Pastimes of Narottama Dasa Thakura
by Srila Narahari Chakravarti (excerpted from Sri Narottama Vilasa)
I take refuge at the lotus feet of Lokanatha Prabhu, who is completely indifferent to the pains and pleasures of this material world. His mercy was fully realized only by the great scholar Narottama dasa. All glories to Narottama dasa Thakura, the beloved disciple of Lokanatha Goswami. How the illustrious Narottama took his birth in the house of Krishnananda Datta, the elder brother of Sri Purusottama, I dare not discuss elaborately here. However, for your pleasure, I shall give a brief description.
One day while Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was dancing with his associates during sankirtana, He suddenly looked in the direction of Sri Kheturi village. A peculiar look appeared on His face, tears whelmed up in His eyes, and He cried out the name “Narottama! Narottama!” again and again. The ocean of mercy Nityananda Raya shouted in joy, and Haridasa, Vakreshvara, and others were inexplicably filled with happiness.
The wheel of time turned, until finally, on the sixth hour of the full moon day in the month of Magha, when all auspicious signs were visible, Narottama dasa took birth to fulfill the mission of the Lord.
His mother, radiant with beauty, wept joyfully as she lovingly gazed at the charming face of her son. An unearthly effulgence suddenly illuminated the entire delivery room, and happiness swelled in the hearts of everyone present.
From that moment the village of Sri Kheturi became an auspicious place. The residents suddenly felt purified, as if cleansed of all misgivings. They trembled with ecstatic emotions, tears filled their eyes, and they spontaneously chanted the holy name with devotion. They rushed to the house of Krishnananda, carrying all kinds of gifts for the newborn child.
The delighted Datta Mahasaya warmly welcomed them all without taking his eyes off the face of his son for a second, while Krishnananda’s exalted father distributed charity profusely to the singers, musicians and others present, for the protection of his grandson. There was no woman in the world as fortunate as Narottama’s mother, Narayani. By the Lord’s grace she was granted the eyes to see Gauranga, Nityananda, and Advaita dancing ecstatically within her own home.
Narayani watched jubilantly as her son began to grow like the moon. Similarly, Krishnananda’s pleasure knew no bounds as he constantly stared at the jewel-like face of his son. Grateful for his good fortune, he fed the brahmanas daily.
At the appropriate time on an auspicious day, Krishnananda arranged for the ceremony of offering rice to his son. The astrologer present on that joyful occasion noted all the auspicious signs on the child’s body and predicted that the boy would be an illustrious person: “This baby will be the greatest of men; therefore he should be called Narottama.”
The festivities went on happily until Krishnananda tried to feed his son the rice. To everyone’s dismay the child refused to eat. Although they coaxed him again and again, the boy repeatedly turned his head away, refusing to eat. The festive atmosphere was replaced with anxiety, and everyone looked at each other nervously, not knowing what to do. The thoughtful astrologer, however, reassured everyone: “Don’t worry, this baby will not accept food unless it has first been offered to Lord Vishnu.”
Thus the rice was offered to Lord Vishnu, then again offered to the child. To everyone’s relief, the child happily devoured it. From that day on, realizing the value of prasada, the king ordered: “Only food which has been offered to Krishna should be given to my son.” Although the worship of Krishna was customary in their family, from the time of Narottama’s birth everyone became much more attentive to the service of the Lord.
After a few years Narottama began his studies and soon proved to be a genius. Within a short time he became a scholar in all subjects. The teachers use to comment: “How is it possible that this boy can learn so quickly? Do you think he is an incarnation of God?”
He was an adorable boy and endeared himself to everyone. Soon he was the talk of the town: “Just one glance at Narottama is sufficient to cool my mind and chase away all miseries.” “From every angle of vision the prince is beautiful.” “I have never seen such a gorgeous boy.” In this way Krishnananda’s son was glorified throughout the town.
