What we will try to do here is continue on in the natural flow of the parampara, at the same time attempting to make clear what actually happened. As I was making the point, the followers of Buddha and Sankara made it practically impossible for the devotees to remain in a normal condition. The details of what happened will be elaborately told in the actual life of Madhva, but in essence, what happened is that the parampara went underground – it continued, but only just to maintain the line. However, eternally existing in his asrama high in the Himalayas was the literary incarnation of Godhead, Srila Vyasadeva. Being the disciple of Sri Narada Muni, another son of Lord Brahma, he was also a member of the disciplic succession. Now as the line came down, as we mentioned, through Satyaprajna Tirtha and Prajna Tirtha to Acyutapreksa Tirtha, frustrations and dissatisfactions were being aired unlike before, thus the calling out of the Vaisnavas invoked the appearance of Acarya Madhva. Unseen to most, high in his Uttara Badri asrama, the eternal link to the Lord, the pure representitive of the parampara, was sitting unswayed by all that was going on.
SOME BRIEF INFORMATION ABOUT VYASADEVA
“When the second millenium (Dwarpa Yuga) overlapped the third (Treta Yuga), the great sage Vyasadeva was born to Parasara Muni in the womb of Satyati, the daughter of Vasu (the fisherman).” (SB 1.4.14)
In Vyasa’s childhood he was called Krsna, because of his dark complexion, and because he was born on an island at the confluence of the Sati and Mati Rivers he was called Dwaipayana. After dividing the Vedas he got the name Vedavyasa. There are some who say that Krsnadwaipayana Vedavyasa took his birth at a place now known as Vyasa Goofer, the cave of Vyasa in present day Nepal, which was, in days of yore, part of the kingdom of King Janaka. There are local records that support this statement, which say this was the asrama of Parsara Muni and at this place Vyasa was conceived. They also lay claim that later Vyasa came back to that asrama and stayed there for some time, and this being why there is a small Deity of him at the entrance of the cave. The Padma Purana however says that he was conceived on an island created by Parasara in the Yamuna river, and this is mentioned in Padmalocana Prabhu’s book entitled “Yamuna Devi, The Personification Of Prema Bhakti” (Page 24) in connection with the place known as Soma Tirtha ghat. Anyway, everyone at least agrees that the date of Vyasa’s appearance was on the twelfth day of the light fortnight in the month of Vaisaka (April-May), called Vasant Dwadasi.
The following is the story that we just touched upon mentioning how Vyasa came to make His appearance.
Once the hermit Parasara became attracted to a fisher girl of the name Matsya-Gandha who was found inside a fish. (The fish was actually a celestial maiden named Adrika who conceived two children by collecting the semen of the King of Cedi when his semen had fallen into the water of a river after seeing two animals engaged in coitus.) Parasara asked the beautiful Matsya-Gandha to take him in her boat from one side of the river to the other, but the beauty of this damsel, her body moving from the rowing, aroused lusty desires in Parasara. When he sat close to her she moved away and asked him not to violate her chastity, but Parasara Muni created an artificial fog on the river and seduced her. He then created an island in the river and on that island the girl conceived a child in her womb. Parasara explained to her that even after the child was born she would remain a virgin and the son born to her would be a portion of Lord Visnu and would be famous throughout the three worlds. He would be a man of purity, the spiritual master of the entire world, and He would divide the Vedas. Vyasa soon grew into everything that Parasara had described, and had many disciples.
Later in life it is recorded that Srila Vyasa returned to this island in the river and there compiled the Srimad Bhagavatam. Recorded is another instance when Vyasa called for Ganesa (the elephant-headed deva) to write the Mahabharata as he related it to him. He did so on the condition that Vyasa continually recited, and Ganesa, having perfectly understood the meaning, wrote down the Mahabharata. The word “Vyasa” means one who describes elaborately.
“The great sage (Vyasa) who was fully equipped with knowledge, could see through his transcendental vision the deterioration of everything material, due to the influence of the age. He could also see that the faithless people in general would be reduced in duration of life and would be impatient due to lack of goodness. Then he contemplated for the welfare of men in all statuses and orders of life. He saw that the sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas were means by which people’s occupations could be purified, and to simplify the process, he divided the one Veda into four, in order to expand them among men. The four divisions of the original sources of knowledge (the Vedas) were made separately, but historical facts and authentic stories mentioned in the Puranas are called the fifth Veda.” (SB 1:4:17-20)
“Thus the great sage Vyasadeva, who is very kind to the ignorant mass, edited the Vedas so they might be assimilated by less intellectual men. Still he was not satisfied, even though he was engaged in working for the total welfare of all people. Thus Vyasa, being dissatisfied in heart, began to reflect within himself. “I have, under strict disciplinary vows, unpretentiously worshipped the Vedas, the spiritual master and the altar of sacrifice. I also abided by the rulings and have shown the import of disciplic succession through the explanation of the Mahabharata, by which even women, sudras and others (friends of the twice born) can see the path of religion. I am feeling incomplete, though myself I am fully equipped with everything required by the Vedas. This may be because I did not specifically point out the devotional service of the Lord, which is dear both to perfect beings and to the infallible Lord.
Narada (who was another son of Prajapati Brahma) reached the cottage of Krsna-dwaipayana Vyasa on the banks of the Sarasavati, where Vyasa was staying at that time, just when Vyasa was regretting his defects. At the auspicious arrival of Sri Narada, Srila Vyasadeva got up respectfully and worshipped him, giving him veneration equal to that given to Brahmaji, the creator. Narada then said: “O Vyasadeva, your vision is completely perfect. Your good fame is spotless. You are firm in vow and situated in truthfulness, and thus you can think of the pastimes of the Lord in trance for the liberation of the people in general from all material bondage. The people in general are naturally inclined to enjoy, and you have encouraged them in that way in the name of religion. This is verily condemned and is quite unreasonable. Because they are guided under your instructions, they will accept such activities in the name of religion and will hardly care for prohibitions.” And so Narada Muni, Vyasadeva’s spiritual master, instructed Vyasa to compile the Maha-Bhagavat Purana (Srimad Bhagavatam) now in his maturity for the benefit of all mankind, to which Srila Vyasadeva agreed. He presented the glories of Krsna and His many incarnations just after the departure of Lord Krsna from this world. (Excerpts from SB 1:4:24-33)
Vayu Purana (60.10-16) says, “In this yuga the son of Parasara, who is glorified as a part of Visnu and who is known as Dvaipayana, the vanquisher of all enemies, became Vyasa. Urged by Brahma, he undertook the task of classifying the Vedas. Vyasa accepted four disciples to preserve and continue the Vedas. They were Jaimini who took care of the Sama Veda, Sumantu – the Atharva Veda, Vaisampayana – the Yajur Veda and Paila – the Rg Veda, and for the Itihasa and Puranas – Lomaharsana.”
SOMETIMES IN THE BRAHMA-MADHVA SAMPRADAYA ONE WILL FIND FORMALLY WRITTEN THAT NARADA MUNI AND ARJUNA ARE IN THIS LINE.
Narada Muni was born from the deliberation of Brahma, and this is considered the highest among the sons of Brahma. He is also the spiritual master of the transcendentalists. “Nara” means the “Supreme Lord” and “Da” means “One who can deliver”. (Some also say that Nara in this case means mankind but either way, “One who can deliver.”) Narada Muni is recognised for having the exceptional service of travelling throughout the whole three worlds turning those who sometimes appear to be like demons, addicted to all kinds of sinful activities, into pure devotees of the Lord. Completely empowered by Krsna, the original Guru, Narada Muni can deliver transcendental loving service of the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna to anyone – as a servitor, a friend, parent or lover – as one may desire, out of one’s own transcendental love for the Lord, for Narada, as the pure representitive of Krsna, is the Guru who is solely in charge of giving bhakti yoga, the highest mystic means for attaining the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. Narada himself explains how he came to be the transcendental, eternal, travelling, preaching mendicant to Srila Vyasadeva, his disciple, in the Srimad Bhagavatam as follows.
“In the last millenium I was born as the son of a certain maidservant engaged in the service of Brahmanas who were following the principles of Vedanta. When they were living together during the four months of the rainy season (Caturmasya), I was engaged in their personal service. Although they were impartial by nature, those followers of the Vedanta blessed me with their causeless mercy. As far as I was concerned, I was self-controlled and had no attachment for sports, even though I was a boy. In addition, I was not naughty, and did not speak more than required. Only once, by their permission, I took the remnants of their food, and by doing so all my sins were at once eradicated. Thus being engaged, I became purified in heart, and at that time the very nature of the transcendentalist became attractive to me. O Vyasadeva, in that association and by the mercy of those great Vedantists, I could hear them describe the activities of Lord Krsna. And thus listening attentively, my taste for hearing of the Personality of Godhead increased at every step. I was very much attached to those sages. I was gentle in behaviour, and all my sins were eradicated in their service. In my heart I had strong faith in them. I had subjugated the senses, and I was strictly following them with body and mind. As they were leaving, those Bhakti-Vedantas, who are very kind to the poor-hearted souls, instructed me in that most confidential subject which is instructed by the Personality of Godhead Himself. By that confidential knowledge, I could understand clearly the influence of the energy of Lord Sri Krsna, the creator, maintainer and annihilator of everything. By knowing that, one can return to Him and personally meet Him.” (SB 1.5.23-32)
Narada, due to his perfect service attitude in the process of devotional service (hearing, chanting, remembering, etc) advised Srila Vyasadeva, the literary incarnation of Krsna, as to the best welfare for everyone.
dharmah projjhita-kaitavotra paramo nirmatsaranam satam
vedyam vastavam atra vastu sivadam tapa-trayonmulanam
“Completely rejecting all religions which are materially motivated, the Bhagavata Purana propounds the highest truths, which are understandable by those devotees who are pure in heart. The highest truth is reality, distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such truth uproots the threefold miseries.” (SB 1.1.2)
Therefore Srimad Bhagavatam, the explanation of Srila Vyasa’s Vedanta Sutra by the same author, is meant for nirmatsaranam, (those who are completely aloof from jealousy.) Mayavadi philosophers are jealous of the existance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, therefore Vedanta Sutra is not actually meant for them. They unnecessarily poke their noses in the Vedanta Sutra, but they have no ability to understand, for the author of Vedanta Sutra, Srila Vyasa, writes in his commentary that it is only meant for those who are pure at heart, paramo-nirmatsaranam. For example, Krsna says to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita, “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me.” and because Arjuna did that, he is the Lord’s pure devotee.
“Regarding the disciplic succession from Arjuna, disciplic succession does not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic succession means to accept the disciplic conclusion. Arjuna was a disciple of Krsna, and Brahma was also a disciple of Krsna. Thus there is no disagreement between the conclusions of Brahma and Arjuna. Vyasadeva is in the disciplic succession of Brahma. The teachings to Arjuna were recorded by Vyasadeva verbatim. So according to the axiomatic truth, things equal to one another are equal to each other. We are not exactly directly from Vyasadeva, but our Gurudeva is a representative of Vyasadeva. Because Vyasadeva and Arjuna are of the same status, being students of Krsna, therefore we are in the disciplic succession of Arjuna. Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another.” (Srila Prabhupada’s letter excerpt to Dinesh 31-10-69)
In another letter to Kirtananda (25.1.69) he says, “…… it is just like I have got my disciples, so in the future these many disciples may have many branches of disciplic succession. So in one line of disciples we may not see another name coming from a different line. But this does not means that person whose name does not appear was not in the disciplic succession. Narada was the spiritual master of Vyasadeva, and Arjuna was Vyasadeva’s disciple, not as initiated disciple, but there was some blood relation between them. So there is connection in this way, and it is not possible to list all such relationships in a short description. Another point is that disciple succession does not mean one has to be directly a disciple of a particulaar person. The conclusions which we have tried to explain in our Bhagavad-gita As It Is, is the same as the conclusions of Arjuna. Arjuna accepted Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and we also accept the same truth under the disciplic succession of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. ….. Another example is that a tree has many branches, and you will find one leaf here and another leaf there. But if you take this leaf and the other leaf and you press them both, you will see that the taste is the same. The taste is the conclusion, and from the taste you can understand that both leaves are from the same tree.”
Lord Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna for the benefit of mankind, for externally it appeared that the disciplic succession was again lost. We therefore also included Narada Muni and Krsna Dwaipayana Vedavyasa in the guru parampara coming down from Prajapati Brahma (Caturmukha).
Srila Vyasadeva is the original compiler of the Vedanta Sutra or Brahma Sutra which gives guidence for all non-envious persons as to the nature of the soul, the nature of Brahman, who is Param-brahman, and again how to re-establish that relationship. Srila Vyasadeva’s opening lines in Vedanta Sutra reads:
janmady asya yato
carthesv asbhijnah sva rat
“I meditate upon Him (|Lord Sri Krsna), the transcendental reality, who is the primeval cause of all causes, from Who all manifested universes arise, in Whom they dwell and by Whom they are destroyed. I meditate upon that eternally effulgent Lord Who is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations and yet is fully independent.”
In this way the personal philosophy of Brahma Sutra or Vedanta Sutra has been handed down. “Nothing is apart from the substance, but at the same time the energies are different from the substance. This conception is not contradictary. The Srimad Bhagavatam explicitly promulgates this simultaneously, which begins with the ‘janmady asya” sutra.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.1)
There is a list of Vaisnavas who lived at this time recorded in the Manimanjari (VIII.33) of Narayana Panditacarya which points out that due to harassment by Buddhists and especially Mayavadis, the devotees, driven by desperation, had, at least outwardly, accepted Monism. No Vaisnava works at this time are recorded as the parampara was incognito. There is one story of how the followers of Sankaracarya, who used to burn down Vaisnava monasteries, were ordered by Sankara to kill Satyaprajna, and later his followers threatened and forced Prajna Tirtha to adopt the external dress of an adwaitan mayavadi. In fact, in the Manimanjari it is stated just how badly Prajna was treated. He was beaten and tortured, and his temple at Nandigram was burned to the ground by the decendant of Sankara named Padmapada, along with all of his books on unqualified dualism. So determined to stamp out the personalistic philosophy of Vaisnavism were they. Prajna Tirtha and his disciples, though forced to dress as impersonalists, in secret worshipped the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Narayana.
It is no wonder then, that the disliking for the impersonalistic followers of Sankara is so deep in the hearts of the devotees throughout history. Somehow or another, by the sheer determination of the faithful followers and decendants from Prajna Tirtha, the line still continued coming down until over some generations of devotees, until finally it reached Acyutapreksa.
Acyutaprajna (Acyutapreksa), who as mentioned was the next in line, was told by his guru whilst his guru was on his “death bed” that for the last ten generations in the guru parampara none have been satisfied, nor had they realized that they were Brahman. He also said that he had not found out what was actual Brahman (param brahman), but instructed Acyutaprajna, in his life, to find out. By the Lord’s design Acyutapreksa met Madhva and this story is graphically etched out later in this book.
So it would appear from an external point of view that Madhvacarya, having the name Ananda Tirtha, and who came next in the line of guru parampara, had accepted initiation into an adwaitan line (Mayavadi line). But this is not a fact. Actually Madhva always accepts only Srila Vyasadeva as his source of inspiration and Lord of his life, and thus his siksa guru. As we will quite clearly see, his diksa/sannyasa guru (Acyutaprajna) didn’t serve as his source of enlivenment. Madhva accepted his direction from Srila Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa Himself, having sought the great sages’ association, though of course no offence was meant to Acyutaprajna, nor was any offence taken. As Madhva’s life is revealed, one will see how and why Madhva is the direct disciple of Lord Badarayana-vyasa ,(Vedavyasa).
Madhva himself quoted from Brahmanda Purana, “One should have complete faith in the transcendental literature such as Srimad Bhagavatam and other literatures that directly glorifies the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One should also have faith in Vaisnava Tantra, the original Vedas, and Mahabharata which includes Bhagavad-gita, and which is considered the fifth Veda. The Vedic knowledge originally emanated from the breathing of Lord Visnu, and the Vedic literature has been compiled in a literary form by Srila Vyasadeva, the incarnation of Visnu. Therefore Visnu should be understood to be the personal speaker of all this Vedic literature.” (Purport to SB 11.3.26 by Hrydayananda Goswami)
As the great incarnation of one of Lord Visnu’s greatest preachers, Vayudeva (Madhva) accepted direct instruction from his Lord, Vyasadeva. In the Agni Purana (Chapter 51) it is mentioned how Vayu is seen sitting on the back of a deer holding a flag. Madhva was also quite often seen seated on a sacred deerskin holding his upraised flag of dualism in the form of his hand. Also in the Vana Parva of Mahabharata (19.22) it is stated that Vayu is the messenger of the demigods, and in another place, that Vayu resides in the palace of Lord Brahma, continuously praising him for being the surrendered pure representative of the Lord. (Mahabharata, Sabha Parva, chapter 11 Text 20).
It is interesting to note that Sri Vayudeva’s glories are sung in the Mahabharata, Vana Parva (19.22) as being the messenger of the “Gods”.
On this matter, Madhva, as the re-establisher of a practically lost system, became the founder and saviour of the hearts of the devotees. As we have said, though the line did in some shape or form come down, it was not truely effective until Madhva began preaching. On his preaching activities, writing of books, and touring all of Bharat-bhumi, he carried a new strength that was not there before him. He visited the asrama of Vyasadeva, who, to this day, resides high in the Himalayas beyond the reach of sinful men. This is how Madhva is accepted as the disciple of Vyasa and so the next in the Guru parampara.
The pastimes of how Madhva is the direct disciple of Vyasadeva will be told fully in the sequence of events of Madhva’s life. In this guru parampara the main emphasis is always on siksa or transcendental instructions that the great Vaisnava devotees of the Lord impart to their sisyas (students).).
A nine point summary of Madhvacarya’s philosophy is:
1. Lord Visnu, the Personality of Godhead, is the Absolute Truth, and nothing is higher than Him.
2. He is known by the study of Vedas….sarvasya caham…….(Bg 15.15)
3. The material world is real, but temporary.
4. The jivas (living entities) are different from the Lord (bimba prati bimba……….).
5. The jivas are, by nature, servants of Lord Visnu’s lotus feet.
6. In both the conditioned and liberated states, the jivas are situated in higher and lower statuses and always remain individuals in their identity.
7. Liberation does not mean an impersonal merging, but the attainment of serving Lord Visnu’s lotus feet.
8. Pure devotional service rendered to guru and Visnu automatically grants liberation, release from material bondage.
9. Direct perception, logic and Vedic authority are three sources of actual knowledge.
More of Madhva’s philosophy will be laid down during his actual life story and in his preaching activities.
In the direct line coming down from Madhva are eight disciples. Madhva paired them off as follows whilst as Kanya Tirtha during the Caturmasya period. He had them all seated around a fig (pipal) tree when he arranged the pairing system. He called them two at a time and gave them separately different mantras, rituals and pujas. The pairs and their Mutts were:
First Pair 1. Hrsikesa Tirtha – Palimar Mutt
2. Narasimha Tirtha – Admaru Mutt
Second Pair 3. Janardana Tirtha – Krsnapur Mutt
4. Upendra Tirtha – Puttinge (Puttige) Mutt
Third Pair 5. Vaman Tirtha – Shiruru Mutt
6. Visnu Tirtha (Madhva’s brother) – Sode Mutt
Fourth Pair 7. Rama Tirtha – Kaniyuru Mutt
8. Adhoksaja Tirtha – Pejawara Mutt
This is the order in which the Paraya (change of office) takes place every two years, each cycle starting with Palimar Mutt and ending with Pejawara Mutt. In the booklet of Banajee Govindacarya he mentions that there are eight other Mutts in the Karnataka region. They are:
9. Uttaradi Mutt
10. Sosale-Vyasaraya Mutt
11. Kundapura Vyasaraya Mutt
12. Raghavendra Swami Mutt
13. Mulubagilu Mutt
14. Majjigehalli Mutt
15. Kudli Mutt
16. Balegaru (Banagara) Mutt
Numbers 9-12 were started by the disciples of Madhva, respectively Padmanabha Tirtha, Narahari Tirtha, Madhava Tirtha, and Aksobhya Tirtha, a traditional branch of Vyasaraya. Another branch came to be known as Mulubagilu. Madhava Tirtha established a Mutt at Majjigehalli and Aksobhya Tirtha established Kudli and Balegaru, which grew into independent Mutts.
Apart from these, four more are listed in the area. They are:
17. Subramanya Mutt
18. Bhandarkeri Mutt
19. Bhimanakatte Mutt
20. Citrapura Mutt
Subramanya came from Visnu Tirtha’s line and the line coming from Acyutaprajna (Madhva’s sannyasa guru) who later became the disciple Puroshottama Tirtha. This continued in the original line but broke in two –[JCD1] Bhandarkeri which is now looked after by Palimara, and Bhimanakatte, which has its headquarters on the Tirthahalli Shimoga Road at Bhimanakatte, still in the Tulu region of Karnataka. Citrapura is a branch of the original Pejawara Mutt established by Aksobhya Tirtha. Citrapura Mutt is situated some 35 kilometres from Udupi on the main Udupi – Mangalore highway.
There is also included two more Mutts established in the Madhva line (Gauda Saraswata Brahmins):
21. Gokarno-Partagali Jivottama Mutt – originally three Mutts combined, all established by Narayana Tirtha who took sannyasa from Ramacandra Tirtha, the tenth swami pontiff of Palimara Mutt started by HrsikesaTirtha.
22. Kasi Mutt – originally from Udupi, but when the Madhva followers went south they established Kasi Mutt from Kanya Kumari.
Still another two Mutts are included in the Mutt lists which are:
23. Madhva-Gaudiya Mutt established by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Prabhupada.
24. ISKCON, “The International Society for Krsna Consciousness” – the Founder Acarya of which is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Srila Prabhupada. Since the passing of Srila Prabhupada on November 14th, 1977, his representatives, ISKCON guru vrnda, continue the parampara.
(At the end of this book in the section describing how Madhva organized the parampara to continue through the paraya system, more details about the descent of the original eight Mutts can be found.)
This line, known as Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya is as follows:
MADHVACARYA SUKADEVA GOSWAMI
PADMANABHA—-NRHARI—-MADHAVA TIRTHA—-AKSOBHYA TIRTHA
VIDYANIDHI TIRTHA (also known as VIDYADIRAJA TIRTHA)
RAJENDRA TIRTHA KAVINDRA TIRTHA
JAYADHARMA TIRTHA VAGISA TIRTHA
I RAMACANDRA TIRTHA BRAHMANYA TIRTHA (Purushottam) l
VYASATIRTHA – l l
I l l UTTARADI MUTT
l VYASARAJA MUTT l
l RAGHAVENDRA SWAMI MUTT
PARAMANANDAI ISWARA PURI NITYANANDA ADVAITA
PURI PRABHU ACARYA
SRI CAITANYA MAHAPRABHU
SWARUPA DAMODARA SANATANA GOSWAMI
SRI JIVA GOSWAMI RAGHANATHA DAS GOSWAMI
KRSNADASA KAVIRAJA GOSWAMI
NAROTTAMA DAS THAKURA
VISVANATHA CAKRAVATI THAKURA
UDDHAVA DAS BABAJI
MADHUSUDANA DAS BABAJI
(VAISNAVA SARVABHAUMA) JAGANNATHA DAS BABAJI
BHAGAVAT DAS BABAJI BHAKTIVINODA THAKURA
GAURA KISORA DAS BABAJI
GAUDIYA MATH A.C.BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI
and its missions I
ISKCON GURU VRNDA
Madhvacarya had many, many disciples, some of them famous. Visnu Tirtha and Trivikram Pandit were his direct disciples, but they never occupied the Vedanta Pitha or formal seat of office, so when the parampara is listed, generally it starts from Padmanabha Tirtha who Madhva made his successor. However because they are both such amazing personalities I thought that to include them would not do any harm.
This is the younger brother of Madhva who became the founder of Sode Mutt. He was an incredible yogi and renunciate, living in a cave no wider than his body standing. In the pastime at Kanvatirtha some of his qualities are recorded in Madhva Vijay. Tradition has it that to this day he is still performing austerities on the Kumara Hill at Subrahmanya Ksetra of the western Ghats. Hrsikesa Tirtha, in his book Sampradaya Paddhati, states that in the Kali Yuga Visnu Tirtha will re-appear to preach Madhva philosophy there. His only known work is a book on the duties of sannyasa, including the importance of Visnu-bhakti, roles of grhasta and sannyasa, and cleanliness, bathing, tilak, japa (chanting), worship of Deities, offering foods to the Lord, fasting, and vows taken during the four months of the rainy season.
Visnu Tirtha was given beautiful Deities of Bhu-Varaha by Madhvacarya. Lord Varaha is very nicely decorated with Bhudevi seated on His left thigh. At the Sode Mutt they also have Hayagriva, Who is whitish and is seen with jnana mudra, a book, japa mala, and a white conchshell respectively in each of His hands. He is the presiding Deity of knowledge and was brought there by Vadiraja Tirtha, the twentieth swami of the Sode Mutt who appeared around the sixteenth century and lived for 120 years.
In the Madhva Vijay (Ch. 15, 96-116) there is a nice description of the final pastime of Visnu Tirtha joining Madhva after the passing away of their parents at Pajaka-ksetra which will be included later.
Trivikrama took his birth in the family of Likuca (Pejjataya) like Madhva, near modern day Kasagar. He was a Shivalli Brahmin, and His father was Subrahmanya Pandit of the Angirasa Gotra. Trivikrama was the eldest of three sons, and he emerged as a scholar of the Monist Adwaita school, but was never satisfied with it’s conclusions. He became the court pandit of Jayasimha Maharaja, the King of Kumbla. There is an incredible story of the meeting between Trivikrama, the King and Madhva, during which Madhva stated all known philosophies, and one by one smashed them all. He then lured the court pandit into a debate and over fifteen days changed the doubting Trivikrama into a Madhva Vaisnava. After being soundly defeated by Madhva at Visnumangala and becoming Madhva’s disciple, he wrote three books. His youngest son was Narayana Panditacarya who is the compiler of the biography of Madhva (Madhva Vijay) from which I have taken the details of this book. There are about twenty books accredited to Narayana Panditacarya.
Let us now look into the lives of the descendant of Madhva who occupied the seat of office and who went on to preach further and further afield. The first four are direct disciples of Acarya Madhva.
1. Padmanabha Tirtha
2. Nrhari (Narahari) Tirtha
3. Madhava Tirtha
4. Aksobhya Tirtha
5. Jaya Tirtha
6. Vidyadhiraja (Vidyanidhi) Tirtha
7. Rajendra Tirtha
8. Jayadharma (Vijayadhvaj) Tirtha
9. Brahmanya Tirtha
10. Vyasa Tirtha
11. Laxmipati Tirtha
He was a native of Uttara-Karnataka which in those days stretched to the area known as Andhra Pradesh. (This is confirmed by Hrsikesa Tirtha in his book Sampradaya Paddhati and Guru-acarya[JCD2] , where he states that Padmanabha Tirtha came from Uttara-Karnataka of the Telegu speaking people around the area where the Godavari River flows.) His previous name was Sobhanabhatta, but his change of name came upon meeting Madhva when Madhva returned to Udupi from his northern tour. He was a renowned and distinguished scholar of the day, but his proficiency in fourteen branches of learning were silenced in fourteen seconds by Acarya Madhva in 1265 AD. Soon he became one of the most trusted disciples of Madhva. Madhva always praised him, being the senior-most disciple among those outside the Tulu area, and his learning, preaching and seniority enabled Madhva to make him the first to sit on the Pitha after Madhva’s disappearance pastime.
Padmanabha Tirtha left this world at Navavrindavanas, near Hampi, on the sacred Tunga-bhadra River in 1324 AD. His samadhi tomb remains there to this day. (Again more will be said in Madhva’s life story.)
NARAHARI TIRTHA ( NRHARI )
Narahari was a leading minister in Kalinga, Orissa, and was performing this task for around thirty years. The story follows that during his spell in office, the King of Kalinga died. The King’s ministers, from time immemorial, had a tradition that the State send out the “State Elephant” to find the Prince Regent. At that time the royal elephant walked out of the palace and through the city to the place where Narahari was. The elephant placed the coronation garland around his neck to the surprise of the accompanying state ministers. By the Lord’s arrangement the elephant came across Narahari, and in due course he was placed on the throne. However, when the King’s infant son and heir to the throne came of age after twelve years, Narahari gave it up. Out of gratitude, the new King wanted to bestow some gifts on Narahari. Narahari asked for the Deity of Mula Rama that had been kept by the descendants of the Gajapati Kings, and Who was originally worshipped by Maharaja Iksvaku, then given to Maharaja Dasaratha, the father of Lord Rama. This Deity of Rama was then passed down to Laksmana and from him to Hanuman, who used to hang Him around his neck. Hanuman gave Him to Bhima during the time of Krsna’s advent on this earth, and Bhima gave Him to the Ganapati King. This Deity of Mula Rama then placed in the Uttaradi Mutt, secured in his day by Kavindra Tirtha, but now resides at thr Raghavendra Tirtha Swami Mutt at Mantralayam.
At the time of dividing the Mutts at Kanva Tirtha, Madhvacarya gave Narahari the Deity of Kaliyamardana Krsna with four arms. This Deity of Krsna is dancing on the head of the Kaliya serpent, with one leg lifted up dancing, one hand in a balancing, dancing pose, and the other holding his tail up. Two other hands hold a conch and cakra.
Narahari Tirtha was initiated before 1264 AD. B.N.K Sharma suggests that he was probably about 22 years of age when Narahari and Madhva first met, Madhva being 19 years of age. There are local inscriptions of the time preserved in the Srikurman and Simhacalam areas of Orissa which glorify Narahari for many great feats, statesmanship and swordsmanship, but even whilst performing these kingly tasks, he preached Vaisnavism and made many devotees from the princes and aristocratic nobility in general at the time in the areas of Orissa and Andhra.
Sometimes it is suggested that he was the disciple of Padmanabha Tirtha but this is not supported anywhere in the mutt listings, instead what is pointed out is that due to the seniority of Padmanabha Tirtha, Narahari Tirtha was more than willing to serve him as the representitve of his spiritual master Sripada Madhwacarya, and so was considered like a siksa disciple of the Pitha Adi Patya Padmanabha Tirtha Swami.
Once whilst Narahari Tirtha was on a preaching tour, he dreamt that a Deity of Lord Visnu was at the bottom of the town pond (tank). The very next day, by his influence, he made arrangements for the tank to be dredged, and there He was! A Deity was taken out and installed at that place. The town is now called by the name of the pastime, Narayanadevarkere (the tank of Lord Narayana). This is near Hospet Taluk of Bellary District, Karnataka.
Narahari wrote fifteen books, but his Gita Bhasya and Bhavaprakasika are the only two of which any trace is kept.
Previously known as Visnu Sastri, Madhava Tirtha was the third acarya to reside on the Pitha after Madhvacarya. Madhava Tirtha was quite often confused with, or known as Madhvacarya or Madhva, due to the similarity in name. He was the son of Mayana and Srimati and the elder brother of Sayana, and at one time a minister of King Bukka of Vijayanagar.
