Part II. Comparing the Four Synoptic Accountsa. Vastra-haraṇa-līlā
One of the questions raised in the previous section is that of the extent to which Mahaprabhu and his companions actually reenacted some of the pastimes that Krishna performed and became enshrined in the Gaura-candrikā songs.
Acting out the lives and līlās of the different incarnations has always been part of the Hindu devotional scene, particularly for Vaishnavas. In the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, it is mentioned as a duty for one initiated in Krishna-mantra (HBV 2.159). If the purpose of devotional rules and regulations is to come to the point of remembering God, then such plays can certainly help. That Nimai and his devotee followers performed plays is clear from all his biographies. The most famous such occasion took place at the house of Nimai’s maternal uncle, Chandrashekhara Acharya or Acharya Ratna, which we will examine further down. There were several other occasions, in which Gauranga may well have appeared differently to different devotees, so that when Gadadhar and Narahari were present, one type of līlā would be enacted or perceived, another when Nityananda and his friends were present.
The first of these is the vastra-haraṇa-līlā, which is described in most detail in Murari Gupta’s account.
One evening after all bathing and worship duties had been completed the devotees assembled at the house of Shrivas Pandit in hope of getting the Lord’s association. The Lord embraced all his devotees and taking hold of them with his lotus hands, tumbled to the ground; he created an overwhelming wave of joy as he rose and began to dance with the gait of a lion.
At one point in the dance, he suddenly took hold of Shrivas’s hand and led him far from the group of devotees. When all these great servants of Lord Hari were no longer able to see him, they became disturbed and astonished. They searched everywhere but could not find him.
The fully independent and unborn Lord, seeing them disturbed, reappeared and stood before them. They eagerly surrounded him on all sides. Then, being overwhelmed by the fullness of the devotion born of their nature as gopis (gopī-svabhāvāpta-samasta-bhaktyā), and seeing him as the forest-flower-garlanded Krishna, they prayed; “May the Supreme Lord (maheśvara) be merciful to me so that I may have bhagavān (the opulent and beautiful one) as my lover.”
Then, that very same Krishna, being always true to his natural attraction for the devotional mood of the gopis, became filled with rasa. He made the desire of these surrendered devotees for the perfection of gopī-bhāva come true. He performed the līlā of the stealing of clothes [for which Krishna is so notorious].
Later, at some time in the late evening, Mahaprabhu came, pulled at their clothes with his lotus hands and made his servants naked. He is the knower of rasa and the giver of rasa to mankind. Thus having made mere puppets (krīḍanaka) of them, he returned all their clothes to them a few moments later. When they had their clothes back, all the devotees felt the thrill of joy of being with the Lord Murari.
The Lord sang the names of Hari and danced along with them, whose hearts were now in a normal state [of purity] (antaḥkaraṇair yathārthaiḥ). The Lord of effulgent golden color, who enjoys going from one diversion to another, thus destroyed the sins of the world. (KCC 2.10.10-19)
Understandably, the authors who followed Murari felt somewhat uncomfortable with the story as told in the above passage, which is calqued from two incidents in the Bhāgavata-purāṇa (10.22 and 10.30). The original Krishna’s naughty līlās with the gopis have been a problem to explain from the start, but Mahaprabhu, both as a householder and later as a sannyasi, brought respectability to what many perceived as immoral, and hardly religious at all. Vaishnava theologians have gone to great trouble to explain the extramarital antics of Krishna and the gopis in acceptable ways. Gauranga’s līlā (to the agreement of everyone) was to taste and give the love of the gopis, but surely this was not the way he did so.
Other Versions of the same story
Our other authors have all followed the same order of events as Murari, so even though they have described quite different pastimes in this “slot,” they are in fact presenting their own alternative version of activities to which Murari was presumably an eyewitness, or at least, very close to the actual event.
Kavi Karnapur, when tracing Murari Gupta’s steps, avoids mentioning anything about gopis in this context. He even goes so far as to mention that Shrivas is Narada, implying that he is nowhere identified with Radha, and so the acted-out disappearance from the rasa dance could not have any truth to it. There is no mention of stealing clothes. (CCMK 7.59-63)
Vrindavan Das, though elaborately following Murari in describing the prior event (the distribution of Nityananda’s kaupin) and the subsequent one (the giving of Nityananda’s foot-bath water), leaves no trace of this departure into the mood of the gopis.
Lochan Das’s description of the same incident takes a rather surprising turn. Also eliminating any mention of the gopis, Vrindavan, or any relationship to the incidents from the Bhāgavata, Lochan writes that when Nimai disappeared suddenly from the assembly of devotees, Mother Sachi went looking for him, totally distraught. The Lord, always subject to the love of his eternal associates, came and put an end to her distress and that of all his other devotees. Clearly, stealing of clothes does not fit in this particular account. Nevertheless, it is almost certain that the passage is no interpolation, as there is enough of a trace of the story in at least two of the later versions to accept that KCC text is genuine. Lochan, who translates most portions of Murari’s book almost literally, seems self-conscious of his rearrangement of the līlā, while Karnapura seems to want to brush it away. Yet Karnapur leaves some traces of what was there before snipping away at the narrative.
Perhaps a more legitimate question is whether Murari made the story up in order to embellish the Gaura-candrikā approach to Mahaprabhu’s pastimes. However, though Vasudeva Ghosh wrote Gaura-candrikās corresponding to a great many Krishna līlās, there are none about the stealing of the clothes, quite probably because there is no separate Radha Krishna līlā-kīrtana that is exclusively about it. (Most kirtaniyas include this story as a prelude to their performance of the rāsa-līlā.)
The first mention of madhura-rasa (the erotic devotional sentiment) in Murari Gupta’s Kaḍacā actually precedes the abovementioned incident of clothes-stealing as well as the arrival of Nityananda. Murari says that not long after Mahaprabhu’s return from Gaya,
Gadadhar Pandit, a brahmin of a respectable family and a devotee of the highest calibre, remained always in the most intimate association of the Lord. One night when he was with him, Mahaprabhu spoke these auspicious words; “In the morning you should give this prasad to the devotees!” Saying this, he gave the garlands decorating his body to Gadai (Gadadhar).Kavi Karnapur’s description of the same incident portrays Gadadhar in the following way (CCMK 6.12):
The next morning, all the devotees came. Gadadhar then distributed the garland-prasad to all of them according to Mahaprabhu’s request.
Everyday Gadadhar would bring sandalwood paste and make garlands, which he would then place on the Lord. He would also prepare the Lord’s bed and then sleep beside him.
Now listen with faith to some nectarean words about Gadadhar. Just as previously, in Vrindavan, Radha prepared a flower bed for Krishna in the jeweled forest pavilion and then slept with him drenched in love....(KCC 2.3.10-17)
śīlaḥ svabhāva-madhuro bahu-śānta-mūrtiḥ |
ūce samīpa-śayitaḥ prabhunā rajanyāṁ
nirmalyam etad urasi pratisāryam ebhyaḥ ||
…indicating that he was of a very sweet and beautiful disposition, cool, peaceful and generous. In this account, Gadadhar suggests that the prasad garlands be distributed to the devotees. Otherwise Karnapur has followed Murari closely, with the exception that the broken reference comparing Gadadhar and Gauranga to Radha and Krishna has been dropped, along with its introductory enunciation of uniqueness.
Vrindavan Das’s Account
Neither Vrindavan Das nor Lochan Das were eyewitnesses of the happenings in Nabadwip in 1510, yet their revisions of Murari’s anecdote no doubt reflect the perspectives of their associates. Vrindavan Das was the grand nephew of of Shrivas Pandit and very close to Nityananda, and thus able to gather a great deal of information about the Lord’s life from these sources.
In his version of this pastime, Gadadhar is one of the first devotees to see the Lord’s amazing and theretofore completely unheard of symptoms of prema in the house of Shuklambar Brahmachari. Not being invited to the meeting of the Lord with the Brahmachari, Shrivas and others, he hid within the house; Gadadhar became moved when the Lord tearfully explained to the devotees how he had seen Krishna but had then lost him again. As the Lord’s anxiety and disturbed state became more and more intense, Gadadhar himself fainted. (CBh 2.1.88)
Adwaita, at one point, went to perform some formal worship of Nimai, but Gadadhar stopped him saying; "You shouldn’t do this, Gosai. He’s just a young child." (NOTE 6) Adwaita answered; "You will see what sort of child this is soon enough." Gadadhar thought in amazement; "Perhaps the Supreme Lord has become incarnate, if the respected old scholar has such an idea." (CBh 2.2.140-142)
Vrindavan Das then gives an explanation of why Gadadhar would sleep with Gauranga.
One day Gadadhar was bringing pan leaves for Mahaprabhu. He came before him in a mood of great excitement. When the Lord saw him, he asked, "Where is my Krishna in his yellow dress?"According to some worshipers of Gaura-Gadadhar, this request of Sachi’s was the reason for Radha’s taking a male body. In one song written by Narottam Das,(NOTE 7) Radha is seen praying for a male body so she could remain with Krishna without fear of her elders or of society’s criticism. This desire had to find an avenue for fulfilment, and actually came about in Gauranga līlā. God is obliged to fulfill the wishes of all his devotees, what to speak of the foremost among them, Srimati Radharani.
Gadadhar was speechless. What could he answer? Seeing the Lord’s anxiety and perplexity, his own heart was torn apart. Gadadhar carefully said; “Krishna is residing in your heart always." Upon hearing this, the maddened Lord suddenly began to tear at his chest with his fingernails. Gadai hurriedly took hold of his hands and tried to calm him down with a variety of pacifying statements. He said, "Krishna is coming right now. Now please calm yourself."
Nimai’s mother was watching the scene and became very pleased with Gadai’s expert handling of the difficult situation. She thought, "This mere child has been able to pacify my son, whereas I have been unable to even go near him because of my fear."
