|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Swami > Associates of Shri Chaitanya > Volume One|
Shrila Jayadeva Goswami appeared in either the eleventh or twelfth century of the Shaka era. There is a difference of opinions about the place of his birth. The majority opinion holds that he hailed from the village of Kendubilva, presently in the district of Birbhum. Others hold that he was born in Orissa or in south India. Kendubilva is situated about twenty miles south of Siuri on the banks of the Ajaya River. In the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana it is stated that Jayadeva found his deities o Radha Madhava in the waters of the river. It is also stated there that he used to rest and worship at the temple of Shiva known as Kusheshvara, which is also on the banks of the Ajay River. His father was named Bhojadeva and mother Vama Devi.
Jayadeva’s life at Champa Hati
Jayadeva lived for a long time in Nabadwip during the reign of the king of Bengal, Lakshman Sena, making his home not far from the king’s palace. At that time, the king’s chief scholar was Govardhana Acharya. In Ashutosh Deb’s Bengali dictionary, it is said that Jayadeva was Lakshman Sena’s court poet. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote in his Nabadvipa-dhama-mahatmya that Lakshman Sena was delighted when he heard Jayadeva’s hymn to the ten incarnations, the Dashavatara-stotra. The king learned from Govardhana Acharya that this hymn had been composed by Jayadeva and became desirous of meeting him. He went incognito to Jayadeva’s house and when he saw him, he noticed that Jayadeva possessed the characteristics of a greatly powerful spiritual personality. Greatly impressed and attracted by him, the king revealed his identity to Jayadeva and invited him to come and live in the royal palace. Jayadeva was leading a very renounced life and was therefore unwilling to live in the opulent environment of the palace. He told the king that it was his desire to live in Jagannath Puri.
Lakshman Sena was disturbed by Jayadeva’s intention. He quickly suggested to him that he stay in the village of Champa Hati, saying that it was a place suitable for him. He also promised him that he would never come to see him again. When Jayadeva agreed, Lakshman Sena had a cottage built for him in the village which was formerly known as Champaka-hatta. Previously, there had been a beautiful garden of champa trees and their flowers were sold in the village market. In this village, Mahaprabhu’s associate Dvija Baninath had a vision of him in the Satya Yuga, seeing him in the form of a Brahmin whose skin was the color of a champa flower. Similarly, while living here, Jayadeva had a vision, first of Radha Madhava, then of their combined form as the golden champa-colored Gauranga Mahaprabhu.
The Lord gave him this vision and then told him to go to Jagannath Puri. Although Jayadeva was sad to leave the future abode of Lord Chaitanya, Jayadeva obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Puri. It is said that he also was engaged as the court poet of the king of Orissa. He spent the remainder of his life in the abode of Lord Jagannath. This is where he wrote the transcendental poem based on the sentiments of separation known as Gita-Govinda or Ashtapadi. Indeed, Mahaprabhu told Jayadeva while giving him the vision in Nabadwip that when he himself appeared there, he would take sannyas and go to Jagannath Puri where he would relish Jayadeva’s Gita-Govinda.
Calcutta’s Basumati Sahitya Mandir has published an edition of Jayadeva’s Gita-Govinda. In the preface to that edition entitled "The life of Jayadeva," some other information is found. "Prior to the Muslim domination of Delhi, the king Manikya Chandra ordered the writing of the book Alankara-shekhara, in which it is said that Jayadeva was the court poet of the king of Orissa. Shridhar Das, the son of one of the chief courtiers of Lakshman Sena, included many of Jayadeva’s verses in his anthology Saduktikarnamrita, citing a work named Amiyabha-kavya. One ancient manuscript of the Gita-Govinda has the colophon, "Jayadeva had a great reputation as a poet during the time of the King Lakshman Sena."
Jayadeva’s marriage to Padmavati
It is said that Jayadeva was obliged to marry his wife Padmavati at Jagannath’s order. The story is told in the Vishvakosha as follows: There was a Brahmin who had no children. He worshiped Jagannath for many years in the hope of having a son. Finally, he and his wife had a daughter and they named her Padmavati. When she came of marriageable age, the Brahmin brought her to Jagannath to offer her to his lotus feet. When he saw them, Jagannath himself said to the Brahmin, "I have a servant whose name is Jayadeva. He has given up family life and has dedicated himself to chanting my names. Give your daughter to him in marriage."
The Brahmin took his daughter to Jayadeva and asked him to marry his daughter. However, since Jayadeva had no desire to get married, he refused to agree to any arrangement. Then the Brahmin told him that it was Jagannath himself who had arranged this marriage and without another word, left, leaving his daughter behind. Jayadeva found himself totally unprepared for this situation and told the girl, "Tell me where you want to go and I will take you and leave you there. You cannot stay here, however."
Padmavati started to cry and said, "My father brought me here to marry you on Jagannath Deva’s order. You are my husband, my all in all. If you do not accept me, then I will fall down at your feet and die right here. You are my only hope, my lord."
The poet and scholar Jayadeva could not abandon her after such a heartfelt plea. So he became a householder.
The Lord helps Jayadeva write Gita-Govinda
He established the worship of a Narayan deity and in the waves of love which he felt for this deity, he began writing Gita-Govinda, with its incomparable ambrosia. It is said that though Jayadeva is responsible for all the moods and sentiments which appear in the Gita-Govinda, he had some reticence about writing that Krishna fell down at Radharani’s feet to beg her forgiveness when she was angry with him for having deceived her.
On that day, when he left the house to take his bath in the ocean, Lord Jagannath himself came in, disguised as Jayadeva, opened his manuscript and completed the verse he had started smara-garala-khandanam mama shirasi mandanam with the words dehi pada-pallavam udaram: "Place the noble sprout of your foot as an ornament on my head, it dispels the poison of love in separation." (GG 10.8)
Padmavati was surprised to see her husband back so soon from his bath and asked, "What are you doing here? You just left a minute ago." The disguised Jagannath answered, "I thought of something on my way. I was afraid I might forget so I came back to write it down."
Not long after Jagannath had left, the real Jayadeva returned. This time, Padmavati was really astonished to see him. She said, "You just left to go and take your bath. Just a few moments ago you were writing in your manuscript and then you left. How could you have finished and come back so quickly? I am beginning to wonder who that was and who you are?" Jayadeva was clever enough to guess what had happened and he went and looked at his unfinished text and saw the words that the Lord himself had written. His entire body was covered with horripilation and tears came pouring from his eyes. He called Padmavati and said to her, "You are so fortunate. Your life has been made worthy. You have had the good fortune to see the Lord himself. I am so lowly that I did not have that opportunity!"
Jagannath’s love for Gita-Govinda
There is a legend told in Jagannath Puri that there was a flower gardener’s daughter who had learned Gita-Govinda and would sing it with great emotion. Jagannath was attracted by her singing and would go to listen to her, only returning to the temple after she had finished singing.
One day, when the king of Orissa came to see the deity, he saw that the Lord’s body was covered in dust and his clothes were filled with thorns. He asked the pujaris the reason for the Lord’s disheveled condition, but no one could explain how it had come about. The servants of the deity were afraid that they would be punished, but that night, Jagannath appeared to the king in a dream and explained that no one was to blame for his soiled condition that day. He had gone to listen to the gardener’s daughter and that the dust and thorns had covered him when in the garden.
The king was astonished to have received such information in a dream and he immediately sent for the gardener’s daughter to be brought to the court in a palanquin. After making inquiries from her, he decided that she should sing for Jagannath in the temple, rather than obliging the Lord to leave the temple and get all dirty. Ever since that time, girls named deva-dasis have been engaged by the temple to sing Gita-Govinda for Jagannath’s pleasure.
Many other amazing and miraculous events surrounded the life of Jayadeva. He used to serve his deities Radha and Madhava in a trance of divine love. It is said that just as the devotee dedicates himself to the Lord, the Lord also dedicates himself to his devotee. One day, Jayadeva was thatch his roof under the unforgiving midday sun. Jagannath saw the discomfort of his devotee and decided to help him finish the work quickly by handing him the rope needed to bale the straw and removing the finished bundles and placing them on the roof. Jayadeva thought that it was Padmavati who was helping him in this way. But when he came down from the roof after finishing much earlier than expected, he saw no one there. He asked his wife and she told him that she had been busy elsewhere at the time. He was curious about what had happened, but struck with wonder when he went into the deity room and saw that Madhava’s hands were black from handling the straw. He was thus able to understand that it was Madhava himself who had come to help him thatch the roof. He fell down before his Lord and started to cry.
Mahaprabhu appreciates Gita-Govinda
In the last twelve years of Mahaprabhu’s lila, he was absorbed in Radha’s mood and constantly relishing this hidden spirit of love. During this time, he would savor the songs of the Gita-Govinda.
Day and night, the Lord would speak as though he were Radha when meeting Uddhava. He would also relish the poems of Chandi Das, Jayadeva and Vidyapati. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.13.41-2)
Mahaprabhu was never pleased to hear books or verses opposed to siddhanta, nor did he like hearing rasabhasa, an improper mixture of devotional sentiments. It was the practice of Svarupa Damodar Goswami to examine all works of literature to find out whether their conclusions were correct. Only then would he allow them to be heard by the Lord. Shri Svarupa Damodar used to make Mahaprabhu very happy by singing the songs of Vidyapati, Chandi Das and Gita-Govinda. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.10.113-5)
Svarupa Damodar would sing songs that reflected the moods of the Lord whenever they arose, while Ramananda Raya selected verses from Vidyapati, Chandi Das and Gita-Govinda.
The Lord returned to external consciousness for a moment and told Svarupa to sing some sweet song. Svarupa sang one of Vidyapati’s songs and then songs from the Gita-Govinda, which were greatly appreciated by the Lord. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.17.62)
candi dasa vidyapati rayera nataka giti
karnamrita shri gita-govinda /
svarupa ramananda sane mahaprabhu ratri-dine
gaya, shune parama ananda //
Day and night, Mahaprabhu ecstatically relished the songs of Chandi Das, Vidyapati and Ramananda Raya’s plays, as well as Krishna-karnamrita and Gita-Govinda in the company of Svarupa and Ramananda. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.2.77)
Jayadeva and the robbers
On another occasion, Jayadeva wished to put on a festival for his deities Radha and Madhava, but he was short of money. He decided to travel in order to collect some funds by using his poetic skills. On his return journey, he was stopped by robbers who not only stole his money but cut up his hands and feet and threw him down a well to die. Despite the pain, Jayadeva shouted out the names of the Lord as loudly as he could.
After Jayadeva had spent three days in this way, the king happened that way on a hunting expedition and heard the sound of the holy names coming from the well. The king approached the well out of curiosity and was horrified to see Jayadeva in this serious condition. He had him taken out of the well and brought back to his palace where he had him treated. Under the queen’s care, Jayadeva was gradually returned to health.
Both the king and queen were charmed by Jayadeva’s sweet singing of the Gita-Govinda as well as by his saintly character. They immediately sent for Padmavati and had her brought to their home. The king and queen took initiation from Jayadeva and heard about Krishna from him and started to make their lives successful through service to the Lord and his devotees. One day, the robbers who had attacked Jayadeva came to the king’s palace as guest disguised as devotees. Even though Jayadeva recognized who they were, he gave them the honor that was due to their outward appearance and arranged for the appropriate hospitality to be proffered them. The robbers, however, did not understand Jayadeva’s forgiving and generous nature and, fearing capture and punishment, thought it best to leave without accepting the royal hospitality. Jayadeva understood their fear and asked the king to give them a large sum of money and an escort and send them on their way.
After they had gone a certain distance, the robbers said to the escort of soldiers, "You need not go any further. We would like to tell you a secret message to convey to the king, however. Prior to becoming Vaishnavas we were the servants of a certain king who for very good reason ordered us to murder this priest, Jayadeva. So we cut up his hands and feet and left him to die. Because he was afraid that this secret would come out, this priest gave us a lot of money and asked us to leave quickly."
The Earth herself was unable to tolerate the telling of such a great lie and so she opened up and swallowed the entire gang of thieves. When Shukracharya, the guru of the demons, told Bali Maharaj not to give the three feet of land demanded by Vamana Deva, Bali answered that he was the grandson of Prahlad Maharaj. How could he go back on his word like a miser once he had committed himself to giving in charity? He substantiated this by saying,
na hy asatyat paro’dharma
iti hovaca bhur iyam /
sarvam sodhum alam madhye
rite’likaparam naram //
This Earth has said, "There is no greater irreligiousness than untruth. I can bear any burden other than that of a person who constantly lies." (SB 8.20.4)
The goddess of the Earth was unable to support the weight of these sinful liars and so she swallowed them up. As they blasphemed the great devotee of the Lord, they met their doom in the bowels of the earth.
The servants of the king who had accompanied these robbers were amazed to see them punished for their offense to Jayadeva right before their very eyes. They came back to the king’s palace and told him everything that they had witnessed. The king inquired from Jayadeva about the robbers and he told the entire story. He said, "O king! A saintly man does not seek revenge from those who have done evil toward him. He attempts to satisfy them by polite behavior. Even so, the Lord’s flawless will makes them suffer the consequences of their own sinfulness, as he did in this case."
Padmavati is tested
Jayadeva’s wife became a close friend of the queen. In those days, the custom of a wife dying with her husband was in vogue. After her brother’s death, the queen was mortified that her sister-in-law would have to die on the funeral pyre with him. Padmavati said to the queen, "From the moment that her husband dies, a faithful wife’s life airs leave her body."
When the queen heard this, she decided to test Padmavati herself. One day she announced to Padmavati that her husband Jayadeva had suddenly died. As soon as this news entered her ears, Padmavati gave up her life. This shocked the queen and she began to cry out of a sense of guilt for being responsible for her death. The king also came to Jayadeva and begged him to return the life to his wife’s corpse. The great devotee Jayadeva whispered the name of Krishna into Padmavati’s ear and she opened her eyes as though she were just waking up. Having seen this manifestation of both Jayadeva and Padmavati’s glories, the king and queen as well as all their courtiers and servants paid their obeisances at their feet.
Jayadeva goes to Vrindavan
After this, Jayadeva wanted to see Vrindavan. He took leave of the king and queen and then, taking his deities, Radha and Madhava with him, set off on the long journey. Once in Vrindavan, he began to serve his deities in a spot near Keshi Ghat. When they heard Jayadeva sing the Gita-Govinda in his sweet voice, the residents of the dham were entranced. One merchant built a large temple for the deities on that spot.
It is said that Jayadeva lived in Vrindavan for many years and then returned to his birthplace in Kendubilva. Each day, he would make the long walk to the Ganges to take his bath there. One day, for some reason or another, he was unable to make it. Ganga Devi was so kind to him that she came personally to the village of Kendubilva so that he could take his bath in her waters. It is said that he died there in Kendubilva and every year a large festival is held there in his memory on the first day of the month of Magh.
There is a difference of opinions about where Jayadeva finished his life. Some say Puri, while others say that he returned to Kendubilva, and others say that he went to Vrindavan. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has stated his opinion that Jayadeva died in Jagannath Puri. Though some people say that Jayadeva returned to Kendubilva to spend his last days, there is no indication anywhere that his Radha-Madhava deities were brought there. In fact, these deities were taken by the king of Jaipur to a place named Ghati sometime after Jayadeva’s death and they are still being served in the Jaipur area. Jayadeva’s disappearance day is on the sixth day of the waning moon of the month of Paush.
Shri Madhavendra Puripada
Shrila Madhavendra Puri appeared in the 14th century. Prior to Mahaprabhu’s appearance, his seniors, parents and gurus, who are his servants and eternal associates, take their birth.
Whenever Krishna descends to the earth, he first sends down his seniors. These include his father, his mother, his guru and all the other persons he considers to be the objects of his respect. He arranges that these persons should take birth before he does. Madhavendra Puri, Isvara Puri, Sachi and Jagannath, Advaita Acharya, are amongst those who appeared in this way. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.3.92-4)
Later in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (1.13.52-55), the same thing is described in the following way:
Whenever the son of the king of Vraja decides to appear on earth in order to fulfill a particular desire, then he first sends down his seniors. I will briefly name some of them as it is not possible to so extensively: Sachi, Jagannath, Madhava Puri, Keshava Bharati, Isvara Puri, Advaita Acharya, Shrivasa Pandit, Acharyaratna, Pundarika Vidyanidhi, Hari Das Thakur. The resident of Sylhet named Upendra Mishra was a scholarly Vaishnava, rich and possessed of saintly qualities.
The disciplic succession
Shrila Madhavendra Puri appeared in the 14th century. He was a guru of the Brahma or Madhva sampradaya, one of the four (Brahma, Shri, Rudra and Sanaka) Vaishnava lineages that purify the world in the Kali Yuga. The Madhva lineage has been transcribed in books like Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika, Prameya-ratnavali and the writings of Gopal Guru Goswami. The same set of verses is found with some small differences in the Bhakti-ratnakara (5.2149-2162). The following is the version as taken from the Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika:
paravyomeshvarasyasic chishyo brahma jagat-patih /
tasya shishyo narado’bhut vyasas tasyapa shishyatam //
shuko vyasasya shishyatvam prapto jnanavabodhanat /
vyasal labdha-krishna-diksho madhvacaryo mahayashah //
tasya shishyo’bhavat padmanabhacaryo mahashayah /
tasya shishyo naraharis tacchishyo madhava-dvijah //
akshobhyas tasya shishyo’bhut tac-chishyo jayatirthakah /
tasya shishyo jnana-sindhus tasya shishyo mahanidhih //
vidyanidhis tasya shishyo rajendras tasya sevakah /
jayadharma munis tasya shishyo yad-gana-madhyatah //
shrimad-vishnu-puri yas tu bhaktiratnavali-kritih /
jayadharmasya shishyo’bhud brahmanyah purushottamah //
vyasatirthas tasya shishyo yash cakre vishnusamhitam /
shriman lakshmipatis tasya shishyo bhaktirasashrayah //
tasya shishyo madhavendro yad-dharmo’yam pravartitah /
tasya shishyo >bhavat shriman ishvarakhya-puri-yatih //
kalayamasa shringaram yah shringara-phalatmakah /
advaitam kalayamasa dasya-sakhye phale ubhe /
ishvarakhya-purim gaura urarikritya gaurave /
jagad aplavayamasa prakritaprakritatmakam //
Brahma, the master of this universe, was the disciple of the lord of the spiritual world. His disciple was Narada and Vyasa became the disciple of Narada. Suka became the disciple of Vyasa through the awakening of spiritual knowledge from him. Madhvacharya took initiation in the Krishna mantra from Vyasa. His disciple was Padmanabhacarya, whose disciple was Narahari, who was followed by Madhava Dvija. Akshobhya was his disciple, then Jayatirtha, Jnanasindhu, Mahanidhi, Vidyanidhi and Rajendra followed. Jayadharma Muni was one of Rajendra’s many disciples and Vishnu Puri, the author of Bhakti-ratnavali and Purushottam, the lover of Brahmin culture became his disciples. Vyasa Tirtha, the author of Vishnu-samhita was the disciple of Purushottam. Lakshmipati Tirtha, a reservoir of devotion, was the disciple of Vyasa Tirtha. Madhavendra Puri was the disciple of Lakshmipati, and it is by him that this religion was founded. His disciple, the sannyasi Isvara Puri, took up the mood of conjugal devotion, while Advaita Acharya [also the disciple of Madhavendra] took up the moods of servitude and friendship. Gaura accepted Isvara Puri as his guru, and then flooded the material and spiritual worlds [with love].
Thus, Madhavendra Puri was the disciple of Lakshmipati Tirtha. Madhavendra Puri’s disciples included Isvara Puri, Advaita Acharya, Paramananda Puri (a Brahmin from the Tirhut area), Brahmananda Puri, Shri Ranga Puri, Pundarika Vidyanidhi, Raghupati Upadhyaya, etc. Nityananda is said by some to be Madhavendra Puri’s disciple, others say that Lakshmipati was his guru, while in the Premavilasa, it is said that he too was Isvara Puri’s disciple.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur writes: "Madhavendra Puri was a well-known sannyasi of the Madhva-sampradaya. His grand-disciple was Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Prior to his appearance, there was no evidence of prema bhakti in the Madhva line. In his verse, ayi dina-dayardra-natha (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.4.197), the seed of the religious doctrines of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu can be found." Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada adds, "Madhavendra Puri was the first shoot of the desire tree of divine love which came out of the Madhva lineage. Prior to his appearance, there was no sign of the conjugal mood of devotion in the Madhva line."
Madhavendra and Nityananda Prabhu
Nityananda met Madhavendra Puri while wandering through the pilgrimage sites in western India. As soon as they saw each other they were overcome with the symptoms of ecstatic love. This event is described in the ninth chapter of the Adikhanda of the Chaitanya Bhagavat:
As Nityananda Prabhu wandered in this way, he suddenly encountered Madhavendra Puri. Madhavendra was the embodiment of love, as were all his associates. He ate nothing other than Krishna rasa, and Krishna dwells in his body. Advaita Acharya was his disciple--how can I glorify him sufficiently. When Nityananda saw Madhavendra Puri, he fainted and became motionless with love. As soon as Madhava Puri saw Nityananda, he too fell down in a faint, completely forgetting himself. Gauranga repeatedly said that Madhavendra Puri was the harbinger of the ecstatic mood of devotion.
Nityananda Prabhu said, "I have visited many holy sites, but today I have been fulfilled by the sight of Madhavendra Puri. I have finally achieved the true reward of visiting the holy places. I have never seen the symptoms of love anywhere else. Madhavendra loses consciousness simply upon seeing a cloud in the sky."
Madhavendra embraced Nityananda Prabhu and wet him with his tears. He began to describe Nityananda’s glories, becoming absorbed in this description. He took Nityananda to his breast; his throat was so choked with tears that he could not speak. He felt such deep affection for Nityananda that he would not let him go. He finally spoke, saying, "I knew that Krishna was merciful toward me, for he has given me a companion like Nityananda. Anyone who feels even the slightest enmity for Nityananda can never be dear to Krishna, no matter how much of a devotee he is." (CBh 1.9.154-169)
The Bhakti-ratnakara also describes the glories of Madhavendra Puri and states that Nityananda treated him as a guru:
Madhavendra Puri is the embodiment of ecstatic loving devotion; simply by remembering his name, all perfections are achieved. Isvara Puri, Ranga Puri and so many of his other disciples were similarly intoxicated with the wine of devotion. Madhavendra had many disciples throughout Bengal and Orissa, all of whom were devotees and fixed on prema bhakti. (Bhakti-ratnakara 5.2272-4)
A few days later, in a holy place on the west coast of India, Nityananda met Madhavendra Puri. Who could describe the manifestations of love that arose upon their meeting? Only those who were there can know. Madhavendra treated Nityananda as a friend, an equal, but Nitai treated him like a superior. Madhavendra said, "I know that Krishna has been merciful toward me, for he has given me a companion like Nityananda." On the other hand, Nityananda never treated him as anything but a guru. (Bhakti-ratnakara 5.2330-2334)
After taking sannyas in Katwa, Mahaprabhu went to Shantipur and spent some time at Advaita Acharya’s house. Then he proceeded from there to Shri Purushottam (Puri), following the path through Chatrabhog along the banks of the Ganges. He traveled through Atisar, Panihati, and Barahanagar until finally he arrived at the border of the kingdom of Utkala (Orissa) at the place called Vriddhamantreshvara. Nityananda Prabhu, Mukunda Datta, Jagadananda and Damodar were with him. They came to the town of Remuna in the district of Balesor where they came to visit the deity Khirchora Gopinath. Afterward, Mahaprabhu recounted to his companions the story of Madhavendra Puri as he had heard it from his guru Isvara Puri, also telling how Khirchora Gopinath had earned his name:
One day Madhavendra Puri was circumambulating Govardhana in a state of total intoxication and absorption in love for Krishna. When he arrived at Govinda Kund, he took his bath and sat down under a nearby tree to perform his evening sandhya meditation and rituals. While he was so doing, a young cowherd boy carrying a pot of milk approached him and said with a smile, "What have you been thinking? Why don’t you ask for something to eat? I have brought you some milk, drink some." When he saw the beautiful lad, Madhavendra Puri was so overcome that he completely forgot his hunger and thirst. Instead he asked him, "Who are you? Where do you live? How did you know that I had not eaten?" The cowherd boy answered, "I am a cowherd and I live in this village. In our village, no one ever goes hungry. Some people beg for food, but if someone doesn’t ask, then I bring him something to eat. The women came here to fetch water and they saw that you had not eaten. They sent me here with this milk for you. But it is nearly milking time and I will have to leave. I’ll come back later to fetch the pot."
Madhavendra Puri was astonished to see the boy walk away and disappear. He drank the milk and then washed the pot and put it aside, waiting for the cowherd boy to return for it. He sat under the tree chanting the Holy Names until the end of the night when he started to doze off. While asleep, he had a dream in which the cowherd youth came to him and led him by the hand to a wooded bower. Gopal said, "I stay here in this bower. I am very uncomfortable due to the summer heat, the rains and the winter cold. Go and tell the village folk to help you uncover me, and take me to the top of the hill and build a shelter for me, and bathe me with cool, clear water. I have been waiting for you for a long time, wondering when you would come to serve me. I was waiting for your loving service so that I could show myself and thereby save the entire universe. My name is Gopal, the lifter of Govardhana. Krishna’s great grandson, Aniruddha’s son Vajra, established my service so many years ago, but the sevait hid me here when he fled out of fear of the Muslims. Since then I have been here. It is good that you have finally come here, now please dig me up."
When Madhavendra woke up, he began to cry in an intense mood of love, thinking, "Alas! Krishna himself came to me in the form of a cowherd boy and I was unable to recognize him!" However, after a few moments he brought himself under control in order to carry out Gopal’s orders. He took his morning bath and then gathered the village folk together and said, "Gopal, the lifter of Govardhana, is the deity of this village, but he is buried in this bower. Go and bring shovels, we have to dig him up and release him." The village people enthusiastically started to clear the bower and soon discovered a large deity who was covered in earth and weeds. The strongest of the local people lifted the deity up and carried him to the top of the hill where they placed him on a large rock throne. In order to carry out the grand abhishek ceremony, the local Brahmins had water from Govinda Kund filtered and carried to the site in a hundred new jugs. When word got out of the discovery of the deity and that his puja and abhishek would soon be held, a joyful noise arose in all directions, musicians played on their instruments and the people danced and sang. The mountain was covered with all kinds of offerings, ghee, milk, yogurt and sandesha, all gifts of the local people.
Madhavendra Puri himself performed the abhishek bathing ceremony. First of all, he cleaned the accumulated dirt from the body of the deity according to the regulations, for the scriptures say that barley flour, wheat flour, and a powder made from symplocos racemosa, as well as the powder of pistachio nuts, saffron and pulses, are to be used to clean the deity’s body. A brush made from long ushira grasses and the hair of a cow’s tail is also to be used. Afterwards, the body of Gopal was made shiny with oil, before he was again bathed in panca-gavya (milk, yogurt, clarified butter, cow’s urine and dung) and then in pancamrita (milk, yogurt, clarified butter, honey and sugar). These things are described in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa’s sixth chapter, where it is said,
kshirena snapayet kramat /
dadhna ghritena madhuna
khandena ca prithak prithak //
Then bathe the deity with milk poured from a conch shell, then with yogurt, clarified butter, honey and then sugar, one after the other. (Hbv 6.30)
After this, Gopal was bathed with the hundred jugs of water. This was the maha-snana, in which ghee and water are used in equal parts, and a total of a hundred seers of water are needed. A seer equals about two pounds. After bathing the deity in this way and then oiling him once again, he was bathed in water scented with sandalwood and perfumes and poured from a conch. The Hari-bhakti-vilasa prescribes 100 palas of water for the bath, another 25 of oil for the body, and then 2,000 palas for the maha-snana.
After the maha-snana or great bath was completed, the entire body of the deity was dried with a cloth and he was dressed in a clean cloth and decorated with sandalwood, tulasi and flower garlands. Just as Krishna instructed the cowherds at the end of the Dvapara Yuga to worship Govardhana with a mountain of foodstuffs, so in the Kali Yuga, Madhavendra Puri ordered a mountain of food to be prepared for Giridhari Gopal. Ten Brahmins were engaged in preparing the rice, another five in cooking vegetable preparations, another five or six Brahmins prepared various types of breads, which was all brought together in one place to make heaps which took the shape of a mountain. The mountain of rice was surrounded by many clay pots filled with soups, cooked vegetable preparations, milk, yogurt, whey, shikharini (a drink made of yogurt, milk, sugar, camphor and pepper), sweet rice, butter, and cream, etc. When the mountain of food was ready, Madhavendra Puri made the offering along with many jugs filled with water. Gopal, who had not eaten for such a long time, hungrily ate everything he was offered. Even so, by his merciful touch, all the pots were again filled. Only Madhavendra saw how he did this.
Afterwards, Madhavendra offered a mouthwash to the deity and then pan. Then he performed the arati ceremony, after which he brought a new bed for Gopal to rest upon. When Gopal was finally taking rest, Madhavendra Puri fed the prasad of the Annakuta festival, first to all the Brahmins and then to all the people, men, women and children, of the village.
Word spread to all the villages of the area that Gopal had made his appearance, and people from each village took turns having their own feast in his honor on different days. "The people of Vraja are naturally affectionate toward Krishna. And Krishna, too, is affectionate to them."
In time, the rich kshatriyas had a temple built for Gopal and gave him ten thousand cows. Madhavendra Puri remained there for two years in Gopal’s service until one day he again had a dream in which Gopal told him that he still suffered from the heat and that it was only by smearing Malaya sandalwood that he would be freed of the problem. Madhavendra was overjoyed to receive the direct order of the Lord and after engaging a qualified person to serve him, started off on a journey to the east to find Malaya sandalwood. Malaya refers to the Malabar Coast in Kerala at the very south of India, in what is known as the Western Ghats. This area is also known as Nilgiri or Malaya Parvata. Sandalwood is so closely associated with this area that the word malayaja ("born of Malaya") is a synonym for the perfumed wood.
The story of Khirchora Gopinath
Madhavendra Puri stopped at Advaita Acharya’s house in Shantipur where he initiated him. From there he went on until he arrived at Remuna. Seeing the wonderful appearance of Gopinath, Madhavendra was overwhelmed with love, and he sang his names and danced for some time. He asked one of Gopinath’s Brahmin servants what foods were offered to the deity. The Brahmin answered: "In the evening we give Gopinath twelve bowls of amrita-keli, a thickened milk preparation which is like the nectar of the gods. It is famous everywhere as Gopinath’s kshira, and no offering anywhere in the world is its equal."
At that very moment, the servants of Gopinath started to offer the amrita-keli to their deity. Madhavendra thought that if he could just get a taste of this preparation, he would be able to one day make it himself and offer it to his own Gopal. However, this very thought shamed him, as his desire for the food that was intended for the Lord was improper. After watching the arati ceremony, Madhavendra went outside and sat in the empty marketplace, chanting the Holy Names. Madhavendra followed the ayacaka-vritti, which means that he would never ask for food from anyone, only accepting what was offered him spontaneously. He was able to do this because he never felt hunger or thirst, as he was constantly engaged in drinking the nectar of prema and that kept him satisfied.
In the meantime, the pujari finished his duties and was taking rest when he had a vision of the deity in a dream telling him, "Get up! Open the door. I have put aside a bowl of kshira for the sannyasi. It is hidden behind the pleats of my dhoti. You did not see me put it there because of my Maya. The sannyasi, whose name is Madhava Puri, is sitting in the marketplace. Quickly take this kshira to him." (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.4.127-129)
The pujari was startled by the dream and immediately got up. He bathed and then opened the door to the altar and indeed found a bowl of the kshira behind his cloth. He took the bowl and set off to find Madhavendra Puri. He began to wander through the market, shouting, "I have kshira here for Madhava Puri. Gopinath has stolen it for you. Take it and eat it with joy, for there is no person as fortunate as you in the three worlds."
When he heard this, Madhavendra approached the pujari and identified himself. The pujari gave him the kshira and then fell at his feet like a stick to offer his obeisances. When Madhavendra Puri heard the whole story from the pujari, he was overcome by feelings of love for Krishna. He respectfully ate the prasad and then, after washing the clay bowl, broke it into many small pieces and wrapped them up in his outer garment. Each day afterward, he would eat a piece of the clay bowl and again feel the same ecstatic love. Knowing that word of this would spread the next morning, Madhavendra Puri became fearful of the fame that would befall him and the people who would crowd around him. So, before dawn he paid his obeisance to Gopinath and left for Puri.
When he arrived in Puri, he visited Jagannath and became ecstatic with love at seeing him. But his fame had reached Puri even before he did and countless people came to see him and to pay him their respects. "The nature of fame in this world is well known. Even if one does not search it out, it comes anyway as a result of one’s destiny. Though Madhavendra Puri feared fame and ran away from it, Krishna prema brings its own reputation to one who possesses it." Though Madhavendra Puri wanted to avoid the fame that Krishna had bestowed upon him, he was not able to flee because he was bound to search out the sandalwood he had sworn to find for Gopal. He explained his need for sandalwood to the servants and directors of the Jagannath temple. Some of those people who had contacts with the king of the land interceded for him and collected both sandalwood and camphor on his behalf through these contacts. Then they arranged for another Brahmin and a servant to travel with him and to help him carry the load; in order to help him avoid customs duties he was given an official exemption paper. As he was on his return route, Madhavendra Puri stopped in Remuna again. Once again he spent some time dancing and singing kirtan in a state of loving absorption before Gopinath, and again accepted the kshira prasad from the pujari. That night he slept in the temple. Once again he had a vision of Gopal, who spoke to him as follows: "Listen, Madhava. I have received all the sandalwood and camphor. Now grind and make a paste of it and smear it on Gopinath’s body. Gopinath and I are one and the same person; if you give him the sandalwood, I will feel the cooling effect. Don’t hesitate, don’t doubt this message at all. Just believe and accept my instruction: give me the sandalwood."
Having received this dream message, Madhavendra Puri called the pujaris and servants of Gopinath together and let them know what he had been told. When they heard that Gopinath would be getting sandalwood paste, they were very happy, as it was summertime. Madhavendra had his two companions as well as two other persons daily ground the sandalwood into a paste. They stayed there until the sandalwood was gone, all of it having been used in the service of Gopinath. At the end of the summer season, with the coming of the rains, Madhavendra returned to Puri where he observed Caturmasya.
Madhavendra’s feelings of separation
At Puri, the exemplary character of Madhavendra’s love for Krishna was demonstrated. In this regard Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati wrote, "The feeling of separation from Krishna, or transcendental vipralambha is the only practice by which the spirit soul can achieve perfection. Material feelings of separation give rise to a despondency which reveals the attachment that one has for matter, whereas the despondency which comes out of the feelings of separation for Krishna are the best proof of the desire to bring pleasure to his senses. The desire to bring pleasure to Krishna’s senses shown by Madhavendra Puri, the great soul at the root of this movement, is the ideal example to follow for anyone who wishes to serve the Lord. It is especially worth remarking that Mahaprabhu and his intimate energies later followed this example and made it their standard."
Madhavendra Puri was completely indifferent to sensual enjoyment, but his eagerness to serve Gopal was so great that he traveled a thousand miles on foot over roads that were full of danger. His readiness to return with sandalwood over the same path was so sincere that Gopal had mercy on him.
Gopal gave Madhavendra Puri the order to bring him the sandalwood paste in order to show the world the depth of his love. It took a great effort for Madhavendra to bring the sandalwood back to Remuna, but it was a joy for him and he did not experience it as a difficulty. Gopal gave him this order in order to test him; it started as a test, but in the end he was merciful to his devotee. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.4.189).
Out of his mercy, Madhavendra Puri bestowed love for Krishna on a Sanoriya Brahmin in Mathura. He accepted food from this Brahmin, knowing him to be a Vaishnava. By this he showed how the daiva-varnashrama system is meant to operate. According to Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, members of the business community (vaishyas) in the west of India are divided into several castes: Agrawalas, Kanwars, Sanwars, etc. Of these, the Agrawalas are considered to be very pure, while the two other groups are considered fallen as a result of their own actions. Those Brahmins who perform the ritual activities for the Kanwars and Sanwars, who are gold and jewelry merchants, are known as Sanoriya Brahmins. Normally, because of these low caste associations, they are considered to be fallen as a caste and sannyasi refuse to accept food in their homes.
Later on, Mahaprabhu himself went to take food at this Sanoriya Brahmin’s house between his visits to Kashi and Prayag because he knew that Madhavendra Puri had been merciful to him. This was the example that he set. He also showed him the respect that was due to senior personality, saying, "You are my guru, and I am practically your disciple. It is not fitting for a guru to pay obeisances to a disciple." (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.17.170)
Madhavendra and Isvara Puri
There is one last important incident in Madhavendra Puri’s immaculate life. Ramachandra Puri and Isvara Puri were two of his initiated disciples. However, due to disrespect for the guru, Ramachandra was unable to get his mercy, whereas Isvara Puri became blessed through his single-minded devotion to him and was thus able to attain the highest level of pure love for Krishna. Ramachandra was unable to understand the sweetness and supremacy of his guru deva’s feelings of separation and had the audacity to give him advice based on knowledge of Brahman. Madhavendra Puri became so angry that he completely ignored him. Even though he was such a great loving devotee, Madhavendra Puri showed anger to his own disciple when he committed an offense and chastised him severely, using harsh words. When he heard him giving such instructions, he became angry and said,
"Get away, get away, you most sinful rascal! I am dying from the distress of not having received Krishna’s mercy, of not having attained Mathura, and you come to add to my misery! Don’t show your face to me again, go wherever you like! If I see you while I am dying I will take a lower birth. I am dying from the distress of not having attained Krishna and this lowly fool is teaching me about Brahman."
As a result, Madhavendra Puri withdrew his blessings from his disciple and he started to develop material desires. He became a dry philosopher without any interest in Krishna. Not only that but he became critical of everyone, devoting himself to criticism. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.8.20-25)
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Shrila Prabhupada commented on this in his Anubhashya, "Even though Ramachandra Puri saw his own guru suffering of separation from Krishna, he was incapable of recognizing the transcendental nature of this transport of emotions. He judged his guru to be an ordinary man and took his mood to be material, the result of some material insufficiency. As a result he tried to explain to him the value of experiencing the oneness of Brahman. Madhavendra Puri reacted to his disciple’s stupidity and disregard for his instructions and thus stopped wishing for his well-being. He abandoned him and drove him away." The words “material desires” (vasana) means “the desire for dry knowledge” and from that arose the tendency to criticize the devotees.
On the other hand, Isvara Puri not only adhered to his guru’s teaching but served him physically and thus received his mercy. He served the lotus feet of his spiritual master, even to the point of personally cleaning his urine and feces, as well as helping him to remember Krishna’s name and pastimes. In this way he satisfied him completely.
Isvara Puri served the great man, personally cleaning his urine and feces. He continuously repeated the name of Krishna so that he could hear him, and recounted Krishna’s pastimes. Madhavendra Puri was so pleased with him that he embraced him and blessed him, saying, "May you have the wealth of love for Krishna!" From that time onward, Isvara Puri became an ocean of love for Krishna, while Ramachandra Puri became a mine of insults. These two personalities thus became witness to the results of pleasing or displeasing the great soul. Madhavendra Puri taught this truth through these two. He was the spiritual master of the whole world and he gave the gift of love of God. Repeating this verse, he left this world,
ayi dinadayardra natha he,
mathuranatha kadavalokyase |
dayita bhramyati kim karomy aham ||
"O lord, whose heart softens at seeing the condition of the unfortunate! Oh lord of Mathura, when will I see you? My heart is filled with pain from not seeing you, oh my love, and is confused. What can I do?"
When Mahaprabhu recited this verse he become intoxicated with love and Nityananda had to hold him to calm him down. (3.8.26-31)
Madhavendra Puri’s disappearance day is the Shukla Dvadashi of the month of Phalgun.
Isvara Puri was born in the town of Kumara Hatta on the full moon day of the month of Jyeshtha to a family of Brahmins hailing from Rarha. Kumara Hatta is in the in the 24 Paraganas district about two miles from the Halisahar train station. The local people indicate the neighborhood known as Mukhopadhyaya Para as the site of his birth home.
