Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 45


Preachers of many faiths in South India

Jun 19, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.


Yesterday we visited Dhundirama-tirtha, which is mentioned in Caitanya-caritamrta in the same breath with Trimanda, the site where Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu defeated and converted the Buddhists. Both places are mentioned in Madhya Lila 9.14:

    Madhya 9.14

    ei sloka pathe padi' karila prayana
    gautami-gangaya yai' kaila ganga-snana

    "While walking on the road, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to chant this Rama Raghava mantra. Chanting in this way, He arrived at the banks of the Gautami-ganga and took His bath there.

    The Gautami-ganga is a branch of the river Godavari. Formerly a great sage named Gautama Rsi used to live on the bank of this river opposite the city of Rajamahendri, and consequently this branch was called the Gautami-ganga.

    Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that Srila Kaviraja Gosvami has recorded the names of the holy places visited by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu but that there is no chronological order of the places visited. However, there is a notebook of Govinda dasa's containing a chronological order and references to geographical positions. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura requests the readers to refer to that book. According to Govinda dasa, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to Trimanda from the Gautami-ganga. From there He went to Dhundirama-tirtha, another place of pilgrimage. According to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, after visiting the Gautami-ganga, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to Mallikarjuna-tirtha."

Again, we present the material cited yesterday, from the History of Bengali Language and Literature lecture, one of a series delivered at the University of Calcutta by Dinesh Candra Sen (c. 1911), in which we find the following narrative about Lord Caitanya's South India preaching tour:

    "In April [ ] 1510, he started again with his one follower Govinda for southern India. He came to the Godavari and met Rama Ray; thence he proceeded to Trimanda (modern Trimalgada in Hydrabad) and converted Dhundi Rama Tirtha to his faith; from Trimanda he came to Sidhavatesvara (modern Sidhavatesvaram; between Cadappa and the river Punna) where a rich young man named Tirtharam came to tempt him in a vulgar manner, and himself became a convert to his faith."

In a lecture from the same series entitled Chaitanya and His Companions (c. 1913), Dinesh Candra Sen made this statement:

    "Leaving Puri he came to Alalanatha, and met Ramananda Raya, the Prime Minister of Raja Pratapa Rudra, on the banks of the Godavari. From the latter place in Southern India, Chaitanya came to Trimanda, where he had a public discussion with the Buddhist monks, the Raja of Trimanda serving as the mediator. Ramagiri, the leader of the monks, acknowledged his defeat and conversion of the Trimanda leader, and a large number of the Buddhists became converts to Vaisnavism.

    The next place he visited was Tungabhadra, where Dhundi Rama Tirtha, a proud scholar of extensive learning, came to hold a discussion with Chaitanya. Chaitanya said he would not indulge in controversy of any sort. But the [?] of his ecstasies charmed Dhundi and humiliated his pride, and he became a staunch admirer of Chaitanya. After his conversion, Dhundi Rama took the Vaisnava name of Haridasa."

Upon reading the footnotes cited in Dinesh Candra Sen's papers, we find that he refers to the very same diary of Govinda Dasa that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has recommended the devotees reference for additional information on Lord Caitanya's travels. Govinda Dasa's diary was published, in whole or in part, in the Calcutta Review's yearly edition for 1898. So we take Dinesh Candra Sen's comments as to the location of Trimanda, in Hydrabad, as most likely being correct.

Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 9 provides a great deal of information on Lord Caitanya's preaching in the south, and his conversion of people from various other faiths. The picture above, a painting commissioned by the Ramakrishna Mission, provides a fascinating view of the spiritual movements being proselytized throughout India. The personalities represented here appear to be native to India, with the exception of Jesus, who is dancing with Mahaprabhu, but the lifetimes of these personalities span several centuries.

In Madhya 9.1, we find an excellent description of the mood of Lord Caitanya's Sankirtana party, whose members are also featured in the Ramakrishna painting:

    Madhya 9.1

    krparina vimucyaitan
    gauras cakre sa vaisnavan

    "Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu converted the inhabitants of South India. These people were as strong as elephants, but they were in the clutches of the crocodiles of various philosophies, such as the Buddhist, Jain and Mayavada philosophies. With His disc of mercy the Lord delivered them all by converting them into Vaisnavas, devotees of the Lord.

    Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's converting the people of South India into Vaisnavas is compared herein to Lord Visnu's delivering Gajendra the elephant from the attack of a crocodile. When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited southern India, almost all the residents were within the jaws of the crocodiles of Buddhist, Jain and Mayavada philosophy. Here Kaviraja Gosvami states that although these people were as strong as elephants, they were almost in the clutches of death because they were being attacked by the crocodiles of various philosophies. However, just as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the form of Visnu saved the elephant Gajendra from the clutches of a crocodile, so He saved all the people of South India from the clutches of various philosophies by converting them into Vaisnavas."

