Vanity thought #946. Reconciliation

I’ve been entertaining some pretty crazy ideas recently that challenge my core assumptions of who I am and what my relationship with Lord Caitanya could possibly be. I think it’s time to reconcile and try to make sense of all these contradicting ideas. My mind is still foggy, though, so forgive me if I’m not really thorough here.

Let’s start at the beginning – Kṛṣṇa appeared here some five thousand years ago and it all went great, demons were punished, devotees rewarded, and great time had been had. There were two nagging problems left, though.

First, Kṛṣṇa’s disappearance marked the beginning of Kali Yuga but He didn’t leave us any particular instructions on how to battle its effects.

Secondly, Kṛṣṇa thought that He was the greatest thing since sliced bread, the most powerful, most beautiful, most attractive being of all – even His name reflected that, and yet there was this woman, Rādhā, who seemed to be having even more fun that He had.

Kṛṣṇa thought He had everything under the sun but this Rādhā person seemed to possess love that was far greater than His own. This needed to be investigated further.

That’s how we come to Lord Caitanya and two reasons for His appearance. First, the external one, is propagating yuga dharma, congregational chanting of the Holy Name, and second, internal, is trying to get a taste of Śrī Rādhā’s love for Him.

Here we have to keep in mind that this doesn’t happen often, only one time in a thousand – once in a day of Brahmā. Usually Lord Caitanya comes as a hidden avatāra, preaches the yuga dharma, and that’s it, no more check-ins until Lord Kalki destroys the wretched human kind for good.

It should not make any difference, though, as chanting of the Holy Name is still the main reason as far as ordinary people are concerned, no matter what yuga it is, and the internal reason was hidden from most of His devotees at the time and they had no clue. It was only the Six Gosvāmīs who disclosed the science of rasa to the rest of the world. It did, however, help sustain the saṅkīrtana movement ever since so our situation is helped by this special appearance of the Lord

This is the background situation before we show up on the scene, some five hundred years later, and seek our place in Lord’s pastimes. Do we have any? Should we have any? Or can we bypass Lord Caitanya’s pastimes altogether and go straight to Kṛṣṇa consciousness?

The last one is the wrong question to ask – it’s not either/or proposition, I’ll get to it later.

Lord Caitanya, as I suppose any incarnation of the Lord, has His own abode and His own associates. Is He always non-different from Kṛṣṇa, as He came right on the big bosses’ heels, or is He sometimes only an incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu?

I would think that normally He is NOT Kṛṣṇa Himself, as much as such distinctions matter when we talk about Viṣṇu-tattva. “Ours”, however, has a place right there on Goloka Vṛndāvana, there’s no difference between the two at all.

This means that we have a good shot at getting eternal spiritual association at both places rather than just one. “Our” Navadvīpa IS Vṛndāvana, we are safe there, it’s our home.

Even better argument is that we have been saved by Lord Caitanya rather than by Kṛṣṇa, we ARE His servants, His devotees, we totally depend on His mercy and no one else’s. We worship Him and with His blessings our chanting brings fruit of love of Kṛṣṇa. I should say love FOR Kṛṣṇa because that’s what we are lacking, no Kṛṣṇa’s love for ourselves.

With this in mind it seems incredulous to argue that we don’t have a place in Lord Caitanya’s līlā as I’ve been doing for the past couple of days. Yet I would still stand by my proposition, it’s just what this “place” is that needs to be considered carefully.

Lord Caitanya comes to the material world to preach to non-believers. These non-believers do not exist in the spiritual world, they do not exist in Lord’s abode, so if we want to join these particular pastimes – they are not happening there, only down here.

Genuine Navadvīpa pastimes of the Lord include congregational chanting with Lord’s associates, the kind that went on in the house of Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita. Quite possibly they include pastimes with Śacīmātā and Jagannātha Miśra, though His father’s early death is probably not there. There could be His marriages and His pastimes with his school friends but probably not grammar debates with puffed up scholars.

I seriously doubt that the episode with converting the Muslim Kazi is there, nor do I think that Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s whipping at the hands of Muslim ruler is there either.

These things just do not happen in the spiritual world (as we know it) so if we want to be part of those pastimes, līlā connected with preaching rather than singing, we’ve got to experience it down here, in the material world, it has nothing to do with our place in the spiritual Navadvīpa.

Okay, question still remains – can we have them? Can we witness Lord Caitanya’s pastimes in Purī, for example? Can we witness His deep love and concern for spiritual well-being of all His devotees, even the imperfect ones?

Well, as far as our current lives are concerned – that train has sailed, we are on our own now, supported only by the memories passed down to us by our ācāryas. Once we done here we are going straight up to spiritual Navadvīpa. Our part is to distribute books or whatever it is ISKCON will do next and it’s no less glorious than cleaning Guṇḍicā temple and our our Ratha-Yātrās are no less ecstatic than the ones in Purī. We even have the advantage of attracting millions of souls who have never heard of Kṛṣṇa before, that’s the mellow they can’t taste in Jagannātha Purī, only on the streets of our cities.

Our situation here is not bad at all, we don’t get to see Lord Caitanya in “flesh” but we get to preach a lot more than devotees five hundred years ago, and for Mahaprābhu it matters. We are not cut off His mercy, quite the opposite, and we don’t get to confuse Him with an ordinary being like His contemporaries.

And here’s the clincher – if we really want a part in Lord’s manifested pastimes there are always other universes to see them! We missed Him here but He is always somewhere else, sweeping people of their feet with His chanting and dancing, He is always somewhere out there sharing prasāda with all His friends, He is always somewhere out there with all His devotees. We just have to get born again in the suitable universe, that’s all.

Considering how ambivalent we are about our current births, it’s not such a bad proposition, it’s non-different from being born during Kṛṣṇa’s manifested pastimes, which is what we supposed to live through first anyway.

