Mad Nimai Pandita
At the time of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's advent, Bengal had fallen far away from Krsna consciousness. The people of the day had become so much degraded that they would pass their time spending money like water to see the marriage of cats. Deviating from the worship of the Supreme Lord, Krsna, they used to worship the serpent-god, Visahari, or the controller of the demons, Kali. Very rarely would the name of Krsna be heard from their lips. Only a few of the Hindu gentlemen, when bathing in the Ganges, would chant the holy name of Govinda, Hari, or Krsna. And Navadvipa dhama, the place of advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, was under Mohammedan rule in those days. The Kazi was in power in Navadwipa, and the Hindu's religious feelings were checked by the strong hand of his Islamic rule.
Advaita Acarya was a great scholar and the most senior among Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's followers. He appeared in Navagrama in Sri Hatta, in the eastern province of Bengal, and resided in Santipura. Ontologically speaking, Sri Advaita Acarya is the avatara of Mahavisnu, who creates the material cosmos through the agency of His illusory energy. Advaita Acarya is the devotee who earnestly invited Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to descend here as the yugavatara to look after the welfare of all souls. He began to worship the Lord with Ganges water and tulasi leaves and invoked His grace, praying, "0 Lord, please come and deliver these people; the time has come to relieve them by the distribution of the sweet name of Krsna. Come, my Lord—they are most poor!" In this way Advaita Acarya attracted Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by pleading the cause of the fallen souls. Of course, the time had come for the advent of the incarnation for this age, the yugavatara, but still Advaita Acarya
performed the function of inviting and welcoming Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The Advent of Sri Caitanya
And when the Supreme Lord was about to appear, Advaita felt in His heart, "My prayer is going to be satisfied—He is coming!" Ultimately, He detected that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, had personally appeared in the house of Sri Jagannatha Misra and Sacidevi as their newborn boy, Nimai Visvambhara. And so, Advaita Acarya went to pay due respects to the child and His parents on the divine advent day.
When the boy was a little grown up, Sri Advaita Prabhu came to bow at the feet of the child, Nimai. Sacidevi, Nimai's mother, shuddered: "What are you doing? You are an old pandita, a Vedic scholar. If you show this kind of respect to my young boy it will spoil His future! What are you doing?" It was said that whenever Advaita Acarya used to bow down His head to a Deity, the statue would shatter into pieces if it was a sham, if there was no genuine presence of the Lord. But here, when Advaita put His head at the feet of the boy, Nimai put one foot on Advaita Acarya's head. Everyone was astounded and wondered, "What kind of spiritual power does this child have? Such a great devotee-scholar and senior man as Advaita has bowed down to this child, and the child has stepped on Advaita's head, but the child is quite unaffected! Who is this child?
When Nimai was a boy, sometimes He would disguise Himself with a blanket and enter into the banana grove of a neighbor's house. With a push of His head He used to break down the banana trees. The neighbors would come out and think, "A bull must have entered and demolished our garden!" In these pastimes the Lord was teaching His devotees, "I am demolishing all your banana trees that will be used for some other purpose besides My service. In the highest sense, you are My eternal associates, and I can do anything and everything with your possessions to suit My fleeting pleasures." Sometimes He would snatch fruit from the hand of Sridhara Pandita, saying, "Oh, give me this banana. I won't be able to pay you any price." Sridhara Pandita would tell Him, "Why are you doing this? You are a brahmana boy; I can't refuse you. But you should not do these things. I am a poor man. If you snatch away my best things, how can I make a living?" In this way, Nimai performed His
pastimes of stealing fruit.
As Nimai Pandita grew up, he used to show Advaita Acarya great respect. But Advaita could not tolerate it. He said, "I know that You are not an ordinary person. You are a supernatural, transcendental personality of the highest order. Still, in the worldly sense. You are younger than Me, so You show Me respect, but I can't tolerate it. It is too much for Me." But what could Advaita do? Nimai used to show His formal respect to Advaita Prabhu every time They met, so Advaita made a plan to stop this, and thought to Himself, "I shall see how clever You are."
He left Navadwipa, went to Santipura, and began to preach against the devotional school. The news came to Nimai that Advaita Acarya, after such a long a time as a devotee, was preaching against the devotional school. He was preaching that jnana, knowledge, is higher than devotion. "Devotion makes the Lord far away," He argued, "and knowledge tries to bring Him very near. With knowledge, one thinks, 'I want to experience You, 0 Lord.' And devotion says 'He is adhoksaja: transcendental. He can't be traced by our senses.' So, devotion makes him far away by saying, 'It is only His sweet will that may connect us.' But, according to the path of knowledge, the supreme authority is within you, in your heart. The devotional school is clearly secondary."
