Teachings From the Life of Devānanda Paṇḍita
[December 31, 2021 is the disappearance day of Sri Devānanda Paṇḍita in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is the bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja for the same tithi, on different occasions*. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets from Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata and other sources to facilitate the proper flow of content.]
DEVĀNANDA PAṆḌITA’S OFFENSE
Devānanda Paṇḍita possessed all good qualities. He exemplified proper etiquette, was peaceful and sustained himself only on haviṣyānna (rice boiled with some vegetables and lentils without any spices or turmeric). He was an erudite scholar and knew Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to be the essence of all scriptures. He served Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam by reading, hearing and speaking from it. He wouldn’t read any other scripture.
Once, before Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu manifested His nature as a devotee, Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita had become overwhelmed with ecstatic emotions [weeping and rolling on the ground] while hearing Devānanda Paṇḍita’s recital of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. The disciples of Devānanda Paṇḍita, unable to understand Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita’s exalted position, considered it as a nuisance and consequently threw him out of the assembly. Devānanda Paṇḍita raised no objection to the misbehaviour of his disciples. This constituted a vaiṣṇava-aparādha on behalf of Devānanda Paṇḍita, although he was not directly involved in committing an offense.
lokān āśiṣa eva ca
hanti śreyāṁsi sarvāṇi
[My dear King, when a man persecutes great souls, all his benedictions of longevity, beauty, fame, religion, blessings and promotion to higher planets will be destroyed.]
[In due course of time, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu came to Kuliyā. While Mahāprabhu was passing by the house of Devānanda Paṇḍita, He heard the recital of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and commented, “What does this fellow know about the true meaning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam? Even in many lifetimes he will not know. One who finds a difference between Myself and My servants will find all his good intelligence destroyed. An irreligious person who rejects bhakti and finds some other meaning in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam will never understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.”]
Later when Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu saw Devānanda Paṇḍita, Mahāprabhu chastised him saying, “‘A voracious eater feels some relief and satisfaction upon passing some stool after a heavy meal. But any one hearing your delivery of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam won’t even feel that much satisfaction. You are an offender of the Vaiṣṇavas.”
Because of his offence to Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita, Devānanda Paṇḍita could not develop love of God, [or have faith in Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu] despite his continued commitment to serving Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
THE FORTUNE OF PERFORMING VAIṢṆAVA SEVĀ
After some time, by some good fortune, Devānanda Paṇḍita got an opportunity to nicely serve Vakreśvara Paṇḍita, an intimate associate of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who was always absorbed in relishing devotional mellows with Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Because of this affectionate service to Vakreśvara Paṇḍita, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, during His next visit showed His favour to Devānanda Paṇḍita, “You are the servant of My dear devotee Vakreśvara Paṇḍita. By serving him you have greatly pleased Me.” [Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu instructed him never to let any other explanation of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam other than unalloyed devotion to Śrī Kṛṣṇa issue from his mouth. He also told him to beg forgiveness for his offence from Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita.]
When one is proud, one will not get devotion unto Bhagavān. Only by serving Vaiṣṇavas, one’s adhikāra increases [and removes one’s pride]. All worldly knowledge is futile until one gets sādhu-saṅga. Bhakti manifests only by sādhu-saṅga and sādhu-sevā. It is only after Devānanda Paṇḍita got the association of Vakreśvara Paṇḍita and served him that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu bestowed His mercy upon him.
So save yourself from vaiṣṇava-aparādha by rendering vaiṣṇava-sevā. Devānanda Paṇḍita was conducting many pious activities like speaking on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, eating haviṣyānna, etc. but these activities could not nullify his vaiṣṇava-aparādha. Only when he served Vakreśvara Paṇḍita, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu showed His favour [by instructing him to beg forgiveness from Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita and thus nullify his offence.] This is the teaching Mahāprabhu wanted to give through this pastime.
