Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu preached the full-fledged theistic conception given in Srimad Bhagavatam. Srimad Bhagavatam mainly deals with the comparative study of theism and the ontology of Krishna consciousness. It surpasses all other Vedic literature, even the Puranas. The Brahma-vaivarta-purana and Padma-purana represent the importance of devotion to Krishna through narration and history to some extent, but fall short of the philosophical and ontological standard set by the Mahapurana, Srimad Bhagavatam. Srimad Bhagavatam can satisfy all Vedantic scholars, for it represents Krishna consciousness in its fullest dignity. Srimad Bhagavatam expounds as the highest attainment of theism not consciousness, intelligence, or ontology, but ecstasy, beauty, and harmony—rasa. In Srimad Bhagavatam, rasa is all-important. It is a unique treatise, for it takes theism from the plane of intellectual jugglery to the domain of rasa.
I once began writing a book which was to be a summary study of the eighteen thousand verse Srimad Bhagavatam. Bhakti Vinod Thakur condensed the whole Bhagavat principle into one thousand verses in his Bhagavatarka-marichi-mala. I had a mind to consolidate it even more, to represent it within three hundred verses. I began that book, but could not finish it.
Srimad Bhagavatam is a vast treatise in the Sanskrit language, filled with essential information, historical reference, and expositions on the major schools of philosophy. In Srimad Bhagavatam, many minor points of history and geography are also mentioned which, although nonessential, support its conclusions. Whatever is unnecessary in Srimad Bhagavatam is eliminated when its meaning reaches its purest and most intensified glory in the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. So, if we are to consider the very gist of Srimad Bhagavatam, we must study the life and precepts of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Just as the teachings of the great author of Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Vyasadev, were percolated by the realisations of Sukadev Goswami, the essence of Srimad Bhagavatam has been percolated by the life and precepts of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Therefore, because the teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu represent the gist of Srimad Bhagavatam, I would like to include here one of the verses I originally composed to introduce my summary study. It glorifies the position of Gadadhar Pandit, the most intimate associate of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Gadadhar Pandit used to read Srimad Bhagavatam in Jagannath Puri, at the Tota Gopinath Temple. He would read, and Sriman Mahaprabhu and the great devotees like Svarup Damodar and Ramananda Ray were his audience:
nilambhodhi-tate sada svavirahaksepanvitam bandhavam
srimad-bhagavati-katha-madiraya sanjivayan bhati yah
srimad-bhagavatam sada svanayanasru-payanaih pujayan
gosvami-pravaro gadadhara-vibhur bhuyat mad-eka-gatih
“On the shore of the broad blue ocean, Gadadhar Pandit used to read Srimad Bhagavatam to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who was suffering from the great internal pain of separation from Himself (Krishna). Gadadhar Pandit supplied the wine of Krishna-lila to intoxicate his afflicted friend and give Him relief. As he read, tears would fall from his eyes like flower offerings onto the pages of Srimad Bhagavatam. May the pleasure of that brilliant personality, Gadadhar Pandit, the best of the Goswamis, be my only object in writing this book.”
The title of this book is The Golden Volcano of Divine Love. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu felt a great pain of separation from Krishna which burned like fire and was expressed as the Siksastakam. This is explained in Prema-dhama-deva-stotram (54):
prema-dhama-devam eva naumi gaura-sundaram
“Diving deep into the reality of His own beauty and sweetness, Krishna stole the mood of Radharani and, garbing Himself in Her brilliant lustre, appeared as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. For the last twelve years of His manifest Pastimes, He was deeply absorbed in the mood of union and separation, and shared His heart’s inner feelings with His most confidential devotees. In the agony of separation from Krishna, volcanic eruptions of ecstasy flowed from His heart, and His teachings, known as Siksastakam, appeared from His lips like streams of golden lava. I fall at the feet of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the golden volcano of divine love.”
He was vomiting the fire of painful separation from Krishna in the form of the Siksastakam. Therefore, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is compared to a golden volcano and the Siksastakam is compared to divine lava.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has taught us that separation is the highest principle in divinity. Just as the most intense conception of ecstasy is association with Krishna, the most intense conception of pain is separation from Krishna. Yet the pain felt from Krishna’s separation is far more intense than the ecstasy felt from His association. Sriman Mahaprabhu says, “Can’t you understand the painful situation you are in? Your senses must have all been destroyed. Otherwise you would have died from the pain of separation from Krishna. It is inconceivable. We belong to Him wholesale. He is all-in-all to us, but we can’t see Him. We are forcibly separated from Him. How can we tolerate this?” And Bhakti Vinod Thakur once said, “I can’t tolerate separation from Krishna any longer. I can go on for only three or four more days, and then I shall have to leave this body.”
To love Krishna means that we shall have to “die to live”. In the beginning divine love seems like lava, death, but really it is nectar, life. Many persons in this ordinary world are also frustrated in love. They sometimes go mad and commit suicide because they can’t tolerate the pain. But the pain which comes with separation from Krishna, although compared with lava, is not injurious like lava. Kaviraj Goswami explains:
bahye visa-jvala haya bhitare ananda-maya
krsna-premara adbhuta charita
“The wonderful characteristic of divine love of Krishna is that although externally, it works like fiery lava, internally it is like sweet nectar that fills the heart with the greatest joy.”
Although He felt the greatest pain of separation from Krishna, still, within His heart, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu experienced the deepest ecstatic joy. The ecstatic symptoms manifested by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu have never been found in the history of the world or even expressed in any scripture. In Him, we find the highest conception of the ultimate reality. This is explained in my Prema-dhama-deva-stotram (66):
prema-dhama-devam eva naumi gaura-sundaram
“This is the all-conquering conclusion. The highest conception of the ultimate reality must also be the highest form of ananda, ecstasy. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna, ecstasy Himself, tasting His own sweetness and dancing in ecstatic joy. His own Holy Name is the cause of His ecstasy, expressed as dancing, and the Holy Name is the effect of His ecstasy, expressed as chanting. The cause is the effect. The dynamo is creating ecstatic energy which makes Him dance, and His chanting distributes that ecstasy to others.”
In this way, by every word from His lotus mouth and every gesture and movement of His beautiful golden figure, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu performs His ecstatic Pastimes of divine love.
Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj appeared in this world on December 17th, 1929 at Bamunpara, a small rural village in the Burdwan district of West Bengal. He joined the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in 1947 when he was seventeen years old. A few weeks later, Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj surprised everyone by announcing that his young disciple would later become his successor.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj himself saw to Srila Govinda Maharaj’s education, and had him properly trained in Sanskrit grammar and composition, as well as the conclusions of the sastras (Vedic literatures). From the beginning, Srila Govinda Maharaj demonstrated a remarkable memory and the ability to learn quickly just by hearing. Later, he was sent to Kolkata, where he stayed with Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj and learned Bhagavad-gita from him. Srila Govinda Maharaj has always shown the ability to properly represent the profound siddhanta, or spiritual conclusions of his teachers, and many of the prominent disciples and followers of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur had much appreciation for him and bestowed their blessings upon him.
On 26 March 1986, Srila Sridhar Maharaj formally gave his chair to Srila Govinda Maharaj and personally seated him as his successor and the Acharya (preceptor and guardian) of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. Srila Govinda Maharaj has also traveled extensively throughout the world; everywhere devotees and scholars alike have appreciated the profound insight and beauty of his teachings. Like his spiritual master, he has attracted many people by his strong common sense, profound intelligence, and disinterested, or nonsectarian nature. Today, with many centres and disciples, and books published in a variety of languages, Srila Govinda Maharaj has become the leader of a flourishing worldwide Krishna consciousness Mission.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj is the foremost pure devotee and is the patriarch of the followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He is an intimate disciple and eternal associate of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, the Founder-Acharya of Sri Gaudiya Math who masterminded a spiritual revolution to inundate the world with Krishna consciousness. Noted for his wonderful ability to draw out the inner meaning of the scriptures, Srila Sridhar Maharaj once composed a poem describing the ontological positions of Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur and the line of disciplic succession stemming from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati was so pleased with his poem that he remarked, “Sridhar Maharaj is carrying the conception of Bhakti Vinod Thakur. Now, I am satisfied that although I may go, at least one man will remain behind who can represent my conclusions.”
As he prepared to leave this mortal world, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati expressed his desire to fix his consciousness on the lotus feet of Sri Rupa Manjari. He called his beloved disciple Srila Sridhar Maharaj to his bedside and requested him to sing the famous song of Narottam Das Thakur, Sri Rupa Manjari Pada. At that time, in what has been described as a ‘mystic transmission’, he gave Srila Sridhar Maharaj entrance into the eternal entourage of Sri Rupa Manjari. According to Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s vision, however, he was posted as the gatekeeper, the guardian of devotion (bhakti-raksak), to protect the storehouse of conclusive truths about the full-fledged theistic conception of Sri Krishna, Reality the Beautiful, as presented in Srimad Bhagavatam and preached by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the line of disciplic succession that has descended from Him, known as the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat sampradaya.
Sripad Nityananda Prabhu By the grace of Nityananda Prabhu we develop our attraction to Sri Gauranga. Nityananda Prabhu helps us consolidate the foundation on which we can progress further. His mercy sometimes exceeds the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He won’t allow even those who want to avoid Krishna consciousness to escape. If someone says, “I don’t want it”, Nityananda Prabhu won’t allow it. He will say, “No! You must want it. I request you earnestly—take it! Use it and you will be able to feel the value of Krishna consciousness.” He used to roam about here and there, rolling in the dust with tears in His eyes saying, “Take the name of Gauranga and I will be sold to you.”
By His mercy, even the most fallen souls can attain the supreme goal. He is the most generous-hearted aspect of Guru-tattva, so we must bow down our head to Him, accept His holy feet, and surrender to Him.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Absolute Truth in its fullest and most dynamic expression. The influence of Radharani over Krishna has transformed Him into a devotee, and He is searching Himself. Krishna—the personification of ecstasy and beauty—is mad in tasting His own internal nectar. His dancing indicates that He is full of ecstasy, and His sankirtan movement is the distribution of that ecstasy to others.
Sri Sri Radha and Krishna Sri Krishna is the fountainhead of all pleasure, ecstasy Himself, and Srimati Radharani is the embodiment of ecstatic love of Godhead. Radha and Krishna are one and the same, but They have assumed two forms. Thus They enjoy each other, tasting the mellows of divine love. The service of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna in Vrndavan can be attained only by unalloyed devotion to the lotus feet of Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga.
The Life of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
In the teachings of Karabhajan Rsi we find mention of the different incarnations for different ages (Yuga-avatars). In Dvapar-yuga, the Yuga-avatar is mentioned as follows:
dvapare bhagavan syamah pita-vasa nijayudhah
srivatsadibhir ankais cha laksanair upalaksitah
“In Dvapar-yuga, Lord Krishna appears with the colour of a dark rain cloud, wearing lightning-coloured garments. He is decorated with beautiful ornaments, His chest bears the mark of Srivatsa, and He carries His own weapons.”
After the description of the Yuga-avatar of Dvapar-yuga, Karabhajan Rsi mentions the Kali-yuga-avatar:
iti dvapara urv-isa stuvanti jagad-isvaram
nana-tantra-vidhanena kalav api tatha srnu
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 11.5.31)
He says, “O King, up to Dvapar-yuga, I have finished describing the incarnations for different ages who come to remind the people of the most appropriate duty for Their age. They come and tell us, ‘If you do this, you will get the greatest benefit.’ O King, after the Dvapar Age is finished, the Age of Kali comes. The incarnation for the Age of Kali has been mentioned in many places in the scriptures, and now I am just going to explain that information to you.”
Then he says:
krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam sangopangastra-parsadam
yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi sumedhasah
In a suppressed way, this verse explains the advent of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The ordinary meaning of Krsna-varnam is “of a black colour”. But tvisakrsnam means “His lustre is not black.” “Accompanied by His associates, He is worshipped by the process of sankirtan, the chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna, and those of sharp intellect will perform this kind of worship.”
Golden gift of the golden Lord
Jiva Goswami explains the meaning of this verse in his own parallel verse:
antah krsnam bahir gauram darsitangadi-vaibhavam
kalau sankirtanadyaih sma krsna-chaitanyam asritah
“I take shelter of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is outwardly of a golden complexion, but is inwardly Krishna Himself. In this Age of Kali, He displays His expansions while performing congregational chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna. That He is blackish within means that internally He is Krishna; that He is golden without means that He has accepted the mood of Srimati Radharani. In the Age of Kali, that golden Lord is seen accompanied by His expansions, associates, and intimate devotees performing sankirtan.”
Someone may argue that the meaning of Krsna-varnam is that His colour is black and His lustre is also black. But how is this possible? That would be redundant. The conjunction between the words tvisa and akrsnam mean that His colour is Krishna, black, but His lustre is aKrishna: not black. Then, someone might say, “Not black does not necessarily mean golden. Why should it mean golden?” The answer is found in Srimad Bhagavatam.
Once Vasudev sent the astrologer-priest Garga Rsi to Vrndavan to perform the name-giving ceremony for Krishna. At that time, Garga Rsi came to the house of Nanda Maharaj and explained that Vasudev had sent him. He said, “Your child is now a little grown up and the name-giving ceremony must be performed.” At that time, he spoke the following verse:
asan varnas trayo hy asya grhnato ’nuyugam tanuh
suklo raktas tatha pita idanim krsnatam gatah
“In past incarnations, this boy has appeared with different complexions: white, red, and gold, according to the particular age in which He appeared. Now He has assumed this blackish colour.”
He said, “Krishna comes in a white colour in Satya-yuga, red in Treta-yuga, and He also comes with a golden complexion. Now in this Dvapar-yuga He has come in a black colour.” So the reference to the golden colour (pita) is found here, because only that colour has been left for this present age of Kali. There is another reference to this golden colour in the Upanisads: “Yada pasyah pasyate rukma-varnam: Krishna, the Supreme Brahma, appears in a golden form.” Rukma-varnam means golden. And here also, non-black means golden.
Krishna wanted to come as the incarnation for this Age of Kali, as well as to fulfil His promise in Vrndavan: “ I shall chant the glory of the gopis, especially of Radharani. I shall chant Her Name, Her glory, and roll in the dust of the earth!” But Radharani said, “I won’t allow Your body to roll in the dust of this earth. I shall cover You with My lustre.” Both the mood as well as the lustre of Radharani capture Krishna when He comes here in Kali-yuga. And this does not occur in all Kali-yugas, but only in a special Kali-yuga.
In all the days of Brahma, in every yuga, the Yuga-avatar comes, but Krishna appears only once in a day of Brahma, or once every 4.3 billion years. At that time, the original personality of Godhead (Svayam Bhagavan) appears along with His abodes, Vrndavan and Nabadwip. And Krishna and Mahaprabhu do not come here alone, but They come with Their paraphernalia and suitable companions.
Sweetness tasting itself
And in this Age of Kali, He performs a double function: He preaches Nam-sankirtan, and more importantly, He assumes the mood of Radharani to taste His own sweetness, rasa. He is rasa Himself. Krishna thinks, “What is the intensity of the finest rasa in Me? I would like to taste that.” But only devotees can taste that, so He took the position of Radharani to taste Himself as Krishna, the central, final, and perfect abode of rasa. Only Radharani can taste the maximum rasa, so He has to take Her nature, Her mood, and temperament to taste His own intrinsic ecstasy. For that reason He descended. His first duty was to spread Nam-sankirtan, and the secondary, internal, private duty was to perform svabhajan-vibhajan, to taste His own intrinsic ecstasy in the mood of Radharani. In Puri, with Ramananda Ray, Svarup Damodar, and other intimate associates, He tasted that great ocean of union in separation continuously for twelve years. In His last twelve years, He passed His time only in the process of tasting that mellow.
That incarnation is generally worshipped by sankirtan. Without sankirtan, Gauranga and His paraphernalia cannot be worshipped. He is the propounder of sankirtan, He loves sankirtan, and He gets satisfaction only by sankirtan. Only those who have sufficient merit (sukrtivan) will worship Him by this process. The common mob cannot join this campaign. Those who have good guidance internally, good fortune, can catch the very gist of truth and engage in this process of Nam-sankirtan.
Love is supreme
A rubbish brain cannot detect what is right or wrong, or how precious this is. He cannot understand or follow this higher line of thought. A man should be judged by his ideal, his aspiration for higher things. If the ideal is great, the man is great. What should be the highest ideal? Love. Love is the supreme thing. It is the most rare and precious thing. Divine love and beauty is the highest thing ever known to the world, and those who can catch this are really possessed of good intellect (sumedhasah). And one who possesses this highest ideal should be considered a man of higher order. He alone can understand and practise sankirtan. He alone can take to this path, this process of satisfying the Supreme Being by chanting the Holy Name of the Lord.
The hidden incarnation
This is mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam, as well as in the Mahabharata and other Vedic scriptures. Karabhajan Rsi, the last of the nine great yogis, has given us a clue to understand Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as the special incarnation for the age. He has mentioned the incarnation for this Age of Kali in a mystic way. We may think, why has this not been described very plainly? So many Avatars are clearly described, but when Srimad Bhagavatam describes Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as the incarnation for the Age of Kali, it is discussed in a mystic way. The answer is found in the teachings of Prahlad Maharaj, who says, “O Lord, one of Your names is Triyuga, meaning one who incarnates in three ages—Satya, Treta, and Dvapar—but not in Kali. And why? Because the incarnation for the Age of Kali is in disguise (chhannah kalau yad abhavas Triyugo ’tha Sa Tvam).” Here we find the key to this mystic way of representing Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to the fortunate and intelligent circle (sumedhasah), that ordinary people may not have any clue.
dhyeyam sada paribhava-ghnam abhista-doham
tirthaspadam siva-virinchi-nutam saranyam
bhrtyarti-ham pranata-pala bhavabdhi-potam
vande maha-purusa te charanaravindam
“O Mahaprabhu, Your lotus feet are the highest object of meditation, for they not only destroy the pain of material existence, but they bestow the greatest fulfilment to all souls who take shelter beneath them. Your lotus feet even purify all saintly persons and holy places. Lord Siva and Lord Brahma aspire to take shelter beneath Your lotus feet. O Mahaprabhu, You give shelter to all who simply bow down before You. You relieve all the miseries of Your surrendered servants. In the grand ship of Your lotus feet, we can cross over this ocean of material miseries. O Mahaprabhu, I bow down before Your lotus feet.”
After mentioning the incarnation of Godhead for the Age of Kali, Srimad Bhagavatam suddenly begins this song in praise of that great Yuga-avatar, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. With a grand voice the Bhagavatam has come to sing the praise of that guide for Kali-yuga. This follows the verse which hints at the Avatar of Kali-yuga. Krsna-varnam means one who is always describing Krishna, who always has on his lips the words “Krishna, Krishna, Krishna.” Another meaning of this expression is “One who is Krishna Himself, but whose lustre is not black.” If we look deeply, we shall find that hidden beneath His golden lustre is the blackish body of Krishna. With His own paraphernalia He has come to this plane, and service to Him is performed only by sankirtan, divine sound in mass prayer. By that symptom we can recognise His divine position.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is a hidden incarnation; He comes in disguise. Such an Avatar is worshipped by the divinely intellectual. In this way, the Srimad Bhagavatam first describes that uncommon, extraordinary personality, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in a mystic way and then proclaims His nobility and greatness.
The Srimad Bhagavatam explains, “That same personality who came as Ramachandra and Krishna has again appeared. He has come to direct you to the real fulfilment of life. He is drawing the sweetest nectar from above for the sake of everyone. Only meditate on Him and all your troubles will be finished. He is the agent purifying all the holy places of pilgrimage and saintly persons by His touch, by His sankirtan, by His drawing the highest things down from the highest plane. And even Brahma and Siva, puzzled by His noble gift, will begin to praise Him. They will eagerly aspire to take shelter under His lotus feet in surrender. The pains of all who come to serve Him will be removed, and their inner necessities will be fulfilled. And He will take care of those who take shelter of Him; they will be given protection as well as everything they may need. In this world where mortality rules, where we are continually experiencing the undesirable changes of repeated birth and death, in this area where no one wants to live, a great ship will come for us and take us within and carry us away from this unpleasant position. Let us fall at the feet of that great personality who comes to give the highest nectar.”
The Srimad Bhagavatam continues:
dharmistha arya-vachasa yad agad aranyam
maya-mrgam dayitayepsitam anvadhavad
vande maha-purusa te charanaravindam
“O Supreme Lord, You gave up the Goddess of fortune and Her great opulence, which is most difficult to abandon, and is sought after even by the gods. In order to perfectly establish the principles of religion, You left for the forest to honour the brahman’s curse. To deliver the sinful souls who chase illusory pleasures, You search after them and award them Your devotional service. At the same time, You are engaged in search of Yourself, in search for Sri Krishna: Reality the Beautiful.”
Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur has given his explanation that although it seems that this verse applies to Lord Ramachandra, who left His kingdom and went with Sita Devi to the forest to discharge the duties designed by His father, this also applies to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur has drawn out the internal meaning of this verse and applied it in the case of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Tyaktva sudustyaja-surepsita-rajya-laksmim means He left imperial prosperity which is hard to abandon. Generally we find this in the case of Lord Ramachandra, but Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur says that surepsita-rajya-laksmim means the valuable devotional company of Visnu Priya Devi. That may not appear to be a materially big thing, but the dedication that Visnu Priya has shown in Her heart for Sriman Mahaprabhu is greater than any imperial standard. And He had to leave that behind. Such a standard of sacrifice and service is never found even among the great society of the gods. For the sake of the public welfare, He had to ignore the serving, loving attitude of Visnu Priya.
The curse of a brahman
This verse mentions the curse of a brahman. That brahman told Sriman Mahaprabhu, “I want to participate in Your nocturnal kirtans in which You taste Krishna-lila, but the doors are closed.” When Sriman Mahaprabhu used to perform kirtan and taste the Vraja-lila of Krishna, He did so behind closed doors in deep night. But this brahman thought himself a very qualified, religious person because he lived by only drinking milk and nothing else, so he said, “I must have entrance into that kirtan. I do not eat anything but milk; why should I not be allowed?” Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “Milk drinking is no qualification for entering into Krishna consciousness.” The brahman said, “Then I curse You to lose Your family life!” “All right”, Mahaprabhu said and accepted the curse. And later He took sannyas and chased after those who were misguided by Maya Devi in order to save them. At the same time, although He is Krishna, He accepted the mood of Srimati Radharani. For these two reasons, He left His apparently worldly life: He acted for the welfare of the public and, after finishing that work, spent the next twelve years tasting the very inner aspiration of Srimati Radharani and searching after His own inner sweetness. This was what He came to show to the world. In this mystic way, Srimad Bhagavatam has proclaimed the magnanimous appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. ⬆︎
After Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyas, He went to live in Jagannath Puri. There, He converted the greatest scholar of the day, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. After meeting Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the great scholar Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya questioned his brother-in-law Gopinath Acharya about the Avatar of the present age, Kali-yuga. Gopinath had been living in Nabadwip, and he was a follower of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In his own way, Sarvabhauma began to praise Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as a beautiful man and a great scholar.
“I have great attraction for Him”, he said, “But I don’t think it wise that at such a young age He has taken sannyas, the renounced order of life. He has such a long life ahead of Him; how will He be able to keep up the dignity of the life of a sannyasi, a life of renunciation? I can’t sit by and do nothing. I like this boy very much. I shall have to help Him as a guardian, so that He may not lose His prestige by giving up sannyas, attracted by the fascination of worldly pleasures.”
Gopinath could not tolerate all this guardian-like advice. He told Sarvabhauma, “This young man, who is very beautiful, charming, and scholarly, has attracted your attention, and you want to become His guardian to keep up the purity of His life. Do you think you will have to help Him? What do you mean by saying all these things? Don’t you know that He is really the incarnation of Godhead for this age? He is the Avatar for Kali-yuga; He inaugurated the yuga-dharma of Nam-sankirtan in Nabadwip, and His appearance is mentioned in the scriptures.” Sarvabhauma replied, “No, no! You are not talking to an ordinary person. Don’t think that you can say whatever you like and I will accept it. I am a hard nut to crack. What are you saying? There is no Kali-yuga-avatar. One of the names of Visnu mentioned in the Visnu-sahasra-nama in the Mahabharata is Triyuga, “The Lord who appears only in three ages”. That means that the Lord has no incarnation in Kali-yuga except Kalki, who is a Pastime incarnation and not the Yuga-avatar, the incarnation for the age.” Gopinath replied, “You think yourself so learned, but although you have studied all the scriptures, and are so proud of your learning, the Mahabharata and Srimad Bhagavatam are the main scriptures of the followers of eternal religious principles, and still you have no particular knowledge about that.”
“Not man—but God’
At that time, Gopinath Acharya quoted passages from the Srimad Bhagavatam and Mahabharata (Krsna-varnam tvisakrsnam, suvarna-varna hemango). In this way, he pressed his point: “Here we find the direct Avatar for the Age of Kali. He has appeared to spread Nam-sankirtan. He is not a man, but the Supreme Lord, Krishna Himself.” Sarvabhauma said, “No, no. Go away. Mind your own business. Don’t think that you can instruct me.” And in this way they argued.
Later, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya told Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, “I would like to teach You Vedanta philosophy, so that You can keep up the standard of Your renunciation. I will teach You that this world is nothing, so that You never feel any charm to again enter into mundane life.” Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Yes, you are my guardian. Whatever you say, I must do. I will come and learn Vedanta philosophy from you at whatever time is suitable for you.
Then Gopinath Acharya told Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, “Sarvabhauma is saying this because he doesn’t know Your real identity.” Sriman Mahaprabhu replied, “Why are you speaking against him? He is My guardian. He was My father’s classmate, so he has great affection for Me. It is out of affection that he poses himself as My guardian and looks after My welfare. I don’t find any fault in that.”