I want to finish with this quote from Harmonist, the English language magazine published by Śrila Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī:

    Kṛṣṇa as the source of love Himself is Caitanya. The two aspects of the Divine Personality are not complimentary but are identical. Śri Kṛṣṇa is eternally served by the denizens of Vraja. Kṛṣṇa is thus served in a visible form in the Dvāpara Age in this world. Śri Kṛṣṇa is also served in a visible form in Kali-yuga. He is served as Śri Caitanya by the denizens of Navadvīpa which is identical with the white island [Śvetadvīpa] of the scriptures. The servants and associates of Śri Kṛṣṇa Caitanya are identical with those of Śri Kṛṣṇa. The service of Śri Kṛṣṇa Caitanya alone is attainable in the Kali age. Those who aspire for the service of Kṛṣṇa in this age have no other alternative but to serve Śri Kṛṣṇa Caitanya.

Here is unequivocal declaration of Lord Caitanya’s and Kṛṣṇa’s equivalence. They are not complimentary to each other, they are identical. For those who lived thousands years ago Kṛṣṇa was the worshipable deity, for us it’s Lord Caitanya. There’s no other way, no alternative, so to try and find our way into Vṛndāvana bypassing surrendering our lives and souls to the preaching mission of Lord Caitanya is impossible and is a fool’s errand.

We have to become Mahaprābhu’s perfect servants first, and then, who knows, since there’s no difference between Him and Kṛṣṇa, we might never wish to leave His saṅkīrtana party at all, for all the mellows and rasas are already there, in chanting of the Holy Name under guidance of our merciful Lord.

Hope that clarifies things a bit

Vanity thought #945. Implications

First – the disclaimer – all of this is purely speculative, I have never asked any authority to comment much less confirm my ideas. Do not take them seriously. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve taken these ideas from any unauthorized sources and I don’t see them as irreconcilable with our official version. I would say that our official version doesn’t consider such propositions at all and so does not have an official position and no one knows what the official position would be once all the arguments are considered.

Basically, what I’ve been arguing for the past couple of days is that Lord Caitanya’s manifestation in this world was “material”. Of course there’s an eternal, spiritual Navadvīpa where the Lord rules the realm along with Pañca-tattva and all the residents there are His eternal, spiritual associates, I’m talking about time the Lord spent preaching around India and living in Jagannātha Purī.

Think of all the devotees the Lord met there. Is Rāmānanda Rāya present in Navadvīpa? I don’t think so, there’s no evidence to say that he is. Is Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya present in Navadvīpa? Is Sanātana Gosvāmī present in Navadvīpa? Rūpa Gosvāmī? Is Haridāsa Ṭhākura there?

I have no objections to Lord eternal pastimes going on in Navadvīpa up to this day, even if non-manifested, but I have no reason to believe they continue in Purī and all the other places the Lord visited throughout His life.

Look at the evidence of Lord life and that of His associates outside Navadvīpa – they were behaving just like ordinary human beings, they got old, they got sick, and they eventually died. We can say that the Lord’s body is fully spiritual and so not subjected to decay or any other material transformations and He didn’t actually die, but what about bodies His associates?

Gadādhara Paṇḍita is a member of Pañca-tattva and Lord’s eternal associate in Navadvīpa but in Purī he lived like an ordinary man, he eventually got so old that he couldn’t stand up to serve his deity anymore – that’s how we’ve got sitting Ṭoṭā Gopīnāntha in Purī. Was Gadādhara Paṇḍita’s body fully spiritual in a sense of ever youthful? Obviously not.

What of Haridāsa Ṭhākura? He was an incarnation of Lord Brahmā and/or Prahlāda Mahārāja. Is there an eternal spiritual form of his present in Navadvīpa? What of his pastimes in Jagannātha Purī? Are they present in Navadvīpa? I don’t see how it could be possible without transferring the entire Purī līlā into the spiritual world.

Once we allow Purī līlā in, what would be the reason to exclude Lord’s pastimes elsewhere? What about that one case when Lord’s servant got lured away by gypsy women? That could not be happening in the spiritual world. Neither could the fall of Choṭa Haridāsa be there.

What if we consider our paramparā starting with the Lord Himself. His body was fully spiritual and so were bodies of Lord Nityānanda and Advaita Ācārya, but what about the body of Gadadhāra Paṇḍita? The one that was visible in Purī? What about bodies or Rūpa and Sanātana?

We have samādhis of many of our ācāryas in Vṛndāvana and elsewhere, including samādhi of Haridāsa Ṭhākura in Purī. We know that their bodies are still there, this means that theirs weren’t fully spiritual forms. We could say they were spiritualized like an iron rod put into fire becomes just as hot but that does not mean that they have eternal spiritual forms of “Rūpa” and “Sanātana” and others. We know that our Śrila Prabhupāda was not his body and that his spiritual form was different from what we could see with our material eyes, why shouldn’t we extend this understanding to the forms of our previous ācāyras all the way to Rūpa Gosvāmī?

All of this makes me see Lord Caitanya’s out of Navadvīpa pastimes as taking place with the material energy, reuniting it with the Supreme through saṅkīrtana yajña.

This means that we can’t expect having a relationship with the Lord beyond what we are having now just as we can’t expect to be any closer to Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmīs than we are now, just as we can never become Śrila Prabhupāda’s disciples – we well always be generations away from them, never their associates.

This means that when we read and discuss Lord’s Purī pastimes like dancing at the temple, participating in Ratha Yātrā or cleaning Guṇḍicā temple we are talking about events that will never ever happen again and we will never ever be a part of. Never.

