Chapter 12 – The Vanaprastha-asrama

Brajabandhu was without anything to eat. He went along continually doing bhajana-kirtana and he was just like a madman. He asked Subhash to read a song, to sing a song from religious poem. Subhash sang it and, after listening to it Brajabandhu was in an ecstatic mood; he just fell down on the floor, senseless. His teeth were tightly closed. His legs, arms and hands were stiff like sticks. He was in this state for approximately half an hour. Subhash and others that were there became worried; they tried opening his mouth by putting a stick between his teeth and then his mouth opened.

This is the song that Subhash had sung:

bhela budiba hela kale kahuachi
bhanga na bare keba sindhu tariachi re
bhavaku nikata se abhave dura
bhakata dasa kahe jivana chada re

mithya maya samsara nuhen kahari
mala bolina dine padiba huri re
mahi bhitare kehi amara nahi
mala boli kanduachu maribu tuhi re

janama hele prani avasya mari
yasa raksibu yebe bhaja sri hari re
yama bandhi nebati hebu melani
jagannatha mahima ediki jani re

ranga pasara sina bhava sagara
ranga bhitare achi ki na raksara re
rupa pratimaku tu visvasa na yaa
rahibe nahi kehi raja paraja re

“If you neglect it then your boat will sink. No one has crossed the ocean in a broken boat. The Lord is very near to those who have bhava and very far away from those who have no bhava. In this material world, all will have to face death. In this world no one is immortal. Whoever has taken birth in this world has to face this death. If you want to keep your name and fame, then you should chant the name of Sri Hari. This world is full of illusion. No one can know what is going on inside this material world. That is why you should not believe the outwards features, because in this material world no one will exist forever. He may be a king, he may be a rich man or he may be a very poor man, no one can stay alive in this world, all have to die. One day he has to give up this body!

Just hearing this, Brajabandhu fell down unconscious! After regaining consciousness he said to subhash, “Let us go to your house and then we will go to the house of my brother and I will give the responsibility of my children to him and then I will go.”

Subhash biswal did not want to go with him because the students from Kujang High School were angry with him. They thought it was because of him that Brajabandhu had resigned and gone to the vanaprastha asrama. So out of fear, he did not want to go with him in the day-time, and he said to Brajabandhu, “Let us go in the night”. But Brajabandhu said, “You go to your house, wait there, and we will meet up later at my house.”

Many tried to argue with Brajabandhu but he defeated all their arguments. The custom in India is that when one meets a sadhu, one gives a small donation or small offering of some kind. Consequently because he was in the dress of a sannyasi—a sadhu—many of his family gave him bhiksa. But not his mother. She refused, and tried to persuade his brother, Krpasindhu, not to give him anything. She said, “It is not right, because he has left his family and become a renunciant.” His mother had known that Brajabandhu would leave home and take up the renounced order of life, and she opposed it; that is why she asked her younger son not to give bhiksa. However, Krpasindhu did not listen to his mother’s bidding and gave bhiksa to his brother.

As krpasindhu was preparing to leave for his home, Brajabandhu gave him certain instructions and asked him, “Will you please take care of my family? If you do this, Krsna will take care of you and Krsna will extend His mercy to you.” When Brajabandhu’s family members left for their home, he assured them that they should not worry about him and that they would see him at some time in Orissa. “I will be returning to Orissa,” he said. “Do not worry.”

Mayadevi Appears

The very next morning a very old lady appeared to Brajabandhu; she was wearing a white sari and she said to him, “O my son, only you are capable of leaving me. You have broken free.” This was Mayadevi herself who appeared before Brajabandhu. Those who are capable of surrendering to the lotus feet of the Lord completely, can overcome maya! He replied to her with folded hands, “O mother, please bless me.” Then the old woman left. The next day Brajabandhu inquired throughout the village as to the identity of the old woman. But the villagers informed him that there was no such woman in their village. Years later His Divine Grace told his disciples, “That lady who came to see me was Mayadevi herself.”

After that Brajabandhu proceeded to Hrsikesha and Haridwar, to the foothills of the Himalayas. The search for the bona fide sad-guru had begun!

