by Nitai dasa
Sridhama Mayapur is the home of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In this abode, apparently located in the district of Nadia, West Bengal, the Supreme Personality of Godhead wonderfully appeared almost five hundred years ago. He appeared in the form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the most merciful incarnation of the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna. Generally the Supreme Personality of Godhead is invisible to the eyes of ordinary people, who are lacking in spiritual knowledge. Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita (7.25), naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavrtah: “I am not manifest before all people, for I am covered by My yoga-maya, or spiritual energy.” In Mayapur, however, He drew back the curtain of His maya and revealed Himself, with His associates and His wonderful activities, before the eyes of all. For this reason, Sri Mayapur is a dear place for those sincerely trying to follow the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And that place is dear to Him also.
One might ask, since the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the owner and controller of everything, why should He choose one spot as particularly dear? The answer is that He is like a rich man, who may control a thousand acres of land but still be the most fond of the two or three acres where his house is located and his family lives. In this way, although Krishna, the Supreme Lord, is the proprietor of all the planets within this universe and all the spiritual planets beyond, certain places are especially dear to Him. Within this universe, He has chosen certain places for performing His transcendental pastimes. Such places, like Kuruksetra, Jagannatha Puri, Vrndavana and Sridhama Mayapur, have thus become famous because of the Lord’s activities.
The chief doctrine taught by the Vedas—and strongly underlined by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu—is that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the one non-dual Absolute Truth, and anything connected with Him is the same non-dual Truth. The Lord and His name, the Lord and His fame, the Lord and His qualities, activities and paraphernalia are all one and the same. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is never tinged by material qualities, and so anything associated with Him is also spiritual. The abodes in which the Supreme Lord has carried out His activities are therefore spiritual and pure. And although they appear within the material world, in fact they are transcendental, beyond the material creation.
Since these abodes are absolute, one cannot distinguish between them to assign more importance to one than to another. Nevertheless, because Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has appeared in this Age of Kali, the Age of Quarrel, specifically to give the religious principles for this age—and, indeed, to give love of Godhead as it has never been given before—His abode, Mayapur, is considered the highest of all the abodes of the Supreme Lord. Although all the abodes, being absolute, are one and the same, still there are distinctions among them. That is the inconceivable nature of spiritual truth, which exists beyond the feeble minds of ordinary men. The truth about the Supreme Lord and His names, qualities, pastimes, paraphernalia and abode can be understood only by realization. And those devotees who have realized the highest level of perfect love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, have concluded that Mayapur is the highest abode.
Discovering the Original Site
During the last century, when Sridhama Mayapur was all but forgotten, the great spiritual master Thakura Bhaktivinoda vigorously sought to restore it to its true importance. To be near that holy spot, he several times requested, while serving as a Government magistrate, to be transferred to the town of Krishnanagara, which is near Sri Navadvipa (Mayapur). When all such requests were rejected, he was willing to resign so that he could live where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had appeared. When the Government officials saw his sincerity and intentness, however, they finally granted his request for a transfer. Thereafter, Thakura Bhaktivinoda spent every spare moment visiting Navadvipa, a town on the Western bank of the Bhagirathi, or Ganges.
To his surprise, Srila Bhaktivinoda found that the city then called Navadvipa was not more than a hundred years old and so could not have possibly been the same Navadvipa, or Mayapur, where Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu had appeared, although its residents tried to convince him that it was. Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda, therefore, tried to find the actual appearance site of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Some people insisted that the city of Navadvipa was indeed the site where the Lord had appeared, whereas others held that the actual site was now under the Ganges River.
In the midst of such different opinions, Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda ascertained the actual birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. By inquiring from the local people, he heard about a place northeast of Navadvipa, on land owned by Moslems, where there were seven large mounds covered with tulasi plants. It was shrouded with rumors, and it was uninhabited and uncultivated by the local Moslems, who, because of stories about strange lights and sounds, considered it haunted and never went there. That very spot, he learned, was also respected by a few perfect devotees as the actual appearance site of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Furthermore, two maps made by British pilots who had navigated the Ganges in the Eighteenth Century marked a town named Nadia on the eastern bank of the Bhagirathi, north of the Jalangi. That location corresponded to the one discovered by Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda.
