ricikasya muneh putro namna brahma mahatapah
prahladena samam jato haridasakhyako’pi san
ukto muni-sutah pratas tulasi-patram aharan
adhautam abhishaptas tam pitra yavanatam gatah
sa eva haridasa san jatah parama-bhaktiman
Hari Das Thakur is a combined incarnation of Brahma Mahatapa, the son of Richika Muni and Prahlad. The respected Murari Gupta has written in his Chaitanya Charitamrita that this muni’s son picked a Tulasi leaf and offered it to Krishna without having washed it first. His father then cursed him to become a mleccha in his next life. He was thus born as Hari Das, a great Devotee.
Hari Das’s Birth as a Muslim
In his book Navadwip-dhama-mahatmya, Bhaktivinoda Thakur has written the following account of how Brahma became Hari Das Thakur:
In the Dvapara Yuga, Nandanandana Shri Krishna was herding the cows through Vraja Dham in the company of his cowherd boyfriends when Brahma decided to test the Lord out of a desire to see His majestic form and opulences. He stole both Krishna’s cows and calves, as well as His friends and hid them for a year in the caves of Sumeru Mountain. But a year later, when Brahma returned to Vraja, he was astonished to see that Krishna was still there with both His friends and cattle. Brahma immediately understood his error and began to regret his rash action. He fell down at Krishna’s feet and begged Him for forgiveness; Krishna responded by mercifully revealing His divine opulence. He who appears in the Dvapara Yuga as Nandanandana Shri Krishna, descends again in the Kali Yuga as Gauranga, taking on the mood and bodily luster of Radharani in order to display the most magnanimous pastimes. Brahma was afraid that he might commit the same offense during Gaura’s incarnation so he went to Antardwipa, the central island of Navadwip, and began to meditate. The Lord was able to understand his mind and so came to him in the form of Gauranga and said, “During my incarnation as Gaura, you will be born in a family of mlecchas and will preach the glories of the Holy Name and bring auspiciousness to all the living beings.”
From this above description, it is understood that Hari Das Thakur was an incarnation of the creator god Brahma. It is said that in order to avoid coming under the influence of ahamkara, in Gauranga lila, he prayed to Krishna to take birth in a lowly family. The same idea is found in the Advaita-vilasa.
A Vaishnava may appear in any family in any class of society. Mahaprabhu wished to show that even though he may be born in a lowly family, a Vaishnava is the best of all human society. In order to do so, He had His associates be born in a variety of castes. Vrindavan Das Thakur has written the following in Chaitanya Bhagavat:
Hari Das Thakur was born in a low-caste family on the Lord’s order in order to show that caste and class have no importance at all. All the scriptures say that a Devotee of Vishnu, though born in a lowly family, is still worshipable by all. What will one’s caste do for one is born in a high caste but does not worship Krishna? He will go to hell in spite of his high birth. Hari Das took a low birth just to bear witness to these scriptural statements. He is comparable to Prahlad who was born in a family of demons, or Hanuman, who was born a monkey. They belong only superficially to low castes.
(Chaitanya Bhagavata 1.16.237-240)
Namacharya Hari Das Thakur appeared in Burihana village. Burihana is currently an administrative region containing 65 blocks (groups of villages) in the Satkhira subdivision of Khulna in Bangla Desh. It is not clear exactly where Burihana village itself lies. Some people hold that Burihana is in West Bengali in the district known as 24 Paraganas, while others think that it is in Jessore district in Bangla Desh. Benapole is the station after Bongaon on the railroad line to Khulna on the Bangla Desh side of the border, so both Benapole and Burihana are currently in Bangla Desh.
According to some people, Hari Das Thakur was born in a Brahmin family. His father’s name was Sumati and his mother Gauri. His parents died when he was young, so he went to live with a Muslim couple named Khan in the village of Halimpur about five miles from his birthplace on the other bank of the Salai River. He was thus brought up in an Islamic environment. According to the Advaita-vilasa, however, Hari Das Thakur was born in 1372 of the Shaka era (1451 AD) in the month of Agrahayan and his father’s name was Khanaulla Kazi. According to this version also, Hari Das was orphaned young.
Hari Das’s Participation in the Sankirtan Movement
Since Mahaprabhu was born in 1407 Shaka, if we accept the Advaita-vilasa’s version, Hari Das was 35 years older than Mahaprabhu. It is known that Nityananda was 12 years older than Mahaprabhu, so there was a difference of 23 years between Hari Das and Nityananda also. Hari Das entered into Mahaprabhu’s association when the Lord returned to Navadwip after having been initiated by Ishvara Puri in Gaya. This was when the Lord started preaching the sankirtan movement.
Mahaprabhu engaged in His sankirtan pastimes in Navadwip while in His kaishora age (i.e., when he was between 10 and 15 years old). From this we can estimate that Hari Das was about 50 years old when he first met Mahaprabhu. By the Lord’s wish, Hari Das appeared long before He did. Even before meeting the Lord, Hari Das had already started to reveal the glories of the Holy Names in many wondrous ways. One of the Lord’s most important associates in His role as the initiator of the yuga dharma, which is Harinama sankirtan. Vrindavan Das Thakur has described Hari Das’s spotless and glorious pastimes extensively in his Chaitanya Bhagavat. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has added some extra information about his life and character.
