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Chapter 15: The Pilgrimage to Brindaban

With the coming of early autumn the Master's mind turned to His pilgrimage. He secretly took counsel with Ramananda and Swarup, saying, "If you two help me, I can visit Brindaban. At night I shall quit my bed and escape by the forest path without taking a single attendant. If any one afterwards seeks to follow me, do you detain him, letting none depart. Mind not the sorrow. Be of good cheer and give me leave. If I leave you pleased, my way-faring will be happy."

The two replied, "You are God and a free agent; you act your will, subject to none. But listen to one request of ours. You have just now said that our happiness would make you happy. Well, then, Sir, grant this our prayer. You must take a good Brahman with you. He will cook your food and carry your pots. In the forest path you will not meet with any Brahman whose cooking is fit to be eaten. Give us leave to send a Brahman along with you."

The Master replied, "No, I shall take none of my own comrades with me. If I take one, the others will be grieved. Some sweet-souled stranger may be my companion. I can take one such if I can get him." Swarup suggested, "Here is Balabhadra Bhattacharya, tender to you, a scholar, a pious man and a gentleman. He had come from Bengal with you during your first advent. He wishes to visit all the tirthas. He has a Brahman servant; he will do your cooking on the way. We shall all be happy if you take him with you, as then you will feel no hardship in making your way through the forest. The Brahman servant will carry your cloth, water, and pots, while Bhattacharya will cook your food." The Master agreed to it and took Balabhadra Bhattacharya with Him.

The night before, He visited Jagannath and took the god's leave, and before sunrise He slipped away unperceived. In the morning the bhaktas missed Him and ran about anxiously seeking Him. Swarup stopped them, and they stayed, knowing such to be the Master's wish. Leaving the beaten track the Master took to by-paths, and passing by the left of Katak entered the jungle. In the lonely forest He fared forth, chanting Krishna's name,--elephants and tigers moved away from the path at the sight of Him. In an ecstatic mood He passed through herds of tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses and boars. Bhattacharya shrank in terror, but they stepped aside cowed by the Master's power.

One day a tiger was lying across the path. The Master in abstraction trod on it and cried, "Speak Krishna's name!" And lo! the tiger stood up and began to dance, while chanting Krishna! Krishna! Another day He was bathing in the river, when a herd of wild elephants came there to drink. They arrived before Him as He was offering the oblation of water. Bidding them repeat Krishna's name He rushed sprinkling the water on them. Every elephant touched by that water shouted Krishna and danced and ran about in love. Some rolled on the ground, some bellowed, to the marvel of Bhattacharya.

On the way the Master sang kirtan aloud. The deer flocked thither, drawn by His sweet voice, and marched with Him on two sides, while He patted their backs and playfully recited the verses, Bhagabat, X. xxi. 11. Just then six or seven tigers came up and joined the deer in accompanying the Master. The sight reminded the Master of Brindaban and He recited the verses descriptive of the virtues of Brindaban. Bhagabat, X. xiii. 55.

When the Master shouted "Chant Krishna's name," the deer and the tigers danced together (peacefully) shout ing Krishna! Krishna! a wonderful sight to Balabhadra Bhattacharya. The tigers and deer embraced and kissed each other, the Master smiling at the fun of it. Leaving them there He went on. The peacock and other birds, on seeing Him, proceeded in His company singing Krishna! and dancing like mad. The Master shouted, 'Say Hari!' Trees and creepers rejoiced at the sound. To all the animate and inanimate things in the jungle of Chota Nagpur (Jharikhand) He communicated the name of Krishna and maddened them with love. In every village that He passed through or halted in, all the men were filled with devotion. If one heard the name of Krishna from His lips, he spread it to a second, the second to a third, and so on. All chanted Krishna-Hari's name, danced, wept, and laughed; from one to another the whole land became Vaishnav. Though for fear of drawing a crowd the Master concealed His devotion and gave no outward exhibition of it, yet the very sight of Him, the hearing of His words, and His power made all the people Vaishnpv. Travelling in Central Bengal, East Bengal, West Bengal, and Orissa, He had delivered the people there. Now, on the pretext of a pilgrimage to Mathura, He came to Jharikhand and saved the ruffianly bearish people by teaching them the faith that springs from Krishna's name. The wood suggested Brindaban, every hill looked like Govardhan, every river seemed to Him a Jamuna. There He danced in ecstasy, and fell down weeping.

