Mad Nimāi Paṇḍit
He appeared in Navagrāma in Śrī Haṭṭa, in the eastern province of Bengal, and resided in Śāntipura. Ontologically speaking, Śrī Advaita Āchārya is the avatāra of Mahāvisnu, who creates the material cosmos through the agency of His illusory energy. Advaita Āchārya is the devotee who earnestly invited Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu to descend here as the yugāvatāra to look after the welfare of all souls. He began to worship the Lord with Ganges water and Tulasī leaves and invoked His grace, praying, “O Lord, please come and deliver these people; the time has come to relieve them by the distribution of the sweet name of Kṛṣṇa. Come, My Lord—they are most poor!” In this way Advaita Āchārya attracted Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu by pleading the cause of the fallen souls. Of course, the time had come for the advent of the incarnation for this age, the yugāvatāra, but still Advaita Āchārya performed the function of inviting and welcoming Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu.
And when the Supreme Lord was about to appear, Advaita felt in his heart, “My prayer is going to be satisfied—He is coming!” Ultimately, He detected that Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, had personally appeared in the house of Śrī Jagannātha Miśra and Śachīdevī as their newborn boy, Nimāi Viśvambhara. And so, Advaita Āchārya went to pay due respects to the child and His parents on the divine advent day.
When the boy was a little grown up, Śrī Advaita Prabhu came down to bow at the feet of the child, Nimāi. Śachīdevī, Nimāi’s mother, shuddered: “What are You doing? You are an old Paṇḍit, a Vedic scholar. If You show this kind of respect to my young boy it will spoil His future! What are You doing?” It was said that whenever Advaita Āchārya used to bow down His head to a Deity, the statue would shatter into pieces if it was a sham, if there was no genuine presence of the Lord. But here, when Advaita put His head at the feet of the boy, Nimāi put one foot on Advaita Āchārya’s head.
Everyone was astounded and wondered, “What kind of spiritual power does this child have? Such a great devotee-scholar and senior man as Advaita has bowed down to this child, and the child has stepped on Advaita’s head, but the child is quite unaffected! Who is this child?”
When Nimāi was a boy, sometimes He would disguise Himself with a blanket and enter into the banana grove of a neighbor’s house. With a push of His head He used to break down the banana trees. The neighbors would come out and think, “A bull must have entered and demolished our garden!” In these pastimes the Lord was teaching His devotees, “I am demolishing all your banana trees that will be used for some other purpose besides My service. In the highest sense, you are My eternal associates, and I can do anything and everything with your possessions to suit My fleeting pleasures.” Sometimes He would snatch fruit from the hand of Śrīdhara Paṇḍit, saying, “Oh, give Me this banana. I won’t be able to pay you any price.” Śrīdhara Pandit would tell Him, “Why are you doing this? You are a brāhmaṇa boy; I can’t refuse You. But You should not do these things. I am a poor man. If You snatch away my best things, how can I make a living?” In this way, Nimāi performed His pastimes of stealing fruit.
As Nimāi Paṇḍit grew up, He used to show Advaita Āchārya great respect. But Advaita could not tolerate it. He said, “I know that You are not an ordinary person. You are a supernatural, transcendental personality of the highest order. Still, in the worldly sense, You are younger than Me, so You show Me respect, but I can’t tolerate it. It is too much for Me.” But what could Advaita do? Nimāi used to show His formal respect to Advaita Prabhu every time They met, so Advaita made a plan to stop this, and thought to Himself, “I shall see how clever You are.”
He left Navadwīpa, went to Śāntipura, and began to preach against the devotional school. The news came to Nimāi that Advaita Āchārya, after such a long time as a devotee, was preaching against the devotional school. He was preaching that jñāna, knowledge, is higher than devotion. “Devotion makes the Lord far away,” He argued, “and knowledge tries to bring Him very near. With knowledge, one thinks, ‘I want to experience You, O Lord.’ And devotion says ‘He is adhokṣaja: transcendental. He can’t be traced by our senses.’ So devotion makes Him far away by saying, ‘It is only His sweet will that may connect us.’ But according to the path of knowledge, the supreme authority is within you, in your heart. The devotional school is clearly secondary.”
In this way, Advaita Āchārya began to preach. And when that reached the ears of Nimāi Paṇḍit, He went with Nityānanda to punish Advaita. They jumped into the Ganges and swam all the way to Śāntipura, where they found Advaita Āchārya. Nimāi confronted him: “What are you doing, Āchārya? Why have You invited Me to come here? With Ganges water and Tulasileaves, You prayed for Me to appear, and now You are making fun of Me? You are speaking against devotion, against Me? What is the matter with You?” In this way, Nimāi Paṇḍit began to punish Advaita. He began to slap Him. The old wife of Advaita Āchārya began to cry, “What are you doing? Don’t kill that old man!”
