Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji had a very complicated relationship with food. We are pretty fussy by society standards, being vegetarian and all, but I bet no one could ever predict what to serve Srila Gaurakishora and whether he would accept it or not.
Generally, he maintained his body by begging, doing the madhukari thing. The beauty of madhukari method is that people give away very little food and so are not inconvenienced in any way and the persons doing the begging have to totally rely on Krishna to gather enough food to eat as they can’t rely on any one particular donor. Theoretically speaking, you can endear yourself to someone and develop a relationship based on exchange of food. You’ll smile or give blessings and the donor would brag before his friends: “You know that sadhu? I own him.” Madhukari doesn’t leave any room for that, personal relationships never have a chance to develop and so it’s only up to the Supersoul within everyone’s heart to nudge them to provide the daily maintenance.
So, normally, Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji would beg, he would then gather discarded pots and use them for cooking. And sometimes he would simply soak rice in Ganges water and eat it with chillies. Sometimes he would also take prasadam in homes of the devotees but offering him anything to eat was always a hit and miss. He refused to follow the diet prescribed by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati once, for example.
There were times when he would just chew on Ganges mud and not bother about food at all.
He didn’t care about the quality of the preparations but only about their purity. One time he even said he wasn’t eating prasadam offered to the Deities. That sounds very strange but he probably meant people cooking for themselves and then taking food to their household deities for the blessing. In his mind it’s not the act of offering food that was important but the consciousness of the cook.
Once a devotee came to stay in Navadvipa and he was renting a room in a house of a caste gosvami. First thing Srila Gaurakishora asked him was about his meal arrangements. When he learned that meals were provided as part of the board he advised the devotee to cook for himself instead and not accept anything prepared by the fish eating gosvami.
Later on this devotee brought him some sweets that he offered to Lord Chaitanya himself but Srila Gaurakishora refused to eat them. The devotee argued that there’s nothing higher than accepting Lord’s prasadam but Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji had his own reasons, too. He said that Lord Chaitanya never accepts the food from deceitful people who have no appreciation for real vaishnavas, accept impure food, and are cooking for their own enjoyment. They might pretend to offer it to the Lord but because there’s no devotion in their hearts Lord Chaitanya doesn’t bother accepting it.
He gave a little lecture on the subject. Foodstuffs contaminated with lusty desires are not accepted, foodstuffs chosen according to one’s own taste are not accepted, offering such things to the Lord is actually offensive. Things turn around completely if one has unflinching faith and humility and sincere desire to serve the vaishnavas. Then food prepared to one’s own taste is very pleasant to the Lord and Krishna might even enjoy tasting food touched by the lips of his pure, selfless devotees.
The lesson is – we might do everything right and offer food according to proper procedures and according to high standards of purity but if our hearts are contaminated with material desires and material pride, Krishna does not accept our offerings. If we don’t really mean to cook for Krishna, he doesn’t care, too.
Then there were many cases when Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji forbade devotees to take impure prasadam from a variety of sources. Once he refused to honor festival prasadam because it was sponsored by a woman of loose reputation. She, actually, might have organized the festival to wash away her sins but Srila Gaurakishora wasn’t going to help her in improving her karma. If the festival is organized for one’s personal benefit than sadhus who partake the food there poison their own consciousness.
It makes sense, the organizer hopes that he would get a lot of good karma by feeding sadhus, and sadhus let themselves enjoy the superb preparations offered with ulterior motives. What has it got to do with serving Krishna? There’s no service there and there’s no spiritual benefit there for anybody, it’s a giant waste of time.
One time a newlywed couple asked Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji for his advice. He told them to constantly worship the Lord and live separately. Sometimes later he asked the young husband about his progress. Yes, they lived separately, they done it. I have no idea how newlyweds can be separated but he pulled it off, great. Not so fast, said Srila Gaurakishora. He asked the husband where he took his food. “We live separately but we take our meals together, only the meals,” said the husband. “What did you have today?” asked Srila Gaurakishora. The husband quickly described all the nice veggies and dahl and fried eggplant. “Shame on you,” thundered Srila Gaurakishora. “You gave up external association with your wife but you are still craving for her delicious food internally, how can you even think about serving the Lord in this condition? How can you hope to progress in your life if you secretly maintain your attachments to your wife?”
Once a married couple approached Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati for a similar advice and he told them basically the same stuff about great many dangers and impediments that married life brings to devotional service. They weren’t really satisfied with his answers, though, so they went to see Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji for the second opinion. Interestingly, Srila Gaurakishora became very excited for them and eagerly described many ways they can serve the Lord together.
On another occasion Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji discussed the great fortune of having a vaishnava wife. It’s a special mercy of the Lord, to get a vaishnava wife, and if one is blessed with one of those he should treat her as Lord’s special representative. Not long ago I commented on a mini discussion on this same topic but in that case some people argued against treating husbands as Lord’s messengers. Here Srila Gaurakishora was telling men to treat their vaishnava wives as such. That the wife should always worship and respect her husband went without saying.
It’s a different matter, however, he was talking about genuine vaishnava partners, not some roadkill that ends up living in your house, whether in a male or female form.
Srila Gaurakishora’s relationships with less than advanced devotees and materialistic persons is a subject for another discussion, it wasn’t exactly smooth either, and it had some unexpected twists, but I better leave it for another day.