Aloud she said to Gadadhar, "Dear child, stay always by Nimai’s side. Don’t ever leave him or go anywhere else."(CBh 2.202-11)
Lochan Das’s Version
Lochan Das, however, has clearly seized this as an opportunity to glorify Gadadhar. It is almost as if this example of Murari’s is the foundation of the Gauranga Nagara school. Lochan starts by saying that in previous incarnations, the Lord’s different associates came and joined him, and that it is the same associates who appear with him again and again in different forms, just as the Lord himself accepts different forms. So too, in this incarnation, these eternal devotees began to come to him. The first among them were Gadadhar and Narahari, of course.(NOTE 8)
The scholar Gadadhar, the abode of all good qualities, would remain by the Lord, chanting his holy name. One night he was lying by the Lord’s side when, seeing his eagerness, the Lord said to him; “In the morning, by the mercy of the Vaishnavas, you shall attain a loving devotion rare in this world.”In Lochan’s account, though the identity of Gadadhar with Radha is unambiguous, the homoerotic overtones that jump out at one in Murari’s account have been subdued. The implication is that Gaura and Gadadhar’s love had no physical consummation in their male bodies; such consummation took place in another dimension of existence where they had been transformed into their male and female forms of Krishna and Radha.(NOTE 9)
He then took off the garland he was wearing and placed it around Gadadhar’s neck. In the morning, when all the devotees came to see the Lord, he spoke to them of his previous night’s conversation with Gadadhar. As he recounted his promise to give Gadadhar prema, the Pandit became overwhelmed with ecstatic emotion just from the sound of his words. In this thrilled state he went to take his bath in the Ganges.
Despite being almost immobilized by the divine feeling and the trembling of his body, he somehow managed to execute his worship duties to the Shalagram Shila. Then he came to worship the Lord again, directly. He anointed him with sandalwood paste, gave him garlands and offered prayers to him.
Gadadhar would regularly serve the Lord in this way. He would also prepare his resting place in the bedroom. There he would sleep at the Lord’s feet, his mind always filled with faith and piety. The Lord would take great pleasure in Gadadhar’s sweet words, hearing which he would take him by his hand off to dance in the kirtan. He would place his other band on Narahari’s arm and they would dance in the house of Shrivas Pandit in the mood of the Rāsa dance (the circle dance of Krishna and the gopis).
The devotees would see Gaura’s form turn black like that of Krishna and simultaneously Gadadhar would transform into Radharani. Narahari became Madhumati. Seeing this, all the devotees called out the names of Hari (“Haribol! Haribol!”). Vrindavan manifested in that very place; the son of Sachi (Mahaprabhu) began to enjoy his līlā just as he previously had done in the association of the cows and cowherd boys and girls. Those devotees had come again to help the Lord in this līlā of relishing rasa.
Sri Raghunandan, as the new Cupid, the one who is known as the transcendent erotic principle, as well as the other devotees, began to reveal their previous forms to them, and one by one they joined the dancing. Seeing this, the associates from other incarnations began to cry, for the moon of Vraja (Krishna) had appeared in Nabadwip. Sometimes he would play his own līlā in the association of Gadadhar and sometimes the līlā would transform into that of Vrindavan where he enjoyed his loving affairs with Radharani. Seeing such amazing scenes, all the devotees called out the names of Hari and loudly glorified the Lord.(CML, Madhya, pp. 129-130)
Nityananda arrived in Nabadwip some three or four months after Nimai’s return from Gaya. A strong nucleus of local devotees had already formed around Mahaprabhu, and Shrivas and Adwaita Prabhu had started worshiping him.
Nitai (Nityananda) was a brash and dominating, outspoken and unrestrained individual. He was wild and unbound, yet often as innocent as a child. His mood was that of a cowherd boy of Vrindavan. Imitations of Krishna līlā continued with greater enthusiasm after his arrival. However, his dominant personality seems to have changed the nature of the līlā. He was soon recognized by everyone as Balaram, Krishna’s older brother, and Lakshman, Rama’s younger brother. He was also identified with the ancient Sankarshan, the ādi-vyūha, or original expansion of the supreme deity.
The play in Candrashekhara’s house took place with all the Nabadwip Vaishnavas participating. This seems to have been a major event in the development of Mahaprabhu’s devotional life and the public preaching of gopī-bhāva or Rādhā-bhāva. The incident is described extensively by all the biographers, though as with the previous examples, from substantially different points of view.
The first portion of Murari Gupta’s version directly concerns Gadadhar Pandit Goswami, yet raises further problems when examined from the theological standpoint of the Goswami school. Significantly, Shrivas Thakur, dressed as Narada Muni, comes on stage first:
One day, the great Lord (vibhu), his moon-like face brightened with a smile, adorned himself in the beautiful dress of a woman and danced in the association of those most intimate with him. That best of the brahmins, the older brother of Sripati (Shrivas), put on the dress of Narada.
