Lord Chaitanya’s Nightly Kirtana in Navadvipa

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An austere brahmana is rebuked and then blessed when he desires to witness the private kirtana of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His close associates.

Excerpted from Madhya-khanda, chapter twenty-three, of the seven-volume Sri Chaitanya-bhagavata of Srila Vrindavana dasa Thakura, with commentary by Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja Prabhupada. Translated by Bhumipati Dasa. Edited and published by Pundarika Vidyanidhi Dasa. © Vrajraj Press 2002. This edition contains the original Bengali texts, which we have omitted here. It is available at ISKCON Vrindavan and is included in the VedaBase produced by the Bhaktivedanta Archives.

The author here refers to Lord Chaitanya by the names Vishvambhara, Gaurahari, Nimai Pandita, Mahaprabhu, Sachinandana, Gaurasundara, and the son of Sachi.

TEXT 4
Day after day the abode of Navadvipa became filled with ecstasy because of the presence of Vishvambhara, the Lord of Vaikuntha.

TEXT 5
Accompanied by His beloved Nityananda, the Lord engaged in pastimes of relishing His own names in the association of the devotees.

Commentary: The phrase nija-nama-rasa is explained as follows: The Supreme Lord is rasa-maya, or full of transcendental mellows. The Supreme Lord and His holy names are nondifferent. Therefore the holy names are also rasa-maya. The Supreme Lord’s names, or spiritual names, are distinct from ordinary names or designations. Lord Gaurahari forgets Himself in the transcendental ecstasy of chanting the holy names in the midst of His devotees. Affection for His devotees is the cause of His forgetfulness.

TEXT 6
The Lord performed kirtana every night. No one except the devotees could participate.

Commentary: While the Lord taught at night the process of worship through kirtana, outsiders were not allowed.

TEXT 7
The glories of Vishvambhara’s prowess were so great that no one in the three worlds knew their limits.

Commentary: The glories of Vishvambhara’s prowess were unique. Since human knowledge is based on the three modes of material nature, it is unable to grasp transcendental concepts.

TEXT 8
Hidden in the distance, five or ten people gathered together and spoke bad words that would take them to hell.

Commentary: Ordinary unqualified people who blaspheme the process of worshiping the Supreme Lord are punished by Yamaraja after they die.

TEXT 9
Someone said, “What kind of Vaishnava can there be in Kali-yuga? Those Vaishnavas we see are simply engaged in filling their stomachs.”

Commentary: The blasphemers always say the Vaishnavas are “simply interested in filling their bellies.” Their idea was that particularly in the age of quarrel there is no possibility of finding any Vaishnavas or attaining devotional service to Vishnu.

TEXT 10
“If we can tie up the hands and legs of these materialistic Vaishnavas who are only interested in filling their own stomachs and then throw them in the water to get rid of them, then all our miseries will be extinguished.”

TEXT 11
Someone said, “O brother, know for certain that Nimai Pandita will ruin the entire village.”

Commentary: “By introducing pure devotional service, Nimai Pandita has destroyed the happiness of the village. Therefore the entire Navadvipa has been ruined.”

TEXT 12
They would threaten the devotees so that they could see the kirtana. But because they were unfortunate, what could their cunning accomplish?

Commentary: Because of the miscreants’ misfortune, the cunning they displayed to see Sri Chaitanyadeva’s most confidential sankirtana pastimes by installing fear in the devotees was ineffective.

TEXT 13
As the son of Sachi performed sankirtana, the consciousness of everyone in the world was purified.

Commentary: By glorifying Krishna through kirtana, Lord Sachinandana purified the enjoyment-prone hearts of people who were averse to the Lord.

TEXT 14
Ordinary people lamented because they could not see the kirtana. They sighed deeply and considered themselves unfortunate.

TEXT 15
Some people requested the devotees to let them inside so that they could secretly watch the sankirtana.

Commentary: The word parihara means “request” or “appeal.”

