Lord Caitanya on Renunciation, Part 12
BY: SUN STAFF
Nimai Pandita Leaving Home
Feb 15, 2011 CANADA (SUN) An exploration of Sri Caitanya's instructions on renunciation.
In yesterday's segment, we presented verses 1 to 12 of the 18th chapter of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, on the perfection of renunciation. Here, Sri Krsna is instructing Arjuna about the differences between acts of renunciation performed under the different modes of nature. Over the course of the next several segments we will explore Lord Caitanya's teachings on the renounced order of life, sannyasa, categorizing various examples according to the modes of ignorance, passion and goodness.
We begin with sannyasa renunciation in the mode of goodness, as demonstrated by Lord Caitanya Himself. The personification of this form of renunciation, the Lord gave up householder life to take sannyasa at the age of 24. Likewise, both Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada exemplify the principles of sannyasa renunciation in the mode of goodness.
"But he who performs his prescribed duty only because it ought to be done, and renounces all attachment to the fruit--his renunciation is of the nature of goodness, O Arjuna."
Below are a few descriptions of the circumstances under which Caitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa. Likewise, the pastimes of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Srila Prabhupada taking sannyasa will follow. We will then consider Their sannyasa pastimes in light of Sri Krsna's statement in Gita 18.9, on renunciation in sattva-guna.
In his Introduction to Srimad Bhagavatam, 'A short life sketch and teachings of Lord Chaitanya', Srila Prabhupada describes the events surrounding Lord Caitanya's taking sannyasa:
"The Lord had a very high estimation of the affections of the damsels of Vrajabhumi (Vrndavana) for Krsna, and in appreciation of their unalloyed service to the Lord, once Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu chanted the holy names of the gopis (cowherd girls) instead of the names of the Lord. At this time some of His students, who were also disciples, came to see Him, and when they saw that the Lord was chanting the names of the gopis, they were astonished. Out of sheer foolishness they asked the Lord why He was chanting the names of the gopis and advised Him to chant the name of Krsna. The Lord, who was in ecstasy, was thus disturbed by these foolish students. He chastised them and chased them away. The students were almost the same age as the Lord, and thus they wrongly thought of the Lord as one of their peers. They held a meeting and resolved that they would attack the Lord if He dared to punish them again in such a manner. This incident provoked some malicious talks about the Lord on the part of the general public.
When the Lord became aware of this, He began to consider the various types of men found in society. He noted that especially the students, professors, fruitive workers, yogis, nondevotees, and different types of atheists were all opposed to the devotional service of the Lord. "My mission is to deliver all the fallen souls of this age," He thought, "but if they commit offenses against Me, thinking Me to be an ordinary man, they will not benefit. If they are to begin their life of spiritual realization, they must some way or another offer obeisances unto Me." Thus the Lord decided to accept the renounced order of life (sannyasa) because people in general were inclined to offer respects to a sannyasi.
Five hundred years ago the condition of society was not as degraded as it is today. At that time people would show respects to a sannyasi, and the sannyasi was rigid in following the rules and regulations of the renounced order of life. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was not very much in favor of the renounced order of life in this age of Kali, but that was only for the reason that very few sannyasis in this age are able to observe the rules and regulations of sannyasa life. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu decided to accept the order and become an ideal sannyasi so that the general populace would show Him respect. One is duty-bound to show respect to a sannyasi, for a sannyasi is considered to be the master of all varnas and asramas.
While He was contemplating accepting the sannyasa order, it so happened that Kesava Bharati, a sannyasi of the Mayavadi school and resident of Katwa (in Bengal), visited Navadvipa and was invited to dine with the Lord. When Kesava Bharati came to His house, the Lord asked him to award Him the sannyasa order of life. This was a matter of formality. The sannyasa order is to be accepted from another sannyasi. Although the Lord was independent in all respects, still, to keep up the formalities of the sastras, He accepted the sannyasa order from Kesava Bharati, although Kesava Bharati was not in the Vaisnava-sampradaya (school).