Seven days of silence
In a few days, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began to hear Vedanta from Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, and as Sarvabhauma would speak, He would remain silent like a good boy, as if He were hearing with a submissive attitude. But after he had been teaching Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu for seven days, Sarvabhauma had some doubt in his mind. He thought, “What is the matter? I am such a great scholar in Vedanta and logic, and I am trying my best with all my intelligence to put before Him the inner meaning of Vedanta, but I draw no response from Him. He is only quietly attending my discourse as if He is deaf and dumb. And I can’t say that He does not understand me, for He has a sharp intellect. I am sure of this, but still He gives no appreciation, no response whatsoever. He raises no question and gives no indication whether He understands or not—nothing of the kind. Then what am I doing?” He could not keep himself any longer. He put the question straight to the Lord: “For more than seven days I have been explaining the inner meaning of Vedanta to You. Many sannyasis come to me to learn about Vedanta, but You don’t have any question about my talk, my explanation? You maintain a strange and wonderful silence. What is the reason?
Then, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu revealed Himself. He said, “Sarvabhauma, what you explain is on the basis of Sankar’s philosophy, but I heard that it was by the order of the Lord that Sankar Acharya concealed the real purpose of Vedanta. Its author, Vyasadev, is a completely theistic person, and he has prepared this Vedanta, but what you say is all based on atheistic scholarship.”
Sarvabhauma was a very intelligent man. He realised, “In a very gentle way, He wants to tell me that what I am explaining is all bogus. I am labouring diligently to explain Vedanta to my utmost capacity for the last seven days, and now He shows His true colours and says that what I am explaining is all false. What is He saying?” Still, in a gentlemanly way, Sarvabhauma with some hesitation asked Sriman Mahaprabhu, “You say that what I have been explaining for the last seven days is all unsubstantial and unreal. Then can You give the proper meaning? If this is all improper and false, then what is the real meaning of Vedanta?” Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu humbly replied, “If you order Me to explain Vedanta, I will try. The sutras or codes of Vedanta are lustrous in themselves. They are self-evident. The proper reading of the sutras leads towards Parabrahma, Krishna.” Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began with this introduction. He said that Srimad Bhagavatam is the real explanation and commentary on Vedanta. It is mentioned in the Garuda-purana:
artho ’yam brahma-sutranam bharatartha-vinirnayah
gayatri-bhasya-rupo ’sau vedartha-paribrmhitah
“Srimad Bhagavatam represents the real purport of Vedanta-sutra. And although it is very difficult to draw out the real purpose of the one-hundred-thousand-verse epic Mahabharata, the great history of the world, Srimad Bhagavatam has come to give its real meaning. The mother of all Vedic knowledge is the gayatri-mantra. Srimad Bhagavatam gives the gist of gayatri in a very full-fledged way. And the supplementary truths of the Vedas are also found within Srimad Bhagavatam.” Therefore, Vedanta must be explained in the line of the truth which has been expressed in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Only then can the real meaning be understood.
The aspiration of liberated souls
When Sriman Mahaprabhu mentioned Srimad Bhagavatam, Sarvabhauma, being a learned pandit could not deny its validity. He said, “Yes, I also like Srimad Bhagavatam. And I especially like this one very beautiful verse. At that time, Sarvabhauma, to regain lost prestige, began to explain the atmarama verse of Srimad Bhagavatam:
atmaramas cha munayo nirgrantha apy urukrame
kurvanty ahaitukim bhaktim ittham-bhuta guno harih
“Even the liberated souls fully satisfied in the self are irresistibly attracted by the superexcellent qualities of Krishna and surrender to Him with unalloyed devotion.”
Sarvabhauma explained this verse in nine different ways, while Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, as before, sat silently hearing. After he had finished his explanation, Sarvabhauma thought that he had regained his position to a certain extent. Still, as a courtesy, he asked Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, “Are You satisfied with this explanation? If You can give any more light to this verse, I will listen to that.” Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told him, “If you order me, I may try.” Then He gave eighteen different types of explanations of that verse, leaving aside the nine already given by Sarvabhauma.
At that time, while listening to the explanation of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sarvabhauma gradually saw that he was losing his position. His pride was finished. Astounded, he thought, “This youth, this young boy, is not an ordinary person. No ordinary intellect can refute my arguments. Leaving aside all of my attempts to explain this verse, He gave eighteen wonderful explanations of this particular verse. What is this? Such consistent, irresistible, devotional, and beautiful explanations are coming, superseding all those that with great energy and effort I explained. No human being can surpass my explanations. No human intellect can cross mine. This is a different sort of explanation. It is all-encompassing. But it is coming from this young boy? What is this?”
Gradually, he lost his faith in himself and became baffled. He recalled how Gopinath Acharya had said that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was not a human being and thought, “It is not possible for a human to explain things in this way—it is something supernatural.” Then Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu revealed to Sarvabhauma His spiritual position as Narayan and Krishna combined. In a trance, Sarvabhauma saw all these things and fell at the Lord’s feet, and almost completely lost consciousness.
When he arose from his trance, he found that boy still sitting there like a student with great humility. Then Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked him, “May I go for today?” Sarvabhauma said, “Yes, you may go now.” The Lord went away, and Sarvabhauma remained there. After some time, he recovered, and began to think, “What have I seen? Four-handed Narayan, then Krishna playing the flute! I was not defeated by a man—that is my solace. Sarvabhauma become a changed man and composed two verses:
siksartham ekah purusah puranah
krpambudhir yas tam aham prapadye
“I surrender unto the lotus feet of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is an ocean of mercy. He is the original personality of Godhead, Krishna, and has descended to teach us the real meaning of knowledge, renunciation, and devotion to Him.”
kalan nastam bhakti-yogam nijam yah
avirbhutas tasya padaravinde
gadham gadham liyatam chitta-bhrngah
“Let the honeybee of my mind dive deep into the lotus feet of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna Himself. He has appeared to revive the path of unalloyed devotion, which had almost become lost due to the influence of time.”
A taste supreme
These two verses were composed by Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya expressing that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Lord Himself. The next day, early in the morning, Sriman Mahaprabhu, with some prasadam from the Jagannath Temple, ran to Sarvabhauma while he was still in bed. He cried in a loud voice, “Sarvabhauma, how wonderful is this prasadam! It has a very extraordinary taste. Please take it. I have come for you with this prasadam.” Sarvabhauma arose from bed as Mahaprabhu offered him the prasadam, and he could not but accept it without cleansing his mouth. Ordinarily a brahman pandit, early in the morning, will first cleanse his mouth, bathe, offer different prayers, and only then take prasadam. But when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu personally came and offered it to him with His own hand, what could Sarvabhauma do? He had to accept that prasadam. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told him, “We have previously experienced the taste of so many things like ghee, rice, sweets, and spices. We all know what flavours they have, but this is wonderful. This has touched the lips of Krishna Himself. It is extraordinarily wonderful and tasteful.” Then, Sarvabhauma eagerly ate that prasadam and began uttering some mantras:
suskam paryusitam vapi nitam va dura-desatah
prapti-matrena bhoktavyam natra kala-vicharana
“One should take the mahaprasad of Sri Krishna as soon as one receives it, without consideration of time or place, even though it may be dried up, stale, or brought from a distant country.”
na desa-niyamas tatra na kala-niyamas tatha
praptam annam drutam sistair bhoktavyam harir abravit
“The prasad of Sri Krishna is to be taken by gentlemen as soon as it is received, without hesitation. There are no regulative principles concerning time and place. This is the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
“Today, I have conquered the world”
He took prasadam, and the Lord and servant embraced one another and began to dance in ecstasy. As they danced, the symptoms of ecstasy appeared in both of them. They perspired, trembled, and shed tears. Absorbed in ecstatic love, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Today, I have conquered the whole world, for I have converted a scholar like Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. Now, he has so much faith in mahaprasad that without performing any Vedic rituals, he took the prasadam. My mission is successful!”
From that day on, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya knew nothing but the lotus feet of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and could only explain the scriptures with the conclusions of devotion. Seeing that Sarvabhauma had become a follower of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Gopinath Acharya began to clap his hands and dance. He said, “Well, Sarvabhauma, what do you think now?” Sarvabhauma replied, “Gopinath, you are my real friend, for it is by your grace that I received the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.”⬆︎
Although it is the duty of justice to seek qualifications, mercy has no such limits. Divine mercy does not care for any qualifications, but is always ready to compensate the weak and unfit. Only one thing is required: our sincere eagerness to receive mercy. In Chaitanya-charitamrta it is said:
kriyatam yadi kuto’pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam
janma-koti-sukrtair na labhyate
“Pure devotional service to Krishna cannot be obtained by performing pious activities even for millions of births. It can be purchased only by paying one price: intense eagerness. Wherever it is available, one must purchase it immediately.” No qualifications from one’s previous life will help one to attain Krishna consciousness; only eagerness and faith are important.
And what is the effect of Krishna consciousness?
bhidyate hrdaya-granthis chhidyante sarva-samsayah
ksiyante chasya karmani mayi drste ’khilatmani
“Our inner aspiration for rasa, ecstasy, is buried in the heart and the heart is tied down and sealed. But hearing and chanting the glories of Krishna breaks the seal of the heart, and the heart awakens and opens to receive Krishna: the reservoir of pleasure, ecstasy Himself (raso vai Sah, Akhila-rasamrta-murtih).”
The heart wants ecstasy
Our heart’s concern is with ecstasy, charm, and sweetness. And this is felt by the heart, not by the brain, so the heart has been given the most importance. The next effect is felt in the plane of knowledge. After getting a taste of divine sweetness, suspicion vanishes (rasa-varjam raso ’py asya param drstva nivartate). When we have a taste of real ecstasy (rasa), then all doubts are cleared. By getting a taste of Krishna consciousness, the heart is captured, and when the heart is captured, the ecstasy of love of Godhead, prema, begins to flow. Being satisfied, the heart will say, “This is what I was searching for!” Then, the brain will follow, thinking, “Yes, there can be no doubt, this is the highest goal of our search. Dissolve everything else.” The heart will say, “I have attained prema, divine love—this is the highest thing! Stop all works from now on.” Then, karma will close all its workshops. After coming in touch with Krishna consciousness, the first result is that the heart awakens. When the heart is captured, the brain approves, and our karma, energising in the wrong direction, stops. Krishna consciousness is the real wealth of the heart.
It is the nature of divine mercy to extend itself without caring for any law. The only consideration is our eagerness to accept it. Mercy is offered in this way: “Do you want this?” If we simply agree, “Yes, it is wonderful and most tasteful”, then we can have it. If our prayer is genuine, then nothing else is required. It is a simple transaction. If we want it, we will get it. Krishna consciousness is most simple. Whether one is fit or unfit is unimportant. Anyone who simply wants it may have it.
And what of those who don’t want this divine gift? For them, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu distributed special mercy through His most magnanimous canvassing agent, Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Nityananda Prabhu won’t allow even those who want to avoid Krishna consciousness to escape. If someone says, “I don’t want it”, Nityananda Prabhu won’t allow it. He will say, “No! You must want it. I request you earnestly—take it! Use it and you will be able to feel the value of Krishna consciousness.”
To capture the market, a clever merchant may distribute free samples of his product to his customers, saying, “Take one free! There is no question of paying any price now. I am giving this away. Use it, and if you feel the value, the utility of my product—buy it.” And then afterwards everyone will purchase.
“Please accept Gauranga!”
In a similar way, Nityananda Prabhu travelled throughout Bengal making His humble appeal. Nityananda Prabhu would knock at the door and fall at the feet of His customers, crying, “Please accept this! Don’t dismiss Me. Don’t drive Me away. Please do what I say. Give all your attention to Gauranga and you will be benefitted beyond expectation. This is My request to you.” He would shed tears, roll at their door, and say, “You are reluctant to accept this, but have no doubts. I implore you—take it! Believe Me. Please accept Gauranga!” In this way, Nityananda Prabhu used to wander down both sides of the Ganges, roaming here and there and preaching about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Nityananda Prabhu knows only Gauranga. He is represented in Krishna-lila as Baladev. Baladev apparently performed the Rasa-lila, but at heart was only arranging Rasa-lila for Krishna: His nature shows the experts of devotion that He is always dedicated to Krishna. Otherwise He would not be Baladev. He has no individual thoughts for His own enjoyment; every atom of His body is always eager to make arrangements for the enjoyment of Krishna. In a similar way, every atom of the body of Nityananda Prabhu is conscious transcendental substance. And every atom of His body is meant only for the service and satisfaction of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
“Come down from Your throne!”
One day, Mahaprabhu’s mother, Sachi Devi, had a dream that Krishna and Balaram were on a throne and Nityananda Prabhu was addressing Baladev, “Come down from Your throne! Your days are over. Now My Lord Gauranga will be installed.” Baladev refused: “No. I have My Lord—Krishna.” There was a fight, but Nityananda Prabhu was stronger, and He took Baladev down from the throne, saying, “Your day has gone. Now the time for My Master, Gauranga, has come. You are a trespasser, an usurper—You must come down.” And Baladev could not defeat Nityananda, who took Him down from the throne.
This is the nature of Nityananda Prabhu’s relationship with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He has nothing of His own; His everything is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. As Baladev is to Krishna, Nityananda Prabhu is to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The aim of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s descent was to distribute the devotional service of Vrndavan most generously. On the other hand, Nityananda Prabhu used to sing,
bhaja gauranga, kaha gauranga, laha gaurangera nama
yei jana gauranga bhaje sei amara prana
“Worship Gauranga, speak of Gauranga, chant Gauranga’s Name. Whoever worships Sri Gauranga is My life and soul.” Nityananda Prabhu tried His best to make the people at large accept Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. What did He say? “Come straight to the campaign of Sri Chaitanya and you will safely attain Vrndavan.”
Of course, Nabadwip, the abode of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, is no less valuable than Vrndavan, the abode of Krishna. The same rasa which is found in Vrndavan is present in another feature in Nabadwip. Some devotees have a special attraction for Vrndavan-lila, others have a special attraction for Nabadwip-lila, and a third group represents both camps, but Nabadwip is the most generous. In Vrndavan, the Pastimes of Krishna are confined to a confidential circle, but in Nabadwip, those Pastimes are distributed. Gaura-lila is more generous than Krishna-lila.
In the Chaitanya-charitamrta (2.25.261), Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami explains his conception of the difference between Gaura-lila and Krishna-lila:
krsna-lila amrta-sara tara sata sata dhara
dasa-dike vahe yaha haite
se chaitanya-lila haya sarovara aksaya
mano-hamsa charaha’ tahate
He says, “There is no doubt that we find the highest nectarean taste of rasa in Krishna-lila. But what is Gaura-lila? In Gaura-lila, the nectar of Krishna-lila is not confined to a limited circle, but is being distributed on all sides. It is just as if from all ten sides of the nectarean lake of Krishna-lila hundreds of streams are flowing.”
Our highest aspiration is to achieve the service of Srimati Radharani, but in the beginning, we must approach Sri Nityananda Prabhu through His manifest representation, the Guru. Nityananda Prabhu consolidates the foundation which helps us progress further in devotion. Quick progress without a good foundation invites a negative reaction, so the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu is our primary necessity. This approach culminates in the service of Srimati Radharani (Nitaiyer karuna habe Vraje Radha-Krishna pabe).
To be reinstated as a servant of the servant to the extreme degree is the philosophy of Gaudiya–Vaisnavism. Our goal is not to become one with Krishna but to receive service—we want to render service. The predominated moiety of the Absolute Truth is a negative potency—the energy that serves—and the predominating moiety receives that service. Our best interest will be reached when, according to our constitutional nature, we attain our position in the line of servitors in the negative, predominated moiety; not by considering ourselves one with the positive, pre-dominating moiety.
By the grace of Nityananda Prabhu, we develop our attraction for Sri Gauranga. If we receive the grace of Sri Gauranga, we receive everything in the highest degree. And that is the safest way to approach Radha-Govinda. If we try to achieve Radha-Govinda in some other way, our attempt will naturally be artificial and defective; if we approach Radha-Govinda directly, avoiding Sri Gauranga, there will be great difficulty.
An investment in Nabadwip
Therefore, we should invest all our energy in the service of Sri Gauranga. Then, we shall automatically find ourselves being lifted towards the highest level. Prabodhananda Saraswati Thakur prays:
yatha yatha gaura-padaravinde
vindeta bhaktim krta-punya-rasih
tatha tathot sarpati hrdy akasmad
“As much as we devote ourselves to the lotus feet of Sri Gauranga, we will automatically achieve the nectarean service of Srimati Radharani in Vrndavan.” An investment in Nabadwip Dham will automatically take one to Vrndavan. How one has been carried there will be unknown to him. But those who have good fortune invest everything in the service of Gauranga. If they do that, they will find that everything has automatically been offered to the divine feet of Srimati Radharani. She will accept them in Her confidential service and give them engagement, saying, “Oh, you have a good recommendation from Nabadwip; I immediately appoint you to this service.” Srimati Radharani is introduced in the form of Gauranga with the added element of magnanimity. No selfish sensualism can enter our consideration of the Pastimes of Sri Gauranga, for there He appears as a sannyasi and a devotee.
Of course, if we are to analyse Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, we shall find Krishna in the garb of Radharani. According to the impersonal philosophers, when negative and positive combine, they become nondifferentiated oneness, but Vaisnava philosophy says that when both positive and negative aspects of Godhead are combined, personality is not lost. Rather, in the garb of the negative, the positive is converted and begins searching for Himself in the mood of the highest searcher. According to Vaisnavism, when positive and negative combine, they do not create equilibrium; rather their dynamic character is always maintained. The combination of Radha and Govinda is Sri Gauranga, and by the grace of Nityananda Prabhu, we may be attracted to Sri Gauranga.
Nityananda Prabhu’s mercy sometimes exceeds the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Because it may create a bad precedent, Mahaprabhu sometimes cannot accept certain fallen souls—He has to consider their status as well as other things. Nityananda Prabhu’s mercy, however, does not care for any unfavourable circumstances; His mercy is very lavish and almost blind. He does not discriminate between different degrees of sinners. His mercy is all-embracing. And Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu cannot dismiss His recommendation. Even those who Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu rejected, Nityananda Prabhu sheltered, and gradually Mahaprabhu had to accept them. So the grace of Nityananda is the greatest both in magnitude and circumference, and that is our solace, for by His mercy even the most fallen souls can attain the supreme goal.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu once told His followers, “Even if Nityananda Prabhu is found with a fallen girl of the lowest kind, drinking wine in a wine shop, still you should know that He is above all these things. Although you may find Him apparently engaged in lower activities, He is never implicated. He may appear connected with so many fallen activities, but you should know that He is always revered by the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma, and other exalted devotees. Nityananda Prabhu’s mercy is so powerful that if one simply takes a piece of His loincloth and wears it respectfully on his body, he will be saved from all the disturbances of the mundane senses.” Therefore we pray, “May my mind always stick to His holy feet; I offer my obeisances to Sri Nityananda Prabhu.”
Swallowed by maya
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyas for the benefit of those souls swallowed by maya. He ran and chased after the fallen souls to deliver them from illusion by giving them the Holy Name of Krishna, and Nityananda Prabhu, like His shadow, ran after Him wherever He went. He fully surrendered and identified Himself with Mahaprabhu’s cause. So we must bow down to Nityananda Prabhu. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was merged in tasting the sweetness of Radha-Govinda-lila, and diving deep into that reality, however, at the same time, He wanted to deliver all souls whose hearts had not been devoured by the false notions of renunciation and exploitation. He ordered Nityananda Prabhu, “Go to Bengal and try to deliver them—give them divine love for Radha and Krishna.”
He ordered Nityananda Prabhu to distribute divine love for Radha-Govinda, but instead, Nityananda began to preach about Sri Gauranga. He thought, “It will be better for them to worship Gauranga; that will help free them from their offences in their present condition, and by doing so, they will automatically achieve a position in Radha-Govinda-lila.” He was ordered to preach the Name of Krishna, but instead began to preach the Name of Gauranga. So, for our own welfare, we bow down to Nityananda Prabhu with all our humility.
We pray, “O Nityananda Prabhu, O Gurudev, please give me a drop of firm faith in Sri Gauranga, who is Radha-Govinda combined, tasting the sweetness of the divine nectar of the Pastimes of Vrndavan. Give me a drop of faith, so that one day I may attain divine love and enter into that domain.”
If we neglect Nityananda Prabhu and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, our aspiration to serve Radha-Govinda will be a dream, an abstract imagination without reality. Nityananda Prabhu is the refuge of all fallen souls. He is the most generous-hearted aspect of Guru-tattva; we must bow down our head to Him, accept His holy feet, and surrender to Him.
In the spiritual realm of Vaikuntha, Nityananda Prabhu is represented as Sankarsan, the Supreme Lord who is considered to be the foundation of everything in existence. All possible existence is maintained by His energy. Nityananda Prabhu is the original Baladev, the personality of Godhead. Therefore, we should view the Pastimes of Nityananda Prabhu with full consciousness of His dignified position, although He used to roam about here and there, rolling in the dust with tears in His eyes, saying, “Take the Name of Gauranga and I will be sold to you.” Although He posed in this lower position, still, He should be considered in light of His actual dignified position. We must surrender to Him with that attitude.
Balaram is represented in different parts of the spiritual world in different aspects. He came here as Nityananda Prabhu with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The truth about Nityananda Prabhu has been exhaustively explained in Chaitanya-charitamrta and Chaitanya-bhagavat. There, He is described as enjoying His life and relishing His Pastimes with His own younger brother. To that Nityananda, we must bow our heads.
Sri Krishna-prema, divine love, is an inconceivable substance which is very pleasing and ecstatic. Great saints who get a taste of that wonderful substance throw away all sorts of aspirations, including salvation, which is lavishly praised by the Vedas. So Nityananda Prabhu, although one with Baladev, is greater than Him? Why? He is distributing divine love.
What is divine love? It is so important and valuable, so much higher than all other sorts of achievements, that one who can give divine love is far superior to those who can give duty, wealth, pleasure, and even salvation (dharma, artha, kama, moksa). If we conceive that Krishna is subordinate to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, then of course Balaram is subordinate to Nityananda Prabhu. In all other respects the two of Them are similar, but when magnanimity is added to Balaram, He becomes Nityananda Prabhu.
First, the position of divine love must be established: the great saints discard salvation and other things after they get a slight scent of divine love. Once the position of divine love is established, we can understand that one who can give it must necessarily be superior to the givers of all other things.
So Nityananda Balaram is superior to Karanodakasayi Visnu, the Supersoul of the collective universes, Garbhodakasayi Visnu, the Supersoul of this universe, and Ksirodakasayi Visnu, the Supersoul of all living beings. And that Balaram has come here as Nityananda Prabhu—not with majesty, grandeur, or power, but in a human form—to distribute divine love. And He is the giver of Gauranga. His greatness is proved by this fact. We can understand this by further examining the different aspects of His life, step by step.
Nityananda Prabhu was born in Ekachakra, and there He passed His early life. His parents, friends, and neighbours were filled with ecstatic joy, being pleased with His sweet infant Pastimes. From His birth, He was a pleasure to the whole atmosphere of Ekachakra, and in this joyful atmosphere He passed His childhood years.
One day, while Nityananda was still young, a sannyasi came to His home and begged Him from His parents. The sannyasi was roaming about to different holy places and he prayed for Nityananda as his alms. He took Him in his company, and Nityananda Prabhu wandered about almost all the holy places, following that sannyasi. It is said that the sannyasi was Madhavendra Puri.
Then one day, from within, feeling ecstasy in His heart, Nityananda Prabhu could understand that Sri Gauranga had begun His Pastimes of sankirtan in Nabadwip. And with that inspiration, He came to Nabadwip Dham.
An extraordinary dream
That day, Mahaprabhu told His followers, “I had a dream that an extraordinarily great man, in a chariot marked with the palm tree flag of Balaram, came to My door and said, ‘Where is the house of Nimai Pandit?’ Twice, thrice, four times—again and again—he keeps saying, ‘Where is the house of Nimai Pandit?’” Mahaprabhu continued, “That great personage must have come last night to Nabadwip. Try to search Him out.” They searched and searched, but could not find Him anywhere.
Then Mahaprabhu told them, “Let Me try.” He took them straight to the home of Nandan Acharya, and when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with His followers suddenly arrived there, they found Nityananda Prabhu sitting on the veranda. After seeing Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu stared intently at Him for some time, became absorbed in Him, and fainted. In this way, in one day, He became the most intimate associate of Sriman Mahaprabhu. When He was ordered by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to give Krishna consciousness to everyone, He began to distribute Gauranga consciousness, divine love of Sri Gauranga. That Nityananda Prabhu is the saviour of all fallen souls, without any discrimination of the degree of their fallenness; so we bow down to His holy feet.
Once, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had a secret talk with Nityananda Prabhu in Jagannath Puri. When Nityananda Prabhu went to Bengal and married, some say that Mahaprabhu asked Him to marry. It is our opinion that because the so-called ‘high-class’ people were so much surcharged with vanity, Nityananda Prabhu was asked to approach the masses. Because He was ordered to mix with them very familiarly for His preaching purposes, it was found necessary for Him to marry. Otherwise, if He were to have mixed very familiarly with family men, accusations may have been levelled at His standard of renunciation. And to further that purpose, He married. He had to adopt that policy and accept that attitude. And He may have been told to do so by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu; it was not His own decision. Of course, marrying or not marrying was nothing to Him.
