I keep wandering about Lord Chaitanya’s associates in Navadvipa and what standards they set for the rest of us.
Sure, they were the luckiest people in the universe to gain Mahaprabhu’s direct association and incredible mercy and participate in His sankirtana movement but it’s only half of the story.
The first half was their deep frustration and angst that nobody in Navadvipa appreciated devotional service. If we take Krishna’s words literally that He comes when the religion is in decline and it’s time to protect the devotees and punish the atheists, then sufferings of vaishnavas of Navadvipa’s should be put in the same line as those of Prahlada Maharaja or the reign of Ravana.
It must have been tough even though a lot less dramatic. Vaishnavas were ridiculed along with their practice of loud singing and dancing. They did everything right yet no one appreciated it and brahmanas of Navadvipa chastised them for perverting the scriptures.
They surely had a lot of faith to carry on under these circumstances as they had nothing else to support them – no ISKCON, no memory of Prabhupada, no mercy of Lord Chaitanya – there was absolutely nothing and nobody for them to turn to for spiritual strength. It was only their small group and Srimad Bhagavatam, actually their own interpretation of Srimad Bhagavatam as the rest of the scholarly community of Navadvipa had different views and conclusions.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like. Nowadays we take so many things for granted, transcendental things that give us a firm footing in this material world. We have Prabhupada’s personal example, he really existed, he really was with us, he really was Krishna’s messenger and he is undeniably perfect example of unflinching faith. We have his books, we have an entire disciplic succession coming down from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s time, we have gosvamis of Vrindavana who were personally participating in Krishna’s pastimes. We have a lot, and our lot comes from actual, tangible things we can see and feel and perceive even with our material senses.
Comparing to us devotees of Navadvipa had nothing but faith and each other. Not much different from some Startrekkers gathering together to talk in Klingon – no one ever took them seriously and thought they were just imagining things.
They didn’t care, though. They were absolutely convinced that Lord Krishna was the supreme source and master of all material and spiritual worlds and the supreme object of devotion.
So, how did they live with this faith in their hearts? Under the spell.
They did all the things that every brahmana of that age did. They worshiped the Deities, they worshiped the Ganges, they worshiped Tulasi – actually we are doing exactly the same things now. Some of us complain of the lack of spiritual progress and fulfillment, some of us think we need something more, we need to move to Vrindavana to progress further, we need to listen to rasika vaishnavas, we need to find the best, absolutely perfect gurus from the dwindling pool of older devotees. We have no time to appreciate what we already have and we live in dreams instead.
It might not be bad, actually, it might be motivating, pushing us to commit more, exert more energy on service, make extra efforts. On the other hand, these sound a lot like efforts in the mode of passion – for the sake of future results.
Devotees of Navadvipa didn’t think like that. They didn’t have vague dreams about super advancement, about reaching the stage of bhava or prema in the next couple of years. They didn’t complain that they have been chanting for twenty-thirty years and achieved nothing.
As far as their own spiritual practice was concerned, they were happy and content. Maybe we should take a leaf from their book in this regard.
Even when Lord Chaitanya appeared among them they didn’t care much and continued with their worship and their kirtanas. They were surely under the spell of Lord’s yogamaya not to recognize him, and even when the Lord took to devotional service Himself after meeting Sri Ishvara Puri in Gaya they still didn’t recognize Him. They recognized his unmatched devotion and they were extremely happy in Lord Chaitanya’s presence but they still didn’t know that He was their worshipable Lord Himself.
I think this can be cited as proof that devotional service itself is the highest, most satisfying reward one can ever receive. When they were engaged in devotional service and glorifying Lord’s Names they had everything they needed, and even Lord Chaitanya personal presence didn’t distract them.
Of course when Lord Chaitanya revealed Himself everything changed but until then they didn’t know how good they had it.
Maybe same can be applied to us – we don’t know how good we have it here. We don’t fully appreciate what we are given and by desiring something else we diminish the value of the service we already have.
In a way we are living under the spell, too, except it’s mostly mahamaya spell, but I believe for some of the most fortunate among us it is Lord’s internal potency that keeps them going here, worshiping the Deities, distributing books, preaching, praying etc. If that energy were to withdraw itself these devotees would go as crazy as Lord Chaitanya, crying “Krishna, Krishna, were are you?” and rolling on the ground in agony. We can’t have it here, and, more importantly, are these external manifestations principally better than worshiping the Deities or distributing books? Are they? Are they more pleasing to the Lord?
I’m not sure. As long as we are engaged in preaching mission this restraint is absolutely necessary.
Or maybe I’m simply justifying my own lack of progress. That is also possible.
On the other hand – what have I got to lose? What misfortune can paying more attention to my daily duties can possibly bring to me? Nothing, it’s a win-win deal, the only losing part is my passionate desire to become the best devotee ever as fast as possible.
That must be sacrificed anyway and I should develop proper motivation instead.