Someone revealed his own misfortune and requested one of the devotees to allow him to secretly watch the Lord’s kirtana pastimes.

TEXT 16
All the Lord’s servants understood that the Lord knew everything, so in fear of His reaction they did not take anyone inside.

TEXT 17
There was one particular brahmachari who lived in Navadvipa. He was austere, saintly, and faultless.

TEXT 18
He only drank milk and did not eat rice. This brahmana wanted to see the Lord’s kirtana.

Commentary: Since the brahmachari who considered that cooked food destroyed life and who took a vow to live only on uncooked foods like milk and mango was unqualified to hear the glories of the Supreme Lord, he had no qualification to hear the kirtana behind closed doors. Direct service to the Supreme Lord is never found within the principles of dry renunciation. Foolish people who misuse renunciation consider that the ingredients of the Lord’s worship are fit for rejection.

TEXT 19
Since the Lord performed kirtana behind closed doors, no one other than the devotees was allowed to enter.

TEXT 20
This particular brahmana daily requested Srivasa to allow him to see the Lord’s dancing.

TEXT 21–22
“If you bestow mercy on me and take me one day inside your house, I will be able to see Nimai Pandita’s dancing. Then my eyes will be successful, and I will always remain grateful to you.”

TEXT 23
In this way the brahmana daily appealed to Srinivasa [Srivasa], who one day replied to him.

TEXT 24
“I know you have always been a good person. Throughout your life you have observed strict celibacy and eaten only fruits.

TEXT 25
“Your body is free from sin, so you are certainly qualified to see the kirtana.

TEXT 26
“But I tell you, the Lord has instructed us not to bring anyone inside, so you will have to stay hidden.”

Commentary: Since according to Mahaprabhu’s instructions, the milk-drinking brahmachari had no qualification to hear the Lord’s chanting, despite possessing a sinless body, when he begged Srivasa to allow him to see the Lord’s dancing, Srivasa advised him to remain hidden within the house.

TEXT 27
After speaking in this way, he took the brahmana inside and hid him in one corner.

TEXT 28
Thereafter the Lord of the fourteen worlds began to dance in the midst of His most fortunate associates.

TEXT 29
They all jubilantly sang together, “Krishna, Rama, Mukunda, Murari, Vanamali!”

TEXT 30
Nityananda and Gadadhara held each other as they twirled around. The lionlike Advaita ran here and there in ecstasy.

TEXT 31
As the Lord of Vaikuntha personally danced, everyone lost external consciousness in transcendental happiness.

TEXT 32
Nothing could be heard other than, “Hari bol! Hari bol! O brothers, chant the holy names!”

TEXT 33
Who can describe Vishvambhara’s transformations of ecstatic love like shedding of tears, shivering, hairs standing on end, and loud roaring?

TEXT 34
Yet Lord Vishvambhara, the crest jewel of omniscient persons, knew that a brahmana was hiding there.

TEXT 35
Lord Vishvambhara repeatedly stopped dancing and said, “Why am I not feeling any ecstasy today?

Commentary: Yogis who are free from material activities and averse to the Lord’s name, form, qualities, associates, characteristics, and pastimes do not have any information about love of Krishna. Therefore, even though they are exalted in material calculation, their aversion to love of God, which is transcendental to the four goals of life, devours them. Although such bad association is considered desirable in the eyes of ordinary people, there is no possibility of attaining love of God in such association. Sri Gaurasundara revealed that love of God is absent in the association of persons who are averse to love of God.

TEXT 36–41
“I cannot understand; it seems someone is inside the house. Tell Me the truth.” In fear, Srinivasa replied, “O Lord, no atheists have come inside. There is only one brahmachari – a pious brahmana, who leads a sinless life and only drinks milk. He had a strong desire to see Your dancing. You have rightly surmised, O Lord; he is hiding inside the house.” On hearing this, Vishvambhara angrily said, “Quickly take him out of the house. What qualification does he have to see My dancing? Can one attain devotion to Me by drinking milk?”

