Shrimad Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami writes: "All glories to Madhavendra Puri, the storehouse of all Krishna-prema! He is a desire tree of bhakti, and it is to him that the seed of bhakti first fructified. The seed of Krishna-prema next fructified in the fore of Shri Ishvara Puri, and then the gardener himself, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, became the main trunk of the tree of bhakti."
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati comments on this section of the Chaitanya Caritamrita (CC Adi 9.10): "Shri Ishvara Puri was a resident of Kumarahatts. (At this place there is now a railway station known as Kamarhatty. Nearby there is also another station named Halisahara, which belongs to the eastern railway that runs from the eastern section of Calcutta). Ishvara Puri appeared in a brahmin family and was the most beloved disciple of Shri Madhavendra Puri."
The nature of Shri Ishvara Puri's personal devotional service to the lotus feet of his guru, Shri Madhavendra Puri, is mentioned in another part of the Chaitanya Caritamrita by Kaviraj Goswami as follows: "At the last stage of his life, Shri Madhavendra Puri became an invalid and was completely unable to move, and Ishvara Puri so completely engaged himself in his service that he personally cleaned up his stool and urine. Always chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and reminding Shri Madhavendra Puri about the pastimes of Lord Krishna in the last stage of his life, Ishvara Puri gave the best service among his disciples. Thus Madhavendra Puri, being very pleased with him, blessed him, saying, 'May you have Krishna prema'.
Thus Ishavara Puri, by the grace of his spiritual master, Shri Madhavendra Puri, became a great devotee in the ocean of love of Godhead."
Shrila Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada points out in his commentary on this verse, "It is by the mercy of the spiritual master that one becomes perfect, as vividly exemplified here. A Vaishnava is always protected by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but if he appears to be an invalid, this gives a chance to his disciples to serve him. Ishvara Puri pleased his spiritual master by service, and by the blessings of his spiritual master he became such a great personality that Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted him as his spiritual master."
Before initiating Shri Chaitanya, Ishvara Puri stayed at the house of Gopinatha Acarya in Nabadwip-dham. There he lived for a few months. At that time he met Shri Chaitanya, when he was Nimai Pandit, and requested him to help him with his book, Krishna-lilamrita. The Lord was highly pleased with Ishvara Puri's devotion and highly praised his book, saying that it was faultless. Still, when he was pressed, he made some corrections with his own lotus hands. This pastime is elaborately described in the Chaitanya Bhagavata. The following is a synopsis of Vrindavan Dasa Thakur's account of Shri Ishavara Puri.
When Mother Saci saw that Shri Chaitanya was happily engaged in his studies, her own ecstasy increased. At that time, Shri Ishvara Puri came to Nabadwipa in disguise. Chaitanya Bhagavata records that Ishavara Puri was overwhelmed with the ecstasy of Krishna-rasa. And yet, as he was very dear to Krishna, he was also very humble and didn't want to attract any attention to himself as a great devotee. So that no one would know who he was, he hid his real identity and went to the temple of Advaita.
Upon arriving there, he found that Advaita was busy in service to the Lord in the temple, so he came in and sat down very cautiously and timidly. But the power of a great Vaishnava is not easily hidden from another great Vaishnava. Again and again, Advaita Acaraya kept looking away from his duties in the direction of Ishvara Puri.
Finally he asked him "O Father! Who are you?"
With great humility, Ishvara introduced himself, saying, "I am a sudra of the lowest class." In this way, the jewel of learned scholars and the best of the renounced, Ishvara Puri, showed how humility is the true ornament of a Vaishnava.
Immediately upon seeing him, Mukunda Datta recognized that Ishavara Puri was a Vaishnava Sannyasi. At that time, Mukunda Datta very sweetly began to perform Krishna-lila Kirtan. Vrindavana Dasa asks, "Who is there who can remain unmoved when Mukunda Datta performs his sweet kirtan?"
Upon hearing the deeply moving songs of Mukunda Datta, Shri Ishvara Puri lost his composure and fainted on the ground in a trance of deep ecstasy. Tears of ecstasy rained forth from his eyes. The assembled devotees were dumbstruck upon seeing such a display of transcendental emotion. When their power of speech returned, they all remarked that nowhere had any of them ever seen a Vaishnava such as this. Shri Advaita Acarya also began to experience grave symptoms of transcendental emotion. After this, they all concluded their visitor must be none other than the dearmost disciple of Madhavendra Puri - Shri Ishvara Puri. At this, they all joyously began chanting the holy name of Krishna, saying, "Hari! Hari!" over and over again.
