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Chapter 9: The Grand Chanting (Bera Kirtan)

One day Sarvabhauma said, "Master, may I make bold to submit a thing?" He replied, "Say thy say without hesitation. If it is a proper request, I shall keep it, if not, not." Sarvabhauma said, "Here is Pratap Rudra Ray, eager to meet you." The Master clapped His hands to His ears, murmured an appeal to God, and replied, "Why such an improper speech, Sarvabhauma? I am a hermit withdrawn from the world. For me to meet a king or a woman is fatal like a draught of poison."

Sarvabhauma entreated, "True are thy words. But this Raja is a votary of Jagannath and the chief of devotees." "Still, a king is only the deadly snake in another form, just as the touch of even the wooden statue of a woman causes mental perturbation. Say not so again. If you do, you will miss me from this place." Alarmed, Sarvabhauma retired to his own house.

At this time King Pratap Rudra of the Gajapati dynasty arrived at Puri. With him came Ramananda Ray, who first of all interviewed the Master in great delight. The Ray prostrated himself, the Master embraced him, and the two shed tears of joy. At this loving intercourse, all the bhaktas wondered. The Ray said, "I reported your behest to my king, who relieved me of my office, as you wished. I told him that if he would let me I should remain at Chaitanya's feet, as I no longer wished to manage affairs (of state). At the mention of thy name the king in delight rose from his throne and embraced me. On hearing thy name he was enraptured; he held my hand and very graciously told me, 'Enjoy your salary as before, and adore Chaitanya's feet in freedom from all cares. I, worthless wretch, am unfit to behold Him. Blessed are they in life that adore Him. Right gracious is He, the son of Braja's lord. In some other birth He will certainly grant me the sight of Him.' I myself have not a tithe of the passion of devotion which I saw in the Raja."

The Master replied, "You are the foremost of the adorers of Krishna. He is fortunate who loves you. Krishna will accept the Raja because of the great favour he has shown to you. Vide Bhagabat, XI. xix. 21, III. vii. 20, and two verses from the Adi Puran and the Padma Puran."

The Ray bowed at the feet of the four apostles, viz., the Puri, the Bharati, Swarup and Nityananda, and properly met Jagadananda, Mukunda, and the other faithful ones. The Master asked, "Ray! have you visited Jagannath?" The Ray replied, "I am going to see the god now." At this the Master cried out, "What hast thou done, Ray? Why did you come to me before visiting the god?" The Ray answered, "My feet are my carriage, my heart is the driver; wherever they take me I, as rider, must go. What can I do? My heart brought me hither, and did not suggest the idea of visiting Jagannath first." The Master replied, "Hasten to see the god; go to your kindred and home afterwards." At the Master's command the Ray went to see the god. Who can fathom the mystery of the Ray's devotion?

On reaching Puri, the king summoned Sarvabhauma, and after bowing to him asked, "Did you submit my prayer to the Master?" Sarvabhauma replied, "I have entreated Him hard, but He still refuses to grant interview to kings. If we press Him further He will go away from this place." At this the king lamented, "His advent is for redeeming the sinful and the lowly. He has saved Jagai and Madhai. Has He incarnated Himself with the determination to deliver the whole world excepting Pratap Rudra, alone? Well, He has vowed not to see me, and I now vow to give up this life if I cannot see Him. If I am not rich in the great Master's grace, what boots my kingdom, my body? Everything is useless to me."

Hearing this Sarvabhauma grew alarmed, and he marvelled at the ardour of the king's devotion. So he said, "My liege! grieve not. The Master will surely take pity on you. He can be compelled by love, and your love is most profound; He cannot help doing you grace. Still, I suggest a device by which you can see Him. At the Car Festival, the Master with all His followers will dance in rapture in front of Jagannath's car, and enter the garden in an ecstatic mood. Just then, clad in a plain robe and reciting the Krishna-rasa-panchadhyayi all alone, you will run and clasp the Master's feet. He will then be oblivious of the outer world, and on hearing Krishna's name will embrace you as a Vaishnav. To-day Ramananda Ray has lauded your devotion to the Master, whose mind has been turned by it."

At these words the king rejoiced and accepted this plan of meeting with the Master. He learnt from the Bhatta that the Bathing Festival would occur three days afterwards. Thus consoling the king, the Bhatta returned home.