Commentary: Since Gaurasundara did not feel ecstasy in the kirtana, and since He realized that some bad association had entered the house, He inquired about this from Srivasa Pandita, who replied, “No irreligious person envious of the Supreme Lord has entered this house. A sinless brahmana brahmachari who has taken a vow to live on milk and who is devoted to his duties is hiding within this house, because he was eager to see Your dancing.” On hearing this, Mahaprabhu considered that person a nondevotee and expressed His anger by ordering that he should leave the house. When there is no guarantee that by only drinking uncooked milk one attains devotion to the Supreme Lord, then how can a nondevotee become eligible to see the dancing of a devotee? Because he was bereft of unalloyed devotional service, he developed a propensity for executing materialistic austerities. All austerities aimed at nonviolence and imagined to be favorable to religious life according to ordinary consideration can never be steps to devotional service to the Lord. Inclination towards the service of the Supreme Lord and lording it over the material world are not equivalent.

TEXT 42
The Lord raised His two arms and extended His index fingers while saying, “No one can attain Me simply by drinking milk.

Commentary: Attempts to achieve saintliness or supremacy in the world under the shelter of nonviolence are not evidence of inclination for the Lord’s service. This was specifically pointed out by Sri Gaurasundara.

TEXT 43
“Know for certain that if even a candala surrenders to Me, he is Mine and I am his.

Commentary: “If by his past karma a human being takes birth in a degraded family yet has a strong inclination for the service of the Supreme Lord, he is very dear to Me. He is certainly a brahmana whose body belongs to Me. There is no doubt about it.”

TEXT 44
“If even a sannyasi does not surrender to Me, he is not Mine. This is the truth I am telling you.

Commentary: If even a sannyasi situated in the topmost ashrama becomes averse to the service of the Supreme Lord, then it is a fact that such a person should not be accepted as dear to the Supreme Lord.

TEXT 45-46
“Tell Me, what kind of austerities did Gajendra, the monkeys, and the cowherds perform to attain Me? Even the demons perform austerities, but what is the result? Unless they take shelter of Me, they cannot be delivered.”

Commentary: In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.12.1–8) the Supreme Personality of Godhead speaks to Uddhava as follows:

na rodhayati mam yogo
na sankhyam dharma eva cha
na svadhyayas tapas tyago
neshta-purtam na dakshina

vratani yajñash chandamsi
tirthani niyama yamah
yatha varundhe sat-sangah
sarva-sangapaho hi mam

“My dear Uddhava, by associating with My pure devotees one can destroy one’s attachment for all objects of material sense gratification. Such purifying association brings Me under the control of My devotee. One may perform the ashtanga-yoga system, engage in philosophical analysis of the elements of material nature, practice nonviolence and other ordinary principles of piety, chant the Vedas, perform penances, take to the renounced order of life, execute sacrificial performances and dig wells, plant trees and perform other public welfare activities, give in charity, carry out severe vows, worship the demigods, chant confidential mantras, visit holy places or accept major and minor disciplinary injunctions, but even by performing such activities one does not bring Me under his control.

sat-sangena hi daiteya
yatudhana mrigah khagah
gandharvapsaraso nagah
siddhash charana-guhyakah

vidyadhara manushyeshu
vaishyah shudrah striyo ’ntya-jah
rajas-tamah-prakritayas
tasmims tasmin yuge yuge

bahavo mat-padam praptas
tvashtra-kayadha vadayah
vrishaparva balir bano
mayash chatha vibhishanah

sugrivo hanuman riksho
gajo gridhro vanikpathah
vyadhah kubja vraje gopyo
yajña-patnyas tathapare

“In every yuga many living entities entangled in the modes of passion and ignorance gained the association of My devotees. Thus, such living entities as the Daityas, Rakshasas, birds, beasts, Gandharvas, Apsaras, Nagas, Siddhas, Charanas, Guhyakas and Vidyadharas, as well as such lower-class human beings as the vaishyas, shudras, women and others, were able to achieve My supreme abode. Vritrasura, Prahlada Maharaja and others like them also achieved My abode by association with My devotees, as did personalities such as Vrishaparva, Bali Maharaja, Banasura, Maya, Vibhishana, Sugriva, Hanuman, Jambavan, Gajendra, Jatayu, Tuladhara, Dharma-vyadha, Kubja, the gopis in Vrindavana and the wives of the brahmanas who were performing sacrifice.

