Chaitanya's Life and Teachings

by Krishna-das Kaviraj | 1922 | 90,709 words

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is revered by devotees as an incarnation of Krishna and Radharani as avatars of the Parmatma, or Supreme Godhead. He was born in an Oriya Hindu family. According to beliefs of orthodox followers Caitanya Mahaprabhu united in himself two aspects: ecstatic devotee of Krishna and Krishna himself in inseparable union with Radha....

Chapter VIII - The Reunion of the Vaishnavs

After the Master had set out for the South, King Pratap Rudra summoned Sárvabhauma, seated him after due salutation, and asked him concerning the Master, saying, "I hear that a very gracious person has come to your house from Bengal. People say that he has shown you much kindness. Do please help me to see him." The Bhatta replied, "True is what you have heard. But you cannot see him; he is a sannyasi withdrawn from the world, living in seclusion, and not visiting kings even in dreams. I could, however, have contrived somehow an interview between him and you: but he has recently gone to the South." The king asked, "Why did he leave Jagannáth's shrine?" The Bhatta replied, "Such is one of the deeds of saints. They visit holy places on the plea of making pilgrimages, but they thereby bring salvation to worldly men. Vide Bhágabat, I. xiii. 8. Such is the unalterable character of a Vaishnav: he is not a man but rather a particle of God." The Raja rejoined, "Why did you let him depart? You ought to have clasped his feet and importuned him to stay here." Bhattáchárya answered, "He is a god and a free being. He is Krishna's self and not a dependent creature. Still I had tried to detain him, but could not succeed as God is free."

The Raja said, "Bhatta! you are the chief of wise men. As you call him Krishna, I must believe it. When he comes here again, may I see him once and gratify my eyes?" The Bhatta replied, "He will soon return. We want a suitable place for him to lodge in; it must be near the temple and yet secluded. Choose such a lodging for him." The king said, "Kashi Mishra's house is just that sort of place, close to Jagannath and yet very retired." The king thereafter remained expectant. Bhattáchárya informed Kashi Mishra, who said, "Blessed am I that such a holy Master will lodge under my roof."

Thus did all the people of Puri live in ever-growing expectation of seeing the Master, when He returned from the South. All rejoiced at the news, and they all begged Sárvabhauma thus, "Lead us to the Master, that through thy mediation we may reach Chaitanya's feet." Bhattáchárya replied, "To-morrow the Master will go to Kashi Mishra's house, where I shall introduce you to Him."

Next day the Master visited Jagannáth in company with Bhattáchárya, in great delight. The servitors met Him with the god's food and He embraced them all. After the visit Bhattáchárya led Him to Kashi Mishra's house. Kashi Mishra fell at His feet, and gave up to Him not his house only but his soul also. The Master appeared to him in the four-armed shape, and embraced him to make him one of His own followers.

Then the Master took His seat there. Around Him sat Nityánanda and other devotees, The Master was pleased with the arrangements of the house, which satisfied all His needs. Then Sárvabhauma said, "Master, this house is worthy of you. Accept it, as Kashi Mishra prays." The Master replied, "My body is under your control. What you bid me, I must do, as in duty bound." Then Sárvabhauma, seating himself at the right hand of the Master, began to introduce one after another all the people of Puri, saying, "All these men have been residing in the Niláchal in eager longing to meet you. They have fared like the thirsty chátak bird that cries in anguish for water. All were determined [to see you]. This one is Janárdan, a constant attendant on the person of Jagannáth. This other is Krishna-das who holds the golden rod [in the temple]. Here is Shikhi Mahanti, the officer in charge of the [temple] secretariate. This, Pradyumna Mishra, is foremost among Vaishnavs, and he waits on Jagannáth during the god's sleep. Murari Mahanti, the brother of Shikhi Mahanti, has no refuge save your feet. [These are] Chandaneshwar, Singheshwar, Murari Brahman, and Vishnu-das, all of whom meditate on your feet. Here are the high-minded Praharáj Mahápátra, and his kinsman Paramánanda Mahápátra. These Vaishnavs are the ornaments of this holy place, and all devotedly intent on your feet." They all prostrated themselves on the ground before the Master, who graciously held them to His bosom.

