Chaitanya Mahaprabhu And Ramananda Raya
‘gana-madhye kona gana-jivera nija dharma?’
‘radha-krishnera prema-keli-yei gitera marma’
“Among the many songs, which song is considered the right way of life for every living being? The song that describes the love affairs of Sri Radha and Krishna.”
Ever since I was a kid, I had heard Bapa recite this verse again and again. I had no idea what it meant then, but throughout our childhood, we were trained to sing and dance to the songs describing the pastimes of Sri Radha and Krishna. An institution named Bansi Bilas came up and we, a group of young dancers were trained to perform Krishna Leela like Basanta Raas, Madhur Milan, Swapna Vilas, Sharad Raas, Hori Leela and many more. The productions kept coming up one after the other. Well-known names became actively involved. While Sangeet Sudhakar Balkrishna Das gave the music, Guru Deba Prasad Das would choreograph and for some productions we even had the opportunity of working with the great theatre revivalist Sri Dhiren Das.
Much later on, I finally got my answer. I came to know that the above verse is a conversation between Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Ray on the banks of Godavari as narrated in Chaitanya Charitamrita.
On his tour of the South, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu arrived at the Godavari River. Thinking Godavari to be Yamuna, a neighboring stone hill to be Goverdhan and the nearby forests to be Vrindavan, he ran around passionately, crying “Krishna!! Oh, Krishna!!” The next morning, he arrived at a very lonely place near the bathing ghata. Unbeknownst to him, the governor of that area named Ramananda Raya also arrived on the river bank amongst the company of many associates and Vedic brahmanas reciting Vedic mantras. Ramananda Raya was taking a bath there when he suddenly noticed a radiant sanyasi sitting in a trance. Leaving all his attendants, he arrived in front of that sanyasi who was none other than Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He offered obeisances and replied on the affirmative when enquired if he were Ramananda Raya. Mahaprabhu embraced him tightly and said that Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya had made him aware about the greatness of Ramananda Raya and he had come to this place only to meet Raya. Ramananda Raya replied that he was fortunate that the Lord had come to Vidyanagara specially to deliver fallen souls like him. Later in the evening Ramananda Raya approached Lord Sri Chaitanya and offered his respectful obeisances. Then they began to discuss about Krishna in a secluded place. They sat together for the whole night, and then for so many days. Their Krishna-katha continued in a regulated way, from evening to morning, with no sleep and no interruptions.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told Raya Ramananda, "I know you are a devotee of the highest order. You are learned, you know all the scriptures and have mastered Srimad-Bhagavatam. I will therefore ask you some questions, and I request that you reply by giving examples from those scriptures." He kept enquiring and wished to hear more and more and more. The usual positions had been reversed. Mahaprabhu had become the listener, student and enquirer while Raya Ramananda was the authority adorning the position of the speaker. Each question unraveled a more intricate, intense and deep layer of love and spiritual understanding.
Mahaprabhu’s first question was, "What is sadhya (the goal of life) and what is sadhana (the means to attain that goal)?"
Raya Ramananda replied immediately: “sva dharma carane vishnu bhakti haya” (Following the prescribed dharma and duties, that is sadhya.)
Mahaprabhu exclaimed, “This is just external, this is just something superficial you are talking about, say something more, please, say something deeper.”
The conversation transcended from the mundane going deeper and deeper into relishing the nectar of spiritual bliss. Here is an excerpt from the conversation that gives us a glimpse of what a pure devotee seeks.
While Mahaprabhu kept on inquiring, “Eho bahya age kaha ara” (Say something more. This too is external, too superficial.)
To which Ramananda Raya replied, "To give up one's occupational duties in the varnasrama is the essence of perfection."
When Mahaprabhu continued to ask him to go deeper, he would reply that ‘Jnana mishra bhakti’, devotion annointed with knowledge is superior.
Mahaprabhu: No, no, this is bahya, this is external.
Ramananda Raya: Superior to Jnana mishra bhakti is “Jnana sunya bhakti”, Bhakti which is devoid of knowledge.
Mahaprabhu: Oh yes, yes, yes, now you are talking, now you are on the track. “aaga kaha ara” but I am not fully satisfied. Say something more.
Ramananda Raya: Prema Bhakti. Loving devotion is much superior.
Mahaprabhu: “eho haya”, yes, yes, yes, yes but then He also says, “aage kaho” say something more.
Mahaprabhu: Of all types of education which is most important? Ramanand Ray: No education is more important than the transcendental devotional service of Lord Krishna.
Mahaprabhu: Of all the glory that one adorns which is the most glorious? Ramanand Ray: That person who is reputed to be devotee of Lord Krishna enjoys utmost fame and glory.
Mahaprabhu: What is the richest wealth that one can possess? Ramanand Ray: He who is the wealthiest in love for Radha and Krishna is the richest.
Mahaprabhu: Of all kind of distress which is the most painful? Ramanand Ray: Apart from separation from devotee, I know of no unbearable pain.
Mahaprabhu: Out of all liberated persons, who should be considered as the greatest? Ramanand Ray: He who has Love for Krishna is the most liberated.
Mahaprabhu: Which is the best and highest of all auspicious and beneficial activities? Ramanand Ray: The only auspicious activity is the association with the devotees of Lord Krishna.
Mahaprabhu: What should all living entities constantly remember? Ramanand Ray: The chief subject of remembrance is the holy name of Lord, as well as His Pastimes and qualities.
Mahaprabhu: Out of many types of meditation, which is required for living entity? Ramanand Ray: The chief duty of all living entity is to meditate upon the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna.
Mahaprabhu: Of all the topics that people listen to, which is the best? Ramanand Ray: To hear about the loving affairs between Radha and Krishna is the most pleasing to the ears.
Mahaprabhu: Which is the greatest among all worshipable objects?
Ramanand Ray: The holy name of Sri Radha Krishna is the greatest among all.
Radhikar bhava kanti kari angikara
Nija rasa asvadite kariyachha avatara
Then Ramananda Raya continued, “Please have mercy on me and illuminate me. When I first saw you, you appeared like a sanyasi, but later on you appeared to me as Shyamsundar and now when I look at you intently, your body appears to be covered by a golden lustre. I now understand that you have assumed the complexion of Radharani to relish your own transcendental qualities and have appeared as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in this Kali Yug.”
tabe hasi' tanre prabhu dekhaila svarupa 'rasa-raja', 'mahabhava' dui eka rupa
Lord Sri Krishna is the reservoir of all pleasure, and Srimati Radharani is the personification of ecstatic love of Godhead. These two forms had combined as one in Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Smiling, Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu revealed His real form to Ramananda Raya.
Image Courtesy:Gokulshree Das