Vanity thought #1666. Devilish thoughts

My last speculation about the Lord keeping historical accuracy of our relationships with him birth after birth might go against some most basic principles of spiritual progress. Given the 666 in the number of today’s post, however, some devilish entertainment is only natural so let me indulge for the moment, something good might come out of it anyway.

The idea is that we were not randomly plucked out of a crowd of faceless materialists but were placed in our current position according to our previous karma and, more importantly, our previous service to the Lord. In this case to Lord Caitanya. Considering how little progress we make in our present life it’s not such an outrageous idea. With all our chanting we should have made giant strides but it doesn’t happen. Why? Maybe we expect progress in the wrong area.

For a materialist traveling through eight million species of life each new birth is progress, it gives him new abilities, new opportunities, new modes of sense enjoyment, everything looks new and improved. This is the kind of progress we expect from our spiritual life, too – we want to perceive the holy name better or see the deities as God and not as brass dolls on the altar, for example. And I mean actually see the Lord standing there because our eyes only perceive inanimate matter when we look. We might also expect penetrating insights into the workings of material energy, the ability to see past, present, and future, the ability to immediately judge one’s spiritual position and give appropriate advice etc. That last one is what happens to our gurus in ISKCON, we assume. They start off as fresh bhaktas, get shaved up, taught to chant and preach, get initiated, and then voila – ten-twenty years later they are promoted to sannyāsa and allowed to initiate. These days it’s not so easy but that was the general path for Prabhupāda disciples. We assume that because of their guru status they possess some superhuman powers, at least in spiritual matters. Our gurvaṣṭaka prayers are pretty explicit about out assumptions of what to expect from our guru, too, so no one can really blame us.

This kind of progress is still materialistic because it’s materially visible and materially measurable. We can’t see how the guru is serving the feet of Rāḍha and Kṛṣṇa in private groves of Vṛndāvana but we can see that he was declared a guru so it must be there – there’s still a materially perceptible designation to make him qualified. When we define our spiritual progress in such terms we can easily imagine what kind of birth would be a step up in the next life. We also have Kṛṣṇa’s assurances in Bhagavad Gītā that even if we fail to return to Him at the end of this life we’ll be placed in favorable conditions in the next and those conditions are defined materially – a family of a brāhmaṇa, for example.

So, how can I propose anything different? Because chanting of the holy name already granted us liberation even if it might not look so to our material eyes. We still suffer and enjoy and our minds are still attracted to material objects and they are still very very hard to control, where is liberation here? To counter this I’d say that we are liberated from the clutches of material energy and everything that happens to us now is lovingly controlled by the Lord Himself. But what about material desires? He recognizes our material desires and He arranges for their fulfillment in the most spiritually harmless way, it is not dictated by cold karma anymore. There’s another discussion to be had on whether law of karma is actually cold and impersonal but let’s leave it for now.

The point is that we are fully in the hands of the Lord, in every conceivable aspect of our lives, and if we don’t see unicorns and rainbows that’s because we don’t love Him in return yet, we are just coming around to realization that it would be a great idea but we are still attached to our “freedom”.

And that is why might need to disassociate our expectations of progress from materialistic perspective. We don’t need to get a better birth, we are perfectly capable of chanting where we are now. There might be relatively more or less material obstacles but they cannot override the irrevocable fact – we’ve been given the holy name and we can chant it. If it’s more difficult than for others then it could be so that we appreciate it more. One name uttered in the state of helplessness could be more spiritually valuable than sixty four rounds chanted in comfort of our home, who knows?

Material obstacles can’t hinder our spiritual progress but they might encourage us to give up our attachments to safety and comfort. We might think that in the next life we need better arrangements for our chanting but do we really? What’s stopping us from achieving perfection in chanting right where we are now? It’s the desire for better arrangements, that’s what. One split second of perfect association can grant us full spiritual perfection and it’s freely available, what better arrangements do we need? So what if we might spend years waiting for this moment to finally come? Kṛṣṇa, or rather Lord Caitanya, who is in charge of our progress, sees the bigger picture and He is infinitely patient. Waiting is not a problem for Him and it shouldn’t be a problem for us either. The state of kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ is tested precisely by the ability to chant patiently regardless of all kinds of obstacles and the desire to remove those obstacles goes against this principle. When we want better conditions in the next life, even if ostensibly for chanting, it means we still have material hankerings.

How will the Lord deal with them? I’d say He doesn’t need to place us into these better conditions. Judging by the state of our knowledge of philosophy and currently present spiritual opportunities we should be ready to achieve perfection right where we are, we just need more practice in service and detachment.

There’s also the issue of yukta-vairāgya where we must learn to engage everything we see in the service of the Lord. In this spirit we shouldn’t be asking for more stuff when we can’t deal with what we already have. Why would we need a “better” birth when we can’t fully utilize the present one? I’d say that it’s far better to discover connection to Kṛṣṇa where we don’t see it yet rather than demand advancement to the next level.

That’s why we might be born again and again precisely in these conditions, five hundred years after the appearance of Lord Caitanya. We still have plenty of spiritual progress to make here and this work shouldn’t be visible to the materialistic eyes anyway because they can’t see devotion and devotion does not have to manifest externally either.

But what about visible spiritual progress of the kind we can see in our ISKCON? What about it? I’d say it’s no different from a baby learning to walk and talk. We can replay it life after life, this external recognition of our externally visible efforts doesn’t matter, it’s just striving for fame and glory and it would eventually go away once we lived this life a few times.

It’s a fascinating topic, maybe I’ll continue it later.

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Vanity thought #1464. Behind the skirt

Toddlers have no safer place to learn about outside world then from behind their mother’s skirt, and that seems like the best place for us, too, except the skirt in this case is Lord Caitanya’s dhoti, figuratively speaking.

The relationship between Kṛṣna and Lord Caitanya and our place in it is complex. We can easily say that Lord Caitanya is “rādha-kṛṣṇa nahe anya” or that Kṛṣṇa took the form of Srīmatī Rādhārāṇī in order to experience her inexplicable pleasure but where does it leave us? We can also say that by the mercy of Lord Caitanya we can obtain love of Kṛṣṇa, but then what? Where does it leave Mahāprabhu?

