Saturday, May 26, 2012

Gadadhar Pandit :: Bhakti Shakti (Part I)


Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Gaur Gadadhar deities in Svananda Sukhada Kunj

This article appeared in its original form in Nitai Das’s little publication, Gifts of Sacred Wonder (Calcutta: Subarna Rekha, 1985), where it was given the title “The Role of Shakti in Gaura Lila.” This title was somewhat misleading as the article does not fully answer the questions implicit in it.

This was my first real publication, and that book is quite a wonderful little collectors’ item, with two article by Nitai, one by Advaita Das, and another by Gadadhar Pran Das, with a lot of nectar in it, despite its many flaws. The follow article was meant to research the various Vaishnava texts for a more complete understanding of Gadadhar Pandit Goswami. The train of thought and the goal of the text were not always clear, so I thought that I would revise it and make it public again. That was done on Gaudiya Discussions in 2004, where the article is still being archived.

I am posting it in view of recent requests. Since I am redoing the diacritics, I will post it in three parts as was originally done in 2004. 



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Part I. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his biographies.


Introduction

Vishwambhar Mishra, then generally known as the scholar Nimai, was suddenly and surprisingly accepted by a set of sober, educated and pious men as God incarnate. In a matter of months, he who had been not only the talented new protégé of Nabadwip’s prestigious academic circle, but its enfant terrible became equated with Sri Krishna, the svayam bhagavān of the Bhāgavata school.

According to Kavi Karnapur in his Mahākāvya, “The Lord, pacifier of the pains of the embodied, returned from Gaya at the end of the month of Paush. Then, from the beginning of Magh, he became absorbed in daily kirtan with his devotees, displaying unique mystical wonders." (CCMK 4.76, p. 133)

From those cool winter nights until the end of the month of Magh of the following year (1510 A. D.), Nimai Pandit attained religious superstardom, something that he never lost. The intense mystical emotions that racked his mind and body became the inspiration of hundreds of poets, philosophers, musicians and artists. Countless devotees surrendered their very souls to his feet and wondered in amazement at what God had wrought for men in this form. Who and what was this amazing manifestation of humanity? Was it not one of superhumanity? For most of Bengal the answer very quickly became yes.

Although Nimai became a devotee of Krishna upon meeting his guru, Ishwara Puri, in Gaya, and though it was of Krishna’s name alone that he spoke or sang, and although it was Krishna that he pined for, cried for and eventually sacrificed everything for, still he became identified with Krishna in the minds of the devotees. How this took place is certainly worth examining.

Over the years, theological developments took place that established Mahaprabhu’s ontological status to his devotees, and this was accompanied by developments in understanding related to his closest companions. In this article, we are particularly interested in the developments surrounding Gadadhar Pandit.

Srila Gadadhar Pandit Goswami was born in the village of Beleti in the Chittagong district of modern Bangladesh in 1408 of the Shaka era (1486 AD) on the dark moon day of the month of Vaishakh. His father was Madhava Mishra, a Varendra Brahmin in the Kashyapa gotra, and his mother Ratnavati Devi. He also had a younger brother named Baninath. The family remained in Beleti Gram until Gadadhar was twelve when they moved to Nabadwip.

Gadadhar was one of Chaitanya’s childhood friends and one of the very first to become aware of Chaitanya’s spiritual transformation in 1509. A lifelong celibate, he accompanied Chaitanya to Jagannath Puri when he took sannyasa and remained with him there through the rest of his life, leaving this world a mere eleven months after Chaitanya did in 1534.

When the Pancha Tattva doctrine was enshrined at the Kheturi festival, Gadadhar was recognized as bhakta-śakti, and the main purpose behind this article is to assess exactly what this means. For some, Gadadhar is none other than Radha. It seems that others found this an uncomfortable conclusion. Ramakanta Chakravarti, for instance, writes, “But the so-called Gadai-Gauranga subsect remained unhonored because the theory of Radha-Krishna conjugality in Chaitanya militated against the idea that Gadadhar Pandit was the incarnation of Radha.” (Vaishnavism in Bengal, 237)


