In the Sri Vaishnavite tradition in their history of their lineage, they list some outstanding devotees. There were twelve Alvars who appeared in South India. Not all at the same time, but over a period of several centuries. They established the basis of the Krsna bhakti cult in the Kali-yuga. The appearance of such great devotees in the Kali-yuga is predicted in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srimad-Bhagavatam was spoken at the beginning of the Kali-yuga, and when Krsna left this planet then he took with Him dharma. The Vedic dharma at that point disappeared, or became invalid, and spiritual knowledge was also obscured. But it says in the same verse that Lord Krsna left the Srimad Bhagavatam for the people in Kali-yuga to get light out of. Now still, the book Bhagavata was there but they also needed the person Bhagavata, or one who lives the Srimad-Bhagavatam. In other words, they needed the spiritual master. So in the initial stage of Kali-yuga, the first few centuries, these twelve Alvars appeared in South India, and actually established the basis of what would later on become the four Vaisnava sampradayas. The four sampradayas all had their origin in South India, and the founders of these sampradayas each in their own way drew, to a greater or lesser extent, from this tradition of the Alvars, especially in the Laksmi sampradaya, but it is also there in our sampradaya too, and in the others. The Radha Krsna cult is the further development of the devotional tendency of loving God in close fellowship and in the spirit and relation of a woman to her husband or lover. This tendency is striking in the Prabandham of the Alvars. Goda, the famous woman Alvar, is said to have been married to the Deity Ranganath of the Sri Rangam temple. Tondaredipodi Alvar (Bhaktanghri Renu in Sanskrit) expresses in his Tirup Palliyeducci (Paramatmar Jagarana in Sanskrit) that to serve and love God one's spiritual body is the summom bonum of one's service to God.
One of the Alvars was known as Bhaktisara. So he was living at Sri Rangam, and he was living very very simply, like a babaji. So he would sit at Sri Rangam. Around the temple are 7 walls, and between the walls are some areas like streets where people would walk and live. So Bhaktisara would sit in that street area, or in the courtyard of the temple, and he would sit in the sun and sew his cloth. He wore old old cloth, and he would sew it and maintain it until practically speaking it was unwearable, and only then he would he go and find some new old cloth. And because he was purposely kept himself impoverished, he used to sew it with a broom-straw, this would be his needle. And on the end of it he would tie a thread. Then he would take his old torn garment and sew it. So he used to be seen often, sitting somewhere in the Sri Rangam complex sewing his cloth. One day Lord Siva and Parvati were flying over the sky just above the earth. By flying like this, their shadow was cast upon the ground. So whe rever this shadow would fall, naturally people became very enlivened in their material desires. But when the shadow fell on Bhaktisara, they stopped and observed him. Bhaktisara was sewing, and then he looked around and saw this shadow. He could understand that this shadow is inspiring one to have material desires. So thinking, "This is inauspicious," he moved out of the shadow. Parvati turned to Lord Siva and said, "What is this? Everyone else is so eager tha t we may give benediction, that they rejoi ce if they catch sight of us or if our shadow falls on them. But this person is moving out of the shadow. What does this mean?" Lord Siva replied, "He is a great Visnu bhakta. We have no business with him. He doesn't need anything from us." Parvati said, "No no no. Everyone wants something from us. Everybody has material desires and wants them fulfilled. Let us go down there." So they went down there, Parvati and Siva, and they appeared before Bhaktisara, who was just sewing his cloth. So then Parvati, who was standing behind Lord Siva said, "Offer him heaven." Lord Siva said, "My dear devotee of the Lord, we have come down before you to give you a benediction, so I am offering you the svarga, the heavenly world. You may go there." Bhaktisara didn't even look up, he just kept on sewing and ignored them. So then Parvati said, "Offer him the post of Lord Brahma." Bhaktisara ignored this also, and continued sewing his cloth. Parvati was becoming more and more agitated, so she said, "Offer him a form just like yourself." So Lord Siva said, "So will you take a form or a position just like mine?" Then Bhaktisara looked up and said, "You've already got enough trouble." He was referring to the fact that although he was the great Lord Siva, he was still being pushed around by Parvati. So then Parvati said, "He must ask something from us. So just tell him to ask for a benediction." Lord Siva said, "All right, if you don't want any of these things I am o ffering, then you pick something, because you must take a benediction from us." So then Bhaktisara said, "Well, you give me liberation from material existence." Lord Siva said, "That's one thing I can't give." Lord Siva himself says mukti pradata sarvesam visnu eva na samsaya. One who wants mukti has to approach Lord Visnu. So he was caught in an embarrassing situation when Bhaktisara asked for that, something he could not give. "I'm sorry, but this is something that I cannot g ive." Bhaktisara said, "Then what is the use? What is the use of you and your benedictions?" Lord Siva said, "You must take something from us, because we have come to offer you a benediction." "All right," Bhaktisara said. "While I sew, the thread is always coming off the needle, because that is only a broomstraw. So you please make some arrangement that this thread becomes attached to the back of the straw so I can finish sewing my cloth." At this, Parvati became enraged. "He's insulting you! You can give him the universe, and he's asking for such a minuscule thing. This is an insult. You must do something." So then Lord Siva opened his third eye, and a tongue of flame came out towards Bhaktisara. Bhaktisara saw this tongue of flame coming, so he pressed his foot to the ground, and from where he pressed his foot an even greater flame came out, devoured that flame from Lord Siva's eye, and started to pursue Lord Siva. Lord Siva was running around Sri Rangam temple with this fire following him. So he went before the deity of Ranganath and prayed, "My dear Lord, I have made a great mistake today by offending your devotee. Please help me." So the Lord instantly conjured a Vaikuntha cloud, and this was raining a kind of nectar. Because it was a Vaikuntha cloud, within a very short time the whole area of Sri Rangam was totally flooded. In this way the fire of Bhaktisara was extinguished, but the whole temple was covered, like a big lake. Then suddenly Bhaktisara appeared on top of the lake, like a cork. He was just sitting on top of the water still sewing his clot h. Very quickly the water subsided. Lord Siva appeared before Bhaktisara and blessed him. He gave him this name. Bhakti means devotion, and sara means essence. So this name means, "the essence of devotion." Lord Siva said, "Your attitude and devotion to Lord Visnu is the essence of devotion, because even if Lord Siva comes, you do not want anything from him, although all the materialists are desiring." Another time there was a shuktihara, a magician flying through the sky on his tiger. Bhaktisara was again sitting sewing his cloth. And then when he flew over Bhaktisara, his tiger couldn't stay in the sky, it fell to the ground. He came down to earth, and he was wondering, "What is this? Why can't we fly here?" And then he saw Bhaktisara, and he could understand, "Oh, it must be by the influence of this saintly person that my magic is rendered is null and void." The magician became pleased, because he could understand "He is very very advanced. He is so pure that this kind of mystic jugglery I am doing does not function in his presence." So being very pleased with him, he wanted to reward him. He took from his shoulders a very very expensive ornamental cloth that he was wearing. You can just imagine, he's a wizard so he's got to be dressed really far out. It had gold sewn into it and diamonds and rubies and emeralds all over it. So he took it off, and he presented it to Bhaktisara, "You please accept this." As soon as the cloth touched Bhaktisara's hand, it was transformed into an old rag wit h holes, the type which Bhaktisara was accustomed to wear. Something fit for Bhaktisara to wear. And then Bhaktisara took his cloth that he had been wearing, and gave it to this shuktihara, and as soon as the shuktihara took it, the cloth became like molten diamonds, like a diamond jelly. It was very valuable, and the shuktihara was very pleased to receive this.
