Your sons, Ramananda Raya, Gopinath Pattanayaka, Kalanidhi, Sudhanidhi and Vaninatha Nayaka, are all objects of my affection. Ramananda and I are different in body only, in spirit we are one.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.133-4)
Brahmagiri or Alalanath is about 12 miles west of Jagannath Puri. Bentapura is a small village not far from there. Bhavananda Raya was a landowner living in this village. His descendants, who nowadays use the surname Chaudhuri-Pattanayaka continue to reside in this village.
Gopinath Falls in Arrears
Gopinath Pattanayaka was King Prataparudra’s tahsildar in Malajathya Dandapata, which is now the district of Midnapur in West Bengal. The tahsildar’s duty is to collect taxes. On one occasion, there was a shortfall of 200,000 kahans of cowries. [FN: a kahan = 16 panas, 1 pana = 20 gandas, 1 ganda = 4 cowries.] In the Orissan language, the crown prince is known as Baria Jana. At that time, capital punishment was given by throwing the prisoner down from a scaffold to be impaled on swords. This system was known in Orissan as the canga. When Gopinath Pattanayaka could not come up with the tax moneys, King Prataparudra’s son, the Baria Jana, decided to punish him by having him thrown from the canga.
When they saw Gopinath in this dangerous situation, some of Bhavananda Raya’s well-wishers came to Mahaprabhu to appeal to him to intervene. When Mahaprabhu asked what the reason for Gopinath’s punishment was, one of the supplicants answered, "Gopinath owes the government treasury 200,000 kahanas in back taxes and is unable to make a cash payment." He offered to pay back the money by selling some of his possessions and for that reason he brought a dozen fine horses to the palace. The King sent one of his princes who is an expert in evaluating horses, but he offered a price far below what the horses were actually worth. This prince had a physical quirk in that he repeatedly stretched his neck, looking upward and then from side to side. Gopinath was angry at the attempt to cheat him and so he responded by mocking the prince, saying, "My horses lift their necks, but at least they don’t keep looking up in the air! I don’t see how they can be worth so little." In other words, he suggested that his horses were more valuable than the prince himself.
"The prince was insulted by this comment and decided to take revenge. He went to the King and got permission to put Gopinath on the canga in order to extract the money which he owed. He has now put him on the scaffold and is prepared to throw him down on the swords."
Upon hearing this account, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took an attitude of impartiality and replied with affectionate anger, asking how the King could be at fault if Gopinath Pattanayaka did not pay his dues. How could the King be at fault for punishing someone who has committed an offense? What could he do about that?
The Lord Saves Gopinath
As the Supersoul within the heart, the Lord inspired Harichandana Patra, one of King Prataparudra’s ministers, to recount Gopinath’s entire story to the King, asking him to repeal the death sentence which had been condemned. The King was surprised that he had not been informed of events and immediately had the death sentence repealed and Gopinath was released.
Gopinath Pattanayaka was Ramananda Raya’s brother. By the Lord’s grace, he was delivered from a sentence of death given by the King.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.265)
Mahaprabhu inquired about how Vaninatha and the other members of Gopinath’s family reacted when they were imprisoned. The messenger replied,
"Vaninatha was without fear; he was constantly chanting the maha-mantra-Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. He counted each mantra on the fingers of his hands, and after he had finished chanting a thousand times, he would make a mark on his body." Mahaprabhu was pleased to hear that Vaninatha was acting in this way. Who can understand the mysterious workings of the Lord’s mercy? (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.9.56-9)
Mahaprabhu complained to the King’s priest, Kashi Mishra, however, that people were repeatedly coming to disturb Him, trying to get Him to intercede on behalf of Bhavananda Raya’s family which was misappropriating state funds. He told him that He was thinking of moving to Alalanath where He could get some peace. Kashi Mishra talked Him out of going, but told Maharaj Prataparudra of how the Lord had been affected by these events. As a result, in order to please the Lord, the King not only pardoned Gopinath Pattanayaka but he forgave him his debt and doubled his salary. Appreciative of the Lord’s mercy, Gopinath came and placed his head, which had been honored with a silken turban personally wrapped around his head by the King, at the Lord’s lotus feet and said:
"The King has pardoned my tax arrears. He has reappointed me to my post and doubled my salary, while honoring me with this silken turban. All of this is due to your mercy. What a difference! One moment I am on the canga, preparing myself to die, the next I am being given honors like the silk turban. When on the canga, I began meditating on your lotus feet, and this is the result of that meditation. People are amazed at this turn of events and they sing the glories of your mercy. I know, however, my Lord, that these are not the principal results of meditating upon your lotus feet, but are simply a secondary effect. Material gains are only temporary. Your real mercy has been granted to Ramananda Raya and Vaninatha Raya, for you have granted them freedom from material sensual entanglements, a blessing that you have not given to me. I pray, O Lord, that you bestow your pure mercy upon me so that I may also become renounced. I no longer wish for material enjoyment."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.9.133-9)
The Lord heard Gopinath’s heartfelt prayer and answered:
"Whether you are involved in material activities or become completely renounced, you and your brothers are my eternal servants, birth after birth. But I ask you to obey one order of Mine. Do not spend money which belongs to the King. Pay the King his dues and then spend the balance for religious and fruitive activities. Don't spend a farthing for sinful activities, otherwise you will be the loser both in this life and the next."
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.9.141-4)
[Excerpted from “Shri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates” by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]