By his example he showed that one need not be a big devotee;
one only needs to be a simple, humble, and serious devotee.
The sweet "Hare Krsna" in his Bengali accent, still echoes in my ears. His blossoming face, cheerful smile, loving eyes, and merciful disposition have left an indelible impression on my heart. His frail body, bent almost parallel to the ground, was old yet attractive. And his affectionate totcl. on my head still sends waves of ecstasy through my body.
Many people don't know about Vibhu Caitanya Dasa, even if they might beliving in Vrndavana. He was a disciple of Srila Prabhupada's and lived in [SKCON Vrndavana for the past 32 years. Had it not been for an opporturnity three Years ago, when [ was assigned service in [SKCON Vrndavana, even I wouldn't have got a chance to know this humble devotee. Even though I got very little of his personal association, his every action and every move impressed me.
Born in Bengal, Vibhu Caitanya Dasa lived as a householder. But it was in 1975, at the ripe age of 55, that he arrived in Vrndavana and dedicated the rest of his life to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada as a vanaprastha. Not much is known of his life prior to this but his life after 1975 has been extraordinarily inspiring.
After receiving Srila Prabhupada's blessings to stay in Vrndavana, Vibhu Caitanya Dasa left behind his wife, two sons and a daughter. Upon leaving his home, he requested his wife not to disturb his bhajana by coming to Vrndavana . She obeyed and for the rest of her life she never went to see him. Though his children would visit him sometimes, he wasn't overly attached to them.
Hari Sauri Dasa, one of Srila Prabhupada's personal servants remebers " l was the temple commander then and we would scrutinize every Indian who came to join ISKCON, because their motive for becoming a devotee mostly would be to steal. Therefore we were very careful before allowing anyone to stay in the temple. But when Vibhu Caitanya arrived, every one could clearly see that he "was serious. Vibhu was different. He was about 20-30 years older than the rest of us, a middle-aged, gentle, soft spoken man who had decided to renounce his family life and take shelter in ISKCON. Right from the beginning he proved himself to be of an entirely different caliber. He was the most hurnble, sweetest soul I had yet encountered (and maybe ever will), Totally comfliant. All he wanted to do was serve, and it didn't matter what he was asked to do; he did it with diligence and no complaints."
According to some devotees, Vibhu Caitanya Dasa received both the first and second initiation at the same time. And soon after, he took up his service to prepare bhoga for the Deities.
IN THE KITCHEN
In the early days, there weren't many devotees to serve in the kitchen, and most didn't know how to cook. Since he was very particular about the quality of offerings, Vibhu Caitanya decided to take charge of the whole kitchen. He would prepare the morning offering, then the raja -bhoga offering, and even the sandya-bhoga offering. In this way, he would be serving in the kitchen for almost the whole day.
He served like this day after day, week after week, month after month for the next 15 Years. Gradually, however, time took its toll . Strenuous work and lifting heavy vessels weekened his back so much that slowly his back completely bent from waist. Seeing his advancing age and failing health the temple management requested him to hand over his service to someone else. But he did so only after thoroughly training two devotees for six months.
He then accepted a new service-to serve caranamrta to devotees visiting the temple for darsana. I still remember whenever I came to Vrndavana, I would notice him sitting close to the Deities serving caranamrta with a sweet smile on his face. Devotees Iovingly called Vibhu Caitanya, 'Dadu..' Despite ill health, he would loudly greet visitors by loudly reciting the prayers; vanca kalpa -tarubhyas ca . I remember, many times after offering respects he caressed our heads with his loving hands. The experience of that touch and the love radiating from it is unforgettable and other wordly.
NO NEED TO CHANT
One day Srila Prabhupada was on a rooming walk. When near the Deity kitchen, he would hear a sweet melodious voice singing a Bengali bhajana Srila Prabhupada stopped and asked, 'Who is that?" "It's Vibhu Caitanya, Srila Prabhupada. He sings all day long as he is cooking the offerings."
"Ah, this is Krsna consciousness," SrilaPrabhupada said with a bright smile on his face, "very nice:."
One of the devotees mentioned that Vibhu Caitanya was not chanting his rounds. He was so busy in the kitchen from early morning till late at night that he had no time to do them. Srila Prabhupada didn't mind. ''That's alright," he told the devotees, "he doesn't need to chant them. He is singing all day and doing his service."
Vibhu Caitanya Dasa however, didn't use this comment as an excuse. Even when he was 80 years old, he used to get up at 2 am to chant his rounds ; he would be chanting the whole day.
THE ORDER OF THE SPIRITUAL MASTER
When Vibhu Caitanya came to Vrndavana for the first time, he met Subhaga Swami and expressed his desire to meet Srila Prabhupada. "As I took him to Srila Prabhupada," remembers Subhaga Swami, "Vibhu Caitanya took out a one ruee coin from his pocket and handed it to Srila Prabhupada. In Bengal, giving someone a rupee means that you dedicate your whole life to him."