The fourth Alvar was called Goda. She was an incarnation of Bhu-Laksmi. One day when Visnucitta was doing his gardening, he heard the cry of a baby from his tulasi garden. He went in there and under the tulasi plant he found this baby. He took her and brought her to his home. Up till now, Visnucitta was a naisthika brahmacari and a babaji. He had no family life. And now there was this small baby, and it was a girl. So he went around in the village and told the matajis, "Please come and take care of this child." So they took care of the child. Since his service was gardening and he was collecting many flowers, her service was making flower garlands. She used to make a garland, give it to him, and he would take it to the deity. One day when he came back to the house, he arrived a little early. Usually the garland was ready and was kept in a basket and take, but today he came ten minutes earlier. And while coming, he just peeped in through the window to see what was happening with the service, and he saw this young girl standing in front of the mirror, and she was wearing the flower garland, and she was smiling. So Visnucitta burst in the door. "What have you done?" he yelled. "Great offence! This flower is for the enjoyment of Visnu, and you are a jiva, a living entity. You should not take anything which is not enjoyed by him firsthand, and this has made a great offence. Now you have become disqualified to do this service any more. I won't take these garlands f rom you." So then he ran out on to the street, and he was begging so many other people, "It's time for darsana, and I have to offer a flower garland. Can you make something?" So then all of them sat together and made a nice flower garland and he took it, and went into the temple. At the end of the puja he offered it to the deity but it broke and fell off. Then he had to arrange for another garland to be made. That also broke. One more was made and that broke too. Then he gave up. H e laid down and he was crying, "What is happening? " So then the deity came in his dream and told him, "I will only accept that garland which has already been worn by your daughter, and other garlands I will not accept." So he went to his daughter and said, "You please make a flower garland, wear it and then give it to me." Then she said, "But it is bhoga! I am not supposed to wear it." Visnucitta said, "I am so confused. I don't know. I have established Visnu as the Supreme Person, and n ow I don't know what this philosophy is." So then she said, "I was only wearing it to see in the mirror how it will look on the deity, because I am of the same height as the deity. I am making this garland, it is thick in here, it is going thinner and thinner, and then there are two lotus flowers at the end. So I wanted to see how it would look on the Lord's body. That was what I was checking, but you said I have done offence. What can I do?" Then he said, "This is even higher philosophy. You please do like this, give it to me and I will offer." This was going on. And one day he called his daughter and said, "I was taking bath in the well, and I overheard a neighbour say, 'This babaji has got a daughter from somewhere. She is already of age and he is not thinking of her marriage.' So I have to get you married to someone." So she said, "Don't mention human beings! They're ugly, they're not beautiful people. Who will suit my beauty?" So then he said, "I will describe to you some beautiful people." Then he gave a description of different deities. When he wa s describing the beauty of Ranganatha in Sri Rangam she said, "I would marry this person." So then he said, "Look my dear child, I was just joking. You cannot marry Him, He is a deity." So she said, "If I can give Him a flower garland, what is the difficulty for me in marrying Him?" He said, "That is because He is so merciful that somehow He is accepting your service, because you were only checking that it was all right. But don't have this dream. This is against our philosophy, so don't think like th is." Then she said, "Well if I can't marry Him I won't marry anyone." So the problem continued. And then one day the priests of the temple came to Visnucitta and said, "We had an instruction in our dream that from Sri Rangam the deity is sending His priest to carry your daughter from here, and we are supposed to go, and you should also come because there is a marriage and the muhurta is at such and such hour, on this day, in this city... " And then Visnucitta said, "What happened to all of you? Now you are having a dream that she is marrying the deity in Sri Rangam, and she has been saying this already. Don't tell this to my daughter, she is already confused. And go away from here." Then they said, "Well we came here to give you the instruction from the Lord." And somehow he drove them away. Then he saw there was a big procession coming from Sri Rangam. Palanquins, camaras, umbrellas, and they were all asking, "Who is Visnucitta? Where is he?" He went up and said, "I am Visnucitta." They asked him, "Where is your daughter? She should sit in this palanquin, and you should come. Marriage is coming close." "Marriage? With whom?" asked Visnucitta. "With Ranganath deity," the priests answered. "Deity getting married? Who ever heard of that? You're all priests, have you ever heard of that?" They said, "We know that Ranganath is the Supreme Lord, and He is saying this, so who are we to argue with Him, "You are a deity so You cannot get married." We cannot do that. You only just established Him as the Absolute Truth, so how can you make argument with Him?" "All right then," Visnucitta said. So Goda was brought to Sri Rangam. On the way she dreamed the marriage, and she was composing these poems which describe the marriage, and when she was singing these songs Visnucitta was getting more and more confused. "She's seeing everything, how the marriage of the Lord will happen." Finally when they arrived they went three times around the compound wall of the temple, and as they entered she got down from the palanquin, shook her cloth and cleaned herself. And they told her, "You go pay obeisances to the Lord." So she walked to pay obeisances, and she kept on walking. So then Visnucitta started screaming, "Wait! Stop there! You have to pay obeisances there! No closer!" She kept on walking, and again he said, "Stop!" but still she kept going. Visnucitta was half-fainting. Then she went inside. There was the coils of the snake on whic h the Lord was sleeping. She stepped on it, and Visnucitta fainted. Someone was trying to wake him up, and when he woke up again he saw that she had climbed on the snake coil, and was sitting on the snake. She had her hands on the feet of Visnu, and she was giving massage. He fainted again. The next time he woke up there was no Goda. She had gone back to Godhead.
Kalidvamsa, or Nila, was one of the Alvars. His story is particularly relevant to us, because his background was very, very fallen before he became a devotee of the Lord. How he became a devotee is also very interesting. Kalidvamsa means "destroyer of the influence of Kali." He was known by this name after he became a devotee. But previously he was known as Nila which referred to his very dark complexion. He was fifth class, mlleccha. He was of the Dravidan race, a South Indian race which can be extremely black-skinned and such persons who are very black are considered to be low-class. But he was also of very strong body, very tall and very muscular. He had learned in his youth all the arts of fighting. Sword, spear, wrestling, boxing, he was extremely formidable. And he gat hered around him a crew of particularly dangerous persons, who became like his gang. In those days, at the beginning of the Kali-yuga, mystical powers were a lot more prominent. One of his mates had the ability to hide in his own shadow. Another one had the ability to pick any kind of lock or defensive mechanism, and he could do this very quickly. He had the ability to understand, just by looking, how the mechanism worked, and by a few deft movements of the hand it would come apart. And he could enter that place, steal whatever he wanted, and upon leaving he could reassemble the lock so that no-one would know that someone had been there. The third friend had the ability to silently kill anyone. By secret means, very silently, he could take a person's life. So these were Nila's friends. They formed a very fearsome crew, and people were very afraid of them. The king of that region decided that the best policy with Nila was to employ him. So they engaged him as being the tax-collector for that district, and he was very effective. No-one dared hold back when Nila and his boys came to collect taxes for the government. Now, just outside that village where Nila was staying, there was one bathing tank, one pond and this was a place that was very beautiful, very special. So special that from time to time damsels from heaven would come down and also bathe there. So one day one young girl, who had come down with some other ladies from the heavenly planets, she was left there. One doctor from the village who was walking by saw this very beautiful young girl. He could immediately understand, due to her exquisitely beautiful features, that she wasn't from the region, and he asked, "Who are you?" And she answered," I don't know." Apparently she had suffered some kind of amnesia, and couldn't return to the heavenly planets. So the doctor asked the little girl to come with him, and he took her home, and introduced her to his wife, who was automatically very much taken by the little girl. She said, "Let us raise her as our daughter." So they kept her at home, and since she was a young lady, she did not go out of the house. If she wanted to go outside, she would just go up to the roof. That was the system in those days, because unmarried girls should not mix with society. So one day she was up on the roof, and Nila happened to come down the street, in front of the house, on his way somewhere. One point about Nila was that he was very much engaged in sense gratification, a very rowdy fellow, a boozer and a woman hunter. He was carousing around on the street below, and when he happened to look up he saw this very beautiful girl. Immediately he was smitten with love for her, and he knocked on the door of the doctor's house. The doctor appeared at the door of the house and saw Nila standing there. "Oh," he said, "what can I do for you?" Nila replied, "I have just seen your beautiful daughter, and I want to ask her to be my wife." The doctor said, "W ell it's not really in my power to give her to you as wife." Normally it's the father turning over the daughter to