Sri Ramananda Ray Prabhu
Today is the disappearance day of Sri Ramananda Ray. There are two exclusive general preachers and servitors of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: one is Sri Svarup Damodar, and the other one is Sri Ramananda Ray.
When Mahaprabhu was twenty-four years old, He took sannyas,
chhabbisa vatsara sese yei magha-masa
"At the end of His twenty-fourth year, in the month of Magha [January-February], during the fortnight of the waxing moon, the Lord accepted the renounced order of life, sannyasa."
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila, 1.16)
After taking sannyas, in the intoxicated mood of Krishna-prema, Mahaprabhu wanted to go to Vrindavan. Nityananda Prabhu, Mukunda and Chandrasekhara Acharya went with Him (in some books it is written that there were five devotees with Him, in some books three). Nityananda Prabhu managed to take Mahaprabhu to Radha-desh ("bhramite pavitra kaila saba radha-dese—Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu passed through the land known as Radha-desa purifying all its residents"; CC, 2.3.5), and after that to Advaita Acharya's house in Shantipur where He stayed for twelve days. There, in Advaita Acharya's bhavan, Sachi Mata and all Navadwip devotees joined Mahaprabhu, and from there, respecting and following the order of Sachi Mata, Mahaprabhu went to Puri.
Actually, Mahaprabhu can do whatever He wants, but externally, He showed some courtesy. We see that in the time of Sankar Acharya also, one would take sannyas with the permission of their mother otherwise they could not take it. When Sankar Acharya was eight years old, he wanted to take sannyas, but his mother did not want to give him permission, so he could not take it. He had to diplomatically create some illusion to have his mother give him the permission, then only he took sannyas. Mahaprabhu also showed that He had taken the permission of Sachi Mata. When He asked her, Sachi Mata was almost half-conscious, she said, "Do as You like." That was the situation.
Mahaprabhu's Cause of Advent
When Mahaprabhu went to Puri Dham, He spent first six years preaching. It was during that time that He met Ramananda Ray in Kovvur (West side of the Godavari River). We have been there many times. When Mahaprabhu came back from there, Svarup Damodar joined Him. Then, Mahaprabhu finished His preaching all over India and stayed in Gambhira, fulfilling His internal desire. Mahaprabhu's form is non-different from Radha and Krishna, and Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhu gives us a clear conception of the reason of Mahaprabhu's appearance. There are two causes.
The first (external) cause is yuga-avatar: preaching Harinam and Krishna consciousness (achintya bhedabeda siddhanta). Ramanuja Acharya preached visista advaita vad, Sankara Acharya preached advaita vad, Visnu Swami and some others preached dvaitadvaita vad, but Mahaprabhu did not preach any "vad"—He taught "achintya bhedabeda siddhanta." His teaching is that on the one hand the jiva soul and Bhagavan Krishna are non-different just as the sun and the sun ray are non-different, and on the other hand they are different because Krishna is complete and the jiva soul is tiny:
"When the upper point of a hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of such parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is the measurement of the dimension of the spirit soul."
(Svetosvara Upanisad, 5.9)
Mahaprabhu had so many advaita-vad and religious discourses with Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, Prakasananda Saraswati and many other scholars. After Mahaprabhu preached Krishna consciousness to them, they were converted and took up chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Mahaprabhu's preaching method was simple,
harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
"'In this Age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name of Lord Hari."
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, 1.17.21)
This is the conception that Mahaprabhu preached. He gave us eight slokas (cheto-darpana-marjanam bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapadam, etc.), and we also hear that He recited other two-three slokas (for example, dadhi-mathana-ninadais-tyakta-nidrah prabhate). Other than this, His preaching was simple.
Anyhow, when Mahaprabhu finished preaching all over India and stayed in Gambhira, He fulfilled His second cause of advent—He tasted Krishna-prema in the mood of Srimati Radharani. At that time, Ramananda Ray and Svarup Damodar were there with Him. They would sing and dance with Mahaprabhu deep at night, well after two o'clock—Svarup Damodar would sing and Ramananda Ray would always give good nourishment to Mahaprabhu...
