You are here

Chapter 24: Meeting with Vallabh Bhatta; the Master stints His food

Thus did the luminous Gaur (Chaitanya) perform many feats in many a playful way with His bhaktas at Nilachal. Though His heart was inly pierced with the pang of separation from Krishna, yet He did not express it outwardly lest His disciples should grieve. When, however, His intense love-sickness [for Krishna] did break forth, His agony baffled description. The Krishna-talk of Ramananda and the [sacred] singing of Swarup saved the Master's life amidst the pain of separation from Krishna. In the day time His mind was diverted by the diverse company that He met, but in [the solitude of] night His love-sickness waxed strong. To please Him these two always kept Him company and consoled Him with verses and songs about Krishna.

[Account of how Raghunath-das, the son of a very rich revenue-farmer, escaped from his home at Saptagram in Bengal, joined the Master at Puri and lived in utter lowliness by begging.]

One year Vallabh Bhatta came and met the Master, bowing at His feet. The Master embraced him as an adorer of Vishnu (bhagabat) and with honour made him sit close to Himself.

Meekly did the Bhatta address the Master, "Long have I desired to see you and to-day Jagannath has gratified that wish. Lucky is he who can behold you, for you are as it were God in a visible form. Even to remember you [from a distance] hallows a man. No wonder, then, that the sight of you makes one blessed. (Bhagabat, I. xix. 30.) The distinctive religion of the modern age is the kirtan of Krishna's name, and this religion cannot be established without Krishna's own power. That you have founded this faith proves that you are inspired with Krishna's divine force. Whosoever beholds you, swims in the stream of the love of Krishna. Only Krishna's spirit can call forth this love, as the scriptures say that Krishna is the sole inspirer of prem (love)."

The Master replied, "Listen, great-minded Bhatta! I was a sannyasi following the theory of illusion (maya-vad); I knew not bhakti for Krishna. The Goswami Adwaita Acharya is God incarnate; his society has cleansed my mind. He has no peer in the knowledge of all the Shastras and in devotion to Krishna, and therefore he has been rightly named A-dwaita without a second. Nityananda, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, Ramananda Ray, Damodar Swarup, Haridas Thakur, Acharya Ratna and many other bhaktas have all taught me Krishna-love and true bhakti, and have preached to the world love for the Krishna-name."

So spoke the Master artfully, as he knew the Bhatta to be very proud of his learning, and to have long cherished the conceit that he knew all the bhakti-theology of the Vaishnavs and could expound the Shrimad Bhagabat best. The Master's words curbed this pride of the Bhatta, and he longed to know the many disciples whose Vaishnav character the Master had just extolled. He asked, "Where do these Vaishnavs live? How can I meet them?" The Master replied, "Some live here, some on the bank of the Ganges (i.e., at Navadwip, Panihati etc.). These latter have all come here for the Car festival, and have taken up lodgings in this place. Here will you meet all of them."

Next day when all the Vaishnavs came to the Master's place, He introduced them to the Bhatta. Their Vaishnav-splendour filled the Bhatta with amazement and he looked like a firefly in their company. Then he feasted the Master and His disciples on huge quantities of maha-prasad. The sannyasis sat down with Paramananda Puri on one side. The Master sat down between Adwaita and Nityananda, while His disciples sat before and behind. The bhaktas from Bengal were countless; they filled the yard row on row. Vallabh Bhatta marvelled at the sight of them and bowed at the feet of each. He himself served the maha-prasad to the Master and the sannyasis. They shouted Hari! Hari! on receiving the prasad. The roar of Hari's name filled the universe. The Bhatta gave away garlands, sandal-paste, betel-leaf and nuts and delighted all with his reverence.

On the day of the Car procession, the Master began kirtan. As before, He formed seven distinct groups of singers, under Adwaita, Nityananda, Haridas, Vakreshwar, Shribas, Raghav Pandit, and Gadadhar, who sang at different places. The Master roamed about shouting Hari, while fourteen drums (madal) lifted up the din of the sankirtan. The sight filled Vallabh Bhatta with marvel; he flew into a transport of delight and could not control himself. Then the Master stopped the dance of the others and began to dance Himself. As he gazed on the Master's beauty and the exuberance of His prem, the Bhatta believed that the Master was Krishna himself!