This is quite different from reading about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes where we always have a chance to participate, though probably not the ones outside Mathurā, Vṛndāvana, and Dvārakā, which is enough. Being excluded from Lord Caitanya’s pastimes in Purī seems like being robbed of so many spiritual opportunities. Half of Lord Caitanya’s life was spent outside Navadvīpa, after all. Even in Navadvīpa His saṅkīrtana pastimes took only a couple of years after His initiation by Īśvara Purī. Can we hope to be a part of those?

I don’t think it would be easy to support such hope. As I said earlier – there were lots of devotees who were never a part of those pastimes and we are their distant followers. If Rūpa Gosvāmī didn’t have “Rūpa Gosvāmī” form in Navadvīpa then what is the hope for us to be there?

This changes everything, as they say.

We ARE nothing but Lord Caitanya’s servants yet we don’t have a place in His pastimes. Well, that is pretty disappointing. Does this mean that when we visit Mayapur what we see is what we get, unlike Vṛṇdāvana where we can always hope of having our own spiritual place, however hidden from our present material view? It would appear to be so.

Does this mean that we will never ever attain Mahāprabhu no matter what we do? That He will always manifest t us only through serving His mission, never in person?

Does this mean that our constitutional position is to be as far away from the Lord as we are now?

Does this mean that our only connection to the Lord is through our guru-paramparā and we can’t expect anything more?

Of course Lord Caitanya can appear to us if He wants to but that would be a one time occasion, not us resuming our lost relationships with Him.

What if we will never ever “see” the Lord at all? What if all we have is His transcendental name and even when it reveals Himself to us it won’t change our present situation in any way? That we will see Lord’s mercy where we now see only material nature but nothing more?

This is a lot less to look forward to than I expected. On the other hand – holy name contains everything in itself already, there will be nothing missing once we get to really hear it no matter our present situation or constitutional position.

This understanding of Lord’s position is very confusing to me but so far I don’t see how it could be wrong. I called this post “implications” but I’ve only started to comprehend the full effect of this “realization”, maybe I need time to think this through and come up with a more coherent presentation.

Vanity thought #943. Gaura Purnima

This day happens only once a year, the anniversary of the birth of Lord Caitanya. Actually, every day happens only once a year, we are only fooling ourselves when we treat dates like 11.11.11 as something unique and special, but Lord Caitanya’s appearance day is, of course, much more than a combination of silly numbers.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Rādhe Kṛṣṇa nāhi anya, as they say. I thought it was a verse from Caitanya Caritāmṛita but, apparently, it was said by Śrila Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. The point is that our Lord Caitanya is non-different from Rādha and Kṛṣṇa, which is a very unique combination putting us into a very unique position as compared to all the other devotees of either Rādha or Krṣṇa.

While Kṛṣṇa might be the origin of all the spiritual and material worlds and the origin of all rasas, we, as devotees, are the creation of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Will we ever, upon recovering our original spiritual identities, cease to be His devotees? I don’t think so. Six Gosvamis didn’t, we are in a truly unique position of being able to taste both kinds of nectar – as servants of Rādha and Kṛṣṇa and as members of Lord Caitanya’s sañkīrtana party.

I have no idea how that would work, though – do we really have spiritual identities as Lord Caitanya’s servants in the spiritual Navadvīpa as opposed to our material identities as Lord Caitanya’s servants here? It’s easy to imagine how it could be possible but, I’m afraid, there are good arguments why it might not be the case, too.

All Kṛṣṇa’s associates from His Vṛndāvana pastimes descended into the material world to assist Lord Caitanya, presumably taking possession of material bodies here, not creating new spiritual identities for themselves. Likewise, while there is spiritual Navadvīpa in the spiritual world, what about devotees of Lord Caitanya who were born in other places or served Him in other places, like Jagannātha Purī? Okay, Purī is a spiritual abode in itself, but what about all the other places in Bengal? What about Varanasi?

What about the fact that some devotees’ relationships with the Lord depended on their temporary, “material” bodies? Take, for example, Nārāyaṇī, who was a niece of Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura’s (CC Adi 8.41):

Nārāyaṇī eternally eats the remnants of the food of Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

While the verse says “eternally” it wasn’t eternally during her manifestation in this world – only when she was a child. Later on she gave birth to Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura and Lord Caitanya wasn’t present there anymore. It is a famous episode when the Lord ordered her, a four year old girl, to develop love of Kṛṣṇa right there on the spot, and that He often gave her remnants of chewed betel nut from His mouth, but it is not an “eternal” pastime down here.

Perhaps a better example would be Puri Dasa, son of Sivananda Sena – when he was a baby the Lord let him suck on his toe. Now this is a curious relationship that did not extend to any grown up devotees of the Lord, or it would appear extremely weird. Maybe it is “eternal”, too, but it certainly not how it appeared here.

The Lord is absolute, of course, yet it appears that some of devotees’ relationships with Him depend on their particular material appearance. So, who is to say that we, as followers of ISKCON and Śrila Prabhupāda, have any other relationships with Lord Caitanya besides our current ones as members of His extended sañkīrtana party?

Do we recognize current spreading of Hare Kṛṣṇa movement as part of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes and not as something completely different? I think we do, and so it could be argued that our part in Mahāprabhu’s lila is being right here right now and not five hundred years ago in Navadvīpa.

Just like Kṛṣṇa’s associates took birth on this planet during the time of Lord Caitanya, we could be random conditioned souls who were pulled into continuation of Lord’s pastimes in the current times, and some of our devotees could be nitya siddha souls, too. Not all devotees were eternal associates in Lord Caitanya’s times, either, though it raises the question if they got any separate spiritual identities later on.

Regardless, the important part of this proposition is that it makes us appreciate what we have been given – service in the sañkīrtana movement of the Lord, which is also the only service available to us right now. We would naturally treasure it a lot more if we knew it was truly special and not just some passing time in between thousands and millions of births on the way to some future perfection.