Right from the start Śrīla Prabhupāda told us that our original position is to serve Kṛṣṇa in one of the five rasas in Vṛndāvana and we accept it as the default goal of life without thinking, but where does that leave Lord Caitanya? He doesn’t have a place in this vision.

Those who wonder about this can get a simple answer in Māyāpura where they say that Navadvīpa has a special place in Goloka meant just for the devotees of Lord Caitanya who can switch between pastimes with Kṛṣṇa and Gaurāṅga at will. This sounds like an interesting solution but, to my embarrassment, I’ve never looked for the śāstric support for it.

Nine islands of Navadvīpa map to twelve forests of Vṛndāvana and in that sense they are non-different from Vraja, so how can you be in one but not the other? Is Navadvīpa present in Goloka in the same sense that all tīrthas are present there? Some say that Navadvīpa is one of the six divisions in the spiritual sky (the others are Vaikuṇṭha, Ayodhyā, Dvārakā, Mathurā, and at the top Goloka itself). Others say that Navadvīpa is a subdivision of Goloka, and yet others introduce Śvetadvīpa in the mix.

This last one comes straight from Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and it divides Kṛṣṇa’s abode in three parts – for parakīyā, svakīyā, and all other kinds of bhāvas – that’s where Śvetadvīpa comes in, it’s not the same place that Lord Brahmā goes to when he calls for Viṣṇu’s help. This division makes sense but it’s just one way to look at it and it doesn’t easily answer questions posed from a different angle.

The main difficulty is this – Lord Caitanya and His devotees do not participate in Kṛṣṇa līlā directly but through saṅkīrtana. They relish the relationships between Kṛṣṇa and His devotees but they do not engage in these relationships between themselves. Vast majority of Lord Caitanya’s devotees are His servants regardless of their spiritual form and role in Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes.

This arrangement definitely needs a special accommodation and its exact nature seems to be hidden from our material abilities to model the world. I hope that somehow or other it works and, perhaps, devotees find more pleasure in serving Kṛṣṇa in separation.

Kṛṣṇa, of course, left Vṛndāvana and we assume that love in separation means physical separation but I’m not sure it even exists in the spiritual world, I’d rather speculate that in order to fully experience that rasa devotees need to step out and join Lord Caitanya in Navadvīpa.

The bigger problem is our eternal relationships with Mahāprabhu. If they are eternal we should never ever leave His side but going to enjoy with Kṛṣṇa means leaving Mahāprabhu behind. I mean taken straightforward this is the path – worship Lord Caitanya, by His mercy obtain Kṛṣṇa, then go worship Kṛṣṇa. I don’t believe it really works like that and we’ll have to leave Lord Caitanya’s feet forever.

The argument could be that Lord Caitanya’s form itself isn’t eternal – he really is Kṛṣṇa, not a separate entity, so He doesn’t exist separately from Kṛṣṇa in the spiritual world, too, so our relationships with Him aren’t special or eternal.

Is it atheistic of me to see Him as separate from Kṛṣṇa or is it atheistic to imply that He doesn’t have a separate, eternal existence?

The model that I imagine in my head is the simplest one in this sense – Navadvīpa really is a special place in Goloka, devotees there engage in eternal kīrtanas led by Lord Caitanya, and they can directly enter into Kṛṣṇa līlā whenever they want to, in fact they can probably be in two places at once, and if it’s all about rasa then their relationships with Kṛṣṇa can be enhanced through their saṅkīrtana with Mahāprabhu.

Navadvīpa then would be our entrance point to Kṛṣṇa līlā and that’s where holding on our mother’s skirt metaphor is handy – we’ll get previews, short glimpses first, and they will be overwhelming, especially to those coming from the material world, and we wouldn’t know what to do and say and that’s why we should firmly hold onto the mercy and protection of Mahāprabhu. Let Him guide us and teach us and gently introduce us to Kṛṣṇa, otherwise it will surely be too much.

At least we know and we have practical experiences of kīrtanas. We know what to do, where to stand, when to sit and when to dance, it can’t be that different in the spiritual Navadvīpa. We got it. Being suddenly thrust in front of Kṛṣṇa is a completely different challenge and we’ll surely need some time to get used to it and find our place there. We’ll need training, we’ll need to learn the language, we’ll need to learn names of people and our relationships to them – the whole ekadaśī bhāva thing. We are just not ready for it yet, but we are all ready and primed for Navadvīpa, with minimum adjustments. Leave your body, go straight there, and you are all set.

I particularly like the image of seeing something in Kṛṣṇa līlā and then darting for safety of Mahāprabhu for explanations and advice. It might not be Lord Caitanya personally, in fact most probably it won’t be, but His senior associates who will act as our guides.

In fact, we don’t even have to wait to be born in Navadvīpa to have this kind of experience, we just have to become perfect in our chanting and, theoretically, it’s the ability available to everyone.

Hmm, all of this presents another dilemma – some say that our next births will be with Kṛṣṇa somewhere in the material world, which won’t exactly be material but we’ll get the opportunity to perfect our devotion before finally being taken to the spiritual Vraja. This makes sense, but what about being born closer to Lord Caitanya instead to perfect our chanting and eventually enter Vraja through Navadvīpa?

I guess we’ll have to find out for ourselves, by Lord Caitanya’s mercy it will all be taken care of one way or another.

Vanity thought #1290. Gauranga grief

Thinking about somewhat mundane aspect of Lord Caitanya’s appearance reminded me about grief He gave to His wives. Of course there’s nothing mundane about Lord’s pastimes but let me explain what I mean.

We can celebrate Lord’s birthday as the appearance of our savior but we can also look at it in the context of His pre-conversion Navadvīpa pastimes. He was a channa avatāra, hidden from view of everyone, including His closest future devotees, for many many years. They all saw Him, they all knew Him, yet no one suspected He was a devotee, let alone the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.

First, He was an ordinary boy, and quite naughty at that. After His father’s disappearance He became even more “difficult”, one day practically destroying His house out of anger. Then He became a proud scholar, trolling everyone for a fight about Sanskrit grammar. Then He got married and, after losing His first wife, He got married again. Interestingly, He spend several months working closely with his future spiritual master, Īśvara Purī, on editing his book but didn’t display any visible signs of future surrender.

