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Chapter 25: The love of the pilgrims from Bengal

The Bengal bhaktas came to Nilachal [carrying loving presents,--food and preserves, for the Master]. It was the day of Jagannath's sporting in the water of the Narendra tank. The Master came there with His followers to see the water-sport and there the Bengal pilgrims met Him. The Bengal musical parties were singing the kirtan; on meeting the Master they began to weep in love. The water-sport, instrumental music, song, dance and kirtan created a tumult on the bank, while the boats plied merrily on the water. The mingled din of the kirtan and weeping of the Bengalis filled the universe. Then the Master entered the water with His disciples and sported gleefully with them all. These water-sports have been described in detail by Brindaban-das in his Chaitanya-mangal. I shall not repeat them here.

Another day the Master went with His party to behold Jagannath at his rising from bed. There He began the bera kirtan. Seven parties began to sing, and seven chiefs danced in them, Adwaita Acharya, Nityananda, Vakreshwar, Atrhyutananda, Shribas Pandit, Satyaraja Khan and Narahari-das. The Master visited all the seven groups, each thinking that He was with it only! The roar of the kirtan filled the earth; all the citizens came out to see it; the king came with his Court and gazed from a distance, the queens beheld the scene from the roofs of houses. The earth trembled under the influence of the kirtan. Men shouted Hari! thus adding to the din. After a while, the Master was inclined to dance Himself. Around Him the seven parties sang and beat their instruments; in the centre He danced in supreme transport of love. He recollected the Oriya verse, Jagamohan parimunda jaun! 'Charmer of the universe! I abase myself before Thee', and bade Swarup sing it. To this air He danced in ecstasy, while all the men around swam in tears of love. With uplifted arms He cried, "Chant! chant!" and they in delight shouted Hari! Hari! At times He fell down in a trance and ceased to breathe, then suddenly started up with a roar. Frequent tremour burst over His body, making it look like the shimul tree, now it was quivering and now it stiffened. The sweat burst through every pore in His skin. With faltering speech he muttered ja ja, ga ga, pari pari,--every tooth in his mouth shaking as if about to be loosened. Even in the third quarter of the day His dance did not cease. All the people in ecstasy forgot [fatigue of] body and [the distinction of] self and others. Then Nityananda resorted to a device; he silenced the kirtan-singers gradually, and only the leaders of the seven groups continued singing with Swarup, but in a low tone. At the cessation of noise, the Master came to Himself somewhat. Then Nityananda told Him how fatigued all were. The Master at this put an end to the kirtan and went to bathe in the sea with them all.

Then with all His bhaktas He partook of the prasad, dismissed them, and retired to sleep at the door of the gambhira (room). Govinda came to rub His feet, as was the usual practice, before going to feed on His leavings The Master had stretched Himself at full length across the doorway; Govinda could not enter the room and begged Him to move aside a little, but He declined saying that He was too weak lo stir His limbs, and told Govinda to do whatever he liked. Then Govinda threw his sheet over the Master's body and entered the room leaping over Him. His shampooing threw the Master into a sweet a sleep and relieved Him of His fatigue. After two dandas (48 minutes) He woke, and seeing Govinda there, asked in anger, "Why are you here still, Adi-basya? Why did you not go away for your meal when I fell asleep?" Govinda replied, "You lay blocking the doorway, and I found no path for going out of the room." But the Master rejoined, "How, then, could you come in? Why did you not go out in the same way that you entered?

Govinda returned no answer, but reasoned within him self, "I must do my appointed work, even if I have to commit any fault or go to hell for so doing. For the sake of doing my duty I do not hesitate to commit a million sins, but I fear even the touch of sin for my own personal needs."

This year the Bengal pilgrims came in large numbers,--two to three hundred of them, including many women. Shivananda Sen acted as their guide and caretaker on the way.

