Sripad Rishabdev Prabhu: A Miracle Personality
(His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj speaks about the glories of Sripad Rishabdev Prabhu on 12 June 2006)
I have seen so many miracles in my life, and Rishabdev Prabhu is also one kind of a miracle personality.
Externally, we would not say he is a great Vaishnav, he looked like a general Vaishnav. He was born in a mleccha caste, Haridas Thakur was also born in a mleccha family, and he showed so much similarity with Haridas Thakur, I am surprised at that. I had never thought he was like Haridas Thakur, but in the last part of his life he showed a miracle like Haridas Thakur—just as Mahaprabhu fulfilled the last will and desire of Haridas Thakur, Krishna fulfilled Rishabdev Prabhu's desire.
When Rishabdev Prabhu found out that he would not be alive long, he expressed his desire, "I want to go to the Guru's ashram. I want to stay with the Guru and leave my body there." We saw that in the end it happened. His character was very, very sweet. He came here and showed a very happy mood. I sent him to Nabadwip and went there with him, stayed there with him. Day by day his health was reducing—Sripad Ashram Maharaj gave much nourishment to him (Rishabdev Prabhu felt pain in his legs and body, and Sripad Ashram Maharaj massaged him almost all day, he was always with him). And when I remember what his food was, I cannot even conceive of it, it is also a miracle.
Although his desire was, "I shall die in the Math, in front of the Guru, with Hari Nam..." (the same desire that Haridas Thakur expressed), in the end he changed his mind because he saw that all the Vaishnavs were busy giving service to him—he thought he was taking service from Vaishnavs, and he did not want to do it, he did not want to trouble Vaishnavs, so he was very disturbed and decided to go to hospital. That was his order. When his daughter Mandakini told me, "My father does not want to take service from Vaishnavs, he wants to go to hospital, that is his final will," I did not interfere so much—he could do as he wanted, but I was a little worried.
Two cars were arranged and ready, one filled with the things of Rishabdev Prabhu and one for me, and we were ready to leave Navadwip, but Krishna's will, Guru Maharaj's desire, Mahaprabhu and Navadwip Dham did not want to let him go. The doctor came in the morning and said, "He cannot go. His health condition will not allow it." Then I went to see Rishabdev Prabhu and saw that it was really so. He did not speak, but was doing some sankirtan. His health condition was such that he was not able to go to Kolkata by car, and the doctor also said, "He will die today, he cannot go..." Ashram Maharaj was always with him, some other Vaishnavs were also there, and Rishabdev Prabhu's daughter Mandakini also served her father as much as possible.
It was perhaps about three o'clock in the afternoon. I came to his room and stood in front of him, eye to eye—I am looking at him and he is looking at me; the devotees were chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra around him; Sripad Ashram Maharaj was sitting on his bed; Srimad Bhagavad-gita was on his chest, his beads were there, etc. and he passed away.
He was born as a mleccha, etc. but his life was not bad, he lived a very restricted life, and he was brilliant—his wife [Kum Kum Devi Dasi] is brilliant, and everything he had done was all done brilliantly. But I was surprised to see how he passed away, it was just like Haridas Thakur's disappearance. Anyone, if they know at least a little bit, will also say it was like Haridas Thakur's disappearance. How is it possible? Everything, all instructions of our scriptures (Veda, Vedanta, Upanishad, etc.) become invalid in front of a Vaishnav's will. Krishna Himself said, "Whatever situation comes, I cannot leave My devotee—I will fulfill their desire." And Rishabdev Prabhu's desire was clearly fulfilled.
When Narayan said, "I was happy with that the hunter that sold fish, bring Me back to the hunter, I will stay with him!" this does not seem to be such a big miracle, but I knew Rishabdev Prabhu's case very well, that is why I am so surprised.
mam hi partha vyapasritya, ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah
"O son of Prtha, persons of low birth, women, merchants or labourers-they, too, attain the supreme destination by taking full refuge in Me."
(Srimad Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)
"Even low born persons attain Me if they take shelter in Me." I am surprised to see that and I am thinking how is it possible?