So it’s this context that I called “mundane”, because it doesn’t explicitly manifest Lord Caitanya’s own nature and the purpose of His appearance. It doesn’t mean that it was actually mundane, it only appeared so externally. Demigods knew what was going on and showed up at important junctions in Lord’s life dressed as ordinary people, and there were cases when the Lord ‘s identity was revealed privately but under strict non-disclosure agreements. Spiritually, Lord’s association was just as beneficial to those around Him even if they didn’t know about it. People were constantly induced to chant the names of Hari even if only to pacify the Lord in moments of His apparent distress. More or less, it was just like with Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana where no one knew His actual position but loved Him unconditionally anyway.

We have no problems with discussing Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes on this external level, keeping in mind that He was not simply a little boy and that all His devotees were perfect in their love even if they didn’t know He was God. I suppose we can discuss Lord Caitanya’s pastimes in the similar vein, too.

So, the grief.

The Lord appeared as an ordinary boy and lived an ordinary life. Everybody was happy when He was born and everybody was happy when He got married. There was nothing unusual about that. But, Lord’s principal reason for appearance was preaching the Holy Name and immersing Himself into the ocean of unalloyed bhakti. Marriage had no place in this plan so Lord’s wives got probably the worst of it, not to take anything away from pain caused to Mother Śacī. In fact, the Lord had to adjust His post-renunciation life to somewhat relieve the suffering He caused to His family, which at that time had only two defenseless women. The Lord left no children to take care of them, His father had passed away long time ago, there was no one to look after His aging mother, and His young wife who was condemned to a life time of being a widow.

Just think about it – a twenty year old woman who could never had sex for the rest of her life. Who would agree to it in this day and age? Whose heart won’t turn against the Lord for causing such suffering? It’s like taking away the very purpose of woman’s life. Not just sex, obviously, but children, too.

I don’t know who got it worse, Śrī Viṣṇupriyā, His second wife, or Śrī Lakṣmīdevī who left her body in pain of separation.

Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta doesn’t shed much light on the nature of these two personalities. There’s more in Caitanya Bhāgavata but their spiritual position is not immediately clear. In Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā it is said that Lakṣmīpriyā was previously Rukmiṇī while Viṣṇupryā was Bhū-śakti, which is another to say “mother of the entire universe”.

It is natural to expect Lord’s wives from the previous incarnations to join Him in His pastimes as Gaurasundara, too. How could they not? Everybody else went, Kṛṣṇa’s friends, parents, even gopīs. Gopīs, however, wisely appeared in male forms so that their association with the Lord wouldn’t be interrupted. Still, someone had to appear as Lord’s wives, and so Rukmiṇī obliged, and then the Lord left her.

In Lakṣmīdevī’s case the Lord went on a tour of East Bengal and was gone only for a couple of months but Lakṣmīdevī took it very seriously. Her usual service to the Lord was absolutely remarkable. She had absolutely no other interests or hobbies but to serve the Lord and Lord’s mother. She cooked and cleaned, and when the Lord came home she would massage His feet and just be there in complete silence and deference.

Lord Caitanya didn’t lead what is usually accepted as a model household life. He had no interest in any kind of material pleasures, save for trouncing His opponents in grammar debates. When I said that Lakṣmīdevī cooked I didn’t mean she cooked for three people only – the Lord, His mother, and herself. She cooked for all the guests Lord Caitanya would constantly invite to his home, regardless of how much foodstuff was there.

In that sense He was a model householder. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s father was the same way, always inviting various sādhus and feeding them. Sometimes the order to prepare food for a dozen or so people would come completely unexpected and there was no stuff to cook. It must have been unbelieveably annoying. Somehow or other, by His mystic potency, the Lord always arranged someone to drop by and bring ingredients but if one wanted to be in control and plan the feasts himself he was going to be disappointed. I wouldn’t last a week under such conditions.

When not cooking, Śrī Lakṣmīdevī was busy attending to the family shrine, decorating the temple room, cleaning the paraphernalia and so on. There was no entertainment whatsoever, there was no shopping, there was no traveling, no honeymoon, nothing, just cooking, cleaning, decorating, and massaging Lord’s lotus feet. I don’t even think they had proper sex, the śāstra doesn’t say but they were both young and healthy, they must have had conceived if they did.

So, considering such dedication to nothing but thankless service to the Lord, Śrī Lakṣmīpriyā couldn’t survive the separation from the object of her worship. Traditionally, when husband leaves on a trip his wife should wear plain clothes and stop putting makeup on her face but Śrī Lakṣmīdevī went a step further – she stopped eating. There was no point in sustaining her life if her body wasn’t used in Lord’s service. There was no point in living her life at all, and so she left this world while meditating on the banks of the Ganga.

I don’t think “snake of separation” mentioned in Caitanya Caritāmṛita should be taken as a literal, physical snake. He body wasn’t material, she was non-different from the Lord, and no material snake could have killed her.

The story of her life is remarkable. Modern women won’t even think about following her footsteps and even some of our female devotees would demand a better treatment and equal rights. No one would, of course, declare to be ready to follow her example, but at least we should know the standard of dedication displayed by Lakṣmīdevī. That’s what we all should aspire to, and it has nothing to do with our gender. I don’t mean to use it as an example for our marital relationships only. Her devotion transcends such mundane interests.

Still, Her path might be difficult to follow but it also has amazing clarity and simplicity about it. In that sense women’s dharma appears to be very straightforward, one only has to have devotion and dedication. Men, otoh, are always torn between different choices and, invariably, always make the wrong ones. When entering household life we ought to act as controllers and enjoyers and providers and protectors – all the things that lead us into deep illusion, and that’s what we HAVE TO do, forget about developing attachment for sex. It’s what we must do when on our best behavior. How can we develop the service attitude under such conditions? In this sense women have it much easier.

Anyway, my point was that, externally, Lord’s pastimes were not always ecstatic and there was plenty of unbearable suffering to go around, too. Real devotees, however, should not focus on that but rather direct their consciousness only towards the service of the Lord, considering pain and separation as punishment for their identification with their material bodies.

After all, renunciation is our only treasure in this world which is appreciated by Lord Caitanya (Kṛṣṇa premā does not count, it’s purely spiritual). The more we externally suffer in our service the more it pleases the Lord and that alone should be enough to keep us always happy and enthusiastic, no matter how life feels for our false egos.

