By Giriraj Swami
We welcome you to the most auspicious celebration of Sri Gaura-purnima, the appearance day of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna Chaitanya. According to Vedic scriptures, the Absolute Truth is realized in three features: Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. The impersonalist speculators want to merge and become one with God, one with the impersonal brahmajyoti, which is nothing but the transcendental effulgence emanating from the divine body of Sri Krishna. Beyond the impersonal Brahman is Paramatma, the Lord within the heart; the purusa-avataras—Karanodakasayi Vishnu, Garbhodakasayi Vishnu, and Ksirodakasayi Vishnu—are the soul of the universe, the soul of creation, the soul of souls. And beyond realization of the impersonal Brahman and localized Paramatma is realization of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, who is the source of Paramatma and Brahman.
That same Krishna who appeared about five thousand years ago appeared again some five hundred years ago as Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Why is it that Krishna, who came five thousand years ago and spoke the Bhagavad-gita and exhibited so many pastimes, came again? In the authorized scripture Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Lord Krishna’s thoughts after He had manifested His pastimes on earth five thousand years ago are recorded. These thoughts explain why He came again five hundred years ago as Sri Krishna Chaitanya.
We are all sitting here by the mercy of Sri Krishna Chaitanya and His followers in disciplic succession, especially His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. And practically every activity that takes place here is based on the instructions and example of Krishna Chaitanya. You can hardly find any aspect of the Krishna consciousness movement that is not based on His teachings and precedents. So it is very important—essential—to understand Him, because without understanding Him we cannot really progress very well toward the ultimate goal of life.
We read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Three: “The External Reasons for the Appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu,” text 13. After describing the advent of Lord Krishna on earth, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta describes, beginning with text 13:
Lord Krsna enjoys His transcendental pastimes as long as He wishes, and then He disappears. After disappearing, however, He thinks thus:
“For a long time I have not bestowed unalloyed loving service to Me upon the inhabitants of the world. Without such loving attachment, the existence of the material world is useless.
“Everywhere in the world people worship Me according to scriptural injunctions. But simply by following such regulative principles one cannot attain the loving sentiments of the devotees in Vrajabhumi.
“Knowing My opulences, the whole world looks upon Me with awe and veneration. But devotion made feeble by such reverence does not attract Me.”
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
After His appearance, Lord Krsna thought that He had not distributed the transcendental personal dealings with His devotees in dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhurya. One may understand the science of the Supreme Personality of Godhead from the Vedic literature and thus become a devotee of the Lord and worship Him within the regulative principles described in the scriptures, but one will not know in this way how Lord Krsna is served by the residents of Vrajabhumi. By following scriptural injunctions one may enhance his appreciation for the glories of the Lord, but there is no chance for one to enter into personal dealings with Him. Giving too much attention to understanding the exalted glories of the Lord reduces the chance of one’s entering into personal loving affairs with the Lord. To teach the principles of such loving dealings, the Lord decided to appear as Lord Caitanya.
yuga-dharma pravartaimu nama-sankirtana
cari bhava-bhakti diya nacamu bhuvana
“I shall personally inaugurate the religion of the age—nama-sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy name. I shall make the world dance in ecstasy, realizing the four mellows of loving devotional service.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
The Lord came to introduce the yuga-dharma, the recommended process for self-realization, or God realization, in the present age, and that is nama-sankirtana, the chanting of the holy names of the Lord.
apani karimu bhakta-bhava angikare
apani acari’ bhakti sikhaimu sabare
“I shall accept the role of a devotee, and I shall teach devotional service by practicing it Myself.”
When one associates with a pure devotee, he becomes so elevated that he does not aspire even for sarsti, sarupya, samipya, or salokya, because he feels that such liberation is a kind of sense gratification. Pure devotees do not ask anything from the Lord for their personal benefit. Even if offered personal benefits, pure devotees do not accept them, because their only desire is to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead by transcendental loving service.
