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 XI - The Dance before Jagannáth's Car

Next day the Master took care to bathe with His followers before it was dawn. Pratap Rudra himself accompanied by his Court showed the Master's bhaktas the ceremony of Jagannáth leaving his throne to take his seat in the car. Girt round by Adwaita, Nityánanda and other bhaktas, the Master delightedly witnessed the scene. The stout pándás [attendants on an idol] like so many wild elephants, conveyed Jagannáth in their arms, some holding the god's neck and some his feet. A strong thick rope was fastened to his waist, and the pándás raised the image by pulling at the two ends of the rope. Thick and high heaps of cotton were placed at different points, and the god was raised from one and quickly rested on another of them; but the touch of his feet broke up the heaps and scattered the cotton with a loud sound. (In fact) Jagannáth supports the universe; who can move him? He moves of his own will, to disport himself. Shouts of "Great Lord! Master! Master!" rose up, but nothing could be heard amidst the clang of many instruments of music. Then Pratap Rudra, with his own hands, swept the path with a golden broom-stick, and sprinkled sandal water on the ground. He was a king accustomed to sit on the throne, but in as much as being so high he did such lowly services, he gained Jagannáth's grace. The Master rejoiced at the sight, and this lowly service of the king gained for him the Master's regard.

Men marvelled as they beheld the trappings of the car. It was covered with fresh gold and high as the Sumeru mountain. Hundreds of fly-whiskers and polished mirrors hung from it; above were flags and a pure canopy. The ghágar rattled, bells jingled on it. Many coloured silk cloths covered it. Jagannáth mounted one car, Subhadra and Balaram two others.

For fifteen days had Jagannáth remained (behind a screen), dallying in secret with Lakshmi, and now with her leave he came out for a ride in his car to give delight to his adorers. The fine white sand on the road suggested a river bank, and the gardens on both sides made the place look like Brindában. Jagannáth went along in his car, pleased with what he saw on both sides. Bengali athletes dragged the car joyfully. It sped at one time, slackened at another, and sometimes stopped altogether. In fact it moved of its own will, and not under the force of men.

Then the Master with His own hands gave to the bhaktas sandal paste and garlands Then He divided the chanters (kirtaniás) into four parties, consisting in all of 24 singers and eight men playing on the khol, their chiefs being Swarup and Shribas. Then He bade Nityánanda, Adwaita, Haridas, and Vakreshwar dance. In the first party Swarup was the leading singer, while the other five were Damodar, Náráyan, Govinda Datta, Raghav Pandit and Shri Govindananda; with them danced Adwaita. Of the second party the spokesman was Shribas, his followers being Gangadas, Haridas, Shriman, Shuvananda, and Shri Ram Pandit. Here danced Nityánanda. Mukunda led the third party, consisting of Vásudev, Gopinath, Murari, Shrikánta, and Vallabh Sen, with Haridas Thákur as the dancer. The fourth party was composed of Haridas, Vishnudas, Raghav, Madhav Ghosh and his brother Vásudev Ghosh, their leader being Govinda Ghosh, and their dancer Vakreshwar Pandit. Other parties of kirtan singers were formed by the pilgrims from the Kulin village, (with Rámánanda and Satyaraj as their dancers), the Acharyas of Shantipur (with Achyutánanda as their dancer), the men of Khand (with Narahari and Shri Raghunandan as their dancers). In short four parties preceded the car of Jagannáth, two walked on the flanks, and one in the rear. These seven parties played on 14 khols in all, the music of which maddened the Vaishnavs present. The cloud of Vaishnav enthusiasm melted in showers, their eyes dropped tears along with the nectar of kirtan. The shout of kirtan filled the three worlds and drowned all other sounds. The Master visited the seven positions shouting "Hari" and "Glory to Jagannáth!" with uplifted arms.

Another miracle did He manifest: at the same moment He was present with all the seven parties, so that each cried out, "The Master is with us. Out of His grace for us He has not gone elsewhere." No one can describe the inscrutable power of the Master, only the pure-souled esoteric bhakta can know it.

Jagannáth, pleased with the sankirtan, stopped his car. At this Pratap Rudra marvelled exceedingly and became overcome with excess of devotion. He spoke of the Master's greatness to Kashi Mishra, who replied, "You are, O King, fortunate beyond limit." The king and Sárvabhauma exchanged glances, as none else knew the secret manipulation of Chaitanya;—only those whom He favours can know Him; without His grace even Brahmá cannot recognize Him. He had been delighted with the lowly service done by the king, and for that reason had revealed His mystery to him. True, He had shown Himself to the king only indirectly; but who can pierce through this illusion of Chaitanya? Sárvabhauma and Kashi Mishra were amazed at the grace shown to the king.

