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HARIDAS THAKUR AND THE SNAKE-CHARMER
ON another occasion the King of the serpents (Nagaraj) spoke about the glories of Haridas Thakur. Once, a certain healer of snake-bites, was giving an entertainment of a musical dance at the house of a wealthy man of that village. At that time Thakur Haridas happened to arrive on the scene and avoiding the huge crowd, he stood on one side and watched the dance. By the efficacy of a Mantra, the King of serpents entered into the body of the dancer. In truth it was the King ol serpents who danced, possessing the body of the snake-charmer, he was playing his part pretty well. The dance that was performed by Shri Krishna in the lake of Kaliya, was the subject of the pathetic song sung at a high pitch. By hearing the Glories of his Lord, by the influence of the enhancing excitant (Uddipan), Haridas Thakur, transported with Divine Ecstasy, fell down unconscious. There was not the least sign of life anywhere on his body. Within a short time he got back his consciousness. He thundered with incom¬parable joy and danced in ecstasy in manifold ways. This attracted the attention of the dancing snake-charmer. He suddenly stopped his dance, moved to one side and stood quietly allowing the great Haridas Thakur, to have his ecstatic dance undisturbed. Haridas Thakur rolled on the ground; all the eight spiritual perturbations, such as tears, shivering, hair standing on end, etc., manifested profusely on his body. On hearing of the incomparable display of mercy by his Be¬loved Lord Shri Krishna, on the cruel and wicked serpent Kaliya and on recollecting it he became saturated with His presence; he wept ceaselessly. All the spectators surro'unding him, sang the Glories of the Lord. All this while, the snake-charmer witnessed the dance of Haridas Thakur, with folded hands and with all reverence. This di¬vine spell of inspiration of Haridas Thakur lasted for a short time. On its completion, the original dancer once again continued his programme as usual. All the people, gathered there to attend the performance, were highly impressed and extremely delighted by witnessing the divine trance ofThakur Haridas. They, with excessive joy besmeared their bodies with the holy feet-dust of Haridas Thakur.
A hypocritical and ambitious Brahmin from amongst the spectators, thought that he, being a Hindu, by imitating Thakur Haridas,would command greater respect than the latter.So he started his silly game of dancing in a mock
fit of frenzy and fell down as if senseless, the snake-charmer, noticing this cheat of a devotee,
approached him and mercilessly thrashed him. Unable to bear the severe beatings, the Brahmin ran for his life and was not seen again. The snake-charmer restarted his joyous dance to the astonishment of all the spectators, who humbly requested him to explain to them the cause of his strange behaviour.
ya eshaam purusham saakshaad aatma-prabhavam ishvaram,
na bhajanty avajaananti sthaanaad bhrashtaah patanty adhah..109
On hearing the words of the spectators, the serpent through the mouth of the snake-charmer replied thus-" You were all moved by the devotional fervour of Thakur Haridas and began to admire this ardent devotee. This hypo-
crite of a Brahmin, to gain the admiration of all of you as a devotee, started aping Thakur Haridas, till I adequately punished him, when he ran away to save his skin." Such sort of shameless deceivers have no devotion to Shri Krishna. One may attain devotion to Shri Krishna only when he is completely freed from all such insincere desires. The dance of Haridas Thakur, which all of you have just now wit¬nessed, is capable of bringing to an end all worldly bondage. Shri Krishna Himself dances, when Haridas Thakur dances and the entire universe is sanctified by beholding his dance. He is worthy of his name 'Haridas-the servant of Shri Hari'. Really the Beloved Supreme Lord Shri Krishna is constantly sporting in his heart. He is ever-mer-c'ful to all living beings, and a true benefactor of one and all. He appears with the Lord in every Manifestation of His. He is an eternal NSociate of the Lord. Being an eternal associate, he is ever free from U offences towards Bhagavan or His Bhaktas. He does riot follow e wrong path even in his unguarded moments. If any-one as a re-°f the accumulated heaps of meritorious deeds performed in pre-ls births, is fortunate enough to get his company even for a short while, he undoubtedly attains eternal shelter at the Lotus Feet of Shri Krishna. Even the great gods like Brahma, Siva, etc., derive extreme delight in the company of such devotees and always desire their as¬sociation. In order to prove the utter uselessness of caste, creed, lin¬eage, etc., in the performance of the devotional services of Bhagavan, he has taken birth in a family of low lineage, being directed by the Lord to that effect. All the scriptures unanimously declare that a devo¬tee of the Lord, even if born in a family of a low caste, is still an object of worship. Conversely, if even after being born of high lin¬eage, one fails to worship the Supreme Lord, he is unworthy of any attention being bestowed upon him. His high birth leads him only to the vortex of hell.109
Like Prahlada in the clan of demons, and Hanuman amongst the monkeys, Thakur Haridas took his birth amongst the Muslims. Ordi¬narily men are always eager to get themselves purified by offerings to gods as well as by having a dip in the sacred water of the river Ganges. But, even those gods themselves long for the touch of Haridas Thakur. The holy Ganges herself desires that Haridas Thakur should bathe in her sacred water. Why a touch? The mere sight of Haridas destroys one's eternal bondage. By the sight of even those who have taken shelter in Haridas too, the bondage of worldliness, is rooted out. You are all fortunate to enjoy the company of the glorious Haridas. What 1 told you now, is only a minute fraction of his greatness. I assure you in all sincerity that he who utters the name of Haridas even once will definitely attain the eternal realm of Shri Krishna." So saying the King of serpents concluded his narration; he became si¬lent. All those assembled there, were highly satisfied on hearing this speech. Thus, the great seipent, a real devotee of Bhagavan Shri Vishnu, proclaimed to the world the glories of Haridas Thakur. The audience was convinced beyond a shadow of doubt about the high position of Haridas Thakur. They loved him more than ever.