This is a very important point. Externally one may engage in devotional service, and that is very good, but what really matters in devotional service is the consciousness. We are living in the material world, which is composed of and influenced by the three modes of material nature: tamo-guna, rajo-guna, and sattva-guna—the modes of ignorance, passion, and goodness. Beyond even sattva-guna is suddha-sattva, or the state of vasudeva, which is transcendental to all three modes. Within the material world no one can be in pure ignorance, pure passion, or pure goodness. There is always some mixing of the different modes. Only when one comes to the transcendental platform is one freed from the influence of the modes.
Srila Prabhupada has explained different mentalities that one can have in the practice of devotional service. The same principles are enunciated in the Third Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Srila Prabhupada has phrased his explanation in a way that we can easily understand and relate to. Someone engaged in devotional service under the influence of the mode of ignorance will think, “I’m the only devotee. No one else here is a real devotee. I am the only one who is doing anything of value; everyone else is useless.” That is devotional service influenced by the mode of ignorance. In devotional service influenced by the mode of passion, one thinks, “I want to be the best devotee. I want to be known for being the best devotee.” Someone influenced by the mode of goodness will think, “I want to go back home, back to Godhead.” And someone who is transcendentally situated in pure devotional service will think, “I just want to please Krishna.”
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to teach and show by His personal example pure devotional service in which a devotee has no selfish desire even to go back to Godhead. As Srila Prabhupada says, the pure devotee considers liberation of going back to Godhead to be sense gratification. He wants only to serve the Lord. That is pure devotional service. That is what Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to teach and exemplify, and that is what Srila Prabhupada also taught and exemplified and wanted us to follow.
Therefore, when the Lord took the place of the incarnation of Kali-yuga to spread the glories of chanting Hare Krsna . . .
This is an important point—that Krishna Himself does not come in every Kali-yuga as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Krishna Himself doesn’t come in every Dvapara-yuga. There is a yuga-avatara, or incarnation, every Satya-yuga, every Treta-yuga, every Dvapara-yuga, and every Kali-yuga, but only once in a day of Brahma, which is about four billion three hundred twenty million years, will Krishna, the original Personality of Godhead, come in Dvapara-yuga, and only once in a day of Brahma will Krishna come again as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Kali-yuga—the Kali-yuga immediately following the Dvapara-yuga in which Krishna appears. So we can just imagine how fortunate we are to be living in the Kali-yuga in which Krishna consciousness appeared.
When Lord Chaitanya was present, He predicted, prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama, sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama: “In every town and village on the surface of the earth, My name (Krishna’s name) will be preached.” That prediction seemed almost inconceivable. Yes, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu spread Krishna consciousness throughout India, but the idea of spreading Krishna consciousness throughout the world seemed impossible. Even followers of Lord Chaitanya thought He might be speaking in some poetic or metaphorical way, not that it would actually happen. In Sri Caitanya-mangala, Srila Locana dasa Thakura explains that Lord Chaitanya appeared and preached in Navadvipa to establish the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra as the religious process for the Age of Kali. Lord Chaitanya said, “I want to flood the whole world with the chanting of the holy names. I will personally preach and flood India with the holy name. Later, My commander-in-chief devotee [senapati bhakta] will come, preach in distant countries, and flood the world with the chanting of Hare Krishna.” Senapati means “commander-in-chief.”
A very special soul would be entrusted to do this otherwise-impossible assignment. And that, we know, was His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He left this world in 1977, only thirty-three years ago. So anyone older than thirty-three years was on the planet at the same time as Srila Prabhupada, the senapati bhakta who was personally sent by Krishna, by Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And we are sitting in a temple within his society that was established by one of his direct disciples, Sripada Tamal Krishna Goswami. We have an amazing opportunity, so we should understand how fortunate we are to have this opportunity and take full advantage of it. How? We first have to understand what that means. We have to understand what Lord Chaitanya and Srila Prabhupada came to give us, so we can recognize it and accept it.
