A pujari recounts Abhay Charan chanting in Advaita Acharya’s house

Abhaya Charan drew spiritual inspiration from Advaita Acharya’s house in Shantipura. This later led to the formation of ISKCON.

sankitana

One day a few disciples of Srila Prabhupada who were staying in Mayapur, were approached by an aged Gaudiya Vaishnava. He wanted to narrate an incident that took place in his life. He was holding a copy of Back to Godhead magazine with him. The disciples listened to him as he excitedly narrated the incident.

Advaita Acharya was one of the intimate associates of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his house was in Shantipura. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu (a close associate of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) and Advaita Prabhu used to gather here to plan the worldwide sankirtana movement for spreading the holy name of Lord Krishna. Even today, we can see Advaita Acharya’s house in Shantipura. The old Gaudiya Vaishnava had been serving as the pujari in this house.

This is an incident that happened several years ago. A gentleman would often visit this house, sit at the back of the hall and chant japa with tears in his eyes. He looked very sober and determined. Sometimes he would spend much of his time in chanting. The pujari saw him but never asked him who he was. He always felt happy to see the devotee and would give him some prasadam. This continued for some time and then the pujari no longer saw him coming to the temple. A few years passed, and one day the pujari noticed someone in saffron robes, sitting and chanting in the hall just like the devotee who used to come there long back. But the sannyasi was chanting even more deeply and weeping bitterly. The pujari was able to recognize that it was none other than his old devotee friend and he too began to weep. When the sannyasi was ready to leave, he gave him prasadam. The pujari was very happy to meet his friend after a long time. He became inquisitive to know more about him and so asked him who he was.

He was none other than Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, who is fondly addressed by his disciples as Srila Prabhupada.

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Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada, had ordered him to publish books in English to spread the message of Lord Krishna among the English speaking people. Even at the last moment, before his disappearance from this mortal world, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had written a letter to Srila Prabhupada in which he reiterated this message: “I am fully confident that you can explain in English our thoughts and arguments to the people who are not conversant with the languages of the other members. This will do much good to yourself as well as your audience. I have every hope that you can turn yourself into a very good English preacher if you serve the mission to inculcate the novel impression of Lord Chaitanya’s teachings in the people in general as well as philosophers and religionists.”

Srila Prabhupada took the order of his master as his life and soul. He wanted to go to foreign countries to preach Krishna Consciousness. But it was a tough mission. In the past, two of his God brothers from Gaudiya Math had visited London, but they could not succeed in their mission to convince people to accept Krishna Consciousness. When one of them met Lord Zetland who was formerly the Governor of Bengal during the British period, Zetland inquired, “Swamiji, can you make me a brahmana?”  Then the sannyasi said he could do so provided Zetland would give up illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling and intoxication. “Impossible!” was the reply from Zetland. So all the sannyasis had assumed the accomplishment of preaching work in English-speaking countries to be beyond all possibilities.

Srila Prabhupada had been visiting the house of Advaita Acharya for many years to pray to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates and beg for Their mercy for conducting the preaching mission. He had been seeking Their guidance and inspiration, feeling himself to be quite incapable of planting the seeds of Krishna bhakti in the foreign land. The next day, he was to leave India and travel on a ship to America for the preaching mission. So he had visited Mayapur and also come to this place.

Having explained the order from his Guru, Srila Prabhupada humbly requested the pujari to bestow his mercy on him.

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After the sannyasi left for America, the pujari often remembered him and his mission. Then one day, foreign devotees in Vaishnava attire started visiting the temple where the pujari was serving. One of them gave the pujari a copy of Back to Godhead magazine. The magazine had an article on Srila Prabhupada’s life and his picture while he was a householder in Calcutta. The pujari was immediately able to recognize Srila Prabhupada as the sannyasi who had left for America. He was so happy to know that He had become an acharya and accomplished the preaching task in an unprecedented way. He was deeply impressed with the glories of Srila Prabhupada.