Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura
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THE LORD AND HIS BELOVED
Four centuries ago, about the year 1512 A.D., the western bank of the Godavari at Kovvur, on the most memorable day in the History of the world, witnessed a remarkable march of a band of Vedic Brahmanas chanting mantrams, attended with a performing concert of numerous Indian musical instruments playing before the procession in State of the Governor of Godavari Province of the Empire of thc Ganga dynasty of Utkal. This pompous procession was meant as the accompaniment for a ceremonial bath in the sacred Godavari whose sanctity is well established from time immemorial.
The bather was a no less conspicuous entity than the Governor of the mighty Emperor of Orissa, Sri Prataparudra Deva the greatest Ruler of the famous Ganga Dynasty whose members bore the proud designation of the Gajapatis or Lords of Elephants.
The spectacle visualized the fact that the occasion was intended for seeking an accession of Virtue and piety by a great Luminary of the Imperial Firmament who evidently wanted to popularize himself to be a religious personage guiding the reins of the administration of a great King.
Just before the party was approaching the holy bathing ghat of Gospada opposite to Kotilingam at Rajmundry, an Ascetic was observed to cross the river from the opposite bank to Pushkaram or Gospada. The very desire of having an ablution in the sacred stream fortunately brought One Who is the object of the eternal service of all unalloyed souls. The unbounded mercy that was hidden under the garb of the ascetic was showing unusual aptitude to meet a man of an apparently different caliber possessed of all royal grandeur quite in contravention to conditions of life invited by a sannyasin who deserted all earthly hopes of having any aid from busy sections of mundane meddlers.
This unusual meeting of those two extremes, as would seemingly appear before the public eye, will not reconcile the conflicting thoughts of an ordinary observer. This spot with its most precious transcendental association has at last been recovered from the dungeon of forgetfulness or oblivion by 6ne of their humble servants after the lapse of forty decades. Naturally the present day observers will look forward to ascertain the details regarding what led the public to the preservation of the memory of the said incident. Why was the mendicant busy to meet a man of ruling position and what led the ablest head of the administration to come in close touch with an unknown figure void of all worldly ambition?
The Governor had everything to do with the ascetic who also in his turn was travelling throughout the length and breadth of India in search of the Master and His comrades. Both of them found each other in the state which recalls the shrutimantram of the Mundaka as if dva sapurna sayuja, etc.
Gentle readers! Perchance you may not be able to resist the natural impulse to inquire about the couple. To respond to the call of enquiry, we are furnishing the account which has a historical bearing.
This ascetic was no other than Sri Krishna-Chaitanya, identical with Sri Krishna with His Consort Barshabanavi. The principal object, the observed of all observers, was no other than Rai Ramananda, identical with the serving maid known as Sakhi Vishakha of Braja-Leela. The damsel of Braja came to serve her Lord and Consort under the garb of exhibiting an easy lucid exposition of the transcendental manifestive phase to the reach of fortunate souls. The Supreme Lord--the Fountainhead of the Predominating Aspect of the Transcendental Region--assumed the phase of a servitor, seeking as if his Lord with all ardor, as well as ready to pick up His old friend, to facilitate an easy access to the solving of an intricate problem of eternal life of felicitous knowledge of the transcendence in phenomena.
The immanence of both made the devotees alone to conceive them by their seeming features of transcendence. Their meeting disclosed facts which were a sealed book to the frailties of human mentality. So the memory of this place would be adequately immortalized by recollecting the greatest boon offered to the search of eternity.
The nativity of our hero is alleged to be Bentpur in the District of Puri where his kinsmen are still traced as Choudhury Pattanayakas. He was descended in the Karan caste, which is a mixed caste of vaishya and sudra as Manava Dharma Shastra would tell us in describing the mixed apashadas. His father's name was Bhavananda Rai, who had four other sons. One of the sons, Gopinath, was employed in the service of the king, but was found guilty of embezzling some amount of the royal treasury which penalized his life by the decision of the prince. King Prataparudra, considering the defaulter a brother of Ramananda, granted mercy in sparing his life; whereas, the Supreme Lord exhibited His diffidence to grant him mercy by His devotee, the King. Another brother of his named Vaninath, used to serve faithfully the Supreme Lord in various ways, such as in conveying mahaprasadam, etc.