te nadhita-shruti-gana
nopasita-mahattamah
avratatapta-tapasah
mat-sangan mam upagatah

“The persons I have mentioned did not undergo serious studies of the Vedic literature, nor did they worship great saintly persons, nor did they execute severe vows or austerities. Simply by association with Me and My devotees, they achieved Me.

kevalena hi bhavena
gopyo gavo naga mrigah
ye ’nye mudha-dhiyo nagah
siddha mam iyur añjasa

“The inhabitants of Vrindavana, including the gopis, cows, unmoving creatures such as the twin arjuna trees, animals, living entities with stunted consciousness such as bushes and thickets, and snakes such as Kaliya, all achieved the perfection of life by unalloyed love for Me and thus very easily achieved Me.”

A poet of South India is quoted in the Padyavali as follows:

vyadhasyacharanam dhruvasya cha
vayo vidya gajendrasya ka
kubjayah kim u nama rupam
adhikam kim tat sudamno dhanam

vamsah ko vidurasya yadava-
pater ugrasya kim paurusham
bhaktya tushyati kevalam na cha
gunair bhakti-priyo madhavah

“Did the hunter named Dharma have any piety? Did age disqualify the five-year-old Dhruva? Did Gajendra, who lived by Trikuta Mountain, possess any learning? Did Mathura’s Kubja, the maidservant of Kamsa, have any beauty? Did Sudama Brahmana, the friend of Krishna, have any wealth? Did the social status of Vidura disqualify him? Did the prowess of Ugrasena, the King of the Yadus, disqualify him? Madhava was pleased with their devotional service. He is not pleased by material qualities.”

TEXT 47

The Lord continued, “One cannot attain Me only by drinking milk. You will see right here how I smash him to pieces.”

TEXT 48

As the brahmachari left in great fear, that sober brahmana thought to himself.

TEXT 49–50

“I am indeed fortunate to have seen something. I have also received appropriate punishment for my offense. I saw that wonderful dancing and wonderful kirtana, and I was punished according to my offense.”

Commentary: The austere brahmachari was an impersonalist. Since he was devoid of the propensity to serve, he could not appreciate the display of intoxication in ecstatic love of God. This was the cause of his offense. Those who consider the dancing and crying in need of living entities intoxicated by material enjoyment in this world as equal to the devotees’ singing, dancing, crying, and laughing for the Supreme Lord are offenders. As a result of receiving punishment in the form of Sri Gaurasundara’s chastisement, the impersonalistic brahmachari became enlightened.

TEXT 51

Only a servant of the Lord develops such a mentality and is able to tolerate the Lord’s chastisement.

Commentary: Because of self-realization, persons whose hearts are constantly engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord never express displeasure in any of the Lord’s actions. Considering themselves fit for punishment, such persons respectfully accept the Lord’s judgment and remember their previous offenses. They do not endeavor to oppose the judgment of the Supreme Lord to attain religiosity, economic development, sense gratification, or liberation. In this regard one should discuss the tat te ’nukampam verse1 along with the ashlishya va pada-ratam verse2 spoken by Sri Gaurasundara.

TEXT 52

As that exalted brahmana departed while thinking in this way, Lord Vishvambhara, the Supersoul, understood his heart.

TEXT 53

The Lord, who is an ocean of mercy, called the brahmana back and placed His lotus feet on his head.

TEXT 54

The Lord then told him that he shouldn’t be proud of his austerity, and he should know for certain that devotional service to the Supreme Lord is supreme.