Bhattacharya gathered all green leaves, roots and fruits wherever he found them on the way. When they halted at a village, six or seven Brahmans would invite Him; one supplied Bhattacharya with rice, another with milk, curds, ghee, or sugar. Where there was no Brahman inhabitant, all the Shudra merchants invited Bhattacharya. He cooked the wild vegetables, which delighted the Master. He kept a store of rice to last for three or four days. In the lonely parts of the jungle, where there was no human habitation, Bhattacharya cooked that rice with soup of wild vegetables. The picnic delighted the Master exceedingly and the solitude gratified Him. Bhattacharya served Him as tenderly as a slave, his Brahman carrying the water-pot and clothing. Thrice daily He bathed in the hot springs, twice He warmed Himself by the fire, as fuel was abundant; ever did He move in solitude rapt in love. Feeling the bliss (of such a life) He said, "Much have I travelled, but nowhere have I found any trace of the (alleged) hardships of journeying in forests. Passing gracious has Krishna been to me: He has directed me to this forest path to give me varied delight. Previously when I had resolved to visit Brindaban after seeing my mother, the Ganges and my bhaktas, and taking a party of my followers faith me, and with that aim went to Bengal, and after delighting myself with the sight of those dear ones, I set out joyfully with my followers, a million people joined me. Then Krishna instructed me through the mouth of Sanatan; He hindered that journey and brought me to this forest path. O Ocean of Mercy! gracious unto this humble wretch! There can be no pleasure without thy grace!" Then embracing Bhattacharya He said, "All this pleasure have I through thy help." But Bhattacharya replied, "You are Krishna, you are the gracious one! I am a despicable being; you have taken pity on me; you have (deigned to) take me with you, and to eat food cooked by me. I am a wretch. But you have ennobled this crow to the rank of Garuda. You are God Himself, a free being!"

Thus did Balabhadra hymn the Master and please His mind by his loving service. Thus enjoying much bliss He reached Benares and bathed at noon at the Mani-Karnika ghat. Tapan Mishra was then bathing there, and felt some surprise on seeing the Master, as he had previously (only) heard of Chaitanya having turned hermit. When the recognition became certain, he was filled with rapture, and wept clasping the Master's feet, but He raised and embraced him. The Mishra guided the Master to the temple of Vishweshwar and Bindu Madhav, and at last brought Him to his own house, where he served Him, danced (in ecstasy) with his garment fluttering, drank with his whole family the washings of the Master's feet, fed Him, honoured Balabhadra Bhattacharya, and arranged for his cooking.

After taking His meal the Master lay down, the Mishra's son, Raghu, shampooing His feet. The Mishra family ate the leavings of the Master's plate. Chandra-Shekhar, a scribe of the Vaidya caste, resident in Benares, a friend of the Mishra and a devotee of the Master, came there on hearing of His arrival. As he wept at His feet, Chaitanya lifted up and graciously embraced him. Chandra-Shekhar said, "Great is thy grace, Master that thou hast appeared to thy servant! At my first coming to Benares I used to hear nothing but the words 'illusion' (maya) and Brahma. Here nothing was preached except expositions of the six systems of philosophy. Then the Mishra kindly told me of Krishna, and we two meditated ceaselessly on thy feet. Omniscient God! thou hast appeared to us. Let us both serve thee for some days before thou goest to Brindaban, as we hear." The Mishra added, "Master, during your stay at Kashi do not consent to dine anywhere except in my house." Thus the Master, compelled by His two devotees, stayed there for some ten days against His will. A Maratha Brahman came to see Him, marvelled at His beauty and devotion, and invited Him, but He declined saying that He was already engaged for the day. With the same plea He put him off day after day in fear of some sannyasis joining His company.

Prakashananda used to deliver public lectures on Vedanta to his many pupils. The Maratha Brahman, after having viewed the Master, described Him to Prakashananda thus, "A sannyasi has come here from Jagannath, whose glory and power I cannot adequately describe. Big of limbs, fair as the purest gold, long-armed, lotus-eyed, clad in all the marks of God-head, as one can see. O, marvel! The sight of Him convinces one that He is Narayan. Whosoever beholds Him chants Krishna's sankirtan. All the marks of a great bhagabat as described in the Bhagabat are evident in Him. Ever does His tongue sing Krishna's name, His eyes run tears like the Ganges stream. Now He dances, now laughs, now sings and now weeps, or at times roars like the lion. The world's benefactor is He, named Krishna-Chaitanya. His name, appearance, and virtues, all are matchless. To see Him is to know Him as fashioned in God's mould. Hearing will not make one credit this marvellous tale."

