Some say that he was Karttikeya in his previous incarnation.
yogamaya bhagavati grihini tasya sampratam
sitarupenavatirna shrinamna tat-prakashatah
tasya putro’cyutanandah krishna-caitanya-vallabhah
shrimat-pandita-gosvami-shishyah priya iti shrutah
yah karttikeyah prag asid iti jalpanti kecana
kecid ahu rasavido “cyuta-namni tu gopika
ubhayam tu samicinam dvayor ekatra sangatat
karttikeyah krishna-mishras tat-samyad iti kecana
The goddess Yogamaya was Advaita Acharya’s wife, having appeared as Sita; his other wife Sri was her expansion. Advaita’s son Achyutananda was very dear to Sri Krishna Chaitanya. He became a dear disciple of Srila Gadadhara Pandit Goswami. Some say that he was Karttikeya in his previous incarnation, while others who are knowledgeable about sacred rapture say that he was the gopi named Achyuta. Both opinions are reasonable because both identities are joined in him. Some people hold that his brother Krishna Mishra was also Karttikeya, due to his similarity to him.
Achyutananda was born as the son of Advaita Acharya and Sitadevi in the town of Shantipur in the year 1428 Shaka (1506 AD). He was Advaita’s oldest son and is counted as a Chaitanya branch of the tree of devotion.
shrimad-advaita-chandrasya shakha-rupan numah
I offer my obeisances to all the branches of Sri Advaita Candra, who is the second trunk of the eternal Chaitanya tree.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.12.3)
Achyutananda was one of Advaita Prabhu’s major branches; from his very birth, he served Chaitanya’s lotus feet.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.12.13)
Advaita’s Six Sons
Advaita Acharya had six sons, of whom three, Achyutananda, Krishna Mishra and Gopal Mishra are considered to have understood the essence of spiritual life, while the other three, Balaram, Svarupa and Jagadisa, did not. The book Advaita-carita describes this as follows:
acyutah krishna-mishrash ca gopala-dasa eva ca
ratna-trayam idam proktam sitagarbhadi-sambhavam
acarya-tanayeshvete trayo gaura-ganah smritah
caturtho balaramash ca Svarupah païcamah smritah
shashthas tu jagadishakhya acarya-tanayo hi shat
The three sons Achyuta, Krishna Mishra and Gopal Das were born in the womb of Sitadevi and are called the three jewels. Amongst Advaita’s sons, these three were members of Gaura’s inner circle. His fourth son was Balaram, his fifth son Svarupa and the sixth, Jagadisa.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur paraphrases Krishnadas Kaviraj’s explanation in his Amrita-pravaha-bhashya: “At first, all of Advaita Prabhu’s followers were of a common opinion, but in the course of time, some unfortunately adopted differing doctrines. Those who followed the opinions of Advaita himself are considered to be pure Vaishnavas; those who under some fateful influence rejected his teachings and invented a new doctrine are considered useless. We have no need of knowing the names of the useless sons of Advaita Prabhu, but have listed them together in order to be able to distinguish them. Just as the useful rice grain is separated from the chaff by winnowing, so have the useful sons of Advaita been separated from the useless.”
The doctrines of Advaita Acharya are the essential teachings of spiritual life; those who ignored his orders became useless.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.12.10)
All those who took Achyutananda’s opinion belong to the group of Advaita Acharya’s associates. They are great Devotees who received his mercy and easily attained the lotus feet of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.12.73-4)
Mahaprabhu’s Mercy on the Child Achyutananda
After taking sannyas in Katwa, Mahaprabhu descended on Shantipur. Achyutananda was either three or five years old (as Vrindavan Das Thakur gives both ages in different places).
Advaita’s son Achyutananda, a gloriously effulgent naked child, was omniscient by the Lord’s inconceivable power. Greatly fortunate, he was Advaita’s worthy heir. His entire body was covered with dust, but knowing the Lord had arrived he came to see him, his face covered with laughter. He fell at the Lord’s feet and the Lord picked him up, dust and all, and held him on his lap.
(Chaitanya Bhagavat 3.1.213-6)
While holding him, Mahaprabhu said to Achyutananda: “Since Advaita is my father, you are my brother.” When he heard this, Achyuta responded by displaying a profound understanding of Mahaprabhu’s spiritual identity by saying that the Lord was the friend of every single living being, and that all scriptures say that he is the father of all the creation. The Devotees were astonished when they heard Achyuta say this.
