The Golden Volcano of Divine Love
A Tragedy Of Seperation
This chapter, "A Tragedy of Separation," is excerpted from The Golden Volcano of Divine Love, a book by Srila Sridhar Maharaj that was published in 1983 to commemorate the Five Hundredth Anniversary of the Appearance of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It describes (and gives some of the reasons for) the seemingly cruel and heart-wrenching sannyasa ceremony of the young Nimai Pandit [the Golden Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu] wherein He enters into the renounced order of life -- and the intense anguish of separation felt by His devotees, family, and friends.
According to solar calculation, it was on the day of Makara-Sankranti, an auspicious conjunction of the stars, that Nimai Pandit went to Katwa to take sannyasa, the renounced order of life. After this, He would become known as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He swam across the Ganges and in wet cloth ran towards Katwa. Just before this, He told only a few of His friends, including Nityananda Prabhu, Gadadhara Pandit, Mukunda, and others, "The time when I will accept the robe of renunciation is very near."
A few days before, an opposition party had been raised against Nimai Pandit. Those who believed that material nature is the highest principle, and that consciousness is a product of matter, began to abuse Nimai Pandit. He thought, "I came to deliver the lowest of men, but if they commit offenses against Me, there will be no hope for their upliftment."
Suddenly, He said: "I came with that medicine which gives the greatest relief, but now I find that their disease is rapidly growing worse and seems beyond treatment. It will take its own course towards doom. The patients are committing offenses by abusing their doctor. They are making arrangements to insult Me. They take it that I am a family man -- their nephew -- they take Me as one of them. I came with the best medicine for the present degraded age, but now I find that they are plotting against Me. Now they are doomed. At least I have to show them that I am not one of them." He thought, "I shall leave family life and take sannyasa and wander from village to village, town to town, preaching the holy name of Krishna." That was His decision, and within a few days He went to Katwa to take sannyasa from Keshava Bharati Maharaj.
The day before He left to take sannyasa, from the afternoon until the evening, there was a spontaneous gathering of devotees in the home of Nimai Pandit. Every year in Bengal, that day was celebrated as Lakshmi Puja, worship of the Goddess of Fortune, when special cakes are prepared and distributed. Nimai, knowing that early the next morning He would leave Nabadwip to take sannyasa, attracted His followers in such a way that almost every leading devotee came to see Him that evening.
The Hare Krishna Maha Mantra
They came with flower garlands and many other offerings to be presented to the Lord. Nimai accepted their garlands and then placed them on the necks of the devotees who gave them. Only four of His most intimate devotees knew He was leaving; the ordinary devotees did not know that this would be His last night in Nabadwip. With His own hands He garlanded the necks of His devotees and appealed to them: "Always chant the name of Krishna. Under no condition should you give up this Krishna Nama. And don't do anything else. While working, eating, sleeping or waking, day or night -- in whatever you do -- continuously take the name of Krishna. Always talk about Krishna -- nothing else. If you have any real attraction or affection for Me, then don't do anything without chanting the name of Krishna. Cultivate Krishna consciousness. Krishna is the origin of us all. He is our father; we have come from Him. The son who shows no gratitude towards the father is sure to be punished birth after birth. Always chant these names of the Lord:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
"No other religious principle is required. Chant Hare Krishna. This is not an ordinary mantra, but this is the Maha-Mantra, the greatest of all the great mantras, the very essence of all the mantras known to the world. Only take to this, always. No other prescription is to be followed. Remember your Lord, your home. This is a foreign land; you have nothing to aspire after here. Try always to go back home, back to Godhead." In this way, the Lord spoke, and all His devotees intuitively came because it was Nimai Pandit's last night in Nabadwip.
The Lord and the Fruit-Seller
Late at night, one devotee named Sridhar Kholaveca arrived. He used to make trade on the plantain tree and its fruit. He would sell the fruit, ripe or green, and the big leaves which are used as plates. Sometimes Nimai would pay him less for his fruit than what they were worth, and sometimes He would snatch the best fruits from him. Sridhar came to see Him late at night to offer Him a choice pumpkin. And Nimai thought, "I have spent almost My whole life snatching so many things from him, and now, on this last night he has brought this wonderful pumpkin. I can't resist." He said to Sachidevi: "Mother, Sridhar has given Me this pumpkin. Please think of how it can be prepared." At bedtime, someone came with some milk. Nimai said, "Mother, with this milk and this pumpkin, please prepare some sweet-rice." So Sachidevi prepared some pumpkin sweet-rice: pumpkin boiled with milk, rice, and sugar.