The seer of the Gods, Narada, fell prostrate at the feet ot the undefeated Lord. He said to all, "Listen for a moment." Then, turning to Gadadhar, he said; "O Gopika! Once, long ago, you met the sage Narada and, after paying respects, with your head and shoulders lowered, you said, ‘I have given up the service of my father and mother so that I may attain the service of Krishna’s lotus feet. You are an ocean of mercy, therefore please fulfil this desire.’
“Upon hearing these words, the muni answered, ‘O danseuse of the demigods (apsarā)! Take a bath in the pure waters of the river of the gods in every month Magh for one hundred years. Do this with single-minded devotion and you will surely attain Krishna’s service.’
“After the muni blessed you, you followed his instructions and attained birth in Gokula. You acquired that most rare type of devotion, higher than any other, filled with the waves of the taste of love for God. That devotion that was glorified by Shukadeva in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa (Uddhava’s prayer to the gopis):
I worship the dust of the feet of the gopis of Vrindavan for their spontaneous songs of the Lord purifies the three worlds. (BhP 10.47.63)
Shrivas as Narada continued: “What can I say to properly glorify devotion? That brahmin’s son, Ajamila, committed all types of sins, yet when he left his body thinking only of his son, he traversed the uncrossable material ocean. What then of those who are dear servants of the Ocean of Mercy? They surely attain the abode of the Lord."The episode ends with the following verse--
As soon as the best of the brahmins finished speaking, all the devotees felt as if they had been drenched in an ocean of prema. They all felt divinely fulfilled and were very blissful."
surendra-muni-puṅgavaiḥ sahacarair hi brahmādibhiḥ
kṛtaṁ sakala-nirmalaṁ gopa-gopī-nāmāmṛtais
tad apsarāḥ-kathādikaṁ manuja-bhāvam eva sphuṭam
Brahma, the best among the sages and demigods, and others pray for but a single moonray coming from the nails of the lotus feet of the Lord, and yet that Lord’s human nature has been made obvious by this story of the apsarās and others, which is purified by the ambrosia of the cowherd boys and girls." (KCC 2.15.19)Although stories of cursed and blessed demigods, apsarās, demons, humans and kings are none too rare in Hindu mythology, and especially not in the Bengali maṅgala genre of literature, presenting Gadadhar (or Radha for that matter, or any eternally perfect cowherd girl who is a direct energy of the Lord) as an apsarā would not have been particularly pleasing to Vaishnavas who were aware of the Goswami’s writings.
Similarly, in another place (KCC 1.12.13-15), Murari mentions that after Nimai Pandit returned from East Bengal, he learned his first wife Lakshmi had passed away. He consoled his mother with a story about how Lakshmi had previously been an apsarā who Indra had cursed for missing a step while dancing. Thus she had taken birth, and now the term of her curse having expired, she had returned to the heavenly abode. Although Lochan Das follows the story practically verbatim in the Caitanya-maṅgala, to most devotees the story isn’t considered appropriate. How can a mere heavenly dancing girl attain the company of the Supreme Lord, especially by Indra’s curse? After dying, her return to heaven is hardly an elevation, but a step down from the association with supreme bliss.
Stories like this have been dealt with by different commentators in the same way that the Bhāgavata Purāṇa tale of Drona and Dhara was by Sanatan Goswami. In the Bhāgavata, Parikshit inquires about the cause of Krishna’s stepfather and stepmother’s (Nanda and Yashoda’s) good fortune. Shukadeva answers that previously Brahma had given the austerity-withered Vasu couple, Drona and Dhara, a boon that the Supreme Lord would become their son. (BhP 10.8.48-52)
Krishna was bound to his devotee’s promise and thus appeared as their son when they were born as Nanda and Yashoda. Later, however, Shukadeva says that neither Brahma nor Shiva nor even the goddess of fortune could ever attain the same grace that Yashoda did. (BhP 10.9.20)
The explanation of this verse is that Brahma has no power to give what he has no experience of. Krishna’s līlā is eternal; so are his associates, Nanda and Yashoda. How can a mere demigod play such big role in the līlā of svayam bhagavān is the question that arises in the devotee’s mind. The solution offered by Sanatan Goswami in his Vaiṣṇava-toṣaṇī is that Drona and Dhara were portions (expansions of Nanda and Yashoda), who once took birth as demigods and then later reintegrated into Nanda and Yashoda after receiving the boon from Brahma. The apsarā stories can be understood in the same way.
