When Lord Caitanya went to Gaya and accepted Śrīla Īśvara Purī as His spiritual master He had not just an “epiphany” but He achieved a perfect clarity of vision. It’s not that He simply got captivated by chanting Kṛṣṇa’s name but He actually saw Kṛṣṇa everywhere He looked. This probably needs a little clarification.
When one falls in love he starts constantly thinking about the object of his infatuation, everything one sees reminds him of it/her, but I would say most of the time things just don’t register. A car passes by – “God, I love that girl”. There’s no real connection there and if there is, it’s all made up in one’s mind. When this first phase of being in love is over things quickly return back to normal. The love is still there, of course, but the world seems to find its own reasons for existence again and stops screaming your beloved’s name at every turn. That’s not what happened to Lord Caitanya.
He actually saw Kṛṣṇa everywhere. When we fall in love we fall in love with a distinct, localized person. We might remember her at every step but we realize that she is not an omnipresent being. Things that remind us of her are NOT her, and how could they be? She is just a single person out of billions on this planet. With Kṛṣṇa it’s not the same because He is literally everywhere, and that’s what Lord Caitanya saw. It was a matter of vision and realization, not a matter of attachment and infatuation.
Let me give another example. As kids grow up they find themselves some heroes. Could be movie stars, football players, singers, or even superheroes. They want to emulate them at every step of their lives and function on “what would [insert the name] do” principle. This is sustained only as long as the fascination is there, and then people grow out of it.
We can experience the same thing with Kṛṣṇa, got absorbed in His pastimes and personality, read about Him, sing about Him, worship Him in the temple, fill our lives with all sorts of things related to Him, and it all helps us to remember Him but this remembrance doesn’t substitute the actual vision of the Lord. Unlike us, however, Lord Caitanya literally saw Kṛṣṇa in everything.
I’m not going to speculate how it actually works but to me it looks as if He saw everything as Kṛṣṇa’s energy rather than perceiving ordinary objects as Kṛṣṇa’s personal form. Suddenly He realized that all the Vedas, all Sanskrit grammar rules, even each and every sound and syllable, is originally meant to glorify the Lord, for example. This has been expanded later on when devotees wrote grammar books explaining Sanskrit this way but we have to admit that these efforts didn’t become very popular and our scholars still learn Sanskrit the “normal” way.
I guess it’s because we don’t have the actual vision Lord Caitanya had and so the connections that were so obvious to Him look artificial to us and we need to tie up rules and meanings to something we personally understand, the mundane objects and our first language, I suppose. Come to think of it, it’s how we explain “Kṛṣṇa”, too – through our mundane perceptions and experiences. When we say He is the greatest we mean relative to what we know about the world. When we say He is omnipotent we mean relative to powers we know in this world and in our own lives, He can do everything we can imagine and a little more. We define the Lord in the terms of our personal conditioning.
Why am I talking about this? Because I realize I do not have necessary clarity, the kind Lord Caitanya had. Take my latest confusion about direction of our progress. We know we should not slide back into māyā, we know that eventually we must find shelter of Lord’s internal potency, but what’s not clear is whether we should try to reach it right now or settle on the terms of our present conditioning and patiently wait until death and hope it will all work out later.
Settling doesn’t mean the progress will be stopped, it just won’t go in the same direction, and that’s why I titled this post “vectors” – we need to make efforts regardless of the final decision of what is the best course of action. We can try and break out of our conditioning and restore our original relationships with Kṛṣṇa, or we can try and perform our God given duties to the best of our abilities, knowing that since they are arranged by guru and the Supersoul they must be the best and the shortest way to our ultimate goal. Whatever the decision, we must keep trying.
There are arguments for and against either of the propositions and, knowing ourselves and Murphy’s law, we are likely to screw up whatever it is we decide to do. To me this means that we/I should just leave the subject alone, we are not in charge of what happens to us, there’s karma, there’s Kṛṣṇa, there’s fate, there are our desires we aren’t even aware of, and in any case – man proposes, God disposes. Somehow something will happen, the universe and our lives in it cannot be static.
What we do have responsibility to follow is one simple rule – always remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget. Everything else would just work out itself. It doesn’t really matter how or why or when or what, thinking about these agonizing choices is a distraction from remembering Kṛṣṇa and so should be abandoned.
Well, we can’t stop thinking and so should let mind and intelligence do their jobs but we should treat it as rain – a naturally occurring phenomenon outside of our control. Sometimes it comes and it’s strong, sometimes it just drizzles, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
This might be controversial because of buddhi-yoga and all that but mind and intelligence are material elements acting under the influence of the modes of nature, time, Kṛṣṇa Himself, and what not. Our problems with controlling them rise from this desire for control itself.
I mean that our mind and intelligence become so active because that’s where we direct our consciousness, that’s how we express ourselves. “I think therefore I am”, as they say. We fall for this illusion first and face the need to control the consequences later. The more we think, the greater the need. It’s the same problem we have with gross bodies – the deeper our attachment to them, the more attention they require. The more we try to accomplish with our bodies the more maintenance they need – more food, more rest, more health problems, faster ageing and so on.
The idea is that if we stop caring about what our mind and intelligence think they won’t go berserk but would rather leave us alone. For those who surrender to Kṛṣṇa surviving in this world is an easy and simple thing, a no-brainer, we don’t have to think about it.
So, perhaps the vector of our efforts should be directed within and all the external manifestations should be seen as only projections on the three-dimensional world around us. That’s why they say you can’t understand a devotee, btw. Whatever he does is done for Kṛṣṇa and it’s done deep within his heart. How it manifests externally might therefore seem totally random, one moment this, another moment that.
This internal desire to serve the Lord with all one’s heart is what we should seek in other devotees, that’s what we want to emulate, that’s what we want to get infected with, too. Simply copying their external behavior is less beneficial. This is the vector we need to align ourselves with, forget the “progress”.