The following is an excerpt from Śrī Prabandhāvalī: Advaita Saptamī by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
Advaita Saptamī is the day that Advaita Ācārya appeared in this world. Advaita Ācārya, the cause of the material world, comes first; after that Nityānanda Prabhu comes on the day of trayodaśī; and then Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself comes on pūrṇimā, descending into this world with the effulgence of rādhā-bhāva. In this way the pastimes of Mahāprabhu begin.
vande taṁ śrīmad-advaitā-
yasya prasādād ajño ’pi
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 6.1)
I pray to Advaita Ācārya, who performs especially wonderful pastimes, that by his mercy I may be able to describe this difficult tattva easily. What are these wonderful pastimes? Seeing Nityānanda Prabhu, Advaita Prabhu began complaining: “Where has this avadhūta come from? Today he has come to our home and thrown prasāda in all directions! He has no knowledge of what class he belongs to; actually he has no class at all! We are brāhmaṇas, we are the best of society, and he has dropped prasāda on the bodies of everyone here!”
Then Nityānanda Prabhu said, “Hey, aparādhī! You are committing an offence to mahā-prasāda. You consider it to be mere food, and that it is merely being thrown around? You can’t see that it bestows good fortune, and that whoever’s body is touched by this prasāda at once crosses over māyā.”
In this way, there was generally some quarrelling between them. When they would go for bathing, then certainly there would be quarrelling. At that time Nityānanda Prabhu was very young. Mahāprabhu was the youngest, next came Nityānanda, and the oldest of all was Advaita Ācārya, whose thoughts are sometimes very difficult to understand. He sent a mysterious sonnet to Mahāprabhu.
bāulake kahiha, – loka ha-ila bāula
bāulake kahiha, – hāṭe nā vikāya cāula
bāulake kahiha, – kāye nāhika āula
bāulake kahiha, – ihā kahiyāche bāula
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 19.20–1)
One madman is sending a message to another madman. There is no longer necessity for rice in the marketplace, so it is time for the shop to be closed.
No one could understand this sonnet. Upon reading it, Mahāprabhu was a little indifferent. Only Svarūpa Dāmodara could understand a little of Advaita Ācārya’s mood; no one else could understand. And he said that one madman – Advaita Ācārya, who is mad with kṛṣṇa-prema – is sending a message to another madman – Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the one who made the world mad with kṛṣṇa-prema, the original madness. “There is no longer necessity for rice” means that prema has been given to everyone, and now the task is completed. “Therefore the shop should be closed” means “Your pastimes in the material world should now come to a close.” But no one understood this; only Svarūpa Dāmodara could know something of its meaning. In this way Advaita Ācārya’s pastimes were mysterious and wonderful.
Although the gist of Bhagavad-gītā advocates bhakti, at the time of Advaita Prabhu’s appearance no one was explaining it in that way. The message of the Gītā is full of devotion – viśate tad anantaram (Bhagavad-gītā (18.55)): “Ultimately he enters into Me.” Advaitavādīs interpret this to mean that Bhagavān and the jīva merge in Brahman and become one. They say that by chanting “ahaṁ brahmāsmi” and practising meditation, the apparent individuality of the souls merge in the end, and that the material world is false. Advaita Ācārya first of all gave the explanation of bhakti from these verses: satataṁ kīrtayanto mām (Bhagavad-gītā (9.14)); ananyāś cintayanto māṁ, ye janāḥ paryupāsate (9.22); and bhakti labhate parām (18.54) – in the end, we will attain bhakti. By the medium of the precepts described in these verses, then viśate tad anantaram – we enter into bhakti. Not that we meet Bhagavān in Brahman, entering into undifferentiated light. Viśate means that we enter into His dhāma and attain His service, but some people were trying to change the meaning.
