|Chapter 27: Lord Caitanya and Rāmānanda Rāya|
Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Teachings of Lord Caitanya
When Lord Caitanya visited this temple, He praised the Deity and quoted a verse from Śrīdhara Svāmī's commentary on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.9.1):
ugro 'py anugra evāyaḿ
"Although Lord Nṛsiḿha is very severe to demons and nondevotees, He is very kind to His submissive devotees like Prahlāda." Lord Nṛsiḿha appeared as a half-man, half-lion incarnation of Kṛṣṇa when Prahlāda, a boy devotee of the Lord, was harassed by his demoniac father Hiraṇyakaśipu. Just as a lion is very ferocious to other animals but very kind and submissive to his cubs, so Lord Nṛsiḿha appeared ferocious to Hiraṇyakaśipu and very kind to His devotee Prahlāda.
After visiting the temple of Jiyara-nṛsiḿha, the Lord proceeded further south into India and ultimately reached the bank of the Godāvarī. While on the bank of this river, the Lord remembered the Yamunā River in Vṛndāvana, and He considered the trees on the bank to be the forest of Vṛndāvana. Thus He was in ecstasy there. After taking a bath on the banks of the Godāvarī, the Lord sat near the bank and began chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. While sitting and chanting, the Lord saw that the governor of the province, Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya, had reached the banks of the river accompanied by his associates, which included many brāhmaṇas. Previously the Lord had been asked by Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya to visit the great devotee Rāmānanda Rāya at Kabur. The Lord could understand that the man approaching the river bank was Rāmānanda Rāya, and He desired to see him immediately. However, because He was in the renounced order of life, He restrained Himself from going to see a political personage. Being a great devotee, Rāmānanda Rāya was attracted by the features of Lord Caitanya, who appeared as a sannyāsī, and he himself came to see the Lord. Upon reaching Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Rāmānanda Rāya prostrated himself and offered his obeisances and respects. Lord Caitanya received him by vibrating Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma Hare Hare.
When Rāmānanda Rāya presented his credentials, Lord Caitanya embraced him, and both of them were overwhelmed with ecstasy. The brāhmaṇas who accompanied Rāmānanda Rāya were surprised to see them embracing in transcendental ecstasy. The brāhmaṇas were all stalwart followers of the rituals, and they could not understand the meaning of such devotional symptoms. Indeed, they were rather surprised to see such a great sannyāsī touch a śūdra, and they were also surprised to see Rāmānanda Rāya, who was a great governor and practically king of that province, crying simply by touching a sannyāsī. Lord Caitanya understood the brāhmaṇas' thoughts, and, considering the unfavorable situation, He pacified Himself.
After this, Lord Caitanya and Rāmānanda Rāya sat down together. "Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya has spoken very highly of you," Lord Caitanya informed him. "So I have come to see you."
"Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya considers me to be one of his devotees," Rāmānanda Rāya replied. "Therefore he has kindly recommended that You see me."
Rāmānanda Rāya very much appreciated the Lord's touching a man of wealth. A king, governor or any politician is always absorbed in thoughts of political affairs and pounds-shilling-pence; therefore such persons are avoided by sannyāsīs. Lord Caitanya, however, knew Rāmānanda Rāya to be a great devotee, and therefore He did not hesitate to touch and embrace him. Rāmānanda Rāya was surprised by Lord Caitanya's behavior, and he cited a verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.8.4): "The great personalities and sages appear in the homes of worldly men just to show them mercy."
Lord Caitanya's special treatment of Rāmānanda Rāya indicated that although Rāmānanda Rāya was born in a nonbrahminical family, he was far, far advanced in spiritual knowledge and activity. Therefore he was more respectable than one who simply happens to be born in a brahminical family. Although Rāmānanda, out of his meek and gentle behavior, considered himself to be born in a lower śūdra family, Lord Caitanya nonetheless considered him to be situated in the highest transcendental stage of devotion. Devotees never advertise themselves as great, but the Lord is very anxious to advertise the glory of His devotees. After meeting for the first time that morning on the banks of the Godāvarī, Rāmānanda Rāya and Lord Caitanya separated with the understanding that Rāmānanda Rāya would come in the evening to see the Lord.