"Don't Kill that Old Man!"
In this way, Advaita Acarya began to preach. And when that reached the ears of Nimai Pandita, He went with Nityananda to punish Advaita. They jumped into the Ganges and swam all the way to Santipura, where they found Advaita Acarya. Nimai confronted him: "What are you doing, Acarya? Why have You invited Me to come here? With Ganges water and tulasi leaves. You prayed for Me to appear, and now You are making fun of Me? You are speaking against devotion, against Me? What is the matter with You?" In this way, Nimai Pandita began to punish Advaita. He began to slap Him. The old wife of Advaita Acarya began to cry, "What are you doing? Don't kill that old man!"
Nityananda Prabhu was smiling, and Haridasa Thakura, perplexed, was standing at a little distance trying to understand, "What is the matter?" Then Advaita Acarya Prabhu felt great satisfaction. He said, "I have taught You a lesson now—You have come to punish Me. You are defeated—I have gained victory over You!" Advaita Prabhu began to dance. "Today I have defeated You, My Lord! You had to punish Me. Where has that formal respect You were always showing Me gone now?" In this way, Advaita Acarya rejoiced, and offered Mahaprabhu a feast of sak, His favorite delicacy.
The Lord gave so much grace to Advaita Prabhu that although He was an old scholar and acarya, He was punished with slaps. It is not possible to punish or dishonor anyone we respect, but only our intimate friends. Disrespect and dishonor is possible only when there is great intimacy. Pure devotees want punishment. "Punish us!," they pray, but punishment from the high quarter is not very cheap.
Advaita's Mystic Poem
Many years later, just before Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu began to manifest His final pastimes of divine ecstasy, Advaita Acarya Prabhu wrote some mystic lines of poetry which He sent to the Lord through Jagadananda Pandita:
baulake kahiha—loka ha-ila baula
baulake kahiha—hate na vikaya caula
baulake kahiha—kaye nahika aula
baulake kahiha—iha kahiyache baula
Tell our Prabhu, who acts as madmen do,
that everyone has lost their sanity,
And rice once high in price has no value.
In love of God, half-crazed humanity neglects this world
and all they once held dear;
tell Him a madman brings this to His ear.
When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu read that mystic poem. His mood became serious. Svarupa Damodara was there: "What is written here?" he said. Mahaprabhu replied, "I do not know what is the real meaning, but Advaita Acarya is a great 'worshiper,' and a certain class of 'worshipers' are accustomed to think, "We shall invite the Deity, and for some time we shall try to keep Him here for worship. Then, when we are finished with our worship, finally we shall bid Him adieu.' Perhaps Advaita thinks, 'Now it is time for the Deity to go.' I don't know what is the real meaning, but perhaps this is His purpose." Svarupa Damodara took the poem, read it, and became very thoughtful: "Oh. Advaita Prabhu is saying that the requirements for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's appearance have been fulfilled, and now, He is no longer needed to preach the holy name of Krsna as the incarnation for this age. The avatara's duty is finished, and so He may go."
The Last Twelve Years
After this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu remained within this world for twelve more years, but not as before. His mood was quite changed. From that day on. He felt great separation from Krsna in the mood of Radharani. Divine madness became predominant in Him and His social connection was almost closed. Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara were His attendants at that rime. He no longer kept any social connections; the fire within Him was burning, the fire of separation. He was absorbed in Radharam's search for Sri Krsna after Krsna left Vrndavana. In that mood of divine madness. He spent twelve years in a closed room within the house compound of Kasi Misra.
Sometimes at night, unconsciously crossing the boundary wall. He would run to meet Lord Jagannatha. When Svarupa Damodara and His other attendants would suddenly find that no sound of Krsna's name could be heard within His room, they would begin searching: "Mahaprabhu is not there, where is He?" Sometimes they would find Him fallen before the main gate of the Jagannatha temple. His legs and hands drawn within His body like the limbs of a tortoise drawn within its shell. A very sweet fragrance could be detected emanating from Him, and the cows would flock there, smelling His body. While Mahaprabhu was lying in his trance. He was internally experiencing the pastimes of Radha and Govinda with the gopis in Govardhana. At that time, Svarupa Damodara and the others tried their best to revive Him from His trance by chanting the holy name of Krishna.
