Isvara Puri was born in the town of Kumara Hatta on the full moon day of the month of Jyeshtha to a family of Brahmins hailing from Rarha. Kumara Hatta is in the in the 24 Paraganas district about two miles from the Halisahar train station. The local people indicate the neighborhood known as Mukhopadhyaya Para as the site of his birth home.
After Mahaprabhu took sannyas, Srivasa Pandit and his brothers were unable to tolerate Nabadwip with its reminders of him and so moved to Kumara Hatta. The site of their house is said to be near a temple by Chaitanya doba, which is the name given to Isvara Puri’s birthplace. The word doba means “a pool of water.” When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to Kumara Hatta, he took some earth from this place and wrapped it in his cloth. Numerous people since followed his example with the result that they made a pit that has since filled with water. The site is especially well-known in the area.
THE MERCY OF THE SPIRITUAL MASTER
Isvara Puri is a sannyas name. Though it is not known what his name was prior to taking sannyas, we know that his father’s name was Shyamasundara Acharya. Isvara Puri took initiation from the embodiment of nectarean devotional love, Madhavendra Puri. Madhavendra Puri was pleased with Isvara Puri’s guileless, affectionate and loving service and thus drenched him in blessings, so that he too became immersed in the ocean of love for Krishna. If one’s spiritual master is satisfied, then a disciple is fortunate to attain all auspiciousness and the fulfillment of all his desires. If the guru is unhappy with his disciple then he will only know inauspiciousness. These are teachings that are found in the exemplary life of Madhavendra Puri. Ramachandra Puri was also Madhavendra Puri’s initiated disciple, but because of his arrogance was bereft of his guru’s grace. Krishnadas Kaviraj has described the incident with great beauty in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (1.8.16-30) as follows:
Previously, when Madhavendra Puri was on his deathbed, Ramachandra Puri came to see him. Madhavendra Puri was singing the names of the Lord and crying out, “I have not attained Mathura!” Ramachandra then began to instruct him–even though he was a disciple, he had no compunction about doing so. He said, “Remember that you are completely full of the bliss of Brahman. Why are you crying like this despite being knowledgeable of your own Brahma-nature?” When Madhavendra Puri heard this, he became angry and began to rebuke Ramachandra, saying, “Get away, get away, you most sinful rascal! I am dying from the distress of not having received Krishna’s mercy, of not having attained Mathura, and you come to add to my misery! Don’t show your face to me again; go wherever you like! If I see you while I am dying I will take a lower birth. I am dying from the distress of not having attained Krishna and this lowly fool is teaching me about Brahman.” As a result, Madhavendra Puri withdrew his blessings from his disciple who thenceforth started to develop material desires. He became a dry philosopher without any interest in Krishna. Not only that but he became critical of everyone, devoting himself to criticism.
Isvara Puri, on the other hand, served the great man, personally cleaning his urine and feces. He continuously repeated the name of Krishna so that he could hear him, and recounted Krishna’s pastimes. Madhavendra Puri was so pleased with him that he embraced and blessed him, saying, “May you have the wealth of love for Krishna!” From that time onward, Isvara Puri became an ocean of love for Krishna, while Ramachandra Puri became a mine of insults. These two personalities thus bear witness to the results of pleasing or displeasing the great soul. Madhavendra Puri taught this truth through them.
In this connection Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada has written in his Anubhäñya, “Even though Ramachandra Puri saw his own guru suffering of separation from Krishna, he was incapable of recognizing the transcendental nature of this transport of emotions. He judged his guru to be an ordinary man and took his mood to be material, the result of some material insufficiency. As a result he tried to explain to him the value of experiencing the oneness of Brahman. Madhavendra Puri reacted to his disciple’s stupidity and disregard for his instructions and thus stopped wishing for his well-being. He abandoned him and drove him away.”
MAHAPRABHU TAKES INITIATION FROM ISVARA PURIPADA
Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Even so, he wished to teach that it is absolutely necessary to take a spiritual master. For this reason he played the role of a disciple taking initiation from Isvara Puri when he met him at Gaya. This in itself shows beyond a doubt Isvara Puri’s greatness and his importance.