There is a story in this connection how Madhava Tirtha founded the city of Vijayanagar after the discovery of a huge amount of hidden treasure. Before this, however, Madhava Tirtha lived an austere life as an ascetic in the mountains of Karnataka, who once found himself being frequented by a shepherd of the name Bukka. This poor shepherd had heard that Madhava Tirtha, the great sannyasi, was there absorbed in thoughts of Lord Narayana, and so he decided to daily bring him some simple foodstuffs. Madhava Tirtha blessed him saying, “One day you shall be the King of all Industan.” By this blessing, immediately all the local shepherds made him their head, and he became known as the King of that local country which governed five groups of communities – Canara, Taligas, Canguivaro, Negapatao and Badagas. In this kingdom he became known as Boca Rao and reigned for thirty seven years by the blessings of the great Madhava Tirtha. Bukka conquered many kingdoms from the time he came to rule in 1343 AD.
Madhava Tirtha was in office at the Vedanta Pitha from 1333 AD until 1350 AD, when he passed away. He made a commentary on the Parasara Smrti called Parasara Madhva-vijaya, and some other books have also been accredited to him, but as little is known of him there is much confusion mis-identifying him with others. It is said that his bodily remains were entombed at Hampi, but have since been moved to Manur on the Bhima River of Bijapur District.
AKSOBHYA TIRTHA AND JAYATIRTHA
Aksobhya Tirtha was the last of Madhva’s direct disciples to sit on the Pitha. He did so from 1350 AD -1365 AD. Previously his name was Govinda Sastri, and he came from Uttara-Karnataka. Madhvacarya gave him the Deity of Aja-Vithal. (Krsna standing with His hands of His hips, accompanied by Sri Devi and Bhudevi, though some say this is Krsna with Rukmini and Satyabhama.)
His main “claim to fame” was the way he refuted the philosophy of “tat tvam asi” – “you are the same as”. There is an historic incident which is understood to have taken place at Mulbagal near Kolar. His victim was Vidyaranya, the big, big scholar and guru descendant of the Advaitan line of Sankara. Aksobhya Tirtha smashed Vidyaranya so badly that in history this was considered the turning point in the new Madhva faith of Dwaita Vada. To this day the philosophy of Dwaita (dualism) has not been defeated; even the Adwaitin Mayavadis, knowing they are wrong, with stubborn determination they have yearly been coming back to get smashed.
Aksobhya Tirtha moved after this a little north to Pandharapur on the banks of the Bhima-rathi River, which is where he met his future disciple Jayatirtha. In the years to follow Aksobhya spent his time training Jayatirtha in Dwaita philosophy. The relationship was so nice that Aksobhya gave his every breath to make Jayatirtha the most proficient and dynamic preacher since Madhva, hence Jayatirtha[JCD3] was called the Tikacarya. Aksobhya Tirtha taught him how to search out hidden significances in the words of Madhva which others missed, and how to write books on those points called Tikas, (short commentaries), which further demolished the hostile Adwaitin monism. He even pointed out the differences in the basic understandings of Adwaita philosophy of their own leading Sankarites like Vacaspati, Vivarankara, Amalananda, Citsukha and Vijnanashana, giving further strength to the Vaisnava truths and making the mayavadis all look foolish.
Jayatirtha renounced the world and took sannyasa at twenty years of age. By this time no one could philosophically touch him. He was a genius, seeing through the foolishness of Mayavada, and even making commentaries on Ramanuja’s works. He wrote about twenty books, eclipsing those of his forerunners like Trivikrama Panditacarya, Padmanabha Tirtha and Narahari Tirtha, but he was always humble, giving all credit to Aksobhya Tirtha, the servant of Madhvacarya.
“Critique of Mityatwa” or “The Falsity Of The World” was one of his main works, where he describes how this world is temporary, not false, and the Mayavadi’s way as being really false. He points out the differences between real, unreal, temporary and permanent, concluding, “…..The co-existing of both their negations, at the same time and with reference to the same locus[JCD4] is, therefore, most illogical and can never be accepted by sane men.” ie. The positive being this world is temporary though genuinely existing, the elements are real, and the action is real but done in connection with material nature causing reaction, which is also real but not permanent. Thus soundly defeating the Mayavadi philosophy around “brahma satyam jagan mithya”, various works on subjects of Vaisnava studies and logic were written by Jayatirtha. Later a descendant in the parampara of the name Vyasatirtha wrote down Jayatirtha’s life story, whereby we have found this information.
Jayatirtha’s previous name was Dhondo Pantraya Raghunatha (Dhonduraya, Raghunath was his father’s name), of either Viswamitra Gotra or Bharadwaja Gotra. He was the son of a high ranking military man and had two wives. Dhondo Pant, being like a local prince, was seen often dressed in full armour, breast plate, helmet and all, riding his mighty war horse around the area. He was a great horse-man, and would ride sometimes on journeys all over the district, accompanied by his men. On one such occasion, a hot summers day at noon, he stopped at a stream for fresh water, but his drinking of water was not an ordinary sight. Unlike most persons taking water, Dhondo Pant would enter into the river fully dressed (with armour, sword, shield, helmet, plume, etc), then, whilst still mounted upon his horse, he would drink water at water level directly into his mouth, being up to his neck in the water as an animal would.
On this day an incredible meeting took place. On the other side of the stream was Aksobhya Tirtha, watching this extraordinary sight. Aksobhya called to the horseman, “Hey, you drink water just like a bullock,” and these few words put the horseman into a strange, deep, all-revealing state. Suddenly philosophical questions, which made the young horseman’s mind spin into thoughts of his previous births, came to mind. Dhondo Pant could now remember his time spent with Acarya Madhva, but he had been covered for so many years thinking that he was the son of a nobleman. Now he could remember all kinds of incidences that made his hair stand upon end. He gained some intense realizations which enabled him to see quite clearly how previously he was actually the bullock who was used to pull around Acarya Madhva’s books as Madhva travelled and preached all over. He could actually remember Madhva, his commanding but sweet voice elaborating upon the various Vedic literatures.
There is an interesting story in this connection. Madhva would quite often glorify this bullock, by saying to the assembly that actually this bullock listened better and assim-ulated the philosophy quicker than any of Madhva’s students. Wherever Madhva would preach the bullock would turn up, ears pricked up and forward in an attentive mood; his faithfulness and loyalty knew no bounds. Madhva could sometimes be heard saying that simply by his attentive hearing this bullock was making great advancement. These kind of statements made some of Madhva’s sannyasa disciples quite envious, so much so that they cursed the bullock to die from snake bite. Madhva heard about the curse and blessed the bullock that he would not be harmed. As per the curse, the snake came and bit the bullock, and amazingly the snake died! Everyone was awe struck, but could at once appreciate the motive, and kindness of Madhva. He was protecting his dear devotee who had surrendered his life to the service of Madhva’s preaching mission. After some years the bullock passed away of natural causes – old age.
Tradition has it that in actuality this was no ordinary bullock in the first place. He was reputed to be a partial incarnation and joint expansion of both Indra, the King of the demigods and Lord Ananta Sesa. So again it was no ordinary thing what had happened – the bullock taking his birth in a family of greatly pious ksatriya kings in Karnataka, and being further brought up to know the Vedic literatures according to the teachings of Madhva. Obviously the Lord deemed it now the right time for his real self realization to again be invoked.
Anyway back to the river, Dhondo Pant, standing in the water, addressed the humble and aged mendicant Aksobhya Tirtha as follows. “My dear sir, who are you, from where did you come, and how do you know me? Simply by the words emanating from your mouth my life has changed. You must be my guru; you have opened my eyes which were blinded for so long. O my guide, you have shed my ignorance of my real self. Please tell me more. Please instruct me so my life can become perfect. O Gurudeva, please save me from the clutches of repeated birth and death.” He was so amazed and became so agitated from gratitude by this meeting that he asked to become Aksobhya Tirtha’s formal disciple. The other horsemen joined Dhondo Pant in crossing the river and spent some time in discussion with him. Then they returned to the estate of his father without Dhondo. News soon reached the boy’s father who personally went to reclaim his son and took him home. To save any further quarrel, Dhondo followed his father without any protest, but even though the enraged father came to collect him, Dhondo had his plan, on his return home, to start with he had his marriage consumed.
An amusing story is revealed of the night that he returned to his wives. When Dhondo Pant’s beautiful young wife entered the bed chamber to be with her husband, to her surprise there was an incredibly magnificent cobra sitting coiled up on the bed. The snake swayed mystically as though one absorbed in trancendental trance. Enchanted by the sight, she, out of respect for the wonderous sight, paid her prostrated obeisances before the serpent, but soon fear overcame her and she fled the room screaming, and fainted on the floor just outside. Raghunathraya, the father of Dhondo, feared that something would happen and so was close by. After also seeing the captivating sight and seeing the snake revert back to the form of his son, Raghunathraya reluctantly allowed Dhondo to return to the aged mendicant Aksobhya Tirtha, knowing this not to be an ordinary situation. In due course, Dhondo Pant was initiated and given the order of sannyasa, and the new name, Jaya Tirtha. This happened in the year 1368 AD.
Some do not agree with this story, saying that it would not have been allowed in the strict Brahmin society of the 14th century. But whether one accepts the story as explained by Srila Vyasatirtha or not, the link was there, and soon he came back to Aksobhya Tirtha who accepted him as his sannyasa disciple and gave him the name Jaya Tirtha. He then started to study sastra from Aksobhya Tirtha intensively until Aksobhya Tirtha finally passed away, his mission completed.
Jayatirtha toured several times all over India, destroying the philosophy of the impersonal-istic rascals. He was undefeated and became well known as the pure Vaisnava Acarya that he was.
He spent his closing years at Malkhed (or Manyakheta), once the capital of the Rashtrakuta kings of Karnataka, in the Gulbarga district, Mysore state. This is said by some to be the place where Jayatirtha passed away on the Pancami (fifth day) of the dark fortnight in the month of Asadha (June-July) 1388 AD. However, there is also a samadhi tomb of his in northern Karnataka which I have seen. On this samadhi tomb at Anagoendi (Hampi) on the Tungabhadra river, next to the samadhi of Padmanabha Tirtha, there are carvings of him as a ksatriya prince, and next to that as a sannyasi mendicant. (There is a little more on Tikacarya Jayatirtha as we look at later followers of Madhvacarya at the end of this book.)
VIDYANIDHI TIRTHA (ALSO KNOWN AS VIDYADHIRAJ TIRTHA)
The Guru-acarya listings assign Vidyanidhi Tirtha a period of seven years, nine months and thirteen days as the next pontiff on the Vedanta Pitha. The only written work accredited to him was a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita.
In the Madhva Mutts there is an air of vagueness and uncertainty of dates, and even the lineage. Kavikarnapur’s “Sri Gaura-Ganoddesa Dipika”, Text 22 mentions …. “Aksobhya’s disciple was Jayatirtha. Jayatirtha’s disciple was Jnanasindhu. Jnanasindhu’s disciple was Mahanidhi. Mahanidhi’s disciple was Vidyanidhi. Vidyanidhi’s disciple was Rajendra ….” However, in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s “Guru Parampara” he says, “… Madhava Tirtha accepted the great paramahamsa Aksobhya Tirtha as his disciple. The principle disciple of Aksobhya Tirtha was known as Jayatirtha. Jayatirtha’s service was for his disciple Jnanasindhu. Dayanidhi received the science of devotional service from Jnanasindhu and the servant of Dayanidhi was Vidyanidhi (Vidyadhiraja Tirtha). Rajendra became the disciple of Vidyadhiraja Tirtha.”
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarsavati Thakura accepts the version of Kavikarnapur’s “Gaura-Ganoddesa Dipika” and they both say that Madhava Tirtha has taken Aksobhya Tirtha as his disciple. However, the Madhva’s say that Aksobhya Tirtha was the direct disciple of Madhvacarya – this is stated in the Guruacarya listings. In the Madhva Vijay also, this is recorded, that is, the incident of Madhvacarya calling eight of his sannyasa disciples around him at Kanya Tirtha during the Caturmasya. In Narayana Panditacarya’s commentary on his own book, Madhva Vijay, entitled “Bhava Prakashika,” he also says how Madhva called his disciples in pairs, and the fourth pair was Rama Tirtha of Kaniyur Mutt and Aksobhya Tirtha of Pejawar Mutt. These incidents are included in the “Sampradaya Paddhati” of Hrsikesa Tirtha, the foremost dear disciple of Madhvacarya.
The descendants of Madhva are more strictly followers of a diksa line, whereas both Kavikarnapur and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati lean more towards siksa lines, though still accepting both on their own validity. Seeing that Madhava Tirtha (Dwija) was a forerunner of Aksobhya Tirtha to the Vedanta Pitha, certainly he may have given some instruction. In the same way, Jayatirtha certainly had many disciples, and because his direct disciple Vidyadhiraja was the next to accept office at the Pitha, it doesn’t necessarily mean other disciples of Jayatirtha, such as Jnanasindhu Tirtha and Daya(Maha)nidhi Tirtha didn’t also give their worthy assistance.
Actually, Vaisnavas are always grateful for their many siksa gurus. For myself certainly, as I have collected this information, everyone has stressed Madhvacarya’s disciples, and this parampara. In the humble attempt to compile this work I have accepted many as my instructing gurus and I am very grateful to them for their advice, otherwise how could the sampradaya be revealed. I do not, of my own accord, know anything about Vaisnavism or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, but by the mercy of the Vaisnavas and of my diksa and siksa gurus, we are making an attempt at shedding some light on this subject.
VIDYADHIRAJA (VIDYANIDHI) TIRTHA AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH RAJENDRA TIRTHA
As we just stated, Vidyadiraja Tirtha was the immediate disciple of Jayatirtha. Being of seniority in his learning and devotional understandings, he also became the successor on the Pitha. Previously his name was Krsnabhatta, (though the Guruacarya gives him the name Nrsimha Sastri). It is understood that he was a brahmacari, but his time on the Vedanta Pitha is not clearly established. The times of office range from three years, nine months and thirteen days, to four years, and lastly sixty four years, but the Mutt itself is silent on this matter.
Rajendra was his first disciple, and their relationship was always very close. There is one story which tells of how the guru parampara divided at that time. Vidyadhiraja Tirtha was extremely sick so he sent word to Rajendra to come immediately, but he did not arrive in time. The Guru, feeling his life passing, ordained another disciple to guarantee that he would have a successor. This devotees’ name was Kavindra Tirtha. Some say he called Kavindra due to a need for the preaching to spread, but one cannot guess the reasons why – a pure Vaisnava acts only to satisfy the Lord, that much we can ascertain. The line coming from Rajendra Tirtha is now represented by Vyasatirtha and Gosale Mutts, and that line still continues.
The other line (that from Kavinda Tirtha) continued on to Vagisa and Ramacandra Tirtha, but at the time of Ramacandra there again was some heavy disagreements that apparently nearly stopped the line at that time. Inevitably it caused a spilt and now those lines come down via his two disciples, Vibudhendra Tirtha of Raghavendra Swami Mutt and Vidyanidhi Tirtha of Uttaradi Mutt.
Vidyadhiraja Tirtha passed away at Ergola near Malked. The old town of Ergola now lies in ruins and this is believed to be where the tombs of both Vidyadhiraja and Rajendra Tirtha are.
Between Rajendra and Vyasa Tirtha we have Vijayadhvaja Tirtha, alias Jayadhvaja, alias Jayadharma. He is listed in the Mutt genealogical tables as being a member of the Pejawara Mutt coming from Aksobhya Tirtha. The Deity of Sri Rama that was worshipped by Vijayadhvaja Tirtha is still in the Pejawara Mutt. Some say that Vijayadhvaja was ostracised by Raghunatha Tirtha of Uttaradi Mutt for the sin of crossing the ocean to visit Dwarka, and thus as a penance to atone for this he was commissioned to write a comment-ary on Srimad Bhagavatam, which he wrote under a pipal tree at Krsna Mutt, and which he became famous for. However many devotees, including B.N.K Sharma, the Madhva scholar, says that this story is bogus and malicious, as it is well known that Vijayadhvaja’s commentary on the Srimad Bhagavatam was purely out of love and spontaneous devotion. His commentary of Bhagavatam went under the title “Bhakti-ratnavali” and is said to have greatly influenced his disciple, Visnu Puri. In this commentary there are many references to the original compiler, the great Sridhar Swami of the Bhagavat School. Sridhar lived in a very dangerous time to be a Vaisnava, and so kept his meanings covered. Many, even to this day, say that Sridhar Swami was an impersonalist, but actually this is not so. As we have stated, he had to keep the real and personalistic understandings of the Bhagavatam covered for there were many devious mayavadis ready to corrupt anything that glorified Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vijayadhvaja (Jayadharma Muni as he is also known) clarified the meanings of Sridhar Swami, bringing out the dualist’s point of view from the seemingly hidden meanings of Sripada Sridhar Swamin.
Looking at the many and wonderful ways the devotees have struggled, sacrificing their own reputations, even well being, to somehow or other ensure that these priceless gems of pure personalism could find their way down through the ages into our unworthy laps and beyond, we should be grateful to all of these great and devoted personalities.
Srila Vijayadhvaja Tirtha was the sixth in the lineage of the Pejawara Mutt, and he passed away on the Aksaya Tritya day, which falls on the third day of the light fortnight in the month of Madhusudana (Vaisakha – April/May). His samadhi (Vrndavana) is at Kanya Tirtha.
Vijayadwaja Tirtha and some details concerning the controversy regarding his complete and devotional commentary on the Srimad Bhagavatam.
Practically speaking, the following is only details of Vijayadvaja’s early days, but it is an interesting story that brings out his conviction as a pure surrendered, unmotivated Vaisnava sannyasi.
As with many sannyasis of the line, particularly on this west coast of Karnataka, Vijayadwaja Tirtha took sannyasa as a very small boy. Constantly travelling, he would have to maintain by collecting alms (bhiksa), but alas, sometimes he would have to go without food for three or five days. Out of dire need and hunger, the young sannyasin, on one occasion, began to make some arrangements to cook very simply, using some simple forest spinach, a few rocks and twigs that he had found by the side of the road. One much older and senior sannyasi came by and was horrified seeing Vijayadwaja Tirtha, a sannyasi, cooking, “making arrangments to enjoy” and by the side of the road. He severely chastised him saying that this kind of action was against sannyasa dharma or character. He then informed the boy that the only way to counter this kind of independant activity was suicide – then and only then would he be free from any reaction. So the humble and pure hearted young Vijayadwaja Tirtha Swami prepared to give up the world. At this time another sannyasi happened to come by, and upon seeing the preparations for death, could understand what was on Vijayadwaja’s mind. This second sannyasi then enquired from the boy why he had taken to this decision. Hearing the story, the second sannyasi, who some say was Rajendra Tirtha, who instructed the boy to compile an edition of Srimad Bhagavatam and by this everything would be resolved. So doing, this highly devotional piece of literature was entitled “Pada-Ratnavali.” To this day followers of Madhva hold this devotional work as a standard text for reference.
At the end of this commentary, Vijayadwaja Tirtha prayed earnestly to Lord Sri Krsna,
vyakhya bhagavtasya krsna racita
twat preeti kamatmana
pretaschet pradadasi tat pratinidhim
tat treen varisye varan
prang niskincanatam tava pratibhavam padaravindatmana
samsaktim sukhatirtha sastra vijarajarasya param taya
“Dear Lord Sri Krsna, I have written this commentary of Srimad Bhagavatam just to please You. If You are pleased, as an acknowledgement of the same, please grant me three boons – that I should always remain a poor man in this and any future lives, that I may always have the opportunity to study Bhagavatpadacarya Madhva’s devotional works on Krsna consciousness, and lastly by doing so, I may always rest in You and that I may attain You and always remain with You as Your foot servant.”
As we will read a little later, the influence of this edition of the Bhagavatam and the subsequent commentary by Visnu Puri, the celebrated compiler of Bhakti Ratnavali and disciple of Sri Vijayadwaja Tirtha, assisted a great change to take place – not so much a change, but enhanced a natural loving progression to develope. This will be dealt with in connection with the next few acaryas who came. Everything was going on still, but as previously there had been some dissatisfaction with the struggle against the Mayavadis, now there had become struggles of another nature, that of position. Some were neglecting the pure teachings of Vaisnavism, and were starting to get a little caught up in other circles, that ‘I am a brahmana so I can know God. You are a sudra, therefore you cannot.’ Certain sways started to take place, and angles that had not been propounded externally were now to be taught. There were some very radical devotees around who were out to make a wonderful thrust to ensue. This devotee who we have just mentioned, Visnu Puri, is believed to have influenced many prominent personalities, amongst whom are Laxmipati Tirtha and Madhavendra Puri Goswami. This will be brought up again where the reasons for Madhavendra Puri Goswami accepting the title “Puri” instead of the traditional “Tirtha” are discussed in a short while.
Dr. B.N.K Sharma also mentions (History of Dvaita School of Vedanta, page 540) that there is a tradition which supports all these stories, and gives some detail to that point, saying that in the 15th century Rajendra Tirtha carried the message of Madhva to the far north and also into Bihar and Bengal where many of these great devotees were waiting to take up their particular missions. At this time amazing things were going on, much of which was unseen to the general populous. Various intimate associates of the Lord were taking their births in the families of the Vaisnavas for the purpose of setting back the flow of the Kali yuga, and smashing the illusory philosophies of the impersonalists.
Sambidananda dasa brahmacari (the disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura) has written in his book relating to medieval Vaisnava schools, that even the meeting of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the Tattvavadi head of the time, Raghuvarya Tirtha, which came a little later, was not an ordinary thing. There he makes a statement very boldly saying that the reason for the difference of opinion over sadhya (spontaneous service – the raga marg performed on the liberated devotional platform), and vaidhi bhakti, devotional service in practice where full love of Godhead is not fully manifest, was due to the fact that at that time those particular Tattvavadis had deviated somewhat from the pure teachings presented by Madhva. However we see that after the visit of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to Krsna Mutt, the purity was again sought out. Primarily this was done by Vadiraja Tirtha who again re-established many of Madhva’s principals. It was Vadiraja who reintroduced kirtana (the chanting of the Holy Names) back into the Mutt. His guru, Vyasatirtha, who was practically a contemporary, did many great works also to re-establish the proper standards that were free from any material bodily conceptions of life.
In “History of the Mutts” booklet it is mentioned that due to some problems around the time of Vagisa Tirtha the pure line was nearly lost, but due to the preaching and management of Vyasatirtha and especially Vadiraja Tirtha the desire of Madhvacarya was again instilled.
He was the third descendant from Rajendra Tirtha in the senior line of disciples coming from Vidyadhiraja Tirtha. I could find very little on his life, save and except where BNK Sharma says that it was due to the blessings of Brahmanya Tirtha that the parents of Vyasatirtha, (Brahmanya Tirtha’s disciples), owed the birth of their children – notably of Vyasatirtha.
As his permanent residence, Brahmanya Tirtha lived mostly at Cannapatna or Abbur in Karnataka State, as mentioned in the Vy-carita, Page 26. There he had a Mutt of his own which later he was to entrust to his disciple Sridhar Tirtha. His other disciple was the famous Vyasatirtha. It is so unfortunate that these great devotees lives have slipped into obscurity, whether it was by their choice out of humility or just the influence of time. I guess now we will never really know. The Lord has his plan.
The next in line then was Srila Vyasatirtha.
Otherwise known as Vyasaraya and Vyasaraja Swamin, as we briefly mentioned, he was the disciple of Brahmanya Tirtha. Born around 1460 AD in the village of Bannur in Mysore District, his father’s name was Rallanna Sumati and his gotra was Kasyapa. As previously stated, he took his birth by the blessings of Brahmanya Tirtha. Altogether, Vyasatirtha’s parents had three children, a girl and two boys. In his childhood Vyasatirtha was known as Yatiraja. At the age of five he underwent the Vidyarambha samskara to begin his formal education, starting with writing the alphabet, and at seven took upanayana (the sacred thread.) He stayed at gurukula for only four years after that. At eleven he went to his home and continued his studies of poetry, drama and grammar for about five years. Before Vyasatirtha’s birth, his father promised his second son to Brahmanya Tirtha. He gave the boy the name Yatiraja to indicate his future as a renunciate, and in due course he was given to Brahmanya Tirtha as an assistant. After some time, however, Yatiraja, being unsure of Brahmanya Tirtha’s intentions, slipped away and ran into the forest and headed for the direction of “home,” away from the hermitage. One night whilst sleeping in the forest under a tree, Lord Visnu came to him and told him what to do. The teenager returned to the asrama hermitage that very same day, and shortly after this, upon proving his dedication to his guru, young Yatiraja was formally initiated and given the name Vyasatirtha.
Some time shortly after the two year famine of 1475 and 1476 Brahmanya Tirtha, his guru, left this world. Vyasatirtha came to the Vedanta Pitha about 1478 in his late teens. Due to his young age and little time spent with his guru, he didn’t really know the conclusions of the Madhva sastras very well, so he went to Kancipuram to study, where, after a very short time, he became a renowned pandit. Whilst in that area he was entrusted with the worship of Srinivasan (Lord Visnu) at Tirupati. Vyasatirtha’s Mutt is still at Tirupati on the hill (Tirumala). Before leaving that place, after about twelve years of being there, he gave the worship over to his disciples.
In local history corresponding to the time, it is mentioned that the King of Bisnaga used to listen daily to a great Madhva Vaisnava sannyasi who had never married or touched a woman in his life. Though his name is not directly mentioned, history infers that this was Vyasatirtha.
From Kancipuram he went to Vijayanagar, and became known for his radical statements regarding Brahmanism, Vaisnavism, Varnasrama, and who was worthy to worship the Lord. It was at this time and place where he was challenged to a debate by brahmana pandits from all over India. The pandits were led by the learned brahmin Basava Bhatta of Kalinga (Orissa). They all pinned their challenges to the pillars of the palace. After a thirty day discussion, Vyasatirtha emerged triumphant, and his reputation earned him the respect of King Krsnadevaraya (1509) who regarded him as guru and gave him all honours. He awarded him the order of the camel on a green flag, and a drum on the back of a camel as a mark of respect. This is still kept by the Vyasaraya Mutt at Gosale. Once the flag was taken by King Nrsimha in his attacks against the Muslim sultans who caused threats and violence to devotees and temples in South India, but between Krsnadevaraya, Shivaji and others, the sultans were stopped before getting very far.
There are many nice stories telling of the great King Krsnadevaraya, who ruled the Vijayanagar kingdom on the Tungabhadra River in Karnataka in connection with his guru. Vyasatirtha gave the King formal initiation, and then out of gratitude and love for his guru, Krsnadevaraya had made beautiful Deities of Vittala (Krsna) and Rukmini, and established the fine Vittala Rukmini temple which still stands there today. On the temple wall there are inscriptions giving the date 1513 AD, and refers to Vyasatirtha as the guru of Krsnadeva-raya. There is also mention of Vyasatirtha ceremonially bathing Krsnadevaraya at his initiation, following in the method of Madhvacarya’s puja manual entitled “Tantrasara” (Chapter 2.10-11), in which the Tantrasara points out that the ceremonial bathing (abhiseka) of a disciple by the guru adds to the glory of the disciple. As we can see by the next brief story, this did make him glorious.
Once a Gajapati King of Orissa tried to humiliate Krsnadevaraya by sending Adwaitin Mayavadi philosophical points to him to try to catch him out, but on the instructions and potency of his guru Vyasatirtha, Krsnadevaraya was, as usual, victorious. Out of gratitude Krsnadevaraya gave the village of Bettakonda to Vyasatirtha in 1526, and a huge lake was dug for the pleasure of guru called Vyasa samudra. The dates vary from 1523, 1524 and 1526 by various records, but all the points are substantiated by the writings of devotees of the time, including Purandara dasa. It is also recorded that Krsnadevaraya literally bathed Vyasatirtha in jewels as well, performing “Ratnabhiseka” (bathing him in jewels). Generally to install a person, an abhiseka is done with ghee, milk, yogurt, gaur, honey, sugar-water and tender coconuts in this part of the country, but this was done with priceless gems. After the death of Krsnadevaraya in 1530, Acyutaraya continued to honour Vyasatirtha for a few years until Vyasaraya’s demise. Krsnadevaraya, by the way, is always referred to as probably the most spiritually enlightened of the Vijayanagar dynasty. He established many fine temples and Deities in this area under the guidance of Vyasatirtha. To this day there still stands the Deity of Laxmi Nrsimha standing twenty five feet tall in the banana fields. The Deity was carved from one stone under Krsnadevaraya’s instructions. After his demise, the invading Muslims smashed many temples out of their envy of Vaisnava culture. Many deities like Vittala Rukmini and Krsnaswami were moved further south, but although the Muslims tried to smash the Deity of Lord Nrsimha, still He stands, though His temple lies in rubble around Him. This old and sacred place is the old Kishkinda mentioned in the Ramayana where Hanuman was born, and where Rama killed Vali and put Sugriva on the throne.
There are numerous glories of Srila Vyasatirtha to be sung. It is not unintentional that I have said “sung” in his connection, for the highly controversial and powerful preacher, the third moon of the Madhva line, was always absorbed in harinama sankirtan. Many say this was due to the influence of his teacher, Sripadiraja Swami, who is reknowned for his poems and songs glorifying Lord Sri Krsna. Some say he was the instigator of the Hari dasa or Dasakuta Movement, which is further discussed in the section at the back of this book entitled “Modern Day Madhvas”. Anyway, during his life Vyasatirtha established 732 temples of Hanuman all over South India and composed poems and songs based on the Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata and Ramayana.
One day after composing his famous work called “Krsna Ni Begane Baro” which, for the last four centuries has become a Bharat Natyam dance repetoire, a strange thing happened.
Vyasatirtha was taking a little rest when Lord Sri Krsna appeared in his dream and proceeded to address him. “You are a sannyasi, you do not have any wife or children. On the other hand, I am very much married and lave a large family – so why is it that you only call Me Krsna?” From that day on in any further compositions, Vyasatirtha always referred to his Lord as Sri Krsna.
Once Vyasatirtha was sitting upon the pitha amongst his many, many disciples, when out of nowhere one low-born farmer happened to come into the assembly requesting mantra diksa initiation from Vyasatirtha. The farmer humbly begged, but in his humility he was persistent. The many other disciples, who were mostly brahmana stock, viewed him as being completely unqualified due to his birth and education, or rather lack of it – not being born in a Brahmin family like all the other disciples. Vyasatirtha however, being pure and free from bodily conceptions of birth, etc, was of a different mind and to everyone’s amazement Vyasatirtha told the farmer to chant the name of Yamaraja’s bull. Going away and coming back after some time after chanting that name, the farmer’s voice was again heard. “Swamiji, Swamiji, he is here,” the farmer exclaimed. When the devotees peaked outside the Mutt, to their surprise there was Yamaraja’s bullm Mahisa, big as a mountain, right there outside the door of the Mutt. “Now what shall I do Swamiji?” the farmer enquired from Vyasatirtha. Vyasatirtha instructed him to take the bull to the river where there was one huge boulder that hundreds of men couldn’t move. The farmer went to the river and requested the bull to move the boulder out of the main stream of the river to allow the water to flow to reach the crop irrigation areas downstream. That rock, which was in itself like an island amidst the river, the bull submerged beyond sight simply with the lifting of his hoof and resting it upon it. To the delight of everyone the water again began to flow. Soon after this incident the bull returned to Yamaraja, his master. The farmer then asked Vyasatirtha for more service. Vyasatirtha, who was always compassionate, then engaged him in looking after the Mutt’s goshalla.