the would-be husband, but the doctor said, "It's not really up to me, because actually she's not my daughter. It appears to me that she's come from heaven. But you could ask her yourself if she would like to become your wife." So he brought the girl down. Her name was Kemuda, which means, "lotus." Nila proposed to her, "Let me take you as wife." He began to describe some of his qualifications to the girl. "You see this fist? This fist can punch and kill 500 people at once." Like this he was praising himself, and she was giggling shyly to herself, and she said, "I'm not interested in such things. If you want to marry me, you have to become a Vaisnava." Because Nila was so much taken by the girl, he said, "Yes yes, no problem. I will become a Vaisnava." He had no idea of what a Vaisnava was, he had no idea what the word meant, but he just knew vaguely that a Vaisnava had something to do with the temple. He had never gone to the big temple tha t was in that area, he had never had any interest in it, but he'd heard this word Vaisnava used in connection with the temple. Declaring he would immediately become a Vaisnava, he ran off in the direction of the temple. He came in, and told the priest, the head Brahmin, "I want to become a Vaisnava." The Brahmin said, "Ok, so you know that a Vaisnava is completely surrendered to Lord Visnu." "Yes yes yes," Nila said. "You know that a Vaisnava is only engaged in s ervice to Visnu and other Vaisnavas?" " Yeah yeah, no problem," Nila replied. "Well all right," said the Brahmin. "You're sure you want to be a Vaisnava?" "Of course," Nila said. So then the priest took the garland from the deity and placed it around Nila's neck, and Nila came back very proudly to the doctor's house, and showed Kemuda that he wearing the garland from the deity. "Now I am a Vaisnava," he said. But she said, "It is not enough just to officially be a Vaisnava.You have to act like one. If you want to marry me, then for one year you have to feed 1000 Vaisnavas every day, wash their feet, and drink the water." "All right," he said. So then he went and got his mates. "Got a job for you," he said. "Oh great! What is it?" they said, rubbing their hands in anticipation. And then he explained, "Each day for the next year I want you to go out and fetch 1000 Vaisnavas, bring them here, and then we'll feed them. Then you should wash their feet and bring the water to me so I can drink it." His mates looked at him and said, "Are y ou feeling all right." Nila said, "Well look, if you don't get into this right now then you're not going to be feeling all right." So then, just as they were accustomed to do any other job, they did this job in the same fashion. They went running out onto the street armed with many weapons, and whenever they saw a Vaisnava they would immediately grab him by the scruff of his neck, and herd him into Nila's place, shouting, "Come on, let's go! Move it!" And these Vaisnavas would be sayin g, "What's happen ing?" "Now sit down there in a line," Nila's boys would say. And then they would come with the pots and slap the prasadam down in front of them. "Eat!" The Vaisnavas would nervously take prasadam. "Eat more!" They would make sure all the Vaisnavas were filled up. And then they would come with foot washing paraphernalia. "Stick out your foot!" And then they would bring a big barrel of charanamrta to Nila, and he would scull it like a tankard. Pour it down his throat, wipe his mouth with the back of his hand and throw the barrel. So gradually by performing this service he began to transform. Actually, saintly qualities began to manifest in his person. And furthermore, he became very attached to this service to the Vaisnavas. In the end he did marry Kemuda, but that was no longer his motivation for doing the service, he just liked to do it. He found it very sweet and enlivening. He became so enthusiastic fo making arrangements for feeding 1000 Vaisnavas every day. You can just imagine his service was naturally increasing. The feast was becoming more and more opulent, the foot bathing ceremony became more and more opulent. In this way he was liberally spending money, until eventually he was out of cash, and he still hadn't completed his years service. In any case, he had no intention to stop after a year now. He just wanted to go on and on. So what to do, he had no more money with which to arrange for the feasts. But he had recently gathered together tax revenue to give to the king, and that w as still at his place, a huge sum of money. So he just started to spend that and continued on with his service. Now, meanwhile the king was expecting the tax money to be brought to his treasury house and it wasn't coming. So he was asking his ministers, "What's going on? Why hasn't Nila brought the money?" And then one minister said, "Well we have heard that this Nila is daily putting on huge feasts for the Vaisnavas, and it's becoming quite an opulent affair. M aybe that's where the money's going." The king was flabbergasted. "What?" And he immediately called for his commander-in-chief (senapati) the great general of his army, and with some soldiers, the commander-in-chief went to Nila's village to investigate and if necessary arrest Nila, and recover whatever tax money had not yet been wasted. So the commander-in-chief came and challenged Nila, announcing the purpose of his arrival. "I have come to investigate your doings," and he started to become very official with him. So one thing led to anot her, and there was a big fight, in which Nila soundly trounced the commander-in-chief and his soldiers. Because he was now, so to speak, a saintly person, he did not kill them but he gave them a severe beating. And he told the commander-in-chief as he was running off, "You can tell your king to come here personally if he likes, and I'll pay him the same tax as I paid you.!" So the commander-in-chief reported this to the king, and the king very angrily amassed his whole army and marched on that village. Nila met them in battle, and defeated the whole army. At the end of the battle Nila was standing on the king's chest, and the king was laying out on the battlefield. Nila was on his chest looking down at him saying, "That tax money I took, that was a loan, right?" And the king said, "Right!" But the king's ministers were there, his Brahmins, and they began to address Nila. "Certainly you are very powerful. you can defeat the king and his whole army. But that doesn't make what you are doing right. You have taken funds that were meant for the king's use, and the king's property is sacred. It is not to be violated by anyone for any purpose. So because you have done this you have broken the law and you must be punished." So when the Brahmins were speaking to him in that way, because he had become purified he surrendered to them. "OK, if I have done wrong then I must be punished. What sort of punishment should I receive?" The Brahmins said, "You should go in the jail." Nila submitted. Although b y f orce of arms he could not be captured, simply by logical argument and sastric evidence he surrendered. So he entered the prison of the king, but there of course he could no longer perform his service, so he became very, very unhappy and he prayed to Lord Visnu, "I just want to serve you. I don't see how I can do it here in jail." So Visnu appeared to him and told him, "You meet with the king and get him to transport you to Kancipuram, and at the direction of Varadaraja you will find treasure, and this treasure will be so much that you will be able to pay the king what you owe him, and use the rest for your service." So then Nila spoke to the king, he got the king's audience and explained the situation. The king sent him under guard to Kancipuram, and somehow the deity guided him to a particular spot and when he dug he found a great mass of treasure. So he brought that back to the king and offered to give what he owed him, but the king was so amazed that Lord Visnu Himself had shown Nila where the treasure was, that he said, "Who am I to stand in your way? If Lord Visnu is talking to you directly, then you must be a great soul." And then he let him go. So then Nila embarked on a new scheme. "There are so many rich vaisyas," he was saying to his mates, "They've got so much money. I see them transporting their goods here and there in caravans. And actually it's their duty to give donations to the service of the Vaisnavas, but they are not doing this. And here we are, we're having to worry about how to fund our project of serving the devotees, and these vaisyas are just going here and there, using their wealth as the they like, so let us get it from them. We will stop these caravans on lonely stretches of highway in the forest. We'll be nice, we'll ask them first of all if they would like to give a donation, but if they don't then we'll simply take everything." So they began this new scheme, and of course attached vaisyas never give donations willingly, so they always ended up having to tie them up and plunder the caravan, strip everything, and that they were utilizing as their wealth for serving the vaisnavas. So one night they were going to plunder , and down the road came a very big caravan of 30 bullock carts, and at the head of the caravan was a very wonderful looking young merchant, and also his wife who was very beautiful, and they were dressed in all kinds of opulent finery, jewellery and crowns. The bullock carts were also being driven by servants who were equally opulent and wonderful in their appearance. So Nila stepped out on the road and stopped the whole procession, and he saw the opulence of the merchant and h is wife and their caravan, and he remarked, "Well my dear sir, you look to be very very wealthy." And the merchant smiled and said, "Yes, actually all wealth is mine." So Nila kind of laughed and turned to his mates, "Ha ha ha. We've really got a live tonight.! Well if all wealth is yours then you won't mind parting with some of it." And the merchant smiled and said, "Yes, but my wealth is only engaged in Vaisnava-seva." So then they said, "Well that's very nice because I am a vaisnava. So I'm sure you'll be happy to give me your wealth." The merchant smiled again and said` "Well, I won't give you." "So you want to fight?" Nila asked. "No, you just take, said the merchant. "You are free to take, but I am not going to give." "All right," said Nila, "Let's go." So they tied them all up, as they normally did, and they stripped the bullock carts, and not only that but they also took all the finery from the merchant and his wife and their servants, all the jewe ls, everything. And the wife's foot, on her toe, there was on ring with a valuable