Then the Lord went to Gaya where he met Isvara Puri. After taking initiation from him, he started to display the signs of love of God and when he returned to his homeland, he began to engage in the pastimes of love. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.17.8-9)
In the ecstasy of love, the two drenched each other in the tears of prema that fell from their eyes. The Lord said, “My pilgrimage to Gaya has been made successful today, for I have seen your lotus feet. When one makes the piëòa offering to the ancestors at a holy place, then that ancestor is delivered. But simply by seeing you, ten million ancestors are delivered from all forms of bondage in a single moment. Therefore no holy place is your equal, and you are the primary source of auspiciousness for even the holy places. Please lift me up from the ocean of material suffering; I offer this body up to your service. The only gift I ask for is that you should give me the nectar of Krishna’s lotus feet to drink.” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.17.49-55)
Mahaprabhu was acting the role of an ordinary mortal, a pilgrim who had come to Gaya to offer the çräddha oblations. On the day that he had performed these rituals, he returned to his room and began to cook. When Isvara Puri came and placed his holy feet in Mahaprabhu’s room, Mahaprabhu with great satisfaction personally served him the rice and vegetables that he had himself cooked. In so doing, Mahaprabhu demonstrated most perfectly how to serve the guru.
ISVARA PURI IN NABADWIP
Isvara Puri had met Mahaprabhu in Nabadwip even prior to giving him the ten-syllable mantra in Gaya. He had also met with Advaita Acharya, who had play-acted the role of a disciple with Madhavendra Puri. This has been described by Vrindavan Das Thakur in the Chaitanya Bhagavata. In the days when Nimai was engaged in his pastimes as a student in Nabadwip, one day Isvara Puri suddenly saw him and was impressed and attracted by his bodily beauty. Nimai invited Isvara Puri to his house to eat and had his mother Sachi cook and serve him Krishna prasad. Then he and Isvara Puri engaged in a discussion about Krishna. At that time, Isvara Puri was staying for a few months at Gopinath Acharya’s house. When he saw the renunciation of Gadadhara Pandit, he was pleased and started to affectionately give him lessons from Çré-Kåñëa-lélämåta, a book of his own composition. Nimai would also come daily to visit Isvara Puri while he was teaching Gadadhara and offer him his obeisances. One day, Isvara Puripada asked Nimai to correct any mistakes that were in his book. Nimai answered:
“Anyone who finds any fault with a devotee’s description of Krishna is a sinner. If a devotee writes a poem, no matter how poorly he does it, it will certainly contain his love for Krishna. A fool says viñëäya while a scholar knows the correct form is visnaya, but Krishna accepts the sentiment in either case. If anyone sees a fault in this, the fault is his, for Krishna is pleased with anything the pure devotee says. You too describe the Lord with words of love, so what arrogant person would dare criticize anything that you have written?” (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.11.105-110)
The same incident is described in the Bhakti-ratnäkara in the following way:
Look here, this is the house of Gopinath Acharya where Vishvambhara would visit from time to time. Isvara Puri stayed here for a while and composed his book Sri-Krsna-lilamrita. He had great affection for Gadadhara Pandit and when he saw the symptoms of love for Krishna in him, he taught him that book. (Bhakti-ratnakara 12.2205-7)
When Nityananda Prabhu was traveling in the west of India, he accidentally met Madhavendra Puri. When the two met, they fainted. Nityananda was overcome by love and started to describe Madhavendra Puri’s glories and Madhavendra Puri himself embraced Nityananda and wet him with his tears. Isvara Puripada understood that Nityananda was extremely dear to his spiritual master and so, like his guru’s other disciples, held him in great affection and felt a deep love for him.
All glories to Madhava Puri, the ocean of love for Krishna! He was the first shoot of the desire tree of devotion. That first shoot was nourished and grew in the form of Isvara Puri and from him the thick trunk of Chaitanya lila took shape. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.9.10-11)
Before he left this world, Isvara Puri sent two of his disciples, Kashisvara and Govinda, to serve Mahaprabhu. Even though these two were Mahaprabhu’s godbrothers, he nevertheless obeyed the order of his spiritual master and accepted them as his servants.