After the festival the Bhatta begged the Master, saying, "I have written a commentary on the Bhagabat and want to read it to you." The Master replied, "I do not understand the meaning of the Bhagabat and am not qualified to hear [and judge] any interpretation of it. I only sit down and recite Krishna's name, and even then fail to complete the promised number of recitations in twenty-four hours." The Bhatta rejoined, "I have made an exposition of the meaning of Krishna's name in my commentary. Listen to it." But the Master objected, "I do not pay any regard to the many senses of Krishna's name; I only know that he is Yashoda's darling son and darkly beautiful [like the Tamal leaves]. This only I know for truth, and I have not arrived at any other meaning of the name." At the Master's slight, the Bhatta went back to his quarters, downcast in mind. (He took his commentary to the chief disciples, and even read out parts of his own motion, but they slighted it and he was abashed).

Daily did Vallabh Bhatta go to the Master's place and dispute with [Adwaita] Acharya and other disciples. Whenever he established a proposition, the Acharya used immediately to refute it. Before them Vallabh Bhatta appeared like a crane in the company of majestic swans.

One day the Bhatta asked the Acharya, "Mankind is feminine, and Krishna is their husband, so you hold. No devoted wife utters her husband's name. And yet you repeat Krishna's name. What sort of dharma is this?" The Acharya replied, "Dharma in the flesh is sitting before you. Ask Him, and He will justify it."

Then the Master broke in, "You do not know the essence of dharma. It is the dharma of a true wife to obey her husband's commands. Our husband has commanded us to chant his name ceaselessly. No true wife can disobey his command, and so we chant his name and derive from it the fruit of the birth of love for Krishna's feet." This silenced Vallabh Bhatta and he went home sorrowing at his public humiliation.

Another day he came to the Master's assembly and said rather boastfully, "I have refuted [Shridhar] Swami's commentary on the Bhagabat. I cannot accept his interpretation Where his view differs from mine, I do not follow the Swami." The Master smiled and remarked,. "One who does not follow (her) swami (=husband) is ranked among harlots!"

Chaitanya had come to earth as an avatar for the good of mankind; by various humiliations He purified the proud heart of the Bhatta. At night Vallabh Bhatta began to reflect in his own house, "Formerly the Master favoured me greatly at Allahabad, when He accepted my invitation to dinner in the company of His disciples. Why then is His heart turned away from me now? Let my heart be free from the pride of gaining victories in debate. The God-souled does good to all. I am filled with the pride of asserting myself, and He humiliates me in order to cure me of this pride."

So thinking, next morning he came to the Master and meekly praising Him took refuge at His feet, saying, "I am ignorant and have foolishly displayed my learning before you. You are God and out of your natural grace you have removed my pride by means of disgrace. The blindness of pride has been removed from my eyes through the collyrium of your grace now, and true knowledge has dawned on me. I have sinned. Forgive me; take refuge with thee; lay thy feet on my head."

The Master checked him saying, "You are a scholar and a devotee at the same time. Where these two qualities are present, there pride cannot exist. You have written a commentary on the Bhagabat in scorn of Shridhar Swami! I understand the Bhagabat through the grace of Shridhar Swami; he is the world's guru, my guru. What you write contrary to Shridhar is labour lost; no one will accept it. Therefore, write your commentary on the Bhagabat in the footsteps of Shridhar. Leave off your pride and adore the Lord Krishna. Give up your failings and join the kirtan of Krishna, and you will soon attain to Krishna's feet."

Then the Master agreed to dine at Vallabh Bhatta's house once again. The Bhatta used to meditate on God as the child Gopal. But the society of Gadadhar Pandit turned his mind, and he longed to adore the youthful Gopal. He begged the Pandit to teach him the mantra and ceremonial of this kind of adoration, but Gadadhar declined to act without the Master's permission ... Another day Gadadhar Pandit invited the Master, who agreed and at the dinner permitted Vallabh Bhatta to be initiated by Gadadhar.