At the Bathing Festival, the Master greatly rejoiced to see the ceremony; but when Jagannath withdrew to retirement, He deeply mourned for it, and in anguish of separation, like the milkmaids during Krishna's absence, He retired to Alalnath, leaving His followers behind. They afterwards joined Him, and reported that many of the faithful had arrived from Bengal. Sarvabhauma brought the Master back to His quarters in Puri, and informed the king of the fact. Just then Gopinath Acharya arrived at the Court, blessed the king, and said, "Hark thee, Bhattacharya, two hundred Vaishnavs are coming from Bengal,--all of them followers of the Master and very spiritual personages. They have appeared in the city. Arrange for their being given lodgings and consecrated food." The king replied, "I shall order the Parichha, to assign them lodgings &c., as they require. Show me, Bhattacharya, the Master's followers arrived from Bengal, one by one." The Bhatta said, "Climb to the roof of the palace. Gopinath will point them out as he knows them all, I know none, though I long to do so. Gopinath will introduce each." So saying the three ascended to the roof, while the Vaishnavs came near them. Damodar Swarup and Govinda, sent on by the Master, welcomed the Vaishnavs on the way with the god's garlands and prasad. To the Rajah's query Bhattacharya said, "This one is Swarup Damodar, the alter ego of the Master. That is His servant Govinda. By their hands has He sent the garlands as a mark of honour." Swarup and Govinda successively garlanded Adwaita and bowed to him. But the Acharya knew not Govinda and asked who he was. Damodar Swarup answered "He is Govinda, a highly meritorious servant of Ishwar Puri, who had ordered him to tend our Master, and by Him is Govinda now retained."

The king asked, "Who is the high spiritual chief to whom both have given garlands?" The Acharya replied, "He is Adwaita Acharya, respected by our Master and highly honoured by all. That one is Shribas Pandit, and those are Vakreshwar Pandit, Vidyanidhi Acharya, Gadadhar Pandit, Acharya Ratna, Purandar Acharya, Gangarlas Pandit, Shankar Pandit, Murari Gupta, Nara-yan Pandit, Haridas Thakur (the purifier of the world), Hari Bhatta, Nrisinghananda, Vasudev Datta, Shivananda, Govinda, Madhav, Vasu Ghosh (three brothers, whose chanting delights the Master), Raghav Pandit, Acharya Nandan, Shriman Pandit, Shrikanta Narayan, Shridhar (the white robed), Vijay, Vallabh Sen, Sanjay, Satyaraj Khan (a resident of Kulin village), Ramananda, Mukunda-das, Narahari, Raghunandan, Chiranjib (of Khanda), Sulochan, and many more. How can I name them all? They all follow Chaitanya and hold Him as their life."

The king answered, "The sight fills me with wonder. I have never before beheld such radiance among Vaishnavs. They are all resplendent of hue like a million Suns. Never before have I heard such entrancing street singing. Nowhere else have I seen such devotion, such dancing, such shouting of Hari's name, and nowhere else have I seen or heard the like of it."

Bhattacharya said, "True are thy words. Chaitanya has created this devotional procession-singing (sankirtan). His incarnation is for preaching religion; in the Kali age the sankirtan of Krishna's name is the (only) religion. Wise are those who worship Krishna by means of sankirtan; all other men are overpowered by the spirit of Kali. Vide Bhagabat, XI. v. 29".

The king asked, "The Shastras prove that Chaitanya is Krishna (incarnate). Why then do scholars turn away from Him?" The Bhatta answered, "He alone whom Chaitanya favours even a bit can know Him as Krishna. He who has not Chaitanya's grace is nowise a scholar, as he sees and hears Chaitanya without recognizing the God in Him. Vide Bhagabat, X. xiv. 28."

The king asked, "Why are they all hastening to Chaitanya's lodgings without first visiting Jagannath?" The Bhatta replied, "Such is the natural consequence of devotion. Their hearts are yearning to see the Master. They will see Him first, and then led by Him will visit Jagannath." The king next said, "Vaninath, the son of Bhabananda Ray, is conveying the maha-prasad by five or six porters to the Master's house. Why is such a huge quantity needed?" The Bhatta answered, "Knowing that the faithful were coming, the Master had bidden him bring the prasad". The king objected, "It is the custom for pilgrims to fast on reaching a holy place (before they see the god). But why are these men breaking their fast?" The Bhatta answered, "What you mention is the rule of religion. But in this path of devotion there is a subtle inner meaning. God's indirect (or general) command is that pilgrims should first shave their heads and fast. But the Master's direct (or immediate) order is feasting on the prasad. Where the maha-prasad is not available, fasting is the rule; but it is a sin to refuse the prasad when the Master bids one eat it; especially when He is distributing it with His own hands, who will reject such blessedness in order to fast? Before this He had one morning offered me the prasad, and I had eaten it before rising from my bed! He whose heart receives Chaitanya's gracious call discards the Vedas and conventional religion, and seeks refuge in Krishna alone. Vide Bhagabat, IV. xxix. 43."

