Chapter Eleven of Sri Jaiva-dharma
Published in Sri Gaudiya Darsan,
Volume 3, Issue 6,
Saturday, 11 January 1958.
On the western bank of the Ganges is the village of Kuliya Pahadapur. This well-known village is situated in Koladwip within Sri Nabadwip. In the time of Sriman Mahaprabhu, Sri Madhava Das Chattopadhyaya, who was also known as Chhakudi Chattopadhyaya Mahasay, was honoured and prominent there. Chhakudi Chatta’s son was Srila Vamsivadanananda Thakur. By the grace of Sriman Mahaprabhu, Sri Vamsivadanananda became highly influential. Everyone considered him an Avatar of Sri Krishna’s flute and would call him Prabhu Vamsivadanananda. He became renowned as a recipient of the special grace of Mother Sri Visnu Priya. After the disappearance of Sri Priyaji, Vamsi Prabhu moved the service of her Deity from Sri Mayapur to Kuliya Pahadapur. When the descendants of Vamsi Prabhu received the mercy of Mother Sri Jahnavi Thakurani and took shelter at Sripat Baghanapada, the service of the Deity remained in the hands of the servitors residing in Malancha within the village of Kuliya.
The village of Kuliya was on the bank opposite the ancient town of Nabadwip. Chinadanga and a few other well-known places were amongst the numerous neighbourhoods in the village of Kuliya. A devotee merchant from Chinadanga once organised a spiritual festival at the Temple of Sriman Mahaprabhu in Kuliya Pahadapur. Numerous brahman scholars and all the Vaisnavas from the thirty-two mile area of Nabadwip were invited to the festival.
On the day of the festival, Vaisnavas came from all directions. Sri Ananta Das and others from Sri Nrsimha Palli, Gorachad Das Babaji and others from Sri Mayapur, Sri Narayan Das Babaji and others from Sri Bilvapuskarani, the well-known Narahari Das and others from Sri Modadruma, Sri Paramahamsa Das Babaji, Sri Vaisnava Das, and others from Sri Godruma, and Sri Sachi Nandan Das and others from Sri Samudragad began to arrive. They were all radiant with tilak on their foreheads, strands of tulasi beads around their necks, and the Names of Sri Gaura and Nityananda marked all over their bodies. They had Sri Hari-nam malas in their hands, and some of them were loudly chanting the mahamantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.” Some approached playing the kartals and chanting: “Sankirtana majhe nache Gora vinodiya: delightful Gora dances amidst the sankirtan.” Some arrived dancing and chanting: “Sri Krishna Chaitanya Prabhu Nityananda Sri Advaita Gadadhara Srivasadi Gaura-bhakta-vrnda.” Many had streams of tears in their eyes, and the hair on many of their bodies stood on end. Some fervently cried out, “O youthful Gaura! When will Your eternal Pastimes in Nabadwip appear before my eyes!” Some of the Vaisnavas arrived playing the mrdanga and chanting the Name. Seeing the deep mood of the Vaisnavas, the Gaura-nagaris residing in Kuliya were astonished.
Arriving in this way, the Vaisnavas assembled in the Temple in front of the Deity of Sriman Mahaprabhu. The merchant organiser, with a cloth around his neck, fell at the feet of the Vaisnavas, repeatedly supplicated them, and made gestures of deep humility. When the Vaisnavas had sat down in the Temple, the servitors of the Deity brought over prasadi garlands and placed the garlands around the necks of the Vaisnavas. Then, a kirtan of auspicious songs about Sri Chaitanya arose, and upon hearing the nectarean Pastimes of Sri Chaitanya, the Vaisnavas experienced various types of divine ecstasy.
Just as everyone became immersed in the joy of divine love, the gateman came in and informed the Temple authority, “The head mullah of the Satsaika district has arrived with his party and is seated in the outer courtyard. He wishes to converse with some Vaisnava scholars.” The Temple authority informed the Babaji scholars of this. Upon being informed, the Vaisnavas felt a sort of sadness as a result of this interruption in rasa. Krishnadas Babaji Mahasay of Sri Madhyadwip asked, “What is the intention of the mullah sahib?” The Temple authority came to know from the mullah sahib his intention and then reported, “The mullah sahib wishes to discuss spiritual subject matters with some Vaisnava scholars.” The Temple authority went on, “The mullah sahib is the foremost scholar within the Muslim community, is fully dedicated to propagating his dharma, and does not oppress other dharmas. He is highly respected by the emperor in Delhi. He has requested that a few Vaisnava scholars please come out and discuss scripture with him so that the pure Vaisnava dharma may be defeated.”
Hearing of this opportunity to propound the Vaisnava dharma produced the desire to converse with the mullah sahib within the minds of a few of the Vaisnavas. After conversing amongst one another, it was decided that Sri Gorachad Das Pandit Babaji of Sri Mayapur, Sri Vaisnava Das Pandit Babaji of Sri Godruma, Sri Prema Das Babaji of Jahnu Nagar, and Sri Kali Pavana Das Babaji of Champa Hatta would converse with the mullah and all the other Vaisnavas would join them once the kirtan was completed. Chanting, “Jay Nityananda!”, the four mentioned babajis went to the outer courtyard with the Temple authority.
The outer courtyard was idyllic, pleasant in the shade of a banyan tree. Seeing the Vaisnavas arrive, the mullah and his party respectfully received them. Knowing every soul to be a servant of Krishna, the Vaisnavas offered obeisance to the Lord situated within the heart of the mullah and sat down on a separate asan.
