The secret behind the cleansing of the Gundicha Temple.

By Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur

An English translation of
Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur’s
commentary on
Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 12.135.

Gundicha Temple


Through this Pastime, Jagad-guru Sriman Mahaprabhu is teaching that if a fortunate soul desires to sit Krishna on the altar of their heart, then they should first of all clean their heart of all contamination; making the heart spotlessly clean, peaceful, and resplendent with devotion is mandatory. If any thorny bushes, weeds, dust, or sand—anarthas—remain within the field of the heart, then the Lord, the ultimate recipient of all service, cannot be seated therein. Contamination and litter within the heart means anya-abhilas (fleeting desires), karma (worldly action), jnan (speculative knowledge), yoga, and so on. Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhu said,

anyabhilasita-sunyam jnana-karmady-anavrtam
anukulyena krsnanusilanam bhaktir uttama
(Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu: Purva-vibhaga, 1.11)

Wherever the soul’s eternal, natural propensity for devotion has been covered over by desires unrelated to devotion, speculative knowledge, worldly action, yoga, asceticism, or any mentality that is unfavourable to devotion, pure devotion is not present. And without pure devotion, which is by nature purely spiritual, Krishna does not appear.

Fleeting desire: “As long as I remain in this world, I shall gratify my senses exclusively.” This sort of base desire, like a thorny branch, lacerates the pure soul’s tender propensity for exclusive devotion (kevala-bhakti). Worldly action: “Through piety, sacrifice, charity, and austerity, I shall enjoy the pleasures of this world and the higher planes like Svarga.” Such selfish action is like dust. In the whirlwind of the cycle of karma, heaps of this dust, that is, desires, cover the spotless and clear mirror of our hearts. Desires to perform both good and bad actions, like countless heaps of dust, have contaminated the hearts of souls who are averse to the Lord for numerous births, and thus the desire for worldly activity has not left these souls’ hearts. Souls that are averse to the Lord think, “It seems that through action the thorns present within action can be removed”, but this is a misconception; those who are convinced by it simply cheat themselves. As an elephant smears its body with dirt again after you bathe it, so desire for worldly action is not dispelled by performing worldly actions. Only through pure devotion are all the soul’s difficulties dispelled. It is then that the altar of the soul’s pure heart becomes a suitable place for the Lord to rest. This is why a devotee-poet has sung, “Bhaktera hrdaye sada Govindera visrama: the heart of the devotee is always a resting place for Govinda.”

Monistic yoga and endeavours for speculative knowledge are just like sand. Through them, what to speak of the Lord’s service or satisfaction, an endeavour is made to lacerate the Lord’s body with a spear. Although at the beginning of the search for nondifferentiated Brahman, seekers of liberation may accept the Lord’s Name, Form, and so on, to a certain extent, such seekers does not accept the independent existence of the Lord’s Name, Form, and so on, at the time of their liberation or identification with Brahman. The Lord, therefore, does not appear within the heart of such unfortunate souls, who proudly consider themselves to be liberated [when in fact they are not]. It is for this reason that Sri Gaurasundar did not keep straw, dust, sand, and other forms of litter even within the boundary of the Lord’s Temple compound, but rather threw them outside using His own outer cloth—lest with the help of a storm all such rubbish would again enter the Temple.

Often, even when worldly action, speculative knowledge, and so on, have been dispelled, subtle forms of contamination remain within the heart. These can be compared to kutinati, pratisthasa, jiva-himsa, nisiddhachar, labha, puja, and so on. Kutinati means duplicity. Pratisthasa means desire for worldly honour—“May the ignorant call me a great soul on account of my solitary worship and imposture.” Pratisthasa means desire to be recognised as a ‘devotee’ or ‘Avatar’ by showing a perverted reflection of divine emotions, such as artificial symptoms of ecstasy within one’s hard heart, in order to fulfil one’s selfish desires for worldly enjoyment. Jiva-himsa means hesitation to, or miserliness about, preaching pure devotion; indulging mayavadis, materialists, and enjoyers; and speaking so as to keep the attention of such persons. Labha and puja mean living off the Lord’s Names, mantras, Deities, or the Bhagavat in the name of religion, cheating the ignorant, and accumulating wealth, honour, and so on. Nisiddhachar means associating with the opposite sex and non-devotees of Krishna, such as materialists, speculators, and enjoyers.

Sri Gaurasundar first swept out large heaps of all such sand, straw, dust, and so on, that had accumulated over many days and then, after cleaning every area within the Temple a second time with brooms and water, began scrubbing the Temple and the Lord’s altar with the dry cloth He was wearing so that no subtle blemishes would remain anywhere.

After all of the sweeping, cleaning, scrubbing, and so on, there was no trace of any dust particles or even subtle blemishes within the Temple, which was not only spotlessly clean but also soothingly cool, that is, the practitioner’s heart had become free from the burning pain comparable to being in a desert scorched by the sun—free from the flames of the fire of the three miseries produced by desire to enjoy the mundane (adhyatmik-tap: miseries caused by the body and mind; adhibhautik-tap: miseries caused by others; and adhidaivik-tap: miseries caused by the gods). In fact, when desires for enjoyment and liberation—all fleeting desires, worldly endeavours, speculative knowledge, yoga, and so on—are dispelled from the practitioner’s heart and the soul’s propensity for pure devotion manifests, such peace and soothing coolness appear naturally.

Ignorant souls do not understand that often, even when all selfish desires have been dispelled, a subtle blemish still remains within an unknown nook or corner of the heart: the desire for liberation. What to speak of the impersonalists’ desire for sayujya-mukti (the liberation of merging into Brahman), Sriman Mahaprabhu scrubbed away with His own cloth even the subtle blemishes of desire for the four other forms of liberation [salokya: residing in the Lord’s abode, samipya: being in the Lord’s presence, sarupya: having a form like the Lord’s, and sarsti: having opulence like the Lord’s].

In this way, adopting the mentality of a soul for the welfare of all souls, Sri Gaurasundar, as a Jagad-guru, personally taught how a practitioner should, with great enthusiasm, while loudly chanting Krishna’s Name, clean their heart for Krishna’s sake in order to make their heart a place for the pleasure Pastimes of the Autocrat Sri Krishna and be able to lovingly gratify Krishna’s senses.

yadyapyanya bhaktih kalau kartavya,
tada kirtanakhya-bhakti-samyogenaiva
(Krama-sandarbha-tika on Srimad Bhagavatam 7.5.23–24)

[“Although the other eight practices of devotion should be performed during the Age of Kali, they should be performed in conjunction with kirtan.”]

Sriman Mahaprabhu came over to every devotee, took hold of their hands, and taught them how to clean the Temple. He praised the devotees who were serving well, and, as the Lord adorned with the heart of She who is the personification of the fulfilment of Krishna’s desires—Sri Radha, He benevolently chastised those whose service was not up to His standard, took hold of their hands, and taught them the proper way to serve Krishna. Not only that, He also instructed and inspired the pure-hearted devotees who were dedicated to the Absolute and proficient in serving according to His teachings to perform the work of an Acharya for souls averse to the Lord.

tumi bhala kariyachha, sikhaha anyere
ei-mata bhala karma seho yena kare
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 12.117)

[To devotees whose cleaning He approved of, the Lord said: “You have done well. Teach this to others so that they also perform well in this way.”]

Furthermore, [the Lord taught that] one will become dear to the Lord to the extent that one can remove impurities from one’s heart and keep it clean, and He prescribed the peaceful practice of service to Hari-Guru-Vaisnava for those who have not yet completed the process of anartha-nivrtti (the purging of evils).