Krishnananda was happy simply to gaze upon his son, but as time passed he began to think, “My son is capable in all respects; he must be married soon. I am getting old and should follow the path of my father. It is time to be relieved of my kingly duties.” Thus he consulted with the wise Kayasthas to find a suitable bride for his son.
Meanwhile Narottama was lost in the ecstasy of love for Krishna. With eyes full of tears, he joyfully worshiped his Lord privately, oblivious of everything else. In this way he lost all taste for mundane pleasures and could not bear to even hear topics related to royal pleasures and properties. Aware of their son’s growing apathy for material life, Krishnananda and Narayani were filled with anxiety and could think of nothing else. Finally they decided to appoint someone to constantly watch over their son, but still they were unable to find peace of mind. Narottama’s home became a prison for him, and he longed to be free. Although he said nothing, he was constantly waiting for the opportunity to leave home. Every day he secretly pleaded desperately for the Lord’s help. His body became covered with dust as he rolled on the ground crying. Raising his arms in the air, he begged pitifully, “Gauranga! Nitai! Advaita! My Lords, please save me from this hell.”
Hearing From Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami
At that time the news of Lord Gauranga’s glories was spreading throughout the world. Narottama’s only solace was when he received some word of the Lord’s pastimes. There was one aged brahmana in Sri Kheturi named Krishnadasa. He was a genuine servant of Lord Krishna and loved Narottama deeply. He could not let a single day pass without seeing Narottama. That brahmana, Krishnadasa, was so powerful by dint of his devotion that no one dared disobey him. Every day after completing his worship of Krishna, Krishnadasa would visit Narottama. Narottama welcomed him with wholehearted enthusiasm, humbly falling prostrate at his feet. Offering him a seat, he would then eagerly inquire about Lord Chaitanya and His associates. Krishnadasa happily narrated the pastimes of the Lord in three parts (Adi, Madhya and Antya). He went on to glorify the transcendental activities of Nityananda and Advaita with such emotion then even wood or stone would melt upon hearing his devotional narration. He explained the life histories of Pandita Gadadhara, Pandita Srivasa, Vakreshvara, Svarupa, Murari, Haridasa, Narahari Dasa, Gauridasa, Gadadhara, Vasu Ghosha, Mukunda, Sanjaya, Damodara, Kashishvara, Sri Paramananda Bhattacarya, Krishnadasa brahmacari, Lokanatha Varya, Sanatana, Rupa, Sri Gopala, Raghunatha, Raghunatha Bhatta, Sri Jiva, Subuddhi Mishra, Raghava, Krishna Pandita and others.
He then spoke about of Srinivasa Acarya. VrindavanaGoswamiGoswamiVrindavanaS pontaneous love for Srinivasa arose within the heart of Narottama. Floating in a river of tears, Narottama thought, “When shall I get the company of Srinivasa.” Who can understand Narottama’s state of mind? Daily he listened attentively to the stories of Mahaprabhu and his devotees, and cursed himself for not having attained their association. His mind was always disturbed; he could not eat, nor could he sleep at night.
Feeling Separation from Lord Chaitanya
One day, due to the desire of the Lord, Narottama fell asleep and in his dream he saw Gauraraya. His splendid beauty could not be compared to gold, lightning, or anything else of this world. The beautiful curling hair hanging down His back could turn the mind of even the most virtuous woman. His earrings shone brightly and His lotus eyes were the trap of Cupid. His smiling face could easily defeat the effulgence of the moon, and the beautiful tilaka on His forehead could capture one’s breath. His graceful hands swept down to His knees. And how broad His chest was! Beautiful jeweled garlands hung around His conch-like neck, and His deep naval was finely shaped. His thin waist defeated even the lion. His knees looked like toppled banana trees, and His feet were more attractive than lotuses. How gorgeous was His three fold loin cloth. Observing the beauty of Mahaprabhu, Narottama shed tears of love and fell on the feet of the Lord.
