Devotee: My Guru Mahārāja instructed me that I should reside in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, because there, the mercy of Śrīman Mahāprabhu and Śrīman Nityānanda Prabhu flows freely, without discrimination. Although I obeyed his order and have been staying there for some time, still, my heart is dry and I am unable to focus on performing the limbs of bhakti. My mind goes here and there, forcibly drowning me in this material world. Moreover, sādhu-saṅga is not easily available for me there. I know of one or two other places where I could easily have such association, but I fear that if I were to leave Māyāpura-dhāma, I would be disobeying the order of my Guru Mahārāja. What is my duty in this situation?
Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Mahārāja: The words and instructions of transcendental personalities have deep meanings that are not easily understood by even great scholars, what to speak of the ignorant. Even in this material world we see that misunderstanding exists everywhere. How, therefore, can we expect to truly grasp the grave purport of a sādhu’s instructions?
There was once a man whose father was about to pass away. Before his death, the father gave to his son four instructions in the form of riddles: (1) “Set up a marketplace next to our house,” (2) “Drink water only in the middle of the pond,” (3) “Each and every bite of food you take should include the head of a fish,” and (4) “Whenever you are confused, seek the advice of a man with three heads.”
The father passed away before his son could ask for the meanings of these enigmatic instructions, and so the son carried out their literal meanings. By doing so, he became increasingly poor, weak and fickle minded. He remembered that his father ordered him to seek the advice of a man with three heads when he was unsure of something, and so he unsuccessfully searched for such a person.
Somehow or other, he came in contact with a wise old man. The man, noticing the son’s sorrow, asked him, “What is troubling you?”
The son replied, “It is said that one meets with all auspiciousness by following the orders of senior persons. But after following the instructions of my father, I see that just the opposite is happening to me.” The son then informed the old man of his father’s four instructions.
Smiling, the old man said, “ ‘A person who has three heads’ refers to someone who keeps both hands by his head at all times; in other words, a very old, experienced person. As an old man, I can help you properly understand your father’s instructions. ‘Setting up a market place outside your home’ does not mean that you should rent your property to others for the sake of constructing shops. Rather, it means that because you are a farmer, you should sell your crops from your own property instead of in some distant market. By doing this, you will meet with financial success. ‘To drink water only in the middle of a pond’ means that you should drink water during meals, not before or after. This will bring good health. ‘Eating a fish head with every bite’ means that you should eat small fish that are eaten whole in one bite, and never big fish.” [According to those who eat fish, small fish are considered healthier than large fish.]
Once the son heard the true meanings of his father’s instructions, he began following them and eventually became wealthy and healthy. In the same way, because it is impossible for us to understand the true meanings of the instructions of our ācāryas on our own, we must consult with greater authorities who can clearly explain our duty.
In order to understand your Guru Mahārāja’s instruction for you to stay in the dhāma, you must first understand that mere physical presence does not amount to dhāma-vāsa. Śrīla Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī never once set foot in Vṛndāvana, but still, Śrīman Mahāprabhu has said, “ĩho dāmodara svarūpa-śuddha-vrajavāsī—this Svarūpa Dāmodara is a pure Vrajavāsī.” Similarly, although Śrīla Prabhodānanda Sarasvatīpāda never visited Śrīdhāma Navadvīpa, learned authorities always accept that he had, due to his extraordinary glorification of that place.
We are all equipped with a gross body, a subtle body and a soul. In this material world, we see that some people give more concern to the mind. If the need arises, such people give up physical comforts for the sake of peace of mind; they choose to endure physical hardship in order to reside in an environment that is more favourable for mental tranquillity. There are yet more intelligent people who give precedent to the needs of the soul.
Considering these points, we can conclude that bodily presence is not the barometer by which residence is measured. In truth, it is only when one’s mind is absorbed in thoughts of a place that one can be considered to reside there. In this way, when a sādhu instructs one to stay in the dhāma, he is actually insinuating that one must always think about the dhāma, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, His teachings, and how to take full shelter of that place, and that one must remain fixed in the moods of the real dhāma-vāsīs.
It has been mentioned in the writings of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, “yathāya vaiṣṇava-gaṇa sei sthāna vṛndāvana—in whatever place there are Vaiṣṇavas, that place is Vṛndāvana.” In the highest conception, dhāma-vāsa refers to staying in the association of and serving those who glorify Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His associates and discuss their pastimes. Such a place is to be known as Vṛndāvana; there, the dust is considered vraja-raja, a mountain or hill is considered Girirāja Govardhana and a river or stream is considered Yamunā-devī. Such is the power of a pure devotee. If we reside in a place where there are no Vaiṣṇavas from whom we can hear hari-kathā, then we can never say that we are truly staying in the dhāma.
Once, Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was ordered by his Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, never go to Kolkata, because it is the residence of Kālī. But externally, we see that Kolkata was the very first place Śrīla Prabhupāda established a maṭha, and from there he performed so many activities, such as printing books, preaching, arranging festivals and so on. When he was asked about why he disobeyed the order of his gurupāda-padma not to go to Kolkata, he replied, “I have never gone to Kolkata. I have only ever visited Vaikuṇṭha-dhāma.” Though most people understood Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja’s instruction in an external way, Śrīla Prabhupāda understood its deep import. In saying that he never went to Kolkata, Śrīla Prabhupāda was saying that he never came in contact with the material world, and that he only ever had darśana of transcendental objects. Wherever he went, he went only for the service of Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas. In actuality, although he appeared to be staying in a distant city, he was always residing at the lotus feet of his gurudeva.
Understanding the words of a personality like Śrīla Gaura Kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja is not an easy affair. Once, Jagadīśa Bābū—the first disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda, who later became known as Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pradīpa Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja—visited Bābājī Mahārāja. Upon arriving at Bābājī Mahārāja’s bhajana-kuṭīra, Jagadīśa Bābū offered Bābājī Mahārāja a watermelon. Bābājī Mahārāja accepted, and told him, “It is very good that you have come to the dhāma. You should always reside here.”
Jagadīśa Bābū replied, “Bābājī Mahārāja, I cannot stay. I have a return ticket home.”
Bābājī Mahārāja’s eyes became wide with astonishment. He said, “A return ticket? I have never heard it to be possible for someone who has come to the dhāma to return back.”
Hearing this, Jagadīśa Bābu was shocked. He considered, “Although I have read the words Śrī Kṛṣṇa has spoken in Bhagavad-gītā many times, until now I have not understood His statement, “yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama—whoever comes to My abode does not return.” He immediately offered praṇāma to Bābājī Mahārāja and requested, “Please tell me how it would be possible for me to permanently reside in the dhāma, when I have many other obligations and responsibilities.”
Upon seeing Jagadīśa Bābū’s sincerity, Bābājī Mahārāja instructed him that residing in the dhāma does not mean to physically reside in a holy place, and that he could become a resident of the dhāma only by taking shelter of dhāma-vāsīs like Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. He then told him that if he were to take full shelter at the Ṭhākura’s lotus feet, he would be considered a dhāma-vāsī no matter where he may be. In this way, he would in truth never leave the dhāma, even if he were to return home.
When a person surrenders his complete independence and takes shelter at the lotus feet of an associate of the Lord, he never leaves the dhāma, even if sometimes, for the service of his guru-vargas, he has to physically go some other place.
Source: Viśuddha Caitanya-vāṇī Volume I
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