A brief survey of the biographies

Between 1513 and 1612, portraits of Mahaprabhu (Nimai) were painted in ever increasing detail by several of his followers. Seven principal biographies of Mahaprabhu have survived to the present. The abbreviations given here will be used throughout this article.(NOTE 1)
  1. Śrī-Kṛṣṇa-caitanya-caritāmṛtam (Sanskrit) Murari Gupta (1535). (KCCM)
  2. Śrī-Caitanya-caritāmṛta-mahākāvyam (Sanskrit) by Kavi Karnapur (1542). (CCMK)
  3. Śrī-Caitanya-bhāgavata (Bengali) by Vrindavan Das Thakur (c. 1550). (CBh)
  4. Śrī-Caitanya-maṅgala (Bengali) by Jayananda (c. 1560). (CMJ)
  5. Śrī-Caitanya-maṅgala (B) by Lochan Das (c. 1572). (CML)
  6. Śrī-Caitanya-candrodaya-nāṭakam (S) by Kavi Karnapur (1572). (CCN)
  7. Śrī-Caitanya-caritāmṛta (B) by Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami (1612). (CC)
These, plus a large number of songs written by other contemporaries and found in the Gaura-pada-taraṅgiṇī (GPT), provide the principal materials for understanding the life of Mahaprabhu.(NOTE 2)

I shall not go into a detailed discussion of the historicity of the above texts. However, I should like to make a few important observations that are essential to understanding this article. Murari Gupta’s KCCM is the first account of Mahaprabhu’s life. Three of the others, CCMK, CBh. and CML, all are directly based on Murari’s work, which is sometimes known as his kaḍacā (karcha). Since only two copies of the KCCM have ever been found, the work is somewhat controversial and questions have been raised about its authenticity. In my opinion, however, there is sufficient reason to accept its value as authoritative. I have written about this elsewhere (article currently not available on line). Nevertheless, one of the results of the research that went into this article is the discovery of possible reasons why Murari’s account fell into disfavor, despite the great debt the other authors felt toward him.

On the other hand, though Jayananda is purported to be a disciple of Gadadhar, he seems to have been something of an outsider. His Caitanya-maṅgala is thus the least authoritative or interesting of the biographies. It seems so completely out of step with the other biographies, and Jayananda’s character so completely absent from any other source text of the time, that with the exception of a few curious bits of information, it is not taken with much seriousness by any scholar of Mahaprabhu’s life. It has not, therefore, been a source of any importance in deepening our understanding of the questions under study here.

Of these seven biographies, two (CML and CCN), plus an important third work dealing with Chaitanya’s life, Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā (GGD), were written in the 1570’s. The historical significance here is the proximity of these productions to the Kheturi festival. The Kheturi festival, some details of which shall be given in another article shortly, was a significant event in Gaudiya Vaishnava history, and it is possible to assume some relation between that event and these works.

A comparative analysis of the four “synoptic” biographies of Mahaprabhu gives us some insight into the different pre-Kheturi visions of Gadadhar. Kheturi can be said to signify the rebounding of the Vrindavan Goswami school of thought into Bengal, and the cementing of its influence there, in particular in terms of the theology of Chaitanya. It was another forty years, however, before the Vrindavan vision attained complete dominance.

Thus, though the Caitanya-bhāgavata was the most popular and widely read of Mahaprabhu’s biographies, it was ultimately the more philosophically consistent, symbolically charged and most aesthetically pleasing Mahaprabhu of Caitanya-caritāmṛta that became the "official Chaitanya" for the centuries of devotees that followed its creation.

In these two foremost biographies, much of what is found in the other works has been incorporated. However, they can be broadly said to represent the first and second parts of Mahaprabhu’s divine life, describing the external and internal aspect of his mysticism. All the biographies agree that he is Krishna, but what kind of Krishna is he? As the Six Goswamis honed the Gaudiya philosophy in Vrindavan, these biographies had to show that Gauranga was at the very highest pinnacle of spiritual status, i.e. the supreme person.

In the two pictures of Mahaprabhu presented by Vrindavan Das and Kaviraj Goswami, we find, in the first, one who willingly and almost in trance displays godly majesty and who demands his praises be sung. By contrast, in the second, we find a devotee to whom the idea of being identified with God is worse than poison. The consolidation of these two conflicting sides of Mahaprabhu’s character was the work of the above writers (the Six Goswamis). It was concluded that Sri Krishna Chaitanya (Mahaprabhu) is Krishna himself come to relish his own devotional service. He was God come to taste love for himself and to distribute it. The distribution was the external aspect of his life, and the internal aspect, the tasting. He was Krishna, yet he was not Krishna. As these different perspectives on Chaitanya developed, the understand of who his companions were also changed.


