Then Mahaprabhu set off for South India. In Kurmakshetra, he liberated Vasudeva Vipra.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.1.103)
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada has written the following comments on Kurmakshetra or Kurmasthana. On the BNR railroad line there is a station named Chikakola Road in the district of Gaijam. Eight miles east of this station is a place known as Kurmacala (Kurma’s mountain) or Sri Kurmam. This is the most popular pilgrimage site for those who speak the Telugu language. When Ramanuja was flung there by Jagannath Deva in the 11th century of the Shaka era, he thought that the Kurma deity was a Shiva-linga and so started a fast. Later, when he learned that it was in fact an image of the tortoise avatar of Vishnu, he arranged for it to be worshiped.
Ganjam is a district of Orissa. Today, the Chikakola Road station is found in the state of Andhra Pradesh and has been renamed as Sri Kakulam Road. The BNR railway line is now India’s South Eastern Railway.
The Lord’s Mercy to Vasudeva
Vasudeva Vipra was one of Mahaprabhu’s great devotees in the Deccan. It is very difficult to recognize a devotee. When a devotee is very poor and materially undistinguished, it is very hard for an ordinary mundane person to recognize him. Mahaprabhu revealed Vasudeva Vipra’s glories to the world. While wandering through South India, Mahaprabhu blessed a Brahmin named Kurma Vipra. Vasudeva Vipra was a leper, who upon learning that Mahaprabhu was at Kurma’s house, went there in the hope of getting a glance of him. He learned from Kurma, however, that the Lord had already departed. Vasudeva was so disappointed at this news that he fell down on the ground and fainted.
The Lord is so affectionate to his devotees that even though he had already walked a good distance from there, he returned to grant Vasudeva the opportunity to see and embrace him. Mahaprabhu’s touch immediately cured him of his leprosy and turned him into a healthy and handsome young man. The Lord is everywhere. If one is eager to have him, one can have him. The Lord can only be influenced by devotion. He takes no notice of any mundane qualification or virtue. He took no notice of Vasudeva’s advanced case of leprosy, but embraced him out of his affection for him as a devotee.
Vasudeva was an incredible individual. The open sores of his body were home to maggots which fed off the puss and blood which oozed from them. If one of them should fall from the wound, Vasudeva would pick it up off the ground and put it back. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has written as follows:
There was a Brahmin named Vasudeva who had an advanced case of leprosy, and maggots lived in his open sores. If any of these maggots should happen to fall from a wound, he would pick it up and replace it.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.7.137-8)
When Vasudeva Vipra was amazed to see the limitless mercy of the Supreme Lord and he responded with a verse spoken by Sudama Vipra from the Bhagavatam:
kvaham daridrah papiyan kva krishnah shri-niketanah
brahma-bandhur iti smaham bahubhyam parirambhitah
Just see the difference between a miserable sinner like myself and the abode of the Goddess of Fortune, Sri Krishna. Though I am an unqualified Brahmin, he has embraced me in his arms.
Such mercy could never be found in an ordinary human being. Ordinary people would stay far away from Vasudeva, being disgusted by the foul odor of his disease, but Mahaprabhu, the independent Lord, not only touched him, but embraced him.
A Vaishnava’s Body is Never Material
It should be remembered that a Vaishnava’s body is never material. It is transcendental and completely pure. Mahaprabhu’s affection for his devotees was displayed to Hari Das Thakur, which has been described in the Chaitanya Charitamrita as follows:
Hari Das said, "You are the merciful supreme lord; no one can understand the depths of your heart. Vasudeva had such terrible leprosy that his gaping wounds were full of maggots, you are so merciful that you embraced him in spite of it. Your embrace turned him into a young man as beautiful as Cupid. No one can understand the waves of your mercy." The Lord answered, "A devotee’s body is never material. The devotee’s transcendental body is made of divine and ecstatic spiritual substance."
prabhu kahe — Vaishnava deha prakrita kabhu naya
aprakrita deha bhaktera cid-ananda-maya
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 3.4.191)
A person who is without introspection or awareness of Krishna sees a Vaishnava’s body only externally and thus is deprived of the vision of his spiritual form.
The Lord’s Instruction to Vasudeva
When Vasudeva became a beautiful young man by the Lord’s miraculous touch, he became afraid that he would become vain and that would be his downfall. Those who are proud and vain are deprived of the Lord’s mercy and is not even qualified to chant the names of the Lord. Mahaprabhu considered Vasudeva Vipra to be most qualified and instructed him to act as an acharya:
The Lord said, You will never become vain if you constantly chant Krishna’s name. Deliver the fallen souls by instructing them about Krishna and Krishna will very quickly accept you.
(Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.7.147-8)
[Excerpted from "Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates" by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj]