Vanity thought #893. Glorious Raghunatha Dasa

Life of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami is a treasury of lessons in spirituality, you never know what gem you are going to find next.

A few days ago I wrote about his family life on the orders of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, for example. Usually this story doesn’t get much attention yet when we think about our own family lives we think they are truly special. Raghunatha Dasa Goswami had a personal order to stay home and take care of family finances and he executed it most faithfully. He was also married at that time and he followed his prescribed duties as grihastha, too, even though he was probably still too young to consummate the marriage. We don’t have any such orders and our relationships with our wives are nothing like that, yet we believe we deserve as much recognition as sannyasis or life long brahmacharies. Funny that.

When his family duties were over Raghunatha became restless and he sought blessings of Lord Nityananda, which led to the chipped rice festival and a promise to get delivered from his obligations soon. Raghunatha then fled to see Mahaprabhu in Puri and the story of his journey deserves a separate post – how he traveled and how he maintained himself on the way.

When he arrived in Puri he was placed under the care of Svarupa Damodara Goswami and Mahaprabhu’s servant Govinda was supplying him with remnants of Lord Chaitanya’s food but after less than a week he changed his mind and sought other arrangements, I’ll get to that later.

Meanwhile, his father sent him some money and he used it to serve a feast to Lord Chaitanya twice a month until he realized that the Lord doesn’t actually like accepting food bought with money taken from Rabhunatha’s father. This is a big, big lesson for us – Krishna accepts only money given to Him in good faith, if we “re-purpose” it from elsewhere He has no interest in it and actually sees it as a source of contamination.

Back to Raghunatha, he didn’t like being served food by Lord Chaitanya’s personal servant, he preferred to beg it himself. This has led him through a series of steps that ended with him eating prasadam thrown outside temple doors that was discarded even by cows. There’s a famous story of Lord Chaitanya catching him in at night and blaming him for keeping such delicious prasadam all for himself.

There’s a big lesson here, too. Unfortunately, I can’t follow it, unlike Rabhunatha Dasa Goswami I can’t consume spoiled prasadam. I just throw it under the tree, hoping that birds will eat it. Never happens, in my observations, but I don’t know what else to do.

Anyway, the series of steps that Raghunatha took from being served by Govinda to feeding on scraps outside temple walls is important. First, he was taking alms from temple servants as they left home in the evening. Then he took whatever was offered at free kitchens, and then he graduated to feeding the scraps.

Lord Chaitanya was very happy with these developments and He dropped another bomb in this connection. When Raghunatha Dasa Goswami was begging at temple gates Lord Chaitanya compared it to prostitution (CC Antya 6.285):

“‘Here is a person coming near. He will give me something. This person gave me something last night. Now another person is coming near. He may give me something. The person who just passed did not give me anything, but another person will come, and he will give me something.’ Thus a person in the renounced order gives up his neutrality and depends on the charity of this person or that. Thinking in this way, he adopts the occupation of a prostitute.

If you ever been out on the streets you will surely be familiar with this kind of thinking. Everybody goes through this phase in the beginning. Even if not distributing books we still treat people with a similar attitude. We have teams that made such collections into an art. I don’t know if they still practice it but at some point in India they’d import western brahmacharies to show to the prospective donors. These devotees didn’t have to even open their mouths and do any preaching themselves, they were basically pimped out for money.

It worked, but, apparently, it’s not how Lord Chaitanya preferred it himself.

Later Raghunatha Dasa Goswami moved to free kitchens where you don’t have to negotiate your daily alms and you don’t develop any attachments to any particular donors, everyone was served equally, but Raghunatha couldn’t accept even that. He didn’t see it as begging, food was sure to come, you just had to show up on time. It might not have been prostitution but it was no different from zoo animal existence and so is incompatible with renunciation, and that’s when he moved on to searching for discarded food himself.

How do we go about our daily food?

One might say “but I’m not a sannyasi, I don’t have to..”, but renunciation is required of every aspiring vaishnava, devotion does not come in any other way, sannyasi or not, without renunciation we will never progress anywhere.

So, when thinking about supplying our own necessities we should remember that any negotiating to get them was compared to prostitution by Lord Chaitanya, and that getting them form a place of certain supply is not proper either.

I guess we should really be ambivalent about it, getting only what comes on its own accord and never ever jonesing for food ourselves. That’s an ideal, of course, and we might think “Okay, I’ll settle for something less” but the corollary of this settling is that we also won’t get spiritual bliss but something lesser.

So, the moral is – taste for the Holy Name does not come to those who strive for taste of food. Total renunciation is absolutely necessary.

One comment on “Vanity thought #893. Glorious Raghunatha Dasa

  1. Pingback: Vanity thought #918. Eating is overrated | back2krishna

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