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of a Traveling Preacher, Chapter 19
was the auspicious celebration of the appearance of Srila Narottama dasa
Thakura. As Narottama dasa Thakura is one of my favorite acaryas, I rose
early to read his biography, compiled by my god-sister Sitala dasi. She
spent years researching his life in various sastras and will soon be
publishing a book. She gave me the manuscript to edit and I keep it with
me at all times. Being a deeply realized lover of God and stalwart
preacher, Narottama dasa Thakura embodies everything I would like to
achieve in devotional service. The many songs he wrote guide us from the
beginning stages of devotional service to the higher levels of pure love.
Once Srila Gaura Kishore dasa Babaji was asked by a follower, "What
is the price one must pay for achieving love of God?"
replied, "Five paise!"
aback, his surprised follower said, "Five paise! How is that
Gaura Kishore dasa Babaji replied, "Yes, you can understand
everything about achieving love of Krishna by going to the market-place
and purchasing Srila Narottama dasa Thakura's two books, Prema Bhakti
Candrika and Prathana for five paise!"
the temple this morning I spoke for over an hour and a half, and covered
only half the life of Narottama dasa Thakura. I concluded by saying that I
would continue the narration this evening at our second Moscow temple,
located just outside the city.
evening approached we drove the 20km to the center, which is home for
about 50 devotees. The complex comprises a large wooden building used for
the temple room and four smaller buildings that house devotees. Upon
arriving I went into the temple room and found more than 200 devotees
eager to hear more about the glories of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. I
spoke for two hours, and still didn't complete the narrations of his
pastimes! At the end I promised I would continue "part three"
tomorrow morning back at the city temple. Sri Prahlad concluded the
program with a rousing kirtan.
the way back to our apartment in the city, I reflected on the great mercy
that I have received in relation to Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. Last
year, in my wanderings through Vrindavan, I chanced upon a somewhat
isolated building near the Gopiswara Mahadeva temple. The sign outside
read, "Vraja Mohan Temple - Deities of Narottama dasa Thakura."
Curious, I entered the old temple and came before the altar. Just at that
moment, the curtain opened and I beheld the beautiful forms of Srimate
Radharani and Vraja Mohan .
Mohan was personally installed by Srila Narottama dasa Thakura at the
first Gaura-purnima festival that he organized in Kethuri (now Bangaladesh)
a some years after the departure of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Narottama
had organized that great event to bring together the many Gaudiya
Vaisnavas who were in some ways inactive after the departure of Lord
Caitanya. Feeling the pain of separation from the Lord, they could hardly
lift the karatalas or drums to spread the chanting of the holy names.
Without strong leadership, various apasampradayas had also begun to spring
up, deviating from the strict teachings of Srila Rupa Goswami.
wanted to bring the Gaudiya Vaisnava community together in order to
inspire them and organize the preaching of Lord Caitanya's teachings
throughout India. Great devotees like Lord Nityananda's wife, Jahnava mata,
attended the grand festival. Many thousands of devotes came from Vrindavan,
Bengal, Puri and Orissa, and everyone relished the krnsa-katha and the
kirtans, especially those of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. Narottama
installed six Deities of Krishna at that historic event, and several years
later sent one of those Deities, Vraja Mohan, to Vrindavan, as he had many
disciples there who were feeling his separation. Along with the Deity he
also sent some of his personal effects.
before Radha-Vraja Mohan, I marveled at my good fortune to see the
personal Deity of one of my great heroes in Krishna consciousness. The
next evening I returned to the temple with a large kirtan party. We
entered the compound roaring the holy names and dancing in great ecstasy.
Before coming, I had narrated to the devotees many of the pastimes of
Narottama dasa Thakur, including his installing Vraja Mohan. So the
devotees entered the temple in great expectation. Grateful for such a
special darsan, we continued chanting and dancing for hours. Several times
we changed from the maha mantra to jaya Narottama, jaya Narottama, jaya
Narottama, singing as loud as we could.
the mood was so sweet having kirtan in front of such an amazing Deity, we
returned each evening for several days. Each time the kirtan was more
ecstatic. On the fourth evening at the end of the kirtan, we sat exhausted
upon the ground drenched in sweat, but feeling great satisfaction in our
hearts. At that moment, the Bengali pujari who had been watching us in
amazement those few days came forward, begging if he could give me
anything. I had noticed a number of beautiful salagram silas on a cushion
on the altar and I said that if he desired, he could give me one of Them.