Not long after that, an annual festival for the Deity came around on the calendar, and a huge festival was put on for the Lord. The high point was the abhiseka bathing ceremong in which the Deity was to be bathed in many different auspicious by-products of the cow. However, just as the bathing commenced, the Deity of Udupi Krsna suddenly disappeared right in front of everyon’e eyes. Everyone was very confused except for Srila Vyasatirtha, who asked all the assembled devotees to conclude as to what had happened. The debating took some time, and the disciples came to their conclusion that due to the offence of allowing the low-born farmer to look after the cows and procure the milk, yogurt, ghee, etc for the puja, the Lord had disappeared.
Indirectly they were blaming their guru, saying that this was his offence, for they were still on the bodily concept of life, thinking themselves as brahmanas and he a mere vaisya farmer.
Vyasatirtha very tolerantly tilted his head and asked everyone to follow him for a moment. Everyone went to the goshalla headed by Vyasatirtha. As they looked into the goshalla they saw the farmer scrubbing down the cows, brush in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. In his total absorption of serving the Lord’s cows, the farmer didn’t even notice that the Deity had manifested His Gopal form and was standing beside him holding the bucket for him. Needless to say, all of his disciples were amazed that Udupi Krsna personally served this non-brahmin farmer, but Srila Vyasatirtha explained that, “No, the Lord had come to serve His pure devotee. Previously he came for Acarya Madhva to have him glorified and now he has found another worthy soul.” Srila Vyasatirtha later formally initiated the farmer as his disciple.
Vyasatirtha passed away at Vijayanagar on the caturthi (fourth) day in the dark fortnight in the month of Phalguna (Jan-Feb), corresponding to Saturday 8th March, 1539 AD. His tomb remains on the island of Navavrindavanas in the Tungabhadra River, half a mile from Anegondi (Hampi).
Vyasatirtha was, as some say, almost the second founder of the system of Madhvacarya, after the great Madhvacarya. Vyasatirtha influenced many, including the aristocracy, and many of his disciples travelled north preaching his glories to places which included Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharastra, and even Rajasthan and Uttara Pradesh.
According to Kavikarnapur in his Gauraganoddesa Dipika, Vyasatirtha wrote the famous book, “Sri Visnu Samhita”, and had a disciple by the name Laxmipati Tirtha who was originally from North India.
The following is a story in connection with the disciple of Vyasatirtha who was given the name Laxmipati Tirtha, and who became the next to be recognised as the acarya in the line in which we follow.
Once Lord Balarama (Krsna’s elder brother) appeared to Laxmipati Tirtha to break the ground for a change in the regular line of the Madhva Sampradaya. Big changes were to take place that would eventuate in a revolution in thought and deed. Lord Sri Krsna and His brother Lord Balarama were about to appear in the dress of devotees within the Madhva sampradaya.
brajendra nandana jei-saci-suta hoilo sei
balarama hoilo nitai
Narottama dasa Thakura sings in his “Ista Deve Vijnapti”, in simple Bengali that “Lord Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja, the King of Vraja, became the son of Saci (Lord Caitanya) and Balarama became Nitai (Nityananda). We have discussed in brief some of the situations that arose around this time that warranted these changes. We have also introduced some of the Vaisnavas who performed this task for the Lord. The change itself to many meant seeing heart rendering devotion to the Lord, which was in many cases unable to be contained because of its intensity. Some objected to this as being mere sentimentalism, some even suggested that though the external sentiments were seen, other things were in the heart. This section from here on deals with some of those feelings. Obviously these situations are not to be imitated, as some cheaters do. As you will read shortly, these are insights to the personal relationships between the Lord and his pure devotees. This is not an ordinary thing, but by these personal dealings based on love is specifically how the Madhva sampradaya has come to be known all over the universe, by the desire and preaching of it’s members.
One story which is quite heart rendering is the following story of Laxmipati Tirtha, the best of the sannyasis, who, on one occasion, was sitting in a solitary place performing his bhajan throughout the night. He was singing the glories of Lord Balarama. His unalloyed devotion was so intense he would sometimes cry or call out, “O Baladeva, kindly show me Your favour. I am so fallen and wicked.” Tears would come from his eyes and he lost all patience and composure due to his old age and intense desire to see the Lord. He would sometimes collapse on the floor, stunned. This day, due to the devotional traumas he had undergone, he slept.
It is described that Lord Nityananda, in His usual prankish mood, appeared to Laxmipati in His original form as Lord Balarama. Lord Balarama, Krsna’s brother, appeared before Laxmipati in a dream, telling him that a wandering Brahmin, in the form of an avadhuta madman had arrived in town. “He will come to you. Initiate him into the Vaisnava diksa mantras and accept him as your disciple.” Then Lord Balarama spoke the mantra into Laxmipati’s right ear and Laxmipati awoke. After a short time Laxmipati saw the avadhuta Brahmin and his mind became full with anxious anticipation. When they met, Laxmipati couldn’t take his eyes off the beautiful form of the Lord, His aura and His moonlike face and unblinking eyes. Hearing the sweet words of Lord Nityananda, Laxmipati’s eyes brimmed over with swelling tears. That very day Laxmipati fulfilled the order of Lord Balarama, and Nityananda became the favourite of Laxmipati.
nityananda prabhu vande
srimad laxmipati priyam
vardhanam bhakta vatsalam
“Respectful obeisances unto You, Nityananda Prabhu, the dear favourite of Laxmipati Tirtha. He (Nityananda) increases the bliss of the entire Madhva sampradaya and He has the innermost needs of the devotees foremost at hand.”
Laxmipati couldn’t understand his intense attraction for Nityananda or the bliss he felt just being near Him. On Nityananda’s absence from his sight for a moment, intense separation came over him. Laxmipati stayed awake that night pondering over things. He had dozed off slightly, when again in a dream the Lord appeared. He was whitish in complexion, dressed in a blue dhoti. It was Nityananda in his dream, but then Nityananda transformed into Lord Balarama. Laxmipati was amazed and he bathed the Lord’s feet with ecstatic tears from his eyes. He hhhhe Hhhhllprayed to the Lord, “Surely You have made a fool of me and put this fallen wretch into much distress. Please show me Your mercy. You are my Lord. I take shelter at Your lotus feet.” That same Sri Nityananda Rama (Balarama) fulfilled all of Laxmipati’s cherished longings, though He forbade him from telling a soul of His identity, and then disappeared from sight.
When Laxmipati awoke in lamentation upon the Lord’s disappearance, he saw that night had become the morning. Laxmipati changed from this day on. He didn’t speak ever again, as his mind was always absorbed elsewhere. He looked terrible, and his disciples became full of anxiety. Within a short while, without any warning, Laxmipati left this world. Who can understand properly the character and pastimes of the Lord and His pure devotee Laxmipati Tirtha? Just see the purity of Laxmipati, that the Lord appears directly to play with him.
Usually it is accredited to Madhavendra Puri Goswami, the disciple of Laxmipati, as being the spiritual master of Lord Nityananda Prabhu, but here it is mentioned otherwise.
Let us substantiate this story a little. In the Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya lila (1.3.85) Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami writes: “In Khadadaha, sometimes people misunderstood Nityananda Prabhu to belong to the sakta-sampradayam whose philosophy is antah saktah bahih saivah sabhayam vaisnavo matah. According to the sakta sampradaya, a person called kaulavadhuta thinks materially while externally appearing to be a great devotee of Lord Siva. When such a person is in an assembly of Vaisnavas, he appears like a Vaisnava. Actaully Nityananda Prabhu did not belong to such a community. Nityananda Prabhu was always a brahmacari of a sannyasi of the vaidika (Vedic) order. Actually He was a paramahamsa. Sometimes He is accepted to be a disciple of Laxmipati Tirtha. If He is so accepted, Nityananda Prabhu belonged to the Madhva-sampradaya. He did not belong to the tantrika-sampradaya of Bengal.”
In a conversation I had with HH Bhakti Hridoy Mangal Maharaja, Secretary General of the Sri Caitanya Gaudiya Math, he remembered hearing personally an instance that was related by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaja Prabhupada (sometime in the late 1920’s during a class), wherein Lord Nityananda walked off with a sannyasi who came to beg alms at His parent’s house (as mentioned in Caitanya Bhagavata.) The sannyasi asked Hadai Pandit, the father of Lord Nityananda, as is traditional, for some alms and so Hadai Pandit as a dutiful householder agreed. But when the sannyasi asked him to give him the boy (Nityananda) as alms, Hadai Pandit, nearly died. Considering his life useless and a bad example to the boy if he didn’t fulfill the desires of his saintly guest, he gave the boy to the sannyasi as his assistant – this sannyasi was Laxmipati Tirtha. It is interesting to note that the boy Nityananda simply walked off with the sannyasi without even so much as looking back, just as Lord Rama left His father, Dasaratha, to go to the forest. Though different circumstances, both Maharaja Dasaratha and Hadai Pandit died within a very short time due to intense separation.
However in Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya lila (3.8.128) purport, Srila Prabhupada says: “Sri Nityananda Prabhu was initiated by Madhavendra Puri, a sannyasi. According to others, however, He was initiated by Laxmipati Tirtha.”
Around the same time was a great Vaisnava preacher by the name Visnu Puri. We briefly mentioned something about him in relation to his guru, Jayadharma Tirtha, in that section, so at this point let us look a little closer at his pastimes. Though he was directly one of the noted acaryas in the guru parampara, certainly it appears that he must have been a great devotee to have gained recognition by the great Kavikarnpur, the celebrated compiler of the Gaura Ganadesha Dipika. If Kavikarnpur thinks his name worthy of mentioning, then who am I to deny him a mention? According to history he was a sannyasi of Tirhit District. One report is that Visnu Puri met Lord Caitanya at Kasi (Benares) while Lord Caitanya was on His way back to Nadia from Vrndavana. They were charmed with each other naturally. The following story is mentioned by B.D. Basu, in his presentation of Visnu Puri’s book Bhakti Ratnavali, which says that at their meeting a wonderful interaction took place. By the bhakti and learning of Visnu Puri, Lord Caitanya became inspired, and by the grandeur and personal magnetism of Lord Caitanya, the Personality of Godhead, Visnu Puri was inspired. Later a disciple of Visnu Puri left Benares for Jagannatha Puri to bring greetings to Lord Caitanya from his guru. Lord Caitanya sent him back to Kasi with a message, “Make Me a garland of jewels”. Everyone was astounded when they heard the greatest renunciate asking for jewels, but they had not the boldness to ask Him why He asked for this. Actually he was referring to Visnu Puri’s Bhakti Ratnavali – the necklace of priceless jewels of the Srimad Bhagavatam.
There is another version of this story recorded, that Lord Jagannatha, in a dream came to Visnu Puri and told him to compose and send these prayers to Him in the form of Lord Caitanya. The date recorded on this book, Bhakti Ratnavali, is 1555 Saka era or 1633 AD, but it is humbly suggested that this is the date Bhakti Ratnavali was transcribed from the original, not the date of the actual composition. This was one year before Lord Caitanya passed from the devotees physical presence.
Visnu Puri was previously known as Visnu dasa. He was a learned brahmin who belonged to the Vaisnava school of Madhva and was a disciple of Jayadharma Tirtha. He first led his life as a householder with wife and children, but when the temper of his wife became too much for him, he left home and took the dress of a sannyasi. Everyone tried to pacify him but he would not return. He wandered and settled in Mithila at the shrine of Lord Siva (which is also known as Siva Puri). The Tirtha pandits say that in a dream, Lord Siva told him to resume family life, so he returned and took a second wife. In the dream Lord Siva also gave him the Visnu Mantra, so at Siva Puri it is suggested that this is when he added Puri to his name, to remember that holy place, as there is no mention of receiving the name from another source.
To have been a disciple of Jayadharma who occupied the Pitha from 1448-1460 AD, and to have met Lord Caitanya in Kasi, Visnu Puri must have lived for close on one hundred and fifty years. Of course that is presuming that the dates that we have are exactly correct. There is no doubt that his preaching from the Bhakti sastra, Srimad Bhagavatam, inspired many, among them the great Madhavendra Puri, who became the next in the disciplic succession. It is believed by many that Madhavendra Puri Goswami, though taking diksa initation from Laxmipati, was given siksa (instruction and inspiration) from Visnu Puri, thus this is why the title “Puri” was added to his name instead of Tirtha, as with the previous parampara acaryas.
In Dr. B.N.K Sharma’s “History of Dwaita Vedanta” he makes a point to say that up until this time this was the parampara which came to be known as the Vyasaraja Mutt line of the Madhva Mutts, following down to the disciples of Vyasatirtha, a strict Madhva line.
Filling in the details over the past couple of generations, the Gauragannodesa Dipika (Text 22) of Kavikarnapur says: “Rajendra’s disciple was Jayadharma Muni. Among Jayadharma’s disciples was Sriman Visnu Puri, the famous author of the Bhakti Ratnavali. Another disciple was Brahmana Purusottama.” But in the Kantimala, it states:
iti sri purusottama-caranaravinda-
krpa makranda-bindu pronmilita-
sri visnu-puri grathita-sri
sri bhaktiratnavali kantimala samapata
This indicates that Visnu Puri had some kind of disciple relationship with Purusottama Tirtha (Brahmanya); at least this confirms the time, if not his particular kind of guru-disciple relationship. Substantiating the facts presented here, B.N.K Sharma points out that there is a traditional line stating that Rajendra Tirtha carried the message of Madhva north to Bihar and Bengal, and that Rajendra Tirtha’s disciple was Jayadhvaja Tirtha, who was the guru of Visnu Puri.
In these days, sometimes one would accept a particular mantra or philosophical point from someone and in that way he would become one’s guru. So sometimes certain initiations held more importance than others. For example, one’s acceptance into a particular philosophical line would stand as more important than one’s family initiation into a mantra for charming snakes, or applying medicine from the Ayurveda.
B.N.K Sharma says that Visnu Puri was a contemporary of Jayadharma who followed the great Sridhar Swami, and due to his dedication to the bhakti marga (devotional line) this could have been a great source of influence on Laxmipati Tirtha and Madhavendra Puri Goswami. Another thing is that there is no record of Visnu Puri’s activities in South India, save and except that he headed to North India to preach. To conclude, we can say that Laxmipati and Madhavendra Puri were both from North India and were influenced by Visnu Puri to develop the spontaneous mood of bhakti. Later some of Visnu Puri’s previously used verses of Sridhar Swami, found in his Bhakti Ratnavali, turned up in Rupa Goswami’s “Padyavali” with reference to Bhakti Ratnavali.
In the Mukti-Gopanisad and the Sasvata Samhita, the title “Puri” is included in the 108 names of Tridandi Sannyasi of the Bhagavat School. There has been some controversy in the past as to why Madhavendra Puri has the title “Puri” if he is a Madhva descendant. Some say it is usually Adwaitins of the Sankaracarya line that have one of the following ten titles, ie: Puri, Tirtha, Asrama, Giri, Paravata, Sagara, Sarasvati, Bharati, Vana and Aranya. But as already stated, the tradition was broken by Madhvacarya who also accepted the name Ananda Tirtha, from what externally appeared to be Adwaitins. Another interesting point comes about when one looks into the “Bhaktamala” of Lala dasa, and sees that he, Lala dasa, was given the name Prabhodhananda Sarasvati by the Personality of Godhead, Sri Caitanya, Himself. So who cares? So many unscrupulous persons (mayavadis) will use many excuses to try to discredit the Lord, and or the Lord’s pure devotees. “The dogs bark but the caravan goes by, irregardless”.
So we have it – Madhavendra Puri, like Madhva, (Ananda Tirtha), made a complete change in the line. Madhavendra Puri, though basically a Madhva, established a form of worship which was not performed by the followers of Madhva. He introduced the ecstatic mood of madhurya rasa, conjugal love of Radha and Krsna. Previously the line coming from Madhva were instructed by him to worship in a mood of strict awe and reverence, but some had become very much caught up in the performance of rituals.
The Deities that Madhva established in his Mutts were very formal, either Laxmi-Narayana, Laxmi-Nrsimha, or Sita-Rama, Bhu-Varaha. The time was not right to introduce any other method, or rasa for serving the Lord. If one can imagine, Madhva had brought the people from near atheism, to a standard of worshipping the personal form of the Lord. Then to try to tell of the loving, intimate, conjugal affairs of the cowherd girls of Vrndavan with Krsna would have made the people of the time refuse to accept these pastimes as real, what to speak of pure. Many viewed these loving affairs, because of their own experiences, to be as a material lusty relationships as in this material world. (It’s the same mayavada philosophy emanating actually. “Because I have a material form and it causes so much suffering, then all forms must be suffering like mine, including the form that Krsna takes. Because I have lusty material desires deep within my heart then this cowherd boy Krsna must be the same.”)
In the life of Acarya Madhva there is one instant when he is told by the Lord not to teach of these amourous pastimes, as they could not be understood at that time by the people in general, and would only confuse them. This particular service was being saved for Madhavendra Puri Goswami to enact out for the Lord’s pleasure. If one takes a look at the transcendental life of Madhavendra Puri, one will not question for one second such an insignificant thing as the mere title “Puri” coming from the Monist line. As the old proverb goes, “Both a fool and a wise man are identified by their speach and activities.” By the following stories one can get a glimpse into the life and mood of this great Vaisnava acarya, and see even where Krsna Himself comes and has loving exchanges with his pure devotee.
As we have previously said, before Madhavendra Puri most people worshipped Lord Krsna in a more Pancaratric, ritualistic fashion, according to strict rules and regulations. It must be understood also that such strict formal worship is necessary for those who have not awakened their natural desire to serve the Lord with spontaneous love and devotion, but Madhavendra Puri was fully absorbed in spontaneous affection for Krsna, and therefore he was able to rise above the formalities of worship prescribed for those performing devotional service in practice (vaidhi bhakti).
Madhavendra Puri appeared almost mad in his love of God. He loudly chanted and sang the names and glories of the Lord without thinking of the time or place. Sometimes in his ecstasy he didn’t know whether it was day or night. Sometimes he laughed and sometimes he wept. Sometimes he danced wildly and sometimes he fell to the ground unconscious. He took absolutely no interest in anything not connected with Krsna, and for fear of talking about anything other than the Lord, he always lived without a companion. He would eat only if someone offered him food – otherwise he would simply fast.
This great sannyasi mendicant was fully absorbed in devotional meditation and would wander from village to village chanting Hare Krsna and eating only when others invited him. Once he entered the area of Vrndavana and came upon the hill known as Govardhana. One evening as he sat beneath a tree, an unknown cowherd boy came before him and asked him: “Please drink this milk that I’ve bought for you. Why don’t you beg some food to eat?” Madhavendra Puri asked how the boy knew he was fasting. The boy replied: “Sir, I am a cowherd boy and I reside in this village. In this village a person can beg food from others and thus eat. Some people drink only milk, but if a person does not ask anyone for food, I supply him all his eatables. The women who came here to take water saw you, and they supplied Me with this milk and sent Me to you.” The boy continued: “I must go very soon to milk the cows, but I shall return and take back this milk pot from you.” Saying this, the boy could suddenly be seen no more. Madhavendra Puri’s heart was filled with wonder. After drinking the milk, he washed the pot and put it aside, but the boy did not return. In a dream that night, Madhavendra Puri saw the very same boy. The boy came before him and holding his hand, took him to a bush in the jungle. The boy showed Madhavendra Puri the bush and told him: “I am residing in this bush, and because of this I suffer very much from severe cold, rain, showers, winds and scorching heat. Please bring the people of the village and get them to take Me out of this bush. Then have them install Me nicely on top of the hill. Please construct a temple on top of that hill and install Me in that temple. After this, wash Me with large quantities of cool water so that My body may be cleansed. For many days I have been observing you, and I have been wondering, when will Madhavendra Puri come here to serve Me? I have accepted your service due to your ecstatic love for Me. Thus I shall appear, and by My audience all fallen souls will be delivered. My name is Gopala. I am the lifter of Govardhana Hill. I was installed by Vajra, and here I am the authority. When the Mohammedans attacked, the priest who was serving Me hid Me in this bush in the jungle. Then he ran away out of fear of the attack. Since the priest went away, I have been staying in this bush. It is very good that you have come here. Now just remove Me with care.” After saying this, the boy disappeared.
Madhavendra Puri woke up and began to consider his dream. Madhavendra Puri wept as he understood that he had seen Lord Krsna directly face to face but failed to recognize Him. Taking his morning bath, he again became tranquil and entered the village. He assembled all the people and told them, “The proprietor of this village, Giri Govardhanadhari, is lying in the bushes. Let us go there and rescue Him from that place. The bushes are very dense and we will not be able to enter the jungle. Therefore take choppers and spades to clear the way.” After hearing this, all the people accompanied Madhavendra Puri with great pleasure. According to his directions, they cut down bushes, cleared a path and entered the jungle. When they saw the Deity covered with dirt and grass, they were all struck with wonder and pleasure. After they cleansed the body of the Deity, some of them exclaimed, “The Deity is very heavy. No one person can move Him.” Since the Deity was very heavy, some of the stronger men assembled to carry Him to the top of the hill, but they could not move Him. So Madhavendra Puri also went there. But Madhavendra Puri Goswami lifted the Lord and the Deity was placed successfully on the hill. A big stone was made into a throne, and the Deity was installed upon it. Another big stone was placed behind the Deity for support. All the brahmana priests of the village gathered together with nine water pots, and water from Govinda-kunda lake was brought there and filtered, removing leaves and twigs. When the Deity was installed, nine hundred pots of water were brought there from Govinda-kunda. There were musical sounds of bugles and drums and the singing of women. During the festival at the installation ceremony, some devotees sang and danced glorifying the Lord. All the milk, yoghurt and clarified butter in the village was brought there. After all inauspicious things were driven away by chanting of mantras, the Deity was bathed.
After the body of the Deity was cleansed, He was dressed very nicely with new garments. Then sandalwood pulp, tulasi garlands and other fragrant flower garlands were placed upon the body of the Deity. After the bathing ceremony was finished, incense and lamps were burned and all kind of food offered before the Deity. These foods included yoghurt, milk, and as many sweetmeats as were received. As soon as the people of the village had understood that the Deity was going to be installed they had brought their entire stocks of rice, dhal and wheat flour. They brought such large quantities that the entire surface of the top of the hill was filled. Arati was offered to the Deity and afterwards everyone took prasadam. Day after day people from neighbouring villages came to see the Gopala Deity bringing presentations. Gold and silver was brought, and one very rich King built a temple and a boundary wall. Then each family in the area contributed one cow – in this way thousands of cows became the property of Gopala. Madhavendra Puri experienced great bliss and satisfaction from seeing everyone engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord.
…. “I have accepted your service….” said Gopala, “Because of your ecstatic love for Me.”
To test Madhavendra Puri’s love still further, in another dream Gopala asked him to bring a special kind of sandalwood pulp to cool His body. Gopala was still feeling hot from being buried in the jungle for so many years, and the sandalwood pulp is well known for it’s soothing, cooling effect. “Bring sandalwood pulp from Jagannatha Puri,” said Gopala. “Kindly go quickly. You must. No one else can do this for Me.”
Delighted with this chance to serve his dear Lord, Madhavendra Puri set off on foot on the arduous eight-hundred mile journey to Jagannatha Puri, on the Bay of Bengal. Along the way he stopped in Remuna at the temple of Gopinatha.
The Gopinatha Deity at Remuna near Balasore was personally carved by Lord Rama-candra whilst on His way back to Ayodhya from the kingdom of the demon Ravana. The brief story is as follows:
Rama was sitting with Sita, His consort, and they were resting for a while, relishing the beautiful countryside and many cows who lived in that place. Rama started laughing and Sita enquired as to what He was laughing at. Rama said, “I was just thinking of when I appear as a cowherd boy.” Immediately attracted to seeing that pastime, Sitadevi enquired further as to what He will do at that time and what will He look like. Lord Rama took an arrow from His quiver and immediately created the beautiful Deities of Gopinatha, Govinda and Madan Mohan, the principle Deities of Sri Vrndavana Dhama. (These forms are nicely explained in the Bhaktivedanta purports to Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi lila 1.18[JCD5] )
At the sight of Madhavendra Puri’s devotion, this Deity of Krsna showed him another loving favour. Every day the temple priests offered Gopinatha twelve pots of the most delicious sweet rice in the world. (Sweet rice is a preparation made with milk, rice and sugar and served cold.) But this sweet rice, instead of just cooking the rice and milk together for two hours, it is cooked down for more than twelve hours, stirring with love and devotion for Lord Gopinatha. It has a peachy colour and a light aerated consistency like that of mousse, which is stiff, light and fluffy and stands up on one’s fingers when dipped.
Madhavendra Puri wanted to taste a little of it so that he could prepare a similar sweet rice for his own Deity Gopala back in Vrndavan. But Madhavendra Puri immediately checked this thought and felt that he had committed a great sin by wanting to taste what was being offered to the Lord. Without saying a word to anyone, Madhavendra Puri left the temple and went to take some rest in the town marketplace. Meanwhile the Gopinatha Deity spoke to one of His brahmana priests in a dream. “Please get up and open the door to the temple. There you will find a pot of sweet rice. I have kept it for Madhavendra Puri. Take it to him. He is sleeping in the marketplace.”
Dutifully the priest awoke, found the pot of sweet rice and took it to the marketplace. Then he began to call out, “Madhavendra Puri! Madhavendra Puri! Please come and take this pot of sweet rice. Lord Gopinatha has stolen it for you! Please take it and enjoy it to your heart’s content! You are the most fortunate person in the world!” On hearing this invitation, Madhavendra Puri came out and with ecstatic love he ate the sweet rice the Lord had sent to him. To this day the Deity in the temple at Remuna is known as Ksiracora Gopinatha – the Deity who stole the sweet rice for His pure devotee.
After this incident Madhavendra Puri pondered, “The Lord has given me a pot of sweet rice, and when the people hear of this tomorrow morning, there will be great crowds.” Thinking in this way, Madhavendra Puri offered his obeisances to Gopinatha on the spot and left Remuna before the morning light. After much walking he reached Jagannatha Puri and obtained eighty-two pounds of Malayan sandalwood – a valuable burden of love to bring back to his Gopala Deity. Even though he had to pass through provinces heavily patrolled by Mohammedan soldiers and infested with bands of thugs and dacoits, Madhavendra Puri was not at all anxious. He was concerned only about carrying the sandalwood back to his beloved Gopala, and he didn’t even take personal inconveniences or impediments into consideration. He just wanted to serve the Lord.
When he arrived at Remuna, Madhavendra Puri again visited the temple of Gopinatha and the priest again served him the famous sweet rice. Now Madhavendra Puri still had the longest and most difficult part of the journey ahead of him, but as he slept that night, his own Gopala Deity appeared in a dream and said, “O Madhavendra Puri, there is no difference between My body and Gopinatha’s body. We are one and the same. Therefore, if you smear the sandalwood pulp on His body, you will also be smearing it on My body. Thus the temperature of My body will be reduced. You should not hesitate to act according to My order. Believe in Me and just do what is needed.” In this way, Gopala saved His devotee from possible injury on such an arduous journey. Madhavendra Puri had passed the Lord’s test of his love and devotion.
To this day, people who travel to India can visit the Deities of Gopala and Ksiracora Gopinatha and experience some of the same devotional feelings that inspired Madhavendra Puri. I find it amazing that although he was such a great devotee, and always in the association of Lord Krsna he always humbly prayed to the Lord:
mugdham mam nigadnatu niti-nipuna bhrantam muhur vaidkah
mandam bahdhana-sancaya japa-dhiyam muktadarah sodarah
unmattam dhanino viveka-caturah kamam maha-dambhikam
moktum na ksamate manag api man govinda-pada sprham
“Let the sharp moralist accuse me of being illusioned; I do not mind it. Experts in Vedic activities may slander me as being misled, friends and relatives may call me frustrated, my brothers may call me a fool, the wealthy materialists may point me out as mad, and learned philosophers may assert that I am too much proud; still my mind does not budge from the determination of serving the lotus feet of Govinda though I be unable to do it.”
Lord Nityananda’s Pilgrimage and His Meeting with Madhavendra Puri
In the Sri Caitanya Bhagavata of Vrndavana dasa Thakura, Adi Lila, Chapter 9 (101-210) the following narration is there after Lord Nityananda left home to go with the sannyasi at the age of twelve.
“He travelled to different places of pilgrimage for twenty years. Then He met Sri Caitanya. Please hear the narrations of Lord Nityananda’s travels to different places of pilgrimage, as I (Vrndavana dasa Thakura) have written this in this Adi Khanda portion of the book. Whoever criticizes the Lord and His activites in any way is certainly a mischieveous sinful atheist. This Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Nityananda, Who liberated the entire universe, is surely the unlimited ocean of mercy. By His grace I, Vrndavana dasa, am able to know the transcendental truth of Lord Caitanya, and by the same grace the divine glories of Lord Caitanya are revealed to me.
“Please hear attentively the description of the pilgrimage of Lord Nityananda, the most beloved associate of Lord Caitanya.
“The first holy place Lord Nityananda visited on His journey was the temple of Vakreswara; thereafter He roamed the forests of Vaidyanatha all alone. After visiting Gayadhama, Nityananda went to Kasi, the principle place of pilgrimage for Saivites, which is situated on the banks of the Ganges as she flows swiftly westward. Lord Nityananda was exhilarated by drinking and bathing in the waters, yet for some reason His longing and fatigue clung to Him. In Prayag, the Lord bathed in the rivers’ confluence in the early hours of the chilly Magha (January) morning. Then He proceeded to Mathura where He had appeared in a previous yuga, as Balarama. There He visited Krsna’s birthplace. Attracted by the Yamuna River, the Lord sported in her gentle waters at the bathing place named Visram Ghat. He then circumambulated Govardhana Hill and experienced spiritual ecstasy. One by one the Lord visited all the twelve forests, including Sri Vrndavana, and roamed at will in their shady woods.
“In Gokula the Lord saw the residential house of Nanda Maharaja. In ecstasy He sat down and wept profusely. The Lord then offered worship to the Deity of Lord Madana Gopala and went to Hastinapura (Delhi), the famous fortress city of the valiant Pandavas. Lord Nityananda wept, being intensely moved by the sanctified place of the elevated devotees of the Supreme Lord. However the residents of that place could not comprehend such emotions due to their lack of devotional sentiments. The visit to Hastinapura brought back memories of Lord Balarama’s activities, and Lord Nityananda called out, “Save Me O Haladhara!” In this way He worshipped the holy place.
“Thereafter Sri Nityananda travelled to the holy city of Dwaraka and bathed in the ocean, feeling great spiritual bliss. Next He went to Siddhapura. That place was rendered holy by the presence of Lord Kapila. After that Nityananda went to Matsya Tirtha, where He gave away grains in charity on the occasion of a big festival. The Lord then headed south and visited Siva-Kanci and Visnu-Kanci at Kancipuram. Being the Original Supreme Person, Nityananda was amused at the fanatical conflict that existed between the followers of Lord Siva and Lord Visnu.
“He then toured again travelling to Kuruksetra, Prthudaka, Bindu Sarovara, Prabhasa Ksetra and Sudarsana Tirtha. Then He went to Tritakupa, Visala, Brahma-Tirtha and Cakra Tirtha. With exhilarated spirits Nityananda then travelled to Pratisrota where the Praci-sarasvati flows gently into the ocean. From there he went to the forest of Naimasaranya. Lord Nityananda also travelled to the city of Ayodhya. Seeing the birth place of Lord Ramacandra, He felt spiritual ecstasy, moving Him to shed profuse tears of divine love. Then He travelled to the tribal kingdom of King Guhaka (Srnga Verapura). King Guhaka reigned during the time of Lord Ramacandra and in that holy place Sri Nityananda fell into a massive trance. When Sri Nityananda thought of His devotee, the tribal king of Guhaka, He went into an ecstatic trance for three days.
“Lord Nityananda visited the different forests in which the Supreme Lord Ramacandra once roamed. His feeling of separation from the Lord made Him roll around on the ground in anguish. Then the Lord went to the spot where the holy Sarayu River quietly flows in Ayodhya. After bathing in the waters of the Kausiki River, He continued to Pulasta Ashram, a most sanctified place. Thereafter Sri Nityananda went to Gomati and bathed in the waters of the Gandaki and Sona rivers. He climbed to Mahendra Hill where He offered obeisances to Lord Parasurama. From there He travelled to Haridwara, near the source of Mother Ganges.
“He visited the Pampa (Tungabhadra), Bhima, Godavari Benva and in the Bipasa (Vyasa) River He remained submerged in the water for a while. In Madurai He visited the temple of Lord Kartikeya and then went on to the place known as Sri Prabat. There in a massive and impressive temple, His devotees, Lord Siva and Parvati, were being opulently worshiped as a Brahmin and his wife. Lord Siva and Parvati recognized Lord Nityananda as their worshipable Supreme Lord. The Original Sankarsana was now appearing before them in the dress of a mendicant. Siva and Parvati joyfully received their exalted guest and attended to Him affectionately. Parvati cooked palatable dishes for Nityananda’s satisfaction and in reciprocation Sri Nityananda Rama offered them His obeisances.
“Only Lord Krsna knows the confidential topics that transpired between Them. Lord Nityananda went from there to the Dravida territory. He travelled through different pilgrimage spots touching such places as Vyenkatanatha, Kamakosthipuri and Kanci, then arriving at the banks of the sacred Kaveri. Then He proceeded to the famous holy place of Sri Ranga Ksetra where the merciful Lord Ranganatha receives opulent worship by His devotees. Then Sri Nityananda visited Hariksetra, the Rsabha Hills, Madurai, Krtamala, Tamraparai, and Uttara Jawra. In the Malaya Hills He went to Agastya’s Hermitage and all the residents were taken aback by having such an exalted guest.
“Arriving at Badrikasrama with unbounded spiritual ecstasy, Nityananda Prabhu absorbed the divine tranquil atmosphere and spent some time in quiet solitude. From there He travelled to the secluded hermitage of Srila Vyasadeva who immediately recognized Him as his worshipable Balarama. He cared for his guest attentively and Sri Nityananda in turn showed His gratitude by offering obeisances to Srila Vyasadeva.
“Coming back down He continued His journey and came across a place where a number of Buddhist monks were sitting around. He made a few philosophical enquiries but none of these monks would reply. This sparked His anger and He chastised them for their misbehaviour by kicking each of them in the head. The Buddhists ran off in fear, and Lord Nityananda continued His journey strolling fearlessly through the forest.
“From the extreme north He went to the extreme south to Kanya Kumari and saw the beautiful Deity of Durga Devi installed near the shore of the Indian Ocean at the southern tip of Bharata Bhumi (India). He also visited Avantipura and the Panca-Apsara Lake. In Gokarna He visited the temples of Lord Siva. In Kerala and Trigarla He went from house to house showering His causeless mercy on everyone. He crossed most of the rivers that flowered down from the Vindhya Hills and covered the place known as Payonci which lies south of the Vindhya Hills. Then He wandered a while at Tapti, visited Reba, Mahismati Pura, Mallatirtha, Surparaka, and then headed west.
“In this way Nityananda Prabhu travelled all over the country happy, fearless and carefree. He was always absorbed in love of Krsna and sometimes He laughed and sometimes cried.
“During this period of His journey when He travelled in the western provinces, He met Sri Madhavendra Puri by divine arrangement. Sri Madhavendra Puri Goswami is the embodiment of ecstatic transcendental love for Lord Krsna and all his swan-like disciples are full of that same spiritual prema. His only means of substance is the nectar that flows out of loving exchanges with Lord Krsna. Lord Krsna personally resides in the form of such unalloyed pure devotees such as Madhavendra Puri Goswami. He is a Maha-purusa. Sri Adwaita Acarya Prabhu is foremost amongst Madhavendra Puri’s disciples, so how can I begin to describe his intense love for Lord Krsna with such limited words?
“On meeting Madhavendra Puri, Lord Nityananda became paralysed and lost external consciousness overpowered by ecstatic love; Madhavendra Puri also went into an ecstatic trance, loosing all external consciousness upon seeing Lord Nityananda. Lord Caitanya often remarked that Sri Madhavendra Puri was the main trunk of the tree of nectarine mellows of devotion. Iswara Puri (who we will be hearing about next) and other disciples of Madhavendra Puri witnessed this unique meeting. Tears flowed freely from everyone’s eyes as they saw the two great souls lying stunned in devotional trance.
“When Their external consciousness returned and again They became aware of each other’s presence, Madhavendra Puri Goswami and Lord Nityananda embraced each other and drenched each other with tears of ecstasy. Then for some time they rolled in the sand and roared like bull elephants unashamed in expressing their sublime emotions, being totally absorbed in love of Godhead. Their profuse tears saturated and purified the earth. Bhumi devi felt she was receiving her greatest benediction. Within their bodies different ecstatic symptoms of shivering, weeping and horripilation (hair standing on end), which appeared in endless waves; such intense devotional emotions confirmed that Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu resided in each of their hearts.
“Lord Nityananda spoke first saying, “Today in one instance I have received the topmost benefit of My long pilgrimage. My eyes have rested upon the lotus feet of Sri Madhavendra Puri and seeing his transcendental love, My life has become blessed and meaningful.”
“Sri Madhavendra Puri sat speechless holding Lord Nityananda to his breast, his voice choked with tears of ecstatic emotions. Such was his feelings of love for Nityananda that he never desired to release Him from his embrace. Iswara Puri, Brahmananda Puri and all the other disciples could perceive what had just happened, so their natural attraction and attachment for the Lord increased. In the past both Madhavendra Puri and Lord Nityananda had seen pilgrims and many amongst them in saintly garb, but now they realized that none of those pilgrims had possessed the transcendental gift of love of Godhead. Remembering their brief association and conversation with such non-devotional persons, they were overcome with remorse. They had wandered everywhere looking intently for Krsna and His pure loving devotees. They found each other – pure transcendentalists – and they felt the burden of their despondency lift in each other’s association. In each other they witnessed the manifestation of love of Godhead.
“Many blissful days passed, filled with confidential Krsna conscious discussions which created in both the Lord and Madhavendra Puri an insatiable thirst for continued association. So much so was Sri Madhavendra Puri’s spontaneity that it drove him into ecstatic trance when he even saw a dark cloud that reminded him of Krsna’s complexion. Day and night he seemed intoxicated by his love for Krsna, sometimes laughing, next moment crying and sometimes making a great deal of noise or shouting. Lord Nityananda was also drunk with the divine nectar of love of Lord Govinda. He stumbled and fell repeatedly, often roaring with laughter. The disciples were very impressed by the extent of their spiritual master’s and Lord Nityananda’s extraordinary love for the Supreme Lord, and they in turn responded by continuously singing the names of Sri Hari. Steeped in the ambrosia of transcendental love, they lost count of time: no-one knew when day turned to night and their surroundings turned into oblivion.
“Who then can grasp the highly confidential topics Sri Madhavendra Puri discussed with Lord Nityananda? Only Lord Krsna, the omniscient Supersoul knows everything. Madhavendra Puri grew so attached to Nityananda Prabhu that he could not imagine leaving His company; he spent every moment of his time with Him. Sri Madhavendra Puri said, “Nowhere have I found the exhibition of such supramundane love par excellence as in Lord Nityananda. Wherever that love is found becomes the best of all the holy pilgrimages. I am now convinced that the blessed Lord Krsna is graciously disposed towards me because I have found an intimate associate like Nityananda. Wherever one meets Lord Nityananda that place becomes the most holy place. The very spiritual planet of Vaikuntha descends there. Whoever associates with Lord Nityananda and hears from Him will surely attain purest devotional love of the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krsna. And whoever harbours even a tinge of apathy for Lord Nityananda is forever cast aside by Lord Krsna, though He may be in the guise of a devotee.”
“In this way, Sri Madhavendra Puri Goswami expressed his feelings of deep affection for Lord Nityananda with unhesitating praise. Simultaneously Lord Nityananda developed His attraction and reverential mood towards Madhavendra Puri Goswami which can only be offered to a mentor or trusted guide – “spiritual master”. A wonderful relationship blossomed where each continuously exhilarated the other with his ecstatic love for Krsna. They relished each other’s transcendental association for some days, but after some time Lord Nityananda left for the south where Lord Ramacandra built a bridge to Lanka with the help of the monkey army and Sri Madhavendra Puri set out towards Saraju. They parted way, merged in a state of complete bliss of love of Krsna, unminded of even their own physical conditions.
“Lives of such unalloyed devotees of Krsna are sustained only by their intense love for the Lord. Otherwise, once they are aware of that love it would not be possible for them to continue living in this material world feeling the excruciating pangs of separation from Him.”
Vrndavan das Thakura, the narrator of this incident, discloses that to those faithful souls who hear this narration of the wonderful meeting between Sri Madhavendra Puri and Lord Nityananda will surely attain the highest perfect, love of Krsna.
“Sri Nityananda’s deep reverence for all the holy places where the Lord had enacted His transcendental pastimes then continued as He travelled for a few days submerged in that ambrosial love of Krsna and finally arrived at Setubhandha. He bathed at Dhani[JCD6] stirtha and proceeded to Ramesvara. Thereafter He travelled to Vijayanagar (Hampi) and from there to the temple of Lord Nrsimhadeva in Geoda (Anagoendi – near Hampi). He visited Mayapuri, Avanti and the River Godavari. This time the Lord visited Jagannatha Puri and on the way He visited Tirumala and Kurmaskestra. The Lord saw the fluttering flag high on the top of Lord Jagannatha’s temple, and immediately fell into an ecstatic trance. Sri Nityananda Rama saw Lord Jagannatha as the Lord of Dwaraka along with all His divine associates and devotees present in that holy dhama. Such visions revived Lord Nityananda’s ecstatic mood and again He fell unconscious to the ground. When He regained consciousness, the different ecstatic symptoms of shivering, paling, weeping, horripilations, and loud roaring became manifest and again He fell to the ground. Who can perceive the magnitude of Lord Nityananda’s extraordinary love of Godhead.
“He spent a few more days in Nilacala (Puri) then, immersed in total spiritual bliss, He travelled north to Gangasagara. Caught up in the fervour of His pilgrimage, the Lord again travelled to Mathura and Vrndavana. Completely absorbed in thoughts of Krsna, Sri Nityananda was unaware of the passage of many days and nights in Vrndavana. He forgot about eating and only occasionally drank a little milk if it came to Him unsolicited.
“Sri Nityananda Rama could visualize His Lord, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, living as an ordinary boy in Navadwipa, and so he thought to Himself, “When Lord Gauracandra reveals His magnanimous pastimes of congregational chanting of Krsna’s holy names, at that time I shall devote Myself to His service.” He thus resolved to wait in Vrndavana and not proceed to Navadwipa. He filled His days happily frolicking in the dark cool waters of the Kalindi (Yamuna), lost in the mood of a young cowherd boy. At other times He found inexplicable pleasure playing in the sand with His young friends …. ”
Madhavendra Puri Goswami had many disciples. In S.K De’s book “Vaisnava Faith and Movement”, he includes the following as a list of Madhavendra Puri Goswami’s disciples: Kesava Bharati, Paramananda Puri, Brahmananda Puri, Visnu Puri, Kesava Puri, Krsnananda Puri, Nrsimha Tirtha, Sukhananda Puri, Ranga Puri, Brahmananda Bharati and Ramacandra Puri, as well as Nityananda Prabhu, Iswara Puri and Adwaita Acarya Prabhu.
Upon his departure from this world Madhavendra Puri Goswami recited a verse which has since set the mood of ecstatic separation for the Gaudiya sampraday:-
ayi dina dayardra natha he
mathura natha kadavalokyase
hrdayam twad aloka kataram
dayita bhramyati kim karomy aham
“O my Lord! omost merciful master! O master of Mathura! When shall I see You again? Because of my not seeing You, my agitated heart has become unsteady. O most beloved one, what shall I do Now ?”
C.C.Antya lila Vol 3.ch.8.tx34
So great a devotee was Madhavendra Puri, that even Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is recorded in the Antya lila, Chapter 3 of Caitanya Bhagavat as saying: “My eyes, My mind, My religious activities and My acceptance of sannyasa order have now all become perfect because today Madhavendra Puri is manifest before Me in the form of Paramananda Puri.” Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to say: “I am living in this world only on account of the excellent behaviour of Sri Paramananda Puri, the disciple of the great Madhavendra Puri Goswami.”
panca-tattvamakam krsnam bhakta-rupa-swarupakam
bhaktavataram bhaktakhyam namami bhakti saktikam
“I offer my obeisances unto Lord Krsna expanding Himself into five personal subject matters and Who is non-different from Them.” Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the form of a devotee. Lord Nityananda is the manifestation of the first expansion of the Lord – Balarama. Adwaita Gosai is an incarnation of the Supreme Lord – Bhaktavatara. These three are Visnu Tattva. Srivas represents the pure devotee of the Lord, and Gadadhara represents the internal potency (Hladini sakti) for making advancement in pure devotion.
Lines also come down from Lord Nityananda as mentioned in the Caitanya Caritamrta, as do lines from Adwaita Acarya. The most important line, however, is that which comes down through Sri Caitanya Maharaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He was given mantra diksa by Iswara Puri, the disciple of Madhavendra Puri, and is thus formally affiliated with the same sampradaya as His guru.
ISWARA PURI AND LORD CAITANYA
Iswara Puri was a direct disciple of the great Vaisnava sannyasi Madhavendra Puri. In the Prema-Vilasa, Chapter 23, it mentions that Iswara Puri was born at Kumarahatta (modern day Halisahar near Haihati, West Bengal) in a Radhiya Brahmin family. His fathers’ name was Syamasundara Acarya. Iswara Puri sometimes would go into devotional trances or cry in separation, at the recitation of Lord Krsna’s name. Once when Iswara Puri Goswami was in Gaya, Lord Caitanya, then known as Nimai Pandit, visited Gaya also to offer sraddha patra for His father Jagannatha Misra. As a post-funeral rite, the duty of the son is to go to Gaya, offer oblations, pinda, and prayers to Visnu-pada (the lotus feet of Lord Visnu). This took place in the month of Magha (January) in Nimai Pandits’ sixteenth year. On route to Gaya, travelling with many of His disciples[JCD7] , Nimai Pandit became quite sick. He asked His disciples to bring water that had washed the feet of the brahmanas. They did so and Nimai drank that water and held it upon His head, and resumed normal health. Upon His arrival at Gaya, Nimai Pandit met Iswara Puri. Gaya was a strong Madhva centre at this time, due to Madhvacaryas’ travelling through there. Now the year was 1508 AD. Lord Caitanya returned to His familial home in Mayapura to again continue His scholarly pastimes there.
In spite of Lord Caitanya’s reputation as a great scholar, Iswara Puri chastised Him saying: “You are a fool. You are not qualified to study Vedanta philosophy, and therefore You must always chant the holy name of Krsna. In this age there is no other religious principle than the chanting of the Holy name which is the essence of all the Vedic hymns.” Taking this order of His spiritual master to heart, Lord Caitanya exhibited immediately all ecstatic symptoms of love of God.
Kasiswara and Govinda were Iswara Puri’s disciples and his personal servants. Govinda came from a sudra family but was still initiated as a brahmana by Iswara Puri, proving the fact that an empowered spiritual master like Iswara Puri can initiate anyone irrespective of caste or creed, and fully bestow his mercy upon them.
In Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya (4.10.137-138), Lord Caitanya says: “Both the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the spiritual master, Iswara Puri, are completely independent. Therefore the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and Iswara Puri is not subjected to any Vedic rules and regulations. The mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not restricted to the jurisdiction of caste or creed. Vidura was a sudra, yet Krsna accepted lunch at his home.”
To teach others how to serve the spiritual master Lord Caitanya, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, visited the birthplace of Iswara Puri at Kamarhatty and collected earth from his birth site. This He kept very carefully and He used to eat a small portion of it daily. This place is near the station named Halisahara on the Eastern Railway from eastern Calcutta.
Iswara Puri was born in a Brahmin family but due to his intense love for his guru Srila Madhavendra Puri, who, in the last stages of his life had become invalid and completely unable to move, he so completely engaged himself in his service that he personally cleaned up the stool and urine of Madhavendra Puri. Always chanting Hare Krsna and reminding Madhavendra Puri about the pastimes of Lord Krsna in the very last stages of his life, thus it was often said that at this time Iswara Puri gave the best service among Madhavendra Puri’s disciples. Thus Madhavendra Puri, being pleased with him, blessed him saying: “My dear boy, I can only pray to Krsna that He will be pleased with you.” Thus by the mercy of Madhavendra Puri he became a great devotee in love of Godhead and was given the blessings to become Lord Caitanya’s spiritual master.
Actually, before Iswara Puri initiated Lord Caitanya they met in Navadwipa where Iswara Puri stayed in the house of Gopinathacarya for a few months. At that time they became acquainted and it is understood that he served Lord Caitanya by reciting his book “Krsna-Lilamrta”.
The story is found in the Caitanya Bhagavat Adi lila, Chapter 11, “Lord Caitanya, one day, was returning home from teaching His students. This was no ordinary meeting. The Lord had made all the arrangements so that the two could meet, and so when Nimai Pandit saw the unobtrusive seemingly ekadandi sannyasi standing before Him He felt great ecstacy.”
When the Lord appears He sends ahead His devotees who act as mother, father, teacher and associates in many roles and so, among them were Madhavendra Puri, Iswara Puri, Srimati Sacimata, Jagannatha Misra and Adwaita Acarya.
Iswaracandra Puri enquired, ” What is your name, O learned brahmana? What is that book you are carrying? What do you teach and where is Your residence?” Some of the students there introduced Nimai Pandit, and Iswara Puri exclaimed, “O, so you are that same Nimai Pandit.”
Iswara Puri’s pleasure was quite apparant. Nimai then asked him to take prasadam at His house. Iswara Puri agreed and they returned home together, Iswara Puri lavishing his natural affection upon young Nimai all the way home.
Mother Saci prepared a feast and after offering it to the family Deity of Lord Krsna, Iswara Puri, as the honoured guest, was given the maha-prasadam. They all ate sumptuously, and afterwards they sat in the temple room of the house where Iswara Puri began to tell stories about Lord Sri Krsna. It was so wonderful that all present was hanging on to every word like it was their life’s breath. At one time in the evening Iswara Puri became transcendentally stunned, perplexed with deep ecstatic emotions that he could not go on speaking any further. Everyone there was stunned with deep appreciation for the genuine spiritual emotions of Iswaracandra Puri Goswami.
Lord Caitanya visited Isvara Puri every evening after teaching his students. Isvara Puri was always glad to see him. Although he did not know that Nimai was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his love and affection for Him flowed unrestrained. He spoke affectionately to the Lord, “I know that You are a great scholar and I have written a book about Lord Krsna. I want You to go through it and find the mistakes. This will please me very much.”
“These are descriptions by a pure devotee,” replied Nimai. “If anyone finds any mistakes then he is a sinful offender. The pure devotee never writes anything from his imagination devoid of scriptural basis. These writings are bonafide and always pleasing to Lord Krsna. When offering obeisances in the temple, an ignorant person might make a grammatical mistake in addressing Lord Krsna while a learned scholar would address Him using proper grammar, but the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna accepts both their obeisances. The Supreme Lord is not impressed with mere learning but He is supplicated by the inner mood of love and surrender of the living entities. Whoever looks for faults in your writings is actually at fault himself because Krsna is fully satisfied by the writings of his pure devotee. Whatever you have written is an expression for your deep love for Krsna. Who then has the audacity to find some descepancy in it?”
Isvara Puri felt ecstacy surge though his entire body with the loving explanation of Nimai Pandit yet he affectionately persisted, “I know you are not critical but in my works there may be so many types of errors. Please therefore point them out to me.”
Such discussions between Sri Isvara Puri and Nimai Pandit were a daily occurrence and everyone enjoyed their wonderful association together.
One day Nimai Pandit detected a fault in one of Isvara Puri’s poems and commented that the use of the verb ‘root’ was inaccurate. “It should be a different verb, not ‘atma nipodi’ as you have used here,” said the Lord, and after the discussion Nimai went home.
Isvara Puri himself was an erudite scholar well versed in all the scriptures and no less a pandit in grammar and other materialistic subjects. After Nimai left he considered His comment from various aspects and compared it with many different grammatical and sastric conclusions. When Nimai came to see him the following day, Iswara Puri approached Him and said, “That root verb that You said was wrong yesterday is actually right as I have used it. It should not be ‘paradpaidi’ as You have suggested. ‘Atma nipodi’ is the correct usage.”
The Lord was overjoyed Iswara Puri, His servant and devotee ingognito, was victorious over Him, thus increasing the popularity and fame of His devotee.
Being fully empowered by Sri Madhavendra Puri, his spiritual master, Iswara Puri experienced pure love of Godhead at every moment. Iswara Puri soon continued on his tours and left that place despite the emotions he felt to stay.
It was another person who gave Lord Caitanya His sannyasa initiation, and that was Kesava Bharati. Kesava Bharati was also apparently appearing externally to be a sannyasi in the Mayavadi line of Sankaracarya, though some say that he was also a disciple of Madhavendra Puri Goswami. However, as usual, when dealing with the Supreme Lord, things don’t always follow in the manner to which our imperfect senses can perceive, as it is with the case of Lord Caitanya taking sannyasa from Kesava Bharati. Although Lord Caitanya persuaded the ‘Adwaitin’ sannyasi of the Bharati order to give Him sannyasa, it wasn’t quite as straight forward as it appeared. Lord Caitanya told Kesava Bharati that He had a dream in which he (Kesava Bharati) gave Him the Vaisnava sannyasa mantra and formal Vaisnava Tridandi sannyasa initiation. However Kesava Bharati replied that he didn’t know the Vaisnava mantras as he was an adwaitin monist sannyasi. Sri Caitanya, the all-knowing Personality of Godhead, then spoke the Vaisnava sannyasa mantra into Kesava Bharati’s right ear, thus making him into a Vaisnava sannyasi, and then in turn Lord Caitanya accepted Vaisnava sannyasa from the now Vaisnava sannyasi Kesava Bharati. This took place on the Purnima (full moon) of Magha (January) in 1510 AD (1431 Sakabda). Kesava Bharati realized the spiritual greatness of Sri Caitanya and out of humility didn’t give Him the title Bharati knowing the Lord to be the spiritual master of the universe and all that be.
Caitanya Bhagavat (11:28:127) summary.
je bhakti tomara ami dekhila nayane
e sakti anyera nahe iswara bine
tumi se jagadguru janila niscaya
tomara gurura yogaya keke kabhi naya
tabe tumi laka-siksa nimitta-karane
karina amare guru hena mane laya
“The bhakti which I see in You cannot exist anywhere except in the form of God. I know it for certain that You are that, the guru of the whole world. Nobody can ever be fit to be Your guru. But I think You would accept me as Your guru only to set an example for the world.”
Caitanya Bhagavat (11.28.127-129)
According to Gaura Ganoddesa Dipika, Verse 52, it says that Kesava Bharati previously was Sandipani Muni, who offered the sacred thread to Lord Krsna and His brother Lord Balarama.
Sri Caitanya headed for Jagannatha Puri in Orissa next, and again, from an external point of view, He was taken as an Adwaitin monist sannyasi (ekadandi), by many, including the learned scholar Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. This story is related in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta.
“Although Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the then existing order of sannyasa (namely eka-danda), He still recited the verse from the Srimad Bhagavatam:
etam sa asthaya paratma-nistham
adhyasitam purvatamair maharsibhih
aham tarisyami duranta-param
“I shall cross over the insurmountable ocean of nescience by being firmly fixed in the service of the lotus feet of Krsna. This was approved by the previous acaryas who were fixed in firm devotion to the Lord, Paramatma, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
Srimad Bhagavatam (11.23.57)
“…. About the tridandi-sannyasa accepted by the Brahmana of Avantipura. Indirectly He (Lord Caitanya) declared that within that eka-danda (one danda), four dandas existed as one. Accepting eka-danda sannyasa without paratma nistha (devotional service to Lord Krsna) is not acceptable to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In addition, according to the exact regulative principles, one should add the jiva-danda to the tri-danda. These four dandas, bound together as one, are symbolic of unalloyed devotional service to the Lord. Because the eka-danda sannyasis of the Mayavada school are not devoted to the service of Krsna, they try to merge into the Brahman effulgence, which is a marginal position between material and spiritual existence. They accept impersonal position as liberation. Mayavada sannyasis, not knowing that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was a tri-dandi, think of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as an eka-dandi sannyasi. This is due to their vivarta, bewilderment. In Srimad Bhagavatam, there is no such thing as eka-dandi sannyasi; indeed the tri-dandi sannyasi is accepted as the symbolic representation of the sannyasa order. By citing this verse from Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the sannyasa order recommended in Srimad Bhagavatam. The mayavadi sannyasis, who are enamoured of the external energy of the Lord, cannot understand the mind of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
“To date, all the devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, following in His footsteps, accept the sannyasa order and keep the sacred thread and tuft of unshavened hair. The ekadandi sannyasis of the Mayavadi school give up the sacred thread and do not keep any tuft of hair. Therefore they are unable to understand the purport of tri-dandi sannyasa, and as such they are not inclined to dedicate their lives to the service of Mukunda (Krsna, the giver of liberation). They simply think of merging into the existence of Brahman because of their disgust with material existence.”
Here we are quoting Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Tridandi Goswami’s Srimad Bhagavatam (11.23.57) purport found included in H.H. Hridayananda dasa Goswami’s purport to the same verse.
In discussions with various modern day Madhva sannyasis in Udupi, they disclosed that from an external view they carry an eka-danda, but mind, body and words are represented in that one rod. They also wear the sacred thread of the twice born on that danda, as is their system. His Holiness Visvapriya Tirtha Junior Swami told me: “That though we have a completely shaven head we consciously wear the Vaisnava sikha or chotti (tuft of hair) internally as did Acarya Madhva.”
The followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu never accepted the Mayavada order of sannyasa, and for this they cannot be accused. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted Sridhara Swami, who was also a tri-dandi sannyasi, but the Mayavadi sannyasis, not understanding Sridhara Swami, sometimes think that he also belonged to the Mayavadi eka-dandi sannyasi community. Actually this was not the case.
During Lord Caitanya’s wandering tours as a sannyasi He visited Udupi, and had subsequent conversations with the representitive Tattvavadi acarya Raghuvarya Tirtha Swami. At first the Tattvavadis avoided Sri Caitanya, also thinking Him to be an adwaitin Mayavadi sannyasa follower of Sankara, but in the conversation that followed they found out He wasn’t. How the then representitives of the Tattvavadis reacted to Sri Caitanya is recorded in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya lila (9.274-275). Lord Caitanya tried to convince Raghuvarya Tirtha away from the bodily conception of life that somehow he had fallen into, strongly identifying as a brahmin and saying that varnasrama dhama was the ultimate goal of life. Lord Caitanya spent some time trying to re-establish the teachings purely on the basis of service to Krsna, free from any material tinge. In the final statement the Tattvavadi acarya replied: “What You have said is certainly factual. It is the conclusion of all the revealed scriptures of the Vaisnavas. Still, whatever Madhvacarya has ascertained to be the formula of our party, we practice as party policy.” The Personality of Godhead Lord Caitanya at this time said: “Both the fruitive worker and the speculative philosopher are considered non-devotees. We see both elements present in your sampradaya.” This is a very important point that Lord Caitanya made actually, and is confirmed in the Srimad Bhagavatam (1.1.2):
dharmah projjhita kaitavotra paramo nirmatsaranam satam
vedyam vastavam atra vastu sivadam tapa-trayonmulanam
srimad bhagavate mahamuni krte kim va parair isvarah
sadhyo hrdy avarudhayate ‘tra krtibhih susrubhis tat ksanat
“Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, this Bhagavat Purana propounds the highest truth, which is understandable by those devotees who are pure in heart. The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such truth uproots the three-fold miseries. This beautiful Bhagavatam, compiled by the great sage Srila Vyasadeva in his maturity is sufficient in itself for God realization. As soon as one attentively and submissively hears the message of the Bhagavatam he becomes attached to the Lord.”
Even today we can see some remnants of what Sri Caitanya made reference to. Many Madhvas are extremely pure and free from attachment to the fruits of karma and jnana as portrayed by the varnasrama system, but lets face the facts – the varna and asrama system is only necessary whilst dealing in a human society that has not developed pure love of Godhead. Though the Tattvavadi acarya was trying to establish the goal of returning back home, back to Godhead, by the gradual process of karma yoga (see Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 4, relating to purifying one’s activities), Lord Caitanya’s mood is the condensed purity of all the Vedic literatures. Vedanta Sutra is concisely packed into His eight verses of His Siksastakam that follows:
Sri Sri Siksastaka
anandambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam purnamrtasvadanam
sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam
“Glory to the Sri-Krsna sankirtana, which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and extinguishes the fire of conditional life of repeated birth and death. This sankirtan movement is the prime benediction for humanity at large because it spreads the rays of the benediction moon. It is the life of all transcendental knowledge. It increases the ocean of transcendental bliss, and it enables us to fully taste the nectar for which we are always anxious.”
namnam akari bahuda nija-sarva saktis
tatrapita niyamitah smarane na kalah
etadrsi tava krpa bhagavan mamapi
durdaivan adrsam ahajani nunuragah
“O my Lord, Your holy name alone can render all benediction to living beings, and thus You have hundreds and millions of names, like Krsna and Govinda. In these transcendental names You have invested all Your transcendental energies. There are not even hard and fast rules for chanting these names. O my Lord, out of kindness You enable us to easily approach You by Your holy names but I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them.”
trnad api sunicena
taror api sahisnuna
kirtaniyah sada harih
“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.”
na dhanam na janam na sundarim
kavitam va jagad-isa kamaya
mama janmani janmani isvare
bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi
“O almightly Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.”
ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram
patitam mam visame bhavambhadau
krpaya tava pada-pankaja-
“O son of Maharaja Nanda (Krsna), I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow of other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.”
pulakair nicitam vapuh kada
tava nama-grahane bhavisyati
“O my Lord, when will my eyes be decorated with tears of love flowing constantly when I chant Your holy name? When will my voice choke up, and when will the hairs of my body stand on end at the recitation of Your name?”
sunyayitam jagat sarvam
“O Govinda! Feeling Your separation, I am considering a moment to be like twelve years or more. Tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain, and I am feeling all vacant in the world in Your absense.”
aslisya va pada-ratam pinastu mam
adarsanam marma-hatam karotu va
yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato
mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva naparah
“I know no-one but Krsna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me broken-hearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord, unconditionally.”
Every honest man must agree that these prayers, being free of all bodily designations, pertains to only the development of unalloyed love of God, devoid of material considerations, and which is of the highest nature – abandoning all varieties of religion and completely surrendering unto the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krsna.
There next follows an account originally written by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura giving a summary of Lord Caitanya’s life.
“Caitanya Mahaprabhu was born in Mayapur in the town of Nadia just after sunset on the evening of the 23rd Phalguna (1407 Sakadba), answering to the 18th of February 1486 of the Christian Era. The moon was eclipsed at the time of His birth, and the people of Nadia were then engaged, as was usual on such occasions, in bathing in the Bhagirathi with loud cheers of Haribol. His father, Jagannatha Misra, a poor brahmana of the Vedic order, and His mother, Saci-devi, a model good woman, both descended from brahmana stock originally residing in Sylhet. Mahaprabhu was a beautiful child, and the ladies of the town came to see Him with presents. His mother’s father, Pandita Nilambara Cakravarti, a renowned astrologer, foretold that the child would be a great personage in time; and he, therefore, gave him the name Visvambhara. The ladies of the neighbourhood styled him Gaurahari on account of His golden complexion, and His mother called Him Nimai on account of the nimba tree near which He was born. Beautiful as the lad was, everyone heartily loved to see Him every day. As He grew up He became a whimsical and frolicsome lad. After His fifth year, He was admitted into a pathasala where He picked up Bengali in a very short time.
“Most of His contemporary biographers have mentioned certain anecdotes regarding Caitanya which are simple records of His early miracles. It is said that when He was an infant in His mother’s arms He wept continually, and when the neighbouring ladies cried Haribol He used to stop. Thus there was a continuation of utterance of Haribol in the house, foreshewing the future mission of the hero. It has also been stated that when His mother gave Him sweetmeats to eat, He ate clay instead of the food. His mother, asking for the reason, He stated that as every sweetmeat was nothing but clay transformed, He could eat clay as well. His mother, who was also the consort of a pandita, explained that every article in a special state was adapted to a special use. Earth, while in the state of a jug, could be used as a water pot, but in the state of a brick such a use was not possible. Clay, therefore in the form of sweetmeats was usable as food, but clay in its other states was not. The lad was convinced and admitted His stupidity in eating clay and agreed to avoid the mistake in the future. Another miraculous act has been related. It is said that a brahmana on pilgrimage became a guest in His house, cooked food and read grace with meditation upon Krsna. In the meantime the lad came and ate up the cooked rice. The brahmana, astonished at the lad’s act, cooked again at the request of Jagannatha Misra. The lad again ate up the cooked rice while the brahmana was offering the rice to Krsna with meditation. The brahmana was persuaded to cook for the third time. This time all the inmates of the house had fallen asleep, and the lad shewed Himself as Krsna to the traveller and blessed him. The brahmana was then lost in ecstasy at the appearance of the object of his worship. It has also been stated that two thieves stole away the lad from His father’s door with a view to purloin His jewels and gave Him sweetmeats on the way. The lad exercised His illusory energy and deceived the thieves back towards His own house. The thieves, for fear of detection, left the boy there and fled. Another miraculous act that has been described is the lad’s demanding and getting from Hiranya and Jagadisa all the offerings they had collected for worshiping Krsna on the day of Ekadasi. When only four years of age He sat on rejected cooking pots which were considered unholy by His mother. He explained to His mother that there was no question of holiness and unholiness as regards to earthen pots thrown away after the cooking was over. These anecdotes relate to His tender age up to the fifth year.
“In His eighth year, He was admitted into the tola of Gangadasa Pandita in Ganganagara close by the village of Mayapur. In two years He became well read in Sanskrit grammar and rhetoric. His readings after that were of the nature of self-study in His own house, where He had found all-important books belonging to His father, who was a pandita himself. It appears that He read the smrti in His own study, and the nyaya also, in competition with His friends, who were then studying under the celebrated pandita Raghunatha Siromani.
“Now, after the tenth year of His age, Caitanya became a passable scholar in grammar, rhetoric, the smrti and the nyaya. It was after this that his elder brother Visvarupa left his house and accepted the asrama (status) of a sannyasi (ascetic). Caitanya, though a very young boy, consoled His parents, saying that He would serve them with a view to please God. Just after that, His father left this world. His mother was exceedingly sorry, and Mahaprabhu, with His usual contented appearance, consoled His widowed mother.
It was at the age of 14 or 15 that Mahaprabhu was married to Laksmidevi, the daughter of Vallabhacarya, also of Nadia. He was at this age considered one of the best scholars of Nadia, then renowned seat of nyaya philosophy and Sanskrit learning. Not to speak of the smarta panditas, the Naiyayikas were all afraid of confronting Him in literary discussions. Being a married man, He went to Eastern Bengal on the banks of the Padma for acquirement of wealth. There He displayed His learning and obtained a good sum of money. It was at this time that He preached Vaisnavism at intervals. After teaching him the principles of Vaisnavism, He ordered Tapanamisra to go to and live in Benares. During His residence in East Bengal, His wife Laksmidevi left this world from the effects of snakebite. On returning home, He found His mother in a mourning state. He consoled her with a lecture on the uncertainty of human affairs. It was at His mother’s request that He married Visnupriya, the daughter of Raja Pandita Sanatana Misra. His comrades joined Him on His return from pravasa or sojourn. He was now so renowned that He was considered to be the best pandita in Nadia. Kesava Misra of Kashmir, who had called himself the Great Digvijayi, came to Nadia with a view to discuss with the pandita of that place. Afraid of the so-called conquering pandita, the tola professors of Nadia left their town on pretence of invitation. Kesava met Mahaprabhu at the Barokona-ghata in Mayapur, and after a very short discussion with Him he was defeated by the boy, and mortification obliged him to decamp. Nimai Pandita was now the most important pandita of His times.
“It was at the age of 16 or 17 that He travelled to Gaya with a host of His students and there took His spiritual initiation from Isvara Puri, a Vaisnava sannyasi and a disciple of the renowned Madhavendra Puri. Upon His return to Nadia, Nimai Pandita turned religious preacher, and His religious nature became so strongly represented that Advaita Prabhu, Srivasa and others who had before the birth of Caitanya already accepted the Vaisnava faith were astonished at the change of the young man. He was then no more a contending naiyayika, a wrangling smarta and a critisizing rhetorician. He swooned at the name of Krsna and behaved as an inspired man under the influence of His religious sentiment. It has been described by Murari Gupta, an eye-witness, that He shewed His heavenly powers in the house of Srivasa Pandita in the presence of hundreds of His followers, who were mostly well-read scholars. It was at this time that He opened a nocturnal school of kirtana in the compound of Srivasa Pandita with His sincere followers. There He preached, there He sang, there He danced, and there He expressed all sorts of religious feelings. Nityananda Prabhu, who was then a preacher of Vaisnavism and who had then completed His travels all over India, joined Him at that time. In fact, a host of pandita preachers of Vaisnavism, all sincere at heart, came and joined Him from different parts of Bengal. Nadia now became the regular seat of a host of Vaisnava acaryas whose mission it was to spiritualize mankind with the highest influence of the Vaisnava creed.
“The first mandate that He issued to Prabhu Nityananda and Haridasa was this: “Go, friends, go through the streets of the town, meet every man at his door and ask him to sing the name of Hari with a holy life, and you then come and report to Me every evening the result of your preaching.” Thus ordered, the two preachers went on and met Jagai and Madhai, two most abominable characters. They insulted the preachers on hearing Mahaprabhu’s mandate, but were soon converted by the influence of bhakti (devotion) inculcated by their Lord. The people of Nadia were now surprised. They said, “Nimai Pandita is not only a gigantic genius, but He is certainly a missionary from God Almighty.” From this time to His twenty-third year, Mahaprabhu preached His principles not only in Nadia but in all important towns and villages around His city. In the houses of His followers He shewed miracles, taught the esoteric principles of bhakti and sang His sankirtan with other bhaktas. His followers of the town of Nadia commenced to sing the holy name of Hari in the streets and bazaars. This created a sensation and roused different feelings in different quarters. The bhaktas were highly pleased. The smarta brahmanas became jealous of Nimai Pandita’s success and complained to Chand Kazi against the character of Caitanya as un-Hindu. The Kazi came to Srivasa Pandita’s house and broke a mrdanga (khola drum) there and declared that unless Nimai Pandit ceased to make noise about His queer religion he would be obliged to enforce Mohammedanism on Him and His followers. This was brought to Mahaprabhu’s notice. He ordered the townspeople to appear in the evening each with a torch in his hand. This they did, and Nimai marched out with His sankirtan divided in 14 groups, and on His arrival in the Kazi’s house, He held a long conversation with the Kazi and in the end communicated into his heart His Vaisnava influence by touching his body. The Kazi then wept and admitted that he had felt a keen spiritual influence which had cleared up his doubts and produced in him a religious sentiment which gave him the highest ecstasy. The Kazi then joined the sankirtan party. The world was astonished at the spiritual power of the Great Lord, and hundreds and hundreds of heretics converted and joined the banner of Visvambhara after this affair.
“It was after this that some of the jealous and low-minded brahmanas of Kulia picked a quarrel with Mahaprabhu and collected a party to oppose Him. Nimai Pandita was naturally a soft-hearted person, though strong in His principles. He declared that party feelings and sectarianism were the two great enemies of progress and that as long as He should continue to be an inhabitant of Nadia belonging to a certain family, His mission would not meet with complete success. He then resolved to be a citizen of the world by cutting His connection with His particular family, caste and creed, and with this resolution He embraced the position of a sannyasi at Katwa, under the guidance of Kesava Bharati of that town, on the 24th year of His age. His mother and wife wept bitterly for His separation, but our hero, though soft in heart, was a strong person in principle. He left His little world in His house for the unlimited spiritual world of Krsna with man in general.
“After His sannyasa, He was induced to visit the house of Advaita Prabhu in Santipura. Advaita managed to invite all His friends and admirers from Nadia and brought Sacidevi to see her son. Both pleasure and pain invaded her heart when she saw her son in the attire of a sannyasi. As a sannyasi, Krsna Caitanya put on nothing but a kaupina and a bahirvasa (outer covering). His head was without hair, and His hands bore a danda (stick) and a kamandalu (hermit’s water pot). The Holy Son fell at the feet of His beloved mother and said, “Mother! This body is yours, and I must obey your orders. Permit me to go to Vrndavana for My spiritual attainments.” The mother, in consultation with Advaita and others, asked her son to reside in Puri (the town of Jagannatha) so that she might obtain His information now and then. Mahaprabhu agreed to that proposition and in a few days left Santipura for Orissa. His biographers have described the journey of Krsna Caitanya (that was the name He got after His sannyasa) from Santipura to Puri in great detail. He travelled along the side of the Bhagirathi as far as Chatrabhoga, situated now in Thana Mathurapura, Diamond Harbour, 24 Parganas. There He took a boat and went as far as Prayaga-ghata in the Midnapura District. Thence He walked through Balasore and Cuttack to Puri, seeing the temple of Bhuvanesvara on His way. Upon His arrival at Puri He saw Jagannatha in the temple and resided with Sarvabhauma at the request of the latter. Sarvabhauma was a gigantic pandita of the day. His readings knew no bounds. He was the best naiyayika of the times and was known as the most erudite scholar in the Vedanta philosophy of the school of Sankaracarya. He was born in Nadia (Vidyanagara) and taught innumerable pupils in the nyaya philosophy in his tola there. He had left for Puri some time before the birth of Nimai Pandita. His brother-in-law Gopinatha Misra introduced our new sannyasi to Sarvabhauma, who was astonished at His personal beauty and feared that it would be difficult for the young man to maintain sannyasa-dharma during the long run of His life. Gopinatha, who had known Mahaprabhu from Nadia, had a great reverence for Him and declared that the sannyasi was not a common human being. On this point Gopinatha and Sarvabhauma had a hot discussion. Sarvabhauma then requested Mahaprabhu to hear his recitation of the Vedanta-sutras, and the latter tacitly submitted. Caitanya heard with silence what the great Sarvabhauma uttered with gravity for seven days, at the end of which the latter said, “Krsna-Caitanya! I think You do not understand the Vedanta, for You do not say anything after hearing my recitation and explanations.” The reply of Caitanya was that He understood the sutras very well, but He could not make out what Sankaracarya meant by his commentaries. Astonished as this, Sarvabhauma said, “How is it that you understand the meanings of the sutras and do not understand the commentaries which explain the sutras? All well! If You understand the sutras, please let me have Your interpretations.” Mahaprabhu thereon explained all the sutras in His own way without touching the pantheistic commentary of Sankara. The keen understanding of Sarvabhauma saw the truth, beauty and harmony of arguments in the explanations given by Caitanya and obliged Him to utter that it was the first time that he had found one who could explain the Brahma-sutras in such a simple manner. He admitted also that the commentaries of Sankara never gave such natural explanations of the Vedanta-sutras as he had obtained from Mahaprabhu. He then submitted himself as an advocate and follower. In a few days Sarvabhauma turned out to be one of the best Vaisnavas of the time. When reports of this came out, the whole of Orissa sang the praise of Krsna Caitanya, and hundred and hundreds came to Him and became His followers. In the meantime Mahaprabhu thought of visiting Southern India, and He started with one Krsnadasa Brahmana for the journey.
“His biographers have given us a detail of the journey. He went first to Kurmaksetra, where He performed a miracle by curing a leper named Vasudeva. He met Ramananda Raya, the Governor of Vidyanagara, on the banks of the Godavari and had a philosophical conversation with him on the subject of prema-bhakti. He worked another miracle by touching (making them immediately disappear) the seven tala trees through which Ramacandra, the son of Dasaratha, had shot His arrow and killed the great Bali Raja. He preached Vaisnavism and nama-sankirtana throughout the journey. At Rangaksetra He stayed for four months in the house of one Venkata Bhatta in order to spend the rainy season. There He converted the whole family of Venkata from Ramanuja Vaisnavism to Krsna-bhakti, along with the son of Venkata, a boy of ten years named Gopala, who afterwards came to Vrndavana and became one of the six Goswamis or prophets serving under their leader Sri Krsna Caitanya. Trained up in Sanskrit by his uncle Prabodhananda Sarasvati, Gopala wrote several books on Vaisnavism.
“Sri Caitanya visited numerous places in Southern India as far as Cape Comorin and returned to Puri in two years by Pandepura on the Bhima. In this latter place He spiritualized one Tukarama, who became from that time a religious preacher himself. This fact has been admitted in his adhangas, which have been collected in a volume by Mr. Satyendra Nath Tagore of the Bombay Civil Service. During His journey He had several discussions with the Buddhists, the Jains and the Mayavadis in several places and converted His opponents to Vaisnavism.
“Upon His return to Puri, Raja Prataparudra-deva and several pandita brahmanas joined the banner of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He was now twenty-seven years of age. In His twenty-eighth year He went to Bengal as far as Gauda in Mald. There He picked up two great personages named Rupa and Sanatana. Though descended from the lines of Karnatic brahmanas, these two brothers turned demi-Moslems by their continual contact with Hussain Shah, the then Emperor of Gauda. Their names had been changed by the Emperor into Dabir Khas and Sakara Mallik, and their master loved them heartily since they were both learned in Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit and were loyal servants of the state. The two gentlemen had found no way to come back as regular Hindus and had written to Mahaprabhu for spiritual help while He was at Puri. Mahaprabhu had written in reply that He would come to them and extricate them from their spiritual difficulties. Now that He had come to Gauda, both the brothers appeared before Him with their long-standing prayer. Mahaprabhu ordered them to go to Vrndavana and meet Him there.
“Caitanya returned to Puri through Santipura, where He again met His dear mother. After a short stay at Puri He left for Vrndavana. This time He was accompanied by one Balabhadra Bhattacarya. He visited Vrndavana and came down to Prayag (Allahabad), converting a large number of Mohammedans to Vaisnavism by argument from the Koran. The descendant of those converts are still known as Pathana Vaisnavas. Rupa Goswami met Him in Allahabad. Caitanya trained him up in spirituality in ten days and directed him to go to Vrndavana on missions. His first mission was to write theological works explaining scientifically pure bhakti and prema. The second mission was to revive the places where Krsnacandra had in the end of Dvapara-yuga exhibited His spiritual lila (pastimes) for the benefit of the religious world. Rupa Goswami left Allahabad for Vrndavana, and Mahaprabhu came down to Benares. There He resided in the house of Candrasekhara and accepted His daily bhiksa (meal) in the house of Tapana Misra. Here it was that Sanatana Goswami joined him and took instruction for two months in spiritual matters. The biographers, especially Krsnadasa Kaviraja, have given us details of Caitanya’s teachings to Rupa and Sanatana. Krsnadasa was not a contemporary writer, but he gathered his information from the Goswamis themselves, the direct disciples of Mahaprabhu. Jiva Goswami, who was the nephew of Sanatana and Rupa and who has left us his invaluable work of Sat-sandarbha, has philosophized on the precept of his great leader. We have gathered and summarised the precepts of Caitanya from the books of those great writers.
“While at Benares, Caitanya had an interview with the learned sannyasis of that town in the house of a Maratha brahmana who had invited all the sannyasis for entertainment. At this interview, Caitanya shewed a miracle which attracted all the sannyasis to Him. Then ensued reciprocal conversation. The sannyasis were headed by their most learned leader Prakasananda Sarasvati. After a short controversy, they submitted to Mahaprabhu and admitted that they had been misled by the commentaries of Sankaracarya. It was impossible even for learned scholars to oppose Caitanya for a long time, for there was some spell in Him which touched their hearts and made them weep for their spiritual improvement. The sannyasis of Benares soon fell at the feet of Caitanya and asked for His grace (krpa). Caitanya then preached pure bhakti and instilled into their hearts spiritual love for Krsna which obliged them to give up sectarian feelings. The whole population of Benares, on this wonderful conversion of the sannyasis, turned Vaisnavas, and they made a master sankirtana with their new Lord. After sending Sanatana to Vrndavana, Mahaprabhu went to Puri again through the jungles with His comrade Balabhadra. Balabhadra reported that Mahaprabhu had shown a good many miracles on His way to Puri, such as making tigers and elephants dance on hearing the name of Krsna.
“From this time, that is, from His 31st year, Mahaprabhu continually lived in Puri the house of Kasi Misra until His disappearance in His forty-eighth year at the time of sankirtana in the temple of Tota-gopinatha. During these 18 years, His life was one of settled love and piety. He was surrounded by numerous followers, all of whom were of the highest order of Vaisnavas and who were distinguished from the common people by their purest character and learning, firm religious principles and spiritual love of Radha-Krsna. Svarupa Damodara, who had been known by the name of Purusottamacarya while Mahaprabhu was in Nadia, joined Him from Benares and accepted service as His secretary. No production of any poet or philosopher could be laid before Mahaprabhu unless Svarupa had passed it as pure and useful. Raya Ramananda was His second mate. Both he and Svarupa would sing while Mahaprabhu expressed His sentiments on a certain point of worship. Paramananda Puri was His minister in matters of religion. There are hundreds of anecdotes described by His biographers which we do not think it meet here to reproduce. Mahaprabhu slept short. His sentiments carried Him far and wide in the firmament of spirituality every day and night, and all His admirers and followers watched Him throughout. He worshipped, communicated with His missionaries at Vrndavana, and conversed with those religious men who newly came to visit Him. He sang and danced, took no care of Himself and oft-times lost Himself in religious beatitude. All who came to Him believed in Him as the all-beautiful God appearing in the nether world for the benefit of mankind. He loved His mother all along and sent her mahaprasada now and then with those who went to Nadia. He was most amiable in nature. Humility was personified in Him. His sweet appearance gave cheer to all who came in contact with Him. He appointed Prabhu Nityananda as the missionary in charge of Bengal. He dispatched six disciples (Goswamis) to Vrndavana to preach love in the upcountry. This he markedly did in the case of Junior Haridasa. He never lacked in giving proper instructions in life to those who solicited them. This will be seen in His teachings to Raghunatha dasa Goswami. His treatment to Haridasa (senior) will show how He loved spiritual men and how He defied caste distinction in spiritual brotherhood.”
by Thakura Bhaktivinoda.
As the Thakura stated, the disciplic succession was then passed down to the followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, notably the six Goswamis of Vrndavan.
THE SIX GOSWAMIS
SRI SRI SAD-GOSWAMY-ASTAKA (PRAYERS TO THE SIX GOSWAMIS)
dhiradhira-janapriyau priya-karau nirmatsarau pujitau
sri-caitanya-krpa-bharau bhuvi bhuvo bharavahantarakau
vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Goswamis, namely Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami and Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who are always engaged in chanting the holy name of Krsna and dancing. They are like the ocean of love of God, and they are popular both with the gently and the ruffians, because they are not envious of anyone. Whatever they do, they are all-pleasing to everyone, and they are fully blessed by Lord Caitanya. Thus they are engaged in missionary activities meant to deliver all the conditioned souls in the material universe.”
lokanan hita-karinau tri-bhuvane manyau saranyakarau
radha-kesna padaravinda-bhajananandena mattalikau
vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Goswamis, namely Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami and Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who are expert in scrutinizingly studying all the revealed scriptures with the aim of establishing eternal religious principles for the benefit of all human beings. Thus they are honoured all over the three worlds, and they are worth taking shelter of because they are absorbed in the mood of the gopis and are engaged in the transcendental loving service of Radha and Krsna.”
papottapa-nikrntanau tanu-bhrtam govinda-ganamrtaih
vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Goswamis, namely Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami and Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who are very much enriched in understanding of Lord Caitanya and who are thus expert in narrating His transcendental qualities. They can purify all conditioned souls from the reactions of their sinful activities by pouring upon them transcendental songs about Govinda. As such, they are very expert in increasing the limits of the ocean of transcendental bliss, and they are the saviours of the living entities from the devouring mouth of liberation.”
tyaktva turnam asesa-mandala-pati-sremin sada tuccha-vat
bhutva dina-ganesakau karunaya kaupina-kanthasritau
gopi-bhava-rasamrtabdhi-lahari kallola-magnau muhur
vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Goswamis, namely Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami and Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who kicked off all association of aristocracy as insignificant. In order to deliver the poor conditioned souls, they accepted loincloths, treating themselves as mendicants, but they are always merged in the ecstatic ocean of the gopi’s love for Krsna and bathe always and repeatedly in the waves of that ocean.”
radha-krsnam ahar-nisam prabhajatau jivarthadai yau muda
vande rupa-sanatanau raghu yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Goswamis, namely Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami and Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who were always engaged in worshipping Radha-Krsna in the transcendental land of Vrindavana, where there are beautiful trees full of fruits and flowers which have under their roots all valuable jewels. The Goswamis are perfectly competent to bestow upon the living entities the greatest boon of the goal of life.”
nidrahara-viharakadi-vijitau catyanta-dinau ca yau
radha-krsna-guna-smter madhurimanandena sammohitau
vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Goswamis, namely Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami and Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who were engaged in chanting the holy names of the Lord and bowing down in a scheduled measurement. In this way they utilized their valuable lives, and in executing these devotional activities they conquered over eating and sleeping and were always meek and humble, enchanted by remembering the transcendental qualities of the Lord.”
radha-kunda tate kalinda-tanaya-tire ca vamsivate
premonmada-vasad asesa-dasaya grastau pramattau sada
gayantau ca kada harer guna-varam bhavabhibhutau muda
vande raup-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Goswamis, namely Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami and Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who were sometimes on the bank of the Radha-kunda lake or the shores of the Yamuna and sometimes at Vamsivata. There they appeared just like mad-men in the full ecstacy of love for Krsna, exhibiting different transcendental symptoms in their bodies, and they were merged in the ecstacy of Krsna consciousness.”
he radhe vraja-devike ca lalite he nanda–suno kutah
sri govardhana-kalpa-padapa-tale kalindi-vane kutah
ghosantav iti sarvato vraja-pure khedair maha-vihvalau
vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau
I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Goswamis, namely Sri Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Sri Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Sri Jiva Goswami and Sri Gopala Bhatta Goswami, who were chanting very loudly everywhere in Vrndavana, shouting, “Queen of Vrndavana, Radharani! O Lalita! O son of Nanda Maharaja! Where are you all now? Are you just on the hill of Govardhana, or are you under the trees on the bank of the Yamuna? Where are you?” These were their moods in executing Krsna consciousness.”
In a lecture given in December 1973 in Los Angeles, Srimad Bhagavatam (1.15.39), His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami makes some relevant point around the subject of varna and asrama. Briefly he points out that one may be a brahmana (teacher), ksatriya (administrator), vaisya (farmer or businessman) or a sudra (worker), but this is not the goal of life. The goal of life is Krsna. The training system is by accepting asrama – brahmacari (student), grhasta (householder), vanaprastha (retired), and sannyasa (renounced). The important term is asrama or shelter of the Lord – asrama being spiritual, varna being social. If one accepts this system he can be considered to be making progress to the ultimate goal of life, but the ultimate goal of life is not varnasrama. The ultimate goal of life is to become a pure devotee of Lord Sri Krsna, and that requires renunciation. Sannyasa comes from “sa” meaning supreme truth, and “nyasi” meaning renounced. So one accepts renunciation in order to attain the supreme truth, just as in business the proprietor has the supreme right to enjoy all of the fruits he has created. Not that we falsely renounce like the beggar who goes up to the door of the bank and says, “I renounce all the money in this bank.” It was never his to begin with, so like us, nothing belongs to us – everything belongs to God. Actually this is where the next link in the Brahma Gaudiya Sampradaya really takes hold – the direct disciples of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu – the six Goswamis.
One principle that the six Goswamis of Vrndavana propounded was that of “yukta vairaghya” which can be explained by the following analogy: If one finds something on the street and claims it for one’s self, then that person is to be known as a thief. If that person finds an object on the street and, knowing that it does not belong to himself leaves it there, then that is certainly renunciation, but if that person takes the object and again unites it with it’s actual owner, then that is best. This is the principle of yukta vairaghya -the proper utilization of everything that belongs to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in that Divine Lords’ service, after all is it not He who has created everything. If I use anything in the service of my senses, I will become further entangled in this material world and labelled a thief for my false proprietorship. However, if I take everything and use it directly in the Lord’s service, build Him a nice temple, offer Him nice foodstuffs, nice clothes and conveyances etc., then certainly He will be pleased upon me. For myself, in this temporary existence what do I need? The Lord supplies everything naturally for every living entity, so I should not over-endeavour for my own living standards. Better I engage all of the time the Lord has allotted me in His service, for naturally if He is satisfied with my service, then I will be happy.
This is the philosophy of the Goswamis, simple and honest. This was the teaching of Lord Caitanya also.
Because of the differant locations at different times there are two main lines coming from Lord Caitanya. There is one line descending from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu through Swarupa Damodara Goswami, and another through the Goswamis of Vrndavana headed by Srila Rupa Goswami and Srila Sanatana Goswami. The latter are generally referred to number officially six, though two others, Bhugarbha Goswami and Lokanatha Goswami are sometimes also added making eight.
As we just read in the six Goswami Astakam, the six Goswamis are Rupa Goswami, Sanatana Goswami, Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami, Raghunatha dasa Goswami, Jiva Goswami and Gopala Bhatta Goswami. These Goswamis were not members of what is nowadays termed “Ventor Goswami society,” as they were in full control, or masters of, their senses – hence they were called “Go-swami”. “Go” means senses and “swami” means master of. These Goswamis were direct disciples of Lord Caitanya and Lord Caitanya’s disciples.
In the modern day Ventor Goswami (Gosai) society are the descendants of the families that the Goswamis of Vrndavana established to maintain the temples and Deity worship in Sri Vrndavana Dhama. Some are very good Vaisnavas and some are not. Some control their senses while some do not. This is not actually Goswami, Gosani or Gosai. The Goswamis referred to here, (Rupa, Sanatana, Jiva, etc.) had no family connections, therefore they have no family descendants. In that way their descendants are actually in fact those who strictly follow the examples of the six Goswamis, headed by Srila Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis and not some hereditory profession.
Sanatana Goswami was born 1488 A.D. and lived at home for 27 years. After meeting Lord Caitanya, he spent 43 years as a mendicant in Vrndavana Dhama. Sanatana and his brother Rupa, before their diksa, were respectively Sakar Mallika and Dabir Khas, names given by Hussain Shah, who they worked under as high ranking government ministers. After Sanatana’s meeting with Lord Caitanya, he didn’t want to work with the Mohammedan ruler, so on medical grounds he took leave. Much time passed and as Sanatana didn’t return to work the Shab put him under arrest. After Sanatana convinced the guard to release him and to say that he had jumped into the Ganges and drowned, he left with a servant to find Lord Caitanya. As he had to travel some distance, to avoid complications and unwanted association on his journey, he decided to travel through the jungle rather than on the open road.
In one part of Bihar a hotel-keeper kept an astrologer to know when wealthy travellers would come their way, so they could “relieve” them of their riches. The astrologer told the hotel-keeper, who was also a dacoit, that two men were coming, a holy man and his cailor (servant), and that the servant was carrying eight one ounce gold coins. Upon their arrival at the hotel, the landlord told Sanatana, “Just take your rest tonight and in the morning we will get you out of this jungle.” Sanatana, suspicious of the landlord’s behaviour, asked his servant if he had any money. Sanatana’s servant replied that he had seven gold coins. Sanatana was angry with the servant, saying, “Why do you carry this death knell on the road?” Sanatana took the gold coins and gave them to the hotel-keeper and requested him to take them out of the jungle. The hotel-keeper replied that, “Actually I was going to kill you tonight, but I understood from my astrologer that your servant was carrying eight gold coins, not seven. However, from this I can understand you are a saintly man. You don’t need to offer me this money. I will take you out of the jungle.” That very night he took Sanatana and his servant Isana out of the jungle past the hills. Sanatana then sent his servant home with the one gold coin he had kept, for Sanatana didn’t want this kind of materialistic association.
With worn cloth and water pot in hand he pushed on. On his way to Benares to see Lord Caitanya, a rich brother-in-law gave Sanatana a costly blanket. Lord Caitanya was extremely pleased to see Sanatana Goswami, when he arrived, but he noticed the costly blanket. Sanatana could understand that the Lord didn’t approve of such a valuable garment to be on the body of a mendicant so Sanatana immediately went to the bank of the sacred Ganges and there he saw a mendicant washing an old quilt. When Sanatana asked the poor, old mendicant to trade his old quilt for his valuable blanket the old mendicant replied, “You appear to be like a very nice gentleman, but you are mocking me in this unmannerly way.” “I am not joking with you.” Sanatana implored him. “I am serious. Will you kindly exchange that torn quilt for this blanket?” It was done, and on Sanatana Goswami’s return to Lord Caitanya, the Lord asked, “Where is your valuable blanket?” Sanatana then told the Lord what he had done. “You are intelligent enough and have exhausted all your attraction for material wealth.” the Lord said. Lord Caitanya was always pleased with Sanatana Goswami and his mood of detachment for the benefit of spiritual advancement. (This story is to be found in The Teachings Of Lord Caitanya.)