gem in it. So Nila was trying to personally pull this ring off her toe, but it wouldn't come off. Finally he had to kneel down and bite the ring, to change it's shape a little bit so it would slip off. And while he was doing that, his consciousness was flooding with all sorts of wonderful ecstatic realizations. But he was so much absorbed and determined to get this ring off that he really didn't take much note of it. And then he finally pulled the ring off, and all the wealth was piled together, and he and his men were going to carry it off, but they couldn't lift it. It was so heavy. So then he turned to the merchant and said, "I think you must have some mantra by which you move your wealth about, because obviously it is somehow charmed that it cannot be moved." And then the merchant said, "Yes, there is a secret mantra." ""You'd better tell me," Nila demanded. "All right, just come close," the merchant said. So then he whis pered in Nila's ear, "Om namo narayanayah." And when Nila heard this mantra he realized that this merchant and His wife were none other that Laksmi and Narayana, and he saw them in their original forms. So then he fell down at Their lotus feet, but because he was so furiously engaged in his devotional service, Nila quickly sprang up and said, "All right, look, we've gotta go. We'll see you tomorrow, OK" And then They said, "All right, you come here tomorrow. We can talk further." So then Nila ran off with the wealth, and continued with his service. The next day he came back to that place in the forest, and Laksmi and Narayana were there, and he worshipped Them. They were very pleased with him for his service to the Vaisnavas, but he declared to Them, "I'm always having trouble getting money to do this service, therefore I'm always having to plunder merchants, and I don't know where all this is going to lead. So do you have any suggestion where I can get wealth from?" And Lord Narayana said, "Well actually, there are so many Buddha temples around, and Buddha is My avatar, but He only came to preach to the atheists. However, these Buddha temples have become quite opulent. So I don't mind if you plunder these Buddhist temples." Nila was very happy. "Well actually I was thinking the same thing myself. But if I get Your permission, then that's wonderful." "Yes, you have my permission," the Lord said. So then, when his wealth again ran out, then Nila and his monks went one night to a huge Buddhist monastery where 1000 monks were living. And in that temple there was a huge reclining Buddha made out of solid gold. His men were using their various mystic powers to get them into the temple. Nila was standing guard just outside the temple door, and his men were in there at work, trying to dislodge the deity and bring it out. So, while doing this they set off an alarm, and then the Buddhists came tumbling out of their beds and rushing into the temple courtyard. They were all armed, and all very expert at martial arts. So what ensued next was like something from a kung-fu movie. All these Buddhist monks were jumping at Nila, and he was kicking them back and fighting them off. And he was calling into the temple, "Hey hurry up! Are you done in there?" But meanwhile his men were having difficulty, because they found that the murti was charmed, so as soon as they touched it to remove it, it started to spin, faster and faster like a helicopter propeller, from the middle point, and a huge heavy golden idol spinning like that, they couldn't get close to it. So then they were calling out to Nila, "We can't take this because it's spinning. It's charmed." So then Nila, while he was fighting off these men, he called out, "Well, just pass urine!" So they passed urine in there, and this broke the spell. The murti stopped, and they could shoulder it. They were obviously very strong persons, and they ran out with it. Nila was fighting with the Buddhists, and then they went running through the night with the Buddhists pursuing them. Nila and his men went to Sri Rangam, a great Visnu temple. There is a great wall around it like a fortress, and they closed the door so the Buddhists couldn't enter. The Buddhists then went to the king and complained. The king was again in a difficult situation having to deal with Nila, so he called Nila in and said, "Nila, we have a little problem here. These Buddhists have accused you of stealing their murti. I'm the king here, I have to keep everyone happy. So I'd really appreciate it if you could return this murti." Some of t he Buddhist leaders were also standing there, looking at Nila rather intensely. So Nila said, "Don't worry, don't worry. In two weeks I'll return this murti to you, not less than a finger." Everyone was happy. "All right, we can wait two weeks." So then two weeks came, and the Buddhists gathered at the meeting place where Nila was to return the murti, but when they arrived they saw only Nila and his men there, and no murti. They became a little nervous. "Well, where's our Buddha?" Nila reached into his pocket and pulled out a finger, a golden finger. "Here it is," he said, "not less than a finger." The Buddhists became very angry, and there was a big fight. Nila defeated them and forced them to become Vaisnavas, forcibly converted them. And what he had done with that golden murti is that he had melted it down and used it t o cover the dome above Lord Ranganatha. Nowadays you can go to Sri Rangaksetra, and if you talk to the right people you can go up to a look-out place on top of the temple and see this very ornate solid gold dome, very huge. This was melted down from the Buddha murti by Nila. In this way Nila became a very prominent Vaisnava of his time, and by force of arms if necessary he drove out the influence of Kali-yuga in his area. Everyone had to become a Vaisnava, he converted everyone. As he used to collect taxes, so wherever he would go everyone wo uld become a Vaisnava immediately. And when there was a festival at Sri Rangaksetra, they would take the deity in procession, and Nila would march in front of the deity with his sword out, he would be looking from left to right at everyone. And when he was asked, "What are you doing? You look so fearsome with your sword out, looking so scrutinizingly at everyone's face," and his answer would be, "Yes. Any offender I see will be chopped." So it was a rather intense mood in those festivals. He was the enforcer of Vaisnava-dharma. In spite of the influence of Kali-yuga which is so powerful to sweep away all proper religious principles, this devotee Nila, in South India, by the force of his devotion as well as the force of his strong arms and use of weapons, he instituted Vaisnavism. By pleasing the Vaisnavas, he got the darsana of Laksmi-Narayana. Actually this pastime when he was plundering their caravan, and in particular taking the ring from the lotus toe of Laksmi, this is actually where the Laksmi sampradaya started. Ramanuja later established the Laksmi sampradaya with siddhanta, Vedantic conclusions, but the devotional line actually starts here with Nila taking the ring from Laksmi's toe.
There is one incident which happened in Benares about 300 years ago. There was one Brahmin who used to go take bath in Manikarnika-ghat, a very nice bathing place. So one day when he was taking bath he saw a young boy sitting on the steps crying. He felt very compassionate and he went and took the young boy on his lap and asked, "You look so beautiful, a nice attractive young boy. Why are you crying like this?" "You look at my back," the boy replied. So when the Brahmin lifted up the young boy's shirt and looked at his back, he saw so many cuts and blood was running. The man was very angry, and he asked, "Who did this to you?" The boy said, "I will show you. Come with me." The man was all wet, he was halfway through taking bath, but he caught hold of the boy's hand, and the boy was pulling him. They went through the streets and into the village of Benares, through small alleys and lanes, and they came in front of one small house. The boy said, "The man who lives in here, he' s the one who did it to me." And as the man looked, he realized that it was his own house. When he looked back, the boy had gone. So the Brahmin went inside his house, sat down and began to cry. So his wife came and asked him, "What happened to you? Why are you crying? You are all wet." And he said, "I saw this beautiful boy, he was so attractive, but he had cuts all over his back. And he said that someone from this house did it to him. I don't know who did this. Why did he say it was someone from this house?" His wife said, "Tomorrow you go to the same place and maybe he will come again. This could be some god, some Devata." So the next day he went, and he saw that the same boy was there, and he was still crying. He went to him and said, "My dear child, you said that the person who did this came from my house? What did you mean?" The boy replied, "You look in your Bhagavad-gita and you will find out." And while saying that he disappeared. So the man retu rned to his house, took out his Bhagavad-gita and began to s tudy it. He had been learning Bhagavad-gita a few months before, and he had thought some verses were important, and he was thinking that this place was connected with another place, so he was making markings on the Bhagavad-gita. And while making the markings sometimes he would underline something. So then he went to his guru. He told the whole story, and then asked his teacher to explain what was happening. His guru told him, "My dear student, how many times have I told you that this Bhagavad-gita is Krsna Himself. It is His own energy. So why are you cutting and drawing and doing all this on the Bhagavad-gita verses? In this way you have offended the Lord, and that is why He is teaching you this lesson." The Brahmin said, "Oh, I am feeling very bad. I will never do this again." and he begged for forgiveness. The next day when he came to take bath he saw that the boy was again sitting there, but he was smiling. He came to the bo y and fell at His feet, saying, "Oh, I am very sorry I have done this . Although You are a small boy, you have taught me a great lesson." So then the boy got up and said, "Yes, I am a very small boy, but you must know that I spoke Bhagavad-gita, and that Gita is mine." And then the boy disappeared. Soon the man left his study and everything, and according to the people's conception he became a madman. He was always calling, "Krsna!" and running here and there, and in this way he ended his life. Nobody knew what happened to him. The house is still there. You can still see that house, and the book is still there, and you can see the markings too.
