It’s a famous verse spoken by Prahlāda Mahārāja in reply to his demoniac father, Hiraṇyakaśipu (SB 7.5.30):
Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Kṛṣṇa are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.
Why did Prahlāda Mahārāja choose this metaphor? Obvious answer is that whatever taste was in the chewed food is already gone, chewing it for the second time doesn’t bring any satisfaction, nor does it provide any nutrients. Why do we do it, though?
Because the memories are there and we want to experience same sensations again. Like a person who likes action movies – he knows how they make him feel, he wants to feel the same excitement, so whenever someone offers him to watch a movie he asks if it’s “action” or “drama”, hoping to get “action”.
Does this taste ever disappear? It does, slowly. People get tired of experiencing same emotions over and over again. They get tired of their facebook feeds and twitter streams, they get tired of the same formulaic stories, same overproduced music, same conversations, even same sex.
That last one is probably the best proof of “chewing the chewed” concept – people get bored even of sex with their “loved ones”. Monogamy is unnatural, modern wisdom goes.
So, we do chew the chewed but we also get tired of it and seek new pleasures. Was Prahlāda Mahārāja wrong? Of course not, but, perhaps, we need to explore this concept a bit deeper.
Sex is a great example again – we get bored of the same partner but we do not get bored of the same experience. We just seek to replicate it with new people. In this sense we do not chew the chewed but seek new food with the same taste.
Prahlāda Mahārāja, however, wanted to tell us that new food with the same taste is still “chewed”. We have already experienced it, we know what it is and we know that eventually the taste disappears, yet we take bite after bite, hoping to extract the same juice again. Maybe move it to the other side of the mouth, maybe find a less chewed spot, but we can’t change the simple fact – no new taste is going to be found here, ever, not even “more of the same”, only “less of the same”.
Another reason for “chewing the chewed” metaphor could be that chewed stuff is gross. It’s disgusting. If we haven’t swallowed it and spit it out no one would even want to touch it. We wouldn’t put it back into our own mouths either.
Yet when we hear other people praising this or that we want to try it ourselves – that is chewing something chewed by someone else. Double gross.
Things change on the spiritual platform, however, and I don’t mean the ever fresh and growing bouquet of tastes and smells. I literally mean chewed stuff.
Yesterday I talked about Pañca Tattva, about overarching principles embodied by its members. We have the Lord Himself in the center, then the creators of spiritual and material worlds on one side and the “users” of these two worlds on the other. It’s a great idea, I think, but there’s more to Pañca Tattva mystery than that.
All the members of the Pañca Tattva appear to be material. Lord Caitanya Himself was a hidden avatāra, unless one knew His secret He looked and behaved like an ordinary human being, He wasn’t big on miracles to prove His divinity.
Lord Nityānanda was the same, you wouldn’t know His true nature unless you’ve read Caitanya Bhāgavata and later Caitanya Caritāmṛta.
Advaita Ācārya, afaik, never performed any miracles and even Lord Caitanya associates couldn’t understand His transcendental powers, like that time someone tried to settle Advaita Ācārya’s debt.
Gadādhara Paṇḍita and Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura, who weren’t even Viṣṇu tattvas, stood no chance.
When Kṛṣṇa appeared in Vṛndāvana all His eternal associates came down with Him and they were non-different from their spiritual forms, it was a rare vision of spiritual Goloka within the material world. Can we say the same about Lord Caitanya? Not quite.
Same Kṛṣṇa’s devotees from Goloka came down with Lord Caitanya BUT they have taken different forms, they didn’t come as themselves.
On the other hand, we know of the eternal spiritual glories of Navadvīpa. We could say that in Lord Caitanya’s time we had a glimpse of real Navadvīpa shown within material realm. Except it didn’t include many of Lord’s eternal associates at all.
Three out of five members of Pañca Tattva weren’t even born in Navadvīpa. They might be eternal residents up there in the spiritual world but down here they appeared as guests.
And what about Nārada Muni who incarnated as Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita? In this case “incarnated” sounds like the most appropriate word. Nārada Muni himself hails from the material world, he was purified by the mercy of traveling vaiṣṇavas and eventually became the topmost devotee himself but, in his form as Nārada, he isn’t a resident of neither Vṛndāvana nor Navadvīpa, and then he appeared in the body of Śrīvāsa.
Perhaps we have to accept that Pañca Tattva erased the difference between material and spiritual energy, or higher and lower energy – everything engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service becomes spiritual. Maybe not technically made of spiritual energy but for all practical purposes it acts the same, it gives the same pleasure to the Lord and the same service opportunities to His devotees.
So, even if external forms of Lord Caitanya’s associates appear to be material we cannot treat them as such. Even if they appear, stay for a while, and then disappear like any other material object, we can’t think of them as material. Even if they might not have spiritual equivalents in the spiritual world, like Kṛṣṇa’s cowherd friends, we still have to treat them as fully spiritual.
It’s not easy.
One time Lord Caitanya was so pleased with Murāri Gupta that He gave him his chewed betel nut remnants.
If anyone else gives you that red spit contaminating the whole of India you’d probably puke but when it is given by Lord Caitanya there could be no gross feelings. Whatever came out of His mouth cannot be seen as an ordinary revolting substance, it must be treated with respect and veneration which would allow devotees to taste it’s ever fresh sweetness.
That’s how prasāda actually works – mixed with Lord’s saliva it acquires irresistible taste. It’s okay when the Lord eats it with His eyes but what if He actually chewed it and then spat out? Would we be able to see the transcendental attraction in this spit? I don’t think so, and that’s why we are not Murāri Gupta and we shouldn’t imitate Him, as one devotee used his example as an excuse to set up business to maintain himself in the dhāma.
That would be a test of real devotion, and we can’t cheat either, we can’t pretend we see this spit as transcendental and put it into our mouths while suppressing our real feeling or repulsion. Only when we actually desire the taste of this spit with all our heart and soul can we expect the Lord to consider giving us His remnants. Talking ourselves into it won’t help either, only genuine, irresistible urge to accept whatever comes to us from the Lord. I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon.
This won’t happen as long as we remain under the influence of our false ego, as long as we perceive spit, any spit, as revolting. There are flies, pigs, and worms that enjoy stool, they don’t feel grossed out by it at all. We, humans, do, that’s our conditioning. “Conditioning” of Lord Caitanya’s true servants,otoh, is that they do not see Him with material eyes whatsoever, the thought that his spit is gross doesn’t occur to them just as pigs don’t ever think of stool as being disgusting.
Nah, I’m too far from that level to even talk about it, all I can offer is material perspectives and material obstacles to achieving it, which doesn’t help anybody. The only useful thing that might come out of this speculation is realization how far I am from becoming a real devotee.