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 XXII - The Master converts the people of Benares and returns to Jagannáth

Thus did the Master in two months instruct Sanátan in the entire lore of the philosophy of faith. Chandra Shekhar's comrade, Paramánanda Kirtaniá, an expert artist, performed kirtan before the Master.

As the Master had slighted the sannyasis they everywhere spoke ill of Him. At this the Maratha [Brahman] sadly reflected, Whosoever has a close view of the Master's character feels Him to be God indeed, and admits Him as such. If I can bring them and Him together, they will perceive this [quality] and become His followers. I have always to dwell in Káshi, and if I do not effect this, it will be a matter of everlasting regret to me."

So, he invited all the sannyasis, and himself went on a visit to the Master. Chandra Shekhar and Tapan Mishra, grieved to hear Him defamed, were humbly entreating Him, and His mind, too, was thinking of the conversion of the sannyasis, in order to remove the grief of His bhaktas. Just then the Maratha Brahman arrived and clasping the Master's feet by much entreaty induced Him to accept his invitation. At noon He went to His host's house, and bestowed salvation on the sannyasis in the manner described in Part I. of this book.

From the day on which He blessed the sannyasis, a sensation was created in the village; crowds flocked to behold the Master; scholars of various schools came to discuss theology with Him, but He refuted all their philosophies and established faith as the final truth. By His reasoned speech he turned the minds of them all, and they followed His instruction and began to chant Krishna's name. All men laughed, sang, and danced. The sannyasis submitted to Him; quitting their studies they formed assemblies of their own [to discourse on faith].

A disciple of Prakáshananda, equal to him in attainments, spoke reverently of the Master in open meeting thus, "Chaitanya is Náráyan himself. He explains the aphorisms of Vyás most charmingly. His exposition of the root meaning of the Upanishads gratifies the hearing and mind of scholars even. Our teacher [Prakáshánanda] gives a fanciful explanation of the aphorisms of the Upanishads leaving their essential meaning out. On hearing his fanciful explanations scholars pretend to approve, but are not inwardly convinced, whereas Chaitanya's words feel to be truth indeed. In the Kali Yug, one cannot vanquish the World by asceticism; the highest conclusion and true source of bliss is contained in the exposition which He gave of the verses 'Hari's name alone &c'. The Bhágabat asserts that there cannot be salvation without faith, and that rapture in the name [of Hari] can give an easy deliverance in the Kali Yug. (Bhágabat, X. xiv. 4 and ii. 26).

"The term Brahma connotes God full of the six divine attributes. To describe Him as abstract is to impair His fulness. The Shruti Purans deal with the manifestations of Krishna's chit power. Philosophers laugh at it irreverently. They look upon Krishna's chidánanda images as a mere piece of illusion. In this they sin grievously. Chaitanya's view is the true one. (Bhágabat, III. ix. 3 and 4; Gitá, ix. n and xvi. 19). The aphorisms [of Vedánta] teach the theory of parinám (result), but our teacher disregards it, calls Vyás ignorant, and asserts the theory of bivarta. This fanciful interpretation does not satisfy the mind. Fancies at variance with scripture prove a man a wretch. Engaged in vain disputation, I have hitherto forgotten to know the Supreme Essence. Oh! how shall I merit Krishna's grace? Our teacher has obscured the meaning of Vyás's aphorisms, whereas Chaitanya has revealed it. True are His words; all other theories are false and futile."

So saying he began to sing Krishna's sankirtan. At this Parkashananda remarked, "The Acharya was eager to establish Monism, and he had therefore to twist the sense of the aphorisms. If you admit God's bhagawánship, you cannot establish Monism. So the Acharya had to refute all the Shástras. No author who wishes to set up his own theory can give the plain meaning of the scriptures. A philosopher of the Mimánsa school speaks of God as a part and parcel of [His] work; the Sánkhya speaks of Him as the cause of Nature all over the universe. The Nyáya asserts that the world was composed out of atoms; the Illusionist speaks of the abstract Brahma as the Cause. Patanjal (alone) tells us of the true nature of Krishna; so He is the true God, according to the Vedas. None recognizes God as the Supreme Cause, each school of philosophy only sets up its own theory by refuting the views of its rivals. Thus from the six schools of philosophy we cannot know the [spiritual] truth. Only the words of great men are reliable. Chaitanya's words are a stream of nectar. What He says is the essence of spiritual truth. Hearing all this, the Maratha Brahman in delight went to report it to the Master, whom he met going to visit Bindu Madhav after His bath in the five streams. At the Brahman's narration He was pleased. Beholding the beauty of Bindu Madhav Hewas enraptured and danced in the courtyard [of the temple] in love, while Chandra Shekhar, Paramananda, Tapan and Sanátan joined in a sankirtan chanting,—

"Hail to Hari and Hara! to Krishna the Yadav, to Gopál, Govinda, Ram and Madhusudan."