That evening, after the Lord had taken His bath and seated Himself, Rāmānanda Rāya came to see Him with a servant. He offered his respects and sat down before the Lord. Before Rāmānanda Rāya could even ask the Lord a question about the advancement of spiritual knowledge, the Lord Himself said, "Please quote some verses from scripture about the ultimate goal of human life."
Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya at once replied: "A person who is sincere in his occupational duty will gradually develop a sense of God consciousness." He also quoted a verse from Viṣṇu Purāṇa (3.8.9) which states that the Supreme Lord is worshiped by one's occupational duty and that there is no alternative for satisfying Him. The purport is that human life is meant for understanding one's relationship with the Supreme Lord, and by acting in that way any human being can dovetail himself in the service of the Lord by discharging his prescribed duties. For this purpose human society is divided into four classes: the intellectuals (brāhmaṇas), the administrators (kṣatriyas), the merchants (vaiśyas), and the laborers (śūdras). For each class there are prescribed rules and regulations as well as occupational functions. The prescribed duties and qualities of the four classes are described in Bhagavad-gītā (18.41-44). A society which is civilized and organized should follow the prescribed rules and regulations for the particular classes. At the same time, for spiritual advancement, the four stages of āśrama must also be followed: namely, student life (brahmacarya), householder (gṛhastha), retired (vānaprastha) and the renounced life (sannyāsa).
Rāmānanda Rāya stated that those who strictly follow the rules and regulations of these eight social divisions can actually satisfy the Supreme Lord, and one who does not follow them certainly spoils his human form of life and glides toward hell. One can peacefully execute the goal of human life simply by following the rules and regulations which apply to one's self. The character of a particular person develops by following the regulative principles in accordance with one's birth, association and education. The divisions of society are so designed that many people of different character can be regulated under them for the peaceful administration of society and for spiritual advancement as well. The social classes can be further characterized as follows: (1) He whose aim is to understand the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, and devote himself to the learning of the Vedas and similar literatures is called a brāhmaṇa. (2) He who has taken to displaying force and entering government administration is called a kṣatriya. (3) He who is engaged in agriculture, herding cows and carrying out a trade or business is called a vaiśya. (4) He who has no special knowledge but is satisfied by serving the other three classes is called a śūdra. If one faithfully discharges his prescribed duties, he is sure to advance toward perfection. Thus regulated life is the source of perfection for everyone. When regulated life culminates in devotional service to the Lord, one attains his perfection. Otherwise such regulations are simply a useless waste of time.
After hearing Rāmānanda Rāya expound upon the proper execution of a regulated life, Lord Caitanya said that such regulations are simply external. Indirectly He asked Rāmānanda to expound on something superior to such an external exhibition. Formal execution of rituals and religion is useless unless it culminates in the perfection of devotional service. Lord Viṣṇu is not satisfied simply by a ritualistic adherence to Vedic instructions; He is actually pleased when one attains the stage of devotional service.
According to the verse cited by Rāmānanda Rāya, one can rise to the point of devotional service by ritualistic performance. In Bhagavad-gītā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who appeared to deliver all classes of people, states that a human being can attain the highest perfectional stage of life by worshiping the Supreme Lord, from whom everything has emanated, through his occupational duty.
sve sve karmaṇy abhirataḥ
saḿsiddhiḿ labhate naraḥ
yathā vindati tac chṛṇu
yataḥ pravṛttir bhūtānāḿ
yena sarvam idaḿ tatam
svakarmaṇā tam abhyarcya
siddhiḿ vindati mānavaḥ
"By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done. By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, man can, in the performance of his own duty, attain perfection." (Bg. 18.45-46) This perfectional process is followed by great devotees like Bodhāyana, Ṭańka, Dramiḍa, Guhadeva, Kapardi and Bhāruci. All these great personalities have followed this particular path of perfection. The Vedic injunctions also aim in this direction. Rāmānanda Rāya wanted to present these facts before the Lord, but apparently discharge of ritualistic duties wasn't sufficient, for Lord Caitanya said that it was external. Lord Caitanya was pointing out that if a man has a material conception of life, he cannot attain the highest perfection even if he follows all the ritualistic regulations.
Copyright © The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, Founder Ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness