The life of Srila Haridasa Thakura
by Rupa-Vilasa Dasa
In 15th century Bengal there was tremendous social and religious ferment, and Haridasa Thakura’s appearance during this period, as well as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s 35 years later, had a tremendous impact upon the clashing religious forces. Many Muslims were infuriated that Haridäsa would commit apostasy by converting to Hinduism. Likewise, the conservative Hindus were equally outraged that a Muslim dared to cross the lines of hereditary caste and social custom to practice “their” religion.
The operable principle behind the activities of Srila Haridasa Thakura was jaiva-dharma (the essential function of the soul). This revolutionary and non-sectarian philosophy spoke of unifying principles, true of all religions: to render service to God in the mode of a servant and thus to develop love of God. The means to achieve that love: chanting the divine name of God. Whether one chanted Allah, Krishna, Rama, Jehovah, or any other authorized name enunciated in the great religious traditions, it didn’t matter. One, thus situated, was beyond all bodily designations: he or she was not Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist; not Indian, Turk, European, American or any other nationality; not black, brown, yellow or white; not male or female; not identified with any caste, creed, political party or family. Rather, identity is firmly established as the living being, situated in his/her original, spiritual, constitutional position, an eternal soul, the loving servant of the Supreme Lord.
Despite having such a universal outlook, Srila Haridasa Thakura was reviled and persecuted by the sectarian religionists and loved and adored by the open-hearted. He was imprisoned, tortured, taunted and insulted throughout his life. Nevertheless, he never gave up teaching and practicing the universal philosophy of jaiva-dharma by living a pure life, avoiding meat-eating, illicit sex, gambling and intoxication, and always chanting the names of God. Millions of people in India were attracted to the practices of jaiva-dharma, and eventually it was carried over the ocean to the USA by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in the form of the Hare Krishna movement. From there, it spread all over the world. This chanting of the holy name is the universal, eternal, pure religion of the soul, and Haridasa Thakura is one of its greatest proponents, practitioners and saints.