The prostitute said, "My dear haridasa, O great preacher, great devotee, you are so beautifully built, and your youth is just beginning. Who is the woman who could control her mind after seeing you?"





Haridasa Thakura and the Prostitute


  • Strict followers of the caste system in sixteenth-century India avoided all contact with Muslims. Yet Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, founder of the modern-day Hare Krsna movement, shattered all bonds of prejudice and bigotry by elevating Haridasa Thakura, who was born in a Muslim family, to the position of namacarya, or the spiritual master of the holy name of Krsna. In this way Sri Caitanya practically demonstrated one of His central teachings-if any person is seen to be a great devotee of the Lord, he should be honored and respected regardless of his birth or social status. Such a spiritually advanced person can completely transform the lives of others. In the following incident from the life of Haridasa Thakura, we see how a beautiful prostitute, through the power of his chanting, became a great saint.
  • In the forest of Benapola, in what is now known as Bangladesh, the solitary monk sat before the sacred tulasi plant chanting the holy names of Krsna day and night. Haridasa Thakura would chant three hundred thousand names of the Lord each day. The body of this extraordinary saint, who was constantly in trance, was maintained by spiritual strength from chanting, and he barely slept at all. He was so influential that all the neighboring people offered their respects to him.

    But a landholder named Ramacandra Khan, the district tax collector, was envious of devotees of Lord Krsna. Unable to tolerate the great respect that was being offered to Haridasa Thakura, he schemed to dishonor him. By no means, however, could he find any fault in the character of Haridasa. Therefore, he called for some local prostitutes and plotted to discredit the saint. Ramacandra Khan said to the prostitutes, "There is a mendicant named Haridasa Thakura. All of you devise a way to deviate him from his vows of austerity." Austerity means renunciation of sensual pleasures, especially the pleasure of sex.

    Ramacandra Khan selected a ravishing young beauty to break the monk's vow of celibacy and dishonor him. "I shall attract the mind of Haridasa Thakura," she promised, "within three days."

    Ramacandra Khan said to the prostitute, "My constable will go with you so that as soon as he sees you with Haridasa Thakura, he will immediately arrest him and bring both of you to me."

    The prostitute replied, "First let me have union with him once; then the second time I shall take your constable with me to arrest him.

    At night the prostitute, after dressing herself in a seductive way, went to the cottage of Haridasa Thakura. Haridasa was young, strong, and handsome, and the girl was eager to be alone with him. After offering respects to the tulasi plant, she went to the door of Haridasa's hut, offered him obeisances, and stood there. Exposing part of her body to his view, she sat down on the threshold and spoke to him in sweet words.

    "My dear Haridasa, O great preacher, great devotee, you are so beautifully built, and your youth is just beginning. Who is the woman who could control her mind after seeing you? I am eager to be united with you. My mind is greedy for this. If I don't obtain you, I shall not be able to keep my body and soul together."

    Haridasa Thakura replied, "I shall accept you without fail, but you will have to wait until I have finished chanting my regular rounds on my beads. Until that time, please sit and listen to the chanting of the holy name. As soon as I am finished, I shall fulfill your desire."

    Hearing this, the prostitute remained sitting there while Haridasa Thakura chanted on his beads until the light of morning appeared. When she saw that it was morning, the prostitute stood up and left. Coming before Ramacandra Khan, she informed him of all the news.

    "Today Haridasa Thakura has promised to enjoy with me," she said. "Tomorrow certainly I shall have union with him."

    The next night, when the prostitute came again, Haridasa Thakura gave her many assurances. "Last night you were disappointed. Please excuse my offense. I shall certainly accept you. Please sit down and hear the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra until my regular chanting is finished. Then your desire will surely be fulfilled."

    After offering her obeisances to the tulasi plant and Haridasa Thakura, she again sat down at the door. Hearing Haridasa Thakura chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, she also chanted, "O my Lord Hari, O my Lord Hari."

    When the night came to an end, the prostitute was restless. Seeing this, Haridasa said, "I have vowed to chant ten million names in one month. I have taken this vow, but now it is nearing its end. I thought that today I would be able to finish my chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra. I tried my best to chant the holy name all night, but I still did not finish. Tomorrow I will surely finish, and my vow will be fulfilled. Then it will be possible for me to enjoy with you in full freedom."

    The prostitute returned to Ramacandra Khan and informed him of what had happened. The next day she came earlier, at the beginning of the evening, and stayed all night. Again, as she began to hear Haridasa Thakura's chanting, she also chanted "Hari, Hari," the holy name of the Lord.

    "Today it will be possible for me to finish my chanting," the saint said. "Then I shall satisfy all your desires."

    The night ended with Haridasa still chanting, but now, because of her constant hearing of Haridasa's chanting, the mind of the prostitute had changed. Now fully purified, she began to cry and fell at the lotus feet of Haridasa Thakura, confessing that Ramacandra Khan had appointed her to pollute him.

    "Because I have taken the profession of a prostitute," she said, "I have performed unlimited sinful acts. My lord, be merciful to me. Deliver my fallen soul."

    Haridasa replied, "I know everything about the conspiracy of Ramacandra Khan. He is nothing but an ignorant fool. Therefore his activities do not make me feel unhappy. On the very day Ramacandra Khan was planning his intrigue against me, I would have left this place immediately, but because you came, I stayed here for three days to deliver you.

    "Kindly act as my spiritual master," she begged. "Instruct me in my duty by which to get relief from material existence."

    Haridasa answered, "Immediately go home and distribute to the brahmanas [priests] whatever property you have. Then come back to this room and stay here forever in Krsna consciousness. Chant the Hare Krsna mantra continuously and render service to the tulasi plant by watering her and offering prayers to her. In this way you will very soon get the opportunity to be sheltered at the lotus feet of Krsna."

    After thus instructing the prostitute in the chanting of Hare Krsna, Haridasa Thakura stood up and left, continuously chanting the Lord's holy names.

    Following the order of her spiritual master, the prostitute distributed to the local priests whatever household possessions she had. Following Haridasa's example, she began chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra three hundred thousand times a day. She chanted throughout the entire day and night, and she worshiped the tulasi plant. By eating frugally and fasting, she conquered her senses. As soon as her senses were controlled, symptoms of love of God appeared in her person.

    Thus the prostitute became a great saint, and her fame spread throughout the land. Because she was very advanced in spiritual life, many devotees of the Lord would come to see her. Seeing the sublime character of this former prostitute, everyone was astonished. They glorified the influence of Haridasa Thakura and offered their obeisances to him.

    As for Ramacandra Khan, he was eventually ruined by the arrangement of the Lord. Meanwhile, Haridasa Thakura continued his travels, always preaching the glories of the holy name, about which he often said, "As the rising sun immediately dissipates all the world's darkness, which is deep like an ocean, so the holy name of the Lord, if chanted once without offenses, can dissipate all the reactions of a living being's sinful life. All glories to that holy name of the Lord, which is auspicious for the entire world."

    To this day, thousands of pilgrims each year visit the samadhi tomb of Haridasa Thakura, who, although born a Muslim, became the spiritual master of the holy name, and one of India's greatest devotee-saints.







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