Saturday, March 6, 2010

Bengali Gunda

Last night I had a very heartfelt conversation with a Bengali gangster. No, it was not real, at least not within the tangible world- it was in a dream I had last night about the power of pure Vaishnavs

This gangster and I happened to meet by chance, somehow I was sent to his gang leader's house where we met and began to have small conversation. He began to ask me where I was from and I answered him very carefully (as you would do when encountered by this kind of dangerous personality). That is not to say that he was intimidating or threatening but I tried to answer him and not provoke his anger.

After telling him that I was a born and bred American he inquired further, captivated by confusion, “Why do you say you’re American but you look and act Bengali, even your dress is Bengali. Do you think I’m stupid?” Realising that my new friend was Bengali and knowledgeable of culture and dress, I explained to him the reason I was dressed like a Bengali. “Yes, I am Bengali actually, I’ve adopted Bengali dress and language so that makes me a Bengali.” He asked me to speak in Bengali with him so I obliged. I respectfully addressed him as my brother and inquired how he was doing. He would question, “Why did you say that you are American when you’re obviously a Bengali. How is it that you’ve adopted Bengali traditions fully even taking to the language?” So I explained to him that I was a devotee of Krishna and in the line of the Gaudiya Vaishnav Sampradaya. He simply stared at me blankly as if he had never heard of any of this before, so I asked him “Dada, what? Haven’t you even heard of the Gaudiya Samproday before? Haven’t you heard of the likes of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur, the main instigator of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s cult in the west?” He said sadly, “No, I’ve never heard of him before, who is he? Please tell me more about this man.” So I told him that Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur was a great man and a Bengali devotee who wrote many beautiful songs, he is one of our great Acharyas and teachers, still to this day we sing his songs of devotion. They are all in Bengali so many of us have learned the language that way. I began to sing for him to demonstrate the beauty of his writings and the gangster immediately broke down into tears from the power of Srila Bhaktivinod’s words. “How is it possible that such a wonderful personality has written these kind of sad poems? It is obvious that he is a great Vaishnav but he writes that he is fallen and lamenting his life. He says he has wasted his entire lifetime on worthless and fruitless endeavors. If he thinks he’s fallen, what must I be?” He certainly broke down and began to sob like a child, “What a waste, what a waste, I have spent my life looting and murdering, engaging in criminal and sinful activity of all kind. Please help me get out of this sinful life!” Somehow, his gang leader did not object, as he was hearing the entire conversation and he also had tears in his eyes. He told me to feel free to take his follower and come back anytime to speak hari-katha to him. Thus, two gundas were transformed from criminals and sinners of every kind into devotees and all by the words of Srila Bhakivinod Thakur. It goes to show how powerful one pure devotee of the Lord is even in the midst of the most fallen.

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