REASON FOR LACK OF TASTE FOR THE HOLY NAME
In the second śloka of Śrī Śikṣāṣṭaka, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu says, ‘O! Lord, You are so merciful that you have manifested so many names. And to chant those names, You have not even kept any restrictions. However, it is my greatest misfortune that I have not developed any taste for the chanting of Your holy names.’ The reason for not having taste for the holy name is vaiṣṇava-aparādha. If one commits vaiṣṇava-aparādha, then taste for chanting the holy name will not arise.
bahu janma kare yadi śravaṇa, kīrtana
tabu ta' nā pāya kṛṣṇa-pade prema-dhana
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 8.16)
[If one is infested with the ten offenses in the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, despite his endeavor to chant the holy name for many births, he will not get the love of Godhead that is the ultimate goal of this chanting.]
Even if one engages in hearing and chanting for millions of years, he may not achieve love of God. And if so, what is the reason behind it?
tabe jāni, aparādha tāhāte pracura kṛṣṇa-nāma-bīja tāhe nā kare aṅkura
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 8.30)
[It is evident that because of his offenses in chanting, the seed of the holy name of Kṛṣṇa does not sprout.]
yadi vaiṣṇava-aparādha uṭhe hātī mātā
upāḍe vā chiṇḍe, tāra śukhi' yāya pātā
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya, 19.156)
["If the devotee commits an offense at the feet of a Vaiṣṇava while cultivating the creeper of devotional service in the material world, his offense is compared to a mad elephant that uproots the creeper and breaks it. In this way the leaves of the creeper are dried up.]
We keep saying, “I have no taste in chanting the holy name. Earlier I used to chant nicely. But now I don’t find such absorption in chanting.” There is only one reason for this - vaiṣṇava-aparādha.
Because of committing offences, the heart becomes hard like a stone. If a seed is kept on a stone, will it sprout and turn into a tree? No. Similarly, if one is committing offences, no matter how much harināma one may claim to be chanting - “I chant three hundred thousand holy names, two hundred thousand or one hundred thousand” - there is no benefit in chanting like this. There is no benefit in sowing a seed on a barren land.
TEACHINGS FROM DEVĀNANDA PAṆḌITA’S PASTIME
Actually, Devānanda Paṇḍita is a nitya pariṣada (eternal associate) of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. But only to give us these teachings, he has enacted such pastimes. From Devānanda Paṇḍita’s pastime, we get to learn that no matter how many material qualities one may be adorned with, it does not guarantee development of bhakti. Initially, Devānanda Paṇḍita served the grantha-bhāgavata but not bhakta-bhāgavata. [Thus he had no attraction for Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu] But when Devānanda Paṇḍita served Vakreśvara Paṇḍita, Lord Caitanya became pleased with him and revealed to him the path of devotion to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. By service to Vaiṣṇavas, the Lord becomes pleased and grants bhakti. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave this teaching, “Please never commit an offence to Vaiṣṇavas. Your offence has been nullified by serving Vakreśvara Paṇḍita.”
The nagna-mātrikā-nyāya states that ‘If one's mother was naked in public in her childhood (and she is not doing that now), no one gives importance to that or puts her to shame or remembers that incident.’ Similarly now that Devānanda Paṇḍita had been blessed by Mahāprabhu as a result of his service unto Vakreśvara Paṇḍita, it is irrelevant that he had previously offended Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita.
That is why [to impart this teaching] my parama-gurudeva, Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura has included his name among the Vaiṣṇavas to be remembered in the Navadvīpa Pañjikā.
In Vaiṣṇava-vandanā (6) it is said –
haiyāchena haibena prabhura jata dāsa
sabāra caraṇa vando dante kari’ ghāsa
[Holding a straw between my teeth, I submit at the feet of all the servants of Mahāprabhu that were or will be.]
I pray for the mercy of Vaiṣṇavas such as Śrī Devānanda Paṇḍita. Only by their mercy, we can be saved from committing vaiṣṇava-aparādha.
* This lecture includes hari-kathā given on the same tithi on January 8, 2013; December 18, 2014; January 5, 2016; and December 24, 2016.