How He came in contact with His eternal consort, Jahnava Devi, is described in the Bhakti-ratnakara. It appears that when He was preaching all around Bengal, He preached at the house of Jahnava Devi’s father, Surya Das Pandit, the brother of Gauri Das Pandit, who was already a follower of Gaura-Nityananda. Surya Das gave Him intimate help in His propaganda work, as his house was a good base. And Surya Das, who had two daughters, offered Nityananda Prabhu his daughter in marriage. Ultimately, Srila Nityananda Prabhu and Srimati Jahnava Devi are eternally associated, and although Their marriage apparently took place out of necessity, it was actually part of Their eternal lila.
Of course, some so-called sannyasis take advantage of this to give up their vows of celibacy and marry. They give the marriage of Nityananda as an excuse. But it is not a proven fact that Nityananda Prabhu was a sannyasi. Actually, the name ‘Nityananda’ is a brahmachari name. ‘Ananda’ is a suffix added to the name of a brahmachari. ‘Ananda’, ‘Svarup’, ‘Prakas’, and ‘Chaitanya’ are different types of brahmachari names. The name ‘Ananda’ is also found in the sannyas order of life, but we find no sannyas title mentioned for Nityananda Prabhu. There is also no mention anywhere of a Sannyas-guru for Nityananda Prabhu, although we know that His Diksa-guru was Madhavendra Puri, the Guru of Advaita Prabhu and Isvara Puri.
Nityananda Prabhu is known as an avadhut. ‘Avadhut’ does not mean a sannyasi, but one who is not very particular about his external practices and sometimes does things which should not be done. When an exalted person is seen engaging in lower practices, he is considered an avadhut. It is understood that he is above that, but his practices are of a lower nature. Ava means lower, and dhut means that he can either remove or purify.
Nityananda Prabhu broke the single sannyas staff (ekadanda) into three; that indicates that when taking sannyas, the renounced order of life, we should accept not one, but three dandas, which symbolise the dedication of body, mind, and words in the service of the Lord. And Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad was also inspired by this action of Nityananda Prabhu’s to give tridanda-sannyas to his followers, in contrast to ekadanda which was formerly current in Bengal. The system of tridanda-sannyas was the custom in Southeast India with the Vaisnavas who follow Ramanuja Acharya, and Srila Bhakti Siddhanta introduced it for the modern age.
Misconception: attack it—crush it!
Nityananda Prabhu’s approach was somewhat peculiar. His strategy was to uplift the most fallen. Like Napoleon, whose policy was to attack the strongest position of the opposing army, Nityananda Prabhu wanted to capture the most sinful. Generally, we think that a saint flies away from this world of maya and goes to a solitary place where he can enter into a cave and engage himself in meditation. Indian saints generally preach, “Give up everything, go to a solitary place in the jungle, find a cave, and engage yourself fully in understanding Godhead.” But our Guru Maharaj was different. Like Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu, he wanted to attack maya and, like a great general, he declared totalitarian war on illusion and even all other existing conceptions of religion. “Why is there this misunderstanding and misconception?” he thought. “Everything belongs to Krishna: Isavasyam idam sarvam. It is plain and simple and sweet. How can we think, ‘This is for me, that is for Him?’ Why should we let this misconception stand here at all? Attack it—and crush the whole thing!”
He told us, “Kirtan means to preach against misconception. As soldiers, you must go door to door and preach Krishna consciousness—Krishna’s interest—the Krishna conception. If they understand that everything is for Krishna, they will be saved. This truth is plain and simple. Why should they not understand this? Try to capture them, to release them from the world of misconception and misunderstanding where they are now suffering from reaction.”
In this way, we are not afraid of anything. A Vaisnava who loved solitary life once asked our Guru Maharaj, “Why do you stay at Kolkata? That is the place of Satan, where fighting for selfish interest is so acute. Leave that—come to the Holy Dham.” But Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur especially chose that place, saying, “I prefer to represent Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s creed in an extremely contaminated place.” For this reason, he wanted to send men to the West. “The East is captured by the glamour of Western civilisation”, he said, “so Western civilisation must first be crushed. Then, its glamour will vanish and the whole world will come to join the campaign of divine love of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.” This was the same spirit with which Nityananda Prabhu canvassed the fallen souls of this world, in His attempt to take them to the lotus feet of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.⬆︎
At the time of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s advent, Bengal had fallen far away from Krishna consciousness. The people of the day had become so much degraded that they would pass their time spending money like water to see the marriage of cats. Deviating from the worship of the Supreme Lord, Krishna, they used to worship the serpent-goddess, Visahari, or the controller of the demons, Kali. Very rarely would the Name of Krishna be heard from their lips. Only a few of the Hindu gentlemen, when bathing in the Ganges, would chant the Holy Name of Govinda, Hari, or Krishna. And Nabadwip Dham, place of the advent of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, was under Mohammedan rule in those days. The Kazi was in power in Nabadwip, and the Hindu’s religious feelings were checked by the strong hand of his Islamic rule.
Advaita Acharya was a great scholar and the most senior among Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s followers. He appeared in Navagram in Sri Hatta, in the eastern province of Bengal, and resided in Santipur. Ontologically speaking, Sri Advaita Acharya is the Avatar of Mahavisnu, who creates the material cosmos through the agency of His illusory energy. Advaita Acharya is the devotee who earnestly invited Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to descend here as the Yuga-avatar to look after the welfare of all souls. He began to worship the Lord with Ganges water and tulasi leaves and invoked His grace, praying, “O Lord, please come and deliver these people; the time has come to relieve them by the distribution of the sweet Name of Krishna. Come, My Lord—they are most poor!” In this way Advaita Acharya attracted Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by pleading the cause of the fallen souls. Of course, the time had come for the advent of the incarnation for this age, the Yuga-avatar, but still Advaita Acharya performed the function of inviting and welcoming Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
The advent of Sri Chaitanya
And when the Supreme Lord was about to appear, Advaita felt in his heart, “My prayer is going to be satisfied—He is coming!” Ultimately, He detected that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, had personally appeared in the house of Sri Jagannath Misra and Sachi Devi as their newborn boy, Nimai Visvambhar. And so, Advaita Acharya went to pay due respects to the child and His parents on the divine advent day.
When the boy was a little grown up, Sri Advaita Prabhu came down to bow at the feet of the child, Nimai. Sachi Devi, Nimai’s mother, shuddered: “What are You doing? You are an old pandit, a Vedic scholar. If You show this kind of respect to my young boy, it will spoil His future! What are You doing?” It was said that whenever Advaita Acharya used to bow down His head to a Deity, the statue would shatter into pieces if it was a sham, if there was no genuine presence of the Lord. But here, when Advaita put His head at the feet of the boy, Nimai put one foot on Advaita Acharya’s head. Everyone was astounded and wondered, “What kind of spiritual power does this child have? Such a great devotee-scholar and senior man as Advaita has bowed down to this child, and the child has stepped on Advaita’s head, but the child is quite unaffected! Who is this child?”
When Nimai was a boy, sometimes He would disguise Himself with a blanket and enter into the banana grove of a neighbour’s house. With a push of His head He used to break down the banana trees. The neighbours would come out and think, “A bull must have entered and demolished our garden!” In these Pastimes the Lord was teaching His devotees, “I am demolishing all your banana trees that will be used for some other purpose besides My service. In the highest sense, you are My eternal associates, and I can do anything and everything with your possessions to suit My fleeting pleasures.” Sometimes He would snatch fruit from the hand of Sridhar Pandit, saying, “Oh, give Me this banana. I won’t be able to pay you any price.” Sridhar Pandit would tell Him, “Why are You doing this? You are a brahman boy; I can’t refuse You. But You should not do these things. I am a poor man. If You snatch away my best things, how can I make a living?” In this way, Nimai performed His Pastimes of stealing fruit.
As Nimai Pandit grew up, He used to show Advaita Acharya great respect. But Advaita could not tolerate it. He said, “I know that You are not an ordinary person. You are a supernatural, transcendental personality of the highest order. Still, in the worldly sense, You are younger than Me, so You show Me respect, but I can’t tolerate it. It is too much for Me.” But what could Advaita do? Nimai used to show His formal respect to Advaita Prabhu every time They met, so Advaita made a plan to stop this, and thought to Himself, “I shall see how clever You are.”
He left Nabadwip, went to Santipur, and began to preach against the devotional school. The news came to Nimai that Advaita Acharya, after such a long time as a devotee, was preaching against the devotional school. He was preaching that jnan, knowledge, is higher than devotion. “Devotion makes the Lord far away”, He argued, “and knowledge tries to bring Him very near. With knowledge, one thinks, ‘I want to experience You, O Lord.’ And devotion says ‘He is adhoksaja: transcendental. He can’t be traced by our senses.’ So devotion makes Him far away by saying, ‘It is only His sweet will that may connect us.’ But according to the path of knowledge, the supreme authority is within you, in your heart. The devotional school is clearly secondary.”
“Don’t kill that old man!”
In this way, Advaita Acharya began to preach. And when that reached the ears of Nimai Pandit, He went with Nityananda to punish Advaita. They jumped into the Ganges and swam all the way to Santipur, where they found Advaita Acharya. Nimai confronted Him: “What are You doing, Acharya? Why have You invited Me to come here? With Ganges water and tulasi leaves, You prayed for Me to appear, and now You are making fun of Me? You are speaking against devotion, against Me? What is the matter with You?” In this way, Nimai Pandit began to punish Advaita. He began to slap Him. The old wife of Advaita Acharya began to cry, “What are You doing? Don’t kill that old man!”
Nityananda Prabhu was smiling, and Haridas Thakur, perplexed, was standing at a little distance trying to understand, “What is the matter?” Then Advaita Acharya Prabhu felt great satisfaction. He said, “I have taught You a lesson now—You have come to punish Me. You are defeated—I have gained victory over You!” Advaita Prabhu began to dance. “Today I have defeated You, My Lord! You had to punish Me. Where has that formal respect You were always showing Me gone now?” In this way, Advaita Acharya rejoiced, and offered Mahaprabhu a feast of sak, His favourite delicacy.
The Lord gave so much grace to Advaita Prabhu that although He was an old scholar and Acharya, He was punished with slaps. It is not possible to punish or dishonour anyone we respect, but only our intimate friends. Disrespect and dishonour is possible only when there is great intimacy. Pure devotees want punishment. “Punish us!” they pray, but punishment from the high quarter is not very cheap.
Advaita’s mystic poem
Many years later, just before Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began to manifest His final Pastimes of divine ecstasy, Advaita Acharya Prabhu wrote some mystic lines of poetry which He sent to the Lord through Jagadananda Pandit:
baulake kahiha,—loka haila baula
baulake kahiha,—hate na vikaya chaula
baulake hahiha,—kaye nahika aula
baulake kahiha,—iha kahiyachhe baula
Tell our Prabhu, who acts as madmen do
that everyone has lost their sanity
And rice once high in price has no value.
In love of God, half-crazed humanity
neglects this world and all they once held dear;
tell Him a madman brings this to His ear.
When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu read that mystic poem, His mood became serious. Svarup Damodar was there: “What is written here?” he said. Mahaprabhu replied, “I do not know what is the real meaning, but Advaita Acharya is a great ‘worshipper’, and a certain class of ‘worshippers’ are accustomed to think, ‘We shall invite the Deity, and for some time we shall try to keep Him here for worship. Then, when we are finished with our worship, finally we shall bid Him adieu.’ Perhaps Advaita thinks, ‘Now it is time for the Deity to go.’ I don’t know what is the real meaning, but perhaps this is His purpose.” Svarup Damodar took the poem, read it, and became very thoughtful: “Oh. Advaita Prabhu is saying that the requirements for Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance have been fulfilled, and now, He is no longer needed to preach the Holy Name of Krishna as the incarnation for this age. The Avatar’s duty is finished, and so He may go.”
The last twelve years
After this, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu remained within this world for twelve more years, but not as before. His mood was quite changed. From that day on, He felt great separation from Krishna in the mood of Radharani. Divine madness became predominant in Him and His social connection was almost closed. Ramananda Ray and Svarup Damodar were His attendants at that time. He no longer kept any social connections; the fire within Him was burning—the fire of separation. He was absorbed in Radharani’s search for Sri Krishna after Krishna left Vrndavan. In that mood of divine madness, He spent twelve years in a closed room within the house compound of Kasi Misra.
Sometimes at night, unconsciously crossing the boundary wall, He would run to meet Lord Jagannath. When Svarup Damodar and His other attendants would suddenly find that no sound of Krishna’s Name could be heard within His room, they would begin searching: “Mahaprabhu is not there, where is He?” Sometimes they would find Him fallen before the main gate of the Jagannath Temple, His legs and hands drawn within His body like the limbs of a tortoise drawn within its shell. A very sweet fragrance could be detected emanating from Him, and the cows would flock there, smelling His body. While Mahaprabhu was lying in His trance, He was internally experiencing the Pastimes of Radha and Govinda with the gopis in Govardhan. At that time, Svarup Damodar and the others tried their best to revive Him from His trance by chanting the Holy Name of Krishna.
When Mahaprabhu was roused, He complained, “What have you done? I was enjoying a most happy experience there but by raising a clamour, you have drawn me down here.” And what raised a clamour? The chanting of “Hare Krishna”. And who was chanting the Name of Krishna? Svarup Damodar and others of his calibre. The depth of the experience of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in His divine trance was so great that He took the chanting of Hare Krishna to be noise. So, we may chant the Holy Name of Krishna, and that may be simply noise. From another angle of vision, however, it may be seen that Krishna-nam is of such immense value that it was given preference over direct participation in Krishna-lila. But the direction given to us by our Acharyas, the spiritual preceptors of our line, is that we should consider our own chanting to be merely noise.
One day, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was wandering near the seashore. A girl was fervently singing in praise of Lord Jagannath, and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ran straight towards that sound. He began running through thickets of dangerous thorns. Then Govinda, His attendant, somehow stopped Him. When He understood everything, He said, “Oh, a girl is singing? Govinda saved my life.”
Half-man in ecstasy
Sometimes He would suddenly feel that Krishna is playing with the gopis in the Yamuna. In that mood He would jump into the ocean, crying, “Krishna!” He jumped there and became unconscious, as the waves were playing with Him. Finding Him gone, His devotees would wonder, “Where is Mahaprabhu?” and, headed by Svarup Damodar, would begin their searching. Once, the night was almost over and they still couldn’t find Him. At last a fisherman came running, half-mad, chanting, “Krishna, Krishna, Krishna!”
“What is the matter?” Svarup Damodar asked. The fisherman replied, “Every night I catch fish, but tonight I threw out my net and caught something very heavy. When I began pulling it in, I thought it was a big fish, but when I took it on shore I found a big human figure, and when I went to remove the body from my net, somehow I touched Him; now I am half-mad.” Then, Svarup Damodar said, “You must have seen our Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?” “No, I have seen Him before”, the fisherman said, “He has a beautiful figure. It is not Him. It is something else.” Svarup Damodar told him, “Anyhow, try to show us where He is.”
They went and saw the long figure of the Lord, His joints dislocated, lying on the sands, senseless. Svarup Damodar and the others began to chant the Holy Name of Krishna in His ear, until He came to His senses. At that time Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began to describe the lila of Krishna that He had seen in His trance. In this way, after Advaita Acharya’s poetry was sent to Him, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu lived His last twelve years in the mood of intense separation that Srimati Radharani felt for Krishna.
Mad Nimai Pandit
This intense degree of divine madness was exhibited by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in His last days on this earth. But even in His life in Nabadwip, when Mahaprabhu was the great boy-scholar Nimai Pandit, everyone thought He had become mad after He had returned from Gaya and had begun showing signs of devotion to Krishna. The normal-thinking men of the day said: “This Nimai Pandit was a good man, a gentleman, but after returning from Gaya, He is totally changed, and is doing so many undesirable things. He wants to preach so many new ideas. What is this? He has become a madman. He doesn’t care for any rules and regulations, social customs, or ancient scriptures—only ‘Krishna, Krishna, Krishna.’ Before, He was normal, but recently He has become abnormal. Of course, He has a powerful intellect. When He was a professor, He did not care for the scholarship of even the greatest of pandits. He easily defeated the champion scholar, Kesava Kasmiri, and many others. But now we have lost Him. Now He is different. He does not care for the brahmans or the scriptures we follow. He has a new opinion, and He is presenting that to the world. His ways are incomprehensible.” The neighbours complained to His mother, Sachi Devi: “Sachi Devi, what is this? Nimai was not like this before; now He doesn’t care for us anymore. He even has no charm for His wife. What has He become? You are the daughter of a gentleman, but just see your misfortune! What to do? The fact is this, Sachi, your only son, who was so brilliant, has become mad. You must arrange for proper medical treatment.” Then, Sachi Devi called for the kaviraj, the doctor.
The doctor made an arrangement for a small, brick bathing tank to be filled up with Visnu oil, which is supposed to be a very cooling thing. And Nimai Pandit was asked to bathe in that tank. He did so, and suddenly began laughing and playing in the tank. As He was diving and swimming in the oil, He was laughing madly. At that time, Srivas Thakur arrived for a visit and asked, “How is Nimai Pandit?” Sachi Devi told him, “Just see my misfortune! My Nimai has become completely mad. I called for the doctor and he arranged for this treatment.” As she showed Srivas how Nimai was playing in the tank, he asked, “What is this?” Sachi replied, “My neighbours advised me to do this.” Srivas said, “You are a very gentle lady. You do not know how to deal with others. What Nimai has—I want! Your boy has Krishna-prema, and I want a drop of that. If only we are allowed to live a few days longer, we shall have the opportunity of seeing many wonderful Pastimes of Krishna.”
Then, Nimai became sober for the time being and told Srivas, “If you had also remarked that I was mad, then I would have run to the Ganges and finished My life. At least you have understood what I am; that is My solace, Srivas. If you would have told the public, “He is mad”, then I would have found that there is no man here to accept what I have come to give, so I must enter the river and drown myself without hesitation.”
Before Nimai Pandit went to Gaya, He was a big scholar. When He returned from Gaya surcharged with devotion, He began to explain grammar again, as before, but now He would show Krishna in the grammar. He would give interpretations of the roots of Sanskrit grammar which showed the relationship between Sanskrit and Krishna. He explained that sound is only a vibration, and vibration means the potency of Krishna. It is the potency of Krishna that makes everything pure, that makes everything move. If that potency is withdrawn, everything is dead and gone. In this way, Nimai Pandit wanted to explain grammar in terms of Krishna.
Then, His students became very much disturbed. “What is this!” they thought. “We have come to learn Sanskrit from Nimai Pandit, but our academic requirements will not be satisfied now. Still, the coaching we got from Him is never to be had anywhere else, so we can’t abandon Him. But how to improve the style of His teaching?” They went to the previous teacher of Nimai Pandit, Ganga Das Pandit. He had been Nimai’s tutor in His childhood. Ganga Das said, “You are all fortunate to be students of Nimai Pandit. He is such a nice professor. What is your complaint?” The students said, “We were very much pleased by studying under Nimai Pandit. But now, since He has returned from Gaya, He is explaining everything in quite a new way. He teaches Sanskrit in terms of the Holy Name of Krishna. He understands a very high philosophy, but that won’t serve our purpose of studying grammar. It is certainly valuable, but it will not help our studies. Please ask Him to change His ways. He has regard for you because you are His teacher. Only you can influence Him.” “All right”, he said, “Ask Him to see me tomorrow.”
The students went to Nimai Pandit and told Him, “Your former professor has called for You. He wants to see You.” Nimai said, “Yes, I shall go and see him.” Later that day, He went to Ganga Das Pandit, and offered His respectful obeisances. Ganga Das said: “How are You my boy? I am happy to hear that You went to Gaya and performed Your religious duties for Your ancestors. This is all very good, but what is the matter? Your students are complaining to me. Is it true that You do not care to teach them properly? Why don’t You care to teach them as You did before? They all appreciate Your teachings, but after returning from Gaya You have adopted a novel style of teaching. Don’t continue this, I say—teach them properly. I hear from the people that You have become a devotee. But were Your forefathers not devotees? Of course, You have become a devotee of an extraordinary type. But don’t go astray. What You speak about devotion seems unnecessary—that is not really grammar. Do You think You are giving new light with Your new meanings? Do You think Your former professors were all idiots? What do You have to say?” Nimai was silent. “All right then. Don’t go astray. Remain calm and follow Your predecessors and teach the boys well, so that we will not have to hear any complaints against You in the future. Your students won’t go to any other school. They are very fond of You, so teach them well.” Then, Nimai Pandit took the dust of His teacher’s feet and told him, “Yes, I shall try to obey your order. By dint of your footdust, no one can challenge Me in scholarship. Don’t worry. I shall teach them well.”
“Why should I worship Krishna?”
A few days later, Nimai Pandit began to chant the name “gopi, gopi” while He was in a trance of devotion. Some big scholars that held a high social position went to Him and said, “Nimai Pandit! You were a big pandit and now You are a devotee. That doesn’t matter, but why do You chant the name ‘gopi gopi’? Take the Name of Krishna. According to the scriptures, that will bring You some benefit. But You are chanting ‘gopi gopi’. What benefit will You get from that? You are mad.” Nimai said, “Who is this Krishna? Why should I worship Him? He is a dacoit and a woman-hunter!” And Nimai picked up a stick and chased them away.
Later they began to talk among themselves, saying, “Nimai Pandit has become stark mad. We went to speak something good to Him, and He came with a stick to kill us! We are not sons of ordinary men. We have our high position in society and our family dignity. We will show Him!” They began a conspiracy to teach Nimai Pandit a good lesson by giving Him a good beating.
At that time, Nimai suddenly cried out: “I took the greatest measures to deliver these wretched souls, but I see now that they are simply creating more sins by abusing Me and conspiring to punish Me. Why have I come? What will be effective in delivering them? I shall have to take the role of a sannyasi. Otherwise, they will think that I am simply one of them, a householder. But if I become a sannyasi, a preacher, then they may have some respect. They will say, ‘We are all householders, He has become a sannyasi. He should be revered.’ Then, from that reverence, they will get some benefit. Otherwise, they will have to go to hell for thinking that I am an ordinary man. To create some respect, so they may benefit, I shall have to accept the role of a sannyasi.” And He revealed to Nityananda Prabhu and a few others, “On the last day of the first month of this year, I shall take sannyas.”⬆︎
According to solar calculation, it was on the day of Makara Sankranti, an auspicious conjunction of the stars, that Nimai Pandit went to Katwa to take sannyas, the renounced order of life. After this, He would become known as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He swam across the Ganges and in wet cloth ran towards Katwa. Just before this, He told only a few of His friends, including Nityananda Prabhu, Gadadhar Pandit, Mukunda, and others, “The time when I will accept the robe of renunciation is very near.”
Just a few days before this, an opposition party had been raised against Nimai Pandit. Those who believed that material nature is the highest principle, and that consciousness is a product of matter, began to abuse Nimai Pandit. He thought, “I came to deliver the lowest of men, but if they commit offences against Me, there will not be hope for their upliftment.” Suddenly, He said, “I came with that medicine which gives the greatest relief, but now I find that their disease is rapidly growing worse and seems beyond treatment. It will take its own course towards doom. The patients are committing offences by abusing their doctor. They are making arrangements to insult Me. They take it that I am a family man—their nephew. They take Me as one of them. I came with the best medicine for the present degraded age, but now I find that they are plotting against Me. Now they are doomed. At least I have to show them that I am not one of them.” He thought, “I shall leave family life and take sannyas and wander from village to village, town to town, preaching the Holy Name of Krishna.” That was His decision, and within a few days He went to take sannyas at Katwa from Kesava Bharati Maharaj.
Just the day before He left to take sannyas, from the afternoon until the evening, there was a spontaneous gathering of devotees in the home of Nimai Pandit. Every year in Bengal, that day was celebrated as Laksmi Puja, worship of the Goddess of fortune, when special cakes are prepared and distributed. Nimai, knowing that early the next morning He would leave Nabadwip to take sannyas, attracted His followers in such a way that almost every leading devotee came to see Him that evening.
The Hare Krishna Mahamantra
They came with flower garlands and many other offerings to be presented to the Lord. Nimai accepted their garlands and then placed them on the necks of the devotees who gave them. Only four of His most intimate devotees knew He was leaving; the ordinary devotees did not know this would be His last night in Nabadwip. With His own hands He garlanded the necks of His devotees and appealed to them, “Always chant the Name of Krishna. Under no condition should you give up this Krishna-nam. And don’t do anything else. While working, eating, sleeping, or walking, day or night—in whatever you do—continuously take the Name of Krishna. Always talk about Krishna—nothing else. If you have any real attraction to Me, then don’t do anything without chanting the Name of Krishna.
“Cultivate Krishna consciousness. Krishna is the origin of us all. He is our father; we have come from Him. The son who shows no gratitude towards the father is sure to be punished birth after birth. Always chant these Names of the Lord:
hare krsna hare krsna, krsna krsna hare hare
hare rama hare rama, rama rama hare hare
“No other religious principle is required. Chant ‘Hare Krishna’. This is not an ordinary mantra, but this is the mahamantra, the greatest of all the great mantras, the very essence of all the mantras known to the world. Only take to this, always. No other prescription is to be followed.
“Remember your Lord, your home. This is a foreign land; you have nothing to aspire after here. Try always to go back home, back to Godhead.” In this way, the Lord spoke, and all His devotees intuitively came because it was Nimai Pandit’s last night in Nabadwip.
The Lord and the fruit seller
Late at night, one devotee named Kholavecha Sridhar arrived. He used to make trade on the plantain tree and its fruit. He would sell the fruit, ripe or green, and the big leaves which are used as plates. Sometimes Nimai would pay him less for his fruits than what they were worth, and sometimes He would snatch the best fruits from him. Sridhar came to see Him late at night to offer Him a choice pumpkin. And Nimai thought, “I have spent almost My whole life snatching so many things from him, and now, on this last night he has brought this wonderful pumpkin. I can’t resist.” He asked Sachi Devi, “Mother, Sridhar has given Me this pumpkin. Please think of how it can be prepared.” At bedtime, someone came with some milk. Nimai said, “Mother, with this milk and this pumpkin, please prepare some sweet rice.” So Sachi Devi prepared some pumpkin sweet rice: pumpkin boiled with milk, rice, and sugar.