Hari Das Thakur is a major branch of the desire tree of devotion. His character is extraordinary. He would unfailingly chant 300,000 names of the Lord each day. His virtues are unlimited and I can only give a brief summary here. Advaita Acharya gave him the place of honor at his father’s shraddha ceremony. Hari Das Thakur possessed the same qualities as Prahlad, being undisturbed even when being beaten by the Muslims. When he entered the Lord’s eternal pastimes, Mahaprabhu took his mortal remains in His arms and danced ecstatically. Vrindavan Das Thakur has described his pastimes extensively, I will simply take up what he has left undescribed.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.43-47)
It is not known exactly when Hari Das Thakur performed the various lilas which have been described, nevertheless we will try to follow a chronological order as far as possible. In the Adikhanda of the Chaitanya Bhagavat, Vrindavan Das Thakur writes about Mahaprabhu’s life from His birth until His return from Gaya. The Madhya-khanda describes the Lord after His return from Gaya, His ecstatic transformations in separation from Krishna, His Krishna conscious instructions to His students, His beginning the sankirtan movement with His students, His kirtan pastimes in the houses of Chandrashekhara and Shrivasa Pandit, etc., up until He took sannyas. Hari Das Thakur is mentioned in the Madhya-khanda in connection with the Lord’s sankirtan pastimes:
In the Madhya-khanda, the Lord falls in to the Ganges in great distress; Nityananda and Hari Das pull Him out of the water.
(Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.1.149)
Hari Das Thakur was also a participant in the sankirtan festivities in the houses of Chandrashekhara and Shrivasa Pandit.
When the Vaishnavas heard that the Lord had begun His sankirtan pastimes, they all were overjoyed. Every night He would hold kirtan in the house of Shrivasa Pandit, sometimes at the house of Chandrashekhara Acharya. Nityananda, Gadadhara, Advaita, Shrivasa, Vidyanidhi, Murari, Hiranya and Hari Das were all there.
(Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.8.110-112)
Hari Das was an eternal associate of the Lord and he incarnated in a Muslim household in order to serve Him; from a very early age he showed a proclivity for the chanting of the Holy Names. His life gives a brilliant example of how a Devotee who chants constantly without ulterior motivation and without offenses, cannot be swayed from his goal of attaining pure devotional service by any kind of worldly temptation, not even if Maya Devi herself comes to lure him. We summarize what Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has written in the third chapter of the Antya-lila of Chaitanya Charitamrita.
Temptation by the Prostitute Lakshahira
After Hari Das Thakur had left his home in Burihana, he came to the Benapole jungle, which after the pastime about to be described was given the name Hira Veshya’s Jungle. Hari Das would have been in his early youth at this time, as it does not seem that Mahaprabhu had yet appeared when these events took place. He was chanting the Holy Name in a secluded part of the jungle, worshiping Tulasi Devi and chanting his three lakhs of Names. He would beg for food at a Brahmin’s house. All the people in the area observed his spotless character and his staunch devotion to the Holy Name and gave him their respect.
At that time, an atheistic Vaishnava hater name Ramachandra Khan was a large landowner in the area. He became jealous of Hari Das Thakur’s increasing reputation and decided to ruin it by showing a flaw in his character. To this end he devised numerous tactics, none of which were successful. Finally, he called some prostitutes together and asked them to seduce Hari Das. One of these prostitutes, a very beautiful young girl named Lakshahira, promised that she would be able to accomplish the task within three days. Hence, Ramachandra engaged her for this mission.
Ramachandra proposed sending an armed guard with Lakshahira to take Hari Das Thakur prisoner as soon as he had been brought down, but she refused, saying that it would be better to wait until she was sure that Hari Das was ready to fall. That night, she dressed and decorated herself in a most beautiful fashion and went to Hari Das’s hut. The first thing she did when she got there was to pay obeisances to the Tulasi plant, showing that she was still influenced by her pious Hindu upbringing.
She then went and stood beside Hari Das. She began to use all the wiles at her command, flirting with him by saying, “You are a very handsome man, Thakur. You are in the full bloom of youth; what woman would be able to resist you? I have come here because I am filled with desire for you. If I don’t get your touch, I will kill myself.”
In answer to this, Hari Das Thakur said, “I have just begun chanting my regular number of Holy Names. As soon as I am finished I will do as you wish. While waiting, please sit down and listen to the sound of the Holy Name.” He kept chanting and chanting until morning, when the prostitute became impatient and left. She returned to Ramachandra Khan and told him the whole story.
She returned again that night to Hari Das’s hut, and he expressed his regret at having been unable to fulfill her desires due to his inability to complete his quota of Holy Names. Once again, however, he assured her that as soon as he was finished, he would do whatever she wished. Once again, Lakshahira paid her obeisances to Tulasi Devi and sat down and spent the night waiting for Hari Das to finish his chanting. When morning came, she again grew restless. Hari Das said to her, “I have taken a vow that I will chant 10,000,000 Holy Names before the end of the month. I am now almost finished. As a matter of fact, it should be completed this very night. As soon as it is over, I can sleep with you. Do not worry.”
On the third night, Lakshahira returned, again paying obeisances to the Tulasi bush and sitting down beside Hari Das Thakur to listen to him chant. As she continued to listen to him chanting, the contaminations in her mind began to melt away and she began to regret her mission. She finally fell down at his feet and begged him forgiveness. She told him all about Ramachandra Khan’s evil intentions. Hari Das answered her, “I know all about Ramachandra Khan’s wicked plans. I would have left on the very first day, but I wanted to show you my mercy so I stayed for three days.”
Lakshahira then asked him to instruct her so that she might be saved. He told her that whatever money she had earned by sinful means should be given in charity to the Brahmins and that then she should come and take up residence in his hut where she should chant the Holy Names constantly and worship Tulasi Devi.
