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NAMACHARYA SRI HARIDAS THAKUR
THIS great devotee made his appearance in this world at the village of 'Budhan' in the district of Jessore in East Bengal, somewhere to¬ wards the middle of the 15th century. It is roughly estimated that he was born thirty to thirty-five years prior to the Advent of Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. There are no authentic records of his antecedents, his parents, boyhood, education, etc. He was born in a Muslim family. We know him under the name of
'Haridas', which literally means 'a servant of Shri Hari'.
Though barn of a Muslim family, he possessed an inexplicable aptitude for taking the Name of Shri Hari. Hence, violating the rules of Muslim society, he incessantly repeated Shri Hari's Name. He felt it was the sole support of
his life. Having lost all attachment to worldly life even when very young, Thakur Haridas left his native village. He came to another village 'Benapol' in the same district and took up residence in a small soli¬tary cell situated in a forest. He spent the whole of his time in repeat¬ing loudly the Name of Shri Krishna.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Raama, Hare Raama, Raama Raama, Hare Hare
The 'Tarak-Brahma-Nama', a formula composed of the sixteen names of the Lord and formed of thirty-two syllables was the one that Thakur Haridas adopted for his usual chant-ing.12
No doubt, this was a grave violation of his social order. But, the broad-minded saint Thakur Haridas was never given to such narrow ectarian feelings. Living upon alms, he continued staying at Benapol,in the same solitary cell taking resort to loud chanting of the Name of Shri Hari.
Though a genuine saint, the great Thakur Haridas could not es¬cape the scathing criticism and vilification of a section of people there. Their actions and expressions were such that one is forced to believe that such persons
are born in this world only for similar puipose. The very sight of Haridas Thakur kindled wrath in their hearts which went on burning with wild flames. A malicious section of the Hindu society proved undilutedly hostile towards this great saint. His simple, unostentatious living, utmost sincerity and single-minded devotion did not move the gran¬ite hearts of his opponents. He had to face oppositions of numerical odds. Vehement criticisms were afloat which he patiently tolerated. These qualities of Haridas Thakur could not, however, improve the situation, on the contrary, they stirred up all the demoniac propensi¬ties of his opponents to the maximum. But to the pure hearted, simple and devoted inhabitants of the village, Thakur Haridas was a never-ending fountain of spiritual inspiration. They were extremely de¬lighted to see his matchless devotion. They felt that they were highly blessed to have the presence of such a great devotee of the Lord in their midst. But. neither the devotional achievements of Thakur Haridas, nor the humble suggestions of the religious-minded people of the locality, could bring about an improvement in the hostile atti¬tude of the rowdy section of the people. Their evil impulses and mis¬chievous suggestions, on the contrary, were on the increase. Tliakur Haridas too was equal - nay, stronger than all these forces put to¬gether. Their activities did not disturb his unflinching and spontane¬ous attachment towards his Lord and His services even to a slightest degree. No, he did not fall a victim to these ungodly and antisocial elements. He worshipped the sacred Tulasi, chanted daily, day and night, the Name of the Lord, three lacs of times, and ate food cooked in the houses of Brahmins, which he obtained by begging.
All the virtuous inhabitants of the village regarded Thakur Haridas as a great saint. They were greatly impressed by the various marks of devotion which they had never wit-nessed and his extra-ordinary love for the Holy
Name. He gained within a short time great popu- larity amongst the local people. His reputation spread even to distant places. People from dif¬ferent places collected there to have a sight of the saint. They ren¬dered him various services and tried to follow his soul-stirring in¬structions. The enemies of Thakur Haridas could not tolerate the in¬creasing influence that he was gaining day by day. Among these en¬emies Ramchandra Khan, a local Hindu chieftain, was the foremost. He was puffed up with the vanities of wealth and a following. He was an uncompromising atheist, a terrible hater of devotion and a noted leader of a group of sceptics. He became awfully jealous of Haridas Thakur and his reputation in the village and near about. He wanted to bring discredit to the noble character of the great Haridas Thakur. He devised various plans to gain his ends. He became per¬sistent and behaved like a venomous serpent trampled under foot. He lost all his patience and could not feel quite at home till something substantial, was done to disgrace Haridas Thakur. Ramchandra Khan would not hesitate to commit the meanest of deeds to bring about the disgrace of Haridas Thakur. Accordingly, he conspired with his evil-minded friends and decided to carry out a certain plan that would pull down Haridas Thakur from the esteemed position he was occu¬pying.
Being a great devotee, Haridas Thakur was a living example of all the excellent virtues. Even the worst critic could not detect a weak spot in his character. Ramchandra Khan knew this very well. He thought that he could bring
about a moral disgrace of Haridas Thakur be-fore his admirers. Unfortunately Ramchandra Khan took Shri Haridas Thakur to be a mere beginner in the devo¬tional field - a weak-minded emotionalist who could be made an easy victim to the temptations of the world. Puffed up with the vani¬ties of wealth, youth and rank, he did not understand the marvellous glories of the devotees of Shri Hari. Having full faith in his newly invented plan, Ramchandra Khan secured the help of the best prosti¬tutes of the locality, and asked them to spoil the character of Thakur Haridas. He promised them with huge rewards. All these prostitutes, except one, did not accept the offer and retired; but one of them, a young and most beautiful amongst the whole lot, ventured to accept the offer and assured him success by bringing ruin on the character of Haridas Thakur in three days' time. Ramchandra Khan was im¬mensely pleased. He awaited the moment of his forthcoming suc¬cess with great impatience and offered all help that he could muster, to the young woman. He pressed her to take an armed sentry with her, so that, Thakur Haridas could be caught red-handed But the young harlot declined this proposal and said that she would go first by herself and that on her winning over Haridas Thakur, she would take the sentry to capture him on her second visit. Ramchandra Khan, who wanted the ruin of Haridas Thakur, willingly accepted the harlot's plan and left her to her own way, himself being absorbed in building castles in the air.
The young harlot, tempted by the huge offer of Ramchandra Khan, started on her great adventure. She made a selection of the best of costumes and putting them on, reached the solitary cell of Thakur Haridas. It was an
opportune time. The sun had set on the western horizon. The solitary cell of Haridas Thakur,surrounded by forest and the approaching dark¬ness, appeared lonelier than ever before. An extraordinary calm, sur¬charged with the holy atmosphere prevailed, both inside and outside the hut of Haridas Thakur, who remained totally lost in the eddies of Transcendental Bliss. He was chanting incessantly the Name of Godhead with deep concentration. There is no need to mention that he had lost all consciousness.
It was exactly at this time that the young harlot reached him.However, she was not a stranger to certain etiquettes to be observed before holy personages. Hence, first, she made her obeisances to the sacred Tulasi that was grown in front of the hut and then bowing down to Thakur Haridas, she stood there awhile. She then, slowly sat down at his door-step, she exhibited her body to Haridas Thakur in various gestures and postures, like one mad with sensuous passions. She tried her best to make Haridas Thakur a prey to her wishes. She finally requested him: "O holy sir! You are a miracle of beauty and in the prime of youth. Which woman can resist her passions by your sight? I do not feel there is any such lady in the world. I have fallen immoderately a slave to passions by the sight of your charming ap¬pearance. I have no power to check this. If you do not accept me, it will be impossible for me to live." Haridas Thakur did not totally disappoint her. He had by the Divine Will, his own plans ready for her. He said, "I shall certainly accept your prayer. Till I complete my due number of chanting the names, I would not be in a position to oblige you. In the meantime, be seated here, listening to the chanting of the Holy Name. As soon as I complete my fixed quota of Names I shall fulfil your wish." The young woman was highly satisfied. She felt that her efforts were sure to yield her a triumph soon and waited for the moment, listening to the Sankirtan of Haridas Thakur, who continued his chanting of the Holy Name till morning.
