The following is an excerpt from Secret Truths of the Bhāgavatam, Second Edition, by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
Rāmānujācārya was a very powerful ācārya; very powerful. Like Rāmānujācārya, Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura took tridaṇḍi-sannyāsa, not eka-daṇḍa sannyāsa. Rāmānujācārya had many learned disciples who were pure devotees. One of them was highly learned and perfectly knew all the Vedas, Upaniṣads, and other śāstras. He had some ego, however, thinking himself very highly cultured and knowledgeable. Rāmānuja wanted to take away that ego by giving him an operation [as follows]:
Rāmānuja had a disciple who was very beautiful. Also, she was from a wealthy, highly aristocratic family. From her childhood she used to come to him. She was always sitting with him, taking prasāda from him, and sometimes she used to sit on his lap. Gradually she became mature and she was given in marriage to a very high-class, wealthy person. At that time she went to her in-laws’ house with her husband, but after six months she returned to her father in Śrī Raṅgam where Rāmānuja was living. She came to him and began to weep very bitterly.
She said, “O Gurudeva, I am so unhappy. My father-in-law, grandfather-in-law, and mother-in-law always chastise me. They tell me to go to a well about two miles from my home, up a very steep road. They give me two or three very big pots, and I have to carry them all. I have to cook alone for so many persons, and I have to wash all the clothes of the family – my husband, son-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, and so on. I cannot do it alone. When I tell them I need help, they chastise me. They say, ‘Oh, your father is so rich. Go and bring two, three, or four servants. If you want to be here with us, you will have to bring water, wash the clothes and pots, cook for everyone, and do everything else.’ Day and night I have to do this, but I cannot.” She continued to weep, “They always chastise me. I want a servant.”
Gurudeva began to think and then called for that very high-class, learned scholarly disciple who was honoured by all. He told him, “You should go to my initiated daughter’s house, and help her bring water, cook, and do other services. You should serve her without hesitation, as you would a queen, and never complain, ‘Why should I go there and cook, wash clothes, and do so much other services for this girl?’ ” Rāmānuja was a very powerful guru, and if this disciple had complained like this, Rāmānuja would have said, “Oh, get out!” He was not an ordinary ācārya; He was Lakṣmaṇa himself, the younger brother of Rāmā, so he was very powerful. The disciple, therefore, could not object. Without hesitating, he began to bring that girl water and was always cooking. The householders did not allow him to use soap or anything like that, so he looked like a dirty person, a cook. All the villagers knew him as a cook and a very low-class person who knows nothing, like a servant, but he was a servant without pay. He was a servant of his gurudeva, not of anyone else. He was therefore carrying out orders without hesitation, without any “noo noo, choo choo – I will not do, I will not do.”
After he had been there for over six months, a highly learned person came to that village. He knew all the Vedas, Upaniṣads, and other śāstras and he challenged the residents of that village: “If anyone wants to debate with me, he can come.” But no one came. He began giving classes. The cook came to his classes, only to see what was going on. All were charmed by his lectures, by his knowledge of Sanskrit, and by his knowledge of all the śāstras. He was very proud of his learning.
After some time this cook said, “May I say something?”
All the villagers, along with that learned person, looked at him. They said, “Oh, he is a cook, a dirty person, and his personality is not so good. He has a long beard and long hair, and his dhotī is dirty and torn, so what can he say? Stop, stop, stop!”
The cook said, “I want to speak.”
There were many good persons there, and they said, “Why are you stopping him? He can say anything he wants.”
At that time he spoke in Sanskrit. He began to recite from śāstra, and he totally cut all the arguments of that Māyāvādī speaker. Everyone looked at him. “How astonishing! How wonderful!” Everyone clapped, and they all wanted to take that cook’s foot dust.
That defeated person ran away, and where he went, nobody knew. All the villagers asked, “Who is that cook?” They knew he was a disciple of Rāmānuja. All of them collectively went to Rāmānuja and asked, “Why have you done this? Although that girl is your disciple, still you should not have made him her servant. We think that he has been insulted. Please be merciful to him and keep him with you.”
Rāmānuja called his disciple, “Now you have been operated upon. I think your false ego has gone. Now you are pure and you can come to me.” He gave him some service and he gave him the renounced order, sannyāsa. That disciple became a very high-class sannyāsī and preached everywhere throughout the world. Can you be a disciple like this? This is a real disciple. No false ego. If I ordered you to do what Rāmānuja ordered this disciple to do, you would be the first to tell me, “I cannot do it. Now I am leaving you.” There would be no daṇḍavaṭ praṇāmas at all. Giving up all faith in Kṛṣṇa and in guru, you would write a paper proclaiming, “He is a bogus guru. He wanted to engage me in the service of a girl.”
But this was a high-class disciple, and his guru was also a high-class guru. Rāmānuja gave him love and affection for Nārāyaṇa, and he became a realized soul.
Here is another example of a very good disciple. Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was doing Navadvīpa parikramā along with thousands of pilgrims. On the third day he came to Navadvīpa town, in front of the Prauḍhā Māyā temple, which was surrounded by a large gathering of people. All the so-called brāhmaṇas and caste gosvāmīs there were opposed to Śrīla Prabhupāda, because they thought he felt himself superior to brāhmaṇas.* They made a conspiracy: “We will punish and kill him.” About a thousand of these brāhmaṇas took sticks, bricks, stones, soda water, and hot water, and threw them at the devotees. They wanted to kill many devotees along with Śrīla Prabhupāda. All the devotees ran away, ‘keeping their feet on their head.’** They were running here and there, wherever they could. This incident was reported to the police, but the police were silent, and suppressed news of this event; they favoured the caste brāhmaṇas.
There was no way to escape. Śrīla Prabhupāda was alone; all his senior disciples had fled. One brahmacārī – in white cloth, not saffron – was with him. He at once signalled to Śrīla Prabhupāda and they both approached a house. The brahmacārī begged the householders, “Oh, please open the door. We want to stay for a moment. [Inside the house] he immediately gave Śrīla Prabhupāda his own white clothes and took his sannyāsī clothes and daṇḍa. In this way he actually took sannyāsa there, and then he somehow sent Śrīla Prabhupāda, in white cloth, to Māyāpura. No one knew about this, and the crowd surrounded that house.
They thought, “Oh, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī is here; we must take him.”
That brahmacārī knew this was a dangerous time. He was Vinodabihārī Brahmacārī. He was young, perhaps only twenty-one years of age, but he was bold and strong; he had no fear at all.
Some police came and after some time, and the gathering dissipated. After a while, Śrī Vinodabihārī Brahmacārī also went to Māyāpura, and everyone saw that he was now a sannyāsī; he was not Vinoda Bābū. That night he changed his cloth back again, but Śrīla Prabhupāda had accepted him as a sannyāsī disciple.
Now you should consider who Vinodabihārī Brahmacārī was. He was my gurudeva, Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja. We should try to be disciples like Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja. He left his mother and so much wealth. He was a landlord, and at the age of only sixteen, he was in college. He left everything and went to serve Śrīla Prabhupāda in so many ways you cannot imagine. Everyone wanted to give him sannyāsa. Three times it was declared, “Tomorrow he will take sannyāsa.” Prabhupāda wanted it, and everything was ready – the daṇḍa, saffron cloth, and so on. However, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s secretary, Śrīla Bhakti Vilāsa Tīrtha Mahārāja, who at that time was a gṛhastha named Kuñjabihārī Vidyābhūṣaṇa, requested Prabhupāda, “If you give sannyāsa to Vinoda, everything will be ruined. There is no one who can manage like he can. We cannot do it, so please wait. If we can find another who can manage, then you can give him sannyāsa.” Three times everything was prepared for his sannyāsa ceremony, but each time it was checked.
After Śrīla Prabhupāda disappeared from this world, he told Vinoda in a dream, “Even now you have not taken sannyāsa. You must take sannyāsa. My preaching has collapsed, so you should at once take it.” After that Vinoda took sannyāsa. At that time the three, four, or five magazines [publications established by Śrīla Prabhupāda] had been stopped. There was no Navadvīpa parikramā or any other parikramā. All were stopped, and the preaching was also stopped. My gurudeva, however, with the same spirit [as Srila Prabhupāda], again started everything. His first three sannyāsīs were Vāmana Mahārāja, Trivikrama Mahārāja, and me. I was so junior, so junior. But even though I was not qualified, even without his order I always used to jump to follow him. Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja kī jaya! Gaura premānande! Hari Haribol!
*Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda preached that Vaiṣṇavas are the real brāhmaṇas, superior to caste brāhmaṇas. He was also giving sacred thread (dīkṣā) to those who were not brāhmaṇas by birth. The caste gosvāmīs believed that only if one is born in a brāhmaṇa family one is a brāhmaṇa.
** This is a Hindi expression meaning ‘running at great speed.’
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