Lakhs of men surrounded them shouting Hari! Hari! The blessed cry filled earth and heaven. Hearing it near him, Prakashananda came there with his pupils, moved by curiosity. Beholding the Master's charm of person and dancing, he with his disciples joined the cry of Hari! Hari! The Master trembled, spoke in a choking voice, perspired, changed colour, or at times stood rigidly inert, bathing the bystanders with His tears, His body thrilled with ecstasy like the Kadamba tree. He displayed every passion, exultation, abjectness, lightness &c., to the marvel of the people of Benares.

On seeing the crowd, the Master recovered His senses, and stopped His dance before the sannyasis. He bowed very low to Prakashananda, who, however clasped His feet. The Master cried out, "You are the instructor of the world, and beloved [of all], while I am not worthy to be your pupil's pupil. Why should a high one like you bow to a low one like me? As you are God-like, by so doing you are destroying me [in sin]. Though everything becomes you, as it becomes God, yet, for the sake of holding up a lesson before the people, you should cease acting thus [humbly]." Prakashananda replied, "By touching your feet I have washed away all the sin of my former abuse of you!" (Bhágabat, I. v. 12, Chakravarti's commentary, quotation from the appendix cited in the Básaná-váshya, also X. xxxiv. 7).

The Master cried out, "O God! O God! I am a despicable creature. It is a sin to regard any creature as Vishnu. Even if a God-like person holds a creature to be Vishnu, then God will rank him among the infidels. (Hari-bhakti-vilás, i. 71)."

Prakashananda replied, "You are God himself. But even if you insist on being regarded as God's slave, you tire still worthy of being honoured above us. That I once abused you will be the cause of my ruin. (Bhágabat VI. xvi. 4, X. iv. 31, and VII. v. 25). I now bow at your feet, that I may kindle faith in them."

So saying he sat down there with the Master, and asked Him, "The errors you have pointed out in the theory of illusion, are, I know, the fanciful interpretations of Shankar Acharya. Your exposition of the essential meaning of the aphorisms has charmed the minds of all. You are God and can do everything. Tell me then briefly, I long to hear [your interpretation of Vyás's aphorisms]. The Master protested, "I am a creature insignificant in knowledge. Vyás was God's self and his aphorisms have a deep meaning, which no creature can know. Hence he has himself explained his aphorisms. When the writer is his own commentator, men can understand his meaning. The meaning of pranaba in the Gáyatri mantra is explained at length in the four verses of the Bhágabat, II. ix. 30-33. First God imparted these four verses to Brahmá, who taught them to Nárad, and the latter to Vyás, who reflected, "I shall make the Bhágabat itself a commentary on any aphorisms." So he accumulated the teaching of the four Vedas and the Upanishads. Every rik which is the subject matter of a particular aphorism, is formed into a separate verse in the Bhágabat. The Bhágabat and the Upanishads, therefore, speak with one voice; the former is nothing more than a commentary on the latter. Bhágabat, VIII. i. 8, says,

"'Everything that exists in the world is the abode of God. Therefore enjoy what God has given you, and covet not another's possessions.'

"The above verse takes a bird's-eye view of the whole subject. Similarly every verse of the Bhágabat is like a rik. In the 'four verses' the Bhágabat has unfolded the characteristics of Connection, Means (abhidheya), and Need. Connection with 'I' is the truth; perception of 'I' is the highest knowledge, the devotion and faith necessary to attain to 'I' is called the Means. The fruit of devotion is love, which is the radical Need. That love enables a man to enjoy 'I'. Vide the Bhágabat, II. ix. 30, God's words to Brahmá:

'The knowledge of me is deeply mysterious. Accept as spoken by me whatever is united to supreme knowledge (bijnán), attended by mystery, and a part of tat.' Or in other words, God says here, 'These three truths have I explained to you, because being a creature you could not have understood them, viz., my nature, my dwelling (sthiti), and my attributes, works, and six powers. My grace will inspire you with all these.' So saying God imparted the three truths to Brahmá: (i) Bhágabat II. ix. 31,—

'May you, through my grace, at once attain to true knowledge about the nature of my form (swarup), my component element (sattwa), and my attributes and acts.' (God's speech to Brahma).