After Mahaprabhu took sannyas, Shrivasa Pandit and his brothers were unable to tolerate Nabadwip with its reminders of him and so moved to Kumara Hatta. The site of their house is said to be near a temple by Chaitanya Doba, which is the name given to Isvara Puri’s birthplace. The word doba means “a pool of water.” When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to Kumara Hatta, he took some earth from this place and wrapped it in his cloth. Numerous people since followed his example with the result that they made a pit that has since filled with water. The site is especially well-known in the area.
The mercy of the spiritual master
Isvara Puri is a sannyas name. Though it is not known what his name was prior to taking sannyas, we know that his father’s name was Shyamasundara Acharya. Isvara Puri took initiation from the embodiment of nectarean devotional love, Madhavendra Puri. Madhavendra Puri was pleased with Isvara Puri’s guileless, affectionate and loving service and thus drenched him in blessings, so that he too became immersed in the ocean of love for Krishna. If one’s spiritual master is satisfied, then a disciple is fortunate to attain all auspiciousness and the fulfillment of all his desires. If the guru is unhappy with his disciple then he will only know inauspiciousness. These are teachings that are found in the exemplary life of Madhavendra Puri. Ramachandra Puri was also Madhavendra Puri’s initiated disciple, but because of his arrogance was bereft of his guru’s grace. Krishnadas Kaviraj has described the incident with great beauty in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (1.8.16-30) as follows:
Previously, when Madhavendra Puri was on his deathbed, Ramachandra Puri came to see him. Madhavendra Puri was singing the names of the Lord and crying out, “I have not attained Mathura!” Ramachandra then began to instruct him--even though he was a disciple, he had no compunction about doing so. He said, “Remember that you are completely full of the bliss of Brahman. Why are you crying like this despite being knowledgeable of your own Brahma-nature?” When Madhavendra Puri heard this, he became angry and began to rebuke Ramachandra, saying, “Get away, get away, you most sinful rascal! I am dying from the distress of not having received Krishna’s mercy, of not having attained Mathura, and you come to add to my misery! Don’t show your face to me again; go wherever you like! If I see you while I am dying I will take a lower birth. I am dying from the distress of not having attained Krishna and this lowly fool is teaching me about Brahman.” As a result, Madhavendra Puri withdrew his blessings from his disciple who thenceforth started to develop material desires. He became a dry philosopher without any interest in Krishna. Not only that but he became critical of everyone, devoting himself to criticism.
Isvara Puri, on the other hand, served the great man, personally cleaning his urine and feces. He continuously repeated the name of Krishna so that he could hear him, and recounted Krishna’s pastimes. Madhavendra Puri was so pleased with him that he embraced and blessed him, saying, “May you have the wealth of love for Krishna!” From that time onward, Isvara Puri became an ocean of love for Krishna, while Ramachandra Puri became a mine of insults. These two personalities thus bear witness to the results of pleasing or displeasing the great soul. Madhavendra Puri taught this truth through them.
In this connection Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada has written in his Anubhashya, “Even though Ramachandra Puri saw his own guru suffering of separation from Krishna, he was incapable of recognizing the transcendental nature of this transport of emotions. He judged his guru to be an ordinary man and took his mood to be material, the result of some material insufficiency. As a result he tried to explain to him the value of experiencing the oneness of Brahman. Madhavendra Puri reacted to his disciple’s stupidity and disregard for his instructions and thus stopped wishing for his well-being. He abandoned him and drove him away.”
Mahaprabhu takes initiation from Isvara Puripada
Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even so, he wished to teach that it is absolutely necessary to take a spiritual master. For this reason he played the role of a disciple taking initiation from Isvara Puri when he met him at Gaya. This in itself shows beyond a doubt Isvara Puri’s greatness and his importance.
Then the Lord went to Gaya where he met Isvara Puri. After taking initiation from him, he started to display the signs of love of God and when he returned to his homeland, he began to engage in the pastimes of love. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.17.8-9)
In the ecstasy of love, the two drenched each other in the tears of prema that fell from their eyes. The Lord said, “My pilgrimage to Gaya has been made successful today, for I have seen your lotus feet. When one makes the pinda offering to the ancestors at a holy place, then that ancestor is delivered. But simply by seeing you, ten million ancestors are delivered from all forms of bondage in a single moment. Therefore no holy place is your equal, and you are the primary source of auspiciousness for even the holy places. Please lift me up from the ocean of material suffering; I offer this body up to your service. The only gift I ask for is that you should give me the nectar of Krishna’s lotus feet to drink.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.17.49-55)
Mahaprabhu was acting the role of an ordinary mortal, a pilgrim who had come to Gaya to offer the shraddha oblations. On the day that he had performed these rituals, he returned to his room and began to cook. When Isvara Puri came and placed his holy feet in Mahaprabhu’s room, Mahaprabhu with great satisfaction personally served him the rice and vegetables that he had himself cooked. In so doing, Mahaprabhu demonstrated most perfectly how to serve the guru.
Isvara Puri in Nabadwip
Isvara Puri had met Mahaprabhu in Nabadwip even prior to giving him the ten-syllable mantra in Gaya. He had also met with Advaita Acharya, who had play-acted the role of a disciple with Madhavendra Puri. This has been described by Vrindavan Das Thakur in the Chaitanya Bhagavata. In the days when Nimai was engaged in his pastimes as a student in Nabadwip, one day Isvara Puri suddenly saw him and was impressed and attracted by his bodily beauty. Nimai invited Isvara Puri to his house to eat and had his mother Sachi cook and serve him Krishna prasad. Then he and Isvara Puri engaged in a discussion about Krishna. At that time, Isvara Puri was staying for a few months at Gopinath Acharya’s house. When he saw the renunciation of Gadadhara Pandit, he was pleased and started to affectionately give him lessons from Shri-Krishna-lilamrita, a book of his own composition. Nimai would also come daily to visit Isvara Puri while he was teaching Gadadhara and offer him his obeisances. One day, Isvara Puripada asked Nimai to correct any mistakes that were in his book. Nimai answered:
“Anyone who finds any fault with a devotee’s description of Krishna is a sinner. If a devotee writes a poem, no matter how poorly he does it, it will certainly contain his love for Krishna. A fool says vishnaya while a scholar knows the correct form is vishnave, but Krishna accepts the sentiment in either case. If anyone sees a fault in this, the fault is his, for Krishna is pleased with anything the pure devotee says. You too describe the Lord with words of love, so what arrogant person would dare criticize anything that you have written?” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.11.105-110)
The same incident is described in the Bhakti-ratnakara in the following way:
Look here, this is the house of Gopinath Acharya where Vishvambhara would visit from time to time. Isvara Puri stayed here for a while and composed his book Shri-Krishna-lilamrita. He had great affection for Gadadhara Pandit and when he saw the symptoms of love for Krishna in him, he taught him that book. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.2205-7)
When Nityananda Prabhu was traveling in the west of India, he accidentally met Madhavendra Puri. When the two met, they fainted. Nityananda was overcome by love and started to describe Madhavendra Puri’s glories and Madhavendra Puri himself embraced Nityananda and wet him with his tears. Isvara Puripada understood that Nityananda was extremely dear to his spiritual master and so, like his guru’s other disciples, held him in great affection and felt a deep love for him.
All glories to Madhava Puri, the ocean of love for Krishna! He was the first shoot of the desire tree of devotion. That first shoot was nourished and grew in the form of Isvara Puri and from him the thick trunk of Chaitanya lila took shape. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.9.10-11)
Before he left this world, Isvara Puri sent two of his disciples, Kashisvara and Govinda, to serve Mahaprabhu. Even though these two were Mahaprabhu’s godbrothers, he nevertheless obeyed the order of his spiritual master and accepted them as his servants.
Shri Ranga Puri
There Mahaprabhu met Shri Ranga Puri and ended the sufferings of Rama Das. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.113)
During his travels through South India, Mahaprabhu came to the town Pandharpur on the banks of the Bhima River. Pandharpur is the home of the Vitthaladeva deity in the Sholapur district of Maharashtra. It is also well-known as the home of the famous Maharashtrian Vaishnava saint Tukarama who lived there in the 15th century of the Shaka era.
In Pandharpur, Mahaprabhu was invited by a certain Brahmin to his home where was lavishly fed. While there, he heard that Madhavendra Puri’s disciple, Shri Ranga Puri, was staying nearby in another Brahmin’s house. Mahaprabhu immediately went there to meet him. He prostrated himself before his guru’s godbrother and was immediately inspired by a mood of ecstatic love. Shri Ranga Puri was also impressed by the sight of Mahaprabhu’s ecstatic symptoms and guessed that the Lord must have some relation to the spirit of devotion promulgated by his own spiritual master, without which they would be impossible. He lifted the Lord up and embraced him and the two of them began to cry in devotional ecstasy.
From there Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu went to Pandharpur, where he joyfully saw the temple of Vitöhala Thakur. A Brahmin saw the Lord chanting and dancing in ecstatic love, was very much pleased and invited him to his home for lunch. The Brahmin offered Mahaprabhu food with great respect and love. After finishing his lunch, the Lord received auspicious news: Shri Ranga Puri, one of the disciples of Shri Madhavendra Puri, was residing at the home of another Brahmin in Pandharpur. The Lord immediately went to that Brahmin’s home and, upon entering, saw Shri Ranga Puri. As soon as Mahaprabhu saw him, he was immediately overwhelmed with ecstatic love and prostrated himself in obeisance. All the symptoms of ecstatic transformation were visibleCtears, jubilation, trembling and perspiration. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.9.282-7)
Upon learning that Mahaprabhu was Isvara Puripada’s disciple, Shri Ranga Puri was filled with great affection for him. Just by touching each other, they were both flooded with ecstatic feelings. They passed seven days together in discussions of Krishna conscious topics. Shri Ranga Puri was overjoyed to hear that the Lord’s birthplace was in Nabadwip. He told the Lord that he had previously been to Nabadwip with his spiritual master and that they had and eaten at Jagannath Mishra’s house. He recalled that Jagannath’s wife Sachi had fed them a delicious banana flower curry. She had served the sannyasis as though they were her own sons and as if the Mother of the Universe had become incarnate in her. Shri Ranga Puri continued to tell Mahaprabhu that Sachi and Jagannath had a worthy son who took sannyas, taking on the name Shankararanya, but who had died there in Pandharpur.
Upon hearing all this, Mahaprabhua was overcome with feelings of separation and he let Shri Ranga Puri know that Shankararanya had been his very own brother and that Jagannath and Sachi were his father and mother. After they finished their conversation, Shri Ranga Puri went on to Dvaraka while the Lord continued on Krishnavenva River.
Madhavendra Puri is pure devotional sentiment personified. Simply by remembering his name, one can achieve all perfections. All of his disciples such as Isvara Puri and Shri Ranga Puri were similarly intoxicated with the moods of sacred rapture. (Bhakti-ratnakara 5.2272-3)
Some people say that Shri Ranga Puri later came to Jagannath Puri to join the Lord and spend the remainder of his life in his association.
Shri Jagannath Mishra
Jagannath Mishra was born in the village of South Dhaka in Sylhet (Sylhet). His grandfather, Madhu Mishra, had four sons: Upendra, Rangada, Kirtida, and Kirtivasa. His father and mother, Upendra Mishra and Kalavati, had seven sons: Kamsari, Paramananda, Padmanabha, Sarveshvara, Jagannath Mishra, Janardana and Trailokyanath. (Prema-vilasa, 24). According to the Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika, Upendra was Krishna’s grandfather, the cowherd Parjanya, while Jagannath was Nanda Maharaj in Krishna’s Vraja pastimes (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 37). Nanda or Jagannath were, in Krishna’s various appearances, Kashyapa, Dasharath, Sutapa and Vasudeva.
vrindavane premarasakarau yau |
babhuvatus tau na ca samshayo’tra ||
amu avishatam eva devavaditikashyapau |
shrikaushalya-dasharathau tatha shriprishni-tatpati ||
The king of Vraja has become Chaitanya’s father, Jagannath; the queen of Vraja is his mother Sachi. The son of Nanda is Chaitanya Gosai, and Baladeva is his brother Nityananda. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.17.294-295).
The birth of Mahaprabhu
In the Chaitanya Charitamrita, it is also stated that Jagannath Mishra was also known by his title Purandara, which is an epithet of Indra. His wife’s name was Sachidevi. Sachi’s father was Nilambara Cakravarti. (Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi, 13.59-60)
At first, eight baby girls were born to Jagannath and Sachi, but each of them died at birth. Jagannath then performed a special ceremony to have a son, and not long afterward a boy, Vishvarupa, was born. Vishvarupa is a manifestation of Baladeva and belongs to the same ontological category that is named Sankarshan in the spiritual world. At the age of 12, Vishvarupa took sannyas, adopting the name Shankararanya. He died in the year 1509 in Pandharpur, in the Solapur district of Maharashtra.
Jagannath Mishra and Sachidevi are eternally liberated companions of Krishna; thus, it is clear that their heart and body are made of pure goodness or the shuddha-sattva. Another name for pure goodness is vasudeva. Krishna is named Vasudeva because he takes pleasure in the spiritual nature and makes his appearance through pure goodness or vasudeva.
In 1486, at sundown on the full moon day of the month of Phalguna, at the auspicious moment of a lunar eclipse, in the midst of an ecstatic hubbub made by the townspeople filling the sky with the joyful sound of Hari! and Krishna!, the women making their uludhvani, and the gods playing on their divine instruments, Gauranga Mahaprabhu accepted Jagannath Mishra and Sachidevi as his father and mother and appeared in the holy dham of Shri Mayapur. It is said that witches, evil female spirits and other powerful demonic specters cannot go near a neem tree. Out of their feelings of maternal love, Sachi and the other women named him Nimai in order that he be protected from any inauspiciousness. Later, when Nimai took the renounced order of life, he was given the name Shri Krishna Chaitanya. Some of the other names by which he is known are Vishvambhara, Nabadwipa-chandra, Gaurahari, Gauranga and Mahaprabhu.
When Sachi and Jagannath saw their child’s face, they forgot themselves in their excitement. Nilambara Chakravarti was a great astrologer and when he examined the constellations at the baby’s birth, he divined that he was to be a king among kings, that he was to possess all virtues, indeed that he was Narayan himself. Jagannath and his entire household were immersed in the ocean of ecstasy upon hearing these predictions. This ocean only increased in fullness as the baby Nimai began to display his childhood pastimes. Whenever Nimai cried, the adults would sing the Holy Names in order to pacify him. When he was only four months old, he started throwing various household articles about, but would only do this until he saw his mother when would lie down and start to cry. Sachi would sing the Holy Names to stop Nimai from crying, and only when he had stopped would she notice the disorder into which the child had put the room. Never suspecting him, she though that it must be some evil spirit whose efforts to harm the baby had failed due to the protective incantations she was always making over him.
When the time came for Nimai’s name-giving ceremony, Nilambara Chakravarti and other learned men in the community called him Vishvambhara, which is thus his principal name, while the women gave him the name Nimai. This latter name was given because neem leaves have a bitter taste and are said to keep death away, and they wished to bless Nimai with a long life. The name-giving ceremony is also the occasion when a child’s tastes and tendencies are tested. Jagannath placed rice, puffed rice, gold, silver and a manuscript of the Shrimad Bhagavatam before the child, who ignored everything to reach out for the Bhagavatam. All were delighted by Nimai’s choice. The philosophers amongst them began to say, “Nimai will be a great scholar.” In fact, Nimai wished to show, even at this young age, that the Bhagavatam is the supreme authority in spiritual matters. This is the teaching hidden within this lila.
As Nimai grew, he began to crawl, giving pleasure to his mother and father and all their neighbors. One day, the child saw the god Sesha in the form of a cobra in the garden. He played with him for a while in the mood of a golden Narayan, and then, like Narayan, he curled up on the coiled snake and fell asleep. When Jagannath Mishra came upon the scene, he feared the worst for the child and started to shout and cry, frightening the beast that slithered away. Nevertheless, Sachi and Jagannath had seen the wondrous form that the child had displayed and became convinced that he was a divine personality.
The neighborhood women found that whenever they loudly chanted the names of the Lord, Nimai would stop crying and start dancing in ecstasy, even rolling about in the dust. So every morning they would surround him and sing the Holy Names. Whether they knew him or not, people would be attracted by his beautiful appearance and would affectionately give him sandesha sweets or bananas. Nimai would take all these sweets and fruits and give them as prasad to the women who sang for him.
When Nimai was able to walk, he would go into the neighbors’ houses and take milk and rice, and if he found nothing to eat, he would break various household items. This naughty behavior is a source of delight for his devotees. On one occasion, as Nimai was playing in front of Jagannath Mishra’s house, two thieves saw that he was wearing valuable ornaments and became greedy. They charmed the child by offering him a ride on their shoulders and then started to carry him away. However, they were bewildered by Vishnu’s illusory power and shortly they found themselves back in front of Nimai’s own home. Frightened by this unexpected turn of events, the two rascals ran away. Meanwhile, Jagannath had been searching anxiously for Nimai. When he saw that his child had returned, he held him tightly to his heart and felt as though his life had also been returned to him.
One day, Jagannath Mishra asked Nimai to bring him a book from inside the house. When Nimai ran to fetch it, Sachi was surprised to hear the wondrous jingling of ankle bells. After Nimai had given his father the book and gone off to play, Sachi was amazed to see that his footprints held the auspicious signs of the flag, the lightning bolt, the elephant rod and the banner. Under the influence of their parental love, Jagannath and Sachi were not able to accept that these were Nimai’s footprints, but took them rather to be the traces of Damodar, their household Shalagrama-shila deity and so they did a special ceremony for him, bathing him, peforming the puja and offering food.
On another day, a Brahmin pilgrim passed through Nabadwip with his deity of the baby Krishna. Jagannath offered him a place to his puja as well as food to cook for an offering. When the pilgrim had finished cooking, he sat down to offer the bhoga to his deity. But as soon as he started meditation on his mantra, Nimai came and began eating the offering. The Brahmin saw this and started to shout in distress. Jagannath Mishra was extremely disturbed by the incident and the Brahmin had to intercede to stop him from giving the child a spanking.
Although the Brahmin did not want to cook again, Jagannath begged him to do so. Before he recommenced preparing the offering. Jagannath took Nimai to a neighbor’s house so that he would not do any more mischief. Once again, however, when the Brahmin sat down to meditate on his Bala Gopal mantra to make his offering, Gaura Gopal appeared out of nowhere and started to enjoy the foodstuffs. The Brahmin again began to shout in frustration, “It’s been ruined. It’s been ruined!” Jagannath was devastated a second time and again wished to punish the child, only to be stopped by his guest. The Brahmin said, “He’s only a child and doesn’t understand anything. It’s not his fault. It seems that it is not my destiny to eat today.”
This time, Nimai’s older brother Vishvarupa begged the Brahmin to try a third time, and so finally, on his insistence, he began to cook again. This time it was quite late at night and Nimai was fast asleep in his room so no one suspected any trouble. The Brahmin waited until the entire household had gone to bed before making his offering, but once again, contrary to all expectation, Gaura Gopal came to consume it. This time, however, he gave the Brahmin a vision of an astonishing eight-armed form, holding not only the conch, discus, mace and lotus in four of his hands, but a lump of butter from which he was taking pieces and a flute which he was playing with the others. When he saw this wonderful vision, the Brahmin fainted. Mahaprabhu told him not to reveal this lila to anyone. But from then on, the Brahmin remained in Nabadwip and though he engaged in his daily activities as was his wont, would return each evening to Nimai’s house to behold his worshipable lord. Nimai told him, “You have been my servant for many, many births. This very same lila also took place at Nanda’s house in Gokula.”
Jagannath Mishra completed the three rituals (samskaras) in which the child’s ears are pierced, his hair is shorn and his education is begun. It took Nimai only three days to learn the entire alphabet and he started to read and write all of Krishna’s names.
The little Gaura Gopal would often ask his parents to bring him birds, even the stars or the moon, and would cry if they could not do so. When they chanted the Holy Names, he would stop crying, otherwise there was no way to quiet him. One day, however, though they repeatedly sang the names of Hari, the child’s tears did not stop flowing. When pressed to tell why he was crying so insistently, Nimai said that though it was Ekadashi, he wanted to eat the offerings which the Brahmins Jagadisa and Hiranya had made to their Vishnu deity. Jagannath was astonished to hear this unusual request, but went to the house of his two friends. He told them the whole story, and they were delighted to give him the offering. When Jagannath brought the prasad home and gave it to Nimai, he finally stopped crying.
Nimai continued his naughty behavior and the males in the community reported it to his father while the girls and women would complain to Sachi. Though Jagannath would be angry and want to punish his child, he would be quite astonished to see him completely calm and free from any guilty demeanor. Both his parents wondered, “Who is this child? Has Krishna secretly appeared here as our son?”
Vishvambhara’s older brother Vishvarupa had been indifferent to material life since his childhood. After studying at Advaita Acharya’s school, or öol, he came to understand that the ultimate conclusion of the scriptures was devotion to Krishna. When he was twelve years old, his parents started making arrangements for his marriage, he left home and took sannyas, taking the name Shankararanya. This event traumatized Sachi and Jagannath, who were greatly pained by their separation from their oldest son. Jagannath was afraid that Nimai too would become indifferent to family life through studying the scriptures, so he stopped his education. Rather that the boy should remain a fool at home than become a scholar only to leave the household! But after this, Nimai started to misbehave again. One day, he went to a place where used and contaminated pottery was thrown and sat down. When Sachi saw this she became angry and told him several times to leave the dirty spot. Nimai answered her in the spirit of the divine philosopher Dattatreya, “How can a fool tell the difference between that which is pure and that which is not? How can the pots that have been used to cook for Vishnu possibly be contaminated? What is more, how can any place be impure if I am there? Ideas of purity and impurity from the karma-kanda have no place in devotion to the Lord. It is just the imagination of people who know nothing but the material world.”
Seeing that the boy would in no way heed her order to leave the unclean spot, Sachi finally dragged him away and made him bathe and herself took a bath. After this she and other members of the community approached Jagannath and entreated him to allow Nimai to resume his studies, which he did.
Some time after this, Nimai’s sacred thread ceremony was held, after which Nimai went out to beg, just as Vamana did. Afterward, Jagannath entrusted him to Ganga Das Pandit, who is none other than the same Sandipani Muni who taught Krishna. Ganga Das Pandit was overjoyed to accept the handsome and virtuous boy Nimai as his student. Nimai would ask him and his fellow students trick questions based on Nyaya and the ensuing arguments would be a source of amazement to everyone.
Jagannath was pleased to see his son take up a disciplined life in which he would bathe daily in the Ganges, perform puja to Vishnu strictly according to the regulations, and offer water to the sacred tulasi plant before finally taking prasad. Nimai would then go to a place where he could be undisturbed and would study alone. Jagannath prayed to Krishna for Nimai’s continued welfare, but at the same time was always afraid that he would come to understand the emptiness of the cycle of samsara and eventually leave home. One day, he had a dream in which he saw Mahaprabhu’s beautiful form as a sannyasi, performing sankirtan while surrounded by his devotees, dancing, singing, laughing, crying. After this he came to believe that it was inevitable that Nimai would one day leave home. Sachi Devi tried to convince him that because he had become so attached to his studies, he would never leave home, but she could not convince him. Jagannath disappeared before Nimai became a sannyasi. On the death of his father, Gaurasundara lamented just like Ramachandra did upon hearing of the death of Dasharath, but at the same time consoled his heartbroken mother.
Shrila Jagadisa Pandit
apare yajna-patnyau shri-jagadisha-hiranyakau |
ekadashyam yayor annam prarthayitva’ghasat prabhuh ||
The wives of the sacrificing Brahmins in Vraja took birth as Jagadisa and Hiranya. The Lord (Mahaprabhu) asked for and ate their prasad on the Ekadashi day. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 192)
asid vraje chandrahaso nartako rasa-kovidah |
so’yam nritya-vinodi shri-jagadishakhyah panditah ||
In Vraja there was a dancer named Candrahasa who was very expert in the tasting of rasa. In Chaitanya-lila, he became Jagadisa Pandit who also took great pleasure in dancing for the Lord. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 143)
Jagadisa Pandit is considered to be simultaneously both Nityananda-shakha and Chaitanya-shakha, a branch both of Chaitanya as well as Nityananda in the desire tree of devotion. He was born in the town of Gauhati (Pragjyotishpur) in modern Assam. His father’s name was Kamalaksha Bhatta. Both of his parents were devotees of Vishnu. When they died, he came with his wife Duhkhini and his brother Hiranya to Mayapur on the shores of the Ganga where they built a home near that of Jagannath Mishra. Jagadisa Pandit became Jagannath Mishra’s very close friend.
Jagadisa and his wife Duhkhini had the same kind of parental affection for the little Nimai as Jagannath and Sachi themselves. Duhkhini was like a mother to Nimai and even sometimes acted as his wet-nurse. Nimai, the son of Sachi, is none other than the son of Yashoda, the supreme lord Krishna incarnate. It is not possible for anyone but an eternal associate of the Lord to have the good fortune to treat him like a son in this way.
Nimai begs for Jagadisa’s offering
Mahaprabhu showed through his pastimes just how dear he considered Jagadisa Pandit to be. Shriman Mahaprabhu is the father of sankirtan and even as a child he tricked everyone into chanting the Holy Names. Sachi and all the other neighbors would clap their hands and sing the names of the Lord in order to make him stop crying. One Ekadashi day, however, Nimai kept on crying despite Sachi Mata and Jagannath Mishra’s chanting the Names in the usual way. His parents became confused and anxious, and in desperation asked him, “What do you want, child? What must we give you to make you to stop crying?” Nimai answered, “Today, they have made a rice offering to Vishnu at Jagadisa’s house. I want to eat some of that prasad. Give me some of that prasad and I will stop crying.”
Jagannath Mishra was amazed to hear Nimai say such things. How could he know that Jagadisa Pandit made a rice offering on Ekadashi? Jagannath Mishra immediately went to his neighbor’s house and was surprised to see that a large offering had indeed been made to their Vishnu deity. Jagannath told Jagadisa of Nimai’s request, adding that he was worried that it would not be correct for him to eat rice on Ekadashi day. But Gauranga’s eternal associate Jagadisa Pandit knew that it was little Gopal in the form of Nimai who was hungry. Without any hesitation, he gave the entire offering to Jagannath Mishra. As soon as Nimai received the plate, he immediately stopped crying and joyfully started to eat.
Jagadisa Pandit and Hiranya [are Chaitanya’s branches of the desire tree of devotion]. The merciful Lord gave them his grace when he was a little boy. He ate the offerings to Vishnu at their house on the Ekadashi day. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.70-71)
Jagadisa Pandit purifies the entire universe because the nectar of love for Krishna pours from him like torrents of rain. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.30)
The abovementioned pastime is described in the Chaitanya Bhagavat, Adi-khanda, chapter 4.
The Lord grabs the things of the devotee even if he doesn’t offer them, but he shows no interest whatsoever in the gifts of the non-devotee.
Just as Mahaprabhu was conquered by the devotion of Jagadisa Pandit, so too was his dearest companion Nityananda Prabhu who considered him to be one of his own intimate associates. Nityananda Prabhu was Jagadisa’s life and soul. Jagadisa was present in Panihati for the Chira-dadhi Mahotsava.
Jagadisa and Jagannath
Before taking sannyas, Mahaprabhu ordered Jagadisa to go to Nilachala to preach Krishna-bhakti and the religious practice of the age, Harinama-sankirtan. The son of Nanda, Shri Krishna and the son of Jagannath Mishra, Shri Gaurasundara, are the same truth as Jagannath himself. When he arrived in Puri, Jagadisa went for Jagannath’s darshan and melted with love when he saw him. When on his way back to Bengal, however, he felt extreme separation from Jagannath. Thousands and thousands of people go on pilgrimage to Puri every single day. All of them take darshan of Jagannath, but how many of them are overcome by feelings of separation when returning home? Perhaps once in a while some fortunate individual is able to feel such emotions. If one truly feels such pangs of separation, then this is a sign of Jagannath’s mercy; if not, then one has not truly received the grace of the Lord.
Jagannath Deva saw Jagadisa crying and so mercifully appeared to him in a dream and told him to take his vigraha and serve it. Simultaneously, he appeared to the king of Orissa and ordered him that at the time of the nava-kalevara, when the wooden deity of Jagannath is changed, the outgoing form should be given to Jagadisa Pandit. Thus, when he met Jagadisa, the Maharaj considered it to be a great honor to give him Jagannath’s outgoing form, which is known as the samadhi-stha-vigraha.
Jagadisa prayed to Jagannath, asking him just how he could possibly carry the heavy figure of the deity all the way back to Bengal. Jagannath answered him that he would become as light as a cork; Jagadisa should simple cover him with a new cloth and then carry him with the help of a staff. Jagadisa would have to make permanent arrangements to stay wherever Jagannath was set down on the ground. Jagadisa enlisted the aid of two Brahmins, and they took turns carrying Jagannath as far as the village of Jashora on the banks of the Ganges, near the town of Chakdaha. Jagadisa left Jagannath with one of the Brahmins and went to take his bath in the Ganges. Suddenly, the Brahmin found that Jagannath was becoming very heavy and that he was no longer able to hold him up. Thus when Jagadisa came back from his bath, he saw Jagannath sitting on the ground and realized that the Lord wanted to stay in that very spot.
Chakdaha is a historical site and ancient holy place. During the Puranic age, it was known as Rathavarma. Pradyumna killed the demon Sambara there during Krishna’s incarnation at the end of the Dvaparaa age and thus it was known as Pradyumna-nagara. Prior to that, when Bhagiratha was bringing down the Ganga in order to save the Sagara dynasty, he buried the wheel of his chariot here. Thus the town was also given the name Chakradaha, which in time has been transformed into Chakdaha. When the local people heard that the Jagannath deity from Puri had come to stay in Jashora, they flocked there in their thousands to seek his darshan. This is how Jagadisa decided to remain in Jashora rather than return to to his home in Mayapur.
Both Nityananda Prabhu and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited the Jagannath temple in Jashora on two occasions, being attracted by Jagadisa Pandit and his wife’s parental devotion. They held sankirtan and a feast both times. As the Lord was about to leave Jashora to go to Puri, Duhkhini began to cry from the imminent separation so intensely that the Lord agreed to remain behind in the form of the Gaura-Gopal deity. In the course of the couple’s householder life, they had a son named Ramabhadra Goswami.
The Jashora temple after Jagadisa Pandit
At first, the deity was kept under a baöa tree near the Ganges, and later the king of Krishnanagara, Krishnachandra, had a temple built there for him. When the temple became old and dilapidated, Umesh Chandra Majumdar’s wife Mokshhada Devi arranged for repairs to be made. The temple building has no spire, but has been constructed in the manner of an ordinary house. Along with Jagannath, it houses Shri Shri Radhavallabha and Gaura-Gopal. The pole that Jagadisa Pandit used to carry the deity from Puri continues to be kept there. A large amount of land was donated by devotees for the service of the Jagannath deity, but over the course of time, it was all sold off by Jagadisa Pandit’s descendants in order to keep the service of the deity alive. No Rathayatra festival is held here, though his Snana-yatra is celebrated with great pomp. On that occasion, the deity is carried from the temple to an altar built in a large field not far from the temple for the purpose of the bathing ritual. A mela or fair is also held in the field, attracting countless people. This Jashora Jagannath Snana-yatra fair is still very well known. There is also a 500 year-old dais (manca) for Dola-yatra at the site that is used to swing the Radhavallabha on Phalguni purnima.
Siddha Bhagavan Das Babaji of Khalna stayed in Jashora for some time to do his bhajana. There is an annual festival celebrating Jagadisa Pandit’s disappearance day on the third day of the waxing moon in the month of Paush (December-January). His appearance day is the twelfth day of the waxing moon in the same month.
Jagadisa Pandit’s temple is currently being managed by the Shri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math. How this came to pass was described in the Chaitanya Vani magazine (2.9) in the following way:
”The Supreme Lord is most affectionate to his devotees and is conquered by their love. How many deceptions he engages in just to accept the service of his devotee! Though served in Goloka by hundreds of thousands of goddesses of fortune, Govinda still seems not to have enough people to serve him. It is as though he feels the service is not going on as it should. How many tricks he plays in order to engage the devotee he wants in his service!
Just look at the ploy that Govardhana-dhari Gopal used to engage Madhavendra Puri. His previous pujari had buried him in the jungle on top of Govardhana out of his fear of Muslim marauders. There, Gopal waited patiently until Puripada happened by. He said to him, “I have been waiting impatiently for you for many days, thinking when will Madhavendra come to render me service?” The Lord is playing his cosmic game, and these are all different aspects of his pastimes.
So now, the very same Jagannath deity and Gaura Gopal who were worshiped by Nityananda Prabhu’s dear associate, Jagadisa Pandit, have similarly displayed the wonderful pastime of voluntarily offering themselves to the great devotee, Tridandi Swami Shrimad Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaj, in order to accept his service.”
Due to increasing monetary difficulties, three of Jagadisa Pandit’s descendants, Vishvanath Goswami, Shambhunath Mukhopadhyaya, Mrityunjaya Mukhopadhyaya, had come to realize that they were no longer able to maintain the day-to-day service of their ancestral deities, nor to undertake the annual festivals, etc. The condition of the temple had also deteriorated and they were unable to make the necessary repairs. As a result, they decided to take the counsel of Shri Panchu Thakur of Jashora and Santosh Kumar Mallik of Ranaghat, and turn the temple over, without any conditions, to my spiritual master, the founder and acharya of the Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, Om 108 Shri Shrimad Bhakti Dayita Madhava Goswami Maharaj. My Guru Maharaj immediately spent a large sum of money on making various repairs and improvements to the temple, adding a new residence building and electric light.
In the first year after taking over Jagannath’s service, my Guru Maharaj came to the annual festival and personally sat several thousand men and women in the neighboring field and fed them with maha prasad. I still feel goose bumps when I remember the ecstasy that flooded over Jashora on that day.
Shrimad Advaita Acharya
vraje avesha-rupatvad vyuho yo’pi sadashivah /
sa evadvaita-gosvami chaitanyabhinna-vigrahah //
Sadashiva, an expansion of the supreme lord in Vraja, is here known as Advaita Acharya. He is non-different from Chaitanya. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 76)
yash ca gopala-dehah san vraje krishnasya sannidhau /
nanarta shri-shiva-tantre bhairavasya vaco yatha //
ekada karttike masi dipa-yatra-mahotsave /
sa-ramah saha-gopalah krishno nrityati yatnavan //
nirikshya mad-gurur devo gopa-bhavabhilashavan /
priyena nartitum arabdhash cakra-bhramana-lilaya //
shri-krishnasya prasadena dvi-vidho’bhut sadashivah /
ekas tatra shivah sakshad anyo gopala-vigrahah //
In Vraja, he took the form of a cowherd boy and danced alongside Krishna. This is stated by Bhairava in the Shivatantra: “Once, during the Divali festival in the month of Karttik, my guru Shankaradeva saw Krishna dancing with Balaram and the cowherd boys. He became desirous of becoming a cowherd boy himself and he began to dance, spinning like a whirling wheel for Krishna’s pleasure.” Thus, by Krishna’s mercy, Sadashiva plays two different roles in Vraja, in one he is Shiva himself, in the other, he is a cowherd boy. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 77-80)
In Chaitanya Charitamrita, Krishnadas Kaviraj quotes the following evidence from the diary of Svarupa Damodar to describe the ontological principle of Advaita Acharya:
maha-vishnur jagat-karta mayaya yah srijaty adah /
tasyavatara evayam advaitacarya ishvarah //
advaitam harinadvaitad acaryam bhakti-shasanat /
bhaktavataram isham tam advaitacaryam ashraye //
Mahavishnu is the master of the universe, which he creates through his power of Maya. Advaita Acharya is the incarnation of this form of the supreme lord. He is known as Advaita because he is none other than Hari, as Acharya because he is the preceptor of devotion. I take shelter of the supreme lord Advaita Acharya who is the incarnation of a devotee. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.1.12-13)
Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has written, “Maya has two functions, and Maha Vishnu appears in two ways according to those functions. When he is within the material world as creator, he is the universe’s effective cause (nimitta-karana) in his form as Vishnu. In the unmanifest material energy (pradhana), appearing in the form of Rudra, he has a second identity as Advaita.”
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has also written about Advaita Acharya in his Anubhashya to Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.6.12: “Lord Advaita Acharya is Maha Vishnu. He is the supreme preceptor. Vishnu’s activities are auspicious because of his existence as the owner or master of the universe. He is the root source of all auspiciousness.... Anyone who cannot understand that the complications which are ever present in the material universe are beneficial in a way which is pure, eternal, complete and free is deprived of his true spiritual activity, devotion to Krishna.”
Advaita Acharya was also known as Kamalaksha:
The well-being of the universe is in Advaita. He is the abode of all auspicious qualities. His activities are the eternal source of welfare for the world, so he was given the name Mangala.... Advaita, the abode of virtue, is a portion (amsha) of Mahavishnu; his full name is thus Advaita because he is not different from him.... He is the most noble personality in the universe, the spiritual master of the Vaishnavas; he thus has two names which come together as Advaita Acharya. Because in appearance he has eyes like lotus flowers, he also has the name Kamalaksha. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.6.12, 26. 30-31)
Vrindavan Das Thakur has also described Advaita as both the foremost of the Vaishnavas and as Shankara:
Residing in Nabadwip is the foremost of the Vaishnava, the most fortunate of all people, Advaita Acharya. He is the chief amongst the gurus in knowledge, devotion and renunciation. He especially teaches devotion to Krishna in the same way that Shankara did. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.2.78-9)
Advaita Acharya appeared in the village of Navagrama near the city of Sylhet as the son of the Varendra Brahmin Kubera Pandit and his wife Nabha Devi, on the seventh day of the waxing moon in the month of Magh. Kubera Pandit is identified in the Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika (v. 91) with the original god Kubera, who was Mahadeva’s friend and leader of the Guhyakas.
Kubera Pandit, a devotee of Nrisingha, resided in the village of Navagrama near Sylhet in Bangladesh. He was a greatly fortunate follower of the path of devotion; he knew nothing other than the lotus feet of Krishna. His devoted and faithful wife was named Nabha Devi. She is worshipable to the whole world for she is the mother of Advaita Prabhu. (Bhakti-ratnakara 5.2041-3)
On the seventh day of the waxing moon in the month of Magh, the great ocean of joy overflowed. In that auspicious moment, the moon of Advaita descended in the blessed womb of Nabha Devi. In his ecstasy, Kubera Pandit gave in charity to the Brahmins and the poor. He tiptoed to the birthing room and his heart was filled with gladness upon seeing his son’s face. All the villagers came running to his house and said to each other, “What pious works did this Brahmin do that in his old age he has been blessed with such a jewel of a son?” The gods rained down flowers without being seen. There is nothing with which this scene can compare. Ghanashyama sings of this great auspicious occasion when a joyous uproar rang around the earth. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.1759-62)
In the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, Advaita’s birthplace is given as Laura Gram. It is also said there that Advaita Prabhu left Laura to go to live in Sylhet and then from there moved to Shantipur. He also had a home in Nabadwip. His full name was Shri Kamalaksha or Kamala Kanta Vedapanchanana. His birth took place in 1434 AD and he disappeared in the year 1559, at the age of 125 years.
Jahnava Mata’s diksha disciple Nityananda Das wrote in his Prema-vilasa that Advaita’s birthplace is to be found in Shantipur. He writes that Advaita studied the Veda and other scriptures with the scholar Shantacharya, who lived in the Phullabati section of Shantipur and earned from him the title acharya. Advaita’s life has been described in several Bengali books, including Advaita-mangala, Advaita-vilasa and Sitacaritra. In the Advaita-vilasa it is written, “The lord remained on this earth for a century and a quarter, performing unlimited pastimes.”