Rai Ramananda was in the cadre of the highest service of the realm and he had to act as the Governor of East and West Godavari, being a faithful and trustworthy service-holder of the Emperor of Orissa who had extended his province to the north bank of the river Krishna. Highest reference was given of Sri Ramananda by Vasudeva Sarbabhauma Bhattacharyya, the then erudite professor of monistic Vedanta or Chinmatravada. His devotional activities together with his writings earned for him the fame of the greatest poet of the time. This trait of character was unequalled as well as his maintenance of ethical views was no less.
The Supreme Lord was hurrying up to meet him in His journey to the South and was very eager to have his unique company of pure highest devotion. Rai Ramananda at the same time also cherished an unknown hope of coming in touch with the all-loving transcendental entity Sri Krishna. So They were united in the tie of love which has a serving aptitude for the one goal--the akhila-rasamrita-murty.
Rai's excellent work, Sri Jagannath-ballava-natakam, was being written with the skill of a reputed rhetorician, and later on this drama attracted the attention of the Supreme Lord in His manifesting devotional rituals. The style is so very simple that a little knowledge of grammar can help the readers of any other languages originated from Sanskrit in following the same.
Since his meeting with the Supreme Lord at Kovvur, Rai Ramananda strictly followed the counsel of his Master. He parted with his exalted position and returning to Puri awaited for the Supreme Lord in order to serve Him as a companion. During his period of retirement from the service of the emperor Rai Ramananda lived at the Jagannath Ballava Garden in the town of Puri where he was busily engaged in the practices of the transcendental services of all those girls whom he considered to be identical with the damsels of Braja.
The blind pedants could not discern his position as a true practical devotee in his swarupa or transcendental absolute position when he sincerely posed as an eternal serving maid of the paraphernalia of the Predominated Transcendental Aspect of the Absolute. The ordinary eyes cannot possibly transcend the worldly phenomena; so their vision is never proselytized by spiritual acquisition. The ordinary brain cannot possibly distinguish between the mundane and the spiritual planes. Their particular angle of vision cannot convince them of the transcendental plane where no sensuous enjoyment is feasible. The ordinary sight of an empiricist can never be expected to subscribe to para-vidya when their funds are truly lacking in transcendental treasures. He was and is often confused as a man who was indulging in his senses for his enjoyment by lustful anthropomorphists.
But the true position of the heart of our hero was not observed by such people in the true light of a devotee. A true devotee has no other ambition to enjoy the frailties of Nature. He is ever engaged in the service of the Master's comrade without any attempt to have a share in the Lord's acquisition. He has been accepted by the Supreme Lord as His best friend; and, not only as a friend, but as an eternal friend in the company of Sri Krishna and His Consort. It is stated by the biographer of the Supreme Lord that the sweet composition of the songs of Rai Ramananda acted as predominating over the transcendental mentality of the Master. His book formed one of the five that occupied the engagement of the Supreme Lord. He has left some songs in the Malthili language which much attracted the love of his Lord. And these songs are the highest specimens of delineations of transcendental love. His integrity and sincerity were fully substantiated at the occasion of the meeting of Pradyumna Mis hra who was asked by the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna-Chaitanya to learn the clue of true devotion from the denizen of the Jagannath Ballava Garden who was fully occupied with the transcendental love of Braja. The Supreme Lord compared his renunciating demeanor with that of the ideal abnegation of the Goswamis Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana who have shown to the world conduct reaching the acme of deserting platform.
His time can be safely admitted from the eighth decade of the fifteenth century to the succeeding fourth decade of the Christian era. He greatly exerted himself in securing the favor of the Supreme Lord towards the emperor of Orissa who was in territorial possession of Andhra. The King allowed him to remain in the Garden of Jagannath Ballava and granted him suitable pension during his lifetime. He was one of the two constant companions of the Lord and was the best friend of Damodar Swarup Goswami. He was treated in reverential eye by the proper followings of the Supreme Lord, viz., Sri Raghunath Das Goswami and others. He was also the bosom friend of Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana.