Late at night, at about three o’ clock in the morning, Nimai went away. He left Visnu Priya Devi asleep in bed. His mother Sachi Devi, sensing what was to come, was staying awake all night guarding the door. Nimai bowed down to her and went away. And like a stone figure, Mother Sachi Devi sat there by the gate as Nimai left. She could not say anything, but was struck dumb.
A little after three o’clock in the morning, Nimai swam across the Ganges and in His wet cloth went straight to Katwa, a distance of twenty-five miles. He reached there by nine or ten o’clock. There, He approached Kesava Bharati to take sannyas.
Mother Sachi’s sadness
In the early morning, the devotees came to see Nimai and found Sachi Devi like a statue, sitting at the door. The door was open. Everything was empty. “What’s the matter Sachi Devi?” they asked. She told them, “Oh, I was waiting for you devotees. You take possession of the house. I shall go somewhere else. I can’t enter this house any more. You are His associates; you are the true heirs. Take possession.” They began to throng around her and console her. “You will go? What about the young wife He left? The girl is only fourteen years old. Who will protect her? You can’t shun the responsibility given to you. It is on your shoulders.” In this way they came and consoled her and tried to give her some hope.
Suddenly the devotees heard that Nimai Pandit, Sri Gauranga, had left Nabadwip. They learned that He had gone to Katwa, to Kesava Bharati’s ashram to take sannyas, bidding goodbye to the people of Nabadwip forever.
A dark shadow came down. Many began to weep and cry for Him. Many of them ran towards Katwa. Nimai Pandit was an unprecedented scholar with beautiful features—tall, fair, and benevolent. He had already made the people mad with the Holy Name of Krishna. He had released the two great sinners Jagai and Madhai from their nasty life. He had checked the Mohammedan ruler, the Kazi, who had broken the mrdanga drum. As a famous pandit, he had defeated many scholars who came to conquer Nabadwip, which was very much renowned for its high culture of learning, especially of logic.
At that time in Nabadwip, logic (nyaya); worship of material energy (tantra), and official Hinduism (smrti), were in high culture. Nabadwip was highly renowned for scholarship. If pandits could not defeat the scholars of Nabadwip, they could not become famous. From far away in Kashmir, Kesava Kasmiri had to come to Nabadwip to get a certificate that he was a pandit. And he was defeated by Nimai Pandit. Kesava Kasmiri was such a big pandit that it was rumoured he was the favourite child of Saraswati, the goddess of learning. No one could face him. Still, he was defeated by Nimai Pandit.
Effulgent like the rising sun
But Nimai Pandit left Nabadwip forever and took sannyas because the people of Nabadwip could not appreciate Him. He reached Katwa, where, just on the banks of the Ganges, there was a sannyasi named Kesava Bharati. Nimai went to him and asked him for sannyas. Kesava Bharati suddenly found that his ashram was full of lustre. At first, it seemed as if the sun was rising before him; then he saw that it was a bright person approaching. He rose from his seat, and with strained eyes approached in wonder. “What is this?” he thought.
Then he realised that the great devotee-scholar, Nimai Pandit, had come. He appeared before him saying, “I want to take sannyas from you.” But Kesava Bharati could not accept Nimai’s offer. “I am charmed by Your beauty and personality”, he said. “But You are so young, only twenty-four years old. What about Your mother, Your wife, and Your guardians? Without consulting with them, I cannot venture to give You the robe of renunciation.”
In the meantime, as it was Makara Sankranti, a famous holiday, many people had come to take bath in the holy waters of the Ganges. They gathered there and the rumour spread like fire: “Nimai Pandit of Nabadwip has come to take sannyas.” Many men flocked there, until a huge crowd gathered.
They all opposed Mahaprabhu’s sannyas. Some of them raised their voices in protest: “You—Kesava Bharati! We won’t allow you to give sannyas to this young man. He has a family, His mother and wife. We won’t allow it. If you give sannyas to this charming, young, beautiful boy, we will break down your ashram immediately. It can’t be!”
But Nimai Pandit kept pressing for sannyas. At last, Kesava Bharati asked Him, “So, You are that Nimai Pandit about whom we have heard so much? Many big scholars came to conquer Nabadwip, the famous seat of learning, and You have defeated them all. Are You that Nimai Pandit?” “Yes”, said Nimai. Kesava Bharati told him, “I can give You sannyas, but You must take the permission of Your mother—otherwise I won’t, I can’t do it.” Nimai suddenly began running towards Nabadwip to ask permission, but Kesava Bharati thought, “He has such a commanding personality, He can do anything.”
Nimai was called back. Kesava Bharati told him, “With Your most extraordinary personality You can do anything. You will go there, charm Your guardians, get permission, and return. Nothing is impossible for You.”
The ordinary public was very much enraged, saying to Kesava Bharati, “We can’t allow you, Swamiji, to give sannyas to this young boy. It is impossible! If you do, then we shall smash your ashram.” Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu began performing kirtan, chanting Hare Krishna and dancing madly. And the angry mob grew, sometimes creating a disturbance. In this way the whole day passed with no decision. The night passed in sankirtan. And the next day, Nimai’s will prevailed, although there was still some opposition.
Tears from the eyes of millions
Nityananda Prabhu, along with Nimai’s maternal uncle Chandrasekhar, Mukunda Datta, and Jagadananda Pandit, gradually arrived there. And that afternoon, the sannyas function began. Chandrasekhar Acharya was asked to perform the ceremony on behalf of Nimai Pandit, who began to chant and dance and charm the audience.
prema-dhama-devam eva naumi gaura-sundaram
“While showers of tears fell from the eyes of millions, He delighted in having His beautiful hair shaved away. Millions of voices sang the glories of Krishna, as Sri Krishna Chaitanya accepted the staff of renunciation. From that time on, wherever He went, whoever saw Him in the dress of a sannyasi cried in grief. I sing the glories of that beautiful golden God, the giver of divine love.”
The scene was at Katwa. Four hundred and seventy-four years ago, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyas. He was young and beautiful, with a tall figure. He was only twenty-four and had beautiful curling hair. A barber was asked to shave Him, and approached Him, but then withdrew. The barber could not venture to touch Nimai’s body. He began to cry. “How can I remove such beautiful hair from such a beautiful head?”
And so many others were also crying aloud, “What a horrible thing is being done here! Who is the creator of this sannyas? Who is so hard-hearted that he created the sannyas-asram, where one must give up all that is near and dear and go from door to door, begging, leaving his own friends and relatives crying helplessly? What is this creation of the Supreme? Is it logical? Is it a happy thing? It is most cruel!”
Nimai Pandit was smiling. After the barber was ordered repeatedly, somehow he was forced to shave Nimai’s head. At first, he could not venture to touch His hair, saying, “I can’t touch Him.” But at last, he had to do the service of shaving the beautiful, curling hair of the beautiful face of the twenty-four-year-old genius boy. He began with his shears. Some people could not stand the scene. Some even became mad. In the midst of the weeping, wailing, and crying of the threatening mob, it was done.
Nimai Pandit was senseless. After being only half-shaved, He stood up and began chanting in kirtan and dancing in ecstatic joy. After He was shaved, the barber promised, “I will never again shave anyone with this hand! I would rather live by begging. This is my last service as a barber.” After this, that barber took up the occupation of a sweetmaker.
Ultimately Nimai’s appeals pacified the mob, and a little before noon the inevitable gradually came: the sannyas function was performed. Chandrasekhar Acharya, the maternal uncle of Nimai Pandit, was deputed to take charge of the rituals in the ceremony of sannyas. When the mantra was to be conferred, Nimai Pandit asked Kesava Bharati, “Is this the mantra you will give Me? I heard it in a dream.” He whispered the mantra in the ear of His Guru who accepted, saying, “Yes, this is the mantra I shall give You.” Then that mantra was given.
And the name of this sannyasi was not given in an ordinary way either. A most peculiar name came through Kesava Bharati: ‘Krishna Chaitanya’. None of the ten names generally given to sannyasis was given to Nimai Pandit, but the name that was given to Him was ‘Krishna Chaitanya’. As soon as they heard that name, the mob began to cry, “Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ki jay!” “All glories to Sri Krishna Chaitanya!”
The father of Srinivas Acharya was a class-friend of Nimai Pandit. On his way to his father-in-law’s house, he heard that Nimai Pandit had come to take sannyas. He ran there, and seeing everything, he became dumb—he was devastated and went half-mad. After that, nothing came from his mouth but “Chaitanya!” After he heard the name ‘Krishna Chaitanya’, whatever anyone said to him, he would only say, “Chaitanya!” He became mad. After that, his name became Chaitanya Das. His former name vanished, and everyone used to call him Chaitanya Das. He could not stand the scene of Nimai Pandit’s sannyas.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, newly dressed in red robes, embraced His Guru, and both of them began to dance, chanting the Name of Krishna. After some time, the meaning of the name was given. Kesava Bharati Maharaj said, “‘Sri Krishna Chaitanya’ means that You arouse Krishna consciousness throughout the entire world. You have descended to make all people Krishna conscious. So the most suitable name for You cannot but be ‘Sri Krishna Chaitanya’.”
The nectarean world
Mahaprabhu was very cheerful, thinking, “I am going to relieve so many souls from their eternal misery and affliction. I have promised to deliver the whole world from this ocean of misery and take them to the nectarean world, and now I am going to accept that task.” He was cheerful, but everyone around Him was diving in the ocean of despair and sorrow.
Some scholars stress that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyas from Kesava Bharati, who was a mayavadi, an impersonalist. But although Kesava Bharati may have externally showed himself in that way, it is seen that by coming in connection with Mahaprabhu, he became a devotee. Otherwise, we may also think that he was a devotee who came in the garb of an impersonalist to help the preaching of Mahaprabhu by assisting Him with the social formality of taking sannyas. At that time, all over India, mayavadi sannyasis had greater recognition than Vaisnava sannyasis, and Kesava Bharati was already situated in that post. Mahaprabhu took the garb of a sannyasi from him for His own purpose, to help His preaching activity. All these things may be explained in different ways. In any case, after Mahaprabhu took sannyas, Kesava Bharati began to sing and dance with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He joined in sankirtan and was immediately converted.
Krishna conception: union in separation
In this way, the sannyas of Nimai Pandit took place. What is the meaning of His sannyas? Is it redundant, auxiliary, or a necessary part of spiritual advancement? Is it desirable? Although apparently undesirable, still it has its necessity. In the Krishna conception of theism, there is a deep-rooted correlation between union with the Lord and separation from Him. Without separation, union cannot be deep-rooted. The pain of separation can enter into the depth of the heart much more than cheerfulness. Such apprehension increases our satisfaction. The greater our want, the greater our satisfaction. This is especially true in love affairs. If there is no necessity of a thing, it has no value. This principle is found everywhere. A glass of water is ordinary, but according to the degree of its necessity, its value will increase. So the degree of necessity is most important. Necessity means separation. Necessity independent of fulfilment is separation, hunger.
Separation plays the most important part in both Nabadwip and Vrndavan-lila. How many years of union were there between Krishna and the gopis? Krishna was only in Vrndavan from the age of seven years up to the age of twelve: five years. Then, He went to Mathura. Of course, it is mentioned in the Padma-purana that in peculiar or extraordinary cases, growth should be measured by multiplying by one and a half. So when Krishna is eight years old, He should be considered twelve. When He is twelve, He should be considered eighteen years of age. So according to His growth, Krishna was in Vrndavan from the age of twelve to eighteen, but according to His years, from the age of seven to twelve.
The depth of divine love
He stayed in Dvaraka for a long time; altogether He lived here on this earth for one hundred and twenty-five years. After He left Vrndavan at the age of twelve, the pangs of separation were felt by the gopis throughout their whole lives. Their long, long separation has made their devotion so dignified; the test of separation shows whether love is real. Such a long-standing separation and such a great test has never been found in history; still, the depth of their love did not diminish. Rather, an inconceivable, ever-increasing depth of divine love was found there.
And in both Nabadwip and Vrndavan, the background is almost similar. In Nabadwip, to gain victory over the opposition party, Mahaprabhu left His household life. And in Vrndavan-lila it is also similar. The opposition in Vrndavan-lila came from Mathura in the form of Agha, Baka, Putana, Trnavarta, and other demons who were being sent by King Kamsa. To uproot the opposition, Krishna had to go to Mathura. And when He went there, He found that the opposition was widespread. Kamsa’s father-in-law, Jarasandha, Kalayavana, Sisupal, Dantavakra, and many others were inimical to Krishna. So Krishna promised the gopis that after finishing His enemies, He would return to Vrndavan to play peacefully with them. To uproot the opposition party, Krishna had to go away. And He told the gopis in Kuruksetra, “I have some other enemies; after finishing with them, I will be reunited with you.” That sort of hope was given to the gopis in Kuruksetra.
Here also, to conquer the opposition party, Mahaprabhu had to leave Nabadwip. Later, after His conquest of all the Indian scholars and religionists of different positions and creeds, after five years, when He returned to Nabadwip, everyone was transformed. The mass approached Him madly. It is difficult to conceive with what madness the mass approached Sri Chaitanyadev, the child of their own village.
The Ganges—filled with human heads
They crossed the Ganges. The whole Ganges, as far as it could be seen, was filled with human heads. They were running towards Him from all directions in such a way that the jungles were cleared by human feet. For a few days, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu stayed nearby in Vidya Nagar, and then went towards Vrndavan, singing the Holy Name of Krishna. Thousands of devotees were running behind Him, digging up the earth to take the dust of His holy feet, and huge pits were being created.
For about eighteen years Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu led a scholarly life as Nimai Pandit. After that, for about six years, He wandered through the length and breadth of India, including Vrndavan. The last eighteen years of His life, He remained in Jagannath Puri continuously. For the first six years of His sannyas, He mixed with the general public. The last twelve years of His life, He almost retired from the whole human society and engaged Himself deeply in tasting the union in separation of Radha-Govinda. And many extraordinary symptoms of ecstasy which have never been experienced anywhere, nor even heard of, were expressed by Him. Separation can produce such wonderful effects in the body and mind.
Sri Gauranga-avatar has twofold characteristics: the apparent reason for His advent is to deliver the people in general from sin, and to give them the highest attainment of life—to take them towards Vrndavan, Vraja-lila, by giving the Holy Name of Krishna. This is actually the function of the Yuga-avatar, the incarnation of Godhead for the age. The Lord comes to distribute the divine sound and to show how one can reach the highest position through divine sound. Still, He had another purpose to fulfil. Once in Brahma’s day—in a special Kali-yuga—Krishna Himself comes in the mood of Radharani to search Himself. He wants to taste the mood of Radharani, to understand the nature of Her inner hankering for Krishna, how She can taste the sweetness of Krishna by Her mood, and what is the joy She derives.
Krishna wanted to have some experience of why Radharani is so mad for Him. He thought, “What is there in Me that makes Her so immeasurably mad for Me? What sweetness can She draw from Me? I can’t ascertain it.” He wanted to mould Himself in the mood of Sri Radhika and try to taste His own self from that temperament. So He came as Sri Chaitanya.
When He conceived of such an incarnation, and proposed His idea to Srimati Radharani, we are told that Radharani, on Her part, said, “Sometimes You will madly roll on the earth, taking My Name, but I won’t be able to tolerate it. I shall cover Your body with My golden form. I won’t allow You to roll on the earth. I shall cover You with My embrace.” So it is said by those who know the ontological aspect of Sri Chaitanyadev, “I offer my respects to Sri Chaitanyadev, whose mood and colour is Radharani’s and whose inner self is Krishna searching for Himself, tasting Himself, and trying to understand why Radharani is mad to taste Him and what sort of sweetness She finds in Him (Radha-bhava-dyuti-suvalitam naumi Krishna-svarupam).”
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu remained in this world for forty-eight years. In the last twelve years of His life, He engaged Himself with deep attention in tasting Himself. Just as everyone is mad to taste sweetness, Krishna, sweetness personified, is also mad to taste Himself.
Introspection means to know oneself. Consciousness can know consciousness. And just as one can feel his own body, or consciousness can conceive of itself, ecstasy can also taste ecstasy. This is confirmed by Svarup Damodar Prabhu, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s personal secretary, who is considered to be Lalita Sakhi, the nearest friend of Srimati Radharani in the Pastimes of Krishna. He has said what Sri Chaitanyadev is:
radha krsna-pranaya-vikrtir hladini saktir asmad
ekatmanav api bhuvi pura deha-bhedam gatau tau
chaitanyakhyam prakatam adhuna tad dvayam chaikyam aptam
radha-bhava-dyuti-suvalitam naumi krsna-svarupam
“I worship Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krishna Himself, enriched with the emotions and radiance of Srimati Radharani. As the predominating and predominated moieties, Radha and Krishna are eternally one, with separate individual identities. Now They have again united as Sri Krishna Chaitanya. This inconceivable transformation of the Lord’s internal pleasure-giving potency has arisen from the loving affairs of Radha and Krishna.”
In this verse, Svarup Damodar says that the Pastimes of Radha-Krishna and those of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are parallel and eternal. Whether winter is first and summer follows, or summer is first and winter follows is difficult to say. Similarly, in the eternal Pastimes of the Lord, the movement is rolling in a circle. Therefore, Svarup Damodar says, “Whether Chaitanya-avatar is first and Krishna-avatar is next, or Krishna-avatar is first and Chaitanya-avatar is next is difficult to say—both are eternal.”
And who is Sri Radha? She is the development of the sweetness that springs from Krishna Himself. That sweetness, in a developed form as Radha, springs up from within Krishna; Srimati Radharani is a particular potency coming out of Krishna Himself: hladini-sakti. So Radha and Krishna cannot be conceived of as separate entities; the two of Them are one and the same. Still, we are told that in ancient times They divided into two. And then again, both of Them combine as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, whose lustre and mood is that of Srimati Radharani and whose nature and reality within is Sri Krishna’s. Fire and heat cannot be separated; sun and light cannot exist separately. They are one and the same. The Absolute Truth is one absolute substance (Advaya-jnan), but sometimes Radha and Govinda show Themselves as divided and again They are united. When They are together, They are enjoying each other, and sometimes They experience a painful separation without the possibility of union. That is Their divine nature.
Sri Rupa Goswami explains this as follows:
aher iva gatih premnah svabhava-kutila bhavet
ato hetor ahetos cha yunor mana udanchati
He says that just as a serpent naturally moves in a crooked way, in a zigzag way, the nature of love is naturally crooked. It is not straight. So the concerned parties quarrel, sometimes with cause and sometimes without cause, and separation comes. Separation is necessary for the transcendental Pastimes of Radha and Krishna.
The pangs of separation
There are four kinds of separation: purva-raga, mana, pravas, and prema-vaichittya. Purva-raga means before meeting. This is found when Radha and Govinda are not actually meeting, but somehow one has come in remote connection with the other’s Name, portrait, or something of that nature. When Radha hears Krishna’s Name or the sound of the flute—no real meeting is there, but there is some connection. The sound of Krishna’s flute, a picture of Krishna, or Krishna’s Name may bring about purva-raga. And Krishna may experience something similar by hearing the sound of Srimati Radharani’s Name. In this way, there are pangs of separation, but no actual meeting. The Name is so sweet that He can’t contain Himself; She can’t contain Herself.
When the Holy Name of Krishna enters within Srimati Radharani’s ear, She becomes perturbed, thinking, “Is a Name as sweet as this possible within this world?” This is Her reaction, and She experiences this also. She feels, “I can’t meet Him.” A pang of separation comes within Her heart. That is purva-raga: the pain of separation that comes before meeting.
Mana is another kind of separation. Mana means that when meeting, there is some difference between Them in trifling matters. This is the very nature of love. Therefore, Srila Rupa Goswami says that love moves in a curved way like a serpent. It is not diseased, but this is the nature of the path of love. Sometimes with a trifling cause, or with no cause, a feeling comes that, “He is neglecting Me; He wants to avoid Me.” And thereby Srimati Radharani thinks, “I don’t want His company.” Although cent per cent appreciation is there, still, for the time being, some opposing sentiments spring up from underground; a clash comes in the sentiments of the two, and one wants to avoid the company of the other.
In prema-vaichittya, jealousy rises to such a degree that although They are already together, still some sort of thought comes within and makes Them think that They are far away from each other. These different kinds of separation are found only in the madhura-rasa. Prema-vaichittya is that condition which arises when Krishna is there and Radharani is just nearby, but seeing Her own shadow reflected on the body of Krishna, She is so jealous that She thinks that it is another lady. So, great pangs of separation come within Her, and She thinks, “What is this? Another lady is there!” Her mind revolts. But Her friend, Lalita, is warning Her, “What are You saying? It is only Your own image reflected there. Can’t You see it?” Then Radharani comes to Her consciousness. She particularly notices, “Oh, it is My own shadow.” Then that feeling is immediately gone. This is an example of prema-vaichittya. These are extremely high transcendental subjects, and although this is not to be discussed in details, this is the nature of divine love in union and separation. Both are interdependent, for one cannot stay without the other, and separation is created willingly to enhance union.
Another kind of separation is called pravas. There are two types of pravas: one is when the separation is for a limited time; another is when one has left the country for a far-off place, as when Krishna went to Mathura to attend to other duties. These are the four types of separation pangs between the lover and the beloved.
Of course, these transcendental topics are very high, and we should not indulge in them carelessly, for if we project mundane characteristics into the higher plane, our future realisation will be harmed. Our mundane experience will tend to take us down, so we must proceed with caution. What we conceive of at present is not to be found in the plane of Krishna’s Pastimes—it is a far higher plane of existence than the realm of our experience. Our vision is adulterated. We have only an alloyed conception of the original thing. We must keep this in mind, and with this caution we may deal with these things.
It is safer to deal with the topics of the separation between Radha and Govinda than with Their union. Of course, we must understand that the pain of separation experienced by Radha and Govinda has nothing to do with this plane. And so, with this caution, we may talk to some extent about separation, but it will be extremely dangerous for us to discuss or to think of when Radha-Govinda and Their intimate friends are combined, enjoying each other’s company, because if we deal with the Pastimes of Radha and Krishna with any mundane conception, we will create a great offence. So to conceive of the union of Radha and Govinda is more dangerous than cultivating feelings of separation, as Mahaprabhu has shown by His example.
In separation from Krishna, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is thinking, “I can’t tolerate even My own life without Krishna! Without His grace, without His company, I can’t maintain My undesirable existence.” This kind of mood helps us, but still we should not imitate it; rather we must respectfully accept it as our highest ideal. This will help us brush aside our filthy, unwanted habits (anarthas). If some tears come, however, we should not think that we have realised the highest stage; that sort of thinking should be avoided. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself says, “I don’t have a drop of divine love within Me, for otherwise, how could I maintain My mundane life?”
And Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyas so that the residents of Nabadwip would be drawn into this high stage of separation through affection’s force. His old mother Sachi Devi was crying hopelessly. His young wife, Visnu Priya Devi, was helplessly passing Her days. Mahaprabhu took sannyas to create excitement, piercing into the hearts of the people the divine love that He came to give. They thought, “Who was Nimai Pandit? What great benefit did He come to give us?” That He left everything made them sympathetic towards Him. And for all these reasons the Lord went to take sannyas.
“I must run to Vrndavan!”
After the function of sannyas was finished, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu became mad. “I must run to Vrndavan”, He thought. “I have given up all connection with this world. I have no attraction to it. I must run to Vrndavan to exclusively engage Myself in the service of Krishna.” In trance, He began to chant a verse from the Srimad Bhagavatam where Krishna gives a description of sannyas to Uddhava. This verse was spoken by a tridandi bhiksu, a mendicant. Mahaprabhu quoted this verse, thinking, “I have accepted this garb of a sannyasi for this is favourable to My spiritual life. Now, no one in society has any claim over Me, and I will be able to exclusively devote Myself to the service of Krishna. I am going to Vrndavan with no other engagement or connection with anyone.” In this way, in ecstatic madness He began to chant and dance. Kesava Bharati Maharaj embraced Him, and both Guru and disciple joined together, chanting and dancing. At that time Mahaprabhu spoke the verse of the brahman who, in the last stages of his life, took tridanda-sannyas and had to tolerate the torture of society in different forms. He said:
etam sa asthaya paratma-nistham
adhyasitam purvatamair maharsibhih
aham tarisyami duranta-param
“The previous great sages have accepted and shown the path of sannyas. I have now accepted that very form of life. Now leaving everything aside, I shall run towards Vrndavan. There, taking the Name of Mukunda, Krishna, I shall cross over the ocean of nescience. Crossing over this maya, I shall reach Vrndavan and fully enter the service of Krishna.”
The dress of a sannyasi is meant only for an external adjustment, but the real thing is to serve Mukunda. And so, with this verse, He suddenly started towards Vrndavan from Katwa. Near the banks of the Ganges, He entered the jungle thinking, “Now, my duty is to reach Vrndavan as soon as possible and there, in a solitary place, I shall sit and chant and sing the Name of Krishna.”
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ran towards Vrndavan and entered the jungle before evening. And Nityananda Prabhu, Chandrasekhar Acharya, Mukunda Datta, and Jagadananda pursued Him through the jungle. Sometimes while running He would suddenly fall on the ground and begin to cry, “Krishna, Krishna!” Getting up suddenly, He began running—without any apparent direction—to the north, east, west, and south.