When Mahaprabhu was roused. He complained, "What have you done? I was enjoying a most happy experience there but by raising a clamor, you have drawn me down here." And what raised a clamor? The chanting of Hare Krsna. And who was chanting the name of Krsna? Svarupa Damodara and others of his caliber. The depth of the experience of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His divine trance was so great that He took the chanting of Hare Krsna to be noise. So, we may chant the holy name of Krsna, and that may be simply noise. From another angle of vision, however, it may be seen that krsna-nama is of such immense value that it was given preference over direct participation in krsna-lila. But the direction given to us by our acaryas, the spiritual preceptors of our line, is that we should consider our own chanting to be merely noise.
One day, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was wandering near the seashore. A girl was fervently singing in praise of Lord Jagannatha, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu ran straight towards that sound. He began running through thickets of dangerous thorns. Then Govinda, His attendant, somehow stopped Him. When He understood everything, he said, "Oh, a girl is singing? Govinda saved my life."
Half-mad in Ecstasy
Sometimes He would suddenly feel that Krsna is playing with the gopis in the Yamuna. In that mood He would jump into the ocean, crying, "Krsna!" He jumped there and became unconscious, as the waves were playing with Him. Finding Him gone. His devotees would wonder, "Where is Mahaprabhu?" and, headed by Svarupa Damodara, would begin their searching. Once, the night was almost over and they still couldn't find him. At last a fisherman came running, half-mad, chanting, "Krsna, Krsna, Krsna!
"What is the matter?" Svarupa Damodara asked. The fisherman replied, "Every night I catch fish, but tonight I threw out my net and caught something very heavy. When I began pulling it in, I thought it was a big fish, but when I took it on shore I found a big human figure, and when I went to remove the body from my net, somehow I touched Him; now I am half-mad." Then, Svarupa Damodara said, "You must have seen our Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu?" "No, I have seen Him before," the fisherman said, "He has a beautiful figure. It is not Him. It is something else." Svarupa Damodara told him, "Anyhow, try to show us where He is."
They went and saw the long figure of the Lord, His joints dislocated, lying on the sands, senseless. Svarupa Damodara and the others began to chant the holy name of Krsna in his ear, until he came to his senses. At that time Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu began to describe the lila of Krsna that He had seen in His trance. In this way, after Advaita Acarya's poetry was sent to Him, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu lived His last twelve years in the mood of intense separation that Srimati Radharani felt for Krsna.
Mad Nimai Pandita
This intense degree of divine madness was exhibited by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His last days on this Earth. But even in His life in Navadwipa, when Mahaprabhu was the great boy-scholar Nimai Pandita, everyone thought he had become mad after he had returned from Gaya and had begun showing signs of devotion to Krsna. The normal-thinking men of the day said:
"This Nimai Pandita was a good man, a gentleman, but after returning from Gaya, He is totally changed, and is doing so many undesirable things. He wants to preach so many new ideas. What is this? He has become a madman. He doesn't care for any rules and regulations, social customs, or ancient scriptures—only 'Krsna, Krsna, Krsna.' Before, He was normal, but recently He has become abnormal. Of course. He has a powerful intellect. When He was a professor. He did not care for the scholarship of even the greatest of panditas. He easily defeated the champion scholar, Kesava Kasmiri, and many others. But now we have lost Him. Now He is different. He does not care for the brahmanas or the scriptures we follow. He has a new opinion and He is presenting that to the world. His ways are incomprehensible." The neighbors complained to His mother, Sacidevi: "Sacidevi, what is this? Nimai was not like this before; now He doesn't care for us anymore. He even has no charm for His wife. What ha
s He become? You are the daughter of a gentleman, but just see your misfortune! What to do? The fact is this, Saci: your only son, who was so brilliant, has become mad. You must arrange for proper medical treatment." Then, Sacidevi called for the kaviraja, the doctor.
The doctor made an arrangement for a small, brick-built bathing tank to be filled up with Visnu oil, which is supposed to be a very cooling thing. And Nimai Pandita was asked to bathe in that tank. He did so, and suddenly began laughing and playing in the tank. As He was diving and swimming in the oil. He was laughing madly. At that time, Srivasa Thakura arrived for a visit and asked, "How is Nimai Pandita?" Sacidevi told him, "Just see my misfortune! My Nimai has become completely mad. I called for the doctor and he arranged for this treatment." As she showed Srivasa how Nimai was playing in the tank, he asked, "What is this?" Saci replied, "My neighbors advised me to do this." Srivasa said, "You are a very gentle lady. You do not know how to deal with others. What Nimai has—I want! Your boy has krsna-prema, and I want a drop of that. If only we are allowed to live a few days longer, we shall have the opportunity of seeing many wonderful pastimes of Krsna."
Then, Nimai became sober for the time being and told Srivasa, "If you had also remarked that I was mad, then I would have run to the Ganges and finished my life. At least you have understood what I am; that is my solace, Srivasa. If you would have told the public, "He is mad," then I would have found that there is no man here to accept what I have come to give, so I must enter the river and drown myself without hesitation."
