Sri Shankara Dev imbibed the principles of Bhakti and fertilized his heart with the moods of Prema Bhakti. His hearts deepest desires was to be fulfilled in Shantipur. He attained Deeksha (दीक्षा), spiritual initiation from Sri Advaita Acharya, one of the five great masters of the science of Bhakti. It was at the heart-felt prayers of that great Sri Advaita Acharya that Supreme Lord Sri Krishna appeared in Mayapur in the form of Pandit Nimai, who later came to be known as Yuga Avatar (युगावतार). Sriman Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
At the time of initiation Sri Advaita Acharya had blessed Sri Shankar Dev that the seeds of Bhakti in his heart shall bear the highest fruit and he shall be able to witness his “Ishta” (इष्ट) and will finally enter His pastimes. When he asked for being initiated into the order of Sanyasa, Sri Advaita Acharya refused to comply and instead asked Shankar Dev to work amidst the common folk and proliferate the teachings of the greatest Bhakti scripture, Srimad Bhagavatham (श्रीमद्भागवतम). He said that he had taken birth to distribute the Holy Name amongst the common man and to establish the Power of the Holy Name in society. It was his goal to establish Nama Yagya (नाम यज्ञ, sacrifice of the Holy Name) within society. After receiving Deeksha, spiritual initiation he prostrated (दंडवत, Dandavat) his Guru, in the manner of a fallen stick and held his feet in surrender. He said “Whatever you have ordered Gurudev, shall be my Dharma. (धर्म)”
Sri Shankar Dev then returned to Assam, to a place named Bardhiya which was a few miles away from his place of birth. He established a Mutt, with the help of a few disciples. In that place, people would congregate and as a community, chant the holy names of the Lord. People were encouraged to lead a life of surrender, surrender to the Holy Name. They were inspired to depend on the Holy Name completely. Bhakti Dharm (भक्ति धर्म) or the cult of Bhakti was now known as Sharan Dharm (शरण धर्म), in that region. Sri Shankar Dev also became popular by the Grace of the Lord and came to be known as Maha-Purush (महापुरुष), a great one. The main teaching of this Dharm was that there is only “One” without a second, the Supreme Lord Vishnu also known as Sri Krishna. The main teaching of this aspect of Sanatana Dharma was to accept Sri Krishna as the sole proprietor of one’s life and completely surrender, in one’s heart, all that one has at the feet of Sri Krishna. This in fact, the Dharma said was the one point duty of every individual who was under the Dharma.
One should not expect anything from the Lord and one is supposed to solely depend on the will of the Lord. If one does this with sincerity, that devotee shall be guided meticulously by the Supreme Lord. This was the teaching. When one succeeded completely on this path, it was called as Uttama Bhakti (उत्तम भक्ति), the highest form of Bhakti. In this form of Bhakti there was no consideration of high, low, caste and creed, gender and skin color of the people. Everybody was treated equally in the eyes of the Dharma. Looking at the enthusiasm of the local population to embrace the Dharma, Sri Shankar Dev decided to translate the Srimad Bhagavatham into Assamese, the local language. The entire Sanskrit work of the Bhakti Scripture was difficult to find in Assam, Assam being a land of Tantra (तंत्र). He was disturbed.
On one such occasion, a Maithili (मैथिलि) Brahmin visited Sri Shankar Dev. He said that “I am Jagadish Mishra and I belong to the district of Tiruhut of Mithila province and, I am ordered to meet you, I have proceeded from Puri.” Sri Shankar Dev replied “Sir, Kindly let me know how I can serve you.” The Brahmin said, “I was inspired to read the Srimad Bhagavatham to the Lord. In order, to fulfill my heart’s desire, I presented myself before my Great Lord Jagannatha (जगन्नाथ) and started reading the Bhagavatham in front of him. I finished the entire rendition in 14 days. On the 14th night, Lord Jagannatha appeared in my dream and said I am happy with your service. However, I shall be even more elated if you can go to Bardhiya and give a copy of the Bhagavatham to my dear devotee Shankar Dev. I got up quite satisfied and amazed. I then immediately started looking for you, to please the Lord. Here I am, with a copy of Srimad Bhagavatham for you. I have only this copy of the Srimad Bhagavatham, which I have handwritten. This copy is for you.”
-To be continued