PS. If one brings a familiar argument like “you wish your wife was like that while you…” I would immediately cut it off with “I wish *I* was a wife like that”.

Vanity thought #1195. Lord Caitanya to the rescue

To be honest, my latest posts were all gloomy, doubting prospects of our reunion with Kṛṣṇa. I still stand by them and consider them factually correct, we just have to approach this problem from a different angle.

First, there’s always the possibility that whatever we did to cause our departure from the spiritual world is all forgotten and does not go on our permanent record there. This means our return won’t be saddled by the need for explanations and clarifications, we’ll just get back into the service and that will be the end of it.

Secondly, our CURRENT prospects of reuniting with Kṛṣṇa should indeed be non-existent – we are still conditioned, firmly in the grasp of the illusion. We do not see our original selves yet, only our false egos, and our false identity is unsuitable for pure devotional service. Fact is, no matter how hard I might look in the mirror I will always see only something totally worthless to Kṛṣṇa – my material body. Why should I be surprised that this honest self-assessment concludes that I have no prospects whatsoever? Let’s talk again when our hearts are pure and we see reflections of our original spiritual identities.

Then there’s service in the material world. There’s nothing wrong with it if we are not ready for anything better. There’s a LOT we can do here to make Kṛṣṇa happy, especially if we engage in saṅkīrtana. Don’t we have examples of ācāryas praying for a chance to be born as a fly in a house of a vaiṣṇava? I can’t find the exact quote at the moment, haven’t heard it in a long time, but there is definitely a school of humble thought that being born in the material world for a chance of even the most insignificant service is a glorious birth.

Even if we do deserve “better” conditions – whatever Kṛṣṇa and His agents want us to do should be taken with great enthusiasm and appreciation. Remember that famous story about devotees being asked to donate foot dust to relieve Kṛṣṇa’s headache? Everybody refused, His queens, Akrūra, everybody in Dvārāka. They argued that giving foot dust to their husband, master, and God Himself would be against the rules and they would go to hell. Only gopīs volunteered their foot dust without any hesitation. When Kṛṣṇa is in pain a pure devotee has no concerns about his personal sins and possibility of going to hell.

The story usually stops there but do you ever wonder what happened to the gopīs in the end? Did they really go to hell? Obviously not, Kṛṣṇa wouldn’t allow it, but this answer is incomplete. He wouldn’t allow going to hell, okay, but what if karmic reactions for helping Kṛṣṇa weren’t so severe, wouldn’t they manifest for the gopīs? What if they were asked to do jumping jacks for Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure? Wouldn’t their heart rate go up? Wouldn’t they be tired and sweaty? Yes? So karma still comes, right?

So, what if karma for giving Kṛṣṇa foot dust or some similar request leads devotees to be born in the material world, in the movement of Lord Caitanya? It is surely somewhere in between getting sweaty and going to hell, so why not? Aren’t these differences immaterial for pure devotees who are eternally liberated anyway?

I’m saying that our imminent return to the material world can be attributed not only to our impurities but to our sacrifices for Kṛṣṇa, too. Next time we are supposed to be born during Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in one of the material universes – is it a reward or a punishment? Wrong question – pure hearted devotees do not see any difference and are not concerned with how each particular birth feels or how it is judged by our standards. It’s only us down here who want liberation and dream of pleasures of Vṛndāvana.

Apart from all the possibilities above, we are saved by Lord Caitanya. Whatever we had done to deserve our material existence becomes irrelevant when He extends us shelter of His lotus feet. We might have been imperfect servants back there but with Lord Caitanya we get a new spiritual birth. His mercy is unlimited, He holds no grudges, He brings everyone to Kṛṣṇa’s service.

So what if we are not qualified to serve in Vṛndāvana itself – serving lotus feet of Lord Caitanya is perfectly enough.

One could argue that we cannot enjoy any rasas but servitorship with Lord Caitanya but that is not entirely correct – by His mercy we can love Kṛṣṇa in ANY rasa through chanting of the Holy Names. When we with Him, we can do anything and everything for Kṛṣṇa, there are no limits.

One could say that we might not get Kṛṣṇa’s personal association but that is also not entirely correct – we get something even better – service in separation. Lord Caitanya Himself taught us that it is far superior and far more intense kind of love than enjoying Kṛṣṇa’s company. And it’s perfect for rejected rascals like us, too!

So what if we don’t deserve a place in Kṛṣṇa’s company for one reason or another? Under Lord Caitanya’s shelter we can still perfect our service and develop pure love for Kṛṣṇa, no matter how far we are removed from Him.

After all, all the above mentioned examples of devotional humility have been introduced to us by no one else but Lord Caitanya. Without Him we wouldn’t be able to appreciate them just as devotees of Dvārāka didn’t get the hint about foot dust.

In this sense Lord Caitanya’s mercy is multifaceted. He cleanses us from material contamination. He re-introduces us to Kṛṣṇa’s service and vouches for us. He gives us a place in His own entourage if we aren’t quite ready for Kṛṣṇa Himself. He teaches us value of love in separation and unparalleled sweetness of humility. He solves all our problems, all of them, real or imaginary, manifested or potential – His mercy is a perfect solution to everything. And He gives us pure love and devotion to Kṛṣṇa which is self-sufficient.

What more can we want? What have we got to worry about? What causes for pessimism we might have in our service? None whatsoever. Being picked up by Lord Caitanya is the best thing that can ever happen to conditioned souls like us.

For three days I’ve been painting gloomy scenarios and worrying about our return back to Kṛṣṇa, and those are legitimate concerns, but they are nothing when we have Lord Caitanya taking us under His wing. We are perfectly safe.

Pessimism about inadequacy of our own efforts dissipates under the light of Lord Caitanya’s mercy.

PS. I forgot about offenses in chanting the Holy Name – they do not count when we are doing it under Lord Caitanya’s supervision, so we are good there, too.

Vanity thought #1150. Lord’s humanity

It’s easy for us to imagine Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Absolute Truth, full of knowledge and bliss. We don’t know Him any other way. Every time He comes into our minds we treat Him as omnipotent, omnipresent God. Every time we think of people interacting with Him we expect them to lose external consciousness and exhibit the same symptoms as Lord Caitanya did.

The reality might be very very different.

