|A brief introduction of Shree Shree Krishna Chaitnya Mahaprabhu|
A brief introduction of Shree Shree Krishna Chaitnya Mahaprabhu
Shree Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born in Nabadwipdham of West Bengal about five hundred years ago on the auspicious Falguni Poornima day (full moon day in the eleventh month of the Bengali Calender—February-March of the English Calender) in 1486 A.D. The house of the renowned scholar of Nabadwip, Pandit Shree Jagannath Mishra began to glow with light with the arrival of the newborn. Nilambar Chakraborty, the father of Shachi Devi, the child’s mother, was a famous astrologer. He was thrilled to see the child’s superb horoscope. He made a forecast, “The child will achieve an extraordinary level of learning and will also acquire a great position in the field of religion. Owing to the influences of his divine life, he will be worshipped all over the world.” People around started praising the good fortune of mother Shachi Devi and father Jagannath Mishra after hearing the forecast made by Nilambar Chakraborty. In due time this child was worshipped as Gouranga Prabhu in Bengal and as Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu around the world. People suffering from worldly afflictions saw his sweet appearance, sweet love and tender hearted compassion and considered him God incarnate.
The first son of Shree Jagannath Mishra was named Viswaroop and the second son was named Vishwambar. The younger son used to be called Nimai by mother Shachi Devi.
Owing to his unusual charm , pleasing looks and cheerful nature he was loved very much by people, young or old since his childhood. Around this time, driven by a keen desire to find God, Nimai’s elder brother Viswaroop left his home and disappeared, creating a vaccum in the house of Jagannath Mishra. Viswaroop was sixteen and Nimai was seven years old at that time.
On taking sannyas Viswaroop adopted the name Shankararanya Puri and became famous. Jagannath Mishra was greatly distressed by the sorrow caused by his elder son’s exit. As a result he died within three or four years of this incident. Mother Shachi Devi started spending her days with child Nimai as her anchor. Nimai’s education started in the primary school of Pandit Gangadhar of Nabadwip. Nimai became a favourite of Gangadhar soon, owing to his intelligence and sharp memory. Often being troubled by Nimai’s naughtiness the residents of Nabadwip came to lodge complaints with Shachi Devi. Being sad by their complaints Shachi Devi used to beg forgiveness from them and pray to God for Nimai’s well being.
Within a few years Nimai completed his studies and started a school of his own. Around this time Shachi Devi got her son married to Ballavacharya’s daughter Lakshmi Devi.
The method of teaching by Nimai Pandit attracted students from different places who took admission in his school. Shree Keshav Kashmiri, a renowned learned Pandit of India came to Nabadwip at this time. So strong was his poetic excellence and faculty of analysis that anybody challenging him had to accept defeat. Keshav Kashmiri was bestowed with special power by the Goddess of learning Saraswati Devi. The entire learned circle of Nabadwip became very much scared on hearing the name of Keshav Kashmiri.
As Nimai was discussing the nuances of the scriptures with his students while sitting on the bank of the river Ganga one day, Keshav Kashmiri appeared before him while taking a stroll. Nimai showed him due respect and expressed his desire to hear some verses on the river Ganga. Keshav Kashmiri chanted some verses made by himself and added that these were flawless. Then Nimai repeated the same verses and explained all their good points and flaws. Keshav Kashmiri was defeated by the high degree of retentive memory and academic brilliance of Nimai and he returned shamefully. During the night, Goddess Saraswati Devi appeared before him and said that Nimai was no ordinary pandit. Subsequently Devi disclosed Nimai’s real identity and depth of academic excellence to Keshav Kashmiri. He met Nimai the next day and begged his pardon.
Following this incident, the news of Nimai’s mastery spread everywhere. After some days Nimai went on a tour of East Bengal. On his return he found that his wife had died of a snakebite. Nimai consoled his grief striken mother on hearing this. After some days Shachi Devi expressed her ardent desire to get her son married again. She herself selected a girl named Vishnupriya and had her son married on an auspicious day. After marriage Nimai wanted to go to Gaya to do the obsequial rites (in honour of the deceased ancestors). Taking permission from his mother Nimai reached Gaya. Madhavendrapuri’s disciple Ishwarpuri was stationed at Gaya at this time. Nimai took deeksha from Ishwarpuri. Divine signs of love and devotion started to appear in Nimai’s life after this deeksha.
On his return from Gaya Nimai showed extreme disinclination towards his duties as a householder and as a teacher. Most of the time he used to be immersed in contemplation. Shree Krishna used to appear to him often. But as soon as God disappeared from his sight he would cry soulfully for His reappearance. The pain of separation from Shree Krishna made him behave like a mad person. His mother, wife and friends tried their level best to attract him towards family life. But one who has heard the sweet melody of God’s flute cannot be enticed by the charm of the world.
