For the impersonalist and voidist philosophers, the next world is a world of senseless eternity and bliss. The voidist philosophers want to establish that ultimately everything is senseless, and the impersonalists want to establish that in the next world there is simply knowledge devoid of activity. Thus less intelligent salvationists try to carry imperfect knowledge into the sphere of perfect spiritual activity. Because the impersonalist experiences material activity as miserable, he wants to establish spiritual life without activity. He has no understanding of the activities of devotional service. Indeed, spiritual activity in devotional service is unintelligible to the voidist philosophers and impersonalists. The Vaiṣṇava philosophers know perfectly well that the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, can never be impersonal or void because He possesses innumerable potencies. Through His innumerable energies, He can present Himself in multiple forms and still remain the Absolute Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus despite expanding Himself in multiple forms and diffusing His innumerable energies, He can maintain His transcendental position.
Thus Lord Caitanya exposed many defects in the Māyāvādī philosophy, and although Bhaṭṭācārya tried to establish himself by logic and word jugglery, Lord Caitanya was able to maintain Himself from his attacks. The Lord established that Vedic literature is meant for three things: understanding our relationship with the Absolute Supreme Personality of Godhead, acting according to that understanding, and achieving the highest perfection of life, love of Godhead. Anyone who tries to prove that the Vedic literatures aim at anything else is of necessity a victim of his own imagination.
The Lord then quoted some verses from the Purāṇas by which He established that Śaṅkarācārya was deputed to teach by the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He quoted a verse from the Padma Purāṇa (62.31) in which it is stated that the Lord ordered Mahādeva, Lord Śiva, to present some imaginary interpretations of Vedic literatures in order to divert people from the actual purpose of the Vedas. "By doing so you will attempt to make them atheists," the Lord said. "After that, they can produce more population." It is also stated in Padma Purāṇa (25.9) that Lord Śiva explained to his wife, Pārvatī, that in the age of Kali he would come in the form of a brāhmaṇa to preach an imperfect interpretation of the Vedas, known as Māyāvādism, which in actuality is but a second edition of atheistic Buddhist philosophy.
Bhaṭṭācārya was overwhelmed by these explanations of Lord Caitanya. After hearing Māyāvāda philosophy explained by Lord Caitanya, he could not speak. After he remained silent for some time, Lord Caitanya asked him, "My dear Bhaṭṭācārya, don't be confused by this explanation. Please take it from Me that the devotional service of the Supreme Lord is the highest perfectional stage of human understanding. Indeed, it is so attractive that even those who are already liberated become devotees by the inconceivable potency of the Supreme Personality of Godhead." There are many such conversions in Vedic literature. For instance, in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 1.7.10) the famous Ātmārāma verse is especially meant for those who are attracted to self-realization and liberated from all material attachments. Such liberated impersonalists become attracted to devotional service by the various activities of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Such are the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Actually, in pure consciousness the living entity understands himself as the eternal servant of the Supreme Lord. Under the spell of illusion, a person accepts the gross and subtle bodies as his self; such a conception is the basis of the doctrine of transference. Actually the part and parcel of the Supreme is not eternally subjected to gross and subtle bodily life. The gross and subtle coverings do not comprise the living entity's eternal form; they can be changed. In other words, the living entity, who is originally pure spirit, can be conditioned by the gross and subtle bodies and, by freeing himself from these gross and subtle conditionings, again attain his situation as pure spirit. Māyāvādī philosophers take advantage of this doctrine of transference by saying that the living entity is under the wrong impression when he thinks himself to be part and parcel of the Supreme. They maintain that the living entity is the Supreme Himself. This doctrine cannot be tenable.
Bhaṭṭācārya then asked Lord Caitanya to explain the famous Ātmārāma verse, for he desired to hear it from the Lord Himself. Lord Caitanya replied that first of all Bhaṭṭācārya should explain the verse according to his own understanding, and then Lord Caitanya would explain it. Bhaṭṭācārya then began to explain the Ātmārāma śloka, using his methods of logic and grammar. Thus he explained the Ātmārāma śloka in nine different ways. The Lord appreciated his erudite scholarship in explaining the verse and said: "My dear Bhaṭṭācārya, I know that you are a representative of the learned scholar Bṛhaspati and can explain any portion of the śāstras nicely. Yet your explanation is more or less based on academic education only. Aside from this academic scholarly approach, there is another explanation."