We think we know Kṛṣṇa but we don’t. Both in the sense we’ve never seen Him reveal Himself to us and in the sense that we can’t sense His presence in the Holy Name or in the Deity. We treat the Holy Name and the Deity as Kṛṣṇa Himself, and we treat our guru as Kṛṣṇa’s empowered representative and we think that this is enough. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

It should be enough for our current spiritual needs and our current stage of progress but I don’t think it’s enough to say “we know Kṛṣṇa”.

It’s easy to know and recognize Kṛṣṇa – He has a bluish body and He is a young boy, who else can we mistake Him for? Lord Viṣṇu? Viṣṇu has four arms. Lord Śiva? I don’t think so. Yet Kṛṣṇa, if He suddenly decided to appear before us, might not look like what we expect at all. There are plenty of cases where He became visible and interacted with His devotees and they didn’t realize they were talking to Him.

Kṛṣṇa appeared before Mādhavendra Purī as a cowherd boy and offered him some milk, for example (CC Madhya 4, from verse 24 onwards). Mādhavendra Purī thought they boy was beautiful but he had no idea who he was. He then saw the same boy in his dream, followed the instructions, and discovered the Deity of Gopāla.

That story is interesting for another reason – it explains how Kṛṣṇa supports His devotees. He said that in His village no one fasts and He encouraged Mādhavendra Purī to go and beg for food. Isn’t it nice? Kṛṣṇa wants His devotees to beg for food, He asks us to do at least that much for our maintenance, and if that doesn’t work, He said, if a person doesn’t ask anyone for food, Kṛṣṇa supplies Him with eatables Himself.

How many of us are prepared to support ourselves by begging? Of course the caveat might be that Kṛṣṇa was talking about HIS village, at the foot of the Govardhana Hill, not the abominable places we are forced to reside in by our karma. Still, the principle is clear – we need to make an effort and Kṛṣṇa will make sure we get the provisions. And if we don’t make an effort we’d be forced to accept His personal service. What devotee would agree to that?

I guess it means we are okay working for food, too. Whatever efforts we must make, we cannot decline because doing so would mean bothering Kṛṣṇa just out of laziness and false pride. He’ll cover us, sure, but why would we want to inconvenience Him like that?

Anyway, another big case study of devotees not being able to recognize the Lord is life of Lord Caitanya. No one knew who He was even though many suspected He was not an ordinary boy. His older brother figured it out, that brāhmaṇa I wrote a bunch of posts about last week knew who He was, but most had no idea whatsoever.

They saw Him everyday, they were attracted by His beauty, they knew He was crazy after the names of Hari, but they couldn’t put two and two together. They looked at Him, talked to Him, played with Him and they didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary. They didn’t lose consciousness, they didn’t cry incessantly, their skin didn’t get covered with goose bumps and so on.

Yes, He was relatively more attractive then all the other babies but that was it. He once walked into a Kṛṣṇa kathā get together in the house of Advaita Ācārya to call His brother Viśvarūpa home for dinner. He was very young then, didn’t even wear clothes. So He stood there, butt naked, covered in dust, looking with great appreciation at the devotees who were just discussing His own glories, and no one recognized Him. He just didn’t look the part.

Now imagine you get to see the Lord like that day in and day out, just like an ordinary boy, snot on his face, dirt under his fingernails, stinky head, restless and always hungry. How are we going to accept him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead?

He might have adorable feet but all children his age are, how can we see them as “lotus”, as our life and soul, and as our only shelter? I’m afraid we can’t.

People who get to associate with the Lord like that do not see divine in Him. He looks very ordinary. It was true for Kṛṣṇa, it was true for Lord Caitanya, too.

Now with Kṛṣṇa it looked somewhat easier – everyone in Vṛndāvana is a pure devotee, everyone has a loving relationship with the Lord, we don’t have to worry about them. In Navadvīpa, however, it was different. The town was overrun by materialists who ridiculed vaiṣṇavas on every occasion. That’s why devotees flocked to Advaita Ācārya’s house – they had no other place to go, everyone everywhere else would laugh at them and their Lord. It was tough, really tough.

And when Kṛṣṇa appeared there as Gaurasundara they still didn’t recognize Him. Lacking the knowledge of Lord Gaurāṅga’s identity they tried to establish relationships with Kṛṣṇa, basically ignoring the Lord before their eyes.

And what about all the non-devotees there? They rejected serving Kṛṣṇa and didn’t appreciate Lord Caitanya very much. Even Mother Śacī got angry at Advaita Ācārya for preaching about Kṛṣṇa, which is a different story but makes a point here nevertheless.

The Lord just looked very very human, and familiarity, as we know, breeds contempt. Maybe not outright contempt but we can’t suddenly treat someone clearly human as God, we will always remember a million human like things about that person. AND we might be non-devotees to boot, too. I mean now we know about Kṛṣṇa but in our next life, which could be in the company of Lord Caitanya, we might be His childhood friends or neighbors He comes to pee on the floor every time no one is looking.

We might see Him as a naughty little boy or as an arrogant young man intoxicated with his own intellect and education. We might think of him as someone who broke his mother’s heart and took sannyāsa when she had no one to look after her, no husband, no other sons.

What I am saying is that knowing the Lord up close and personal might turn out very different from what we usually expect. He might not look “lordly” at all. How are we going to surrender then?

Ther’s also the case of Lord Nityānanda but I’ll leave that for some other time

Vanity thought #1143. Lord of mischief

Kṛṣṇa is usually remembered as a naughty boy, stealing butter and doing all kinds of mischief in His and His neighbors’ houses but Lord Caitanya wasn’t far behind, too, obviously because He is Kṛṣṇa Himself. I was reminded of it when reading that chapter from Caitanya Bhāgavata about brāhmaṇa who got his food unceremoniously eaten by Śrī Gaurasundara while it was being offered to Bāla Gopāla. The next chapter, number 6, is appropriately called “Lord Begins Studying and His childhood mischief” (link).

It starts from the verse 44 – the Lord had a group of friends and when they met any new boys they would tease them. If there was resistance the quarrel would break out. That’s just bullying. I can understand Lord’s friends being His eternal associates traveling with Him from one līlā to another but what about boys on the receiving end? What is their rasa?