Nimai, accompanied by the Vaishnava devotees of Nabadwip – Shuklambar, Murari, Damodar and many more, used to contemplate on Shree Krishna and his divine life and he used to cry for him intensely. He used to go into a trance while singing keertan at the residence of Shreebas. His body used to bear signs of divine and supernatural love. Nabadwip did not have many people who could appreciate such divine expressions. Common people therefore, out of lack of understanding made fun of him and called him an eccentric. Having seen his condition, mother Shachi Devi went to various temples praying for the well being of her son with extreme earnestness. But Pandit Shreebas explained to Shachi Devi that such a madness was a matter of extreme good fortune and it was not a case of insanity. Nimai displayed signs of deep devotion and because of his love for God the world appeared empty to him.
Around this time once Nimai went to the house of Shree Adwaita Acharya at Shantipur. Having noticed the divine signs on Nimai’s body during samkeertan, the old Adwaita Acharya recognised that his prayers had at last been fulfilled. Thinking of Nimai as his God he worshipped him. For the good of the world Adwaita Acharya had beeen praying with basil (tulsi) leaves and the water of the Ganga for the advent of Shree Krishna. He could recognise the fulfilment of his prayers on seeing Nimai.
Having seen such an unprecedented offering of respect the atmosphere of Nabadwip changed to a serenely beautiful one. Thereafter the devotee citizens of Nabadwip gave Nimai the title of Gouranga Mahaprabhu and offered their reverence to him.
The courtyard of Shreebas of Nabadwip was the principal spot for naam samkeertan. Having noticed the appearance of their tutelary god in Shree Gouranga Mahaprabhu, the devotees started worshipping him as God. Mahaprabhu’s divinity attracted devotee vaishnavas from various places the way a magnet attracts iron filings. Notable among these vaishnava devotees are Gadadhar, Narahari, Pundarik, Haridas, Sanjay, Mukunda, Shreedhar etc.
Around this time one of Gouranga Mahaprabhu’s main and closest associate, Shreemat Nityananda appeared as an Avadhoot in the courtyard of Shreebas. He was born in Birchandrapur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. In his boyhood itself Shree Nityananda travelled to various places along with a sannyasi. Though he had not taken sannyas, he used to wear the attire of a sannyasi from this time. During his stay at Shree Vrindavan he used to have visions of Krishnaleela (divine play of Shree Krishna) within himself. Shree Gouranga had already foretold the ensuing arrival of Nityananda Prabhu to his close followers. It is impossible to describe in words the expression of emotion that took place in the samkeertan.
On the arrival of Nityananda Mahaprabhu at Nabadwip, the vaishnava devotees started worshipping Nityananda as Balaram (elder brother of Shree Krishna) and Gouranga as the reincarnation of Shree Krishna respectively. Mother Shachi Devi too showered affection on Nityananda, thinking of him as her elder son Vishwaroop. She called Nityananda, Nitai. The devotees too called him Nitai or Nityananda.
Being attracted by the divinely fascinating beauty of Shree Gouranga Mahaprabhu and Shree Nityananda, and the wonderful naam samkeertan, the devotees forgot about their families. The despair and mental afflictions caused to Mahaprabhu by his separation from Shree Krishna caused distress to all his devotees. The devotees were immersed day and night in samkeertan with Mahaprabhu.
During the time of keertan many supernatural and divine signs were observed on Mahaprabhu’s body. Supernatural incidents too occured. At times Mahaprabhu used to develop the powers of the Almighty; again, while in his normal state out of extreme eagerness to see his beloved God he would cry for Him. At these times he would have the feelings of a servant for his master. Once he stayed for 21 hours in a divine majestical state as a Kalpataru (a wish fulfilling tree). During this period all his devotees got whatever they asked from him. All their prayers were fulfilled. Only a few vaishnava devotees prayed for divine love that day and by Mahaprabhu’s grace their prayers too were fulfilled after some days.
Having showered devotion and love (prem bhakti) to his close followers Mahaprabhu decided to distribute the same to ordinary people too. He chose his chief followers Shree Nityananda and Shree Haridas for this work of preaching. Haridas was born in a brahmin family, but as he was brought up in a muslim family since his childhood, he was considered a muslim by the common people. Under the influence of Shree Adwaitacharya, Shree Haridas remained immersed in naamjapa and keertan always. Consequently the muslim nawab branded him a kafir and had him lashed in a crowded market place and dumped him in the Ganga. But owing to the influence of naam nothing happened to Haridas. Later both hindus and muslims considered him to be a powerful great soul and showed great respect to him.
One day Shree Gouranga Mahaprabhu called Nityananda and Haridas and said, "From today you will preach the name of Krishna from house to house. You will prostrate to the householders and beg them to chant the name of Krishna. Make no difference of caste, religion etc in the work of preaching the name." At Mahaprabhu’s behest, Nityananda and Haridas started preaching naam keertan in different localities. As they travelled along the road they prostrated to everyone and begged them to chant the naam. Some people taunted, some hurled abuses and some made fun of them, but some devotees also showed respect to them.