In South-west India in the state known as Kerala, there is a famous Vaisnava temple situated near the sea-coast. This Guru-vayur temple is very ancient. It was founded by Lord Parasurama. There was one Brahmin living there, but he was not a Vaisnava. He was tantric, he had mystic powers. But he was a good man, he used those powers for helping others. He was also known as a great poet. So one day a relative came to him with a very terrible disease, and although he had been practically everywhere, no-o ne could give him help to cure this disease. The Bhattahari tried to treat the disease in every way he knew, but nothing worked. So finally out of compassion, because he was a good man, he took the disease upon himself, he transferred it. This much he could do. So in this way the relative was cured, but now he had the problem. And he was thinking, "By having this disease in myself I'll definitely be forced to deal with it and I'll arrive at some kind of cure." But whatever he tried wo uld not work, so he was getting himself into serious difficulty. He then went to one wise man, a great sage, and implored him, "I have this disease. I have exhausted all means available to my knowledge how to cure it. So what can I do?" This wise man replied with a mysterious answer, which the Bhattahari did not understand. He said, "Start to enjoy from fish." The Bhattahari went away perplexed, and he was sitting at home thinking, "What does this mean, start to enjoy from fish?" So one of his friends came to visit. "Have you been to see this wise man?" He asked. "Yes, have seen him," the Bhattahari replied. "Well, what did he say?" "He said, 'start to enjoy from fish.' I don't know what this means. If this means that I should eat fish, that I will not do, because I am a Brahmin." His friend thought about it and said, "No, I don't think he means that. I think he means that you should start to enjoy Krsna's pastimes, starting with Matsya, th e fish incarnation." So the Bhattahari was thinking, "Yes, this must be the meaning, but I am not a Vaisnava. I have no taste for this. How will I do this?" In that state of mind he took rest, and the Lord of Guru-vayur, the deity who is four-handed, appeared to him in a dream and told him, "I want you to write a nice poetic composition of 100 verse, and in these 100 verses you describe and glorify these 10 avatars." So he awoke from that dream feeling very happy and ecstatic. The Lord was personally giving him direction on how to 'start to enjoy from fi sh,' and his dou bts were cleared away. So then he began his composition, but because he did not have training as a devotee, he was still perplexed. He was referring to Srimad-Bhagavatam, but still perplexity would sometimes arise in his mind. So he would go before the deity in the temple and pray, "My dear Lord, I want to put in my poem exactly how You were moving when You were fighting with the demon Hiranyakasipu in Your Nrsimha form, and I cannot pick this up from reading Srimad-Bhagavatam, so how can I describe this ?" The deity then revealed that form to his eyes only, and the Lord was moving in such a way. The Brahmin was describing as he was seeing. He also wanted to know about Krsna's breaking the pot and stealing the butter and yoghurt of the older gopis. "With what were You breaking the pots?" the Bhattahari inquired. "Was it Your flute, or something else?" So then the Lord showed Himself as Krsna holding a butter-churning rod. "With this I was breakin g the pot." So he put that all in his poem, all these specialized details. So the poem, which was called "Narayaniyam", was very beautiful, and he recited this poem after he finished it before the deity in the temple. The result of this recitation was that his disease immediately disappeared. And not only that, but the poem was so pleasing that the temple Brahmins immediately requested, "You please recite this poem daily, at the first darsana." So they gave him a place to sit, a special asana, and he would recite there every morning. As a matter of fact, the poem was so much appreciated that every morning before going to see the deity, the people would gather in that place before his asana and listen to the recitation. It became the custom that you could not go to see the deity unless you heard this poem glorifying the pastimes of the Lord. Then only could one appreciate seeing the form of the Lord. This was the idea. And at that time in the area of Kerala, there were three kings. Kerala was divided into three kingdoms, and the Guru-vayur Mandir was the beloved Mandir of all three kings. So they would come together to have darsana in the morning and they would also be there to hear the Narayaniyam from the Bhattahari. In this way he became very important, very much respected as a Vaisnava, and an authority on Krsna-lila. Unfortunately he also became a little bit proud by this attention that everyone was paying. There was one farmer named Pundaram, a simple farmer, but he was also a great devotee of the Lord. So he wrote one book in glorification of the deity of the Guru-vayur Mandir, and this book was called, in the Malayan language, "A Pot of Knowledge." He was thinking after he wrote that book, "Let this glorification of the Lord of Guru-vayur also become well-known. But since I am a simple farmer, not recognized by anyone as a great scholar, if the Bhattahari himself would write an int roduction to my book then it would be accepted." So thinking like that, Pundaram came to the Bhattahari, and very humbly he respectfully approached the Bhattahari. "I very much appreciate your Narayaniyam, you have very rightly become respected by everyone for you glorification of the Lord. Now I have also written one book, so will you please read it? And could you please just write some small introduction?" So the Bhattahari, thinking himself most important, said, "What language hav e you written this book in?" because he noticed that Pundaram was addressing him in Malayan, which is simply the local dialect of Kerala. But in those days, any kind of learned, literary work would only be written in Sanskrit. All over India that was the standard. Sanskrit was the language of literature, and educated persons would speak in Sanskrit, whereas farmers and simple people would speak in local dialects. This farmer Pundaram was speaking to Bhattahari in Malayan, so he wanted to know, "What language have you written this book in?" A nd the farmer replied, "In Malayan." "I won't read any book written in this language. You write it in Sanskrit if you want me to read it. What are you asking?" Pundaram was crushed. He was thinking, "I am lucky to know Malayan, let alone Sanskrit. This much I can write," and he went away feeling very disheartened. "How will I ever get this book rendered into Sanskrit? It won't be possible. No-one will know it." So the next morning the Bhattahari was seated on his asana, and the crowd was there, the kings were there. He was just ready to let fly with his Narayaniyam, when one young brahmacari came in through the entrance of the temple. The brahmacari just walked around the crowd of exalted personalities, without even looking at the Bhattahari. He walked right up to the deity at the front of the temple, paid his obeisances and then stood there and took darsana. He then turned around and again wa lked past the c rowd towards the entrance to make his way out. The Bhattahari was watching the whole thing, and then as he saw that the brahmacari was just going to walk right out, he said, "Come here young man!" The people all insisted that the young man come, so he came and stood before the Bhattahari. The Bhattahari was giving him advice. "My dear young man," he said. "You are simply a young brahmacari student. You should show respect for your elders, especially those who have knowledge to give, and yet I see that you are just coming in this temple, you are walking around such exalted personalities as even the three Kerala kings, and you're going straight up to take darsana of the deity, which none of these personalities will do without hearing me recite my poem. So what kind of behaviour is this?" The brahmacari then said, "If I want to know about the pastimes of the Lord, I just go see Him, because He is displaying them eternally. Why should I hear your mista ke-ridden poetry?" The Bhattahari was shocked! "How can you say my poetry is mistake-ridden? Everyone here, there are exalted Brahmins, there are learned court panditas, there are the kings themselves here, and they're all praising my poetry as being the very cream of all poems. And you're saying it's filled with mistakes! You, little fellow? Not even come out of the Gurukula yet! So I imagine you are also competent to correct these mistakes, isn't it?" And the brahmacari said, "Yes." "At least in this way, you will give my poetry a hearing. So I will recite now. You listen, and if you find some mistake, you can say. Hm!" So the brahmacari said, "Yes, all right." The Bhattahari began. He recited the first verse, and everyone was completely silent. He was just ready to go on to the second verse when the brahmacari spoke up. He pointed out five faults in the first verse, and actually they were valid criticisms. Somehow or other no-one had noticed these five faults in the first verse, but he pointed them out with such profound conclusive grammati cal analysis that no-one could argue. "Well yes, actually he's right. Why didn't we see that?" So the Bhattahari cleared his throat and then he began to recite the second verse. He was just about to go on to the third, but the brahmacari pointed out ten faults in the second verse. Everyone was starting to look at each other doubtfully. The Bhattahari was becoming nervous, but he gritted his teeth and recited the third verse in which the boy pointed out fifteen f aults. The fourth verse he pointed out twenty, the fifth verse twenty-five, and the Bhattahari did not try to recite the sixth verse. He stopped there. The crowd was milling around and talking to each other. "What is this? Every morning we're listening to this poem, but it's so filled with mistakes. How can we be so foolish?" Then they just went to see the deity, and the Bhattahari was just left there. The brahmacari just walked off. As the Bhattahari was sitting there, he wa s stunned. "What has