Yesterday I talked about how saṅkīrtana manifested in the early days in Vṛndāvana – not like saṅkīrtana at all. How was it in Navadvīpa?
Btw, the mood of devotees in Vṛndāvana, headed by the Six Gosvāmīs, can be cited against ISKCON – that we are nothing like them. We are pushy, trashy, don’t know the siddhānta, don’t have appreciation for sweetness of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, our hearts are hard, our heads are stubborn, and we are all around neophytes. There’s a lot of truth in this observation but Vṛndāvana is a special place so the contrast must be there.
I have no idea what preaching in Vṛndāvana would look like – everyone, including animals, is a far more advanced devotee than we can ever hope to be. We can’t go around giving out booklets about spirit souls being different from the bodies. We can’t imitate the Six Gosvāmīs either and disclose pastimes otherwise invisible to general population. There’s very little we can offer there but the facilities for worship. In any case, Vṛndāvana’s main mellow is sweetness, mādhurya, and we are not out of our minds to try and change the ambiance there. Saṅkīrtana must also be adjusted and manifest itself somewhat differently. Lord Caitanya is the lord of the Universe but He has no intention of imposing Himself on Kṛṣṇa.
It must be different in Māyāpura, one could suggest. Māyāpura is the audārya dhāma, the abode of magnanimity, the abode of freely dispensing Lord’s mercy. If one wants to learn what preaching is, Māyāpura is the place to go.
Okay, but even Māyāpura had it’s dark days. Not days – years, centuries even. If we see hiccups in our mission, look what happen to Māyāpura. Until Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Jagannātha Dāsā Bābājī found it it didn’t even exist, practically speaking. How long has it been hidden from our eyes?
Of course it was Lord Caitanya’s plan, what else could it be? My point, which I’m trying to justify for the third day now, is that even Lord Caitanya distributes His mercy at His own pace, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, we can’t think that slow years are deficient in any way but accept them as a test of our patience. We’ve got to appreciate Lord Caitanya’s mercy as it is, not as we want it to be.
The counterargument is that Lord Caitanya’s mercy doesn’t have ebbs and flows, if we see it as somehow diminishing it’s because of our ignorance, not because there’s less of it. Fine, but our ignorance isn’t ours, it’s imposed on us by the Lord Himself for our own purification, it’s how He wants to relate to us, how He builds our character, how He guides us through anartha nivṛtti process.
Or I could argue that these aren’t even anarthas but necessary Kali yuga accommodations, it’s just how things are done in this age and they do not affect our spiritual standing. This is a better way to look at other devotees than seeing imperfections in their service. These are not faults but pastimes arranged by the Lord.
So, somehow the Lord thought that preaching should be put on the back burner for a while and manifesting His own birthplace wasn’t strictly speaking necessary. Maybe it was time to “boil the milk”, as Prabhupāda used to say. We can preach only up to our own level, which puts a limit on the expansion of the saṅkīrtana, so raising our own standard is equally important, we have to have devotion before we go out and distribute it.
I don’t know why it required overrunning Māyāpura with Muslims but, perhaps, the seminal gurus and caste gosvāmīs were doing their job just fine for the first couple of hundred years. Chanting was going on, books were written, everyone knew about Kṛṣṇa and Lord Caitanya, so what if people had to be born into it?
But lets look into earlier days, when Lord Nityānanda was personally present. He was sent to Bengal to preach and He did, but He did it in an nontraditional way – they called Him avadhūta for a reason. Technically, He was a sannyāsī, or at least expected to behave as one, but He most certainly didn’t. The first thing people noticed about Him was that He loved to dress up. He always wore fine garments of white, blue, and yellow, He also had lots of jewelry – earrings, necklaces, rings on each finger. Instead of a daṇḍa he carried some strange stick, sometimes a flute. And His demeanor was that of a child or, alternatively, someone who was quite mad and intoxicated with His own emotions.
We have to remember that as Lord Balarāma Himself He didn’t care much about the rules and He descended to manifest His pastimes. His only obligation is glorifying Kṛṣṇa and Lord Caitanya and He certainly did that, that was the second thing people immediately noticed about Him. He wasn’t going to walk humbly and carry a sober expression on his face to earn respect from others. Whatever expectations they had, He shattered them by freely sharing His overflowing love of God. One didn’t have to follow customs anymore, the goal of rules and regulations was right there already.
Afaik, Lord Nityānanda’s preaching consisted of traveling from house to house and holding massive saṅkīrtana parties there, He didn’t care about anything else. He didn’t have any obstacles, and He was surrounded by equally crazy people who taught tigers to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa just for fun. They didn’t descend into the material world to be bound and miserable, they came because it was a good opportunity to do anything they wanted to their full satisfaction, and all they wanted was participation in saṅkīrtana and Lord Nityānanda’s pastimes. None of them was going to be restricted in their spiritual enjoyment.
Their enthusiasm was contagious and outsider community couldn’t resist it. There was too much fun to be had for people to act all modest and proper. Whatever facilities they accumulated in the course of their materialistic life they happily used in Lord Nityānanda’s saṅkīrtana parties. When we talk about saṅkīrtana party we mean a group of devotees, Lord Nityānanda meant party, as in party-time.
No one clenched their teeth and struggled with their attachments, it wasn’t hard work in any sense, and if it was a sacrifice it didn’t mean giving up something very dear to themselves, as it does for us.
Maybe one could say that they had it easy, they didn’t have to do things that we are doing in the course of our preaching, but maybe the question should be – why are we doing them if Lord Nityānanda didn’t? He is a main authority on preaching, why should we beg Him to do it our way instead of us following His?
One could also say that these parties still gave people the hangover. Lord Nityānanda and His associates got up and left for the spiritual world but those of us stuck here succumbed to the material illusion once again. Well, Lord Nityānanda never actually left, He is always present whenever preaching is going on and we can always count on His mercy. In fact, we can preach only if we have strong faith in His presence and support, and if one listens to stories by saṅkīrtana devotees there are moments when Lord’s help is so abundant that they can get away with murder and no one would blink an eye. Whatever illusions people have, Lord Nityānanda can easily put them under His spell and make them dance to His tune. They wouldn’t even know what hit them.
So, no, there are no hangovers and we aren’t left alone.
There’s tons of stuff we can learn from Lord Nityānanda’s preaching and, perhaps, we should periodically re-examine ourselves to keep us on track.