Chaitanya Mahaprabhu & His spiritual master Ishvara Puri
Mahendra Puri’s disciple, Ishvara Puri arrived at Navadweep as he had heard about Nimai and His naughtiness. He was also aware that He argued a lot with the Vaishnavas about religion. When Nimai came to know that Ishvara Puri was an ascetic, he was overjoyed. On the other hand, Ishvara Puri was spellbound looking at the attractive personality of Nimai. He realized that Nimai was not an ordinary person. The purity at heart and love for each and every living being was prevailing on his face, which glowed with divine energy. Nimai invited him to have dinner at home. Ishvara Puri gladly accepted and after having food, they discussed many religious and spiritual topics.
They started meeting frequently and cleared each other’s doubts. Ishvara Puri at that time was writing a book called Krishnaleelamrit and he requested Nimai to look for any shortcomings and correct them. Nimai said, "There is no possibility of mistakes and shortcomings in Krishna’s story at all. When a devotee writes about his God, whatever is written is correct and only that is the truth. The verses which talk of Lord Krishna would definitely be pure and it is destined to be a master piece." Ishvara Puri was relieved of the worries about the book and was overjoyed at Nimai’s answer. After that day, Nimai daily went to Ishvara Puri to hear the verses. After sometime, Ishvara Puri left Navadweep and went to Gaya. Nimai had a desire to see east Bengal and he selected some good students and started on a pilgrimage after taking permission from his mother.
After crossing the Ganges, the group of students along with Nimai reached the banks of Padra River, which fell in Rath province. Alongside the bank of Padra River, Nimai traversed many destinations in East Bengal. In the course of the tour, he remained pleasant and joyful, in his usual self. He talked with everybody with respect and propagated Bhagavad-gita as the only path to attain God in Kali-yuga, it was through worship and it is the best, most useful and simplest of all ways.
According to a legend, one day Nimai was sitting in a jungle. Suddenly, a divine ascetic came to him. That ascetic instantly fell on Nimai’s feet and started crying. Nimai helped him up and patted on his back and asked, "What happened? Why are you crying?" The Brahmin said, "I am an atheist and I don’t have faith in anything. I am the poorest Brahmin. Till now, I didn’t understand the goals, which should be reached and I am unaware of the path leading to the goal of life. To know this, I prayed and worshiped the Almighty. God heard my prayers. In my dreams, God himself appeared and said, "A Brahmin called Nimai is wandering in East Bengal. Go to him and he will clear all your doubts." When I got up, I instantly ran towards you and reached here.”
After listening to him, Nimai laughed and said, "Your inner soul is pure and sacred. And that is why you see God in everyone. You are a true human being and that is what you see. The attainment of God is the goal of every human being. And to attain the Almighty, there are different paths, which lead to him in different Yugas (time periods). In the Satya-yuga, the path to reach to God was through meditation. In the Treta-yuga, giant rituals, yajnas (sacrifices) were the paths leading to the Almighty. In the Dvapara-yuga, we can reach to God through meditation, worship and veneration of God. At each place and every moment, if we constantly remember the Almighty and have a feeling of gratitude for giving this life, then it becomes the path and goal leading to the Almighty." The words emerging from Nimai’s mouth elated the Brahmin. He fell on Nimai’s feet and accepted him as his Guru. Nimai advised him to go to Kashi and meditate in Shivpuri.
Many days elapsed while wandering in East Bengal. He was then worried about his family. He felt that something untoward must have happened at home. Listening to the voice of his heart, Nimai decided to return home. After some days, they reached Navadweep. At first, Nimai greeted his mother and embraced her. His mother’s face was sorrowful. When he asked for the reason for the grief, she informed about the demise of Laxmi Devi. Seeing her son in a grief stricken state, his mother cried. He appeased his mother saying, "No one can change fate. It was written in destiny that I will live with my wife for these many days only."
As usual, he went to the school and taught the students. There was no effect of Laxmi Devi’s death on Nimai. This showed the mental maturity and spiritual clarity of Nimai.
At that time, Sanskrit literature was very much popular. In the king’s court, many great scholars in Sanskrit presented their work. Such scholars went to the famous centers of knowledge and used to say, "Those who are confident about their knowledge can come to us and debate with us on any given topic. If they are able to beat us in knowledge, then we are ready to give whatever wealth we have. And if they are not able to defeat us, then we would declare ourselves as the most knowledgeable people over and above every individual in the empire."
One day, Nimai took the discipleship of Ishvara Puri by getting the knowledge of the ‘Krishna Mantra’. Ishvara Puri went near Nimai and whispered in his ears, "Gopijana Vallabhaya Namah". He gave this ten-lettered mantra to Nimai. Hearing this, Nimai went into a trance. He desired to go to Braj, where Krishna passed his childhood. Nobody knew as to where Ishvara Puri went after meeting Nimai. It was as if he appeared just to give Nimai the Guru Mantra.