The Wisdom of Achyutananda at Five
In the fourth chapter of the Antya-khanda, Vrindavan Das Thakur writes about Achyutananda’s single-minded devotion to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the following way: One day, a sannyasi came to visit Advaita Prabhu’s house and asked him what the relationship between Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Keshava Bharati was. Advaita answered in a conventional way, saying that Keshava Bharati was the Lord’s sannyas guru. The five year old child interjected angrily, “The Lord is the spiritual master of all the gurus of the world; he is the Supreme Lord Himself. How could anyone be His guru?” When Advaita heard this wisdom from the mouth of his five-year old son, he said, “This boy is my father and I am his son!” And he asked his son forgiveness for his offense–causing the lad to hang his head with embarrassment. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has also summarized this story beautifully:
When Achyutananda heard from his father that Keshava Bharati was Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s spiritual master, he was very unhappy. He told his father, “Your teaching about the supreme teacher, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, will wreak havoc in the country. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the spiritual master of the fourteen worlds, but you say that someone else is his spiritual master. This is not supported by any revealed scripture.” When Advaita Acharya felt great satisfaction to hear his five-year-old son Achyutananda display such an understanding of doctrine.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.12.14-7)
Mahaprabhu appeared at Advaita’s house just when the entire household was and gave his blessings to Achyutananda. Prior to this occasion, Achyutananda accompanied his father to Navadwip when he was summoned by the Lord through Srirama Pandit just before his great epiphany (Maha-prakasha). He also witnessed the Lord’s punishment of his father for teaching impersonalism. In his Anubhashya, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur writes the following: “Sri Achyuta was the Lord’s Devotee from childhood. There is no information that Achyutananda ever married, but he is described as the foremost of the disciples of Advaita Acharya. On the other hand, in Yadunandana Das’s book describing the disciples of Gadadhara Pandit Goswami, Shakha-nirnayamrita, it is said that Achyutananda was a disciple and branch of Gadadhara. The passage there is as follows:
[I offer obeisances to] Advaita Acharya’s son named Achyutananda, who takes great joy in the ocean of nectarean sacred rapture. He is Gadadhara’s dearest disciple.
Achyutananda in Puri
The kirtan around the Temple started and the seven groups began to sing. In each of the seven groups, one Devotee was the designated dancer: Advaita Acharya, Nityananda Prabhu, Vakresvara, Achyutananda, Srivasa Pandit, Satyaraj Khan, and Narahari Das. The Lord wandered from group to group, but all the Devotees thought that he was with them alone. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.10.58-61)
Near the end of Mahaprabhu’s life, Gadadhara remained permanently in Jagannath Puri. Achyutananda and Advaita’s other sons also came to stay in Puri to be near him. Achyutananda, the son of Advaita Acharya, lived in Jagannath Puri, taking shelter of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 1.10.150)
Achyutananda came to Puri every year to celebrate the Rathayatra festival during which he danced in the sixth kirtan group that came from Shantipur. (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.13.45) He was also participated as a dancer in the beria-sankirtan, when the Lord danced around the Temple.
The kirtan around the Temple started and the seven groups began to sing. In each of the seven groups, one Devotee was the designated dancer: Advaita Acharya, Nityananda Prabhu, Vakresvara, Achyutananda, Srivasa Pandit, Satyaraj Khan, and Narahari Das. The Lord wandered from group to group, but all the Devotees thought that he was with them alone.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.10.58-61)
Achyutananda also participated in the cleaning of the Gundicha Temple. When Lord Jagannath was in the Gundicha Temple, Mahaprabhu would go there with the devotees to see him after his morning bath. They would go three times a day and perform sankirtan in the Gundicha temple courtyard. At the Lord’s behest, either Advaita Acharya, Nityananda Prabhu, Vakresvara Pandit, Achyutananda, or Hari Das Thakur would dance.
After bathing in the morning, the Lord would go to see Jagannath, taking the Devotees and dancing in sankirtan. He would sometimes make Advaita dance, sometimes Nityananda, sometimes Hari Das and sometimes Achyutananda, sometimes Vakresvara and sometimes other Devotees. The Lord performed sankirtan three times a day in the courtyard of the Gundicha temple.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.14.70-72)
According to Narahari Chakravarti’s Narottama-vilasa, Achyutananda remained in Puri until Mahaprabhu’s disappearance. In Narahari’s opinion, he spent the rest of his life living at the family home in Shantipur. He also participated in the Kheturi festival.
[Excerpted from “Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates” by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]