Srivasa Pandita is one of the members of the Panca-tattva: sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu-nityananda sri-advaita gadadhara srivasa. Vedic authorities state that in the current Age of Kali, Krishna came as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Balarama came as Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Similarly, Maha-vishnu appeared as Advaita Acharya, Srimati Radharani as Gadadhara Pandita, and Narada Muni as Srivasa Pandita.
“I offer my obeisances unto the Supreme Lord, Krsna, who is nondifferent from His features as a devotee, devotional incarnation, devotional manifestation, pure devotee, and devotional energy.” (Cc Adi 1.14)
Panca-tattvatmakam: The Panca-tattva comprise one truth on the absolute platform. Lord Chaitanya is bhakta-rupa, Krishna in the form of a devotee. Lord Nityananda is svarupakam, the expansion of a devotee. Advaita Acharya is bhaktavataram, the avatara of a devotee. Srivasa Thakura is bhakta, a devotee. And Gadadhara Pandita is bhakta-saktikam, the energy of the Supreme Lord who supplies energy to the devotees—the devotional energy, Srimati Radharani.
In the Adi-lila of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami describes the tree of Lord Chaitanya. The tree itself is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and at the same time Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the gardener who tends to the tree. This tree, like any tree, has a trunk, limbs, and branches. The limbs and branches and leaves are devotees—the devotees of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami says that he is listing such devotees for his own purification, just to glorify them, and that he cannot distinguish between who is higher and who is lower. He wants to glorify them all. And Srila Prabhupada remarks that this is the attitude of a pure devotee. A pure devotee respects all devotees. He does not distinguish that some should be respected and some not. He respects all of them.
Srila Prabhupada also mentions that ISKCON too is a branch of the Chaitanya tree. In reality, Prabhupada himself is a most important branch of the Chaitanya tree, but in his humility he says that ISKCON is a branch. So all the devotees in ISKCON, who are attached to ISKCON, are leaves on the Chaitanya tree. And we should respect and honor them all.
After giving us this introduction to the Chaitanya tree, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami begins to describe specific devotees, and the first he describes is Srivasa Thakura. For our purification, we shall read now the first verses of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Ten, “The Trunk, Branches, and Subbranches of the Caitanya Tree.” And then we shall discuss more about Srivasa Thakura.
madhupebhyo namo namah
kathancid asrayad yesam
svapi tad-gandha-bhag bhavet
Let me repeatedly offer my respectful obeisances unto the beelike devotees who always taste the honey of the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If even a doggish nondevotee somehow takes shelter of such devotees, he enjoys the aroma of the lotus flower.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
The example of a dog is very significant in this connection. A dog naturally does not become a devotee at any time, but still it is sometimes found that a dog of a devotee gradually becomes a devotee also. We have actually seen that a dog has no respect even for the tulasi plant. Indeed, a dog is especially inclined to pass urine on the tulasi plant. Therefore the dog is the number one nondevotee. But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement is so strong that even a doglike nondevotee can gradually become a devotee by the association of a devotee of Lord Caitanya. Srila Sivananda Sena, a great householder devotee of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, attracted a dog on the street while going to Jagannatha Puri. The dog began to follow him and ultimately went to see Caitanya Mahaprabhu and was liberated. Similarly, cats and dogs in the household of Srivasa Thakura were also liberated. Cats and dogs and other animals are not expected to become devotees, but in the association of a pure devotee they are also delivered.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
This is an important verse to begin the description of the Chaitanya tree. The tree describes the devotees, and here Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami glorifies the power of the devotees: by their power, even a doglike nondevotee can become a devotee and taste the nectar at the lotus feet of the Lord.
In six days we shall observe Jagannatha Ratha-yatra, and that date is also the disappearance day of Srila Svarupa Damodara Gosvami and Srila Sivananda Sena. Every year, Sivananda Sena would take a party of devotees from Bengal to Orissa for the Ratha-yatra, and one year a dog joined them. Sivananda Sena was so merciful that he accepted the dog as part of his party, so much so that when they had to cross a river by boat, he paid the boatman extra to take the dog.
One day, when Sivananda Sena had to attend to some work, his servant forgot to feed the dog. And when Sivananda came and inquired, “Did you feed the dog?” he discovered that it had not been given its meals. Sivananda Sena immediately sent ten men to find the dog, but they could not find it. And Sivananda Sena felt so sorry that he fasted.
The next day too they did not see the dog, but when they reached Puri they saw the dog sitting a little distance from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who was throwing it remnants of green coconut pulp and requesting it to chant the holy names “Hari,” “Krishna,” and “Rama.” Sivananda Sena, out of his humility, offered obeisances to the dog, feeling that he had been an offender, because he had neglected to serve it properly. The following day, however, no one saw the dog, for it had been liberated and gone back home, back to Godhead, by the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the holy names.
This is the strength of the mercy of a pure devotee. By the mercy of such a devotee, one gets the association of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu—the opportunity to chant the holy names of Krishna—and in the end goes back home, back to Godhead.
jaya jaya sri-krsna-caitanya-nityananda
jayadvaitacandra jaya gaura-bhakta-vrnda
All glories to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Nityananda! All glories to Advaita Prabhu, and all glories to the devotees of Lord Caitanya, headed by Srivasa!
The description of Lord Caitanya as the gardener and the tree is inconceivable. Now hear with attention about the branches of this tree.
The associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu were many, but none of them should be considered lower or higher. This cannot be ascertained.
All the great personalities in the line of Lord Caitanya enumerated these devotees, but they could not distinguish between the greater and the lesser.