Commentary: Refer to the previously quoted Srimad-Bhagavatam verses (11.12.1–8). Also, in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.23.43–44) it is stated:

nasam dvijati-samskaro
na nivaso gurav api
na tapo natma-mimamsa
na shaucham na kriyah shubhah

tathapi hy uttamah-shloke
krishne yogeshvareshvare
bhaktir dridha na chasmakam
samskaradimatam api

“These women have never undergone the purificatory rites of the twice-born classes, nor have they lived as brahmacharis in the ashrama of a spiritual master, nor have they executed austerities, speculated on the nature of the self, followed the formalities of cleanliness or engaged in pious rituals. Nevertheless, they have firm devotion for Lord Krishna, whose glories are chanted by the exalted hymns of the Vedas and who is the supreme master of all masters of mystic power. We, on the other hand, have no such devotion for the Lord, although we have executed all these processes.” In the Padma Purana it is stated:

maha-kula-prasuto ’pi
sarva-yajñeshu dikshitah
sahasra-shakhadhyayi cha
na guruh syad avaishnavah

“A non-Vaishnava is never fit to be guru even if he has taken birth in a great family, performed all sacrifices, and studied many branches of the Vedas.” In the Narada-pañcaratra it is stated:

aradhito yadi haris tapasa tatah kim
naradhito yadi haris tapasa tatah kim
antar bahir yadi haris tapasa tatah kim
nantar bahir yadi haris tapasa tatah kim

“If one is worshiping Lord Hari, what is the use of performing extraneous penances? And if one is not worshiping Lord Hari, no such penances will save one. If one can understand that Lord Hari is all-pervading, within and without, what is the need of performing penances? And if one is not able to understand that Hari is all-pervading, all his penances are useless.” In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.31) it is stated:

na jnanam na cha vairagyam
prayah shreyo bhaved iha

“The cultivation of knowledge and renunciation is generally not the means of achieving the highest perfection within this world.” In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.81.19) it is stated:

sarvasam api siddhinam
mulam tach-charanarchanam

“Devotional service to His lotus feet is the root cause of all perfection.” In the Padma Purana it is stated:

aradhananam sarvesham
vishnor aradhanam param
tasmat parataram devi
tadiyanam samarchanam

“O Devi, the most exalted system of worship is the worship of Lord Vishnu. Greater than that is the worship of tadiya, or anything belonging to Vishnu.”

TEXT 55

That exalted brahmana cried in ecstasy as he continually remembered the merciful qualities of the Lord.

TEXT 56

All the devotees then jubilantly chanted the name of Hari and immediately offered obeisances to the brahmachari.

TEXT 57

Anyone who faithfully hears this confidential pastime will certainly attain Lord Gaurachandra.

TEXT 58

After bestowing mercy on the brahmachari, the Lord profusely danced in ecstasy.

TEXT 59

I offer my obeisances at the feet of that brahmana, whose intelligence was purified by Lord Chaitanya’s chastisement.

Commentary: This verse describes Sri Vrindavana dasa Thakura’s desire to accept and respect as a devotee the brahmana who was punished for his offense.

NOTES

1

tat te ’nukampam su-samikshamano
bhuñjana evatma-kritam vipakam
hrid-vag-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jiveta yo mukti-pade sa daya-bhak

“My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words, and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.” (Bhagavatam 10.14.8)

2

ashlishya va pada-ratam pinashtu mam
adarshanan marma-hatam karotu va
yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato
mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva naparah

“Let Krishna tightly embrace this maidservant who has fallen at His lotus feet, or let Him trample Me or break My heart by never being visible to Me. He is a debauchee, after all, and can do whatever He likes, but He is still no one other than the worshipable Lord of My heart.” (Sikshashtaka 8)

About the Author: 

Srila Vrindavana dasa Thakura

Srila Vrindavana dasa Thakura is known as the Vyasa of Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes. He was the son of Narayani Devi, who was the niece of Srivasa Thakura, one of Lord Chaitanya’s closest associates. Srivasa appears in this excerpt, as it was in his home that the nightly kirtanas took place.