Śrī Īśvara Purī was born in the town of Kumara-hatta on the full moon day of the month of Jyaiṣṭha to a family of brāhmaṇas hailing from Rāḍha. Kumara-hatta is in the 24 Paragaṇās district about two miles west from the Hāliśahara train station. Some local people indicate his appearance place to be near the Kāli temple in Mukhopādhāyay Para of Kumara-hatta. Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita and his brothers moved here after Mahāprabhu took sannyāsa because they were unable to tolerate all the painful reminders of Him in Navadvīpa. The temple not far from Caitanya Ḍobā is indicated to be their residence.
Īśvara Purī’s birthplace is popularly known by the name “Caitanya Ḍobā.” The word ḍobā means “a pool of water.” When Caitanya Mahāprabhu passed through Kumara-hatta on His way to Purī, He showed respect for His spiritual master by picking up some earth from the place of his birth, wrapping it in His cloth and taking it with Him. Thousands of pilgrims have since followed His example, thus forming a pit that has since filled with water.
THE MERCY OF THE SPIRITUAL MASTER
Īśvara Purī is a sannyāsa name. His name prior to taking sannyāsa is unknown. His father’s name was Śyamāsundara Ācārya. Īśvara Purī took initiation from Mādhavendra Purī, the embodiment of nectarine devotional love. Mādhavendra Purī was pleased with Īśvara Purī’s guileless, sincere and loving service and thus showered him with blessings so that he too became immersed in the ocean of love for Kṛṣṇa. If a disciple can satisfy his spiritual master, then he will be fortunate and attain all auspiciousness and all his desires will be fulfilled. On the other hand, if the guru is unhappy with a disciple, then he will only know inauspiciousness. These teachings have been highlighted in the exemplary life of Mādhavendra Purī.
Rāmacandra Purī was another of Mādhavendra Purī’s initiated disciples, but because of his arrogance, he was bereft of his guru’s grace. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja has described the incident with great beauty in the Caitanya Caritāmṛta (3.8.16-30) as follows:
Previously, when Mādhavendra Purī was showing pastimes of sickness, Rāmacandra Purī came to see him. Mādhavendra Purī was singing the Names of the Lord and crying out, “I have not attained Mathura!” Rāmacandra then began to instruct him without compunction even though he was a disciple. 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 Brahman-nature?”
When Mādhavendra Purī heard this, he became angry and began to rebuke Rāmacandra, saying, “Get away, get away, you most sinful rascal! I am dying from the distress of not having received Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, of not having attained Mathura, and you come to add to my misery! Go wherever you like, but don’t show your face to me again! If I see you while I am dying, I will take a lower birth. I am dying from the distress of not having attained Kṛṣṇa and this lowly fool is teaching me about Brahman.”
As a result, Mādhavendra Purī withdrew his blessings from his disciple who thenceforth started to develop material desires. He became a dry philosopher without any interest in Kṛṣṇa. Not only that but he became critical of everyone and devoted himself to faultfinding.
Īśvara Purī, on the other hand, served his guru, even personally cleaning his urine and faeces. He continuously repeated the Name of Kṛṣṇa and recounted Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Mādhavendra Purī was so pleased with Īśvara Purī that he embraced and blessed him, saying, “May you have the treasure of love for Kṛṣṇa!”
From that time onward, Īśvara Purī became an ocean of love for Kṛṣṇa, while Rāmacandra Purī became a mine of insults. These two personalities thus bear witness to the results of pleasing or displeasing a great soul. Mādhavendra Purī taught this truth through them.
In this connection, Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Prabhupāda has written in his Anubhāṣya, “Even though Rāmacandra Purī saw his own guru suffering of separation from Kṛṣṇa, 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 mundane, the result of some material insufficiency. As a result, he tried to explain to him the value of experiencing the oneness of Brahman. Mādhavendra Purī reacted to his disciple’s stupidity and disregard for his instructions and thus stopped wishing for his welfare. He abandoned him and drove him away.”
MAHĀPRABHU TAKES INITIATION FROM ĪŚVARA PURĪ
Mahāprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and has no need of any teacher. Even so, He wishes to teach that it is absolutely necessary to take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master. For this reason, He played the role of a disciple taking initiation from Īśvara Purī when He met him at Gaya. This in itself shows beyond a doubt Īśvara Purī’s greatness and importance.