Placing His feet on Narottama’s head, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said sweetly, “O Narottama, look at me. I cannot bear your tears. Don’t worry. Go straight to Vrindavana. There you will be initiated by my dear devotee Lokanatha. He will happily pour the nectar of the maha-mantra into your ears. I have many plans which are to be served by you.”
Narottama’s sleep was then broken Narottama could not bear Mahaprabhu’s disappearance, and he rolled on the ground in disappointment. Thus again, due to the Lord’s wish, Narottama fell asleep. In his dream he saw Lord Chaitanya on the bank of the Ganges in Navadvipa. He was enjoying His pastimes along with Nityananda, Advaita, Gadadhara, Srivasa, Svarupa, Narahari, Haridasa, Vakresvara, Mukunda, Murari, Govinda, Madhava, Vasu Ghosa, Shuklambara, Gauridasa, Sri Sanjaya, Damodara, Mahesha, Shankara, and Yadu Acarya. All of them surrounded Gauranga as they engaged in sankirtana, while the people of Navadvipa witnessed their divine pastimes. Eager to inspect this beautiful scene, even Brahma, Siva and other demigods and goddesses mingled with the crowd in disguise. Even the animals and birds were charmed. Those who were born blind were suddenly able to see and rushed to observe the extraordinary sankirtana performance. Seeing this wonderful fun, Narottama wept with joy. On seeing Narottama, Mahaprabhu Gaurachandra emotionally took him to His bosom and soaked Narottama with His tears. Narottama fell on Mahaprabhu’s feet, and the Lord affectionately lifted him from the ground and put him in the care of Nityananda and Advaita. He also helped Narottama to obtain the mercy of His associates, and they all advised Narottama to go to Vrindavana. Narottama was unable to control his emotions. Observing the beauty of Nityananda, Narottama fell on His feet, and Nityananda put His feet on Narottama’s head, blessing him with unconditional love for Sri Gauranga, then advised him to go to Vrindavana. Upon seeing the beauty of Advaita, Narottama fell at his feet. Advaita at once lifted Narottama and placed him at the lotus feet of Gauranga. Narottama bowed to the feet of Gadadhara, Srivasa and others, who also embraced him one by one. Narottama bathed in the tears of everyone. All of them encouraged Narottama to go to Vrindavana.
Narottama then woke up and it was morning. He consoled himself and finished his daily morning duties. He wept with joy as he began to see many auspicious signs, indicating good fortune. In anticipation he waited, hoping that the fortunate moment would soon arise.
Journey to Vrindavana
Shortly thereafter, Narottama’s father and his men went to Gauda for business. Narottama seized the opportunity. He somehow managed to trick his mother, then he deceived the guard watching over him and quickly left his home secretly. In fear of being caught, Narottama did not visit Navadvipa, but started towards Vrindavana through the forests. He disguised himself in such a way that no one could identify him. For fifteen days he ran at random, then heaved a sigh of relief.
The miserable condition of Narottama’s parents was beyond description. Narottama became the talk of Gauda. “Prince Narottama must have gone to Vrajapura.” “He must be the Narottama whom Mahaprabhu had called for in Ramakeli village.” “The strength of mind he has manifested is not known to an ordinary man.” In this way Narottama became very popular in that town. Nityananda, Advaita and other favorite associates of Sri Chaitanya always thought of Narottama’s well being. It is said that he who was fortunate enough to have seen Narottama could forget his fear of material life. Narottama undauntedly passed through the main roads now. Who can describe Narottama’s sincere efforts in the service of the Lord? Traveling along the road, he sang the glories of Gauranga with continuous streams of tears rolling down his face. Those who just once looked upon the face of Narottama attained peace of mind. The villages which Narottama selected to halt at each night became blessed by his presence. Whether male or female, anyone who kept company with Narottama during his journey would comment softly among themselves about the wonderful characteristics of Narottama: “Even the golden champaka flower would become ashamed on seeing the beautiful color of this young man’s complexion.”
