There is also another meaning to the word nirgrantha. The word can also mean "foolish hunter," or "wretched poor man." There is an instance of such a hunter who attained salvation and engaged himself in the devotional service of the Lord simply by associating with the pure devotee Nārada. Indeed, Lord Caitanya told Sanātana Gosvāmī the following story of the hunter's meeting with Nārada.
Once there was a hunter in the forest of Prayāga who was fortunate enough to meet Nārada Muni when the great sage was returning from Vaikuṇṭha after visiting Lord Nārāyaṇa. Nārada came to Prayāga to bathe in the confluence of the Ganges and Yamunā. While passing through the forest, Nārada saw a bird lying on the ground. The bird was half-killed, having been pierced by an arrow, and it was chirping piteously. Further on, Nārada saw a deer flopping about in agony. Further, he saw that a boar was also suffering, and, in another place, he saw a rabbit twitching in pain. All this made him feel very compassionate, and he began to think, "Who is the foolish man who has committed such sins?" In general, devotees of the Lord are compassionate toward the suffering living entities, and so what to speak of the great sage Nārada? He became very much aggrieved by this scene, and after proceeding a few steps he saw the hunter engaged in hunting with bow and arrows. The hunter's complexion was very black, and his eyes were red. It appeared to be dangerous just to see him standing there with his bow and arrows, looking just like an associate of Yamarāja, death. Seeing him, Nārada Muni entered deeper into the forest to approach him. As Nārada Muni passed through the forest, all the animals who were caught in the hunter's traps fled away. The hunter became very angry at this, and he was just about to call Nārada vile names, but, due to the influence of saintly Nārada, the hunter could not utter such blasphemies. Rather, with gentle behavior he asked Nārada: "My dear sir, why have you come here while I am hunting? Have you strayed from the general path? Because you have come here, all the animals in my traps have fled."
"Yes, I am sorry," Nārada replied. "I have come to you to find my own path and to inquire from you. While on the path I have seen that there are many boars, deer and rabbits lying on the forest floor half-dead and flopping about. Who has committed these sinful acts?"
"What you have seen is all right," the hunter replied. "It was done by me."
“If you are hunting all these poor animals, why don’t you kill them at once?” Nārada asked. “You half-kill them, and they are writhing in their death pangs. This is a great sin. If you want to kill an animal, why don’t you kill it completely? Why do you leave it half-killed and allow it to die flopping around?”
"My dear Lord," the hunter replied, "my name is Mṛgāri, enemy of the animals. I am simply following the teachings of my father, who taught me to half-kill animals and leave them flopping about. When a half-dead animal suffers, I take great pleasure in it."
"I beg only one thing from you," Nārada implored. "Please accept it."
"Oh, yes sir, I shall give you whatever you like," the hunter said. "If you want some animal skins, come to my house. I have many skins of animals, including tigers and deer. I shall give you whatever you like."
"I do not want such things," Nārada replied. “But I do want something else. Since you kindly agreed to grant it to me, I shall tell you. Please, henceforth from tomorrow, whenever you kill an animal, please kill it completely. Don’t leave it half dead.”
"My dear sir, what are you asking of me? What is the difference between half-killing an animal and killing it completely?"
"If you half-kill the animals, they suffer great pain," Nārada explained. "And if you give too much pain to other living entities, you commit great sin. There is a great offense committed when you kill an animal completely, but the offense is much greater when you half-kill it. Indeed, the pain which you give half-dead animals will have to be accepted by you in a future birth."
Although the hunter was very sinful, his heart became softened, and he became afraid of his sins by virtue of his association with a great devotee like Nārada. Those who are grossly sinful are not at all afraid of committing sins, but here we can see that because his purification began in the association of a great devotee like Nārada, the hunter became afraid of his sinful activities. The hunter therefore replied: "My dear sir, from my very childhood I have been taught to kill animals in this way. Please tell me how I can counteract all the offenses and sinful activities I have committed. I am surrendering unto your feet. Please save me from all the reactions to the sinful activities I have committed in the past, and please direct me to the proper path so that I can be free."
