AFFECTIONATE GUIDANCE: CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
In Praise of Srila Narottam Das Thakur
Today is the Disappearance Day of Srila Narottam Thakur, so I would like to say a few words to glorify him. Before Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur most of the Vaisnava songs came from Srila Narottam Thakur. 'Sri Guru charanapadma, kevala-bhakati-sadma,' you all know. This is from Narottam's Prema-bhakti-chandrika, and Prarthana. But although he wrote many beautiful songs of devotion, Narottam Das Thakur was not just a song writer, he was a great pandit and more than that, he was a devotee of Sri Chaitanyadev.
When Mahaprabhu travelled to Ramakeli, on the way He had to cross the River Padma. While on the banks of the river He began to call, "Narottam, Narottam, Narottam." The devotees could not understand the meaning at that time, but later it was revealed that from that part of Bengal, a great devotee would appear, and his name would be 'Narottam.' Sriman Mahaprabhu had left a great treasure stored in the waters of Padma Devi for Narottam—Krishna-prema.
After many years, Narottam Das Thakur appeared in the village of that area, known as Kheturi. He was a prince, the only son of Raj Krsnananda Datta and Rani Narayani Devi. Narottam was enlightened even from his early childhood, and one day he had a dream in which Nityananda Prabhu instructed him, "Go to the River Padma and take your bath there because Mahaprabhu has left His gift of Krishna-Prema for you within her waters." Narottam immediately awoke and went to the river and entered the water. While bathing he experienced the Divine Form of Mahaprabhu embracing him and Krishna-Prema entered into his being. He became transformed and just like Mahaprabhu Himself, he began crying, dancing, laughing and constantly chanting the Names of Krishna and suddenly asta-sattvika-bhava (the eight symptoms of ecstasy in love of Krishna) appeared in his body.
Upon returning home Narottam's mother began to question, "Oh my son, what has happened to you? Why are you crying and behaving in this peculiar way? Please, if I can help in any way, I am ready to do anything. I am even ready to give up my life if that will help you. Tell me what I can do."
Narottam replied, "Mother, last night I went to the River Padma, inspired by a dream, and there someone who I believe was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, embraced me and entered into my heart. Now I am feeling great sadness and separation from that Mahaprabhu and from Sri Krishnachandra and that is what causes me to cry. If you wish to show your kindness to me then please give me permission to go to Vrindavan where I shall search for Mahaprabhu."
After hearing Narottam's petition, his father became worried, fearing that his son would leave home, and so, just like the father of Raghunath Das Goswami, he arranged some guards to watch Narottam. Narottam remained in the house, chanting, dancing, and writing devotional songs and always manifesting the eight symptoms of divine ecstasy.
Narottam was restless, always crying for Mahaprabhu and Krishna. Since the day he took his bath in the river, his body had changed from his dark complexion and he had become the same golden colour of Mahaprabhu. Radharani's colour had come into his body and everyone was greatly surprised saying, "Yes, it is true, Narottam has received Krishna-Prema from Mahaprabhu and Mahaprabhu is really living in his heart." Everyone was offering him respect, but his father was becoming more and more worried.
One day when his father had gone to pay taxes on behalf of the state and had traveled far away, Narottam went to his mother crying in great anguish and again petitioned her, "Mother, please give your permission, I must go to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's associates who are living in Vrindavan. It is the order of Nityananda Prabhu, so please arrange for me to go." Narottam's mother made the arrangements, and in secret Narottam left his home and went to Vrindavan.
Narottam had been having many dreams in which Mahaprabhu instructed him to go to Vrindavan and take shelter of the lotus feet of His confidential devotee Srila Lokanath Das Goswami who would give diksa to him. He also told Narottam to find Srila Rupa Goswami, Srila Sanatan Goswami and Srila Jiva Goswami and to keep their holy association. After arriving in Vrindavan, Narottam found that Rupa and Sanatan had already left the world but he found there Srila Jiva Goswami, Srila Lokanath Das Goswami, Srila Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami and many other great Vaisnavas who gave him their company. Narottam became the student of Jiva Goswami and petitioned Lokanath Goswami to give him diksa. Lokanath refused him.