Since they were residents of Navadvīpa there’s no question of them being ordinary conditioned souls under the influence of māyā, and even if they were – why should any living entity be bullied by the Lord?

Let’s say it’s possible and there’s some spiritual flavor in it – what makes us immune to that kind of treatment? What if our places in Lord’s pastimes are similar – being ridiculed by Him and His close associates? What if it’s true?

It won’t strip us of the Lord’s protection, of course, no one would be able to harm us but the Lord Himself, and there would be some spiritual satisfaction from serving as the Lord’s punching bag, if only for punchlines of His jokes, but that is not the kind of future usually advertised in our books, is it?

I don’t remember Kṛṣṇa being so cruel to His friends in Vṛndāvana, I don’t remember Kṛṣṇa fighting with anyone there. Lord Caitanya, on the contrary, had quarrels with other boys of His age all the time. It was these quarrels that led Him to taking sannyāsa, for example – way past His childhood.

That’s probably my only real concern with Lord’s mischief there, the rest was annoyingly delightful or delightfully annoying. At noon He would go to play in the Ganges, for example, and while there He would splash water on others with His feet. That might not have been acceptable from ordinary boys but the Lord knew that water from His feet was what these people would give their lives for if they knew who He was. I guess it was funny for Him to watch them wash off water from His feet with another water from His feet – the Ganges.

Sometimes He would throw sand on people who had just taken bath, sometimes He would touch them (which was ritually contaminating) or even spit on them. That’s just mean and time wasting but boys be boys, they just want attention and a sense of adventure, little adrenaline junkies that they are.

The brāhmaṇas who were “insulted” this way went to Jagannātha Miśra to complain. They listed all the troubles the Lord gave them and those included saying things like “Who are you meditating on? In this Kali Yiga I AM the Lord Nārāyaṇa!” Or He would steal someone’s Śīva liṅga, which also makes sense if you look at it from transcendental POV – it was probably a blessing.

One brāhmaṇa prepared various ingredients for worshiping Viṣṇu but Gaurasundara would sit on Viṣnu’s āsana, eat the food, and use flowers and sandalwood pulp to decorate Himself. When confronted He would say: “The person you prepared these items for has enjoyed them Himself, what’s your problem?”

The list of complaints was quite long – pulling brāhmaṇas under water by their legs when they chanted their gayātrīs, stealing Bhagavad Gītas, fruit, and clothes. Sometimes He would mix men’s and women’s clothing and embarrass people coming out of the water to dress.

No one could stop Him, He would spend up to six hours sporting in the Ganges, sometimes climbing on people’s shoulders and jumping while screaming “I am Lord Maheśa!” Generally, it was clean fun, if only in the literal sense of forcing everyone to take a bath again.

While these brāhmaṇas were complaining to Jagannātha Miśra they probably felt affection for Lord Gaurasundara. The book said they went for their own amusement but Jagannātha Miśra took it very seriously, grabbed a stick, and ran to the river to immediately punish Nimāi.

They weren’t alone complaining, too. While men talked to Lord’s father, girls went to His mother. They also had a list of grievances against Nimāi and it was pretty much the same but for adjustments made to annoy specifically girls, like telling them He’d become their husband or sneaking from behind and shouting in their ears and startling them. Same things with throwing sand, messing with clothes or even spitting water on them. What’s more – when the girls thought about this they compared these pastimes with those of Kṛṣṇa Himself. If they only knew…

Girls were a little sinister, however. They went to Mother Śacī with threats to tell their own parents, too, essentially blackmailing her into doing something about her Nimāi or facing wrath of their parents. Having relieved their hearts and minds and listening to Mother Śacīs sweet assurance, however, they all felt completely satisfied. Paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam, right? Works all the time even if we don’t know we are discussing the Lord.

So, with girls pacified like this we can better understand what happened next, when angry Jagannātha Miśra reached the Ganges. It was the girls who warned Nimāi that His father was coming and so the Lord ran away via a different path. Girls were afraid and ran away, too.

Śrī Gaurasundara instructed His friends to tell His father that He didn’t come to the Ganges that day, that they haven’t seen Him and were waiting for Him, too. It worked. When Jagannātha Miśra returned home he found Nimāi wearing His old clothes, covered in old dust, and with old ink stains on His body. The Lord fooled him. Even Mother Śacī didn’t know He went to the Ganges first.

The brāhmaṇas who were at the river saw that the matter had become too serious and tried to pacify Lord’s father, too. They said there were joking, saying things in jest, that the Lord shouldn’t have been punished for silly things. They understood Lord’s position perfectly and they didn’t wish any harm to come to Him. Jagannatha Miśra also said that they themselves are like fathers to his son and so they should not be offendedd by Him too much.

In the end Jagannātha Miśra believed His son who said He wasn’t at the river at all and others were being unfair to Him. Parental love overwhelmed Jagannātha Miśra, he took his son on his lap, embraced Him, and lost external consciousness.

The Lord Gaurasundara, for His part, used this moment of fatherly affection to advance His own agenda. He said that others blamed Him unfairly, did all those things themselves but told Jagannātha Miśra it was Nimāi, and for that they deserve to be punished by exactly the same mischief they were ascribing to the Lord. And so off to the river He went, with His father’s blessing to bring hell on those who defamed Him.

So, the whole story turned around to be all around happy one. Everyone was left with love and affection for the Lord, even the girls who went to snitch on Him to His mother. Mischief? Yes, but if we don’t get our minds into pretzels over this, imagining what we would do if someone messed like that with us, it would all bring us nothing but transcendental happiness.

Paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam again. Always works.

Vanity thought #1121. Living backwards

There are many ways in which devotees’ lives should be different from those of ordinary people. We have more rules, we have different goals, we have different values, we, hopefully, have different destinations. We hope our way of life is objectively better even though we recognize that other people make their own choices.

We consider life in devotion to Kṛṣṇa as progress and progress in ordinary language means going forward, we, however, often are moving in the opposite direction, we move backwards. How so?

First and most obvious point – we live in the past. We read books about past – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and Caitanya Caritāmṛta. We discuss events of the past, we meditate on the events of the past, we idealize the past, we say that past was better in every way than our current Kali yuga. Given a choice we would have immediately transfer ourselves either five hundred or five thousand years ago, never into the future.