Advaita Prabhu’s travels
When Kubera Pandit and Nabha Devi disappeared, Advaita went to Gaya on the pretext of performing the appropriate rituals of mourning, and thence continued on a pilgrimage tour of all of India’s holy places. When he came to Vrindavan, he became absorbed in the worship of Krishna, but through his meditation he was able to understand that Krishna was about to appear in Nabadwip. While on this pilgrimage tour, he came to Mithila where he met the poet Vidyapati. This encounter is beautifully described in the Advaitavilasa. Advaita Prabhu finally returned from Vrindavan to Shantipur after spending several days in Nabadwip. The people of Shantipur had been suffering from his separation for a long time and were very happy to see him back.
Advaita had two wives; one was named Shri, the other Sita. In the Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika, it is written that the divine Yogamaya took the form of Advaita’s wife Sita, and that Shri is her prakasha expansion. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 86)
Advaita Acharya also had two residences, one in Shantipur, the other not far from Shrivasa’s home in Nabadwip-Mayapur. His heart was greatly pained at seeing that the people of the world were devoid of any devotion to Vishnu and were as a consequence greatly suffering the pains of material life. Overwhelmed with compassion, he began to teach the Bhagavad-gita and Bhagavat, explaining that the purport of the scriptures was to engage in devotional service to Krishna. At about the same time, Madhavendra Puri had a dream in which Govardhanadhari Gopal commanded him to find sandalwood paste for the deity service. Madhavendra then started out for Puri, taking the road through western Bengal. While there, he stopped at Advaita’s house in Shantipur. Advaita became convinced to accept Madhavendra Puri as his guru when he saw his devotional ecstasies, even though he himself is an expansion of the supreme lord. He underwent this ritual in order to demonstrate to the conditioned souls the necessity of accepting a spiritual master.
Madhavendra Puri arrived in the house of Advaita Acharya. When Advaita saw Puripada’s prema, he felt a deep inner joy. So, he took care to receive the mantra from him, after which Madhavendra left to continue his voyage to the south. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.4.110-1)
It is said that Mahaprabhu is the main trunk of the wish-fulfilling tree of devotion, as well as the gardener who enjoys and distributes the tree’s fruits. Though the tree was planted in Nabadwip, it grew in Purushottam Dham (Puri) and Vrindavan, expanding into an entire orchard producing many, many fruits of love. Madhavendra Puri is said to be the first seedling, which eventually grew into this tree. Isvara Puri was the nourished form of this seedling. Mahaprabhu, though himself the gardener, also became the tree’s main trunk through his inconceivable energies. Advaita and Nityananda were the two secondary trunks into which the main trunk divided. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.9.21)
The cause of the Lord’s incarnation
Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the main body of the devotional movement, and Advaita and Nityananda are the limbs. All three of them became incarnate, along with Shrivasa and other devotees, in order to preach devotion to Hari. All those who were senior to Gauranga appeared on this earth prior to him. Advaita appeared along with the other elderly members of Chaitanya’s retinue and when he did so, he observed that the sinfulness of the age of Kali had reached a disturbing limit and that the world was entirely devoid of devotion to Krishna. He thought that a partial incarnation of the lord would not be sufficient to completely bring about the welfare of the earth in this state. He thought, “The world will only benefit if the Supreme Personality of Godhead himself descends to the earth.” So he began to worship Krishna’s lotus feet with Ganges water and tulasi leaves, shouting and pleading to the lord to become incarnate. With roars of love (prema-hunkara) Advaita showed his desire for the lord of Goloka to descend to the earth.
He constantly offered water from the Ganges and tulasi manjaris while meditating on Krishna’s lotus feet, at the same time calling to Krishna with loud roars. This is the way that he caused Krishna to descend. This, then, is the chief reason that Krishna Chaitanya became incarnate on this earth. He who is the bridge of justice descends at the wish of the devotee. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.3.107-9)
Advaita Acharya dwelt in Shantipur. His body is the reservoir of devotional nectar and is not different from that of Chaitanya. Chaitanya, whose spotless fame has filled the earth, was brought down to this earth by him. My Advaita is not different from Gauranga, and his wife Sita is the mother of the universe. His roars brought Gauranga into this world and then he glorified him everywhere. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.3753-6)
All glories to Advaita Acharya, the most merciful, whose roars brought about Gauranga’s incarnation. Whoever takes shelter of his lotus feet will obtain the great prize of love for Gaura. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.3761, 3764)
He constantly served Krishna with great enthusiasm, offering Ganges water and tulasi manjaris. Absorbed in thoughts of Krishna, he worshiped him by roaring his name, the sound of which filled the entire universe, reaching up to Vaikuntha. Lord Krishna heard the sound of these roars of love and made himself visible to humanity, for he is controlled by his devotee. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.2.81-3)
Prior to Mahaprabhu’s appearance, Nityananda Prabhu also descended on the thirteenth day of the waxing moon in the month of Magh, into the family of Hariai Pandit and Padmavati in the village of Ekachakra in Rarha, bestowing upon them the opportunity to serve him in the vatsalya-rasa. Meanwhile, eight daughters were born to Jagannath Mishra and Sachi Devi, all of whom died before their son, Vishvarupa, Nityananda Prabhu’s other self, took birth. Subsequently, on the full moon evening of the month of Phalgun, the source of all avatars, Gaurachandra, made his appearance. After the appearance of Shri Chaitanya, Sita Devi took Advaita’s permission to come with gifts to Nabadwip from Shantipur to see the most wonderful child. When she saw him, she blessed him by placing unhusked rice and durva grass on his head.
Advaita Acharya’s wife was a respectable and noble woman name Sita Thakurani. Taking permission from her husband, she went to Nabadwip bearing gifts to see the crown jewel of infants. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.13.112)
Advaita Acharya established a öol for teaching Sanskrit in Nabadwip-Mayapur and started to engage in a deep study of the scriptures. Every day, Mahaprabhu’s older brother Vishvarupa used to go to Advaita’s house after bathing in the Ganges to listen to him lecture. On certain occasions, when Advaita was engaged in performing his puja, Vishvarupa would explain to everyone present there that devotion to Krishna was the ultimate purport of all the scriptures. When Advaita heard him speaking in this way, he got up from worshiping his deity and embraced him. Sachi regularly sent little Nimai at lunchtime with something for Vishvarupa to eat. When Advaita Prabhu saw Nimai’s beautiful face he became enchanted, but was unable to recognize him as his worshipable lord, the Supreme Truth.
In the meantime, Vishvarupa had secretly decided that he would renounce family life out of a realization that the material world is temporary and that a human being’s only real duty is to worship the lord. When he saw that his parents were starting to make wedding plans for him, he quickly left home and took sannyas, after which he was known by the name Shankararanya. Sachi, Jagannath and other devotees all lamented his loss. Advaita too was pained by Vishvarupa’s departure, but pacified everyone by saying that Krishna himself would appear soon to eradicate everyone’s distress.
After Vishvarupa’s abandonment of the hearth, Sachi and Jagannath became afraid that Nimai would follow his example and so they put a stop to his education. Later, however, when they heard Nimai speaking sweetly in the mood of Dattatreya, they decided it would be better to send him back to school. Jagannath Mishra left this world not long after Nimai was given the sacred thread and had become fully absorbed in his studies.
While Mahaprabhu was still fully devoted to his pastimes as a scholar, his marriage to Ballabha’s daughter Lakshmipriya was arranged. In those days, Advaita was holding Bhagavat lectures and kirtan at his house in Nabadwip. All the devotees including Advaita were very enthused about the singer Mukunda Datta’s voice. On one occasion Isvara Puri came to Advaita’s house while on a visit to Nabadwip. From his vigorous appearance, Advaita was able to recognize that he was a Vaishnava sannyasi. Later, Gauranga also met him.
At that time, Isvara Puri arrived in Nabadwip in a most discrete manner. Constantly preoccupied with the taste of Krishna devotion, he was single-minded, dear to Krishna and compassionate. No one was able to recognize him because he was not dressed as a sannyasi, until one day, by chance, he arrived at Advaita’s house. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.11.70-72)
Advaita tests Mahaprabhu
When Gauranga returned from Gaya in a changed mood, Advaita, Shrivasa and the other devotees were overjoyed. In due course, Nityananda Prabhu arrived in Nabadwip after having toured the sacred pilgrimage sites and there he met Nimai. One day at Shrivasa’s house, Mahaprabhu indicated that he wanted to perform the Vyasa Puja to Nityananda. On the eve of this puja, Mahaprabhu showed everyone that Nityananda was Baladeva and then, repeating the words, “Naria, Naria”, revealed that Advaita had caused him to descend to the earth by calling him.
It is due to Advaita that I have become incarnate, for Naria’s roars rang in my ears. I was lying in the Milk Ocean, but Naria’s roar woke me up and brought me down here. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.9.297-8)
After the Vyasa Puja had come to an end, Mahaprabhu took on the mood of the supreme lord and sent Ramai Pandit, Shrivasa Pandit’s brother, to fetch Advaita from his house in Shantipur by telling him of the Lord’s divine manifestation: “Advaita Prabhu has brought Hari, the Lord of Goloka, to this earth by his cries and by worshiping him with Ganges water and tulasi. Nityananda Prabhu has also made his auspicious appearance in Nabadwip. So Advaita Acharya and his wife should come immediately to Shrivasa Angan, bringing all the paraphernalia for worship with him.” Ramai immediately carried out Mahaprabhu’s order and took his message to Advaita Prabhu.
As soon as Advaita heard that Mahaprabhu had publicly revealed his divine identity, he and Sita Devi immediately set off, bringing their son Achyutananda and some other associates. But rather than going directly to Shrivasa’s house, Advaita decided to test Mahaprabhu by hiding in Nandanacharya’s house. He told Ramai not to tell Mahaprabhu, but the lord, who knows the heart of all, was able to see through Advaita’s plan. As Mahaprabhu sat on the altar and revealed his own deity to everyone, Nityananda held the royal parasol while Gadadhara and the other devotees engaged in a variety of services. This time, when Mahaprabhu sent Ramai to Nandanacharya’s house to fetch Advaita, Advaita realized that Mahaprabhu was omniscient and hesitated no longer.
In the company of his wife, he joyfully prostrated himself before the lord, speechless before the manifestation of the lord’s divine power. He washed the lord’s lotus feet and then worshiped him with the five ingredients (pancopacara), using the following mantra to do so:
namo brahmanyadevaya go-brahmana-hitaya ca /
jagad-dhitaya krishnaya govindaya namo namah //
I pay my obeisances to Krishna Govinda, the lord of the brahminical society, to him who is the source of the cows’ and the Brahmins’ welfare, and who is the source of the entire universe’s well-being.
Mahaprabhu then commanded Advaita Prabhu to get up and dance. Advaita started to dance madly until he was completely intoxicated in a way that astonished all the watching devotees.
Krishnadas Kaviraj has written:
There is one Mahaprabhu or supreme lord, and two other prabhus, or lords. The two other prabhus serve the lotus feet of Mahaprabhu. These three personalities belong to the category of the all-worshipable; the fourth category is the devotee who is the worshiper. Shrivasa and the millions of other devotees belong to the category of the pure devotees. Gadadhara Pandit and others are considered to be incarnations of the Lord’s energies or shaktis. They are counted as his intimate devotees. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.7.94-7)
These are the Pancha Tattva, who include Gauranga Mahaprabhu, the form of a devotee; Nityananda Prabhu, who is the bhakta-Svarupa; and Advaita Acharya, the incarnation of the devotee. These three are considered to be prabhu-tattva or Vishnu-tattva, the category of the lord. Advaita is an incarnation of Mahavishnu, he belongs to the category of Vishnu-tattva, but because he took on the mood of a devotee so he is called bhaktavatara, Athe incarnation of a devotee.” Because Gauranga, Nityananda and Advaita all belong to the category of Vishnu-tattva, tulasi leaves are offered to their feet. Without Advaita’s mercy, one can never attain the service of Chaitanya and Nityananda.
daya koro sitapati advaita gosani /
tava kripabale pai chaitanya-nitai //
Be merciful, Advaita Prabhu, husband of Sita! On the strength of your mercy, I will attain Chaitanya and Nitai. (Narottama Das Thakur)
Advaita Acharya’s glories and his activities have been described extensively in Krishnadas Kaviraj’s Chaitanya Charitamrita, Vrindavan Das’s Chaitanya Bhagavat, Narahari Chakravarti’s Bhakti-ratnakara, as well as in works such as Advaita-vilasa, etc. Those who wish to have a deeper knowledge of his life should consult these books. We can only give an abbreviated biography in this book and such an extensive account cannot be given here. We have only set out to remember the main pastimes Advaita engaged in.
Advaita and Hari Das Thakur
By his pastimes, Advaita Prabhu revealed that a Vaishnava is praiseworthy and worthy of worship, no matter what his family background. Namacharya Hari Das Thakur was born in a Muslim family in Burihan village in the district of Jessore, but later came to live in the village of Phuliya near Shantipur where he would come to associate with Advaita Prabhu. He was staying in a grotto where he was engaged in solitary devotional practices. This was after he had spent time preaching the glories of the Holy Names at the Chandpur house of Raghunatha Das Goswami’s father and uncle, Govardhana and Hiranya Majumdar. Advaita used to invite Hari Das to come to his house in Shantipur to take prasad. This made Hari Das Thakur feel somewhat uneasy. However, Advaita Prabhu, the teacher of the people, claimed that his behavior was in conformity with all the scriptures, for to feed a great devotee like Hari Das is equal to the feeding of millions of Brahmins. In order to demonstrate this, he honored Hari Das by giving him the plate offered in the shraddha ceremony. On the annual date set aside for offering oblations to the forefathers, a householder Vaishnava offers all kinds of foodstuffs to the Lord and then invites Brahmins and Vaishnavas to take prasad. The mahaprasad is given to the guest of honor and Advaita Prabhu chose Hari Das for this special treatment.
Advaita said, “Please don’t be afraid. I shall only do what is accepted in scripture. If you eat, it is as though ten million Brahmins had eaten.” After saying these words, he gave him the shraddha plate to eat. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.219-20)
One of the branches of the Chaitanya tree is Hari Das Thakur, whose activities are amazing. He would unfailingly chant 300,000 names of the lord every day. I only give an indication here of his unlimited virtues; Advaita Acharya honored him by giving him the shraddha plate. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.43-4)
The sons of Advaita
Although six sons were born to Advaita Acharya, the incarnation of Maha Vishnu, he indicated that some of them had understood the essence of spiritual life and some had not. Those who simply claimed to be his followers but showed no affection for Gauranga were the latter; those who were attached to Mahaprabhu in ever-increasing affection were the former. These included Achyutananda, Shri Krishna Mishra and Gopal Mishra, while Balaram, Svarupa and Jagadisa belonged to the category of those who did not recognized Chaitanya. Achyutananda was the oldest brother and Shri Krishna Mishra and Gopal Mishra followed his lead. The Chaitanya Charitamrita (Cf. 1.12.12) compares the two groups to the wheat and chaff.
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati also writes in his Gaudiya-bhashya to the Chaitanya Bhagavat (2.10.162), “If someone takes Advaita Acharya to be the best of all the Vaishnavas, then he can be called a Vaishnava. On the other hand, if someone considers him to be the object of all religious life, the vishaya Krishna, and Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to be his devotee, or ashraya, then he will never be able to attain Krishna’s lotus feet.”
The Lord punishes Advaita
It is also said that Mahaprabhu taught Advaita the real meaning of the Bhagavad-gita.
Vishvambhara explained the true understanding of the Gita to Advaita, he hid the gates which held back the understanding of bhakti. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.10.166)
Another wonderful pastime was prepared by Advaita in order to show the fallen jivas how auspicious it is to receive punishment from the lord, or from the guru or a Vaishnava. How fortunate is a devotee who is chastised by his guru! This is described in the seventeenth chapter of the Chaitanya Charitamrita, about which Bhaktivinoda Thakur has made the following comments in his Amrita-pravaha-bhashya: “Advaita Acharya is the godbrother of Mahaprabhu’s guru, Isvara Puri. For this reason, Mahaprabhu treated Advaita as his elder and spiritual master, even though Advaita considered himself to be Mahaprabhu’s servant. Advaita was pained to see Mahaprabhu treat him with such respect and so, in order to seek out the merciful punishment of the lord returned to Shantipur and began to explain the path of knowledge to a few unfortunate individuals. When the Lord caught wind of this, he became extremely angry and went to Shantipur to give him a good thrashing. When he was thrashed in this way, Advaita danced for joy, saying, “Look. My desires have been fulfilled today! Mahaprabhu was previously miserly with me, treating me as his respectful elder. Now he has acted toward me as though I were his servant or disciple, by trying to save me from the heresy of mayavada.” When the lord understood that this had all been a ruse on Advaita’s part, he was embarrassed but pleased with him.
The Lord treated Advaita with the respect deserved by a guru. This caused the Acharya great distress, so he adopted a ruse of teaching the path of knowledge. Mahaprabhu became angry and scorned Advaita, causing him great bliss. When he saw his satisfaction with the turn of events, the Lord became ashamed and was merciful to him. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.17.66-8)
"Previously Mahaprabhu would honor me. This made me unhappy, so I thought that if I start giving lectures on the Yoga-vashishöha, explaining mukti as the supreme goal of life, the lord would become angry and insult me.
Sachidevi and Advaita
Because Advaita Prabhu was very emotional about the condition of the fallen souls, Mahaprabhu could not forgive even his mother when she looked askance at him. On one occasion, through chastising her, he warned all devotees of the danger of offences to the Vaishnavas. If Sachi, who is the essence of motherly affection, the incarnation of Yashoda Devi, cannot be forgiven an offence to the Vaishnava, then what chance do others have? By the same lila, Chaitanya also showed that in order to become free of Vaishnavaparadha, one should beg for forgiveness from the Vaishnava one has offended.
When Vishvarupa came to the conclusion, after studying with Advaita Prabhu, that the world is a temporary place and the only real duty of humankind is to worship the supreme lord, he left home and took sannyas. Sachi Mata, though troubled by his departure, was wary of insulting Advaita for the role he had played in it, knowing him to be a Vaishnava, and took consolation in Nimai’s presence at home. But when she saw that Nimai too was going constantly to associate with Advaita, leaving his wife Lakshmipriya alone at home, she began to think that Advaita’s name was really unsuitable, that rather than unifying people as it would indicate, he split them apart. ADvaita” would thus be a more appropriate name. “This old gosai goes by the name Advaita, but he should be called Dvaita. One son of mine, as beautiful as the moon, has left home because of him, and he hasn’t let me keep the other one settled. No one has mercy on me who am now without anyone in this world. He may be one (advaita) with the world, but I see him as maya (dvaita).” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.22.114-6)
Because of her affection for her son, Sachi mentally criticized Advaita in this way and no one knew except for her son, Gaura Hari, who is the indweller of all beings. On the day of the mahaprakasha in the house of Shrivasa, when Mahaprabhu was fulfilling the desires of every one of his devotees by allowing them to see his divine form for twenty-one hours, Shrivasa asked him whether Sachi Devi could also be blessed with this divine vision. Mahaprabhu answered, “My mother has committed an offense against Advaita Prabhu, so I will not show her this form.”
When the devotees told Sachi what her son had said, she immediately went to Advaita and begged him for forgiveness. After Advaita had heard Sachi’s confession, he began to glorify her as the one who had carried the supreme lord of all creation in her womb. He continued to do so until he became unconscious from the overwhelming love that he felt. Only when he fell unconscious could Sachi finally take the dust of his lotus feet and thus be free from her offense. Mahaprabhu was satisfied with his mother and showed her his glorious, divine form. Another important lesson we can draw from this story is that Vaishnavas are never proud. Even though she had given birth to Lord Gaurahari, Sachi had no inflated pride as a result. As soon as she became aware of having committed an offense, she immediately went without any hesitation to Advaita and prayed to be pardoned.
The Lord comes to Shantipur
Advaita Acharya was Mahaprabhu’s associate in sankirtan, both in Shrivasa’s house and in the streets of Nabadwip and along the shores of the Ganges.
Everyone sang together in great joy, “Krishna Rama Mukunda, Murari, Vanamali!” Holding on to Nityananda and Gadadhara, Advaita, like a lion ran in every direction.(Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.23.29-30)
The lord danced along the banks of the Bhagirathi while all around him all the people sang the names of Hari. Advaita Acharya preceded him, dancing ecstatically with a small group of devotees. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.23.202-3)
After Mahaprabhu had taken sannyas from Keshava Bharati in Katwa, he became overwhelmed with love for Krishna and started to run toward Vrindavan. With the help of some cowherd boys, Nityananda Prabhu tricked him into coming to the banks of the Ganges. Nityananda wanted to show him to the people of Nabadwip and wanted to bring him to Shantipur. When Mahaprabhu saw the Ganges, he thought that it was the Yamuna and became ecstatic. Meanwhile, Advaita had heard that Nityananda had brought Mahaprabhu there and came by boat across the river with new clothes for him. Mahaprabhu was astonished to see Advaita, wondering how he could have known that he was in Vrindavan. Advaita answered by saying that Vrindavan was there wherever Mahaprabhu went and that the western flow of the Ganges was the Yamuna. When he heard these words, Mahaprabhu realized that he had been tricked to coming to the western bank of the Ganges across from the town of Shantipur. Advaita had him take a bath and dressed him in the new cloth and then took him to his house where he stayed for several days.
When Sachi and the people of Nabadwip heard that Gaurahari was at Advaita’s they all came there to visit him. Seeing him in his dress as a sannyasi, they were felt joy mixed with separation. Sita Thakurani prepared an immense meal and served it on whole leaves from seed-banana trees. As Mahaprabhu and Nityananda ate, Advaita Prabhu talked and joked with them. This has been extensively described in the Chaitanya Charitamrita’s Madhya-lila, chapter 3. Mahaprabhu afterwards also ate foodstuffs prepared by Sachidevi in order to ease the suffering he had imposed on her by his departure. The reunion of devotees turned into a great festival, and Advaita’s house in the town of Shantipur was transformed into the city of Vaikuntha.
Everyone was dancing and singing the names of Hari. Advaita’s house became the city of Vaikuntha. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.3.156)
Advaita goes to Puri on the annual pilgrimage
When Mahaprabhu was saying his goodbyes to the devotees, he set off to Puri or Nilachala to live there at the behest of his mother. Advaita and the residents of Nabadwip were once again hurled into the ocean of separation from their lord. These events took place in the year 1510. It was probably three more years before the devotees went to Puri during the caturmasya period to visit him there at the time of the Rathayatra.
The first year, Advaita and the other devotees went to Nilachala to see Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet. They witnessed the Rathayatra and then stayed for four months, passing the time in kirtan and dancing in great joy. When the time came for them to depart, the lord told everyone to return every year to see the Rathayatra festival. And so the yearly trips to Puri to see the lord became an institution. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.46-49)
Of the last 24 years of Mahaprabhu’s life, six were spent in traveling to and from Puri, while he spent the last eighteen there without ever leaving. During the six years that he was traveling, the Bengali devotees would first find out whether he was present in Puri before going. During the eighteen years of Mahaprabhu’s permanent stay in Puri, the annual trips became a matter of course.
After Mahaprabhu arrived in Puri, returning from Vrindavan, he never again left in the eighteen remaining years of his life. The devotees came from Bengali every year, meeting with the Lord and staying for the four months of the rainy season. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.249-50)
All of Mahaprabhu’s servants, Advaita, Nityananda, Mukunda, Shrivasa, Vidyanidhi, Vasudeva and Murari, went every year to meet with the lord, staying in Puri for four months. The lord enjoyed a multitude of pastimes with these devotees during this time. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.255-6)
The time for Rathayatra came around again and the devotees started off on the annual pilgrimage to Nilachala. They were following the lord’s order to come every year to see the Rathayatra festival. With Advaita Acharya at their head, all the devotees set off toward Nilachala. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.8.4-6)
Advaita Acharya would go every year to Puri and stay for the full four months, participating with Mahaprabhu in lilas such as the cleaning of the Gundicha temple, the water sports in Narendrasarovara, Jagannath’s Rathayatra, etc. The best of Advaita’s three orthodox sons, Achyutananda, who was totally devoted to Gauranga, was also present there, as is attested by the fact that his name is mentioned as the leader of the sixth kirtan group at the Rathayatra, which was from Shantipur. Another of Advaita’s sons, Gopal Mishra, is also named in this list. Advaita himself was the principal dancer in the first kirtan group led by Svarupa Damodar.
In the third year, the wives of the Bengal devotees accompanied them, bringing various gifts for Mahaprabhu’s service.
Advaita went first to Sachi Mata’s house to take her leave. Then he departed with the assembly of devotees. They brought with them all the edibles they knew formerly brought pleasure to the Lord. They performed sankirtan the entire length of the route, purifying everything on their way. All the people of the three worlds were sanctified by the devotees’ joyful calls of Hari! Hari! In a mood of ecstasy they all went to see Chaitanya, accompanied by their wives and sons, their male and female servants. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.8.39-43)
In the third year, all the devotees from Bengal decided to go to Nilachala. They went in a group to Advaita Acharya’s house, and he happily agreed to go with them to see the lord. That year, all the wives of these saints went also, the mother of Achyuta accompanying Advaita Acharya. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.13.12-13, 21)
Krishnadas Kaviraj has written about a wonderful pastime with Advaita’s son Gopal Mishra in the twelfth chapter of Chaitanya Charitamrita’s Adi-lila. During the cleaning of the Gundicha temple, Advaita and Mahaprabhu were satisfied to see the deep absorption of Gopal in dancing and singing before them. When Gopal Mishra suddenly fell unconscious, Advaita became very anxious and took his inert body in his lap, chanting the Nrisingha mantra. Despite the various mantras that Advaita uttered, Gopal did not return to consciousness. All the devotees began to cry for him, but Mahaprabhu, who takes away the distress of his devotees, touched Gopal over the heart and said, “Get up, Gopal and chant Hari Hari!” Gopal immediately returned to consciousness and stood up. The devotees shouted the names of the Lord in relief and joy.
Kamala Kanta Vishvasa
Advaita Acharya had a disciple name Kamala Kanta Vishvasa who wrote to King Prataparudra establishing that Advaita was the supreme lord, but then asked him for money for him. When Chaitanya heard about this, he punished Kamala Kanta by refusing him access to the Gambhira. Kamala Kanta was disturbed by this punishment, but Advaita explained to him that to be punished by Mahaprabhu was a cause for rejoicing and that he was most fortunate.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur has made the following comment on this story, which is found in the twelfth chapter of the Adi-lila: “Kamala Kanta first proved that Advaita was the supreme lord, but then begged for money from the king on Advaita’s behalf. This action was very displeasing to Chaitanya. Even though the Advaita Acharya is God himself, he is in this world playing the part of a man in order to teach. For an acharya to beg from a king to free himself from debt is considered to be shameless behavior. One should entirely abandon the desire for material and if the desire for material well-being is taken to the point of begging from a foreign king in order to become free of a debt, then one’s spiritual life will certainly go to ruin. Kings are by nature materialistic. If one eats the food of a materialistic person, his mind becomes clouded over. When one’s mind is clouded over, then he can no longer remember Krishna and his life is wasted. Such begging is therefore a prohibited action for everyone, but is especially so for those who are in the position of acharya. It is the acharya’s duty to instruct people in the Holy Names, but he should not take money in return for such instruction. If he does so, he becomes an offender to the Holy Name rather than an initiator in the Name. If an instructor of the Holy Names becomes a money collector, then it is a matter of shame and his religious reputation will be ruined.”
In the third year when the Bengal devotees came with their wives and gifts of various food preparations that were dear to the lord, he mercifully ate all these offerings out of his affection for them. One day, Mahaprabhu was invited to eat at Advaita’s residence. This time, Advaita himself did the cooking and his wife assisted him by cutting the vegetables and gathering the ingredients. It was Advaita’s secret wish to be able to feed Mahaprabhu alone. It so happened that on that day the weather turned bad and due to a storm, all the sannyasis who normally came with Mahaprabhu on such occasions were unable to accompany him. Mahaprabhu thus arrived by himself, to Advaita’s great satisfaction, for he was thus able to serve him the meal in complete privacy. He praised the god Indra as a servant of Krishna who fulfilled the wishes of his devotees. Mahaprabhu was aware of the Advaita’s mood and praised him by saying, AKrishna himself fulfills your desires, so what is unusual about Indra carrying out your orders?” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.9.60-72)
Mahaprabhu himself glorified Advaita and described the underlying truth of his nature in the following way:
Advaita Acharya is God himself. As a result of his association, I have become purified. Because there is no one equal to him in devotion to Krishna, nor in knowledge of the scriptures, he is called Advaita Acharya. By his mercy, even the mlecchas become devotees of Krishna, who can describe the extent of his powers or his devotion? (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.7.17-9)
Mahaprabhu had Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis meet with Advaita and Nityananda in Puri and asked the two prabhus to bless the brothers. Raghunatha Das Goswami received Mahaprabhu’s leftovers by the grace of Advaita Prabhu. He was the object of Advaita’s affection because his father, Govardhana Mishra, had served him honestly.
His father always rendered service to Advaita Acharya, therefore the acharya was pleased with him. By the grace of the acharya, Raghunatha obtained the lord’s leftover plate and was able to have darshan of the lord for five or six days. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.16.225-6)
The words that Mahaprabhu spoke to Advaita when he was about to leave Puri show just how much affection he had for him:
Acharya Gosai came here to show his mercy for me. I am bound in debt to his love and there is no way that I can repay him. He has abandoned his wife, children and home for my sake, traveling a long and difficult way to come here. I am living here in Nilachala without moving. I make no effort on your behalf. I am a monk and I have no wealth--what could I give you to make good my debt? My only possession is my body, which I give you. I will sell it to whomever you wish. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.12.70-74)
When he returned to Nabadwip from Puri, Advaita Acharya met Jagadananda Pandit who had previously been sent there by Mahaprabhu. Advaita was very happy to have his association. When Jagadananda finally asked permission of Advaita Prabhu to return to Nilachala, Advaita gave him a message in the form of a riddle to take back to Mahaprabhu. The riddle was comprehensible to no one but Mahaprabhu himself. The message was as follows:
Tell the Lord that I pay him a million obeisances and that I humbly submit to him the following: Tell the madman that everyone has gone mad. Tell the madman that they are no longer selling rice in the market. Tell the madman that the crazies are no longer good for anything. Tell the madman that this is what the madman said. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.19.19-21)
Bhaktivinoda Thakur explains this riddle in this way: “Tell Mahaprabhu that everyone has become intoxicated with love for Krishna and so in the marketplace of love, no one is buying the rice of Krishna prema any longer. Tell Mahaprabhu that the crazies (aul) are so intoxicated with love that they are no longer involved in their material duties. Tell Mahaprabhu that Advaita said this in a state of complete intoxication of prema. In short, the message was that the purpose for which Mahaprabhu had been called to earth by Advaita had been completed. Now the lord may do as he wills.”
Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya has also written several poems glorifying Advaita: Advaita-dvadasha-nama-stotra, Advaitashöakam and Advaitashöottara-shata-nama-stotra.
Advaita, the avatar of Mahavishnu, appeared in this world on the seventh day of the waxing moon in the month of Magh. This tithi is also known as Advaita-saptami.
Shrila Namacharya Hari Das Thakur
ricikasya muneh putro namna brahma mahatapah |
prahladena samam jato haridasakhyako’pi san ||
murari-gupta-caranaish chaitanya-caritamrite |
ukto muni-sutah pratas tulasi-patram aharan ||
adhautam abhishaptas tam pitra yavanatam gatah |
sa eva haridasa san jatah parama-bhaktiman ||
Hari Das Thakur is a combined incarnation of Brahma Mahatapa, the son of Richika Muni and Prahlad. The respected Murari Gupta has written in his Chaitanya Charitamrita that this muni’s son picked a tulasi leaf and offered it to Krishna without having washed it first. His father then cursed him to become a mleccha in his next life. He was thus born as Hari Das, a great devotee. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 93-95)
Hari Das’s birth as a Muslim
In his book Nabadwip-dhama-mahatmya, Bhaktivinoda Thakur has written the following account of how Brahma became Hari Das Thakur:
In the Dvapara Yuga, Nandanandana Shri Krishna was herding the cows through Vraja Dham in the company of his cowherd boyfriends when Brahma decided to test the Lord out of a desire to see his majestic form and opulences. He stole both Krishna’s cows and calves, as well as his friends and hid them for a year in the caves of Sumeru Mountain. But a year later, when Brahma returned to Vraja, he was astonished to see that Krishna was still there with both his friends and cattle. Brahma immediately understood his error and began to regret his rash action. He fell down at Krishna’s feet and begged him for forgiveness; Krishna responded by mercifully revealing his divine opulence. He who appears in the Dvapara Yuga as Nandanandana Shri Krishna, descends again in the Kali Yuga as Gauranga, taking on the mood and bodily luster of Radharani in order to display the most magnanimous pastimes. Brahma was afraid that he might commit the same offense during Gaura’s incarnation so he went to Antardvipa, the central island of Nabadwip, and began to meditate. The Lord was able to understand his mind and so came to him in the form of Gauranga and said, “During my incarnation as Gaura, you will be born in a family of mlecchas and will preach the glories of the Holy Name and bring auspiciousness to all the living beings.”
From this above description, it is understood that Hari Das Thakur was an incarnation of the creator god Brahma. It is said that in order to avoid coming under the influence of ahamkara, in Gauranga lila, he prayed to Krishna to take birth in a lowly family. The same idea is found in the Advaita-vilasa.
A Vaishnava may appear in any family in any class of society. Mahaprabhu wished to show that even though he may be born in a lowly family, a Vaishnava is the best of all human society. In order to do so, he had his associates be born in a variety of castes. Vrindavan Das Thakur has written the following in Chaitanya Bhagavat:
Hari Das Thakur was born in a low-caste family on the Lord’s order in order to show that caste and class have no importance at all. All the scriptures say that a devotee of Vishnu, though born in a lowly family, is still worshipable by all. What will one’s caste do for one is born in a high caste but does not worship Krishna? He will go to hell in spite of his high birth. Hari Das took a low birth just to bear witness to these scriptural statements. He is comparable to Prahlad who was born in a family of demons, or Hanuman, who was born a monkey. They belong only superficially to low castes. (Chaitanya Bhagavata 1.16.237-240)
Namacharya Hari Das Thakur appeared in Burihana village. Burihana is currently an administrative region containing 65 blocks (groups of villages) in the Satkhira subdivision of Khulna in Bangla Desh. It is not clear exactly where Burihana village itself lies. Some people hold that Burihana is in West Bengali in the district known as 24 Paraganas, while others think that it is in Jessore district in Bangla Desh. Benapole is the station after Bongaon on the railroad line to Khulna on the Bangla Desh side of the border, so both Benapole and Burihana are currently in Bangla Desh.
According to some people, Hari Das Thakur was born in a Brahmin family. His father’s name was Sumati and his mother Gauri. His parents died when he was young, so he went to live with a Muslim couple named Khan in the village of Halimpur about five miles from his birthplace on the other bank of the Salai River. He was thus brought up in an Islamic environment. According to the Advaita-vilasa, however, Hari Das Thakur was born in 1372 of the Shaka era (1451 AD) in the month of Agrahayan and his father’s name was Khanaulla Kazi. According to this version also, Hari Das was orphaned young.
Hari Das’s participation in the sankirtan movement
Since Mahaprabhu was born in 1407 Shaka, if we accept the Advaita-vilasa’s version, Hari Das was 35 years older than Mahaprabhu. It is known that Nityananda was 12 years older than Mahaprabhu, so there was a difference of 23 years between Hari Das and Nityananda also. Hari Das entered into Mahaprabhu’s association when the Lord returned to Nabadwip after having been initiated by Isvara Puri in Gaya. This was when the Lord started preaching the sankirtan movement.
Mahaprabhu engaged in his sankirtan pastimes in Nabadwip while in his kaishora age (i.e., when he was between 10 and 15 years old). From this we can estimate that Hari Das was about 50 years old when he first met Mahaprabhu. By the Lord’s wish, Hari Das appeared long before he did. Even before meeting the Lord, Hari Das had already started to reveal the glories of the Holy Names in many wondrous ways. One of the Lord’s most important associates in his role as the initiator of the yuga dharma, which is Harinama sankirtan. Vrindavan Das Thakur has described Hari Das’s spotless and glorious pastimes extensively in his Chaitanya Bhagavat. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has added some extra information about his life and character.
Hari Das Thakur is a major branch of the desire tree of devotion. His character is extraordinary. He would unfailingly chant 300,000 names of the Lord each day. His virtues are unlimited and I can only give a brief summary here. Advaita Acharya gave him the place of honor at his father’s shraddha ceremony. Hari Das Thakur possessed the same qualities as Prahlad, being undisturbed even when being beaten by the Muslims. When he entered the Lord’s eternal pastimes, Mahaprabhu took his mortal remains in his arms and danced ecstatically. Vrindavan Das Thakur has described his pastimes extensively, I will simply take up what he has left undescribed. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.43-47)
It is not known exactly when Hari Das Thakur performed the various lilas which have been described, nevertheless we will try to follow a chronological order as far as possible. In the Adikhanda of the Chaitanya Bhagavat, Vrindavan Das Thakur writes about Mahaprabhu’s life from his birth until his return from Gaya. The Madhya-khanda describes the Lord after his return from Gaya, his ecstatic transformations in separation from Krishna, his Krishna conscious instructions to his students, his beginning the sankirtan movement with his students, his kirtan pastimes in the houses of Chandrasekhara and Shrivasa Pandit, etc., up until he took sannyas. Hari Das Thakur is mentioned in the Madhya-khanda in connection with the Lord’s sankirtan pastimes:
In the Madhya-khanda, the Lord falls in to the Ganges in great distress; Nityananda and Hari Das pull him out of the water. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.1.149)
Hari Das Thakur was also a participant in the sankirtan festivities in the houses of Chandrasekhara and Shrivasa Pandit.
When the Vaishnavas heard that the Lord had begun his sankirtan pastimes, they all were overjoyed. Every night he would hold kirtan in the house of Shrivasa Pandit, sometimes at the house of Chandrasekhara Acharya. Nityananda, Gadadhara, Advaita, Shrivasa, Vidyanidhi, Murari, Hiranya and Hari Das were all there. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.8.110-112)
Hari Das was an eternal associate of the Lord and he incarnated in a Muslim household in order to serve him; from a very early age he showed a proclivity for the chanting of the Holy Names. His life gives a brilliant example of how a devotee who chants constantly without ulterior motivation and without offenses, cannot be swayed from his goal of attaining pure devotional service by any kind of worldly temptation, not even if Maya Devi herself comes to lure him. We summarize what Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has written in the third chapter of the Antya-lila of Chaitanya Charitamrita.
Temptation by the prostitute Lakshahira
After Hari Das Thakur had left his home in Burihana, he came to the Benapole jungle, which after the pastime about to be described was given the name Hira Veshya’s Jungle. Hari Das would have been in his early youth at this time, as it does not seem that Mahaprabhu had yet appeared when these events took place. He was chanting the Holy Name in a secluded part of the jungle, worshiping Tulasi Devi and chanting his three lakhs of Names. He would beg for food at a Brahmin’s house. All the people in the area observed his spotless character and his staunch devotion to the Holy Name and gave him their respect.
At that time, an atheistic Vaishnava hater name Ramachandra Khan was a large landowner in the area. He became jealous of Hari Das Thakur’s increasing reputation and decided to ruin it by showing a flaw in his character. To this end he devised numerous tactics, none of which were successful. Finally, he called some prostitutes together and asked them to seduce Hari Das. One of these prostitutes, a very beautiful young girl named Lakshahira, promised that she would able to accomplish the task within three days. Hence, Ramachandra engaged her for this mission.
Ramachandra proposed sending an armed guard with Lakshahira to take Hari Das Thakur prisoner as soon as he had been brought down, but she refused, saying that it would be better to wait until she was sure that Hari Das was ready to fall. That night, she dressed and decorated herself in a most beautiful fashion and went to Hari Das’s hut. The first thing she did when she got there was to pay obeisances to the tulasi plant, showing that she was still influenced by her pious Hindu upbringing.
She then went and stood beside Hari Das. She began to use all the wiles at her command, flirting with him by saying, “You are a very handsome man, Thakur. You are in the full bloom of youth; what woman would be able to resist you? I have come here because I am filled with desire for you. If I don’t get your touch, I will kill myself.”
In answer to this, Hari Das Thakur said, “I have just begun chanting my regular number of Holy Names. As soon as I am finished I will do as you wish. While waiting, please sit down and listen to the sound of the Holy Name.” He kept chanting and chanting until morning, when the prostitute became impatient and left. She returned to Ramachandra Khan and told him the whole story.
She returned again that night to Hari Das’s hut, and he expressed his regret at having been unable to fulfill her desires due to his inability to complete his quota of Holy Names. Once again, however, he assured her that as soon as he was finished, he would do whatever she wished. Once again, Lakshahira paid her obeisances to Tulasi Devi and sat down and spent the night waiting for Hari Das to finish his chanting. When morning came, she again grew restless. Hari Das said to her, “I have taken a vow that I will chant 10,000,000 Holy Names before the end of the month. I am now almost finished. As a matter of fact, it should be completed this very night. As soon as it is over, I can sleep with you. Do not worry.”
On the third night, Lakshahira returned, again paying obeisances to the tulasi bush and sitting down beside Hari Das Thakur to listen to him chant. As she continued to listen to him chanting, the contaminations in her mind began to melt away and she began to regret her mission. She finally fell down at his feet and begged him forgiveness. She told him all about Ramachandra Khan’s evil intentions. Hari Das answered her, “I know all about Ramachandra Khan’s wicked plans. I would have left on the very first day, but I wanted to show you my mercy so I stayed for three days.”
Lakshahira then asked him to instruct her so that she might be saved. He told her that whatever money she had earned by sinful means should be given in charity to the Brahmins and that then she should come and take up residence in his hut where she should chant the Holy Names constantly and worship Tulasi Devi.
Lakshahira did exactly as her guru instructed her, giving all her riches to the Brahmins and shaving her head before returning to the hut dressed in a single cloth. She then started to chant three lakhs of names as Hari Das did. By virtue of her service to Tulasi and her chanting of the Holy Name, she became very renounced, all her senses were conquered and she attained pure love for Krishna. Through Hari Das Thakur’s mercy, the prostitute had become a great Vaishnavi.
The prostitute became a celebrated devotee and very advanced in spiritual life. Many stalwart Vaishnavas would come to see her. (C 3.3.141)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has commented on Hari Das Thakur’s instructions to Lakshahira in the following way: “Even though the guru has a legitimate claim on all of his disciple’s worldly possessions, he does not ask for them for his own use. Those who take dakshina, or alms, are opening the door to the house of Yamaraja. A Vaishnava guru is not such a person bound for the house of Yama; he is a traveler on a higher road. For this reason, there is an arrangement for giving donations of material wealth, etc., to Brahmins on the karma-marga. By not accepting his disciple’s possessions, which are after all intended for sense gratification, the Vaishnava guru remains independent of his disciple and does not compromise his integrity. He renounces them because he knows that they will awaken in him a disinterest in the service of the Lord. Hari Das Thakur’s teaching here is that the guru’s duty is to rid his disciple of his mundane pride and not to himself accept the material possessions which the disciple has renounced.” (Anubhashya to Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.139)
The fate of Ramachandra Khan
A Vaishnava does not take offense from anyone for he does not even consider himself to be a Vaishnava. He accepts all suffering that he undergoes to be the result of his own sinful past and thus does not blame anyone for such suffering. Nevertheless, he is so dear to Krishna that the Lord never tolerates offenses to his feet. The Lord never forgives offenses to the feet of a devotee who is constantly engaged in acts for the benefit of all living beings. As a result, there is no other source of self-destruction and misfortune more powerful than offense to a Vaishnava. The results of such offenses may come immediately or they may be delayed, but they are inevitable.
In the case of Ramachandra Khan, the seeds he had sown in committing these offenses to Hari Das Thakur grew into a great tree, which bore fruit when Nityananda Prabhu came to his house with his associates in his pastimes of saving the fallen souls. As the indwelling soul of all beings, Nityananda was perfectly aware of Ramachandra’s record and had in fact come to his house because he was angry and intended to punish him. Though Nityananda Prabhu is known to be the most compassionate, merciful to even the lowliest people, saving sinners like Jagai and Madhai and giving them love of God, he too becomes angry at the offender to the feet of a Vaishnava.
As a result of his offenses to Hari Das Thakur, Ramachandra Khan had become a complete demon and thus was unable to give Nityananda and his companions the proper respect, arranging for living quarters for them in a milkman’s cowshed. Nityananda became even more displeased with Ramachandra Khan and left the place. He said, this place is not fit for me, but for a cow-killing meat-eater. Not long after Nityananda Prabhu had left the place, the Muslim tax collector came with his police to collect Khan’s overdue taxes. He and his men stayed in the Durga Mandapa at Ramachandra Khan’s house and killed a cow there. They took him and his family prisoner and looted the house and village, destroying his caste, his wealth and his family in one fell swoop.
Any town or country in which a great soul is insulted, even if by only one of its inhabitants, is destroyed on account of that offense. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.163)
The offenses of Gopal Chakravarti
Hari Das Thakur left the district of Jessore and came to Hooghly district. He stayed in the village of Chandpur, near Saptagrama-Triveni, at the house of Hiranya and Govardhana Majumdar’s family priest, Balaram Acharya. There he stayed in a straw hut and chanted the Holy Names all day long, taking food at Balaram Acharya’s house. Raghunatha Das Goswami was a young boy then and he would come to visit Hari Das whose merciful glance made it possible for Raghunatha to later come into Mahaprabhu’s direct company.
Hiranya and Govardhana Majumdar would regularly arrange for discussions of the Bhagavat and other scriptures at their house. One day Balaram Acharya brought Hari Das Thakur to this assembly. When he heard about Hari Das Thakur’s various qualities and that he chanted three lakhs of names every day, Raghunatha’s father Govardhana was very impressed.
While discussing the scriptures, the scholars present brought up the subject of the glories of the Holy Names. One pandit said that the Holy Name destroyed sins, another said that it gave liberation. Hari Das said that the primary fruit of chanting the Holy Name was that it gave love for the lotus feet of Shri Krishna, and the destruction of accumulated sinful karmas and liberation from the material condition were secondary results. He gave the following example: with the first dawn’s light, darkness is dissipated and along with it the fear of thieves, ghosts and demons. With the full rising of the sun, one can set about doing one’s daily duties. Similarly, even before one has experienced the full manifestation of the Holy Name, one’s sins are destroyed and one becomes liberated. With its full manifestation, one attains Krishna prema. The reflection of the Holy Name (namabhasa) brings liberation, but even if the Lord wants to give liberation to his devotee, the devotee does not accept it.
One of the people who heard Hari Das speak was a Brahmin named Gopal Chakravarti, a handsome and learned young scholar who worked as a tax collector for the Muslim government. When he heard that simply the shadow of the Holy Name could bring liberation, he got angry and said, “Fellow scholars! These are the statements of a sentimentalist. After millions of births of practicing knowledge one may still not attain liberation, but this fellows says that just a glimpse of the Holy Name will bring that result.”
Hari Das Thakur answered, “The pleasure of liberation is insignificant when compared to the ecstasy of devotion. Just a shadow of devotion, just a shadow of the Holy Name, will easily give one liberation.”
The Brahmin became even angrier and said, “Hari Das must swear that if one is not liberated by namabhasa, then he shall cut off his nose.”
Hari Das Thakur had no trouble agreeing to this, but the rest of the people in the assembly were shocked by Gopal’s breach of the proper etiquette toward a great spiritual personality. Hiranya and Govardhana rebuked the tax collector. Balaram Acharya also chastised him, saying, “You are a foolish logician. What do you know of devotion? You have insulted Hari Das Thakur. Nothing positive will come of that, you will be ruined on account of it.” All the other members of the assembly fell at Hari Das’s feet and asked for forgiveness for Gopal’s behavior, but he only said, “Neither he nor you are at fault. The Brahmin is ignorant and addicted to arguing. One cannot understand the glories of the Holy Name through logic. May the Lord bless you all. Don’t worry about me.” The Majumdars ostracized Gopal Chakravarti, refusing him entry to their house.
Though Hari Das Thakur personally took no offense at Gopal Chakravarti’s words, and even forgave him, Krishna does not take the blasphemy of a devotee lightly and so he punished the Brahmin. Three days later he contracted leprosy and his very prominent nose melted and fell off. Everyone was terrified by the Brahmin’s misfortune and glorified Hari Das Thakur’s spiritual power, but it was a source of distress to Hari Das himself.
Hari Das and Advaita Acharya
Hari Das thus quit the region and moved to Phuliya, near Shantipur, where he came into contact with Advaita Acharya. Advaita was born in 1434, 52 years before the appearance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, so he was 17 years senior to Hari Das.
Advaita Prabhu gave Hari Das the shraddha plate that was normally given only to Brahmins. When Hari Das objected to the honor, “If you eat, it is the equivalent of thousands of Brahmins.” Hari Das daily took his midday meal at Advaita Acharya’s house at his invitation. From Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami’s account, it is apparent that these events took place before Mahaprabhu’s appearance. The primary reason for Mahaprabhu’s incarnation was the devotion and the emotional prayers of both Advaita Acharya and Hari Das Thakur.
[Advaita] began to wonder how the world could be saved. How can this world without devotion for the Supreme Lord ever achieve liberation. He became determined to make Krishna descend and so he began to worship Krishna with Ganges water and tulasi leaves. Meanwhile, Hari Das Thakur was in his grotto chanting the Holy Names and praying for Krishna’s incarnation. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s avatar was the result of both these persons’ devotion, by which he saved the world through preaching the chanting of the Holy Names and love of Krishna. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.221-4)
A devotee who chants the Holy Name without artifice cannot be swayed from the path of pure devotion, not even by the personification of Maya herself. Once again, Hari Das Thakur is an outstanding example. There was no object of enjoyment in this entire world that could tempt him. If one sees someone who is apparently taking shelter of the Holy Name, but at the same time succumbs to the temptations of women, wealth and power, it can be understood that he is not truly surrendered to the Name. Phalena phalakaranam anumiyate: one can guess the cause by examining the results. Although one sees the Holy Names being chanted in many places, but one does not often see the desired results. The reason is that those who are doing the chanting are not doing it in a fashion that is sincere, single-minded and offenseless.
Maya Devi tries to tempt Hari Das
While Hari Das Thakur was sitting in his grotto near Shantipur and chanting the Holy Names with single-minded devotion, Maya Devi herself came to test him. She took on the form of a beautiful woman and called out to him in a sweet voice that would have toppled even great sages, imploring him to embrace her. Once again, Hari Das told her that he would complete his vow of chanting a fixed number of Harinama, and only then he would satisfy her desires. Although she came three nights in a row in this way, Maya Devi was astonished to see that there was not the slightest wavering in his resolve to chant the Holy Name. She admitted defeat and prayed to him for his mercy. Hari Das Thakur gave her initiation in the Maha Mantra and thus Maya Devi disappeared, feeling that she had been fulfilled.
Previously I received the name of Rama from Shiva; but I had the desire to hear the name of Krishna from you. Rama’s name is the taraka-nama that gives liberation, whereas Krishna’s name is called the paraka-nama because it gives prema. You have made me fortunate by giving me the name of Krishna and I feel a flood of love for him washing over me. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.254-6)
Hari Das is imprisoned and tortured
From Shrila Vrindavan Das Thakur’s Chaitanya Bhagavat, it is known that prior to Hari Das’s coming to meet Advaita Prabhu in Shantipur, he lived in Phuliya. Phuliya is on the Eastern Railway line in Nadia district between Ranaghat and Shantipur, about five miles north of Ranaghat. When the Brahmins of the village saw his dedication to the chanting of the Holy Names as well as his ecstatic symptoms of love, they concluded that he was a Vaishnava of the highest order.
The local magistrate (Kazi), however, knowing that Hari Das had been born in a Muslim household, and now was showing such a taste for chanting the Holy Names of Krishna, began to fear that he might convert others to Vaishnavism. He took his complaint to the governor (Nawab), suggesting that Hari Das be punished as soon as possible. The governor ordered his officers to place Hari Das under arrest. The other prisoners already knew Hari Das’s glories and thought that the sight and blessings of such a great spiritual personality would surely bring them merit to insure their early release from jail. But Hari Das told them that they were better off in jail and he blessed them that they stay. The prisoners were naturally unhappy to hear such a statement, but then Hari Das explained his strange blessing:
I don’t mean to say that you should remain prisoners, but that you forget sense gratification and that you chant Hare Krishna. This was the meaning of my blessing; please don’t be sad for a moment on that account. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.16.63-64)
While in jail, the prisoners could forget the entanglements of material life and simply concentrate on chanting the Holy Name.
One day, the Nawab asked Hari Das why he had abandoned the pure religion of Islam to embrace Hinduism. Hari Das Thakur answered, “God is one. The same God is present in every religion; He is the non-dual absolute truth. In the different religions, it is simply the name that differs, but on the absolute plane, there is no distinction to be made. The same God sits in the heart of every single living being and he engages each one of them in His service in different ways. One worships in the way one is made to worship by Him. There are Hindu Brahmins who convert to Islam. In the same way, though I was born in a Muslim family, I have been engaged by the Lord in chanting the Holy Names of Krishna. The living being has no independence in such matters. If this is a fault, then please punish me.”
The Nawab rebuked Hari Das, saying, “Chant the names of God as they are found in your own religion and stop practicing other peoples’ religion. If you don’t, you will have to face a very severe punishment.” Hari Das Thakur answered with conviction:
khanda khanda han deha jay jadi prana
tabu ami vadane na charii hari-nama
”You may cut my body to pieces, and the life may leave it. But I will never abandon the Holy Name which my tongue will ever continue to chant.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 16.91)
This statement demonstrated Hari Das’s unswerving determination in his worship of the Name. The ordinary living entity is bound up in Maya and so considers the well-being of the body to be more important than worshiping the Lord. Those who are transcendentalists recognize that the body and its interests are fleeting, and so they put them aside and concentrate on their real self interest, that of the soul, and worship the Lord.
When the Nawab saw that Hari Das Thakur’s determination to continue chanting the names of Krishna was unbreakable, he asked the Kazi what should be done. The Kazi answered, “He should be given such a severe punishment that other Muslims will be afraid to convert. He should be flogged publicly in 22 market places until he is dead. If after being beaten in 22 market places he is still alive, then we will know that he really has some kind of spiritual power and that he has been telling the truth!”
The Nawab gave the order and several infantrymen took Hari Das Thakur from marketplace to marketplace, giving him a cruel flogging with a cane in each one. Even so, he did not die. Just like Prahlad, Krishna’s mercy protected his body and kept him conscious only of the joys of the Holy Name, and so he did not feel the slightest discomfiture. The pious people of the area who witnessed the merciless beating of Hari Das were greatly distressed. He himself, though being ruthlessly flogged by these sinful people, did not stop praying to the Lord for the well being of his torturers.
”Be merciful to all these poor souls, O Lord! Though they treat me like an enemy, do not consider this to be an offense.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 16.110)
Normally, the type of beating that was being given to Hari Das would have killed an ordinary man after only two or three marketplaces. When his torturers saw that he was still alive after 22 marketplaces, they began to worry. The Kazi would not believe that they had really flogged him if Hari Das remained alive, and he would surely punish them by ordering them to be killed. When Hari Das saw that they were inconvenienced by his remaining alive, he went into a deep trance of meditation on Krishna, appearing to everyone as though dead.
The infantrymen took the body to the Nawab and he ordered it to be buried. But the Kazi objected, saying that because Hari Das had engaged in such reprehensible activities, he should not be buried but thrown in the water. So on the Kazi’s order, Hari Das’s body was flung into the Ganges. To everyone’s surprise, Hari Das floated to the other shore where he climbed onto dry land and started chanting the Holy Names in a loud voice, walking in the direction of Phuliya. Both the Nawab and the Kazi realized that he was a real saint or pir and they fell to the ground in obeisances and begged him for forgiveness. By his grace, they were able to become free of their evil misdeeds. The Nawab gave Hari Das official permission to go wherever he pleased and to chant the Holy Names.
In the tenth chapter of the Madhya-khanda, Vrindavan Das Thakur writes that while Hari Das was being cruelly beaten, Mahaprabhu descended with his discus, intending to destroy the demons, but was unable to do so on account of Hari Das’s prayers. So he shielded Hari Das’s body with his own. Then he revealed to Hari Das the cane marks on his back. The main reason for the Lord’s appearance is his devotee. When such an outrage was being perpetrated on his devotee Hari Das, he immediately appeared to protect him.
When Hari Das heard the Lord recount this story, he immediately fainted. The Lord then showed him his divine form. He glorified Hari Das himself: “Anyone who even sees Hari Das becomes free from all bondage. Even great gods like Brahma and Shiva desire Hari Das’s company. Even the Ganges desires his touch.”
The Brahmins of Phuliya were overjoyed to see Hari Das again. They had been paralyzed by the news that Hari Das was being flogged in all the marketplaces of the district. Hari Das told them that these events had been the result of hearing the blasphemy of Vaishnavas, which in itself is a great offense. Indeed, the punishment that he had received could be considered minimal.
Hari Das, the snake and the snake-charmer
In the grotto at Phuliya where Hari Das did his bhajan lived a poisonous snake. Visitors to Hari Das’s place of residence were placed in some discomfort because of the poisonous fumes emanating from this beast. Some local doctors, who were particularly expert in dealing with snakebite, warned Hari Das and advised him to leave his place of worship. At the consistent pleadings of all the people, Hari Das finally agreed to move. However, just before sunset, as he was about to leave, the great serpent left the grotto of its own accord.
Another lesson that can be taken from Hari Das’s life is that making a public display of love of Krishna in order to gain public prestige is very detrimental to one’s devotional life. One day, a snake charmer from Phuliya village went to a rich man’s house to sing Krishna’s pastime of taming the serpent Kaliya. Hari Das was present, and when he heard the lilas of Krishna became so affected by love that he fainted in the assembly and the various manifestations of ecstatic love became present on his body. All the people present took the dust of Hari Das’s feet and smeared it on their bodies.
A certain Brahmin who was present there saw the respect that the people were showing to Hari Das and became jealous. The shameless fellow had such a strong desire for prestige that when the snake charmer continued his song, he too fell to the ground and began to make a show of all kinds of false ecstasies. The snake charmer could recognize the faker for what he was and started to hit him with a cane. The Brahmin began to scream, “Father! Mother!” and ran away. This particular pastime shows that even a humble snake charmer can possess the simplicity to distinguish between real and faked ecstatic symptoms. He explained to everyone present the naturalness of Hari Das’s love and the falseness of the Brahmins pretense.
The loud chanting of the Holy Names
Hari Das Thakur constantly chanted the Holy Name and called to the Lord in a loud voice. At that time, not many people were able to understand the value of this practice. Prior to Gauranga-sundara’s appearance, most people were simply interested in sense gratification and were inimical to devotion for Krishna and the chanting of his holy names. Advaita Acharya and Hari Das Thakur were saddened by this terrible situation. When the non-devotees heard them chanting loudly, they would say, “The Lord sleeps during the four months of the rainy season. If you call him out loud in this way, you will wake him up and that will be a grave offense. There will be famine in the country if you keep on with it. Some Brahmins have taken up this chanting business as a way of worshiping their own bellies, no doubt.” They would criticize Hari Das and Advaita by joking in this way. Even though such criticism pained Hari Das, he never stopped chanting Hare Krishna in a loud voice.
One day, a Brahmin from a village named Harinadi (in Jessore district) started a debate with Hari Das on this subject. He argued that the names of the Lord should be meditated upon and that there was no reason to chant them aloud. He wanted to know in which scripture it was stated that one should chant aloud. In answer to these questions, Hari Das Thakur gave a detailed account of the glories of the Holy Name. He said that loud chanting of the Holy Names was a hundred times more powerful than japa. Through the loud chanting of the Names, even the birds, animals and other creatures are also saved.
Animals, birds, insects and other creatures are unable to speak, but if they just hear the Holy Name, they can all cross over. If you chant the Holy Names silently, then you yourself will be saved, but if you chant aloud, then you will benefit others. Therefore, all the scriptures state that by the loud chanting of the Name, a hundred times greater result can be obtained. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.16.280-2)
japato harinamani sthane shata-gunadhikah
atmanam ca punaty uccair japan shrotnn punati ca (Naradiya Purana)
Someone who chants the Holy Names aloud is a hundred times better than one who performs japa, because the one who chanting japa simply benefits himself, while the person who chants japa aloud not only does good for himself, but for all those who hear him as well.
Who is better, the person who earns money and spends it all on himself, or the one who uses his money to support a thousand others? Through japa, one takes care of his own spiritual life, while through ucca-sankirtan, all living beings are benefited. This is the reason for its being considered superior.
Even though he heard Hari Das quote scripture in support of his idea, the Brahmin from Harinadi village was unconvinced. Indeed, he became angry and began to verbally abuse Hari Das by bringing up his low birth. He said, “If everything that you say about the Holy Name is not found in scripture, then I will publicly cut off your nose and ear as a punishment.” As a result of this offensive behavior, the Brahmin contracted smallpox not long afterward and his own nose and ear fell off.
Hari Das comes to Nabadwip
After this, Hari Das Thakur then went to live in Nabadwip out of a desire to be with pure devotees like Advaita Acharya. There he was a participant in the Lord’s sankirtan pastimes in the houses of Shrivasa Pandit and Chandrasekhara Acharya. Mahaprabhu sent Hari Das and Nityananda Prabhu to go from door to door to beg people to chant the names of Krishna, to worship him and to study the Vaishnava scriptures.
One day, the Lord suddenly had an idea and he called Nityananda and Hari Das to tell them: “Listen, listen, Nityananda. Listen, Hari Das. I wish you to go and communicate my order to everyone. Go to every house and beg people to chant the names of Krishna, worship Krishna, study about Krishna. Other than this, say nothing and make others say nothing. At the end of the day, come here and tell me the results of your preaching. You will beg people in this way, and I will come and destroy those who do not comply with my discus in my hand.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.13.7-11)
Nityananda Prabhu and Hari Das Thakur followed the Lord’s order and began preaching everywhere in Nabadwip. One day they went up to two feared drunken bandits named Jagai and Madhai, and asked them to chant the Holy Name as the Lord had instructed them. Seeing their fallen condition, Nityananda became merciful toward them, but Jagai and Madhai were in such a state of intoxication that they simply became angry when they heard his appeal, and came forward to beat him and Hari Das up. Nityananda started to run away, but Hari Das being already quite advanced in age (58) was unable to keep up with him. Nevertheless, he somehow managed to escape with his life. Hari Das told Advaita Acharya about the day’s events, saying that he would not go out preaching with Nityananda any more, since his behavior was rash and unpredictable. The all-powerful Lord Nityananda’s running away is certainly a mysterious pastime, but it is to be remembered that he later went out on his own and managed to deliver the two rascals, Jagai and Madhai.
Hari Das Thakur also engaged in water sports with the Lord in Nabadwip. One day, overcome by a mood of love, the Lord tried to drown himself in the Ganges, and Hari Das and Nityananda jumped in to save him. They hid Mahaprabhu in the house of Nandana Acharya because of his wish for seclusion. When Advaita Acharya and the other devotees were feeling the distress of separation, they went and brought Shrivasa there and reunited the devotees with the Lord.
When Mahaprabhu put on a play about Krishna’s Vrindavan pastimes in the house of Chandrasekhara Acharya, Hari Das played the part of the town constable. He came onto the scene, dressed as a policeman, carrying a stick in his hand. The other actors in the play were Mahaprabhu as Adya shakti, Nityananda as an old cowherd woman, Advaita as the clown, Gadadhara Pandit as a cowherd girl, and Shrivasa Pandit as Narada Muni. Hari Das’s duty in the play was to awaken everyone to the service of Krishna. He cried out, “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Shrivasa will dance dressed as Narada Muni.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.18.100)
When the Lord took his sankirtan party along the banks of the Bhagirathi, Hari Das joined him.
Then Hari Das, the ocean of Krishna-rasa, on Mahaprabhu’s order, danced beautifully. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.23.204)
The night before Mahaprabhu left to take sannyas, Hari Das was staying at his house. He and all the other devotees were desolated by the Lord’s intention to take the renounced order. When the Lord went to Puri. Hari Das went there not long afterwards to see the Rathayatra and never left.
Hari Das Thakur in Puri
When in Puri, though Hari Das was not officially banned from going into the Jagannath temple or the house of Kashi Mishra (where Mahaprabhu was staying), out of humility at his lowly birth, never went there. Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis also demonstrated a similar humility, even though they were born in a very high-caste Brahmin family. They considered themselves to be no better than mlecchas because of their long association with the Muslim court. They would stay with Hari Das when in Puri and not go for darshan of Jagannath or Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu himself would go to meet them.
Neither Hari Das, Rupa, nor Sanatan would go to the Jagannath temple. Mahaprabhu would go there to see the Upala-bhoga in the morning. He would then go to the place where they were staying and would visit them there. It was thus the Lord’s regular practice to meet whichever one of these three was staying in Puri at the time. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.63-65)
During Lord Jagannath’s absence from the temple (anavasara-kala), Mahaprabhu would feel separation so intensely that he would go to stay in Alalanath. When he heard the that more than 200 devotees had come from Bengal, he returned to Puri to meet them. When he did not see Hari Das Thakur, he inquired after him. Hari Das was there, but paying his obeisances at the side of the highway. The devotees went to Hari Das and told him that Mahaprabhu wanted to see him. Hari Das said,
”I am a low-born person who has no good qualities. I have no right to go near the temple. If I can find a solitary place to stay in some garden somewhere, then I will pass my time there alone. That way there is no danger that the servants of Jagannath will accidentally touch me. This is my wish.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.165-7)
The devotees came back to Mahaprabhu to report what Hari Das had said, and his wish pleased him. He arranged for a house in a solitary garden not far from his own place of worship at Kashi Mishra’s house. Kashi Mishra was happy to have the chance to serve the Lord by making these arrangements according to his order. The Lord went to talk to Hari Das and when he saw him paying his dandavats, lifted him from the ground and embraced him. When Hari Das said, “I am an untouchable. Lord, you should not touch me”, the Lord answered:
”I touch you just to become purified, for your standard of purification is non-existent in me. At every moment you are bathing in the water of every holy place; at every moment you are performing all sacrifices, penances and charity. You constantly are performing the pious activity of studying the Veda. You are more purifying than any Brahmin or sannyasi.”
After saying this, the Lord took him to the flower garden and gave him the solitary room there as a place to stay. “Stay here and chant the Holy Names. I will come every day to visit you here. You can see the discus on the pinnacle of the temple tower from here. When you see it, pay your obeisances to it. I will arrange for Jagannath’s prasad to be brought to you here.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.189-95)
This flower garden is now known by the name, Siddha Bakula. Previously it was named Mudra Math. There is a legend connected with the Siddha Bakula tree. The local pandas have a tradition of giving the twig that is used to clean Jagannath’s teeth as prasad to some special person. One day they gave a twig from a bakula tree that had so been used as a gift to Mahaprabhu. The Lord planted this twig in the ground at Hari Das’s place of bhajan. This twig eventually grew into a large tree. It is said that the Lord planted the twig on the first day of the month of Chaitra also known as Mahavishuva Sankranti, i.e. the day when the sun enters into the sign of Aries. For this reason, a festival named the Danta-kashöha-ropana Mahotsava is held on that day ever year to celebrate the occasion.
Shrila Hari Das Thakur participated in the kirtan during the Rathayatra festival as the main dancer in one of the seven kirtan sampradayas. He was in the third group, which had Mukunda Datta as its lead singer.
Hari Das’s teachings on the Holy Name
Mahaprabhu taught the glories of the Holy Name through Hari Das Thakur. One day, the Lord was feeling particularly unhappy about the lot of the conditioned souls. He came to Siddha Bakula and said to the Thakur: “Hari Das, in the age of Kali, the non-Hindus kill the cow and are inimical to the Brahmins. How will these Muslims ever be saved?” Hari Das answered, “Don’t be distressed at seeing the pitiable condition of the Muslims. They will be liberated by the namabhasa, the shadow of the Holy Name, whenever they say haram. In the Nrisingha-purana it is said,1
damshöri-dantahato mleccho harameti punah punah |
uktvapi muktim apnoti kim punah shraddhaya grinan ||
When wounded by the tusks of a boar, the Muslim cries out “Harama, Harama!” again and again. If he attains liberation by so doing, then just think what will be the result if one chants the name of Rama with faith.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur says that if any Muslim dies while saying this word, he is immediately liberated. This is namabhasa or nama-sankeöa because the speaker makes the correct sound but does not intend the Lord Rama. Therefore, it is impossible to say just what fruits await the sincere and faithful chanter. The example is given of Ajamila who called the name of his son Narayan as he was dying, and through this namabhasa he attained liberation.
When he heard this explanation, Mahaprabhu was very pleased, but again he asked Hari Das, “How will the dumb animals and the trees, etc., be delivered?” Hari Das answered:
”You yourself have instituted the loud chanting of the Holy Names which both the moving and non-moving creatures can hear. The mobile creatures are freed from their bondage to repeated birth and death by hearing the names. As for the immobile, they perform kirtan themselves by echoing the sounds. By your indescribable mercy, the entire universe is engaged in kirtan and the mobile and immobile beings dance when they hear it... You preached the loud chanting of the Holy Names by which the repeated births and deaths of all living beings come to an end.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.3.68-71, 75)
The disappearance of Hari Das Thakur
Rupa and Sanatan Goswami first met Hari Das when he accompanied Mahaprabhu on his aborted first trip to Vrindavan, when he visited Ramakeli. They thus knew each others’ virtues quite well. One day in Puri, Hari Das recited the glories of Sanatan Goswami, then Sanatan returned the favor by praising him as follows:
”Who else is there who is your equal? You are the most fortunate amongst Mahaprabhu’s entourage. The purpose of the Lord’s incarnation is the preaching of the Holy Name; this personal work of the Lord was done through you. Every single day you chant three lakhs of Holy Names and you glorify the Holy Name to everyone you meet. Some people act properly but do not deliver the message of Krishna consciousness, while others preach but do not meet the behavioral standards. You, sir, both demonstrate ideal behavior as well as preaching. You are the guru of all and the perfect human being in this universe.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.99-103)
In the eleventh chapter of the Chaitanya Charitamrita’s Antya-lila, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami describes the disappearance of Hari Das Thakur in a most captivating way. It should be read in its entirety on the occasion of Hari Das’s disappearance day. A brief summary is given here:
namami hari dasam tam chaitanyam tam ca tat-prabhum |
samsthitam api yan-murtim skandhe kritva nanarta yah ||
I offer my obeisances to Hari Das as well as to his worshipable lord, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who placed his body on his shoulders and danced.
As Hari Das Thakur grew old, it became more and more difficult for him to maintain his vow of chanting three lakhs of names every day. Thus, he had no appetite when Govinda would come with Jagannath’s prasad and only to avoid disrespecting the holy food would he eat a single grain of rice. Out of his affection for Hari Das, Mahaprabhu told him that he was a perfected being and that there was no need for him to show such attachment for devotional service in practice; he could thus reduce the number of Holy Names that he chanted every day. Hari Das then revealed what was really bothering him.
He knew that Mahaprabhu would soon be ending his pastimes in this world and he wished to leave before him. The affectionate Lord granted him his wish, even though he felt desolate at the prospect of losing his company.
Hari Das Thakur sat in front of Mahaprabhu who was standing in front of him. Then, as the tears flowed from his eyes, he gazed at the Lord’s lotus face and took his lotus feet on his chest and, while chanting the names “Krishna Chaitanya”, voluntarily left his body like Bhishma.
The devotees became intoxicated by the kirtan which grew louder and louder, and the Lord lifted Hari Das’s body and started to dance around the courtyard. In the accompaniment of the loud singing of the Holy Names, he and the devotees took Hari Das’s remains to the beach. There they washed the body in the sea and then dug a hole in the sand where they placed it. Mahaprabhu was the first to throw sand into the samadhi. This is how the samadhi ritual of Hari Das Thakur was performed. By virtue of his presence, the seashore became a great place of pilgrimage.
Mahaprabhu circumambulated the burial place and then went personally to the Jagannath temple to beg for prasad for a feast in honor of Hari Das. Svarupa Damodar Goswami would not let Mahaprabhu carry the prasad himself, but took care of making all the arrangements himself. At the feast, all the devotees were given enough food to eat to their fill. In a mood of absorption in divine love, Mahaprabhu said to all the devotees:
”All those who witnessed the disappearance festival of Hari Das Thakur, who danced or sang the Holy Names there, who came to throw sand on his samadhi or took maha prasad on this occasion, will quickly attain Krishna. This is the fruit of seeing a great personality like Hari Das Thakur. The Supreme Lord was so merciful that he gave me his association, and now the independent Lord has wished to deprive me of it. When Hari Das decided that he wanted to leave, there was nothing I could do to keep him back. He left his body at the very moment that he desired to do so, just as we have heard that Bhishma did. Hari Das was the exemplar of humanity in this world, and now that he is gone, the world has lost a jewel. All glories to Hari Das Thakur! Chant the Lord’s names!” And having finished his eulogy, the Lord began once again to dance. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.11.91-98)
Hari Das Thakur’s tirodhana-lila took place on the fourteenth day of the waxing moon in the month of Bhadra.
Ganga Das Pandit
Ganga Das’s previous identity
purasid raghunathasya yo vashishöha-munir guruh |
sa prakasha-visheshena gangadasa-sudarshanau ||
Ramachandra’s guru, Vasishtha Muni, appeared in two expansions in Gaura-lila as Ganga Das Pandit and Sudarshana. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 53)
acaryah shri-jagannatho gangadasa prabhu-priyah |
asin madhuvane prag yo durvasa gopika-priyah ||
Jagannath Acharya and Ganga Das Pandit were previously Durvasa, who was so dear to the gopis in Madhuvana. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 199)
Ganga Das was very dear to Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Anyone who remembers him will be freed from all material bondage. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.29)
In his Chaitanya Bhagavat, Vrindavan Das Thakur equates Ganga Das Pandit with Krishna’s guru Sandipani Muni:
There was in Nabadwip a wonderful professor named Ganga Das Pandit, who resembled Krishna’s guru, Sandipani Muni. (Chaitanya Bhagavat, 1.8.26)
In the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, Hari Das Das suggests that Ramachandra’s guru Vasishtha entered into Sandipani Muni during Krishna-lila. Thus, these apparently conflicting statements can be true. In verse 52 of Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika, Kavi Karnapura identifies Keshava Bharati with Sandipani Muni.
Advaita Acharya is Mahavishnu’s incarnation. Out of a desire to see the salvation of all creatures in this world, he prayed and called to Krishna to descend to this earth. Indeed, it was through the heartfelt cries of Advaita that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu became incarnate. It was the Lord’s desire that all his eternally perfected associates from his previous incarnations who played the role of his seniors descend prior to his own appearance. Ganga Das Pandit was one of these elders who preceded the Lord.
Nityananda Prabhu appeared in the land of Rarha while Ganga Das Pandit, Murari Gupta and Mukunda also appeared elsewhere. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.13.61)
Many other associates of the Lord remained hidden in Nabadwip, taken birth there prior to him on his order. They included Chandrasekhara, Jagadisa, Gopinath, Shriman, Murari, Shri Garuda and Ganga Das. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.9.98-9)
Nimai’s vidya-vilasa lila
Jagannath took little Nimai to Ganga Das when the child expressed his desire to study with him. Ganga Das lived in the neighborhood known as Ganganagara. It is said that when Bhagiratha brought down the Ganges, the goddess waited on this spot for the arrival of Gauranga Mahaprabhu. During the parikrama of Nabadwip Dham, the devotees sit down at a spot near the Yoga Pith temple to hear the glories of Ganga Das’s home, even though it is in fact situated in Simantadvipa.
In his commentary to Chaitanya Bhagavat, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur writes: "Gaura-Narayan is the Lord of Vaikuntha, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is therefore the only reservoir of all scriptural knowledge, as well as the embodiment of the opulence of wisdom. Even so, it is his wont to accept human limitations during his incarnation and thus he desired to learn grammar and other arts and sciences just as Krishna did when he studied with Sandipani Muni. He did this to show that those who make a living as teachers should have genuine learning and not make a pretense of possessing knowledge." (Gaudiya-bhashya, 1.8.24)
When Jagannath Mishra brought Nimai to Ganga Das, the scholar was overjoyed to accept him as his student. He began to teach him with as much care as if he were his own son. He was astounded by Nimai’s powerful memory and his intelligence. Though he had taught thousands of students, he had never had a pupil of such caliber. A student of quality brings glory to his teacher.
Nimai would ask trick questions of his fellow students Murari Gupta, Krishnananda, Kamala Kanta and others. He was able to explain a sutra in one way and then in a completely different way, thus baffling his classmates who were nevertheless impressed by his scholarship. Thus, the Lord’s education pastimes took place in the home of Ganga Das Pandit.
This is the house of Ganga Das Pandit, where the son of Sakhi studied grammar. Ever day he took delight in this study, even making his own explanatory comments on the codes. With a twinkle in his eye, he would ask tricky questions of Murari Gupta, Krishnananda, Kamala Kanta, and his classmates. Gaurasundara immersed himself completely in the joys of learning -- such pastimes are beyond the ken of the great gods themselves. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.2185-8)
The Lord studied grammar from Ganga Das Pandit. After hearing a lesson just once he would memorize both the sutra and its explanation. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.15.5)
Mahaprabhu after his return from Gaya
After Nimai’s return from Gaya in 1509, all the Nabadwip devotees, Shrivasa Pandit, Shriman Pandit, Gadadhara Pandit, Sadashiva, and Shuklambara Brahmachari were amazed to see the transformation in his character. They also felt great joy to see how he had abandoned his attachment to his studies to turn to devotion to Krishna and preaching.
Even so, Mahaprabhu continued to set an example of how to serve the spiritual master, going to Ganga Das’s house and paying obeisances to his feet. Ganga Das also displayed the suitable behavior of a guru for his dear disciple by embracing him with respect and affection. If one’s education does not lead to devotion to Krishna, then it is certainly a waste of time. Through devotion to Krishna, one’s ancestors, both on the father and mother’s side, are delivered. Ganga Das Pandit was also happy to see Nimai’s transformation, but he told him to continue teaching.
Nimai’s guru said, "Your life is blessed, my child. Your mother and father’s forefathers have all been delivered. Neither you nor your students should open a book today, even if Brahma himself tells you to do so. You have now revealed yourself, so go home today. Come back tomorrow, however, and continue teaching." (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.1.122-4)
Nimai paid his obeisances to Ganga Das Pandit’s feet, even though he himself has the Lord of the Vedas and the husband of the Goddess of Learning as his disciples. What goals could be left for Ganga Das to achieve? His disciple is worshipable to the fourteen worlds. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.1.283-4)
Ganga Das at Shrivasa Angan
Nityananda Prabhu, the savior of the most fallen, also visited Ganga Das Pandit’s house one day after having been worshiped in Shrivasa Pandit’s house, when he was wandering through Nabadwip in the mood of a child, playing with the boys of the town.
On the day that Mahaprabhu sat on Vishnu’s throne in the house of Shrivasa Pandit, displaying his effulgent form for 21 hours in the Mahaprakasha, he called all his devotees one by one to give them his blessings. On this occasion he called Ganga Das as well, reminding him of the following event from the past.
One day, Ganga Das had left his home with his wife and children due to fear of the Muslim rulers. He was standing by the banks of the Ganges with his family, waiting for a ferry to come to take them across the river, but none came. This was causing him no small amount of anxiety, but even after waiting almost the whole night, no ferry docked at the quay. He began to cry in the fear that the Muslims would touch his family members and contaminate them. He thought that he would have to drown himself in the Ganges if this should happen.
At that very moment, Mahaprabhu himself took the form of a ferry man and arrived at the riverbank. Ganga Das was so glad to see him that he said:
Oh brother! Please save me this time. My caste, my life, my wealth and my body are all dependent on you. Help me by taking my family and me across the river. I will give you a silver coin and a pair of new garments. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.9.116)
The Lord then took them on board and across the river after which he returned to his abode in Vaikuntha. When Ganga Das heard the Lord recount this event, which only he had known, he fainted in ecstasy.
