The Bhaṭṭācārya is Converted
For the impersonalist and voidist philosophers, the next world is a world of senseless eternity and bliss. The voidist philosophers want to establish that ultimately everything is senseless, and the impersonalists want to establish that in the next world there is simply knowledge without any activities. Thus less intelligent salvationists try to carry imperfect knowledge into the sphere of perfect spiritual activity. Because the impersonalist experiences material activity as miserable, he wants to establish spiritual life without activity. He cannot understand the activities of devotional service. Indeed, spiritual activity in devotional service is unintelligible to the voidist philosophers and impersonalists. The Vaiṣṇava philosophers know perfectly well that the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, can never be impersonal or void, because He possesses innumerable potencies. Through His innumerable energies, He can present Himself in multiple forms and still remain the Absolute Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus despite expanding Himself in multiple forms and diffusing His innumerable energies, He can maintain His transcendental position.
Thus Lord Caitanya exposed many defects in the Māyāvāda philosophy, and although the Bhaṭṭācārya tried to establish himself by logic and word jugglery, Lord Caitanya was able to defend Himself from his attacks. The Lord established that the Vedic literature is meant for three things: understanding our relationship with the Absolute Supreme Personality of Godhead, acting according to that understanding and achieving the highest perfection of life, love of Godhead. Anyone who tries to prove that the Vedic literature aims at anything else must be a victim of his own imagination.
The Lord then quoted some verses from the Purāṇas by which He established that Śaṅkarācārya was ordered to teach Māyāvāda philosophy by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He quoted a verse from the Padma Purāṇa (Uttara-khaṇḍa 62.31) in which it is stated that the Lord ordered Mahādeva, Lord Śiva, to present some imaginary interpretation of the Vedic literature to divert people from the actual purpose of the Vedas. “In this way try to make them atheists,” the Lord said. “After that, they can be engaged in producing more population.” It is also stated in the Padma Purāṇa (Uttara-khaṇḍa 25.7) that Lord Śiva explained to his wife Pārvatī that in the Age of Kali he would come in the form of a brāhmaṇa to preach an imperfect interpretation of the Vedas known as Māyāvāda, which in actuality is but a second edition of atheistic Buddhist philosophy.
The Bhaṭṭācārya was overwhelmed by these explanations of Lord Caitanya. After hearing Māyāvāda philosophy explained by Lord Caitanya, he could not speak. After he had remained silent for some time, Lord Caitanya said to him, “My dear Bhaṭṭācārya, don’t be astonished by this explanation. Please take it from Me that the devotional service of the Supreme Lord is the highest perfectional stage of human understanding. Indeed, it is so attractive that even those who are already liberated become devotees by the inconceivable potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” There are many such conversions in the Vedic literature. For instance, in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.7.10) the famous ātmārāma verse describes how impersonalist sages who are absorbed in self-realization and liberated from all material attachments become attracted to devotional service by the various activities of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Such are the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Actually, in pure consciousness the living entity understands himself as the eternal servant of the Supreme Lord. Under the spell of illusion, a person accepts the gross and subtle bodies as his self; such a conception is the basis of the doctrine of transference from spirit to matter. But the part and parcel of the Supreme is not eternally subjected to gross and subtle bodily life. The gross and subtle coverings do not comprise the living entity’s eternal form; they can be changed, or the living entity can be freed entirely from material existence. While the living entity is under the illusion that he is the body and mind, however, he has certainly transferred his position from spirit to matter. Māyāvādī philosophers, taking advantage of this doctrine of transference, say that the living entity is under the wrong impression when he thinks himself to be part and parcel of the Supreme. They maintain that the living entity is the Supreme Himself. This doctrine cannot be tenable.
The Bhaṭṭācārya then asked Lord Caitanya to explain the famous ātmārāma verse, for he desired to hear it from the Lord Himself. Lord Caitanya replied that first of all the Bhaṭṭācārya should explain the verse according to his own understanding, and then Lord Caitanya would explain it. The Bhaṭṭācārya then began to explain the ātmārāma śloka, using his methods of logic and grammar. Thus he explained the ātmārāma śloka in nine different ways. The Lord appreciated his erudite scholarship in explaining the verse and said, “My dear Bhaṭṭācārya, I know that you are a personal manifestation of the learned scholar Bṛhaspati and can explain any portion of the śāstras nicely. Yet your explanation is more or less based on academic education only. But there is another explanation besides the academic, scholarly one.”