Then the king descended from the palace terrace. He summoned Kashi Mishra and the Parichha officer and bade them, "The Master's followers have come to Him. Give them food and board to their comfort, and make it easy for them to see the god. Heedfully obey the Master's behests. Even when He does not speak out, carry out His hinted purpose." So saying he dismissed them.

Sarvabhauma then went away to visit the temple. Gopinath Acharya and Sarvabhauma from afar beheld how the Master met the Vaishnavs. The Vaishnavs (from Bengal) took the way to Kashi Mishra's house, leaving Jagannath's lion-gate on their right. Just then the Master coming with His attendants met them on the way in great glee. Adwaita bowed at His feet, but He embraced him. In rapture of devotion the two were greatly excited, but in consideration of the occasion the Master composed Himself somewhat. The new arrivals all bowed to Him, and He embraced and addressed each of them in turn, took them inside His house (which was filled with the throng of countless Vaishnavs), seated them by Himself, and personally gave them garlands and sandal-paste. Then Gopinath and Sarvabhauma arrived there and saluted all in proper terms.

Sweetly did the Master address Adwaita, "Thy coming has made me complete to-day." But Adwaita objected, "Such is the nature of God. He is full and the source of all power, and yet He exults in the society of the faithful and ever disports in many ways with them."

The Master, delighted to meet Vasudev, stroked his body and said, "Mukunda has beeh my companion from my childhood. But the sight of you gives me even more delight." Vasudev replied, "That Mukunda has gained your society is a second birth to him. Therefore is his rank higher than mine, though I am his elder brother. Your grace has made him excel in all virtues." Then the Master added, "I have brought two manuscripts from the South for you. They are with Swarup; take copies of them." Vasudev was pleased to get the books, and every Vaishnav (from Bengal) took a copy of them; so that gradually the two works spread everywhere.

Lovingly did the Master address Shribas and others, "You four brothers have bought me (with your kindness)," to which Shribas replied, "Why do you speak just the contrary of the fact? We four are bondsmen purchased by your grace."

Seeing Shankar, the Master spoke to Damodar [his elder brother], "My love for you is mixed with respect, whereas towards Shankar I feel pure affection. Therefore keep him in your company." Damodar replied, "Shankar was born after me, but your grace has made him my elder brother."

To Shivananda He said, "I knew before [this your first introduction to me] that you were ardently devoted to me." At these words Shivananda was enraptured; he prostrated himself on the ground and recited an extempore Sanskrit stanza.

Murari Gupta, without coming to the Master at first, lay prostrate out of doors. The Master searched for him, and many ran out to bring Murari in. Murari presented himself before the Master holding two blades of grass between his teeth as a mark of abject humility. As the Master advanced to yyelcome him, Murari stepped back shouting, Touch me not, Lord, I am a sinner, my body is unworthy of your touch." The Master replied, "Away with your lowliness, Murari; the sight of it pierces my heart." So saying He embraced Murari, seated him by His side and patted him on the back.

Similarly, with words of praise and repeated embraces did the Master receive Acharya Ratna, the Vidyanidhi, Gadadhar Pandit, Gangadas, Hari Bhatta, and Purandar Acharya. Then He asked, "Where is Haridas?" But Haridas lay prostrate far away on the edge of the public road, whence he had first beheld Chaitanya. He had not resorted to the Master's reception, but stopped at a distance. The devotees hurried there to lead him in, but Haridas said, "I am a low person, of no caste, and debarred from going close to the temple. If I can get a little retired space in the garden, I shall lie there and pass my time in loneliness, so that no servitor of Jagannath may have anv occasion to touch me. That is my prayer."

At the report of this speech the Master was pleased. Just then Kashi Mishra and the Parichha arrived and did obeisance to the Master. Delighted to see so many Vaishnavs, they were introduced to all with due courtesy. Then they entreated the Master, "Permit us to make arrangements for these Vaishnavs. We have chosen lodgings for all and shall serve them with the maha-prasad." The Master replied, "Gopinath! take the Vaishnavs with you and bestow them in the lodgings chosen for them. Deliver the maha-prasad to Vaninath, who will distribute it to all. Close to my place is a very lonely house in this flower-garden. Let me have it, as I need it for lonely meditation." Then Mishra said, "All is thine, and this begging is needless. Take whatever houses you please. We two are slaves waiting for your bidding. Be pleased to command us in whatever you wish for."

