Deification of Lord Caitanya


“Do you mean to say that Lord Caitanya was an ordinary saint and we elevated Him to the status of God ourselves?” No. I mean He was Krishna, devotees figured this out very early on, but then they started ascribing Him various ideas that reflected THEIR understanding of what God is and what God should do. In other words, instead of accepting Him as He is we make Him into what we think He should be. We deify Him into OUR image of God.

Come to think of it, we don’t have any other choice. Everything we perceive in the world is a reflection of our own consciousness. We ALWAYS ascribe our own ideas to all and any information coming to us from the outside. We ALWAYS color it in our own colors. We can’t perceive the world as it is, and so our perception of Lord Caitanya is no exception. Same happened when Krishna entered the fighting arena in Mathura, too – everybody saw Him according to their own capacity – as a yogi, as a king, as a charming prince, as a ferocious fighter and so on.

When Lord Caitanya first revealed His divinity everyone was blown away, it was the time of discovery and everyday devotees learned something new about Him. Caitanya Bhagavata is full of these descriptions and I will not repeat them here. When devotees got used to the idea and when the Lord took sannyasa and left Mayapur, however, things started to change. When Bengali devotees came to see the Lord in Puri it was like good old times but outside of that everyone was learning about the Lord from somebody else, not by directly observing Him.

In Puri no one knew who He was and first announcement came when He was carried over to the house of Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. Sarvabhauma didn’t take is seriously at first but later he came around to accepting the idea – and that was due to prolonged personal association. Everyone else accepted it on Sarvabhauma’s authority, and it’s at this step that people start imposing their own ideas of what God is. Lord Caitanya didn’t do Navadvipa style reveal there. He didn’t do twenty one hour prakasas or any of those wonderful things. He didn’t do private kirtans where people were left wondering what had just happened to them either. Rather kirtans became a spectator sport during Ratha Yatras, and the performers were visiting Bengali devotees. At no point did Lord Caitanya behaved as God in Jagannatha Prui so there was simply no point of reference for devotees there – “You know what God is? Well, Caitanya Mahaprabhu is God. He doesn’t behave like it but you better believe it.”

There are plenty of examples of devotees misconceptions about Mahaprabhu in Caitanya Caritamrita. How about that devotee who drank water that washed His feet? Elsewhere it’s a perfectly appropriate thing to do, but Lord Caitanya wasn’t that kind of God. He was the kind of God who is very close to His devotees and displays of reverence, like drinking footwater, did not belong there. So, appropriately, that devotee was sent out of the assembly to revere Lord Caitanya from the distance, as it should be with reverence. The episode with Chota Haridasa I discussed in the previous post, and the gist of it was that devotees, including very senior ones, have decided that Lord Caitanya should forgive him. Why did they think so? I can think of a few reasons.

First, they might have thought that it’s not a big deal. In the same way some of our devotees think that watching a movie or eating chocolate is no big deal. “Relax”, they say, “don’t be a fanatic.” Immediate objection to this is that they might not know what they are doing to their spiritual lives. Lord Caitanya, for example, demanded Mother Saci to follow ekadasi, which shouldn’t be a big deal for God’s own mother, one would think. This reason displays incomplete understanding of tattva.

Another reason could be that devotees thought that God is very forgiving and if He acted in momentarily anger then it will subside, God will cool off and come around. This was actually mentioned in CC – it was an advice given to Chota Haridas to just wait a little and Lord Caitanya would rescind the ban. There are a couple of problems with this line of thinking, and the main one is that one assumes he knows God’s temperament and nature. Well, Lord Caitanya wasn’t like that and the assumption was wrong. He was not that kind of God, again.

Third reason, perhaps the most serious one, would have relied on “mahavadanyaya” feature of Lord Caitanya Himself. It wasn’t about generic God but about Lord Caitanya personally. It wasn’t declared by the Lord but it was devotees who have figured it out – the term is attributed to Rupa Goswami, if I’m not mistaken, and Lord Caitanya still goes by this epithet, five hundred years later, but the scope of this generosity of spirit is determined solely by us ourselves. I think it’s more serious because it’s enduring and so we can still make exactly the same mistakes again, as if we have learned nothing. What if He is not as mahavadanyaya as we think? Or not in the same way we think. WE deified Him into being that, remember?