Truth is, helping spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness around the world IS the perfection already. Thinking of it this way we would also realize that this IS our relationships with Mahāprabhu – He is not going to stuck His toes in our mouths, He is not going to give us chewed up betel nut, He is not going to discuss intimate pastimes of Rādha and Kṛṣṇa with us like He did with Rāmānanda Rāya, He is not going to dance with our dead bodies in His hands like He did with Hardāsa Ṭhākura, He is not going to invite us into nightly sañkīrtana parties in the house of Śrivasa Ṭhākura, we will have none of that but we will have eternal bliss of giving people books of Śrila Prabhupāda.

What more could we want?

This would mean that by doing so we WILL fully develop our relationship with the Lord, it just won’t look the same as with devotees described in Caitanya Caritāmṛta, and so what? Aren’t we supposed to have unique relationships with the Lord anyway?

Why should we think that distributing books down here is less blissful than singing in kīrtanas in spiritual Navadvīpa? Why should we see one form of glorification of the Lord as inferior to any other?

All considered, attracting formerly conditioned souls to Kṛṣṇa must make Him feel so much better than glorification from the mouths of devotees He has heard many many times before.

Maybe our engagement in Śrila Prabhupāda’s mission was rather short, but that could be said about all Lord’s pastimes manifested in the material world, too, down to a hundred years spent by gopis and gopas without Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndavāna or a hundred years without Lord Caitanya for Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī.

It’s not unusual for devotees to spend their years without the Lord being morose and despondent, and, perhaps, that’s how we should feel when we don’t distribute books anymore.

Point is – if we are looking for Mahāprabhu elsewhere we are fools – He is out there on the streets when we go and distribute books and we can’t have any better or deeper realization of His love and mercy than when we tell people about Kṛṣṇa and make them into devotees.

In that sense we can make every day into Gaura Pūrṇimā if we take it to mean Lord Caitanya’s appearance in our lives and the lives of others.

For us there’s no other way, this IS our place and our service, there’s no better engagement. This IS how we are supposed to realize the Lord.

Vanity thought #856. Neither good nor bad

Contunuing from yesterday – there was a story about Lord Chaitanya and Sanatana Goswami in Chaitanya Charitamrita (Antya 4) where Mahaprabhu cured oozing sores on Sanatana Goswami’s skin and demonstrated to everyone how even pus on pure devotee’s body smells like sandalwood pulp, or actually chatuhsama, a mixture of four different fragrances.

There’s a verse there (CC Antya 4.198) that states the following:

    In fact, however, when Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu embraced the body of Sanātana Gosvāmī, by the Lord’s touch alone there was manifested a fragrance exactly like that of sandalwood pulp.

It’s not exactly clear which particular embrace this refers to. From the context it would appear that Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami was talking about their very first meeting when Sanatana Goswami just arrived to Jagannatha Puri, but when he was describing this embrace earlier he didn’t mention anything about any aromas (CC Antya 4.21):

    Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, however, embraced Sanātana Gosvāmī by force. Thus the moisture oozing from the itching sores touched the transcendental body of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

It’s possible that aroma manifested during the final embrace when all the sores disappeared, which would somewhat undermine my point, but the Lord was saying that even pus smelled nice on Sanatana Goswami’s body so we should assume that it was sandalwood fragrance coming from the sores, not from the skin already cured by embrace.

Anyway, the Lord has stated it and then proved it. The question, however, remains – without that embrace no one saw sores as the source of aroma, without Lord’s personal touch they looked and smelled like ordinary sores, and since the Lord is not around anymore how can we accept this lesson as relevant to our lives? We can’t prove anything and we can’t see and smell anything as being transcendental, so what’s the point?

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, however, gave philosophical basis for this unique perception so, presumably, if we attain the same philosophical level of understanding we can attain the same transcendental vision. This would give us an objective criteria to explain why, when, and how we can expect seeing pus as nectar.

This philosophical lesson was given in continuation of the episode with Jagadananda Pandit who advised Sanatanata Goswami to move to Vrindavana and Lord Chaitanya thought it was a breach of etiquette because Sanatana Goswami should have been treated as a senior. That alone constitutes a very important case study in vaishnava relationships but it’s not what I want to talk about today.

Moving on, the Lord argued that for Him every devotee is equally dear but still there are different types of ecstatic relationships and then suddenly He said the following words:

    You consider your body dangerous and awful, but I think that your body is like nectar. Actually your body is transcendental, never material. You are thinking of it, however, in terms of a material conception. Even if your body were material, I still could not neglect it, for the material body should be considered neither good nor bad.

Then the Lord gave several quotations from the scriptures to confirm it. Another reason to ignore such considerations as good or bad was related to Lord Chaitanya’s external status as a sannyasi and in the Purports Srila Prabhupada describes how for sannyasi applying sandalwood should be no different from applying mud.

Okay, that explains indifference towards oozing sores, but what makes them into fragrance?

Haridasa Thakura rejected Mahaprabhu’s sannyasa explanation as external, different people have different duties. Sannyasi must be indifferent towards pus but other people are not obliged to do so.

The Lord then declared His personal love and care for the bodies of His devotees. He called both Sanatana Goswami and Haridasa Thakura His little children:

    My dear Haridāsa and Sanātana, I think of you as My little boys, to be maintained by Me. The maintainer never takes seriously any faults of the maintained.

    The stool and urine of the maintained child appear like sandalwood pulp to the mother. Similarly, when the foul moisture oozing from the sores of Sanātana touches My body, I have no hatred for him.

This is a different tune altogether. Now the Lord is talking about seeing pus as pus but loving it anyway because it comes from the body of His dear devotee.