Lord Chaitanya said, “I shall accept the role of a devotee, and I shall teach devotional service by practicing it Myself.” In the purport Srila Prabhupada says: “Therefore, when the Lord took the place of the incarnation of Kali-yuga . . .” In other words, the Lord Himself doesn’t personally come to be the yuga-avatara in every Kali-yuga.
When the Lord took the place of the incarnation of Kali-yuga to spread the glories of chanting Hare Krsna—the system of worship recommended in this age—He also distributed the process of devotional service performed on the platform of transcendental spontaneous love. To teach the highest principles of spiritual life, the Lord Himself appeared as a devotee in the form of Lord Caitanya.
Now I will read from another section of Caitanya-caritamrta about two of the most important principles of devotional service that Lord Chaitanya taught and that we are meant to learn and adopt. This discussion took place between Lord Chaitanya and the Mayavadi sannyasis in Benares. In the Shankara-sampradaya it is expected that sannyasis will study Vedanta, and Varanasi is full of Mayavadis, full of followers or so-called followers of Shankaracharya. When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to Varanasi, He performed hari-nama-sankirtana, nagara-sankirtana, and hundreds and thousands of people joined Him, but the Mayavadi sannyasis, impersonal sannyasis who want to realize Brahman, could not understand the transcendental activities of the Lord. They thought that the Lord’s activities were material. That’s why they are called Mayavadis, because they themselves are material, on the material platform, and they see the Lord—His name, His form, His qualities, His pastimes, His service—as material, as maya, and therefore they are called Mayavadis. They think that the Deity is material, that in the beginning we may focus on the Deity but that when we are advanced enough, we go beyond the Deity and merge and become one with the impersonal light. In other words, they are atheists.
There is a very nice verse in the Padma Purana saying that anyone who thinks that the Deity is just stone, who thinks that the guru is an ordinary human being, who thinks that a Vaishnava belongs to a certain caste or community, is a resident of hell. That word is used, naraki.
arcye visnau sila-dhir gurusu nara-matir vaisnave jati-buddhir . . .
sri-visnor namni mantre sakala-kalusa-he sabde-samanya buddhir . . .
yasya va naraki sah
“One who considers the worshipable Deity of Lord Vishnu to be mere stone, the spiritual master to be an ordinary human being, a Vaishnava to belong to a particular caste, and the mantra of the holy name of Vishnu, which destroys all impurities, to be a material vibration, is a resident of hell.” (Padma Purana)
So just consider: if you think that the Deity is made of stone—of course, in theory we may say the Deity is Krishna, but to what extent do we actually believe that the Deity is Krishna, as shown by our behavior? If one thinks that the spiritual master is an ordinary person—and again we may outwardly show respect, but the real test is to what extent we follow the spiritual master’s instructions. If we think that a Vaishnava belongs to a certain community or ethnic group, for example, if I think, “That’s an American Vaishnava,” or an African Vaishnava, a Mexican Vaishnava, or Bengali Vaishnava or Gujarati Vaishnava—that is a hellish mentality (naraki sah).
To really benefit from what Lord Chaitanya and Srila Prabhupada came to give us, we have to understand what they taught and practiced so that we can follow their instructions and example. I was discussing Lord Chaitanya’s speaking with the Mayavadi sannyasis. There was a meeting of all the sannyasis of Varanasi, and the leader of the Mayavadi sannyasis asked Lord Chaitanya, “Why don’t you study Vedanta? All sannyasis are supposed to study Vedanta.” Lord Chaitanya replied, guru more murkha dekhi’ karila sasana: “My spiritual master considered Me a fool, and therefore he chastised Me.”
