Srivasa Thakura - Pastimes - Part II
From Sri Panca Tattva, the Five features of God
By Satyaraja dasa
Submitted by Manoj
The compound of Srivasa Pandita, also called Khol Bhanga Danga, is situated about 600 feet north of Mahaprabhu's birthplace. Here, in Srivasa Angan ("courtyard"), as the area came to be called, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, along with all His confidential Navadvipa associates, first inaugurated His Sankirtana movement. Srivasa and his brothers used to perform kirtana all night long, with mrdanga and karatalas, in indescribable ecstasy, and after Mahaprabhu's initiation He and others joined them. Srivasa Angan is the "arena of rasa' -here Mahaprabhu and Nityananda danced with maddening abandon and exchanged intense moods of love with Their devotees. It is said that the force of Nityananda's rhythmic steps as He danced was so powerful that it sounded just like an earthquake. Mahaprabhu would dance both on the ground and in the air. He would at times touch His head with His feet, and would at other times float freely, not subject to the material law of gravitation. Both Nitai and Nimai would become totally absorbed in each other and totally oblivious to the outside world. When either of Them would crash to the ground, as a result of Their jumping and dancing, it would sound as if the Earth had collided with another planet. They would laugh and cry and dance and shout. It is impossible to calculate the bliss of the devotees who were fortunate enough to associate with the Lord in Srivasa Angan.
These pastimes were being performed while the sweet sounds of Raga kirtanas were continuously heard within the compound of Srivisa Pandita. Accompanying Nityananda Prabhu, Maha-prabhu, Srivasa Thakura and his brothers, were Advaita Acarya, Gadadhara Pandita, Svarupa Damodara, Pundarika Vidyanidhi, Haridasa Thakura, Murari, Jagadananda, Nandana, Buddhimanta Khan, Narayana, Govinda, Gopinatha, Jagadisa, Sridhara, Sadasiva, Suklambhara, Brahmananda, Srigarbha and many others. None of them could live without the sankirtana that occured in Srivasa Thakura's courtyard.
Here, in Srivasa Angan, Nityananda Prabhu performed Vyasa puja, or worship of the spiritual master, to Sri Caitanya. Srivasa strictly followed all scriptural injunctions, organizing everything according to the Lord's desire. He obtained an abundance of milk products, rice, fruits, grains, vegetables, ghee, incense, scented oils, camphor, sandalwood, fragrant flowers, Tulasi leaves and manjaris and all the required paraphernalia for an elaborate performance of Vyasa puja. In Srivasa Angan, too, Lord Caitanya revealed to Nityananda Prabhu His six-armed form, which held a bow and arrow, a flute, a staff of renunciation and a waterpot. Immediately upon seeing this transcendental form, Nityananda Rama went into ecstatic trance and started to dance like a madman. Finally, He came crashing to the ground, losing consciousness. When He came to, He and Mahaprabhu began to dance madly as if nothing had happened. Sometimes They cried piteously, and from Their eyes flowed rivers of tears. They also roared as loudly as a thousand lions. Then, in a playful mood, They each would try and take the dust from each other's lotus feet. But because both Nitai and Mahaprabhu were clever and quick, neither of Them could succeed. It was like an unending competition that would never know fruition. And yet They remained happy, as if the goal of touching each other's feet was achieved merely by the endeavor. All of this was done in a fun-loving spirit.
It was here in Srivasa Afigan that Mahaprabhu showed His divinity to His most confidential associates. He exhibited His Mahabhava-Prakasa, which means that for twenty-one hours He remained continuously absorbed in the mood of the Supreme Lord (as opposed to His usual mood in the identity of a devotee). During this pastime, the Lord exhibited His different incarnations. At that time, the devotees, headed by Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Acarya, Gadadhara, and Srivasa, performed elaborate worship of Lord Caitanya. The devotees brought Ganges water in big earthen pots, and, after straining it, they added camphor, musk, rose oil, saffron and Tulasi leaves. Nityananda first bathed the Lord by pouring pure scented Ganges water on the Lord's head while Advaita Acarya and Srivasa Thakura chanted the auspicious Purusa-sukta prayers from the Vedic literature.
One time Lord Caitanya stopped dancing during kirtana in Srivasa's courtyard and announced that He was not feeling His usual sensation of supreme ecstasy. "Why am I not feeling happy" the Lord asked the devotees. "Why is My heart not overflowing with bliss and joy~'" The assembled Vaisnavas looked at each other, hoping that someone would step forward to resolve the Lord's dilemma. At that moment Srivasa Pandita started to inspect the entire compound, for he suspected what the problem might be. Just then, hiding behind a bassinet, he found his wife's mother, who had secretly made her way into the compound to take part in the Lord's lila. Not considering his mother-in-law qualified to be present, he removed her from the compound. Only the most intimate devotees were allowed into Srivasa's courtyard, for if one were not sufficiently advanced in spiritual life, one would not understand the activities that took place there and could, in fact, lose one's mind.
On another, similar occasion, a brdhmana who resided in Navadvipa, widely known as the very emblem of renunciation because he subsisted only on milk without taking any other food, man aged to make his way into Srivasa's confidential courtyard. Such occurrences were rare, for Mahaprabhu would begin kirtana only after first bolting the door so that no nondevotees could enter. Nonetheless, the brahmana who refrained from milk would daily ask Srivasa Thakura if he might enter the courtyard to see the ecstatic dancing of the Lord. "If you would be merciful to me only once, and let me go inside, I could see the Lord's dancing. Let this be the success of my eyes and my life as well." In this way he would regularly express his desire to see the Lord in the midst of the kirtana. One day Srivasa told the ambitious brahmana, "I know that you have always led a pious life, that you properly practice celibacy and take only milk as your foodstuffs. I don't know of any sin that you've performed in your entire life. If it were up to me, I would let you into the kirtana. However, it is the order of the Lord that only the most dedicated devotees can join the chanting in my courtyard, so if you want to go, you'll have to remain in hiding. This is the best advice I can give you." The brahmana agreed to go, even with the peculiar stipulation, and so Srivasa took him to the courtyard and concealed him behind a screen.
That night, the Lord of the entire cosmos danced like a madman, His most fortunate associates surrounding Him on all sides. "Krsna Rama Mukunda Murari Vanamali!" the devotees sang in great eagerness. Nityananda grabbed Gadadhara by the arms and danced in circles, while Advaita Prabhu ran in all directions, laughing in unbridled ecstasy. The devotees were all absorbed in the joy of the kirtana, shouting, "Hari bol! Hari bol! Hari bol!" At the very climax of the chanting, the Lord stopped suddenly, somehow perceiving that an outsider was in hiding. He looked at everyone present and began to speak, "Why is it that today ecstatic love has not come to give us its shelter? I suspect that some stranger has come within our midst. I cannot fully understand what is going on, so please let Me know the truth as soon as possible." And the Lord fell silent.
Srivasa became fearful when he saw the Lord's mood, and he began to utter the following words, "Mahaprabhu! No atheists or unqualified people are here today. There is only one brdhmana who is in hiding-but he is a most qualified personality! He drinks only milk and does not take any other food. Really, he is a sinless person. He has great esteem for You and was very eager to see Your dancing. He is remaining here concealed from sight. This, my Lord, is the truth of the matter." After listening to this reply, Mahaprabhu exploded in anger, "Out! Out! Take him out right away! Why has he been given the ability to see My dancing? Is it that simply by drinking milk one can attain devotion to Me?!" At this point the Lord raised His arms and, pointing His finger at Srivasa, exclaimed, "It takes more than drinking milk to attain My lotus feet! If the keeper of a crematorium takes shelter of Me then I am his, and he is Mine. Know this for certain. However, if even a sannyasi does not recognize his dependence on Me, then he is not Mine! He is worthless! This is the simple truth. What austerities were performed by Gajendra, Hanuman and the Gopas of Braja?! Please tell Me!" To this, there was no response. The devotees were silent. "How do you think these devotees attained Me? Unless one takes shelter of Me, then he cannot cross over the ocean of material existence. So remember: One cannot attain Me by performing mundane austerities, however great they may be. By drinking milk one cannot attain Me! For your audacity, I will now destroy everyone. Prepare yourselves to see this here and now!"
Hearing the Lord's threat, the brahmana became frightened and ran frantically, leaving his hiding place so everyone could see him. As all the devotees turned and looked at him in amazement, he thought to himself, "What I have seen today is worth any punishment! Nothing can compare to the great mercy that was given to me as a result of hiding in this room." Mahaprabhu, knowing the mind of this frightened Brahmana, felt kindly disposed toward him, and placing His two lotus feet on the brahmana's head, He addressed him, "Do not simply rely on austerities as your means of perfection. You should know that devotion to Visnu is the topmost and only true means of reaching perfection."
Seeing the merciful and compassionate nature of the Lord, the brahmana cried tears of ecstasy. The devotees were all moved by this endearing exchange and were relieved that the Lord was not going to destroy the world. Their happiness reached profound proportions and they began to roar loudly, "Hari! Hari!" After this, they fell to the ground like golden sticks, offering their full obeisances. Whoever faithfully listens to these pastimes of pleasantry will undoubtedly meet Mahaprabhu and His intimate associates in the near future.
Although less-than-qualified devotees sometimes managed their way into Srivasa Thakura's courtyard and observed the Lord's pastimes, as illustrated by Srivisa's mother-in-law, by the brahmana who only took milk, and also by Srivasa's sudra servant Dukhi, at Sri Candrasekhara Bhavan, another place where intimate pastimes occurred, only the most confidential associates and servitors of Lord Caitanya were allowed entrance. The leniency associated with Srivasa Angan is attributable in large measure to the special mercy of Srivasa Thakura, who allowed virtually anyone into his home, as long as he or she was a servant of the Lord. Such mercy is causeless, and is the greatest gift of the living entity.
Srivasa Thakura displayed his mercy, too, to a demon named Gopala Capala, who placed meat and wine outside Srivasa's door just to antagonize the devotees. As a result, Gopala contracted a severe case of leprosy. Mahaprabhu told him that it could only be cured by the forgiveness of Srivasa himself. Naturally, Srivasa forgave him, and in due course he was not only cured but allowed into the inner circle of devotees, enjoying the chanting of Srivasa Angan for the rest of his life.