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Associates of Shri Chaitanya
His Holiness Shri Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Maharaja
Foreword by Shri Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj
Our divine guru, Om Vishnupada 108 Shri Shrimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur, who has now entered into the eternal pastimes of the Supreme Lord, was the founder of the exemplary monastery, the Chaitanya Math in Mayapur in Nabadwip, and its branch Gaudiya Maths that have now spread throughout the world. His dear associate and successor in the disciplic succession, Shrimad Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaj, the best of the monks of the Tridandi order, founded the Chaitanya Gaudiya Maths which have now also spread throughout India. Madhava Maharaj has gone to join the pastimes of the Lord, but has left his dear disciple and monk in the Tridandi order, Shrimad Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Maharaj, as the current president and acharya of the Chaitanya Gaudiya Math.
The venerable Tirtha Maharaj has edited this current jewel-like volume, the first of two that recount the nectarean activities of the associates of Lord Gauranga and the acharyas of the Gaudiya Vaishnava religion. Tirtha Maharaj has previously written commentaries on the life of the devotee Dhruva, a guide to the Vrindavan parikrama, a summary of the procedures involved in deity worship as well as a biography in two volumes of his guru, Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaj. These have all been published in Bengali. He is also the editor of the Chaitanya Gaudiya Math’s monthly magazine, Shri Chaitanya Vani, in which his biography of Madhava Maharaj, as well as the biographies found in this volume, first appeared in installments.
Tirtha Maharaj has shown a force of intelligence beyond the capacities of an ordinary man, for at seventy years of age he not only edits a monthly magazine and writes books such as this one, but takes the responsibility for managing a large organization like the Chaitanya Gaudiya Maths through which he preaches Chaitanya’s message throughout India, from the Himalayas to Cape Cormorin, to devotees speaking a variety of languages. It has been possible for him, even at his advanced age, to find the energy and the enthusiasm to apply himself to tasks which tax his body, mind, speech and intelligence, and yet to achieve unimaginable results. This is proof that the inexhaustible affectionate blessings of the Supreme Lord, the guru and the Vaishnavas have poured down upon him and that unlimited divine powers have descended upon him through their transcendental mercy. We pray to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, the guru and the Vaishnavas that he will live many more years so that he may continue to serve Krishna and his devotees in the same enthusiastic and unyielding manner. We also pray with all our heart that the sweet biographies of Madhava Maharaj and the associates of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu act like a potion of nectar to bring continual joy to the devotees.
Lord Gaurasundara Mahaprabhu is the most generous incarnation, who bestowed upon the world the unique love of Vraja, a mood of devotion to himself which had never before been given. The lives of the saintly, rich with the sweetness of loving service, are worth repeated study because they are most dear to Gaurasundara. Without such study, we will never be able to understand the nature of devotional service. By relishing the lives of the great devotees we become attracted by their compassion and develop an affection without artifice for their lotus feet. Since the Lord is so kind to his devotees, this is the road to becoming the object of his affection.
Scripture has said that the Lord’s mercy follows that of His devotees. Lord Krishna himself has said in the Bhagavatam that the worship of His devotee is dearer to Him than His own worship (mad-bhakta-pujabhyadhika). Vrindavan Das paraphrases this statement in the Chaitanya Bhagavat: “The worship of My devotee is even greater than Me; this has been confirmed by the Lord in the Veda and the Bhagavatam.”
No matter how great a show of commitment one makes to Krishna’s worship, Krishna will never pay the slightest attention to it if one disregards the service of His devotees. Indeed, Krishna will refuse such worship because of the performer’s pride. In no way can one be engaged in the worship of the Lord without following in the footsteps of the devotees. Thus the scriptures have ordained that one should begin one’s puja with the worship of the guru, who is the best of the devotees and most dear to Krishna. Krishna stated as much to his foremost devotee and associate Uddhava, when he said, “O Uddhava! Know that it is I who am the acharya. Never show disrespect for the acharya by thinking that he is an ordinary man. The guru is the sum of all the gods.” The compassion of the Lord has become incarnate in the form of the guru. Worship to the Lord can have no meaning if one disregards the guru.
