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 XIV - The Return to Bengal

Pratap Rudra grew sad when he heard that the Master wished to visit Brindában; calling Sárvabhauma and Rámánanda, the king entreated them, "The Master's mind is inclined to go away from Puri. Try to keep Him here. Without Him this kingdom is of no delight to me. Try every means to detain the hermit." When the Master was taking counsel with the two about making a pilgrimage to Brindában, they said, "Wait to see the Car Festival, and set out in the month of Kártik." In Kártik they urged, "It is mid-winter now. Better set out after witnessing the Swinging Festival." So they plied all arts to put off His departure; and gave not their consent in fear of parting with His company. True, the Master was a free agent, under nobody's control. Yet He did not depart against the wishes of His followers.

In the third year of His stay, the Bengal followers wished to go to Puri. So, they all resorted to Adwaita Acharya, who set out joyfully to see the Master. Nityánanda, though charged by Him to stay in Bengal and preach the faith of love, nevertheless went to see Him. Who can understand the display of Nityánanda's love? Who can number the bhaktas that started? Acharya Ratna, Vidyanidhi, Shribas, Ramai, Vasudev, Madhav, and Govinda (the three brothers), Raghav Pandit with his casket fitted up, the residents of the Kulin village with their striped silk cloth (for Jagannáth), Narahari and Raghunandan of Khanda, in short all of the bhaktas went; who can count them? Shivananda Sen made arrangements about the stages of the road, and guided the whole party in comfort, supplying all their needs and securing lodgings, as he knew all about the road to Orissa.

That year the ladies too set out to visit the Master: With the Acharya went Achyuta's mother, Malini with Shribas Pandit, with Shivananda his wife and son named Chaitanya-das, with Acharya Ratna his wife. All the ladies took from their houses all kinds of choice things formerly dear to Him, to feed the Master with. Shivananda looked after their needs, provided them with lodgings by winning over the officers of the halting stations (ghátiál), and everywhere nourished them with provisions.

At Remuná they saw Gopinath (idol), at whose temple the Acharya danced and sang. Nityánanda knew all the servitors of the god; so they highly honoured the party. The night was passed there; Nityánanda distributed among them the twelve pots of condensed milk (bhog) presented by the servitors. Then Nityánanda told them the whole story of Madhav Puri, the installation of the Gopal, the begging of sandal by Gopal, the stealing of kshir by Gopinath for the Puri,—as he had heard it from the Master. The Vaishnavs rejoiced.

So they wended their way to Katak. After visiting the Witness Gopal they spent the night there. Nityánanda told the legend of the god, to the increased delight of the Vaishnavs, who pushed on to Puri, eager at heart to meet the Master. When they reached Athára-nálá (Bridge of 18 spans), Govinda, sent by the Master with two garlands to welcome them, met the party and placed the garlands on the necks of Adwaita and Abadhut Goswámi, to their intense bliss. There the two began the sankirtan of Krishna and advanced dancing. Next Swarup and other followers, sent by the Master, received them with garlands at the Narendra Tank. When they reached the Lion Gate, Chaitanya Himself came out to meet them all. He took them to see Jagannáth, and then led them to His own lodgings. With His own hands He served them the prasád brought by Vaninath and Kashi Mishra. They were then sent to take rest in the houses respectively occupied by them in the previous year.

Thus the bhaktas spent four months at Puri, joining in His kirtan. When the season of the Car Festival arrived, He took them, as on the last occasion, to wash the Gundichá temple, presented to Jagannáth the striped silk brought by the people of the Kulin village, danced long before the car, and then returned to the garden. While He was reposing on the bank of the tank, Krishna-das, a Brahman of West Bengal (Rárh) and a disciple of Nityánanda, was so fortunate as to pour on the Master's head a pot of water, to His great relief.

The Master dined with all His followers on the numerous dishes of Balgandi bhog sent to Him. As before, they witnessed the Car procession and the Horá-Panchami procession with Him. The Master was invited to dinner by Acharya Goswámi, at which a rain storm burst. Then Shribas invited Him, and the Master's favourite dishes were cooked by Malini, who was His handmaid in devotion, but a mother in tenderness. Acharya Ratna and other leading disciples gave dinners to the Master at intervals. When the four months were over He again took counsel in secret with Nityánanda. The Acharya whispered to the Master mystic hints; he seemed to be muttering and none could know his meaning. Chaitanya laughed at seeing the gestures of his face. This the Acharya took to be a mark of assent, and he began to dance in delight; none knew what the request and the consent were. But the Master embraced and dismissed him.