This we cannot imitate. We do not see material bodies as being loved by Krishna, we see them as separate and full of pus. This is what maya does to us – it makes the world appear as separated from the Lord. If we transcend this illusory vision and start seeing the world as paramahamsas we will naturally lose any aversion to any phenomena here, however gross.

On this note, should I try to treat my own body as property of the Lord? So far I have two states of feeling about my body – I hate it as an impediment to devotional service and I love it when I want to enjoy my senses. There’s one other state – I hate it because it doesn’t provide as much enjoyment as I want. All these feelings rise from the illusory vision, however. What if I tried to see my body as Lord’s instrument instead?

Philosophically we speak of our bodies as such all the time, we speak of becoming Krishna or guru’s instruments. What if we realize that our bodies do not have to become anything, that they already ARE Krishna’s property, at all times? Philosophically it’s true anyway.

Will they smell like flowers then? Perhaps, but not in the same way they smell nice after bath because that’s the perception based on illusion. I’m talking about transcendental smell that is always there regardless of the body’s external conditions. I’m talking about change of perception between smelling sweat and smelling sweat but feeling that it’s sandalwood.

One immediate objection is that we should not see ourselves as such advanced devotees, only pure devotees’ bodies are fully transcendental and it would be very inappropriate of us to claim the same status.

That is correct but what I’m saying here is that our bodies belong to Krishna regardless of our level of advancement. We might not be devotees at all but Krishna’s energy is always Krishna’s energy and thus it smells like sandalwood at all times, albeit only to those who see it that way. Still, the smell is omnipresent throughout the creation, it does not depend on whether we perceive it or not so why shouldn’t we treat the world and our bodies with full respect anyway?

Or, to turn it around – we shouldn’t be disrespectful just because we are ignorant. Even children know to shut up in serious situations. They don’t understand why, what or who but if an important person enters the room they naturally freeze and show respect. We are just like those little children, running around without care in the world. Well, maybe it’s time we grow up and at least try to treat the world with respect it deserves.

It’s neither good nor bad, it’s even better than that – it’s Krishna’s energy and therefore it’s perfect and full of bliss at every step and in every way, especially when we are dealing with devotees.

Vanity thought #814. Unbelievable Lord Chaitanya

Without actual experience of the Lord on a spiritual platform our minds are always open to doubts and sometimes it’s fun to entertain them just to re-examine our beliefs. Divinity of Lord Chaitanya is a prime example here.

How do we know that He was Krishna Himself?

Will the recommended reliance on guru, sadhu, and shastra help us prove it one way or another?

There’s a long list of quotations from various Vedic scriptures in support of His divinity that has been floating around the Internet since forever. It looks impressive but the trouble is that all those quotations can be interpreted differently. We see them as proof, others look at them and see something else. There’s no krishnas tu bhagavan svayam equivalent there and so devotees from other sampradayas have been having a field day disputing our conclusions.

One reason for this situation is that Lord Chaitanya was channa avatara, hidden incarnation. It explains a lot but doesn’t really help.

Okay, what about guru? I’m afraid there’s even less help there. Lord Chaitanya is a focal point of our branch of Madhva sampradaya, all our gurus are His followers, if they didn’t accept His divinity they wouldn’t have been included in the parampara. We call them gurus because they represent Lord Chaitanya as Krishna Himself.

Lord Chaitanya’s own guru didn’t declare Him to be God, afaik, but I might be wrong.

What about sadhu? Hmm, we don’t accept devotees from outside of our sampradaya as authorities on the subject and even if we asked the reality is undeniable – despite having huge respect and all, no one in the four vaishnava sampradayas embraces Lord Chaitanya as Krishna, even followers of Madhvacharya.

Another test would be phalena phala-kāraṇam anumīyate – judge the thing by result. Well, we don’t have much to show for it, if we were able to transcend the illusion and see Lord Chaitanya’s position for ourselves we wouldn’t be asking. If we talk in general terms about visible symptoms of developing devotion and say “it’s because Lord Chaitanya was God” it would be a non sequitur – devotion might just as well develop by the mercy of vaishnavas, it’s even more likely so.

We don’t need Lord Chaitanya to be God to make spiritual progress.

We can say that He contributed unique knowledge of Krishna’s intimate pastimes but that also doesn’t require Him to be God because these pastimes go on with or without Lord Chaitanya’s appearance, it’s only a matter of disclosing them to the general public.

Okay, what about Lord Chaitanya revealing His form to His devotees? That happened a few times in Navadvipa and then again He revealed Himself to Ramananda Raya, but how do we know that it actually happened? From the books? Which books? We don’t read books where these pastimes are presented in any other way so what do we know?

Even in our authorized books there are signs that not everyone accepted this particular version of events. The episode with Ramananda Raya, for example, is described differently in some other books based on the same notes of Svarupa Damodara. I don’t remember the details but it’s quite possible that it was added by Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami while other contemporary devotees didn’t know or didn’t argue. He was writing this almost a hundred years after the event.

Divinity of Lord Nityananda is vigorously defended both by Krishnadas Kaviraj and by Vrindavana Das Thakur, author of Chaitanya Bhagavata. They both went out of their way to argue against people who doubted that Lord Nityananda was Balarama Himself. We don’t know who these people were but they definitely were there and they were a lot closer to historical Lord Nityananda than any of us.

How do we know that He was God? Because Lord Chatanya said so? Circular reasoning again.

And what about what Lord Chaitanya said about Himself? There are numerous occasions where He denied His superior position, in some cases devotees were even afraid to say something like this in His presence. Why don’t we believe Him there?

Krishnadas Kaviraja always stressed that even if the Lord appeared to be angry and refused to be treated as God He was still pleased internally. It’s an acceptable explanation but it isn’t proof, if you don’t accept His divinity it looks like an excuse and not a very good one, too.

I’m afraid we have to admit our total reliance on the devotees in this matter. We don’t know whether Lord Chaitanya was God, we have no way of knowing, but we have His devotees present before us and we take their word as supreme absolute truth, there’s no other way.

This is a very important realization – that Krishna is present in this world in the form of His devotees. Holy Name, Deities, shastra – they all are accepted as transcendental only because devotees have said so. The corollary of this realization is that we’d be foolish to try and establish relationship with Krishna on our own, bypassing His devotees that reveal Him to us in the first place.

We don’t have any hope of connecting with Krishna on our own, we can’t spite the hand that devotees stretch to us. Actually it’s Krishna’s own hand, He uses His devotees to reach to us, but we see it as imperfect and reject it. Such fools.

Why? Because something doesn’t click together in our feeble brains and we don’t understand the exalted position of Krishna’s devotees? Or because we cannot accept their exalted position, what with all their visible faults?

Nah, these external things don’t matter, they will pass like bubbles on the surface of the Ganges and if we keep our faith we will eventually become purified enough to know Krishna as He is. Refusing to take a bath is not an answer.

Vanity thought #613. Taste of Lord Chaitanya

I’ve always been wondering if our perception of Krishna or Lord Chaitanya is objective, ie if we are bound to be overwhelmed in Lord’s presence simply because He is so perfect and attractive in every respect. So far I tend to think that it’s not guaranteed at all.

The Lord is surely mind blowing for whatever senses we have, material or spiritual, but He is also seen only by those with pure, loving hearts. He is non-different from His name yet we can’t perceive His greatness when we say “Hare Krishna”.

We also have plenty of examples of people who were in Lord’s presence during His manifested pastimes and were not impressed at all.

So, what if Lord Chaitanya suddenly appeared in the middle of the kirtan, and I mean became visible with our material eyes? Would everyone be equally impressed? What if sweat was shaking off the Lord’s body, would anyone instinctively shirk away? Would it be as salty as the sweat of our bodies? Would we perceive its purity? Would our conditioning get in the way of our perception of the Lord?

I think it’s all possible but, on the other hand, it’s also very likely that our eyes would drink Lord’s beauty like a pilgrim dying in the desert would drink fresh, cool water from a well.

Yet, how many of us would taste the foam and drool falling from the Lord’s mouth? On that subject – is Krishna’s pee is as revolting as that of any other human. Baby pee is relatively clean but not many people would volunteer for a diaper change of someone they don’t know.

Do these questions arise in the spiritual world? I believe not, not anymore than they arise in our mundane dealings with our family members, that’s how the Lord perceived by His most intimate devotees after all. It’s when we see the difference between ourselves as conditioned souls and the Lord as the Supreme Absolute Truth we expect some kind of special effects.

Lord’s closest friends and relatives do not think of His feet as anything special, they don’t think He’s got any special lotusness to them, they are just feet and He has to wash them Himself.

So, perhaps this confusion between our perception of the Lord and the perception of His close devotees is the reason He does not reveal His form in a manner not commensurate with our relationship with Him. We get to worship Him in the form of the Name, and also deities, and that should be enough in our current condition.

And then there were deer of Vrindavan who licked the body of Lord Chaitanya when He went there. Deer could lick Him and they found the taste of His body very satisfactory.

Maybe His sweat indeed smells of roses and tastes of nectar.

Vanity thought #589. Lord Chaitanya – the eternal mystery, and an oxymoron

Today we celebrate the appearance of Lord Chaitanya, or do we? The boy that took birth in Mayapur some five hundred years ago was named Nimai, not Chaitanya. Chaitanya became his sannyasi name when He was eighteen.

About oxymoron thing – we all say “Lord Chaitanya”, it’s everywhere in our books and even in our pancha-tattva mahamantra – “Sri Krishna Chaitanya…” The actual name, Chaitanya, however, is not a name of a Lord, it’s not even a sannyasi name – it’s a name of a brahmachari servant. When Nimai took sannyasa He was supposed to become a topmost person in the varnashrama division, even Narayana himself, according to mayavadi understanding, yet Nimai decided to keep His brahmachari name to stress His position as an eternal servant. That’s what it meant for Him – I want to remain Chaitanya the servant, yet we say “Lord Chaitanya”.

And what about “Sri Krishna Chaitanya” part? Isn’t “Sri” supposed to indicate that the Lord is accompanied by His eternal consort, the Goddess of Fortune, but Lord Chaitanya was a sannyasi, if we worship Him and His eternal consort shouldn’t we call Him by the name He used in His married life?

This is not to find faults in our worship of Lord Chaitanya, just to raise awareness of the Lord’s mission and mood, I’m sure “Sri Krishna Chaitanya” can be easily explained and someone has already done so somewhere.

His mood and mission, however, is a real mystery. When He was born everyone chanted the names of Hari, due to there being a lunar eclipse, and we know that the Lord was very fond of people around Him chanting “Hari Hari” to the point He would cry or throw tantrums on purpose just to make people glorify Hari for Him again.

So, did He like the sound of His own name, being Krishna Himself? Did He identify this chanting with Himself or was He pleased that people chanted names of Krishna without taking it personally? I guess we’ll never know.

Just think of it – we always address Him as the Lord and we always think of Him as the Lord even if we use His name as Nimai, which doesn’t imply any divinity, yet He almost never accepted being addressed as such. There were a couple of episodes late in His Navadvipa lila but only relatively few people were allowed to see Him as Krishna, for the rest of the population He was just a saint, a relative, a neighbor etc. I would guess thousands and thousands of people have had personal relationships with Him and never suspected He was God Himself.