Wandering in trance
Sometimes He would run away so swiftly that the devotees could not trace Him, especially in the night, when they would lose Him in the darkness. Then, they would all be disappointed, thinking, “Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, our Lord and Master, has left us!” But suddenly they would hear Him far away, crying, “Krishna, Krishna, Krishna!” in a piteous, wailing tone. Then they would run in that direction and see that He was lying on the ground, crying,
kaha mora prana-natha murali-vadana
kaha karo, kaha pana vrajendra-nandana
“Where is My beloved Krishna? I can’t tolerate His separation. Where is the Lord of My life, who is playing His flute? What shall I do now? Where should I go to find the son of Maharaj Nanda?” In a piteous, heartrending tone, He was crying. In a bewildered state, with no consciousness of any particular direction, He would say, “Who are you? I’m going to Vrndavan. Why are you disturbing Me?” After nursing Him, again they began to start towards the west, towards Vrndavan. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu continued wandering in trance. But the great attraction of His devotees did not allow Him to go towards the west.
Taking advantage of His trance, Nityananda Prabhu somehow coaxingly turned Mahaprabhu’s face towards Santipur. It is mentioned in the Chaitanya-bhagavat that beginning from Katwa, they went west until they reached a place near Vakresvar, about six miles north-east of Dubrarajpur, in the district of Birbhum. In Visrama Tala, on the other side of the Ajay River, there is a place which is observed as the seat of Sri Chaitanya. There, they say, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu turned His face from the west towards the east, or from Vrndavan to Santipur.
They wandered throughout the remaining evening, and then another day and night. Finally, on the third day, in the evening, He returned through Kalna to Santipur through the arrangements of Nityananda Prabhu, who appeared before Mahaprabhu in the red cloth of a renunciate. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, although so familiar with Him, couldn’t recognise Nityananda. He saw a sannyasi before Him and thought, “I am going to Vrndavan, and here is a sannyasi in front of me.” He said, “O Sripad Sannyasi, where are You going?”
“I shall go to Vrndavan with You.”
“How far is Vrndavan from here?”
Nityananda showed Him the Ganges, near Kalna, saying, “Just see, there is the Yamuna.”
Mahaprabhu said, “Oh, We have come so near the Yamuna!” Then, He took his bath in the Yamuna, singing this verse:
chid-ananda-bhanoh sada nanda-sunoh
aghanam lavitri jagat-ksema-dhatri
pavitri-kriyan no vapur mitra-putri
“O daughter of the sun: although you have appeared in the form of water, you are most dear to the son of Nanda, who is the spiritual sun. You dispel the sins of all sinners. Please purify this mortal body.”
Just before Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu arrived there on the banks of the Ganges, Nityananda Prabhu sent Chandrasekhar to inform Advaita Acharya to come. When Mahaprabhu asked Advaita Acharya, “Is that You, Advaita? How did You know I was in Vrndavan?” Advaita Acharya said, “This must be some kind of joke. Wherever You are is Vrndavan. And it is My fortune that You have come here, near the Ganges.”
“Oh, it is the Ganges?”
Then Mahaprabhu, regaining His consciousness of this world, said, “Oh, then it is a conspiracy of Nityananda Prabhu. He has brought Me here to the banks of the Ganges and told Me it is the Yamuna. It is all a hoax! I have fallen prey to His hoax.”
Advaita Acharya argued, “No, no, Nityananda Prabhu has not spoken any falsehood. You have really taken bath in the Yamuna. The confluence of the Yamuna and the Ganges is in Allahabad, and it is mentioned in sastra that the western side is the Yamuna, the eastern side is the Ganges. Now You have taken Your bath in the western side, so You have taken Your bath in the Yamuna, according to scripture. So Nityananda Prabhu has not told any lie. Anyway, I have come with this new dress for You. Leave Your wet clothes and accept this new garb. I have also cooked something for You. For three days You have been fasting, and today, as a sannyasi, You must take some charity in My house. I am a poor man”, He said with folded palms, “but You must come.” They took Him by boat to Santipur, to the house of Advaita Acharya. The next morning Sachi Devi came, and Mahaprabhu spent about ten or twelve days there in Santipur performing kirtan.
What is Vrndavan?
What is Vrndavan proper? It is a stage of consciousness. In different stages of consciousness, there are different subjective realities. Everything springs from the willpower of the Lord. He is the subject, and His potency and sweet will is all subjective. The Lord said, “Let there be light”—and there was light. He said, “Let there be water”—and there was water. He said, “Let there be earth”—and there was earth. If, like a hypnotist, the higher subject wants to make the lower subject see something, he cannot but see that thing. We are all in the subjective, imaginary world, but above imagination is the supersubjective plane of reality. So, Krishna reveals Himself to one who has developed pure consciousness, and in the stage of pure consciousness one can perceive the true nature of subjective reality (sattvam visuddham Vasudeva-sabditam).
To show us that Vrndavan is everywhere, Mahaprabhu was running here and there in ecstasy. When They met, Advaita Prabhu told Him, “You must be jesting when You say You are going to Vrndavan. Wherever You are—that is Vrndavan. We have that experience. What You say is very peculiar: ‘I am going to Vrndavan.’ Simply to teach us the value of Vrndavan, You are posing in this way.”
The land of love
Vrndavan, the highest plane of divinity, is a stage of consciousness. Above the plane of awe and reverence found in Vaikuntha, is Vrndavan, the land of simplicity and divine love. The peculiarity of the inhabitants of that highest plane of consciousness is that they do not feel they are in Vrndavan. It is aprakrta, supramundane.
Knowledge has been classified under five headings. The lowest is knowledge acquired through one’s own sense experience: pratyaksa—what we have experienced through our senses. That is the first stage. The next higher stage is knowledge we have not experienced with our own senses, but have gathered from the experience of others (paroksa), just as the scientists have their experience, and we have gathered some knowledge from their inventions and discoveries.
The third stage is above the stage of human experience (aparoksa). It is something like deep sleep. When we awaken, we say, “I slept very happily; I slept a very good, sound sleep.” But when in deep, dreamless sleep, we have no consciousness of that state. When we return from a deep dreamless sleep, we express some awareness of that experience, but it is hazy. Aparoksa is a sort of hazy experience which is indistinct, where the subject and material object come together, and the material object vanishes in the subject. Sankar Acharya, the great proponent of impersonalism, explains the gradation of consciousness up to this point.
The fourth dimension
On the other hand, the great devotee-scholar Ramanuja Acharya, as well as other Vaisnava Acharyas, are of the opinion that there is a fourth stage beyond this. That plane is called adhoksaja, transcendental, or that which exists beyond the scope of the senses, whether gross or subtle. It is a plane that we can experience only when, by its sweet will, it comes down to our gross plane of understanding. If it withdraws, we are helpless; we can’t find it. We cannot say that the Absolute Truth is under the control of our knowledge. We can’t measure it like that. It is independent. By its sweet will it may come down and we may experience that higher realm, but if it withdraws, we are quite helpless; we can do nothing. We may cry or we may pray, but we can’t enter there forcibly by dint of our own power. This is the fourth plane of consciousness, and it is grand, all-powerful, and awe-inspiring. Only if it reveals itself to us can we have some experience of that plane known as Vaikuntha, the unlimited spiritual region of awe and power.
That is the adhoksaja plane. So, there is pratyaksa, direct experience through sense perception, then paroksa, learning through the experience of others, then aparoksa, the negative plane of indistinct consciousness, and then the fourth dimension: adhoksaja. We are underground. Real knowledge is above, on the surface, beyond our experience. If we can pierce through the thick coverings walling up our experience, we can come in connection with another plane of consciousness: that is adhoksaja. Adhokrtam indriyajam jnanam: adhoksaja means the superior knowledge which can force down our knowledge of the experience of this world. That transcendental, supramental knowledge is the fourth stage of knowledge. That plane is different in every way. It is not similar to this world.
But through Srimad Bhagavatam and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, we come to know that there is a fifth stage of knowledge which is very similar to this mundane world, yet is not mundane. It is called aprakrta. That is Goloka, the full-fledged theistic conception which is only found in Krishna’s domain. Central knowledge of the Absolute must have a connection with even the lowest level of mundane creation; it must be able to harmonise the worst portion of the illusory world. This is known as aprakrta, supramundane. To enter that highest realm is possible only through divine love.
Everything can be compensated only through love. There is a saying that a loving mother thinks that her blind child has beautiful lotus eyes. She is blinded by affection. So, what is mean and low can only be compensated by love—that shines very beautifully. That is prema, or divine love. Through mercy, through pity, through grace, a king can come to play with a boy on the street. Affection can make it possible. The difference between high and low disappears at such a stage.
The spiritual enchanting potency
The residents of Vrndavan think themselves ordinary. This is jnana-sunya-bhakti, divine love which is free from any calculation and does not consider even the opulence and power of the Lord. That devotion is above even Vaikuntha and goes on under the spell of yogamaya, the spiritually enchanting potency. It is the special art of yogamaya that those holding the highest position think themselves very insignificant. Love removes the difference of great and small, high and low. Vrndavan is such a plane of existence. There we find devotion free from any trace of calculation (jnana-sunya-bhakti). Even the residents of Vrndavan may not know their own exalted position.
Advaita Prabhu tells Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, “Wherever You are, there is Vrndavan.” Narottam Das Thakur says wherever we find a true devotee of Krishna—there is Vrndavan (yata Vaisnava-gana sei sthana Vrndavana (Pbc)). Outwardly we may think that they are members of this ordinary world, but the object of all their conversation and behaviour is Vrndavan. Still, although they are in Vrndavan, they do not feel themselves to be there.
They are not conscious of their own exalted position. A king, when he is not very conscious of his power, thinks of himself as an ordinary person. It is something like that. Someone may be a great doctor but through affection he may do the work of a nurse for his patient. Out of his love and affection for the patient, he may come down to do such work, but still he is great. This is the beautiful nature of Vrndavan life. It is great without the attitude, the air of bigness. Although they are really great, they appear to be simple. Power dressed in affection and love, couched in humility—that is Vrndavan. And that is also Nabadwip.
Srimad Bhagavatam and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu say that this is the highest and most laudable place for us to live. There, the Supreme Lord Krishna and the gopis are living in the forest. There, we find no grandeur or big buildings, but if we have a true eye for grandeur, we will see it in Vrndavan. From an impartial judgement of the facts, their position is very great, but through humility they have apparently descended to our level. It is a very sweet and beautiful form of life that we find in Vrndavan. And Mahaprabhu came to show that to us through Srimad Bhagavatam. Krishna is the Lord of that land, and the cows, hills, forests, and the Yamuna River are all creating a favourable environment there.
So Mahaprabhu took sannyas to teach us, to take us up and make us the permanent inhabitants of that place. He says that actually, our real self lives in that plane, but unfortunately our consciousness has become focused outside. Now we are captured by the mundane aspect of this creation and think that we are suffering, but this is all illusion. We must get relief from this mania. Mania means madness, and now we are possessed by some mania. Just as a madman leaves his home and wanders in the street collecting pieces of paper and cloth, we are focused in this world, but when this madness is gone, we will awaken in our own home.
A great tragedy
We must return back to Godhead, back to home. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, “Your home is a beautiful land. You must try for that. Why are you always troubled with the horrors of war, epidemic, earthquake, undesirable disease, stealing, dacoiting, and fighting with so many neighbours? At the bottom of all this is the fact that you have identified yourself with this material world and this body of flesh and blood. You have to retrace your path and go back to your home.” That is what is necessary. Our homeland is such a lovely and beautiful and divine place. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s sannyas is all for us, and it is for the purpose of taking us back home, where we can have home comforts, home sweetness. If we have any home-consciousness within, then we must appreciate such a proposal: home sweet home.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s sannyas is apparently very cruel to His devotees, and to His family members, but it was meant only to take us to our home. To work out the ecstasy of union, it was necessary for Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to show separation from His devotees and relatives.
Separation and union are mutually helpful. Mahaprabhu’s sannyas, His renunciation, is a great tragedy of separation.⬆︎
When Mahaprabhu returned to Navadwip after five years of His sannyas, all the men, women, and children madly came to see Him, to have a glimpse of His face. Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur, the nineteenth-century founder of the Krishna consciousness movement, in his internal conception of the Pastimes of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, draws a parallel with the Pastimes of Krishna in Kuruksetra. There Dvaraka Krishna and the gopis of Vrndavan were meeting, and the gopis and gopas wanted to take Krishna from Dvaraka back to Vrndavan. Bhakti Vinod Thakur expresses a similar aspiration. When Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu returned to Navadwip and the crowds rushed to see Him, He stood on the roof of Vachaspati Pandit’s house in the red dress of a sannyasi. Taking himself as a permanent resident of Navadwip, and as one of the members of Srivas Angam, Bhakti Vinod Thakur envisions himself seeing Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu on the rooftop. When Krishna had gone to Dvaraka and wouldn’t return to Vrndavan, the hearts of all the devotees were burdened with grief. In a similar way, Bhakti Vinod Thakur fervently prays: “When will the day come when Nimai Pandit will give up the robes of renunciation and again come and join us in kirtan in the house of Srivas? Now He can’t come—as a sannyasi He can’t return to His old house. So now, we are deserted by Him, but our aspiration this: just as the gopis wanted Krishna’s royal dress removed, and His cowherd dress resumed, so they could take Him again to Vrndavan and play with Him and rejoice, we aspire that Mahaprabhu’s sannyas dress be removed, and His former dress resumed. In this way, we will get back our Nimai Pandit, who is one of us, in Srivas Angam. And together we shall rejoice, taking the Name of Krishna. Oh, when will that day be mine?”⬆︎
The Precepts of
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
आनन्दाम्बुधिवर्द्धनं प्रतिपदं पूर्णामृतास्वादनं
सर्व्वात्मस्नपनं परं विजयते श्रीकृष्णसङ्कीर्त्तनम् ॥१॥
anandambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam purnamrtasvadanam
sarvatma-snapanam param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam
“The Holy Name of Krishna
cleanses the mirror of the heart
and extinguishes the fire of misery
in the forest of birth and death.
“As the evening lotus blooms
in the moon’s cooling rays
the heart begins to blossom
in the nectar of the Name.
“And at last the soul awakens
to its real inner treasure
—a life of love with Krishna.
“Again and again tasting nectar
the soul dives and surfaces in
the ever-increasing ocean
of ecstatic joy.
“All phases of the self
of which we may conceive
are fully satisfied and purified
and at last conquered by
the all-auspicious influence
of the Holy Name of Krishna.”
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the pioneer of Sri Krishna-sankirtan. He said, “I have come to inaugurate the chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna, and that Name will reach every nook and corner of the universe (prthivite achhe yata nagaradi-grama, sarvatra prachara haibe Mora Nama).”
What is the meaning of sankirtan? Samyak means ‘full’, and kirtan means ‘chanting’. Together, these two words form the word sankirtan, which generally means ‘congregational chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna.’ But samyak means full not only in quantity but also in quality. Full quantity means extensive in number: congregational. Full quality means complete praise. Complete praise can only mean the glorification of Krishna, and not any other gods.
So sankirtan means complete kirtan, a song in praise of the complete whole, the Absolute Truth; anything else is only a partial representation and therefore defective to a certain extent. Therefore, Krishna should be praised. His glories should be chanted, for He is everything. He is the master, the dispenser of both good and bad, the Absolute Controller of everything. Everything is due to Him. The fulfilment of all life is reached in Him alone. Just as a horse may have reins to check his movements, but if let loose will run freely, praise which is unchecked by any mundane purpose will run straight towards the Supreme Cause, Krishna.
The word sri means Laksmi Devi: Krishna’s potency. This means that in sankirtan, Krishna is worshipped along with His potency, for Krishna’s potency is included within Him.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that Sri Krishna-sankirtan should thrive throughout the world; it should be victorious without any hindrance (param vijayate Sri Krsna-sankirtanam). It should be a spontaneous, unchecked, and natural flow. It should be exclusive, independent, and without reservation. And this praise of Krishna should be congregationally chanted—that vibration is beneficial for the whole world. Only by surrender and pure devotion can we take to Sri Krishna-sankirtan.
Cleansing the mirror of the mind
What are the different stages through which we will pass while chanting the Holy Name of Krishna? The first stage is that it cleanses the mirror of the mind. If the mirror of the mental system is covered with dust, we cannot see things clearly, and scriptural advice cannot be properly reflected there. What are the different kinds of dust covering the mirror of the mind? Our infinite, fleeting, and organised desires are considered dust, and our hearts and minds are covered with layers and layers of this dust. Therefore we cannot see things properly; they cannot properly reflect in our mind because it is covered with the infinite ordinary desires of this mundane world (bhukti-mukti-siddhi-kami—sakali ‘asanta’).
So the first effect of Sri Krishna-sankirtan is the cleansing of the mind. The Vedic social system (varnasram-dharma) has been formed for this purpose. If we discharge our social duties perfectly, without any attraction for the consequences, we achieve purification of our consciousness—but the first installment of Nam-sankirtan gives us the end result of varnasram-dharma: purification of the heart and mind. Then we can understand Vedic advice properly.
The next effect of chanting the Holy Name is that it extinguishes the fire of material existence in the forest of repeated birth and death. We are forced to come into creation and again die. The mundane wave catches the soul which mingles with that vibration in different stages. That is stopped by the second effect of Sri Krishna-sankirtan, and we become liberated.
With the first stride, the intelligence is purified. With the second stride, the Holy Name effects liberation from the great conflagration of threefold miseries. The threefold miseries are adhyatmik: miseries within the body and mind, such as disease and mental anxiety; adhibhautik: miseries from our neighbours: man, beasts, insects, and so many other living beings; and adhidaivik: natural catastrophes like famine, flood, and earthquake. We have to suffer from these three kinds of miseries which burn in our heart like fire. But everything is extinguished forever by the second stride of Nam-sankirtan which gives us relief.
The supreme goal of life
The next stage is sreyah-kairava-chandrika-vitaranam: the Holy Name bestows upon us the supreme goal of life. After doing away with these two negative engagements, our positive engagement begins and ultimately takes us to reality, to the real truth, which is eternal, auspicious, and beautiful. It takes us to that auspiciousness which is above this world of difficulty, and in a general way we achieve the supreme goal, the highest auspiciousness, the greatest good from chanting the Holy Name of Krishna. If we analyse this scrutinisingly, we find that in this stage, the Holy Name takes us to an intimate personal relationship with Krishna which includes neutrality, servitude, friendship, and filial affection (santa, dasya, sakhya, and vatsalya rasa). Sreyah covers the grace of Nityananda Prabhu, for it is by His grace that we may be allowed to worship Radha and Krishna in Vrndavan (Nitaiyer karuna habe Vraje Radha Krishna pabe).
The next stage is vidya-vadhu-jivanam. The Holy Name prepares us for the wholesale surrender to Krishna that is found in conjugal love (madhura-rasa), where the devotees surrender themselves infinitely at the disposal of Krishna.
The next stage is anandambudhi-vardhanam. When we come to the proper level while chanting the Name of Krishna, we find the transcendental ocean that is above all sorts of experience. The Name comes to assert Himself over us according to the degree of our surrender, and when our surrender is complete, we feel a new type of ecstatic joy; we experience an infinite ocean of joy which is not static, but always dynamic. There we find new life and a new type of blissfulness. It never becomes stale or static, but at every moment gives us a taste of the infinite ocean of ecstasy.
The last effect is that our entire existence is purified. This kind of enjoyment does not pollute—it purifies. Enjoyment means exploitation. Mundane enjoyment creates a reaction and pollution attacks the enjoyer, but here, because Krishna is the aggressor, the result is purification. All enjoyment that comes from the centre, from the autocratic desire of Krishna, purifies us completely.
In this verse, the words sarvatma-snapanam mean that all different phases of the self which may be conceived are fully satisfied and purified at once by chanting the Holy Name of Krishna. And there is another meaning of sarvatma-snapanam. If we praise Krishna congregationally, we will be purified according to our capacity. Both the singer and the audience as well as anyone who comes in connection with the transcendental sound will be purified. Snapanam means ‘purifying’. That vibration purifies everyone and everything that comes in touch with it.
So Mahaprabhu says, “Go on with sankirtan, the congregational chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna.” Of course, sankirtan must be genuine, so association with saints is necessary. It is not an empirical attempt. We are attempting to have a connection with the higher, unconditioned realm which can descend to help us here. We must have that connection with higher reality, for that is all-important. The Holy Name of Krishna is not mere physical sound; it is not lip-deep only, but it has a greater and higher aspect (Namaksara bahiraya bate tabu Nama kabhu naya). It is all spiritual. We are in the marginal plane of existence, so some higher connection is necessary in order that the wave will descend from that higher realm and come to us and spread its influence outside as well.
Wherever it goes, the sankirtan of the Holy Name of Krishna will produce these sevenfold results. This is the purport of Mahaprabhu’s first verse. The first effect is that the Holy Name cleanses the soul which is attacked by the dirt of desires from the mundane world. By the second effect it gives mukti, liberation, perfect independence from material forces. The third effect brings real fortune: the opening of the soul’s treasure. The innate resources of the soul are gradually awakened by the Holy Name of Krishna. Here, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu includes the other forms of relationship with the Personal Absolute. In describing the next step, He takes the mood of conjugal devotion, where one is absolutely disposed for Krishna’s enjoyment, unconditionally surrendering everything for His maximum pleasure.
“I need millions of mouths!”
The next effect is the tasting of His ecstatic association. In Vrndavan, the realm of Krishna, one who can chant the Name of Krishna properly will express himself with a peculiar sort of ego:
tunde tandavini ratim vitanute tundavali-labdhaye
karna-kroda-kadambini ghatayate karnarbudebhyah sprham
chetah-prangana-sangini vijayate sarvendriyanam krtim
no jane janita kiyadbhir amrtaih krsneti varna-dvayi
“When the Holy Name of Krishna appears on the lips of a devotee, it begins madly dancing. Then the Name takes over and handles him as if the person to whom the lips belong loses all control over his lips, and the devotee says, ‘With one mouth, how much can I gather the ecstasy of the Holy Name? I need millions of mouths to taste its unlimited sweetness. I’ll never feel any satisfaction by chanting with only one mouth.’”
When the sound ‘Krishna’ enters the ear, he feels that transcendental sound awakens in his heart. “What are two ears?” he thinks. “This is the greatest injustice of the creator—I need millions of ears! Then, if I could hear the sweet Name of Krishna, my heart might be a little satisfied. I want millions and millions of ears to hear the sweet Name of Krishna.” This is the temperament of a devotee when his attention is drawn towards the Holy Name. Then he faints; he loses himself, merging in an ocean of ecstasy and joy. And in great disappointment he says, “I failed to understand the quality and quantity of the substance of Krishna’s Name. I am perplexed. What sort of honey sweetness does this Name contain?” In this way, the chanter of the Name wonders.
Krishna’s mystic flute-song
This has been taught to us by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who said, “Properly chant the Holy Name, the sound representation of absolute sweetness.” That sweetness is also to be found in the flute-song of the Lord. The sound of Krishna’s flute has the great mystic power of capturing and pleasing everyone and everything. Upon hearing the sound of Krishna’s flute, the Yamuna’s current is paralysed. The sweet sound of Krishna’s flute attracts the trees, the birds, and the beasts. Everything is astounded by contacting the sweet vibration from Krishna’s flute.
Sound vibration can work miracles; sound has the highest capturing potency. Sound can make or mar. It can do anything; it has such intrinsic capacity. It comes from the subtlemost plane, beyond the ether. That universal sound is absolute sweetness and goodness. How much power is there—how it can capture us! Like a blade of grass, we may be played by the current of that sweet sound in such a way that we cannot even trace out our own personality. We may lose ourselves there, but we do not die; the soul is eternal. Diving, up and down, we are played by the current of the sweet sound. We are less qualified than a straw, a blade of grass, and the Krishna sound is so big and so sweet that it can play us in any way it likes. We cannot begin to conceive how much power is in the Name, the sound which is identical with absolute goodness and sweetness.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, “Don’t neglect the sound which is one and the same with Krishna.” Absolute sweetness and goodness—everything is there within the Holy Name. And the Holy Name is representing itself to us in a very cheap way: nothing is required to purchase it—no money, no physical energy. All these things are unnecessary. What is required? Sincerity.
One who simply takes this divine sound sincerely will be so enriched that no one will be able to conceive of so much goodness and development. And anyone may have it very cheaply, but one must chant sincerely with his whole heart. Of course, wholehearted sincerity presupposes going to a proper agent, a saint, and getting the Holy Name from him.
Sri Krishna-sankirtan is praised by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the inaugurator of the sankirtan movement who came as Radha-Govinda combined. His advice is most valuable and necessary to tell us that with a sincere spirit we must come to join this Sri Krishna-sankirtan, the most purifying transcendental sound, which effects liberation, gives all fulfilment, and grants us such a positive attainment that we lose ourselves in the ocean of joy and inconceivable sweetness.
This is Sriman Mahaprabhu’s grace, and He proclaims, “Let Sri Krishna-sankirtan be expanded into this mortal world, that it may benefit everyone infinitely, for this is the highest and greatest benefit for the whole world. It is all-comprehensive. It releases us from all sorts of troubles, establishing us in the highest position of attainment.”
And in this present degraded Age of Kali, only Nam-sankirtan can help us. Of course, Nam-sankirtan is beneficial in all ages, but it is especially recommended in Kali-yuga, because in this age all other attempts will be opposed by many forces. Nam-sankirtan cannot be opposed by the troubles and waves of this material world, so one must adopt it. If we exclusively give ourselves to this, we will gain the highest fulfilment of life. There is no necessity of any other campaign, for they are all defective and partial. But the most universal, captivating, and beneficial thing is Nam-sankirtan, which takes us to the highest goal. That alone can satisfy everyone.
All souls that are now disconnected from Krishna may be helped in this way. No other movement is necessary. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu tells us, “Exclusively devote yourself to this. It is all-embracing and all-fulfilling. And you can achieve it with the least trouble and least energy. Let it flourish in this Kali-yuga—let it flourish for the welfare of the whole universe, to re-establish all souls in their normal position.”
In the last verse of Srimad Bhagavatam the conclusion of the book is given as follows:
nama-sankirtanam yasya sarva-papa-pranasanam
pranamo duhkha-samanas tam namami harim param
Papa means all anomalies, all undesirable things: sin. Material enjoyment and liberation are also included as anomalies, sinful activities. Why is liberation considered sinful? Because it is an abnormal condition; our natural function is to serve Krishna, but we do not do that in salvation. Mere salvation does not include service to Krishna, so that is an abnormal position and therefore it is also a sin. To ignore our natural duty and stand aloof cannot but be sinful.
The spiritual gift of Vyas
The concluding verse of the Srimad Bhagavatam says, “Krishna’s Holy Name can relieve us from all undesirable sinfulness, all filthy characteristics, and all miseries. Let us all bow down to Him.” Uttering this verse, the Srimad Bhagavatam stops; that great treatise becomes silent. The last word in the Bhagavatam is Nam-sankirtan. The Bhagavatam has given such great importance to chanting the Holy Name of Krishna, and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu developed it from there. The last publication of the compiler of Vedic literatures, Srila Vyasadev, took theism to that stage, and gave it to the public announcing, “Chant the Name of Krishna! Do this; nothing more is necessary. Take this!” This is the very conclusion of Srimad Bhagavatam, the greatest spiritual gift of Vyasadev: “Chant the Holy Name of Krishna and begin your life in this dark age with the most broad and wide theistic conception.”
Nectar of the nectarean
We may consider ourselves fortunate that we have come to the verge of this most generous and useful thought, that we have come close enough to touch it, to accept it, and float ourselves in its waves according to our capacity. After passing through so many conceptions and the charm of different prospects, we have left them all behind and have come to the shore of the ocean of Nam-sankirtan. Now we may throw our bodies in this ocean and begin to swim in the waves of Nam-sankirtan, the nectar of the nectarean, by the grace of our Guru and the mercy of the Vaisnavas.
It is their property, and we are their slaves. We have such audacity to throw our body into this ocean of Nam-sankirtan and swim in that nectarean ocean! Swimming in Radha Kunda, the highest conception of spiritual attainment, can also be found in the highest form of Nam-sankirtan. This verse represents the positive side of the unlimited ocean of Sri Krishna-sankirtan. The next verse explains the negative possibilities.
Bhakti Vinod Thakur has given his Sanskrit commentary on the Siksastakam, as well as his Bengali translation, and his is a most original presentation. Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad has also given his commentary on the Siksastakam. They should be carefully studied in order to understand these points more completely. In these talks, however, I am simply coming out with whatever I feel in my heart. Whatever comes to my mind on these verses, I am expressing, and that is the outcome of what I have collected from Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Bhakti Vinod Thakur, Rupa Goswami, Sanatan Goswami, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and all the predecessor Acharyas. By their grace that is gathered in my storehouse, and I am trying to give the gist of these things.
The Krishna conception conquers all
By accepting the path of devotion, a wholesale transformation of our internal system begins, and gradually our charm for the outside world vanishes. There is a war within, and when the Krishna conception enters into the heart of a devotee, all other thoughts and ideas gradually have to retire. This is explained in Srimad Bhagavatam (2.8.5):
pravistah karna-randhrena svanam bhava-saroruham
dhunoti samalam krsnah salilasya yatha sarat
When the autumn season appears, the mud within the water vanishes. In the same way, when the Krishna conception enters into one’s heart, all other conceptions and aspirations will gradually have to retire, leaving Krishna in possession of everything. When a real drop of Krishna consciousness enters the heart, all opposing forces must leave and Krishna will conquer and take possession of the whole.
That is the nature of Krishna consciousness: nothing can stand in competition with it, not even the so-called devotion to the demigods or faith in creeds like Christianity, Islam, and others. All other conceptions of theism have to retire, leaving the field to the Krishna conception. No aggressors can stand in the fight with Krishna consciousness, the absolute, sweet beauty.
Beauty, sweetness, and charm can capture and defeat power. We are really aspiring after beauty and sweetness, mercy, affection, divine love (prema). Self-dissipation—to compensate others with one’s own energy and generosity—ultimately conquers everyone. It is more rewarding to give than to take. Divine love means die to live: not to live for yourself, but to live for others. The most generous form of life—self-forgetfulness to the extreme—is found in Krishna consciousness.
Krishna consciousness is so beautiful that one who develops it loses his own identification and existence also. He becomes totally self-forgetful. Such a charm is there. Who will stand to fight against Krishna? Everyone who comes to fight against Him is disarmed. If in any way Krishna enters the heart, there can be no other consequence but that He takes possession of everything. Such a benevolent, generous, and sweet person is Krishna: Reality the Beautiful.⬆︎
नाम्नामकारि बहुधा निजसर्व्वशक्तिस्
तत्रार्पिता नियमितः स्मरणे न कालः।
एतादृशी तव कृपा भगवन्ममापि
दुर्द्दैवमीदृशमिहाजनि नानुरागः ॥२॥
namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis
tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah
etadrsi tava krpa bhagavan mamapi
durdaivam idrsam ihajani nanuragah
“O my Lord, Your Holy Name
bestows auspiciousness upon all.
And You have unlimited Names
such as Krishna and Govinda
by which You reveal Yourself.
“In Your many Holy Names
You have kindly invested
all Your transcendental potency.
And in chanting these Names
there are no strict rules
concerning time or place.
“Out of Your causeless mercy
You have descended
in the form of divine sound
but My great misfortune is
that I have no love
for Your Holy Name.”
Here it is said, “O my Lord, You have revealed the chanting of Your Holy Names, and all Your power has been invested within those Names.” Both the Holy Name of Krishna and Its potency are eternal. All potencies or energies are found within the Holy Name of Krishna. And there is no particular time or place which has been fixed for chanting the Name. It is not that one can only chant in the morning, or only after taking bath, or only after going to a holy place—there are no such conditions. One may go on chanting the Holy Name of Krishna anytime, anywhere, in any circumstance.
In this verse, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, “O Krishna, You have given a most sublime opportunity to all. You are so infinitely gracious that You have given us the service of Your Holy Name, (Nam-bhajan). Still, My misfortune is the worst. I don’t find any earnest desire within Me to take the Name. I have no faith, no love, no tendency to take the Name. I do not find any innate hankering to chant the Name. What can I do?”
This is the second of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s eight precepts. He says, “O Lord, You have given everything from Your side to lift Me up from this mundane world of relativity. Your attempt to deliver Me is so magnanimous that all You require from Me is a little cooperation in accepting Your grace, but I turn a deaf ear to Your magnanimous call. O Lord, I am hopeless.”
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has given us great hope in the first verse of His Siksastakam or eight precepts. He explains that the chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna, when properly undertaken, may progress step by step, revealing seven consequences. The first effect is the cleansing of consciousness; the second is liberation from all mundane relativity. As the third effect, positive goodness awakens within our heart and takes us to Vrndavan. Then, under the guidance of svarup-sakti, the Lord’s internal energy yogamaya, we come to the vadhu conception: we are potency, we are to serve Krishna unconditionally. Vadhu means that rasa which gives full connection with the Lord (madhura-rasa).
Ecstatic ocean of joy
After attaining that stage, what are the other consequences that come? One becomes a particle in the ocean of joy, and that joy is not stale or static, but ever-new and dynamic; it is purifying to the utmost. Although we are allowed to keep our individual conception, still we feel that all parts of our existence become purified to the utmost when we take the Name. And this will not only affect me, but all who are connected with this Nam-sankirtan. They will experience mass conversion, mass purification, the utmost purification. These are the sevenfold results of chanting the Holy Name.
After mentioning this thesis in His first verse, Mahaprabhu now gives the antithesis in the second verse. When such great hope is there in the Holy Name, why are we having so much trouble? Where is the difficulty? Why do we not realise the advantage of the magnanimous sanction of divinity found in the Holy Name? Inestimable grace is coming from Krishna’s side. He has given us so many opportunities, with the least requirement from our side. We must have some taste, some earnestness to accept the Holy Name; but there’s the difficulty—we have none. So what hope can we have? How can we attain it? We may be approaching the Holy Name formally, but not from the core of our hearts, so by what process can we really benefit and make progress? The third verse answers this question.
Although one may feel that he does not have the minimum required deposit to receive the grant, still it is not a hopeless case. The very nature of this realisation takes him to the conception of humility. When one begins to practise devotion towards the infinite Lord, he cannot but feel that in relation to the infinite, there is nothing of value in himself. He thinks, “I have nothing to give in return; even the minimum requirement for the Lord’s grace is absent in me.” That takes him to the conception that, “I have no qualification. I am completely empty.”
A devotee feels within his heart that he is not only unfit but too despicable for the Lord’s service. Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami says: “I am lower than a worm in stool and more sinful than Jagai and Madhai (Jagai Madhai haite muni se papistha, purisera kita haite muni se laghistha).” We should not be discouraged when we think we have not even the least bit of merit which is required for the service of the Holy Name of Krishna, for this kind of consciousness is natural for a devotee.
At the same time, we must guard ourselves from an insincere conception of our own devotion; this is our enemy. To think, “I do not have the least liking or taste for the Lord”, is all right. But to think, “I have some taste, some earnestness, some devotion to the Lord”, is dangerous.
The egoistic world
If we are going to have a connection with the infinite, we must be fully empty; our self-abnegation must be complete. Worldly attainment is a negative thing, and we must withdraw from it completely. We should think, “I am nothing; I have no qualifications for being accepted or used in the service of the Lord. I am completely unfit.” We must completely withdraw from the egoistic world and allow ourselves to be captured by yogamaya, the Lord’s internal energy. A slave has no position; the whole position is with the master. Everything is His. Realising this is our real qualification. As soon as we assert that we have some qualifications, our difficulties begin. So Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself says, “I don’t find a trace of love of Krishna within My heart (na prema-gandho ’sti darapi Me Harau).” This is the standard of humility. And that feeling must be sincere; it must not be an imitation. We must be careful. We must not venture to imitate the highest devotees. To genuinely feel, to conceive that we possess nothing and that everything is His—that is the only qualification for chanting the Holy Name of Krishna.⬆︎
तृणादपि सुनीचेन तरोरिव सहिष्णुना ।
अमानिना मानदेन कीर्त्तनीयः सदा हरिः ॥
trnad api sunichena taror iva sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih
“One who is humbler
than a blade of grass
more forbearing than a tree
who gives due honour to others
without desiring it for himself
is qualified to always chant
the Holy Name of Krishna.”
We should mainly couch ourselves in this mood: we should think of ourselves as the meanest of the mean. Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur has given his analysis of the meaning of this verse as follows: even a blade of grass has its value, but we do not even have as much value as a blade of grass. We have no positive value. It is one thing if a man is not educated, but a madman is worse than uneducated. He can think—but only abnormally. Therefore, Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur says, “I have some consciousness, some intelligence, but it is all misdirected. A blade of grass has no misdirection. When trampled upon, it has no tendency to spring back in the opposite direction. A blade of grass can be blown here and there by a storm, or by the external environment, but I will always be reluctant to go in a particular direction. If the waves of the environment want to take me in a particular direction, I’ll try to oppose them. If you really consider my value, my position is lower than a blade of grass because I have an opposing tendency.”
When we want to bring ourselves in a closer relationship with the infinite goodness, we should think, “I have no value. Rather, my value is negative. It is my tendency to oppose the Lord’s grace. If Krishna wants to grace me, I try to resist. I am constituted of such an element that I commit spiritual suicide. Krishna comes to grace me, but I oppose Him: the energy that is within me tries for suicide. This is my position, but a blade of grass won’t oppose anyone. I have such a nasty position.” We must realise that we are in such a predicament. With this concern we may accept the goodness of the Absolute Truth in the form of His Holy Name.
We should not think that the path will be very smooth; so many troubles may come from outside. When the devotees go to chant Hare Krishna in the street, many people come and shout, “Hey, you monkeys! Red-faced monkeys!” So many forms of hindrances and opposition will come and try to affect us, to dissuade us from this path, but we must practise forbearance like that of a tree. Why has the example of a tree been given? It has been analysed in this way: if no one pours any water on a tree, it does not protest, “Oh! Give me water!” If anyone comes to disturb the tree, snatching its leaves, cutting its branches, or even chopping it down, a tree remains silent; it gives no opposition. We should try to see how insult, poverty, punishment, or other unfavourable dealings are necessary to purify us, and with minimal punishment we shall be released from material existence.
Through Krishna consciousness we have connected with the highest object of life, the highest fulfilment of life—what price are we ready to pay for that? It is inconceivable. Whatever little demands may be exacted from us, we must accept with a smiling face, considering the highest goal. If we are really confident, if we have faith in our bright future, then we can gladly pay what little price nature wants to take from us.
“Krishna—I shall teach You a lession!”
Once, Srila Gaura Kisor Das Babaji Maharaj, the Spiritual Master of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, was going through the town of Nabadwip begging a little rice from different houses. The village people sometimes attack or insult devotees, and as he was going to his quarters they did not spare even such an exalted soul. Some boys were pelting him with stones and throwing dirt at him, and he remarked, “Krishna, You are cruelly dealing with me! I shall complain to Your mother Yasoda about You.” That was his outlook, and in that way he harmonised everything. We should learn to see Krishna in anything that comes to disturb or attack us. In philosophical calculation, of course, without God’s will nothing can happen. But in a concrete way, a devotee sees, “O Krishna! You are backing these children, You are disturbing me, and I shall teach You a lesson. I know how to deal with You. I shall complain to Mother Yasoda, and she will chastise You.”
The advanced devotees are established in the consciousness that Krishna is behind everything, and they take everything in that way. This attitude is our beacon light, for it will guide us to adjust ourselves with those things that are apparently unfavourable to us. A sweet adjustment is found there, and so we are advised to be more tolerant than a tree. We may not give any opposition; still, opposition will come to disturb us. And we must forbear.
And we must show our respect to others. Prestige is the greatest and most subtle enemy of the devotee of Krishna. Pride is the worst enemy for the devotee of Krishna. And pride ultimately takes one to the conclusion of the mayavadis, the monists. They say, “So ’ham: I am!” Not, “Daso ’ham: I am subordinate”, but “I am of the Supreme Element; I am That: I am He”, eliminating from their consideration the fact that we are tiny and suffering in misery. All these practical things are ignored by the mayavadis, the impersonalists, but position, or ego (pratistha), is our worst enemy. In this verse, we are advised to deal with prestige and position in a special way.
The slave area of Krishna
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, “You must not desire respect from anyone or even from the environment itself; at the same time, you must give prestige to everyone and everything in the environment according to its position. Show respect, but don’t desire any respect from outside.” We must be very particular about this, for pride is our hidden enemy, our worst enemy. If we can somehow avoid or conquer this enemy, we will be able to enter into the slave area of Krishna and join those who have given their lives wholesale in sacrifice to Him. The general meaning of this verse is, “Never seek position or prestige from any quarter. At the same time, give honour to one and all according to your understanding.”
A great insult
When our Spiritual Master, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, went to Vrndavan in the early 1930’s, he rode a motorcar. In those days, this was unheard of for a saint. One day, a priest insulted our Guru by deprecating the position of Srila Raghunath Das Goswami, the preceptor of our highest conception of spiritual achievement. He boasted, “We are not only residents of the holy land, but members of the cast of high priests (brahmans). Therefore we can offer our benedictions to Das Goswami. He was born in a low-class family, and he himself asked such a benediction from us.”
Of course, in great humility, Das Goswami once prayed,
gurau gosthe gosthalayisu sujane bhu-suragane
sva-mantre sri-namni vraja-nava-yuva-dvandva-sarane
sada dambham hitva kuru ratim apurvam atitaram
aye svantar bhratas chatubhir abhiyache dhrta-padah
“O mind—my brother! I fall at your feet and implore you: ‘Give up all pride and always taste ecstatic love while remembering the divine guide, the holy abode of Vrndavan, the cowherds and milkmaids of Vraja, the loving devotees of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, the gods on earth or pure brahmans, the Gayatri mantra, the Holy Names of Sri Krishna, and the divine youthful couple of Vraja, Sri Sri Radha-Govindasundar.”
That priest remarked, “We are residents of the holy abode of Vrndavan, and brahmans as well, so we are in a position to give benedictions to Raghunath Das Goswami.” Upon hearing these words, our Guru Maharaj, who was at Radha Kunda at the time, began fasting. He remarked, “I have to hear this? This fellow is under the control of lust, anger, and greed, and he says that he can show his grace to Das Goswami, the most respected preceptor in our line! And I am to hear that?” Without retaliating against his remarks, he decided to fast.
We also stopped eating, and our whole camp began fasting. Then a local gentleman who came to know that the whole camp was fasting managed to find the blasphemous priest and bring him to our Guru Maharaj. That priest begged to be pardoned. Our Guru Maharaj was satisfied and, after showing him some respect, finally broke his fast. At that time someone told our Guru Maharaj, “They are all ignorant fools. Why should you be so much affected by his words? You should ignore it.” Our Guru Maharaj said, “If I were an ordinary babaji and heard such a remark, I could simply cover my ears and go away. But I am playing the part of an Acharya, one who teaches by example. What justification do I have for riding in a motorcar if I do not oppose the remarks against my Gurudev?”
Repeatedly he used this expression: “Why am I driving a motorcar here in Vrndavan?” he said, “Had I been a niskinchan babaji, a saint living in seclusion and wearing only a loincloth, I would have given no opposition to this man. To save myself, I would simply leave the place and go elsewhere. But because I am riding in a big motorcar in the post of an Acharya, a teacher, I must defend the dignity of the great devotees. I have accepted this charge and can’t evade these circumstances. I must face it and do everything in my power that such things may not go on undetected or unopposed.”
Humility must be adjusted or modified in its practical application. Once, when a Hare Krishna Temple was attacked, a gun was used by the devotees to defend the Temple. Later there was a complaint among the local people. They said, “Oh, they are humble? They are tolerant? Why have they crossed the advice of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to be humbler than a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree? They can’t be devotees!” So many complaints were coming to me, but I defended them by saying, “No, they have done rightly. The instruction to be humbler than a blade of grass means one should be humble to the devotee, not to a madman.”
The general class of men are ignorant. They are mad. They do not know what is good or bad, so their consideration has no value. Who is qualified to judge whether a devotee is offering respect to all and not expecting any for himself? Who will judge whether he is really humble and tolerant—madmen? Ignorant people? Have they any sense to judge who is humble, who is tolerant, and who is respectful to others? There must be a standard by which to judge humility. We are interested in the criterion given by higher thinkers, not the consideration of the ignorant masses.
The standard of humility
Of course, anyone may deceive the ordinary public with superficial humility. But a show of humility is not real humility. It must come from the heart, and it must have a real purpose. Everything—humility, tolerance, and pridelessness—must be considered by the judgement of a standard, normal person, not by the ignorant who are like elephants, tigers, and jackals. Should they be allowed to judge what is humility, what is audacity and impertinence? Of course not. Should a devotee think, “The Deity and the Temple is about to be molested, but I shall stand by and do nothing. I should be humble and tolerant. A dog is entering the Temple; I should show him respect?” No. This is not real humility.
We must have a normal conception of reality. We must not allow these anomalies to continue in the name of offering respects to others. We must not think that we may allow anyone to harm the devotees or molest the Temple, that we shall allow the dog to enter the Temple, and by doing this we are humble and tolerant, we are showing all respects to others. We are not interested only in the physical meaning of the scriptures, but the real meaning.
That I am humble means that I am the slave of the slave of a Vaisnava. With that consciousness we must proceed. If anyone comes to molest my master, I should first sacrifice myself, thinking, “Because I am of the least importance, my sacrifice is no loss; I must sacrifice myself to maintain the dignity of my Guru, the devotees, and my Lord and His family.”
We must always understand what is to be honoured. We offer our respects to the highest truth, the Lord of Lords; our dealings should be in consonance with that. If we always keep the highest conception of relativity within us, we will see that we are the lowest. If there is danger to our guardians, we shall sacrifice ourselves. All of this should be taken into account when trying to understand the meaning of humility, not physical imitation—but genuine humility; it is a question of practical realisation. Fame and honour must be given to the Lord and His devotees, not to anyone else.
In the higher stages of devotion, of course, humility may have to be adjusted in another way for the paramahamsa babajis, the topmost swanlike saints who have given up all connection with this material world. But in the preaching stage, the second class devotee must accept things differently. As our Guru Maharaj said, “Had I been in the role of a babaji, a non-assertive, reclusive saint, I would have walked away from the place without offering any opposition. But when we are preaching and have taken the responsibility of leading so many souls to the domain of the Lord, our adjustment must be made accordingly.” Generally, we may be indifferent to those who are personally inimical to us, but when we preach on behalf of the Lord in an organised way, our duty changes: we cannot be indifferent to antagonists.
It is mentioned in the scriptures by Jiva Goswami that according to one’s own particular status, these things should be taken into consideration and the necessary things should be done. He has given his decision that if the devotee has a position of power, if he is a king, and if someone repeatedly blasphemes a real Vaisnava, or saintly person, then the king should enforce corporal punishment by banishing the offender from his state or by cutting out his tongue (Vaisnava nindaka jihva hata). That is not the duty for ordinary persons; if they act in such a way, there will be a riot. We should not be eager to inflict physical punishment upon anyone.
Hanuman is a Vaisnava, but he is seen to destroy so many lives. The same is true of Arjuna and so many other devotees. Even Krishna and Ramachandra are also seen to kill so many demons in war. Simply a physical show of meekness does not constitute the real meaning of humility. When there is an insult to the Guru or the Vaisnavas, a devotee will oppose the blasphemers according to his might.
Bhakti Vinod Thakur, in one of his songs, says that we should not only tolerate the evil-doings of others and a disturbing environment, but we should do good to those by whom we are being tortured. The example is given of a tree. One who is cutting the tree gets shade and comfort from the tree even while cutting it down. In conclusion, he says that humility, mercy, respect for others, and renunciation of name and fame, are the four qualifications for chanting the Holy Name of Krishna.
We are the meanest of the mean. We should always be conscious that we are beggars. We should think, “Although I am a beggar, I’ve come to beg for the highest thing; let no disturbance dissuade me from my attempt.” At the same time, our attitude toward the environment should be respectful.
In this way, by becoming educated in the Krishna conception of divinity, everyone should be given respect according to his position. It is the guiding instruction in the worship of the Holy Name (Nam-bhajan) that we must take the position of the slave of the slave of the slave of the Lord. If you want to chant the Name of Krishna, then don’t waste your energy with the trifling things of this world. Don’t allow your attention to be disturbed by tiny acquisitions like prestige or gain which is relative to money or physical comfort. Remember, you are trying for the greatest thing, and all other things are very small in comparison to Krishna consciousness. So, don’t waste your energy and valuable time. Be economical. You have the chance to achieve the highest goal of life.⬆︎
न धनं न जनं न सुन्दरीं
कवितां वा जगदीश कामये ।
मम जन्मनि जन्मनीश्वरे
भवताद्भक्तिरहैतुकी त्वयि ॥४॥
na dhanam na janam na sundarim
kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye
bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi
“O Lord, I have no desires
to accumulate wealth, followers
beautiful women, or salvation.
My only prayer is for
Your causeless devotional service
birth after birth.”
We should try to move in this direction. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, “I don’t want any money (na dhanam), I don’t want any popularity or manpower (na janam), I don’t want the company of beautiful ladies (na sundarim). I don’t want a good name, or the fame of a poet (kavitam va).” This is the general meaning of this verse, but it has been deeply dealt with in the commentaries of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati and Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur.
Our Guru Maharaj has commented that in this verse, wealth, followers, women, and scholarship represent duty, wealth, sense pleasure, and salvation (dharma, artha, kama, moksa). Bhakti Vinod Thakur has explained that in this context, ‘wealth’ means the wealth which comes from following one’s prescribed duties. It can also mean artha, economic development. He says that ‘followers’ means physical relationship for comforts: wife, children, and so forth. The word sundarim means kama, the company of beautiful ladies. And kavitam, poetry, represents moksa, liberation. Liberation apparently has a high value but really, like poetry, it is only flowery words. Liberation is imaginary because the ultimate result of liberation is that one’s existence vanishes.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, “O Lord of the universe, I only pray for spontaneous devotion to You without motive for any reward. I want a natural serving attitude.” Prema means affection, love. Prema means, “I shall serve You, and in remuneration You must give me more of a tendency to serve You—more energy and more hankering to serve You. My affection for You will be enhanced and the interest will become capital just as in the money-lending business.” In this way, a devotee prays to Krishna, “I am serving You, and if You want to pay me something, then give me more capital to increase my serving tendency so it may be more enhanced.
“Wherever I am born according to my karma, I aspire only for Your service, my Lord, and I pray for unmotivated service, not for anything else in return.” The general temptation that surrounds us on four sides is of four classes: money, followers, women, and liberation, and that means dharma, artha, kama, and moksa. In this way, the gradations of different goals of life have been scientifically represented.
But Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, “I have no attraction for any of these things, but only for You, My Lord. I don’t even aspire after liberation. I will not even ask, “Give Me liberation, for, being liberated, I will be able to serve You better.” That sort of condition must not be placed on divinity. This is the purest of prayers. “According to my karma, I may be bird or beast, here or there, or even in hell—it does not matter. My whole aspiration is concentrated on one thing alone: I pray that my attraction for You may never be lost. I pray that it may always be enhanced.”