happened?" And then he felt the disease coming back. Then he was really disturbed. "What is happening now?" And then he went before the deity, and he was praying very earnestly, "My dear Lord, how is this possible? My poem was praised by everyone, and now one young boy has found faults. And this disease has come back. What does all this mean?" So then the deity spoke to him. "Whose poem did you say that was?" The Bhattahari answered, "I guess I said it was my poem." "This is your problem," said the Lord. "First of all, I told you to w rite that poem, and secondly even when you could not do that, I had to show you Myself what to put in that poem. So if I also come personally in the form of a young brahmacari and criticize My own poem, is there any harm in that?" The Bhattahari then realized who the brahmacari was, and he felt very ashamed. "Yes, my Lord. If You want to criticize Your own poem, Your own poem, You can do that. It's a fact." "Only I can criticize My own composition," the Lord said. "No-one else can do that." But the Bhattahari was still confused. "But now this disease has come back. What is the cause of this?" The deity replied, "Because you are an offender against Vaisnavas, My servants." "Who is that?" the Bhattahari asked. "The farmer Pundaram. You have dealt with him most arrogantly." The Bhattahari immediately felt very sorry, and the deity told him, "You go, and bring him to the temple and have him read h is composition before Me. Just as you are doing every morning, you have him do this. You arrange this." So the Bhattahari ran like a flash, found Pundaram and fell at his feet. Pundaram was very surprised. "The Bhattahari is falling at my feet? What is this?" "Please you come," said the Bhattahari. "Bring your book, and recite it for the deity." So Pundaram was very happy. They came to the temple, and Pundaram was going to recite when the other Brahmins, who were also arrogant, th e pujaris who take care of the deity, they interfered. "Wait a minute, wait a minute. We can't have some farmer coming in here and just spouting something off in the presence if the deity." The Bhattahari said, "But the Lord Himself has told me that this must be." "Well," said the Brahmins, "we won't argue with that, we know you. But this person, what is his qualification? He must be trained. He cannot just start spewing forth something. We must see that he is capable of reciting nicely ." So then they decided to teach him the re citation of Visnu-sahasra-nama. This they were reciting daily for the deity, this was the standard glorification for the deity in that temple. So they say him down and began the recitation, and they were having him recite along. They reached the word "Padmanabhamaram". Padmanabha means "lotus navel." And amaram means "deathless". So in other words the eternal form of the Lord who has a lotus-like navel is being praised by this particular name. But when Pundaram pronounced that name, he muddled it tog ether. "Padmanamomaram." So by pronouncing it like that, other meanings come out, but not the ones that are traditionally accepted. The Brahmins immediately stopped the whole thing. "What are you saying? Padmanamomaram! This is improper pronunciation. Do you know what this means? You are saying that the Lord is the Lord of the dead, that He's the Lord of the trees or of the mortal human beings. This is offensive! He is the Lord of Vaikuntha, He has nothing to do with the ignorant beings of this world. This is very degrading to describe Krsna like this." In this way they were chastising him. Suddenly the deity spoke aloud, and everyone stopped. "If I am not the Lord of the dead, If I am not the Lord of the trees, If I am not the Lord of the mortal human beings, then who is?" The Brahmins had nothing to say. So to this day, when you visit the Guru-vayur Mandir, the Brahmins are still reciting Visnu-sahasra-nama. But when they come to that name, they pronounce it as Pundaram pronounced it, because that pleased the deity. This is an irregular pronunciation, but they also say "Padmanamomaram", and they all look at the deity just to see that He is satisfied before they go on. So this Guru-vayur murti, and also Sri Rangam, they came later on to those places, although they were worshipped from the beginning of creation by Lord Brahma. Lord Rama gave Bibishana (Vibishana) the deity of Lord Ranganath, and he was taking it to Sri Lanka to install it there. This was after Ravana had been killed. But the deity, when it reached that place now known as Trishi where Sri Rangam temple now is, it wouldn't go any further. They had to set the deity down and they coul dn't lift Him, so they had to bu ild a temple right there. And similarly, this land known as Kerala, the sea coast land where Guru-vayur Mandir is situated was all land that was recovered from the ocean by Parasurama, after He killed all the ksatriyas. He wanted to go to a peaceful place, and He wanted to give some land where the Brahmins could live and settle nicely without disturbance. So He stood at the edge of the land, and He threw His axe Parasu across the ocean, and as far as the axe went before it dropped into the ocean, this whole region known as Kerala rose up. He established this deity, and He brought Brahmins from other regions. Actually it is said that He brought the Brahmins from Bengal. Kerala is also a very great Vaisnava place. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited these Visnu temples.
Once there was a devotee called Vipra Narayana. This incident happened 190 years after the beginning of Kali-yuga. He was a gardener at Sri Rangam, and he was totally absorbed in gathering flowers and tulasi, making garlands for the deity. He was so absorbed that his mind was fixed on seeing flowers and tulasi plants; he wouldn't see anything else. Scientists say there are some living entities who, while looking for food, tune out everything else apart from the particular thing that they feed. Similarly Vipra Narayana had this quality. When he was out in the garden looking for tulasi manjaris or flowers, that was all he could see. If there was a snake between one flower bush and another flower bush, he would simply go from one bush to the next, look at the snake and say, "No flowers." He was only interested in flowers. He was flowerive, not fruitive. In that garden one day, there came a very beautiful prostitute named Devadevi, and her older sister. This Devadevi was so expert in displaying feminine charms that even kings were waiting in line to see her with their crowns in their hands. That was the rule she made, that when kings came they should have no crowns on their head. She was so much in demand, and of course she was very proud of her beauty and feminine qualities. She was very expert in all the arts of singing and dancing and entertaining men. She was most highly developed in all these things. And of course, she was confident that she was the most beautiful woman in creation, and very proud of her ability to charm men. Devadevi and her older sister were coming to meet the king. And on the way they came through this Sri Rangam island, and they saw this beautiful island which was made by Vipra Narayana. They wanted to take some rest in there. Vipra Narayana came by, picking flowers and tulasi as usual. He was looking through the bushes selecting, and as he was going through the bushes he came right up to Devadevi. He looked at her for an instant, but it didn't register in his consciousness. The y were standing there with full ornaments and everything on, and when Vipra Narayana saw them he simply said, "No flowers." And then he just walked one and began to pick flowers from another bush. Devadevi was somewhat offended by this. "Who is this man? What does he mean by saying 'no flowers?' He is blind. He has no consciousness." Her sister, who was a little bit older and wiser, said, "No no, he is Krsna Conscious. That is why he doesn't look at you. This is Vipra Narayana. He is a great devotee, and we have no business with him. Don't get involved with him." But Devadevi said, "No, no. I don't care. He may be devotee, he may be whatever, but I tell you I will make him my slave in nine days." Her sister was shocked that Devadevi would even think of pursuing such a saintly person, and she said, "Well, if you want to finish your existence, then you can do it. But it will be a great offence." Devadevi said, "You wait and see. On the ninth day from now, he will be at my feet. Instead of chanting the name of Ranganath, he will chant my name. And instead of crying for Ranganath, he will cry for me. And instead of plucking flowers he will be plucking his sikha." The other girl left the place, not wanting to hear these atrocities. So then Devadevi went up to Vipra Narayana, and she began to manifest all different symptoms and postures of feminine attraction. But this had no effect on Vipra Narayana at all. Again, it was like he just didn't see her or perceive her. She was trying everything in the book, all the glances, all the different smiles and poses, but it just didn't register in his consciousness.. "This is a real challenge," she thought, and just became more enthusiastic. So she went away and dressed herself to look like a vairagini, a woman who has renounced the world for spiritual life. She tied her hair, and put on very simple cloth, kanthimala, tilaka and all the symptoms of a vaisnava. And then she came back to the garden with a vina. She also learned that Vipra Narayana had written some songs in praise of Lord Ranganath, so she learned these songs as she was very expert in singing. So she sat in the garden playing the vina, and she was singing Vipra Narayana's songs to Lord Ranganath. And also because of being very expert in all the feminine arts she was also crying. She could make herself cry and her voice was quivering in emotion. It was a very attractive presentation. So this Vipra Narayana couldn't help noticing, because he was a dev otee. When he heard her singing his songs and when he looked and saw her displaying symptoms of intense ecstasy and devotion to the Lord, he became inclined to speak with her. He went over and said, "You are obviously a very nice devotee of the Lord. What are you doing here?" And she said, "Oh, my position is very unfortunate. You see, I am born in a family of