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Chaitanya-Charit-Amrita: Chapter 1: At the House of Adwaita

Glory to Shri Chaitanya! Glory to Nityananda, to Adwaita, and to all followers of Gaur! In the month of Magh when the Master completed His twenty-fourth year, in the bright fortnight, He turned hermit. Then led by devotion He set off for Brindaban, and wandered for three days in the Rarh country, hallowing it with His footsteps and chanting the following verse in rapture:

"I too shall cross the terrible and dark ocean of the world by means of devotion to the Supreme Being, as the sages did of yore, by service at the lotus-like feet of Mukunda."[1]

The Master said, "True are the words of this Brahman, who chose the service of Mukunda as his life's task. The highest robe [in which a man can clothe himself] is devotion to the Supreme Soul, the service of Mukunda which brings salvation. That robe he put on. Now shall I go to Brindaban and serve Krishna in solitude."

So saying the Master moved day and night, the picture of religious ecstasy, heedless which way He walked. Nityananda, Acharya Ratna, and Mukunda, all three followed Him. All who saw Him, cried "Hari! Hari!" in devotion, and forgot sorrow and loss. The cow-boys shouted Hari's name, at the sight of the Master, who stroked their heads saying, "Go on with your chant," and thanked them saying, "Blessed are ye! ye have gratified me by pouring Hari's name into my ears!" Nityananda took the boys apart and thus tutored them, "When the Master asks you about the road to Brindaban, show Him the path leading to the Ganges." This they did and He took that path. Nityananda spoke to Acharya Ratna, "Hasten to Adwaita and tell him that I shall lead the Master to his house. He should keep a boat ready at the riverside. Thence go to Navadwip and fetch Shachi and all the disciples."

Sending him off, Nityananda came before the Master and showed himself. "Whither are you going, Shripad?" the Master asked. "With thee to Brindaban" was the reply. "How far is Brindaban?" "Behold, yonder is the Jamuna!" So saying Nityananda led the Master to the Ganges. This river He mistook for the Jamuna. He thanked His stars that He had beheld the Jamuna, sang its praise, and after bowing bathed in it. He had no second clothing except His loin-cloth with Him. Just then Adwaita arrived in a boat, with a fresh loin-cloth and upper garment, and appeared bowing before the Master, who was puzzled to see him and asked, "You are the Acharya Goswami. Why have you come here? How did you know that I was at Brindaban?" The Acharya replied "It is Brindaban wherever you are. It is my good luck that you have come to the Ganges bank." The Master said, "So, Nityananda has played me a trick: he has led me to the Ganges and called it the Jamuna!" The Acharya replied, "False are not the words of Shripad. You have now indeed bathed in the Jamuna, for the Ganges and the Jamuna flow in one channel, the eastern waters being called Ganga and the western (in which you have bathed) Jamuna. Change your wet cloth for a dry one. Four days have you fasted in fervour of love. Come to my house to-day, I invite thee. I have cooked a handful of rice, with dry coarse curry, broth and green herbs." Saying this he took the Master on board to his house, and joyfully washed His feet. His wife had al ready done the cooking. The Acharya himself dedicated the food to Vishnu, and served it in three equal portions. [Description of the dinner omitted.]

The Master said, "Long have you made me dance, now leave it off. Dine with Mukunda and Haridas." Then the Acharya broke his fast with those two, to his heart's content. The people of Shantipur, hearing of the Master's arrival, flocked to gaze on His feet. In joy they cried "Hari! Hari!" and wondered at His beauty. His fair complexion, which eclipsed the Sun in splendour, was set off by his red robe. Endless streams of people came and went throughout the day. At dusk the Acharya began a sankirtan; he danced, while the Master gazed on. Goswami Nityananda danced hand in hand with the Acharya, and Haridas behind them. This song accompanied their dance:

"How shall I speak of my bliss to-day?
The Beloved (Krishna) has entered my temple for ever!"

With perspiration, thrill, tears of joy, shout, and roar, they turned and turned, touching the Master's feet now and then. The Acharya embraced Him and said "Long did you wander after escaping from me. Now that I have got you in my house, I shall hold you fast!" So the Achaiya continued dancing and singing for three hours after nightfall. The Master was in an attitude of longing as He had not yet gained union with Krishna, and this separation made His love burn the more fiercely. Impatiently He fell down on the ground, at which the Acharya stopped his dance. Mukunda, who knew the Master's heart well, began to sing verses apt for His passion. The Acharya raised Him to make Him dance. At the verses, the Master could no longer be held back. He was all tears, tremour, thrill, sweat, and broken accents,--now rising up, now falling down, now weeping.

The song: [Radha speaks]

Woe is me, dear sister, for my present state!
The love of Krishna has caught my body and soul like a poison.

My heart burns day and night; I know no peace.
O that I could fly where Kanu (Krishna) is to be found!

Sweetly did Mukunda sing the above ditty, which made the Master's heart burst, as the emotions of penitence, melancholy, rapture, frolicsomeness, pride, and humility struggled with it. He was stricken down by the force of His passion, and lay down breathless on the ground. The faithful grew alarmed, when lo! He sprang up with a shout, overcome with ecstasy and saying "Chant, chant, [the name of Hari]." None could under stand the strong tides of His emotion.

Nityananda moved on holding Him, while the Acharya and Haridas danced behind them. Three hours did He pass thus, now joy now sadness surging in His heart. The dinner had come after five days of fasting; so the wild dance greatly fatigued Him, but He felt it not to His ecstasy. Nityananda held Him back by main force; the Acharya ended the kirtan, and laid the Master in His bed with every care.

In the same way ten days were passed in dinners and singing. In the morning the Acharya brought mother Shachi in a litter followed by the faithful. All the people of Navadwip came,--old and young, men and women,--forming a vast crowd. The Master was dancing and singing the Name, when Shachi arrived at Adwaita's house and He fell prone at her feet. She took Him up into her bosom and wept, both of them being rapt at seeing each other. Shachi was distracted at seeing His shaven crown: she wiped His body, kissed His mouth, and gazed at Him intently; but could not see anything as tears filled her eyes. She mourned saying, "My darling Nimai! be not cruel to me as Vishwarup was, whom I never saw after he had turned hermit. If you too do so, it will be the death of me." The Master replied amidst tears, "Listen, mother! This body is your gift and not my own. My birth is from you, my body has been nursed by you. In ten million births I cannot repay my debt to you. True, I have become a sannyasi with or without your consent, but I shall never slight your wishes. I shall live wherever you bid me, I shall do whatever you command." So saying He bowed to her again and again, while she joyfully clasped Him repeatedly.

Then the Acharya led her in, and the Master made haste to receive the faithful, welcoming them, looking into their faces and embracing them, one after another. They grieved at the sight of His bare head, and yet delighted at His beauty. How can I name all the devotees Shrivas, Ramai, Vidyanidhi, Gadadhar, Gangadas, Vakreshwar, Murari, Shuklambar, Buddhimanta Khan, Nandan, Shridhar, Vijay, Vasudev, Damodar, Mukunda and Sanjay? Graciously He smiled on meeting the people of Navadwip. They danced in delight singing "Hari, Hari." The Acharya's house was turned into Vishnu's Heaven. From Navadwip and many villages men flocked to see the Master. For many days the Acharya supplied them all with food, drink and quarters; his store was inexhaustible, the more he spent the more was it filled again. From that day forward Shachi herself did the cooking, and the Master dined in the company of the faithful. In the day they had the Acharya's love and the sight of the Master, at night His dance and song. While He was singing all passions swept over Him, now He stood still, now trembled, now shed tears of joy or uttered broken words, now He fainted. At times He fell down on the ground, at which mother Shachi wept, saying "Methinks Nimai's body has been shattered." Then she piteously prayed to Vishnu, "Grant me this reward for my worship of thee since my infancy, that when Nimai falls on the ground, it may not hurt Him!" The loving mother Shachi was out of herself with transports of delight and meekness.

Shrinivas and other Brahmans wanted to feast the Master. But Shachi entreated them saying, "Where again shall I see Nimai? You will meet Him elsewhere, but for me, miserable one, this is His only visit. Therefore, so long as He lives with the Acharya, I shall feed Him. I beg this favour of you all."

The faithful bowed in assent to the mother's wish. The Master too, caught His mother's love-longing and said to His assembled followers: "I had started for Brindaban without your consent. So my journey was cut short by a hindrance. True, I have embraced the monastic life all of a sudden, yet I shall not be dead to you all. I shall not leave you in life, nor shall I leave my mother. It does not, however, become a hermit to live with his kindred in his birth-place. Let me not lay myself open to this charge. Devise a means by which I can be true to both my duties."

At these sweet words, the Acharya and others went to Shachi and told her of His wish. Shachi, the Mother of the World, answered, "I shall be happy if He stays here, but if He is blamed it will grieve me. This plan strikes me as a happy solution: let Him live on the Nilachal (Puri), which is as it were a next door house from Navadwip; men pass frequently between the two places, and I shall always get news of Him. You all may come and go, and He too may sometimes visit Navadwip at the Ganges bath. I count not my own joy or sorrow. What makes Him happy is happiness to me."

The faithful praised her, "Mother, thy words are like an oracle of the gods!" At their report the Master rejoiced, did reverence to the people of Navadwip and other adorers, and said, "You are my greatest friends. Grant this my prayer, all of you, that you may ever in your homes sing Krishna's sankirtan, Krishna's name, Krishna's deeds, Krishna's worship. Now give me leave to go to the Nilachal; I shall visit you between whiles." Smiling He bade them farewell with due respect. But when He wished to start, Haridas cried piteously "You are going to the Nilachal, but what will be my salvation? I have not strength enough to go there. How can this lowly one hold to his sinful life without getting sight of you?" The Master answered, "Have done with thy self-abasement. It agitates my mind. For thy sake I shall pray to Jagannath; I shall take thee to Purushottam". Then the Acharya meekly begged Him to stay for a few days more, and the Master listened to him and did not go away. So, the Acharya, Shachi, and the faithful rejoiced. Daily did the Acharya hold the grand celebration the sweet discourse on Krishna in the company of the devout in the day-time, and the revelry of sankirtan at night. Joyfully did Shachi cook, and merrily did the Master dine with the faithful. The service of the Master brought fulfilment to Acharya's reverence, devotion, home, and wealth, while Shachi delighted in gazing on her son, and feasting Him to her heart's content.

Thus did the faithful beguile some days in the Acharya's house in great bliss. At last the Master told them, "Go you all to your own homes; there make Krishna's sankirtan. We shall meet again; sometimes you will go to Puri, at others I shall come to you at the Bathing in the Ganges." Goswami Nityananda, Pandit Jagadananda, Pandit Damodar, and Mukunda Datta, these four[2] were sent by the Acharya to bear the Master company. Comforting His mother, He bowed at her feet, walked round her, and then set off. The cry of lamentation rose in the Acharya's house, but the Master quickened His pace, heedless of it. Adwaita followed Him some distance weeping, when He turned back with clasped hands, solaced him, and spoke these gentle words, "You should comfort my mother and look after the congregation, for if you give way to grief they will all die!" Embracing He turned Adwaita back, and passed on freely. To the bank of the Ganges He went with the four, and then to Puri by way of Chhatrabhog.[3] [Madhya Lila, text, canto 3.]

[1] From the Brahman mendicant's speech reported in the Shrimad Bhagabat, XI. xxiii. verse 53.

[2] The Chaitanya Bhagabat mentions two others, Govinda and Gadadhar, (III. 2).

[3] Chhatrabhog. A village where the Ganges divides into innumerable branches before falling into the sea. It is famous for its submerged Shiva styled Ambu-linga.