After some time, Advaita Ācārya went to Śāntipura and also started explaining the meaning of viśate tad anantaram as “ahaṁ brahmāsmi: all souls will merge in Brahman.” Hearing of this, Mahāprabhu went there and pulled his beard and beat him until Sītā-devī, Advaita Ācārya’s wife, came and protected him. This is also wonderful because having been beaten, Śrī Advaita became very pleased and started dancing. Previously, Mahāprabhu was offering praṇāma to him and offering him respect befitting one’s guru because Advaita Prabhu was a disciple of Mādhavendra Purī. Mahāprabhu was thinking, “He is a disciple of My parama-guru, so it is My duty to offer praṇāma and sevā to him. He is worshipful to Me, and therefore I should serve and worship him.”
For ridding Himself of this service, Advaita Ācārya gave the impersonalist nirviśesavāda explanation of Bhagavad-gītā. When Mahāprabhu became angry and started beating him, Advaita Ācārya said, “Today my life has become successful. I wanted You to accept service from me, because You are senior to me. Who can possibly be senior to You?” Mahāprabhu then became shy.
Another time, Mahāprabhu said to His mother Śacī-devī, “I will not show love to you anymore because you have disrespected a devotee. You have committed vaiṣṇava-aparādha. You told Advaita Prabhu that, ‘Your name Advaita (meaning non-dual) is not suitable; rather your name should be Dvaita (dual). You are not advaita, you are dvaita.’ What you said was that Advaita Ācārya brings ‘duality’, separation in relationships – that he separates a mother from her son, a father from his son, a brother from his brother. Advaita Ācārya explains the path of devotion, thereby breaking the chains that bind one to the material world. A mother has natural affection for her offspring, but if Advaita Prabhu is able to increase someone’s spontaneous attraction towards Kṛṣṇa, then what could be greater than that? If someone is giving the instruction that the jīva has forgotten Bhagavān for millions of births, and then establishes sambandha (knowledge of our true relationship with Bhagavān) and sādhya (the final attainment), and gives instruction for bhajana that cuts the chains that bind us to the material world, what could be greater than that?”
Śacī-devī replied, “He separated me from my beloved Viśvarūpa. He gave such instruction that it separated me from Viśvarūpa, who left home and became a sannyāsī. Therefore ‘Advaita’ means that person whom having met once, one will not desire anything within this world. So his name should be ‘Dvaita’ instead.”
Mahāprabhu said, “Since you spoke to a devotee in this way, none of us will show you love anymore.”
As she stood there, everyone told her that because she had committed an offence at the feet of Advaita Ācārya, they could not show any love to her. Then Śacī-devī went to beg forgiveness from Advaita Ācārya, but instead he fell at her feet and said, “You are the mother of the entire world. It is not possible for you to commit any offence. But alright, if someone says that there has been some offence, then I say it is hereby forgiven.” Then Śacī-devī returned to Mahāprabhu and everything was set right. Many wonderful pastimes like this were performed by Śrī Advaita Prabhu.
Advaita Ācārya was also instrumental in bringing Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to this world. At the end of Dvāpara-yuga, upon completing His pastimes in this world and returning to Goloka Vṛndāvana, Śrī Kṛṣṇacandra thought, “I have three desires that have not yet been fulfilled. Understanding the glories of Rādhikā’s love, discovering the sweetness that She finds within Me, and tasting that sweetness – without assuming the sentiment of Rādhikā Herself and the effulgence of Her form, it will not be possible to experience these three things. I have tasted sakhya-rasa, vātsalya-rasa and mādhurya-rasa, but as yet I have been unable to experience what Her happiness is upon seeing Me, and what is the nature of Her prema for Me. In order to experience this, I must again go to the material world.”
At that time it was necessary for the yuga-dharma to be given. The age of Kali, which lasts for 432,000 years, had come. Ordinarily, at the end of each yuga an incarnation of Bhagavān comes, just as at the end of Tretā-yuga, Rāmacandra came, and at the end of Dvāpara-yuga, Kṛṣṇa came. Such a yuga-avatāra comes when the disorder in the material world has reached its highest limit.
sambhavāmi yuge yuge
In order to re-establish the principles of religion, I appear millennium after millennium.