So, how should we please Him better? By treating Him as a Supreme Personality of Godhead, or by following His orders to chant Hare Krishna? There were a couple of devotees who treated Him as God, like that Bengali devotee who washed His feet and drank the water at the Gundicha temple, and Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami left us in a suspense there – he said that internally the Lord was pleased by externally he had that devotee escorted our by the scruff of his neck.

Keep in mind that in those days there was no Chaitanya Charitamrita or Chaitanya Bhagavata and so there was no universal point of reference on our theology. I bet even people who accepted His divinity had no idea how to treat Him as such in the real life. From our books I don’t remember anyone who thought “He is the all powerful God, I should beg His boons and blessings”, quite the opposite, everybody thought that without their care and their service the Lord would not be able to survive.

When Lord Chaitanya traveled through Jakikhanda forest He made tigers, deer and elephants dance in ecstasy of love of God, yet when He traveled through Orissa the King, who knew of His real position, had numerous servants negotiate His safe passage as if the Lord could really be hurt by Muslim rulers of that land.

Another mystery is which part of Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes is more important. We have no such problems with Krishna – Mathura is higher than Dvaraka and Vrindavana is higher than Mathura, and in Vrindavana His pastimes with the gopis are the highest. With Lord Chaitanya, however, we can’t definitely say which part of His life had more important lessons for us.

As Nimai He didn’t accomplish much, as Gauranga He preached all through Bengal, and this is the form that we worship on our altars, but it’s in the form of Chaitanya that He fulfilled the inner, higher purpose of His advent – tasting service to Krishna in the mood of Srimati Radharani, something He barely even mentioned in His Navadvipa lila. Again, there was no Chaitanya Charitamrita back then, everybody had different opinions on this and on Lord Chaitanya’s hidden identity is Radha-Krishna.

If we were magically transferred back in time to Bengal five hundred years ago, met with some of the Lord’s eternal associates, and started talking about supremacy of Srimati Radharani and how Lord Chaitanya’s golden complexion was due to Him being Radharani inside, very few people would take us seriously.

So, it is a mystery how to properly relate to Lord Chaitanya, we reject devotees who treat Him solely as God, the Supreme Enjoyer – gauranga nagaris, we also reject those who do not accept His divinity and treat Him as an ordinary sadhu. Amongst ourselves we call Him Lord but we follow His orders to surrender to Krishna rather than begging Him for sustenance directly.

It’s a tight rope to walk, and the most important lesson from it is that our relationships with Him should be very “personal”, and by that I mean that we should learn from other people and personalities, not from shastra or our intelligence. Forget the arguments and evidence – just do what Prabhupada did, try to catch not the mood of Lord Chaitanya, which is a speculative endeavor, but try to catch the mood of our gurus, which is real and can be confirmed.

The world of devotional service is unimaginably big, I guess everything can be found there, but we want to be rupanugas, followers of Rupa Goswami, and that means we should humbly decline everything that does not come in the line of our acharyas.

There were countless devotees who came together with Lord Chaitanya, some were in friendly rasa, others had parental affection for Him. His advent means quite different things for them. We, otoh, are just His servants trying to carry out His mission, our celebration of His birth should be different, too.

Yet today is the day when we all can put our differences aside and join in glorifying the appearance of our eternal master – Lord Chaitanya. We all have our own plans but today they don’t matter – there’s one thing we have in common – our devotion to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

I hope we can keep this feeling through the rest of the year.

Vanity thought #581. Life in Lord Chaitanya’s party

All of us have been drafted into Lord Chaitanya’s movement. We aren’t Krishna’s eternal associates who appear together with Lord Chaitanya just for the taste of it. We are conditioned souls who have been saved by His mercy.

Lord Chaitanya has established yuga dharma for this age and if we follow His orders we come under His care and protection. We also know that He is the most merciful avatara, taking on souls that otherwise wouldn’t be allowed to even come in contact with Krishna.

From His Navadvipa and Jagannatha Puri pastimes we also know that He is very very kind to His devotees, showering them with His mercy and even sometimes personally feeding them. He always makes sure that His devotees never lack in anything, that they are always happy, well fed and well looked after. He doesn’t normally put His devotees through severe austerities described in the Vedic literature.

Life in Lord Chaitanya’s movement is pretty sweet, there are no two opinions about this. We eat a lot, we sing, we dance, we have lots of feasts and festivals, and generally there’s no such thing as a morose soul in this sankirtana mission, if we do it right.

We, however, should not take this mercy for granted. Yes, Lord Chaitanya takes personal interest in well-being of His devotees but His main message to us is to always chant the Holy Names and strive for the mercy of Krishna, not of His own.

Yes, He will make sure that we never starve but His main concern is that by following His orders we get mercy of Krishna. We should make this our priority, too, because that’s what would make Lord Chaitanya happy. We should look beyond our basic necessities in life, beyond being satisfied that by performing yuga dharma they are being met, we should try to make Krishna notice our efforts instead.

Ours is not a feeding movement, using yuga dharma for material purposes might work very well but that’s not what chanting Hare Krishna is for.

Same applies to our preaching, too – we are not going out to make people happy, though we can do that, too, we are going out so that people do something, sacrifice something for Krishna. Receiving Lord’s prasadam is nice but real devotion starts with offering it to the Lord and in seeing that the Lord enjoys our service, not with appreciating Lord’s service to us.

As for Lord Chaitanya – real devotion starts with making Him happy by chanting the Holy Names and pleasing Krishna. Yes, He appreciates if we offer Him flowers, for example, but what would make Him really ecstatic is if we offer flowers to Krishna. Lord Chaitanya presented Himself as a devotee and so serving Him is lower on His list of priorities than serving Krishna.

One could ask – how can we approach Krishna without medium of Lord Chaitanya? True, we cannot, but it doesn’t mean He is not making sure that our service reaches its destination. Enabling our service to Krishna is one of His favorite things to do.