Ganga Das Pandit in Puri
After the Lord took sannyas at Katwa, Nityananda Prabhu tricked him into going to Shantipur to Advaita’s house. Ganga Das came there with the rest of the Nabadwip devotees to see him. He was also one of the first Bengali devotees to go to Puri to see the Lord there. The first time that the devotees went there, the Lord was in Alalanatha due to his feelings of separation from Jagannath, who cannot be seen for a period following the Snana-yatra. The Lord returned to Puri to meet the Bengali devotees. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya pointed out these devotees to King Prataparudra, naming them one by one, including Ganga Das (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.85).
When the Lord met Ganga Das on that occasion, he praised him to the Orissan devotees and embraced him respectfully (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.159-60). Ganga Das also participated in the kirtan before the Jagannath cart as a member of the chorus in the second kirtan group. Shrivasa Pandit was the lead singer in this group and Nityananda the chief dancer. Hari Das Thakur, Shriman Pandit, Shubhananda, Shrirama Pandit were some of the others in the same group (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.13.38-9).
shrivasa-pandito dhiman yah pura narado munih /
parvatakhyo muni-varo ya asin narada-priyah //
shri-rama-panditah shriman tat-kanishöha-sahodarah /
namnambika vraje dhatri stanya-datri sthita pura //
saiveyam malini namni shrivasa-grihini mata //
Shrivasa is the same Narada who plays such an important part in Krishna’s lila. Narada Muni’s friend Parvata Muni appeared as Shrivasa’s younger brother Ramai. Shrivasa’s wife Malini Devi was Krishna’s wet nurse in Vraja, Ambika. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 90)
The Pancha Tattva
pancatattvatmakam krishnam bhaktarupa-Svarupakam /
bhaktavataram bhaktakhyam namami bhaktashaktikam //
I pay obeisances to the Supreme Lord Krishna who has appeared in five aspects: as a devotee, as the expansion of a devotee, as the incarnation of a devotee, as a pure devotee and as the devotional energy.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur comments: “The supremely potent is revealed in five different manifestations according to his desire to experience five different pastimes. Ontologically there is no difference between them: they are one truth expressed in five varieties. Thus Shri Gauranga, Shri Nityananda, Shri Advaita, Shri Gadadhara and Shrivasa and the other devotees, are ontologically non-different from one another. Nevertheless, that one truth is manifest as a devotee (bhakta-rupa), the expansion of a devotee, the incarnation of a devotee, the energy of a devotee and the pure devotee, according to the desire to relish different tastes of divine relationship.
“Of these five truths, the Supreme Lord himself, the son of Nanda, takes on the devotional mood to become bhakta-rupa. His full expansion (svayam prakasha), Balaram, takes on the devotional mood and appears as the bhakta-Svarupa, Nityananda. The purushavatara Maha Vishnu takes on the devotional mood and appears as the bhaktavatara incarnation of a devotee, Advaita Acharya. These three are all Prabhus, i.e., they are Vishnu-tattva. The devotional energy (bhakta-shakti) and the pure devotee (shuddha-bhakta) are classified as energies of Vishnu-tattva, which are considered non-different because of their dependent relationship to it.” The devotional energies are Gadadhara, Svarupa Damodar, Ramananda Raya, etc. The pure devotees include Shrivasa and others who are in the moods of friendship or servitude. Shrivasa is thus a member of the Pancha Tattva.
Shrivasa Pandit’s origins
Shrivasa Pandit hailed from Sylhet. He later came to live in Nabadwip where he made an immense contribution to Gauranga lila. From the Chaitanya Bhagavat and Chaitanya Chritamrita we learn that Shrivasa had three brothers in Nabadwip, Shrirama Pandit, Shripati Pandit and Shrikanta or Shrinidhi Pandit. All four were participants in Mahaprabhu’s lila.
Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana cites Prema-vilasa in saying that Shrivasa’s father was a Vedic Brahmin of the name Shri Jaladhara Pandit. Shrivasa was the second of five sons. The eldest son was named Shri Nalina Pandit, who had a daughter named Narayani. Narayani’s husband was named Vaikuntha Das Vipra. Narayani’s husband died while she was pregnant with Vrindavan Das, the author of the Chaitanya Bhagavat. She left her husband’s house in Kumarahatta (Halisahar) and came to live with Shrivasa in Nabadwip.
Shrivasa and Nimai Pandit
During his student life, Nimai would engage Gadadhara and Mukunda and other devotees in debate, first defeating all their arguments and then showing how they could be proven. The devotees were astonished at his prowess and thought that his learning would bear fruit only if he became a devotee of Krishna. Nimai would pay obeisances to devotees such as Shrivasa whenever he saw them, and they in turn would bless him, saying “May you have devotion to Krishna.”
One day Shrivasa Pandit was out walking when he encountered Nimai on the street. He said, “People study in order to become devotees of Krishna. What is the use of all their studies if they don’t become devotees? Don’t waste your time. Start worshiping Krishna as soon as possible.”
Mahaprabhu felt great joy upon hearing such words from the mouth of his own devotee and answered, “You are a devotee. By your mercy I will surely have devotion for Krishna some day.” Even though they could not help but be attracted to Nimai, the devotees were unable to recognize him as their own worshipable lord due to the force of his Yogamaya lila-shakti, This is a most astonishing and attractive pastime.
Nimai becomes a devotee
When Mahaprabhu returned from Gaya, he began to display all the symptoms of one who is intoxicated with love of God, but Sachi Mata became terrified, thinking that it was madness. When Shrivasa came near him, Mahaprabhu said, “Everyone thinks that I have gone crazy. What do you think has happened to me?” Shrivasa laughed and answered, “It’s good that you ask...
If your humors have become disturbed, then I want the same for myself. I see that a great mood of devotion has invaded your body. Krishna has been merciful to you.”
A relieved Mahaprabhu embraced Shrivasa and said, “If you too had said that I was going mad, I would have drowned myself in the Ganges.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.2.114-8)
When Mahaprabhu instituted the loud chanting of the holy names in his own house and in that of Shrivasa, all the atheistic neighbors began to complain that they were losing sleep because of the noise. They looked for ways to counter the movement and even started false rumors that the king would come soon to punish the devotees. The impressionable Shrivasa Pandit believed these stories and was filled with anxiety. He began to worship Nrisingha Deva for protection.
Understanding that Shrivasa was afraid, the lord, who takes away the distress of his devotees, went to his house. He kicked open the door and said, “Who are you worshiping? Who are you meditating on? He whom you are worshiping is standing before you. Look! I will save the righteous and destroy the wicked. You should worry no longer!” So saying, he sat down in the heroic posture (virasana) and revealed the divine form of Nrisingha, holding the conch, discus, club and lotus.
When Shrivasa saw this extraordinary manifestation of the lord, he was overcome with feelings of love and began to recite hymns of praise. Mahaprabhu was pleased with Shrivasa’s recital and told him to call his wife and family members to see his divine form. He gave his prasad to Narayani and showed his mercy to her by making her utter the Holy Name. Just as the devotee is dear to the lord, the lord is also dear to his devotee.
When Nityananda and Mahaprabhu met for the first time, Mahaprabhu knew that Nitai had arrived at Nandanacharya’s house and so he went there in the company of the devotees. In order to reveal Nityananda’s glories, he had Shrivasa recite a verse from the Bhagavatam (10.21.5):
barhapidam naöavaravapuh karnayoh karnikaram
vibhradvasah kanakakapisham vaijayantim ca malam |
randhran venor adharasudhaya purayan gopavrindai-
rvrinaranyam svapadaramanam pravishad gitakirtih ||
whose glories are sung to the world by the cowherd boys,
dressed as a dancing performer,
a peacock feather decorating his topknot,
karnikara flowers behind his ears,
a golden cloth covering his body,
and a victory garland around his neck,
entered Vrinda’s forest,
the pleasure garden of his auspiciously marked feet,
while filling the holes of his flute
with the nectar of his lips.
As soon as Nityananda Prabhu heard the verse, he fainted and the eight ecstatic symptoms appeared on his body. Vishvambhara clasped Nityananda to his bosom. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.4)
One day, Mahaprabhu indicated that he wished to perform the Vyasa Puja ceremony for Nityananda, and preparations for it were made at Shrivasa’s house. On the eve of the ceremony, when the adhivasa kirtan was being sung, Mahaprabhu himself became absorbed by the spirit of Baladeva, thus revealing that Nityananda was Balaram. Then he called out Advaita’s name “Naria, Naria!” (which means “one who makes something move”) revealing how he had made him descend by his prayers.
On the following day, as Nityananda started to perform the Vyasa Puja, he placed a garland offering on Mahaprabhu’s head. Mahaprabhu immediately gave Nityananda a vision of a six-armed form. Shrivasa Pandit, in the role of the ceremony’s acharya, had placed the garland in Nityananda’s hand and told him to offer it to Vyasadeva while chanting the appropriate mantras, but Nityananda put it on Mahaprabhu’s head instead. At the end of the Vyasa Puja, Mahaprabhu ordered the devotees to engage in kirtan, and as the Holy Names were being sung, he himself asked Shrivasa for the prasad which he then personally distributed to all the devotees, as well as to Shrivasa’s servants. Everyone ate the offerings with great pleasure.
When Mahaprabhu saw Shrivasa’s devotion to Nityananda, he blessed him that the goddess of fortune would remain forever kind to his household and that even the dogs and cats of his home would have enduring devotion for the lord.
Kirtana at Shrivasa Angan
At Mahaprabhu’s desire, his sankirtan pastimes began in the house of Shrivasa with only his intimate associates being present. This began on an Ekadashi, with Mahaprabhu revealing many transformations of love as soon as the chanting began.
shri hari vasare hari-kirtana vidhana |
nritya arambhila prabhu jagatera prana ||
punyavanta Shrivasangane shubharambha |
uöhila kirtana-dhvani “gopala! govinda!” ||
The scriptural injunction is that one should engage in Harikirtan on Ekadashi evening, also known as Harivasara. On this night, Mahaprabhu, the life of the world, began to dance. This auspicious beginning for the sankirtan movement took place in the pious Shrivasa’s courtyard, where the singing of Krishna’s names Gopal and Govinda rose to the sky. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.8.77-8)
Mahaprabhu ordered that the doors should remain closed, and those wicked and hard-hearted persons who were refused entry began to criticize Mahaprabhu and his devotees. Mahaprabhu’s followers ignored their insults and continued to ecstatically sing the holy names. Just as the long night of the rasa-lila seemed to the gopis to last only a few moments, the nights of kirtan at Shrivasa’s house seemed brief to Mahaprabhu and his followers.
At the end of one such night, Mahaprabhu placed all the Shalagrama-shilas on his lap and sat down on the altar where he revealed a wonderful form showing his divine nature and accepted all the food offerings given him by his devotees.
On another occasion, Mahaprabhu engaged in his Maha-prakasha-lila, “the pastime of the great epiphany”. On that occasion, he withdrew his devotional mood as well as his divine trances, and openly revealed his divine glories, sitting on Vishnu’s throne for 21 hours. At his signal, the devotees performed the abhishek ceremony reserved for the king of kings according to the scriptural regulations. The devotees made their offerings of flowers and gifts and Mahaprabhu stretched out his feet and accepted them without artifice. He then gave each person present a blessing, fulfilling their personal desires. In the course of this 21-hour (sat prahariya) pastime of the great epiphany (Maha-prakasha-lila), Mahaprabhu appeared in the forms of all the previous avatars. This is recounted in chapter nine of Chaitanya Bhagavat’s Madhya-khanda.
One evening, Shrivasa’s mother-in-law hid in a corner of the courtyard from where she hoped to be able to see the Lord’s sankirtan pastimes. Being the indweller of all beings, the lord was aware of her presence and kept repeating to his companions that on that day he felt no joy in the singing of the Holy Name. This was very disquieting to the devotees who began to suspect that some outsider might be hiding in Shrivasa Angan and they made a search. When he found his mother-in-law, Shrivasa was mortified and, taking her by the hair, led her out of the courtyard. Only those who have received the mercy of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu have the right to witness his pastimes.
On another occasion, a certain brahmachari who subsisted on milk alone asked Shrivasa for permission to see Mahaprabhu’s kirtan. Shrivasa knew that he was sattvika in his habits and so he invited him in. Shrivasa had the brahmachari hide inside the house, but Mahaprabhu, the indweller of all beings, was well aware of what was taking place. He said, “I don’t know what is wrong with the kirtan today, I am feeling no pleasure. I think that there must be an outsider here somewhere.” Shrivasa became afraid and said, “A brahmachari who takes only milk asked if he could watch you dance. He was so eager and I knew him to be austere so I let him in.” Mahaprabhu became angry and answered, “If one doesn’t surrender to Krishna, simply by eating a milk diet and doing other superficial austerities, one cannot attain devotion to Krishna. Make him leave.” The Brahmin fearfully left the house, but still asked if he could have a partial look at the lord. The most merciful lord called him to his side and placed his lotus feet on his head, telling him not to be proud and make a show of his austere practices.
When Mahaprabhu put on a play about his Vrindavan pastimes at Chandrasekhara’s house in Mayapur, Shrivasa played the part of Narada Muni. Advaita took on the role of the clown, or vidushaka and Hari Das Thakur was the police officer. Mahaprabhu himself first played Rukmini and then the Adya shakti, while Nityananda played the part of an old woman. Later, of course, the lord again sat on the altar in the mood of the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, and later as the mother of the universe, in which mood he gave his devotees his breast to drink from, in a spirit of affection for them.
Offenses to Shrivasa
Mahaprabhu’s kirtans at Shrivasa’s house went on every night for a full year, with the doors locked. During this time, many non-devotee Brahmins tried to make fun of Mahaprabhu and his associates. There were several of these pashandis who, because they were unable to see what was going on, were envious and insulted the devotees. One of them was a Bhattacharya Brahmin named Gopal Chapala who decided to destroy Shrivasa’s reputation by placing a plate of offerings intended for Kali on his doorstep. These included liquor and meat, red hibiscus (jaba phul) flowers, red sandalwood, etc. In the morning, when Shrivasa opened the door, he saw these items and started to laugh. He loudly proclaimed, “Look everyone! I am a Shakta. I have been worshiping the Goddess all night long.” His better-behaved neighbors were pained to see what had taken place and they removed the offending items and threw them away and then purified the doorstep with cow dung. As a result of this offense to the Vaishnava, Gopal Chapala became afflicted with leprosy. One day, when Mahaprabhu came to the banks of the Ganges to take a bath, Gopal Chapala approached him and prayed to be freed from his disease. Mahaprabhu angrily answered him:
O sinner! Enemy of the devotees! I will not save you. I will have you eaten by worms like this for a million births. You made it seem as though Shrivasa had worshiped Bhavani, so you will dwell in the hell known as Raurava for a million lifetimes. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.17.51-2)
When Mahaprabhu took sannyas, he came to Kuliya, the site where offenses are forgiven. Kuliya is the present-day town of Nabadwip, also known as Koladvipa. This time, when Gopal Chapala begged him again to be forgiven, Mahaprabhu was compassionate and told him to ask forgiveness of Shrivasa Pandit. One has to ask forgiveness of the very devotee one has offended if one wishes to be freed of the offense. When Shrivasa had forgiven Gopal Chapala, he was liberated from the effects of his offense.
The unfortunate Devananda Pandit, though a great instructor in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, was devoid of devotion. One day, Shrivasa Pandit went to listen to him lecture and, being a great devotee, was deeply affected by the Bhagavata’s verses and started to cry in midst of the assembly. Devananda’s students, all of whom were pashandis, forcibly dragged Shrivasa outside for disturbing the audience. Even though he saw his students acting in this way, Devananda did nothing to stop them. Thus, he too became an offender to the Vaishnava. Mahaprabhu later roundly rebuked Devananda for his inaction on this occasion. Later on, Devananda had the good fortune to come into the association of Vakresvara Pandit who taught him Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s true identity. He thus became sorry for the offense he had committed and received Mahaprabhu’s mercy. In Vraja lila, Devananda is Nanda Maharaj’s court pandit, Bhandari Muni.
The Kazi tries to break up the kirtan
Mahaprabhu was always amani manada -- he asked for no honors for himself, but always showed respect to others. He would embrace everyone and with great feeling ask them to chant the names of the lord. Then everyone would engage in the loud chanting of the Holy Names with mridanga and conch shells. Materialistic persons considered them to be nothing other than musicians who were worshiping Mahamaa on the wrong day and would insult them with various blasphemous statements. As they were so doing, one day the local magistrate, the Kazi, was walking by and saw the scene. Hearing the loud noise of the kirtan he became irritated and angry. He went to Shrivasa’s house and broke the mridanga and had some of the devotees beaten as a warning. He said, “If anyone does this sankirtan again, he will be punished even more severely.” The Kazi then went with some of these malicious townspeople, forbidding the performance of sankirtan. This brought great satisfaction to all the pashandis of the town, and they joyfully continued to mock the devotees.
When Mahaprabhu heard of the incident, he became very angry. He ordered the devotees to take torches and musical instruments and to join him without fear. He separated the devotees into several groups and then led the procession along the banks of the Ganges, himself dancing at its head. Thousands of men, women and children put aside their housework to join him and follow the sankirtan procession. When the miscreants heard the sound of the kirtan, their hearts began to tremble. Meanwhile, when Sirajuddin Chand Kazi heard that thousands of Hindus were coming towards his house, he was frightened and ran to hide inside.
Upon his arrival, Mahaprabhu asked some genteel persons to affectionately inform the Kazi that he was there. When the Kazi heard the polite way in which Mahaprabhu called to him, he was attracted and came outside. He addressed Mahaprabhu as “nephew”, since by village relationship he was Nilambara Chakravarti’s brother. After a few moments of cordial conversation, the Kazi recounted the following story: “On the night after I broke the mridanga, I had a dream in which I saw a most frightening figure, half-man half-lion, sitting on my chest and threatening to rend it asunder in the way that I had broken the drum. When he saw that I was afraid, he calmed me down and told me that he would forgive me if I promised never to interfere with kirtan again.” The Kazi then showed the scratch marks which had been imprinted on his chest by Nrisinghadeva’s claws. Chand Kazi then promised that neither he nor anyone from his family would ever stop sankirtan again. He became Mahaprabhu’s devotee. The tomb of Chand Kazi is in Baman Pukur, by which there stands a very old Goloka Champa tree. Both Hindus and Muslims offer their respects to the tomb of the Chand Kazi.
More kirtan pastimes at Shrivasa Angan
After a night of kirtan at Shrivasa’s house, when Mahaprabhu returned to external awareness, he would go with all the devotees to bathe in the Ganges. Sometimes the devotees would bathe the lord at Shrivasa Angan. One of Shrivasa’s servant girls named Dukhi would watch Mahaprabhu’s ecstatic dancing with tears in her eyes. She also performed the service of filling jugs of water from the Ganges for Mahaprabhu’s morning bath. When he saw her devotion, Mahaprabhu was pleased and changed her name from Dukhi (“unhappy”) to Sukhi (“happy”).
One day, Shrivasa’s only son died as kirtan was going on in his house. Shrivasa was afraid that the sounds of mourning from the women’s quarters would disturb Mahaprabhu while he was engaged in singing the Holy Names. So he went directly into the house and tried to quiet the women by explaining spiritual truths to them. When they still didn’t stop their loud lamentations, Shrivasa threatened to throw himself into the river and drown. This had the desired result. Later on that night, after the kirtan came to a stop, Mahaprabhu said, “Something doesn’t seem right. Has a tragic event taken place in the pandit’s house?” Shrivasa answered, “How can anything be wrong, when I have your smiling face in my home?” But, some of the other devotees said, “Prabhu, Shrivasa’s only son died in the evening, about an hour after sunset.” Mahaprabhu asked, “Why did no one say anything before now?” The devotees answered, “Lord, Shrivasa told us not to, because he was afraid that it would interfere with your pleasure from kirtan.” Mahaprabhu said, “How could I ever abandon devotees who love me to this extent!” and started to cry.
After this, Mahaprabhu went inside and sat beside the child’s dead body and brought him back to life to ask, “Child! Why do you want to leave the house of such a devotee as Shrivasa?” The dead child answered, “The few days that I was to spend in Shrivasa’s house are over, now I am following your wish in going elsewhere. I am a living being who has no independence; I cannot go against your wishes. Please be merciful to me, that I never forget your lotus feet, no matter where I go.” When Shrivasa’s family members heard the child speak such wisdom, they immediately forgot their distress and stopped their mourning. Mahaprabhu said to Shrivasa, “From this day on, Nityananda and I are your two sons. We will never leave you.”
Shrivasa’s visits to Puri
After Mahaprabhu had taken sannyas and was living in Puri, Shrivasa would come with the other devotees each year to stay with him for the four months of the rainy season.
Advaita, Nityananda, Mukunda Datta, Shrivasa, Vidyanidhi, Vasudeva Datta, Murari Gupta and all of Mahaprabhu’s other devoted servants met with him in Puri every year and stayed four months. Mahaprabhu engaged in various pastimes in their company. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.9.255-6)
Shrivasa was a participant with Mahaprabhu in his lilas of cleaning the Gundicha temple and Rathayatra. He was the principal singer in the second kirtan group or sampradaya, whose chief dancer was Nityananda Prabhu himself. In the first kirtan group, Svarupa Damodar was the lead singer and Advaita Acharya the dancer; in the third, Mukunda Datta sang, while Hari Das Thakur danced. Govinda Ghosh sang in the fourth, with Vakresvara Pandit dancing. The fifth sampradaya came from the village of Kulina, and Ramananda and Satyaraja were its principal dancers. The sixth group was from Shantipur in which Achyutananda danced. The seventh group was composed of the residents of Shrikhanda, of whom Narahari and Raghunandan took the lead roles.
When Mahaprabhu wished to dance, the seven groups all came together. On one such occasion, the king Prataparudra was watching Mahaprabhu’s wild dancing while leaning on his servant Harichandana’s shoulder. In the meantime, Shrivasa came and stood in front of Harichandana to watch Mahaprabhu himself. The king’s servant kept pushing the deeply absorbed Shrivasa, telling him to move so that the king could see. Shrivasa became irritated at the repeated disturbance and finally turned around and slapped Harichandana. Harichandana became angry and was about to respond when the king stopped him, telling him how fortunate he was to have been touched by the hand of a devotee such as Shrivasa.
One day, Shrivasa and the other devotees were glorifying Mahaprabhu’s name, form, qualities and activities, with the leadership of Advaita Prabhu. Mahaprabhu became angry and left the scene, but later he accepted defeat and acquiesced to their desire to worship him.
Shrivasa moves to Kumarahatta
After Mahaprabhu took sannyas in Katwa, Shrivasa and his brothers found it impossible to remain in Nabadwip where everything was full of painful reminders of the lord. They moved to Kumarahatta (Halisahar) near the birthplace of Isvara Puri. Mahaprabhu himself came there on one occasion and took some dust from his guru’s birthplace and wrapped it in his cloth. Since that time, devotees have followed his example and taken handfuls of dust from that place with the result that a small pond has formed. It is given the name of Chaitanya’s pond, or Chaitanya Doba. When Mahaprabhu went from there to Shrivasa’s house, all the members of the household joyfully received him and his companions and became absorbed in their service. Mahaprabhu noticed this and said to Shrivasa, “You are a householder. You have to earn money in order to maintain your family, otherwise how will you be able to do so?” Shrivasa first replied that he had no wish to make money and then clapped his hands three times. Mahaprabhu asked him what he meant by that and Shrivasa answered, “I will fast once, twice, three times and then I will tie a jug to my neck and jump in the Ganges.” Mahaprabhu responded to Shrivasa’s statement by giving a roar and saying, “Even if the Goddess of Fortune has to go begging, you will never know want in your home. Lord Krishna himself provides everything that his exclusive devotees need.”
Even after Mahaprabhu remained permanently in Puri, it is said that his divine apparitions took place in four places: in Sachi Devi’s house, wherever Nityananda was dancing, in Shrivasa’s kirtan and at the home of Raghava Pandit. These apparitions took place because the Lord is naturally attracted by the love of his devotees. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.2.34-5)
Every year, Shrivasa and his brothers would go from Kumarahatta both to Nilachala and to Mayapur to visit Sachi Mata.
Shrivasa Pandit’s appearance day is the eighth day of the waning moon in the month of Chaitra, and his disappearance day is celebrated on the tenth day of the waning moon in Asharh.
Shri Murari Gupta
angadah shri-purandarah /
govindananda eva sah //
Murari Gupta was Hanuman in Ramachandra’s lila; Purandara was Angada and Govindananda Sugriva. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 91)
The word gupta means “hidden”, so the name Murari Gupta indicates that Murari (Shri Chaitanya Deva) had secretly taken up permanent residence in his heart. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.10.31)
Murari Gupta took birth in a family of Ayurvedic physicians in the district of Sylhet.
Murari Gupta is a physician for the material disease. He was amongst the many associates of Mahaprabhu who appeared in Sylhet. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.2.35)
The names of his parents are unknown. He was somewhat older than Mahaprabhu. When his family moved from Sylhet to take up residence in Nabadwip, they lived in the same neighborhood as Shri Chaitanya, so Murari was Nimai’s companion in many of his childhood pastimes. It is also written in the Chaitanya Charitamrita that Murari observed Mahaprabhu’s childhood pastimes. His name is included in the Chaitanya Bhagavat’s list of associates who appeared prior to Mahaprabhu’s incarnation.
Hidden in Nabadwip, there were many who had previously taken birth at the Lord’s command. They included Shri Chandrasekhara, Jagadisa, Gopinath, Shriman, Murari, Shri Garuda and Ganga Das. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.2.98-99)
Murari’s student life in Nabadwip
Along with Mahaprabhu, he was also a student at Ganga Das Pandit’s Tol. When the Lord was engaged in his pastimes of learning and study, he would often engage Murari in joking and mock debate. Murari Gupta was amazed at Mahaprabhu’s wonderful intelligence and just the touch of his hand would so immerse him in ecstasy that he was early convinced that he was no ordinary human being.
One day, the Lord was pleased with the explanation which Murari Gupta gave him, one which he was able to give through the Lord’s grace. He touched Murari with his hand and his entire body was filled with ecstasy. Murari Gupta thought that this person can in no way be an ordinary human being. Can an ordinary human attain such scholarship so quickly? And his touch brings such ecstatic pleasure! (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.10.49)
The Vaishnava’s ornament is humility. Mahaprabhu would melt when he saw the humility of Murari Gupta.
Murari Gupta, the twenty-first branch of the Chaitanya tree, was a storehouse of love. The Lord’s heart would melt when he saw Murari’s meekness and humility. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.49)
Mahaprabhu’s special mercy to Murari
When Mahaprabhu returned from Gaya, he saw Murari at the house of Shuklambar Brahmachari. Murari had heard of Mahaprabhu’s transformations from Shriman Pandit. Mahaprabhu was pleased with Murari and one day he gave him a vision of his form as the Varaha avatar; the Lord lifted Murari’s water jug on his nose as he gave a loud roar. Murari considered his life to have been fulfilled by this vision and he composed a hymn in glorification of the Lord. This event has been beautifully described by Vrindavan Das Thakur in the Chaitanya Bhagavat, Madhya-khanda, chapter 3.
The Lord took on the mood of Varaha in the house of Murari. The Lord climbed on his shoulders and danced in the courtyard. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.17.19)
Lord Gaurahari had the same kind of affection for Murari Gupta that Lord Ramachandra had for his servant, Hanuman. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.3.11) On the occasion of the 21-hour great manifestation (maha-prakasha) at Shrivasa Angana, the Lord gave Murari a vision of himself as Ramachandra. When he saw his worshipable deity before him, Murari fainted. Then he glorified the Lord in a way which so pleased him that he gave a benediction to Murari which fulfilled all his desires.
He ordered Murari, “Look at my form”, and lo! Murari saw the form of Raghunatha directly before him. He saw the Lord of the Universe in the swarthy color of durba grass, sitting in the virasana, in the posture of a great bowman. He saw Sita and Lakshman standing on either side of him, and his army of monkeys surrounding him singing hymns of praise. It seemed to him that he was himself one of the monkeys, and as soon as he saw this, he fell down in a faint. The best of the physicians, Murari, lay unconscious on the ground, completely under Mahaprabhu’s spell. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.10.7-11)
On one occasion, when Mahaprabhu heard Murari Gupta recite the glories of Ramachandra, he wrote “the servant of Rama” on his forehead. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.17.61) On another occasion, Mahaprabhu displayed a four-armed Narayan form in the house of Shrivasa, and began calling the name of Garuda. Murari Gupta heard the call, and giving a loud roar took the form of the king of birds. Mahaprabhu then climbed on his shoulders. This lila is described in the 20th chapter of the Madhya-khanda of Chaitanya Bhagavat, and in the 12th wave of Bhakti-ratnakara.
Murari and Nityananda Prabhu
At Shrivasa’s house, Mahaprabhu taught the spiritual truths about himself, Nityananda Prabhu and matters of etiquette through Murari. One day, Murari Gupta came to Shrivasa’s house. Upon arriving, he first paid obeisances to Mahaprabhu and then to Nityananda. Mahaprabhu said, “This is not correct.” Murari could not understand what he meant. That night when he returned home, he had a dream in which he saw Nityananda as Balaram, fanning Mahaprabhu/Krishna with a fly whisk. Murari then understood what Mahaprabhu had been telling him and from then on first paid obeisances to Nityananda and afterwards to Mahaprabhu. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur writes in his Gaudiya-bhashya, “Shri Murari was a worshiper of Balaram. Therefore to worship the Supreme Lord without first worshiping the guru and the jagad-guru is a mistake in sequence.”
The lotus-eyed Mahaprabhu was sitting down with the smiling Nityananda at his right hand side. Murari paid obeisances first to Nityananda and then to the feet of Vishvambhara. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.20.22-3)
The Lord gives Murari his pan
Mahaprabhu had great affection for Murari Gupta and so would give him his own pan, which Murari would eat with relish. When Mahaprabhu told Murari to wash his hands, Murari would simply wipe his hands on his head. It was at this time that Mahaprabhu suddenly began to criticize the false views of the Smarta Brahmins and Prakashananda’s mayavada.
The Lord said, “O foolish one, you will lose your caste status. My remnants are all over your body.” As he spoke, the Lord went into a trance in which he took on his identity as the Supreme Person. He ground his teeth and started to say something special, “There is a sannyasi named Prakashananda in Kashi who is cutting me into little bits. He teaches the Vedanta, but does not accept my form. I have caused him to become leprous, but still he does not understand. The fool does not realize that the unlimited universes are contained within my body, what arrogance that he should deny it! I tell you the truth Murari, for you are my servant: anyone who does not accept my form is bound for ruin.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.20.31-36)
Murari cures the Lord’s indigestion
The Lord is very happy to accept a devotee’s offering, no matter how it is made. When Murari returned home, he told his wife that he wished to eat. His devoted wife carefully prepared rice with ghee and gave it to her husband. But Murari, absorbed in contemplation on Krishna, took handful after handful of the food and threw it on the ground, offering it to the Lord in this way. The amazing thing is that even though Mahaprabhu was not physically present there at that time, he accepted the offering. The next day he came to Murari’s house and said to him, “I have come to you for medicine. You made me eat so much, insisting that I take and eat. Now I have indigestion. You must give me some water, that will be the remedy for my stomach problem.” Mahaprabhu took water from a jug in Murari’s house, drinking down its entire contents. Seeing this, Murari fainted and all the devotees began to cry. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.20.69-71)
Murari would cure anyone who came to him, whether their disease was of the body or the soul. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.51)
Murari’s fear of the Lord’s departure
Murari Gupta analyzed the multiple incarnations of the Lord and came to the conclusion that in each one of the Lord’s appearances, before himself leaving, he arranged for his associates to leave also. Thus, Ramachandra destroyed Ravana to save Sita, but then he abandoned her. Krishna arranged for the destruction of the Yadus. Thus, Mahaprabhu too would inevitably be disappearing at a certain moment. He thought that it would be better for him to depart before that day arrived, for it would be too painful for him. For this reason, Murari purchased a sharp knife and kept it hidden in his home. The Lord knew of his intention and immediately came to his house and asked Murari to hand over the knife. Both the abovementioned lilas are found described in the Bhakti-ratnakara’s twelfth wave.
Murari Gupta would also go on the annual pilgrimage to see Mahaprabhu in Puri. Accompanied by his wife, he would feed Mahaprabhu many preparations. He would participate in the Rathayatra festival as a member of the third sankirtan group in which Mukunda Datta sang and Hari Das Thakur danced.
Murari’s exclusive devotion to Rama
Mahaprabhu taught the principle of devotion to one’s worshipable deity through Murari Gupta. One cannot advance in devotional service without a particular devotion to a worshipable deity, or ishöa-devata. Murari was an incarnation of Hanuman, and he saw Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as Ramachandra. On one occasion, Mahaprabhu desired to test his loyalty to his worshipable deity Rama by telling him to worship Krishna. He explained to Murari that Krishna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the fountainhead of all the other incarnations. Because he was the ocean of all the devotional flavors, the joy to be had in worshiping Krishna could not be had in the service of any other form of the Lord. Murari promised Mahaprabhu that he would do as he advised and worship Krishna, but when he returned to his home, he could not give up the lotus feet of Ramachandra. Just the thought of it made him upset and he stayed awake the entire night. In the morning, he went to Mahaprabhu and fell at his feet with tears in his eyes. He humbly submitted to the Lord:
I have sold my head to Ramachandra. I cannot remove it from his feet, for as soon as I try, it causes me great pain. I cannot give up the lotus feet of Raghunatha, even though this means disobeying you. What can I do? O merciful one, please allow my to give up my life here before you rather than suffer this fate. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.149-151)
cabhede paramatmani /
tathapi mama sarvasvo
ramah kamala-locanah //
Both Narayan, the husband of Lakshmi, and Ramachandra, the husband of Sita are equally the supreme personality of Godhead. Even so, the lotus-eyed Rama alone is everything to me.
Mahaprabhu was greatly satisfied to hear this exclusive devotional attitude to the worshipable deity. He said, “You are Hanuman himself, the eternal servant of Ramachandra. Indeed, why should you give up worshiping his feet?” Shri Jiva Goswami’s father Anupama was similarly devoted to Rama. Mahaprabhu compared him to Murari when Sanatan told him that Anupama was not able to give up worshiping Rama despite his brothers’ exhortations.
Mahaprabhu said, “Previously, I tested Murari Gupta and found him also to be devoted to Rama in the same way. That devotee who does not abandon his worshipable deity’s lotus feet is truly glorious. Glorious too is that Lord who does not abandon his devotee.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.45-46)
Murari Gupta disappeared on the same full-moon day as the autumn rasa-lila festival.
Shri Vasudeva Datta Thakur
vraje sthitau gayakau yau
dattau gauranga-gayakau //
In Vraja there were two singers named Madhukanöha and Madhuvrata. They appeared in Chaitanya lila as Mukunda and Vasudeva Datta, who were singers in the society of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.(Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 140)
Shri Vasudeva Datta was born in the Chittagong district of modern Bangla Desh, in the village of Chanhara, which is under the jurisdiction of the police station named Patiya. This village is situated ten kosas, or about twenty miles, from the village of Mekhala where Pundarika Vidyanidhi made his home. Mahaprabhu’s associate Mukunda Datta was Vasudeva Datta’s brother.
In the book Prema-vilasa, it is said that Vasudeva was the older of the two and that they were born in an Ambashöha family:
In the district of Chittagong, there is a village named Cakrashala where lives a respectable family of Ambashtha physicians named Datta. Two great devotees named Mukunda Datta and Vasudeva Datta were born into this family. Both Vasudeva the older and Mukunda the younger came to Nabadwip to live.
Vasudeva Datta Thakur had a beautiful voice and was also well versed in the Sangita-shastra. He was one of the chief associates of Mahaprabhu, participating in sankirtan in the home of Shrivasa and the streets of Nabadwip. Mahaprabhu enjoyed his association because of his Vaishnava qualities.
Vasudeva Datta is a respected servant of the Lord. A thousand tongues are insufficient to sing his glories. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.41)
Mahaprabhu said, “Even though Mukunda has been my companion since childhood, I get even more pleasure when I see you.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.138)
Vasudeva had a particularly close friendship with Shrivasa Pandit and Shivananda Sena.He lived near Kumarahatta and Kanchra Para, which were the homes of these two great associates of the Lord. Vasudeva was very generous by nature. Never thinking of himself, he spent his money liberally for others. Mahaprabhu saw this and asked Shivananda Sena to become his sarkhel and supervise his affairs.
Vasudeva was so distressed by the suffering of the living beings that he was ready to accept their sins and suffer in hell, and he prayed emotionally to Mahaprabhu for such a boon:
“My Lord! You have appeared in this world to save it, so please accept my prayer. You are omnipotent and all-merciful, so if you agree to fulfill my request, it can be easily done. When I see the suffering of the world, my heart is torn apart. So I ask you, Lord, give their sins to me. I will take their sins and suffer in hell on their behalf, but please deliver them from their material disease.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.160-163)
He wished to take the sins of every single living being and suffer in hell in their place so that they could be liberated. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.42)
When Mahaprabhu heard this emotional plea on behalf of the living beings of the world, he said to Vasudeva:
“You have desired the liberation of all the living beings in the entire universe, so it will be. They will saved without having to suffer the consequences of their sins. Krishna is not incapable of doing it, he has all powers, so why should he make you suffer for their sins? Those whose welfare you desire will all become Vaishnavas, and Krishna removes the sins of all those who are Vaishnava.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.167-169)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur writes in his Anubhashya to the Chaitanya Charitamrita: “In the Western world, Christians believe that only their guru, Jesus Christ, appeared in this world out of a desire to suffer on behalf of the people of the world by accepting their sins. But here we see that amongst Mahaprabhu’s associates, Vasudeva Datta Thakur, like Hari Das Thakur, showed a compassion millions of times greater and more generous, as he was willing to suffer in the place of all creatures in the universe. By so doing, he taught the world the unlimited nature of the Vaishnava’s selfless love.”
Raghunatha Das Goswami’s diksha guru, Yadunandana Acharya, was blessed by Vasudeva Datta. The author of Chaitanya Bhagavat, Vrindavan Das Thakur, was born in Mamgachi in Modadrumadvipa, one mile from the Purvasthali station on the Howrah-Katwa line of the Eastern Railway. Vasudeva Datta consecrated the worship of the Madana Gopal deity that is still being worshiped at this site.
We can see just how dear Vasudeva Datta was to Mahaprabhu by the Lord’s statements made when he was visiting Shrivasa Pandit’s house in Kumarahatta :
Gaurachandra repeated again and again, “This body of mine belongs to Vasudeva. If he wants to sell me, I allow myself to be sold; I will not do otherwise. I announce this truth to all of you. If someone has even come into the briefest contact with Vasudeva Datta, he will be protected by Krishna. Listen all you Vaishnavas! I tell you the truth: this body of mine belongs to Vasudeva alone.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.5.27-30)
Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami
shri-radha-prema-rupa ya pura vrindavandeshvari /
sa shri-gadadharo gaura-vallabhah panditakhyakah //
nirnitah shri-Svarupair yo vraja-lakshmitaya yatha /
pura vrindavane lakshmih shyamasundara-vallabha /
sadya gaura-prema-lakshmih shri-gadadhara-panditah //
radham anugata yat tal lalitapy anuradhika /
atah pravishad esha tam gaura-candrodaye yatha //
The incarnation of love who previously was the queen of Vrindavan, Radha, is now the beloved of Gaura named Shrila Gadadhara Pandit. Svarupa Damodar himself indicated that he was Vraja’s goddess of fortune, the Lakshmi who was previously the beloved of Shyamasundara in Vrindavan. She today has become the goddess of fortune of love for Gaura and is known as Shrila Gadadhara Pandit. Lalita, who is also known as Anuradha, is Radha’s closest friend and confidante. She has also entered into Gadadhara, as was shown in the play Chaitanya-candrodaya. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 147-150)
gadadhara panditadi prabhura nija-shakti /
tan sabhara carane mora sahasra pranati //
Gadadhara Pandit and others are the lord’s own energies. I pay thousands of obeisances to their feet. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.1.41)
“Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appears in six features, namely as the two types of guru, the devotees of the lord, the lord himself, his incarnation, his expansion and his energy. According to the principle of simultaneous oneness and difference, they are all identified with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself.” (Anubhashya to Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.1.37-45)
She who was Radha in Krishna’s pastimes became Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami in Gaura’s lila. When Gaura manifests his identity with Narayan, his shaktis are his wives Lakshmipriya and Vishnupriya. When identifying with Krishna, his shakti is Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami.
namami bhaktashaktikam //
I offer my obeisances to Krishna who appears in five features, as a devotee, as the expansion of a devotee, as an incarnation of a devotee, as the pure devotee and as the devotional energy.