Then, at the request of the Bhaṭṭācārya, Lord Caitanya explained the ātmārāma śloka. The words of the verse were analyzed thus: (1) ātmārāmāḥ, (2) ca, (3) munayaḥ, (4) nirgranthāḥ, (5) api, (6) urukrame, (7) kurvanti, (8) ahaitukīm, (9) bhaktim, (10) ittham-bhūta-guṇaḥ, (11) hariḥ. (This verse has already been explained in connection with the Lord’s teachings to Sanātana Gosvāmī.) Without mentioning the nine explanations of the Bhaṭṭācārya, Lord Caitanya explained the verse by analyzing these eleven words. In this way He expounded eighteen different explanations of the verse. In summary, He said that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of innumerable potencies; no one can estimate how many transcendental qualities He possesses. His qualities are always inconceivable, and all processes of self-realization inquire in a general way into the potencies and qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But the devotees of the Lord immediately accept the inconceivable position of the Lord. Lord Caitanya explained that even great liberated souls like the Kumāras and Śukadeva Gosvāmī were also attracted to the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord.
The Bhaṭṭācārya appreciated Lord Caitanya’s explanation, and he concluded that Lord Caitanya was none other than Kṛṣṇa Himself. The Bhaṭṭācārya then began to deprecate his own position, relating that he had at first considered Lord Caitanya to be an ordinary human being and therefore committed a great offense. He then fell down at the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya, deprecating himself, and requested the Lord to show His causeless mercy to him. Lord Caitanya appreciated the humility of this great scholar and therefore exhibited His own form, first with four hands, and then with six hands (ṣaḍ-bhuja). Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya then repeatedly fell down at the Lord’s lotus feet and composed various prayers to Him. He was undoubtedly a great scholar, and after receiving the causeless mercy of the Lord, he was empowered to explain the Lord’s activities in different ways. For instance, he was able to express the benefit of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
It is said that at this time Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya composed a hundred verses in appreciation of the Lord’s activities, and that those verses were so great that they could not be surpassed even by Bṛhaspati, the greatest learned scholar in the heavenly planets. The Lord was very much pleased to hear these hundred verses, and He embraced the Bhaṭṭācārya. The Bhaṭṭācārya became overwhelmed with ecstasy by the Lord’s touch, and he practically fell unconscious. He cried, trembled, shivered and perspired, and sometimes he danced and sang and fell at the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya. The Bhaṭṭācārya’s brother-in-law, Gopīnātha Ācārya, and the devotees of the Lord were surprised to see the Bhaṭṭācārya transformed into a great devotee.
Gopīnātha Ācārya then began to thank the Lord: “It is by Your grace only that the Bhaṭṭācārya has been transformed from his stonelike position into such a devotee.” Lord Caitanya replied to Gopīnātha Ācārya that it was due to a devotee’s favor that a stonelike man could be transformed into a mild, flowerlike devotee. Actually, Gopīnātha Ācārya had sincerely wished that his brother-in-law, the Bhaṭṭācārya, would become a devotee of the Lord. He had sincerely desired that the Lord favor the Bhaṭṭācārya, and he was glad to see that his desire had been fulfilled by Lord Caitanya. In other words, a devotee of the Lord is more merciful than the Lord Himself. When a devotee desires to show his mercy to a person, the Lord accepts him, and by the Lord’s grace he becomes a devotee.
Lord Caitanya pacified the Bhaṭṭācārya and asked him to go home. The Bhaṭṭācārya again began to praise the Lord and said, “You have descended to deliver all the fallen souls of this material world. That project is not so difficult for You. But You have turned a stonehearted man like me into a devotee, and that is very wonderful indeed. Although I was very expert at logical arguments and grammatical explanations of the Vedas, I was as hard as a lump of iron. But Your influence and temperature were so great that You could melt even a hard piece of iron like me.”
Lord Caitanya then returned to His place, and the Bhaṭṭācārya sent Gopīnātha Ācārya to Him with various kinds of prasādam from the Jagannātha temple. The next day the Lord went to the temple of Jagannātha early in the morning to attend maṅgala-ārati. The priests in the temple brought Him a garland from the Deity and also offered Him various kinds of prasādam. The Lord was very much pleased to receive them, and He at once went to the house of the Bhaṭṭācārya, taking the prasādam and flower garland to present to him. Although it was early in the morning, the Bhaṭṭācārya understood that the Lord had come and was knocking on his door. He at once rose from his bed and began to say, “Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!” This was heard by Lord Caitanya. When the Bhaṭṭācārya opened the door, he saw the Lord standing there, and he was very much pleased to see Him early in the morning. Receiving Him with all care, the Bhaṭṭācārya offered Him a nice seat, and both of them sat there. Lord Caitanya then offered him the prasādam He had received in the temple of Jagannātha, and the Bhaṭṭācārya was very glad to receive this prasādam from the hands of Lord Caitanya Himself. Indeed, without taking his bath and without performing his daily duties or even cleansing his teeth, he immediately began to eat the prasādam. In this way he was freed from all material contamination and attachment.