For example, there is a story in Padma Purana of Chandrakanti, an apsarās who spent the whole night dancing before a deity of Krishna in order to attain him as her exclusive lover.(NOTE 10) Such a prize, however, is available to no one other than Radharani and is certainly not available by even millions of baths in the Ganga. Through such following of scriptural rules one can never reach the Krishna of Vrindavan, who is available only to raganuga devotees. Therefore, according to Sri Jiva, Radha’s portion (expansion) appeared as Chandrakanti, and she thus attained that kind of exclusiveness that is available only to Radha’s sakhis. Sri Rupa gives her as an example of perfection in rāgānugā bhakti. (BRS 1.3.14, ṭīkā)
In summary, although Murari’s story might have such an explanation, it is not an account that would be dear to any devotee familiar with the way of thinking of the Vrindavan goswamis. Therefore Haridas Das expresses bewilderment about the meaning of the word apsarā in this context. (KCC 4th ed., Intro.) The verse quoted above (yad-aṅghri, etc.) supports the idea that Murari had some idea of the perfection of the Lord’s manuja-bhāva (human-nature) and the story of the apsarā proves the glory of the gopis. Nevertheless, only one of the later writers followed Murari in describing this incident and that is the young Kavi Karnapur. According to him Shrivas says:
"You went to Devarshi Narada, fell at his feet and said; ‘I wish to remain serving my Lord’s feet in the age of Kali.’ In answer, the sage of the demigods said; ‘Every Magh you must bathe daily in the Ganga. By such piety you will attain the lotus feet of your Lord. O beautiful-faced one! Don’t you know that by this blessing you have become dear to the Lord in this birth?" (CCMK 11.9.10)Returning to Murari’s description of the play in Candrashekhara’s house, the Lord first danced in the dress of Krishna, he was accompanied by Nityananda (Murari openly calls him Balaram) dressed as a gopi, who desired to taste “some unique devotional mellow.” “As he (Nityananda) held the soft sapling hand of the lord of his life, his eyes rained tears that drenched his body." (KCC 2.16.6)
Then Mahaprabhu himself danced as a gopi. On that night in Candrashekhara’s house, however, Mahaprabhu’s mood changed. He took the mood of the mother goddess Durga, and even took Haridas on his lap and breastfed him. The dancing and acting, as well as the manifestations of divine opulence in his acceptance of the form of Durga went on all night, leaving an indelible memory in the minds of all the devotees.
Vrindavan Dasa’s description of the play is the longest and most enjoyable from the literary point of view. He depicts Nityananda in the role of an old woman (the barai buri). Gadadhar's role is also very pronounced and described with some feeling, though Vrindavan Das avoids identifying him with Radha. Mahaprabhu himself is sometimes Rukmini, sometimes Lakshmi and sometimes Durga, but never Radha in this play. Gadadhar enters after Shrivas’s (Narada's) introduction accompanied by Brahmananda (as his barai) and Ganga Das. There is some joking, flirtation and Adwaita finally reminds Ganga Das to watch his words, for other men's wives should be treated as one's mother.
Then Adwaita says, "My lord is very fond of song and dance--if you dance nicely he will surely give you many gifts." At this, Gadadhara begins to dance in the mood of Ramâ (Lakshmi) while the other devotees sing appropriate songs.
Vrindavan Das writes,
Who would not be overwhelmed and start to cry upon seeing the dancing of Gadadhar? A river of love flowed from his two eyes. The earth became wet and thought herself blessed by the descent of these holy waters. Gadadhar became the Ganga personified. Verily, it is the truth that Gadadhar is Krishna's prakriti (wife). Chaitanya himself has announced again and again that “Gadadhar is a part of my Vaikuntha family.” Those who sang and those who watched all floated away in a river of prema. By the grace of Sri Chaitanya, all lost external consciousness. The devotees also cried the name of Hari, calling out in ecstasy. Hearing the crying on all four sides, Gadadhar danced in the mood of the gopis. (CBh 2.18.113-119)Then Mahaprabhu enters as the ādyā śakti or creative energy and adopts the roles of a whole gamut of śakti forms, including the bewildering Mohini who aroused desire even in Shiva.(NOTE 11)
In the Caitanya-maṅgala, Lochan Das follows Murari closely, but Narada’s speech is presented a little differently. There, Narada says to Gadadhar; "You are a gopi. I will speak to you of your previous lives. You are rare in this world! Listen carefully, for what I have to say is most amazing. Listen, for I will describe everyone’s glories. Each one of you formerly took birth in Gokula. Giving up your service to your own husbands, you served Krishna constantly and thus attained the perfection of your choice in Vrindavan. You are the chief amongst the energies of the Lord. You are Radha. What do I know about how to glorify you? That no one knows. You are the foremost of womankind, the chief of Krishna’s beloved. You performed such devotion to him that no one can equal it; yet it remains a secret in the three worlds. ..." Nityananda’s dancing in gopī-bhāva is omitted entirely. (CML, Madhya, pp. 176-179)
Though we have so far been confining our discussion to the four “synoptic” biographies, i.e., those based on Murari’s original work, it is necessary to introduce the Caitanya-candrodaya-nāṭaka here, since the play in Chandrasekhar’s house is also described as a “play within in a play” in this work.
I consider this work significant for several reasons: It is the last of the five biographies of the Bengali school, but was written by a more mature Kavi Karnapur more than 30 years after his first attempt at a biography, the CCMK. This work was written at about the same time as the Kheturi festival, though no doubt begun well before it. Four years later, Karnapur completed his GGD, in which he finalized his assessment of the equation of roles in the Nabadwip and Vrindavan līlās.