Then, at the request of Bhaṭṭācārya, Lord Caitanya explained the Ātmārāma śloka. The words of the verse were analyzed thus: (1) ātmārāmāḥ, (2) ca, (3) munayaḥ, (4) nirgranthāḥ, (5) api, (6) urukrame, (7) kurvanti, (8) ahaitukīm, (9) bhaktim, (10) itthambhūta-guṇaḥ, (11) hariḥ. This verse has already been explained in the Lord's teachings to Sanātana Gosvāmī. Lord Caitanya did not mention the nine different explanations of Bhaṭṭācārya, but He did explain the verse by analyzing these eleven words. In this way, He expounded sixty-one different explanations of the verse. In summary He said that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of innumerable potencies; no one can estimate how many transcendental qualities He possesses. His qualities are always inconceivable, and all processes of self-realization inquire into the potencies, energies and qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. However, the devotees of the Lord immediately accept the inconceivable position of the Lord. Lord Caitanya explained that even great liberated souls like the Kumāras and Śukadeva Gosvāmī were also attracted to the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord. Bhaṭṭācārya appreciated Lord Caitanya's explanation, and he concluded that Lord Caitanya was none other than Kṛṣṇa Himself. Bhaṭṭācārya then began to deprecate his own position, relating that he had at first considered Lord Caitanya to be an ordinary human being and therefore committed an offense. He then fell down at the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya, deprecating himself, and requested the Lord to show His causeless mercy upon him. Lord Caitanya appreciated the humility of this great scholar and therefore exhibited His own form, first with four hands, and then with six hands (ṣaḍbhuja). Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya then repeatedly fell down at the Lord's lotus feet and composed various prayers to Him. He was undoubtedly a great scholar, and after receiving the causeless mercy of the Lord, he was empowered to explain the Lord's activities in different ways. Indeed, he was able to express the method of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
It is said that Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya composed a hundred verses in appreciation of the Lord's activities, and that those verses were so great that they could not even be surpassed by Bṛhaspati, the greatest learned scholar in the heavenly planets. The Lord was very pleased to hear these hundred verses, and He embraced Bhaṭṭācārya. Bhaṭṭācārya became overwhelmed with ecstasy by the Lord's touch, and he practically fell unconscious. He cried, trembled, shivered and perspired, and sometimes he danced and sang and fell at the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya. Bhaṭṭācārya's brother-in-law, Gopīnātha Ācārya, and the devotees of the Lord were surprised to see the Bhaṭṭācārya transformed into a great devotee.
Gopīnātha Ācārya then began to thank the Lord: "It is by Your grace only that Bhaṭṭācārya has been transformed from his stonelike position into such a devotee." Lord Caitanya then replied to Gopīnātha Ācārya that it was due to a devotee's favor that a stonelike man could be transformed into a mild, flowerlike devotee. Actually Gopīnātha Ācārya had sincerely wished that his brother-in-law, Bhaṭṭācārya, would become a devotee of the Lord. He had sincerely desired that the Lord favor Bhaṭṭācārya, and he was glad to see that his desire was fulfilled by Lord Caitanya. In other words, a devotee of the Lord is more merciful than the Lord Himself. When a devotee desires to show his mercy to a person, the Lord acts, and by His grace one becomes a devotee.
Lord Caitanya pacified Bhaṭṭācārya and asked him to go home. Bhaṭṭācārya again began to praise the Lord and said, "You have descended Yourself to deliver all the fallen souls of this material world. Such an undertaking is not very difficult for You, but You have turned a stonehearted man like me into a devotee, and that is very wonderful indeed. Although I was very expert at logical arguments and grammatical explanations of the Vedas, I was as hard as a lump of iron. But Your influence and temperature were so great that You could melt away a piece of iron like me."
Lord Caitanya then returned to His place, and Bhaṭṭācārya sent Gopīnātha Ācārya to Him with various kinds of prasāda from Jagannātha temple. The next day the Lord went to the temple of Jagannātha early in the morning to attend maṅgala ārati. The priests in the temple brought Him a garland from the Deity and also offered Him various kinds of prasāda. The Lord was very much pleased to receive them, and He at once went to the house of Bhaṭṭācārya, taking the prasāda and the flowers to present to him. Although it was early in the morning, Bhaṭṭācārya understood that the Lord had come and was knocking on his door. He at once rose from his bed and began to say, "Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!" This was heard by Lord Caitanya. When Bhaṭṭācārya opened the door, he saw the Lord standing there, and he was so pleased to see Him early in the morning that he tried to receive Him with all care. He offered Him a nice seat, and both of them sat there. Lord Caitanya then offered him the prasāda which He had received in the temple of Jagannātha, and Bhaṭṭācārya was very glad to receive this prasāda from the hands of Lord Caitanya Himself. Indeed, without taking his bath and without performing his daily duties or even washing his teeth, he began immediately to eat the prasāda. In this way, he was freed from all material contamination and attachment, and as he began to eat the prasāda, he cited a verse from Padma Purāṇa. In Padma Purāṇa it is stated that when prasāda is brought or received, it must be eaten immediately, even if it has become very dry or old, or even if it is brought from a distant place, or even if one has not completed executing his daily duties. Since it is enjoined in the śāstras that prasāda should immediately be taken, there is no restriction of time and space; the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead must be followed. There are restrictions one must follow before accepting food from various people, but there are no restrictions on accepting prasāda from all kinds of people. prasāda is always transcendental and can be taken under any condition. Lord Caitanya was very pleased to see that Bhaṭṭācārya, who had always obeyed the rules and regulations strictly, accepted prasāda without following any rules and regulations. Being so pleased, Lord Caitanya embraced Bhaṭṭācārya, and they both began to dance in transcendental ecstasy. In that ecstasy, Lord Caitanya exclaimed: "My mission in Jagannātha Purī is now fulfilled! I have converted a person like Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya. I shall now be able to attain Vaikuṇṭha without fail." The missionary goal of a devotee is to convert simply one person into a pure devotee. In this way his admission to the spiritual kingdom is guaranteed. The Lord was so pleased with Bhaṭṭācārya that He began to bless him repeatedly: "Dear Bhaṭṭācārya, now you are a completely pure devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa is now very much pleased with you. From today you are freed from the contamination of this material body and the entanglement of material energy. You are now fit to go back to Godhead, back home." The Lord then cited a verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 2.7.42)
- yeṣāṁ sa eva bhagavān dayayed anantaḥ
- sarvātmanāśrita-pado yadi nirvyalīkam
- te dustarām atitaranti ca deva-māyāṁ
- naiṣāṁ mamāham-iti dhīḥ śva-śṛgāla-bhakṣye
"Whoever takes complete shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord is favored by the Supreme Lord, who is known to be unlimited. Such a person also receives permission to cross the ocean of nescience. However, one who thinks this material body to be himself cannot receive the causeless mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
After this incident, Lord Caitanya returned to His place, and Bhaṭṭācārya became a pure and faultless devotee. Since he was formerly a great academic scholar, Bhaṭṭācārya could only have been converted by the causeless mercy of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. From that day forward Bhaṭṭācārya never explained any Vedic literature without explaining devotional service. Gopīnātha Ācārya, his brother-in-law, was so pleased to see Bhaṭṭācārya's condition that he began to dance in ecstasy and vibrate the transcendental sound Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
The next day, after visiting Jagannātha temple early in the morning, Bhaṭṭācārya went to visit Lord Caitanya, and he offered his respects by falling down before the Lord. He then began to explain his past undesirable behavior. When he asked the Lord to speak something of devotional service, the Lord began to explicitly explain the verses of Bṛhan-nāradīya Purāṇa, in which it is stated: harer nāma harer nāma (CC Ādi 17.21). Upon hearing this explanation, Bhaṭṭācārya became more and more ecstatic. Seeing the condition of his brother-in-law, Gopīnātha Ācārya said, "My dear Bhaṭṭācārya, previously I had said that when one is favored by the Supreme Lord, he will understand the techniques of devotional service. Today I am seeing this fulfilled."
Bhaṭṭācārya offered him his due respect and replied, "My dear Gopīnātha Ācārya, it is through your mercy that I have received the mercy of the Supreme Lord." The mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead can be obtained by the mercy of a pure devotee. Lord Caitanya's mercy was bestowed upon Bhaṭṭācārya because of Gopīnātha Ācārya's endeavor. "You are a great devotee of the Lord," Bhaṭṭācārya continued, "and I was simply blinded by my academic education. Yes, I have obtained the mercy of the Lord through your agency only." Lord Caitanya Himself was greatly pleased to hear Bhaṭṭācārya say that a man can obtain the mercy of the Lord through the agency of a devotee. He appreciated his words and embraced Bhaṭṭācārya, confirming his statement.
The Lord then requested Bhaṭṭācārya to go to Jagannātha temple again, and Bhaṭṭācārya started out for the temple accompanied by Jagadānanda and Dāmodara, two principal associates of Lord Caitanya. After seeing Jagannātha temple, Bhaṭṭācārya returned home and brought with him much prasāda purchased from the temple. He sent all this prasāda to Lord Caitanya through his brāhmaṇa servant.
