Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has described in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta that the first sprout of the desire tree of devotion was manifested in the person of Sri Madhavendra Puri, and that that sprout developed into a sapling in the person of Sri Isvar Puri. Then, in the person of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Who was also the gardener Himself, that sapling become the trunk of a enormous tree, the desire tree of devotion. [C. C. Adi 9.10-11]
Sri Isvara Puri appeared in this world on the full moon day of the month of Jyestha. He served his guru, Sri Madhavendra Puri, very faithfully, especially during the end of Sri Puripada’s life. [C. C. Antya 8.26]
Sri Isvara Puri, in his travels to various holy places, once came to Sridhama Navadwipa, where he stayed in the house of Sri Gopinatha Acarya. At that time Sri Nimai Pandita was absorbed in His pastimes of learning. Iswara Puri entered Nadiya nagara in disguise and thus no one could understand who he really was.
“That noble minded gentleman, was always absorbed in the mellows of devotion to Sri Krsna. He was thus extremely dear to Sri Krsna and he was an ocean of mercy. No one, however, could recognize him by his dress. By the will of fate, he came to Sri Advaita Acarya’s house.” [C. B. Adi 11]
He came to where Sri Advaita Acarya was engaged in worshipping Sri Krsna and quietly sat down there. By his divine lustre one Vaishnava cannot remain hidden from another. Advaita Acarya began to look in his direction again and again. Finally he asked him: “Bap! Who are you? I have a feeling you are a Vaishnava sannyasi.”
Sri Isvara Puri very humbly replied: “I am a low class shudra, come to view your lotus feet.” Mukunda Datta, who was also present could also understand that this is a Vaishnava sannyasi and thus he contrived to expose him. In his sweet voice, he began a kirtana describing Sri Krsna’s pastimes. When Sri Isvara Puri heard that kirtan he at once fell to the ground, and the earth beneath him became wet with his tears. The devotees present were dumbstruck. “We haven’t seen a Vaishnava like this before.”
Advaita Acarya very firmly embraced him. Now everyone could understand that this is Madhavendra Puri’s dearmost disciple, Sri Isvar Puri. Loud shouts of “Hari! Hari!” rose up into the air.
Sri Isvara Puri remained at Navadwipa for some days. One day when Nimai Pandita was returning home from the school, he happened by chance to meet Sri Isvara Puri on the way. Sri Isvara Puri was as though mesmerized while looking at the son of Saci, and thought to himself, “He has all the indications of being a divine personage, and appears very grave indeed.”
Srila Isvara Puri inquired, “Oh Viprabori ! May I know your name? Where do you live? What is that manuscript in Your hand?” Mahaprabhu very humbly offered His namaskar. Some of his disciples replied, “His name is Nimai Pandit.” Exclaiming, “You are the famous Nimai Pandita!” Isvara Puri felt very happy to meet Him. Mahaprabhu, coming forward and bowing his head, humbly requested, “Sripada, please come with Me to My house and be My guest for lunch.”
Isvara Puri thought to himself, “What a pleasant demeanour He has!” As though charmed by some mantra he quietly came along with the Pandit to His house. Arriving there, Mahaprabhu personally washed his feet, while in the Deity room, Saci Mata offered the various preparations that she had prepared to the Lord. Then Mahaprabhu served that prasadam to Sri Isvara Puri and afterwards accepted his remnants. Thereafter they sat in the temple (Visnu grha) and discussed Krsna-katha, by which they both became filled with ecstatic love.
Sri Iswara Puri thus remained at Navadwipa for a few months, staying at the house of Sri Gopinatha Acarya. Everyday Mahaprabhu would come to have darshan of his lotus feet and occasionally He would invite him for lunch. At that time Srila Gadadhara Pandita was just a young boy and Isvara Puri was very affectionate to him. He began to teach him from the book which he had composed “Sri Krsna Lilamrta”.
One evening when Mahaprabhu had come to offer His obeisances to Isvara Puri, Srila Puripada spoke to him, “You are a great pandita. I have composed a manuscript about Sri Krsna’s pastimes. If you would please hear it, then I can recite it before You, and You can correct any mistakes that there might be. I will be very pleased if You do this.”