The Pancha Tattva Doctrine

The theological understanding that developed among Chaitanya’s followers was this: Wherever Krishna goes, he is both preceded and followed by his devotees who are called his eternal associates. Narottam Das sang :
"Those who were with Gauranga are eternally perfected souls.
One who knows this attains the company
of the son of the King of Vraja." (Prārthanā; verse 5, p. 20)
Ram Das Babaji used to sing, erā tārā, tārā-i erā, "These are those, those there (in Vraja) are these here (in Nabadwip)." (Guru Kṛpāra Dāna) The pastimes of Vrindavan and Nabadwip are not two separate lilas, but one contiguous entity. Everyone who had been in Vrindavan remained in Nabadwip, which was simply Vrindavan somehow transformed for his inscrutable purpose.

Swarup Damodar Goswami, an associate of Gauranga from the beginning of his manifestation, who accompanied him through his sannyasa life and who Vrindavan Das says was foremost amongst renounced disciples (CBh. 3.10.41), was responsible for the first formulation of the Pancha Tattva doctrine that established the orthodox view of the identity of Mahaprabhu’s principle companions.

In this formulation, the members of the Pancha Tattva, namely Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Adwaita, Sri Gadadhar and Srivas Thakur, were identified respectively as Krishna himself, Balaram, Sadashiva or Mahavishnu, Krishna-shakti and Narada Muni, the respective followers of each member had different ideas and biases which were not fully worked out until after the Caitanya-caritāmṛta.

Kavi Karnapur’s  Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā (GGD, written in 1576) is an attempt to equate each individual of Gaura-lila with those of Vrindavan-lila. There he states that he is writing what has been described by Swarup Damodar in his book, what different devotees of the three mandalas (Gauda, Vraja, and Nilachala) have opined, and what he himself has been able to ascertain.

Swarup Damodar’s view is this:

pañca-tattvātmakaṁ kṛṣṇaṁ 
bhakta-rūpa-svarūpakam 
bhaktāvatāraṁ bhaktākhyaṁ 
namāmi bhakta-śaktikam

I bow in reverence to Krishna who is manifest completely in five tattvas. One is the form of a devotee, one the manifestation of a devotee, the third, the devotee incarnation, the fourth, a devotee, the fifth, the devotional energy.

Of these the first is Mahaprabhu (“the great master”); the second and third are also Prabhus (“masters”), Nityananda and Adwaita; Srivas represents the unlimited devotees and Gadadhar, the unlimited energies. All, however, in this lila, follow Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Lord, in adopting the guise of mortal devotees of Krishna in this world. (GGD 10-17)

According to Kaviraj Goswami in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Swarup Damodar wrote other verses in his Kadaca (which as yet remains undiscovered) in which Mahaprabhu was defined further as Krishna, covered by the bhava or emotions and bodily luster (dyuti) of Radha, the transformation of God’s love and his pleasure potency. Where previously there had been two, Radha and Krishna, now there was only one, Krishna Chaitanya. (CC 1.1.5)

Sri Krishna Chaitanya, as the plenary manifestation of the Godhead, containing within himself in full both masculine and feminine dimensions, became the highest truth (na caitanyāt kṛṣṇāj jagati para-tattvaṁ param iha). ( CC 1.1.3) Kaviraj Goswami could exult in that discovery because his predecessors the Six Goswamis had developed a sound, philosophically consistent case for the supremacy of the divine pair, Radha and Krishna, as the ultimate object of pure devotional worship. Equating Sri Chaitanya with both Radha and Krishna made him something more than just Krishna alone.