The servant's story is not complete unless the Master's account is given at least in a brief compass in order to avoid a partial view of correlation of both. So the Master's advent before Ramananda should enlighten the account. In the first place we are to narrate the previous activities of the Supreme Lord who was loved by one and all, by whomsoever He met. But the Lord had a peculiar affinity for our hero. It has been told of the Supreme Lord that He assumed the platform of a world-teacher for the upheaval of the contaminated mentality of the apathetic bound souls who preferred to have a temporal life in the clutches of time and space to accommodate matter.
Worldly persons are no doubt busy with the historicity of the Master and Rai Ramananda, so that they may get hold of the activities of the religious teacher in the cadre of other such instructing preachers. To satisfy their curiosity as well as to help them in their advance towards non-mundane plane the Life of the Supreme Lord may be sketched in the following lines:
Sri Krishna-Chaitanya was born at Sri Mayapur in the District of Nadia comprised in the Province of Bengal in India. Sri Mayapur is situated on the eastern bank of the sacred stream of the Ganges. He was born on the 18th of February in the year 1486 A.D. at the time when there occurred a lunar eclipse in the early evening. In accordance with the custom of the Indo-Aryans the people were seeking after accumulating virtues and expiating their sins on the occasion. They were singing the Name of personal Godhead Vishnu instead of indulging in an abstract idea of Him, void of all nomenclatures.
Sri Krishna-Chaitanya wanted to dispel the erroneous ideas of people who are busy to target the entity of Godhead into an impersonality. To give relief from such doubts Sri Chaitanya's advent into this world has got the inconceivable trace of His parents. His father was known as Jagannath Mishra who migrated from Sylhet in Assam to sacred Nadia, washed by the sanctifying stream, the center of learning at that time but stubbornly averse to Godly associations. Once this place had been the seat of the capital of the kings of Bengal.
His mother Sachi Devi had several daughters born before the advent of the Supreme Lord, who had died in their infancy, and had a son before she could get Sri Chaitanya as her boy. Sri Chaitanya's elder brother renounced the company of his kinsmen by assuming the garb of a sannyasin under the help of Advaita-Acharyya of Shantipur, which is also a town in the District of Nadia. Srivas Pandit was an elderly citizen of Nabadwip, close neighbor of Jagannath Mishra and a, man of devout nature.
The parents of Sri Chaitanya regarded it as a great favor of the Supreme Lord in having Him as the Loving Darling of all their ambition. Sri Chaitanya in His early life had His different Names--Nimai, Gauranga, Vishwambhar, etc. He was found to speak the highest philosophy of the impersonal nature when he was an infant. He inculcated the views of the pantheists in dismissing purity and dirt when He betook Himself to playing with rejected earthen pots in the unclean refuse heap as well as taking earth instead of sweetmeats offered by His mother. The boy heard with rapt attention the admonitions of His mother to the effect that in the manifestive world everything has its propriety and they need not be classed in the same category as the impersonalists view them ignoring the special utility of particular things adaptable as ingredients of the devotees.
In the manifestive transcendence time, space and the entities need not be confused with the impersonal vague ideas of blank space which is void of all eternal attributes. Though the impersonal conception is derived from the bitter limited experience of the temporal activities and transformations, sensation of miseries, inadequacies and other unsuitable experiences, yet it is a hasty conclusion that summarily rejects the manifestive sight out of its preference for the void of all attributions.
His kinsmen observed many supernatural feats in Him though He was then a mere boy busy with His childish activities. He lost His father in His infancy. But this does not give Him any opportunity of neglecting His studies. His father and maternal grandfather were both professors and men of learning. Within a short time He picked up versatile knowledge along with His training in the Sanskrit language.