Mahaprabhu meets Ramananda Ray
The place where Ramananda Ray met Mahaprabhu is the bank of the Godavari River in Kovvur. Prabhupad Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur sent Srila Guru Maharaj (Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj) there. Before that, Srila Guru Maharaj's name was Ramendrasundar Bhattacharya, and when Prabhupad Saraswati Thakur sent Srila Guru Maharaj to the Godavari, he gave him the name Ramananda Das. It is a very important place for the Gaudiya Vaishnavs. It was there, at the Godavari, where Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Ray's first discourse about Krishna took place. The western side of the Godavari is called Kovvur, and the eastern side is Rajamahendra. At that time, the area was under the control of the Oriya King Prataparudra, and Ramananda Ray's position in Rajamahendra was similar to that of a king.
Ramananda Ray came to bathe in the river every day accompanied by his entire royal suite—soldiers, guards, and so on. Before Mahaprabhu went to preach in South India, He had heard about Ramananda Ray from Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya said to Mahaprabhu, "Ramananda Ray is a very good Vaishnav. We used to always insult him for being a Vaishnav, but now I understand the position of a Vaishnav and he is worshippable for me. He was not born in a brahman family, but his position is the highest. If You meet him, You will feel a great joy in Your heart." Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya spoke to Mahaprabhu like this, but Ramananda Ray is an eternal servant of Mahaprabhu, so Mahaprabhu already knew everything. Hearing Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya's words that He would feel a great joy, Mahaprabhu went to the Godavari to meet with Ramananda Ray.
Their first meeting was very surprising—both embraced and both fainted; then, both came to their senses and both praised each other as if they were very old friends. That was their meeting. Mahaprabhu said to Ramananda Ray, "I have heard about you from Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, but now that I have met you I am very happy. Let us discuss Krishna conception now."
Ramananda Ray's Discourses
You know those discourses, the scriptures write about them widely. Krishna Das Kaviraj Goswami wrote about Ramananda Ray in his Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita in the 8th chapter of Madhya-lila. These discourses contain the entire conception that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave in this world, and even more than that. If you read it, you will understand it. Also, these discourses describe step-by-step how people enter Krishna consciousness and how they practise.
First stage is varnashrama dharma, then a devotee's life begin:
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu, is worshiped by the proper execution of prescribed duties in the system of varna and ashrama. There is no other way to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One must be situated in the institution of the four varnas and ashramas."
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila, 8.58)
Everything must be for the service of Lord Krishna and Krishna, in His different forms, takes this service from His servitors. Ultimately, Mahaprabhu, who is "Radha-Krishna militva tanu" (combined form of Radha and Krishna), could not hide Himself in front of Ramananda Ray. Ramananda Ray's last point is very nice—it is impossible to expose it within a few minutes now, but finally Ramananda Ray supported and described raga-marga (path of spontaneous loving devotion). Mahaprabhu was very, very happy and did not want to leave the association of Ramananda Ray. Also, Mahaprabhu showed Ramananda Ray His divine form as Radha-Krishna—having discussed so many things about Krishna consciousness, Mahaprabhu could no longer hide His divine form in front of Ramananda Ray...
Ramananda Ray's nature and Mahaprabhu's form
It is written in Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika that Ramananda Ray is Visakha Sakhi in Krishna-lila, and Svarup Damodar is Lalita Sakhi. Lalita Devi's nature is a little like that of a guardian and chief-controller of everyone. Visakha Devi is also like that, but in a very affectionate mood and more gentle than Lalita Devi. Lalita Devi sometimes chastises even Radha-Krishna, but Visakha Devi is not like that, she has a very sweet nature and is always humble. Ramananda Ray was like that. Such description of Ramananda Ray is given in Gaura-ganaddesa-dipika.
Mahaprabhu could not hide His divine form in front of Ramananda Ray, so when their discourse had almost finished, Ramananda Ray was very surprised to see the divine form of Mahaprabhu. He asked Mahaprabhu, "What is this, Prabhu?"
pahile dekhilun tomara sannyasi-svarupa
"Ramananda Raya then told Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, 'At first I saw You appear like a sannyasi, but now I am seeing You as Shyamasundara, the cowherd boy.'"
tomara sammukhe dekhi kanchana-panchalika
"'I now see You appearing like a golden doll, and Your entire body appears covered by a golden luster.'"
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila, 8.268-269)
"I see that You are Krishna covered by Radharani's heart and halo! What is this?!" At first, Mahaprabhu tried to hide Himself, saying, "You have so much love for Krishna, that is why you see Krishna's presence everywhere," but Ramananda Ray replied,
raya kahe, — prabhu tumi chada bhari-bhuri
"Ramananda Raya replied, 'My dear Lord, please give up all these serious talks. Please do not conceal Your real form from me.'"
