RECITE THE SACRED NAME

Sri Krishna Chaitanya was the pioneer of the movement of Nagarasamkirtan. He used to get himself immersed in the contemplation of the Lord while singing His glory and used to be oblivious of the external world.

Once he was conducting Nagarasamkirtan in Navadweep. Several leaders of the town too joined him in his Bhajan. They were all ecstatically singing Bhajans and walking along the streets. A thief also joined this group. He thought it would be an opportunity for him to pick the pockets of rich devotees who would be lost in singing and dancing. But when he actually participated in it he began singing with more zeal than others. All of them had come to a temple and were seated. He sat near Chaitanya, while those sitting in front were listening to his discourse. Many had left the temple precincts by then. He held Chaitanya's both feet and said: "Swami, you are giving so much advice to so many people. Kindly impart to me some sacred "mantra".

Chaitanya looked at him and said: "Tell me first of all who you are and what you do". The thief said: "Swami! How can I lie to you? I am a thief. I have been a thief all my life. My name is Rama, people call me 'Rama' - the thief."

Chaitanya said: "Oh what a pity. I shall give you a name or a message but what will you give me as guru Dakshina?" The thief at once said without any hesitation: "I shall give you a share in the booty I get from my theft." Chaitanya said: "I have no need for any money. All that I insist is that you should give up stealing." The thief said: "Swami, that is my profession, how else can I earn a living, when I do not have any other skill?" "Well," said Chaitanya, "I shall give you a sacred name on one condition, when you go for thieving, you must first recite the sacred name I give you 1008 times." Chaitanya whispered into his ear: "Om Namo Bhagavathe Vasudevaya". Transformation even by then had taken place in the thief because of the touch of the holy person. He was also freed from the sin of his past deeds because of the conversation with Chaitanya. The thief went back a refined person.

One day many wealthy householders had locked their houses and had gone for the Darshan of Sri Krishna Chaitanya. The thief did not want to lose this opportunity to break into a house. He went to the house of the richest man of the town. He broke into the house and entered the room where the iron safe was kept. He opened it and saw valuable gems and jewels of gold. He resolved not to touch anything until he had finished reciting 1008 times the mantra given to him. Before he completed the number, the master of the house arrived along with the family. The lady of the house wanted to remove all the jewels she had worn before she left the house and keeps them back in the safe. She saw a stranger lost in the recitation of the sacred mantra "Om Namo Bhagavathe Vasudevaya." She thought he must be a great sage who had come to their house to bless them. She called her husband. The thief was lost in his meditation. The entire family sat round him with folded hands. They thought he must be a saintly soul like Chaitanya.

The thief opened his eyes after the completion of 1008 times the mantra. He was surprised to find a group of people sitting reverentially before him. The master of the house asked him, "Oh Sir! May we know who you are and may we request you to honour us by accepting to take food with us today so that we shall be redeemed of our sins." The thief said to himself: "If the mere recitation of the Lord's name, now and then can bring me such honour, what greater things cannot happen to me if I sincerely make it my daily habit of reciting the name continuously. I may certainly win the grace of the Lord." He decided to give up thieving. He prostrated before the master of the house and his wife and said, "Mother, let me tell you the truth. I am a thief. Let me go to the forest. I shall spend the rest of my life in the contemplation of God." All were surprised at his words but were very happy.

He stayed with them as their guest that night. The news of this event spread fast around in the morning. As a result, the whole neighborhood came to see him. They took him in a palanquin round the town and left him in the forest where he wanted to do his Tapas. Later, once again, he came to Chaitanya and received his blessings so that he may blossom into a real sage.