Subhash went to Brajabandhu’s home on the day they were supposed to meet up but he did not find him. Subhash had heard from Brajabandhu’s old mother, who was very sick at that time. She had said, “Out of fear, due to his inability to maintain the family, he has taken to this life renunciation. He may very well be at Gadai Giri.”

Sukadeva Mallik: When he left home he was very serious; his mother was bedridden, she was seriously ill, was about to expire, and he left for Hrsikesha on the train. He had spoken to this sadhu Saraswati in Hrsikesha (prior leaving home on one previous trip there) but his wife and family telephoned from Jagannathpur post Office to this saraswati in Hrsikesha and told him, “This person coming to you; he has left his wife, young children and mother who is very sick; don’t accept him, please reject him.”

Mr. Choudhary: He stayed here in a matha for some days. Family members all went there and everyone tried to persuade him not to leave; he could do God realization even with his family—in family life, but he refused everyone. And on one fine morning we found that he had disappeared—in the sense that he had gone—his spiritual search had begun!

The Voice in the Sky

Dhobani Dei: He left Kujang secretly in the night and came to Gadai Giri to see Gopala by foot. He stayed in our village temple. His wife didn’t know where he was or where he was going. His wife wrote a letter to the head of the Sivananda Ashram inquiring about her husband; she was very disappointed. The head of the Sivananda Ashram received the letter.

We were all consulting him about what he should do and what he should not do, but his mind was set. Then we heard the news about his mother from her younger brother Jagannath Giri, who had gone to see her, taking fruits. But she was not able to recognize her brother, so he did not stay there. She left this world one day after her brother’s departure from her house.

Brajabandhu’s mother died fourteen days after his leaving; she was bedridden, she had not even touched water. Brajabandhu had always taken proper care of his mother, he looked after her as he would look after himself, but he had a mission and he had gone. His mother left this world remembering her son Brajabandhu.

The day Brajabandhu left, he walked to Gadai Giri village. He had with him one danda (stick), one bag, two gamchas and one lota (water pot) and he was chanting Hare Krsna. After walking for approximately two hours he received directions from the local villagers as to the way he should take to get to his destination. They said, “There is a road you can walk along and then you will come to a village called Panchapalli.” Panchpalli is between Kujang and Gadai Giri. He had already ascertained that he should reach that village by 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. and that he would spend the night there and carry on his journey in the morning to Balikuda—Gadai Giri.

As he walked his feet became blistered, because he was walking barefoot like a sadhu. He was chanting Hare Krsna, and just kept walking until he came to a river. He went close to the riverbank; it was completely dark, and on the other side was the village of Panchapalli, but he did not know whether it was the right place or not. He could see the lights from the village on the other side but whether or not it was the village he wanted was another thing. This was a dilemma for Brajabandhu, or as he had now called himself—Gour Gopalananda dasa.

He could not get to the village on the other side, because the river was too deep to cross. Then he came to a place where the road was cut off by the river. He could not go further and was wondering how to get across. He put his stick in the water to test the depth; it was very deep. So he thought, “Alright if Krsna wants, if Gopala wants, I will sit down here in the dark, chant Hare Krsna and spend the night here, all night! Then when the day comes I will see how the local people cross this river and then I will cross over to that village.” As he was thinking this, he heard a voice from the sky—an aerial voice. It said, “This village is Panchapalli, this is the village you are looking for.” Then he thought, “But how to cross this much water?” then all of a sudden, a man came out of nowhere, walking, and went to the bank of the river, tested the water, found the shallow part and crossed the river. Brajabandhu followed him and crossed right where the other man had crossed. Brajabandhu was thinking, “Krsna is so merciful.”

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: It is my experience, I am not concocting a story, it is my experience. When I left home, just went out, I had jus moved, I had nothing with me, no money, nothing. You see, nothing with me! Only one small, small gamcha you see. Gamcha you understand. Two pairs gamcha. From the first day I left home Gopala has looked after me. I have never gone without anything, due to Gopala’s mercy.

