Q. by Damodara Svarupa dasa: In Chapter 16 of the Sri Caitanya Bhagavata Sri Haridasa Thakura says the following: "My dear brahmana friends, do not feel sad because of what happened to me. This punishment was certainly due me. I stood in the court and listened to the Muslims blaspheme my Lord; for this the Lord has punished me suitably. ... One goes to hell if he hears blasphemy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. My sinful ears were filled with such blasphemy and the Lord has given me the proper punishment so that I may never commit this offense again." The original blasphemers eventually get 'rewarded' when they start worshiping Haridasa Thakura when he entered the Nawab's room: "By this worship the Muslims became free from material entanglement." Why would the Lord severely punish a very saintly devotee when he just hears someone blaspheming? How can he be made responsible for what the others said or did? Why must he suffer and not the blasphemers? I don't understand. Please enlighten me with your knowledge.
Answer by Swami Gaurangapada:
This pastime is a big mystery. The truth is that though it appeared that Shrila Haridasa Thakura was being punished and inflicted severe pain by the executioners and soldiers while being whipped in the 22 market places but he himself was not experiencing any kind pain or suffering due to the whipping because Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu had covered Shrila Haridasa's body with His own transcendental golden body. Though the body of Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu is fully transcendental, Lord Gauranga lifted His cloth and revealed the wounds He has personally incurred when He had covered Shrila Haridasa's body with His divine body protecting Haridasa from any kind of pain and misery. That is why Shrila Haridasa Thakura was still alive chanting the Holy Names even after the lashing in 22 market places because the Lord had taken all the beating upon Himself.
One may ask that how the sat-chid-ananda body of Lord Gauranga got wounded. The Lord's body can never be wounded or harmed with material whips. The soul can never be even touched by material elements that how can the Supersoul - the soul of all souls Lord Gauranga be hurt by material weapons. He simply manifested the wounds which were inflicted on Shrila Haridasa Thakura's body by the executioners and which were taken by Himself to display to the world that He is the eternal protector and devotee of His own devotees and to enable Shrila Haridasa Thakura go into an extreme and supreme trance of samadhi and bliss when he saw them on the Lord's body.
Next the question may arise, why did the Lord not kill the executioners? This is answered by the Lord Himself in the pastime quoted below from Shri Chaitanya Bhagavata. Lord Gauranga has appeared there with His Disc to kill them but Shrila Haridasa was intensely praying for their deliverance because a pure devotee does not want to become a cause of causing even a pinch of distress to any living entity even at the sake of his own life. Though the Lord wanted to kill them personally with His own disc and thus automatically they would get liberation, He could not do so because the desire of His pure devotee Haridasa was even more important than His own desire. So the only other option for Himwas to cover the body of Shrila Haridasa with His own body so that Shrila Haridasa Thakura is protected.
The third question which you have raised is that why did Shrila Haridasa Thakura say that he had to suffer this whipping because he heard blasphemy of the Lord and devotional service from the mouth of their king. Due to complete absorption in Nama Bhagavan, Shrila Haridasa Thakura cannot commit any offense against any soul knowingly or unknowingly. He was just stating this to the brahamanas because he wanted to teach to all the people of this world what kind of heinous punishment is awaited or can be expected by those who foolishly dare to criticize the Lord, His Holy Names, Bhakti and His Devotees. He was using himself as an instrument to expressly caution the world against commiting offenses towards Lord Gaura-Hari and His devotees. Also he was demonstrating how a devotee chanting the Holy Names should be humble and never curse or blame others for one's sufferings. bhunjana eva kritam vipakam.. As per Shrimad Bhagavatam, a devotee should always feel that he is suffering due to his own misdeeds and whatever happiness and prosperity in life is there is due to the causeless mercy of Lord Gauranga-Krishna.
Though the original blasphemers saw and heard Shrila Haridasa Thakura and got tremendous spiritual benefit and though they begged for forgiveness after Shrila Haridasa Thakura returned, they were all destroyed within a few days along with their families according to Shri Chaitanya Bhagavata. So no one in this creation can escape the reactions caused due to offenses against pure devotees. It is explained in Shrimad Bhagavatam, that even though elevated Vaishnavas never take any offenses and forgive even before the offense is committed, the dust of their lotus feet (mahapursuha te pada pamsubhir) and Lord Gauranga-Krishna Himself do not forgive the offender who has to bear the stringent and hard reactions.
The above statements are explained and proved by Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu Himself in Shri Chaitanya Bhagavata Madhya Khanda 10.35 onwards: Lord Gauranga then turned His benign glance towards Haridasa and called out, "Look at Me, Haridasa. Your transcendental body is even superior to Mine because you are my devotee, and your caste is My caste. That sinful Muslim tormentor has inflicted great pain on you. However, knowing your compassionate nature, I hesitated in My heart to punish him, for it would disturb you and cause you great distress. "Listen, Haridasa. When you were lashed with the whip in many different market places, I took up My Sudarsan disc and descended to the earth from Vaikuntha, intending to sever the tormentors' heads.
"While your tormentors were trying to beat you to death, all along you were thinking of their well being. You were unconcerned about your own pains; you had only compassion for them. Because of your merciful heart I could not use force; My Sudarsan disc weapon was rendered impotent. "I could not strike those men because you were determined to forgive them. So, unable to see your misery, I protected you from their lashes by placing My back on your back.
"I accepted all those lashes meant for you on My back. See the marks on My back; I am not lying. Whatever other secondary reasons there were for My descent, I hastened My advent to this world, unable to bear your sufferings. My beloved 'Nada', Advaita Acharya, fully recognized who you are. I am totally bound by his loving devotion."
These pastimes of Their Supreme Lordships Nityananda Gauranga are very deep and have unlimited transcendental meanings and I wish I could most blissfully spend my whole life happily discussing and explaining it through my writings.