I saw Rishabdev Prabhu in Soquel Ashram, California. When he was the manager in our Ashram there, his activity did not make everybody happy, he was very strict and unhappy with almost everyone. He always told me that there was so much deficiency, and he wanted to get relief from that situation. When I gave charge to Rishabdev, he immediately made two preaching vans and sent a group of devotees for preaching, and I was surprised that the whole situation at Soquel Math immediately changed, but eventually he became exhausted with everyone. Many unpleasant things had happened to him but his desire and will were very firm and settled—he did not lose his devotional mood and faith.
In the end, when he understood that he was going to die, he gave his whole attention to spiritual activity. I am surprised to remember it, and I still remember everything, neither did I forget his last day... Every day I give a garland to him [his photograph]—I think that it uplifts my devotional life. If this kind of Vaishnav gives their divine glance to us, it is very beneficial for our spiritual life.
If you see what your scriptures say (they show so many rules and regulations) and if you see Rishabdev Prabhu's case, you will not be able to harmonise it. Haridas Thakur was special, no doubt—no one can compare to Haridas Thakur in Mahaprabhu's group. Mahaprabhu Himself took Haridas Thakur to Puri, which was impossible for Puri Dham because Haridas Thakur was born in a mleccha family. Mahaprabhu brought him to Puri and gave him some shelter. Haridas Thakur never went inside the Jagannath temple—every day he would look at the chakra of the Jagannath temple from Siddha-bakul and pay dandavat from there. That was his duty. Every time Mahaprabhu went to bathe in the ocean, He would first meet with and embrace Haridas Thakur—in this way He would take some auspiciousness from Haridas Thakur and then give that auspiciousness to the ocean.
prabhu kahe, — 'haridasa, kaha samachara'
Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu inquired, "Haridasa, what is the news?" Haridasa Thakura replied, "My Lord, whatever is Your mercy."
angane arambhila prabhu maha-sankirtana
Upon hearing this, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu immediately began great congregational chanting in the courtyard. Vakresvara Pandita began dancing.
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Antya-lila, 11.47-48)
We remember this all, and I cannot harmonise how it became possible in the character and life of Rishabdev. But it happened in front of me, I saw it, then,
mam hi partha vyapasritya, ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah
"O son of Pritha, persons of low birth, women, merchants or labourers-they, too, attain the supreme destination by taking full refuge in Me."
(Srimad Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)
api chet suduracharo, bhajate mam ananya-bhak
"If even a very sinful person serves Me exclusively with devotion, he should be regarded as saintly, for his resolve is perfect."
(Srimad Bhagavad-gita, 9.30)
sadhavo hrdayam mahyam
"The pure devotee is always within the core of My heart, and I am always in the heart of the pure devotee. My devotees do not know anything else but Me, and I do not know anyone else but them."
(Srimad Bhagavatam, 9.4.68)
satam prasangan mama virya-samvido
"In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin."
(Srimad Bhagavatam, 3.25.25)
There are many slokas like this in the scriptures. We get everything by the grace of a Vaishnav, and Vaishnav can appear from any place. And the actual fact is that we all come from a part and parcel of Krishna, that is our existence, so we are all Vaishnavs by birth and appearance. It is not just birth, it is appearance because there is Vishnu-sakti and there is ksetra-jna:
visnu-saktih para prokta
"The internal potency of the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, is spiritual, as verified by the sastras. There is another spiritual potency, known as ksetra-jna, or the living entity. The third potency, which is known as nescience, makes the living entity godless and fills him with fruitive activity."
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila, 6.154)
We come from the marginal plane, and that is Krishna's part and parcel. In every atom there is existence of the Lord (anor aniyan mahato mahiyan, He is smaller than the smallest, He is greater than the greatest).
When the science now scratches the surface a little, they see a miracle. Einstein also, who is a great scientist, said in the end, "I am surprised to see this world's situation!" We may think something, but the world does not run in that way—the world has its own plan and programme. For example, when there is a sound of thunderbolt in the sky, I often think that at any moment the lightening can fall anywhere and demolish everything.
Anyhow, many miracles have happened in my life, and Rishabdev Prabhu is also one kind of a miracle presented in my life. That is why my nature is such that I believe everything—even if I know something is going the other way, I still believe everything, and I feel fortunate that I do. Not everybody can believe in everything, but if they have some good fortune, they will believe. And why not believe? That is the question. For example, plants take oxygen the whole night and after that give that oxygen to everyone the whole day—we do not see it, but we believe it...
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