“Look at his beautiful face and big eyes. How superb are his nose, cheeks, eyebrows, forehead and ears!” Someone else said, “Look how long his hands are and how broad his chest is.” “Who are the fortunate parents of this extraordinary man with such beautiful knees and feet.” Someone said, “He cannot be an ordinary human being. He must be a demigod or a son of a king.” Another person remarked, “Alas, how sad it is that such a young man has become apathetic toward family life.” Others said, “We wonder how his parents are living without him.” “Fie to providence, who has no mercy for this boy and has dragged him out of his family at such an young age.”
Being extremely moved by Narottama’s presence, no one wanted to return to their houses. They brought many things for Narottama to eat and offered him a comfortable bed to sleep on. But Narottama could not eat or sleep; he spent the night in sankirtana. Everyone felt sad to see the body of Narottama smeared with dust. In the morning the villagers did not want to let him go, but Narottama begged their leave. This was the normal scene which occurred daily along his journey to Vraja; Narottama stole the heart of everyone he met.
Within a short time Narottama visited all the holy places and at last, with an enchanted mind, entered Vrindavana. First of all he went to visit Vishrama Ghat in Sri Mathura, where he bathed in the Yamuna and took some rest. In the solitude of the night he began kirtana there. At that time a great Vaisnava resident of Mathura came there carrying many varieties of Krishna prasada and affectionately fed Narottama. Narottama asked him about the well-being of Vraja. With a pierced heart the brahmana informed him of the demise of Raghunatha, Kashishvara, Rupa and Sanatana. On hearing of the disappearance of Rupa and Sanatana, Narottama fell on the ground crying. Striking his head on the ground, he called out, “Kashishvara Pandita, Sri Bhatta Raghunatha.” Tears streamed from his eyes like a river, and he was about to faint. Seeing the death-like state of Narottama, the brahmana took him in his lap and consoled him. They spent most of the night together discussing many topics. Late at night, due to the will of the Lord, both them fell asleep. In Narottama’s dream, Rupa, Sanatana, Kashishvara and Raghunatha appeared before Narottama. Narottama at once fell on their feet. All of them embraced Narottama and soaked him with their tears. They spoke sweetly to Narottama, some of which the brahmana could hear. With great satisfaction they showered their blessings upon Narottama and then disappeared.
Narottama was unable to tolerate their disappearance. He began to lament, gazing desperately in all directions. The brahmana was astonished to see Narottama’s condition. He hastily took Narottama in his lap and tearfully spoke sweetly to him, thanking him for his purifying association. After considerable time the brahmana’s emotions cooled and he begged Narottama to come to his house in the morning. Narottama bowed before the brahmana and requested him to let him go. “Please be kind to me and let me go, for I am dying to see the feet of the Goswamis. Please be merciful and help me to fulfill my desires.” With tears in his eyes the brahmana affectionately took him in his lap and blessed him. He accompanied Narottama for some distance, but due to his old age could not walk farther. Thus he gave Narottama directions to reach Vrindavana and ordered a man to assist him in his journey. After Narottama’s departure, the brahmana, with a broken heart, stood staring at the path.
While walking, Narottama began to think, “Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has brought such a low and unqualified man as me here to the sacred land of Vrindavana. He has sent me to the abode of mercy, Sri Lokanatha Goswami Prabhu. Will he accept me as his servant? Will I be able to hold the lotus feet of Sri Gopala Bhatta, Sri Bhugarbha Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami and others on my head? Will they show their mercy to a worthless man like me? Srinivasa Acarya is the embodiment of love. Will he love a poor soul like me?” As he thought in this way, his eyes filled with tears, his body trembled uncontrollably, and he was unable to walk a single step farther.
Meeting Srinivasa Acharya
Meanwhile, on the same night that Narottama entered Vrindavana, Srinivasa suddenly became overwhelmed with joy for no apparent reason. He took this as a good sign, and tears of love began to fall from his eyes as he thought, “I’m probably going to meet a very dear friend.” In eager anticipation he began kirtana and continued on throughout the night. However, late into the night he fell asleep. In his dream Sri Rupa Goswami appeared before him and said, “O Srinivasa, in the morning you will meet Narottama.” Thus having spoken, he disappeared.