It was an extraordinarily beautiful sight. On one side sat nearly fifty white-bearded, finely dressed Muslim scholars, and behind them were tied finely decorated horses. On the other side four Vaisnavas adorned with divine vision sat humbly, and behind them, numerous Hindus gradually arrived and sat down with great interest.
Pandit Gorachad spoke first, “O noble men, why have you summoned such insignificant souls as us?”
The mullah Badaruddin Sahib politely said, “Please accept our salutations. We have come here to ask you a few questions.”
Pandit Gorachad said, “We will answer your scholarly questions according to what we understand.”
Badaruddin Sahib came forward and said, “Brothers! The worship of gods and goddesses has been going on within Hindu society for a long time. We see in the Holy Koran that Allah is one and indeed not two. He is formless. To make and worship a deity (pratima) of Him is offensive. Being sceptical of this, I have asked many brahman scholars about it, and they have told me, “It is true Allah is formless, but because we cannot conceive of a formless being, we have to meditate on and worship Allah in an imaginary form.” We are not satisfied with this answer. Why? An imaginary (kalpita) form of Allah is a creation of Satan. It is known as an idol (byut, demon, material entity), and worship of an idol is absolutely forbidden. Let alone pleasing Allah, by worshipping an idol one becomes fit to be punished by Him. We have heard that your original founder, Chaitanyadev, rectified Hindu dharma. Still, His teachings prescribe the worship of idols. We want to know from the Vaisnavas why, even after engaging in so much study of the scriptures, you have not given up idol worship?”
Hearing the mullah’s question, the scholarly Vaisnavas laughed within their minds but outwardly said, “O Pandit Babaji Mahasay, please give a proper answer to this question.” Accepting this order, Pandit Gorachad began to speak.
“Whom you call Allah we call Bhagavan. The Supreme Lord is one being. In the Koran, in the Puranas, in various lands, and in various languages, He is referred to by various names. The conclusive understanding is that the name which expresses all the qualities of the Supreme Lord should be specially adored. It is for this reason that we specially adore the name Bhagavan rather than ‘Allah’, ‘Brahma’, ‘Paramatma’, and other names. Allah is the being than whom there is nothing greater. We cannot say, however, that the quality of being extremely great is the Lord’s ultimate quality. The quality which produces the greatest wonder should be adored above all. If we consider the Lord’s extreme greatness, we feel one type of wonder, but in His opposite quality of being extremely small, there is another type of wonder. Therefore, the name of Allah does not evoke the culmination of all wonder. In the name Bhagavan, all types of wonder that exist in human conception are united together.
“Total magnificence (aisvarya), that is, being both the extreme of greatness and the extreme of smallness, is the first quality of Bhagavan. Omnipotence is His second quality. What is impossible according to the human intellect is dependent on His inconceivable power, and by His inconceivable power, He is simultaneously with and without form. If you say He cannot have a form, then you deny His inconceivable power. By virtue of His power, in the midst of His devotees, He possesses an eternal playful form. Allah, or Brahma, or Paramatma, when considered formless, are devoid of this special wonderful quality.
“Bhagavan is always benevolent and glorious. Therefore, His Pastimes are nectarean. Bhagavan is beautiful. All souls see Him with their supramundane eyes as the most beautiful person. Bhagavan is completely conscious, that is, He is a pure, spiritual being beyond matter. His spiritual form is His Deity form, and this form is beyond all idols. Although Bhagavan is the doer of everything, He is independent and untainted. Bhagavan is characterised by these six characteristics.
Bhagavan has two manifestations, that of magnificence and that of sweetness. His sweet manifestation is the dearest friend of the soul, the Lord of our heart, Krishna or Chaitanya. Calling worship of an imaginary form of Bhagavan idol worship is not contrary to our teachings. Worship of His eternal form (which is completely spiritual) is Vaisnava dharma. Therefore, there is no idol worship in the teachings of the Vaisnavas. It is not that worship of the Lord’s eternal form is forbidden just because in some book idol worship is forbidden. Everything depends on the faith (nistha) in the heart of the person engaged in worship. People are able to worship the pure form of the Lord to the extent that their hearts can go beyond connection with idols. You, mullah sahib, are a great scholar, and your heart can go beyond idols, but have the hearts of all your followers become free from thought of idols? To the extent that they think of idols, to that extent they worship idols. By mouth, they may say the Lord is formless but within they are filled with thoughts of idols.
“Making worship of the pure form of the Lord a social practice is difficult. Only qualified persons, that is, those who have the ability to go beyond idols, can transcend thoughts of idols. My earnest request is that you carefully consider this subject.”
Mullah Sahib: I have considered and decided that the six wonderful qualities that you have associated with the name Bhagavan are also associated with the name Allah from the holy Koran. So, there is no need to dispute the meaning of the name Allah. Allah is Bhagavan.
Gorachad: Good. Then, you accept the existence of the beauty and opulence of the Supreme Being, and you therefore also accept the existence of His beautiful form in the spiritual world beyond the material world. This form is our Deity.
Mullah Sahib: The spiritual form of the Supreme Being is mentioned in our Koran also. That we are bound to accept. If we go to make a replica of that spiritual form, however, it becomes mundane, and that we call an idol. The Supreme Being is not worshipped by worshipping an idol. Please tell me your viewpoint in this regard.
Gorachad: The Vaisnava scriptures prescribe the worship of Bhagavan’s pure spiritual form. There are no prescriptions for advanced devotees to worship earthly objects, that is, things produced from earth, water, and so forth.
yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
sva-dhih kalatradisu bhauma ijya-dhih
yat-tirtha-buddhih salile na karhichij
janesv abhijnesu sa eva go-kharah
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 10.84.13)