Karnapur’s account of the play at the house of Mahaprabhu’s maternal uncle is more formalized according to the rules of Sanskrit drama. (CCN, Act 3) Each role has been given a little footnote through comments by two allegorical observers, Maitri (Friendship) and Premabhakti (Loving Devotion).
How seriously Karnapur takes the characters is stated by Premabhakti. Maitri asks how it is that though Shrivas was to have taken Narada’s role, it appeared that Narada himself had come to play himself (so realistic was his guise). Premabhakti’s answer is: "Shrivas is always naturally absorbed in the mood of Narada, and by this it is revealed that he is Narada. The other characters in the play from Adwaita on, however, simply assume their different roles. Anyway, you should believe in the play as you see it."
Nevertheless, when Premabhakti herself sees Adwaita in the role of Krishna, she thinks that Krishna himself has appeared before them. After consideration, she says, "One who is not Krishna can never become Krishna, whereas Krishna can take any form, just as a person can do the tasks of any of his body’s limbs, but a limb can never assume the functions of the complete person. Therefore, this is not Adwaita. Neither is this just the cleverness of the make-up artist. Krishna himself has become incarnate here." (CCN 3.37)
Upon seeing Mahaprabhu, Premabhakti says; "The Lord formerly took the form of Mohini and bewildered the demons. He also created desire in the heart of Shiva, the chief of all gods, who is entirely satisfied in himself. Thus, it is not the least bit amazing that Vishwambhar, who is Krishna incarnate, has taken the form of Radha with his own body. (CCN 3.42) Just as a single bean his two halves, so the Lord is complete as the potent and the potency. Because he has both, he can manifest separately either male or female nature according to his desire." (CCN 3.43)
Then, looking again, she says, "This one also seems to be Radhika’s girlfriend Lalita and not Gadadhar, the best of the brahmins. Either that, or the Lord has divided himself in three ways: once as himself, once as Radha, and once again as her girlfriend." (CCN 3.44)
Karnapur’s example of the two-in-one bean is one of the first clear attempts to formulate the milita-tanu (“joined body”) theory. Yet he does not want to exclude Gadadhar, who here, as Radha’s sakhi, Lalita, is non-different from her. Karnapur’s final conclusion about Gadadhar, though, is given in Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā. There, Karnapur makes decisive statements on the original Vrindavan identities of all the different devotees. He is unequivocal about Gadadhar Pandit, "She who was previously prema incarnate, the goddess of Vrindavan, Sri Radha, is Gadadhar, the beloved of Gaura, who bears the title ‘Pandit.’ Swarup Damodar ascertained him to be Vraja’s goddess of fortune (Lakshmi). So she who was previously the goddess of fortune in Vrindavan, the beloved of Syamasundara (Krishna), is now the goddess of fortune of prema for Gaura, Gadadhar Pandit.” (GGD 147-149)
Karnapur then cites the opinion that Mahaprabhu possessed the mood of Radharani and accepts it. Using his own verse cited above, he identifies Lalita as a third entity integral to the dyad. (CCN 3.44)
The purport is that whenever Krishna happens to take any particular mood, it is Radharani’s duty as his hlādinī-śakti to see to his pleasure. The problem is that, in Mabaprabhu’s līlā, he is not in the mood of Krishna, but that of Radha. Nevertheless, can Radha desert her Krishna even if he is maddened into thinking that he is she? That madness too is her creation; will she not follow her own performance in whatever way she can? Radha’s sakhis (friends) are non-different from her, therefore when Mahaprabhu is in the mood of Radha, Radha takes the role of a sakhi.
Dramatically speaking, all our synoptic writers depend primarily on the incident of Nimai’s entering the renounced order of life. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa Eleventh Canto verses the Vaishnavas believe indicate the Lord’s gaura (golden) incarnation mention renunciation as the first major point of his līlā:
dharmiṣṭha ārya-vacasā yad agād araṇyam |
māyā-mṛgaṁ dayitayepsitam anvadhāvad
vande mahā-puruṣa te caraṇāravindam ||
I worship your lotus feet, O Great One; you gave up a kingdom and the goddess of fortune that were so difficult to renounce for they are desired even by the gods. Being most dutiful (religious), you went to the forest on the word of a brahmin (father or guru) and ran after the illusory deer that was desired by your beloved one. (BhP 11.5.34)For most commentators, this verse is taken as describing the incarnation of Ramachandra. Indeed, at first glance, their reading seems correct. The word maya mriga, for instance, clearly recreates the picture of Rama running after the trickster Maricha’s illusory deer after the repeated requests of Sita to capture him. But this interpretation seems out of place in the discussion of the avatar of the age of Kali, its religion and glories, which both precedes and follow it. A verse about Ramachandra appears nowhere in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa in such an uncontextual way. The Bhagavata shows practically no bias towards Rama whatsoever, duly mentioning him in his place as a matter of course.