He had to accost a learned pandit who was seeking the fame of a "Conqueror" of the then learned men. Though Vishwambhar was handled in a neglecting way by that Champion of learning, the latter was compelled to submit to the learning of the young grammar-pandit. This incident gave Nimai Pandit the highest platform among the erudite scholars of the then center of learning.
Vishwambhar was married in His Early Life, though He was not born in an opulent family. After the demise of His father He wanted to seek for adequate money to maintain His family by His pedagogic activities. So He went to the Eastern parts of Bengal to secure necessary wealth. On his return from the foreign land He found that His Wife was no longer living to enjoy His treasures thus brought from abroad. So He resorted to marrying a second time at the insinuations of His relatives and especially of His mother who required to be looked after by the spouse of her son. The first wife was known by the name of Lakshmipriya and the second was Vishnupriya.
The practice of offering pinda for one's departed father was in vogue and He submitted to such conventional method of the society in taking a journey to Gaya where He met Iswara Puri, a mendicant devotee of the Madhva School. He submitted to the sage who was reputed disciple of the well-known Madhavendra Puri.
This initiation turned the tables for mundane aspirations to the love of All-loving Absolute Krishna. The transcendental operation of initiation gave Him to know that the Transcendental Word Krishna is the fullest entity of the widest comprehension of Godhead. So the exploitations of the grammarians, in wrangling words in the fashion of Panini, with different meanings tended to one goal – Krishna - when the enjoying attitude by mundane senses is withheld. Different words of different languages have got distinctive and contending impressions as between one another. He came to the conclusion that the Absolute has no deviation and He can only be had through directing the aural activity to transcendence and immanence.
This transcendental sound is cogent enough to regulate the receiving instrument of conception of mundane knowledge which has a distinctive feature from the Absolute non-flickering varieties.
He was found to chant the Name of Krishna night and day without any cessation on His return to Nadia. The pupils who used to get their coaching from Nimai Pandit could not any longer avail the opportunity of aggrandizing themselves with the knowledge of Sanskrit grammar, as they found their Teacher was absorbed in the love of Krishna. The pupils approached Nimai Pandit to induce their professor to teach them grammar as before. But Nimai Pandit would not at all submit to the advice of Gangadas, His teacher, to pay His attention to the entreaties of the students of Nadia. He was busy with inculcating the transcendental message to all His friends. Advaita, Srivas and Thakur Haridas, all were expecting Nimai to take up the cause of pure theism by His marked unusual talents, and by this His conversion Nimai Pandit proved the object of their unending joy and ecstasy. All of them, who had got a theistic tendency, now found in Him their only leader.
The karma-kandins and persons who indulged in jnana-kanda and other denizens of the town stood against the new propaganda of theism headed by Vishwambhar. They could not win over this party by their talents and arguments. They were fully confident of the unusual merits of Sri Chaitanya. So they could not find their way to put a check to the volcanic activities of this band of workers. Finding no other measures for impeding their course they resorted to the Fouzdar (Magistrate) of the town to chastise the new religious party who had become a nuisance and disturbers of their peace by their shouting of the Name of Krishna. The form of the religious propagation of Nimai held that uttering the Name would bring all facilities of serving Krishna even better than worshipping singly which is not annoying to the neighbors and is non-interfering with the whims of the mob.
The non-Hindu community of the town headed by the Mohammedan Kazi commenced to offer opposition in various ways. The personality of Vishwambhar attracted attention of many citizens who organized a very large party to accost the Kazi for his interference in their particular religious activities. This was successful and the propaganda went on with all propriety. Mischievous people were on the look-out for impeding the numerical expansion of the following of Vishwambhar by instigating two naughty turbulent brahmana robbers. The cementing policy and assurances of Nimai proselytized their vicious conduct into religious life, though Nimai's co-workers were roughly handled. The following of Vishwambhar met at the premises of Srivas where they held their religious congregation. Some naughty opponents thought it fit to have some dirty articles placed against the doorway of the house of Srivas to show their indignant attitude. This was also pacified by Vishwambhar taking no steps for putting a stop t o such mischievous deeds.
