Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja
Tota Gopnath Temple, Jagannath Puri, India
When Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu lived in the cave at Gambhira, He was always thinking of Krishna and weeping. He came to this world to taste radha-bhava, and His activities while in Gambira comprise a drop of the ocean He experienced. While living in Gambira He gave the deity of Gopinatha to Shrila Gadadhara Pandita and told him, "Today I will give you a very good thing. Will you accept it?"
Shrila Gadadhara Pandita replied, "Yes, why not? I'll keep it on my head."
In the mood of Radhika, Mahaprabhu began to search here and there in the sand. All of a sudden He touched the mukut (crown) of Gopinatha and told the others, "Take out the sand." He then placed Gopinatha in the lap of Gadadhara Pandita and said, "You should never leave Him."
Shrila Gadadhara Pandita built a hut there, and Mahaprabhu used to come daily to take darsana of Gopinatha. Whenever He went to Jagannatha Mandira and saw Subhadra and Baladeva, He did not experience very much pleasure. Rather, in front of Baladeva and His sister Subhadra He felt very shy and thought, "I have come to Kuruksetra." He was in the mood of Shrimati Radhika at Kuruksetra where, in great separation, She tried to bring Krishna (Jagannatha) to Vrindavan. In the mood of Shrimati Radhika, Mahaprabhu did not like to see Krishna in Kuruksetra, because all His associates, along with all His queens of Dvaraka, were there, and so many horses and elephants were there. There was no chance for Radhika to be with Him in private, and this is why Mahaprabhu always felt intense separation in Puri. In this way, being in Gambhira was like being in Vrindavan and feeling separation for Krishna in Dvaraka.
The mood of separation was always present in Mahaprabhu in Puri. When Radhika went to Kuruksetra, She did not take rest with Krishna. Rather, She was given a separate accommodation in a tent, and Krishna lived with the Yadavas and His queens. When He went to His own accommodation, She felt great separation.
In Puri, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sometimes saw the sea as Yamuna and jumped in it, but there He wept still more, because Krishna would disappear. Sometimes He became like a tortoise, His limbs drawn into His body, and sometimes the joints of His hands and legs would become separated by eight inches, remaining connected only by skin. At that time He sometimes appeared like a ghost. When the devotees would see Him in that condition, they would all become fearful and begin to weep for Him. All this was due to separation from Krishna, and therefore, to get some relief, Mahaprabhu would come to Gopinatha. Seeing Gopinatha, He felt, "Oh, I have come to Vrindavan. My Prananatha (life of My soul) is here." In this way His tears of separation would subside.
On one side of Gopinatha we see Shrimati Radhika, on the other side Lalita, and both are black like Krishna. Being in the mood of Radhika, when Mahaprabhu used to see Gopinatha, He (She) became one in mood with Krishna and became black. Radha becomes black by seeing Her Prananatha and becoming absorbed in Him. She sometimes takes the flute of Krishna and begins to play it, and in this way also, She becomes black. This is the mood of Tota Gopinatha with Radhika and Lalita. Then, in the mood of Shrimati Radhika, Krishna becomes Mahaprabhu, and Lalita becomes Shri Svarupa Damodara.
You can see that Gopinatha is sometimes standing and sometimes sitting. Although you do not see any other vigraha (deity) sitting, He sits. Some say that when Shrila Gadadhara Pandita became old, he could no longer offer garlands to Gopinatha, and therefore Gopinatha sat down. But this is not actually true. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu disappeared at the age of 48, and Gadadhara Pandita was only one year younger. He left this world a year after Mahaprabhu disappeared, and thus there was no chance for him to become old. When Mahaprabhu disappeared, following the order of Mahaprabhu, he did not leave the worship of Gopinatha. Always feeling separation, he quickly became lean and thin and could not even stand to give a garland to Gopinatha. Seeing Gadadhara Pandita in such a state, Gopinatha sat down for him, and Gadadhara Pandita continued to offer the garlands along with his tears.
There was a bhakta of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu named Mamu Thakura who used to render various services to Him. Soon after Mahaprabhu disappeared, Shrila Gadadhara Pandita also disappeared, and at that time his disciple Mamu Thakura was appointed by the government of Puri to serve Gopinatha. He was old – about 84 years – and he could not properly offer garlands to Gopinatha. Some say that perhaps because Mamu Thakura could not give garlands to Gopinatha in his old age, Gopinatha sat down for him. Actually, however, Gopinatha sat only for Shrimati Radhika. It is a common thing for Shrimati Radhika that Krishna stands up and sits down for Her.
Question: Some people say these deities are Lalita and Radhika, and some say they are Lalita and Visakha. Are both opinions correct according to their own moods?
Shrila Naryana Gosvami Maharaja: On Gopinatha's left side is Shrimati Radhika and on His right is Shrimati Lalita devi. As Gadadhara Pandita, Shrimati Radhika was always watching Krishna, in the form of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, to see whether or not He was correctly playing Her role. In this way, it is Shrimati Radhika who is there with Tota Gopinatha.
Question: Before coming to Puri, Mahaprabhu knew Svarupa Damodara in His early years in Navadvipa? They were school friends?
Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: Both Svarupa Damodara and Gadadhara Pandita, and also Murari Pandita, were with Him. They all grew up together. Jagadananda Pandita, Mukunda, and Vasu Gosh were also His friends from childhood.
Question: You have said that of the four dhamas of Mahaprabhu, Navadvipa is considered the best. I could not understand what you said.