Lakshahira did exactly as her guru instructed her, giving all her riches to the Brahmins and shaving her head before returning to the hut dressed in a single cloth. She then started to chant three lakhs of names as Hari Das did. By virtue of her service to Tulasi and her chanting of the Holy Name, she became very renounced, all her senses were conquered and she attained pure love for Krishna. Through Hari Das Thakur’s mercy, the prostitute had become a great Vaishnavi.
The prostitute became a celebrated Devotee and very advanced in spiritual life. Many stalwart Vaishnavas would come to see her.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has commented on Hari Das Thakur’s instructions to Lakshahira in the following way: “Even though the guru has a legitimate claim on all of his disciple’s worldly possessions, he does not ask for them for his own use. Those who take dakshina, or alms, are opening the door to the house of Yamaraja. A Vaishnava guru is not such a person bound for the house of Yama; he is a traveler on a higher road. For this reason, there is an arrangement for giving donations of material wealth, etc., to Brahmins on the karma-marga. By not accepting his disciple’s possessions, which are after all intended for sense gratification, the Vaishnava guru remains independent of his disciple and does not compromise his integrity. He renounces them because he knows that they will awaken in him a disinterest in the service of the Lord. Hari Das Thakur’s teaching here is that the guru’s duty is to rid his disciple of his mundane pride and not to himself accept the material possessions which the disciple has renounced.”
(Anubhashya to Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.139)
The Fate of Ramachandra Khan
A Vaishnava does not take offense from anyone for he does not even consider himself to be a Vaishnava. He accepts all suffering that he undergoes to be the result of his own sinful past and thus does not blame anyone for such suffering. Nevertheless, he is so dear to Krishna that the Lord never tolerates offenses to his feet. The Lord never forgives offenses to the feet of a Devotee who is constantly engaged in acts for the benefit of all living beings. As a result, there is no other source of self-destruction and misfortune more powerful than offense to a Vaishnava. The results of such offenses may come immediately or they may be delayed, but they are inevitable.
In the case of Ramachandra Khan, the seeds he had sown in committing these offenses to Hari Das Thakur grew into a great tree, which bore fruit when Nityananda Prabhu came to his house with his associates in his pastimes of saving the fallen souls. As the indwelling soul of all beings, Nityananda was perfectly aware of Ramachandra’s record and had in fact come to his house because he was angry and intended to punish him. Though Nityananda Prabhu is known to be the most compassionate, merciful to even the lowliest people, saving sinners like Jagai and Madhai and giving them love of God, he too becomes angry at the offender to the feet of a Vaishnava.
As a result of his offenses to Hari Das Thakur, Ramachandra Khan had become a complete demon and thus was unable to give Nityananda and his companions the proper respect, arranging for living quarters for them in a milkman’s cowshed. Nityananda became even more displeased with Ramachandra Khan and left the place. He said, this place is not fit for me, but for a cow-killing meat-eater. Not long after Nityananda Prabhu had left the place, the Muslim tax collector came with his police to collect Khan’s overdue taxes. He and his men stayed in the Durga Mandapa at Ramachandra Khan’s house and killed a cow there. They took him and his family prisoner and looted the house and village, destroying his caste, his wealth and his family in one fell swoop.
Any town or country in which a great soul is insulted, even if by only one of its inhabitants, is destroyed on account of that offense.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.163)
The Offenses of Gopal Chakravarti
Hari Das Thakur left the district of Jessore and came to Hooghly district. He stayed in the village of Chandpur, near Saptagrama-Triveni, at the house of Hiranya and Govardhana Majumdar’s family priest, Balaram Acharya. There he stayed in a straw hut and chanted the Holy Names all day long, taking food at Balaram Acharya’s house. Raghunatha Das Goswami was a young boy then and he would come to visit Hari Das whose merciful glance made it possible for Raghunatha to later come into Mahaprabhu’s direct company.
Hiranya and Govardhana Majumdar would regularly arrange for discussions of the Bhagavat and other scriptures at their house. One day Balaram Acharya brought Hari Das Thakur to this assembly. When he heard about Hari Das Thakur’s various qualities and that he chanted three lakhs of names every day, Raghunatha’s father Govardhana was very impressed.
While discussing the scriptures, the scholars present brought up the subject of the glories of the Holy Names. One pandit said that the Holy Name destroyed sins, another said that it gave liberation. Hari Das said that the primary fruit of chanting the Holy Name was that it gave love for the lotus feet of Shri Krishna, and the destruction of accumulated sinful karmas and liberation from the material condition were secondary results. He gave the following example: with the first dawn’s light, darkness is dissipated and along with it the fear of thieves, ghosts and demons. With the full rising of the sun, one can set about doing one’s daily duties. Similarly, even before one has experienced the full manifestation of the Holy Name, one’s sins are destroyed and one becomes liberated. With its full manifestation, one attains Krishna prema. The reflection of the Holy Name (namabhasa) brings liberation, but even if the Lord wants to give liberation to His Devotee, the Devotee does not accept it.
One of the people who heard Hari Das speak was a Brahmin named Gopal Chakravarti, a handsome and learned young scholar who worked as a tax collector for the Muslim government. When he heard that simply the shadow of the Holy Name could bring liberation, he got angry and said, “Fellow scholars! These are the statements of a sentimentalist. After millions of births of practicing knowledge one may still not attain liberation, but this fellows says that just a glimpse of the Holy Name will bring that result.”