Mahaprabhu replied smilingly, “Whatever a devotee speaks is dictated by Sri Krsna Himself. If anyone sees any fault in this then he is simply a sinful wretch. Whatever poems he composes, certainly Krsna is very pleased by that. Krsna accepts the mood in which things are offered as the most substantial part of the offering.” To Isvara Puri these words were like drops of nectar and he could understand that Sri Nimai Pandita was an extraordinary person. After passing some days in Nadia, Isvara Puri continued his tour of the holy places.
Meanwhile Mahaprabhu was bringing His pastimes of learning to a close and now desired to reveal His true Self and establish the religion of the age by distributing love of Godhead through the chanting of His Holy Names. Thus He came to Gaya, ostensibly to offer pinda for His departed father and forefathers. Sri Isvara Puri was present at that time at Gaya. After having offered pinda at the various holy shrines, he finally came to the place where the lotus footprints of Sri Visnu are. While taking darshan and hearing of the glories of the shrine Mahaprabhu fainted and fell to the ground. By the arrangement of Providence, Sri Isvara Puri happened to come to that spot just then and learned from Sri Candrashekar Acarya what had transpired. After a short time Mahaprabhu regained His consciousness, and seeing Isvara Puri He got up to offer His obeisances. Sri Isvara Puri embraced Him and the two of them were drenched by each others tears of love.
Mahaprabhu addressed Isvara Puri, “My journey to Gaya is successful just by My seeing your lotus feet. If one offers Pinda at this holy place, then his forefathers become delivered. But simply by seeing you, tens of millions of forefathers get liberation. Therefore your presence is even more auspicious than that of this holy tirtha. All of the holy tirthas pray for the dust of your lotus feet. Therefore, O Puripada, I am praying at your lotus feet to ferry me across the ocean of material existence and to cause me to drink the nectar from Krsna’s lotus feet.”
Srila Isvara Puri replied, “Please hear me Panditji, I have understood that You are an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. This morning I saw a very auspicious dream and now that has actually materialized. From the first day I saw you at Navadwipa, I have always thought of You. I get such pleasure by seeing You, as much pleasure as I get by seeing Krsna.”
Hearing this, Mahaprabhu bowed his head and smilingly replied, “This is my great fortune.”
On another day Mahaprabhu approached Sri Isvar Puri and requested that he initiate Him with the divine mantra. “My mind is becoming very restless in anticipation of this initiation. “Srila Puripada very blissfully replied, “What to speak of mantras, I am prepared to offer You my very life.” [C. B. Adi 17.10]
Thereafter Srila Isvara Puri initiated Mahaprabhu with the divine mantra.
One morning Srila Isvara Puri came to where Mahaprabhu was staying. Mahaprabhu was extremely pleased to see him and after offering His obeisances He invited him to stay for lunch. Isvara Puri replied that, “Being able to accept foodstuffs from Your hand is a matter of great fortune for me.” Mahaprabhu Himself cooked and then very carefully served His guru the prasadam. Afterwards he smeared sandalwood paste on his body and put a garland of flowers around his neck. Thus the Supreme Lord Himself taught how one should serve his guru. Without serving the great devotees, it is not possible to receive love of Godhead. Service to the guru is the door to devotion.
On his return from Gaya, Mahaprabhu came by way of Kumarhatta, the birthplace of His guru, and began to roll on the ground in ecstasy there, as the ground became wet with His tears. Finally He collected some dust from that holy place and bound it in the corner of his upper garment, saying, “This dust is as dear to me as My life.” then he set out for Navadwipa.
The birthplace of Srila Isvara Puri is located within the present town of Halyahor, which is near the Kanchra-para rail station, which is on the Sealdah -Krsnanagar line. One should get down at Kanchra-para station and then proceed by rickshaw to Caitanya Doha. Doha means pond, which is what was created when many followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, following in His footsteps, came here and collected earth from the birthplace of Srila Isvara Puri.
Thereafter Mahaprabhu accepted sannyasa and by the order of His mother came to live at Jagannath Puri. By this time Isvara Puri had already left this world. He sent two of his disciples Sri Govinda and Kasisvara brahmacari to serve the Lord at Nilacala.
Note: Special thanks to Jaya Tirtha Caran prabhu from NZ for allowing us to use some of the content from his site to compile these pages.