In the morning, when Srinivasa awoke he rushed to meet Sri Jiva Goswami and revealed his dream. Sri Jiva Goswami was very happy to hear the news, as he had been in great anxiety waiting for Narottama’s arrival. He told Srinivasa, “Previously Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told me about Narottama, and I have already told you about him. This is that Narottama for whom we have been waiting for so long.” Sri Jiva then hurried off to the temple of Sri Govinda, and Srinivasa happily returned to his house.
Suddenly a person approached Srinivasa and informed him, “A prince has come from Gauda. He is a young man with beautiful features, and his body is soaked with tears. I cannot describe the wonderful emotions of that man after he observed the face of Sri Govinda. Crying incessantly, Sri Jiva Goswami took him in his lap and welcomed him with sweet words. He sent me to bring you to that place.” Hearing this, Srinivasa could not control his emotions and began running to the temple of Govinda.
Srinivasa was overwhelmed to at last see Narottama. Like a poor man who has gained a priceless gem, Srinivasa rushed to embrace Narottama. What Srinivasa expressed to Narottama through his embrace I am unable to describe. Nor can I explain with one mouth how Narottama felt upon meeting Srinivasa. Everyone began to whisper about the uncommon friendship between Srinivasa and Narottama. They became such close friends that one could hardly differentiate one from the other. Sri Govinda had at last fulfilled the desires of Narottama. Sri Krishna Pandita, the head priest of Sri Govinda, brought the garlands worn by the Deity for both of them. It should be noted that Sri Krishna Pandita was a great scholar and intimate associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. After the demise of Kasisvara Pandita, Sri Krishna Pandita became the head priest of Sri Govinda. Everyone knew that Sri Krishna Pandita had great love for Narottama. Narottama humbly bowed to the feet of Sri Krishna Pandita.
Taking Shelter of Lokanatha Goswami
Sri Jiva Goswami quickly took Narottama to the solitary hermitage of Sri Lokanatha Goswami. They found him alone in a secluded place where he had been suffering the misery of separation from Rupa and Sanatana. Sri Jiva Goswami bowed to his feet and slowly told him about Narottama. Lokanatha had been restlessly waiting for Narottama to come. Now seeing Narottama before him, Lokanatha began to float in an ocean of tears. Narottama fell at the feet of his spiritual master, and Lokanatha placed his feet on Narottama’s head. With sweet words he assured Narottama that after a few days he would initiate him. Again and again Lokanatha asked Sri Jiva, “Please help Narottama to establish his grasp of devotional books.” Lokanatha then uttered the names of Rupa and Sanatana and let out a heavy sigh. Observing Lokanatha Goswami, Sri Jiva was unable to check his tears. Sri Jiva took his leave and left to take darshana of the lotus feet of Sri Radhavinoda.
Under the Guidance of Jiva Goswami
Thereafter Sri Jiva Goswami took Narottama to meet Gopala Bhatta Goswami. He was also sitting alone in a secluded place, cultivating the memories of Rupa and Sanatana. I have no words to accurately depict the sweet relationship between Sri Gopala Bhatta and Sri Sanatana Goswami. This has been described in one verse: “I worship Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami, whose heart is filled with love for Sanatana and the friendship of Sri Rupa. He who worships them is able to obtain the mercy of Sri Gopala Bhatta. I worship Sri Gopala Bhatta, whose life and soul is Sri Radha-Ramana.”
Sri Jiva Goswami bowed to the feet of Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who was very happy to meet Narottama. Narottama fell at his feet, and Gopala Bhatta Goswami at once showed him great affection, warmly embracing Narottama and soaking his body with tears. Sri Jiva and Narottama offered their obeisances and went for darshana of the lotus feet of Sri Radha-Ramana. They also went to the temples of Sri Govinda, Gopinatha and Madana-mohana.
