Let us welcome the mango season by remembering an instructive story of one of our previous acharyas.
Yes, it’s the mango season. No, that’s not a typo. While I nibble delicious pieces of mango, let me write about the mango reason.
Having “offended” the Lord, His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura took a vow. What was his offense? When not yet even four years old, he took a mango before it had been offered to the family Deity. His father, the great Bhaktivinoda Thakura, rebuked him: “All food is to be enjoyed by the Lord. Nothing should be taken unless it is first offered to Krishna. You have committed a serious offense.” The little boy took this to heart and was greatly pained for committing this offense. So, instead of the mango, he took a vow to never eat another mango as long as he lived.
I feel I can confidently say that to most who hear this for the first time, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s vow will strike them as extreme, to say the least. But let this initial shock not keep us in ignorance of this great acarya’s unprecedented glories. If anything, his uncommon reaction to a seemingly insignificant mistake should wake us up from the cozy bed of our concocted notions about right and wrong.
The great acharyas, empowered spiritual leaders, are eternally liberated souls. That is, they have no attraction for the things of this world, except when those things are used in the service of the Lord. So situated, they exist solely to serve the Lord with their body, mind, and words. Thus, for them to give up the things of this world, for which an ordinary man would sacrifice his life, is of little consequence. On the other hand, by sometimes exhibiting such startling behavior, the great acharyas set the highest standards of spiritual life. For instance, by setting this example, even at the tender age of four, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati stressed the importance of first offering everything to Krishna before using it for oneself. This loving spiritual principle is not very difficult to appreciate for one whose heart has even a little affection for the Lord. But in the Age of Kali, in which all spiritual values are thoughtlessly dispensed with, establishing even simple principles necessitates drastic measures that will shake the spiritually bankrupt notions of society at large. And to go against the overwhelming flow of social trends, it takes the power and courage of the great acharyas, who can swim against the current and take many along in their wake.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had instructed his son verbally. But knowing well that most people in this world are too spiritually dull to take heed of verbal instructions, Srila Sarasvati Thakura gave us the same instruction by following it in its strictest sense. An acarya is one who preaches by example, and this great acarya set an example that is to be glorified and worshipped by all sincere seekers of devotional perfection. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati did not later instruct any of his disciples to follow this particular example, perhaps acknowledging that his offense did not in all cases require a life sentence of mango-less-ness. And yet, all throughout his life, whenever he was offered a mango, he would refuse to accept it, saying that he was an offender. Why? What was the reason behind his vow? What was the Mango Reason?
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s vow serves as an example of how the great acharyas will go to extremes even at the cost of suffering all kinds of inconveniences, including the scathing criticism of a spiritually impoverished and yet bombastic society. The acharyas do so not for egotistically making a point, but for the spiritual welfare of the general mass of people, who have been knocked out by the blows of Kali’s agents. In that unconscious state they are now being carried away by a powerful current, tossed on ever-increasing waves of godlessness both gross and subtle, with only the ocean of doom as their final destination. The great acharyas execute unprecedented acts, and set extraordinary examples, all to awaken such unfortunate and misguided children of God to the full consciousness of spiritual existence so that they can swim back to the safety and joy of spiritual life. This is the Mango Reason, the reason why Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati kept his uncommon lifelong vow.
This mango season, let’s offer our heartfelt worship at the lotus feet of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who not only took that Mango Vow, but lived all his life for just one reason the Mango Reason.
Abhijit Toley is a member of the congregation of ISKCON Pune. He works as a principal software engineer with Symantec Corporation, also in Pune.