Preaching and Rice Collection

Friday, 19 February 2021
Bardhaman District, West Bengal
Photographs courtesy of Sripad B.N. Sadhu Maharaj

 

 

pujya-sri-guru-varga-vandita-mahabhavanvitayah sada
paurvaparya-parampara-prachalita-prajya-pramurtakrteh
bhakter nirmala-nirjharasya nibhrtam samraksakam sadaram
vande sri-gurudevam anata-sira acharya-varyam nijam

"I bow my head in eternal obeisance to my Gurudev, the best of acharyas, Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj. He is the ever vigilant, stalwart guardian of the current of pure devotion whose highest form flows from our most worshippable Sri Rupanuga Guru-varga in their exclusive dedication to Mahabhav, Srimati Radharani."


vaisnavera pada-dhuli tahe mora snana-keli
tarpana mora vaisnavera nama
vaisnavera uchchhista tahe mora mano-nistha
vaisnavera namete ullasa

"The feet dust of the Vaishnavs is where I sport and take bath, Vaishnavs' name is the water oblation. My mind is intently fixed upon the remnants of Vaishnavs, and I am elated at the name of Vaishnavs."

gangara-parasa ha-ile paschate pavana
darsane pavitra kara—ei tomara guna

"If the Ganges touches someone, they are purified some time later; but one becomes purified just by seeing you, O Vaishnava Thakur. Such is your power."

 

 


His Divine Grace tells:

When I was a brahmachari (I had not taken sannyas at that time), Gurudev told me, "I have been preaching in many villages of Burdwan district before Gaura Purnima, and now that preaching has become rice collection only. If you can try to preach there, it would be good." So, I started house to house preaching in various villages in Burdwan and Midnapore, started visiting many places. It all started in Gurudev's time.

At that time, devotees would mainly go out to distribute invitations for Gaura Purnima and to collect rice, but I started preaching. I would start early in the morning when everybody was still sleeping—I would wake up early, take my Deities (photographs and the altar), do mangal arati, etc. We did everything in the same way how we do it in the temple—we would turn the house into a temple. Sometimes, I would take along some brahmacharis and some foreign devotees also. Sripad Trivikram Maharaj was not a sannyasi at that time, he also went with me, Bhakta Bandhu Prabhu, Munindra Mohan Prabhu, Sadhu Priya Prabhu, Gaurachandra Prabhu, and many other devotees also went with me. At that time, devotees would come for Gurudev's appearance day, so there were usually a lot of foreign devotees living at the temple.

Before that, those who went to villages did not follow so many things—they would wake up, take some breakfast and then go to collect rice. What for will people give them rice? What for do we go for collection? When I go, I mainly give attention to the preaching programme—more than to the actual rice collection. What for do we come? We do not come just for rice or money. We come to preach. So, I would stay in some devotee's house and from there go on a sankirtan with a megaphone (hand mic) around the whole village announcing and inviting everybody to some programme or to the evening programme. People like it, they become excited, "Oh, Krishna-Name has come to my house!" I would invite everyone, "There is going to be a programme in the evening. Please come, everybody." In the meantime, I would tell the person where I stayed to prepare prasadam for two-three hundred people, and they are usually rich people, so they were happy to feed others. I invited everyone to the programme and for prasadam ("Come to this house tonight, join our programme"), and many people would come just for prasadam, but they joined the programme, listened to my class, and so on. This is how I started preaching. In the evening, most of villagers do not work, they sit and gossip at the tea stall or some village shop—I thought better they instead come to my class and hear some kirtan. In this way, I would give a class, chant kirtans, and the next day I would go for collection and people happily gave much rice because they understood what for they were giving it.

We are not beggars. We are not going house to house asking for some rice. No. We do not come as beggars—we come to give something to them. We are actually donors coming to give them something, we do not come to take anything from them. Those who understood it happily gave very much rice.

This is how I started this preaching and this is how so many people also started coming and joining Sri Nabadwip Dham parikrama. Gurudev was very happy with that. Over the years, the number of devotees attending the parikrama kept growing—so many people would come, there would be no place to accommodate everyone, we had to make many pandals, make many arrangements, etc. Gurudev was happy to see that. When I joined the Mission (in 1992), there were only about two hundred and fifty people joining Sri Nabadwip Dham parikrama, but now a few thousand people come to Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math for Sri Nabadwip Dham parikrama. You have seen that.

 

     

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

 

 

As each year, shortly before Gaura Purnima, His Divine Grace goes to mills and rice distributors to collect rice for the temples and festivals:

'We go door to door, and somebody gives 500 grams, somebody gives 200 grams or 100 grams, but they give their energy for service at Gaura Purnima, for service to the Lord. You cannot take that energy away—you cannot destroy that energy!' Later Gurudev told me, 'You must remember that I will never buy rice for Gaura Purnima. I can spend so much money and make Gaura Purnima festival, but I cannot buy rice for Gaura Purnima." Then I understood what Gurudev wanted. He wants to give benefit to others, and he wants us to go for collection for that reason."
(~Srila B.N. Acharya Maharaj, More Than Meets the Eye)

 

"He sees we go for rice collection and collect a little at each place and thinks we collect for money and food. He does not understand how much benefit we give to others..."
(~Srila B.N. Acharya Maharaj, Odds and Ends, 1)

 

 

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We have got much time for the service to the Lord, but maya is taking her share.

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