Hari Das Thakur answered, “The pleasure of liberation is insignificant when compared to the ecstasy of devotion. Just a shadow of devotion, just a shadow of the Holy Name, will easily give one liberation.”
The Brahmin became even angrier and said, “Hari Das must swear that if one is not liberated by namabhasa, then he shall cut off his nose.”
Hari Das Thakur had no trouble agreeing to this, but the rest of the people in the assembly were shocked by Gopal’s breach of the proper etiquette toward a great spiritual personality. Hiranya and Govardhana rebuked the tax collector. Balaram Acharya also chastised him, saying, “You are a foolish logician. What do you know of devotion? You have insulted Hari Das Thakur. Nothing positive will come of that, you will be ruined on account of it.” All the other members of the assembly fell at Hari Das’s feet and asked for forgiveness for Gopal’s behavior, but he only said, “Neither he nor you are at fault. The Brahmin is ignorant and addicted to arguing. One cannot understand the glories of the Holy Name through logic. May the Lord bless you all. Don’t worry about me.” The Majumdars ostracized Gopal Chakravarti, refusing him entry to their house.
Though Hari Das Thakur personally took no offense at Gopal Chakravarti’s words, and even forgave him, Krishna does not take the blasphemy of a Devotee lightly and so he punished the Brahmin. Three days later he contracted leprosy and his very prominent nose melted and fell off. Everyone was terrified by the Brahmin’s misfortune and glorified Hari Das Thakur’s spiritual power, but it was a source of distress to Hari Das himself.
Hari Das and Advaita Acharya
Hari Das thus quit the region and moved to Phuliya, near Shantipur, where he came into contact with Advaita Acharya. Advaita was born in 1434, 52 years before the appearance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, so he was 17 years senior to Hari Das.
Advaita Prabhu gave Hari Das the shraddha plate that was normally given only to Brahmins. When Hari Das objected to the honor, “If you eat, it is the equivalent of thousands of Brahmins.” Hari Das daily took his midday meal at Advaita Acharya’s house at his invitation. From Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami’s account, it is apparent that these events took place before Mahaprabhu’s appearance. The primary reason for Mahaprabhu’s incarnation was the devotion and the emotional prayers of both Advaita Acharya and Hari Das Thakur.
Advaita began to wonder how the world could be saved. How can this world without devotion for the Supreme Lord ever achieve liberation. He became determined to make Krishna descend and so he began to worship Krishna with Ganges water and Tulasi leaves. Meanwhile, Hari Das Thakur was in his grotto chanting the Holy Names and praying for Krishna’s incarnation. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s avatar was the result of both these persons’ devotion, by which he saved the world through preaching the chanting of the Holy Names and love of Krishna.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.221-4)
A Devotee who chants the Holy Name without artifice cannot be swayed from the path of pure devotion, not even by the personification of Maya herself. Once again, Hari Das Thakur is an outstanding example. There was no object of enjoyment in this entire world that could tempt him. If one sees someone who is apparently taking shelter of the Holy Name, but at the same time succumbs to the temptations of women, wealth and power, it can be understood that he is not truly surrendered to the Name. Phalena phalakaranam anumiyate: one can guess the cause by examining the results. Although one sees the Holy Names being chanted in many places, but one does not often see the desired results. The reason is that those who are doing the chanting are not doing it in a fashion that is sincere, single-minded and offenseless.
Maya Devi Tries to Tempt Hari Das
While Hari Das Thakur was sitting in his grotto near Shantipur and chanting the Holy Names with single-minded devotion, Maya Devi herself came to test him. She took on the form of a beautiful woman and called out to him in a sweet voice that wnbsp; nbsp;Any town or country in which a great soul is insulted, even if by only one of its inhabitants, is destroyed on account of that offense. nbsp;Any town or country in which a great soul is insulted, even if by only one of its inhabitants, is destroyed on account of thnbsp; nbsp; at offnbsp; ense. nbsp;Any town or country in which a great soul is insulted, even if by only one of its inhabitants, is destroyed on account of that offense . nbsp;Any town or country in which a great soul is insulted, even if by only one of its inhabitants, is destroyed orsquo;s Birth as a Muslim n account of that offense. ould hnbsp;Any town or country in which a great soul is insulted,/divrsquo;s account, it is apparent that these events took placenbnbsp; /divnbs div p; sp; nbsp; /div before Mahapra bhu even if by only one of its inhabitants, is destroyed on account /divdiv/divnbsp; of that ostro ng ffense . ave toppled even great sages, imploring him to embrace her. Once again, Hari Das told her that he would complete hinbsp; nbsp; nbsp; /divs vow of chanting a fixed number of Harinama, and only then he would satisfy her desires. Although she came three nights in a row in this way, Maya Devi was astonished to see that there was not the slightest wavering in his resolve to chant the Holy Name. She admitted defeat and prayed to him for his mercy. Hari Das Thakur gave her initiation in the Maha Mantra and thus Maya Devi disappeared, feeling that she had been fulfilled.
Previously I received the name of Rama from Shiva; but I had the desire to hear the name of Krishna from you. Rama’s name is the taraka-nama that gives liberation, whereas Krishna’s name is called the paraka-nama because it gives prema. You have made me fortunate by giving me the name of Krishna and I feel a flood of love for him washing over me.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.254-6)
Hari Das is Imprisoned and Tortured
From Shrila Vrindavan Das Thakur’s Chaitanya Bhagavat, it is known that prior to Hari Das’s coming to meet Advaita Prabhu in Shantipur, he lived in Phuliya. Phuliya is on the Eastern Railway line in Nadia district between Ranaghat and Shantipur, about five miles north of Ranaghat. When the Brahmins of the village saw his dedication to the chanting of the Holy Names as well as his ecstatic symptoms of love, they concluded that he was a Vaishnava of the highest order.
