[The following is a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on January 1, 2017. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
There is no difference between the name, form and identity of Bhagavān. All three are fully conscious, blissful and eternal. However, to comprehend and experience this truth about the name, form and identity of Bhagavān is quite difficult.
'nāma', 'vigraha', 'svarūpa'--tina eka-rūpa
tine 'bheda' nāhi,--tina 'cid-ānanda-rūpa'
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya 17.131)
[The Lord's holy name, His form and His personality are all one and the same. There is no difference between them and because all of them are absolute, they are transcendentally blissful.]
JAGANNĀTHA CAN RIDE A HORSE & FIGHT IN A BATTLE
Everybody has come to Purī for darśana of Lord Jagannātha. They witness that His hands and feet are not manifest and that He doesn’t do anything on His own. His sevakas carry Him to the snāna vedī and bathe Him. They carry Jagannātha onto the chariot. This is what is seen.
However, Jagannātha also rides on a horse. Those who have been to the Garuḍa-stambha in the Jagannātha temple can see two personalities riding on a horse. Balarāma is on a black horse and Jagannātha is on a white horse. Yet, has anyone seen it from this perspective before? They merely see Jagannātha seated on His siṁhāsana. Does anyone actually believe that Jagannātha also simultaneously rides on a horse? To have such conviction is a matter of utmost fortune.
Puruṣottama Deva was the king of Purī. Yet, having committed some oversight in the service of Jagannātha, he decided to atone by remaining unmarried. Buddhanātha, the royal minister since three generations, explained to him, “Service to Lord Jagannātha is the responsibility of your dynasty. If you don’t marry then you will have to adopt a son, otherwise the service to Jagannātha will be interrupted”. The king’s mother, Sunayanī Devī, also urged him to get married. Up until then, the king had been fixed in his resolve, but eventually he conceded. All the earlier marriage proposals had been denied, but now the proposal of the princess of Kāñcī, which was a relatively small state, was received.
Shortly thereafter, the king of Kāñcī incidentally came to Purī and saw Puruṣottama Deva, the king of Purī, sweeping in front of Lord Jagannātha on the day of Ratha-yātrā [a special ceremony called chera pahara]. Seeing this, the king of Kāñcī was aghast. He resolved, “I do not wish to give my daughter in marriage to a sweeper!” When Puruṣottama Deva heard this, he felt offended that the king of a small state like Kāñcī had denied giving him his daughter’s hand in marriage and so he attacked Kāñcī. However, Gaṇeśa, the worshipable Deity of the King of Kāñcī had cast a spell so that the enemy’s vision was impaired during the battle, leading to victory for his devotee. Puruṣottama Deva was defeated and had to return to Purī.
Upon returning Puruṣottama Deva objected in front of Jagannātha – “Defeat of the Lord’s devotee is the same as the Lord’s defeat!” In reply, Jagannātha smiled and said, “Did you seek My permission before heading for battle?” Puruṣottama Deva considered, “Because I did not take Jagannātha’s permission, I was humiliated.” Then, after seeking Jagannātha’s permission, he again prepared for battle. However, unbeknownst to Puruṣottama Deva, Jagannātha had already left for the battle on a horse along with Balarāma.
On the way to Kāñcī, one cowherd lady named Mālatī was selling butter and curd. Now, there is a station there named Mālatīpatpura [other sources say her name was Maṇikā and the village was called Maṇikā-patana]. Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma ate some butter and curd from Mālatī and when she asked for money, They replied, “King Puruṣottama Deva will pay for it. We are the commanders of His Highness.” She said, “I don’t give credit. Is there anything You can keep with me as collateral?” Then Jagannātha gave her His ring (mudi) which Puruṣottama Deva had gifted Him.
When Puruṣottama Deva arrived at that place, Mālatī stopped him and said,
“I supplied butter and curd to your two commanders, who passed from here some time back. Please make the payment for the same.” Taken by surprise, Puruṣottama Deva said, “No commanders of our army have ventured ahead. Do you have any pramāṇa (evidence)?” She showed him the ring (mudi). Puruṣottama Deva recognized the ring he had gifted Lord Jagannātha and thus realised that the Lord had gone ahead. Jagannātha and Balarāma fought and won the battle for Puruṣottama Deva. In return, the black Deity of Gaṇeśa called Bhaṇḍa Gaṇeśa was brought from there and enshrined near the western gate of the Jagannātha temple. The Deities of Sākṣi-gopāla and Radhākanta were also brought from there along with the princess.
So Jagannātha also fights. He does everything. But do we see it like that? We simply go to the temple and see Jagannātha seated on His throne. But when the need arises, He even fights in battle.
