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dharmiṣṭha ārya-vacasā yad agād araṇyam
māyā-mṛgaṁ dayitayepsitam anvadhāvad
vande mahā-puruṣa te caraṇāravindam
According to the Vaiṣṇava ācāryas, this important verse of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is understood to describe Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Lord Kṛṣṇa and also Lord Śrī Rāmacandra. This verse appears within the discussion by the sage Karabhājana of the yugāvatāras, or the different incarnations of the Personality of Godhead who deliver the conditioned souls of each age. The prayers ending with the words vande mahā-puruṣa te caraṇāravindam are understood to glorify the incarnation of Lord Kṛṣṇa in Kali-yuga known as Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Caitanya Mahāprabhu lived for twenty-four years in Navadvīpa as a householder and enjoyed immense popularity among both scholars and ordinary persons. His saṅkīrtana movement was completely supported by the local government, even though it was Muslim. And Caitanya Mahāprabhu had the pleasure of marrying the goddess of fortune. No ordinary woman of the material world, no matter how gorgeous she may be, can in any way compare with the beautiful goddess of fortune. Everyone in the universe, including Lord Brahmā, is searching after the goddess of fortune. Therefore it is stated here, surepsita.
However, Caitanya Mahāprabhu is Lord Kṛṣṇa appearing as a brāhmaṇa, and therefore He is certainly dharmiṣṭhaḥ, or the most religious. Actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead is always dharmiṣṭhaḥ, whether He appears as a cowherd boy, a great king or a brāhmaṇa, because the Lord Himself is the original source and personification of all religious principles. However, in the pastimes of Caitanya Mahāprabhu there are very few political or economic activities. Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared as a great philosopher-brāhmaṇa, and thus He is certainly dharmiṣṭhaḥ. In Caitanya-caritāmṛta, in the Seventeenth Chapter of the Ādi-līlā, it is described that a certain brāhmaṇa, who was well known for being harsh and cursing others, could not enter the kīrtana hall where Caitanya Mahāprabhu was performing kīrtana because the door was locked. Being very agitated and breaking his brāhmaṇa’s thread, he cursed Caitanya Mahāprabhu the next day on the bank of the Ganges, saying, “I shall now curse You, for Your behavior has greatly aggrieved me. You shall be bereft of all material happiness.” However, Caitanya Mahāprabhu felt great jubilation within Himself, since His mission was vairāgya-vidyā-nija-bhakti-yoga — to give up the illusion of material sense gratification and staunchly engage twenty-four hours a day in the devotional service of the Lord. Therefore, Caitanya Mahāprabhu took this curse as a blessing, and soon after, the Lord took sannyāsa. Thus it is stated in this verse that by the words of the Āryan, the brāhmaṇa (ārya-vacasā), Caitanya Mahāprabhu took sannyāsa (yad agād araṇyam) and went traveling through the different forests of India on the way to Vṛndāvana, and later South India. Caitanya Mahāprabhu wanted especially to preserve the prestige of the brāhmaṇa class, and therefore He decided to keep the brāhmaṇa’s curse intact.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has explained the word māyā-mṛgam as follows. Māyā means one’s so-called wife, children and bank account, which keep one firmly bound up in the material bodily concept of life. The word mṛgam indicates mṛgyati, or “to search out.” Thus, māyā-mṛgam indicates the conditioned living entity, who is always frantically searching for the latest up-to-the-minute sense gratification in the material bodily concept of society, friendship and love. Anvadhāvat indicates that Caitanya Mahāprabhu was always visibly going here and there, searching after the fallen conditioned souls. Caitanya Mahāprabhu would sometimes embrace the conditioned souls on the pretext of religious friendship or ecstasy. But actually, the Lord was touching the bodies of the conditioned souls to pull them out of the ocean of material existence and hurl them into the ocean of ecstatic love of Godhead. Thus Caitanya Mahāprabhu was the most merciful and munificent incarnation of the Lord, whose mercy surpassed the bounds of mundane discrimination in the matter of caste, color and creed.