Bhakti, devotion, is ahaituki, causeless. It is quite natural and has no other aspiration. Someone may say, “If interest is always being reinvested as capital, I will never enjoy the profit”, but we are interested in enjoyment by self-giving. “Let others enjoy at my cost”—that is the basis of the highest enjoyment. The devotee thinks, “Let Krishna enjoy with others—I will be the scapegoat.”
The suicide squad
Bhakti Vinod Thakur says that when a baby has no knowledge, and an enemy or a disease comes to attack him, he cannot defend himself. In the same way, in the beginning, when one’s realisation of the Holy Name is in the childlike stage, then crimes and offences against the Name can prevail. When one’s realisation is grown up, no offence can approach him, but so many offences may come and attack the beginner.
Bhakti Vinod Thakur says, “The Holy Name is so beautiful, gracious, and charming. Let me die along with all the offences against it so others may enjoy its nectar.” He wants to sacrifice himself just as in wartime, with bombs under their armpits, the suicide squad would jump into a ship’s chimney. The suicide squad began with Japan’s campaign against the British, and when Hitler heard of their fearlessness, he said, “We have something yet to learn from Japan.” So, Bhakti Vinod Thakur prays, “I want to finish myself along with all the offences against the Name, that others may enjoy the nectar of the Holy Name.”
Vasudev Datta also prayed, “Give the sins of all souls to me, and throw me into eternal hell, so that they may benefit. Give them love of Krishna.” By that highly generous sentiment, he does not die. It is said, “Die to live”. When we have so much appreciation for the Lord that we feel this kind of sentiment, we find a living attainment of higher life. That is the enjoyment we want.
The last verse of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Siksastakam will explain this feeling. Another example of this is found when the great sage Narad came to the gopis and asked them for the dust of their lotus feet for the treatment of Krishna’s headache. Here we find self-abnegation to the highest degree, and that is the whole point of devotion. The very life of a devotee is based on sacrifice. As much as there is sacrifice, there is benefit. And sacrifice means “Die to live”. This is a favourite saying of mine. These are Hegel’s words: “Die to live”. Krishna is the highest consumer known to the world. We should not hesitate to give ourselves to Him.⬆︎
अयि नन्दतनुज किङ्करं पतितं मां विषमे भवाम्बुधौ ।
कृपया तव पादपङ्कजस्थितधूलीसदृशं विचिन्तय ॥५॥
ayi nanda-tanuja kinkaram
patitam mam visame bhavambudhau
krpaya tava pada-pankaja-
“O son of Nanda Maharaj,
I am Your eternal servant
yet because of My own karma
I have fallen into this terrible
ocean of birth and death.
Accept this fallen soul
and consider Me a particle of dust
at Your holy lotus feet.”
Here, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu prays, “O Lord, please consider Me; I want to enter into the realm of Your merciful glance. I do not know how to take proper care of Myself, and so I invite Your care. Please accept Me and give Me entrance. You are My guardian. I want to live under Your protection.”
And who is He? We hear of different conceptions of God, but here we have come to a beautiful conception of God—Krishna, the son of Nanda Maharaj. This is found only in Vrndavan.
A great spiritual scholar, Raghupati Upadhyaya, once met Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu near Mathura. There, they had a discussion and Mahaprabhu asked him, “Whom do we want to have as our master? Who is the final goal of our life?” Raghupati Upadhyaya answered:
srutim apare smrtim itare bharatam anye bhajantu bhava-bhitah
aham iha nandam vande yasyalinde param brahma
“Those who fear rebirth in this world may follow the advice of the Vedic scriptures—others may follow the Mahabharata—but as for me, I follow Nanda Maharaj, in whose courtyard the Supreme Absolute Truth plays as a child.”
In the system of varnasram-dharma, Vedic social duty, the people in general are under the guidance of the smrti, Vedic law. In this way, they are engaged in bodily duties with a colour of godliness. Those who are free from physical demands, however, who are trying to transcend this life of enjoyment and exploitation, generally take their guidance from the Upanisads because higher advice is given there. Raghupati Upadhyaya says, “I don’t care for all these things, but I feel a need to follow the guidance of my heart. I am not so much concerned with the brain; I consider that real peace has its connection with the heart. And my heart is always attracted by Krishna’s father, Nanda. Krishna is said by authorities to be the Supreme Absolute Truth, and that absolute is crawling in the courtyard of Nanda Maharaj, so I see concrete reality there.”
How has Nanda attracted the Supreme Absolute Truth? In the Srimad Bhagavatam (10.8.46), the devoted King Pariksit Maharaj asks the boy saint Sukadev Goswami:
nandah kim akarod brahman sreya evam mahodayam
yasoda cha maha-bhaga papau yasyah stanam harih
“O knower of Brahma, you are always merged in the exclusive conscious world. No trace of any mundane objective reference can be found in you, for you are always engaged in the subjective world of spirit. Never is your consciousness thrown towards this objective world of ours. And you say that Krishna is the Supreme Absolute Truth. I ask one question of you, my Master: what duty did Nanda discharge, what sort of realisation did Nanda have, that the Absolute Truth is so intimate with him that He appears as Nanda’s son and crawls about in his courtyard? He seems to be under Nanda’s clutches. What is this? This is a most wonderful thing. Is it possible?
The Supreme Substance suckles her breast?
“The yogis, the rsis, the great scholars and penance-makers say that they sometimes have a rare peek into their object of aspiration and realisation, and then they come back suddenly. They can’t keep their attention in that plane for long periods of time. How is it possible that the Supreme Substance sits on the lap of Yasoda and sucks her breast? If such things are real, if it is at all possible, then why should I not be attracted by that method by which I can have so much intimacy with the highest entity?”
In his prayer, Raghupati Upadhyaya expresses a similar ego. He says, “I don’t want to be entangled in the subtle discussion and analysis of the scriptures; I just want to surrender myself to Nanda and his party. I want to enlist my name in the group where Nanda is the master guide.”
By the exercise of energy (karma), we can attain a good destination; without faith in the achievements of karma, we may try for salvation by raising our consciousness (jnan). But if we enquire into the solution of life with the help of the experts of that higher spiritual realm like Nanda and his party, we can enter into the land of love and dedication.
My faith, my common sense about religion, tells me that if I see that Supreme Absolute Truth who is so rare and find Him real, concrete, and intimate, appealing directly to my heart, then why should I engage myself in wild-goose chasing? I shall appeal directly to the object of my search. If someone tells me that a hawk has snatched my ear, should I chase the hawk without first touching my ear to see if it is still there? If I can have the Absolute Truth so intimately, why should I allow myself to run hither and thither? If I find that the Absolute Truth has kindly come with all His charm, and that His charm is not a secret and many personages are being attracted by Him, then should I run after the phantasmagoria of the meditationists, abstractionists, and renunciationists? Never.
It is common sense. The straight understanding is given by authorities that Krishna, the son of Nanda, is Supreme. So when we have come up to that standard, then we can ask, “O son of Nanda, Krishna, king of the country of love: I appeal for Your affection. I am Your servant. I feel within myself that I have some connection with You. I am subordinate to You, but somehow, I am in adverse circumstances. I feel that there are so many enemies within me that are trying to take me away from You that I can’t give my attention to You all the time. At the same time, I feel from the inner plane of my heart that You are my Master, You are all-in-all to me. My heart won’t be satisfied without Your companionship. So I appeal to You: I am under unfavourable circumstances; I am suffering, and without Your grace, I don’t find any means of relief from my present imprisoned position.”
The soul—like a ray of sun
Here it is said, “I feel that I am not eternally connected with You; if it were so, then this separation would have been impossible. Unlike an Avatar, I am not Your plenary portion.” Other incarnations of the Supreme Lord are plenary expansions of Him (svamsa), but the jiva is a partial representation of His potency (vibhinnamsa). In Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that the living entities are His eternal parts and parcels. The soul comes from marginal potency (Krsnera tatastha-sakti, bhedabheda prakasa). And the soul is an atomic fragmental part of the Lord’s potency like a ray of the sun. But here, the devotee prays, “I’m not part and parcel of Your own body, I’m not even a ray, but my representation is nearer to that of a particle of sand, a particle of dust—not even a particle of the ray coming out of the lustre of Your body.” In this way, Sriman Mahaprabhu is representing on our behalf that our petition must be of this type: “I cannot indulge Myself in thinking that I possess such fortune that I may be considered an inseparable part of You. I am a separable part, but I also want Your grace. Please be kind upon Me; I invoke Your mercy for a special grant. Accept Me in any position in Your connection—even the lowest position. At least this must be sanctioned. Consider Me a particle of dust at Your feet. This is My prayer.”⬆︎
नयनं गलदश्रुधारया वदनं गद्गदरुद्धया गिरा ।
पुलकैर्निचितं वपुः कदा तव नामग्रहणे भविष्यति ॥६॥
vadanam gadgada-ruddhaya gira
pulakair nichitam vapuh kada
tava nama-grahane bhavisyati
“O Lord, when will tears flow
from My eyes like waves?
And My voice tremble in ecstasy.
When will the hairs of My body
stand on end while chanting
Your Holy Name?”
In this verse, the devotee’s prayer has been granted and he has acquired a position in Krishna’s domain. Now his ambition has no end. Although he is posted in a safe position, he is again praying for further promotion. First he aspired only for an insignificant position as the dust under the soles of Krishna’s divine feet. Then, the grant came. The touch of Krishna’s holy feet came to the dust and the dust was converted as if by a magic wand. Now a greater, higher demand automatically comes.
The devotee thinks, “What is this? I prayed only to become the dust of the soles of Your feet, but what do I now feel within me? I am the dust of the earth, and You are the Supreme Absolute Truth. But by the very touch of Your lotus feet, dust has been converted into such a great and inconceivable substance. I wonder, ‘How is it that I have been transformed?’ Now I find that my demand is for greater intimacy. First I aspired for servitude but now, by the touchstone of Your lotus feet, that hope has been converted into spontaneous attraction (raga-marg).”
The king of affection
Spontaneous attraction can only mean Krishna, not Narayan or Ramachandra. Krishna means “one who is worshipped by divine love and affection.” He is the king of affection, the centre of affection and love. The devotee’s whole conception of devotion changed just by coming in touch with Krishna’s lotus feet, and he was graced by the demand for more intimacy; greater love and affection came to grace that servitor.
He was raised to such a plane of dedication that his prayer has changed. He thinks, “What is this? I can’t check my tears. They are coming incessantly, and when I try to chant Your Name, my Lord, I feel that I am losing control. Some interference from another quarter is moving me, disturbing my normal-thinking and aspirations. I feel I am in the midst of another plane. I am nowhere. I have lost control; I have become a doll in the hands of some other power.
Lotus feet—magic wand
“My aspiration is taking me towards something else. Now I not only want a connection with You as a servitor from a distance, but coming in touch with the magic wand of Your lotus feet, my aspiration has changed. I see that so many devotees are engaged in Your service and chanting Your Name, and seeing this, my hopes have been raised.
“I want to be lifted to that position. I can visualise that position from far away, but now my earnest prayer is that I may be raised to that level. Your connection has given me such thirst. I want to be handled by You. Play with me as You like in Your own way. My heart hankers after such a relationship with You. When I chant Your Name with this feeling, I find that my previous conception has changed and my new hankering is for the standard of spontaneous love. I pray that You lift me into that plane of Your divine affection and love.”⬆︎
युगायितं निमेषेण चक्षुषा प्रावृषायितम्।
शून्यायितं जगत्सर्व्वं गोविन्दविरहेण मे ॥७॥
yugayitam nimesena chaksusa pravrsayitam
sunyayitam jagat sarvam govinda-virahena me
Without You, the world is empty.
Tears are flooding My eyes like rain
and a moment seems like forever.”
Sometimes this verse is translated, “O Govinda, without You, I feel a moment to be twelve years or more.” The word yuga is sometimes translated ‘twelve years’. Some devotees say this is because Mahaprabhu experienced the most intense separation from Krishna in the mood of Radharani for twelve years. In the Sanskrit dictionary it is said that one yuga means twelve years. That is one conception. Another meaning is ‘millennium’ or ‘age’. A yuga can also mean an unlimited amount of time.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, “One moment seems like an unlimited period of time. And My eyes are shedding tears like rain. The rainy season produces so many floods, and now it seems to Me that My eyes are flooding. The visible is becoming invisible to Me. I am so withdrawn from the present environment that I can’t see anything. My mind feels so much internal attraction towards the centre of the infinite that wherever I cast my glance I see nothing. Everything appears vacant, because I feel as if Govinda has withdrawn from Me.
Sri Krishna—Reality the Beautiful
“Such a peculiar sort of feeling is within Me—I have no interest in anything. All My interest is drawn towards Govinda, and to such a degree that I am a stranger to My present environment. I have nothing: no consciousness. It has gone somewhere else—towards the infinite. When there is a drought, all the rivers and lakes dry up. The water is drawn towards the gas world. Nowhere is a drop of water to be found. It is something like that. All charm is withdrawn so extensively that everything is empty. My senses, mind, and everything else has been drawn up, attracted by the all-attractive, all-charming, all-sweet personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, Reality the Beautiful.”
Sometimes it seems that the gap between union and separation is like so many millennia. A devotee thinks, “I have lost the consciousness of meeting Krishna long, long ago.” He has a faint remembrance: “I had some union with Krishna, but I left that so far behind, so far off, that it appears to be an unlimited gap of time. I once had a faint recollection, but now it is gone, perhaps forever.” He feels such a great degree of disappointment and despair.
This is the standard of the infinite world. Just as we measure the distance of the planets and stars by light years, here the transcendental temperament is being measured by such a standard. What audacity we have to deal with things so great and beyond our jurisdiction.
At first the devotee thought, “If I am raised to that standard of service, my heart will be fulfilled. My thirst will be quenched, and I will feel some ease and satisfaction within me.” But the development of his devotion took him to an unexpected plane of life. It is the nature of divine love that when a drop of that medicine is given to a hankering patient, the patient thinks he is cured, but he is taken into a dangerous position.
He thinks, “Seeing the devotees shedding tears incessantly, the hairs of their bodies standing on end, their voices choked up while chanting the Name of Krishna, I was charmed. Those symptoms attracted me and I thought that if I could attain this, I would feel real satisfaction, but upon attaining that plane, what do I find? Just the opposite.”
Coming into real connection with the infinite, he feels hopeless. He thinks, “There is no limit to progress. Rather, as much as I come in intimate connection with the infinite, I feel hopeless.” The more we advance, the more we find it unlimited, and finding it unlimited, we become hopeless but we can’t turn back. There is no possibility of retracing our steps; we can only go ahead. This is the spirit of a genuine devotee.
Finding the infinite characteristic of our prospect, we can’t leave—we become hopeless, thinking, “The highest kind of nectar is just before me, but I can’t taste it—I am unable to touch it or get it in my fist. Still, its charm is so great that I can’t retreat from this entanglement. And without that, a small span of time seems like millions of years.”
Rivers of tears
The devotee thinks, “Oh, long, long ages have passed away; still I am in want! I am trying to get it, but I can’t get it, and time is passing. Time is also infinite. So many rivers of tears take birth from my eyes; tears profusely run down from my eyes over my body, but I don’t find the position of success within my reach. My mind is fully vacant. I can’t find any trace of my future. I have no charm, no attraction for anything else that might seem to console this diseased body.
“I find no possibility of solace from any other quarter. All alternatives have been eliminated. I am fully in the clutches of Krishna consciousness and love of Krishna. If there is anyone who can come to my relief, help me! I am lost. I am helpless. If there is anyone who can help me, please come to my rescue.”
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that when we are deeply situated in love of Krishna, we can’t leave it, but our thirst increases and we feel no satisfaction. We are in the midst of such an apparently horrible position.
The hankering for Krishna which awakens in one’s mind takes this direction. When a devotee really comes in connection with Krishna, his position will be all-eliminating and all-exclusive. His complete concentration will be on Krishna.
In this verse, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu describes how a devotee goes further, awakens a higher conception of Krishna, and then, seeing Krishna just before him but not getting Him, feels this kind of separation. The more he progresses, the more he finds himself in this position of hopelessness. This highest advice of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu helps us adjust ourselves to this intense mood of separation. He tells us, “You are going to be lost in Krishna consciousness. And what will be your position? You are a drop, and you will be thrown into the ocean of divine love.”⬆︎
आश्लिष्य वा पादरतां पिनष्टु माम्
अदर्शनान्मर्म्महतां करोतु वा ।
यथा तथा वा विदधातु लम्पटो
मत्प्राणनाथस्तु स एव नापरः ॥८॥
aslisya va pada-ratam pinastu mam
adarsanan marma-hatam karotu va
yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato
mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva naparah
“Krishna may embrace Me in love
or trample Me under His feet.
He may break My heart
by hiding Himself from Me.
Let that debauchee do whatever He
likes, but He will always be the only
Lord of my life.”
This is the greatest medicine for the devotees. We have come to measure the immeasurable, but we must always embrace this principle. In attempting to connect ourselves with the infinite Lord of love and beauty, we must remember that He is the infinite. He is only one to us, but He has many devotees like us to deal with. He may embrace us with much affection and adoration, but we must be prepared for the opposite. We may stick to His feet, but He may cruelly trample us. We have caught hold of His holy feet with great hope, with our whole heart; still we may find that He tramples us and does not care for all our attempts and affection.
We may be giving our best and find that our offering is being hatefully dishonoured. He may embrace us, but at the same time we must be prepared that His dealings may be extremely cruel. He may trample all our offerings beneath His feet. We must be prepared for both His adoration and His hateful negligence. We should be prepared for any adverse circumstances.
Krishna may be indifferent. He may not care. And when He is punishing us, He is nearer, but when He is indifferent it is even more intolerable than punishment. The devotee thinks, “Krishna is ignoring me, neglecting me so much that He does not like to keep any connection with me. Doesn’t He know me? Am I a foreigner, unknown to Him?” We may accept punishment as a boon, but indifference is even more heart-rending.
The pain of separation felt by a devotee may even go a step higher. Krishna may affectionately embrace another right before our eyes, in front of our face, without caring even a little for us. We may think, “This is my claim, my right”, but that may be given to another right in front of our faces. That will be a source of increasing trouble to us.
This is the law of affection. The law of love cannot tolerate indifference. It is too much to tolerate, but we must be prepared for that. We must be prepared from the beginning that this is the meaning of Krishna-prema, divine love for Krishna, because He is an autocrat. He is love. Divine love means mercy, and not justice. There is no law there. And we have selected divine love to be our highest fortune, so we must be prepared to be treated without justice. There is no justice in divine love; it is free. It may flow anywhere and everywhere. This is the very nature of divine love, so we can’t make any claim—we have no rights.
This is the nature of the highest thing, and it is extremely rare. But unhesitating adherence to that principle is required from our side. It is real love, and you must be prepared for that. In all adverse circumstances, this is the real nature of Krishna-prema: die to live. If you can accommodate all these different stages, good or bad, then you can enter this exalted plane.
Love is above law
Justice is within law; mercy is above law. Prema, divine love, is also above law, but it has its own law. Another verse whose meaning runs parallel to this one is given by Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupad:
virachaya mayi dandam dinabandho dayam va
gatir iha na bhavattah kachid anya mamasti
nipatatu sata-kotir nirbharam va navambhas
tad api kila payodah stuyate chatakena
There is a kind of small bird named chatak that only drinks rainwater. It never drinks any water from the earth, whether it is from a river, fountain, or lake. Its very nature is that with its mouth upward, it hankers after rainwater. Srila Rupa Goswami gives this example to show how a devotee should always be waiting in expectation of the ‘rainwater’ of Krishna-love, and no other love.
The devotee prays to the Lord, “You are the friend of the fallen, so I have some hope. You may grant Your grace, or severely punish me—in either case, I have no other alternative but to wholly surrender to Your lotus feet.”
Our attitude of surrender should be just like that of the chatak bird, who always has his eyes fixed upward, praying for rainwater. Rainwater may come profusely—not only enough to fill up his small belly, but enough to drown his whole body. Thunder may come from above; a bolt from the blue may come and finish his small body, and send him to the nonexistent quarter, but still the nature of that bird is to pray exclusively for rainwater. He won’t take water from any other place under any circumstance. Our attitude towards Krishna should be like that: whether or not He extends His gracious hand towards us, it is our duty to surrender unto Him.
In this connection, one verse comes to my memory. When Sri Krishna met Srimati Radharani and the gopis in Kuruksetra after a long separation of perhaps a hundred years, He felt that He had committed a great crime by separating Himself from them. Approaching near the gopis, especially Srimati Radharani, and remembering their qualities of love and surrender, He felt like the greatest criminal, so much so that He bent down to touch the lotus feet of Radharani.
On poet has represented the scene in this way, and that poem has been collected by Rupa Goswami in his Padyavali. Krishna was at that time the paramount king of India. But when He came in connection with the gopis and the atmosphere of Vrndavan, He felt like a criminal, and bending down, He was just about to touch the lotus feet of Radharani, when Radharani, drawing back, remarked, “What are You doing? Why are You coming to touch My feet? This is astounding. Have You lost Your mind?
“I am the real criminal”
“You are the master of everything. No explanation can be demanded of You. You are swami. You are My husband and master, and I am Your maidservant. It may be that for some time You were engaged in some other quarter, but what’s the harm in that? What is the fault in You for that? That does not matter, for that right is given to You by scripture and society. There is no crime, no sin on Your part. You have done nothing wrong.
“I am the real criminal. The meanness is with Me, the defect is wholly with Me. You are not responsible for Our separation, so why do You consider that You are faulty, or that You have committed some wrong? The positive proof that I am the real criminal is that I sustain My life; I did not die from the pangs of Your separation.
“I am showing My face to the world, but I am not faithful to You. I could not approach the standard of faith which I should have maintained for Your love, so I am the criminal, not You. It has been written in the scriptures by the saints that the wife should be thankful and exclusively devoted to the husband. This has been ordained in the scriptures. A woman should be devoted exclusively to her husband, her lord. So in this meeting, I should fall at Your feet and beg for Your pardon, for Your forgiveness that I have really no love for You. I am maintaining this body, and showing My face to society; I am not a proper partner for You, so please forgive Me. You are begging My forgiveness? This is just the opposite of how things should be. What is this? Please don’t do this.”
This should be the ideal of our affection for Krishna. We, the finite, should take this attitude towards the infinite. At any time, He may only give a little attention to us, but we should be all-attentive towards Him. And there is no alternative. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu advises that we have exclusive devotion towards Krishna, and as we are insignificant, our attitude must be of this type.
If we want such a great thing, then it is not an injustice that we should be treated hatefully. Our prospect, understanding, and adjustment must be that of self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, just as when someone goes to fight for his country on the battlefield, there is no room for luxury or excessive desires.
I remember in this connection that when Gandhi formed his nonviolence army, one of the volunteer soldiers asked, “Please arrange tea for us.” Gandhi told him, “The water of the river may be supplied to you, but no tea. If you are ready for that then come forward.” If we want to connect ourselves with the Vrndavan-lila of Krishna, we can make no conditions. Then, we shall understand the method recommended by Sriman Mahaprabhu: humility greater than that of a blade of grass. There should be no complaint from our side. Not only in the external position of our present life, but even in eternal life, any complaint from our side should be carefully eliminated and we must fully accept the ways of the Lord. Krishna may accept us or reject us; we have to take that risk. Only then may we make progress.
In some way or other, if we can enter the group of Krishna’s servitors, we will find that everyone has such a nature, and when they meet together, they will console each other in their respective groups. In different serving relationships there are different sections of servitors of a similar nature, and they console each other with talk of Krishna (Krishna-katha). In Bhagavad-gita (10.9, 11) Krishna says:
mach-chitta mad-gata-prana bodhayantah parasparam
kathayantas cha mam nityam tusyanti cha ramanti cha
“My devotees mix together, talk about Me, and exchange thoughts that give consolation to their hearts. And they live as if this talk about Me is their food. It gives them a high kind of pleasure, and they find that when they talk about Me among themselves, they feel as if they are enjoying My presence.”
tesam evanukampartham aham ajnana-jam tamah
nasayamy atma-bhava-stho jnana-dipena bhasvata
“When sometimes the feeling of separation from Me is very acute in My devotees, I suddenly appear before them and quench their thirst for My company.”
Sweetness within pain
In this last verse of His Siksastakam, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has given another very fine and high type of solace. And this has been confirmed by Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami, who has written:
bahye visa-jvala haya bhitare ananda-maya
krsna-premara adbhuta charita
“Don’t be afraid. Outwardly you may feel a horrible pain of separation, but internally, you will feel an unparalleled type of rasa, the most pleasing feeling of peace, joy, or ecstasy.” Externally, there may be pangs of separation, but internally there is the greatest satisfaction.
In this way we are advised by the scriptures, and our practical experience corroborates our faith in this subtle matter. The English poet, Shelley, has written:
“Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those
That tell of saddest thought.”
When we are reading an epic where there is cruel separation between the hero and the heroine, it is so sweet to us that although we shed tears, still we cannot leave the book. When we hear about the pangs of Sita Devi, how Ramachandra banishes Her and leaves Her uncared for in the forest although She is with child, this is very painful. We shed tears, but still we read on. There is sweetness within pain. It is possible.
Separation from Krishna is like that. The special characteristic of Krishna-prema is this: externally, we feel extreme pain, like lava, but internally our heart is filled with some extraordinary ecstatic joy. This is what Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has given us. As much as we can catch the meaning of His instructions, we shall be prepared for that kind of life. This is the fare to go to Vrndavan, and when we are introduced to so many others like us, then our joy knows no bounds. When we meet others who have the same nature and mind as us, we get solace from them. We need not be afraid. In spite of all these things, we should think firmly that there is our home, and we should want to go back to home, back to Godhead.
We are not foreigners there. Here we are foreigners: every man treats me in any way that he likes. But Vrndavan is most hopeful and full of the highest prospect. It is the place of inner satisfaction. We aspire after that; we cannot but continue aspiring for our real home. What is real joy and ecstasy? We are not acquainted with that. This is our present trouble. Yet as much as we progress in Krishna consciousness, we shall become conscious of a practical feeling of real joy and ecstasy, beauty and charm, and in this way, we shall become more and more encouraged.
Yamun Acharya says:
yad-avadhi mama chetah krsna-padaravinde
nava-nava-rasa-dhamany udyatam rantum asit
tad-avadhi bata nari-sangame smaryamane
bhavati mukha-vikarah susthu nisthivanam cha
“Before I came in touch with the Krishna-love of Vrndavan, worldly pleasure was of much importance to me; but now, if any mundane taste comes in my memory, my face becomes disfigured, and I spit at the thought.”
So if we get a slight taste of that ecstasy, then at once we come to the conclusion that there can be no comparison between that and any peace or pleasure here in this mundane world. At the same time, once we are settled in that atmosphere, no pain can disturb or affect us in any way.
There is another side also: although we are advised to be prepared for painful separation, the fact is not so cruel in reality. Krishna says, Mayi te tesu chapy Aham: “I am always with My devotees.” Wherever there is an exclusive devotee, Krishna is there like his shadow, always invisibly moving after him. This is the Lord’s nature:
aham bhakta-paradhino hy asvatantra iva dvija
sadhubhir grasta-hrdayo bhaktair bhakta-jana-priyah
The Lord tells Durvasa, “I am the slave of My devotees; I have no freedom apart from their will. Because they are completely pure and devoted to Me, My heart is controlled by them, and I reside always in their hearts. I am dependent not only on My devotees, but even on the servants of My devotees. Even the servants of My devotees are dear to Me.”
Krishna is not a sweetball
We must be prepared for any unfavourable circumstances, but we must not be discouraged. Krishna is most affectionate; His care towards us is most acute and sincere. His affection towards us has no rival. Still, Sriman Mahaprabhu has given us a warning in this verse: “You are coming to search after Krishna? Krishna is not a sweetball from the market that you can purchase and finish so easily. You are trying to attain the highest of the high, so you must be prepared for anything.”
At the same time, the devotees will come to us saying, “Have no fear. We are all like you. Let us all walk together in a straight line. Don’t be afraid—we are here.” We are told that Krishna’s devotees are even more sympathetic to us than Krishna Himself. The solace of our life and our fortune is His devotees, and Krishna says: Mad bhaktanam cha ye bhaktah: “One who is a servant of My servant is My real servant.” Sadhu-sanga, the association of saints, is the most important and valuable thing for us. To make our advancement and progress towards the infinite, our association is our guide; it is all-important. We must stick to this conclusion:
‘sadhu-sanga’, ‘sadhu-sanga’,—sarva sastre kaya
lava-matra sadhu-sange sarva-siddhi haya
“The conclusion has been given in the scriptures that all perfection can be attained by the help of the saints. Good association is our greatest wealth in reaching the supreme goal.”⬆︎
Only Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu can give the conception of full-fledged theism. It is His grace, His sweet will. It is His own wealth, not the property of many. Krishna is an autocrat. He is the highest. And whomever He selects to receive His own wealth will get it. No one can raise the question of “no taxation without representation”—there is no room for that sort of slogan here.
In order to explain this for our benefit, Bhakti Vinod Thakur, taking himself as a fallen soul, says, “My position is that of a servant of Krishna, but I am devoid of Krishna. What am I? I am a slave of Krishna, a slave of the Lord, but I am devoid of my Master? What an ironic thing it is.” You can wail, you can repent, you can mourn, but all rights are reserved by Him. And when you awaken to that higher stage of self-surrender, you will get that wealth. But still, we must conceive that Krishna is above all law. Otherwise, surrender is meaningless.
If we analyse the very basis of surrender, we must ask where does surrender begin? In full surrender, there are no rights. Whenever any rights are established, surrender becomes unnecessary. We cannot think, “We must fight for our innate rights.” To a certain extent we may try for our rights in this world, but in Krishna’s Pastimes this mentality has no place.
“All rights reserved”
Even the Goddess of fortune, Laksmi Devi, cannot enter there, what to speak of others. It is inconceivable. Krishna is not under any law or within anyone’s fist. “All rights reserved.” Everything is His sweet will. But He is absolute good; that is our solace. We cannot enter His domain as a matter of right. Even Lord Brahma, Lord Siva, and Laksmi Devi cannot enter there. But still, if we take the path chalked out by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, we can enter and achieve a position there.
It is so dear, so rare, so valuable and desirable. We must look for the magnanimity of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu which is aspired for by Lord Brahma and Lord Siva. They are praying for a drop of His mercy, but Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu brought that here in a flood and inundated everyone with that nectar, a drop of which is rarely to be had or even thought of. We must approach His mercy with such an attitude of hankering and expectation. His gift is so great and magnanimous—who can understand it?
With two verses of Srimad Bhagavatam, one from the mouth of Krishna Himself, and the next from the mouth of Uddhava, He takes us straight to that highest place, eliminating so many external things. Krishna says:
na tatha me priyatama atma-yonir na sankarah
na cha sankarsano na srir naivatma cha yatha bhavan
“O Uddhava! Neither Brahma, nor Siva, nor Baladev, nor Laksmi, nor even My own self are as dear to Me as you are.”
And Uddhava says,
asam aho charana-renu-jusam aham syam
vrndavane kim api gulma-latausadhinam
ya dustyajam sva-janam arya-patham cha hitva
bhejur mukunda-padavim srutibhir vimrgyam
“The gopis of Vrndavan have given up the association of their husbands, sons, and other family members, who are very difficult to renounce, and they have sacrificed even their religious principles to take shelter of the lotus feet of Krishna, which are sought after even by the Vedas. Oh! Grant me the fortune to be born as a blade of grass in Vrndavan, so that I may take the dust of those great souls upon my head.”
The progressive march towards divinity
The gradation of theism can be traced from Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, to Krishna’s intimate friend Uddhava in Dvaraka. And Uddhava takes us directly to Vrndavan to reveal the highest devotion, eliminating various prospects in our progressive march towards divinity. We have to march on. And the way is that of surrender, of loving devotion, not mere formal devotion.
vaikunthaj janito vara madhu-puri tatrapi rasotsavad
vrndaranyam udara-pani-ramanat tatrapi govardhanah
radha-kundam ihapi gokula-pateh premamrtaplavanat
kuryad asya virajato giri-tate sevam viveki na kah
“Superior to the spiritual realm of Vaikuntha is Mathura, where Sri Krishna first appears. Superior to Mathura is the Vrndavan forest where Krishna enjoyed the Rasa dance. Better still is Govardhan Hill, which was the site of even more confidential Pastimes of love. But best of all is Radha Kunda, which is situated at the foot of Govardhan Hill, and holds the supreme position because it is overflooded with the nectar of the highest kind of divine love. Who is acquainted with the science of devotion who will not aspire for the divine service of Srimati Radharani at Radha Kunda?”
The heart of Krishna
We must place our faith in these subtle things. Only through faith of a finer order can we be led to that highest quarter. The highest conception is in the heart of Krishna, and we have to enter into the heart of Krishna, not any other place.
Although Krishna’s conjugal Pastimes with the gopis (madhurya-lila) are supreme, they cannot stand alone: there are many other things which are present in His Pastimes. Krishna’s Pastimes with His friends and parents are essential in supporting His Pastimes of amorous love. Conjugal love is, of course, the main thing, but still it is dependent on the other paraphernalia of Krishna’s Pastimes. There must be Krishna’s family and friends and all the different groups of servitors. Even the environment of Vrndavan itself also has its valuable part to play.
And what is Vrndavan? The sands of the River Yamuna, the jungle, the birds, peacocks, and deer, the cows, cowboys, and caves of Govardhan Hill, the motherly relatives—everything is there, and it is well-designed and most suitable for the Pastimes of Sri Krishna.
Vrndavan is necessary for the Pastimes of Radha and Govinda. When Radharani meets Krishna in Kuruksetra, Her mind runs to Vrndavan. She thinks, “Krishna is here, and I am also here”, but Her mind runs to Vrndavan. In Kuruksetra, Srimati Radharani is hankering for the environment of Vrndavan; She wants to have Sri Krishna’s company there. All of Krishna’s paraphernalia and divine associates have their own unique value, and cannot be eliminated.
Radha-Govinda cannot be taken away from Vrndavan anymore than Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu can be taken away from Nabadwip. The whole thing is a system. One part cannot be snatched away from the other parts. All the devotees have a necessary part to play in order to create the harmony of Krishna’s Pastimes. Otherwise, it would not be living, but dead, artificial, useless. It cannot even be imagined. Krishna-lila is an organic whole.
Srimati Radharani says, “My mind is running straight towards Vrndavan. I have the main object of pleasure, Krishna Himself, but it is useless without the favourable paraphernalia of Vrndavan.” So Radharani’s pain of separation rises to the highest point in Kuruksetra, where She has attained the object of Her union after a long separation. There, Krishna is very close, but, without being surrounded by the favourable paraphernalia of Vrndavan, She cannot have the real advantage of union. In this way, Bhakti Vinod Thakur has explained the mood of Srimati Radharani in Kuruksetra.
A revolutionary Guru
Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur once revealed the importance of Kuruksetra in a unique way. The words of our Guru Maharaj were mostly very revolutionary. When I was a beginner with only two years or so in the Gaudiya Math, I was in charge of the Kuruksetra Temple. Once, I came to the Kolkata headquarters at the hired house in Ultadanga for the yearly preaching festival. After the festival I was to return to Kuruksetra. Srila Prabhupad was thinking of opening a ‘Theistic Exhibition’ in Kuruksetra, showing with dioramas how Krishna and His friends came there from Dvaraka, and the gopis came there from Vrndavan.
It is mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam that during the solar eclipse, they came to bathe in Rama Hrad, a sacred lake in Kuruksetra. Srila Prabhupad wanted to show that Pastime with a diorama, and so the exhibition was arranged. He ordered handbills to be printed, and twenty thousand circulated in the area, inviting people to come for the exhibition.
Vrndavan—for shallow thinkers!
In this connection, he told us, “You all know that only the bogus, hollow people and men of shallow thinking like Vrndavan.” I was very much perplexed to hear this. I had been told that Vrndavan is the highest place of spiritual perfection. I had heard that one who has not mastered his senses cannot enter Vrndavan. Only the liberated souls can enter Vrndavan and have the opportunity of discussing Krishna-lila. Vrndavan is for the liberated souls. Those who are not liberated from the demands of their senses may live in Nabadwip, but the liberated souls may live in Vrndavan. Now Prabhupad was saying that the shallow thinkers appreciate Vrndavan, but a man of real bhajan, real divine aspiration, will aspire to live in Kuruksetra.
Hearing this, I felt as if I had fallen from the top of a tree. “What is this?” I thought. I am a very acute listener, so I was very keen to catch the meaning of his words. The next thought he gave us was that Bhakti Vinod Thakur, after visiting many different places of pilgrimage, remarked, “I would like to spend the last days of my life in Kuruksetra. I shall construct a cottage near Rama Hrad and pass the rest of my life there. Kuruksetra is the real place of bhajan.”
Why? Service is more valuable according to the intensity of its necessity. Shrewd merchants seek a market in wartime because in that dangerous position, money is spent like water, without any care for its value. They can earn more money if a war comes. In the same way, when Srimati Radharani’s necessity reaches its zenith, service to Her becomes extremely valuable. According to its necessity, service is valued. And in Kuruksetra, Srimati Radharani is in the highest necessity because Krishna is so close, but Their Vrndavan-lila is impossible. In a football game, if the ball is just inches from the goal, but again comes back, it is considered a great loss. In the same way, after a long separation, Krishna is there in Kuruksetra, so the hankering for union felt by His devotees must come to its greatest point, but because He is in the role of a king, they cannot meet intimately. The circumstances do not allow the Vrndavan-lila to take place. So at that time, Srimati Radharani needs the highest service from Her group, the sakhis.
Bhakti Vinod Thakur says that in that situation, a drop of service will draw the greatest amount of prema, divine love. In the Pastimes of Radha-Govinda, there are two aspects: sambhoga, divine union, and vipralambha, divine separation. When Radha and Krishna are very near to each other, but can’t meet intimately, service at that time can draw the greatest gain for the servitors. Therefore, Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur says, “I shall construct a hut on the banks of Rama Hrad in Kuruksetra and contemplate rendering service to the Divine Couple. If I can achieve that standard where the prospect of service is so high, then there is no possibility of returning to this mundane plane at any time.”
The fifth note
Upon arriving in Kuruksetra, Srimati Radharani said:
priyah so ’yam krsnah saha-chari kuru-ksetra-militas
tathaham sa radha tad idam ubhayoh sangama-sukham
mano me kalindi-pulina-vipinaya sprhayati
“O My dear friend, now I am at last reunited with My most beloved Krishna in Kuruksetra. I am the same Radharani, and He is the same Krishna. We are enjoying Our meeting, but still I wish to return to the banks of the Kalindi, where I could hear the sweet melody of His flute sounding the fifth note beneath the trees of the Vrndavan forest.”
Wherever Radharani and Krishna are, Vrndavan is necessary. And Vrndavan means the favourable paraphernalia. In this way, Vrndavan is unique.
When Krishna met the inhabitants of Vrndavan in Kuruksetra, He first came to Nanda and Yasoda’s camp after their long separation, to show parental respect to them. In the midst of their great disappointment, they felt, “Oh, our boy has come to see us at last.” It was as if life had returned to the dead. After some courtesy was shown to them, Krishna made arrangements to meet privately with the gopis, and suddenly He appeared in their camp. Externally, Krishna was the leader of so many kings in India. And the gopis had come from some unknown quarter, where they lived in the jungle in the society of milkmen. Externally, they had no position, and Krishna held the highest position in the political and royal society. He was the central figure, like the eyeball in every eye. And they were in a helpless, poor and neglected condition. The gopis pleaded with Krishna, saying:
ahus cha te nalina-nabha padaravindam
yogesvarair hrdi vichintyam agadha-bodhaih
geham jusam api manasy udiyat sada nah
The group of gopis told Krishna, “O You who have a lotus navel, we know that the great master yogis who have nothing to do with this mundane world try to meditate upon Your holy lotus feet. Their interest is in higher realisation in the conscious world. They are said to centre their highest attention on Your lotus feet. And those who are busy elevating their life in this world of exploitation are also busy worshipping Your lotus feet to escape the entanglement of action and reaction. The centre of interest for the elevationists (karmis) and the salvationists (jnanis and yogis) is Your lotus feet.
“And what are we? We are simple people from the country with cows as our wealth. We are animal traders who live in the country, trade in the cow business, and sell curd and milk on the outskirts of society. We are neither scientific exploiters, nor are we the kind of exploiters who do research in the world of consciousness. We only know family life. We have no other qualifications. We are busy with our family life in the lower section of society. But in our audacity, we pray that if at any time You would kindly condescend to extend Your lotus feet to our negligible hearts, we would think ourselves blessed. We are busy in our family matters. We do not know scriptural life or the methods of the salvationists. We know nothing of yoga, jnan, Vedanta, or the Vedas. Our ultimate concern is neither with scriptures or moral standards. We hold a negligible position in society and simply pray that in the midst of our family life we may remember Your holy lotus feet. Please grant this to us. We can’t expect anything more from You.” That was their petition.
Krishna replied to them, saying:
mayi bhaktir hi bhutanam amrtatvaya kalpate
distya yad asin mat-sneho bhavatinam mad-apanah
“Yes, I know. People want devotion to Me to achieve eternal life. To cross the limit of mortality and to have eternal life, they come to Me and worship Me. For these reasons they want My service, but fortunately for you, you have some natural affection towards Me. That will ultimately bring you to Me.”
That is the formal or superficial meaning of what was spoken by Krishna and the gopis. But the great preceptors of our line have squeezed out another meaning from these prayers. They are conscious of the real, private relationship between the two parties, so they have drawn out another meaning based on the divine sentiment between the lover and beloved.
When the gopis prayed to Sri Krishna at Kuruksetra, their real meaning was this: “Oh, we remember that one day You sent Uddhava to console us. He recited many scriptural references about how the whole world is mortal, how it is nothing, how we shall all have to die—affection has no great value; attachment must be cut out. He said that we must try to liberate ourselves from any attraction to the environment and attain salvation. You wanted to tell all these apparently sweet things to us through Uddhava.
“Now, You Yourself are also showing us the same path. You say that You are great and that everyone should try, for their highest interest, to think of You.” This explanation is found in Chaitanya-charitamrta. The gopis tell Krishna, “Do You think we are yogis who will be satisfied with abstract meditation on You? Can we be satisfied by imagination? We are not a party to that. Neither are we karmis, fruitive workers who are incurring a great debt from nature, who come to Your door to get relief, praying, ‘O God, please relieve us from all our previous sins.’ We do not belong to either of these two sections.
“What are we? We want to live with You as Your family. We are interested neither in abstract thinking, nor in using You to clear off the faults of karma to nullify our sinful activities. We don’t want to use You for any other purpose. We want to have a direct family life with You. Don’t You know that? And still You send messages through Uddhava, and now this! Aren’t You ashamed of Yourself?” This is their inner meaning.
Krishna’s inner answer
Krishna’s answer also has an inner aspect. He replies, “You know, everyone wants Me. Through devotion they want Me to help them attain the highest position in the world of eternal benefit. If they have a connection with Me, they consider themselves fortunate. But on the other hand, I consider Myself fortunate because I have come in touch with the valuable affection that I found in your hearts.”
The gopis read the inner meaning in that way. And when Radharani could see into the inner meaning of Krishna’s reply, She became satisfied. “Wherever He may be in the physical sense”, She thought, “At heart, He is mine alone.” She composed Her troubles within and returned to Vrndavan thinking, “He cannot but come to join our party again very soon.”
In Padyavali, Srila Rupa Goswami reveals the inner meaning of this verse. When Krishna came to the camp of gopis in Kuruksetra, He suddenly found Srimati Radharani and stooped down as if to touch Her feet. Radharani began backing away, saying, “What are You doing! You are trying to touch My feet?” She shuddered, “You have done nothing wrong. You are My Master. You are at liberty to do whatever You want. I am Your maidservant and should try with every nerve to satisfy You. You have committed no crime. I am the criminal. How? I still drag on My body and life. This is My crime—I could not die from Your separation! Still, I show My face to the public—I am not worth Your divine affection. The whole burden of breaking the law of love is on My head.”
Not a bit of divine love
In this way Srimati Radharani spoke. And in a similar verse, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says:
na prema-gandho ’sti darapi me harau
krandami saubhagya-bharam prakasitum
vibharmi yat prana-patangakan vrtha
“I have not even a bit of divine love for Krishna within Me. Not even a scent of love for Krishna is to be traced within Me. You may ask, ‘Then why are You shedding tears profusely, uninterruptedly? Day and night, You are always shedding tears for Krishna. How do You explain this?’ Oh, you don’t know. I only do this to make a show and deceive the people in general into thinking that I have divine love for Krishna. In this way I want to become famous as a great devotee of Krishna. But I am a hypocrite. Why do I say so? The positive proof is this: I still live. I could not die! If I had any real love for Krishna, I would have died from His separation. That is the positive proof that I have no trace of Krishna-prema within Me.”
Krishna-prema is so high and attractive that once coming in contact with it, no one can maintain his life without it. It is so high, so beautiful, so enchanting—it is heart-swallowing! It is impossible even to conceive of it. Divine love of such a high degree is known as prema. That divine love for Krishna is not to be traced in this mundane world. If by chance someone had any experience of that high and vital kind of devotion, then by any separation from that, he would die instantly. It is so beautiful and magnanimous. We are out to search only for that divine love in this world. And Sriman Mahaprabhu came to distribute that to the world for our sake.
“Let us take poison …”
I have heard that a group of people in South America committed collective suicide because they felt that their faithful way of life was going to be destroyed by the present civilisation. They could not tolerate that, but rather, they thought, “Let us take posion and leave this world behind. Then we can live safely in the world of our faith. We have no charm for anything in this mundane world. Let us go with peace. We are members of the peaceful world. Let us enjoy that peace which is independent of material acquisition.”
We can agree that there is no charm here that shall make us hesitate to withdraw from this world, but we must also disagree and say that our life in this world is valuable. Why? With this life we can acquire a higher aspiration. We can have the chance of acquiring the goal from this plane. This human life is so valuable that with it we can take the path of the highest divine conception. This human body is highly valued and rarely achieved. In Srimad Bhagavatam (11.9.29) it is stated:
labdhva sudurlabham idam bahu-sambhavante
manusyam artha-dam anityam apiha dhirah
turnam yateta na pated anumrtyu yavan
nihsreyasaya visayah khalu sarvatah syat
“The human form of life is very rarely attained, and although temporary, gives us a chance to achieve the supreme goal of life. Therefore, those who are grave and intelligent should immediately strive for perfection before another death occurs. There are so many forms of life: the aquatics, the vegetable kingdom, the animals, the birds, ghosts and other living beings, but only in this human position do we hold the key to the complete solution of the problems of life.”
If we can use this human life in a valuable way, we can acquire the key by which we can become free from the whole chain of life in this troublesome world. We can get rid of the bondage of all sorts of physical and mental troubles. The key is here, in this human form of life. Jiva Goswami says that lower life-forms have insufficient understanding to realise the highest truth. And in the higher life-forms, such as demigods, because previously acquired energy or karma has accumulated on all sides, the chief enjoying elements are surrounding the living being. It is difficult to escape the charm of those influences and begin the prospect of a fresh life in a higher plain of consciousness. This human form of life is the most advantageous position to escape this entanglement and reach the highest object of our divine life.
The highest conception of magnaminity
Sometimes people ask, “Why did Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu choose to give the highest conception of divine love—Krishna-prema—to the lowest class of people, to the people of Kali-yuga?” But that is the very nature of Sri Chaitanya-avatar. Why did the gopis who are considered to be the most exalted devotees come from a neglected social position? What is the meaning of the highest conception of magnanimity? What should be its nature? To help the most needy.
And because Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu comes from the highest position, He cannot give ordinary things, and His attention must be drawn to the most needy. Is it unnatural? The highest magnanimity must take notice of the lowest and most needy. And if He wants to help them, He will do so with His own coin. He cannot distribute to them only glass or stone chips. When He has the opulence of jewels and gems, why should He search for stone chips to distribute to the lowest level? He must extend to the lowest and poorest people what He thinks to be real wealth.
Mahaprabhu—the great messiah
So we should all fall at the feet of the great messiah, Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. His devotees say, “If we had to conceive of a place where Gauranga had not appeared, we could not maintain our lives. We shudder to think of living without such a magnanimous friend as Sri Gauranga.” How could one live his life without Gauranga? It is impossible. The world is not worth living in without Gauranga.
Sri Gauranga is most magnanimous. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates the Pancha Tattva have come to raise all souls from their fallen condition. Generally, only deserving persons can gain entrance into Vrndavan, into Krishna-lila. But as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna Himself has come down to cure the offenders of their offences and grant them entrance into Vrndavan. Simply by chanting the names of the Pancha Tattva and by remembering Their lila, we can be purified even from the lowest position and prepare for participation in Vrndavan-lila.
In Goloka Vrndavan, Radha-Govinda are enjoying Their Pastimes of divine love within Their own circle. And there is another quarter, where Radha-Govinda are combined as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu—Krishna Himself in the mood of Radharani is tasting His own sweetness with His entourage. We have to realise this through the recommended process. Who is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu? He came here to bestow upon us the gift that will promote us to the highest goal of life.
To bring Sri Gauranga nearer to our soul is to get, even unconsciously, a guarantee of our achievement in Krishna-lila. For the fallen souls it is more useful to cultivate devotion to Sri Gauranga. That will give us the complete fulfilment of life with the least trouble. Devotion to Gauranga will not lead us to any haphazard or misconceived Krishna consciousness, but real Krishna consciousness. We can have full Krishna consciousness—plus something more. What is that? The distribution of Krishna consciousness.
Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami, the giver of Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta, the most valuable theological literature that has ever seen the light of day, has written:
krsna-lila amrta-sara tara sata sata dhara
dasa-dike vahe yaha haite
se chaitanya-lila haya sarovara aksaya
mano-hamsa charaha’ tahate
“What is Krishna-lila? It is the real essence of nectar. It is the gist of sweetness, happiness, and ecstasy. The sweetness of the sweetest thing that can ever be conceived is represented in Krishna-lila. Then what is Chaitanya-lila? In Chaitanya-lila, that sweet nectar of Krishna-lila is flowing in all ten directions in hundreds of streams as if from a fountain. That fountain is Chaitanya-lila.” Although Chaitanya-lila appears later than Krishna-lila, Chaitanya-lila is the source, the foundation. We see that Krishna appeared in Dvapar-yuga, in the previous age, and then Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared later, in Kali-yuga. Still, Their lila is eternal. First there is the giver, then the gift. And the gift of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is that in all the ten directions, He is distributing unlimited streams of sweet Krishna-lila to the world.
Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami concludes, “O devotees, come! Like so many swans, you must swim in the lake of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Pastimes. From that lake Krishna-lila is flowing to the world in different streams. Devotees, like clouds, take nectar from that lake, and distribute that nectar freely to the fortunate souls. Come and live in that lake. Ask the swan of your mind to take shelter in that lake. May that swan swim in the nectarean lake of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s life and precepts, from where so many hundreds of streams of nectar are flowing in all directions. O devotees, I offer this humble prayer to you.”⬆︎