Certain Hindus of henotheistic culture wanted to annoy Sri Chaitanya. On a particular occasion it so happened that a few students of the community approached Nimai Pandit as He was chanting the names of the consorts of Krishna. They were opposed to Krishna-bhakti and were specially averse to revere and offer their services to Krishna-bhaktas, considering themselves to be on a par with them. This caused Sri Krishna Chaitanya to chastise them with a cudgel, this enraged the community of those hostile atheists. The active opponents of the theistic propaganda now made up their minds to disperse the association of the devotees by a series of disturbances. Nimai patiently observed all this and arrived at the conclusion that He would not be in a position to confer a greater boon on His neighbors unless He renounced their society. Those naughty fellows, through their ignorance had observed that Nimai being a co-sharer of their religious community had deviated from the customary course and was proving hostile to their community. So they were resolved to act in the contrary way simply to discourage His religious culture and work of propaganda.
Nimai took due note of the situation and thought that it would be wise to leave them alone in their exploits by assuming Vedic mendicancy which all are accustomed to revere and to which they accord their esteemed adoration. At the closing of His twenty-fifth year He went to Katwa, now a sub-divisional town in the District of Burdwan in Bengal, twenty-four miles from Sri Mayapur, with a few select friends with the object of formally giving up for good the life of a householder. ,
Just after this change He was found to be drawn to Vrindavan where He could meet Krishna and His associates, the only ambition of all true souls who are repelled by the optimistic course of the worldly people. His companions did not allow Him to hasten directly to the locality of Mathura, but diverted Him from His course by a hoax in keeping with His exclusive mood. They managed to conduct Him to Santipur where He had to meet many of His friends of Nadia, who were anxious to have a last sight of Him on the occasion of His departure from their midst, including Sachi Devi and the bhaktas.
On the eve of His departure from Nadia He addressed His wife and mother and all friends to the effect that He was leaving their society in His search for Krishna and the very act would give them a better opportunity of culturing the habit of search after Krishna. The desertion was a boon to all of them and they should part with Him in all goodwill.
From Shantipur He took the track on the cast bank of the Ganges, passing through Varahanagar, Calcutta, Atisara, Chattrabhoga and other villages before He entered Orissa. He visited Gopinath at Remuna in the District of Balasore, where His grand-preceptor Madhavendra Puri had the privilege of receiving the special mercy of the Lord Who purloined one of the pots full of preparation of thickened milk and rice boiled in the same which had been offered to Himself by the officiating priest, and presented it to Madhavendra Puri for his use. He went on to Jajpur and visited Sakshi Gopala in Cuttack. He reached Puri by way of Bhuvaneswar.
At Puri Sri Chaitanya met Vasudev Sarbabhauma who was a professor of impersonal Vedantism and many other bhaktas. After the conversion of Sarbabhauma to theism all of them recommended Him to meet Rai Ramananda in His pilgrimage to the South. He was now bent upon strictly adhering to the rules of the life of a recluse and would not even admit the emperor of Orissa to approach Him. Before His meeting with Rai Ramananda He had visited the Shrine of Alalnath at Brahma-giri, Kurmadeva at Kurmachalam near Chicacole in the modern District of Ganjam, where He engaged Himself in preaching Krishna-bhakti.
Spending a few days with Ramananda on Krishna topics Sri Chaitanya in His progress through the South visited Mangalgiri in Guntur, Ahobilam in Karnul and Tirupati in Chittur Districts. He visited almost all the shrines of Tamil country. He had been to Conjiveram, Sri Rangam, Madura, Shiyali, Kumbakonam, Tanjore and saw several shrines in the Tinnevelly District and in the Travancore State where He saw Janardana and Ananta Padmanabha, Adikeshava and Kanya Kumari before He visited Payoshni and the Western-coast shrines.