Nityānanda Prabhu was smiling, and Haridāsa Ṭhākur, perplexed, was standing at a little distance trying to understand, “What is the matter?” Then Advaita Āchārya Prabhu felt great satisfaction. He said, “I have taught You a lesson now—You have come to punish me. You are defeated—I have gained victory over You!” Advaita Prabhu began to dance. “Today I have defeated You, My Lord! You had to punish Me. Where has that formal respect You were always showing Me gone now?” In this way, Advaita Āchārya rejoiced, and offered Mahāprabhu a feast of śāk, His favorite delicacy.
The Lord gave so much grace to Advaita Prabhu that although he was an old scholar and āchārya, He was punished with slaps. It is not possible to punish or dishonor anyone we respect, but only our intimate friends. Disrespect and dishonor is possible only when there is great intimacy. Pure devotees want punishment. “Punish us!” they pray, but punishment from the high quarter is not very cheap.
Many years later, just before Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu began to manifest His final pastimes of divine ecstasy, Advaita Āchārya Prabhu wrote some mystic lines of poetry which He sent to the Lord through Jagadānanda Paṇḍit:
bāulake kahiha—loka haila bāula
bāulake kahiha—hāṭe nā vikāya chāula
bāulake kahiha—kāye nāhika āula
bāulake kahiha—ihā kahiyāche bāula
Tell our Prabhu, who acts as madmen do, that everyone has lost their sanity, And rice once high in price has no value. In love of God, half-crazed humanity neglects this world and all they once held dear; tell Him a madman brings this to His ear.
When Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu read that mystic poem, His mood became serious. Svarūpa Dāmodara was there: “What is written here?” he said. Mahāprabhu replied, “I do not know what is the real meaning, but Advaita Āchārya is a great ‘worshiper,’ and a certain class of ‘worshipers’ are accustomed to think, “We shall invite the Deity, and for some time we shall try to keep Him here for worship. Then, when we are finished with our worship, finally we shall bid Him adieu.’ Perhaps Advaita thinks, ‘Now it is time for the Deity to go.’ I don’t know what is the real meaning, but perhaps this is His purpose.” Svarūpa Dāmodara took the poem, read it, and became very thoughtful: “Oh, Advaita Prabhu is saying that the requirements for Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu’s appearance have been fulfilled, and now, He is no longer needed to preach the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa as the incarnation for this age. The avatāra’s duty is finished, and so He may go.”
After this, Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu remained within this world for twelve more years, but not as before. His mood was quite changed. From that day on, He felt great separation from Kṛṣṇa in the mood of Rādhārāṇī. Divine madness became predominant in Him and His social connection was almost closed. Rāmānanda Raya and Svarūpa Dāmodara were His attendants at that time. He no longer kept any social connections; the fire within Him was burning—the fire of separation. He was absorbed in Rādhārani’s search for Śrī Kṛṣṇa after Kṛṣṇa left Vṛndāvana. In that mood of divine madness, He spent twelve years in a closed room within the house compound of Kāśī Miśra.
Sometimes at night, unconsciously crossing the boundary wall, He would run to meet Lord Jagannātha. When Svarūpa Dāmodara and His other attendants would suddenly find that no sound of Kṛṣṇa’s name could be heard within His room, they would begin searching: “Mahāprabhu is not there, where is He?”
Sometimes they would find Him fallen before the main gate of the Jagannātha temple, His legs and hands drawn within His body like the limbs of a tortoise drawn within its shell. A very sweet fragrance could be detected emanating from Him, and the cows would flock there, smelling His body. While Mahāprabhu was lying in his trance, He was internally experiencing the pastimes of Rādhā and Govinda with the gopīs in Govardhana. At that time, Svarūpa Dāmodara and the others tried their best to revive Him from His trance by chanting the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa.
When Mahāprabhu was roused, He complained, “What have you done? I was enjoying a most happy experience there but by raising a clamor, you have drawn me down here.” And what raised a clamor? The chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. And who was chanting the name of Kṛṣṇa? Svarūpa Dāmodara and others of his caliber. The depth of the experience of Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu in His divine trance was so great that He took the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa to be noise. So, we may chant the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa, and that may be simply noise. From another angle of vision, however, it may be seen that Kṛṣṇa-nāma is of such immense value that it was given preference over direct participation in Kṛṣṇa-līlā. But the direction given to us by our āchāryas, the spiritual preceptors of our line, is that we should consider our own chanting to be merely noise.