Much later that night, at about three o' clock in the morning, Nimai went away. He left Visnupriya Devi asleep in bed. His mother Sachidevi, sensing what was to come, was staying awake all night guarding the door. Nimai bowed down to her and went away. And like a stone figure, Mother Sachidevi sat there by the gate as Nimai left. She could not say anything, but was struck dumb.
A little after three o' clock in the morning, Nimai swam across the Ganges and in His wet cloth went straight to Katwa, a distance of twenty-five miles. He reached there by nine or ten o' clock. There, He approached Keshava Bharati to take sannyasa.
Mother Sachi's Sadness
In the early morning, the devotees came to see Nimai and found Sachidevi like a statue, sitting at the door. The door was open. Everything was empty. "What's the matter, Sachidevi?" they asked. She told them, "Oh, I was waiting for you devotees. You take possession of the house. I shall go somewhere else. I can't enter this house any more. You are His devotees; you are the true heirs. Take possession." They began to throng around her and console her. "You will go? What about the young wife He left? The girl is only fourteen years old. Who will protect her? You can't shun the responsibility given to you. It is on your shoulders." In this way they came and consoled her and tried to give her some hope.
Suddenly, the devotees heard that Nimai Pandit, Sri Gauranga, had left Nabadwip. They learned that He had gone to Katwa, to Keshava Bharati's ashram to take sannyasa, bidding goodbye to the people of Nabadwip forever.
A dark shadow came down. Many began to weep and cry for Him. Many of them ran towards Katwa. Nimai Pandit was an unprecedented scholar with beautiful features tall, fair, and benevolent. He had already made the people mad with the holy name of Krishna. He had released the two great sinners Jagai and Madhai from their nasty life. He had checked the Muslim ruler, the Kazi, who had broken the mrdanga, or drum. As a famous pandit, He had defeated many scholars who came to conquer Nabadwip, which was very much renowned for its high culture of learning, especially of logic.
At that time in Nabadwip, logic [nyaya], worship of material energy [tantra], and official Hinduism [smrti], were in high culture. Nabadwip was highly renowned for scholarship. If pandits could not defeat the scholars of Nabadwip, they could not become famous. From far away in Kashmir, Keshava Kasmiri had to come to Nabadwip to get a certificate that he was a pandit. And he was defeated by Nimai Pandit. Keshava Kasmiri was such a big pandit that it was rumored he was the favorite child of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning. No one could face him. Still, he was defeated by Nimai Pandit.
But Nimai Pandit left Nabadwip forever and took sannyasa because the people of Nabadwip could not appreciate Him. He reached Katwa, where, just on the banks of the Ganges, there was a Sannyasi, Keshava Bharati. Nimai went to him and asked him for sannyasa. Keshava Bharati suddenly found that his ashram was full of luster. At first, it seemed as if the sun was rising before him; then he saw that it was a bright person approaching. He rose from his seat, and with strained eyes approached in wonder. "What is this?" he thought.
Then he realized that the great devotee-scholar, Nimai Pandit, had come. He appeared before him saying, "I want to take sannyasa from you." But Keshava Bharati could not accept Nimai's offer. "I am charmed by Your beauty and personality," he said. "But You are so young, only twenty-four years old. What about Your mother, Your wife, and Your guardians? Without consulting with them, I cannot venture to give You the robe of renunciation."
In the meantime, as it was Makara-Sankranti, a famous holiday, many people had come to take bath in the holy waters of the Ganges. They gathered there and the rumor spread like fire: "Nimai Pandit of Nabadwip has come to take sannyasa." Many men flocked there, until a huge crowd gathered.
Voices Raised in Protest
They all opposed Mahaprabhu's sannyasa. Some of them raised their voices in protest: "You! Keshava Bharati! We won't allow you to give sannyasa to this young man. He has His family, His mother and wife. We won't allow it! If you give sannyasa to this charming, young, beautiful boy, we will break down your ashram immediately! It can't be."
