Devananda Pandit’s Glories
Sri Devananda Pandit used to live at Kuliya. He was a famous reciter of the Srimad Bhagavatam and many people used to study the Bhagavatam under his guidance. One afternoon, Srivasa Pandita came to hear Devananda Pandit’s recitation of the Bhagavatam. Hundreds of students were seated around the Pandit and some were following his reading in their own personal copies of the manuscript.
Srivasa Pandita was a very advanced devotee and thus, when the sweet nectar of the Bhagavatam entered his ears, his heart became softened in the love of God. He started to cry and roll on the ground, his body had become agitated by the waves of ecstatic love. When the students of Devananda saw this, they thought, “This fellow must be crazy. He is disturbing our hearing of the recitation. Get him out of here.” Thus they picked him up and carried him outside. Though Devananda saw all this taking place, he didn’t prevent those foolish students of his from committing this offense. As the guru was ignorant, so his students were sinful.
Srivasa said nothing but simply went to his house feeling very sad. All of this occurred before the appearance of Sri Gaurasundara.
During Mahaprabhu’s exhibition of His divine position as the Supreme Personality of Godhead for twenty-one hours, He asked Srivasa if he remembered this incident. One day, when Mahaprabhu was taking a stroll around Nadiyanagara, he came to Mahesvara Visarada Pandit’s house. At that time Devananda resided there. Mahaprabhu heard him reciting the Srimad Bhagavatam from outside and became very angry.
“What purport will that rascal explain? Not in any of his births has he understood the meaning of even one verse of the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Bhagavatam is the avatara of Sri Krsna in book form. Devotion is the only subject it teaches. The four Vedas are like yogurt and the Bhagavatam is like butter. Srila Sukadeva Gosvami did the churning and Maharaja Pariksit ate that butter. Sukadeva Gosvami is very dear to Me. He knows very well that the Srimad Bhagavatam is meant to describe the truth about Me according to My own liking. Whoever sees any difference between Me, My own devotees, and the Srimad Bhagavatam simply brings destruction upon himself.” [C.B. Mad 21.13]
Mahaprabhu made these statements in a voice loud enough for Devananda to hear. Then He turned to go back to His home. The devotees following Him begged for more mercy. He continued, “All the scriptures state that the Srimad Bhagavatam enunciates the highest realization. Without having understood any of this, simply for the sake of name and fame as a religionist and a scholar, he poses himself as a teacher of this great book. But he doesn’t know the purport.
“Only one who has understood that the Srimad Bhagavatam is verily the inconceivable intelligence of the Supreme Lord Himself knows that the only meaning of the Bhagavatam is devotion. In order to understand the book Bhagavata, one has to serve the devotee-Bhagavata.”
Devananda could hear all of these remarks from the distance, yet he thought nothing of it. After some time Gaurasundara accepted sannyasa and went to live at Nilacala. It was then that Devananda, at last, began to feel some remorse. “Such a great soul, totally imbued with the love of God, but I never went even once to have his association.” One day Srila Vakresvara Pandita came to Kuliya to visit the house of one devotee there. In the evening he held a festival of dancing and chanting the Holy Name. Devananda was present on this occasion and was completely stunned by Sri Vakresvara’s effulgence and ecstatic chanting and dancing. As the night progressed more and more, people came to listen to his kirtan until there was finally a huge crowd. Devananda took a cane and began to control the crowd so that Vakresvara’s dancing wouldn’t be disturbed.
When Vakresvara fainted in ecstatic love, Devananda carefully put his head on his lap and brushed the dust from his body with his own upper cloth. Then he smeared that dust on his own body. That day his service to the devotees had its auspicious beginning.
After some days, Mahaprabhu returned to Bengal to see his mother and the holy Ganges. He also came to Kuliya. At that time thousands upon thousands of people came to have darsana of His lotus feet. All of those who had previously committed offenses against Nimai Pandita by thinking Him to be an ordinary human being now came to seek His forgiveness; Mahaprabhu forgave each and every one of them. Among those present was Devananda, who fell down on the ground to offer his obeisances to Mahaprabhu. From that moment he became one of the Lord’s foremost devotees.
Still, he felt a little hesitant, and thus upon getting up, he stood to one side. Mahaprabhu addressed him, “Because you have served My dear devotee Vakresvara, I am now pleased with you. By that service, you have now been able to approach Me. Within Vakresvara’s person is Sri Krsna’s complete potency. Whoever serves him must receive Krsna’s mercy.”
Devananda, in a faltering voice, replied, “You are the Supreme controller. Simply for the sake of reclaiming fallen souls, You have advented Yourself here at Nadiya. I am a sinful wretch and have never served Your lotus feet and thus was cheated of Your causeless mercy for so many years. Oh my Lord, Who resides within the heart of all living entities, You are Supremely merciful.
Only because You have shown Yourself to me have I been able to see You. O most compassionate One, please instruct me. Let me know the actual purport of the Srimad Bhagavatam.”
Mahaprabhu replied, “Now hear Me, O brahmana, and know that the only way to explain the verses of the Bhagavatam is in terms of bhakti. In the beginning, middle and end of the Srimad Bhagavatam there is only one teaching: devotion to Visnu, which is eternally perfect and which is never destroyed or diminished.”
“As Krsna’s various incarnations such as Matsya and Kurma appear and disappear in this world by Their sweet will, in the same way, the Srimad Bhagavatam is not made or composed by any person. It makes its appearance and disappearance by its own sweet will. Due to the appearance of devotion, the Bhagavatam blossomed forth from Vyasadeva’s mouth, at the mercy of Sri Krsna.
“As the truths regarding the Supreme Authority are inconceivable, so are the truths of Srimad Bhagavatam. Many may pretend to know its meaning but they have no real grasp of the evidence the Bhagavatam presents. But whoever simply remembers the Srimad Bhagavatam while admitting himself to be ignorant can understand the real meaning.
“The Bhagavata, which is saturated with loving devotion for Krsna, is an expansion of Krsna Himself and contains descriptions of His most confidential pastimes.” [C.B. Ant. 3.505-516]
“Now you should beg forgiveness by catching hold of Srivasa Pandit’s feet. The book Bhagavata and the devotee Bhagavata are not different. If the devotee Bhagavata is merciful to us, then the book Bhagavata manifests its true meaning.”
Then Devananda fell at Srivasa Pandita’s feet and begged forgiveness. Srivasa embraced him and his offense retreated far away. All the devotees shouted in ecstasy, “Hari bol! Hari bol!”
His disappearance is on the 11th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Pausa.