After consulting with Kesava Bharati, the Lord left Navadvipa for Katwa to formally accept the sannyasa order of life. He was accompanied by Srila Nityananda Prabhu, Candrasekhara Acarya, and Mukunda Datta. Those three assisted Him in the details of the ceremony. The incident of the Lord's accepting the sannyasa order is very elaborately described in the Caitanya-bhagavata by Srila Vrndavana dasa Thakura.
Thus at the end of His twenty-fourth year the Lord accepted the sannyasa order of life in the month of Magha. After accepting this order He became a full-fledged preacher of the Bhagavata-dharma. Although He was doing the same preaching work in His householder life, when He experienced some obstacles to His preaching He sacrificed even the comfort of His home life for the sake of the fallen souls. In His householder life His chief assistants were Srila Advaita Prabhu and Srila Srivasa Thakura, but after He accepted the sannyasa order His chief assistants became Srila Nityananda Prabhu, who was deputed to preach specifically in Bengal, and the six Gosvamis (Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, Jiva Gosvami, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami and Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami), headed by Srila Rupa and Sanatana, who were deputed to go to Vrndavana to excavate the present places of pilgrimage. The present city of Vrndavana and the importance of Vrajabhumi were thus disclosed by the will of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The Lord, after accepting the sannyasa order, at once wanted to start for Vrndavana. For three continuous days He traveled in the Radha-desa (places where the Ganges does not flow). He was in full ecstasy over the idea of going to Vrndavana. However, Srila Nityananda diverted His path and brought Him instead to the house of Advaita Prabhu in Santipura. The Lord stayed at Sri Advaita Prabhu's house for a few days, and knowing well that the Lord was leaving His hearth and home for good, Sri Advaita Prabhu sent His men to Navadvipa to bring mother Saci to have a last meeting with her son. Some unscrupulous people say that Lord Caitanya met His wife also after taking sannyasa and offered her His wooden slipper for worship, but the authentic sources give no information about such a meeting. His mother met Him at the house of Advaita Prabhu, and when she saw her son in sannyasa, she lamented. By way of compromise, she requested her son to make His headquarters in Puri so that she would easily be able to get information about Him. The Lord granted this last desire of His beloved mother. After this incident the Lord started for Puri, leaving all the residents of Navadvipa in an ocean of lamentation over His separation."
In his purport to Caitanya-caritamrta Adi lila 17.272, Srila Prabhupada provides further details of the Lord's taking sannyasa:
"At the end of His twenty-fourth year, at the end of the fortnight of the waxing moon, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu left Navadvipa and crossed the river Ganges at a place known as Nidayara-ghata. Then He reached Kantaka-nagara, or Katoya (Katwa), where He accepted ekadanda-sannyasa according to the Sankarite system. Since Kesava Bharati belonged to the Sankarite sect, he could not initiate Caitanya Mahaprabhu into the Vaisnava sannyasa order, whose members carry the tridanda.
Candrasekhara Acarya assisted in the routine ceremonial work of the Lord's acceptance of sannyasa. By the order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, kirtana was performed for the entire day, and at the end of the day the Lord shaved off His hair. On the next day He became a regular sannyasi, with one rod (ekadanda). From that day on, His name was Sri Krsna Caitanya. Before that, He was known as Nimai Pandita. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in the sannyasa order, traveled all over Radhadesa, the region where the Ganges River cannot be seen. Kesava Bharati accompanied Him for some distance."
And still more details on Mahaprabhu's sannyasa pastime are found in the Prologue to Teachings of Lord Caitanya, excerpted from a short work by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur entitled, "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts." (August 20, 1896):
"It was after this that some of the jealous and low-minded brahmanas of Kulia picked a quarrel with Mahaprabhu and collected a party to oppose him. Nimai Pandita was naturally a soft-hearted person, though strong in his principles. He declared that party feelings and sectarianism were the two great enemies of progress and that as long as he should continue to be an inhabitant of Nadia belonging to a certain family, his mission would not meet with complete success. He then resolved to be a citizen of the world by cutting his connection with his particular family, caste and creed, and with this resolution he embraced the position of a sannyasi at Katwa, under the guidance of Kesava Bharati of that town, on the 24th year of his age. His mother and wife wept bitterly for his separation, but our hero, though soft in heart, was a strong person in principle. He left his little world in his house for the unlimited spiritual world of Krsna with man in general."
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
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