But Nimai Pandit kept pressing for sannyasa. At last, Keshava Bharati asked Him, "So, You are that Nimai Pandit about whom we have heard so much? Many big scholars came to conquer Nabadwip, the famous seat of learning, and You have defeated them all. Are You that Nimai Pandit?" "Yes," said Nimai. Keshava Bharati told Him, "I can give You sannyasa, but You must take the permission of Your mother -- otherwise I won't, I can't do it." Nimai suddenly began running towards Nabadwip to ask permission, but Keshava Bharati thought, "He has such a commanding personality, He can do anything."
Nimai was called back. Keshava Bharati told Him, "With Your most extraordinary personality You can do anything. You will go there, charm Your guardians, get permission, and return. Nothing is impossible for You."
The ordinary public was very much enraged, saying to Keshava Bharati: "We can't allow you, Swamiji, to give sannyasa to this young boy! It is impossible. If you do, then we shall smash your ahsram!" Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began performing kirtan, chanting Hare Krishna and dancing madly. And the angry mob grew, sometimes creating a disturbance. In this way, the whole day passed with no decision. The night passed in Sankirtan. And the next day, Nimai's will prevailed, although there was still some opposition.
Tears From The Eyes of Millions
Nityananda Prabhu, Nimai's maternal uncle Candrashekhara, Mukunda Datta and Jagadananda Pandit, gradually arrived there. And that afternoon, the sannyasa function began. Candrashekhara Acharya was asked to perform the ceremony on behalf of Nimai Pandit, who began to chant and dance and charm the audience.
prema-dhama-devam eva naumi gaura-sundaram
"While showers of tears fell from the eyes of millions, He delighted in having His beautiful hair shaved away. Millions of voices sang the glories of Krishna, as Sri Krishna Chaitanya accepted the staff of renunciation. From that time on, wherever He went, whoever saw Him in the dress of a Sannyasi cried in grief. I sing the glories of that beautiful Golden Lord, the Giver of Divine Love."
"How can I remove such beautiful hair?"
The scene was at Katwa. Almost five-hundred years ago, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa. He was young and beautiful, with a tall figure. He was only twenty-four and had beautiful curling hair. A barber was asked to shave Him, and approached Him, but then withdrew. The barber could not venture to touch Nimai's body. He began to cry. "How can I remove such beautiful hair from such a beautiful head?" And so many others were also crying aloud, "What a horrible thing is being done here! Who is the creator of this sannyasa? Who is so hard-hearted that he created the sannyasa-asrama, where one must give up all that is near and dear and go from door to door, begging, leaving his own friends and relatives crying helplessly? What is this creation of the Supreme? Is it logical? Is it a happy thing? It is most cruel!"
Nimai Pandit was smiling. After the barber was ordered repeatedly, somehow he was forced to shave Nimai's head. At first, he could not venture to touch His hair, saying, "I can't touch Him." But at last, he had to do the service of shaving the beautiful, curling hair of the beautiful face of the twenty-four year old genius boy. He began with his shears. Some people could not stand the scene. Some even became mad. In the midst of the weeping, wailing, and crying of the threatening mob, it was done.
Nimai Pandit was senseless. After being only half shaved, he stood up and began chanting in kirtan and dancing in ecstatic joy. After He was shaved, the barber promised: "I will never again shave anyone with this hand! I would rather live by begging. This is my last service as a barber." After this, that barber took up the occupation of a sweetmaker.
The Sannyasa Ceremony
Ultimately Nimai's appeals pacified the mob, and a little before noon the inevitable gradually came: the sannyasa function was performed. Candrashekhara Acharya, the maternal uncle of Nimai Pandit, was deputed to take charge of the rituals in the ceremony of sannyasa. When the mantra was to be conferred, Nimai Pandit asked Keshava Bharati, "Is this the mantra you will give me? I heard it in a dream." He whispered the mantra in the ear of his guru who accepted, saying, "Yes, this is the mantra I shall give you." Then that mantra was given.
And the name of this Sannyasi was not given in an ordinary way either. A most peculiar name came through Keshava Bharati: "Krishna Chaitanya." None of the ten names generally given to Sannyasis was given to Nimai Pandit, but the name that was given to Him was Krishna Chaitanya. As soon as they heard that name, the mob began to cry, "Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ki jaya! -- All glories to Sri Krishna Chaitanya!"