They came to Puri and met the Master, the women gazing at Him from a distance. They were all given lodging-houses and invited by the Master to eat the maha-prasad. The entire family of Shivananda enjoyed His grace. After the meal He told Govinda to give the leavings on His plate to Shivananda's wife and sons so long as they stayed there. A sweetmeat-seller (modak) of Nadia, named Parameshwar, had his shop close to the Master's paternal house. In His boyhood He used to visit this man's shop and the man used to treat Him to confects made with milk. He loved the Master from His infancy, and this year came to see Him. He prostrated himself before the Master saying, "I am Parameshwar." In delight at seeing him the Master asked, "Parameshwar! are you well? It is a happy thing that you have come." The man added "Mukunda's mother has come", [meaning his own wife]. The Master was shocked to hear the name of a woman, but out of love for Parameshwar said nothing. The loving simple-minded grocer did not know the ways of the learned; these qualities inly delighted the Master.

Four months passed away in the usual way, and then He permitted the pilgrims to return to Bengal. They invited Him to dinner and He lovingly spoke to them all, "Every year you come here to see me, undergoing many hardships on the two journeys. For this reason I feel inclined to forbid your coming, but the pleasure of your society tempts my heart. I had commanded Nityananda to live in Bengal. He has come here in defiance of my order; what can I say to him? The [old] Adwaita Acharya, leaving his wife, children and home behind, performs a long and difficult journey to meet me. How can I repay the debt of his love? I merely sit here at Nilachal without having to do any exertion for your sake. I am a sannyasi, without wealth. With what shall I repay my debt to you? My only property is my body, and this I give up to you. Sell it, if you list."

The Master's speech melted their hearts; tears ran down their cheeks without ceasing. He, too, wept clasping their necks, and weeping embraced them. So, they could not set out on their journey home that day, but passed five or seven days more at Puri in the same way.

At last the Master consoled them and gave them leave to depart with composure of mind. The bhaktas left the city weeping. The Master remained there in sadness of heart.

Last year Jagadananda, the Master's companion, had by His leave gone to Nadia to see mother Shachi. She in delight listened day and night to his discourse on the Master and His doings. All the bhaktas of Nadia met him and entertained him in their houses, listening in rapture to his talk about the Master's inmost things. At the house of Shivananda he prepared a pot of medicated oil, scented with sandal-wood, and taking it to Nilachal asked Govinda to rub it on the Master's head, to cure Him of bile, wind and other sickly humours. Govinda reported it, but the Master replied, "A sannyasi is forbidden to rub oil, especially scented oil. Present it to the temple of Jagannath, where it will be used in lighting lamps, and his labour will be supremely rewarded."

Some ten days afterwards, Govinda repeated Jagadananda's request that He should accept the oil. The Master burst forth in anger, "Very well, engage a servant to rub me with the oil! Is it for such pleasures that I have turned sannyasi? What is ruin to me is a sport to you! Every one who will smell the fragrant oil on my person in the streets, will call me a carnal sannyasi!" Govinda remained silent on hearing this.

Next morning, when Jagadananda came to the Master, He said, "Pandit! you have brought for me oil from Bengal. But I am a sannyasi and cannot accept it. Present it to Jagannath to light the lamps of the temple. That will be the reward of your labour." The Pandit replied, "Who has told you this piece of falsehood? I never brought any oil from Bengal." So saying, he brought out of the room the pot of oil and broke it on the floor of the yard in the Master's sight. Then he ran back to his own house, bolted the door of his bed-room from within, and shut himself up there [without taking any food]. On the third day the Master went to his door and cried out, "Rise, Pandit! you must feed me to-day on your own cooking. I shall come back at noon. I am now off to see Jagannath." So saying, He left the house. The Pandit rose from his bed, bathed, cooked, and at noon, when the Master returned, placed the dishes before Him on the leaves and bark of the plantain-tree. The Master said, "You must dine with me. Serve your meal, on another leaf." But the Pandit entreated Him to eat first and let him sit down to his meal after his guest. The vegetable soup was delicious and the Master cried out, "When one cooks in anger, it tastes so sweet! This is a proof of Krishna's grace on you."

The Pandit served and the Master ate, willing but unable to rise from the feast, and eating ten times His usual food, in fear lest the Pandit should fly into a rage again and fast himself! After the dinner, the Master went back to His lodgings, leaving Govinda there to see that the Pandit broke his fast. Jagadananda sent Govinda back to rub the Master's feet, and put Him to sleep. But He again bade Govinda go and see that the Pandit was really eating! When Govinda reported the fact, then the Master lay down in bed in peace of mind.