From the book "Sree Krishna-Chaitanya"
It will not be out of place at this stage to introduce the great personality who is the practicing teacher (Acharya) of the chanting of the Holy Name, the special Divine Dispensation for the Age of discord (Kali Yuga), the establishment of which is one of the Purposes of the Appearance of Lord Chaitanya in this world. Thakur Haridas is the eternal associate of the Supreme Lord and appears in the Company of the Lord whenever and wherever the Lord Himself chooses to make His Appearance. Thakur Haridas plays a different role in the different Avataras of the Lord. In this Avatara he is the Acharya of the Holy Name.
The Holy Name is both the Method and Object of worship of every pure soul. In the Kali Age nothing less than the Name Himself can effect the deliverance of fettered souls. This Teaching of Lord Chaitanya is exemplified by the life of Thakur Haridas. In order, therefore, to be able to understand the method and object of worship that can alone be acceptable to a highly controversial Age like the present, which is least disposed to take anything on trust, it will be necessary to follow attentively the events of the life of the Acharya.
The fashionable theology at Nabadwip, which was the cultural centre of Bengal at the time of the Appearance of the Lord was frankly atheistical. The Philosophical School of the New Logic (Naba Nyaya) may be described as the attempt of our empiric reason to deny the necessity as well as practicability of all worship. The jiva is himself discovered to be both worshipper and worshipped. Worship itself is supposed to be but a concoction of the jiva's own erroneous speculations. The position to which one of the most highly developed systems of the Philosophy of Logic led the people of Nabadwip, at the time of the Appearance of the Lord, and through them was accepted by people all over the country, was exactly what was specifically the worst fitted for understanding the uncompromising pure form of worship which it was the Will of the Lord to propagate by the life of Thakur Haridas. Whatever name might be borne by the different systems of speculative philosophy they are in common agreement as regards the logical necessity of atheism. Even the Geeta and the Bhagavatam were taught at Nabadwip at this period as Scriptures of atheism. It gives us an idea of the audacity and range of activity of the New School of Logic of Nabadwip that it could devise interpretations even of the unambiguous texts of the Bhagavatam itself in favour of their theory of rankest atheism. It is only to be expected in these circumstances that the Scholarship and acumen of Bengal should be generously recognised in all parts of the country and abroad and even by the atheistical Vedantists of Benares, who have always claimed for themselves the theological leadership of philosophical atheism in India.
Thakur Haridas made his appearance in the village of Budhan in the District of Jessore in East Bengal. This has made that part of the country since then a centre of the worship of Godhead by means of the Kirtan. Thakur Haridas was born in a Muhammedan family. He comes into the light of our definite narrative under his changed name of Haridas, which means literally 'the servant of Hari'; Hari being the Name of Godhead in the Scriptures. So Haridas must have given up his family and society in some manner that is not definitely known to us, had been the recipient of the mercy of a Vaishnava and had already made extraordinary progress on the path of pure devotion, although he was in the first flush of youth when he is found living as a recluse in the forest of Benapole in he native District of Jessore. In the depth of the forest he resided in a solitary hut, worshipped the holy Tulasi, chanted daily the Holy Name three lacs (300, 000) of times night and day and ate food cooked in the homes of Brahmanas, which he obtained by begging.
The Hindu Chief, who was in charge of the Local Administration of that part of the country, bore the name of Ramchandra Khan. He was one of the greatest of atheists and a hater of the servants of Vishnu (literally, the One All-pervading Lord). Haridas was treated with great reverence by the people, and Ramchandra Khan found this intolerable. He could not rest till he had actually devised a plan for effecting the humiliation of Thakur Haridas. For this purpose he did not hesitate to stoop to the basest of devices.
Ramchandra Khan, finding that Haridas was reputed to be absolutely free from all vices, hit upon a plan of creating in him the vice by exposing which he hoped to accomplish his ruin. He summoned to his help the most famous harlots and told them to destroy the chastity of Haridas who was under the vow of continence as an ascetic. One of the harlots, who was young and possessed great beauty, undertook to effect his ruin in the course of three days. Ramchandra Khan pressed her to take an armed footman (paik) who was to catch him red-handed and bring both of them for punishment. But the harlot proposed that she should at first go by herself and after being with Haridas once take the paik to capture him on her second visit.
That harlot, having put on her best attire, then presented herself at nightfall at the solitary cell of Thakur Haridas. After making her obeisance to the Tulasi she went up to the entrance of the cell and bowing to the Thakur remained there standing. She then sat down at the doorstep, exposing her body to the view of Haridas, and made confession of her uncontrollable passion for him praying to be favoured by his intimate society.