In the Madhya slokas 9.44-48, we get a further description of the Lord's preaching pastimes:

    "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu established the devotional cult everywhere. No one could defeat Him. Being thus defeated by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, all these philosophers and their followers entered into His cult. In this way Lord Caitanya made South India into a country of Vaisnavas. When the nonbelievers heard of the erudition of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they came to Him with great pride, bringing their disciples with them. One of them was a leader of the Buddhist cult and was a very learned scholar. To establish the nine philosophical conclusions of Buddhism, he came before the Lord and began to speak. Although the Buddhists are unfit for discussion and should not be seen by Vaisnavas, Caitanya Mahaprabhu spoke to them just to decrease their false pride."

Lord Caitanya's preaching amongst the South India Buddhists is famous, and has even been documented in the Buddhist's own historical texts. During an acclaimed lecture series in London in late 1919, known as the Hibbert Lectures, the following statement was made in a presentation on Theism in Medieval India:

    "The teachers of the Vedanta itself did not escape the reproach of "crypto-Buddhism," and the influence of the Buddhist schools on the development of the several systems founded on the ancient Brahmanical Scriptures is only now coming to be seriously studied. In Southern India an interesting picture of Buddhism is presented in the Tamil epic relating the romantic story of Mani-Mekhalai, but the uncertainty of its date prevents its definite use as evidence.

    Sankara finds it needful in the ninth century to array his critical objections against the Buddhist schools, and in his survey of philosophical systems Madhava, four hundred years later, still includes Buddhism.

    Travelling preachers or professors of philosophy still encountered members of the Order, as Govinda Das relates of his master Chaitanya, who converted their leader at Trimanda in 1509, on his missionary journey to South India, and pressed the learning of the monks into the service of Vaishnavism."

Given that little information has been found on the location of Trimanda tirtha, we will close today's segment with a complete version of the super-excellent narrative provided in Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 9.46-62, on Lord Caitanya defeating the Buddhists. These slokas and Srila Prabhupada's purports give us the foundation for the superiority of Vaisnava philosophy over atheistic Buddhism.

Lord Caitanya Defeats the Buddhist Philosophy

The Buddhists Offer Untouchable Food to Lord Caitanya

"When the nonbelievers heard of the erudition of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they came to Him with great pride, bringing their disciples with them. One of them was a leader of the Buddhist cult and was a very learned scholar. To establish the nine philosophical conclusions of Buddhism, he came before the Lord and began to speak.

....The scriptures of the Buddhist cult are chiefly based on argument and logic, and they contain nine chief principles. Because Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu defeated them in their argument, they could not establish their cult.

    Purport: Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura states that according to the Buddhist cult there are two ways of understanding philosophy. One is called Hinayana, and the other is called Mahayanaa. Along the Buddhist path there are nine principles: (1) The creation is eternal; therefore there is no need to accept a creator. (2) This cosmic manifestation is false. (3) "I am" is the truth. (4) There is repetition of birth and death. (5) Lord Buddha is the only source of understanding the truth. (6) The principle of nirvana, or annihilation, is the ultimate goal. (7) The philosophy of Buddha is the only philosophical path. (8) The Vedas are compiled by human beings. (9) Pious activities, showing mercy to others and so on are advised.

    ....Their first principle is that the creation is always existing. But if this is the case, there can be no theory of annihilation. The Buddhists maintain that annihilation, or dissolution, is the highest truth. If the creation is eternally existing, there is no question of dissolution or annihilation. This argument is not very strong because by practical experience we see that material things have a beginning, a middle and an end. The ultimate aim of the Buddhist philosophy is to dissolve the body. This is proposed because the body has a beginning. Similarly, the entire cosmic manifestation is also a gigantic body, but if we accept the fact that it is always existing, there can be no question of annihilation. Therefore the attempt to annihilate everything in order to attain zero is an absurdity. By our own practical experience we have to accept the beginning of creation, and when we accept the beginning, we must accept a creator. Such a creator must possess an all-pervasive body, as pointed out in the Bhagavad-gita (13.14):

    sarvatah pani-padam tat
    sarvatah sruti-mal loke
    sarvam avrtya tisthati

      "Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes, heads and faces, and He has ears everywhere. In this way the Supersoul exists, pervading everything."

    The Supreme Person must be present everywhere. His body existed before the creation; otherwise He could not be the creator. If the Supreme Person is a created being, there can be no question of a creator. The conclusion is that the cosmic manifestation is certainly created at a certain time, and the creator existed before the creation; therefore the creator is not a created being. The creator is Param Brahman, or the Supreme Spirit. Matter is not only subordinate to spirit but is actually created on the basis of spirit. When the spirit soul enters the womb of a mother, the body is created by material ingredients supplied by the mother. Everything is created in the material world, and consequently there must be a creator who is the Supreme Spirit and who is distinct from matter. It is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita that the material energy is inferior and that the spiritual energy is the living entity. Both inferior and superior energies belong to a supreme person.