Lokanath Goswami had decided that he would never accept any disciples and lived in an extremely austere way in Vrindavan, living under a different tree every night.
Narottam felt great sadness upon being refused by Srila Lokanath, and he told him, "I can only take my initiation from you. Sriman Mahaprabhu has told me that you will give me diksa, so until then I will wait." Narottam tried to serve his Guru but the Goswami would allow no one to serve him. Narottam thought, "If he will not even stay under the same tree for more than one night then what kind of service can I do for him?" After a while Narottam noticed that Srila Lokanath Prabhu would always go to the same place to pass stool and he began to think that although Lokanath had refused to give him any service for over two years, if he could clean that place every day then at last he would have some service. Narottam was fixed in his resolve that he must take diksa from Srila Lokanath Goswami, as this was the order of Mahaprabhu.
Very soon Lokanath Goswami began to notice, "I come here every day to pass stool and it seems that someone is cleaning this place after me. Who can be doing this?" So one night from a hidden place Lokanath saw that at midnight Narottam is coming and very happily cleaning that place. Lokanath knew that Narottam was the son of the famous King Krsnananda Datta. He was greatly astonished and confronted Narottam, "Why are you, a prince of high noble birth, coming each night and cleaning this dirty place?" And Narottam replied, "Prabhu, I need your mercy. Without your mercy I cannot live. Your vow is that you will not accept any disciples, but by the order of Sriman Mahaprabhu, it is my vow that I must have your connection. I don't know when you will give me your mercy but you must accept me as your disciple." So after refusing Narottam eighteen times, finally Srila Lokanath Das Goswami took Narottam Das and gave him diksa.
Narottam received instruction from Srila Jiva Goswami, Srila Kaviraj Goswami and many other goswamis who were there in Vrindavan. He was a great pandit and all the devotees headed by Sri Jiva, recognising his qualification, bestowed upon him the title of 'Thakur.'
Narottam Thakur's close associates and peers were Syamananda and Srinivas. From the inspiration of Srila Jiva Goswami and the other Vaisnavas, these three great devotees were sent back to Bengal to continue the preaching of Mahaprabhu. The Bengali Vaisnavas were very eager to read the writings of Sri Rupa, Sanatan, Raghunath, Krishna Das Kaviraj, Lokanath Goswami, Gopal Bhatta Goswami, Prabhodananda Saraswati and the other Goswamis; so Narottam, Syamananda and Srinivas travelled from Vrindavan towards Bengal with many copies of those great books.
Finally they arrived in Visnupur in the district of Virbhum, Bengal. The King of this region was Raja Bir Hambir, but he was a dacoit (bandit) and was engaged in many robberies in the area. The King had a brahmana astrologer and according to the astrologers' calculations he would know where and when to carry out his next robbery. The astrologer informed the King that on a particular route bullock carts would be passing, carrying many precious jewels, so the jubilant King sent his dacoits to rob the caravan. While Narottam and the Vaisnavas slept, the King's dacoits stole away the chests containing the books of the Goswamis.
After much searching, Narottam, Srinivas and Syamananda in great sorrow could not trace the books. Srinivas ordered Narottam to return to Kheturi Gram, and Syamananda went to Midnapur where they began preaching. Srinivas Acharyya resolved to stay and try to find the stolen books.
Srinivas heard that in the assembly of Raja Bir Hambir, that night a great pandit would give explanation of Srimad- Bhagavatam. The brahmana in whose house Srinivas was staying, invited Srinivas to accompany him to the meeting. Srinivas agreed.