"Or in other words, God says 'Before creation, being myself endowed with the six divine powers, and drawing into myself Prapancha-Nature, I create while dwelling within it. The Prapancha that men beholds is no other than me. In destruction my remaining attributes manifest themselves, completing me and so Prapancha-nature finds absorption in me.'

"(2) Again, Bhágabat, II. ix. 32, God speaks to Brahmá:—

'This I alone existed before creation, and none else. Nature, the cause of the gross and subtle universes, did not then exist. This I alone exist even after creation; this universe is indeed myself. Whatever will survive the destruction (pralaya) of the world will also be this I.'

"In this verse the phrase 'This I' occurs thrice and determines the dwelling of the full-power divine incarnation (vigraha). He has (clearly) pronounced on this point in order to rebuke those (philosophers) who do not admit incarnations (vigraha). The term 'this' indicates jnán, vijnán, and vivek. Illusion is God's work, therefore God's self ('I') is different from illusion, just as a faint glow shines in the sky where the Sun was, but it cannot appear of itself without aid of the Sun. It is only by going beyond illusion that we can perceive. Here the truth of Connection [with God] has been unfolded.

"(3) Next in Bhágabat, II. ix. 33, God tells Brahmá,—

'Know that to be my illusion which being unreal appears to the (human) mind as real, or being real is not recognized by the mind; just as the reflection in the water of the moon of the sky, though unreal, seems to be a second moon indeed; or as the Rahu of darkness, though real, escapes man's perception.'

"Listen to an exposition of faith as a means of devotion. In religious rites we have to observe distinctions according to person, locality, time and condition. But in the practice of bhakti no such difference has to be made; it is the duty of all in every place, condition and time. Ask a guru about faith, and learn its nature from him. (Bhágabat, II. ix. 35).

'The man who seeks spiritual truth will admit that that substance alone is the Soul (átmá) which dwells at all times and within everything by acting as the anwaya (necessary) and byatireka (non-necessary) causes [of things].'

"Attachment to 'I' is love, the Needful thing. I shall describe its marks by means of actions. As the five spirits (pancha-bhut) dwell within and without all creation, similarly I inspire my bhaktas within and without. (Bhágabat, II. ix. 34),—

'As the Great Spirits (mahá-bhutáni) enter material objects after their creation, but remained outside them as causes before their creation, so I too remain at once within and without all created things.'

'My bhakta has confined me to his lotus-like heart. Wherever he glances he beholds me.' (Bhágabat, XI. ii. 50 and 43, X. xxx. 4).

"Thus does the Bhágabat explain three things, Connection, Means, and Need. (Bhágabat, I. ii. 1).

"Now listen to the abhidheya faith, which inspires every line of the Bhágabat (XI. xiv. 20).

"Now hear about love, the radical Need, whose marks are joyous tears, dance and song. (XI. iii. 32 and ii. 38).

"Therefore is the Bhágabat that author's own commentary on the Brahma Sutra; it settles the meaning of the [Mahá] Bhárat, explains the Gáyatri, and amplifies by gloss the meaning of the Vedas, as is said in the Garuda Purán. Vide also the two verses from the same Purán quoted by Shridhar Swami in his commentary on the Bhágabat, I. 1, also Bhágabat, I. i. 1-3 and 19, the Gitá, xviii. 54, Bhágabat, II. i. 9, III. xv. 43, I. vii. 10."

Then the Maratha Brahman told the assembled people how the Master had explained the last mentioned verse in sixty-one different ways. The men wondered and pressed the Master, who gave His interpretations again. They marvelled exceedingly and concluded that Chaitanya was Krishna incarnate.

This said, the Master left the place. Men bowed to Him and shouted Hari! Hari! All the people of Benares began to make sankirtan of Krishna's name, laughing, dancing and singing in love. The sannyasi philosophers took to the study of the Bhágabat. (In short) the Master saved the city of Benares, which became a second Navadwip [in fervour].

Returning to His quarters with His attendants, the Master said jestingly, "I had come to Benares to sell my sentimental stuff, for which there was no purchaser here. I could not carry my merchandise back to my country, as you would have been grieved to see me carrying the load! So, to please you all, I have distributed my goods freely!"

They all replied, "You have come to deliver mankind. Before this you had carried salvation to the South and the West. Benares alone was adverse to you, and now you have redeemed it, to our delight."

The sensation at Benares spread. Millions of country people began to come to the city. They could not see the Master at the place of sankirtan, but formed lines on both sides of the road to watch Him going to bathe or visit Vishweshwar. With uplifted arms He ordered them to chant Hari's name; they prostrated themselves and shouted Hari! Hari!