prostitutes." In those days even the prostitution was a family business, just like everything else in varnasrama, handed down in the family. "I am born in a family of prostitutes, and in nine da ys I will have reached the age where my mother will engage me in prostitution. But I have no interest in this. I want to become Lord Ranganatha's devotee. So I am heartbroken that in nine days my mother is going to come and make me into a prostitute. This is such a horrible fate. I have come here just to take shelter of the devotees, maybe I will get the Lord's mercy somehow or other." So Vipra Narayana said, "Yes, all right. I don't see that there's any problem, you ca n stay here. You are a very nice singer, so go on singing these songs in praise of Lord Ranganatha. When you're not singing you can make some garlands. You can stay here as long as you like." She was very happy, and in this way they were associating. Then one day, by the arrangement of the Lord, there was an intense downpour, and she was just sitting in the garden singing. She used to just sing all day. This was her service, and once in a while she used to make garlands. When it star ted to rain, she just stayed in the garden and kept singing. Vipra Narayana was sitting in his small kutir, out of the rain, but he began to feel guilty because there was this young girl sitting out in the rain still singing, and this moved his heart. "Such a great devotee is she that even in the downpour she continues to sing. She is a woman, she is outside in the rain. What am I doing in my asrama?" So then, feeling guilty, he came out and invited her, "You please go into my little hut and I will remain outside." She went inside the hut and kept singing, and he was listening. And then suddenly she stopped singing. Vipra Narayana was wondering, "What is happening now?" And next moment she was crying. He thought, "Maybe there is a snake there! There may be some danger, so I will have to go." So he went in the little hut. He found her and she was crying, weeping, unhappy, putting on a good show. "What's wrong?" he asked. "In just a couple of days," she said, "mother's going to come and take me away. She's found out that I'm here. Oh, my lot is so unfortunate, I don't know what's going to happen." And then she began to cry again. This is the way a woman cracks a man's heart. Vipra Narayana was feeling very sorry for her, and then she was starting to shiver and sneeze to make out that she had caught a cold in the rain, and he was feeling even more sorry for her. So then he gave her a change of clothing, she was wearing his own clothes. And then, after that, she started to turn it on. "Lo ok at our situation," she said. "Now we're together in your house, and I'm even wearing your clothes. We're so close, we've become so intimate in our last few days together, that you might as well take me as your wife. And if you do that, then my mother can't take me away." Vipra Narayana thought a while, and then said, "Well, yes all right. As far as I'm concerned, you're a very nice devotee and I like to be with you, and if this will stop you from crying and feeling unhappy then we can get married." So then they got married, and then in those few days she just completely roped him down, took over his heart with all of her charms, and then on the ninth day she left and returned to her mother's place to continue on being a prostitute. When Vipra Narayana found out that Devadevi had left, he went mad. He had become her slave. He was beside himself with all kinds of grief, and he was running around trying to find out where she lived, as he wanted to see her. Now in the meantime, Lord Ranganatha seeing the condition of his devo tee and knowing that if Vip ra Narayana goes to Devadevi that she's simply going to reject him, and then who knows what will happen. There were five pots in front of Lord Ranganatha for the worship. He took one pot from the middle, a gold pot, and he took the form of a Brahmin and went to Devadevi's house. He said, "Vipra Narayana has sent me. My name is Sundaraja." Sundaraja means, "King of beauty." "This is his payment, so please accept him, and do him some service." So when Devadevi's moth er saw this gold pot, her mouth opene d. And then some time later Vipra Narayana arrived. "Is Devadevi here?" he asked. "Who are you?" the mother asked. "She's my wife," Vipra Narayana said, and then the mother invited him into the house. "Please come in and sit down. Yes, we received your gold pot." Then she went to get Devadevi. "There's a man, one of your customers here to see you, Vipra Narayana." "That guy?" said Devadevi. "He's just a sadhu. I only stayed with him to break h is renunciation, otherwise I have no interest in him." The mother got on her case. "What do you mean? He sent over this golden pot. The guy's loaded! Get out there and take care of him." So she went out, and just because her mother wanted her to, she was putting on a whole act. "Oh, you're here! Oh well I..." and he was happy. Now in the meantime the priests found out that one of the pots was missing, and a big alarm was raised at Sri Rangam temple. The king was brought into the mystery, and the king sent out his men, and just like nowadays when the police go out to investigate a crime, they always go to a certain section of town where the criminal types dwell, and that's also the place where the prostitutes are. They were doing a house to house search there, and when they came to Devadevi's house, they saw the pot. "How did you get this pot?" And then Devadevi, because she just wanted to get rid of Vipra Narayana, said, "Oh, he stole it. This so-called sadhu was enjoying with me, and to pay me off he stole this pot from the deity and sent it o ver here. So you can see the character of this man who you think is so saintly." So in this way she was really trying to get him in trouble, but Vipra Narayana was so respected that when they took him to see the king, the king didn't believe it. Although the evidence was strong, they had found Vipra Narayana in the house (a very embarrassing situation) and the pot of the deity was there, the king didn't believe that Vipra Narayana stole it. So the king went before Lord Ranganatha and prayed. And Ranganath confirmed, "No, it wasn't Vipra Narayana. It was me. I sent the gold pot to the house of the prostitute, because my devotee was indebted to her, so I thought I'd pay off the debt and get him out of trouble. So if you want to punish someone, you punish me. But you can't punish me, because it is my pot." When all this was revealed to the king, he had a long talk with Vipra Narayana and explained the real situation, what had been going on and what this woman had been doing to him. And then he banished th is prostitute Devadevi from his kingdom. However, somehow or other by this whole situation she had become reformed in her consciousness. As soon as the cat was out of the bag and everything was exposed, then she suddenly had a complete change of heart. She thought, "Well if I'm going to be banished, then I might as well really take up the life of a renunciate devotee." So then she made her obeisances to Vipra Narayana, he gave her some inst ructions and then she went and never returned. So this is a sto ry that Srila Prabhupada mentions to illustrate that a great devotee may have some accidental fall-down, but he should not be criticized, because as Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita that such a sadhu remains engaged in his devotional service, and he will very soon be rectified. So we should know that things sometimes do happen, but not jump on it and wag out tongues, trying to create a big scandal, because that will be sadhu-ninda, and will be detrimental to our spiritual life.
There was one king who was so sinful that his body became black.
He didn't know what to do. So he asked his pandita, "What should
I do? I have become black. I don't llok good any more."
"It is because you are so sinful," the pandita said. "You have committed
so many sins." The king said, "Yes, but there must be some puja or
something that will make my problem go." The pandita said, "You worship
Krsna, depend upon Krsna and pray to Him, and you will become all right."
The king said, "That I am doing , but could you do somthing else so that
I can quickly get rid of this problem?" The pandita said, "Yes, we
can do it no problem. You make a golden form of male and female,
and I will do a yajna for 18 days. And then I will transform the
sinful reactions to those golden forms. You should then invite a
brahmana to take charity, and if you can find a brahamana who will take
the charity, then he will suffer from the sinful reactions and you will
become pure. Because you are the administrator of the land, and you
are ruler of the country, so I can do this especially for you." The
king said, "Yes, yes, please do it." So they made these golden forms and
yajna went on for 18 days. And when he was doing his purnahoti then
he took a teaspoon and touched the king's body, and he touched the golden
form with the teaspoon it became black. All the sinful reactions
went in there. So then the king got up and said, "I will give half
of my kingdom to any brahmana who will accept the charity." And immediately
all th e brahmanas got up and left that place, because they saw in fromt
of them that the gold had become black, so who wants to take that?
If golden colour becomes tar black, then who will take that charity?
This was not Kali-yuga so in those days the brahmanas were still good.
In Kali-yuga they will take any charity. Then the king said, "Now
what? The sinful reactions are in the golden forms but nobody will
take it." The pandita said, "We will wait for one or two days.
Somebody will take it." The news went around the whole city.
Then one brahmana came from another country. "What will I do with your
country? You are the king, and you are supposed to protect your citizens.
Because you are in a responsible position, I will help you out and take
it. I don't want anything from you." So theh he received the
charity, and thet king poured water on his hand and gave it to him.
As soon as he touched those, two figures came out of the golden forms,
one male and one female, and they looked so ugly. They had cuts all
over their bodies, and they looked like ghosts.