I offer my obeisances unto them as a token of respect. I request them not to consider my offenses.
I offer my obeisances to all the dear devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the eternal tree of love of Godhead. I offer my respects to all the branches of the tree, the devotees of the Lord who distribute the fruit of love of Godhead.
srivasa pandita, ara sri-rama pandita
dui bhai—dui sakha, jagate vidita
The two brothers Srivasa Pandita and Sri Rama Pandita started two branches that are well known in the world.
In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (90), Srivasa Pandita (Srivasa Thakura) is described as an incarnation of Narada Muni, and Sri Rama Pandita, his younger brother, is said to be an incarnation of Parvata Muni, a great friend of Narada’s. Srivasa Pandita’s wife, Malini, is celebrated as an incarnation of the nurse Ambika, who fed Lord Krsna with her breast milk, and as already noted, his niece Narayani, the mother of Thakura Vrndavana dasa, the author of Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, was the sister of Ambika in krsna-lila. We also understand from the description of Sri Caitanya-bhagavata that after Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s acceptance of the sannyasa order, Srivasa Pandita left Navadvipa, possibly because of feelings of separation, and domiciled at Kumarahatta.
Sivananda Sena resided at Kumarahatta, and Srivasa Thakura came to live near him. Later, Vasudeva Datta also took up residence there.
Kumarahatta is a very important place. It is the birthplace of Isvara Puri, whom Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted as His guru. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went there on pilgrimage and visited His guru’s birthplace, and He took dirt from the ground there and kept it in His cloth, and every day He would eat a little bit of the dirt. Sri Caitanya-bhagavata (Adi-khanda 17.98–103) describes:
“The Supreme Lord, Sri Caitanya, personally visited the birthplace of Isvara Puri. The Lord said, ‘I offer My obeisances to the village of Kumarahatta, where Sri Isvara Puri appeared.’ He cried profusely at that place and spoke nothing other than the name of Isvara Puri. He took some dust from the birthplace of Isvara Puri and tied it in His cloth. The Lord said, ‘The dust from the birthplace of Isvara Puri is My life, wealth, and living force.’ The Lord exhibited such affection for Isvara Puri, because He takes pleasure in increasing the glories of His devotees.” Even today devotees take dirt from the same place.
It is said that, following the example of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, every disciple should visit the birthplace of his spiritual master. Last November, His Holiness Radhanath Swami and I visited Srila Prabhupada’s birthplace in Calcutta. Srila Prabhupada took birth under a jackfruit tree, and we visited the tree. We also saw the Deities and temple that his mother would visit. I imagined how she would pray to that Deity of Krishna for the child in her womb and how after the child’s birth she and all the relatives would pray for his well-being.
sripati, srinidhi—tanra dui sahodara
cari bhaira dasa-dasi, grha-parikara
Their two brothers were named Sripati and Srinidhi. These four brothers and their servants and maidservants are considered one big branch.
dui sakhara upasakhaya tan-sabara ganana
yanra grhe mahaprabhura sada sankirtana
There is no counting the subbranches of these two branches. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu held congregational chanting daily at the house of Srivasa Pandita.
This sankirtana that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu performed at Srivasa-angana is significant. There is a parallel between the pastimes of Sri Krishna Chaitanya and the pastimes of Krishna, and the nocturnal kirtan at Srivasa-angana in gaura-lila corresponds to the rasa-lila in Krishna’s pastimes. It was the highest ecstasy. To enable Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His confidential devotees to enter deeply into the kirtan and relish its mellows without disturbance, Srivasa Thakura would lock the door to his house. Only the most confidential devotees were allowed.
Prabhupada comments that to spread Krishna consciousness, when we have large-scale congregational chanting of the holy name we keep our doors open for everyone to participate, and that by the grace of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu this policy has brought good results. But the special kirtans held at Srivasa Thakura’s residence at night were reserved for only the most intimate devotees, so that they could freely experience and manifest their ecstasy, which they could do only in the association of devotees. A pure devotee will not do that if there are outsiders.
Srila Prabhupada’s disciple Gargamuni dasa once told Prabhupada that sometimes he felt like crying in the kirtan. Prabhupada replied, “That’s all right, because you are chanting with devotees and they will understand.” Otherwise, devotees don’t manifest such symptoms of ecstasy.
cari bhai sa-vamse kare caitanyera seva
gauracandra vina nahi jane devi-deva
These four brothers and their family members fully engaged in the service of Lord Caitanya. They knew no other god or goddess.
Srila Narottama dasa Thakura has said, anya-devasraya nai, tomare kahinu bhai, ei bhakti parama-karana: if one wants to become a pure, staunch devotee, one should not take shelter of any of the demigods or -goddesses. . . .
This is an important point, especially for Hindus who are used to worshiping gods and goddesses. Sometimes even after such people come to the association of devotees and hear the philosophy of Krishna consciousness and to some extent understand it, they are reluctant to give up their worship of demigods. They may think, “Our ancestors worshiped demigods, so how can we stop?” Sometimes their deities have been passed down through generations in their family, and they are afraid that they will displease their ancestors or deities if they stop the worship—that Lord Shiva or Durga or whoever will be displeased. But according to the Bhagavad-gita, one should not worship gods and goddesses. Rather, one should take full shelter of the Supreme Lord Krishna, and if one does so, the demigods too will be pleased. Lord Krishna states,
ye ’py anya-devata-bhakta
te ’pi mam eva kaunteya
“Those who are devotees of other gods and who worship them with faith actually worship only Me, O son of Kunti, but they do so in a wrong way.” (Gita 9.23)
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” (Gita 18.66)
To engage fully in the service of Krishna or Krishna Chaitanya and to know no other god or goddess is an important qualification. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami could have mentioned many other qualities of Srivasa Thakura and his family, but he specifically mentioned that they had full faith in Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and did not worship any devas or devis.