Shri Ishavara Puri stayed in Nabadwipa for a while. One day, the footpath near where he stayed was blessed by the divine footsteps of Shri Gaurasundara. Mahaprabhu was going home from school. Upon seeing Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Ishavara Puri was amazed by his perfect body and supremely grave disposition. He wanted to somehow make contact with the Lord. Finally, he called out, "O best of the brahmins! What is your name? Where is your house? And what book are you reading?"
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with great humility offered his humble obeisances to Shri Ishvara Puri. Mahaprabhu's disciples said, "His name is Nimai Pandit."
Ishavara Puri said, "You are the Nimai Pandit?!"
Ishavara Puri's joy knew no bounds. Mahaprabhu with great humility bowed his head and said, "Shripada, have mercy upon me and kindly grace my house with your company. This very afternoon we shall prepare prasada for your pleasure. Please accept it."
With these sweet and humble words, Mahaprabhu extended his invitation to Ishavara Puri. Accepting the invitation, Ishavara Puri went to the house of Mahaprabhu.
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu washed the lotus feet of Ishavara Puri with his own hands. Shri Saci devi quickly prepared various wonderful kinds of preparations and offered them to the Deity. After it had been offered, Mahaprabhu accepted it.
Later, the two of them entered the temple of Vishnu and discussed Krishna with each other at great length. And gradually Krishna-prema sprang up in their hearts and flooded them with the ecstasy of love of Godhead.
In this way, for one month, Shri Ishavara Puri stayed at the house of Shri Gopinatha Acarya. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would constantly invite Ishavra Puri to visit him. And from time to time Ishvara Puri would invite Mahaprabhu to visit him.
At this time, Shri Gadadhara was a young boy. Shri Ishvara Puri was very affectionate to him. He would read to Gadadhara from the book he had written, "Shri Krishna-Lilamrita." Every day around sunrise Mahaprabhu would come and offer his obeisances to Shri Ishavara Puri.
One day, Ishvara Puri told Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, "You are the topmost of pundits; I am writing a book about Krishna's pastimes. You must help me by pointing out whatever faults you may find in this work. This will give me great pleasure."
Sitting at the holy feet of Shri Ishvara Puri and hearing these words, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu smiled and said, "The words of Krishna's devotees are as good as Krishna himself. They are in the same category as he is, they are from his 'alphabet', not from any material alphabet. Such words are not mundane. One who finds fault with Krishna or his devotees is a great sinner. What a bhakta writes is not mere poetry; it is completely different - it is dear to Krishna, and so is perfect."
"A devotee's prayers of love for Krishna have nothing to do with the rules of grammar and does not depend on them. Krishna is only interested in the love in such prayers. They are dear to Krishna in any case, whether they are properly constructed according to the rules of grammar or not. One who looks for faults in the words of a devotee will never be pleasing to Krishna."
Upon hearing Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's words, Ishvara Puri felt as if his senses had been drenched in nectar. Ishvara Puri could understand that Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Person. A few days later, Ishvara Puri left Navadwip with some devotees to continue visiting the holy places of pilgrimage.
In this way, Shri Gaurasundara's pastimes of scholarship reached their completion, and the Lord wanted to manifest his divinity. He wanted to reveal himself and distribute the nectar of the holy name of Krishna, and inundate the world in Krishna-prema, thus delivering the world. But first, he went to Gaya to offer oblations to his ancestors. At that time, Shri Ishavara Puri was in Gaya.
After staying in Gaya for some time, when Mahaprabhu had finished his offerings to his ancestors, he went to complete his worship of the lotus feet of Vishnu. When he had darshan of the holy feet of the Lord, and had heard the glories of the Lord he began to drown in the ecstasy of love of Godhead, and fell to the ground in wonder and delight. By divine arrangement, it was at that time that Ishvara Puri arrived. Upon seeing Shri Gaurasundara, he became speechless.
Candrashekaracarya, who was close by was informed of all this. A little time later, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu returned to external consciousness and saw Ishavara Puri nearby. At once he arose and then offered his humble obeisances at the lotus feet of Shri Ishvara Puri.