Thus did the Master play for some time, singing and making His followers dance, now assuming one form, now many, ever putting forth His powers according to the work to be done. In the ardour of play He forgot Himself, and wished not to put a stop to it. Every moment did He do supernatural feats, as He had in a preceding birth performed rása and other sports at Brindában.

Dancing thus, the Master swept the people away on the wave of enthusiasm As Jagannáth was going to the Gundichá garden-house, the Master performed kirtan before the god for a long time. First He made His bhaktas dance, and then, wishing to dance Himself, united the seven parties, placed nine men (Shribas, Rámái, Raghu, Govinda, Mukunda, Haridas, Govindánanda, Madhav, and Govinda) under Swarup to sing and move in the Master's company, while the other parties sang around Him. After bowing to Jagannáth, with folded palms and uplifted face the Master prayed:

"Salutation to Shri Krishna! who is the divine God, the protector of brahmans and kine, and benefactor of the universe. To Krishna, to Govinda, I bow again and again!" (Vishnu Puran, pt. I. xix. 48.)

"Victory attend Devaki's son, the Lamp of the Vrishni race, the lord! Deep blue like the clouds is his colour, tender are his limbs. He is the Redeemer of the world from its load of sin. Victory to him! Victory!" (Padávali, c. 108.) Also Bhágabat, X. xc. 24 and Padávali, c. 63.

Reciting these verses the Master bowed low again, while the bhaktas with folded palms adored God. Dancing impetuously with loud roars, He moved in circles, like a lathe. Wherever His feet touched the ground, the "earth with its hills and oceans trembled. He manifested stupor, perspiration, joyous weeping, tremour, turning pale, all sorts of helplessness, pride, exultation and humility. Stumbling He rolled on the ground, like a golden hill thrown on the earth. Nityánanda and Adwaita hastened to raise Him up in their arms, shouting Hari! Hari! Three circles were formed to keep the crowd back. The first was formed by Nityánanda, the second was composed of Kashishwar, Mukunda and other bhaktas locking their hands together. Outside Pratap Rudra with his ministers formed another ring to keep the spectators in check. The king, with his hand resting on the shoulder of his prime-minister, was gazing in absorption at the Master's dance. As Shrinibas, sunk in devotion, was standing before the king, the prime-minister touched him and said "Step aside." But Shrinibas in the ardour of his dancing was forgetful of all else. He was pushed repeatedly and at last grew angry and slapped the minister to stop his pushing. At this the minister in anger wanted to rebuke him, but Pratap Rudra checked him saying, "Blessed art thou, to be touched by him. Such happiness has not been my share!"

Not to speak of the people, even Jagannáth himself wondered at the dancing of the Master, stopped his car, and gazed at the dance with winkless eyes. Subhadra and Balarám smiled in delight at the sight of the dance. A strange change came over the Master while dancing with all His might: all the eight spiritual phases (sátwik bháb) manifested themselves at the same time. His hair stood on end, with their roots in the skin bulging out, like a Shimul tree girt round with thorns. His teeth clashed together fearfully, as if they would be dislocated. Blood and sweat ran over His body. He lisped ja—ja—ga—ga inarticulately. His eyes poured down tears like syringes, and moistened the men around. Fair was His complexion, at times turning into rosy, at times resembling the Malliká flower. At times He stood inert, at times He rolled on the ground; at times motionless like a dry wood, at other times prostrate on the ground and breathing faintly, to the alarm of His bhaktas. At times water oozed out of His eyes and nostrils and foam out of His mouth,—as the moon sheds bubbles of nectar. Shuvánanda, mad with passion for Krishna, collected and drank up that froth; highly fortunate was he.

After dancing violently for some time the Master wished to manifest another mood. Leaving the dance He bade Swarup sing. Swarup, knowing His taste, began,—

"I have met the lord of my life, For whose sake I had been withering in the fire of Cupid."

Loudly did Swarup sing this burden, while the Master in delight danced tenderly. Slowly Jagannáth's car moved on, Shachi's son dancing before it. With eyes fixed on Jagannáth all danced and sang. (At times) the Master walked behind the car with the party, of kirtan singers,—His arms making the action of song. When Chaitanya lagged behind, Jagannáth stopped his car; when the Master walked ahead the god propelled his car slowly. Thus did the two urge each other on!