The philosopher laughed much and scoffed at the Brahman, saying, "I have heard that there is a sannyasi in Bengal, an emotionalist, a disciple of Keshav Bharati and a fraud on the public. He is named Chaitanya, and with his emotional band he roams over the country dancing. Everyone who sees him calls him God. Such is his spell, all beholders are bewitched. I hear that the great scholar Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya has turned mad in this Chaitanya's company. He is a sannyasi in name only, but really a great wizard. But his stock in trade of sentimentality will not sell at Kashi! Attend to Vedanta; do not resort to him! The companionship of the wild man will ruin you in life and death." Grieved at these words, the Maratha Brahman left the place appealing to Krishna. His mind having been purged by the Master's sight, he came to Him and unfolded the tale of his sorrow. The Master smiled. The Brahman continued, "When I first mentioned you to him, he said that he knew you. When he uttered your name in the course of his abuse of you, he thrice used the form Chaitanya without adding Krishna! It grieved me to hear him speak your name in such a contemptuous manner. Tell me the reason of his conduct, for my lips uttered Krishna's name as soon as I saw you." The Master replied, "The philosophers who hold the doctrine of illusion sin against Krishna. They constantly prate about Brahma, Atma and Chaitanya, and cannot utter the name of Krishna, because that is equivalent to Krishna's self. The name, the image, and the self of a god are all one; there is no distinction between them; the three are of the form of soul's bliss (chidananda). Between Krishna's body and personality, between his name and Krishna himself there is no difference. In the case of creatures, no doubt, name, body, and personality are different from one another. Vide Hari-bhakti-vilas xi. 269.

"Therefore Krishna's name, body, and action (vilas) cannot be comprehended by the natural senses; they manifest themselves. His name, qualities, and antics are the soul's bliss (chidananda) like Krishna's own form. From delight in God comes the fuller pleasure of appreciating Krishna's actions (lila), which attract and conquer the spiritual man. Vide Bhagabat, XII. xii. 52.

"From delight in God comes the fuller pleasure (of relishing) Krishna's merits, which attract the inmost spirit of the soul. Vide Bhagabat, I. vi. 10. Not to speak of Krishna's feet, even the odour of the Tulsi plant captivates the inmost sense of the soul. Vide Bhagabat, III., xv. 43.

"Therefore does Krishna's name fail to rise to his lips; the Illusionists are mere Phenomenalists. He has said that I have come to Kashi with a parcel of sentiments for which there is no customer here, and I must take it all back! Well, how shall I carry away this heavy load? I will sell it here even for a trifle!" So saying and making that Brahman His own, next morning He set out for Mathura. The three followed Him, but He sent them home from a distance. In His absence they used to meet together and sing His praise, mad with love. At Allahabad He bathed in the Triveni, and danced and sang in devotion before the image of Madhav. In rapture at the sight of the Jamuna, He jumped into it, but was hurriedly dragged out by Bhattacharya. Three days He spent thus at Allahabad saving men by imparting to them the love and name of Krishna. On the way to Mathura wherever He halted, He made the people dance to Krishna's loved name. He now made the people of the West Vaishnavs, as He had formerly done those of the South. Wherever He came to the Jamuna on the way, He leapt into it, senseless with love.

On approaching Mathura, He prostrated Himself in an ecstasy of devotion at the sight of the city. Here He bathed in the Vishram ghat, and bowed to Kesav's image at the place of his nativity. He danced, sang, and shouted in rapture,--men marvelling at his fervour. One Brahman clasped His feet and then began to dance with Him over come with love. Both danced in rapture, embraced each other, and cried Hari! Krishna! with uplifted arms. The spectators shouted Hari! Hari!--there was a tumult; the attendant of the image garlanded the Master. Marvelling at the sight of the Master, the people said, "Such beauty and such devotion can never be human. Verily, He is the incarnation of Krishna, come to Mathura to save mankind, because at the sight of Him men are intoxicated with love and laugh weep dance and sing Krishna's name!"