Srila Bhaktivinoda then showed the site to Jagannatha dasa Babaji, the foremost devotee of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu at that time, who definitely confirmed that it was the site where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had appeared. Although Jagannatha dasa Babaji was incapacitated and had to be carried in a basket, when he reached that holy place and found it genuine, he immediately jumped up and began to dance, shedding tears of ecstatic love for Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The Mission Begins
Thakura Bhaktivinoda then began working to establish this holy place in its real glory. He started a campaign for funds throughout Bengal to establish a temple to Lord Caitanya and His consort, Visnu-priya. And by careful reference to the holy scriptures and transcendental realization, he located and marked all the different places of the Lord’s pastimes. Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda himself took up residence on the island of Godruma, just across the river from the appearance site of the Lord. There he constructed a house, called Sri Svananda-sukhada-kunja, and he seriously began widespread preaching of the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The mission of preaching and developing Sridhama Mayapur was later taken up by Srila Bhaktivinoda’s son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who spread Lord Caitanya’s teachings throughout India and who in the course of his preaching established sixty-four mathas, or centers. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta further developed Sridhama Mayapur by constructing a large temple at the site of Lord Caitanya’s appearance and establishing a matha where Candrasekhara, one of the Lord’s associates, used to have his house. Now His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the spiritual son of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, is spreading the message of Sri Caitanya all over the world, establishing temples in important cities, and further developing Sridhama Mayapur.
It is said that Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda, standing on the balcony of his house in Godruma years ago, looked across the River Jalangi toward the birthsite of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and predicted that one day there would be a shining city filled with devotees of Lord Caitanya from all over the world. If today one visits the house of Thakura Bhaktivinoda and goes to that balcony, he will see directly before him, fulfilling the prediction of Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda, the ISKCON Mayapur-candrodaya Mandira, ISKCON’s World Center at the Birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Explaining the name of ISKCON’s Mayapur center, Srila Prabhupada said that Mayapur-candra means Lord Caitanya, who is compared to the moon, and udaya means “the arising.” So Mayapur-candra means “the arising of Lord Caitanya” He further said that the moon rises in two ways—by coming above the horizon and by growing from the new moon to the full moon. ISKCON’s completed building in Mayapur, he said, is like the new moon, which gradually grows until full. When the ISKCON project in Mayapur is actually completed, the prediction of Thakura Bhaktivinoda will be totally fulfilled.
In his recent visit to Sridhama Mayapur, His Divine Grace further solidified the plans for the future city. He indicated the site for an enormous temple to be constructed, pointed out the main streets of the future city, showed where other roads should be constructed and where land should be bought, and encouraged the construction of a huge lake, surrounded by a park, with bathing places for the future residents. In this way, he gave many ideas for a city of pure devotion to the Lord Sri Krishna. As Mayapur-candrodaya develops, the entire world will be able to see the potency of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. From all over the world people will come to stay there, live peacefully and advance steadily in spiritual life. The only actual platform on which all the people of the world may stand united is one of pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord, and that is found only in the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Every other philosophy or solution, if examined carefully, will be found to fall short. The Mayapur-candrodaya Mandira, therefore, will be the shining example for all the nations of the world.
The discoverer of Sridhama Mayapur, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, has written in simple Bengali verse a book called Sri Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya (The Greatness of Sri Navadvipa-dhama). I am humbly submitting a translation of the first chapter in the hope that those who have taken to the Krishna consciousness movement and are making efforts to take shelter at the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu will be encouraged and inspired with enthusiasm to go to Sridhama Mayapur, either to visit or to stay and help this great program develop.
I humbly offer my respectful obeisances to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, by whose mercy I have been able to visit the holy abode of Sridhama Mayapur and whose mercy I am begging in order to describe the glories of that transcendental land. Srila Bhaktivinoda entitles his first chapter “The General Greatness of Sridhama Mayapur”
ALL GLORIES TO NAVADVIPA-CANDRA, the moon of Navadvipa, the son of Sri Sacidevi. All glories to Lord Nityananda, the wandering mendicant. All glories to Sri Advaita Prabhu, the greatest personality. All glories to Gadadhara and Srivasa Pandita. All glories to Navadvipa, the essence of all holy places. All glories to the residents of Navadvipa, who are associates of Lord Caitanya. At the feet of all the devotees, I offer my humble obeisances. I shall briefly describe Sri Navadvipa-dhama.