Tlie young woman too, waited listening to the chanting. Even by the approach of the early morning, she could not notice any sign of its coming to an end. So, at daybreak she returned home utterly disappointed. She apprised Ramchandra Khan of all the details of her meeting with Haridas Thakur. She assured him that her prayer would be certainly fulfilled when she would meet Haridas Thakur the next night. To Ramchandra Khan her words were an oasis of hope and the young harlot wailed for her next opportunity.
On the second day, the young woman with all fresh hopes of success, reached the solitary hut of Thakur Haridas. She reached the place just after sunset. As on the previous day,after bowing down to the sacred Tulasi and Thakur Haridas she approached him. Haridas Thakur consoled her by soft words. He said,"Yesterday you had to return disappointed; please do not be displeased with me Unfailingly. I will accept you. You need not have the least doubt about it. Till I finish the requisite number of Names you be listening to it. As soon as the number is completed your wish will be fulfilled." Tlie woman followed the instructions of Haridas Thakur. Time rolled on rapidly; the young woman became more and more impatient as dawn was approaching; she became restless. Noticing tins impatient attitude of the woman, Haridas Thakur gently spoke to her thus;- "I have taken a vow of chanting a crore of the Names of the lord during this month. The number is nearing completion. I ex¬pected the same to be completed this night and hence chanted the names throughout; but could not succeed. By tomorrow I am sure, the number will be completed and my vow also would be fulfilled. Then I will be able to enjoy your company freely." That night too the young harlot returned by sunrise utterly disappointed. She reported all that happened to Ramchandra Khan and the assurance of hope she got from Haridas Thakur.
Full of hopes of success in her plan and with renewed enthusi¬asm, the harlot reached the lonely hut of Haridas Thakur on the third night. As on the previous two days, she bowed to the sacred Tulasi and Haridas Thakur and sat at the entrance of the cell listening to the chanting of the Name and repeating the same by herself. Haridas Thakur confirmed his previous assurances and said that he would definitely complete the number the same night and fulfil her wish.
She was happy that she would have her wish fulfilled on the same night. She too repeated the Name on that day. What a tremen¬ dous change! Is it a miracle, or a dream? By chanting the name all the night in the holy company of Thakur Haridas. the sinful heart of the converted young woman was completely changed. She fell
prostrate at his feet and confessed to him frankly all about the evil plan of Ramchandra Khan. She said, "I am the worst of sinners. Being a harlot by profession, there is hardly any sin that I have not committed. I could now understand that you arc not an ordinary person. You are a jewel amongst the devotees of the Lord. Under the sinful instructions of this villain Ramchandra Khan, I have shan elessly turned all my efforts to contaminate your devo¬tional heart. For three consecutive days I continued my efforts. Your spotless and ever-devoted nature has worked marvels in my sinful heart. By singing the Holy Name in your company, all my evil pro¬pensities are totally destroyed. Now, have mercy on this wretch. Please extricate this sinner from this deplorable condition." Haridas Thakur was ever kind and sympathetic to all fallen souls. The sudden meta¬morphosis of this young prostitute and her truly repenting words moved his merciful heart to pity. He never thought even for a mo¬ment of the loathsome activities of this young woman. He pardoned her completely and said, "I am fully alive to all the evil plots of Ramchandra Khan. He knows not what he does. I wish him well. It is only for your sake that I continued my stay in this village for all these three days. If not, I would have left the place on the very first day." Tlie young woman before Haridas Thakur was a thoroughly changed person. She was not there for satisfying her evil passions. She no longer saw in Haridas Thakur a person who would gratify her sensuous appetites; on the contrary, she saw in him, her spiritual guide, her saviour from the thraldom of Maya, her sole support of life. She requested him in all humility, to enlighten her, as to how she could overcome the miseries of this transitory life. She had by then proved herself to be a worthy aspirant for spiritual enlighten¬ment. Haridas Thakur was fully convinced of her fitness to receive initiation into the secrets of devotion. He said
thaakura kahe,——“gharera dravya braahmane kara daana,
ei ghare aasi’ tumi karaha vishraama.
nirantara naama lao, kara tulasi sevana,
aciraat paabe tabe krishnera carana”..
(Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.135-1360).13
"Distribute freely all the wealth that you have, to Brahmins. Take shelter in this hut. Chant the Holy Name constantly and worship the sacred Tulasi. In a short time, I am sure, you will attain the Feet of Shri Krishna."13 The mer¬ciful Haridas Thakur now initiated her with the Divine Name and repeating the Name of the Lord, left the place for ever.
Let Haridas Thakur whose heart was ever addicted to drinking deep the nectar of Divine Name, be glorified! Let all praises be unto him who in spite of the repeated efforts of the young prostitute, di not fall a victim to her lustful desires but remained as hard mountain-rock pursuing his activities undisturbed. There is a world of difference between a genu-ine devotee of the lord and an ordinary man .Yes, they arc opposite poles. Those who are treading on the path of devotion, ever engaged in taking the Holy Name of the Lord do not fall a prey to sins even when such sins gather close to them. They are beyond the influence of the various temptations, however irresistible they may be to others.
The young woman who had become the recipient of the cause¬less mercy of Haridas Thakur, obeyed the instructions of her Gum, to the last word. By the boundless mercy of her master, she could understand the position of beauty, wealth, etc., in this changing world.
Adieu, farewell earth's bliss!
This world uncertain is;
Fond are life's lustful joys;
Death proves them all but toys.
# * #
Rich men! Trust not in wealth
Gold cannot buy your health;
Physic himself must fade;
All things to end are made.
* * #
Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair.(Nashe)
tabe sei veshyaa gurura aajnaa ladila,
griha-vitta yebaa chila, braahmanere dila.
maathaa mudi’ eka-vastre rahila sei ghare,
raatri-dine tina-laksha naama grahana kare.
tulasi sevana kare, carvana, upavaasa,
indriya-damana haila, premera prakaash.
prasiddhaa vaishnavi haila parama-mahaanti,
bada bada vaishnava taanra darshanete yaanti..14
(Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita3.138-141)
Without the least hesitation, she fulfilled the wishes of her eter¬nal guide. All her wealth was distributed to the Brahmins. Though of young age and beautiful complexipn, she got her head shaved and with a single piece of cloth tor covering her nudity, stayed in the cell offered by Thakur Haridas - her merciful master. Obeying the com¬
mand of her saviour, she repeated three lacs of Names in the course of the whole day and night. She worshipped the
Tulasi every day unfailingly. Avoiding delicious meals, she was satisfied with uncooked food. Often she resorted to fasts. These methods helped her considerably to have perfect control over all her senses within a short time and unalloyed love for Bhagavan sprouted in her pure heart. To the great suiprise of all, she became a famous devotee of the Lord. She gained the position of a spiritual teacher. Her reputation spread like a wild conflagration, throughout. Devotees of great eminence from different parts, often visited her hut for a sight of her.14
Tlie inhabitants of the surrounding villages were greatly aston¬ished by the wonderful capacity of Thakur Haridas that brought abouta miraculous change in the life of a mere prosti-tute of sinful actions. Those very persons who
once hated her, felt it now a great privilege to meet her. What a wonder! She, who was once the cause of the downfall of many and a reposi¬tory of many foul deeds, was now fit to release others from the ter¬rible grips of vices to a plane of perfect purity - the Eternal Plane of Transcendental Service of the Supreme Lord, and all this happened by the mercy ofHaridas Thakur. People bowed with great reverence whenever they spoke of him.
Meanwhile, Ramchandra Khan, who was building castles in the air, had to meet with utter disappointment. He had to pay a heavy price for this crime of his. His cruel heart grew all the more wicked and his hatred for Godhead and His devotees increased very much. He brought down terrible destruction on himself.Once again, he committed an unpardonable offence to Shri Nityananda Prabhu, the eternal companion of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. All his foul deeds began to recoil on him. The offensive actions made him an irrepressibly arrogant man. He stopped paying regular revenue to the Ruler. Hence, the Muslim Ruler got offended and raided his house. He halted in the Durga Mandap of his house. He polluted the place by butchering animals. He cooked objectionable food there. Ramchandra Khan and all his family members were taken prisoners. Tlie Ruler and party remained there for three days, and all his prop¬erty was plundered including his village, and he was forced to take objectionable food, consisting of blood and flesh of animals. Ramchandra Khan lost his caste, his wealth, his relations and every¬thing he possessed as his own. Offences, when committed against the devotees of the Lord are not forgiven even by Bhagavan Himself. They are the worst impediments in the path of God-realisation. Of¬fences committed against the Bhaktas bring along with them mani¬fold sufferings, not only to the person concerned, but even to many •others. Over and above this, it brings complete destruction of the place, i.e., the village or township itself.
The above incident of converting tha? young woman of bad char¬acter, to the position of a spiritual preceptor, has got in it many lessons to teach us. In the first instance, it establishes the Glory of the Divine Name. The repetition of the Divine Name does deliver even the worst of sinners. The chanting of the Name delivered .her
from all sins and created in her real penitence for her past sinful deeds. It has awakened subsequently
an earnest longing for taking shelter in the utterance of the Name which in course of a short period favoured her with the experience of spiritual rapture and Divine Realisation.
The young woman appears before us with a heavy load of sins. She can be well compared with any other individual of
this workaday world. An unnatural greed for money and a loathsome tendency to satisfy tlio sensuous cravings are generally noted in almost all in the present day. In spite of her madness for wealth and passions, she possessed one good quality which her other friends of the same profession or even many other so-called moralists of the world do not have. This, in fact was her asset. She had a natural instinct in her to respect Sadhus, the sacred ulasi. etc. This we can gather from her behaviour before Shri Haridas Thakur. The conception of morality and immorality as understood by the people of the material world is to be completely and favourably moulded for one's spiritual progress. Extremists in either of these are sure to meet with an utter failure in
the spiritual path. •
The woman in our narrative did not approach Haridas Thakur with any philosophical arguments. She was not a scholar in any sense. She was neither convinced nor converted by polemics or a show of miracle or supernatural powers. Her reformation was brought about by the simple method of listening to the Holy Name and Its repeti¬tion, and her natural receptive disposition completed the work.
A spiritual aspirant must possess a natural instinct to pay due respect to Sadhus and other godly objects. They must never under¬ estimate them on any ground. With reverence and faith they must be prepared to follow the
instructions of Sadhus. This is what is other-wise called 'Sraddha' or faith. Real faith is the outcome of one's previous unconscious associa¬tion with true devotees of the Lord. It is this special gift that would enable a person to come in contact with Sadhus and hear their soul-stirring words. This is altogether different from blind faith. Those who possess blind faith are seldom attracted by genuine devotees or their words. The words emanating from the lips of pure devotees are not material sounds. The)' are, on the contrary Transcendental Sounds capable of producing the most marvellous experiences in the heart of submissive listeners. An aspirant who longs to follow the path of God-realisation, must submissively hear the Holy Name uttered by genuine Sadhus. After serving the devotee, the Holy Name is to be accepted from him as his special favour, and It is to be chanted con¬stantly in the holy company fully observing all his instructions. At¬tachments to the material world and worldly objects in any form, is an obstacle in the spiritual path. They are to be discarded totally.Association with them in any form, would once again bring on us unpleasantness and physical mortifications. Even such matters as food, clothing, residence, etc., should be refused from those who are ex¬tremely worldly-minded. One must always follow the precepror's instructions which are given for his spiritual uplift. Unless we follow the above instructions, our progress in the spiritual path remains ever blocked.