Before Nimai Pandita went to Gaya, He was a big scholar. When He returned from Gaya surcharged with devotion. He began to explain grammar again, as before, but now He would show Krsna in the grammar. He would give interpretations of the roots of Sanskrit grammar which showed the relationship between Sanskrit and Krsna. He explained that sound is only a vibration, and vibration means the potency of Krsna. It is the potency of Krsna that makes everything pure, that makes everything move. If that potency is withdrawn, everything is dead and gone. In this way, Nimai Pandita wanted to explain grammar in terms of Krsna.
Then, His students became very much disturbed. "What is this!" they thought. "We have come to learn Sanskrit from Nimai Pandita, but our academic requirements will not be satisfied now. Still, the coaching we got from Him is never to be had anywhere else, so we can't abandon Him. But how to improve the style of His teaching?" They went to the previous teacher of Nimai Pandita, Gangadasa Pandita. He had been Nimai's tutor in His childhood. Gangadasa said, "You are all fortunate to be students of Nimai Pandita—He is such a nice professor. What is your complaint?" The students said, "We were very much pleased by studying under Nimai Pandita. But now, since He has returned from Gaya, He is explaining everything in quite a new way. He teaches Sanskrit in terms of the holy name of Krsna. He understands a very high philosophy, but that won't serve our purpose of studying grammar. It is certainly valuable, but it will not help our studies. Please ask Him to change His ways. He has regard for you be
cause you are His teacher. Only you can influence Him." "All right," he said, "Ask Him to see me tomorrow."
The students went to Nimai Pandita and told Him, "Your former professor has called for You. He wants to see You." Nimai said, "Yes, I shall go and see him," and later that day. He went to Gangadasa Pandita, and offered His respectful obeisances. Gangadasa said: "How are You my boy? I am happy to hear that You went to Gaya and performed Your religious duties for Your ancestors. This is all very good, but what is the matter? Your students are complaining to me. Is it true that You do not care to teach them properly? Why don't You care to teach them as you did before? They all appreciate Your teachings, but after returning from Gaya You have adopted a novel style of teaching. Don't continue this. I say, teach them properly. I hear from the people that You have become a devotee. But were Your fathers and forefathers not devotees? Of course. You have become a devotee of an extraordinary type. But don't go astray. What You speak about devotion seems unnecessary—that is not really grammar. Do You
-think You are giving new light with Your new meanings? Do You think Your former professors were all idiots? What do You have to say?" Nimai was silent. "All right then. Don't go astray. Remain calm and follow Your predecessors and teach the boys well, so we will not have to hear any complaints against You in the future. Your students won't go to any other school. They are very fond of You, so teach them well." Then, Nimai Pandita took the dust of His teacher's feet and told him, "Yes, I shall try to obey your order. By dint of your foot dust, no one can challenge Me in scholarship. Don't worry. I shall teach them well."
"Why Should I Worship Krsna?"
A few days later, Nimai Pandita began to chant the name 'gopi, gopi while He was in a trance of devotion. Some big scholars that held a high social position went to Him and said, "Nimai Pandita! You were a big pandita and now You are a devotee. That doesn't matter, but why do you chant the name 'gopi gopi ?' Take the name of Krsna. According to the scriptures, that will bring you some benefit. But You are chanting 'gopi, gopi.' What benefit will You get from that? You are mad." Nimai said, "Who is this Krsna? Why should I worship Him? He is a dacoit and a woman-hunter!" And Nimai picked up a stick and chased them away.
Later they began to talk among themselves, saying, "Nimai Pandita has become stark mad. We went to speak something good to Him, and He came with a stick to kill us! We are not sons of ordinary men—we have our high position in society and our family dignity. We will show him!" They began a conspiracy to teach Nimai Pandita a good lesson by giving Him a good beating. At that time, Nimai suddenly cried out: "I took the greatest measures to deliver these wretched souls, but I see now that they are simply creating more sins by abusing Me and conspiring to punish Me. Why have I come? What will be effective in delivering them? I shall have to take the role of a sannyasi. Otherwise, they think that I am simply one of them, a householder. But if I become a sannyasi, a preacher—then they may have some respect. They will say, "We are all householders. He has become a sannyasi. He should be revered." Then, from that reverence, they will get some benefit. Otherwise, they will have t
o go to hell for thinking that I am an ordinary man. To create some respect, so they may benefit, I shall have to accept the role of a sannyasi. And He revealed to Nityananda Prabhu and a few others, "On the last day of the first month of this year, I shall take sannyasa."