Then He addressed Nityánanda, "Listen, Shripad! I pray thee grant this request of mine. Don't come to Puri every year, but stay in Bengal to carry out my will, for I see none else who can do the work. You alone can accomplish my hard undertaking." Nityánanda replied, "I am but the body; you are the life of it. It is admitted that the body cannot live apart from life; yet you, by your incomprehensible power, are performing such an impossibility. Well, I shall do whatever you make me. I am not subject to any [other] law." The Master embraced and gave him leave, and so to the other bhaktas too.

The pilgrims from the Kulin village begged, as before, "Master, appoint us our duty," to which He replied, "Serve Vaishnavs, chant Krishna's name. These two will lead you soon to Krishna's feet." The men asked, "By what signs can a Vaishnav be known?" The Master knew their real thoughts, smiled, and answered, "He is the true Vaishnav, who has Krishna's name ever on his lips. Adore his feet." Next year they put the very same question, and the Master by His answer taught them the gradations of Vaishnavs: "Know him to be the besf of Vaishnavs, the sight of whom brings Krishna's name on your tongue." Thus did He describe in succession the three grades of Vaishnavs: good, better, and best.

All the Vaishnavs returned to Bengal. Vidyanidhi alone stayed at Puri that year. He formed a close friendship with Swarup, and the two lived together engaged in discourse on Krishna. He gave mantra anew to Gadadhar Pandit. On the day of Orani Shashthi he witnessed the procession, and felt contempt at beholding Jagannáth wearing a cloth with the size not washed out of it. That very night Jagannáth and Balaram visited him [in his sleep] and laughingly slapped his cheeks. Vidyanidhi was inly glad at finding his cheeks swollen. . . .

Thus did the bhaktas of Bengal come every year and witness the god's procession in the Master's company. I shall describe only the years in which something special happened. Four years did the Master pass in this way: two years [after He took the monastic vow] were taken up by the pilgrimage to the South and the return; the next two years He [stayed at Puri] wishing to go to Brindában, but unable to stir at Rámánanda's opposition. In the fifth year the Bengal pilgrims returned home immediately after witnessing the Car Festival without staying [for four months].

Then the Master embraced Sárvabhauma and Rámánanda and said, "Very eager am I to visit Brindában. At your objection I have not set out these two years. I must go now. Do you both consent, for I have no other refuge save you. In Bengal my two refuges are my mother and the river Ganges, both gracious ones. On my way I shall see them. Permit me freely to depart."

At these words they reflected, "It is not good to oppose Him too much," and then told Him, "It is now the rainy season, which makes travel impossible. You will certainly depart on the Vijayá-dashami."

On that day the Master set out, taking with Himself all the prasád of Jagannáth that had been given Him, and also the sandal wood and coloured threads. Taking leave of Jagannáth, He started in the morning, and sent back the Oriya disciples who were following Him. With His men He reached Bhabánipur, Rámánanda Ray coming behind in his litter. They spent the night there, feeding on the copious prasád sent by Vaninath. Next day the Master reached Bhubaneshwar. At Katak He saw the [Sakshi-] Gopal image. Here a Brahman named Swapneshwar bade Him to dinner, while Rámánanda Ray invited His followers. The Master lodged in the outer garden, and after dinner reposed under the Bakul tree.

Rámánanda Ray went to inform King Pratap Rudra, who hastened thither in joy and repeatedly prostrated himself at the Master's feet in ecstasy, and prayed to Him with tremour and tears. The Master, pleased with his faith, rose up and embraced him. The king hymned and bowed to Him again, his body bathed with the tears of the Master's grace. Rámánanda composed and seated the king, and the Master showed His favour to him in body mind and speech. So great was the favour shown that He became famous in the world under the name of "the Saviour of Pratap Rudra." The royal ministers adored the Master, who then dismissed the king. Coming out Pratap Rudra sent letters to all officers in his kingdom, bidding them, "Build new houses in different villages [on the route]; fill six or seven such rooms with provisions. There lodge the Master and wait on Him day and night with your rods [of authority] in hand." His ministers Harichandan and Mangraj he ordered, "Conduct all this business. Bring a new boat to the river [Mahanadi] bank. When the Master after bathing crosses the river, plant a staff there to mark the spot as a holy tirtha. I shall daily bathe there. May I die there. Hang out fine new cloths at the four gates. Rámánanda, go you back to the Master." The king heard that the Master would resume His journey in the evening. So he transported his wives in covered litters on the backs of elephants, which were drawn up in a line along the route. In the evening the Master proceeded with His followers and bathed at the ghát of the Chitrotpala [Mahanadi] river. The queens bowed when they saw Him, and at the sight of Him they were filled with devotion, chanting Krishna's name with tears in their eyes. In the three worlds has not been heard of such another gracious saint, whose very view from a distance inspires love of Krishna.

