Srila Gurudeva (The Supreme Treasure)

by Swami Bhaktivedanta Madhava Maharaja | 2010 | 179,005 words

This page relates ‘Shrila Gurudeva’s Childhood Name’ of the book dealing with life and teachings of Srila Gurudeva, otherwise known as Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja. Srila Gurudeva is a learned and scholar whose teachings primarily concern the spiritual beauties of Bhakti—devotional service and the qualities and pastimes of Shri Krishna.

Śrīla Gurudeva’s Childhood Name

Traditionally the name-giving ceremony (nāma-karaṇa) is held for every young Indian child. Śrīla Gurudeva's paternal grandmother, Dulārī-devī, carefully observed her grandson’s rare characteristics and chose a suitable name for him. Small children are typically naughty and mischievous. They throw things around and break them and cry a lot. Śrīla Gurudeva never did anything like this. When he was a baby he would remain quietly wherever his mother Śrīmatī Lakṣmī-devī would put him. even when he could walk and run, he would still sit peacefully wherever his mother placed him, without protesting or weeping. He resembled a great yogī sitting in one place and meditating on the Supreme Lord.

Seeing this, his paternal grandmother Dulārī-devī remarked, “His name should be Bholānātha because he looks like Lord Śiva meditating on the Supreme.”

Bholānātha is a name of Lord Śiva meaning that he is very easily pleased. He easily grants whatever is asked of him without considering who is fit to receive benediction and what will be the consequences. He readily gives blessings without any self-interest. This is clearly evident in the story of the demon Vṛkāsura, the son of Śakuni. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam states that Vṛkāsura wanted to enjoy Lord Śiva’s wife Pārvatī, so he performed severe austerities to placate Lord Śiva. When the lord appeared Vṛkāsura asked for the benediction that if he touched anyone’s head it would split open and kill the person instantly.

Lord Śiva granted this benediction without hesitation and the shameless Vṛkāsura immediately rushed forward to use his new power against Lord Śiva himself. The Lord turned and ran in alarm, his deerskin attire and his ḍamaru drum falling. As Vṛkāsura chased Lord Śiva around the universe, Śiva remembered his Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Lord Viṣṇu then appeared as a perfect brahmacārī in order to protect his devotee from the demon. The Lord’s bodily effulgence was attractive to both Śiva and the pursuing demon. using sweet words, the Lord in His brahmacārī form approached Vṛkāsura and convinced him not to chase Lord Śiva: “Lord Śiva resides in a cremation ground and smears his body with ashes. He lives with ghosts and hobgoblins, he has a snake around his neck, and he wears no clothes. How can you believe that someone like that has any power to give benedictions?”

The brahmacārī then advised the demon Vṛkāsura to test the benediction on himself. By the influence of Yogamāyā, the demon became completely bewildered and thought, “I have never heard such a sweet voice. I must follow this advice.” The foolish demon then put his hand on his own head which immediately split open and he died.

This pastime shows how Śrī Kṛṣṇa protects Lord Śiva and how Lord Śiva depends on his worshipable Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It also shows Lord Śiva’s quality of granting whatever he is asked for without considering whether or not the result will be good for him.

After Śrīla Gurudeva’s uncle Kamalākānta had listened to Dulārīdevī’s suggestion that the boy should be called Bholānātha, he pointed out a further consideration. Kamalākānta Tiwari was the youngest of the four cousin-brothers but he was the one who maintained the whole family. Further, if there was ever a legal problem or someone had to go to court or if there was a social program such as a marriage ceremony, he would be the one to take care of all the arrangements.

Kamalākānta Tiwari thought that, although Bholānātha was an auspicious name of Lord Śiva, there were other reasons why it would not be a good name for his nephew. He was concerned that as the boy grew up children would call him “Bhole! Bhole!” They would tease him mercilessly and pester him with questions: “Where is your trident? Where are your crematorium ashes? Where is your snake?” and so forth.

Kamalākānta Tiwari called an experienced astrologer who said that the saintly young boy’s name should start with the letter śa because the zodiac sign in which the moon was situated at the time of his birth (rāśi) was Aquarius (Kumbha). Kamalākānta Tiwari then declared, “Yes, we should call him Śrīman Nārāyaṇa. Śrī is favourable because we are in the Śrī sampradāya of rāmānujācārya. Śrī means Lakṣmī who is always together with Nārāyaṇa. Our worshipable deities are Lakṣmī-Nārayaṇa, so when we call his name Śrīman Nārāyaṇa, we can always remember Their Lordships, Lakṣmī-Nārayaṇa.

Out of the many family members present, only Śrīla Gurudeva’s grandmother, Dulārī-devī, raised an objection: “Oh, Kamalakānta, there are so many shorter names like Śiva, Śankara, Śambhu and so forth, that start with the letter śa. Why have you chosen this long name ‘Śrīman Nārāyaṇa’?”

Kamalakānta replied, “Mother, I have all respect and veneration for our all-auspicious Lord Śiva, but have you forgotten how our gurudeva related the glories of Lord Nārāyaṇa’s name?”

Dulārī-devī replied, “Oh my dear son, I always engage myself in household duties, cooking and providing nourishment for all of you. I cannot remember what our beloved gurudeva said about the glories of Nārāyaṇa. Please tell me again.”

Kamalakānta then told her, “Nārāyaṇa is such a powerful name. You all know the story from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam of Ajāmila and his young son Nārāyaṇa.”

Ajāmila was a first class aristocratic brāhmaṇa, but somehow he became entangled with a prostitute and gave up his chaste wife and family just to be with her. There was no sin he would not perform for her sake. He became so degraded that at the time of death three Yamadūtas came to take him to hell. They were so ghastly that in terror Ajāmila called out for his son, “Nārāyaṇa, Nārāyaṇa.” even though Ajāmila was only calling out for his son, when he uttered those four syllables ‘nā, rā, ya, ṇa’, Lord Nārāyaṇa sent four of his messengers, Viṣṇudūtas, to protect him. Ajāmila heard the conversation between the Viṣṇudūtas and Yamadūtas, in which the Viṣṇudūtas established the power and glories of the name of Nārāyaṇa. Ajāmila then resolutely determined to give up that prostitute and all his family entanglements in this world and go to Haridvāra to do exclusive bhajana of Lord Nārāyaṇa. Afterwards, when the time came to give up his body, those same four Viṣṇudūtas came again to bring him to the Lord’s abode. The name ‘Nārāyaṇa’ is so powerful that anyone who chants it will be benefitted.

“From this day, no one shall call him Bholānātha. He will be called Śrīman Nārāyaṇa.” From that day onwards, the child’s name became Śrīman Nārāyaṇa Tiwari. Much later, he joined the maṭha as a young man. When he received initiation on Śrī Gaura Pūrṇimā, in March 1947, our Parama-gurudeva kept his name by calling him Śrī Gaura Nārāyaṇa. Later again, when he accepted the renounced order of sannyāsa, his name became Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, the famous ācārya of the Brahma-Mādhva-Gauḍīya sampradāya.

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