The author of this book has gathered a great deal of information from numerous sources about the lives of the devotees, and has made this information more relishable by virtue of his own insight. It is my wish that these biographies of Mahaprabhu’s devotees will be read on their appearance and disappearance days, bringing great joy to both hearer and speaker. It is for this reason that we pray for the wide distribution of this work. If translated into Hindi and English, it will be possible for it to be enjoyed around the world.
In the beginning of this book, the author has relished the lives of Jagannath Mishra, Madhavendra Puri, Isvara Puri, Advaita Acharya, Shrivasa Pandit, Chandrasekhara Acharya, Pundarika Vidyanidhi, Gadadhara Pandit, Vakresvara Pandit, Gadadhara Das, Shivananda Sena, Paramananda Puri, Murari Gupta, etc. Every letter of these accounts is drenched with the juice of devotion. Without repeatedly relishing these life stories we will never be able to enter the transcendental kingdom nor to advance in the devotional life. The lives of the devotees are filled with loving service to the Lord and should be repeatedly discussed for this will melt our stonelike hearts. It will awaken in us a genuine remorse for all the wasted activities in which we have engaged outside of the devotional life, thus readying our minds for the reception of the pure devotee. The devotees of the Lord are oceans of mercy; they feel distress at the pain of others; they are endowed with amazing powers of forgiveness; their hearts are entirely pure, free from enviousness, hate and jealousy. When they see the misery of persons like myself, the lowest of souls who, bound by illusion and forgetful of their eternal identities, have become disinterested in Krishna, they pray to Krishna’s lotus feet for their salvation, shedding tears in intense feelings of compassion. After hearing this prayer, Krishna turns his merciful glance towards us.
vaishnavera avedane krishna dayamay |
mo hena pamara prati habena saday ||
The merciful Krishna, upon hearing the supplications of the Vaishnavas, will become merciful to those, who like me, are most fallen. (Bhaktivinoda Thakur)
The Lord, the ocean of compassion, cannot resist the heart-rending tears of those whose lives are totally dedicated to Him. The Lord quickly appears in the world at the intense pleas of the surrendered devotee. By the mercy of the devotees, the living beings attain the great fortune of the Lord’s mercy. Therefore one should take shelter of a pure devotee before anything else.
shuddha-bhakata-carana-renu bhajana-anukula |
bhakata-seva parama-siddhi prema-latikara mula ||
“The dust of the pure devotee’s lotus feet has the most positive effect on one’s worship of the Lord. Service to the devotee is the greatest perfection, it is the root of the creeper of love for Krishna.” (Bhaktivinoda Thakur).
At the beginning of his collection of devotional songs, Sharanagati, Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote: “Lord Krishna Chaitanya, out of compassion for the people of this world, descended into this world along with his eternal associates and his abode. In order to give prema most rare, he taught the process of surrender which is the life of devotion.”
In every age for all eternity, the Lord takes a body in each of the unlimited universes. This does not cause a disruption in the Lord’s eternal pastimes. Thus, when the Supreme Lord, the lila-purushottama, son of Nanda, the king of Vraja, appears in Nabadwip as the son of Jagannath Mishra, all of his associates from his activities in Vraja become his companions in his pastimes as Gaura. Narottama Das Thakur sings: “He who was the son of the King of Vraja has become the son of Sachi, Balaram has become Nitai.”
