SRI NABADWIP DHAM MAHATMYA MUKTA MALA
SRI ANTARDWIP (Atma-nivedan)
At Sri Sridhar Angan
By Om Vishnupad Jagad-Guru Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj
Continuing our parikrama of Sri Nabadwip Dham, by the mercy of Sri Gurupadpadma we have now come to Sri Sridhar Angan. Although this may look like a very small house, some very beautiful pastimes took place here, at the house of Sri Sridhar Prabhu.
Sriman Nityananda Prabhu came here with Srila Jiva Goswami, and when Sridhar Prabhu heard that Sri Nityananda Prabhu had come together with the devotees, Sridhar Prabhu came out to welcome them offering his obeisance and various worship. He said humbly, "Prabhu, please be merciful to this low servant—please take some rest at my house."
Sri Nityananda Prabhu said, "Sridhar, you are so fortunate! The Lord has bestowed so much mercy on you. Yes, I will rest at your house today!"
Hearing this, Sridhar Prabhu became very happy and excited. With much care he served Sri Nityananda Prabhu and all the devotees. He asked a brahman to cook something and then served prasadam to everyone. After that, Sri Nityananda Prabhu lay down in the room of Sridhar Prabhu, and Sridhar Prabhu massaged the Lord's feet. Having taken some rest, everyone then continued Sri Nabadwip Dham Parikrama in the association of Sriman Nityananda Prabhu.
Why did Sriman Nityananda Prabhu say that Sridhar Pandit was a great recipient of Mahaprabhu's mercy? You must know who Sridhar Pandit was, and you must always remember and keep his mood in your heart.
Sridhar Pandit, or 'Khalovecha' Sridhar was a very poor devotee. He lived on the northern outskirts of Sri Antardwip and used to make a living by selling spinach, bananas, plantain, thor (banana stems), roots, etc.—he would spend half of whatever money he earned on buying some fruit, sweets, etc. for the worship of Sri Ganga Devi and the other half on his household expenses. Sriman Mahaprabhu Vishvambhar would every day take prasadam on the banana leaves from Sridhar Prabhu's house.
When Sachi Mata from time to time sent Nimai to the market to get some bananas, roots, spinach, etc., Mahaprabhu would always come to the shop of Sridhar Prabhu, and He would every day come and bargain with him—Sridhar Prabhu would tell Him one price, and Nimai would take some thor, bananas or roots in His hand and name another price. Sridhar Prabhu did not agree to bring the price down (he would say, "Please forgive me, Thakur. Although I am Your dog, I cannot give you a discount") and would try to take the vegetables out of Mahaprabhu's hand, but Mahaprabhu did not give it back, in this way both of them would start a sort of a tug of war. Sometimes, Nimai would pull so hard that Sridhar Prabhu, being unable to hold the slippery banana stem, would fall down on the ground! In this way, Mahaprabhu enjoyed joking in the company of Sridhar Prabhu every day.
One day, Mahaprabhu came to Sridhar Prabhu's house and said, "Sridhar, you are very clever. Your name, Kholavecha, has a very deep meaning."
"Prabhu, stop mocking me. Are there no other shops at the market besides mine? Why do You always behave like this with me?"
Nimai said, "There are other shops, but you are My supplier, so why should I leave you?" (Just see, the Lord does not catch anyone so easily, but if He does catch someone, He will not leave them!) "Besides, you buy so many things for Ganga-puja everyday, then why would you not give anything to Me? You are worshipping the Ganges, but, believe Me, I am telling the truth—I am the father of this Ganga you worship!"
Sridhar Prabhu was a very truthful and strict Vaishnav, so hearing this 'nonsense' talk, he could not tolerate it. Hearing Mahaprabhu's words, Sridhar Prabhu put his fingers into his ears and said, "Vishnu! Vishnu!" Sridhar Prabhu understood that it was useless to argue with Nimai, so finally he would give up and give Him so many roots, vegetables, etc. Then, Nimai said, "Oh, why are you giving Me so much spinach, so many bananas and roots? Are they all rotten or what?"
Sridhar Prabhu said, "No, no, no! Why will I give You rotten things? Take whatever You need from my shop!"
Mahaprabhu would always come to Sridhar Prabhu's house on various pretexts. One day, when Mahaprabhu came to Sridhar Prabhu's house, Sridhar Prabhu offer his obeisance to the Lord and gave Him a seat. That day, a wonderous conversation took place between them.
Mahaprabhu said, "Listen, Sridhar, you always say 'Hari', 'Hari' and worship Laksmi-Narayan, but you do not have good clothes, you do not eat well, you are so poor! What is the use of your worship?"
Sridhar Prabhu replied, "Prabhu, I may be poor, but I do not starve. Whether big or small, but I do have things to wear."
"Sure, you say you have clothes, but I see your clothes are stitched and mended in a hundred places! Yes, you do have a house, but your house does not even have straw on the roof. In Nabadwip, those who worship Durga are all well-off. So, you would be better off if you worshipped Durga!"
Sridhar Prabhu replied, "Yes, what You are saying is right, but everyone's life goes the same way–whether one stays in a big house, eats opulent food, wears good clothes, everyone will finish in the same way, everyone will die. Everything happens by the will of the Lord. Whatever the Lord alots, that is sufficient, I am happy with that."
Hearing Sridhar Prabhu's words, Nimai was extremely pleased. He said, "Sridhar, you have such an immense wealth, but you are hiding it and enjoying with it yourself, you do not share it with anyone. You are cheating others!"
Sridhar Prabhu did not like to hear his own praise, so he said, "Listen, go home now. You are talking like a madman, it is not necessary to tell all this nonsense to me! I do not want to fight with You."
"You will not get rid of Me so easily! Tell Me, what are you going to give Me today?"
"Take whatever you want. You know what I sell, and You know the price too."
"You have some hidden treasure, but let it be for now—in future you will give Me banana stems, bananas and banana flowers for free! If you agree, then I give you My word that I will not pester you again."
Sridhar Prabhu got a little scared thinking, "If I say no to this little brahman, He can beat me—what will I do then? I can neither refuse to give Him what He is asking for, nor can I give Him everything for free. What do I do now?" In the end, he decided, "If a brahman comes and asks me for something, what loss is it for me? I have to give what He is asking for, it is my fortune." Then, Sridhar Prabhu said that Nimai could take anything He wanted from him, for free.
Another day Nimai came to the house of Sridhar Prabhu and asked him for a glass of water. Getting shy, Sridhar Prbhu said that he did not have a proper glass and there was a hole in the only glass that he had. Bhavagrahi Bhagavan Sri Nimaisundar did not mind it–He drank water from that glass with a hole.
bhaktera padartha prabhu hena-mate khaya
"The Lord eats anything and everything that His devotees offer to Him, but on the other hand, He does not want anything from non-devotees, even if they are millionaires".
(Sri Chaitanya-bhagavata, 2.9.185)
Krishna Himself says, "I do not take anything from a non-devotee's hand. I take from those who serve Me—if someone gives Me something with devotion, that is sufficient for Me." Krishna Himself took flat rice from Sudama Vipra, He took banana skin from Vidura's wife, etc., but Krishna never took raj-bhog (opulent preparations) from Duryodhan. The main thing is to give with heart and soul—if you give your heart for the service, that is sufficient. People can do so many external things, but it may or may not be service. When you do service, you must do it with heart, mind, and soul. This is the main thing. We see the proof of these words in Sridhar Prabhu's example–he had nothing, he did not have any wealth, any riches, he had no money, no knowledge, he was not a scholar, he did not even have a proper house, but he had love in his heart, and this is what Mahaprabhu accepted from him so happily. He was a great servitor of Mahaprabhu.
ki karibe vidya, dhana, rupa, yasa, kule
"What is the use of knowledge, wealth, beauty, fame and high birth? It only increases one's ego. Everything will finish and fall off fruitlessly. In millions of lifetimes millionaires have never seen that which Sridhar, who was a mere seller of bananas and roots, had. If anyone sees this great soul as foolish and poor and laughs at him, they will go to a foul hell of burning oil as a result of their own actions. Who has the power to recognise a Vaishnav? Even if you have all kinds of perfections, you can still be unfortunate".
(Sri Chaitanya-bhagavata, 2.9.234-235, 239-238)
One day, Nimai wanted to give a boon to Sridhar. He asked Sridhar Prabhu, "Sridhar, what boon do you want to get? Tell Me."
Sridhar Prabhu said with folded palms, "Prabhu, I do not want any boon. If You must give me some boon, then this what I want—
ye brahmana kadi' nila mora khola-pata
"May this brahman who has been taking away my banana leaves be my master life after life. May the lotus feet of this brahman with whom I have been quarelling be my lord."
(Sri Chaitanya-bhagavata, 2.9.225-226)
Saying this, Sridhar Prabhu raised his arms—he began to cry and loudly chant kirtan.
The day before Mahaprabhu took sannyas, all devotees assembled at the house of Sri Sachi Mata and Nimai Vishvambhar. Everybody came there, and Sridhar Prabhu was also there–he brought a lau (calabash/bottle gourd) and gave it to Nimai. When Nimai took that lau, His hearted melted. He said, "Sridhar, I have been taking and stealing bananas, banana stems and flowers from you My whole life, and today, on this last night, you have brought a lau for Me! I cannot but accept it. You are My eternal servant, Sridhar. I have tested you in so many ways, but you have no ego. I am indebted to you for your service, devotion, and pure love." When somebody else brought some milk after a while, Mahaprabhu asked Sri Sachi Mata, "Mother, please take this lau and make some sweet lau (lau boiled in milk with sugar)." Nimai took that sweet lau dish that night.
After Mahaprabhu took sannyas, being unable to stay without the darshan of Gauranga Mahaprabhu, Sridhar Prabhu would every year go to Puri together with other devotees to see the Lord.
In this world, people serve the Lord in three ways. First, somebody worships the Lord because they are afraid. Second, people worship the Lord because have some material desire (they always want something from the lord, they are always attached to material things, material world), and the third, somebody worships the Lord out of sense of duty. It means people think, "Oh, because we are eternal servants of the Lord and Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then we must serve Krishna." This is not right—you must serve your Guru, Vaishnavs, and the Lord out of love, affection, out of attachment and love for their lotus feet—only then will it be real service.
In this way, by a great fortune, by unlimited mercy of our Sri Gurupadpadma, we have come to this eternal pure place, and as we speak about the glories of Sridhar Prabhu we take the dust of his holy house on our heads and pray that we may one day be able to serve our Guru, Vaishnavs, and the Lord with sincerity, with heart and soul, with love, leaving behind all material things.
Sri Kholavecha Sridhar Prabhu ki jay
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