This shows what should be the mood of a disciple in relation to the spiritual master. As Srila Prabhupada said, one should always feel himself to be a fool and be ready to be chastised by the guru. In the bodily concept of life we feel insulted: “How dare he call me a fool! Doesn’t he know who I am?” One of Lord Chaitanya’s chief disciples was Srila Sanatana Gosvami, a very learned scholar. He was fluent in Sanskrit and Persian and knowledgeable in scriptures and philosophy, but when he approached Lord Chaitanya, he told Him, “In ordinary dealings people call me a learned scholar, pandit, but I am such a pandit that I do not even know who I am or what is the goal of life. So please instruct me.”
When we come to that position where we feel that we are fools who need to be instructed, we can approach a spiritual master. The same sort of incident took place in the Bhagavad-gita. In the beginning Arjuna was speaking with Krishna more or less on an equal level, talking as friends. Krishna was telling Arjuna that he should fight, and Arjuna was coming up with so many reasons why he should not fight. From a certain point of view, the reasons may have sounded good, but in the end Arjuna came to the point where he admitted he really didn’t know what he should do. And then he told Krishna (like Sanatana Gosvami, in a way), “Now I am confused about my duty.” Sisyas te ’ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam: “Now I am surrendering to You as Your disciple. Please instruct me.”
prcchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah
yac chreyah syan niscitam bruhi tan me
sisyas te ’ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam
“Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.” (Gita 2.7) And from that point, when Arjuna surrendered to Krishna as his spiritual master, Krishna was able to instruct him and spoke the Bhagavad-gita.
Guru more murkha dekhi’ karila sasana. Lord Chaitanya said, “My spiritual master considered Me to be a fool, and He chastised Me. He told Me, ‘You are not qualified to study Vedanta philosophy.’ ” Was Lord Caitanya unqualified? He is Krishna Himself. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, vedanta-krd veda-vid: “I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” But Lord Chaitanya was showing us the example that we should not be so proud that we think we can understand Vedanta, because in Kali-yuga you really can’t understand Vedanta. So He was setting the example. “My spiritual master considered Me a fool and said, ‘You are not qualified to study Vedanta philosophy, and therefore You must always chant the holy name of Krishna.’ ” And Lord Chaitanya said, “I took the instructions of My spiritual master to heart and I always chant the holy name, but while chanting, I lose Myself, thus I laugh, cry, dance, and sing just like a madman. I began to think that My knowledge was being covered, so I approached My spiritual master for clarification.”
I will read that verse and purport. It is a very short purport. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter 7: “Lord Caitanya in Five Features.”
“I saw that I had become mad by chanting the holy name, and I immediately submitted this at the lotus feet of My spiritual master.”
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as an ideal teacher, shows us how a disciple should deal with his spiritual master. Whenever there is doubt regarding any point, he should refer the matter to his spiritual master for clarification. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said that while chanting and dancing He had developed the kind of mad ecstasy that is possible only for a liberated soul. Yet even in His liberated position, He referred everything to His spiritual master whenever there were doubts. Thus in any condition, even when liberated, we should never think ourselves independent of the spiritual master, but must refer to him as soon as there is some doubt regarding our progressive spiritual life.
There are details in how to apply this, but it is the principle that even when we are liberated, we are not independent. We are still subservient to the spiritual master and are meant to be under his control.
Lord Chaitanya’s spiritual master was very pleased because he could understand that Lord Chaitanya had developed ecstatic love for Godhead. This is the benefit of chanting the holy names of Krishna properly. There are offenses to be considered when one chants the holy name, and if one commits offenses while chanting, one will not get the desired result. Caitanya-caritamrta says bahu janma, that one can chant the holy name for many lifetimes, hundreds of lifetimes, thousands of lifetimes, but that if one’s chanting is infested with offenses, one will not get pure love of Godhead, which is meant to be the result of the chanting. So it is understood that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was chanting without offense. Of course, He was Krishna, but as a devotee He was chanting without offense. Therefore He developed ecstatic symptoms of love of Godhead, and His spiritual master was very pleased. It is said that the spiritual master takes more pleasure when he sees a disciple advance than when he advances himself. If a disciple becomes a pure devotee, then the spiritual master can say that his mission is a complete success.
I will skip ahead to an important verse and purport, a short purport:
bhala haila, paile tumi parama-purusartha
tomara premete ami hailan krtartha
This is Lord Chaitanya’s spiritual master speaking to Him:
“It is very good, my dear child, that You have attained the supreme goal of life by developing love of Godhead. Thus You have pleased me very much, and I am very much obliged to You.”
According to the revealed scriptures, if a spiritual master can convert even one soul into a perfectly pure devotee, his mission in life is fulfilled. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura always used to say, “Even at the expense of all the properties, temples and mathas that I have, if I could convert even one person into a pure devotee, my mission would be fulfilled.”
We have heard about Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, that he constructed a beautiful marble temple in Calcutta, the Bhag Bazaar Gaudiya Matha, to preach Krishna consciousness, but that his disciples, who were quite neophyte and materialistic, began to fight over the property—who would occupy which room, who would have which position. When he was on parikrama in Vrindavan—this was one of the rare times that Srila Prabhupada got to be with his spiritual master personally—Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura told him, “There will be fire in this Gaudiya Matha.” He could see that there would be the fire of conflict and party interest. And he said, “I have built this beautiful marble temple, but now I am seeing that my disciples are quarreling. If I could, I would sell the marble and use that money to print books.” Then he told Srila Prabhupada, “I had a desire to print some books. If you ever get money, print books.” And that direct instruction from his spiritual master became Srila Prabhupada’s guiding principle in his mission. Of course, he did everything, because it is all part of the process: he established Deities, he established farm projects, he established schools, he did everything, but he took the instruction of his spiritual master to print and distribute books to heart. So, Prabhupada is quoting his guru maharaja here:
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura always used to say, “Even at the expense of all the properties, temples and mathas that I have, if I could convert even one person into a pure devotee, my mission would be fulfilled.” It is very difficult, however, to understand the science of Krishna, what to speak of developing love of Godhead. Therefore if by the grace of Lord Caitanya and the spiritual master a disciple attains the standard of pure devotional service, the spiritual master is very happy. The spiritual master is not actually happy if the disciple brings him money, but when he sees that a disciple is following the regulative principles and advancing in spiritual life, he is very glad and feels obliged to such an advanced disciple.
Of course, we accept money to use in Krishna’s service, but not at the expense of following the regulative principles of devotional service. Therefore Srila Prabhupada presents this dichotomy. The two don’t have to be opposed to each other, but they can be, because money is such a thing that even devotees who are trying to make advancement get bewildered. Money is such a thing.
On a morning walk on Juhu Beach, Srila Prabhupada said that money is simply a botheration. It is simply trouble. To get money is a problem, to hold onto the money is a problem, and when you lose the money, that’s also a problem. At every stage, money is a problem. So here Srila Prabhupada says that the spiritual master is not actually happy if the disciple brings him money, but when he sees that a disciple is following the regulative principles and advancing in spiritual life, he is very glad and feels obliged to such an advanced disciple.
Reading this reminded me of an incident in Juhu, Bombay, where, as many of you know, Srila Prabhupada established a big, beautiful temple. One evening Srila Prabhupada was sitting on the terrace of one of the buildings at the back. This was before we actually got permission to build anything on the property. There were some tenement buildings with tenants, and one of the tenants left. So at least we had one apartment where Srila Prabhupada could stay. So, he was sitting on the terrace one evening, and his disciple Haridas was fanning him. At seven o’clock Srila Prabhupada said to Haridas, “Did you hear that?” Haridas strained to hear, but he said, “No.” Srila Prabhupada said, “You don’t hear the sound of kirtan coming from the temple?” Haridas Prabhu listened and said, “No, Srila Prabhupada, I don’t.” And Srila Prabhupada said, “That is exactly the point. There is no kirtan in the temple. It is arati time, but there is no kirtan in the temple. Where are all the devotees?” Haridas Prabhu said, “Well, Srila Prabhupada, they must have gone to the city to collect for the project and haven’t come back yet.” Actually, there was a little speculation there, because it just so happened that that night we were performing kirtan on the request of one of our best life members and donors when his mother passed away, so it wasn’t quite what Haridas said, but Prabhupada’s point is very instructive.
Srila Prabhupada said, “This was not my idea, that the devotees should go to the city and collect all day and night. Our process is to please Krishna. They may go at nine in the morning and return by five in the evening, and then chant in front of the Deities. Otherwise they will become like karmis.” Then he asked Haridas, “Do you know why we were successful in getting this land?” There had been a big struggle. If any of you have read Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta—and I do recommend that every devotee read it—the owner of the land, Mr. Nair, was a prominent person in Bombay. He had been the sheriff, owned one of Bombay’s three English daily newspapers, and was wealthy and influential. So, Srila Prabhupada asked Haridas, “Do you know why we were successful and Mr. Nair wasn’t? We are successful because we try to please Krishna and Krishna is merciful and reciprocates with us. Otherwise, Mr. Nair was much more powerful than we. He had money, influence, his own daily newspaper¾he had contacts, so many politicians and government officers. And who were we? We had no money, no influence, and no support. Yet we were successful because we were simply trying to please Krishna, following the regulative principles of devotional service¾by Krishna’s grace.
“So, we should come and sing and dance in front of the Deities and please Them, and by Their grace we will get all success. We are not successful by our own strength; we are successful by Krishna’s grace.”
This is a very important principle in devotional service: whatever we do, we should do for the pleasure of Krishna and depend on His mercy. We cannot be successful by our own independent endeavors. There is a saying that without the mercy of Lord Chaitanya, even easy things become difficult, and that with the mercy of Lord Chaitanya, even difficult things become easy. So we should endeavor to please Lord Chaitanya, to please the Deities, to please Srila Prabhupada, by following their instructions and adopting their mood. And by that endeavor, under proper guidance, we will be successful in our own personal spiritual lives and successful in preaching, in spreading the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
On this auspicious occasion we pray to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu and Their associates to bless us to become free from the anarthas and avidya within our hearts, to purify our hearts and empower us to serve Them properly as They would like. That’s the only way we can be successful.
Upon his arrival in America, Srila Prabhupada wrote a beautiful poem. Not knowing anyone, not having any money, not having any influence, he prayed to Lord Krishna—the same mood was there from the very beginning, until the very end—“How will I be able to convince them of Your message? Most of the population here is covered by the material modes of passion and ignorance. How will I convince them?” It is a beautiful poem, and we should study it. It is in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. We should study whatever we can about Srila Prabhupada. In his poem, Srila Prabhupada wrote, “I have been designated as Bhaktivedanta.” Bhakti means “devotion” and vedanta means “knowledge,” or the end of knowledge. He said, “I have been designated as Bhaktivedanta, but I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge. But You are the most expert mystic, and Your causeless mercy can make everything possible. I am simply praying for Your mercy so that I will be able to convince them about Your message.”
And then, at the very end, he said, “I am just like a puppet in Your hands.” Just like a puppet. What life does a puppet have? None. It is a limp doll. So, that was Prabhupada’s humility. He wrote, “I am just like a puppet in Your hands, so if You have brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance. O Lord, make me dance as You like.”
That should be our mood—just puppets in the hands of our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, the previous acharyas, the Deities. “Make me Your puppet. I have no capacity on my own. Make me Your puppet, O Lord, and make me dance as You like.” In that mood we can get this priceless treasure that Lord Chaitanya came to the world to give and that Srila Prabhupada came to the West and travelled all over the world to give us. We pray for their mercy that we may open our hearts to the gift they came to give us and see it in the proper mood. When we truly accept it in our hearts, then we can also give it to others, share it with others, and that’s the second half—to accept it and then to share it.
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Gaura-purnima, February 28, 2010, Houston]