Interview with an Ascetic
by K. L. Kamat
I went to Mayapur by the way of Bebagram and Krishnanagar. The meeting point of Bhagirati and Jalngi rivers was spectacular. It is the birth place of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who founded the Vaishnavism and the place was full with devotees. I rode a tiny boat to go the temple of Shriyogapeetha. In the temple (Chaitanyamuth), a young boyragi (ascetic) was taking care of a shop that sold Bengali and English books and pictures of Navadweep. He was no older than fourteen. He narrated me the glory of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in a very well rehearsed lecture with a heavy dose of complex Sanskrit words.
"How did you learn all this? " I asked him.
"It is the blessing of the Mahaprabhu (Great Lord). I was attracted to the divine force when I was young. I have left my family and everything to serve the master" he replied as if he had rehearsed that too!
"They know that they will become ash instantaneously if they offend Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu"
I further pulled him - "Don't you ascetics who are devoted to religion and social service, should do something about the harassment by Naxals to protect other devotees?"
"And you think our Lord doesn't know about the harassment by the Naxalites? He has given mankind a pot of sin that we can fill. As soon as it gets full, he will show up"
"But why should we wait for God? Why cannot we do something to prevent the mischief and the troubles?"
"Look, Sir, it is no big deal to contain the communists. But if everybody is contented and happy they will forget the glory of God. Only when people's lives and comforts are in danger that the river of bhakti (devotion) will flow."
This boy melted my heart. I asked him how come mischief mongers are born in this holy land of ours. "Sir, mischief mongers are as old as the land. Kansa (the evil uncle of Krishna) was a much bigger Naxalite than Charu Mazumdar! As his pot of sins ran out, Lord Vishnu took the avatar of Shri Krishna and destroyed him."
Meanwhile some customers wanted a specific book. He was as an astute shopkeeper as he was a skilled speaker. As he returned, I sighed "Lord Krishna came then, who will rescue us now?", for which he smiled and said - "Apparently, my honored guest has not read the Puranas. We will never know when the avatar of Kalki will arrive. For all that we know, he may have already come as our Governor Dhawan!"
The bicycle-cab (rickshaw) driver I had engaged reminded me to return to the rickshaw so we can see other temples. "There's a lot more temples to see" he warned. I replied to him not to worry and said that I already found the rise of knowledge (Gnanodaya). The boy ascetic was happy at this and asked me about my country (desh). I told him that I was from Mysore. "Our master (sage Chaitanya) traveled all over the Deccan. I am sure he had been to Mysore" - he said confidently.
"Why do you not allow photography here?" I asked him pointing to a sign. "Oh, that is to prevent profiteers from making money from the temple, but you can take pictures if you like" said he. The pictures he was selling were extremely cheap and he explained that generous donors who are devotees of Mahaprabhu kept the prices affordable to even the poorest. He then took me to the garden behind the muth and showed me the plants he had planted and cared for. They were all in full bloom and were beautiful. He even walked me to the rickshaw to say goodbye.
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