Nobody had tried to preach this type of devotional religion before. They propagated this easy route for progressing in spirituality. Consequently on hearing stories about Krishna and the naam samkeertan sung with extreme passion by Nityananda and Haridas the listeners used to shed tears spontaneously.
On one such day, they reached the den of two notorious plunderers, Jagannath and Madhab. In those days people used to tremble in fear on hearing their names. There was no evil deed that these two brothers had not committed. Their daily routine work included murder, theft, abduction of women etc. Nityananda Prabhu felt that in quite a few places, Harinaam had made some impact among common people, but if such a sinner resorted to Harinaam then the entire populace would develop firm faith in the naam. Guided by such a thought, Nityananda and Haridas started keertan in a loud voice and went to Jagannath and Madhav. The two sinners were in a highly inebriated state due to drinking. Instantly on hearing the naam samkeertan they became angry and came running to attack Nityananda and Haridas. Nityananda and Haridas ran away from that place. Later, Mahaprabhu, on hearing the distressful condition of the sinners, smiled and said, “They are sure to be saved when you feel mercy for them.”
After a few days when Nityananda and Haridas went to the bandits and started singing keertan. Being infuriated with anger Madhav picked a broken earthen pot and hit Nityananda on the head with force. Blood started flowing from his head. A crowd gathered around following this incident. As Madhav came running to hit him again, he was prevented by his brother Jagannath saying, “What is the use of beating a sannyasi like this?” Just at that time Gouranga Prabhu appeared at the spot. On seeing blood flowing from Nityananda’s head Mahaprabhu angrily said, “I will never pardon the one who has hit Nityananda.” Hearing Mahaprabhu’s utterance Nityananda told him calmly, “Jagannath has committed no offence, forgive him.” Hearing this Mahaprabhu embraced Jagannath and said, “You have saved Nityananda’s life, I bless you, you will attain precious love for Krishna.”
On being touched by Mahaprabhu, Jagannath burst into tears and fell at his feet. On the other hand Madhab too was deeply moved on seeing Mahaprabhu’s grace on Jagannath. He too then fell at his feet and prayed for salvation. Mahaprabhu then asked him to seek forgiveness from Nityananda. Then Madhab fell at Nityananda Prabhu’s feet. Nityananda, out of mercy said, ‘’I am accepting all the sins that you have committed till date. You will attain precious love for Krishna.”
Thus both Jagannath and Madhab became great vaishnavas. Leaving their homes they started naamjapa, meditation and service to vaishnavas. They used to come to the banks of the Ganga and prostrate to people who came for bathing and beg their forgiveness for the sins committed against them. They themselves built a bathing ghat (wharf) on the bank of the Ganga. This is still known as ‘Jagai Madhai Ghat’.
The citizens of Nabadwip were surprised beyond limit at the unbelievable change in Jagannath and Madhab. Having seen the power of Shree Harinaam samkeertan and the divine supernatural power of Mahaprabhu, people developed steady faith in the unique strength of naam. Thereafter the sweet sound of samkeertan emanated from all parts of Nabadwip.
An extremely anti-hindu kazi was the administrator of Nabadwip in those days. The popularity of keertan caused him much worries. On the other hand quite a few hindus too became shaky on seeing Mahaprabhu’s influence. They instigated the kazi to oppose this situation. The kazi then sent his men and had them break the mridangas of the participants of keertan, threatened and ordered them to stop singing keertans. The vaishnavas reported this incident of tyranny to Mahaprabhu who angrily called Nityananda Prabhu and said, “I myself shall go out in keertan this evening. I want to see who opposes me today.”
Encouraged by Mahaprabhu’s order, the vaishnavas in consultation with Nityananda Prabhu formed a very large group. Mahaprabhu’s followers namely Adwaita, Nityananda, Shreebas, Haridas dressed well in different attires, and started walking along the main thoroughfare in the evening singing keertan. Mahaprabhu’s dress was the most charming and attractive. Being possessed by divine emotion and immersed in samkeertan he slowly proceeded towards the kazi’s residence. Some people in the front row of the procession held burning torches. During this period the rulers of India were muslims. Never before had there been such an organised campaign against the corrupt administrator. As the huge crowd of the samkeertan party reached the kazi’s house, he hid himself inside a room.
Mahaprabhu called the kazi and asked him the reason of stopping the keertan. Then the kazi saheb shamefully begged his pardon and said that some hindus had complained to him against such loud keertan and had also said that this was against hindu scriptures. Mahaprabhu then explained`to the kazi the glory of naamsamkeertan, that keertan when sung loudly benefitted human beings, animals, insects and all others. Naamjapa done silently benefits only oneself. That is why the entire hindu scriptures recommend loud naam samkeertan.
On hearing the glory of naam samkeertan from Mahaprabhu the kazi saheb declared, “From today no one will oppose naam samkeertan”. Still more surprising is that the kazi too became a devout vaishnava after some days. The holy place of his burial is still recognised as a famous tourist spot called ‘Kazi’s Samadhi’.