One day, Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu was wandering near the seashore. A girl was fervently singing in praise of Lord Jagannātha, and Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu ran straight towards that sound. He began running through thickets of dangerous thorns. Then Govinda, His attendant, somehow stopped Him. When He understood everything, He said, “Oh, a girl is singing? Govinda saved my life.”
Sometimes He would suddenly feel that Kṛṣṇa is playing with the gopīs in the Yamunā. In that mood He would jump into the ocean, crying, “Kṛṣṇa!” He jumped there and became unconscious, as the waves were playing with Him. Finding Him gone, His devotees would wonder, “Where is Mahāprabhu?” and, headed by Svarūpa Dāmodara, would begin their searching. Once, the night was almost over and they still couldn’t find Him. At last a fisherman came running, half-mad, chanting, “Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa!”
“What is the matter?” Svarūpa Dāmodara asked. The fisherman replied, “Every night I catch fish, but tonight I threw out my net and caught something very heavy. When I began pulling it in, I thought it was a big fish, but when I took it on shore I found a big human figure, and when I went to remove the body from my net, somehow I touched Him; now I am half-mad.” Then, Svarūpa Dāmodara said, “You must have seen our Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu?” “No, I have seen Him before,” the fisherman said, “He has a beautiful figure. It is not Him. It is something else.” Svarūpa Dāmodara told him, “Anyhow, try to show us where He is.”
They went and saw the long figure of the Lord, His joints dislocated, lying on the sands, senseless. Svarūpa Dāmodara and the others began to chant the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa in His ear, until He came to His senses. At that time Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu began to describe the līlā of Kṛṣṇa that He had seen in His trance. In this way, after Advaita Āchārya’s poetry was sent to him, Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu lived His last twelve years in the mood of intense separation that Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī felt for Kṛṣṇa.
This intense degree of divine madness was exhibited by Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu in His last days on this Earth. But even in His life in Navadwīpa, when Mahāprabhu was the great boy-scholar Nimāi Paṇḍit, everyone thought He had become mad after He had returned from Gayā and had begun showing signs of devotion to Kṛṣṇa. The normal-thinking men of the day said: “This Nimāi Paṇḍit was a good man, a gentleman, but after returning from Gayā, He is totally changed, and is doing so many undesirable things. He wants to preach so many new ideas. What is this? He has become a madman. He doesn’t care for any rules and regulations, social customs, or ancient scriptures—only ‘Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa.’ Before, He was normal, but recently He has become abnormal. Of course, He has a powerful intellect. When He was a professor, He did not care for the scholarship of even the greatest of Paṇḍits. He easily defeated the champion scholar, Keśava Kāśmirī, and many others. But now we have lost Him. Now He is different. He does not care for the brāhmaṇas or the scriptures we follow. He has a new opinion and He is presenting that to the world. His ways are incomprehensible.” The neighbors complained to His mother, Śachīdevī: “Śachīdevī, what is this? Nimāi was not like this before; now He doesn’t care for us anymore. He even has no charm for His wife. What has He become? You are the daughter of a gentleman, but just see your misfortune! What to do? The fact is this, Śachī, your only son, who was so brilliant, has become mad. You must arrange for proper medical treatment.” Then, Śachīdevī called for the kavirāja, the doctor.
The doctor made an arrangement for a small, brick bathing tank to be filled up with Viṣṇuoil, which is supposed to be a very cooling thing. And Nimāi Paṇḍit was asked to bathe in that tank. He did so, and suddenly began laughing and playing in the tank. As He was diving and swimming in the oil, He was laughing madly. At that time, Śrīvasa Ṭhākur arrived for a visit and asked, “How is Nimāi Paṇḍit?” Śachīdevī told him, “Just see my misfortune! My Nimāi has become completely mad. I called for the doctor and he arranged for this treatment.” As she showed Śrīvasa how Nimāi was playing in the tank, he asked, “What is this?” Śachī replied, “My neighbors advised me to do this.” Śrīvasa said, “You are a very gentle lady. You do not know how to deal with others. What Nimāi has—I want! Your boy has Kṛṣṇa-prema, and I want a drop of that. If only we are allowed to live a few days longer, we shall have the opportunity of seeing many wonderful pastimes of Kṛṣṇa.”
Then, Nimāi became sober for the time being and told Śrīvasa, “If you had also remarked that I was mad, then I would have run to the Ganges and finished My life. At least you have understood what I am; that is my solace, Śrīvasa. If you would have told the public, “He is mad,” then I would have found that there is no man here to accept what I have come to give, so I must enter the river and drown myself without hesitation.”
