Gauranga: love incarnate

Lord Gauranga's rise in the firmament of Bengal when the province was shrouded in a mist of superstition, ignorance and pessimism was a supreme blessing of Providence. The supernal light that he threw on the slumbering and downtrodden country stirred its children to a new life. Buddhism and Tantric Hinduism had reigned supreme. Shankara's advaita, too, had some footing on the soil of Bengal. But the children of Bengal accepted the advaita of Shankara more as a philosophical intellectualism and an academic interest than as a means of concrete experience or of communion with the Divine Being that is within and without the world. The arid intellectualism failed to quench the thirst of some spiritual seekers. Hence they turned to the cult of Krishna-Bhakti defying the scorn of the erudite pundits. And Bengal-Vaishnavism began to inundate the entire province with Sri Chaitanya as its everlasting soul.

Right through his boyhood he was full of fun and mischief. Both boys and girls were the victims of his mischief-making. He was so naughty that he would wear the neighbours out. He was the talk of the village. But at the same time purity and transparency did not leave the boy even for a second. His intellectual keenness was as astonishing as his vigour and energy.

Even when he was in his teens he swam right across the ocean of learning. All the scholars, with no exception, had to bow before this intellectual giant. But a change was fast coming upon him as he was nearing twenty-five. Now divine realisation was to break upon him.

His non-attachment became manifest when he threw into the river Bhagirathi his splendid work on Logic to save the reputation of his friend from being eclipsed by his own greater learning.

It is at once a notorious and deplorable fact that men with a narrow outlook cherish bitter quarrels over the authenticity of the Prophets. They dare not recognise any Prophets other than those of their own faiths. The intuitive words of Mahatma Sishir Kumar Ghosh, the marvellous Biographer of Lord Gauranga, and Founder of the Amrita Bazar Patrika in 1866, run:

"… they (Prophets) prove only the genuineness of one another. If Jesus Christ is a Prophet, we are bound to regard Mahomed and Sree Gauranga in the same light. If Sree Gauranga is a Prophet, we are bound to accept the reality of the mission of Jesus and Mahomed." To be sure, each Prophet represents a rung in the process of evolution. One more quotation from Mahatma Sishir's Lord Gauranga is irresistible:

"Our object is to preserve the kingdom of Christ and not to destroy it. A study of the life of the Nadia Avatar will only confirm the faith of an unbelieving Christian in Christ, and of a sceptic in the reality of a beneficient God and of a future life."

Sri Chaitanya's Vaishnavism is synonymous with the Radha-Spirit, the living emblem of divine love at its highest. And this love attains the acme of perfection in possessing and being possessed by the ever-blissful Sri Krishna. "Radha," says Sri Aurobindo, "is the personification of the absolute love for the Divine, total and integral in all the parts of the being from the highest spiritual to the physical, bringing the absolute self-giving and total consecration of all the being and calling down into the body and the most material nature the supreme ananda."

Can Knowledge and Devotion be housed peacefully in one single frame? Sri Chaitanya's life is a reply in the affirmative. This moment he is Krishna, next moment he is Radha. When his eyes run in streams for Sri Krishna he is Radha personified. And when he takes his seat on the hallowed dais he is Sri Krishna himself. The influence of Chaitanya's Bhakti on the soil of Bengal can never be expressed so lucidly as it has been done by Vivekananda, the Vedantin of Vedantins.

"Chaitanya's Bhakti," says the beloved disciple of Ramakrishna, "ruled over the whole land of Bengal, bringing solace to everyone. His love knew no bounds. The saint or the sinner, the Hindu or the Muhammadan, the pure or the impure, the prostitute, the streetwalker — all had a share in his love, all had a share in his mercy, and even to the present day, although greatly degenerated, as everything does become in time, his seat is the refuge of the poor, of the down-trodden, of the outcast, of the weak, of those who have been rejected by society."

Lord Gauranga's Vaishnava philosophy is that we need not extinguish the senses. We needs must keep them intact, but also we must keep them under proper control. To him a sinner was not an object of ire or contempt, but of compassion and love.

Shachi Devi's immediate and overwhelming vision of the manifested Divinity in her son automatically compelled her to bow her head before him, and he as unreservedly placed his foot on her head. This incident has no equal in spiritual history before or after him.

He looked down upon preaching. A mere touch or look did the miracle of miracles. Two fiends in human shape were Jagai and Madhai. His beloved compeer Nityananda was hurt with the broken neck of an earthen jar flung by Madhai, the younger and fiercer of the two. It struck his forehead and blood spurted from the wound. Nityananda was beside himself with joy that Lord Gauranga's attention would be drawn to the worst possible sinners and that his redeeming Grace would at last be showered on them. But Chaitanya flew into a rage and invoked his Chakra to punish Madhai, for he would not tolerate the suffering of his true disciple who was dearer to him than his own life. Nityananda, forgiveness incarnate, voiced forth: "We do not want salvation just now. First save the greatest sinners in the world and then you can take our case into consideration." Even then Chaitanya was not pacified, but was bent upon punishing Madhai. Madhai's inside was being clawed as earth is clawed by a cat. His throbbing prayer is at once striking and significant: "My Lord, I don't ask forgiveness of you, nor am I afraid of punishment. Let it come, and I shall welcome it. Only tell me, is there any way, any penance, by which I can, at any future period, attain to your lotus feet? Only tell me the way if there be any, and then cast me off."

We all know how Lord Gauranga's silent influence transformed Madhai and Jagai into the holiest of holy souls.

The word "miracle" means something wonderful, nay unbelievable. But what is actually a miracle? It is an act beyond the laws of Nature, brought about by some unseen divine agent. God is subject to no laws. To promote the spiritual good of His creation it is quite natural that He produce effects that transcend the material order and baffle our preconceived notions. Chaitanya's miracles were prompted not to arrest the attention of people but to bestow his love and his compassion on poor suffering humanity. It is said that miracles attributed to Buddha and Mohammed are not recorded by eye-witnesses or even by the contemporaries of eye-witnesses. But our Lord Gauranga's fate is otherwise. All his miracles were recorded not only by eye-witnesses, but also by his immediate and faithful followers. So there is no shadow of a doubt that those miracles are not even an inch from the truth. A life replete with miracles was his.

Man can pay his true homage to the Avatar Sri Chaitanya when he is capable of sharing even an infinitesimal fraction of his Divine Ecstasy.