Ramchandra Puri Goswami came to Nilachal and there met the Master and Paramananda Puri Jagadananda Pandit invited Ramchandra Puri and fed him on the prasad of Jagannath. After the meal the Puri asked Jagadananda to feed on the food left over, and serving the prasad repeatedly made him eat much. And thereafter, washing his hands and mouth, Ramchandra Puri began to cavil, "I had heard that Chaitanya's bhaktas were great gluttons. Now I see it with my own eyes to be true. By gorging sannyasis with so much food, their piety is destroyed. You are bairagis and yet you are such huge eaters! Your bairagya is not sincere."

Ramchandra Puri was notorious as the universal fault finder, having been cursed for it by his own religious preceptor, Madhavendra Puri. He now dwelt at Nilachal, detached by nature, staying at one place for some time, taking his meal at some [other] place without having been bidden, and taking note of what others ate.

The Master was daily fed at different houses, at a cost of four pan of cowries [i.e., one anna] for the three of them,--the Master, Kashishwar, and Govinda (His body-servant.) Ramchandra Puri closely inquired into the Master's abode, manners, food, bed and travels. He could not reach the Master's merits, but roaming in search of His defects, could not find any. Then he began to slander the Master to all the people, saying, "He is a sannyasi and yet eats sweetmeats. How can such luxury enable him to control the lusts of the flesh?"

He daily came to visit the Master, but only to pry into His shortcomings,--for that was the only work of the Puri,--while the Master did him reverence as His guru. He knew of the slanders spoken by the Puri [against Him], but welcomed and honoured him greatly. One day the Puri came to the Master's house in the morning, and noticing some ants on the floor, delivered this covert attack, "Verily sweetmeats were brought here last night, for ants are running about. A wonder sannyasis dead to the world have such gluttonous cravings!" And then he left in a hurry.

The Master now saw with His own eyes what He had only heard before, [about the slander spread against Him]. He called Govinda and told him, "From to-day my meal will be one packet of rice and curry of the pinda-bhog worth 20 cowries [i.e., one quarter-anna]. Don't accept any food above this for me. If you bring more, you will not see me here."

Half of this the Master ate and the other half He left for Govinda, and both remained famished. Then He commanded Govinda and Kashishwar to beg their food elsewhere. Thus some days passed in great hardship. Hearing of it, Ramchandra Puri came to the Master and smiling told Him, "It is not a sannyasi's dharma to gratify his appetite. He eats just enough to fill his stomach anyhow. I find you lean and hear that you eat only half your fill. This drying bairagya is not a sannyasi's dharma. A sannyasi performs true jnan-yog when he fills his stomach as far as is necessary but does not enjoy his food. (Gita, vi. 16-17.)"

The Master replied, "I am an ignorant child and your pupil. It is my good fortune that you are teaching me." Ramchandra Puri then left.

Next day the bhaktas headed by Paramananda Puri complained to the Master against Ramchandra as a universal fault-finder and instigator of gluttony, which he afterwards censured. They urged Him not to listen to Ramchandra and famish Himself, but to return to His old diet and accept invitations. But the Master replied, "Why do you blame Ramchandra Puri? He expounds the natural dharma, and has done no wrong. It is very wrong for a sannyasi to have a lustful palate. It is a sannyasi's duty to eat just as little as will keep body and soul together." They all pressed Him hard, and yielding to their entreaty He fixed His rations at one-half of its former cost, viz. at two pan of cowries [i.e., half anna], which was shared by two, sometimes three persons. If a Brahman whose cooking He could not eat, invited Him, He took only prasad worth two pan of cowries. If it was a Brahman whose cooking He could eat, He took a little of prasad [purchased with money] and a little of the meal cooked in His host's house. But at the houses of Pandit Goswami, Adwaita Acharya, and Sarvabhauma, He ate whatever they asked Him, for there He had no independence; He had come down to earth to render His devotees happy.

After a time Ramchandra Ptiri left Nilachal on a pilgrimage, to the intense delight of the Vaishnavs, who felt that a heavy stone had been lifted from their heads! They now freely invited the Master to kirtan and dance, and all freely partook of the prasad.