After this incident, Nimai returned to Navadweep along with his friends and students. People started coming to him when they came to know that Nimai had come back to Navadweep. Nimai satiated everybody’s curiosity by talking about his trip to Gaya and the importance and magnanimity of Lord Krishna’s worship. After his return, he regularly attended the school and taught the students. While all this was going on, his mind was always occupied in Krishna’s worship.
From the time he returned from Gaya, Nimai was full of changes in the way he behaved and thought. He danced suddenly while walking on the road and yelled the name of Lord Krishna loudly without any reason. Sometimes, he didn’t sleep for many nights together. Throughout the day, he called the name of Lord Krishna and preferred to be isolated from the affairs of the world. His mother, Sachi Devi got worried seeing such a pitiful state of her son. Even while working, Nimai started wavering. Throughout the day, his mind was occupied by the thoughts of Lord Krishna. He didn’t like to talk to everybody like before. While teaching in the school also, he described Krishna and his various forms. Nimai’s mind was now totally submerged in Krishna’s thoughts. His soul was filled to the brim with Krishna’s worship. His mind, body and soul didn’t allow him to think or dwell upon the affairs of the world. Every atom of his body was now totally surrendered to Lord Krishna.
One day, he was teaching his students in his class. Since the thoughts of Krishna occupied him, he started describing the whole world to be the different forms of Lord Krishna. He said, "There is only one thing that is fit to be memorized forever and that is the name of Lord Krishna, which is the only refuge for all the living beings". He narrated further that only Krishna could give eternal peace and happiness and only through him, all the creatures of the world could get liberated from bondage and miseries. Listening to this divine message, all the students of the class experienced a strong current of emotion towards Lord Krishna. They felt as if for the first time in their lives, they had heard something, which was worth listening.
But the class also had students who wanted bookish knowledge. When they requested Nimai to teach them something from the books, Nimai replied, "Even I don’t know what I speak, it comes very naturally off me. I will not be able to teach you the scriptures of knowledge stored in the books. If you want, you can go to any other teacher and learn for yourself the ‘knowledge’ that you want because now I am not in my control. Actually, whenever I start teaching, I see a dark-complexioned kid, playing flute in front of me (Lord Krishna). Just by looking at that divine kid, I become perturbed and forget everything. All of you can pack up your bags because from today onwards, I will not teach you anything. I am not your teacher from today." Saying this, Nimai took his things and proceeded towards the banks of the Ganges.
Witnessing such a strange phase in Nimai’s life and persona, Sachi Devi remained unhappy. She prayed saying, "My elder son had already left me, now don’t take Nimai also from me. He is the only support and refuge for me. O God, bless Nimai with good health and sound ability to think." It was strange for Sachi Devi that she was not able to recognize her own son because of the change in his behavior.
Nimai’s wife, Vishnupriya was also unhappy of what was happening to her husband. Vishnupriya was an ideal wife. She co-operated and supported Nimai through this strange phase of life. She just ate a couple of morsels and that too from what was left in Nimai’s plate. All through the day, Vishnupriya remained unhappy and just waited for the moment, when her husband, would come back to his normal self.
People across Navadweep started talking about the strange behavior of Nimai. They felt happy and contended every time they met Nimai. Srivasa Pandit, a close friend of Jagannath Mishra, Nimai’s father also expressed his grief at Nimai’s condition. Srivasa Pandit thought of making Nimai the representative of all the Vaishnavas of the world but sadly, all his hopes were dashed because of the so called insane behavior of Nimai. He thought it very important and essential that Nimai to come back to normal condition. With such thoughts, he went to Nimai’s house.
Nimai was happy and embraced Srivasa Pandit. Just the touch of Nimai’s body gave Srivasa Pandit the knowledge of a divine presence. Seeing Srivasa Pandit, Sachi Devi rushed to him with tears in her eyes. Sachi Devi talked with Srivasa Pandit about Nimai’s strange acts and behavior. Srivasa Pandit made her understand that He was actually enamored by a disease, which was only suffered by great saints and sages. He said, "You are fortunate to have such a great saint in your home. Actually, you have given birth to a divine soul." Only after hearing all this, Sachi Devi was assured that her son was not suffering from any disease. Later on, Srivasa Pandit and Nimai had profound talks on spiritualism and inner consciousness. Realizing the great path on which Nimai had started his journey; Srivasa Pandit was calmed of his confusions.
There were talks of Nimai’s divinity and exemplary spiritual progress amongst the intellectuals of Navadweep. Most of them believed Nimai to be a great worshipper of Lord Krishna. Everyone had a strong faith that Nimai had a divine aspect of him, which could be witnessed only by clean-hearted people. It is also notable that many Vaishnavas went against Nimai. They believed that such a transformation in Nimai was impossible as such changes occur only after years of penance, worship and deep dedication towards the Almighty.