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Who is Advaita Acarya?

When the Lord descends to perform His pastimes, He is invariably accompanied by His intimate associates and devotees. When Sri Krishna came to perform His lila about 5000 years ago, innumerable associates from both the material and the spiritual world descended with Him to take this great opportunity to serve Him. Similarly when Caitnaya Mahaprabhu, who is non-different from Sri Krishna, came about 500 years ago, many of the same associates came again to serve Him. Of these the most confidential were collectively addressed as the Panca Tattva, which in addition to Caitanya Mahaprabhu comprised of Nityanada prabhu, Advaitacarya, Gadadhara Pandit and Srivasa Thakur.

The Caitanya Caritamrta (Adi Lila 6) is entirely devoted to the glories of Sri Advaita Acarya. He is the combined incarnation of Maha Vishnu and Sadasiva. He is the cause of the advent of Caitanya Mahaprabhu to this world, and as we will see later, the cause of His departure too. Along with Nityananda prabhu, He is Vishnu tattva, non-different from Sri Krishna and is worshippable in that form.

Sri Advaita Acarya manifested as the child of Labhadevi and Kuvera, in a village named Lauda, in present day Bangladesh, in the year 1434. His father was a Brahman, expert in Vedic scriptures and an advisor to the emperor of Sri-Hatta, King Divyasimha. Previously Labhadevi and Kuvera and six sons, of which four had taken sannyasa. The other two sons had become householders, and their descendants are still there. Sri Advaita Acarya was born after many auspicious dreams to mother Labhadevi, indicating that the Supreme Lord was descending and the event was awaited with much anticipation in the entire village.

Sri Advaita Acarya was named Kamalaksha (lotus eyed) at birth. He was also named Advaita (meaning non-different from God). As a child, He displayed many transcendental pastimes that bewildered and also gratified His parents. He refused to drink His mother’s milk unless she chanted Hare Krishna loudly. He also displayed the quick temper found in Lord Shiva. Once He grew angry at the prince making fun of Vaishnava devotees. So intimidating was His anger, that the prince, otherwise a brave lad, fainted with fright. At another time He refused even the Emperor’s order to bow to the deity of Mother Durga, explaining and finally convincing him that devotion to Sri Krishna surpasses all forms of demigod worship.

As Sri Advaita Acarya grew, His knowledge of Vedic scriptures also grew enormously. As a young boy He was awarded the prestigious Veda-pancanana, an advanced degree in Vedic scriptures. As the disciple of Santacarya, He was completely surrendered to the instructions of His guru, even though He was far more advanced in scriptures. When He reached His early teens, both His parents passed away and Sri Advaita Acarya went on an extensive pilgrimage across the country. While visiting the temples of Udupi, He met Srila Madhavendra Puri, who would later be His preceptor.

Sri Advaita Acarya quickly rose to the position of becoming a leading Vaishnava of His time. On the instructions of the Madan-Mohana deity, Who appeared to Him in a dream, He led a number of Braja residents to the secret hiding place of the deity and established a temple. Later when the Moslems again pillaged the temple, He gave the deity to Purusottam Chaube, the same Brahman who would later give the deity to Sanatana Goswami. He was also instructed in a dream to establish deities to Srimati Radha Rani and Madan Gopala, which He did in Santipur. It was at this time that Srila Madhavendra Puri came and instructed Him on the esoteric details of worship, chanting, and subsequently initiated Him.

The decline of religiosity and the suffering of people all around greatly perturbed Sri Advaita Acarya. In order to alleviate this, He would fervently pray on the banks of the river Ganges, offering flowers and tulasi leaves. Just as Sri Krishna says that simple offering of flowers, leave, water etc. made with love and devotion will satisfy Him, Sri Advaita Acarya pleased Sri Krishna with His sincere devotion so as to descend as Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Advaita Acarya was in his fifties when Nimai was born, but He always treated Nimai as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, even when Nimai was playing His pastimes of being an intellectual. Indeed He was the first to boldly proclaim that Nimai was non-different from Sri Krishna, and first worshipped young Nimai with the Krishna mantra (namo brahmanya devaya go-brahmana-hitaya ca, jagad-hitaya Krsnaya, Govindaya namo namah)

When Sri Advaita Acarya was in His fifties, He married Sitadevi, and later her younger sister Sridevi. He did this on the instructions of His spiritual master, so that there would be some one to carry on the deity worship of Madana Gopala. He also wanted to establish that spiritual progress can be made as a householder. Of His six sons, He rejected three for deviating into the mayavadi line. His eldest son, Acyutananda was to become a prominent Vaishnava in pure devotional service and is later said to have taken initiation from Gadadhara Pandit.

Even though Sri Advaita Acarya’s mood towards Caitanya Mahaprabhu was always one of servitude, Caitanya Mahaprabhu always treated Him with deference and respect. In an effort to get some real mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Advaita Acarya once started preaching mayavadi doctrines to His students. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard of this, He rushed over to Sri Advaita Acarya and asked Him three time what was better, knowledge or devotional love. When Sri Advaita Acarya answered knowledge
(jana), Caitanya Mahaprabhu displaying a pastime of being furious, kicked and pummeled Sri Advaita Acarya, much to His delight and ecstasy. Later when all was settled, Sri Advaita Acarya once again began teaching the principle of prema-bhakti very nicely.

Sri Advaita Acarya is not only the efficient cause of the descent of the Lord, but also of His disappearance. He sent a cryptic message to Caitanya Mahaprabhu, “rice is no longer needed in the market place, since every one is mad like Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself”. When Mahaprabhu received this message, He smiled and soon after displayed His pastime of disappearing. Only a few of the intimate associates understood that this message meant that the yuga dharma of sankirtan had been sufficiently well established now that it could be carried on by empowered disciples.

Sri Advaita Acarya remained manifest on the earth for 125 years, of which 25 were after the disappearance of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. His mercy on the fallen souls of the Kali yuga knew no bounds, He unveiled the Lord’s most esoteric and intimate lila for the world and as an acarya, lived, taught and inspired the very same instructions.