February 18: the world was blessed twice on this date with the birth of great Masters! First in 1486 when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born, and 350 years later, in 1836 when Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was born!
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was the ocean of wisdom; a Vedic scholar par excellence. He was an expert in all shastras; was crowned as the most learned scholar ever; and everyone feared facing him in a debate. But such a great scholar – one fine day – threw away everything and declared that simply chanting God’s Name would suffice. After that, he himself constantly chanted ‘Hare Krishna Hare Rama’ and reveled in love of God.
He had studied and mastered everything and was highly knowledgeable. But he realized that none of that was going to have any impact on the ultimate goal of life. All of this knowledge has to finally take us to God’s Feet. That is the whole point and purpose. Else such study is all in vain. That is what he wanted to show us.
Though he was a highly learned scholar he does not have any composition to his credit. He has written only one stuti known as ‘Shikshaashtakam’ that sings the glory of Krishna Nama.
The disciples of Mahaprabhu were all highly learned scholars. The list includes Advaitacharya, Vasudeva Sarvabhouma, Srivasa Pandit, Murari Gupta, Sanatana Goswami, Roopa Goswami and numerous others. They were all lions in their own domain. One of them was the greatest Tarka vidwan in the country in his time; another was the greatest Vedanta vidwan of his time. All of them had their own group of followers. But every one of them surrendered to Mahaprabhu. When we look at the picture of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu chanting Nama along with Nityananda, we find a whole lot of great scholars around them. But all of them threw up their hands and declared “all this learning is of no use if the Lord’s Name does not come on my tongue!” Giving up everything, they chanted Nama blissfully. So, all the shastras converged at Mahaprabhu’s feet.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa too exhorted his disciples to chant the Divine Name and showed them that love of God was the purpose of life. But he was the exact opposite of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He could barely even write his own name! He was uneducated.
But take a look at the list of his disciples –Swami Vivekananda, Swami Brahmananda, Swami Saradananda, Swami Ramakrishnananda, Keshab Chandra Sen (the leader of Brahmo Samaj), Surendranath Mitra, Girish Chandra Ghosh (the father of Bengali theater) and many others.
They were all highly educated. They were the cream of modern intellectuals of India. They knew all about modern sciences. They were erudite scholars of their Age! They knew literature, science and arts; but all that worldly knowledge came and converged at the feet of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa!
It is indeed a great contrast! All scriptures at the feet of Mahaprabhu and all modern day education at the feet of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa! And what did both of them teach? Simply love for God and the greatness of His Divine Names.