As the Bhaṭṭācārya began to eat the prasādam he recited a verse from the Padma Purāṇa. There it is stated that when prasādam is received it must be eaten immediately, even if it has become very dry or old, or even if it is brought from a distant place, or even if one has not completed executing his daily duties. Since it is enjoined in the śāstras that prasādam should immediately be taken, there is no restriction of time, place or atmosphere; the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead must be followed. There are restrictions one must follow before accepting food from various people, but there are no restrictions on accepting prasādam from all kinds of people. Prasādam is always transcendental and can be taken under any condition.
Lord Caitanya was very much pleased to see that the Bhaṭṭācārya, who had always obeyed the rules and regulations strictly, accepted prasādam without following any rules and regulations. Being so pleased, Lord Caitanya embraced the Bhaṭṭācārya, and they both began to dance in transcendental ecstasy. In that ecstasy Lord Caitanya exclaimed, “My mission in Jagannātha Purī is now fulfilled! I have converted a person like Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya. I shall now be able to attain Vaikuṇṭha without fail.”
The missionary goal of a devotee is to convert simply one person into a pure devotee. Then the devotee’s admission to the spiritual kingdom is guaranteed. The Lord was so much pleased with the Bhaṭṭācārya that He began to bless him repeatedly: “Dear Bhaṭṭācārya, now you are a completely pure devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa is now very much pleased with you. From today you are free from the contamination of this material body and the entanglement under the spell of the material energy. You are now fit to go back to Godhead, back home.” The Lord then cited a verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.7.42):
yeṣāṁ sa eṣa bhagavān dayayed anantaḥ
sarvātmanāśrita-pado yadi nirvyalīkam
te dustarām atitaranti ca deva-māyāṁ
naiṣāṁ mamāham iti dhīḥ śva-śṛgāla-bhakṣye
“Whoever takes complete shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord is favored by the Supreme Lord, who is known to be unlimited. Such a person also receives permission to cross the ocean of nescience. However, one who is under the misconception that his material body is himself cannot receive the causeless mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
After this incident, Lord Caitanya returned to His place, and the Bhaṭṭācārya became a pure and faultless devotee. Since he had formerly been a great academic scholar, the Bhaṭṭācārya could only have been converted by the causeless mercy of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. From that day forward the Bhaṭṭācārya never explained any Vedic literature without explaining devotional service. Gopīnātha Ācārya, his brother-in-law, was very much pleased to see the Bhaṭṭācārya’s condition, and he began to dance in ecstasy and vibrate the transcendental sound Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
The next day, after visiting the Jagannātha temple early in the morning, the Bhaṭṭācārya went to see Lord Caitanya, and he offered his respects by falling down before the Lord. He then began to explain his past undesirable behavior. When he asked the Lord to speak something about devotional service, the Lord began to elaborately explain the verse in the Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa beginning harer nāma harer nāma. While hearing this explanation, the Bhaṭṭācārya became more and more ecstatic. Seeing the condition of his brother-in-law, Gopīnātha Ācārya said, “My dear Bhaṭṭācārya, previously I had said that when one is favored by the Supreme Lord he will understand the techniques of devotional service. Today I am seeing this fulfilled.”
The Bhaṭṭācārya offered him his due respect and replied, “My dear Gopīnātha Ācārya, it is through your mercy that I have received the mercy of the Supreme Lord.” The mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead can be obtained by the mercy of a pure devotee. Lord Caitanya’s mercy was bestowed upon the Bhaṭṭācārya because of Gopīnātha Ācārya’s endeavor. “You are a great devotee of the Lord,” the Bhaṭṭācārya continued, “and I was simply blinded by my academic education. So it is only through your agency that I have obtained the mercy of the Lord.” Lord Caitanya was greatly pleased to hear the Bhaṭṭācārya say that a man can achieve the mercy of the Lord through the agency of a devotee. Lord Caitanya appreciated his words and embraced the Bhaṭṭācārya, confirming his statement.
The Lord then requested the Bhaṭṭācārya to go see Jagannātha in the temple, and the Bhaṭṭācārya started out for the temple accompanied by Jagadānanda and Dāmodara, two principal associates of Lord Caitanya. After seeing Jagannātha the Bhaṭṭācārya returned home, bringing with him much prasādam purchased from the temple. He sent all this prasādam to Lord Caitanya through his brāhmaṇa servant.