Then He crossed over in a boat, and in the moonlit night reached "the four gates" (chatur dwár). Here He passed the night, and next morning bathed and ate the mahá-prasád of Jagannáth, which the Parichhá used to send Him daily in huge quantities at the king's command by means of a host of servants.

Then the Master wended His way, served by Rámánanda, Mangraj, and Hari Chandan, the three [officers of the king]. He was accompanied by the Puri Goswámi, Swarup Damodar, Jagadananda, Mukunda, Govinda, Kashishwar, Haridas Thakur, Vakreshwar Pandit, Gopinath Acharya, Damodar Pandit, Ramái, Nandái and many other bhaktas, of whom I have named the chief only, for who can count them all? When Gadadhar Pandit followed Him, the Master forbade him to quit the seat of his monastic devotions. The Pandit pleaded, "Where you are, there is my Puri. Let my seat of monachism go to wrack and ruin." The Master said, "Stay here, worshipping Gopinath;" but the Pandit insisted, "The sight of thy feet is worth ten million worship of gods." The Master argued, "If you give up the worship, mine will be the sin. Stay here and worship, if you want to please me." The Pandit answered, "Let the entire sin rest on me. I shall go alone, and not in your company. I am going [to Nadiá] to see the Mother, and not to bear you company. I am ready to bear the sin of quitting the worship I had vowed to perform." So saying the Pandit proceeded alone. At Katak the Master called him. The Pandit's devotion to Chaitanya passes comprehension: he gave up the vowed worship of Krishna as lightly as a straw. The Master was inly pleased at his conduct, but in loving anger He told him, holding his hand, "Your object of quitting your promised worship has been fulfilled, as you have already arrived far [from the temple of your god at Puri]. By wishing to stay with me, you are seeking your (selfish) pleasure. I grieve to see you losing both your dharmas (duties). If you wish to make me happy, return to Puri. I shall swear an oath, if you insist any further." So saying the Master embarked, while the Pandit swooned away on the bank. He bade Sárvabhauma lead the Pandit away. Sárvabhauma said, "Get up! such is the Master's play. You know how Krishna broke his own vow to keep the vow of his adorer Bhishma. Vide Bhágabat, I. ix. 34. Similarly the Master has endured separation from you in order to keep your vow sacred." So saying he consoled Gadadhar, and the two returned full of grief to Puri. For His sake His bhaktas renounced their religious and earthly duties, but the Master could not bear that they should sin thus.

At Jájpur He dismissed the two royal ministers who had been escorting Him, after talking day and night about Krishna. At every village (on the way) the royal officers, under orders, entertained the Master with various things in the newly built houses. So faring forth He reached Remuna[1], where He dismissed Rámánanda Ray. The Ray fell down on the ground in a dead faint; the Master took him up in His arms and wept.

Then He reached the boundary of the Odhra country, where the royal officer met Him, tended Him for three or four days, and told Him about the path in front. "Before you lies the land of a wine-bibing Muslim king, through fear of whom none can travel on the road. His territory extends to Pichhaldá. None dares cross the river in awe of him. Stay here for some days, while we negotiate with him to secure a safe voyage for you." Just then an Oriya servant of the Muslim had visited Katak in disguise. This Hindu spy, witnessing the wonderful deeds of the Master, reported to his king, "A monk has come from Jagannáth, with many pious persons in his train. They sing of Krishna incessantly, laughing, dancing, singing, weeping. The people flocked in lakhs to see Him, but after once seeing Him they could not return home, as they became almost mad, chanting Krishna's name, dancing, weeping and rolling on the ground. He cannot be described in words, but has to be seen, to be understood fully. His power shows that He is God." So saying the spy chanted Hari! Krishna! laughing, weeping, and dancing like mad. This turned the Muslim king's mind. He sent his own confidential Hindu minister to the Oriya king's [frontier] officer. The man bowed to the Master and became overwhelmed with love as he cried Krishna! Krishna! Then he composed himself and spoke to the Oriya king's officer, "The Muslim governor has sent me to you to seek your permission for him to come here and meet the Master. He is very anxious to do it, and entreats you. Fear not any attack, it will be a peaceful journey." At this the frontier-officer cried out in wonder, "A Muslim's heart! Who could have done this to it? Surely the Master Himself turned his heart, as the sight and (even) thought of Him saves the world. Then he turned to the confidential minister and said, "He is lucky. Let him come here to see the Master, unarmed and with only six or seven attendants, if I am to trust in him."