Shrila Naryana Gosvami Maharaja: At first He was in Navadvipa, from childhood up to kisora-lila, reading and writing. When He was 24 years old He left His home and came to Jagannatha Puri, and there He gave mercy to Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. After that He went to South India, and there He met Raya Ramananda at Godavari. Raya Ramananda saw Him in mahabhava (as Radha) and as Rasika Sekhara (Krishna). He saw Rasaraja Mahabhava, Shrimati Radhika and Krishna combined, and he fainted. After that Mahaprabhu returned to Puri and enjoyed the vipralambha-bhava of Shrimati Radhika.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu performed His kisora-lila in Navadvipa, and therefore Navadvipa is Vrindavan. Shrila Narottama dasa Thakura and others have explained that it is non-different from Vrindavan, but they have not said that Jagannatha-ksetra is Vrindavan. Rather, it represents Dvaraka or Kuruksetra. Those who follow Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and do bhajana in Navadvipa will come out in Vrindavan on the bank of the Yamuna at Vamsivat. This has been written and revealed by our acaryas, but they have never said that Jagannatha Puri is Vrindavan. Shri Ksetra means Laksmi Ksetra, where Satyabhama and Rukmini, or Maha Laksmi, reside. If a person leaves his body in Jagannatha Puri, he becomes four-handed, but this is not so in Vrindavan and Navadvipa. There, one will become two handed like the associates of Radha and Krishna. Therefore, Navadvipa is superior to Jagannatha Puri.
Question: And the fourth place?
Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: The four places are Navadvipa, Puri, Godavari and Vrindavan. Vrindavan and Navadvipa are the same, but they are seen as two. At the time of sadhana, Navadvipa it is seen as Navadvipa, and in the siddha stage it is seen as Vrindavan. In sadhanavasta (the stage of performing sadhana) we will see Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the form of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, but when we become siddha we will see: "Oh, Radha and Krishna have both become Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu." So both are one.
On the other hand, in the intense separation of divyonmada, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to see Puri as Kuruksetra and Dvaraka. As far as Godavari is concerned, it is Mahaprabhu's 'school.' He learned from His siksa-guru, Visakha devi, in the school of Shrila Raya Ramananda, and after that He returned to Puri. In Puri, He was always absorbed in Vrindavan.
Question: I heard that this part of Puri, Tota Gopinatha, was called Gupta Vrindavan.
Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: Mahaprabhu used to see Gopinatha here, and He therefore used to see His place as Vrindavan. But it is not Vrindavan. It is part of Dvaraka and Kuruksetra, and Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to feel separation here, throughout the entire day and night.
Question: Why did Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu not go to Vrindavan first?
Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: If He had done so, everybody would have known that He is Krishna. There He will always weep and become as mad. He would not be in Radha's mood; He would be in the mood of Krishna. When He would see the cows grazing, the calling peacocks, "Ke ka, ke ka," and the cuckoos calling, "Kuhoo, kuhoo," He will leave that mood of Radhika. He will become Krishna and begin to run everywhere searching for Radha: "O Radhe! Radhe! Radhe!" This is because every leaf, tree, creeper, and everything else in Vrindavan calls, "Radhe, Radhe," He would not able to remain in radha-bhava.
Question: You've said that, by bhava, Jagannatha Puri is higher than Navadvipa. I think you said that Navadvipa is first, then Puri, then South India—in order of superiority. But by bhava, Jagannatha Puri is first, then South India and then Navadvipa. Is that correct?
Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: No. I explained that here in Puri there is only lamentation in the mood of separation. I said that the acaryas in our disciplic line are associates of Shrimati Radhika – as palya-dasi. We want that Shrimati Radhika is always cheerful, and She is cheerful when She is with Krishna. We are pleased when Krishna searches Radhika, when Radhika is hidden in a kunja and Krishna is calling, "Where is Radha? Where is Radha? Where is Radha, Lalita, Visakha and the others?" The gopis are very pleased, thinking, "Oh, today He is searching." They are all in a good mood, and Radhika is so joyful. We should always be pleased in that way.
Here in Puri, Radhika is always calling, "O Krishna! O Krishna! O Krishna!" We don't want that. We select as the best place that place where Krishna will search – in a place like Radha-kunda. Krishna approaches Radhika and serves Her feet, and at that time Radhika is proud and enjoys so much. Here in Puri there is no rasa-lila. Here there is a separation mood; no meeting.
Question: You said one time that this was the most important part of everything He showed.
Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: It is extremely important. For us, at our stage, the mood of separation is more helpful than meeting. But we want that Shrimati Radhika should be always pleased. Here She is always weeping and weeping. We don't want to see Radhika constantly weeping.
Question: But it is Krishna who is weeping, isn't it?
Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: But Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is in the mood of Radhika. We consider Vrindavan the best place. It is the where Radhika will place Her feet in the lap of Krishna and He will paint His name on them. Krishna will then keep Her feet on His head and heart, and that fresh color will make a stamp-like print on His body. He is always serving Her there; there She says, "Oh, He loves Me best." We want that; but for sadhana, separation is helpful. Without separation we cannot advance an inch further.
Question: Is Jagannatha Puri better for sadhana than Navadvipa?
Shrila Maharaja: Navadvipa is better in all ways.
Question: Does Tota Gopinatha give some special benedictions?
Shrila Maharaja: Yes, He can give His service. What is the meaning of Gopinatha? Who is Gopinatha?
Question: Lord of the gopis. Master of the gopis.
Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja: No, no; it doesn't mean master. Natha means prana – life. Krishna is the gopis' life. But this is not a name. What is His name? If anyone asks you, "Who are you?" you will generally state a relation between you and someone else. Similarly, there is a relation between Krishna and the gopis, and this relation is very high. Therefore, if you go to Gopinatha, He will give you the benediction that you can serve Him as the gopis serve. You will also be able to serve like them. You will realize that it is Gopinatha who gives this benediction. You cannot realize this at present, but when the time comes, you will realize it.