"If you actually want to follow my directions, I can tell you the real path by which you can be freed from these sinful reactions."
"I shall follow whatever you say without hesitation," the hunter agreed.
Nārada then told him to first break his bow; only then would Nārada disclose the path of liberation.
"You are asking me to break my bow," the hunter protested, "but if I break it, what will be the means of my livelihood?"
“Don’t worry about your livelihood,” Nārada said. "I shall send you sufficient grains so you can live."
The hunter then broke his bow and fell down at the feet of Nārada. Nārada got him to stand up, and he instructed him: "Just go to your home and distribute whatever money and valuables you have to the devotees and the brāhmaṇas. Then come out and follow me wearing only one cloth. Construct a small thatched house on the riverbank and sow a tulasī plant by that house. Just circumambulate the tulasī tree, and every day taste one fallen leaf. Above all, always chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. As far as your livelihood is concerned, I shall send you the grains you need, but you must accept only as much grain as you require for yourself and your wife."
Nārada then revived the half-dead animals, and, getting freed from their dreadful condition, they fled away. Upon seeing Nārada execute this miracle, the black hunter was struck with wonder. After taking Nārada to his home, he bowed down again at his feet.
Nārada returned to his place, and the hunter, after returning home, began to execute the instructions Nārada had given him. In the meantime, news spread among all the villages that the hunter had become a devotee. Consequently the residents of the villages came to see the new Vaiṣṇava. It is the Vedic custom to bring grains or fruits whenever one goes to see a saintly person, and since all the villagers saw that the hunter had turned into a great devotee, they brought eatables with them. Thus every day he was offered grains and fruit, so much so that no less than ten to twenty people could have eaten there. But following Nārada's instructions, he did not accept more than what he and his wife required to live on..
After some days had passed, Nārada told his friend Parvata Muni: "I have a disciple. Let us go visit him and see if he is doing well."
When the two great sages, Nārada and Parvata, went to the hunter's home, the hunter saw his spiritual master coming from a distance and began to approach him with great respect. On his way to greet the great sages, the hunter saw that there were ants on the ground before him, and they were hindering his passage. When he reached the sages, he wanted to bow down before them, but before he did so he carefully cleared away the ants with his cloth. When Nārada saw that the hunter was trying to save the lives of the ants in this way, he was reminded of a verse from the Skanda Purāṇa: "Is it not wonderful that a devotee of the Lord is not inclined to give any sort of pain to anyone, not even an ant?" Although formerly the hunter had taken great pleasure in half-killing animals, since he had become a great devotee of the Lord he was not prepared to give pain even to an ant.
The hunter received the two great sages at his home and offered them a sitting place, brought water, and washed their feet. Then the hunter and his wife took some of the water and drank it, and finally they both sprinkled the water on their heads. After this they felt ecstasy and began to dance while singing Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. They raised their hands and danced with their clothes flying. When the two great sages saw this ecstasy of love of Godhead manifest in the body of the hunter, Parvata Muni told Nārada: "You are a touchstone, for by your association even a great hunter has turned into a great devotee."
There is a verse in the Skanda Purāṇa which states: "My dear Devarṣi (Nārada), you are glorious, and by your mercy even the lowest creature, a hunter of animals, also became elevated to the path of devotion and attained transcendental attachment for Kṛṣṇa."
At length, Nārada inquired of the hunter-devotee: "Are you getting your foodstuffs regularly?"
"You send so many people," the hunter replied, "and they bring so much food that we cannot eat it all."
"That's all right," Nārada replied. "Whatever you are getting is all right. Now just continue your devotional service in that way."
After Nārada had spoken this, both he and Parvata Muni disappeared from the hunter's home. Lord Caitanya recited this story to show that even a hunter can be engaged in the devotional service of Kṛṣṇa by the influence of pure devotees.