Ordinary people live for the better future, we see it as bleak. There still might be a Golden Age coming but we do not consider it as worth getting born again for. We do not long for the advent of Kalki avatāra either, as much as we appreciate Lord’s appearances, we would rather finish our business with the material world long before that.

There’s another aspect where past looks better than the future – our personal lives. I’m not sure everyone would agree with me on this, though. Let me explain.

Young devotees have naturally everything to live for, ever expanding ocean of Kṛṣṇa bhakti is right in front of them, they are going to enjoy its bliss in ever increasing degree, pure devotion is just around the corner. With time this enthusiasm passes.

At some point we realize the amount of work ahead of us and scale down our expectations dramatically. We are not going to enter Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in our mediation like Six Gosvāmīs did, it’s just not going to happen, save for really extraordinary mercy. We hope it will hit us one day but we also accept that this day might not be in this life at all.

We are not going to develop Kṛṣṇa premā in this lifetime either, nor are we going to reach the stage of bhāva. Is ruci within our reach? Possibility is there but probably not in the sense of ever increasing spiritual bliss. We can see it in the lives of steady and mature devotees around us – their attraction to Kṛṣṇa is undeniable but it’s more like a conscious and voluntary obligation than spontaneous attraction of mind and senses.

This needs clarification. Ruci comes after liberation, when chanting becomes pure and heart becomes free from anarthas. Liberation, however, is a tricky thing. Normally mokṣa is supposed to be the highest goal of life according to Vedas and Hinduism, it supposed to free one from all material suffering and bring “bliss” of impersonalism. We, however, never get any of that.

No one, not even our ācāryas claimed to have achieved liberation of that kind. Nor have they been seen as having achieved such liberation. They looked pretty much like ordinary people with ordinary problems, health being the most obvious one.

I don’t think we seriously expect to attain that kind of liberation either, not even as a step towards bhakti. Come to think of it, even in our often quoted verses on the value of liberation, where she stands humbly waiting to serve pure devotees, we are expected NOT to take advantage of her offer.

What’s more, we should assume devotees as liberated from the moment they have been accepted in our family. Every single one of us is already liberated. Māyā has absolutely no power over us already even though it doesn’t feel like it – because she acts on Kṛṣṇa’s orders and under His direct supervision.

None of Kṛṣṇa’s devotees is a conditioned soul, even the least visibly advanced ones. There’s a huge, fundamental difference between ordinary people who believe māyā is all there is to their lives and devotees who see māyā as Kṛṣṇa’s energy. Not one of us gives her any degree of independence, Kṛṣṇa always, always comes on top in any situation. We always, always expect His protection, we only need to ask. Most of the time we can’t be bothered, life is pretty good as it is, but EVERY devotee would run to Kṛṣṇa at any sign of danger.

Basically, we play with māyā under Kṛṣṇa’s supervision, our hearts are not pure enough to seek Kṛṣṇa directly but we are never under complete māyā’s domain, our arrangement (and indulgence) is temporary.

We ARE free from clutches of māyā even though she still has full control over our bodies and minds, and why wouldn’t she? Our bodies are made of material elements, of course they act under laws of material nature, what else can they do? It’s not what concerns us as devotees even though occasionally it might get overwhelming. At the end of the day, though, we all accept it as a necessary, fully deserved but temporary inconvenience.

We might look as JC’s sentiment “Father, why have you abandoned me” and understand it but it would never ever happen to us. Whenever we need Kṛṣṇa’s help it’s there, always, no matter how bad situation gets, He can always find a way to extricate us from it, even if at the expense of our material bodies and egos. Actually, most of the time it does happen at the expense of our bodies and egos.

We aren’t better than JC and we are prone to accusing Kṛṣṇa of not caring enough but we know in our heart of hearts that it’s just anger talking, He would never really abandon us, and He might even enjoy being rebuked by His devotees, letting the situation deteriorate to the point of no return, and then ride in on a white horse and save the day. There’s naturally more appreciation and gratitude for solving bigger problems so we shouldn’t be surprised if our problems start piling up – more glory to Kṛṣṇa later!

Where was I? Ah, yes. As we age we realize that our life won’t get magical and the only thing we are going to get is better appreciation for what we already have. Then comes the fact that our bodies become less and less capable. I can pretty much rule out distributing books on the streets simply because physical stress of carrying them is probably too much to take for me. We grow not only old but also useless.

Many of us stay in active service and they might disapprove of such defeatist attitude but many would hopefully nod in agreement, too. As servants of Lord Caitanya’s mission our best times have passed. We aren’t going to be like Six Gosvāmīs or Śrīla Prabhupāda, our old age is going to be dull and unremarkable, there will no oceans to cross and no books to write. Well, some of us may write something but nothing comparable to Caitanya Caritāmṛta.

That’s when we realize that the purpose of our birth has been largely fulfilled ages ago – when our bodies were young and actively engaged in the preaching mission. It’s not going to happen again, all we have is our memories.

There’s another aspect where we live backwards yet – if we accept our imperfections and realize that one life is probably not enough to get to the spiritual world, where do we go from here? It’s assumed that we must take birth during Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes first, then get transferred to Goloka (if that is our spiritual home). Most likely, however, we get born with Lord Caitanya first – to complete our spiritual education under His care. What does it mean in practice? Going back in time.

I would argue that we will not get born here some ten twenty years after our death, meaning six hundred years after Lord Caitanya’s time – that would be moving in the wrong direction. I guess it would be possible if there was another big wave of saṇkīrtana coming but generally we would be moving closer to Him, not farther, ie back in time. How’s that possible? Easy.

Lord Caitanya’s pastimes never end, they are always visible in one universe or another, and so are the pastimes of Śrīla Prabhupāda coming four hundred years after Him. We just have to join them in their current location. When I think about it, however, it doesn’t look like we should be moving closer to Him, just becoming better servants in our present position in the sampradāya. That would fit with our guru being our eternal master, coming for us birth after birth. Every time we would just appreciate him better and better.

This type of progress shouldn’t be tied to material forms at all but I think it stands to reason that being twenty steps removed from Lord Caitanya we wold always end up somewhere “here” in relation to His appearance.

It is also possible that once our “education” is complete we’ll get a chance to choose a body from His close associates during His manifested pastimes just like nitya-siddha devotees. That would be clearly going backwards in time, as I tried to prove.

