Commentary on verse 1 of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s Śikṣāṣṭakam.

By Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur

Śrī Śikṣāṣṭakam Verse One

चेतोदर्पण-मार्ज्जनं भव-महादावाग्नि-निर्व्वापणं
श्रेयःकैरव-चन्द्रिका-वितरणं विद्यावधू-जीवनम् ।
आनन्दाम्बुधि-वर्द्धनं प्रतिपदं पूर्णामृतास्वादनं
सर्व्वात्म-स्नपनं परं विजयते श्रीकृष्णसङ्कीर्त्तनम् ॥१॥

cheto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahādāvāgni-nirvāpaṇaṁ
śreyaḥ-kairava-chandrikā-vitaraṇaṁ vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam
ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ
sarvātma-snapanaṁ paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam [1]

chetaḥ–of mind; darpaṇa–mirror; mārjanam–cleanser; bhava–material existence; mahā–great; dāva–forest; agni–fire; nirvāpaṇam–extinguisher; śreyaḥ–good fortune; kairava–evening lotus; chandrikā–moonlight; vitaraṇam–bestower; vidyā–knowledge; vadhū–wife; jīvanam–life; ānanda–bliss; ambudhi–ocean; vardhanam–expander; prati–every; padam–step; pūrṇa–full; amṛta–nectar; āsvādanam–taste; sarva–entire; ātma–self; snapanam–soother; param–supreme; vijayate–be victorious; śrī-kṛṣṇa–Śrī Kṛṣṇa; saṅkīrtanam–complete chanting. [1]

mārjanam–The cleanser darpaṇa–of the mirror chetaḥ–of the mind, nirvāpaṇam–the extinguisher mahā–of the great dāva–forest agni–fire bhava–of material existence, vitaraṇam–the bestower chandrikā–of moonlight kairava–on the evening lotus śreyaḥ–of good fortune, jīvanam–the life vadhū–of the wife vidyā–of knowledge (the life of the wives with the highest knowledge—paramour love for the Lord), vardhanam–the expander ambudhi–of the ocean ānanda–of ecstasy, āsvādanam–the taste pūrṇa–of full amṛta–nectar prati–at every padam–moment, [and] snapanam–the soother sarva–of the entire ātma–self, [may] saṅkīrtanam–the chanting [the Name] śrī-kṛṣṇa–of Śrī Kṛṣṇa [be] param–supremely vijayate–victorious! [1]

Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan cleanses the mirror of the mind, extinguishes the raging forest fire of material existence, shines moonlight on the evening lotus of good fortune, is the life of the divine knowledge—the life of souls enlightened with paramour love for the Lord, expands the ocean of ecstasy, is the taste of full nectar at every moment, and soothes the entire self. May Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan be supremely victorious!


The following is an English translation of Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur’s Bengali Vivṛti commentary on the first verse Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu’s Śrī Śikṣāṣṭakam.

At the request of Western devotees in the 1980s, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj discoursed extensively in English on Śrī Śikṣāṣṭakam, and as he concluded his discussion of the first verse, he commented (as recorded in The Golden Volcano of Divine Love): “Bhakti Vinod Ṭhākur has given his Sanskrit commentary on the Śikṣāṣṭakam, as well as his Bengali translation, and his is a most original presentation. Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur Prabhupād has also given his commentary on the Śikṣāṣṭakam. They should be carefully studied in order to understand these points more completely.”


Śrī Śikṣāṣṭakam Vivṛti 1

By Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur

śrī-kṛṣṇa-kīrtanāya namaḥ

Obeisance unto Śrī Kṛṣṇa-kīrtan.

All glory to the performer of Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan Śrī Gurudev and the embodiment of Śrī Kṛṣṇa-kīrtan Śrī Gaurasundar!

There are descriptions of numerous limbs of bhakti in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and Śrī Hari-bhakti-vilāsa from amidst the innumerable types of sādhana-bhakti. Principally, sixty-four limbs of bhakti are discussed regarding vaidha- and rāgānugā-bhakti-sādhana. We also see mention of pure bhakti in the words of Śrī Prahlād in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, but Śrī Gaurasundar has said, “Śrī Nāma-saṅkīrtan is the foremost practice amongst all the limbs of bhakti.”

Knowers of Reality (tattva) ascertain the Absolute (the Advaya-jñāna-vastu) solely on the basis of chit (consciousness), that is, exclusively through jñān (awareness), as ‘Brahma’, through the modes of sat (existence) and chit as ‘Paramātmā’, and through all śaktis—sat, chit, and ānanda (bliss)—as ‘Bhagavān’. Through vision of His aiśvarya (majesty), Bhagavān is Vāsudev, and through vision of His mādhurya (sweetness) and relaxed aiśvarya, Bhagavān is Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Śrī Nārāyaṇ is the object of worship in two and a half rasas, and Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the worshippable treasure of all five rasas. From Śrī Kṛṣṇa comes the Mahā Vaikuṇṭha-līlā of His vaibhava-prakāśa form Śrī Baladev. There, the eternal quaternity [of Vāsudev, Saṅkarṣaṇ, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha] resides eternally.