Thakur Haridas agreed to fulfill her wish after he had finished chanting the due number of the Names, bidding her in the meantime to wait and listen to the Samkirtana of the Name which he chanted. The harlot on this assurance remained seated there as Haridas went on with his loud chant of the Holy Name till break of day. The harlot came away disappointed when it was morning, and informed Ramchandra Khan that Haridas had promised to enjoy her society and that the promise would be carried out when she met him next night.
As the harlot presented herself before Thakur Haridas on the second evening he expressed his request that as on the previous occasion he could not keep his promise to her for the reason that he must complete the chant of the due number of Names. He would however, certainly fulfill her desire after the chanting of the due number of Names had been completed; and he accordingly bade her wait there and listen to the chanting of the Name. The harlot made obeisance to the Tulasi and the Thakur and sat listening to the chanting of the Holy Name. But she naturally grew restive as the night was drawing to a close. The Thakur, noticing her impatience, told her that he had taken the vow of chanting a crore of the Name in course of the month. He had expected to finish the full number that night but could not do so although he had chanted Him the whole night. The number would be certainly completed by the next night and then the vow would be fulfilled and he would be in the position to enjoy her company. The harlot reported accordingly to Ramchandra Khan.
On the third evening the harlot duly made her appearance and, after making obeisance to the Tulasi and the Thakur, sat at the entrance of the cell listening to the chanting of the Holy Name, chanting the Same herself, till the close of that night. The mind of the harlot was changed by chanting the Holy Name all night in the company of Thakur Haridas. She now fell prostrate at the Feet of Thakur Haridas and confessed to him everything regarding the plot of Ramchandra Khan. She said she had committed endless sin as she was a harlot by trade. She begged the Thakur to save her, who was so vile, by his mercy.
Haridas Thakur replied that he knew everything about the Khan and would have left the place three days ago. He had delayed his departure by three days on her account. The harlot then prayed that he might mercifully instruct her as to how she was to get rid of the miseries of the worldly life. Thakur Haridas then tendered her this advice: 'Give away everything of your household to the Brahmanas. Come and stay here in this cell. Chant constantly the Holy Name. Worship the Tulasi. You will then obtain the Feet of Krishna in no time'. After saying this and instructing her in the Holy Name the Thakur rose up and left the place, chanting the Name of Hari.
Then that harlot on obtaining the command of the Guru gave away to the Brahmanas all the wealth that she had. With shaven head and a single piece of cloth to wrap her body in, she lived in that cell and took the Holy Name three lakhs of times in course of every night and day. She worshipped the Tulasi, ate uncooked food by chewing, and often fasted. The senses were controlled and love of Godhead manifested itself. She became a famous devotee and a great spiritual teacher; and Vaishnavas of the highest order often came thither to have a sight of her. The people were astonished by this wonderful behaviour of the quondam harlot and bowed with reverence whenever they spoke of the greatness of Haridas.
As the above theme is the subject of the highest importance to the present Age I have tried to keep scrupulously to the words of Sree Kaviraj Goswami in describing this famous event of the life of Thakur Harides. The chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna imparted by a pure devotee rescued a youthful harlot who had tried to seduce the saint at the instigation of a most profligate atheist. By this process the harlot was not merely rescued from a life of shame but became a devotee of the Lord fit to lift others to the plane of perfect purity.
The chanting of the Holy Name can, therefore, reclaim the worst of sinners. The Holy Name has to be heard with reverence from the lips of a pure devotee. The Holy Name has to be received as a Sacrament from a pure devotee by complete submission at his feet. The Holy Name so received has to be constantly chanted by being free from all offence. The Tulasi has to be worshipped. All earthly possessions and all association with worldly people, especially in matters of food, clothing and residence, must be disowned. By this method, in a short time, the highest spiritual state is realisable. That state consists in serving exclusively the Feet of Krishna. This is the special Divine Dispensation for this Age of discord announced by the spiritual Scriptures and promulgated by the Supreme Lord, Sree Krishna-Chaitanya, through His eternal servant, Thakur Haridas.
The obvious objection to the above, that is likely to suggest itself to those who are too strongly addicted to the concerns of this world, is that it does not sufficiently appeal to the rationalistic imagination. The scheme seems to be dry and sterile. It also appears to be both meaningless and impracticable. Every admittedly futile speculation, despite its futility, seems to be more worthy of the serious consideration of the worldling than any transcendental proposition. Appearances are decidedly against the acceptance of the teaching of Thakur Haridas by the average merely intellectual worldling.
