So, the beatings, the most juicy part of Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s story. If it wasn’t for the beatings we wouldn’t be so much impressed by his achievements. It’s an unfortunate fact but it is true.
We are rascals, we don’t just believe things, we expect them to produce results that we can relate to and appreciate. When one first approaches his potential guru questioning is a must but after taking shelter of his lotus feet there should be no doubt at all, ideally. We are still not impressed, though, we need more miracles. We want Kṛṣṇa shine through our material senses, we can’t rely only on “unsubstantiated rumors”. As much as we trust our authorities, we also need to see or imagine something for ourselves.
To our credit, we accept the divinity of Lord Caitanya on faith. I don’t think cutting out one of the manifestations of His powers would affect our opinion. I bet many of us can’t even remember all the cases where the Lord displayed His divine nature. He was God, we accept that.
With Haridāsa Ṭhākura it’s somewhat different. He was one of us and he achieved spiritual perfection through chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. Lord Caitanya was God and He could do everything. Haridāsa Ṭhākura is one of our own, we can’t do anything, but he could, and we need proof of that.
He was chanting three hundred thousand names every day. We can’t do that but we know it’s possible. What we also know that if we chanted as much it wouldn’t have the same effect on our lives, at least not immediately. So, how could we believe that Haridāsa Ṭhākura achieved perfection when replicating his activities generally doesn’t bring the same result? That’s where miracles come handy. Off the top of my head there were three – driving the snake out of the cave, withstanding māyā’s temptation in the form of a prostitute, and beatings.
Snake is the least impressive of those, could have happened for all sorts of reasons, normally, we wouldn’t even consider it as a genuine problem. Prostitute was cool, we can’t do that, but many saintly people in history have learned to withstand sex desires so it’s not really that big of a deal. We are all expected to pass this test sooner or later and we all know how close or how far we are from passing it. When we are fully engaged in service it appears to be super easy, won’t even enter our minds, now we have to learn how to do it when we are alone with a horny woman sitting in our room for hours. Not easy but doable.
Beatings, however, no one can do that. If you are meant to be beaten to death you will die. To survive this ordeal one must be personally protected by the Lord, there’s no other way. If it ever happens to us we hope the Lord would interfere, too, but it is not guaranteed, sadly. Initially we all expect full protection from Kṛṣṇa but at some point we all have to realize that Kṛṣṇa consciousness means consciousness, not bodily comfort. Kṛṣṇa will protect us spiritually and He guarantees our return back to Godhead but not freedom from pain and certainly not freedom from death.
One could say that being killed for one’s faith reflects badly on the Lord, too. After all, even the Bengali king wanted Haridāsa’s survival as proof, but throughout history many torturers converted by seeing faith of their victims even if victims did not survive. These converts then were killed themselves.
I see no reasons why any of us would have to survive beatings and torture, except some special circumstances. Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s mission had hardly even begun and he had a big role to play in pastimes of Lord Caitanya. Do we have a similar important task ahead? Can’t somebody else do it if we die? We are not THAT important.
It’s not the death or the pain or what happens to our body that should concern us, it’s our ability to focus on Kṛṣṇa and whether Kṛṣṇa would help us in that or not. He promised He would protect His devotees but to get this protection we first have to surrender, unconditionally, which isn’t that easy. Half surrender might not work. Secondly, we have to expect protection in areas that matter – in our consciousness, not in our bodies, and this isn’t easy either.
Once such protection is given, however, we will be free from pain, death, bodily harm, or any other kind of miseries. It’s not that our bodies would be free from harm, it’s our consciousness that won’t be affected. If we are still attached to our bodies we might be greatly disappointed in such protection but that is due to our foolishness.
When beaten in the market places Haridāsa Ṭhākura didn’t feel any pain. Not because his body was unaffected, it was, but he did not feel it as related to him at all. We don’t feel for the punching bags in boxing gyms and similarly Haridāsa Ṭhākura didn’t feel for what we think was “his own body”.
There’s also an explanation that Lord Caitanya extended His own transcendental body to cover Haridāsa’s so that lashes didn’t touch Haridāsa’s skin at all and wounds were left on the back of Lord Caitanya. I don’t know where this version comes from, however. Does it mean that kazi’s executioners hit Haridāsa with canes and didn’t see their blows leaving any marks? Caitanya Bhāgavata says nothing about this, though Lord Caitanya’s explanation might be recorded in some other place.
And it wasn’t only the torturers – beatings were done in market places and everybody felt Haridāsa’s pain. They couldn’t watch it and there were murmurs in the crowd that torturing a vaiṣṇava like that would bring misfortune on the whole kingdom, some cursed the king, trouble was brewing.
Or, perhaps, they could see the wounds but those wounds were actually on the otherwise invisible body of Lord Caitanya while people thought it was on Haridāsa’s. When we invoke transcendental miracles like that everything can be explained away. Personally, I’d rather stick to the version from Caitanya Bhāgavata and if Lord Caitanya ever showed Haridāsa marks on His own body they could have been inflicted by Lord’s own agony of seeing His devotee suffer that way. None of them actually felt the pain but marks were registered on their bodies anyway. It’s just mind tricks one might see at various shows.
The movie about Haridāsa also shows a “normal” beating and no magic. Haridāsa just chanted his way through the ordeal, that’s all.
I wish I could find the origin of the “wounds on Mahāprabhu’s back” story but it would take time I don’t have right now.
Next up is Haridāsa’s “death”, pretty amazing trick, too.