Then the Lord went to Gaya where He met Īśvara Purī. 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 divine love. (Caitanya Caritāmṛta 1.17.8-9)
When they met, Mahāprabhu and Īśvara Purī were overcome by the ecstasy of love and drenched each other in the tears of prema that fell from their eyes. The Lord said, “My pilgrimage to Gaya is successful, for today I have seen your lotus feet. When one makes the piṇḍa (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 give Me the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet to drink.” (Caitanya Bhāgavata 1.17.49-55)
Mahāprabhu was acting the role of an ordinary mortal, a pilgrim who had come to Gaya to offer the śrāddha oblations for His deceased father. On the day that He had performed these rituals, He returned to His room and began to cook. When Īśvara Purī came and placed his holy feet in Mahāprabhu’s room, Mahāprabhu personally served him the rice and vegetables that He Himself had cooked with great satisfaction. In so doing, Mahāprabhu demonstrated most perfectly how to serve the guru.
ĪŚVARA PURĪ IN NAVADVĪPA
Īśvara Purī had met Mahāprabhu in Navadvīpa even prior to giving him the ten-syllable mantra in Gaya. He had also met with Advaita Ācārya, who had similarly played the role of Mādhavendra Purī’s disciple. Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura has described this meeting in the Caitanya Bhāgavata.
Once Īśvara Purī passed through Navadvīpa when Nimāi was still engaged in His pastimes as a student. He stayed there for a few months in the house of Gopīnātha Ācārya as his guest. One day he saw Nimāi and was most impressed and attracted by His bodily beauty. Nimāi invited Īśvara Purī to His house to eat and had His Mother Śacī cook and serve him kṛṣṇa-prasāda. Then He and Īśvara Purī began talking about Kṛṣṇa.
Īśvara Purī also met Gadādhara Paṇḍita and was pleased when he saw the depth of his renunciation and pure love for Kṛṣṇa. He started to affectionately give him lessons from Śrī-Kṛṣṇa-līlāmṛta, a book of his own composition. Nimāi would also come daily to visit Īśvara Purī while he was teaching Gadādhara and offer him obeisances. One day, Īśvara Purīpāda asked Nimāi to correct any mistakes that were in his book. Nimāi answered:
“Anyone who finds any fault with a devotee’s description of Kṛṣṇa is a sinner. If a devotee writes a poem, no matter how poorly he does it, it will certainly contain his love for Kṛṣṇa. A fool says viṣṇāya (grammatically incorrect form of addressing Viṣṇu) while a scholar knows the correct form is viṣṇave, but Kṛṣṇa accepts the sentiment in either case. If anyone sees a fault in this, the fault is his, for Kṛṣṇa 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?” (Caitanya Bhāgavata 1.11.105-110)
The same incident is described in the Bhakti-ratnākara (12.2205-7) in the following way: Look here, this is the house of Gopīnātha Ācārya where Viśvambhara would visit from time to time. Īśvara Purī stayed here for a while and composed his book Śri-Kṛṣṇa-līlāmṛta. He had great affection for Gadādhara Paṇḍita and when he saw the symptoms of love for Kṛṣṇa in him, he taught him that book.
When Nityānanda Prabhu was travelling in the west of India, he incidentally met Mādhavendra Purī. When the two met, they fainted. Nityānanda Prabhu was overcome by love and started to describe Mādhavendra Purī’s glories and Mādhavendra Purī himself embraced Nityānanda Prabhu and wet him with his tears. Īśvara Purīpāda understood that Nityānanda Prabhu 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 Mādhava Purī, the ocean of love for Kṛṣṇa! He was the first shoot of the desire tree of devotion. That first shoot was nourished and grew in the form of Īśvara Purī and from him the thick trunk of Caitanya-līlā took shape. (Caitanya Caritāmṛta 1.9.10-11)
Before he left this world, Īśvara Purī sent two of his disciples, Kāśīśvara and Govinda, to serve Mahāprabhu. Even though they were His godbrothers, Mahāprabhu still obeyed the order of His spiritual master and accepted them as His servants.
Excerpt from “Sri Chaitanya: His Life and Associates” by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharaj
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