These five features all appeared with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in his incarnation, and in their association, he joyfully performed the congregational chanting of the Holy Names. Though he appears in these five forms, there is in fact no difference between them. The distinctions arise due to his desire to relish different devotional flavors.
Shri Gauranga, Nityananda, Advaita, Gadadhara and Shrivasa, etc., make up the Pancha Tattva and there is spiritually no difference between them. The supreme truth has unlimited different pastimes in order to relish the different tastes of transcendental relationship and thus he separates into these five forms as the form of devotee, the devotional manifestation, the devotional incarnation, the devotional energy and the pure devotee.
jaya jaya nityananda-gadadharera jivana /
jaya jaya advaitadi bhaktera sharana //
All glories, all glories, to the life of Nityananda and Gadadhara!
All glories, all glories, to the shelter of all the devotees, headed by Advaita!
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur comments on words “the life of Gadadhara” as follows: “Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami is chief amongst the most intimate devotees of Shri Chaitanya. He is the fountainhead of the entire shakti-tattva and is thus present equally in Mahaprabhu’s lilas in Nabadwip and in Nilachala. His childhood home was in Nabadwip; later when he took sannyas, he went to live in Jagannath Puri, in a garden or öoöa by the seashore. Pure devotees who wish to enter into the madhura-rasa of worship to Radha and Govinda take shelter of Gadadhara Pandit and are known as Gauranga Mahaprabhu’s intimate devotees. Those devotees who are not so inclined take shelter of Nityananda Prabhu and engage in pure devotional service in his mood. Some of Mahaprabhu’s devotees, such as Narahari, were followers of Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami. They took refuge in him because they knew him to be his dearest associate and thus worthy of their service. Some devotees therefore call Chaitanya ‘the life of Nityananda’ while others called him ‘the life of Gadadhara.’”
Gadadhara Pandit was born in the village of Beleöi Gram in the Chittagong district of modern Bangladesh in a family of Varendra Brahmins in 1408 of the Shaka era (i.e., 1486 AD) on the dark moon day of the month of Vaishakh. His father was Madhava Mishra and his mother Ratnavati Devi. He also had a younger brother named Baninath. He belongs to the Kashyapa gotra. He lived in the village of Beleti until he was twelve and then moved with his family to Nabadwip.
Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami was a brahmachari for his entire life. Isvara Puripada was very impressed by his indifference to the pleasures of the world and out of affection for him gave him instruction in his own work, Krishna-lilamrita.
While Mahaprabhu was delighting in his pastimes as a student, there was no scholar in the town of Nabadwip who was not afraid of entering into debate with him. Mahaprabhu would defeat one’s position and then show how the same position could be defended. Mukunda, Shrivasa and others who knew the joys of the devotional sentiment were afraid of getting involved in such useless debates with Nimai Pandit and so they would avoid him. One day, Nimai Pandit saw Gadadhara and asked him to give the definition of liberation. Gadadhara answered according to the Nyaya school, that liberation consisted in the final eradication of all miseries (atyantika duhkha-nivritti). Nimai then proceeded to show how this definition was inadequate. The other devotees who were listening thought how wonderful it would be if such a brilliant scholar became a devotee. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.10)
When Mahaprabhu returned from Gaya and began to reveal the amazing transformations of love, all the devotees were astonished. Shriman Pandit was the first to see Mahaprabhu’s ecstatic symptoms and he reported this news to all the others who were overjoyed. When Mahaprabhu decided to reveal his true identity to the devotees, he told them to come to the house of Shuklambar Brahmachari. Gadadhara went to Shuklambar’s house but was discreet about his presence there, but when he saw Mahaprabhu become intoxicated with the power of the Holy Names and overcome by the sattvikas, he fainted. Mahaprabhu then said to him: “Gadadhara! You have such good fortune. From your early childhood, your mind has been fixed on Krishna’s lotus feet. Meanwhile, I have wasted my life in useless activities. Though I had obtained the great treasure of a human birth, by my misfortune, I made no use of it.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.1)
Whenever Mahaprabhu became too overcome by his ecstasies, Gadadhara would calm him. One day, as Mahaprabhu was crying out in separation, “Where is Krishna? Where is Krishna?” Gadadhara said to him, “Your lord Krishna is hidden in your heart.” As soon as he heard this, Mahaprabhu began to claw at his chest, but luckily Gadadhara was able to stop him by holding his hands and calm him by saying, “Krishna will come shortly, be patient.” When Sachi saw how Gadadhara was clever in handling her son, she asked him to always stay by his side to protect him. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.2.198-210)
Gadadhara takes initiation from Pundarika
Once, Mahaprabhu was calling out the name of his dear associate, Pundarika Vidyanidhi, saying, “Pundarika, my father!” and crying. None of the devotees present were able to understand what Mahaprabhu meant. When they asked him, he told them about Pundarika Vidyanidhi and explained that he would shortly be coming to Nabadwip Mayapur. When Pundarika did come to Nabadwip, he played the role of a great sense enjoyer in order to dissimulate his greatness. Mukunda Datta was a former resident of Chittagong and knew Pundarika Vidyanidhi, who was formerly Radharani’s father Vrishabhanu, very well. One day, he told Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami that he wanted to introduce him to a very advanced Vaishnava and took him to Pundarika’s house. Mukunda introduced the two of them and Vidyanidhi happily engaged Gadadhara in conversation. Gadadhara, however, who had been indifferent to sensual pleasures since he was very young, began to have doubts about Pundarika Vidyanidhi when he saw the expensive furnishings by which he was surrounded, rich sheets as white as the foam of milk, perfumes in the air, the pan he chewed. Mukunda saw the doubt written on Gadadhara’s face and decided to reveal Pundarika’s true devotional nature to him. So he recited a verse in glorification of Krishna from the Bhagavat:
aho bakiyam stana-kala-kuöam
jighamsayapayayad apy asadhvi /
lebhe gatim dhatry-ucitam tato’nyam
kam va dayalum sharanam prapadye //
How truly amazing! The sister of Bakasura, the evil Putana, was sent on a mission to kill Krishna. He drank the kalakuöa poison that was mixed with her breast milk, and despite her evil intentions, awarded her the position of a wet nurse (as Ambika Kilimba in Goloka). Who is more merciful than he that I should take shelter of him? (SB 3.2.23)
The instant that Pundarika Vidyanidhi heard this couplet, he began to cry, “Ha Krishna!” and fell to the ground in a faint. Extraordinary ecstatic symptoms began to show on his body. Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami was amazed to see this reaction and began to regret the offensive thoughts he had been having just moments before. Later, Mahaprabhu advised Gadadhara that the best way to become free of the offense was to take initiation from Pundarika Vidyanidhi, and so he became his disciple.
The Lord’s constant companion
Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami was Mahaprabhu’s constant companion. He participated in Mahaprabhu’s water sports after the conversion of Jagai and Madhai, he acted in the play about Krishna lila in Chandrasekhara’s house, he observed the great epiphany (maha-prakasha) in Shrivasa Angan; he was there when the Kazi was converted and when Mahaprabhu took sannyas; he accompanied Mahaprabhu to Puri where he joined him in cleaning the Gundicha temple, bathing in Narendra Sarovara, etc.
At Chandrasekhara’s house, in the first act of the play about Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavan that Mahaprabhu staged, Hari Das played the part of the village constable, Shrivasa Pandit played Narada Muni and Mahaprabhu Rukmini. In the second act, Gadadhara also dressed as a woman, at which time Mahaprabhu said, “Gadadhara is a part of my Vaikuntha family.” Afterward, Mahaprabhu dressed as the primal energy and gave joy to everyone in the form of the mother of the universe; the devotees too glorified him with hymns addressed to the Divine Mother.
Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami went to live in Puri as a kshetra-sannyasi. Mahaprabhu gave him the service of the Tota Gopinath deity and told him to live in the Yamesvara Tota, or garden. On one occasion, when Gadadhara heard that Nityananda had come to Puri, he invited him to come and take Tota Gopinath’s prasad. Nityananda accepted his invitation and brought some fine rice from Bengal as an offering for Gopinath. Gadadhara cooked the rice along with leaves and vegetables from the Yamesvara.garden, and when he was offering the foodstuffs to the deity, Mahaprabhu also appeared there, giving him great pleasure. The three of them joyfully took prasad together. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.10)
When Mahaprabhu wanted to go to Vrindavan, Ramananda Raya and Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya used all the means at their disposal to make him stay in Puri. On the third caturmasya after his departure from Nabadwip, all the Bengali devotees came to Puri with their wives to see him. After the Gundicha temple cleansing and the Rathayatra, the devotees returned home. As they were leaving, the devotees from Kulina village asked Mahaprabhu to describe the characteristics of a devotee. Mahaprabhu then described the differences between a Vaishnava, a more advanced Vaishnava and the most advanced Vaishnava. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.16.69-75)
When Mahaprabhu showed even more determination to go to Vrindavan, the devotees finally gave him permission to leave after Vijaya-dashami. King Prataparudra gave a great deal of help to smooth his journey. When he crossed the Citrotpala River, Raya Ramananda, Mardaraja, Harichandana continued on in his company. Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami was unable to tolerate the idea of separation from the lord and also wished to remain with him, but Mahaprabhu reminded him of his vow to remain in Jagannath Puri and forbad him to go to Vraja. Gadadhara said to him, “Jagannath Puri is wherever you are. My vows to remain in Puri can go to hell.” Mahaprabhu again told him not to abandon his service to Gopinath. Gadadhara answered, “Seeing your lotus feet is worth a million services to Gopinath.”
When Mahaprabhu said, “If you abandon your duties to Gopinath, you will be at fault.”, Gadadhara answered that he was willing to take that responsibility, but he would not disturb Mahaprabhu by following alongside him, he would go alone to Bengal to see Sachi Mata. Other than Mahaprabhu’s intimate associates, no one is able to understand the extent of Gadadhara Prabhu’s devotion to Gauranga. Love on the path of spontaneous devotion is not easy to comprehend. Gadadhara was ready to abandon his vows, his service, everything for the sake of Mahaprabhu.
When they all arrived at Cuttack, Mahaprabhu called Gadadhara and said, “Your decision to break your vows and leave your service has been made a reality. If you come with me, that will make you happy. But do you want your own happiness or mine? It will make me unhappy if your vows to remain in Puri and to serve Gopinath are broken. If you want my happiness, return to Puri and take up your vows again. That is all I have to say.”
When he heard Mahaprabhu’s words, Gadadhara fell to the ground in a faint. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya comforted him on Mahaprabhu’s order and then accompanied him back to Puri.
Due to her amiable simplicity, Krishna’s wife Rukmini was not always able to understand his joking words and would become frightened. Like her, Gadadhara was also unable to always understand Mahaprabhu’s witticisms or his feigned indifference, all of which would disturb him. Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami was by nature simple and affectionate. On one occasion, Vallabha Bhatta came to see Mahaprabhu and the two were engaged in jocular conversation. When Mahaprabhu saw that Vallabha Bhatta was proud of his scholarship, he became somewhat distant from him and started to find flaws in everything that he said.
Vallabha responded to Mahaprabhu’s indifference by starting to visit Gadadhara and making a show of attachment to him. Mahaprabhu did not particularly care for Gadadhara’s relation with Vallabha and began to demonstrate a certain coolness toward him also. This behavior made Gadadhara fear that Mahaprabhu would ostracize him and so he came and fell at his feet and started to cry. Mahaprabhu laughed and embraced Gadadhara. He said,
”I wanted to agitate you, but you did not become agitated. You said nothing in anger, but patiently bore everything. Your mind was not disturbed by my tricks. By remaining fixed in your simple nature, you have purchased me.” No one can describe the character of Gadadhara’s ecstatic love. Thus, Mahaprabhu has been given the name Gadadhara-prananatha, “Gadadhara’s life and soul”. No one can describe the lord’s mercy toward Gadadhara; thus people sing their names together: Gadai-Gauranga. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.7.157-160)
Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami remained on this earth only eleven months after Mahaprabhu’s disappearance. In Bhakti-ratnakara, Narahari Chakravarti has described the terrible suffering of Gadadhara in Mahaprabhu’s separation. He remained alive only in order to be able to see Shrinivas Acharya.
Repeating the name of Gaurasundara with his eyes closed, his sighs were as hot as flames. No one but the lord can know how Gadadhara Pandit suffered in the absence of Gauranga. His motionless body remained alive only so that he could bestow his mercy on Shrinivas Acharya. (Bhakti-ratnakara 3.142-4)
Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami disappeared at Puri on the dark moon day of Jyestha in 1456 of the Shaka era (1535 AD).
Shri Buddhimanta Khan
Buddhimanta Khan was very dear to Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He was one of the Lord’s greatest servants who obeyed him from the time of his birth. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.74)
Buddhimanta’s previous life
Buddhimanta Khan is considered to be one of Chaitanya’s branches. In his Nabadvipa-dhama-mahatmya, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has written the following in connection with the village of Suvarna Bihar in Godrumadvipa: “In the Satya Yuga, a pious king named Suvarna Sena lived in this village of Suvarna Bihar. Through the blessings of Narada Muni, this king obtained love for Radha and Krishna as well as for their joined form, Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. One night, Suvarna Sena saw Gaura and Gadadhara with all their associates in a dream. When he awoke, the King cried out in distress from the loss of the vision. Suddenly, he heard a voice from the sky which told him that when Mahaprabhu appeared again in the Age of Kali, then the King would also take birth as Buddhimanta Khan in order to expand the Lord’s pastimes.”
Buddhimanta”s charitable works
Buddhimanta lived in Nabadwip. He and Mukunda Sanjaya were amongst the richest people in the town. They performed charitable works such as providing medicines and treatment for the poor who fell ill. Once, when the Lord was undergoing ecstatic transformations as a householder, the other devotees called Buddhimanta Khan in order to see to his treatment.
Buddhimanta paid for all the costs of Mahaprabhu’s wedding when he married for the second time, to Vishnupriya, the daughter of a local zamindar’s priest, Sanatan Mishra. He participated in all of Mahaprabhu’s Nabadwip pastimes--in the kirtans at Shrivasa Angana, at Chandrasekhara’s house, in the public kirtans, the liberation of Jagai and Madhai, and the water sports in the Ganges.
Buddhimanta at Chandrasekhara’s house
One day Mahaprabhu revealed his desire to put on a play about Vraja lila and dance in the mood of Maha Lakshmi. He told Buddhimanta Khan that he wanted him to take responsibility for the costumes and decorations. He himself dressed Mahaprabhu.
[Mahaprabhu said,] Buddhimanta Khan! Go quickly and arrange for costumes for today I shall dance.” Upon receipt of the order, Sadashiva [and] Buddhimanta Khan immediately returned home, feeling unlimited joy. The devotees immediately put up an awning of bamboo and cloth and there started dressing the actors in the play. Buddhimanta brought the costumes and placed them before the Lord. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.18.13-16)
Look here. This is the house of Chandrasekhara Acharya. The Lord came here with his dearest associates. Sadashiva and Buddhimanta Khan took charge of the costumes and dressing the actors. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.2902-3)
When Mahaprabhu took sannyas in Katwa, he went to Shantipur where he met with all the Nabadwip devotees, including Buddhimanta Khan. He also accompanied the Bengali devotees to Puri to see the Lord. The Lord also lovingly accepted Buddhimanta Khan and the Bengali devotees’ gifts of foodstuffs, etc., which they brought to Puri for him.
Buddhimanta Khan, for whom the Lord’s order had been the only interest from his very birth, also went. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.8.30)
Shri Nandana Acharya
According to both the Chaitanya Bhagavat and the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Nandana Acharya’s father was named Caturbhuja and he had two brothers, Vishnu Das and Ganga Das. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.5.74; Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.11.43) They were a family of Bhattacharya Brahmins residing in Nabadwip. Both Vishnu Das and Ganga Das stayed in Nilachala with Mahaprabhu for a while. Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu and Advaita Acharya all hid in Nandana Acharya’s house at one time or another. Nityananda Prabhu stayed at his house while at Nabadwip.
Nandana Acharya is a branch of the Chaitanya tree that is celebrated throughout the world because two of the Prabhus hid in his house. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.39)
In the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, a different family tree is given for Nandana Acharya. The author of that dictionary writes: “Nandana Acharya came from a family of astrologer Brahmins. His father’s name was Lakshmi Narayan. Lakshmi Narayan had two sons: Nandana Acharya and Bhagavan Adhikari Sarvabhauma. Lakshmi Narayan had a reputation as a seer and astrologer. He was present when Mahaprabhu was born. Nandana Acharya is included as a branch of the Chaitanya tree. He was lame. When Mahaprabhu returned from South India, all the devotees were overjoyed to see him. Even though Nandana Acharya was lame, he went ahead of everyone else to perform puja to the Lord.
Nandana Acharya came forward with a deep attachment. Though lame, he went to the front of the group of devotees.
Shri Nandana Acharya came from a family of Shakadvipi Brahmins descended from Shanti Muni, the son of Parashara. He belonged to the Bharata branch of the Vatsya gotra from Rarha. He lived for some time in Bahirkhanda village near Tarakesvara in present-day Birbhum before moving to Nabadwip where he made his home in Shrihatiya or Dakshin Para.”
It is also written in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana: “The Nandana mentioned in the Chaitanya Charitamrita as the brother of Ganga Das and Vishnu Das is a different person. He is counted as a branch of Nityananda Prabhu. He is a writer of poetry and songs, but little else is known about him. He is not Nandana Acharya.”
Nityananda Prabhu in the house of Nandana Acharya
When Shriman Nityananda Prabhu he was in a mood of separation from Krishna, so he wandered all over India looking for him until finally he came to Vrindavan. There he heard that Krishna had already appeared in Nabadwip Mayapur. The son of Nanda, Shri Krishna, had appeared as Gaurahari, the son of Sachi. Nityananda Prabhu, who is none other than Balaram himself, quickly came to Nabadwip and started to live incognito in the house of Nandana Acharya. Nandana Acharya felt that his life had been fulfilled once he had laid eyes on Nityananda and gained the opportunity to serve him. Mahaprabhu knew of Nityananda’s coming through a dream. He told the other devotees that Nityananda Prabhu had arrived in town and sent Shrivasa Pandit and Hari Das Thakur out to look for him. These two searched through the entire town but could not find him anywhere. When Mahaprabhu heard from Shrivasa Pandit and Hari Das Thakur that Nityananda was not in Nabadwip, he slightly smiled in his omniscience and took the devotees with him to Nandana Acharya’s house.
The devotees were astonished to behold a personality as effulgent as a million suns. In order to reveal Nityananda’s true identity to all his devotees, Mahaprabhu signaled Shrivasa Pandit to sing a verse from the Bhagavatam:
barhapidam naöa-vara-vapuh karnayoh karnikaram
vibhrad-vasah kanaka-kapisham vaijayantim ca malam /
randhran venor adhara-sudhaya purayan gopa-vrindai-
rvrinaranyam sva-pada-ramanam pravishad gita-kirtih //
whose glories are sung to the world by the cowherd boys,
dressed as a dancing performer,
a peacock feather decorating his topknot,
karnikara flowers behind his ears,
a golden cloth covering his body
and a victory garland around his neck,
entered Vrinda’s forest,
the pleasure garden of his auspiciously marked feet,
while filling the holes of his flute
with the nectar of his lips. (Shrimad Bhagavatam 10.21.5)
As soon as he heard this verse, Nityananda Prabhu uttered the words “Ha Krishna!” and fainted, the eight ecstatic symptoms manifesting in his body. Mahaprabhu became anxious to be reunited with his brother and he clutched Nitai to his bosom while glorifying him to the assembled devotees.
Shri Nandana Acharya was fortunate, indeed. Just look, Shrinivas, this is his house. The Lord came to this house with all the devotees and found Nityananda sitting here in meditation. The devotees stood here gazing upon his incomparable beauty. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.2422-4)
Advaita Acharya hiding in Shri Nandana Acharya’s house
When the Vyasa Puja at Shrivasa Angana had been completed, Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu and their other associates became fully absorbed in the ecstasies of sankirtan.One day, Mahaprabhu was absorbed in the mood of the Divinity, and ordered Ramai Pandit to go to Advaita’s house and tell him of his manifestation. He also said to Ramai, “In order to bring the Lord of Goloka down to this earth, Shri Advaita Acharya called to him while performing puja with Ganges water and tulasi leaves. This Lord has now appeared in Nabadwip along with Nityananda Prabhu. Therefore, Advaita should immediately come to Shrivasa Angana with his wife and all the paraphernalia for worship.”
Ramai acted according to Mahaprabhu’s instruction and went to Advaita Acharya’s house. Advaita asked him why he had come. When he heard from Ramai that Mahaprabhu had manifested in Nabadwip, he and his wife Sitadevi, his son Achyutananda, and a number of his other followers all became excited and shed tears of joy. Advaita did as he had been instructed, gathering up the paraphernalia for worship and made for Nabadwip with his entourage. Nevertheless, he wished to test Mahaprabhu first, and so he stopped at Nandana Acharya’s house and remained there. He sent Ramai ahead but told him to keep his presence there secret and to tell Mahaprabhu instead that he had refused to come.
As the Supersoul, Mahaprabhu could understand exactly what Advaita was trying to do. He revealed a majestic divine form on the altar of Shrivasa’s house. He indicated to Nityananda Prabhu to hold the parasol over his head and the other devotees to engage in various services. Mahaprabhu then announced to all the devotees, “Advaita Acharya has decided to test me. He is hiding at Nandana Acharya’s house with all the paraphernalia for my puja.” He again sent Ramai to tell him that he was aware of his plan and to tell him to quickly come. When Advaita got the direct order from Mahaprabhu a second time, he joyfully went to Shrivasa’s house. As soon as he saw the Lord, he fell to the ground at some distance to pay obeisance to his lotus feet and began to recite hymns of glorification. Seeing the Lord’s opulent form, Advaita became motionless and then began to glorify the unequalled mercy of the Lord Gaurahari everywhere. He then washed the lord’s lotus feet and then worshiped him with the five ingredients (pancopacara), using the following mantra to do so:
namo brahmanya-devaya go-brahmana-hitaya ca /
jagad-dhitaya krishnaya govindaya namo namah //
I pay my obeisances to Krishna Govinda, the lord of the brahminical society, to him who is the source of the cows’ and the Brahmins’ welfare, and who is the source of the welfare of the entire universe.
Mahaprabhu then commanded Advaita Prabhu to get up and dance. Advaita started to dance madly until he became completely intoxicated, immersing all the watching devotees in a flood of ecstasy.
Mahaprabhu hiding in the house of Nandana Acharya
The local atheists started to plot against Mahaprabhu after having been beaten in debates by his talent and learning. They fabricated complaints and went to the local administrator. That day, when he returned home, Mahaprabhu started sankirtan in order to put an end to the atheists’ blasphemous ways. However, on that day, Mahaprabhu noticed that he was not feeling the usual emotion in the divine names and made public his distress. Advaita Acharya gave the following reasons for his lack of ecstasy on that day: “You have made Nityananda the keeper of the storehouse of love. You have deprived Shrivasa and myself of this love. On the other hand, you have given it to everyone else, even to those in the lower castes. So, I have dried up the ocean of your prema. That is why you are not feeling anything today.”
When Mahaprabhu heard this, he decided that he could not bear to live another minute in a useless body devoid of prema, and so he went and jumped into the Ganges, intending to drown himself. Nityananda and Hari Das immediately jumped in after him and pulled him out. Mahaprabhu then revealed to these two his intention to go and stay out of the sight of the other devotees for a while at the house of Nandana Acharya. They were thus the only ones to know that he was there.
The other devotees found no sign of Mahaprabhu anywhere and began to feel intense separation from him. Advaita Prabhu even undertook a fast. Meanwhile, Mahaprabhu sat down on the deity’s throne in Nandana Acharya’s house and engaged its owner in various kinds of service. Mahaprabhu also instructed him not to tell anyone that he was at his place, but Nandana answered, “You are the wealth of the devotees’ hearts. The devotees are the ones who reveal you. How will you possibly be able to remain hidden from them?”
Indeed, the Lord was aware that the devotees were unable to tolerate the pain of his absence, and so he asked Nandana Acharya to bring Shrivasa Pandit there. Shrivasa recounted to him that Advaita was extremely upset and that he was fasting. Mahaprabhu immediately accompanied Shrivasa to Advaita’s residence and when he saw him lying faint and weak on the floor, he felt himself to be a great offender. Advaita himself rose up from his faint and prayed the Lord again and again for forgiveness for his rash statements and asked that he be allowed a place at the Lord’s lotus feet so that he could serve him birth after birth. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.17)
Nandana Acharya’s participation in other lilas
After taking sannyas in Katwa, when Mahaprabhu was brought to the house of Advaita in Shantipur by Nityananda’s trickery, then Sachi and other residents of Nabadwip came to see him there. Amongst these residents of Nabadwip was Nandana Acharya. The year that Raghava Pandit first brought his famous bags of food (Raghavera jhali) to Mahaprabhu in Puri, Nandana Acharya also gave him some food preparations which pleased the Lord greatly. Nandana Acharya was also among those devotees whose invitations to lunch were accepted by the Lord at Puri. His name is also mentioned by Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya when he described the Lord’s devotees to King Prataparudra (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.89).
Nandana Acharya was also amongst the participants in the nightly kirtan at Shrivasa Angan and in the procession to the Kazi’s house. In Puri, he participated in the cleaning of the Gundicha temple and the Nrisingha temple and the Lord’s bathing pastimes in Indradyumna Sarovara. He also took part in the feast in the Ai Tota gardens and, of course, the Rathayatra festival.
Shrila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, the founder of the Gaudiya Sangha and who has now entered the eternal activities of the Lord, constructed a temple at the site of Nandana Acharya’s house in Ishodyan, Mayapur. The temple houses deities of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu.
The date and place of Nandana Acharya’s appearance and disappearance are unknown.
candro jneyo vicakshanaih |
The wise know that Chandrasekhara Acharya is an incarnation of the moon god, while Uddhava Das is also a partial incarnation of the moon. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 112)
One of the great branches of the Chaitanya tree is called Acharyaratna, also known as Chandrasekhara; his entourage forms another group of branches and sub-branches. Mahaprabhu danced in his house in the mood of the goddess. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.12-13)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written: “Chandrasekhara was one of the nine treasures, or the god Chandra. His home is known as Vrajapattana [or the place where Mahaprabhu enjoyed his pastimes of putting on a play about Vrindavan].”
Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur writes in his Amrita-pravaha-bhashya that according to some sources, Acharyaratna was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s meso, i.e, the husband of his mother’s sister.” This has been explained more conclusively in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, “He was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s uncle, that is he married Sachidevi’s sister Sarvajaya.”
In the book called Shakha-nirnayamrita by Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami’s disciple Yadunatha Das, Chandrasekhara Acharya’s identity is revealed in the following way:
patram shri-candrashekharam |
paurnamasiti samjnakam ||
Chandrasekhara was the recipient of Paurnamasi Devi’s deepest love. He is known as the full moon of unlimited compassion.
Chandrasekhara Acharya was also born in Sylhet.
Shrivasa Pandit, Shri Rama Pandit and Chandrasekhara Deva are all worshipable throughout the three worlds; they, as well as Murari Gupta, the physician who cures the material disease, all appeared in Sylhet. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.2.34-5)
All of Mahaprabhu’s elders appear on this earth prior to his birth.
Many of them took birth prior to him on the order of the Supreme Lord, and remained hidden in Nadia. They included Chandrasekhara, Jagadisa, Gopinath, Shriman, Murari, Shri Garuda, and Ganga Das. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.2.98-9)
Shri Chandrasekhara lived just next door to Jagannath Mishra in Mayapur. The Chaitanya Math established by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur now stands on this site. Prior to Mahaprabhu’s appearance, Chandrasekhara and his wife would visit the Mishra household regularly and would look after their well-being, helping to manage their affairs. When Jagannath departed from this world, Chandrasekhara took over the complete responsibility for Sachi Devi’s household affairs.
Pastimes in Chandrasekhara’s house
After Mahaprabhu’s return from Gaya, when he commenced his sankirtan movement in the company of his devotees, he would sometimes hold his nightly kirtans in the house of Chandrasekhara, just as he would in the house of Shrivasa Pandit.
All the Vaishnavas felt great enthusiasm when they heard that Mahaprabhu had begun his sankirtan movement. Every night, these kirtans took place in the house of Shrivasa Pandit, and on certain occasions, in the house of Chandrasekhara Acharya. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.8.110-1)
Jagai and Madhai were two brothers who, though born in a high caste Brahmin family, had nevertheless adopted robbery as their livelihood. By Mahaprabhu’s causeless mercy, all of their sins were cleansed and they were given the opportunity to engage in sankirtan with the rest of his devotees. Chandrasekhara Acharya was amongst the associates of the Lord who witnessed these wonderful events. “Vakresvara Pandit and Chandrasekhara Acharya both know all the glories of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.13.240)
Mahaprabhu put on a play about Vraja lila in the house of Chandrasekhara Acharya. This lila has been described in great detail by Vrindavan Das Thakur in his Chaitanya Bhagavat, in the eighteenth chapter of the Madhya-khanda. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has briefly mentioned the event in his Chaitanya Charitamrita:
Then Mahaprabhu performed Krishna lila in the house of Chandrasekhara. He himself took on the role of Rukmini and others as well, becoming in turn Durga, Lakshmi and the Divine Energy. Then he sat down on the deity throne and distributed love of God to all the assembled devotees. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.17.241-2)
Here is a brief summary of the story as found in the Chaitanya Bhagavat: One day Mahaprabhu revealed his desire to put on a play with his devotees about his pastimes in Vrindavan. He told Sadashiva Buddhimanta Khan who would play which role and what they should wear.
Then Sachi’s son, completely absorbed in the kirtan of the lord’s names called out to Sadashiva Buddhimanta Khan. “Today I will go to Chandrasekhara’s house where I will dance in the dress of Lakshmi. Arrange for conch bracelets, saris, bodices, golden ornaments and other paraphernalia that will be suitable for our costumes.” Having so ordered him, Mahaprabhu and his companions went down the path which led to Chandrasekhara’s house. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.1949-52)
According to his instruction, Buddhimanta then arranged for appropriate dress and makeup for those who would be in the play, pleasing Mahaprabhu immeasurably. Mahaprabhu announced that he would dance in the role of Lakshmi, but that only those whose senses were controlled would be able to sit in the audience. Advaita Acharya, Shrivasa Pandit and others sadly said that since they had no control over their senses they would be ineligible to watch. Mahaprabhu laughed slightly at hearing this and said that for that day at least everyone would become a great yogi and would not be bewildered by his performance.
Sachi Mata and Vishnupriya Devi came out of a desire to see Mahaprabhu dance as Lakshmi, and all the other devotees also came with their families. Advaita Acharya took the role of the |vidushaka| or clown, while Hari Das Thakur played the role of the town constable and Shrivasa Pandit dressed up as Narada Muni. The performance began when Mukunda began to sing Krishna kirtan. Hari Das Thakur came dancing in, twirling his baton, and he told everyone to watch the play and the Lord’s dancing attentively. Shrivasa Pandit in the role of Narada Muni said, “I have been wandering through the universes hoping to get a glimpse of Krishna. I went to Vaikuntha, but found the door closed and the house empty. Then I heard that Krishna had come to Nadia and had dressed up as Lakshmi and was about to dance just as she would.” When Sachi saw Shrivasa in his identity as Narada she fainted in her amazement, but the other women brought her back to consciousness by chanting the name of Krishna.
In the next act, Mahaprabhu came out dressed as Rukmini. Totally absorbed in the mood of Rukmini, he recited her letter to Krishna from the Bhagavatam, and as he did so, he cried and wrote on the ground with his toes. When the Vaishnavas saw this scene, they were overwhelmed by the ecstasy of divine love.
Later on in the evening, Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami came onto the stage dressed as a gopi and began to dance like a woman in love. Mahaprabhu and Nityananda then entered the stage area, Mahaprabhu in the dress of the Adya shakti and Nityananda as an old woman, Radha’s maternal grandmother. When the members of the audience saw Mahaprabhu, each saw him according to his or her own mood: some as Kamala, some as Lakshmi, others as Sita and yet others as Mahamaya. Even those who had known Nimai since his birth, including Sachi, were unable to recognize him. In the guise of playing the roles of all the different female divinities, Mahaprabhu revealed his divine energies and taught the proper respect due to each one of them. While the Lord was thus dancing as the Adya shakti, Nityananda fainted and all the other devotees began to cry loudly.
Then the Lord revealed another amazing pastime: he took on the mood of Maha Lakshmi, sat down on the deity throne and placed the Gopinath deity on his lap. When the devotees saw this they began to sing hymns of praise to Maha Lakshmi. As this was going on, day suddenly broke and the devotees were saddened to know that the wonderful night had come to an end. When he saw their sadness, Mahaprabhu took the form of the Mother of the Universe and one by one, took all the devotees on his lap and gave her breast to drink. The devotees’ sadness disappeared in a moment.
By the lord’s inconceivable potencies, there remained a divine light in Chandrasekhara’s house for seven days and nights. It was so bright that people were not able to open their eyes there. When asked why this was so, the Vaishnavas would only smile in response.
Participation in other pastimes
Chandrasekhara Acharya was also present in the sankirtan procession through Nabadwip when Mahaprabhu went to Chand Kazi’s house to deliver him. He was also present when Mahaprabhu took sannyas in Katwa, and he performed all the rituals on his behalf at that time.
So saying, Keshava Bharati went to Katwa. Mahaprabhu followed later to take sannyas. Nityananda, Mukunda Datta and Chandrasekhara accompanied him and performed all the rituals. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.17.272-3)
Afterwards, Mahaprabhu became frantic to see Vrindavan and set off in that direction. However, Nityananda tricked him into going to the bank of the Ganges opposite Shantipur, in the meantime, sending Chandrasekhara with a message for the people of Nabadwip that Mahaprabhu had taken sannyas and was in Shantipur.
The children showed Mahaprabhu the way to the Ganges, and he set off in that direction, completely absorbed in Krishna consciousness. Nityananda Prabhu said to Chandrasekhara, “Go immediately to Advaita Acharya and tell him that I am coming there with the Lord. Tell him to wait for us with a boat. Then go to Nabadwip and fetch Sachi Mata and the devotees.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.3.19-22)
Chandrasekhara did as he was commanded and brought Sachi Mata to Advaita’s house in a palanquin. The Nabadwip devotees also accompanied them.
In the morning, Acharyaratna put Sachi in a palanquin and set off to Shantipur in the company of the other devotees. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.3.137)
When Mahaprabhu came back from South India to Puri, he sent Kala Krishna Das (whom he had rescued from the Bhattahari women) with Nityananda and some other devotees to inform the Bengali Vaishnavas of his return. Kala Krishna Das met with Chandrasekhara on that occasion. Chandrasekhara also regularly accompanied the other devotees to Puri to spend Caturmasya with Mahaprabhu.He participated with him in all the pastimes there, such as cleaning the Gundicha temple, playing watersports in Narendra Sarovara, etc.
Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi
vrishabhanutaya khyatah pura yo vraja-mandale /
adhuna pundarikaksho vidyanidhi-mahashayah //
svakiya-bhavam asvadya radha-viraha-katarah /
chaitanyah pundarikaksham aye tatavadat svayam //
prema-nidhitaya khyatim gauro yasmai dadau sukhi /
madhavendrasya shishyatvat gauravam ca sadakarot //
tat-prakasha-vishesho’pi mishrah shri-madhavo matah /
ratnavati tu tat-patni kirtida kirtita budhaih //
He who was previously known in Vraja as Vrishabhanu, is known here as Shri Pundarikaksha Vidyanidhi. When Mahaprabhu was in his own mood as Krishna and felt the pain of separation from Radha, he would call him “father!”. Gaurachandra was happy with Pundarika and named him Premanidhi, or “the treasure house of love”. Mahaprabhu always treated him with respect because he was the disciple of Madhavendra Puri. Madhava Mishra is said to be his expansion and his wife Ratnavati was Kirtida in Vraja. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 54)
Pundarika Vidyanidhi’s father was named Banesvara and his mother, Ganga Devi. He was born on Vasanta-pancami, the fifth day of the waxing moon in the month of Magh in Chakrashala in Chittagong. His home, or Shripaö, used to stand in the village of Mekhala which is two miles east of the Hat Hajari police station, about twelve miles north of the city of Chittagong. Vidyanidhi’s father was a Varendra Brahmin who hailed from the town of Baghiya in the district of Dhaka. Pundarika Vidyanidhi himself was a wealthy zamindar of Chakrashala.
He is a zamindar from Chakrashala, extremely rich and very pure in his actions. He is a Varendra Brahmin, whose lineage is extremely respectable. His name is Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi. Sometimes he stays in Chittagong, and sometimes in Nabadwip. He is a disciple of Madhavendra Puri. (Prema-vilasa, 22)
The Lord glorifies Pundarika
Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi came to Nabadwip because he wished to live by the banks of the Ganges. Mahaprabhu, the indweller of all beings, knew prior to his coming that he had such a desire, and one day in the assembly of devotees started calling out, “Pundarika, my friend, my father!” and crying.
When his associates asked him why he was crying in this way, the Lord described Pundarika Vidyanidhi to them in the following way: “His character is quite extraordinary. Just by hearing his name, the whole world is purified, but he dresses and looks just like a materialistic person in the midst of the accouterments of the life of pleasure. No one is able to recognize him as a Vaishnava, yet he remains constantly merged in the deep ocean of devotion for Krishna. He never bathes in the Ganges because he is afraid to touch the holy waters with his feet, which would show disrespect. He only goes to take darshan of the Ganges at night and from a distance. He cannot bear to see people engaged in offensive behavior to the Ganges by gargling, cleaning their teeth, washing their hair in her waters, so he never goes there during the daytime. He never engages in worship of the deity without having taken a drink of Ganges water. He has homes in both Chittagong and in Nabadwip and will soon be arriving here. Because of his apparently materialistic behavior, you will not be able to recognize him, but I feel unwell because I am not able to see him.”
The Supreme Lord has appeared in Nabadwip, but he heaves long sighs because he doesn’t see Pundarika Vidyanidhi. Lord Gauranga stands up and starts to dance, calling out loudly,, “Pundarika, my father! Pundarika, my friend, my father! When will I see you?” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.7.11-3)
It is thought that Pundarika Vidyanidhi took initiation from Madhavendra Puripada at the same time that Advaita Acharya did. Mahaprabhu always showed him the respect that was due the godbrother of his own guru. In the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami writes:
I know Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi to be a major branch, for the Lord himself cried while spontaneously calling out his name. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.14)
Gadadhara becomes Pundarika’s disciple
Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami, Mukunda Datta and Vasudeva Datta were also originally from Chittagong and so they were acquainted with Pundarika Vidyanidhi. Indeed Gadadhar Pandit’s father Madhava Mishra was his good friend. Mukunda Datta knew his transcendental personality and that he was a Vaishnava, but Gadadhara did not, even though he was from the same town. This was, of course, a pretense for the sake of the lila.
When Pundarika was living in Nabadwip, Mukunda Datta told Gadadhar one day that he wanted to introduce him to a great Vaishnava. Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami was a brahmachari from childhood and extremely detached from the senses and ascetic in his lifestyle. When he saw Pundarika sitting on comfortable cushions covered in sheets as white as the foam of milk, and wearing very expensive clothes and perfumes, smoking from a hookah, and generally surrounded by all the trappings of a sensual lifestyle, he was unable to recognize him as a Vaishnava. Indeed, he felt let down.
Mukunda could see from Gadadhara’s face what was going through his head, and in order to bring out Pundarika’s inner mood, recited two verses from the Bhagavatam that enkindle the flames of love for Krishna.
aho bakiyam stana-kala-kuöam
jighamsayapayayad apy asadhvi |
lebhe gatim dhatry-ucitam tato’nyam
kam va dayalum sharanam prapadye || (Shrimad Bhagavatam 3.2.23)
putana lokabalaghni rakshasi rudhirashana |
jighamsayapi haraye stanam dattvapa sad-gatim || (Shrimad Bhagavatam 10.6.35)
How truly amazing! The sister of Bakasura, the evil Putana, was sent on a mission to kill Krishna. He drank the kalakuöa poison mixed with her breast milk, and despite her evil intentions, awarded her the position of a wet nurse (as Ambika Killimba in Goloka). Who is more merciful than he that I should take shelter of him?
That Rakshasi Putana was a blood-drinking killer of infants. Even though she wanted to kill Krishna, because she gave him her breast, she attained the auspicious goal of a nurse in Goloka.
As soon as he heard these two verses in glorification of Krishna’s mercy, Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi cried out “Ha Krishna!” and fell to the floor in a swoon. He began to roll on the floor in ecstasy, knocking over the hookah and tearing his clothes.
When he saw these transcendental symptoms of love on Pundarika’s body, Gadadhara realized that he had committed an offense, which he began to regret. He decided that the only way to rid himself of this offense would be to take initiation from Pundarika, and he related this idea to Mukunda. Mukunda then communicated his desire to Pundarika who happily set a date for the auspicious act. Mahaprabhu also gave his approval and so Gadadhara took mantra initiation from Pundarika Vidyanidhi.
In Krishna lila, Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi is Vrishabhanu and Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami is Radha. Because of his identity as Vrishabhanu, Mahaprabhu would call out to him as “father!” when he was himself in the mood of Shrimati Radharani. The deep affection from their previous life’s relation became apparent between Pu.ndarika and Gadadhara. No one can understand the pastimes of the Vaishnavas without their mercy.
vaishnava cinite nare devera shakati /
mui kon chara shishu alpamati //
Even the gods are unable to recognize a Vaishnava, so how can a foolish, fallen child like myself do so?
Even though Pundarika Vidyanidhi was a great Vaishnava, he kept it a secret and appeared just like a materialistic person. One cannot recognize a Vaishnava through any superficial examination. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur writes in his Gaudiya-bhashya to the Chaitanya Bhagavat: “Krishna lila is not accessible to pure sensual understanding. Krishna’s servants occasionally go unrecognized due to their apparently materialistic surroundings. In this way they deceive the conditioned souls. Most scholars take Krishna’s activities to be those of a material lover because of their own obsession with sensuality, and thus they have no faith in him. Others consider Krishna to be an ordinary man who is born and dies and is transformed and thus they have no idea of who he really is. Krishna’s devotees are also sometimes reluctant to reveal their real selves to those who are unworthy and thus make a pretense of being ordinary materialistic persons. Gauranga Mahaprabhu is also sometimes called the pracchanna-avatar or hidden incarnation. In the same spirit, Pundarika put on the show of being sensualist for those who were capable of being deceived by someone’s external appearance.”
One day Pundarika Vidyanidhi came to see Mahaprabhu when it was already quite late at night. As soon as he saw the Lord, he was so overcome by love that he could not even pay his obeisances. Mahaprabhu was similarly anxious to see his most dear devotee, Pundarika and he immediately took him to his breast and washed him with his tears of love. When the other devotees heard Mahaprabhu cry and call Pundarika “father” and “treasure of love”, they knew that he was most dear to him. Pundarika Vidyanidhi was also known to Mahaprabhu’s associates as Acharyanidhi.
The Supreme Lord cried and called out “Pundarika! Father! Today I have seen my own father! Today I rose from my sleep at an auspicious moment, and I saw Premanidhi standing before me. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.7.131, 143)
Pundarika in Puri
Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi participated in the nightly sankirtan festival in Shrivasa Pandit’s house along with Mahaprabhu and his other associates. On Mahaprabhu’s order, Nityananda and Hari Das went door to door to spread the chanting of the Holy Names and thus to liberate the conditioned souls, succeeding in converting Jagai and Madhai. Later, when Jagai and Madhai were sitting amongst the devotees before Mahaprabhu, they also displayed the ecstatic symptoms of prema. Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi was also present there and he became completely submerged in loving ecstasy to see their fortune. On Mahaprabhu’s order, the devotees led by Advaita Acharya went each year to see the Rathayatra. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami describes him as being one of the leaders of Gauranga’s associates as they made the annual trip:
All of Mahaprabhu’s servants such as Advaita, Nityananda, Mukunda, Shrivasa, Vidyanidhi, Vasudeva and Murari came together each year to meet with him and they would stay four months. The lord enjoyed many pastimes in their company. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.255-6)
Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi was also present at Jagannath’s Chandana yatra festival when Mahaprabhu and all his devotees would play in the water of Narendra Sarovara, also known as Chandan Pukur. Pundarika and Svarupa Damodar were close friends and they joyfully splashed each other as a part of these pastimes.
Vidyanidhi and Svarupa Damodar were friends. Laughing, they splashed water on each other. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.8.124)
Pundarika Vidyanidhi also participated with Mahaprabhu and his associates in the cleaning of the Gundicha temple, afterwards relishing mahaprasad with them.
Gadadhara wants to be reinitiated
One day, Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami asked Mahaprabhu if he could retake again. He said,
“Ever since I repeated my ishöa-mantra to someone, I have been unable to concentrate when I chant. Please repeat the mantra to me, then my mind will be calmed.”
“You already have a mantropadeshaka guru. Be careful, otherwise you will be an offender to him. Everything I have is yours, even my life, what to speak of the mantra. But as long as your guru is alive it is improper for me to repeat it to you.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.10.23-6)
Gadadhara answered, saying, “He isn’t here. Please do it in his place.”
Mahaprabhu replied: “Destiny will bring your guru Vidyanidhi to you.” The omniscient Mahaprabhu continued, “Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi will be here in Puri to see me in ten days.” And that is what came to pass. Mahaprabhu became ecstatic, crying, “Father has come! Father has come!” Upon Vidyanidhi’s arrival, Gadadhara went to him and asked him to repeat the mantra to him.
Gadadhara Deva asked Premanidhi to again initiate him in the ishöa-mantra, which he lovingly did. How can I sufficiently glorify Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi, who has a loving disciple like Gadadhara Pandit! (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.10.79-80)
Our most worshipable Shrila Prabhupada commented on the above verse (3.10.24) in the following way: “The mantra is that divine sound or shabda brahma which destroys the mental aptitude for sense gratification. If one instructs a faithless person in the divine sound, the mind becomes contaminated. If one’s divine understanding (divya-jnana) is destroyed, then one must seek the same again. Gadadhara Pandit understood this and so he asked Gaurasundara Mahaprabhu to reinitiate him. Mahaprabhu’s judgment, however, was that he should go to his own guru to hear the mantra again.”
The lesson to be learned here is this: Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami is Mahaprabhu’s eternal associate; it is thus impossible that any contamination could have entered his mind. It was only through Gadadhara that he was instructing those who would be guru that if one instructs an unqualified person in the mantra, it loses its potency and no longer brings the same joy to the heart of the practitioner. When this happens, it is necessary to go to the guru again and hear the mantra from him again. It is against custom to hear the mantra again from someone who is not one’s guru, because one cannot change initiating spiritual masters in this way. Gadadhara was only saying “I cannot concentrate like before” (na sphure bhalo mati), i.e., “The ecstatic feelings no longer come when I chant”, out of an exemplary humility designed to teach humanity how to act.
Jagannath slaps Pundarika
On the Oriana Shashöhi festival, Jagannath’s servants dress him in a cloth which still has starch in it.2 Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi was a pure sad-acari, i.e., attached to the proper etiquette of Vaishnavism. When he observed this custom, he did not feel happy about it and said to his friend, Svarupa Damodar, “Why do they give this unwashed cloth to the Lord? The people of this country know the rules in the Smritis and the Srutis, so why do they give this mariuwa cloth to Jagannath?”
Svarupa Damodar answered that the supreme lord is beyond the rules and regulations that have become general custom and that therefore there was no fault. Vidyanidhi did not find this conclusion satisfying and he countered by saying, “That may be true for the Lord himself. But his servants should follow the rules of the scripture. The shri-vigraha of the Lord is beyond the material qualities, so you can say this of him, but his servants are not of the same nature as he. So we have to judge whether their behavior is proper or improper.”
Vidyanidhi is Mahaprabhu’s dear associate and beyond any fault, but once again we see that the lord teaches particular lessons through his devotees. Here he wished to show that we have no right to make judgments or to find fault with the behavior of Jagannath’s devotees. That night an angry Jagannath came to Pundarika Vidyanidhi and gave him a dream vision. Vidyanidhi was frightened when he saw the anger of the lord. He saw both Jagannath and Balaram slap him on each of his cheeks and he started to cry out, “Krishna save me! Krishna, save me! Forgive me my offense!” Jagannath said to him:
“There is no end to your offensiveness. Just as there is no question of pure and impure in my case, the same holds true for my servants. You are staying here; you should know all this. If you thought that it was impure, then why did you stay at all? Go home then, if you want to maintain your purity.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.10.131-2)
When he woke up in the morning, the devotees saw the marks of the Lords’ slaps on his cheeks, which had swollen as a result and they started to laugh. This pastime shows just how dear Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi was to Jagannath and to Mahaprabhu, for the Lord only comes to his dearest devotees to personally punish them in this way.
That night Jagannath and Balaram came to him and, laughing all the while, slapped him on the cheeks. Pundarika Vidyanidhi felt a secret joy at his swollen cheeks, as has been described by Vrindavan Das in detail. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.16.80-1)
It is stated in the Bhakti-ratnakara that Mahaprabhu celebrated the birth of Radharani at Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi’s house. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.3177).
Vrindavan Das Thakur concludes the Chaitanya Bhagavat with the following glorification of Shri Pundarika Vidyanidhi:
The Supreme Lord Gauranga called out the name of this devotee, crying “Pundarika, my father. Anyone who hears about his life and activities will undoubtedly attain Krishna’s lotus feet.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.10.183-4)
Shri Shuklambar Brahmachari
*shuklambaro brahmacari purasid yajnapatnika |
*prarthayitva yad-annam shri-gaurango bhuktavan prabhuh |
*kecid ahur brahmacari yajnika-brahmanah pura ||
Shuklambar Brahmachari was previously one of the wives of the sacrificing Brahmins in Vraja. Mahaprabhu begged food from him and ate it. Some people say that he was one of the sacrificing Brahmins. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 191)
Shuklambar Brahmachari, a poor mendicant
Shuklambar Brahmachari is counted among the branches of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He was a resident of Nabadwip town, manifesting the pastimes of a poor Brahmin who begged for a living. Nevertheless, he had an abiding affection for the Lord. Though to an ordinary conditioned soul he appeared to be a poverty-stricken mendicant, to transcendental eyes he was rich because of his love for Mahaprabhu.
*prema-dhana vina vyartha daridra jivana |
*dasa kari betana more deha prema-dhana ||
Without the wealth of love of God, my life is poverty-stricken and worthless. Make me your servant and pay me with the wealth of love. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.20.37)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur paraphrases Mahaprabhu’s speech to Shuklambar Brahmachari in his Gaudiya-bhashya to the Chaitanya Bhagavat: “You are my poor servant lifetime after lifetime. You have no desire to enter into this world to become the head of a household. Rather, you remain a bachelor and beg from house to house, making an offering to me of whatever you amass in this way. Your vow of celibacy is unbreakable. You are free of the mundane egoism that is prominent in householders and retired householders. You are thus factually fixed in the highest state of spiritual life, the highest stage of the renounced order. You are a de facto sannyasi, a completely surrendered carrier of the triple staff because you have successfully engaged every action of your body, mind and speech in my service. I pray constantly for your offerings for you have no interest in enjoying anything which has not been offered to me. It is for this reason that I have made a show of my power and taken everything away from you, making you poor.” (2. 16.123)
Shuklambar Brahmachari was very fortunate, for the Lord snatched his food from him and ate it himself. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.38)
Mahaprabhu in Shuklambar’s house
When Mahaprabhu returned from Gaya, he first met with the devotees in Shuklambar Brahmachari’s house.
Shriman Pandit then left along the banks of the Ganges, going to Shuklambar Brahmachari’s house [where the Lord had announced he would meet with the devotees that night. Having heard Shriman make this announcement,] Gadadhara Pandit quickly followed him there. He hid in Shuklambar’s house thinking that he would eavesdrop, as Mahaprabhu would surely discuss some Krishna-related topics. All the loving devotees of the Lord, such as Sadashiva, Murari, Shriman and Shuklambar, gathered there when suddenly Vishvambhara appeared on the scene. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.1.78-82)
Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami, Sadashiva, Murari, Shrivasa Pandit, Shriman Pandit and others all witnessed the Lord’s ecstatic transformations in Shuklambar’s house.
The Lord snatches rice from Shuklambar’s begging bag
Shuklambar Brahmachari kept body and soul together by offering and eating the foodstuffs which he daily accumulated by begging. Since he was constantly absorbed in the joys of chanting the names of the Lord and remembering his qualities and pastimes, he never suffered from his poverty. Ignorant people thought he was just an ordinary beggar. No one can recognize Mahaprabhu’s servants unless he gets the Lord’s mercy.
One day, Mahaprabhu was sitting alone in a devotional trance when Shuklambar Brahmachari happened by, his begging bag flung over his shoulder. When he saw the Lord, he started to dance ecstatically. The Lord was pleased to see the depth of Shuklambar’s feeling and he began to glorify him. He then plucked a handful of the dry rice from his bag and began to chew it. Shuklambar Brahmachari was troubled to see the Lord eating the uncleaned and broken fragments of low-quality rice and felt that he was committing an offense. The Lord calmed him and said that he always ate his devotee’s food with great enthusiasm, but that he had no interest whatsoever in the finest foods of the non-devotee. The devotees were delighted to see the Lord’s mercy on Shuklambar Brahmachari, who was then given a blessing by the Lord.
The Lord said, “Listen, Shuklambar Brahmachari. I reside permanently in your heart. Whenever you eat, I eat. When you go on your begging rounds, I accompany you. I have descended to distribute love of Godhead and you are my servant, lifetime after lifetime. I hereby bestow upon you prema bhakti, which is my very soul.” When the devotees heard the Lord’s blessing, the devotees made a joyful noise, shouting “Jaya, jaya!” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.16.133-8)
The Lord was sitting here on this altar of Vishnu, absorbed in the sound of the Holy Name, when Shuklambar Brahmachari passed by on his begging rounds. Mahaprabhu lovingly put his hand on Shuklambar’s begging bag and took a handful of unwashed rice, calling him Sudama. Shuklambar Brahmachari made repeated humble comments and danced in the kirtan with the bag still on his shoulder. The Lord and his devotees felt the intensity of their emotions increase as they watched Shuklambar’s ecstatic transformations. This is one of the pastimes of the Lord in the house of Shrivasa Pandit, after which he went through the town back to his own house. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.2754-8)
The Lord eats at Shuklambar’s house
In the Chaitanya Bhagavat, it is also said that Mahaprabhu ate cooked food in the house of Shuklambar Brahmachari, being attracted by his love. When the Lord announced to Shuklambar that he wished to eat at his house, the brahmachari felt nervous because he was afraid that he was unable to provide suitable fare for the Lord with his begged rice. However, the Lord repeatedly told him that this was indeed his desire, and so Shuklambar went to the other devotees to ask their advice. The devotees suggested that he cook without touching the food and that this would be satisfactory.
On the day of the invitation, Shuklambar bathed and dressed. He then lit the stove and put water to boil. Then, without touching the rice, he poured it into the water along with the spathe of the plantain tree (thori), all the while emotionally chanting the names, “Jaya Krishna Gopal, Govinda, Vanamali!”. At that moment, Lakshmi Devi blessed the food cooked by the devotee by glancing at it. When Mahaprabhu came to Shuklambar’s house with his associates, he offered the rice and vegetables to Vishnu by his own hand. When it came time to eat it, he praised its flavor, saying “In my entire life, I have never eaten anything so delicious.” Once again the devotees cried at the sight of the Lord’s merciful attitude to Shuklambar.
When the devotees saw the majestic blessings of the Lord to Shuklambar Brahmachari, they all began to cry. The Lord continued to eat joyfully, greatly relishing its taste. May all the rich millionaire non-devotees observe the mercy received by the beggar Shuklambar. No one can attain the Lord’s mercy through wealth, high birth or scholarship. The scriptures repeatedly tell us that the Lord is only attracted by the taste of devotion. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.26.28-31)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur comments on this in his Gaudiya-bhashya: “Vishnu is the Lord of the Sacrifice who only eats that which is offered by Brahma in sacrifice. Shuklambar Brahmachari gathered rice by begging from a variety of households. This rice is often parboiled rather than sun-dried rice. Householder Brahmins thus normally consider it contaminated and refuse to accept it. However, Vaishnavas hold that rice received from begging is superior to any other rice because it has been obtained by the mercy of the Lord. Though superficially this rice appears to be contaminated by the touch of non-devotees and offering it is thus a deviation from the usual rules and regulations, in Mahaprabhu’s path, the purity of a devotee’s heart is the most important ingredient in maha prasad. One should not think that a millionaire is the only person who can offer foods which are suitable for the Lord. Shuklambar was poverty-stricken, but the Lord was satisfied with the food that he had gathered through begging. The sinful and devotionally-challenged cannot understand this at all.”
Shuklambar Brahmachari, whose rice had been eaten by Lord Gaurasundara, joyfully returned to his home. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.8.23)
One day, the Lord asked Shuklambar to cook lunch for him. This is the street that the devotees took to go to his house. What can I say? The Lord ate Shuklambar’s cooking and a wonderful pastime took place there. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.3467-8)
Shri Sadashiva Pandit
Sadashiva Pandit is considered a Chaitanya branch of the tree of divine love. He was a resident of Nabadwip who participated in the beginnings of the sankirtan movement. When Nityananda Prabhu first arrived in Nabadwip, he stayed in his house.
Sadashiva Pandit placed all his hopes at the Lord’s feet. His house was Nityananda Prabhu’s first residence in Nabadwip. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.34)
Sadashiva Pandit, in whose home Nityananda had previously been domiciled, also went [with the party of devotees to Jagannath Puri]. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.8.19)
In Vrindavan Das Thakur’s Chaitanya Bhagavat, Sadashiva Pandit’s name is included in the list of devotees who were present in the kirtan in the house of Shrivasa Pandit, along with Gopinath, Jagadisa, Shriman, Shridhara, Vakresvara, Shrigarbha and Shuklambar. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.8.115)
He was also one of the Lord’s companions when he engaged in water sports in the Ganges. He was also one of the first to witness the Lord’s displays of ecstatic love after he returned from Gaya. Mahaprabhu also told him to be present in Shuklambar’s house where he publicly announced the transformation that had taken place.
[The Lord said,] “You [Shriman Pandit] and Sadashiva Pandit should also come tomorrow to Shuklambar’s house. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.1.40)
Sadashiva, Murari, Shriman and Shuklambar, and all the Lord’s other devoted followers assembled there. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.1.81)
On the same occasion, the Lord himself revealed to the world how dearly he considered Sadashiva by unveiling his secret pain to him.
“I will reveal all my sadness to you [Shriman Pandit], Sadashiva and Murari Gupta. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.1.70)
When Mahaprabhu decided to put on a performance of Vraja lila in the house of Chandrasekhara Acharya, he gave the responsibility for costumes and makeup to Sadashiva and Buddhimanta Khan. Sadashiva was ecstatic to receive this order from the Lord.
The Lord called Buddhimanta Khan and Sadashiva and told them to go immediately to arrange for the actors’ costumes. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.18.7)
Overjoyed, Buddhimanta and Sadashiva immediately went home to fulfill the duties given them by the Lord. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.18.14)
Here [at the house of Chandrasekhara Acharya], Buddhimanta Khan and Sadashiva Pandit made all kinds of costume arrangements to help Lord Gauranga put on a performance as Lakshmi, so that the entire universe will become intoxicated by the singing of the Holy Names. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.2903-4)
khola-becataya khyatah panditah shridharo dvijah |
asid vraje hasya-karo yo namna kusumasavah || (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 133)
One of the twelve Gopals in Krishna lila was named Kusumasava. He appeared in Gaura-lila as Shridhara Pandit, who was given the nickname khola-beca, “bark-seller.”
Shridhara Pandit was a resident of Nabadwip. Nabadwip is composed of nine islands, of which the central island is known as Antardvipa. He used to live at the northern extremity of Mayapur and to the southeast of the Chand Kazi’s samadhi, in the place that now goes by the name of Shridhara Angan. During his lifetime, it was a banana orchard, which nowadays is no longer the case, at least not to our mortal eyes. During this incarnation, Shridhara played the role of a poor Brahmin who made his living selling the produce of his banana garden. In order to keep the memory of Shridhara Pandit alive, the founder of the world-wide Chaitanya and Gaudiya Maths, Nitya-lila-pravishöa Om Vishnupada Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada, discovered and revealed this site of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes. Deity worship was established there and it continued until after Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur’s disappearance. Now, because of problems with local people, the place is once again losing its beauty. Even so, during the Nabadwip parikrama, devotees still pay their obeisances at that spot to the memory of Shridhara Pandit.
Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has written as follows in his Nabadvipa-dhama-mahatmya: “Shridhara Pandit’s home comes after the weavers’ neighborhood. Gauranga Mahaprabhu ended the kirtan there.” Nityananda Prabhu says the following to Jiva Goswami:
“Out of his mercy, Mahaprabhu Gauranga Hari would end the kirtan here so that the devotees could rest. It is therefore known as vishrama-sthana, or the Lord’s place of rest. So let us also repose a while here at the house of Shridhara Pandit.” (Nabadwip-dhama-mahatmya)
According to this same book, there was previously a large tank near Shridhara’s banana orchard, but this too is no longer visible.
Material wealth and prosperity are not the truest signs of the Lord’s mercy on someone. Those who worship the gods and goddesses are generally seen to prosper materially, but one who is rich in the wealth of devotion to the Lord is the one who has truly benefited from his mercy. Mahaprabhu gave this teaching to his associates through Shridhara Pandit: a devotee of Vishnu is free from attachments to material possessions and enjoyments.
One day, the Lord went to Shridhara’s place and asked him why he was so poor. He was worshiping the husband of the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, and yet he never had enough money for food or clothing, and his house was dilapidated. On the other hand, those who worshiped the bloodthirsty Kali always seemed to have an abundance of material wealth. Shridhara answered that a bird who made its nest in the trees and wandered from place to place to find food was passing the time of day in the same way as a king in his palace who enjoyed the best objects of gratification. There was no difference of degree or amount of pleasure experienced by the two. The Lord then said to Shridhara: “Externally, though you appear to be poor, you are actually the true rich man. I will shortly reveal to the entire foolish world that the devotee is qualified to possess the greatest wealth, indeed they are the owners of all things.”
Generally we call that person poor or unfortunate who is deprived of wealth, possessions and a home. One who has these things is called rich or fortunate. People try to accumulate wealth in order to find happiness, and not the opposite. This happiness is the real wealth, not the external possessions, etc. Shri Krishna is the personification of happiness. Thus in actual fact, the difference between wealth and poverty: the one who has love for Krishna is rich; one who does not is poor. By way of example, during Krishna’s lila, Vidura played the part of a poor man, but one who was rich in love for Krishna. On the other hand, Duryodhana possessed unlimited riches but had no love for Krishna, and thus was truly poor. The supreme lord used Kholabeca Shridhara to show the world who was truly wealthy and fortunate. The Lord is conquered by loving devotion alone, and by nothing else.
bhaktyaham ekaya grahyah shraddayatma priyah satam |
bhaktih punati man-nishöha shvapakan api sambhavat ||
Being very dear to the saintly, I am only attained through devotion and unflinching faith. Devotion fixed on me purifies even a dog-eater from all faults due to low birth and circumstances such as poverty. (Shrimad Bhagavatam 11.14.21)
patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati |
tad aham bhakty-upahritam ashnami prayatatmanah ||
I accept whatever anyone offers me with devotion, whether it be a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, because of his pure consciousness. (Bhagavad-gita 6.29)
The Lord accepts whatever is given to him with devotion and eats it, but does not accept that which is given by a non-devotee. He would not accept the invitation to eat the finest, most expensive foods with Duryodhana in order to take a humble meal prepared for him by Vidura and his wife.
The Lord steals Shridhara’s goods
The Supreme Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu showed the amazing pastime of hungrily taking Shridhara’s foodstuffs without even being invited to do so. While the Lord was engaged in his student pastimes, Shridhara used to make his living by selling banana flowers (moca) and the core of the banana plant (thoria). He would spend half of whatever little money he made in this way on worshiping the Ganges, the other half on his own necessities. Like Yudhisthira, he was a great devotee of the truth and would always tell the real price of an item he would sell. Everyone in Nabadwip knew this and so would not haggle with him. But Mahaprabhu would come to Shridhara and give him only half the amount that he was asking for his bananas, banana flowers or thoria and then start to walk away with them. Every day, the two of them would pull back and forth on a bunch of bananas or something else, arguing for an hour or more over the price that was to be paid.
Every day they would argue for an hour and a half; then Mahaprabhu would leave half the asked price and walk away with the goods. Shridhara would always tell the truth and give the real price of each item, but the Lord would still only give him half of the amount he asked for and then take it. Shridhara would jump up and grab the item, trying to take it back, even pushing and shoving the Lord. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.9.163-5)
Even though he argued with Shridhara, when he saw that he did not become angry, he would take all the goods that he was selling. Even though this is the way that it looks from a superficial point of view, the fact of the matter is that when Shridhara saw the beautiful form of the Lord, he allowed him to get away with stealing his goods without getting angry. At the sight of the Lord’s beauty, he would become enchanted and immersed in an ocean of joy. While arguing with him, Mahaprabhu would call him names in great satisfaction, sometimes subtly hinting at his own divine identity:
“Every day you buy things to offer to the Ganga. Why don’t you just give something to me without charging anything? Don’t you know that I am the father of the Ganga that you worship. I am telling you the truth about this!” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.9.178-9)
They finally came to a settlement and Shridhara agreed to daily give Mahaprabhu some bananas or other items from the banana tree for free. From then on, the Lord would daily eat with great satisfaction from the little bowls made of banana bark that had been given to him by Shridhara.
The Lord said, “Alright, alright. There is no necessity for anything else.” And from that day on, he ate with great contentment on banana leaves given him by Shridhara. The Lord thus eats anything that the devotee offers him, but he rejects even rich items given him by a non-devotee. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.9.184-6)
Shridhara blessed at the maha-prakasha
On that eventful night when the Lord sat on the altar in Shrivasa’s home and revealed his divine form to his devotees for 21 hours, showing them all the different incarnations of Vishnu, one after the other, he told them to bring Shridhara there also. Shridhara would regularly stay up the whole night chanting the Holy Names and calling out to the Lord. This was a source of happiness to the devotees, but the non-devotees would complain that he was keeping them awake with his noise and they would regularly criticize and rebuke him. As the devotees were going to his house on the Lord’s order, they could hear him chanting loudly from a considerable distance prior to arriving.
When he came to Shrivasa Angan, Shridhara beheld the glorious divine form of the Lord and fell to the ground in a faint. He was brought back to consciousness by the Lord’s voice and then, with the power that was given him through the Lord’s mercy, began to recite hymns of glorification. Satisfied with Shridhara’s hymns of praise, Mahaprabhu wished to give him the eight mystic powers3 as a benediction, but Shridhara refused, saying that he only wanted service to the Lord’s lotus feet.
Lord Vishvambhara repeatedly urged Shridhara to ask for a boon. Finally Shridhara said, “Lord, if you must give me something, then I ask for this. May that Brahmin who used to pinch my banana leaves and bark be my lord, lifetime after lifetime. May that Brahmin who used to argue with me be my master, and I serve his lotus feet.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.9.223-5)
Who can recognize all these servants of the Lord who want neither wealth, nor followers, nor even scholarship. Of what use are learning, wealth, beauty, fame or high birth? All of these things simply increase one’s pride and are ultimately valueless. A millionaire may try for millions of eons to achieve what Shridhara did, simply by selling bananas and banana products, and still not be able to do so. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.9.233-5)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur comments on these verses as follows: “Through empirical knowledge or external analysis, no one can recognize the true character of a devotee. It should not be thought that the ability to collect great amounts of money is a function of devotion, nor that someone who is able to accumulate a great number of followers is a better Vaishnava than someone who cannot. Furthermore, if someone is a great religious scholar, this does not mean that he is a devotee of the Lord. A servant of Shri Chaitanya might have very little money, may show no signs of having a great number of followers, and may have no talent for argument or debate, and ordinary people are unable to understand why he is indifferent to these externals. These devotees consider service to Shri Chaitanya to be something more valuable than the accumulation of wealth, followers or learning. Thus, there is no possibility of the depth of their wisdom, their glories and their superiority being perceived by the general public.”
Who is capable of recognizing a devotee? He may possess all perfections, but we see only his poverty. The seller of banana products, Shridhara Pandit, is a living example of this. He disregarded the eight mystic perfections in order to simply accept devotion as a benediction. However much misery you see in a devotee’s life, you should know that in fact he is enjoying divine pleasure in devotional service. Those who are absorbed in sense gratification and intoxicated by learning or wealth can never recognize a Vaishnava. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.9.238-41)
Mahaprabhu drinks from Shridhara’s waterpot
When Mahaprabhu was leading the sankirtan party after having delivered Chand Kazi, he returned through the quarter of the conch shell merchants and that of the weavers to arrive finally at Shridhara Pandit’s house. He then took a long drink of water from Shridhara’s old, beaten iron water pot. When Shridhara saw Mahaprabhu do this, he was mortified and fell unconscious.
Mahaprabhu’s action was meant to teach us that by drinking a devotee’s water, we can attain devotion. He wanted to show that the water from a devotee’s water jug, even though it is old and rusty, is still like nectar to the Supreme Lord himself. By way of contrast, He ignores the proud non-devotee’s water, even when offered in a jeweled goblet.
When the Lord saw Shridhara’s tumbledown shack of a home from a distance, he laughed quietly from the inner joy he felt. He led the company of devotees along the path to Shridhara’s hut, where he spotted an iron water pot full of holes. There was still a little water in it, and the Lord drank it thirstily. The Lord is bhakta-vatsala, ever affectionate toward his devotees, and this act overwhelmed him with feelings of love. Tears poured from his eyes like the currents of the Ganga, and a wonderful kirtan began in Shridhara’s courtyard in which all the devotees led by Nityananda and Advaita Prabhus were crying. Ah, when I think of the great joy they all experienced on that day here at Shridhara’s house, my heart is torn. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.3136-41)
The Lord drank water from Shridhara’s iron water pot and he fulfilled the desires of every single devotee. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.17.70)
On the very day before he took sannyas, Mahaprabhu happily accepted a gift of a gourd from Shridhara. Sachi Mata cooked the gourd with milk, making one of the Lord’s favorite preparations.
The pious Shridhara came to see the Lord carrying a gourd (lau). When Gaurasundara saw the gift he laughed and asked, “Where did you get it?” But he knew that he would be leaving the next day and would not be able to eat it then. But he did not want to see the gift go unused and so he determined to have it prepared that very day. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.28.33-6)
After taking sannyas, Mahaprabhu wandered in the land of Rarha for three days in a intoxicated state of love for Krishna until Nityananda tricked him to coming to Shantipur to Advaita Acharya’s house. When the Lord met Sachi Mata and the other Nabadwip devotees, he also met with Shridhara. Shridhara came every year to Puri to meet with the Lord at the time of the Rathayatra.
Shri Vakresvara Pandit
vyuhas turyo’niruddho yah sa vakreshvara-panditah /
krishnaveshaja-nrityena prabhoh sukham ajijanat //
sahasra-gayakan mahyam dehi tvam karuna-maya /
iti chaitanya-pade sa uvaca madhuram vacah /
sva-prakasha-vibhedena shashirekha tam avishat //
Vakresvara Pandit is the fourth member of the catur-vyuha, Aniruddha.He brought happiness to the lord by dancing in the mood of Krishna. He would sweetly say to Mahaprabhu, “O merciful lord! Give me a thousand singers so that I can dance.” Radha’s dear sakhi Sasirekha also entered into him. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 71)
Shri Vakresvara Pandit revealed such great potency that he danced non-stop for three days. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami wrote the following about Vakresvara Pandit:
Vakresvara Pandit is the Lord’s dear servant, who danced without rest for seventy-two hours. Mahaprabhu himself sang as he danced when Vakresvara fell down at his feet and said, “O moon-faced lord! Give me ten thousand Gandharvas. I will be happy if I can dance while they sing. The Lord answered, “You are like a wing. If I had another like you, I would be able to fly in the sky!” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.17-20)
Vakresvara and Devananda Pandit
He was also present at the houses of Shrivasa and Chandrasekhara, where he would also dance during kirtan. Vakresvara was so dear to Mahaprabhu that when Devananda Pandit was able to receive Mahaprabhu’s mercy by serving him. In this way he was able to become free of the offenses he had made to Shrivasa Pandit. Mahaprabhu explained how to atone for offenses to the Vaishnavas in answer to a Brahmin’s question.
Listen, Brahmin, if someone eats poison then he must take ambrosia through the very same mouth. Then the poison will be digested and the body will become immortal by the power of the divine ambrosia. Now let me answer your question. Whatever blasphemies you have unknowingly made are exactly like poison which you have eaten. Now you must use the same mouth to constantly glorify Krishna’s name and qualities, which are like ambrosia. You have used this mouth to insult the devotees, now use it to glorify them. Glorify the devotees as the best of humanity, glorify them in songs and poetry. I will destroy all the poison of blasphemy through the ambrosia of the ecstasies of Krishna’s glories. You have all unknowingly committed offenses; this is the truth. If you should stop all kinds of offensive activity and simply engage in praising Krishna and his devotees, then you will be free from all the sins you have committed, however numerous they may be. You will not be able to achieve the same results by millions of atonements. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.3.449-458)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur comments: “An offensive person will only attain auspiciousness if he uses the mouth through which he made his blasphemous comments to acknowledge his offense and then to glorify Krishna and his devotees. If you take poison it will disrupt the body’s functioning, but you can remedy the situation by taking a medicine that destroys its effects. Similarly, the way to become free from the poisonous effects of Vaishnava-ninda is to first of all stop; then, rather than performing thousands of other ineffective atonement rituals, one should glorify the Vaishnava.
“Through serving the devotee, Kuliya’s Devananda Pandit became a believer in Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet. This good fortune visited him when Vakresvara came to stay in his house. Devananda was a follower of the smarta path, but was nevertheless a great scholar and very renounced. He read no scripture other than the Bhagavatam. He was devoted to the Supreme Lord and was free from the domination of his senses. Nevertheless, he was not a believer in Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. By Vakresvara’s mercy, this foolish misunderstanding was dispelled and he developed faith in the lord.”(Gaudiya-bhashya to Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.3.453, 481)
Vakresvara Pandit was very dear to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Anyone who remembers him will purify the entire creation. He is the embodiment of Krishna prema and the gods and the demons would all become enchanted by his dancing. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.3.469-70)
Mahaprabhu himself described Vakresvara’s glories to Devananda Pandit:
The Lord said, “You have served Vakresvara, therefore I have come to know you. Vakresvara Pandit is the Lord’s complete energy and whoever pays homage to him attains Krishna. Krishna has made his home in Vakresvara’s heart. Krishna dances in order to make Vakresvara dance. If any place becomes associated with Vakresvara, it immediately becomes the equivalent of Vaikuntha and equal to all the holy places. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.3.493-6)
When Mahaprabhu had absolved Devananda of his offenses, then he instructed him with great affection. Those vain egoists who are proud of their scholarship cannot understand the meaning of the Bhagavatam; that is the prerogative of those who are surrendered, the sharanagata. The only object of the Bhagavatam is to elucidate pure devotion; it is not different from the pure devotee. One is the book Bhagavatam, the other is the person Bhagavatam. One who speaks from the Bhagavatam with this knowledge will attain the supreme auspiciousness.
One who thinks, “I understand the Bhagavatam” does not really know the Bhagavatam’s central meaning. On the other hand, an ignorant person who takes shelter of the Bhagavatam will directly perceive its meaning. The Bhagavatam is pure love, it is the incarnation of Krishna himself. It recounts Krishna’s most intimate activities. After recounting the Vedas and the Puranas, Vedavyasa felt unsatisfied, but as soon as the Bhagavatam manifested on his tongue, his mind was immediately satisfied. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.3.514-8)
Gopal Guru Goswami
When Vakresvara came to live at Puri, he would accompany Mahaprabhu, Advaita Acharya and other devotees to Tota Gopinath to hear Gadadhara Pandit give discourses on the Bhagavatam. One should hear the book Bhagavatam from the devotee Bhagavatam.
Gopal Guru Goswami was Vakresvara Pandit’s disciple. Gopal Guru’s previous name was Makaradhvaja Pandit; his father’s name was Murari Pandit. It is said that Gopal Guru also displayed extraordinary powers. In his childhood, Gopal Guru personally served Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. When Abhirama Thakur came to pay him obeisances, Mahaprabhu took him on his lap to protect him. Mahaprabhu gave Gopal the name Guru because he instructed people to chant Krishna’s names in all circumstances, whether pure or impure.
Before leaving his body, Gopal Guru turned over the service of his Krishnakanta deity to his disciple, Dhyanachandra Goswami. After his death, when Gopal Guru’s body was taken to the Svarga-dvara to be cremated, some representatives of the king came and closed the Radhakanta Math. Dhyanachandra was so distressed that he began to cry aloud. Gopal Guru arose from the funeral pyre, returned to Radhakanta’s temple and resolved the problem before going back to the crematorium. Even after that, however, Gopal Guru appeared in Vrindavan, where devotees were amazed to witness him engaged in his devotions. A murti of Gopal Guru is still worshiped at Radhakanta Math. Most of Vakresvara Pandit’s disciples’ descendants in Orissa consider themselves to be Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
During Rathayatra at Puri, Vakresvara was the chief dancer in the fourth kirtan sampradaya whose lead singer was Govinda Ghosh. He is sometimes described as a branch of Chaitanya, or as a branch of Gadadhara Pandit.
Vakresvara’s disappearance day is the sixth day of the waxing moon in the month of Asharh.
Shri Devananda Pandit
purananam artha-vetta shri devananda-panditah /
purasin nanda-parishat-pandito bhandarir munih //
The scholar Devananda Pandit knew the meaning of all the Puranas. Previously, he was Bhandari Muni, the scholar in Nanda Maharaj’s court. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 106)
Mahaprabhu went to the dyke of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya’s father, Mahesvara Visharada. Devananda Pandit’s house was situated there. He was a peaceful Brahmin who desired moksha, liberation. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.21.6-7)
The Lord delivered Devananda Pandit in the town of Kuliya. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.153)
According to Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, Kuliya was a suburb of Nabadwip situated on the west bank of the Ganges. In that time, the central part of the town of Nabadwip, i.e., Mayapur, was situated on the eastern bank of the river. The modern city of Nabadwip is on the site of the former Kuliya, which is also called “the place where offenses are forgiven” (aparadha-bhanjaner paöa). Proof of this is found in many of the old names of neighborhoods, such as Koler Ganj, Koler Daha, Gadkhali Kol, etc. (Gaudiya-bhashya to Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.9.98)
Each of the nine islands of Nabadwip Dhama represents one of the nine types of devotional service. Koladvipa is the island of service to the Lord’s lotus feet (padasevana). The word kola has been distorted into the popular speech as kuliya.
Just look--this is Visharada’s embankment. Here the Lord met Devananda Pandit. He chastised him for the offense he had committed to Shrivasa Pandit, which caused him to repent. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.2976-7)
From the above evidence from Chaitanya Bhagavat, Chaitanya Charitamrita and Bhakti-ratnakara, it is clear that Devananda Pandit’s house, was somewhere near to the house of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya’s father, Mahesvara Visharada. It is thus clearly indicated that his school (öol) was situated somewhere in Kuliya village.
Devananda Pandit was a scholar, an ascetic who was indifferent to the world from an early age. Although he had a reputation for being erudite, he nevertheless had no feeling for devotion to Krishna and so failed to understand that bhakti was the ultimate purport of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Being a mumukshu, or one who seeks impersonal liberation, moksha, Devananda Pandit praised dry austerities and renunciation, and did not glorify devotional service in his discourses on the Bhagavatam.
One day, Shrivasa Pandit came to hear a Bhagavatam recital at Devananda’s house. As he listened to the text of the Bhagavatam, Shrivasa Pandit became absorbed in a mood of loving devotion and started to cry. Devananda Pandit’s faithless disciples threw him out of the assembly for causing a disturbance. Since Devananda did not object to the action of his students, he was responsible for an offense to a devotee. For this reason, Mahaprabhu was angry with him.
The Lord says: “Whoever recites the Bhagavatam without glorifying devotional service is an ignorant fool who knows nothing. This rascal recites the Bhagavatam and never mentions bhakti. I will go and tear up his manuscript, just watch me. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.21.20-21)
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur comments on this verse as follows: “When those who are bereft of devotional service forget their actual identity, they become completely indifferent to such service. When they identify this indifference as the ultimate goal of life, they become a source of profound irritation to the Lord, even though he is by nature supremely merciful. Here he reveals that irritation and informs us that this attitude of the non-devotee is not only unnecessary but detestable. He also indicates that both the acts of enjoying and renouncing the fruits of material actions are improper. The devotees find great satisfaction in seeing the Lord become angry in this way.”
Devananda gains faith in the Lord
Some time after Devananda Pandit committed this offense to Shrivasa Pandit, Mahaprabhu passed nearby his house and saw that he was engaged in giving a discourse on the Bhagavatam. He became angry and rebuked him severely for his lack of faith in the Vaishnavas. Just as blasphemy of the devotees is the best way to be deprived of the Lord’s mercy and destined for downfall, one can seek out the mercy of the Lord and become freed from all one’s sinful activities by glorifying the devotees and engaging in their service.
“Listen, Brahmin, if someone eats poison then he must take ambrosia through the very same mouth to counteract it. Then the poison will be digested and the body will become immortal by the power of the divine ambrosia.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.3.449-50)
It was through great good fortune that Mahaprabhu’s dear associate, Vakresvara Pandit came to stay at Devananda Pandit’s house. Because Devananda took excellent care of Vakresvara, Mahaprabhu softened towards him. Previously, Devananda had been completely without any faith in the Lord, but when he heard of Mahaprabhu’s glories from the mouth of Vakresvara, his attitude changed. Through the association of the Lord’s devotee, he began to develop a taste for pure devotional service.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur writes in this regard, “For Devananda Pandit of Kuliya, the fruit of service to the Vaishnava was faith in Mahaprabhu’s lotus feet.Vakresvara Pandit’s visit to his house was the source of auspiciousness. Although he was a Smarta, Devananda Pandit was a great scholar and self-controlled. He studied nothing but the Shrimad Bhagavatam. He believed in God and had control of his senses, but was only lacking faith in Mahaprabhu. By the grace of Vakresvara Pandit, this faulty intelligence was wiped away and he became a believer in Lord Chaitanya.”
Devananda was a scholar of the Bhagavatam, but it was through the mercy of Vakresvara that he was able to understand the meaning of the Bhagavatam from Mahaprabhu. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.77)
Mahaprabhu told Devananda to explain the Bhagavatam in terms of devotional service. It was Devananda Pandit’s great fortune that he was able to receive the mercy of the Lord in the form of a chastisement.
Even so, Devananda Pandit was a great pious soul, for Mahaprabhu verbally punished him. The chastisement of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the greatest punya. Even if one should die from his punishment, he still goes to Vaikuntha. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.21.77-8)
Devananda received this mercy due to living in Kuliya or Koladvipa, the place where offenses are forgiven. Gopal Chapala was also forgiven his offenses in Kuliya.
His disappearance day is celebrated on the krishna ekadashi of the month of Paush.
The Ghosh brothers
kalavati rasollasa gunatunga vraje sthitah |
shri-vishakha-kritam gitam gayanti smadya ta matah |
govinda-madhavananda-vasudeva yatha-kramam ||
Govinda, Madhava and Vasudeva were three gopis in Vraja, namely Kalavati, Rasollasa and Gunatunga, who used to sing the songs composed by Vishakha. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 188)
These three brothers were born in an upper class kayastha family from northern Rarha. All three were singers famed for the sweetness of their voices.
The meritorious Madhava Ghosh devoted himself to kirtan. There was no singer on earth who was his equal. It was said of him that he was a singer from Vrindavan. He was most dear to Nityananda Prabhu. The three brothers, Govinda, Madhava and Vasudeva began to sing while Lord Nityananda danced. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.5.257-9)
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu danced to the kirtan of the three brothers, Govinda, Madhava and Vasudeva. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.15.115)
When Nityananda returned to Gaudadesha to preach, he was accompanied by Vasudeva and Madhava Ghosh. Meanwhile Govinda remained in Nilachala with Mahaprabhu.
Govinda is counted amongst the branches of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.118). Eventually, he made his home in Agradvipa, Vasudeva in Tamluk, and Madhava Ghosh in Dain Hat.4 Govinda Ghosh Thakur’s house is not far from Agradvipa in Kashipura Vishnutala. Some are of the opinion that Vaishnavatala was his birthplace. Govinda Ghosh participated in Mahaprabhu’s lilas in Shrivasa Angan, in the nagara-sankirtan to the Kazi’s house, and in the house of Raghava Pandit. During the Rathayatra festival, he was the lead singer in the fourth kirtan group, accompanied by his two brothers, Junior Hari Das, Vishnu Das and Raghava Pandit. Vakresvara Pandit joined this group as the principal dancer.
On Mahaprabhu’s direction, Govinda revealed the Gopinath deity from a black stone in Agradvipa. Mahaprabhu also instructed him to get married. The story goes that Govinda Ghosh’s wife and son both died untimely. As he grew older, Govinda began to wonder who would perform the last rites for him, as it is considered important for one to have a son who can do the shraddha ceremony on his behalf. He had a dream in which Gopinath appeared to him and said, “Don’t worry about this. I will perform the shraddha ceremony for you myself.”
When Govinda Ghosh finally died, Gopinath offered the pinda on his behalf. Gopinath continues to perform this ceremony every year on the anniversary of Govinda Ghosh’s departure from this world. This takes place on the krishna trayodashi of the month of Chaitra. Vasudeva Ghosh’s disappearance day is on the second day of the waxing moon in the month of Karttik.
Two songs written by Govinda Ghosh
pranera mukunda he!
ki aji shunilu acambite?
kahite parana jaya mukhe nahi bahiraya
shri gauranga chariibe navadvipa ||
ihato na jani mo rasakale milinun gora
avanata mathe ache basi |
nijhare nayana jhare buka bahi dhara parie
malina haiyache mukha shashi ||
dekhite takhana prana sada kare ana cana
sudhaite nahi avasara |
kshaneka sambita haila tabe mui nivedila
shuniya dilena e uttara ||
ami ta vivasha haiya tare kichu na kahiya
dhaiya ailun tuwa pasha |
ei ta kahilun amije karite para tumi
mora nahi jivanera asha ||
shuniya mukunda kande hiya thira nahi bandhe
gadadharera vadana heriya |
e govinda ghosha kaya iha jena nahi haya
tabe muni jainu mariya ||
O Mukunda! My life! What did I suddenly hear today?
If I say it I will die... the words do not want to come out of my mouth. Gauranga is really going to leave Nabadwip.
We didn’t know this, but we saw Gora this morning; he was sitting with his head bowed in thought. Streams of tears flowed from his eyes and washed over his chest, and his moon-like face had lost its luster.
When we saw him like that, our own hearts fluttered and we could not ask him anything. For a moment I regained consciousness and humbly asked him the question and that is what he told me.
Becoming disturbed, I ran here to you right away without saying anything further to him. I have told you this and now do what you can. As far as we are concerned, I don’t think that we have any hope of continuing to live.
When he heard this, Mukunda started to cry. He could no longer keep his calm as he looked at Gadadhara. Govinda Ghosh says, Let it not be, for if he leaves, I will die.
hede re nadiya vasi kara mukha cao |
bahu pasariya goracande phirao ||
to sabare ke ara karibe nija kore |
ke jaciya dibe prema dekhiya katare ||
ki shela hiyaya haya ki shel hiyaya |
parana putali nabadvipa charii jaya ||
ara na jaiba mora gaurangera pasha |
ara na kariba mora kirtana vilasa ||
kandaye bhakata-gana buka vidariya |
pashana govinda ghosha na jaya miliya ||
O people of Nabadwip, at whom are you staring?
Spread your arms to stop Gora, make him come back!
Who is there now who will clasp you to his chest?
Who will come and beg you to take love of Krishna?
A shaft has pierced my heart! A shaft has pierced my heart!
The image of my life has abandoned Nabadwip and gone.
No longer will we be able to go and sit with Gauranga;
no longer will we be able to enjoy kirtan the way we did.
All the devotees are crying; their hearts are bursting
and, like a stone, Govinda Ghosh does not go to join them.
Shri Vishnupriya Devi
shri-sanatana-mishro’yam pura satrajito nripah |
vishnupriya jagan-mata yat-kanya bhu-svarupini ||
He who was King Satrajit in Krishna lila was Sanatan Mishra in Chaitanya lila. The mother of the universe, the incarnation of the Lord’s bhu-shakti, is his daughter Vishnupriya. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 47)
Krishna married Satyabhama, the daughter of King Satrajit and a Yadu princess. In Gaura lila, this same Satrajit became Sanatan Mishra and she became Vishnupriya Devi. All manifestations of Vishnu tattva have three energies, known as Shri, Bhu and Nila (or Lila). Lakshmipriya Devi is the shri-shakti of Mahaprabhu in his majestic Gaura-Narayan attitude; Vishnupriya is his bhu-shakti and Nabadwip Dham is his lila-shakti. Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami is the shakti of Gaura-Krishna, or Mahaprabhu in the mood of Krishna.
Knowledge is of two kinds, apara vidya or material knowledge, and para vidya, or transcendental knowledge. Vishnupriya Devi is the personification of transcendental knowledge. Devotees worship her on her appearance day on the shukla pancami of the month of Magh. On the same day, those materialistic persons who are seeking the perfection of knowledge of this world worship the goddess of learning, Saraswati.
Vishnupriya Devi’s grandfather was Durga Das Mishra. Some people believe that Durga Das was Vishnupriya’s father. In the Prema-vilasa, the family of Durga Das Mishra’s descendants through Yadavacharya is known as Vishnupriya’s parivara.
Mahaprabhu’s marriage to Vishnupriya Devi
Vrindavan Das Thakur describes the birth of Gaura-Narayan’s shakti, Vishnupriya Devi, in his Chaitanya Bhagavat. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has also mentioned the event in his Chaitanya Charitamrita.
In the Adikhanda, the death of Mahaprabhu’s first wife is described, and then his second marriage to the daughter of the court pandit. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.1.110)
Then he was married to Vishnupriya Thakurani, after which he defeated the Digvijayi Pandit. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.16.25)
For the materialistic person, the marriage of a man and woman is the source of bondage. When the Lord marries in imitation of ordinary mortals, it becomes a something quite different: it is a transcendental affair. By chanting and hearing about the union of the Supreme Lord with his divine energy, one is liberated from the material energy.
Whoever hears about the holy pastime of the Lord’s marriage will be liberated from his bondage to this world. Lakshmi sat beside the Lord and the house of Sachi was filled with light. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.10.110-1)
Whoever saw the Lord’s effulgent form on that day was freed from his or her sins and went to Vaikuntha. This is why the Lord is known as the merciful lord of the fallen. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.15.216-7)
Mahaprabhu spent an inordinate time absorbed in teaching his students on a trip to eastern Bengal, and Lakshmipriya Devi found it impossible to support his absence. So, meditating on his lotus feet, she departed from this world. When Mahaprabhu finally arrived back in Nabadwip, he consoled his mother who was deeply affected by the loss of her daughter-in-law. Sachi Mata then started looking for another wife for her son and consulted Kashinatha Pandit for that purpose. Kashinatha was a well-known matchmaker who is described in Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika (50) as having been the Brahmin in Krishna lila named Kulaka who was sent by Satrajit to arrange the marriage between his daughter Satyabhama and Krishna. He then went to the court pandit Sanatan Mishra to arrange the marriage between Mahaprabhu and his daughter, the devotionally minded Vishnupriya. Kashinatha said the following to Sanatan Mishra:
“Give your daughter to Vishvambhara Pandit; it is a perfect combination. She alone is worthy of such a divine husband, while he deserves such a pious and chaste wife. Just as Krishna and Rukmini were worthy of each other, so are Vishnupriya and Nimai Pandit.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.15.57-59)
From her early childhood, Vishnupriya Devi was always devoted to her parents and to Vishnu, taking her bath in the Ganges three times daily. She regularly saw mother Sachi there, paying obeisances and being blessed by her. In this way, Sachi already knew Vishnupriya’s good qualities, and so was happy to agree to accept her as a wife for her son.
Buddhimanta Khan was a rich and wise friend of Nimai’s family who volunteered to bear the entire expense of his marriage. Once it had been decided that Vishnupriya and Vishvambhara would be married, an auspicious day and moment were fixed for the ceremony. With great pomp, the adhivasa rituals were carried out on the eve of the marriage. The Lord arrived at Sanatan Mishra’s house in a palanquin at dusk and Gaura and Vishnupriya’s wedding ceremony was performed according to both scriptural and popular traditions.
On the following day, Vishnupriya joined her new husband on the palanquin and returned with him to his house. If one hears the eternal pastime of the wedding of Lakshmi and Narayan, then he loses his desire for the material relationship of enjoyer and enjoyed, for one comes to understand that Narayan alone is the supreme enjoyer of the entire universe. Buddhimanta Khan was fulfilled by receiving Mahaprabhu’s embrace and mercy. Vrindavan Das Thakur has further written the following about the wedding:
Some people of the pious women said, “They remind me of Gauri and Shiva.” Others said, “It seems that they are Lakshmi and Narayan.” Yet others said, “No, they rather resemble Rati and Kamadeva.” Some compared them to Indra and Sachi, and others to Rama and Sita. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.15.205-8)
Vishnupriya Devi after Nimai’s sannyas
When Mahaprabhu left home to go to Katwa and take sannyas, he was only 24 years old. Lochan Das Thakur has described Vishnupriya’s terrible feelings of separation in the days that followed his departure in the Chaitanya Mangala:
The earth splits from the sound of Vishnupriya’s crying: the birds and beasts, even the trees and stones shed tears when they heard it. Falling to the ground she would lament, crying out “Why does my sinful life not end?” In separation, her breath was like fire, drying her lips and her body trembled constantly. (Cm 2.14.15-6)
The Advaita-prakasha also describes how Vishnupriya lived her life in terrible separation from the Lord after his departure. Every morning, she would go for her bath in the Ganges with mother Sachi, after which she spent the entire day inside the house, never allowing the moon or the sun to see her form. Not even the devotees were allowed to see anything more than her feet, nor would anyone ever hear her voice. Constantly shedding tears and eating only Mother Sachi’s remnants, she became pale and thin. She took intense delight in the Holy Name, chanting all day long in solitude before a portrait of Gauranga, serving it as though he were present in it and surrendering herself to his lotus feet. In this way, she demonstrated the ideal character of a devoted wife as well as the forbearance spoken of by the Lord in his verse, trinad api sunicena taror iva sahishnuna, etc.
Shrinivas Acharya received Vishnupriya Devi’s blessing. He personally witnessed her devotion to Mahaprabhu in separation. Narahari Chakravarti has described this in his Bhakti-ratnakara:
Every day Shrinivas would come to see her. He observed her daily activities, which are beyond description. She had completely renounced sleep, and if ever she closed her eyes, it would be while lying on the bare ground. Her bodily luster, which had formerly glowed more brilliantly than gold, had become dull and she was as thin as the waning moon on its fourteenth day. She set aside grains of rice to count the Holy Names she chanted, and would cook only this rice and offer it to her Lord. Of this amount, she would only eat a small portion. No one understood how she could remain alive. (Bhakti-ratnakara 4.47-51)
Jahnava Devi’s disciple Nityananda Das has also described the standard Vishnupriya Devi set for bhajan in his Prema-vilasa.
Listen, brothers, to the way which Isvari Vishnupriya would take the names of the Lord. By listening to this, you will get a feeling for the lila. Every day she would place two clay pots on either side of her, one filled with uncooked rice, the other empty. Each time she completed one mantra of sixteen names and thirty-two syllables, she would joyfully place a grain of rice into the empty container. She would chant in this way until three o’clock in the afternoon, and then would take whatever rice had accumulated and cook it. This is the only food that she prepared, drenching it with her tears before she offered it to the Lord.
It is not possible to estimate how many names Mahaprabhu himself chanted, but he chanted all day and night. Similarly, his beloved wife Vishnupriya chanted incessantly through the day and the night. Such dedication to the Holy Name was not impossible for her, for the Lord had planted the seed of his power in her.
It is said that Vishnupriya Devi was the first to establish worship of a murti of Gauranga. This has been stated in Murari Gupta’s kariaca:
samipam asadya nijam hi murtim |
vidhaya tasyam sthita esha krishnah
sa lakshmi-rupa ca nishevate prabhum ||
Krishna came to his beloved wife in this expansion form to remain by her side as the Mahaprabhu deity. Thus she, the incarnation of the goddess of fortune, was able to serve him constantly.
The devotees of Mahaprabhu sometimes said that just as Ramachandra, who had taken the vow of monogamy, performed a sacrifice to a golden Sita that he had had made during his exile in the forest rather than marry a second time, so Vishnupriya repaid her debt to her Lord in the pastimes of Gaura-Narayan by having an image of Mahaprabhu created so she could perform the sacrifice of the Holy Name to him. This deity is still present and worshiped in Nabadwip.
Shri Vamsivadana Thakur and Ishan Thakur were blessed by the service of taking care of Vishnupriya Devi and Sachi Devi after Mahaprabhu took sannyas.
Shri Ishan Thakur
Ishan Thakur is counted as one of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s branches:
Shrinath Mishra, Subhananda, Shri Rama, Ishan, Shrinidhi, Shri Gopikanta, Bhagavan Mishra [were branches of Chaitanya’s tree]. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.110)
Ishan Thakur5 was Jagannath Mishra’s household servant. Only an eternal associate of the Supreme Lord could have the good fortune to render him personal service in his own home. The Lord accepts the service of his own confidential associates. When Mahaprabhu was born, Ishan had the chance to take the Lord on his lap and to hold him affectionately. He tolerated all of little Nimai’s childhood pranks and answered his every whim. Nimai was unable to go without Ishan for even a moment.
How can I understand the activities of Ishan Thakur, whom Nimai used to lovingly call “father”? The son of Sachi, Nimai Chand, was his very life and Nimai would not go anywhere without him. In his childhood, Nimai was very naughty and he would make all kinds of capricious demands that Ishan would do his best to fulfill. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.95-7)
Ishan Thakur also had the chance to serve Nityananda Prabhu, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s other self. Before the two sat down to eat in Sachi’s house, Ishan Thakur would bring water to wash their feet. The Lord would plea with his mother to be able to invite Nitai and when she finally agreed would go himself to invite him.
Ishan gave water for Gaura and Nitai to wash their feet and then they sat down to eat. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.8.59)
As one of the Lord’s eternal associates, Ishan Thakur was fully aware of his divine nature. He knew that the worship of the devotee is more important than even the worship of the Lord himself. Thus he performed all kinds of service to Sachi Devi, who is none other than Yashoda Devi and was blessed by her affection. The Lord too blesses his devotees through his devotee’s merciful attitude. The Lord’s mercy follows upon the mercy of the devotee. Ishan Thakur glories are described in the work known as the Vaishnava-vandana:
vandiba ishana-dasa kara-joria kari /
shaci-öhakurani yare sneha kaila varii //
I pay obeisances to Ishan Das with folded hands, for Sachi Thakurani was very affectionate towards him. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.94)
The Brahmin said, “Look, here comes Ishan. What can I say, no one really understands his great qualifications. He has the reputation of knowing all the truths about the Lord, and he served Sachi by doing whatever she needed having done. Because he rendered such service to the Lord’s mother, Ishan is uniquely fortunate in the fourteen worlds. Even though I saw with my own eyes how much affection she had for him, I am unable to find the words to describe it. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.90-3)”
Ishan, most fortunate in the fourteen worlds, served the Lord’s mother constantly. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 2.8.74)
When Mahaprabhu took sannyas and left for Puri, Ishan was left with the responsibility of taking care of his mother Sachi and his wife Vishnupriya Devi and supervising their household. In his commentary to the Chaitanya Bhagavat (2.8.73), where it is said that Ishan Thakur did all the cleaning of the house, etc., Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur writes: “Ishan was the servant in Mahaprabhu’s house. He gathered up the rice that had been thrown all over [by Nityananda] and made the house proper. There was no limit to Ishan’s good fortune. He was able to render service to the Lord’s mother throughout his entire life. Even after the Lord took sannyas, he was engaged in the service of the Lord’s mother and his wife, showing the extent of the blessings he had received. He is therefore described as ‘most blessed’ or ‘the most fortunate amongst the blessed.’”
Ishan Thakur lived a very long life. He was still living even after the disappearance of Vishnupriya Devi and all the other devotees of Mahaprabhu in Nabadwip. Thus when Shrinivas Acharya, Narottama Thakur and Ramachandra Kaviraj came to Nabadwip on pilgrimage, only Ishan was able to show them where all the places of the Lord’s pastimes were. In the Bhakti-ratnakara, it is said that when Ishan showed these devotees the holy places, they were already old and in a state of disrepair. This gives some idea of how old he must have been.
Nearly everyone has disappeared from Nabadwip. No one but the Lord’s servant Ishan remains here. (Bhakti-ratnakara 11.721)
Shrinivas Acharya, Narottama Thakur and Ramachandra Kaviraj received Ishan Thakur’s blessings in Nabadwip Dham and were embraced by him before leaving to visit Shrikhanda where they met with Raghunandan Thakur. When they arrived there, they received the news that Ishan had died.
I heard from some people while on my way here that Ishan has disappeared. (Bhakti-ratnakara 13.21)
After Mahaprabhu and Sachi Mata had disappeared, Vamsivadanananda Thakur served Vishnupriya Devi and Ishan Thakur.
Shri Vamshivadanananda Thakur
*vamshi krishna-priya yasit sa vamshi-dasa-öhakkurah |
+++Vamshivadanananda Thakur was Krishna’s flute in Vraja. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 179)
The gopis praised the good fortune of Krishna’s flute, for he was able to constantly drink the nectar of Krishna’s lips. Everything in Vraja is spiritual, i.e., conscious, and so the flute could take human form as Shri Vamshivadanananda Thakur. His life story has been recounted by his grandson, Shrivallabha Das, in the book Vamshi-vilasa. Other books which contain details of his life are Shripaöa-paryaöana and Bhakti-ratnakara, and the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana also gives a brief biography.
Vamshivadanananda Thakur was known by five names in Gaudiya Vaishnava society: Vamshivadana, Vamshidas, Vamshi, Vadana, and Vadanananda. He was a well-known writer of devotional songs. His appearance took place on the day of the spring full moon (in the month of Chaitra) in either 1416 (according to Vamshi-shiksha) or 1427 of the Shaka era (1495 or 1506 AD.).
Vamshivadanananda’s home in Nabadwip
In the Shripaöa-paryaöana, the following information is given:
+++The two villages known as Kuliya and Pahariapura were side by side. Vamshivadana, Kavidatta and Saranga Thakur lived there. As the town grew, it was known as Kuliya Pahariapura.
Vamshivadanananda Thakur’s home was in Koladvipa, i.e., the present-day town of Nabadwip which was formerly known as Kuliya Pahariapura. Kuliya had four neighborhoods known as Teghari, Bneciyaria, Bedariaparia and Cinedanga. Shrikara Caööopadhyaya came from Bilvagrama to live in Bneciyaria. Amongst the descendants of Shrikara Caööopadhyaya was Yudhishöhira Caööopadhyaya who had three sons: Madhava Das (nicknamed Chakarii), Hari Das (Tinakarii) and Krishnasampatti (Dukarii) Caööopadhyaya. Chakarii Caööopadhyaya was Vamshivadana’s father. His mother’s name was Candrakala Devi. When Mahaprabhu passed through Kuliya on his trip through Bengal which ultimately ended at Kanair Naöashala, he stayed at Chakarii Caööopadhyaya’s house for seven days. During this time he gave his blessings to all the residents of Nabadwip and in particular to Devananda Pandit. This information comes from Kavi Karnapura’s Chaitanya-candrodaya Naöaka.
It is said that both Mahaprabhu and Advaita Acharya were present when Vamshivadanananda was born. After Mahaprabhu took sannyas, Vamshivadanananda was engaged as Sachi Mata and Vishnupriya’s servant and protector. When Shrinivas Acharya came to Nabadwip to see the Lord’s family, Vamshi embraced him emotionally. This is described in the Bhakti-ratnakara:
+++Though he had not been introduced, Vamshivadanananda guessed that this must be Shrinivas. He approached him and asked him who he was. Shrinivas told him everything about himself. Vamshivadanananda embraced him and washed his body with his tears. Shrinivas wanted to fall to the ground and pay obeisances to Vamshi Thakur, but Vamshi would not let him. He then went and told Vishnupriya Ishvari and Sachi Ma that Shrinivas had come. (Bhakti-ratnakara 4.20-24)
Vamshivadanananda Thakur lived as a householder. He had two sons, Chaitanya Das and Nityananda Das. His deity’s name was Pranavallabha. Later, at Vishnupriya Devi’s request, he established the worship of the Mahaprabhu deity. He also worshiped the Gopinath deity of his forefathers. He spent the last part of life in his ancestral village of Bilvagrama. The Bhattacharyas of that village are said to be his descendants.
Vamshivadanananda Thakur’s grandson, the son of Chaitanya Das, was named Shri Ramachandra or Ramai Thakur. He found deities of Rama and Krishna deities at Praskandana Tirtha in Vrindavan [FN: Praskandana Tirtha is the Yamuna ghaöa which is not far from Dvadashaditya Tila. It is said that when Krishna fought with Kaliya in the middle of the Yamuna, he caught cold in the water. When he came out, all the twelve Adityas appeared simultaneously and warmed him up. Krishna became so hot that he started to sweat. His sweat flowed down and merged with the water of the Yamuna at the place known as Praskandana Tirtha.] and then brought them to Baghna Paria in Burdwan district. They are known ar Shri-Rama-Kanai.
Vamshivadanananda Thakur’s family received the mercy of Jahnava Thakurani. The following comment is found in the Gaudiya magazine (22.30-37): <Jahnava Mata asked for Ramachandra to be given to her. She gave him initation and then took him to Khardaha where she taught him Vaishnava philosophy.>
A song by Vamshivadanananda
The following is a song written by Vamshivadanananda Thakur:
*ara na heriba prasara kapale alaka tilaka kaca /
*ara na heriba sonara kamale nayana khanjana naca //
*ara na nacibe shrivasa mandi bhakata cataka laiya /
*ara na nacibe apanara ghare amara dekhiba caiya //
*ara ki du’ bhai nimai nitai nacibe ek öhani /
*nimai kariya phukari sadai nimai kothao nai //
*nidaya keshava bharati asiya mathaya pariila baja /
*gauranga sundara na dekhi kemane rahiba nadiya maja //
*keba hena jana anibe ekhana amara gauranga raya /
*shashurii vadhura rodana shuniya vamshi gariagarii jaya //
+++No more will I see his broad forehead, decorated with tilaka and sandalwood dots;
no more will I see his eyes dance like hummingbirds in the golden lotus of his face.
No longer will he dance in Shrivasa’s house with his sparrow-like devotees;
no more will he dance in his own home, while looking upon me.
+++Will Nimai and Nitai, those two divine brothers ever dance together again?
I call out Nimai’s name, but Nimai is nowhere to be seen.
+++The heartless Keshava Bharati came and threw a thunderbolt on all of our heads.
How can we now stay in Nabadwip, now that we cannot see Gauranga here?
+++Who is there here who can now bring my Gauranga back?
When Vamshi hears his young wife and her mother-in-law crying,
he rolls on the ground in his pain.
Shrila Narahari Sarkar Thakur
pura madhumati prana-sakhi vrindavane sthita /
adhuna narahary-akhyah sarakarah prabhoh priyah //
She who was previously Radha’s intimate girlfriend named Madhumati is today Narahari Sarkar, the Lord’s dear associate. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 117)
Shrila Narahari Sarkar Thakur is counted as one of Chaitanya’s branches on the desire tree of pure devotional service. By Mahaprabhu’s desire, he took birth in a physician (vaidya) family, blessing his family by so doing. He was the Lord’s chief associate amongst the residents of the village of Shrikhanda. The Shrikhanda railway station is in Burdwan district four miles west of Katwa. Narahari’s home is about one mile from the station. Some of the other residents of Shrikhanda who were devotees of Lord Chaitanya were: Shri Mukunda, Shri Raghunandan, Shri Chiranjiva, Shri Sulocana, Shri Damodar Kaviraj, Shri Ramachandra Kaviraj, Shri Govinda Kaviraj, Shri Balaram Das, Shri Ratikanta, Shri Ramagopala Das, Shri Pitambara Das, Shri Sachinandana, Shri Jagadananda, etc. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami mentions many of these names as Chaitanya’s branches that generously distributed the fruits of love of God. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.78-9)
The scholar Bharat Mallik has written the following Sanskrit verses about Narahari’s appearance in a vaidya family in his book Candra-prabha:
shrikhanda-nama-nagari radhe bangeshu vishruta /
sarvesham eva vaidyanam ashrayo yatra vidyate //
yatra goshöhi-bhuta vaidya yah khando’bhud bhishak-priyah /
visheshatah kulinanam sarvesham eva vasa-bhuh //
In Bengal, in the area known as Rarha (Burdwan, Birbhum), there is a famous town known as Shrikhanda that gave shelter to all the physician clans. Since vaidyas gathered there, it became a favored residence for them, especially those who were of the most noble birth.
In the Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, it is stated that Narahari Sarkar Thakur appeared in either the Shaka year 1401 or 1402 (1479-80 AD). His father’s name was Shri Narayan Das, his mother Shri Goyi. Shri Goyi was the daughter of Murari Sena. Narayan Das had three sons, Mukunda, Madhava and Narahari. Raghunandan Thakur was Mukunda’s son. (Bhakti-ratnakara 11.730-1)
The author of Chaitanya Mangala, Locana Das, who came from the village of Kogram, near Jhamaöpur, was Narahari’s disciple. For this reason, Locana Das writes that Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami and Narahari Sarkar Thakur were Mahaprabhu’s dearest associates. On the other hand, in Chaitanya Bhagavat, Vrindavan Das Thakur has not spoken at any length about the devotees of Shrikhanda.
Shrila Locana Das Thakur has written the following about his guru in Chaitanya Mangala:
Narahari Das Thakur is my worshipable master. He possessed the power of the pure lineage of a family of physicians. His body was permeated by love for Krishna, and other than Krishna-prema, he taught nothing to those who were his disciples. He was previously known as Madhumati, one of Radha’s dearest sakhis in Vrindavan, a storehouse of sweetness. Now in the Age of Kali, with the appearance of Gauranga, he has become the keeper of the storehouse of love for Radha and Krishna.
After the death of his father Narayan, Narahari’s older brother Mukunda arranged for him to study in Nabadwip. It is said that Mukunda sometimes worked as the Shah’s family physician. Narahari quickly became very learned as well as a connoisseur of the flavors of devotional. Even before becoming Mahaprabhu’s associate, he composed songs glorifying Radha and Govinda’s pastimes. When Shrila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami was constantly by the Lord’s side, engaged in his service, Narahari had the good fortune to enter into his association. Narahari Sarkar Thakur’s personal service was to fan the Lord with the yaktail whisk. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Mahaprabhu’s personal representative, confirmed this in his Gaura-arati:
narahari adi kare camara dhulay /
sanjaya, mukunda, vasu ghosha adi gay //
Narahari and the other residents of Shrikhanda fanned with the camara, while Sanjaya, Mukunda and Vasu Ghosh sang.
Narahari wrote several books, including Bhakti-candrika-paöala, Shri-Krishna-bhajanamrita, Shri-chaitanya-sahasranama, Shri-Sachinandanashöaka, Shri-Radhashöaka, etc. All of these are well known and thought of highly by the devotees.
The following story is told about Narahari: Once when Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu came to his house in Shrikhanda, they suddenly expressed a desire for honey. Narahari demonstrated his miraculous powers by transforming the water in a pond near his house into honey. He quenched the Lords’ desire for honey with water from this pond, which has ever since been called Madhu-pushkarini. The Lord gave Narahari the order in a dream to install three deities of himself, which are currently worshipped in Shrikhanda, Katwa and Ganganagara.
Narahari Sarkar Thakur also participated in the Lord’s activities in Puri. He and the other residents of Shrikhanda would come every year with Shivananda Sena (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.132). After his pilgrimage to South India, when he had saved so many people by giving them love for Krishna, Mahaprabhu returned to Puri whence Nityananda sent his servant Kala Krishna Das back to Bengal to tell everyone of the Lord’s arrival. All the devotees immediately made arrangements to go to Jagannath Puri to see the Lord. The Khanda-vasis were amongst their number.
Mukunda, Narahari, and Raghunandan from Shrikhanda arrived at Advaita Acharya’s house to go to Nilachala. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.10.90)
After Jagannath’s Snana Yatra, Jagannath would be unavailable for darshan. Mahaprabhu would go to Alalanath during this time in search of relief from the feelings of separation do to not being able to see Jagannath. When Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya asked Gopinath Acharya to identify the Lord’s devotees, he mentioned the names of Narahari, Mukunda Das, Raghunandan, Chiranjiva and Sulochan. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.11.92)
During the Rathayatra festival, the Lord formed seven kirtan groups with the devotees from Bengal. One of these was composed uniquely of the devotees from Shrikhanda. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami writes that Narahari and Raghunandan were the dancers for this group, which sang separately from the others. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.13.46)
When the Lord gave all the devotees directions for service, he told Narahari to remain in the association of devotees. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.132)
Many people confuse the author of Bhakti-ratnakara, Narahari Chakravarti, with Narahari Sarkar Thakur. The former, who is also known as Ghanashyama Das, is a different person who was born in the district of Murshidabad. His father’s name was Jagannath Chakravarti and he was a disciple of Vishvanath Chakravarti. On Govindaji’s order, he was engaged as the cook for the Govinda temple and was known as the “cooking pujari” (rasuiya pujari) in Braj.
The following song was written by Narahari Sarkar Thakur:
aola gaura puna hi nadiya pura
hoyata manahi ullasa /
aiche ananda kanda kiye heraba
karabahi kirtana vilasa //
kaba hama heraba so mukha-c~ada /
viraha payodhi kabahu dina pan raba
öuöaba hridayaka bandha //
kundana kanaka panti keba heraba
yajna ki sutra viraja /
bahu-jugala tuli hari hari bolaba
naöana bhakata-gana majha //
eta kahi nayana mudi bahu saba jana
gaura prema bhela bhora /
narahari dasa asha kaba puraba
heraba gaura-kishora //
If Gaura came back to Nadia town, my mind would be filled with joy. Then I would see him, the source of all joy, performing his kirtan pastimes.
Hari Hari! When will I again gaze upon that moon-like face? When will that day come when the dam holding the ocean of separation in my heart breaks?
When will I see the golden form of the Lord, wrapped in his yajna-sutra? Lifting my arms in the air, I will shout “Hari! Hari!” and dance in the midst of the devotees.
Saying such things, many of Gaura’s devotees close their eyes and merge into love for him. When will Narahari’s desires be filled? When will he gaze again upon the form of the young Gaura?
Narahari disappeared in around 1540 AD. [Not according to his descendants, who say that he lived 100 years until 1578 or so.] in the month of Agrahayan on the krishna ekadashi day. Shrinivas Acharya officiated at his funeral ceremony. Nityananda Prabhu’s son Virachandra Goswami and many other important Vaishnavas were in Shrikhanda to celebrate Narahari’s disappearance feast, which is described in Bhakti-ratnakara:
Some people said, “Brothers! Do not leave right away. An ocean of prema will flood over in Shrikhanda in a few days. On the thirteenth day of the waning moon of Agrahayan, when Narahari Thakur disappeared, a great festival will be held here.” (Bhakti-ratnakara 9.512-4)
Shrila Raghunandan Thakur
vyuhas tritiyah pradyumnah priya-narma-sakho’bhavat |
cakre lila-sahayam yo radha-madhavayor vraje |
shri-chaitanyadvaita-tanuh sa eva raghunandanah ||
The third member of the catur-vyuha, Pradyumna, took part in Radha Madhava’s lila in Vraja as Krishna’s intimate friend or priya-narma-sakha. He has now appeared as Raghunandan, whose body is not different from that of Chaitanya. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 70)
Raghunandan’s father, Mukunda Das
Raghunandan was born into a family of physicians6 in the Shaka year 1432 (1510 AD). His father’s name was Mukunda Das, his mother’s name is unknown. Mukunda Das was Narahari Sarkar Thakur’s older brother. In the fifteenth chapter of the Madhya-lila of Chaitanya Charitamrita, it is clearly said that Mukunda Das was physician to the king.
Externally, he appears to be a physician to the king who is engaged in government service. But internally, he is filled with divine love. Who would be able to know his love? (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.120)
Once when Mukunda Das was engaged in treating the king, he saw a peacock feather and fainted. This incident is also described in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (2.15.121ff). His home was in Shrikhanda, a village in Burdwan district. On the Katwa-Burdwan rail line, the first station west of Katwa is Shripat Shrikhanda, and the second Shrikhanda. Mukunda Das’s home is about one mile from the Shrikhanda station. Raghunandan Thakur took birth on the Vasanta Panchami day. His uncle Narahari took a great deal of interest in raising Raghunandan, for whom he had much affection.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu indicated that one’s importance increases with the depth of devotion by telling Mukunda Das that his son was really his father.
The three most important devotees from Shrikhanda were Mukunda Das, Raghunandan and Narahari. Mahaprabhu asked Mukunda Das, “Are you Raghunandan’s father and he, your son? Or, is he your father and you his son? Tell me so that I can put my doubts to rest.” Mukunda answered, “Raghunandan is my father and I am his son, rest assured. Whatever devotion we have comes from him, therefore I see him as my father.” When he heard Mukunda Das’s answer, Mahaprabhu was thrilled and he said, “He from whom we imbibe devotion is certainly our guru.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.112-117)
Mahaprabhu gave Raghunandan the service of deity worship.
Raghunandan’s work is to serve Krishna. He has no interest in anything other than serving Krishna. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.131)
From his early childhood, Raghunandan Thakur would feed the family’s Gopinath deity laddus. Uddhava Das has written a song in which this lila is described:
Mukunda Das lived in the village of Shrikhanda, where his household deity was named Gopinath. One day he had to go somewhere for work and he called Raghunandan to do the service.
He said, “In this house we worship Krishna, so I want you to be sure to give him something to eat.” and then he left. Raghunandan did as his father had ordered and made the offering to the deity.
Raghunandan was just a child and in his simplicity, he said to Gopinath, “Eat! Eat!” Krishna is controlled by love, and so he did as the child told him and ate everything on the plate without leaving a grain of rice.
When Mukunda Das returned, he asked the boy to bring him the prasad from the offering he had made. The child answered, “Father, he ate everything and left no remnants.”
Mukunda was astonished at his child’s wonderful words that he asked him again on another occasion to make an offering. This time after he left the house, he returned and hid to watch what his son would do.
Raghunandan joyfully placed a ladòu in Krishna’s hand and said in a commanding voice, “Eat! Eat!”. When Krishna had eaten half of the laddu, Raghunandan saw Mukunda Das in the doorway.
Mukunda saw that Krishna did not take another bite and that the half-eaten laddu remained in his hand. This caused him to be filled with love. He embraced his child and, as tears of joy rained from his eyes, spoke to him in a broken voice.