Just then came there Bhabánanda Ray, with his four sons; and they all fell at the Master's feet. Sárvabhauma introduced them, "This is Bhabánanda Ray whose eldest son is Rámánanda Ray." The Master embraced him and spoke in praise of Rámánanda adding, "One cannot adequately describe to the world the greatness of him whose son is a jewel like Rámánanda. Truly, you are Pandu, your wife is Kunti, and your five high-souled sons are the five Pandav brothers." The Ray replied, "I am a Shudra, a worldling and a wretch. That you have touched me is the only holy thing [about me]. I lay down at your feet myself with my house, belongings, servants, and five sons. This youth Vánináth will constantly wait on you, to do whatever you bid him. Know me as your own, feel no delicacy, but order whatever you desire." The Master answered, "What delicacy can there be? You are not a stranger to me. In birth after birth you with your family have been my servants. In some five days Rámánanda will arrive here. His society will complete my bliss." So saying He embraced the father, while the four sons laid their heads at His feet. They were all sent home, only Vánináth Patta Nayak was retained by the Master.

Bhattáchárya sent away the other people. Thereafter the Master called for deaf Krishna-dás, and said "Listen, Bhattáchárya, to the story of this man. He had accompanied me to the South, but left me to join the tribe of Bhattamári. But I rescued him from their hands. Having brought him back here I give him his discharge. Let him go wherever he likes; I have no longer any concern with him." At this Krishna-dás set up a lamentation. When the Master went away for His noonday worship, Nityánanda, Jagadánanda, Mukunda, and Dámodar laid their heads together, saying, "We have to send a messenger to Bengal to report the Master's arrival to His mother. Adwaita, Shribas and others of the faithful will all flock hither on hearing of His return. Let us send Krishna-dás (for the purpose)." With this they consoled Krishna-dás.

Next day they prayed to the Master, "Allow us to send a man to Bengal, as mother Shachi, Adwaita and other devotees have all been plunged in concern since they heard of your setting out for the South. Let a man go and give them the glad tidings (of your safe return)." The Master assented, "Do as you like." So they sent Krishna-dás to Bengal, with a present of the mahá-prasád for the Vaishnavs there.

Deaf Krishna-dás reached Bengal, saw mother Shachi at Navadwip, bowed, and gave her the mahá-prasád and the news of the Master's return from the South. The mother rejoiced at the news, and so did the faithful led by Shribas. Then Krishna-dás went to the house of Adwaita Acharya, gave him the prasád, bowed, and told him all about the Master. The Acharya in rapture danced, sang, and shouted for a long time. How shall I name all the flock who exulted at the news,—Haridás Thákur, Vásudev Datta, Murári Gupta, Shivananda, Acharya Ratna, Pandit Vakreshwar, Acharya Nidhi, the Pandits Gadadhar, Shrirám, Dámodar, Shrimán, and Rághav, Vijay, Shridhar, and Acharya Nandan. They all went in a body to Adwaita, bowed at his feet, and were clasped to his bosom. Two or three days were spent by the Acharya in great rejoicing (with them), and then he confirmed the desire to make a pilgrimage to the Niláchal. Gathering together at Navadwip, they set off for Jagannáth with mother Shachi's leave. At the report about the Master, Satyaráj and Rámánanda from the Kulin village joined them, and so did Mukunda and Narahari from Raghunandan Khand. Just then Paramánanda Puri arrived at Nadia from the South, travelling along the banks of the Ganges. He lodged in comfort in the temple of mother Shachi, who honourably fed him. On hearing there of the Master's return, the Puri too wished to hasten to the Niláchal. He set off thither with the Master's devotee, the Brahman Kamalákánta, and soon arrived in the Master's presence, who rejoiced at the meeting and lovingly saluted his feet, while the Puri embraced Him.