Thakur Haridas passed his days in chanting the Name of the Lord. Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu was still silent and had notyetmanifested the purpose of His Advent to the world. The world was badly in need of a religious awakening. Nowhere could one devotion to Shri Vishnu. There was a small group of devotees livine at Navadivip. These devotees were the tar-gets of so many unpleasant taunts and criticisms from the utterly fallen materialists. In short, conditions all around, were pathetic and pitiable. Noticing the lamentable plight of the people and their utter indiffer¬ence towards the path of devotion to Shri Vishnu, the magnanimous Haridas Thakur was immoderately pained at heart. He chanted, the Name of the Lord loudly. Even to this, there was opposition from the atheistic neighbours. These sinners could not bear the Name of Shri Hari, chanted by others. The very ideal itself kindled burning wrath in them. A certain wicked Brahmin belonging to the village Harinadi in the district of Jessore in East Bengal, took serious objection to the procedure of Haridas Thakur. He lost his temper and angrily asked Haridas Thakur. "Haridas! Why do you behave like this? What makes you to utter the Name so loudly? Our religion advocates only low muttering of the Name. What is your scriptural authority to chant the Name so loudly? Who taught you to shout the Name of the Lord like this? Well, here is an assembly of pandits (scholars in Sastras). Let them judge your say on this matter."
"Well my friends! Haridas Thakur Replied, "It needs no mention that you all know the marvellous Efficacy and Glory of the Divine Name. I have never read the Sastras with the object of collecting materials for arguing
with others. 1 have been only recapitulating what I have heard, from all Sadhus like you, Who have taken recourse to the Chanting of the Name and 1 would, at any cost, continue the same in future as well. By taking the Name aloud, the effect is increased a hundredfold. The Sastras do not condemn it; on the contrary, they all emphatically praise the benefits accuring from such a course. "By loud chanting the effect ls enhanced a hundredfold." "Meditation-will succeed only when Performed by one alone and in a lonely place, whereas, Sankirtan can be performed either in solitude, alone or in the company of multitudes."110
yan-naama grihnann akhilaan shrotriin aatmaanam eva ca,
sadyah punaati kim bhuyas tasya sprishtah padaa hi te..111
To this statement of Haridas Thakur, the Brahmin retorted. "Why should loud chanting of the Holy Name increase merit hundredfold? How do you account for this?" Haridas Thakur replied, "Hear me, sir: The Sastras, such as the Vedas, Shrimad Bhagavata, etc., have answered this fact unambiguously." Haridas Thakur was not a lay¬man He had an extraordinary command over all the Sastras. Ab¬sorbed in spiritual ecstasy, he gave an inspiring exposition on the above theme. "Listen, O Brahmin! By hearing once the Holy Name of Shri Krishna, subhuman being-birds, insects, etc., attain the sacred realm Vaikunth." "For he how utters Your Name purifies forthwith not only himself, but even all others who listen to him. Hence, what doubt is there that he who is blessed by the touch of your Lotus Feet can in all respects liberate others?111
"Beasts, birds^insects, etc., are not endowed with the power of speech. They too are the creations of the Supreme Lord. In them also there exists a soul just as in the case of us, human beings. They can be helped only by making them hear the Holy Name. They attain final liberation only by this process. They are not accessible to any other course of religious training. The muttering or the inaudible repetition of the Name of Shri Krishna helps to attain one's own spiritual progress, whereas, loud chanting helps the good of many others who happen to hear such utter¬
ance from a genuine Bhakta. hence, the Sastras declare the effect to the hundredfold and advocate and praise loud chanting of the Name.