After hearing the pandit's explanation of the Bhagavatam, Srinivas addressed Raja Bir Hambir saying, "Srimad-Bhagavatam is not child's play. It is the transcendental knowledge descended to this earth for our super benefit and the explanation given by this man is intolerable, he obviously knows nothing of the meaning of Srimad-Bhagavatam."
Raja Bir Hambir was greatly surprised at Srinivas' exclamation and asked him, "Then can you explain the Bhagavatam?"
"Yes I can," replied Srinivas and taking his seat on the vyasasan, he spoke for several hours. All those that heard him became greatly moved and they all, including the King, took shelter of his lotus feet.
The King humbly approached Srinivas, "Prabhu, you are indeed a great Vaisnava, please tell me what service I can do for you? Where have you come from? How far have you travelled?"
Srinivas Acharyya told him, "I have come from Vrindavan carrying chests of books written by the Goswamis, but now they are lost, stolen by I know not who, so I remain here searching for them."
With his head bowed Raja Bir Hambir announced," I am the culprit, I have those books in my home, and every day I have been worshipping them. My astrologer told me that his calculations were true and that the books were actually jewels although they were in the form of books, and so that is why every day I am offering puja." And the King took Srinivas to the books.
The news was sent to Narottam and Syamananda and in great jubilation Narottam Thakur arranged a grand festival. As well as Narottam, Syamananda, Srinivas and other noted Vaisnavas, Mother Jahnavi Devi—Sri Nityananda Prabhu's sakti—also came there to Kheturi Gram to attend the festival. After properly worshipping Jahnavi Devi, Narottam Thakur installed six deities in different temples—Sri Krishna, Vallavi-Kanta, Vraj-Mohan, Radha-Kanta, Radha-Raman, and Gauranga. Elaborate puja arrangements were made, including a month-long festival of Hari-kirttan. And every day in Narottam's kirttan, those who were fortunate saw Nityananda Prabhu and Mahaprabhu dancing there, such was Narottam's devotion. Those who knew him considered he was the incarnation of Nityananda Prabhu and Mahaprabhu combined.
Although Lokanath Goswami only had one disciple, Narottam gave Krishna-Prema to everyone, and just like Nityananda Prabhu, he did not consider who was fit and who was not. Whoever wanted Krishna-Prema, then Narottam would give it them. He was given this special power by the grace of Mahaprabhu, Nityananda and Lokanath Goswami, Narottam's Gurudev.
Narottam Das Thakur was born in the kayastha community, and caused a great deal of controversy by accepting disciples who were from the brahmana caste. The brahmana section were very angry with him and tried repeatedly to defeat him in debate, but the only result was that more brahmanas were becoming his disciples. The brahmanas were very unhappy, and when in his last years Narottam manifested much sickness, the brahmanas declared that this was the result of Narottam violating the scriptural injunctions by accepting disciples from a higher caste than his own. Gradually Narottam's condition became worse and finally he died. The brahmanas were jubilant and began celebrating Narottam's passing as proof of his offences to their community.
Narottam's disciples were heart-broken and prayed before their Gurudev's body, "Oh Prabhu, you have shown this lila of your passing in this way and the brahmanas are committing offence to your lotus feet because they cannot understand. Lord, what shall we do now? Surely all the preaching will be ruined if you show this kind of passing lila. Please show your mercy to these misguided brahmanas." Suddenly Narottam returned to his body and sat up and upon seeing this miracle, the opposition surrendered to his lotus feet.
Some months later, Narottam was exhibiting intense symptoms of separation from Radha and Krishna and so again he left this world. His body turned into milk and merged with the waters of the holy River Ganges. In this way Narottam Das Thakur preached Krishna consciousness and from him the preceptorial line is coming to Visvanath Chakravarti. Narottam wrote many songs of devotion and Prema-bhakti-chandrika is very famous in this world amongst the Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Today is his holy Disappearance Day and we pray for his grace upon us all.
Section 1 — 'Siddhanta'
Section 3 — 'Our Devotional Line'
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