Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Guru Nanak

BY: SUN STAFF - 5.3 2019

Guru Nanak enroute to Jagannatha Puri Dham

A serial presentation on Guru Nanak's role in the Bhakti Movement, and his Caitanya-lila pastimes.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the citizens of Bharat were besieged by foreign intruders, from the Delhi Sultanate to the Mughal courts of Babur and Humayun. During the same period, however, many great leaders of the Bhakti Movement appeared, by Krsna's arrangement, including the Lord Himself. Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared at Navadvipa, in the Nadia district of West Bengal, on a full moon night in 1486 A.D., thus disturbing the inexorable spread of Kali's agents of misery.

Along with countless Gaudiya Vaisnava luminaries who are well known to the devotees, some of the other leading Bhakta figures of the time were Tulsidas, Kabir, Meerabai, Chandidas and Vidyapati, Tukaram, Ramdas, Surdas, and Guru Nanak. It is the last -- Guru Nanak Dev, whose association with Caitanya Mahaprabhu and activities in the Bhakti society is the subject of this brief series.

Although the two were contemporaries, Guru Nanak was older than Sri Mahaprabhu by 16 years, and he departed five years after the Disappearance of Lord Chaitanya. During his lifetime, Nanak Dev sought a middle path, of sorts, that served both the political, social and spiritual needs of his mission. We say 'middle path', because Nanak sought to avoid the strictures of both the established Hindu and Muslim systems of religion. Nonetheless, the sastra he preached, Guru Granth Sahib, is full of references to Krishna (Har Krishen), Gobind (Govinda), Gopal and Ram.

Some pandits suggest that Guru Nanak's philosophy was not much different than Sri Chaitanya's acintya-bhedda-bhedda-tattva, in that God is both formless and has Form, nirgunand sagun. Other Vaisnavas, however, conclude that Guru Nanak was simply preaching Mayavada philosophy.

Painting of Guru Nanak at Gurdwara Baoli Sahib, Jagannath Puri, Orissa.

A great deal of Guru Nanak's lifetime was spent traveling the length and breadth of India. Over 25 years, he went from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin. Among his most famous pada-tirtha stops was the one at Jagannatha Puri Dham, when he had the great fortune to meet Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

There are several stories told about their meeting, including this one by Gaudiya Matha swami, HH Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami:

"Nanak was invited to visit the temple at the time of Arati in the evening. When the arati started, Guru Nanak stood silent, not participating. Later when asked why, he said, this was not homage enough to the glory and wonder of the Lord of the Universe, to whom Nature paid a far more sublime tribute. In reply, he sang verses which remain immortal for their exquisite mystic poetry:

"In the salver of the sky 
The Sun and Moon shine like lamps, 
The galaxy of stars are scattered like pearls; 
The chandan-scented winds waft as Thine incense, 
The forests are Thy flowers. 
(Thus) is Thy arati performed, 
O, Thou Destroyer of fear!"

According to the written records of Ishvar Das, one of Mahaprabhu's intimate associates in Puri Dham, Sir Chaitanya and Guru Nanak spent some time together in Puri. This pastime is recorded in the Chaitanya Bhagbat written by Ishvar Das in Oriyan, in the 17th Century. Ishvar Das appears to have been the only one to record this meeting, which was brief and may only have been known to the eyewitnesses.

Chaitanya Bhagavat, Adhyaya 61 states:

Srinibasaye Viswambhara
Kirtan madyare vihar
Nanak Saranga ye dui
Rupa Sanatana duibhai
Jagai Madhai ekatra
Kirtan Karanti Nritya

"In the congregational singing led by Shri Chaitanya in Nagar Purushottama (Puri dham), Nanak and Saranga (another name for Mardana who played the sarangi), the two bothers Rupa and Sanatana along with Jagai and Madhai also joined in. Gopal Guru, for whom Guru Nanak had deep affection, was there as well, along with Nityananda Prabhu, who was considered an incarnation of Balarama. They all relished the kirtan at Jagannath Puri."