japota harinamanee sthane raat gunadheekh,
atmanaschya punataurch japane shrotuna punatee cha..112
"It is proper that chanting of Shri Hari-Nama aloud, should be hundred times better than repeating It inaudibly, as the latter sancti¬fies the.reciters themselves, whereas, the former sanctifies all others who hear It."112
"Puranas praise a loud chanter of the Name a hundred times better than the low mutterer. If one, who mutters the Holy Name within himself, living in any lonely place, happens to hear other material sounds, he is likely to be led away from his cherished goal and its ultimate realisation may be put off. Being ignorant of the doctrine of name, dim reflection of the Name (Namabhas), and of¬fensive repetition of the Name (Namaparadha) and their respective positions, a low mutterer of the Name is always apt to commit a grave offence and thereby deprive himself of all the real benefits of the chanting of the Name. Please hear with rapt attention the real cause of this difference between both the types of aspirants. The in¬audible chanting of the Name, as I have already mentioned, helps that particular individual alone, whereas, by the loud performance of (he Sankirtan of Shri Govinda, all the beings, human as well as subhu¬man, are delivered from the clutches of Maya. Some are selfish in maintaining only themselves, whereas, a few help thousands of oth¬ers in addition to themselves and their near ones to survive in this world. Of these two sections of people whom do you prefer most? You know yourselves. The same is applicable to the answer to your query." From the above example we can understand that one who loudly chants the Name of the Lord is not only unselfish, but at the same time, a positively selfless and generous-hearted person. So it is obvious that the loud chanting of the Holy Name is hun¬dred times better than muttering the same.
"The performance of the chant of the Name of Shri Hari with a loud voice, is alone the highest form of doing good to others.Selfish persons adopt the method of mental recitations, meditations, c°ntrol of the breath, etc. The supreme goal of the individual soul is lot realised by such mundane endeavours. The all round good of the Jiva can be achieved by the chant of the Holy Name and discourse on Shri Hari incessantly-without stopping for a single moment."
The above reply of Haridas Thakur did not satisfy this stiff-necked Brahmin to the slightest extent. It only provoked his anger. He burst out in all fury. "Now, this Haridas has become the maker of our phi¬losophy. In India, we are having six famous philosophies founded by six different great personalities, such as (1) Sankhya by Kapil, (2) Yoga by Patanjali, (3) Vaiseshik by Kanada, (4) Nyaya by Gautam, (5) Purva-Mimamsa by Jaimini, and (6) Uttar-Mimamsa or Vedanta Darsan by Krishna Dvaipayan Vedavyas. This is an addition-the sev¬enth one. Strange are the ways of Kali! With the passage of time our Vedic religion (?) will come to an end (?) when exponents like Haridas spring up. Who knows how many more such philosophies we may have in future? The prediction of the Sastras that the Sudras will expound Veda towards the end of this dark age, has even now come true. We shall not have to wait for such a long time as the end of the Yuga".113
"By expounding the Sastras thus, you go about from house to house eating delicious food. If your explanation is not consonant with the Sastras, I shall see that your nose and ears are cut off imme¬diately." Haridas Thakur did not respond to this expression of irre¬pressible arrogance. He received it with a smile uttering the Name of Shri Hari. Forthwith he left the scene loudly singing the Holy Name and with out giving any reply to this rank materialist, a pervert of the first magnitude. The people of. the assembly there, were also of the same fibre as of the wicked Brahmin- a group of worst sinners. In a couple of days after this incident, this wretched Brahmin had to reap the bitter consequences of his action in the form of an attack of viru¬lent small-pox which took away his nose.
The soft-hearted and merciful Haridas Thakur felt deeply pained at heart while brooding over the condition of the world. Frequently uttering the Name 'Krishana' he heaved deep sighs of grief. He lost all his liking to live in the midst of such a decaying society, and longed ardently the company of some sincere devotee, and left for Navadvip.
Devotion to Bhagavan has become a disappointing subject which most people dislike. Men and women appear artificial and lose them¬selves totally, in what we call 'creature-comforts'. The nobler quali¬ties of humanity are not to be seen anywhere They are replaced by irreligious living, irreligious ideologies, selfishness, hatred, narrow sectarian bias, etc.