    The Buddhists argue that the world is false, but this is not valid. The world is temporary, but it is not false. As long as we have the body, we must suffer the pleasures and pains of the body, even though we are not the body. We may not take these pleasures and pains very seriously, but they are factual nonetheless. We cannot actually say that they are false. If the bodily pains and pleasures were false, the creation would be false also, and consequently no one would take very much interest in it. The conclusion is that the material creation is not false or imaginary, but it is temporary.

    The Buddhists maintain that the principle "I am" is the Ultimate Truth, but this excludes the individuality of "I" and "you." If there is no "I" and "you," or individuality, there is no possibility of argument. The Buddhist philosophy depends on argument, but there can be no argument if one simply depends on "I am." There must be a "you," or another person also. The philosophy of duality--the existence of the individual soul and the Supersoul--must be there. This is confirmed in the Second Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita (2.12), wherein the Lord says:

    na tv evaham jatu nasam
    na tvam neme janadhipah
    na caiva na bhavisyamah
    sarve vayam atah param

      "Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be."

    We existed in the past in different bodies, and after the annihilation of this body we shall exist in another body. The principle of the soul is eternal, and it exists in this body or in another body. Even in this lifetime we experience existence in a child's body, a youth's body, a man's body and an old body. After the annihilation of the body, we acquire another body. The Buddhist cult also accepts the philosophy of transmigration, but the Buddhists do not properly explain the next birth. There are 8,400,000 species of life, and our next birth may be in any one of them; therefore this human body is not guaranteed.

    According to the Buddhist's fifth principle, Lord Buddha is the only source for the attainment of knowledge. We cannot accept this, for Lord Buddha rejected the principles of Vedic knowledge. One must accept a principle of standard knowledge because one cannot attain the Absolute Truth simply by intellectual speculation. If everyone is an authority, or if everyone accepts his own intelligence as the ultimate criterion--as is presently fashionable--the scriptures will be interpreted in many different ways, and everyone will claim that his own philosophy is supreme. This has become a very great problem, and everyone is interpreting scripture in his own way and setting up his own basis of authority. Yata mata tata patha. Now everybody and anybody is trying to establish his own theory as the ultimate truth. The Buddhists theorize that annihilation, or nirvana, is the ultimate goal. Annihilation applies to the body, but the spirit soul transmigrates from one body to another. If this were not the case, how can so many multifarious bodies come into existence? If the next birth is a fact, the next bodily form is also a fact. As soon as we accept a material body, we must accept the fact that that body will be annihilated and that we will have to accept another body. If all material bodies are doomed to annihilation, we must obtain a nonmaterial body, or a spiritual body, if we wish the next birth to be anything but false. How the spiritual body is attained is explained by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (4.9):

    janma karma ca me divyam
    evam yo vetti tattvatah
    tyaktva deham punar janma
    naiti mam eti so 'rjuna

      "One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna."

    This is the highest perfection--to give up one's material body and not accept another but to return home, back to Godhead. It is not that perfection means one's existence becomes void or zero. Existence continues, but if we positively want to annihilate the material body, we have to accept a spiritual body; otherwise there can be no eternality for the soul.

    We cannot accept the theory that the Buddhist philosophy is the only way, for there are so many defects in that philosophy. A perfect philosophy is one that has no defects, and that is Vedanta philosophy. No one can point out any defects in Vedanta philosophy, and therefore we can conclude that Vedanta is the supreme philosophical way of understanding the truth. According to the Buddhist cult, the Vedas are compiled by ordinary human beings. If this were the case, they would not be authoritative. From the Vedic literature we understand that shortly after the creation Lord Brahma was instructed in the Vedas. It is not that the Vedas were created by Brahma, although Brahma is the original person in the universe. If Brahma did not create the Vedas but he is acknowledged as the first created being, wherefrom did Vedic knowledge come to Brahma? Obviously the Vedas did not come from an ordinary person born in this material world. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye: after the creation, the Supreme Person imparted Vedic knowledge within the heart of Brahma. There was no person in the beginning of the creation other than Brahma, yet he did not compile the Vedas; therefore the conclusion is that the Vedas were not compiled by any created being. Vedic knowledge was given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who created this material world. This is also accepted by Sankaracarya, although he is not a Vaisnava.