In order to establish this tattva (principle), Krishna Das Kaviraj had to reduce the importance of the Pancha Tattva altogether. Though his work starts with a glorification of these members of Mahaprabhu’s entourage and their “branches,” his real focus is on Mahaprabhu in his devotional or “inner” aspect. Although it can be shown that Kaviraj Goswami also had some tendency to ornament the stories given by his predecessors about the master and showed a penchant for the miraculous, still his descriptions of such divine events decrease as Mahaprabhu becomes more fully involved with his own ecstatic devotional activities.(NOTE 3)

For Kaviraj, Nityananda, Adwaita, Gadadhar and Srivas are predominantly involved in what he regards as the “external” features of Mahaprabhu’s lila. Nityananda is busy saving the poor and lowly; Adwaita is responsible for the Lord’s descent to save the world; Srivas and Gadadhar are devotees whose mercy is a prerequisite for attaining Mahaprabhu’s mercy. But where the “internal” purpose of Chaitanya’s activities—namely relishing the mood of Radha—is concerned, even these five personalities are left out. In the latter days of the Lord’s life, Ramananda and Swarup Damodar are the only ones who are truly privy to his inner state of mind, and a few others, like Rupa and Raghunath, are their privileged confidantes.

Although Kaviraj Goswami’s book is accepted by all ranks of Gaudiya Vaishnavas, followers of a particular school of thought called Gauranga-nagara proceeded towards Radha and Krishna through a somewhat different and perhaps more direct route. Of the “synoptic” biographers of Mahaprabhu, only Vrindavan Das was averse to this approach.

Murari Gupta’s authority

If we examine Murari Gupta’s Kaḍacā we can get a good introduction to the first days of Mahaprabhu’s mahā-prakāśa or great revelation of himself to the devotees of Nabadwip. It should be pointed out that Murari’s Sanskrit poem, though used as an outline for all the following biographies, never achieved a major status itself as a devotional scripture. The printed edition was based on only two old manuscripts and no others have been found.(NOTE 4) Certain passages of Murari’s work were perhaps considered misleading and following authors changed his descriptions when it suited them and their masters. These changes are most revealing.

Lochan Das and Karnapur both tell stories in which Murari’s ideological purity is put under suspicion. Vrindavan Das Thakur has to come forward to defend Murari’s honor in the same way that he defends Nityananda’s: "If anyone blasphemes Murari Gupta even slightly, he will not be saved even if he bathes in the Ganges ten million times. I will destroy him through the Ganges and through my Name." (CBh 2.10.29-33) Yet even Vrindavan Das rejected some of Murari’s versions of the Lord’s lilas.

In the Caitanya-candrodaya-nāṭakam, Kavi Karnapur elaborates on a story Murari himself describes in seed form. According to Murari, one day Mukunda Datta was accused before Mahaprabhu of reading Yoga-vasistha and of being attached to the four-armed form of Vishnu rather than the two-armed form of Krishna. (KCC 2.4.12-20) Karnapur tells the story pretty much in the same way, except he also puts Murari into the accused box.

Elsewhere, Murari also mentions that the Lord chastised him for singing songs of the adhyatma-vada and told him to write verses about Krishna. (KCC 2.4.21-23) When Karnapur describes the same incident, however, his words are a little harsher. According to him, Mahaprabhu criticizes Murari sharply, saying, "The taste of devotion has not found a place in Murari’s mind. Rather, it is filled with eagerness to accept the conceptions of adhyātma-vāda, which has the harsh smell of garlic. Yet even now, he still regularly studies the Vāsiṣṭha." (CCN 1.74)

Lochan has also written a rather lengthy account of a story that is supposed to have taken place in Nimai’s early childhood when he was still a dust-covered, naked urchin playing in the streets of Nabadwip. The story is not told in Murari’s own book (though he has included many other incidents concerning himself and the Lord). There is no indication of where Lochan gathered this story, but perhaps it reflects a general commentary on Murari and his Kaḍacā. It goes like this.
Murari was returning from the pandit’s tol with a friend along one of Nadia’s streets. The two were discussing the subject of their studies, the Yoga-vasistha, when one of the many little children playing in the road suddenly began to imitate Murari’s gestures and speech in a mocking way. Murari became angered by the cheeky urchin, who was none other than Nimai, and tried to send him on his way. Nimai also displayed anger and said threateningly, "I’ll show you! Just wait until meal time!”

Murari returned home and, becoming absorbed in his daily duties, forgot the incident. Meanwhile Nimai, dressed in a Bengali infant’s Sunday best, his eyes highlighted with thick mascara, wearing pearl necklaces, silver ankle and waist bells, a tiger-tooth charm and a bright yellow silk cloth, made a sudden appearance in Murari’s house just as he sat down to his noonday repast.

Nimai said, "I have come. Don’t get up; finish your meal." The enchanting child walked over and, standing before Murari as he ate, passed urine on his rice. Murari watched, flabbergasted. Then, when he stood up, understandably upset, Nimai explained to him the conception of worship of the personal god, Krishna, the lover of the gopis (cowherd girls). At this, Murari became convinced of Nimai’s avatarhood and was filled with an otherworldly delight.
(NOTE 5)
The factual truth of this story is doubted by more than one scholar. If its purpose is to demonstrate the infant Nimai’s divinity, then it is certainly a strange effort. Were it true, it seems surprising that Murari himself would not mention it. In short, this comment and others of the same type appear to be an attempt, if not to entirely discredit Murari, at least to marginalize his authority.

Some of Murari’s philosophical sallies in his book are weak and smack of non-devotional ideas. (KCC 2.4.7-9; 2.5.27-28) In one place, for instance, he quotes Mahaprabhu as saying, "If one has knowledge of undifferentiated Brahman, then everything becomes intelligible." (KCC 2.5.26, nirbheda-brahma-jñanād dhi sarvam eva sulakṣaṇam) In another, he writes that Mahaprabhu came to give brahma-svabhāva-bhagavad-bhajanāmṛtam. (KCC 3.1.5)

This is not to say that the devotional mood is not present in Murari's biography. Thus, when Mahaprabhu receives the sannyasa mantra in a dream and becomes distraught that he will have to give up the worship of his dear Lord Hari, Murari tells him to interpret the mantra in a way favorable to his devotional frame of mind. (KCC 3.18.5) Similarly, there are many other statements favorable to devotion throughout the book as well as indications that madhura-rasa, devotion in the mood of the gopis, is the highest of all.

Murari himself writes that Srivas Pandit told him to recount Mahaprabhu’s lilas sometime relatively soon after the Lord had returned from Gaya.(Kcc. 1.1.8-13) He also blessed Murari when the latter expressed the desire to write about Mahaprabhu’s lilas. Srivas apparently approved of his work, saying, "Whatever the doctor writes will be true." (KCC 3.4.26, yad vadiṣyaty asau vaidyas tai susatyam bhaviṣyati)

Vrindavan Das equated Murari with Ramachandra’s monkey-servant Hanuman, and this reputation stuck.(CBh, 2.10.14) Murari nowhere mentions such an identification himself, even though he does say that Chaitanya once wrote “Rama Das on his forehead after hearing his verses in praise of Rama.” (KCC 2.7.15) Karnapur officially establishes this identification with Hanuman in  Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā  (91). In Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is even recounted that the Lord tested Murari’s devotion to Rama by telling him to worship Krishna, but that Murari’s allegiance to his worshipable deity was unbreakable.(CC 3.4.45) Kavi Karnapur saw him only as Hanuman, without providing any alternative identification as he did for others such as Achyutananda.

Though Hanuman is highly revered by devotees of Rama, this identity and the repeated references to Murari’s affection for the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha awaken suspicions that not all the Vaishnavas in Mahaprabhu’s entourage were entirely satisfied with his interpretation of the Master’s life.

Nāgara-bhāva

In view of this, it is rather surprising to come across evidence from both the KCC and songs written by Murari that indicate quite strongly that he worshiped Mahaprabhu in the mood of a nadiyā-nāgarī, or woman of Nabadwip. Not only Murari, but a fairly significant group of Mahaprabhu’s very first devotees talked of him as Krishna and were attracted to his beauty and charm.

