From the oral tradition of Bengal.. Sri Nityananda was a Vaishnava Baul, he was from a long lineage of Bhakti Yogi's in Bengal. He was older than Sri Chaitanya they became great friends and he inspired Chaitanya to Baul singing as Chaitanya was a scholar and saw the Vaishnava Baul singing Hare krishna and Baul Kirtan was a great way to wake up the people. Thus it was Nitai a Vaishnava Baul and his lineage who were the pioneers if one could even use that term 'pioneers' for a people who had been Bhakti Yogi's for thousands of years in Bengal. Chaitanya was perhaps the pioneer of Gauidya Vaishnavism in Bengal but not Bhakti in Bengal.
GODDESS VISHNUPRIYA DEVI: In Vaishnavite writings, Goddess Sathyabama is said to be reborn as Vishnupriya Devi. Sri Krishna’s, eight principles wives, the Ashta Bharyas are Rukumani, Sathyabama, Jambhavati, Kalindi, Mitravrinda, Nagnahiti, Bhadra and Lakshna. Legends have it that Sathyabhama had undergone misery and suffering in her previous mortal life. After death, she sought refuge in Vaikuntha where she relentlessly served Lord Vishnu as his care-taker. The Lord, in all his mercy, promises to take her as his wife in her rebirths to assure a happy life. Thus she is re-born as Satrajit’s daughter in Krishnavatara. While Sathyabama being reborn as Vishnupriya Devi may not have a verifiable scriptural source, her service to Lord Hari is never doubted.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s story is sometimes told through Vishnupriya, his second wife and vice-versa. He was the daughter of Pandit Sanatan Mishra and Lakshmi. Saci Mata was on a look out for a bride after the death of his first wife for Nimai. That was his birth name. The first wife died being unable to bear the separation caused by her husband’s long travels in the company of his fellow Vaishnavites.
Chaitanya was forced to marry a second time, a girl called Vishnupriya Devi. It was a time when he had gone far into spiritual mysticism and god-intoxication. As in the case of many saints, Chaitnya’s family life went awry. To be a good husband to Vishnupriya was very much wanting from the initial days of the marriage. He became a sannyasi at the young age of 24. He left Vishnupriya and their home.. He died at the age of 48 yrs.
Chaitanya was the pioneer of the Bhakti movement in Bengal. He became an ascetic at the age of 24 and travelled all over India from Bengal to Varanasi, South India, Dwarka and Mathura for 6 years. He advocated bhakti or pure love of Lord Krishna, which he considered as superior to knowledge, meditation, yoga and charity. He was against social inequities, caste system. His theistic movement admitted men from all stations.
For Chaitnya, devotion to Krishna was the ultimate in spiritual aspiration, not even the liberation or the union with the Supreme which the advaitins like Shankara propagated. The songs of Chaitanya are steeped in his god-intoxicated love for devotion to Sri Krishna and Radharani. His teaching was that the pure emotion of love is such a powerful force that it could transform human beings for the better and lead them on the path to ultimate bliss. Vaishnavite followers of Chaitanya, deem Radha and Krishna as one entity, assuming two different forms for the sake of the devotees. Hence, Chaitanya’s philosophy of devotion are, among the many, the means to worship Radha and Krishna.
EARLY YEARS: Vishnupriya was hardly 14 years at the time of marriage. The alliance was arranged through Kashinatha Pandit a well known match-maker. It was said that as Krishna and Rukumani were worthy of each other, so are Vishnupriya and Nimai Pandit. The bride-groom arrived in a palanquin at dusk and the wedding was performed according to both scriptural and popular traditions. The following day Vishnupriya joined her husband on the palanquin to return to his house.
But Nimai’s life was immersed in Krishna bhakti. Knowing the eternal pastime of the wedding of Sriman Narayana and Lakshmi, then one loses the desire for material relationship of enjoyer and enjoyed, for one comes to understand that Narayanan alone is the supreme enjoyer of the entire universe. For the materialistic person, the marriage of a man and woman is the source of bondage. When the Lord marries in imitation of ordinary mortals, it becomes something quite different. By chanting and hearing about the union of the Supreme Lord with his divine energy, one is liberated from the material energy.
He had earlier taken Harinama and Diksa initiation from Sri Isvarapuri in Gaya. Prabhu hardly spoke to the wife. His personality underwent a sea of change and he was no longer Nimai Pandita but Bhavuka Nimai, one who was always absorbed in his ecstatic moods of Krishna prema. It was hardly a year before Vishnupriya and Prabhu were separated.
SANNYASA: There is a sentimental story linked to the day Prabhu decided on sannyasa. Vishnupriya went to bathe in the Ganges, where she hurts her toe which started bleeding. She also lost her nose-ring. Despite great endeavour, it could not be retrieved from the moving waters. These were inauspicious events pinned to one’s fate. Sachi Mata observed her weeping when she returned and consoled her.
But events that unfold that night were surprising. Mahaprabhu, who practically paid no attention to her, gave a surprise. In the morning he had wandered about with his Vaishnavite associates and came home with some milk and vegetables. He told Sachi Ma "Mother, please make a preparation from these, adding sugar, ghee, camphor and other ingredients, and offer it to Krsna."