After winning the battle and returning to Oḍishā, the king was adamant on literally marrying that princess to a sweeper to avenge his humiliation. However, neither Sunayanī Devī nor the minister Buddhanātha were in agreement with this. But knowing that the King wouldn’t change his mind and that he wouldn’t marry otherwise at such an advanced age, the minister hid the princess in a safe place and left. During the next Jagannātha Ratha-yātrā when the King began to sweep by sprinkling sandalwood water as was the custom, the minister advised the princess of Kāñcī to garland the king at that opportune moment. The king was greatly angered by this.
Then the intelligent minister said, “You had ordered me to look for a suitable sweeper. I went all over India but could not find one. I was absent for so long from all my ministerial duties, only to look for an apt sweeper, but I could not find any sweeper more qualified than you! What can I do?” [Puruṣottama Deva then happily accepted the argument and got married to the princess of Kāñcī.]
Therefore, the Deity engages in everything including fighting.
SĀKṢI-GOPĀLA CAN WALK, TALK AND EAT
Nāma-vigraha-svarūpa, the vigraha (deity) also talks like the svarūpa of the Lord. Sākṣi-gopāla not only walked to bear witness for the poor brāhmaṇa, He also requested that he be fed 1kg rice every day claiming, “I cannot walk on an empty stomach, so offer Me bhoga.” So the Deity talks and eats as well. Gopāla also said, “Don’t turn around to look back at Me”. The brāhmaṇa replied, “You are very clever. How will I recognize if You leave?” Gopāla said, “The sound of My ankle-bells will be the testimony to My presence.” In this way the Deity of Gopāla walked.
That young brāhmaṇa from Vidyānagar had served an elderly brāhmaṇa hailing from the same place, by assisting him during a pilgrimage. By the end of the pilgrimage, the elderly brāhmaṇa, overcome with gratitude, promised, “I will offer my daughter in marriage to you. Even my son does not serve me like this.” The young brāhmaṇa said, “Sir, you belong to a rich class and I am a poor brāhmaṇa, so why are you uttering such impossible words? You know that your relatives, son, and wife won’t agree to such a proposal. I wasn’t even aware that you have a daughter of a marriageable age, neither did I serve you with any such motivation. I served you only because Bhagavān becomes pleased when one serves the brāhmaṇas.” Then the young brāhmaṇa said, “However, if this is your resolve then make a pledge in front of this Deity of Gopāla. In case you go back on your words, then Gopāla will bear witness.” Because despite being aware, if one fails to offer testimony then one becomes implicated. By this principle, even the Deity would be denounced for having done so. Thus that very Deity of Gopāla later came and stood as witness.
Upon returning home, the elderly brāhmaṇa informed his relatives, wife and son, "I have promised one poor brāhmaṇa my daughter’s hand in marriage.” His wife said, “[It will be a shame for our family to marry our daughter into a family of a lower social status!] I will consume poison if you fulfil your promise.” The elderly brāhmaṇa was now in a predicament; he weighed the trade-off between protecting his dynasty and upholding his promise. He prayed to that very Gopāla in front of whom he had taken the oath, “O Gopāla! Only You can reconcile this situation. Kindly arrange my son, daughter and wife not to die, my relatives not to bar me from the society and yet, my promise also to be fulfilled. Only You can resolve this.”
Some time passed and the poor brāhmaṇa returned, “A year is about to pass, but you have not proceeded to fulfill your vow. What is on your mind?” The old brāhmaṇa went back on his word saying, "Due to the limitations of our dynasty; I can’t offer my daughter to you in marriage". Then, the son of the elderly brāhmaṇa threatened with a rod in his hand and the poor brāhmaṇa fled.
Then the poor brāhmaṇa called for a pancāyat (an elective village council comprising of five members acknowledged by its community as its governing body); he related the promise of the elderly brāhmaṇa and requested a verdict. The accused party, the son of the elderly brāhmaṇa protested, “Please, for everyone’s consideration, tell me if this poor man is worthy of marrying my sister?” Then the elders in the council replied, “If he were not worthy, why is he claiming so? There might certainly be some relevance to his claim.” Then the son of the elderly brāhmaṇa replied, “This is the real situation: My father was carrying a big sum of money on a pilgrimage. This poor brāhmaṇa fed my father dhaturā (an intoxicant), made him unconscious and stole all his wealth. Now he is falsely claiming that my father promised him my sister’s hand. Please consider this and tell me whether such a thing is possible in the society?”
Now there were two opinions: If the poor brāhmaṇa had indeed poisoned and stole the elder brāhmaṇa’s wealth, why would he return? [And if he hadn’t, then he might be speaking the truth.] Thus the council asked the poor brāhmaṇa, “Was anyone witness to the talk between you and the elderly brāhmaṇa?” The poor brāhmaṇa replied, “Yes. Gopālajī was the witness to our agreement.” Then the elderly brāhmaṇa’s son, who had previously threatened him with a rod said, “If Gopālajī comes as a witness then we would happily get this poor brāhmaṇa married to my sister.” Why did he say so? Because does the Deity ever walk or talk? He was convinced that the Deity firstly wouldn't come, what to speak of talk. The father thought, “Bhagavān is merciful. He will fulfil my desire.” Therefore he began to pray, “O Gopālajī, may my son not die and may my promise also be fulfilled.”
Eventually, Gopālajī came there on the poor brāhmaṇa’s request and bore witness. That Gopālajī later became famous as Sākṣi-gopāla, in other words, Gopāla who gave sākṣi (witness).
GOPĪNĀTHA CAN EVEN STEAL
In yet another pastime, the Lord in the form of Gopīnātha also stole for His devotee, Mādhavendra Purī.
vīryasya yaśasaḥ śriyaḥ
ṣaṇṇāṁ bhaga itīṅganā
(Viṣṇu Purāṇa 6.5.47)
The one who has these six opulences (full wealth, fame, beauty, knowledge, strength and renunciation) is called Bhagavān. Would someone with so much opulence steal? Due to this pastime, Gopīnātha became famous as Kṣīra-corā-gopīnātha.
Gopālajī from Vṛndāvana had told Mādhavendra Purī, ‘My body is burning. Please bring Me some sandalwood from Malaya Hills and apply it to My body. You must bring it yourself.” Upon receiving the order, without any consideration, Mādhavendra Purī left for the Malaya Hills. During his travels, wherever it turned dark, he would halt in a nearby temple or other shelter. He had ajagara-vṛttī (nature like a python, who lies in one place, never going here and there to earn a livelihood to maintain himself, and yet is maintained by the grace of the Lord). He would never ask for anything and even if anyone did offer him anything other that milk, he wouldn’t accept as he had vowed only to honour milk.
Mādhavendra Purī had already heard the glories of the kṣīra (a special sweet known as amṛta-keli) bhoga which is offered to Gopīnātha at Gopīnātha temple. Mādhavendra Purī thought to himself, “My Gopālajī has ten thousand cows. If I get to taste this special sweet, then I can offer it to my Gopālajī as well.” Instantly as this thought came, Mādhavendra Purī cursed himself, “Alas! I have become greedy therefore it is inappropriate for me to stay in the temple anymore.” Thus he left that place immediately and went to a nearby hāṭa (market place) and started chanting harināma there.
Here, in the dead of the night Gopīnātha woke up the pūjārī –
uṭhaha, pūjārī, kara dvāra vimocana
kṣīra eka rākhiyāchi sannyāsi-kāraṇa
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya, 4.127
[O priest, please get up and open the door of the temple. I have kept one pot of sweet rice for the sannyāsī Mādhavendra Purī.]
The Lord told the pūjārī that He had stolen the sweet rice for a sannyāsī named Mādhavendra Purī, and ordered the pūjārī to give it to him.
The pūjārī thought, “I had offered twelve pots of kṣīra, and I took away all the twelve pots, so how come it was left behind Gopīnātha’s dhoti?” The pūjārī opened the temple door and after lifting the cloth discovered that the kṣīra was there indeed.
kṣīra laha ei, yāra nāma ‘mādhava-purī’
tomā lāgi’ gopīnātha kṣīra kaila curi
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya, 4.133
[Holding the pot of sweet rice, the priest called, “Will he whose name is Mādhavendra Purī please come and take this pot! Gopīnātha has stolen this pot of sweet rice for you!]
The pūjārī immediately went to the hāṭa where Mādhavendra Purī was chanting harināma. The pūjārī handed over the sweet to Mādhavendra Purī and said, “I have grown old serving this Deity, however Gopīnātha never informed me if there was no salt in the vegetable preparation or no sugar in the sweet preparation. Even sometimes when the preparation was overcooked or burnt, the Lord never mentioned it. But for you, He spoke today. You are greatly fortunate.” Saying thus, the pūjārī offered obeisances to Mādhavendra Purī.
Ordinarily Mādhavendra Purī would not take anything but milk, but that day he broke his vow and honoured the kṣīra. Not only did he honour the kṣīra, he even broke the pot that contained the kṣīra into small pieces and bound them in his uttariyā. Over time, Mādhavendra Purī honoured even those small particles of the pot reverentially, considering, “This pot has personally been touched by the hands of Gopīnātha so how can I dispose of it?”
Is there are any difference between the Deity form and the personality of the Lord? No! The Lord who is the master of all opulences didn’t feel ashamed to steal for His devotee, in fact He felt proud to do it! Now that Gopīnātha Deity is famous as Kṣīra-corā. In fact the locals don’t even recognise the temple as the Gopīnātha temple, they call it the Kṣīra-corā temple.
In this way the Lord talks, walks, fights and even steals [for His devotees]. He does everything. There is no difference between His name, His form and His personality. But we require the proper vision to see Him. We can only experience the Lord when we hear the glories of the Lord’s name, form, qualities and pastimes from the lotus lips of His pure devotees. In this way, we can see and also understand how all three – His name, His form and His personality – are one.