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila, 8.278)
"Why are You cheating me, Prabhu? You have come to see me and show me Your divine form, but now You are hiding from me. Why?" Then Mahaprabhu showed His "'rasa-raja', 'mahabhava'—dui eka rupa" form to Ramananda Ray: He is Krishna, the emporium of all rasa (rasa-raj), and He is Radharani (mahabhav).
hladinira sara 'prema', prema-sara 'bhava'
"The essence of the hladini potency is love of God, the essence of love of God is emotion [bhava], and the ultimate development of emotion is mahabhava."
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Adi-lila, 4.68)
"Sri Radha Thakurani is the embodiment of mahabhava. She is the repository of all good qualities and the crest jewel among all the lovely consorts of Lord Krishna."
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Adi-lila, 8.69)
dekhi' ramananda haila anande murchchhite
"Upon seeing this form, Ramananda Ray lost consciousness in transcendental bliss. Unable to remain standing, he fell to the ground."
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila, 8.283)
That was the divine form and meeting with Ramananda Ray.
"You must come to Puri"
After their meeting, Mahaprabhu stayed in that area for a few days more, and, when leaving, ordered to Ramananda Ray, "I have come here for you, and our meeting is very happy and successful. It is My request to you: you must come to Puri. Leave all the visaya, all the material things, and come to Puri. You and I will stay there happily together." Ramananda accepted it very happily and said, "It is necessary to get a formal permission from Raja Prataparudra, but he will give it, I have no doubt. I will come as soon as I get it. Now you please go first, and I am coming later because there are so many soldiers and other people with me. I will come a little later..."
When Mahaprabhu came back from South India, He brought two books from there—Brahma-samhita (Brahma's prayers and glorification of Lord Krishna) and Krishna Karnamrita by Bilvamangal Thakur. Brahma-samhita is a very short book of only sixty-two verses. Mahaprabhu gave these two books to Ramananda Ray and Svarup Damodar and said to Ramananda Ray, "I have got these books in Kurmaksetra, and they contain all the discourses that happened between you and Me, all substance is there."
Mahaprabhu's later pastimes
When Mahaprabhu's preaching had almost finished, He went to Vrindavan. After Mahaprabhu's return from Vrindavan, Advaita Acharya expressed his whole heart,
baulake kahiha, — loka ha-ila baula
"Please inform Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is acting like a madman, that everyone here has become mad like Him. Inform Him also that in the marketplace rice is no longer in demand. Further tell Him that those now mad in ecstatic love are no longer interested in the material world. Also tell Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that one who has also become a madman in ecstatic love [Advaita Prabhu] has spoken these words."
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Antya-lila, 19.21-22)
When Mahaprabhu got this message, He entered Gambhira permanently, and for the next twelve years, it was dvadasabda-bahni-garbha-vipralambha-silanam: "He was deeply absorbed in union and separation." This is Guru Maharaj's expression from Prema Dhama Deva Stotram. During that time Ramananda Ray and Svarup Damodar were there with Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu would almost not sleep—He would go to rest after two o'clock at night, but He actually did not get any rest because He was always in Radharani's mood, intoxicated with Krishna-prema, always in separation from Krishna. He could not sleep—sometimes He would sleep a little and then He would go out,
tina dvare kapata, prabhu yayena bahire
"Although the three doors of the house were always closed, the Lord would nonetheless go out and sometimes would be found at the Jagannatha Temple, before the gate known as Simha-dvara. And sometimes the Lord would fall flat into the sea."
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya-lila, 2.8)
That was the situation of Mahaprabhu's pastimes at that time. Ramananda Ray arranged for a boy called Sankar who was always alert outside Mahaprabhu's door. Ramananda Ray ordered him, "You must sleep here, in Mahaprabhu's doorway. If Mahaprabhu comes outside, you must notice it and keep Him in His room." That was the situation in Gambhira...
Ramananda Ray's Final Service
Ramananda Ray was a very good administrator—not only a government administrator, but his transcendental administrative job was also very strong.
When Svarup Damodar heard that Mahaprabhu had disappeared—he had only heard about it, he had not seen Mahaprabhu disappear—he searched so many places, wherever it was possible to find Mahaprabhu, but he did not find him. It broke his heart and he also disappeared. However, Ramananda Ray was very strong and a very good administrator. He controlled the whole situation and the whole atmosphere after Mahaprabhu's disappearance and gave full nourishment to the devotees. Ramananda Ray stayed alive until finally, today, when everything had become peaceful and settled, he also disappeared...
A few of Mahaprabhu's devotees disappeared, and all the other devotees would get Mahaprabhu's association through some transcendental feelings. Mahaprabhu would always appear in four places: Sachi Mata's kitchen, the house of Srivas Pandit, where Nityananda danced, and the house of Raghav Pandit. In this way, so many devotees, no doubt, received nourishment from Mahaprabhu, and a few disappeared after hearing of Mahaprabhu's disappearance. Ramananda Ray stayed in Puri, Odisha, and managed everything. That was the external gift of Ramananda Ray's life, and internally, he gave much more. We can understand it from what happened when Mahaprabhu sent Pradyumna Mishra to hearing Krishna-katha from Ramananda Ray.
At first, Pradyumna Mishra was not so much attracted to Ramananda Ray's external form, but Mahaprabhu said to him again, "You have misunderstood Ramananda Ray. There is only one man, Ramananda Ray, who can taste this kind of service of Radha-Krishna's pastimes, and who can give it to others also. I have got whatever property I have from Ramananda Ray." When Mahaprabhu expressed His feelings to Pradyumna Mishra in such a way, Pradyumna Mishra went to Ramananda Ray again and this time he heard Hari-katha from him and was fully satisfied. This is the kind of character that Ramananda Ray has. Mahaprabhu said, "Only Ramananda Ray can do anything and everything, and it will all be for the service of Lord Krishna."
So, today is the disappearance day of Ramananda Ray. Svarup Damodar was heart-broken when he understood that Mahaprabhu had disappeared and he also disappeared—he could not stand it; but Ramananda Ray knew Mahaprabhu more clearly, there is no haziness (Mahaprabhu had shown His divine form to Ramananda Ray), so he stayed and gave nourishment to the devotee.
Svarup Damodar has a very high position, but Ramananda Ray did not take such position. Svarup Damodar was a sannyasi (he took sannyas from Chaitanya-ananda Saraswati), but he did not take a sannyasi name, that is why his title remained Svarup ('Svarup' is a brahmachari's title). There is a gradation among devotees—kutichak, bahudaka, hamsa, paramahamsa, and above paramahamsa is avadhut. Nityananda Prabhu is avadhut, and Ramananda Ray is of paramahamsa standard.
Ramananda Gaudiya Math
We have heard many things about Ramananda Ray. His father Bhavananda Ray had five sons. When Maharaj went for the Puri parikrama, he went to Ramananda Ray's appearance place, his village. I heard about that place from Dr. Shastri also, but I have not been there.
During the reign of King Prataparudra, many qualified Bengali person got government service in Odisha, under King Prataparudra's government—for example, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya and Vaninath, a brother of Ramananda Ray, were from Bengal.
We can see exclusive devotion to Mahaprabhu in very few devotees. Ramananda Ray and Svarup Damodar were established as the leaders among devotees. Prabhupad Saraswati Thakur sent Srila Guru Maharaj to Kovvur to discover the meeting place of Ramananda Ray and Mahaprabhu and he ordered him to make a Math there. Guru Maharaj made there Ramananda Gaudiya Math.
ghata chadi' kata-dure jala-sannidhane
"After bathing in the [Godavari] river, the Lord walked a little distance from the bathing place and engaged in chanting the holy name of Krishna."
hena-kale dolaya cadi' ramananda raya
"At that time, accompanied by the sounds of music, Ramananda Raya came there on a palanquin to take his bath."
(Sri Chaitanya-chaitamrita, Madhya-lila, 8.13-14
Guru Maharaj discovered that place and made there Ramananda Gaudiya Math. I have been there with Guru Maharaj. At that time, so many people of the city came there to see Guru Maharaj: they brought a big bowl of puspanna without sugar (it was first time I tasted puspanna without sugar). Guru Maharaj knew a little of Tamil and Telegu and he had some friends. I saw that circle of friends there, they are very good friends of Guru Maharaj.
So many things have happened...
Jay Om Vishnupad Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj ki
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