Athithi Devo Bhava! – Part 2 Nama – the Eternal Redeemer

As soon as we take up the Mahamantra for chanting we cannot but remember the great avatara purusha –Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu!
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu lived for 48 years only. He spent the first 12 years of his life playing pranks just as Krishna had done in his childhood. For the next 12 years of his life he shut himself up in a room with a few friends and performed Nama sankirtan (chanting the Lord’s Names and praises). The next 12 years he visited various holy places. It was during these wanderings that he visited Srirangam in the south. And the last 12 years of his life was spent in solitude inside a cave at Puri.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s disciples Sanatana Goswami and Roop Goswami were busy authoring books. They found no peace till they converted the gushing thoughts into words. It is only through such disciples of Mahaprabhu do we learn the life history of this great avatar.
Mahaprabhu’s disciple Nityananda was deeply concerned about the way the world was moving. People were living with false values. There were no genuine Masters to guide them and the innocent and ignorant people were being caught in the net of quack Gurus. His Master, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, had shut himself up in a room with a small circle of close friends and was doing Nama sankirtan. Nityananda desired to bring to the Master’s notice the need for guiding the ignorant who were being led astray with false values. He wished that his Guru would come out of closed doors and take a look at the world. But how can one advise the Guru? How can one instruct the Guru to do this or that? After much thinking he decided to carry out this work slyly.
One day, Nityananda informed Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that a sadhu had invited them for lunch. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the invitation and went to the sadhu’s place along with Nityananada. When they reached the place he found a board bearing the name of the sadhu and the ashram. They went in and were received warmly by the sadhu of the ashram. A personal attendant of the sadhu began to serve them food. Nityananda began to eat happily. He did not seem to be the least concerned about their host or the surroundings.
The sadhu asked them, “What would you like to have? Ganga teerth or Anand (Ganga water or Bliss)?”
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu could not understand the words of the sadhu. He turned to Nityananda and said, “Nitai, I understand the term ‘Ganga teerth’ but what does he mean by ‘Anand’?”
Nityananda said, “Oh, here in this place ‘Anand’ refers to the company of women. And by ‘Ganga teerth’ he does not mean the holy Ganga water but wine!”
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was aghast. “What!” he cried out. And taking hold of Nityananda’s hand he rushed out. He ran away from that place as quickly as his legs would carry him. He stopped after he had gone a safe distance away. He was panting heavily and was seething with anger.
Calming him down, Nityananda next led him to his (Mahaprabhu’s) disciple Advaitacharya’s home. Advaitacharya welcomed them with great joy and offered them a seat. Nityananda said to him, “Our Gurudev is hungry. Please offer him some food.” At once Advaitacharya said to him, “Oh, I have not yet performed my daily rites. I have to complete it and then cook food. It will take some time.”
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu jumped up from his seat and taking hold of Nityananda’s hand walked out of Advaitacharya’s home.
The clever Nityananda had driven home the message! Chaitanya Mahaprabhu realized what Nityananda was trying to convey to him. First, he had showed him how the world was being fooled by quack Gurus who claimed to show the path of spirituality. Secondly, in the name of following scriptural injunctions men failed to recognize its end purpose. Advaitacharya was so deeply drowned in the performance of daily rites prescribed by the scriptures that he asked his atithi – his Guru, who is God himself in human form – to wait for hours for offering him food!
We find reports from many parts of the world that a person crowning himself a ‘Guru’ mesmerizes people in large number and harms them. Caught under the spell of mass hypnotism people dance to the tune of this self-anointed Guru. People do not hesitate even to consume poison and die! Such questionable incidents have begun to occur in India too. On one side innumerable treacherous ‘Gurus’ have cropped up who play on the innocence and ignorance of the people and on the other side are people who are immersed in ritualism without understanding the real import behind the rituals.
Let us say that a person has been asked to clean a glass so that it can be used to drink water. The person keeps washing the glass with no end in sight to the job given. He goes on scrubbing it. On and on he goes. What was the purpose behind the instruction to clean the glass? — Only to use it to drink water. But what does he do? He does not bring the cleaning to a close so that it can be used to drink water. Similarly, our scriptures speak of various rituals only to purify your mind so that through the purified mind the Lord can be attained.
In the case of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s disciple Advaitacharya we find that caught in the net of rituals he misses out on its real purpose. His Guru comes to his home hungry, seeking food. A Sadguru is verily God. And in this case Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is verily the incarnation of Lord Krishna. The Lord comes home in the form of the Guru seeking food. What fortune! But caught firmly in the net of rituals he says that he has not yet completed the daily rituals and that it would take some hours to cook and serve him food! Well, WHY HAVE THESE RITUALS BEEN PRESCRIBED? — To purify the mind and attain God. In this case, Advaitacharya had attained a Sadguru but failed to recognize the blessings.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu went on a long tour of India, covering the length and the breadth of the country. Wherever he went he initiated people into the Mahamantra,
Know that it is verily Bhagavata dharma that is supportive to this Kali Yuga. And, what is Bhagavata dharma? To chant
All other paths are impractical in today’s world.
What do Mahans speak about when they get together? It will either be about their experiences with the Lord or about the means to be taken up to help people traverse the ocean of life. They are anxious to protect and show the right way to people. The meeting of Sages Narada and Valmiki resulted in the birth of Ramayana. The meeting of Sages Narada and Veda Vyasa brought forth Srimad Bhagavatam. In Srimad Bhagavatam, written thousands of years ago, we find the deep anxiety of Mahans. Srimad Bhagavatam says that in Kali Yuga people will be of low intelligence, lethargic and short lived. What is the way out for these people? Verily the Divine Name of the Lord!
The Mahamantra,
The Divine Name of the Lord (‘Bhagavan Nama’) has the power to redeem one and all. Was not Ajamila, the worst sinner, redeemed for merely uttering the Divine Name? He had named his youngest son ‘Narayana’ (the Divine Name of the Lord). He was deeply attached to this son. In the final moment of his life he called out “Narayana!” addressing the son. But it was enough for the deeply compassionate Lord. He saved Ajamila. Ahalya was redeemed from the curse and made immaculate by the dust of the Holy Feet of Rama. And in today’s world Rama still exists in the form of His Divine Name ‘R A M A’. ‘Name’ and the ‘Named’ are one and the same. They are not different from each other. So will not Rama in the form of the Divine Name ‘RAMA’ redeem all – even the worst sinner?

(The Atithi shall visit next week…)