Then they began to chase this brahmana. The brahmana was running,
and the king was following behind the whole scene on his horse just to
see what was happening. So as soon as the brahmana came to a small
lake, he just jumped in and stood waist-deep, and he began to chant something.
The king was watching, and he saw that from the syllables that were pronounced
in his mouth, four-handed Visnu murtis came out. Not one or two,
bu t they just kept coming with conch, club, disc, and lotus and they filled
up the whole area. They were guarding the lake. And when the
ghosts came, some of the Visnu-dutas looked at them and they immediately
got burnt. And then the Visnu-dutas disappeared. So when the
man came out, the king went and touched his feet. He said, "I won't
tell anyone. You please give me this secret mantra that produces
these four-handed forms." But the brahmana said, "I don't know what
that mantra is." "You don't know?" the king said. "No," replied the
brahmana, "because when I went to the gurukula, I was so stupid that my
gurukula principal kicked me out. He said, 'You are not fit to be
in the gurukula.' I didn't know what to do at all, so in this way
I was just wandering and wandering. One day I came to a tree, and
there was a scholar there. This scholar said, 'Why are you wasting
your life like this? Why don't you learn a verse?' So I said,
'I don't have a brain. I have no masala, so how can I learn verses?'
He said, 'At least learn half a verse.' But I said, 'I can't, Swamiji.
I have no intelligence.' 'Don't worry,' he said, "I will teach you
half a verse. I will see that a fool will learn a verse from me so
my education is good. So you sit here and I will forcibly make you
learn this verse. Chant like this, like that, say like this..'
He taught me like this, and I memorised half a verse. He then told
me, 'You go on chanting this only. You don't need anything else.'
So I kept on chanting, chanting, chanting . And one day w hile I
was chanting, I found that there was a four-handed figure in front of me.
I thought, 'This is Bhagavan,' so I said, 'Oh Visnu, you have come so quickly.'
And he said, 'Oh no, I am a Visnu-duta.' I asked him, 'Where did
you come from?' 'From the syllables of the verse you were chanting.'
I said, 'You came from the syllables?' He said, 'Yes. If you
look now, more are coming.' So I looked and I saw that these people
are coming out, and I was so excit ed. So then I looked at them and
asked, 'What should I do? Now that I have this siddhi, what should
I do?' They answered, 'Use it for the welfare of people. Don't
commercialize it.' 'Yes yes, I shall use it for the welfare of people.
And I will go and teach everyone.' In this way I have been traveling
around, and whenever I saw anyone in difficulty I chanted this verse and
then the Visnu-dutas came and solved all the problems." The king then asked,
"What is that verse? Can you please teach it to me?" The brahmana
replied, "Yes, I can teach you. Sit here, and exactly as I have learnt
I will teach you. I was a fool and I learnt. You are intelligent,
so why should there be any difficulty for you to learn? So here is
the verse: Man-mana bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaji mam namaskuru."
"You don't know the whole verse?" the king asked. "No, that is the
only part I know." So the king said, "If half a verse of Gita is
so good that it c an remove all my sinful reactions, what will happen if
I learn the whole Bhagavad-gita?" So he came back to his country,
and when he got back he called his son and brought him to the throne.
"Now sit in this chair," he told his son.
The boy sat on the throne, and the king took his crown and put it on the boy's head. "Bye bye," he said. "I'm going to learn Bhagavad-gita." So he went somewhere and found a Vaisnava and said, "Please teach me Bhagavad-gita." "For what?" the guru asked. "Because half a v erse of Gita can produce Visnu-dutas and solve people's problems. If I know the whole Bhagavad-gita, I want to know what would happen." So then the guru told him, "If you learn the whole Bhagavad-gita and it's purport, then there will be no problem at all. You will go to Vaikuntha. You will reach Krsna's place." So in this way the king learnt Bhagavad-gita. MORAL: These Bhagavad-gita verses are very powerful. If one knows the meaning, that is more poweful. If one knows the conclusion, it is even more powerful. And if one knows the goal of that conclusion, which is devotional service, Bhakti, then how much more powerful is that?
There is the history of a devotee, I think his name was Govinda dasa, a disciple of a great acarya who was living at Tirupati, Tirumala. Ramanujacarya went to see him and for one year he learnt Ramayana from that acarya. One of his disciples was this very unusual disciple. He would always do things that all the other devotees would criticize. Whenever he made the bed of the guru, he would laydown on the bed first. In the shatsra it is said that one should never lie on the bed of the guru. So the others would criticize him, "What kind of a disciple is he, lying on his guru's bed?" Ramanuja heard about this and in a humble way he went and asked, "Prabhu, people are saying you are lying on the bed of the guru. I saw this myself. I just wondered. You know that it says in sastra you could go to hell fior lying on the bed of the guru. Could you explain to me why you are doing that?" And he said, "I want to give a nice soft bed to my guru. It should be of proper firmness. How can I know it is proper unless I try it out? If I go to hell, and my guiru is comfortable, I do not miund going to hell but let my guru be comfortable. That is my concern." Ramanuja was surprised. "Oh! This is another level! He was not lying on the bed for his own enjoyment, but he was thinking how the guru would be comfortable." Oncwe he found that the same devotee putting his finger into a snake's mouth. The snake was turning and making so many contortions and seemed to be suffering. So Ramanuja wondered why he was torturing the snake. Later he asked, "You were putting your finger in the mouth of that cobra. Looked like you were causing suffering, what was the purpose?" He always asked as a questiuon. He did not chastise, he just asked. The devotee said, "Oh, that poor snake swallowed some fruit, that stuck in the throat. It was choking, so I put my finger in to take out the fruit and clear the throat of the snake. I could not stand to see the poor animal's suffering." Then Ramanuja said, "Why did you risk your life? It could have bitten you!" He said, "I could not stand to see it suffering."
There was a disciple of Ramanujacarya who was blinded by a Shaivite
king. The king wanted to kill Ramanujacarya, so he sent his soldiers
to capture Ramanuja, but this disciple came and warned him, "You take my
grhasta white clothes and I will take your clothes and will go to represent
you. If there is any harm, it will come to me, not you. You
are more important for preaching the movement of Vaishnavism." So
they exchanged clothes, and Ramanuja, dressed in white, was smuggled out
of the country to the forest and mountains. The disciple was captured by
the king's men who thought that he was Ramanuja. They asked him top
accept that Siva was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate.
But he said that Siva gets his powers from Visnu. They said, "For
your inxolence of not accepting that the supreme destroyer Lord Siva as
the greatest, we will blind you." So they blinded that devotee and
later the king suffered from some disease and died. Within a short
time, Ramanuija came back and found that devotee iun the temple of Visnu
kanchi (Varadaraja in Kanchipuram). He would regularly be chanting
before Varadaraja Krsna deity. His bhajans were so sweet that the
Deity was pleased and asked him, "Is there anything you want?" He
said, "My Lord, please forgive all those people who have tortured me."
He kept doing his devotional service. Again the Deity asked him,
"You can have anything you want." He was such a great devotee that
the Deity would speak to him. Then he agfain asked for forgiveness for
some other devotees who at one time had done somthing against him.
Then he went to see Ramanujacarya. Of course the word got around
that the Deity kept offering him to have whatever he wanted, but he always
kept asking things for other devotees, and he never wanted anything for
himself. Then Ramanuja said, "It is very nice you are begging for everyone's
forgiveness, but you have already given your body to the guru in his service.
Now your body is not complete, so it is not able to do the maximum service
it could. So if the Lord ever offers to give you anything you want
again, you must say that some property that you have given to your guru
is not able to do all it's services to the guru because it is incomplete.
Therefore it could be completed again so that it could do proper service.
It will be useful in the service of the guru." Like this Ramanuja
gave some instructions. After that, the devotee sang his bhajan and
the Deity again asked, "You can have anything you like." Then he
stood up and offered his prayers and said, "I have given some property
to my guru. That property is not complete. That is, my body which
I have given to my guru has lost it's eyesight. My guru's property may
be restored to its full capability of doing service for him.": After
getting the advice from RAmanuja, he asked in that mood. Otherwise
he would never ask anything for himself. But now he understood, "Okay,
my body is also my guru's property." MORAL: This consciousness is
called nirmama, or "nothing is mine." (See Bhagavad-gita 3 .30 purport
mayi sarvani karmani) (unknown author)