I bet He likes passing our service to Krishna Himsels better than feeding people with His own hands, and that is my main point today.

Vanity thought #513. The verse to forget

“rājā dekhi’ mahāprabhu karena dhikkāra chi, chi, viṣayīra sparśa ha-ila āmāra”

This is not “one of those”, this is THE verse you hope never to hear from the Lord in response to your service. It was spoken to Maharaja Prataparudra who picked Lord Chaitanya from the ground when He fell during Ratha Yatra festivities:

After seeing the King, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu condemned Himself, saying, “Oh, how pitiful it is that I have touched a person who is interested in mundane affairs!”

It was actually worse, it wasn’t said to the King, not even in his direction, the King couldn’t get even that minimum attention from the Lord.

The official explanation by Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya was that Lord Chaitanya was displaying anger only externally, for the benefit of the onlookers who had to see religious principles being upheld, that inside Lord Chaitanya was full of mercy for the King.

I hope it’s true but I bet it still hurts, and if the Lord is merciful towards you internally you wouldn’t need an explanation, you would just feel it, wouldn’t you?

More important than potentially hurt feelings, this verse tells us straight away what our actual position is. Normally we judge ourselves relatively to other people and by modern standards we are doing rather well, with our principles and chanting, but by Lord Chaitanya’s standards Maharaja Prataparudra is million times more advanced and more pure-hearted than we ever will be, and even he was not welcome to receive Lord’s mercy.

Who among us could honestly say that he has no interest in mundane affairs? Most of us have absolutely no qualms about getting jobs, fighting for promotions, and spending our money at our own pleasure – this is absolutely normal in the modern society. We also take interest in society’s affairs, we know most of the celebrities, we keep up with politics – we actually strive to appear as normal as we possibly can.

This verse, however, tells us that this “normality” is what forever keeps us from joining Lord Chaitanya’s party.

This verse tells us that next time we come to the temple and pray in front of the Deities Lord Chaitanya might resent our presence, avoid eye-contact, and refuse to listen. It sounds unthinkable but had He been present in His visibly moving and talking form, this is what would have most likely to happen.

He is not there to bless our material aspirations or take sympathy in our material interests, He would have nothing to do with it, He would have avoided our association as long a we keep attached to mundane affairs. I know I don’t stand a chance, people who read this on the Internet are probably in the same position, too.

This is why, even after being saved by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and his disciples, we are still five hundred years and thousands kilometers away from the Lord. Like it or not, this is the closest we deserve to be, no transcendental platform for us.

Maybe in the next life we’ll get a better chance, but maybe hearing this kind of verse from the Lord is an integral part of our progress and we all will have to live through it at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s a test of our devotion.

I hope we all pass.

Vanity thought #512. Worrisome future

Today I was listening to a lecture and heard that Krishna’s devotees do not like His four-armed form as displayed in Vaikuntha. I thought about myself – what if I, like Gopa Kumara, will have to travel through all the various planets for a really really long time before achieving my final shelter.

I know it’s presumptuous of me to dream about my after-life achievements but I think it’s not a very big vice and Krishna might let it slip.

One thing is obvious from the start – I don’t like the four armed Vishnu form at all. My impression of the kind of worship and ceremonies they perform in Vaikuntha is that they are long and boring just like our earthly variants. It’s hard to find contemporary examples but massive celebrations of yesteryear included very long speeches, even longer recitations of hymns or religious chants, everybody had to look very serious, and it was a torture.

Of course Vaikuntha will be nothing like that, or will it? Some people enjoyed that kind of thing here, the pompous, ceremonious worship of glorified personalities the importance of whom was judged by how long they could keep the crowds on their toes. I’m sure these rituals weren’t invented here but descended to us through time from Vedic ages, so their origin very well might be in the spiritual world.

Once you get into the slow rhythm and your mind settles, they are actually nice, it’s like Bhagavatam classes where new devotees constantly fall asleep.

Having said that, I am less than excited about going through Vaikunthas the way I imagine them. Stately people with respectable wives and children slowly gliding towards their next grandiose engagement, marveling in their immaculate elegance. Not for me, kali-yuga degenerate.

I don’t want this and I’m not looking forward to it.

So, what to do about it?

First of all – nothing, life in Vaikuntha is perfectly suitable for its inhabitants, if I were to appear there I would fit just fine. Maybe I would be sent there to learn my manners.

Actually, this is an important speculation – it’s very unlikely that we would become pure devotees before leaving out bodies, but without becoming pure devotees we won’t be admitted into Krisha’s pastimes, there must be some place to further purify our hearts. Could it be Vaikuntha? It could also be another birth closer to or even during Lord’s pastimes in the material world.

Looking through my current body experience I’d probably choose Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes here rather than worship of Lord Vishnu’s on Vaikuntha. After all, it’s the only thing I know – if I sing and dance in a kirtan, the Lord will be pleased, or if my singing spoils the party I’d just clap my hands. On the other hand, I have no idea how to serve Krishna, can’t even begin to imagine. Serving Lord Chaitanya is much more familiar.

Failing that, let me born during another wave of book distribution. There’s nothing more ecstatic than that, the only problem is that, unlike singing in a kirtan, it doesn’t last a lifetime.

That might help in purifying my heart, but it still leaves a question – where are we supposed to get proper training in Krishna’s worship? Oh, never mind, let’s stick with Lord Chaitanya’s party first, don’t really need anything else at the moment.

Krishna, however, promised his dying devotees something that sounds like Vaikuntha. Comparing to Lord Chaitanya’s party it sounds more like a punishment.

Okay, enough speculations, it’s what they called “first world problems”.

Enough dreaming, sadhana awaits.