Five thousand years ago, Lord Krishna exhibited the pastime of lifting Govardhana Hill. The residents of Vrindavan were used to worshiping Indra, who is the king of heaven and demigod in charge of rainfall. Lord Krishna told them to take the paraphernalia that they had gathered for the indra-yajna and use it instead to worship Govardhana Hill, the cows, and the brahmans. And because the Vraja-vasis had simple faith in Lord Krishna, they did what He said.
Due to some false pride and illusion, Indra became angry when his worship was stopped. But what was the result? Although Indra became angry and sent torrents of rain to inundate Vrindavan, Lord Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill and held it up as an umbrella to give shelter to all the residents of Vrindavan. And the result was that they were able to be with Krishna continuously for one week, 24/7. Every day, under ordinary circumstances, they would be with Him for some time but then they would be separated. In the early morning, for example, Krishna and Balarama would be with Their mother and father, but then They would go out to the fields to tend to the cows and Their parents would be separated from Them. Almost all of the residents of the Vrindavan village would be separated from Them during the day; only the cowherd boys would be with Them. But in the late afternoon, when Krishna came back from the pasturing grounds, He would again enter His home and be with Nanda and Yasoda and others there, and He would be separated from the cowherd boys. Then in the middle of the night He would sneak out to meet the gopis, and then He would sneak back before His mother would come to wake Him up in the morning. And then he would be separated from the young gopis.
When Krishna returned from the pasturing grounds in the late afternoon and the gopis gazed at Him, they would curse the creator, Brahma, for creating eyelids. Even the momentary blinking of their eyes, that momentary separation from the sight of Krishna, felt like yugas, like many thousands of years, because they had such intense attachment (anuraga) for Him. And so the gopis prayed to Krishna,
atati yad bhavan ahni kananam
truti yugayate tvam apasyatam
kutila-kuntalam sri-mukham ca te
jada udiksatam paksma-krd drsam
“When You go off to the forest during the day, a tiny fraction of a second becomes like a millennium for us because we cannot see You. And even when we can eagerly look upon Your beautiful face, so lovely with its adornment of curly locks, our pleasure is hindered by our eyelids, which were fashioned by the foolish creator.” (SB 10.31.15)
So, there was constant meeting and separation, and the separation was terrible for the Vraja-vasis, because they had such deep love for Krishna. But during the govardhana-lila the Vraja-vasis could be with Krishna continuously. The gopis, the elder cowherd men and ladies, the cowherd boys, the servants, and the animals all got to be with Krishna continuously. So by giving up their worship of Indra and following Krishna’s instruction to worship Govardhana Hill (which is nondifferent from Krishna) they did not lose. Rather, they gained continuous, close association with Krishna. So if we give up the worship of demigods or goddesses and take fully to the service of Krishna, we will not lose. Rather, we will gain in the most wonderful way.
Because, during the kirtans at his house, Srivasa Thakura would lock the doors, some people became angry. The Caitanya-caritamrta describes that, being excluded, some of these nonbelievers (pasandis) burned with envy and plotted against Srivasa Thakura. The leader of the nonbelievers was a brahman named Gopala Capala, and he assembled paraphernalia for the worship of the goddess Bhavani (Durga) and placed it outside Srivasa Thakura’s door to defame him, because generally the worshipers of the goddess Bhavani, Durga, or Kali, are considered lower class. They drink wine and eat meat. For a Vaishnava, such things are anathema. So Gopala Capala wanted to defame Srivasa Thakura, and alongside the paraphernalia for the worship he placed a pot of wine.
In the morning, when Srivasa Thakura opened the door and saw all the paraphernalia, he immediately called for the respectable gentlemen of the neighborhood. He told them, “Just see, here is the paraphernalia for the worship of Bhavani.” There was a banana leaf and some rice and red sandalwood paste—and the jug of wine. He said, “Every night I worship the goddess Bhavani. Now all you respectable gentlemen can understand my actual position—who I really am—and you can take whatever action you deem fit.”
Of course, the respectable brahmans and other members of the higher castes could understand what had happened, that some envious person had wanted to defame Srivasa Thakura and desecrate his house. So they called for a sweeper, a hadi, to dispose of all those untouchable things and purify the place by mopping it with a mixture of water and cow dung.
Three day later, Gopala Capala was afflicted with leprosy. Blood oozed from sores all over his body, and he was attacked by germs and insects. The position of a devotee is such that anyone who offends any devotee suffers. And that is also the Lord’s mercy. By punishing the offender, He simultaneously protects His devotees from being offended further and prevents the offender from committing more offenses. He helps the offender realize his mistake and make progress in spiritual life. So Gopala Capala was burning with leprosy, suffering unbearable pain.
One day when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu passed nearby, Gopala Capala appealed to Him, “You are an incarnation of God. You have come to deliver the fallen souls. I am very fallen and wretched. So please deliver me.” Of course, it is true that Lord Chaitanya came to deliver the fallen souls, but He really came to deliver them from material existence altogether—not from any particular condition—by distributing the holy name and krsna-prema. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura prayed,
golokera prema-dhana, hari-nama-sankirtana,
rati na janmilo kene taya
samsara-visanale, diva-nisi hiya jvale
judaite na koinu upaya
“The treasure of divine love in Goloka Vrndavana has descended as the congregational chanting of Lord Hari’s holy names. Why did my attraction for that chanting never come about? Day and night my heart burns in the fire of the poison of worldliness, and I have not accepted the means for relieving it.”
vrajendra-nandana yei, saci-suta hoilo sei,
balarama hoilo nitai
dina-hina yata chilo, hari-name uddharilo,
tara saksi jagai-madhai
“Lord Krsna, the son of the King of Vraja, became the son of Saci, and Balarama became Nitai. The holy name delivered all those souls who were lowly and wretched. The two sinners Jagai and Madhai are evidence of this.”