Chota Haridas story follows by a story of a young son of a single mother. It’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about as well – Damodara Pundit thought that associating with this boy was not appropriate for Lord Caitanya and told the Lord about it directly. He gave an apparently valid reason but the underlying logic was the same – we know how you should behave, according to our conception of you, and you are not living up to our expectations, so you should change your behavior. Lord Caitanya listened, thought about it for a day, and then sent Damodara Pandit to enforce laws of dharma on devotees in Bengal, far away from Jagannatha Puri. He thought it was necessary there so that devotees didn’t develop any svatantriya attitude, which is translated as “independence”.

In that story we can add a little speculation that Damodara Pundit did not appreciate the spiritual value of Lord Caitanya’s association with that boy. Where Damodara Pundit saw a possible compromise in sannyasi’s behavior, because boy’s mother was young and attractive and endearing yourself to someone’s child is a sure way to their heart as well, or, as they say today, into woman’s pants, and we can say that they could have been talking about spiritual matters and Damodara Pundit projected his own ideas on their conversations. Not so, according to one verse in CC where Lord Caitanya inquired the boy about latest news, ie latest gossip, not about the latest verse he memorized from Bhagavad Gita. Damodara Pundit was right – the talks were mundane, and this might be a big revelation to us as well.

We have grown up with the rule to avoid gramya katha and the last person we expect to engage in it is Lord Caitanya. And yet the Lord didn’t see anything particularly wrong with it. Neither as a sannyasi, neither as incarnation of Krishna, neither as an exemplary devotee for everyone else to follow. How to make sense of it? Well, for starters – all these conceptions of Lord Caitanya are our own. He Himself did not commit to strictly following any of these roles, except sannyasa, of course, but even on that one there was some leeway, as evidenced by his reaction to criticism of His eating habits coming from Amogha, Sarvabhauma’s son-in-law. On that occasion Lord Caitanya admitted that He shouldn’t have eaten so much. That episode, btw, is another example of how people had their own expectations of how Mahaprabhu should have behaved, as well as an example of not everybody accepting His divinity.

Speaking of divinity – at that time there was no concept of Panca Tattva yet, which has become fundamental to our understanding of the Lord now. The concept was first expressed by Krishnadasa Kaviraja many years later, and it didn’t take root in Bengali community until maybe fifty years after Lord Caitanya’s departure. It was first introduced during Kheturi festival and dates on that are unclear. This means that during that same time – when Lord Caitanya stayed in Puri, devotees had very different conceptions of Lord Nityananda and Advaita Acharya (also Vishnu-tattva). Now we hope that our current conception is correct, and there is no reason to doubt Krishnadasa Kaviraja on this, but we should remember that it’s not a matter of revelation on the Lord’s part, and our current conception might be different from how Krishnadasa Kaviraja saw it, too – on the strength of Lord Caitanya indulging in gramya katha and not thinking much about it. Krishnadasa Kaviraja was well aware of it, otherwise he wouldn’t have worded that CC verse this way, but for us it’s currently unthinkable – we expect Lord Caitanya to be fully absorbed in pastimes of Radha Krishna, and leaving His place only to visit the temple and Haridasa Thakura afterwards.

So my argument repeats itself – Lord Caitanya didn’t behave like God. We accept that, but then we say that we know how He behaved Himself as God playing a part of the servant, to which I reply – sometimes He didn’t behave like that either. We deified Him for our own convenience instead of trying to find out His true nature. In His true nature all these things are reconciled but it’s difficult for us so we go for an easy explanation instead. And there is a bonus point that we get to think ourselves to be great devotees who know Lord Caitanya’s heart.

Krishnadasa Kaviraja wasn’t so sure about himself, as evidenced by these two verses concluding “young boy” pastime (CC Antya.3):

Text 47: The pastimes of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu are deeper than millions of seas and oceans. Therefore no one can understand what He does or why He does it.
Text 48: I do not know the deep meaning of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s activities. As far as possible I shall try to explain them externally.

And for the curious, the “news” verse is translated as:

Text 9: One day when the boy came to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the Lord very affectionately inquired from him about all kinds of news.

Bengali word is vārtā — news.

Final point – if we substitute Lord Caitanya with our own version of Him, deifying Him into something He was not, what are the chances of us finding Him now? We are looking for a different personality, not for the Lord “as he is”. How can we connect?

