Sree Pundarik Vidyanidhi I
But as the faculties of the conditioned soul are in dormant condition he cannot approach the pure soul on the spiritual plane. When he favoured with the view of Godhead and His angels he is apt to suppose that Godhead and His messengers have bodies and minds resembling his own. This conception is dissipated only by the awakening of his soul when his spiritual faculties come into play and are rewarded by the vision of the devotee as he really is. Thereafter he is no longer supposes Godhead or His devotees to have bodies and minds like those of mortals.
The externality of an activity, consisting of its exoteric or physical and esoteric or mental faces, is to be carefully distinguished from the function of the soul. Godhead can be approached and served only by the faculties of the soul. The soul has his spiritual body and mind. The pure soul is also capable of disclosing his eternal form and activity to the view of mortals. But as the faculties of the conditioned soul are in dormant condition he cannot approach the pure soul on the spiritual plane. When he favoured with the view of Godhead and His angels he is apt to suppose that Godhead and His messengers have bodies and minds resembling his own. This conception is dissipated only by the awakening of his soul when his spiritual faculties come into play and are rewarded by the vision of the devotee as he really is. Thereafter he is no longer supposes Godhead or His devotees to have bodies and minds like those of mortals.
It is also an offence to suppose that the angels incarnate in the mortal vestures in order to appear among men as man and share in their sufferings. The angels of Godhead appear among men without putting on the mortal vesture. They appear in their own eternally pure forms notwithstanding the unanimous testimony of all their worldly spectators to the contrary. It is by the appearance of the servitors of Godhead, as they are, in the very midst of mortals and apparently within reach of their worldly vision that they reveal the service of Godhead in the form that is capable of being accepted and practised by mortals while they are enveloped in their double physical cases of the material body and mind. But inspite of this almost direct communion between angels and men, made possible by grace, the two really belong to quite distinct categories and it is an offence against the eternal servants of the Lord to suppose they are subject to the frailties of the human nature and have to undergo the processes of mortal birth and death as the punishment of their previous godless activities as happens to be the case with mortal beings.
Sree Pundarik Vidyanidhi, the subject of this short narrative, was one of the principal associates of Sree Chaitanya. Pundarik belongs to the category of the ‘superiors’ of Sree Chaitanya. He was a disciple of Sree Madhabendra Puri, the Guru of Sree Iswar Puri from whom Sree Chaitanya exhibited the pastime of receiving initiation in the mantra.
Sree Pundarik Vidyanidhi has been identified with Sree Brishabanu, father of Sree Radhika, of the Braja Leela. He made his appearance in this world in the village of Mekhala two miles East of Hat-hazari thana which is situated twelve miles to the north of Chittagong. His father’s name is Baneswar Brahmachari. The name of his mother is Gangadevi. Baneswar is a descendant of Sibaram Gangopadhyaya. Pundarik’s consort’s name is Ratnavati. The Supreme Lord addressed Pundarik as ‘father’ and gave him the title of ‘Premanidhi’. Pundarik is the Guru of Srila Gadadhar Pandit Goswami and the intimate friend of Sree Damodar Swarup.
The following particulars regarding Sree Pundarik Vidyanidhi are found in the Chaitanya Bhagabat and Chaitanya Charitamrita. He is called by several alternative names e.g., Vidyanidhi, Acharyyanidhi, Bhakti-Vidyanidhi, Premanidhi. He had a residence in Sree Mayapur quarter of Sree Nabadwip for the purpose of academic activities in the metropolis of learning and for residing in the neighbourhood of the Ganges. Premanidhi had a great regard for the Ganges. Unlike the followers of fruitive work (Smartas) who are indefatigable in bathing in the Ganges for being freed from their sins, Premanidhi abstained altogether from such bathing for the reason that it would be a great offence to touch the holy water with his feet. He paid his homage to the Ganges by visiting the holy stream during night. He never saw the Ganges during the day time in order to avoid the sight of persons who washed their dirty limbs in her stream which issues from the Feet of Krishna.
Vidyanidhi was a scholar and had opened an academy at Sree Mayapur in which he used to teach his pupils. With the exception of two persons, viz., Mukunda and Vasudeb Dutta, no one knew that Vidyanidhi was a devotee of Krishna. The external conduct of Vidyanidhi was the exact opposite of that of the devotees who follow the rules of the Shastras.
Gadadhar Pandit was of the same age with Sree Chaitanya. He was spontaneously averse to all worldly attachments from his very infancy. He had never any taste for anything else except the service of Krishna by all the faculties of his pure soul. Mukunda had a great regard for Gadadhar. Vidyanidhi resided in Chittagong and occasionally came to Nabadwip. When Vidyanidhi came to Nabadwip on one of his visits Mukunda informed Gadadhar of the arrival of a great devotee and proposed that he would take Gadadhar to him as Gadadhar was always eager to have a sight of pure devotees.
Gadadhar found Vidyanidhi to be so unlike a devotee in his external conduct that he thought that he could not be a Vaishnava at all. Gadadhar found Vidyanidhi comfortably seated on a beautifully made couch on which was spread a great quantity of the most costly cushions and the best silks. There was a great number of the softest pillows of different sizes draped in silk. The fine bed had a triple canopy with an exquisite curtain. Rich caskets full of carefully prepared betels were placed within his reach and also goodly mirrors. The room was sumptuously fitted up. There were several costly jharis and a richly decorated dola was kept ready as conveyance. Vidyanidbi had a most beautiful person which was attended to with great assiduity. His hair was exquisitely combed. His dress was of the finest quality. He resembled a great prince rolling in luxury. He was constantly chewing the betel and looked into mirrors and appreciated with a smiling face the redness of his lips.
Gadadhar misunderstood the real nature of Vidyanidhi. Mukunda noticed the thought in the mind of Gadadhar. In order to dispel his doubt Mukunda began to sing the shlokas in the Bhagavatam about Putana. “How can a person be without love for Krishna Who was grateful for the motherly affection of Putana for Himself and rewarded her by conferring the position of a mother although she had made Him suck the poison which had been applied to the nipples of her breasts which she offered to the Divine Infant by feigning the affection of a mother?”
This went to the heart of Vidyanidhi. He was so struck with the sense of his guilt for having no love for Krishna that he could not avoid giving vent to his remorse which made him forget every other consideration. The coverlets, pillows, canopies, caskets were all kicked away. His costly apparel was torn to shreds. Vidyanidhi lost his senses and rolled disconsolate on the bare ground and was not calmed till full six hours of the day had passed.
Gadadhar expressed to Vidyanidhi his sorrow for doubting his devotion and Mukunda interceded for pardon for his offence. Vidyanidhi clasped Gadadhar in his arms drenching his body with his copious tears. Gadadhar then prayed through Mukunda for the favour of initiation from Vidyanidhi who was pleased to accede to the request. Gadadhar, the most intimate associate of Sree Chaitanya from His Infancy, is identified with Sree Radhika of the Pastimes of Sree Krishna.