Prākṛta-rasa Āraṇya Chedinī

Cutting the Jungle of Misconception

Chapter 17 – Nityānanda Avadhūta

‘Nityānanda Avadhūta’ was written by Swami Narasingha in response to some sections of devotees who claimed that Nityānanda Prabhu was previously a sannyāsī. Narasingha Maharaja quotes Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja who categorically state that this was not the case.

Devotee: It has been stated by some persons who claim to follow the pure line of devotion presented by Śrīla Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, that Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu was a sannyāsī who later gave up His sannyāsa and married the two daughters of Sūrya-vipra. Is this a fact?

Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: No, this is not a fact. This is an idea that is commonly put forth by the sahajiyās and some bābājī communities. But it is not a fact. This concocted idea has not been accepted by Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura or his followers. One who says that Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu gave up sannyāsa is an offender to the Supreme Lord. At least it must be concluded that such a person is a victim of a poor fund of knowledge.

An attempt has been made to substantiate that Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu was formerly a sannyāsī by quoting from Śrīla Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura’s Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata, wherein the following verses are found.

kothāya thākila daṇḍa kothā kamaṇḍalu
kothā vā vasana gela nāhi ādi-mūla

“Where was His daṇḍa, where was His water-pot, and where were His clothes? Nothing remained with Him.” (Caitanya-bhāgavata, Madhya 5.62)

katho rātre nityānanda huṅkāra kariyā
nija-daṇḍa-kamaṇḍalu phelilā bhāṅgiyā

“In the dead of night, Nityānanda roared loudly and broke His daṇḍa and water-pot.” (Caitanya-bhāgavata, Madhya 5.67)

The references here to daṇḍa and kamaṇḍalu are enough to convince the sahajiyās that Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu was previously an initiated sannyāsī. Some sahajiyās are even of the opinion that Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu was a sannyāsī disciple of Śrī Lakṣmīpati Tīrtha, but there is no evidence for this whatsoever. In this regard, Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has stated in his purports to the above verses that the daṇḍa and kamaṇḍalu are not only symbols of the sannyāsaāśrama, they are also used by brahmacārīs. The brahmacārī daṇḍa is made from either khadira, palāśa or bamboo and when an upakurvaṇa-brahmacārī decides to enter householder life, he discards the daṇḍa. This is exactly what Lord Nityānanda did.

Some persons are of the opinion that Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu held the sannyāsa title Ānanda, but according to the Sattvatasaṁhitā, Ānanda is not one of the 108 names of a sannyāsī. Ānanda is sometimes used by the Advaitin section as a name (such as Prakāśānanda, Svarūpānanda, Brahmānanda etc), but their actual sannyāsa title is one of the daśa-nāmī; Tīrtha, Āśrama, Vana, Āraṇya, Parvata, Giri, Sāgara, Sarasvatī, Bhāratī and Purī.

Further evidence to suggest that Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu was a brahmacārī and not a sannyāsī is given in Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s commentary to verse 9 of the fifth chapter in the Madhya-khaṇḍa of Caitanya-bhāgavata as follows:

“Jagad-guru Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu was a brahmacārī disciple of Parivrājakācārya Śrī Lakṣmīpati Tīrtha, who enacted the pastimes of subordination to the Śrī Madhva sampradāya. We find His brahmacārī name was Śrī Nityānanda Svarūpa. From ancient times brahmacārī disciples of Tīrtha and Āśrama sannyāsīs have been addressed as Svarūpa.”

Again, Śrīla Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura writes:

“The brahmacārī name of Nityānanda Prabhu was Svarūpa. Since Svarūpa is the brahmacārī name of a Tīrtha sannyāsī’s disciple, some people consider Him to be a follower of Lakṣmīpati Tīrtha rather than a follower of Mādhavendra Purī.” (Purport to Cb. Madhya 5.67)

The revered Guardian of Devotion Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja comments on this topic:

“Nityānanda was not a sannyāsī, he was a brahmacārī. He performed Vyāsa-pūjā in Śrīvāsāṅgana. There some say that He was a sannyāsī, but there He had no special garment either for sannyāsī or brahmacārī. He was very independent spirit.” (Conversation 81.09.23)