"Srila Prabhupada told him, Stay here and don't go outside. All. your desires will be fulfilled here.' Even though this was a general instruction, Vibhu Caitanya took it to heart. Had he desired he could have gone on 'Pilgrimage to Varsana, Govardhana etc., but he had complete faith that following the instructions of the spiritual master is the perfection of life." The Svetasvatara Upanisad (623) States: 'Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.'
If you asked Vibhu Caitanya where Kesighata, Vamsivata, Mathura, Varsana, Nandagram were, he could not answer. He only knew Krsna-Balarama, Radha Syamasundar, Gaura Nitai and Srila Prabhupada. From 1975 to December 2007, he never stepped outside the temple 'Premises in Vrndavana. It is not that he checked himself, but he never felt the need to go outside. Even within the temple, he could not be seen in a lot of places: most of his time was spent either in the kitchen or in the temple courtyard. Once, when he was very ill, devotees forcibly took him to a nearby hospital for a few hours.
Vibhu Caitanya was, by his very nature, humbl and simple . Bhakti Caru Swami informs, "He had simple faith that Radharani had very merciful to him, that She allowed him to serve. And he used to always think that Krsna is there to take care. He didn't want to take any medicine. He said: What is the use of medicine. He said: what is the use of medicine? Whatever Krsna does is fine.' He wouldn't take any service from anybody. He was very proud that he was Prabhupada's discispIe and had received Prabhupada's mercy. He considered that was his greatest good fortune: "Often when Srila Prabhupada would go out on morning walks, devotees would just try to get this opportunity to go out with him. There used to be a competition. Vibhu Caitanya never tried to do that . He never tried to have any recognition, or any big position, he didn 't want to be a big devotee in any way. All he wanted to do is chant the holy name and serve with implicit faith ."
He would even telI his personal servant Rupa Sanatana Dasa, asat sangaI theke dure thakve, sat mana sat mana niye bhagavaner seva karle kona asviaha havena. "If you always keep yourself away from bad association and serve the lord with honest mind and honest thinking, then there will be no 'Problem." Bhakti Caru Swami sums up Vibhu Caitanya's life: ''By his example, he showed that we don 't have to become a big devotee. All we have to become is a simple devotee, a humble devotee, a sincere devotee. And Vibhu Caitanya Prabhu is the perfect example of that."
THE FINAL DAYS
I met him last in December 2006. I always had a desire to write about him and so I decided to interview him. I went to his room room accompanied by his personal servant, Rupa Sanatana Dasa, and like always, when I offered obeisances, he too offered his obeisances to me. Although physically not well, spiritually he was effulgent. When Rupa Sanatana Dasa disclosed his daily schedule, I was struck with wonder. He hardly slept at that time; he would be engrossed in chanting Hare Krsna all day. Around his bed, on the right, left, above-everywhere were photographs of Deities and Srila Prabhupada. Unable to walk 'Properly, he visited the temple perhaps once in many months, but now he had converted his room into beautiful temple. For most part of the night, he would string flower garlands to decorate this temple.
I tried hard to inquire about his life, but all in vain. Smilingly he closed his eyes, and gesturing with his right hand, much to disappointment, he waved me off. Though he did not want to speak anything, his demeanor spoke volumes about his humility and sweetness. Valuing these emotions as more precious than his words, I treasured them in my heart and left his room.
On 22 December 2007, when he was departing from this world, Aindra Dasa, the famous kirtana singer from Vrndavana, was singing Vibhu Caitanya's favorite melody that he often sang while serving in the kitchen . As the news spread around Vrndavana, devotees from all over began gathering to offer their last respect to rounded by loving tearful devotees on all sides, Vibhu Caitanya breathed his last.
The next day, his body was taken on a parikrama thrice around the temple in a sobha – yatra after the parikrama, devotees performed an arati ceremony of his body and then it was yaken to the Yamuna. This was probably the only time he went to the holy river. After the final rites were performed his ashes were brought to the ISKCON gosala where his samadhi has has been erected.
When i think of Vibhu Caitanya, i remember a pastime of Lord Caitanya.
Once, when all the devotees were performing an abhiseka of Lord Caitanya with the pure, holy water of the Ganges and other substances, He asked Srivasa Thakura, ''who is getting all th is water from the Ganges?"
"it is Dukhi," replied Srivasa naming one of the maidservants that worked at his home.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu be came immensely pleased. while all the devotees blissfully performed the abhiseka of Lord, here was Dukhi content and satisfied in bringing the water from the Ganges to facilitate the service of other devotees. Although she was in the background, her service attitude was glorious and so, Lord Caitanya showered His mercy on her first . "From today," the Lord proclaimed, ''her name will not be Dukhi (the distressed) but it will be Sukhi (the blissful) ."
Vibhu Caitanya was also like that. He exemplified this rare quality of being completely satisfied in simplicity and one's allotted service. The example of such great souls serves as a shining principle for all of us to guide us on our path back home, back to Godhead.
Vamsi Bihan Dasa serves fulltime at ISKCON Mumbai and is the editor of Bhagavad Darsan, the Hindi edition of Back To Godhead.