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 Sannyas 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.
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 sannyas 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 sannyas from Keshava Bharati Maharaj.
The day before He left to take sannyas, 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 Navadwip to take sannyas, attracted His followers in such a way that almost every leading devotee came to see Him that evening.
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna 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 Navadwip.
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
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 sannyas.
Suddenly, the devotees heard that Nimai Pandit, Sri Gauranga, had left Navadwip. They learned that He had gone to Katwa, to Keshava Bharati's ashram to take sannyas, bidding goodbye to the people of Navadwip 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 Navadwip, which was very much renowned for its high culture of learning, especially of logic.
At that time in Navadwip, logic [nyaya], worship of material energy [tantra], and official Hinduism [smrti], were in high culture. Navadwip was highly renowned for scholarship. If pandits could not defeat the scholars of Navadwip, they could not become famous. From far away in Kashmir, Keshava Kasmiri had to come to Navadwip 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.
Then he realized that the great devotee-scholar, Nimai Pandit, had come. He appeared before him saying, "I want to take sannyas 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 Navadwip has come to take sannyas." Many men flocked there, until a huge crowd gathered.
But Nimai Pandit kept pressing for sannyas. 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 Navadwip, 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 sannyas, but You must take the permission of Your mother - otherwise I won't, I can't do it." Nimai suddenly began running towards Navadwip 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 sannyas 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.
laksa locanasru-varsa-harsa-kesa-kartanam"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."
prema-dhama-devam eva naumi gaura-sundaram
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.
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 sannyas. 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 sannyas.
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."
Some scholars stress that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyas 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 sannyas. 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 sannyas, Keshava Bharati began to sing and dance with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He joined in Sankirtan and was immediately converted.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyas so that the residents of Navadwip 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 sannyas 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 sannyas....
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's sannyas 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 sannyas 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 sannyas, His renunciation, is a great tragedy of separation.