The glories of the circle of Navadvipa are unlimited. Even Brahma and the other demigods do not know them. Who, then, can describe these glories? If Lord Sesa Naga cannot describe them fully with one thousand mouths, how shall I, a tiny living entity, describe them? Although it is true that these glories are unlimited and that even the god of gods, Lord Siva, cannot reach their end, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s desire is very strong, and His devotees dispense their orders under the control of that desire. By the desire of Lord Caitanya, the devotees have given their command. Thus I shall describe the glories of Nadia by their mercy.
Intimate Pastimes Revealed
There is one very confidential topic of which I do not desire to speak but cannot refrain from speaking. Since the time when Lord Caitanya became unmanifest, the devotees have ordered that His pastimes be made manifest in His eternal abode. It is known throughout the material creation that my Lord Caitanya’s incarnation is more confidential than all others. His confidential pastimes, of which the scriptures speak in a confidential way, do not appear in the minds of nondevotees. Maya-devi (illusion) has for a long time covered and hidden all the confidential scriptures connected with these pastimes. And aside from the many such unmanifested scriptures, Maya-devi, by covering the eyes of the panditas, or learned scholars, always hides whatever topics appear concerning Lord Caitanya in the revealed scriptures also. Thus the deep pastimes of Lord Caitanya have become unmanifest. But Maya is very sincere in knowing the desire of the Lord, and she has taken away the deception from the eyes of the living entities. Thus the truths of Lord Caitanya are manifested in this material universe, and the hidden and confidential scriptures have very easily become manifest, dispelling the dilemmas of all the arguments of the living entities.
It is the most merciful Lord Nityananda who has manifested the truths of Lord Caitanya in the hearts of the living entities. By His order, Maya gives up her covering, and thus learned devotees can obtain that scriptural wealth. One whose doubt of this is undestroyed is a very unfortunate person. Why does he uselessly continue to live? When the Lord extends His mercy, all fortunate people become very happy. O people! Just see the symptoms of the unfortunate. They consider themselves intelligent, but do not accept the mercy of the Lord. Rather, by false arguments they fall into Maya’s pit again and again.
“O my dear Kali-yuga living being, please come here. Give up all of your crooked ways. Just take this pure love of Lord Gauranga.” Saying this, Lord Nityananda calls again and again. But these unfortunate people do not accept the invitation. Why don’t people respect such unalloyed love? Considering very diligently, just see how all living entities are making so many arrangements for happiness. Some argue, and some practice yoga within this material world. For happiness one gives up household life and goes to the woods. For happiness one king fights another. For happiness a man chases women and gold. For happiness one cultivates art and science. For happiness one gives up happiness and teaches misery. For happiness one flounders in the ocean and drowns.
Calling loudly and raising both His hands, Lord Nityananda says, “Come here, living entity. Give up your dilemmas of fruitive action and speculative knowledge. I shall give you the perfect activity for happiness, and in return I shall take nothing. There is no difficulty in this. There is no loss, and you will not be hurt in any way. Uttering the holy name, Gauranga, just dance without anxiety. There is no mistaking it. You will always feel pure joy.” In this way Lord Nityananda distributes love of God. But the unfortunate, because of their sinful activities, do not want it. Anyone who even once says “Gauranga-Nitai” puts an end to the results of unlimited sinful activities.