The Bhaṭṭācārya also dispatched two verses written on a palm-tree leaf and requested Jagadānanda to do him a favor by delivering them to the Lord. Thus Lord Caitanya was offered the prasādam and the verses on the palm leaf. But before reaching the Lord, Mukunda Datta, who had also undertaken the delivery of the verses, had copied the verses into his book. When Lord Caitanya read the verses on the palm leaf, He tore it to pieces, for He never liked to be praised by anyone. The verses only survive because they had been copied by Mukunda Datta.
The verses praised Lord Caitanya as the Supreme Original Personality of Godhead, declaring that He had descended as Lord Caitanya to preach to the people in general about detachment, transcendental knowledge and devotional service. Comparing Lord Caitanya to an ocean of mercy, the Bhaṭṭācārya wrote, “Let me surrender unto that Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. The Lord, seeing that devotional service was absent, descended in the form of Caitanya Mahāprabhu to preach devotional service. Let us all surrender unto His lotus feet and learn from Him what devotional service actually is.” These two important verses are considered the most valuable jewels by the devotees of the Lord in disciplic succession, and by virtue of these famous verses Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya has become known as the highest of devotees.
Thus Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya was converted into one of the most important devotees of the Lord, and he had no other interest than to serve the Lord. His only concern was to think of Lord Caitanya constantly, and this meditation and chanting became the main purpose of his life.
One day Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya came before the Lord, offered his respects and began to recite one of Lord Brahmā’s prayers from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.8). The Bhaṭṭācārya recited as follows:
tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo
bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam
hṛd-vāg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jīveta yo bhakti-pade sa dāya-bhāk
In reciting the verse the Bhaṭṭācārya changed the original word mukti (liberation) to bhakti (devotional service) in the last line. The meaning of the original verse is “A person who devotes his mind, body and speech to the service of the Lord, even though in the midst of a miserable life caused by his past misdeeds, is assured of liberation.”
“Why have you changed the original verse?” the Lord asked the Bhaṭṭācārya. “The word is mukti, and you have changed it to bhakti.” The Bhaṭṭācārya replied that mukti is not as valuable as bhakti and that mukti is actually a sort of punishment for the pure devotee. For this reason he changed the word mukti to bhakti. The Bhaṭṭācārya then began to explain his realization of bhakti. “Anyone who does not accept the transcendental Personality of Godhead and His transcendental form cannot know the Absolute Truth. One who does not understand the transcendental nature of the body of Kṛṣṇa becomes His enemy and decries Him or fights with Him. The destination of such enemies is to merge into the Lord’s Brahman effulgence. Such mukti, or liberation, is never desired by the Lord’s devotees. There are five kinds of liberation: (1) gaining admission to the planet where the Lord resides, (2) being able to associate with the Lord, (3) attaining a transcendental body like the Lord’s, (4) attaining opulence like the Lord’s and (5) merging into the existence of the Lord. A devotee has no particular interest in any of these types of liberation. He is satisfied simply by being engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. A devotee is especially averse to merging into the existence of the Lord and losing his individual identity. Indeed, a devotee considers oneness with the Lord to be worse than hell. But he will accept one of the four other kinds of liberation if it enables him to be engaged in the service of the Lord. Out of the two possibilities of merging in transcendence – namely, becoming one with the impersonal Brahman effulgence and becoming one with the Personality of Godhead – the latter is more abominable to the devotee. The devotee has no aspiration other than engaging in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.”
On hearing this, Lord Caitanya informed the Bhaṭṭācārya that there is another meaning to the word mukti-pade. The word mukti-pade directly indicates the Personality of Godhead. The Personality of Godhead has innumerable liberated souls engaged in His transcendental loving service, and He is the ultimate resort of liberation. In either case, Kṛṣṇa is the ultimate shelter.
“Despite this reading,” Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya replied, “I prefer bhakti-pade to mukti-pade. Although according to You there are two meanings to the word mukti-pade, still, because this word is ambiguous, I prefer bhakti-pade to mukti-pade because when one hears the word mukti he immediately thinks of becoming one with the Supreme. I therefore even hate to utter the word mukti. But I am very enthusiastic to speak of bhakti.”
At this, Lord Caitanya laughed very loudly and embraced the Bhaṭṭācārya with great love.
Thus the Bhaṭṭācārya, who had taken pleasure in explaining Māyāvāda philosophy, became such a staunch devotee that he hated even to utter the word mukti. This is possible only by the causeless mercy of Lord Śrī Caitanya. The Lord is like a touchstone, for by His grace He can turn iron into gold. After the Bhaṭṭācārya’s conversion, everyone marked a great change in him, and they concluded that this change was made possible only by the inconceivable power of Lord Caitanya. Thus they took it for granted that Lord Caitanya was none other than Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself.