[September 29, 2023 is Viśvarūpa Mahotsava in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of a discourse by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on September 4, 2009 and September 9, 2014. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is a special day. It is the final day of our Kolkata Maṭha’s month-long festival as well as Viśvarūpa's sannyāsa day. From external vision, Viśvarūpa performed his appearance pastimes in this world accepting Jagannātha Miśra and Śacī-devī as his parents and as the elder brother of Śrī Caitanya-deva. Ontologically, he is Baladeva-tattva. When Nityānanda Prabhu, who is also Baladeva-tattva, made His appearance, Viśvarūpa left this world feeling there was no necessity for His role any more. After accepting sannyāsa, he proceeded on tīrtha darśana and once he reached Paṇḍharpura, there he merged in the Deity form of Viṭhṭhala.
He possessed a very beautiful, pleasing personality; his speech was very sweet and he attracted everyone’s heart. He exhibited the pastime of becoming a student of Advaita Ācārya and capturing his heart. During that period the people of the world were apathetic to hari-bhajana and more inclined towards atheism, therefore, Advaita Ācārya had difficulty finding anyone willing to discuss topics [concerning the Lord]. Devotees would feel immensely despondent [observing the sad state of affairs] and would pray and call out to the Lord. Advaita Ācārya would discuss spiritual matters with Viśvarūpa, despite the fact that he was his student. Advaita Ācārya took a vow (saṅkalpa) that he would make the Lord descend to propagate hari-bhakti for the eternal welfare of this world, and thus he began to worship the Supreme Lord with water and tulasī leaves. During that time, young Viśvarūpa would visit him for studies.
DVAITA NOT ADVAITA
When Viśvarūpa took sannyāsa and left home, Nimāi was still a child. Śacī-mātā thought that Advaita Ācārya was not ‘Advaita’ instead he was ‘Dvaita’ because he had another mood [inside], considering, ‘As a result of teaching my son renunciation, Viśvarūpa has left and accepted sannyāsa. Instead of unifying people, he splits them apart.’ Therefore she stopped Nimāi’s education thinking that as an outcome of studying under Advaita Ācārya and understanding the material world to be temporary, Nimāi would also renounce this world. She thought, ‘There is no need to educate Nimāi, rather let Him remain at home like a fool.’ Nonetheless, Mahāprabhu is dharma-saṁsthāpaka, the establisher of religion, so He abided by the orders of His parents, but knew how to get His way [of resuming His education] by performing the pastime of sitting on a pile of used pots.
Eventually, Nimāi too accepted sannyāsa with an intention to spread hari-bhakti for the eternal welfare of the jīvas and to subdue the atheists. He resided in Jagannātha Purī on His mother's request.
From Purī, He went in search of Viśvarūpa. Upon reaching Paṇḍharpura He received the news that Viśvarūpa had taken sannyāsa and already left his body by merging into the Deity of Viṭhṭhala. However, His search for Viśvarūpa served only as a pretext for delivering the people of South India.
Today is Viśvarūpa’s sannyāsa day. Māyāvādīs observe the cāturmāsya-vrata for only two months and end their vrata today. The reason is that earlier there were no good modes of transport, roads, trains and so on. As a result, they would reside at one place for four months and complete their vow of cāturmāsya-vrata until the rainy season ended. Now that there are no such difficulties, considering four fortnights as four months, they complete their vows on this day. In any case, the real purpose of observing vows is to completely engage the mind in the service of the Lord.
Today is also the final day Parīkṣit Mahārāja heard the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam at the end of his life, after seven consecutive days of hearing from Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī, as per the latter’s instructions. The recitation began on the navamī day and ended on pūrṇimā-tithi. Nowadays the seven day recitation of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is organized everywhere, they have simply named this practice ‘Bhāgavata-saptāha’, but they do not follow the rules properly. The rules are to either begin on navamī and end on pūrṇamāsī or amāvasyā, facing northwards, free from sins, very humbly just as Gokarṇa had performed for the deliverance Dhuṅdhukārī. As such, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam recitation is given rest (viśrāma) on this day on account of Viśvarūpa Mahotsava and we shave our heads. Those who are not following Śrī Caitanya-deva also shave their heads today because they conclude their cāturmāsya-vrata on this day. And for us, it is the middle of the cāturmāsya-vrata (exactly halfway), which begins from Śayana-ekādaśī.