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Chapter 2: The Miracles of Madhav Puri

So the Master went to the Nilachal, with His four companions, absorbed in the kirtan (singing) of Krishna. One day He entered a village and brought back a large quantity of rice by personally begging for alms. On the way the ferrymen did not refuse Him a crossing. He blessed them and came to Remuna, [1] where He devoutly visited the charming image of Gopinath. As He bowed down at the feet of the image, the bunch of flowers on its crown dropped upon His head. At this Master rejoiced and danced and sang long with the faithful. The attendants of Gopinath marvelled at His power, ardour, beauty, and accomplishments, and served Him in many ways. There He passed the night, in desire of the kshir prasad (condensed milk) of which He had heard from Ishwar Puri before. The god was known as the Gopinath who stole the kshir, because, as the devotees told the tale, he had once stolen kshir for Madhav Puri.

In days gone by Madhav Puri had wandered on to Govardhan, near Brindaban, in his ecstasy heeding not whether it was day or night, and falling down to the ground without caring what sort of place it was. After making a circuit of the rock, he came to the Govinda-kunda (pool), bathed, and sat down under a tree in the evening. A Cow-boy came and held a pail of milk before him, saving with a smile, "Puri! drink this milk. Why don't you take what you have longed for? What are you musing on?" The Child's beauty charmed the heart of the Puri, and his sweet words took away his hunger and thirst. The Puri asked, "Who are you and where do you live? How did you know that I was fasting?" The Boy answered, "I am a milk-man of this village. In my village none can remain fasting. Some beg for rice, some for milk. I convey food to those who do not beg. The women who had come to draw water saw you, and sent me with this milk for you. I must be off now to milk my cows, but I shall come again for my pail." Then the Boy went away and was not seen again. Madhav Puri wondered, laid the emptied pail down, and began to pray without sleeping. Towards the end of the night he dozed off into unconsciousness, and dreamt that the Boy came and led him by the hand to a bower saying "Here I dwell, suffering much from cold and rain, wind and sun. Bring the villagers together, remove me from the bower to the hill-top and there lodge me properly in a monastery. Bathe me profusely in cold water. Long have I looked forward to the day when Madhav would come to serve me. Moved by thy love I have accepted thy service, and I shall appear in the flesh to save the world by my sight. I am Gopal, the Uplifter of Govardhan Hill. My image was installed by King Bajra,[2] and is the guardian deity of this place. My attendant, in fear of the misbelievers, removed me from the hill to this grove for concealment and then fled. Since then I have been here. It is well that you have come. Now bring me out carefully." So saying the Boy disappeared. Madhav Puri awoke, and judging that he had seen Shri Krishna without recognizing him, he rolled on the ground in a transport of devotion. After some weeping he calmed his mind and set about to carry out the Lord's bidding. After his morning bath he went into the village, called the people together, and said, "The Lord of your village, the Uplifter of Govardhan, is in a grove. Let us seek him out. The grove is dense and hard to enter. Take hatchets and spades with yourselves to make a door." The villagers joyfully accompanied him, and cut an entrance into the grove, where they found to their joy and wonder the image lying hidden under earth and grass. Removing the covering they knew (the image). But it was very heavy, so the strongest men joined together to take it up the hill. There the idol was placed on a stone seat, with another big stone at its back as a support. The Brahmans of the village fetched water from the Govinda-kunda in fresh pots. Nine hundred pots of water were brought; many musical instruments were played; the women sang. It was a great festival with dancing and singing. All the curd milk and ghee in the village were brought there with sweets, and all other articles of offering. The image was bathed by Madhav Puri himself, worshipped and installed there. All the food available in the village was brought to the hill, offered to the god and an anna-kut (pyramid of consecrated food) was formed. In one day's preparation this grand feast was accomplished. The image was laid on a bedstead, a straw thatch built over it, with walls of straw.

The Goswami Puri ordered the Brahmans to feast all the villagers, old and young. They dined, the Brahmans and Brahmanis first, then the others in due order. The people who came from other villages looked at Gopal and got his prasad. Men wondered at the power of the Puri who had produced the pyramid of rice. He brought all the Brahmans to Vaishnavism and employed them in the various services (of the god). Again, at close of day he roused the god, offered some light refreshments as bhog. It was noised abroad that Gopal had appeared there, and people flocked from neighbouring villages to see the god. The villagers joyfully gave feasts in honour of him on different days, each building up a pyramid of rice. At night the image was laid to rest; the Puri drank a little milk.

Next morning the same kind of service began. The people of a village came with all their milk, curd, ghee and rice, and offered them to Gopal. The Brahmans cooked as before and Gopal tasted of the heap of rice. The people of Brindaban love Gopal of themselves, and he too loves them. They all came, partook of the holy prasad and forgot their sorrow and loss at the sight of him. From other provinces men arrived with presents when they heard that Gopal had appeared there. The rich men of Mathura sent costly offerings out of devotion. Gold, silver, cloth, incense and food stuffs were daily presented in vast quantities and swelled the store (of the temple). One very rich Kshatriya built the temple (at his own cost), some one else the kitchen, another the walls. The citizen of Brindaban presented a cow each, and thus Gopal got a thousand cows. Two Brahman hermits came from Bengal, and the Puri received them with attention, made them his disciples, and entrusted to them the service of the god. So he waited on the god for some two years, glad to see him served right royally.

One night the Puri had a dream, in which Gopal spoke to him, "I burn, I burn! Rub me with sandal wood from the Blue Mountain, and from nowhere else, and then shall I be cooled. Go there quickly." The Puri, inspired by devotion, travelled to the eastern country to do the Lord's behest, appointing others to carry on the service. At Shantipur he visited Adwaita Acharya, who was moved by his devotion to get himself initiated by him and became his disciple. Thence the Puri proceeded south [i.e., to Orissa], and at Remuna saw the Gopinath, whose beauty threw him into ecstasy. After singing and dancing he sat down in the vestibule and asked the (attendant) Brahman about the different dishes served to the god. The splendour of the service made him infer that the bhog was excellent. So he resolved to inquire into the character of the bhog and appoint it for his Gopal too. The Brahman described to him how twelve earthen pots full of kshir, called amrita-keli (the cream of nectar) famous and unmatched in the world, were offered to the god every evening. Just then that bhog was presented. The Puri only thought, "If I can get a little of the kshir prasad unasked, I may learn its taste for the purpose of establishing it as my Gopa's bhog." But the longing shamed him and he prayed to Vishnu.

Then the bhog was removed and the arati was celebrated. The Puri bowed and went out without saying a word. He was passionless, indifferent to the world, vowed not to ask for anything. If he got anything unasked he ate it, otherwise he fasted; the nectar of love was enough for him, he felt not hunger or thirst. That he had coveted the kshir struck him as a sin. So he sat down in the deserted square of the village-market singing hymns.

In the meantime the priest laid the image to sleep, finished his duties, and went to bed, where he had a dream. The god came and told him, "Up, priest, and open my door. I have kept a pot of kshir for the hermit. You will find it concealed under the skirt of my lower garment. You all did not notice it under my illusion. Take the kshir quickly to Madhav Puri who is sitting in the market place." The priest arose, bathed, opened the shrine, and found the kshir under the lappet of the god's dhoti. He washed the spot and went into the village with the pot of kshir and walked through the market crying, "Take this kshir, whosoever is named Madhav Puri! For your sake Gopinath had concealed this kshir. Take it and eat it, Puri, thou luckiest man in the three worlds."

At this the Puri disclosed himself. The priest gave him the kshir, bowed, and told the whole story, to the rapture of the Puri. The attendant priest marvelled at his devotion and said, "It is only fitting that Krishna should be obedient to him."

Lovingly did the Puri drink the kshir, then he washed the pot, broke it, and tied the sherds in a corner of his sheet, eating one of the broken pieces every day, at which he grew wonderfully enraptured. At the close of the night he set off for Puri (Jagannath), bowing to Gopinath then and there, in fear that a crowd would gather round him next morning, when they heard that the Lord had sent him kshir.

So he fared on, till he came to Puri in the Blue Mountain; the sight of Jagannath threw him into an ecstasy, he rose up and fell down, he laughed, danced, and sang, in intense delight. It was noised abroad that Madhav Puri had come to the holy place: men flocked to do him reverence. Such is the nature of fame, it comes God-sent to those who seek it not. In fear of public notice the Puri had fled thither, but fame clung to this devotee of Krishna all the way. Eager as he was to escape from the place, the need of sandal for his god held him back. He told the story of Gopal to the attendants of Jagannath and the mohants, and begged sandal wood for him. The faithful exerted themselves for it. Those who knew the Rajah's minister (patra) begged him and thus collected the camphor and sandal. A Brahman and a servant for carrying the sandal were sent with the Puri, and given their travelling expenses. Royal passports were given to the Puri by the minister, addressed to the officers of the frontier outposts and the ferries.

So he returned to Remuna after some time, made many bows to Gopinath, and danced and sang long in rapture. The servitors of the temple did him reverence and fed him on the kshir prasad. While sleeping in the temple, he had a dream at the close of night: Gopal came and told him, "Hark thee, Madhav! I have got all the camphor and sandal. Rub this sandal with camphor and anoint Gopinath with it daily. Gopinath's body is one with mine! Lay the sandal on him and I shall feel the cooling effect. Doubt not, hesitate not, believe and give up the sandal as I bid you." So saying, Gopal vanished; the Goswami awoke, called together the servitors of Gopinath, and told them, "The Lord bids you rub all this sandal and camphor on Gopinath's person; for thus will Gopal be cooled. He is the Supreme Lord and his order is mighty. In summer Gopinath should be anointed with sandal paste." The servitors rejoiced at it. The Puri set the two men to rub the sandal into paste and hired two other men also [for the work]. So he daily rubbed the sandal and the attending priests laid it on gleefully. He stayed there doing this till the sandal was all gone. At the end of summer he again went to the Nilachal and passed there four months.

The Master told His disciples of the sweet life of Madhav Puri and remarked, "Think of it, Nityananda; happiest of men is the Puri. Krishna appeared to him on the pretext of giving him milk. Thrice did he appear to him in dream to lay his commands. His love so influenced the god that he revealed himself, accepted the Puri's service, and saved the world. For his sake Gopinath stole the kshir and got the surname of "kshir-stealer." On the god's body did he lay camphor and sandal, and his love overflowed at it. Hard it is to carry camphor and sandal through a Muslim country (Bengal and Upper India). Gopal knew that the Puri would be put in distress in doing this task. So, the gracious god, ever tender to his devotees, himself took the sandal (at Remuna) in order that the Puri's task might be done. Think of the Puri's extreme devotion! It transcends nature, it amazes the mind! He is silent, passionless, indifferent to every earthly thing. He keeps with himself no companion, lest he should have to speak on any ungodly material subject. That such a man, on receiving Gopal's command, travelled two thousand miles to beg for sandal! He lay fasting and yet did not ask for food! Such a man carried the sandal one maund of sandal and 20 tolas of camphor, rejoicing that he would lay them on Gopal! The frontier custom-officer of Orissa stopped him but he showed the royal pass and was set free. He never reflected how he would carry the sandal through the Muslim land, long distance, and countless hindrances. He had not a shell (kowri) with him to pay duty at the custom barrier, and yet in his enthusiasm he set forth to carry the sandal. Such is the natural effect of true love,--not to think of one's own sufferings and troubles! Gopal had bidden him bring the sandal, only to show to the world the Puri's deep devotion. And he brought it joyfully through all hardships to Remuna. Gopal had meant by it only to try him, and when the trial was over the god grew gracious. We are powerless to understand the depth of his love for Krishna and Krishna's graciousness to his devotee."

So saying the Master recited a stanza of the Puri's composition, which has lighted the world like the moon. Discourse on the stanza only revealed its full beauty, just as the odour of sandal wood spreads with rubbing. I deem this stanza the rarest gem in poetry. Radha speaks it through the mouth of Madhavendra. How did Chaitanya relish it! None besides these three can know its full flavour. The Puri finally attained to the supreme realization [i.e., death], reciting this stanza:

The stanza [Radhika speaks]:--

"O Lord! Gracious to the lowly! thou art now in
Mathura. When wilt thou come to me? Darling mine!
my heart runs about in pain of longing to see thee.
What shall I do?"

On reciting the stanza the Master fell down on the ground in a trance, senseless with the intensity of love. Nityananda hurriedly took Him up in his arms. Chaitanya rose weeping, and ran hither and thither in a transport of devotion, shouting, laughing, dancing, and singing. Oft did He repeat the first word of the stanza, His voice choked with emotion and tears running down His cheeks. He trembled, perspired, wept with joy, stood still, changed colour, now showing remorse, now grief, now stupor, now pride or meekness. The stanza opened the gate of His love. The servitors of Gopinath gazed on tke Master's outpouring of love. But He came back to Himself on seeing a crowd gathering. The bhog was performed, then the arati. The priest laid the god to rest, came out of the shrine and placed the twelve pots of kshir before the Master, who joyfully took five pots for Himself and His disciples and returned the other seven to the priest. True, the sight of Gopinath had been food enough for Him; but He now drank the kshir as a mark of reverence. The night was passed in singing the Name. In the morning He attended the mangal arati and then departed. [Text, canto 4.]

[1] Remuna, 10 miles north-west of Baleshwar in Orissa.
[2] The great-grandson of Krishna and his successor on the throne of Mathura.