I mean – with our Lord being behind us on the material timeline why would we even want to move forward? Backwards is where we need to go, it would take us closer to the Lord, what’s there to argue?

Vanity thought #1087. Chewing the chewed

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.

Vanity thought #1086. Mystery of five

All major religions are surrounded by a great deal of occultism. In Vedic culture we have tantra, in Christianity they have Dan Brown, Judaism has Kabbala and in Islam there is sufism. There’s also paganism and all kinds of unaffiliated mystical schools that should fall into category of upadharma I discussed yesterday.

There’s no mysticism in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, however, and that makes us stand out. We don’t have any sacred numbers that can unlock mysteries of the universe. There’s 108, of course, but we also realize that with our atrocious chanting the exact number of beads and the names of gopīs associated with each one of them makes absolutely no practical difference. All our mysticism goes way over our heads.

Christians are similar in this, not all of them, of course, but generally they see mysticism as a work of devil and simple surrender to JC beats it any time. Vedic tantra is a powerful thing, and I’m not talking about vaiṣṇava rules of daily conduct or deity worship here. Tantrics, if they are not obvious cheaters, can make or break someone with ease. Spells, poisons, control of subtle spirits, they got it all covered. Yet we don’t worry about them – Kṛsṇa is the greatest tantric and simply uttering His name grants us all protection we will ever need.

Aintra Prabu once told a story how he was cursed by a tantric. His heart almost stopped, he couldn’t breathe and he fell on the floor of his room, but then he saw the Mahāmantra came down and dispel the curse. He said She looked nothing like our usual mumbling but was glorious and all powerful.

Sometimes when we need cavalry it comes.

So, we are not fixated on sacred two, three, five, or seven. Chinese believe in the power of nine but their reason is downright silly – it sounds like a word for going forward. It’s not the number that is auspicious there, it’s an unrelated word. Four is inauspicious because it’s related to death, but I digress. Even if we don’t attach any significance to any numbers, they still pop up all over our literature – duality of this world, three modes of nature, four heads of Brahmā and four expansions of Kṛṣṇa, nine islands of Jambu Dvīpa, but then ten offenses against the Holy Name – ten is a round number in the western system, we use it mostly for approximation and because it’s easy to remember, not for any special meaning.

Today I wanted to talk about five – panca, as in Panca Tattva

With duality everything is clear, black and white, love or hate. With three we add another dimension and also multitude of colors – three gunas and their three presiding deities is all we need to get the world going. Five is for five gross elements, I guess, and also five senses and five sensory objects, but five gross elements are just gross, the world still needs three subtle elements to function. Five senses is also arbitrary – why not four? Why not six? Everyone knows about sixth sense. Three primary colors are enough to paint the universe but five senses is just that, they hardly ever combine like colors do. There isn’t much room for mysticism here.

Panca tattva, however, is different. Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is clear – the divine couple, but why does the Lord needs to manifest Himself as five? Why not four? Why not six? There must be a reason behind it.

Śrīla Prabhupāda described Panca Tattva numerous times in addition to straightforward definitions from Caitanya Caritāmṛta. Yet everytime it comes out somewhat different. There’s this description, for example, originally from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Saraswatī (CC Adi 7.5):

    Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the form of a devotee, Nityānanda Prabhu appears in the form of a devotee’s spiritual master, Advaita Prabhu is the form of a bhakta (devotee) incarnation, Gadādhara Prabhu is the energy of a bhakta, and Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura is a pure devotee. Thus there are spiritual distinctions between them. The bhakta-rūpa (Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu), the bhakta-svarūpa (Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu) and the bhakta-avatāra (Śrī Advaita Prabhu) are described as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, His immediate manifestation and His plenary expansion,

Just a verse earlier, however, Panca Tattva is described like this (CC Adi.7.4):

    Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is always accompanied by His plenary expansion Sri Nityananda Prabhu, His incarnation Sri Advaita Prabhu, His internal potency Sri Gadadhara Prabhu and His marginal potency Srivasa Prabhu.

There’s no contradiction between these two definitions, of course, they talk about the same personalities just in a slightly different way, yet this ambiguity leaves us room to speculate a little further. Why is there five of them? Can this number be explained in terms of some underlying principles?

I believe it can, but it’s still speculative.

So, in Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu we have the complete whole, Kṛṣṇa Himself, but He is never alone, He is always accompanied by His energies, which also originally emanate from Him.

Lord Nityānanda is the creator of the spiritual world, everything that is meant to make Kṛṣṇa’s life easier – His bed, His slippers, everything. Lord Nityānanda is the source of all opulences, when Kṛṣṇa wants something, Lord Nityānanda, who is non-different from Balārama, appears on the spot and provides it.

Śrī Advaita Prabhu is the creator of the material worlds. That’s why He sometimes described as Mahā Viṣṇu and sometimes as Sadaśiva. He is fully spiritual Himself and is untouched by the illusion but He deals with matter. He creates this world both for the pleasure of Lord Viṣṇu, as He dreams His transcendental dreams, and for the pleasure of the conditioned souls who get to live their life in forgetfulness of the Lord.

Sometimes He is called “incarnation of the devotee” as opposed to “identity of the devotee”, who is Lord Nityānanda. Well, all members of the Panca Tattva are devotees, but Advaita Ācārya is incarnation of the Lord in the material world while Lord Nityananda is “incarnation” in the spiritual world.

Between the two of them both the material and spiritual world get covered. Things themselves, however, are of no value, they need to be engaged in Lord’s service. Bed needs to be made and slippers need to be brought in. Thus, on the other side of Lord Caitanya, we have two personalities who engage creations of two Lords in Kṛṣṇa’s service.

Śrī Gadādhara is Lord’s internal energy, engaging purely spiritual paraphernalia, while Śrīvāsa Prabhu engages the lower, material energy in the service of the Lord.

Śrī Gadādhara is, therefore, accepted as Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇi, Kṛṣṇa’s eternal consort in the spiritual world, while Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita is Lord’s perfect devotee who appears in the material world.

Now it makes sense – two Lords to create two worlds, and two devotees to engage those two worlds in Kṛṣṇa’s service. Nothing is left out.

Makes total sense to me, and doesn’t contradict Śrīla Prabhupāda in any way.

Vanity thought #1046. Servants of two masters

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.