Before Nimāi Paṇḍit went to Gayā, He was a big scholar. When He returned from Gayā surcharged with devotion, He began to explain grammar again, as before, but now He would show Kṛṣṇa in the grammar. He would give interpretations of the roots of Sanskrit grammar which showed the relationship between Sanskrit and Kṛṣṇa. He explained that sound is only a vibration, and vibration means the potency of Kṛṣṇa. It is the potency of Kṛṣṇa that makes everything pure, that makes everything move. If that potency is withdrawn, everything is dead and gone. In this way, Nimāi Paṇḍit wanted to explain grammar in terms of Kṛṣṇa.
Then, His students became very much disturbed. “What is this!” they thought. “We have come to learn Sanskrit from Nimāi Paṇḍit, but our academic requirements will not be satisfied now. Still, the coaching we got from Him is never to be had anywhere else, so we can’t abandon Him. But how to improve the style of His teaching?” They went to the previous teacher of Nimāi Paṇḍit, Gaṅgādāsa Paṇḍit. He had been Nimāi’s tutor in His childhood. Gaṅgādāsa said, “You are all fortunate to be students of Nimāi Paṇḍit. He is such a nice professor. What is your complaint?” The students said, “We were very much pleased by studying under Nimāi Paṇḍit. But now, since He has returned from Gayā, He is explaining everything in quite a new way. He teaches Sanskrit in terms of the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa. He understands a very high philosophy, but that won’t serve our purpose of studying grammar. It is certainly valuable, but it will not help our studies. Please ask Him to change His ways. He has regard for you because you are His teacher. Only you can influence Him.” “All right,” he said, “Ask Him to see me tomorrow.”
The students went to Nimāi Paṇḍit and told Him, “Your former professor has called for You. He wants to see You.” Nimāi said, “Yes, I shall go and see him.” Later that day, He went to Gaṅgādāsa Paṇḍit, and offered His respectful obeisances. Gaṅgādāsa said: “How are You my boy? I am happy to hear that You went to Gayā and performed Your religious duties for Your ancestors. This is all very good, but what is the matter? Your students are complaining to me. Is it true that You do not care to teach them properly? Why don’t You care to teach them as You did before? They all appreciate Your teachings, but after returning from Gayā You have adopted a novel style of teaching. Don’t continue this, I say—teach them properly. I hear from the people that You have become a devotee. But were Your forefathers not devotees? Of course, You have become a devotee of an extraordinary type. But don’t go astray. What You speak about devotion seems unnecessary—that is not really grammar. Do You think You are giving new light with Your new meanings? Do You think your former professors were all idiots? What do You have to say?” Nimāi was silent. “All right then. Don’t go astray. Remain calm and follow Your predecessors and teach the boys well, so that we will not have to hear any complaints against You in the future. Your students won’t go to any other school. They are very fond of You, so teach them well.” Then, Nimāi Paṇḍit took the dust of His teacher’s feet and told him, “Yes, I shall try to obey your order. By dint of your footdust, no one can challenge Me in scholarship. Don’t worry. I shall teach them well.”
A few days later, Nimāi Paṇḍit began to chant the name gopī, gopī while He was in a trance of devotion. Some big scholars that held a high social position went to Him and said, “Nimāi Paṇḍit! You were a big paṇḍit and now You are a devotee. That doesn’t matter, but why do You chant the name gopī gopī? Take the name of Kṛṣṇa. According to the scriptures, that will bring You some benefit. But You are chanting gopī gopī. What benefit will You get from that? You are mad.” Nimāi said, “Who is this Kṛṣṇa? Why should I worship him? He is a dacoit and a woman-hunter!” And Nimāi picked up a stick and chased them away.
Later they began to talk among themselves, saying, “Nimāi Paṇḍit has become stark mad. We went to speak something good to Him, and He came with a stick to kill us! We are not sons of ordinary men. We have our high position in society and our family dignity. We will show Him!” They began a conspiracy to teach Nimāi Paṇḍit a good lesson by giving Him a good beating.
At that time, Nimāi suddenly cried out: “I took the greatest measures to deliver these wretched souls, but I see now that they are simply creating more sins by abusing Me and conspiring to punish Me. Why have I come? What will be effective in delivering them? I shall have to take the role of a sannyāsī. Otherwise, they will think that I am simply one of them, a householder. But if I become a sannyāsī, a preacher, then they may have some respect. They will say, ‘We are all householders, he has become a sannyāsī. He should be revered.’ Then, from that reverence, they will get some benefit. Otherwise, they will have to go to hell for thinking that I am an ordinary man. To create some respect, so they may benefit, I shall have to accept the role of sannyāsī.” And He revealed to Nityānanda Prabhu and a few others, “On the last day of the first month of this year, I shall take sannyāsa.”