On hearing this, the Muhammadan governor arrived in a Hindu dress, and prostrated himself with tears of joy on seeing the Master from afar. The frontier-officer led him forward with due honour, and the governor with folded palms stood before the Master reciting Krishna's name and saying, "Why have I been born in a low Muhammadan family? Why did not Fate send me to earth as one of the Hindu race, for then I could have come near thy feet? My life is useless. Let me die!" The frontier-officer, moved by these words, praised the Master after clasping His feet, "This man has got a view of thee, whose very name when heard purifies a Chandál. What wonder that he will be saved? Such is the efficacy of looking at thee!" Witness the Bhágabat, III. xxxiii 6.

Then the Master looked benignly at the Muslim and in soothing terms told him to repeat Krishna's name. The governor replied, "As I have found acceptance with thee, bid me serve thee. Let me earn deliverance from the sin of hurting Brahmans, cows and Vaishnavs, of which I have been too often guilty." Then Mukunda Datta broke in, "Listen, Sir, our Master wishes to reach the bank of the Ganges. Help Him to go there. It is a great command and a good service."

The Muslim bowed to the Master and His party and set off gleefully. The frontier-officer embraced him, formed a friendship with him, and gave him many presents. Next morning the Muslim governor sent out many decorated boats with his Hindu minister to escort the Master. The Oriya frontier-officer, too, accompanied Him. The Master placed His men in the cabin of a new boat, and dismissed the frontier-officer, who stood on the bank gazing at the voyagers with tears in his eyes. The governor after bowing at the Master's feet, started the flotilla, with ten boat-loads of soldiers as a defence against pirates. He crossed the terrible river Mantreshwar, and proceeded to Pichhaldá, at which (frontier) village the Master sent him back. The new disciple's expressions of devotion on the occasion were indescribable.

In that boat the Master reached Pániháti, and robed the captain in the robe of His favour. The report of His coming created a sensation: men crowded together on land and water. Raghav Pandit came and led the Master to his house, making their way through the press of men with great difficulty. The Master halted there one day. Next morning He reached Kumárhati, where Shribas dwelt. Thenoe He proceeded to the houses of Shivananda and Vasudev. When lodging with the Váchaspati, He one night fled to the Kulia village shrinking from the crowd. Here in the house of Madhav-das millions had a view of Him, and here He stayed a week saving all the sinners. Thence He went to the Acharya's house at Shantipur, where He met mother Shachi for soothing her grief. Thence He visited Rámkeli and the dancing-hall, returning to Shantipur for a ten days halt. Here Raghunath-das met Him. There were two brothers, Hiranya and Govardhan-das, the owners of Sapta-grám and twelve lakhs of Rupees. Both were very charitable and rich Brahmans, well-behaved, high-born, and foremost in piety, the support of the Brahmans of Navadwip, whom they helped with land and money. Their guru was Nilambar Chakravarti, who treated them like his brothers. As they had formerly served Purandar Mishra, they were well-known to the Master. Raghunath-das was the son of this Govardhan, and averse to the world from his childhood.

On the Master's coming to Shantipur after turning hermit, Raghunath had come and fallen down at His feet in a rapture of love. The Master had graciously touched him with His toe. Raghunath's father always did good turns to the Acharya who did Raghunath a favour, helping him to eat the leavings of the Master's dinner. After staying at the Master's feet for a week, he had been sent away by the Master when He went to Puri. Raghunath returned home, turned mad with love, and repeatedly ran away from his father's house to go to Puri. But his father seized him on the way and kept him tied up, with five watchmen to guard him day and night and four servants and two cooks, in all eleven guards.