After praying, he later took some prasadam as usual. Thereafter he entered the room of Vishnupriya Devi. Then, with love and affection He decorated her, gave her a beautiful garland, placed betel nuts in her mouth. He engaged in a loving conversation. But her mind was not settled. Before extinguishing a candle light burns brightly. ‘I see now that my fate may be like this’ she thought as she gently sat and massaged His lotus feet, tears pouring from her eyes. Mahaprabhu opened his eyes when He felt her tears on His feet. She was unable to utter anything and wept uncontrollably. She held his feet and wept. Hugging and wiping her tears, he asked “O Goddess. You are most dear to Me. Why are you weeping?” With no response Mahaprabhu gently placed her on His lap and spoke sweet words to her and calmed her down.
She finally spoke in a voice choked with emotion, “My life, my beauty, youth, my service, my dress and adornment is only meant to please You. If You leave me, what will I, a worthless pile of ashes, do with my life?” she cried. The most munificent and merciful Lord was neither unaware nor indifferent to His dearest devotees' pain and grief. He also wept with her. Both wept with flood of tears. It was then that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu revealed the secret of His birth and mission.
Wiping her tears with his garment, He embraced her and told her that Lord Sri Krishna is the supreme Husband of all. "Your name is Vishnupriya, she who is dear to Lord Vishnu. Please make your name worthy of yourself. Please do not needlessly torment yourself with worries of the world or what they will say. Dedicate your mind and body to serving the Lord, Mahaprabhu said. She was calm and poised as if she understood the whole of his words. Mahaprabhu then gave her His special kripa, "O Goddess Vishnupriya, now hear my words. Whenever you think of Me, I will come to you. I solemnly promise you this. It is the truth." Thus they spent their last night together in embrace.
Vishnupriya fell asleep thereafter. Just before dawn, rising from his bed where Vishnupriya lay, Mahaprabhu finished his morning rituals. He glanced at her once, and then stood up to leave home and take sannyasa. He got blessings from his mother and left Navadvipa to cross the Ganga.
SEPARATION: Her life was changed drastically. The separation was agonizing to the core. It was in the shades of Radharani. 'The earth splits from the sound of Vishnupriya's crying: the birds and beasts, even the trees and stones shed tears when they heard it. Falling to the ground she would lament, crying out Why does my sinful life not end? In separation, her breath was like fire, drying her lips and her body trembled constantly' – Chaitanya Magala 2.14.15-6.
Other than the morning bath in the Gangga with her mother in law, she restricted herself to the house. She followed a strict spiritual life and it is said that devotees never heard her voice and could see nothing more than her feet. But it was never doubted that Vishnupriya served Sachi Maa and eating the remnants. Constantly shedding tears, she became pale and thin. She counted her chants by joyfully placing grains of rice from one mud pot to another. Each rice would mean chanting one mantra of sixteen names of the Lord. And she would chant this was until she fell asleep. The accumulated rice, drenched in her tears would be used for cooking the next day. She would offer it to the Lord first.
Thus she immersed herself in the Holy Name, chanting all day long in solitude. It is also said that once Vishnupriya Devi abandoned food and drink until Mahaprabhu appeared to her in a dream, telling her to have a deity of Himself carved from the wood of the margosa tree under which Sachi mata had sat to suckle Him.
When the deity was finished, Vishnupriya sang the verse of Chandi Das: ‘Here is the Lord of my life. I am finally able to see Him for whom the arrows of desire have caused me to burn and come to the point of dying’. She was thus the first to establish worship of a deity of Gauranga Mahaprabhu. The image of the deity she installed and worshipped is still worshipped to this day in Navadvipa.
GAUDIYA VAISHNAVISM: By her devotion and austerity, Visnupriya Devi, played a very important role in the preaching of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Through her acceptance of the mood of separation, her surrender to her Lord's mission, her showing of the pangs of separation, she helped in establishing the ideal of union in separation, the cornerstone of Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy.
She melted the hearts of many and did away with the jealousy or antagonistic feeling toward Mahaprabhu that many people harboured at the time. She glorified Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It is commonly believed that Mahaprabhu was none other then Sri Krishna himself and Vishnupriya the manifestation of Sathyabhama. It is also believed that they were reborn to accept the mood and luster of Sri Krishna and Srimati Radharani. They both propagated yuga dharma or the religious practice of the day. This is ‘sri-nama-sankirtana’ the congregational chanting of the holy names. They distributed transcendental love. They made known the greatness of Srimati Radharani’s prema and Sri Krishna’s sweetness of His form through Radha.
Knowledge is of two kinds, apara vidya or material knowledge, and para vidya, or transcendental knowledge. Sri Krishna descends in his three manifestations - Childhood, the pastime of parental love; Boyhood, the pastimes of friendly love and Youth, the pastimes of amorous love considered to be the perfection of His being. Sri Krishna is the source of energy and Sri Radharani is the complete energy. She expands with Him and is inseparable as is musk from the fragrance. Goddess Vishnupriya Devi is the personification of such transcendental knowledge. Devotees worship her on her appearance day on the sukla pancami of the month of Marghizhi. Hari Om
(Draft: Gods and Goddesses.)
by Yogi Ananda Saraswathi