Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur explains the secret behind the cleansing of the Guṇḍichā Temple.
Guṇḍichā Mārjan Līlā Rahasya
The Secret Behind the Pastime of Cleansing of the Guṇḍichā Temple
An English translation of Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur’s commentary on Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Madhya-līlā, 12.135.
Through this Pastime, Jagad-guru Śrīman Mahāprabhu is teaching that if a fortunate soul desires to sit Kṛṣṇa on the altar of their heart, then they should first of all clean their heart of all contamination; making the heart spotlessly clean, peaceful, and resplendent with devotion is mandatory. If any thorny bushes, weeds, dust, or sand—anarthas—remain within the field of the heart, then the Lord, the ultimate recipient of all service, cannot be seated therein. Contamination and litter within the heart means anya-abhilāṣ (extraneous desires), karma (worldly action), jñān (speculative knowledge), yoga, and so on. Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī Prabhu said,
ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānuśīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā
Wherever the soul’s eternal, natural propensity for devotion has been covered over by desires unrelated to devotion, speculative knowledge, worldly action, yoga, asceticism, or any mentality that is unfavorable to devotion, pure devotion is not present. And without pure devotion, which is by nature purely spiritual, Kṛṣṇa does not appear.
Extraneous desire: “As long as I remain in this world, I shall gratify my senses exclusively.” This sort of base desire, like a thorny branch, lacerates the pure soul’s tender propensity for exclusive devotion (kevala-bhakti). Worldly action: “Through piety, sacrifice, charity, and austerity, I shall enjoy the pleasures of this world and the higher planes like Svarga.” Such selfish action is like dust. In the whirlwind of the cycle of karma, heaps of this dust, that is, desires, cover the spotless and clear mirror of our hearts. Desires to perform both good and bad actions, like countless heaps of dust, have contaminated the hearts of souls who are averse to the Lord for numerous births, and thus the desire for worldly activity has not left these souls’ hearts. Souls that are averse to the Lord think, “It seems that through action the thorns present within action can be removed”, but this is a misconception; those who are convinced by it simply cheat themselves. As an elephant smears its body with dirt again after you bathe it, so desire for worldly action is not dispeled by performing worldly actions. Only through pure devotion are all of the soul’s difficulties dispelled. It is then that the altar of the soul’s pure heart becomes a suitable place for the Lord to rest. This is why a devotee-poet has sung, “Bhaktera hṛdaye sadā Govindrera viśrāma: the heart of the devotee is always a resting place for Govinda.”
Monistic yoga and endeavors for speculative knowledge are just like sand. Through them, what to speak of the Lord’s service or satisfaction, an endeavor is made to lacerate the Lord’s body with a spear. Although at the beginning of the search for nondifferentiated Brahma, seekers of liberation may accept the Lord’s Name, Form, and so on, to a certain extent, such seekers does not accept the independent existence of the Lord’s Name, Form, and so on, at the time of their liberation or identification with Brahma. The Lord, therefore, does not appear witin the heart of such unfortunate souls, who proudly consider themselves to be liberated [when in fact they are not]. It is for this reason that Śrī Gaurasundar did not keep straw, dust, sand, and other forms of litter even within the boundary of the Lord’s Temple compound, but rather threw them outside using His own outer cloth—lest with the help of a storm all such rubbish would again enter the Temple.
Often, even when worldly action, speculative knowledge, and so on, have been dispelled, subtle forms of contamination remain within the heart. These can be compared to kuṭināṭi, pratiṣṭhāśā, jīva-hiṁsā, niṣiddhāchār, lābha, pūjā, and so on. Kuṭināṭi means duplicity. Pratiṣṭhāśā means desire for worldly honour—“May the ignorant call me a great soul on account of my solitary worship and imposture.” Pratiṣṭhāśā means desire to be recognised as a ‘devotee’or ‘Avatār’ by showing a perverted reflection of divine emotions, such as artifical symtpoms of ecstasy within one’s hard heart, in order to fulfil one’s selfish desires for worldly enjoyment. Jīva-hiṁsā means hesitation to, or miserliness about, preaching pure devotion; indulging māyāvādīs, materialistists, and enjoyers; and speaking so as to keep the attention of such persons. Lābha and pūjā mean living off the Lord’s Names, mantras, Dieties, or the Bhāgavat in the name of religion, cheating the ignorant, and accumulating wealth, honour, and so on. Niṣiddhāchār means associating with the opposite sex and non-devotees of Kṛṣṇa, such as materialists, speculators, and enjoyers.
Śrī Gaurasundar first swept out large heaps of all such sand, straw, dust, and so on, that had accumulated over many days and then, after cleaning every area within the Temple a second time with brooms and water, began scrubbing the Temple and the Lord’s altar with the dry cloth He was wearing so that no subtle blemishes would remain anywhere.
After all of the sweeping, cleaning, scrubbing, and so on, there was no trace of any dust particles or even subtle blemishes within the Temple, which was not not only spotlessly clean but also soothingly cool, that is, the practitioner’s heart had become free from the bearing pain comparable to being a desert scorched by the sun—free from the flames of the fire of the three miseries produced by desire to enjoy the mundane (ādhyātmik-tāp: miseries caused by the body and mind; adhibhautik-tāp: miseries caused by others; and adhidaivik-tāp: miseries caused by the gods). In fact, when desires for enjoyment and liberation—all extraneous desires, worldly endeavours, speculative knowledge, yoga, and so on—are dispelled from the practitioner’s heart and the soul’s propensity for pure devotion manifests, such peace and soothing coolness appear naturally.
Ignorant souls do not understand that often, even when all selfish desires have been dispelled, a subtle blemish still remains within an unknown nook or corner of the heart: the desire for liberation. What to speak of the impersonalists’ desire for sāyujya-mukti (the liberation of merging into Brahma), Śrīman Mahāprabhu scrubbed away with His own cloth even the subtle blemishes of desire for the four other forms of liberation [sālokya: residing in the Lord’s abode, sāmīpya: being in the Lord’s presence, sārūpya: having a form like the Lord’s, and sārṣṭi: having opulence like the Lord’s].
In this way, adopting the mentality of an soul for the welfare of all souls, Śrī Gaurasundar, as a Jagad-guru, personally taught how a practitioner should, with great enthusiasm, while loudly chanting Kṛṣṇa’s Name, clean their heart for Kṛṣṇa’s sake in order to make their heart a place for the pleasure Pastimes of the Autocrat Śrī Kṛṣṇa and be able to lovingly gratify Kṛṣṇa’s senses.
Śrīman Mahāprabhu came over to every devotee, took hold of their hands, and taught them how to clean the Temple. He praised the devotees who were serving well, and, as the Lord adorned with the heart of She who is the personification of the fulfilment of Kṛṣṇa’s desires—Śrī Rādhā, He benevolently chastised those whose service was not up to His standard, took hold of their hands, and taught them the proper way to serve Kṛṣṇa. Not only that, He also instructed and inspired the pure-hearted devotees who were dedicated to the Absolute and proficient in serving according to His teachings to perform the work of an Āchārya for souls averse to the Lord.
ei-mata bhāla karma seho yena kare
Furthermore, [the Lord taught that] one will become dear to the Lord to the extent that one can remove impurities from one’s heart and keep it clean, and He prescribed the peaceful practice of service to Hari-Guru-Vaiṣṇava for those who have not yet completed the process of anartha-nivṛtti (the purging of evils).