Mahaprabhu’s dancing in kirtan was more than spiritually moving--it attracted the eyes of the maidens, too. The picture of Gauranga in his naṭa-vara-veśa, the dress of the dancing actor, transformed the minds of even the men who saw him into those of women. Murari gives his own description of Mahaprabhu in the naṭa-vara-veśa in his book. (KCC 2.7.4)

Narahari Sarkar and his follower Lochan Das led the devotees of this sect, but Shivananda Sen, the father of Kavi Karnapur, another biographer, also showed tendencies to this approach to Gaura bhakti. To these devotees, Nimai’s sannyas (renunciation) effectively marked a termination in the way that they conceived of him, just as the relation of Krishna with Vrindavan ended when he went to Mathura. Though these devotees may have gone to Puri to see him, they never returned satisfied. Seeing him in the fire of separation from Krishna, paying back his debt to Radharani, they found their own hearts tearing. They themselves remembered him the way they had seen him for that flickering moment in Nabadwip when he was "the best of the dancers." His sannyasa was a deception, or kapaṭatā.
Dances the Lord, purified golden Gora,
Without cessation, in every aspect full.
His face is the orb of the moon.
Is it not the pink lotus that his eyes defeat,
The irises of which are black as bees?
As though upon an earth of gold flows the river of the gods,
Tears of love wash upon his chest. (Madhava Ghosh, GPT, p. 103-4)
Vasudeva Ghosh and Narahari write of Gauranga appearing to them in dreams and fulfilling their romantic desires for him:
At the end of the night, I was still sleeping deep,
When that playboy Gaura came and embraced me.
He gave me a kiss upon my cheek.
He drank the juice of my lips with his.
My sleep broke and that man of the town was gone!
I had been unconscious, now consciousness came.
Ashamed, I left the room where I had been lying;
Vasudeva Ghosh says; “Your love is a deception.”(Vasudeva Ghosh, GPT p. 131)

Vrindavan Das’s comment on Nāgari-bhāva

Worship of Gauranga as a paramour, playboy, man-about-town or nāgara did not meet with favor amongst all of Chaitanya’s followers. In fact, it appears that for followers of both Adwaita and Nityananda, it was rejected quite strongly. Vrindavan Das, perhaps out of a desire to protect Mahaprabhu’s character from possible or existent criticism, denies the validity of that worship in the Adi-khaṇḍa of his Caitanya-bhāgavata. There, in describing the prodigious scholar Nimai’s dauntless polemic spirit and his chiding of his peers and elders alike, Vrindavan Das states categorically that Nimai’s naughtiness never extended to the ladies, at whom he would not look, not even out of the corner of his eyes.

Since Nimai was indifferent to the association of the fair sex, those who are maha-mahima (of greatest repute) would never praise him by calling him a nāgara or playboy. Vrindavan admits that Gauranga is God. Yes, he is Krishna, and so all types of praises of him are valid. Yet those who are intelligent worship him according to his mood and nature. In other words, if God has incarnated for the purpose of being worshiped, one should try to understand the nature of his mood and worship him accordingly. Then one will please him the most. If Chaitanya is an avowed follower of abstemiousness, then how can someone praise him by calling him a playboy and lover of the women of Nabadwip?

Of course, if Mahaprabhu is Krishna, he has a right to all the lilas that Krishna displayed. Krishna, the god that Mahaprabhu himself worshiped, is the fickle and irresponsible charmer of the cowherd maids. The last word of the Six Goswamis is that the Lover of Radharani is the ultimate object of worship:

ataḥ sarvato’pi sāndrānanda-
camatkāra-kāra-śrī-kṛṣṇa-prakāśe 
śrī-vṛndāvane’pi paramādbhuta-prakāśaḥ 
śrī-rādhayā yugalitas tu śrī-kṛṣṇa iti.

Thus the ultimate object of worship (ascertained after progressive analysis through the first four sandarbhas, namely the Tattva, Paramatma, Bhagavat and Krishna) is to be found in that place known as Vrindavan, which is the abode of the most intensely ecstatic and wonder-creating form of Sri Krishna and where he remains eternally joined with Sri Radha. This is God’s most amazing [and therefore mystically satisfying] form.

The Gauranga Nāgaras know this. But they feel they know it because they saw Krishna in Gauranga. Narahari says in his Bhajanāmṛtam that by seeing Gaura, all varieties of persons fell into an ocean of prema. They lost their demoniac propensities; in short, “they attained feminine natures.” Being enchanted by the emotional varieties and artistic nature of Sri Krishna Chaitanya, even dry Vedantic scholars as well as materialistic and sensual persons, what to speak of those who were already Vaishnavas, would dance in a feminine mood. They became imbued with gopī-bhāva through watching the moods of Gadadhar Pandit.