Following Mahaprabhu’s unprecedented influence on the muslim kazi, the devotees joyfully went on preaching samkeertan everywhere. Generally the following lines used to be sung during samkeertan in those days.
Hari Haraye Namah Krishna Yadavaya namah
One day during samkeertan in the courtyard of Shreebas’s house Mahaprabhu became immersed in spiritual trance. Just at that time Shreebas’s little son breathed his last. But Shreebas cautioned his family members not to cry and not to express grief, so that there was no impediment in Mahaprabhu’s bliss, and if it so happened he would surely drown himself in the Ganga and commit suicide. After giving this instruction he returned to join the samkeertan. But this incident could not be kept under wraps from the omniscient Mahaprabhu. Suddenly he spoke out, “Why am I not able to concentrate in keertan today?” Then some devotee told Mahaprabhu everything.
Mahaprabhu went near the dead child and asked, “Where have you gone? Your mother and all others are deeply distressed by the pangs of separation.” In response, the child opened his eyes and said, “I have spent my span of life that had been alloted to me in the house of Shreebas Pandit as his son. On completion of my accumulated karma I no longer have any relationship. Please accept my oblations.” Having said this the child returned to silence for good. Mahaprabhu then consoled the grief sticken family and said, “From today accept Nityananda and myself as your sons.”
Thus almost daily some supernatural manifestations were seen in Mahaprabhu. In the meantime about one year had elapsed since his return from Gayadham, and a large group of householder devotees had been formed. To propagate the religion of love Mahaprabhu contemplated on taking sannyas. He disclosed this to a few of his close followers and mother Shachi Devi and obtained her permission.
On an auspicious day at midnight Mahaprabhu walked out of his home. Mother Shachi Devi and wife Vishnupriya were asleep at that time. He went straight to Katwa and met the famous mahatma Shree Keshav Bharati. Keshav Bharati had ‘Biraja Hom’ (a sacrificial fire) done by him on the bank of the Ganga and gave sannyas to the twentyfour year old Mahaprabhu. Following sannyas he was named Shree Krishna Chaitanya Bharati; but generally he was better known as Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Following his sannyas Mahaprabhu decided to stay at Puri dham. Nityananda and a few other devotees too accompanied him on his journey. Having reached Puri and on seeing Jagannath Dev he ran to embrace him in a state of deep spiritual love. The royal pandit Sarvabhouma Bhattacharya too was coming to the temple at that time. With the help of attendants he brought Mahaprabhu who was in a state of trance, to his house. Sarvabhouma was attracted to Mahaprabhu by seeing his grace, charm and manners. He was a famous Vedanta exponent, that is why sannyasis from far flung places used to come to him to take lessons in Vedanta.
Shankaracharya’s interpretation of Vedanta was widely circulated, Sarvabhouma too taught sannyasis according to this. But Mahaprabhu criticized Shankaracharya’s interpretation of Vedanta. Through discussions Mahaprabhu established that love for God alone is the ultimate objective and God is everlasting beauty and glory. Having heard an unprecedented interpretation of Vedanta from Mahaprabhu, Sarvabhouma was surprised and startled. Mahaprabhu established the superiority of the path of bhakti (devotion) by giving eighteen interpretations of one verse. Sarvabhouma fell at Mahaprabhu’s feet on hearing such an unprecedented explanation.
While singing verses in praise of Mahaprabhu, Sarvabhouma said, “You are some divine soul in the garb of a human form. Kindly gracefully show me your real form.” Mahaprabhu granted his prayer by showing him his divine form Shadabhuj (with six hands).* No sooner did he see this Sarvabhouma went into a state of trance. Since then Sarvabhouma started worshipping him as his deity. Following this recognition by Sarvabhouma, Mahaprabhu’s name spread far and wide.
After living in Puri Dham for some days Mahaprabhu went to visit various places of pilgrimage in South India. During this period whoever heard the name of God from him surrendered himself at his feet and continued to stay with him. During his pilgrimage Mahaprabhu sang the following samkeertan :
Krishna Keshava Krishna Keshava Krishna Keshava Pahi maam
Thus, singing naam samkeertan he reached a place called Vidyanagar on the bank of Godavari river. The famous ruler of that place named Roy Ramananda came to see Mahaprabhu at that time. That ruler was also recognised as a highly acclaimed learned man and a religious person. Mahaprabhu embraced the ruler in an emotional state. Just by Mahaprabhu’s touch the ruler developed pure emotions, thrill of joy and tears. Responding to the extreme eagerness of Roy, Mahaprabhu stayed there for ten days. Everyday Roy Ramananda enjoyed the sweet taste of Shreemad Bhagavat from the holy lips of Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu also gracefully exposed his divine form to Roy Ramananda. Till his last days Roy Ramananda was acknowledged as the chief follower of Mahaprabhu.