Lord Chaitanya brought chanting of the holy name—the treasure of krsna-prema—and delivered all who were sinful and fallen, even Jagai and Madhai. Although this Gopala Capala was very sinful and insulting, he had one good quality: he was simple. He accepted Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and had faith that He could deliver him. So he appealed to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and Mahaprabhu called him a sinner and told him, “Because of your sins, you are suffering.” And that is a fact: whatever suffering we experience in this world is due to our sins. The Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhuexplains that suffering is due to sin and that sin is due to ignorance. Thus the only way to really become free from suffering is to become free from sin and ignorance—in other words, to become enlightened in transcendental knowledge, engage in devotional service, and ultimately go back to Godhead.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told him, “You are envious of pure devotees. That is the worst sin. I shall not deliver you. Rather, I shall see you bitten by these germs for millions of years. For your offense against Srivasa Thakura, you will fall into hellish conditions for millions of lifetimes. He is My pure devotee.” After some time, Gopala Capala actually took shelter of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and the Lord mercifully instructed him, “If you approach Srivasa Thakura and get his mercy—and if you do not commit such sins again—you will be freed from the effects of your offenses.”
That is the only way to be relieved from vaisnava-aparadha. It is the recommended way and the fastest way—to go to the Vaishnava you have offended, throw yourself at his feet, and beg for forgiveness. Gopala Capala did that. He took shelter of the lotus feet of Srivasa Thakura, and by Srivasa’s mercy he was freed from all sinful reactions.
Then there was another person, a brahmachari who practiced austerities and ate only milk and fruits. Repeatedly, daily, he begged Srivasa Pandita, “Please allow me to witness the sankirtana in your house at night. I will be ever grateful to you.” He begged and pleaded, and finally Srivasa Pandita relented: “I know you are a good soul. You are a strict brahmachari and eat only fruit and milk. I think you are eligible to see the Lord’s dancing, but you will have to remain hidden, because the Lord has ordered that no one be allowed in the house.”
Srivasa Pandita secretly brought the brahmachari inside the house and hid him. During the kirtan, Lord Chaitanya and His other associates chanted and danced, but they did not experience their usual ecstasy. Soon the Lord remarked, “Today I do not feel the same ecstasy while dancing. Perhaps someone is hiding inside the house. Please tell the truth.”
Srivasa Pandita became afraid and said, “My Lord, I assure you that there are no nonbelievers in the house—only a brahmachari, a qualified, sinless brahman who eats only milk and fruits. He had a strong desire to see You dance. Still, You are right, my Lord. He is hiding here.”
The Lord became furious and said, “Take him out of this house immediately. What is his qualification to see My dancing? How can one develop devotion to Me simply by drinking milk?”
“Just by drinking milk no one can attain Me,” the Lord declared. “A person may be a renunciant without mundane attachment, but if he does not surrender to Me I do not accept him. On the other hand, even a low-caste dog-eater who takes full shelter of Me I accept.”
By now the brahmachari was trembling with fear, and he came out of hiding. Still, he thought, “I was so fortune to see the Lord dance. And now I am receiving the appropriate punishment.” He accepted the Lord’s chastisement as mercy. And the Lord, understanding the brahmachari’s heart, blessed him. He told him, “Do not try to attain power through penances and austerities. Rather, render loving service unto the Supreme Lord Krishna. That is the highest activity.” And the Lord placed His lotus feet on the brahmachari’s head.
Another brahman came to witness the kirtan at Srivasa-angana, but because the door was locked, he could not enter, and he returned home disappointed. The next day he met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, broke his brahman’s thread, and cursed Him: “You will never enjoy material happiness.” When Lord Chaitanya heard this curse, He felt great jubilation. He took it as a blessing: “I will be free of material enjoyment.”
Even the cats and dogs in Srivasa Thakura’s house were delivered. In Caitanya-bhagavata, after Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard Srivasa Thakura speak with great faith and love for Nityananda Prabhu, He blessed him, “Everyone in your household, including your pet dogs and cats, will find complete shelter in My devotional service.”
Srivasa Thakura had a Muslim tailor. (We also have a Muslim tailor, Abdul, at our Juhu temple, and he sews our cloth.) This tailor stayed near Srivasa-angana and used to sew garments for Srivasa Thakura and his family. One day the tailor saw Chaitanya Mahaprabhu dancing. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu chanted and danced in ecstasy not only in His private kirtans but on other occasions as well, and the tailor, seeing the Lord’s dancing, became enchanted. Lord Chaitanya understood the tailor’s mind and mercifully showed him His original form as Krishna. Then the tailor began to shout, “Dekhinu! Dekhinu!”—I have seen! I have seen! In ecstatic love, he danced with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and he became a first-class Vaishnava and prominent devotee of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Anyone who takes shelter of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu can be delivered. It does not matter if one is a brahman, a brahmachari, a milk-drinker, a meat-eater, or a Muslim. These are not qualifications or disqualifications. Anyone who takes shelter of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or, better yet, His devotee (the tailor was a servant of Srivasa Pandita) can get the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and obtain love for Krishna.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in His ecstatic mood, asked Srivasa Thakura, “Please bring My flute,” because He was in the mood of Krishna. But Srivasa replied, “The gopis have stolen it.” When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu heard this, He became ecstatic. He said, “Please say more. Please say more.” Srivasa Thakura began to describe the mellows of Krishna’s Vrindavan pastimes, and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Please say more. Please say more.” Then Srivasa Thakura described more—how Krishna played on His flute and the gopis wandered in the Vrindavan forest, and how Krishna celebrated the rasa dance and played in the Yamuna. “Please say more. Please say more.” Srivasa spoke more and more about the mellows and pastimes of Krishna in Vrindavan, especially the rasa-lila. Thus the two of them passed the entire night, and when morning came, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu embraced Srivasa Thakura and Srivasa was satisfied.
These are some of the earlier pastimes, when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu resided in Navadvipa. Eventually Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa, left Navadvipa, and settled in Jagannatha Puri, and Srivasa Thakura, in separation from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, moved to Kumarahatta.
Every year, Sivananda Sena would lead a party of devotees from Bengal to Orissa to meet Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, participate in the Ratha-yatra, and stay with Him for caturmasya, the four months of the rainy season. One year, Srivasa Thakura observed the Hera-pancami festival with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Svarupa Damodara Gosvami. Hera-pancami is a very special festival. Two weeks before Ratha-yatra is Snana-yatra, the public bathing of Lord Jagannatha, after which Lord Jagannatha retires to His private quarters and for two weeks does not see His devotees. It is said that He catches a cold from the Snana-yatra, and so for two weeks His wife Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, serves Him faithfully, giving Him special drinks and infusions, represented by fruit juice, to help Him recover and feel better.
After two weeks, Lord Jagannatha, feeling separation from His other devotees, takes permission from Lakshmi to go out. Really, He wants to meet and reciprocate with His devotees in Vrindavan. So, in the Ratha-yatra, He proceeds on His chariot from Nilacala, which is like Dvaraka (or Kurukshetra), down the road to Sundaracala, to the Gundica temple, which is considered to be Vrindavan.
The day before the Ratha-yatra is Gundica-marjana, during which Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His devotees clean the Gundica temple to make it fit to receive the Lord. And the next day is the Ratha-yatra procession. Then, for about eight days, Lord Jagannatha stays in the Gundica temple. But after four or five days, Lakshmi becomes impatient: “Where is my husband? He said He was just going out for a ride. Where is He? He should be back.” Restless and angry, she takes her maidservants and travels to Sundaracala in her own procession. At the gate of the Gundica temple, she sends her maidservants to arrest the principal servants of Lord Jagannatha, which they do. They bind the servants around the waist and make them fall down at her lotus feet. And they berate the servants, making them the butt of jokes and loose language.
During this pastime, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, and Srivasa Thakura had a discussion. Srivasa Thakura, as the incarnation of Narada Muni, a great devotee of Lord Narayana in Vaikuntha, became ecstatic seeing the opulence of the goddess of fortune, the eternal consort of Lord Narayana. He told Svarupa Damodara, “Just see how opulent my goddess of fortune is. Vrindavan’s opulence consists of a few flowers and twigs, some minerals from the hills, and a few peacock feathers. When Jagannatha was in Vrindavan, Lakshmi wondered, ‘Why did Lord Jagannatha give up so much opulence and go to Vrindavan?’ Then, to make Him a laughingstock, she decorated herself and brought her maidservants to deride Him and His servants. Finally, His servants submitted to her and promised to bring Lord Jagannatha before her the very next day, and the goddess of fortune, being pacified, returned to her apartment.” Thus Srivasa Thakura joked with Svarupa Damodara, as described in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 14. 213–215):
amara laksmira sampad—vakya-agocara
“ ‘Just see! My goddess of fortune is opulent beyond all description.
dugdha auti’ dadhi mathe tomara gopi-gane
amara thakurani vaise ratna-simhasane
“ ‘Your gopis are engaged in boiling milk and churning yogurt, but my mistress, the goddess of fortune, sits on a throne made of jewels and gems.’
arada-prakrti srivasa kare parihasa
suni’ hase mahaprabhura yata nija-dasa
“Srivasa Thakura, who was enjoying the mood of Narada Muni, thus made jokes. Hearing him, all the personal servants of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu began to smile.”
Then Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself spoke.
prabhu kahe,—srivasa, tomate narada-svabhava
aisvarya-bhave tomate, isvara-prabhava
“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu told Srivasa Thakura, ‘My dear Srivasa, your nature is exactly like that of Narada Muni. The Supreme Personality of Godhead’s opulence is having a direct influence upon you.
aisvarya na jane inho suddha-preme bhasi’
“ ‘Svarupa Damodara is a pure devotee of Vrndavana. He does not even know what opulence is, for he is simply absorbed in pure devotional service.’ ” (Cc Madhya 14.216–217)
Then Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, who is an incarnation of the gopi Lalita-devi, one of Srimati Radharani’s most confidential girlfriends, glorified Vrindavan’s opulence. He said that the natural opulence of Vrindavan is like an ocean and that the opulence of Dvaraka and Vaikuntha cannot be compared even to a drop of that ocean. He said that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, full in all opulences, and that His opulences are fully manifest only in Vrindavan. He paraphrased and elaborated upon a verse from Sri Brahma-samhita (5.29):
laksavrtesu surabhir abhipalayantam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor, who is tending the cows, yielding all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of purpose trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of laksmis, or gopis.” Govinda, Krishna, the cowherd boy, is served by hundreds of thousands of laksmis in the form of gopis. In fact, these gopis are considered super laksmis. The laksmis in Vaikuntha are only expansions of these gopis. In Vrindavan, the houses and land are made of cintamani stones; the trees are kalpa-vrksas, wish-fulfilling desire trees; and the cows are surabhis, who deliver oceans of nectar-like milk.
Svarupa Damodara then quoted a related verse by Bilvamangala Thakura, to glorify the opulence of the gopis and Vrindavan:
cintamanis carana-bhusanam angananam
srngara-puspa-taravas taravah suranam
vrndavane vraja-dhanam nanu kama-dhenu-
vrndani ceti sukha-sindhur aho vibhutih
“The anklets on the damsels of Vraja-bhumi are made of cintamani stone. The trees are wish-fulfilling trees, and they produce flowers with which the gopis decorate themselves. There are also wish-fulfilling cows, which deliver unlimited quantities of milk. These cows constitute the wealth of Vrndavana. Thus Vrndavana’s opulence is blissfully exhibited.” (Brs 2.1.173, Cc Madhya 14, 228)
And he quoted another verse from Sri Brahma-samhita (5.29):
sriyah kantah kantah parama-purusah kalpa-taravo
druma bhumis cintamani-gana-mayi toyam amrtam
katha ganam natyam gamanam api vamsi priya-sakhi
cid-anandam jyotih param api tad asvadyam api ca
“The damsels of Vrndavana, the gopis, are super goddesses of fortune. The enjoyer in Vrndavana is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. The trees there are all wish-fulfilling trees, and the land is made of transcendental touchstone. The water is all nectar, the talking is singing, the walking is dancing, and the constant companion of Krsna is His flute. The effulgence of transcendental bliss is experienced everywhere. Therefore Vrndavana-dhama is the only relishable abode.” (Bs 5.56, Cc Madhya 14.227)
Actually, the opulence of Vrindavan is greater than that of Vaikuntha. But the special quality of Vrindavan is that its opulence is covered by an exquisite sweetness that is so powerful that the pure devotees in Vrindavan forget that Krishna is God. In Vaikuntha the devotees are aware of the Lord’s opulence and worship Him with awe and veneration. They act as His servants (dasya-rasa) or at most as reverential friends (gaurava-sakhya-rasa); there is no sense of equality with the Lord. But in Vrindavan the devotees are able to enjoy ecstatic, intimate relationships with Krishna, with full freedom, because they forget that He is God.
If the residents of Vrindavan were conscious that Krishna is God, the cowherd boys could never play with Him as equals like they do. Sometimes Krishna and the cowherd boys compete in sport, and if Krishna loses He has to carry the other boy on His shoulders. This is unheard of in Vaikuntha; if someone got up on Lord Narayana’s shoulders, he would immediately be expelled. And Krishna’s parents, Nanda and Yasoda, and others in the parental mood, such as Ambika, feel that Krishna is dependent on them. Ambika is Krishna’s nurse in Vrindavan; she suckles Krishna. And Malini, Srivasa Thakura’s wife, is her incarnation. So she has that maternal mood. Such devotees, in vatsalya-rasa, feel that they have to take care of Krishna. The cowherd boys feel that they are Krishna’s equals, His friends, and the elders feel like they are Krishna’s parents and guardians, that Krishna is dependent on their care and protection.
In fact, Krishna is providing everything for everyone. Nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam: He is the singular eternal one among so many eternal beings, and He is the singular conscious entity among so many conscious entities. Eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman: He is the one, singular, eternal conscious being who is providing all the necessities and fulfilling all the desires of the many, plural, eternal conscious beings. He is providing for everyone, but still Mother Yasoda is thinking, “He is my son. If I don’t feed Him, He will starve.” She can think that way because her attachment for Him as a mother for her son is stronger than her awareness of His divine opulence. Most of the time she forgets; she is not even conscious that He is the Lord. And most of the time, the residents of Vrindavan forget.
Sometimes Krishna enacts deeds that remind them of His godly opulence, such as when He lifted Govardhana Hill. After He did so, the elder cowherd men were confused and approached Nanda Maharaja: “Your Krishna is no ordinary boy. He lifted a great mountain and held it in one hand for seven days. And as a mere infant, He sucked out the life of the powerful demoness Putana. And He killed many powerful demons and performed many wonderful feats. He is no ordinary person. He might be a demigod—or even Lord Narayana Himself.” They weren’t sure. “Still,” they continued, “we have constant affection for your son—and He has natural attraction for us.” They were bewildered. But when they thought of Krishna’s humanlike pastimes, they became overwhelmed with parental affection. They thought of all the times He had become frightened, the times He had felt hungry, the times He had done mischief. And they remembered how He had become happy when they had coddled Him and sad or angry when they had neglected Him. Thinking of Krishna’s childlike, humanlike behavior (nara-lila), they became overwhelmed with parental affection and forgot His divine opulence.
Once, Mother Yasoda looked into Krishna’s mouth. Krishna and Balarama were playing with Their friends, and all the boys joined with Balarama to complain to Mother Yasoda that Krishna had eaten earth. Sometimes, when children are at a certain age, they put anything into their mouths. Krishna said, “No, Mother. They are lying.” Yasoda replied, “But even Your brother Balarama says that You ate dirt.” Krishna said, “He is lying too. But if you have any doubt, you can look.” “All right. Open Your mouth. I will see.”