The local magistrate (Kazi), however, knowing that Hari Das had been born in a Muslim household, and now was showing such a taste for chanting the Holy Names of Krishna, began to fear that he might convert others to Vaishnavism. He took his complaint to the governor (Nawab), suggesting that Hari Das be punished as soon as possible. The governor ordered his officers to place Hari Das under arrest. The other prisoners already knew Hari Das’s glories and thought that the sight and blessings of such a great spiritual personality would surely bring them merit to insure their early release from jail. But Hari Das told them that they were better off in jail and he blessed them that they stay. The prisoners were naturally unhappy to hear such a statement, but then Hari Das explained his strange blessing:
I don’t mean to say that you should remain prisoners, but that you forget sense gratification and that you chant Hare Krishna. This was the meaning of my blessing; please don’t be sad for a moment on that account.
(Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.16.63-64)
While in jail, the prisoners could forget the entanglements of material life and simply concentrate on chanting the Holy Name.
One day, the Nawab asked Hari Das why he had abandoned the pure religion of Islam to embrace Hinduism. Hari Das Thakur answered, “God is one. The same God is present in every religion; He is the non-dual absolute truth. In the different religions, it is simply the name that differs, but on the absolute plane, there is no distinction to be made. The same God sits in the heart of every single living being and he engages each one of them in His service in different ways. One worships in the way one is made to worship by Him. There are Hindu Brahmins who convert to Islam. In the same way, though I was born in a Muslim family, I have been engaged by the Lord in chanting the Holy Names of Krishna. The living being has no independence in such matters. If this is a fault, then please punish me.”
The Nawab rebuked Hari Das, saying, “Chant the names of God as they are found in your own religion and stop practicing other peoples’ religion. If you don’t, you will have to face a very severe punishment.” Hari Das Thakur answered with conviction:
khanda khanda haï deha jay jadi prana
tabu ami vadane na charii hari-nama
”You may cut my body to pieces, and the life may leave it. But I will never abandon the Holy Name which my tongue will ever continue to chant.”
(Chaitanya Bhagavat 16.91)
This statement demonstrated Hari Das’s unswerving determination in his worship of the Name. The ordinary living entity is bound up in Maya and so considers the well-being of the body to be more important than worshiping the Lord. Those who are transcendentalists recognize that the body and its interests are fleeting, and so they put them aside and concentrate on their real self interest, that of the soul, and worship the Lord.
When the Nawab saw that Hari Das Thakur’s determination to continue chanting the names of Krishna was unbreakable, he asked the Kazi what should be done. The Kazi answered, “He should be given such a severe punishment that other Muslims will be afraid to convert. He should be flogged publicly in 22 market places until he is dead. If after being beaten in 22 market places he is still alive, then we will know that he really has some kind of spiritual power and that he has been telling the truth!”
The Nawab gave the order and several infantry men took Hari Das Thakur from marketplace to marketplace, giving him a cruel flogging with a cane in each one. Even so, he did not die. Just like Prahlad, Krishna’s mercy protected his body and kept him conscious only of the joys of the Holy Name, and so he did not feel the slightest discomfiture. The pious people of the area who witnessed the merciless beating of Hari Das were greatly distressed. He himself, though being ruthlessly flogged by these sinful people, did not stop praying to the Lord for the well being of his torturers.
”Be merciful to all these poor souls, O Lord! Though they treat me like an enemy, do not consider this to be an offense.”
(Chaitanya Bhagavat 16.110)
Normally, the type of beating that was being given to Hari Das would have killed an ordinary man after only two or three marketplaces. When his torturers saw that he was still alive after 22 marketplaces, they began to worry. The Kazi would not believe that they had really flogged him if Hari Das remained alive, and he would surely punish them by ordering them to be killed. When Hari Das saw that they were inconvenienced by his remaining alive, he went into a deep trance of meditation on Krishna, appearing to everyone as though dead.
The infantry men took the body to the Nawab and he ordered it to be buried. But the Kazi objected, saying that because Hari Das had engaged in such reprehensible activities, he should not be buried but thrown in the water. So on the Kazi’s order, Hari Das’s body was flung into the Ganges. To everyone’s surprise, Hari Das floated to the other shore where he climbed onto dry land and started chanting the Holy Names in a loud voice, walking in the direction of Phuliya. Both the Nawab and the Kazi realized that he was a real saint or pir and they fell to the ground in obeisances and begged him for forgiveness. By his grace, they were able to become free of their evil misdeeds. The Nawab gave Hari Das official permission to go wherever he pleased and to chant the Holy Names.
In the tenth chapter of the Madhya-khanda, Vrindavan Das Thakur writes that while Hari Das was being cruelly beaten, Mahaprabhu descended with his discus, intending to destroy the demons, but was unable to do so on account of Hari Das’s prayers. So he shielded Hari Das’s body with his own. Then he revealed to Hari Das the cane marks on his back. The main reason for the Lord’s appearance is his Devotee. When such an outrage was being perpetrated on His Devotee Hari Das, He immediately appeared to protect him.
When Hari Das heard the Lord recount this story, he immediately fainted. The Lord then showed him His divine form. He glorified Hari Das himself: “Anyone who even sees Hari Das becomes free from all bondage. Even great gods like Brahma and Shiva desire Hari Das’s company. Even the Ganges desires his touch.”