The Master said, "I long to live in thy company. Make the Niláchal thy abode, as thou lovest me." The Puri replied, "It is because I desire your society that I came hither from Bengal. The news of your return from the South has gladdened the heart of Shachi. The other devotees are coming to see you, but as they made delay I had started quickly (before them)." The Master assigned to the Puri a retired room in Káshi Mishra's house and an attendant.

Next day arrived Swarup Dámodar, who had touched the inmost recess of the Master's spirit. His name in the world was Purushottam Acharya, and he waited on the Master at Navadwip. Wild at the Master's renunciation of the world, he went to Benares and turned monk there. His guru, Chaitanyananda, bade him study the Vedánta and expound it to the people. He was totally withdrawn from the world and a deep scholar, having taken refuge in Krishna with all his body and soul. He had turned sannyasi, in a wild longing to worship Krishna in freedom from every (earthly) thought and care. As a sannyasi he cast off his sacred thread and took the tonsure, but did not put on the yogi's dress. Swarup was the new name given to him. With his guru's permission he came to the Niláchal, being day and night out of his senses in the bliss of loving Krishna. He was a perfect scholar, holding converse with none, and living in seclusion unknown to the world, He had known the mystery of the love of Krishna; his very body was a picture of love; he seemed the exact second self of the Master. Every book, verse, or song brought to the Master had to be first examined by Swarup before He would hear it. The Master took no delight in compositions that clashed with the theory of bhakti and lacked the spirit of delight (ras). So, Swarup Goswámi tasted books and read to the Master only such as were correct. Vidyápati, Chandidás and Git-Govinda were the poetry that delighted the Master. Dámodar surpassed others, as he was a veritable gandharva in musical skill and a Vrihaspati in Shastric lore. He was a darling to Adwaita and Nityánanda, and the very life of Shribas and other faithful ones.

Such was Dámodar who came and prostrating him self clasped the Master's feet while he recited stanza 20 of Act VIII. of the drama Chaitanya-chandrodaya.

The Master raised and embraced him. The two swooned away in ecstasy. After a while regaining composure the Master began thus: "I have dreamt that you would come to-day. It is good (that you have come); I am like a blind man who has got back his two eyes." Swarup answered, "Pardon my sin, Master I erred grievously when I left you and sought another (guru). I had not a particle of faith in your feet, but, sinner that I was, I had left you to go to another country! I had no doubt left you, but you did not forsake me. Thy grace has been a chain round my neck, dragging me to thy feet."

Then Swarup bowed at Nityánanda's feet, who lovingly embraced him. He also did due courtesy as he met Jagadánanda, Mukunda, Shankar, Sárvabhauma, and Paramananda Puri. The Master gave him a quiet room with a servant to draw water and do other services.

One day the Master sat surrounded by Sárvabhauma and other faithful ones, holding sweet discourse on Krishna, when Govinda arrived, prostrated himself, and said, "I am Govinda, a servant of Ishwar Puri, at whose bidding I have come to you. The Puri, when attaining to siddhi (death) told me to go and serve Krishna-Chaitanya. Kashishwar will come (here) after visiting holy places. At my Master's bidding I have hastened to your feet." To this the Master replied, "Ishwar Puri loved me like a son, and has sent you to me as a favour." At this Sárvabhauma asked, "How could the Puri retain a Shudra attendant?" The Master answered, "God is supremely independent. His mercy is not bound by (the rules of) the Vedas. God's grace defies caste and family distinctions." Witness how Krishna dined at the house of Bidur. Love and service are mere instruments of Krishna's mercy. When actuated by mercy He acts independently [of the conventions of religion]. Loving treatment is a million times more blissful than dignity. The very hearing of it gives intense delight."