Subsequently Mahaprabhu proceeded towards Rameshwaram from Vidyanagar. Just pilgrimage and travelling were not his main objectives. In those days whoever he saw or touched and sang naam samkeertan to, became immersed in the emotion of love. During one such tour he reached Shree Ranga temple. There he saw a devotee reading Shreemad Bhagavat Gita up to eighteenth chapter. That devotee used to read it daily in the same manner. But owing to scanty knowledge of Sanskrit he could not pronounce correctly and so people laughed at him. That day on completion of his reading, Mahaprabhu asked him – “Do you follow the meaning of Gita?” To this the brahmin replied, “I do not understand the meaning of Gita, but while reading I see Shree Krishna himself giving sermons to Arjun and on seeing the sweet beauty of Shree Krishna I start shedding tears.” On hearing this Mahaprabhu embraced him and said, “Brother who says you are illiterate? You alone have really understood the gist of Gita?” Ordinarily people spend time by making various interpretations of words and display of learning; but the principal aim of our scriptures is God realisation. One has to immerse oneself in spiritual practice after learning the process favourable to this; then only one acquires the strength for achieving the goal.
Thus after having spent two years touring various places Mahaprabhu came back to Puri again. Every year Mahaprabhu’s devotees used to come to Puri before the Rathayatra. Seeing Mahaprabhu’s sweet loving dance of emotion ahead of the Ratha (chariot) the devotees felt ecstatic joy. The king of Utkal, Prataprudra also used to accompany Mahaprabhu’s devotees to see this beautiful sight.
Around this time Shree Gouranga Dev called Nityananda Prabhu and said, “I have left my household and taken sannyas permanently. If you too move around various places as a mendicant like me, then how will the householders be saved? I therefore request you to get married; let the religion of ideal householders be established through you. On seeing you the householders also will spend their lives accordingly. For the welfare of people you will have to preach vaishnavism while living as a householder.”
Nityananda Prabhu used to adorn the attire of an ‘avadhoot’ sannyasi, but he had not really taken sannyas. On Mahaprabhu’s orders he got married after returning from Puri. He lived in Khardah in West Bengal for many days. He had a very kind heart. He preached naam empowered with divine power and therefore his name spread all over Bengal. Later with the arrival of many great souls in his lineage the religion of love and devotion of Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu spread far and wide. This was his arrangement for the common people.
After some days Chaitanya Mahaprabhu decided to visit Shree Vrindavan. At the request of his devotees he accepted only one of them as his companion. Five hundred years ago many places of pilgrimage in Vraja (Vrindavan) had become extinct owing to the oppression of the muslims. Soon after arriving at Vrindavan Mahaprabhu started touring various places connected to Shree Krishna’s divine play in a state of supreme love. As a result the extinct places of pilgrimage like Radhakunda Shyamkunda were recovered by him.
Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also saw Govardhanji, the deity received by his supreme preceptor Shree Madhavendra Puri Goswami in his dreams. Later, owing to the oppression of the muslims the deity was shifted and reinstalled at Nathdwar (Udaypur) by the followers of Vallabhacharya. It is a matter of happiness that these deities are still being worshipped and served sincerely.
Mahaprabhu went to Prayag from Shree Vrindavan Dham. Here he met Shree Vallabhacharya. The Divine emotion and sweet samkeertan of Mahaprabhu influenced him and he brought Mahaprabhu to his house.
At this time Shree Roop Goswami renounced all his belongings and surrendered himself at Mahaprabhu’s feet. Roop and Sanatan were brothers. They were the principal officers under Hussain Shah, the ruler of Bengal. The poetic faculty of Shree Roop and Sanatan’s authority of the scriptures earned them great fame in the educated circle. Driven by intense devotion to see God, both of them renounced their wealth and possessions and proceeded along the path shown by Shree Chaitanya. Sanatan Goswami had met Mahaprabhu at Kashi (Varanasi).
Both the brothers started living in Vrindavan at the behest of Mahaprabhu. Temples of Govindaji and Madanmohan which were established by them are very famous. Both were involved in reclaiming the extinct places of pilgrimage in Vrindavan, writing books on methods of the Vaishnava path of spiritual practice. Books written by them enjoy special position in Vaishnava literature.
Swami Prakashananda Saraswati held the principal position amongst the sannyasis at Kashi during this period. Influenced by his authority on various subjects, students from various places used to come to him to study Vedanta and other scriptures. He held the view that the dance Mahaprabhu performed out of emotion during naam samkirtan was against the code of conduct of a sannyasi. Swamiji felt it improper for a sannyasi to give up studies of Vedanta and resort to naam japa and samkeertan as was done by Mahaprabhu.
Once, following his visit to Benimadhav temple, Mahaprabhu went to the house of a Maharashtrian brahmin to beg alms. Swami Prakashanandaji was also invited. There Swamiji was attracted to Mahaprabhu on seeing his sweet expression and divine appearance during samkeertan.
The argumentative chief sannyasi Prakashnandaji had commented that studies of Vedanta alone was the main duty of a sannyasi, alternatively naamjapa and keertan should be meant for those who are ineligible.
But Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu proved from various scriptures that the principal objective of human beings, was to achieve divine love; and naamjapa and samkeertan were the major spiritual practices for this. Hearing this interpretation of Vedanta, Brahmasutra from Mahaprabhu, Prakashanandaji was charmed and fell at his feet. Mahaprabhu then blessed him with love and devotion and sent him to Shree Vrindavan. Swamiji’s name was also changed to Prabodhananda. Books like Vrindavan Shatak etc. written by Prabodhananda were greatly appreciated in the later period. Mahaprabhu’s name spread all over Kashi following this change in Prakashanandaji.
Mahaprabhu returned to Neelachal (Puri) after visiting Kashi. On his way back even the wild animals in the jungle danced to the tune of his naam samkeertan. Mahaprabhu’s attendant devotee described the incident saying that those animals kept walking with Mahaprabhu as devotees. It may be remembered in this connection that railways were non-existent in India five hundred years ago. Saints, mahatmas and travellers, all used to travel on foot in those days. Mahaprabhu also tavelled all over India only on foot.
Mahaprabhu stayed at Neelachal (Puri) for the last eighteen years of his life after returning to Puri. The religion and culture of North and South India unites at Neelachal Puri dham. All Indians consider a glimpse of the Darubrahma Jagannath Dev and partaking of the Mahaprasad, a blessing. Mahaprabhu also achieved all India fame from Neelachal.
Mahaprabhu used to live in a monastery called Gambhira at Puri. Swaroop Damodar stayed with him always; Shree Haridas lived in a garden nearby. As Roop and Damodar were ministers under a Muslim ruler, they used to consider themselves impure and abstained from entering the Jagannath temple. Haridas too never entered the temple for similar reasons. Roop and Sanatan always used to stay with Haridas Thakur during their visit to Puri.
Shree Chaitanya Dev used to drop in at Haridas’s cottage after bathing and seeing Jagannath Dev every morning. After spending some time over there he used to come back to Gambhira and remain in trance (samadhi) in that little monastery. At that time various divine supernatural signs of love and devotion used to appear on his person, which were beyond comprehension of ordinary people.
Once Mahaprabhu came near Haridas and found him deeply immersed in naam japa. Scorching sunrays were falling on him, but he was unconcerned about it. Mahaprabhu then broke a branch of a Bakul tree, planted it there and almost in no time this plant grew into a large full grown tree. This Bakul tree planted five hundred years ago is renowned as “Siddha Bakul” in Puri. Haridas Thakur used to do his spiritual practice under this tree.
Sanatan Goswami arrived at Puri dham from Vrindavan to meet Mahaprabhu. On the way he had developed skin disease because of drinking polluted water in the jungle of Jharkhand. He went to the abode of Haridas Thakur on reaching Puri. At the same time Mahaprabhu too came there and on seeing Sanatan Goswami advanced to embrace him. Sanatan said, “Dear Lord, do not touch me. My body is afflicted with skin disease. I pray do not touch me with your divine body.” But inspite of this Mahaprabhu embraced him and said, “You belong to a high level of spirituality and moreover you are the head of the vaishnavas; I will become holy by your touch”. Later Mahaprabhu instructed Sanatan to stay in Puri for some days.
Sanatan used to consider his body unclean and impure, because he had served a muslim king. Thinking that inspite of knowing about his malady, as Mahaprabhu used to embrace him everyday he decided to end his life. He decided to lie down in front of the wheels of the Ratha (chariot of Jagannath Dev) on the day of the rathayatra, and thus kill himself. But Sanatan’s intention did not remain unknown to the Omniscient Mahaprabhu. Soon after coming to him the next morning Mahaprabhu said, “Sanatan, you have already surrendered your body and mind to me, now you have no right on this body. Further it is a great sin to commit suicide. Therefore change your resolve”. Having said this Mahaprabhu embraced Sanatan. Sanatan’s affliction was cured soon after this.
Sanatan Goswami lived in Puri dham for a year then he was sent to Vrindavan by Mahaprabhu. Vrindavan is a place of great historic significance. Under Mahaprabhu’s instruction the extinct places of pilgrimage were reclaimed by the great mahatmas, Loknath, Bhugarva Goswami, Raghunath Bhatta, Gopal Bhatta and others who spent their days in severe austerities. Following their example an austere community of vaishnavites had come into existence. They have become ever memorable for reclaiming various extinct places of pilgrimage and deities of Vraja dham. The famous mahatma of Vrindavan Haridasji installed the deity of Shree Bankebehari. This was the golden era of the vaishnavism.
The householder devotees of Mahaprabhu, Shree Adwaitacharya, Shree Nityananda, Shree Raghava Pandit, Shreebas also preached the Vaishnava dharma. In those days deeksha used to be given through two different routes. One, through the successive order of the householders and the other through the tradition of the renunciate disciples. The Acharya (Guru) in the householder tradition used to be called kulaguru. The householder could easily carryout spiritual practice following their example. Preaching of dharma of love progressed fast by the establishment of these two branches by Mahaprabhu.