“That Nityānanda was a sannyāsī, it is not a proved fact. The Nityānanda, this is Ānanda, this indicates the affix added to brahmacārī. Ānanda, Svarūpa, Prakāśa, all these types of brahmacārī. Ānanda, a name also in the sannyāsī we find, but no other title. Ānanda is a part of the name but title, no title of Nityānanda. And also no mention who was the sannyāsa-guru of Nityānanda. But dīkṣā-guru of Nityānanda is Mādhavendra Purī, it is known. Avadhūta does not mean who is sannyāsī. Avadhūta means who is not very particular of his external practices and sometimes commits something wrong which should not be committed, should not be practiced. When lower practices are seen in connection with the high-leveled person then they are considered as avadhūta. He is above that but his practices are of lower nature. Ava means lower; dhūta – that also he can either remove or he can purify.” (Conversation 82.02.06)

Furthermore, Śrīla Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura himself is of the opinion that Nityānanda was not a sannyāsī and has written:

kibā yati nityānanda kibā bhakta jñānī
yā’ra yena mata icchā nā bolaye keni

“Some may consider Nityānanda to be a sannyāsī. Others may consider Him to be a devotee or a jñānī. They may say whatever they like.” (Cb. Ādi 9.223)

 Another so-called evidence used to try to establish that Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu took sannyāsa is found in Caitanya-bhāgavata, Madhya 13.15.19:

ājñā śire kari’ nityānanda-haridāsa
tatakṣaṇe calilena pathe āsi hāsa 

dohāna sannyāsī-veśa-yāna yāra ghare
āthevyathe āsi’ bhikṣā-nimatraṇa kare

“Taking the order of Śrī Caitanya upon their heads, Nityānanda and Haridāsa immediately went out, laughing together in a happy mood. Wherever they went to beg, the householders would extend invitations to them as they were both dressed in the robes of sannyāsīs.

If we are to take it that the above verse proves that Nitāi was a sannyāsī, then following such logic we must also believe that Ṭhākura Haridāsa was a sannyāsī! Actually, neither were sannyāsīs.

Due to the social etiquette of that time, it would have been unthinkable for a Muslim such as Haridāsa to take the vows of sannyāsa, since only those born in brāhmaṇa families could formally take to the renounced order of life. Simply because they were dressed as mendicants does not necessarily mean that they had actually accepted sannyāsa. This type of unorthodox behavior was common with Śrī Nityānanda Avadhūta and on that day he had dragged Haridasa Ṭhākura into His plot.

If indeed Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu had formally taken sannyāsa, why is there no mention of such an important event in any Gauḍīya literature? Why is there no mention of his sannyāsa-guru?

Apart from the fact that the idea for the sannyāsa of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu is not supported by any bona-fide ācārya in the Gauḍīya sampradāya, it is also not in line with the divine character of Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu that He would have permitted Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu to give up his sannyāsa or associated with Him if He had done so.

It is well known that Śrī Caitanyadeva strictly adhered to the principles of sannyāsa-dharma. His strictness as a sannyāsī was exhibited in the pastime of His chastisement of Choṭa Haridāsa, who committed suicide because of a small breach of sannyāsa-dharma. So why then would Mahāprabhu turn around and associate with Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu if he was a fallen sannyāsī? Mahāprabhu Himself has stated the following:

prabhu kahe ‘vairāgī kare prakṛti sambhāṣaṇa
dekhite nā pāroṅ āmi tāhāra vadana’

“The Lord said, I cannot tolerate seeing the face of a person who has accepted the renounced order of life but who still talks intimately with a woman.’” (Cc. Antya 2.117)

kṣudra-jīva saba markaṭa-vairāgya kariyā
indriya carāñā bule ‘prakṛti’ sambhāṣiyā

“There are many persons with little in their possession who accept the renounced order of life like monkeys. They go here and there engaging in sense gratification and speaking intimately with women.” (Cc. Antya, 2.120) 

prabhu kahe — ‘mora vaśa nahe mora mana
prakṛti-sambhāṣī vairāgī nā kare darśana’

“The Lord said, ‘My mind is not under My control. It does not like to see anyone in the renounced order who talks intimately with women.’” (Cc. Antya 2.124)

Claiming to be a follower of Śrī Caitanyadeva or a follower of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, and in the same breath, claim that Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu was a fallen sannyāsī is totally absurd.

Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura came to re-establish the system of daivi-varṇāśrama, in particular to re-introduce tridaṇḍisannyāsa in the Gauḍīya line for the purpose of preaching love of God. But those persons who oppose Sarasvati Ṭhākura have tried to minimize his contribution by creating false stories to show that even Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu gave up His sannyāsa. One important point that the sahajiyās conveniently overlook is that in order to preach love of God, Śrī Caitanyadeva Himself accepted sannyāsa.

In order to attain the mercy of Śrī Caitanyadeva, one must first beg for the mercy of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu. If one concocts imaginary proofs that simply degrade the position of  Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu, then such a person is truly most unfortunate.