think how he could possibly get initiation from this maha-bhagavata.
Narottama dasa was very worried, and began to think how to please him. He began to clean the place where Lokanatha dasa Gosvami was passing stool in the forest. He thus cleaned regularly, every night, and he also cleaned the path to that place. Once, in a very dark night, at about midnight, Lokanatha dasa Gosvami caught hold of the hand of this boy and asked him, "Who are you, and why are you doing this?" Narottama dasa Thakura began to weep bitterly and replied, "Because I want to please you."
"Oh, you are very pure devotee. What do you want?"
"I only want to be initiated by you." Narottama dasa again began to weep.
On seeing the boy's devotion Lokanatha dasa Gosvami was at once moved and accepted him. He told him, "Please come to me after taking bath in the Yamuna."
The next morning Narottama took bath and came to Lokanatha dasa Gosvami, who initiated him into the krsna-mantra (gopala-mantra), klim krsnaya svaha, and the kama-gayatri, klim kamadevaya. He gave him these two mantras and advised him: "Don´t go anywhere. Be seated here with me in my bhajana kutira." He built a hut for him, right next to his own, and said, "Always remain here with me, chant harinama, and hear from me." Narottama dasa did as he was told.
One day at midday, when the sun was very hot, a thirsty farmer came and asked Lokanatha dasa Gosvami, "Please give me some water, or give me some rope and a bucket so that I can pull water from the well." Lokanatha dasa Gosvami did not replay; perhaps he did not even see that person, as he was quite absorbed in his bhajana. Because Lokanatha dasa Gosvami could not hear him, the farmer went to the next hut and asked Narottama: "Oh, young babaji, can you give me some water?" Narottama came out and gave him some water. Thus, the farmer was satisfied and went away.
Later, Lokanath dasa Gosvami called Narottama and said "You don´t know what is bhajana? Krsna is personally His name; there is no difference at all between them."
nama cintamanih krsnas
purnah suddho nitya-mukto
["The holy name of Krsna is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Krsna Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Krsna's name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Krsna Himself. Since Krsna's name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with maya. Krsna's name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Krsna and Krsna Himself are identical." (Padma Purana)]
"In some ways the name is even superior to Krsna. You don´t know this truth? You are serving Krsna (chanting or remembering Krsna means serving Him), but you were thinking that the service of chanting harinama is inferior to giving water to a thirsty person; that is why you served him. You have no belief that Krsna can quench his thirst. Krsna can give anything, but you have no faith in Him. So, return at once to your home. Become qualified there, and then you can come back. At present you are not qualified."
One should have strong faith in Krsna's name. You know the strong faith of Haridasa Thakura? He was whipped in twenty-two market places and his skin and muscles became shredded, but he never left his chanting of harinama.
Lokanatha dasa Gosvami thus ordered Narottama dasa Thakura, "Leave this place." Hearing this Narottama began to weep bitterly. Although Lokanatha das Gosvami had a very soft heart, like a flower, he desired auspiciousness for Narottama dasa, and so he became hard like a stone. It was for Narottama's welfare that he said, "Go from here."
Narottama das Thakura was not an ordinary devotee. He was an associate of Shrimati Radhika Herself, and in his manjari form he is Vilasa-manjari. He was playing a role only, to give inspiration to devotees.
He was weeping and returned to his home, but he realized everything. In fact, he began to chant and sing in such a way that Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with all His associates would come to listen to his classes and his singing. He sang pathetically, with tears in his eyes and a choked voice, "Krsna Krsna Hare Hare," and [Lalasmayi Prarthana (Songs of the Vaishnava Acaryas)]:
'gauranga' bolite ha'be pulaka-sarira
'hari hari' bolite nayane ba'be nira
["When will that time come that my hairs will stand on end upon singing the name Gauranga? When will my eyes overflow with tears as I chant the holy names of "Hari Hari?"]
ara kabe nitai-cander karuna hoibe
samsara-vasana mora kabe tuccha ha'be
["And when will the moon of Nityananda Prabhu bestow His mercy on me? When will material desires become small and insignificant?"]
visaya chadiya kabe suddha ha'be mana
kabe hama herabo sri-vrndavana
["When will I renounce material enjoyment and my mind will become purified? When will I see the cinmaya svarupa of Shri Vrndavana?"]
rupa-ragunatha-pade hoibe akuti
kabe hama bujhabo se jugala-piriti
["When will I eagerly follow the path of Shri Rupa Gosvami and Shri Raghunatha dasa Gosvami? By their instructions I will be able to understand the divine love of Shri Radha and Krsna."
rupa-raghunatha-pade rahu mora asa
prarthana koroye sada narottama dasa
["My only aspiration is to attain the lotus feet of Shri Rupa Gosvami and Shri Raghunatha dasa Gosvami. This is Narottama dasa's constant prayer."]
He sang kirtana along with mrdanga, and each word of his kirtana was uttered by his mrdanga. The mrdanga sounded like the singing of Narottama himself, although it was actually the sweet sound was coming from his mrdanga. Narottama's mood was such that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, Svarupa Damodara, Raya Ramananda, Vakresvara Pandita, Shrivasa Pandita, and all of Mahaprabhu's associates appeared and began to dance with Narottama Thakura, and when he stopped his kirtana, they at once disappeared. The thousands of devotees present there were astonished. When he was singing about Shri Radha and Krsna, Radha-Krsna personally came to hear, with all of Their associates, and Krsna was playing beautiful songs on His flute.
Thus, in a few years Narottama dasa Thakura preached all over East Bengal, Assam, and Manipura.
He hailed from the village Kheturi; he was born and brought up there, and his father and uncle were living there. His father was a big king. Narottama dasa Thakura manifested six Thakuras (Deities) there, namely Radha-Govinda, Radha-Gopinatha, Radha-Madana-mohana, Radha-Vamsidhari, Radha-Giridhari, and Radha-Vallabhi-kanta.
He also organized a great festival that became famous in the Gaudiya-Vaishnava history. Shrimati Jahnava-devi (who is Ananga-manjari in krsna-lila), the wife of Nityananda Prabhu, was elected as president. All accepted her like their preceptor, including Shrila Jiva Gosvami and Raghunatha dasa Gosvami.
When Virabhadra, the son of Nityananda Prabhus wife Vasudha, became sixteen years old, he wanted to take initiation, but he could not find any person whom he considered qualified. Someone told him, "Why are you not taking the shelter of Shrimati Jahnava-devi and being initiated by her?" He said, "She is a lady; I don't want to be initiated by a lady." Then, one early morning, Shrimati Jahnava-devi was pulling water from a well to take a shower, when Viracandra came to take some advice from her for some necessary work. He saw her pulling out water from the well half naked, with just a towel covering the lower half her body. Both of them were ashamed to see each other in this circumstance, even though she was an elderly and like a mother to him. Shrimati Jahnava-devi at once manifested four-arms, with two pulling water from the well and the other two covering her breasts. Astonished, Virabhadra immediately he fell flat at her lotus feet and begged her to forgive his offences. He told her, "I have nothing more to do. I want to take initiation from you right now. You are my guru."
So Shrimati Jahnava-devi is a very exalted personality, the power (sakti) of Shri Nityananda Prabhu, and she serves Radha-Krsna in Their conjugal love in the form of Ananga-manjari. Therefore, she was elected as the supreme leader of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. At this festival, all prominent Vaishnavas of that time came together, like Shri Shyamananda Prabhu, Shri Shrinivasa Acarya and hundreds of thousands of other devotees. It was one the biggest festivals in the history of Vaisnavism.
All present were charmed on hearing the sweet songs of Shri Narottama dasa Thakura, and all of them were blessed with the darsana of Shri Radha Krsna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who came to hear these sweet melodies.
Narottama dasa Thakura was the best devotee of his time. He is an associate of Shri Shri Radha-Krsna and Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and in fact he is a manifestation of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Shri Lokanatha dasa Gosvami is also an associate of Shri Shri Radha-Krsna, by the name of Manjulali-manjari. By sending Narottama Thakura back to his village, he played a trick, and by this trick he sent Narottama dasa Thakura to preach all over the world. Had he not done so, no such preaching would have been done; all preaching would have been destroyed. If he had continued to request Narottama to sit and chant harinama in his kutira, there would not have been such great preaching.
You can also look at the example of Shri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Thakura and Shrila Gaurakishora dasa Babaji Maharaja. Shrila Gaurakishora dasa Babaji Maharaja was a follower of Lokanatha dasa Gosvami. He never wanted name, fame, or anything like this. He always chanted harinama and used to sing in the deepest of moods, with tears in his eyes: "Oh Radhe, Prema-mayi Radhe Radhe, Govinda, where are You?"
gosai eka-bara dake radha-kunde
abara dake syama-kunde, radhe radhe
[...sometimes at Radha-kunda, sometimes at Syama-kunda.]
gosai eka-bara dake vrndavane
eka-bara dake bandhirvane
Gosai in this connection refers to Raghunatha dasa Gosvami.
Shrila Gaurakishora dasa Babaji Maharaja could not live without remembering Shrimati Radhika, always calling out: "Oh Radhe, where are You, where are You?" Rolling down on the earth, he cried:
he radhe! vraja-devike! ca lalite! he nanda-suno! kutah
sri-govardhana-kalpa-padapa-tale kalindi-vanye kutah
gosantav iti sarvato vraja-pure khedair maha-vihvalau
vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau
["I am doing vandana to the Six Gosvamis, who were always calling out, "O Radhe! O Queen of Vrndavan! Where are You? O Lalite! O son of Nanda Maharaja! Where are you? Are you seated beneath the kalpa-vrksa trees of Shri Govardhana Hill? Or are You roaming in the forests along the soft banks of the Kalindi?" They were always lamenting, overwhelmed and burning in feelings of great separation as they wandered throughout all Vraja-mandala." (Shri Sad-Gosvamyastakam, verse 8)]
Sometimes in Vrndavana and sometimes in Radha-kunda, he was weeping and rolling on the ground, crying bitterly: "Radhe! Radhe! Radhe! If You do not give me Your mercy, I shall die at once." He used to do this kind of bhajana, nirjana-bhajana, in solitary places.
He also made a vow not to initiate anyone, but Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had vowed, "I will not take initiation from anyone but Shrila Gaurakishora dasa Babaji Maharaja, otherwise I will die." Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had to become a mediator between them. He asked Babaji Maharaja, "What is your duty towards the conditioned souls?"
"To give them mercy."
"Then why you are not giving your mercy to this boy? He is going to die!"
By the persuasion of Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, he agreed and gave initiation to this one person only, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. He ordered him, "Never go to Kali." Kali means Kolkata. But when Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was initiated and took sannyasa, even before he took sannyasa, he first went to Kolkata. There he started his preaching, and gradually he preached all over India and the world.
Did he disobey his spiritual master by going to Kolkata? Can anyone claim this? Whoever will speak like this is committing a grave offence. What he did was a great service to his spiritual master. He glorified him all over the world by doing so. Had he not done so, we would not know about Shrila Gaurakishora dasa Babaji Maharaja and Krsna. You and I and millions of devotees gather today only due to Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's mercy, which he received from his guru, Shrila Gaurakishora dasa Babaji Maharaja.
Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja preached in Western and Eastern countries, but he was a part of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's and Shri Nityananda Prabhu's preaching. The original preachers are Shri Chaitanya and Nityananda Prabhu. All gurus in the disciplic succession are obeying them. If Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Gaurakishora dasa Babaji Maharaja, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and Shrila Narottama dasa Thakura had not appeared, how could we have come together here? Therefore, we should honor all gurus in the disciplic succession. If we say that our guru is the only one and we should honor only him and not read the books of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, or others, like Shri Rupa Gosvami's Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, then we are offenders and we will not be able to enter the realm of bhakti.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, though he was restricted not to go to 'Kali Rajya,' went there and began to preach from there to the whole world. He collected devotees like Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, and also our Guru Maharaja and others from Kolkata. If he had not started his preaching from there, no one would have come under the shelter of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhus beautiful siddhanta. So, we cannot say that he disobeyed his Gurudeva.
In this way we also cannot say that Shri Narottama dasa Thakura disobeyed his guru. In fact, he fulfilled the mano-bhista, or internal desire, of his divine grace. We should always try to reconcile these apparent contradictions. Sometimes pure disciples act like this, so we will have to reconcile. If we do not reconcile, we will go to hell.
There are many such incidences described in Shrimad-Bhagavatam. One time, Krsna spoke to the gopis: "Go back to your homes and serve your husbands, children, and cows." But the gopis countered His arguments and said, "We are not at fault, You are at fault! We consider You to be our guru. You are instructing us to serve our husbands, children and so on; therefore You are our guru. The guru must be respected and worshiped first, before anyone else. If You are not accepting our worship, then You are guilty, not us." They defeated all of Krsna's arguments, and He was bound to accept their service.
Some time later, the gopis asked Krsna "Why did you tell us to return to our homes and serve our husbands?" Krsna replied, "I never said this. I said that the full moon nights are not dark; but you understood they are dark." In Sanskrit, these slokas have double meanings; hence we should always read and understand them under the guidance of Vaishnavas. Otherwise we may not understand their true meaning.
We should understand that Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and Shri Narottama dasa Thakuras never disobeyed their gurus; rather they very respectfully 'more than obeyed' them.
Sometimes Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja writes in his books one thing in one place, and in other places the opposite. You may find this in many places, but it should be reconciled. For example, he has written in some places that the soul has fallen from Goloka Vrndavana, and in other places that the soul can never fall from Goloka Vrndavana. Here we see some apparent contradiction.
Which statement we should follow? Don't try to follow him by your own intelligence. It is best to read his books with the understanding that his conclusions must be the same as the conclusions of Shrila Jiva Gosvami, Shri Rupa Gosvami, Shri Bhaktivinoda Thakura, or Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada. If one of his two statements is contradicting the conclusion of Shri Jiva Gosvami or Shri Rupa Gosvami, Mahaprabhu, Shri Bhaktivinoda Thakura or Shrila Prabhupada, then we can conclude that Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja had one special purpose in that. Otherwise, without this understanding, you will be derailed from the bhakti path and become an offender.
How can we reconcile his statement that the soul has fallen from Goloka and has now forgotten Krsna? He said this for beginners. He did right. Beginners cannot comprehend higher siddhanta. There would have been no use explaining it to them. For example, we may say to a weeping small boy that the moon is here on the tree. The moon is not on the tree, but we cannot give him any sophisticated explanation because he will not understand. Therefore, we tell him that the moon is here on the branches of the tree. This is appropriate. However, when he has gained some knowledge, at that time we can tell him that the moon is not on the tree.
Once we will be qualified, we will understand. We will read Shri Jiva Gosvami, Shri Rupa Gosvami or Shri Sanatana Gosvami and recognize that everything is there in Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja's books. He has written something for general persons, for beginners. But his real conclusion is this:
Those who have gone to Goloka Vrndavana are liberated from this world. Either they became liberated, or they are kaya-vyuha manifestations of Shrimati Radhika or nitya-siddha manifestations of Shri Baladeva Prabhu. There is no maha-maya in Goloka Vrndavana, only yoga-maya (Purnamasi). Bad thoughts can never enter the hearts of Goloka residents. They are always tasting the mellows of krsna-prema, so how they can fall? Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja has told this very clearly many times – I can show it, and others have also told so. We should not be in confusion and thus confuse others.
He is quoted as saying that we should not read any books besides his. Why would he have said this? Because first we should become qualified, and then we must read books like Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu and Ujjvala-nilamani; otherwise we will lose everything. So, we will have to reconcile all this.
Shrila Gour Govinda Maharaja sometimes spoke about raganuga-bhajana. He was qualified to speak about this, but most of his listeners were not qualified to understand how he was nearer than them to the teachings of Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja. They could only comprehend primary teachings; they could not sort out such higher topics. Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja has written and explained everything in his books, but we need to learn from a maha-bhagavata how to understand his books.
yaha, bhagavata pada vaisnavera sthane
ekanta asraya kara caitanya-carane
["If you want to understand Shrimad-Bhagavatam, you must approach a self-realized Vaishnava and hear from him. You can do this when you have completely taken shelter of the lotus feet of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu." (Shri Chaitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila, 5.131)]
Actually, there is nothing contradictory in Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja's books; rather, he spoke to different levels of devotees. For example, it is written somewhere in Shrimad-Bhagavatam that the world is false. This does not mean that the physical world is false, but that the world we ourselves make, our conceptions that "This is my father, mother, wife, and so on" are false; our creation is false. Worldly relations are illusory, but the sun, the moon and the pastimes of Shri Rama and Shri Krsna are not false.
We have to reconcile all these things. But we can reconcile them only if we are associating with high-class Vaishnavas.