He then dedicated his life to Sri Caitanya and in turn Sri Caitanya taught His disciple all about yukta vairaghya, the proper use and enjoyment of everything in Krsna’s service, and for our part, to live life in a mood of detachment from worldly life and it’s entanglements.
Sanatana Goswami established the Sri Sri Madana Mohan temple a fabulous temple over looking the Yamuna river. There is an interesting story from Bhaktiratnakara which to some degree shows how dear Sanatan was to the Lord. Sanatan once saw Sri Madan Gopala (Krsna–Madana Mohan) playing with His friends on the bank of the Jamuna. Madan Gopala, who was bound by the love of Sanatana, that night appeared in his dream and said, “I do not like living in Mahavana. I want to stay in your cottage.” Then He disappeared, leaving Sanatana in an incredibly ecstatic state of mind.
Sanatana throughly understood the Lord’s intention, and ecstatically received the Lord in his cottage the next morning. He engaged himself at once in the service of the Lord, placing the Lord in a tree and worshipping Him there. But he was unhappy because he could offer only dry chappati to the king of kings, Sri Madan Gopala.
(In another place there is a similar story that at this time, when the Deity asked for some salt to go with the chappati, Sanatana refused saying, “Now you ask for salt; next You will ask for rice, sabjis, fries, sweets, etc. But I am just a poor sannyasi – therefore please accept what I can offer You out of love.”) The Lord could understand the predicament of His devotee and so arranged for His own foostuffs by His mystic potency. Madan Gopala told Sanatana that a wealthy man was just over the back, stuck with his salt barge on a sand bank in the river Yamuna. Free his barge and he will build a temple for Me. Sanatan did exactly as the Lord had told him to do, and the rich man did as was foretold. Offering to build the temple of Sri Madan Gopala, the rich man from Multana named Krsnadasa Kapoora, who was an influential Kapoora Kshatriya, thanked Sanatana. He left his boat and fell at the feet of Sanatana Gosvami with tears in his eyes. Sanatana blessed the man and dedicated him to the feet of Sri Madan Mohan. From that very day Krsnadasa began to build a temple for the Lord, decorating it with many valuable jewels. He offered many kinds of foods for his offerings. Sanatana was satisfied by all these arrangements and the Vrajabasis were happy to see Sri Madan Mohan, the light of Sanatana.
(Bhaktiratnakara KDD 456-472 ).
In this way, for the Lord Sanatan would arrange everything; for himself he lived very simply. The Goswamis slept under a different tree every night and those trees fulfilled their needs. Preaching and discussing Vaisnavism and Krsna constantly, they passed their days. They all wrote many, many books, especially Jiva Goswami, and they also established major temples in Vrndavana Dhama.
There are many nice stories in connection with the six Goswamis, and they can be found in one book of the same name ” The Six Gowamis of Vrndavan” by Satyaraja das. More can also be found in the Bhakti Ratnakara of Narahari Sakara.
Rupa Goswami was born 1289 AD and disappeared in 1364 AD. He spent twenty-two years in the grhasta asrama, and fifty-three years as a mendicant in Vrndavana. He wrote numerous books, but two in particular give intimate details on how to become a pure devotee of the Lord, avoiding unwanted things, and different kinds of relationships one will naturally develop upon coming to the perfectional stage. These two books, the Bhakti-rasamrta Sindhu (The Nectar of Devotion) and Upadeshamrtam, give good and practical instructions on how to obtain the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha Krsna.
To gain the attention of Sri Caitanya, Rupa and Sanatana engaged two brahmanas to chant Krsna’s names and perform homa (fire sacrifice) for them. Upon reaching Sri Caitanya they distributed half their wealth among the Vaisnavas and brahmanas and one fourth to their relatives and kept one quarter for emergency.
Rupa Goswami wrote books on how to perform vaidhi sadhana bhakti (devotional service in practice), training one to only perform activities necessary for satisfying the Lord. When this stage is perfected – only doing things to please the Lord and not otherwise, being free from all bad habits of our selfish bodily attachments – one can then act in a mood just to please the Lord. This mood is called spontaneous, but the spontaneity is for Krsna to satisfy His desire; it is not done whimsically to satisfy our lusty desires like that of the Apasampradayas. For guide-lines in the proper mood and understanding, Rupa Goswami wrote books on raga bhakti (spontaneous love of God), so one’s natural love may develop more and more for the Lord. I suppose his books could be compared to that of giving the neccessary guide-lines to attain to the spiritual finishing school.
It is mentioned in the sastra that when the perfect devotee leaves his body, he goes to that place in the material world where Lord Sri Krsna, in numerous universes, is still performing His eternal pastimes. At one place He is taking birth, somewhere else He is just killing the Putana witch, somewhere else He is dancing with the gopis, somewhere else He is leaving for Mathura, in another place He is having His Kuruksetra and Dwaraka pastimes and at another place He is just leaving. Just as the sun is rising somewhere, in another place it is high in the sky at midday and at another place the sun is setting. In the same way, though it is the same sun, it appears in different places at the very same time to illuminate everything. In that way the devotee can associate with the Lord, and become trained before going directly back home.
Once at Prayag, Rupa Goswami and his younger brother, Anupama, approached Lord Caitanya with pieces of straw between their teeth (symbolizing their humility), and they separately offered obeisances at His lotus feet. Feeling great pleasure upon seeing them, the Lord embraced them both. With folded hands and great humility Rupa and Anupama offered prayers to the Lord. “O most munificent incarnation of the Lord! You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden colour of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You. We offer our respectful obeisances unto that merciful Supreme Personality of Godhead Who has converted all the three worlds which were previously maddened by ignorance, and saved them from their diseased condition by making them mad with the nectar from the treasure-house of love of God. Let us take full shelter of that Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna Caitanya, Whose activities are wonderful.”
Rupa Goswami established the intricately designed temple of Govindaji in Vrndavana. It was originally seven or eight levels high, but the top three or four levels were destroyed by Auzangzeb, who had vowed that he would destroy the source of a large ghee lamp which could be seen from Agra, some forty kilometres away, clearly and which burned brightly every night. His attempt the completely destroy the temple was thwarted due to it’s solid construction.
Giving much detail on the Goswamis is a booklet by Tridandi Swami B.V. Puri Goswami of Sri Krsna Caitanya mission – Rajamundry (a branch of the Gaudiya Mutt) entitled “The Six Goswamis”. Also available, as we mentioned, is a wonderful book surpassing all others on the Six Goswamis by Satyaraja dasa from ISKCON. This book is a must for information on the Goswamis.
By the way, in this section “Guru Parampara”, I am not trying to compete with, or outdo those saintly Vaisnavas who have very nicely captured the lives of the great Vaisnava Acaryas, but am simply trying to present the Parampara linking system with a minimal outline of each of the acaryas just to give a little taste. Those who to my knowledge have nothing in print about them, I have tried to say something but what is the use of my simply copying what more advanced and prolific writers have already written.
After the departure of Rupa and Sanatana Goswami, Jiva Goswami the disciple of Rupa was proclaimed as the next Acarya.
Jiva Goswami was born in 1513 AD. He lived for 20 years from birth to the end of his householder life, then left for Vrndavana where he stayed for 65 years until he left his body in 1598 AD.
Though Jiva Goswami never met Lord Caitanya in as much as being formally introduced, he, as a child, had the great good fortune to be with his father Anupama (Rupa Goswami’s younger brother) when Rupa and Sanatana met Lord Caitanya at Ramakeli. He personally witnessed the loving exchange between them, and by the brief association of the Lord he surrendered his life to Him.
The passing away of Jiva Goswami’s father Anupama had a remarkable effect of his life, and even though a small boy, he decided to renounce the world. He studied all the great Vaisnava Acarya’s works as he grew into his teens. Under Sri Madhusudana Vacaspati, the disciple of Vasudeva Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, he studied Vedanta, logic, philosophy and all kinds of scripture. Then he went to the holy tirtha of Navadwipa and met Lord Nityananda there, who took him to Lord Caitanya’s birthplace and all the places of Lord Caitanya’s Navadwipa pastimes. Lord Nityananda took Jiva Goswami to Srivasanga and met Srivasa Thakura, and from there they went to Lord Caitanya’s mother’s house where Sacimata and Lord Caitanya’s widow Visnu Priya cooked some nice foodstuffs for them. Jiva Goswami had some amazing Deities of Krsna and Balarama which he daily worshipped, knowing them to be non-different from Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda. Afterwards he went to Sri Vrndavana Dhama and served Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis.
Jiva Goswami became the great acarya of the dhamas Vrndavana, Mayapur and Puri. Once before the departure of Rupa and Sanatana, a great Digvijaya Pandit scholar came to challenge the Vaisnavas to debate. He was very arrogant and proud, and so he challenged Rupa and Sanatana, who were the masters of philosophy. They refused to talk to him, not wanting to waste a second on such a puffed up rascal. He said that if they would not talk, it meant that they were defeated, so they both said, “Yes, we are defeated – now go.” After agreeing to sign a paper saying that they were defeated by him, he left.
On hearing this, Jiva Goswami stopped him, challenged him, and philosophically smashed him to pieces with his unconquerable Vaisnava philosophy – and earned himself regard as a great learned Vaisnava scholar of the day. However, when Jiva Goswami approached Rupa and Sanatana to tell of how their names were now clear, and that Rupanarayana had been defeated, Rupa Goswami was not pleased and he said, “Due to your pride you must also go away from here.” So Jiva Goswami stayed under a tree in Mathura for one year, until finally Sanatana Goswami humbly approached Rupa Goswami and put over the case that Lord Caitanya’s principle was “jiva doya”, mercy to all jivas, and that Sanatana felt that Jiva Goswami was a little harshly treated. Rupa immediately sent for Jiva Goswami to again come back to Vrndavana.
After some time, many devotees came to join Sri Jiva in Vrndavan from Bengal and Orissa. Jiva Goswami taught all the Vaisnavas (Srinivas, Narottama dasa and Dukhi Krsnadasa (Syamananda)) philosophy, then when he made them qualified he gave them the title Acarya, Thakura and Pandit to these three respectively.
Dukhi Krsnadasa was so called because he was always miserable due to separation from Krsna. He once met Srimati Radharani and told his guru, but his guru rejected him saying that he was a bogus pretender, but actually he wasn’t. He did meet Srimati Radharani, but anyway, that’s another story.
In Vrndavana, after the disappearance of Rupa and Sanatana, Jiva Goswami practised the teachings of Lord Caitanya. He wrote 25 books and commentaries. It was at this time also, that Krsnadasa compiled Sri Caitanya Caritamrta.
RAGHUNATHA DASA GOSWAMI
Raghunatha dasa Goswami took his birth in 1495 AD. He lived as a householder up until 19. Then he moved to be with Lord Caitanya and spent 19 years in Puri, and 41 years in Vrndavana. His years were spent completely absorbed in Krsna consciousness. He used to go to the Nama-acarya Haridasa Thakura at Balarama Acarya’s house and hear of Krsna’s pastimes from him. From Raghunatha’s first sighting of Lord Caitanya, he tried to leave home and go with the Lord, but somehow he always got caught and sent back to his family house. Even his father held him prisoner. He was always in an intense mood of sad separation from the Lord, however somehow his father finally relented, and at Santipura he again met Lord Caitanya. But now Lord Caitanya also sent him home, telling him not to make a show of being a renunciate but to just worship Krsna in his heart, accept what the senses need to keep the body, mind and soul together, and then whilst outwardly discharging your worldly activities, always keep steadfast attachment to Lord Sri Krsna in your heart. “Stay with your family and when I return from Vrndavana and go to Puri, you meet me there.” Raghunatha dasa did this in a mood of yukta-vairagya and rejected phalgu-vairagya (false renunciation), but again and again Raghunatha ran away from home, and soldiers had to bring him back halfway from Puri. His mother suggested that his father bind him with ropes. His father however, seeing the situation said, “With all opulences at hand and a beautiful wife also of which none can bind him, what hope is there for your ropes?”
A few days later Raghunatha dasa met the avadhuta Lord Nityananda who was accompanied by many followers. Lord Nityananda asked Raghunatha to perform the cida dahi (chipped rice) festival at Panihati. This is mentioned in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta (Antya lila, 6.1-102). Lord Nityananda blessed Raghunatha by putting His feet on Raghunatha’s head. He then told him that Lord Caitanya would deliver him to Svarupa Damodara, “…who will keep you as his favourite disciple, now go home.” Raghunatha dasa did this and waited for the time when no guards were around before he made his dash, and with only thoughts of Lord Caitanya, reached Puri and offered his prostrated obeisances to his Lord. His father sent men to look for him but as they could not find him, returned empty handed. In Puri, Raghunatha performed severe austerities only eating what people gave him at the Simha Dwara Gate (Lion’s Gate) of the Jagannatha Temple. Lord Caitanya was very pleased with his renunciation and the Lord instructed him thus. “Do not hear or talk of worldly matters, do not eat palatable foods, do not wear costly clothing. Always chant the holy name and do not expect respect and honour from others. Render service within your heart and mind to Sri Sri Radha-Krsna in Vrndavana. Surely you will attain Their lotus feet.”
Lord Caitanya gave Raghunatha dasa Goswami His own gunja shell neck beads and His personal “ista-deva”, the Giri Govardhana sila. Raghunatha was in so much ecstasy that he forgot eating and sleep, and when hungry took the rejected maha-prasada of Lord Jagannatha, washed, and with a little salt.[JCD8] Lord Caitanya came and took this prasad with him, saying how He had never tasted such wonderful prasad before, although from an external point of view it was the remnants of the remnants. After Lord Caitanya’s disappearance, Raghunatha tried to kill his body by trying to throw it off Govardhana Hill, but was saved by Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis. During his last days, he spent his time paying prostrated obeisances around Vrndavana dhama and chanting 100,000 times daily the Hare Krsna maha mantra, and paying 2,000 prostrated obeisances to the Vaisnava devotees daily. He told of the life of Lord Caitanya three times daily, worshipped Radha-Krsna daily, and bathed in Radha-Kunda three times daily. Thus he would sleep one and a half hours every day, and some days he forgot to. He wrote three books during his life, and finally passed away in intense bhajan at Radha-Kunda where his samadhi is today.
RAGHUNATHA BHATTA GOSWAMI
A contemporary of Jiva Goswami, Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami was the son of Tapana Misra, a direct disciple of Lord Caitanya. When he was a small boy, Raghunatha Bhatta used to wash Lord Caitanya’s eating dishes and massage His legs. Raghunatha would never hear nor speak anything of the material world, but would only speak Krsna Katha. Never standing for blasphemy or listening to gossip, he was always an exemplary Vaisnava devotee. Raghunatha Bhatta spent eight months with Lord Caitanya continuously. Due to his being an expert cook, he used to prepare meals for the Lord daily and whatever he cooked, the Lord said was like nectar, saturated with love and devotion. His ecstasy increased day by day, and Lord Caitanya was very satisfied with the foods cooked by Raghunatha Bhatta’s hands. After the Lord took prasad, Raghunatha Bhatta would relish the Lord’s remnants in selfless devotion.
After eight months Raghunatha went back to his parents. Lord Caitanya told him not to marry, and gave him His own garland some fourteen cubits long, which was first worn by Lord Jagannatha, and some betal leaves and prasadam of Lord Jagannatha. Then he departed for Vrndavana, preserving the garland carefully. When he arrived, he placed himself at the feet of Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis. Sometimes in ecstasy he would wear the prasada garland given to him by Lord Caitanya and also a maha prasada tulasi garland around his neck. When his parents died Raghunatha again joined Lord Caitanya, though after some months He told him to return to Vrndavana, place himself in the care of Rupa and Sanatana Goswami, and always study Srimad Bhagavatam and chant Hare Krsna continuously.
There are many nice pastimes mentioned in the book of Satyaraj prabhu, “The Six Goswamis of Vrindavan”.
Hearing the recitations of Rupa and Sanatana, he would experience ecstatic symptoms. Tears would fill his eyes, his body would tremble, his voice choke up and his bodily hair would stand on end, at each and every verse of the Srimad Bhagavatam.
GOPALA BHATTA GOSWAMI
Gopala Bhatta Goswami was born in 1503 AD in a Sri Vaisnava family in Sri Rangam, South India and passed away in 1578, spending 45 years in Vrndavana. He was a small boy in the house of his father Vyentaka Bhatta when Lord Caitanya stayed at his house for Caturmasya. When Lord Caitanya left, he tried to leave with him but was sent back. He was the disciple of Prabodhananda Saraswati, a learned Vaisnava sannyasi. Soon he went to Vrndavana to be with Rupa and Sanatana. Due to his expertise in puja, and being a strict follower of Pancaratra and Vaisnava tantra, he compiled the Hari Bhakti Vilasa (Vaisnava Smrti) and Sanatana Goswami edited this book calling it “Dik Darshini Tika”, (further enlightenment on the subject). He established the temple of Sri Sri Radha-Ramana in Vrndavana where the family descendants of Gopinatha Pujari, who Gopala Bhatta put there to maintain a very high standard of puja, to this day worship this Deity with all pomp. They perform numerous festivals for the Lord’s pleasure as outlined in Gopala Bhatta Goswami’s Hari Bhakti Vilasa.
Previously Gopala Bhatta would perform his daily puja to his “ista-deva”, the round stone Svayam Vyakta (Saligram) form of the Lord. One day Gopala Bhatta prayed to the Lord to show His original two-armed form to him. The next morning he went down to the Deity room and found that His round form had been transformed into the most beautiful Tribhangananda (three-fold bending form playing a flute). This incredible Saligram is still worshipped as Radha-Ramana. Though physically Radha is not visible, She is represented there. Many times on the Swayam Vyakta Saligram, the sakti (in this case hladini sakti), is represented by a mark on the Saligram in the form of a crescent. So in this unique and merciful form of Radha-Raman, Srimati Radharani is represented along with Ramanji, and is worshipped along with Him.
Gopala Bhatta’s mood of humility was such that at the time of Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja’s compilation of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, when Krsnadasa Kaviraja was asking for the blessing of the Vaisnavas, Gopala Bhatta said he would give his blessings only if he wasn’t mentioned in the book. Unfortunately for us, little is known of his daily life – only his works. It is an injunction that whatever great Vaisnavas have written one should not take the trouble to re-write it. So these brief summaries of the lives of the Goswamis can be found in full glory in “The Six Goswamis of Vrndavana”.
Another Goswami is Lokanantha. After hearing of Lord Caitanya, he headed for Mayapur-Navadvipa dhama, but Lord Caitanya sent him to Vrndavana almost immediately after meeting with him. His only disciple was the great Vaisnava poet by the name Narottama dasa Thakura. There is a voluminous work on his life called “Narottama Vilasa”.
I have just tried to briefly touch on all these great saintly Vaisnavas for the pleasure of the devotees.
Narottama dasa Thakura was born in a Kayastha caste family, the son of King Sri Krsnananda Datta, who ruled the area of Gopalpura in Rajashahi district of modern day Bangladesh, his capital being Khetri on the Padma River. Narottama’s mother was Narayani Devi, and Narottama was born on the purnima in the month of Magha (January) 1520 AD. The King had a brother by the name of Purushottama Datta and he had a son named Santosa. From Narottama’s early childhood he was always attracted to Sri Caitanya. It is said that when Narottama’s father (the King) died, Narottama turned over the kingdom to his uncle Santosa, and left for Vrndavana.
When Narottama was born the astrologers came, cast a chart, and said that either this boy will become a great king or a mendicant preacher. Narottama’s family naturally wanted him to become the latter, a great king, and so they made all the neccessary arrangements so the boy could be trained to fulfill the role. In this way he was trained in all the ways of an administrator (king). He was also trained in sanskrit which he mastered in a very short time, and for this was very much renowned for his eloquence in the use of sanskrit grammar, poetry, prosody etc.
Even though he was given this first class form of education, he was not attached to this in the slightest. Instead of studing he could be quite often found absorbed in composing and singing songs in glorification of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Krsna in a humble mood of separation. So dear was Narottama to Lord Caitanya that many years before Narottama had even taken his birth Lord Caitanya, while at Kanai Natasala absorbed in the congregational chanting of the holy name, the Hare Krsna maha mantra, had spontaneously called out the name “Narottama’, whereupon He became ecstatic and His mind became unsteady. After consulting with Lord Nityananda, Lord Caitanya went to the bank of the Padma River and made enquiries about the whereabouts of this Narottama. This was quite some time even before Narottama’s birth in this world. At this time Lord Caitanya called for the goddess of the Padmanadi personified to appear before Him, and there He gave her love of Godhead, but then stressed that this is not for you. Soon My devotee will come here to your waters, then you are to present him with My divine love, Krsna prema. Lord Caitanya then instructed the goddess of the Padma river how to recognise Narottama, and told her at which time he would come there.
At the age of twelve Narottama dasa Thakura had a vision of Lord Nityananda in a dream. He told Narottama to take bath in the Padma River whereupon he would receive love of Godhead. (According to sastra, if one bathes in the Ganges one becomes purified, but if one bathes in the Padma River one loses all his pious activities and goes to hell. The Padma River appears to be the main tributary of the Ganges to the sea, but the sastras say no – the main tributary flows through Mayapur). Following the instructions of Lord Nityananda, Narottama bathed in the Padma irregardless, and the Goddess of the river appeared and on the order of Lord Caitanya, gave him pure love of Godhead.
Narottama now immediately showed signs of ecstatic love of God. His parents tried to restore him to “sanity”, but he was never the same again, instead he only had a longing to go to Vrindavan. Finding the opportune moment, when his father and uncles were called to Delhi to be with the Muslimad ruler, he, biding farewell to his mother, left for Vrndavana, alone.
His intensity for Krsna consciousness now knew no bounds. Nothing could contain him, so much so was his ecstacy. It is described in the Bhaktiratnakara of Narahari Sakara that this journey of some one thousand miles, Narottam das ran most of the way. During his journey to Vrndavana he completely forgot about eating or sleeping, nor did he know what was day and what was night, and so finally collapsed unconscious. After some days he came to external consciousness under a tree with a golden complexioned Brahmana standing before him. He gave him a pot of milk and requested Narottama to drink it. “If you drink it, it will cure your fatigue and bodily wounds due to neglect.” The Brahmana then disappeared. Narottama, exhausted, fell asleep again and now in a dream Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis appeared to him. They said to him, “Why don’t you drink the milk that Lord Caitanya has brought for you?” He awoke, drank the milk and becoming completely enlivened, headed for Vrndavana. He simply ran, unaware of day or night , hunger or thirst, only crying “Gauranga, Gauranga”, and calling out for the mercy of Lord Nityananda that he may be free from material desires and so be able to enter into Vrndavan. He crossed to the left bank of the Padma River and followed that until it reached the main Ganges River, and then again keeping to the left bank he travelled to Prayag (Allahabad) at the sacred Triveni where the Sarasvati, the Yamuna and the Ganges meet. Narottama took to the greenish Yamuna River, and followed her left bank until he reached Sri Vrndavana dhama. When he arrived he simply fell into the dust of Vrndavana crying, ” Now I’ve reached the shelter of Sri Vrndavan never let me leave. When will I be rid of materialistic desires? Please save me”.
The devotees who Narottama met along the way could recognise that he was a great devotee of the Lord by his sole absorption in going to Vrndavan. Upon his arrival in Vrndavana, Narottama was given to the guidence of Jiva Goswami, because by this time Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis were very old and were just about to give up this world. Jiva Goswami had been appointed as the head of the devotees in Vrndavan, so Jiva Goswami told Narottama dasa to go Lokanatha Goswami – “He is very old. You go there and assist him.”
Narottama was simply in ecstacy at even the thought, for Lokanatha Goswami was the first Goswami to be sent to Vrndavana. He was middle aged when Lord Caitanya sent him there, and had since spent thirty or forty years there, so he must have been at least in his eighties. To begin with, Lokanatha Goswami said that he was not qualified to accept any disciples feeling himself too lowly, and so said he didn’t want the service of Narottam das. Due to Lokanatha Goswami’s old age and failing health, barely was he able to maintain the puja of his Deities Sri Radha Vinoda, and so he used to say “…if I cannot serve the Lord properly then how can I accept the service of another.” Flatly he stated that he would not accept any disciples, but Narottama used to daily wake hours before Lokanatha Goswami and cleaned Lokanatha’s quarters. After that he would fetch water for Lokanatha and clean the place where Lokanatha would pass stool. At first Lokanatha couldn’t work out who was doing this service for him, but then in great astonishment, he found it was Narottama. Lokanatha put aside his hesitancy and accepted Narottama, after his persistency, as his only formally initiated disciple. Narottama dasa then became the object of Lokanatha Goswami’s special mercy.
Narottama continued to serve Lokanatha Goswami in this way and sings in his Guru Vandana prayer, “Lokanatha lokera jivana,” that “Lokanatha is the source of inspiration for the devotees everywhere.”
Although Lokanantha Goswami is not listed in the guru parampara, he was an exalted devotee of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. As a young man he was a follower of Advaita Acarya, the disciple of Madhavendra Puri Goswami, who was the same Advaita Acarya who was the cause of Lord Caitanya’s descent. Lokanatha had heard of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes in Navadwipa and had travelled from his village named Talakhadito be with the Lord.
Lokanatha Goswami’s father’s name was Padmanabha and his younger brother was Pragalbha, and previously they lived in Kacnapada. On his arrival in Navadwipa, Lokanatha met Lord Caitanya who embraced him. He then told Lokanatha to go to Vrndavana where he would soon join him as He was planning to take sannyasa and would be leaving Navadvipa dhama soon. Lokanatha went to Vrndavana, but when he heard that Lord Caitanya had gone to Jagannatha Puri, in devotional desperation he walked the several hundred miles from Vrndavan through jungles to Puri on the east coast of Orissa to be with the Lord. When he arrived he found the Lord had gone to South India, so Lokanatha, now travelling constantly in separation for months, headed for South India. After one or two days of travelling he had a dream where Lord Caitanya appeared and said, “I came to Vrndavana to meet with you but you were not there. In this lifetime you will not see me again. Return to Vrndavana and establish and spread Krsna Consciousness there. Soon many devotees will come there and assist you.” Lokanatha never saw the Lord in His vapu (bodily form) again in that life, but always kept the Lord’s vani (message) dear to heart and constantly tried to enliven the devotees in love of God. His mood was that of supreme humility throughout. He even requested Krsnadasa Kaviraja not to mention his name in the celebrated Caitanya Caritamrta. Therefore Lokanatha Goswami’s name is rarely mentioned.
Though still a young man, Narottama das would only maintain himself by observance of the vow of madhukari, which means that he would only eat what he could beg by going from door to door of the householder devotees, just as a bumble bee goes from flower to flower to take pollen. By this strict vow Narottama kept no kitchen or store of foodstuffs. He simply relied only upon the mercy of the Lord.
Many devotees were now gathering themselves around Jiva Goswami, who was teaching them the Vaisnava philosophy from all angles of vision. As we already stated Srinivas and Syamananda (Dukhi Krsna das) were amongst that gathering. They all became such great friends they were inseparable. Despite the fact that they all had different diksa gurus, they all were seeing Jiva Goswami as their common link and siksa guru.
When Narottama, together with Srinivas and Syamananda were sent travelling by Jiva Goswami to distribute the books of the Goswami’s and preach to preserve and spread the works of the Goswami’s, the books they were distributing were stolen at Vanavisnu Pura on the border of Bengal. Srinivas Acarya, who was the head of the party, sent Syamananda to Orissa and Narottama back to Kheturi. Before going back to Kheturi gram, Narottama decided to visit the Holy birth site of Lord Caitanya, but upon going there found that most of the associates of Lord Caitanya had, out of separation from Him, left this world also, and those who remained did so in great grief of the Lord’s association. Thus the mood was very intense for the separation of Mahaprabhu. Just as we have experienced at our modern day festivals, the devotees all enquired from each other, “How are the devotees in Vrndavan? How is Jiva Goswami?” etc, etc. Thus the news of the Vaisnava devotees was updated with great relish on both sides. The devotees of Mayapura then blessed Narottama to preach in his allocated preaching field. He then travelled to many of the holy places visited by Lord Caitanya and met with some of the Lord’s associates, who by now were very, very old. After this he visited Puri, and then returned to Kheturi. By now two years or more had passed, and his father had passed away. Though in actuality Narottama was the rightful heir to his father’s kingdom, since both his father and uncle had now expired, and not wanting anything to do with this kind of materialistic life, Narottama allowed Santosa to become king. In this way Narottama could dedicate his life to preaching within the kingdom of his old friend Santosa without disturbance. Raja Santosa Datta then took initation from Narottama dasa and asked if he could build a temple at Kheturi for the benefit of all the devotees. Narottama agreed and soon the king had the temple completed. All the followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu were invited from Bengal and Orissa to participate in this festival and thousands of devotees came. No expense was spared and the king arranged for every single devotee’s accommodation and prasadam.
The night before the festival was to take place, Jahnavi Mata, the consort of Lord Nityananda Prabhu, who was the head of the devotees in Bengal, gave her instrutions and the festival began with the adi vas. There, with everyone feeling especially empowered by Lord Nityananda, the festival began. Six Deities were installed on that day. They were Sri Gauranga, Sri Ballavi Kanta, Sri Krsna, Sri Vraja-Mohan, Sri Radha Mohan and Radha Kanta. The abhisekha was performed by Srinivasacarya. It was amazing. This day was the beginning of the annual Gaura Purnima festival, which commemorates the appearance day of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. All the prominent devotees of that time came, including Jahnavi Mata and all her hundreds of followers. All the devotees were invited to participate in the Hari Nam sankirtan. Lord Nityananda’s son, Virabhadra prabhu and Adwaita Acarya’s son, Acyutananda were leading the dancing, while Narottama lead an ecstatic kirtana. Srinivasa, the pujari performing the arati, suddenly began to smell the natural bodily aroma of Krsna starting to emanate from the Deity. Each devotee, as they came in contact with it, starting with the pujari, were stunned and fell on the floor in ecstasy. Those who were at the back (Jahnavi and her followers) were wondering what was happening. All the devotees were becoming overwhelmed with love of Krsna. It is described that this was the kirtan of all time, so much so, that amidst the dancers was seen the whole Pancatattva (Lord Caitanya, Lord Nityananda, Sri Adwaita Acarya, Gadadhara Pandit and Srivasa Thakura) dancing in ecstacy. So sweet was the sankirtan that the Lord was attracted to come. After some time though, to again increase the intensity of the loving separation for the Lord, He again disappeared from their external vision. This is a famous incident in the Gaudiya Vaisnava history, especially the installation ceremony at Kheturigrama, which is found recorded in the Bhaktiranakara.