So saying the Master embraced Govinda, who then bowed at the feet of all. The Master spoke, "Bhattáchárya, solve this problem: the very servant of my guru is honourable to me, and it is not seemly that he should serve me. And yet the guru has commanded it. What should I do?" The Bhatta answered, "A guru's command is most strong, and the Shastras direct us not to violate it. Witness the Raghuvamsa, xiv. 53, and Valmiki's Ramayan, Ayodhya-kanda, xxii. 9."

Then the Master consented and permitted Govinda to serve His body. All honoured him as the Master's favourite attendant, while Govinda made arrangements for all the Vaishnavs. He was accompanied by the two Haridases (who were surnamed the greater and lesser chanters), Rámái and Nandái, in tending the Master. Govinda's good fortune baffles description.

One day Mukunda Datta said to the Master, "Brahmánanda Bhárati has come to see you. Permit me to bring him hither." But He replied, "The Bhárati is my guru. It is I who should go to him." So saying, He went to Brahmánanda, with all His followers. At the sight of Brahmánanda clad in deer skin, the Master grieved at heart, pretended not to have observed him, and asked Mukunda where the Bhárati was. Mukunda replied, "Here, before you!" But the Master objected, "You do not know. It is not he, but somebody else whom you are ignorantly pointing out. Why should the Bhárati Goswámi wear a skin?" At this Brahmánanda inly reflected, "He likes not my robe of deer skin. He has spoken well. A skin is worn as a mark of pride (of asceticism). The wearing of it cannot give me salvation from the World. Henceforth I shall renounce this garment." The Master learnt of his thought, and had a cloth brought, which Brahmánanda put on after discarding the skin. Then the Master bowed at his feet, but the Bhárati objected saying, "These your acts are for instructing the people. Never bow down to me again, it frightens me. Here are now two gods, viz., Jagannáth the stationary, and you the moving god. You are the fair god, while Jagannáth is the dark deity. These two (between them) have redeemed the world." The Master demurred, "The truth is that your coming has revealed two Brahmas at Purushottam: your name is Brahmánanda, and (you are) the fair-coloured moving Brahma, while Jagannáth is the dark and motionless one." The Bhárati cried out, "Be thou the judge between us, Sárvabhauma, and attend to my logical dispute with Him. The Shastras tell us that creation is vyápya, while Brahma is vyápak.

He has reformed me by taking away my skin robe. This shows that one is vyápya and the other is vyápak. Vide Mahabharat, Dan-parva, ch. 149, stanza 1091. To the Master truly belong those (divine) epithets, sandal-pasted prasád, dor, two-armed Angad." Bhattáchárya replied, "O Bhárati, the victory is thine, as I see." The Master said, "Whatever you say must be true. In a logical disputation, the disciple must always yield to the guru." But the Bhárati objected, "No, no, the reason (of my victory) is otherwise. It is thy nature to admit defeat at the hands of thy bhaktas. Listen to another feat of thine. All my life I had worshipped the formless Deity, but when I saw thee, Krishna became manifest before my eyes. Krishna's name broke forth from my lips, Krishna's image was stamped on my heart and eye. My soul thirsts for thee as thou resemblest Krishna. My condition is truly like that of Billamangal, as described in the Bhakti-rasámrita-sindhu."

The Master rejoined, "Deep is your love of Krishna, so that whatever your eye glances on, you see a Krishna there." Bhattáchárya replied, "Yes, but only after Krishna had first revealed himself in the flesh. Love alone can enable us to see him. His favour is the (only) means of seeing him." The Master cried out, "Holy God! Holy God! what art thou saying, Sárvabhauma? Your praise in hyperbole is satire in disguise." So saying He led the Bhárati to His own house and lodged him there. Rám Bhattáchárya and Bhagabán Acharya waited on the Master, leaving all other works.

Another day Kashishwar Goswámi arrived and was honourably lodged by the Master with Himself. He used to escort the Master to the temple of Jagannáth, removing the crowd from before Him. As all rivers and brooks unite in the ocean, so did the Master's worshippers, wherever they might have been, all come together at His feet. He graciously kept them at His house. Thus have I described the Master's assembling of Vaishnavs. [Text, canto 10.]

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