The Gaura-candrikā

The Gaura-pada-taraṅgiṇī is an anthology of poets who wrote about Mahaprabhu, mostly in the Gauranga Nagara spirit. The foremost among them are the contemporaries and direct associates of the Lord, such as Narahari, Vasudeva Ghosh and his brothers, Shivananda Sen, and indeed Murari himself.

These poets all had immense attraction for Gauranga’s physical beauty as well as for his incomprehensible moods. His imitations of the lilas of Krishna specially stuck in their minds. Sometimes he was in the mood of Radha and sometimes in the mood of Krishna. These poets make no mention of six-armed or “universal” forms (viśva-rūpa), nor of the various appearances as Varaha, Nrisingha or other avatars. Nor do they touch on his being the savior of the world to any great extent. Their main interest was in expressing wonder at Chaitanya’s physical beauty and his amazing religious experiences.

Vasudeva Ghosh and the other poets show their best in ākṣepānurāga, pūrva-rāga and other moods that can be written from a purely subjective point of view, moods that require no practical fulfillment and therefore imply no controversy.

Later on, to accommodate the wave of Gaura devotion, the system of singing the Gaura-candrikā, or tad-ucita-gaura (the appropriate corresponding mood of Gaura), prior to Radha Krishna lila was introduced in order to instill the proper devotional mood by which Radha and Krishna’s lila could be understood and enjoyed. One of the significant events of the Kheturi festival was this legitimization of the Gaura-candrikā.

Though Chaitanya’s mood as a devotee is often described, Gadadhar in the role of Radha is often one of the themes to which these songs return. Indeed, Gadadhar taking Radha’s part is the crucial moment that turns Chaitanya lila into Krishna lila. Take for instance the following song by Narahari—
Gauranga rode on the horns of dilemma.
Absorbed in some feeling he calls out "Radha! Radha!"
Seeing the Ganga, he thinks "the Yamuna."
Seeing a flower garden, Vrindavan falls into his mind.
In his previous spirit, he stood in three bends;
He asks for his yellow cloth and flute.
Taking the dear Gadadhar to his side,
he asks: "Where were you? Where were you?”
his words choked with emotion.
Understanding his mood, Gadadhar stands to his left.
Narahari Das cannot understand these amusements. (Pada-kalpa-taru, 2122)
Some artificial stories also had to be created; after all, Mahaprabhu didn’t do every thing that Krishna did, though he certainly may have sung about it. Even so, in one pada (song) describing the appropriate mood of Gauranga corresponding to Radha-Krishna’s swinging on a flower swing, Vasudeva Ghosh states,
With Gadadhar the Lord has his sports,
Vasudeva Ghosh is simply revealing them.
The implication here is that all of God’s activities are eternal. Although Nimai Pandit became Gaura Hari and then later on Krishna Chaitanya, each phase of his life has its eternal state in some spiritual world. We also see Krishna travel from Vrindavan to Mathura and then to Dwaraka, changing continuously through the acquisition of power and wealth, but the Gaudiyas have zeroed in on Vrindavan as the most perfect of his eternal abodes. Krishna spent at best fifteen years there in his manifest lila, (most commentators say a little less than eleven), but because of its blissfulness it is considered the most perfect. The Gauranga Nagaras similarly saw the lightning flash of the eternal abode, Vrindavan, in the sudden, impromptu involvement of Gaura and Gadadhar in that world. Narahari, Raghunandan and others followed them.

NOTES

NOTE 1. Less important biographies not mentioned here are Gauranga-vijaya by Chudamani Das, which has survived only in part, and Govinda’s Kadaca, the authenticity of which is doubted.
NOTE 2. Edited by Mrinala Kanti Ghosh. There are more than 1500 songs collected in this volume.
NOTE 3. Caitanya-cariter Upadana, 2nd Ed., pp. 393-4.
NOTE 4. Introduction to the Fourth Edition, p. 1.
NOTE 5. KCC Intro., 3rd ed., p. 8-10. Lochan Das, CML, p.66-69



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting Jagat,

"Vrindavan Das states categorically that Nimai’s naughtiness never extended to the ladies, at whom he would not look, not even out of the corner of his eyes"

What was the problem with him looking at ladies at that time in his life? He had not yet entered the renounced order? Was it just social norms at that time or Nimai's nature to avoid women at all cost?

namaskar