or possibly more – who is our ultimate master? Who is our ultimate shelter? Our guru? He is the external manifestation of the Lord so in that sense he is not our ultimate master. His feet are given to us by the Lord and our relationships are eternal, but he is also a spirit soul in his own right and as such he is not the supreme controller.
Come to think of it – are we eternal servants of our guru because this is how we are connected in the spiritual world, too? Or can we have different kind of relationships with our guru in the spiritual world but down here it’s strictly servant-master? As a guru he is the manifestation of the Lord but in the spiritual world such manifestations are not necessary, we relate to people there as they are, we don’t treat anyone as the Lord Himself, we treat everyone as His dearest servants.
It’s not easy to reconcile these two roles of our guru. As our master he is the manifestation of Śrī Balarāma but as a spirit soul he is a servant of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, assuming it always work this way for followers of Rūpa Gosvāmī.
Maybe we should look at it this way – he is a servant of Śrī Rādhikā but in the material world his body is used by Śrī Balarāma to guide his disciples back to the spiritual world.
This isn’t what I had in mind when talking about serving two, or possibly more masters. I was talking about Gods themselves. Kṛṣṇa is, of course, the only God in a true sense of the word. Wait, no, He is not God at all. God, in Western culture, means the all powerful controller who rules the fate of the world. Kṛṣṇa doesn’t do that, He doesn’t rule anything, He doesn’t like it, He lets other Gods to do it for Him. Wait, not for Him, for us. He’s got nothing to do with us down here at all, He is not *our* God, assuming He wants to boss anyone around in the first place.
Still, Kṛṣṇa is God, but so is Lord Caitanya! And Lord Caitanya is non-different from Kṛṣṇa! More over, He is Kṛṣṇa Himself. Yet He’s got a different personality and for us there is one very crucial difference – Lord Caitanya came here for us, we owe Him everything.
Should we make a choice between Lord Caitanya and Kṛṣna? No, that’s a wrong question to ask. We should take shelter of Lord Caitanya and Kṛṣṇa will manifest Himself automagically, one does not exist/manifest without the other. Yet it doesn’t work the other way – by taking shelter of Kṛṣṇa we won’t meet Lord Caitanya.
We, as followers of Gauḍīyā vaiṣṇavism can, because for us there’s no difference, but for anyone else approaching Kṛṣṇa is simply not possible, they must accept Lord Caitanya first because He is our yuga avatāra. Sorry about all the other sampradāyas but that’s just how it is. They either worship Lord Caitanya or get stuck at their current level forever.
But I didn’t mean Kṛṣṇa vs Lord Caitanya as our two masters either. I meant two aspects of Mahāprabhu Himself.
For brevity, I will not take the detour explaining the role of Lord Nityānanda here. We cannot approach Lord Caitanya without Him and He is certainly our master, being fully independent Personality of Godhead Himself, but that’s just not what I meant.
I mean that we have Lord Caitanya as Gaurāṅga and Lord Caitanya as Caitanya Mahāprabhu. That’s the same person, of course, but these are also two different aspects of His personality and we should relate to them differently.
For His associates in Navadvīpa He will always be Gaurāṅga, or maybe even Nimāi, but those who met the Lord outside of His own dhāma had known Him as Kṛṣṇa Caitanya, as a sannyāsī. They didn’t get to see His beautiful hair, they didn’t get to appreciate His unrivaled learning, they didn’t know His father and mother or His friends – all of that was left behind, He was only known as Caitanya – the supreme living force, while we all are acaitanya – devoid of spiritual consciousness.
Speaking of us – if devotees who met the Lord in Jagannātha Purī, Vṛndāvana, South India, Vārāṇasī etc didn’t know Gaurāṅga but were introduced only to Kṛṣṇa Caitanya – how far must we be removed from Māyāpura?
What other aspect of His personality is there to reach out to us? Probably none, Caitanya is all we got.
Maybe in our pure spiritual forms we get to be Gaurāṅga’s associates but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Lord had eternal associates outside of Navadvīpa, too – think Rāmānanda Rāy or Śikhi Māhiti. Are they part of the Gaura līlā? Apparently not. AFAIK, they’ve never been to Māyāpura and they have never been to Vṛdāvana either.
This doesn’t mean that they have no permission to enter spiritual Navadvīpa, and they are permanent residents of spiritual Vṛndāvana, of course.
It could, however, mean, that not everyone of us is supposed to take shelter of Gaurāṅga and, by extension, earthly Māyāpura. Obviously, we’d be stupid to reject it but we should also remember our place – we have been born where we are and Mahāprabhu in His aspect as a renounced sannyāsī has reached out to us. And He reached to us not from Māyāpura, where He doesn’t live when He preaches.
Of course He never really steps out of Māyāpura but He externally appears to do so when He wants to save the rest of the world, including ourselves.
Once again – He reaches to us in His aspect as Lord Caitanya and it doesn’t automatically mean we can relate to Him as Gaurāṅga. Maybe some of us can but I, personally, think of it in the same way we should think about our relationships with Kṛṣṇa, ie don’t think about it at all, we’ve got more pressing spiritual matters to attend here first.
BTW, I’m not making this up, well, not all of it. In his commentary on Caitanya Bhāgavata (CB Adi 1.5) Śrila Bhaktisiddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākura talks about these differences in perception of two aspects of the Lord. I like how he says there’s no such thing as “Gaurāṅga Caritāmṛta”, we can’t simply substitute the name when we talk about teaching the rest of the world. We also have “Teachings of Lord Caitanya”, not “Teachings of Lord Gaurāṅga”
Lord Gaurāṅga took the name of Lord Caitanya in order to preach. I think we should respect that and not claim being closer to Him than we really are. Gaurāṅga is for His eternal associates from Navadvīpa, Caitanya is for fallen souls found elsewhere in the material world.
So, who is our master? In our pañca tattva mahāmantra we say “Kṛṣṇa Caitanya”, similarly, when we pray to Lord Caitanya we use “kṛṣṇāya kṛṣṇa-chaitanya-nāmne gaura-tviśe namaḥ”. I don’t think we address Lord Caitanya as Gaurāṅga in any official mantras at all, so that ought to settle it.