He smiled and went towards the altar, but instead of taking one of the
silas from the cushion he reached towards a special silver bowl, just next
to Vraja Mohan's feet, and took out a small govardhan sila. Coming back to
me, he placed it in my hand and said softly, "This govardhan sila
came with Vraja Mohan from Keturi. He was worshipped by Srila Narottama
was stunned, as were the many devotees around me. Everyone became silent
as we stared at the govardhan sila in disbelief. Then the pujari returned
to the silver bowl and took out a small salagram sila, the same size as
the govardhan sila. Returning again to us, he placed that sila in my hand
and said, "He was also worshipped by Narottama!" Then without
pausing, he wheeled around and went back to the silver bowl one last time
and brought back a small dwarka sila, the same size as the two previous
silas. "And he was also worshipped by the Thakura!" All three
silas together looked like precious jewels. But in fact, they were
infinitely more valuable!
course, no one can say for sure if those Deities were worshipped by
Narottama dasa Thakura, but considering the prominent position They had on
the altar I had no reason to doubt that They were. I took it as mercy
which comes of its own accord and paid my full dandavats at the lotus feet
of Vraja Mohan.
the mood of the pujari was so pure and because he asked for nothing in
return, several days later I came back and expressed my desire to do
service for Radha-Vraja Mohan. With the help of god-brothers, like
Giriraja Maharaja, we are now renovating the old temple, supplying new
dresses for the Deities and arranging for the daily bhoga for the Deity.
mercy of Lord Caitanya and his associates is unlimited and flows like a
fast-moving river. Recently, when I visited Vraja Mohan again, my pujari
friend called me to a room near the altar, and opening an old trunk with
great reverence pulled out an ancient stone plate and metal pot, placing
them in my hands with tears in his eyes. He said, "These items also
accompanied Vraja Mohan 450 years ago. This is the very pot that Narottama
dasa Thakura would cook in and this is the plate that he took prasadam
from. I'm giving them to you."
difficult to fathom how such mercy comes our way. We can only wonder at
the ways of the Lord and reciprocate as best we can.
Narottama dasa Thakura, please me help carry on your mission in this
world, assisting my spiritual master in delivering the fallen souls,
bereft of the mercy of such souls as yourself! May Visvanath Cakravati's
glorification of you be my constant meditation!
offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, a sincere
follower of Lord Gaurangadeva. Emitting a shower of the nectar of the holy
name, with its splendor, the moon of His mouth destroys the darkness of
offer my respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. Blissful
by singing Krishna's glories, he would become bathed in streams of
perspiration and the splendor of his teeth and gentle smile would
illuminate all directions."
offer my respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. Hearing
the mrdangas and the sound of the holy name, he would dance, moving his
enchanting lotus feet and the hairs of his body erect in ecstasy."
offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. His dancing
dispelled the Gandharvas' pride. His devotional activities filled everyone
with wonder. His songs made him famous."
offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. He would
sometimes faint in ecstasy and fall to the ground, his body decorated with
dust. The very fortunate would see him in that way."
sthale yasya krpa-prabhabhih
offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. In place
after place the splendor of his mercy uprooted the people's thirst for
anything other than Krishna."
offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. His firm
faith in devotional service to Krishna is like a necklace of precious
stones. His touch is like a sparsamani jewel. His words are like the four
bhaktih kim ayam kim esa
offer respectful obeisances to Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. The devotees
always wonder: Is he devotional service personified? Is he the essence of
renunciation who has descended to the world of human beings in this
the dancing of Sri Narottama's lotus feet, which is graceful with the
melodious sounds of karatalas and mrdangas, and which is sweet with the
honey of Lord Gauranga, fulfill the spiritual desires of me, his
Visvanath Cakravati Thakura - Srila Narottama-prabhor-astaka]
© CHAKRA 26 May 2001
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