Krishnadas Kaviraj states as much in the Chaitanya-charitamrita: “After twenty-seven cycles of four yugas of the seventh Manvantara named Vaivasvata, at the end of the Dvapara Yuga of the twenty-eighth cycle, Krishna appeared with all of Vraja.” (1.3.9-10)
Jiva Goswami explains the Bhagavata verses which begins krishna-varnam tvishakrishnam (11.5.32) and asan varnas trayo hy asya (10.8.13) in his commentary, Krama-sandarbha: “Thus the same Krishna who descended at the end of the Dvapara Yuga, appears as Gaura in the age of Kali which immediately follows it. From this understanding it is evident that Gauranga is a special incarnation of Krishna. This is the only way to avoid contradictions in the Bhagavatam verses.” [These verses stated that “Krishna appears in a color other than black” and the Krishna appears in the four ages in four colors, red, black, white and gold.] (tad evam yad dvapare krishno’vatarati tad eva kalau shrigauro’py avataratiti svarasyalabdheh shrikrishnavirbhava-vishesha evayam gaura ity ayati, tadavyabhicarat.)
The Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna displays activities that are characterized by magnanimity (audarya) which is predominantly madhurya, whereas the pastimes of the Lord in Nabadwip, which is non-different from those of Vraja, are characterized by madhurya which is predominantly magnanimous. Just as all of Krishna’s qualities are manifest in His devotees, so too Gaura’s qualities in their entirety are manifest in his devotees. Since Gaura is the most magnanimous, the most generous incarnation, these qualities are the primary characeristics of his lila and are therefore also present in all the participants of his lila. It is thus natural that constant rereading of the activities of the devotees who have dedicated themselves to Gaura’s service, will wash all of the dirt and sin from our hearts and we will become free from envy, hatred and jealousy. Then, in the same way that it is said of Gaura that “following the practices and principles himself, he taught the world” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.3.20, 1.4.41), we will be able to enthusiastically preach the message of Lord Chaitanya to every corner of the world. Should this happen, by the mercy of the beneficent Lord, a supreme peace will be established everywhere, the victory banner of the holy name will fly, the skies of the world will ring with the glorious sound of Krishna’s name being sung, the sweetness of the Holy Name which Lord Chaitanya himself chanted will flood the world with love. As Bhaktivinoda Thakur has sung, “What power there is in the name of Krishna!”
The monk Bhakti Varidhi Parivrajaka Maharaj, who is particularly dear to me, took responsibility for the printing of this book of biographies; he worked with dedication both day and night to finish the job, and even if I could sing his glories with a hundred tongues I would not feel satisfied. He not only produced this volume, but works tirelessly and with unflagging enthusiasm to put out all of the Math publications. Seeing this, his gurus will pour unlimited affectionate blessings on him. We pray to the Lord’s lotus feet with all our heart that his eager efforts to serve the Lord, the guru, and all the Vaishnavas constantly increase, that he receive their unlimited blessings and enjoy good health and long life.
Shrila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur used to call the printing press the big drum, the brihat mridanga, because through books and magazines filled with the authoritative message of pure devotion, the worldwide preaching mission can have a stable and far-reaching effect. Therefore the beating of the “big drum” is a major element in serving Mahaprabhu in preaching his teachings. Mahaprabhu himself said, “Wherever you go, give the fruits of love to whomever you see.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.9.36), “Those who have taken a human birth in India (Bharatabhumi) should perfect their own lives and then do good for others.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.9.41) “Spread this command of mine wherever you go: “Chant Krishna, worship Krishna, learn Krishna’s teachings.’” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.13.7-8) “Explain Krishna consciousness to whomever you meet.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.7.128) “In all the towns and villages of the world, my name shall be heard.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.4.126). As we try to fulfill these commands of the Lord in as sustained and far-reaching way as possible, we will get most help from the “big mridanga.”
Therefore, in making the preaching of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s message through printing books a prominent part of the Math’s service activities, Parivrajaka Maharaj and Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Maharaj are insuring that they will receive the affection of their gurus and all pure devotees, not only those who have preceded them, but those who follow.
In conclusion, we would like to sincerely thank as much as possible all those who have aided through their financial contributions or volunteer work to help this and other books and magazines of the Math come to publication. We humbly pray to those who read this work to kindly forgive any errors that may have been missed in proofreading.
Praying for the dust of the pure devotees’ lotus feet,
I am the servant of the servant of the Vaishnavas,
Shri Bhakti Promode Puri.
23 Bhadra 1399 (Bengali year)
9 September 1992.