Haridasa Thakur (born 1451) was a prominent Vaishnava Acharya of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya known for being a great preacher who served Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in establishing His Sankirtana movement.
Born into a Muslim family, He was an ardent devotee of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He was a contemporary of Srila Advaita Acharya and used to associate with him at Shantipura intimately. His integrity and unflinching faith in the face of extreme adversity are extolled in Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya lila.
He is primarily famous for his dedication to constantly chanting the names of Lord Krishna. Haridasa Thakura and Advaita Acharya, two senior and well-respected religious personalities of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the local area of Mayapur, prayed for the descent of the yugavatara, (avatar of the era) who was Lord Chaitanya.
Lord Chaitanya had appeared for establishing the chanting o the Hare Krishna Mantra as the yuga dharma and He found Srila Haridasa Thakura as the ideal chanter. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, designated him “Namacharya” or the acharya of the holy name. Due to his constant prayer and meditation on the names of God, he personified compassion. While being brutally beaten by Muslim aggressors he prayed incessantly that The Lord may forgive them. Haridasa Thakura was an incarnation of Prahlada Maharaja and this was demonstrated by His great forbearance in the face of the vicious torture by the Muslims.
Haridasa Thakura practiced chanting the names of the Krishna, 300,000 times daily. That is equivalent of chanting 174 rounds daily. He was a great authority on the chanting process. In commenting on the pastime of the liberation of the sinful Ajamila merely by chanting the holy name of Narayana, Srila Prabhupada writes,
“Haridāsa Ṭhākura confirmed that simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord one is liberated, even if he does not chant completely inoffensively.” SB 6.2.24 Purport.
Towards the final stages of his presence on earth, Srila Haridasa Thakura had no other engagement except for chanting the holy names day and night. Lord Chaitanya Himself arranged for a secluded place of residence for Srila Haridasa Thakura at Jagannth Puri where He asked him to chant constantly. The Lord told Haridasa that He would personally visit him daily. Srila Haridsa born in a Muslim family, out of his great humility did not consider himself fit to enter the temple of Lord Jagannath. However, Jagannath Himself daily came to visit him at his residence as Lord Chaitanya. The Lord assured him that He would arrange for his Prasadam. Then Srila Haridasa Thakura took up his great vow of chanting 300,000 names of the Lord daily.
Although esteemed by spiritually advanced personalities, acharyas warn, that such a process should not be imitated by ordinary souls. Srila Prabhupada referring to an African disciple who took upon himself to chant twenty-four hours in a secluded place writes,
“Recently at Māyāpur an African devotee wanted to imitate Haridāsa Ṭhākura, but after fifteen days he became restless and went away. Do not suddenly try to imitate Haridāsa Ṭhākura. Engage yourself in Kṛṣṇa conscious activities, and gradually you will come to the stage of liberation (muktir hitvānyathā rūpaṁ svarūpeṇa vyavasthitiḥ).” SB 8.1.14 purport
“Neophyte students are not to imitate sitting in a solitary place and remembering the lotus feet of the Lord by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. We should always remember that it was Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself who wanted such a place, either for Himself or Haridāsa Ṭhākura. No one can suddenly attain the level of Haridāsa Ṭhākura and sit down in a solitary place to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra and remember the lotus feet of the Lord. Only an exalted person like Haridāsa Ṭhākura or Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who is personally exhibiting the proper behavior for an ācārya, can engage in such a practice.” CC Madhya 11.176 Purport.
Srila Haridasa Thakura, a most exalted Vaishnava personality gave this world the inspiring paragon of the ideal chanter by his inimitable activities. In the Krishna Consciousness movement, Namacharya Srila Haridasa Thakura will eternally remain the prime motivator for the most important activity in the life of a sadhaka – chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.