Japa (chanting) of a mantra occurs only within the mind. Thereby, the performer of japa, the meditator, achieves success. But when the lips move, kīrtan, which is more fruitful than japa, occurs. When kīrtan occurs, its listeners are benefitted [in addition to its performers].

The word saṅkīrtan means complete kīrtan, that is, that which when chanted does not require the help of any other limb of sādhana. Partial kīrtan of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is not the meaning of saṅkīrtan. When the jīva by performing partial kīrtan of Kṛṣṇa does not attain all good fortune, then many doubts may arise about the power of Kṛṣṇa-kīrtan. So let complete kīrtan of Śrī Kṛṣṇa be victorious over all! In kīrtan of mundane matters, partial intent to enjoy arises, but in the supramundane (aprākṛta) realm, Śrī Kṛṣṇa alone is the focus and there is no scope for mundanity there. Thus, all attainments beyond the material energy (prakṛti) are attainable through Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan. Amongst all such attainments, seven particular attainments are inherent in Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan. These have been mentioned in this verse.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan is the cleanser of the mirror of the jīva’s dirty mind (chitta). Trivial desires (anyābhilāṣa) based on aversion to the Lord, enjoyment of the results [of one’s actions], and renuncation of the results [of one’s actions]—the jīva’s mind is completely covered by these three types of filth. The best tool to remove such rubbish from the mirror of the jīva’s mind is Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan. These three types of deception (kaitava) are coverings which obstruct the true nature of the jīva from being reflected in the mirror of the jīva’s mind. Only saṅkīrtan of Śrī Kṛṣṇa can remove them. By performing complete kīrtan of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the jīva can perceive their own servitorship to Kṛṣṇa in the looking-glass of their own mind.

Even though this world is sweet at first, it is actually like a firestorm in a dense forest. Now and then trees in a forest are being destroyed by the firestorm. Those who are averse to Kṛṣṇa continuously tolerate the pains (lit. ‘burns’) of this world like the heat of a firestorm, but only when they engage in complete kīrtan of Kṛṣṇa do they, even while remaining in this world, attain freedom from the affliction of this blazing fire as a result of their inclination towards Kṛṣṇa.

Complete kīrtan of Śrī Kṛṣṇa distributes the greatest fortune and well-being. Śreya means good fortune, kairava means the evening lotus, and chandrikā means light, brightness. As the evening lotus brightens with the rising of the moon, so all good fortune arises with Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan. Trivial desire (anyābhilāṣa), karma, and jñān are not means to good fortune, and only Śrī Kṛṣṇa-kīrtan is the cause of the highest good fortune for the jīva.

In the Muṇḍaka-upaniṣad, two types of knowledge (vidyā) are discussed: worldly knowledge and transcendental knowledge. Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan, secondarily, is like the life of the wife of worldly knowledge, and primarily is the life of the wife of transcendental knowledge, supramundane knowledge (aprākṛta-vidyā). By the influence of Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkītan, the jīva becomes freed from the pride of worldly knowledge and attains knowledge of their relationship (sambandha) with Kṛṣṇa. The object of supramundane knowledge is Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan is the expander of the ocean of supramundane bliss (aprākṛta ānanda) for the jīva. The word ocean here does not refer to a limited body of water, and thus the unlimited bliss [produced by Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan] should be compared to an ocean which is boundless.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan, at every step, produces the taste of complete nectar. There is no lack or incompleteness in taste of supramundane (aprākṛta) rasa, and only from Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan does the taste of complete eternal rasa arise at every moment.

Everything supramundane becomes lustrous with Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan, and in the mundane realm the body, the mind, and the ātma beyond them not only become pure through Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtan, but they inevitably become lustrous as well. All the dirtiness that the jīva enveloped by appendages (upādhis) acquires grossly and subtly is washed away by the influence of kīrtan. When the jīva gives up immersion in matter, then the jīva, inclined towards Kṛṣṇa, attains the soothing service of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet.

Śrī Jīva Goswāmī Prabhu has written in division 273 of Śrī Bhakti-sandarbha within his Śrī Bhāgavat-sandarbha and in his Krama-sandarbha on the seventh canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: “Ataeva yady apy anyā bhaktiḥ kalau kartavyā, tadā kīrtanākhyā bhakti-saṁyogenaiva: therefore, although other forms of bhakti should be practiced in the Age of Kali, they should be performed only in conjunction with the form of bhakti known as kīrtan.”