O people! Please hear one more confidential topic. The wealth of the pastimes of Lord Gauranga is just suitable for the living entity influenced by the Age of Kali. Lord Gaurahari, as Radha and Krishna, eternally enjoys His pastimes with the sakhis (cowherd girls). The living entities have long been able to understand the principle of those Vrndavana pastimes from the revealed scriptures. Certainly those eternal pastimes of Radha and Krishna are the glory of Sri Vrndavana. Indeed, those glories of Krishna’s name and Krishna’s abode, although unlimited, are made known to the entire world by means of the holy scriptures. Still, people generally do not obtain pure love for Krishna. Just consider within your heart, “What is the reason for this?” In this there is one confidential truth, which a living entity deluded by the material energy cannot consider. If one worships Krishna for many births and yet does not develop love of Godhead, there must be offenses in his worship. But if one becomes free from such offenses and chants the holy name of Krishna, without difficulty he obtains pure love for Krishna. Here is a great distinction between the incarnation of Lord Caitanya and that of Lord Krishna. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is so merciful that even in the existence of offenses, the living entity obtains from Him the wealth of pure love for Krishna. Any living entity who calls “Nitai-Caitanya” need not search; rather, pure love for Krishna flows from his eyes, and in a short time the offenses themselves flee, his heart becomes purified, and thus the pure love increases. The offenses of the living entities in the Age of Kali are unlimited and inevitable, and without the holy name of Gaura there is no deliverance from them. “Except for Lord Gauranga, we see no means of deliverance in the Age of Kali.” That is what the scriptures shout.
In Navadvipa, Lord Gauranga has appeared. Navadvipa is the greatest of all the holy places. In other holy places of pilgrimage, offenders are severely punished, but in Sridhama Navadvipa offenses are always cleansed away. The proof is found in the two brothers Jagai and Madhai. Despite having committed many offenses, they attained the shelter of the Lords Caitanya and Nitai. Just put aside talks of other holy places; even in Vrndavana offenders are punished. But in Navadvipa-dhama, even if one commits hundreds and hundreds of offenses, by the mercy of Lord Nityananda one can easily be delivered.
The Essence of All Abodes
Such is the glory of Navadvipa-dhama, which is in the circle of Gauda (West Bengal). “Most fortunate is that land,” say all the rsis, or sages. O brother! One who resides in the land of Navadvipa is greatly fortunate, for he obtains pure love for Krishna. Whosoever goes at any time to visit Navadvipa becomes freed from all offenses. Whatever a pilgrim obtains by wandering to all the holy places is obtained simply by remembering Sri Navadvipa. This all the scriptures sing. A person who simply sees Navadvipa gets the great fortune of love for Krishna birth after birth. Even one who practices karma– or buddhi–yoga never again takes birth if he goes to Navadvipa. If a person wanders in Navadvipa, at every step he obtains the result of ten million horse sacrifices. That too is stated in all the scriptures. if anyone resides there and chants his given mantra, that mantra becomes Lord Caitanya, and so he is easily delivered. What yogis obtain in other holy places after ten years of practice is obtained in Navadvipa by practicing for only three nights. The liberation obtained in other holy places by knowledge of Brahman is obtained simply by bathing in the Bhagirathi in Sridhama Navadvipa. The five types of liberation—achieving the same planet as the Lord, getting a form similar to that of the Lord, obtaining opulence equal to that of the Lord, getting direct association with the Lord, and merging into the Brahman effulgence—can be obtained in Navadvipa, even without one’s knowledge, by those who desire such liberation. Falling at the feet of the pure devotees in Sri Navadvipa, material enjoyment and liberation always remain their maidservants. The devotees, however, beat these two and try to drive them away. But still these maidservants do not give up the lotus feet of the devotees and run away. What one obtains, O brother, in the seven holy places after one hundred years is obtained in Sri Navadvipa by residing there a single night. That Navadvipa-dhama is the essence of all holy abodes. In the Kali-yuga the living entity can cross over the ocean of material life by taking shelter of Sri Navadvipa. The two fields of knowledge called taraka (crossing over the ocean of material existence) and paraka (obtaining the other side of that ocean) continuously serve the residents of Sri Navadvipa as a matter of ordinary course. Taking great pleasure, thus sings Bhaktivinoda, whose desire is the shade of the lotus feet of Lord Nityananda and His eternal consort, Jahnava-devi.
Thus ends the First Chapter of Sri Navadvipa-dhama-mahatyma, entitled “The General Glories of Sri Navadvipa.”
Nitai dasa, a graduate of Exeter Academy and the University of Colorado, is a personal secretary to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.