Bhagavān thinks, “Just see how much sinful activity is increasing and how the chaos is escalating due to the demons. When should I descend?”
So there are actually four reasons for Mahāprabhu’s descent. Two are primary, and two are secondary. The most primary reason is for tasting the prema of Rādhikā, and the second reason is:
anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 1.4)
By His causeless mercy He appears in the age of Kali to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: unnata ujjvala-rasa – the most sublime amorous mellow in His own service.
Mahāprabhu wanted to give a specific wealth of prema to the jīvas that had never been bestowed by any previous incarnations: unnata-ujjvala-rasa – the parakīya-bhāva of the gopīs. There are two kinds of unnata-ujjvala-parakīya-rasa. One kind, the sentiment of Rādhikā, is not “giveable”. But the other, the sentiment of the nitya-sakhīs and the prāṇa-sakhīs who serve Rādhā, and who, following Her, also serve Kṛṣṇa – that unnata-ujjvala-rasa can be given. Therefore to bestow the highest prema upon all jīvas and to taste the prema of Rādhikā, Kṛṣṇa comes.
His third reason for coming is to preach the yuga-dharma, nāma-saṅkīrtana; and the fourth reason is:
yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham
Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendent of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend.
These are the four reasons.
Kṛṣṇa was thinking, “When should I go? To establish the yuga-dharma, descending at the end of the yuga is alright, but if instead I preach nāma-saṅkīrtana at the beginning of the yuga, the degrading influence of the yuga will have a lesser effect on the jīvas. When should I give the sentiment of the gopīs, and when should I taste the love of Rādhikā?” He was considering all of these things.
Meanwhile Advaita Ācārya saw that bhakti was gradually disappearing from the world, and he thought, “Now is the appropriate time for Kṛṣṇa’s incarnation. If He doesn’t come now, what will happen later?” At the same time, he was also thinking this in the form of Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. He was pondering in that place where sattva, rajas and tamas are all in the same position. There are two causes of the world: one is upādāna, the ingredient cause, and the other is nimitta, the efficient cause. Mahā-Viṣṇu himself is the nimitta cause, and his part, Advaita Ācārya, is the upādāna cause.
Suppose I were to point to someone and say, “This man is a hooligan, thief and liar. Grab him and throw him outside; he should never be allowed in here again.” Now you may not know him, but by my saying this, you throw him out. So who is the cause of him being thrown out? By my order you grabbed this man and ejected him, so you are the upādāna cause, and I am the nimitta cause. But who is the real cause of the man being ejected? By his own misbehaviour, the man himself is the cause; and this is exactly the situation regarding the creation of the material world.
Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu assumes two forms to create the material world: as the efficient cause and the ingredient cause. When the two of them come together, countless brahmāṇḍas are generated. But if Bhagavān did not inject His desire, then what? In any activity, there is first the desire for it to take place. Therefore the desire of Mahāviṣṇu is the primary cause, and dependent on His desire is the desire of Advaita Ācārya, which is the secondary cause. In this way Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu performs the activity of creating the world, and His incarnation is Advaita Ācārya.
advaita-ācārya gosāñi sākṣāt īśvara
yāṅhāra mahimā nahe jīvera gocara
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 6.6)
Śrī Advaita Ācārya is directly the Īśvara Himself. His glories cannot be comprehended by ordinary living beings.
From mahat-tattva, false ego arises. From false ego comes sound, touch, form, taste and smell. Next come the eleven senses, and next are the five material elements. That makes twenty-two, and with the intelligence and mind it makes twenty-four. Then adding prakṛti, puruṣa, ātmā and Paramātmā makes twenty-eight aspects of tattva altogether. Leaving aside Bhagavān and jīvātmā, only the remainder are accepted by the sāṅkhya and the nyāya schools of thought.
ye puruṣa sṛṣṭi-sthiti karena māyāya
ananta brahmāṇḍa sṛṣṭi karena līlāya
icchāya ananta mūrti karena prakāśa
eka eka mūrte karena brahmāṇḍe praveśa
se puruṣera aṁśa – advaita, nāhi kichu bheda
śarīra-viśeṣa tāṅra – nāhika viccheda
sahāya karena tāṅra la-iyā ’pradhāna’
koṭi brahmāṇḍa karena icchāya nirmāṇa
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 6.8–11)
Mahā-Viṣṇu performs the function of creation of all the material universes, and Advaita Ācārya is directly an incarnation of him. Creating and maintaining these countless universes by his external energy is his pastime, and by his own will he expands into countless forms and enters into each and every universe. Advaita Ācārya is a non-different part and parcel of Mahā-viṣṇu, or in other words, another form of him.
Some say that nature enacts the process of creation by itself, and they give this example: “A cow eats grass, and automatically milk is produced. What is the necessity of anyone else in this process? In this way nature does everything by itself.”
To refute this, an innocent, less-educated Vaiṣṇava said, “The cow eats grass and then gives milk, so why then doesn’t the bull eat grass and also give milk? Does he need to eat more grass?”
The paṇḍita of the sāṅkhya school had to think for a moment. Then he said, concerning the upādāna cause, “To make a house, all elements such as bricks are necessary.”
Then the Vaiṣṇava said, “So if by bricks or cement a house will be made, then here we will place one thousand kilos of cement, ten thousand bricks, an entire lake of water, and wood and marble also. Will that make a house? By the upādāna only it will not happen because it needs the nimitta cause. There may be a pen and paper, but by themselves will they write? Therefore, by the material nature alone creation will not take place as long as the desire of Bhagavān is not there.”
No action can take place by itself in the material world, so therefore this prakṛtivāda philosophy is erroneous. Prakṛti means matter, puruṣa is conscious, and when both come together there is creation. In prakṛti there is no action, no innate desire – it is inert matter. But when it is activated by the puruṣa, then automatically the task is accomplished. The communists say, “What is the need of God in this? Nature creates by itself,” but there is no one in the world who can create by himself.
A lame man and a blind man were going somewhere together and the lame man said, “Take me on your shoulders. Seeing with my eyes, I will tell you to go right, left or straight on the path, and with your legs we will go there. Otherwise you will not be able to go there, and neither will I.” Working together, they reached their desired destination. In this example the lame man is conscious, and the blind man is also conscious, and both being conscious, the work was done. But in creation only Bhagavān is conscious, and nature is not. Without at least one conscious being no work in the world can be done. These issues may seem a little dry, but they are very important and tasteful points related to bhakti, and Vaiṣṇavas should make an effort to understand them.
In all of this tattva, the root cause of the material world is Kṛṣṇa because originally He injects His desire. He becomes two kinds of Saṅkarṣaṇa: the root Saṅkarṣaṇa and Mahā-Saṅkarṣaṇa. From Mahā-Saṅkarṣaṇa He becomes Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, and subsequently He becomes Advaita Ācārya and the upādāna cause. Some people say that the upādāna cause is separate from Bhagavān, that the upādāna cause of the material world is not Bhagavān. They say that He may be the nimitta cause, but He cannot be the upādāna cause. But besides Kṛṣṇa there is nothing, so from where has the material world come? From where has the mahat-tattva come? It has also come from the desire of Kṛṣṇa. There is nothing in all of existence that is separate from Him. Kāraṇodakaśāyī manifests the creation, and the mahat-tattva, nature herself, is thus non-different from Him. To correct the souls that have forgotten Bhagavān, prakṛti is manifest by His desire and gives the jīva an external form. The jīva may consider his placement in that condition of life to be an opportunity for great happiness, but actually it is punishment. Just like when a crazy man dances around naked – people will beat him, and without eating or drinking he wanders around. He says, “I am the king” or “I am the prime minister” and he thinks himself to be happy. Our condition is exactly like that. We may consider ourselves happy, but in reality we are not in a happy condition at all.