In this dark age, many of the Asurik persons, will be taking birth in Brahmin houses, to bring chaos and destruction to the divine so¬cial order, and to disturb the peace and happiness, the really good few are enjoying. "The demons under the protection of Kali age, taking birth in Brahmin societies, would harass the few who are re¬ally versed in the scriptures."114
The above statement of the Sastras is not an exaggeration in the least sense. What we experience in our noble land at present, is al¬ready recorded earlier. If Brahmins, the highest according to the four¬fold division of caste, and hence guides of the other three castes, are to meet with such a deplorable fall from the high status of morality, devotion, celibacy, religious sacrifices, etc., what would be the con¬dition of those who depend upon them? If roots get rotten how can a tree survive? In fact, according to the Sastras, these are the real un-toucha' les. All the Dharma Sastras strictly forbid us to have any relationship with them. Those who are very proud of their seminal birth, and cherish in them an inborn hatred to Bhaktas and Bhagavan, do not deserve any relationship whatsoever. If one meets such a per¬son, he should forthwith try to avoid them by all means. Even to have a touch of such persons, will not only pollute one, but will pave the way to unending miseries. In our present fettered state, we are more prone to the influence of evil company than those of virtuous and holy saints. When a mere touch of those persons, involves us in un¬happy consequences, what to speak of bowing down to them or to have exchange of ideas with them?
"Why should I speak any further on this subject? One should never have any contact or discourse even by mistake with those Brah¬mins, who are averse to Bhagavan Shri Vishnu."115
"Just as one avoids the company of a Chandal (living upon the flesh of dogs), one must not even glance at a Brahmin who has no devotion to Shri Vishnu. A devotee of Shri Vishnu even if he is out¬side the Varnas, sanctifies the three worlds."116
In this phenomenal world, there is a twofold process of creation. The difference in process corresponds to a variation of aptitude in the created beings. Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita says thus:-
"In this world there are two kinds of created entities, viz., Daiva, and Asura."nl Shri Vyasadev supports the same statement in Padma Purana with another equal version. There are two distinct classes of entities in the phenomenal world, viz., Daiva, and Asura. The devo¬tees of Shri Vishnu are Daiva, while the Asuras have the opposite disposition.
One kind of creation concerns itself with Devas. There is a sec¬ond variety, which is constitutionally opposed to the Devas, who are possessed of an enlightened disposition and polished behaviour. The functions represented by the spiritual classification in Society, ac¬cording to the dispositions and activities (Varnasram), are in confor¬mity with the Daiva nature. These twofold creations have been pre¬vailing since time immemorial. Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksha, who lived in Satya Yuga, are designated as Asuras by reason of their hos¬tility to Shri Vishnu, and Vaishnavas. These two brothers, were the sons of Kasyap Rishi, who was a Brahmin. Although he was sprung from a Brahmin family, Hiranyakasipu degenerated into an Asura, by reason of his hostility to Shri Vishnu, and Vaishnavas. On the other hand a Vaishnav or devotee of Shri Vishnu may manifest his birth in an Asura family. The great Prahlada, the son of Hiranyakasipu, is a vivid example of this. Visvasrava, in Treta Yuga, was an eminent Brahmin Rishi. But, his son Ravana was a well-known Asura. By reason of his antagonism to Shri Ramachandra, he turned out to be an Asura.
In Shrimad Bhagavata, the following regulation is stated as un¬derlying the institution of the Daiva classification by disposition and condition in life. "The characteristics by which the status of a person in theistic society is indicated, have been already stated. If those characteristics are found in a person, belonging by birth to a different class, he is to be spoken of as one of the class that corre¬sponds to his natural disposition. Mere birth alone is not sufficient for one to come under a particular class; conduct also is necessary."11* Shri Shridharsvami while commenting on this Sloka mentions thus:-"In the classification, Brahmin, etc., the possession of correspond¬ing qualities, like equanimity, self-control, etc., is important and not birth alone."
In other words, a person should be sopoken of, as belonging to a particular class of his individual disposition. This is the basic prin¬ciple of regulation of the institution of theistic society (Daiva Varnasram). Birth is not the only determining principle of caste. The determination of the respective classes, by the more important test of disposition, is the real Vedic regulation. Even if a person born in any class other than Brahmin, is found to possess qualities worthy of a genuine Brahmin, it is incumbent on the Brahmins to admit that per¬son, without any reservation, as a Brahmin, by the test of disposition. If this is not done such abstention is sinful. Any connection with a person of atheistical disposition, destroys all the merits, that one has so far gathered by various good deeds.