Five days were thus passed in delivering the people, and then the Master grew anxious. When He started walking away at night, His five bhaktas followed Him,—viz., Tapan Mishra, Raghunath, the Maratha Brahman, Chandra Shekhar, and the singer Paramananda,—all wishing to accompany Him to Puri. But the Master sent them back gently, giving them leave to come afterwards, as He was returning alone by the Jhárikhand route. To Sanátan He said, "Go to Brindában, to your two brothers. If my bhakta beggars, clad in quilt and bowl in hand, go there, cherish them." So saying He embraced and left them, while they all fell down fainting. Recovering they sadly took the way back to home.

When Rup reached Mathura, at the Dhruba ghát he met Subuddhi Ray, who had once been governor of Gaur with Sayyid Husain Khan as his servant. Husain was ordered to dig a tank, and on his committing some fault, his master, the Ray, flogged him. When, afterwards, Husain Shah became Sultan of Bengal, he greatly promoted Subuddhi Ray.

But the Sultana, noticing the scar of the lash on Husain's back, pressed him to murder the Ray. The Sultan declined saying that the Ray was his former patron, a father unto him. But the queen urged him to destroy the Ray's caste while sparing his life. Husain answered that Subuddhi would not survive the loss of his caste. The king was hard pressed by the queen, and at last forced water from his own goglet into the Ray's mouth. At this the Ray left all his possessions, fled to Bewares, and asked the pandits there about the proper penance. Thev replied, "Give up your life by drinking steaming ghee. This is not a venial sin!" The Ray remained perplexed, but when the Master arrived there, he told Him all. Chaitanya advised him to go to Brindában and ceaselessly chant Krishna's name, as one utterance of the name would wash away all his sins and a repetition of it would gain him Krishna's feet.

The Ray reached Mathura by way of Prayág, Ayodhyá, and the Naimish forest (where he lingered some days). In the meantime the Master returned from Brindában to Prayág, and Subuddhi on reaching Mathura grieved to miss Him. The Ray sold dry faggots at Mathura, at five or six piece per bundle. He lived by chewing one pice worth of gram and lodged the rest of his earnings with a baniá. Whenever he met a poor Vaishnav, he fed him, and to Bengali pilgrims he gave curd, rice and oil for anointing the body. Rup greatly favoured him, and took him through the "Twelve Woods" in his own company.

After a month at Brindában, Rup hurriedly left to search Sanátan out. Hearing that the Master had taken the Ganges route to Prayág, Rup and his brother Anupam followed that path. But Sanátan from Prayág went to Mathura by the king's highway, and so missed Rup, who had taken a different route, as Subuddhi Ray told Sanátan on his arrival at Mathura. Tenderly did the Ray treat Sanátan, who cared not for tender treatment; being very averse to the world, he roamed through the woods, passing a day and night under each tree and grove. Securing a copy of the holy book named Mathurá Mahátmya, he searched the forests to discover the forgotten shrines.

Rup with his youngest brother came to Kashi and there met the Maratha Brahman, Chandra Shekhar, and Tapan Mishra. He lived with Chandra Shekhar, dined with the Mishra, and heard from the latter how the Master had taught Sanátan. Delighted was he to hear from them about the Master's doings at Kashi and His grace to the sannyasis, and to see the devotion of the people to him, and hear them chanting kirtan. After a ten days stay there, Rup left for Bengal.

The Master wended His way to Puri, feeling intense bliss in the lonely jungle path. Balabhadra accompanied Him, and He sported with the deer and other animals as during His first journey. Reaching Athára-nálá He sent Bhattáchárya in advance to summon His followers. At the news of His return, they got a new life as it were, ran to Him in rapture and met Him at the Narendra tank. The Master touched the feet of the Puri and the Bhárati, who embraced Him lovingly. Damodar Swarup, Gadadhar Pandit, Jagadananda, Kashishwar, Govinda, Vakreshwar, Kashi Mishra, Pradyumna Mishra, Damodar Pandit, Haridas Thakur, Shankar Pandit, and all other bhaktas fell down at His feet. He embraced each and was over come with love. The faithful swam in the ocean of bliss. With them He went to visit Jagannáth, before whom He with His party danced and sang long in rapture. The servitor of the god presented Him with a garland and prasád, while Tulsi Parichha bowed at His feet.

The Master's arrival was [soon] noised abroad in the village. Sárvabhauma, Rámánanda, and Vánináth joined Him. With them all He repaired to Kashi Mishra's house. Sárvabhauma bade Him to dinner, but He declined, and ordering some mahá-prasád to be brought, feasted there with all His followers. [Text, canto 25.]

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