The father of Srinivas Acharya was a class-friend of Nimai Pandit. On his way to his father-in-law's house, he heard that Nimai Pandit had come to take sannyasa. He ran there, and seeing everything, he became dumb -- he was devastated and went half-mad. After that, nothing came from his mouth but "Chaitanya." After he heard the name "Krishna Chaitanya," whatever anyone said to him, he would only say, "Chaitanya!" He became mad. After that, his name became Chaitanya Das. His former name vanished, and everyone used to call him Chaitanya Das. He could not stand the scene of Nimai Pandit's sannyasa.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, newly dressed in red robes, embraced His guru, and both of them began to dance, chanting the name of Krishna. After some time, the meaning of the name was given. Keshava Bharati Maharaj said, "Sri Krishna Chaitanya means that You arouse Krishna consciousness throughout the entire world. You have descended to make all people Krishna conscious. So the most suitable name for You cannot but be Sri Krishna Chaitanya."
An Ocean of Despair
Mahaprabhu was very cheerful, thinking, "I am going to relieve so many souls from their eternal misery and affliction. I have promised to deliver the whole world from this ocean of misery and take them to the nectarine world, and now I am going to accept that task." He was cheerful, but everyone around Him was diving in the ocean of despair and sorrow.
Some scholars stress that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa from Keshava Bharati, who was a Mayavadi, an impersonalist. But although Keshava Bharati may have externally showed himself in that way, it is seen that by coming in connection with Mahaprabhu, he became a devotee. Otherwise, we may also think that he was a devotee who came in the garb of an impersonalist to help the preaching of Mahaprabhu by assisting Him with the social formality of taking sannyasa.
At that time, all over India, Mayavadi Sannyasis had greater recognition than Vaishnava Sannyasis, and Keshava Bharati was already situated in that post. Mahaprabhu took the garb of a Sannyasi from him for His own purpose, to help His preaching activity. All these things may be explained in different ways. In any case, after Mahaprabhu took sannyasa, Keshava Bharati began to sing and dance with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He joined in Sankirtan and was immediately converted.
The Krishna Conception: Union in Separation
In this way, the sannyasa of Nimai Pandit took place. What is the meaning of His sannyasa? Is it redundant, auxiliary, or a necessary part of spiritual advancement? Is it desirable? Although apparently undesirable, still it has its necessity. In the Krishna conception of theism, there is a deep-rooted correlation between union with the Lord and separation from Him. Without separation, union cannot be deep-rooted. The pain of separation can enter into the depth of the heart much more than cheerfulness. Such apprehension increases our satisfaction. The greater our want, the greater our satisfaction.
This is especially true in love affairs. If there is no necessity of a thing, it has no value. This principle is found everywhere. A glass of water is ordinary, but according to the degree of its necessity, its value will increase. So the degree of necessity is most important. Necessity means separation. Necessity independent of fulfillment is separation, hunger....
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa so that the residents of Nabadwip would be drawn into this high stage of separation through affection's force. His old mother Sachidevi was crying hopelessly. His young wife, Vishnupriya Devi, was helplessly passing Her days. Mahaprabhu took sannyasa to create excitement, piercing into the hearts of the people the Divine Love that He came to give. They thought, "Who was Nimai Pandit? What great benefit did He come to give us?" That He left everything made them sympathetic towards Him. And for all these reasons the Lord went to take sannyasa....
A Great Tragedy
We must return back to Godhead, back to home. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says: "Your home is a beautiful land. You must try for that. Why are you always troubled with the horrors of war, epidemic, earthquake, undesirable disease, stealing, dacoiting, and fighting with so many neighbors? At the bottom of all this is the fact that you have identified yourself with this material world and this body of flesh and blood. You have to retrace your path and go back to your home." That is what is necessary. Our homeland is such a lovely and beautiful and divine place.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's sannyasa is all for us, and it is for the purpose of taking us back home, where we can have home comforts, home sweetness. If we have any home-consciousness within, then we must appreciate such a proposal: home sweet home. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's sannyasa is apparently very cruel to His devotees and to His family members, but it was meant only to take us to our home.
To work out the ecstasy of union, it was necessary for Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to show separation from His devotees and relatives. Separation and union are mutually helpful. Mahaprabhu's sannyasa, His renunciation, is a great tragedy of separation.