The Mahābhārata says sannyāsa-kṛt, the Supreme Lord takes the renounced order; who can deny that Nimai had built himself a little kingdom in Nabadwip? He led thousands of persons in a demonstration to the house of the magistrate of the district to demand religious freedom. He had converted great sinners and had charmed the entire town with his beauty and intelligence. The leading citizens accepted him as an incarnation and worshiped him. He had received his abhiṣeka or coronation bath; yet he deserted it all.
Mahaprabhu’s Lakshmi was Vishnupriya, his young wife, in the full blossom of adolescence, clinging to him with a love, simple, refined and uncompromising. Yet he left her.
Though none of the authors have quoted the Bhāgavata verse, they all mention the curse of a brahmin who became angry with Nimai for reasons that vary in each biography. The result is the same, however: the brahmin tore apart his sacred thread in the ancient process of cursing practiced by the “gods of the earth” (brahmins) and announced that Mahaprabhu was never to have happiness in family life. Mahaprabhu, in good puranical tradition, accepted the curse.
The word māyā-mṛga is given various interpretations culminating in the idea of prema which is to be given to the jivas (living beings) out of his mercy. There is another interpretation of the verse as referring to Krishna giving up Goloka to taste the love which is so desirable to Radha. The central theme of Mahaprabhu’s līlā is his sannyāsa.
Take, for instance, Narahari’s beautiful verse;
nindat-kāñcana-kānti-rāsa-rasikāśleṣeṇa gauraṁ vapuḥ
tāsāṁ gāḍha-karābhibandhana-vaśāl lomodgamo dṛśyate
āścaryaṁ sakhi paśya lampaṭa-guroḥ sannyāsa-veṣaṁ kṣitau
Has the saffron fallen from the breasts of the gopis made his cloth yellow like the morning sun? Has the embrace of the wives of the cowherds, whose luster is like molten gold, made his body pale? Can you see how the tight grip of their hands has made his bodily hair stand erect in joy? How strange, my friend! Look! The guru of the licentious is on the earth in the dress of a sannyasi. (Śacīnandanāṣṭakam, 1)Tragedy is the basis of both Rama’s and Krishna’s līlā, and that tragedy, in both cases, is in the Lord’s leaving the place of his childhood, the place where he was already established as the object of everyone’s love and adoration. The similarity between those līlās and Gauranga līlā is obvious, and the dramatic effect caught the minds of Bengal. Even today, a play about the life of Gauranga usually ends with him going into the distance singing "Haribol," while Vishnupriya and Mother Sachi lead the Nabadwip devotees in crying for their devotion-maddened hero.
These līlās are said to have two aspects, external and internal. (CC 1.10.97) The external aspect refers to the world-saving activity and the internal to the tasting of rasa. Just as Krishna left Vrindavan and went to Mathura to execute his duties as an avatar, and that duty kept him from ever returning to his beloved devotees, even his dearest Radha, so too Mahaprabhu left Nabadwip for a similar purpose.
For dramatic reasons, even though Lochan Dasa carefully compares Gadadhar with Radha in Caitanya-maṅgala (as shown above), he cannot use him for the dramatic addition of madhura-rasa (the devotional erotic sentiment). The heroine instead is the young wife Vishnupriya. For this reason, Lochan gives a lengthy description of the last night Mahaprabhu spent with her in which he (for perhaps the first time in their short married life) really plays the role of a husband.
Murari and Kavi Karnapur focus neither on Gadadhar nor Vishnupriya, concentrating on Sachimata as the figure evoking karuṇā (compassion). In his play Karnapur shows Gadadhar lamenting in shock for a departed Nimai, whereas Vrindavan Das shows him spending the last night with the Mahaprabhu and leaving with him for Katwa to witness the shaving of his bead and his formal initiation into the renounced order. In Vrindavan Das’s Caitanya-bhāgavata, the external cause of the renunciation was an incident involving some of the students of Nabadwip.
"One day the Lord of the universe satin a mood of jealous anger toward Krishna. Rather than chant Krishna’s name, as was his wont, he was muttering; ‘Gopi, Gopi, Gopi.’ Some students came nearby and, puzzled by this contradictory behavior, challenged the Lord. They said; ‘Nimai Pandit, why have you given up chanting of the names of Krishna which are all auspicious and begun to chant the word “gopi”? The scriptures have instructed all to chant his names.’ ‘Nimai answered; "Why should I chant Krishna’s name? He is not worthy of glorification. What gain can be had from it? He shot Vali from behind like a crow; under the domination of one woman, he cut off another’s nose. He tied up Bali and despatched him to the lower planets after taking everything he had. What’s the use of remembering such a person!"(CBh 2.25.89-92)When the scholars insisted on berating him for his breach of scriptural norms, Nimai turned upon them in anger. Threatening them with physical punishment, he drove them away. The foolish students had no comprehension of the elevated state of the Lord’s devotional mood. They grumbled amongst themselves that he should be taken care of; Nimai had become too arrogant and needed to be deflated.
