I’ve noticed that I subconsciously count “Kṛṣṇa conscious” years from the Gaura Pūrṇimā, which I regard as our New Year. It’s easy to understand why Jan 1 is not associated with new year by devotees, it’s more interesting why it’s not replaced by Kṛṣṇa Janmāṣṭamī.
My explanation is easy – Kṛṣṇa is the Lord of the spiritual world, over there, in Goloka, they have all the reasons to count years by His birthdays. Down here, however, we are soldiers in Lord Caitanya’s army, we aren’t qualified to approach Kṛṣṇa yet, so Lord Caitanya’s birthday holds more significance for us.
The objection would be that there is no time in the spiritual world so they probably don’t count years there at all but that doesn’t change the fact that we are not ready for Kṛṣṇa’s company, we humbly serve lotus feet of the Lord Caitanya, we were saved by Him, guided by Him, taught by Him, protected by Him. We owe Him everything in our lives. It’s only natural to tie our perception of time to Gaura Pūrṇimās.
This also puts me in an awkward position. Where do I get the strength and the inspiration to glorify Him? For example, to please Kṛṣṇa one can pray for help to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. To please Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī one could pray to Kṛṣṇa. Lord Caitanya, otoh, combined both of them in one person, so who you gonna call? Whenever we need help we can take shelter of the Holy Name but the Holy Name has any potency for us only by Lord Caitanya’s permission. We can’t get around Him and approach the Holy Name directly.
The solution to this problem is actually easy – there’s always Lord Nityānanda and His representative, our guru. Both of them, however, are not independent of Lord Caitanya. Still, we get the lotus feet of Mahāprabhu by the mercy of Lord Nityānanda, that’s the prescribed way. So, in a way, Gaura Pūrṇimā is actually our chance to test Lord Nityānanda’s mercy. Whatever we manage to do in honor of Lord Caitanya is provided by Lord Nityānanda, even on Gaura Pūrṇimā it’s He who we should be thankful for.
Personally, today I’m drawing blanks. Perhaps I’m not sincere enough, perhaps I’ve committed some offenses, perhaps my attitude is unacceptable, but at the end of the day I have nothing to offer to the Lord. I’m too far to attend temple celebrations, I went outside to run some errands and got a mindful of garbage, if it was a word. I’ve broken the fast too early, all in all this day has been a disaster.
To be honest, it’s not the first time and I actually don’t remember ANY successful Gaura Pūrṇimās, not even in Māyāpura itself. It’s always too crowded there and one must fight really hard to get anywhere close to “mercy”, it’s just not sattvic enough, there’s always pressure and crowds, crowds, crowds.
I don’t despair, though, I just take it to mean that we shouldn’t judge spiritual value of our service by its material manifestations. If it doesn’t feel right according to my conditioned expectations of what Lord’s birthday should look like it doesn’t mean that the Lord doesn’t feel right about it, too. He, for all I know, is enjoying service of His less fussy devotees very much. It’s not about our convenience, after all, it’s about making the Lord happy.
It’s not the day to bother Him with complaints about this or that. He gets a mind blowing kīrtana and a nice abhiṣeka. Those who do make to the front row look genuinely happy and eager to please Him, why spoil His festival with my grumpy face? My unhappiness is illusory, after all, why make a bid deal out of it and expect someone to fix it? I can do my little part in pleasing the Lord today and that’s what I’m going to do regardless of how I feel about everything else.
Besides, when I think about Lord’s appearance I imagine a little boy coming into the world. That’s not the form we usually worship when we think of Lord Caitanya. I think I’ve said that before – we generally do not worship the Lord as the king of Navadvīpa, as Gaurausundara. We worship Him as as a sannyāsī and we come in the line of devotees, staring with Śrī Rūpa and Srī Sanātana Gosvāmīs, who never met the Lord Caitanya as Gaurāṅga.
Yes, we always have Gaurāṅga on our altars, with long beautiful hair, not a shaved Caitanya form of the Lord, but that doesn’t change the fact that we got enlisted by the devotees who knew the Lord only as a sannyāsī. Practically speaking, only Lord’s eternal associates knew Him as Gaurāṅga, they were with Him all through His childhood, His pastimes as a scholar, and then His conversion to the service of Kṛṣṇa. They didn’t need to be saved, like us, they were always His associates and they were crestfallen when the Lord renounced His beautiful form as Gaurāṅga and took sannyāsā.
For us, however, taking sannyāsā and renouncing His hair, among other things, was the episode that led to our eventual salvation. If the Lord stayed as Gaurasundara we simply wouldn’t be here.
From this perspective, appearance of the Lord as a little newborn baby in the house of Jagannātha Miśra and from the womb of Mother Śacī was only a prelude. At that time no one saw the Lord as we know Him now, our worshipable form wasn’t there yet. Or, in other words, Gaura Pūrṇimā is not the appearance of the Lord we surrender to now. It’s the same, of course, but also different.
I don’t want to draw parallels with Kṛṣṇa but, I guess, Kṛṣṇa’s friends and the gopīs weren’t particularly excited about the moment of His birth either. It was the time to exhibit vātsalya rasa, not sakya or mādhurya. With Kṛṣṇa they could at least celebrate His birthday annually, I’m sure his friends enjoyed the party year after year, but I don’t think Lord Caitanya ever celebrated His appearance day and He probably didn’t allow His devotees to celebrate it either – because of sannyāsā.
So, it’s okay that I’m never in the front row on Gaura Pūrṅimā, let those with real eagerness to please the Lord come forward instead. I appreciate their devotion and I hope some of their sentiment eventually rubs off on me, too. I do not have their bhakti and I have to wait for my turn. The possibility of having my turn is a great boon already, no matter how long I have to wait.
There are too many “I”s in this post anyway, let the Lord be the center of attention for a change, so I better shut up for now.