    It is stated that mercy is one of the qualities of a Buddhist, but mercy is a relative thing. We show our mercy to a subordinate or to one who is suffering more than ourselves. However, if there is a superior person present, the superior person cannot be the object of our mercy. Rather, we are objects for the mercy of the superior person. Therefore showing compassion and mercy is a relative activity. It is not the Absolute Truth. Apart from this, we also must know what actual mercy is. To give a sick man something forbidden for him to eat is not mercy. Rather, it is cruelty. Unless we know what mercy really is, we may create an undesirable situation. If we wish to show real mercy, we will preach Krsna consciousness in order to revive the lost consciousness of human beings, the living entity's original consciousness. Since the Buddhist philosophy does not admit the existence of the spirit soul, the so-called mercy of the Buddhists is defective.

The teacher of the Buddhist cult set forth the nine principles, but Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu broke them to pieces with His strong logic. All mental speculators and learned scholars were defeated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and when the people began to laugh, the Buddhist philosophers felt both shame and fear. The Buddhists could understand that Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was a Vaisnava, and they returned home very unhappy. Later, however, they began to plot against the Lord. Having made their plot, the Buddhists brought a plate of untouchable food before Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and called it maha-prasada.

    Purport: The word apavitra anna refers to food that is unacceptable for a Vaisnava. In other words, a Vaisnava cannot accept any food offered by an avaisnava in the name of maha-prasada. This should be a principle for all Vaisnavas. When asked, "What is the behavior of a Vaisnava?" Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, "A Vaisnava must avoid the company of an avaisnava [asat]." The word asat refers to an avaisnava, that is, one who is not a Vaisnava. Asat-sanga-tyaga,--ei vaisnava-acara (Cc. Madhya 22.87). A Vaisnava must be very strict in this respect and should not at all cooperate with an avaisnava. If an avaisnava offers food in the name of maha-prasada, it should not be accepted. Such food cannot be prasada because an avaisnava cannot offer anything to the Lord. Sometimes preachers in the Krsna consciousness movement have to accept food in a home where the householder is an avaisnava; however, if this food is offered to the Deity, it can be taken. Ordinary food cooked by an avaisnava should not be accepted by a Vaisnava. Even if an avaisnava cooks food without fault, he cannot offer it to Lord Visnu, and it cannot be accepted as maha-prasada. According to Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (9.26):

    param puspam phalam toyam
    yo me bhaktya prayacchati
    tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
    asnami prayatatmanah

      "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it."

    Krsna can accept anything offered by His devotee with devotion. An avaisnava may be a vegetarian and a very clean cook, but because he cannot offer the food he cooks to Visnu, it cannot be accepted as maha-prasada. It is better that a Vaisnava abandon such food as untouchable.

When the contaminated food was offered to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a very large bird appeared on the spot, picked up the plate in its beak and flew away. Indeed, the untouchable food fell upon the Buddhists, and the large bird dropped the plate on the head of the chief Buddhist teacher. When it fell on his head, it made a big sound. The plate was made of metal, and when its edge hit the head of the teacher, it cut him, and the teacher immediately fell to the ground unconscious. When the teacher fell unconscious, his Buddhist disciples cried aloud and ran to the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for shelter. They all prayed to Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, addressing Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself and saying, "Sir, please excuse our offense. Please have mercy upon us and bring our spiritual master back to life." The Lord then replied to the Buddhist disciples, "You should all chant the names of Krsna and Hari very loudly near the ear of your spiritual master. "By this method your spiritual master will regain his consciousness." Following Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's advice, all the Buddhist disciples began to chant the holy name of Krsna congregationally. When all the disciples chanted the holy names Krsna, Rama and Hari, the Buddhist teacher regained consciousness and immediately began to chant the holy name of Lord Hari.

    Purport: Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura comments that all the Buddhist disciples were actually initiated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu into the chanting of the holy name of Krsna, and when they chanted, they actually became different persons. At that time they were not Buddhists or atheists but Vaisnavas. Consequently they immediately accepted Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's order. Their original Krsna consciousness was revived, and they were immediately able to chant Hare Krsna and begin worshiping the Supreme Lord Visnu.

    It is the spiritual master who delivers the disciple from the clutches of maya by initiating him into the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. In this way a sleeping human being can revive his consciousness by chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In other words, the spiritual master awakens the sleeping living entity to his original consciousness so that he can worship Lord Visnu. This is the purpose of diksa, or initiation. Initiation means receiving the pure knowledge of spiritual consciousness.

    One point to note in this regard is that the spiritual master of the Buddhists did not initiate his disciples. Rather, his disciples were initiated by Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and they in turn were able to initiate their so-called spiritual master. This is the parampara system. The so-called spiritual master of the Buddhists was actually in the position of a disciple, and after his disciples were initiated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they acted as his spiritual masters. This was possible only because the disciples of the Buddhist acarya received the mercy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Unless one is favored by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the disciplic succession, one cannot act as a spiritual master. We should take the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the spiritual master of the whole universe, to understand how one becomes a spiritual master and a disciple.

When the spiritual master of the Buddhists began to chant the holy name of Krsna and submitted to Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, all the people who were gathered there were astonished."

Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya lila 9:46-62

Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.


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