In the course of dancing another change of mood came over the Master: with uplifted arms He loudly recited the following stanza. (Kavya-prakash, I. canto 4 and also Padávali c. 380).

Again and again did He read the stanza, of which the meaning was known to Swarup only. It meant in effect that as the milkmaids at Kurukshetra were delighted to see Krishna, so was the Master gratified at the sight of Jagannáth. Under that emotion He had the burden sung (by Swarup). At last Radhá prays to Krishna, "You are the same [beloved] and I am the same [lover, as during your incarnation as Krishna], and yet Brindában steals my heart. Appear at Brindában again! Here there are crowds and the din and bustle of elephants, horses and chariots;—there only flowery woodlands, the bee's murmur, the cuckoo's cooing! Here you are dressed as a King girt round by warriors, there you were a cow-boy, in the company of flute players! Here I have not a drop of the ocean of bliss I used to taste in thy society at Brindában. Take me with thee to dally at Brindában again. Thus only can my heart be gratified." In the ardour of His devotion the Master recited the stanzas of the Bhágabat, voicing Radhiká's longing. But other people could not understand the verses; Swarup alone knew their meaning but spoke not. (Afterwards) Rup Goswámi proclaimed the sense. (Vide Bhágabat X. lxxxii. 35 and 31).

In Swarup's company had the Master day and night enjoyed the sense of these verses in His house. During His dance the same emotion overcame Him; so He recited the stanzas and danced gazing at Jagannáth. Swarup,—fortunate beyond expression in being absorbed body and soul in the Master,—sang, while the Master drank in his music in abstraction. Under passion's sway the Master sat down and with bowed head traced letters on the ground with His finger. Lest His finger should be hurt, Swarup prevented Him. Swarup's song was in exact accord with the Master's emotion; he gave a vocal shape to every mood of the Master's heart.

As He gazed at Jagannáth's lotus-like face, flashing in the sunlight, his beautiful eyes, his perfumes, robes, garlands and ornaments, the ocean of joy surged up in the Master's heart, a wild storm swept through Him; rapture and wildness raised a tumult, the different emotions fought in Him like hostile armies. A passion rose, a passion subsided, it came to terms with another, and at last His normal mood of spirituality (sátwik) asserted itself. The Master's body was a pure hill of gold; His emotion a tree with every flower in bloom. The sight drew the hearts of all; with the nectar of love He moistened their minds. All the servitors of Jagannáth, all the courtiers of the king, the pilgrims, and the residents of Puri,—all marvelled at the Master's dance and rapture, and all felt devotion to Krishna. In enthusiasm they danced, sang, and set up a din. The pilgrims by joining the dance increased the happiness fourfold. Jagannáth hiniself moved on slowly to witness the Master's dance.

Thus dancing, the Master advanced to where Pratap Rudra stood, and was about to fall down when the king held Him up. On seeing him the Master recovered composure and cried shame on Himself for having touched a King, a worldling, adding, "In his rapture Nityánanda has ceased to be heedful [of me]. Kashishwar, Govinda and others, too, are at a distance." True, the Master had been pleased to see Pratap Rudra numbly serving Jagannáth as a sweeper, and had meant to meet the king, yet He professed anger in order to warn His followers against consorting with worldly-minded men. The king grieved at the Master's speech, but Sárvabhauma told him not to lose heart, "The Master is pleased with you; He is only instructing His followers by means of you. I shall seize a proper time for entreating Him. You will then go and meet Him."

Then the Master walked round the car, and standing behind it pushed it with His head. At His push the car ran on with a clatter; the people around shouted Hari! Hari! Next the Master led His followers away to dance before the cars of Subhadrá and Balarám, and when that was done He returned to dance before Jagannáth's car. So the cars reached Balgandi, where they stopped, and Jagannáth looked on both sides: on the left were the abodes of Brahmans in cocoanut groves, on the right a flower garden resembling Brindában. It is the rule that Jagannáth breakfasts here on ten million dishes. Every devotee of Jagannáth, whatever his position, offers his best food to the god. The king, his wives, ministers and courtiers, all citizens of Puri, great and small, the pilgrims from various lands, the people of the province, all offered him their respective bhog. No order was observed, each deposited his offering of food in front, behind, on the two sides of the god, or in the garden, wherever he could find a spot. The crowd grew immense at the time of the bhog, and so the Master stopped dancing and entered the garden, where He lay prostrate on the veranda of the garden house, overcome with love; the exertion of dancing made Him perspire copiously and He enjoyed the fragrant cool wind. All the bhaktas who had been singing kirtan came and rested under the trees. [Text, canto 13.]

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