So Krishna opened His mouth, and Mother Yasoda looked inside, and there she saw the entire cosmic manifestation. She saw all moving and nonmoving entities, all directions, the material elements, the sky and stars and planetary systems. She saw the living entities, the modes of nature, time, and karma. She saw everything. She even saw herself and the land of Vraja. And she was struck with doubt and wonder. Was she dreaming, or hallucinating, or being mystified by some illusion of the material nature, perhaps created by the demigods? Or was she having a vision caused by her son’s mystic power? “All right,” she said. “Close Your mouth. Just don’t do it again.” Even then, she still thought of Krishna as her son. Although Krishna is always full in all opulences, His display of opulence does not diminish His pure devotees’ love for Him—as a son or a friend or a beloved. That is vraja-bhakti.
In this discussion with Srivasa Pandita, Svarupa Damodara glorified the opulence of Vrindavan, but that opulence is covered by the sweetness of these intimate relationships, in which the devotees forget that Krishna is God and to reciprocate with His devotees’ love, Krishna also forgets that He is God. When Mother Yasoda threatens Krishna with a stick and Krishna becomes afraid, He is not pretending. He actually feels like a child, and He feels afraid. In her prayers, Queen Kunti remarks that she sees the image of Krishna with Mother Yasoda standing with ropes to bind Him: Krishna is crying, and His tears are washing the mascara around His eyes. The same Krishna who is feared by fear personified is afraid of Mother Yasoda. And thinking of this contradiction, Kunti becomes bewildered.
gopy adade tvayi krtagasi dama tavad
ya te dasasru-kalilanjana-sambhramaksam
vaktram niniya bhaya-bhavanaya sthitasya
sa mam vimohayati bhir api yad bibheti
“My dear Krsna, Yasoda took up a rope to bind You when You committed an offense, and Your perturbed eyes overflooded with tears, which washed the mascara from Your eyes. And You were afraid, though fear personified is afraid of You. This sight is bewildering to me.” (SB 1.8.31)
These are elevated, transcendental topics, not easy to understand. Although we may have theoretical knowledge, we still tend to identify with the body and act on the bodily platform—“I” and “mine.” And these topics are on the spiritual platform. Still, hearing these topics is part of the process of purification. By offenseless hearing of the Lord’s activities, even without complete understanding, we can become attracted and purified. And we want to be attracted, to desire to serve in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes, and ultimately in Krishna’s pastimes. We do not want to remain bound to temporary, material affairs and engrossed in ephemeral, mundane relationships.
One night, during the kirtan at Srivasa-angana, a calamity took place. One of Srivasa Pandita’s sons, who had been ill, died. Naturally, Srivasa’s wife, Malini, and others were distraught, but Srivasa said, “Keep quiet. We must not disturb Mahaprabhu’s kirtan.” So nobody cried or said anything. After the kirtan was over, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (who is God and knows everything) said, “There must have been some calamity here.” When Srivasa told him, “My son died,” Sri Chaitanya replied, “Why did you not tell Me earlier?” He went to the place where the son was lying dead and asked him, “Why are you leaving Srivasa Thakura’s home?” The son replied, “I stayed here as long as my destiny allowed. Now that the time is over, I must proceed to my next destination, according to Your order. I am Your eternal servant, a dependent living being, and I move by Your desire.”
By this exchange between Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Srivasa Pandita’s dead son, everyone in the household was enlightened with spiritual knowledge. There was no cause for lamentation. They realized the knowledge of the Bhagavad-gita (2.13):
dehino ’smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” Actually, everyone changes his or her body even in the same lifetime. Just as one has a baby’s body, then a youth’s body, and eventually an old person’s body, similarly, at the time of death, one accepts another body. And dhiras tatra na muhyati: the sober are not bewildered by such a change.
The body is like dress. Just as one discards old and useless garment and puts on a new one, similarly, when the body is old and useless, the soul leaves it and takes on a new body.
vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro ’parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Gita 2.22)
Ultimately, everything is under the control of the Lord, and all the more so in the case of devotees. Everything and everyone is under the control of the Lord, and these principles were manifested in the exchange between the dead son of Srivasa Pandita and his eternal Lord and master, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Then Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told Srivasa Pandita (and Malini), “You have lost one son, but Nitai and I are your eternal sons. And We shall never leave you.” Malini is Ambika in krsna-lila, so she is in the mood of a mother, or nurse. But whoever we may be, if we just surrender to Krishna and offer everything to Him, we will not lose. Rather, we will gain unlimitedly. Srivasa and Malini lost one son, who was encaged in a temporary, miserable body, but they gained two sons who are eternal.
Srila Prabhupada advises that instead of being absorbed in these temporary relationships that last only as long as the body (at most), we should, rather, develop our relationship with Krishna, or Sri Krishna Chaitanya, which is eternal, blissful, and full of knowledge. This relationship develops by offenseless chanting and hearing of the holy names and pastimes of the Lord. Offenseless, attentive chanting cleanses the dust from the mirror of the mind (ceto-darpana-marjanam), and thus one is able to realize one’s constitutional position as an eternal servant of Krishna, an eternal servant of Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. One still does one’s duties in the world—that is another thing—but one gives one’s heart to Krishna, to one’s relationship with Krishna, and realizes eternal, blissful, spiritual love.