Despite all of the Vaisnavas nice feelings towards Narottama das, the smartas were very envious. One, a school teacher, would always go out of his way to blaspheme Narottama dasa and his followers in front of his pupils, as many of the pupils were attracted by the philosophy and kirtans that they heard. This rascal smarta would say, “…Why do you go to this Narottama? He’s not a brahmin. What then can he know of spiritual life, or philosophy?” Because of his offences towards such a pure Vaisnava as Narottama dasa, the smarta was afflicted with leprocy all over his body and was suffering like anything, to such a degree that he planned to end it all by throwing his body into the Ganges. That night, in his dreams, his worshipful deity, Durga devi, appeared to him and said, “It is not as easy as you think to stop your suffering, for you have offended the greatest Vaisnava. The only way to become free from this is to beg for forgiveness at his feet, then your pain and leprocy will go away.” The very next day that smarta went to see Narottama dasa, and in all humility fell at his feet and begged forgiveness. Instantly the leprocy went away, and the smarta became a follower of Narottama.
Once Sivananda Bhattacarya, a sakta by faith (worshipper of the demigoddess Kali or Durga), sent his son Ramakrsna to purchase some sacrificial beast, goats and buffalos, and other necessary articles for the coming Durga Puja. When Ramakrsna was returning home with the purchases, he met Narottama dasa Thakura, the holy saint of the highest order, who, after some instructive talk, changed the youth’s mind altogether. He later let the beast go, and obtained initiation from the Thakura. On returning empty-handed to his father who was eagerly waiting for him, Sri Ramakrsna told him that he had been blessed to have got the grace of the illustrious Vaisnava, Srila Narottama. His father flared up in excessive rage and called him a disgrace to the family for accepting one not born in a Brahmin family as his guru. Ramakrsna was fortunate that now he had been raised up from the worldly conceptions by hearing the truth from the mouth of Thakura Mahasaya (Narottama). He at once gave up the duties of the world as hateful and insignificant in order to be engaged in the service of Lord Hari.
There are many stories like this. Narottama dasa Thakura would preach like anything, removing the misconceptions of the age, and would invoke his disciples to follow suit.
mahakula prasutena-api sarva yagne sudik
sahasra sakadhyayi ca no guruh syat avaisnavah
One born in a high family, in a Brahmin family, having read all the branches of Veda and being eligible to perform all kinds of rituals, but devoid of devotion to Visnu, the Supreme Lord, is not capable of becoming a guru, a spiritual master in the true sense, but
bhaktih punati man-nistha
swa-pakan api sambhavat
Even one born in a family of meat eaters is purified if he engages in the loving service of Lord Krsna.
Preaching Vaisnava philosophy to his father, Ramakrsna pacified him enough to save the day.
This was one of Narottama dasa Thakura’s main preaching points – that a Vaisnava is not a mllecha, nor yavana, nor brahmin, nor sudra, etc. Vaisnavism should only be guaged according to one’s surrender and realization in Krsna consciousness. There should be no consideration of birth, age, caste, creed, shoe size, education, social status, who one is initiated by, the year one took initiation, or when one first came in contact with devotional service. Nor is Krsna consciousness advancement dependant on household duties, taking sannyasa, ritualistic performances, group agreement, or the like – simply how one is absorbed in one’s service to the lotus eyed Lord. This is the conclusion of Narottama dasa Thakura’s preaching stratagy.
There were many incidences where quite amazing things happened. One such story is with Jagannath Acarya. Though he was not in the least inimical, he had worshipped Durga all his life, and she once appeared to him in a dream and said, “You are a nice brahmin. Why are you worshipping Me? You should go to Narottama and under his supervision worship Krsna. Then and only then will I be satisfied.” He also became Narottama’s disciple.
Another interesting story is as follows. Seeing all the so-called brahmins getting defeated, rejecting the smarta society and becoming Vaisnavas was too much for some of the leading smartas. They went to a nearby king and asked him for help, saying that this “man” Narottama was ruining their society, reputation and business. The king agreed to come with some of his men, and accompanied by one big, big smarta scholar of the name Rupa Narayana, to debate with this young man.
Two followers of Narottama heard of the plan, and were a little upset that these mischievious persons were coming to try to disturb one who only had a mind for spreading pure love of Godhead throughout the three worlds, so Ganganarayana Cakravarti and Ramachandra Kaviraja decided to dress themselves as merchants, go to the market place and wait for the challengers to come. Indeed when the smarta pandit and party came to the village market place, they sent their servant to buy provisions for cooking. The two devotees started to reply in very high sanskrit to the requests for goods, which made the brahmins sit up and take note. “How is it that you are talking in Sanskrit?” Ganganarayan and Ramachandra said, “We are just insignificant merchants who have taken initiation from Narottama dasa. He trains all his disciples in Sanskrit, and when Narottama hears that you are here, he, we are sure, would love to debate with you all.”
After some discussion the members of the pandit’s party were soundly defeated. Going back to the pandit they told their story, that in this village the disciples of Narottama, who are even the shopkeepers, speak Sanskrit. Hearing this, a contingent of brahmins were sent, and they were also defeated, then Rupa Narayana himself came, and in a very short time he too was defeated. Fearful of humiliation, they tried to slip away like the envious snakes they were, without confronting Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. However again, Durga devi apeared in the dreams of the party and told them to go to Narottama, and instead surrender at his feet. This they did, and in due course Rupa Narayana became one of the most intimate and foremost of Narottama’s disciples.
Narottama had many thousands of disciples, mostly in the areas of modern day Bangladesh. He passed away from this world under the tamarind tree at Prema Ghat by the side of the Ganges (Padma River) at Kheturi, where Lord Caitanya had sat, and where the goddess of the river presented to Narottama pure love of Godhead, after composing the beautiful song, “Saparsada bhagavad viraha janita vilapa,” which begins “je anilo prema dhana koruna pracur heno prabhu kotha gela acarya thakura.”
Living his life in separation from the Lord was one thing, but upon hearing the news from Vrndavan that Ramacandra Kaviraja had left this world, in separation from his beloved disciple, Srinivasacarya also passed away. This was too much for Narottama dasa, who, feeling that all the great devotees were now leaving, said then he will also leave.
How Narottama dasa Thakura left this world is another thing. He told his disciples to hold jubilant sankirtan, and he (being now quite old) sat on the steps of the bank of the Padma. He had his trusted Ganganarayana Cakravarti and Ramakrsna bathe his body with pots of water from the river. As the water touched the body of Narottama dasa, his body turned to a milky sustance and flowed with the current of the river until he could no longer be seen. Not that he merged as the mayavadis say, but he gave up that body to return to the pastimes of the Golden dancer in the spiritual world.
VISVANATHA CAKRAVATI THAKURA
Srila Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura was born in 1662 AD in the village of Devagram, Murshidabad district of Bengal, which at that time was ruled by Salaradighi Khan. Visvanatha Cakravati’s father was Ramanarayana Cakravati. After finishing his education in Devagram, Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura went to Saidabad to study Bhakti-sastras. In the list of guru parampara, which he included in his book “Sankalpa Kalpadruma”, he has mentioned that his guru was Sri Radharaman, and his spiritual master was Sri Krsnacaran Cakravati of Balucara Gambhila. Krsnacaran Cakravati was also the father of Radharaman Cakravati. Krsnacaran was a disciple of Narottama dasa Thakura. It is recorded in a song by Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada, Guru Parampara, verse 7, “To serve the feet of Narottama dasa Thakura was the only desire of Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura, who was the fourth acarya in disciplic succession from Narottama dasa.”
It is very nice to note on this point that none of the devotees we have just mentioned tried to force themselves between the loving relationship that Srila Visvanath Cakravati Thakura had with Srila Narottam dasa Thakura, whether it be out of envy or anything else. No, it was never like that. In fact it is recorded that these great and humble devotees instead tried to enhance the flavour of the love Srila Visvanatha Cakravati was tasting. Thus in such a Krsna centred mood Srila Visvanatha could quite easily put his trust in their hands and learn from their devotional experiences, knowing that his service for Narottama would be fulfilled.
In practically all paramparas listed, the line comes down from Narottama dasa to Visvanatha Cakravati – there is never any mention of his diksa or param gurus, as there is always consideration of his desire to serve his siksa guru, Narottama dasa.
Yukta Krsnacaran Cakravati was born the son of Sri Ramakrsna Acarya from Saidabad and was later adopted by Ganganarayana Cakravati of Balucara. After marrying, Krsnacandra moved to Saidabad where he took to teaching devotional scriptures. Under his tutelage, Visvanatha learned about Narottama, and he also studied Srimad Bhagavatam and other Vaisnava literatures. It is said that while residing with Krsnacaran Cakravati, Visvanatha began to write commentaries on the works of the Goswamis and composed his books of poetics – Alankara-Kaustubha, etc.
Visvanatha’s marriage was solemnized as a child but he never showed the slightest interest in married life. It is related that in fact he went off to Vrndavan at this time, but was ordered to return home again. At his home he stayed one night with his chaste wife, reading Srimad Bhagavatam to her, and then left once again early the next morning for Vrndavana. He was greatly respected by the Vaisnavas at Vrndavana and wrote many books, ie. 108 names of Tulasi, and a book on Vaisnava humours or mellows, and many astakamas (groups of eight prayers). Later he took formal sannyasa and received the name Hari Vallabha Goswami.
The next in line is Baladeva Vidyabhusana.
Actually it was not quite as straight forward and simple as it sounds. Baladeva was around at the same time as Srila Visvanatha and very much respected the old acarya. The feeling was mutual, and the Thakura put great faith in young Baladeva.
Baladeva Vidyabhusana was born in the early part of the 18th century in a village near Remuna. Even though he was the son of a vaisya (farmer), in his youth he received a very thorough education in Sanskrit, rhetoric, logic and Vaisnava scripture. He accepted sannyasa into the Madhva sampradaya at a very young age, and stayed at Jagannatha Puri. He became a renowned scholar and travelled around India to all the holy places. During his travels Baladeva came to Puri in Orissa (Utkala), and met with one disciple of the famous Rasikananda Prabhu of the name Sri Radha Damodara Deva Goswami. It was to the suprise of everyone that Baladeva was converted to Gaudiya Vaisnavism by Radha Damodara Deva Goswami, who first explained the philosophy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in accordance with the tenants of Vedanta Sutra and Srimad Bhagavatam, then initiated him as his formal disciple. Under his direction he studied Jiva Goswami’s Sat-Sandarbha, and he quickly became prominent in all intellectual circles.
There is an interesting story which shows the surrendered mood of Baladeva and his sincere desire to please his spiritual masters.
Once, when Visvanatha Cakravati was too old to travel, he sent Baladeva to a conference to represent Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Baladeva was required to prove the validity of Gaudiya Vaisnavism to the rest of the Vaisnava community from a scriptural point of view, and thus become duly authorized to speak on matters pertaining to rituals (puja) and Vaisnava religion. Though he was preaching furiously no-one was prepared to accept his statements according to Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy, although sufficient evidence was there. The reason others would not accept his statements was because there was no established commentary of Brahma Sutra or Vedanta Sutra to support Gaudiya Vaisnavism at that time. In every other sampradaya the founding or reforming acarya had made some form of commentary on Vedanta Sutra – Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, etc. Even though Lord Caitanya explained Vedanta Sutra, Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi Lila, (7.138-146) touching the main subject matter, nothing was written.
Some members of the Sri Sampradaya began to raise arguments in the court of the king at Jaipur. They complained that as the Gaudiya Vaisnavas had no commentary on the Vedanta Sutra, they were not qualified to worship the Deity, and therefore all of the worship should be turned over to the Sri Sampradaya. They also objected to the worship of Srimati Radharani along with Sri Govinda and Sri Gopinatha as not being authorised anywhere in the sastras.
The king, Sadacari Raja, was initiated within the Gaudiya Ssampradaya. Thus he quietly sent word to Vrindavan, informing
the devotees there of what had happened. At the same time the
king was obliged to remove Radharani temporarily from the Deity room, as well
as to suspend the Bengali Gaudiya Vaisnava pujaris from partaking in
the Deity worship.
As we have just stated, at that time Srila Visvanatha Cakravartipada was very aged, so it
was not possible for him to make the arduous journey to Jaipur. In his
place he sent his student, Sri Baladeva, who was fully conversant
with the sastras and thus able to competently face the challenge.
In a great assembly he posed such forceful arguments to the
followers of Ramanuja (the Ramanandis) they could not reply to them. He
further explained to them, “The originator of the Gaudiya
Vaisnava sampradaya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, has accepted Srimad
Bhagavatam as the natural commentary on the Vedanta Sutra, as
composed by Srila Vyasadeva Himself. This is proven in the
The scholars in the assembly however refused to accept anything
other than a direct commentary on the Vedanta sutra. Having no other
recourse, Baladeva promised to present them with one. They gave Baladeva eighteen days to have his commentary ready for discussion. The mood of the Ramanandis was much like “Put up or shut up,” which made Baladeva transcendentally anxious.
Feeling very aggrieved in this manner, Sri Baladeva took shelter of the Lord and came to Sri Govindaji’s mandira in Jaipur. After offering his prostrated obeisances, he informed Sri Govinda of everything that had happened. That night the Lord
appeared to him in a dream and instructed him to write a commentary on the Vedanta sutra. The Lord said, “You just write, and I will dictate to you what to write,
and therefore no one will be able to refuse to accept it.”
Having seen such a wonderful dream, Baladeva was totally enlivened and felt renewed strengh flow into his heart. Thus he began to write, and within a few days completed the commentary which was titled ‘Sri Govinda Bhasya’.
vidya rupam bhusanam me pradaya kyatim nitya tena yo mamudarah
sri Govinda svapna nirdista bhaso radha bandhubandhurangah sa jiyat
“May He Who so mercifully and munificiently was kind
towards me, and bestowed his favour by ordering me in a dream to
write down His own commentary, which He would compose, and which attained such renown amongst the learned circles that they bestowed upon me the title ‘Vidyabhusana’; may that dear friend of Srimati Radharani, who holds Him dearer than Her own life, be glorified. May that Sri Govinda be glorified.”
Bringing the commentary with him, Sri Baladeva again came to the assembly of the Ramanandi scholars. After reading the commentary they were simply speechless. Thus the victory of the Gaudiya sampradaya was announced far and wide, and the king, as well as the other devotees, began to float in the ocean of bliss. This assembly took place in the year 1628 Sakabda, at Golta near the present city of Jaipur.
Baladeva Vidyabhusana installed the Deity of Vijaya Gopala there at Golta Mandira, but the whereabouts of this Deity are at present not known. From this day on,
the Maharaja of Jaipur announced, “Sri Govinda’s arati would
be performed first, and then the other temples could perform their
After accepting defeat, the Ramanandi scholars expressed their desire to accept initiation from Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana. However he declined their request by stating that amongst the
four authorized sampradayas, the Sri Sampradaya was highly
respectable and the foremost adherent of dasya-bhakti (devotional service
in the mood of servitorship). If there was any cause of loss of respect to
the sampradaya this might be considered an offense.
Returning from Jaipur to Vrindavan, Sri Baladeva presented the certificate of victory to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura
and narrated all of the events that had transpired. All the devotees were in great ecstacy to receive this news and Cakravarti bestowed his full blessings on Sri Baladeva. At this time, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana began to write a commentary on Srila Jiva Gosvami’s Sat Sandarbha.
Sri Jaya and Sri Vijaya Govinda, residing at Gokulananda Mandira
in Vrindavan, were worshiped by Baladeva Vidyabhusana personally. According to the opinion of some devotees, the Deities of
Syamananda Prabhu, Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara, were installed by
Sri Baladeva Vidybhusana.
After Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura finished his pastimes in
this world, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana became the next acarya of
the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya. At the end of Vedanta Syamantaka Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana acknowledges his spiritual master thusly: “I have been sent here to
Vrindavan by one brahmana guru, Sri Radha-Damodara Deva, to
present a compositon named Vedanta Syamantaka, composed by his
mercy for the pleasure of Srimati Radharani.”
Srila Baladeva Vidybhusana became known later as Sri Govinda dasa. He had two well known disciples – Sri Vidya dasa and Sri Nandan Misra, but many others also.
Baladeva Vidyabhusana lived by the meaning of the following verse, knowing everything that had come to him was only the Lord’s mercy, and all that he had acheived was by that same grace.
vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham
“By all the Vedas I am to be known, indeed I am the compiler of the Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.”
Some of Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s most important works are:
1. Govinda-Bhasya, which is Vedanta Sutra commentary
4. Prameya Ratnavali
6. Aisvarya Kadambini
7. Samhitya Kaumudi
9. Kavya Kaustubha
10. Bhagavad-gita Bhasya
11. Vaisnavanandini Tika (commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam)
He also wrote commentaries on previous acarya’s works which are:
12. Tattva Sandarbha
13. Stana Mala
14. Gopala Tapani
15. Visnu Sahasra Nama
16. Laghu Bhagavatamrta
17. Natka Candrika
18. Syamananda Sataka
In Baladeva’s writings, his mood or rasa is a mixture of sakhya (friendship), dasya (servitorship) and vatsalya (parental love of Godhead), showing his roots in the Madhva line. There is still a small temple of Baladeva Vidyabhusana just outside the pink city of Jaipur in Rajasthan. At that place called Galta he has his Deities, and about one hundred amazing Saligram Silas. It was here that he firmly established Gaudiya Vaisnavism by defeating all the attacks on Gaudiya philosophy through his presentation of Govinda Bhasya. This is the incredible place where nearby the Ganges river miraculously appears from a rock in the form of a waterfall.
Baladeva Vidyabhusana lived his life from this time on respected greatly for his learned understanding of the conclusions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In later life he retired to Sri Vrndavana Dhama where he stayed to a ripe old age.
Some Madhvas say that Baladeva Vidyabhusana had no connection with Madhva previously, yet he himself claims differently. In his “Premeya Ratnavali” para 3, he says, “Let that ascetic be ever victorious, whose name is Ananda Tirtha, who is the abode of joy, who is the ship to cross the ocean of transmigratory existence, and whom the wise ever praise in this world.” In Para 4 he aligns himself to that lineage. “Those devotees who are free from all faults should constantly meditate on the faultless disciplic succession of teachers and disciples, because by such meditation one’s single pointedness of devotion is obtained, by which one receives the mercy of the Lord through the parampara.” Then at the end of Prameya Ratnavali, in his epilogue, he states how these principles were those of Madhvacarya and not his own, and in the final verse he says, “This Prameya Ratnavali should be kept in their hearts by the wise, as it contains the nine gems (ratnas) of propositions well proven (prameya), as they were composed by Ananda Tirtha (Sri Madhvacarya).”
Next comes Uddhava dasa Babaji the disciple of Baladeva Vidyabhusana. Uddhava dasa Babaji Maharaja’s disciple was Madhusudana dasa Babaji, and his disciple was Vaisnava Sarvabhauma – Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja. Nothing is really known of Madhusudana dasa Babaji or Uddhava dasa, as they are not considered major links, so we will go on to Jagannatha dasa Babaji the notable preacher.
JAGANNATHA DASA BABAJI
Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja was respected by all the Vaisnava community and was thus known as Vaisnava Sarvabhauma, or chief amongst the Vaisnavas. There are some nice stories connecting him with the finding of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s birthplace recorded in Sri Navadwipa Dhama Mahatmya.
Sri Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja was born around the year 1800 AD. He spent many years in Vrndavana where he became famous as a perfect devotee, though more than this is not known of his early years and pastimes. What we do know, however, is that he was particularly enthusiastic in serving the Lord’s devotees and performing kirtan. In later life his servant, Bihari Lal, used to carry him on his shoulders in a basket, though when he would hear a kirtan or himself be engaged in kirtan, his body would extend itself out of the basket like a beautiful banyan tree and he would loudly shout, “Nitai ki nam eneche re! Nitai, ki nam diteche re!” “O Lord Nityananda, what a wonderful name you have brought! O Nitai, what a wonderful name you have given!”
The stories which I will now relate are at the time when he was more than 120 years old. Living in a tent at Sri Navadwipa with Bihari Lal, his servant, he would eat prasadam from a large brass plate which someone had given as a donation. A litter of puppies which had taken birth nearby began to come and eat off Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja’s plate, but he did not object. After a few days however, Bihari Lal saw what was happening, and disgusted to see the dogs eat from his guru’s plate, he drove them away. Jagannatha dasa Babaji chastised Bihari Lal angrily saying, “If the dogs can’t eat I won’t eat!” His servant had to search out and bring back the puppies, and as they joined Babaji Maharaja again over his plate he exclaimed, “All glories to the dhama dogs!” Thus he always displayed his great respect for all the residents of the holy dhamas. On another occasion he had his servant purchase two hundred rupees worth of rasagulas and instructed him, “Feed them to all the dhama’s cows, but don’t give one to those rascal sahajiya babajis (pretenders).”
He was such a great devotee that the famous Bhaktivinoda Thakura (Kedarnath Datta) called him the commanding chief of the devotees. When Srila Bhaktivinoda was looking for the actual place where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s birthplace was, he asked Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja to go with him. During the many changes in the course of flow of the mighty Ganges River, some parts of the sacred dhama of Navadwipa (nine islands) had changed. The Ganges had revealed old and lost places and reclaimed new ones. To his surprise Bhaktivinoda Thakura discovered that the modern day city called Navadwipa was not more than 100 years old and therefore wasn’t the Navadwipa of Sri Caitanya. Some said the birth site was on a place now in the Ganges, while some said it was in the city of Navadwipa. Dissatisfied, Bhaktivinoda pushed on looking. He found some antiquarian maps and government records, and authentic books written at the time of Lord Caitanya, all of which agreed that Mayapur Navadwipa Dhama is situated on the east bank of the Ganges. To Bhaktivinoda’s amazement he found several large mounds covered with sacred tulasi plants on land owned by Mohammedans. It was shrouded with local rumours of strange lights and sounds, so the owner, believing it to be haunted, would not go there. Many old babajis of the time, however, believed this to be the actual birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Convinced it was true, Bhaktivinoda, inspired by Jagannatha dasa Babaji, went there to the spot, with Jagannatha dasa Babaji being carried in his basket.
Due to his old age, Jagannatha dasa Babaji couldn’t open his eyes, but had to forcibly open them with his fingers, what to speak of walk. If he went anywhere he was carried in his basket by Bihari Lal, but upon arriving at the transcendental site, he leapt out of the basket and danced in ecstasy shouting, “Haribol!” and “Gauranga!”, definitely establishing it to be the very same birthplace of Lord Caitanya.
gauravirbhava bhumes twam nirdesta sajjana priyah
vaisnava sarvabhauma sri jagannathaya te namah
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, who is respected by the entire Vaisnava community and who discovered the place where Lord Caitanya appeared.”
Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja had a disciple named Bhagavat dasa Babaji Maharaja, and Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji was his disciple. However at this time there was another great exponent of Vaisnava teachings that, on passing, we have already mentioned. His name is Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. And so the line again divides like this:
JAGANNATHA DASA BABAJI MAHARAJA
BHAGAVAT DASA BABAJI SRILA BHAKTIVINODA THAKURA
GAURA KISORA DASA BABAJI
Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who was named Kedarnath Datta by his father, was born in opulent circumstances in 1838. He encountered many hardships early in life, and lived at his maternal grandfather’s house in Birnagar (Ulagram) until his father died. At the time he was only thirteen, but he moved to Calcutta and finished his education there. Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s diksa guru was of the name Vipin Bihari Goswami, though his siksa guru was Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja.
Bhaktivinoda’s paternal grandfather lived in a secluded spot in Orissa and was an old ascetic who knew the future. When the old ascetic was about the pass away, he fixed his mind of the Lord and gave his final instructions to his grandson (Bhaktivinoda) to visit all the holy places in Orissa. Bhaktivinoda was engaged in teaching for some time, then joined the civil service and was transferred back to Bengal. Some years later he requested to move back to Jagannatha Puri, and as the Government commissioner was very pleased with him, he began to manage the Jagannatha Mandir on behalf of the government. He rectified many malpractices, and as a magistrate of Puri, locked up an impostor claiming to be Maha-Visnu. Many local persons were afraid of this person due to his mystic tantric powers, and they even feared for the well-being of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Bhaktivinoda never-the-less imprisoned the rascal and shaved the imposters hair off, in which he was reputed to store his mystic powers. After this, the impostor cursed the Thakura by tantra to which Bhaktivinoda became quite ill, but a day or two later the tantric passed away, dead.
The Thakura made an onslaught against those who belonged to the apasampradayas who were polluting Gaudiya Vaisnavism by basically thirteen deviant philosophies – Aula, Baula (2 types), Karttabhaja, Neda, Daravesa, Sani, Sahajiya, Sakhibheki, Smarta, Jatagosani, Ativadi, Cudadhari and Gauranga-Nagari. These deviant groups, mostly because of their boldness, had been seen by the public as the Gaudiya Sampradaya, though actually none were following the pure Vaisnava regulative principles strictly, as laid down by the followers of Sri Krsna Caitanya (namely the Goswamis). Being a follower of the Goswamis or not is interdependant on qualifying one to be a Gaudiya Vaisnava.
This whole time Bhaktivinoda was writing commentaries on the works of the Goswamis as well as his own books explaining pure Vaisnavism, and he started a society called Sri Visva Vaisnava Sabha, for propagating pure Hari Bhakti. Srila Bhaktivinoda many times tried to get transferred to Navadwipa, so anxious was he to see the land of Sri Caitanya. He handed in his resignation from public service but it was refused. Finally he was transferred to Krsnagar, just 25 miles from Navadwipa. Once stationed there, every second spare was spent in Mayapur. As mentioned in the story of Jagannatha dasa Babaji, Thakura Bhaktivinoda, along with Babaji Maharaja found Lord Caitanya’s birthplace in the year 1887. Bhaktivinoda Thakura personally, in a spirit of pure humility, went door to door collecting to raise funds to build a temple on the very site. In the Amrta Bazaar Patrika, December 1894, an article appeared: “Babu Kedarnatha Datta, the distinguished magistrate who has just retired from service, is one of the most active members. Indeed, Babu Kedarnatha Datta has been deputed by his committee to raise subscriptions in Calcutta and elsewhere and is determined to go from house to house if necessary and beg a rupee from each Hindu gentleman for noble purpose. If Babu Kedarnatha Datta sticks to his resolution of going around with bag in hand, we hope that no Hindu gentleman whose house may be honoured by the presence of such a devout bhakta as Babu Kedarnatha, will send him away without contributing his mite, however humble it may be, to the Gaura-Visnupriya Temple Fund.” His venture was highly successful and the temple was built. That place is now called Yogapitha.
As a householder Bhaktivinoda (Kedarnatha Datta) had two wives and no less than 10 children, of which the great Vaisnava scholar Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was one. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was born in Sri Purusottama Ksetra (Jagannatha Puri) on 6th February 1874 AD, answering the prayer of Bhaktivinoda for the Lord to send a ray of Visnu to preach the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world. He was given the name Bimal Prasad.
When the child was six months old, Lord Jagannatha’s cart stopped in front of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s house in Puri for three days during the procession. Bhaktivinoda told his wife, Bhagavati Devi, to bring out the child for darsan of Lord Jagannatha. As she placed the child before the Lord, a garland from the Lord encircled the baby boy, and the first grain ceremony was performed at that time with Jagannatha prasad. The boy later became the spiritual master of our founder spiritual master A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, by who’s mercy this book is coming together.
Once Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and his son-cum-assistant went to see Bhaktivinoda’s guru, Vipin Bihari Goswami.There is an interesting little story which captures the mood of Bhaktivinoda and that of his son, then named Siddhanta Saraswati. In their siddha deha as pure nitya siddha, eternal associates of Lord Krsna, Bhaktivinoda Thakura is Kamala Manjari, one of the maid servants of the gopis, and Siddhanta Saraswati is her assistant Nayana Manjari. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s dealings with his diksa guru were always exemplary, even though Vipin Bihari Goswami was not very advanced, being a kanistha adhikari guru, whereas the Thakura was an uttama adhikari, paramahamsa of the highest order. Still Bhaktivinoda always played the humble disciple. On one such occassion in the presence of young Siddhanta Saraswati, Bhaktivinoda Thakura paid his respectful obeisances to his guru. Vipin Bihari Goswami replied by placing his feet on the Thakura’s head. For the young firey Siddhanta Saraswati this was too much! It was one thing that his father had accepted him as his formal initiating spiritual master, but this was going too far. Srila Siddhanta Saraswati was only seven years old at the time, but when Bhaktivinoda Thakura left the room leaving the two of them alone, Siddhanta Saraswati decided to set things straight.
” You are acting like a big, big guru and you place your feet on the heads of those who you don’t know. If you knew who the Thakura is you would not do it. But you do not know! My father is a great exhalted nitya siddha, eternal associate of Sri Radha and Krsna who has come here to fulfill Their mission. Do you think that you are so advanced that you can place your feet on the head of such a person? I think not. You have proven yourself to be a kanistha adhikari (neophyte) by not being able to distinguish between those who are advanced and those who are less advanced, therefore I suggest that you desist from this practice any further.” Bhaktivinoda Thakura then re-entered the room and the conversation changed. Later that day Vipin Bihari Goswami mentioned to Bhaktivnoda, “Your son is bold to the point of being rude.” Later Thakura Bhaktivinoda found out about the conversation and used to jokingly glorify his exhalted son to his friends, saying how he is fearless, that he even chastised my guru Vipin Bihari Goswami.
Reflecting on this incident we can see that even if one’s spiritual master is not an uttama adhikari, mahabhagavat devotee of the Lord still one should be satisfied, and serve him anyway. Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who himself was certainly a mahabhagavat, set the example how to serve and show respects. On the other side of the transcendental coin, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati showed a nice lesson to us. We should not show ourselves to be more advanced than we really are, lest we commit offences against those who are actually advanced.
As with all of the wonderful personalities we have touched on there are so many things that can be said to glorify such incredible devotees, but just to keep this book in perspective we are just trying to give a taste. For further details on Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Rupa Vilasa Prabhu, a disciple of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has compiled a book on the life of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura entitled “The Seventh Goswami”.
GAURA KISORA DASA BABAJI
The next in the parampara is an associate of Bhaktivinoda Thakura – a great paramahamsa babaji by the name of Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. He was the disciple of Bhagavat dasa Babaji Maharaja, who was a disciple of Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja.
In 1897 Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja came to Mayapur Navadwipa Dhama from Sri Vrndavana Dhama, where he was accredited the exhaulted title “Bhajananandi”. Bhaktivinoda, seeing the transcendental behaviour of Babaji Maharaja, would use him as an example of nirapeksa (indifference), as his level of renunciation was beyond belief.
Babaji Maharaja would often visit Bhaktivinoda. During his last days in retirement, absorbed in Krsna katha, he would hear Srimad Bhagavatam at Bhaktivinoda’s house and they would discuss together. Though Babaji Maharaja could neither read nor write he was regarded as vastly learned and self-realized. His only possessions were the tulasi beads around his neck and the japa mala he kept in his hand. Sometimes he wore no tulasi mala on his neck and would chant on knotted cloth as beads – such was his renunciation. Sometimes he would live under an old broken overturned boat, and other times he would scatter fish bones around a place he occasionally used as his bhajan kutir to make materialists think he was a fish-eater, and thus they would not disturb him. But by his pure bhajan he purified the three worlds.