The word dayitayā can be explained as follows. The Sanskrit word dayā means “mercy.” Thus, by grammatical derivation, the word used in this verse, dayitayā, indicates that because of being the most merciful, Caitanya Mahāprabhu was busily engaged in rescuing the fallen conditioned souls, who are completely distracted and bewildered by the external illusory energy of the Lord. The quality of being the most merciful is part and parcel of the character of the mahā-puruṣa, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
According to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, this verse also describes the incarnation of Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself in His original blackish form. Thus the words surepsita-rājya-lakṣmīm indicate śrī-mathurā-sampattim, or the opulence of Mathurā. Mathurā is described in Vedic literature as the reservoir of all opulence because of the touch of the Lord’s lotus feet in that precinct. But Kṛṣṇa, although taking birth in the opulent city of Mathurā, transferred Himself to the forest village of Vṛndāvana. In this case the word ārya-vacasā indicates the order of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s original parents, Vasudeva and Devakī. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.3.22, 29) both Vasudeva and Devakī express their fear at the threat of Kaṁsa, who had already killed all of Kṛṣṇa’s elder brothers. The word ārya-vacasā thus indicates that with great love they requested Kṛṣṇa to kindly make some arrangement to avoid Kaṁsa. And Kṛṣṇa, to obey their order, transferred Himself to the forest village of Vṛndāvana (yad agād araṇyam).
In this context, the words māyā-mṛgam indicate the special, exalted relationship between Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Māyā also indicates the internal potency of Kṛṣṇa, yoga-māyā. The original form of Kṛṣṇa’s internal potency is Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Due to the inconceivable love of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, Lord Kṛṣṇa becomes easily controlled by Her. Thus, mṛgam, or “animal,” in this case indicates krīḍā-mṛgam, or “a toy animal.” Just as a beautiful young girl may play with so many dolls or stuffed animals, similarly Lord Kṛṣṇa becomes just like a doll in the hands of the most beautiful young girl, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. According to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī performed innumerable types of worship in order to bind Kṛṣṇa more and more to Her because Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī cannot live without Kṛṣṇa. Thus, due to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s ārādhana, or worship, Kṛṣṇa can never leave Vṛndāvana. He runs here and there in Vṛndāvana, protecting the cows, playing with His friends and engaging in countless intrigues of love with Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and the gopīs. Thus the word anvadhāvat indicates Kṛṣṇa’s boyish activities, His running throughout the transcendental land of Vṛndāvana, tightly under the control of the love of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī has explained how this verse also describes the incarnation of Lord Śrī Rāmacandra. Although the Lord is completely independent and detached from everything, He becomes attached to His pure devotees due to their love for Him. In the great capital of Ayodhyā all of the citizens loved Rāmacandra more than can be described. In this context ārya-vacasā means that by the order of His father, who was just like His guru, Rāmacandra gave up everything and went to the forest. There He exhibited His great affection for mother Sītā and chased after māyā-mṛgam, or the illusory deer that had been created by the trick of Rāvaṇa. That this golden deer was especially desired by Śrīmatī Sītādevī is indicated by the word dayitayepsitam.
All of the limbs of the Lord’s transcendental body are nondifferent and interchangeable, as stated in Brahma-saṁhitā (5.32):
aṅgāni yasya sakalendriya-vṛttimanti
paśyanti pānti kalayanti ciraṁ jaganti
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
All of the limbs (aṅgāni) of the Supreme Lord are sakalendriya-vṛttimanti, or possessing all of the functions of all of the other limbs. Thus the two lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead are a plenary representation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and worshiping the Lord’s lotus feet immediately places the worshiper in the ocean of transcendental bliss. There is no factual difference in spiritual quality between the incarnations of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Lord Kṛṣṇa and Lord Śrī Rāmacandra. As stated in Vedic literatures, advaitam acyutam anādim ananta-rūpam. Therefore there is no contradiction in the opinions of the ācāryas that this verse wonderfully glorifies three different manifestations of the one Absolute Truth. Caitanya Mahāprabhu is undoubtedly the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His transcendental attributes fulfill in every sense of the term the descriptions of the Absolute Truth as given in Vedic literature. In Caitanya-caritāmṛta, in the Third Chapter of the Ādi-līlā, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī and Śrīla Prabhupāda have given elaborate explanations of the transcendental status of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, which the reader can refer to for further information.
Everyone should follow the example of the sage Karabhājana and worship the lotus feet of the Mahāprabhu, the mahā-puruṣa, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. One should not rot on the platform of mental speculation and whimsical interpretation but should actually revive his lost relationship with the Absolute Truth by surrendering to Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Those who are worshiping Caitanya Mahāprabhu are deriving wonderful spiritual results and are tasting the fruit of love of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, vande mahā-puruṣa te caraṇāravindam: let us humbly bow down at the lotus feet of the original Personality of Godhead, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who is the mahā-puruṣa glorified within Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
Corroborating the explanation of this verse, the followers of Caitanya Mahāprabhu also worship Him in His six-armed form of ṣaḍ-bhuja. Two arms carry the waterpot and daṇḍa of the sannyāsī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, two arms carry the flute of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and two arms carry the bow and arrow of Śrī Rāmacandra. This ṣaḍ-bhuja form is the actual purport of this verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.