Inspite of remaining at far off Puri, Mahaprabhu manifested himself in a supernatural manner to his close devotees and gave them necessary instructions. He particularly used to appear before his mother Shachi Devi, Shree Nityananda, Shree Raghav Pandit, Shreebas Pandit and also appeared at the samkeertan in Shreebas’s courtyard. The Vaishnava books bear testimony to this. Mahaprabhu frequently appeared before his renunciate devotees staying at Shree Vrindavan and different places. That is why Mahaprabhu is worshipped as the incarnation of God everywhere.
Following Rathayatra, Jagannath Dev stays at Gundichabari for seven days. Special worship and offerings are made on all those seven days. Mahaprabhu used to clean Gundichabari with his devotees before the Rathayatra. Devotees carry out this service even after five hundred years, till date. During Rathayatra Mahaprabhu used to walk ahead of the Ratha up to the Gundichabari singing keertan. Hearing the sweet melodious keertan sung by Mahaprabhu, people considered themselves blessed. Even common people shed tears out of love.
A devotee named Gadadhar used to serve and worship his deity Gopinathji. Mahaprabhu used to go to that place often and hear the recital of Shreemad Bhagavat by the devotee Gadadhar and take alms. The old man Gadadhar found it increasingly difficult to serve, dress and apply sandalwood paste and make up on the deity. One night he felt that it was no more possible for him to serve Gopinathji. To his utter surprise the very next day, on opening the temple door he found that Gopinathji had changed his standing posture to a sitting lotus posture. The devoted Gadadhar was overwhelmed with emotion and started crying. Even today the deity is famous as ‘Tota Gopinath’.
Mahaprabhu introduced devotion by love as a way of worship. He did not write any book. Nor did he establish any temple. He wrote eight verses as sermons and these are famous as Shikshashtaka Shlokas. He had personally initiated Swaroop Damodar, Ray Ramananda, Shikhi Maity and his sister Madhavi Devi. The vaishnava mahatmas are of the opinion that he used to infuse power into others and get work done by them. He himself lived in Puri; but driven by an unknown attraction thousands of people came to him. The devotees considered themselves blessed on seeing him or on hearing keertan sung by him. In the Vedas, the supersoul is described as Sat-Chit-Ananda (Truth, Knowledge and Bliss). Mahaprabhu was the deity in form of this formless Sat-Chit-Ananda. Mahaprabhu had equal love for all living beings. His main object was salvation of beings engulfed by the world of delusion (maya). He attracted devotees through his divine love. By remembering his name and keertan the aspirants drew divine grace upon themselves. Human beings have continuous relation with God, they are the perpetual servants of God. This can be understood by remembering naam, service to deity and mentally visualising Radha Krishna’s divine plays.
People belonging to all races and castes are easily able to accept the dharma of love and devotion introduced by Mahaprabhu. A man belonging to any caste or religion can achieve divine love by remembering God. Anyone achieving the love for Krishna, whether he be a sannyasi, a brahmin or a shudra, can also be a Guru. That is why Haridas who was brought up in a muslim family became venerable throughout the world.
A famous rich zamindar named Hiranyadas, of Bengal, had a son named Raghunath. Owing to Haridas Thakur and Nityananda Prabhu’s influence the boy developed a keen attraction towards Mahaprabhu. Driven by intense apathy towards all things worldly since his early age, the boy left his family and came to Mahaprabhu at Puri. On Mahaprabhu’s instruction Raghunath stayed at Puri and engaged himself in naam japa all the time. People around were stunned to see his intense spiritual practice. He never begged alms from anybody. Nor did he accept anything given by others. In Puri the soiled rotten ‘mahaprasad’ of Jagannath Dev is thrown away. Raghunath used to go at night to pick up the decomposed mahaprasad and eat those after washing. One day as he was eating this ‘mahaprasad’, Mahaprabhu suddenly appeared before him and snatched away the ‘mahaprasad’, from Raghunath’s hand and started eating himself. Mahaprabhu described Raghunath’s austere penance to his other disciples and showered praise on him. Mahaprabhu gave a ‘shalgram shila’ (a black spherical stone, symbolic representation of God) to Raghunath, asked him to go to Vrindavan and continue his spiritual practice. Mahaprabhu’s instruction to renunciate spiritual aspirants was, “You will feed yourself only by ‘madhukari’ (begging food only from house to house), spend all the time in naamjapa and sing keertan; you will not ask anybody for anything; you will not roam around places just to appease the greed of your sense of taste. You will be respectful to the women (mother) community, you will always stay away from womenfolk. The only duty of the renunciate is naamjapa, samkeertan and engaging oneself in spiritual practices.”