The two now left with Gopinath and Vaninath; the former was shown all the lodging-houses, and the latter was given immense quantities of the maha-prasad (for the whole party). Thereafter Vaninath returned with the consecrated rice and cakes, and Gopinath after cleaning the lodgings. The Master said, "Hear, all ye Vaishnavs! Go to your respective lodgings. After bathing in the ocean and gazing at the pinnacle of the temple, come here for your dinner." After bowing to the Master, they were led away to their quarters by Gopinath.

Then He came to receive Haridas, who was chanting God's name in rapture. Haridas fell flat at the Master's feet, who clasped him to His bosom. Both wept in fervour of love,--the Master overcome by the disciple's merits and the disciple by the Master's. Haridas cried, "Touch me not, Master, I am a low untouchable wretch." But the Master answered, "I touch you to be purified myself, because I lack your pure religion. Every moment you acquire as much piety as by bathing in all holy places, or by performing sacrifice, austerities, and alms-giving, or by reading the Vedas. You are holier than a Brahman or a sannyasi! Vide Bhagabat III. xxxiii. 7." So saying He took Haridas into the garden and gave him a room all apart, adding, "Live here, chanting His name. Daily will I come and join thee. Bow to the discus on the top of the temple of Jagannath (which you can see from here). The prasad will be sent to you here." Nityananda, Jagadananda, Damodar, and Mukunda rejoiced on meeting with Haridas.

After bathing in the sea the Master returned to His quarters. Adwaita and his party also bathed in the sea, gazed (reverently) at the pinnacle of the temple, and came to the Master's house for dinner. Chaitanya seated them in proper order and Himself distributed the food. So lavish was His hand that He gave two or three men's food to each. But all the faithful held their hands back from the dinner so long as the Master fasted. Swarup reported this to Him, saying, Unless you sit down to meal, none else will dine. Gopinath Acharya has invited the party of sannyasis to dine with you. He has brought the prasad, and the Puri and Bharati were waiting for you. Do you sit down to dinner with Nityananda, while I serve the Vaishnavs." Then the Master carefully sent the prasad to Haridas by the hand of Govinda, and Himself sat at meals with all the sannyasis, while the Acharya served them in delight. Swarup Damodar and Jagadananda served the Vaishnavs, who ate all sorts of cakes and syrups, joyously shouting Hari's name every now and then.

After they had dined and washed their hands, the Master gave each a garland and a sandal-paste mark. They then retired to their lodgings for rest. In the evening they came to Him again, when Ramananda also arrived. The Master introduced him to all the Vaishnavs. With the whole party He went to Jagannath's temple, and began to chant (kirtan). After the burning of evening incense He began a sankirtan. The Parichha presented Him with a garland and sandal-paste.

Four parties sang on four sides, while in their midst danced Shachi's darling. Eight dholes and 32 cymbals were played on. All shouted "Hari! Hari!" and cheered. The blissful sound of kirtan penetrated through the 14 regions to the empyrean. As the kirtan began, devotion welled out; the people of Puri ran thither and marvelled at the singing, having never seen such transports of love before.

Next the Master went round Jagannath's temple, dancing and singing, while the four parties of chanters preceded and followed Him. As He was falling down, Nityananda held Him up. Men wondered as they beheld His weeping, tremour, perspiration, and deep shouting. The tears ran down His cheeks like jets from a syringe and bathed the men around. After dancing round the temple for a long time, He performed kirtan behind it, the four parties singing in a high pitch, while Chaitanya danced wildly in the middle. After dancing long He stopped and permitted the four Apostles to dance with the four parties, Nityananda, Adwaita Acharya, Vakreshwar Pandit, and Shrinibas while the Master from the centre gazed on. Here He manifested a miraculous power: every one who danced around Him saw that the Master was gazing only at him! He manifested this power only because He wished to behold the dance of the four. Every one noticed His attentive gaze but did not know how He could gaze on four sides! Just as at the feast on the Jamuna's bank, Krishna in the midst of his comrades seemed to be gazing at every one of them at the same time.

As each came up to Him dancing, the Master firmly clasped him to His bosom. The people of Puri swam in a sea of delight as they beheld such grand dancing, devotion, and sankirtan. The king himself on hearing of the splendour of the kirtan, ascended to the terrace of his palace with his Court to gaze at it. The sight increased his admiration and his eagerness to be introduced to the Master.

After finishing the chanting and beholding the ceremony of showering flowers on Jagannath, the Master returned home with all the Vaishnavs. The Parichha brought to Him plenty of prasad which He divided among all. Then he dismissed them and retired to bed. All the time they were with Him, they daily performed kirtan in this style. [Text, canto n.]