“Krishna did not teach Bhagavad Gita to a Vedantist. He went to teach to Arjuna. He was a family man, he was a soldier, but why he was selected? – because Krishna saw that Arjuna was Bhakto si – a devotee.” – Srila Prabhupada (November 10, 1971, Interview)
In the mid sixteenth century when Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu performed His most enchanting pastimes in the coastal holy town of Jagannath Puri, in Eastern India, the emperor of the land was attracted by the Lord. But the Lord tested him.
Maharaj Prataprudra was an able king, with widespread influence and power. He repeatedly requested his guru, the wise Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, for an audience with the Lord. Bhattacharya was a renowned scholar and teacher, whose fame equalled that of Brahaspati – the spiritual master of the gods in heavens. He humbly petitioned Lord Chaitanya to bestow His mercy upon the sincere king. The Lord dismissed the king as a materialist and not worthy of His time and attention. Bhattacharya assured the Lord that Prataprudra was not an ordinary king – he was a sincere devotee and he loved to serve devotees. Yet, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was unmoved; in fact He threatened to leave the place if anyone ever made such requests of him.
Devotees tried many indirect and direct ways to get the Lord to shower His mercy upon the king. While the Lord remained indifferent, the king too was determined to win the Lord’s favour. One day he shocked the devotees with his letter where he declared:
“If Gaurahari, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu will not show mercy to me, I shall give up my kingdom, become a mendicant and beg from door to door.” (CC- Madhya Lila 12.10)
King Prataprudra loved the Lord and also His devotees. He personally served all the devotees of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with great happiness. He pleased the Lord when he swept the street in front of Lord Jagannath’s procession – his taking this menial position reconfirmed to Lord Chaitanya that the king is a sincere servant of Krishna and devotees.
The king also happily relieved his subordinate, Ramananda Raya, who served as the governor of the Madras Province, but was eager to join Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s service. He explained how the Lord wanted him to resign from his government duties and spend time with Him in chanting and hearing Krishna’s pastimes. An ordinary man would have felt insecure or envious to note that while his junior is earning the Lord’s favour, he is being ignored; in fact the Lord declared the king to be a materialist and said it would be abominable for Him to meet the king. Yet, the king spontaneously celebrated Ramananda Raya’s good fortune and gave him full support to relinquish his governor responsibility, and instead serve Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The king also continued the salary of Ramananda Raya and humbly wished he too would soon get mercy of the Lord.
The king wasn’t spared even a public humiliation by the Lord when during the chanting and dancing in front of Jagannath’s cart, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu fell in the arms of the king. This was the first time both were seeing each other face to face. Time stood still as this was the culmination of many months of intense separation that the king had felt from the Lord. However, much to the king’s shock, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu declared, “Upon seeing the king, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu condemned Himself, saying, “Oh, how pitiful it is that I have touched a person who is interested in mundane affairs!” (CC- Madhya 13.182)
Later when the king gave up his kingly robes and put on the simple clothes of a Vaishnava mendicant, and massaged the Lord’s lotus feet, and sang beautiful prayers glorifying Krishna, the Lord was moved.
However, the final test remained.
To be continued….