When Mahaprabhu became conscious of what had taken place he said; "I took rock candy to reduce the phlegm, but it has had the opposite effect." (CBh 2.25.93) People would not respect him if they knew him as a mere householder. Were he a sannyasi, everyone would give him respect and thus his preaching work could go on unhindered. Murari has him say to Shrivas, "Just as merchants travel abroad to bring back wealth, so I am leaving home to bring back a wealth of prema." (KCC 2.18.19-20)
At any rate, the Chaitanya mystique took a new form with his entering sannyasa.
There are numerous differences in the lists of those devotees who accompanied Mahaprabhu from Katwa after his sannyasa and travelled with him for three days in Rarha before he arrived in Shantipur, and again of those who accompanied him from Shantipur to Puri. Murari Gupta mentions only Nityananda’s presence in Rarha; Kavi Karnapur adds Gadadhar and Mukunda; Vrindavan Das includes Chandrashekhara and Brahmananda. In the Nāṭaka, however, Karnapura changes his opinion and excludes Gadadhar, retaining only Nitai and Chandrashekhara. Kaviraj Goswami adds Mukunda.
Similar confusion surrounds Mahaprabhu’s trip to Puri. Only Murari mentions Gadadhar. Vrindavan Das has Jagadananda and Nityananda accompany him. Karnapur states clearly that Adwaita provided four men: Nityananda, Jagadananda, Mukunda and Damodar Pandit. Kaviraj Goswami accepts this version.
We can only be sure that Nityananda was a travelling companion on those first days of Nimai’s sannyasa. Whether or not Gadadhar went on that first trip, he definitely arrived in Puri within a short time. He also took sannyasa and is the only member of the Pancha Tattva who remained an associate of the Lord in the latter portion of his līlā.
Vrindavan Das, like all the other Bengal-based biographers, is all-too-brief on the events of the Lord’s life after his going to Puri. All the authors stress his journeys to the south and to Vrindavan; only Krishna Das Kaviraj gives a vivid picture of his ecstasies in Radha’s mood. No other author has mentioned Gadadhar in the later līlā, except in one incident briefly described by Murari and elaborated by Vrindavan Das. Murari says that after returning from his trip to Gauda in 1513 A. D., Mahaprabhu first went to visit the temple of Tota Gopinath where Gadadhar was staying. (KCC 3.18.22-29)
Followed by Gadadhar and Nityananda, Krishna (Sri Chaitanya) came to see Gopinath, whom he saw as the son of the King Nanda playing his flute. Hari, amusing himself by experiencing the same desires as the gopis, embraced Gopinath suddenly and remained motionless. Seeing the golden Lord and knowing him to be Krishna, Gadadhar became happy. Being directly Radha himself, Gadadhar took him to his own chest and, helping him down, pacified him. Then Gadadhar cooked and offered food to Gopinath, after which he fed Sri Chaitanya and Nityananda. After the meal Gauranga sat comfortably along with Gadadhar. Being the knower of rasa, he became eager for the rasa līlā. Fully absorbed in that he stayed in the garden with the other enjoyer of rasa, Balaram (rasa-rāma-rāme).
Without referring to Gadadhar as Radha, Vrindavan Das tells the same story a little more elaborately, giving Nityananda a more important role. (CBh 3.7) Nityananda brings rice from Bengal to the Gopinath temple where Gadadhar stayed alone with his deity. Gadadhar cooks the rice along with a vegetable of tamarind leaves, and offers everything to Gopinath. Without any notice Mahaprabhu bimself arrives and wonders why he was not invited. "Nityananda has brought the food, Gadadhar has cooked it. Everything has been offered to Gopinath. Certainly I also have a share." The three Prabhus (lords) then sit down together and eat.
Vrindavan Das’s conclusion is that one can know Nityananda only if one has Gadadhar’s mercy, and that Gadadhar will never be merciful to the one who has even the slightest bit of enmity towards Nitai. Such defenses of Nityananda are common in the Caitanya-bhāgavata. It is an indication that at the time of its writing, some persons felt that Nityananda was a less significant associate of Mahaprabhu than Gadadhar.
NOTE 6. In the Advaita-prakāśa (M. K. Ghosh’s 3rd ed., p. 57) it is stated that Mahaprabhu and Gadadhar were both Adwaita’s students in Shantipur for two years, studying Veda and the Bhāgavata respectively. This has no corroboration elsewhere and many scholars are suspicious of the AP.
NOTE 7. Prārthanā, Atirikta pada.
NOTE 8. The only people mentioned before Gadadhar in KCC 2 are Sachi, Shuklambar and Shrivas Pandit, but Lochan puts Gadadhar even earlier, right after Sachi.
NOTE 9. See H. M. Shiromani, Gadādhara Sandarbha (1927), p. 29.
NOTE 10. Quoted in BRS, 1.4.7-8. See also BRS 1.3.14.
NOTE 11. In Vrindavan Das’s description, Chaitanya warned that only those whose senses were fully controlled would be eligible to see him dance in the mood and dress of a woman. Sinvas and Adwaita pleaded that if this were the case, then they would also be ineligible. At this the Lord laughed and assured them that by his grace everyone in the audience would remain unperturbed. Thus they were able to see even the form of Mohini without losing their composure.