By Giriraj Swami
jaya jaya sri-caitanya jaya nityananda
jayadvaita-candra jaya gaura-bhakta-vrnda
We are gathered here to celebrate the appearance day of Sri Advaita Acarya. Advaita Acarya is an incarnation of Maha-visnu. In terms of pastimes, He appeared before Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and so was considered an elder by Mahaprabhu. He was actually older than Lord Caitanya’s own father.
Advaita Acarya, although Visnu Himself, was in the mood of a Vaisnava. As a Vaisnava, He felt compassion for the fallen conditioned souls who were suffering without Krsna consciousness. Although previously Navadvipa had been a great center of devotion, it had deteriorated into a center of dry learning. Thus, Advaita Acarya felt compassion for the fallen souls of the age, so engrossed in material affairs, devoid of devotional service to Krsna. In the mood of a humble Vaisnava, although He was Visnu Himself, He felt that He was not capable of delivering the fallen souls. He believed that only Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself could preach the yuga-dharma of hari-nama-sankirtana and deliver them.
Advaita Acarya Prabhu was an ideal householder. He had read in the scriptures that the Lord sells Himself to a devotee who offers Him a Tulasi leaf and a palmful of water. As a grhastha brahmana, He worshipped a salagrama-sila at home. Therefore, He specifically began to worship Salagrama with Ganges water and Tulasi leaves with the aim of bringing about Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s descent.
The Caitanya-caritamrta describes Sri Advaita Acarya’s appeal to Lord Krsna to appear again on earth. He cried with such intensity that the sound traveled throughout the entire universe and ultimately reached Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Because of the loud cries of Sri Advaita Acarya, Mahaprabhu did indeed descend, appearing in Navadvipa on the full moon night of Phalguna (February-March). Thus the Lord came at the request of Advaita Acarya, His pure devotee, to reclaim the fallen souls.
What was the method by which He reclaimed them? The method was hari-nama- sankirtana, or the chanting of the holy names of the Lord. And so, in response to Advaita Acarya’s cries, the Lord appeared in Navadvipa on the full moon night of the Phalguna month, during a lunar eclipse, while millions of Hindus were bathing in the Ganges loudly chanting the holy names. Later, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself practiced sankirtana in Navadvipa-dhama, and after adopting the renounced order of life (sannyasa) left Navadvipa and traveled throughout India. Wherever He went, He chanted the holy names and induced others to chant the holy names as well.
Originally, after Lord Caitanya took sannyasa, He wanted to make His residence in Vrndavana. His mother, however, could not bear the thought that He would be so far away. So in deference to his mother’s will, He made His headquarters in Jagannatha Puri, which is not so far from Navadvipa. Every year, devotees would travel from Navadvipa to Puri to attend the Ratha-yatra festival and have the association of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thus, they would go back and forth between Navadvipa and Puri and bring news to Mother Saci about Lord Caitanya.
Still, Lord Caitanya had an ardent desire to visit Vrndavana, and so He left by foot from Puri to travel to Vrndavana-dhama. On the way, He stopped in a place called Ramakeli, the capital of the Muslim despot Nawab Hussein Shah. There the prime minister and the finance minister of the Nawab, who later became known as Srila Sanatana Gosvami and Srila Rupa Gosvami, came to meet Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in disguise.
At the time, thousands of devotees were following Lord Caitanya, and Lord Caitanya inaugurated the hari-nama-sankirtana in Ramakeli just outside the area of the Nawab’s palace. The devotees chanted and danced day and night for many days. They totally forgot about eating, sleeping, and other bodily demands. They were simply absorbed in the ecstasy of hari-nama-sankirtana.
But after some time, a few of the devotees began to think of the Nawab, realizing that they were just outside the doorsteps of his palace. The Nawab, Hussein Shah, was a terrible tyrant. He killed people like anything. In fact, he induced or compelled Rupa and Sanatana to serve him by intimidation, threatening that if they didn’t accept his proposal to act as his ministers or secretaries, he would wreak havoc on the Hindu community and kill thousands of Hindus, if not more. He was a terrible tyrant, and some of the devotees began to become anxious that they were doing such loud hari-nama-sankirtana so close to the Nawab’s palace: â€œWhat if he takes notice of us and becomes enraged? He could kill us all!â€
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as the omniscient Lord, could understand the anxiety of these devotees. Therefore, He stopped the kirtana. He addressed the assembled devotees and told them, â€œAlthough I am acting as a devotee, actually I am the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and because I am the Supreme Lord, no one can harm Me or My movement.â€ Then Lord Caitanya explained that His movement of hari-nama-sankirtana was destined to spread to every town and village of every country of the world: prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama, sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama. (Cb Antya 4.126) Thus He reassured the devotees.
Now during the time of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, His mission spread throughout India. But with the passage of time, even in India, His mission became weak. Unauthorized groups who claimed to be followers of Lord Caitanya but who did not actually understand or follow His principles arose and became prominent. The situation got worse and worse until, in the 1800s, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura appeared. He separated the true followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu from the pseudo-followers and identified at least thirteen deviant groups (apasampradayas). He established the true idea of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He also discovered the birthplace of Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Mayapur-dhama, and with his followers he gradually located many different sites associated with the Lord’s pastimes, including the residence of Sri Advaita Acarya in Mayapur. Advaita Acarya actually had two residences – one in Mayapur-dhama itself and one some distance away in nearby Santipura.
Although Lord Caitanya had predicted that the holy name would be chanted and preached in every town and village of the world, even learned devotees could not imagine how such a phenomenon could come to pass. Still, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura predicted that very soon somebody would come to fulfill the prediction of Lord Caitanya. And, as we know, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada did emerge from the followers of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to fulfill the desire and prediction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Yet this entire arrangement, from one point of view, was created simply to fulfill the desire of Sri Advaita Acarya. Sri Advaita Acarya was the one who so intensely desired that the Lord should come and deliver the fallen souls, especially through hari-nama- sankirtana, that Lord Caitanya did appear. And now, more than five hundred years later, we are gathered here in Camarillo, California, chanting the holy names of Krsna. This is possible only because Sri Advaita Acarya Prabhu desired so intensely that we would be able to do so and thus be delivered from the bondage of material existence and imbued with the ecstasy of devotional service.
The sixteen words of the Hare Krsna maha-mantraâ€”Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hareâ€”contain all spiritual truths. Realized devotees have actually seen the entire pastimes of Radha and Krsna within the maha-mantra. Srila Jiva Gosvami has written a poem describing various pastimes of Radha and Krsna that transpire in the course of chanting one round of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has discussed the import of each word of the maha-mantra, and each pair of words (Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, etc.). There are eight pairs of names that combine to make the sixteen words of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has explained how each pair corresponds to one verse of the Siksastaka prayer of Lord Caitanya. Further, he has written an entire chapter on each verse of the Siksastaka.
So, although superficially the Hare Krsna maha-mantra appears to be a simple combination of three different words arranged in a combination of sixteen, actually the entire spiritual world is contained in the maha-mantra. And as we go deeper and deeper in chanting the maha-mantra, we come closer and closer to actually entering into the spiritual world and the pastimes of Radha and Krsna. Thus, what Lord Caitanya came to give by the intense desire of Sri Advaita Acarya, although it appears to be very simpleâ€”just an arrangement of sixteen wordsâ€”is actually deeply profound, and unlimitedly vast. It is actually the entire spiritual world, in comparison with which the whole material world is just a fraction.
So the whole process is inconceivable. We know the story of Mother Yasoda and baby Krsna. On Krsna’s birthday, Balarama and the cowherd boys accused Krsna of having eaten some dirt, and Balarama and other sons of the gopas complained to Mother Yasoda. But Krsna denied that He had eaten any dirt. To the contrary, He accused Balarama and the other friends of being angry with Him from Their play, and therefore wanting to get Him into trouble. Then little Krsna said, â€œIf you have any doubts, Mother, you can look into My mouth and see if there is any dirt.â€ So Krsna opened His mouth, and Mother Yasoda looked inside. In Krsna’s mouth she saw the entire universe, the whole cosmic manifestation. She saw all moving and nonmoving entities and all directions. She saw past, present, and future. She saw the material elements and the three qualities of nature. She even saw herself and Sri Vrndavana-dhama, and she became completely bewildered.
Mother Yasoda saw the entire cosmic manifestation in the mouth of Krsna, while Krsna Himself appeared just like a small child that she could hold in her arms. In the same way, the entire spiritual world is contained within the two syllables Krs and na, because the two syllables Krs-na are Krsna Himself, the origin of everything. That is actually the invaluable gift of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu upon the fallen souls, given to us due to the desire of Sri Advaita Acarya.
Sri Advaita Acarya is very merciful. Advaita literally means â€œnondifferent.â€ He is Advaita because He is nondifferent from Hari, the Supreme Lord (advaitam harinadvaitad). And He is Acarya because He preaches the cult of devotion (acaryam bhakti-samsanat).
We are actually followers of Advaita Acarya. He is the acarya, or one of the acaryas in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Actually, He was initiated by Sri Madhavendra Puri and therefore is in the same generation of spiritual masters as Sri Isvara Puri, the spiritual master of Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. Nevertheless, in one sense we could say Sri Advaita Acarya is in the line of Lord Caitanya, because He considered Himself to be the servant of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
So He is acarya, Advaita Acarya. Not only did He induce Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to descend to deliver the fallen souls through the holy name, but He also set the example how one can be acarya. Even as a grhastha, He was an acarya. Most people, especially in Kali-yuga, do marry and become householders. Therefore, the example of Sri Advaita Acarya is most important for us. In some ways, His example may be even more relevant for most people in Kali-yuga than the example of Lord Caitanya, Who renounced family life at an early age, or that of Nityananda Prabhu, Who as an avadhuta was beyond all material categories.â€
Thus, we all have been blessed by the mercy of Advaita Acarya, directly and indirectly. We should take advantage of His mercy, and the mercy He caused to descend from the spiritual world for us. We should serve Him with great love and affection.
Would you like to say something?
Sarvatma dasa: I just wonder if to be an ideal householder you have to be Maha-visnu.
Giriraj Swami: What do you think?
Devotee: I think so.
Sarvatma dasa: It helps.
Giriraj Swami: There are many ideal householders.
Devotee: Some of Lord Caitanya’s devotees went and stayed with Him in Jagannatha Puri. So why not Advaita Acarya?
Giriraj Swami: Advaita Acarya was a grhastha, so he remained in Bengal. But when the other devotees would travel from Bengal to Orissa to join in the Ratha-yatra festival and spend the four months known as caturmasya with Caitanya Mahaprabhu in Puri, He would accompany them. But then He would go back. It was really just the renunciates who were able to join Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Some of them were married previously but later joined Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Advaita Acarya, however, as far as we know, remained based in Navadvipa.
Actually, all the members of the Panca-tattva more or less concealed their glories. It was only later that the devotees gradually realized their positions.
February 8, 2003