avirbhavo gauraharer nakula-brahmacarini
aveshash ca tatha jïeyo mishre pradyumna-sangake
The Lord’s avirbhava ("manifestation") took place in Nakula Brahmachari, and His avesha ("possession") in Pradyumna Mishra. (Gaura-ganoddesha-dipika 73-74).
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has written that Pradyumna Mishra was an Orissan (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.131, Anubhashya). Vrindavan Das Thakur has stated the same in Chaitanya Bhagavat.
Many of Mahaprabhu’s associates took birth in Orissa. It was not long before they came and met with the Lord. Amongst them were Pradyumna Mishra, whose body was solidified prema. The great self-controlled Devotees Paramananda Mahapatra and Ramananda Raya were others. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.3.183-4)
According to Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidhana, Pradyumna Mishra was originally a resident of Sylhet and only later moved to Orissa. He is counted amongst the branches of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. The extent to which he was dear to Mahaprabhu is described in both the Chaitanya Charitamrita and Chaitanya Bhagavat:
Pradyumna Mishra was an ocean of love for Krishna and Lord Gaurasundara put him on the same level as Himself. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.5.211)
Chief amongst the loving Devotees of the Lord were Kashishvara Pandit, Bhagavan Acharya and Pradyumna Mishra. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.8.57)
The Lord felt joy on meeting Kashi Mishra, Pradyumna Mishra and Bhavanand Raya. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.131)
All glories to the Lord, the life of Pradyumna Mishra, the wealth of Paramananda Puri. (Chaitanya Bhagavat 1.14.2)
When Mahaprabhu returned from South India, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya introduced Pradyumna Mishra to the Lord as a great Vaishnava.
Pradyumna Mishra is the best of the Vaishnavas. He was Jagannath’s chief cook and had the family title of Das. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.10.42) [FN: Das is sometimes used by Brahmana families in Orissa, though it is a lower caste name in Bengal.]
Later, Pradyumna Mishra was instructed by Mahaprabhu to go to Ramananda Raya to hear Krishna-katha. This has been extensively described in the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya-lila, chapter 5. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur writes in his Gaudiya Bhashya to the Chaitanya Bhagavat (Adi, 14.2): "Pradyumna Mishra took birth in a Brahmin family in central Orissa. He led an exemplary pious householder life, showing nobility of character in his adherence to social etiquette. Mahaprabhu gave meaning to this behavioral standard by sending him to the great Devotee, Ramananda Raya, who though not born in a material Brahmin family was the most competent instructor in the matter of bhakti-rasa. When Pradyumna Mishra went to this Vaishnava acharya to hear him glorify Krishna’s pastimes in the attitude of a disciple and thereby received Mahaprabhu’s causeless mercy."
Pradyumna Wants to Hear Harikatha
Pradyumna Mishra came one day to Mahaprabhu eagerly asking to hear some Hari-katha. Mahaprabhu replied with great humility that he was not qualified to speak on elevated matters of sacred rapture and sent him to meet Ramananda Raya. At the time, Ramananda Raya was living in the Jagannath-vallabha gardens. The service he was engaged in for the pleasure of Lord Jagannath was beyond the capacity of even great self-controlled sages, what to speak of ordinary human beings. He would prepare two young deva-dasis for the performance of a play which was to be given before Lord Jagannath, not only by training them in the songs that they would sing and in the dance they would perform, but also by bathing, dressing and decorating them. While Ramananda Raya was engaged in such service, no one was allowed to interrupt him.
The first time that Pradyumna Mishra came to see Ramananda, one of Ramananda’s servants told him that he was busy doing this work and asked Mishra to sit outside and wait. After Pradyumna Mishra had been waiting a long time, Ramananda Raya finished his service and came outside and learned that Pradyumna Mishra had been waiting there to hear about Krishna from him. He showed the Brahmin the appropriate respect and begged forgiveness for his offense in making him wait. Mishra realized that it was too late that day for his wish to be fulfilled and he returned home.
Some days later, when Mahaprabhu saw Mishra, he asked him how the meeting with Ramananda had gone and what topics they had discussed. At first, Pradyumna Mishra remained silence because of the doubts which he had about Ramananda Raya’s behavior. Mahaprabhu, as the antaryami was able to understand what was going through his mind and began to glorify Ramananda’s extraordinary character with great force. His words are found in the Chaitanya Charitamrita:
"I am a sannyasi and I consider Myself to be renounced. But if I even hear the name of a woman, what to speak of seeing one, I feel an effect on My mind and body. So who is not moved by the sight of a woman? Everyone listen to Me. Let Me tell you about Ramananda Raya, although they are so wonderful and uncommon that they really cannot be properly described. He personally serves Jagannath’s young and beautiful devadasis in every possible way. He personally bathes and dresses them and decorates them with ornaments. While doing so, he naturally sees and touches the private parts of their bodies, but even so, his mind is never affected. He teaches the girls how to physically express all the moods of love, to be acted out before Jagannath Deva, but his mind and body are as steady as wood or stone. Indeed, it is amazing that even when he touches such young girls, his mind is not disturbed. Only Ramananda has the right to do such things, and seeing him do them, I can understand that his body is not material but has been completely transformed into a spiritual entity." (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.5.35-42)
Thus saying that Ramananda Raya was highly qualified to speak on matters connected to Krishna, the Lord sent Pradyumna Mishra back again. When he arrived in the Jagannath-vallabha gardens, Ramananda greeted him by paying obeisances. Pradyumna then heard Ramananda explained all the different topics on sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana which he had recounted to the Lord at Vidyanagara during His trip to South India. Both the speaker and the hearer completely forgot themselves in the ecstasies of Krishna-katha. The whole day passed in this way. Pradyumna Mishra felt himself to be completely fulfilled by the hearing of all these subjects of Krishna and he went to tell Mahaprabhu about it.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur has made the following commentary on this anecdote in his Anubhashya: "Ordinarily, the Brahmin acts as preceptor to the three other varnas and the sannyasi is the guru of all Brahmins in the three other ashramas. The Lord wished to curb the false pride arising from these notions by sending Pradyumna Mishra, even though he was a pure blood Brahmin, to take instruction from Ramananda Raya, who belonged to the lowest varna, that of the shudras, and to the lowest ashrama, that of the householder. The Lord Himself, though a sannyasi, also showed the same example by taking instruction personally from him, accepting the conclusions which he preached."
[Excerpted from “Shri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates” by Shrila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]