Srila Narottama Das Thakura Cleaning Project 7/28/13
My dearest devotees,
Receive all my affection from Nandafalva. I've been sharing my days with all the devotees here. Beautiful concerts, news, new initiates ...
Today I wish to share with you a few words about a very important personality in our sampradaya. One of the greatest poets who composed many of the songs we sing every day in our programs,Srila Narottama Das Thakura.
Narottama Das Thakura was a disciple of Srila Lokanath Das Goswami and he reminds us of the true meaning of initiation. Narottam Das Thakur Das received initiation from Srila Lokanath Das Goswami after a long time. Narottam Das Thakur was announced by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. He had the direct inspiration of Krishna Prema that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu deposited in the river Padma for Srila Narottama Das Thakura.
So, it is told in the book called "Narottam Vilas" which tells about the time Sri Narottama Das Thakura went to the river, and how the personality, Padma River gave Krishna Prema to a young Narottama .
Since the beginning of his existence, Srilaa Narottam Das Thakur was a very inspiring acharya, someone who had a clear mission in the world to share love of God with others. He was the son of a great king. His father was very anxious to make young Narottama his successor, but the young man did not want anything to do with kingdoms. He invested his time listening to a brahmana tell the glories of Gauranga and Nityananda. He was always very eager to hear more about the glories of the Lord.
Finally, Narottam escaped his father when he was going to present him as his successor. When he traveled on the float for the event, Narottam asked to stop to go to the bathroom and escaped, hiding in the jungle. So he walked through the jungle for days without food or rest. Until he came to a crossroads where he passed out from exhaustion. There, one of the guards from his father found him and told him he would take him back. Narottama was very determined. Narottama told the guard "you better do something else, because I'm to Vrindavan and have important things to do there."
Narottama he argued in such a wonderful poetic form, which convinced the guard to go back without him. Narottama said to the guard, " many have come to find me and none of them yet to find me, so there is no problem, you can be another one of them and no one will be surprised. Please let me go and continue on your way."
So the young Narottama finally came to Vrindavan. An incredible story of great renunciation, so much so that he left all varieties of an opulent lifestyle just to follow his ideal of service to the Lord. Sometimes, for someone who has almost no material possessions it is easy to say, leave everything because they have not had much, but a special personality such as Narottama das Thakur, who had access to all opulence, he shined more when he gave them up and gave his life to God, with no interest in material things.
When Narottam came to Vrindavan, Srila Jiva Goswami was still there. So Narottam visited all the major Vaishnavas of that time. But his heart was completely conquered when he met Srila Lokanath Das Goswami. Narottama decided to become his disciple. He approached and Srila Lokanath Das Goswami accepted him as his disciple. Srila Lokanath Goswami was very moved by the request and replied: My dear boy, I am very flattered by what you're saying, but I regret to inform you that I vowed to never accept any disciple, and that can be done by someone else, so go your way, please. Srila Lokanath Goswami was one of the busiest in the dhama seva in Vrindavan. He found more than 300 holy places in the dhama, identified them and made sure that those places of lila were clear. He was someone very important in that service, therefore, he was always moving from one place to another. So Srila Lokanath Goswami continued and said, please find someone who can accept you as his disciple, Vrindavan is full of great souls who can.
Narottama was very sad with this answer ... not knowing what to do and so he asked for advice from other devotees. They told him to try to do some service. Then Narottama turned to Srila Lokanath Das Goswami and said, "Goswamiji, Is there a service I can do for you?" But Goswami Lokanath thought Narottama was trying to convince Him again and said to not insist any further. Narottam again became extremely sad. Hecried and cried without cessation. Then someone said, 'Why do not you do a secret service Lokanath Goswami? So, Narottama started watching Lokanath Goswami every day in secret. He saw everything he did and followed him, with an intense longing in his heart to serve. He saw when Srila Lokanath stood, when he went to take his bath in the Yamuna, when he went to the temple of Sri Radha Gokulananda to worship their deities ...
My dear devotees ... imagine that determination of Narottama Das Thakur to serve his Gurudeva in anyway. We are very fortunate to connect with the pastimes of the Vaishnavas ... and we are more fortunate at our temple in Vrindavan, Vrinda Kunja which is located right in the heart of the area where these pastimes occurred. So when we started our little attempt to do service for the dhama, we called it the "Narottam Das Thakur cleaning project" in honor of the intense service that Srila Narottama did for his Gurudeva and the Dhama.
Well, we're cleaning the same areas as Srila Narottam Das Thakur cleaned in honor of his Gurudeva. Thus Narottama Das Goswami would clean all the areas where Srila Lokanath Das Goswami had been, even the area where his Gurudeva performed his physical needs. He cleaned everything with love ... and did so for a long time without Srila Lokanatha Goswami knowing. (All this is narrated in the Bhakti Ratnakar, a book full of nectar.).
Our devotees also perform annual cleaning of the 64 samadhi places of Vrindavan, near the temple of Radha Govindaji ... it is one of the qualities that make our Braj Mandal Parikrama something very special, because we do not just visit the holy places, but the devotees go and do service there, a genuine connection with the dhama.
Our service in the dhama is always a guided meditation in the service of Srila Narottam Das Thakur who was always looking to please his Gurudeva, even if at the time he did not know. But there came a time when Srila Lokanath Das Goswami began to realize that someone was cleaning the forest. One way or another, Srila Lokanath Goswami began to question what was going on, he realized that something strange was happening. One day, he decided to wait and hide to watch what happened. So he did all of his daily activities and instead of leaving, he sat behind a tree to see what happened ... and so Srila Narottama Das appeared in a gamcha with his broom and started cleaning the place where Srila Lokanatha Das Goswami had been, even cleaning where Srila Lokanatha Das Goswami performed his physical needs. Henceforth, Srila Lokanath Goswami appreciated and told Narottama angrily: Who gave you permission to do that? Narottam replied: Oh Gurudeva, nobody has given permission, but seeing my sadness, some devotees said I should do a secret service for you. And that might please you, even with this indirect service. So Srila Lokanath Goswami felt affected by it all and said softly:
I told you to go to any place where the goswamis were and ask them for initiation. I want you to be happy, have a service and you stay in Vrindavan. But understand that I can not accept disciples, as I did take a vow. Please walk and visit the other Vaishnavas. Then, Narottam Das Thakur intensely composed a poem whose meaning is more or less like this:
"When a woman is in love with a man, but her father arranges for her to marry another, this marriage will never work, because she is really attached to the first."
So, Narottama said this to Lokanath Goswami and Goswami said: you are very foolish, do what you want ... Narottam was very happy and said, Joy! Now my service is authorized by my Gurudeva :) And so he went on cleaning with much more enthusiasm. Sometimes devotees approached Srila Lokanatha Goswami and said to him why do you not take this young man who has so much love for you and give initiation? But Srila Lokanath Goswami was very serious about his vow to not accept disciples.
Until one day, he accepted Srila Narottama and sent for him. When Narottam heard Srila Lokanath Goswami was looking, he ran up and prostrated himself at his feet vigorously. Lokanath Goswami said Narottam My dear, I made this vow to never accept disciples ... and it seems that you made the vow that I should be your Guru. Well, I have concluded that your vow is even more powerful than mine ... so he brought together the ingredients for the initiation ceremony and Narottama's happiness was overwhelming and with the same enthusiasm he brought everything needed for initiation.
Remember the beautiful hobbies and loving exchanges of these Vaishnavas, they fill the heart with happiness. They are able to transform your heart and teach you what really is sadhu-sanga ... of the way in which the devotees are related to each other, how they reciprocate and appreciate. All these experiences are very sweet. They are examples that we can apply in our own life's relationships. So, Narottama became an official member of the Gaudiya Sampradaya. And then he continued to incessantly preach and spread the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in many places.
In the same way that Srila Lokanath Goswami initiated Srila Narottam Das Thakur only, Srila Gaura Kishor Das Babaji also had only one disciple, Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta ... In both cases, the only disciple was a real gem in the sky of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and they each managed to bring the message of Divine Love to many souls. Spiritual life is not a matter of form or quantities, it is a matter of quality and substance.
When I think of Srila Narottam Das Thakur, I feel very fortunate to be connected with his beautiful songs and such. Thus, all our family members who have the ability to share for a month in the Braj Mandal Parikram can live the experience of visiting these sacred places that Narottama and the goswamis were present in and do service there.
Our main service is to serve the Vaishnavas via the Vishva Vaishnava Raj Sabha, providing a bit with our volunteering service through the Internet, etc.. We pray for the blessings of all the Vaishnavas to be useful in this endeavor, because their pleasure is the only goal of our effort. We do not have any other purpose.
I take this opportunity of this Chat Sunday to remind all of you of the great service we have in Colombia for our Ishtadevas Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Radha Vrajesvara, who really are our life and soul.
The Yoga Project Planetarium is a humble offering to Them, our Lords ... I'm really grateful for the great work that devotees are doing there and my sincere hope is that more devotees participate there, either helping in the construction or the arts or financially supporting this offering. Even if its going to take several years to finish it all, the support of all of you will be of great help in this. This is one of the historical architectural contributions of the Vrinda Mission to the world. With this invitation and remembering the sweet pastimes of Srila Narottama Das Thakur I say goodbye for today ...
I am very happy that soon we will meet again in the Latin lands to share more nectar and service to Srila Prabhupada.