It’s impossible to say everything one might want to say about Lord Nityānanda in one sitting. Yesterday certainly wasn’t enough for me. Looking back, I think at one point I didn’t correctly express what was on my mind so there’s a correction to be made anyway.
Yesterday I said that when Lord Caitanya got initiated and started the saṅkīrtana movement everyone was pleasantly surprised by this transformation. Everyone celebrated it and everyone got blessed by Lord’s manifestations and mercy. It was certainly new and fresh for vaiṣṇavas of Navadvīpa who until that time lived their lives as social outcasts. That’s when Nityānanda Prabhu made His entrance. I said that at that time he was already an accomplished devotee but I actually meant He was also a grown up man. There’s a difference.
He was twelve years older than Lord Caitanya and things devotees were discovering for the first time were like ABC to Him. He was head and shoulders above everyone else, He knew everything there was to know about devotional service and not theoretically, He made Kṛṣṇa līlā His life and soul and He lived this līlā all His life.
From Caitanya Bhāgavata we know how He spent His childhood and youth – replaying all Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes again ang again. No one knew where He learned all that stuff, no one taught Him all the details. He didn’t simply play out the pastimes, He staged them all very elaborately, sometimes building actual replicas of Vṛndāvana. He had a bunch of friends, all cowherd boys from previous Kṛṣṇa’s appearance, and He was the ringleader of that group.
There’s actually a lot to learn from Lord Nityānanda’s childhood pastimes in Ekācakra. From our literature we know that Vṛndāvana in Kṛṣṇa’s time looked very different from Vṛndāvana of today. Govardhana was an actual mountain, for example, with caves and cliffs, not a remnants of a hill it visually resembles today. Internet says that originally Govardhana was 115 km long, 72 km wide, and 29 km high. By Kṛṣṇa’s time it must have shrunk already but it was still huge.
Mayapur of Lord Caitanya’s time was lost, we have Yoga Pīṭha there now, not the actual, let along original village. Ekācakra, on the other hand, still stands as if untouched by time. I don’t know if they got electricity there now but it was in pristine condition when I visited there. There was no civilization of any kind, save for the car that brought us there.
Lord Nityānanda’s pastimes happened only five hundred years ago and we know that Earth’s nature hasn’t changed much since, so whatever you can see in Ekācakra is exactly the same as it was in Lord Nityānanda’s time. First thing I noticed – you can’t walk there barefoot. Natives are probably okay but those who are used to wearing shoes will find it very hard. The ground was hard, grass wasn’t soft either. Maybe it’s better in rainy season but at the time everything was dry. It wasn’t particularly inviting to play outside in those conditions, too. There were ponds and streams here and there and it was probably enough for five year old boys but not for grown men.
Yet that’s exactly how completely spiritual Ekācakra dhama welcomed Lord Nityānanda to play His pastimes there. He didn’t mind, He thought it was perfect. If we tried to live the same lifestyle we’d probably want to go home after just a few days.
It looks like there was nothing special or magical about Holy Dhamas when the Lords were there. I can’t speak for everyone but I think lots of people expect dhamas to be a little more, how to say, comforting. But they probably weren’t. What makes them into dhamas is devotees fully engrossed in Kṛṣṇa līlā, not external appearances.
Maybe, following the same logic, today’s Vṛndāvana is also fully complete to welcome Kṛṣṇa if He decided to use it again for His pastimes. We don’t see it that way, we see it as materially degraded and we think that real, spiritual Vṛndāvana is nothing like that dusty little Indian town it looks like today. Maybe it’s already perfect. Maybe it has enough flowers, trees, fruit, cows etc. They might not look like much to us, they might not look like desire trees or surabhi cows but, perhaps, for those who actually love Kṛṣṇa they are perfectly adequate. Hmm, Yamunā is indisputably lost, though.
Anyway, Lord Nityānanda spent His childhood in complete spiritual bliss in the village of Ekācakra. When He was twelve a traveling sannyāsī asked His father to take Nitai with Him as an assistant. The Lord then spent two decades visiting all the holy places in India. We don’t know if He took sannyāsa Himself. We are not even sure who was His initiating spiritual master.
Some sources say that He was Lord Caitanya’s cousin while others say that He was godbrother of Mādhavendra Purī, which would put Him as guru of Lord Caitanya’s guru. Yet they behaved like brothers and that wouldn’t have been appropriate on Lord Caitanya’s behalf.
Caitanya Bhāgavata describes Lord Nityānanda’s meeting with Mādhavendra Purī and it didn’t look like they were separated by two steps in guru-disciple chain. Or maybe Mādhavendra Purī saw the Lord for who He was and immediately assumed position of His eternal servant. I guess it will remain a mystery.
Anyway, Lord Nityānanda was waiting in Vṛndāvana and when Lord Caitanya started His saṅkīrtana movement He immediately came to Navadvīpa. He was perfectly at home there, too. He knew what was going on. Where everyone had hopes He had full foreknowledge and that must have impressed devotees there.
Being fully immersed in Kṛṣṇa He didn’t care for anything else, not for etiquette, not for decorum, not for customs, not for rules – He was an avadhūta. Having spent so much time with sannyāsīs He was way past that level, He knew the goal and the essence of renunciation and He was a perfect example of how everything done for Kṛṣṇa is automatically perfect and pure, and a standard for everyone else to follow.
There’s one more thing to be said about Lord Nityānanda’s behavior – He really didn’t care for anything but service to Kṛṣṇa. Lord Caitanya had sent Six Gosvāmīs to Vṛndāvana to reveal Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes and they have written a lot of literature on the subject but not a lot about Lord Nityānanda. Among probably hundreds of books He was briefly mentioned only once or twice.
We can understand why – Gosvāmīs elaborated on conjugal relations with Kṛṣṇa, which wasn’t Lord Nityānanda’s cup of tea. Did He care? Not at all. All His followers and associates were in a relatively inferior sakhyā rasa and, being situated in their original position, they didn’t envy or strive for a relatively superior level of gopīs. They had a blast of the time in Bengal for themselves. They didn’t stop anyone from pursuing gopīs’ path, either. Lord Nityānanda personally appeared in Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja dream and ordered Him to go to Vṛndāvana, for example.
We do not practice any rasas in our service but it would be wise of us to learn Lord Nityānanda’s humility and dedication to whatever service was assigned to Him. He was asked to preach to Bengali “infidels” and that’s what He did, He didn’t mind that others were given the much more prestigious task of going to Vṛndāvana and revealing the highest truth about relationship with God.
For that we can easily find examples among us – devotees who think that moving to Vṛndāvana is superior and more desirable than staying put and following the orders of our gurus. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. We should take a hint from Lord Nityānanda, though, and realize that if we dedicate ourselves to executing whatever orders given we would satisfy not only ourselves but Kṛṣṇa, too. Shouldn’t that be our goal? Shouldn’t Lord Nityānanda be our adi-guru? Yes and yes, case closed.