He also dispatched two verses written on palm tree leaves and requested Jagadānanda to render him a favor by delivering them. Thus Lord Caitanya was offered the prasāda and the verses on the palm leaves. However, before reaching the Lord, Mukunda Datta, who had also undertaken the delivery of the verses, had copied the verses in his book. When Lord Caitanya read the verses on the palm leaf, he tore them to pieces, for He never liked to be praised by anyone. The verses only survive because they had been copied by Mukunda Datta. These verses praised the Lord, the Supreme Original Personality of Godhead who had descended as Lord Caitanya to preach detachment, transcendental knowledge and devotional service to the people in general. Lord Caitanya was praised as the original Personality of Godhead and was compared with an ocean of mercy. "Let me surrender unto that Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu," the verses stated. "The Lord, seeing that devotional service was absent, descended Himself in the form of Caitanya Mahāprabhu to preach devotional service. Let us all surrender unto His lotus feet and learn from Him what devotional service actually is." These verses are considered to be most important jewels by the devotees of the Lord in disciplic succession, and by virtue of these famous verses Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya has become known as the highest of devotees.
Thus Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya was converted into one of the most important devotees of the Lord, and he had no other interest than to serve the Lord. He thought of Lord Caitanya constantly, and meditation and chanting became the main purpose of his life.
One day Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya came before the Lord, offered his respects and began to read a verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 10.14.8). This verse dealt with Lord Brahmā's prayer to the Lord. The verse read:
- tat te 'nukampāṁ susamīkṣamāṇo
- bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam
- hṛd-vāg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
- jīveta yo mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk
"A person who devotes his mind, body and speech to the service of the Lord, even though in the midst of a miserable life fraught with past misdeeds, is assured of liberation." Bhaṭṭācārya changed the word mukti (liberation) to bhakti (devotional service).
"Why have you changed the original verse?" the Lord asked Bhaṭṭācārya. "The word is mukti, and you have changed it to bhakti." Bhaṭṭācārya then replied that mukti is not as valuable as bhakti and that mukti is actually a sort of punishment for the pure devotee. For this reason he changed the word mukti to bhakti. Bhaṭṭācārya then began to explain his realization of bhakti. "Anyone who does not accept the transcendental Personality of Godhead and His transcendental form cannot know the Absolute Truth," he said.
One who does not understand the transcendental nature of the body of Kṛṣṇa becomes Kṛṣṇa's enemy and defies or fights with Him. The enemies eventually merge into the Lord's Brahman effulgence. Such mukti or liberation into the Brahman effulgence is never desired by the Lord's devotees. There are five kinds of liberation: (1) attaining the planet where the Lord resides, (2) associating with the Lord, (3) attaining a transcendental body like the Lord's, (4) attaining opulence like the Lord, and (5) merging into the existence of the Lord. A devotee has no particular interest in any of these types of liberation. He is satisfied simply by being engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. A devotee is especially adverse to merging into the existence of the Lord and losing his individual identity. Indeed, a devotee considers oneness with the Lord to be hellish. He will, however, accept one of the four other kinds of liberation in consideration for being engaged in the service of the Lord. Out of the two possibilities of merging in transcendence—namely becoming one with the impersonal Brahman effulgence and becoming one with the Personality of Godhead—the latter is more abominable to the devotee. The devotee has no aspiration other than engaging in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.
On hearing this, Lord Caitanya informed Bhaṭṭācārya that there is another purport to the word mukti. The word mukti-pade directly indicates the Personality of Godhead. The Personality of Godhead has innumerable liberated souls engaged in His transcendental loving service, and He is the ultimate resort of liberation. In any case, Kṛṣṇa is the ultimate shelter.
"Despite this reading," Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya replied, "I prefer bhakti to mukti. Although according to You there are two meanings to the word mukti, still, because this word is equivocal, I prefer bhakti to mukti because when one hears the word mukti, he immediately thinks of becoming one with the Supreme. I therefore even hate to utter the word mukti. However, I am very enthusiastic to speak of bhakti."
Lord Caitanya laughed very loudly at this and embraced Bhaṭṭācārya with great love.
Thus Bhaṭṭācārya, who had taken pleasure in explaining Māyāvādī philosophy, became such a staunch devotee that he even hated to utter the word mukti. This is only possible by the causeless mercy of the Lord Śrī Caitanya. The Lord is like a touchstone, for by His grace He can turn iron into gold. After his conversion, everyone marked a great change in Bhaṭṭācārya, and they concluded that this change was made possible only by the inconceivable power of Lord Caitanya. Thus they took it for granted that Lord Caitanya was none other than Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself.