Parishads: The Associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
BY: SUN STAFF
Dec 26, USA (SUN) In Honor of the Disappearance of Sri Devananda Pandita
In 2001, Mandala Publishing released a beautiful edition entitled "Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates", which contains biographical information on the many transcendental personalities who manifested to take part in the lila of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Sampradaya Sun staff were very pleased to recently receive this book, which was contributed by Bala Krsna dasa from the Saranagati community. With his encouragement, we will now begin to present information on the pastimes of the Vaisnava saints, as each Appearance and Disappearance day is celebrated. As we read in the book's Foreword by Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaj:
"In this volume, the author delights in the life stories of Jagannath Mishra, Madhavendra Puri, Ishvara Puri, Advaita Acharya, Srivas Pandit, Chandrasekhar Acharya, Pundarika Vidyanidhi, Gadadhar Pandit, Vakresvara Pandit, Gadadhar Das, Shivananda Sen, Paramananda Puri, Murari Gu[pta, and many others. Every letter of these accounts is drenched with the juice of devotion. We will never be able to enter the transcendental kingdom nor to advance in the devotional life unless we also discover this delight. We should repeatedly discuss the lives of the devotees because they are saturated with loving service to the Lord and this will melt our stonelike hearts."
We begin the Parishads series with Sri Devananda Pandit, who disappeared from view on this day.
Sri Devananda Pandit
Purananam artha-vetta sri devananda-panditah
Purasin nanda-parisat-pandito bhandarir munih
The scholar Devananda Pandit knew the meaning of all the Puranas. Previously, he was bhandari Muni, the scholar in Nanda Maharaj's court.
Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya's father was named Mahesvara Visharada. Mahaprabhu visited his house, which was situated on an embankment. Devananda Pandit, a peaceful Brahmin who desired liberation, made his home nearby.
Chaitanya Bhagavata 2.21.6-7
The Lord delivered Devananda Pandit in the town of Kuliya.
Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.152
According to Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, Kuliya was a suburb of Nabadwip situated on the west bank of the Ganges. In that time, the central part of the town of Nabadwip, also known as Mayapur, was situated on the eastern bank of the river. The modern city of Nabadwip stands on the site of the former Kuliya, which is also known as "the place where offenses are forgiven" (aparadha-bhanjaner pata). Proof of this is found in the old names of many neighborhoods, such as Koler Ganj, Koler Daha, and Gadkhali Kol.
Gaudiya-bhasya to Chaitanya Bhagavata 2.9.98
Each of the nine islands of Nabadwip Dham represents one of the nine types of devotional service. Koladwip is the island of service to the Lord's lotus feet (pada-sevana). The word kola had been distorted into the popular speech as Kuliya.
Just look - this is Visharada's embankment. Here the Lord met Devananda Pandit and chastised him for the offense he had committed to Srivas Pandit, causing him to repent.
From the above evidence from Chaitanya Bhagavata, Chaitanya Charitamrita and Bhakti-ratnakara, it is clear that Devananda Pandit's house was somewhere near to the house of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya's father, Mahesvara Vishrada. It is thus clearly indicated that his school (tol) was situated somewhere in Juliya village.
Devananda Pandit was a scholar and an ascetic who had been indifferent to the world from an early age. Although he had won a reputation for his erudition, he nevertheless had no real feeling of devotion to Krishna and so failed to understand that bhakti was the ultimate purport of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Being a mumuksu, or one who seeks impersonal liberation, moksa, Devananda Pandit praised dry austerities and renunciation in his discourses on the Bhagavatam and did not glorify devotional service.
One day, Srivas Pandit came to hear a Bhagavatam recital at Devananda's house. As he listened to the text of the Bhagavatam, Srivas Pandit became absorbed in a mood of loving devotion and started to cry. Devananda Pandit's faithless disciples threw him out of the assembly for causing a disturbance. Since Devananda did not object to the action of his students, he was responsible for their offense to a devotee. Mahaprabhu was thus angry with him.
The Lord said: "Whoever recites the Bhagavatam without glorifying devotional services is an ignorant fool who known nothing. This rascal recites the Bhagavatam and never mentions bhakti. I will go and tear up his manuscript, just watch Me."
Chaitanya Bhagavata .21.20-21
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur comments on this verse as follows: "When those bereft of devotion forget their actual identify, they become completely indifferent to the service of the Lord. When they identify this indifference as the ultimate goal of life, they become a source of profound irritation to the Lord, even though He is by nature supremely merciful. Here Lord Gaurasundara shows His irritation and informs us that this attitude of the non-devotee is not only unnecessary, but reprehensible. He also indicates that both the acts of enjoying and renouncing the fruits of material actions are improper. The devotees find great satisfaction in seeing the Lord become angry in this way.
Devananda Gains Faith in the Lord
Some time after Devananda Pandit committed this offense to Srivas Pandit, Mahaprabhu passed nearby his house and saw that he was engaged in giving a discourse on the Bhagavtam. He became angry and rebuked him severely for his lack of faith in the Vaishnavas. Just as blasphemy of the devotees is the best way to be deprived of the Lord's mercy and destined for downfall, glorying them and engaging in their service is the best way to find the mercy of the Lord and become freed from all sinful activity.
"Listen, Brahmin, if you want to be cured after consuming poison, you must ingest ambrosia through the very same mouth you took the poison. In this way, not only will the poison be digested, but your body will become immortal through the ambrosia's divine power."
Chaitanya Bhagavata 3.3.449-50
Through great good fortune, Mahaprabhu's dear associate Vakresvara Pandit came to stay at Devananda Pandit's house. Because Devananda took excellent care of Vakresvara, Mahaprabhu softened towards him. Previously, Devananda had been completely without any faith in the Lord, but when he heard of Mahaprabhu's glories from Vakresvara, his attitude changed. Through the association of the Lord's devotee, he began to develop a taste for pure devotional service.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur writes in this regard, "For Devananda Pandit of Kuliya, the fruit of service to the Vaishnava was faith in Mahaprabhu's lotus feet. Vakresvara Pandit's visit to his house was the source of this auspiciousness. Although Devananda was a Smarta, he was a great scholar and self-controlled. He studied nothing but the Shrimad Bhagavatam. He believed in God and had control of his senses. All he lacked was faith in Mahaprabhu. By the grace of Vakresvara Pandit, this faulty intelligence was wiped away and he became a believer in Lord Gaurasundara."
Devananda was a scholar of the Bhagavatam, but it was through Vakresvara's mercy that he was able to understand its meaning from Mahaprabhu.
Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.77
Mahaprabhu told Devananda to explain the Bhagavatam in terms of devotional service. It was Devananda Pandit's great fortune that he was able to receive the mercy of the Lord in the form of a chastisement.
Devananda Pandit was a great pious soul, for Mahaprabhu verbally punished him. The chastisement of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the greatest pious act. Even if one should die as a result of the Lord's punishment, he still goes to Vaikuntha.
Chaitanya Bhagavata 2.21.77-8
Devananda received this mercy due to living in Kuliya or Koladwip, the place where offenses are forgiven. Gopal Chapal was also forgiven his offenses in Kuliya.
Devananda Pandit's disappearance day is celebrated on the Krsna ekadasi of the month of Paush.
Mandala Publishing 2001.
Excerpted from "Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates" by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj
Mandala Publishing 2001.