At Sri Rangam He lived for four months in the house of a Sri vaishnava, who had migrated to that place, named Venkata Bhatta, with whom He had a comparative discussion of the principles of majesty (aishvarya) and mellow attraction (madhurya). It resulted in the conversion of his brother Prabodhananda, a tridandi sannyasin, and his son Gopala
He went to Kolahpur and visited other places on His way back to Purusottam Kshetra (Puri), including Pandharpur where His elder brother Vishwarupa, known as Swami Sankararanya, left His body on the bank of the river Bhima.
On returning to Puri He met His former comrades of Nadia, including Thakur Haridas and Damodar Swarup. He rejoined Ramananda Rai and Vasudav Sarvabhauma and His Utkal followers. People from Nadia went to Puri to have a sight of the Supreme Lord Who returned thither after visiting all the shrines of the South, including East and West coast, and after meeting all the then religious heads.
He now showed the people by His acts how to serve Jagadisha in different capacities, e.g., drawing the Cars with samkirtan in congregations. He was now pleased to grant His permission to see Him first to the son of the emperor and later on to the emperor himself. People from Nadia used to meet Him every year during the time of the Car Festival and enjoyed His Presence by strictly following the dictates of religion of love. Sri Krishna-Chaitanya had always a detestation for mayavada--that phase of pantheism in which the eternal service is practically denied and pedantic aspersions are found to predominate over the aspects of transcendental manifestive Truth.
The Supreme Lord was not permitted by His devotees to proceed to Vrindavan, lest He would not return. The Lord acceded to the apprehension in curbing His Journey from Malda (Old Gauda), a northern district of the same name in Bengal, as per counsels of His admirers. He was determined to proceed to Vrindavan and this time He would accept only one companion for His journey to the Northwestern province, through wild regions of forests. After crossing over the forest tracks and meeting the ferocious animals by associating Himsdf with them by chanting the transcendental Names He reached Benares and met some two or three admirers there before, He would journey for Allahabad where He met Sri Rupa Goswami, one of the twin stars of the administration of Bengal who He taught all about bhakti--or the procedure how to secure Krishna prema or the final goal of all ambitions. From Allahabad He visited all the vicinities of Vrindavan where Krishna enacted His bhouma lila, to enlighten those freed souls who were entitled to have the same and stayed there for some months. He retraced His footsteps to Allahabad via Soron after chalking out the Ganges route to meet Sanatan Goswami who had escaped from the prison of the then King of Bengal as the King could not spare Sanatana for his services for religious purposes. At Benaras He taught Sanatana all about the sambandha jnanam (i.e., the transcendental relation of the eternal manifestations).
He paid a short visit to Kurukshetra and some other places which are not specifically noted in His biography, before He again returned to Puri.
He took vigorous measures in respect of His followings who were found to go astray from His instructions, e.g., the renegade pseudo-Haridas and others.
From His thirty-seventh year to the close of His lila He did not permit outsiders to perturb Him in His spiritual activities except that His intimate followings had the privilege of serving Him in his Krishha-loving aptitude. Sometimes people observed Him in full entheasmic trance. Sometimes He was observed to run into the waters of the Bay considering its brine to be the spiritual water of the Yamuna where Krishna used to play. l'n all his Spiritual Activities the followers have learnt that separation of the consort is estimated as helping the spiritual culture and not the enjoying association of the Absolute which cannot make any progress.
His Disappearance is traced to His amalgamation with Gopinath at Tota in Puri. Some are of opinion that He merged into Jagadisha at the Gundicha in Sundarachal. Foolish and unscrupulous men have surmised that His body was mixed in waters of the Bay, but in that case the dashing wave might have returned Him to the shore. There are different spurious stories which go to show that His disappearance came about by the activities of His opponents. But the devotees are confident of His eternal and spiritual body being inseparable from the owner as He is not to be estimated in the light of an incarnation or conditioned soul like the preacher who has to pay the debt to Nature.
In fact He was identical with the All-love having no mundane reference to signify His entity in particular time and space, though He did not show to delude the, apathetic and rupturous views of a non-loving caliber. This is a short narrative of the Supreme Lord and Rai Ramananda as gauged by mundane spectators known as hagiolaters who search about the accounts of heroes.