Revisiting Chota Haridas

I assume everyone knows the story and our canonical interpretation of it. We’ve heard it in our lectures and there is Caitanya Caritamrita where Srila Prabhupada gives various explanations, including a seven point summary lessons from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. However, there is another side to this story that is interesting to explore. It doesn’t contradict anything said before, as far as I can see, and it could be an interesting addition to what we already know. The point is that sometimes we take these stories and put them into our situations, which then colors our conclusions, but the same stories can remain equally true in a different context and if our conclusions don’t match then it’s on us and rethinking is probably required.

The quest to truly know the story then becomes determining the exact context first, and then distilling the very essence of the story so that we can apply it to our lives correctly, without being swayed by our situation and without dragging extraneous things from the past that don’t really belong. Plus there are multiple aspects to each story as well and the same process should be applied to them, too. So let’s look at what interesting things we can extract from this one.

Facts of the matter were that one day Lord Caitanya was having lunch at Bhagavat Acarya’s house and asked about rice. He was told that it was Chota Haridas who brought this rice from Madhavi Devi’s house. Mahaprabhu didn’t say anything and continued eating, and only when he returned to His place that He told Govinda that He doesn’t want to see Chota Haridas again. When pressed for an explanation He said that He didn’t want to associate with those who have private conversations with women.

It was up to the devotees then to investigate what happened and connect the dots between Chota Haridas asking Madhavi Devi for rice and Lord Caitanya’s words. Maybe they did it right, maybe their investigation was incomplete. Srila Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami was pretty confident in Caitanya Caritamrita that this was what happened but Narayana Maharaj and even Srila Prabhupada on several occasions, notably in Teachings of Lord Caitanya, offered another version where Chota Haridas was eager to meet with a young servant girl in the house of Madhavi Devi, and this obviously goes way beyond begging for rice from an eighty year old woman. Everybody would understand that, but sexual connotations in regards to Madhavi Devi? It’s hard to imagine. Nevertheless, at the time Krishnadas Kaviraj was writing it down he either didn’t hear about it or didn’t think it was solid enough to commit to paper. The point is that we don’t really know what happened. We can only guess that it was during that episode of begging rice. Even Caitanya Caritamrita does not commit itself to stating it with full confidence.

The discussions about Lord Caitanya’s decision went on for several days and nobody could understand why He was so serious about it. Devotees came to see Him several times, they sent high profile negotiators, too, but Lord Caitanya wouldn’t budge and He wouldn’t offer any other explanations beyond what He told the devotees already. His final argument was that “I’m not in control of my mind and my mind does not want to associate with Chota Haridasa”. It sounds like a rhetorical device of shifting responsibility from oneself to something else but what if it wasn’t? What if it sounds like an excuse to us but Lord Caitanya was quite serious?

There have been many other occasions when Lord Caitanya restricted His association based on how He felt about it. He always offered explanations, sure, but the deciding factor always was that it didn’t feel right. When Srivas Pandit sneaked in a brahmacari to a nightly kirtan Lord Caitanya didn’t even know someone was there but He felt that something was not right. He felt it first, explanation came later. On another occasion He refused to see a devotee and no one knew why until Lord Caitanya said that this devotee was listening to Yoga Vasistha. This devotee wasn’t an impersonalist and Lord Caitanya reversed His decision in a very short time but the fact of enjoying Yoga Vasistha spoiled His mood nevertheless. When Advaita Acarya was preaching impersonalism there was no ban, however.

It is now, after five hundred years have passed, we see these episodes as a matter of tattva, as a matter of infallible logical arguments – if someone has done that then the consequence must be this, and the consequence must be enforced, but why? Why not see it as a matter of rasa – Lord Caitanya didn’t feel right about something and sometimes He offered a reasonable explanation for His feelings and sometimes He didn’t. Apart from Chota Haridasa story, Lord Caitanya also refused to see Kala Krishnadasa even as Lord Nityananda Himself was advocating on his behalf. Even to Lord Nityananda the rationale for the ban didn’t make sense, so why should we elevate it to the status of tattva, to the status of “it must be this way”?

The simple answer could be – because it makes sense to us and because we don’t want to rely on our feelings when conducting our affairs, especially when managing ISKCON. This is another aspect, however, and I get to it shortly. First, however, if we take it as a matter of tattva, then if someone in ISKCON was preaching impersonal ideas what should be the consequence? Same as Advaita Acarya’s case? And what would be consequence for the members of the audience? Heavier than the punishment of the preacher? This tattva based approach wouldn’t work, we would have to be selective, and this goes against the very principle of tattva and objectivity.

More importantly, Lord Caitanya wasn’t managing a society. Sometimes He would give advice and all the devotees would make it into a rule, like in case of associating with mayavadis, but in case of Chota Haridasa Lord Caitanya spoke only for Himself. He didn’t tell anyone what THEY should do about him. He didn’t warn them that if they keep his company there would be consequences for them. It was rather the opposite – Lord Caitanya warned the devotees what would happen if THEY try to force HIM to behave they wanted. He told them that if they force Chota Haridasa’s company on Him then He would leave and go somewhere where He could practice His bhajan in peace.

Do you get this point? Rather than trying to institutionalize some rule Lord Caitanya’s reaction was to avoid following the rule imposed by the institution. Okay, not a formal institution but devotee sanga, which was speaking in unison about the need for Lord Caitanya to accept Chota Haridasa back. And His given reason was “My mind doesn’t feel right about it,” as I mentioned.

This aspect doesn’t mean that privately associating with women is alright. Worrying about this means worrying about institutional rules on the level of tattva. My point is that regardless of what the correct tattva was, Lord Caitanya went with “rasa” consideration first. If someone disrupts the flow of devotion then it must be rejected. One cannot allow his bhajan to be disrupted for the sake of institutionalized rules. In this case it’s not the rule about female association but the rule that one must accept collective decision and follow it that was rejected. Both aspects coexisted in Lord Caitanya’s behavior in that story.

The only possible contradiction I see is in one of the lessons cited by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati – the one about standards for the “heads of institutions propagating the Caitanya cult”, as Srila Prabhupada puts it in the purport. It does sound like some rules need to be enforced institutionally, doesn’t it? But the reading is ambiguous – it could equally be about standards expected FROM our leaders, not standards imposed by leaders on everybody else. The sentence continues with the comma: “, and for all actual devotees.” This, again, reads as a standard expected from the devotees rather than a standard imposed on the devotees by the leaders. To put it simply – it doesn’t mean that anyone not living up to this standard should be institutionally punished. This is a very important distinction – standards expected from the leaders (and from rank and file devotees), and standards enforced by the institution.

One other thing – Srila Prabhupada writes that Chota Haridasa returned to Puri in his spiritual body and continued singing for Lord Caitanya’s pleasure, which is shown in the picture at the top. The exact words, however, were “gandarhva dehe – in the body of a gandharva”. This is how it stands in word-for-word translation of CC Antya.2.149. Gandharva body would suit the whole narrative better. Lord Caitanya spoke of Chota Haridas as accepting the result of his activities – sva-karma-phala-bhuk (from CC. Antya.2.163), and singing for Lord Caitanya as a gandarva, for whom female company is allowed, sounds like a nice resolution to the problem of duplicity highlighted by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, as Chota Haridas otherwise behaved like a renunciate.

Maybe Chota Haridas was in a spiritual body, I’m not going to argue against Srila Prabhupada (“In a spiritual body resembling that of a Gandharva”), but his name is not mentioned among Lord Caitanya’s associates from Krishna lila in Gaura Ganoddesa Dipika. A similar argument is used against counting Kala Krishnadasa among Lord Caitanya’s eternal associates in the debate about jiva falldown. If he was in a gandharva body it would also explain why other devotees could sometimes hear his singing – gandharvas live within this universe while fully spiritual bodies are not a part of this world at all.

Lastly, when Chota Haridasa got into this new body, his singing became totally acceptable and Lord Caitanya personally called for him to be brought back. Except it was too late and he committed suicide already, and Lord Caitanya behaved as if it was news to Him. He said that suicide was a proper atonement, too, which we don’t mean to apply to us, as evidenced by Srila Prabhupada’s discussions about it involving Vishujana Swami.

All in all, it’s very hard to line up all the ducks together properly in this story. Something somewhere always doesn’t fit and something always sounds inconclusive, if we are being truly honest about it.

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.