At that time, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Shri Ishvara Puri heartily embraced one another. Soon the two of them were drowning in an ocean of tears that poured incessantly from their lotus eyes. At that time, Mahaprabhu said, "Now my visit to Gaya has really been fruitful, as by coming here I have had the chance to see your lotus feet. By traveling to a holy place and offering pinda one may deliverer one's ancestors - that is the person who offers the pinda may deliver only his ancestors. But one who sees you automatically delivers millions of ancestors, and not only will they become free from certain of their sins, but they will all attain eternal deliverance from material bondage. Therefore this pilgrimage I have undertaken is unparalleled, because of your holiness having rendered everything perfectly auspicious."
In this way, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in great humility told Ishvara Puri, "All my visiting of holy places has become perfect because I have seen you. A saintly person is a real 'tirtha', or holy place, since he sanctifies the holy places by his very presence. Therefore you are the supreme fulfillment of all holy places. All the holy places pray for the dust of your lotus feet. O Ishvara Puri, in the same way, I am praying for the dust of your lotus feet, knowing which I shall become free from the ocean of repeated birth and death and drink the nectar of divine rasa at the lotus feet of Shri Krishna. Because you alone can free me from the ocean of repeated birth and death, I offer you this body to do with as you wish. You alone can make me drink the nectar of divine rasa at the lotus feet of Krishna, and my desire is that you grant me this gift."
Hearing this from Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Shri Ishavara Puri spoke as follows: "Listen Pandit: Upon seeing your learning and character, I can understand that you are divinity Himself, descended amongst men. This very day, I had a beautiful dream. In my dream were many people, and their hands were laden with fruit. O Pandit! To speak truthfully, upon seeing you, I am filled with an unusual feeling of transcendental bliss that surpasses ordinary joy. In fact, after I first saw you in Nabadwipa-dhama, from that time on, I couldn't think of anything else but you. I didn't want to think of anything else but you. I am speaking the truth! Upon seeing you I am as happy as if I were seeing Krishna Himself! "
Upon hearing all this, Mahaprabhu humbly lowered his head in respect and smiling, said: "I am supremely fortunate."
A few days later, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in a mood of great humility sought out Ishavara Puri and said, "Your holiness, please show mercy upon me and initiate me in the Gayatri mantram as your disciple. For want of the Gayatri mantra my mind is very much disturbed. "
Shri Ishvara Puri, upon hearing the words of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was very happy and spoke as follows: "Whether I am giving you my words in speech or a mantra, it is my life I wish to give you; I wish to give you everything I have."
After this, Shri Ishvara Puri initiated Shri Gaurasundara in the divine mantra. One day, Shri Ishvara Puri came to the residence of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Upon seeing him, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu became ecstsatic. He offered his obeisances and all proper respects and greetings and begged him to stay for lunch.
Ishvara Puri said, "I would consider myself extremely fortunate to accept some rice from your lotus hand." Mahaprabhu cooked with his own hands and with great care fed Shri Ishavara Puri. After lunch, the Lord smeared sandalwood pulp over the limbs of Shri Ishvara Puri and offered him a nice garland of flowers.
In this way, in order to acquaint us with the way in which to properly worship the guru, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has instructed us all by his personal example how to serve the guru-parampara. One who does not understand how to honor a saintly person can never attain Krishna-prema-bhakti. Service to the lotus feet of the guru is the gateway to Krishna-bhakti.
When Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was returning to Nabadwipa from Gaya, he passed through Kurmarhatta, the divine birthplace of Shri Ishvara Puri. Upon arriving there, he became filled with divine love and his voice choked up in ecstasy. He soaked the earth with the tears of divine love from his lotus eyes. Before he left Kumarahatta, he went to the place of Ishavara Puri's birth and took some dust from his birthsite. As he left for Nabadwipa, he announced, "This dust is my life and soul!"
After this, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa and went to Jagannatha Puri on the order of his mother. At that time, Shri Ishvara Puri had finished his role in the Lord's manifest pastimes. At the time of his passing into the unmanifest pastimes of the Lord, he ordered his two disciples, Govinda and Kashishvara Pandit to live near Mahaprabhu and render service to Him.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta has written: "The best of sannyasis, Madhavendra Puri had as his foremost disciples Ishvara Puri, Nityananda and the great Advaita. In order to honor Shri Ishavara Puri, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the guru of the whole world accepted him as his spiritual master."