In the first place Thakur Haridas seems to ignore wholly the life that is ordinarily led by people all over the world. The new life that is proposed has apparently no point of contact with the life previously led by the disciple after election. This is not likely to appeal to those to whom the theory of materialistic evolution has become as it were the very breath of their nostrils. 'Is a real gap or abrupt revolution possible in the world of life?' 'Can there be any such thing as the absence of proper purpose anywhere on the part of anybody in this fair world?' Such and similar questions are bound to rush into the brain of all mental speculationists the moment they are asked to take the Holy Name of Krishna to the exclusion of every worldly function. The proposal seems to be so puerile and so queer and so utterly destructive of all that is near and dear to the heart of the average man!
It is for this reason that the sadhus are on principle opposed to discuss spiritual subjects with persons who do not really seek the Truth. Those who think that for them there is no driving necessity for such a quest are not likely to follow seriously any elucidation of propositions that have nothing to do with anything in which they feel really interested. The complete denial of any place to empiric conclusions, in the life that is proposed for the novice, is a staggering blow to most people who feel instinctively that they should refuse to listen to what obviously amounts to nothing short of an incitement to the commission of suicide.
The spiritual purpose itself cannot, however, be explained away nor whittled down by means of clever interpretations. The actual doings and sayings of Thakur Haridas stand in the way of those who try to do so. The Thakur literally acted as he taught. He acted also in accordance with the plainest meaning of his words. So there can be no ambiguity whatsoever.
The harlot's condition was not essentially different from any other worldling. The irrepressible desire for complete renunciation of the world is the natural and inevitable result of the appearance of any real inclination for the spiritual life. The awakened worldly mind understands the necessity of committing mundane suicide in order to be reborn as the immaculate soul for the purpose of realising the life eternal. The material mind is not a figment of the empiric imagination. It is a real envelope and has to be completely discarded. It will not do to imagine this enveloping darkness as possessing anything in common with the light. The material mind is like a sheet of impenetrable darkness that completely shuts out the light of the soul. The soul is by his nature self-effulgent and has nothing to do with the material mind which acts as a screen to cut off the light of the soul from the view of the observer who uses the mind for such a purpose. This is fact and not a hypothesis like the so-called 'truths' and 'facts' conceived by the material mind in the vanity of its ignorance. The spiritual realisation of the categorical difference and relation of utter incompatibility between mind and soul' is the first unique experience on the threshold of the awakened spiritual life.
The harlot was not 'converted' by speculative arguments addressed to the mind but simply by listening to the Name of Hari from the lips of Thakur Haridas and chanting the Same herself in his company. She had apparently the advantage of possessing at the very outset a natural regard for Thakur Haridas and for his advice and also for the holy Tulasi. This was the only antecedent condition of her redemption. Was it, therefore, blind and traditional faith that actually saved her in this crisis?
The answer must be in the negative. Those who are most officiously given to the cult of blind faith are not necessarily attracted towards the actual devotee. The affinity for the true soul is itself a spiritual, that is to say perfectly self-conscious, impulse. It must be most carefully distinguished from the blind, material impulse which is so common and which, as a matter of fact, is the worst form of obstacle in the way of the realisation of the spiritual life. The instinctive affinity of the harlot for Haridas is an activity of the soul and as such is, therefore, perfectly moral, perfectly self-cognisant and categorically different from the sensuous sentimentality that ordinarily passes in this world as 'blind' faith. Faith is the instinctive attitude of the soul towards the Truth and can, therefore, never be blind. It is the blind who in their blindness confound true faith with the counterfeit ware with which alone they happen to be, unfortunately for themselves, only too familiar.
Real faith can alone lead one to the presence of the pure soul. The material mind cannot reach the proximity of a sadhu. The harlot possessed the spiritual faculty by which it was possible for her to really approach Thakur Haridas. The Shastras say that this true instinctive reverence for sadhus is the result of previous unconscious association with the pure devotees of the Lord.
For the proper unconscious association with sadhus also sensuous sentimentality is often the chief hindrance. The sensuous sentimentalist seeks the gratification of his own senses. He, therefore, is least disposed to serve the sadhu on the account of the latter. It is going against his grain. The sadhus accordingly keep away from philanthropists, as these are not willing to learn to get rid of their sentimentality. A pseudodevotee, who parades his false sentimentality, readily enough obtains the cheap reverence of all worldly persons as his due, by misunderstanding of the purpose of the Scriptures. Such a person is not likely to bow to the sadhu, as he really wants to be served himself. Plain worldly people are likely to be more easily benefited by the process of unconscious association with the sadhus. Those who bring with them any previously formed notions regarding the nature of the sadhus, find it difficult to get rid of those false sentiments which stand in the way of their associating on a proper footing with the real sadhus. The only natural way of associating with the devotees of Godhead consists in doing whatever the sadhu wants one to do and in the way that he advises, without expecting any desirable or undesirable result to oneself therefrom. The harlot possessed something like this natural faith in sadhus by reason of her previous unconscious association with the devotees of Godhead.
End Part I