A brahmachari (celibate) named Chhota Haridas (Junior Haridas) marginally violated this instruction and as a result Mahaprabhu disowned him. The unattached spiritual aspirants became very cautious on seeing this example and started following the rules strictly. Mahaprabhu himself lived a life of extremely austere renunciation. Though he had no need to follow strictures for himself, still he had followed these in his life in order to set an example of the ideals of the creed of a renunciate.
The greatest preacher of samkeertan, Haridas Thakur gradually reached old age. He used to do naam japa three lakh times daily. Only on completion of this number would he eat ‘mahaprasad’. Once Mahaprabhu came and saw Haridas deeply immersed in naam japa. He had not even taken his food. Mahaprabhu said. “You have reached old age. Naamjapa is no more needed in this accomplished frame. Tell me if you have any wish to be fulfilled.” Haridas Thakur said with great eagerness, “I have learnt that soon you are to disappear on completion of your work. Kindly bless me so that I may leave my mortal frame before that”. Mahaprabhu said, “God will certainly fulfil the wishes of a great devotee like you.”
The second day after this dialogue Mahaprabhu went to Haridas Thakur along with his devotees and an emotionally immersed Mahaprabhu started samkeertan. On the other hand the devotees surrounded Haridasji and Mahaprabhu in a circle and moved around singing samkeertan. While watching the divine form of Mahaprabhu Haridas left his mortal frame. Mahaprabhu then carried his ‘naam soaked’ body on his own shoulders and reached the seashore with the devotees singing naam samkeertan. Thereafter, bathing Haridas’s body in the sea, it was buried on the sea shore.
Mahaprabhu personally begged and collected ‘mahaprasad’ from every shop near Jagannath Dev’s temple and organised a great celebration. Mahaprabhu, at that time said in an emotionally charged state, “Following Haridas’s death whoever has participated in an act of his samadhi and in the great celebration, will attain the divine love of Shree Krishna.”
After Haridas’s death, Mahaprabhu was engrossed in the contemplation of Shree Krishna’s divine play all the time. At times he was spotted lying near the Jagannath temple in a state of spiritual trance. Once he was picked up and saved from the sea by the devotees. Some devotees have recorded such incidents in their books.
Shree Chaitanya has exposed the real face of God as the reservoir of supreme bliss (raso-bai-sah). In the Lord’s divine play (leela) both union and separation are true. It is impossible to conceive or describe this in words or thoughts; but one can feel the Lord’s grace by repeating his holy name faithfully and participating in naam samkeertan. This ultimate truth is named achintya bhedabhed (inconceivable difference and oneness). The principal duty of human beings is to worship the Satchidananda (Truth, Knowledge and Bliss). Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has shown the easy route of devotional spiritual practice through his life.
Mahaprabhu lived in his mortal frame for forty eight years. Every year devotees used to visit him from Goud (Bengal) prior to the Rathayatra (car festival) of Lord Jagannath; but this year they found Mahaprabhu deeply pensive and engrossed in meditative thoughts.
On one such day Mahaprabhu was listening to the stories of Shree Krishna along with his devotees. Suddenly he stood up and ran towards the temple of Jagannath. In order to protect his emotionally immersed body, Mahaprabhu’s devotees too ran behind him. Normally Mahaprabhu never used to enter the sanctum of the temple, he used to look on the deity while standing beside the garuda pillar; but this day he went inside and stood beside the jewel bedecked altar and the temple door closed by itself. There was only one priest inside the temple at that time. He saw the emotionally immersed Mahaprabhu embrace the Lord and then saw his body disappear into that of the deity. All this happened within a moment and then the astonished priest opened the temple door and described the incident he himself had witnessed.
With the disappearance of Mahaprabhu in this manner, his devotees became like mad men. Out of the pain of separation, some devotees lost their lives and some left for Vrindavan in deep sorrow. Even though Mahaprabhu had become one with the deity of Jagannath Dev he used to appear to his devotees. The spiritual aspirants could see his divine form and receive instructions from him from time to time. That is why it is written in a book.
Adyapiha sei leela kore Gorarai
This means –
The divine play of Mahaprabhu continues till today. This is visible only to the few fortunate spiritual aspirants. Till today innumerable spiritual aspirants and great souls have had his direct vision since the disappearance of Mahaprabhu. That is why Mahaprabhu is worshipped worldwide as an incarnation of God.
Mahaprabhu’s place of birth Nabadwip is considered to be Shree Vrindavan and holy as such. Mahaprabhu said, “A day will come when my naam samkeertan will find acceptance all over the world.”
Today after five hundred years Mahaprabhu’s prophecy is seen to be true. Today people all over the world are pursuing this easy route of naam samkeertan for worshipping God.
Shree Chaitanya Charitamrita is the source of a limitless ocean of nectar. All signs of all encompassing love can be seen in Mahaprabhu’s life. Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the greatest amongst the loving and thoughtful great souls of the contemporary period. His personal life was one of total separation. His holy body became the sorrowful image of separation from Shree Krishna. No human being has ever been able to reach such a high degree of emotional attainment.
- Swami Amalananda Saraswati