Raghunath was brooding over his failure to go to Puri, when he heard of the Master's present visit to Shantipur and begged his father thus: "Let me go and see the Master's feet, or my soul will quit my body." His father then sent him with many men and things and an order to return soon. Raghunath spent a week at Shantipur in the Master's company, ever pondering on his heart's wish, "How shall I escape from my guards? How shall I go to Puri with the Master?" The omniscient Chaitanya, knowing his mind, told him soothingly by way of instruction, "Peace! go home. Turn not wild. It is only gradually that men reach the shore of the world-ocean. Don't ape renunciation of the world, in order to make a show before the people. Enjoy your worldly possessions duly, without setting your heart on them. Cherish piety in your heart, while outwardly you discharge your temporal affairs. Soon will Krishna deliver you. When I return here from Brindában on my way to Puri, come to me by some device. Krishna will at that time inspire you with the device. Who can hold back one whom Krishna favours?"

Raghunath returned home, followed the Master's advice, outwardly gave up his mania and other-worldliness, and did his proper work without being absorbed in it. His parents were pleased at the change and relaxed their rigour.

Here at Shantipur, the Master embraced Adwaita and other bhaktas one by one and said, "Permit me, ye all, to go to Puri. As I have met you all here, you need not go to Puri this year. From this place I will proceed to Brindában. Grant your permission, so that my journey may be safe." Holding His mother's feet He long entreated her and got her consent to visit Brindában, and then sent her back to Navadwip.

He then set out for Puri with His followers, being served on the way by the same men as before. On His arrival at Puri there was a bustle in that village: His joyful bhaktas came and were all embraced by Him,—Kashi Mishra, Rámánanda, Pradyumna, Sarvabhanma, Vaninath, Shikhi, Gadadhar Pandit and others. To them He said, "I wanted to go to Brindában by way of Bengal, after seeing my mother and the Ganges. When I arrived in Bengal a thousand followers gathered round me; myriads of people flocked there to see the fun. The crowd blocked the roads. Wherever I put up, the houses and walls were broken down by their pressure. Wherever the eye rested there was a sea of heads. With great difficulty I reached the Rámkeli village, where two brothers Rup and Sanátan came to me. They were foremost of devotees, winners of Krishna's grace, outwardly royal ministers and governors, old in knowledge faith and wisdom, and yet behaving as meeker than grass. Their humility could have pierced a stony (heart). Highly pleased I gave them leave saying, 'It is good to be lowly and curb one's own pride. Soon will Krishna deliver you.' When going away Sanátan spoke a riddle: 'To be followed by a million men is not the right manner of visiting Brindában.' At that time I did not mind the saying, and next morning reached a village named Kanai's Dancing-hall. Here at night I pondered over Sanátan's dark saying and it struck me, 'He has spoken well. With so many men following me, people will point at me as parading saint-ship. Lonely is that Brindában, hard to win, difficult of access. I must go there alone or with only one companion.' Madhavendra Puri had gone there all alone, and (hence) had Krishna appeared to him on the pretext of serving him with milk. And I,—I am going there like a travelling showman. It is not fit to visit Brindában with a host. A pilgrimage thither accords only with solitary travelling. Instead of my going there alone (as is proper), an army is accompanying me beating drums! O Shame on me! O Shame on me! So saying I became unsettled, gave up the journey and returned to thfe Ganges. Leaving my bhaktas at different places I have arrived here with only five or six. Favour me and give me your counsel how I may peacefully go to Brindában. I have failed to reach Brindában because I left Gadadhar behind here and thus pained him!" At this Gadadhar in rapture seized the Master's feet and spoke meekly, "Wherever you are, there is Brindában, there Jamuna, Ganges and all holy places. You are going to Brindában only to give an object-lesson to men. You will do what your heart likes. The rainy season is coming. Spend these four months at Puri. Thereafter do as you list. Go or stay as you like. Who can prevent you?" The other bhaktas joined in and said, "Gadadhar has voiced our thoughts." Yielding to their wishes, the Master stayed there four months. Pratap Rudra was glad to hear of it. That day Gadadhar feasted the Master and His bhaktas. [Text, canto 16.]

Footnotes and references:


The author, however, tells us in canto 1 that Rámánanda Ray accompanied the Master to Bhadrak. Remuna is 5 miles west and Bhadrak 28 miles south of Baleshwar.

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