Continuing form yesterday’s topic of elusive happiness, I think it’s time to put this issue to rest altogether. There is no guarantee of happiness in this world even if we chant the Hare Krishna mantra.
Krishna might throw a few bones our way in the beginning but when we take to Krishna Consciousness seriously the bones will be very few far between. Ultimately there will no happiness for us whatsoever, only what is allotted by our previous karmic activities.
Today I want to look at the example of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, one of the six goswamis of Vrindavana and the spiritual master of Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, author of Chaitanya Charitamrita. I particularly want to examine his life from the point of view of being happy. From Krishna consciousness point of view he fully enjoyed the nectar of devotional service, of that there’s no doubt, but could he ever considered himself happy in a same way some of us do, especially when we complain that chanting does not bring the desired level of satisfaction.
Raghunatha Dasa Goswami was born in a wealthy family and had a very privileged childhood but was he happy? From what I know he had very little interest in enjoying his life. When he was still very young he met Haridasa Thakura and that brought a complete end to all his material aspirations and childhood (childish?) happiness.
Now he wanted to meet Lord Chaitanya, I guess he considered that to be some measure of success in his life and so until then he must have considered himself unsatisfied. It so happened that he indeed met Mahaprabhu and was able to serve Him for about a week while the Lord was visiting Advaita Acharya. Raghunatha must have been happy during those few days but it was a very short period and I bet he was very unhappy about it ending very soon.
Then there was the second time he met with Lord Chaitanya, the occasion of the famous chipped rice festival that he arranged and he surely was on the seventh cloud but his request to join Lord Chaitanya on the way to Puri was rejected. Instead he was ordered to stay home and enjoy life and take care of his family business. I bet it was torture, not happiness.
Then, but the grace of Nityananda Prabhu Raghunatha was able to escape the guard assigned by his uncle and run away to Puri on foot. He took the back roads to avoid being recaptured and reached Puri in about two weeks. I bet he was very happy on his journey but I doubt this is the kind of happiness we are looking for.
During those two weeks he had a chance to eat only three times and he never slept on a bed. Grueling two week trips through Indian jungles with no food or any provisions is generally not the time for contentment.
Okay, tribulations were over, he finally reached Lord Chaitanya in Puri and was put in personal care of Swarupa Damodara, wasn’t it the best time of his life? He surely must have felt some happiness finally flowing his way. Well, maybe yes, maybe no.
He was so humble that he never dared to approach Lord Chaitanya directly and ask for anything. After some time had passed he conveyed his concerns to Swarupa Damodara – it turns out he had no idea what to do with his new sannyasa order. Being at a loss about your position in life when you are supposed to be the happiest person on earth is not the sign of content. Who would have thought that meeting Lord Chaitanya would cause such bewilderment? Where’s the nectar?
Lord Chaitanya gave him the basic instructions and, among other things, Raghunatha Dasa Goswami understood the importance of renunciation. He joined the line of beggars outside the temple of Jagannatha and that was how he was getting his daily food. Was he finally happy? No.
After some time Lord Chaitanya had noticed that Raghunatha disappeared. Upon inquiries he learned that Raghunatha was unhappy about begging at the gates – he knew all the regulars there and he couldn’t stop calculating who would give him food, how much and how often. He realized he had always judged everyone by the probability of getting food from them.
Raghunatha solved this problem by begging food at the shops where he didn’t have to think at all, just stand in line and wait for his turn. If he was happy about this arrangement it didn’t last long either. Eventually he resorted to picking up discarded prasadam that was thrown away to the cows. After cows had their fill, Raghunatha would come at night, collect remaining rice, wash it and eat it.
Even that didn’t make him content – he was so ashamed of his extraordinary renunciation he preferred to hide it from everyone, including Lord Chaitanya Himself. This is the famous episode with Lord Chaitanya snatching this rice from the hiding place and chastising Raghunatha for trying to enjoy all the nectar himself.
So there, Rabhunatha Dasa Goswami went from life of luxury to life of complete renunciation and he still hadn’t found happiness and content as we often understand it. He had personal association of Lord Chaitanya and he received quite a few favors from Him but He still didn’t consider Himself advanced enough to address the Lord directly.
After disappearance of Lord Chaitanya Raghunatha had lost all the reasons to live, no question of happiness, he decided to commit suicide by jumping from Govardhan and so he set off for Vrindavana.
Reflect on this for a moment – we chant a few rounds here and there and we complain about the lack of progress. Here we have a very very exalted and fully blessed associate of Lord Chaitanya who lost all the reasons to live and no amount of chanting could pacify his heart. Luckily, Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis managed to change his mind and eventually he settled on the banks of Radha Kunda where he spent many more years completely absorbed in devotional service and became the epitome of renunciation.
He chanted three lakhs of names everyday, he wrote several dozens of books, he gave daily, three hour classes attended by Krishnadasa Kaviraja so that we could have Chaitanya Charitamrita now. But was he happy?
In one of his books, Sri Vilapa Kusumanjali, where he glorifies Srimati Radharani and describes her in ways that reveal his intimate knowledge of the subject, there are several verses about his own situation.
In verse 6 he admits he was unwilling to taste the nectar of renunciation – Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, of all renunciates! He said that it is only by the grace of Sanatana Goswami that he was forced to continue his practice. Doesn’t sound like a generic expression of humility, it was clearly a very real episode from his life. I wasn’t expecting one of the famous sannyasis to have this kind of doubt but it apparently happened.
Then he said that he MUST offer Sanatana Goswami proper respect. If anyone hoped that on this advanced stage of Krishna Consciousness a devotee never has to force himself to do anything, service comes out naturally, this is an example to the contrary. Raghunatha talked about duty, not a causeless flow of respect. I conclude that the material body will always present this kind of problems regardless of the level of advancement. I believe that expecting these problems to go away is wrong, they will always be there.
And to top it off, Raghunatha informs Srimati Radharani in his prayers that he is drowning in the ocean of pain. He addresses her as her maidservant, which, I guess, is a sign of his level of realization, but the pain he is referring to was not be the pain of separation from Krishna, it was the pain of separation from Srimati Radharani’s mercy, as if he felt unqualified.
I mean, here we have a devotee in full knowledge of his spiritual swarupa yet still he doesn’t feel like he had enough mercy and was still deeply unhappy. Will this ever end? I don’t think so, I honestly don’t think so.
It is clear to me from my own speculations that we shouldn’t even try to judge our progress by the amount of happiness we feel.
From the example of Rabhunatha Dasa Goswami it appears that even on the most advanced stages of devotion one would still be overwhelmed by various material desires – not in a sense of being overcome, but in a sense of not being able to cope on account of having no faith. Think of all the above stories again and imagine what the cause of Raghunatha’s unhappiness was each and every time.
I bet it was his “lack” of devotion. He didn’t get enough of Lord Chaitanya’s association because he was a “lousy” devotee. He didn’t know what to do as a sannyasi because he had very little faith, he was attached to calculating amounts of prasadam he was going to get because of lack of taste in devotional service. He had to hide his washed rice because he felt his achievement as a sannyasi made him proud. He wanted to kill himself because he didn’t feel Krishna’s presence in the Holy Names. He lost the taste for renounced life because he was too materialistic, he had to offer obeisances to Sanatana Goswami out of duty because they didn’t come from the heart. He had to beg Srimati Radharani for the shelter because he, already seeing himself as a gopi, wasn’t devoted enough.
Maybe things feel different in the spiritual world but down here I don’t see ANY chance of happiness coming from devotional service. We will always feel inadequate and unfulfilled.
I should probably re-evaluate my expectations and motives. I suspect I’m in for quite a few disappointments.