Krsna-Gopala Jiu makes All Arrangements

Brajabandhu ten made his way to the local high school. There happened to be one of the teachers on duty and he asked him if he could spend the night there. The teacher said, “Yes you may stay.” One classroom was open and he was allocated a room to sleep in. Brajabandhu was also hungry, but he was not carrying any food with him

The teacher who had shown Brajabandhu to his room left for a short while and then came back with some flat rice, sugar and ripe bananas.

This was to Brajabandhu’s great surprise; he had not asked for anything and he began to wonder at the wonderful arrangements of the Lord was making for him. “This person brought food for me. It was nice food and I thought that Gopala is providing some nice food. I was very hungry. Then I bathed and this teacher saw my blisters and said to me, “Why don’t you wear shoes?” then he brought some mustard seed oil and began messaging my sore feet and I said to him, “O, who are you, and why are you doing this?” then he replied, “O, your feet are aching and this will give you some relief.” So I thought, “Gopala is making these arrangements.” If you completely surrender, then what is the difficulty?”

The next morning brajabandhu bathed and then began walking to the Gopala Jiu Mandir. In the meantime, in Gadai Giri, the brahmana who was doing Puja was about to cook an offering to the deity in a thatched-roof cottage. He had an earthen pot for cooking, fuel and some bhoga (vegetables, rice and dal). As he was about to cook, the earthen pot broke. The brahmana said in surprise, “Why has this pot broken? Now there is nothing to cook today. What does Gopala want?” just at that time Brajabandhu arrived at Gadai Giri and the brahmana said to him, “O, you arrived. This pot has broken!” immediately a new pot appeared with rice, dal, sabji and ghee. Then he could understand, “O, this is why Gopala broke this pot.” He said, “I had nothing, a little rice, a little dalma and I was thinking what to cook. That was all that was available, but now some nice things are there.”

Gopala is so merciful. A new pot came. Rice, dal, sabji, ghee—so much came and nice prasada was prepared for Gopala Jiu and brajabandhu*

Ghanasyam Giri: After rendering his resignation Brajabandhu went to Haridwar and Hrsikesha, via this place, [Gadai Giri]. He walked from Kujang to Gadai Giri, a total of some twenty-eight kilometers. When he arrived his feet were swollen and he was in pain. At that time he fell down here, just as though he was in samadhi. He fell down senseless. When he came to consciousness he told us all that he had resigned from his service and that he was going to Haridwar and Hrsikesha. He also said that when he returned from these places he would come to see us again. Then he next day he left and we all noticed that the swelling in his feet had gone.

In the meantime, Subhash made his way to Gadai Giri to see Brajabandhu, who had already left Gadai Giri for Cuttack. So Subhash went on to Cuttack. And there he had heard that Brajabandhu was at the house of a doctor named Haladhara Sahu. This man had previously been a student of Brajabandhu. Subhash arrived at the house of the doctor anxious to see Brajabandhu. Brajabandhu was pleased to see Subhash; he invited him, offered him a place to sit and introduce him to the doctor.

He then took Subhash to the room he was staying in, which was in the medical compound; just outside it a tulasi plant was growing. They then cooked food, offered the food and took prasada there. After prasada they had kirtana, and then Brajabandhu told Subhash that he would see him the next morning.

Brajabandhu’s program was still the same; rising early, chanting Hare Krsna, studying his religious books, cooking and offering the food to Krsna and then take the prasada. Wherever he was, this was his standard procedure; the only difference now was that he was a renunciate—he had renounced family life for a higher purpose—and was not a family man.

At nine o’clock on the day after Subhash Biswal had found him, they went to a South Indian restaurant, where they could find vegetarian food. Subhash paid for the meal, which was 5 rupees, and then Brajabandhu bade farewell to him. He also asked Subhash Biswal for bhiksa—a donation. Subhash gave him 5 rupees and begged his pardon for not giving more, but he had no money. Brajabandhu said that is all right, it was enough. He said, “You have given me food and bhiksa, it is enough. Now you should go and I am going also.” He also asked Subhash to keep in contact with him and he assured him that he would write to him.

* There is a mystery about this pot and the bhoga, and how they appeared in this way.

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