jnane prayasam udapasya namanta eva
jivanti san-mukharitam bhavadiya-vartam
sthane sthitah sruti-gatam tanu-van-manobhir
ye prayaso ’jita jito ’py asi tais tri-lokyam
[Lord Brahma said to Krishna,] “Those who, even while remaining situated in their established social positions, throw away the process of speculative knowledge and with their body, words, and mind offer all respects to descriptions of Your personality and activities, dedicating their lives to these narrations, which are vibrated by You personally and by Your pure devotees, certainly conquer Your Lordship, although You are otherwise unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds.” (SB 10.14.3)
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu noticed that Srivasa Thakura never went to earn anything for his family’s maintenance. So one day He asked, “Srivasa, I see that you never go anywhere. How will you maintain your family?” Srivasa replied, “I do not want to go anywhere.” Mahaprabhu said, “But you have a big family. What will happen to them?” “Whatever is destined will come,” he replied. “If that is your mentality,” Mahaprabhu said, “then you should take sannyasa.” “I am not ready for sannyasa,” Srivasa objected. “I do not have the power to take sannyasa.” “Then how will you maintain your family?” Mahaprabhu asked. “These days, if you do not make some effort, nothing will come. Then what will you do?” Srivasa clapped his hands thrice and said, “One. Two. Three.” Mahaprabhu asked, “What does that mean?” Srivasa Thakura replied, “If for three days no food comes and I have to fast, I will tie a rock around my neck and drown myself in the Ganges.”
When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu heard this He became agitated and roared, “Srivasa, what are you saying? Why should you fast three times? Have you forgotten My words in the Bhagavad-gita (9.22)—ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate/ tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham: ‘Those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form—to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have’? Not even once will you be lacking. Even if the goddess of fortune herself becomes poverty-stricken—even if she becomes a beggar—your house will never know want. I will personally bring whatever you need.”
Of course, what the Lord says in the Gita is true—though such constant concentration on Krishna is not so easy. But if one does come to the stage of always meditating on Krishna without deviation, the Lord will arrange whatever one needs. In that stage, one depends completely on the mercy of the Lord. Ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham—as people surrender to Krishna, He rewards them accordingly. If one thinks, “I will make my own arrangement,” the Lord will think, “All right, he’s making his own arrangement, so I need not worry about him.” The Lord reciprocates according to our degree of surrender.
It could be said that previously the culture was more conducive to a brahminical way of life, and that is true, but still, what Lord Chaitanya said is also true.
There is a famous story of a brahman who was reading the Bhagavad-gita, and when he came to the verse in which Krishna says, “To those who concentrate on Me exclusively, I preserve what they have and carry what they lack (yoga-ksemam vahamy aham),” he thought, “Well, no. Krishna might send it through somebody, but He will not come personally.” (Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told Srivasa Thakura, “I will come personally if need be.”)
ananyas cintayanto mam
ye janah paryupasate
yoga-ksemam vahamy aham
“Those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form—to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.” (Gita 9.22)
When the brahman came to the words vahamy aham, “I carry,” he scratched them out with red ink. He did not believe that Krishna would personally carry what the devotee requires.
Later, the brahman went out to beg alms. There are different ways by which brahmans maintain themselves, and one is to go out and beg alms. So, while the brahman was gone, a young boy came to the house with a rod across his shoulders, and suspended from the ends of the rod were baskets full of rice, dal, flour, ghee, and vegetables—everything one needed to prepare a feast. It was such a heavy load that the boy could hardly carry it. He barely managed to reach the door. The lady of the house, the brahmani, asked, “Who are you?” He said, “Your husband sent me. I have brought all these ingredients for you. He will be coming soon. Please cook a nice feast for him. He will be hungry.” She cooked a big feast and invited the boy to stay. But the boy replied, “No, if I take too long, your husband becomes angry with me, so I will have to go.” And when he turned to leave, she saw slashes on his back—wound marks—which were red with blood.
Eventually the husband returned, dejected. He said, “I tried all day, and not one person gave me anything. I did not get even one grain of rice. Today we shall have to fast.” She said, “No, you sent that boy with so many provisions. I have already cooked a big feast.” “No, I didn’t send any boy.” “You did. He brought all these ingredients. But when I asked him to stay, he said that if he delayed, you would become angry with him. He already had wounds from you on his back.”
The brahman thought of the Bhagavad-gita. He looked in his copy to where he had cut the words vahamy aham, and he saw that the red ink was gone. Then he knew: “That boy was Krishna.” The Bhagavad-gitais the Lord Himself. By cutting those words in the Gita, he had cut the body of the Lord. And he understood that Krishna, true to His word, had come personally and carried what His devotee lacked (yoga-ksemam vahamy aham).
That is a high level of Krishna consciousness—to always be absorbed in Krishna, without deviation—but that is our goal. And the more we have faith in Krishna, the more we will be able to chant and hear about Krishna with exclusive attention. We won’t be distracted, worrying, “From where will the money come? How will we pay the bills?”—or whatever—so many anxieties. As we develop more faith in Krishna, we are able to surrender more, to Krishna and to the process of bhakti-yoga, to chanting and hearing the holy name and glories of the Lord and serving the Lord’s devotees. We are confident that Krishna will take care of us.
Devotees never go hungry. Once, many years ago, I asked a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada, “Krishna consciousness is so nice—just chanting, dancing, feasting, and philosophy, with no anxiety—is there any austerity?” And he replied, “The austerity is that there is too much to eat. To honor the prasada and to please the devotees, we may have to eat more than we want.”
We have much to learn from the example of Srivasa Thakura, from his dealings with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His devotees. And we have much to learn from all the members of the Panca-tattva, and from all the devotees of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu—from the branches, subbranches, and leaves of the Chaitanya tree, including the present members of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual family and transcendental household.
Sri Srivasa Thakura ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!
Gaura-bhakta-vrnda ki jaya!
Manonatha Dasa (ACBSP).
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