Thus Advaita Ācārya was thinking, “The world has become atheistic. One after another, people are forgetting Bhagavān, and for me to rectify them alone is not possible. To bring devotion to the non-devotees will be very, very difficult work. Without the śakti of Kṛṣṇa Himself, it simply cannot be done.”
Besides devotees, there are so many people in the world who are preaching, but they are all preaching māyā. They are preaching twisted philosophies, and seeing this, Śrī Advaita thought, “They have no relation with Bhagavān and they do not preach bhakti. Even when they do preach from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Bhagavad-gītā, they express only the desires of their minds. They are indifferent to sanātana-dharma and pure devotion, and all of them – especially the māyāvādīs – will only hear what they want to hear. Defeating Rāvaṇa was not a very difficult thing, and killing Kaṁsa was also not a difficult thing. These actions could have been done by a Viṣṇu incarnation, but changing the thinking of these māyāvādīs is very difficult. Only if Kṛṣṇa Himself comes into this world will it be possible.”
Since Advaita Prabhu was at least sixty years old when Mahāprabhu appeared, he was the oldest of all of Mahāprabhu’s associates. Nityānanda Prabhu was approximately five years older than Mahāprabhu. Mahāprabhu’s plan was that He would first arrange for His devotees to appear in this world, and then He would descend Himself. Advaita Ācārya appeared first, and seeing the condition of the world, he thought, “How will I call Kṛṣṇa? There are so many types of worship of Kṛṣṇa, but amongst all of these, the glories of tulasi are the greatest. Kṛṣṇa will be so pleased with anyone who offers Him a tulasi leaf and Ganges water that it will overpower Him.” Thus he took a tulasī bud – two soft leaves with a mañjarī in the middle – and, with great prema and tears flowing from his eyes, worshipped Kṛṣṇa beside the Ganges.
Kṛṣṇa was originally thinking, “When will I descend? Maybe in ten or twenty thousand years, or maybe even after one hundred thousand years.” But upon hearing Advaita Ācārya’s prayer, He came at once. Therefore Advaita Ācārya is another primary reason for the descent of Mahāprabhu.
At birth, Śrī Advaita was given the name Kamalākṣa because his eyes were as beautiful as lotus petals. He appeared at Srihatta in East Bengal. Staying sometimes in Navadvīpa and sometimes in Śāntipura, he began preaching bhakti. He was there in Navadvīpa when Mahāprabhu took birth. Viśvarūpa attended Advaita Prabhu’s school. One day Mother Śacī told Nimāi to go and call His brother; so when He arrived at the school, Nimāi glanced in the direction of Advaita Ācārya and said, “What do you see? You called Me here and you don’t recognise Me? When the proper time comes, you will certainly recognise Me.”
There are unlimited incarnations of Viṣṇu and they are all non-different from Kṛṣṇa, but their activities and pastimes are different. Therefore, because Advaita Ācārya is non-different from Hari, he is advaita, and because he manifested bhakti in all directions, he is known as ācārya. How did he preach bhakti? If anyone was born in a śūdra family, a Muslim family or any family, and performed bhagavad-bhajana, Advaita Prabhu considered him better than a brāhmaṇa who didn’t engage in bhajana. If there is someone who has taken birth in a high brāhmaṇa family, is an eminent scholar, of good conduct, speaks the truth and never lies, but does not engage in bhagavad-bhajana, then he is inferior to one who has taken birth in a śūdra family or in a family of cremation-ground workers, if that person just cries out “Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!” and does no other spiritual activity whatsoever. That śūdra is superior to a caturvedī-brāhmaṇa: Advaita Ācārya proved this point and preached it.
Haridāsa Ṭhākura was born in a Muslim family. At the śrāddha ceremony for Advaita Ācārya’s father, the highest seat and prasāda were to be offered first to the most elevated person. Advaita Ācārya was performing the ceremony when the moon was in the appropriate place in the month of Āśvina. All the high-class brāhmaṇas were there – Bhaṭṭācārya, Trivedī, Caturvedī, Upādhyāya – and all of them were great scholars. After washing their feet, Advaita Ācārya showed them to their respective seats. In front was an elevated seat, and Advaita Prabhu was standing and thinking, “Who will I seat here?”
All of the scholars were thinking, “I know so many scriptures; certainly I will be offered that seat.” Silently they were all aspiring for it. Advaita Ācārya then went outside the house and saw Haridāsa Thākura, wearing a laṅgoṭī and sitting at the door. Haridāsa was thinking, “The brāhmaṇas will take their meal here, so Advaita Ācārya will certainly give us a little of their prasāda.” He had so much humility that he was thinking that if he went inside, the house would be contaminated. At once Advaita Ācārya embraced him, and Haridāsa Ṭhākura said, “Oh, you are a brāhmaṇa and I am a Muslim! Having touched me, you must now go and bathe.” But grabbing him and taking him inside, Advaita Ācārya sat him on the elevated seat, at which time there was a great outcry in all directions. The brāhmaṇas said, “By bringing a Muslim in here, you have contaminated this place and insulted us! We will not eat here!” Taking their water pots, they all stood up and left. They were abusing Advaita Ācārya, saying, “You are opposed to the principles of dharma!”
But Advaita Ācārya said, “Today my birth has become successful, and today my father has attained Vaikuṇṭha. By giving respect to one Vaiṣṇava, today millions of my ancestors have crossed over māyā. If Haridāsa Ṭhākura will eat here, then that is greater than feeding millions of brāhmaṇas.”
Haridāsa Ṭhākura was crying, thinking, “Because of me, all these brāhmaṇas have been insulted and are not eating.” But Advaita Ācārya said, “Haridāsa, today you will certainly take prasāda here. That will be our great good fortune.” Then he said to the brāhmaṇas, “He will stay, and none of you will get prasāda. Actually, you should all leave here quickly, because just seeing your faces is a great sin. Haridāsa has great regard for mahā-prasāda, and therefore he is included within the Vaiṣṇava class. Anyone who doesn’t accept this is an atheist, and one who judges a Vaiṣṇava by his birth is an atheist. You can all go away from here and then your offences will leave with you. You are offending Haridāsa, and offending me as well.”
All the scholars left the house, but outside, as they were going, they began speaking amongst themselves. “Advaita Ācārya is no ordinary personality. He is a great scholar, he knows all of the scriptures and he is an exalted preacher of bhakti.” They continued deliberating, and after fully reconsidering, they returned, fell at Advaita Prabhu’s feet and begged forgiveness.
Advaita Ācārya had many sons, of which one was named Acyutānanda, but because some of his other sons didn’t engage in bhajana, he didn’t consider them his sons at all and he renounced them. Only those sons who performed bhajana of Bhagavān did he make his successors. Especially because of one incident in Jagannātha Purī, Acyutānanda was made his successor. The Ratha-yātrā was going on, and at that time Acyutānanda was just a small boy. Some Vaiṣṇavas came and asked Advaita Ācārya, “What is the name of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s guru?” He replied, “Keśava Bhāratī.”
At that time, Acyutānanda was sitting in his father’s lap, and upon hearing this he began shivering with anger. He was just a small boy! Nevertheless, he got up from his father’s lap and started to walk away, saying, “You cannot be my father if you have such an idea. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the guru of the entire world! Who can possibly be His guru?”
Tears came to the eyes of Advaita Ācārya, and he said, “You will really be known as my son. What you have said is correct: Mahāprabhu is the guru of the entire world, but for His pastimes in human form He must set the example for others. Otherwise what would happen? How would the people of this world know that it is necessary to accept a guru?”
In this way Advaita Ācārya did many wonderful things. He was an assistant to all of the pastimes of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Therefore today we will offer a special prayer to the feet of Advaita Ācārya that he may be merciful upon us so that we can make steady progress in bhakti and ultimately attain the direct service of Śrī Gauracandra.
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