In 1898 when Bhaktivinoda’s son, who was now residing in Godrumadwipa in Navadwipa Dhama, first came in contact with the person who was to be his spiritual master, Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, the crest jewel of avadhutas was wearing a tigerskin hat and carrying a basket with puja paraphernalia inside. He offered the boy four or five pieces of rope for chanting his rounds on, and a tilak stamp for marking with body with Hare Krsna carved on it. Bhaktivinoda later told his son, “You must take initiation from Babaji Maharaja, and don’t return to this house if you don’t.” Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji used to walk across a bridge at the same time daily, so on one occasion Bhaktivinoda’s son, Siddhanta Saraswati, blocked his path and in all humility said, “If you don’t give me initiation then I will finish my life by throwing this useless body off this bridge.” Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja didn’t want any disciples – he himself had taken siksa from Bhaktivinoda, and this was Bhaktivinoda’s dear son! Siddhanta Saraswati told him how his father had instructed him to become Babaji Maharaja’s disciple or not return home, so in 1900 Babaji Maharaja gave him the name Varsabhanavi-devi-dayita dasa. He then gave his new initiate the tiger skin hat and basket that had been given to Gaura Kisora by his spiritual master Bhagavat dasa Babaji, which he in turn had received from Jagannatha dasa Babaji.
In 1908 Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja lost his external eye sight, so he then stopped travelling and just chanted and performed worship of Krsna. Being aloof from external consciousness, sometimes he would not dress his body – instead he would sit in his bhajan kutir internally absorbed in Krsna’s pastimes and in a very deep voice be heard calling the names of the gopis of Vrndavana.
Once Varsabhanavi-devi-dayita dasa (Siddhanta Saraswati) offered to take Babaji Maharaja to Calcutta to see an eye specialist, but he refused saying, “Never! I will never go to the material world.” His disciple protested, “But in Calcutta I could serve you nicely. You wouldn’t have to undergo any inconvenience.” But Babaji Maharaja was adamant declaring, “I will never accept this service. Better I throw myself in the Saraswati (Jalanghi) and drown.”
Once Babaji Maharaja turned up at the Yoga Pitha (Lord Caitanya’s birthplace) at two in the morning. Amazed, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati enquired how he got there in the pitch black of night. Babaji Maharaja replied, “Someone brought me here.” “Who could have brought you such a distance at this time?” enquired Bhaktisiddhanta. Finally his mind concluded, “It must have been Krsna who personally brought you here or else how did you cross the Ganges? How did you find your way across the dark fields?” But Babaji Maharaj would not answer more than, “One person brought me across the river – that’s all.”
One day Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja wrapped his body and two feet with a cloth. Sitting covered like this he said, “Many persons, after being informed by others, come here to collect the dust from my feet. I tell them I am not a Vaisnava. If you go to the vicinity where there are Vaisnavas with their feet pretentiously decorated and extended to touch, you can have unlimited dust. How can I bless you? I don’t have barfi or sandesh or rasagulla, or even sweet words. How can I bless you? Nowadays people are interested in spiritual masters who can give these things – wealth, good wife, sweet words – these cheating things are now taken as anakula (favourable).”
On 22nd June,1914 Bhaktivinoda Thakura passed from this world into his samadhi (deep meditation) on Lord Krsna in Bhakti Bhavan, and on November 17th,1915 Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, on the Utthana Ekadasi, also left this world. He was placed into a samadhi tomb, but sixteen years later, due to flooding, the samadhi had to be moved. There was a clamour of local babajis trying to claim the samadhi, but Bhaktisiddhanta (Varsabhanavi-devi-dayita dasa) told everybody frankly, “I am the only disciple of Paramahamsa Babaji Maharaja. Even though I have not accepted sannyasa, I am a celibate brahmacari and by the grace of Babaji Maharaja I am not secretly addicted to abominable habits or involved in fornication as some monkey-like people are. If there is someone amongst the people here present who is a renunciate of stainless character, then he can have Babaji Maharaja’s samadhi. We have no objection to that. He, who within the last year, or the last six months, three months, one month or at least within the last three days, has not had illicit connection with a woman will be able to touch this spiritual blissful body. If anyone else touches it he will be completely ruined.” Hearing these words, the inspector of police, who had come to judge for a fair and honest decision said, “How will evidence be had for this?” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati replied, “I have faith in their word.” At this, one by one all the bogus babajis slipped away without a word.
All these three devotees are very much interlinked – Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Gaura Kisora dasa babaji and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada, who became the next in the parampara.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada was known as simha (lion) guru due to his fearless and ferocious preaching. If an impersonalist saw him on the street, the impersonalist would cross the road in fear, or turn off onto another street. Those who didn’t, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta would go up to and shake them violently, his huge body towering over them, and say, “Why do you say the Lord has no form? Nonsense offender!”
In his life he founded 64 Gaudiya Math temples throughout India and even sent sannyasis to Germany and England. During this time Abhay Caran De (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami) met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada. He was a young man – a khadi clad follower of Ghandi’s national movement. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, seeing this bright faced young man before him, convinced him of a necessity to preach Krsna consciousness. In this world there is no shortage of anything, only Krsna consciousness.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta also requested young Abhay Caran De, “You are an intelligent young man. If you ever get money, print books in the English language.” Our Srila Prabhupada was so impressed that he took this as his life’s mission. Some eleven years later he took diksa initiation from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, who told his other disciples who printed the Sajjana Tosai newspaper on his order, “Whatever Abhay Caran writes, print it.” He obviously knew his worth.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada was always eager to reveal transcendental knowledge. Whenever he found an eager listener he would go on speaking, not knowing bounds of time and space. Disregarding requests of his medical advisers, up to the last moment, he continued to deliver the message of the Supreme Lord to all people. This was his only purpose for his appearance in this world. All his tours were highly successful, though not without events because many of his disciples were not from orthodox Brahmin families. Though they wore the sacred yajnopavitra (Brahmin thread) of the twice-born, many so-called Brahmins objected. Shops would refuse to sell their goods to Bhaktisiddhanta’s brahmana and sannyasi disciples, even though according to the Pancaratrika system of Vaisnava agamas, they were all properly initiated as brahmanas and sannyasis.
His whole life was spent in a mood of loving devotion to the Lord. He was fully devoted to spreading the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The numerous publications and commentaries on the works of the previous acaryas establishing the Lord to be saccidananda vigraha is quite evident of this fact.
In 1936, whilst residing in the holy dhama of Jagannatha Puri at the age of 62 he left this mortal world to again return to the loving pastimes of Sri Sri Radha Krsna in Brajaloka.
The full life story of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaja Prabhupada can be found in one very nice book which is a compilation and summary study of many books of the time on the life of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, and is entitled ” A ray of Visnu ,” as was prayed for by his father before his taking birth. This book is available through ISKCON, and was published by Rupa Vilas prabhu a disciple of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s father, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, had a vision one night on the other side of the River Jalanghi, opposite his house. In the open fields he saw a huge city made up of all Vaisnavas from all over the world. There would be Americans, Australians, Canadians, Africans, Chinese, Russian, English – every nation’s devotees dancing together in transcendental kirtan and chanting “Jaya Saci-nandana Gaura Hari”. Astrologers predicted that a person of great saintly character, full in all Vaisnava qualities , who could build a house in which the whole world could live peacefully, would appear to set back the flow of Kali Yuga.
We have seen after the passing of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada, the Gaudiya Math underwent some difficulties. At this time the saintly figure emerged, who was to become notably one of the great acaryas in Vaisnava history, though he remained in humble circumstances, preparing himself for the mission that would not only fulfil his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada’s order, but would fulfil the desire of all the great Vaisnavas in the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya and gain the praise and amazement of other sampradayas, religionists and scholars alike.
That person is Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, known by his loving followers as Srila Prabhupada.
A.C. BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI SRILA PRABHUPADA
I humbly offer my respectfull obeisances unto Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya Nitya Lila Pravista 108 Sri Srimad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swamin Srila Prabhupda, the life and soul of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. His full life story can be found in the seven volume set entitled “Prabhupada – Lilamrta” by His Holiness Satsvarupa Goswami, this in itself tells more than I could ever say.
” Preaching is the essence, Purity the force, Books the basis, and Utility the principal,” this is the mood of Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada worked for many years to establish his Back to Godhead magazine, and to complete his edition of Srimad Bhagavad-gita As It Is. This was surely a lifetime in preparation. Continuously he meditated on his spiritual master’s words: “If you ever get money, print books.” Prabhupada knew that nothing was more dear to his spiritual master than seeing books in the English language, printed and distributed, but how to do this?  Having full faith in guru and Krsna, always expecting their mercy, daily Srila Prabhupada pushed on even in the 60 degree centigrade heat of Vrndavana and Delhi summers. He would write in his humble rooms overlooking the courtyard at the Sri Sri Radha-Damodara Temple, where the six Goswamis, four hundred years previously, would sit and take prasadam and discuss Vaisnava philosophy and the loving pastimes of Sri Radha Krsna in the presence of Lord Caitanya. At this sacred place, the home of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, Srila Prabhupada, by the mercy of the parampara, became surcharged.
At the time of Srila Prabhupada’s birth an expert astrologer calculated that at an advanced age he would cross the ocean and open a hundred centres, and it is noteworthy that in that very same year Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s book was accepted into McGill University in Canada. The parampara was planning and working together.
When the time was right, and things were radically changing in the west. The youth were looking for the positive alternative – something to give lasting peace after decades of war. With complete disregard for his own safety he went to a place that Vaisnavas normally find distaseful. The most materially successful place, but a land of passion and ignorance, where intoxication, illicit sex, and cow killing were a way of life, beset with crazy misguided youth and demoniac scientists, Srila Prabhupada, at an age when most elderly gentlemen would be thinking of rest and retirement, started a revolution that has without any doubt, changed the face of the earth.
aitam sa asthaya paratmanistha madhyasitam purvatamairmaharsibhih
aham tarisyami durantaparam tamo mukundanghri nisevayaiva
” Following in the lotus footsteps of the great rsis (we shall cross), he has crossed over the impassible ocean of the material existance by means of devotion to the Supreme Lord and by the transcendental service of Lord Mukunda, the Lord of liberation. ”
The pure unalloyed Vaisnavas like Srila Prabhupada always act in a way that is pleasing to the Lord and in no other way, as in the case of Lord Caitanya’s servant, who, after Lord Caitanya fell asleep across the doorway of the room, stepped over His body to perform devotional service for the Lord. Upon Lord Caitanya’s waking he saw that His dear servant was still in the room and had not taken his meal. Lord Caitanya enquired why he had not gone for his meal, and the devotee replied that he couldn’t as You, the Lord were sleeping, blocking the door. The Lord further enquired saying, “How then did you enter they room?” The devotee replied that, “I had stepped over You so I could do some service for You, but for my service, service of my tongue and belly, I could not cross over You as this would be an offence.”
There are many stories like this in the Srimad Bhagavatam. One story relates how, at one time, Lord Sri Krsna played the part of having a headache. He stated that the only medicine was to take the dust from the lotus feet of the brahmanas, and so approached the brahmanas in that way. Thinking for their own welfare and not for Krsna’s, they all said that if they were to allow the Supreme Lord to take their feet on His head, they would all go to hell, never to return. However, when Krsna approached the gopis, the simple cowherd girls of Vrndavana with the same request, without hesitation gave Krsna their feet and He placed them on His head. Their thoughts are recorded as, “We don’t care if we go to hell. Let us satisfy our Krsna. If Krsna is suffering we will do anything we can to relieve Him.”
Another time in Jagannatha Puri temple, which gets very full, an old lady climbed onto the body of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to see the forms of Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva and Lady Subhadra. Many devotees were perplexed, but Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu could see her deep love for the Lord, and thus allowed her to do so. Another is in the case of Lord Krsna Himself, who broke His promise to save His devotee Arjuna. When grandfather Bhisma attacked Arjuna, Krsna ran at Bhisma to crush him with a chariot wheel, even though Krsna had said he would not intervene in the battle. Yet for His devotee He gave up His reputation. So in the same way, as a spotless paramahamsa Vaisnava sannyasi of the Lord, “our Srila Prabhupada,” for the service of the Lord and for the service of mankind, all living entities, took up the preaching mission as laid down by the Personality of Godhead, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
He was never concerned for the petty critisizms of the caste consious smartas, and gosais who never preached to try to lessen the suffering of the living entities in this world. He strictly followed the higher principal of compassion to all the conditioned souls.
bharata-bhumite haila manusya janma yara
janma sarthaka kari kara para upakara
“One who has taken his birth as a human being in Bharata Bhumi (India) should make his life successful and work for the benefit of all peoples outside India as well as in India.”
Lord Caitanya again points out:
ateva saba phala deha ‘yare tare
khaiya ha-uk loka ajara amare
“Distribute this Krsna consciousness movement all over the world. Let people eat these fruits of love of Godhead and ultimately become free from old age and death.” Caitanya Caritamrta Adi (9.39)
atheva ami ajnadilvn sabakare
yahan tahan prema-phala deha ‘yare tare
“Therefore I (the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu) order every man within this universe to accept this Krsna consciousness movement and distribute it everywhere.” Caitanya Caritamrta Adi (9.35-36)
We can truely see that Srila Prabhupada followed in the mood of the great predecessor acaryas like Madhvacarya, Vyasatirtha, the Goswamis’, for he was never simply attached to the worldly system of varna and asrama, or materialistic ettiquette, and its dogma. Still anyone could see he was a great Vaisnava brahmin of the highest character, but when necessity called for it he did not hesitate to involve himself in day to day management to ensure that his preaching mission, his life’s mission to fulfill the order of his Guru maharaj went on, which normally someone who was thinking himself to be a sannyasi, or big big guru would not do.
Now we are seeing the fruits of Srila Prabhupada’s selfless surrender, but according to some, one in the renounced order of life should not cross a small ocean. And if one is thinking himself as a material designation such as a sannyasi then surely it is better that one doesn’t go any where lest he become contaminated.
Srila Prabhupada’s mission though was so necessary, I for one would not be here writting this book if it were not for his compassion for the fallen conditioned souls, such as myself, who somehow or another had fallen into this material pool and were suffering like anything there, ( This is not some poetry or exagerated arthavadic statement, I mean LIKE ANYTHING ).
Srila Prabhupada, by his mercy, on the order of his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura came to smash the philosophies of impersonalism and voidism. Not only are pure Vaisnavas crossing a small watery ocean like a calf’s hoof-print, but are successfully crossing the ocean of birth and death, and enabling many thousands of souls in this world to do the same. On the order of guru and Krsna, therefore, the Madhva Sampradaya is successfully spreading all over the universe. To enable this mission to be established Prabhupada nearly sacrificed his very life on the journey across the treacherous Atlantic Ocean that remitted two heart attacks, but this humble pure devotee’s love for the Lord changed everything. The Lord even appeared in a dream to Srila Prabhupada, in a boat full with many incarnations, saying they would protect their lonely ambassador. The captain of the Jaladuta (the ship on which Prabhupada left India) said that it was the smoothest voyage he had ever had, and asked Prabhupada to come with him on the return to guarantee another smooth Atlantic voyage.
To capture the mood of Srila Prabhupada we have included the English translation of the Bengali prayer that Srila Prabhupada wrote on his arrival at Commonwealth Pier on September 17th 1965, Boston, U.S.A.
One should try to picture the scene, looking at the seat of western materialism he had come to fulfill the order of his spiritual master. The intensity of standing on the battle field overlooking the armies assembled, or ready to embark upon one’s aloted “sankirtan spot” prepared with intent, meditative, observant, dependant, where to start? Srila Prabhupada on board the ship Jaladuta, carrying within his heart the order of his spiritual master to spread the teachings of Sri Caitanya beyond the borders of India throughout the entire world, overviewed his purpose. As he looked out upon Bostons’ bleak and dirty skyline he could understand the difficulty of this sacred mission for these Godless people. Thus, with perfect humility, he composed this historic prayer, praying for the deliverance of all the fallen souls.
1. ” My dear Lord Krsna, You are so kind upon this useless soul, but I do not know why You have brought me here. Now you can do whatever you like with me.
2. But I guess You have some business here, otherwise why would You bring me to this terrible place?
3. Most of the population here is covered by the material modes of ignorance and passion. Absorbed in material life, they think themselves very happy and satisfied and therefore they have no taste for the transcendental message of Vasudeva. I do not know how they will be able to understand it.
4. But I know Your causeless mercy can make everything possible because You are the most expert mystic.
5. How will they understand the mellows of devotional service? O Lord, I am simply praying for Your mercy so that I will be able to convince them about Your message.
6. All living entities have come under the control of the illusory energy by Your will, and therefore, if you like, by Your will they can also be released from the clutches of illusion.
7. I wish that You may deliver them. Therefore, if You so desire their deliverance, then only will they be able to understand Your message.
8. The words of the Srimad Bhagavatam are Your incarnation, and if a sober person repeatedly receives it with submissive aural reception, then he will be able to understand Your message.
9. It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam (1.2.17-21): “Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma (Supersoul) in everyones’ heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who relishes His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted. By regularly hearing the Bhagavatam and rendering service unto the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is practically destroyed to nil and loving service unto the glorious Lord, Who is praised with transcendental songs, is established in the heart, the modes of passion (raja) and ignorance (tamas) and lust and desire (kama) disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness and he becomes happy. Thus established in the mode of goodness, the man rejuvenated by loving service to the Lord gains liberation from material association (mukti) and comes to know scientifically of the Personality of Godhead. Thus the knots of the heart and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions (karma) is terminated when one sees the Self as master.”
10. He will become liberated from the influence of the modes of ignorance and passion and this all inauspicious things accumulated in the core of the heart will disappear.
11. How will I make them understand this message of Krsna consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified, and the most fallen. Therefore I am seeking Your benediction so that I can convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own.
12. Somehow of other, O Lord, You have brought me here to speak about You. Now, My Lord, it is up to You to make me a success or failure as You like.
13. O spiritual master of all the world! I can simply repeat Your message, so if you like You can make my power of speaking suitable for their understanding.
14. Only by Your causeless mercy will my words become pure. I am sure that when this transcendental message penetrates their hearts they will certainly feel gladdened and thus become liberated from all unhappy conditions of life.
15. O Lord, I am just like a puppet in Your hands. So if You have brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance, O Lord make me dance as You like.
16. I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge, but I have strong faith in the Holy Name of Krsna. I have been designated as Bhaktivedanta, and now if You like You can fulfil the real purport of Bhaktivedanta.
Signed – the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, on board the ship Jaladuta, Commonwealth Pier, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., 18 September 1965.
Arriving with only forty rupees in his pocket and a trunk full of Canto One of the Srimad Bhagavatam in three parts, Srila Prabhupada, the ambassador for the priceless truth of ancient India, the panacea, that makes lame men walk and blind men see, was about to embark on his mission that we have seen, has changed the face of the whole earth. Srila Prabhupada relied completely on Krsna, sitting down beneath a tree in Tomkins Square Park . The Yuga Dharma was put to the test – “Just chant Hare Krsna and your life will be sublime.” Prabhupada’s faith in guru and Krsna gave everyone who came in contact with his message the living purport to devotional life.
On the Jaladuta ship in mid-Atlantic, suffering heart attacks, Prabhupada composed the following prayers knowing how, by the order and desire of Lord Sri Caitanya and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, everything would go on.
sri siddhanta saraswati saci-suta priya ati
krsna-sevaya jara tula nai
sei se mohanta-guru jagater madhe uru
krsna bhakti dey thai thai
tara iccha balavan pascatyete than than
yoy jate gauranger nam
prthivite nagaradi asamudra nada nadi
sakalei loy krsna nam
“Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddanta Saraswati Thakura, who is very dear to Lord Gauranga, the son of mother Saci, is unparalleled in his service to the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna. He is that great saintly spiritual master who bestows intense devotion to Krsna at different places throughout the world. By his intense desire, the Holy Name of Gauranga will spread throughout all the countries of the western world. In all the cities, towns and villages on the earth, from all the oceans, seas, rivers and streams, everyone will chant the Holy Name of Krsna.”
Sitting on a park bench in New York City, Prabhupada, in conversation with an acquaintance said, “We have so many temples, so many devotees, so many books….. There is just some time separating us.” And it became a fact. By Srila Prabhupada’s humility and determination to satisfy guru, the parampara and Krsna, to save all the fallen souls suffering due to ignorance in this materialistic age of Kali, his years of intense study and writing had given Krsna a perfect instrument to work with.
When so much success came, so many devotees, so many books, so many temples Srila Prabhupada remained meek and humble. In a letter of 1968 Prabhupada wrote :–
” Personally, I am a nonentity; I have come here on the order of my Spiritual Master, and He has kindly sent you all boys to assist me. So whatever is being done, there is no credit for me, but all the credit goes to my Spiritual Master, because He has arranged everything, and I am simply to abide by His order.”
The master at who’s feet other master sit, never ever utilised any facility for sense gratification. His purity and true renunciation was and is admired by all. Even sometimes persons would criticise Prabhupada’s followers due to our deep conditioning, not coming to the standard Prabhupada had set, still no honest man could criticise Prabhupada. He is still cherished in the memories of millions for his perfect Vaisnava qualities, more tolerant than a tree, humbler than a blade of grass, and always offering respects to others. Even he would glorify his disciples for their helping him, though the disciples knew it was by Prabhupada’s mercy that they were even there. Kindling the smallest flames of devotion, the perfect hotri set the entire world ablaze with Krsna Consciousness.
In just twelve short years he initiated tens of thousands of disciples, established temples in every major city in the world, and travelled extensively twelve times around the world in as many years. He established the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which is now one of the biggest book publishing houses in the world, which distributes transcendental literatures at a rate unparalleled. In every university, library, school, and many millions of houses there are now to be found the transcendental time bombs of Vedic wisdom – Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Sri Isopanisad, Bhaktirasamrta Sindhu (Nectar of Devotion), Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, and hundreds of small books and booklets on spiritual life.
All the great acaryas made commentaries of the Vedanta Sutra, and our Srila Prabhupada also mentioned that he had this planned. Actually if one studies Srila Prabhupada’s life and instructions on how to take up spiritual life, one will realize how the person “Bhagavata” and the scripture “Bhagavata” are non-different ( saksad dharitvena samasta sastraih ).
Every word that Srila Prabhupada spoke came as a translation of a verse with crystallized realizations in the form of the Bhaktivedanta purports, if one reads the purports of the previous acaryas, the faithful surrendered soul A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami echoed, and embellished the words of all the pure Vaisnava acaryas in our line. He virtually gave up his own idea, and even speach pattern to assimulate and simply deliver the word of the previous authorities, that is self surrender. This is why Krsna empowers such devotees, for Srila Prabhupada had no other interest but to spread the pure teachings of the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya to all who could take it. Every action that he made, every mudra (gesture) told of the ageless culture coming down from the Lord. If you doubt this, study his life. Srila Prabhupada may not have formally written Vedanta Sutra, but his life was the Bhakti-Vedanta-Sutra, and therefore must be accepted along with all the great Vaisnava acaryas like Narada, Vyasadeva, Acarya Madhva, Sri Caitanya, the Goswamis, Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Srila Bhaktivinoda and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Earnestly studying the commentaries of the great acaryas, Prabhupada preached their glories constantly.
Srila Prabhupada states in his purport to Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi Lila (7.21) that “All the codes of the Vedanta Sutra need not be examined here however, since we intend to present the Vedanta Sutra in a separate volume.” He was that volume personified. Actually if one takes the time to read the purports of these verses of the 7th chapter of Adi Lila of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, one will easily understand the purport to the stanza the person “Bhagavata” and the book “Bhagavata” are one and the same. Srila Prabhupada is a living example of the Vedanta Sutras. Barely sleeping at night, he would stay up translating and writing his purports, then daily giving lectures, going on walks and having room discussions with his disciples and guests. Whatever way one looks at this, the conclusion must be that Srila Prabhupada is definitely the bona-fide representative of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya. As all the acaryas have left their commentary on Vedanta Sutra, so Srila Prabhupada left his in the form of his life.
On his last journey around the world stopping at London’s Bhaktivedanta Manor, I, for a very short time, had the great good fortune of being able to see His Divine Grace and have but a few “exchanges”. At this time I accepted His Divine Grace as the Lord of my life, my spiritual master, not officially, but within my heart, this no one can deny me. Thus Srila Prabhupada has changed my life, feeling so indebted, I humbly dedicate this book to His divine grace, for if it had not been for him, I have no idea of my future.
A few months later, on Monday November 14th 1977, which fell upon the caturthi, of the Gaura (sukla) paksa, Mula naksatra, Srila Prabhupada gave up this mortal frame surrounded by loving disciples engaged in sankirtan (the congregational chanting of the Holy Name). Translating Bhagavatam up until the very last breath, with the Holy Name on his tongue Srila Prabhupada passed from this world in Sri Vrndavana Dhama to rejoin his worshipful Lords Sri Sri Nitai Gaura, Sri Sri Krsna Balarama, and Sri Sri Radhe Syamasundara in Their eternal abode.
“He reason ill who tells that Vaisnavas die
When thou art living still in sound!
The Vaisnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the Holy Name around!”
(Poem by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.)
Before Srila Prabhupada’s departure he told his leading devotees to continue his mission and how to follow his instructions. He also said that all of us would show our love for him by how we co-operate together to continue what he had established. Now on Srila Prabhupada’s order, under his managerial authority, the “Governing Body Commission”, and due to the need of devotees accepting a personal guide, a spiritual master coming in a pure line of disciplic succession, many advanced devotees have accepted the “love burden” of assisting Srila Prabhupada to push on the preaching in various wonderful ways and continue to make available the process of disciplic succession by initiating those desirous of spiritual life, into the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya, to give good association and re-establish the wandering souls to our Lord and master’s lotus feet, Lord Sri Krsna.
SRI BRAHMA MADHVA GAUDIYA VAISNAVA SAMPRADAYA KI JAYA
Some also say that the birth place was at Damauli?
According to Vayu Purana it says, “Previously there have been twenty-eight Vyasas, but when the twenty-eighth appears, Lord Visnu, the most glorious, great father of the three worlds, becomes Dvaipayana Vyasa. Then Lord Sri Krsna, the best amongst the Yadus will be born of Vasudeva and will be known as Vasudeva. Then in due course I (Vayu) will come in the form of an ascetic and assuming the body of a religious student, will surprise the world by means of the Lord’s yoga maya.” (Vayu Purana 23.206-208)
(Actually, this is Vayu announcing his appearance as Madhvacarya.)
There is also a mayavadin of the same name of almost the same time, consequently these two are often confused. As B.N.K.Sharma the Madhwa scholar has pointed out in his book “History of the Dvaita school of Vedanta”, Pg 229 Jayatirtha completely ignored any works of Madhava Tirtha, not even mentioning him in any way shape or form!
At the end of this book there will be more details on Srila Vyasatirtha and Vadiraja Tirtha.
Unfortunately this temple was very badly damaged by the Mogal invaders some time after the demise of Raja Krsnadevaraya. The Mogals had for nearly two centuries tried to conquer this mighty Vaisnava kingdom. The kingdoms’ demise to what it is now came about not so much from the attacks of the Muslimads, but from the curse of a dying brahmin. The story is recorded that once the Muslim invaders, lead by Mujahid, entered the outer part of the city and dispersed, killing many of the brahmanas who lived there. (This place is the old Kishkinda forest mentioned in the Ramayana, and birth place of the son of Vayu, Hanuman. There is a huge deity of Hanuman made from one singular granite stone at that place.) The invading sultan chopped the priests to the ground and then struck the deity of Hanumanji in the face. A dying priest was heard to say, “For this act you will perish here and also this city will withdraw its opulences from you. You have brought about the end of your life.” Then he gave up this world, as later did the sultan. The deity is still there to this day with the marks of the attempt to harm him slightly visible. This town is now known as Hampi, just a short bus ride from Hospet, which is on the main railway line in Northern Karnataka.
It is also mentioned that “another disciple of Jayadharma (Vijayadhavaja) was Brahmana Purusottama. This Brahmana Purusottama according to some, is another name for Brahmanya Tirtha, the disciple of Jayadharma, who Vyasatirtha took diksa from.
The following story of the discovery of Gopala is but one event in the life of Madhavendra Puri, described in the Caitanya Caritamrta written by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami in the year 1616. Gopala is still being worshipped today in Nathdwar, near Udaipur.
fAccording to Gaudiya Vaisnavas, Vrndavan dasa Thakura is an incarnation of Vyasadeva.
All the deviations found in the various Apa-sampradayas are simply made up of delicate yet dangerous mixtures of the desire for fruitive results (karma), and their concocted mental speculations (jnana). See BTG articles on this subject by H.H. Suhotra Swami, or better still, hear his graphic classes explaining the “hows and wherefore’s”.
Some records say that Jiva Goswami at this time stayed in an abandoned crocodile hole on the bank of the Yamuna river.
A cubit measures from the tip of the fingers to the bend of the arm, the elbow.
 Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada mentions that Yasohara is a railway station on the Eastern Bengal Railways and is in modern day Bangladesh. From that station one has to go by bus to the village of Sonakhali and from there to Khejora. From there one has to walk, or during the rainy season, go by boat to the village of Talakhadi.
There is another story mostly in connection with Srinivas, how he managed to reclaim the books of the Goswami’s. All these incredible activities are to be found in the book “The Lives of the Vaisnava Saints,” again by Satyaraj dasa ( Steven Rosen).
We are very much looking foward to these trancendental pastimes to be described in full in the book of H.H.Jayapataka Goswami Acaryapada, which is a compilation of the commentaries, diaries etc of the associates of Lord Caitanya, put into a cronological order of events (Caitanya Caritamrta, Caitanya Bhagavat, Caitanya Mangala, Murari Gupta’s diary, Bhaktiratnakara, Prema Vilas, etc, etc.)
This was the title given to Narottama dasa by Srila Jiva Goswami Prabhupada.
Although in his childhood Narottama das had mastered Sanskrit, all of his songs were written in simple Bengali language. Some say that this is to further stress the point that the message of pure Krsna consciousness is not dependant on flowery language, eloquent speech etc. It is only dependant on the loving devotional sentiment that the devotee has for the Lord.
For more details on apa-sampradayas one should read the very nice articles, running as a sequil in the “Back to Godhead” magazine 1991 editions on the same, by His Holiness Suhotra Swami, ISKCON.
Vipin Bihari Goswami was coming in the disciplic succession from Sri Gadadhar Pandit the plenary portion of Srimati Radharani. The followers of this line are generally Raganuga Bhaktas, worhipping Sri Gaura Gadahara in a loving spontaneous mood of bhava. This mode of worship is not for those who are materially confined by the dictates of the body and senses, but for those who are already experiencing their eternal loving relationship with the Divine couple Sri Radha Krsna.
Refer to “A Ray of Visnu” for full history.
Now the books of Srila Prabhupada are printed, and widely distributed in every major language of the world.
As quoted by Srila Prabhupada in his purport to the verse Srimad Bhagavatam 1. 9. 7. page 75.
 Letter, 68 – 10 – 34 letters books ref: No.
[JCD1]I’m not sure if I understand the beginning of this paragraph.
[JCD2]Did Hrsikesa Tirtha write both of these books?
[JCD3]Is this right?
[JCD4]What is this word?
[JCD5]What is this text number?
[JCD6]Is this spelled correctly?
[JCD7]I have always thought that Nimai travelled to Gaya with his uncle, at least that is what it is saying in the film Nimai of Nadia.
[JCD8]What does this mean?