Then the Master took the Brahman apart and asked him secretly, "You are a Brahman, noble-minded, simple and old. Whence did you acquire such wealth of love?" The man replied, "When Madhavendra Puri came here on his travels, he was pleased to be my guest; he made me his disciple and ate of my cooking. That great soul revealed the (concealed) Gopal, who is worshipped at Govardhan to this day." At this the Master touched his feet, but the Brahman in alarm fell down at the Master's feet. The Master explained, "You are my guru, and I am almost a disciple to you. The guru should not bow to the disciple." The Brahman in fear and surprise asked, "Why do you, a sannyasi, use such language? But stay! Your fervour makes me infer that you are connected with Madhavendra Puri [by the tie of initiation]. He was filled with love of Krishna: nowhere do we find even the savour of such love except jmong those connected with him." Then Bhattacharya explained the Master's relation to the Puri, at which the Brahman began to dance in rapture. He conducted the Master to his own house, and of his own will served Him in many ways. He made Bhattacharya cook the Master's meal, but He smilingly said, "The Puri has dined with you. Do thou feed me. This is an instruction for me. Vide Gita, iii. 21."

Though the Brahman was a Sanoria, at whose house sannyasis do not dine, yet the Puri, drawn by his truly Vaishnav behaviour, had initiated and dined with him. Now that the Master begged to eat of his cooking, the Brahman humbly said, "Great is my fortune that I shall feast you. You are God, unfettered by rule and practice. But the ignorant will blame you, which I cannot bear to hear." The Master answered, "The Shruti, the Smriti and all the sages are not of one opinion, but at variance with one another. The actions of good men are for confirming religion. The Puri's action is the essence of that religion. Vide Ekadashi-tattwa, Vyas's words:

'Logical reasoning cannot establish our duty. The Shrutis are conflicting. Not a rishi whose views do not differ from those of others. The truth of religion is hidden in a cave. Follow therefore the path trodden by good men.'"

Then the Brahman feasted the Master, to see whom the citizens of Mathura came in lakhs. The Master appeared to them outside the house, and with uplifted arms cried "Chant Hari! Hari!" The men raised a shout of Hari! and danced mad with love. He bathed at the 24 ghats of the Jamuna, and was shown by that Brahman all the holy sites: Swayambhu, Vishram, Dirgha-Vishnu, Bhuteshwar, Mahavidya, Gokarna, &c.

Wishing to see the woods, He took the Brahman with Him and visited the Madhu-ban, the Tal-ban, Kumud and Bahula, in all of which He sang in a fervour of love. The cows grazing by the way surrounded the Master with loud bellowings, but grew still at the sight of His over flowing devotion, and licked His limbs tenderly. When He became quiet, He rubbed their backs, and they would not leave Him as He advanced. The cowherds stopped them with great difficulty.

His voice drew to Him herds of deer, which gazed at His face, licked His body, and followed Him on the way without fear. The black-bird and the bee sang sweetly on seeing Him; the peacocks strutted dancing before Him. At His coming the trees and creepers of Brindaban put forth sprouts (as if they were thrilled) and shed honey like tears. Branches laden with flowers and fruits, bowed to His feet, as friend hastens to greet friend with a present. At the sight of Him, the animate and inanimate things of Brindaban rejoiced, as on meeting with their friend. Seeing their affection the rapt Master played with them all, over come by their influence. Each tree and creeper He embraced; in thought He offered every flower and fruit to Krishna. Weeping, trembling, shaken with love, He shouted, 'Say Krishna! Krishna!' The living and the inert shouted Krishna as if echoing His deep voice. Clasping the necks of the deer He wept, while the deer trembled and shed tears. The green parrot with its mate appeared on the branches, and on His wishing to hear their speech they flew on to His hand and recited verses in praise of Krishna. Vide Govinda-lilamrita, xiii. 29 &c.

Wonder and enthusiasm seized the Master at these words, and the birds flew back to the branch. Delighted He gazed at the dance of the peacocks, the neck of the bird reminding Him of Krishna, and He swooned away in rapture. The (local) Brahman and Bhattacharya nursed Him, sprinkled Him with water and fanned Him with His cloth. Loudly they poured Krishna's name into His ears, (at which) He awoke and rolled on the ground. The brambles of the rough jungle path scratched His limbs, but Bhattacharya took Him in his lap to soothe Him. Krishna's love had filled His mind, so He sprang up with the cry of "Chant! Chant!" and began to dance. Bhattacharya and the (Mathura) Brahman sang Krishna's name, while the Master wended His way dancing. The Brahman marvelled at the fervour of His love and grew concerned about His safety. His passion of devotion on the way to Brindaban grew tenfold of what it had been at Puri; it increased a thousandfold on seeing Mathura, and a hundred thousand times when He roamed the woods of Brindaban. When He was in other lands the mention of Brindaban had caused His love to well out; and now He had actually come to that Brindaban! His soul was steeped in love day and night, and He bathed and dined (unconsciously) as a matter of habit. [Text, canto 17.]