While conversing together they entered the temple of Sri Gopinatha, and Sri Jiva introduced Narottama to Sri Madhu Pandita. Narottama immediately touched the lotus feet of Sri Pandita. Sri Pandita affectionately held Narottama to his bosom and brought him to see Sri Radha Gopinatha. He gave the garland which had decorated the Deity to Narottama.
Sri Jiva Goswami then took Srinivasa and Narottama to the house of Sri Bhugarbha Goswami, a great scholar and inseparable associate of Sri Lokanatha Goswami. He always spent his days in remembrance of Mahaprabhu. Sri Jiva Goswami introduced him to Narottama, who at once touched the his feet. Bhugarbha Goswami embraced him very lovingly. After bowing to his feet, Sri Jiva returned to his house with Srinivasa and Narottama and brought them before Sri Sri Radha Damodara. Narottama was overwhelmed with love at the sight of the Deity. How can I describe Narottama’s state of mind upon seeing the tomb of Sri Rupa Goswami? Tears streamed down his face as he rolled on the ground. Gradually, his body became still and there was no sign of heaving. Srinivasa quickly took him in his lap. Sri Jiva pacified him and took him to his cottage.
Sri Jiva then received a message to go quickly to the Govindaji temple. Thus he, Srinivasa, and Narottama went to the temple and observed the raja-bhoga arati of Sri Govinda. After respecting maha-prasada, they returned to Sri Jiva’s cottage. There they spent time discussing topics related to Krishna. Later they went to the temple of Sri Madana-mohana and observed the uthvapana arati of the Deity. Sri Jiva then introduced Narottama to everyone there. Seeing Sri Madana-mohana, Narottama became overwhelmed with love. Forgetting himself, he wept incessantly. The priest lovingly gave him the garland which had decorated the Deity. Sri Jiva then took him to the tomb of Sanatana Goswami. One mouth is incapable of describing the emotions of Narottama upon observing Sanatana’s tomb. With great affection Sri Jiva pacified Narottama and brought him to his cottage. There he put Narottama into the hands of his dear Srinivasa. With great happiness Srinivasa bowed to the feet of Sri Jiva and started with Narottama for his cottage, where they spent the entire night discussing topics related to Krishna. In the morning they bathed in the Yamuna and worshiped the Lord. With joyful minds they went to see Sri Jiva Goswami, who immediately sent them to Radha Kunda and Shyama Kunda.
After observing the beauty of the two kundas, they went to the place of Sri Raghunatha dasa Goswami, and Srinivasa cautiously introduced Narottama to him. Though Dasa Goswami had been in a miserable state of mind due to separation from the Lord and His devotees, he suddenly became very happy. “Where is Narottama?” Saying this, he opened his eyes. Narottama bowed to his lotus feet. Being affectionately moved, Dasa Goswami showered his mercy upon Narottama. Narottama was then introduced to all the great scholars there. Sri Raghava Pandita, who had been living at Govardhana, was extremely happy to see Narottama. Srinivasa and Narottama finished their travels to all the sacred spots then reported back to Sri Jiva.
Without delay Sri Jiva happily began educating Narottama. During his studies Narottama won the hearts of all with his sensitive and scholastic explanations. Who can understand the heart of Narottama? His service attitude towards Lokanatha Goswami was beyond compare, and Lokanatha Goswami was extremely please with his beloved disciple. One day, observing Narottama’s eagerness, Lokanatha fulfilled Narottama’s long-cherished desire and initiated him into the chanting of the maha-mantra. Everyone in Vrindavana was greatly impressed by the depth of Narottama’s understanding of devotional scriptures. Thus, to everyone’s pleasure, Sri Jiva Goswami conferred upon Narottama the title “Sri Thakura Mahasaya.” All the mahantas were filled with joy, and Narottama’s fame rapidly spread throughout Vrajapura.