The Brahmins of Phuliya were overjoyed to see Hari Das again. They had been paralyzed by the news that Hari Das was being flogged in all the marketplaces of the district. Hari Das told them that these events had been the result of hearing the blasphemy of Vaishnavas, which in itself is a great offense. Indeed, the punishment that he had received could be considered minimal.
Hari Das, the Snake and the Snake-charmer
In the grotto at Phuliya where Hari Das did his bhajan lived a poisonous snake. Visitors to Hari Das’s place of residence were placed in some discomfort because of the poisonous fumes emanating from this beast. Some local doctors, who were particularly expert in dealing with snakebite, warned Hari Das and advised him to leave his place of worship. At the consistent pleadings of all the people, Hari Das finally agreed to move. However, just before sunset, as he was about to leave, the great serpent left the grotto of its own accord.
Another lesson that can be taken from Hari Das’s life is that making a public display of love of Krishna in order to gain public prestige is very detrimental to one’s devotional life. One day, a snake charmer from Phuliya village went to a rich man’s house to sing Krishna’s pastime of taming the serpent Kaliya. Hari Das was present, and when he heard the lilas of Krishna became so affected by love that he fainted in the assembly and the various manifestations of ecstatic love became present on his body. All the people present took the dust of Hari Das’s feet and smeared it on their bodies.
A certain Brahmin who was present there saw the respect that the people were showing to Hari Das and became jealous. The shameless fellow had such a strong desire for prestige that when the snake charmer continued his song, he too fell to the ground and began to make a show of all kinds of false ecstasies. The snake charmer could recognize the faker for what he was and started to hit him with a cane. The Brahmin began to scream, “Father! Mother!” and ran away. This particular pastime shows that even a humble snake charmer can possess the simplicity to distinguish between real and faked ecstatic symptoms. He explained to everyone present the naturalness of Hari Das’s love and the falseness of the Brahmins pretense.
The Loud Chanting of the Holy Names
Hari Das Thakur constantly chanted the Holy Name and called to the Lord in a loud voice. At that time, not many people were able to understand the value of this practice. Prior to Gauranga-sundara’s appearance, most people were simply interested in sense gratification and were inimical to devotion for Krishna and the chanting of His Holy Names. Advaita Acharya and Hari Das Thakur were saddened by this terrible situation. When the non-devotees heard them chanting loudly, they would say, “The Lord sleeps during the four months of the rainy season. If you call Him out loud in this way, you will wake Him up and that will be a grave offense. There will be famine in the country if you keep on with it. Some Brahmins have taken up this chanting business as a way of worshiping their own bellies, no doubt.” They would criticize Hari Das and Advaita by joking in this way. Even though such criticism pained Hari Das, he never stopped chanting Hare Krishna in a loud voice.
One day, a Brahmin from a village named Harinadi (in Jessore district) started a debate with Hari Das on this subject. He argued that the names of the Lord should be meditated upon and that there was no reason to chant them aloud. He wanted to know in which scripture it was stated that one should chant aloud. In answer to these questions, Hari Das Thakur gave a detailed account of the glories of the Holy Name. He said that loud chanting of the Holy Names was a hundred times more powerful than japa. Through the loud chanting of the Names, even the birds, animals and other creatures are also saved.
Animals, birds, insects and other creatures are unable to speak, but if they just hear the Holy Name, they can all cross over. If you chant the Holy Names silently, then you yourself will be saved, but if you chant aloud, then you will benefit others. Therefore, all the scriptures state that by the loud chanting of the Name, a hundred times greater result can be obtained.
(Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.16.280-2)
japato harinamani sthane shata-gunadhikah
atmanam ca punaty uccair japan shrotnn punati ca
Someone who chants the Holy Names aloud is a hundred times better than one who performs japa, because the one who chanting japa simply benefits himself, while the person who chants japa aloud not only does good for himself, but for all those who hear him as well.
Who is better, the person who earns money and spends it all on himself, or the one who uses his money to support a thousand others? Through japa, one takes care of his own spiritual life, while through ucca-sankirtan, all living beings are benefited. This is the reason for its being considered superior.
Even though he heard Hari Das quote scripture in support of his idea, the Brahmin from Harinadi village was unconvinced. Indeed, he became angry and began to verbally abuse Hari Das by bringing up his low birth. He said, "If everything that you say about the Holy Name is not found in scripture, then I will publicly cut off your nose and ear as a punishment." As a result of this offensive behavior, the Brahmin contracted smallpox not long afterward and his own nose and ear fell off.
Hari Das Comes to Navadwip
After this, Hari Das Thakur then went to live in Navadwip out of a desire to be with pure Devotees like Advaita Acharya. There he was a participant in the Lord’s sankirtan pastimes in the houses of Shrivasa Pandit and Chandrashekhara Acharya. Mahaprabhu sent Hari Das and Nityananda Prabhu to go from door to door to beg people to chant the names of Krishna, to worship Him and to study the Vaishnava scriptures.
One day, the Lord suddenly had an idea and he called Nityananda and Hari Das to tell them: “Listen, listen, Nityananda. Listen, Hari Das. I wish you to go and communicate my order to everyone. Go to every house and beg people to chant the names of Krishna, worship Krishna, study about Krishna. Other than this, say nothing and make others say nothing. At the end of the day, come here and tell me the results of your preaching. You will beg people in this way, and I will come and destroy those who do not comply with my discus in my hand.”
(Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.13.7-11)
Nityananda Prabhu and Hari Das Thakur followed the Lord’s order and began preaching everywhere in Navadwip. One day they went up to two feared drunken bandits named Jagai and Madhai, and asked them to chant the Holy Name as the Lord had instructed them. Seeing their fallen condition, Nityananda became merciful toward them, but Jagai and Madhai were in such a state of intoxication that they simply became angry when they heard his appeal, and came forward to beat him and Hari Das up. Nityananda started to run away, but Hari Das being already quite advanced in age (58) was unable to keep up with him. Nevertheless, he somehow managed to escape with his life. Hari Das told Advaita Acharya about the day’s events, saying that he would not go out preaching with Nityananda any more, since his behavior was rash and unpredictable. The all-powerful Lord Nityananda’s running away is certainly a mysterious pastime, but it is to be remembered that he later went out on his own and managed to deliver the two rascals, Jagai and Madhai.
Hari Das Thakur also engaged in water sports with the Lord in Navadwip. One day, overcome by a mood of love, the Lord tried to drown himself in the Ganges, and Hari Das and Nityananda jumped in to save Him. They hid Mahaprabhu in the house of Nandana Acharya because of His wish for seclusion. When Advaita Acharya and the other Devotees were feeling the distress of separation, they went and brought Shrivasa there and reunited the Devotees with the Lord.
When Mahaprabhu put on a play about Krishna’s Vrindavan pastimes in the house of Chandrashekhara Acharya, Hari Das played the part of the town constable. He came onto the scene, dressed as a policeman, carrying a stick in his hand. The other actors in the play were Mahaprabhu as Adya shakti, Nityananda as an old cowherd woman, Advaita as the clown, Gadadhara Pandit as a cowherd girl, and Shrivasa Pandit as Narada Muni. Hari Das’s duty in the play was to awaken everyone to the service of Krishna. He cried out, “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Shrivasa will dance dressed as Narada Muni.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.18.100)
When the Lord took his sankirtan party along the banks of the Bhagirathi, Hari Das joined Him. Then Hari Das, the ocean of Krishna-rasa, on Mahaprabhu’s order, danced beautifully.
(Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.23.204)
The night before Mahaprabhu left to take sannyas, Hari Das was staying at his house. He and all the other Devotees were desolated by the Lord’s intention to take the renounced order. When the Lord went to Puri. Hari Das went there not long afterwards to see the Rathayatra and never left.
Hari Das Thakur in Puri
When in Puri, though Hari Das was not officially banned from going into the Jagannath Temple or the house of Kashi Mishra (where Mahaprabhu was staying), out of humility at his lowly birth, never went there. Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis also demonstrated a similar humility, even though they were born in a very high-caste Brahmin family. They considered themselves to be no better than mlecchas because of their long association with the Muslim court. They would stay with Hari Das when in Puri and not go for darshan of Jagannath or Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu himself would go to meet them.
Neither Hari Das, Rupa, nor Sanatan would go to the Jagannath Temple. Mahaprabhu would go there to see the Upala-bhoga in the morning. He would then go to the place where they were staying and would visit them there. It was thus the Lord’s regular practice to meet whichever one of these three was staying in Puri at the time.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.63-65)
During Lord Jagannath’s absence from the Temple (anavasara-kala), Mahaprabhu would feel separation so intensely that He would go to stay in Alalanath. When He heard that more than 200 Devotees had come from Bengal, He returned to Puri to meet them. When He did not see Hari Das Thakur, He inquired after him. Hari Das was there, but paying his obeisances at the side of the highway. The Devotees went to Hari Das and told him that Mahaprabhu wanted to see him. Hari Das said, ”I am a low-born person who has no good qualities. I have no right to go near the Temple. If I can find a solitary place to stay in some garden somewhere, then I will pass my time there alone. That way there is no danger that the servants of Jagannath will accidentally touch me. This is my wish.”
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.165-7)
The Devotees came back to Mahaprabhu to report what Hari Das had said, and his wish pleased Him. He arranged for a house in a solitary garden not far from His own place of worship at Kashi Mishra’s house. Kashi Mishra was happy to have the chance to serve the Lord by making these arrangements according to His order. The Lord went to talk to Hari Das and when He saw him paying his dandavats, lifted him from the ground and embraced him. When Hari Das said, “I am an untouchable. Lord, you should not touch me”, the Lord answered:
”I touch you just to become purified, for your standard of purification is non-existent in Me. At every moment you are bathing in the water of every holy place; at every moment you are performing all sacrifices, penances and charity. You constantly are performing the pious activity of studying the Veda. You are more purifying than any Brahmin or sannyasi.”
After saying this, the Lord took him to the flower garden and gave him the solitary room there as a place to stay. “Stay here and chant the Holy Names. I will come every day to visit you here. You can see the discus on the pinnacle of the Temple tower from here. When you see it, pay your obeisances to it. I will arrange for Jagannath’s Prasad to be brought to you here.”
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.189-95)
This flower garden is now known by the name, Siddha Bakula. Previously it was named Mudra Math. There is a legend connected with the Siddha Bakula tree. The local pandas have a tradition of giving the twig that is used to clean Jagannath’s teeth as Prasad to some special person. One day they gave a twig from a bakula tree that had so been used as a gift to Mahaprabhu. The Lord planted this twig in the ground at Hari Das’s place of bhajan. This twig eventually grew into a large tree. It is said that the Lord planted the twig on the first day of the month of Chaitra also known as Mahavishuva Sankranti, i.e. the day when the sun enters into the sign of Aries. For this reason, a festival named the Danta-kashtha-ropana Mahotsava is held on that day ever year to celebrate the occasion.
Shrila Hari Das Thakur participated in the kirtan during the Rathayatra festival as the main dancer in one of the seven kirtan sampradayas. He was in the third group, which had Mukunda Datta as its lead singer.
Hari Das’s Teachings on the Holy Name
Mahaprabhu taught the glories of the Holy Name through Hari Das Thakur. One day, the Lord was feeling particularly unhappy about the lot of the conditioned souls. He came to Siddha Bakula and said to the Thakur: “Hari Das, in the age of Kali, the non-Hindus kill the cow and are inimical to the Brahmins. How will these Muslims ever be saved?” Hari Das answered, “Don’t be distressed at seeing the pitiable condition of the Muslims. They will be liberated by the namabhasa, the shadow of the Holy Name, whenever they say haram. In the Nrisingha-purana it is said, 
damshtri-dantahato mleccho harameti punah punah
uktvapi muktim apnoti kim punah shraddhaya grinan
When wounded by the tusks of a boar, the Muslim cries out “Harama, Harama!” again and again. If he attains liberation by so doing, then just think what will be the result if one chants the name of Rama with faith.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur says that if any Muslim dies while saying this word (haram), he is immediately liberated. This is namabhasa or nama-sanketa because the speaker makes the correct sound but does not intend the Lord Rama. Therefore, it is impossible to say just what fruits await the sincere and faithful chanter. The example is given of Ajamila who called the name of his son Narayan as he was dying, and through this namabhasa he attained liberation.
When he heard this explanation, Mahaprabhu was very pleased, but again He asked Hari Das, “How will the dumb animals and the trees, etc., be delivered?” Hari Das answered:
”You Yourself have instituted the loud chanting of the Holy Names which both the moving and non-moving creatures can hear. The mobile creatures are freed from their bondage to repeated birth and death by hearing the names. As for the immobile, they perform kirtan themselves by echoing the sounds. By your indescribable mercy, the entire universe is engaged in kirtan and the mobile and immobile beings dance when they hear it… You preached the loud chanting of the Holy Names by which the repeated births and deaths of all living beings come to an end.”
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.68-71, 75)
The Disappearance of Hari Das Thakur
In the eleventh chapter of the Chaitanya Charitamrita’s Antya-lila, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami describes the disappearance of Hari Das Thakur in a most captivating way. It should be read in its entirety on the occasion of Hari Das’s disappearance day. A brief summary is given here:
namami hari dasam tam caitanyam tam ca tat-prabhum
samsthitam api yan-murtim skandhe kritva nanarta yah
I offer my obeisances to Hari Das as well as to his worshipable lord, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who placed his body on His shoulders and danced.
As Hari Das Thakur grew old, it became more and more difficult for him to maintain his vow of chanting three lakhs of names every day. Thus, he had no appetite when Govinda would come with Jagannath’s Prasad and only to avoid disrespecting the holy food would he eat a single grain of rice. Out of his affection for Hari Das, Mahaprabhu told him that he was a perfected being and that there was no need for him to show such attachment for devotional service in practice; he could thus reduce the number of Holy Names that he chanted every day. Hari Das then revealed what was really bothering him.
He knew that Mahaprabhu would soon be ending His pastimes in this world and he wished to leave before Him. The affectionate Lord granted him his wish, even though He felt desolate at the prospect of losing his company.
Hari Das Thakur sat in front of Mahaprabhu who was standing in front of Him. Then, as the tears flowed from his eyes, he gazed at the Lord’s lotus face and took His lotus feet on his chest and, while chanting the names “Krishna Chaitanya”, voluntarily left his body like Bhishma.
The Devotees became intoxicated by the kirtan which grew louder and louder, and the Lord lifted Hari Das’s body and started to dance around the courtyard. In the accompaniment of the loud singing of the Holy Names, He and the Devotees took Hari Das’s remains to the beach. There they washed the body in the sea and then dug a hole in the sand where they placed it. Mahaprabhu was the first to throw sand into the samadhi. This is how the samadhi ritual of Hari Das Thakur was performed. By virtue of his presence, the seashore became a great place of pilgrimage.
Mahaprabhu circumambulated the burial place and then went personally to the Jagannath Temple to beg for Prasad for a feast in honor of Hari Das. Svarupa Damodar Goswami would not let Mahaprabhu carry the Prasad Himself, but took care of making all the arrangements himself. At the feast, all the Devotees were given enough food to eat to their fill. In a mood of absorption in divine love, Mahaprabhu said to all the Devotees:
”All those who witnessed the disappearance festival of Hari Das Thakur, who danced or sang the Holy Names there, who came to throw sand on his samadhi or took Maha Prasad on this occasion, will quickly attain Krishna. This is the fruit of seeing a great personality like Hari Das Thakur. The Supreme Lord was so merciful that he gave Me his association, and now the independent Lord has wished to deprive Me of it. When Hari Das decided that he wanted to leave, there was nothing I could do to keep him back. He left his body at the very moment that he desired to do so, just as we have heard that Bhishma did. Hari Das was the exemplar of humanity in this world, and now that he is gone, the world has lost a jewel. All glories to Hari Das Thakur! Chant the Lord’s names!” And having finished his eulogy, the Lord began once again to dance.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.11.91-98)
Hari Das Thakur’s tirodhana-lila took place on the fourteenth day of the waxing moon in the month of Bhadra.
 The Arabic word haram (haram in Bengal) means anything which is impure according to the Islamic religion. For Bengali Muslims, it particularly refers to the pig or boar which is an untouchable animal in Islam.
[Excerpted from "Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates" by Shrila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]